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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Auntie Jen is coming!

Roll out the red carpet hang the bunting in the street, Auntie Jen is coming home.  For those of you not lucky enough to have met her Auntie Jen is my little sister.  Although not so little these days – she had the misfortune to turn 30 a week ago.  It’s interesting to note that whilst my own 30th birthday left me relatively unmoved I am deeply distressed that I am now the big sister to a 30 year old.  If my sister is old what does that make me?

Jen is like a minor celebrity on Colonsay.  Luckily I have a very thick skin otherwise I might be rather upset by all the people who demand to know when she’s coming home.  She is one of these people who seem to generate buzz and excitement. Whilst I am rather more staid.  It’s not uncommon for me to introduce myself and then for people to look slightly puzzled and then say ‘Oh you’re Jen’s sister’.  I then see them waiting patiently for me to do or say something funny – sadly I generally disappoint in this respect although Jen is a great catalyst, around her even I am funny.

I don’t want to make her sound like a saint but she is also beloved of children.  I actually had to have one of my own in order to make a child pay me any attention and to be honest I’m not sure I was that successful.  I think Jen’s repertoire of funny voices and ability to fart on demand may well have overshadowed my own rather paltry efforts comprising 9 months of safe passage in my womb, 72 hours of labour and two and a half years of loving parenting.  Sally succumbed even more quickly than Helen and from the age around one week preferred to be put to bed by my sister over all others.

As I write this I want to say that Jen is a ski instructor in South America or that she is a professional mud wrestler.  Every time I am asked what she is up to (and at this time of year when Colonsay is swollen with visitors this tends to be several times a day) I am mildly surprised to hear myself say ‘she’s a chemistry teacher’.  Not only is she a chemistry teacher she is by all accounts rather a good chemistry teacher although one with a penchant for setting herself on fire.

Jen has had a variety of colorful jobs before she took my Dad’s advice and accepted that the time had come to do teacher training.  She managed to graduate from university faster than anyone else I know despite not attending the correct lectures for one of her courses – she did attend the correct exam and was rather puzzled to find she couldn’t answer any of the questions.  Even more puzzling is the fact that she still passed.

My favourite of her positions was one which required her to dress as a giant bee and visit local schools to inform children about honey production.  In order to enable her to visit these schools she was given the use of an enormous van and I always imagined her driving around Glasgow in her bee costume buzzing with enthusiasm.  A less glamorous job was the  year she spent as a bank teller a post which could have been rather well paid had she not actually negotiated her salary downwards before she started.

Jen is one of these people to whom exciting things always seem to be happening and strangely teaching fits in very well with this.  During the school year she is a pillar of respectability leaving 12 weeks of holidays for adventure.  This summer alone she has spent a week in Greece – economic crisis be dammed, a week supervising her pupils on an activities holiday in France and a few days in Sheffield.  I think she was visiting her boyfriend but it could be that she simply had a raging desire to visit the steelworks.  She’s now heading home to spend a week sleeping in our spare room (AKA the tent in our garden).  Is she worried about the monsoon like weather and the fact that this is the wettest June in the history of the Gregorian colander? Of course not.  She will arrive and stay for long enough to be co-bridesmaid at Mairi’s wedding before jetting off for the next bit of excitement.  I think she might be playing the fiddle at a wedding in France but you can never be sure with Jen.  She may well be training horses in outer Mongolia.

I’m picking her up from the boat tomorrow night and as she was about to hang up the phone she mentioned casually ‘oh yes I’ll be bringing my paddle board’.  For those of you not in the know a paddle board is a bit like a surfboard if surfboards were the size of a small caravan.  I’m not quite sure what you do with it.  Perhaps stand on it and punt it along rather as if one were a Gondolier in Venice?  It is quite honestly the most enormous piece of equipment I have ever seen.  It weighs about as much as a small elephant and I don’t want to dash her hopes but if it floats it will be a miracle.  Furthermore Jen is tiny.  She is short of stature and slim of build and if it comes to a fight between her and the paddle board my money is not on little sis.  I will not be at all surprised to receive a phone-call tomorrow informing me that she is lying on the Pier on Oban trapped beneath it’s mighty weight.  How she thinks she is actually going to get to Oban is another cause for concern.  Her car (ancient and very rattly Ford Ka which still smells rather questionable from the days we used to drive Max around in it) is as small as she is and considerably less reliable.  I can only assume that she has some sort of system of cranes and winches by which she is going to maneuver the mighty board onto the roof.  She would probably be safer strapping the car onto the paddle board and punting herself round the West Coast of Scotland.  Of course ever the economist she’s not bringing her car over to Colonsay so she is actually going to have to carry the behemoth onto the boat.  It’s lucky she’s not bringing her car really as I would be afraid that the combined weight of this and the paddle board would be enough to sink the vessel.

I look forward to seeing it in action if she makes it here alive.


Child for Sale


Oh that was cathartic.  O.K. a warning if you are not the sort of person who can empathise with a mothers need to club her child over the head with a baby seal from time to time please read no further.

Today has just been one of those days and having just spent 10 minutes trailing around the house after a pyjama clad toddler who point blank refuses to go to bed without her plastic tea pot I am seriously considering putting both of my children on eBay.

Sally didn’t sleep well last night, consequently neither did I.  Sadly Helen slept a little too well and thus declined her afternoon nap, depriving me of mine.  Sally’s afternoon nap was brutally cut short by a bad case of poopus interuptus meaning that by five o’clock I was grumpy and frazzled and both of my children were orbiting the ceiling.

5 O’clock is usually a happy time when Allan arrives home and interacts with the children whilst I cook dinner.  Sadly on a Monday night Allan goes to fire brigade training.  (Really this means he stands around gossiping like an old woman whilst dressed in his fire fighting finery) While he is out enjoying himself I have to cook tea, then bathe and bed the two little monkeys.  A job which usually fully occupies both of us.  Tonight after cooking a gourmet meal of frozen pizza, baked beans and broccoli (well one must have some standards) I spent around an hour trying to tempt Helen to the table.  She has recently discovered the concept of picnics.  As a result a number of pop up cafes have sprung up around our home.  In these locations various toy animals are treated to a variety of delicacies such as plastic toast, plastic potato, wooden fruit, plastic chicken drumstick, building blocks and (my personal favourite) mouldering apple.  I found a cache under a chair in the kitchen which had obviously been there for some time today.  These feeding areas are as sacrosanct as any religious site and cannot be interfered with under any circumstances even though the high chair the rats sit in entirely obstructs access to Helen’s own booster seat.  Furthermore once mealtime is announced Helen then has to make her rounds of the catering establishments checking that the needs of the toys are all met before she can possibly imagine eating something herself.  Whilst I admire her Little House on the Prarie – esq principles I really wish she would just sit down at the table and eat her dinner.

Once she had deigned to join us at the table she demanded a wholegrain cracker (because Sally had one) then proceeded to pile beans on top of it and then refuse to eat it because it looked ‘minging’.  She did eat most of her pizza but sneaked her broccoli onto Sally’s tray when she thought I wasn’t looking – Sally was looking though and that broccoli was a goner in no time.

Helen is always good whilst I am putting Sally to bed because I bribe her with children’s television.  Even better Cbeebies end at 7pm which is exactly when I lay Sally down so usually we don’t even have to argue over my brutal turning off of the television mid programme.  Not tonight though – Helen almost burst into tears at my high-handed turning off of the blank screen.

Next she refused to open her mouth to have her teeth brushed – I can’t remember what dire threat I came up, perhaps I threatened to pull the plug out of the bath but anyway I won and finally I had her pyjamas on and we were onto the home straight of bedtime.  We were onto the second story and my mind had wandered longingly to a cool class of white wine when Helen suddenly announced that she needed a picnic in bed and leaped up to start gathering the necessary utensils.  I staunchly continued the story but eventually I could not ignore her increasingly passionate demands for her plastic teapot.  A quick tour of the house failed to uncover the necessary tableware.  I tried reasoning with her – you don’t really need a teapot in bed surely a cup of tea will be enough.  Negotiation – I can’t find the teapot but you can have Sally’s caterpillar.  I tried being firm – Helen I’m getting quite cross now; you’re just going to have to go to bed without your teapot.  The final threat resulted in the flappy hands and jutting lip of the overtired two year old on the verge of a major tantrum.  We searched the house again.

Eventually she was snuggled up in bed with the teapot (which we had found in the tumble drier) a plastic roasting dish, a ladle and the toy rats (oh and Sally’s caterpillar).  I was about to start my rendition of twinkle twinkle little star when Helen played her trump card and announced that there were pets in her bed.  I don’t know where these pets have come from but every time Helen goes to bed it is now overrun with pets – species unspecified.  There appear to be so many of them that Helen could not possibly get in beside them.  Oh no!  I must pick them up and carry them to a cardboard box in the utility room (kept there specifically for that purpose) in which they will sleep.  Oftentimes the pesky creatures will escape during the night and Allan or I will be summoned to remove them which we do with increasingly bad grace as the hour grows later.  I don’t know where the idea came from.  Her imagination astounds me.  We also have a family of pigs living with us who frequently wave at Helen and make extremely funny jokes when I’m not listening.  If I had my way all of these unwanted house guests would be banished down to the weaves but Helen won’t hear of it.

Anyway both children are now safely tucked up in bed.  I am ignoring the cavorting and giggling coming from Helen’s room.  No doubt the pigs are keeping her entertained.  Now I’ve vented I’m off to look for that glass of wine.


Puppie’s picnic
Sally’s picnic


Computer says no

The internet has gone off.  Obviously the smart among you will realise that the internet must now be back on –otherwise how would I be writing this.  But as of 4:34 am on Saturday morning the internet was most definitely off.  I still had 8 assignments to go last night when I was cut off in my prime.  I had already waded through 20 papers discussing wounds of medico legal importance when – bam!  Suddenly I was cut off from the outside world.  I didn’t know what to do.  Obviously my first thought was to Google the problem my helpful diagnostics program had identified……….. Oh no……… internet.  Since I couldn’t finish work my mind briefly turned to searching eBay for a couple of things I need……..oh no…….no internet.  I made my way through the living room and whinged at Allan for a few minutes…………he seemed unmoved.

Once I had come to terms with the fact that I had an unexpected evening to myself I had to decide what to do with it.  A brief search of the SKY box confirmed that those in charge of television scheduling are not trying to encourage the likes of me to stay at home and watch television on a Friday night.  Watching Andy Murry win again at Wimbledon briefly lifted my sprits but all too soon BBC 2 turned to coverage of some sort of flower show.  Allan was transfixed.  Yes it’s true – he was glued to the screen watching in fascination as Monty Don wandered round supping real ale and extolling the virtue of one sort of agapanthus over another (I don’t even know if that is the real name of the flower…………I’ll Google it……….oh no……no internet).  I went off to have a bath feeling increasingly grumpy.  When I came back I thought I would do some research into the housing required for Quails.  I think Quail eggs are just the thing the shop needs and since I’m now officially scared of geese and a friend tells me ducks are dirty Quails seem to be the only direction my aviary can go in.  However my intentions were scuppered again………no internet.

I was forced to read my book which was no real hardship.  I’m reading Game of Thrones which is very enjoyable, my enjoyment is doubled by the fact that I know that the next two parts of the trilogy are waiting on the bookcase for me.  I don’t deal with well suspense.

Sally woke up at 4:15 for a feed and as soon as I was awake my first thoughts turned to my beloved BT hub.  Would I once again be connected with the outside world?  I sat down on the sofa officially to wait for Sally to go back to sleep before creeping back to bed but really so I could switch on the laptop and check in on the outside world………….no!  I remain in IT isolation.  Probably a good thing at this time in the morning.  When Sally was tiny I went through a terrible phase of eBay shopping on my iphone during night feeds.  I would then forget all about my nocturnal purchasing until the parcels would arrive a few days later.  Poor Allan (he’s so stingy he makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like a philanthropist) was most dismayed.

It’s funny though.  On Colonsay I seem to depend on the internet even more than I did on the mainland.  In Edinburgh I would have texted my boss to say I couldn’t get online and could she let my students know.  Sadly here I have no signal and my phobia of the landline is almost equal to my fear of geese.  Even when my internet was down at home I always had the option of nipping in to work where I could be fairly certain that the good old NHS remained online.  Here I am at the mercy of BT.  I can’t even update my blog properly.  I have lots of very exciting things to blog about – watch this space – but I’m so preoccupied with lack of connectivity that my fingers refuse to type anything else.

Sally seems to have capitulated – I haven’t heard any gleeful shrieking or kicking of the side of the cot for a few minutes so I’m going to save this as a humble word file and creep back to bed (it’s now exactly 05:01 in case you are interested.  This post has not taken 27 minutes to compose.  I have also visited the bathroom and checked on the fridge which is defrosting all over the kitchen floor).  Fear not gentle reader – the fact that you are reading this is a clear indication that I am once again in touch with the outside world and hopefully I will find myself able to blog about something more interesting very soon.

I suppose they are quite pretty. Photo credit –

Life after dog

To anyone who struggles to adjust after losing their beloved canine I have the perfect solution.  Get a pet sheep.  Sally lamb is doing her very best to fill the void.  She follows us everywhere bleating incessantly, she even made it into the kitchen yesterday.  She eats large quantities of very expensive food, craps outside the garden gate and knocks over my children.  Last week she followed our car all the way to the bottom of the field almost as if she wanted to come to the beach with us.  All she needs to do is learn to chase other sheep and a stick and she is the perfect Max replacement.

Sally lamb – photo credit goes to my lovely sister in law.

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