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.


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.


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


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!