Friday, 22 February 2013

This moment...

Inspired by Soulemama's {this moment} - a Friday ritual. A single photo - no words, capturing a favourite image from the week. A special and treasured moment that I would like to pause and remember.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

I've been driving in my car...


To borrow the lyrics from 'Madness' I have indeed been driving in my (new) car this week and though "it's not quite a Jaguar", it is a great improvement on my last one.  Friends and family will have heard my frequent complaints about the Renault Tragic that I used to drive (ok, it was a Scenic but apart from the views out the windows, everything else about it was a tragedy). It really was a dog of a car and I experienced almost every one of its 'known faults'.  It was even recalled once for what was described by the manufacturer as a 'necessary upgrade to the electronic parking brake computer'; in other words some lucky drivers had experienced the handbrake suddenly going on while travelling at speed down the motorway!!  

The on-board computer and overly complicated dashboard were responsible for many a stressful calamity during my commute to and from work. Drive over the slightest bump or minor pothole and the entire dashboard would light up with warnings such as 'Check Emissions'. How would I do that exactly? Sniff the exhaust pipe maybe?! The perplexing 'Gearbox Fault' was another frequent error message which meant the car went into disconcerting 'limp mode'. This is like some kind of crisis management system, meaning that you are stuck in second or third gear  with absolutely no acceleration.

I was hopeful of some kind of answer when I paid my £70 (plus VAT) to the specified garage just to connect to the Renault diagnostic computer. But all the enigmatic computer system could give was a further cryptic code which clearly meant nothing to the Scottish mechanics even if they did have very smart yellow overalls and were trained by a 'reputable' Renault dealership.  I did not need to connect my useless vehicle to the fault finding mainframe to know that (excuse  my French) - il est fait enculer. 

The devilish dashboard spawned so many mysterious messages it was as though it had a menacing mind of its own like some kind of French version of the Stephen King novel 'Christine'. The final straw was when I lost the dashboard display completely.  This happened on the A1 one dark evening.  Initially the dashboard display decided to flash on and off intermittently and, rather worryingly, informed me, when it did illuminate briefly, that I was doing 104 miles an hour.  I knew this to be highly unlikely as even the police have been known to overtake me as I drive so slowly. Then in its final moments of life it lit up like Heathrow's busiest  runway with every error message it could muster for a final flourish.  Finally, all was blackness and then the radio stopped working too just for good measure.  There I was with no real idea of what speed I might be doing, or how much petrol I had, or indeed whether the whole engine was about to explode at any moment. I drove on with my surreal Final Destination-like interior and reached home somewhat shaken and determined to be rid of the dastardly machine once and for all.

I have owned a succession of dodgy automatics (I seem unable to manage the multitasking involved with three pedals and a gear stick).  I was fond of my little gold colour Volkswagen Golf but it had a tendency to overheat and once stalled on a level crossing.  We had a great blue Saab which we had many an adventure in driving through France but the dog eventually ate its way through the back seat and then I couldn't get it to go into reverse. I drove it (forwards) to a local garage where L managed to convince the owner to part exchange. My absolute favourite and most reliable car though was a Subaru.  It was fantastic...but I managed to write it off while not even being in it!  I discovered that a car can travel quite some distance, at speed, when you park on a hill, leave it in neutral and neglect to put the handbrake on.  Now though, I begin a new era in my little Nissan and I'm really hoping that it's a very uneventful experience. The dashboard is remarkably simple, the dog's banned and I have added my own warning message on a post-it to remind me to check the handbrake.

Sizzles: The only dog allowed 
I think I might add some eyelashes like these. What do you think?

Friday, 15 February 2013

This moment...

Inspired by Soulemama's {this moment} - a Friday ritual. A single photo - no words, capturing a favourite image from the week. A special and treasured moment that I would like to pause and remember.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Fat Tuesday

Apparently, instead of Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, as it's more commonly known, lots of countries (well, Brazil, France and Sweden anyway) call today 'Fat Tuesday'.  I quite often have a fat Tuesday - and Wednesday Thursday and Friday too.  Come to think of it, the weekend is generally pretty rotund as well. There really is only one less indulgent day of the week for me and that's Meagre Monday; the day I re-start my diet (over and over) *sighs*  One day, preferably before Easter and the avalanche of chocolate, I will manage to shift that second stone (the other three around pensionable age at this rate).  I'm not really very good at moderation or self-restraint especially when it comes to resisting the mouth watering appeal of sizzling batter.

I failed miserably yesterday to explain the concept of Lent to S.  At 10 years old the idea of abstinence and penance seems thoroughly bonkers whereas the doctrine of pancakes with sugar or syrup is a religion in itself  and observed diligently; though I think both girls actually believe the option of lemon juice is a legitimate part of their five-a-day.

In the Little House we have a tradition of having pancakes for tea whenever someone in the family has been to the dentist.  This practice has been extended to include the orthodontist (bless him) and so we can be assured of a fattening treat at least once a month thanks to H.  The rather loopy idea of combining pancakes with dentistry was a suggestion made to my mother when I was very small by a dear little old lady that attended my family's church.  Whether she put such an idea into our heads as a result of some denture dementia or genuine mischief I'm not sure, but it's a tradition that's been adhered to for at least 40 years and I feel quite sure that our girls will need little encouragement to carry it on. 

This morning we had a houseful of girlies with four extra for breakfast (three sleepover guests and one early morning arrival) and so The Wonderful Man decided to treat us all to American style pancakes.  The batter was much thicker than the English variety and it made super fluffy offerings. We decided on an interesting hybrid of Golden and Maple Syrup to accompany them - perfect. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

My girl...

15 years ago today, just after midday, I became a mum for the first time and H made her entrance into the world. After three days of labour and every possible intervention it was a rather traumatic journey for her and she arrived looking very much as though she'd done a few rounds with Mike Tyson.  The hospital photographer came around on the second day but, having peaked in the cot of my featherweight, his mouth opened into a round O and he shot off before I could suggest a hat and her good side!

I distinctly remember returning home with our precious bundle and putting her down still strapped safely in her car seat.  She was, for once, asleep, lulled by the car journey, and L and I gazed at her and then at each other with the same panicked thought - 'What do we do now?!'

It was quite a shock that transition into parenthood. When I was pregnant I imagined myself on maternity leave, serenely pushing my angelic peachy-faced baby along in her immaculate pram, visiting coffee shops and art galleries with her silently in tow and enjoying new mummy get-togethers with NCT comrades.  The reality was, of course, far from this fantasy.  Getting out of the house at all was a challenge too far. This would mean finding clean clothes and actually getting dressed (I stayed pyjama-ready in case I might snatch the tiniest bit of sleep and actually couldn't have told you whether it was night or day anyway).  In those early days H and I had bonded quite literally in sick-encrusted terry towelling and the only thing to ever lie in the pram was a disgruntled cat.

But H turned into the funniest little person and once I managed several nights of at least 5 hours sleep I could properly fall in love with her.  She was never a baby or a toddler to do things by half; she was either a super giggling fun explosion or a turbo-charged screaming ball of fury. She entered into every early childhood activity with gusto.  I arrived once at nursery to find that she had managed to get a carpet burn on her forehead.  When I enquired anxiously about how this had happened, I was informed that, even though she was only a crawler, she had snuck out of the baby room climbed the indoor slide before they'd even noticed she'd gone and flung herself down it headfirst.

Having been the centre of our world for over four years, I worried that when we had S we would be in for a rocky ride of sibling rivalry.  But she cherished the role of big sister and was never anything but gentle and protective of her.  

At home she would coerce her sister into regular 'performances'. Dressed up in ever more outlandish items from the dressing up box, we were treated to plays, dances, puppet shows and songs.  

Now a teenager, though her hair colour may have changed nothing else has. She is our beautiful girl with a personality to match; though currently with braces she's reluctant to give us her beaming smile.

When she was just five years old and asked by her teacher what she wanted to be she replied 'an actress' without hesitation and I hope and wish for her that she can fulfill her dreams.  For now though I'm stopping the clock today and trying to take in every little bit of her day.  I can't believe that she is 15 already - where does the time go! I can hear her sweet laugh so I'm off to join in with the birthday fun  - my oldest, my daughter, my girl. 

Opening presents in bed this morning

Friday, 1 February 2013

This music...

Joining in with Soulemama again, but this week with a 'This music' instead of  'This moment'. The song I've been playing this week and replaying!

I love Bon Iver but L calls this type of music my 'whiny folky stuff' and so I have to listen to it (very loudly) in my car on my drive to work where no-one can complain about it or my singing.

Wikipedia describes Bon Iver as, "a Grammy award-winning American indie folk band" which is an awful lot of adjectives, don't you think!  Lots of people know the name Bon Iver through the Birdy cover of 'Skinny Love' but for me their best music is to be found on their second album and 'Perth' is one of my all-time favourites and definitely a desert-island disc. It's pretty impossible to describe this track; all I can say is for me it conjures up a mellow winter mood - perfect for a Friday afternoon and a little downtime.