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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sunrise

As I mentioned in a previous post, Josie has been going to choir. I was going to show her progress with a new song that she learned, but instead she asked to do her "performance piece" on the piano.

Therefore, without further ado, I present the pianist:




Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Playfair Library

It's all very well packing my weekends full of classes, trips, review adventures, book research, Dr. Who, and roleplaying, but sometimes I get back to work on a Monday morning and just feel like having a whole other weekend.

My Weekend Notes reviewing is coming on very well. Edinburgh is shooting up the table with a whole 19 articles. Wow! 19. Here's a link to my profile, where you can sign up to become a subscriber:
http://www.weekendnotes.com/profile/222833/

One of my latest articles might be interesting to my running friends, a Hallowe'en-themed 5k in Holyrood Park. Perhaps one to do with the family?

It's not going to become my new job, ever, but it is good practice. 

And that's how I've been viewing it: practice. Which is all very well, but if you don't actually write anything on your book, then the practice is actually pretty pointless.

So, I stayed on at work for an extra half-hour earlier this week and squeezed in some writing while all the experiences of last weekend were still fresh in my mind.

We were at the Playfair Library on Sunday as part of the book research.

Who else took finals there? 

I haven't been back since, but I could remember it vividly. Sitting under the archway and doing some final cramming. Chatting with friends about how the last exam had gone. It was cold, even though it was spring. I correct myself: it was cold, because it was Spring. The Library amused me, even through the fug of stress of finals, because of all the busts on their plinths. Who were they? Did anyone still remember why they had been put up there? Did they watch student after student passing in front of them, and smile benevolently down. Did they nod to each when everyone was gone, and say, "That's another year, then. I hope they do well." Of course they didn't, but when I was struggling for inspiration in The Psychology of Adolescence, I looked up at of them and found my thoughts anew.

Unlike during my exams though, they were all tucked away in the alcoves, not sitting on the end of a pillar each.

As well as the busts being hidden in corners, there library presented some other useful, and unexpected, surprises. When I was writing about the it, I didn't expect it to be so filled with light, I'd envisioned a darker place. Indeed, I remembered it being much darker than this, but perhaps it was a cloudy day when I did my exams. 

I wanted to check who all the busts were, but I was also interested in what books were still in the library. While I took pictures of the busts, Lori and Josie wrote down some book names. Lori was much more interested in this than Josie, surprisingly. This is her, diligently writing down a few titles, letter by letter.

Lori Law, little law student.

Then, research started to get a bit boring and tiring, so they ran up and down the library until they collapsed on the floor, giggling and gasping.

I have written and written and written, and now I am very tired.


I was quite pleased with the visit to the library. It set my imagination alight, all those years ago, and last Sunday it did that again.

On that note, back to redrafting!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Lip Gloss. Really?

Last weekend we went to the final event of Stockfest, which was a fair at Broughton High School.

There were lots of activities, stalls, food, and fun things to do. It was a beautiful day, as summer made a last hurrah and the sun deigned to shine down warmly upon us.

Here are some highlights from the day:

Shortly after this picture was taken, Josie uttered the words: "I can't drink out of that cup because my lip gloss will come off." Those are not words that should spill from an 8 year-old's lips. However, it was my own fault because I'd let her have a makeover from the lovely Miss Sutherland, an English teacher.

This is Lori shouting at the top of her voice, " I can't get any higher than this!", as the helpful man tried to encourage her to climb. He brought her straight back down.

This cygnet has had bread rain down from the heavens onto his feathers, but he just didn't care. Too warm. Too cosy. Must sleep now.

Just finished a double scoop icecream. Happy. 

Magical Mr. Mistoffelees. Not Mephistopheles, which is what I wrote first time. He's a demon. And certainly not a magical cat, or a Lori.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

It's not ironic. It's just coincidental.

I didn't get an interview for the job I went for. On reflection, that's not unexpected, for a number of reasons that I will not go into here.

However, on the same day (i.e. today) I did get asked to go and speak at St. Andrews University Gender Equality Week about my Masters thesis and my role as chair of the Scotland branch of our Focused Women's network (a network to attract, develop, and retain talented women in the organisation).

My thesis was an ethnographic study on gender issues in project management. I am quite excited to go, but also a little nervous that I won't live up to their expectations. I completed it more than three years ago. I need to go and re-read it!

They described me as "a successful woman". I suppose that is true. I have the required physical attributes of a female, and I've never really tried to have a go as a man. I have had some success at maturing from girl to women.

Some people might say it was ironic that I was invited to the conference as a "successful woman", on the day I failed to get a job interview. It certainly isn't. It's just coincidence. How easily the two are confused.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A new low for humanity.

Today I was skimming through a free magazine. It's called Foodies, and you can pick up the Scottish edition in restaurants and cafes.

It had some cocktail recipes. The title of the piece was Killer Shots.

The first page had a beautiful little cocktail. Clear Triple sec 2/3 up the glass, a thin layer of Bailey's on top of that, and then tiny strands of grenadine threading their way down through the Triple Sec to the bottom.

It looked like a jellyfish. The title of the piece was Killer Shots. What's the obvious name here?

That's right. Portugese Man O'War, or something of that ilk.

What's not an obvious name?

Naming it after an act of war that killed over 100,000 people.

Yes, this cocktail is called the Hiroshima Bomber.

That's not obvious. It's also weird, and distasteful, and a little bit wrong.



Monday, 24 September 2012

Well, that's just fantastic!

Last night, at about 01:30, I remembered that it was "Dress as a Roald Dahl character day" for Josie.

I had not prepared the BFG, as per her request. So, we had to fall back on our old faithful, Fantastic Mr. Fox.



Here's all you need to do it:
  • 3 facepaint colours: orangey-brown, white, and black
  • White shirt
  • Tie - any colour, but blue looks good
  • Waistcoat or jacket - again, we went with the blue theme. Tweed is also an excellent choice. I did have a yellow waistcoat, but it was from Anne Fontaine and I wasn't really sure I wanted to unleash it on Josie and school.
  • Trousers - He doesn't wear trousers in every picture, so you could use brown leggings to make it look like fur. Josie wore joggers that only went down to just below the knee, which I thought made a good stand-in for britches.
  • Boots (we went with trainers - comfort over style).


Here's how to assemble it:
  1. Get dressed.
  2. Paint face
  3. Paint bottom of legs (if wearing britches) and backs of hands in orangey-brown.
Job done. 15 mins, start to finish, and no clothes used that you wouldn't have in the house anyway.

The finished product, after 7 hours of school and after-school club, is a pretty angry-looking fox:


Save your chickens! Or your horses' heads standing in as a proxy for chickens!



Saturday, 22 September 2012

Raeburn Place = Gauntlet

Trying to walk down Raeburn Place today made me feel like Edinburgh was properly, properly home. I think I met more people I know in that one small length of street than I've ever met in one day in Edinburgh before.

Everyone wanted to chat, even though some of them, and me too, had appointments they had to meet.

When I think about moving out of town when we sell our flat (hah!); it makes me feel very sad and glum. I'm not sure I want to take that step, when such a lovely little village within a city exists just 10 minutes walk from the office.

I could live here, I really could. Except I couldn't., because I'd need to sell a kidney.
So, we'd be stuck in a small flat again (unless the job fairies fly in with an offer to me make me CIO at their special Fairy company selling financial product for the prudent gnome), but would it be worth it to be able to be sooooo close to work?

Andrew tells me I'm putting the cart before the horse again, but I can't help but plan!


Friday, 21 September 2012

I'm not sure how to respond...

Me: Girls, I saw a Schnitzel von Krumm (go here if you do not know to what I refer) today.
Josie: Where?
Me: Well, you know that bathroom shop just down the road from where have lunch on a Friday?
Josie: Sometimes.
Me: Right, well, on that basis, it might or might not be there then.

I imagine when she thinks about boring things, like bathroom shops, a sign like the below appears:



Then her mind swiftly moves on proper things like jam, sweeties, and how to convince parents to go to the park. So, she can only sometimes remember the bathroom shop. It makes perfect sense.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

My Body Lies over the Ocean

Josie went to choir for the second time last night. Before the holidays she auditioned for the Edinburgh Training choir for the National Youth Choir of Scotland. She got in!

I asked her to sing a song she learned, and she responded with:

"My Body Lies over the Ocean"

I think she means bonnie, but she's not sure, she said it could be either. I told her I was pretty sure it was bonnie, and we went on like that for a while.

Whatever the case, she sounded quite sweet when she sang it. Choir is working out well, so far.

Which is good, because after the first week's evidence (Unlisted Youtube clip below), I wasn't so sure about choir...


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Relapse!

I've had a relapse. Not really. It's just another stage of healing, but this one hurts. Therefore, I am not much for the typing.

So, here's a little picture to keep you going. I've started to work on the second draft of the book, and I'm all about the trees just now. So...I downloaded an art app on the iPad, called Paper, and I did a quick sketch of a tree. I draw them everywhere. Constantly doodling trees. I'd suggest it "meant something" except that would be very unscientific, and a bad example to my scientist daughter, Josie.*

It probably means I've been thinking about trees, and I have a short attention span in meetings. Anyway, here's the iPad tree. I used a little stylus, because I had a bandage on one hand.



*Not really a scientist. Only 8. Won "Scientist of the Day" in science class at school.

Monday, 17 September 2012

And here is my weekend.








It was the best. Isn't lovely when you have a weekend where you feel like you did such a lot, but all of it was just good fun?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Hello Kitty!

I have now, officially, gone off Hello Kitty. Not that I was ever a big fan, but I didn't really mind if Lori wanted to have a Hello Kitty pencil case.

Today, I drew the line. I refused to buy her a Hello Kitty magazine.  I took this action because it had horoscopes.

The boys' magazines aimed at the same age are not filled with horoscopes and make-up. I don't know what they are filled with, but I'm not going to let that get in the way of this tirade. I know it isn't unscientific mumbo-jumbo clap-trap and superficial nonsense about how amaaaazing they'll look in lip gloss.

I am officially old.

I know this, not only because of the above outrage at role models for the youth of today, but because of an incident that happened in Stockbridge yesterday.

I was walking past an ironmonger, or if you prefer, a hardware store. It looked like a proper old-fashioned one, with fork handles and plugs. I thought, inwardly, "you don't see many shops like that any more". Exactly as I was thinking this to myself an elderly lady, who had been standing outside the shop with her equally elderly husband, turned to him and said:

"There aren't many shops like this around, any more, are there dear?"

Oh no. I have the same thought process as an eighty-year old.

I am evidently now in the twilight of my years, and I expect I will shortly need to vote Conservative because I am scared of criminals.*

But, seriously: horoscopes? Appalling.

*Not really.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Can anyone really have it all, let alone women?

I was asked the other day how I fit everything in. The answer is that I don't. I make compromises all the time. I sometimes feel I can't concentrate on work because I'm worried about my family. I sometimes don't have my full attention on home because I'm thinking about work. Sometimes, I go to bed at the same time as the children because I'm just plain exhausted. I wish I was more organised. I wish I was more tidy. I wish I had thought of Facebook.

In the network I belong to at work, there's always a lot of chat about whether women can "have it all". I hate the phrase, personally. If you haven't encountered it, then a quick Google search will reveal a panoply of articles about the trials of being a modern woman with a full-time job and family.

My first annoyance is that it's such a loosely defined phrase. How can I know if I have it all if you haven't defined "all"? Such an ill-defined phrase is like an airbrushed film star, completely unattainable by normal humans. You'll always assume that it's something better than what you have.

My second and more profound frustration with the phrase is that implies that for decades men have been "having it all" in terms of balancing work with family life, and that somehow women are failing to do successfully what men have done forever.

I don't know about you, but my childhood was not replete with professional fathers playing a full role in the parenting of their children. There wasn't some halcyon era when a high-level job in politics, business, or academia was compatible with leaving at 14:45 because your child-care had fallen through, or just nipping out pick up the kids from French class. Most of those fathers had wives who'd taken a break from their career, and were fully engaged in being a full-time mother.

So, things have changed nowadays, right? Now, both parents can take a full-time job, and the workplace is flexible enough to accommodate. It's easy to raise a family when you both work all week, right? People who can't make it work are the problem, aren't they? Mothers who find they forget a swimming kit because they were thinking about a board presentation are the failure, aren't they? Men are judged just as fairly on their ability to fully participate in their children's lives, aren't they?

Well, no. I've been quietly observing a pattern over the last few years. At work, I've been to a number of events which have drawn together women (and men) who are highly successful. Lawyers, doctors, board members, business executives. I've taken notes. They've talked about what made them successful, they've talked about how hard it is to get to the top of their respective businesses.

And do you know what? Almost every single one of the women has said the following phrase, albeit in a different way. I've even found myself saying this phrase:

"Well, I've been really lucky, because my husband and I agreed that I would focus on my career, and he would be the main carer of the children."

Many of them said luck. Many of them called out that specific fact as the reason they had been able to be successful. Many of them focused on the fact that they were happier going to work knowing how well their family was looked after.

Not a single one of the men said that their wives had enabled their success, even though their wives had done for them exactly what these husbands had done for the successful women. They did not feel the need to explain how they had ensured their family was looked after. It didn't even seem to cross their mind.

It's really made me think. Getting to the pinnacle of any career is very, very hard. Too often, women look at other people above them and think, "How is she/he balancing family life so well? I find it so hard." They ask, "What am I doing wrong?". All of this is underlined by women in the spotlight showing how amazing they are at being a Mum, whilst also carving a successful career as a businesswoman, or say, actress. Gwyneth Paltrow, I am looking at you.

Too often women ask "What's wrong with me?", when they should be asking, "Why is it that so many successful women have ended up where the only way to make their career work is to simply switch roles with their husband?".

All this focus on whether women can have it all has become such an obsession with gender-diversity-in-the-workplace people that they seem to have completely forgotten that there are two sides to this equation. It's not about what's wrong with women. It's about what's wrong with work. And it's bad for both genders, and all families.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Bedminster

A friend wrote on Facebook that she had been to Bedminster for the afternoon. I thought she meant she'd been having a nap, as in:

"Off to Bedminster for the afternoon, Jeeves. Back in time for scones. Toodlepip."

It's not. It's a suburb of Bristol (boring). Except not boring...because it's right next to a little part of Bristol called Totterdown.

Is this a coincidence? I will consult with 11-year-old-self.

Calling directly from the early nineties...she says "No coincidence!"

Bedminster shall henceforth be the name used for going for a mid-afternoon nap.

Are your children playing up, feeling fractious, overtired?

Worry not, I have the answer. Send them to Bedminster. And then Totterdown to Bedminster yourself.

Parenting problems solved. No need to thank me.

It burns...it burns!


Hand Update: Well, it doesn't burn any more actually. It just itches and aches a bit, which is a lot less dramatic sounding.

I've had a mixed few days.

On the one hand (boom t*sh) I've been waiting to hear back about a job I've applied for.

On the other, I've been interviewing people as a favour to another department (they wanted a completely unbiased interview panel). Usually, I interview people I know, for a job I have an interest in (perhaps I'm the recruiting manager, or the recruiting manager is a colleague in my department).

In this case, I don't know the people, I don't know the job, and I'm simply there to present the competency questions, and along with my interview partner, score the interviewees.

It's been quite enlightening in terms of making me more aware of the effect of unconscious bias. In a normal interview, I'll have formed an opinion on who I think is best from the CV, or from what I know of them previously, and sometimes that seeps through into the interview. If I know the example they're talking about, my brain can't help but fill in the gaps and perhaps then mark their examples more generously because I know what they mean, even if they don't say it quite right.

Candidates don't always live up to your expectations.
Unusually this time, I know literally nothing about anyone! Not joking. In the first interview I couldn't even remember the person's name. It's been very, very bizarre. Sort of like an interviewing blind date. Is that what it's like working in recruitment? A whole series of blind speed dates?

 Also, I usually find interviews quite intense, but in this instance it hasn't been at all (well, not entirely, but that's another story!). In fact, it's been extremely liberating to know I don't need to make the choice at the end. I just rock up, fire away some questions, score them, and hand the summary sheets back to the recruiting department.

But sometimes they really, really do.

Of course, Wee Bella might disagree about the liberating part. She's my interview partner, and because of the Burned Hand Incident, she's had to take all the notes. And she is very thorough. I'm willing to bet by the end of the week her hand aches even more than mine.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Not-so-amazing Deglazing Jack

Short post today because I can't type much on account of the burned hand incident.
 
Just a few things to say:
 
  1. Burlesque class starts tonight, so watch this space for burlesque blog to get up and running properly.
  2. CCwP (Edinburgh Council's Consultative Committee with Parents) starts again tonight for the new school year. You are unlikely to receive any blog posts about this. You should be thankful.
  3. I've been thinking....and I can't believe I wrote a whole post about the Burned Hand Incident, and didn't mention Amazing Deglazing Jack. Surely that should have helped me, you ask? Well, I can tell you: it didn't, because you can't deglaze a hand, and I don't like Bourbon.
That's all for today!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Panhandling…or how making 12 resolutions for 2012 on Google+ led to spending Sunday night in Accident and Emergency


Earlier this year you might recall my husband and I made two rather ambitious posts. 12 resolutions for 2012, documented for posterity on Google+. Best not to linger too long on my progress. Packed lunches have been a success. Ironing, less so. Unsurprisingly I’ve done a lot of things that weren’t on the list (thank you, oh muse of students everywhere, Prokrastinates) including writing the first draft of a children’s book. Writing a book was one of Andrew’s so I consider this a joint success – everyone knows we are the Landsy gestalt entity anyway.

One of them was 52 for 52 – trying a new recipe every week for the whole year. I’ve been keeping to it pretty well, if not as formally as I would have liked. To keep it up I recently decided to work through one of the recipe books I got for Christmas. I started last week with a mozzarella and mortadella frittata. Mmm. Yummy. Enjoyed by all.

This week I tried a crustless pizza. Big mistake. Not only did it taste kind of weird, pancake and eggy and not very pizzaey, I also managed to burn my palm and fingers quite badly. So badly, in fact, that I ended up in the A&E department of my local hospital.

To begin with I had run the burn under cold water for about half an hour before transferring to sitting on the sofa with a big bowl of water. At that point, I managed to spill water all over myself. It trickled all down my trousers. Kind of like weeing yourself, only worse, because at least that would have been warm for a bit. This was just cold and wet. I couldn’t really move, because taking my hand out of water reignited the fires of agony. Andrew was busy with the kids, so I just sat there: slightly damp and in agony, cursing Nigella Lawson for making me aspire to be both full-time working Mum and domestic Goddess.

I called NHS 24, left my details and a nurse called me back in lickety split time. She was very sympathetic, and advised she would book me in at the nearest, most appropriate A&E, so that I could get the damage reviewed and dressed.

Andrew Bell drove me to hospital in a rather cute Mini. I held my hand in front of the cool, so cool, air conditioning and gave him all my good quality car chat regarding the original classic Mini. That lasted about three sentences. I don’t have much car chat.

Quite coincidentally, while I was in hospital running my hand under yet more cold water, an old cabinet minister colleague of Nigella's father arrived at the A&E requiring treatment: Malcolm Rifkind. Small world. I was going to ask him to send a message to Nigella, via the father, that her crustless pizza recipe was weird and burny, but he was whisked off by wheelchair as soon as he arrived.

No waiting for him, perish the thought he should have to read the drivel in The Sun on Sunday to keep him amused. I mean, as Andrew Bell and I remarked to each other, it’s just so fortunate that the News of The World folded, so that the Sun could bring us such high-quality investigative journalism showing photos of the back of Simon Cowell’s ear.

I don’t know what else was in The Sun, because that was the point that I got called by a nurse, and Andrew Bell fell asleep.

Then it was into the aforementioned water running. It was pretty boring, but there was a helpful local on hand, I presume waiting for a friend or relative, to tell me that they couldn’t do anything for burns and I would have been better off just running it under water at home. He told me this over and over again. Interminably, it seemed. He also told me that he’d spilt some juice, and on telling the nurse she had told him to clear it up with some tissues: “That’s customer service, eh?” he said. To which I wanted to reply, “Eff off, my hand is burning, and I’d rather they attended ill people than cleaned up after you, you clumsy oaf,” but I didn’t, I just smiled politely and nodded.

Luckily, his repeated attention seemed to hurry things along, and within minutes I was being bandaged, chatted to, and reassured by the NHS’s finest.

So, thank you Nurse Annette; thank you, Andrew Bell; and thank you, NHS

No thanks to you, Nigella, although I shouldn’t really blame you for my own stupidity. 

It hasn’t deterred me. Next week it’s chicken escalopes, and I’m going to be using a hammer. Everybody stand back.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Socks over Tights

A few days ago I awoke to find that all the tights I thought were tights were actually footless tights. And I only had a skirt or a dress for work. Dilemma.

Luckily, I had a lot of experience in this area circa 1992-1996. Socks over tights.

It's a good look. Some might even call it professional (they'd be wrong).

In the 92-96 era I was mostly rocking a two-tone look - coloured socks over coloured tights.

Or cherry Docs! The bottom half of this outfit could quite literally be my legs in 1995.



Anyway, I didn't want to make splash with my socks and tights combo. I work in IT, in a Bank, everyone is very serious about Things and Stuff. Gone are the days when I could get away with a shirt, dress, and tie. So, I went for black socks under the footless tights. It worked quite well, except I think everyone was looking at me and wondering why I had such wrinkly ankles.

I think next time I'll just distract their attention from my ankles with a drawn-on moustache.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

"Yahoo!" Thump

Daughter No. 2 - Lori, is a big fan of "Yahoo!" - thump. That's her, jumping off the bed with a "Yahoo!" and landing with a thump.

Yesterday, she attached a GB flag to her pleat to see if she could fly like a kite. 

A few years ago, we had this exchange on moving in to a temporary rented house in the first days of our flood.

"Lori, don't jump on your bed because you might slip and hurt yourself."
--Thump. Thump.--
"Mummy! Me tested, and didn't fall and hurt myself."
"Lori! I told you not to jump on your bed!"
"Me not! Me jump on Josie's."
--Broad Smile--

If only we could all capture the creativity of a three-year old who really wants to try jumping. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Ecce Romani!

Walking through Edinburgh last night I was confronted with some deep and profound questions:

1. Why does Patisserie Valerie open so late?
2. Why didn't I check the website to make sure that my dance class actually started this week?
3. Who painted that Police Box purple?


Let's address these questions:

1. I'm obviously actually asking a deeper question, which is "Mmmmmmm. Cake." Not a question? You, sir, are an idiot.

I had the one in the middle for my birthday this year. Best. Gateau. Ever.
2. Rhetorical question. I don't expect an answer, but if I got one it would probably be: because you, ma'am, are an idiot. 

3. It would appear, from the evidence presented to me as I walked past, that it was a man dressed in surprisingly historical clothes, who looked awfully like Sir Walter Scott. Or a man in the high-visibility vest, which proclaimed in marker pen that his name was Stevie, who was talking to Sir Walter Scott.

I suspect time travel.

I have suspected time travel before.

I was pleased to be studying Latin at secondary school just in case I should ever happen to be forcibly time travelled to circa 1st to 4th century AD and had to make contact with the invaders in the Roman camp near my parents' house. I often rehearsed my first contact speech. It started with me proclaiming to the local tribespeople, "Ecce! Romani!". I'd even named myself: Antonia.

I am not even joking.

I also convinced myself that I had seen a legion of red and gold clad Roman centurions marching over the Malvern Hills. Another area, in which part of my family lived, that had Roman forts and other such activity. Coincidence? 11 year old self thought not.

Luckily, at university I encountered Andy Law, Richard Dawkins and Thomas Gilovic (author of How We Know What Isn't So), and such superstitious nonsense was put behind me.

Nevertheless, last night, when I saw the Doctor, dressed as Sir Walter Scott, with his companion Stevie, I did hover for a bit just to check that they weren't time travellers. They seemed to be discussing the dimensions and interior of the box. Perhaps they seemed a little confused that it was purple. Could this be a further malfunction of the cloaking technology? I'm pleased to report that my observations were inconclusive.

Boring evidence to the contrary? Probably fabricated. I declare that they might very well have been time travellers. All is well in the world.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Schnitzel von Krumm is my favouritest name for a dog, ever.


Since P2 started Lori now only recognises 6 kinds of dogs. All dogs are one of these 6 kinds. They must not be spoken except with their full name. It's not just "Hercules Morse", it's "Hercules Morse, as big as a horse." It's not just "Muffin Maclay", it's "Muffin Maclay, like a bundle of hay".

Every dog we see in the street is described thusly, "Look it's Bottomley Potts, all covered in spots!", or "That one's a Bitzer Maloney, all skinny and bony, except brown, because Bitzer is grey, Mummy."

So, when I saw these shoes, I obviously shouted, "Oh, oh, oh, it's Schnitzel von Krumm, with a very low tum," because that's the kind of shoe they are.

Although to be honest, when I thought about it, they did look a bit more Bitzer, and actually, the process I just went through in changing my categorisation half-way through because dogs (or shoes of dogs) DON'T ACTUALLY FIT INTO ONLY 6 VARIETIES was a very good representation of the  conversations I have with Lori when she tries to categorise all dogs into said 6 varieties. I should really take the opportunity presented by this to have a meaningful talk with her about the dangers of stereotyping (Note to self: do this tomorrow on school walk! No, really, write it in your diary, or you will forget. You are that rubbish.).



They're not Bitzer. Or Schnitzel. They're shoes! But they're totally Bitzer. Or Schnitzel.

Continuing the artwork theme, here's a drawing I did in pencil for Lori to colour, for her homework, of the dogs of Donaldson's Dairy. This should explain everything:

Loricat doesn't seem to grasp that the cat, Scarface Claw, is not actually the hero of these stories. 

What? You don't consider shoddy artwork drawn by me and coloured by a 5 year-old an explanation?

Well, then:
a). I can't help you.
b). But Wikipedia can.

Monday, 3 September 2012

How the mouse empire has fallen...

Foraging opportunities are quite rare in a city (no, the bins outside Tesco don't count), so I like to take them when I can get them.

On Saturday, a sunny early autumn day, we had some time to kill before Dr. Who, and so armed with some empty tupperware tubs Josie, Lori, and I headed off to Pilrig Park to search for brambles.

For those of you of a non-British persuasion, these are brambles, also known as blackberries:

Delicious with apple, bubbling away under a crumble topping, or sieved for pips and turned into a bramble jelly.
I keep my eye out for bramble bushes on summer walks and take a mental note of where I've seen big clumps of them. All the better to return in the autumn to gather the glossy, black berries.

They ripen slowly over the course of month or so, therefore to gather enough of them for crumble, you really need a hedgerow or two to harvest.

To begin with, it didn't look very promising in the park. The brambles were peeking over an impassable wall, and I could barely reach a few ripe ones. However, I had spotted some bushes on one of the less popular park entrances a few months previously, so we headed round there and struck black, shiny gold: a brambly hedge.

Scout Josie found this one first. She also informed me about the nettles, and the spiky bits, and anything else that might possibly have caused an injury. Lori just looked at the brambles warily, and refused to come near them after Josie's tirade of danger.

There were hordes of berries, and although there were tracks around the bushes, none seemed to have been  picked. We made our way through nettles and grass, getting further and further round into a bit of land behind a small industrial estate, filling up the tub as we went. Then Josie spotted an open drop about 10 metres down, over an old wall and into another part of the light industrial buildings. Round the corner, and down in a hidden spot, I noticed some sleeping bags, plastic bags, and empty cans of lager. It looked like it had been used by a homeless person, although perhaps not for a while.

At that point, I started to feel a little bit less safe. No-one knew where we were, and very few people would ever walk past this bit of land. One of our tubs was full, so we headed back, checking in with Andrew on the phone to let him know where we were. It's a shame really, that I felt so unsafe a mere ten minutes from home, and perhaps I was overreacting (although a recent assault in the park would suggest not).

And from that horrible note, to more pleasant memories of childhood. I can't go collecting blackberries without thinking about Brambly Hedge.

This is exactly what my childhood was like in early autumn. Exactly. Right down to the little bonnet. 
They are an absolutely lovely set of books for early readers. The Winter Story is intrinsically linked with my own memories of deep snow falls in my toddler and primary school years. I spent a long time  peeking under every stump in a wood nearby to our family home just in case I should happen upon the mice of Brambly Hedge. They hark back to an idyllic time in British life, when mice lived in little hobbit houses in the hedges, and harnessed the water of the nearby river to turn their flour into delicious, if tiny, loaves of bread, and dressed like proper gentlemen and ladies of the country. How the mouse empire has fallen, and left Western civilisation all the poorer for it.

So, in memory of a special early autumn day spent foraging with the girls, and in memory of the watercolour art of the books I remember so fondly, I created this today, rendered in Games Workshop inks and acrylics:

My obsession with the Latin names for things is still very much in evidence.
We are planning a return trip in a week, but I think I'll take Andrew along this time. He can reach the really high ones that no-one else will get!

As for plans of what to do with the brambles, well, I'm going to try a much more homemade Christmas this year, so they might just be helping along some bramble-flavoured vodka for family and friend hampers. Far less complicated than jelly or pie!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Hints from the modern out-of-the-house-wife

1. The next time you're looking through your cupboards for a recipe book, and you come across some Christmas chocolate, don't shove a handful in your mouth.
2. If you do shove a handful in your mouth, just bite your tongue. Resulting pain will cause you to spit out the offending chocolate and not want any more.
3. If you happen to bite your tongue so hard that it bleeds, then don't soak it up with kitchen paper. It's a stupid idea. Cuts on the tongue need no such assistance.
4. If you are looking for a recipe book, so that you can start at the beginning and cook each one in turn, Nigella Christmas is good/bad depending on your tolerance for alcohol/desire to actually do any cooking. There are a full 8 cocktails, and 5 mocktails, to get through before you even get to food, and that food's only the canap├ęs. Hardly enough to soak up all those cocktails. Perhaps you'd be better off with 20-minute suppers.