Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tough times

Katie is expecting her fourth child at St Mary's in Knoxville. She's having a rough time. It sounds rather unpleasantly like my own experience. She's resigned herself to a c-section after many days of labor.

People ask me how I managed with three days of labor - how could they have let me go that long. Well, probably like Katie, I never thought it would go that long. You don't think after the exhausting first day - oh I've got two more days of this. You think - hey, if I'm lucky I'll have a baby in a few hours - 8 hours away tops - not 48 more hours. You never think that. I didn't want a c-section so I tried everything not to have one. It didn't work.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Good baby milestones

I took Baby Cletus out to the shops today and for the first time he didn't scream his head off for a healthy portion of the trip. He either slept or gurgled cherubically in his stroller, while occasionally batting the jingling cow baby toy that I've named Shambo - after the recently slaughtered holy bullock resident at a Welsh Hindu monastery.

He was so good that I wished I could reward him with some teeth rotting candy or an age inappropriate DVD.

orange hat

Before and after

An expectant blogger mom has pretty much finished her nursery - all bar the finishing touches and, well - the baby. And it's all pretty darn impressive.

I have to say it makes me feel a little like an underachiever. It pretty much looks like it's out of a book and their before was a gutted attic, so many would be hard pressed to do that much. But we're a long, long way off that.

Ol' Cletus hit the 8 week mark on Sunday and our "nursery" looks a lot more like a before than an after. I'm not a home decorating guru, so I set the bar reasonably and realistically low on our nursery standards and we haven't even met that. For example I was asked:

What color are you going to paint the nursery?

I was just thinking of leaving the walls the original off-white. I like off white - it's the best pallet for the imagination. But I will get some spray cleaner and wipe off those random marks on the wall and I might clean the kitty nose prints off the window.

Progress update: strange black marks and kitty nose prints still intact. On the other hand, we did manage to clear a shelf for all of Cletus's new clothes. And now instead of a random pile of law books and novels on top of the dresser there's a random pile of baby stuff. And for us, that's a big, big deal.

We don't even have a crib set up. It's still propped in pieces behind a chair in our living room. Thank goodness we planned on co-sleeping.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A few words on the astronaut scandal

You know how NASA has had to admit that sometimes the astronauts are flying high? And they just let them go ahead because it would cost ka-jillions to scrub a flight.

But the thing is, they have B-team astronauts, or at least they used to. One of my college professors was an astronaut also-ran. He was selected and trained and all and they probably fitted him for a suit with a bubble head helmet - but he never went up.

If I were the a B-team astronaut, ready and waiting for my chance, the day the A-team astronaut got gastric flu or something and I found out that they were letting A-listers fly drunk, well I would be really pissed.

They shouldn't throw stones

The Vol-in-Law and I took Baby Cletus down to Wisley today - a Royal Horticultural Society botanical gardens. It's hard to tell what an 8 week old baby likes (besides milk), but Cletus really seems to like seeing trees against the sky - and Wisley has plenty of those.

The place was absolutely packed and it seems like many people had come to see the new glass houses.

new glass house at rhs wisley

This is a long awaited development and they are pretty fancy and shiny and new. But we didn't stay long in them because

1. It was the first nice day in a while
2. It was forecasted to be the last nice day in a while (and it's raining heavily again as I type)
3. There weren't enough trees against the sky for Cletus's taste and he let us know.

We decided to come down and get a closer look in the winter time when it will be nice to be inside and warm.

We also had a look at the urban display gardens - including two that use artificial turf.
They also had a look at the model urban gardens that included artificial turf



I asked readers some time ago what they thought about artificial turf and the response was unanimous - a big old resounding, that's tacky. But it actually looked pretty good in these gardens and it might be softer on a little old toddler head next summer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The hand that rocks the cradle...

...rules the world. At least that what they say. I hope that's true, 'cause I've been playing Medieval Total War II while nursing the baby. That's why blogging has been light. I've been simultaneously trying to conquer the New World and fend off a Mongol invasion and breast feed.

Baby tending and world domination leaves little time for blogging, my friends.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When I die...

Since one of our most frequent recreational past times is taking a walk in the nearby cemetery, we play the "when I die" game a lot.

When I die:

  • Don't bury me in this crappy cemetery.
  • I want a kick ass floral memorial - like maybe this one - only in single malt/ sipping whiskey flavor.
  • I want to enter the fossil record, so you have to bury me in a zone of accretion rather than erosion (I majored in Geology in college)

But never once has either of us said:

When I die, please steal a street sign, turn it around and write my whole life story in both Arabic and English and cover my grave with a random assortment of fake flowers which you may or may not have collected from other parts of the cemetery.

no longer working

What does your garden grow?

I like to have a container grown tomato crop. I always forget how big they get, though. But you know what they say...there's just two things in life that money can't buy...and that's love and home grown tomatoes.

I can usually do OK with tomatoes, but my garden is tiny and sometimes our summers here are a little too damp and cool and we're absolutely overrun with snails and slugs. Sure, there are crops that I could grow - like rhubarb which need more cool and which wouldn't do so well in Tennessee. But isn't rhubarb Yankee food? It's a weed. And while I'm all over eating weeds and garbage fish (e.g. catfish) and other peasant grub - I really only ever crave my own soul food. I guess that's the point of soul food.

Sometimes I fantasize about the veggies that I would grow if I had more space, more heat and more blazing sun - i.e. if I were gardening in the South. I would grow tomatoes (lots of them), yellow crook-neck squash, cucumbers, zuchinni, okra and peppers. I might grow asparagus, too - the foliage is so pretty. Maybe I'd grow onions and tomatillos, too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

12 US Senators harbor a dark secret

It's true. Twelve US Senators harbor a dark secret. I know that it's true because I saw it in black and white. Some canny reporters blew that story wide open. Phil Gramm, sneaky bastard that he is, couldn't even muster a denial in the face of the stone cold facts.

"It's all true," it quotes Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, as saying. "I'm amazed
that it's taken you so long to find out."

Only one paper was brave enough to tell all.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Going where no congressional critics have gone before, a
supermarket tabloid contends that 12 U.S. senators are space aliens. And many
of them are "admitting" their otherworldly origins.

The Weekly World News.

And now they're closing down. And why? Why is obvious.

The Bush Administration knew they were getting too close.

We can't handle the truth.

Hat Tip to Joe Powell. And I still have my WWN t-shirt which proves that 12 US Senators were space aliens.

UPDATE: Someone might be willing to take on the gaping void that the Weekly World News will leave.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Rage against the heavens

It's wet in England.

Now normally, I bet you'd say...yeah, it's England - what do you expect. But actually, it doesn't rain that much here. Sure it rains frequently, but not that hard and not that much and especially not in summer. You don't normally get the kind of torrential rain that I knew in Tennessee. But we've had it recently. And now it's flooding.

So who's to blame? Can we rage against the heavens (like ol' Cletus here)?

scream to high heavens

Kathy has a list of the usual suspects (and a low down on the flood story):

The Independent names the culprit: global warming. But The Guardian implicates La NiƱa as well. Others blame the fact that 10 percent of homes in England are built on a flood plain. They didn't call it the Doomsday Book for nothing.

Me and the Vol-in-Law are scouring the government websites to see if we're in any danger of flooding. Turns out we could be if the rain keeps up and the Thames swells at an inopportune time.

Holy Cow!

Well, not exactly a holy cow, more like a holy bull. Shambo is a temple bull at Skanda Vale, in Wales, who tested positive for bovine TB. So, as part of the effort to control cattle consumption, Shambo has to go.

But the monks of Shambo's temple don't want him to be sacrificed on the altar of agribusinesses. They say that Shambo should be allowed to live.

I would tend to agree.

Now, first let me say, I'm not entirely sentimental about hamburger on the hoof. I've been to bull fights (and had a good time) and I do like steak (medium rare). But it does seem to me that he can be suitably quarantined from the rest of the cow population of Wales and saving Shambo could avoid a lot of unnecessary human suffering and much kerfuffle.

There have already been two appeals of the slaughter order. One to overturn the slaughter and one to overturn the overturn. So Shambo - according to a high court ruling today - is due to die.

The temple devotees are not going to give up on Shambo. I can't imagine that there's going to be a Waco type standoff, but they clearly mean business. On their website they promise:

We could no more allow the slaughter of Shambo than we could the killing of a human being. Ultimately we would be willing to defend his life with our own.

and they have exhorted others to come to their aid. I'm not really ready to form part of human chain around Shambo or even sign the online petition, but I'll happily direct interested readers saving Shambo online - in fact here's an image from his web cam (of course he has a web cam).

I can't recommend it as the most exciting online viewing. But it was kind of cool when he moved from the right side of his pen to more kind of the middle.

And that's no bull.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tammy Faye

Ginger has a post about redemption - the redemption of a figure of fun and scorn Tammy Faye Messner, the ex Mrs Jim Bakker of PTL scandal fame. Now you can go over and read that post to see about the resurrection of Tammy Faye's reputation. The Bakkers and PTL are almost entirely unknown in the UK. The English, sadly, missed out on the dial-a-prayer and the collapse of the 700 Club and the Christian building schemes and the rivulets of mascara stained tears. So there is absolutely no interest in the return of Tammy Faye as a exemplar of Christian acceptance here and I've missed out on the whole phenom.

But it did remind me of a book I read about the PTL scandal years ago. I don't have the book - I loaned it out reluctantly with much swearing on granma's grave that it would be returned to me - and I've never seen it again. I think it's out of print and I tried to Google it, but couldn't find it and I can't remember the exact name or the author. But it was brilliant.

I believe that it was written by a professor of accounting at the local university who sent his students on research trips and to sit in on the trial. (Isn't student slavery great? Some kids will do anything for extra credit.)

The book outlined the classic nature of the collapse. It was basically a case of fiscal recklessness and overextension and weak corporate governance. Yes, there was greed, but it was greed of the sort fueled by denying yourself too long. The Bakkers basically told themselves they deserved nice things after struggling and building up a church and offering salvation. And I finished the book thinking - they didn't set out to defraud. They did defraud when they realised they were over their heads and had to backfill, but I think they always thought that it would come good in the end.

I read it during a trip to Amsterdam while drink Dutch beer and overlooking the canals. It had chapter titles like Where were the non-executives? and Where was the audit committee? and I could hardly contain my suspense when the book addressed the question I had wanted to know Where were the auditors?

The book was a testament to the importance of process and transparency; the necessity of good corporate governance.

And it was so exciting, I never did manage to sneak a peak at the red light district.

Hell and highwater

There's been a lot of flooding in England over the last two days. Fortunately, we're still high and only slightly damp. Or rather we're slightly damp and nervously quite low. The local cemetery, which lies in the same flood plain that our house is built in (but lower down the gradient) experienced some temporary high water after yesterday's torrential rains.

double plot

There was even more water yesterday, but much of it has drained away. This photo was taken today in the very low lying "memorial garden" section of the cemetery. There are only markers and urns of ashes (at that) - so no fear of bodies floating in the streets of Tooting.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Somewhere in the world, it's cocktail hour

The Croydonian has an interesting map of global drinking ages.

All I can say is,

  • if I'd only known, I'da been in Italy when I was 16
  • The US has a drinking age more in line with Muslim countries

Who's that man?

When I'm watching the news and the announcer says "Today the Prime Minister..." and I look up and it's Gordon Brown....

...and it freaks me out a little.

Just sayin'.

Not the look I was going for

I try to take lots of pictures of Cletus, keep the good ones and discard the bad ones. But sometimes, you have to keep ones that weren't quite the look you were going for:


The Vol-in-Law says he looks like a character in a low budget 80s sword and sorcery film.

I think he looks like an aspiring glam rocker.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Still waiting

I'm still waiting for my first ripe tomato. Readers in the South (of the US, not England) will be jealous of cool, moist weather. I however wouldn't mind just a little BBQ weather and enough sunlight to ripen the 'maters. Particularly this imported strain - Cherokee Purple - reputed to be a heritage variety from Tennessee.


See what interesting folds and ridges it has. I did know I was taking a chance with this tomato - it might not do well outdoors in this cool clime (it was recommended for greenhouse growing) but neither of my other two varieties have ripened either.

But each of my three tomato plants are still blooming and fruiting and growing.

attack of the killer tomato (blossom)
I call this picture "Attack of the killer tomato blossom"

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hooray for Harry

I've never read a Harry Potter book. I saw the first film, thought blechhh, and never had any desire to read any of the books.

I'm not really against them - I just never had any desire to crack the spine of a Potter tale.

But even I can get a little excited about the imminent publication of the latest (and last?) in the series. After all, here was my (rather splendid) entrepreneurial idea the last time a book was published:

I often see people reading Harry Potter books in the Underground. With the most recent one I had a great idea. I knew that a character died, so I hunted around for the spoiler on the Internet. I know who it is. I thought I could wander around the Underground looking for those in the early pages of Harry Potter and the Half-Brain Prince and threaten to tell them who dies unless they give me £10, or maybe £5 if they negotiate.

And this time with all the leaking, I could make a cracking start.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

Joe says:

For a variety of reasons, I have always held that everyone is entitled to my opinion.

Why, I resemble that remark. (I haven't heard that in ages.)

I was sad because I had no shoes

I've been sad because I have no shoes. Or rather, I have loads of shoes, many of which I like. But none of which fit. Because my feet are still swollen.

They don't look like this anymore, thank goodness.

My swollen feet

But I still have only three pairs of shoes that fit. Two pairs were bought during the swelly phase of the last days of my pregnancy and one pair is some flip flops left by an Australian...man...with hobbity feet. I also have a pair that VolMom bought while she was over here, but they only fit on good days.

So anyway, I was sad because I had no shoes that fit...until I met a doctor who said that my feet and leg swelling and tenderness could be a sign of deep vein thrombosis. So I'm spending today at the hospital getting blood drawn, and scans and such like. The scan department closes for lunch, so I'm here blogging and eating a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. There sure are some advantages to living across the street from the hospital.


On the upside - no clots. Hurray! But I do have to go back next week for another scan.

On the downside - you know when they say you should always have a nice pair of underwear because you never know when you might end up in the hospital. Well, that is advice I failed to heed and regretted deeply when the hot South African doctor did my scan. Yeah, I know I'm not exactly a hot property right now - six weeks post partum, swollen and with a little baby that looks just like his Dad. So the granny underwear was probably not the deal breaker.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Putting the fun in funeral

Last year I missed the Lambeth Cemetery Open Day. I had a previous engagement. But I was excited to learn that there would be another one this year when we went on one of our frequent walks in the nearby boneyard. I was dying to go. And so we went. And this was the first public event outing for Baby Cletus.

Now, you might think that a cemetery open day would be a moribund affair - and you would largely be right. There was, as far as I could see, a poor turnout. There were not throngs of onlookers crowding the roads as the parade of hearses toured the cemetery.


A gaggle of coffin cars


The famous Harley Davidson motorcycle hearse

And we didn't manage to get one of the offered rides in the hearses. This one looked quite fun:


But we did manage to go on the Tomb Trek during which the cemetery manager went around showing us special graves and sharing the history of the cemetery. We learned:

  • around 250,000 people are buried in Lambeth Cemetery. Stacked like hotcakes or buried in between the spaces of old graves. Many of the original graves are long, long gone.
  • The cemetery is chock full of London music hall and variety greats. None of whom I'd heard of - but there were bullet catchers and Wild West type acts and circus folk, too. And that's kinda cool.
  • Charlie Chaplin's father is buried in a mass grave there and Ida Lupino's father and other kinfolk are also buried there (in a private plot).
  • A quarter of an acre of fresh burial space can generate a revenue of £1.5 million

Saturday, July 14, 2007

WWAJD? or spelling made simple

WWAJD? or WWOHD? What would Andrew Jackson do? Always a good way to guide one's life. Except perhaps in matters of Indian affairs, bigamy and settlements of personal disputes.

But Ol' Hickory had his own wisdom, that's for sure.

I once had a very annoying, anti-American colleague who went on and on and (effing on) about the superiority of the English language to the American language. Dumbass. Are you so attached to those superfluous Us? Do you really care if I say toMAYto? Let's please call the whole thing off, I said.

He would neither cease nor desist. I thought of filing a complaint of racist bullying, but couldn't be bothered with the paperwork. So I said to myself WWAJD? And since I'm not in possession of a pair of carefully crafted, mother of pearl inlaid dueling pistols, I dragged out this quotation.

"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."

And that did it. (
Image of AJ's dueling pistols from the fabulous image blog - Shorpy).


Mel has an interesting post about spelling simplification. Which attracts some interesting comments. That I couldn't be bothered with, because the spelling was impenetrable. See:

The unpredictability of ireggular spelling makes lerning to reed and rite unecessarily difficult for menny lerners. Because of repeeted lak of success in thare riting menny kids just giv up.

English societys worldwide hav a 20% plus illitracy rate. Is this what u and your commentators (amung the lucky ones who hav coped with English spelling) reely want?

Argggh... What the hell are you saying?


Living in England for over a decade has altered my spelling. I do try to keep my spellings separate - American for American audiences, British for British audiences. I rarely manage this. At work, I do my dead level best to spell in a British way. I'm paid from the public pound, writing about English affairs for an almost exclusively British audience. As an immigrant, I feel it's the least I can do. Thank goodness for spell check - just have to make sure the dang thing's on Brit spelling as MS Word has an unfortunate tendency to autonomously switch to American spelling and make me look an arrogant language imperialist.

On this blog, regular readers will have noted, that my spelling is all mixed up and I'll switch back and forth within the same post. I am a poor proofer and I swear trying to spell two ways has made me a far poorer speller overall. I hope no one minds too much.


There are a number of online communities for pregnant women and new moms/mums. I used one that had both American and British online spaces. It's been a really interesting experience seeing what people got worked up about on different sides of the ponds. But most interesting of all has been the quality of the posts.

Somewhat surprisingly, British posters overall have far poorer language and spelling skills. Truly appalling. Not the occasional typo or easily misspelled word. But a clear failure to master the bottom line basics of English spelling - particularly around homophones. You know...their/there/they're - that kind of thing. I don't know if this represents a clear failure of the British educational system*, a different section of society posting in the UK v. America, or maybe clear evidence in support of the spelling simplification society. After all, those superfluous Us must have a greater effect on:

The unpredictability of ireggular spelling makes lerning to reed and rite unecessarily difficult for menny lerners.

*I truly suspect this one - see All Must Have Prizes by Melanie Phillips

Friday, July 13, 2007

Old friends

I don't have a lot of time to read right now and my attention span is pretty limited. But I usually need to read a little bit before nodding off to sleep.

So, I've gone back to an old friend; my pal Trav. He lives at Slip F-18 Bahia Mar on a houseboat he won in a poker game.

The Travis McGee series of mysteries. Easily digestible. But full of little nuggets and interesting characters. Originally introduced to me by another old friend. I've probably read them all at least twice. I've probably owned all the books at least once - and I've always regretted giving them away. There's been a gap of quite a few years since I last read one of the series. So I managed to get through the first one I went back to, The Long Lavender Look, without remembering too much (except, oddly enough, the crucial twist). And now I'm reading A Tan and Sandy Silence, and all of a sudden, a few pages in, nearly the whole story came back to me, but I'll soldier on.

You don't forget old friends just 'cause they keep telling the same stories.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A nice percentage

Parenting tips, straight from the horse's mouth.

Brit news

Blogging is most erratic lately, but there are couple of things in British politics I couldn't totally let pass:

Boris Johnson for Mayor. Boris Johnson is a colourful Tory MP who is considering running for Mayor of London. And when I say colourful, I'm employing British understatement. He's got one of the key characteristics I think any London Mayor should have - a larger than life personality. Dude is a card. Plus he represents a constituency that's seriously underrepresented in modern day politics.

The hair care impaired.

Folks who know me well recognise that I'll see this a major step forward for people (like me) who have more on their minds than brushes and combs.



The Blair Government wanted to reform gambling in Britain and took the opportunity to license some smallish number (around 10?) of "Las Vegas style" super casinos. These were more less gonna be scattered about the country - one per government region.

But then some people thought that was too much gambling, so the number of proposed supercasinos fell from 10 to 1 (with some greater number of smaller casinos again scattered hither and yon). I thought this was lame, lame, lame -'cause the whole point of the Vegas model is multiple competing casinos (or at least giving the illusion of competition). Vegas became a destination.

Well, there was a big competition on between various locales and apparently one of the key criteria for determining the winner was the regeneration potential of the area selected. Basically, the crapper your application the more likely you were to win. Oh sure, there was an application for a location in an abandoned quarry in some forgotten part of London, but in terms of crap locations the hands-down winner was Manchester.

Blackpool, in particular, felt particularly aggrieved. After all, Blackpool was the fading flower of British internal tourism (like one of those really tacky flowers with fake droplets of dew glued on the petals). Blackpool is probably the kitchest nook of England and if the independent commission had had FUN as a key policy determinant - Blackpool would have won. And I would have totally gone up to Blackpool and gambled and taken in all the fabulous sights of the Pleasure Beach. As it is, going to the Manchester casino the biggest gamble is whether you'll actually arrive at the casino with your wallet considering the "deprived" area they selected.

Well now Gordon Brown - as the new head honcho - has decided that they're not just going to reconsider the Manchester candidate but the whole dang thing. There won't be any supercasinos. And after all that blood, sweat, tears and political scandal. Damn.

Gordon Brown hates fun.

Monday, July 09, 2007


The Vol-in-Law went to our local town hall and registered Baby Cletus. This means he's a person for official records and the gummimint and such like. This means we can claim benefits moneys and so on.

We were cutting it close. We only had a few days left to register him or the Queen got to name our baby and when he was four they could take him away to join the Royal Sweeps Brigade cleaning the chimneys of London for a ha'penny a day. Wheww....we saved ya, Cletus. Nick o' time. Do you think the Queen would have given him a worse name than Cletus?

Baby face

Now he is a real boy.
Light posting:

Well, posting has been light. Babies, it turns out, are a lot of work. But also, our internet service, as it turns out, is a bit crap. So when I do get a spare moment I'm not able to draft much.

Things I might have written about:

  • The anniversary of 7/7. Lest we forget.
  • Baby Cletus attends his first party. He started off well (asleep), but left in a torrent of tears. It was the Texan's farewell party - happily just around the corner from our house.
  • Wimbledon ends.
  • My tomato plants seem to be coming along nicely despite the cool weather. But we shall see...

But perhaps most importantly:

The new Security Minister Admiral Sir Alan West (quick - what's the proper salutation for that?) suggests that the UK will face 15 years of the war on terror - which we're not to call the war on terror. He also refuses - it seems - to use the word Muslim. He worries about the attraction of youth to radical ideas and violent actions. Just what kind of youth does he mean?

But he also suggests, chap - that we might need to be a little less than sporting in fight against the radicalisation of our youth. That we might need to the tattle.

"Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone. I'm afraid, in this situation, anyone who's got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life."

Right so.

I guess I have two problems with this.

  1. Why can't we just be honest about the source and ideological underpinning of the terrorism? I can't see how we can fight it if we can't even name it.
  2. Snitching. First off - I'm not sure snitching isn't British - folks are forever turning in the benefit cheating ex-partners. And secondly, snitching and the target community... That's exactly the way to win over the hearts and minds of Muslims. They're already worried about "betraying" their brothers and sisters by engaging in the broader society. Some might be all for it, but I doubt it. Many of the Muslim communities have countries of origin with very nasty security services indeed. These are places that folks have tried to get away from. Think Syria or lately Iraq or even, to some extent, Pakistan. Where there are networks of informants and fake dissidents who'll inform on you if you don't inform on them. These are cultures where snitching is both a deadly threat and a vital necessity.

I know the Sir Admiral Minister has only been in his job a week or so, but he seems to be fundamentally missing the point.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Born fighting

In the baby blue shorts and outsized terry cloth jacket, we have Cletus the South London lumper, the Pooter from Tooting

put 'em up

You don't want to enter the teething ring with this guy. He definitely punches above his weight.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

reflections on the terror attacks

I think the really interesting thing about the latest terrorist attacks in Britain is what it might have been. Most of the alleged participants are doctors, medical students or somehow connected with the National Health Service. Dumbass terrists. They could have really terrified people by slowly and steadily killing patients - or killing a bunch of patients over a two week period and then going out in some kind of blaze of glory. Holy moly. The NHS would collapse. Any vestige of "commuity cohesion" would collapse. Folks would be quite hesitant to entrust their wee kids to the good Dr Mohammed Ibrahim - even though Mo has a beer on a Saturday (when he's not on call) and despises the whole terror thing and wants to live a quiet life.

Asians are perhaps overrepresented on the General Practitioner rolls and I could quite see the untrusting white, black and Asian populations being accused of racism, Islamaphobia or sectarianism when they refuse to get a jab from the brown doctor.


Normally my initial reaction to any kind of terror plot is "How is this going to inconvenience me?" I changed my whole vacation plans last year because I didn't want the hassle of airport security and the whole liquids ban thing. I avoided the plane and took the cross-channel ferry. I'm not afraid of dying - after all the numbers are really still in my favor. I don't know anyone who's died in al Qaeda action - but the Vol-in-Law lost two cousins in a ferry disaster. And despite growing up in Belfast, he didn't know anyone who was killed in terror attack. So ferries 3, terror 0 in our book* - but we still took the boat.

This summer I'm not really planning on flying anywhere - and I'm not really that bothered by the inconvenience of my visiting relatives. But one thing does trouble me; the plot centered on Calor gas - the canisters used for bbq grills and patio heaters and such like. Is there likely to be increased security around propane** and propane accessories? Am I going to have trouble getting a refill on my near empty cannister of gas? Should the sun ever come out, should there be a break in the clouds, a moment of bbq weather will I be left gasless?


Over at Harry's Place, they're hopeful that a new, more sensible, dialogue is emerging:

Something else has changed in the past week and it is certainly not just
the result of a few articles from ex-Islamists and sensible mainstream British
Muslims. After the failed bombings in London and Glasgow there has been much
less of the 'we had it coming' apologist claptrap in the media reaction and a
much greater willingness to accept that Islamist terrorists mean what they say
and are what they are.

Maybe. But at the same time British polticians and leftist commentators are discussing these latest terror attempts without mentioning the words Muslim, Islamist or sometimes even terrorist. We all know that not all Muslims are terrorists. We know that already. But let us face up to what Islamism really is.
*one of the cousin's fiance was also killed - and he did know someone who was permanently disabled by an IRA bomb

**actually most bbq gas in this country is the inferior, but safer, butane

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

tranferable skills

The Vol-in-Law used to sing songs about cats to the cats. He'd take the lyrics and music to popular songs - and twist them so that they were about cats. Like feline groovy.

But now he sings about Cletus. Like singing Cletus the Fetus over and over again to the theme of Joxur the Mighty, a minor character from Xena Warrior Princess. (Amazingly this calms the little fellow.) Or, since the boy seems to like Johnny Cash - an adulterated version of Walk the Line.

You find it very, very easy to make poo.


Because you're mine, you make brown slime.

Fourth of July

Hey, hey, hey - it's the Fourth of July. Happy Independence Day everyone!

I've got zero plans. They're predicting rain, rain and more rain for today. So that kinda scuppers the whole BBQ thing. Plus the cupboards are bare.

I'm afraid of fireworks* and I probably couldn't get any if I wanted to and they don't really work in the rain that good anyway.

So, I think I'll pass the day watching American TV re-runs. Like seven year old Sally Jesse Rafael and Maury shows and endless episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond. I'm sure the founding fathers would rapturously approve.

*a fear developed after a lifetime of VolMom telling me the story of how VolAunt was nearly blinded by a Roman Candle and then a girl from my church had a truly horrific accident with fireworks.

wet, wet Wimbledon

Although my neighbourhood is considerably further down market, I'm really just around the corner from Wimbledon. It's technically walkable - but it's a long walk - made longer by the way the roads are cut. If I were a crow, it would be a pretty short flight.

My point is, I've lived really close to Wimbledon for a number of years and I've never been. In the opening days of the tournament you can queue for tickets at the grounds and it's quite likely, with a little luck and a little patience that you'll get to see someone quite famous. And I don't even think it's that expensive really - not in the early days.

But the truth is, I've never really gotten in to tennis. I can't play it and I can't follow it. When my c-section anaesthetist suggested that we might be anticipating the imminent arrival of a Wimbledon tennis star - me and the Vol-in-Law just scoffed. His tennis skills are almost as low as mine.

But I have to admit that I usually really like the buzz around Wimbledon. There's the usual hope and aspiration that maybe this year there'll be a British tennis star who'll win the big giant cup. This year -despite lack of play from rain - the British hopes were dashed astonishingly early.

Financial spillover

I know someone who lives in Wimbledon who rents his house out every year for the tournament and makes a bucket load of money. Although we don't live that close, we live close enough (you can pick up a special tournament time bus to Wimbledon near our house). Soon we should have a new bus route that stops almost right in front of our house (though thankfully in just the next road over - so we don't have buses going in front of us). Maybe next year we could at least organise a house swap? That might be cool.

The real spillover

Of course, the real spillover effect we get is the weather. It's a quite a cliche to say "Oh, it's Wimbledon - so it must be rainy" - and indeed this year that's been the case. And we get Wimbledon's weather. During this tourney, it seems like it rains almost exclusively during the hours of play. Early in the morning, it's lovely - blue skies, but ten the sky is leaden and by the time of kick off (or whatever the tennis equivalent might be) which is around 11 it seems to be pitching it down.

But at least we didn't get this.

Monday, July 02, 2007

persona non grata

Cletus still doesn't have a birth certificate. He still hasn't been officially registered which means he doesn't have a legal name. So we could still call him Cletus -if we wanted to.

It's not that we're trying to evade the system or that we haven't decided on a name yet. I had his name picked out years ago. It's just that we haven't made the time yet to get down to Wandsworth Town Hall and register the baby. And to be perfectly frank, I haven't really felt up to it.

We have a little less than two weeks to get him registered - or else. I'm not sure what the "or else" is - could be a fine or maybe the Queen gets to name our baby. Wonder what she might pick? If it's any indication, her dogs' names are Emma, Linnet, Holly, Willow, Brandy, Cider and Berry. Cider sounds pretty good, so maybe we'll just take our chances.

Actually, there is a bit of an incentive to get him all official. We should start getting money for Cletus soon - about $30 a week (we don't get a tax deduction for him, so don't get all excited) - that's money for us to feed and clothe him. But we won't get that money until he's registered. Not only that, but good ol' Gordon Brown is giving Cletus £250 just for being born. That money goes into trust until he's 18 - at which time he'll be able to do anything he wants with it.

Wise investor or beers for everyone?

And we know what good judgement 18 year old boys have. I'm so glad they've set it up so he has access to the cash on his 18th birthday. Depending on how wisely we invest the money, that ought to be a hell of an evening or quite the wild lost week in Ibiza.

We have the option to "top up" the account - tax free like. And will we? Hell, no. Although we'll give Cletus the option to add his own money (birthday/Christmas, etc) to the mix which might encourage less profligate spending.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

four weeks

Cletus is four weeks old today

before and after

See the progress he's made

jeep on fire

I'm not quite sure what to make of the latest terror attacks on Britain the car bombs in London and the incendiary laden jeep driven into Glasgow airport. I barely leave the house these days and when I do, I don't much manage to venture farther than my doctor's office. So in some ways it all seems quite distant to me*. But one thing I do know, there are people out there who want to kill don't much mind if they kill me. In fact, I'm sure they'd be quite pleased to get a random American and a new mom at that...all that pathos and news coverage.

I would say this was a worrying new development, but in a sense I don't think it is a new development. I think it's a culmination of the inevitable. Sadly, there's a disturbingly large minority of people who wish only chaos and harm in the furtherance of their cause.

I'm not sure what we do about this. But one thing we mustn't do is justify or excuse. This isn't because of Iraq or the knighting of Salman Rushdie or Israel or poverty or racism or inequality. This is because a cancerous sort of righteous ideology has infected too many.

UPDATE: * I may not be leaving the house much, but the Vol-in-Law reminds me that he works near Oxford Street which he describes as "pretty much ground zero for terrorist events".
Really should get that whole life insurance thing sorted.