Friday, 29 February 2008

The space where my brain should be hurts

I am at home, having crawled to the end of The Week That Threatened To Kill Me With All The Law And Whatnot. I hate the stress of appearing in court, which makes my career choice pretty poor, when you think about it. (Remind me to tell you about how I chose this career, by the way. It's an uplifting tale.) You may recall that I ran around at the beginning of this week trying to catch up on all the stuff that built up last week when I was in court.

Then, I spent Wednesday preparing for the case due to start on Thursday. I finished my preparations for day one at just after midnight on Wednesday/Thursday. Spent all day Thursday in court, concentrating furiously all day (which tires me out. Thinking is hard.) Worked until about midnight on Thursday again reviewing the first day's evidence, preparing for cross-examination and working on some draft legal submissions (that's the bit at the end of the evidence where we get to tell the judge what we think we have proved and he gets to laugh at us). Got up early this morning to get into the office and print out what I had done last night. So that I could, you know, read it. Some of it even made sense despite having been drafted in that period when your brain turns to cotton wool just before you lose consciousness and fall asleep with your face on your keyboard and wake up with "asdfghjkl;" imprinted on your cheek.

Day two in court went reasonably well, despite the other side changing their mind about their attitude to pretty much the whole case mid-evidence which called for a liberal application of red biro to the carefully crafted pages of cross-examination on which I had worked so hard. We won't get the decision for a wee while but the signs looked positive.

Then, I came home, got changed, picked up husband and children, deposited husband in town to meet a friend and took the bouncing offspring to an up-market burger joint for dinner. I was deaf to their pleas to go to McDonalds. I do have some standards. Full of stodge, we returned home and I have been vegetating pleasantly on the couch since. The wee G&T I had earlier has done its job so I am off for some well earned sleep. Tomorrow I may manage to post something coherent that does not read like a Janet and John book ("Then Janet went out. Then John went out. Then Janet banged her head off the door in frustrated boredom") Night all!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Okay, Life, enough. I get the point

Just to make sure that my smug cheerfulness has been well and truly ground out of me, the weekend finished with the news that our office had been broken into. Fortunately very little damage was done and nothing really serious was taken, like our data files or anything. But they did take what little cash they could find together with what portable items of value were available. Like all the cameras and mobile phones in the building. Oh, and all the laptops, including mine, which would normally be at home with me over the weekend, but wasn't because I had to take the kids to the dentist on Friday so left it in the office rather than cart it to the dental surgery. And one of my colleagues lost her laptop because she was on holiday on Friday and Monday and felt it would be better to leave it in the office. Hah! I get to tell her the good news tomorrow.

My old mobile phone, on the other hand, was deemed unworthy of theft (slightly offended by that, actually) and even more embarassing, my room was a bit tidier after the housebreakers left than it was when I left it on Friday. I had come in from court and chucked my folders and my case of papers into the middle of my floor. The intruders had checked the case for anything valuable, found nothing and tucked it away neatly in the corner. Should I be ashamed of this, do you think?

Luckily there is next to nothing in the way of work-related stuff actually on my laptop itself (we work on a network in the office) but I have spent a slightly irritated day making notes to myself of all the websites I need to go onto to change passwords just in case (Amazon, Paypal, Ebay, I spend too much time online???) And now I have to go off and figure out whether I can get the music off my iPod and onto iTunes rather than the other way round. Or I have to start from scratch ripping all my CDs again. Oh joy.

On the plus side, thank you for all the kind offers to look after my angelic children for me! The fact that they all came from the other side of the Atlantic in no way detracts from the level of kindness displayed but does make it a tad unlikely I will be taking you up on them! (However, be very afraid if your phone rings in July - we'll be in Canada then!!)

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Pride comes, and all that

Well, you just knew, didn't you, after that last ill-considered post that life would saunter up and smack me in the face with a wet mackerel, a la Monty Python. After Tuesday went so well, Wednesday went....slightly less well, and Thursday reminded me of nothing so much as one of those school playground scraps where all the other kids are in a tight circle around you chanting "Fight! Fight!" only this time when the teacher turned up, instead of breaking it up, she joined in and gave me a good kicking too.

Which is my way of saying that the remaining court action did not go well last week and I felt rotten as a result. It is part of the "joy" of doing litigation for a living, this cut and thrust and the major ups and downs, but Thursday was a bigger down than I have experienced for some time. Counsel (ie the advocate I was instructing) looked so shell-shocked on Thursday afternoon that I had to take him down the road and administer two large cappucinos and a slice of cream cake before he could form coherent sentences. (That's my version of first aid and I'm sticking to it.)

The weekend has given me some much needed recuperation time and a bit of perspective so I should be able to go in on Monday and sweep up the debris. Next week is going to be hectic in a different way. I have a court action in the sheriff court on Thursday and Friday (in the sheriff court it is I who will be in gown and on my feet before the judge, rather than counsel) and I am kind of looking forward to it as the law in this case is not particularly complex and it has been a while since I conducted a hearing myself.

The interesting part of next week and the week after is that I will be relying, like so many parents do year-round, on after school club for childcare. Normally my wonderful parents provide the childcare (and do my kids' laundry, and supervise homework, and feed them, and in the summer my dad cuts my grass for me - I know, I am spoiled) but they are going away. This year is my parents' official retirement (although they are going to continue with their childcare/housekeeping position. I hope) and they are treating themselves to a once-in-a-lifetime trip. They fly out on Thursday to New York where they will join the Queen Mary II and cruise the Caribbean for ten days or so. In their absence, I have booked the boys into after school club which they are frankly overjoyed about. It does mean I will have to make sure I am punctual in picking them up though, so watch this space for tales of mad dashes across Edinburgh when I forget my kids are not in fact at home when I have driven halfway to the house and have to double back to get them.

And just to make my life that much more interesting, on Friday, as I have said, I am in court and I cannot get out of that. The boys' school, however is CLOSED on Friday for Founder's Day (??). And After School Club is not operating. I am therefore checking out whether the local Cattery will stretch a point and take children. It's just for one day, after all.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Smuggity smug

I am feeling quietly pleased with myself at the moment. I managed to get up at 6am this morning (or rather, Husband managed to get me up but I got dressed all by myself!) and I went out for a run for the first time in ages. I forced myself because I knew I was going to be stuck in court all day, and probably all week, so no lunchtime outings. In fact, no lunchtimes, so it was mornings or nothing.

Out I went into the cold dark misty frostiness and it was really good. I ran well, even if I do say so myself, considering I have not run properly for a good long while. I managed a whole 36 minutes WITHOUT STOPPING TO WALK AT ALL and I even added on an extra bit to my route to incorporate a voluntary hill. I was listening to my iPod having downloaded an album by Tones on Tail, the band formed from the rump of Goth masters Bauhaus when they split and it turned out to be splendid running music. If you like the kind of music my mum once mistook for "the pipes going wrong" when she heard it emanating from my teenage bedroom. (Go onto iTunes or somewhere and listen to the track called "Slender Fungus" if you want to know what central heating malfunction set to music sounds like, and let's face it, who doesn't?)

Off to work where I was running not one but two court cases today with witnesses coming from all over. Myself and my trusty paralegal sidekick managed to pull off this "quart into a pint pot" feat and even managed to settle one of them in the course of the lunch break (hence the no time for lunch problem). Got out of court in the remaining case at 4pm having got through the evidence of the two professional witnesses who absolutely positively could not come back tomorrow if we didn't get them finished and we are pretty well organised for tomorrow.

Came home and helped First Born with his school project on William Wallace ("No, Wallace was not executed because they found out he was secretly also in on the truce with Robert Bruce. Yes he may have been emasculated. No I am not telling you what emasculated means.") and then had a nice supper with a very nice friend of ours who used to work with Husband back in his law firm days. We could have chatted all night but we are middle-aged and our stamina is not what it was and we need our sleep so he went off home about an hour ago. I am now sitting here blogging whilst Husband plays tennis on the Wii and tries to figure out how First Born manages his trademark vicious serve. I maintain that I win the moral high ground for not being the first grown up to succumb to the Wii when the children are not around. I am off to bed now to pray that Murphy, the God of anti-smug doesn't get me in the night. Night all!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Just another day

We don’t do Valentine’s day in our house. There will be no big pink envelopes lurking on the mat or bunches of curiously unscented overpriced roses sitting stiffly to attention in a vase. No chocolates (thank goodness) and no cuddly stuffed animals bearing squashy red satin hearts. The children will not be discreetly packed off so we can jostle elbow-to-elbow with strangers in a restaurant. And we will not feel the need to give our children Valentines cards or gifts (thank goodness that custom does not yet appear to have arrived from the USA – one more thing for me to forget to do!)

I will go home tonight as usual, make packed lunches and do all the stuff the boys need doing as usual. I will make dinner as usual. And Husband and I will probably watch something he has recorded for us because he takes the time to go through the schedules, picking out the programmes he thinks we’d like and recording them so I don’t have to and so that I don’t miss them. (He records anything with Peter Ustinov in it, for example.)

He will probably make me a cup of tea after dinner without even asking if I want one because he knows I nearly always do. He let me watch Torchwood last night without shaking his head in disbelief at the rubbish I watch or making any sotto voce comments regarding the gaping plot holes, even though I knew what he was thinking. He may, if he is home in time, come up to say goodnight to the boys after I have done so and, instead of turning out the light and leaving the room, he may lie down on the floor in their bedroom, with the light out and chat to the boys in the darkness about……well, I don’t know what about. Boy stuff. Father/son stuff. Gibberish, possibly. And if I jokingly demand to know what the Great Secret Boy Discussion was about, he will make a face at me and respond with the weird sound we all in this house refer to as “the squashed frog noise”, and which is considered an acceptable response to pretty much any question you may be asked.

Pretty much a perfect Valentine’s day, really.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Wii debrief

In the end we went for nice meal out on Monday evening (brie in filo pastry followed by medium rare steak, mmmmm) and then went home with the Wii. We needed to set it all up, get its internet connection sorted (and by we, I mean my husband of course because it started asking for SSID and MTU and other weird stuff and I went and made a cup of tea because that is the most useful thing I could do in the circumstances)

So we got it going and fired up the tennis game. Oh my goodness, what a laugh! Two grown lawyers in their living room at 11.30pm playing virtual tennis, waving their arms around like loons and laughing fit to burst. The boxing was just as fun - yells of "Stand still while I punch you!" as we threatened to knock the ornaments off the mantelpiece in our enthusiasm. We eventually packed it away at about 12.30 and went to bed. And so far we have resisted the temptation to unpack it again, just for a wee shot. So far.

And on the exercise front, I went for a run at the gym today but I am not happy about it as I just don't have time at lunchtimes to get a longer run in, and if I don't start doing longer runs, how on earth am I supposed to prepare to run for 6 miles around Edinburgh? In public, at that. I need to get into a running routine again, going out in the mornings, like I did last year. Someone make me do what I know darn well I ought to be doing, will you? Moan.

Monday, 11 February 2008

That counts as exercise, doesn't it?

I ran various errands at lunchtime today, including going to the bank to collect some traveller's cheques. These are required to pay the deposit on part of our accommodation for our holiday in June/July. The gentleman with whom we are going to be staying in Caraquet may have built his house with his own hands, he may play the accordian and he may be francophone and "un homme tres sympa" (according to his endearingly odd website) but he does not take credit cards, so cold hard Canadian Dollars it is. Just seeing those things makes it feel like the holiday is a bit nearer. Yippee! Only 5 months to go.

I also took a deep breath and crossed the threshhold of Gamestation in search of a Wii for First Born's birthday next week. I very quickly realised that I am 20 years too old and entirely the wrong gender to fit in in that shop. I tried to emulate the disgruntled slouch that seemed de rigeur with the clientele but I don't think I really pulled it off. I am however, now fully "Wii'd up" thanks to a very helpful gentleman behind the counter who took pity on me. He also cheerfully told me to make sure anyone playing with the Wii has plenty of space as apparently he once "took a wild swing and got my sister in the face with the controller". Dear lord, what have we let ourselves in for?

The boys are staying with Granny and Grandad tonight so in theory Hubby and I can do whatever we want. The options are (1) see an interesting thought-provoking adult film (no, not THAT kind of adult film, just one that does not involve Homer Simpson or Dr Who) and have a civilised grown-up meal out during which we can discuss the topics of the day without interruption; or (2) run home and play with the Wii all night. To check it is working okay, obviously.

Place your bets.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

More of the same

And lo! again it is the weekend. January disappeared in a flash of activity (slightly grey and soggy activity, but that's Edinburgh in January for you) and February is shaping up to run through my fingers in the same way. Friday night though, I must admit, was fun in its own way. Husband was staying back late at the office (don't be too impressed - he was staying to eat pizza and talk about guitars with the teenage son of a friend of ours!) so I was left to my own devices.

I baked chocolate muffins, having taken a quick straw poll amongst the gathered small boys (some of whom were even mine) and muffins having won said election. I refereed the small boy fights which broke out and threw out the bodies that didn't belong to me when it got late. I got to read more of the "eh, so-so" story to my two at bedtime. It is picking up slightly but we are all agreed it is not the best book we have ever tackled. And then, when the little people were at least pretending to be asleep I curled up with a bowl of my lentil and chickpea curry (yummy and you can eat LOADS of it for not too many calories) and the episode of Torchwood husband recorded for me on Wednesday. (I know how to play stuff on the PVR but not how to record it. That's what Husband is for. Amongst other things.) Then when Husband arrived home, we spent a lovely hour or two researching The Wii, How It Works and Where To Get One, as First Born has asked for one for his birthday and we are clueless, being a Playstation/Xbox free home at present. We know how to have a good time, huh?

Saturday I hit the supermarket early, Second Born and I hit a toyshop to buy a stuffed red squirrel glove puppet for my niece's birthday and then my ex-brother-in-law and his wife came over bearing a gift for FB's birthday next week. It's a....well, sort of a......well, it's plastic, radio-controlled and it noisily whirs round in circles rather violently. The boys love it.

XBIL, as I will call him because it is quicker, brought a flying machine with him - he is a keen amateur pilot and has a vast collection of radio controlled planes and things. This time he brought a radio-controlled dragonfly - it was the coollest thing I have seen in a while - it was absolutely like a dragonfly made from polystyrene and 4 wings of clear plastic film, almost unbelievably fragile, but it flew like a real insect, with beating wings and everything. The thing was a kid magnet - as soon as we got it aloft in the park, every child in the place was mesmerised. This could also have had something to do with the fact that it is not the most controllable of craft and had a tendency to divebomb the unwary. It was a good idea to keep at least one eye on it at all times. Much fun was had by all.

Sunday, slight lie-in (the kids get up and fend for themselves to some extent on weekend mornings now. Bliss!) and then delivered FB to karate. I came back intending to go for a long run, but SB said he would like to come out too, so I decided to forego the really long run, which is too long for him, and do a loop he likes instead. We had a nice time out, chatting about tactics for his run in the Mini Great Edinburgh Run in May and he explained in detail the different kinds of ship you can get when you play Bubblebots on the internet. Apparently. We ran gently for about half an hour, SB looked like he had just left the house and I, as always, looked like a cardiac arrest on legs. We arrived back at the house to some chanting of "One of us is redder than the other! One of us is stinkier than the other!" Good job I'm thick skinned.

Since then we have been, not to put too fine a point on it, slobbing around. Husband has been working a bit, the boys and I have watched Raiders of the Lost Ark ("Cool! That guy's face melted! Can we run that bit back?!") and I am about to go and make the offspring some homemade pizza for dinner. Because, if I make it, it is not junk food, is it? Hope everyone else had a good weekend too. Mine was fanastic.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

I am a wimp

I decided to exercise my prerogative as boss yesterday, and I nipped to the gym at lunchtime for a run. I had even idly thought that, since it was a nice day, I might try running outdoors from the new Cooncil gym, given it is located right beside Holyrood Park. However, as I drew up, the path to park from gym was blocked by a huge great wood-chipper-machine-thing which was eating the nearby trees so I copped out and opted for the tready, despite the fact that there are other paths into the park. For I am nothing if not easily diverted from my task.

I had downloaded a free audiobook for the iPod to see if a story would distract me more than music (a Dorothy L Sayers book, if you are interested) and ease the monotony of a treadmill run. It worked to some extent. I managed to run at varying speeds and with just a couple of short breaks of brisk walking, for 40 minutes, and I didn't even leave any teeth marks of frustrated impatience on the treadmill's handrails. The story was quite fun, although the lady reading it was american and it was a bit weird hearing Lord Peter Wimsey speaking in a north american accent. And she couldn't pronounce Balliol. But these are minor gripes given that the download was free. I will get more of these, I think. Chaucer read by a New Yorker, perhaps? Jeeves and Wooster performed in a Louisiana drawl? The possibilities are endless! (I wonder if there would be similar entertainment to be had for Americans from reading American literature in UK accents? Philip Marlowe done in a thick Birmingham accent would be fantastic!)

The explanation for this post's title came after I had finished torturing my legs in the gym. I stretched briefly, got my kit out of the locker and was heading for the changing rooms for a shower when I was intercepted by the lady from the front desk. "I would wait a few moments if I were you" she said. "The school has just gone in" As I have mentioned previously, being a local authority gym (and therefore cheap!) it is used by local schools for PE lessons. So the changing room, which is communal, was full of 14 year old girls.

OK ladies, hands up which of you are confident enough in yourselves that when you are red-faced and sweaty after a run, you would willingly march into a room full of 20 or so 14 year old girls, strip off and get showered? Did I mention the showers are communal too? No curtains? So that' I thought. I went to the loo, handed my locker key in and then lurked in the hall, stretching and chatting to the lady at the desk until the schoolgirls had all bounced and giggled into the sports hall for their lesson. Then me and my red face and my jiggly bits and stretch marks slunk quietly into the shower. Alone.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Brain block

For those of you out there who also blog (and on that topic, are there many people out there now who don't blog??) a question: is blogging quietly and insidiously taking over your brain? Do you find yourself experiencing life through a filter of blog-worthiness? In other words, when anyone says anything interesting or when something even vaguely out of the ordinary occurs, is your first reaction "Oooh, I could blog that!" ?

The condition is contagious too. My husband and to an even greater extent my children have been known to point out when something occurs that it would make good blog fodder (or as my children put it "You could tell all those people on your website about this!" Bless them, I think they think I have a readership to rival Dooce.) First Born has even threatened to start his own blog. You see, I started this blogging lark with a mini-blog on a running website which is devoted entirely to the minutiae of how far and how slowly I have/have not run, and all the other blogs on the site are the same so we only bore other like-minded people (it was the realisation that half the time on that blog I was wittering about dog poo versus horse poo, or what my son had said or the weather that made me think perhaps I should have another proper blog to vent that stuff as it really isn't, strictly speaking, pertinent to running).

Anyway, I tend to post on that blog about the running adventures of myself and Second Born and naturally Second Born gets a lot of feedback and encouragement from veteran runners who are pleased to see a 7 year old getting into the game. First Born does not run, though he does do karate. He did not consider the fact that the other blog is a running blog and not, say, a karate blog, to be adequate excuse for my not posting about his karate achievements on there. So he wants his own blog to redress the balance. I myself am not sure the world is ready for First Born Blog - a potent mix of karate, Dr Who, Lego, Nova Scotia news (don't ask) and Why My Brother is Being Horrible To Me parts 1 to 396. The literary equivalent of a chemical weapon - guaranteed to make your brain fizz on contact.

What was I talking about again? Oh yes, blogging brain. The most annoying thing I have found is that I am always saying to myself "That's good, I think I'll write a post about that" and then within a few minutes I can remember that I had an idea for a post, but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was. It was always going to be a belter too, Booker prize worthy if only I had remembered to write it. Sigh. I am going to have to start carrying a notebook and pencil around with me to record these moments of inspiration. My only concern is that, knowing how rushed I am likely to be when I make notes, the book will probably resemble that time I tried to keep a dream diary: pages of inspirational stuff like "moving but not. Glue? Notes gone. Wet floor" I can just picture you all rushing to add this blog to your reader so as not to miss any posts based on that sort of gold dust!

Maybe I'll just stick with what I do now. Turn on computer, turn off filter between brain and fingers. Wait ten minutes. Hit "post".

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Well, they won't take the shoes back now

Not that I want to take my lovely new running shoes back, you understand, but they had their first outing on the road today and are accordingly just a wee bit mucky. We have had the usual exotic Sunday Chez TGIW: out of bed, drink tea till I gain consciousness (yes, I can make tea before I wake up,it is one of my special talents) , shove chicken into oven, throw buttered rolls at the children till they shut up, throw cat food at the cat until she shuts up and then bawl at the kids until they get dressed. Restful.

Then pile all 3 boys (husband included) into the car. Drop FB and SB off at karate with husband's sister and husband and I proceed to carry out a guerilla raid on Makro to stock up on loo roll and washing powder and plates. Yes, plates. The boys are getting very good at making their own breakfasts and snacks. Less so at preserving the crockery, but that's what cheap crockery is for, right?

Husband and I managed, in less than 1 hour 15 minutes, to get right across the city to Makro, find everything, pay for it, get past that guy who has just watched you pay for everything but insists on checking your receipt again (why? He can see everything came off the conveyor belt onto your trolley. It would make more sense if he body-searched you to check you don't have a 12 pound frozen turkey down your trousers. But I digress), load the car and get home in time to greet the boys as they arrived home. If shopping for kitchen roll was an Olympic sport, we would definitely be in with a shout for a medal.

Once everything was unloaded, husband set to work dismembering the chicken I cooked earlier and I got dressed for a run. As you will recall, I have not run outside for a very long time and I was a bit nervous, to be honest. So I decided to play it safe, run a short-ish route I knew should take about 35 minutes and treat that as a gentle reintroduction. But can you spot what I didn't do? Can you? That's right - I didn't eat or drink much. I had a pretty small breakfast (small bowl of muesli, skimmed milk, apple juice, for I am back on the wagon!) first thing and nothing thereafter, so I think, with the great benefit of hindsight, I was not particularly well hydrated or nourished.

The result was an unspectacular run which felt like hard work and during which I had to walk a bit now and then. So be it, I won't make that mistake again. But I went out, christened the new shoes (which feel good and I don't have blisters this time) and reintroduced my legs to the concept of hills. All to the good. I will try to maintain the outdoor habit and continue to use the tready when the gentle Scottish climate and lack of daylight prevent me from getting out. 3 months now to the Great Edinburgh Run and I need to be able to at least double the length of my runs in that time. Which I know I can do, but just remind me of it every now and then will you? Thanks.

I am planning on ruining the good work I have done so far by making home-made pizza for dinner though!