Sunday, 26 December 2010

A post in which I barely mention Australia.......

.........or at least I only mention it in a good way. Christmas was a bit last minute in many ways, but none the worse for that. The boys got the presents they wanted (or in the case of Second Born, a large wodge of cash over which he could gloat whilst planning what to buy in the sales) and were gratifyingly grateful. Mother-in-law and her husband were uplifted from their house without incident, despite the snow, and Sister-in-law and her partner arrived less than half an hour late, which is something approaching a record for them.

Gifts were exchanged and exclaimed over. (We know we have got it right with MIL's husband when he drops out of the conversation for half an hour after opening his books, so engrossed is he.) Husband got a Kindle of his very own, so he can now stop downloading things like "Memoirs of the Anglo-Boer War" onto mine when I am not looking, Not good for my street cred when I am demonstrating the wonders of Kindle to friends and colleagues and that's what pops up. We are now a two Kindle household. I don't think we can get much more geeky.

Christmas lunch worked, more or less, despite some lower-oven-malfunctioning setbacks. We have enough goose and turkey left over to feed an army, or possibly even a husband and two boys for a day or two.

On Christmas Eve we were finally able to Skype my brother's family in Australia and confirm with our own eyes that Mum and Dad really have reached the other side of planet Earth. It is beyond weird to be chatting to your family at 10pm on Christmas Eve when they have already had Christmas morning, presents have been opened and they are about to have brunch on the balcony. Lovely to see M&D looking well and happy, playing with their other grandchildren.

And now it is Boxing Day and we are slobbing about (there is no other word for it), recharging the batteries and playing with our new toys. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will head off to sunny Troon to see Husband's Dad and do a version of Christmas all over again.

I hope you all had as happy and chaotic a day as we did here at Chateau Loth.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Can I get a woo hoo?

Parents are safely on a flight to Singapore, due to arrive in Sydney at 8.15pm local time on Christmas Eve.

I, on the other hand, need a lie down and some chocolate. (Not necessarily in that order).

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Five in a row and not in a good way

Mum and Dad arrived at my house two hours ago, ready to leave for the airport at the crack of dawn tomorrow for their flight to Australia. About an hour ago their flight was cancelled. Again. That makes 5 flights booked, 5 flights cancelled. A 100% record they could have entirely done without.

Please send any spare vodka to Livingston. My mother is in dire need.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Deporting one's parents

So, I took my parents to the airport for their fourth attempt at getting to Australia today.

A-a-a-a-a-a-nd 6 hours later I went to the airport and brought them back. Flight cancelled.


Mum is a bit demoralised to say the least, so I sent her home (again) with a chilled bottle of cider and a couple of custard doughnuts. Small compensation but the least I could do.

Monday, 13 December 2010

We're so proud

Second Born, at the ripe old age of 10, has just answered his first question on "University Challenge".

The answer was "epiphytes".

I have to confess, I didn't even understand the question.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

I wish me a Merry Christmas!

The Humpty Jock has been opened, checked for injuries (there were none) and is currently sitting in my kitchen full of chicken and carrots and leeks and squash and thyme from my garden (which survived the snow surprisingly well) and bubbling gently. A full report on the first experiment in slow cooking will follow tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have a confession to make. The slow cooker is not the only Christmas present I already have. I bought myself a present too. You see, Husband and I allow ourselves a little "fun money" each month, cash set aside to buy non-essential fripperies. I have not spent any of that money for absolutely ages because the only thing I tend to buy is books, and since joining I have not had to buy books at all. So I had a little cash to play with and I took the plunge and bought a Kindle.

I know that a certain proportion of those reading this will be appalled. And bizarrely, I sort of understand that. I don't think Kindles and their like will ever replace real books, nor would I want them to. I would miss the tottering piles of dusty books lying around our house and I would miss the excitement of going to a real bookshop when someone is kind enough to give me a book token. I would miss just reading a real book. Indeed, despite having the Kindle, I just finished reading the genuine paper version of Audrey Niffeneger's new book (which I rather liked, despite the fact that it was decidedly odd).

Where the Kindle comes in handy is that it is small and slim and fits in my handbag very snugly. I do a lot of reading on the bus and in the car waiting for the boys to come out of school and the Kindle is handy for that as I don't have to lug the actual books about in my bag along with my other junk.

Also, as it is 3G, I can download books anytime I want so I will never, NEVER run out of things to read. At the moment, all the books on my Kindle are free ones - things like G.K. Chesterton, Mary Shelley and Polidori. Stuff I want to read but have never got round to buying and which is available free from the Kindle shop and from websites like Project Guttenberg. Gotta love free books!

And I know someone will point out that I can get free stuff from the library too, and that is true, I could. Except the nearest library to me is a car drive away with very poor parking around it and whilst I could make the effort, I am honestly unlikely to find the time given the mounds of other things I have to do in an average day. I love libraries in principle (I virtually lived in our local one as I grew up) but I don't frequent them in reality. Sad but true. Happily the boys have access to great libraries at their school and our house is constantly littered with books they have scanned out (which is what they do in libraries now - gone are the days of those little slips of card stuck inside the cover and transferred by hand to your brown library ticket when you took the book out!)

Of course, having bought the Kindle, I have also had to buy myself a Kindle cover to make sure that the aforesaid junk in my handbag does not scratch my new toy. It's at times like this that I wish I was handy like K and could knit my own Kindle Skin!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Humpty Jock time!

Tonight, people, I will be getting a Humpty Jock. I know you are all jealous, but you will just have to learn to cope. It is sitting at the moment in a box in the hall, but I will be tearing into it later and having my way with it.

You see, in my Husband's family (and now therefore in our family) a Humpty Jock is the catch-all term for a present which you get in advance of the relevant occasion. I think it dates from Husband as a child once being given a Christmas or birthday present early (I think he was ill? Maybe? He will correct me once he reads this). The present was a Humpty who was named, unsurprisingly, Jock, and that became the term for any gift you get ahead of time.

My kind Husband had ordered an enormous slow cooker for me for Christmas and it was delivered to his office. (Before anyone suggests that this is a dangerous sort of present for a man to buy his wife, or even just a little unromantic, I would like to reassure you that I LOVE this present - I like to cook and have always wanted a slow cooker/crockpot thingy so I am delighted that Husband has done this. This is, let us not forget, the man who moved mountains in order to pimp my Kenwood Chef for me. He knows me well, is what I am saying)

Anyway, the box arrived during the worst of the snow and has taken a serious dunt during transit - heavy enough to cut right through the heavy cardboard external box to the flimsier cardboard inner box. The item itself is apparently unmarked but with an impact that hard, we need to check quickly that it is in working order too. So I am to be allowed to get it out and play with it. Woo hoo!

I am thinking of cooking a whole chicken in it this weekend (it's a BIG slow cooker!) so any crockpot veterans out there with advice on how best to cook chickens in one, speak up now.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


My parents are back home! So in the space of a mere week and a half, they have managed to transport themselves and several boxes of Lego the 17 miles from Livingston to Edinburgh and back again.

Now if we can just get them onto a plane heading in the general direction of Australia some time this year, that would be grand.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Brief Update

Sister in law got away to Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. She e-mailed us this morning to say she was just back from a nice dip in the outdoor pool.


Mum and Dad did not get away on Monday as another few inches of snow were unceremoniously dumped on Edinburgh on Monday morning. They have decided to re-arrange their flights entirely and are now due to fly out on 17th December, returning on 21st January.

Now we just have to get them back to their house in Livingston. It is only 17 miles away but might as well be on the moon at the moment. The M8 (the main highway between Edinburgh and Glasgow for those non-Scots among you) is closed and has been closed since yesterday. The other main-ish road to Livingston is described as "just about passable" but there is no way of knowing what the roads are like once you leave the main drag.

So parents planning to stay one more night and then head home tomorrow. We hope. (By writing that I have, of course, just ensured that an unexpected blizzard will hit tonight with another 3 feet of snow by morning.)

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Accidental B&B

Yep, 5 days later and my parents are still with us. My brother has phoned a couple of times from Australia and on both occasions he has greeted me with "Hi, is that Sangatte Refugee Camp?"

Mum and Dad's flights on Wednesday were also cancelled, although at least this time it happened before they left for the airport so they didn't end up stranded on a snowy kerbside with their suitcases. They are re-re-booked to leave on Monday, a week later than originally planned, but better than nothing. We are not predicted to have any more snow before then, so the signs are looking good. (They had better get away on Monday: we learned today that their neighbours in Livingston, believing they were away in Australia for 5 weeks, have used their driveway as a repository for all the snow they've cleared from the road. The pile is about 5 feet high. Oh, and the water has gone off for some reason in the entire estate. So there's that.)

Also, my sister-in-law was supposed to fly to Schiphol today and from there to Kuala Lumpur on business and she too has been cancelled due to snow in Holland. Fortunately we had driven her to the airport and were able to turn back and collect her and bring her home. She has been re-booked for tomorrow. Our free Edinburgh Airport shuttle business is working well.

I think the gist of this post is: Britain does not cope well with bad weather. The End.