Wednesday, 31 March 2010

This week the only blackberry I found was in Ribena

Things I've learned from being in a communications drought.

This week my mobile died - well actually the sim card did. You could call it the post Death of BlackBerry era. So I've been in a total phone free zone since Sunday. It's been an interesting week and it's only Wednesday.

I learned that being off the grid is a strange feeling: part nervy worry (what's happening that I don't know about?) and part pure freedom (they don't know where I am - I can do anything). The anything so far has consisted of going to M&S to buy a salad.

Freedom is heady. If I feel this liberated just driving from home to work, work to other work, other work to home, then how would I be properly unfettered? Probably be too much for me, wouldn't it?

I must trust the people who are in charge of my family while I'm not there. Before DOB I had to have the phone with me and switched on. That way I'd know what disaster struck and, of course, be able to saddle up my trusty steed (grubby blue Skoda) and hurtle to the rescue. Now I just have to breathe and trust that nursery, childminder or Panther can cope.

I really miss having the Panther there to talk to all day. We do, normally, text, email, phone and, now, tweet most of the time. It's weird not having him there in my handbag, so to speak.

The wisdom of the Orange lady is dubious. The enthusiastic lisping lady I spoke to at length on Sunday told me that I'd need to visit an Orange shop, that I'd need to buy a new phone, that they'd send me a new phone, that, no, it was the sim card. The card would be couriered - tomorrow after 6pm - no, sorry, posted "you'll need to be in". Sigh. Of course, I'm not in and neither, so far, is my sim card.

I must learn to write friends' phone numbers down too. Julie, Kim, Debbie, Fiona, Jill, Supersister and anyone else who might want to speak to me - I'm not ignoring you. You'll just need to wait, email, facebook or tweet.

De-phoned (disphoned, unphoned?) in a public place is a bit like being naked. Remember when we used to smoke, you could make the business of lighting and smoking a fag fill all the space around you if you were on your own - in a bar (remember?), at the station. It had the effect of making you seem comfortable and assured. Then came the mobile which did it even better - or at least once the mobiles-are-for-yuppies- and-losers quotient crossed the smoking-is-for-smelly-people-who-want-to-be-dead-or-wrinkly-or-both line on the graph. You could loiter there tapping and checking, checking and tapping and no one would think you were Brenda No Mates.

I'm off home shortly, maybe my sim card's there and then I'll see if I've still got any friends left or if, as I suspect, no one but the Panther has noticed I wasn't really there.

How do you cope without your phone?

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Don't put a g in my sandwich

OK, I listen to a lot of radio and if the radio's not on, I'm probably eavesdropping. So I hear a lot of words. Perhaps that qualifies me to make the following observations.

You don't need to say 'impact upon' when you really mean 'affect'.

Changing tack means you are trying a different direction. Changing tact doesn't make any sense.

Sandwich has a d - and possibly ham and mustard - never a g.

Rememberability and Forgetability are not real words.

Pre-order is just the same as order. Have you ever tried post-ordering? Thought not. Likewise pre-arrange and pre-book.

If something is about to happen we are before the event, not ahead of it.

Blowing a gale - of course it's blowing.

Gale force winds - of course they're winds.

Generally we will 'try to' do something not 'try and'.

That's it from the desk drawer of linguistic rage for tonight, but, rest assured, there will be more.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Social media: so much noise, only one pair of ears

Do you tweet, facebook, blog, email or text? Of course you do, we all do. But it's all starting to get too much. It's taking so long to keep on top of it all, the Panther of News is starting to call himself an internet widower. He's over there on the sofa with Professor Cox while I'm typing here.

Sally at Getting Ink hit the nail on the head when she threatened to commit social media suicide over her magic eternal inbox. I feel similar, I just get through twitter (two accounts), new facebookings, inbox on two email addresses, responses to blog posts, texts and voicemail messages, make myself a self congratulatory cup of coffee only to find... they're full again. And that's before I've done any proper work or domestic chores. The children have started to become more feral than usual.

There's now a dazzling array of places to talk to people and get stuff 'out there'. Eariler this week I found myself circling in a dither unable to decide where to put a particularly lovely photo. Twitpic - too transient and trashy, facebook - not enough prominence or send it to clog up someone else's email in box. In the end I blogged.

It also made me realise that I talk to a different set of people in each place. Like real life, I suppose - there was a time the mums at the toddlers' group wouldn't have recognised the newspaper night editor I once was. But aren't these magical social media things all supposed to bring unity - of individuals in communities, communities themselves and of all the facets of ourselves? Wasn't there all this talk of joining all the silos up? (The only silo I ever knew was the green one in my childhood back yard, full of silage - a mystifying and malodorous image.) I'm also very proud to be involved in readyforten a project that brings blogging and twitter together.

It's all left me a bit puzzled, here's how I do my talking at the moment.

Twitter - less that a year since I joined I've got more than 100 followers and I've only actually met a tiny handful of them. It's a brilliant place for finding out what the rest of the world is up to - even if it is obsessing about Justin Bieber. The speed with which messages are swallowed up by the 'I've just eaten cake' clamour gives the feeling that it's a safe place, but it probably isn't. Stalking possibilities are high and hugely entertaining. So far Panther does not prowl here.

Facebook - been here for a while and it feels very comfortable. I would probably recognise most of my 'friends' if the walked past me in the street. There's a great supportive feeling of family (many of my family are indeed here) - I've used it to announce births and deaths. Lots of gentle stalking - mum keeping tabs on what we're up to. I am, however, getting a little fed up with facebook's impertinent insistence that I should befriend my ex husband because we both went to the same college (at different times).

Blog - ah, here's where I get to say what I like because it's my place. Astonishingly, I find there are a few people I've never met who want to read my ramblings. I do like to remind myself that anyone - mum, boss, kids when they grow up, neighbour or childminder - could visit and tut. It does feel a bit squirmy and peculiar when someone at work comments on it.

Email - it's the kind of bread and butter of communications now. Sometimes I even email people while I'm sitting looking at them, over there, in the office. Panther and I email a lot (matching Blackberrys, oh yes). But I can still remember the first time I copied down an email address (1996, I think) and didn't quite know what the @ business was all about.

Text - does everyone have text friends - ones they meet face to face but only arrange their meetings by text? I do. Text used to be the very thing but now it's languishing somewhat relegated to the moments I need to virtually shout something at someone. "Here now, where you?" "Fek flat tyre, am late", "get off the landline now" or sometimes, but not very often, :).

Are you different in each place or does everyone get the same slice of you?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

hairy question, fairy tales and a growth spurt

Things I've learned from my children today.

There isn't a right time for a baby's first haircut. Boy Three has quite a lot of hair and some of it is rather long. It's not well distributed, however, the long bits are around the front and the back is short and fluffy. Some of the strands get glued to his face with snot or food and, apparently, that's not a happy state of affairs. But I know that the first chopping of soft baby hair somehow changes their little faces, turning them into toddlers. What should we do?

The Tooth Fairy lives. There has been a lot of wobbly tooth action in our house lately. Quite frankly the Tooth Fairy is a bit skint. But small boys' mouths have no regard for the economic turmoil in the land of TF. Boy Two lost another minuscule incisor at Granny's house on the last leg of the mammoth memorial weekend. The tooth was shoved into a Ziploc bag for safe keeping and we carried on home.
The Panther and I divided the work - feeding children, washing children, answering children's questions, wiping children's snot, phoning for takeaway, eating takeaway, unloading the car, unloading the bags, putting the washing machine on and finding some clothes for work. By the time we'd finished it was well past bedtime and, mea culpa, I forgot all about the wee chap's tooth. Next morning in the shower, I tried to muster some zing for the week ahead, Boy Two put his head around the door. He was fighting tears. "The Tooth Fairy didn't come," he sobbed although not so distressed as to need a hug and get an inadvertent washing.
For a moment, I thought he was having me on, but his misery seemed real.
"Oh dear," I improvised. "I'll send an email, I think it's on"
That night, in the nick of time, I remembered and shoved the going rate - £2 in our house - in a bag with a note: "Sorry I was late, love TF xx"
Shower face was a bit happier. "Morning mummy, the Tooth Fairy came."
"That's good. What did you get?"
"Anything else?"
"There was a note."
"Oh. What did it say?"
"None of your business."

Growth spurts happen when you're not looking. The Boys were going to join us in walking up Arnison Crag in memory of my brother. They'd agreed - although they didn't really know what they were in for.
"How far is it?"
"Two Beacons on top of each other."
The walk to the Beacon Pike above Penrith has been a measure of my life as long as I can remember.
Mollified they agreed without even a mutter.
In any case, it seemed like a good place to start and I knew there'd be plenty of other people bearing jelly babies to keep them going. The occasion called for proper boots - wellies or trainers just weren't going to be good enough and, besides, they increased the chance of blisters and whingeing. So off to the outdoor shop in Glenridding. Once the Boys had established they could have A a spork and B a whistle, we settled down to the business of getting booted. Boy One's feet wouldn't go into the size threes I thought should fit him. The Helpful Lady measured him: "Look he's a five."
Oh dear, his school shoes - bought in September are three and a half. Ho hum, I suppose I should have noticed. However, I'm pleased to report that the newly shod feet made it to the top of the hill without a single complaint. Well done Boys.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Bye then, Nat. It was fun.

Things I’ve learned from my brother.

Charles Nathan Arnison 1971 - 2009.

The waah game. This is where you ask someone a question to which the answer is blindingly obvious. If they take your question seriously then you say “waaah”, and basically you win. If, however, you spot a question designed to trap you then you can deflect the “waah” by putting your hands on your head making a triangle. It kept us all entertained one thoroughly lovely camping weekend on Arran and still appears when you least expect it.

Everything can change in an instant. On July 31, 2009, I chatted to my brother on the phone. He had the habit of ringing when he was bored, or drunk, or both. He and his family were coming to visit in a couple of weeks we were all looking forward to it. On August 1, 2009, I was tidying the spare room for them staying and his wife rang and said: “It’s Nathan, he’s in a bad way.”

Siblings aren’t really beastly. He was four years younger than me and, therefore, pretty tedious for the first ten or so years. I remember mum crossly ticking me off when I’d wailed: “I wish he was dead.” That night I had a dream about him being eaten by a shark. It was my first nightmare.

Glasgow is an amazing city. When Nathan went to Strathclyde University I was living in Edinburgh. I hadn’t had much time for the place – grey and full of Weegies. But with him and his friends we ate a lot of curry, drank a fair amount and I learned to love the place. I still look at the Beresford Building and that flat about Mother India that at one time was missing a wall and smile.

If you push it hard enough, eventually your luck runs out. Flat-lined after a car crash that wrote off the vehicle (he was a pedestrian at the time), mysteriously at the bottom of a lift shaft, avoiding the Pamplona bulls, defusing bombs and drinking too much: Nathan had got away with it all. So much that deep down I’d started to believe that he would last forever.

We are Cumbrian. When Dad was dying, Super Sister, Nathan and I sat at the top of Penrith Beacon on a beautiful spring evening. Then, shortly, there were hundreds of people – from all over Cumbria – there to say goodbye to the old fellow. Nathan and his wife decided soon after that it was nearly time to come home. I envied them their plans as that feeling grew in me.

The British Army is a magnificent institution. As silence fell over the parade ground at Sandhurst a swan flapped, swooping over the ranks. Later, dancing at, what is still, one of the best-organised parties I’ve ever attended. (Don’t let anyone tell you that the military can’t organise the proverbial – they’re very good at it.) Then more recently seeing how that same machine organises a funeral and looks after the family.

Any fool can have sore feet. One of Nathan’s strongest-held beliefs was that if you simply issued every fighting force in the world with an appropriately fitted pair of Crocs or Birkenstocks, war would cease. A view I came to share. He used to send me info about new and more comfortable footwear, then we’d laugh that it was this sister who really liked comfy shoes.

Giant cell myocarditis. It’s a rare heart disease that typically affects the young and healthy. On the off chance, it’s discovered in time, the only cure is a transplant. And even then it doesn’t always work. Mostly it just kills people.

Fireworks are the best fun. He liked a big bang. Any occasion was big enough for fireworks. On Boxing Day it fell to Super Sister and me to set off a few in his name. Annoyed that he wasn’t there to ask about setting them up we did hope he’d be laughing like a drain at the sight of his two sisters lighting the blue touch paper and retiring at great speed across a field of snow while his nephew yelled: “Run, mummy, run.”

Don’t hold a recently fed baby above your head with his weight squashing his stomach. What happens is the baby unloads a whole bellyful of milk over your head and everyone around you becomes incapacitated by mirth.

Planning is everything. For one who had an aura of chaos, he almost always had it all organised. Whipping chilled champagne and glasses out of his backpack during a walk the morning of my wedding was a masterstroke. And, in a weird way, so was charging a committee of your friends with the responsibility of spending a legacy on a “good send-off”. I wonder if this weekend is what he had in mind.

If there’s a day, then it is inevitably worth seizing. My brother never let a chance pass him by – whether it was to meet a friend, help someone, get a job, learn something, eat something, play a prank or dress up in drag. Life is to be consumed, until you feel slightly sick. Before last August, I had a vague idea that this is how his life went, but after listening to his friends and colleagues, I knew for certain. He only had 38 years, but he packed more in than most of do in a full three score and ten.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Pain shared, a little dirt and a boy on a mission

Things I've learned from my children today.

Being unable to help is horrible. Boy One shut his finger in the car door and it hurt. This, for him, is quite unusual. Something in the volume control of his senses is a bit awry and, normally, he doesn't feel everyday discomfort. He often can't account for bruises, doesn't know he's cold if he's got goose pimples and hardly ever feels hungry or thirsty. But today he was crying and trying to run away from the pain. He'd return to me crosser and crosser that I couldn't make it stop. In the end I gave him Calpol and an ice pack, a disproportionately large bandage and, when I caught him, a cuddle. He's much better now.

Hygiene is a relative concept. Boy Two often looks a little grubby around the edges. His hands should be milky white, but actually look like he's been juggling coals. His mouth is often adorned with ketchup and a milky moustache is a badge of honour. I've tried very hard to get him to understand the importance of keeping clean - and, if you'd been here, you'd know our standards are enormously attainable - but I just don't think I'm getting anywhere. "Have you washed your hands?" From where I stood it didn't look like it.
"Oh, yes, with soap."

There isn't any point in babyproofing. Boy Three might not have any teeth, but he's getting to grips with lots of other stuff. In the past 24 hours he's managed to climb the stairs on his own, pull out the plug of my hairdryer and get himself out of his sleeping bag. Oh, and it seems he quite likes mackerel. There doesn't seem any point in bothering to find the fixings for the stair gate or the blanks for the plugs now, does there? I expect he'll be working the oven and lighting the fire soon - he's already had a good go at unloading the dishwasher and emptying the bin.

Ladies who rock

Just a quick one to mark a couple of wonderful women who need a big hurrah from the blogosphere.

Lovely Laura. I work with this lady and she rocks. She's smart and funny and she's in a band. She has that kind of sense of style that allows her to wear quirky and vintage and look amazing. I'd just look a jumble sale reject. However she's got leukaemia. She writes about it in her blog. Today she's talking about Mother's Day and her dream of being a mum. It's easy to take our little darlings for granted, but how would it be if, we couldn't have had them in the first place?

Super sister. My sister has just bought half a pharmacy - a huge undertaking for anyone, let alone someone with a year-old baby. It's an amazing opportunity and she'd kick herself if she missed it. I'm excited for her, but cheering her on through the hard work. Go sister - you rock too. Oh, by the way, if you're in or near Edinburgh the Barnton Pharmacy is the very, very best place to get your drugs... and anything else.

Kathryn Bigelow. So she won a bunch of Oscars for her movies. I'm delighted for her, really chuffed. What I'm most pleased about is her comment that the "modifier should be moot". What she meant was that she is chuffed to have made the best film of the year and it's not really got anything to do with her gender. That attitude is going to rock the boys' club.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A good day at the office

I don't usually blog about work - blog is play and work is, well, work. But today it didn't feel like a proper job, it was fun so I thought I'd share.

Firstly it was looking for something a little different to say about the Oscars. I haven't seen either of the big films, but I know which one I'd rather buy some popcorn for. The clue is it doesn't rhyme with Bavitar. Here's what I wrote about Ms Bigelow's success.

Then, looking for a little levity that didn't involve laughing at ridiculous frocks I wrote this about what might have been said last night.

Of course, International Women's Day couldn't pass without some comment. Plenty of people had already made the point that in 100 years of IWD, there was still a truck load of work to be done. So I nipped out for a chat with Govan's finest on the subject - here.

I learned that there's a fantastic new production of Peter Pan heading for a stage near me. (Memo to self, get tickets for children whether they like it or not)

And, crikey, is that the time. Dash home, collect Boys, collect baby, buy food, cook food, clear up cooking and feeding, shout at Boys, put children to bed, and... sit down to do some work.

Only now I've got to post a blog about the perils of shopping with children on a shiny new website called It's for parents of children between the ages of five and ten and it's so new it's hardly out of the wrapper. In fact, if you want a preview, let me know and I'll get you an invite.

If this all sounds a tad smug, I'm sorry. Thing is, I know you're supposed to love your work and in the main, for most of the time, it's been Ok with flashes of hurrah. But today, for once and likely not repeated with quite such gusto, it was great fun. The Panther's playing football so I had to tell someone about it.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Soft play - nothing soft or playful here

Other things I've learned today.

Whoever coined the expression soft play was wrong - so far wide of the mark they must have been having a laugh.

But I'm glad someone was, because I certainly wasn't. Today, out of idleness and a really petty attempt to get my own back at Boy Three (So you're not sleepy then, I'll take you somewhere that'll make you tired) our local soft play centre seemed like the ideal place to go for lunch.

Over the years we've been a few times, even hosting at least one of the boys' birthday parties there.

As soon as we've paid up and been allowed through the security gate, the noise hits and I'm reminded that I have - on several occasions - vowed never, ever to return. The combination of shrieking that almost, but not quite, drowns out badly amplified music must cause brain damage, the main symptom of which is amnesia.

Primarily you forget why you think this is a reasonable thing to do with a Sunday lunchtime and a tenner.

Clearly, though, for some customers the affects are more far-reaching. One poor chap had to have his daughters' name tattooed on his neck. A desperate solution to soft-play-induced memory loss.

The sight of tense and grim-faced parents and puce, sweating birthday boys and girls reminded me of another soft-play moment - possibly one of my most horrific.

Boy Two, I believe, had decided that the soft play warehouse would be the venue for his fifth birthday. Invites issued and accepted, guests arrived, names checked off and sticky labels affixed. In recognition of the fact that once the brain damage starts, its hard to distinguish over-excited five year olds you've only just met. Clever me, I thought.

Not one but two labels each, in case one drops off or won't be removed from the baby-blue knitted tank top that will, almost certainly, be discarded within moments.

So far so good. Then it's time for the meal - that's the plastic plates of chips and breadcrumb-covered crunchy things all exactly the same colour as the fake tanned skin of the staff. Really, just slightly over-cooked turkey dinosaur is identical to full-octane Fake Bake.

No one else seemed bothered, but I did a headcount and came up one short. I did it again. And again. One missing.

None of the other kids seemed to know or care... nor the staff. They had ketchup to devour and purple juice to guzzle. I dashed out of the, ha, party room to find the missing kid. Eventually I spotted a little girl right at the top - the soft play apparatus is on about six levels to the roof of the blast-heated shed. One of the staff cambered up to fetch her. The dreamy little girl was fine, hadn't noticed the others had gone, but I felt dreadful. She got double helpings of cake.

Looking back, I didn't really like the birthday parties I went to: jelly, icecream, pass the parcel, musical statues/bumps/chairs, blowing out the candles and "thank you very much for having me". I don't think I knew at the time they were supposed to be fun, just something you did.

I wonder, though, how our kids will remember the high-volume screechfests in soft play centres.

Is it good for them to go off into the colourful, padded slidescape where adults are too far away to manipulate their interactions even if they could make themselves heard?
Does having all of their senses stimulated seemingly beyond comfort wear them out in a wholesome way or set the scene for more sinister sensation seeking?

Here's a better idea: reduce the music, install a licenced bar and turn the soft play over to the adults and let the kids endure musical bumps and jelly. After all it didn't do us any harm...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Things I don't give a hoot about but really should

I read a blog this week and it got me thinking. It was a gleeful and energetic list of the things that A Brit In Lapland couldn't give a fig about.
There weren't too many things I could think of celebrating not caring about - except perhaps football and what other people have on their iPods. Oh and what kinds of sweeties people ate as children, don't really give a monkey's about that too.

But what I did happen on were two lists.

Here's the first:

Things I don't want to care about, but I do.

The mess my house is in. I'd like it lovely, but I just can't make it happen. Not with the other things I do and this low boredom threshold.

The fact we don't always sit at the table to eat. I really think it's important but not everyone else in the family sees it that way.

My inability to speak foreign languages. I've really, really tried. Even living in Spain for a while only made what little French I did know fall out of my ears.

Manners. I'd like to think all humans are equal, but ones with bad manners just don't seem to be.

What other people think of me. Clearly, the logical thing is to disregard what other folk think and just do what you know to be right. It's not that easy though.

Missed opportunities. Obviously, if it's in the past there's nothing I can do about it so the right thing to do is let it go. Then why do I spend so much time considering what I should have said or done. Not so easy, is it?

And here's the second.

Things I should care about, but I just can't make myself.

My carbon footprint. I do try but mostly because I care what people think of me. I just couldn't imagine saying: "Thanks for the kind offer of a free holiday in somewhere really exotic plus flights, but I won't be going because of the environmental impact.". Likewise disposable nappies.

My cholesterol. Again, I make an effort but there's bacon, and sausages, and butter.

Teaching my boys to tie their shoelaces. We spent a very grumpy afternoon at it but that's what Velcro's for.

Helping out at parent council events or joining committees. I hold the strong view that if we live in a community and benefit from it, then we all ought to take part in the running thereof. Just can't stand it though. I ran the newsletter for the toddler group once and I only lasted one edition before I had to quit.

Politics - small p. I know I'd have got on better in many areas if I'd been bothered to pay attention to what wasn't said, or made the effort to join the right clique. But I didn't.

Missing opportunities. Of course I could now be a high-flyer, top salary, best-seller. I could be thinner, I could be better-qualified or wiser. I could still do 130wmp at T-line that I can read back. I could have a clean driving licence or a full set of crockery. But I don't and I don't really care either.

PS Actually I do care about the best-seller one and I'm going to buy some new crockery soon.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

a dirty protest, being prepared and a bit of a worry

Things I've learned from my children today.

I know how 60-Minute Makeover team might have felt when faced with the Maze Prison. Boy Three is both confidently pulling himself up and very excited about having a bath. So as the bath runs he's happy to stand and peer in at the water. Tonight he was similarly engaged while I spent a few minutes putting his clothes away. I could hear his happy rambling and presumed he was just telling his raft of ducks how much he was looking forward to sinking them then gumming their heads. Not so. I looked back - he'd done a poo and was gleefully smearing it up the outside of the bath with his hands and squidging it between his toes. My frantic attempts to halt this exuberant daubing were met with hoots of laughter.

St Andrew's Ambulance don't need to worry. Boy Two helped with the ironing - this chore worth tackling because of the potential for injury. And clouds of steam are always a bonus. Inevitably he burned his finger and was sent to run it under the cold tap. His wise big brother - veteran of Cubs' first aid badge training offered his suggestion: "Just wrap it in tinfoil, it's the best thing for burns."

The devil and angel on Boy Two's shoulders are still fighting it out. Within about a minute he sweetly offered - and brought downstairs - his quilt for the ailing Panther. Don't worry, looks like a nasty case of man 'flu to me and neither appetite nor interest in football are diminished. Moments later I had to take him to task. Once more Boy Three burst into tears when his big brother happened to pass. It happened often enough for me to start sneakily watching. This time he defiantly dished out a swipe round the little chap's ear. "I've noticed you're sometimes being a bit more rough than you need to be with the baby," I was expecting excuses or a denial.
"Yes. I have."
"Why's that?"
"I'm a rough kind of boy."
He did look the tiniest bit abashed and promised not to do it again, but I'll be watching closely.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Dial S for subtext

I've been listening in to a few phone calls this week - you could say it's something of a hobby. One of my earliest memories is lying in bed listening to my mother on the phone and trying to figure out who she's talking to and what the topic is.
It occurred to me that some of the recent calls fall broadly into a few categories.
Romance calls. "You're the one I fancy," said the roundish chap at the bus stop in Glasgow. It kind of suggests there are others in the equation, doesn't it? He hopped onto the bus and juddered off into the night, leaving The Panther and I wondering which lucky girl's door he was heading for.
Domestic administration. "Roddy, Rory's left his chanter on the kitchen table, could you take it up to school please?" Too many tedious variations on this one to mention but I do hope Rory and his chanter were reunited that day. A variation being the almost entirely unnecessary “I’m on the train” calls.
Dinner party bravado. "Yes, Mr Editor, the splash is the story we talked about in conference and, no, nothing's changed... No need for you to call. Sorry, I can't hear you there's lots of noise in the background..." Here boss men prove to their social companions just how important they are and how big and swinging their appendages are by calling in on business in a conspicuous manner.
I'm not really here calls. "Yes, yes, yes. Ham and tomato I think, but, um, make sure there's a vegetarian option." Here what matters is the situation not the content. These are made by dads at the school gate. It says "I'm really just helping out with this childcare chore and I'm actually conducting vital business. Oh and I really don't want to talk to you scary bunch of mums
I really really really love you calls. Not to be confused with Romance Calls. These occur somewhere between six and 10 units of alcohol into a night out without the other half and are a cack-handed way of showing appreciation. They should be short and never, ever repeated on the same night.
Look what I'm doing calls. "Size 4 nappies. SMA milk. The light bulbs for the bathroom with the two pins and green milk." A devoted spouse calling his or her other half to ask questions the answers to which they could probably work out from a supermarket aisle to demonstrate their diligence and devotion.
Bad PR calls. "It doesn't matter what you say, I'm running the story and I'm quite prepared to look like an idiot tomorrow morning. Thank you for your concern and we'll publish your response but we're still running it. Good day." Here's where a communications person is trying to kill a story they don't like by telling the journalist or editor that it'll make them look daft. This tactic will never work as we all know everyone likes to see journalists looking daft. And the more times you say it the more we know the story must run.
Oh, is that my phone? Must dash.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Inner children come out to play in the snow only not in a good way

Other things I've learned.
They say that snow brings out the inner child, well that was certainly true in our street today.
Where we live there's generally plenty of space for everyone. The street was built before developers realised that if you rationed parking spots then you could wedge another house in.
So, normally, we all put our little tin boxes in their regular places outside our slightly bigger brick boxes.
But then it snowed, and snowed, and snowed.
Over a day our road filled up with snow. It covered the cars, slithering off in the slight thaw to form a barricade of ice around the vehicles. When the snow plough eventually trundled up the hill it pushed even more slush into mounds around the parking spaces and over the kerbs.
The upshot was that unless you dug, you weren't getting in or out.
There's a chap who lives across the road and he dug. He got his car out and, presumably, went to work.
Meantime, The Panther of News - not by nature a digger (except of the truth) came home. He snitched the space - sniggering as he knew that chap who lives across the road is fairly possessive of that bit of road at the best of times.
Later, the chap making his weary way from wherever he goes all day was probably hopeful of sliding into his space, walking the 12 steps to his front door and relaxing. Instead, The Panther's wheels are smirking at him and the only other available place is full of frozen stuff.
So he dug again. Only he didn't just dig his way to a safe parking spot and stop, he dug loose snow out and piled it under the Panther's Newsmobile.
Meanwhile, peering out of the window, Panther is beside himself with glee and saying things like "I've just remembered something I need to get out of the car" and "I'm just off out for some fresh air".
I can't decide which one was the most childish but they should probably have settled it with a snowball fight. Mind you, things still haven't thawed, so it might come to that yet.

Hairy emotions, messy paintings and the booger boogaloo

Things I've learned from my children today.

I'd like to stop the march of hormones. The other day when Boy One was sharing a bath with Boy Three - generally a noisy and splashy affair enjoyed by all - I spotted something. It was a tuft of what was unmistakably pubic hair. Nooo. My beautiful innocent Boy One can't possibly be taking the first pre-pre-pubescent steps towards manhood. He's not really ready and I'm certainly not. So, shhh, don't mention it - he hasn't noticed and maybe if we keep quiet it'll go away.

The modern art big sell didn't deliver. A while back Boy Two had announced that he'd like to see more messy paintings that made him feel weird. I discerened that this was probably modern art and as I like nothing better than a potter among the Picassos we would plan an outing. So on Sunday after a delicious lunch at Di Maggios (not the one where the boss was stabbed, the one in town), Boy Two and I set off for GOMA. In traditional style we went to the top floor and worked down. In my view saving the best - the main hall - for last. There, I knew, there were messy paintings aplenty. Only not on Sunday. The main hall is closed for tarting up or something. Can anyone suggest a source of messy paintings that would fit the bill?

Snot is for sharing. Boy Three is somewhat besnotted at the moment. He's got one of those permasnuffle colds that seem to last for months with any babies I've ever known. Apart from the cough which is kind of endearingly like a puppy's bark, his main symptom is yards of viscous snot. There is so much of it - I can't fathom where it comes from. It could be that the wee fellow's brain is melting. It's not that it doesn't get wiped but I just can't keep pace. Perhaps I should give in and try to only wear clothes in pale green, slightly shiny fabrics.
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