Sunday, July 17, 2011
Saturday, July 02, 2011
We came home to find a wounded mouse in the corner. (Sometimes our cat doesn't finish the job - lazy!)
I pointed it out to Buddy and he goes wild. "Mommy, don't kill it. Don't kill it, Mommy!..."
OK. I had horrible visions of trying and failing to nurse the dang thing back to health.
"Mommy, don't kill it!" He said "I"m gonna kill it!"
And he did.
I really wasn't sure whether to be icked out or proud.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Four-year-old Buddy and I saw this butterfly - a pretty thing. Orange. We talked about how we liked butterflies and whether I liked them. (I do). And whether I liked caterpillars (I don't, they eat my plants). And metamorphosis.
"Caterpillars turn into butterflies," Buddy said.
I was impressed. "That's right!" I said enthusiastically.
He was quiet for a moment. "And after they turn into butterflies, they turn into chickens. And then elephants," he reported with conviction.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
On a visit to our local hospital (don't panic, it's on the way back from a local playground and there's a nice Marks and Spencers Simply Food there, too) he asked for the camera and decided to take pictures of people waiting outside. Relatives of patients, staff - I presume. I actually think these are pretty good 'street' portraits. I made him ask for permission to take the pictures. He loved it - taking the pictures and interacting with his subjects and so did these women!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
But actually stuffed in the way back, back of the cupboard - and I can't imagine why this outfit wasn't in regular circulation - I found a little blue coverall set that just about fit. This is one of those classic outfits my mother simply cannot resist. Although she should. Not only is the boy guaranteed a drubbing on the rougher playgrounds of South London - but the back opening one piece is really beyond a little lad who needs to get to the toilet on his own.
Still these pictures should be handy for future blackmail. Do I feel guilty? Not in the least, especially after the boy packed the washing machine detergent tray full of dishwasher salt today.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I'm a fairly indiscriminate swearer and I use words that the Federal Communications Commission would frown on. By and large, I'm an HBO level swearer. Lots of Fs but never Cs.
Still, as I'll be around elderly relatives and small children for much of the time time I'm in Tennessee I really need to curb it. I need some kind of behavioural therapy. A rubber band around the wrist. A swear box. Something. Anything.
I've already tried to stop and every time I utter a profanity I end up swearing at my slip. Resulting in twice as much swearing!
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
It's not my fault that the boy has a crossbow. I never wanted him to have one in the first place. And the crossbow that the Vol-in-Law ordered for Buddy turned out to be far more weapon like than toy like. It's black. It's metal. It can zing the little darts quite far and quite hard. But who am I to overlook a fun toy? So on the first warm day of the year, I took the boy and his cross bow down to the Wandle Wildlife Park - or as it actually is..and abandoned, filled in and overgrown wastewater treatment plant which sits underneath a major powerline pathway: the Wandle Wasteland.
We first fired the crossbow at the Ikea bag we'd concealed it in. But soon the boy tired of that and began shooting a wild. A dart went off into the rough. The boy began down some creepy path and soon found an abandoned supermarket trolley. What heaven for a small boy.
We dragged it out into the open and played around some more. Buddy was desperate to take it home. I resisted my natural inclination to bring home 'found goods' and said no. But I let him climb around on it and we shot at it with the crossbow.
At one point, a middle class man walking through the 'park' happened upon our fun (I think I was aiming at some crows) and seemed quite frightened by our manner. I could see him taking in the 'bulldog' t-shirt - purchased in a moment last year when I was feeling quite hopeful about England's World Cup prospects (i.e. before it began), but now looks more appropriate for an English Defense League rally. I could see him taking in the trolley and assuming we'd taken it from Sainsbury's. And the look of derision as he saw me hand the crossbow to they boy....I did feel a slight inward cringe of shame.
But then a couple of old drunks happened by. I would have said they were homeless, but I suspect they weren't. They did have two mutt like dogs with them, but no possessions. The had the tremor and pallor of long-time abusers. They didn't have all their teeth. They smiled at the boy's trolley antics and asked about the cross-bow. The woman asked me where I was from. The man wanted to see the boy fire the crossbow and cheered enthusiastically and Buddy insisted that the man have a try, too. Turns out he was raised in Indiana and had lived in LA for quite some time. He asked me if I'd ever been to Indiana. "Only driven through," I had to reply.
"Tennessee's a beautiful place," he said. "You just can't beat it in the spring or the fall."
And I had to agree.
Monday, April 04, 2011
Looks like lots of places.
I put Buddy's name down on the list to go to that school. School governors don't get preferential places, but the school had never been oversubscribed before, so I felt pretty assured of a place. I wasn't thrilled about him going there. He's a smart kid, but he's not a good kid. From having observed classes there, I could see that it maybe didn't serve smart, not-very-good and high-energy boys well. He would have been an ethnic minority in the school - and whatever you may think about that, it can certainly make you more obvious, more vulnerable. Despite the school's improvement, I know they still face a lot of challenges. A school population of high churn. Kids entering every year who don't speak English at all, never mind as a first language. But it wasn't really a bad deal overall. I know the headteacher and deputy head and a lot of the staff. I know they're actually doing a pretty good job. I'm a school governor, so although the boy wouldn't get any special favours...you know, they'd look out for him, let me know if there was a problem.
School governors don't get preferential treatment when it comes to school places. And my boy didn't get a place at the school where I'm a governor.
Instead he was offered a place at the worst school within reasonable walking distance. A school which receives low ratings on outcome and on kids perceptions of their own safety. It's next to a housing estate that I know has some significant problems, because my husband sits on the local Safer Neighbourhood Panel. It's a school which, until last year, was in 'special measures'. It's a school that parents sometimes flee from to attend the one where I'm a governor. Sometimes mid-year.
I can't help feel a little cheesed off that I didn't get some good karma for my work, however just about ok it was.
And I can't help but feel a bit desperate. The school must be within walking distance or easy to reach by public transport. There's a nice looking private school that's not too inconvenient for us. But, of course, it's expensive. But I will pay. It doesn't help that I've just taken voluntary redundancy. Fortunately, we can pay at least for a little while - even in my reduced circumstances. And fortunately, my political principles mean that I don't worry about sending my child to a private school. I would prefer to send him to a state school, even if it's perhaps not the best option. But I won't send him if it's the worst option. I just hope the local private school still has places.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Warr's challenge is to change perceptions about what goes on inside his clubs. "I want people to have a good time. For women to feel they can come with their boyfriends and not be objectified. It's a fun, upbeat, safe environment. It's a highly charged atmosphere, and booze is important to us, but people will feel entertained. We want to sell an overall experience," he says.
Umm, yeah... And although booze is important to me, too - I can't imagine that I would find this particularly entertaining. But what really got me was this...
In America, lapdancing is mainstream. In some small towns, the local club might really be the best place to get a steak and a cocktail. "Often in the US there won't be a local pub. The club almost fulfils that role in some communities," says Warr.
Really? Really? OK, I know I was raised in the buckle of the Bible Belt...But I've never heard of a small town community where folks all head on down to the neighborhood lap dancing joint for a relaxing family evening of steaks, cocktails, nipple tassels and thumpa-thumpa hoochie music. Someone, please, correct me if I'm wrong.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
I was just followed on Twitter by a BBQ joint. That's cool, I like me some BBQ. "Best BBQ East of Texas" it promised. Cool. London could use another BBQ joint, I thought. But let me check this out...just how East is East?
Hook 'em Horns! Tending to the smoker, or inside the one-roomed restaurant, you will find one Aubrey Bean, whose credentials as a Texan are unassailable and extensive... He is from Austin, he is a sports-crazy jock, he has a degree in petroleum engineering and he learned to cook barbecue from his granddaddy. He wears a Texas Longhorns cap, and his Suburban (the standard Lone Star vehicle long before it became the preferred ride of Nashville soccer moms) sports the Longhorn logo on the back windows. For crying out loud, to be any more Texan...
Sunday, February 06, 2011
And the boy often pretends to be a knight or a king. He's a king a lot.
The other night he told me "I'll be the King, and you be a knight. And Daddy be a knight."
Saturday, February 05, 2011
Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality.
I recognise that many people I know don't believe in liberal democracy. But I do. Strongly. That liberalism starts first and foremost with freedom of speech. That's not speech without consequences or rebuttal, but it is speech without fear of losing one's liberty or property.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Monday, January 31, 2011
Friday, January 21, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I work in a building that sees a steady stream of politicians. And the great thing about politicos is that they're never backwards about coming forwards. So a single word exchanged in the ladies' led to "Oh, is that an American accent? Where are you from?"
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Dylis sat in the courtroom with silent tears running down her face. She’d always feared it would come to this, but had hoped that her love for her boy would see him right in the end. Norman’s bright red hair had always been her secret pride, a legacy from his father, but now it hung lanky and dull over his face. The boy who, for whatever his faults, had always been full of the spark of life, a fire in his eyes, now stood defeated in the dock waiting to be taken down. Mummy’s little treasure, as she’d called him, didn’t look much of a prize now.
The solicitor hurried past on her way out. She had told Dylis to expect a custodial sentence, but Dyllis had let her hope triumph over sense. He wasn’t a youthful offender anymore, at 19 he’d be treated as an adult.
No one took much notice of Dylis in the long bus ride from the Crown Court in Swansea to the village of Pontypandy. She was just another old woman, clutching a plastic bag, bundled up in an old raincoat to keep out the rain of the valleys. She stared out the rain speckled windows as the bus strained against the steep hill roads.
A string of minor infractions, small fires set here and there, escalating to more serious events over the years had left him with a criminal record. His father may not have ever acknowledged Norman, but he had intervened on his behalf countless times. He’d put out countless fires for his son, literal and metaphorical. He had fixed his mistakes, covered for him, and tried to make things right. But maybe if he could have taken a stronger role, a guiding hand for the boy as Norman had been growing up things would have been different.
But that was never going to happen. She would still remember his shocked expression when she’d told him that the single night they’d shared had had repercussions. She felt foolish for letting him talk her into keeping it a secret for all these years. Maybe if she’d made him face up to his responsibilities then, things would have turned out differently. She could see now that he would never have made the offer of marriage that she’d hoped for, but he could have acknowledged the boy, surely. But she’d wanted to keep him sweet, to see how reasonable she could be and perhaps he’d see, one day, that they could have something more. Most of all, she feared that he’d leave Pontypandy for some bigger place.
Dylis knew she’d been no beauty even in those days. What few charms she’d been born with had faded away as she cared for her mother in her final years in that little flat above the shop while she’d kept that going, too. When her mother had finally slipped away, Dylis began to think of finding a new life for herself. But then there had been Norman on his way.
Norman’s father had been young, much younger than she. He’d just returned from Cardiff and there had been rumours of a failed romance. Apparently she had been some dark eyed beauty who had left for London, a boy from the valleys, no matter how handsome, had not been enough for her. In those long summer days after he’d returned and her mother had died, Dylis had been in the habits of taking long walks in the hills - grieving and planning what she might do next.
She’d found him on his own in an old stone and wood cabin, near the mountain rescue station. He was already a little drunk and had offered her a can of cider she’d remembered selling to him. They drank and chatted quietly as he’d tended the fire in the little hearth. After a little more cider, they’d begun to laugh together - laugh at their own misfortunes. She told him how she wanted to leave the valley, but didn’t know how. He told her about the girl who’d broken his heart. A moment of kindness, as she’d reached out to brush her fingers over his bright red hair, turned quickly to a moment of madness. He’d reached for her then tumbling her down against the old mattress. She’d accepted his fumbled embraces with fervour. She’d let herself hope it might be the beginning of her new life. But his pained apologies the next day had extinguished that spark.
That old cabin had long since burned down. No one had proof, but they’d all suspected Norman. Dylis had always wondered if it had been his father who’d struck the match. He’d been able to get to the scene fast enough.
Her steps from the bus stop to the shop were slow and heavy. Her brother had been minding it for her while she was at court, and he was eager enough to get away from it now. Those villagers who still came in to the shop eyed the Price family with silent pity. “Poor Dilys,” she could almost hear them say “left to raise that handful of a boy on her own with no man at her side.”
The bell on the shop door jangled, and she looked up. He was still handsome, though his red hair had faded a little with age and was now streaked with silver. He was still tall and firm of frame, and the uniform of fire chief suited him. His face with etched with worry. He had always cared for Norman in his own way.
“He’s been sent down for three years. My little treasure in prison.” she sobbed.
“I gave a good report for the sentencing recommendation. He’s a good boy at heart,” he told her.
She stared at him, her accusation plain to read in her eyes.
“Great Fires of London,” he swore. “I did what I could, Dilys.”
“Did you? Even though I never told him you were his father, he always felt close to you. Always wanted to be like you, a fireman. He just wanted your attention. Even what he did this time, burning down the fire station was just to be closer to Fireman Sam.”
Saturday, January 08, 2011
But what I also saw on Twitter was quick condemnation of Sarah Palin and rhetoric which borrows heavily from text of Guns n' Ammo. Yep, Ms Palin is certainly one to rouse emotions. I'm not a fan of her approach generally and I disagree with her on pretty much every political stand she takes. But she didn't pull the trigger. Yes, apparently she put Rep Giffords in the cross hairs on her website. In retrospect, it seems more than inappropriate. But a target seat is still a target seat. Everyone uses language like that. Everyone talks about picking off vulnerable opponents and some talk of political hit lists. I don't know how common cross-hairs are for political maps, but I wouldn't be surprised to see flames and bulls-eyes. Maybe we need a slightly different discourse. And we mustn't tolerate anything which goes further than this.
For sure, politics is a rough sport. And I wouldn't for a second wish to curtail freedom of speech. But surely we can all do more to counter aggressive, violent speech. To shun it. To repudiate it. To not tolerate or cosset it. No matter whom it's targeted against, as it lowers the tone for all of us. And that includes harsh responses, labelling Sarah Palin a murderer and demanding retribution.
I know a lot of people give their small children home haircuts. Especially for boys. It's not supposed to be hard.
I have a long history of giving very bad haircuts. Disastrous haircuts. Too short. Uneven. Reminiscent of mange. Most of these unhappy experiments have had my brother as the victim. Once my husband. No one else has been so foolish to come near me when I'm wielding scissors.
When I was pregnant, I made the Vol-in-Law promise that he would never ever let me near my own child's head with shears. It was for the best really, I said.
Buddy was a bald baby and didn't have a lot of hair for a very long time, so it was easy for me to keep my resolution and my husband to keep his promise. The boy's first several haircuts were given by a relative and a brilliant Polish hairdresser who seems to have now moved on from giving haircuts to children.
Last summer, I had a go. We have a hair-clipping set that my brother had left here. And I didn't do a bad job. I didn't do a good job, but it wasn't shameful. Buddy sits quietly enough if you worked quickly.
This past week though, I tried again. And I'm afraid I returned to old form. A very bad haircut indeed.
I think we're going to need professional help.
Update: Hair Repair
After posting this, the Vol-in-Law took Buddy down to the barber's for a little repair job.
"Get your coat on, you're going to get your hair cut, Buddy."
"Where are we going?"
"To the barber shop. A man's going to cut your hair."
"The barber, he's a like a hair doctor. He's going to fix your hair."
"Mommy's not going to cut my hair?"
"No, she's more like the hair butcher."
He came back a little while later like this:
With gel in his hair. (I'm not too crazy about that) and informing us that only men could cut his hair. He thought a moment before adding. "But not Daddy."
Sunday, January 02, 2011
The Vol-in-Law is a squeamish sort of chap. He puts it down to being raised vegetarian. Whatever. Anyway his squeamishness means that corpse removal duty falls to me. And this is a regular job. Our cat Fancy has a respectable kill rate.
Fortunately for me, she leaves beautiful corpses. Or at least intact ones anyway, with maybe just a nibble or two from the tail. I don't really mind picking up these dead critters with a plastic bag and disposing of them. I'm not really freaked out by mice.
But we all have our limits. I mean RATS do freak me out. I screamed like a little kid when I walked out of our back door one day and saw a rat. I'm shuddering in remembrance.
I haven't seen a rat in a long time (thankfully!). But yesterday's New Year's gift of a dead mouse was enormous. It was really big. It was the size of a hamster. And as far as I'm concerned, hamster is just a little too close to rat. But I womanned up and dealt with it.
Buddy, isn't so squeamish. "I like it when Fancy kills a mouse," he said yesterday. But he did call his dad to deal with the thing.
"You need to call your mom," he said. "Mouse disposal is woman's work."
Buddy at three and a half is starting to be aware of gender distinctions and the difference between girls and boys. He questioned his father over what women did (rodent removal) and what did boys and men do? What sort of animal did males deal with?
"Your mother deals with the small animals. But if we see any wolves, it will be our job to get rid of it."
Yes. I can see that. Wolves roaming the streets of London. Not this century. (Though I note that he said nothing of foxes which are a regularly seen beastie.)
But the boy was excited and started planning his toolkit. "We need knives and hammers and swords!" he exclaimed.