Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Free time? I remember that

I have (belatedly) realised that one thing that does seriously interfere with one's blogging capabilities is spending weekends in a cottage with no internet connection of any kind. And no laptop. (No TV for that matter. Or comfy seats. Or proper beds. Or pots and pans. I could go on.)

On the plus side, the living room is now painted in the cottage and the carpets are going back down this week courtesy of a local carpet fitter from the next village. We briefly considered relaying the carpets ourselves, but having stared at the solid concrete floor for a while, and then having pondered how one goes about nailing gripper rod to concrete, and having reached no satisfactory conclusion, we decided to call in an expert. Know your limitations, that's my motto. Next stop: furniture! And plates! We are planning to hire a van during half term in February and basically empty the houses of various friends and relatives of any and all unwanted stuff. Those of you who know me in real life - you have been warned.

Last week was a bit hectic all round, even leaving aside the Corbies decorating session. Second Born has graciously consented to take keyboard lessons (NOT piano lessons, KEYBOARD lessons. We are aiming for Focus organ solos, not Chopin. SB will glare at you if you call them piano lessons.) Unfortunately, the only slot available was on Tuesdays at 4.30 on the other side of town from where we live. And Tuesday is the day when First Born has his after-school social and communications skills group (which he still thinks is his Free Snack and Warhammer discussion forum, which is fine by me) and that doesn't finish until 4.15pm, giving me nowhere near enough time to pick up both boys and take them to the piano keyboard lesson.

A plan was therefore hatched: FB would go to his club and then take the bus, all by himself, down to Husband's office in the city centre. I would pick up SB from school, take him to his lesson and then swoop into town, scoop up Husband and SB and take everyone home.

Monday afternoon therefore involved a dry run on the bus to show FB where to get on and off and how to walk to Husband's office from the bus stop. Which went well, but pretty much accounted for Monday.

Tuesday came and the plan outlined above worked well. FB managed the trip perfectly (he was very pleased with himself, despite being a bit apprehensive beforehand) and the first keyboard lesson went swimmingly (I got a slight fright when the teacher turned out to be a former client of mine from a few years back. This is always a worry as not all clients come out of litigation happy, but he tells me that I sorted out his building dispute to his satisfaction. Fortunately. Otherwise that would have been one very awkward half hour.) Afterwards, I fought my way through rush hour traffic and picked up Husband and FB.

Did I mention that there was also a parents' night at school for FB that night? Well there was, so we headed up to the school to attempt the impossible feat of trying to see all 14 of FB's teachers in the 45 minutes or so available. Yeah, turns out we had to miss some out. We saw the main ones though, and were very pleased to hear how well FB seems to be coping with high school. We worried about this A LOT before he started, but he is managing to find his classrooms and remember where he is supposed to be and when (all those laminated timetables were worth the effort!) and keep up with everything, so that's really good.

Unsurprisingly, we were a bit tired after Tuesday. Wednesday was spent catching up on homework etc from Monday and Tuesday. Thursday is the day SB gets dropped with Husband so I can take FB to drum lessons and then I pick them all up and take them home.

On Friday I picked everyone up straight after the boys got out of school and we headed for the Corbies, paintbrushes in hands. Which is where we came in.

All this is a very long, roundabout way of saying "Sorry for the lack of posting. Again. I sort of have an excuse. Again. Will try harder. (Really this time.)"

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Whoops! So much for "More blogging in 2011"!

I really am getting worse at posting over here, am I not? Must try harder.

So, the boys are back at school and seem reasonably happy so to be. I have got over my initial dismay at having to return to making packed lunches and nagging boys repeatedly to pack their bags and track down their games kits and Second Born, for Pete's sake ROUND UP YOUR SOCKS!

On the plus side, we have been able to get back down to the Corbies a few times and make a start on addressing the after effects of some pretty full-on damp work. We have fresh, bare plaster on most of the walls on the ground floor up to a height of about 1.2m and above that we have an enticing mixture of nasty old wallpaper, odd textured paint and crumbly old plaster. As a result, we spent last weekend stripping the remaining wallpaper in the dining-room-soon-to-become-another-bedroom and trying not to pull all the plaster off in the process. My aunt had lent us one of those steam-powered wallpaper strippers and whilst it is undoubtedly effective, it is also one of the scariest pieces of equipment I have ever tried to use! It is basically a huge kettle attached to a hose with a square of plastic at the end and it steams and bubbles and drips scalding water all over the place (at one point, memorably, it managed to spray the ceiling!). Second Born was so alarmed, he refused to remain in the room with it. Sensible boy, that one.

This weekend we managed to paint the walls in that room and, if you ignore the dodgy, lumpy old plaster on the top half of the walls, it looks really rather good. Next week: painting the weird scratchy textured walls in the living room.

We have also discovered a really good use for the Kindle: if you once wrote a whole load of stories with your then very young children, and if you saved those stories on your laptop, then you can load those stories onto your Kindle AND you can then make the Kindle's strange alien-like computer voice read them out to you. Judging by reactions around here, this is the funniest thing anyone has EVER done. I recommend it. (Husband tells me it may be possible to create a sound file of one or two of these stories and upload it. You have been warned.)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Should I be worried, do you think?

The boys are fortunate enough to still be lazing around at home while we return to work, as they don't go back to school until next week. I get them to phone me when they get up in the morning, just so we can check in. The call with Second Born this morning went like this:

SB: Hi, I'm phoning like you said. We're up.

Me: Okay. Did you sleep well? Everything okay?

SB: Uh-huh.

Me. So, you going to have some breakfast?

SB: Uh-huh.

Me: Then what? Are you planning to watch that film we recorded for you yesterday?

SB: Yeah. Or we might play some roulette.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Oh no!

Mick Karn died today. The biggest crush of my teenage years (hey, I never claimed to be normal), his was the face that covered one whole wall of my bedroom - and since not that many people shared my enthusiasm, finding photos with which to do the said covering was a pretty full-time task. I joined his fan club and my membership number was 003. I am not kidding.

Mick could also claim part of the credit for Husband and I getting together: at university, I wanted a copy of an album Husband owned, and since Husband was VERY particular about the equipment on which his precious discs were played (this was the time of vinyl, remember) he offered to record it for me if I gave him a blank tape. So I gave him a tape on one side of which I had already recorded Mick Karn's first solo album - a largely instrumental work heavily featuring boingy fretless bass and lots of oboe. Husband couldn't resist a nosey listen and was sufficiently perplexed by what he heard that he had to ask me about it when he returned the tape. He confessed that he was slightly surprised by my musical tastes since they were not the usual suspects found in our little group - mainly Talking Heads and Paul Simon. He was intrigued, I tell you.

After that it was only a matter of........well, quite a lot of months, actually, before Husband and I were an item. So as well as being the focus of the majority of my difficult teenage years, Mick Karn contributed to getting Husband and I together. I am really rather sad he is gone.

(I was also sad to see that Gerry Rafferty has died too, but I didn't fancy him nearly as much.)

Monday, 3 January 2011

Filling in the gaps

As you know, Husband and I got His 'n' Hers Kindles for Christmas and we have had a great deal of pleasure from our new toys. Our children laugh at us as we sit, happily drinking tea and reading our respective Kindles.

Husband has filled his with all sorts of strange stuff. As well as the aforementioned "Memoirs of the Anglo-Boer War" and some fascinating reports on the economic implications of new TLDs in the domain name space, he has stuff like copies of original court reports from the 1500s - trials of people charged with hamesucken and the like.

He has also downloaded Ambrose Bierce's "Write it Right"- a witheringly unforgiving guide to correct English usage which both of us are enjoying greatly (even as we discover that our own use of English is apparently woefully inappropriate).

I, on the other hand, am much more mundane in my tastes. I have been using the Kindle initially to trawl Amazon and the like for books that are free to download and which fill the glaring gaps in my reading history. For example, I have finally got round to reading the original "Frankenstein" (the boys were bored rigid when I read excerpts to them out loud). I have been meaning to read that for ages.

I have read a fair bit of Dickens in my time, but never "Nicholas Nickleby", which is what I am reading now (and wishing, as I tend to do with Dickens, that I could slap half of his female characters, so irritating are they - especially the ones he doesn't mean to be irritating).

Waiting in the wings (or rather in an enticing list on my Kindle's home page) are the Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy novels that I have missed so far. I must confess to never having read "Kidnapped" before, for example. In my defence, it is one of those books that you sort of assume you must have read because you are so familiar with it from other sources - like "The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".

I am almost giddy at the prospect of being able to access so much reading material whenever I want for NO MONEY! It will be interesting to see how long it takes before I feel the need to actually pay for books. (And whether the Kindle will have paid for itself by then!)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Oh wow, it's 2011

Happy New Year everyone! We had possibly the least organised Hogmanay in Scotland yesterday. It was really rather enjoyable. We had, at one point, hoped to be down at The Corbies for Hogmanay but late and therefore still drying plaster repairs, no floorcoverings and all the furniture being trapped in the summerhouse behind a six foot high frozen solid snowdrift sort of put a stop to that idea.

So instead, we vegetated at home. Second Born spent his enormous wodge of Christmas cash on an Xbox, an extra controller and a game, all in the sales, for he is smart that way. He had lost hope of it arriving in 2010 but lo! the delivery man from Amazon arrived at lunchtime on 31st bearing computer generated Nirvana. We have barely seen either of our children since. We know they are still living here, though, as I can hear them whooping from here.

I braved the supermarket to buy some odds and ends to keep us fed and happy and then Husband and I spent the day reading, watching some non-boy suitable stuff on TV and drinking tea. We drank a LOT of tea.

The boys emerged to eat and watch some classy TV (Harry Hill, You've Been Framed and an old Christmas episode of The Good Life - which we were pleased to discover the boys really enjoyed!) and then went back to annihilating aliens. (I am assuming that if we let them gorge themselves on computer-generated mayhem for a day or two, they will then be happy enough to cut back on their screen time. That will work, right?)

We headed out at about 11.45pm to a point on the hill upon which we live from where you can see most of the other hills on which Edinburgh is built, and that means you can see the fireworks at midnight without being trampled underfoot by 80,000 slightly tipsy tourists. The boys enjoyed the fireworks (First Born even managed to watch most of them without his ear defenders on - his sensitivity to noise is slowly improving) and we then came home and let Second Born first foot the house. We told him he was being nominated as traditionally it is supposed to be a tall, dark, handsome man who does the honours, but as we didn't have one of those, we would make do with small, dark and stinky instead. He took it surprisingly well.

I told the boys and Husband about Sara's family tradition of having a big book in which to record the memories and high points of the year just gone together with predictions for the new year ahead and they loved the idea. With your permission, Sara, we will be stealing this one (I only wish we had known about it years ago!)

Today we are again doing nothing, and doing it rather well, even if I do say so myself. I got up early-ish and set a beef hotpot going in the slow cooker before going back to bed with tea, shortbread and my Kindle. And Husband. And his Kindle. We then had "Happy New Year!" calls with various relatives from beneath the duvet. Very decadent. The hotpot will be ready in another couple of hours or so. I wonder what I could do to fill in a couple of hours?........