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 cliché 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 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.