Taking stock

>> Thursday, 12 September 2019

Well, hello.

I'd forgive you for thinking I'd hung up my blogging hat and disappeared for good - I have to admit, the thought had crossed my mind.  It's not that I've had nothing to say in the last ten months, you understand; more that I've had too much.  But here I am, again, picking up the reins and wondering if anyone out there will find time to read this.

A quick update; Boys #1 and #2 are now well into secondary school, getting taller, smarter and funnier (to Husband and I, at any rate) all the time.  Boy #1 has overtopped me by 3 inches already, and whilst Boy #2 isn't there yet, our feet are practically the same size.  There is, of course, no way I can even consider helping with maths or science homeworks for either of them.  Not without a great deal of humiliation for me or eye-rolling on their part, at any rate.

We're still living in the UK, Husband still travels for his job, and The Dog is still the only member of the family who's face ever makes it onto the internet.  Here he is, practicing looking noble and hoping that I will forget the fact he got me up twice in the night to take him outside so he could deal with the after-effects of eating something revolting on a walk yesterday. (No chance, sunshine).

As for me, amongst other things I've spent the last year writing, re-writing and then completely starting from scratch a novel which I am determined to finish one way or the other before Christmas.  (This, obviously, is why I am now blogging again.  Procrastination, much?)

Blogging for me is still likely to be theraputic, to make myself laugh, to self-edit the crap stuff, and to record memories, in the main, but it may also prove useful as the occasional soap box. - apologies for that.  

However (yes, I drew you in with the picture of the dog, didn't I?  You should have known that wasn't all there was too it), if you are reading, and I have got your attention, I would like to direct your attention to an article in today's Guardian regarding the disproportionate decline in the number of opportunities for women in the retail sector.  I would also like to suggest that the next time you go to the supermarket you think twice about picking up that hand-held terminal, and instead endure the additional five minutes or so it takes to queue at a checkout, and be served by a person.

Because honestly, is the time we might save by using the hand-held really worth somebody else's job?


Another snapshot

>> Thursday, 29 November 2018

It's been a while - but let's not dwell on that, eh?

Another snapshot from Life with Boys.  Boy #1 has been manfully fighting off a cold for the last couple of days.  This is the same cold his father succumbed to for a week.  When I say 'cold' it was of course more than that for Husband; it was a Man Cold. This required that he commandeer the only warm room in the house (the kitchen, obvs), so that despite his life-sapping illness he could continue work as best he could, from home.

In turn this required that everyone else vacate the kitchen (remember; the only warm room in the house) so that he could make calls, and do all the other Important Things that Couldn't Wait for him to recover. Needless to say, I was delighted when the cold lifted and the kitchen was no longer off limits.

Anyway, back to Boy #1. 

This morning, after a difficult night, he announced that he was too exhausted to go to school today.  Thinking back to Husband's illness last week I decided to go against normal practice - which is a) to check their temperature is normal and b) make sure they are not throwing up or the Other Thing and c) if both of the previous are fine, send them to school anyway - and let him stay home. Anything to avoid a teen with a Man Cold.

I know.  I am a soft touch.  Except, I haven't told you my dastardly plan yet.  It worked as follows:

Me:  'Ok, you can stay home....'

Boy #1: 'Thanks, Mum.'

Me:  'But!  I still want you to take a shower this morning, and then you can come down to breakfast with your pj's on. If you still feel rotten after that, you can go back to bed.'

Boy #1: 'OK.' (doing his best to look pale and wan).

After a healthy breakfast (Weetabix, scotch pancakes with maple syrup), Boy #1 started to make his way into the den, phone in hand.

Me: 'Where are you going?'

Boy #1:  'Into the den. To rest...'

Me:  'Oh, no.  If you're going to rest, you're going back to bed. All day.  And you're leaving your phone down here.'

An hour later, he reappeared.  'I've had a rest.'

Me: 'Great.  The tv's staying off though, and your phone is still off limits.  I recommend you go back to bed, really knock this thing on the head.'

Boy #1 paused.  'Ummm.  Actually, I think I'm ok to go to school.  If that's alright.'


Breaks and accidents

>> Tuesday, 18 September 2018

One of my current chores is dropping off and picking up the Boys - #1 & #2 - from school.  This is necessary because Boy #1 has a broken leg.  Boy #2 could walk, of course he could, but as any sensible parent of teens will tell you, if one of your children needs a lift somewhere there is No Way the other can countenance walking - even if Exercise Is A Good Thing, and that they would Really Benefit From A Little Fresh Air.

It's not so bad, really; after spending the summer holidays ferrying my older son around like a junior pasha, injured limb propped up on cushions across the back seat of the car, making the short trip to school twice a day doing the same thing does, in fact, seem like a bit of a break.  (Not an intentional use of that word, but it seems to fit so I'll stick with it...)

Ten days after the start of term, the boys threw open the car doors and climbed in, all mangled bags, crumpled blazers and monosyllabic grunts.  Boy #1, thankfully now not requiring the entire back seat, thumped onto the front next to me.


I glanced down to the floor, and saw that below the cast encasing his leg from knee to the ball of his foot, his big toe was wrapped in bandages.  Please, not again.

"Oh god.  What happened?  Is your leg alright?"

"My leg's fine.  I slipped, and cut the bottom of my toe."

"How on earth did you manage that?"

A long explanation followed.  Well - long for a fifteen year old, as I believe more than ten words were required.  He had been in the school gym going through the exercises set by his physio, and it had seemed like a good idea to remove the plastic sandal protecting the underside of his plaster cast.  When nature called,  rather than waste valuable time putting the sandal back on, he'd headed for the bathroom without it - and that was when the accident happened and he'd tripped and sliced a sizeable piece skin off the base of his toe.

There was quite a lot of blood, he assured me.  After asking whether the accident had hurt the healing broken leg - it hadn't - I moved on to my next question.

"Why on earth did you take the sandal off?"

"I don't know.  I just did."

"But you'd left the trainer on your other foot...?"  He nodded.  "Because - you just did, I suppose?"

He nodded again.

I took a deep breath.  "OK.  Well, I'm not going to say anything about that - although I'm sure you've worked out for yourself that walking around with one leg essentially longer than the other is likely to lead to tripping up."

The faint look of suprise suggested that perhaps he hadn't considered that as a cause for the incident, but he nodded seriously - mostly, I think, in the hope of shutting me up.  It didn't work.

"And - no, don't look at me like that, I hadn't finished - the only other thing I want to say is that whilst you've got this cast on, the next time you think of taking your sandal off away from home, can you consider where you are beforehand?  Because of all the indoor places to do that, the gym - where people sweat, wear dirty trainers etc, is probably the second worst place to do so."

He sighed heavily.  "OK Mum.  Where's the first worst place, then?"

"I'm glad you asked.  The worst place to be without proper footwear, for reasons I really hope I don't need to spell out, is where you were headed for - the school toilets."

Is it just boys, I wonder?  Answers in the comments box, please...


Wish you were here...?

>> Monday, 27 August 2018

I'm on the beach, in Devon.  Boy #1 is at home languishing with a broken leg (yes, really.  His entire summer holidays have been spent with it in a cast), using the enforced leisure time to look through YouTube at videos of scary looking blokes with lots of chains, hats, and a plethora of scantily-clad ladies hanging off their every word as they rap and chant about stuff that doesn't bear much relation to his own life experience as a nicely brought up UK schoolboy.  (Yes.  Yes, I am turning into my parents).

Boy #2 is off investigating rock pools, successfully hunting anemones to prod, and unsuccessfully hunting for crustaceans to study.  He has, for once, been persuaded to wear shorts in the UK.  This may have more than a little to do with the fact that I have put ALL the trousers that are available to him in the wash, wicked and fiendish woman that I am.

And our new(ish) dog, let's call him Cormoran - not his real name but I've got a bit of a thing for JKR's detective novels - is cavorting around with all sorts of canine buddies.  One of them, the owner of an almost identical looking dog (same breed, same age, different sex) strikes up a conversation.  She's never visited the area before and is keen to pick my brains about the best way to get into town.

Me: 'You can walk, if you like.  Just go to the top of the beach, turn right onto the coastal road, and it will take 15-20 minutes.'

Visiting Lady:  'OK.  That sounds great...'

(She doesn't seem particularly delighted)

Me: 'Or, if you prefer, you can turn left at the top of the beach and walk over the hill to the next cove and take the ferry, which will drop right in the middle of town.  That's probably the best option, actually."

She perks up.  'That sounds great!'

Me:  'It is.  You get a 10 minute trip on the boat, versus a 20 minute walk, and you get to see the town from the water, which is lovely.'

Visiting Lady:  'Perfect!  We will definitely do that.  Well, goodbye - and thanks, Judith Chalmers!'

Dear god.  And I wasn't even flashing any crepey chest. I am NEVER giving out directions again.


It's too damn hot... (staying cool at home in the summer)

>> Sunday, 8 July 2018

Well, it is for me, anyway.  I'm hot.  OH is hot.  The son who currently has an entire leg in plaster is hot (don't ask).  The other son (who claims not to be able to sleep without a duvet, crazy child) is hot.  The dog is hot.  Basically, we're all hot.

The thing about having been born and brought up in northern Europe is that until a few years ago, I didn't know how to manage summer heat in my home.  We so rarely have it, after all.  I don't know about you, but my first instinct when the weather outside is scorching is to open all the windows in the hope of finding even the slightest bit of breeze.  I mean, that's obvious, right?

Except, if you visit southern Europe, that's not at all what you see in the heat of the day.  If you walk around Spain, Greece, Italy, France, between 11am and 6pm you don't see rows of open windows.  Instead you're faced with closed shutters, windows and curtains. It's almost as if - wait a moment - people who are used to living with those climates are trying to keep the heat...  out.  Oh.

After a few summers spent in self-catering accommodation in southern Europe, OH and I finally picked up on the good sense of this practice and now whenever the temperature outside rockets, we do the same thing.  In case this is not something you've come across before, here's how to keep things cooler at home.

  1.  As soon as it becomes cool enough in the evening, open windows and blinds to let the cooler air into the house.
  2. Safety allowing, leave the windows that way all night.
  3. It’s not been heating up here until around 10am-ish, so leave curtains and windows open until then (or whenever that happens where you are), BUT...
  4. Around 10/11 am (or assuming you work outside the home, when you leave the house in the morning if it’s earlier than that), shut your windows. All of them (except perhaps a hatch into the attic, if you have one.  It makes sense to leave that open, to give any hot air that is in the house somewhere to escape to).
  5. Close your curtains and blinds to keep the sun out.  
  6. Then, when it starts to cool in the evening, return to Step 1.

And that’s it. It may seem counter-intuitive but I promise, it’s far more effective a way to keep your home cool than leaving windows and doors open in the hope of catching a through-breeze; all that does is move hot air into and around your home.
Good luck!


On mice.

>> Monday, 18 June 2018

So, mice.

Well - A mouse, at least.  Although there are probably more; as Husband said recently, they tend not to live alone.

Mice are one of the perils of living in our terrace of older houses; they probably pop in and out of numbers 1 through 6 with impunity, picking up a few grains or rice here, some crumbs of bread there, some spilled sugar somewhere else.  Admittedly I've not seen any recently, but I'm all too aware that doesn't mean we don't actually have any, despite the electronic thingamijigs we've plugged into the wall at various points and which supposedly emit a pulse that they don't like too much. (If they are here, do the mice in our terrace don little ear defenders before venturing into our house, perhaps? I wonder...).

I'm not sure why I'm so convinced there are mice in residence at our address, but for some reason I'm constantly on the alert for that unsettling little shadow moving swiftly down the edge of my peripheral vision.  The last time we saw them was back during The Big Cold of February.  It necessitated my unearthing of our humane mouse traps; you know, the ones that don't actually break their necks but which trap them in a dark tunnel of plastic until they are humanely released into the wild by the wuss (me and my boys) who has decided that leaving them to freeze to death at the bottom of the garden in minus 6degC and half a foot of snow is kinder than ending their life with one swift blow.  Actually, I knew it wasn't kinder; I just couldn't face clearing up the mess that the alternative would result in.

In any case, we set the traps.  Days passed before any of the doors dropped shut, to the extent that we began to wonder if perhaps the mice had upped and moved on.  Eventually, however, we struck lucky and came down one morning to find one of the traps had been triggered.  Boy #1 (now 14) gingerly picked it up.

'I think there's something in there, Mum."

'You think?  Well I'm not touching it.  What do you reckon; is there or isn't there one inside?'

'There definitely is.'  He sort of waved it around a bit.  'I think it's heavier.  Shall I check?'

'If you must. Be careful.  OR, you could put your boots on and just go and check outside...'

'No, it's too cold out there. I'll do it here.'

Carefully, he unhooked the door.

When I was a kid, there was a roller coaster at Blackpool called The Wild Mouse.  Whilst the drops weren't particularly high, it was one of the scariest rides I ever went on because of the speeds that the cars would run at, and the sudden twists and turns the track took.

You can guess what happened next in our kitchen, I think.  Boy #1 levered the door open and as he did so a limber and quite formidable mouse - perhaps an Alpha Mouse - grabbed it's chance and literally flung itself out of the top of the tube.  Catapulting to the floor amidst a chorus of screams and squeals from it's unprepared captors, it made a break for freedom and escaped back under the cooker, never to be seen again.  In my defence, who knew that mice had such mad skillz in the climbing up the inside of plastic tubes department?

Actually, now that I write it down, of course they do, but still; it was cold, dark outside, and we hadn't yet had breakfast...

Shortly after that, we got The Dog.  I'm told that owning one can actually increase the possibility of having mice; something to do with the fact that their food bowls are on the floor, resulting in free meals for rodents.  However, since we got a Labrador, one of Nature's most effective eating machines - thank goodness the pattern on the kitchen floor tiles is part of the moulding rather than printed on - there's literally nothing left for any mice to eat.

I think we're good - but I'm still on the alert for that little black shadow in the corner of my vision...


Laughing at my own jokes, and other embarrassments

>> Friday, 8 June 2018

I was searching through old posts on here this morning; god, I had a lot to say back in the day.  Some of it was even quite entertaining - or at least, it is, to me now.  That raises a question, actually; is it bad form to laugh at your own old blog posts in the same way that you're not supposed to laugh at your own jokes?  I like to think not; after all, back when I started this blogging malarky it wasn't sponsorship or advertising led.  No, those of us who were doing it (and there were only a handful back in the mid-noughties) were generally doing so for the fun of it.  Well - that, and for the therapeutic benefits of editing our reality and making it funny.

And so to another question; can I write posts now that I could look back at in ten years time, which would still make me smile?  And then, that leads to yet another; given the relative quiet on here recently, can I write any posts at all?

I think I could.  I would have to be even more circumspect now than I was then, of course; Boys #1 and #2 might be less than happy if their lives were used as blog-fodder.  Teens and their insistence on privacy, dammit.  But still.  There's always The Dog, right?  He doesn't get a choice in the management of his digital footprint.  And actually, I find that now I'm in my fifties there are things I want to say, reflections I want to make, that perhaps I can't say out loud to people around me.  There's only so much one wants to share with the other Year 9 parents about continence clinics and a lack of patience with  what my sis calls 'performance parenting', for example.

(Those two subjects are unrelated.  Obviously).

Blogging as a form of thinking out loud: that's pretty much the reason I started all this back in 2007.  Nothing changes, after all...

So, to that end, and until I manage to find the time to write something entertaining about what's going on in my life at the moment, here's a flight of fancy that I wrote on The Potty Diaries back in 2011.  I hope you enjoy - it made me smile, anyway...

September 2011: And in Other News...

...I've just had an email asking me if I am interested in buying accessories for my washing machine.

Excuse me? Accessories for my washing machine? Before I clicked on the link (for yes, I am that mug), I spent a happy few seconds imagining what they might be. Perhaps a jaunty little hat for those trips to the farmer's market? A natty pair of leather gloves for those chilly days, now that autumn is here? Or maybe an autumnaly coloured scarf, for wear whilst out mushrooming in the forest?

No, of course, don't be potty, PM. Let's get real.

Perhaps, then, the term 'accessories' when matched with 'washing machine' could refer to some swanky go-faster stripes, colour-coordinated to match the granite work surface in your kitchen. For obviously, no washing machine that would need something as grand as an accessory could possibly be seen anywhere without a slab of granite or corian close to hand. Or actually, maybe the granite or corian IS the accessory, and this is the manufacturer's way of branching out into a new market-place? Or, perhaps it refers to some washing machine bling; a cheeky little swarovski crystal tattoo around the base of the door? (Don't laugh - I actually think Sub-zero have already done this with a fridge).

But no. 'Washing machine accessories' actually means 'detergent'. And, if you're going to push the boat out, it can also mean 'descaler'. Who knew?

Oh yes, and my older son just asked me if, when he's 12, I will let him watch that well-known movie 'Pirate Caravan'. I said yes, naturally. Well, a film about pirates on holiday in a 4 berth caravan, perhaps on the west coast of France, squabbling about who's turn it is to empty the waste container, who ate the last weetabix for breakfast, and who's responsible for their getting lost and ending up at a nuclear power station instead of at the unspoilt beach within easy reach of a local vineyard - what's not to like?


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