Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Picnic table

Thomas and I spent two years eyeing up this picnic table in Makro because it is much sturdier than the one we have and has space for all of us. We knew if we just waited long enough, it would one day make it into their sale.

Last July we were thrilled when finally it came down by 20%. Ready for our bargain we went over and picked it up (just!) in our people carrier, having evicted all the seats and all the passengers. It was sturdy, solid and beautiful, but unfortunately, not equipped for the most torrential winter in Scottish history. Despite the tarp, this is what we uncovered at the end of winter (ie last week!)

Having tried sanding it, but failed to remove the water stains, we decided paint was our only option, so now have a new, beautiful white picnic table. Well, this is the undercoat. Once I've attacked it with outdoor gloss, I'll re-photograph it. But what a bloody job. It took 4 hours and I ended up with so much paint in my hair from lying under it that I couldn't take the hairclip out that I'd puled it back with. Having spent half the afternoon lying under it because it is too heavy to lift, I am dreading coats three and four.


Léon is currently crying with laughter after watching this daft wee bugger, and begging me for a kitten!

Nice weather

My family finds me strange.

Whenever the decent weather finally arrives in Scotland each year, most of us greet it with relief and our spirits lift. I react in almost the opposite manner. In the cold of winter, I have given little thought to the nicer places I have lived in my life but as soon as warmth hits, it is as if suddenly I remember how wonderful it is to be in the sun and I sink into a sadness that comes from missing France, wanting to be back in France with Thomas and my kids, being greeted every morning by that type of light that you don't get here in northern Europe. I smell the smells and imagine the warm streets dusty from lack of rain and I desperately want to be on the first plane to Besançon, to the Dordogne, to Aix, to Brittany or to somewhere on the south coast. No one gets why my mood falls as everyone else's rises.

This year Marcel has booked to go on holiday to Bordeaux with his friend Andy, and I am desperately trying to work out how to stow away in his luggage without being discovered!

It's fascinating. These days people often like to drop into conversation with me how much they dislike France, assuming I will jump to agree given I divorced my Frenchman. I guess they forget my kids are French citizens so I might find that offensive. They don't question why I have spent the past 15 years talking to my kids in French, if I dislike it so much. They forget I lived in France and did a French degree because every part part of me feels a deep love of that country and affinity with it. I couldn't have gone to live in France with my ex, not because of France but because I couldn't live with my ex! If my current husband suggests retiring to Bordeaux or Grenoble one day twenty years from now, I'll have the house packed up before sunset that day!

Airport security

I find airport security fascinating. I'm not a nervous traveller, I've done too much of it to let it get me down, and I know how to pack my whole life into one case to by-pass Ryanair's crazy baggage charges, but two stories about airport security have annoyed me recently. The thing I find tedious is when they do something stupid, and pointless so we feel safer, when in fact it does not impact on our real safety.

The first happened back in February. Thomas, my husband, was taking my son on holiday to Denmark.  They flew out to Copenhagen with no problems. They flew using Thomas's Danish passport, naming him Widmann, and Léon's UK passport naming him as Gautier. On their return, ie trying to get back into the country of the child's passport, Thomas was asked if he had any means of proving he was allowed to fly with Léon as they didn't have the same name! (That's Stansted for you!) He didn't. They asked if he maybe had his birth certificate with him. Funnily enough, he didn't. A few questions arise in my mind: firstly why would having a birth certificate saying he was Léon Gautier be any different to having a passport saying the same? If it was so they could see the relationship to Thomas, they can't. On Léon's birth certificate I am named as Phyllis Gautier, so even if Thomas happened to have Léon's birth certificate and our marriage one, we still seem not to be related to Léon. Secondly, if I had been flying in with him to Stansted, I would have had the same issue, as I, like thousands of mothers these days, do not share the same surname as any of my children. Thirdly, once they asked Léon who Thomas was and got his reply of 'he's Thomas of course!' they were  happy enough to let them pass, as if that actually changed anything. I am also puzzling over why they were worried about a foreigner flying into the UK with a UK minor, rather than out with one! And finally, why do you need to be related to someone to fly together? If Léon happens to get invited on holiday with a school friend, and I was happy for him to go... Anyway, I do not intend to start carrying a suitcase of paperwork to fly anywhere with my own child so it seems to me they need to drop it altogether or come up with some concrete rules!

The second, and even more ridiculous airport story occurred when my mother-in-law tried to fly out with a 200 box of Scottish tea bags. My father-in-law loves Scottish tea. She had bought them last minute and thrown them in her hand luggage. So if you were on that particular flight out of Edinburgh, the hold-up at security was the lady on the desk insisting on taking one bag at a time out of the box and passing it through the x-ray scanner, to check for...? Actually god only knows what x-raying a tea-bag checks for! I kid you not!

It's a mad world!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Deceptive Books

This is the first book I ever noticed on Thomas's bookshelf when I visited him back when we were just best friends. I only saw the spine back then and wondered what the son of a minister and a theology professor was doing with a book about the madness of God! Obviously I have since learnt Danish so I now realize that contrary to my fist impression that it was going to be some exciting work of rebellion, it is in fact merely a cookery book entitled 'Good food'. But it still makes me smile every time I see it! (And for anyone who is unfamiliar with how compound nouns are formed in mainland European Germanic languages, don't you just love the length of that word in the sub-heading?)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Partick Thistle

Derek and Marcel took the boys off to Firhill on Saturday to indoctrinate them in the ways of Partick Thistle. Léon was very impressed to see lots of goals and a real trophy so it seems to have been a hit. And it got me out of being dragged along this time. Last time they got promoted, or was it the time before that, it was a slightly more youthful little brother who dragged me along and made me take photos of his pitch invasion!
(Awwwh, isn't he cute?)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Danish Sweets again

A couple of people who agree with me on Danish confectionery! (Links sent to me by a Danish friend!)

Skip to 4 mins 30 if you want to see how Danish sweets affect foreign palates.

And this brave girl tries even more varieties (though no one seems to have sent her the specific ones I was taking issue with the other night!)

She agrees (at 15 mins) that the Tyrkisk Peber are the hardest for foreigners to stomach!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I was listening to the Sports' news on the car radio tonight on the way to Beavers and Sunbeams... A strong Liverpool accent came out with: 'We just need to get Suarez back on the right track'. Anna asked in all seriousness: 'Mummy what language is the man with the funny voice talking?!'

Now here's an idea. Given we haven't booked a holiday this year, we could simply nip down to the Wirral with our big tent and tell (at least) the three little ones that we are abroad given they would think the natives weren't speaking English! I must say it made me smile. I spent most of my teenage summers in Liverpool and on the Wirral (my high school friend moved there are 14) so it is probably the English accent I am most accustomed to!

Chicken pox - Day 9

I decided to let Amaia go back to nursery today if she got up on time, and keep her home if she was still exhausted. She is, after all, no longer contagious.

She bounced down at 8-15am and decided she was going. I took her in with half the parents giving us a wide berth and the other half cocking their heads in pity at the sight of her. It will of course be a couple of weeks before we can go out without funny looks, if I remember from Léon's case.

Her teacher had seen the aftermath of chicken pox too often to wince or pity, she simply greeted her return with a smile and a hug seemingly not noticing the state of her face and neck. As I went to sign her in she shouted over to me 'It's so lovely to have her back... and just in time. We're having the annual class photo taken tomorrow morning!'

OMG - talk about diabolical timing! How many of the parents in the group are going to want an 8x10 of the dozen of so kids in the yellow group, the teacher and Mrs Spotty-pizza-face sitting (no doubt) in the front row (given she's the youngest and smallest) for their living room wall? My name is going to be mud! I never understood why professional photographers don't ask if you'd like the photo photoshopped or not?! I'd happily let them tidy up her neck this time!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Growing the wings you need to fly

It takes minutes. You blink and in an instant the baby on the left becomes the boy on the right and you wonder where your life went. Suddenly you realize that although childhood takes forever when it's your own, when it is your child's, you are completely unprepared for the speed at which they grow up and into capable young adults who are able to lead their own lives. You feel a sudden pang of guilt towards your own parents for having done that to them not so long ago.

What has brought this to my attention? India. Marcel's school suggested that next year after the fifth years finish their Highers, it might be nice to go off and help some underprivileged kids in the third world, renovating their school, teaching them some English while at the same time testing their own stamina and maturity. There are 250 kids in the year and the teachers decided they could take a maximum of forty young adults. To gain place you first had to write an application explaining what you would bring to the experience and how you would go about raising the £2300 needed to transport yourself to the foothills of the Himalayas. From these applicants, a hundred would be chosen and interviewed by a panel of four - two teachers and two members of the World Challenge organization. After three weeks deliberation all hundred were tannoyed to assemble at the office last Friday at lunch break. They were to make their way to inside and receive their letter of acceptance or rejection. I had hoped Marcel's maturity would shine through. He's been through a lot over the last few years. He's lived through divorce, estrangement from his father, and three other members of his French family, watching my dad die of cancer, and my mum suffer a stroke too. The recession has been tougher on him than on many of his friends. Unlike those who receive endless cash donations for lying in bed all weekend Marcel works Mon-Fri 6-30am to 7-30am outside in all weather with only Xmas day off in the year and Sunday morning from 5am to 9am in the corner shop. He's also worked hard academically, sitting his first Int 2 in 2nd year and his first Higher in 4th. Next year he's signed up for an extra Advanced Higher over and above his five Highers. So I hoped this would help him articulate his case. He deserves this kind of break that we could never pay for and that others with more means would take for granted. He was determined to do it for himself and even more so to see for himself how lucky he really is in a global context. He can't wait to meet the kids and play with them, as he does with his own younger siblings.

I knew he was being told Friday and when I hadn't received a text by 3pm I feared the worst but it was a very upbeat boy who jumped off the bus clutching his 'We are delighted to tell you...' letter after school. He and two of his friends had made the cut. Now all he needs to do is work out how to raise his airfare. Much as we'd love to help him, self-employed, six years into a recession with a pre-recession mortgage, four other kids to pay for, and no sign on the horizon of his biological father, he's on his own. But I have every confidence this next year will make my little boy into a man. 

And what about this for an itinerary for someone who will only be 16 when he goes?

A special gift

I sometimes think the most special gift I ever gave my biggest child was my smallest child. With 13 years between them, they are at opposite ends of childhood's spectrum but the sheer joy they get from each other is visible on a daily basis.

Danish boiled sweets

I don't know if you need to be genetically Danish, or if you need to be born in Denmark, or what to appreciate Danish confectionery, but despite a decade of trying, I must finally concede that Danish sweets are utterly vile. Maybe they are meant to be to encourage a healthier lifestyle? If you make sweets taste like that even kids will ask for apples instead, cunning...

The little transparent ones are passable but disconcerting. Despite being red they taste of creamy vanilla custard. They feel wrong, but can be eaten. The yellow lumps smell strongly of banana but once in your mouth emit a smelly-sockness that is barf-worthy. The black taste of that usual hideous mix of warmth, salt and liquorice. I imagine traditional liquorice might taste like this, had you buried it, wrapped in seaweed on a beach for the summer. But the blue take the biscuit. They are somewhere between salt liquorice and toe nail cheese once again, but with no banana disguise it this time. There's definitely a certain je ne sais quoi in there.

I don't think Lindt should be worried! ;-)


We've always been very open with the kids about what meat is made of. English likes its meat euphemisms like pork, and beef.

I remember Anna, before she could speak properly, used to differentiate using the animal noises - we had cluck-cluck meat, moo-meat and oink-oink meat.

Yesterday, completely seriously, after a meal out with his school friends, Léon asked me what breed of dog was used in hot dogs! He even looked a little deceived when I mentioned they were unlikely to contain dog (though there might be the odd chunk of horse in there, depending on where they were sourced ;-) ) I'm sure my doggy-loving mates will be horrified, but he'll never have any issues with intercontinental travel, that's for sure.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A fond farewell to my old school

In 1979 I went to high school. My local school was Eastwood High - an upper secondary grammar school that had just been converted the previous year to a normal six year high school. I had been bored rigid for seven years at primary, spending many hours staring out the window which resulted in report after report telling my parents I was working hard but was average in every way. The problem was I wasn't - working hard that is. In fact the only thing I was working hard at was staying awake! 

Tantalizingly close, I could see the high school across the road from my primary and longed to leave. On the induction day, my first impressions were very positive. It was big, I was suddenly small again. The building was tall - three whole floors, five or six different buildings. Each class was over too soon and I was swept along to corridors in a sea of big, noisy kids all chatting happily. It felt very much alive and I was determined to start anew. I went into the French class and was greeted a small woman with dark, elfin hair. She had a foreign accent! She told us she was going to teach us ten words in French and that she would test us on our first day in August to check if we'd been paying attention. She went round the class naming pieces of furniture and parts of the room - la table, les fenêtres etc But when she said 'le mur' something changed in me. I can pinpoint the exact moment, the exact word that shaped my entire future. It was May '79 (no, unlike everything else this week, this is not about Margaret Thatcher)  and a French woman said the word 'le mur' and I woke up. The quality of the vowel sound played with my ear. I had never heard a 'u' sound pronounced like that. In an instant I realized there were other languages out there and they sounded different. I was mentally transported beyond my small world. I was only 11 and I had never been abroad. I had never heard foreigners speak. I had no idea whether I was going to be good at language-learning but I was thrilled at the prospect.

By the end of my first year, my hard work in French resulted in my being streamed into the top second year class which came with the exciting prize of getting to learn a second foreign language, German. Second floor left - I lived along that corridor. I have special memories of every language teacher I had. Highlights included Miss Blair stopping in the middle of one of my oral exams with the surprising statement - This is pointless, we might as well stop here, your German is faultless! That fair boosted the moral of the little girl who'd heard she was average all those years. I loved walking into Mrs Callaghan's class at the age of 12, listening to her chanting German adjective endings and threatening to say them behind the curtain on This is your Life, should any of us become famous one day. The lovable and terribly camp Mr Sutherland's accounts of his year abroad in Paris's Latin Quarter made me float to a new realm. I suddenly realized I too could do that one day, and I did. A slight man, I still remember him asking one day if any of the large 18 year old boys in the class could lend him a pair of size 6 (39) rugby boots for a charity match! How we laughed. Mr Ogg taught us CSYS French. I loved us all sitting in a circle drinking coffee and discussing French literature, art, politics and history in a university-like fashion. He sent me on a study weekend in 1985 where I was placed in a group with a French native speaker helper - one André - much as our divorce twenty years later was acrimonious, I adore the kids that relationship gave me, so Mr Ogg truly changed my life. But there were two teachers who really influenced me way beyond the others. Mr McBirnie - one of most learned men I have ever met - should have taught at university, not school but I was lucky enough to be his only CSYS German pupil. We read Thomas Mann together, we studied the Holocaust, the birth of the East German State and its politics, we dabbled with Kurt Weill in our spare time. He made the worst coffee I have tasted in my life and I was so in awe of him, I never did dare to tell him! A traditional gentleman, he still wore his graduation robes every day to teach and the younger kids made his life a nightmare calling him batman and trying to spear the goldfish in the pond two floors below his classroom window, but I hope I made his last year of teaching bearable. He retired the day I left. And then there was Mrs Guy. She came back to teaching in my last year and I was given her for the other half of my German course. I felt a little apprehensive as I knew all the staff well and she was unknown to me. That could be awkward with only her and I together in a large cupboard discussing translation, and poetry in German. I walked in the first day and suggested coffee. We bought two mugs and a jar of instant coffee and started to chat about German, then kids, then life. She gave me tips and life advice as well as university-type tutorials. She shaped me more than any other teacher I ever had. We talked and talked and never stopped. She had two boys - a young one and a disabled older one. When I left to go to uni she asked if I wanted to be her babysitter so we stayed in touch for years. Eventually I moved a few times and we lost touch until a year ago when I came across her again. We agreed to meet for a coffee - would it be awkward and full of difficult pauses? I walked up to her in the café where we'd arranged to meet, neither of us had changed overly. We started to talk and couldn't stop - now retired, she's learning Italian and rings me for help and advice - the teacher has become the pupil, the pupil the teacher - funny how life works out! We're having coffee this week!

Anyway all this was because last night my old high school invited back its former pupils for one last look before the building is demolished in the summer, replaced by a new state of the art building. I nearly didn't go - why bother - but I'm glad I did. So many memories came back. I went into Mrs Findlay (with a 'd')'s class and remembered her little cupboard back-left where young girls were forced to remove their nail varnish as it wasn't ladylike! I went into the library and found two magazines I'd helped edit! In the Home Economics classes I remembered making apple crumble - where I'd stood and all. The little flat the used to use back then to teach us girls how to iron in and tidy up(!) was no longer, I am relieved to say! I'd forgotten how I felt about the staircases too... There were the Boys' stairs and the Girls' stairs! By middle school we were allowed on both as that concept was being phased out but I suddenly remembered how slippy they felt under foot, with a herd of big boys thundering down at my back I often feared I wouldn't make it through to sixth year with my front teeth intact!

I'm sad I was in such a rush I forgot my camera. Fortunately Lots brought her phone - hence the one shot above. But in summing up, that place made me who I am. The love of language I got there resulted in a degree, two husbands, five kids, many séjours abroad and friends for life. It gave me back the self esteem primary school had effaced. I won prizes for Modern Languages, Maths, History, Chemistry. Miss Average worked her way up into the top four or five girls in the school academically and for that I can never underestimate its worth. I loved my six years at Eastwood and am sad that that building will be gone by this summer, but in a way it will never be gone because it lives on in me.

Chicken Pox Day 6

And so we've reached day six now, with still no let up and very little crusting over :-( Amaia has definitely won second prize for pox-severity in this house, coming close behind Léon. What happened with Léon was that he caught chicken pox six months after starting nursery, and at the end of the winter. Amaia has followed exactly the same pattern. The difference, however, is that Léon started when he was one, spent six months ill, having caught every bug at nursery and got it when his immune system was least able to cope. Amaia didn't start nursery till her third birthday as I now work from home rather than an office, so was older and tougher when she started. That meant she didn't spend the first six months ill and seems to have come in to the battle fully equipped and still, look at the mess of her. She has swollen eyes with spots on her lids and all round the edge of eyes, spots in her ears, her fingers are covered. She even has them on the palms of her hands. She's so itchy, she can't sleep so Thomas and I are up all night comforting her which isn't great for our work output. I do still wish they offered the vaccine here, as they do in many other countries rather than leaving it in the private realm. Given how many other vaccines they get as babies, it seems a shame that she has to go through all of this just because I can't afford private health care.

I'm also not sure how it is meant to work in the modern work setting either. Had I still been working off-site I'd have needed to take off more than two weeks in the last four given I have no one who could care for a highly contagious child. That would have cost society much more than the vaccine... As it is, I just need to work when the sick kid is asleep which isn't great for my health but...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Musical memories

Chris Evans played this on the Breakfast Show this morning in full. It was very odd. I was driving my kids to school but suddenly I was eight years old and in my granny's front room listening to her play at a New Year party. Glued to the driver's seat, I couldn't speak to my kids, I just listened to it all the way through in a trance. Granny played this all the time - at parties, on weekends and always faultlessly. It's 29 years since she died, but for three minutes this morning, she was as alive as ever...


Anna's many questions pertaining to nursery rhymes last night reminded me of an amusing rhyme Léon came out with at the age of about three. I presume he'd been learning at nursery but had misheard the odd word and added his own interpretation based on words he was familiar with:

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for the bastard,
And one for the Dane,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

I wouldn't be surprised if he overheard the words 'bastard' and 'Dane' in close proximity occasionally back at that time, as he still visited his biological father then!

Slow-burning pox


I fear I may have spoken too soon, declaring Amaia's chicken pox to be mild...

Fortunately she is still not distressed, feverish or in any way perturbed, other than by the sight of herself in the mirror. She hasn't even needed calpol, though the piriton is a godsend. But the whole thing is on a much slower burner than Anna... Anna got her first spot around 2pm on 2 April, on 3 April she had more and by 4 April they plateaued. Amaia got her first spot on 12 April, on 13 April she still had only one on her neck, on 15 April in the afternoon she got three on her back and three on her front just below her neck. Yesterday she had a mild dose and today she looks like a walking pizza and her head is so lumpy with those on her scalp, I can no longer brush her hair. So what will tomorrow morning bring? Will it flatline overnight or am I getting up tomorrow to more spots than skin?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tossing the what????

Thomas is, first and foremost a linguist. Moreover he has lived in the UK for 11 years so his English is usually faultless. I can listen for days without hearing even a preposition out of place. So the opportunities to ridicule him are few and far between, and therefore must be grasped head-on when they arise... 

Over lunch today...

Thomas: "Did you hear they are doing Highland Games down at Rouken Glen on Saturday? I think we should take the kids. They'd really enjoy it. There are Icelandic strongmen and everything. It'd be fun to watch them tossing the caper!"

Hahahahahaha! Immediately I saw the photo above in my mind's eye! (And let's face it, I can only get away with publicly humiliating him because my Danish is a piss-poor second to his English!)

Poxy pudding - day 3

Now that Amaia has developed the chicken pox too, I think we can safely say that she, like Marcel, Charlotte and Anna before her has gone down the ordinary, boring, chicken pox route. She was hot for an hour or two last Saturday and isn't even itchy, thanks to Piriton. She skipped a couple of meals, but hasn't shed a tear, and given she (like Marcel and Lots) hasn't developed any significant spots on her face, then a week or two down the line, we'll not even know she's had it. Seven years of worry after Léon's hospital escapades have been unfounded. I'm so glad to have it over with at last.

(And yes, she's reached that stage of illness when Heinz tomato soup has to be top of the menu!)

Post pox

Isn't Anna's face looking a bit better now the pox are starting to clear up? There's just that big one under her mouth left to go. It looks like we've escaped with a fairly light dose, though I guess in my book, not being hospitalized counts as a mild dose! Phew...

(Oh and I gave in to my inner sad nerd and sorted the t-shirt. Doesn't it look better now?)

Inside a 5 year old's head

Inside a 5 year old's head is a tiring place to be, I am concluding this evening.

Thomas was out so I had to take the kids to bed. In general Thomas likes to do this to read Danish stories to the kids, but once or twice a month I am on duty. Anna was restless and hyper and not ready to sleep. In the space of ten minutes in the darkness she asked me:

  • Mummy, which bits does your brain control, is it only talking, or breathing and other stuff too?
  • Mummy, what's your blood for?
  • Mummy, if dragons had really existed would they have lived at the same time as the dinosaurs and would they have had to eat coal to keep their fire working?
  • Mummy, why is there air floating about everywhere, could we survive without it?
  • Mummy, if I was bigger than Charlotte when I was born but smaller than Amaia, could I still grow up to be the biggest?
  • Mummy, I love school so much but I want to wear my blue summer dress, why is there no summer this year?
  • Mummy, in Little Bo Peep, who is it who tells her to leave them alone? Is it her mummy, or maybe her older brother?
  • Mummy, why did Jack have a crown on when he went for water?
  • Mummy, why did they forget to put Jack and Jill in my nursery rhyme book?
  • Mummy why is Incy Wincy called Peter in Danish? And do Scottish children know his real name is Peter or should I tell them?
  • Mummy why do English people on the telly sound different to Scottish ones?
Finally I made my escape - god knows how many other questions she mulled over before I found her snoring ten minutes later!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chicken Pock

Saturday at bedtime Charlotte noticed Amaia had one little spot behind her ear. It looked suspiciously watery so I assumed we were getting up to chicken pox on Sunday morning. Amaia was hot and grumpy, bad-tempered and wouldn't eat.

Sunday morning, however, saw her bounce into our room, full of the joys and still with one spot.

So of course on Monday she would have got it? Nope, on Monday morning, there was still only one spot. Had my daughter managed to get the mildest dose of chicken pox in history? Had she got chicken pock, singular???

But, of course, suddenly on Monday afternoon her wee body gave up the fight and a few more appeared. So it looks like she has got chicken pox after all, just not very many.

Watch this space for updates...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


DSC_5206 by derek1971
DSC_5206, a photo by derek1971 on Flickr.

Just flicking through my brother's most recent uploads... I barely recognize my poor wee niece! Is this known as indoctrination?

And while we're on the topic of illnesses...

Back in 2006 I was in New York with Léon. On my flight home he started to develop a seriously strange rash that looked like little circular targets on his whole body, at the same time he started to swell up, looking like he'd spent ten rounds in the ring with a heavy-weight boxer. By the time we touched down, he couldn't open his eyes, he was so swollen. I went straight from the airport to Yorkhill where they analysed him, tested his urine, and scanned his liver and kidneys. They kept him in and eventually after a day sent him home, still scratching their heads. He was recalled several times for scans over a six month period and eventually they threw in the towel and told me they had no idea what it was.

A few years later, I was discussing it with a friend and her husband asked to see the photos. He was a hospital doctor but again wouldn't commit to a diagnosis, not even a hypothetical one.

It's always been in the back of my mind but I gave up analysing it years ago. Then on Sunday one of my best friends in the whole world, Karen (who is from Glasgow but is currently working as a director in the Medical faculty of Lancaster uni) dropped by for a coffee. Out of the blue she mentioned having come across pictures of people with the same symptoms as Léon all those years ago. As soon as I googled images, I felt like I was looking at a photo of Léon. Finally, and from an unexpected source, I know what my poor baby had on that flight six years ago. It seems to have been Erythema multiforme. Just look at these images. I wonder why no one worked that out at the time...

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Anna's chicken pox

Well we're on day 5 now of Anna and the pox and so far things aren't too bad. Now that I look back at the photos taken on Tuesday at lunchtime, she had one spot then, I just hadn't realized what it was going to develop into, until dinnertime when the whole of her hairline went spotty. So on a scale, she is a little worse than Marcel and Charlotte, but so much better than Léon when he caught it.

Tuesday and Wednesday we used calpol and piriton. Everywhere is sold out of calamine as there's a major chicken pox outbreak at the moment in the area. She ate normally and didn't seem up or down. Thursday floored her. She slept with us overnight, she slept all day and only drank Heinz tomato soup, refusing all other food. Friday found her sitting at her seat at the breakfast table, hungry and back more or less to normal, though she flagged around four and fell asleep. Today she's back to normal, has been out playing with the neighbours' kids (well the ones who've had the pox!) and everything is drying up and scabbing over. Tomorrow I expect they'll start to disappear and then we'll need to start the countdown to Amaia's outbreak, crossing everything in the hope of an equally light dose.

It is nice to reminded why it had seemed such a minor disease when Marcel and Lots got it. I have been so hung up on it since 2007, living in fear of the inevitable because it hospitalized Léon that I lost all sight of the fact that usually it is merely a minor inconvenience that affects them less than the common cold. And the Easter holiday timing is perfect, she's not even missing a day of school. Anyway, let's hope Amaia is just as lucky and not another Léon...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


We had a nice family Easter afternoon yesterday. The kids played happily with their Scottish cousins and then came home, had a nice meal and went to bed excited after a weekend of Easter eggs, filled with the prospect of their grandparents flying in this morning from Denmark.

This morning went well too. A glorious day, they touched down in Edinburgh twenty minutes early and we were back in time for lunch. At dinner Anna was a little moany. I took her through to the bathroom to get a closer look at one tiny lump she was complaining about on her forehead. Under the bathroom light I thought it looked suspicious so lifted her hair to find three spots on the back of her neck. I've had five kids. I have been through this four times already. Marcel once, Charlotte twice, mildly (both times confirmed by my doctor before you tell me you can't get chickenpox twice) and once from to hell and back (via Yorkhill) with Léon who suffered in a way I have never seen a child suffer with chickenpox. I didn't need to lift her t-shirt but I did anyway. There were three or four more under her vest.

She's gone to bed none the worse, so far and I am hoping that we are revisiting a Marcel or Charlotte dose, and not one that puts us in Yorkhill. And the next three weeks are going to be long as we watch both Amaia and baby Catriona for signs of the dreaded lumps.

I'll update in a day or two once the extent of the dose becomes more obvious...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Fiat 500L (again)

People who know me might have noticed me going on and on and on in the past about wanting a Fiat 500. You probably know I like pink and purple ones, you probably heard I hired an automatic one on holiday last year and raved about it too.

I didn't think any feature could be added to it to make it more attractive to me... until my in-laws decided to buy one and happened to drop into conversation that the 2013 model comes with a built-in espresso machine!!! I have died and gone to heaven!

(Apologies, I can't find it in English but it is pretty self-explanatory anyway)...

Monday, April 01, 2013

Pink table

I noticed almost all garden furniture colours are shades of brown with the odd green thrown in for good measure. I think now I am middle-aged (shock-horror) I am comfortable with myself to think life's too short for boring, so I think my garden furniture is about to go through a pink phase! Let the neighbours talk! ;-)

Light at the end of the tunnel!

My Bopster is starting to grow hair at last! For the first time this month we have managed to (just about) pleat her hair, or twiddle it, as she calls it. She has so much less than any of the first three had at this age, and a little less even than Anna who I had considered bald, but I can definitely see a little light at the end of the tunnel!