Thursday 29 April 2010

Right, let's try that again...

OK. Now, where was I? Oh yes, about to write a post entitled 'Unbelievable' when I got distracted by a kerfuffle over at Wife in the North's blog...

So, here's what I meant to write yesterday.

We're getting a new boiler fitted in our London flat. I had agreed with the supplier that this would take place on Thursday, so you can imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from someone in their office telling me that the fitting would happen on Wednesday. Since we're not there, any change of date means alerting various friends and relations that timings for on-site approval of the work etc might alter, so I called to check...

Me: "Ah, hello Ms X. I'm calling about the boiler your team are due to fit at 275 Bolthole Lanes, London. I thought it was due to happen on Thursday 29th April, but in your confirmation e-mail it states that it's happening on the 28th. Can you just confirm when it's actually taking place?

Ms X (sighing heavily): "Right. Let's see. What was the address, again? (I repeat it, wondering where the 'Hello Mrs PM, nice to hear from you blah blah blah). Oh yes. It's due to start on Thursday 29th April."

Me: "Not the 28th, then?"

Ms X (barely contained weariness): "No. The 29th."

Me: "Right, I just wanted to check because it says in your e-mail - from you - that it's happening on the 28th. So you're sure?"

Ms X: "Absolutely."

I leave a space for her to insert 'and I'm sorry if my mail caused any confusion'. Nothing.

Me: "The 29th."

Ms X: "Yes. (Clearly thinking; who is this woman, and why is she wasting my time?) The 29th."

Me: ???? (Subtext: and my apology is....?)

Ms X: ..........( Subtext: ...about as likely to arrive as a snowball is to make it through hell)

Me: "OK. Well, thanks for clearing that up then..."

Ms X: "You're very welcome..."


I think I may be turning into my father.

For more general wittering, click on over to Powder Room Graffiti where I'm ranting about snooze buttons, blackberries, metro-sexuals, laddered tights and disappearing moisturiser - all in the same post.

I know. I'm just gifted, I guess...

Wednesday 28 April 2010


That was meant to be the title of a completely different post which will probably follow shortly, but in the meantime I just had to direct your attention to Wife in the North's blog where she has today highlighted the shocking absence of women at the forefront of the forthcoming UK general election, and in particular Gordon Brown's reaction to being confronted by a disillusioned female member of the Labour party faithful.

I'm sure that if you live in the UK you will have had the footage you can view via Wife in The North rammed down your throat, but for those who don't and who might have missed it, I heartily recommend that you click through to it and that - crucially - you watch it all the way to the end.

Apparently, having the nerve to express a dissenting point of view to the incumbent prime-minister's face in this spin-managed election makes you a bigot.

Gordon Brown is, of course, entitled to his opinion. As are the rest of us, on what exactly we think of someone in his position who forgets to tun off his mic.

The Gallery; A portrait of expanding horizons

So, Tara's Gallery has pushed me out of my comfort zone again. This week's prompt was 'a portrait'. Tricky, that one, when you've promised your husband not to put your family's faces on the internet. However, here is Boy #2 - face obscured, as ever - last weekend at an open day we took him to at the Centre For Curative Pedagogics in Moscow.

If you're anything like me, you'll be wondering what on earth that means. Centre For Curative Peda- what?

The CCP is an amazing place. A bit of background; Russia is not a nation or society that is forgiving of those who are disabled in any way. If your child is born anything other than 'normal', you have to prepare yourself - and them - for a lifetime of fighting both to be seen as an individual rather than as a second class citizen, and to receive any help at all (financial or otherwise) in achieving that. This is why the recent success of Russia's athletes at the Paralympics was so very important; it finally gave the man on the street a reason to look at people in this situation as more than beggars to be handed small notes on the metro, or as people who deserve more out of life than to be put into an institution and forgotten about.

The CCP was one of the first places in Russia to recognise the rights of both mentally and physically disabled children to receive a proper education and to do something about helping them to experience that. Since it's set-up 20 years ago approximately 10,000 children (and crucially, their families) have passed through it's systems, some of them going on to mainstream education, some of them not, but all of them benefiting from the expertise of a group of teachers and supporting staff who are totally dedicated to their work.

So on Saturday we took our sons to an open day there, where they watched a show put on by some of the pupils, were given a tour of the facility, and - as you can see from the photograph - took part in the sort of workshops that the children who attend there benefit from. Boy #2 is building a little light in the shape of a house.

It was certainly a change from the comfortably insulated bubble of expat life where they usually pass their weekends. And we're going to go back; I think that it may even help us to meet the need I posted about a couple of years ago in helping the Boys understand just how fortunate they are...

Tuesday 27 April 2010

And today, I will be mostly pretending I know Music...

The world of parent blogging is pretty diverse. Other than the fact that we all have children who we are each convinced are the smartest / the cutest / the most entertaining / the most loveable / the most frustrating / the most rewarding IN THE WORLD (oh yes mine are - all of those things - obviously), we're all capable of writing posts that could focus on a multitude of other issues. For example, it's possible to find posts which instead of focusing on Junior's latest adorable habit instead feature everything and anything under the sun. In just a few clicks I can read about what to cook for dinner, how to handle depression, the forthcoming UK election, dealing with cancer, which wine to buy, and what fashion-fixes are out there, without having to work too hard at it, and amazingly all without ever leaving sites that fall under the umbrella-term 'parent blogger'.

So today I've decided to add music to my interests. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to read through a review of some new indy band's latest offering. Instead, take a look at this list of bands and artists, and see if you can work out what they all have in common...

Steve Wonder
Crowded House
James Blunt
Elton John
Maroon 5
Paul McCartney
Bob Marley
Men at Work
Lady GaGa
Natalie Imbruglia

Got it yet?

No? Well, they all wrote songs that use the same 4 chords.

Unlikely, I know, but check out this video and you'll see what I mean... (there are more artists than I've listed above featured in this, but I'm only human and didn't get them all. Feel free to add to the list in the comments if you're so inclined, and I'll update it...)

And thanks to Powder Room Graffiti where I first came across the 4 Chord Song, and ThatGirl39 who inspired this post with her remark that 'I can be all things to all people'...

Sunday 25 April 2010

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

Sunday morning - and I'm off to help out at an event at school shortly. This is a bit of a minefield, not in the sense of 'will I know anyone?', or even 'how long will this take and when can I get back home to continue my rock and roll lifestyle of weekend laundry and tidying up?', but more in the sense of 'what the hell shall I wear?'

Since arriving in Moscow, I'm ashamed to admit that I have not been at my finest, sartorially speaking. When we first arrived, warmth and practicality were everything, and my skirts and high-heeled boots languished unnoticed at the back of my wardrobe for some time. Now that the weather is improving, it's proving difficult to get what little fashion mo-jo I ever had back in action, and this situation is further exacerbated by the fact that my normal shopping haunts are 1500 miles away. Sure, there are shops here, of course there are, but many of them sell clothes that are just - to put it politely - not me.

So a trip back to London to refresh my wardrobe is called for, but that then leaves me with the over-riding question; if the clothes on offer here are not me, what actually is?

So I've been hunting around the internet for inspiration, and that's when I came across this week's British Mummy Blogger of the Week. (I know, last week wine, this week fashion. Anyone else out there thinking that I really need a weekend away?) ThatGirl39 at Forty Not Out writes of herself:

'Inside of the mind of this woman is still That Girl. I used to be '39 and Counting' but now I'm all grown up! Follow me into Life Part Two and watch as I navigate parenthood, an ever growing shoe collection, fine lines and whatever else is in store. Ooh... did someone say store? Does it sell shoes?/

And whilst I might not be in right shape or price bracket for Michael Kors' slick creations just now, or Loboutins to wear on the school run, it never hurts to look and dream for a while, right?

For the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

Thursday 22 April 2010

Definitely NOT cooking with gas...

We had a new oven delivered yesterday (yes, even in Moscow such things do exist). This was not through capriciousness on my part ('must have shiny new things around me...') but because of the fact that our previous one, being a) elderly and b) generally crap was not working properly. Of the four hotplates on top - for yes, it was that abomination, an electric oven - only one produced any real heat, which meant that cooking anything other than pasta with a stir-in sauce was a bit of a challenge. And whilst I do like a stir-in sauce, we have been here nearly four months, so...

In any case, a few weeks ago I threw my toys out of the pram and told Husband that given the extortionate rent we are paying for our house (subtext; given the fact that I am FORTY THREE YEARS OLD and TOO OLD TO BE COOKING WITH A CRAP OVEN), he should sort the situation out. Knowing what was good for him - and being heartily sick of pasta with stir-in sauce - he negotiated with the managers of our house and hey presto, new oven. (Well, hey presto and a little something extra, anyway).

'Yes, Mr Potty, you will have a new oven by the end of the month' he was told. 'We will send over some model specifications for your wife to choose from.' I would love to say at this point that what we anticipated was a joint decision for the two of us, but let's be honest, we all know that this one was going to be down to me, so I waited eagerly for the pamphlets to be delivered. And what turned up? One. One poxy spec. For the updated version of the same model we already had. (Welcome to Russia).

In any case, I was just desperate to be able to ditch the Sacla, so I dutifully said yes and yesterday, the oven arrived - along with 2 workmen to fit it. Only two? Lo, how the mighty have fallen. I suspect this dramatic fall in numbers (remember how it took 5 workmen to replace our washing machine?) may have more to do with a conspicuous lack of tips on our part than with any efficiency drive on the part of our compound management, but still.

And, seeing as improvement in my command of Russian since their last visit is negligible (must do my homework), here is my imagined translation of what the workmen were saying this time...

Workman #1: "Right. Give me a hand with this, will you? We just need to slide the old one out and..."

Workman #2: "I can see their shipment finally arrived from England. Nice coffee machine. Think we can sneak in a Nespresso when her back is turned?"

Workman #1: "Maybe later. Right now, I need you to pass me the instruction manual. OK, right, first turn off the fuse. Know where that is?"

Workman #2: "Yep. I'll go do that and be back in a mo..."

10 minutes pass. Much puffing and panting and wheezing from Workman #1 in the kitchen. Then...

Workman #1: ~"Sergei! Sergei! Where the fuck are you? I've been trying to unplug this dam thing for 10 minutes now and you're - well, what are you doing?"

Workman #2: "Keep your hair on comrade. I was just checking out the Dyson under the stairs. Seems in a reasonably good state of repair but they really need to wash out the filter..."

Workman #1: "How many times? Don't - call - me - COMRADE! Pass me the wire stripper, will you? And take your head out of that cupboard!"

Workman #2: "Can you believe she's brought a handmixer without any paddles with her? These westerners, really. How can she hope to make any decent cake without a proper mixer? Not that she needs to, mind. Put a bit of weight on since our last visit, don't you think? I bet you any money you like there'll be a wii-fit in residence by the next time we get called out."

Workman #1: "Wire-strippers. Now, please."

Workman #2: "In a minute. She's got her head stuck in that laptop again, so I'm just popping outside for a fag break. Can you switch that Nespresso machine on whilst you're over there...?"

Wednesday 21 April 2010

The Gallery: 5 out of 7 ain't bad...

It's Wednesday, so it must be time for Tara's Gallery (cue Tony Hart music). This week's prompt was a hard one: the Seven Deadly Sins. What on earth was I going to use for this one, I wondered?

But then I came across the photo above, that I took one rainy day last Autumn when Boy #2 and I were making gingerbread. I particularly like the way you can see his finger-marks in the mixture and how next to his body you can see the drops over-hanging where he's scraped his hand over the edge of the bowl. Food-appreciation in it's purest form...

I reckon this shot ticks at least 7 of the following boxes;

  • Greed - well, that one's obvious
  • Gluttony - see above (I know you're supposed to distinguish between these two but for the purposes of this post I'm not going to bother. Is that a double hit for Sloth, I wonder?)
  • Sloth - from me, for leaving the unwashed bowl within reach on the side in the kitchen
  • Pride - that Boy #2 liked it enough to do this
  • Envy - because I so wanted to be licking out the bowl myself
  • Wrath - no, I was laughing too hard ...
  • Lust - well, it was only gingerbread mixture. It wasn't as if it was chocolate, or anything...

And, just in case you're a Brit of a certain age and are now asking yourself 'What was that music, again?' here it is... (You could even play it whilst you're perusing The Gallery over at Tara's, if you like).

Tuesday 20 April 2010

I never Nintendo'd for this to happen...

I've never been much into computer games. The whole gaming revolution pretty much passed me by; as a child I much preferred to get stuck into a good book, as a teenager much the same, (discounting my text books, obviously, which I shunned completely), and as an adult, well, face-to-face interaction always seemed preferable to sitting hunched over a keyboard. (Although blogging seems somehow to have escaped that embargo.)

Anyway, when I had children, I was determined that I wasn't going to raise two pale-faced sons who never saw the sun, and that instead they would be Proper Boys, running around outside, digging up worms, sometimes (retch) eating them, climbing trees, playing football, and generally living a 1950's dream that does not - in reality - exist.

So no computer games for us, golly gosh no.

Despite all evidence that my master plan had failed and that Husband and I were in fact raising city boys ('Yuck! My hands are dirty, mama!'), this mindset continued until recently. I ignored the fact that rather than build dens and get messy, both my sons are addicted to television (or were, before we arrived here and didn't have one which, thanks to one person in particular - you know who you are - has been a lot less traumatic than I had expected), overall we stuck to our guns and kept computer games out of the house at least.

Then, shortly before we left for Russia, a friend took me to one side and said; "I know that you don't want the Boys to become totally immersed in computer games but really, it's important that they have some exposure to them, otherwise they are going to be odd ones out. It is possible to do these things in moderation, you just need to keep any eye on it."

Interesting take, and food for thought, and once we arrived here it became apparent that this friend was right. We found ourselves surrounded by balanced, normal families, who dipped in and out of the game culture as they felt like it, and really, given the fact that 5 months of the year here are not conducive to out-door pursuits, I began to think that perhaps something to take the heat off me during long days at home when it was minus 25degC outside might not be a bad idea. There are only so many 1950's -style airfix planes and ships in bottles one can build, after all... especially on your own whilst your kids are playing at being Ben 10 or Transformers.

So, when Boy #1 did so well with his skiing recently, braving all weathers, being a generally all-round good sport, and most amazingly just getting on with it without moaning and complaining (which any mother of a 6 year old boy will know is a miracle in itself), Husband and I caved. He had been mentioning a Nintendo DS as a potential birthday present for some time - not in a nagging way, just in a 'wow, wouldn't it be amazing if...' way (he's nothing if not canny, my son) -and we decided that with a summer of flights and car journeys not long off, it was time to reward him.

And so the Potski Familiski has finally entered the 21st century in terms of technology. We didn't give him everything he wanted, you understand; Boy #1 was hoping for a Ben 10 game but I looked into it and didn't like the level of casual violence, so he got a Mario Kart game instead. And so far so good; he's loving it and will even - gasp! - share with his brother. He even asks me to play from time to time (although I suspect this is just for the humour value when I lose horribly). But this new toy has brought about a new question for me.

How much time playing is too much? Or, on the flip side, how much is enough? At the moment we've set a limit of 20 minutes in the morning and the same in the afternoon for the Boys to play with it. That seems to me to be enough to give them the chance to play a couple of games without eating into 'real-life' time, but then I started to wonder if it IS too much. Or, on the other hand, are we being too proscriptive, and should we just let him play with it as much as he dam' well pleases?

I thought technology was supposed to answer problems, not create them...

Sunday 18 April 2010

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

It's all very well, this learning Russian business, but it doesn't help with the latest language dilemma I'm coming up against, which is; in all your conversations about That Volcano in Iceland (and I'm betting you'll have had at least a couple over the last day or so) have you ever actually heard anyone call it by name? It's FULL name?

I haven't. So I've looked it up, and here it is, just in case you missed it:


Now, try and pronounce it. And then try and pronounce nonchalantly, as you might in a conversation.


See what I mean?


No, I still can't get it right...

Moving swiftly on... This week's Mummy Blogger of the Week concerns herself with something close, I'm sure, to many bloggers hearts. No, not chocolate (for a change). If you're anything like me I'm sure when you reach the BWS aisle in the supermarket (that's Beers, Wines and Spirits for those of you who have never had a job as a shelf-stacker), you probably do one of the following.

Option 1: Reach for the wine you know and love and which has never let you down. You'ld quite like to try something new but where on earth would you start?

Option 2: Look around for the latest BOGOFF (buy one get one free offer), 3 for 2 offer (speaks for itself), or whatever you saw recommended by that chirpy chap on BBC's Saturday Kitchen to go with the nice curry that James cooked this week.

Option 3: Simply pick up whatever looks most palatable in your price range.

Well, fear not, help is at hand. This week's Mummy Blogger, Knackered Mother, writes of herself:

'Love my three children and love my wine. Used to be a professional wine buyer for a big supermarket. Spent best part of a decade travelling the globe sniffing out wines for a living. Spent most of the last half-decade pregnant. Now work for a rather brilliant wine company. Want to share wine knowledge in the hope that other knackered mothers are interested in what's in my glass at the end of the day. Strictly no insipid wines allowed. Unless too tired to care.'

At the end of each short and entertaining post she gives us her opinions on (mostly) reasonably priced wine - and occasionally, on the must-have accessories for a lady to take to Venice with her for her 10th wedding anniversary trip...


Nope. Still not right...

For the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

Friday 16 April 2010

Friday Fudge

How do you sneeze? Wait - don't answer that. I think I know the answer. And the men in your life, how about them? No, don't answer that either, I think I know the answer to that one too; I've written about it on Powder Room Graffiti today in a piece called 'The Man Sneeze'. (No prizes for guessing in advance what the tone of this article may be like...)

And that's it for today, because whilst I had planned to blog about the advent of game technology in the Potski household, or alternatively to ask rhetorically why the Russian people put up with so much shoddiness, I'm going to have to save those posts for next week because I've hurt my back and sitting down to type is a problem. My supportive husband blames my run last weekend, citing lack of fitness and preparation as the reason. I couldn't possibly comment...

Thursday 15 April 2010

Being played by a 6 year-old...

I bet you have one thing - just one thing - to do with your appearance that you rarely leave the house without doing. Well, actually I bet that pre-children you had a whole list of things you never left the house without doing, but that once they arrived that list was slowly but surely whittled down to just one essential thing that it takes a fairly serious set of circumstances for you to ignore. It might be putting on lippy, running a comb through your hair, checking your shoulders for snot or puke brooches (the latest thing darling, didn't you know?), or inspecting your teeth for bits of spinach or similar.

For me, the one thing that has survived the onslaught that is becoming a mother is putting on eyeliner and mascara. Hence this morning's conversation...

Boy #1: "What are you doing?"

Me: "Putting on eyeliner. What do you think? Does it look OK?"

Boy #1: "Hmmm.... Can I see it?" (The eyeliner)

I hand it to him. He holds it to the light, admires the sparkly sheen - I was always a sucker for a bit of subtle glimmer - assesses it thoroughly, and hands it back.

Me: "So, I've only got it on one eye right now. Can you tell which one?"

Boy #1: "Well, this eye (pointing to my left, unmade up eye), looks pretty."

Me: "OK."

Boy #2: "But this eye (pointing to my made-up eye), looks really pretty..."

Oh, he'll go far, this boy...

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Of washing-up bowls, 'Joy' and The Gallery...

So, it's Wednesday again, and time for Tara's Gallery.

The prompt this week was 'Joy'. I did consider taking a photo of my new washing up bowl, but decided to spare you the mundane-ness of that image. (I mention this because it's discovery in a local supermarket yesterday was a joyous occasion for me; for some reason such things aren't ten-a-penny over here, and it's taken me 3 months to find one. I know, a washing up bowl is ridiculous object to covet, but having one makes life just that little bit simpler and I'm all for that right now...) Then I thought about showing you one of the hundreds of photo's of my children showing absolute joy, but sadly, that brings me up against my self-imposed rule of not showing their faces.

So instead, again, I've had to make do with using a back-shot taken on a beach in Queensland a couple of years ago. I hope that you'll believe me when I tell you that the next photo in the series, of Boys #1 and #2 facing the camera, shows all the joy that you could ever hope to see on the faces of your children...

Tuesday 13 April 2010

SATC; you know you want to - but why?

I'm not someone who is easily fooled by glitter and superficiality. Depth and sincerity are important to me - and yet I cannot be the only 40 something woman who is completely over-excited at the launch of the new Sex and the City movie at the end of May. In fact, I know I'm not; I've spotted the trailer I'm putting at the bottom of this post on at least two other blogs, here and here (and Nixdminx I know you're not 40, just grant me a bit of poetic license on this one...).

Why is it, do you think, that this movie pushes the right buttons for so many women and reduces us to giggling 14 year-olds on our way to the cinema?

Well, I can't speak for you, but for me it's not only about the fact that when I used to watch it on tv I was - mostly - young and unencumbered by children (oh, the nostalgia). Of course, it's nice to look back on those days where I bothered to check my reflection before I left the house, when my life was ordered, controlled and a little more - ok, a lot more - glamorous, and SATC on tv is a reminder of those times, but really, would I go back there?

No. Not for a heartbeat.

So why is it that I have fallen hook line and sinker for the reincarnation of the series on the big screen?

Two words.

Wish. Fulfillment.

It's not that I want those characters' ridiculous lives, you understand. I'm very happy with my own ridiculous life, thankyou. It's more that those ladies - Charlotte/Kristin Davis excluded, perhaps, although I'm not certain because I'm not yet sad enough to google the actresses ages - are all over 40, and yet they look fabulous. They act fabulous. They wear fabulous clothes. They have a fabulous time. When they screw up, they screw up fabulously. And whilst I know SATC is just a story, not real life, and never could be, it's just so - forgive me - fucking fabulous to see a movie where age is not a barrier to any of those things happening, and in fact where women over 40 - rather than being expected to fade gracefully into the background as seems so often the case in the media *- are the centre of the action.

And you know what? I really believe - the actresses' vanity permitting - that we may still be watching them in 10 years time, because there will still be mileage in this then. And that - to me, right now, having not seen this movie and having no idea if it's even any good or not - would be just... fabulous.

(* Click here to be taken to a piece I wrote on 40+ media-invisibility for Powder Room Graffiti last year...)

Monday 12 April 2010

Observations #101

Well, our shipment of 'stuff' from the UK finally arrived. Only 3 months after we did, but let's not go into the reasons behind that...

(Oh, you insist? Well... No, I couldn't. Let's just say it's not me that's to blame. Or the Boys. 'Nuff said?)

Anyway, 30 or so boxes turned up the day before we went away for a week, so it's only now, 10 days after our return, that (almost) all of them have been unpacked and distributed into the additional storage we had to go to Ikea to buy once we realised how much useless crap we had spent good money to bring with us.

And now that I have had the chance to take stock of what was packed in that mad pre-departure rush, I would like to make the following observations...

1. Electric hand-whisks work better when you remember to pack the beaters as well.

2. Packing enough bed linen for 4 double beds and 2 singles - twice over - is a somewhat pointless exercise when you are currently living in what is basically a 2 bedroom cottage.

3. Likewise towels. What were you expecting PM, to be training as the local midwife?

4. Promising your Husband that you would love to rustle up some wonderful dinner parties, but only once your Le Creuset arrives, leaves you no place to hide once it does.

5. Leaving all your summer shoes back in England (which could so easily have been included in the shipment) to be collected at some future date, when said 'future date' is one month after the official start of summer, is not the smartest sartorial move one can make.

6. Entrusting your Husband with the safe packing and delivery of the dvd player remote control was just asking for trouble.

7. Keeping your own counsel when he pronounces that it will be no problem and he is sure he'will find it somewhere', (making the Boys' watching any blu-ray dvd's until he does so an impossibility - and this in a house currently not connected to tv) is advisable, as...

8. ...Revenge is sweet when he wants to watch Episode 2 of Series 2 of The Wire and finds that to do so without the dvd remote control, he has to watch the whole of Episode 1 again to get to it.

(It's good, but not that good. I think he may now have prioritised finding that remote).

Sunday 11 April 2010

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

I. Can. Hardly. Move.

It's all my own fault, of course. I brought it entirely on myself. There's no-one else responsible for it. What did I do? Something almost criminally stupid.

I went for a run this morning.

Well, when I say, 'a run', maybe that's not entirely what happened. It's certainly what I envisaged when I woke at 8am (it's Sunday, hurrah!), and the sun was shining, the birds were tweeting, and Husband was still snoring. 'I know!' I thought. 'Why don't I capitalise on a week's hard skiing and give those highly toned muscles a work-out. Just so I don't lose the benefit, you know...'

So I creaked out of bed, gave the children their breakfast and squeezed into my sports kit, ignoring the inevitable comparisons between myself, a sausage and it's skin. I spent a good, oh, 5 minutes warming up, and then I set off.

I didn't have any lofty goals, you understand. Fully aware of the fact that it was 4 months since my last gym visit, I only planned to run around the edge of the compound - a 10 minute gentle jog, at most - before heading home.


My excursion did last 10, minutes, that's true. But it was only around 2/3 of the way around the compound and was at least 40% walking (bear in mind here that this is a blog, and I am taking full opportunity of poetic license when I use the term 'run'. Stagger might be more appropriate). By the time I got home I was a wheezing, panting, sweaty mess who above all else was grateful for the fact that, this being the first Sunday of the Easter break, most of our neighbours were out of the country and therefore not witness to my humiliating tangle with the goddess Exercise.

And now, I can't really sit down.

Why would I do such a thing? I blame blogging. Specifically, in this instance, I blame this week's British Mummy Blogger of the Week. 1950's Housewife writes of herself:

'I have recently had an enforced year of housewife/motherhood thrust on me as we moved to the UK to Canada for my husband's fellowship. This blog is just a simple diary of how a working mum copes with being a SAHM.'

And my current situation is a direct result of reading - and identifying with - her post titled 'Are your friends making you fat?' Not that my friends are making me fat; not only are most of them 1500 miles away, but they most decidedly are not doing so. More with her reference to what her husband calls her 'winter coat'. I read that - and recognised myself. (Except of course, my winter coat stays on all year round... And after this morning, is likely to continue to do so.)

For the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

Friday 9 April 2010

The difference between...

...skiing holidays pre and post children. (I thought I might lighten the mood after yesterday...)

Pre Children

  • You can ski all day
  • It doesn't matter if you wake up with a hangover, you can take as long as you want to get out of bed and even kid yourself that it's not the excess of alcohol curdling your brain, just your body reacting to the altitude
  • Lunch can be a long, leisurely affair on the side of the mountain, and may even - oh, those far-off halcyon days - be accompanied by wine
  • Vin chaud/gluhwine features as one of your of your five a day (What? It - sometimes - comes with fruit in the top. That qualifies in my book)
  • If you're in a relationship (or - I'm told - sometimes even if not), you may even get to partake of spontaneous nooky in the afternoon when everyone else is out on the slopes
  • You're only paying for yourself, so whilst skiing is never a cheap holiday, it doesn't break the bank
  • You get to experience the Apres-Ski to the full.
  • Dancing in ski boots in some badly lit slippery-wooden floored bar is good clean fun...
  • Did I mention you can ski all day?

Post children

  • Ski all day? You count yourself lucky if you manage an hour in the morning between the drop-off of weeping children and the collection of the ski-demons they have morphed into during your 2 hour absence
  • Hangover? Fat chance. Not only are you rarely awake long enough in the evening to down more than half a glass of wine, but the prospect of dealing with 2 squirming children unwilling to get into their ski clothes and traipse up the road to their lessons, whilst definitely enough to drive you to drink, is also enough to make you realise that adding a muzzy head to the mix would be a very bad idea indeed...
  • Lunch is a cling-film wrapped squashed ham sandwich discarded by your child after you pick them up from their ski lesson. They haven't eaten it as they are too full from snacking on all the biscuits and chocolate you used as bribes to persuade them to stay at their lesson in the first place.
  • Vin chaud (and accompanying fruit) is off the menu; you need a clear head to deal with your mini-menace children on the slopes as they simply point their skis down hill and go, ignoring your increasingly frantic pleas to 'put in a turn, for chrissake!' as you try desperately to keep up with them. If you both make it down the slope without ending up in the back of one of those first aid sleighs you see being transported down the mountain, you consider the experience a success.
  • Nooky? I'm not even going to dignify that suggestion with further comment.
  • By the time you've forked out for your children's ski hire, boot hire, helmet hire, thermal underwear, goggles, lessons, lift pass, and the badge they get when they finish the course (yes, you do have to pay for that), your second mortgage may need to be increased. And that's before you even think about the ruinously expensive plates of spaghetti bolognese they hoover up in the mountain side restaurants when they decide that they are hungry after their lesson after all. (Note to self - always carry extra squashed cling-film-wrapped ham sandwiches for such emergencies in the future...)
  • Apres ski? I've heard of it, but...

Thursday 8 April 2010

Life on the edge

So, I'm sure I just heard gunfire. Not a single shot, but a series of short, staccato blasts, in total lasting around 30 seconds.

It's probably nothing. But this 'nothing' sound came from the direction of the Boys' school and nursery.

I call Husband, just in case. "Is this a significant date in the Russian calendar?" I ask. "Can you think of any reason why someone might set off fire-crackers in the middle of the day?"

I expect him to laugh me out of town and tell me not to be so paranoid. But he doesn't. Interesting. Instead, he suggests I call the school and check that everything is OK.

This is where being an expat, away from your usual support structures, norms and expectations (however blinkered they may be), can get a bit raw. I know, rationally speaking, that even if Moscow is currently a target for terrorists, there are 16 million people living here and the chances of any of that trouble coming knocking on our door are incredibly remote. But I also know that my sons attend a reasonably high-profile establishment which, whilst it has fantastic security, could conceivably be on someone's List. And the fact that my Russified Husband didn't fall on the floor in hysterics at my ridiculous suggestion makes me realise that he may think that too.

I push images of Beslan, various high schools in the US and god only knows where else to the back of my mind, take a deep breath, and call the school.

The receptionist who answers the phone sounds as if mine is not the first call she has received in the last few minutes. (That's the problem with having a host of over-anxious parents out of their comfort zone living on the school's doorstep; you might have a captive audience of potential students but you also have to deal with calls like this one.)

"Everything is fine" she says somewhat wearily. "Don't worry."

So I'm not doing. Much.

Note: in the last few minutes I've just remembered that some of the older children are celebrating 'Wacky Day' today - just the sort of event when fire-crackers might come in useful...


It seems that perhaps I wasn't being totally paranoid after all. Apparently there's an army base in the woods near the school, and it's not unusual to hear gunfire from that direction. It's possible that the only reason I never heard it before is because it's only now become warm enough to have the windows open in the house. However, I'm told that this afternoon it was particularly loud, to the the extent that some of the teachers actually came outside to investigate (rather them than me!); not only could they hear the shooting, but they could smell it too...

Should that make me feel better or worse, I wonder? Discuss...

Wednesday 7 April 2010

The Gallery #7: 'Ugly', and The Mads

This week's prompt for Tara's Gallery is 'Ugly'. I racked my brains when I read that; what to photograph? Normally it's examples of beauty - or our interpretation of what is beautiful - that we bother to record. So if I go back through my files I can show you photographs of sunsets over idyllic beaches, of children playing in the mountains, and the sun rising over Glastonbury Plain, but ugliness? Not something I usually want to remember.

I've seen plenty of it, mind you. Just looking around me in Moscow there is the dirt, the crumbling tower blocks, the fumes from the traffic, the beaten up old cars, the expressions on the faces of the people fighting to squeeze onto the metro in rush hour (although, understandably, a lot more people are taking taxis right now...), and the rubbish thrown onto the side of the road.

But all that would be too obvious - and too cheap a shot. So instead, here is a pile of melting snow outside our front door. Definitely not pretty (despite the late afternoon sun glinting off the ice), and I suppose it could even be called ugly. Except, after a whole winter dealing with the white stuff, this sight marks the beginning of Spring - so whilst it is ugly, it's also a very welcome sight indeed...

And whilst I've got your attention, I would just like to indulge in little bit of shameless self promotion and point out 'The Mads' logo on the right hand side of the screen. For those of you who haven't come across this yet, it's the collective name for a series of blog awards to be presented to nominted Mum and Dad bloggers, and I'm delighted to have been nominated for a couple of them;

Mad Blogger of the Year
Best Mad Blog Writer.

Any support would be much appreciated. (It appears that I left both my Natural Modesty towel and my Shrinking Violet hat back in London when we moved...)

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Time moves on...

A good friend of mine has just had a baby. Now, in the UK, we tend to hang back a bit when there's been a new arrival to a family; not for us (unless it's a very close relative) the Dutch way of dashing over there as soon as possible to a pre-arranged scheduled slot ('we can fit you in between 2pm and 2.30pm next Tuesday'), to eat special new baby treats and present gifts to the new arrival.

No, we go the opposite way in Blighty, waiting until the dust has settled before popping by, sometimes being so reticent about it that we can wait 6 weeks to present ourselves and pay our respects.

So it should be no big deal for me that I'm unlikely to meet this little bundle of cuddles before July, on our next trip back to London. Hell, if I'm honest about it, with the crazy schedules that we all follow these days, we probably only managed to meet 3 or 4 times a year when I was living there, so really this delay is just more of the same.

But it's things like this - the arrival of a new baby and the subsequent photo arriving in my e-mail inbox - that make the 1500 miles between here and there seem such a very long way...

Congratulations, F. I am thinking of you and your gorgeous-looking boy and will drink a bellini in honour of both of you.... x

And if you're wondering what the picture is of, it's a traditional treat the Dutch serve to celebrate the arrival of a new baby; a crispbread spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar covered aniseed (blue and white for a boy, pink and white for a girl). Apparently, the aniseed is good for stimulating milk production in nursing mothers. It's just a lucky coincidence that it tastes good, too...

Monday 5 April 2010

Dear So & So

Dear Mr Ikea,

just a quick question. Really, I won't take much of your time. I mean, I know how busy you must be, designing all that furniture and travelling round Sweden taking photographs of all sorts of good-looking people showing us how to use tables, chairs, cutlery and other difficult stuff like that. I should - I live in a house almost entirely furnished by your store in Moscow, after all, and believe me, given the time it takes me to put some of your flat-packed furniture together (bookshelves, anyone?), I can't imagine how long it must take you to design it...

Anyway, I do just have one teensy question.

If you can design all this clever stuff (pull-out sofa beds, for example... Who would have thought of putting a special drawer underneath to store your guest bedding in, that doubles up as somewhere useful to hide the rolls of wrapping paper from your sons who are convinced that the shiny red cellophane one is the spitting image of a Jedi light-sabre and therefore ideal for beating the living daylights out of each other with? Genius...), I just wondered...

Why on earth do you make the barcode stickers on the top of your storage boxes so bloody difficult to remove?

Yours, (in search of a plaster following an unfortunate incident with a table knife and the label on top of a certain storage box),

Potty Mummy.

PS - if you want to watch something really funny, (and which I had nothing to do with) I recommend you check out this link to a video by Dan & Dan (courtesy of an inital pointer from Powder Room Graffiti). Go on - you know you want to.

Sunday 4 April 2010

British Mummy Blogger of the Week

We're back in Moscow following our week in the French Alps (expect a post on all that shortly, you lucky things). Our 3am arrival, the mountain of laundry, and the prospect of a trip to Ikea and the supermarket this afternoon aren't exactly joyful, but the fact that the sun is shining and that it must be at least 8 degC outside are definitely helping to combat the post-holiday blues.

Happy Easter, one and all!

Now, after last week's abject failure to come up with the goods on the Blogger of the Week front (please accept my apologies - I can only plead over-excitement at the prospect of a week's exposure to French wine, bread and cheese in my defence), have you ever wondered what the term 'jumping the shark' means, and what the similarities between finding your first boyfriend and Sky Plus are? Me neither - or at least, not until I came across this British Mummy Blogger of the Week. Paparazzi Mum writes of herself:

'I’m a journalist, wife and mother...I set up because I’m a popular culture nut and I love to rant about all things celebrity. I hope you enjoy. xx'

For the British Mummy Bloggers Ning, click here. (Note: It's called 'Mummy', but Dads can be members too).

Thursday 1 April 2010

A piste too far

Boy #1 is continuing to improve his skills on the slopes (after making a couple of runs with him this afternoon, Husband commented breathlessly that 'we have created a monster') but unsurprisingly, not everyone in the Potski family is toeing the party line on the 'loving skiing' front.

Yesterday, Boy #2 and I had the following conversation after I picked him up from ski school;

Me: "So, how was your ski lesson today?"

Boy #2: "OK. I only cried a little bit."

Me (heart sinking, but trying to jolly him along): "Right... so did you actually ski at all?"

Boy #2: "Yes. Yes! I skied through the arch. And... I rang the bell!" (There is a sleigh bell suspended on a plastic arch which the children are encouraged to ring as they pass underneath it. This requires them to be standing up on their skis rather than messing around on the ground or even - as has been the case more than once this week - playing inside in the nursery, so this news was something to be celebrated).

Me: "Fantastic! So when you go back tomorrow, you can do that again!"

Boy #2: "Well... no."

Me: "No?"

Boy #2: "No. I can ski now. I know how to do it. So, that's that."

Me: "What do you mean, 'that's that' ?"

Boy #2: "Well, now I know how to ski. So I don't have to go back again."

Ah well - there's always next year.

Note: He did go back. And even appears to be enjoying it - despite an unfortunate collision with both parents on the ski slopes this afternoon... (the only thing hurt was our pride, you'll be pleased to hear).