Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Curse that snow

I normally quite like snow, and the snow we have had this year has been unusually copious and of exactly the right quality for making snowmen and playing snowball tennis. Good fun. However today the snow has just scuppered things. Lots of things.

My brother and his family were supposed to be visiting today and we were going to take all the kids bowling. He lives in Cockermouth and at 12 noon he phoned me to say they had made it as far as Carlisle, it was unlikely they would make it to us before 2pm so could we just rendezvous at my parents' house in Livingston instead? No problem, I said. I will get home from work (yes, I am back at work, thanks for asking), scoop up the kids and head out.

I left the office and as I walked towards where my car was parked, big fat snowflakes began to fall. The kind that cover you and coat your eyelashes in seconds. By the time I was driving home, the roads were becoming a bit iffy (yes, yes, Canadian faction, we are hopeless in snow because we are not used to it and don't have snow tyres and stuff). Half an hour later at home, I phoned my mum and dad and said sorry, I am not risking driving out to Livingston in this weather. (Despite being only 17 miles from Edinburgh, Livingston is inland and always has worse weather than we do). They agreed that was sensible.

Fifteen minutes after that my mum phoned to say that the weather had worsened and they had phoned my brother to warn him. He and his family had turned back towards Cockermouth. This would have been disappointing at the best of times, since my kids love nothing better than playing with their younger cousins, but this time it is excruciating. My brother and his family fly out from the UK the day after tomorrow for Sydney, Australia, and there is every chance they will not be back. They certainly won't be back any time soon. My mum has been deprived of the last chance to see her son and grandchildren and she is beyond miserable. She managed to speak to me for about 20 seconds before choking up and handing the phone over to my Dad.

Damn snow.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Santa has come early!

I often get asked why I blog, and usually waffle about the opportunity to write when I feel like it, the community of commenters and so on. Now, however, I have a better answer: I blog because I GET COOL FREE STUFF!!!!! Seriously, in the last couple of weeks I have gone from being the person who hardly ever wins anything to being Loth Who Wins Everything. (Note to self: buy some lottery tickets today.)

First up, I did a bit of unashamed begging and grovelling to Isabelle and acquired a Christmas elf - look! Here he is worshipping at the feet of Marvin the Christmas Martian.
We have named him Alf. His surname, apparently, is Resco. (Although Isabelle suggested he should be Mr Asixpence, for she is witty.)

Then, as if that was not enough, my completion of a book meme, which I would have paid to be allowed to do, won me a prize on Kate's blog. A lovely, pristine, sent-across-the-chilly-Atlantic-from-my-favourite-part-of-the-planet, copy of her new book. Do you want to see it? Of course you do.

It is not only lovely, it is signed. I can't wait to dive in and read it, provided I can keep the boys away from it for long enough. Fortunately, at the moment, it looks like this outside our house:

The boys are therefore fully occupied outside, scraping every last snowflake in our garden into one huge pile for reasons which are not entirely clear to me. I'm guessing it's an operation that makes sense if you are a 9 year old boy. Scotland has been decidely wintery over the past couple of days - temperatures down to -16 in some parts - and I am glad I am not at work today. Poor husband had to de-snow the car this morning before gingerly driving into town. My poor sister-in-law is having to make the journey across the country today to pick up my father-in-law from Troon. She has wisely decided not to drive (there are 6 jack-knifed lorries on the M8 at the moment) so is going to brave the trains. Keep your fingers crossed for her, will you?

I am off now to resist Kate's book a while longer and get the spare room ready for FIL's arrival

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Promise Honoured

Well, as I promised, here is a photograph of Edinburgh's Most Vulgar Christmas Tree. This is what happens if you (a) keep every single decoration your children have ever made in school and use ALL of them; (b) keep all the tinsel you have ever owned regardless of how old/bald/garish it is; and (c) let your sons do the decorating without intervening at all. (Well except to point out that the decorations are not actually supposed to trail on the carpet. Ideally.)Tasteful, eh? I particularly like the football at the base that I hadn't even noticed until I uploaded the photo. I also love the figure on the top of the tree.

For years we used to put anything that took our fancy on the top: a wooden penguin, a Halloween spider with fangs and a purple mohican, and a china pig with a halo to name but three. Then we got Marvin and he has become a fixture. The punk Halloween spider is cross about this but there is little he can do, crushed as he is in the bottom of the boys' wardrobe.

I suppose I should go off and write some Christmas cards now. Or, alternatively, I could make a cup of tea and have one of the brownies I baked earlier. Hmmm............

Sunday, 13 December 2009

I'm forcibly Christmas-ed now

You will all be relieved to hear that SB was not dressed up as the lead singer of Imagination for the nativity play after all. He was however very fetching in a gold lame cloak with a leopard skin sort of affair over the shoulders and a gold crown. He looked much better than the other two Magi and I am not biased at all.

The whole nativity was quite interesting. It was done as part of the carol service in the school's local church, which meant that as we arrived, the three angels were already installed up in the stone pulpit. This also meant that we got a good view of some very bored angels, heads slumped on their arms as they waited for everything to kick off. Not very angelic but quite funny.

The first verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel was sung as a solo by one of SB's classmates. I don't know her but I still got a lump in my throat. As I did when the choir were singing. Something about small-ish children singing makes me slightly soppy.

There was also a brilliant scene between Mary and Joseph and a succession of innkeepers. Joseph asked for room for his pregnant wife, the innkeepers came up with more and more reasons why they could not have one - richer, more important people were coming and so on. Joseph got more and more desparate and irate each time, at one point crying "But my wife is in labour!" I was sort of expecting the next line to be "Look! Her waters have broken for Pete's sake!!!" Sadly it wasn't.

I did the whole thing again the next day for First Born's year group carol service, although being mature Primary 7s, they didn't dress up at all. We then came home, bringing an additional child (friend of FB's) for a visit. There was much running about with toy guns that fire foam darts and yelling. I kept well away, just thrusting food in front of them at the appropriate time. (FB claims to have been laughing so hard during dinner that he snorted 2 beans up his nose. I was fortunately not there so cannot confirm or deny this rumour.)

Then yesterday was a visit to Peebles to take SB to a party at the swimming pool there. FB and I wandered around Peebles in the cold and the dark (the party started at 4pm which might as well be midnight for all the daylight there is available at that time) looking in the shop windows. There are a lot of shoe shops in Peebles. Not quite sure why.

The drive back was a bit hairy as we had very very thick fog here all day and the road between Edinburgh and Peebles is dark and windy. We were so relieved to be back in Edinburgh that we went to the chip shop. Naturally. (Husband was away in Glasgow at a Depeche Mode concert, for he is cooler than we are.)

Now it is Sunday and we are planning to laze about and possibly, maybe put up Scotland's Most Tasteless Christmas Tree. There might even be pictures.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

I hate to break this to you

I popped over to our local shop this evening to buy some milk. It's one of those shops that sells everything from bread and milk to newspapers, wine and sellotape. Today I also noticed that it is selling Special Edition KitKat bars. Special Edition EASTER KitKat bars. In December. Kill me now.

Monday, 7 December 2009

I'm really looking forward to Thursday now

Second Born is participating in a Christmas service at school on Thursday. The primary 5 year group is presenting a dramatisation of the Nativity. SB was put forward for the auditions by his teacher and announced last week that he had been cast as one of the Wise Men. (We initially took this with a pinch of salt - we still haven't forgotten the time in Primary 1 when he claimed he was playing Joseph and when we turned up, he was actually Generic Shepherd Number 6)

He has however been learning his lines and it does indeed look like he is to be one of the Magi. Today when I picked him up from school he announced that they had been trying on their costumes.

"You should see mine, Mum. Imagine an Eighties pop star with a bit of Christianity mixed in."

I tried. I wasn't entirely sure I had the right picture in my head though, until he said

"It's sort of lots of shiny gold with a bit of leopardskin".

Oh dear. I had the right mental image after all. This is going to be an interesting Nativity.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Another normal conversation

Husband to First Born: "Stop bombing Barbara Streisand!"
FB: "But my base is being attacked, what am I supposed to do?"
SB: "I'd be more scared of Barbara Streisand"

This is what happens when Husband is browsing stuff on Spotify whilst FB plays with the DS in the same room. I am surprisingly sane, considering.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

It's quiet. Too quiet.

The peace and unshattered tranquility around here is unnerving. First Born has been in London since Monday on a school trip and won't be back until Friday. So we only have Second Born around and he is the quieter of the two anyway (he prefers the stealthy, deadly-accurate one liner over First Born's scattergun talk-the-entire-time-your-eyes-are-open approach.) But oh! the lack of bickering, shouting, whining, complaining, pushing, shoving, door-kicking and throwing of watches across the room in a fit of temper - it's quite wonderful.

Second Born, being the perceptive type, has spotted his opening and is doing his award winning performance of "Perfect Child" (subtitle: Keep me and put the other one out with the bins. You know you want to.) I know it won't last but the hugs and the jokes and the VOLUNTEERING of information about what he did at school and the unpacking of his lunch box without being yelled at asked is very refreshing. I will of course be running the usual sweepstake in which you can all take guesses at how long it will take after First Born returns before the bickering breaks out. (Long term readers will recall the sterling effort put in by both boys when SB came back from school camp and FB had started on him before he even got off the bus.)

In other news......not much, really. I had Monday off for St Andrew's day and chose to celebrate by going to Makro and buying toilet roll. I followed that up with an expedition in to clean the boys' bathroom. The less said about that the better I think. All I will say is that I don't know what it was they were growing by the sink, but it ain't there any more.

After surviving that traumatic afternoon, I plan to institute a new regime whereby the boys each have a task to do each weekend, alternating between cleaning their bathroom and tidying their bedroom. I will announce this on Friday evening so keep your ears open - some of you may be able to hear the howls of protest from where you are.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

No wonder I'm confused

Second Born is presently sitting on the floor playing Sims on the Wii. He just said (and I quote verbatim): "My fridge door is made of bacon. So is my turntable. The bottom of my fridge is rainbow trout, my bed is made of green apple and I painted my floor with anger."

So now you know why we have never tried to decorate this house. With him around, it's just too risky.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

I have evil friends*

Remember ages ago when I posted about inventing a 1970s prog rock band just to torture a flatmate? Well, I recently met up again with our co-conspirator (I called her Ann in the post though that is not her real name. She is now so incredibly respectable that I could well ruin her career if I disclosed her real identity. She's sort of like Batman. With a bit less leather.)

I confessed to her that I had confessed to you and sent her the link to the post. She has commented on it and the comment is worth repeating:

"This is Ann of the above (has a certain ring to it 'Ann of the Above' I think). What we thought about doing but didn't was to write - using the official notepaper of a certain voluntary organisation that provides support services - to all of the independent record shops in town. The letter that we composed but never sent (honest) was to tell them that if a man answering Alan's description came into enquire about the Freedom Jets then they were to contact the authorities immediately as he was deluded and dangerous and required treatment. So, you see were even more horrible than you thought. We are all sensible and middle aged now with responsible jobs but I would still advise not to irritate us!"

I had completely forgotten about that bit. I am glad we were too lazy there was enough decency left in us not to proceed with our evil plan. Aren't you glad you didn't know us back then?

*Disclaimer: Not all of my friends are evil. But most of them are a bit odd.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Thank you

Thanks, all of you, for your kind wishes on the loss of our cat. As all pet owners know, she may only have been a cat but she was part of the family nonetheless. We now have to decide whether to get another one, in the fullness of time. I suspect we will: Husband and I have always had at least one cat since 1988 and can't really imagine going for very long without a small furry person getting under our feet.

On a lighter note, Husband was mooching around on the internet recently and noticed that the website for the Scottish Parliament (or "Numptorium" as it is often called around here) has versions in different languages. No surprises there - you can read the site in inter alia English, Gaelic, Polish, French, German, Italian and, rather impressively, BSL. The interesting bit is that the website has also been translated into Scots.

Now, I know that there is a small but vocal community trying to preserve Scots, and I kind of like the fact that there are some brilliant Scots words which definitely deserve to be kept alive. But really, is there anyone nowadays for whom Scots is a first......language?.......dialect? I always thought the point of making translations of official documents was to ensure that critical information was made available to you in a language you understood fully, in your first language. In fact, the website itself makes that point: "We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as possible can finn oot aboot the Scottish Pairlament. Information anent whit we can dae tae help ye engaige wi the Pairlament gin ye arenae fluent in English can be haen at Langage assistance providit by the Scottish Pairlament (28.5KB pdf)."

Now, I am as patriotic as the next person (unless the next person happens to be Robbie the Pict, but are they seriously suggesting that there is anyone in Scotland today for whom Scots is their first language? To the extent that communication in English or, at a pinch, Gaelic, would be ineffectual? Really? Or is it, as I suspect, that they are making a quasi-political point and some poor soul has had to sit and translate the Parliament's "wabsite" (I mean "WABSITE" for Pete's sake! The World Wide Wab!) into Scots just so they can say they have done it. In other words they have created a fun curiosity rather than an essential service.

That said, it is a laugh and I thoroughly recommend a wee wander round it. (Did you know that the UK Parliament is based in Lunnon, for example?)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

She's gone.

Our poor cat wasn't looking too good this morning. She still wasn't eating, she didn't seem to be able to get comfortable and her breathing was a bit odd. To cut a long story short, we decided I should take her to the emergency veterinary hospital, where the vet was able to confirm the presence of a large growth. Probably a pancreatic tumour.

The fact that the decision had pretty much been made for us did not make it any easier. I stayed with her throughout and whilst I am glad that I did, I sort of wish I hadn't as I don't think it is a memory that will disappear quickly.

First Born has taken the news remarkably well. Second Born is pretty upset. Husband and I are finding it a bit odd that we are now living in a cat-free household for the first time in about 21 years. The kitchen looks a bit bare without a cat bed and bowls of food. (And of course, all that hair blowing about. The vet asked me if I wanted some clippings of her hair to remember her by. I told her there were pounds of it blowing around in my kitchen.) There was no cat standing by today, waiting for me to finish dismembering the cooked chicken and hand over the little plateful of prize slimy bits that the humans in the family don't seem to appreciate.

We acquired Schieffer as a kitten in 1992, just after we returned from our honeymoon. She was feral - a rescue cat, born in a cardboard box factory in Broxburn. At the time we already had a grown cat, called Catface. Catface was slightly bemused by the new addition: it was small, grey, very scratchy and spitty and had a habit of running up the curtains and hanging there, swaying and plotting her next move. You can kind of see Catface's point. That said, Catface decided to treat her like any other stroppy youngster. She was taught how to behave and given a very thorough and not always gentle face washing several times a day.

Catface died years ago and Schieffer carried on, politely declining to be interested in the boys when they arrived, other than as a source of interesting goodies dropped on the floor. Later, she enjoyed their company more and Second Born in particular was very fond of her. He was often to be found stretched out on the kitchen floor, communing with his furry buddy.

Seventeen and a half is a good age for a cat to reach and I think she had a good life. We miss her already.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Oh dear.

I feel rather guilty now. After that flippant, breezy post on Monday, turns out our elderly cat is not well. Really very not well. She didn't eat on Monday or Tuesday so we took her to the vet on Wednesday. He couldn't really say what was wrong, other than that something clearly was pretty wrong. She has lost weight and condition and her fur is falling out at a rather alarming rate. He took blood tests and gave us appetite stimulant tablets to give her (I hate giving pills to cats - that forced ramming down the throat just feels wrong, even when it is being done for the best of reasons.)

The blood tests didn't show much, other than a raised white blood cell count suggestive of major inflammation of some sort, somewhere. She has been prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs (more pill-ramming) but really, she is not looking good. Sufficiently not good that Husband and I are agreed we had better make sure we are first down and into the kitchen tomorrow morning, before the boys. Just in case. And if she doesn't perk up a bit overnight, courtesy of the aforementioned pills, then.........well, we'll see.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Slobbing out

Husband is away on business, the boys are fighting in the upstairs hall quietly getting ready for bed and I have nothing to do except make some dinner and play stupid games online (curse you Facebook!). I have every intention of making an enormous pan of mashed potato with cheese and spring onions and then eating it with a spoon from a bowl on my lap. I know that this is a meal which makes any offering from McDonalds look like perfect nutritional balance in a paper sack, but I don't care. I love mashed potato, and I particularly love my potato ricer which lets me make said mash without having to peel potatoes. Because I really, really hate peeling potatoes. And the ricer makes beautiful creamy, lump-free mash. Look, I am going to have to make this post short, because I am making myself hungry.

So, just one question: why does my cat appear to be melting? Seriously, every time I go into the kitchen, tumbleweeds of cat hair go barrelling across the floor. I could make a whole new cat out of the hair I have swept up and binned in the last few days (and it would probably be a less annoying cat too, one that didn't keep trying to sneak up on the counter and sleep on top of the digibox). I thought that at this time of year she would be growing more hair and keeping it, building up a nice thick coat for winter. Instead she is shedding so fast I'm surprised she's not naked. Any suggestions?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Strangely proud/proudly strange

I love my elder son sometimes.

Wait. That sounded wrong. I love him ALL the time, but sometimes he does something that makes me look at him more fondly than usual.

Like yesterday at his drum lesson. (I sit quietly and read my book during lessons now. He has gone far, far beyond the point where I can still read the drum notation along with him and it is pointless to pretend otherwise.) He was working on a tricky pattern and he finally got it. His teacher whooped and said "Well done! You got it! The world is your oyster!......or your lobster....."

First Born did not even look up. "The world is my cephalopod" he said, without missing a beat. Literally.

You have to love that boy.

Monday, 2 November 2009

I used to think I was turning into my mum

Turns out I am actually turning into my Granny. My Granny always had a healthy scepticism about new-fangled things. Like rice, for example. Rice, she firmly believed, was something you made into a pudding and it should never, under any circumstances, be eaten in any other context. To the day she died she never ate chinese food, indian food, risotto or anything of that sort.

I was in the bank today, as I had a cheque to pay in. I was greeted at the door by a young man (and I mean young. I suspect he wasn't much older than First Born) who asked if I needed any help. I breezily told him I did not, I was just going to use the Quick Deposit service to bank my cheque. Then I looked around for the little paper Quick Deposit envelopes. But there weren't any.

I looked back at the young man, slightly helpless now, and he told me that these days you pay in cheques using the machine. "Are you paying in by card or by slip?" he asked.

This is when I started to turn into my Gran, as I suspect that the look on my face at that point was exactly like the one my Granny used to wear when I tried to show her how to work the video recorder. The look that says "I know I am supposed to be able to follow this, but really, you lost me five minutes ago and I am sort of losing the will to live."

The young boy man had to actually steer me to the machine and show me how to use it, including turning the cheque the right way round because I tried to insert it into the slot the wrong way EVEN THOUGH HE HAD JUST TOLD ME WHAT WAY TO DO IT! I swear he was seconds away from referring to me as "Dear". As in "Do you need me to do it for you, dear?"

I crowned my performance by exclaiming, "Wow, that's clever!" when the wee receipt printed out with a scan of my cheque on it. Then I slunk home and hung out on Facebook in order to prove how cool and edgy I am. I'll be blogging next, just you wait and see.

Saturday, 31 October 2009


It's that time of year again. I spent a significant part of the afternoon carving a pumpkin lantern. Which, as I told XUP, is still a lot less time than it used to take us to produce a lantern using a turnip and a tablespoon when I was a child. We were tough in them days, I tell you. Anyway, I must confess I am quite proud of "Skully" as my deeply imaginative offspring have named him.

Not bad for a Scot with no training, eh? The boys produced their own outfits this year with only minimal assistance from me. This is how they look. Can you tell that my elder son is well aware I have a bit of an issue with clowns?

The only part of Second Born's get-up that I helped with cannot actually be seen in that photograph. He wanted a severed shrunken head to hold - which he bought from our local supermarket (they really do sell everything there these days.) That, however, was not enough - he wanted the head to be in green liquid. I explained that water would drip out of the plastic box he had in mind, so we settled instead for green jelly. Which is why I spent an odd hour last night, setting a shrunken head in lime flavour jelly. Looks good though. If not exactly tasty.....
Happy Halloween to all who are celebrating it! (And for those of you who are not, happy evening-spent-under-the-stairs-with-the-lights-off-not-answering-the-door!)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009


That's what our wee holiday was, according to First Born who seems unable to plump for either immaculate or impeccable, preferring a mix of the two. The word has stuck and is now in common use in our family. Much to the confusion of the boys' Headmaster who was greeted with it today by FB in the school reception. I am expecting a call to come in for a quiet word about our parenting skills any day now.

So, yes, Yorkshire was lovely. Not a part of the country we had ever been to before - we pretty much picked it off a map as being within a few hours drive of Edinburgh and having lots of stuff to do nearby. We stayed in a lovely little cottage on a dairy farm, so were woken up most mornings by slightly irate sounding cows heading in to be milked. There were also real honest-to-goodness roosters - the boys were pleased and astonished to find that roosters do actually do that cock-a-doodle-doo thing. Here we are, looking at chickens (this was sneakily snapped by Husband from our bedroom window.)

We visited Dalby Forest (very tree-y) and Scarborough Sea Life Centre (it was raining that day and it was both indoors and really cool. The boys spent some time in front of the Great Barrier Reef tank trying to hypnotise two small sharks, with what appeared to be some success).

We visited Whitby which I was personally quite excited about, given my slight fascination for all things vampire. The Dracula geek in me got a kick out of pretending to be Mina, sitting on a bench in the churchyard up on the cliff by the Abbey, overlooking the bay where the ship was driven in by the storm, the black dog jumping to shore before the townspeople discovered there was no crew and a dead captain lashed to the wheel. Gave me goosebumps. Or it might have been slight palpitations after climbing 199 steps to get up there in the first place. Ooh, I should also have mentioned that on the way to Whitby we stopped off in Goathland which is famous as the village which doubles as Aidensfield in "Heartbeat". Which I have never watched. But its railway station is also used as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films, so that's quite cool.

We also visited Castle Howard - just the grounds, as there is little point in making 11 and 9 year old boys tour round a stately home looking at furniture. You are just asking for trouble and having to spend most of the tour hissing "Behave!" under your breath. We opted instead for lots of walking and a lengthy sojourn in the adventure playground. Very fortunately, the aforesaid adventure playground was situated next to the Great Lake, right alongside the Lakeside cafe. Now the cafe itself was shut, but the terrace was open so while the boys threw themselves around on various contraptions fashioned out of timber and rope, Husband and I got to use our favourite wooden leisure equipment, ie chairs. We spent a long time being boring adults, sitting down and gazing out over the lake, watching ducks do that upside-down in the water thing that is so oddly rivetting to behold. The boys thought we were boring. We thought we had died and gone to heaven.

We did join them in the adventure playground and then we walked through the woods, to the Temple of the Four Winds and on through the grounds back around the house to the Atlas Fountain. Here are the boys, considering whether or not it is the done thing to go for a paddle in the Atlas Fountain.

At one point, Second Born came running up, breathless with excitement, saying "Mum! Mum! You'll never guess - do you know what film was made at this castle?"

"Why yes," said I, beaming with pride at the literary knowledge of my precocious offspring. "Actually, they filmed both versions of Brideshead Revisit....."

"GARFIELD 2!!!!!!" he gasped, absolutely awestruck. "This is the castle in GARFIELD 2!!!"

I'm going to have to take his word on that, as I have never managed to watch more than 5 minutes of Garfield 2 before wanting to scratch my own eyes out with a nail file. Mind you, I'm sure the TV series of "Brideshead Revisited" would have the same effect on the boys. So here you go: two small boys on the set of Garfield 2

Incidentally, are there any other Scots reading who get slightly annoyed by references in the media to Yorkshire and similar areas as "the north of the country"? Given that we had to drive SOUTH for four and half hours to get to North Yorkshire? Just me and Husband then.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Hello! We're back!

Just back today from a week in lovely and only slightly downpour-y Yorkshire. A good time was had by all, details of which I shall post when I can be bothered. In the meantime, a sample of the sort of comment we got from one of our delightful children, overheard as he ran amok around a large adventure playground: "This is just like The Matrix, but really boring!"

I can't tell. Is that good?

Friday, 16 October 2009

Stories that stick

I was over at Jessica's blog, as I often am, and she had a meme on there from Sweet/Salty's other blog, one that I did not know about. I am, as you all know, a sucker for a meme and especially a meme about books. So here you go. (My bits are the bits not in bold.)

1) You are facing an epic journey. You may choose one companion, one tool and one vehicle from any book or film to accompany you. Or just one of the three. It's up to you. What do you choose? Thursday Next as a companion (she can jump into books - who wouldn't want a friend who can do that?). Tool? Hmm, well the alethiometer from the His Dark Materials books would be useful, provided it would actually work for me, and vehicle would have to be............ the Wishing Chair (I was a big Enid Blyton reader as a child)

2) You can escape to the insides of any book. Where do you go, and why? Hah! If I say "Lost in a Good Book" then I can go from there to ANY BOOK I LIKE! (This is the literary equivalent of the smugly annoying person who, when offered a wish, asks for a million pounds, eternal life and three more wishes). So to avoid being virtually slapped, I will say...........Iain M Banks' Culture novels - a future where all humanity's ills have been eradicated, money no longer matters and space travel is commonplace. Oh yeah.....

3) You can bring one literary character into your current life. Who do you choose, and why? Mary Poppins. I spent this morning with the boys tidying up a small part of the disaster zone that is their bedroom. I have no wish to repeat the experience. Ever.

4) The Crow Road is my go-to book. I could read that book fifty-seven times in a row without a break for food or a pee and not be remotely bored. In fact I’ve already done that but it wasn’t fifty-seven times. It was sixty-four.

5) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most enviable? I really really wanted to be George from the Famous Five. Or Jo from Little Women. (Spot the slight tomboy fixation.) On balance I think I really wanted to be George, though. She had really cool adventures with smugglers and stuff.

6) Of all the literary or film characters that made an impression on you as a kid, who was the most frightening? Dracula. In black and white, with Bela Lugosi. I still have a copy of the original movie poster (in French, 'cos I'm pretentious) hanging on the wall in our downstairs loo.

7) Every time I read Jane Eyre, I see something in it that I haven’t seen before. I dismissed it as a glorified Mills & Boon book when I read it as a teenager, but I am more interested now as a middle-aged wifie.

8) It is imperative that "One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night" be made into a movie. Now. I am already picketing Hollywood for this—but if they cast Bruce Willis as Matt Black, I will not be happy. I will, however, be appeased if they cast Ewan McGregor.

9) Perfume is a book that should never be made (or should have never been made) into a film. Or The Da Vinci Code, although come to think of it, that's also a book that should never have been written. (Like Labyrinth, Jess - I agree wholeheartedly).

10) After all these years, the scene of Renfield laughing when they open up the hold of the ship in the original 1931 movie of Dracula still manages to give me the queebs.

11) After all these years, the scene where Sham, the arab stallion beats Hobgoblin in the book "King of the Wind" (and especially the epilogue) still manages to give me a thrill.

12) If I could corner the author Jeffrey Archer, here’s what I’d say to them in one minute or less about their books (all of them): Please stop.

13) The coolest non-fiction book I’ve ever read is: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (it is sort of basically non-fiction with a bit of added......fiction but I still think it counts). Every time I flip through it, it makes me want to: read it again.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Eminently suggestible

Yesterday, we got an e-mail from the boys' school, warning that there has been a sharp increase in the number of pupils and staff displaying the symptoms of swine flu. This morning I wake up with a throat that feels like it has a tennis ball rammed into it. My sub-conscious is clearly rather easily swayed.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A quieter weekend

Okay, first things first. Isabelle? Rich lawyer? You've been reading The Scotsman again, haven't you? I would just like to point out that it is my resolutely non-lawyer little brother who is presently staying in the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney (that's Australia, not Cape Breton) with his lovely wife. They were both flown out there first class and are staying a week while my brother's former employers try to tempt him back to work on a project Down Under. Anyone else think I did the wrong degree?

Anyway, just to add to the glamourous, cosmopolitan flavour of this post, would you like to know what the weather was like in Geneva on Sunday? Of course you would. Here you are:

This was taken by Husband and e-mailed to us on Sunday afternoon. He left on Sunday morning at the crack of dawn for the annual domain name-y judgely huddle in Geneva. We sadly couldn't tag along this time as the boys' school holidays don't coincide this year so he decided to let us see what we were missing. Kind of him. I think.

The boys and I spent the day tidying the living room, doing laundry (me) and playing on the Wii (boys). I was only able to make the boys knuckle down in this fashion because I had taken them out on the Saturday to a local country park and let them off the lead for a while. This is Second Born, halfway down his favourite slide. First Born went down once, declared that his heart was about to burst with the adrenalin and didn't go near it agan.

We had a nice afternoon in the park. The boys ran around and shouted a lot, played on (and fell off) the flying fox and we went down to the riverside and explored the tunnels down there.

Second Born insisted he could climb up on top of the tunnel by going through, rather than round, the bushes. Turns out he couldn't.

Husband meantime was enjoying a pre-Geneva "Knob Twiddling Day". In other words, we left him alone with his music equipment, including a new toy he had received but not yet had a chance to play with. I am still not sure what it does, but it is a shiny black box with lots of knobs and light-y up bits on it. Husband is besotted so we left the two of them alone to get acquainted.

And now the working week has started again but this time it is a four day week and then I am off when the boys break up for the October week. Woo hoo! Anyway, I am off to play the silly games I have discovered on Facebook. (I haven't yet plucked up the courage to play anyone at Scrabble yet, but will do soon. Hopefully.)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

I ache in the places where I used to play*

A lovely but unusually active weekend has left me feeling (a) achey and (b) my age. I scooped the boys up from school on Friday, got them changed out of their school uniform, threw them into the car together with bags of food, changes of underwear and several duvets and set off for sunny Arbroath. Oh wait, we picked up Husband on the way too.

I will confess to having mixed feelings as we set off, for the weather forecast was abysmal - gale force winds accompanied by torrential rain. Not a good combination when your accommodation for the weekend is going to be a hut with no electricity or plumbing, necessitating a hundred yard dash to the main house in the dark if you want to use the loo after bedtime. I was pinning my hopes on the fact that none of the weather forecasts this summer had been even close to accurate so hopefully this one wasn't either. Fortunately it wasn't. At least not entirely.

We stopped off in Arbroath itself for fish and chips in what used to be a wee chippie with a couple of plastic tables and chairs you could use. It has been "poshed up" somewhat and now boasts carpet! And napkins! And waitresses! We were slightly taken aback, but reassured by the steadfastly stodgy menu. Husband briefly toyed with the idea of sampling the heresy that is Arbroath Smokie in batter (yes, you read that correctly) but then sanity returned and he plumped for haddock and chips like the rest of us. I went off to visit the ladies before we left (last chance to wash hands in HOT water!) and noticed that the restaurant had cunningly placed a copy of the dessert menu above the hand dryer - I was almost lured into trying the Chocolate Lumpy Bumpy as a result (the name alone was enticing enough!).

We arrived at the cottage in darkness, which is always fun as we try to locate the right unmarked, unsurfaced, unlit, single track farm road among many unmarked, unsurfaced, unlit, single track farm roads. Luckily it did not rain as we hauled sheets, duvets and pillows for four into a small garden hut on the edge of a cliff in preparation for the night.

Do you want to see the hut? Here it is in daylight:
As you can see, it is very important if you pop out in the dark to answer the call of nature that you make sure to turn right and not left. This was taken on Saturday morning when the promised gale force winds arrived, although thankfully without the rain. In the background you can see the beach in the next bay, most of which is airborne.

We had a nice day, slobbing around the house, reading and pottering about the rocks. The boys in particular like to clamber about down by the water. Given the wind, we made them wear lifejackets as a precaution.

It was blustery enough at times that I thought we were going to have to tether them down like little balloons! That night it was very cosy in the hut as the wind howled around outside. Before going to sleep, we played a game which has become sort of traditional when we stay there: we come up with summaries of the plots of movies and TV shows. Played backwards. So that Frankenstein, for example, becomes the tale of a monster rampaging around a neighbourhood, who is lured into a castle by a mad scientist, tied to a table and killed by a convenient bolt of lightning. The scientist then dismantles the creature and buries the evidence in a number of local graveyards. The End.

Get the idea? We amused ourselves greatly with TV shows - Strictly Come Dancing (some judges hold up a score and then a couple have to come on and dance a dance to precisely that standard before leaving); the Olympic 1oo metre sprint (some very fit men have to run backwards very fast and synchronise their speed so they arrive in the starting blocks at exactly the same time); Bagpuss (if you are old enough to remember, is the story of a bunch of destructive mice who steal perfectly good items from a shop window, smash them up and then make their accomplice, a small girl called Emily, take the debris away and dispose of it). Silly, but it kept us laughing.

On Sunday, the wind had dropped so we decided to walk across to the beach in the next bay, but instead of taking the clifftop path, we decided (I cannot now for the life of me remember why) that it would be more fun to go round the bottom of the cliffs, over the rocks. The big rocks. See?
That's First Born in the grey and the beach we are heading for in the distance.

That's Second Born, proving that somewhere in the mists of time, one of his ancestors was part mountain goat. Seriously, the boy was scampering along there. The rest of us were more sort of lumbering. And sliding down rocks on our bums, while squealing in alarm. Sadly, the tide beat us by about 20 minutes and we could not get round the last headland to the beach. Which left us with the choice of clambering skipping all the way back over the same rocks. Or climbing up the hill you can see on the left in the photo of First Born up there. Guess which option we chose.

Yes, that's SB at the top of the hill, encouraging the less agile. The scrap of pink in the bottom left corner is a bit of me. I don't know how Husband managed to take that photo. I think he was holding onto a clump of grass with his teeth.

We all made it though, and this is the view back down where we had climbed up. Had I seen that first, I don't think I would have done it.
The aching muscles in my legs and bum still wish I hadn't. But it was fun and we got to the beach and wandered around in the sun, and drew pictures on the sand before wandering back across the cliff.

And now we are back in Edinburgh again, and looking forward to our little trip to Yorkshire in a couple of weeks. I hope that will involve just as much walking and laughing and eating, but slightly less pulling myself up cliffs by my fingernails while holding my breath and praying.

PS To all of you who are coaxing me into the warm shallows of Facebook, thank you. (Whee! I have friends!!)

PPS *Name that tune.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I have a confession to make: I don't really understand how Facebook and all that stuff works. I am chuffed enough with myself that I manage to blog, even though I use Blogger which I suspect is like trying to recreate the painting of the Sistine Chapel with Chubby Crayons. The finer points of keeping in touch 21st century style have sort of passed me by. Don't even get me started about Twitter.

That said, I do have a Facebook account. A while back, I wanted to check if someone was on Facebook (due to advancing senility, I cannot now remember who. Or why.) and I discovered that to search on Facebook, one had to join Facebook. So I did. And this leads me to my confession - although I have the account, I have NO IDEA how it works or what to do with it. I rarely remember I have it and never log in. Until today, when I discovered that I have friend invitations! From nice people from the bloggy world! Who I have, it would appear, been ignoring for who knows how long! I am so rude!

Anyway, I have now accepted the invitations (I think) so feel more in touch with my inner teenager. I still have no idea what to do with a Facebook account so if anyone wants to teach me, all guidance would be gratefully received. (I had better find out about all this stuff before my children start wanting accounts on sites other than Club Penguin. I bet if I had girls, I would be fully up-to-date by now!)

On a totally different topic, I am slightly scared by how American my children are. The North American culture is so all-invasive now that even my dyed-in-the-wool, born Scots boys sometimes sound more like Californian teenagers. They do that annoying thing where they raise their voice at the end of every sentence and turn them all into a question? Drives me potty. And the even scarier thing is that they now laugh at me for talking like, oh I don't know, a Scottish woman of 42!

I can't remember what prompted me the other day, but I was ranting about the phrase "to go". I was explaining to the boys that I steadfastly refuse to give in to the American (*cough*Starbucks *cough*) term of describing a coffee you want to remove from the premises as "to go". Or one you want to drink sitting at their tables as "for here". NO. In Scotland, you do not ask "To go or for here?". You ask "Sit-in or take away?".

I explained to the boys therefore that on the rare occasion I decide to blow £3 on a cup of coffee in an unattractive mug, I will ask for "a latte to sit in". They of course howled with laughter.

"It would need to be a REALLY big latte if you were going to sit in it!" they crowed. I can't help feeling I was being insulted on more than one level there.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Things I am currently not good at

Blogging apparently. I don't know why, but every time I think about writing something at the moment, the details of my doings just sound so mundane that I can't believe anyone would want to read it. I certainly can't be bothered writing it! I'm not saying I want my life to be full of drama (drama in life tends to be, on balance, a negative thing a lot of the time) but something interesting now and again would be nice.

So, with that stellar build-up, what have I been up to? Not a great deal, really. We have booked ourselves a little holiday as we planned - off to a farm cottage near Pickering in Yorkshire for the school October week. My Mum and Dad will hopefully join us straight from a babysitting stint for my brother in the Lake District so that should be fun. I haven't spent much time in Yorkshire (sum total of visits so far: a couple of nights visiting our former flatmate when she was a prison officer in York and a couple of nights in Harrogate when our friends got married there) so looking forward to doing a bit of exploring.

It has just occurred to me actually that both of the Yorkshire friends referred to have married and divorced since we visited. I knew that there was a period in your life when your friends all got married and then another when they all started having kids. I just hadn't appreciated that there is also a period when lots of your friends get divorced, but it does seem to be the case.

Anyway, Husband is jetting off tomorrow for work. This time it is Basingstoke (via Southampton) - tres glamourous n'est-ce pas? I will be at home, boy-herding and packing for us all to pop off to Ex-Brother-in-Law's family cottage up near Arbroath for the weekend. I really like Arbroath and we are all looking forward to decent fish and chips and lots of wet and windy walks (this being October in Scotland). Oh, and all four of us will be sleeping in a glorified garden shed perched on the edge of a cliff. Which is always fun.

What else?..........Nope can't really think of anything. I will try to post something less mundane soon, promise.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

10 minutes

They were bickering within 10 minutes of being re-united when Second Born returned from camp. That's probably a record, actually - last time SB was still on the steps of the bus when FB started on him.

Second Born had a whale of a time at camp with all the tree-climbing and kayaking and making water filters out of moss and bracken and general running around in the forest. Astonishingly, more than half of the clothes I had sent him with came back unworn AND CLEAN. First Born, when he went, brought back unworn clothes but packed said clean clothes under and around some very unclean wellies, thus negating the benefit. Second Born was at least smart enough to quarantine the wellies thus earning some brownie points from Mum.

The weekend was equal parts lazy and manic. Saturday was relaxed and lazy. We did little other than eat and read and SB and I watched Strictly Come Dancing (our joint guilty pleasure). We compounded the couch-potato-ness of the day by obtaining our dinner from the chippie.

Today has been a bit more hectic. Birthday party for SB in a laser quest sort of venue near Portobello (where I am sure the only females who ever set foot are mothers of small and not-so-small boys. No girls have been spotted voluntarily entering the premises any time I have been there.) SB was eating a Mars bar with a knife and fork when I arrived to collect him. Either the tail end of a party game or his friend's mother is really strict about table manners.

The party was followed pretty much immediately by a little mini-celebration for the husband of my mother-in-law (I'll call him E) who was 86 today. He is in terrifyingly good shape and is probably fitter at 86 than I am now, at 42. Husband had come up trumps with a birthday gift for E - a DVD about the aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm in WWII. E was a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm so the present really hit the spot - he was itching to put the DVD on before we even left after cake and tea had been consumed.

I spent the rest of the afternoon making dinner for all of us (roast chicken, stuffing, roast potatoes, sweetcorn, bread sauce, gravy and Yorkshire puddings. My children now insist we have Yorkshire puddings with any sort of roast dinner, not just beef.) The boys are now in bed and in between reading blogs and writing this, I am nosing around on the net looking for a cottage to rent for the school October week holiday. We are thinking of Yorkshire somewhere - fairly easy to get to, lots of nice walks and I really quite fancy visiting Whitby, given my fondness for Dracula.

Off now for a cup of tea before bedtime. Sadly no cookies though - I cannot bake at the moment having accidentally melted my kitchen scales. I have ordered new ones but until they arrive, no baking is possible. My children are not happy.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

I'm so proud

It's very quiet round here just now. Second Born is away at school camp so we only have one boy to herd around. He is, admittedly, the biggest and loudest of the two (his technique for getting downstairs, for example, seems to involve standing at the top of the stairs and just sort of....letting himself fall, ricocheting off the walls as he goes. Not delicate.) but nonetheless, without a brother to argue with, it is remarkably peaceful around here. No disputes over what to have for dinner, who gets the use of the laptop first, who is breathing too loud, who looked at me funny, etc......... I would almost say it is a recommendation for having only one child were it not for the fact that all the useless information and discussion which FB would normally share with his brother, he is kindly passing on to us instead. My brain may explode with the........the..........eleven-year-old-boyness of it all.

In the meantime, I am thinking of starting a sweepstake: how many minutes or seconds will have elapsed after SB's return on Friday before the squabbling starts again? I am guessing 90 seconds or so. But that might just be my sunny streak of optimism coming out again.

On a positive note, the aforementioned First Born recently informed me that "I have just taken the penultimate pair of boxer shorts from my drawer."

I don't know which makes me happier: the fact that he is remembering to tell me he needs clean underwear before he runs out and we need to rummage in the laundry for the least rank pair to re-use (What? Don't tell me you haven't been forced to do the same at some point) or the use of the word "penultimate".

Who am I kidding? It's the word, no contest.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

My last remaining iota of street cred has gone.

I really really wish I had taken a photo of my garden last week. I had booked a gardener to come on Friday and fully intended a great "before and after" post. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the level of importance one attaches to blog posts and the need for material for same) they finished a job early and turned up instead at lunchtime on Thursday.

When I say "gardener", what actually turned up was the gardener himself and a team of chaps and some heavy-duty shredding, chopping, cutting and obliterating equipment. After a mere 4 hours, the garden looked like it had been targeted by a particularly well-drilled plague of locusts. The buddleia is gone, as is much of the foliage in the back garden (nettles included) and I can actually see my garden wall again.

The cat, however, is back in a huff. If you thought she gave me a hard time when I threw out her smelly old doormat, you should see the air of martyrdom she has adopted now that she has no cover to hide in and has to poop in public. If she had an opposable thumb and a stepladder, she would have phoned in to report me to the SSPCA by now.

The garden now looks rather bare (who knew stinging nettles took up so much room?) so some advice from you green fingered types out there would be welcome (Isabelle? Put that marking down, my garden needs you.)

I have an area of ground in the back garden, roughly about 12 feet by 4 feet which is now empty, dug over and begging to be filled. The plot is right beside my high, stone, garden wall and faces east. It is pretty well drained (in other words I have never noticed it being particularly water-logged) and that is all I know. We sort of like the idea of planting some vegetables some time but don't know what or when, and otherwise just need pointers on what to plant that will look pretty and need virtually no help to survive and thrive. Suggestions?

In other news, Husband and I went to see Kajagoogoo in concert on Friday. This was my birthday gift from Husband and I can honestly say it was a lot better than I was expecting. Mind you, I went to see them in 1983 as a 16 year old and I left before the concert finished so my expectations were perhaps not very high. That said, the people watching opportunities were wonderful. The concert was at The Ferry in Glasgow and the table next to ours was occupied by a girls' night out. Not just any girls' night out either. A Glasgow girls' night out. A fair amount of fake tan, cleavage and what I always privately think of as "stripper shoes" - the kind that look like they weigh a ton and need six months of intensive training to learn to walk in.

There was a lot of shrieking and giggling and HUGE amounts of photo taking. In fact there was so much photo-taking that there did not seem to be any time for anything else. It was as if they were s0 determined to have photographic evidence that they had had a good time, they didn't actually have any time to ........have a good time. A bit sad really.

At one point prior to the concert actually starting, the band members wandered nonchalantly across the dancefloor on their way backstage. The girls spotted them and woo-hooed loudly. My Husband gazed sympathetically at Limahl and co. "Poor sods must get that everywhere they go" he commented. "Ironic whooping".

The concert itself was really rather good. Kajagoogoo live are a very talented, very tight little funk band. Limahl is a camp little article and probably the least talented of the five of them, but the bass player is frankly brillient. Their live set is very entertaining and bears little resemblance to their recorded music. I rather enjoyed it.

I went to see Kajagoogoo (or "The Goo" as they were laughingly calling themselves) and liked it. So there you go.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Woo hoo!

Just booked our flights to Halifax for next summer! Something to look forward to again!

Friday, 11 September 2009

I feel inadequate.

It is 8.15pm. It is dark (this being Scotland in September) and my neighbour is outside mowing her lawn.

Weekly Roundup

So, where were we? Oh yes. Nits. Thankfully the boys seem to be nit-free (after much lotion-ing and combing with a teensy tiny comb and scratching our heads in sympathy) so haircuts will happen soon and I will no longer have to consider putting their hair in pigtails.

We were in sunny Troon last weekend (it rained) visiting Father-in-law who had a bit of a bad turn recently but was in great form when we visited. He was chatty, cracking jokes and reminiscent of the Grandad the boys remembered. We ate a lot, including birthday cake and chinese food, chatted and generally hung out. The boys and I also paid a quick visit to Asda (so glamourous I know, you're all jealous). I am actually rather dangerous in places like Asda. I have a bit of a weakness for cookware and kitchen stuff - a visit to Lakeland or the marketplace bit of Ikea, for example, could cause a major dent in my bank account - and even places like Asda are risky. We only went looking for some cheap and cheerful cutlery for FIL and I left with a couple of stainless steel mixing bowls (£1 each! Bargain!) and had to be forcibly restrained by my children from buying big steel serving spoons too.

The working week kicked off as normal with parents' night for First Born who is now in Primary 7. Most of the presentation I had heard before but there was one bit of good news - the school has produced a guide to how they teach maths these days. This is essential to avoid the painful homework sessions with cries of "But that's not how they did subtraction when I was at school!" At least now I'll have a rough idea what the boys are supposed to be doing.

First Born in fact had a remarkably good week. On Thursday he came home and announced that he had had swimming and had been awarded a star sticker from the swimming teacher. Swimming is not one of his strong points, what with the dyspraxia and all.

"Oh great! What was that for?" I asked.

"It was...eh.....for.......eh......it was....eh.......for......." (First Born's brain often works so fast his mouth struggles to keep up)

"Not drowning?" I suggested.

"Yeah!" he grinned.


Later on Thursday he had his drum lesson, which went brilliantly. He can sight read drum notation. Which amazes me every time I see him do it. At the end of the lesson he was presented with the award for Drum Student of the Month by his teacher. FB was struck dumb and BELIEVE ME it takes a lot to do that. It is immensely satisfying to see him doing something complicated well. And enjoying it.

Other than that, not much has been going on here at Casa Loth.

What's that you say? Running? Well, since you ask.....ooh look! The Porcine Aerobatic Display Team are going past the window!........

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Rain check?

Okay, so I didn't go running this morning, but in my defence, if you could see the weather here in Edinburgh you would forgive me. Honest. I promise I will have done the first run by the end of the weekend. Promise. Pinky swear.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Tempting fate and why you shouldn't do it

Remember in my last post when I said I had threatened SB with a session with a fine-toothed comb if he didn't get the last of the glue out of his hair? Well, Fate was listening in. And sniggering to himself. Fine-toothed combs were indeed to be wielded shortly. And those of you who have, or have had, children are probably wa-a-a-a-y ahead of me.

After my dire threats, the glue was declared gone and I took the boys for haircuts yesterday. At which point we discovered that FB had come home from school with some little friends. A wee case of head lice. His first. My first, for that matter. (Incidentally, is it wrong that my first reaction wasn't traditional middle-class mortification but "Oooh, can I see?!")

No haircuts then. Instead, off to the chemist we went for nit-annihilation lotion and, yes, the aforementioned fine-toothed comb. An entertaining evening was had by all, let me tell you. I certainly enjoyed myself as I gleefully pointed out that this would all be much easier and less painful IF THEIR HAIR WASN'T SO LONG! However it has not escaped my notice that the end result is two boys who still have long hair. Surely they wouldn't?.............no. Even they are not that devious.

I also had the fun job of phoning the boys' best friend's mum to give her the good news. She is a teacher so took it in her stride, head lice being really rather common in schoolchildren. Her parting comment was "Okay, but next time you're thinking of sending me a present, I really prefer flowers and chocolates...." I like this woman.

In other news, I have decided I need to start running again (and yes, XUP, I know walking is just as good but I used to really quite enjoy running). I stopped after running staggering the 2008 Great Edinburgh Run 10k and never got started again. Fitting exercise in is always tricky and I know from experience that running (once I get my backside out of bed) can be done first thing in the morning and what's more I actually enjoy it. Sort of. I have been making all sorts of excuses recently for not getting the running shoes on. The most ridiculous one being that my heart rate monitor needs new batteries and obviously I can't run if I can't time myself in tenths of a second, log my average heart rate and calculate the calories burned, can I?

Of course I can. I have downloaded a couch-to-5k podcast, just for a change, so tomorrow morning I aim to climb into my oversized t-shirt and joggers, slap on the iPod and head out for an amble round the neighbourhood for half an hour. Feel free to point and mock if I don't make it. I'll deserve it.

PS Hands up if you have scratched your head while reading this. Yeah, me too.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

I think I am being had

You may recall that Second Born did a lovely swan dive onto a set of concrete steps earlier this summer, earning him a bloody nose and a trip to the Sick Kids for a bit of head-gluing-back-together. That was weeks ago. (He was fine.) He enjoyed the whole "don't get it wet for a week" thing that allowed him to get out of showers for a few days, the wound healed and we all waited for the glue, which hardens into a sort of pseudo-scab (great name for a band that) to disintegrate.

It had not disintegrated by the time they went off to Granny and Grandad's a couple of weeks ago. That trip was right before they were due back at school and Granny was primed: if the glue came out, she was to take both boys to the barbers and get them haircuts. They haven't had a haircut for months and both are looking a bit shaggy. Like late-era Beatles.

The glue did not come out. Both boys went back to school in their lovely, smart (excruciatingly expensive) new school blazers. And shaggy hairdos (as FB refuses to get his hair cut if his brother isn't going too, and frankly I don't have the strength to deal with the logic of that particular argument.)

Anyway, 10 days have passed. SB is still claiming that the glue cannot be moved. I have examined his head (I had to get him in a half-nelson first) and the wound is completely healed. The glue is stuck in his hair but not in any way to his head. He is, I think, having me on. As long as he has the glue, he keeps his long hair.

As I type he is in the shower having been told that either the glue comes out tonight by his own hand or I will be attacking him with a fine-toothed comb and a complete disregard for his personal comfort. What's the betting he will be clean, fragrant and glue-free next time I see him?

In one other significant development, this weekend Husband and I caved and bought a freeview box for the spare bedroom so the boys can watch TV up there. In my defence, they still don't have (and will not be getting any time soon) TV in their bedroom. I don't believe in that and they can whine at me and call me unfair all they like. I don't care. I know that boys, TV in bedrooms and getting up early for school do not mix. So there.

But honestly, the TV in the spare bedroom was a desparate act of self-defence. If Husband and I had to spend one more afternoon in the living room while SB watched non-stop reruns of "Top Gear", blood would have been shed. There is only so much Jeremy Clarkson a reasonable person can be expected to take. So it's the lesser of two evils really, isn't it?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Another pointless way to pass the time

First Born and Second Born were chatting about their days at school the other evening when FB announced that he had a great game he had played with his friends that we had to try. It's hilarious, he promised.

Now, we know from lo-o-o-o-o-o-ng experience that what is just drop-dead hilarious to an eleven year old boy sort of loses something in the translation for adults. So we were not expecting much, but this time he was right. It's a silly game, it veers quickly into toilet humour territory, but it is funny. And easy to learn. Ready?

The rules of the game are: someone asks you a series of questions to which you can only give one answer. The same answer every time. And you are not allowed to laugh, giggle or even smirk as you do so. If you laugh, you lose. Sounds easy, until you learn that the answer you have to give is "manky sausage".

(A quick aside: is the word "manky" used outside Scotland? It is generally used here to mean dirty, filthy, stinky, mouldy, clarty. You get the idea.)

Anyway, the joy of the game lies in the questions. Be as inventive as you like. Some ideas to get you started (remember, you HAVE to answer "manky sausage"):

What are your trousers made of?

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

What do you wash your hair with?

What kind of after shave do you wear?

What is in this photo?

You get the idea. Kept us amused for ages. But then, as we have established beyond doubt, the Loth household is very easily amused.

Friday, 21 August 2009

A-a-a-a-a-and relax.

It is a great comfort to me, knowing that you are all out there. My people, gritting your teeth at superfluous apostrophes and throwing your collective hands up in horror at dangling participles. I could kiss the lot of you, so I could!

Anyway, having recovered from the agony inflicted by the headline writer of a supposed national newspaper (which I will from now on always call The Scot'sman - thanks McBobo!), I bring you a timewaster for the weekend. I think I have mentioned in the past that we have spent some hilariously idle hours in the Loth family with the Google translation engine. Much amusement can be gained from taking a well know phrase or song lyric in English, translating it a few times into other languages (German, Japanese and Korean are always good) and then back into English. The results can be devastating. My younger son has at times laughed so hard he nearly vomited.

This was obviously a popular enough pastime that someone has kindly done the hard work and produced www.translationparty.com. Whoever that was, I love him. Or her. Or them. The site is a simple work of genius: you type in an English phrase, the site translates it into Japanese. And back to English. And Japanese again. And it keeps going until it reaches equilibrium, ie until the two phrases in English and Japanese match. Or until the machine gets bored (which it usually does if you give it, say, the entire lyrics of "American Pie" to play with.)

This is, I warn you, a time waster of epic proportions. Once you start, you will keep coming up with stuff to stick in there. Would you like some examples? Some of our favourites:

"Thy finest gifts in store, on her be pleased to pour" (one of the lines from the UK national anthem in case you don't recognise it, asking God to give the Queen lots of good stuff)


"The best gift shop that you fill with her"


"Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?"


"He assumed I knew auld lost?"

and our piece de resistance

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"


Two birds with one hand, the value of President Bush"

I recommend having a wee play on it but can't take any responsibility if you are still there two hours later, scouring the internet for Pink Floyd lyrics to put in and giggling to yourself. You have been warned. (And if you get any particularly good results, come back and post them in a comment, won't you?)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Grammar Fascist stirs

This headline is from one of our national newspapers. I think I might cry.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Oh yeah, blogging.....

I got a row from Isabelle, for it appears I have not blogged for a while. And I am very biddable and Isabelle is a teacher and I always obey authority figures, so I scrambled ambled to my laptop and here I am. Hi! How are you all?

I see I last blogged on 8th August and I am desparately trying to remember what I have been doing since then. The fact that it is all a bit of a blur might go some way to explaining why I haven't had time to blog about it. So this will be a bit disjointed. Sorry. Off we go then. Things wot I have done recently:
  • Met Isabelle and her lovely daughters and friend to go and see Adelaide from Adelaide at the Fringe. Isabelle has blogged about it already so I won't say much other than that, predictably, Isabelle and I (aka The Neurotically Punctual Sisters) competed to see who would turn up earliest for our agreed rendezvous time (she won but I was a close second). After the show, we went in search of coffee and, being near the High Street, ended up in an establishment which I am afraid to say was called "The Rabbie Burns Cafe". It looked like someone had ordered the "Traditional Olde Worlde Scottish Cafe" kit from QVC and set up business. It was covered in tartan, little brass knick-knacks and the kind of fake antique plaster that makes it look like someone has gone mad with a trowel and some leftover cheesecake. We were undoubtedly the most authentically Scottish things in the place. (I wouldn't mind confirmation that I didn't actually dream all this, Isabelle!) The latte was nice though as was the chat. I think we almost managed to persuade Isabelle's non-bloggy friend that blogging is not a symptom of some sort of latent personality defect (discuss!) and I look forward to reading her first post sometime soon.
  • I took the children to the cinema to eat excruciatingly over-priced popcorn and watch "G-Force" in 3D. A film about computer generated guinea pigs who are trained FBI Special Agents. It was exactly as good as it sounds.
  • My niece and nephew came up from the Lake District to stay last weekend. Four children under 12 for the day was an interesting experience. We went swimming to try to wear them out and then in the evening we filmed them doing improvised sketches involving several James Bonds, aliens, sharks and Indiana Jones. With sound effects. I suspect we could put the resulting video out as a show on the Fringe and get away with it. My 6 year old niece's impression of a man-eating shark was particularly impressive.
  • The boys went off for the last three days to Camp Granny and Grandad, allowing husband and I to hit the town, see shows and go clubbing work late both nights and then fall into bed with no functioning brain cells left. We are party animals, we are.
  • I have spent a lot of time recently individually name-labelling pens and pencils and sharpeners and Pritt sticks and rulers and scissors. I hate back-to-school. And don't get me started on sewing name tapes onto EVERYTHING including socks. I have sewn about three labels each on the boys' blazers which are new and given the amount they cost I am damned if they are going missing.
  • This morning, on the way to work in the car, I was cut up on Queensferry Street in the West End. By a guy on a unicycle. Edinburgh in the Festival. Got to love it.
So, that's what I've been doing. What have you been up to?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Unoriginal and unapologetic

At the risk of winning some sort of Unoriginal Blog Post of the Year award, I was bored this evening so I wandered over to Statcounter. This lovely wee widget (sounds like a term of endearment doesn't it?) lets you see who has been coming to see you, where they came from and, most entertainingly, what search engine terms brought them to your blog. I couldn't resist sharing some with you, together with my initial reactions to them.

"Paranoia at the gym" - is perfectly normal, I assure you. At least I hope it is.

"Basil plant smells like cat wee" - well, it shouldn't. Especially if you don't actually have a cat.

The cost of an unclean gym" - a damn sight less than a clean one, I should hope.

What is a royal of a telephonist/receptionist while working in an office" - Well, it's a.................what?

redneck mommy war and peace" - well I know some of her posts go on a bit, but that's a bit of an exaggeration

"dyspraxia and cutting fingernails" - go together like hiccups and shaving

chastised husband" - I strongly suspect this is not the blog you are looking for.

cat spewing digestion" - Yup, I have mornings like that too

"urp kant" - I have no idea. Unless that's the sound that cat spewing digestion makes.

And finally

"siggi bennett" - Seriously? How the hell did that search bring you here? I mean I know who Mr Bennett is (although I doubt many of my readers do) but I don't recall ever having mentioned him. So this kind of spooks me. Also, I am fairly certain that anyone googling Siggi Bennett does not want to reach my blog. I can only be a disappointment to them.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Another pastime in the Loth household

We have just put the boys down to sleep. Husband is still upstairs. He is playing excerpts from the soundtrack of "Halloween" to them. On a swanee whistle. Does anyone else do this?

Thought not.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mundane Update

It's been a mildly interesting week thus far. The sun came out today, prompting stunned and slightly mouldy residents of Edinburgh to shed their waterproof skins and wear short sleeves out of doors. Unusual, but very enjoyable.

I realised that the Festival is starting because when I left my city centre office yesterday, a gaggle of about a dozen very corpse-y zombies were sitting over the road, chatting and having a smoke. It is a measure of how much weirdness goes on in Edinburgh in August that I didn't look twice. I probably wouldn't look twice if they started recreating the Thriller video on Walker Street (they would probably want money, after all).

I am happy that my work no longer requires me to have to go to court, as the High Street, where the Supreme Court is located, is also Festival Fringe central and thus crammed, CRAMMED with people advertising their shows. And jugglers. Gritting your teeth for a solid month is hard.

Second Born got the week off to a good start by falling over at Holiday Club. A fall would not, in itself, have been noteworthy (his legs are always covered in bruises from minor mishaps) except for the set of concrete steps and iron railings that his head met on the way down. Blood issued forth from said head (scalp wounds, as every parent knows, bleed in a terrifyingly profuse fashion). Then his nose joined in and the Club called me to come and take him to hospital.

The poor staff were in a bit of a state. I can't imagine how stomach-churning it is to watch someone else's child, a child for whom you are responsible, head-butt a set of concrete steps at speed. And I imagine, this being Edinburgh, and specifically Morningside, that they might have worried I was one of "those" parents. The kind that immediately starts looking for someone to blame. Despite being a solicitor, I am not one of those parents so simply thanked them profusely for mopping SB up as far as possible and headed off to the Sick Kids.

SB was fine. I knew he was fine because he was awake, alert, orientated and slightly cross with me for asking him lots of questions. Totally normal. He got the full work-up in hospital anyway, mainly because there were a couple of 5th year medical students in A&E that day and the doctor was enjoying putting them through their paces ("So, that's the 3rd and 4th cranial nerves, now what tests do we do to check the 5th cranial nerve?") SB quite enjoyed being asked to make lots of silly faces and stick his tongue out at actual doctors. I was glad I am no longer a student and even when I was we were never plonked in front of a client with a partner looking over our shoulder going "Okay, so that's his conveyancing dealt with, now what sort of will should he be making?"

SB got the small cut on his head glued by a nice nurse and was quite pleased to discover he can't get the glue wet so can't have a shower for about 3 or 4 days. In fact, I suspect he almost thinks the whole injury was worth it just for the "get out of shower free" pass.

FB on the other hand, has no such pass. The boys were at a fruit farm yesterday with the Club and returned bearing strawberries and covered in mud. (SB announced in the car on the way home "I had better empty my socks before I go in the house". That is never a sentence you want to hear.) FB had been wearing shorts so his actual legs, rather than his clothes, were muddy. I ordered a shower before bedtime (he was overdue anyway) and he reluctantly agreed.

This morning I looked at him and thought his hair didn't look......showered. I asked him if he had washed his hair last night.


Why not?

Because only my legs were dirty.

A lecture on the fact that a shower involves washing everything, not just the bits that have lumps of strawberry patch adhering to them, followed. He was not convinced and will, I am sure, complain loudly when sent tonight for his second "shower" in two days.

Monday, 3 August 2009


At this precise moment, my husband and two boys are sitting on the other couch. They have translated the lyrics to "Don't Pay the Ferryman" by Chris de Burgh into German, then Korean and back into English and they are now singing the (very odd and twisted) results along to the song on Youtube.

Never let it be said we don't make our own entertainment round here.

I wish I could work the video camera.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Another in the series "Is it just me?"

Is it just me or have the weather forecast and the news swapped places?

Once upon a time, you turned on the news and it told you what had happened today. Or, if it was especially exciting, what was happening RIGHT NOW! After your update on what had happened, the weather forecast came on and it told you what the weather was going to be like either later today (for a morning broadcast) or tomorrow (for an evening one).

Recently however, these two seem to have switched. Maybe there is some sort of exchange programme between the BBC news department and the Met Office. Whatever the cause, I don't like the result.

Nowadays, if you turn on the news you are likely to be told what is going to be happening. You will get, for example, a preview of what is likely to be in the Chancellor's budget statement tomorrow. Or what the Chairman of the Bank of England is expected to say about the economy AND what the Prime Minister is likely to say in response. Tomorrow. Or, even worse, you will get something that barely qualifies as a news programme and is in fact a thinly-disguised trailer for some documentary programme the Beeb is showing later. In other words, advertising. You can always spot these so-called "news stories": they will be followed by the words "Viewers in (insert region here) can see more on that story at 10.30 tonight". That's not news, that's CHEATING.

The news-that-isn't will then be followed by the weather. And what do the weather forecasters tell you these days? They tell you what the weather is doing NOW. With a spiffy computerised sequence swooping around the country showing you what the weather is like in all the places you aren't. (It need hardly be said that their information about what your current weather is doing is almost invariably wrong.) No-one seems to have told the Met Office that you can tell what the weather is doing now by the simple expedient of looking out of the window. I just looked on the BBC weather website and its front page showed me a map of the weather over Britain. At 6pm on Sunday. As I type, it is just after 9pm on Sunday. If anyone can tell me what sort of person desparately needs to know what the weather was like 3 hours ago, I would be grateful.

Even more excitingly, they sometimes show photographs of weather sent in by viewers. In other words, "Here is what the weather looked like 12 hours ago out of some complete stranger's living room window". Again, cheating.

I want to go back to when the news was read by serious men in suits, sitting (yes SITTING, not lounging around leaning on the furniture) behind proper desks and speaking RP english. And then I want the weather presented by a bloke in an ill-advised shirt and tie combination who tells you whether it is going to rain tomorrow and does so by sticking glorified fridge magnets in the shape of little raindrops onto a grey map of Britain. (And incidentally, that map of Britain is upright, not slanted away from the viewer so that is almost impossible to tell whether the big blob of sleet is supposed to be on Edinburgh or Inverness).

Phew. I feel better after that. (I also feel about 90, but that is becoming more and more common these days!)

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Confession time

Kal asked on his blog the other day if any of his readers had told little porky pies. Just for fun, you know. I confessed that I had once invented a 1970s prog-rock band, but that it was too long a story for a comment and would need a post of its own. This is that post.

Many, many years ago Husband and I were still fresh-faced law students in our third year at university. We had moved into a shared student flat with 4 other people. Two we knew already (one was a friend of mine and one a friend of that friend). The other two were effectively strangers who had been recommended by other people or had answered our ad for a flatmate. One of those was the only other girl, who I shall call Ann. She became a good friend very quickly and a few years later was my bridesmaid when Husband and I finally got round to tying the knot.

The other "stranger" was recommended by a friend and his name was Alan (it wasn't really but I am changing names to protect the innocent). Alan was a straightforward sort of guy: an engineering student from the south of England, his father was a vicar and his mother (obviously) was a vicar's wife. He was pleasant and easygoing and perfectly ordinary. Then he moved in with us.

It quickly became clear that Alan was what might best be described as a "personality sponge" - he had a marked tendency to adopt aspects of the personalities of people around him, particularly people he admired for any reason (though he never copied me in any way, strangely enough!). Husband was a musician then (still is) and had a pretty full recording studio and collection of guitars already. Alan was almost completely unmusical but nonetheless purchased for himself an electric guitar (like Husband's) and a pretty large Marshall amp (almost identical to Husband's). In doing so, he left himself so short of cash he lived for most of the term on a diet of tea and instant mashed potato, but it was worth it to him if it meant he could lounge about the living room holding his guitar. He never actually got to the stage of being able to play anything on it.

Alan's tendency to copy aspects of other people quickly became a bit irritating. (Anything can become irritating if you are living in a flat with 5 other people you don't actually know that well, believe me). We started idly thinking of ways to see how far this aspect of Alan's personality could be pushed......

By way of additional background, Ann had a friend who came round to our flat quite frequently. Her name was Emily and she was a little older, quite cool and a Goth - dyed black hair and a lot of leather. Alan was besotted with this exotic creature - presumably there weren't many women like Emily in Alan's home village. And even if there were, they probably didn't hang around the vicarage much.

Alan, predictably, adopted much of Emily's style as his own. He dyed his hair black (yes, really), bought some very ill-advised clothes and got his nose pierced (honestly!). It goes without saying that Emily was also the ultimate arbiter of what was cool and what was not. He spent much time in the trendier sort of independent record shop in Edinburgh looking for the kind of records Emily approved of. Ann, Husband and I began to plot......

Not to put too fine a point on it, we decided to invent a band and see if we could make Alan into a devoted fan of music that never really existed. We roped Emily in too. The next time Emily came round we waited until Alan was on his way into the living room (he ALWAYS came in when Emily was round, so he could lounge on the kitchen counter holding his guitar and fiddling with his nasal stud) and we started a conversation specifically intended for him to walk into.

As he entered the room, Husband (the ultimate musician guru) and Emily (the goddess) were discussing the little known early 70s prog-rock band The Freedom Jets. They were waxing lyrical on the one and only album ever made by the band and lamenting the fact that the band broke up shortly afterwards, never to be heard again. They were agreeing with each other that the guitarist in the band was a forgotten genius who could have knocked Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix into a cocked hat. Husband was bemoaning the fact that his copy of the exceedingly rare album had been stolen from him at school and Emily was commiserating and saying she had never managed to get hold of a copy either.

Alan was hooked and asked lots of questions about this fabulous band. But we decided this was not enough for us. Oh no! We decided we needed to have an example of this (imaginary) musical genius. So one afternoon, Husband, Ann and I recorded a Freedom Jets track. Clearly we had far too much time on our hands and no intention of using it for ooh, say.......studying.

Husband put together a collection of completely over the top and frankly horrid guitar lines which he recorded and then mixed together to produce a riff that no human guitarist could actually play. Ann was placed in a corner of our bedroom and encouraged to wail. Loudly. Husband recorded this and drenched it in effects. I was recruited to read some german text (an excerpt from Borchert's Draussen vor der Tur if you're interested) which Husband then slowed down and layered with the wailing and with myself and Ann chanting some random words. The combined effect was horrific. We called this masterpiece "Wayside Oblivion". It was indescribably awful. To this day we cannot think about it or listen to it without collapsing in hysterics.

Husband even sampled some crackles from an old vinyl record and put those over the top to make the song sound old. As a final touch, he recorded the track onto the very end of an old cassette (remember when you used to tape your albums and if you had 5 minutes left over, you stuck any old random song you liked on to fill in the space?).

Next time Emily came round, Husband skulked in his room, waiting for Alan to make his inevitable appearance. When he did, Husband burst into the living room and excitedly told Emily about the sole remaining Freedom Jets track he had found on the end of an old cassette.

"Oh, please let it be "Wayside Oblivion"!" breathed Emily. Husband beamed. He allowed Alan to persuade him to play the song. We all struggled to maintain our composure as Alan listened to the hideous cacophony, praising the innovative guitar work. He announced that he would have to find a copy of that album and off he went. We laughed ourselves silly at the idea of Alan trogging round the trendy record shops of Edinburgh demanding the Freedom Jets and scoffing at the staff when they had never heard of them.

We were, frankly, rather unkind. But in our defence, we were young and anyone who can stay in a student flat with 5 other people for a year and completely retain their sanity and sense of proportion is a saint. Or, like the Freedom Jets, doesn't really exist.

The footnote to this story is that we recently told it to someone and First Born heard it. He thought it was hilarious and told it to all the staff at the holiday club (Hi, staff who have never met us before! We aren't really horrible sadists, honestly!). First Born, Second Born and their new friend at holiday club have also decided to form a band. Guess what they are going to call themselves? Yup, the Freedom Jets. And if they do, and if by some miracle they are successful and become well known, somewhere in the Home Counties, a middle-aged engineer's head will explode.