Monday, 24 September 2007

Ransom note

If something's good enough I don't mind paying for it. (What's that I can hear the Panther muttering?)
Nowt's for nowt, as they say. And the Glasgow Science Centre certainly isn't for nowt - more than £20 for us all to go. But I don't mind, not when it kept us all amused in such a wholesome manner on a wet holiday Monday. You don't even have to walk through the gift shop on the way out.
What I do mind about is being held to ransom in the car park. £2 before you can get out.
If the excuse is that they're trying to save the planet, wouldn't a proper train/bus/tram which stops at the door be more effective? Plus some detailed information about how and when to catch it.
It's simply a variation on putting check-out sweeties at brat eye-level. Who is going to arrive with the kids in the back all geed up about the visit, see the notice and say: "sorry kids we're going to come back another day on the bus because this is a rip-off", "sorry kids, we'll be there soon, we're off to buy a Rottweiler so we can park the car for free in Govan" or "£2! One of you can stay in the car"?

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Laughing stock

I'm 40 years old and I'll probably never again boil a poultry carcass to make stock.
There, I said it and it feels good.
For years after a roasted bird, I boiled pans full of evil-looking bones and scummy stock. The end result was a kitchen full of a foul smelling steamy fug followed by a fridge full of stale stock in greasy containers.
It does make fabulous soup, I'll concede. But rarely in my life.
Thing is, if I've had time to roast something at the weekend I'm highly unlikely to subsequently find time to make soup before the stock turns rancid. Believe me you don't want to give fridge space to a vat of liquid which is beginning to seethe with decomposition.
Besides which, most supermarkets keep neat, tidy packets of proper stock you can bung in the freezer.
The light dawned tonight after supper as the Panther was wresting the shards of succulent duck from the bones. "You making stock?" he enquired.
"Nope. Shan't and you can't make me."
Supper, by the way, was roast Gressingham duck with baby beetroot, cabbage, potatoes and sort-of Cumberland sauce.
The duck was Nigella-style: poached yesterday and bunged in a hot oven today.
Spuds are Aga-style: in an Aga fingers of floury potato massaged with olive oil resemble chips, in a fan oven they are soggier and stickier but no less yummy.
Sort-of sauce: orange juice, butter, red wine and stock (Marigold powdered!) with a little cornflour.

All shook up

Generally I'm not a big one for sharing my dreams. There's two reasons for this. Firstly, most people's nocturnal soap operas are beyond boring, mine included and secondly, when occasionally they are mildly diverting, you might regret sharing.
I'm still regretting going public about my sleep-time erotic encounter with the then Chancellor Gordon Brown.
But I had a horrible dream the other evening. I was in a noisy and garishly lit hangar where the World's Best Elvis competition was being held. There were dozens of them all in the tight catsuits and rhinestones. That was bad enough.
Then there was a professional Lancastrian shouting above the din of "uhu, thankyavermuch". (Although the Panther would protest that professional Lancastrian is an oxymoron - stress on the moron.)
You know what Vernon Kay, for it was he, kept repeating? He called the costumed contestants "Elvi". That alone brought on the night terrors.
But the very worst cold-sweat, know-I-want-to-scream-but-no-noise-comes-out moment was the one when I realised that I was footing the bill for this hideousness.
Thankfully it's only a dream and I'll wake up soon and find the BBC - for which I pay - would never even consider such utter garbage... not in their wildest dreams.

ass burger - trying to tell a child about his autism

It's been on my mind for a while.
I think that the time is coming to talk to both Boys about the older one's condition.
In general, there are few situations which don't benefit from getting everything out in the open, on the table and under the spotlight. So to speak.
So today in the blustery sunshine Boy One and I headed out to the Knapps Loch near Kilmacolm. Him armed with a notepad and pen to detail the changes necessary when he remodels the area as a Pokemon park - "that fence will have to go, but we'll keep the cows". Me mulling over the phrases I might need.
My opener: "Have you notice how you are different from all the other boys and girls in your class?"
His reply: "Of course mummy. Everyone is different and everyone is unique and everyone is an individual."
I flailed around at this for a bit. Trying to point out the things which might mark him out, but he just wasn't interested.
In desperation: "Have you heard of Asperger's Syndrome?"
"Ass burger. Ass burger. Ass burger," as he hooted with laughter, bent double and clutching his belly. "You just said the funniest thing ever."
When a few feeble attempts to restart the conversation were greeted with helpless mirth I gave up.
Maybe we'll have to put this conversation aside for a little while yet.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Ring any bells?

How weird is this?
My mobile rang this afternoon and a smiley sounding lady announced that she was from Orange and could she ask me a few questions with a view to getting me a better mobile deal.
I was quite chuffed because it had been on my mind to go back to Orange. I huffed my business away from them a year or so ago because they started charging for me to get itemised bills.
At the time, O2 couldn't have been more accommodating. They flogged me an almost entirely unworkable phone/computer hybrid - a sort of poor-woman-with-minuscule-fingers-and-infinite-patience's BlackBerry. I have neither.
The XDA Mini, for this is what the infuriating gadget was, lasted about six weeks and two of those were on account of it having a rather nice bubble popping game.
Apart from popping bubbles, the thing had no redeeming features. It didn't do calls very well (it was slightly too big and flat to fit between gob and ear properly) it didn't do emails because the connections were invariably rubbish and everything else it did was entirely at the whim of the things in my handbag pushing the buttons in the dark.
Its tiddly little pen thing kept falling out and when you did slide the microscopic keyboard out if a crumb or an ant should get anywhere near it, it didn't shut again.
You could say it was a cathartic moment when I realised I didn't have to put up with it and dug my old phone out after a half hour of jaunty burrowing in the kitchen clutter mountain.
How happy I was to see its ordinary flippy lid and grown-up sized buttons.
I did have to go through the slightly illicit process of having to get it 'fixed' for £20 by some very helpful chap in a shop in Partick called Fonetastic.
Soon, however, I remembered why I'd picked Orange in the first place. Apparently they put their transmitters a few feet above anyone else's consequently it's the only company which transmits successfully into my house.
Plebs with Vodaphone or Three or O2 have to stand on a chair at the top of the stairs to get any kind of telephonic satisfaction.
Now after more than I year on the chair I think it's time to slink back to Orange - they've probably learnt their lesson now anyway.
So it seemed smiley Orange lady had read my mind.
"Sure," I said.
She asked what I paid and how often, then "Do you think I could look at getting you a better deal?"
"Yes please," said I. "I'm sure you can."
"Thanks very much, good bye" she said and hung up.
I stood there - on one leg on the chair - for ages listening to the buzz and hoping she'd just gone to get someone from the better deal department to help me.
But no.
Now I'm in a quandary, on a chair and not sure which way to leap.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Sweaty situation

Today I went to the gym - a generally civilised and wholesome place. I naively pitched up to do a circuit class - core circuits, no less.
Usually classes have a lot of women in them and while there is sweating there certainly isn't any grunting. If I bothered to think about it I would most likely conclude that this was a hangover from the Jane Fonda or Kids from Fame days of Lycra and aspiring to graceful long-legged loveliness.
Core circuits was different - there were quite a few men and hardly any Lycra at all. Instead they almost all wore t-shirts telling of some sporting endeavour. Great North Run, Scottish Series yachting, some exotic gym at least six time zones from Renfrewshire and a rather ritzy golf club to name but a few.
But I could barely ponder this interesting sartorial trend for the most distracting straining noises and groans.

Friday, 14 September 2007

This little piggy

Please tell me I'm not alone.
Recently I've been going to Marks & Spencer to buy something for tea and popping a bag of Percy Pigs in the basket "for the kids".
Then when I get home the children - and the Panther - get two each and I scoff the rest til I feel sick.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Destination unknown - but Welcome To Holland

One of the boys has Asperger Syndrome and for a long time I wasn't going to mention it. I don't want to be dismissed as another unfortunate, earnest Mum-of-the-Autistic-Spectrum-Child and I would hate what I say to linger in cyberspace to haunt him in the future.
He does very well and I have high hopes for him. We are blessed to be near a fantastic school in a supportive community. But his condition is still a reasonably large part of all our lives and, as such, it's hard to ignore.

I found this recently and loved it

by Emily Perl Kingsley.
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

what'll it be next?

It's a funny old thing this blogging business. On the one hand, it's not very much different to scribbling my thoughts in an old jotter and stuffing it under my bed. But, on the other, someone might actually be reading it.
And for the purposes of this discussion I'm not talking about my eternally fabulous nearest and dearest. For them my blog simply saves us all time "yeah, I know what you did, I read it on the blog".
Recently I made the mistake of putting a counter on the blog so now I'm bending my brain to figure out who those other 30 or so mystery clicks have come from. I'm seeing shiny haired families rushing in from their day's exertion to log on and see the latest Bun Dance pearls. Or successful and charismatic publishing executives salivating at such a find.
So, you see, in a fit of late-onset pretension, I've got responsibilities to my audience...
What am I going to blog about now because no one apart from my EFN&D will give a hoot about what I think about stuff and even then they're probably just pretending.
Who cares that I can't really see the point of kiwi fruit or that the Bridges of Madison County, Miss Saigon and Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris all made me cry? Does anyone really give a monkeys that I think that Hell's Kitchen is about the lowest and most insulting form of television since television began? Did they really think that sticking Brian from Big Brother in a room with that hideous bigot Jim Davidson would have anything other than a predictable outcome? And while we're on the subject - as anyone who has ever worked in the catering trade for more than five minutes will attest - you can't cook properly for more than a small dinner party and keep your pinnie clean.
What's left to blog about then? Where I've been and what I've eaten. Most recently the kitchen and some leftover chicken nugget (surprisingly tasty if they're still hot and the whole meat variety)... Nah? Didn't think so either...

Monday, 10 September 2007


"Don't call it ugly, it's brilliant."
As I was just saying to Jeremy the other day...

Saturday, 8 September 2007

blowing in the wind

Apparently Boris Johnson's favourite word is carminative - which is to do with relieving the effects of flatulence. Interesting choice.

It's not fair

Luciano Pavarotti died this week at 71. Fans of every stripe lined up to offer suitable tributes. An enormous talent who will be missed.
My strongest emotion was one of resentment. Pavarotti's family - his widow Nicoletta and daughters Lorenza, Christina, Guilian and Alice - had him for six more years than we had Dad.
I find I do it all the time - read obituaries and am indignant when the deceased lasted longer than 65. It's like there's a little girl inside yelling "it's not fair!".
Is this how everyone feels after the death of a loved one? Probably - I don't imagine I am doing any more than plodding down the well-trod road of loss. Destination? Comfortable acceptance, I hope.
Recently my sister and I were chatting to the daughter of a friend of Dad's. Her father died a couple of years ago.
"Does it get any easier?" we asked.
"Yes and no. You still get whacked around the back of the head by it when you least expect it and it doesn't hurt any less, it's just that the gaps between the whacks get a little longer," she replied.
I'm a huge believer in the ingenuity of Mother Nature - pretty much everything, however grisly, happens for the greater good of our fabulous human race.
This includes giving teenage boys acne so that teenage girls won't fancy them and making new mothers so addled they daren't drive a car forcing them to stay in and look after baby.
So MN has set our world up so we each have parents and - all else being equal - the parents will die first. And she has condemned us all to feeling wretched when they do.
There has to be a reason, but at the moment I'm struggling a little to find it.

Friday, 7 September 2007

A question of evil

Things are happening in the Maddie McCann case in Portugal. Mother Kate has been interviewed by detectives and there's talk of blood found in hire cars.
Now there's a new question for the watching world - which is the bigger horror, a mysterious bogieman snatching innocent kiddies from their beds or a parent with deceitful heart of steel?

a little lamb

The Panther turned his hand to culinary matters and produced a lovely supper.
Pan fried lamb steaks with a mint and rosemary gravy and sweet potato mash. He's a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen, it has to be said.
But good meat really makes a difference and ours came from

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The future

Our kids might be setting out on careers we can't guess at and certainly won't understand.
Boy One is already ahead of the game - he wants to be a Pokemon trainer. Once he establishes his Renfrewshire-based Pokemon empire, I get to clean up the poo and look after everyone or so he tells me. The Panther gets to help him with the more tricky critters and the battles. Sigh.
In the picture is Blastoise which is the third evolution of Squirtle, obviously.

The chalk face

By the time Boy Two - who has just started school - is grown up, half of his class will take jobs which have not yet been invented.
It was parents' night and the head teacher was sharing a few thoughts. She was trying to explain that things had changed a bit since we all embarked on education.
They don't have blackboards any more. No, not PC-gone-mad. They have electronic boards which link directly to the computers and the Internet.
They've re-designed maths apparently. It's not long division anymore it's decomposition whatever that is.
And our kids will do stuff we can't even begin to imagine. Without meandering too far down Old Fart Alley, think about how once James Bond was pretty swish with his phone which also shot people. What would 007 have have thought about a phone upon which you could take video, listen to the radio, access porn and order a new sofa having examined the colour of the cushions?
But under all the technology and old-new-old ideas such as spelling by sound the really clever things which happen at school haven't changed.
Teachers manage to turn a room full of miniature savages into literate and numerate citizens and that's remarkable.
If you don't think so, try helping a primary child with his reading and writing when he or she doesn't get it and not getting cross about it.
So while we might not have need of train drivers, shepherds, fax machine manufacturers and local bank managers we will always need patient, dedicated teachers.

Monday, 3 September 2007

X rated

How cruel is this? You get a child - a girl who's not very streetwise from somewhere off the beaten track. She's just 14 and doesn't look a day over 12. In the face of old-before-their-time teenagers, her naivete is touching.
She's a pretty good singer with a powerful, if immature, voice. Her proud and doting family have told her she's fantastic, like you do. That she's brimming with star quality.
So when this kid watches the X-Factor and reckons that's the future for her, no one has the heart to tell her it's a bad plan. Maybe the family actually believe it could happen. So she's fixed on it and who knows, she might give Shirley Bassey a run for her money... eventually.
No one should stop kids dreaming the big dream, it's what they do. What's the point of telling them that by the time they're old enough to act on the fantasy, the urge will probably have passed?
Then what happens? Mr Cowell and his cohorts come up with the brilliant idea of lowering the age for entrants to the X-Factor to 14. What were they thinking?
If you're over 18 and technically a grown up, it's up to you if you want to risk national humiliation for the extremely slim chance of fleeting stardom.
Quite rightly Mr C told this lass from the Valleys that she wasn't ready for a shot at the big time. She just stood there tears washing the makeup from her chubby cheeks and it was clear she just didn't know how to cope. So she threw a tantrum any toddler would have been proud of.
It was toe-curlingly awful to watch, but how's she going to cope on Monday morning in double maths after all her classmates witnessed her humiliation?

a chair called Helga

Actually there are some things about getting older I quite like.
It's probably part of Mother Nature's masterplan - sort of compensation for the slight astonishment every time I see myself in the mirror. You'd think that eventually you'd get used to the fact that the person peering back seems to be slightly over-weight and a bit middle-aged, wouldn't you?
The most recent compensation came in the form of the realisation that I don't have to do flatpack furniture any more.
Not that I have anything against Ikea, their furniture might be named after porn stars, but it is quite nice and doesn't cost very much.
I just don't want to have to build it. When I was little I don't remember ever sighing wistfully and dreaming of the day I could get my hands on power tools and own one of those belt things you put your screwdrivers into.
In the same way that being perfectly capable of mixing fully-functioning gin-based cocktails doesn't stop me wanting someone else to do it for me... even if it comes with a price tag.
I don't want to build any more furniture - I don't like it. It makes me hot and sweary and gives me little sore blisters on my hands.
And I can't do it as well as someone who builds furniture every single day and gets paid for it.
So that's it, no more Scandinavian MDF and allen keys with cruel sharp ends for me.
Oh and the other thing that has happened as I've got older is that I've lost the urge to steal the diddy bottles of stuff from hotel bathrooms.
I'm waiting to work out if that's good or bad.
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