Monday 17 December 2012

Loss of Innocence

Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway.”
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

The horrific events that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown brought this quote to mind. I am not a fan of the novel at all but it does encapsulate how the main character feels about being forced to be more adult-like and mature. He grieves for the loss of his own innocence. The Newtown community who survived the attack last week are going to be faced with this too - forced in the most sickening way to face what a shite world they live in - that the facade of affluent America is hiding a broken society which has laws that make no sense to me. I cannot understand how despite the stats on people killed by guns, the Americans hold onto the Second Amendment - put it in a glass case and refuse to change it. The right to bear arms. What about the right to live without fear? Why did a primary school teacher feel the need to own 3 guns? If she had not had them, would her son, Adam Lanza,  have been able to commit the crimes?

So I shake my head. we have cried watching the events unfold and cried when we read the list of names of those that died empathising with the parents who lost their kids (both the children and adults). Over the weekend, my kiddo has put up with me suddenly grabbing her, kissing her and telling her I love her. I hope that she always knows that, no matter where she is or what happens in life. And I will always sing to her. 

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
How I wonder what you are!

Many kisses for  Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jessie, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Jessica and Allison

Tuesday 27 November 2012

French or Chinese

I've just been reading the Beeb's report on language in Scottish schools. For the past term, our kiddo has been going to an extra French class each week. I had high hopes that she would show an aptitude for languages (though she has hardly shown any interest in learning my mother tongue) but sadly, I'm not entirely convinced. She hates doing the homework but skips into the class which is full of some of her little friends from school. We are going to give it another term to see how she gets on.
However, should she be doing French at all? How useful a language is it? Sure, if you plan to deal with the French or read French literature,then I know it would be very useful. I have painful memories of sitting in French usability labs, not having a clue what subjects or other usability people were saying. I was once told,  rather sniffily, that some research I dared question had been proven in the Franco world. (Yeah right - if it was proven then translate it and let me read it mate is what I thought. Umm, I digress).
Just recently, China announced a new leadership headed by Xi Jinping- now the leader of a billion people. I keep going over that figure in my mind...that's a lot of people. Perhaps there would be more opportunities open to her in the future if she learnt Chinese?
So the question is, should we switch kiddo from French to Chinese. There are already a couple of kids shows which teach very basic Chinese (The Lingo Show, Ni Hao Kai Lan) which she enjoys. Would this be the start of a Bladerunner type world where people speak English, German (? no idea why), Japanese and Chinese? Or should we leave her in French and just let her enjoy being part of a little club of giggling girls who seems to have a blast even if they are learning very little?

Saturday 17 November 2012

My numex twilight chilli

So this is the packet that my brother in law gave me last Christmas:

I expected lovely long chillies. The packet said they were Twilight Numex Chillies. Never even heard of the variety. Did a Google search and nothing came up. Gulp. 
What I got were short beautiful purple ones, that eventually went a glorious red and yellow colour. I waited and waited, then waited some more for them to get long but they never went past the stubby stage (we know how disappointing that can be girls, don't we?!!). Then when a new lot started to sprout, I decided to cut the stubby ones off. They are a really lovely red colour but I was worried about them being ornamental, non edible fruits. 
Funnily, just did another search on Google and have now found many references to this lovely purple / red chilli  And yippee, it's edible. 
Aren't they just the purtiest thang ever?

Sunday 11 November 2012

A flower by any other name

Today my daughter wore a poppy in her hair. She likes to have poppies. Last year at nursery the kids were told that people wear poppies to remember soldiers. But she's 5 and she still doesn't understand. Poppies are just a flower to her - a pretty one that her Granny likes to wear. Her Granny knows what the poppy means.One day she will understand. We will tell her that the World Wars were fought by brave soldiers (including Scots and Indians) so that we could enjoy the freedom we have today.  I may be a pacifist but I thank those soldiers who died so I could choose to be.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke

Tuesday 16 October 2012

One MILLION pounds!!!!!

No, I haven't won the lottery or come into some dosh from a dead relative. It's half term up here so of course it's raining. But we said "sod that"  got on a train to Edinburgh. The plan was go to the National Museum of Scotland but before going there we did a slight detour to the Museum on the Mound. It's a small museum all about money, built on an old Edinburgh dumping ground and just a few minutes walk  from Edinburgh Waverley station. There were lots of interesting bits (quite a few boring ones) about plate design, the different metals used in coins throughout the ages, the establishment of banks in Scotland, the architecture of the bank HQ, about money security, the rise of building societies and insurance. Luckily they had a free trail booklet for kiddo and her Dad to do whilst I tried to read some of the vast information on display. The best part was seeing a million pounds all in £20 notes...don't get excited, all the notes are cancelled....however, this is the only time I'll ever be close to that amount of money and I was amazed at how much space it took up.
It was a pleasure to visit made more so by the wonderful staff .
On leaving the museum, we walked up Lady Stairs Close reading inscriptions on the ground. The reason became clear halfway up when we passed the entrance of the Writer's Museum. Kiddo asked in exasperation about how many museums there were in Edinburgh and refused to let me enter so we continued onto the National Museum of Scotland. We have been a few times this year but it's so well laid out and really lovely to visit, even when busy, that kiddo loves going there. This time we treated ourselves to a snack in the brasserie - I wholeheartedly recommend the scones and we also enjoyed brownies and chocolate fudge cake - YUMMY!
By the time we came out, the rain had indeed sodded (?) off and the whole city was glowing with autumnal sun.

Saturday 29 September 2012


I had my first proper ukulele lesson today. A few years ago someone had tried to give me a lesson. It did not go too well and so with a heavy heart, I put the thing back in it's case and on top of the bureau. Each time we have moved, it's always been put in that same place. It's so sad to own an instrument for over 2 years and not play it.
Anyway, fast forward to this morning. A bunch of us in a freezing cold grim late 1970's school music room in West Edinburgh. First we tuned by ear. We were assured that we would soon learn how to do this well (note that we didn't do too well but it was only our first lesson). Then we learnt some chords.The teacher is very good and very encouraging, and luckily for me very tolerant of nervous wise cracks. We even did three songs. I cannot wait until the next lesson. I better practice as he assures us that while he can show us how to play, only we can really teach ourselves. I loved it.

P.S. Can someone remind me to chop my nails before I have a go again. It was a bit torturous trying to do chords with my claws out!

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Falling at the first hurdle

Well kiddo is happy in school and I find myself with time on my hands. Some of this is taken up doing a course with the council that encourages healthy eating. But the rest of the time, when not doing housework (i.e. a lot of time), I've been looking for a job.
I've just done an online application for a mobile phone company to work in one of their stores. My answers indicated that I am not the kind of person they are looking for. I have lots of retail experience, used to regularly meet my sales targets and I used to work in the phone industry. The application didn't get that as far as that - I fell at the hurdle of an online scenario stuff. So my experience is entirely irrelevant.

This is not the first one I've done.

I'm a bit crushed now.
I'm kicking myself for giving up my job 5 years ago. Yes, my kiddo benefited from having me at home. Yes, this was a parenting choice we made as a couple. Yes, my hubby went on to get a great job with a good employer. Yes, I have learnt so much in those 5 years and have grown in a more rounded person.
I'm kicking myself for not having had a career plan 5 years ago (brain was a bit addled with new baby etc. but really that's not an excuse).
I'm kicking myself for not doing accountancy like my parents wanted me to do.
I'm kicking myself for not having skills that will make me an ideal candidate for the jobs out there.

I have experience. I have an education. I made the "mistake" of wanting to stay home to care for my child.

I'm locking the gin away as it's starting to look rather appealing and that's a really bad thing when it's not even 11am.

I have time on my hands. I'm going to put the kettle on, and get a biscuit. Chocolate really does make everything better. 

I know that I will eventually find a job that suits me and my employer. I have hope. I feel for those who have no experience, no education, no hope.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Indoor gardening

We have a garden where we are currently renting but I'm not really interesting in the garden as we may move before anything grows. I've got my pot plants out there which are doing well despite the wet weather. My limited focus on gardening has been on the stuff growing in our conservatory which is like a hot oven even on the coldest days. Judging by home gardening websites, I'm a shite gardener but I'm pretty chuffed with the strawberry and chili plants I have. They have some fruit. It's probably too late in the year and I daren't taste them (especially the strawberries which are kiddo's) but they are ever so pretty.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Frazzled by the Fringe

This is a bit out of order...I should have written this up before but have only just calmed down enough to do it.
On Saturday 4th August we decided to visit the Fringe on the spur of the moment. My idea. Gawd knows why as I do not do well with spur of the moment. I need to plan, make sure I know where I'm going, check out the reviews, figure out the best way to get there and make sure we have supplies for the long journey ahead.
Last year we went into Edinburgh to soak up the Fringe atmosphere. Kiddo was still in a pushchair which caused some arses to comment that kids should stay at home as they get in the way.
Back to this year. I duly check out the Fringe brochure and opted for Monsters Got Talent. However, when I went to book online, I was a bit taken aback by the 90p booking fee for EACH ticket which is added on top of the credit card fee . So we decide that we will instead go in and just go to the box office for our tickets. VERY BAD mistake. A long wait in the queue with a hyper child raised my blood pressure no end.
TIP: if you pre-order tickets, don't join this queue. You can go to the Information centre and print out your tickets from electronic machines. You have to be psychic as no sign tells you this.
TIP2: do not send hubby off to a theatre on the off chance of getting tickets while you stay in the queue with hyper child.
TIP3: THIS IS A SERIOUS ONE. Before parting with any money make sure you know where the venue was. When kiddo and I got to the counter, we were too late for Monsters Got Talent. So had to find another show. Which I mentioned to the booking person (I shan't use the term assistant as that would imply she would give assistance). Quick flick through and we chose Purves Puppets Nessie the Loch Ness Monster show. £8 each. As I couldn't reach hubby on the phone I bought the tickets. Only at this point was informed that I would need to get a taxi as the venue was quite far outside of the city centre. WHY not mention that before hand especially as refunds or exchange are not allowed.
So a quick dash outside to wait for hubby then another dash to find a taxi and then a lot of stressing on my part that this spur of the moment jaunt was becoming quite costly.
The show was OK. Kiddo said she enjoyed it however, I think a lot of it was beyond her understanding. I also felt that paying that amount of money to sit in a church hall and travel so far from the Fringe main area was not. In fact for me the best part of the day was the bus ride back to town through some really pretty areas of Edinburgh.
TIP4:  AVOID THE FRINGE unless you are spontaneous and happy to go with what happens, don't mind crowds or arses, know the city very well and are willing to queue for a long, long time!

Sun and flowers

What a difference a day made 
Twenty-four little hours 
Brought the sun and the flowers 
Where there used to be rain 

Beautifully sung by Dinah Washington, the lyrics are very apt right now. The sun came out, we managed to get out of the house and it's made a world of difference.
Yesterday we visited Potter Around in Kirknewton again so that kiddo could paint sun catchers while I caught up with some crochet. Unfortunately, I forgot the crochet so after a long look around the goods available to buy, I bought a small ball of yarn and sat down to crochet in the sun. The place is on a farm and seeing the fields behind the sun was extremely good for my soul.
The finishing touch was glitter on the suncatcher. Glitter makes everything OK.

Today was even more glorious so we took ourselves off to Edinburgh. A short train trip followed by a bus ride brought us to Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. A lovely peaceful place. We wanted to sit on the grass to eat our sarnies but it was soaked so opted for a bench near the very impressive Glasshouse. We faced the really long 100 year old hedge which was 8 meters high!

The highlight of the day was the Chinese Hillside walk where you could see plants native to China. Kiddo particularly liked the waterfall and the pagoda. Mad nutter mum made a brief appearance here as kiddo refused to leave the pagoda and then later again while trying to get her to stop rolling around in front of Inverleith House. But as I walked around the gardens nutter mum was banished to a cupboard in my brain and I returned to being THAT nice mum again. The Gateway house is a fantastic building at the main entrance and a welcome haven from the hot sun.
We decided to visit Inverleith Park which is opposite the Gateway entrance to feed the ducks at the pond. The rain has made a mess of the fields so it was not easy to walk on the grass. However, we eventually arrived at the duck pond which is a bit grotty. Not worth leaving the botanic gardens (that have much nicer ponds). I was glad that we brought bird seed as a sign at the Inverleith Pond warned that bread is not very good for ducks etc.
After a quick play in the park we went back to the Gardens. After a quick visit to the gift shop which was interesting, we strolled back toward East Gate for the bus home. I am definitely going to return as I want to visit the Glasshouse but next time we will take a waterproof picnic blanket so we can enjoy a picnic in this lovely park.

New spiky tree with mature one in background

100 year old hedge

Monday 6 August 2012

For tonight Matthew I'm going to be "That Mum"

Not THAT mum, the altogether one who happily bakes cakes, does loads of craft stuff, has a cheerful smile plastered to a her face (except when looking down on other mums, then it's the special condescending one), who drives kiddos to and fro and happily watches them at the park/softplay/swimming/crafting/friends/anywhere (delete as appropriate) and has to endure "Watch me mum, look at ME mum, mum, mum, MAMA, MUUUUUUM, mummy, mummummum" if she dares to look away for even a nano second.
I'm the well-past-midway-holiday mum who has no patience, cannot do any housework without constant interruptions, the one who has to supervise the kiddo lest she floods the house (what's the obsession with water?), has let countless cups of tea go cold, has to cope with the half a day it a takes to get kiddo out then faces the shopping trip to hell where said kiddo is so hyper that the dogs in the next county are barking.

If you are observant enough you can spot me. I'll probably be red faced with gritted teeth and crazy staring eyes. I'll no doubt be whispering promises of horrid punishments to the kiddo if she doesn't SHUT UP or CALM DOWN. If anyone who doesn't have kids tuts at me, I'm liable to run them over. I have sworn at the kiddo. Don't bother telling me that I should calm down, that it's not kiddo's fault or any of that. I know all that. But for tonight Matthew, I'm That mum. But tomorrow I'll be the other mum. The smiling one who loves her kiddo with all her heart and would die if any of the horrid things she thought today ever ever came to pass. Damn I'm gonna go give the little gal a huge hug now. Not her fault she has a nutter for a mama.

P.S. Teachers are bloody marvellous. I miss my kiddo's nursery teachers who were able to inspire her in art, drama and so many other ways. Marvellous. Why oh why did the term have to end?

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Busy bee

It has been good to see bees returning to our garden in the odd break between torrential downpours. It's gotten so bad that I had to report a flooded pathway to the council. The other day after walking back with the kiddo on her bike, I tried to walk around the swimming pool that had formed on the path and got my foot  stuck into a foot of mud. Not happy. Am very impressed with the council who have phoned twice to report on their inspection and to let me know they are going to try to fix it even though there isn't a budget.
Anyhoo, that's by the by. We have been busy since kiddo has left nursery. We have visited the brilliant Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, been to see jousting at Linlithgow Palace, spent a few days in Dundee and nearly walked onto to beach stranded jelly fish in Broughty Ferry. Been to visit the woods and the excellent EICA (Edinburgh International Climbing Arena) to enjoy their softplay. Then there was a visit to East Links Park (a great fun day out based on a farm in East Lothian). It's been exhausting, sometimes expensive but all together fun.
Of course, there have been days stuck at home. Some good. Some not so much. I miss being out and about on those days so much.
I have pictures. I'll post them up soon but for now, we are off to Edinburgh as we have some friends visiting us from London. Poor things are leaving 30 degrees to come up north to rain, rain, rain. Bet it's a relief ;)

Saturday 7 July 2012


I still miss you, old friend. xx

Saturday 23 June 2012

Gorgie City Farm Edinburgh

I'm a bit of a fairweather gal. Not in the sense of abandoning friends when things get rocky but the more literal, when it's fairweather I'm happy to be out and about. When it's raining, hailing, snowing or blowing up a bit of a gale, I like to be holed up at home with a cuppa, some cake and a bit of crochet.
However, after 2 days stuck at home,we decided to brave the rain and made our way to Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh.
The farm is free to get into and run by volunteers. As you would expect, it's nowhere as slick as the Almond Valley Heritage centre - this put our kiddo off until she saw the play area. There were a few people there despite the rain showers but we still managed to get up close to the animals. Kiddo even had a go at stroking a rabbit which was the softest thing ever.
I was mighty jealous of the herb garden which is full of all sorts of herbs. A real sensory experience as the rain then sun made the fragrances of herbs fill the air.
There are loads of chickens,including a cool mama hen who was black and white with bright purple legs being followed around by two fat little babies. Unfortunately, just by the entrance was a very ugly chicken...haste past that when you go. There are lots of ducks, sheep, a goat, a beautiful pony called Red and some of the fattest pigs I have ever seen.
We finished with a trip the the Gorgie City Farm Cafe that is onsite. It's part of network of Edinburgh community cafes and have a loyalty card scheme which is handy.
We spent roughly an hour and half there including being in the cafe. A nice way to spend some time out doors.
Beautiful flowers all over the farm


Love birds :)

One of the sculptures around the farm

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Time flies

It's been ages since my last post. Kiddo got chicken pox and like a lot of kids with eczema, had it really bad. Poor thing couldn't even go to the loo for a few days without a lot of pain. Then there were the spots which made her really poorly. We tried the miracle cream Virasoothe but that had her howling in pain so in the end stuck to simple paracetamol and piriton to tackle her discomfort.
She didn't want to see her reflection which is a bit of a problem as in this house, there are quite a few floor to ceiling mirrors. On the one occasion we popped out to the pharmacy, two children kept staring at her so much so that she tried to hide behind me. The idiots and their idiot mum who didn't tell them to stop being so rude. 
It has made me realise how much her appearance matters to my daughter - something that I haven't really noticed before.
We have also been busy preparing for her move to Primary school. Sadly, she's the only one from her nursery going to the her new school. Most of the other kids are staying on. Poor kid has changed schools so often due to our house moves and though she copes, our hearts ache for her having to go in and make new friends each time.
Like many parents, I'm having a harder time with her growing up than she is though. I miss her already and am really worried about her going off for so long in a day without me. Will she make friends? Will she eat properly and make sure to stay hydrated without constant reminders? Will she be able to handle all the school work and pay attention to the teachers. Of course she will, she's a good kid. I'm not sure I will. I feel like I am being made redundant from my job, partly because I wasn't up to the task of making another child (i.e. if I had another, I wouldn't feel so bad about being a staying at home mum*). Of course, these worries will pass. She will go to school and eventually, I will figure out what I am going to do with my life when I'm not doing laundry, cleaning the house, cooking, crafting and generally running around taking her from one afterschool club to another.

*It's pathetic but I have started to avoid people who are pregnant or have just had a new baby. Bit hard as a whole load of my younger cousins are doing just that right now. My left brain screams at me that another baby at this stage of our lives would be mad but my womb sits up and smacks it in the head. I wonder if this is a last ditch attempt by my reproductive organs to make me use them before dah, dah, daaaaah MENOPAUSE. Bet you are all waiting with glee for the posts about pre and post menopausal Plummy Mummy. Ah the horror!

Friday 18 May 2012

This Little Light of Mine

My kid has been coming home from nursery singing snippets of a gospel song. And like a little worm, it's niggled into my brain and keeps popping up at odd times.
She only sings the chorus. It occurred to me that it's a Christian Gospel song so for a wee bit I felt odd singing it. But you know what....
In the last week I have found out that 3 people dear to me are ill...1 with a year long cold that has caused her to develop asthma, my bro with a year long cold that included a bout of pneumonia and a dear cousin who has got breast cancer. When I talk to some creative friends they tell me they are having trouble finding their mojo (my words not theirs) and generally people are down. Myself including. I'm getting depressed reading about the state of our education system and worried that our kids will not have jobs in the distant future (and me in the near future).
It's just so damn draining.
I miss that silly snippet of good news you used to get at the end of News at Ten.
So despite my not being a Christian, I've started singing a truncated version of the song at all hours of the day, and some of the night too.
It cheers me up. It reminds me that inside me there is a core of happiness and I'm going to let that shine.
In case you want to join in my virtual rock choir here is my truncated version. Hand-clapping is entirely optional:

This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
This little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine,
Let it shine
Let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I'm going to let it shine

Hide it under a bushel? No!
I'm going to let it shine

Let it shine
Let it shine

However, if you prefer something a bit more disco then how about a snippet from the late great Donna Summer. A very positive sentiment. Imagine the "him" is that bad news negative little sod that sits on your shoulder telling you that you can't do it.
Enough, is enough, is enough
I can't go on, I can't go on no more no
enough, is enough, is enough
I want him out, I want him out that door now

Thursday 17 May 2012

Beauty and the Beast 3d

So today we had a first - Little one and I  met up with a friend and her kid to see Beauty and the Beast in 3D. It's the first time we have gone to the cinema since she was a tiny baby.
We have the film on DVD but I was amazed at some of the detail that came out seeing it on a large screen. I am not sure if that is down to the 3D effect or the big screen. In parts it was quite ropey. As a spectacle wearer I'm not keen on those heavy 3D glasses that start to hurt the nose after 2 mins. Also I question if3D is appropriate for every film out there. In fact, the cynical me would argue that adding a few extra screen details to a 2D flick, labelling it 3D and hyping it up is a bit exploitative.
Taking kids to cinemas...kinda an exercise in patience and a lot of shushing. I still don't know what was suddenly so interesting on the cinema floor halfway through the film. Hopefully not that snake that used to come on the pre-show trailers. Gulp.
Despite the moaning, I enjoyed myself and I think the little one did too. May even go again.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Closer to 50

A few weeks ago was my 45th birthday. Now I'm closer to 50 than 40. I don't get it as when I think of myself, I am either 13 or maybe at a push 20. I'm never 30, 35, 40 and definitely not 45.
I'm trying not to have a mid life crisis (yes, I assume I shall live to 90). I definitely thought I would be "sorted" by now, happy with myself. But it's hard with all the changes in the last five years....I have got married, had a kid, moved 5 times and given up my career and become someone who's life is devoted to others. Before this I earned loads, was respected at work, was able to go out when I wanted, see films, eat out, sleep late, meet mates, get drunk/hungover, buy anything I wanted (luckily didn't have really expensive tastes), have liaisons, have adult uninterrupted conversations. But at the end of the day I was lonely. I don't make friends easily - sometimes so shy but coming across as aloof. I worry that I have nothing interesting to say. It was easy to make friends at work as you had the shared domain.
Now I have two amazing people in my life that I love. And I'm much more creative now through the fogey old fashioned arts of knit, crochet and craft. I don't care. I love it. I do craft even when tot is not here. I love messing about with playdoh, paint, glue and most of all yarn. I meet some people through this and like talking to other crafters online.
In Plumstead, through playgroups and the nursery I met some lovely people. It's been a bit harder here. I have not made any friends in Scotland. In August tot goes to primary school - I'm really anxious about not being with my daughter so am going to look for some work.  I spoke to a mate the other day. She used to be a Chemical Engineer but since having kids her life changed. She is now a mum but also a bereavement counsellor and working in the NHS on cancer screening programmes. She gave me some advice about finding volunteer at the school, to look for opportunities. She also told me to make friends with other mums on the playground.
I will do that. Cos I'm 45 and I'm sorted. Err....

May bank holiday London

My dad had just come back from a 7 week visit to India...his first since we went in 2001. He was mad to go at this time of year as it's really hot there. But it was good for him to see his sisters and other family.
We visited him on his return back. First a stopover for the night in the Premier Inn in Stevenage Central. If you should find yourself in need of a hotel don't pick this's well dated. But if you need a bite to eat go here as the restaurant staff were the most cheerful ever, even though they were so busy and run off their feet.

Next morning we went to stay at my dad's. Much as I love him the smell of his cigarettes and cooking linger and make me uncomfortable. I also revert to my adolescent self and end up having confrontations with the old man. I got cross when I couldn't find towels though he had never moved them, I just forgot where they were.
My little brother is living with him again too trashing my old room. So there was a clean up to do before we could put little one in there to sleep.
The trip was great though as we visited my my best mate and her son then my other young brother, his four kids and wife. Their house is immaculate because my bro is a bit OCD. He needs to be as their flat  is small. I wish I was as disciplined. Sigh. Our little one absolutely loves going there as she loves playing with her girl cousins. I wished we lived closer so they could meet more often. Sigh.
The next day, we went along to the South Bank to meet Plummy friends. I may have mentioned before that this is my favourite place ON EARTH. It's sad but I just love it. Despite that I still managed to get off at the wrong tube stop....what a crap memory. What a numpty.Anyway, once there I love walking by the river, past the book stalls at the NFT, down to Gabriel's Wharf for Gourmet pizza, so much to see and do. Whilst it rained we sheltered inside the Festival Hall. We went up to see what's on all the floors. Great views of London (though not of the Shard). We tried to get our kids to listen to a choir but that didn't work. So we took THE SINGING LIFT down to the food market. Yes, you read correctly, the lift sings. For once, we were happy to be going up and down the wrong floors as the singing was so fun.
After being treated to ice cream we walked back to the area around the London Eye seeing people play music, stand as statues, blow giant bubbles and a guy play drums amazingly well on old plastic bins.

Sigh. The long weekend was not long enough, time ran out and we didn't visit Royal Greenwich or Plumstead to see friends and spy on our house. I wonder how my garden is doing in this so called drought.
It was a lovely weekend away but you know what, as we drove back to Livingston, I was happy to leave the crush of people and the narrow streets. It was great to be able to see all the fields on the drive back and breathe the fresh air.

Five Sisters Zoo

Sun 29th April: Five Sisters Zoo
The plan had been to go to Edinburgh zoo with friends and their little girl to see pandas but the tickets were sold out so we opted for somewhere local.  I've been meaning to go but waited as Five Sisters Zoo has just got some rescued bears that I wanted to see. Before going in you pass the biggest rabbits I've ever seen. It's alos next to the Leaping Lemurs soft play area which I'll cover later.
Again, was a bit take aback by the entrance fee of £7.95 for adults and £5.95 for kids but this zoo had a lot more to see than the Owl Centre.
There were for example some owls!
We started off in the reptile house which though smelly, had some very interesting creatures. I'm still shuddering thinking of the snakes.
Then onto the monkeys and other such furry creatures - not a huge selection but they were really active and fun to watch. Look at these cute lemurs all bunched trying to stay warm. So cute.

Next Owls! Yep,  there is quite a little collection here.
There was quite a lot to see in the zoo and there is also a fairground area but we steered clear as the rides cost extra. Instead we went up to see the donkeys and ponies who have a very large area to move about in. Unfortunately, we didn't see the sign asking us not to feed them as it was a bit away from the path...shame as I had fun pulling up grass to give to the donkey.
And finally to see the bears. We only managed to spot one (Carmen I think) but I was happy to see that they have a rather large area to walk around in....they had been treated very cruelly where they were before so I hope they can recover at the zoo.
Again, I wish we had gone on a warmer day as it was freezing and my little one was not enjoying herself.
We left the zoo and went to the adjoining soft play centre Leaping Lemurs. There is a separate entrance fee for this with a discount for kids if you have zoo tickets. There is a very large indoor area with tunnels and slides and secret passages. Lots of seating around the centre (so no H&S concerns about parents walking around with hot drinks with kids running about!!). There is also an outside area with a giant pirate ship. As it was cold indoors was packed and we found a very cramped table under some slides. But once settled, it was great. Our kids ran around having fun. Sadly, this was their first meeting and they didn't play together but it was fine as there was plenty for them to do. I tried to have a go on some slides but my kid was having none of it. She was off and away by herself. Part of me worried as the place is huge but luckily, our girls had the sense to come to us if they  worried about anything.
The restaurant food is pretty much the standard fare at these places...I had a lovely cup of tea which is a blessing when it's so cold.
Conclusion: I enjoyed the zoo more than my kid but I put that down to the cold. It's a run down place, especially compared to e.g. London Zoo but the latter have more resources. I'd visit again. And we will definitely go back to the soft play especially with the mid week discounts.

The Scottish Owl Centre

I've been a bit rubbish at keeping this blog up to date. It was always meant to be a record of the places that we visited but writing posts takes me a lot of time. You wouldn't guess that from my appalling grammar would you?
In the last few weeks here are some of the things we have been up to. Each with a lovely post of it's own.

Sat 28th April: The Scottish Owl Centre at Polkemmet Park
If it had just been me and the little one, we would not have gone in as I felt the entrance fee of £7.50 for adults and £5.50 for kids aged 3-15 was extortionate, especially in the current recession. It was a cold day and it was going to take a lot to cheer me up. The first view is a large Owl shaped slide for kids which was quite impressive. However, we decided to walk around first. My daughter was not overly impressed with the birds. Don't get me wrong, they are magnificent looking but it's really sad seeing birds of prey caged up, in the cold, not moving, looking quite miserable. We were also taken aback by the dead chicks in the floors of some of the cages....I know the birds have to eat but we weren't expecting it.
There are quite a few owls but some of the cages were empty. There is an educational area which had some interesting facts and a few interactive things for tot but most of the displays were too high for her to look at so she got bored.
We hung around as we had booked to see a flying display at 3.30pm. This was a bit of a turning point for me...the man doing the displays was very entertaining even when 2 of the 3 birds refused to do much. It was also quite awesome to see these birds fly. Unfortunately, one of the owls was very scared of wheeled objects and was really scared of an old lady's wheeled walker. I wish that her companions had had the sense to put it outside to calm the bird down.
We left hoping to get a cake at the Ivory Tower Cakes tearoom directly opposite the entrance to the Owl Centre but guess what...they were shutting on a Saturday at 4pm. We went in and there were some yummy looking cakes on display which we said we would take away, but were told that they had been trying to shut for the last 10 minutes and wouldn't serve us. I find this sort of behaviour odd in a  recession - there are people who want your food, you are a food establishment but you turn them away. What are you going to do with the cakes? Sell them the next day ergo not so fresh.

Overall conclusion: Wish we had gone on a warm sunny day. There is enough to do in Polkemmet park that it would take a lot to convince me to visit the owls again but to see them fly is magnificent.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Return to sender

Return to sender, address unknown
No such number, no such zone

Where ever I have lived, there has always been mail for the previous occupant. Sometimes for years. I am never quite sure what to do with it - to chuck it out, to return to sender? Then what do you write. I've honed it down to :
Return to sender, addressee unknown (sorry Elvis, had to change it).
I'm thinking of getting a stamp so I don't have to write it or print off some labels.
Here, we have the landlord's address so that's easy - a simple case of redirecting it. But the previous occupants didn't leave us their details. So I spend time writing "person unknown, return to sender" and sticking them in the mail box. 
However, as the Post Office has raised it's stamp prices ASTRONOMICALLY, I wonder who pays for the return to sender? And do the post office actually bother to do the return or do they just bin the letters. I've read that it all goes to a massive depot in Belfast to be sorted out.
We also get huge amounts of junk mail and at least 4 charity bag thingies a week. Some people put the junk mail in the pre-paid envelopes and send it back - hoping their address will be removed from the sender's database - nah I don't believe that works. So I just dump it in the much trash created. 
And don't get me started on phone calls. At least 6 a day around 11am. Thank god for answering machines is all I can say.
What do you do? Ignore it all? Don't give a toss? Get into a furious rage? 

P.S. I know this is just a minor thing. This post was going to be a rant at the rise in stamp prices but the P.O. are doing the environment a favour - the cost of sending Xmas cards has risen so much now that we will dramatically reduce how many we send ...less cards, less trees chopped down, less fuel to make and send cards around, less paper cuts opening cards, fewer posties on the roads (?!?), win win.

Friday 30 March 2012

Losing sight of the important things

Yesterday, in the swing park I got chatting to a man who had brought his grandson to play. Turns out the man used to be a professional landscape photographer, who also taught youngsters to photograph. Then last year a virus got in his eye and his vision deteriorated. He can't do his job anymore. He has been told by surgeons that he could get his cornea replaced (using a donated one from a dead person) but there is no guarantee the operation would work. So what would you do....little eyesight/no eyesight/perfect sight?

Thursday 29 March 2012

Aggressive bees

For the last few days, we have been watching bees/wasps (not sure which) hovering in the garden. They seem to be mapping it out. Just now we tried to go out in the sun and the winged ones were definitely trying to get us out flying into our faces. There is always one "on guard" who then flies to another one by the fence. Does anyone know what they are doing? I don't want this to become the bee-highway even though I know we need them for pollination.
Sorry for the crap picture but my phone camera is rubbish!

Job hunting

I applied for a job last week. Second job application in 5 years. It was for a temporary weekend role - working both Saturday and Sunday for 6 months, 9 to 5.  I did my best to tailor my c.v. as you do. Haven't heard anything yet. There aren't that many jobs to apply for around here and even fewer for a parent that has to be there for her kid when she gets home from nursery. I don't really want to pay for a childminder to look after her especially as what I would be paid for part-time work would just go straight into the hands of the childminder. However, in order to get more recent experience on my c.v. that's what I might have to do. I hate not having worked for so long. In August things should get a bit easier as little one goes off to primary school. It's also easier now we are living in the same town that Mr Plummy works in as he can help with school drop offs/picks up and emergencies. This latter has been the thing that worries me most - if I go to work, and there is an emergency at the school, who could pick up the little one. Sometimes it sucks to live so far from family and friends.
Can you tell that this is making me a bit antsy?

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Playgrounds in the sun

Slowly this area is starting to unfurl before us and we are discovering more and more. In the last few weeks, we have been to Almondell and Calderwood, Beecraigs and Polkemmet Country Parks - the latter two have some fabulous play areas for the kids. But Polkemmet wins for me thanks to the Ivory Tower Cakes cafe where I had a delicious vanilla / lemon cupcake.  It's also home to a golf course which is hilarious - H&S must have missed this one as many of the woodland parks are on the edge of golfing greens. And home to the Horn, one of the artworks along the M8 - the Horn used to have sound which was turned off which is a shame as I'd love to have shouted to the drivers on the M8 "Turn around, you are going the wrong way!".
Closer to home our neighbour who has a 3 year old has pointed me to Eliburn park and Murieston Valley Playpark. These are all great and I'm amazed at the investment in kids playgrounds - it's fab the council are encouraging kids to play. We are still getting used to the walkways in Livingston which are rarely along the main roads but rather through woods - hopefully all safe though I wouldn't want to be alone along them for long. Then again, with the glorious sunshine we have at the mo, a walk down a wooden path along a stream is just perfect.

Beecraigs park, close to kids playground

our kid running for freedom

We had a look for the snake but the Graffulo ate it

Ghostly trees Beecraigs

Sundappled trees next to Beecraigs play park

Beecraigs park

Random mausoleum in Polkemmet

Mausoleum saying Polkemmet

The Horn, with sign warning you shouldn't go across the golf green!

Huge horn on the M8

Saturday 17 March 2012

Mothering Sunday

I never knew that the origin of Mother's day was a Christian festival called Mothering Sunday where people returned to the Mother church for the day . A bit like Christmas, the religious aspect is lost to most of us modern sons and daughters.
Last night (yes another partly sleepless one!) I started thinking of songs that had some form of "mother" in them. Instantly the lyrics of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody come to mind "MAMA, I just killed a man, held a gun against his head, pulled the trigger shot him dead" "Mama I didn't mean to make you cry wooohoooooooooo hoooooo". My God, I love it. So much so that I once chose to sing it during a night out in a Korean karaoke club. What a bad mistake - it's a bloody long song for someone who cannot hold a tune.
Then there is Junior Walker's "Mama used to say" where the boy is told to take his time, take it in his stride and not rush to get old. Good words.
However, the definitive mother has to be the Harlan Howard song No Charge as sung by Tammy Wynette. The internet, that slippery sneaky thing that it is has a number of different versions for the lyrics. A little child (sometimes it's a boy, other times it's a girl) hands the mother who's fixing dinner a bill for all the chores he /she has done. Before I had kids the following part of the song would reduce me to tears:

"For the nine months I carried you, no charge,
For the nights I've stayed up with you, doctored you, prayed for you, no charge,
For the ties, folding clothes and for wipin' nose, there's no charge
When you add it all up, the full cost of my love is, no charge"

At this point, the kid looks up at the mother with big old tears in his/her eyes, takes the previously proferred bill and writes "Paid in full" on it.

A bit like the kid by the end of the song I tell you - since having had a kid my understanding of motherhood has changed. In the vein of walking a mile in someone else's shoes/penny dropping/lightbulb over the head moment I have realised how hard it was for some of the mothers out there. I've written before about my amazing mum who moved continents, the second time on her own with three brats under 6 to deal with. I see both my sister-in-laws in a new light - one again living in a foreign country and raising her kids without much help from us the "family", and the other raising an autistic son. Amazing I tell you. And I think that partly what the song is about is appreciation for all mothers.
I admit when my little one was being a right little madam, I  told her how much I regretted giving up work, independence and general freedom to stay at home and deal with her annoying habits. She's four, I'm an idiot. She didn't ask to be born and I don't expect her to pay for it. She's at the stage where she knows she needs me. One day, probably when she has her own kids, she'll appreciate what being a mum is and so big blowy raspberries to the "no charge". And in the meantime, if by any chance she does a chore, I will be probably be so gob-smacked that I'll just hand over all my debit cards. Now that will bring a tear to the eye, no charge.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Noticing stuff

Wow the last post was quite errrmmmm needy. I didn't spend my time away navel gazing. I spent it in the Black Gulls bookshop which is a haven for jazz/easy listening loving, comfy sofa sitting, second hand bookshop loving people like me. I bought Douglas Adams "Restaurant at the end of the universe" (twice as I lost one copy on the train!), cookbooks and children's books all while humming away to Frank Sinatra. The shop has been there for 5 years but never open when we used to visit Dad. Then I walked along a buzzing East Finchley High Road which now has a new Village Bakery, the Barrucuda Cafe (yummy veggie brekkies found here) and on the weekend, a French Market. This is not the High Road I knew and I'm very happy it's getting better.
In Woolwich  I stood opened mouthed at the sight of a new building is going up - the long promised Tesco. Plumstead itself doesn't seem changed but it was fabulous catching up with lots of my old friends from there and I was so well looked after by my friend E who fed me such tasty food. On the DLR back towards Finchley, I notice new buildings which I guess are for the Olympics and  in the distance the Anish Kapoor sculpture which was not that impressive. 
While it was great being away, it was fantastic to be back home to a cuddly daugther and very capable husband. The house is spotless and the child has been looked after well. I better not go away again else I'll be made redundant!

Wednesday 29 February 2012

My week off

I'm having a holiday from being a stay at home mum. I cannot wait and am so giddy with excitement. Apart for one night in the first week of her life where I ended up in hospital with high blood pressure, I've never spent a night away from my child. Sure there have been times when someone else has looked after her - notably when I had tonsillitis a few Xmas' ago and hubby had to look after her. But physically, I was there and she saw me every day. This will be the first real holiday I've had - I'm going home for 7 days alone without hubby or daughter.
I seriously need to recharge my batteries and to find some sense of self. I love being a mum but my god, sometimes it's the most boring job in the world. And the GUILT, no one ever tells you about the guilt that you feel when you are not feeding them right, dressing them right, taking them to the right clubs, getting them into the best school, being up on the latest parenting trends, spending every moment to play as you have to do some housework (or god forbid update your blog), letting down all woman kind cos you didn't stay in a career and chose the traditional role of stay at home parent. There are so many things you could feel about if you gave a toss. Most of the time I don't - I think we are good parents and get compliments for our little one's manners, her confidence and her intelligence.
However, after 4 years I need to step away for a bit. I need to have a conversation with an adult without being interrupted. I have to be able to go the cinema, out for dinner, A DRINK even or just catch up with old mates without thinking about getting back to pick up little one, cook dinner, do the laundry or think of a bunch of activities to fill the afternoon.  I need to be away so I can stop feeling sorry for myself and remind myself that I chose this job. I also need to think about ways that my hubby and I can reconnect as "consenting" adults rather than just parents.
I have to think of ways to supplement our income. We don't live off benefits*. We live off savings and the hubby's income. The savings are really dwindling. I know I can work but in this economy I have no sodding idea what I could do and how I could ensure it will fit around the hours that little one will be in school. Not an unique dilemma but for now, one I need to face.
I suspect I will spend a lot of time in arts/crafts shops stocking up on new activities when I am not in the yarn shop buying even more for my stash. Or in kids' shops buying new clothes, books, toys.
Most of all, I know I'm going to miss my little one and the other half as I've got the best f*****ing job in the world and work for and with two of the most remarkable human beings I know.

*I wish that I could have some of the benefits of the people on benefits without claiming the benefits. Like getting stamps cheaper at Christmas time. Or getting into see shows cheaper. Or whatever else people who live off the state get.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Geeks of Charlton Athletic

Did any of you catch the new Sky1 show Gadget geeks episode 6? It featured the announcer at Charlton Athletic!
If you are a sky customer you can watch the show here

The guy was choosing a tablet PC and went for the obvious (boring) iPad. I'm only jealous as I cannot afford one ;)

Green around the sills

I was a bit successful last year growing stuff. The supermarket basil grew huge on the window sill in my kitchen (shhh don't mention the other less successful herbs). Outdoors, giant sunflower grew taller than our fence, the curry plants went crazy and the tomato plant tot brought home from nursery sprouted some lovely red fruits. When we moved, I gave away the basil but we took the sunflower and toms. Sadly both of them died after being exposed to the cooler temperature and enough rain to float an Ark.
This year, I've got another supermarket basil but I'm also growing chili plants. Tot's strawberry pot has two very delicate sprouts which I'm afraid to go nearer and last week, she planted her tomato seeds. I cannot wait to gobble them up later this year.
And finally, our landlord left us a lovely bunch of flowers when we moved in. They have since died but I replaced them with a cheap but pretty bunch of spray carnations. Maybe hubby will get the hint that I like flowers and treat me to a bunch someday.

Redcoats in Almondell

We had one of those "so glad we moved out of London" moments today as we walked around Almondell and Calderwood country park. It's a very lovely place. Despite the cold rather grey day we came across a fair few other people walking around with families, or their dogs or just taking a stroll. Funnily, nearly every family we met had a child with a red coat on. Easy to find in the woods in case one of them wanders off I guess.

There are two water streams, Murieston water and Linhouse water, that run through the park that join to form Calder water. We only walked around the northern part of the park but in that time enjoying the views of the viaduct, aquaduct and Naysmith bridge. We walked across the aquaduct below which had water running directly under the boards, as well as being suspended over the Calder. 


Strangely we didn't spot any squirrels but were happy to see some robins right on the path. And though we saw hundreds of snowdrops and the beginnings of daffodils, I cannot wait until spring when the trees that survived the recent storms' damage will be in bloom. I also kept getting the odd whiff of garlic so wonder if there is any wild garlic around...not that I'd know what it looks like even if it smacked me in the face. Finally,  early springlike treat was the view of yellow flowers near the car park entrance - does anyone know what they are?