Sunday, September 30, 2007

And I thought I had a bad weekend

I was complaining to VolMom about my weekend being ruined by faulty merchandise from Ikea. And it was. And trust me - there will be more on that later. But then my mother told me that Gracie Henson had fallen from the top of the ferris wheel at the fair in Lawrenceburg on Friday - and that kind of put the whole thing in perspective.

Gracie is a childhood friend of my mom's and was her next door neighbor for many years. You hear about these carnival of horrors things almost as urban myth. I never really expected to know someone this happened to.

She's hurt, but according to news sources is "resting" at Vanderbilt hospital. My mother reported that she'd been riding it with her four year old grandson, who of course was left alone in the seat after she slipped out.

I expect I've taken my last ferris wheel ride.


Friday night's Euro millions lottery draw had a jackpot of eighty-eight million pounds. That's roughly a squillion dollars what with the weakness of the US currency.

I haven't checked our tickets yet. To check would be to almost certainly ruin the fantasy given the actual odds. I figure I can maximise the entertainment value of the tickets by not checking them for a bit - not knowing that I haven't won.

I've decided that if we do become squillionaires, I won't be going back to work. The Vol-in-Law said he'd feel obligated to finish out this semester.

I'd also buy a new car, a house in the country with an electronic gate, a boat, I'd look for some kind of business venture to invest my money in and occupy my time. Well, I already know what that would be, but am somehow superstitious of mentioning it. But it would be fun and something the whole family could enjoy (and no it wouldn't be the revival of Pigeon Forge's Porpoise Island).

I think I might also buy the Vols a defense, if that didn't violate NCAA rules or something.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

health visits

In the UK baby care is split between General Practitioners and nurses called Health Visitors (because they see healthy babies and they visit you in your home during the very early days). For any enquiries about whether something is wrong with your baby, you see a GP who may or may not refer you to a pediatrician. For weight checks and questions about growth and hitting milestones and weaning, you see the health visitor.

As far as feeding goes, the UK National Health Service takes the World Health Organization line of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, no solids til 6 months. So that's the advice given to average moms of average babies. That's in theory. In practice, things are different.

Cletus is breastfed, mostly. He gets one bottle of formula a day. It's largely for convenience. We did have to supplement early on because my milk was slow to come in and I was sick and exhausted. But we continued with the bottles because it's kind of nice for the Vol-in-Law to feed the baby and for me not to. Expressing hasn't worked out very well for me - so formula it is.

We also continued because of the number one advantage to bottle feeding: You can see exactly how much he's getting.

And that's reassuring when you have a baby who's a little bit of lightweight like Cletus. He's been gaining steadily, but he's in the 9th percentile for weight - that is about 90% of babies weigh more than he does. This past week he went up a bit to maybe 15th percentile - he'd gained 6 oz each week since his last weigh-in at the Health Visitor Clinic which was terrific.

So anyway, the HV said it was a good weight gain. But then she said I might want to give him another bottle of formula each day. She never once asked me about my breast feeding practice or my supply. I thought the NHS was supposed to be supporting breastfeeding!!?? How about having a chat about why I'm using formula to start with (convenience) and how I might ensure that Cletus is getting plenty of nice breastmilk rather than suggesting even more formula which would probably hurt my supply.

Then she said that he might want to start food soon, too to get his weight up. (He's not even four months old yet and is still sleeping through and doesn't seem ready for food) So I said, well maybe I'll start him on avocado or sweet potato when he seems more ready - as these are amongst the highest calorie weaning foods. She was adamant that I should start him on baby rice.Nothing against rice, but given his situation I don't want to fill him up on baby rice which has fewer calories than either breast milk or formula. So, then she said early weaning was not about quantity or quality but rather about getting them used to eating.

So why would I want to give my low-weight baby cereal which might see him getting fewer rather than more calories in a day? Well, I don't guess I would.

I think this advice is bad. I'm not arguing against flexibility. I'm not an adherent to the no solids til six months guideline. And clearly I'm not against mixed feeding, since I do it myself. But I think this advice goes against even the spirit of the feeding recommendations - more human milk for human babies for as long as possible.

Ikea and recommended reading

Ikea and recommended reading

Oriana Fallaci's novel Inshallah

I think this version is in Swedish. We saw this today. What else can you find on an Ikea flat pack bookcase?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

get me out of here

Jury selection for the Princess Diana inquest begins today. According to Reuters:

The long-delayed inquest will investigate how Diana and Dodi Fayed died, along with their driver Henri Paul, when their car crashed in a Paris tunnel.

The coroner, Lord Justice Scott Baker, will address potential jurors before they complete a questionnaire to gauge their eligibility.

The inquest is due to hear evidence relating to some of the most controversial aspects surrounding the couple, who died on August 31, 1997, including allegations the late Princess was pregnant.

Controversial elements? This means the inquest is likely to hear all kinds of crackpot fantasies and conspiracy theories cooked up in the minds of wackos and grieving fathers. This inquest is likely to drag on forever and come up with no more than a confirmation of the French inquiry.

I'm not eligible for jury service here, but if I were these are among the things I would do or say to exclude me from service on that jury.

  • Fake idiocy
  • Use Halloween makeup to create a seeping facial wound
  • Say "I'm glad Diana's dead and I'd like to hand a medal to the Royal Family for getting her."
  • Bring Cletus. He screams a lot anyway, but we might just leave off a feed just to ensure maximum crankiness and say "I will be able to breastfeed my baby in the jury box, won't I?"
  • Attend jury selection in my birthday suit
  • Shoot myself in the foot
He takes up hardly any room.

You see in Britain, jurors are enjoined from ever speaking on matters juridical. If it were in America, I'd be all

"Princess Diana?, never heard of her. And as for me, I'm the most objective person you'll meet."

And then I'd try to find an agent for a book deal.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prove me right

Ok, I know it's petty, but it's not my fault. I keep telling my husband that Inchy the inch worm plays a certain tune - and he says it doesn't. He is wrong.

What do you think it is?

See how having kids opens up whole new areas in your marriage you never even knew existed.

Bear baiting

Being on maternity leave and nursing means that I watch a lot more daytime tv than I used to. I could say "Yecchhh, I hate daytime tv," but it wouldn't be true. I've always liked some aspects of daytime tv. I never was a huge fan of the soaps, but I do love me some talk shows and detective show re-runs. I never sleep so well or so soundly during such a brief napping period as I do during a Rockford Files, a Columbo or a Jeremy Kyle.

American readers may not be familiar with Jeremy. He's a British talk show host. He specialises in bringing on trailer trash to establish the paternity of their little sproglets. Of course, they're not trailer trash, being that poor people are housed on council estates in the UK (like US housing projects).

Jeremy is not as vile and provocative as Jerry Springer - and all the physical fights are edited out. But he is a bit stern and often gives his guests a good talking to. And if all you saw of British tv was Jeremy, you'd be wondering why all infants in the UK weren't given a DNA test at birth since there seems to be almost universal doubt on the question of "Who's the Daddy?"

Recently Jeremy's received a slating from a district judge - he called the show human bear baiting that goes under the guise of entertainment. A former guest of the show was in court for attacking his wife's lover beneath the unrelenting eye of the Kyle cameras.

In his sentencing, Judge Berg was reported in the Manchester Evening News as saying: "I have had the misfortune, very recently, of watching The Jeremy Kyle Show.

"It seems to me that the purpose of this show is to effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil."

Morbid, yes. Depressing, hardly. At worse, it's a bit disheartening to see folks who suck from the public teat have little other than stirring up conflict to occupy their time.

I agree with Judge Berg that it is all a bit sordid, but his views are just as insulting as the show is exploitative.

"It should not surprise anyone that these people, some of whom have limited intellects, become aggressive with each other.

I guess the Jeremy Kyle show, Judge Berg and the viewing public (including myself) should remember that these are people, not rats in a sack.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A limited success

a limited success

I finally gave up on the tomatoes - and pulled up the sole remaining plant this afternoon to be replaced with a winter bedding scheme.

That one red 'un is nearly the extent of my harvest. I got a couple of cherry tomatoes earlier in the season, but that's it. It's just been too damp, too cool and too gray for much ripening.

Oh well, better luck next year. Anyone know a good recipe that calls for one bowl of green ta-maters?

Monday, September 24, 2007

This is important

Alan Johnson's address to a Labour Party Conference Fringe event.

Ignore the jibber jabber like:

First, having the will and the resolution to promote that order and that society as non-negotiable normative ends. So enough with the apologetics for them and the self-hatred for us.

Just try to wade through it. This is the stuff wherein liberals (in the American leftist sense) and classical liberals need to get their act together and fight not just violence of extremist Islamism, but the ideas, too. You know, the old hearts and minds thing.

Of little account

VolDad phoned me the other day and amongst his general news and asking after Cletus, he told me he'd found a family heirloom - maybe.

At some point, Fred Thompson had signed a book for my grandfather - I guess it was this one. And at some point, my grandfather had loaned or given the book to my dad. Since my dad hasn't been his son-in-law for almost 20 years, it had to have been a long, long time ago.

My dad and I speculated that the book would soon be valued at a lot more - or a lot less. But at any rate, he'd give me the book if I wanted it.

I told VolMom, a life long Dem, about the rediscovered tome and she said "Well, I hope it stays worthless."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A good day

Hurray - the Vols win!


Not that we weren't expecting it - what with Cletus wearing his lucky Tennessee hat and all. I hope the winning doesn't run out any time soon, 'cause the lucky hat is getting smaller and smaller.



We listened to the football game this morning. It was a good solid win by the end, of course, but there were some worrying moments early on. Still...onwards and upwards - right?

I got the Vol-in-Law to load the game up for me so I wouldn't be in any danger of seeing the score. I kinda knew the Vols won just by his demeanor. There was no evil glint in his eye. I hate to say it, but I think my husband enjoys a bad Tennessee season.


To celebrate, and just cause we felt like it we went to Bodeans BBQ in Clapham. The meal was pretty good, re-runs of yesterday's college football games were on the TV where Steve Spurrier was looking gloomy and Cletus slept on a blanket on the booth seat through the whole meal. Wooohooo! And on the way home I realised that today marks my first anniversary of quitting smoking.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Cletus is just getting to the age where he likes some songs with hand motions. Like the Itsy-bitsy Spider.

My in-laws were visiting from Scotland this weekend and Cletus was fussing - bored, as usual. I suggested a bit of Itsy-bitsy spider. My father-in-law seized on the idea and began singing:

"The isky-whisky spider went up the water spout..."

What? Did he misspeak? Am I hearing that right?

"Down came the rain and washed the whisky out,"

Surely that's just a horrible, horrible mistake. Itsy-bitsy means little. Isky-whisky sounds like some kind of bizarre Japanese Scotch cocktail.

I wanted to grab him by the lapels and say "Noooo!" But I wasn't sure if it was his mistake or some kind of weird British version - and I also recognise that it might have seemed a tad rude if I'd done so. At any rate, I'll keep singing itsy-bitsy and one day Cletus will say "No, granddad sing it right." And then I can smirk.


Speaking of songs with hand motions, I don't really know any more. There are hazy snatches of memory floating around my brain, remnants of my life as a four-year-old.

There is one song I remember, but I'm afraid it's ruined. Little Rabbit Foo Foo:

Little Rabbit Foo Foo hoppin' through the forest,
scoopin' up the field mice and boppin' 'em on the head

But my brother and I gave it alternate and very politically incorrect lyrics.

Little Faggot Foo Foo hoppin' through the forest,
scoopin' up the field mice and [the rest is really not appropriate for a family blog]

So, I tried to sing the original version. But our version, which made us laugh like drains as youth kept running through my head rendering me incapable of singing it right.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007



For Cletus, every day is talk like a pirate day. In fact, pretty much all he says is:

Arrrgh, Arrrgh, Arrrgh

I don't get it

All this breastfeeding as politics stuff is kind of new to me. I just thought breastfeeding was the best, most natural way to feed babies with a whole bunch of benefits to mom and baby. Before I had a baby myself, I honestly didn't think about it much. I didn't notice breastfeeding moms out and about, but if I did I'd have been more likely to be worried about the presence of a noisy, smelly baby than I would have about breastfeeding.

The only time I've felt uncomfortable about being in the presence of breastfeeding was when someone else was. I remember a mom at my brother's daycare took me into a storage room to show me a box that had once been mine when I had gone to that daycare some eight years earlier, my name was still visible despite time and a coat of paint. It oddly intriguing. Then she wanted me to leave the room. I got that she wanted to nurse (my brother was breastfed), but I couldn't understand why she wanted me to leave. It's not like I would have hung out there forever with her and her boring baby in a storage room. And even when I understood she didn't want to nurse in front of me, I didn't understand why.

I also remember visiting a new mom six or seven years ago. The baby was brand new so she was a bit new to nursing - and it turns out there is a little bit of a knack to breastfeeding and breastfeeding discreetly which she didn't yet have. I didn't care. She had to feed her baby, we just chatted away. But I noticed her husband being uncomfortable as she opened her shirt. I didn't get it - then I realised that he was nervous because I was in the room and sitting directly across from her with a good eyeful of her ta-tas.

In the past, I thought maybe these people were being excessively modest, but hey - each to their own. But now I understand that there's a good portion of people who are somehow deeply offended by breastfeeding and aren't afraid to get all up in your face and say so.

I won't answer Bill Maher point by point, but just to say that dogs can't in fact give birth to human babies - and while they have occasionally raised human children (I've seen the documentary - thanks Channel 4) the results weren't tip top.

I didn't get that people were worked up about breastfeeding and now I have to admit I don't really understand why. Especially why people are all like "Not while I'm eating..."

Maybe I just have a higher revulsion threshold than others. Maybe my gross-outs are different. But I just don't understand what the big deal about nursing is. You can't see much if anything, nobody's doing it for your titilation - at least I'm not (if I were I wouldn't be wearing the baggy shirt and old sweatpants and I might have taken the time to comb my hair). Anyway, maybe the slummy mummy look is working out for me, 'cause I've only had the occasional rude, disbelieving stare.

But really - what's the deal? I want to know, 'cause I sure don't think it's about the accidental viewing of a bit of breast flesh. It's something about the act of actually feeding a baby. And is this a new thing or am I just now paying attention 'cause I'm nursing a baby?


More folks are chiming in on this - this list was compiled at Velveteen Mind where there's a fabulous take on the issue.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bank run!!!

I never thought I'd see a run on a bank in my lifetime. It seemed the stuff of black and white footage of desperate men and women in woolen suits and hats. But late last week and continuing this morning there's a run on a British bank called Northern Rock. I've heard the mood in the queue is nervous but upbeat - a bit of the old British blitz spirit. I half fancied going down to a branch just to soak in the atmosphere of this historic blip.

It all started when Northern Rock asked the Bank of England for a line of credit, because the wholesale money markets that they usually used to fund their mortgage loans was jumpy following the sub-prime mortgage market problems in the US. The Northern Rock were particularly exposed because they mostly deal in mortgages rather than a wide array of financial products and they mostly access the money markets rather than funding mortgages largely from moneys on deposit.

In the UK, deposits are only underwritten or guaranteed in full to £2000 ($4,000) and 90% of further deposits to a value of £35,000. So even relatively small time savers were at some risk.

Too little, too late?
Although the Government expressed full confidence in the bank and assured savers that there was no need to take their money out, although they could if they wanted to - there was no talk until late yesterday of extending the deposit guarantee. Shortly after the end of banking hours yesterday the Chancellor Alistair Darling (the man with the funniest eyebrows in politics) announced that all deposits would be guaranteed. But only for Northern Rock Savers and only in this crisis. Frankly, that would make me all the more nervous. It's one thing to get reimbursed through a recognised scheme, but it's another to rely on a promise at a press conference.

I think what's needed is a broader guarantee on all deposits to a reasonable level (£50 to £75k off the top of my head) for all banks and building societies (kind of like a savings and loans).

Fire Phil?

Click to enlarge

Recent increased traffic to a two year old post. Hmm, wonder what that's all about.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

And in other football news

And by other football, I mean soccer. This week Scotland beat France 1-0 in France in a Euro 2008 qualifying match. The Scots are ecstatic. As for me, I've been confused all week - should I be happy? (That France lost.) Should I be sad? (That the gloating Scots had some success).

Should I be desolee that they couldn't both lose?

Swamp of tears

2 months old today

Oh no! What a wretched defeat. Being five hours ahead and a little sleep deprived, we went to bed at half time. Looks like it was just the right point to go.

Florida - 59 Tennessee -20

Friday, September 14, 2007

A good year for dope?

Regular readers will know I do like to garden. I'm pleased to say my fingers (UK) and thumb (US) are pretty green - I have a nice depth and breadth of knowledge for an amateur gardener. My parents, though, will probably be pleased to note that I know almost nothing about growing marijuana.

I don't know what kind of growing conditions marijuana needs. But just looking at it - and knowing where it grows, I'd guess it needs heat, more light than you'd find in an average basement, and a fair bit of moisture. But maybe not. Despite a bad growing season for most things in Tennessee this year, maybe Cannabis is more drought tolerant than I thought - cause it's been a bumper year for dope in Cocke County.

Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter pilot, working with the Governor’s Task Force for Marijuana Eradication, spotted marijuana plants in a Cocke County cornfield Monday valued at half a million dollars.


It is the largest harvest in Cocke County this year and perhaps the largest marijuana eradication in Tennessee this summer. The more than 45-hundred plants, ranging in height from eight to 15 feet tall, were collected and taken to the Cocke County Highway Department, where they were destroyed Monday evening.

William at Nashville is Talking wonders about the consequences of the Cocke County crackdown:

in a year of unprecedented drought where traditional crops have failed, how many rural farmers in Cocke Co., one of the poorest counties in TN, will not be able to feed their families?

...or indeed keep their families pacified.

Orange you funny?

Voluminous has a selection of Gator jokes. Most of them are good for a titter, but the last one's a corker.

Check out the weekly football haiku contest at Rocky Top Talk - and the delish Gator recipes.

And not to be outdone Cletus has made his own home movie.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Somebody just came to my site looking for

"picture of phil fulmer looting in hurricane katrina"

Now, I remember that the Vols picked LSU pretty clean right around then, but surely ol' Phil didn't need to break into the local cash n' carry.

I just love them Internet search terms.

Passport to Pimlico

Cletus - the little South Londoner - made his first ever trip North of the River. I took him up to the RHS Flower Show yesterday in his little carrier. Our own Sweet William was the hit of the show.

I don't know if American readers know about Alan Titchmarsh - perhaps one of his gardening makeover show appears on BBC America or Home and Garden. If you're not familiar with Mr Titchmarsh, let's just say he runs a gardening empire. He appears on numerous gardening shows, he is one of the prime time television presenters for the Chelsea Flower Show (yes, there's a week of television coverage for the show), he's written loads on gardening and he's behind a web based nursery Crocus. No doubt he has his very green fingers in other mud pies, too.

At any rate, several people stopped me while at the show to complement me on charming Cletus and to predict that he'd be the next Alan Titchmarsh. I was also advised, by more than one person, that I should drill the boy in the Latin names of the plants. (I'd have to brush up on my own Latin first.) VolMom's old next door neighbors, who were extension agents or worked for the TWRA or some such, used to drill their daughters in the latin names of the flora particularly wildflowers some of them so wild they were weeds in my book. I was always impressed by this ability - so maybe Cletus will have a little Acer palmatum in his future.


Despite the fact that there is no more room in my garden, I love going to the shows to spot the next horticultural trends. Volunteer gardeners will be excited to learn that orange is in. There were some fabulous crocosmias and echinaceas in stunning bright, golden orange. If I had more room and more sun - I would have bought. I need to get a reliable pocket sized camera to take around with me, too. It's too hard managing baby and photos, sometimes. But those oranges were spectacular.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fahrenheit 9/11

Last night Fahrenheit 9/11 was aired on British TV's Channel 4. I saw it in the cinema when it first aired over 3 years ago. It was a special airing for the anniversary of 9/11.

Going to see the film had been a special event. A North London theater was filled almost entirely with Americans and a glass of wine was included with the price of admission. There were a few special guests from the host population - like my husband ( at least I thought he was pretty special) and Richard Dawkins - who I think is an asshole. Dawkins was asked to say a few words to the audience - and basically he lambasted the American population for our collective stupidity with a special mention to the unenlightened Red-Staters. I was fuming.

About the film itself - I remembered relatively little. Except for the powerful twin towers montage that never actually showed the towers. That was still brilliant, stunning and emotional. But a lot of the other elements of the film seemed a bit strange, from a time gone by, even though it came out nearly three years ago.

Clearly the piece was designed to damage Bush's reelection chances. That didn't seem to work. There were lots of references to the cosy relationships between the Bush family and Saudi families - including the Bin Ladens with an almost catch phrase like "that's something the Bushes didn't want the American people to know." Well, now we do know and it seems like most people just didn't care.

I had forgotten, too just how many different angles Michael Moore uses...ok, the Bush clan is in hock to the Saudis - so they didn't pursue them after 9/11 like they should have - but wait - the Saudis didn't actually want a US invasion of Iraq this time - so, huh? No wonder people didn't manage to take a clear message away from this film.

There's another montage in the film of happy smiling Iraqis during the Saddam Hussein years. I remember thinking "Yeah, right - like life was so rosy under Saddam." But now, and in comparison to the sectarian slaughter...well, I certainly don't want to defend that torturous madman, but gosh Iraq ain't the country it used to be (except maybe in the Kurdish areas - though even that's starting to get nasty, too).

I kept thinking how much things had moved on since that time. Indeed, how much worse things have become.


9/11 - 3/11 -7/7 - Never forget.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tasty frog

Did you know that frogs can squeak like a rat when threatened by cats?

We tried to save the frog - both of us running around the garden trying to catch the cats while baby Cletus screamed inside. In the end, we decided death scream of frog was better than Cletus wailing. That boy has got some lungs.

Wild speculation

American readers may not be aware of the story, but you had to have been hiding under a rock for the past four months to not know a little girl named Madeleine McCann is missing.

She and her family were vacationing in Portugal when she disappeared one night, while her twin siblings slept on and while her parents were dining in a tapas restaurant within their resort complex.

In an effort to find Madeleine, her parents have mounted a well orchestrated media campaign. Posters, print and broadcast interviews, web sites, even advertisements in the cinema. They traveled all over Europe, David Beckham did an ad for them and they even met the Pope.

But time went on and no little girl. I suppose some might have given up hope, but the McCanns kept up the media pressure. But apparently folks in Portugal were beginning to get tired of them. The McCann case couldn't have been good for the local tourist economy and the pressure on the police must have been getting pretty hot.

And now the McCanns themselves are suspects according to the Portugese police. The McCanns imply they are being fitted up, and I would tend to believe them.

I've never been a supporter of the McCanns. Obviously, I hoped their little girl would be found - alive and unharmed. At worst, I wished that they might have closure. But I think they behaved terribly (leaving three very small children alone in a hotel room). I don't for a second believe that anyone could have foreseen that a child would be taken. But surely they could have reckoned that their children might wake up, alone in a strange place, scared or might just inflict some kind of injury on themselves. (They claim they were checking on them every 20 minutes, but this consisted of one or another adult listening at the door.) I understand that they wanted some time away from their kids - and that they'd rather not be trapped in their holiday apartment while the kids slept scanning the Portugese television for something to watch - but the resort did offer a baby sitting service. I've never understood why they got such an easy ride in the press for behaving so irresponsibly. Perhaps it's because they're doctors, professional middle class types, and very good looking.

All that being said, I really don't think that they murdered their daughter. There's little available information, but the evidence seems spurious - it kind of doesn't make sense.

  • Portugese police say they've found Madeleine's blood in a rental car that her parents rented 25 days after her disappearance. That means they would have had to disappear her - and then get her out of hiding (a cell or a grave) and transport her between media interviews.
  • It's been suggested that Portugese police wanted the mother to confess to over-sedating her daughter (plausible), but that doesn't fit with the supposed blood evidence in the holiday apartment or hire car.
Now here's the wild speculation bit. I reckon the police and the town were getting absolutely fed up with them. They had vowed not to leave Portugal without their daughter. I think they were offered a deal. Leave - and we won't frame you. Within days of the mother being named as a suspect, they're back home in England.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Back in the 70s, one of the kids in my day care group was forbidden from eating additives and preservatives. That meant that he was on a special diet. He couldn't eat the food that the rest of us ate. Like hotdogs. The only reason it sticks in my mind was that I remember he was served a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a hot dog bun - that seemed to so wrong to me. I still hate non-purposive bun usage.

And why couldn't he eat the hot dog for which the bun was intended? Because his parents claimed the chemicals in it would make him hyper. Crazy hippies. He wasn't badly behaved, at least from what I can remember. But he had to suffer a PBJ on the wrong bread.


Turns out my nursery mate's parents had the right idea. Apparently all that gook in the food will make kids go crazy. I heard about this in the news briefly and thought - hmmm, as a parent*, maybe I should check that out, maybe you know - do an Internet search. But I didn't, I couldn't seem to stay focused. I dunno, coulda been the fruit loops.


Fortunately, The Crone Speaks did link the story.

* hey, I think that's the first time I've used the "as a parent" phrase.

Unstoppable vs immovable

"What would happen if Perry Mason defended one of Columbo's suspects?"

I think I've been watching too much daytime tv.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fred marrying ambition

More on Fred. Here's another article in the LA Times about Fred's early days, marrying young in Lawrenceburg. A lot of it's about his former in-laws, the Lindseys. I can't say I'm a political fan of Fred Thompson, but I liked his work in Law and Order and I can't help but be a little excited about reading these stories about my old home town in newspapers of natonal note.

This article is full of little known and rarely recalled facts about the wild nature of Lawrence County politics. Including matters of the ballot being settled by the bullet. I wish my grandfather was alive today so that I could ask him about all that. He was heavily involved in Lawrence County politics in those days and had a political rivalry with one of the Lindseys mentioned in the story. But I didn't know about the shoot-out (my grandfather wasn't involved, I can't imagine that he would have been at least he's not mentioned in the story).

Here's another little known fact: I used to have a picture of Fred's ex-mother-in-law hanging up in my kitchen.

H/T Volunteer Voters

The feud is off!

My great aunt Tiny probably carried her grudge to her grave. Many other proud Lawrence-burgers weren't too happy about it either. One night, many, many years ago apparently Johnny Carson announced on The Tonight Show that Lawrenceburg, TN shared the honor (along with Detroit) of being the American city with the most unsolved murders. And apparently he didn't say it in a helpful way.

I never saw the episode, but I heard about it. Even in my 20s, people ocassionally asked me about it. I used to say - it's not the murder rate, it's the unsolved murder rate. That means no official clear up. In Lawrenceburg, we have our own justice, I'd say.

But I guess the hard feelings are over, 'cause The Tonight Show was filmed in the Big Burg yesterday. I mean it must have been since Fred Thompson was going to announce in town and he threw his hat in the presidential ring on the show last night.


To be fair, I did read somewhere on the Internet that he'll be having a homecoming in Lawrenceburg on the 15th. (I hope VolMom can tell me all about it, but I bet she doesn't go.)

The Vol-in-Law said "I bet if he wins, he won't even put the presidential library in Lawrenceburg."

Would you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Knoxville blogging central

Via Michael Silence - the new aggregating home for Knox bloggers: The Knoxville Blog Network

Dogs and DNA

England is a nation of dog lovers, a nation of bird lovers and it used to be a nation of freedom lovers, too.

I listen to the morning news on the radio every day. I often switch it on before I get out of bed. Just me and my husband and now baby Cletus lounging in bed- maybe dosing in and out a little. Some stories capturing my ear and my imagination more than others.

This morning there was a story about how walking your dog, even on a lead, could disrupt certain bird populations. I knew that would get the wellies-and-dog-on-a-country-walk crowd in a tither*.

The next story I caught was about a judge who thought that everyone in the whole of the UK should be on the government's DNA database (and visitors to the UK, too which ought to do wonders for the tourist industry).

Currently, if you're arrested (for anything) the police can take a DNA sample which can be kept forever. Even if charges are dropped or you've been acquitted or it was a horrible case of mistaken identity. But Lord Justice Sedley wants everyone - everyone to be in the DNA database. And why? Because otherwise it wouldn't be fair.

Lord Justice Sedley said the current database, which holds DNA from crime suspects and scenes, was "indefensible" because it was unfair and inconsistent.

You see the problem with the database - as it currently stands - is that it seems to disproportionately hold the DNA of criminals.


As soon as the dog-and-bird story finished, folks were emailing away defending the practice of dog walking. Sure, some people registered their concerns about having everyone's DNA on file - chiefly that if - even by mistake - a copper comes to your door saying your DNA has been found at the scene - well, that's the absolute end of the presumption of innocence.

Others said basically "if you haven't done anything wrong then you don't have anything to worry about."

Yeah, right. I'll never understand this attitude.

* for the record, I don't care if dogs on leads can interrupt birds. As a cat owner, I've already made my position on birds pretty clear.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Neils Boorman - former brand-a-holic has released a book about his passion for brands and how he lived brand-free for a year.

Like many compulsive types, once addicted to designer labels - he took his brand free existence to extremes, too. According to this BBC story, he found that shopping for non-branded and preferably locally produced clothes, food or anything was tough work.

By banning myself from the shops I hoped to cleanse myself of a destructive addiction. But the prohibition became a kind of experiment, I wanted to find out if a person living in modern Britain could survive away from the chain stores and supermarkets that dominate our lives.

The first months of my brand-free life were hell. My local High Streets were populated entirely by mass-market brands and I was forced to scour the back streets for alternative spaces to shop.

I appreciate the experiment and how hard it must be to break the cruel dependency of fashion and brand addiction. He's covered some of his experience on his blog.


I don't live a brand free life. Far from it. I love Finnish design and enjoy my Arabia dishes and Iitala glassware (and Nokia phone). I like brands because it means that suppliers have a reputation and a brand loyalty to maintain - so in theory they keep an eye on quality and sizing and fit should be relatively consistent. A lot of my clothes come from XXXXX, from XXXX when I'm in the US and shoes from XXXXX. I recently bought some onesies from Baby XXX, after having been given some as gifts and discovering that they seemed to be the softest an wash the best. But I scour the stocks and do my best to choose the items with as little writing or brand ID as possible on the clothing. Keep the label on the label. Why should I pay money to advertise their clothes for them?

I not just my own money I don't like to spend on advertising other people's products, I don't even like to do that with gifted items. For instance, VolMom gave me a Baby XXX hat with "XXX" written on it. Cletus won't be wearing that, if there's another hat within reach. And my mother-in-law gave me a little baby jacket from xxxx - an Irish designer (I'm told). She pointed out that it was "a xxxx" in such a tone that implied I should be impressed. Though I know she meant well and the jacket is very nice - now I've noticed the "xxx" embroidered over the heart, I have to say I like it a whole lot less.

My aversion to obvious branding is a little obsessive. But I can directly link it back to the designer craze of the early 80s - the jeans, the shirts with alligators and men riding ponies. I can remember other kids in school making fun of me for not having them. I guess I decided I'd prefer to wear no (obvious) brands at all. Well, other than for the Vols and England football.


If I were Queen of the World, one of my (many) edicts would be:

There will be one official tv or radio sound effect sound for telephones. It will be universally recognised as such and will sound different from standard telephone rings.

I'm easily confused.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Three months old today


This cheeky monkey is three months old today. I can't believe we've kept him hale and reasonably hearty for three whole months.

Tube strike

Travel chaos hits London as almost every line shuts down. The Vol-in-Law only barely made it home after being turned away from several major stations. Commuters face more misery as tube strike to last for days.

I'm on maternity leave.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

We make a pilgrimage

I've always wanted to go to Canterbury Cathedral, ever since I read the Canterbury Tales or heard about the famous Murder in the Cathedral. I'd been to Canterbury once before - but that was to attend a conference on crime and law enforcement* and I didn't get a chance to take in the sights.

So for our brief little vacation, we decided to head to Canterbury as well as to the zoo.

Seaside resort town of Hythe
We stayed in the seaside town of Hythe rather than in Canterbury itself simply because I thought sea side walks might be calming for baby, and it turns out that Hythe is kind of an interesting town in itself. It was one of the Cinque ports (whatever that was) and was also a garrison town for many years. It boasts a military canal running through the middle of town - it was apparently built to thwart a French attack, but apparently now it's used for a biennial floating parade called the Venetian fete, which actually looks pretty fun.

Dem bones
Hythe also boasts England's largest ossuary (there are, apparently, only two). I had visions of visiting the ossuary and taking plenty of creepy photos with Cletus in front of piles of skulls so that in his degenerate teen years he could look back on such a snap and credit us with a smidgeon of cool. But St Leonard's Parish church and its crypt (where the bones are held) close between 12 and 2. We arrived just in time to see the vicar closing up and crossing the road to his house for lunch. As we stopped on our way out of town, I managed a mere glimpse of the skulls through the window.


The Cathedral
So onwards to Canterbury, where it is difficult to park. And it is even harder to park with a screaming baby. But most things are more difficult with a screaming baby as we've discovered. However, even so, it probably wasn't as hard as approaching the cathedral on your knees as many pilgrims did.

But Cletus was good as gold in the cathedral. Given that he is the child of two heatherns, I was amazed that he uttered not a peep when one of the cathedral clergy led worshippers (one or two) and tourists (many, many) in prayer. He was far better behaved than the gaggle of Italian teenagers who marched through proceedings with shrieks and giggles.

The cathedral is pretty fantastic. I can't say it's the most impressive one I've seen (St Mark's in Venice is pretty amazing), but it is absolutely grand in scale. It's imposing and I was certainly aware of its historical significance, but strangely I didn't feel in awe of the atmosphere as one often can in places of pilgrimage.

this cross marks the spot of Thomas Becket's murder
Creepy crosses marking the spot of Thomas Becket's murder in the Cathedral

tomb of the black prince
Tomb of the Black Prince

Interior of the cathedral

*I got the coolest name tag at that conference it said "Vol Abroad: The future of policing" which I kept, of course.

Sad Cletus


Sad Smokey, sad Cletus. The Vols game of a lifetime (well the only one for Cletus so far) and as Phil Fulmer said:

"...they definitely made us look not very good sometimes.’’

Cheer up, at least it was a non-conference game.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Go Vols

Cletus says...


Go Vols!

Dreaming of skinning some Golden Bears.


Today I went out for the first time without Cletus. I've been needing to do this for some time. I haven't been away from him for more than 30 minutes - except the time I had to have my legs scanned for clots at the local hospital.

I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do. As I'm breast feeding, I couldn't go too far or stay away from Cletus for too long. I thought about going to a museum, but by the time I got to any of the ones in central London and looked around for a few minutes - it would be time to head back. I could have gone for a walk - but that's generally something the Vol-in-Law do together.

I'm not much of shopper, really - but I decided to go to Wimbledon. In Wimbledon, they have a mall. It's not a big mall, it's not terrifically crowded, but it's a mall. They also have a high street with the usual retail suspects, plus a department store, bookstores and art supply stores and so forth. And Wimbledon is full of consumerist, aspirational to upper middle-class types - so the shops are pretty good. (The stores for the very wealthy are bit up the hill in Wimbledon Village)

Up until recently, a trip to Wimbledon meant a ridiculously long walk, a ridiculously long bus ride, or a really, really short trip by car but with high parking costs and low convenience probability. But within the past month, a new bus route has started which I can catch almost outside my front door (well, it's maybe a two minute walk) and takes me to the heart of Wimbledon in under ten minutes if the traffic's not bad. So I took the bus.

I poked around the shops and browsed the book store and bought some books. And then I took the bus home.

It's great that a new, easy to access, urban center is open to me now. But what was even better is that I left Cletus and when I came back there were no marks on the baby, he didn't seem traumatised, and I was even happy to see him.