Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pencil sharpener

We bought one of these a few months back. At first I thought it was a bit overpriced, but fondly remembered always wanting to use my teacher's one as a small child. But I have to say, it is wonderful. The kids can use it easily and it sharpens even the crappiest pencils really well!


Isn't she looking like such a wee softy, lit only by the candle in the pumpkin?

When she gets this close for a look, I find myself relieved she still hasn't grown much in the way of hair!


Persimmons are a cheap (three for a quid in ASDA) and easy solution to Halloween. Unlike the fairly insipid taste of these carving pumpkins the supermarkets stockpile, their flesh is quite palatable and the kids think these baby pumpkins are just cute as hell. And into the bargain, instead of hunting the entire house for where I tidied the tea light candles, you can simply stick a birthday cake candle inside.


I decided against a rerun of my 2010 Scottish Halloween, turnips are just too hard but you will be pleased I am still clamping down on the T and T words!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh to be young again!

Ever wish you were young again?

Lots was just showing me an amateur video taken in her school lunch hall last week. The sixth years put on an improvised dance show at lunch time for want of something better to do at a rainy lunch time. It almost brought a tear to my eye, I have to say. Don't they just look like a lovely crowd of youngsters with their whole lives ahead of them?

High school definitely looks much more fun in the age of speaker systems and mobile phone videos too!

Playing with jelly

Does anyone else remember when jelly was this much fun? ;-)

Unexpected cultural differences

We were in the park the other day hunting for conkers with Léon. As always in a big city, if you aren't there the first day they fall off the trees, forget finding any, all the other kids will have beat you to it. Not willing to give up, we continued until we finally turned up one! 

Léon had wanted to try playing conkers since reading the book 'Conker' during his summer holiday. I hadn't mentioned it to Thomas and he seen the book. So while it was very obvious to me that Léon was searching for a conker with a view to conker battles in mind, Thomas had a very different idea. 

Because Thomas is Danish, Thomas assumed Léon was searching for conkers for a whole other purpose! Neither of us was aware of the other's cultural associations with conkers, despite years under the same roof and even more years as best friends! So as Léon asked if we could follow the recipe in the Conker book to harden its shell, Thomas looked more than surprised and asked how we'd force the matches in if we hardened it. Matches? We were surely talking at cross purposes?! No, just as in my culture conkers can only be used for one thing, the same is true in Denmark apparently!

Does this mean that we are culturally violent and aggressive while Scandinavians are calm, artistic and creative?! I have to say, watching both videos, I'd much rather have been a Danish child, conkers never did anything for me as a game and I always thought it a shame to destroy such beautiful and shiny little things. Have a look at these too!


I often find it hard to capture the exact shade of Amaia's eyes. In photos they often look a simple dark brown but that is far from the truth. They are pale and yet warm, like caramel chestnuts mottled with the palest green specks. She can even look almost teddy-bear orange at times. In any case their most striking quality is their pale warmth. Beautiful.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Final Gaggia update (for this week anyway)

It returned on schedule (Weds at 5.33pm - not bad - they'd estimated 5.29pm!) First thing to note was that they'd managed to bend the bar on the top. Given it is merely decorative, worse things happen...

On top of my well packed machine was a note of the repairs that had been carried out. It stated that it had been descaled yet again (as if I care - it could probably function ten years in this soft-water area without needing descaling but again worse things happen...) It also mentioned that the damage it had sustained to the steamer in transit last time had been fully repaired and they had uploaded photographic evidence of it working to their system! Now there's an interesting piece of fantasy if you compare it to the reality of my experience in my original posting. So they claim it was working when they shipped it back to me but somehow in transit (inside bubble wrap, inside polystyrene, inside straw, inside a box) knocking it somehow caused the water pipe to disconnect from the espresso outlet and reconnect as if by magic to the internal steamer rod! Now that would be impressive!

Anyway, we have so far managed to make two espressos and one cappuccino with all water coming out of all of the correct outlets so for now I will not complain.

Too simplistic by far

I see the Tories are back in their wee simplistic version of the universe once again. It'll end up in the same state as their child benefit chaos.

Thomas and I are obviously not the Tory idea of working class eternal spongers, they are intending to target. We are both directors of our own company. I have a five year uni degree, he has an eleven year one. I had five kids because I could afford them. But imagine tomorrow if we couldn't make the money we need any more... Suddenly we'd be unemployed with five kids but not eligible for benefits despite paying taxes, occasionally at the high end of the tax spectrum. Also they simplistically think of family back in 60s terms. I mean - I have five kids so would only be eligible for benefits for Marcel and Charlotte, but Thomas actually only has two kids, although he is financially responsible for three who aren't his. Would he get benefits for his kids, despite their being my numbers four and five, or would he be doubly penalized - made to pay for mine and not eligible for benefits for his own? 

Not all three plus families currently (or potentially in the near future) claiming benefits come from these generations of never-employed living in ghettos. People often bring up step kids these days which is a big enough financial burden without it impacting on their own future families.

So they'd be creating a system where divorcé(e)s would not be able to remarry till the kids leave home and that would force many more kids to be brought up in poverty instead of being brought up in step-parent families. How is that helpful? Imagine again my set-up if I was to lose my job. Would my ex-husband (should he be made redundant) be allowed two new kids as I have full custody of ours, while my current husband would be allowed none because he's paying his money to bring up mine from a previous marriage? 

If they bring continue down this naive road, all they'll create is one huge quagmire of nonsense and embarrassment. Will they never learn?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ready for school

Anna's class seems to have an unusually high number of girls with curly hair. After a reshuffle on Monday (after the half term break), Anna seems to have found herself outnumbered at her table. Her solution? To tong her hair every morning before school so she looks how she wants to look! Just what I need at 8am! Ironically her granny and great granny are/were both curly but she didn't inherit it - ho hum!

Traumatic cheese

Cheese is an odd thing to get upset about.

I was in the fridge yesterday looking for a (low-carb) snack - I'm trying to pick back up on the post-baby diet I was on in 2010 when dad was diagnosed and somehow losing the pregnancy weight became secondary to life... I pulled out the cheese drawer and came face to face with the remaining third of a Black Crowdie. Shona had given me it three weeks ago. When we had our uni reunion Shona had brought the cheese and biscuits and Sheina had brought to grapes and strawberries to eat with it. (Linda and Gillian had brought more main dishes). It somehow seemed wrong, incongruous to find a cheese from what seems now like another era. So much has happened in three weeks and yet the cheese is just sitting there showing me life goes on regardless. How can Sheina be gone but the cheese still be here?

I know that makes no sense but I guess death is like that...

Bilingually clueless Brits

Is the UK (and the anglo-saxon world for that matter) ever going to get to grips with how to teach foreign languages? Obviously, it's a subject close to my heart given my educational, work and domestic background, but it never ever ceases to amaze me how pathetic our misguided efforts are. And yet it really is so simple. With pre-schoolers, you don't need to teach language, you simply need to immerse them in it. Teaching babies to translate is insane, you shouldn't even try to create one to one mappings in their heads - that is completely contrary to how a bilingual child functions. One thing I am qualified to talk about, given I have five bilingual kids, is bilingualism in kids! Bilingual kids don't translate, they think in the language they are using in the specific context in which they find themselves. I remember this clearly from when Marcel and Charlotte were little. People would hear me speaking to them in French (I spoke only French to them unless my parents or brother were around). Everyone, to a man, had the same reaction - Oh that's wonderful! Say something in French, what's French for dog/house/car (etc)? My poor child would struggle at four to map the word dog/house/car to chien/maison/voiture, and often the adult would say in front of my child: I thought you said they spoke French? On turning to Marcel or Charlotte, I would speak in French to them, in order to engage the French part of their brain, I would point at a car and say 'Quand on va au supermarché, on y va en...' and before I'd finish the sentence, of course, my child would complete it with 'voiture' because the kids think in French, they don't translate. So something that frustrates me terribly is our persistence in trying to teach lists of words and their translations to preschoolers. At that age, they are little sponges that can be taught languages properly and instead we spend so much money on nonsense like Dora the Explorer and The Lingo Show. Teaching a toddler to count to five in Spanish, or list the colours or teaching them the French for a couple of concrete nouns in addition to hello and goodbye is so pointless it makes me want to cry and throw things at the TV.

Today I made myself sit down and watch the Lingo show from one end to the other. It ran for about twelve minutes. The kids were taught how to count to three in French, they were taught hello and goodbye and they were taught three nouns. What use is that? If they developed something rich in visuals, they could simply run the whole thing in French and the kids would understand. Thomas has experimented with this with Léon occasionally, simply deciding to talk to him in say Spanish (which Léon doesn't speak - he speaks fluent Danish and has some French, a little German and can cope with Norwegian). As long as it is visual - pass me the knife, the fork, the salt, this is nice, I like this, with a little gesticulation, and facial clues, he gets it, no translation involved. You can sit and count things, point things out and mention their colour but without mentioning the English, they get it too.

I was shopping in Silverburn with my mother-in-law a couple of weeks ago. She invited me for a coffee in Costa. There we sat (Brita, Amaia and I) drinking our coffee. It was yummy mummy coffee time. A woman was sitting at the next table with two kids - they looked about two and four. She was Scottish but trying to teach them Spanish. She was making every mistake in the book too. What she was doing didn't need any English explanation - she wanted to say something like 'Who wants cake? This is nice cake. Do you want something to drink?' in Spanish, but she instead she did most of it in English. 'Who wants a torta? A torta is a cake. Who wants one? If I want two tortas I can count them uno (arg!), dos' - I wanted to actually go over and grab her by the lapels and shout at her 'NO NO NO! You aren't teaching them the grammar this way, or the gender, you're giving English equivalents, you will never get anywhere this way and if they are so young, just talk to them and point, it works!!!!' 

Do we never stop and ask ourselves how we pick up our native language? When we point at a cake and say cake our two year old works out a cake is called a cake, so why do we feel the need to translate when telling a two year old cake in a different language?! Think about it!

Anyway, I'd be very surprised if anyone with any real linguistic bent allows their child to watch these kinds of shows!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I should have been a detective

Tiny, little age 2 sized chocolate handprints all over my duvet...
Sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion Amaia has been in my bed when no one's been looking.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Borscht recipes, please!

Waitrose had reduced its extra special Borscht the other week - I bought it and instantly fell in love, which is odd because I only usually eat homemade soup. I decided of course to make it myself next time round so tried to google a Borscht recipe only to find there are hundreds of different versions from veggie to beef, from bland to chili-filled. Thomas has one recipe he wrote down while living in St Petersburg but to be honest my Cyrillic isn't good enough to get beyond reading the title, so if anyone out there has a favourite Borscht recipe, preferably in a alphabet I'm good at, please let me know!


Yes Scotland has started selling the cutest pro-independence t-shirts for kids, don't you think?!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Coco pops

Ever since we saved up enough codes to get our free Kelloggs bowls last month, breakfast has been a hoot... First Amaia climbs up in her chair and asks for a straw bowl - which I have to say always throws me at that time in the morning, as I try to imagine how a bowl made of straw can hold milk without dissolving! Once awake it dawns on me that she means a bowl with a built-in straw for the milk. Then I always have to stifle my sniggers as my tiniest, sweetest, little girl adamantly exclaims that she'd like 'popo cocks' for breakfast!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gaggia Update #2

Less than 24 hours after receiving my machine I found a voicemail telling me they wanted to courier it back to me...

Odd, it took them two weeks not to fix it last time.

I rang this morning. The number was only the courier company so the woman I was speaking to couldn't access my notes to check what they'd done. I refused to have it back, which left her somewhat taken aback. I asked to be put through to an engineer. She said she couldn't do that but gave me their direct line.

I phoned that, told the whole story once again and was finally told I was at the switchboard, so would be redirected to the engineers. Two minutes later I found myself back speaking to the courier organiser who had been my original port of call. Ho hum. Funnily enough, once I was put through to her a second time, she found a new ability to actually transfer me to the engineers.

I then got Amy the engineer. Silence, as she brought up my file, followed by 'Oh it seems to have been descaled!' So you've descaled my machine for the third time in two months when I live in a soft water area and the problem is that the water comes out the steamer when I press the espresso button? That's just superb! I tell you what, I don't want it back, can you just get Emmanuel (my usual engineer) to ring me next time he's on. I hung up in disgust.

Half an hour later Emmanuel popped up. Apparently it hasn't been descaled - the other engineer just didn't get onto screen two, three, four and five of my repairs! It not only has a full new steamer component but he claims there are now photos of it being tested with my notes! (We'll see!)

So I agreed to have it back Wednesday but both Emmanuel and I came to the conclusion I should probably test it myself this time before inviting friends or family round for coffee.

I await Kenny's return on Wednesday with bated breath!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gaggia update #1

So I spoke to my little foreign friend on Monday. He didn't instill the greatest confidence in me with his opening gambit 'From your notes I see you are having problems with your Gaggia Titanium!' (It's a Gaggia Synchrony Logic). I explained that Philips/Gaggia had claimed to have simply descaled my (non-scaly) machine and that in doing so they had somehow managed to repipe the water through a different outlet. He immediately suggested that given it was under a year old and this was its third fault, I should take it back to the retail outlet I bought it from for a full refund. When I mentioned I was in Glasgow and it was in Tuscany I was met with a sigh! He suggested that maybe I could allow his team to have one final shot at fixing it and this time he'd put on my notes that the machine should be fully tested before it was couriered back to me! 'Now there's a novel idea!' I teased him. I whined a little about the fact that I had not had a decent coffee now since August and he promised faithfully my machine would be returned this time with a large jar of Gaggia's best coffee for my trouble. I cattily commented that that would be lovely assuming I could get the water come out the correct spout next time round!

Wee Kenny was sent round from DPD couriers again. He's now starting to thank me personally for keeping him from ever being made redundant. Off he went with my machine again. Then the postman rang the bell. There was a box addressed to me. I didn't recall ordering anything. I opened it expectantly. A large jar of ground Gaggia espresso coffee - what a lovely gesture... except my machine takes beans! Ho hum... I'm not holding out much hope for repair number three :-(

tbc again!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


In 1985 I started uni. I made many new friends - some I knew for the five years I was there, some who stayed in my life ever since. A group of us became known as the purple people.

It was partly related to Glasgow uni's choice of purple as the colour for their Arts graduates, and partly because the purple people became my bridesmaids, in purple, at my first wedding. There was Sheina, Shona, Linda, Jillian, Gillian and me.

We went all round Europe together. Here we are in Germany in 1989. We also did France the previous year and a number of trips thereafter. 
Over the years we attended each others' weddings, further graduations, met the various babies and men who came and went in the group and continued to meet for meals and chats once or twice a year for twenty seven years, despite some of us having moved to Germany, Austria and England.

Just three weeks ago we managed to get almost all of us together and we had a lovely night here. It was the first time in a few years most of us had been in the same country at the same time. That night though, we didn't know it would be the last time we would ever have a get together. We didn't know how special that night would be. Two weeks later Sheina died in her sleep as a result of hypertension and a heart problem. She was 45 years old. In complete shock and disbelief, we are all now trying to arrange our second get together in less than a month for her funeral. It doesn't seem real. Linda summed it up talking to me on Sunday 'We're too young, Phyl, to be burying our friends'.

I've just spent five months thinking (correctly) my dad was too young to die, so this is just mind-blowing.

So what can I say? She was a beautiful person, a caring person, she accepted you for who you were. You could confide in her. She was someone who underestimated her own worth. She was loved more than she ever understood. After a wine or two she had a great sense of humour! I will fondly think of her dancing the Timewarp and singing along to Grease at 3am in my parents' house throughout the 80s and my own house in the 90s! I can't believe we'll not be spending another twenty seven years meeting and eating once or twice a year, although of course when the rest of us meet in the future, I imagine a great number of hours will be spent reminiscing about Sheina.

                                                Sheina Harrison 1967-2012 a life too short...

Monday, October 15, 2012

B&Q plant sale

Is B&Q generally frequented by thick people? We were in yesterday and they had reduced a lot of their plants from about £15 to between 50p and £2. Ninety per cent of the customers were giving these rather scabby offerings a very wide berth. Thomas and I did notice immediately that if we just checked the label on each, it stated quite clearly which plants were hardy and therefore a great bargain as they'd be back next spring or summer looking as good as new.

I had been wanting a blue hydrangea all summer but at £20 I couldn't bring myself to buy one. Once the remaining pink one they had in stock had been reduced to £1.50 simply because its flowers were starting to look a bit faded, I suddenly found pink much more appealing than blue! Four and five will like pink best anyway. Even if only one in three of the plants we bought survives, and there's no reason to think they shouldn't all survive, we managed to spend £18 yesterday on over £250 of plants.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

I sense a saga is beginning...

It started at the end of August. Our beloved family Xmas present all the way from Italy suddenly stopped heating water half way through making a cappuccino. No hot water meant no steam and you can't froth milk without steam...

Given it had been bought in Italy I first went down the line of trying to find someone to repair it - it wasn't like I could send it back to Italy all that cheap even if it was still under warranty. I found a wee place in Fife that could fix it if I drove it there and back and their minimum charge was £50. Then I found a place in Nottingham that would courier it for £23 and also had a minimum charge to open it up of £40. I then found a coffee repair shop in Govan - bingo! I emailed them and they told me that could fixed any type of cappuccino machine as long as it didn't grind beans... It grinds beans - bugger - back to square one. As I was sitting trying to work out what plan D was I suddenly got another email from the owner of the Govan repair shop. It simply asked if I was aware that Gaggia was a subsidiary of Philips in the UK. An hour later I had spoken to Philips Gaggia coffee repair shop and they'd offered to send a courier free of charge and repair it under warranty! Thank you so much Govan guy!

The machine was picked up and packaged by the courier and a week later it came back with a new thermostat and its innards descaled, all free of charge. We settled down to normality and everything was great for three weeks. Then one day I decided to grab a wee sneaky espresso. That is as basic as things come - one single espresso - not quite as challenging as Sunday morning's seven cappuccinos. I turned it on, hit the button, all the lights flashed, it banged and it died. I didn't even get my espresso.

I sent it back again. This time it took them two weeks to 'fix'. It came back today and we invited mum down to christen it. Marcel, its biggest fan, pulled it out of all the packaging. Not wanting to tax it too much before it was back into the swing of family life, I ordered a simple espresso. He put the cup under the nozzle, and having filled the water and beans compartments, pressed the espresso button. The beans moved, the grinder ground the beans, the water heated, I reached out in anticipation and the water suddenly spat out from the milk steamer as the dry, unused ground coffee powder was discarded into the bean collection tray. Sorry? This had to be a joke. We tried again. Same happened - three times! Some idiot had obviously connected the water pipe to the wrong outlet. I then had a cunning idea. What if I tried using the steamer, would that make a coffee? I heated the steamer and turned it on. It steamed too. So are all water tubes now connected to the steamer? I tried to turn the steamer off. It continued to steam. Eventually I found the only way to stop it steaming was to pull the plug out of the socket! Two new faults! I checked the repair sheet to see what they had claimed to have done to fix the original problem. It said 'Machine has been descaled'! 

So a machine that blows up and dies simply needs descaling (four weeks after they last descaled it) and  descaling it causes the internal pipework to jump around and become rewired? I have a feeling someone is bullshitting me somewhere because they can't work out how to fix it. I may have found someone who couriers and repairs for free but I unfortunately have not yet found someone capable of repairing it!

Emmanuel at Philips Gaggia will be hearing from me Monday...


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Charlotte's school tie

I'm not 100% sure what size of child they are expecting in S1-3 in the kids' high school. This tie is the standard issue aimed at fitting 11-14 year olds! After a term Lots has finally found a complicated tie-tying method that results in a tie that doesn't protrude from beneath her skirt! But, really, what are they thinking?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Brita, Peter and the little ones

It was nice to see my in-laws last week.

I guess I've never known any different but it is odd having your in-laws live abroad. Unlike the way many families function, mine don't drop in for the occasional coffee, (or to babysit in an emergency!), instead they drop by for a week every six to nine months. Given both my husbands have been foreign, I've never know what it is like to simply have my mother-in-law drop by unannounced. Some women might think that's a bonus, but I actually miss having them around! It's nice to talk to them. Two or three weeks a year isn't really enough. It is also hard on the little ones who must feel it is an eternity between visits given how much slower time passes at two or four.

Of course it is lovely to have the option of going abroad to visit them - whether they are in their Italian or Danish home but it does make for a vaguely odd way of life.

Watermelon salad

It isn't quite the weather for it at the moment (given I've had to start scraping my car this week :-( ) but Lots has been going on about watermelons today so it reminded me... 

So this is just a note to myself, should I be lucky enough to escape this dismal climate at any point in the not too distant future. Watermelon, mint and feta salad, one of my father-in-law's specialties, is one of the nicest things you can eat once the temperature goes above about 28°C.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A seemingly underwhelming knowledge of Danish

Both Anna and Léon have independently been exploring what makes them different from their classmates in the last week or two. 

Anna came home after a few weeks at school and told me she'd had a talk with her teacher about her other language:
                    I told my teacher I speak Danish too, she announced
                    Did you speak to her in Danish? I asked
                    Not whole sentences, I just taught her a few words.
                    Which words?
                    I told her Danish for Hi is Hej (pronounced more or less the same) I told her trampoline                      
                    is trampolin and I told her panda is panda! 

As someone who didn't grow up bilingually but was always fascinated by language, I found it mind-blowing that my child would choose such underwhelming words to 'impress' her teacher. I would have thought coming up with words that sound really different like pølse, haven, kanin (sausage, garden, rabbit) might have impressed more? Maybe I am just more of a show-off at heart, and Anna is more nurturing, trying not to scare her 'pupil' at first? I don't know.

Anyway, amusingly I let it lie and a few days later Léon came in and announced:
                      I've decided to teach my friend Fraser Danish! 
                      (Léon hadn't been present at my previous chat with Anna). 
                      That's nice, I replied, what have you taught him? 
                      I told him Danish for hi is hej! I told him Danish for September is september...

What is it with you two? You speak the bloody language! Can't you even tell them how to count to ten or something before they all think you're daft when you say you're bilingual?!

Put me on the 'naughty' car!

I love it when kids misunderstand language.

Today we were up at ASDA and in a hurry as I had to buy the stuff for Léon's birthday party before picking Léon and some kids up at school. I was running late and had Amaia along with me. As we passed Costa she started shouting excitedly 'Put me on the naughty car!' over and over. I know some people use 'the naughty step' as their method of discipline, but I can't remember using that term in front of my kids ever. If I want them in some sort of timeout, I tend to ask them to go and stand in the porch, but the word 'naughty' has never come into it. If it had been one of my other kids, I'd have assumed they heard it at someone else's house, but Amaia is two and has never been away from me, so I was baffled. And what on earth is a naughty car? I really didn't have time to find out if I was going to make school, so I scooped her into a trolley and legged it. She wasn't pleased.

After shopping, as I ran out, she scooted off round the corner till we got to the Noddy car and relieved, she announced - 'Ahh, the naughty car!' Sweet!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Genetic testing?

Today we had a box of chocolate and orange bite-size cup cakes lying about in the kitchen. Thomas made coffee and took us one each just as Anna walked in. I heard him asking Anna in Danish if she'd like a cup cake. Of course, she replied and followed him back into the kitchen but upon spying the gherkins that were still out from lunch, she immediately said she'd much rather have two gherkins instead, if that was ok?!

I guess you don't always need genetic testing to ascertain which members of the family are part German! ;-)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

How to cope with death

I overheard this conversation between Anna (4) and Amaia (2) yesterday. Amaia was playing with an old mobile phone:
'Hello, Pumpa? It's Amaia'
'You can't phone Pumpa any more Amaia, he died'
'I can can talk to Pumpa if I like, he's still my best friend'

Sometimes I think the smallest children come out with the most profound words.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

New uniforms... again!

Since the kids went back in August, the school has been very enthusiastic about their new (old-fashioned) uniform. I moaned about it before it was forced upon us and a term in my opinion has not changed.

From Léon (p3)'s perspective: The little buttons on the shirts have added at least five minutes onto his dressing time, and getting both sides of his shirt aligned is a bit hit and miss - I'd say he gets it one button out 30% of the time. He can now tie a tie but it is often too long, too short, over one side of his collar etc. True enough, if I dress him, he can look neat and tidy but he turned seven at the weekend and has been dressing himself for years so why should I go back to dressing him? Of course, after six hours in school, he always comes out with his shirt hanging out and sticking out below his jumper, looking vaguely like he's been dragged through a hedge. He wears his rain jacket every day but on the days that it is too cold for that and I zip his fleece inside he gets annoyed at the inner sleeves popping out of the outer ones. Come winter, he will not be wearing the prescribed school jacket. Forcing us to buy three new jackets was a step too far so I have bought him a Tesco one instead. It cost half the price of the prescribed one, is just as warm and can be worn on weekends.

From Anna (p1)'s perspective. She is unable at four to button the stiff little shirt buttons. She could easily have coped with the old polo shirts but the shirts are too hard. With difficulty she can unbutton the ones she's worn often enough to loosen but straight from the wrapping, she can't unbutton them either. She still can't tie her tie, so I have to do that in the mornings. Like Léon, everything hangs out after six hours unless she wears a pinafore, which she does half the time. She openly admits her teacher is forced to do her buttons after gym - a great use of her teaching time. Of course, we have been told p1s are allowed to buy extra polo shirts for gym days over and above the normal uniform but quite frankly I have bought enough and if they are stupid enough to bring in this uniform for four year olds, they can deal with the consequences. Anna, too has the same issue with the rain jacket. And like Léon she will not be wearing the school winter jacket once it gets colder. I found a much superior coat on ebay for half the price.

From my perspective. I am utterly sick of ironing shirts when I used to simply put them straight in the polos from the tumble drier. I am fed up doing tiny buttons half-awake before I have tracked down my reading glasses in the morning. I don't think they look smart, they look rigid and uncomfortable. If they wanted them in a shirt and tie for the school photo, I wouldn't have objected but daily, I think it is a major leap backwards from the comfortable and functional uniform Marcel and Lots got to wear.

Little kids should look like little kids!

From a foreign perspective. My mother-in-law turned up last week from Denmark for the first time since the kids started back. What happened to the nice comfortable uniforms they used to wear? she asked. This is just over the top, are they trying to make them look like they go to Eton, or what? I guess that's a thumbs-down from her too.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Flying on his Nimbus 2000

Léon was very pleased to get a real Harry Potter broom stick for his birthday from our neighbour Emma!

Monday, October 01, 2012


I'm not a golf fan. I don't know what you use irons or woods for. I've just about sussed a putter! I used to nod when dad told me he'd beaten his friend four and five (or was it five and four?) - I could tell it was good, but didn't know what it meant!

I can't help but feel Europe's amazing comeback tonight feels bittersweet though. He's not here to see it and he'd have enjoyed it a whole lot better than I did. I think Steve and dad would have had a great night/weekend.

The Falls of the Clyde

If you live in Glasgow and have never been to the falls of the Clyde, I have to recommend it. I try to go once a decade but in fact it is worth going more often than that. In the next few weeks the autumnal colours will show it at its best. And given the recent rainfall, it is spectacularly fierce at the moment.

Youthful palates...

Marcel is usually a great cook. He can easily rustle up a Jamie Oliver-type meal for eight people.

Today he invited his friend Deen for lunch and to study history together (so he claims anyway!) I asked what he was making for lunch for the two of them but I wasn't quite ready for the reply. Rolls in Scotch pie! In true McEnroe style I had to reply: You cannot be serious! But he was! I hope he doesn't try that on one of his female friends - I'm not sure how it will be received!

They grow quickly at that age

I came across this photo of Marcel and mum taken two years and nine months ago. He thought he was very tall then... little did he imagine how the next couple of years would pan out!