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Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Magic Stone of December

Today, I was taking some photos of food. That's because the website I've been writing for, Weekend Notes, has just started a new website, RecipeYum. I decided to make a fruit salad, because, well, do I need to explain? Yes?

Here's why:

1. It's healthy (this is Josie's reason, proffered as she read this post over my shoulder).
2. It's the perfect Christmas tea (Lori's reason).
3. It's colourful (another idea of Josie's).

I tell you what, let's forget my reason and go with theirs, shall we? They're ever so much more fun than mine, and a lot less lazy-sounding.

Anyway, I took my camera through to take a picture. A few minutes, I heard a call from Lori. She had made her own recipe from her dinner, and wanted me to take a photo. I wasn't expecting much. Lori's recent school report claimed that she was "particularly artistic". I scoffed slightly. At 5? How can they know this? Perhaps I should have listened to the teacher. I was expecting a rubbishy smiley face, drawn on with the tomato sauce. I got this:


She has even unrolled an individual leek to make a surround.



I went away to do a bit more on my salad and she had transformed it into this. It is "The Magic Stone of December".

I tell you, if +Andrew Law has ever doubted Lori's parenthood, he should stop right now. She is clearly a child of an obsessive, artistic Law, if ever I saw one.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Crafty Advent

One of my most popular articles on Weekend Notes has been one about advent calendars: 5 Unusual Advent Calendar Ideas, to be more precise.

Given I was suggesting all of these different ideas, I thought I'd better have a go at one myself. This was our first try:

Each present is created with a sponge, dipped in paint, and then finished with ribbons of different coloured paints. Unfortunately, on the first go, I only had a sort of murky, dark-green and so it's quite a muted calendar.



The idea is that every day you stick on a sticker in the middle of the present and write on a Christmas message or a Christmas wish.

Here's the second attempt. It's a bit more colourful, but we didn't leave all the room around the edges for the Christmas trees and other decorations. We're a few days behind, so we're going to have a lot of sticking and writing tomorrow on the last day of school.



Josie and Lori's requests are somewhat different. As the quality is poor, I've transcribed a few below:

Day 1: Dear Santa, I don't know what I want for Christmas, love Josie
Day 2: A toy cat, by Lori
Day 3: Quite simple, a present...please, by Josie
Day 4: I want a magic present please, by Lori
Day 5: Please! We wish you a Merry Christmas, by Josie
Day 6: I want a Barbie doll please, by Lori
Day 7: I hope you have a nice time! By Josie
Day 8: --Lori descends into completely undecipherable words. She assures me that "Santa will understand". You think, kid?--

There's a theme building. Lori makes demands, sometimes incomprehensible, of Santa, and Josie talks sweetly to him. I wonder which will yield results. I have a feeling Santa might not be bringing a Barbie doll. I don't think he approves of such unrealistic bodies on dolls made for children. Just a feeling, though.

I'm not sure that my aim to move away from constant consumerism as Christmas time was entirely successful, given Daughter No, 2's focus on presents, presents, presents.

Still, better than chocolate!





Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lori Tells the Truth

Lori: Why did you want to marry, Daddy?
Me: Because I loved him.
Lori: No, but why did you want to do it when you just saw him?
Me: Because I fell in love with him.
Andrew: Because I am awesome.
Lori: No, it's because he looked nice.

Now you know!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Time to...eat some food

Last week I decided that I would write up a recipe for Weekend Notes. It's a particular favourite in our house, especially with Andrew, and I thought it would make a great article now that autumn is here and people's thought start to turn to hearty roast meals at the weekend.

Basically, it's a different way of preparing roast potatoes that doesn't have all the steps of parboiling, shaking to ruffle up the edges, heating up the fat and all that faff. Nor it it just buying a frozen packet from the supermarket.

No, this is something quite different involving garlic, vegetable stock, amd a little touch of whatever vegetable oil you have in the house.

I prepared my potatoes, took photos at various stages, started to write the article, took them out of the oven, and promptly forgot all about the article, heaped them onto the plate and had pretty much eaten them all before I remembered I was supposed to be taking a picture of the finished product.

What an idiot.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Lucky Unicorns

Josie has inherited my raffle luck. Or maybe it's just that I wrote her name on the ludicrous number of tickets that I bought. It's not luck, so much as sheer weight of Law tickets in the raffle bucket. Yesterday we won a unicorn and a head, shoulder, and neck massage. Woot woot! Three raffles, 5 prizes. Good going.

Josie also had other news for me:

Josie: I like Daddy better at somethings
Me: Like what?
Josie: Cuddles. He does picky-uppy cuddles, bouncy cuddles, slow cuddles, fast cuddles. But, Mummy, if the bed does break it won't be just our fault, because sometimes you give us bouncy cuddles too.

She also expressed her concern about a household appliance:

Josie: I have been observing the washing machine for some time, and it has been spinning slowly, then stopping and spinning the other way. Is it broken?

She also had an opinion on her sister:

Josie: Wow, look at your hair Lori, you look like a scraggle-bumpkin.
Lori: What is a scraggle-bumpkin?
Josie: You, Lori.

Basically, she is now a proper human with her own opinions, ideas, and worries. It feels like only yesterday she was freaking out because she thought the Pinky-Ponk would crash into a hedge.




Thursday, 13 December 2012

I win at life!

Further to delivering 28 pints of milk to school, by foot, in preparation for tomorrow's Christmas Cafe, I am now making my savoury contribution: filled rolls.

My thought process on discovering something unusual about the cheese:

My pack of pre-sliced cheddar cheese is supposed to have ten slices in it. It has eleven. I win at life! I need to make 12 rolls.  I need to open another packet. I saunter into 4th place in life. I'll count the second packet too. It also has 11 slices! Should I got to the shop and buy all the packs they have available? No, I probably don't need that much cheese. It wouldn't help me win at life.

Andrew's thought process:

Her pack of cheese has 11 slices in it? It is probably sold by weight, and so it needed the extra slice. She has exactly the same amount of cheese as she would have had anyway.

Result
He didn't greet my suggestion to "go out and buy all the cheese" with much enthusiasm. I have since checked the packet. 250g. He is right. I do not win at life. Except I do, because I have amused myself for the past 20 minutes whilst undertaking the otherwise boring task of preparing rolls for other people and their children to eat.

I win at life again!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

160-165

I continue my winning streak in raffles!

Last time it was a bottle of wine and a make-up lesson. This time it was a miniature bottle of whisky in a raffle down in the Risk team.

Clearly the "Gods of Raffle*" think I need more alcohol, and then some cover-up to hide the bags under my eyes.

Anyway, it was quite a strange coincidence. What was strange about it?

They were exactly the same numbers on both sets of tickets. Random chance for the win!

*I had to put the "Gods of Raffle" in inverted commas because Josie was reading over my shoulder and thought I should make it more obvious that I didn't actually believe in these "Gods".

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Flying Visit

I spent a lovely weekend in Forfar. Surprising, I know, to hear "Forfar" and "lovely" in the same sentence, but it was. From discovering Strawberry Bouvrage at a Farmers' Market to catching up with an old friend, and fellow Weekend Notes writer, over a delicious dinner (which you can expect to see on a Recipe article near you soon).

In fact, I will be very disappointed if I don't see that article, because it was so good that I feel compelled to plan it into my festive menu.

Josie and Granddad Cook watching the birds.

Talking of which, do you do festive menu planning?

Mine leaves much to be desired:

Christmas Day: Turkey and stuff to go with turkey. Essentials: no sugar cranberry sauce, bread sauce, my roast potato recipe Optional: Everything else - whatever falls into the shopping trolley

Boxing Day: Turkey pie with a cream sauce and puff pastry

Lori's Birthday: Chorizo stew

New Year's Day: Roast Ham

All the other days: chocolate, left-over cheese and biscuits and anything else we can find.

Last year Santa brought me a festive recipe book, and I feel that I should make some of the recipes rather than leaving everything to chance and whim. I'm going to start looking through it tonight, and planning recipes and shopping lists. It's either that or the ironing.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

Sur-priiiise

It's really difficult to make a surprise anything when you can't remember the surprisee's preferences. It's even more difficult when you have a family who find it very difficult to keep secrets. I am not referring to the 5 and 8 year-old. I am referring to the me-year old.

It was Andrew's birthday today, and my ability to make a surprise breakfast in bed when he expected me to be at work was hampered by:

a). Me blurting out the night before that I had the day off
b). Trying to drop into conversation a question about whether he preferred smoked, or unsmoked bacon (also: should you use salted or unsalted butter in a hollandaise sauce?) without being completely obvious about it.

However, he still enjoyed the Eggs Benedict, even if it wasn't quite the surprise it should have been.

In other news, Josie and Lori had an preliminary audition at the Edinburgh Music School. It was successful, so they are moving on to a full audition in February. Josie was incredibly excited after the audition was finished. She had been a bit unsure about it all until she saw the grand piano she would get to play on, a Steinway. She muttered breathlessly,

"Is this where I would get to play? Oh Mummy, I could get used to this."

Thankfully, it looks like she will at least get a chance to get used to it. The next audition is in front of a bigger audience, but I'm hoping the worst of her nerves will be over. As for Lori, she sails on, blithely unaware of the hilarity that cascades from her mouth at any given moment. She was happy to get through, too.

What a lovely birthday present for Daddy.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Radio Silence

Apologies for the radio silence that has fallen over the blog recently.

It's been a hectic week. I had a lovely weekend: Hotel Missoni on Saturday night, two dances to perform in the Dancebase Christmas show, and then on to Vegas afterwards.

This week is also chock-full of family busies: Josie's concert for choir tonight, audtions for them both tomorrow, and then off to Muir of Lownie for the weekend (so Andrew can do some much-needed Christmas shopping).

The children (me) are desperately hoping for Muir of Lownie snow, so that we can do some sledging. I know just the hill to do it on.

Let's hope the weather cooperates. But not too much, we want to actually get to Muir of Lownie!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Castle Cloudberry Ballet Book Party

A few weeks ago I previewed the Castle Cloudberry Ballet Book Party on Weekend Notes. The girls spent the next few weeks trying to get their mouths round that lengthy title, and at the same time got quite excited at ballet fun on offer.

And there was a lot of fun: crafts competitions, cakes, author signing, a raffle, dance classes, and more.

It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Josie and Lori had great fun dancing around:

Lori has just tried some berry juice. It was fizzy. That was unexpected.

Waaaaaaaaah! Ninja dancer!
This is my signature walk, and it's going to make me famous.
She danced for about 15 minutes, then ran over to tell me she wanted to perform in front of "thousands of people"
Ah, an arabesque. Lovely.
And there you go. That was the Castle Cloudberry Ballet Book Party. 2 hours of lovely ballet fun!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Concerning Measurements

I have lots of recipes that have come to be favourites in our house. I'd quite like to share them. However...I'm not very good when it comes to writing down the adaptations I've made to recipes over the years. Thus, my recipes are not very helpful as the measurements are somewhat....variable. My chicken pie recipe and cooking process goes something like this:

How much chicken or turkey is left? Not much? You'll need more veg then. Maybe one or two onions. Maybe three. Carrots? One or two, you know, depending. Don't forgot a bit of oil in the pan (I use rape seed, nowadays. It's made locally). You can use butter, if it's Christmas time, because why not? Do you have mushrooms? Chuck some in after the onions and carrots have softened for a bit. Garlic? Can do, only if you fancy. I usually cook my chicken with lemon slices under the breast skin, and the cavity stuffed with lemon halves and squeezed juices. It flavours the meal, and the resulting pie. If I didn't have lemon, then sometimes I slosh a bit of white wine in at this stage and let it reduce.

Oh! Better do the sauce. Melt some butter. About 50g, and then about the same amount of flour. Cook until you get bored of waiting and it starts to look all yellowy. Stock? Yes. Some. A cube, about 400mls water. Put it in a bit at a time, and whisk constantly. It seems a bit gluey? It'll be fine. Right...cream. I think you're supposed to use double, but I always forget that when I'm at the shops and buy single. It never seems to make a difference. How much? A bit. Maybe 2 or 3 tips of the carton (yes, a "tip" is now a measure).

Check it now - does it taste nice? I think so. Needs a bit more flavour? Sprinkle in a teeny bit of Maldon salt. That'll make you feel better. The flavours develop as it cooks.

Rip up the chicken. Oh. There's more than I thought. Meh. It'll be fine. Chuck it in with the veg, and then combine with the sauce. Tip it all into a ceramic oven dish.

Pastry. Flour, lard...you're having a laugh, right? Ready-rolled, all the way. And I forgot to take it out the fridge for its appointed time. Never seems to make a difference. Lay it on top, and then use the scraps to make a pretty picture to go on top. I like to do a flower. Sometimes I do a snowman.

Oven. Temperature? Yes. It is hot. Say, 180ish? Oh, don't forget to brush the pastry with milk and egg. Better take it out the oven and do it

And that is my recipe and the cooking process I regularly undertake for chicken pie. I do forget all those things, and I do measure that haphazardly.
However, I'm reliably informed, by Josie boasting to her friends and my family requesting repeat creations, that it's consistently delicious.

Oh! Forgot! You put frozen peas in when you put the chicken in with the veg. You cannot forget the peas.

Anyway. Where was I? Delicious. Apparently. I can only assume it's really, really difficult to mess up chicken pie.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

We Made Them Out of Fluff

Parenting is quite hard, and yet at the same time it simply flows along, from day to day.

You don't need to work hard to let the days pass. They just do. Although sometimes they do feel like very hard work.

Before you know it, you have fully formed people, who interact with each other without recourse to you, except the occasional yell of "Mummy!" when they can't reconcile their own issues.

They are endlessly fascinating to eavesdrop upon, even if eavesdropping is a behaviour one shouldn't role-model for one's children.

One of the most special  parts of being a parent of siblings is when they stop needing you for their interactions with each other. For many years, their conversations have been moderated, and facilitated, and to some extent, created, by one or other parents.

Then, that starts to stop. They start to engage each other, like proper little humans, in proper little conversations.

Occasionally, although I know I shouldn't really, I hover on my way past their bedroom door and have a sneaky listen. Their conversations are so sweet, and a little odd. Here's a sample that I observed tonight:

Lori: Where do you do a World War?
Josie: All around the world.
Lori: No, I think you'd just do it in random places
Josie: No, you wouldn't do it in random places, I don't think. What kind of random places?
Lori: Just in the middle of the road. Places like that.
Josie: I don't think so. I think in fields maybe.
Lori: I will ask Mummy.
Josie and Lori: Muuuuuuummy!

Aaaaaaand I'm back. I'm glad they're growing into proper little people, but it is also quite nice to still be needed. Moments like that make all the hard stuff worthwhile.

And at moments like that, Andrew and I turn to each with these words: We made them out of fluff. It's the kind of thing that the child of a teddy bear would say, I suppose.

But we did: adorably sweet, lovely fluff. As cute as can be to us, their parents, the ones that will always love them more than they can possibly imagine.

"Out of fluff" we will say to each other, knowingly, when we are old, and they have their own children, their first job, or a broken heart.



Monday, 19 November 2012

The Fairy Swimming Pool

As if to illustrate the point I made in Quantum Theory, I heard the following sound issue from the bathroom last night:

Lori: Nooooo! Josie! Don't let the water out. I still need to make the fairy swimming pool.

Intrigued, I wandered through to the bathroom to mediate this burgeoning dispute.

Lori was lying on her back in an ever-reducing pool of water, splashing it on to her tummy to fill the "fairy swimming pool".

Yes, you've guessed it, her tummy button now functions as a place for her imaginary fairy friends to have a refreshing dip.

Now that was...unpredictable.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Votes for Everyone?

While I'm not particularly enamoured with the idea of prisoners getting to vote, I think that there's a better way to debate it than for Conservative politicians to go on TV and laugh in the face of those who want to have a genuine discussion about the following:

If Britain flouts the European Court of Human Rights' ruling on prisoner votes, on what grounds can we criticise other countries who also flout its rulings and the associated European Convention on Human Rights?

For instance, you could argue that if Ireland had acted more quickly on the European Court's ruling on its laws concerning abortion, then Savita Halappanavar might not be dead.

If the UK is free to pick and choose which rulings it follows, then why on earth will other countries not point to our example and do the same?

Mark my words, those other countries will not be picking issues to ignore that people find morally understandable, like prisoners voting. They'll be picking issues to ignore rulings on like abortion, institutional homophobia and racism, and worse.

The European Court was set up for good reasons, and its rulings should not be ignored by political parties simply because "the people" are repulsed by an idea, and you fear it will harm your ratings as the tabloid press seize on the issue and attack.

Ignoring the European Court of Human Rights is the first step backward into another era, and it should be resisted at all costs. Even if that cost is giving some of our prisoners the vote.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Vampires and Werewolves...Oh My!

I've just written a Weekend Notes article about Twilight, and how the vampires and werewolves are actually completely extraneous to the plot, in the sense that if Stephanie Meyers were a better writer she could have written a teenage love story, and not needed to put sparkly vampires and clich├ęd ethnic minority werewolves in it.

It's a bit of a departure from my normal type of articles, so we'll wait and see whether 'tis approved by the editors.

In the meantime, I am going to bed, because my throat is scratchy, my nose keeps on sneezing, and I sense that some kind of illness must be creeping up on me. I find that the best way to stave these things off is to sleep, a lot, which is also good because I really like sleeping.

"See you morning!" as my younger daughter used to say from inside her cot.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Quantum Theory

I was reading a book about the world's greatest ideas, and I came across this passage:

"Quantum theory is based on the discovery that at the very smallest scales, smaller than atoms, things behave very differently. The classical rules of physics, the rules that govern everything from how an ant crawls to how the universe expands, just don't work at the sub-atomic scale, it seems. In classical physics, things behave according to a strict pattern of cause and effect. Quantum theory...is all about probabilities. It means you can never say where something is...you can only say where it probably is. It's position is fixed only when you observe it."

Either this is wrong, or my children are sub-atomic particles governed by quantum theory, because this describes *exactly* the state of unpredictable chaos that occurs when they have a bath together and I shut the bathroom door.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Drama in the Department Store

My girls have done a lot of funny things over the years. Lots of them seem to have happened in John Lewis, because that is apparently how middle-class I have become.

 They asked me to tell the "Lori plays Hide and Seek in John Lewis" story on the way to school today, so I decided to write it down.

I started about 30 minutes ago.

It's now done.

That was refreshingly different to the book I am working on for Josie!


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The times they are a'changin'

I was on an call at work yesterday, when a colleague who had been presenting a paper announced:

"Please excuse me for a minute. I'm looking after my son, and he just fell over."

It made me quite happy. Not because a child was potentially injured, you understand. That would be completely weird. In fact, more than weird. But it was fine, the child was okay.

What made me happy was the person speaking, and the response from another person on the call, "Don't worry, we've all been there."

It really made me think about how much positive change there has been in the workplace, even since I got my first graduate job ten years ago. Even when I started, the above scenario would have been very different.

Work was still somewhere you "went", and it was all about being there. Presenteeism was rewarded, which  led to appalling work-life balances and subsequent impact on relationships and families. Socialising with team was expected, further reducing time spent at home, and if you didn't (like me) it could have a negative impact on your career. Alternative arrangements were viewed with suspicion. Some of us had laptops, but working from home was viewed by managers as though the employee was having a skive.

This was bad for people, bad for families, and bad for the organisation. Driving stressed employees, unhappy with their family life, to deliver quantity over quality is not a recipe for success.

However, things slowly changed.

I started to lead my own team. Half of the worked in London, and travel budgets were tight. Managing from a distance, when half the team is with you, has potential pitfalls. The distant team can feel isolated, invisible, and resentments can build, especially if the distant manager focuses on petty things like when people leave the office, or why someone wasn't on the phone.

My leadership style was to establish relationships based on trust, in which my basic assumption was that my team were adults who could be trusted. They had Service Level Agreements with our customers, and if they met them, then I didn't really care that on an individual day Person A took a longer lunch hour..

My managers did not share the same view, and I had a constant battle to protect my team from what I perceived to be old-fashioned and unrealistic attitudes.

For example: I had an absolutely excellent team member, who I was coaching to become my deputy in London. She was a single parent. Occasionally, her childcare fell through, or she got a call from nursery to say her son was sick. I could see quite clearly that in those circumstances she had absolutely no other option but to leave work. Absolutely none. Not negotiable. I could also see quite clearly that there were plenty of occasions that she had stayed late to finish off some work.

My manager would call me (from London - I was also being managed remotely) to ask me why my team member had left the office at 15:00.

I would ask why they wanted to know.

Was there a specific piece of work they had asked her to complete? "No".

Had one of our development customers called with a query? "No".

Then why did it matter that she'd left at 15:00? "Because it sets a bad example for other employees."

I explained that there was no alternative. No childcare. Circumstances beyond our control. Either she goes home with my blessing, or she goes off sick or takes annual leave. And those last two were not going to happen to my team. And further, in my view, it set a great example to the team. Their employer would allow them to do their job, but not at the expense of their family life. What's wrong with that as an example?

The overwhelming impression I got from that management team was that they fundamentally could not understand that the relationship with an employee is one of give and take. Every person on my team went above and beyond what was written in their contract on multiple occasions. My manager didn't call me to tell me when that happened, did they? They didn't call me to ask why one of my team had only had a half-hour lunch, or had stayed until 18:30 three nights that week. They didn't give anything like that recognition to their employees, and yet, they expected to be able to reply to employee's occasional, reasonable needs with outraged inflexibility. Come in at 09:00, go at 17:00 unless you have specifically requested a contract change.

"Be" at work. "Go" to work.

I sighed. My team member then asked if she could apply for remote access and a laptop, so that she could keep up with work when had to take a day off if her son was ill. Bless her. She was very conscientous. She cared about doing her job well. And yet, she was treated by managers as though she couldn't be trusted. They acted as though every single employee was trying to do as little as possible.This had a huge impact on the effectiveness of performance management in the organisation.

That team member was one of the most talented people who've ever worked for me, and my managers treated her as though she was an under-performer. Which made it impossible to actually manage the under-performers effectively.

So, why was I happy at the call today, when the concerned Dad popped off for a minute to check his little boy was okay, and someone replied that "we've all been there?"

Because, all of a sudden, I realised things had changed so much. It showed how much work is now not somewhere you go.Instead, it's something you do. And you can do it in the office, or on the train, or when you're looking after your children.

The boundaries of the office are no longer defined by the bricks and mortar of the buildings.

More and more you will be measured against your achievements not against the time you spend in a building. You will be able to work from home and not have managers think you're having "a skive". You will be able to pick up your child from swimming at 16:30 and still be considered serious about your career. You will be able to look after your parents when they are ill and still be trusted with key projects and considered a reliable member of the team.

It wasn't like that when I started work, but it almost is now. I wondered what else has changed that I just haven't quite noticed yet, and what other changes will be enabled by advancing technology.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Where have all the pronouns gone?


I noticed at work today that status updates on our internal social networking site are split about 50/50 into two categories:

People who use pronouns in their updates and people who display reduced pronounage.

e.g (reduced pronoun usage) Attended a Women in Business event at Gogar yesterday and made lots of new contacts, all interested in Focused Women, mobile banking app and more.

What’s that about? Why do  some people include pronouns and some people don't?

Perhaps there is some element of Twitterage, where people who use Twitter a lot are held to a certain number of characters and pronouns are the first to go, but we don’t have a character limit, and it’s not just (even) the ones that use Twitter that do it. 

If they’re not using Twitter, then they are probably texting people, and again, pronouns are right out. Character limits, little keyboards, a tendency to text on the move, all things add up to fewer pronouns.

And if they’re not texting, then they’re probably emailing. Some emails I receive are also pronoun-stripped.

I think that all it is probably indicative of is that people are very busy, but I find it impersonal and yet at the same time more direct. Even before you read the little message that tells you it comes from Twitter, you can always tell on Facebook which status updates are Twitter-fed.

It reminds me of a CV, where you don’t really use I, but talk about yourself in that weird CV-way*
e.g. “A remarkable and flexible limbo dancer who has worked with the best in her field at corporate and cultural events.”

You might be talking about how an event made you feel but because there’s no association with I, you, or me, it removes the personal connection. You might as well be reading instructions from a microwave meal:

Pierce film. Place in microwave for 1 minute. Remove film and stir.

It certainly gets to the point quickly, I suppose.

Glib points aside, I can’t quite put my finger on what I find slightly “off” about status updates with no pronouns. I don’t notice in texts or Twitter. I do notice when I see them on Facebook and G+.
                                                                                                   
I think perhaps it’s because on G+ and Facebook (and my internal work one) I expect status updates to be the start of a conversation, but these ones don’t sound like that. That’s just a random suggestion though – actually no idea why. Thoughts welcome.

*I have changed the words from my CV, because obviously if this is how I describe myself on my CV, that would be weird.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Banned!

I think the strangest thing I've ever been banned from doing was wearing Dewberry perfume.

There was a craze for it for a while. We all used to go through to Dundee and buy stuff from The Body Shop, after we'd been to Miss Selfridge next door. It came in glass bottles, with glass sticks to put it on. They chinked very satisfyingly, and you could go back and get them refilled.

It had a very distinctive and overpowering smell. One day, the Home Economics teacher just flipped out. Apparently it gave her headaches. So, we had to stop wearing it. Probably for the best.

I remember it fondly because it's one of my only brushes with synesthesia. To me, it always sort of smells purple.

Ah, Dewberry, I miss you and your purple haze.

But I still don't know what a dewberry really smells like, or really what one is.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Give your alcohol away. Rewards aplenty shall come.

Today I was at a Women in Business event at Gogarburn. It was hosted by our corporate banking team and was a networking evening with lots of women business owners (both customers and non-customers). They're hoping it will be the start of a more regular networking evening, and I was invited because of my work in the Focused Women Network, although I spent a lot of the evening talking about my day job in Technology. They all wanted to know more about the mobile app - how it worked, was it secure, and I also snuck in the story of its creation from within Technology.

I met some interesting people, including:
Ann, a bookkeeper, who gave me some advice about the charity we are setting up for Broughton Primary School
Eliane, a public relations student from Cameroon, there to recruit women for her research.
Jojo, a stand-up comedienne who married her ex-husband's brother, and is now Auntie to her own children.
Lauren, a make-up artist who offered a make-up lesson as star-prize of the raffle, and who offered me advice on false eye-lashes for my burlesque show.

Unfortunately, they hadn't bought enough books of raffle tickets, so early on in the evening I offered to give Anne a bottle of wine (if I won it), because I don't drink it.

After much chatting, eating, listening, and swapping of cards, the end of the evening arrived and the raffle was drawn.

First prize out - a bottle of wine. Winner? Me. So, I duly passed on the wine to Ann.
Last prize out - make-up lesson. Winner? Meeeeeeeee!

Normally, winning two prizes, I would have felt duty-bound to give the second one back. And I really quite wanted the luxury of a make-up lesson so I could perfect my burlesque eyelashes.

But it was okay. I had already given raffle prize number one away! Cue burlesque make-up lesson at the end of November, just in time for my show.

By the way, I am inordinately lucky at raffles, much to my brother's chagrin when we were kids. It all started when I was 7 with a toast rack at a farm fair.

This time, there was a full book of tickets in the draw, 6 prizes, and I won a third of them. That's a good average.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Not ANOTHER person on the Internet who is wrong.


I just got into a bit of a rage at an article I read on the internet. This is becoming a bad habit.

To sum it up: it was a woman complaining about the cost of childcare. Fair enough, you’d think, but no. Instead of a straight-out complaint about child-care, it was actually a rant about nurseries being staffed with the working-class, and the poor and shoddy values of Eastern European au pairs. In short, it was totally unpleasant and bizarre.

For example: the very worst thing about day care she could come up with was that she had to spend hours undoing the damage done by “day-care lingo”. Was it swearing? Was it abuse of siblings? No. It was calling a loo a toilet, and lunch dinner. The other thing? They didn’t have a naughty step, and instead told children what the consequences of their naughty behaviour was for staff. Apparently that’s another sign of the imminent collapse of Western culture. No naughty step? Ill discipline rages unchecked.

One thing I did notice was that the tone of this article was starting to sound familiar. She seemed intelligent, but she was peddling a casual snobbishness that seemed designed to show how “well-bred” she was (“look at me, I know the upper middle-classes call it a loo”), and a focus on appearance and class that bordered on bullying (apparently it was relevant that said day-care workers were overweight girls).

It got worse, as she moved on to racist slurs on her former au pairs.

She listed the outrageous actions of a whole load of Eastern European au pairs whose nationality she couldn’t even quite remember ("Slovakian, or was it Slovenian"). She could not even start on names. 

Forget welcoming an au pair in as part of your family, on a valuable cultural exchange where you act as surrogate parents. This is BritEngland, so they’re just cheap servants under another name, and any support they might need in learning how to care for your children is apparently not your remit.

I was about to link it here, and then I glanced down at the footer of the site.

This is Money – it’s part of The Daily Fail group! How could I be so stupid? I was tricked! They got me again!

Every article they are involved with should come with a disclaimer.

Caution: Might incite anyone with a modicum of intelligence and decency to have dangerously high blood pressure.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Successful Woman?

The past two weeks have felt like I've been running downhill, very fast. You know that feeling, when you're just on the edge of falling over, and the only thing you can do is run faster, and hope?

I'm usually quite a busy person - full-time job, combined with family life with 2 children, combined with other commitments = little spare time. In the past couple of weeks, it's gone off the chart. This has been thanks to me stepping into the role of Chair of RBS's Focused Women Network in Scotland. Unexpectedly, I've been inundated with invites to speak, or to attend events, or simply to discuss what the Network can do for its members. It's been a wee bit hectic.

The first event was the reason for the title of the blog. I was asked to speak at Gender Equality Week at St. Andrews University, under the tag of "A Successful Woman in Business". That was scary. But it was also brilliant, and exciting, and rewarding. The questions were interesting and challenging, and I went back to Edinburgh thinking furiously about how we could work more closely with universities in future. 

More followed: an evening reception at the Scottish Parliament for Women in Business. Lots of contacts made, requests for me to speak with other organisations and share our experience of building a network that seeks to attract, retain and develop talented women to benefit the organisation. 

Then it was Edinburgh University Business School to listen to Lady Susan Rice talk about Professionalism in Banking and then network afterwards. This didn't go quite so smoothly.

 I had a dance class later that evening, so I had all my dance stuff in my laptop bag (no laptop) and I had put my trainers on to walk to the Business School, with the intention of changing back into my heels when I got to the School. What follows is an "exchange" with Andrew, by text, which illustrates exactly how that didn't go to plan:

 

In the end, I kept my trainers on, and nobody seemed to care or notice. 

Lesson? Confidence is all you need. 

Your perceived shortfalls are only huge in your head, and if you don't draw attention to them, then chances are no-one else will even notice them. And if you take radical action to disguise them (let's call the Hot Pants Option) then you're likely to make a ridiculous, and unnecessary spectacle of yourself.

For the record, I didn't go with Hot Pants Option, I just pretended I had my lovely, shiny shoes on and faked a confidence I didn't feel inside.

Result? Director of Corporate Banking now wants to talk about how I can help his business with their diversity agenda. And that is a result. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Another Daily Fail

Today, in a well-earned lunch break, I read an article on the Daily Mail internet site about the supposedly maverick and independent Conservative MPs from the 2010 intake.

Why? You might ask. Why did you subject yourself to the Daily Mail? You would be right to ask. I can only say, in an anguished wail: “I just don’t know. There was a link to it in a morning briefing email. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and now I don’t know how to un-read it!”

It is so depressing that this is one of the most read newspaper sites in the whole world. Their casual bullying of anyone who doesn't fit in with their stereotype of “normal” and “British” and “traditional” is just appalling. If it wasn't so horrible, the facile and baseless commentary from (presumably) educated adults who should know better would be funny. But people take this tosh to heart. So it’s not funny, it’s sickening.

The article was  ostensibly praising and supporting these MPs but there were so many back-handed and offensive slights based on the physical and personal characteristics of the MPs being “complimented”.

Pity “bespectacled Mark Reckless” who “has a computer geek’s voice”. Oh, come on. What does that mean? A “computer geek’s voice” isn’t even a thing. I’m not even sure computers are a thing anymore.

The article declined to elaborate any more on what this comprehensive assessment of the timbre of his voice actually meant, but it did state that he was “physically awkward” and that he was “previously known best for being a late-night tippler”.

I’m therefore assuming that having a “computer geek’s voice” means “this MP sounds like Steve Jobs and therefore could potentially be in charge of a company so successful it has more money than most small countries”. Successful business people should now include this on their CV as shorthand for success and authority:

“As I speak with a computer geek’s voice, I am therefore adept at coming up with new ideas,  floating companies for public listings, and making myself the youngest self-made billionaire on the planet.”

Or could it mean that the Daily Mail is characterising people who work in technology as having poor people skills, not interested in sports, and borderline alcoholics? Or is this some kind of snobbish shorthand that implies he didn't go to Eton, because who would ever get into technology after having a private school education. Perish the thought.

I know not. We will never learn how the Daily Mail imagines a “computer geek” speaks, nor what kind of insult they were intending with it.

The article went on. Two female MPs were described in the context of their marital status and motherhood:

“[Tracey Crouch] lives for politics (she has yet to find a husband)”
“Sarah Wollaston, 50, another rebel, is a doctor and mother of three”

So, when Tracy Crouch does find this elusive male, he will immediately complete her life and she will step away from the men’s world of politics? Seriously? WTF?

And why is Sarah Wollaston specifically singled out as a mother of three? Do none of the men have children?

I could go on, but I’m now so disillusioned with the state of the press that I actually want to vomit. I should have stopped at the picture entitled "Computer-geeky Mark Reckless".

I can only say, please don’t ever make the mistake I did. If anyone ever sends you a link to a Daily Mail article, even if it is to share in their righteous fury, please don’t click on it. Please don’t help validate their bigoted bile by increasing their page views. And if nothing else, do it for your own sanity. I wish I had followed my own advice.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Welcome to my Blogation Depot!

I am awaiting the delivery of new computational device for Andrew. It is due tomorrow. I received a lovely e-mail from Parceline telling me how to track the delivery.

"Click on this link and click Track It"

Well, that sounds easy. It wasn't, because there was no Track It link, but I muddled through and finally got to the tracking page.

Where is my computational device?

Apparently, according to Parceline, it is in their Sortation Hub.

Their...what now?

Sortation. It's a thing. I Googled it. It is the act or process of sorting. Which is funny, because as "sorting" is a verb, I rather thought that the act or process of sorting was EXACTLY THAT WORD. You know, the verb: to sort, present participle: sorting.

Anyway, I'm a little bit tired after staying late at work at a Rainbow Network (our LGBT network) event, so I'm going off to my sleepation centre, where I perform the act or process of sleeping.

Toodle Pip!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Trolls!

I haven't really had any proper trolls on my Weekend Notes writing yet, just a random person who takes great exception to me publicising any fireworks events. Apparently it is the height of social irresponsibility to publicise completely legal events, and the best way to get these events banned is to publish random rants on community websites which aren't even actually organising the events. I get annoyed just thinking about their stupidity. I need a coping mechanism. Luckily for me, my husband is quite experienced in the mysterious and arcane ways of the internet.

Our conversation started after I was quite affronted the first time they commented, and leapt in to defend myself. I probably shouldn't have bothered. They didn't want to hear my views, or suggestions, they were just in "transmit" mode. Luckily, Andrew has moderated a lot of forum sites, so he was able to give some advice:

Lindsay: I've had an angry comment on one of my articles, and I'm not sure if I replied well.
Andrew: Hahahahahaha! You replied? First rule of trolls? Don't Feed The Trolls.

That's a remarkably cathartic phrase to repeat to oneself when assaulted by Someone on the Internet Who Thinks You are Wrong. Which this person most definitely thinks I am. I am tempted to reply, because I have many witty and biting things to say, and then I just think to myself:

"Waste of your valuable time; don't feed the trolls"....and relax.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Boss of the Lunch Hall Returns!

Lori: Josie, I had hardly finished my lunch when a lady told me to "Go away!"
Josie: What? Why? Mummy! Did you hear this?

I followed up with some enquiries...

Me: Is she a teacher?
Lori: No
Me: Is she a dinner lady?
Lori: No
Me: Is she a learning assistant?
Lori: No.
Me: Then who is she?
Lori: I don't know. She wears pink and purple.
Me: Could it be the boss of the lunch hall?

I said this jokingly. Josie used to complain about her heavy-handed lunch hall tactics when she was in P1. One day, she just disappeared, never to return.

Lori: Yes!
Josie: Yes! It is the exact same person as the lady who was the boss who used to put me in trouble.

Who is the mysterious boss? What role do they play in the school?

Nobody knows...nobody knows...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Let There Be Light

Who are all the people in libraries, with their notes, and scribbles, and books?

We pop in to Stockbridge Library on a semi-regular basis. It's always filled with interesting-looking people, beavering away among the books. I always wonder what their stories are.

Today, there was one man with unruly hair and suede patches on his arms. He brandished a vintage wooden ruler, and was underlining what looked like lists of names. Was it a code only he understands? Was he picking a team? Some were underlined once, some twice, some were underscored quite firmly. It looked chaotic.

A grey-haired lady, smartly dressed in jeans, ankle boots, and a quilted jacket, had a book about Mary Quant on her desk. Arrayed around with notes, she was mind-mapping, a new shop venture perhaps?

Two young women sat in silent companionship, a wall of jotters sitting between them. Marking, marking, and more marking; they made a mockery of claims that teachers have an easy job with too many holidays.

Who are they all? I wish I knew, so I could say thank you to them for using the library. We need them.

Libraries encourage children to look up for knowledge, not for magical sky fairies.

Ah, my library, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: 595.789

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Redrafting and a Question

Here's the latest news on the book front. A few weeks ago I pushed down all the fear and anxiety bubbling up inside of me and passed over my first draft to a friend to read.

I felt a little bit ill. I take criticism very emotionally, and I was worried about how bad my writing was.

Good News: She gave very positive and helpful feedback to make the book make more sense. It wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be. I can actually take feedback quite well, it transpires.
Bad News: She thinks that it needs to be a bit longer in the middle to make the ending more climactic.

So, now it's back to writing. First up is tidying up all the mistakes and typos and plot holes, and second is adding a bit more adventure in the middle section, third is redrafting the new bits, then fourth is handing it over to my second reading volunteer.

All in all, I can't help but feel that it's going quite well. In May, I had never written anything non-academic longer than about 2000 words. Now I've written 31,000 words of children's fiction.

Phew. I hope Josie and Lori like it!

Interesting Fact For Today: The name Irene is derived from Eirene, the Greek Goddess of Peace (Roman equivalent: Pax).

Eirene. She's the best.

Now for the aforementioned question of the blog title:

Can anybody tell me whether there's a statue of Peace in and around the centre of Edinburgh?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Do as I Say, Child, Not as I Do.

I offered to help Josie and Lori tidy their room, and then made the following statement.

"Right, Josie, let's go and see what we're up against."

She then took me on a tour of her room, with the following words:

"We're up against this. We're up against a little bit more of that. We're up against this. We're not up against that (points to the top of the wardrobe). I'm not sure about that or that. Basically, Mummy, we've got a lot of work to do. We're up against a lot,"

She is such an adorably literal child.

P.S. My room is even messier than theirs. It's embarrassing.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

We're Back!

We're back home after a lovely week away in sunny Thurso.

We had walks on the beach.


We had lots of fun on our walks on the beach.


Andrew taught Josie the best stones for skimming, and how to skim them. I won the competition for the most bounces from a single skim (I counted 7, but Andrew said it was 9).


Lori ran around like a crazy cat who was scared of getting her feet wet. She won the competition for the least number of bounces from a single skim (0).


Basically, we did a lot of walking. Everyone had a wonderful time. Now, back to life.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Holidays!

There might be a dearth of posts over the next week, because we are on holiday in Thurso.

Yesterday was a fun 7 and a half hour train journey from Edinburgh - Inverness - Thurso.

Golspie Beach. Golspie Station did not look like this, because it was dark, and a station.
We stopped in Golspie, at about 19:30, to the announcement:

"The train will stop in Golspie for 5 minutes, should you wish to take the opportunity to step out onto the platform to get a breath of fresh air."

This appeared to be a euphemism, because we stepped out to see 13 (I counted them) other people who had ventured onto the platform not for fresh air, but for a cigarette, including the train employee who had done the announcement.

On such a tiny platform, it was quite difficult to get the advertised fresh air. So, instead, we jumped off the railway sleepers about 15 times until the 5 minutes were up.

The journey included the obligatory sheep, cow and horse-spotting, but we also managed to spy three sets of deer, and a llama. At least, I think it was a llama.

From Inverness onwards it was dark, so we didn't get much chance to spot anything except the occasional stars. The girls ran up and down the carriage speaking to a set of new "friends" and returning to us every stop. With 21 stops between Thurso and Inverness, that was quite a lot of running.

Andrew had packed pretty much everything perishable in the fridge, so while they ran, we ate. I don't think I'll need to eat for the rest of the week.


Friday, 12 October 2012

Tiens! Tea, Anyone?

In the Edinburgh office, we have to walk to the coffee cart to procure our own beverages. Yesterday, I heard some news that one of our London offices has a tea trolley.

A tea trolley?

Does this not belong to another era?

The only experience I have ever had of a tea trolley is Madame Cholet in the Wombles, who I am pretty sure had a trolley and a bell.



Thinking back, there was once an ill-fated trolley attempt at our Edinburgh office, when they built the Link Building and connected us to next door. Back then, I worked on the Lower Ground Floor. No-one from the canteen could quite work out the lift structure that would get them from Lower Ground Dundas to Lower Ground Fettes. Apparently it was complicated. So, the tea trolley remained a fabled legend known only by those on the upper floors.

However, despite feeling like a tea trolley is a mythical remnant of another age, I am reliably informed that the London office has one. It still has a bell. I am fairly certain that they also all wear bowler hats, but my contact refused to admit that.

I have determined that they need to be brought into the 21st century. The solution is obvious. Dispense with the bell, and create the Tea Trolley Tracker App.

Who says banking is old-fashioned?

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Christmas is coming, along with an inevitable deluge of adverts.

It seems my post of yesterday, Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, was mildly prophetic. After enjoying weeks of glorious sunshine, normal Scottish October service has now resumed. Cue a dreich, rainy day in which I got soaked on the way home from work, to ballet, and back from ballet.

We've started rehearsing for the Christmas show (before Hallowe'en!) and that got me thinking about Christmas. Christmas, of course, means the launch of seasonal adverts especially designed to sell you stuff you don't really need. 

And the worst culprit of them all? Perfume adverts.

I saw today that Brad Pitt is going to be advertising Chanel No. 5. Seriously? Honestly? And he gets £4m  to do it? I had to watch a sponsors video before I could even watch the teaser clip. Adverts for adverts? Brad Pitt advertising a woman's scent? This is a new low even for perfumery.


I hate perfume adverts. They bring out an unpleasant, vitriolic side of me who yells at the TV when I see a woman in a red cloak chasing a wolf or something equally fatuous.


I cannot even think of a caption. The idiocy of this picture speaks for itself.

Every year when Chanel, or Lancome, or whoever, launch a new campaign I just want vomit, but most especially their celebrity "featurette" ones, like Nicole Kidman pretending to be an actress who wanted to be a dancer. What? Huh? Who cares?

They don't describe the product, they don't tell you anything unique about the product. They simply peddle in the equally fleeting assets of beauty and popularity to associate their brand with an aspirational ideal of a lifestyle, which buying their product will in no way entitle you to or provide you with.

Obviously I see why they can’t sell the product in an advert. Describing a smell is not going to get you anywhere. I also see why they have to advertise. If they didn’t there would be no brand awareness of their particular perfume, and their sales would reduce. As long as a perfume industry exists, it makes good business sense to advertise.

It’s just they're so vapid, and vacuous, and unrelated to a smell. To me they epitomise everything about the fashion and beauty industry I absolutely hate. They’re linking their perfume to an ideal of beauty and a lifestyle that has no relation to what you will receive when you purchase the product.


This is not going to happen to you if you buy this perfume.
Andrew thinks it’s funny when I watch television at Christmas time and launch into a tirade about how buying a perfume isn't going to give me a giant, long gold neck, or let me wade through liquid gold, or enable me to dance through a field of meadows in a negligee or render me suddenly appealing to Brad Pitt.

I’m sorry I can’t be more cogent. It’s just perfume adverts. I hate them.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

I've left it very late for a blog update today, because I've been catching up on the Strictly Come Dancing episodes that I missed at the weekend.

Ooopsadoodle.

Not much going on in Linzertorte land today other than the glitterball and lycra. Yesterday I was at Parent Teacher Consultation:

Josie accompanied me for the first time (they're allowed to in P4 onwards, if parents wish). She was desperate to come, but so so nervous. She confessed to me that she was worried she'd get a bad report because even though she was usually good, that day she and another boy had had an argument about finishing their work. They're certainly right about her being a worrier.

I didn't expect Lori to be perceived as so articulate and expressive with her opinions, but it's hard to see her as that when she has an older sister who is such a chatterbox. Must remember not to put preconceived notions onto second child. They are invariably warped by faulty memory and the passage of time.

Anyway, to round off a good couple of days, here's a picture taken on the cusp of autumn.

I hope it makes you smile as you remember the joy of getting an unexpected ice cream.



I was going to have a competition to see who could guess the two ice cream flavours, but I couldn't think of a prize. Never mind. You can imagine you won. Awesome prize, huh?


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Gamification of Life

Today, walking home from dancing, I noticed a poster for Weightwatchers.

It didn't say, "Join Weightwatchers" or "Come to Weightwatchers".

It said, "Play Weightwatchers".

It's not like a fruit machine, people.

"Ooooh....3 eclairs today, step on the scales and what will I roll? Will it be a lose, a hold, a gain?"

I'll have an e(clair) please, Bob.
Um. It'll be a gain. It's not a lottery. It's a fairly simple equation. More in than burned off? Gain. The reverse? Loss.

However, sarcasm aside, I decided to check the website. It is like a competition! They do win things!

I suppose I'll just shut up now. That's what I get for being smart.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Weekend Notes and Some Fun in the Autumn Sun

I've started a new venture writing for Weekend Notes. To begin with, I was just doing it for writing practice, but it's jogged me onwards at the weekends into new activities and fun with the children.

They're certainly feeling the benefit. One of my first reviews was of Stockbridge Market. We've just finished one of the pots of jam we bought. I say we...Lori was the prime consumer of the jam. It was blackcurrant. She loves anything blackcurrant, but especially juice and jam. How much do you think she enjoyed it?

I will show you.
What? I'm meant to be finishing my porridge first?

But my tongue is much better than the spoon.


Never mind. All finished now.


 She likes it a lot? Yes, you'd be right. To quote the little blackcurrant monster herself:

"A very, very lot, Mama."

We've also been out and about to local parks, Inverleith Park was one, George V Park another. That one's still to be written up, but I rather like the selection of pictures to go along with it, especially because it was another beautiful, golden autumnal day. Perfect for playing on the slide. Here's a taster of what's to come.


Yes, I am at the top of the slide.

Yes, I am about to slide down it and take a picture while I am doing so.

Yes, it was brilliant and you are all invited next week.

No, I have never really grown up and having children is an excuse to go to playparks without people looking at me funny.

Yay! Sunny autumn days are just my best.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Bide a wee

My little girl is growing up. Today, she announced,

"I used to love the Singing Kettle when I was little."

I thought you were still little, Josie Posie.

Lindsay was confused by how quickly Josie seemed to be growing.
Last year, she told me she never wanted not to walk to school with me. I told her she might change her mind when she was a bit older. Three days ago, she asked to walk home on the other side of the road. On Thursday, it was walking to school over the road. And now on Friday it was a super, mega-sized teenage huff, because she was sent to bed before Strictly Come Dancing.

I watched this with sweaty palms and my heart in my mouth. It's only a climbing wall, for goodness sake!
It's by turns lovely and horrible to watch her growing independence.



Friday, 5 October 2012

Little Miss Muffet

A spider just descended from the ceiling onto my keyboard. I can't see him now. I'm presuming that I'm not clattering him to death by typing this, but I think he's going to be very confused by the earthquake right about now.

I watched him descend with some shock. As I didn't expect something to enter my field of vision from above other than my hair (which does that ALL THE TIME) I almost brushed him into oblivion (behind my ear).

This might have been my reaction, or not. You know, not that I would scream at a spider or anything.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to try and extract him from the arachnid death trap that is my keyboard.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A couple of useful hints that will serve you well in life.

Mornings are always compressed around here. I get sick of the sound of my own voice.

"Lori, eat up."
"Porridge, have you eaten your porridge?"*
"Josie, stop reading, and get your shoes on."
"Josie, stop reading, and brush your hair."
"Lori, remember to drink as well as eat."
"Josie, while I'm glad you're reading, please don't do it while you clean your teeth."
"Josie. Put the book down!"

I'm sure you can sense the theme with both my children. One won't eat. The other won't stop reading. Both of these things cause our mornings to stretch interminably towards the 08:30 deadline, by which time we have to be out of the house, or we will be late for school.

My own routine sometimes gets a little side-tracked, and distracted.

Does yours?

If it does, then have two very handy and helpful hints for you:

1. Carefully inspect the aerosols that you pick up. Shaving CANNOT be substituted for deodorant. It will set you back quite some time in your morning routine.

2. Carefully inspect your make-up bag. It may be that a child has put something in it that will not work with your look. Like a glue stick, instead of lip gloss. Take it from me. This does not work, not even for constructing an on-trend high-shine glitter look.

Lindsay's workmates were impressed with what she could create using only the children's art supplies.
*One of Lori's nicknames. We used to call Josie, "Josie Posie, and then just "Posie". When Lori arrived we called her "Lori Pori", and then "Lori Pori Porridge", it ended up as "Porridge". Why? Who knows.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Soup, and other conflicting emotions

Andrew used to make soup quite often.

Yummy vegetables, ready to become soup.
He made it today for one of Lori's homework activities. We have just had the following conversation.

Lindsay: Mmmmmm. This is my best meal this month.
Andrew: It's just soup, and a roll.
Lindsay: No, it's your soup. And my roll has butter on it, real butter. I don't know why you don't make your soup more often.
Lindsay (following Andrew through to the kitchen): Your soup is the best soup ever. I hate you [for not making soup], I love you [for the soup].
Andrew: Well, you're just a whole bundle of conflicting emotions, aren't you?
Lindsay: Yes, yes I am.

For the record, it is the most delicious vegetable soup that you will ever taste. I suspect a flavour enhancer. Either that, or I am just very, very hungry today, and thus an easy lay [for the soup].



Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Introspection vs. Extrospection

If you know me, then you'll know I sometimes tend towards introspection. Sometimes, when I'm reading, or thinking, I don't really hear anyone else. It's not that I'm ignoring them purposefully, more that I am ignoring them accidentally. Other times, I just drift away into a world of doodles and thinkings. That's okay when you're at home. Not so okay at work.

Lately, though, I've taken to thinking about diversity. Since I took the role of Focused Women Chair I've been trying to foment a strategy that will actually have a long-lasting impact on the organisation. I thought I'd start with Technology Services, the area I work in, and build from there.

I reasoned: there are fewer women taking Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) degrees, and even fewer who end up in SET jobs. Wouldn't it be great if women working in SET could get out and mentor the young women on those university course to encourage to utilise their degree in  the same field?

Role modelling is important for increasing representation of any group, and so....my mind wandered...thinking about student mentoring schemes, and how we could deliver something that would actually be useful.

Then, I started thinking about what I'm going to say in St. Andrews. I was asked to speak about my dissertation, which was about women working in a male-dominated field, but I started to question myself.

Was it really still dominated by men? Was I making too much of this? Hadn't things moved on since I wrote it? Would the students look at me and think I was making it up?

I started to feel doubt, as though I was calling out something that didn't exist.

Then, tonight, I attended an event for Edinburgh University students. They had self-registered to come along and find out more about the Royal Bank. There was the opportunity to chat to people who worked at the bank already, and then they had to do some team games.

I chose my first three students at random from the 20 or 30 who were there.

"What area do you work in?" they asked.
"Technology," I answered.
"Isn't that where mostly men work, like, isn't it for men?"

Those exact words.

If perception dictates reality, then there was a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever I heard one.
Introspection: 0 Extrospection: 1

Looks like someone else might be prone to a little introspection too.
I then spent the better part of the networking session changing their mind about Technology, and why it might be for them.

I hope they listen.

As for me: introspection has its place.

It lets my mind wander away through flights of fantasy in which my work in diversity and equality changes not only the organisation, but also government policy, and builds a fairer, better future for my children and yours. It lets me run free from the shackles of what must be or should be, and lets me explore what might be and what possibly could be. In my dreams I reach far further than I ever can in life, but in aiming for that, perhaps I'll get just a little bit further than if I hadn't bothered to dream at all.