Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Vorticity and a different domestic stumbling block

toddler with hoover
Morphy Richards Vorticity

In some ways it's been a happy week domestically...

For one, the Panther of News was off work. His notion of idle afternoons saving a virtual universe didn't quite match the reality, but on the other hand, my vision of having my own husband-shaped Nigella/Miss Moneypenny sorting out the household Stuff wasn't quite reality either. Still, while I was out cutting a rich seam at the coalface of truth (If you don't believe me, read about how The X Factor stars were spotted in Airdrie) it was jolly nice to find the homefires had been stoked.

And for two, a very nice man called Tom from Morphy Richards came by the Palace of Bundance and read my post about Housework Half Hour. He said he had a fancy-pants vacuum cleaner (can't use the H word) that was better than all the others (even the one that begins with D) and that we could have a go for Housework Half Hour.

Much excitement when the box containing the Vorticity arrived. Boys One and Two helped unpack and assemble, or at least they did until they clocked on to the fact it was for them to use. By then though, Boy Three had fallen in love. He wouldn't let anyone else have a look-in. Great, you'd think, but toddlers are only any good at cleaning one smallish patch of floor for long periods at a time.

So while I like the Vorticity very much - it nippy and light but seems to suck like a good 'un. We can only use it after Boy Three is in bed, luckily it's quite quiet and gets the job done fast. Boy Two likes the way the flex winds itself up and Boy One is unnaturally fascinated by the whole vortex thing.

In case you care: Vorticity is a concept used in fluid dynamics. In the simplest sense, vorticity is the tendency for elements of the fluid to "spin".

Not quite sure how that applies to the dry stuff that goes into the cleaner, but however it does it, it does it well.

But nice man Tom, how are you going to help us solve our new problem of Boy Three's passion for your machine?

Monday, 29 November 2010

One boy's disaster...

Things I learned from the Sky + box packing in.

My mild inconvenience is someone else's disaster.
The Sky + box stopped working this week. This means there was no way to get the hundreds of channels normally available into the telly in the sitting room. There are radios in almost every room, a digibox in the spare room and enough games, pcs and phones that do clever things to ensure no shortage of moving images or sounds. Not good enough, apparently. "Mum, it just won't work. What'll we do?" wailed Boy One. Somehow he wasn't impressed when I suggested that he find something else to do.

Series record is a kind of tyranny.

With the death of the Sky + box went all the programmes the Panther and I had taped to watch on all these long, quiet evenings that just never seem to happen. Bye then to a backlog of Casualty, a heap of gritty detective miniseries and a whole bunch of movies the Panther considered to be an essential part of my education. What a relief.

Deadlines are of relative importance.
There I was in the closing stages of the newsletter I'm sometimes called upon to compile. The 50,000 or so members of the public to whom it goes were doubtless poised by their inboxes waiting. No matter. The Panther needed the number for Sky's customer service people and it just wouldn't wait.

Some things are much more fun than telly.
Then it snowed. The best thing in the world ever is sledging on the golf course... unless you're a golfer, of course.

Skills learned will always come in handy.
Back from the coal-face of truth the other day to find the Panther had almost resolved the telly crisis. He'd bought a cable to attach to the aerial wire and moved the digibox from the back room. So instead of kicking off my shoes and enjoying a cup of tea, there I was stripping the coaxial cable to attach the new adaptors while the Panther did some colouring in.

Not watching every single minute of a programme doesn't really matter.
We had become so used to the live pause function of Sky + that we'd often stop the action to make a comment, a cup of tea or pay an, ahem, visit. Not at the moment - the show carries on regardless of what we do and, in the end, it doesn't make any difference.

Economies of persuasion exist in all spheres.
Just as I know, beyond any doubt, that a beautiful and expensive accessory or garment is actually a cheap option because I'll use it so many times it'll be almost free by the time I'm finished with it, the Panther has a similar logic. "We're getting a new HD, Sky + box on Wednesday and I know there's a subscription fee, but it'll save us money... "

Monday, 22 November 2010

Blog your blues away

OK - here's an idea I've been brewing for a while. I think you can blog yourself happy, post yourself into positivity and type away the tears.

There. I said it. No, no, come back. I haven't been overcome by the smell of Febreze and the soundtrack of YogaZone on the telly.

That rustling isn't long purple robes, although now you come to mention it, they would be very fetching and, um, forgiving.

Anyhow, come and sit down on these beanbags and I'll tell you all about my theory.

If you write about the good things in life - even if you have to think really, really hard to find some - it'll make you feel better. Truly it works.

Equally, if your blog is a catalogue of misery and disaster (sometimes, I know, a little splash of rain is unavoidable) then it'll start to pull you down. Even if it is pant-wettingly funny misery and disaster.

You know what happens, you get a laugh, comments and empathy from blogging about how rubbish your husband is - the one you promised yourself to above all others. The same thing happens when you, oooh, say that your children are brats with snotty noses. So you start looking for the funny things to bung in your blog for more of the same. You begin to concentrate on losing your temper, on the time your house was a big old mess, on being late, hassled and upset. As it happens you focus on the emotion, the tears, the screaming - oooh colourful adjectives fill your head and you dash to your computer to blog. "This one'll be dynamite," you mutter.

Ping you push the 'publish post' button and, before you know, it your cyber chums are LOLing and liking and commenting. They love it. You see, while they're probably lovely people they quite enjoy the fact that your catastrophic life is more out of control and malodorous than theirs.

What happens when you turn it round? Start to look for the fun, the unexpected gifts and the things to be grateful for. Almost every experience can teach you something, and that has to be worth having?

A year or so ago it's fair to say I was in something of a funk. I was so busy trying to de-funk myself that I started fretting about the fact I wasn't paying my children enough attention and that led to further funkery. I started blogging about them - just one positive thing about each of them every day, it would only take a minute.

And guess what? It worked. I started watching them for charming, clever and heartwarming little gems I could blog about. And soon I was so busy watching the children that I didn't even notice that the funk had all but funked off.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

CBeebies Song Time - it's worth the money

Things I've learned from the CBeebies Song Time album

I prefer CD 2.
Boy One is a fan of CD 1 and swaps it whenever I'm not looking. But for me, you can't beat Bob the Builder, Balamory and the Teletubbies Club Mix. I guess I'm showing my age. (Incidentally do you think parenting years are the same as ordinary years. I've been parenting for more than 11 years and it feels much longer than that!)

Boy Three (like his brothers) is clearly a genius. He only has about 10 words in his lexicon, but he still manages to communicate perfectly. Standing beside the CD player frantically "winding the bobbin" up means, put the flipping music on now, fools.

Knees are where the rhythm lives. Forget swinging the hips or tapping the toes, bending the knee is where it's at.

It doesn't include the Autumn Song.
Much to the Panther's disappointment. It's his favourite tune du jour.

Justin Fletcher is OK actually.
No really. The more I listen to him and watch him, the more I like him - that's all.

CBeebies Song Time is a hit in our house. It's been on end-to-end since it arrived and I haven't wanted to throw it out of the window yet. That is something of a result.

If you want to buy one, get one from Play.com.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Kate expectations: The pop princess and the commoner queen

Look at this. Today's front pages - Kate flees X Factor and Kate gets armed guard. Different Kates, but you know which is which, don't you?

One is Katie Waissel, universally loathed X Factor survivor. Famous for thinking she can sing - which she can a bit - and wanting to be a star - which she likely will be. She puts me in mind of a young Madonna - more than enough brass neck to see her through the lean times and gaps in her ability. (Disclaimer: I can't carry a tune in a bucket but it's my blog so I can pass comment on whoever I like.)

The other is Kate Middleton, Queen of Hearts in waiting and cool brunette who has accepted the proposal of Prince William and will spark a thousand copycat frocks and lots of nasty souvenirs. The Daily Mail is already fretting about her similarity to a royal nanny and the Express has found a replacement for the Diana Effect.

Obviously I've never met either of these women although I've written and edited screeds on them already. I have a feeling my relationship with them is going to be a long one.

I'm no Mystic Meg, but I predict Ms Waissel's run in the X Factor won't last much longer. As Queen Louis might say: "You just don't have that loikability." Thereafter she'll spend a day or so in the Priory for "exhaustion" coming out in time to take up a lucrative role in panto. Next year she'll release a new album that the world will declare "quite good actually", give a cracking interview to Graeme Norton and conduct a public romance with the star of an American vampire movie.

Then, sigh, to the other Kate. She will be guest of honour at a sedate and glamorous hen night in a smart London night spot before gliding up the aisle in a frock that makes the career of a young British designer.. and dozens of designer rip-off factories. Wedding plans of thousands of brides will be thrown into chaos as they either emulate or - as their plans have been in place for years - seek to distance themselves from the cheer-up-the-nation wedding of the decade. Observers, falling into two camps, will either wish her haunted by her tragic mother-in-law three-in-this-marriage style or see her as the new face of the monarchy. (She's middle class apparently, one of those middle class chicks who went to Marlborough and hangs out with Richard Branson's progeny.)

Somehow, it has already been decided that Ms Waissel is a manipulative and ambitious cow while Ms Middleton is a saintly and serene goddess who will rescue our future king from whatever he needs rescued from. But that's all based on really not very much, so let's give both Kate's the benefit of the doubt and hope they won't start to live up to their own publicity. I'd like to see Katie W becoming a national treasure and Kate M breaking out and taking her turn in the Vagina Monologues.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Bogie man alert, what would you do?

I'm feeling a slightly uneasy wind blowing around the Palace of Bundance at the moment. I'm in something of a quandary.

A couple of weeks ago a child was attacked in the village next to ours. After school this 12-year-old was forced from the pavement onto the cycletrack that runs through the area. By all accounts (few of which are official) he was subjected to a nasty sexual assault before he was able to free himself and run for help.

Nasty enough. Now, part of the joy of living here is that our children can, generally, go out and about without undue risk. I also subscribe to the idea that you shouldn't let theoretical threat from a hypothetical bogie-man get in the way of life. So while hideous people commit awful crimes, statistically, it's not likely to happen to me and mine.

Anyhow, it was with a sigh of relief that we learned that the alleged attacker had been arrested. Phew, end of the matter, business as usual.

Now though I hear (and I must add that this is nothing more than credible gossip) that the person who was arrested is a 16-year-old youth who confessed to what he'd done. Details have emerged (or perhaps been invented) that include knives, threats and intent to commit a much worse crime. There was no misunderstanding between attacker and victim, no previous relationship and, it seems, no grey areas.

The Authorities have banned him from his family home - where there are at least two younger children.

Now, apparently, until his trial he lives with his grandmother on the next street to ours - that's the street where Boy Three's childminder lives, where the school bus makes a stop and where two of Boys One and Two's friends live. It's also well within the reasonable roaming range for the Boys and their peers.

As I write this, there's a voice in my head saying both "NIMBY" and "he isn't convicted in a court of law, only by the gossips".

So what to do: should I follow my head, ignore the gossip and let the roaming continue or listen to the whispering in my heart and give the Boys get a shorter rein or even a period of house arrest? Should I even make two cases - one for Boy One whose Asperger's leaves him vulnerable and a different one for his more astute and instinctive brother?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Who's been shitting in my bed? (apologies to Mrs Bear and her family)

A long time ago when I was young and the possibilities were endless, I sneered (affectionately, of course) at people who got cross about dog poo.

That's because I had such an important life to live, that I didn't imagine I could ever be deterred from my path by something as, well, ordinary as a misplaced turd. My then boyfriend, who later became husband and, subsequently, ex husband - whole other story... - edited a newspaper in a scenic, but spectacularly un-newsworthy part of Scotland. The biggest and most ferociously debated topic was canine crap - specifically the irresponsibility of leaving it and responsibility for clearing it up.

We would never have lives dull enough to have time to care about muck, let alone write letters on the subject.

Many years later (Ok, at least 20), I'm becoming obsessed. My dull life doesn't cover it - the fixation with the dung deposits in the back garden is overwhelming.

If Michael J Fox was to happen past in his DeLorean, I would leap inside and go to visit my 22-year-old self and slap the smugness out of her.

You see, something is visiting my beautiful vegetable beds almost every night and relieving themselves there. Day after day the pristine compost (or whatever that stuff the garden chap put there is) is decorated. (Yes I know there aren't any vegetables in them yet... it's just the planning stage is going on a little longer than I'd hoped.)

I never see the culprit and I don't think it's next door's dog. @foodiejools, who is, apparently, wise about these things, reckons it might be a fox. But I've seen Fantastic Mr Fox and think the whole affair just not stylish enough to be a vulpe visitor.

I considered posting a watch (AKA standing in the garden for ages) to catch whatever it is sauntering in with a rolled up Daily Star in one paw but that would be cold, boring and probably a bit drastic.

I thought about putting up a fence, but I've already learned that fences are expensive and prone to blowing down in gales.

What then? Putting up with it is possible, but it's not nice and, if Boy Three is at large, probably not safe.

I've read that some scents deter loiterers with lavatorial intent. Lion wee or was it vinegar? The Panther has manfully volunteered his services as the next best thing.

So what's the answer - find some Zen-line sliver lining to this steaming heap or go round to the zoo with an empty bucket?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Introducing Housework Half Hour and why I should take up curling

Boy One thinks I should be in the Olympics - the curling team, no less.

I'd like to be flattered by his assessment of my athletic prowess despite never having curled in my life, not even my hair (well OK there was once with a spiral perm, but I'm trying to forget that).

"I've never tried curling. What's it like?" I asked.
"Well, it's a cross between ten-pin bowling, skating and brushing." So far so accurate.
"And that's why you'd be good. You could do the brushing. It's a bit like Hoovering, so you'd be good at that."

I pressed him a little and he did confirm that he considers his mother's sweeping skills (or Hoovering, it's clearly all one to him) to be world class. Largely, he said, because of the sheer volume of practice.

Once I'd stopped laughing, I started worrying. It came hot on the heels of a conversation about who was and was not Alpha in our house. The Panther is the Alpha Male, apparently. Boy One Alpha child, Boy Two Beta and so on. I get to be Alpha female. Hurrah... then "that means you do all the cleaning and cooking and looking after stuff..," he explained.

"There isn't any reason why a woman should do all the cleaning, cooking and looking after. Women can do anything men can. There isn't any difference. Look, I was the Panther's boss when we first met."

"But men's brains are heavier than women's," countered Boy One as if that'll shut me up.

Later peace fell on the household. A couple of the chaps were snoozing, one was watching telly and another playing a game. The only serenity free zone was me, doing stuff. Dishes, laundry, sorting things out - schools stuff, food, cars. You know, the boring, endless stuff.

Then I had an idea - mostly driven by 'it's not fair' and the need to shake them off their sofas.

Housework Half Hour has arrived at the semi-detatched Palace of Bundance. I write a list of chores I consider doable by anyone over the age of seven, everyone over the age of seven must choose a chore from the list and do it, either until it's finished or for 30 minutes. If there is shirking, slacking, squabbling or spurious fecklessness, extra minutes will be added.

They don't like it, but then they aren't supposed to. I'm hoping it'll make the appreciate how dull but important doing stuff is, even for a little while. Maybe, having achieved a modicum of domestic progress they won't be so keen to see it undone... "get your boots off the rug, I've just Hoovered it".

And if that doesn't work, does anyone have Rhona Martin's number?

Pic: bensonkua

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cambuslang man has to climb ladder to flush toilet

Once upon a time there was a young reporter and she was incredibly keen. She found the whole business of newspapers and ink and stories and that just about the most exciting thing, in the world, ever. How could anyone not want to be a journalist? Hmmmm.

cue wiggly screen special effect to suggest end of flashback

It was me, that reporter. Did you guess? That was back when no one really believed in the internet and I still remembered how to do shorthand I could read.

Anyhow, to the point. One of my favourite things was the On This Day section. It involved taking real board-bound volumes of the paper and looking back 25, 50, 75 and 100 years to find out what was the top news of the day. The paper was dry and fragile but the stories weren't. I tracked the war years propaganda; the excitement of the residents of overcrowded tenements promised a new life in Castlemilk with their own toilets and central heating; the misdemeanors committed by drunks on Glasgow Fair. I learned that child abuse, violence and addiction are nothing new and heartwarming tales of courage and furry animals will never go out of fashion.

Well, I've decided to bring a similar feature to In A Bun Dance - a walk down memory lane, if you like. What's new and what's the same?

One year ago: Why the school bus might save the planet
The high school bus no longer goes this way paid for by the cooncil, but the parents have clubbed together to pay for their own bus. So far, so mundane, but this little post changed quite a lot. It was what I used to enter the STV's Write Factor competition. I was shortlisted, but didn't win. What it did get me was an introduction to the lovely new media team at stv.tv with whom I now work.

Two years ago: Radio gaga
How I happened to hear the radio broadcast that ended Jonathan Ross's relationship with the BBC. My point was that the standard of the show was more shocking than the message left on Manuel's answering machine. Two years on and we've got Graham Norton instead and Russell Brand has cleared off on his honeymoon, so it all worked out in the end.

Three years ago: Cheer we go again Another year, another rage against the whole Christmas thing. Too much too early. Clearly nothing has changed as only today I banned the Boys from saying the C word until December and I threw six unopened catalogues in the bin.

Until the next missive, there's always the Rutherglen Reformer to read for that was the organ at which I cut my teeth. As you can see it's a fine thing, none the worse for my couple of years of meddling.

PS just noticed the Reformer's splash is Cambuslang Man Has To Climb Ladder To Flush Toilet. That's such a read-me heading I'm going to borrow it for this post.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Miscarriage - a shared experience

I expect by now everyone knows about Lily Allen's awful news - about how she lost her baby at six months.
I've spent quite a lot of time thinking about her... and about me. You see, I had a miscarriage too at 19 weeks. It was a little while ago and I now have the beautiful Boy Three, nevertheless those feelings aren't too far from the surface.

And it appears I'm not alone. The Mad House did the same and so did Living With Kids.

I wrote about it at my stv.tv Everymum blog.

I shouldn't be surprised that there have been messages, RTs, likes for similar posts all over the blogging world. There are a lot of us out there.

So if we all agree there should be more talk about miscarriage, more understanding and more sharing, then let's get cracking right now.

It's not a carnival, that wouldn't be right. But if you've blogged about miscarriage - yours, Lily's or just in general - then share it here.

The Hole in Time by Boy One

A short story.

Once upon a time there was a poor monkey called Manny who had a friend called Sid, who was really stupid.

One day when Manny and Sid were walking down the street, a portal came out of nowhere, it was big and pink, it started to pull them in.

An evil eagle called Lord Poo Pa Face who heard Manny and Sid calling for help went over to them and it started to pull them in.

Then it sucked them in.

Inside of the portal was really big and pink, they fell into another pink portal of death.

On the other side it was the dinosaur era about 65 million years ago, then they ended up face to face with a T-rex. It was 40 feet tall, it had 2 rows of razor sharp teeth and a really big tail.

It was about t eat them when a triceratops ran in to the T-rex and pushed him over, then Manny and Sid ran away from the T-rex.

Manny said: "Where are we?"

Then he looked around and saw a beautiful patch of land with long grass and some magnificent trees, there were some dinosaurs like triceratops eating on ferns and there was a pterodactyl flying in the sky.

Then the evil Lord Poo Pa Face wanted to change evolution so that he will be unstoppable and will rule the rain forest.

Manny and Sid heard Lord Poo Pa Face's plan and Manny said: "Sid we have got to save the rain forest from Lord Poo Pa Face."

"But what can we do?" said Sid.

"I think I have an idea to save the rain forest," said Manny.

Some time later, Manny said: "I think that is it, first we have to distract Lord Poo Pa Face until the asteroid crashes into the earth and causes the volcanoes to erupt and will cause ash to block out the sun that will cause the plants to die, that will causes the plant eaters to die then eventually Lord Poo Pa Face to die with the meat eaters or we could lure him to where the asteroid. What do you think we should do, Sid? Sid, Sid, Sid, wake up."

"Hu," said Sid.

"Were you paying attention?" said Manny.

"No," said Sid. "We will have to go with Plan Splat."

Then an hour later they had lured Lord Poo Pa Face to where the asteroid is going to crash. Went the asteroid was coming right for Lord Poo Pa Face, then Manny and Sid ran into the pink portal and escaped.

And for Lord Poo Pa Face, he was splattered.

Then Manny and Sid were heroes.

The End.

Monday, 1 November 2010

I love my children very much, but I wish they'd stop giving me crap

My older boys are the most fantastic and generous little people. They are often giving me things... only yesterday Boy Two gave me two of his SillyBandz.

It absolutely squeezed my heart when he insisted I have the bands, they were from his first packet. I had to wear them then and there in the ASDA car park.

On our trip to Yorkshire, Boy One spent an inordinate amount of time browsing and deciding in a one of those not-very-precious-rocks-and-crystals shops. I lost track of the number of times he lapped the tiny store's display tables and racks of shiny stones on leather thongs with a £5 crumpled in his fist.

Through the window, I saw him fingering a flowery gift box. "Perhaps it's for his grandmother," fingers crossed. But no. Over ice cream in Halifax's Piece Hall he presented me with the trinket box and it's contents - two stones. He only kept a one of his treasures for himself.

Then there was the badly painted scarab beetle from the British Museum and the small leaping dolphin from some other gift-shop-disguised-as-route-back-to-the-car. Handed over with absolute solemnity, they insist I keep the offerings close.

Their jewellery choices are, for me, the very definition of mixed feelings. I am so proud that they think of me when they're near a till with their few coins in their pockets.

However their taste is the absolute pits. They pick glittery things with the paste stones barely glued down, they like earrings so heavy with stuff Pat Butcher would baulk. Colour is good, but they opt for so much in one place.

I found a copy of the Argos catalogue that Boy Two had gone through with a red pen. The things he'd earmarked for me included a 'mum' pendent spelt out in two shades of gold and fake stones, a sovereign ring, Hello Kitty themed sets and charms in the shape of phones, shoes, bags and teddy bears.

How can I persuade them to keep their money to spend on sweeties and their own treasures? Or, at the very least have them improve their choices... ?

PS Reading this back, I realise it makes me sound like an ungrateful cow, but you try going to a meeting in earrings that lacerate your neck and make your lobes go green or try to work with a desk so cluttered with love tokens there's barely room for the mouse.
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