Friday, 31 August 2007

walking and talking



The idea was modest - a few folk would walk the River Eden from source to sea. It's some 65 miles and if they could muster £100 a mile then the local hospice at home organisation would be £6500 better off.
And on the way people could nominate a day to remember someone they had lost - of course we would do it for Dad.
For us - because walking and Cumbria and walking around Cumbria were so important to Dad and therefore his family - we didn't even have to stop and think about whether or not it was the right thing to do.
Before anyone had even dug out the dog's lead and Thermos the total was standing at nearer £20,000.
Around 80 people clambered onto the vintage bus to get from Kirby Stephen to the North Yorkshire - Cumbria border at Mallerstang.
Hopes were high and spirits were good.
And it stayed that way through the 50-odd miles and four days I can vouch for.
If all we did was raise money for Hospice at Home that would be fantastic, but I also learned a few things.
We aren't the only family to have suffered loss - and everyone else's hurts just as badly (strangely this was comforting).
In the north of England maize is grown to be pulped for to feed livestock before the cobs ripen.
"Under control" is a movable feast when it comes to dogs and children.
The Lake District National Park exists to keep the crowds away from the equally lovely but slightly less showy surrounding countryside.
I am Cumbrian at heart.
My family are amazing and extraordinarily good company on a walk.
Oh, and if you haven't already...
http://www.justgiving.com/Ellenfordad

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

sticks and stones


I knew it was time for the holidays to end because the insults were getting more and more inventive as the children and I got more and more crabby.
Son One wins the prize with his "big fool-headed dodo" while Son Two, the object of his invective, has developed an especially irritating Picachu impression.
The summer hadn't been up to much anyway... I'd finally given up trying to wear the linen I'd bought in a rush optimism in May.
Son Two got packed off to school for the first time - a little aprehensive, but delighted to see his chums from nursery.
The most confusing element of the day is why many of those children are wearing blazers they almost certainly will never ever put on again.
Maybe someone rents them out for first-day-at-school mornings.
Lots of the mums were sniffing bravely and one or two were distraught.
I was fine though - Son Two and I are both ready for him to go to school.
If I had any doubt it was allayed by an item of post this morning - something I really wasn't ready for and had me sobbing into the Kleenex... the first Christmas gift catalogue.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Infection warning

We should have paid more attention to the infestation of pre-orders that were cropping up all over the place.
Recent reports point to a few sightings of pre-planned activity.
Where will it end?
Please be ready to take swift and decisive action if you spot any pre-anticipation, pre-plotting, pre-expectation, pre-scheming and, most deadly of all, pre-forethought.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Ask me another


"So how do mummies get babies in their tummies then?" asked Number Two Son in his very carrying voice.
In spite of the lunchtime rush, the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum went oddly quiet.
I tried passing the buck but for once the News Panther seemed stuck for an answer. In fact, he was probably the only person in the cafe to be still absorbed by their lunch.
In my pre-motherhood years, before I learned to shout and when I still fondly imagined my potential children would eat hummus and listen to reason, I had considered being asked this question.
It's one of those "do you remember where you were when?" sorts of questions.
I'd imagined settling down and looking the child in the eye before embarking on a simplified but anatomically correct response. My answer would leave no room for storks, cabbage patches, funny kind of wee or even when-two-people-love-each-other-very-much. So much for that.
Stalling didn't work. "I'll tell you when we get back in the car."
"Tell me now."
The cafe got quieter.
It's a shame really because it probably distracted a lot of the people in the cafe from some of the finest fish and chips I've ever tasted.
Can't recommend it too highly. In fact, it was so good we stopped in on the way home again too.
The Real Food Cafe - a rehabilitated Little Chef - is a shining example of how it is possible to cook good food well without getting all poncy or expensive about it all.
Please, please, mundane and mediocre cafes and restaurants everywhere take note. If they can do it, so can you.

Monday, 13 August 2007

A monstering






It was all No 1 son's idea. He had a bit of a thing going about dinosaurs and had read somewhere - and there wasn't much he hadn't read on the subject - that Nessie might have been a neglected plesiosaur lurking in the loch.
So there was nothing else for it but to go on an expedition.
We visited the exhibitions - the impressive official one and the 'original' one - and even took to the waters to search for ourselves.
The nearest sighting was this one while we were visiting Urquhart Castle... although No 1 boy was convinced he'd seen one on the sonar in the boat.
The whole trip was made worthwhile for the grown ups by a bit of news footage from June 2003.
White witch Kevin Carlyon had pitched up all snazzy in his best crimson dressing gown to go nose-to-nose with hirsute Swedish scientist Jan Sundberg.
The set-to was all about the monster and what should happen to it.
Sundberg wanted to trap the elusive beastie for experiments while the witch, from Dorset, for reasons best known to himself, wasn't having it.
So Carlyon lit some candles, chanted a bit, drew a pentangle and pronounced Nessie protected by a spell.
The best bit was at the end as the squabbling pair were running out of steam. Carlyon, obviously all out of other-worldly invective, yelled at the boffin: "You twat!"
Then he pulled his dressing gown cord tight and huffed off. Priceless.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Let's hope they caught it in time

Three little words
by Jim Carruth

Fear the day
father and son
gather the flock
follow the herd
empty the fields
fill the shed
close the door
load the guns
again and again
until it's done
carry the dead
build the pyre
watch the smoke
cover the land
mourn the loss
share the words
love and grief
pain and death
foot and mouth.

Learning curve


We're all doing it... moaning about the school holidays. It's a bit like how we whinged about school dinners, cos it was the thing to do. When actually, looking back, they weren't so bad for the money.
There is no avoiding the fact that the holidays do pose some dilemmas.
It is very liberating for all of us to be free of the tyranny of the school bus, remembering when it's gym day, homework and having remotely presentable uniform every morning.
On Planet Ideal World you would find me engaged in some fun and educational activity which involves creating something worthwhile and useful. The children, all apple cheeks, would be thriving and inspired, stashing away golden memories for the future.
On sunny days I'd be handing out wholesome frozen juice lollies to packs of firm limbed youngsters who are enjoying entirely sporting water pistol duals.
OK, on PIW no one has to meet deadlines in order to get paid or at least if they do they are organised enough to do it all during term time.
Neither do the children turn up their noses at wholesome in favour of synthetic and lurid.
Nor do their water fights end in tears within slippery, shivering minutes.
Sadly even if I could find the directions to the planet my space rocket wasn't put away properly last year and consequently won't start. Hey ho.
This leaves me trying to write something remotely in line with what was commissioned, more or less on time and usually in English, because we need the money.
First we had to overcome the irresistible parent-on-the-phone-i-need-a-biscuit-NOW compulsion.
This has been replaced by the sshhhhhh-she's-on-the-phone-leave-her-alone-she'll-be-cross stage whisper which goes hand-in-hand with post-little-brother-outside-the-office-and-ask-regularly-if-she's-said-goodbye-yet.
Then I read something somewhere credible that said it was really good to chase them outside to play with their peers and have some mini adventures.
Bingo.
Under threat of exterminating the entire Pokemon race, the peace lasted, oooh, moments.
I'd just got into the middle of an interview with the chief executive of something fairly large when...
"Muuuuuum, Ally's stuck up the tree. Muuuum. Heeeeeelp."
Sigh.
So the stand-off we've reached is the kids can do all creative things they like as long as they are virtually silent and don't need my help.
Meanwhile all our visitors think we are recent victims of robbery and the Panther hasn't been able to find any of his possessions for weeks.
We're all counting the minutes til the school bus trundles up.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Whose Facebook?



Right. So there you are getting all set up on Facebook. But you can't find a photie of you sky diving into an all-night naked rave or swimming with the Loch Ness monster. Or at least not one that you could easily explain away to the vice cops.
Shame.
Then what do you do next? Look for a snap of yourself looking, well, nothing like you. Unless of course you look too fabulous for words or you are young enough not to care.
For the purposes of this blog, I'm assuming we're not in the really-wild-just-living-with-the-parents-cos-it's-cheaper part of the internet, so that'll not be us then.
And I know you'll just get significant other to take a snap at the weekend when the rain stops but you want to put something up in the mean time.
Wadda ya do? You get a pic of your sweet little baby and bung it up there. There's dozens of them and, yes, they are all really cute and I know you're very, very proud. But hang on. What gives you the right to stick your Darling BooBoo up on the Hinternet for all to look at without their say so?
I know that sounds like the kind of right-on piffle that bans doting parents from videoing the nursery nativity. But it's different.
Firstly, no one is going to happen upon your tape of the cutest Third Wise Man in history because it's in your cupboard. On the Net anyone can have a look and mostly they couldn't give a hoot, but you never know... there's some funny folk out there.
Secondly, one day in the not-too distant future Darling BooBoo and his classmates will hit Google when the computing teacher's back is turned. Just imagine how you would have felt to have your baby photos in full view of everyone in the class?
Have some bottle. If you're big enough to Facebook, you're big enough to be in the picture.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Dear Jo


I hope you don't mind if I call you Jo. JK seems a tad contrived.
Now, Jo, I like a good read and I've really enjoyed all the Harry Potters. I'm not quite ordering ahead of publishing at Amazon, but I the last couple have found their way into my supermarket trolley within the first day or so.
So I was really looking forward to getting back into Harry's slightly sweaty teenage world this week.
My problem is that I've obviously pickled a few braincells in Merlot - or Riesling actually - since the Half-blood Prince. I just can't remember who all these people are and which side they are on. It's even more baffling because there are loads of rules and spells and magic things which each have their own rules to remember.
Jo, I know this is the last one, but do you think you could produce a grown-up's guide to who's who and why? It could be a bit like that think Jilly cooper does with her bonkbusters only without the sex.
Thanks
PS Pop in for a cauldron of Chablis if you're passing.
PPS On the subject of ordering the book, could you put a curse on that dreadful expression "pre-order"? Things are either ordered or they're not.

Well I never



Apparently women over 40 drink the most and the boffins are baffled. Why don't they find a 40-something woman sober enough to answer and ask her?
Here are a selection of likely responses:
"Here I am. Over here. Yes. I know you couldn't see me at first. That's because I've become invisible. Yes. It happens when we get to a certain age and still look OK but not remarkable."
"Hang on, I'll talk to you in a minute. Promise. I've just got to meet this deadline, feed the kids, clean the house and do a few laps of the running track. Oh, what? Yes. I'll have a minute about 11pm, but you'd better be quick because I tend to nod off."
"Yesh, of coursh, I'm drunk. You want shome?"
"One for me, one for the trifle, one for me, one for the coq au van, one for me one for the fondue... bugger Nigella."

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

just a mum...

Instant karma

Feminism is the most revolutionary idea there has ever been. Equality for women demands a change in the human psyche more profound than anything Marx dreamed of. It means valuing parenthood as much as we value banking.
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian, January 19, 1987




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