Friday, June 17, 2022


When I moved in with Thomas the first thing I noticed on his bookshelf was a book entitled 'God mad'. I thought that was a rather strange possession for a guy whose mum was a minister and whose dad was a theology professor. Whatever misgivings he had about his parents' religion, I thought this was a step further than expected. 

Of course, when I pulled it from the shelf and saw the cover, it became obvious that it was actually a cookbook, god being 'good' and mad being 'food'. I laughed at my own error.

Still the word mad amuses me today. There's a snackbar near here called 'Go' Mad' which makes my English native brain smile whenever I drive by and this car that passed me a few months ago also caused a mild chuckle. Childish I know, but still...

Saturday, June 11, 2022

A different kettle of fish

Since day one Nacho has been a fussy eater... in a good way. Nacho only eats dried cat biscuits. We offered him the expensive wet cat food samples the vet gave us on his first visit and he refused to try them. We tried salmon, prawns, cooked chicken, and raw mince and everything was sniffed and entirely rejected without the smallest crumb passing his lips. The only thing he seems to like that isn't cat biscuits is cheese. He doesn't even catch birds or mice because they aren't dry crunchy biscuits! I'm not sure he's fully read the manual on how to cat. We've long given up on trying to get him to taste anything other than dried biscuits.

So, last week Samosa came into our lives. Day one saw her refuse everything edible and even water. We ended up feeding her water on a teaspoon. We were worried, but shouldn't have been. Turns out it was nerves. Moving in with a new family apparently makes you a nervous wreck for precisely 18 hours, then you bite the bullet and decide you're willing to give wet cat food a go, followed by the biscuits, whiskas kitten milk, cheese, meat, fish, crisps, breakfast pancakes, and everything dropped on the floor including a strawberry. This is going to be a problem because we're used to leaving a snack on the coffee table knowing there's no chance Nacho will so much as smell it. Just imagine Léon's face last night when he left a plate of mash, IKEA meatballs, and meatball sauce on the desk in his room, only to come back from the loo and find a rather small girl sitting on the plate wolfing down more mash than he thought was humanly possible!

Meaningless questions with no answers

Yesterday, driving down to IKEA, Thomas and I were discussing how just 100 years ago the villages around where we live must have had every sort of shop imaginable, and therefore some people never really left the 10km radius around where they were born and yet today travel is so integrated in our psyche. I mentioned that my own grandmother never went further than Wolverhampton in her 68 years. She never went as far as where her granddaughter, and five of her great grandchildren live. She never even saw London. 

Growing up we were told stories of gran's stay in Wolverhampton, when her sister, Rita, was dying. The sweet story went that when my poor great aunt was diagnosed with cancer in her late 30s, my gran (her little sister) moved down to care for her and her 6 year old son, taking my 5 year old mum with her. Gran was 33 at the time. Mum started school in England, Gramps got a plumber job and gran cared for Rita. One day after six months, mum came home from school and nonchalantly greeted my very Glaswegian Gramps with 'ello love' in a very Brummie accent. Gramps promptly packed two cases and told gran no wean of his was growing up with a Brummie accent and took the train back to Glasgow telling her to follow home once the inevitable came to pass! Never again did my gran voyage further than Blackpool. 

I know they weren't the richest pair, but I am puzzled that they never went anywhere, they both worked after all and Gramps got a free house and van with his job. Gran told me at least once a month for the 16 years we overlapped that she had two dreams: to ride in a helicopter and to visit Switzerland. The Switzerland dream came up again and again. It suddenly struck me yesterday that I never once asked her 'Why Switzerland?' I mean: was it mountains? cows with big bells? cuckoo clocks? chocolate? I even went to Switzerland on a school trip two years before she died and brought her back a rather cheesy cuckoo clock and some chocolate but still she never told me why Switzerland and for some reason I never asked. I suddenly realised yesterday that the one person who might know is suddenly gone and now I'll never know. When death comes suddenly, you forget to ask the questions that don't really matter. 

Since February 26 there have only been two people left on this earth with the key to my childhood memories. I remember my mother-in-law saying that the day her mum died, her childhood was nowhere other than in her head, her only sibling having died before their mother, which is even worse I guess. Maybe when I'm gone, my kids will appreciate their army of siblings even more than they do now.

Here's a pic of my poor gran who never got to Switzerland.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Samosa Friday Buchanan-Widmann

At Easter we spent a night at Thomas's sister's house. That meant leaving Nacho in the house overnight alone. We weren't going to be there long enough to check him into his usual cat hotel, so left loads of food and water and toys, but still we felt guilty. Back when we got Nacho, we had had the option of taking his brother too. Amaia was really not sure about cats back then so we weren't sure two wouldn't be too much for a kid who was scared of animals. We should have known better. After a fortnight, Amaia had come round and regret was setting in. This overnight though made us realise how it would be easier going forward to leave him if he had a wee friend, or a sibling. The search began, scouring most of Denmark for kittens in need of rescuing or rehoming. We found a litter two hours away but they were too young to leave their mum so we've been getting updates for about six weeks now until last Saturday when we could finally bring her home.

We decided to name her Samosa - as it was another orangey-coloured triangular snack food like Nacho and she too had quite a lot of ginger in her. I have decided single-handedly that her middle name is Friday as she looks like the kind of cat who could only have been assembled last thing on a Friday - Orange legs, white feet, a half grey, half orange face, a long tail that doesn't fit with the rest, and better still it turns out she was born on a Friday! 

It's day three and they are already chasing each other in a non-agressive manner round the house and stealing each other's food, so things are looking positive. Hopefully there will be many updates on here going forward!

It's good to see things from another perspective

I considered not publishing this one. There are some things you don't talk about - like miscarriages, menopause, hysterectomies, and mastectomies but how would not publishing it help anyone in the same situation? I can tick all those boxes. So, for what it's worth, here goes...

I was never a particularly self-conscious person body-wise. Not that I had any sort of model figure as a young woman - I was a little too short, my boobs were always a bit too big but I was happy enough with the way I looked and thought nothing of baring all, be that on a dodgy beach in Greece or in a communal changing room. I remember having a rather animated conversation about an idea for a dictionary many years ago on the way out of a sauna on a business trip. Enthusiastically, my boss (an Italian woman) and I stood discussing our ideas, when I noticed people around us were giving us funny looks. I assumed it was because lexicography was not the most normal of topics, but I slowly realised it was probably because we were both completely naked in the middle of a large room, arms waving, and no one else was!

Obviously over the years I've had five babies, the biggest of which weighed in at 4.5kg, so things aren't quite how they were but again that was more a badge of honour than anything shameful, so I even managed to embrace that version of me and still wander about naked without too much thought.

However, I've been through my own personal war these past few years. My ovarian cancer scare of 2018 left me with a scar from my belly button to my pubic bone. Moreover, an infection I got post-op left me with a rougher edge to the top of that scar. I feared at the time that it might end up looking like 2 belly buttons, one under the other, but in the end, it wasn't quite that bad. I think it took me over a year to walk past my kids in my underwear after that one, and when I did, I'm not sure they even noticed I looked any different.

I had just about come to terms with that when I was hit with last year's boob bombshell. Some dodgy cells found in the milk ducts of my right boob meant all the breast tissue and the nipple had to be removed as a precaution. That left me with the option of one boob as an E cup and the other completely flat, or a more invasive reconstruction of the right to a size B, but a simultaneous reduction of the other to match. I'm not sure I was ready in my early 50s to become completely asexual-looking so opted for the more complex of the two operations, not so much because of how society wanted me to look, but because of how I could face myself. Surgical menopause in 2018, before my body was ready, had already done little for my sense of femininity or self-esteem, so I didn't need to lose my boob on top of the rest, especially before the first scar had even faded.

The upshot is that I look passable in clothes, which is good for my sense of self. No one needs to know what I have been through unless I want them to. But I wasn't ok on the underneath. I took to avoiding mirrors and locking the door to the bathroom. This was a far cry from a few years earlier when I routinely was joined in the bathroom when I was in the bath by some kid or another asking for homework help. I didn't want to see me and I didn't want anyone else to see me either, checkups with the consultant excepted, of course.

After about nine months, Amaia questioned why I was no longer as open as I used to be. At 12, she sees things differently to me I guess. I reminded her what I had been through, as I had kept them in the loop all along, but to my surprise she was completely unfazed. To her I am still me, so all I got was a shrug and a 'so what's the problem?' I told her it made me more self conscious than before and she asked why. I described how I look now - huge scars round half my body, nipples removed and again she said she didn't see why that would change my confidence levels. 'Sounds to me like you now have Barbie boobs!' she said nonchalantly, with a smile.

So, there you have it, two major operations down the line and apparently I now look like a Barbie doll! Well, maybe a wee bit less tall and slim, but still... Maybe it's time I opened up a bit and went back to being just me.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Southern living

Well, that's me back from just under five days in Toulouse visiting my oldest daughter. The temperature was on a bit of a downturn, she apologised, on my arrival. An unseasonal low there is apparently between 27 and 29 degrees, instead of the 34 they had the week before my arrival and yesterday after I left. At 28 degrees, you walk the streets with the sun beating down on you face. You feel the warmth on your hair as you enjoy being bombarded by the perfume of jasmine mixed with honeysuckle and sage as you walk the suburban streets back to your house. The smells are so strong, you could probably find your way to Charlotte's gate even with your eyes closed. All you need to be happy is a bottle of cool water in your back pocket.

Having arrived at 6pm on Thursday and left for the airport again on Tuesday at 2pm, I realised I had clocked up no less than 80.8km, so nearly 20km a day. Other than slightly stiff legs, I had suffered no ill effects from all the walking and the sheer number of kilometres left little time for big meals or comfort eating.

I've been back less than 48 hours and here in Denmark it is a very unseasonal 12 degrees. The chill in my bones makes me want to hide under my duvet and whimper. I have probably managed 3km in the last two days. No smells have assaulted me, just a bitter north wind. I have given in and reverted to jeans, an aran sweater over my T-shirt, and a jacket... and I'm still bloody freezing. I am seriously considering a woolly hat. Anyone got any hot chocolate or even Glühwein to hand? 

I have no desire to go out for a walk, I want to sink into the couch and eat any kind of unhealthy crap I can lay my hands on, just to forget the miserable weather. The news tells me this is a blip and tomorrow will be back up in the twenties, but still, I seriously need to work out how to retire to the south if I am going to survive old age as anything other than a miserable, overweight blob.

And just to compare... Three days ago versus an hour ago😢