Monday, July 27, 2015

Boy to man

Given my son is off in Greece enjoying himself today on his 18th birthday, I am not spending my evening taking him to dinner or throwing him a party or any of the other things I might have been doing had he been here. So as a wee experiment I thought I would look at him through the years to see how a boy becomes a man. I've sewn together photos from he was 8 weeks old till last month, at 12 monthly intervals. He'll probably kill me for doing so, but hey, if he hadn't booked a holiday with his mates to Zante, I would not have had the time on my hands to do it! :-)

So here's his life time, so far, in just 19 images:

Marcel aged 8wks, 1yr, 2yrs, 3yrs, 4yrs

Marcel aged 5yrs, 6yrs, 7yrs, 8yrs, 9yrs, 10yrs

Marcel aged 11yrs, 12yrs, 13yrs,14yrs,15yrs

Marcel aged 16 yrs, 17yrs and finally 4 wks short of 18 yrs.

It's funny. I can still see baby Marcel in them all. I think the biggest jump in a year, well after the first one anyway, is between 11 and 12... It looks like the next 18 months might see some interesting changes in his little brother in that case, as he is about to hit ten!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A subconscious mismatch of perception

So Marcel is off today in Edinburgh at an all-day interview with a well-known banking group, trying to win a university scholarship. I am at home with the other four. I dropped him in Glasgow around 6-30am, all suited and booted with his cappuccino-to-go. I left him half way up Bothwell Street about fifteen minutes before his train, if you want to be precise. And does he think to text me at any point between 6-45am and 8-45am, when he was to have found the building somewhere in Haymarket and found the interview panel? Of course not!

You see, he knows he's an adult and can find his way to the station in Glasgow, buy the right ticket, get to Edinburgh and wander around with his GPS on his phone looking for the building in question and get there in plenty of time. Consciously, I know it too - he's trekked in the Himalayas, so of course he can. But it was only yesterday I gave birth to him, so a teeny wee text saying 'I managed to find the place, mum' wouldn't go amiss!

I guess I'll just sit here till 8pm then?


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Slug warrior


Now this is what I call dedication.

After discovering a week ago that our garden had become overrun with slugs (our courgettes, sunflowers, chilis and squashes were disappearing overnight and the potatoes and cabbage were also becoming overly holey), Thomas set out to reclaim our territory. Not wanting to spread poison on food we are growing for our own consumption, he decided the best bet was simply to catch and kill them. I followed him around for three nights illuminating the raised beds, the greenhouse and the lawn with my mobile phone as he filled several large jars with juicy blighters, mixed with cooking salt, of course. The weather has now taken a turn for the worse. My phone can't stand the rain and I can't stomach the cold so a new solution has been found... a 22 LED caving lamp off Ebay (at the impressive sum of £2.50!), some disposable plastic gloves from Makro and several more jars and he can now hunt slugs, alone till his heart's content! We will win this one!

Monday, July 13, 2015

The beginning of the end of childhood

I remember when Marcel was around thirteen looking backwards, trying to nail down when childhood ended and adolescence started. A number of factors led me to believe it was around ten and a half. Of course, when Marcel was ten and a half I didn't notice the small signs, those only hit me afterwards. 

Having been through it twice before, I am more in tune this time round. Léon will be ten in two months time. Of course, he is still a little boy, but the beginning of the end is already there, if you look closely. Most clearly for me is his attitude to play parks. I remember that with Marcel too. He went almost overnight from running around like a daftie, to looking bored and restless every time we went to one on a Saturday afternoon. (With Charlotte it was more apparent with softplay - she went from climbing to asking for a coffee and sitting watching Léon!)

Twice during these holidays I have taken Léon to a play park: Rouken Glen and Chatelherault country park. At the country park, he bounced off like a gazelle and climbed
 Chatelherault country parkquickly to the top of the tall climbing rope, but then as the girls moved round all the other objects in the park, he simply sat down on the bench with the adults and Charlotte and watched. He wasn't tired or sad, just a little beyond that point, as if he no longer needed to swing. He was happy to chat to us but I could see his interest in these childhood delights was waning. He was far more interested in the forest at the country park as it offered a greater challenge.

Then last week I took him to Rouken Glen. That's a park he has often visited so it holds no challenges. From the outset, he just wasn't engaged and stood chatting to the adults. Even six months ago in the same place, he'd immediately have run off and befriended the first male child he saw and climbed with him. Now he wants to 'chill'!

But there's still some time left. I could see he was much happier to be dumped on a beach the following day with the remit of exploring the rock pools.

I guess it is a wake-up call to open my eyes and witness every last minute before, he, like Marcel before him, leaves childhood behind him altogether. There's a bitter sweetness involved in it all. As I watch childhood die, this time round at least, I know that what you get at the other end of the process is a true friend who you enjoy spending time with and talking to as an equal!

Marcel last came on the family summer holiday at 15. He would love to still come on that (not that we're having one this year) but he also wants to go off alone and return to recount his exploits. That gives me five more summers to relish.

How fast childhood passes when you're the parent.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

A moment in time

I was looking at google maps this morning to see where we could go on day trips. Leaning over me, Anna asked me to click on street view to see what our house and garden looked like. It was photographed in the summer of 2011, according to the time stamp, and what did I see? A simple shot, taken as the google car drove past my garden, but a treasured moment too: Marcel sitting in the garden chatting to my dad, who died a year later. An unexpected moment of normality sitting there on the Internet, waiting to be discovered.


In her fifteen years I have never managed to get Charlotte to eat jam. She loves fruit and has a very sweet tooth but decided at birth that jam was disgusting. I've always found that surprising.

At the moment we have much too much rhubarb in the garden and the kids are on holiday so I thought coaxing Lots to make rhubarb and vanilla jam might help. She agreed happily to make the jam and when it came time to test if it was setting on a frozen plate, I caught her licking a finger. 'This is actually quite nice!' she stated! Amazing.

Now I too have tasted her jam, I have to say I'm a bit miffed. I've been making jam with our rhubarb for the last six or seven years. Her first batch tastes better than mine and has a much better consistency!

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Bloody cars

So one day into my attempt at positive thinking - that would be yesterday's resolution to drive nice places all summer and pretend we're on holiday in Scotland, everything has hit the fan in our usual fashion :-(

I go out this morning to go out shopping and the big car (that is the car that was the little car till the last winter because it is a five-seater, now, in comparison to the blue biscuit tin,   it is positively huge because I can get four of my five kids into it...) and it is dead as a dodo. Worse still it tells me there is a fault with the immobilizer. This is not a dash message that would necessarily have made me suicidal a year ago, but given it was one of the last
messages the people carrier sent out before it died spectacularly in a January snow storm, forgive me if I wasn't calm.

I opt for a trip into town in the biscuit tin while Thomas calls the breakdown service. Five hours later I am meant to be relieved as it has been diagnosed with a dead (and needing replaced at about £100) battery. But, that was the very first ailment the people carrier suffered. Today, I have mentally been through how to get my kids to school on the days Thomas is out on business with no car when they go back after summer (because Thomas needs a car to go into the office two days a week). I have mentally been through how get anywhere all summer with seven people and one four-seater car. It may not be dead this time but reality has come crashing down. Last year the Citroën dealer mechanic told me that modern cars tended to last between eight and ten years, the black car is seven years old. It has done 5000 miles less than the people carrier had done when it blew up. So I need to work out how to reach a point some time in the next year, before it starts draining the empty coffers on a monthly basis, where I can replace it. There's no visibility, so I guess it will be a bit like sitting back and watching the car crash that is our life, slowly as a spectator. I can hardly wait for another year of stress. After eight in the trot, we should be getting quite used to it by now. Whoop-de doo.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Trying a new approach

One of the main problems of working for yourself in a freelance-like capacity is visibility. Although work is not dire at the moment, we are both receiving fewer hours than we'd like and have no visibility beyond the autumn so we need to stockpile our earnings rather than spend what we earn. That means that although the microwave isn't working, we don't buy a new one. It means that although the mattress on our bed has springs sticking out of it, we have lived with it for the best part of two years. Although part of the facade of the house has cracked and fallen off, we are going to attempt to fix it ourselves. Although we needed a seven-seater car when our old one blew up in January, we bought a four-seater because it would do and so on. But most of all it means that when life is at its most stressful (imagine six years of not knowing where your next month's salary will come from when you are responsible for five children!) and you need a night off, a night out, a trip to a café or cinema or, most of all, a holiday, you resign yourself to another year without. Although we have visited relatives, you tend to do that when you have foreign ones, Thomas and I have been on just one holiday with the kids in nine years and that was driving about England with a tent that was too small for our family cooking on a camping gaz stove to save money! And together, we've only been away two nights without kids in that time! Those include one night in Rome in 2007 when my ex-husband babysat, so I couldn't sleep for worrying! And one night this year in Perth at a political conference when my seventeen year old babysat, so I came back as early as I could to see he'd managed ok without me!

It is strange to think that the whole of the little ones' childhood may pass without once doing what we naturally do. I think that when this situation began we assumed it would last a year or two, not a decade or more. My little ones will not know what kind of person I really am - they won't know I love to sit at a café and watch the world go by, because I never take them to a café. They won't know I love the sea. I've never taken them on a beach holiday so they'll probably assume I am not! I've taken them to France just once (on a business trip) despite it being my other home. They don't know Thomas is a great lover of Spain and a fluent Spanish speaker because they have never been to Spain. They rarely see us foraging our way through a European vegetable market filled with excitement. There's a whole world out there and not getting to see any of it is so frustrating. My children never see us heading off for a city break, so probably think we're not travellers and yet travelling has always been my whole life. At fourteen, I sold my bike so I could go to visit my German penpal and from that moment on until the recession my life was spent on and off trains wearing a rucksack. There is never any respite from the stress of our daily life.

So faced with the depressing thought of a summer day trips where I have to leave at least two family members at home, or drive everywhere in tandem, I have decided to attempt a positive approach. I am going to try to pretend I am a tourist on holiday in Glasgow! We started last week with a trip to Chatelherault country park and this week, when the temperature hit a staggering (for Scotland) 30 degrees, we took a train into town and went for a walk around Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. If we try to drag all kids out at least once a week to somewhere we have never, or at least rarely, been and look at it with tourist eyes, we might even be able to convince ourselves we've had a fun summer.

We can try at least. Let's hope the weather doesn't let us down.