Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas 2014

The terrible tragedy in George Square yesterday makes us hold each other more dearly. This is a short poem I wrote about my son's Nativity, a week ago.

Primary Two Nativity  

When my son needs encouraged again
to go to school, I mention the play.
He says he is tired of singing
and tired of dinging 

but when I see the row
of tea-toweled shepherds
holding triangles high
I scan for him, lost without his blonde hair 

and in the micro seconds it takes
to recognise his face (there!)
my throat catches and I am falling again,
comet-like, whooshing with love
and he might as well be Jesus,
born anew to me each day.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tantrums in 6 year olds - how to play it?

As the children grow, I enjoy that they are more open to reason and the days of irrational strops are over. And then, one of them blindsides me with a nuclear tantrum and I am left questioning whether I do, in fact, meet the essential criteria for being a parent.

Yesterday, Hugh and I had a fight over 'the wrong apricot'. It became a nerve-jangling battle of wills. I stuck to the received mantra of,  don't back down, you can never back down, you will look weak, they will win and behave abominably, whenever they feel like it.

We were locked down in a stalemate of misery, much like most of world politics. He wailed and screamed and sobbed because I stopped him grabbing a 'different' dried apricot from the tub, while shoving back one he had already pawed (with playground hands). He had several on his plate, plus other after-school snacks.

I tried to stick to plan A and put the apricot tub in a high cupboard. Did I have any idea this would lead to an hour of white rage? 'Course not. But half an hour in, I couldn't lose ground, could I?! Super Nanny and orthodox wisdom were yelling, 'hold firm, woman!'

Yet he was distraught - refusing to eat anything, sobbing on the floor. Crying. Kicking. In and out of The Naughty Porch.  I offered stop-gap compromises (cashews or pistachios?). So West End. But he was locked in to his position, almost helpless, exhausted after school. My own nerves were jangled and I was desperate to help him, without 'giving in' to 'bad' behavior.

So, next time - for there will be one - I wondered about unilateral disarmament. Saying, okay, I know you are doing an expert Horrid Henry impersonation, but I'll give you one chance. IF I let you swap apricots, then you must start to behave. Because behave-and-*then*-we-will-consider- apricot-swapping was failing spectacularly.
It reminded me of the years when I shared a room with my sister. I was always the one who got out of bed to turn out 'the big light' after reading. One night I refused, and asked her to do it. She's not a Taurean for nothing. An hour later, I stumbled over to the light switch, defeated, crying. We laugh at it now.

A battle-of -wills eats up time. Maybe I'll try allowing the 'right' apricots and then set up some other part 2 sanction. If you don't behave post-apricot swap, I swear I will..., have to think of something. Dear readers, I will let you know.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Love Letter to Your Local Library via The Scottish Book Trust

Dear Hillhead Library,

The Scottish Book Trust may have prompted my letter of appreciation to you, and they are right to do so - like a good parent reminding a child to say please and thank you.

I do thank you, Hillhead Library for all that you give. You are the big, rectangular heart of Byres Road. I feel an instant physical relief when I  sweep through your automatic doors into the vault of books and quiet people and 70’s geometric carpet. Ah, the warm community air, the space to think and explore. An egalitarian place, free of commercial exploitation. What a rare and precious thing.

Books are free to read for those who can’t afford them. They can be requested, ordered, or just browsed. What a liberating and reassuring feeling this is. Indeed, what a relief.

And your staff are friendly and helpful. The ‘man with the curly hair’ is a true librarian. Nothing is too much trouble and he has time for the children and is patient when books are renewed until we find them again at the bottom of a toy box.

When I attended the excellent, ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ with my baby son, it became the social highlight of the week, (new mum-pals all going for coffee and chat afterwards). As we sat in the library singing, ‘If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands’, I clapped my son's chubby hands together and, yes, I was happy to the point of tears.

Hillhead Library, let us cherish you, celebrate you and, -most of all - never forget your true value to society.

Yours Sincerely,  

Ciara MacLaverty.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The unimaginable suffering of Ebola

I usually try to keep this blog 'light', but I have to write at my slow horror at the Ebola tragedy unfolding in the news. It is more uniquely awful than  anything I have seen. I almost feel there should be no other news until we get serious, world-wide help for this. I don't know what else to say or do, but I will donate some money here. I am in awe of the people who risk their lives by volunteering to help.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Teachers DO change lives

Recently, I was doing some classroom volunteering in a new school, and one of the teachers in the staff room said to me, 'just don't go into teaching thinking you'll change lives.' I didn't feel it was my place to argue with her, so I kept quiet.
Tonight I went to a maths workshop for parents of P1-P3's in Hugh's school, initially thinking, maths schmaths; how can I just 'get by' until he turns into an adult and uses a calculator like the rest of us?
Yet his teacher was so inspiring, she made me want to relearn maths all over again - which was some feat, considering I had to be dragged by the hair through quadratic equations the first time.
But how things are taught is almost as important as what is taught, and she had me enthused and believing that there's probably an innate poetry to maths, if I  can just find it. It was nearly all Brian Cox - Maths can be beautiful too.
And on my walk home, I thought how lucky my boy is to have a great teacher and I thought of how I loved some of my teachers in Islay High School. Yes, Mr. Warren, we were in awe of you and your casual, almost nonchalant, dispersing of Shakespeare, the way you sat on your desk with your floppy hair (and Converse basketball sneakers?); your effortless command of the class.
French and German from Miss Cuthbert, who was always up, positive and shiny with a new outfit each day (how was that even possible?). A poster of Schloss Neuschwanstein on the wall! Oh, the possibilities. She offered us a packet of Smarties to the first person who could spontaneously use the German word, 'doch!' in the correct context. No one ever won one it. Doch! That's me winning it now. It's only taken a few decades to sink in, but hey, it's better than Smarties.
Good teachers, man. Let them rule the world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

And this is what I mean...

Only a few days after the referendum, and it looks like Britain is creeping towards a war with ISIS in Syria. Now 'we', in Scotland, will be joining in, by default.

The three things I had wanted most from the Yes vote were

1) No nuclear weapons and a movement towards being a pacifist country. The day Tony Blair bombed Iraq without a second UN resolution was the day I lost all faith. I wanted Scotland to have no part of this kind of war-mongering. When will they understand that modern wars are never won? Peace only follows dialogue, not bombs.

2) I wanted the NHS to be free from the threat of the new TTIP bill. No chance now. Most people haven't even heard of TTIP. Here's a short but important explanation.

3) Green, green, and more green. I want Scotland to invest in renewables and take the lead in Green policies. The least I can do now is join the Green party.

Anyway, it feels like 'business as usual' with a deep frustration that 'we' may be headed to war again, dropping bombs in the middle east, encouraging generations of radicals to join up and try to bomb us back.

Am I the only one who thinks this is near insanity?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Yes and No and thoughts of bitter-sweetness

When I told you of my journey from No to Yes, I wanted to add that I am still a Nervous, Hopeful Yes, and nowhere near being a Triumphal, Tribal Yes.

Already, I am feeling for the losers. If this is as close as the polls suggest, then somebody's going to walk off the pitch, feeling like they just lost the World Cup on a penalty shoot out; times a million, for the rest of their life.
An old  friend got in touch on Facebook and told me she'd be so sad at 'breaking up with England' that her family would move away from Scotland, 'eventually.' It's sad to think that either side can feel so bereft.
I know Yes-ers who would react with self-righteous mockery to that, but I can really imagine the No's will indeed feel such isolated, lonely frustration if Yes wins; ironically, just the feeling that led Yes to fight for independence in the first place.
Ah, well, life is a series of see-saws and roundabouts; snakes and ladders and whatever other clichés you wish to dig out. The best we can do is to keep true to wer'sels and civil to each other. Golly, it's hotting up.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Yes, then.

Yes, I have been coy; lurking without mentioning the big debate, the huge debate. Our wee country working itself into a frenzy. In a good way.
The reasons for my silence on the topic were many. I did not want to tell others what they should vote. I was unsure myself. I did not want to offend the English or England. (I love the BBC!) I did not want to get into spats and fights.
Two years ago, I started out as a  NO. I thought Scottish independence would be claustrophobic and parochial, like watching wall-to-wall Reporting Scotland (sorry Jackie Bird). I didn't want to 'divorce' England. I was afraid of making a mistake.
But the YES campaign have buoyed me, swept me along, made me feel like maybe I could go white-water rafting after all.
This is not about 'divorce.' It's about localising government and making it more accountable. It's about the Scots rejecting a UK economy where big business has started to rule everything and profit is the only measure of success. All-out capitalism is so uncaring.
We want a different kind of society that is more community-led. We don't want Trident or more eco-vandalism. We want renewables and thinking differently. Free education. We want to define ourselves. Even if we make mistakes, even if it costs us in the short term, even if you don't like Alex Salmond, we'll find a way in the long term. Our way.
If you are swithering, read this blog from the Guardian from George Monbiot. It's a belter.
"Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice."

People of Scotland, may the force be with us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Actually not cooked sand

Years ago, I was a food critic for The List magazine and we were told to 'avoid clichés like the plague' (really). We had to shun common, dull words like 'tasty' and 'delicious.'

Yesterday, I was eating Ryvita crackers and Tess came in to have a bite. 'Mama?', she asked (for she has taken to calling me 'Mama', like a posh child); 'Are these crackers actually cooked sand?'
I loved that: she captured the texture in a nutshell. Oops, I'm mixing up the foodie metaphors, all over the shop.

Friday, July 25, 2014

'The Man' and why he should apologise to children more often

Parents everywhere, I'm sure you too have used The Man as leverage. Don't play on the escalators, or 'the man' will give you a row.  Say, 'Thank you,' to The Man. Sometimes The Lady but mostly, The Man.
Today, The Man got himself involved; dove right in, you could say, and managed to set off a classic parent-child Stress-Fest. Only later at home, when I got a minute's head space,  did I think, wait a minute....where is my true loyalty?
I was  returning, with Hugh and Tess, from a heat-soaked day at Troon beach. We were all stuffed on to a mobbed (Commonwealth-Games) platform at Central Station. The Man, a Games spectator from England, started making small talk with me, which was fine, until, he noticed, before I did, that wee Hugh had found a half empty can of some souped-up energy drink and was bringing his nose to the ring pull.
OI, OI, OI !  shouted The Man, in a tone, useful only for thugs snatching a pensioner's handbag. Poor Hugh nearly cacked himself, stunned to be yelled at, by a stranger.
'The man was only trying to stop you getting germs', I started in  soothing tones, hoping that the man would rush in with similar apology, but the man showed manly restraint. I even think Hugh muttered something, near tears,  about, 'only trying to sniff it.' (Forgive a 5 year old for showing our oldest evolutionary instinct in the relentless 'temptation' marketing from fizzy soft drinks).
Anyway, The Man just kept on with the small talk - something about driving his wife to Milngavie and getting lost - and I could see poor Hugh was not going to recover his composure and started to act out and pinch me. The man tried to make amends by carrying my awkward beach bags (wet towels, toy monkey, crusts of warm egg sandwich) on to the train, and by this stage, Hugh could hardly bear it.
His mother was running away with the berk who'd wronged him and shamed him. He started to really misbehave - arching his back like a toddler, hissing, scowling, with the odd suppressed punch to my arm. And still, I didn't get it. I was more concerned with politeness to The Man. Trying to make The Man feel better. Duh, he was just The  FRIGGIN Man, not my wee boy who needed someone, ideally me, to defend him.
So, here's what I will do differently, if I'm braver next time. I'm paraphrasing, but the proper version is something like this:
Man, oh Man.., I know you're trying to help, but my child didn't mean any harm, and he's hungry and spent after a happy day, and you scared the bejesus out of him, so if you could possibly find a wee apology for him, it would go a long way.
 Don't try and continue the chat with him regardless. When adults feel wrongly accused, they can't bear small talk from the perpetrator, as if nothing has happened!? Kids have an even keener and more desperate sense of justice. Throw him a bone. Say, 'Sorry I frightened you. I didn't mean to'. And, thanks, but there's no need to give them sweets. A toothy smile will do.
Now that harmony has been restored, and my journey home made less of an all-round discomfort, I'll tolerate your boring saga about losing your way and your wife on the way to Milngavie. Or was it Bearsden?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Talent and Teeth

I have just started Donna Tartt's massive Goldfinch and, already I must gasp at her talent. Having never been in an explosion, her searing and vivid description of a bomb's aftermath (early in the book), made me feel able to imagine the visceral horror, more than even TV news has ever done. How does she do it? Darkly compelling.
Lightly compelling (see what I did?) was my amusement earlier, when driving with Tess (4). Harden my Heart, from 1982 came on the radio and the woman sang in her gorgeous, sexy voice about how she was going to harden her heart and swallow her tears. 'Why is she singing about swallowing her teeth?' Tess asked.
Nothing I love better, than driving with my wee girl, to a nostalgic 80's beat, and just starting to hint to her about the delicious mysteries of love and life ahead.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Aliens, Screaming and Private versus Public Sugar

photo - 25g of sugar: recommended limit for adults.
'In space, no one can hear you scream.' As a Wannabe Sugar-Avoider (WAS) mum in the play-date world, I suspect no one wants to hear you scream. I'll admit it, I'm feeling lonely and out on a limb.
The photo above is 25 grams of sugar. This is the daily limit that the World Health Organization recommends *for adults*. Adults. So, do the maths for kids. You can see there's barely enough here to make a biscuit (pauses to scream).
For months now, I've been trying to cut back on sugar (not calories) and eat low GI/GL foods in the house, filling myself with 'slow-burn' food. Naturally, I've tried to take the kids with me. I've learned to bake biscuits that are mostly oats, butter, bananas, raisins and a splash of honey, as surely, these are better for them than a shop-bought Hob Nob. After school, I give them nuts and apples and milk.
But we don't live in isolation, and everywhere we go, the world is fuelled by lavish, 'treat-y', fast, carbohydrates that spike blood sugar like a 'hit'. They are the social currency of the mums' world, and play-date land. People offer your kids treats all the time, often directly, to the kids. So if you blurt out a 'no', you risk offending the host and giving your child food anxieties. D'oh.
And, there is no easy way off the train. Our kids will ask for their birthday parties and how can I possibly throw one with just fruit and oatcakes? Mea Culpa; I have complied like the others. Ah, but parties are rare, you say. No. At this age, they get party invites every other weekend, and why shouldn't they have fun? Can we just find a way to do it without involving about 8 or 10 of those egg cups full of sugar? Ten times an adults daily amount, before the sweet-filled party bags? Just about every childhood celebration is based around sugar: Easter, Halloween, Christmas...
And in all of this, I wonder how I'm ever going to keep the kids within healthful recommendations. That's all I'm trying to do! Yes, the argument rages in my head. I feel like a Nay-Sayer, a Debbie-Downer, a Party-Pooper, and yet all I want is to follow health advice from the WHO and prevent myself and my family from ending up with type 2 diabetes or worse, further down the road.
But I can see that it's going to take a revolution on a much bigger scale. Right now, I can do private no-sugar but I'm flailing with  public no-sugar, involving friends and kids. Is there any advice from Action on Sugar for  this?
I still feel like Sigourney Weaver, floating alone in her space ship, trying to save the Universe, fuelled inadvertently by doughnuts and glucose-fructose syrup.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Knocking down walls / Author turned plumber

Tonight the hot tap in our kitchen sink got stuck in full, drumming flow - the handle clicking uselessly as I turned it frantically. I managed to find the mains and turn off the water supply, phew, and then I phoned my parents, for their brief consolation, which was £80 cheaper than a plumber.
My Dad is an author, and we are the kind of family who can't put up shelves, do grouting or fix taps. (Occasionally, when we were kids, we wished our mum was a hairdresser, and our dad a builder: careers with practical application and bonus results. Loft extensions and 80's perms aplenty).
And so, I was touched when my Dad turned up promptly with his M&S shopping bag, clicking with assorted spanners and washers. He managed to take the tap apart and - thread some thread around the thread, making it work again, at least until we can summon up the 'chore energy' required to hurl ourselves through the automatic doors of B&Q towards the tap section.
This should temporarily distract me from my wall dilemma. As I say, we have never been a knocking-down-wall kind of family. We wouldn't dare. Mind you, the wall between our small, (can I say tiny?) kitchen and adjacent dining room had a cheek ever going up in the first place. It was probably built in the days when wives were referred to as, 'Her indoors'. None of your egalitarian Ikea family space back then.
To fight back I'll need building control, a steel beam and a suitcase of dosh, but most of all, I need to change decades of DNA to become a knocking-down-wall kind of family.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Older photos and a 'volunteering face'

My computer photo storage is so random that one of these photos was entitled, 'mushrooms in the garden.'  Of course it's me with the kids in the early days. Oh, the chubby cheek years. I fear my laptop will grind to a halt and I will lose most of my photos in the digital ether. I have some on Flickr although I'm close to my free limit.
Yesterday, a woman asked me to help in the school garden because she said I had, 'a volunteering face.' I told her I was committed to volunteering 3 times this week - in the school office, then at my girl's playgroup, then another local school. She let me off the garden.
I'm doing volunteering in schools, as I am mulling over the idea of teacher training in future. It's amazing how many people try and put you off - or just give a sharp intake of breath. Oh well. 'We'll see..,' as my dad always used to say.

So that's the reason my blog has been quiet again. My volunteering visage. And a general sense of  'float-y' contentment. May and June:  the months of longer days and aspirant plans.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Having babies close together

If any readers have one baby..., and are swithering about when to try for a second, feel free to listen here - 7 minutes into the Fred McAulay show (available one week only) as I talk on Radio Scotland about the joys of having two in relatively quick succession.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Voting for Stay at Home Mothering

I was at the GoMA museum with the kids when Radio Scotland phoned me to ask if I'd take part in a radio discussion on Stay at Home Mothering and Working Mothers.
Pause for initial slight angst as I don't want to be locked in some battle of judgments of working mums. Eh, let me think. Then, irony, I had to say I couldn't do it, as I am scheduled to do a training morning for a forthcoming  short-term, yet very welcome, health data collection job. (Francis, the kids' dad will look after them).
A while afterwards, I realised I had got my days muddled and I was free, but I think it's a sign of my commitment to the weans that I was unable to phone the show back, because I can't get online on my phone and had no number for them. Activating phone surfing is the kind of thing working people do all the time, but after repeated technical hitches, I waved the white flag and realized that the only proper time for casual internet-ting was when the kids are in bed. Like now.
With young kids, smart phones just stop the flow of interaction and I prefer to limit the phone-picking as much as possible. Thanks to that and the rare sunshine, we had ourselves a beautiful day.
I love the intimacy that builds with just hanging out with them: having a packed lunch in Princess Square; negotiating the station and hopping on a train home. Dandering to the park, answering their random, surreal questions (Is a hedgehog a kind of squirrel?) Being there for their every up and down. Hugging them every time they cry.
People ask if SAHM's get bored, and yes, there is that aspect on dreich indoor days, but days like today? Just a joy.
I understand and accept staying at home is not for everyone. But I do wish the government would stop penalizing single earner families and realise, that by raising the next generation with round the clock active devotion, we are doing an underestimated and undervalued good.
We are giving our all to prevent them becoming criminals and general corporate meanies. We are helping them grow towards being kind and compassionate adults who will want to parent their kids as best they can. Pious? Obvious? Maybe. But why do I feel I have to say it?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Lessons from Easter Football Camp

Hugh (5) came home from football camp with the demeanour of a child who subsequently needed to go to boxing camp. I got it out of him that he was sore about 'losing' and tried to give him the, 'only a game' speech.

He then went upstairs, 'to write a song' and it came back as such:

I lik wen I win
but it disn't matr
if I don't win
it is fun to win
but it is good
to let iver peepl win
so evrywun
can selabriat.

Tess (4) played the shaker as percussion. Premier League, here we come.

Rusty the Squirrel's Disco

How could you have missed it?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The science is catching up

Here is another rallying call to Big Business to protect children's health by cutting sugars in our foods.

Yes, I know it's my current favourite 'issue', and I think it has become so, because, in general, people look at health lobbyists like myself as if we're being a bit humourless and taking it too far.

The science is catching up. If 'treating' ourselves with sweet things on a daily basis, several times a day, is going to lead us to all sorts of unhealthy scenarios, then we've go to find another path.

Right. After my usual 'carby' free-fall of a weekend, I will return to porridge, eggs and homemade soup tomorrow. Will the flavour of righteousness suffice?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Eeny Meeny Miny Moe - don't kid yourself, we always know

I paint myself as an indecisive person sometimes, but deep down, I know we always know which path to take. I see it when the kids hover over choices with their eeny meeny miny mo rhyme.

Be it toys, biscuits, clothes or whatever, they start methodically, and, if the final mo is going to fall randomly, they make sure it wobbles at the last second, and they'll point to the one they really want.

Ah, Saturday evening, you are still young.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Even the government says sugar, 'could be addictive'.

I knew it! So grows the emerging feeling within me, that I have been eating far too much sugar, just like everybody else. And it takes so much work to avoid it.

I used to be relieved that I could easily live without alcohol - I'd barely miss it - and cigarettes were never a temptation, but I can safely say, I'm the sugar/biscuit/cake equivalent of a junkie.

These past few months of sporadic attempts to cut down, have felt like standing at base camp Everest, looking up.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What could be more important?

Readers, I do have regular Art versus Life dilemmas. I enjoyed my weekly poetry class, and then it was cancelled due to lack of numbers. I find it very hard to write without a deadline or a metaphorical stick. My father (a writer) used to suggest that I write a novel. Blimey, my massage lady, Wee Paula, tells me to, 'get that book written.' She claims to have clairvoyant powers, but, hey...
What's stopping me? Answer: Being as happy as a pig in mud (to use an un-writer-ly cliché). Being there for the kids feels like the truest calling I ever had. I ask myself, what could be more important? Sure, art is crucially important. It helps better us and elevate us and I love the high of a good song/film/poem/story/novel. I love feeling I have created something that moves others - a poem or a story.
But, let's face it, my main creativity is helping the children grow safely and happily. This should not been seen as lesser. I am enjoying a new volunteer role as a classroom assistant in a local primary school. This too, feels right and it feels important in a way that is often underrated. But it feels important to me, and this is where the sustenance lies. I'd love to get a job like this, one day.
Perhaps I will come back to writing sooner or later. Umm, later or sooner, I want to say, to give me hope it will be sooner.
Still, I love being the big cushion for the weans and the one who will teach them to tie their shoe laces. Such industry allows me to be the one who watches The Simpsons with them, when the  comfortable tiredness of evening comes calling. Peace on earth, man.


Monday, February 24, 2014

That's touring, hen...

I took a trip to Manchester with Francis, when he went to see Laura Cantrell sing. 'You do really cool things,' said a friend. I thought it would be an exciting getaway: say, pre-gig dinner in a cool urban eatery...a sparkling gig, then a funky hotel with snowy towels and sheets?

Yes, kind of. And what about: motorway service stations, Sat Nav insanity, cold, smelly dressing rooms in the student union, four hours sleep with toga-wearing hen parties yelling for their f-ing pizzas at 4am?

'That's touring, hen', said Francis. He's right. I wouldn't last five minutes.

Turn off Sat Nav and drive directly to Comfort Zone. Know your strengths and stay there, she tells herself , next morning, as she notes her wrinkles in the mirror.

Lovely Laura, meanwhile, gave it everything and the crowd lapped it up.

It was great to see the kids again, when we came home.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Crying Fowl

I should really brush up on my spelling before tackling local dog owners. The more educated canine might think, okay, so I can't chase any chickens here now, but I can still use the pavement as a toilet.

Yes, I am really angry about the endless dog poo in our area. I phoned a community dog poo lady from the council - although that may not be her official title. She did her best by asking 'community officers' to patrol the area, but she said the legislation was woeful. I'd like to see a new, 'stop and search' campaign. If the dog owners can't produce a plastic bag, then the police should take down their address and give them a verbal warning.
It's vile and disgusting and bacteria therein can lead to kids going blind. Really. It makes most people really angry. How can we pool our collective wrath and close in on the offenders?
More chalk and correct spelling might be a start.

Friday, January 31, 2014

What is it with our hospitality industry?

Though I love Scotland, I have grown weary of the oft-encountered, poor customer service.

I am toying with the idea of booking a 2 night, February break in a hotel 'resort,' an hour's drive away. There are 'luxury' lodges and a hotel swimming pool, pine trees and lochs.

I am hesitant, because it feels like a possible indulgence and the weather could be dreich. Still, I phone the (4 star) resort, looking for some encouragement.

-Hello, I am thinking of booking a break with you soon and I wondered if there are any children's activities running?

Woman: (flat-voiced) I have absolutely no idea.

Me: Well, how would I find out? Should I phone back?

Her: (irritation suddenly rising to match mine) Well, it would help if I actually knew which weekend you were coming?

Me: Not this weekend, but next.

Her: Well I don't know. The activities are only planned week to week. But usually, only if the schools are off. So, usually not.
If you phone back next Friday, I can ask the leisure team, but there's been nothing on at all this week....

Me: Okay, thanks. I'll think about it. (Hangs upBlogs in frustration about it).

How different it could have been! Even if there are no kid's activities on out of season, she could have sold it to me with warmth and welcoming. 'Kids always love it here. There are great walks and a play area. It's very family friendly,' etc.

When I do get good customer service in Scotland, or anywhere, I make sure to lob liberal smiles and 'thank yous' at them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Avoiding the Expectation Management chat with a five year old

It was Hugh's buoyant certainty that made my heart pang; the certainty that all the local children would read the above poster (barely legible in the photo): Hugh's poster. Come to Hugh's house if you want to come to the treasure (hunt). Don't be late.
He thought they would come streaming, in joyous droves and he would be the Great Gatsby of our postal code, handing out wrapped-up treasure, glowing with the joy of giving. He didn't say this, of course, but it was there in the subtext.
I couldn't bear to tell him otherwise, so I texted 'Daddy' to make a fuss of the clues. Somehow, the fact that daddy was on his way home anyway, was subsumed by the fact that Hugh's poster had called him from afar, beckoning with promise. Alchemy in itself.

Monday, January 27, 2014

If I've done one useful thing today...

...it has been to sign a petition in the No More Page 3 campaign. I never buy the tabloids, but when I take Hugh (now five) to get his hair cut in the barbers, I always forget about page 3.
I pick up a paper and start to flick it open....and then quickly shut, newly annoyed that the objectification and exploitation of women is so everyday. It's not the nudity; they could look at National Geographic or the step-by-step breast feeding photos in my Mother and Baby guide - but the meat-market approach of page 3. It's grim and I shall gladly click on the petition to ban it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Girls and their advance planning

Our wee girl, Tess, came back from playgroup and told me that there was a new boy there and she was, 'falling in love with him'. 
I asked her what made her fall in love and she said, 'hmm, (embarrassed laugh), his hair and his eyes and his teeth'.

It'll be no different at age 14, I thought.

Meanwhile, he's still 2 feet high. She said, 'I didn't tell him I was falling in love with him and I might want to marry him. That could be a wee surprise for him.'


Friday, January 17, 2014

Festival highs

Good luck to my old friend, Stuart, whose first feature film, God Help the Girl, is debuting at Sundance Film Festival.  I'm sure it's thrilling to be there, in the mountain air. Even rolling the name, 'Sundance' across my tongue is enough for me.
Last night, Francis and I went to the opening night of another great festival, Celtic Connections. The musicians appear effortlessly talented and convey such a feeling of inclusive magic - as if you've just stumbled into the best party in town, their party, and they're going to let you stay. They'll transport you and ravish you (sort of) and leave you walking out lighter. Brilliant.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Child's play

Wow. I agree with every word of this important article about why free play is crucial to the development of young kids, and how society is slowly but surely reducing opportunities for it to thrive.

'The most fundamental social skill is the ability to get into other people’s minds, to see the world from their point of view. Without that, you can’t have a happy marriage, or good friends, or co-operative work partners. Children practise that skill continuously in their social play.'

Roll on Spring and a childhood revolution.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The risks of excess sugar...

were featured widely in the news today. I liked this quote -

Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, Canada, Yoni Freedhoff; “Not only has added sugar found its way into virtually everything we eat, but worse still, the use of sugar as a means to pacify, entertain and reward children has become normalized to the point that questioning our current sugary status quo often inspires anger and outrage.
“We need to re-relegate sugar to the role of occasional treat rather than its current role of everyday, anytime, crutch”.

Hmm. Will I be deeply unpopular if I only put out oatcakes, cheese and apple whilst hosting my next play date?