Thursday, 31 January 2013

31/365 Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops

rainbow through the trees

It's your lucky day, you get a photo of a pretty slice of rainbow without any sick-making homilies about how you need to break eggs. 

30/365 What's on the bookshelf?

Books on a book case

You'd have thought that if I was posting a photo late, then at least you'd get something exciting and taken with a proper camera. Tough. 

There's an idea that what's on someone's book shelves reveals much about the person. So, here's one of mine to test the theory. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Oh appy days - what's your favourite app?

Picture of apps on a screen
This could go one way or the other. 

There is a possibility I end up sounding like a wizened old woman shuffling round going: "What did we do before all this technology? How did we manage?" And then the only way to silence me will be to give me a boiled sweetie (Werther's preferably) and turn the Archers up really loud. 

However, with a bit of luck, I can reveal myself to be a young-at-heart, early adopter, who is down with the young folk, in the hood (or something). 

But given that my children think I've been prematurely fossilised and haven't got anything relevant to say about anything, the truth must be somewhere in the middle. 

I'm talking about how apps have taken over life. Well mine anyway. There hardly seems to be any task I undertake that doesn't get a bit better by using an app. 

My current favourites are: 

My Fitness Pal. Telling me how much I need to eat to lose weight and then the horrible truth of how much I've actually eaten. Providing I don't tell it a lie. 

Audible. Real whole books being read to me, in my ear, any time I like. I'm considering growing my hair long so that the rest of the family don't realise I've actually been listening to something far more interesting than them.

10K Free by Zen Labs. Training for May's 10K race. The American lady whispers in my ear when I need to run and, mercifully, when I need to walk. The best bit is that she says: "You are half way." And I know it's time to run home.

Navfree. Sorry TomTom, it's time for a gold watch and some gardening. "After the garden shed, start weeding."

Weather. I know I could look out of the window, but it's over there and iPad and I are quite comfy  here on the sofa. 

Blogsy. Not ideal, but pretty good for getting those mustn't forget ideas down before they melt away like a snowman, leaving a puddle and a little sad sensation.

Remember The Milk. This one lets me put to-do lists on everything that talk to each other. Marvellous. 

And finally, there's the app-solute essentials of Twitter, Facebook, eBay, Spotify and iPlayer, but everyone uses them all the time. 

But there are some I'd like to find. They've probably been invented I just don't have the app that would help me look for them. 

App-le pie in the sky: 

Chore app. To get the kids to do stuff around the house without me telling them. So maybe I'm just looking for a synthetic nagger. 

What's for tea app? Something that tells me what I should make that makes best use of my time and what's in the fridge. 

Dictaphone app. Which is best now my six-year-old Dictaphone is sounding crackly? By the way, what's six real years translated into digital years? 

Where's my specs/your shoes/his bag/their coats app? 

Honest opinion app Says 'yes your arse looks huge' or 'looks great just don't bend over'.

Finds the word app. Knows that person's name, the song title or even that thing you were going to tell everyone about, if only you could remember. 

Round of app-lause for the best suggestions. 

The Boys have also been using the Music Magpie app on their phones. They can scan the bar codes of their unwanted games, DVDs and CDs, find out how much Music Magpie will buy them for and how to go about it. Find out more at This post contains sponsored content. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Healthy eating takes the biscuit

This has to have been the longest January in the history of Januarys and it's still not over yet. 

However, I'm still sticking to my healthy(ish) eating campaign for the Boys and I. 

Obviously the ideal foodstuff would be tasty, wholesome (ie not processed or full of chemicals) and not fattening. It would also provide slow release energy and probably boost one's IQ. 

However the reality is you can't have all of that, all at once. 

So, this particular day's effort was to create wholesome and tasty snacks for the Boys. If I don't watch carefully my sons will stuff themselves with lurid crisps and Jammy Dodgers. In an attempt to avoid them rolling their eyes at me and doing that shoulder slump, I thought I'd rustle up an alternative. 

Even with the help of Boy Three I managed to produce a batch of oat and raisin cookies that I was quite pleased with. And the Boys didn't seem to have too much trouble scoffing them either. Job done. 

I found the recipe on the Whitworth's Sugar website and my only complaint is that they're too tasty to be compatible with my weight loss aspiration. 

Whitworths asked very nicely if I'd be happy to do some baking and write some blog posts on their behalf on a commercial basis. I was delighted to accept. 
They are running a Twitter competition to inspire everyone to bake their way through this part of the winter. 

29/365 looking up and walking into puddles

Another day, another spectacular thing overhead. 

This time driving to collect Boy Three from nursery, a layer of yellow-tinged cloud was casting a warm glow on the puddles. At the fringes of the cirrus-cumulus confection blue sky showed, like trim on a particularly extravagant parasol.

But while this was going on I wasn't watching for flood water on the road, running off the thawing fields. Luckily, all I got was startled and there seemed to be no harm done. 

Incidentally, how deep is too deep when you're thinking about driving into a puddle?

Monday, 28 January 2013

28/365 And not a carrot in sight

It's nice to frame your image...

Once in a while my Super Sister and I get to sneak away from our various posts and go for a walk. Obviously we could use the time to drink cocktails and get our nails done, but that wouldn't really be very 'us'. Instead we find somewhere more or less equidistant from our homes and march around the countryside for a while. 

This time I asked the wonderful people of Twitter if they could help us with suggestions. Susan T  said we should try Carrot Glen. Sadly this was a autocorrect's version and, really, we walked in Carron Glen. Very lovely but no carrots.. Although that may be because all the carrots are lying soggily in all the gardens next to a damp scarf and a sodden hat. 

New kid on the blog

Look out, he's gone on line.
You know how you remember your children's first steps, the first time they went swimming, starting school and all the other landmarks? 

Well, Boy Two had a bit moment this week - he started his first blog

So far he shows no sign of losing interest and moving on to the next thing. In fact only this evening he was muttering: "I love my blog. Blogging's great."

I hope it's only because it's the first time he's been positively encouraged to spend time on the computer at home. 

However, I am very proud of him, and not just because of his blog. Once I'd shown him how it worked, he was off messing with templates and uploading pictures. Then I introduced him to PicMonkey and now his photos are 'enhanced' and cropped. He can do links and even managed a pun in one of his post headings. This has to be educational. 

He's even doing his own version of promoting his blog - nagging me to mention it on my blog.

For my part, I'm trying very hard to let him go his own way with it - as soon as I try to suggest that he does anything differently it might feel like school and put him off. Let's see how long I can manage that...

Meantime, let me introduce A Blogging Boy.  

Sunday, 27 January 2013

27/365 Things I learned from the blogging workshop

Yesterday was the Blogging For Happiness Workshop. I wasn't going to say much about it here as I assumed it would only be of interest to those who were there. However, enough people have asked me how it went for me to think it worth telling you. 

So here are the things I learned from holding a blogging workshop.

People will come! And despite treturously slippery pavements and Burns Night hangovers, they did. Thanks to everyone who thought this was worth doing on a Saturday morning. 

There are no blogging rules #1. When all it is is regularly updating your online space, how can there be? However, it seems lots of people are intimidated by the overwhelming number of blogs - of variable quality - and aren't sure if there's a place for them. Rest assured, there is.

Getting on with it is the only way. Whether it's becoming a blogger or finding your own writing voice, if you think it's for you, just do it. 

Bernie's Cafe does a fine Stilton and pear pate. 

There are no blogging rules #2. I have included this post in my thing for this year - a photo for every single day. I started thinking I had to take the photo every day, then I stretched it to within the 24 hours, now I'm extending it further to add images created digitally within 24 hours. We're only 27 days in and I can't imagine how flexible things will be by the time you're getting Christmas pictures. 

Workshops should have a price that doesn't require change. Almost everyone needed 50p change. If you didn't get yours, I apologise and will square up next time I see you. 

Nik Kershaw is alive and well and making music. Those of us who grew up in the 80s will remember I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me and Wouldn't It Be Good?  

New bloggers feel they could do with a bit of support when they get going. A couple of the workshoppers said they felt they could do with a bit of a network/hand holding/place to ask questions until they got up and running. I can see that. So I've set up a Facebook group for the participants and anyone else who fancies. Just let me know and I'll add you. 

There's no such thing as coincidence. When I met Mo Ferrington, I found an interesting and warm person. When she suggested she and I should do the workshop, I couldn't think of a reason why not and I did try. Now I see it's given me a huge boost, made me do something new and, hopefully, started something that will grow. "There's no such thing as coincidence," is one of the things she's fond of saying. She may be right.

Social media doesn't come easily to everyone. Those of us who spend most of our time online don't find it too hard to keep up with the latest thing and know how to use the networks and platforms. Or at the very least know who to ask. However, the rest of the world have better things to do, yet they still want to know what's what. A social media workshop could well be on the cards.

Online privacy worries a lot of people. Particularly those of us who grew up when digital meant something to do with fingers find the huge changes in communication quite alarming. 

I really quite enjoyed talking in public and I might do it again. This one is probably the biggest of them all. I didn't know how I'd feel about it at all. Certainly before we got started my palms were somewhat sweaty. Now, though, I'd say it was pretty good fun. 

PS This image is a photo I took at Queen's View the other day, a quote a spotted on Facebook and about three minutes on PicMonkey. 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

26/365 I'm feeling lucky

This morning the sun was shining and the birds singing as I walked down the hill from my house to the centre of the village. Snow glistened and no one else was about. 

Usually when vapour trails cross the sky, I wish myself up there leaving for somewhere more interesting, more exciting, and waiting for the seatbelt light to go off. However, today I didn't. 

I was on my way to the first Blogging for Happiness Workshop

It wasn't really my idea. Mo Ferrington suggested that it might be a good idea to see if anyone would like to learn about blogging. "Ok," said I, Scooby Do-style.

But the more I thought about it the better the idea seemed. 

So there I was, in the sunshine, walking to something I was looking forward to, something I was fortunate enough to be helped into doing. 

I really am very lucky. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

25/365 If you can't be cute, be relevant

This is the view from the window of 29 Glasgow after this month's New Media Breakfast

This morning's session was about content creation for 2013. Though I don't imagine the process is all that much different than it was last year.

However, it was really useful to organise my thoughts before my own blogging workshop tomorrow and to get a few extra tips - some of which I was planning to bring to you, you lucky reader.

When I was looking at my notes to see what juicy nuggets I could share with you, I saw I had written: "Puppies. Look at world events."

Inadvertently some of the best social media advice ever. Genius, in fact. 

In a nutshell, if you can't be cute, be relevent, but ideally both. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

24/365 The Whole of the Moon

Today we learned that no matter how much you want it, you can't make the sky go clear just by wishing. 

It was convenient for us to visit the Coats Observatory in Paisley, so we did. Only it was too cloudy for the telescopes to be working so we had to content ourselves with looking at the astronomical artifacts and information that packed the place. 

And on a starry night, we'll return. 

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

23/365 Little paparazzo at large

A few weeks ago, we were sent a LeapPad2 for Boy Three to try out. He loves it and his current favourite thing is taking photos of people, usually when they are least prepared for it. 

I can't blame him, he's had the same thing done to him since he first drew breath. I just hope he hasn't worked out how to upload them to the internet yet. He hasn't... has he? 

The LeapPad2 is an excellent toy and means that Boy Three, now three and a half, has a gadget to play on the same as everyone else in the house. 

Good points: 

  • Lots of apps so a user won't get bored easily, including music, videos, games, ebooks and creative tools.
  • It's educational - honest. Many of the apps are geared towards learning to read or write. 
  • It's creative - Boy Three loves to create pictures. 
  • It'll be fantastic for travel. 
  • It helps improve fine motor skills. I can see an improvement in Boy Three's already. 
  • The LeapPad2 seems rugged and robust. 

Less good points: 

  • The apps can be pricey (£20 for some) when you don't know the user will like them. 
  • It uses batteries so spares are crucial (especially when travelling). 
  • The music selection doesn't include anything by One Direction, so Boy Three isn't interested. 

As a big, investment toy (around £80) I'd say the LeapPad2 was a good buy. Just watch out for spending a lot on apps. I plan to get new apps only as a big reward or before we go on a long journey. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

22/365 Goodbye cubs... hello scouts

It's his last day in the green shirt and the neckerchief. Boy Two has today graduated from cubs to start scouts tomorrow. He and I were both a little sad about this, our local troop has been a big part of our lives.

A huge cheer for all the thousands of people who give up their own time to run cubs, scouts, beavers, rainbows, brownies and guides up and down the country, particularly Norma and Liz. 

PS Norma and Liz, you've got about five years to prepare yourselves (or flee) before Boy Three gets his green uniform!

Some fin fishy going on... planning a little trip

Don't tell Boy Three, but I'm planning to take him and his brothers to the Sealife Centre at Loch Lomond

I love it there. I find sitting under the huge glass tank and watching the busy fish very soothing, 

The otters are incredibly cute, if a little whiffy. (The transparent baby sea horses are fascinating. I gaze at the sharks looking for evidence of their killer instinct and fail to find any. 
The last time we went, Boy One and I, didn't go according to plan. He's normally an adventurous chap, but nothing would persuade him to pass under the archway to the - perfectly safe and dry - underwater world. The patient and kind staff spent a long time trying to coax him but found him more stubborn than the most intractable crustacean. 

Eventually, I gave up and we settled for a delicious lunch at the farmer's market, a spin on the funfair and transformation into a very serious tiger. 

I reckoned it would be quite a long time before we went back, but we have been offered the chance of a free trip so I'm delighted to be considering a hearts-and-minds campaign on the three-year-old. 

I'm not quite sure where to start but it might have something to do bribery - jelly babies may be offered. 

A promise of an encounter with the Sealife Centre's newest inhabitant the Giant Pacific Shark, might whet his appetite. Apparently they are known to snack on sharks, can grow to have an arm-span of more than 4metres and are stone deaf. 

Of course it's not all about live fish - there will be plenty of recently dead ones to get to grips with too. 

Our trip is thanks to Ladbrokes Casino, who are celebrating the launch of their new range of online slot games, including the new sea life themed Octopays game. They sent us vouchers in exchange for this post. 

Monday, 21 January 2013

21/365 The Hanoi Bike Shop

Outside it's cold and sleety and grey and Glasgow. Inside it's spicy and warm and zingy and exciting. I'd also like to say it's unmistakeably Vietnamese, but I've never been there, so I don't know.

Much as a visit to authenticate the food would be marvellous, I'm going to have to take the word of the people behind the wonderful The Hanoi Bike Shop on Ruthven Lane, Glasgow.

Today's chatty catch-up and tasty lunch with my friend Debbie were an excellent antidote to miserable January. 

Sunday, 20 January 2013

20/365 The wipe

It seems almost pointless getting the car cleaned when so many more days of gritted roads lie ahead. However, I did need to see out so it was the first of a big fat Sunday full of chores. 
Variously we have also baked and wrapped (there's a birthday ahead), erected (new toy shelves) and tidied, cooked and washed, and shouted at each other. 

19/365 Dilated to meet you

Boy Three made his first trip to the optician today. He's only three and a half but the staff at nursery suggested it would be a good idea. He's a clumsy little chap, but I'd put it down to his habit of hurtling everywhere at top speed.

But stopping to consider it, Boy Two wears specs and had a lazy eye (amblyopia), it wouldn't be surprising. Boy Two's condition was picked up at the routine pre-school eye test.

Our lovely optician had to use drops (dilating juice) to see what was going on properly and she is going to refer him to the hospital opthamologist. Boy Three is utterly thrilled by this because he is desperate to have glasses like his big brother.

I'm less thrilled. I mean, I'm pleased that if he has got something, which we don't know yet, then it's been spotted early. But it's funny how the first imperfection in your immaculate child makes your heart sink ever so slightly.

Yes, yes, I know, but I'm just saying it how it feels. With Boy One it was asthma, Boy Two his eyes and, now, maybe, Boy Three. A later, more challenging diagnosis (in our case Asperger's) was difficult, but not the same as the feeling of first blemish.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Sounds that need a name of their own...

This sound has a name, it's Boy Three
Ping, pop, growl and rumble. Tinkle, roar and bang. Scream. English is packed with excellent words for different kinds of noises. Yet, I've noticed there are some sounds so distinctive they deserve a word of their own. 

  • The fizzle a hot pan makes when the only place you can find to put it is in a sink full of water. 

  • The thumping noise a dog makes in its throat when it's just about to vomit - most likely on the carpet. 

  • The futuristic ping of a frozen lake just when you're wonder if it's safe to walk on. 

  • A cooling engine's pink, pink pink when it stops after a long journey. 

  • The mad disembodied shout of a toy talking to itself from the toy box long after the children are in bed. 

  • The savage screech of a bra wire trapped in the washing machine. It's going to be expensive. 

  • The almost joyful crunch of irreparable damage happening to a plastic toy under a boot. 

  • An ominous drip you can't locate. 

  • The dainty tink of a glass or china vessel fatally objecting to being filled with something hot. 

  • The liberating rrrrrrrip of fabric that comes with an ill-advised movement in a tight garment.

  • The breath-holding silence between the bump and the yell. 

We need words for these things - and all the others. I'd like to say answers on a postcard, but only so I can hear the hollow thud of things landing on the doormat. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

18/365 When skies are blue...

When skies are blue it means it's probably snowing somewhere else... This morning we were treated to pink tinged fluffy clouds while the rest of the country battled through a white hell. The children are particularly miffed about this state of affairs. Me, I can live with it. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

17/365 My city walk

I pass this way on one of my favourite regular walks. Once a fortnight, I hand the kids over to The Panther and walk away. Fast. 

As I march across the city, my head fills with plot twists, story ideas and the general thrilling possibilities that come from making things up. 

On a sharp frosty night, Glasgow glitters rather prettily, but I hardly notice. Crossing the dense clump of the city centre, I am struck by how the tall, dark buildings are slashed right through in a network of narrow slightly sinister alleys. There are two sides to everything. 

Every other Wednesday I go to the writers' group I'm a member of. I haven't been going long and, if I'm honest, I still feel out of my depth among the proper writers. However, for a little while, I can let the writing of stories take on the importance it deserves. 

Taken with my phone camera and fiddled with because it was out of focus.

Thinking about retirement - infographic

A wee commercial break - put the kettle on.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

16/365 An ice face

Baby, it's cold outside. And this is what the little treasures had left on my car window this morning. 

I wonder how long before I'm getting rude words and pictures of willies instead of grinning faces. 

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

15/365 A hairbrush bush

Today was my regular (ish) trip to the hairdresser. 

I came away with a haircut and some questions: 

How can there possibly so many different (expensive) substances to glue your hair? 

How can something be both blow dried and finger dried? 

Why is the music so loud? 

Why do you insist in painting bits of my ears black? 

What makes you think I want my head massaged? 

Why, even when you've had a good 'do', does your hair look weird until you've done it yourself? 

Why must so many hairdressers wear so few clothes? 

What's with the cling flim? 

And, really, why is the music so loud? 

Monday, 14 January 2013

14/365 Snow, what snow?

The Whangie

View of Loch Lomond from Queen's View

OK, technically there is a little bit of snow, and it was a tad crispy underfoot. But these were taken this morning when the whole country was supposed to be, er, crippled by wintry outbursts. 

No one told the area around Killearn, Queen's View and Loch Lomond. Glorious sunshine and a light breeze there. 

I took the chance for a Monday morning skive with Fionaoutdoors, whom first met so long ago there weren't even any blogs. She was with Smirnieoutdoors and her other half Fiona, whom I'd only ever met online. Once again I was delighted to find that people I like online are every bit as lovely in the flesh. 

And, yes, there are four photos but I couldn't decide which was best so you've got them all. 

Incidentally, when I got home I discovered that today is Blue Monday - the most depressing day of the year. It must be something of a good omen that serendipitously the potentially most gloomy of days was spent walking in the good company and sunshine. 

In search of a healthy eating plan

Little chef helps out

So you are what you eat, apparently. Well not literally – I don’t eat knackered-looking overweight middle-aged women.
On the other hand, if yesterday was anything to go by I’m oatcakes and cream cheese with leftover salmon, nuts, broth, a sneaky bit of cheese, a couple of apples, sausages and mash, and, finally, two big handfuls of jelly babies. So that makes me aspiring to be healthy but not quite getting there, knowing what I should be eating yet falling short, and, ultimately bewildered where the jelly babies came from. Probably about right then.

Of course, I’d like to eat healthily. Who wouldn’t? And it should be so simple – all you need to do is put good things into your mouth not bad ones. Yet it is far from simple, or at least for me.
The first question is knowing what is actually healthy. Green things are, except jelly babies. Brown things are, but not the top of crème caramel. What then?

In fact it’s bewildering. A quick squiz at today’s news reveals that: A high-fibre diet could show the progression of prostate cancer (and I was so worried!); sugary drinks raise the risk of depression; four cups of tea can slash the chance of having a stroke; superfoods can cause cancer; but coconut oil can ease Alzheimers. And that’s just today. Tomorrow will bring another shopping basket stuffed with contradictory information.

Even without the benefit of nutritional news, my own bookshelves contain volumes in culinary opposition. Low fat – low carb, slow food – quick suppers, no sugar – chocolate and wine diets, no diet diets - see calories then count ’em. What’s a girl to do?

Then there’s mood food – food for comfort, hormones, morning or night, party food, solo suppers. Naughty food, virtuous meals, fuel for energy or irresistible treats. Add that to supermarkets offering two-for-ones and children trying to survive on the breadcrumbed rubbish regieme and it gets even more messy. Oh and it’s not all what you eat but how much (when and where too).

Clearly if you eat more than you use up, whatever you pick, then your body will store it as fat. Or at least that seems to be one logical explanation. Yet some folk can stuff themselves all day and not seem to put anything on, others just need to set foot in the sweeties aisle of the supermarket and they are busting out of their clothes.

Diet stuff is packed with toxins and low fat food laced with sugar then “fresh”, “handmade”, “wholesome” and “nutritious” can be entirely meaningless.  Sigh.

Right then, I’m going to have to make my own food rules up for myself.
·         Healthy food will still resemble the animal or plant from which it came.
·         It will taste good (not just salty or sweet).
·         It will be many colours – the more the better. (I’m not daft, this clearly includes jelly beans.)
·         It will not contain ingredients I don’t understand or immediately recognise. (Bye then jelly beans.)
·         I eat sitting down and slowly.
·         Where possible I will ignore what other people (particularly those whose views are expressed in, for example, the Daily Mail) say I should eat.
·         It is not necessary to eat everything on the plate. In fact, leaving something is to be encouraged. (Yes I know we chuck too much away, but better than treating myself like a bin.)

Obviously, cooking – whether it’s a daily core, relaxing hobby or both – is part of the equation. The right equipment can make all the difference so it might be time for a cooker or other buy now pay later electricals.

This post is contains a commercial link in association with BrightHouse. However, the content is written by me and will, hopefully, entertain/inform/irritate as usual.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

13/365 A mouse took a stroll in a deep dark wood

Before Sunday lunch cooked by Fionaoutdoors, of course, we went for a quick walk. And here's what we found.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

12/365 Paisley with a patterned sky

Somehow this afternoon, while I wasn't going swimming with the rest of the family (lax topiary issues) I was to hang around in Paisley while they frolicked at the Lagoon. 

I spent a little while browsing the reading matter - and an abandonned Daily Record and some tourist leaflets for the whole of the west of Scotland - before moving on to what they have on offer at the Lagoon. Fresh (ish) from a makeover the council pool and gym complex is looking pretty good. It also has a fancy smancy spa called Eve, that offers the full range of over-priced and ineffective, yet somehow still tempting treatments. It did give me pause to consider the issue of the council (my council) running a spa that offers body strategist + cellulite remodeller or the chance to wallow in a rasul mud chamber. 

Anyhow, that took all of six minutes so I spent the rest of the time strolling into the centre of the town and back. Paisley Abbey loomed menacingly in the gloaming. 

I took the picture on my camera phone. 

Les Miserables - splendid cinema if you like that kind of thing

It's 24 hours since I went to see Les Miserables and the songs are still marching around my head which must go to show something. 

I can't remember being this excited about a film in a mighty long time, if not ever. I love Les Mis and have seen it on stage a few times and often listen to the soundtrack when no one's looking. I'm not one of your Johnny-Come-Latelys who found it after Susan Boyle I Dreamed A Dream an international hit. 

It's a long old movie - three hours from billed start time to the end including Kevin Bacon ads - but I didn't get restless, not one bit. And once it was finished there was a gasp from the audience and spontaneous applause. I'm sure - numb bumbs aside - quite a few of us would have been happy to stay for a second showing. 

The movie version milked every bit of emotional intensity from an already full-on musical. Close ups and lots of very realistic poverty and filth added to the mix. Oddly, seeing huge faces singing at you from a middle row of an auditorium create a very intimate experience. 

Hugh Jackman is a revelation. By his own admission not the best singer, he powers through as Jean Valjean. Believable as convict, desperate former convict, redeemed former convict and, eventually, old man. You do need to forgive him a dodgy David Essex-style 'do' in his middle years. 

Russell Crowe's Javert is on the button except in the big singy numbers. Crowe's voice is surprisingly soft and sweet, at odds with the dogged plod he plays. 

Anne Hathaway is as fantastic as anticipated, it's a shame she has to expire before the thing properly gets going. 

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) is a bit meh, but it's not really her fault. Whatever version  you choose she's a fairly pointless bit of froth. She does cry prettily though. If I was in charge I'd find some way to get her out of the big frocks and up onto the barricades, or at any rate somewhere useful.

Anyhow, I was determined not to bang on, so if you're a Glums fan - go and see this now. You won't regret it. But you do have to be prepared to make allowances for moments of (usually Cosette-related) cheesiness and some utterly bewildering vocals from Sacha Baron Cohen. In Thenardier, SBC has been handed one of the best parts in the history of musical theatre yet he manages to make a bit of a pig's ear of it. I know it's a long film, but the rule of pick an accent and stick to it still applies. 

Take Kleenex, and don't forget to go for a wee before it starts. Let me know what you think. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Why the prospect of Thatcher's death sickens me

Thatcher at Chequers
Thatcher at Chequers 1993 (BBC Radio 4, via Flickr)
Margaret Thatcher is a frail old woman and it seems fairly likely that she'll die quite soon. I couldn't really care less whether she does or not, but I'm beginning to dread the day she finally packs her handbag for the last time and shuffles off. 

Perhaps I should have begun this post with a disclaimer: This is not about politics. 

It isn't. And I'm not going to discuss the what she did between 1979 and 1990. I was 12 when she became Prime Minister and 23 when she left office. I grew up through those years so she's just as much a part of my story as Duran Duran and my first boyfriend. 

But just as I hardly think of either the boyfriend or the New Romantics, Thatcher doesn't trouble my mind very much. 

Except that, these days, every time I look at Twitter or sometimes in other places on the internet I'm shocked by what I find written.

Perfectly normal, compassionate people appear to be poised to celebrate her demise. And not just go "oh, I'm glad she's dead," as they put the kettle on and reach for the HobNobs, but to vow to dance on her corpse, party like they were Hell's Angels and take to the streets in a lawless frenzy of celebration.

We're not talking about a current despot or evil dictator, it's someone who has had no relevance to our democratic public life for decades. 

The dripping poison that spews out at the mention of her name astounds me. Reason and humanity seem not to apply in her case. (Here's where I leave a gap for the rants of "but she wasn't reasonable or humane".)

It doesn't really matter. Surely we are better than this hysteria. Where's the part in a civilised society for the blood-thirsty and vengeful? What kind of an example is this for our children? Obviously no one is expecting crocodile tears, just a little restraint and some respect for human life, whoever it belongs to. 

10/365 Clouds on fire

Ten days in to the 365 pictures for 2013 and I'm already changing the rules. I've decided that my picture must be taken within 24 hours of being posted. That way I can include this one, taken  on my phone last night in Kilmacolm. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

9/365 New moon - breaking dawn

This is what I saw when I took the bin out this morning.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

8/365 Nagging makes me fretful

But it's such a struggle to get him to practice as often as he should... Suggestions please.

I tried telling him that without practice the likes of David Bowie wouldn't be who they are. He just said: "Who's David Bowie?" Clearly I have work to do.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Can we ditch Page Three this year please?

This morning I'm writing on All Media Scotland about how it's time we moved on from Page Three girls. You have to sign up to read the whole thing, but it's free and it only takes a minute. 

7/365 An unexpected visitor

Sunday, 6 January 2013

6/365 Fir goodness sake

At Ikea there was a cage of discarded Christmas trees. We added ours. I wonder why they were kept penned in, perhaps they were in danger of charging over to the shop and liberating their already recycled forest mates. Perhaps they were just pining for a change of scene...

When staying in's a bit of a struggle...

It's the last day of the holidays today. Thank heavens. The time before various upheavals seems so long ago, I can hardly remember it. 

Soothing, splendid routine. When we all know what we should be doing and, in the main, get on with doing it. 

The kids have vanished to their rooms or lying so still on the sofa they are disguised like chameleons. I know they think that if they're careful I won't remember they're there and require them to do things... together... as a family. 

An outing would be fine, but it's January 6 which means we're skint and it's peeing down. 

Theoretically I could get them involved in the running and cleaning of our home, but the reality is that would prompt a whingeing and sighing chorus so tedious I won't bother. (Yes, I know this is what they were trying to achieve)

Perhaps, if I was a different mother altogether, I could organise games or crafty creations to charm, educate and occupy them. This would be hard enough if they were all similar ages and enthusiastic. However with Boys aged 13, 10 and three the eldest of whom is an Aspie, the challenge is beyond me. And I hated that glue and glitter stuff, even when I was a kid. 

Instead boredom reigns at the Palace of Bundance.  

However, when I find them, the children seem happy enough - variously lining up cars, reading the Hobbit, and building some virtual universe. 

It's me, isn't it? I think they ought to have fresh air and exercise, stimulation and new horizons. I'm uneasy at what seems like a lack of achievement. They couldn't give a hoot. 

Can I let them loaf, idle and slump? What's the worst that can happen? Bickering by tea time? Well that was on the cards anyway. 

Tomorrow's the start of a year of activity and achievement so one more day of do-nothing won't do any harm. Will it?

Saturday, 5 January 2013

5/365 Can you imagine a worse party game?

Your eyes do not deceive you, this is the Fifty Shades of Grey Party Game. On sale in Waterstones.

I picked it up to start to read the blurb but felt so soiled and shabby I had to put it down again quick sharp. 

I know I don't go to many parties these days, but I can't imagine one where it was ever a good idea to get this out. Trivial pursuit - played with pretend irony not really masking the raw competitiveness - maybe, but this, no way. 

Surely the point of Fifty Shades is to inject a little oomph into things (a deux in the bedroom) via the medium of sneaky smut on an e-reader. If your think your party needs this to get it going then maybe you need to re-think the guest list. If, on the other hand, your parties, ahem, go with a swing already, then unveiling this will bring things to a shuddering halt. Either way, it's a terrible idea. 

Friday, 4 January 2013

4/365 hunting for colour

And not finding any.

Boys One and Two and I finally left the house this morning for a brisk march around the village. I think I was looking for clues that the dark of midwinter was over. It isn't, but when spring comes this will be one of the places to find it.
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