Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Maeve Binchy's philosophy of life

"Happiness has something to do with thinking the glass is half full rather than half empty."

Author Maeve Binchy has died and in one of the reports was this clip of her talking. I love it. 

Monday, 30 July 2012

Farewell to the nappy years

Carrying his own nappy bag now

Splashing along through nappy days
Finally, eventually and at last, it seems my association with nappies is coming to an end.

Boy Three is reluctantly getting the idea that joining the ranks of big boys means he will have to pee in the toilet after all.

Soon, please, we will be done with wipes, tabs, rashes and leakage.

It all began so sweetly in 1999 in Gran Canaria with the cutest little panal. Curled around the skinniest legs gaping comically, catastrophically.

We had nasty plastic ones with adhesive tabs that fail if you touch them with damp hands.

Pampers, Huggies, Drinights and P
ull-ups. Changing tables, nappy bags and Sudocrem.

There were exotically coloured contents - many hued poos tainted by Tardis icing, beetroot and Heinz tomato soup. (Not all at the same time.)

Apocalyptic explosions requiring mere passers-by to change their clothes.

I tried cotton and green ones, really I did, but couldn't get along with them. I know my boys alone made a nasty ecological nightmare.

There is a lot that isn't well designed about human children, but their casual crapping and whimsical weeing has to be some of the worst. They do so much of it and it must be dealt with however tiresome or

I had a friend who simply lobbed her stuffed nappy bags out of the bedroom window for her husband to collect at the end of the day. That, at least, gave her a small sense of satisfaction.

Speaking of bad design - nappy bags are awful. In all those years I have never figured out to use one tidily. Of course, there are those nappy bucket affairs that create a long link sausage stuffed with baby faeces, and they work well for a while. But as soon as the little treasure starts scoffing real food the game's a very offensive bogie. 

Then the answer is a nappy bag, a flimsy sticky-together nappy bag. If you get it ready to receive first, static or the breeze caused by flailing brat legs will shift it out of reach. Best then to wait until the wiping is done, by which time there will be poo on your fingers, the very ones you need to lick to open the bag. Hmm. 

Someone more enterprising and energetic than me could invent a cardboard frame where you hang the bag open ready for the balled-up roll of crap, no licking necessary. 

Oh and that same enterprising and energetic person could resolve the issue of wipes that are folded into each other supposedly to obediently leave the next one poking handily out of the packet. Does it work? Does it hell.

Most of the time you either end up with a huge wad or, usually when the shit is reaching elbow level, you have to flap the pack like fury to get one out at all. 

Will I miss the diaper days? Not a bit. If I'm lucky, by 2013 I'll never have to sniff a bum or wrestle a child on a slippery changing mat, ever, ever again. 

PS None of this means that Boy Three is actually toilet trained, it's just I got some books on the subject and he's paying a bit of attention to them...

UPDATE: Last night, cross with us, Boy Three ran downstairs naked, hid under the table and wee-ed deliberately and maliciously. We may have further to go than I'd hoped.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Silent Sunday

Pick your own strawberries at Craigies near Edinburgh
Silent Sunday

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Time For An Olympian Effort

olympic rings
London 2012. Oh yes.

Will it be a catastrophic catalogue of chaos or the first germination of a Great British renaissance? And what exactly will the sheep be doing on Friday?

Of course I could give witty, incisive answers or say something all clever clogs and new about it. However, I can't be bothered.

I have gone through all the stages from mildly pleased to faintly interested, passing through slightly cynical and a little bit curious on the way.

The money is spent now and all the decisions, ludicrous our otherwise, are made. Who knows it might even be a success and we win a few medals.

However, there are no prizes for whinging about traffic jams and security checks. There is no event for world class gloating at the cock ups (although 'bad Korea choice' was a gift for headline writers). And there is no podium for grousing about how London-centric the London games are.
Of course it costs shit loads that we can't really afford, but that particular horse had cantered off.

We might as well make the best of it and enjoy the spectacle, support the hundreds of talented and devoted athletes and admire the effort of organisation. For example, did you know there were more than 100 pharmacist volunteers at the games? Nope me, neither.

Relax, it's going to happen anyway - who knows, it might even be fun. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Questions about modern life?

If they can make planes that break the sound barrier, why can't they make roads that don't have potholes in them?

If they can create fake tan that doesn't smell of biscuits, why can't they invent a painless way of putting sunblock on children?

If they can eliminate smallpox, why do we still have athlete's foot and the common cold?

If they can make touch-screen technology, why is it still bloody difficult to get in to so much packaging?

If there are reversing sensor on cars, why aren't there car sensors for people?

If cleaning products can killed all known germs, why does grouting always go black in the end?

If we can Skype people anywhere in the world, why can't I get a mobile signal in my house?

Why is the most misogynistic and badly written book in ages one of the best sellers this year?

If they can make 3D high tech virtual reality games, why can't they make Lego that doesn't end up where you are going to stand?

If they can make McDonald's Happy Meal toys indestructible and impossible to lose, why can't those same properties be applied to important things?

If they can make nappies that feel like fairy wings on our babies' arses, why can't they invent a way of dispensing nappy bags that doesn't leave you considering licking a shitty finger?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Michelle Mone, please remember you're the adult in this

Michelle Mone by Graeme Bird via Flickr
She hasn't got a point
In the paper today, the ubiquitous Ms Mone is moaning about having to hand her kids over to their dad for the holidays.
It's, according to The Scottish Sun and her Twitter account, "the hardest things she's ever done". Made worse, apparently, by the fact that her ex is with his new love - Samantha Bunn.
Tough tits Michelle. This is how it goes for so many of us. Of course it hurts to pass our children to their other parent for a chunk of the summer. Of course our houses echo empty and we cry alone once they've gone.
But do you know what we do, Michelle? We wipe our faces and get on with it. We don't whinge about it somewhere our children might see nor do we snipe in public about ex's new squeezes.
Why? Because we're bloody grown ups and our kids didn't ask for any of it. It's not their faults and they have enough to deal with without the burden of knowing how bad mummy feels about it.
Certainly, the notion of some other woman caring for your children mightn't be the happiest. The only solution is to stop thinking about it. You can't reasonably consider that if you don't want your husband any more, he shouldn't be free to find someone else.
Grow up. Michelle, stop wallowing in self-pity. Michelle? What's that... Oh, you're off to London... What's that? Parties, Olympics, photocalls, bra flogging...

Pic: Graeme Bird via Flickr

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The case study request that made me bang my head off the desk repeatedly

It got my goat

We are looking for a man whose wife is much more intelligent than him - and the relationship works!

This arrived in my inbox today, as one of many updates from an organisation that helps journalists find case studies. You know the kind of thing - we're doing a story about families where the men all hate Marmite while the women love it, do you know anyone? Or 50 Shades of Gray Hair - we want to talk to someone from the OAPs SMBD club.

However, today's took the biscuit. It's for the Sunday supplement of a big-selling national paper. 

I could fill pages and pages deconstructing the implication that a man should be more intelligent than his wife and that if that isn't the case something must be terribly amiss. But I won't... I'm too busy bashing my head off the desk and swearing. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: Mega Bloks Play ’n’ Go Table

Mega Bloks Play n Go table
Mega Bloks Play 'n' Go Table demonstrated by Boy Three
When the rest of the world comes to its senses and puts me in charge I have a very long list of legislation I will enact. One of these things will be to ensure that every toy that comes with bits must have a suitable and durable container for the bits. 

So when we were given the Mega Bloks Play 'n' Go Table to review it was already getting a 'yes' from me. 

Boy Three, who has just turned three, loves it. He's quite picky and will routinely turn up his nose at proper toys and spend hours playing with toilet roll or shoe laces.  However, he has played with it from the beginning. 

What we like:

  • The bits all fit inside.
  • It provides versatile creative play. There are lots of suggestions for things to build, but as far as I can see kids get on far better making up their own things. 
  • There are wheels - Boy Three is firmly in the vehicular phase of development. Brrrrm brmm.
  • As a table it is at a good height for play.
  • It folds away easily without reference to instructions or broken nails. 
  • It allows a couple of children to play together.
  • You can buy extra blocks to add to it. Ours is already being Incorporated with a Mega Bloks farm.

What we like less: 

  • If you do buy extra blocks they won't fit in the tray. 
  • The table is a bit wobbly. Possibly a problem around 'cruising' children or those with a tendency to climb things. 
  • Age suggests it's suitable from age one to three. Boy Three is already three and loves it - I'd say it's better from, say, two til four. 

Anything else?

The ever helpful people at Mega Bloks have a Facebook page and Time to Build Twitter account full of fun things - competitions and suggestions about what to create. 

In a nutshell:

A great 'proper' toy with hours of playing in it. Excellent storage. Good value for money at around £25 (Amazon).

Naked rambler - cheeky hero or just a bit of a dick

Steven Gough naked rambler
Land's End to prison, setting off
Steven Gough is at large again.

More than a decade ago the former marine had an epiphany and took his kit off. He decided that the human body is a beautiful thing and the right to wear one's skin as nature intended should be an automatic one.

His way of doing this was to hike from Land's End to John O'Groats wearing nothing other than a hat, a rucksack and a stout pair of boots.

it was all quite a hoot when he set off jiggling up the road and headline writers had a ball. Or balls actually.

By the time the naked rambler set off for a second lap he had acquired quite a following and a girlfriend. So far so good, until he hit the nudes headlines in Scotland. He was arrested for breach of the peace.

For the next few years he spent months and naked months in prison mostly in solitary confinement and the all-together. He undressed in court, on aeroplanes and anywhere else he could, incurring the wrath of lots of people it's better not to incur the wrath of.

His bare bottomed crusade turned into a monumental waste of his life, of money, of police and court time, and of his relationship with his teenage kids. How did it all go so wrong?

On the one hand he has a good point - the human body is a fine thing and it does seem insane that all this fuss has come from one man's refusal to keep his boxers on. Surely there are far worse things than showing the world your meat and two veg? Especially when nudity of one form or another is not easy to avoid on telly, in the papers and on the web.

Of course, integrity, passion and commitment are fine fine things that used correctly can change the world for the better. But all he has really achieved is pity, pithy headings and some strategicly placed pixels.

He is free again and this time the police and courts have decided to let him go on his way. Where to? Sunny side up into the arms of the authorities again, back to build relationships with family and friends, or somewhere else?

It's possible it might not all be a total waste if he uses his notoriety to reiterate the very point he set put trying to make.

He could give intelligent and considered interviews in all sorts of places - pointing out the lunacy of a world that jails a man for walking around in the buff yet permits pornography to be available to everyone with only a few clicks of a computer button.

Only I think Steve would get better results if he kept his pants on. It might just be me, but it's ever so hard to concentrate when there is a willy waving about nearby.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Bruxism - becoming a bit of a grind

Dental impressions
A good impression

The last two tooth guards
I have always been a tooth grinder, apparently. When I go to sleep it seems everything relaxes except my mouth. 

It first became a thing when I was at university. I had my wisdom teeth removed because my jaw was hurting.

Months later, it still hurt. The dentist concluded I was grinding my teeth because of the stress of exams and made me a particularly sexy tooth guard.

Over the next few years I broke several of them - hard ones, rubbery ones, tiny little girly ones and great big ones with bits of metal. Then I went without for spells result in sensitive and worn down teeth.

The tops of my worn front ones have all been filled and one of the back ones cracked resulting in emergency root canal treatment which is every bit as nasty as it sounds. Oh and a little painful in the wallet too.

This year alone I have broken two tooth guards of different kinds and need to go back and get another one leaving me probably £50 poorer.

So why share this fascinating tale of my dental idiosyncrasies?

Only the other day during an everyday story of country folk, Keith Horrobin declared he was grinding his teeth at the cost of his daughter's wedding.

So with bruxism in such esteemed quarters maybe some other solutions might be just around the corner. Ambridge will be abuzz with alternative cures.

Will the Bull hear conversations about the relative merits of hypnotherapy? Or will someone suggest injections of botox in the jaw muscles? I think a few people wood be happy to see Linda Snell try it out. 

Meantime, I guess I'll just grit my teeth and ring the dentist... again. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Silent Sunday

Mud Maid at the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 14 July 2012

After the holiday... tips for getting over the gloom

We got home at 3.30 this morning, hot foot from Cornwall. Cornwall was very very wonderful - relaxing, scenic and memorable.

The way home was full of looking forward to it, getting back on with stuff, charged with possibility. But then, after a very few hours of sleep, there's unpacking and laundry. Mail, email and scribbled notes. Lists to write, weight to lose and some other stuff I can't quite bring myself to think of yet. 

So I wrote the title to this post in the hope that I will be inspired and thus find the zip for my doodah again.

Dive in to the laundry or leave it? Currently on load number four and hardly even reaching the foothills. I'd like to report that doing laundry as we went would lead to a reduction in this, but it didn't. Not a jot. New plan needed. Maybe dumping it somewhere for a few days, soon-to-be-sacked postie style might do it. 

Get organised with the shopping. Feeling like a hungry refugee as you gaze at furry cheese, mushy veg and lumpy milk in the fridge doesn't improve matters. Next time have the grocery delivery van arriving at the door as you do. Alternatively go out/ dial a pizza. 

Don't stand on the scales or check your bank balance. At least for a couple of days. 

Do something with the children. They don't seem to be at quite the same stage of slack jawed inertia as their parents. Can't understand why. It would have been a good idea to organise something for them to do. That way we wouldn't have had Boy Three waking us at the crack of coffee time saying: "I don't like it here. Can we go back to our cottage now?"

Get the house cleaned. Tick. The lovely Kim was here while we were away. Nice that. 

Get the other stuff done too. You know. The bits of plastering, painting and other bits of miscellaneous fixing done. They are even more annoying than before. The flaky bit of paint in the bathroom that needs glossing - paint already bought. The drippy gutter that makes a wet mark on the window sill.

Be prepared for dead stuff or growing stuff. I'm rubbish at gardening, but it seems to me that things will have shrivelled or sprouted. Both will need dealing with... unless you are fortunate enough to be on Mr Bloom's client list.

Look on the bright side. Oh yes, this is always good. At least you will have mirrors you can see your chin hairs properly in, a forgotten episode of Silent Witness to enjoy, and a husband who will cook supper. The annual Trivial Pursuit game with aforementioned husband is over for 2012. And when the family slinks off to their respective rooms, there will be silence. 

Look forward to something. Next year's trip. The weekend at a theme park competition prize. Your new project. This year's book. Something shiny that isn't just the inexorable slide to wrinkles, confusion and death. 

Open the gin and jelly babies. And/or have a bath. It will feel better tomorrow, won't it? 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Cornwall pictures - sand everywhere

On Hayle beach

Cricket on Hayle Beach
Batting for Yorkshire

Minack Theatre
Magical Minack Theatre

In a very small house

Did someone lose the thread here?

A pig's bum

St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount glitters dramatically above the no parking sign on Penzance Harbour.

Board meeting

High water at Mousehole
High water at Mousehole

Bam- boo!

In a puddle in Marazion, hopefully not comment on the food. 

Causeway to St Michael's Mount
Causeway to St Michael's Mount

Man leg with biscuit

Following the yellow brick road.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Why 50 Shades Of Gray could never be true...

knot very good - 50 shades
I've done it, I've joined the ranks of 50 Shades of Gray survivors. Oh my. 

Clearly most self-respecting real woman would run as fast as they could away from Mr G if they found themselves in feckless Ms Steele's borrowed shoes. 

However, if they had somehow chosen to ignore the warning signs of total git-dom and fallen for the millionaire and his well-clad legs, then there are some points she might like to consider. 

No aspect of 50 Shades of Gray could actually be true. And here's why -

  • A real man is likely to forget the scissors for the cable ties.
  • Anyone biting their lip that much would have a nasty sore on it.
  • Little people living in your head who argue with each other would probably cause problems with how you deal with the rest of the world.
  • Think about it, that red room of pain wouldn't smell of leather and citrus, would it?
  • There can't be a student in 2011 who don't use email and mobile phones all the time.
  • NDA - and she is supposed to be intelligent.
  • No real women have so few of their own clothes.
  • Really, three weeks before she thinks to Google him.
  • You just know a real life dom sub agreement would fast move from stand there while I titre you up to go to the kitchen and make me dinner.
  • "Breakfast," he whispers, making it sound deliciously erotic. Err not roll and sausage with brown sauce then.
  • All that soap on mucous membranes would sting and not in a sexy way.
  • A contract. With a man. Are you mad?
  • There cannot be a woman in the world who finds a man's interest in her menstruation in any way attractive. 
Oh my. Holy hell. Etc.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Is too much choice ruining our lives?

I'm all for freedom of choice, dancing to your own rhythm and individuality. However, I wonder if we now have so many options that we are too busy making our minds up to actually live our lives. 

Let me explain. Here we are on holiday with a small suitcase of clothes apiece, just a few well-chosen books and toys and    shopping for only one meal ahead based, in part, on not creating dishes to wash. And it's lovely. 

Have we been short of something to wear, something to do or something to eat? Not for a minute and it all seems so much easier than 'normal' life. 

As far as I can see, apart from the lack of work and the fact we're in someone else's house, the biggest difference is that there are fewer options lining up for consideration. Clothes are picked based on the weather and what's clean, food on what's in the fridge/small shop and so on. 

At home, faced with a cupboard full of garments deciding what to wear can take an age. And be subject to a last-minute change of heart... in favour of the outfit I first thought of. 

Supermarkets fox us with permutations. Then they sprinkle on other considerations, price, quality, style, image, eco credentials, health benefits and free gifts or special offers. Figuring out what's best is exhausting and that's before you've lugged it home and considered the options for cooking it. 

Nothing is simple. The telly box now has more options than you can flick through in an hour, there are dining out options, movies to watch, cars to choose and social networks to commit to. Too damn much to pick from. 

Weighed down by opportunities, yet frightened by the possiblity of getting it wrong, life is becoming more difficult. Quick choose now, choose right and choose better than anyone else. Your life will be judged on it. 

I suppose it's why my car is a Skoda - there are only a couple of models in their range. I go to Aldi or Lidl not just for cheapness but because they have only got one of each thing on their shelves. I love restaurants where they just bring good food - no thinking required. 

But even then, decisions fill up our lives taking up all the space so there's no room for anything else. What to have for breakfast? Whole grain or organic? Quick or tasty? What to clean the house with? How fast to drive? Buy new or second-hand? What to eat? Exercise or relaxation? Watching, reading or writing? Blue ink or green? Recycle, keep or dump? 

When we get home, it's time for a huge clearout - out will be the new in, dump the new keep just in case and recycle the new hoard. I need some spaces in which to make the choices I can't avoid. If you catch me dithering in the vast breakfast cereal aisle of life, remind me of this post. 

Too much choice is a grave mistake

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Silent Sunday

Sculpture at the Telegraph Museum Porthcurno Cornwall

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Andrew Nicoll's If You're Reading This I'm Already Dead - the women

If You're Reading This I'm Already Dead by Andrew Nicoll
I commend to you Andrew Nicoll's latest novel, If You're Reading This I'm Already Dead. 

Andy is a fellow news predator to the Panther and all-round good egg, so I'd read and buy his book anyway. However, it's much, much better than that. A cracking read and worthy book-group discussion choice.

For a writer who is a chap, Andy does draw some interesting women. His gals line up in order of, well, various things - virtue, allure, ranking in hero Otto's affections. 

The fragrant Sarah is the beautiful and loyal daughter of blind professor Alberto von Mesmer. She doesn't put it about  much, saving herself for special occasions... mostly involving Otto. She fancies herself as his queen and hardly ever puts a foot wrong. Otto says Sarah "wasn't that kind of girl" and, eventually, somewhat reluctantly, sets all the others aside.

Tifty Gourdas, self-professed Magyar countess, could "dance to set the sawdust on fire and she knew how to strip". She's also a generous sort, often known to keep Otto and his BFF Max warm on chilly nights. She has her limits, however, and gets quite frosty with Otto when he reaches them. She has what is might be known as "a past".

Mrs Margaretha MacLeod, also known as Eye of the Dawn, exotic and alluring. Also very dangerous. She once bewitches Otto, probably just to prove that she can. She's the sort you'd rather was at least pretending to be on your side. 

Royal wives are the daughters of the warlords of the north. They present themselves to form a harem apparently devoted to Otto. This causes a wrinkle between Sarah and Otto, and between their fearsome fathers and Otto. 

As the adventure begins, Otto is in the beer cellar with a barmaid. "If you'd asked me right there and then, that very second, what her name was, I couldn't've told her." Much later he sees her as a person, but then she was convenient - both for a bit of a "cuddle" and to illustrate the kind of person he was. 

What do you reckon? I see these women lined up as stepping stones on the way to female perfection. Otto certainly seems to be all set with a one-way ticket to the sunset with the good girl of the pack. But then, has he had to turn his back on a certain kind of blood-warming fun on the way?

Is it possible for a good-time girl to be a good girl too? And would any of the women have changed their view of Otto if they could see his thoughts as we did?

There's a suggestion that both Mrs MacLeod and Tifty's history - damaged goods, if you will - sets them apart from Sarah. As Mrs MacL said to the Queen-in-waiting: "Countess Gourdas and I, well, we are part of a kind of freemasonry of unhappy women who have seen things, known things, done things and suffered things which you have not." 

Anyhoo, variations on the Mary and Martha theme, of sorts, could keep us all occupied for days. Just know that IYRTIAD is a great story full of lots of characters to fall a little in love with on your sun lounger. Read it and come back and tell me what you think of Nicoll's ladies.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The Panther posts: Word association

My husband, the Panther of News, is a remarkable man. Not least for the status updates he posts on Facebook from time to time. 

Here's his latest: 

"So, had a debate there with Ellen about word association. I said it's pish. If the guy said 'say the first word that comes into your head' and then says sofa, I say sofa as that's the word in my head. If he means the second word that comes into my head he should say so, the arse. Ellen disagreed but then she would. She then lied when we tried. This may go some way to understanding why my school psychologist hated me. Holidays are such fun with me."

Ladies and gentlemen, the Panther of News. 

Thursday, 5 July 2012

FFS, this is not a matter for LMFAO

Cursing Stone, Carlisle
Cursing Stone, Carlisle
Ten-year-old son has just proudly announced he has downloaded a new album. Oh yes? It's by LMFAO.


He flatly denied any understanding of what it might stand for. The band claim it is Loving My Friends And Others.

Yeah right. And that song was about John Lennon's son's nursery friend.

I suppose kids have always had rude stuff they knew their olds wouldn't like or understand. But it was more subtle, wasn't it? LMFAO is forcing me to either pretend I'm too old and thick to get it or to seem to give my approval to swearing.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Cornwall: Land's End and Geevor Tin Mine

Narrow road in Cornish village
The boys head for the beach

Boy builds sandcastle
First sandcastle of the holiday

Behind the lines on the  beach

Scary rowing ladies who shouted at us for being on their slipway

Small Boy Three insists on carrying his own luggage.

The famous Land's End sign.
Land's End in the fog - far more fun than it looked, honest.

Look out!

Small animal farm at Land's End
Boy Three has words with a sheep at the farm near Land's End

Boy Three is shooting at monsters with his cannon,of course.

Panning for gold at Geevor Tin Mine
Panning for fools' gold at Geevor Tin Mine

Leaving the shaft at Geevor Tin Mine Cornwall
Into the light

Hat's a lovely picture.

Victoria Shaft, Geevor Mine, Cornwall
Victoria Shaft, Geevor Mine, Cornwall

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