Thursday, 30 April 2009

Playing catch-up

I seem to have forgotten about this blog over the past week or so. I can't claim to have been so hideously busy that I haven't had time nor has the week been so boring that there is nothing to write about. I suspect I am just a bit lazy sometimes. Sorry about that.

So, what have I been up to? Well last Thursday Husband and I went through to Glasgow (passports at the ready!) to see Focus in concert. We enjoyed the experience so much last time that when Shauna kindly told us they were playing again we booked tickets immediately. And because we are middle aged and not proud, we booked tickets that included dinner beforehand, thus guaranteeing ourselves full stomachs and a seat for the gig. You know you're getting old when your first thought when you hear about a concert is wondering whether you will be able to stand on your own two feet for the duration.

The concert was fantastic. Even more fantastic was the fact that Focus were finishing off their soundcheck as we ate. Husband is a musician and the ability to eat pakora while watching one of his favourite bands fiddle with the equipment was his idea of heaven. When Thijs Van Leer, the legendary organist/flute player/yodeller wandered over to our table afterwards, Husband was able to collar him and chat about the pros and cons of hardware over software sequencers (at least I think that's what they were saying. I sort of glaze over at the first mention of this sort of stuff) and then Husband died of happiness.

And then AND THEN I got to meet Shauna. And Gareth. I spotted them across the room and whilst I could easily recognise Shauna (what with her being a celebrity and all) I knew she wouldn't have a clue what I looked like. I could have leaned over the balcony where I was sitting and waved like a loon but that ran the risk of being ejected by security for interrupting the music whilst Shauna hid in the corner and denied all knowledge of me. I slightly regretted not bringing my copy of her book and waving that at her, but maybe people do that to her all the time. (I'm actually sorry I didn't take the book and get her and Gareth to sign it - my children would have been so impressed that I had met a genuine superhero!)

What else? The weekend was a mad dash of buying stuff and packing stuff and sewing in name labels (Oh my goodness, do I hate name labels) in preparation for First Born going off to school camp. He left on Monday and is still there. We have been a one child family this week, and what's more it's been the quiet one. The house is eerily tranquil.

On Monday Husband went off to London for a couple of days so on Monday evening Second Born and I were on our own. We therefore hit the town for a mother and son night out. First stop was Pizza Hut. I know, I know, SB's choice, but it was worth it to see the scorching, withering glare that SB directed at the waitress when she suggested he might want a child-sized pizza. She clearly did not know who she was dealing with. That look conveyed deep scorn coupled with "Bring me a pizza the size of a dustbin lid and be quick about it."

We followed the pizza with a stop at Luca's for ice cream - with chocolate sauce and marshmallows for SB, and with bananas, butterscotch and meringue for me. All low-cal and fat-free naturally.

It was a lovely evening and a treat to be able to spend one on one time with the quieter half of the Gruesome Twosome. But the bigger, louder one is due home tomorrow. He will have laundry filthy enought to make a grown woman weep, the noise level will immediately treble, he will be fighting with SB before they even get in the car to come home and I can't wait.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The sun is shining and I need help!

We have had (whisper it) a couple of really quite nice spring days recently. With sunshine and a bit of warmth and everything. The garden is starting to sprout in all directions (hence the grass cutting which needs doing again already!) and the herbs I planted out are doing nicely, thank you. FB's primrose has settled well into our front garden and is providing some much needed colour (I don't really do flowers. The daffodils don't count because they moved in here before we did) and SB's sunflower seedling continues to grow.

But I need your help, internet, and I am particularly looking at you green-fingered types (Isabelle? Are you there?). Do you remember that I told you we bought a strawberry plant for SB when we went to the garden centre a while ago? Well, we have been looking after it quite well I think. It sits on a sunny windowsill, I have managed neither to drown nor to dessicate it and it has grown and grown. It now has three times as many leaves (big ones!) as it did when we bought it and today it grew a flower. A flower!! I could hardly contain my amazement excitement. Nothing, and I really mean NOTHING flowers under my care. I'm more used to things gradually drooping, turning brown and leaving the house in a bin bag.

Anyway, my question is this: do I keep the plant in its little pot on the windowsill for longer or do we take the plunge and plant it outside? Do you leave the flower to, well, flower? Or are you supposed to do something gardener-y like pinch it off to encourage fruit? (Hah! Fruit! I swear if we actually get a real honest-to-goodness strawberry on this thing I will be hospitalised with advanced astonishment.) All advice gratefully received.

And just to prove that we are genuinely in the throes of non-winter, look what happens when the temperature rises above frosty in Edinburgh:

This is FB. Sitting in our back garden with his feet in a bucket of cold water. Because any red-blooded Scottish male struggles to survive when the thermometer rises above 7 degrees.

And this is SB, hanging out on the back door step and communing with our increasingly mangy cat. Note FB's bucket in the background, ready for any overheating feet emergencies.

I love these photos because they are so typical of my boys, but the thing I love most of all is that in both photos the boy in question is reading a book. Every time I see them with books in their hands, it makes me go all warm and fuzzy inside. I hoped and hoped that I would have children who loved books like I did and whilst they may not quite approach the obsessive levels of reading that I used to indulge in as a child, they do read a lot and what's more, they do so voluntarily. I am so happy. I bet the first time I catch them trying to read under the bedclothes with a torch, I will be entirely unable to discipline them for it. I may in fact climb in and join them!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

I kant spel. Or maybee I just kant tipe.

Wow. I just re-read that post from last Monday. Something I clearly ought to have done before clicking "publish" and wandering off to bed with a cup of tea and a book. So apologies, faithful readers. My children are infatuated with Red Dwarf, not Red Dward (although they would probably watch that too, given the chance) and SB acquired DVDs of said series, not videos. The fact that I unconsciously chose that archaic word, redolent of wooden-sided Betamax machines the size of chest freezers, betrays my age I think.

Writing "that" instead of "than" is just one of those typos to which super-fast touch typists like my good self (!) are prone. I used to have a super speedy, very efficient secretary who could not for the life of her type the word "accountant". She knew how to spell it but her fingers always betrayed her, rearranging the letters into a word which, were I to type it out now........well, let's just say the Google hits would probably be numerous and disturbing. Those of you who are any good at anagrams will be ahead of me.

On the topic of good typos (can you tell I am on my own this evening? Husband is in Prague on business and I am therefore totally free to meander aimlessly about on the internet. My brain is in shuffle mode). Where was I? Oh yes, I saw a good one the other day. A very pompous, righteously indignant letter written by a solicitor (and to our shame, the legal profession are very VERY good at pompous and self-righteous) pointing out that none of the problems we had highlighted were his fault and were ALL due to procedural errors arising elsewhere. Except he had accidentally missed out the first "i" in arising. Or maybe it wasn't an accident and I am not giving him credit for the subtlety of his scorn. Anyway it made me snort bits of oatcake at my computer screen. I am pretty easily amused.

What else? The lady we are going to stay with when we go to Nova Scotia in June very kindly e-mailed me to warn me that the traffic laws have been tightened a bit and you now need to drive with your headlights on even in daylight and you can't use a mobile phone while driving. Very thoughtful of her and I am pleased that I am now slightly less likely to be arrested en route from Halifax to Liverpool come the summer. My habit of gazing out of the window at the scenery instead of watching the road will doubtless remain.

Mummy Dearest suggested I should post a picture of my house and garden to demonstrate what a Scottish house and garden look like. I might consider doing this, if only to provide an interesting counterpoint to Isabelle's beautiful photos of her house and garden. Sort of yin and yang thing. To balance her beautiful knick knacks and kitties, you can see my collection of vintage cobwebs, Lego-textured carpet and slightly moth-eaten cat with the bald patch where she has been scratching again. And to compare with her GORGEOUS garden you can have a glimpse of the half-butchered buddleia that Just. Won't. Die., the fine crop of nettles beginning to show in the back garden and my pot of transplanted mint.

Truth be told, I am in fact quite proud of the mint. After I had painstakingly dug it out of the herb garden (and I am not naive enough to believe I have got it all - just all of it I could see) and potted it in my big terracotta pot, it looked deid. Floppy and limp, it draped itself over the pot, trailing on the ground like the consumptive heroine of a 19th century romance. I really thought I had killed it but lo! it has sprung back and is looking positively perky! My reputation as the Hannibal Lecter of the plant world may be in danger.

Last but not least I was sorry to hear of the death yesterday of Sir Clement Freud. My family are all great fans of "Just a Minute" on Radio 4 and he was the consummate player of the game (although Paul Merton is catching up fast). Both of the boys were also quite sad when they heard. Almost as sad as they were when Humphrey Littleton died (we also love "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue"). What was also quite a shame, I think, was that on the news they talked about Sir Clement's varied career as an MP, broadcaster, food critic etc. They never once mentioned those 1970s adverts for Minced Morsels dog food, which is what I really remember him for. As a child I used to firmly believe he was a sort of human/bloodhound hybrid and that he ate the Minced Morsels.

On that note, I had better stop or I will witter on here all night. I am going to get something to eat and then settle down in the peace and quiet with my book (one of Humphrey Littleton's, coincidentally!) Night all.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Surely not

I passed a newly-opened restaurant on my way home from work this evening. It looks pretty nice, modern decor and so on. Its windows advertised its cuisine as "gourmet kebabs".

Oxymoron, surely?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Hey! I've got green fingers! No, wait, that's dirt...

Well we all survived the lurgy - Husband in fact got off relatively lightly and FB seems to have either escaped entirely or had it so slightly that no-one noticed.

Friday was SB's 9th birthday and he had, by his own declaration, the best birthday ever. The gift that elicited this statement was not the iPod or the electric guitar or the Red Dward videos or the Top Gear annual, but the jar of hair gel. SB is (a) fashion conscious and (b) easily pleased in some ways.

Given the choice of whatever he wanted for dinner, SB chose a sausage supper from our local chippy, for we are nothing if not classy. So he accompanied me down to the chip shop wearing his leather jacket, iPod earphones plugged in and the front of his hair gelled into suitably cool spikes. The ladies in the chip shop wanted to adopt him. SB ignored the adulation and slumped against the wall in the corner, looking cool.

And the rest of the weekend has been just as nice. Lots of lazing around, walks up to the park and eating. I made SB the traditional vegan chocolate fudge birthday cake (so his brother can eat it too) and I am embarassed to say we have nearly eaten the whole thing already.

On Sunday, SB got a couple of sizeable Easter eggs and FB scored several bags of Thorntons dark chocolate covered marzipan which is not only delicious (I do love good marzipan and he appears to have inherited my weakness) but it is also dairy free! It is such a bonus to be able to buy FB chocolate that he can eat, which is actually tasty and doesn't cost the earth.

We had roast lamb with garlic and rosemary for dinner - accompanied by roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding which is not what you would call traditional but we like it and there is no better means of conveying lots of gravy into one's mouth that a yorkshire pud. So there.

Today (Easter Monday) I finally bit the bullet and cut the grass in the front garden (not the back though - no-one can see that so I don't care about it so much!) Not only that, I weeded the little flower bed in the front, planted SB's sunflower seedling for him and the primrose that FB got at the garden centre last week. What's more, I tidied up my herb garden, pulled out as much of the mint as I could and replanted it in a big pot. The sage plant that had originally been in the pot I transplanted to the herb garden proper alongside the new parsley, the very old and rangy lemon thyme plant and the chives that I grew. FROM SEED! You are impressed, aren't you? I can tell. Exhaused with all that gardening, I am now sitting here reading blogs and trying to figure out if I can pinch some of FB's marzipan without him noticing. I hope you all had a good Easter too.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The House of Plague

It's official. Husband has the lurgy. We have named it Swallowed Alien Syndrome on the basis that your stomach doesn't so much hurt as feel like you have eaten an alien lifeform which has happily taken up residence in your abdomen. Not one of those John Hurt, bursting-out-of-your-belly aliens, it's not that painful. More like an alien that has moved in and invited its alien pals over for port and cigars. In other words, there is something in there that isn't quite right, it's not pleasant and occasionally quite deeply uncomfortable. Oh, and it doesn't like many kinds of human food, and if you try to send in anything it disapproves of, it will be rejected and sent back, pronto. Experiments have shown that milk and bananas are on the no-no list. Soup, on the other hand, it seems to quite like.

So here we are, waiting for the alien visitor to get tired of this family and move on. It's SB's 9th birthday tomorrow and I am not sure if it likes cake.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


It is on days like today that I am really, really grateful for my life. I finished work at 1, drove home and released Husband to go into work for the afternoon. The boys had been in the house all morning, amusing themselves to let Husband work from home and they were champing at the bit to do .......... something. They didn't know what that something was, but they knew it had to be done, and quickly. Preferably while consuming sweets.

The weather today was encouragingly spring-like and we decided to walk up to the park and, on my suggestion, to then continue the walk a bit further to a nearby garden centre (I needed to buy some parsley plants for the patch of wilderness by the back door which I laughingly refer to as my herb garden). I have mentioned this particular park before - it is only a 10 minute walk from my house but feels like you are out in the country. And the daffodils are out at the moment, and with the sunshine and the blue sky, well, it was lovely. Look.

That is the lane leading to the park. Nice, isn't it? I released the boys into the park itself and just enjoyed the fresh air and the view. Edinburgh is really quite a nice city to live in you know.

That bump you can see is Arthur's Seat with the Crags to the left of it. I'm not sure if you can see from that photo (you can click to enlarge) but you could see right across the Forth to Fife and out to North Berwick too.

I had cunningly supplied myself with a book before leaving the house, so as the boys tried to make each other throw up on the roundabout, I lazed on a bench, reading. This bench, to be precise.

And I chatted with a lady exercising her dog and I ate a mint Aero. Ahem. Eventually the boys got tired of spinning themselves senseless and we headed off beyond the park towards the garden centre. Luckily we were able to use a "back route" which goes through fields and woodland rather than along the road. We met more dog walkers and everyone today seemed happy and stopped to chat while my children fussed over their dogs. Horses were grazing in a particularly picturesque way and the odd rabbit was spotted hopping about in the woods.

We passed the area known as "The Schtump", famous for the running route which SB and I like to call "Schtumpenback" because it involves running to the Schtump. And back. There were a couple of weird creatures on there claiming to be The Lorax. I was not convinced. They were not in the slightest bit mossy, for a start.
Just a bit weird really. As we walked on, SB commandeered the camera - he has decided he likes a bit of photography and he knows from our previous runs that there is a herd of Highland cows which hangs out near the garden centre. Assuming three or four cows count as a herd. I certainly feel they ought to, seeing as how they are very big cows. Anyway, SB snapped away taking pictures of coos and in particular, of one coo's backside. I kind of like that one.

The garden centre was duly visited and my parsley purchased. I bumped into an old work colleague who is still in the property side of the legal profession and has been working a 2.5 day week since Christmas. Things are still not rosy for lawyers, I am afraid. SB spotted strawberry plants in pots and decided he wanted one despite the fact that (a) I know nothing about growing strawberries and neither does he and (b) he doesn't even like strawberries. Apparently in the unlikely event that his new friend ever bears fruit, I get to eat it. Bonus! Not to be outdone, FB plumped for a primrose plant. Called Sonny.

Bearing our new purchases, we wandered homewards, chatting about what to have for dinner (sausage and mash) and where we were going to plant the new arrivals. SB continued to take photos all the way home and I silently gave thanks for digital cameras where you can see your results immediately and junk what you don't want. This photo of the local rabbits coming out for their evening meal, for example, will not win any photography prizes but FB and SB were so delighted to see all the rabbits venturing out that the photo was definitely worth taking.
And then we went home, as all my stories at primary school used to say, to listen to FB's drum practice and play poker with SB (what? you don't think poker is a suitable pastime for an 8 year old? I'm grooming him to be a card sharp and then I'm going to release him on the internet with a £50 stake and see if he can pay for next year's Canadian extravaganza! The boy is good, I tell you!)

Husband came home later and is not quite sure if he has caught the dreaded lurgy from which I have now recovered. I hope not. I would hate to spoil a good day.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

*cough cough* sigh

I have been ill, in case you were wondering about the bloggy silence. I got my just desserts for doubting whether SB was really ill last week: I came down with the EXACT same bug he had and it is horrible. Sort of sicky and don't-want-to-go-too-far-from-the-loo-ish and just-want-to-lie-in-bed-and-sigh-and-groan-in-an-exaggerated-fashion. Serves me right.

So my weekend was a wipeout (Friday was nice in a way, because although I was ill and stayed in bed most of the day, SB looked after me, bringing me water and going over the road to the shop to buy more milk when I decided I wanted Cheerios). I hauled myself back into work on Monday and today, and thanked heaven again that I now work part time. I could manage a half day but definitely would not have held out till 5pm.

What else? Oh, I took FB for his introductory drumming lesson last week and he LOVED it so now he owns his own drumsticks and a practice pad and I've just realised that by the end of this coming weekend I will have one son learning drums and another with a brand spanking new three quarter size electric guitar for his birthday. Add that to the Husband's fourteen or so guitars and assorted keyboards etc and I think I may have to move out. Anyone got a nice quiet cupboard under their stairs going free?

Nothing else to report so I am off to have some toast (to see if that will stay down) and attend to my offspring who have been very patiently waiting for me to finish this and take them to the bookshop like I promised.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Saving up for the therapy bills

One of the fun things about being a parent is abusing your children for your own amusement when they are vulnerable.

What? Don't judge me - those of you who have children have almost certainly done it too and those of you who don't, well you're just missing out on the fun.

The abuse may take the form of putting sunglasses on your baby and taking photos (virtually compulsory that one) or just mocking them gently without them realising it. However if you get the chance to have a really good go at them, you don't pass it up lightly.

First Born is a heavy sleeper. When he is out, he is out. When he was a toddler I always said that once he was properly asleep, you could have dangled him out of the window by his ankles and he wouldn't wake up. I suspect that is still the case but given the size of him now, I would need a lot of assistance with the dangling thing. He is no lightweight.

This morning I went into the boys' room to check on SB who is unwell at the moment (as a side issue, is there anything, ANYTHING in the world more annoying than paying huge amounts of money for Easter holiday activity camp and then STILL having to take the time off work because your child is horking his internal organs into the toilet on an hourly basis? No, I thought not.)

Anyway, SB was wan and slightly pathetic and it looked very much like Mum was not going to work today. FB was asleep, rolled up in his duvet with only his nose, eyes and mop of really-needs-cutting blond hair poking out. I called to him. He didn't even flinch. I shook him. Nothing. I pulled the duvet down below his shoulders. Zero. I chortled to myself. "Who wants broccoli for breakfast?" I said. I lifted FB's arm straight up in the air"Me!" Not a sausage. I snapped the waistband of his pyjamas. Not so much as a flicker. I recruited Horny the stuffed water buffalo to stomp on his head and butt him in the face but to no avail. He was really REALLY asleep and it was genuinely time to be up and about and getting dressed and eating toast (hot with melty butter. I wonder sometimes if he is really my son)

I rolled him over on to his back and contemplated holding his nose closed - if he can't breathe, he'll wake up, right? Then I wondered just how traumatising it would be to startle awake in your bed with your own mother trying to suffocate you and decided that I couldn't afford the therapy bills. (I'm pretty sure that would have woken him though.)

At this point Husband came in to see what was going on. So we decided to play a sort of Jenga-inspired game we call "See how many cuddly toys you can stack on the boy before he wakes up". We pulled his duvet right back and set to work. Water buffalo, dragons, rats, bears, several dogs, Basil (who might be a dog or a rabbit, it's hard to tell 'cos he's flat) and a plush Mario, all were placed carefully on top of our snoozing offspring. He never moved. Husband was just expressing the view that he really ought to go and get the camera when FB finally shifted slightly, causing a minor avalanche of stuffed menagerie. "What's all this stuff doing on me?" he said (remarkably placidly in my opinion). He then crawled out from under the pile and stomped off to the bathroom, shaking his head in wonderment at our frivolity.

Tomorrow morning I am going to try and dress him up without waking him. We have an old Dracula dressing up costume from last Halloween. Maybe I can convince him he's been out stalking the streets by night?