Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The last day of 2013

Is it normal to have an aesthetic bias for even numbers? Why should that even be? (Ha). 2014 sounds more pleasing than 2013. My children were born in 2008 and 2010.

So, anyway, I know it's a clichĂ© to blog about New Year resolutions, but earlier today, I enjoyed reading the 2014 aspirations of various feminist women, here in The Guardian.

I especially liked Jeanette Winterson's quote -

My new year's resolution is simple: you don't have to play by other people's rules but you have to play by your own. I want to be clear about what I believe and uphold those values in private and in public. This government is so shoddy and the ethos of the time so self-serving. It is important to work out what is important. Living consciously has never mattered more.

I know what she means. So often, I feel I should be living more environmentally and consumer-ethically. I get privately mad when others don't, while constantly reminding myself that your average Greenpeace activist or true Eco Citizen (who live by their creed) would look at me in horror. It's a sliding scale
 
I want to get outdoors more. More nature. More family walks and exercise. Less sugar. Being able to do less sugar and not mind. (I have just had a slice of Christmas cake and read that there were 40 grams of 'sugars' in one portion. Insane.)
 
Ah well, just three more hours to go to the so-called 'Bells'. Hogmanay is such a Scottish tradition, and I remember the Irish girl in me being bemused, at parties of old, when all the boys ran to phone their mums after midnight. We never did that stuff. It wasn't like Christmas.
 
Tonight, I'm glad I'm not careering round the wet Glasgow streets looking for  adventure. I'm happy just to be home and  warm on the sofa with 'wur own' Jackie Bird.
 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vive la difference - chicos y chicas

The woman walks into the bedroom and the man is stroking his tablet (steady). It is Boxing Day and the woman is wondering if she can get away with wearing the same dress she wore on Christmas day, to a Boxing Day dinner. She likes the dress but it now smells faintly of roast turkey.  She says, but, maybe nobody will notice as we’ll be surrounded by more roast dinner anyway? The man glances up briefly and makes a neutral, acknowledging, ‘hmm’.

The woman keeps on gently narrating until the man says, look, can you get to the point, I’m reading. The woman says, there doesn’t have to be a point – this is the way women walk in and out of rooms to each other, being each other’s flexible audience, offering the soothing acceptance that comes with the tennis game of no-pressure chat, that doesn’t need to go anywhere fast.

The man says, aye, but you’ve hit the ball over the net and are now glaring into the sunshine, wondering where it’s gone. Yes, laughs the woman. She has been here before. The man goes back to his tablet, reading aloud, When Kaiser’s Europe invaded France….

The woman goes off to have a shower, content that he is engrossed. She enjoys washing her hair and not being offended. She enjoys the laid-backness of the morning.  Downstairs the boy child and the girl child sit in new Christmas dressing gowns watching Mickey Mouse Mouse-keteers, unaware that when they grow up they will have many Kaiser’s Europe versus Chat-for-the-sake-of-connecting chats. No one will win, and no one needs to either.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Going Underground



Christmas Prayer for three foreign students on the Subway
St George’s Cross? Are you sure?
Are you safe, are you loved?
You must be: your towely socks are newish white,
your rucksacks packed to perfection,
and the silver tinsel on your hats is allowed,
for your brown eyes have no idea
of their own shine: the sassy purity of youth.
 
When you get off, and the train pulls away,
let everyone be kind to you,
let your B&B be without grubbiness
and let the grey, Glasgow wind and rain
fail to dampen you, in these days before Christmas
when you are far from home.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Moral responsibilty and different hair

When Tess was doing that thing that 3 year olds do especially well: treating you like the most servile of all servants, I tried to explain to her that when she grows into a bigger girl, she will have to learn to do things for herself.  Eyes raised to the ceiling, she asked, 'And, will I have different hair?'

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Today's three questions from our 3 year old.

It's the way Tess lobs her questions out, apropos of nothing. Her random reasoning finds a leaping-off point, and she asks:

1) When little crabs pince you, is it tickle-y? Just little ones?

2) What is under everybody's floor? Just old 'wubbish?

3) When people die, do they never come back? Not ever?

Ah, the everyday parental sport of hiding the lump in your throat.

The job interview

Last week, I had my first proper job interview. As readers may know, my life has been:

Happy childhood in Belfast, then Edinburgh; teenage years idyll on Islay; Arts Student at Glasgow University; wrecked by ME in my 20's and 30's; amazing recovery in my 40's....just in time to fall into full-time motherhood .
 
So, I've done intermittent volunteer jobs and a bit of writing, but the career ladder has escaped  me. And now I'm looking for part-time work to fit around 'being there' for the weans. When I got an interview for an entry-level, social care job, I thought, great, here we go...
 
Or not. I thought I did well at interview and when the woman phoned, I was sure she was going to offer me the job. That'll teach me. Instead she told me, (in consolation?) that there were ninety applicants. Ninety?! For near minimum wage. And she had asked if I was prepared to work with potentially violent and do personal (incontinence) care - neither of which had appeared in the job description.
 
For the first time, I felt like a living statistic in Recession Britain, where people were expected to work for free in Poundland for 'work experience'.
 
The world seems so skewed when bankers get paid millions for moving money around, and the grafters and carers get so little.
 
Ah, well, we'll see what next year brings.
 
 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Facebook

Facebook is gradually worming it's way into my every day. I used to have an on/off affair with it - always feeling I might be missing the party, but now it's becoming a semi-comfortable habit. We'll see how it goes...shall we?

Twitter can have a seat in the waiting room.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Fussy Eater Mantras

I should print out this short article on what-not-to-say to fussy eater kids, and pin it up in the dining room. Genius.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wee Boy off School - Part 2

By  afternoon, the mother consoles herself that she has made the right decision to keep her young boy off school. She had wondered previously if he was milking his off-school status, and she felt almost relieved when she could see he was still struggling.
 
Even a car trip to Ikea to buy a Christmas tree was soon met with complaints of a, 'funny tummy' and a desire to go home and lie on the sofa.
 
Hours later, the kids are asleep, and the Christmas tree lies horizontal and netted in the dark boot of the car, until Daddy comes home on a late train from the Highlands.
 
(Can we dust this scene with snow for extra effect, anyone? No? Worth a try).

Wee Boy Off School

So, Hugh started the day saying he felt too sick to go to school. It's like a 9am poker game: is he bluffing? Am I too soft? Am I too hard? Will he hurl all over his desk after ten minutes? Hmm, he does look pale...
 
I gave him 'the benefit of the doubt' (a phrase oft used by my mum). Two hours later, he's watched a pile of kid's TV (it's educational, I tell myself) and managed a bit of toast. I feel a bit duped.
 
I've quizzed him about any possible fears or negatives at school, but nothing surfaced. I know it sounds 'hippy-speak', but I do believe the body speaks for us, when we can't speak for ourselves. There's probably some level of angst lurking.
 
It's his school Christmas party tomorrow afternoon, so I hope he'll go happily. One more week 'til the holidays. C'mon the sleigh bells.
 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bitter Sweet

I know, I've said it before, but I am definitely trying to cut back on sugar. And I'm trying to protect the kids from the hidden sugars all around, in supposedly healthy things like yoghurt and wholemeal bread.
 
I love C Beebies, but every other programme features lip-licking worship of cup cakes and ice cream. Mr Bloom's veggie's can't quite make up the shortfall. Broccoli jazz hands by the compost-arium, everyone!

Boys and Girls come out to play...

Here is a short article about why younger boys and girls benefit from being friends with each other. The female author didn't want anything to do with boys at school, but I felt the opposite. Boys were exciting.
 
My first 'best friend' was Colin Patterson. I have not seen or heard of him since we were seven; my family moved from Belfast to Scotland to flee the troubles.
 
I remember his freckles and his plastic binoculars and how he taught me to do 'commando runs'. Once we stole biscuits from a neighbour's  house, exhilarated by the ease of our success: simply opening the back door and standing on a kitchen chair to get the tin from a high shelf. That was it? No police? No guard dogs?
 
We dug for treasure behind his garage - it was always inches away from us in the clay mud. His family had 'a good room', so we listened to his Rolf Harris record in the back room. For a joke, I hid his wee brother's shoes in the coal bunker. I was hot with shame when caught. Justice then, eventually.
 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Just Magic

I'm pleased that our boy, Hugh, (5) is already showing a decent grasp of science. But how can reindeers fly? he pleads. It's just magic, I reply. And in a way, it is.

His sister, Tess (3) is somewhat behind. She is excited to be in the playgroup 'Tanivity' play and wants to be a butterfly, but will settle for being one of the angels.

There are many moments I imagine we might forget as we get older. I love the way she makes words her own. She pronounces 'children' as 'joldren'. Because is 'we-cause'. Just we-cause she can.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Revolution is coming but not before dinner

I've been watching Russell Brand's orations on the hypocrisies of modern politics and media, and while he doesn't hold any answers to the complex problems, at least he elucidates where we go wrong. He takes risks, he splits the critics, and he speaks for millions, including me (although I would always vote, even if it means voting for the least bad option).
 
Anyway, I keep wishing someone would speak out for the daily paradoxes of domestic family life. There are many mores of motherhood that I rail against inwardly, before I compromise or conform. And each time, I conform, I tell myself I shall start a counter revolution. How? Umm.
 
Who's going to risk accusations of kill-joy Scrooge-ery and oppose the Plastic-ification of Christmas?
 
Can I really be the only one who feels depressed by the mountain of plastic toys brought into kids' homes by 'Santa'? This morning I finally threw out a bulging bag full of mottled plastic bath toys that had been hanging on a hook in our bathroom for a year. This was over and above the toys that still linger daily in the bath.
 
All these trinkets are unrecyclable (our council only take plastic bottles). A family with no toys could have played with them, but I can hardly send a padded envelope of grubby ex-bath toys to a mythical mud hut somewhere, where kids play with sticks and yams, and may indeed gain more from that.
 
So, I want to resist buying more planet-harming plastic, yet I don't want our kids to feel bereft. It's like trying to live in LA when you don't want to dye your hair, let alone get your face lifted. Are we mad, people?
 
And, now, the revolution is grinding to a halt, as I have to go and make the kids' dinner. See? That's how it works round here.
 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What the kitchen men tell you

A new man came to measure the kitchen.

He was older but he had bright eyes, with pupils blue as marbles. He said he couldn't have biscuits. He was diabetic and he'd had a stroke a few years ago. He said the Victorians hung their doors to protect privacy; not like the modern way. He said, 'I love my wife dearly, but I'm not going to spend six grand on a granite worktop for her. I'm sorry Dorothy, but I'm not'.

I liked him.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Look, No Hands

 
I am spending my free time thinking about some kind of part time work and mulling over my skills. Today, I can add, Riding a bike along a riverbank with no hands,' to my CV. It only lasted for 5 seconds and took 45 years to master, but it was, indeed, a spike of joy.
 
It made me think of teenage boys in summer, who came riding into town, arms by their side and shoulders back. I don't know who they were now - like characters from half-remembered dream, but damn, they looked cool.
 
I was cycling to meet a friend (offering his career advice) and I took a safer short cut, along the banks of the river Kelvin. It's like nature's secret artery through the city, shared by yappy dogs and  walkers, joggers, prams, and the wee druggy couple who weren't having ice creams in the rhododendrons.
 
 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Zumba into 80's Timewarp.

 
If you thought I was at my second only Zumba class, struggling to follow the fancy moves and panting dumbly, you would be seeing in one dimension only.
 
Inside, I am Jennifer Beals. The pretty, Spanish Zumba teacher is happy to have such a 'natural' in her class. Yes, the 80's were a while back, but, hey, she knows I haven't lost it. We understand each other, even if her star jumps outclass mine. (Know what I'm saying, ladies?).
 
One day, I will mature out of my X factor mentality and learn that   we can't all be Jennifer Beals, or Subos, but we can have fun trying. For anyone outside Scotland who doesn't know Subo, you can see her here.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Time for the Actual One

I had to google, 'Time for the Actual One', to see if it was from some children's cartoon, or whether my kids had just made it up. It seems the latter. Still, I find myself saying it back to them - we all use a American 'movie trailer' accent to deliver it, and it feels strangely soothing and grounding. Try it. Time for the Actual One.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Collected Stories

My Dad is having a book launch / house party for his Collected Stories tomorrow night. I remember when he was an English teacher in a tweed jacket, who occasionally wore red satin-y shorts to play teachers versus pupils basketball in the school gym (sorry, dad). I'm proud of his work ethic and all-round perseverance. Go, Barney.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Lost Window

The two workmen both take two sugars in their tea. The younger one smells fresh, like some kind of man deodorant. The older one coughs, and sighs intermittently. Our front door and windows are open, and the air inside the house smells of industrial adhesive.
 
Earlier the older one dropped a lap-top sized window and it smashed through the gutter outside and landed in the wet bark chippings of the front garden. It looks lost, out of context, like a lone robot eye, squinting at the sky.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mother of Intention

If not the mother of invention, let me at least aim for intention. For the list of things I intend to do is so long and varied, it  taunts me and I have to argue back, just like the kids, with their, 'but, but, buts.'
 
I want to read more, watch more, walk more, learn more, create more, dance more, see more people. But first, I am a mother. Oh, yeah, mustn't forget, I (we) have created a couple of human beings and we're still putting in the graft. Hourly.
 
Another mother in the playground admitted she was, 'so lacking in ambition' and, once again, I thought: Hold on! Society only defines it that way. We are deeply ambitious that our kids get the best upbringing possible, by being there for their every need. By doing all the invisible stuff they are not aware of, but they'd miss it if we didn't, or if we left them in after-school clubs all week.
 
So, yes, I still hope to do so much more. And I will, when the planets are in the right orbit. Meanwhile,  did I start a novel in the last half hour? Eh, no. After weeks of intending to, I managed to  make an online purchase of two universal cooker hood filters with grease saturation indicators. Of course you wanted to know that. I bet all the best novelists have a) no kids or b) a nanny, and perhaps, c) oven hoods dripping with grease.



Thursday, November 07, 2013

A Modern Prob

Have you noticed how frequently people say, 'No problem', when the question of a problem hasn't necessarily be raised? A man came to measure our kitchen. I said, I'll get your coffee. He said, no problem. I was at the till in the supermarket. I said, I'll get my purse (fumbles in bag full of crushed tissues and half-eaten bananas). No Probs, said the checkout boy. Houston, we have a prob. Just Don't tell Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Katie Morag on CBeebies..,

..is definitely my new favourite children's show. Great to see a  central female character who is just like-able and human and not defined by the usual 'pink princess' nonsense. See? It wasn't that hard, people. Watch a clip here.

 
It made me so nostalgic for the freedom of youth I had on Islay. Such a rare and precious thing.
 
-C

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A Cake-a-holic goes Cold Turkey and is Surprised

 

 
I haven't mentioned my dabbles with Low GI or Low GL eating. It stands for Glycemic Index or Glycemic Load, and refers to how fast sugar in any given food is converted to glucose in your blood stream. You may know this already.

 
 
I started aiming to eat low GI foods, not to lose weight, but because, for a few years, I have felt like a slave to sweet things. I was getting bored of needing cake several times a day. I got so crave-y and hungry. I spent weeks, months, summoning up the will power to cut back on sugar, thinking that when I did, my life would become a grey wilderness of pining. The cake section in M&S would feel like an illicit crack den.
 
And the most surprising thing is: I can eat low GI for 5 days a week and enjoy it. I'm at the stage of  'treating' myself at the weekends and deciding to eat anything I want, and okay, there is exhilaration and freedom in that.
 
But after your typical weekend of kids' parties - pizza, chips, pirate-ship cakes.., it feels like a relief to go puritan again on the Monday. Rye bread, soups, peanut butter, fruit. Slow stuff. Like putting a big log on the fire instead of trying to keep it going with newspaper: flaring high and leaving me wanting more.
 
My slow and steady enthusiasm for low GI  may be boring my friends. It's only been a few weeks, but I'm hoping I can walk the walk..,quietly chomping on an oatcake.
 
-C
 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A story inThe Scotsman

Thank you to The Scotsman newspaper for publishing my short story.  It's called Yours to Enjoy and it's about an exchange visit student who comes to stay in Scotland with an older, childless couple.

-C

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween

Oh, I appear to be dressed up as a middle-aged mum, addicted to comfort-over-style. Frightening, I think you'll agree.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stay at Home Mothers

It looks like Laura Perrins is becoming a great supporting voice as she calls for  recognition of the true value of Stay-at-Home-Mothers to society.

Monday, October 21, 2013

PROJECT WILD THING


 
This looks right up my street - or countryside lane.
 
-C

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Children Growing

I love Tim Lott's column in the Guardian and agree with his philosophy. This week he suggests that telling children to 'cheer up,' when they are sad, is counter-productive. Instead, accept their feelings and give them the love and space to start cheering themselves up, in their own time.
 
I read another great quote in this article about trying to educate kids of dangers online. If they are curious, don't say, 'Ask me when you're older,' as they can Google everything anyway. I hope I can answer 'tricky' questions, as the kids grow up.
 
Yesterday, Hugh said, (apropos of nothing),

 'Why do baddies have all the money and power?'
Me: 'Who told you that?'
Him: 'You did.'

Oh.

-C

Friday, October 18, 2013

Scary or Beautiful: The Only Choice

I saw Superman logo thermals in M&S and naively thought I could kill two birds with one stone: winter warmth and Hugh's Halloween costume.

'No!' he protested, as if I knew nothing about anything. 'You have to be scary or beautiful; that's the only choice.'

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Wolfing About

Hugh came home from school and told me the Common Wolf Games were coming to Glasgow.





Monday, October 07, 2013

Sunshine on Leith

Loved it, loved it, loved it. Wanted to be it.
 



-C

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Glasgow Grapes

Ok, so they are barely the size of blueberries, but they taste sweet (yet tart?) and I grew them in my Glasgow garden. I hope you are grapeful.

-C

Friday, September 27, 2013

Logical, if untrue.

September weekend is here and I took the kids to a story-telling session at The Tall Ship. The story-teller girl asked, 'What is special about a cargo ship?' Hugh said, 'it goes like a car.'
 
-C
 

photo by Rob Lightbody
 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I dream about the world of work

It's been a while. Autumn is getting underway - the season for 'wanting to get things done', with crisp, leafy mornings redolent of University learning and idealist purpose.

And now that my children are at a) school and b) playgroup, I have a few precious hours to myself each week. I am attempting to rattle through miscellaneous tasks: painting the dining room, getting my hair 'done', volunteering to laminate things in the school office.
 
And through it all, I'm dreaming about the possibility of 'real' working. Of course I've worked every hour with the children for nearly 5 years, but the idea of a new role and job, rewarded with pocket money and outwardly acknowledged status has a  magnetic appeal.
 
Where do I start? What could I do? I shall think on.
 
My first ever job was as a Saturday shop assistant in the only clothes shop on Islay. I didn't want to ask customers, 'May I help you?' in case I was harassing them. I mean, really, a fourteen year old, in a Lopi jumper and a Princess Diana haircut. Harassed, you say?
 
-C x


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From Glasgow to Saturn

 
I have 3 poems published in this online literary magazine. I confess, I thought it was going to be a book I held in my hand (call me old-fashioned) but, still, it is a few clicks away to those who wish to seek it out here. http://glasgowtosaturn.com/latest-issue/download/

Saturday, July 13, 2013

T in the Park, Rites of Passage, and Planet of the Apes

Today I got my hair 'done' and felt old because the hairdresser girl was so young she didn't get most of my jokes and just gave nervous giggles. When she smeared the brown colour too far onto my hairline/forehead I said I looked like I was from Planet of the Apes. Hesitation followed by nervous giggle. Then we talked about T in he park and I said it was like a Rite of Passage for Scottish teenagers now. Hesitation followed by blank nod. Dabbing of more gloop on my head.
 
I'm watching T in the Park footage now and it's quite touching how the audience get off on the communality of it all. Bikini-top girls, (high on boys' shoulders) beam and wave, look at us, look at the fun we're having and how together we are. Hey, world! This is Scotland. We know how to do friendly, mental dancin'. It's our thing. Check it out.
 
-C

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Trip to the Seaside



I really miss my beloved Islay when the sun splits the sky. But Troon beach was blissful today too. You wait all winter for days like this and then feel yourself unfold like a flower, petal by petal.

-C

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mouths that go peck...

I love the randomness of chat between my children. We were sitting in a garden centre cafĂ©, this afternoon.

Hugh (4): 'Mum, why does everyone have noses?'

Tess (3): 'Well, Hugh..., chickens don't have noses, (righteous glint in her eye) they just have mouths that go peck, peck, peck.'

I managed to make colouring-in a caterpillar picture last 25 minutes. Enough to get the full relaxation of an unrushed latte. Progress, undoubtedly.

-C

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Middle Age?

So,  after nearly five years of glorious wellness, it is strange to be dealing with a new diagnosis. When I turned 45 in January, my back started 'acting up' and was  sore every night. It still is. The good old NHS gave me an MRI scan and, in short, the consultant told me I have early stage Osteoarthritis.
 
I learned more about the illness from a hospital leaflet than I did from the doctor himself. A friend who is a nurse said firmly, 'it won't get any better. You'll have to manage it.' We were at the playgroup social night out and it seemed more fitting to move on to another topic of chat and concentrate on just how compulsive the Tiramisu and Summer Fruit puddings were.
 
That's kind of where I'm at. I don't really want to think about it. I might try some chiropractor stuff and some more Pilates. Fish oils.
 
Normal life is still good. Summer is always my favourite time of year. The garden keeps surprising. I must take some photos. Our children are blooming too. Hugh goes to school after summer. A whole new chapter.
 
-C
 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Back again and back issues

Hello, it's strange being back here. I usually try to forget that I have a blog because I don't update it.

So, where were we? Well, the kids are 4 and nearly-3. For the most part life is still good. But my back? What is going on?

For weeks now, I 've been waking up in the night to lower/middle back pain that feels as if there's a lump of coal hurting in my spine. My GP has run a few blood tests and found evidence of inflammation (raised ESR) and is exploring the possibility that it could be the beginnings of arthritis or spondylitis.

Jesus. I bloody hope not. What will become of my general bonhomie and borderline smugness at having turned my life around after 20 years of a previous chronic illness? What of my unscientific, 'gut' feeling that mind/body medicine probably has most of the answers, if we just knew how to unearth them?

I don't know. My 'Nice Man' (still here too) says, 'wait and see,' and, 'don't get ahead of yourself'.

Tomorrow I'm back at the doctor. We shall see.

-C