Tuesday, 30 December 2008
I finished up at my old job at lunchtime on Christmas Eve and managed to get out of the office without much fuss, which is what I wanted. Husband and I got home, waved my parents off to the Lake District to spend Christmas with my brother, and then after a quick cup of tea, we rolled up our sleeves. I prepared a mountain of veg for Christmas day lunch for 9 people, made the gravy in advance (it is always better on the second day and I had been stockpiling stock - hah! stockpiling! - for this purpose). I also cheated and part-roasted the roast potatoes in advance. We finalised some of the Christmas presents, I finished the wrapping, brought all the gifts down and laid them under the tree. I found myself hoovering at 11.45pm. Madness.
This is the first year that the boys have not bought into the whole Santa thing, so no glass of malt whisky for Santa and carrot for Rudolph. I kind of missed that bit but am quite grateful not to have to do the 3am crawl into the boys' room to fill the stockings. They still had stockings, but they were outside their bedroom and therefore easy to fill for a tired parent.
Christmas day was fun and hectic in equal measures. The boys now get presents which are small and expensive - DVDs, Nintendo DS and Wii games and the like - and these take much less effort to open. No fiddly bits of wire to unwrap to release garish plastic stuff from its packaging and no teeny tiny screwdrivers needed to open battery covers for all the things that wail, flash and generally create battery-operated insanity. Again, easier and more relaxing, but another indication that time is passing, my baby boys are becoming lads.
Lunch went well (I think) although I forgot to take a photo of the Three Bird Roast for you Maribeth. Sorry! It was delicious though, despite being referred to as "the meaty cushion". The rest of the evening was spent lazing around watching TV and eating Christmas pudding. Which is pretty much what we have been doing since.
My nephew and niece came to stay last night which was fun and noisy and exhausting in equal measures. I love it that the four of them get on so well (my nephew's main wish was to see his cousins at Christmas) but oh my word, the volume they can generate! My two are older at nearly 11 and 8. My nephew is 8 and my niece almost 6. They love each other to bits and play remarkably well together. We fed them pizza, played with them (creating improvised remakes of Star Wars and Dr Who with the video camera and then showing them back to hysterical enthusiasm from the children) and put them all to bed in one room at about 8.15. They were still awake and giggling after 10pm, but quietly enough that we left them to it. I think they were asleep by 11.30 but I can't be certain. They were definitely up before us this morning.
And now they have gone home. Husband has had a jam session in the studio with his teenage friend (the son of friends of ours) and I have been to the cinema with our two, mostly to escape the guitar and drum noise! Tomorrow I need to take my already-too-big-to-be-true 10 year old out to buy some new trousers as he insists on growing, despite my protests, and is running short on clothes that fit. I am constantly amazed by the fact that I can how hug him without bending down. And I do. Constantly. And he puts up with it surprisingly well. I am taking all the hugs I can get while they are still voluntarily given. Soon enough I will have to buy them with bribes or threats.
Edinburgh is gearing up for Hogmanay and doubtless the "young folk" will be out partying on the streets tomorrow. I used to do that myself, once upon a time, but now prefer to stay home and watch silly TV with the boys (Husband included). I hope you all had a Christmas as good as mine and that you have a Hogmanay as contented as the one I plan to have!
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
In an hour or two I will head home, leaving my office keys and my wee red book of important phone numbers to my trusty sidekick Semolina, who will now be running the operation. (We just haven't told the solicitor who is taking over that Semolina is in fact in charge. She'll find out soon enough).
I got lots of nice early Chrissie pressies (we decided to open them today since we won't see each other in the New Year for a while) and there is an open box of chocolates within arm's reach. Quite a nice last morning, really.
Since I have a million and one things to do when I get home to prepare for tomorrow, I will take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and don't eat too much.
Actually, scratch that, eat what you like. It's Christmas.
Friday, 19 December 2008
First Born has not only dared to try black pudding, but has decided he loves it. I am impressed. Now if only the boy who will happily munch on breakfast foods made from pig's blood could be persuaded to eat a vegetable now and again.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
As I was meandering court-wards, I saw ahead of me a long and pretty dense queue of people on the pavement. Almost exclusively male people. Most of whom seemed to be.........not in their teens. And a lot of them were wearing high-vis jackets, hoodies and standard "workie" type attire.
My first thought was that there was some sort of employment exchange on South Bridge that I did not know about. What with the credit crunch more or less killing the building industry, it looked to me for all the world like a queue of workmen, lining up in the hope of employment. Or maybe the workies from the nearby building site where part of the Cowgate collapsed were all required to queue up for......breakfast? Instructions? I don't know.
Anyway as I edged past the grim-faced line, I realised my mistake. They were all queuing outside Ripping Records. AC/DC tickets went on sale this morning. Mystery solved.
Friday, 12 December 2008
Now, Second Born is in the P4 choir. I know this mainly because his blazer has a badge on its lapel bearing the legend "Choir" and I am observant that way. Had it been left to SB to tell me he was in the choir, I would still be in blissful ignorance. Needless to say he had not mentioned any evening Carol Concert happening on Wednesday. When I got home from work on Tuesday I asked him if he was singing. "Oh yeah, I have to be there at 7.10" he replied. Nonchalantly.
I gritted my teeth. "Were you planning on telling me about this at any stage?" He looked at me in polite confusion. I could see the thought process in his head: "But you're my mum. You're psychic, aren't you? I don't have to actually tell you stuff. That would be, like, really hard work for me." Proto-teenager, I tell you.
Anyway, the long and the short of it is that on Wednesday evening, Husband, First Born and I dropped SB off into the seething mass of hyped up eight year olds in school uniform, tinsel and santa hats and then joined the audience for the concert. Which was lovely. The choirs (none of the members of which were older than 11 or 12) were just brilliant and I am absolutely positive that my primary school choir (had such a beast existed) would not have been able to produce those beautiful harmonies.
The audience joined in the carols including a weird version of "The Holly and the Ivy" to a different tune with the choruses done as a round, which worked far better than it sounds. I was giggling slightly all the way through as the couple in front of me, who were almost certainly about my age, were doing that thing that couples do when only one of them has remembered to wear their glasses, and passing one pair of spectacles back and forward between them. Like low-rent opera glasses. I am assuming, in my benignly sexist manner, that it was the wife who remembered them and the husband who had to keep borrowing her pair. Feel free to disagree with this assumption (but I bet you're wrong.)
The concert finished off with a rousing rendition by all of "O Come All Ye Faithful" which is the carol which is guaranteed to make me feel like Christmas is near. I used to sing in the choir at secondary school and always really enjoyed the Christmas Concert. I was never a good singer, but could pretend reasonably well. I realised on Wednesday that even the pretence is now gone. I can't sing. Couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. First Born, who was sharing the programme with me, leaned over at one point and said "You sing really strangely, Mum". Yes, son. Yes, I do.
Monday, 8 December 2008
But - and it's a big but - nor would a hotel have let a horde of a dozen or more children of varying ages rampage through its halls, screaming fit to burst as they charged up and down the stairs playing monsters. Come to think of it a hotel would probably have objected to my aunt's rendition of The Proclaimers' "500 miles" at 4am too.
Everyone had a great time. Because this was a youth hostel, the furniture and fittings and carpets were tough and utilitarian rather than fragile and valuable so all the parents (and nearly all of us were parents!) could relax and let the children run around in a feral pack, secure in the knowledge that it was unlikely they could do much damage. The children reciprocated by thoroughly enjoying their freedom and NOT FIGHTING. Honestly, loads of them and not a fight to be seen. Astonishing. Maybe this little-known side effect is what explains the attraction of communes.
It was lovely to see so many family members that I hadn't caught up with for ages, including my little cousin who came with me into Galashiels in search of chips for the masses. She went off to Haddows to buy a couple of bottles of wine (we are posh - red wine with chips) but came back empty handed. She had been asked for ID and because she didn't have any, had been refused service. She's 30. She was equal parts furious and chuffed. My other aunt (not the cabaret star mentioned above) had to go in and buy it for her. It's a long, long time since I had to get a grown up to go in and buy booze for me and I'm pretty sure when I last did, it wasn't a couple of bottles of a nice Californian Shiraz!
I drove the aunt and cousin back to the hostel, effortlessly navigating the unfamiliar streets of Galashiels with only one trip the wrong way up a one-way street and a little detour on the road home. Well, not so much a detour, because a detour involves taking a longer route than one intended. What's the opposite of a detour? Because whatever it is, that's what I did. My relatives insisted on describing it as driving at speed right over the top of a roundabout. I prefer to think of it simply as single-minded directness in the pursuit of getting the white pudding suppers back while they were still hot. (And that bruise on my cousin's head where she bounced off the roof of the car will heal in time, after all.)
There was much laughing and dancing and chatting and eating (fried breakfast! two days running!) and reminiscing as of course, many of my brother's friends were around as I was growing up in a small West Lothian village and we all know many of the same people and the same stories. My brother of course came in for more than his fair share of ribbing. His friends and I were swapping stories of his prowess in various arenas, from downing a pint of beer in 2.6 seconds to eating a whole box of Mr Kipling's French Fancies in one sitting and his piece de resistance, laughing while eating dinner and snorting a chip out of his nose. Class act, my little brother.
I still can't quite believe that my little toerag of a brother is the grown up, slightly bald, otherwise greying father of two who was singing Knocking on Heaven's Door really badly in front of an ecstatic (read: inebriated) lighter-waving crowd on Saturday night. Great fun. Happy 40th birthday, little brother.
Monday, 1 December 2008
You probably all know that I work as a lawyer dealing with civil court actions. You probably don't know that I ended up doing that entirely by accident. When I was a trainee I got roped into helping with a whole bunch of court actions my firm were handling which had arisen out of the prison riots that happened in Scotland in the late 1980s. (The fact that I was involved in these actions explains my oft-mentioned claim to fame: that I have been on the roof at Barlinnie Prison. The fact that I used to chat to one of the governors at Barlinnie whilst he tended the tomato plants he kept on the roof is a bit less impressive, but no less true.)
Anyway I stayed on at that firm after my traineeship to help finish off those cases and by the time I had done so, I discovered that I seemed to have become a civil litigation solicitor. Whoops.
In fact, if you go further back, the fact that I ended up a lawyer at all was a bit of a mistake. I was good at languages at school, did SYS French and German and decided I would like to do a groovy sounding course in Marketing and Modern Languages at university. In those days, you filled in your application to university and took it to your Guidance teacher who checked it over and then filled out the school's part of the form. My Guidance teacher took one look at my form, declared my chosen course to be (and I quote) "A total waste of your qualifications!" and she ripped it up. "Do Law instead" she said. "You can do anything with a law degree".
And because I was 17 and didn't know anyone who had gone to university and was very biddable, I said "Okay!". And here I am. If I had a time machine I would go back and slap her one. It would be worth it to see the look on her face. And then I would go off and study marketing and French and German like I wanted to.
This is all a long way of saying I never wanted to be a lawyer in the first place, but that is what I am qualified to do. However, from the end of this year, I am not going to do it any more. At least, not as a solicitor in private practice.
I have a new job. Let me just say that again. I have a new job. Hee! I love saying that! As from 5 January I will be working in a managerial capacity in a public body. I will still be a lawyer, I just won't be running court actions for clients. I dithered and swithered about this but now I am absolutely delighted I decided to go for it. It is taking all my willpower not to blow raspberries at the clients that bug me as I run off giggling hysterically and shouting "I don't give a monkey's about your contract dispute! I'm off!"
And that's not even the best bit! Do you know what the best bit is?
I will be working part-time. I will be able to pick the boys up from school every day, help with their homework, spend more time with them. My Mum and Dad will be able to retire properly and go back to being Granny and Grandad rather than having to be surrogate parents so much of the time. I think they will like that. I know I will (except the part where I have to do my own housework and cut my own grass. I really liked having my parents around for that stuff!)
The boys are happy too. First Born reckons if I am working part-time, there is now no rational reason why we cannot get a dog and it is only a matter of time before I am worn down by the force of his rhetoric and get him a puppy. Or two. And a parrot. Ah well, we are not all going to be universally delighted by the changes!
I do have to say a quick heartfelt thanks to Husband who cajoled and coerced me (nicely) into making this move and has been so supportive, even though I will have to take a salary cut to go part-time (hee! I typed "party time" there!). He will also lose his lift home of an evening and will have to brave the bus home most nights. I tell you, that's dedication that is.
And I also want to thank my work colleague who I will call Semolina, because that's what we call her. She looked after me all summer, talked me through some of the worst days at work, wouldn't let me hide away and forced me to get back on the bike after I fell off. She was also totally supportive about my new job even though it means I am effectively buggering off and leaving her to deal with the fallout. Thanks Semolina. I will make the tea next time. Honest.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
So I got home on Friday feeling tired but like I had achieved something. The children had had swimming lessons that day, which neither of them really like but they had done reasonably well so we decided a treat was in order. We nipped over the road to the corner shop, Second Born got a Wispa, I got a SMALL bar of chocolate (seriously, given I can eat an A4 bar myself in one go, this was teensy) and First Born got......a Pepperami. What can I say. He's strange. We also bought Husband a macaroon bar even though he was out for the evening. We are thoughtful that way.
On Saturday we discovered that lots of attractions around Scotland were open free of charge to celebrate St Andrew's day - one of the obvious benefits of having a Nationalist government in power is that they are really into this sort of thing. So we piled into the car and went to Craigmillar Castle for a wee wander around. It's a fantastic little castle, full of winding staircases, cellars and battlements you can walk along. The kids decided to pretend we were hunting them and spent their time hiding from us and running away. Great for us as we got to meander round in peace apart from the occasional burst of chasing and hiding behind things to jump out on them. Terrific fun. If you ever come to Edinburgh, I recommend a visit.
This morning, I got up early and took the children to Edinburgh Zoo which was also open free of charge. Husband stayed behind to do some work and we set off early to try to beat the worst of the crowds, and crowds there were aplenty. Nothing gets Scots out of bed on a frosty morning when the temperature is -4.5 like the promise of not having to pay £20 to get in to the Zoo. Not doing much to upset the stereotype, were we?
The fact that it was -4.5 did not seem to have impressed itself upon my darling children, however. Second Born paid lip service to wrapping up by wearing a vest under his sweater. First Born did not even bother with that, just putting on a sweatshirt. Both of them were scornful of my suggestion that the temperature warranted thick, padded winter jackets. They would wear their hoodies and look cool, thanks all the same Mum. I toyed with the idea of laying down the law and insisting, but settled instead for the "Okay, but on your heads be it. You will not be allowed to complain of the cold when we are out, will you?" route. The boys airily agreed.
I then took an inordinate (and for a supposedly loving parent, probably inappropriate) amount of pleasure in stomping around the exposed hillside on which the Zoo is situated, cheerily shouting "This isn't cold, is it boys?" as my breath curled round my head, hopefully obscuring my smirk. That'll larn 'em.
Most of the animals, sensible beasts, decided this was in fact not a morning to be up and about early and stayed indoors. The warty pigs (yes, they really are called that) were cool, as were the penguins. Edinburgh's penguin enclosure is absolutely brilliant as you can watch the penguins underwater when they turn from slightly comical waddling waiters, slipping around on the wet stone to sleek, speeding torpedos whizzing past the windows just for the fun of it.
After a couple of hours, we left and I took my two little icicles home for lunch and toe-defrosting. The rest of the day has been spent lazing around reading, watching old Red Dwarf episodes and getting ready for the week ahead. I am due to be in court for most of it so it will probably zoom by. Hope everyone else had a good weekend too.
Thursday, 27 November 2008
"HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE RAINFOREST!
If you are reading this, god help you. ONLY read this if you are stranded in the rain forest cause this book may distress small children yadda yadda yadda, you know the rest! Okay, so you are in the forest, stranded, no help, and your friends are dead or being swolled by a jaguar. Find some wood for a fire and catch an animal and cook it, then make a bed out of leaves, things to watch out for, canibals, crocodiles, poison arrow frogs, jaguars, and that's about it. So good luck and don't tell anybody you bought this book!
Dear readers, the author of this book is now dead by an unfortunate canibal incounter."
You're scared now, aren't you? Maybe it's like that videotape in "Ring" and you too will shortly fall victim to a canibal incounter. (Cue "Twilight Zone" music)...........
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, we were both pretty zonked, no way did I feel like chopping and simmering, so dinner consisted of fish fingers for husband and home made poutine for me. Chips, cheese and gravy: the ultimate comfort food. Thank you Canada. It was absolutely delicious, particularly since I had some gravy left over from the garlic and rosemary infused lamb I made at the weekend. Posh poutine. Haute cuisine poutine!
I now plan to take a cup of tea to bed, read for a while and sleep for about 9 hours. Night all!
PS Husband ate the Bounty yesterday. He did share the Breakaway with me though.
Monday, 24 November 2008
Whatever it looks like, I will be proud for I will have earned it. My medal. My badge of honour.
For my Husband left the house last week to go away on business and on Monday (that would be a WHOLE WEEK AGO) he left half a Bounty sitting on the hall table. In full view. Open. AND IT IS STILL THERE. I didn't even lick it.
What's more, it was joined on Friday night by a Breakaway (no, I don't know why either. Maybe Husband has a magic pocket that spontaneously generates confectionery at a rate faster than he can consume. Like the goose that laid golden eggs but much, MUCH better.) And the Breakaway is still there too after a weekend spent, for the most part, on a couch not 10 feet away from said hall table. Untouched by human
If that does not deserve a medal or a mention in the next Honours list, I don't know what does.
Sunday, 23 November 2008
O-o-kay. Wednesday morning saw me in the sheriff court where I hardly ever go these days, being too old for that lark. I normally feel like the babysitter there as the daily courts are full of trainee and newly-qualified solicitors cutting their teeth and I am old enough to be their mother these days. I was therefore slightly surprised to see a number of my contemporaries in court. This was explained when the sheriff came on the bench. She's a very good sheriff but the description "nippy sweetie" could have been created for her. On a good day. Clearly the old hands were taking no risks and were dealing with matters themselves rather than risking a rookie in front of her! It's times like this that I realise I am indeed an old hand myself as I find her verbal slicing and dicing of the assembled lawyers mildly amusing rather than terrifying.
Wednesday evening was duly spent preparing for the proof on Thursday morning. Thursday was spent conducting a hearing about plumbing supplies, fixed price contracts and the apportionment of works between first fix and second f......oh, even I'm bored by that. It was dull, let's leave it at that.
I got home reasonably early, played with the kids (husband was away on business in London) and consoled myself with sausage, egg and chips for tea. With ketchup. It was wonderful.
Friday morning saw me scooting off to Perth sheriff court where I hung about waiting for my case to call until after lunchtime. This was dangerous. It left me loose in Perth town centre for an hour so with nothing to do. And there is a Lakeland shop in Perth. I don't know what it is about that place but I find it physically impossible to (a) walk past it and (b) buy less than three things when I do go in. Kitchen gadgets. They are my crack.
I rationalised my visit by telling myself that the boys needed new cool packs for their school lunchboxes and only Lakeland sell those cool little flat flexible ones, which is true. There is however no excuse for the fact that I also emerged with a blippy rotary cheese grater ("I grate parmesan a lot!") and one of those little gizmos that froth up your milk for hot chocolate and lattes ("I.....I..............I just wanted one. So shoot me.") Frankly I am proud that I did not buy either expensive knives or heavy duty bakeware, both of which are particular weaknesses. I spent less than £25 AND I avoided the continental market going on in the street outside with its stall selling olives (another weakness). That is a victory, that is. And the frothy hot chocolate went down well with the kids.
And now suddenly it is Sunday evening and I don't know where the weekend went but it has been nice and slobby and uneventful which is what weekends need to be now and again. Second Born is playing Nintendo, Husband is watching old Starsky and Hutch DVDs on his laptop and First Born has been up for a shower and has reappeared freshly scrubbed and wearing Cyberman pyjamas. The boys will be off to bed soon and then it will be time to wind down ready to start the week again. It'll be Christmas before we know it at this rate.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
You're all sharpening your pencils, aren't you.
"Pass it on to five other bloggers, and tell them to open the nearest book to page 56 Write out the fifth sentence on that page, and also the next two to five sentences. The CLOSEST BOOK, NOT YOUR FAVORITE, OR MOST INTELLECTUAL "
Okay, what can I lay my hands on.......
"It was his duty to take reasonable care for the safety of other road users. It was his duty to take reasonable care to drive carefully, keep a proper lookout and keep his vehicle under proper control. It was his duty to take reasonable care to avoid pulling out from the roadside into the path of the defender's vehicle."
Oh lordy, I am stopping after three sentences, that's enough surely. Yup, Siggi Bennett's marvelous book of Style Writs for the Sheriff Court. Wake up! I've finished! Aren't you glad you're not a lawyer?!
For some reason we also have, lying about in what is ostensibly a solicitors' office, a copy of Andrew Gimson's biography of Boris Johnson. Not entirely sure why. And I don't want to open that one because if I do, chances are I will carry on reading it and get no work done for the rest of today.
I am not going to follow the instructions to the letter (I'm an internetty rebel, I am) by tagging 5
PS I am going for a run at lunchtime. You may come round and poke me with sharpened pencils if I don't.
Monday, 17 November 2008
The partners' meeting was surprisingly okay. I haven't been to one for a while, given my inability to deal with such matters over the summer, but everyone was very nice. It did help that we managed to get out of the office by 8pm so no-one had got to the stage of repeatedly bouncing their foreheads off the table. This could have had something to do with the fact that we normally get sandwiches and stuff in to keep us going but had not done so this time. Hunger apparently focuses the mind.
The rest of the week was pretty much okay too. I had a real "blast from the past" experience on Wednesday: our normal telephonist/receptionist was on holiday last week. Our relief receptionist had just undergone some pretty major surgery and was convalescing. My assistant is normally the final port of call as emergency cover and she was, fortunately, in the office. Unfortunately she had succumbed to the cold/throat infection that is sweeping the capital and she had no voice. None. So that left.......well, me. I used to temp in the old days when I was a hard-up student paying off my overdraft and I have reception-ed in the past, so I took over as telephonist for the day. It was quite fun, really. Took me back (*counts quickly on her fingers*) 20 years or so. My goodness, I am getting old.
The rest of the week slid gently into the weekend. I was in court on Thursday but nothing much happened and I managed to avoid having to trail up to Perth Sheriff court on Friday. So that was good.
Saturday was lovely. Second Born was a bit under the weather with the ubiquitous cold/hacking cough, so he stayed in his pyjamas all day. (I just read that back and hope you understand that I don't mean it was lovely because SB was ill!) I did the shopping and the usual stuff but other than that, I spent most of the day on the couch communing with SB, making him hot chocolate and reading. A lovely, lazy day.
Sunday I went to Makro to hunt toilet roll, kitchen roll, washing powder and dishwasher powder. That almost makes me sound domesticated! I also bought a brownie tin and an absolutely huge jar of chocolate chips. SB's little eyes fair lit up when he saw them. First Born's friend, aka the Cookie Monster came over to spend the afternoon with us and we all went up to the park for a session of running around and yelling (the boys) and gentle strolling in the sunshine (the grown ups).
In the evening Husband used me as a test audience for a talk he is presenting in London next week. I mean, this week. And it was really quite entertaining. Hopefully I made some useful comments and he wasn't put off by the faces I pulled at him. Husband is going to be away for most of this week on business so chances are I will be online more in the evenings. Prepare yourselves for a week of intensively inane witterings.
And now it is Monday again. And John Sergeant is still in SCD and Cherie has been knocked out! Cherie, who gave all us women over 40 hope! I am always up for a laugh and enjoyed John's Pasa Doble/taking out the recycling dance as much as the next person, but enough is enough!
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
On the plus side, I did buy a pair of shoes at lunchtime.
Monday, 10 November 2008
Now, I have not been a fan of the Scottish Parliament building. I thought the original building which everyone thought would house the Parliament, the old Royal High School, was a good choice. The new building.....well, it's concrete and concrete carries certain connotations in Edinburgh. It sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile opposite Holyrood Palace (the Queen must be well pit oot, having her view spoiled) and near a council estate called Dumbiedykes. Which is also built of concrete. I have always thought that basically the Parliament building looks a little like the new Dumbiedykes Community Centre. Without the cars on bricks.
But I have to say the inside is fabulous. There isn't a square room or a right angle in the entire building, I don't think and it is the most interesting, thought provoking place I have ever been in. Round every corner there is a different view, either of another part of the building or of the landscape outside which, given that it sits beside Holyrood Palace, Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, is spectacular. There is a huge amount of wood used which makes it warm and easy on the eye and we'll just forget the bits made of concrete, shall we?
The debating chamber itself is actually bigger than I thought (unlike the House of Commons which is TINY in real life) and really rather cool. Being in with a pass-holder we got to go right down onto the floor of the chamber and sit in Alex Salmond's seat. Shhhh! We're not supposed to do that! And First Born got interviewed by ExBIL on those steps you always see the MSPs walking down on TV. ("First Minister, what do you think of Gordon Brown?" "He's rubbish! Ha! Ha!")
All in all I was really quite impressed. There are rooms in the building dedicated for use by local schools to come in and see the Parliament and meet with their MSP and the meeting rooms are used by groups of all sorts. S. had had 54 school kids having their packed lunch in one of the committee rooms last week and I love the idea of the public getting to use the building we paid for. And paid for handsomely.
I think the jury is still firmly out on the exterior of the building but I am less scathing about it than I was. I still don't know if it was worth the money (so much money!) and I don't know how long it will last in the inclement Scottish weather, but I am glad I went and had a look. The public are allowed to go in and wander about quite a lot of the ground floor on a daily basis. Go and have a look. It's really interesting, honest. (If you live in North America and are reading this - sorry - really boring post!)
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Anyway, for those of you who are confused about the American political system and what exactly the difference is between Republicans and Democrats, I am here to help. Or rather, my elder son is.
We attended the boys' school last night for parents' night - our chance to get a first hand report from our children's teachers about just how wonderful our offspring are and out of precisely how many of their orifices the sun shines. First Born's teacher is American, from Boston. She let the class hold their own version of the election using copies of her own postal ballot paper (is that an offence? Copying your ballot paper? It sounds like something that might be) and Obama won a landslide. This was two days ago so clearly those 10 year olds had their fingers on the pulse.
She was very complimentary about FB's enthusiasm for the project and described how seriously he took the issues, even down to canvassing his classmates at breaktime. She overheard him in the playground holding forth to a group of fellow P6s about the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Apparently "the Republicans live in the middle of America and the Democrats live round the outside." So now you know.
Monday, 3 November 2008
- I am incapable of being left alone with the remains of the Halloween fun size Mars bars. It was them or me and as I am here blogging, I think you can work that one out
- Kneading bread dough by hand works muscles in my shoulders I never knew I had
- You can sell anything to small boys as long as you make it collectable. Just as we are recovering from the Great Pokemon Card plague, along come Go-Gos. They are small, plastic, brightly coloured and, as far as I can see, of no earthly use. Boys love 'em.
- There is still one last remaining Wimpy in Edinburgh on Portobello Prom. I thought McDonalds and Burger King had driven the old Wimpy to extinction, but it lingers on in Porty. I am old enough to remember the Wimpy on Castle Street in the days when in the quaint British version of a burger joint you still got waitress service. And proper plates. And cutlery. And they did a desert called a Brown Derby which if memory serves me correctly, was a doughnut with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce on top. Mmmmm.
- I am really really rubbish at running. After managing a 10k in May, on Sunday morning I managed 4.5k. In 40 minutes. And I walked a lot of it. Still it was a lovely morning, all sunny and frosty and at least I went.
- A visit to B&Q to buy a length of flexible ducting does not constitute a fun day out and no 8 year old worth his salt will believe it does
- You cannot drive anywhere in Edinburgh in less than 40 minutes these days.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
1. We sometimes used to bump into Idi Amin in Safeway. My dad worked in Saudi Arabia when I was younger and we sometimes went out to stay with him for a while. He lived in Jeddah and the local supermarket was a Safeway. It was right opposite the Sands Hotel which is where Idi holed up after the good people of Uganda (and most of the rest of the world) decided he wasn't their cup of tea. I can authoritatively report that he didn't push his own trolley.
2. I have a small brown mark on the sole of my left foot. It marks the spot where I jumped barefoot into a sandpit as a child and landed on a rusty nail sticking out of a piece of wood which someone had hidden in the sand. Serves me right for trusting a sandpit in West Lothian, frankly. The nail went through my foot, a story which I delight in telling my children because it makes them nearly throw up.
3. That same Safeway from number 1 up there used to stock packs of stuffed lambs' testicles in the freezer section. They came in little miniature egg-box type cartons. We never bought them, but I kind of wish we had.
4. I used to love the taste of cold coffee as a child. Not frappucino or iced coffee. Cold coffee. Specifically the dregs of any coffee my parents left behind to go cold. The very thought of that now makes me queasy.
5. My brother once pushed me into a pile of wet cement. It was at primary school and workmen were mixing cement for the foundations of the ubiquitous huts being built as extra classrooms and all of us nosey kids were watching. He came up behind me and just shoved. I was very upset at the time but now with the benefit of 30 years or so, I can see that it must have been funny. I doubt I would have been able to resist had he been the one in front of me. I did have to chip dried cement off the face of my watch though.
6. I cannot stomach porridge made the proper Scottish way, ie with water and salt. If I have it (and I often do) I have to make it with milk and brown sugar. And a touch of cinnamon. That sound you can hear is my granny spinning in her grave.
I would tag more people but I am very predictable and always tag the same suspects and am scared of tagging anyone else because they will think I am impertinent and presumptious for daring to impose on them. At least, they do in my head. So I'll just say, if you fancy a meme, go for it.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
I looked down at my unclad self. "Now? This minute?"
FB rolled his eyes. "No, but you could go out in your lunch hour and get them."
Second Born sensed his opening and launched his bid. "I've got a school trip today and I need a hat, scarf and gloves."
I looked at the clock. It was 7.12am. "Where do you expect me to get you a hat and gloves at 7.12am, when I am not even dressed yet and you have to be in school in about an hour?"
Second Born was not disheartened. "Oh and yesterday when I was out, I needed my cagoule and it wasn't in my schoolbag."
Red rag to semi-naked bull. The packing of schoolbags (other than the daily lunches) is a boy task. It is their responsibility, not mine. They know this.
I rallied a bit. "Well, you are supposed to pack your own bag, aren't you?"
"Right then. So where have you looked for your cagoule?"
Puzzled stare. What is this "looked" of which you speak?
I sigh. "You mean you haven't looked for it. You discovered yesterday that you did not have your cagoule. You spent a couple of hours last night watching TV, playing with Lego and fighting with your brother. You sat with me for half an hour while I read to you. And yet you never once mentioned the missing cagoule. Or the hat, scarf and gloves for that matter. You decided to keep that information for this morning?"
Second Born is starting to back away now. But I am on a roll: "Go and look for your cagoule. You can whistle for the hat and gloves because you have lost every hat and pair of gloves I have ever bought. You have a scarf somewhere. Look for it while you are looking for your cagoule." I am quite loud and emphatic by this point. Second Born is halfway down the stairs wishing he'd never mentioned it.
I turn to First Born who is already reversing out the door saying "You don't have to get the pumpkin just now, Mum!" Well gee, thanks. And here was me about to hit Sainsbury's in my mis-matched and well worn undies to hunt for a pumpkin and half a ton of chocolate. I suppose I can get dressed now instead.
If I was more
EDITED TO ADD: For the benefit of transatlantic readers (Hi Daysgoby!), a cagoule is one of those thin waterproof jackets that you can squash up into a bundle about the size of a tennis ball.
Monday, 27 October 2008
In fact, I recognised him the very first time I met him, saw at once that he was what I needed, that he could fulfil a role in my life that nothing else could. He was actually living in my mother-in-law's house at the time but I didn't let that stop me. I enticed him away. Actually, it wasn't that difficult as she really wasn't that keen on him and considered him, if anything, a bit of a waste of space. I knew different and welcomed him into my home where he has been ever since. Until Sunday. First Born and I were making bread. And we killed my Kenwood Chef.
That's him there. In all his made-in-the-Seventies orange splendour. With, I hope you note, a proper stainless steel bowl, none of that plastic rubbish. We were trying to recreate the Swiss Sunday Bread that First Born found so addictive and decided that, rather than knead it ourselves, we would be lazy and stick the Kenwood on with the dough hook. All went well for a couple of minutes, I was washing up and FB was watching the dough bouncing around the bowl when suddenly Kenwood (as I like to call him) had a sort of fit. He speeded up to maximum without warning and then ground to a halt. An ominous smell of burning filled the kitchen. I leapt over to him, my heart in my mouth and switched him off. I frantically checked him over, Husband heard the commotion and came to see if he could help, but it was too late. His motor had gone. I pronounced him dead.
Now I don't know what to do - I don't think I could take to one of those new fangled mixers all clean and sensible-coloured and without that distinctive whining groan that Kenwood had when he started up. Sigh. Well, I suppose I should be grateful that he had such a good time in his final years once I
(You can click on that photo to enlarge it if you are brave enough to cope with that wallpaper as well as my youthful girning.)
And do you know the worst thing? I got the bread recipe off the internet and it was AWFUL. Even FB wouldn't eat it.
Friday, 24 October 2008
We arrived on Sunday to find that Geneva had increased its policy of giving out-of-towners free public transport and they now give free travel from the airport to the city too. On a train. A clean train that leaves on time. Miraculous. Why can't Edinburgh do this? Oh yeah, our airport doesn't have a train line and even the much lauded new trams aren't quite going to reach the airport. Duh.
Anyway, Sunday in Geneva was lovely, sunny and mild and we wandered along the lake and had lunch outdoors. Followed by dinner that evening in the hotel restaurant, which sounds rather a dull thing to do until you know where we were staying. The Hotel Edelweiss, which is exactly twice as twee as it sounds. The decor kind of looks like the writer of Heidi ate too much chocolate and designed it in a cuckoo-clock-induced delirium. It was great. More gingham, flowers and carved wood than you could shake a stick at. And the restaurant was even more so. Covered, just COVERED in cow bells and alphorns and chairs with lovehearts carved in the back. There was live yodelling, tunes played on a long string of cowbells held by obliging members of the audience and an alphorn so long the guy had to go upstairs to be able to play it. We ate fondue. It kind of felt compulsory, as the entire hotel, including the World's Smallest Lift smelled of cheese fondue. You kind of got used to it.
On Monday Husband went conferencing and the boys and I went exploring, discovering that the little yellow boats called "mouettes" ("seagulls") were more fun than walking anywhere, even if walking would have been quicker. We explored the old town, went to two museums which were closed and one which was open, ate lunch in the open again and bought the boys a little Swiss Army knife each. They both promised faithfully to be responsible and careful with them and once each of them had inflicted minor cuts on themselves, they actually were. In fact Second Born likes the nail file and tweezers best and First Born just likes using the toothpick to do his Al Capone impression (an impression much improved by the scars on his face he picked up arguing with a bush earlier in the day). Second Born also took many photos of us with the Jet d'Eau (that big fountain spouting out of Lake Geneva) apparently coming out of our heads.
On Tuesday we hung out in museums (Second Born translating hieroglyphs for us and explaining how after you die you have your heart measured against the feather of truth. The security guard was mightily impressed) and then in the evening took a bus into France to visit an old friend of ours who now lives in France but works in Geneva. For dwellers of an island nation, the concept of jumping on the local bus to go to another country for dinner was a bit weird and we were definitely the only ones on the bus who were excited at the sight of the border crossing (where the bus didn't even stop) And when I say "we" were excited, I mean Husband and I. Both boys had decided to have a nap instead.
Dinner was fantastic and our friend's wife, who we were meeting for the first time was lovely. Their son who is nearly 1 was endearingly cute - just at the stage where crawling around and waving spatulas pinched from the kitchen is the height of fun. We ate, drank and talked until the boys got bored, and then carried on talking while they sighed and muttered about wanting to go home. They were fortunately instantly appeased by the production of a laptop, the small boy equivalent of a pacifier. Our hostess then kindly drove us back into Switzerland (10 minutes away) so we could catch a tram home. Second Born was slighty nervous on trams after one earlier in the day had tried to eat his foot when the doors closed on him. Bravely he decided to risk going on one again though. He just leapt on at the speed of light the minute the doors opened.
On Wednesday we again took advantage of our free travel and took a bus to the French border where we got off, walked into France and took a cable car up a mountain for a walk. It poured with rain so we felt quite at home. When we got back to Geneva, we briefly went for a walk to find some chocolate but it was raining so heavily that we eventually abandoned the idea and went back to the hotel to slob around until it was time for dinner, which we had in a little restuarant round the corner. The boys were pretty much adopted for the evening and we even managed to get both children to order their own dinner and drinks, and even converse a little in French. Dessert was then taken in an ice cream shop over the road from the hotel where Second Born had discovered "the best chocolate ice cream on the planet" (his own words and he has carried out a fair amount of market research on the subject over the years).
Husband and I had coffee and a little bit of ice cream (just to be sociable, you understand) and Second Born had a bowl of ice cream the size of his head. First Born of course could not participate as even the sorbet had some milk in it (sacrilege!) so had to make do with the biscuits I keep stashed in my rucksack for such eventualities. The lady in the ice cream shop was very very sympathetic. I think that the Swiss are so steeped in dairy produce (cheese, chocolate, ice cream) that the thought of being allergic to milk touches them very deeply. She re-appeared with a plate of fresh fruit and a sympathetic pat on the head for First Born.
On our last morning, we ate the by now traditional huge breakfast, and in the case of the boys, I mean huge. Eight year old Second Born ate: bowl of cereal, pot of yogurt, two sweet pastries, couple of slices of yeast bread, slice of smoked turkey, little ball of Babybel cheese, slice of ordinary bread with Nutella on it and hot chocolate to drink. 10 year old First Born had three glasses of apple juice, bowl of cornflakes (no milk), several slices of ham and about three quarters of a loaf of the yeast bread. We had to ask the other diners what the bread was as he was so enthralled with it, he wants me to try to make it at home! Husband and I of course were very restrained and simply drank coffee and nibbled on some muesli. Ahem.
We then went chocolate hunting. In a shop called Zogg. Who could resist buying chocolate from Zogg? We were relatively restrained, only bringing back a little box of "paves de Geneve" for ourselves. Second Born got a house brick made of chocolate and the boys both brought some presents back for friends, including Swiss Army knives made of chocolate. First Born again excited the sympathy of the lady running another chocolate shop with his milk allergy and she plied him with sugared almonds to make up for his obviously deprived upbringing! (He liked them so much we went back to buy some to take home at which point the lady stressed that she had not given the sweets to FB to persuade us to buy them, or even because she felt sorry for him but because "he is such a nice, well educated young boy". Clearly a generous lady but a poor judge of character!).
We wandered back to the airport and returned to a wet and VERY windy Edinburgh. The flight into Edinburgh airport can best be described as "bouncy" So now we are at home again, enjoying a day of lazing around before we gird our loins ready for the return to work and school. My ability to speak French was of course improving a little just as we were due to leave and will have thoroughly rusted up again by the time I visit another French speaking country.
In other news Second Born and I have both confirmed our entries for the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh on 10 January 2009. Those of you who run, come and join us. Those of you (the sensible ones) who don't, come and cheer us on/perform CPR/plie us with chocolate.
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
The reason for this slightly schizophrenic irritation? In May of this year I was fit enough to run the Great Edinburgh Run. 6 miles through the slightly odorific streets of Edinburgh and whilst I did not run all the way, I did finish on my own 2 feet rather than in the back of an ambulance. I was also a couple of dress sizes smaller than I am now. Bah. I have not run properly since then and the combination of no exercise and that whole pesky depression malarkey means that in terms of fitness and diet, the summer has been a spectacular wipeout. (Don't get me wrong, the poutine and ice cream in Canada were wonderful, just not very good for me.)
I have tried in a rather pathetically half-hearted way to get back into the swing of things over the past couple of weeks and have failed. So I have reverted to the only sure fire method I know: the threat of public humiliation.
I have signed up for the Great Winter Run.
For those of you not from Edinburgh (or from Edinburgh and sensible enough not to do this kind of stuff) this is a 5k (3 mile in old money) run round Arthur's Seat in the dead of winter. Arthur's Seat is a big extinct volcano type thing in the middle of Edinburgh. In other words, a hill. The run is on 10 January 2009 and last year, when Second Born ran the junior version, it was so cold the lochs had frozen over and the swans were skiting about on the ice. So I have voluntarily signed up, and paid good money, for the privilege of getting out of bed early on a winter's morning in Edinburgh and running up a hill and down again like a sad, saggy, middle-aged Duke of York. Without the ten thousand men.
I am now trying to bully various work colleagues into doing it too. "Come on! It'll be fun! They've got paramedics on site, what's the worst that could happen?!" I think my sales technique could do with some polishing.
On the plus side, the looming threat of doing this in public will definitely get me out running again. Probably.
Thursday, 9 October 2008
One of the exercises required him to write a few paragraphs that were openings for stories - just the openings, not full stories - so they had to be immediately arresting, grabbing the imagination. First Born did not disappoint (original spelling left intact!):
"And I want all are men to be transported to France imeditly!" Hitler sighed. It wasn't all that easy being the German leader.
Or how about:
Mr Carnigee put down the phone and gave a sigh. Knock! Knock!
"Come in" said Mr Carnigee. In came a tall, thin man wearing a pinstriped suit and his features were hidden under his wide brimmed hat, except for his red eyes.
"I think you and I should have a chat, Carnigee!" he said.
"No! No! No!" said Mr Carnigee as the man moved closer......
Or there is always the character he had to create to star in a story. He had to draw a picture of the person he imagined and describe him in detail. He came up with "Ray" who apparently, and I quote "enjoys a cigarette now and again and is very fond of olives". He is also "a little fussy". I think I might have met this guy.
But the best of the lot was entitled "My Heros":
"My heros are my parents becase they've helped me through my life, and on countless times they've convinced me that I can do things I thought I couldn't, and they've hardly let me down. An example of when they convinced me was when I was nervos about going to rugby and my mum told me to just have a go and try my best."
*Sniff* I think we are going to have to keep him now.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
We entered into the spirit of the thing by taking along a bottle of Blue Nun. Did you know they still made that stuff? Neither did I until Saturday. It now comes in a blue glass bottle making it look just a little like a very expensive bottle of window cleaner. (Don't worry, we also took along something drinkable.)
The conversations with the other guests were hilarious. There was a large poster on the wall displaying all the photographs which had been sent in and we had a great time figuring out who was who and discussing the fashion/hairstyle choices. Now, I had always thought that I was not really much of a fashion victim in the 1980s. I never went out dressed like Madonna, for example. But in the discussions on Saturday night I realised that in fact, I wore some pretty abysmal stuff in my teens. Really. You want details? OK, here goes:
- legwarmers. Need I say more.
- fishnet tights. Electric blue fishnet tights.
- jeans so tight I could barely move and had to lie down flat to zip them up. Any sign of a slight flare in the leg was a direct route to social suicide.
- one of those scarves with gold thread through it, worn wrapped around the neck with the point at the front so you looked sort of like a Broadway version of a terrorist
- bright red baggy dungarees, worn loose with the legs rolled up to mid-calf, with a yellow collarless shirt underneath. And a leopard print chiffon scarf tied round my (permed) hair with a big bow on the top. I wish I had a photo of this one.
- metallic pinky-purple lipstick. It came from Miss Selfridge and the shade was called "Boy Gorgeous" It made your teeth look yellow.
- electric blue mascara. To match the tights, presumably.
- My dad's black cashmere V neck sweater. Worn back to front with the V at the back, accessorised with a double string of pearls. What was that whole V back thing?
- Hairspray. LOTS of hairspray.
- White court shoes (I am so ashamed)
- Black fingerless gloves, which went well with the........
- .........black nail varnish. My dad took one look at this combo and declared that it looked like I had dropped a brick on my fingers.
- Brown trilby hat. John Taylor had a lot to answer for.
- Ra-ra skirt. Least said the better.
- Grey and red striped boating jacket.
- White high necked blouse with purple and black pinstripes and a bow at the neck. Ack.
Right. Your turn. Make me feel better in the comments with your fashion faux pas. Or just laugh at me, whatever you prefer.
Thursday, 2 October 2008
You may recall that the title of this blog is a direct quote from Second Born aged about 4 when he sized up my attempts to lose weight and firm everything up at the gym. I should have seen then where this was going. And in fact, when I think about it, I was the butt of First Born's very first joke. When he was a baby, just learning to talk, his party trick was to respond to various words. If you said "cow" he would say "moo". If you said "dog" he'd say "woof". And if you said "mummy" or "daddy" he would try to repeat it. One day, he must have been a bit distracted (at least I choose to believe so). Because when we said "mummy", he said "woof". Instant hilarity. Every grown up in the vicinity (myself included) fell about laughing. First Born is not daft. He could spot a good act. After that, every time someone said "Mummy" to him, he replied, with great glee, with "Woof!!" And it worked every time.
Scroll forward to last week and the whole Pokemon servant thing. And now, my dear Husband has been showing my impressionable children this*. So it will come as no surprise to any of you to learn that if I now express an opinion on any subject (bedtime, suitability of Nintendo for playing before school, the gold standard) I am met with a chorus of "Women! Know your limits!" followed by hysterical giggling. I'm doomed.
*In case anyone is worrying, that clip was put in context for them. I'm not that daft!
Sunday, 28 September 2008
I am: More fun than I look, most of the time.
I think: Too much.
I know: A lot of trivia. Seriously, lots. Go on, test me.
I have: A birthmark. Quite a big one. No, you can't see it.
I wish: I didn't care what people think.
I hate: Anything bad happening to children. Makes me cry. Oh, and celery. Blech.
I fear: For my children. But that's normal, isn't it?
I hear: Right now? The fan on this god-awful Stalinist crappy laptop I got to replace my lovely Vaio which was stolen in the burglary. Seriously, it's so loud you have to shout over it.
I smell: Badly. I don't mean I smell bad - well, I suppose I might but no-one has taken me to one side and tactfully handed me a can of Right Guard yet - I mean that my sense of smell is poor. I am the person you don't want to have around in a gas leak. "No, I can't smell a thing, I'm sure it's fine, go ahead and light that candle....."
I crave: Everyone’s approval. Copying Kal here but it's true (See: I Wish above). I have a deeply ingrained need to try to make other people happy, even if it makes me miserable. I am happy knowing my misery is making them happier. Wow, I'm screwed up.
I search: For car keys, missing socks and bits of Lego.
I wonder: What would have happened if I had stood up to my guidance teacher at school and gone of to study marketing and modern languages at Uni like I wanted to.
I regret: Not travelling more when I had the chance, before work and children sucked all of the time (and money) away. I know now I will never backpack around Europe.
I love: Books and words generally; comfort food; my husband and children; pompous self-important depressing 80s music; Strictly Come Dancing (sorry, had to get it in somewhere). Oh, and chocolate but that' s a bad relationship I'm trying to get out of.
I ache: When I get up in the morning. I am getting on a bit, you know.
I am not: The droid you are looking for.
I believe: In rainbows. Achoo. (Only my husband will get that one)
I dance: Horribly and very self-consciously, unless it's a ceilidh in which case I dance dangerously.
I sing: Even though my children beg me to stop.
I cry: More than I would like to. But I'm working on that.
I fight: Not at all. I am not a fighter, I'm a run-away-and-avoid-conflict-er.
I win: Logical arguments. I am a fearsome and relentless debater as long as the topic is not too close to home.
I lose: My sense of perspective sometimes. And earrings.
I never: Wear make-up. Never learned, can't be bothered.
I always: used to say I would never get married or have children. Hmmm. Let's see if this still works: "I will never win a million pounds on the lottery!"
I confuse: the cat by miaowing at her. She can't figure out whether she's human or we're cats.
I listen: to music when running and when other people are around. On my own, I like silence.
I can usually be found: I am not that good at hide and seek.
I am scared: Of heights if I am somewhere up high and there is no barrier. In other words, top of the CN tower, indoors? No problem. Standing too close to the edge of a moderate cliff? Eek.
I need: To stop eating chocolate and cheese and buttered toast and get back to the fruit and salad before my wardrobe explodes in protest.
I am happy about: This blog and the fact that I have "met" in a virtual sense (and sometimes IRL) so many cool and interesting people through it. If I win the lottery I am taking 6 months off and coming round to visit each and every one of you in person. Don't worry, I'll bring cookies.
I imagine: Frequently.I am supposed to tag folks now, and I was going to tag Croila but I wasn't quick enough. I think I will cop out instead and let anyone who could do with a blog idea do it if they want (Lynsey, I'm looking at you!)
Thursday, 25 September 2008
I do think there is a business opportunity here though, prompted by what Spiral Skies said: if you are going to have the flash of staples in your breeks, why doesn't someone market a stapler intended for the purpose? With a range of colour-coded staples, like those boxes of assorted coloured threads you get with some sewing kits? You could make them a feature - sparkly rhinestone ones for evening wear, sombre greys and blacks for business wear. Or use contrasting ones to show how quirky and cool you are. Geometric patterns for the arty among you. Presumably they could make the staples out of something other than metal, though, so that you don't have to take your trousers off to get through airport security.
I am convinced this is a genius idea and am off to prepare a patent application. I promise I will almost certainly, probably, cut you all in on the profits when I am a millionaire. Maybe.
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Anyway, number one on this list is: I wish I could sew. In an absolutely ideal world I would be able to make my own clothes, so that when I had the idle thought of "I could really do with a plain black skirt about so long, with pockets, and maybe some cool button-y detail", I could do something about it that did not involved traipsing round clothes shops (yuck) looking for stuff that will not make me look like Jabba the Hut's less attractive sister and having to go into changing rooms and try said stuff on before rejecting it on the basis of the said resemblance to siblings of Jabba the Hut. (Wow. That was a long sentence. Are you all still breathing okay?)
A friend/flatmate from university days had a friend who could do this sort of stuff and I was very jealous. She could say "I would really love a long, gathered grey skirt that has lots of fabric in it and reaches down almost to my black pointy goth-type shoes" (it was the Eighties after all) and lo and behold, her pal would come up with the goods.
Or my friend B. from school days who was really arty and could draw and sketch and paint AND make clothes. She made my wedding dress for me. Based on my very clear and comprehensible instructions along the lines of "Long, silk, cream/ivory, sleeves, no foofy stuff. Well maybe a bow. A small one. Maybe." B. took this in her stride, looked me up and down and produced a drawing of a design that up until then had only existed in my head. She then made the dress for me from scratch, without ever going near me with a tape measure (a dangerous endeavour at the best of times) and with minimial alteration. I loved it. Wouldn't it be cool to be able to do that whenever you felt like it?
Frankly I would be happy just to be able to take up hems neatly, sew on the odd button/name tape (OMG the name tapes on the boys' uniforms!) or make minor alterations. But I can't. I am hopeless with a needle. Well actually, I can thread a needle really well, really quickly. But then I don't have a clue what to do with it.
I was pretty good at school - most subjects I did well in. The academic stuff was fine, PE I managed by dint of being a reasonable swimmer and badminton player and remarkably good at conning my way out of everything else. Cookery, or "food and nutrition" as it was then known I got by in because I was an okay cook even if I tended not to follow the recipes properly. Sewing however - sorry, "fabric and fashion" - I bombed in. Just useless.
The first item of clothing we were supposed to make was a really basic skirt and I failed before I got anywhere near a needle by cutting out two fronts instead of a front and a back. Teacher sighed and cut out a back for me. I signed my F&F death warrant, however, when I went to the sewing machine to sew the seams in said skirt. And threaded the machine with elastic thread (I think the kind of thread you use when you do that sort of gathered elasticated stuff). My teacher could not believe I was so dense as to do this by accident and decided instead that I was obviously trying to be funny. I was thrown out of the class, to the relief of all.
I like to think that I was just a victim of the last vestiges of institutional sexism as only us girls had to do Fabric and Fashion and Food and Nutrition. The boys got to do Woodwork and Technical Drawing, which would have been much more fun. If I could screw up threading a sewing machine, imagine the havoc I could have wreaked with a circular saw!
All of which is a long way of explaining why it's not really my fault that I am sitting here wearing my nice almost-designer grey trousers, the hems of which are currently held up with sellotape.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
- Doctor! Doctor! There's a strawberry in my bottom!
- I've got cream for that.
So, ten bonus points to SB for making his parents giggle.
This morning from First Born who is trying desparately to explain Pokemon to me (poor child thinks I'm interested).
FB: Mum! There's a Pokemon you'd really like! It's called Chancy! (I think that's what he said)
Me: Why would I particularly like it?
FB: Because it is fat and pink and it's sort of like a servant.
Fill in your own punchlines and dock ten brownie points off FB while you're at it, will you?
Monday, 15 September 2008
First Born will deign to have a smidgeon of salsa and some of the chicken, peppers and onion mix on his tortilla. Second Born however is serious about not allowing vegetable matter to pass his lips (shh, don't tell him what I put in the pasta sauce before I run it through the blender!) He exercises the concentration, skill and dedication of a neurosurgeon as he extracts ONLY pieces of chicken - uncontaminated by peppers or onion - and he won't even look at the salsa, guacamole or sour cream. Heathen. I doubt sometimes that I can be related to him, but then I remember watching him pounce upon the display of half price Milka chocolate in Sainsbury's with what I swear was a cackle, and I have to accept he is indeed mine.
The boys were off school for the local holiday today, Monday, so we had planned to make the most of the long weekend. Sunday morning we fed the children, packed up and dropped them off with their grandparents. Husband and I were meeting his colleague and her husband for a sort of business brainstorming weekend, and that is best done where there is space and time to think with no children to worry about. And also good food and wine and a wide selection of malt whiskies within easy reach. Obviously.
There is a lovely little country church right next door to the hotel and as we arrived it seemed to be quite busy. Lots of efficient looking ladies in hats and sensible coats. I assume there was a sale of work or harvest festival or something going on, as one of the said ladies standing at the entrance to the car park was holding a leek and a bundle of six pancakes (yes I counted) wrapped in clingfilm. She had either just bought them or she was oddly diligent about taking her groceries to morning worship.
The session went well, all brains were properly stormed and we felt like we had earned our dinner. Husband and I also enjoyed the luxury of a lovely quiet room (with a dressing room! And a sink EACH in the bathroom!) and no children arguing about Dr Who at 7am. After a leisurely breakfast (I love breakfast cooked and cleared away by someone else) we headed home, picking up the offspring on the way. On the way to get them, my mobile phone rang in the car. Husband fished it out of my bag (no mean feat in itself) and answered it. It was my Dad. Who responded to Husband's hearty "Hello!" with "I'm sorry, I think you have the wrong number". Husband pointed out that it was he who had phoned me so this was unlikely. My Dad hasn't really got the hang of mobiles yet. Whenever he uses one he always holds it gingerly, as if he suspects it might explode in his hand or start asking him what the capital of Venezuala is. I could just imagine him, standing in the middle of Asda, wondering why his phone had started phoning random people without telling him. Cunning stuff, technology.
Anyway, we are back home now. Husband and First Born are playing Wii tennis and hitting each other between points. As far as I can tell, they appear to have decided to make tennis more interesting by playing doubles and allowing the computer to provide the partners. I am assuming this is what they have done as there are shouts from both of them of "Get it for goodness sake woman!" and "You could have got that if you tried!" Since the only females in the house are me and the cat, and neither of us are any good at Wii tennis, I'm assuming the computer generated partners are female. The Wii, for its part, seems to be ignoring them. Sensible machine. I think I'll do the same. Off now for some food, followed by a cup of tea and bed at the heady hour of about 9.30. I am remarkably easily pleased these days.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Occasionally however we catch snippets and can't help being intrigued. Sunday morning, for example. I had
Anyway, while said children were cutting and buttering themselves some continental bakery product, they were still playing. And all husband and I could hear from the kitchen were two very Scottish boys repeatedly saying, in very convincing deep south Alabama type american accents (think Cletus from the Simpsons): "Ah'm gonna hunt me a car. Here, car-y car-y car-y car-y" I'm pretty sure I don't want to know anything about that game. My head is screwed up enough already.
You want highlights? How about:
- Numerous countries going for the old "pull off the girl's skirt" routine a la Bucks Fizz. One couple then used the skirt as a cape (slightly pervy) and one couple went for the "sod pulling off the skirt, lets have her take off her whole dress over her head while the bloke distracts us with his pecs" line. It worked too - they won. (She had another red sparkly frock on underneath, naturally.)
- Austrian couple jiving. To "Can't touch this". Sadly the bloke wasn't wearing MC Hammer baggy nappy-type trousers. Can't help feeling that was an opportunity missed.
- Azerbijan. Where do I start? Vampire theme. Camp vampire. In tights. With a slightly girly cape. And sequins. Oh my god, the sequins. Then, THEN, he proposed to his partner while Claudia Winkelman was trying to interview them. He said she'd marry him if they won. Len Goodman who was filling the Terry Wogan role commented on this heartwarming little scene: "I think I am going to throw up". Me too, Len. (They didn't win. Do you think he took the ring back? We need to be told). Craig Revel Horwood's comment: "Some people will do anything for some votes"
- One of the male dancers, I forget who, starting wittering about how great his partner looked in the bathroom, at which point Claudia said "OK you, stop talking now" and turned her back on him. The look on his face was priceless.
- The Lithuanian girl seemed to be wearing a dressing gown. The Greek girl's dress appeared to be mostly painted on and where it wasn't painted on it was tied on with string. Confusing to take off, I'd have thought.
On second thoughts, girls wearing next to nothing, orange fake tan all round and dodgy dance moves? On a Saturday night? They'll blend right in. As long as they remember to order a kebab by about 2am.
Friday, 5 September 2008
The Eurovision Dance Contest. I'll pause while that sinks in. The Eurovision. Dance. Contest. Pro-celebrity couples from around Europe in a Eurovision contest. Dancing. I fear I may succumb to overwhelming cheese overload, crumpling gracefully at the knees like a Jane Austen heroine, fanning myself at the thought of the feast of fake tan, sequins and camp-itude in store.
You may recall that I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I have also confessed that I adore Strictly Come Dancing and have infected Second Born with that particular virus too. Now some certifiable lunatic somewhere has come up with the stroke of pure genius that combines the two. And Claudia Winkelman is involved too. It's a good job I don't have a social life as there is no way I am going out on Saturday night now. Could someone else out there please watch it too, so I have someone with whom to discuss the gory details (oh, and there will be gory details, I am sure of it!) afterwards? No? Sure? Okay. Just me then.......
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Second Born, for his part, coyly reported that he has been elected as his class representative on the Pupils' Council. We warmly congratulated him and then pumped him for information on how this came to pass (they normally don't tell us ANYTHING about what happens at school so when he volunteers a snippet we jump on it like .........well, like me on a box of Thorntons chocolates). He explained that anyone who wanted to put themselves forward stood at the front of the class, then you told the class why they should vote for you and after several rounds of voting and elimination of the people with fewest votes, the last one standing is elected. Which in this case, was SB. We asked of course, what did he say to his classmates to get himself elected?
Apparently, he said "You should vote for me because I look after my friends." The look on his face made us suspect that the unspoken part of that pitch was "My enemies, on the other hand, I crush like insects beneath my feet. Choose wisely." Gordon Brown had better watch his back.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
I found that interesting. You would expect that anyone who writes a blog would be over the moon to have more readers - any readers - seeing their stuff. But I really understand what she means. Most of the time this blog is frivolous drivel (the name I plan to give my band if I ever, you know, learn to play a musical instrument and stop being a lawyer and go on the road) and I couldn't care less who does or does not see it. I write it partly to entertain myself and partly to commit to writing stuff that I will otherwise forget. It is not world-stopping stuff. The fact that I can burp on demand is not going to make a difference to people's lives. (It may make a difference to my children's lives, but that is their problem. Serves them right for being born into this family.)
Some other posts though I found really difficult to write. Some posts I have written, read, re-written, thought about and then deleted. Personal stuff, mostly. No, wait. Personal stuff entirely. The process of writing it was interesting, sometimes cathartic and sometimes it made me realise that until I had written it down, I didn't really know what I thought. I sort of turned round and caught my subconscious typing. Wow. That sounds normal.
Anyway, the point is that I rarely post that stuff. Because people might read it. Blogging is generally supposed to be a bit like writing a diary but you rarely if ever publish your diary for public consumption. And even those who do (Alastair Campbell, John Prescott, David Blunkett for example) edit, correct and polish before publishing. I have not read any of the aforementioned diaries but I am pretty sure they don't contain much "Woke up and felt a bit crap this morning. Think I am getting a spot on my chin again. I am a rubbish human being" Come to think of it, I doubt any of those three ever felt they were worthless individuals. Their books are more likely to consist of "Woke up this morning, realised I am a god! The sooner the country realises this and bends to my will, the better!"
Where the hell was I? Oh yes. Anyway, my point is that with the best will in the world you fret about what people will think about what you post so you self-censor what you post and you find some kinds of writing easier than others. And by "you" of course I mean "I". I like writing shallow frothy stuff and I don't mind reading back my old stuff of this ilk. If I try to be serious and commit deeper stuff to writing (a) it is rubbish. I can't write the proper stuff well, and (b) I worry that people will see it and snort "Self indulgent tosh. I'm off to read Dooce."
And now I am going to save this post and come back and read it again later. Then I will decide whether to hit publish or not.
Sunday, 31 August 2008
In the morning I made pancakes which GB greeted with great enthusiasm. Such enthusiasm indeed that I was told the two best things in the world are apparently Lego and me. I seriously doubt that sentiment lasted much longer than it took to wipe the last smear of maple syrup from his chin, but it was good while it lasted.
Friday, 29 August 2008
(Do you think I should put this on my CV?)
I really felt for all those poor people on the news this morning though. One flight had actually boarded and the passengers had to sit for 7 hours on the tarmac while the legal wranglings went on before being told to get off again, the plane was going nowhere. Imagine. 7 hours on a plane with young children and no entertainment. That's an hour and a half longer than the flight would have been! *shudder*
I gather that for the people stranded away from home, the price of return flights is now standing at about £2000 per person plus a kidney and your first-born child. Mind you, the thought of being stranded in Nova Scotia with a legitimate excuse for not coming home? Not all bad.