Monday, 30 March 2009

Lessons I should have learnt

I should know better.

On Saturday, having annoying dead skin around the base of my fingernail I picked at it (I know, I know - I can hear your gasps of horror from here!) Of course, the inevitable happened and I got rid of the dead skin. And some of the living stuff as well, so a large red area of open cut is spread across my finger.

This is sore. It is irritating and frustrating. Middle finger, left hand - not greatly used I would have thought, but nevertheless I am very conscious of it. Taking medical advice (unsympathetic doctor-husband) it is left open to the air in order to heal more quickly.

However, it would appear not I am not conscious enough. This morning, leaning into the dishwasher to remove a jug I scrape my open sore against the grater. And not the cheese side, but the lemon rind bit. 


Reach for those plasters ... !

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Questions you cannot answer

"Mummy, why are daffodils called daffodils when they really should be called Spring Trumpets?"

Wednesday, 18 March 2009


This term my daughter began spelling tests at school.

From the start they have seemed a peculiar bunch of words. What six-year-old uses the words 'blot' or 'lung' or 'squid' on a regular basis? 

My daughter struggles with them all, common and uncommon, succeeding last week in getting 0/10, which the teacher seemed remarkably undisturbed by. I would have thought she would want all her children to get at least half marks! Still, we persevere with daily practice and praise my daughter for everything we possibly can. She would get top marks for effort (or perhaps her parents should!). 

This week she has done really well, able to spell most of them out loud when she brought them home on Monday. That is, until the end.


then number 10:

Be delighted to know that by Friday there will be 30 children who are able to spell the name of a common British bird - won't know what one is, probably haven't ever seen one, but at least can spell chaffinch!!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Wiring up the house

We had a family trip to the Maker Faire on Saturday afternoon: a large tent filled with stalls where people demonstrate their ability to make things, primarily electronic gadgetry. Husband and son were in their element - making aerodynamic racing cars or contraptions that can carry a creme egg down a steep slope (my son particularly delighted about being able to keep the egg at the end!) My daughter and I? Cold, bored, fed up after a quick look round. And frightened by the mechanical horse (my daughter, rather than me: I conceded that this was an amazing piece of engineering).

Saturday night: husband spent a long time on-line researching some of the new initiatives he'd seen.

Sunday morning: he explains to my son how we can wire up the computer to a circuit board and control lights from there. They can come on and go off as we decide. Furthermore (and here's the scary bit) this technology can be extended from just the little bulb that is connected to the whole house. 

My son's eyes lit up.

We can set it to be voice sensitive. Walk into the room, say "ON" and the lights come on, "OFF" and the lights go off. We can create a scary burglar alarm. We can control the DS so that it won't work at certain times (son not necessarily quite so happy about that!)

Sunday lunch:
"Daddy, I've been thinking about the lights."

Oh no!

"We can set it up to control other things as well, so the washing machine comes on when we want it to," he says.

"Yes, and we could use sensors so the dishwasher goes on automatically when it knows it is full." My husband is encouraging this thinking.

And now my son gets quite excited. "And we can use it to control robots that will do the work for us. Such as hanging out the washing and folding it away."

Since when has my eight year old had any interest in the mechanics of washing? Oh, I get it - this is to try to get mum on his side.

"And this will save on electricity, only being used when we want it to, and so we'll have money to spend on food."

[I hasten to add: despite the credit crunch I do buy food. And feed it to them. ]

Thursday, 12 March 2009

New Year Resolution

It has been a hectic time chez Withenay, what with family illnesses and husband's new job and house hunting. The book has been taking too much of a back seat. Now it simply has to move higher up the 'to do' list and get sent out to publishers. If it were New Year this would be a resolution. (Come back in April to see if it has been broken yet!)

The wonderful Caroline Smailes at BubbleCow has given her editing advice on the first few chapters of Singing in a foreign land. I cannot thank her enough for this - apart from the fact I have had to re-write the first chapter completely. Don't you just hate it when people are right? My word-count for the day has involved a lot of cutting and pasting, and I'm not sure whether those words truly count.

So, the next job is to buy a whole load of big brown envelopes, another ream (or two) of pristine white paper and a comfy travel chair for sitting in the queue at the Post Office. 

[Or, of course, to fill in the application form for a mortgage. Ah, the eternal conflict between what I want to do and what I need to do!]

Next week I am reading some of it as part of the local Festival week - exciting and scary all at once, so wish me luck!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Middle Age

I have a definition of Middle Age. It isn't hit at a particular age. There isn't a milestone that we all reach that is the point you tip over from young to middle-aged. It isn't when you throw off the freedom of youth and take on the cares and pains of parenthood.

No, middle age is the period in your life when you are looking after both your children and your parents. 

Last week my father had a minor stroke - so minor it is not called a stroke but a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). Thankfully, after nearly a week in hospital, he is home again, deemed fit enough to survive on his own. Physically he is as fit as he was before (he is waiting on a heart bypass operation) but he is slightly dysphasic, being unable to recall and speak words properly. This is heartbreaking for him, a man who has loved words all his life, writes wonderful poetry and always has a book on the go. Still: he is home alone and seems to be doing very well.

Then yesterday, as Dad settles in at home, my daughter throws up all over the bathroom floor (thank goodness: I hate getting vomit out of carpets). Middle Age: looking after both generations.

Thinking all this over has led me to a controversial thought. Last week statistics were brought out that showed an increase in teenage pregnancies. This is seen as a Bad Thing. Loss of education, loss of the freedom of youth, loss of innocence. Often teenage pregnancies happen in families for generation after generation. I began to wonder if this was the better way to evolve, whether we should relax about these young families. After all, if granny is not yet forty there is much less chance that any one person will be caring for both the preceding and succeeding generation. Granny is probably helping look after baby whilst great-granny is caring for great-great-granny. 

Perhaps such people never hit middle age. Right now, that seems a wonderful thing to avoid!

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