Thursday 31 March 2011

Come on Spring; the camera and I are waiting...

We still have snow here in Moscow. It's decreasing, melting gradually away, but there's still plenty lying on the ground, and snow storms most days.

It's nearly April. As an English person used to temperate climates, that's bloody depressing, let me tell you.

Last year we were lucky; the winter, whilst much colder than the one we've just had, was brighter. Sure, we had days on end of -20degC and below, but the sun shone, the sky was blue, and the dazzling light reflecting off the snow took some of the edge off. Yes, it was freezing, but beautiful and exhilerating. This year, we've had fewer days like that. Milder temperatures, certainly, but somehow I prefer -20degC with blinding sunshine to grey drabness at -8degC. It's still minus when all's said and done, after all.

Spring 2010, when it arrived (at the beginning of April) was astounding, however. I've never seen such an explosion of life. My parents visited me during the second week of May and couldn't believe how in only their 8 day visit everything in the garden exploded. And don't get me started on the birds; from a veritable wasteland of wild-life at the end of March, with only a couple of squirrels and a few grey-hooded crows, our compound transformed into what sounded like a tropical paradise in only 2 - 3 weeks.

So in an attempt to maintain my sense of optimism against the snowstorms ('Spring will come, it will!'), I've decided to use the blog to make a record of the forthcoming transformation. Every Thursday morning (or thereabouts), around 9.00am, I'm going to take a photograph of the flower bed in front of our house. Well, I say 'flower bed'; it's more greenery than flowers, but you get the point. And actually, right now, it's not even greenery; just a heap of snow with one brave fern struggling through it.

Then I'm going to post it here. Just to show myself - and anyone else who's interested - how far we've come by the time June rolls around. Let me know if you're interested in joining in with photos of your own Spring-time transformation and perhaps McLinky might come out to join the fun, too...

Here it is, then. The front flower bed chez Potty, 9.10am, Thursday 31st March 2011. Roll on Spring; I sure am ready for you to make an appearance...

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Hair ; Wk 52 of the Gallery

This week over at Tara's Gallery, the prompt is 'Hair'. I think she was hoping for lots of embarrassing photos of us all with poodle perms and disastrous haircuts. I do have those - by the bucket load (not for nothing was my group of friends occasionally compared to the Hair Bear Bunch at the end of the '80's) - but sadly, they're all in storage. The photos, that is, not the friends.

Instead, I'm going to show just one hair, that ended up on my fingers as I scratched my head puzzling what to use for this post. Although this is by no means my predominant hair-colour, it is also by no means the only one.

Time to visit the colourist, perhaps...

Monday 28 March 2011

Monday morning common-sense quiz


What do you do when your Husband suggests that rather than buying a new and expensive ink cartridge for the printer, you have a shot at using the ink refilling thingy that he purchased some time ago and which says - on the packaging, so it must be true - 'Save money and simple'?


Suggest that if it is such a good idea, he should do it himself.

If you do not take the suggested course of action, ensure you have plenty of solvent available to clean the resulting stains off the counter top and your hands and nails.

And if no solvent is available, prepare to scrub everything - including yourself - with Cif.

Then; moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.

Throw the now defunct cartridge, refilling thingy, and various stained cloths, into the bin, muttering not so quietly under your breath about Husbands and money saving ideas.*

Write a blog-post to get some of the irritation out of your system (obviously re-casting yourself as Innocent Wife who was simply humouring her Husband but who knew all along this was going to be a Bad Idea).**

Finally, climb in the car and go out to buy yourself a new printer cartridge (and some solvent), which is what you now wish you had done in the first place.

The moral of this story?

There is a reason why people don't refill their ink cartridges themselves. Consider yourselves warned.

* Do not under any circumstances call said Husband in his office to solicit sympathy and perhaps even an apology for having had the temerity to make such a patently ridiculous suggestion in the first place. He will be in the middle of being Busy and Important and the chances are his amusement at your predicament will simply make you even testier...

** Under no circumstances ask yourself why you went along with this money-saving plan. No profit in that. You will only become even crosser...

Friday 25 March 2011

Me, Lady GaGa, and the great age debate

On the way home from school today;

Boy #1: "Lady GaGa is really rich, isn't she?"

Me: " Yes, I suppose she probably is."

Boy #1: "She's a rich, old, woman."

I nearly crash the car. "She's not old! Lady GaGa is younger than I am! Who told you she was old?"

Boy #1: "N did. He said, she's this reeeally old woman."

Boy #2: "How old IS she?"

I take a wild guess. "I don't know... 24 or 25, maybe?"

Horrified intakes of breath from the back seat.

Boy #2: "That's REALLY old... How old are you?"

Me: "I'm 44. Which is much more than Lady GaGa. Does that make me really old too?"

Cue diplomatic silence. Then;

Boy #1: "Maybe her birthday is before yours in the year, Mama. That makes her older thanyou, really..."

I'll go with that.

Note: with sincere apologies to Lady GaGa...

Thursday 24 March 2011

Making money from fresh air with The Co-operative

Sponsored Post

Whilst on a fleeting visit to the UK a couple of weekends ago, I noticed that The Co-operative has started a new advertising campaign. I like the Co-op; it's testament to the principle that a good idea can stand the test of time and succeed. In fact, the original co-operative was formed by The Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. I doubt that back then they had any idea their concept would still be working over 150 years later.

The ad campaign I mentioned features some modern-day successors of the Pioneers ideals. I particularly like the first community owned wind farm; set up in a Cumbrian village, Baywind Energy Co-operative has been running now since 1996 and typically generates enough electricity to power 30,000 homes each year. Not bad for a project that was initially set up using a loan from The Co-operative.

Co-operative ventures don't always work, obviously (the vast farms set up in Stalin's time in Russa are testament to that, sadly), but it can be a very successful business model. The Austrian village that the Potski family went skiing in this year is an example of that; the entire mountain is owned by the occupants of the village, all of whom take home a share of the profits at the end of each tourist season. Not only does this mean that improvements and investments are joint decisions - and hence implemented more efficiently than they might otherwise be - it also means that every person living in the village has a stake in ensuring that visitors enjoy their trip and hopefully return in future years. In short, everyone wins.

Which is, essentially, what The Co-operative is all about.

You can find out more about the Co-operative on their Facebook page, and can get involved and join the Revolution here.

Partage propulse par ebuzzing

When winter just won't quit...

The Russians say it's Spring here right now. Admittedly, it is above freezing for much of the time, and Mother Nature was doing her best to clear away the snow, but it seems she's taken the day off today (or Winter has come back from it's short break, who knows?) because this is what's outside my window:

(Note; the reason the trees look blurry is because they are obscured by the heavy snow falling. In March, for goodness' sake).

Oh well. At least it means that this link, to my latest offering over at In the Powder Room where I debate the rights and wrongs of wearing a helmet on the slopes (and shrug my shoulders at the resultant hair disaster) isn't quite so out of place...

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Education for Wk 51 of The Gallery

This post is part of Week 51 Tara's Gallery. Click here to see the other fabulous entries. The prompt this week was 'Education'. Here's something that formed part of mine...

What were you doing in Autumn, 1993?

Personally I was living the life of your average mid-20's Londoner; working hard, going out, partying, living from holiday to holiday, and taking scant notice of what was happening in the world outside my immediate field of vision.

In Moscow meanwhile, they were building barricades and campaigning for change. Ordinary people like you and I were caught up in the tension over a stand-off (the result of a constitutional crisis) between the Russian president Boris Yeltsin and the Russian parliament (the Duma). The disagreement was eventually resolved using force provided by a military reluctant to get involved but who did so knowing that the favours they would accrue as a result would allow them more influence in the long term (and so it proved).

Significant numbers of people died in the chaos; official (government) sources put the figures at 187 dead and 430 wounded, whilst others - less friendly to the government of the time - put the number of dead closer to 2000.

There are tales of activists being rounded up and herded into football stadiums before being shot for the temerity of speaking their mind and organising protests (right, or wrong; I'm making no judgement here). It was polarising, frightening, and bloody. I have friends here who were part of news crews reporting on the siege of the White House (for yes, there's one in Moscow too), and others who heard the shots and tanks through their windows as they waited inside their apartments, not knowing what tomorrow would bring; Communism or Western-style government.

And yet, I'm afraid to admit that it passed completely below the radar as far as I was concerned, 1500 miles away in London. So the walk through Krasnopresnaya - a stone's throw from the White House - where I took the photograph above, a memorial to those killed in the conflict and made up of some of the barricades used in it, was definitely a part of my education.

Monday 21 March 2011

On back-ache, and conversations with the mirror...

Most of the time, I feel quite young.
(Well, not quite 44 - not yet - at any rate)
I look in the mirror and it agrees.
(Always providing I ask it's opinion before my contact lenses go in and after the shower has misted it's surface, that is).
Sometimes, I'm asked my age by strangers.
And I wonder if it's a random act of kindness when they act surprised as I tell them truth.

Othertimes - like today, when I'm inching my way slowly to the car - I feel less young.
(And yet again, the mirror agrees - the turncoat)
I collect my children from school and even hefting an empty rucksack onto my shoulder is an effort.
I wonder then how I ever thought I might look less than my age.
So then I look for help.

This time, it comes in the form of a combined reiki and Alexander technique session from a friend.
(Should I worry she's not a formal practitioner? The mirror has no answer on this one).
I lie on the carpet as she hums and ha's, stretches my recalcitrent limbs, and moves my energy around.
(All the time wondering, 'Am I really buying into this hocus pocus?)
Apparently, I am carrying a lot of tension.
(You don't say.)

But slowly I start to visualise the toxic stress seeping out of me.
In my mind it looks like black ink, swirling through the air like water, dissipating into nothingness as it reluctantly leaves my tensed-up muscles.

I still hurt.

But I thank my friend for her efforts, leave her house, and hobble painfully towards the car, the school run, bathtime and bed.
(All the time still wondering, 'Am I really buying into this hocus pocus?)
I lie in bed for long minutes before sleep takes me, aching. Is it less? I can't tell.
And yet, when I wake up, I feel better.

(And the mirror thinks so, too.)

Sunday 20 March 2011

What would make YOUR perfect Mother's Day?

We had International Women's Day here a couple of weeks ago. This is a big deal here in Russia; it stands in for Mother's Day, and I suppose is better in a way since it celebrates all women, mothers or not. (For a full explanation of how Women's Day works in Moscow I recommend you pop on over to fellow blogger Jennifer's site Dividing My Time for a tongue in cheek examination of what it means for the female population of this city. Note: she's not exaggerating about the extra traffic...)

It got me thinking about Mother's Day back in the UK. I've noticed that there are already some bloggers posting on this subject, so rather than re-inventing the wheel I'm recycling the post below which I originally wrote for a local magazine when we were based in London, a couple of years ago...

So it’s Mother’s Day very soon, and I bet you think it’s yet another made-up tradition to help stationers sell more cards, and garages more carnations, don’t you?

Far from it. This day has heritage — its roots in the UK go back at least as far as the 16th century, although not until Victorian times did it start to assume the form it has now. Then it became the date when domestics were given a day off to go and visit their families. Housemaids would travel home to visit their mothers, Simnel cake in hand (similar to traditional Christmas cake, but without the icing), before haring back to their employers at daybreak next morning to black the grating, iron the newspaper, and kiss the postman. (I have clearly been watching far too much ‘Larkrise to Candleford’).

Nowadays, Mother’s Day consists of a card, and possibly being let off the washing-up (which you just know you are going to have do again later to get rid of the grease spots on the glasses). And if you're very lucky you might even avoid the grease spots hazard altogether with a family lunch out, assuming the credit card isn’t being crunched too hard…

All that’s very nice, of course, but really? Could Do Better. So this year I am giving due notice to all and sundry that my perfect Mother’s Day would consist of...

1 Dutiful Daughterhood
Waking up secure in the knowledge that I have not — as has been known — forgotten to send my mother a card. (Clearly, this one comes under ‘note to self’ category). This will then remove the need for that traditional last-minute panicked phone call to my sister (who handily lives in the same town as our parents), to beg her on bended knee to buy some flowers to drop in to Mum on my behalf.

2 Glorious Gifts
Being presented with suitably relevant and low-key gifts by my husband and sons (family please note: egg timers, a boxed set of ‘Best of Top Gear’ DVDs, and a road atlas of Europe are not amongst the presents deemed acceptable on this occasion).

3 Bathroom Monopoly
Being able to take as long as I like in the bathroom. To spell it out clearly; there will be no interruptions by husbands looking for spare loo rolls or small boys flying Playmobil airplanes and/or needing their bottoms wiping.

4 Chocolate
Ignoring a healthy breakfast in favour of a large box of Rococco chocolates. And not having to share them.

5 No chores
The general absence of cooking and tidying up duties. Not that those things shouldn’t get done, you understand. Just not by me. Not on Mothering Sunday.

6 The Big One
The big one. The Holy Grail for all mothers everywhere, if my straw poll on the matter is anything to go by. Please, no humdrum decisions. I would like one day of the year when I don’t have to decide what the children wear. One day when I don’t have to plan (or cook) dinner, or decide whether today’s is going to be a dark or a light wash. I still want these things done, mind you, and I want them done properly. Just — again — not by me.

7 But bigger still...
I’ve just worked out what the ingredient would be that would really make My Perfect Mother’s Day. My Mum. Here. With me. In spite of the fact that of course if she were I would need to be doing all those things in Point 6 (washing, laundry, humdrum decisions, cooking) for her rather than having them done for me. Which rather negates the whole thing, now I come to think of it... Still. I think I could live with that.

Friday 18 March 2011

Less 'Tiger mum', more 'pushover'

I never for a moment pretend to have all the answers but god, this parenting lark can be a tough one to call, can't it?

Once a week each of my Boys has an additional couple of hours lessons after school has finished. We're not putting them into Kumon Maths, we're not working on their on readin' and ritin'; instead, we're taking advantage of the opportunity for them to learn a little more Dutch than they would otherwise do. Husband speaks Dutch to our children, always has ever since they were born, but of course some English words creep in and since they know he speaks it, that's pretty much always the language they answer him in. Add in the fact that they have never lived in the Netherlands, that their parents talk to each other in English, and that all our Dutch friends and family also speak it, and the end result is that whilst they have a pretty good 'passive' vocabulary (and so can understand most if not all of what is said to them in Dutch), they're not so good at actually speaking it themselves.

Consequently, when we got the chance to put them into a Dutch-government sponsored school program (yes, I know: we never planned that living in Russia would improve their Dutch but life's like that sometimes) , it seemed like the perfect opportunity to boost their 'father-tongue'. Boy #1, after initial protests, has taken to it pretty well. His spoken Dutch has definitely improved and I'm told he's probably the best reader in the class. Boy #2? Not so much. Despite the fact that he probably sees more of his dad than his older brother did at the same age, on balance he hears less Dutch, which is in part my fault. With Boy #1, you see, I was rigorous in ensuring that he listened to Dutch nursery rhymes on tape, and that he watched Dutch dvd's (fyi, Bob the builder sounds more manly, and Wendy sexier in Dutch. Go figure.).

With your second child however, one is usually more relaxed. And whilst this is - overall - a good thing (for example there was no more stinking the house out making chicken stock recipes whilst weaning Boy#2 ; that madness was long passed thank god), it does mean I've been less strict about the Dutch thing too. The outcome of this has been that Boy #2 is less sold than his older brother on going from one school environment and down the hall (for the Dutch school happens on the same premises as their normal school) to another at the end of a day already 7 hours long.

So yesterday, when I went to collect Boy #2 from 'normal' school to walk him the 25 metres to Dutch school, and he looked at me with his big brown eyes and wept that he was 'too tired, mama, too too tired, please don't make me go, can't we just go home and play, and hang up the laundry?', I wavered.

We had been here before. Most weeks, if I'm honest. Usually I talk him 'round, jolly him along, and if that doesn't work, I physically pull him down the corridor until we get the classroom where I settle him down with his snack and distract him with his friends and the fun that he's going to have.

Yesterday, however, I didn't have it in me. I was tired, too. So tired that I could totally understand his 5 year-old request for time off from this merry-go-round of self improvement that we ruthlessly put our children on, telling ourselves it's for their own good and how lucky they are to have all these opportunities. It is for their own good. They are fortunate to have all these opportunities. But at five, sometimes all you want to do is just sit at home and play with your trains, and I get that.

So I decided that yesterday, not only was I not going to be a Tiger Mother and push him through it, but I was going to ignore the disciplinarian lurking in my subconscious who was shouting 'You know he's shamelessly manipulating you, don't you?' and give in to his pleadings.

Does that make me a bad mother? Or just a realistic one? I don't know. Perhaps I should have ignored his request 'for his own good'. But I do know this; I don't get offers of help to hang up the laundry so often that I can afford to turn them down when they do happen...

Wednesday 16 March 2011

The Gallery; Trees

The theme at Tara's Gallery's this week is 'Trees'. If you visited The Potty Diaries back in September you may have seen this photo already, and apologies if yes, but when I saw the prompt I knew that this was the only photo that would do it for me.

I took it last autumn on a walk through Izmailovsky Park here in Moscow, but in my biased opinion, it could just as well have been taken in Lothlorien...

Shock news; I have escapist tendencies....

I can't believe it, but I'm going to start yet another post with a link to yet another site... This is totally unplanned on my part; sometimes things just work out that way...

One of my favourite bloggers, Shannon over at everydaystranger has just written a post about her secret celebrity boyfriends. You know; those guys that you see on film or on tv and who you know - just KNOW - that if they met you in real life would fall madly, passionately in love with you. She's even done us the honour of sharing who hers are with her readers, and I have to say that I 'get' pretty much all of them. Except, perhaps the first 3 (a 70 year old man, Shannon? Really?) but since she hadn't even reached her teens when they were her heart's desire, I think I can let them slide.

I have to admit to a few secret celebrity boyfriends myself, over the years. (Actually, let's call them SCB's, for short; I've got soup on and about 50 articles to write so this needs to be quick...). And, like Shannon, many of my crushes are less about the flesh and blood actors / celebrities than the parts that they play (although I would be prepared to make an exception for John Cusack, it has to be said).

In fact, I've even been known to have the odd pash about characters in books - before they were made into films. (Strider or Legolas in 'The Lord of the Rings', anyone? Bernie Gunther in 'Berlin Noir'? Peter, in 'Prince Caspian'? Prince Caspian in 'The Dawn Treader'? God, the list is endless...). So I suppose that since I long-ago removed any requirement that my SCB's take corporeal form, I shouldn't be surprised by the latest one to pop up in my day-dreams.

My new SCB is - to put it frankly - a bit of a nerd. He has girl hair (in fact, Boy #1 recently remarked that his hairstyle was a lot like mine - except I'm betting he doesn't have to blow-dry his hair upside down and use wax to get that fly-away flicky look). He's not the strongest, the fastest runner in the village or the quickest on the draw. But he's smart, funny, and has integrity, commitment, loyalty, passion (as evinced by his love-from-afar for the unknowing and ungrateful Astrid who, if I'm honest, I'm not that keen on), and bravery and intelligence by the bucket-load. Oh, and he's good with his hands, never something to be undervalued in my humble opinion...

Hiccup, if we met in real life (and I were - rather upsettingly - 25 years younger), Astrid would be toast.

I have GOT to stop watching the Boys' movies...

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Moving on #2

Boy #2's pearl of wisdom this afternoon, pronounced solemnly, feet on table, as he chomps (and burps) his way through an apple:

"If you eat the seeds you will definitely need to go to the hots-pital (sic)."

He's growing up - and I love that - but can I just say; when he starts to say 'hospital' correctly, I will mourn 'hots-pital's passing...

Note; this isn't the first time I've been here; I just realised that 18 months ago I wrote this post about the way he used to say 'helicopter'. Thank god for blogging so I can actually keep track of all this stuff...

Monday 14 March 2011

Short and oh-so-very sweet...

It's a bit of a blog-tastic love-fest here on The Potty Diaries right now. Yesterday I sent you over to 'Iota' and 'In the Powder Room', today I'm going to suggest you head on over to 'Pig In The Kitchen' where you will not only find hilarious writing and a host of most wonderful recipes but also some excellent advice on checking your boobs regularly.

Which we should ALL do every month, n'est ce pas*? (Always assuming we have the correct - ahem - equipment**.)

* Use of swanky French is a nod to Pig's glamorous location...
** Disclaimer - no men were harmed in the writing of this post...

Oh, and one last thing: this is still not a sponsored post.

Update: Whilst I'm having my mini-link-fest, I'm participating in this month's BMB Blog Hop. Click on the blogs listed below to take part.

Sunday 13 March 2011

I've been away for 4 whole days...

... so how it come it feels like only 4 hours?

In any case, my brain is fried, so for a far more interesting post than this one I suggest you pop on over to The Iota Quota where my good bloggy friend Iota (who, thanks to the wonder that is Cybermummy, I have met in person, and who is just as lovely and entertaining as you might imagine), has written about where blogging is taking her now.

Oh, and you could also click on over to take a look at In The Powder Room, the fabulous progeny of Powder Room Graffiti and Mums Rock who have recently joined forces. I don't have a new post up there (although I do have some old ones), so this is not in any way a sponsored pointer. Just some recommended reading in case you're not keen on what's on the box this evening. Go on - you won't regret it...

Wednesday 9 March 2011

The Gallery: Pride (and Spring)

I didn't take this photo.

A 6 year old child in Boy #1's class did. Sure, I've messed about with the colour and contrast etc, but essentially, this is the photograph that they meant to take. It's one of a number that were taken for something I've already mentioned here; the Silent Auction. For those who didn't read that post, it's an event where staff and parents at the Boys' school are given the chance to bid for baskets containing collections of goodies (but not, it has to be said, my Green & Black's chocolate), or for art projects completed by their children's class.

Being a devotee of the printed photograph album, I suggested to Boy #1's class teacher that this year we create one of those, made up of photographs taken by the children. Each child was lent a digital camera for around 30 minutes, and one of the other parents and I escorted small groups around the school whilst they snapped away to their heart's content. We then edited each child's submission down to the best 3 or 4 each, and I messed around on photoshop to crop them and make the colours pop.

The photograph above is one of the results.

I am so proud of their efforts; it was amazing to me how beautiful some of the photographs that resulted are. I would love to share them all with you to illustrate that, although obviously I can't do that, so those sledges will have to do.

And, because I'm incapable of letting an opportunity past to showcase my own photographs, I thought I would show you this one - which I did actually take - as well. The word that this brings to mind, for me, is Spring, which is finally making an appearance in Moscow.

I know using ice to illustrate Spring seems unlikely but, believe me, snow on the roof has to actually melt to make icicles like these...

This post is for Wk 48 of Tara's Gallery; click here to see all the other fantastic submissions.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Blogging changed my life...

... no, really; it has.

I never thought it would, back when I started this lark in Summer 2007. I certainly never planned that it might. But last week's ice-dipping post prompted the following comment from the wonderful Iota:

'(and you really did it for the blog fodder, didn't you?!)'

Pshaw! I thought. How dare she suggest I would do such a cheap, populist thing. But I know that - as ever - she's right, at least in part. I mean, it's all very well to throw yourself into a pool of freezing, smelly, pond water with a girlfriend just for fun (doesn't everyone do that to celebrate a birthday? No?), but it's another thing entirely to do it and then to be able to write about it. That makes it a lot more attractive to a sick and twisted blogging individual such as myself...

And then at lunch on Sunday with some friends, as they recoiled in horror at news of my ice dip and questioned my sanity in doing it, someone (OK, Husband, the sweet man) pointed out that there are a whole load of things that I have done that I may not have if I hadn't known I would have the chance to write about them afterward. Meeting complete strangers off a bus from Cardiff with the intention of spending an afternoon with them, for one example. Going to a gay club and watching a bloggy mate from across the pond perform her 90's hit for a crowd of adoring fans, for another. Going to the launch of the John Lewis Christmas range - on a hot day in July. Spending a morning road-testing a Dyson vacuum cleaner (you know how to live; rock and roll PM, rock and roll...).

And the big one; moving to Russia. OK, that would probably have happened anyway, but I was certainly a lot more sanguine about making the move knowing that I could write about it and reinvent it, making it funny if it proved not to be...

And this is just for starters; I know if I went back through the 800 or so posts on The Potty Diaries one by one, I would discover a lot more examples of my behaving in an uncharacteristically confident and gung-ho fashion just because I knew I would be able to show off about it to my online mates afterwards...

(Because if I'm honest, there is just a teensy bit of showing off involved when I do these things. I know. Such a surprise!)

Right now, for example, encouraged by the same friend who persuaded me to jump into a frozen lake last week, I'm even considering the madness that is running the Lake Baikal half marathon next March. You know; the one that takes place in minus 15degC, on ice, and which this year had the contestants running the first 15k's through 6 inches of fresh snow in their hobnailed running shoes. The one which has to be completed in 3 hours, or the race organisers pick you up to make sure you don't freeze to death.

I won't do it, of course; I'm the world's worst runner. Well. I probably won't.

But just imagine the blog-fodder if I did.

What about you? If you blog, are there things you've done just because you knew it would make good blog fodder?

Sunday 6 March 2011

The Perils of Oversharing

This has been an eventful week.

On Monday I wrote this post, which I subtitled 'In which I over-share about facial hair.' I wrote it because the incident (in hindsight) made me laugh - if you read it, I hope it did you, too. However, the day after that I went out for lunch with a fellow Moscow-based blogger (you can find her here or on my sidebar; check it out; she's both hilarious and informative) and a couple of others, and as I sat next to her it occurred to me that her frequent sidelong glances at me may not only have been to check that I was listening to what she was saying. She reads my blog, you see. And more than 24 hours had elapsed since my perhaps reckless admission about facial hair doubling as 'sink tidy for snow' the previous day. So...

Apologies Jennifer if I'm wrong in this assumption, but were you checking out the - I can hardly bring myself to say it - moustache situation?

I wouldn't blame you if you were. If the situation had been reversed I most definitely would have been.

In any case, we had a lovely lunch and in the excitement of my ice dipping escapade the next day, I forgot all about my reflections on the wisdom of posting quite that much personal information online.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, The Saturday Times ran a piece which was an interview with US-uber-blogger Dooce, entitled 'Dirty nappies and sex on the sofa - too much information?' (it's online but behind the pay-wall sadly, although if you have a subscription or even better a copy of the newspaper itself, it's in the Life section) and at the foot of the article listed 8 British-based blogs as further examples of the mummy-blog type. Amazingly enough, The Potty Diaries featured in this list, which felt something like winning the lottery, I have to admit.

I do have very slightly mixed feeling about it however, based mainly on the fact that the excerpt they chose to illustrate The Potty Diaries was the very one in which I mentioned my 'snow on the face' incident. I don't want to look a gift-horse in the mouth, you understand, but I think my feelings about this are best summed up by a tweet I wrote when I found out what had happened.

'V Good: The Potty Diaries mentioned in today's Saturday Times (Life). Less good; all their readers now know I have a moustache.'

Friday 4 March 2011

Things my sons have said to me today...

Boy #1, on being asked why he was carrying an enormous chunk of ice back to the house on the way home from school (it's not as if we didn't have enough of it waiting for us there, after all...):

"Because I've never had an ice collection - and that's so not fair!"

Boy #2, on being asked why he thought his papa had put him on the naughty chair this morning (fyi, the correct answer was; 'Because I was being a pain Mum and refused to get out of bed after being repeatedly asked, even though I knew we were on a deadline.')

"Well, because, you know, Papa's harder to handle than you are, Mama..."

Thursday 3 March 2011

Ice-dipping - yes, I AM that stupid.

This is an e-mail I got on Tuesday night, from a friend who organises a cross-country ski group that meets a couple of times a week near our home.

Hi Ladies
Today was the first day of spring and the forecast is for more sunshine tomorrow!
It is also my birthday and I was hoping to go into the "icy pond" by the lake today but have delayed it until tomorrow and so the plan is to warm up with a ski and then I ( and anyone who would dare join me) will dip. I have ordered some limoncello and so will take it along for you all to enjoy.


I read this and laughed. My friend had been threatening to do exactly this for a while now, but I never really thought she would get round to it. Climb into a frozen lake, in the middle of the day, sober? And then ski home? Was she crazy?

But then, completely unbidden, the thought came to me; 'Why not do this with her? No. No! Don't be an idiot, PM.


I am in Russia. I am relatively young, fit and healthy. I would never get the chance to do this in the UK; ski through a forest, take an ice-dip, and ski home again.

So I did what any self-respecting woman would do these days; I asked Twitter. The overall response that came back was unsurprising; what the hell would you want to do something like that for? That should have put an end to it of course. But funnily enough, I found that I didn't like that answer very much ('what's wrong with me?'), so I asked around some more. I asked Heather from Lapland, who encouragingly told me to wear flipflops going into the water (how practical, not something I would have considered myself), and I e-mailed a friend who's lived here for while. Her response?

'My husband did the ice dipping and got double pneumonia shortly after... but otherwise apparently it makes you feel great!'

Definitely not a good idea, then.

But you know what?

Yesterday morning I put my swimsuit on under my ski clothes, skied for an hour, stopped by a frozen lake, got undressed, and my friend and I jumped in.

Well, when I say 'jumped', what I actually mean is that she bravely waded into the water and spent a minute in there, whilst I gingerly climbed in, dipped once, and climbed straight out again (putting my flipflops on as I did so - such a good tip, Heather, thankyou!).

Was it cold? Hell yes. So cold that I lost the ability to speak whilst I was in there. The water smelt, a little, but then since the lake is essentially a large pond it was always going to do that. And I have to say taking my swimsuit off and replacing it with dry underwear whilst standing on a snow drift in -8degC and in full view of the anyone who cared to look was not something I had planned on, but the changing shed by the ice hole was locked so there was nothing else for it (skiing home in a wet bathing suit under my snow pants appealed even less than the thought of flashing a boob as I struggled into my bra under my thermal t-shirt, for some reason...).

But, it was a beautiful day. The sun shone so brightly on the white snow that it was like standing inside a light-bulb. I had worked up some heat during the ski there, so my circulation was buzzing, and admittedly the adrenaline of 'what on earth are you doing?' might have helped bring on a bit of a sweat. And standing on the banks of the lake afterwards, wrapped in towel, wearing a swimsuit and flipflops and nothing else whilst I knocked back a shot or two of limoncello in celebration, I didn't feel the chill at all.

Husband, when I spoke to him later, was amazed; he never thought I would do it. The Russians I've spoken to about having done it have been uniformly confused. Why would I do such a thing? They know I'm not an Orthodox Christian (for whom this is religious cleansing experience), and I'm not a health nut, so clearly the only explanation is that I am certifiably insane.

They may be right.

But as Husband said to me, over the last two years my boundaries of what I will and won't do have expanded considerably*, and whatever else I may feel about Mother Russia, I have to give her a lot of the credit for that.

Ultimately though, my motivation for doing this probably idiotic thing was impulsive; 'Fxck it. I can do it, so I shall. Life is for living.' And if there's one thing that doing that dip made me feel, it was ALIVE.

* extreme waxing, going blonde, bungy jumping and throwing myself out of airplanes are still off the menu, by the way...

Wednesday 2 March 2011

The Gallery Wk 48: Simple Pleasures

Want to know what I did this morning?

(Clue; I'm not talking about the cross country skiing. Although I did do that too...)

Blog post to follow later, when I've warmed up a bit...

This post is for Week 48 of Tara's Gallery. Click here to see all the other fabulous entries.