Thursday, December 29, 2005

In the 'good old days', you married younger, had your children, then you were free to start taking care of elderly relatives. But today, we marry later, with the inevitable knock-on effect: our elders get older before our kids have grown up, and we find ourselves struggling with a double-whammy of care issues whilst still holding down a full-time job.

I believe oriental societies take much more care of their elders within the family. But I don't understand how they deal with the issue of working at the same time. I mean, if your relative has Alzheimer's, then they can't be left alone. But there must be the same economic issues of needing to maintain your level of income at the same time as caring for your relatives ... how do they do it?!

SuperSpouse and I were talking about our friends' situation. One is fit, and loves to travel abroad in pursuit of his hobby. But how can he do it, if his wife can't manage alone? If grown-up children are busy with their own lives and possibly unable to move into the family home whilst he's away? On the face of it, you can draw your own conclusions - the able partner's life is limited whilst protecting the vulnerable one.

With Alzheimers', the sufferer does - certainly initially - know that something is going wrong. It's frustrating. They imagine that sometime they will "get better". Our elderly auntie was persuaded to go to a care home for "a fortnight's respite care". She was far enough along the track not to realise that it was an awfully long fortnight. She'd already been having carers come to the home to provide her meals and see that she'd got dressed in the morning. Indeed, by the time she was asked if she would like to stay - and she was asked, in a lengthy consultation between care staff, social workers, herself and SuperSpouse - she couldn't remember where she'd been before. And it was an inevitability - once she'd been three times found wandering out in the street, unable to find her way home. She hadn't strayed more than a hundred yards, but she didn't know her home.

Occasionally we're asked, "didn't I have a house?". Or there will be the comment, "Oh, I'm just stupid." It used to be "Oh, I'm just stupid - I can't imagine how I held down a job like mine. It must have worn out my brain." But that has stopped. All you can say, is "not stupid - just forgetful." She'll have forgotten the conversation within a minute, anyway.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

As Wednesday dawned, Customer Care caringly told me that I could have a washing-machine engineer call me on Thursday. This was because "my" area mechanic was still off sick. It seemed fair enough.

Within half an hour, no.1 son yelled that the Dolphin electric shower had stopped working (their Customer Care answering machine told me they were operating a skeleton service on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and invited me to leave a message) - and I'd simultaneously discovered that my new "all-in-one" printer/copier/scanner came complete with everything but a USB cable. Aw, shucks!

Things could only get better. And they did. A ring at the doorbell brought a washing-machine engineer, oblivious to the fact that he wasn't free until tomorrow. Obviously the Saturday Customer Care lady had taken care of his schedule for this morning, even though Wednesday's girl had no record of it! My washing machine is functioning again - and it was done under warranty. I'm quids in already, with eleven months' warranty to go.

The Dolphin skeletal Customer Care lady then phoned to say that we could have a shower mechanic could visit us a week tomorrow. Ah well, we can live without a shower, easier than without a washing machine. They'll have to have baths for a change. Lovely!

Anyway, that was most of this morning gone. I read a few pages in preparation for writing the research paper that will have been delivered in just over a week ... then fixed lunch.

This afternoon, no.3 son and I went to the opticians, got his eyes tested and specs straightened out; then to pay in cheques at the bank; finally to the cobbler to mend SuperSpouse's shoes, and the supermarket for sweeties. I needed a form stamped and signed at the hospital, but the department was closed and no-one else was willing to use their stamp. Resisting the urge to stamp our feet instead, we came home. SuperSpouse has gone in search of a USB cable.

Cinderella to the last, I must clean the kitchen floor (after the washing-machine mechanic), and turn the last of the turkey into a curry for tea.

It's a great life, innit?!

If you're in the UK, I hope you're watching Jamie's School Dinners on Channel 4 at 7 pm? Jamie Oliver, that is. It's compelling viewing.

I have to say at this point that our family actually lives in Scotland! So we've no experience of the truly awful school dinners served up in England these days. 37p for a nourishing meal? Virtually impossible! Scotland does rather better, I believe. No.1 son is thriving on Healthy Options (bribed by the thought of a John Lewis voucher) - but our two Primary aged boys have packed lunches, so we know roughly what they're eating!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


We still haven't got the washing machine fixed, but the bedroom wall-heaters are back on the walls. Does that sound weird? Well, no.3 son pulled the heater off his big brother's wall, some months ago. Meaning it couldn't be used. It's freezing outside, so it seems reasonable to expect wall-heaters to keep " inside" warm. Meanwhile, SuperSpouse bought a new heater for our bedroom, a few weeks ago, when the old one gave up the ghost. But he hadn't gotten round to fixing it onto the wall.

However, he has fixed them both, now! Oh, happy day - I am much happier using a wall-heater that is securely attached to a wall, rather than sitting on two suede shoes and leaning against a chest of drawers ...

Three cheers for SuperSpouse.

Meanwhile, no.3 son has had a friend round to play, and no.2 son has started assembling his Christmas Warhammer miniatures, so happiness abounds.

I have only to START writing this conference paper. I can't put it off much longer - I have just about all the info I need, and I just have to jump in with both feet and write the thing!

Monday, December 26, 2005

"Mother never allowed us to sew on a Sunday."

I was mending no.2 son's anorak and shortening school trousers. "I know, May", I responded. "But today isn't Sunday - it's Monday."

"Oh, I know - but you know, Mother never allowed us to sew on a Sunday."

We got to talking about old times, and what a Scottish Sunday was like in the 1930's, 40's and even 50's. You couldn't go out to play. You couldn't read a novel. You could read your Bible, or listen to religious programmes on the wireless. But then, as Super-Spouse pointed out, once you'd been to church in the morning, Sunday School in the afternoon and church in the evening - not to mention visiting the relatives - there wasn't much time to do anything that would defile the Sabbath.

I got back to shortening trousers.

"Mother never allowed us to sew on a Sunday", May repeated. Super-Spouse's aunt has Alzheimer's. She cannot remember anything for even 30 seconds.

But the strange thing is, her manners are impeccable. She's grateful for being invited to lunch, anxious that her hostess hasn't been to too much trouble, and appreciative of the meal. She politely asks after the boys, and their schools, and our holiday plans. The social niceties, dinned into her seventy-odd years ago, have remained as sharp as when her mother trained the little girl how to behave "in company".

Super-Spouse has just taken her back to her rest-home. I cleared away the post-prandial tea-cups, then went up to the bathroom.

A scrunched-up piece of soiled toilet-paper lay beside the wash-basin. Alzheimer's robs people of their dignity. It's scary to stop and reflect that I or any of my peers could end up going the same way. One of our sons' godmothers has recently been diagnosed. And she's only in her early seventies. A tall, strong-looking woman, once capable of running a household, now becoming confused and fearful for the future. Loads of old people have dementia - thousands of tragedies on a small, family scale.

Cheery stuff for Boxing Day, isn't it?!

There is one more thing I must do now. Whilst Super-Spouse was out collecting his aunt, I phoned the rest-home to say he was on his way. No-one came to the phone, so I left a voicemail. There's only one problem - I subsequently realised that I hadn't phoned the rest-home. I had phoned our eldest son's halls of residence. Oh, golly ... So now I must phone to say "ignore the last message, I was confused." Confusion abounds today!

The cold and sore throat that laid me low last Monday is still with me. I've had enough of it, but it hasn't had enough of me yet. You can only do so much for so long. If you persist in overdoing things, then eventually your body comes to a screaming halt. I still have to write that conference paper for a week on Thursday. I'll start tomorrow - not today. Please God, not today.

I've just read an interesting autobiography by American oboist Blair Tindall - Mozart in the jungle : sex, drugs and classical music. It was lent to me by an American musician friend who knows I'm an oboist. It made interesting reading. At the age of forty, Tindall got sick of scraping by as a freelance musician, went back to college and trained to be a journalist. She now combines both careers. She doesn't recommend life as a freelance musician unless you're really aware of what you're taking on and what you're giving up. (You'll find details of the book on the sidebar to the right of my posting.)

At the age of seventeen, I didn't fancy life as a freelance musician. I opted for the career and the pension plan. In that, my path differs drastically from Tindall's. But I clung to the music that I excelled at. Was it a wise move? Like Tindall, my mid-life crisis has me asking whether I really used my abilities to best advantage. Should I not have left music as a hobby and gone for a better-paid job with better career-prospects? The autobiography is interesting and amusing at times. But the conclusions she draws are devastating. The bubble has burst with classical music. The growth of the eighties has slowed down. Too many orchestras, poor pay, poor prospects. What a sad way to end a book!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A seven-year old's Christmas:-
  • Plan number 1. Wake up middle brother.
  • Plan number 2. Wake up big brother.
  • Plan number 3. Wake up mum and dad.
  • Plan number 4. Open stocking.
  • Final plan. Go downstairs and open more presents.

Succinct, logical - says it all, really. We've stated firmly that 6.30 am is plenty early enough ...

No.3 son was a perfect patient. Indeed, he bounded into hospital for his day-surgery. He was happy and co-operative, and as for driving the four-by-four to the operating theatre - you couldn't have held him back. It was only as the anaesthetic was adminstered that he looked up and said, "Uh-oh, this is the going-to-sleep bit, isn't it?" It was.

I went for my half-hour cup of coffee in the canteen at that stage. I was irritated to be told by the cashier that because I had my coffee in a brown rather than a red paper cup, strictly speaking she ouught to have charged me more? In God's name, why? I expressed myself rather firmly. How on earth could I have known that you needed different cups for different vending machines?

Back I trotted to the room marked "Parent waiting area", and waited. More than half an hour passed, and I was still waiting. Worried, I went to ask if he was back from theatre yet. Yes, he was still sleeping. My child slept not for the anticipated 30 minutes, but for 90. An anxious time.

He was very concerned to find his arm painted yellow with iodine, above and below the bandage. The yellow bothered him far more than the big bandage. Anyway, he had his cereals, then we went to play in the playroom until it was time for him to be discharged.

At this stage, the wheel came off. He liked being given chocolate "from Santa", but didn't see why he was advised to wait until he'd had a meal before he got stuck in. And he really objected to having his arm elevated in a sling. Considering he'd been allowed to sit and play - with both hands - on the X-box for over an hour, it didn't make sense that he was now being told not to use his arm!

We left with the perfect patient shouting and raging, kicking walls, banging doors ... I hope we don't have to go back!

I had woken up at 4 am, frightened to sleep in case I overslept the time by which the patient was allowed his last drink. I had eaten my own breakfast at 7 am, and apart from the brown cup coffee and a Mars bar, I had eaten nothing all day. By the time we got home at 3.30 pm, I was tired and weepy. This cold still hasn't shifted, which didn't help. Notwithstanding how I felt, I had to go shopping for a house-coat for Super-Spouse's aged auntie, last night.

Notwithstanding how I felt, I had to go and do the supermarket run today, too. The only way to make it bearable was to go early. I went at six am. Once home, I went to bed, and didn't waken until 11.35 am!

Remember the washing machine saga? It packed up again today. I realised at 2.30 pm. I managed to speak to the insurance helpline, and the customer care helpline, but was told that the only Scottish electrician was off sick with no cover available over the Christmas period.

I have a good fairy in my neighbour Alice, who did a load of washing for me this afternoon. And on Boxing Day (Monday), I've suggested to Super-Spouse that he could put a batch of washing in Aged Auntie's machine (in her empty flat) before going to collect her from her old folks' home - and retrieve it, washed, when he takes her back after lunch.

Aaagh, it's enough to make you scream. Still, at least I did buy the expensive repair-plan, so hopefully all will be sorted out.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men - and please God, nae mair arguments in oor hoose over the festive period!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blooming kids!
  • No.1 son forgot to give me the slip of paper telling me the amount I had to write a cheque for, in payment for his music exam.
  • Whether or not I had other things to do, I had to take the cheque across to his hall of residence this evening, or he'd miss the payment deadline tomorrow.
  • No.2 son went into a strop, because he didn't want to go with me to take the cheque.
  • As I locked the front door, no.2 son vented his bad temper on his little brother, thumping no.3 son, whose glasses fell off and broke. In the dark. The arm came off, to be more precise - luckily the glass was intact. All three boys have glasses. Only no.3 son wears them all the time for severe long-sightedness. He couldn't manage school without them. He can't cross the road safely without them, either, since he couldn't actually see the "red man" or "green man" signals clearly. This was a disaster!

We delivered the cheque. Came home. I despatched both boys to bed, took their hot chocolate and biscuits upstairs, and once the light was out, went back down to try to mend the glasses. I butchered two old pairs of glasses to get spare screws. Goodness knows how many are somewhere on the floor. I tried various screwdrivers, tweezers, tried wearing my own close-reading glasses - nothing worked. After 110 minutes, Super-Spouse came home. He tried a good bit longer - still no luck. Finally, we abandoned the struggle. The screws were too tiny, our fingers too big, the screwdrivers not magnetic, and the screw-holes didn't seem to line up properly.

No.2 son was still sobbing because he knew he'd done wrong. No.3 son was by this time fast asleep.

Super-Spouse disappeared upstairs, checked his emails, and vanished into the bathroom. Stealthily, I decided to have another go at mending the specs. This time I applied Pritt-Stick to the screwdriver, in the hope of keeping the screw slightly attached to it as I positioned it. Ten minutes later - BINGO!!!!!

I proudly proclaim myself not only Queen of the Superglue, but now Queen of the Superglue and Pritt-Stick to boot! Don't know how well the screw will stay in, but it is in.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Join Pseudo-Supermum in my darkest hour. Tuesday before Christmas. I had a raging sore throat yesterday (a day's leave, if you please! I had research that simply had to be done whilst the Uni Special Collections were open) - and today it was no better. I felt lousy. Time to phone in sick. I haven't had a day off sick in over 18 months, so it isn't as though I abuse the system. I lay and sweated and snoozed in bed, reflecting that it was a shame I am practically obliged to be back at work tomorrow for staff training.

Haven't been able to get what I have in mind for SuperSpouse - you can be sure the shops will have sold out by tomorrow evening. What am I to do? Amazon.co.uk have "it" in stock, but getting it two days after Christmas is not exactly what I had in mind. I really am up the creek this time.

I've just laid out all Santa's contributions in three matching piles to ensure they're roughly equal. Got it put away just before no.2 son appeared (at 11 pm) complaining he couldn't sleep. Chased him away, and heaved a sigh of relief that I got away with it this time. Too close for comfort.

Enough is enough. Groan, sigh.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Running scared - Pseudo-Supermum is disappearing down the Christmas plug-hole! I'm behind with Christmas, behind with research (make that stationary!), behind with general paperwork, behind with mending ...

More anon.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hamster curled, cold, ceased?
Slightest shallow breath - the last?
Day dawns. Normal now!

I could get hooked on haiku - they save so much time!

Slept in this morning. Panto in the afternoon. Online Christmas shopping after tea, then out to Toys 'R Us. When, oh when will I get any research done? Time to get boys to bed, hot water bottles and hot chocolate made, then I'll have had enough for one day.

Sigh!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Haiku for a headache

Tent-spike skewers skull,
VDU monitor glares;
My intellect's dull.

That's it for Tuesday, folks - can't look at the screen any more.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

There's a lot to be said for haiku - their brevity, especially. Wikipedia tells me they roughly correspond to 5, 7 and 5 Western syllables.

So, can I summarise a night in a haiku? Try me!

Audience clapping;
Sons sitting still, praised warmly;
Bouquet warms my heart.

If I were to write one for Super-Spouse, however, it might look slightly different.

Sweat running freely,
Master of the podium,
Satisfied maestro!

After the concert, we were all exhausted, and tumbled into bed without a backward glance. It went well, and everyone was happy - who could ask for more?

This afternoon, I've been Dealing with Christmas again. Once you've looked at Plan, you might like to visit Traidcraft!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

You know my views on Christmas - you take a busy life, then for the last month in the year, you try to fit in twice as much as you normally struggle to do.

I've discovered gifts4life.org (https://gifts4life.org) - and I must say, I think it's brilliant. I'm benefitting people in the third world, and at the same time, my friends know I've been thinking about them. I've asked my parents if they'd like a goat (or something), but they may not approve of the idea. We'll see!

It's a typical Saturday - swimming lessons first thing, back home, then out to Middle Man's guitar lesson. He was in a grump - didn't see why he should drag himself back out again. (I reminded him that he WANTED to learn the guitar ...)

SuperSpouse is away out to replace our bedroom wall-heater. Knowing we're heading for a cold winter, it has given up the ghost - and is heading for the scrapheap in the sky.

Tonight, it's SuperSpouse's choir concert. I'm accompanying them - I must do some piano practice right now ...

Cello Boy is going ten-pin bowling tonight, but the other two are coming to the concert with us. I wonder if I dare suggest a bath and hairwash in the middle of the afternoon, so they won't smell of swimming-pool?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Introducing Skin-of-the-teeth Pseudo-Supermum! I had a meeting with my research supervisor this afternoon. I had promised to write an abstract for a conference paper. It wasn't as though I put off doing it - far from it - I just didn't have the time to get all the reading done that I considered necessary before writing the abstract. You'll have seen what last week was like.

Yesterday, my alarm woke me at 6.15 am. I was on the 7.45 train to Edinburgh, spent the morning in the Uni Library, and left at 2.15 pm. It's a bloody steep climb up all those steps to the Royal Mile, with a laptop on your back and a briefcase in your aching hand. Puff, gasp. Going to get my blood-pressure and cholesterol checked next week - about time, too. Then it's a trudge from the Royal Mile to the Uni Library, and of course, a trudge back again. At least the steps aren't quite such a killer when you're going back down them!

Fell asleep on the train back to Glasgow, but perked myself up with a double-strength caffeinated instant coffee when I got to work - and worked until 8.30 pm. Back home, had tea, did some domestic paperwork and phoned Mother, then sat down to do yet more reading. At midnight, I gave up.

I hadn't written the abstract.

This morning, I glanced at a few pages of my notes before starting work at 9. Wrote a third of the abstract in my coffee-break, two-thirds in my lunch-break, and rewarded myself with a coffee in the grotty student union coffee-bar before keeping my supervision appointment at 4 this afternoon. I couldn't believe that I actually had that abstract in my hands! True, it has been reworked a little, but it's done, done, done!

Now I need to type up and submit the abstract, then resume the reading that is necessary before I can start writing the paper. Ho-hum.

Oh yes, and practice the piano - I'm accompanying Super-Spouse's choir in a concert on Saturday. I meet them for the first time tomorrow. I hope they aren't too disappointed in me.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

So what has happened this week? Shadow (the gerbil) died on Tuesday. He was a dear little creature, had a long and happy life despite the fact that I was the only one who ever played with him - and now I have one less cage to clean. Hardly a ripple on the pond in the grand scheme of things.

The washing machine lapsed into unconsciousness but was cured with a new belt, and Middle-Man was pronounced a fraud. No further chest pains have been reported. Those hard-to-swallow antacid tablets must be working their magic.

Keen to cut down on Jobs for the Girls (well, Girl), I have just put all four goldfish in ONE tank. Why should I clean out two tanks where one will do? I'd do the same for the hamsters were it not for the fact that I don't want an elderly primagravida on my hands.

Forging ahead on the family front, we have all had haircuts, all been out for a tandoori to celebrate Cello-Boy's success in his piano exam - and I've ordered new net curtains to smarten up the house before Christmas.

Meanwhile, our youngest son has a date for the surgery on his arm. He doesn't know yet - no point in alarming him. We are in disagreement as to whether 23rd December is a good date for surgery. I maintain it means he won't need any time off school afterwards, which is a totally good thing. Super-Spouse thinks it's a shame that it falls so close to Christmas. I couldn't agree more - but I still think it's a good thing. And it means the lump gets removed before it gets any bigger. I hate the thought of this surgery - I'm very anxious about it, to be honest - but it'll be good to get it out of the way. Shiver!

As for this proposed paper at the next conference - I haven't a scooby what to talk about, and have less than a week in which to write an abstract. Not good. Excuse me while I get back to my research - I live in hope that inspiration will hit me in a blinding flash, between now and my next meeting with my supervisor.

I've spent so much time at computers, both at work and at home, that repetitive strain has knackered both my hands. Can't be helped. I just go back to wearing a wrist-support on the left hand, and stagger on.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Witness the disintegration of Pseudo-Supermum. Super-stressed at work (but we don't write about that), slightly-stressed at church (choir + Christmas = concern), and as for home .....

Don't go there!

Yesterday morning, I was getting dressed when Super-Spouse yelled upstairs, "You'd better come and see the washing-machine - I think the drive-belt has gone." I looked, listened, and observed. Something had indeed "gone".

This was 7.45 am. I go out at 8 am. The repair hotline helpfully told me to ring back during duty-hours, but didn't specify which hours they worked. I can tell you now - they start at 8.35 am. Same or next day service, the leaflet said. It had to be next day, which is why I'm sitting at home today, having had to take a day's leave. The good news is that the five-year parts warranty expires next Monday, so hopefully any parts will be covered. (There was a previous occasion when the dishwasher went wrong the day before the warranty ran out.)

Off I dashed to work, pausing for a decent cup of coffee as I walked past a hotel cafe-bar which permits "carry-outs".

Back home again - this is going to sound like deja-vu: Middle-man was pale, complaining of a "tight chest". He really wasn't himself - no question of going to Boys' Brigade.

  • I rang the health-centre;
  • Got diverted to NHS 24;
  • Got told to go to the health-centre;
  • Got referred to Yorkhill, the children's hospital, "though I'm pretty sure it isn't appendicitis";
  • Saw a nurse;
  • Saw a registrar, who thought it was a muscular pain - not cardiac, and probably not digestive. "You usually get people of 70 with a cardiac condition describing tightness in the chest - not a nine-year old." I smiled wrily. "Yes, his dad is approaching 70, with a cardiac condition. So this boy has learned the vocabulary!"
  • Finally saw the consultant surgeon, who prescribed antacid tablets and described what an appendicitis sufferer would really be like after two weeks of intermittent pain. I might add that the "sufferer" had walked from the car-park to Accident and Emergency at a normal speed with little discomfort, and indeed was wriggling and giggling on the couch by the time we eventually saw the consultant surgeon. Also, he possibly didn't want to go to Boys' Brigade ... well, now he knows what happens when people take your complaint seriously.

As I said to the invalid, maybe we should have made him wait for the washing-machine mechanic, who would probably have had a few basic common-sense observations to make about the child's plumbing, before he got started on the washing-machine!

So, I await the plumber. Then I can practise the accompaniments for Super-Spouse's choral concert, choose a whole new set of music for the church choir to sing in December, do some research reading (didn't get any done last night, obviously), and go to Cello-Boy's parents' evening. (When did "evening" end at 6 pm?)

Cello-Boy got a distinction for his Grade 4 piano, yesterday. And has been rewarded. Middle-man is completely furious about that!

The Canadian Neuro-Optic Research Institute are to thank for the hypochondriac image! The washing-machine gif is from a handbook called Maytag Washer Repair.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Subject: Avian Flu symptoms (this one flew from Switzerland to Australia to Scotland, and none of the recipients have suffered any of the dreaded symptoms ... yet.)

The Center for Disease Control has released a list of symptoms of bird flu. If you experience any of the following, please seek medical treatment immediately:

1. High fever
2. Congestion
3. Nausea
4. Fatigue
5. Aching in the joints
6. An irresistible urge to s*** on someone's windshield.

And another joke for you. A man and his octopus walk into a bar, and the man says, "I bet you lot £50 that my octopus can play any instrument you give it."

So one man gives him a trumpet - the octopus loosens the keys and plays a jazz solo. £50 in the pocket.

Another man hands the octopus a guitar - the octopus tunes up the strings and plays a Spanish dance. £50 more.

All the while, the barman has been watching. He goes round the back and brings out a set of bagpipes. "I'll give you £100 if your octopus can play these."

The octopus takes the pipes, and examines them closely, but doesn't play them. The octopus's owner walks over and shouts at the octopus, "What are you waiting for? Play them!!!!!!!!!!!!"

The octopus replies, "If I could work out how to take its pyjamas off, I'd make love to it."

(Cello Boy hopes none of my readers will be offended ...)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What was I saying about that Bad Mother badge? I came home from work today, hadn't even got my foot over the threshold, and ...

"Mum, can you help me stick these metal figures together? Now?"

But I could smell that the evening meal was just about cooked to perfection. "Can we just see if Dad's about to serve up tea, before we start gluing things?" Super-Spouse would quite rightly be a bit narked if I rolled my sleeves up for a craft session just when he was about to serve up tea!

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. IT'S NOT FAIR. YOU NEVER LET ME DO WHAT I WANT. YOU WON'T HELP ME. YOU ALWAYS SPOIL THINGS. Boo-hoo, and so on, and so forth.

Even as I write this, I have a little metal warrior perched on the dining-table behind me, Blu-Tack propping up his head and weapon-laden left arm while the superglue dries. It is 10.45 pm, and hopefully the warrior's owner is fast asleep. (The right arm was glued on after tea, but you could really only do one side at a time.) Do you think I've redeemed myself?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lord, now what do I do? My supervisor has suggested I submit an abstract for a paper at another conference. There's just one problem - the conference is just after the New Year. And -er - when do I get to research the paper, never mind write it?

Even as I write, I feel myself turning into one of the army of Santa's Little Helpers. And Santa doesn't allow much time for his helpers to have a life of their own! (Image is from Santasuits.com - what every Little Helper surely needs at this time of year.)

On a totally different topic - will I make it to a meeting in Edinburgh tomorrow morning? I am completely shattered. If I make it to work at all it'll be a miracle. Yes, yes, I know - I'm always saying that, and I've never failed to turn up yet. But right now, the thought of trecking across to Edinburgh has little appeal, apart from the potential opportunity for an hour's kip on the train in each direction!

I've just fetched Middle Man back from his Boys' Brigade session, five miles away. We stopped off to buy a small bottle of Irn Bru, loads of de-icing stuff for both cars, and a windscreen scraper for SuperSpouse.

Back home, I filled Middle Man's hot water bottle while he finished his homework.

Then came the tantrum: it simply wasn't fair that I wasn't willing to glue Games Workshop fantasy figures at 9.55 pm! He's nine. It's dreadful getting him to waken in the morning, at the best of times. Hear this - I refuse to wear the Bad Mother badge!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Proof that my menfolk need me: last weekend, I was in Manchester. Super-Spouse took Cello-Boy back to his halls of residence.

Yesterday, Cello-Boy had no fleeces or jumpers at all. This morning, he had "no shirts to put on". Where were they? Oh, they were all too small. Yes, but where were they? In his halls of residence.

Pseudo-Supermum took him back to his halls this evening, and checked the shirt situation. As I thought. He had eleven long/short-sleeved tee-shirts, and three fleeces. They're only needed for him to change into (if he can be bothered) on Monday-Thursday evenings.

I left two of each, and brought the rest home. They aren't all too small - can't possibly be! And we'll sort them out next weekend. Mums are quite useful.

Mums are also useful for ordering CDs, washing, ironing, cooking .... sigh!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Have you noticed how Google ads nearly always link themselves into what you've been writing about? So, having mentioned my footwear, Google has decided what kind of footwear it is. I'm not that kind of girl!

Now, having mentioned my recent weird dreams, I wonder what Google will come up with next? Ah well, let's try and confuse it!

I know I ought to be proof-reading my scholarly article right now. (I will, in a minute.) I keep thinking of little snacks I could eat, though. The apple was okay. The chocolate biscuit was nice. The tiny chewy sweetie wasn't really that wicked. But they're all distractions, and I should stop allowing myself to be so distracted!

Cello-boy is home for the weekend. Last Sunday night, when I was on the train back from Manchester, he texted me to say he needed a piece of music by James MacMillan, for Wednesday. I phoned ten places on Monday, in my efforts to track it down. Finally, I found it in Kensington Chimes music shop, and had it posted to his school. It arrived today, and he was given it at the end of the day.

It's hard to be cross with a kid who wants to try out his new music straight away - even if it is 11.15 pm, after Boys' Brigade! We discovered that "Northern Skies" is rather nice. It was commissioned by Cello-boy's teacher, in fact. He was quite tickled by that.

On the radio, on the way back from Boys' Brigade, we heard the latest boy-soprano sensation. A nice, well-tuned voice, but the tone wasn't a patch on Aled Jones' angelic treble. I'm listening to an old cassette right now, just to remind myself what a beautiful voice he had. Still does, as a tenor. Lucky guy!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I'd just dropped the boys off somewhere - I forget where - and somehow got lost on my way back. I have no sense of direction - it's a standing joke both at home and amongst friends. Finally I realised where I was, and decided to nip home before continuing on to work. There was a police car outside the house. The front and back gardens had been dug up. The place had been searched. My husband was standing alone in the lounge, and I looked at him enquiringly. "They're looking for the papers", he muttered under his breath.

What papers was he referring to? Why hadn't he shredded them, if he didn't want them found?!

And then I woke up. Do you know, I couldn't get back to sleep. I kept thinking, guiltily, I must have forgotten about those papers. (He's always getting mad at me for forgetting what I've been told.) Why were they so important? He'd have told me about them. He'd surely have told me if he was in some kind of trouble.

Finally, two hours later, he awoke. "What papers?", I demanded.

"Eh?"

I told him.

"You must have been dreaming - forget it."

So that's okay then. Or at least, it was until last night. I woke up to find my hair being pulled, and my head roughly lifted, by the hair, from off the pillow.

"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"

He looked at me, blearily. "I thought you were someone else."

"SOMEONE ELSE IN MY BED? I'M YOUR WIFE, AND YOU'VE JUST ASSAULTED ME!"

His head sank back onto the pillow. "Oh, sorry ..." he mumbled, and went back to sleep. Maybe we should stop having cheese late at night? I tell you, I'm grateful that I live an utterly boring, law-abiding life by day. I'm not used to police searches and domestic assault at night!

Monday, November 07, 2005


Still trying to find out the derivation of the term, Killer Heels. I found Amazon selling a novel by that title - but I'm no more enlightened.

Come to think of it, my own killer heels aren't half as glam, and I still find them uncomfortable. Should I take them back to the shop unworn, maybe?

Woke up in my Manchester hotel to find it was pouring. So, I wasn't going to wear my new killer heels to walk all the way to the conference venue. Why do the fashionistas refer to "killer heels"? Are the heels supposed to smite with desire all those who cast eyes on the wearer? Or do the heels just kill their owner's feet?

Be that as it may, it was a brisk 20-minute walk to the conference centre, even in normal footwear. The idea of tottering all that way in the rain was a complete no-no. Apart from my misgivings as to whether I'd then be capable of standing to read my paper, standing at coffee and lunchtime, and getting back to the station at the end of the day. Not wearing the heels meant not wearing the skirt (they were the only shoes that I had with me, and the ankle boots only "went" with trousers) - so I looked smart enough, but not quite how I'd intended to look.

As if it mattered! After all that effort, all those hours of blood, sweat and tears, do you know how many people turned up to hear my paper? Nine. One was the person chairing the session, and one was my supervisor. Talk about the loneliness of the long-distance runner. The loneliness of the self-financing, part-time research student is far worse!

There was a landslide on the railway line, mercifully after I'd passed Lancaster on Friday. There was a little concern about whether it would be cleared before my return journey. Bliss! All was well. But - surely it can't be right that a 200-mile journey should take seven whole hours? Granted I had to wait at Preston for an hour, since a Glasgow train only stops there every two hours. I suppose I must be grateful that I didn't have to wait an hour and fifty-nine minutes! I got a lot of proof-reading done during the train journey.

Got home, knackered. I haven't fully unpacked yet. I've done two loads of laundry, baked scones, talked to a library job agency, flicked in a desultory way through some paperwork ...

I ought to do some more proof-reading. Maybe a caffeinated coffee would inspire me?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

He's pale; he's got a pain in his side; and the childminder thinks it might be appendicitis.

So said SuperSpouse at 4.40 pm this afternoon. "What should I do?", he continued. So I suggested going to see the doctor straight away - not tomorrow, if it was potentially so serious.

Then I tidied up my desk, got ready to go home, stopped off to buy my own patent appendicitis diagnostic test, and got the underground. No.2 son hadn't got a temperature, wasn't being sick, wasn't off his food, didn't feel ill, and had been running round at Boys' Brigade completely unimpaired last night.

I wondered, hypothetically, how I could get out of the Manchester conference at which I'm giving a paper on Sunday.

Anyway, the doctor pummelled no.2 son's tummy, had him squirming and giggling all over the couch, and said that it certainly wasn't appendicitis.

I got home and adminstered my own test. Screams of delight from both boys. Only a truly sick child would turn down a packet of sweeties! It turns out that the childminder had told SuperSpouse about her own burst appendix, in full detail, with the "patient" in earshot. He was scared rigid!

On a different subject - I had an enjoyable lunch with a colleague today, then bought new shoes and a new compact briefcase in 20 minutes' flat. Never mind if my research paper is brilliant or boring, at least I shall look the part. And yes, don't worry - I promise to wear clothes in between the shoes and the briefcase. Manchester couldn't cope with a naked Pseudo-Supermum!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I've finished my paper! In between taking no.2 son to Boys' Brigade, dropping in on Cello Boy on the way back to collecting no.2 son after Boys' Brigade, and chasing sons nos.2 and 3 to bed, I have made the last modifications both to the paper and to the accompanying handout. Yippee!

Tomorrow, with a bit of luck, I'm going to be feminine and frivolous and try to buy a new pair of shoes to wear whilst I read my paper at the conference. Other people buy shoes for receptions and parties - I buy them for research papers. Ah, well. Why should I conform?! I'm also going out for lunch with a friend. Let's celebrate Thursday - a day when Pseudo-Supermum can congratulate herself on:
  • finishing the paper;
  • seeing a work-related article appear in print;
  • successfully hosting a meeting for fellow professionals today.

I also have to get a fair load of work done, if I don't want to come back to a massive workload next Tuesday after our mid-term day off.

I set off for Manchester on the 7.40 am train on Friday morning. I've done a lovely flowchart of who does what, when, for SuperSpouse. It's full of text-boxes, and is a thing of beauty. Whatever did we do before computers? I could have created the same page on a typewriter - and I have a typing qualification to prove it - but I wouldn't have. It would have been too much effort!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Two clean hamster cages, two clean goldfish bowls, a couple of interruptions by guisers trick-or-treating, and a phone-call from home. Is it any wonder I haven't got a huge amount of research done?

I wish the boys cared more about their pets! I don't mind having them - I quite like having cute little furry faces peeking out at me, and I talk to them whenever I see them. I like to see them pouncing eagerly on a titbit of lettuce or carrot. But I wish the boys would show a bit of interest other than just feeding them. I used to play with my hamsters. (Still do, on odd occasions!) And I cleaned them regularly. I still do that, too. BUT IT SHOULDN'T BE ME, should it?

Tomorrow, I have to read my research paper to my supervisor. I hope it's improved after all my efforts in recent days! Never let it be said that I'm getting cold feet...

Tell me something - how is it that, having had my hair coloured for the first time in over 20 years,not a single soul has noticed? No-one at home, at church, or at work! I think it looks different - does no-one else agree? Or do they all think it's so awful that they're tactfully saying nothing?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"The person you need is Nanny McPhee!" You have to see the film to understand that quote!

I spent an uncomplicated day being just Mum, today. Did a proper Sunday roast for lunch, did the ironing, took the boys to see Nanny McPhee. Good, family fun. I have to say that the younger two boys went under protest - but they enjoyed it all the same.

Cello Boy commented about Nanny McPhee's charges, "But they're awful kids, Mum. We're not as bad as that!" Whilst the reason my youngest son didn't want to go is probably because he's heard too much about Super-Nanny, and is convinced that Nannies are Bad News. Let me state here and now - we've never had a nanny, will never be able to afford one, and have never, ever been in a position to consider it!

Saturday, October 29, 2005



This Chelsea bun is for Felicity. My guilty secret is that when I'm feeling impoverished but hungry at lunchtime, then a cup of tea and a Chelsea bun seems to solve both problems very efficiently. Doesn't do much for the waistline, doesn't do much for slow-release energy, but does act as a quick pick-me-up!

Not sure if people have Chelsea buns anywhere but the UK - so I thought I'd better show you one. I can't be the only working mum to harbour such guilty secrets!

Doesn't it get you mad when you waste time through no fault of your own? We went out at 8.30 am for the boys' Saturday morning swimming lessons. They took 20 minutes to get dressed again afterwards, but we still should have been home by 10.45 am. However, the M8 was static. We got home at 11.30 am, having detoured via Renfrew - or we might have been stuck on the M8 yet!

You think that was bad? Because I was out last night, I had to do the Asda run this afternoon. And I did it - but I got stuck in the carpark for half an hour on the way out, because the match at Ibrox had just finished. Too many cars on the road - so no-one could get out of the supermarket car-park.

It has been One of Those Days. When I wasn't stuck in traffic, I was being threatened by people who weren't looking where they were going. As I was driving towards the swimming pool, this woman was manoevring her car at the side of the road. As she reversed, her rear end swung out. Luckily I managed to take evasive action, but I confess I leapt out and told her she should have been looking more carefully. Talk about black-affronted! How could I suggest she had done anything of the sort? But she did. I wouldn't have swerved out to the middle of the road otherwise!

The final straw was when I was standing waiting to cross the road in town this afternoon, in pouring rain, with my umbrella up. I was just minding my own five-feet-and-half-an-inch of business, when this little old lady barged up behind me and told me very shortly to move that umbrella out of the way. I'm sorry - I was just standing there, waiting to cross the road. I didn't know you were going to charge into the back of me! I can't help it if my height makes me and my umbrella a mobile traffic obstruction for people who don't look where they're going!

Never mind. It's still raining, but at least I'm home now. With my lovely shiny mahogany hair. It's twenty-three years since I had my hair professionally coloured. (The highlights and tinfoil last time was enough to put me off!) I keep glancing in the mirror to admire my brown hair with no grey streaks! Yippee, I do have some feminine vanity after all.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

7.20 am. Brring, brring! "Hello, Mum - I've lost my jacket!" Being a music school pupil, Cello Boy stays at a hall of residence during the week. On Tuesday, he wore his new Next jacket for the first time. On Tuesday night, he couldn't find it, and on Wednesday he went to school without it.

This morning, Thursday, he realised he should be worried. And he was. Desperately. I can't say I reacted graciously.

I phoned the carers at his residence and explained our predicament.

7.45 am. Brring, brring! "Mum, I've found my jacket." Phew! Okay, it was the carers who found it - where he'd left it, and where he'd failed to see it in his panic.

A whole, glorious day passed. I floated home in an excellent mood - I'd achieved an impossible amount of work; it's been a warm, sunny day; and I've taken tomorrow off as a day's annual leave in order to work on my conference presentation.

10.20 pm. Brrring, brring! "Hello, Mum, I need a cheque for £14 for tomorrow morning, to pay for the school photos..."

Noble Spouse hardly even grumbled at having to drive across to the residence, where he handed in the cheque just as the front door was about to be locked for the night ...

It's 11.33 pm - time for a bath, a glass of wine, then bed. All of which I feel I deserve!
This, my friends, is a flattened Pseudo Supermum _____________________.

Having been on a training course all day, taxied Africa-boy to his fancy-dress party, and planned the church choir music right through to the New Year, there is nothing left of me. And nothing left to do but zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Prioritizing is all about discerning what's important and what's urgent. That's what all the management experts tell us.

Okay - I had a research paper to edit, and two out of three boys needing fancy-dress outfits. (Halloween and Africa, since you asked!) I am not willing to part with £20 per outfit by going out and buying them. No.1 son needs to take his outfit back to his halls of residence tonight. No.2 son needs his for Wednesday, but I'm working Monday night. Therefore, what's urgent?

Last night I created a hooded cape (shiny black, with very shiny green ghosts printed on it), and an African chief's kaftan. Total expenditure, £11.75 - that's more like it. I didn't even look at the research paper.

TODAY I can get back to the paper. And that's important!

Of course, being a good Pseudo-Supermum, I also need to make a return trip to the supermarket for salad stuff and sawdust. SuperSpouse has announced that this time he really, truly is on a diet, and I'm convinced our female hamster has a urinary problem! On the face of it, this errand is not quite as urgent or important, in the grand scheme of things, but the smell emanating from her cage is putting me off both eating and thinking!

Friday, October 21, 2005

We have a Leering Laundry Basket. There will be no further blogging until the nasty brute has been silenced. Guess how we're going to spend our Friday evening? I'll tackle the ironing first, then once SuperSpouse returns from visiting Auntie, he can take over whilst I do the supermarket run. Whoever said the weekends were for fun and frolics?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I took all three boys to a wind-band concert this evening. We went armed with sweets and drawing materials. No.2 son took the new Games Workshop book, "How to paint Citadel miniatures", and copied from it.

They were all so good until halfway through the second half of the concert. The first half had been jolly Sousa music, rousing and loud. The second half opened with a march, but then went onto something a bit more esoteric. No.3 son wanted the book. No.2 wouldn't surrender it. The photo above shows you what transpired.

I don't think they disturbed anyone too much, though I got tired of shush-ing them. Still, I would rate it as a successful outing. They all enjoyed the loud brass and percussion - as I guessed they might. Pseudo-Supermum and Super-Spouse's kids are being brought up with a bit of Culture, you see - and they're even learning how to behave in concerts. Not bad, for 12, 9 and 7 years old.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Technology! I thought I was - well, not bad at technology. Today must have been a bad day. At work, a bunch of new CD-roms proved less straightforward to use than I had imagined, for technical reasons connected with our IT set-up. Then at home, SuperSpouse had to convert a read-only pdf file to a Word document for me. (He's got the scanner and software. I haven't. I'm very grateful, believe me!)

In between times, my research paper (which I did warn you was probably nowhere near finished) turned out ...
... to be nowhere near finished at all!

Disheartened, I have attended to practicalities rather than do anything to the dreaded paper. I've been and got petrol. I've filled in the Word document. I've renewed my car insurance. This is called displacement activity, I believe. What I probably will do, is transfer the annotated paper from laptop to USB drive to PC.

However, first, Pseudo-Supermum must go and say goodnight to no.2 son. Which is much nicer than sighing over a computer!

Sunday, October 16, 2005



When Aunty is here", I told the boys, "you make sure you behave yourselves."

"But she won't remember anyway!", retorted the youngest one. He's a pragmatist. Mind you, it makes for sense, doesn't it? Why did I bother tidying up and making everywhere spick and span? Because she won't remember. She has Alzheimers - she can't remember a thing.


As SuperSpouse took her home again after tea, she spotted one of the boys' friends waiting in the porch. Mistaking him for one of ours, she seized him for a big sloppy hug and kiss. There I was, gesticulating wildly, trying to explain to a boy of ten that this poor old lady really wasn't quite right in the head. Then I phoned his mother to explain why her son had been assaulted by a frail old lady!

Right, now I'm going to have a strong cup of coffee, before I fill in an application form for a job agency. I don't want to relocate (she screamed), but I do feel the need of a challenge.
Parents - don't dare speak to your kids!

... because you'll confuse the Nintendogs. It's the latest game for Nintendo DS. You get a dog, and train it to recognise your voice. Then it sits, stands, goes walkies, does all the things a pooch could be expected to do - even finds hidden treasure for you. Which means you can buy accessories for your Nintendog.

There's just one problem - if a parent speaks to the game-player, then it confuses the Nintendog, which can only recognise its owner's voice. I kid you not. Our house is spookily quiet just now - it has been taken over by aliens!

  • Nintendogs even has an entry in Wikipedia - which I must say is a darn good online encyclopedia. Very up-to-date.
I dare not suggest that I've finished my research paper. I'm quite sure it will undergo several transformations before it gets read in Manchester. Still, I have put it to bed for now, and am doing no more until my supervisor has commented on it.

That leaves me "free" for the rest of the weekend! Yes, I've still got the usual domestic commitments - including tea with SuperSpouse's totally confused Aunty tomorrow afternoon (she has Alzheimers) - but it also means I can get on with some other research reading in what "spare" time I have.

I told you about the September Weekend. Well, now we've reached the October Week. Yes, October has four and a half weeks, but just one of them is the school mid-term holiday. All week! No.1 son had Friday off (for the East Dunbartonshire staff in-service training). All three have next week off. Nos. 2 and 3 have the following Monday off - Renfrewshire teaching staff get their in-service training then. WHEN will the Powers-that-be in the Scottish Office realise that standardised holidays would be immensely helpful to parents, working or not!

No.2 son and I went to meet his new guitar teacher at lunchtime today. How's this for inspired psychology - the Chocolate Challenge? Occasionally, a piece will be studied and performed with the express aim of winning a chocolate bar as a reward. Our little guitarist thinks he's going to enjoy learning with this teacher!

It is a quarter to one in the morning. I'll stop here!

Monday, October 10, 2005

After going to the charity shop with four bulging bin-bags on Saturday afternoon, I rolled up my sleeves for more sorting and tidying yesterday. As I started taking precious tiny bits of plastic toys from all over no.3 son's bookshelf, there were howls of "NO! THIS IS NOT RIGHT!"

Au contraire, my son, this is absolutely right. The way we've allowed you to clutter the place so badly has been all wrong. I took his index finger and ran it along the top of the bookcase. Then asked him what he could see on his finger. "Dust." Exactly. Dust that our home-help couldn't clean away, because she couldn't get near the surface!

Funnily enough, after emptying two toyboxes all over the floor, picking out what was worth keeping and what had either to go to the charity shop or the bin, my two youngest sons were very proud of their efforts. And I was happy, because I could actually see clear surfaces again.

I wouldn't say we had finished our belated spring-cleaning yet, but heck, we're certainly getting somewhere at last. It's cleansing for the soul as well as for the house!

And that brings us to Monday. The twilight period was so hectic that there was nothing for it - I took a little bit of flexitime to enable me to go and be a research student in the Uni library for half an hour, then went home. Having gained a half an hour, we were able to have tea before swinging into action:-

  • Superspouse took no.3 son to a party in Paisley
  • Pseudo-Supermum took no.2 for his viola lesson in Bearsden.
  • Handed over no.2 to his proud papa, so that I could go to no.1 son's concert in Paisley.
  • Superspouse AND no.2 ("Why should I go to collect him from his party. This is so boring!") went to collect no.3.
  • Pseudo-Supermum enjoyed the concert and did her good deed for the day by running another proud parent home to Barrhead. He didn't drive, and it was pissing with rain - not weather for using public transport. There was just one problem - I had no map with me.

Anyone who has read Pseudo-Supermum before will guess the rest. I have an undiagnosed disability - a total lack of any sense of direction. After Barrhead I went via Darnley and Thornliebank to get to Linthouse. Look it up on multimap and draw your own conclusions. Still, I don't need multimap or a satellite system - I have SuperSpouse at home with his inbuilt radar for directions.

Here I am at home. All is well!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The upshot of our trip to the consultant is the diagnosis that our youngest son has an inclusion dermoid on his arm. It's a benign cyst, but will need to be removed under general anaesthetic. If you go looking it up on Google, beware! I found one website which was very helpful until it mentioned keeping the patient in a clean cage after surgery... evidently, rats get inclusion dermoids too.

No.1 son's cello had a problem this week - the spike assembly was broken and he was reduced to a complex arrangements of elastic bands in order to keep the spike extended while he played. So we've just been to the shop to get it repaired. No.3 son is too excitable to be allowed anywhere near a violin shop. He fiddled and touched and prodded until I wished the ground would swallow us both up. No.2 son was resentful but taciturn - still, at least he didn't meddle with things.

As we went back to the car, I said sorrowfully that I didn't think they deserved sweets.

Cries of, "Oh, Mum!"

"Give me one good reason why I should get you any?" Well, I walked right into that one, didn't I? Back came the answer, quick as a flash - "Because we're hungry."

Noble Spouse, meanwhile, is setting up a stall for his tramway society, at a transport fair. Don't know when we'll see him. I have research to do, and a meal to prepare. The research is beckoning loudly, as I have to rewrite my conference paper. (My supervisor wielded his red biro heavily, on Tuesday. I hardly know where to start.) However, I'm a mother with a family, and the family needs feeding. Guess what I'll do first?

Get the Observer tomorrow (Sunday 9th October) - I contributed a few comments to an article about work-life balance for women in their forties. Just wonder if I'll recognise any of my observations once they've been anonymised ...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The last month has been the month from hell. True, I've had five days' doing research down south, and that was extremely refreshing. But I came back to the decorating chaos, and September also saw two birthday parties and two dinner parties. We had a third dinner party last Saturday. That was less stressful, I must say. I'm getting better at cheating!

Our youngest son has a lump on his arm, which has us very worried. He has a follow-up appointment at hospital on Thursday. The lump has grown. I don't think he realises how worried we are, which is a good thing. If you're reading this and are disposed to say a prayer for us, then I'd be very grateful. I've said a good few myself.

This afternoon, I had a meeting with my postgraduate supervisor, when he looked over the first draft of my conference paper. It ended up splattered with red ink suggestions and alterations. I'm horrified at the amount of rewriting I shall have to do! But even more worrying - I know perfectly well that one key paragraph in particular needs facts checking out and references traced. I know I read it - but I can't remember where. Blind panic doesn't begin to describe how I feel. Where do I start looking? I think I read it in the past month or so, but I have no idea where. It's about first and second editions of a significant book. I can't even remember which significant book, since the composer I'm writing about compiled a heck of a lot of books!

There is a cold going round our college. One of my colleagues went home to bed this morning. I feel something trying to get me, but I have to play for a funeral on Thursday - as well as attending the hospital appointment with our little boy - so I simply cannot succumb to a cold until after Thursday. I'm gulping down vitamins and supplements like there was no tomorrow. If I have a nippy throat today, what will it be like tomorrow?

Did you read "recent research" saying that children get on best if they spend their early years at home with Mum - and even being with a childminder or relative is thought better for their development than being in a nursery. Pseudo-Supermum is very mad indeed. Because it doesn't matter if I'd have preferred to have worked part-time or stayed at home. I am the major breadwinner. My noble spouse is older than me and earns less. We could not survive on his part-time income alone, and he couldn't have given up work because he'd never have got back into employment again. Faced with no viable or economic alternatives, we feel we made the best choices possible for our three bright, vivacious and engaging little boys. It's not that we wouldn't have preferred other options in different circumstances - but we don't need to be told that we have adversely affected our children's mental and emotional development. We had a good childminder, and then found an excellent nursery. No, it wasn't the same as being at home with Mum. But it was the very best we could find and afford! Financially, it crippled us - but was better than what the experts now say we should have chosen. Humph!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Hey, stupid, I'm trying to tell you something ...
There comes a point when "mind over matter" doesn't work any more. My body tried to tell me so, all day. I had a headache as I walked into work. It was the second-busiest day of the year for me, and tomorrow is the busiest. Great day to feel ill at work.

Could I go home? Absolutely no option. There was no-one else to do what I had to do, and I just had to get on with it. Paracetamol did nothing the first time, and nothing the second. Caffeine (which I normally avoid) didn't help either. Finally, I tried a couple of herbal tranquillisers in the middle of the afternoon, and they got me through to five o'clock. I now have my usual post-headache feeling of total emptiness. I made it through this evening's choir-practice - because I had to - and now I'm just drained.

I ought to start writing a research paper. Would anyone blame me if I just had a bath and went to bed?

Heck, I'm an adult in charge of my own destiny. I'm writing the final full-stop of the day. There.

Monday, September 26, 2005

There was black ink everywhere: on SuperSpouse, on Pseudo-Supermum, on the bedroom carpet. Mercifully not on the quilt! SuperSpouse was replacing his Epson ink cartridge with a cheap replacement. Tee-hee! Why was it not printing? Because he hadn't pulled off the strip marked "Pull". One-all. Everyone at his workplace knew about it when I did that. Just wait till I tell them!
.
Would you believe that the machine actually knew it was being given a cheap replacement? "You are installing a cartridge that is not an Epson and may affect the print quality. Do you wish to continue?"
.
Anyway, the printer is printing again. We both have rather black hands. Doubtless someone will notice at work tomorrow. I look most unprofessional. Don't know what to do about it, short of trying a bit of neat bleach.
.
Pseudo-Supermum got up late, and did a cooked breakfast for once. Ironed a mountain of stuff while no.1 son did his homework, then we went to Asda looking for new casual trousers. It's rather reasssuring that he is outgrowing stuff. He can't wait to be taller. The hormones haven't kicked in fully yet, or his growth-rate would surely have increased.
.
I always hated being small. I was teased, picked on, told (prophetically) that being small and left-handed I was bound to be bad at games. I longed to be noticed by boys, but knew that I still looked like a kid. I was always treated as younger than my years, and for quite a while as an adult still felt I wasn't taken seriously. So I fully appreciate how he hates being small, too. But - sadly - there's nothing you can do about your height. All we can do is keep repeating, "You will grow in time. But we can't predict how much." This is the kids' family tree:-
.
small maternal grandmother ---small paternal grandmother
medium maternal grandpa -----------TALL paternal grandpa


small mother
medium-sized dad
.
- so what do you reckon his chances are of being anything other than small-to-medium? Unless the genes flip back to his paternal grandpa! Luckily his brothers haven't yet stopped to consider whether they're large, small or somewhere in between.
.
Have you read recent findings that being small affects your earning power as an adult? The very latest finding says that your relative height at the age of sixteen is what determines it. Doesn't make much difference to me - I was small at six, sixteen and forty-six, and as far as earning power is concerned, I have failed miserably. Whether or not it is down to my size and subsequent insignificance.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Here is a moral tale for you. Never, ever book a painter & decorator to do half of your home in seven days' flat. It cannot be done. Not allowing for hiccups. Our lounge and dining room are sparkling, spick and span, and - for us, amazingly tidy, too. They simply had to be. We had a dinner-party last night.

On Friday night, the lounge was full of dining room stuff as well as the normal lounge furniture. Everything belonging to the dining-room had to be moved back ... once we had scrubbed the paint spots off the lino. Sigh!

The lounge carpet then had to be cleaned - I did it three times, stopping under protest at ten to one on Saturday morning. It still looks grubby where the settee used to be.

The hall downstairs is also done, as is the porch. (Don't ask me about the porch - there's a little question mark....) Meanwhile, up the stairs and onto the landing, the kitchen and bathroom remain to be done, but the upheaval is small-scale compared to what we’ve endured.

Obviously, the weekend supermarket run wasn't going to take place on Friday night. And at ten to one, I could have gone to our 24-hour Asda, but it didn't appeal. So, I went 20 hours later than usual – I only JUST had time to cook the three courses before the guests arrived for dinner.

The soup was good - the casserole was successful enough, though I couldn't taste the half-pint of Irish Stout that went into it. And the apple pie had a gorgeous crust, but all the brown sugar inside just turned to a runny liquid consistency. It tasted fine, but it wasn't meant to be quite like that. The guests were happy - the cook was not.

No.1 son is safely back from his watersports weekend – I’ve only just dealt with all his dirty washing from school, and now I have some wet dirty washing from the weekend. Does it get any better than that?! The ironing basket has a horrible leer on its face. “You thought you had the place clean and tidy. Well, look at me now!”

I've just got no.3 son to bed, bathed and hair-washed no.2 son (now reading in bed), and shouted for no.1 son. No reply. I found him fast asleep in bed, fully-clothed apart from having removed his socks! Watersports are obviously exhausting.

Tomorrow – “the September weekend” (meaning a public holiday for Glaswegians) – will be spent blitzing the bedrooms. Not because they are being decorated but because there are just too many toys, big and small, half of which aren’t used. I’d rather sell them on eBay or give them to the school Christmas Fayre (the most hellish jumble sale/bazaar that I’ve ever encountered) – at least we’ll have a bit more room to move. The boys are like their Dad – if something is important to them, it doesn’t get put away, but left very close at hand. But that means it’s all close at hand!

Two rooms are tidy, the washing is all up to date, we've had the dinner-party and I've done my annual accounts for the accountant. Things are looking up. Shame about the research that is pleading for my attention. I will get round to it. (Our minister was telling the kids in church about "Round Tuits" this morning. Every one should have one. A Round Tuit, that is. Think about it!)

I'm sure I had more to say, but I'm too tired to think of it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ever wanted to hijack a Pizza van? Go to Kettering.

It's a long story. Last week I went to Oxford and then to a stately home called Boughton House, near Kettering. This was a trip to do research - I called it a study retreat, because I really did have the most peaceful (and busy, and exhausting) five days imaginable.

I flew to Luton, took the train to Oxford, then the coach to Kettering on Thursday night. Where I stood in the pouring rain waiting absolutely AGES for a taxi. I was hungry - you can't buy a meal on an express coach. (Makes you appreciate trains ...) It occurred to me that if I hijacked a pizza van, I'd get a meal AND a lift to my guest--house.

Taxis in Kettering are hard to find. Once I'd secured one, I booked him for the morning to take me to Boughton House. Once in Boughton House, I booked him to take me back to the railway station.

It's lucky I allowed extra time. I booked that taxi for 4.30 pm. At 4.35 I was told it was on its way. At 5 pm, I was told they couldn't trace my booking. (Eh?) At 5.10 ("It's that woman again". You bet it was!) , they sent another taxi. So, 55 minutes after I'd booked it, I got my taxi to the station. Instead of having a nice long time in which to have a cup of coffee and a bun (I'd had no lunch), I had nine minutes to buy my ticket and cross to the right platform.

Train to Luton. Another to Luton Parkway. Bus to the airport, and plane home again. Phew!

The house is in chaos - we have the decorators in. We also had no.1 son's twelfth birthday party yesterday. Today I headed to Holland and Barrett in search of herbal tranquillisers. I struck lucky - I feel much less stressed now, and I'll feel even better after a glass of wine.

Noble Spouse liked my suggestion for completely reversing everything in the lounge, when I suggested it on Sunday. He liked it a lot less this evening. However, I'm happy to report that he was won round by the finished results- the lounge looks great (apart from needing the carpet cleaned and new curtains ...). And there's lager in the fridge for him as a reward!

Believe it or not, I'm doing research right now. Yes, really - printing out pages and pages of notes to see my supervisor tomorrow afternoon. What else can a girl do but work on her blog meanwhile!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

There IS such a thing as a free lunch! Yesterday I took my faulty shoes back to Clarkes, got a refund, bought cheaper shoes elsewhere, bought my lunch, and went back to work 25p. richer than I had been before!

I'm on my knees. I worked flat out yesterday, getting as much done as I could before my week's leave. Did the shoe-shop trail at lunchtime. Tore home to collect the boys, for no.3 son's seventh birthday party at Brewsters at 6 pm. He was wild. I'm considering trying a diet free of E-numbers, in the vain hope that he might become calmer.

And you should see my Psion Revo at present - littered with alarms to remind me to do things.

This morning we went for the swimming lesson, back home, then I took one of the boys with me to the Post Office in town. All the way there (4.5 miles and into the multi-storey car-park) to discover we needed his birth-certificate. Knowing the Post Office closed at 1 pm for the weekend, and there we were standing in the Post Office without the birth certificate at 12.10 pm, concentrated the mind wonderfully.

You CAN get from Hope Street to Linthouse and back in 40 minutes on a Saturday lunchtime if you really try hard!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

It wisnae me!, to quote the Glasgow vernacular. My younger son act up in Sunday School? Why, no. There are two very bad boys there, I'm told. The ones who were caught trying to strangle my son in the Gents' toilets, with toilet paper .....

Don't laugh. At least they weren't trying to drown him, and the paper - I'm told - was clean and dry.

What a week this is turning out to be. Two hospital appointments for me yesterday - both quite positive. One for no.2 son today, equally trauma-free. Then back to collect no.3 son from the childminder. Got home to find visitors bearing gifts; it's his birthday tomorrow.

After tea, I took no.2 son to Boys' Brigade, and no.3 accompanied me to a parents' evening. He was surprisingly well-behaved. We got home just before 9.30 pm, far too late for little boys to be tackling homework. Nonetheless, most of it was done, and they're fast asleep now.

SuperSpouse is preparing for a society committee meeting on Friday, and is preoccupied. I asked if he was coming downstairs to share a nice bottle of Riesling, and even that wasn't encouragement enough. Sigh. Do I open it myself, or go and have a shower while I await my Lord and Master? (Huh!)

Tomorrow, I really must finalise my plans for my Oxford study-retreat next week. Tomorrow though, not tonight. My batteries are very, very flat right now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It never rains but it pours ... I've just opened a letter from the Sunday School saying that some boys in the Followers persist in misbehaving and spoiling it for everyone else. My youngest son is in the Followers. I can bet you he's one of the disruptive ones. He's lucky to be asleep right now, because I shall be discussing the letter with him in the morning. Oh, the humiliation of it.

I read in the paper yesterday that mothers who have a lot of stress in pregnancy are more likely to have hyperactive children. While I was expecting our youngest son, we had the visit of an elderly (now deceased) uncle from Australia. He was a stroke victim, couldn't speak, couldn't walk, could barely write, and his hearing was very poor. (My health visitor said his friends shouldn't have planned the trip for him at all!) Before that, I had a couple of weeks - still at work - running the house and family while SuperSpouse enjoyed Travels with his Aunt to Canada. A fairly stressful early pregnancy. And here we are with an exuberant, if not medically hyperactive, seven-year old. Any link? Don't you just love reading articles which imply that your child's behaviour is actually All Your Own Fault?!

This evening I've been pondering over the question of visiting the Northamptonshire Record Office whilst on study-retreat next week. I'm going to Oxford for four days, then to Northampton (probably, I think, depending on where the manuscripts and books turn out to be!) on Friday. I need somewhere to stay on Thursday night - still to be arranged. And I'll need to make my way back home at the end of Friday. I still need to think about how I am going to get home again! It's enough to make me dizzy thinking about it, but think I must. Flying from Luton sounds the best option.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

You know those stupid news reports stating that "a pedestrian has been in collision with a car"? What it actually means is that the car knocked the pedestrian over. Likewise, I've been in collision with life. Life hasn't just overtaken me of late - it has run me over and flattened me!

We went all the way down to Norwich for my brother's wedding last week. A day's drive to get there, a day there, and a day's driving to get back. SuperSpouse rather alarmingly seemed to go into auto-pilot on the drive back. I yelled at him when he was speeding towards the car in front - which was not going as fast. Indeed, I'm afraid I infuriated the pants off him. I asked what any other wife would do in those circumstances. "Well - wait and see what happened." But ... but I could see what was going to happen, and we can't afford to replace the airbags again.

We agreed to share the driving next time. I don't want to drive that splendid big car, but I can see it would probably be safer for us each to drive for an hour at a time. I am a terrible passenger. (Might I respectfully point out that my loyal spouse is arguably an even more critical passenger than I am. God help us both!)

The wedding was a wonderful day. The sun shone, the bride and groom looked great and were very happy - and their two-year old daughter stole the show! We were able to introduce the boys to three of my relatives that they either hadn't met or couldn't remember - it was so long since we were all gathered in the same place.

Anyway, on Saturday we went back to Glasgow, where we collected Cello Boy from the friends he'd been staying with. That gave me less then 24 hours to do all his laundry, fold and or iron it and deliver him back to his halls of residence on Sunday night.

Is it surprising I have hardly done any research? No, I thought you'd agree.

What I have done is dusted off my CV, started gathering referees - indeed, even toyed with filling in an application form, though it will have to be done within the next 48 hours or it's too late.

I've also been doing final, final revisions of my article before the journal goes to the printers. I have asked New York Public Library to verify one of my references. I've never clicked on an "ask a librarian" link before. It's impressive. Now I just have to wait for the reply!

And this evening, we had a dinner-party. I made one dessert last night, one this morning (in between the swimming lessons and going to play for a wedding) - got home from church and made the starter, stoked up the bread-machine then dashed out to buy wine-glasses before coming home and cooking the boys' tea. Finally, I could start the lasagne!

Tomorrow, I really would like to get some reading done. In between sewing in more nametags, this time into Cello Boy's new sports kit. It's never ending.


ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I really am very, very tired. More another time!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mind-numbing but necessary - I'm sure everyone has mundane chores like that at work. (Not only work, come to think of it!)

Anyway, there I sat today, feeling my mind turning to sludge, when an email slunk into my inbox. I'd been awarded a scholarship to defray expenses on a week-long research trip! A thousand blessings on my benefactors. After that, there was a nice warm glow as my mind continued to turn into sludge!

I had an appointment with my research supervisor at the end of the day. The contrast between "mind-numbing but necessary" and "intellectually challenging" couldn't have been greater. This research business isn't good for me. It makes me think - and it makes me dissatisfied. It's all a bit unsettling!

I ought to be reading right now. In fact, I do intend to do some reading, very shortly. This is just a brief diversion in between the bed-time routine, filling in school forms, and settling down to proper work.

The goldfish are swimming in the middle of their tank again - phew, what a relief! This morning they were slinking about at the bottom of a decidedly murky, smelly tank. I dashed to the pet accessories store after tea, bought new gravel, fish medicine, a dinky wee net for getting reluctant fish out of tanks, and some holiday sticks that we can leave them when we go to my brother's wedding. Anyway, you'll understand now my relief that they look happy again. I don't know how I'd have explained to Cello Boy that they had snuffed it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Our hero came home triumphant after his first two days at secondary school. School's cool, but the halls of residence are five-star rated. Everything seems to have gone smoothly. Do you know what pleased me most? Those three little boys, all music scholars admittedly, sat down and played music together, for fun, after tea on Thursday. I think that's great!

(Image: www.thejazzsmall.com)

We went for a tandoori last night, to celebrate the start of the new term. Someone should tell Super-Spouse that you don't buy little boys two Cokes each, and then wonder why they're hyper and unable to get to sleep later ... Well, he wouldn't listen to me. Very much "I told you so!"

So, here we are - Saturday again. We were back at swimming lessons again at 9 am. No.3 son gave me the run-around round the changing rooms again. I despair! Then this afternoon, we went to the optician. Sons 1 & 2 had eye-tests. Viola-Boy's eyes are actually improving! No.3 collected his new glasses, since the old pair broke last Sunday night. And I collected Super-Spouse's repaired glasses, which broke on Tuesday. I'm praying mine don't come to grief - I'm the only one who didn't do business with the optician!

I'm still labelling and shortening school trousers after the grand hand-me-down. No.2 gets no.1's old uniform, and no.3 gets no.2's old uniform. The charity shop that is virtually opposite the school got no.1's tiny cast-offs. I can see I'm in for a busy evening. More sewing, a supermarket run ... and some research? If I stay awake long enough?