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Friday, 31 August 2012

I am ill, so I only have three things to say...

Here's my new out of office auto-reply:

Here's my new chair:

Here's my new bicycle helmet:

That is all.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


I recently blogged about the excessive use of hyperbole in political and business language. You could, if you wanted, call it hyperspeak. That’s what I’m calling it. So, after the rant was over, I was curious to see how the corporate side of Games Workshop shaped up. Would they also fall victim to over-enthusiastic generalisation, or to over-use of words like "engage", "reach out", "touch base", "create value", "offline"? Would they beat around the bush like so many other companies, who seem ashamed to admit that one of their primary functions as a company is to make a profit?

Games Workshop staff are renowned for their enthusiasm and excitement. I think of them as a cross between a puppy and a cave squig. Such a combination does not necessarily produce a calm and purposeful business strategy (calm and purposeful are my new favourite business words). For instance, here is how they describe Teclis of Ulthuan on their website:

Teclis is the greatest living Mage in this age of the World and his mastery of the magical arts isunsurpassed by        any living creature.

Wow. That’s pretty categoric. Teclis sounds awesome. I’m imagining the Chairman’s biography right now.

Tom Kirby is the greatest living businessman in this age of the World and his mastery of the Company Report is unsurpassed by any living creature.

What about how they describe The Empire?

Since its founding the Empire has endured terrible invasions. Through years of bloodshed, this land of Men has stood fast through faith and steel, its tireless citizen soldiers and valiant heroes, surviving against the innumerable foes that assail it from all sides.

Sounds bad. Innumerable foes? Terrible invasions? All sides? Imagine the annual report…

Since its founding Games Workshop has endured  a terrible business environment. Through years of recession, this company of hobby gamers has stood fast, its tireless hobby centre managers surviving against the innumerable foes that assail it from all sides.

But all that froth about the miniatures, and the armies, is to be expected. Their games are meant to build excitement, they’re meant to be epic and heroic. Would this translate into their business model? Despite my irritation with hyperbole, I was starting to look forward to reading that annual report. It could be…different, that’s for sure. I popped over to their Investor Relations site to find out more.

First up, their business model:

We have a simple strategy at Games Workshop. We make the best fantasy miniatures in the world and sell them globally at a profit.

First impressions? Good. They say what they do, and they say why do it. They don’t have some misleading statement in their vision that would belong better in a not-for-profit organisation.

What about their Chairman and how he runs the company? This is from his preamble to the 2011-2012 Annual Report.

My favourite graph in our internal reporting shows the sales in each country going as far back as we have records. 1988, I believe. The really great part about it is that it has over 20 years of data. You can see proper trends over 20 years, and if your intention is to build a business that lasts, which mine always has been, then ‘long term’ means decades.

Oh. So far, so very sensible. Plain English. No hyperbole. Long-term strategy. I’m not sure whether to be pleased or disappointed.

But then in the business model I found this:

                We call these Games Workshop Hobby centres because they show customers how to engage with our hobby of collecting, painting and playing with our miniatures and games.

Engage. They could have said “get involved.” However, it does actually fit with the sentence, and it does make sense in this context. Bah. Nothing to complain about here either.

I looked through the whole website, and the only part I could really quibble with was this:

                Here we employ wonderful young men and women, who are recruited for their enthusiasm and willingness to help others.

Enthusiasm and willingness. Good. Wonderful? Not so much. Are they really all wonderful? Are they really wonderful at all? Full of wonder? Honestly?

I didn’t like one sentence in a thirteen paragraph business model. Coca-Cola failed at the first, second, and third lines. Of a three-line vision.

The rest of the site (apart from the Chairman’s Preamble) is all voting rights, codes of compliance, and share price charts. Nothing too hyperbolic in any of them.

The Chairman’s Preamble is also written in plain English, without vacuous over-exaggeration, and generally left me feeling that he was a pretty sound person.

I particularly liked this section, which is the closing paragraph of the preamble (to the annual report 2011-2012):

More shareholder value is destroyed by managers making dumb short-term decisions to enable them to produce glowing quarterly reports than ever is gained in the laughably inappropriately named ‘transparency‘ they are supposed to bring. If you would like more transparency on Games Workshop, come to our annual general meeting. You will see our facilities, and maybe be quite surprised by how interesting they are. You will get to meet all the people who do the important things and talk to them about their jobs. You will also get, if such is your desire, a foaming pint of Bugman’s best in our famous bar. No, shareholders do not get a discount on beer. We don’t do discounts, not even for you.

And just when I thought it was getting all a bit too boring and businessy, they went and threw in a metaphor about moats.

Our continual investment in product quality, using our defendable intellectual property, provides us with a considerable barrier to entry for potential competitors: it is our Fortress Wall. While our 400 or so Hobby centres which show customers how to collect, paint and play with our miniatures and games provide another barrier to entry: our Fortress Moat. We have been building our Fortress Wall and Moat for many years and the competitive advantage they provide gives us confidence in our ability to grow profitably in the future.

I’d tell you all to go out an buy shares immediately, except I am not qualified AT ALL to provide financial advice, and the shares are currently the highest they’ve been for the last 5 years, and I know nothing about investing in the stock market.

What I do know is that Games Workshop, a small UK company with a history of hyperbolic over-enthusiasm for their hobby, manage to write more calm, measured, and sensible business English than some of the biggest companies in the world.  And that, quite frankly, has made my day.

Monday, 27 August 2012

This is the most amazing blog you will ever read. I loved writing it, and I will never forget it as long as I live.

Hyperbole. It's everywhere. Fact. Even here, in the opening paragraph of my blog.

As this blog is, ostensibly, about writing, I thought I should do a post about writing.

Coincidentally, I've attended three presentations last week that our Group Communications team arranged. One was about tone of voice in business communications.

Since then, I've become much more attuned to the nonsense that's spoken and written in business and politics every day. I didn't realise how much credibility businesses, and politicians, can lose through trotting out bland, mindless hyperbole.

I did an off-the-top-of-my-head search for the first company I could think of to see how they'd shape up. It was Coca-Cola, here's their "mission"
  • To refresh the world - in mind, body, and spirit (Oxford comma, model's own).
  • To inspire moments of optimism - through our brands and actions
  • To create value and make a difference everywhere we engage.
Laying aside whether these really are the mission of the company (isn't it more likely to be profit?). The first two are just rubbish. The third element of the vision is the same kind of brand corporate drivel you'll read on a hundred company websites. It doesn't differentiate Coca-cola at all. And furthermore, who ever actually says "engage" in a conversation (insert a joke about Jean-Luc Picard here). Who "creates value" except people who forge money? What do they mean by value? What do they mean by make a difference? Do they really want to do it EVERYWHERE? It's a paradox of modern business speak. Meaningless drivel, expressed in such fervent terms. Corporate marketing folks can't give us enough of it.

Let's engage with France and create real value for the family this holiday!

And then there's politicians.

I recently read that David Cameron had claimed that he remembered his wedding night, minute by minute. Really? 02:46.....what were you doing? 03:45? It's a meaningless soundbite. It emphasises how important he considers his marriage (presumably that will reassure the readers of the original article, in the Daily Mail), but for me, it just shows that he is a vacuous idiot who blethers away in spinspeak whilst not saying anything actually useful. Basically, he's a liar. Perhaps not intentionally, but he's a liar nonetheless. I think they call that "misspeaking." It's what people do when they open their mouths and let their true faculties and beliefs show.

Take, for instance, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the 6th August he said: "this is an opportunity for us to focus 110% on the economy." You know, I think John Maynard Keynes might have just died again. Whatever remaining shreds of credibility he had? Destroyed, by a mathematically nonsensical hyperbole. What was wrong with just 100%, George?

And then, Neil Armstrong died.

I think it's sad, and I don't think we've built upon the legacy that he, and other pioneers like him, left behind. But to begin with, I didn't think it was a "tragedy" that he's dead. He was 82. He had lived a full life. Married twice, and he leaves behind a family that will remember him fondly, and mourn his passing with sadness. They will feel he was taken from them too early; they will feel that he had more to give in life. But me? Am I gutted? If I said I was, I'd be lying, and I'll probably have forgotten by next week.

His death is part of the normal cycle of life. Sad, yes, but very much a timely reminder to us all that achievement and greatness do not come without hard work.

And then, I started to think about today's flash in the pan celebrities who are worth so much less than the men and women who were at the forefront of scientific discovery. Those people whose explorations into the unknown enabled so much of the technological innovation that make our lives what they are today. And what do we choose to celebrate now? Footballers, their wives, people on a reality show who have never done anything but be on a reality show (wow, aren't they, like, amazeballs?).

That's the great tragedy here, that Neil Armstrong lived to see an era where people didn't follow in his footsteps, because the politicians and business people were too busy telling us how excited they are about engaging to create real value and making a difference with a Big Society vision that would mean we all live a life where we too can remember "every minute" of our most amazing night.

So actually, if you want to indulge in hyperbole, then if it's to do with Neil Armstrong, I'm actually going to give you a pass on that one.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Olympic Science

I love looking at old posters, and seeing how their design reflects the era. Here's the official Olympic posters through the ages:

I like the designs of Tokyo and Moscow best, but I don't like the way they've rendered the rings on one colour. I like to see them in their multi-coloured glory. I also like quite like Stockholm's:

Have your children been inspired by the Olympics? Mine apparently new feats of science:

Josie: For the first time in doggy Olympic history
Lori: Not doggy, not just doggy, catty too!
Josie: For the first time in Olympic history of all the different Olympics, an opening ceremony that...
Lori: No wait, wait. I'm not ready.
Josie: Well, I hope you're almost all here, because the opening ceremony starts in 10 seconds...
10...9...876...fiiiiiiiive....4321. Welcome everybody to the opening ceremony of the doggy, catty and humany Olympics. I'm going to take you on a magical mystery....but first: the athletes! And the referees! Next the athletes...the athletes...the athletes...
Lori: No, that's not an athlete
Josie:'s your moment to shine at the Olympics. The sparkle, like nothing the Olympics has seen before, the rainbow circle, visible light will be transformed....visible light into a spectrum of rainbow.

Lori and Josie: Lights! Rainbow!
Josie: Spectrum!

They are using their toys to make an Olympic parade, and then Josie is performing an opening ceremony which involves splitting visible light through a prism. Not quite as impressive as the Danny Boyle offering, but she does pull off a good presenter voice.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


I was saddened today to read about the demise of the studio that created the Wipeout series of games. It was my first ever game for the Playstation, and I loved it. I’ve never been a fan of racing games, but there was something about Wipeout that made it very special.

Perhaps it was the way you glided round corners effortlessly, with no need to change gear, or do anything other than make a tiny tap of the airbrake.

 Perhaps it was the weapons, and how you could blow other competitors off the track, or send forward (or backwards) a massive quake to cause carnage among your rivals.

Perhaps it was because I was better at it than all my friends, and took great delight in inviting them round to beat them while they "tonked" off walls.

Was it speed starts, or massive jumps, or loop-the-loops?  

Or was it the soundtrack - a thumping and pulsing electronica, which I would never listen to in everyday life, but curiously fitted with the bright colours of the futuristic game?

It was probably all of those things, and they hooked me into console gaming, and never let me go.

RIP Psygnosis, aka Liverpool Studios.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Onwards, and downwards!

I'm making chilli again, but I've only had to invoke Amazing Deglazing Jack once so far! It turns that it's a bad idea to nip to the shop to pick up some extras without telling your napping husband that there's a pan on full heat, at a critical stage, which might need his attention.

In other food news, further to yesterday's slightly downbeat post, we've been trying out some new things with Lori. Here are the successes so far:

  • Huge plates. It makes the food seem smaller and much less challenging.
  • Tiny portions. When combined with huge plates it looks like there’s hardly anything to eat.

Alice was faced with a bewildering array of choices in order to render herself small again. 

  • Healthy desserts. Another way to break food down into more manageable chunks. I'd add a link to a healthy dessert, but it'll only be a sugar-free yoghurt, and I'm sure you know your way to the dairy aisle.
  • Sibling collaboration. Josie is old enough to understand that she needs to help Lori. She was given a much bigger portion (unbeknownst to Lori) so that Lori would have a chance to finish before her.

Lori finished her first serving of food yesterday in super quick time, and was given two sets of seconds, and yoghurt to finish.

It was a really good way to be able to give positive feedback and make her feel that she was constantly succeeding, rather than mealtimes being a succession of failures.

Lindsay couldn't understand why the children didn't finish their packed lunches, until she realised she'd added  a gherkin.

I’ve tried to follow this through at lunchtime, as much as possible, by buying a packed lunch box with compartments and providing lots of little, healthy things that will be less daunting than a huge sandwich loaded with cheese, meat and salad.

Monday, 20 August 2012 honey loop at a time

Having a child with eating problems can be demoralising and miserable. Mealtimes stop being a source of sustenance and start becoming an emotional battleground.

Lori is 5, and she eats very, very slowly, when she eats at all. Today, she didn't get to play with her friends at lunchtime because she spent the whole time eating her packed lunch, which she didn't even finish. This morning, she started breakfast at 07:10, and still wasn't finished by 08:25.

It's not that she doesn't like food, or she's being naughty, and it's therefore hard to either find her food she does like, or discipline her. Basically, the problem has come because, for some reason, she's started to get very worried about having too much food in her mouth. And, if she gets too much food in her mouth, she starts to panic and won't swallow it. Getting angry, or sending her to her room, simply makes her panic more.

It takes a long time to consume a bowl of honey loops when you only eat one at a time. The annoying thing is is that it's completely unpredictable. I only bought the stupid loops because last week she happened to eat a bowl quickly, and I thought I was on to a breakfast winner. I should have stuck with healthy porridge. Lasagne has been a reliable favourite for months, until last Tuesday when she had a minor panic attack eating one. Dairylea cheese triangles are adored, but last night she ran round the living room screaming with her mouth open after something (who knows what) made her feel her mouth was too full...of squishy and completely swallowable cheese. Andrew had to talk her down like he was negotiating with a particularly trigger-happy bank robber.

This has been going on for months, and we started off by being pretty unconcerned, "it'll pass", "it's a phase", "remember when Josie was like this?" but when packed lunch after packed lunch came home from school uneaten or barely touched, or when school dinners were "cleared away before I could eat because I had to go to the toilet" it started to get a bit worrying, especially because she's a skinny little monkey to begin with.

It's hard to know what to do, but I've got some ideas to try out tomorrow:

1. Yoghurt - how hard can it be to take small bites of that?
2. Toast - so if she's not finished by the time we need to leave she can take it along the road with her.
3. Cut the pepper and cucumber into smaller bites in her packed lunch.
4. Make sure she goes to the toilet before the meal to try to reduce the use of toilet trips as a get-out-of-eating card.

Sorry for the serious post! Normal service to resume later, I have archery trips and iPad apps to discuss!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

And in first place...Pinus Sylvestris!

In my ongoing quest to do interesting things at the weekend, we took a trip to the Botanic Gardens today.

We collected fallen leaves to take home and identify them, pretended to be explorers traipsing through a wilderness, created a bed for passing fairies, and then Josie and Lori insisted we sat at a table for lunch because it had a plaque on it in memory of someone called Andrew Lindsay (Andrew being their Dad, if you didn't know, and me, Lindsay, being their Mum, obviously). They were both very eager to know what each tree was, but because the Botanic Gardens label their trees only with the Latin names, it's not so easy to work out what they're actually called.

Here's a handy interactive site for identifying UK trees from their leaves.

Because of a recurring theme in my book, I am absolutely obsessed with the Latin names for animals, birds and fish right now. I find them fascinating, and I'm trying to remember as many as possible. Cedrus was pretty easy to remember (cedar of various varieties). Acer also seemed to recur quite a lot. My Higher Latin completely failed me, because all I could think of was the computer brand. Turned out they were varieties of sycamore or maple.

I particularly liked the Latin name for Scots Pine. It's English name, which suggests it's somehow unique to Scotland, is particularly misleading. This its range:
The SNP had slightly larger ambitions for the independent state of Scotland than they admitted to the media.
As you can can see, Scotland probably makes up less than 1% of its range.

So, would they continue this blatant misdirection in the Latin name? If they did, then I would have expected Pinus Caledonius, or Pinus Scotius, or something of that ilk. Apparently they decided to go in the other direction and give it a name that couldn't possibly give you any idea of any of its characteristics. In Latin, a Scots Pine is Pinus Sylvestris, which basically means Pine of the forest or woods. And really, aren't they all?

The Pinus Sylvestris was pleased to provide 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize in this year's Obvious, But Surprisingly Unhelpful Names Awards.

Anyway, the name sparked a little idea in my head. and I'm very much looking forward to getting back to redrafting, editing, and extending from next Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? Because I go back to Burlesque classes at Dancebase on Tuesday night, which means I'll have three free hours beforehand to scribble, type, and generally do an impression of Jo March in her garret (sans little black hat to wipe ink on) on the second floor of Fettes Row.

Oh, and finally...if you have children who are 8+, and live in the Edinburgh area, then you might want to head down to the Botanics tomorrow for an Olympic/Brave inspired activity: archery!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Three-way Conversations

I've changed the look of the blog, because Blogger kept on putting white fill over everything, and I kept on needing to go into the HTML to fix it. Boring! So, I've changed it so the background is white. Problem solved.

This is just a holding pattern until I can convince Andrew Law to make me a custom image. Hope you like it in the meantime!

I need to start practising my three-way conversations again, because the children are back at school. I'm so please not to have a lonely commute again! Josie had this to say about it this morning:

"We can live anywhere, but not Blandfield"*
“Because we’d have hardly any time to chat on the way to school. We’d be out of the door, chat chat, across the road, and at school.”

Given that I’d expected a completely different answer about the desirability of the locale; her actual answer touched me rather deeply.

I do enjoy the walk to school with them, but sometimes I feel like I am carrying on two conversations at once, as I “Mmm-hhmm” amd “Really? Wow!” as two people on either side of me whitter on about their various thoughts, feelings and plans. They are very different. I took some mental notes as we walked. Below is the result:

Lori’s Thoughts for Today
I have forgotten all my friends’ names while I have been on holiday, apart from Molly and Sula, Oh, and Jacob***, but he is not my friend; he is a bad boy (by all accounts other than Lori’s, Jacob is actually a lovely little boy. Lori, on the other hand, has told me quite seriously that she thinks Jacob is trying to kill her).
Little Girl**** is actually on Mars today.
When I close my eyes, I see the Weeping Angels from Dr. Who. It is scary.
If I had fallen behind at the traffic lights, like Josie did, you would have had to come back for me because I am too young to cross a road by myself.
Wheeee! I’m running along the wall. No! Don’t hold my hand! I can do it!

Josie’s Thoughts for Today
Have you ever seen a train going by under that bridge? You have? How fast did it go? Was it actually quite slow?
When are the Paralympics starting? Can I come home from school and watch them every day?
Did I miss the bit on the news this morning that they said they were going to show about the far away galaxy? What did it say about it? Can I watch the article on iplayer when I get home?
Can we get the bus, because it’s the second day back at school?
What’s in my packed lunch? Did you give me the Canadian Maple Syrup bar for my snack? What is Canadian Maple Syrup? Oooooh. Sounds tasty.

As you can see, Josie asks a lot of questions, which means poor Lori often feels like she doesn’t get paid attention to, because I have so many questions to answer from the little person package holding my hand on one side, whilst the tinier person package on the other makes comments, not questions, and wonders why she doesn’t get as detailed a response.

I always expected my children to be more similar than they actually are (oh, they look similar, like miniature versions of me, I’m told), but they’re personalities are so very different. I like it, because it’s a constant reminder than they are growing into individuals, who will one day set off in their own little boats of life, each one decorated to their own particular taste, and if you know my children, you’ll know Lori’s will have cats, and Josie’s will have multiple safety precautions.
*Blandfield is a housing complex across the road from the school.
**Blandfield is also opposite the waste processing plan for the North of the city. Sometimes it doesn’t smell like a bland field, but more like a stinky field. I was expecting this to feature in the answer.
***Names have been changed to protect the identity of the innocent.
****Lori’s imaginary friend

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Could have been worse...

The chilli turned out well, in the end...although the glazed pan has completed screwed the dishwasher.

Much like the pan, I was a bit frazzled this morning, so I took a quick dip into SouleMama’s blog. It’s quite soothing for the soul, appropriately. She and her family live on a smallholding in Maine. Her family’s life is shaped (I was going to say governed, but I don’t think that word is right) by the rhythm of the seasons, by planting and sowing, sheep shearing, egg laying, fence building, and other activities so far from my family life in Edinburgh that reading her blog doesn’t just make it feel like she’s on the other side of the ocean, but on the other side of a century.

Sometimes, I envy them, but then I remember that I’m not built for early mornings, and livestock depending on me for food. I struggle to get two children ready for school, let along her 5. I like the idea of home schooling, but I wouldn’t be so excited by the reality – “what do you mean, I have to teach them maths?!”.

It is therefore with some pride that I report we all made it to school, and work, in good time and good order, despite a day that began something like this:

07:00: My alarm went off. I pressed snooze
07:10: It went off again. I pressed snooze again. Then remembered the New Year's Resolution I foolishly made and actually got up.
07:11: Opened the door to Josie and Lori’s bedroom, and said “Good Morning!”
07:12: Switched on my computer
07:15: Overheard the following conversation ongoing in the bedroom:
Josie: Lori, great news! It’s morning, and we’re going back to school!
Lori: Ummmggh.
Josie: Lori, you need to get up. Rise and shine!
Lori: Urrrrgh.
Josie: Lori, Mummy’s coming in, you’d better get up now!
Lori: Ummmgh.
07:17: Manhandle Lori from the bed.
07:20: Lori crawls through to the living room and deposits herself on sofa. I suppose that’s her equivalent of pressing the snooze button.

No idea who she gets that from...

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Summer holidays don't go on for ever....

....which is a shame because I haven't got their gym kit out, or new packed lunch boxes, or checked whether their uniforms fit.

Never mind. I'm sure it'll all come together at 07:00 tomorrow morning, as the magic going back to school fairy works its magic. Maybe.

If tonight is anything to go by it will be a shambles.

My attempt at making dinner was punctuated by reading other people's blogs. Which was a mistake. I got sidetracked by Amanda Palmer, in a blog about a review of her show, which Andrew and I were at on Saturday. That made me a bit angry, so I then had to google the review and leave a comment on it. Unfortunately, during this time I'd left the mince on the hob, and it had gone a bit burny.

No problem!

I sent Andrew out for some Jack Daniels to "deglaze the pan". I always tell people I am deglazing whilst covering up a burnt food mistake. It usually does the trick. It did again today, and I put the mince back on to finish off.

But then I got distracted by this. Lauren has just given up her job (as an accountant) to become a blogger. She is very funny.

Unfortunately, whilst reading her post the pan got glazed again. Irrevocably glazed. Not even amazing deglazing Jack could help me. However, I wasn't going to give up on the chilli I had planned. I decanted it all, minus glazed bits, into a new pan and started again.

And then, I remembered the children were still wet from their bath and it was already 20:15, on a school night.  And there was nothing to go with the chilli.

So, Andrew got sent out again. This time for pitta bread, cheese, and sour cream.

I went through to their room. Lori was wearing a single high-heeled shoe. Josie was wearing three pairs of pants. One of her own, and two of mine, possibly the most inappropriate crotchless burlesque pants a child could ever find. Oh dear.

And I still hadn't looked out their school bags. And I was basically the worst organised working parent ever.

When are the October holidays? Please say it's soon.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A Christmas Birthday

Lori's birthday is on the 27th December, and it sometimes feels like it's hard to make a clear distinction between Christmas presents and her birthday.

We've tried to make it special, with the aid of Grandma Cook, by making a yearly trip to a Christmas show, or pantomime, for a birthday treat. This year it was Beauty and the Beast at the Lyceum in Edinburgh.

The obvious thing to do with the scrapbook was to use the tickets, but the programme was full of line art and rich colours, and the children were eager to use some of the "pretty pictures" in their scrapbooks.

There were some lovely details in the programme. These details can be useful to cut out and use them to frame the pages of the book:

There were concept sketches from the costume designers, so we mixed these up with the photos of the cast in their costume. 

Unlike some of Josie's pages, Lori can't do as much writing (yet). However, she still likes to add occasional details of her own, and I like to encourage her. A scrapbook can be a really good way to encourage a developing reader or writer to develop their skills.

I'm looking forward to seeing what this year's Christmas Birthday Concert Show Pantomime brings!

Here's a full shot of how one of the pages turned out:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Water Babies

We took a trip to the newly refurbished Royal Commonwealth Pool today, or the Commie, as it's affectionately known to the locals. The training pool was just the right depth (0.95m) and temperature to be perfect for both Josie and Lori to catch up on some much-needed swimming time.

For me, it was a little trip down memory lane. The last time I was at the Commie was when I was at university. Before that, it was for the occasional swimming gala. The first time was when we went to the Commonwealth Games in 1986. Mum couldn't get tickets for the actual swimming, so we had to go and see the synchronised swimming instead. It was really hot as a spectator, and I spent most of the time leaning over to see into the judges' boxes. I think they might have had little monitors to watch the swimmers underwater.

The scary thing is that Josie is the same age now as I was then, and I could really swim by then. Enough that I was keen to go and see all the heroes that I idolised, and had to be satisfied with the synchro.

So, it was with some pangs of guilt that I returned home, feeling somewhat remiss in my duty as a parent. Josie and Lori's weeks are filled with French lessons, piano, Brownies, ballet, flamenco, and next term choir, but they have had to make do with the swimming lessons they get at school.

Promise to myself for the next term? Find  regular swimming lessons for both of them, and slather them with emollient before and after the pool to divert the inevitable eczema flare-up that they both get every time they jump in a pool.

Then, perhaps, when the Glasgow Commonwealth Games make their way over to Edinburgh for the aquatics events, Josie and Lori will be as excited as I once was.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

York Tales

We're in York just now, and it's my birthday, so my Mum decided to take me shopping for some new work clothes.

Shopping for clothes is usually a bit of a chore. I'm only 5'3'', and my lack of height is very much due to short legs rather than a short body. In addition, my upper body is a slightly different clothes size to my lower body.

It's hard to find clothes that don't need altered. Skirts and trousers are too long. Dresses are too tight at the top, but too loose and long. Years of competitive swimming left me with broad shoulders, so the petite ranges are pretty useless. Yes they're short, but they're also made for people who don't have realistic body shapes (just because you're short doesn't mean you're tiny everywhere!)


So, it was with no great hope that I walked into the York branch of Hobbs, after a fruitless afternoon in the other shops of the city centre.

Offhandedly, I asked the assistant whether they had any shorter styles. Usually, the assistants have no idea about the length of the range in their shop. Then once I try some things on they then try to convince me that the blatantly ill-fitting clothes are perfect (which is what happened in Reiss earlier in the day), or they just ignore me (LK Bennett, that's you).

This time was refreshingly different. She immediately pointed out the range that tended to be shorter, and proceeded to bring me all the clothes that she thought I would like. She got the different sizes when I needed them. She gave me honest appraisals of the clothes. She was awesome (coincidently, her Mum was from Dalkeith). Hobbs wins for petite-friendly fashion.

I will definitely be returning to Hobbs next time I need some new clothes for work.

This is what I bought: