Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Brexit - this week.

What the UK press says will happen:

  • Tonight - May's vote will be defeated, mainly because remainers want a softer deal 
  • Tomorrow - No Deal will be voted down
  • Thursday - they will vote to ask for an extension to negotiate a whole new deal
  • Friday - the EU will ask how many days, weeks or years they'd like and start the new negotiations
  • Every group, from ERG to Remain think they will be able to get exactly what they want.
What the foreign press says will happen:


  • Tonight - May's vote will be defeated, mainly because remainers want a softer deal
  • Tomorrow - No Deal will be voted down
  • Thursday - they will vote to ask for an extension to negotiate a whole new deal
  • Friday - the EU will roll their eyes, say the UK has put no new ideas on the table and say their very max is a six week extension till the EU elections but they'd prefer no extension at all
  • Remainers will wonder why they didn't vote for May's deal and then spend the transition period negotiating a softer Brexit. ERG will jump with joy as No Deal kicks in.

Friday, March 08, 2019

No-deal Brexit and language degree courses

We seem to have been going round and round on the same merry-go-round now for nearly a year. No-deal Brexit will mean troops on the streets, food shortages, the selling off of the NHS, pet passports being defunct, rationing, chlorinated chickens, Erasmus withdrawn, job losses, planes grounded, driving licences no longer being valid in the EU, medicine rationing, loss of citizens' rights, EHICs down the toilet and roaming charges back, currency collapse and price hikes... Almost every article mentions a subset of these, so I thought I'd look at an angle no one has yet mentioned, because it is potentially pertinent to my family.

When Charlotte signed up to study Economics and Spanish at Glasgow university in May of 2018, her course starting in September of the same year, she based that decision on the 2017-18 Glasgow University prospectus that described her five year course, with the third year spent in Spain as a language assistant. This isn't the same as an Erasmus scheme, where you study abroad at a university. I know this scheme well, having taken part in it myself in 1987-88, when I was the assistante d'anglais at Lycée Jean Lurçat in Bruyères, France. (How many times I had to correct them when they referred to me as the assistante anglaise!) Here's a photo of my flatmate (the German assistant) at our school from '88!

I asked her when she signed up what would happen to the compulsory year abroad after Brexit and she looked blank. 'I'm sure it'll all be fine' was her standard response for months. Now the lunatics are discussing a 'no deal' scenario, she's upgraded that reply to 'I guess if they don't sort it out, they'll need to cancel it for everyone'.

In Charlotte's case this would be really annoying given she is a French national so actually would still have the right to work abroad, but as she pointed out, if only five kids out of 1000 have dual nationality, they are just going to blanket-cancel it rather than sort it out for those who are still eligible.

I can see several major issues with this. A long term issue I can see is this: Kids up to and including the academic year 2018-19 will have taken part in this scheme. Presumably a year or two into Brexit, the government will have negotiated a reciprocal agreement again meaning this can resume, so there will be a group of language students, starting with the 2017 intake and spanning two to three years who will have missed out on this. As an employer, wouldn't you give those graduates a wide berth, if they are the only ones with lesser degrees and no real language experience? So not only will they miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime, they will also be seen as lesser graduates when they leave uni.

Secondly, and more urgently, not for Charlotte but for the 2017 intake... These kids are due to leave the UK for posts all over Europe this September. They will already have applied to schools in Spain, France, Germany etc and will be receiving their postings around Easter. If the UK goes 'no deal' at the end of this month and all of these places are revoked every uni offering modern languages in the UK is going to be faced with a year of students returning to class in September that they have not budgeted for. They'll need class space, they'll need tutors and lecturers, they'll need to book university accommodation for the 2019-20 session that they had not expected to need. Student accommodation tends to get booked around now, at the latest, so many of these kids are going to find their placement cancelled, they'll not have a room for next year and none will be available. They won't have filled out their forms for loans or tuition fees as they aren't expecting to return for that academic session. It's going to cause complete administrative chaos in universities across the country as well as panic and heartache in the kids themselves.

Is there anything left 'un-fucked-up' by this government?

Thursday, March 07, 2019

A momentous decision

I'm wondering if there's much point in me blogging this given my other half already has, but I guess only having our communal friends knowing what's going on might result in a few strange looks a week/month or two down the line.
For anyone who knows me on Facebook, it'll come as no surprise to you that I am not the biggest fan of Brexit - unless of course you've missed my four ranty posts a day for the last two years.

When the UK voted Leave back in June of 2016, I wasn't as horrified, in retrospect, as I should have been. That isn't because I was lukewarm to EU membership, but more because I'm so European, I think of the EU as 'us' and the UK as 'them', so my initial assumption was - the UK will hang about the periphery, sulking for a few years while 'we' get on with business without 'them' sticking their oar in in their usual petty and annoying fashion all the time.

Given I had assumed Norway was the worst possible route a sane government could opt for, I didn't think it would have much of a negative impact on my life or family... Then came May's red-line speech declaring that we'd voted to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market and ditch free movement and a host of other crap, I for one didn't see on the ballot paper - maybe we got the abridged version up here in Scotland?

Within hours she'd scathingly branded me, my family, and most of our friends as 'citizens of nowhere', rather than as we tend to celebrate 'citizens of Europe'; citizens with family and friends everywhere. For thirty years I had celebrated our diversity, our mixed culture and the many languages we use at the dining table every day in life. I loved that all my kids could fluently speak two languages and had two passports each. But suddenly the person in charge of the country where I lived, a narrow and insular excuse for a person, was telling me the way I had lived my life since I'd met my first foreign boyfriend at sweet 16, was illegitimate and no longer tolerable. My type of family was to be stamped out going forward. Would a day come when instead of proudly teaching their classmates a few words of their other mother tongue, they'd have to hide their foreignness? Would they have to drop their foreign surname from their CV later in life to get an interview?

Alarmed doesn't come close to how I began to feel in the autumn of 2016. And still, I had fully underestimated the madness that would follow. Early on, we started to discuss our own red lines, Thomas and I. If freedom of movement was to go, then families like ours would also probably have to go, in our eyes. We figured the latest it would become obvious, what the government was actually working towards was December 2017, so that would give us fifteen months to come up with a workable plan. I'd lie awake in bed for hours every night analysing what the likelihoods were. December 2017 came and went, with our kids clued up enough to be asking all the right questions about what the UK was aiming for, but strangely though they knew the ins and outs, the government didn't seem to. Senior politicians embarrassed us by trying to negotiate with EU countries separately, not grasping the fundamentals of how the EU even works, after 40 years membership! They were completely blasé about any effect this could have on peace in Northern Ireland and downright outrageous in their complete disregard of the Scottish 62% (and rising ever since) pro-EU vote.

Every deadline was missed and EU families like ours waited and waited for clarity, pawns in their grotesque game. I got to the point where I had to turn the news off as it was making me feel physically sick.

By Christmas of 2018, I had been through my own rather huge trauma; a cancer scare. When finally I got the all clear, the only woman on my ward who did, I knew we had to take back our future. Not having to go through the chemo everyone else was faced with meant that other than trying to recover, I could move on. I had spent too many sleepless night worrying about whether we could stay together as a family, about the state the UK economy, the NHS and the Higher education system would be in by the time my three youngest hit adulthood.

I could see Brexit was going to be dire for my company. Thomas works as an IT and linguistics consultant, so his work would dry up quickly in a recession - why pay to make people redundant when you can simply drop the consultants who have no employment rights? My work had been a bit precarious as I'd been off sick (though unpaid) so I was clawing my way back up that hill. All my foreign work had been gained on the basis of my running an EU-based consultancy. By March 29, I would no longer be running an EU-based one, but rather one floating on the edge of the EU with no obvious guidelines to follow. That would make it close to impossible for our company to win any EU contracts we bid on going forward. And of course, given the falling value of the pound, the EU work I did was the most lucrative of all. We estimated at least half of our business would dry up because of Brexit and that wasn't the kind of hit we could take.

Out of the blue, Thomas saw a job ad for a senior IT linguistics post in Denmark - the equivalent of heading up the IT section of the Académie française, but in Denmark. We agreed it was a lifeboat worth applying for, just to have on standby in case the government was insane enough to let the country crash and burn. Of course, when he applied we assumed it would remain a parachute, tightly packed under our seat because no sane Prime Minister would take a country to the edge of the abyss just to stop her party falling apart...

So there we were with 28 days to go and an ultimatum - sign up for the Danish lifeboat or risk staying in the UK, where Thomas's rights to healthcare, his continued right to have a mortgage here, or his right to remain, should he lose his job had not been guaranteed by a government so openly hostile to foreigners that they were deporting Windrush grandparents who no longer remembered coming to the UK as toddlers. Had we been a fully EU couple, like many of Charlotte's uni lecturers, we could have waited to see how bad things got and then decided to leave after Brexit, but I am the sticking point... six members of my family can leave after Brexit, but I become landlocked in the UK once my freedom of movement is removed, be that at 11pm in 22 days time, or after transition in December 2020, should they sign some last minute version of May's catastrophic deal next week.

It's isn't what we would have chosen to do. Thomas moved to Scotland, learnt Scots and feels Scottish. We never expected to feel so insecure in our home that we'd feel our only option was to flee the country, but that is what we have decided to do.

I have good days where I am almost excited at the prospect of living on mainland Europe, (well on an island tethered to the mainland by a bridge at least) and being able to drive all sorts of cool places for the weekend. And I have other days where I shake and cry and hide under the duvet as it is all too big to contemplate. I'm old, too old to start my life again from scratch. Removal costs are so high we are having to give away most of what we own and start again, without so much as a bed or a couch. We're going to have to sell our cars and house and transfer the money abroad, potentially as sterling crashes to a point where we can't make enough to buy a home there. We're having to magically find £7000 from nowhere to cover forcing Charlotte into University halls for a year - we can't exactly put that on her shoulders when she didn't choose this fate. When I think how long it will be before we break even I'm terrified and that's before the sadness hits of dragging the three wee ones out of schools we know and love, away from their dear friends. Marcel and Charlotte both came top of their high school year at one of the top three state schools in Scotland, and the wee ones have that same potential. Is it fair to plunge the wee ones into a system they don't know, in a language, that of course they speak, but not to the same standard as they speak English? Hopefully they'll learn to fly.

But if the economists are right, we're taking them away from a recession that will overshadow the remainder of their childhood, to a country everyone always says is one of the happiest of all. The work life balance will be better, the houses cheaper, the higher education free... It's been a hard choice to make, but I feel our hands are tied, so Denmark, it'll have to be. And when you decide to do something, there is no point in feeling sorry for yourself or dragging your feet. I'm going to find a way to do this well and make the best of a situation I didn't choose. I'm going to come home as many weekends as possible to help Charlotte, mum and my brother cope with this change and I'm going to hope as many of our friends and our kids' friends feel like a visit over the next few years as possible - maybe just to visit us or maybe because we'll be close to the original and definitive Legoland. Some of you might decide to come so you can have a meal that doesn't contain chlorinated chicken and rat poo or just to feel European again... I genuinely mean you are welcome - or will be once we have somewhere to stay. I've lived abroad before so I know it isn't always the most obvious candidates who drop by for a visit - but what I do know is that it is always fun when they do!

With still no clarity of Remain/May's Deal/No deal and now only three weeks to go, all I know is I'm moving to Funen either some time in the next two weeks or some time before the kids finish this school year. It's shocking to still have no clarity when you're this close to the precipice.



But to a certain extent, it feels good to regain control of my future after 984 days with the clowns in charge of the circus.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tenth wedding anniversary

Kids can get offended at the oddest things and one thing that has offended Amaia all her life is that she was not invited to her parents' wedding. The fact that she wasn't actually conceived until 5 weeks after we got married, is apparently not an acceptable get-out clause either! We had both our other daughters at the wedding and therefore we have offended her deeply by not waiting to see if we were going to have any more kids, then waiting till they were born and old enough to wear a pretty dress!

So today is apparently the day she's been waiting for all her life! Charlotte was 9 years and 8 weeks old when we got married. Amaia is 9 years and 7 weeks old today, which means she gets to try on Charlotte's bridesmaid's dress. (The fact that Lots was a tomboy back then and had to be bribed into that dress, kicking and screaming is of little interest to Amaia!) She assumes that because she thinks it is stunning, Charlotte must have thought the same, back in the day. She says she intends to keep it on all evening, then put it back into storage for her bridesmaid!

Here she is in all her glory!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Everything is Theresa May's fault!

Newton Mearns and Barrhead are currently taking part in Beat the Street. From being reluctant to go on our daily walks, Anna has become a demon walker, organising outings with friends and even walking the more than two miles from school to our house. The unusually lovely spring temperatures are helping too, so since the whole thing began a couple of weeks ago she has now clocked up more than 30 miles on foot!

It is also great for community spirit. People are out with their maps and even talking to each other, especially in times of adversity... The nearest beat box to my house is actually across the road and up a lane from where it appears on the Beat the street map, so there's a great sense of camaraderie in my street, as people join forces to hunt it down!

Every morning we are now walking 2000 steps to school so we can beep three boxes. This morning as we reached the last one in the spring sunshine Amaia came out with the cutest comment: 'I hate Theresa May, she just ruins everything!' Now, I don't disagree with the sentiment there, but I was curious to find out what exactly she was referring to. She elaborated 'So many things are being ruined by Brexit. It could break up my family, I don't know if my daddy will still be allowed to stay or work here, or if I can still go and see Farmor and Großvater, it affects jobs and food and medicine and everything and it's even gonna wreck Beat the street!' That had me stumped. How exactly was the Maybot wrecking Beat the street? 'Well, it finishes on Brexit day too, so it must be because of Brexit!' The competition does indeed finish on Brexit day - quite astute of a 9 year old to be clued up enough to have noticed that - but this is actually because it is the last day of the current academic term in East Ren, rather than because Brexit! Brexit is not going to be banning us from walking. In fact, you could even find yourself having to walk much more, Amaia!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Put in my place

Marcel has managed to secure himself a post-grad job in London/Singapore/Manhattan with an investment bank. It's only a two year contract, but he figures that will be enough to give him a taste and some experience of that sector so at the end, he can choose to apply to stay, move to a competitor, or run for the hills screaming that that wasn't for him. He starts in London in September.


He was discussing the fact that if he saves well, he could even decide to do some sort of post-grad or PhD after his two years, as he'd have the financial backing. Excited by all these possibilities, I made the mistake of saying out loud that he'd be welcome to stay with us while he was studying if that was any help. I hadn't really thought about it, I just mentioned it, because he is still my little boy after all. But as I said it I saw it in his eyes even before he let me down gently. There was a mixed look almost of pity and puzzlement, that I should even have thought it! 'Mum, I love you dearly and all but moving back to the gaff and living with the fam, seriously, at my age?'  

And then it hit me like a tonne of bricks. My wee boy grew up, so far up and away that he is a man now. He loves me, but he doesn't need me any more. He's self sufficient, both emotionally and financially. Parenting, when you do it right, means giving them the tools to make their own life, and the confidence to do so. Somehow, completely by fluke, I seem to have managed that. But how quickly did it happen? It's both wonderful and crushing in equal measures. My first little baby is unlikely to ever live with me again, unless ironically, I become so old and doddery, he takes me in!

One down, four to go...

The human life span really is immeasurably short, the further you get into it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I wasn't expecting that

Thomas has been going on for years about wanting a record turntable he can hook up to his PC so he can digitise his remaining obscure records. To be honest, I couldn't really be bothered with it because I couldn't see why he'd want a digital copy of three kiddie records we no longer need and some weird Georgian stuff he hasn't listened to since the mid-90s.

But, his birthday came round last week and stressed to breaking point with all this Brexit nonsense, I couldn't really come up with something imaginative this year, so I opted for this. I figured he could digitise the stuff he had over a week then sell it second hand for almost the original price.

How wrong was I? Literally within five minutes of him putting it on, I was captivated. I never believed before that vinyl sounded better than cds or mp3s, but this felt like I was in the room with the orchestra, rather than just listening online to the flatter perfect sound of digital. Within a day, I'd been up to the loft and dragged down my old LPs and now instead of reselling it, I'm trawling through ebay for used vinyl.

This really has been an eye-opener.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Paesano pizza



We don't usually go out for birthday dinners - there's so many of us it ends up costing too much, and cooking is something even the little ones have mastered fairly well. This year, however, Thomas's birthday fell on the first day of the kids' February break, so he suggested that the biggies could meet us for lunch in town. It turned out Marcel had a fluey bug, so that just left Lots. As we were only meeting one uni student, finding somewhere near her uni then suited best. We opted for Paesano Pizza in the west end. At first I assumed it was a big chain but it turns out there are only two of them, both in Glasgow.

The menu had pizzas from only a fiver, you could have all the normal drinks or even just a glass of free tap water if that suited your budget better. They cooked the pizza in less than five minutes in a real wood-burning pizza oven like the ones we use ourselves whenever we are in Tuscany. I have to say I came away with the question - why does anyone in Glasgow ever go near Dominoes, if you can have this quality at this price?

The only thing that put a damper on the whole thing for me was the fact that I could hear, given the open kitchen, that all the pizza chefs and all the dish washers were young Italian men, speaking together in Italian. Given there is no way a single one of them is on £30K a year, I assume that the shelf-life of this wonderful and authentic Italian restaurant is unlikely to go beyond March 29 this year.

What goes through that mind?

Léon: Muuuuum! 
Me: What?
Léon: I'm just cutting my toenails - what bin do they go in? The black one or the recycling one?


What actually goes through his mind? What could a 13 year old's toenails possibly be recycled into that would be of use to the greater public? Drinks cups? Disposable cutlery? Packaging of some sort? My mind is boggled!

It's never dull...

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Cultural misunderstandings

Cute comment from number 5 tonight: 'For goodness sake! Americans are ridiculous. There was this one guy on the TV moaning that it was 19 degrees and snowing! He should try Scotland where we manage to cope with zero degrees and snow!'
😂

Monday, January 28, 2019

Catching up


These two photos are taken 24 months apart. Going from eleven to thirteen makes so much bigger a difference to a boy child, than going from 19 to 21, it would seem. 

I can't help but think, looking at Friday's snap that I now have two grown-up-looking sons; the period of eight years and two months that separates their births seems to be shrinking by the day, and I can see that it'll be a few short years before they'll be out on the town together, hitting a pub or a club, looking like friends rather than brothers. 


It's so strange for me to see, as I still remember where it all began, and it feels like yesterday!



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Polski Zakatek

We have this lovely little Polish shop not far from the house, in Thornliebank. We discovered it by accident when the kids were tiny. One Easter, we were looking for white eggs to paint and all the local supermarkets only had brown. We noticed that Poles love their white eggs.

Thereafter, we started going reasonably often. Léon loves their cold meat - they have a weird ham with mushroom and pickle slices in it, they have lovely lean ham and lots of great kabanos type sausages. I am a great lover of their great sałatka polska. They have unusual cream cakes, interesting beers and wonderfully exotic stock cubes - beetroot for making borscht and mushroom ones too, though I've no idea what they use them for! The kids like their fancy fruit lollipops and the older ones are fans of the garlic crouton chips and thin pretzels covered in sesame seeds. We often load up on different types of bulgur and dumplings too.


The two women who work there are always friendly and helpful and interested to hear Thomas wandering around talking to the kids in Danish - they give us that knowing smile that means you're foreign too, just different foreign.

Last week we decided to go down and stock up for the new year...

The shop wasn't open so we messaged them. They've gone into liquidation, presumably because of Brexit. 😡😡

I hate this country.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Settled status

I've been in a foul mood all day.

For some reason I can't quite put my finger on, I find it offensive that my husband is being told he has to apply for 'settled status'. Thomas has lived here 17 years, he has a UK national as a wife and several UK national children. Thomas has been paying income tax to the UK government for 17 years, without missing a month, despite having no right to vote here. Thomas is nearly fourteen years into paying the mortgage for the home he owns here. Ten years ago Thomas opened a company in Scotland. We work with international clients, bringing money into the UK from abroad, but despite all of this the government wants him to apply for the right to remain in the country where his children were born and if he doesn't he will be deported by 31 December 2020 (if the government opts for no deal) or 30 June 2021 (if the government doesn't crash out of the EU).

Thomas didn't come here for a better life or for a job no UK national would do. Thomas actually earns less than he would in his home country of Denmark. He didn't steal anyone's job - well if you can find me a Glasgow resident with a computing degree, a Japanese degree, a Maths one and a linguistics one who happens to have a working knowledge of English, Danish, German, Spanish, Esperanto, Georgian, Russian, Czech, Basque, Japanese, Italian, French, Dutch, Norwegian (Nynorsk), Swedish, Schwäbisch, Sanskrit, Scottish Gaelic, Yiddish and Scots, then maybe he did, but I don't think too many folk in the Glasgow area fit that CV.

Until about 4pm, he was even getting charged to apply to remain in his home with his British citizen kids, but as of then, the Maybot seems to have withdrawn the charge for this at least, but what irks me is this idea of 'applying'. If this is something you are required to apply for, there is at least a chance you will be rejected... not everyone in this situation will have the required biometric passport - I know of many EU pensioners who have been here so long and are so old, they simply no longer have a passport from their original country. We've moved several times so don't have the required proofs of address from over the years - council tax bills, pay slips, utility bills and the likes. Thomas moved here in good faith nearly two decades ago, started a family and is now being threatened with deportation from his family if he can't meet the requirements brought in retrospectively as the result of a referendum he was denied a vote in. Moreover, I am being denied the right to follow him if he's deported as the gammon brigade have voted away my freedom of movement. You couldn't make it up!

Even if we survive this, how many EU families will be torn apart, lose their homes or similar? I am utterly disgusted by this government.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Léon and Charlotte

Léon is a mix of two kids - 85% of the time he is enthusiastic and exuberant, wandering from room to room whistling the latest concerto or ceilidh music he has been practising for his orchestra or folk group. He hums, he sings, he keeps the beat of some tune only he can hear in his head. He twitches and taps and never sits still. Music is everything. When he's not being musical, he spends hours googling what he refers to as 'fun facts' and comes out with the most incredible general knowledge any of my kids has ever mastered. I often find myself wondering what on earth he googled in the first place to learn the information on every subject under the sun. He sucks it all up like an oversized sponge. He's bouncy like a puppy, never walking but skipping everywhere. Where this approach was cute in our small house when he measured 1m25, it is a tad annoying now he's 1m70+ and lanky as a bean pole. The other 15% of the time he's 'gammoning' about some minor annoyance that no one else would have noticed but once he's got hold of that stick it's hard to fight it away from him.

Charlotte is the opposite of Léon. She's a quiet and passive sloth-like creature, never making a sound. Occasionally you hear her singing along to something in Spanish in the kitchen while cooking but only when she's alone and if you enter, she quickly falls silent. Charlotte sits still on the couch, earpods in, or just silent. She moves slowly and never bounces. She comes out with cutting, sarcastic remarks about Léon's nerdiness. Léon's music is often met with stares, huffs and calls for him to fall silent, until exasperated when he's forgotten for the third time in less than two minutes that she's asked him to stop whistling, she loses her temper and shouts at him to shut up!

Don't get me wrong - the two are inseparable and they adore each other. He was her first baby after all, but on a noise level, they are opposite ends of the spectrum.

So, when I saw this yesterday on Facebook and it made me laugh out loud... Definitely think it was written with them in mind!

When I forwarded it to Charlotte who was on the bus into town, she also laughed out loud, as did Léon when I showed him it after school.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Oops


Amaia, did you forget you were running yourself a bath, by any chance?
Ehhhhh, oops!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Not so Grinch, really


At the end of the Christmas season last year, I noticed someone on eBay had discounted their vinyl Christmas-themed table cloths. Given that was something we don't have, I went ahead and ordered one without mentioning it to the family.

Before I was due to go in for my operation, I went up to our loft and brought down all the old nappy boxes full of Xmas baubles and the likes, as I am the only one who knows exactly where in the loft everything is stored. Inside one, I had put this so I didn't forget about it.

When I pulled this out proudly to show the family, Charlotte knocked me down with the cutting comment: 'Good God, the Grinch has bought herself a Christmas tablecloth!'

That got me to thinking... Do my family consider me to a festive party pooper, and if so, why?

It is true that I find Xmas quite stressful. I want everyone to be happy and finding gifts to please everyone equally worries me as I don't want to let anyone down but don't feel confident that I have found the perfect present. Maybe that comes across as me being an unhappy gift-buyer, when in fact I am just a bit of a paranoid one. I want it to be so special for everyone that I apparently screw up by looking worried!

Then there's the tree. I like our tree but our house barely fits the seven of us so half the dining room being taken over by a Scandinavian pine forest stresses me because it makes me feel a bit claustrophobic. But where others interpret this as me being pissed off at having a tree kicking about my house, what is stressing me is in fact the size of my dining room and not my tree! I get quite S.A.D. in Scotland in winter so can't imagine how I'd cope without all the pretty lights and candles, but again, all people see is me being grumpy, once again.

I don't tend to decorate the tree itself, not because I am not interested in it, but more to give the kids pleasure. I know so many parents who won't let their kids near the tree for decorating purposes because they have a very fixed idea of how it should end up. I love the chaos we end up with every year, with sparkly shoes next to various birds and all sorts of home-made baubles from years gone by. I like that it looks like a kid decorated it because that means the kids had fun. But somehow me sitting taking photos of them putting it up comes across as me just not being very into it☹️ Who knew?

There's nothing I like better than listening to the Xmas CD on the school run all of December, but because I vetoed it once in November, I apparently don't like Xmas music either!

I happily participate in family evenings in front of Xmas movies but no one seems to notice. I even read Skipping Christmas, long before it hit the screens as Christmas with the Kranks...

I've never been a baker, that's true, but again I love to see the kids making their Danish biscuits and gingerbread houses. Thomas and Charlotte take over on that front leaving the Grinch out, as usual.

To me Christmas is more about seeing family, chatting and eating the lovely and traditional meals we serve up, both on Danish Xmas day and on the Scottish one. Everyone being together is much more important than anything else.

So somehow, I have become known as the family Grinch, even if I'm not the least bit green or evil. I'm not sure how to change their perception of that for the future.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

That Fiat

You can't get very far on this blog without noticing my somewhat irrational adoration of all things Fiat 500, or all things 'Chuggy', if you're in on the lingo... so when I refer to my Chuggy today as 'that Fiat', you know it has done something major to get into my bad books!


It started the first week in November as far as I am aware. I was in hospital so I don't know. One day on the school run, Thomas turned on the radio and the touchscreen froze on the Fiat symbol (the screen before you get the option to change radio station, jump to CD or any of the Bluetooth or phone settings.) He'd been listening to Radio Scotland the previous day so that was now the only option available.

That state of affairs lasted two weeks until he was at the garage anyway and asked the mechanic to take a look. He told him it needed a software update and said it'd cost about £50 to fix... a bit steep but nonetheless... The update didn't work (and he refused to pay for it!) It stayed frozen. The mechanic decided to unfreeze it, he could always pull the battery connection for a minute to reset it. He did and it didn't. The radio was still frozen and now, as all the settings go through that panel, the car reset itself to midnight on January 1 2000, with no way to override it. Into the bargain, as I couldn't confirm that, it was flashing on and off waiting for confirmation. 

That must have been 28 days ago, as that Fiat is now insisting it is January 28 at some ungodly hour. 😡 So I have no CD player, no Bluetooth, no phone, a flashing dash and I'm stuck on radio Scotland. Things can't get any worse, or so I thought...

Last week I was driving the kids to Braehead when the radio suddenly switched itself on. Exactly three minutes later, it switched itself off. It went on to do this a further seventeen times between Nitshill and Braehead. This was annoying to say the least and also startled me each and every time.

Surely things were now as bad as they could get? 

On my next outing into town, it decided I wanted to listen to Thomas's Christmas CD - a mix of Danish, German and Spanish carols - a bit incongruous after Christmas, but why not? I had missed a month of driving this Christmas season so wasn't completely Christmas-musicked-out, for once. However, the switching on and off had tripled so I decided to combat it by turning off the volume. Mummy 1 - that Fiat 0! Until it reset the volume each and every time it turned it back on - bastard Fiat!

Surely things were now as bad as they could get?

Sigh... nope.

On Sunday I drove Charlotte and mum to Braehead to have their iPhone batteries updated. It played silly buggers all the way over and the volume button was no longer working so I couldn't shut it up at all. I parked and turned off the engine... the music continued. I took out the keys... the music continued. I locked the car and put my ear to the window... to my dismay, this is what I could hear.


Bastard Fiat! I needed some shopping in IKEA but was forced to sprint round the aisles in case the stupid thing ran my battery down to zero in the meantime. I would have expected better behaviour from my Chuggy. It was obviously possessed by some demonic radio system and needed exorcising immediately!

I made one stop on my way home at Aldi to buy dinner and we hit the final straw. The touchscreen that had been frozen on this picture for six weeks, suddenly went white, wavy black lines appeared and it started screaming, at full volume, some hideous noise that reminded me of the sound you used to hear when you loaded a program into a ZX Spectrum from a tape deck in the 80s! And the bloody keys were in my pocket at the time! I'm literally at the stage where earplugs are becoming a necessity to drive.

So on Hogmanay I rang my local Fiat dealer and explained the whole saga. They said they could have a look at that for me, no problem. They charge a standard £100 to diagnose the fault and if I need a new radio because their software fault has crippled it, it'll be £600!!! FFS, I've owned cars that I paid less for than that. You've got to be having a laugh! Needless to say, I'll be having Halfords fit me a new bog-standard radio as soon as they reopen and my local Fiat dealership can stick their diagnostics where the sun doesn't shine. 

Hopefully by this time next week my Chuggy will be back to its usual self, and no longer possessed by demons.