Tuesday, 30 December 2008


I am sitting here in the living room, finally getting round to blogging after the mad dash that was Christmas. There is a large tin of Roses at my feet, calling to me and I regret to say that I have not been immune to its siren song this festive period. The scales scamper away whimpering and hide at my approach. I will have to drag them out, squealing, from under the cupboard to face the music, but that particular battle is for another day.

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

Illegal blogging!

This is my very last surreptitious blog from my work. I am sitting eating a bacon roll (with ketchup, naturally, brown sauce being the creation of Satan) looking at a lovely bunch of flowers given to me by my co-workers, despite my repeated assertions that I want no. fuss. made. when. I. leave.

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

Another milestone

Another one of those parental milestones has passed. It's not one I had really thought about but it is none the less momentous for that - a child of mine has tried a food I don't like and won't eat.

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

Showing my age. Again.

I was in court again today for what is hopefully my last appearance on my feet in a gown in front of a sheriff. Can I have a "Woo hoo!"? Thank you. Anyway, I was wandering up South Bridge in Edinburgh at about 9.30am, only half aware of my surroundings as I thought about the case I had to deal with. (As an aside, those of you who know Edinburgh and know South Bridge will also know that not being fully aware of your surroundings as you walk up there is a positive advantage, not least because that way you don't have to look at the tartan tat shops and there's a good chance you won't make eye contact with the "therapists" outside the Dianetics and Scientology office.)

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

A bit less bah! Humbug!

On Tuesday at work, I received an e-mail from the boys' school. Not a particularly uncommon occurrence as the school is obsessively in touch about every aspect of its operation and I have therefore developed the unfortunate habit of not exactly reading every e-mail thoroughly. Ahem. Anyway, it's a good job I did so this time because the e-mail was about the arrangements for the choirs participating in the evening Christmas Carol Concert. Which was taking place on Wednesday, ie The Next Day.

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

Feeling groovy

I had a nice weekend. Did you have a good weekend? I did. It was my baby brother's 40th birthday on Friday and he had a party. Here. He hired the entire youth hostel for the weekend and that was a stroke of genius. True, a hotel would not have required its guests to bring their own food and towels, or to make their own beds and strip them again before leaving, and it certainly would not have required us to tidy up and take three tons of bottles out to the recycling. And hoover! (I mean, I don't hoover my own house!)

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

All Change

It's been an interesting few weeks, recently. As some of you know, I had a bit of an uppy-downy-mostly-downy sort of summer, and a lot that downy-ness (that sounds much nicer than I intended) seemed to be work related.

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.