Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Being a Working Mum

Today I had my first really serious wobble about returning to paid employment.

It was actually a wobble long in the making, as all serious wobbles are and it started with Parents' Evening. Some bright spark at my school thinks 4 to 6pm is the perfect time to hold Parents' Evening, which it is if you've not got any children or if you don't have any responsibility for sorting out the childcare of your children.

However, it's a total nightmare if you do. 4pm is exactly the wrong time, because kids have to be picked up from school, ferried to clubs and after-school activities, dinner needs putting on the table, homework done... the worst time of my day is between 3 and 7pm, because it's all chasing after one small person or another, breaking up fights, dealing with tantrums, picking up and running around. It's the exact time of day my fight or flight reflex kicks in big time and all I want to do is hit something or run away screaming... I think you get the idea.

So I tried to do the right thing. I asked 5 people to look after my two youngest (the eldest is fine, she can let herself into the house and look after herself for a bit) and not one of them could, because they're all dealing with their own kids and the concomitant issues (see above). Anyone else who could is at work. Naturally.

So the doubt about whether or not I'm doing the right thing starts to creep in. I have to face the probability that I can't attend Parents Evening, one of the key obligations of my job, and that makes me feel like I'm not doing my job properly. If I can't do it properly, what's the point in doing it? The stress built up over a couple of weeks, until I simply had to get it off my chest, so I did the one thing that you know really solves any problem and is the best way to get major wobbles out of your system.

I posted a Facebook status saying: Vanessa Lawrey is starting to doubt whether this whole working mother thing is a)working and b)worth it....

And you know what? I received so much positive reinforcement and encouragement from people I've never even met, it just filled me right to the brim, made me consider what I can do, rather than what I can't. Which is rather ironic because I had a conversation not too long ago with a student about that very thing. This learner is forever saying how rubbish he is at maths, how he can't do this and he can't do that. So I point blank challenged him to list what he can do, and I started him off with two or three things. The small smile on his face as I did so was just such a wonderful reward.

Every now and then, we all need to remind ourselves of what we can do, rather than constantly focussing on what we can't. So, if you feel moved to comment on my humble offering, tell me one thing that you can do.

I'll start. I am good at encouraging others. What about you?

P.S. I did manage to find someone to look after the little ones, so I guess I'm Superwoman after all!!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A reminder...

Here's a little reminder of how truly awesome this planet is. The video is a collation of absoluteyl beautiful timelapse photography set to some wonderful music. We all need a break at some point during the day.. why not make this your 10 minutes of peace, plenty of time to meditate on the wonder and beauty of the world...

Monday, 12 October 2009

A Little Humour from Down Under!

My friend emailed me this, do read the Q & A at the bottom!


Apparently the following questions were posted on an Australian Tourism website and the answers are the actual responses from the website officials who obviously have a great sense of humour and a low tolerance threshold for cretins (as all Aussies do!)

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A:Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q:I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q:Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia ? (USA)
A: A-Fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe .
Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not
... Oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q:Which direction is North in Australia ? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia ? (UK)
A:Why? Just use your fingers like we do...

Q:Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is
Oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia ? (UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q:Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q:Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can Dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q:I have a question about a famous animal in Australia , but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q:I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q:Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia ? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first

Monday, 5 October 2009

Today's Catherine-ism

Catherine was listening to the radio and heard a story about the river Clyde. So she pipes up:

The river Clyde. I know where that is!

(waits a beat while I look at her inquiringly)

It's in Norway.

....

What are they teaching you at that fancy school??

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

It's all about pots and pans..

Well, it's fairly obvious when the summer holidays started! You guessed it, end of July. Now it's September and I've started a new job, so naturally I have time to blog.

Right now, the only burning issue on my mind is what to do about the saucepan I might have just ruined. I made popcorn for the kids then made the mistake of putting the hot pan onto my plastic chopping board. I realised my mistake, lifted off the pan and put it on the stove. Bad idea, because now there's melted plastic on the stove (hob for my English friends). I then put the pan back on the chopping board. I don't know why. Usually I'm pretty fast and I work stuff out, but clearly not this time. When I went to move the pan later it had stuck quite firmly to the board. Fortunately, with a bit of carefully applied force, I managed to detach the chopping board from the pan, but I'm still not sure how to remove the plastic from the stove.

Any ideas, clever people in internetland?

Friday, 24 July 2009

The Meaning of Words

My sister sent me this by email and I just cried, so I'm sharing it with all my lovely friends...

Respect



Rescued



Patience



Music



Pain



Divine



Departure



Compassion



Innocence



Love



Sorrow



Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass... it's about learning to dance in the rain.

I could still do with less storms though. They're becoming a bit exhausting...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

11 Things You Won't Learn in School

Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this! Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2 : The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3 : You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4 : If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss

Rule 5 : Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents ' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So, before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

Monday, 22 June 2009

I Love Australia-speak

Just got off the phone to my bank in Australia and I would like to make a number of observations.

1. Whenever I talk to anyone in Oz my accent immediately becomes more Aussie. Phrases like 'righty-o' and 'no worries' propel themselves from my mouth with a frequency over which I have no control.

2. I love that the lady calls me by my first name. I answered the phone and she sounded vaguely like my mum, and being the middle of the night I was momentarily confused. She said 'hello, Vanessa, it's Colleen from the bank.' I love it! The informality of it all, it's wonderfully refreshing. By contrast, my daughter has been at her current school for three years and every time I speak to the secretary I say hello it's Vanessa Lawrey, and without fail she calls me Mrs Lawrey. In emails, I'll sign just Vanessa, but she still insists on Mrs Lawrey. I don't mind being Mrs. Lawrey, I love it (17th anniversary on Saturday just gone!) but I just reckon after 3 years they could call me Vanessa....

3. Colleen explained to me how the IBAN works, and she actually said, and verbatim I quote, you can be the smartarse at work tomorrow. Bloody brilliant! I just love the straightforwardness, no bullshit. It's refreshing!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Icebreaker

I joined Woking Speakers club a couple of months ago and pretty soon I'll be giving my first speech, known as the Icebreaker. For what it's worth, here 'tis. It's by no means the final draft and I probably won't say it verbatim, but I would be interested to know what you think of it.

Only Going Forward, ‘Cause We Can’t Find Reverse

We arrived at Heathrow at 8pm on the 6th of April 2002, me, my husband Peter and our little daughter of nearly 4, Catherine, two suitcases and five boxes. It had been in the cloying high thirties (that’s Celsius, by the way) in Abu Dhabi where we’d been staying with friends, but the lazy wind of England that greeted us on our emergence from Terminal 4 swept away the memory of being truly warm. Seven years later I have yet to get it back, but that’s another story.

Following the signs, we made our way to the bus which carried us to the car hire place. We shoehorned our possessions into the Renault Scenic and armed with nothing but the Lonely Planet Guide to England and the telephone number of the B&B I’d booked from Australia we set off for somewhere called Old Basing.

Needless to say we got lost. In fact, we got lost before we got out of the airport. It was dark, I was tired, all I can say is that it’s lucky we drive on the same side of the road otherwise we would have been toast before we made it onto the M4.

We managed to get out of Heathrow and onto the motorway. As I drove, my husband called the B&B. No answer. We tried again. No answer. I knew it was the right number, because I’d spoken to them from Oz, but the lack of a person on the other end of the line started tiny Hare Krishna bells ringing. We continued on our way, exited the motorway and the real fun began.

We came off the slip road and saw the sign to the road we wanted. We followed the road around for a bit and reached another sign bearing the road number we wanted but it pointed in two different directions! There were place names on the sign, but they meant nothing to us. We had a look at our trusty Lonely Planet guide, but it didn’t give us the detail we needed. We were stuck. We tried calling the B&B. No answer. Hmm. We took an educated (that is to say, wild) guess and picked a direction. Not far along the road we came across a snack van which by some miracle was still open. The guy had no clue where the place we wanted to go was, but he did know we were heading in the wrong direction. No problem. All that was required was a three-point turn: forward, reverse forward. I did the first bit fine, since that involved going forwards. Then I looked for reverse. The letter ‘R’ was there, plain as day on the gear stick, so I knew it had a reverse gear, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get the thing to go into reverse. We were blocking the road of course, and after struggling with the gear stick for some minutes a car pulled up behind us, just in case we weren’t stressed enough as it was. Just then, my husband remembered he had driven a car once that you had to pull the gear stick up and back to get it into reverse, perhaps I should try that? I duly did, the car obediently went into reverse gear and with much screeching and clunking of gears I got the car moving again.

We continued to follow road signs until we turned onto an unlit, narrow country lane. Trees launched themselves out of the darkness at us as we invaded their peace with our high beam. None of them could give us directions which by this time was proving to be something of a problem.

We drove for a while, stopping at various pubs along the way. They were much more helpful than trees. My husband would jump out of the car, the lazy wind would hurl itself into his vacant seat and I would freeze instantly. While I defrosted, I watched Peter chat with the people in the pub. This pattern repeated itself three or four times as we inched our way to our destination.

Eventually we found the road we wanted, but the B&B was nowhere in sight. We tried calling. No answer. The Hare Krishna bells had been replaced by Big Ben and the old boy was giving me a headache. There was a pub at the end of the road and the helpful folk inside assured us we were on the right road, although they didn’t know the B&B. We drove up and down the street, stopping at every second house asking the inhabitants if they knew where the B&B was. I went through the freeze-defrost-freeze cycle so many times it’s a miracle my fingers didn’t fall off. No one on the street had any idea where the B&B was. We were stuck.

I knew from my trusty Lonely Planet guide to England that the pubs close at 11pm, and if we didn’t find somewhere to stay by then we’d be sleeping in the car. We went back to The Fox to ask if they had any accommodation. They didn’t, but were very kind and called up another pub in Yateley which had some rooms, and more importantly was on the main road! They promised to stay open for us and we wearily made our way, nativity-like, to the inn. I barely remember the rest of that first night, I was so completely exhausted. I do remember a bed and getting horizontal at some point.

I’ve been asked many times why we came to England. I tell them we came for fun, adventure and really wild things. We’ve had that in spades. We’ve had so many difficult times, especially in that first year, but so many wonderful adventures made all the more fun by the people we’ve met along the way. Sometimes I’m asked if there’s ever been a time I regretted coming to England. I tell them yes, within about 10 minutes of arrival at Heathrow, but we made the decision to come here, just us three, two suitcases and five boxes, with a one-way ticket. Nothing like a one-way ticket to give you a bit of incentive to make it work! We came because we had, to steal a phrase, a dream, a dream to live and work somewhere different, to travel and experience a different way of life. We had talked so long and so often about making the dream come true that we knew if we didn’t take the opportunity when it arose we would always wish we had. So, with a one way ticket and a lot of determination, we went forward with our lives. We’re still moving forward. We now have three children and the little one who fell asleep in the back seat of the Renault Scenic is now 11 and speaks with a funny accent. We’ve figured out where reverse is, but we don’t have a lot of use for it.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

And Not a Moment Too Soon

PM to Unveil Voting Reform Plan, the headline launched itself from the screen and affixed itself to my gaze. Hooray, my brain celebrated, not a moment too soon! If you think my previous post was a rant on the political system in this country, it was nothing compared to what I was yelling about over dinner, in the car, to anyone within hearing range for the last few days. It's taken me a while to compose my thoughts into a coherent posting, and reader will have to judge for themselves, but I'm pretty certain I haven't finished yet.

I said in my last post "at least I can trust the electoral process that gets them into office" but after Sunday's result at the European elections, I'm starting to wonder if I really can. The BNP managed to get not one, but TWO seats in the EU parliament. Needless to say there's pretty much universal dismay at this, but really there's only the electoral system to blame.

The BNP have managed to represent themselves as a mainstream party, but the fact is the majority of people did not vote for them. The majority of people didn't vote at all. I'm not the only person to have noticed this, so why, oh why, isn't the principle of compulsory voting a key pillar of the government's review of the voting system (this article describes the options under consideration)? First past the post would work, the alternative vote system, the version of proportional voting used in Northern Ireland and Scotland, all of these options would be fair if only 100% of the electorate voted!

I've heard only one arguement against compulsory voting. It's an infringment of your democrating right not to vote if you don't want to. This is the biggest load of do-do (with respect) for one simple reason. If you expect to have the right, you're obliged to exercise it for the good of your society. If you don't, you're no better than a hermit or a prisoner or anyone else who opts out of society. Contribute, for goodness sake! Don't expect to get all the benefits without putting some effort in! At least if 100% of the electorate votes, you know the candiate with the most votes is the one most people voted for and the electorate will really get the government they deserve.

I also believe in a non-compulsory system those that don't vote are those that really need to vote. They are the less well-educated, the disenfranchised, low-earners. They don't see how politics affects them because they've never had it explained to them, yet they are the most adversely affected when people who don't care about them get elected. The candidates don't care about the opinions of those who didn't vote because they didn't vote, so they're not going to fight for their issues.

Finally, a compulsory system is more democratic because it ensures governments are at all times held accountable to the elecotrate. In the US, they try to limit the power of the president by ensuring he can't serve more than two terms. This takes away the democratic right of the electorate to vote in the candidate they want! How ridiculous for the so-called Land of the Free. In the UK, there has only been one change of governement in the last 30 years. Until 1997 Conservatives had been in power for 18 years and now we've had 12 years of Labor. There may well be elections every 4 years, but the system means we get the same pollys year after year after year.

By way of comparison, Australia has a compulsory electoral system with preferrential voting and proportional representation. Voters can chose whether to vote for a party or individual candiates. They can decide where their preferences should go. The Lower House (equivalent to the Commons) is elected every 4 years, half the Senate (or House of Lords) every 6 years. The system may be more complex, but it's widely recognised as being one of the fairest and most representative systems in the world. Quite apart from elections being a lot more interesting, the result is a national government that most people voted for.

Aussies complain just as much about untrustworthy politicians as anyone else, but at least we all voted for them ;-)

Dearest reader, thank you so much for reading my latest babblings all the way to the end. I'm happy to have got all this off my chest, but I would really be interested in your comments on this. Am I just being Aussie-centric, or do my arguements strike a chord? Did you vote this time? If you didn't, please vote next time!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Situations Vacant - Politician, immediate start

Thursday 4th June 2009. Election Day for the European Parliament, and county elections in some areas as well. The expenses scandal ensured the Labour party was abandoned pretty much everywhere, but personally I don't see why. Politicians. They're all the same.

The same as everybody else.

The scandal has revealed our politicians are no different from any other corporate salaryman who takes a sickie not because he's ill, but because he's entitled to 5 sick days per year and by golly he's going to take them all. Or my hubby, who printed off a 4-sheet document for my personal use. The pollys are entitled to claim and claim they did. Their error lies in the nature of many of the claims. Considering politicians live and breathe on public opinion, they really didn't think much about it when the claimed for moat cleaning, servants quarters or secretarial servces provided by one's sister. If they'd only thought about it for a moment they would have seen that although the claims might have been legitamate, they look bad and that's not good.

Many politicians have been embarrassed, a significant number have either been sacked or resigned, and the whole thing may yet bring down Mr Brown's government. However, the most significant casualty of the entire sorry affair has to be public confidence in the political system. Voter turnout this time was about 44%, down from 75% (-ish) in the last election, and when I went to vote nearly everyone I saw on my way to and inside the polling station were of retirement age. That may just be a feature of the time I voted, but I worried that young people would not vote out of apathy. They're all crooks, no point in voting, they'll say.

I love voting. Love it. I get a little frisson of excitement whenever I vote. I read all the leaflets pushed through my letterbox by devoted supporters. Most end up in the bin, because I've already decided who I'm going to vote for, but I read the information anyway, just in case they have a policy point that might change my mind. I'm really pleased to be eligible to vote in the UK and European elections. Why? Simple. Because I am one of a distressingly small minority of people in the world who can make her voice heard in free and fair elections, free from the threat of violence or intimidation. I can vote knowing my vote won't be tampered with. I may not be able to trust the politicians, but at least I can trust the electoral process that gets them into office.

There's a saying that anyone who wants to be a politician should be immediately disqualified from doing so, and those who least want positions of leadership or power are those best suited to have it foisted upon them. I hope there are still people who want to be politicians for the right reasons. There must be politicians who have maintained their honesty and integrity throughout.

I hope I voted for one.

Friday, 29 May 2009

The Sun is Shining!

Oh, I'm so happy! The sun is not only shining, but it actually feels warm. The air is still so it feels like it's going to be a deliciously pleasant day. I won't go so far as to say hot, but certainly sunglasses and sundress weather. I haven't had a shower yet, must shave my legs *lol*.

I've already blown up the paddling pool and in true English fashion I'm waiting for the water to warm up. In Oz, of course, we would leap into the pool straight away and have to get out when the water got too hot, but I'm taking the upsidedown-ness of this shared summer ritual in my stride. I've boiled the kettle and I'm going to have a lovely coffee in the sunshine. Happy summer time!

Monday, 25 May 2009

One Flaw in Men

So, a bit of a sequel to the One Flaw in Women post. A friend asked for a serious attempt at an equivalent one for men, so I resisted the urge to guffaw and make some rude comment about it being very short, or only one flaw? and set about the task of making a serious attempt. Us girls always love to malign our counterparts but it's good to remind ourselves just why we love them so much.

Men have strengths that amaze women.
They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
but they hold happiness, love and joy.

They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry.
They cry when they are happy and laugh when they are nervous.
They fight for what they believe in.
They stand up to injustice.

They don't take "no" for an answer when they believe there is a better solution.

They go without so their family can have.
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children excel and cheer when their friends get awards..

They are happy when they hear about a birth or a wedding.
Their hearts break when a friend dies.
They grieve the loss of a family member, yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left.
They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart.

Men come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you to show how much they care about you.

The heart of a man is what makes the world keep turning.

They bring joy, hope and love.
They have compassion and ideas.
They give moral support to their family and friends.
Men have vital things to say and everything to give.

However, if there is one flaw in men, it is that they forget their worth.

Wow, would you look at that. Men and women aren't so different after all. So look into the eyes of your beloved and know you are looking at yourself, except your beloved sees so much more in you than you do in yourself.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

I thought this was a joke, I really did!

I know I've been living here in the UK for 7 years and I should be a) acclimatised and b) used to the English idea of hot, but this article seriously made me check whether it was in the Odd Box section or something. 'Prepare for a heatwave' UK told. So I read on, expecting to read about searing temperatures. The article has a number of suggestions for coping with extreme temperatures. Identify the coolest room in the house, stay cool by painting your house white (at this I checked the date. April Fool??), plant shrubs for shade and identify a fair weather friend, someone you can call on in the event of a heatwave. I read on, interested to see exactly what fearsome conditions are anticipated this summer. I quote: "In London, this would mean daytime temperatures had exceeded 32C and night-time temperatures were over 18C degrees. In the North West, it would be 30C and 15C, respectively." Heatwave!? Honestly people, this is what summer is supposed to be like. Bring it on, baby, I can't wait! Proper hot! Hooray!!!

Monday, 11 May 2009

I have a memory...

When I was very small, I remember being scared about something. I don't remember what it was I was afraid of, but I couldn't sleep. Dad was on a camp bed next to me and I remember he held my hand until I fell asleep. It must have been quite uncomfortable for him, holding my hand across the space between our beds. I woke up in the morning, realised we weren't holding hands anymore, but remembering he had held my hand until I fell asleep and I loved him so much for that.

The dad who did that isn't around anymore. Dad is still alive, that's not what I mean. The dad who would do what what needed to make me feel safe and loved is long gone and I'm very sad about that. I think he must be there somewhere, but not for me.

Tonight, my son was scared. He had a bad dream. I carried him back to his room, put him into his bed, then sat by his bed holding his hand. I was really uncomfortable. I needed to go to the toilet. I waited until I thought he was asleep and tried to move, but he stirred and his fingers grasped for my hand. It was ages before I could move, then I came back and lay on the bed beside him. It's late and I need to go to my own bed, but in a moment I will go back to his room and check he's okay. He may well stir, and I will lay down beside him again and wait for him to fall asleep. He probably won't remember me doing that in the morning, but I don't care. I want him to feel safe and loved and I will always do that for him, no matter how old he is.

Friday, 8 May 2009

One Flaw in Women

A friend sent this to me today, and I thought I'd share.....

Women have strengths that amaze men.
They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
but they hold happiness, love and joy.

They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry.
They cry when they are happy and laugh when they are nervous.
They fight for what they believe in.
They stand up to injustice.

They don't take "no" for an answer when they believe there is a better solution.

They go without so their family can have.
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children excel and cheer when their friends get awards..

They are happy when they hear about a birth or a wedding.
Their hearts break when a friend dies.
They grieve the loss of a family member, yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left.
They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart.

Women come in all shapes, sizes and colours...

They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you to show how much they care about you.

The heart of a woman is what makes the world keep turning.

They bring joy, hope and love.
They have compassion and ideas.
They give moral support to their family and friends.

Women have vital things to say and everything to give.

However, if there is one flaw in women, it is that they forget their worth.

Monday, 4 May 2009

And here's another one:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Lolcats

This website is so funny. Will do horrible things to the minds of every English teacher out there though...

U tuch meh wif dose lips an I slaps dem cleen off ur face

see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Vanishing Act

I love this!

Art student's car vanishing act

Sara Watson in front of her car
Sara Watson took three weeks to transform the car

A design student made a battered old Skoda "disappear" by painting it to merge with the surrounding car park.

Sara Watson, who is studying drawing at the University of Central Lancashire (Uclan), took three weeks to transform the car's appearance.

She created the illusion in the car park outside her studio at Uclan's Hanover Building in Preston.

The car is now being used for advertising by the local recycling firm that donated the vehicle.

'Just amazing'

Ms Watson, a second year student, said: "I was experimenting with the whole concept of illusion but needed something a bit more physical to make a real impact."

She was given the Skoda Fabia from the breaker's yard at local firm Recycling Lives.

Owner Steve Jackson described her work as "amazing".

"When I first saw the photos I was convinced it was something which had been done on the computer," said Mr Jackson.

"But when you look more closely you see the effort and attention to detail she has put into it. It is just amazing."

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Homeless in Woking

Calm down, it's not me who's homeless! In an earlier post I promised to find out where a person could get a meal if they needed one. I found there are four shelters in Woking. There's Pound House (01483 720872) which is for young people aged 16-25, Surrey Women's Aid (01483 776822) for women fleeing domestic violence, The Crescent (01483 750616), which provides housing and training for young people aged 18-30 and The York Road Project (01483 728739), which provides accomodation for men and women aged 18 and over.

Putting it in my blog will help me remember, so if I'm asked again I'll know how to help. Why don't you find out what's around in your area to help people who are having a hard time of it?

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Backgammon

I love backgammon. I have a palm pilot I theoretically use as a diary and address book but really I mostly use it to play backgammon. In the four years or so I've had my palm, I've played nearly 14,000 games, which works out to be about 10 games per day. I win three times more games than the computer does, so I think I'm pretty good at it, but playing a computer isn't the same as playing against a person, so I might not be as good as I think!

I love the feel of a decent backgammon set. My dad taught me to play when I was about 10 or so. He had a set about the size of a briefcase, leather with large pieces made of something like toughened glass, heavy in my palm and making a satisfying 'clinck' when they touched. The brown pieces were the colour of chocolate and my sister and I used to pretend they were mint slice biscuits, our favourite! When you opened the set the fragrance of the leather would drift up and I would breathe deeply, delighting in the smell.

When I went to Turkey on holiday a few years ago, I decided to go for a walk, by myself for a change! I wanted to investigate the small bazaar that was near our hotel without having to chase after my daughter. I passed by the numerous carpet shops (having already been sucked into buying something lovely but probably completely overpriced) not stopping because once you stop the shopkeeper will invite you in for tea and you will be there for hours! I admired the lamp shops with their beautiful coloured glass supported by ornate ironwork. There were jewellry shops with gold and silver and I browsed a little. There were shops selling exquisite fabrics with vivid colours and unusal motifs. I passed by a small shop selling all sorts of bits and peices, the kind that might hold some hidden treasure. I admired a glass tea set in the window and decided to have a look inside. More tea sets, small figurines, games... then I noticed a backgammon set. It was made of some heavy wood inlaid with brass. Inside, more brass and timber inlay and I was captivated. The smell of the wood, the workmanship. Just delightful. I commented to the shopkeeper how beautiful the set was, and how much I loved to play backgammon. He was very surprised, because in Turkey women don't usually play backgammon so he invited me to play a game.

He poured me some tea and we sat and played. And played. And played! Initally the games were slow and considered, as we got to know each other's styles. It was the first time in years I'd played against a real person so it was a learning curve for me. Eventually we started playing 'speed' games, where players throw the dice and move within seconds so each game may only last two or three minutes. We had such fun, calling out with excitement at a fortuitous roll or a skillful move, clapping and congratulating one another.

I lost track of the time, until I realised I was starting to feel quite hungry. I mentioned the time and said I should go, but he insisted on making me something to eat. He invited me to the upstairs part of the shop. Little alarms started ringing, but he had been so generous and we had really enjoyed playing together, I found it impossible to refuse without seeming rude so I went upstairs. He made me a modest dinner which we ate together and as I relaxed paradoxically my shoulders started to tense up. He noticed and offered a massage. More alarms, but I couldn't see how to refuse without seeming rude. He really was perfectly mannered and there was no hint of anything untoward.

He asked me to lie facedown on the couch. The alarms were really quite loud now. Then he sat on me and massaged my shoulders. I was practically deafened by the bells in my skull and I had to ask him to stop. I thought "he's a muslim man, I'm a married woman, what sort of woman must he be thinking I am! I have to go, I have to get out of here. I've had fun but this could go somewhere I don't want it to go..." I asked him to stop and he did. He wanted to know what was wrong, and I was straighforward and honest and said I know you don't mean anything by it, but I don't feel comfortable. Please excuse me, I should go. We shook hands and I thanked him for the games and dinner. I went back to the hotel, and my husband was relieved because I'd been gone nearly 4 hours. I was very apologetic and explained I'd been playing backgammon and forgotten the time.

The next day we went back to the shop and I introduced my husband. We ended up buying the backgammon set, and the shopkeeper, Ozcan, offered to have us to dinner at his home. He cooked a lovely meal, then took me to a turkish bath that night (ladies only!) and my husband to a show with belly dancers the next night. I had felt very uncomfortable at first, but soon relaxed as he proved to be a very generous, friendly man. I never told my husband about what had transpired in the shop. I'm not sure why. I think sometimes how differently the situation might have panned out and I am grateful that the afternoon was what it was. A huge amount of fun playing a game I adore.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Trip to the Post Office

I went to the post office the other day. I have to psyche myself up for a visit, because it's such a stress to go with kids. I have to go when Keiran is at preschool and Naomi has just been fed, preferably asleep. I have to be feeling completely well, no headache or pain of any kind and I have to make sure I've no time constraints, because I could be waiting for a while and at the end of the wait I could have to deal with a person who has no idea what to do. I know this because it's happened. So the other day I made sure Naomi was clean and fed, Keiran was off at school, I was fortified with some paracetamol and codeine and off I went. Preparation is the key and the whole thing went off okay. I had to queue twice (once to buy the envelopes and other stationery I needed, once to pay for the postage) and it took me about 45 minutes but at least the person serving me knew pretty much what he was doing.

On my way to the post office there's a place where you can find out about volunteering in the local community called WAVS and I made a mental note to check it out. I'd been thinking about volunteering to help out elderly folk who might find it difficult to go to the shops or maybe just need someone to chat with every now and then. I had a read of some information in the window then set off back home to think about it. I was ruminating over whether I could commit time to it, would I be able to take Naomi along, it would be a great thing to do...

...when a man came up to me quite abruptly and said "you couldn't spare us something to eat could you, I'm starving."

I stopped and said "pardon?" even though I was pretty sure I'd heard him the first time. In the time it took for him to repeat himself my mind raced. I've got absolulely nothing to give him. He's seen my Waitrose shopping bag, I'm chewing on a sweet, he probably thinks I've been to the supermarket. If I had anything to give him I would have, but I had no money and no food. I thought, oh I could invite him back to the house, make him a meal. No, not sensible, is there anywhere I can suggest for him to get a meal? I've no idea... what actually came out of my mouth was quite different.

"No, sorry." And I didn't even stop walking.

As I walked away I felt like the biggest hypocrite on earth. Here was I congratulating myself on thinking about volunteering in the community yet when someone walked directly to me asking for help I don't even stop. I told myself I had Naomi with me, it wasn't practical for me to do anything, well at least I'd thought about it... but that's little comfort to the man, who walked off probably feeling terrible. He must have been in a pretty bad way to be begging like that and he got no sympathy or help from me at all. I wished I had said something different. I wished I had been to the supermarket, then I could have given him something. I hope he did get something to eat in the end. I hope he met a better person than me. I also wondered whether, with the economic situation being so dire, there would be more people like him in the future. Perhaps I could be more prepared to help someone who asks next time. I'll make sure I have a coin or three, find out where a hungry person can get a meal, be in less of a hurry to get home, less embarrassed by someone asking me for help. Hopefully.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The Youth of Today...

Just watched the first episode of Speaker. I despise these sorts of programs usually, and there are plenty of Tweets saying how dull it is bring on the Apprentice. Rubbish, drivel and banality!! I mean, would you rather watch a bunch of so-called grown-ups design a new piece of gym equipment and sit through the assult on the senses of "I'm not havin' it and I'm the project manager!" screamed shrilly at some poor sod, or hear a young person speak in meter about graffiti? Okay, I know the selection of words and structure of the sentence engenders bias, but cutting through the crap I love the show.

It just proves young people are not bored piss-heads living to make trouble or get pregnant. There's no doubt there are some young people like that (hell, I've taught some of the buggers) but they're only like that because they've not been inspired to be something different from their parents, something more than they are. It's safer to stay with what you know than take a risk, step out and make a difference. If there was one thing I would wish for young people it would be a community in which they feel safe and secure to take risks, test boundaries, speak out and make a difference. They've got so much more to offer than the older generations allow them to show.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Tweet!

The other day my good and dear friend asked me why I wasn't on Twitter. I dunno, says I, I don't know anyone on it (I think) and I'm not all that interested in following celebrities. I really don't care what they're doing.... I petered out, because at this point my friend is raving about a comedian she follows whose name escapes me right now but I know he's really funny (he is, really!) and Stephen FRY is so GOOD! So tonight I can't sleep (again), I'm excited about finishing my job tomorrow, which makes it sound like it was awful but it wasn't, I'm just looking forward to being with the kiddies full time again and not doing the commute, but that's another post. Anyway, I can't sleep so I've popped on the 'pooter and given in. I've registered for Twitter. I'm now following Barak Obama. I've no idea how I did that. I mean, I'm not a complete neophyte when it comes to using technology but quite how I came to be following the leader of the free world is beyond me. I googled Twitter and it came up with Barak so I clicked on the link, then did the join thing and lo and behold I'm a follower of BH Obama. I then think, okay, would be nice to find other people I know although with anonymous usernames I've no idea how I'm supposed to find them. So I click on the 'Find People' link and it comes up with the following message:

Twitter is stressing out a bit right now, so this feature is temporarily disabled.

Story of my life! For some reason I find this very funny. I'm still not asleep though, so going to have to work on that. I'm more likely to fall asleep with my head on my pillow than doing this blog entry, so fare well and goodnight!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Daylight Saving Strikes

I checked the clock on the computer about 15 minutes ago, and I was certain it said 00:50. So imagine my surprise and not inconsiderable confusion when I checked the time of my previous post, only to see 02:10!! I didn't think it'd taken me that long to write my entry, even though it was interrupted. Then I remembered, daylight savings starts today, all the clocks go forward. Theoretically one hour less sleep, but it won't make much difference in this house!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth Hour

It occurs to me that writing a blog presupposes that there is at least one other person 'out there' who is interested in what the author has to say, which is either egotistical or optimistic, I'm not sure which. A little while ago I cried out into the wilderness 'follow me!' or at least let me know you're listening, but as one of my listeners said (well, he sorta said it) as long as I've got something to write I should blog, regardless of how many might be listening. So in the end, blogging is less about entertaining others and more about catharsis for the author, at least it seems that way to me. Sometimes. It might be tonight anyway, we'll see how this post turns out! It is certainly true that I express my personal feelings better in print than I ever do verbally, so here goes.

Earth Hour, one hour from 2030 to 2130, local time in which you turn off all the lights, computers, televisions etc. in your household and, well, do something else for a change.

I had a bath. A lovely hot bath with lots of bubbles. I let my mind wander for a bit, then wander a bit further.

I thought about the time in the UAE I tried on an abaya. It freaked Catherine out because she couldn't see my face (she was only 4 at the time). I quite liked wearing a long piece of clothing that covered me all up, until the man in the shop put the niqab over my face. Suddenly I felt invisible, claustrophobic, suffocated. It didn't help it was a very hot day, the clothes were black and made of some sort of synthetic material. Catherine started to cry so I hurriedly took it off, but I wish I'd bought at least the abaya and hijab (not the niqab though). I wondered about it a bit, lying there in the bath. I've heard Muslim women describe it as liberating, because they don't have to worry about how other people perceive them. They can dress however they like underneath, but I wonder about the feeling of being invisible. I know that whenever I see a woman all covered up I find myself consciously trying not to stare at her. I think perhaps she's dressed that way out of modesty, so modesty would require me not to look, hence the invisibility thing. Yet me trying not to stare clearly means she is not invisible at all, so why do I think it? Perhaps being completely covered is liberating. I wondered what it would be like to walk down into Woking in an abaya and hijab with my face covered and thought about doing it for an experiment. Would that offend Muslims if I did? I hope not.

I have just found an article written by a Muslim woman who decided to wear the niqab for a day. It's fascinating, heartbreaking and unsurprising in a sad sort of way. I think if she had that much distress wearing it for one day, there's no way I could do it. No way at all.

So, back to my bath.

Thinking about wearing the niqab got me thinking about confidence and why on earth I want to colour my hair purple. I've made an appointment to get it done next week, I've told my sister I'm going to do it, so I guess I'm doing it but I can't help but wonder why. Yes, I love purple, I think it suits me, but on my hair? When I made the appointment I told the girl I was sick of having a hair colour that fits in. Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm tired of being conventional and it's only now, at 38 years of age, that I feel I have the self-confidence to do what the hell I want.

Yeah right. I wouldn't know what self-confidence was if it was 6 foot 4 inches and plastered to Hugh Jackman. I wouldn't notice it, that's for certain! I mean, what is self-confidence? Confidence in the self... does it mean not caring what other people think of you? I think that's just selfishness, not confidence and not possible for us social primates anyway. We all care what others think of us, because we all want to get what we want and be happy. Essentially. You can't do that on your own, so what others think of us matters whether we like it, or admit to it, or not. Does self-confidence mean you like yourself? If so, I fail on this definition too. Can't stand my body, I hate my clothes and my hair, don't get me started on my hair... I sometimes think I'm a fairly decent human being, but this is mostly after a few drinks and definitely not at 5pm after a long day and the kids are yelling at me. Does self-confidence mean you accept yourself? Fail on this one too, needless to say. Move on!

The question of the purple hair thing remains unanswered. I just like the look on others and think it might look okay on me, maybe that will have to do for now. And so my thoughts in the bath rolled on...

I closed my eyes for a little bit, thought about falling asleep but couldn't. It's difficult to relax with the prospect of drowning niggling at you. A little problem that doesn't seem to affect my son, I must say. One evening after putting Naomi down for the night I came down the stairs and was surprised to hear snoring. I smiled to myself and thought how tired Keiran must have been to be asleep already, so I went into his room to check on him. The bathroom light was still on, the fan whirring away, so I switched off the light and continued into Keiran's room. Upon seeing his empty bed I thought he must be on the floor somewhere - he's done that plenty of times and the room was dark. He wasn't there yet I could still hear the snoring. With mounting dread I turned towards the bathroom, which is right beside Keiran's room and sure enough, with the light off of course, there was my darling boy, fast asleep on his back in about 5cm of warm water. He looked so completely comfortable, half-floating there, that I almost didn't want to move him, but I scooped him out and cuddled him tightly as he woke up and started to complain. I took him into his room, dressed him and put him into bed then went downstairs. I asked Peter whether he'd forgotten anything upstairs... he was a bit surprised when I told him! He had forgotten, actually *sigh* Why is it always the clever ones that can be so spectacularly dense?

So, not falling asleep in the lovely hot water, I got up and had a cold shower. As you do. You should try it, it's lovely. I washed my hair and got back into the bath, but it wasn't long before I started to drift off in the direction of Nod so I had another cool shower, dressed and slid into my bed. I closed my eyes and I could hear the sound of Peter and Catherine talking downstairs. Catherine started to read from her novel and I listened, not really understanding everything she said through the filter of distance and sleepiness, but I enjoyed listening to her nonetheless. It doesn't seem that long ago that her confidence with reading was non-exisitent. She didn't want to read 'chapter books' because her Year 3 teacher had told her she couldn't. Wretched woman. Catherine was so put down by that it made me furious, but she's worked so hard over the last few years that now she is reading so beautifully she's been made the narrator in the senior play this year. They're doing Alice in Wonderland and from what I can tell from the script, her role is even more substantial than that of Alice. For one thing, two girls will share the role of Alice but Catherine has to do the narration on her own. She has to know what all the players will be doing, so she will know when to say her lines. I think she has two solo songs to sing, and is first up on stage. I am so immensely proud of her, everyone will be completely sick of me raving about it. It's just as well tickets are limited otherwise I'd be insisting everyone I know should come to the play. As it is, I will buy the DVD and insist visitors watch at least a little bit *lol* When she came upstairs to say goodnight, I told her this and I hope she was a little bit proud. I'm certainly very proud of her.

So that's pretty much it for how I spent this year's Earth Hour. I did have one final thought before I went downstairs to switch on the computer and resume my contribution to global warming. Many people, when asked what they would do for an hour in the dark, think of doing what comes naturally when there's a blackout. The thought that occured to me though, was this. Earth Hour was about bringing the state of the planet to the forefront of people's minds. No-one really thinks switching off your lights for an hour is going to make a huge difference to global warming in the long run but it does make you think, and maybe action will follow thought. However, consequences frequently follow action, as anyone with children knows and if anyone has any consequences of the child-shaped variety after this evening, they will have contributed more to global warming in the long run than their lights will ever do...

'Night all!

In the News Today

I've been getting such a laugh out of the news this afternoon.

There's the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania, who thought it would be a good idea to rob a retired policeman at gunpoint - at a policeman's convention. When asked for comment, he said 'I'm smooth.' Yeah, like peanut butter, mate!

Then, when talking about the floods in North Dakota, President Obama felt that given the fluidity of the situation... really, does anything after that actually matter?

And now to Earth Hour, which is being marked around the world today by critics conserving their hot air. In March 2008, "critics have dismissed the event as a gimmick that will have little effect" and this year "critics describe the event as a symbolic and meaningless gesture." Well done on getting into the spirit of things, having a bit of fun at the same time as trying to do something symbolic and gimmicky to recognise our environment needs help from the supposedly smart apes.

And speaking of Earth Hour, I know exactly what I'm going to do. I will make sure the kids are in bed, preferably asleep but out of my hair at the very least. I am going to have a bath with candles and spend an hour or so drifting off and cursing the planning official who thought we were all so dumb that we needed to have a law stating there should be no power points in bathrooms. I mean, come on. The Brits aren't that stupid that if they see a power point they experience an overwhelming desire to do something dangerous with it, like throw water on it or something.

Did you know that in science labs, the gas taps, water taps and power points are frequently side by side, and I've had a student on more than one occasion splash water into the power point and short out the entire building. So maybe they are that stupid.

I don't know what my point was now. What were we talking about again? Oh, yes, Earth Hour, right.

I was lamenting the lack of power points in my bathroom because I thought it would be nice to listen to a CD while I soak, but of course it's just occurred to me that CD players need power to operate so I wouldn't be able to listen anyway... sigh... I think I'll just go to bed giggle.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

A Snapshot

The BBC has links to the 10 most read stories of the moment. I've no idea how often the list is updated, but this is today's most popular, as at 2120 this evening. It provokes me to muse on how stupid, lucky, funny and tragic people can be. Enjoy!

Stealth jet crashes in US desert
60-foot penis painted on roof
UK government bond auction fails
Britton quits ITV's This Morning
Missing chef 'has come to harm'
Sir Fred Goodwin's home attacked
Man survived both atomic bombings
Tweed to attend Goody's funeral
Dead girl given truancy warning
AIG employee quits at 'betrayal'

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Every Day is Mother's Day

I had a brilliant day on Sunday. It being Mothering Sunday here in the UK (but it's not Fathering Sunday later in the year, I wonder why...) I was awoken by the melodious notes of my children's voices winding up the stairs... well, they were giggling and yelling really but what the heck, they'd brought me a mug of tea and a little present (a purse I'd bought myself and given to the kids to give me. It's what you have to do to receive something you actually want rather than a bottle of talcum powder...). I chose not to grumble at the fact it was 7.30 in the morning (I am such a paragon of motherhood, no doubt about it!) and enjoyed my children's company for a while, until Naomi filled her nappy and the room emptied.

I then got up, got dressed and went downstairs to make a cooked breakfast for everyone, which I actually quite enjoy doing. I hassled Peter to get off the phone (he was talking to his brother, so fair enough but time was getting on!) and I called my mum, feeling slightly guilty I hadn't been in touch for some time. Actually, the last time we spoke it was in February when we had that big dumping of snow. The kids were home because school was closed so I sent them outside to play while Naomi had a nap. Thinking I had at least 5 minutes at a time of day that wasn't in the middle of the night for mum I called her. I kid you not, 4 minutes 30 seconds into the phone call (I know because our phone has that funky display thingy) I had to hang up on her because Keiran wanted to come inside and he was very wet with snow of course. *sigh* There are quite a few people I haven't spoken to for quite some time, all because I can't get five minutes uninterrupted at a decent hour of the day. Never mind, it won't be forever and hopefully my friends will forgive me.

But back to Mother's Day.

The day was looking completely perfect as far as the weather was concerned so we had a quick lunch after Sunday morning pottering (Keiran and I watched Dinosaurs, the movie) and decided to go for a walk. We initially chose Hatchlands, but it turned out to be closed so we went to the village of Shere instead. We went on a short walk, thanks to our Kiddie Walks in Surrey guide book and ended the day with an early roast dinner at the local pub. The kids were exhausted by the time we got home and peace reigned in the Lawrey household by 8pm. Bliss!

I logged on to the BBC website, as is my daily habit, and I found this beautiful series of portraits. They show pictures of pregnant women in the Congo. One mother hopes she will still be healthy and able to work in the fields after her child is born. How different that is from my hopes for after the arrival of my children! I am so very fortunate, I know. I wish there was more I could do. I hope those women all delivered safely and will one day see their children achieve more than they ever dreamed possible. Happy Mother's Day, every day.

Friday, 20 March 2009

FAIL!!

I asked Peter The Question No Wife Should Ask tonight.

I said, "do I look good in this dress or does it make me look fat?"

His reply?

A blank look and just one word.

Yes.

YES??? What does that mean? Honestly, FAIL, darling, FAIL!!!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Slightly disconcerted this evening...

The dishwasher is making odd noises. It sounds... well, it sounds wet.

Now, I know it's supposed to sound that way, but you know the difference between the right sort of wetness and the too wet sound... I'm hoping it's just that the dishwasher isn't as full as I usually have it when I put it on. I will ignore it and hope my floor isn't flooded later. That is the simple thing to do, if not the most practical I suppose. The trouble is, despite being old and decrepit I have an overactive imagination. If I hear a bump in the night I worry it's some bugger sneaking into the house and I just have to get up and make sure. One night I was so positive I'd heard the back door open I went to the kitchen and picked up a knife before wandering around the house, checking all the kids' rooms and even the cupboard under the stairs... if someone had broken in they would have freaked! I hope it would have been at the knife, not the sight of me in my dressing gown.

But back to my imagination. I imagine the worst so often that sometimes I make myself ignore things that are going on. Like the alarm that was sounding just a few minutes ago. I could hear it through the baby monitor and figured it was just a car alarm going off in the street. I knew it wasn't my car, 'cause ours is a blaring horn not a wailing siren so I ignored it. Next thing I know, Catherine comes downstairs and tells me there's flashing lights in the street outside. A fire truck had turned up. Bit dumb of me to ignore the alarm in retrospect. What if it had been a fire in Naomi's room? And there I go, imagining the worst again. As it turned out, they had a look around and left - false alarm somewhere.

My imagination keeps me awake at night. I'm such a control freak, I'll think about conversations I think I might have the next day or the next week and play them and replay them in my mind until I know exactly what I'm going to say. The problem with that is the person I'm talking with doesn't know what they're supposed to say so the conversation (if it even eventuates) never turns out the way I expected and it's usually not as bad as I think it will be. I don't do this for all conversations, by the way, only the ones I think are going to be stressful or difficult in some way. I've no idea why I do it. In my rational moments I know it's a tremendous waste of energy and entirely pointless, but I can't stop my mind from going around in circles anyway. Maybe it's a result of a stressful childhood. I did it as a teenager too and it sort of hangs around even now, when I'm adult enough to cope with difficult situations.

The ironic thing is though, when I'm in a stressful situation that I haven't had time to prepare for, I can cope really well. I can say what needs to be said with a reasonable amount of firmness, conviction or authority but hopefully still be yielding, to a point anyway. I'm one of those people that copes well with stress at the time then falls apart later. I guess that's a good thing. The dishwasher still sounds too wet though....

Monday, 9 March 2009

In the Land of Oz...

Another hysterically funny news item from home... It does raise a serious issue, however: would you have mistaken a kangaroo for a lunatic ninja?

Hero in underpants tackles a 'roo



'I felt the kangaroo jumping on top of us'

A man in Australia suffered scratched buttocks and shredded underpants wrestling with a kangaroo after it smashed through his bedroom window.

Beat Ettlin, his wife and daughter cowered beneath their blankets as it jumped on their bed.

But it then bounded into the room of the Ettlins' young son, who screamed, and Mr Ettlin was forced to act.

Mr Ettlin struggled to get the hopping marsupial into a headlock and drag it to the front door.

Shoved outside, wounded, it disappeared into a nearby reserve outside Canberra.

Inside, the animal - which Mr Ettlin said was about his own height, 5 ft 9 in (175cm) - had gouged holes in the furniture and smeared blood over the walls as it bounced around the house.

"I just kept holding the covers over my head and felt the kangaroo jumping on top of us," recalled Mr Ettlin's wife, Verity Beman.

She described her husband as "a hero: a hero in Bonds undies" - referring to a brand of underwear popular in Australia.

Mr Ettlin, who is 42 and originally from Switzerland, described himself as a lucky man.

"My initial thought when I was half awake was, 'it's a lunatic ninja coming through the window'," he said

Kangaroos are common around the outskirts of Canberra, but only rarely invade homes, experts say.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Breathing Earth

Today I found a very, well, I'm not sure if 'interesting' is the right word, although it is that, 'moving' might be better... thought-provoking, yes, that suits. I found a thought-provoking website today called Breathing Earth. It shows you the number of births, deaths and the amount of CO2 emissions over the period you've been watching, and you can look at a particular country too. There are white stars exploding all over the globe as a person is born, and less often a black star as someone dies. Frequently a country momentarily lights up red as it emits 1000 tons of CO2. I went searching for a country whose CO2 emissions had dropped since two years earlier, and the only one I could find (in an admittedly brief search) was Zimbabwe. That doesn't seem to bode well for the rest of the world reducing it's CO2 emissions. How to do it? It's easy, 90% unemployment, inflation in unmeasurable trillions of percent, a government led by a once good man turned tyrant... I shouldn't think so much. I should go and turn off the TV screen that no-one's watching...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

What have you been doing?

Today, embarrassing myself in front of a bunch of sixth-formers *lol* I do love doing the A-level stuff, but sometimes it's so hard to know how to go about it.. Never mind, they're pretty forgiving (I hope) and a lovely group. Still, how could I forget what a homeostatic endotherm was, honestly the clue is in the name! Other than that, chasing Naomi - she's walking and getting into every cupboard she shouldn't be and completely disinterested in the safe cupboards. How do they figure that out? She must like the way my voice sounds when I say "no". Keiran is becoming a boy. Today he was mucking around with another boy at preschool. They had toy pliers and they were pinching each other's eye with them. As you do! So he's got a small bruise in the corner of his eye. He's also taken to pushing Naomi over sometimes. I don't think he's trying to hurt her, it's in a boistrous play sort of way, but I have to stop it, just in case. As for Catherine, she is (mostly) the calm in the storm. She helps when she sees a need, she does as she's asked, she's kind and gentle. I love her soooo much!

Right now, I've got a sore throat brewing, a sore back and a headache, but I'm happy. Who couldn't be, with such great kids!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Holiday!

Hooray, we are going away at Easter time to Brittany for 9 days! We can't really afford to, well, we can obviously but the money could be better spent... actually no. I don't think it can be better spent. This year has already been a difficult and stressful one and it's only set to be more of the same, unless some miracle occurs. It's important to have something to look forward to, I think. Difficult times only seem worse when you don't have anything to look forward to, and the tunnel is awfully long when you can't see the light at the end... It will be brilliant to get away as a family for a decent length of time. We are taking the fast ferry to Cherbourg from Portsmouth and then staying somewhere in Brittany. I've no idea where, but it's booked! We've got a new, smaller car seat for Keiran so Catherine will have more room in the back of the car and she will be able to sit by the window. The weather will be warming up, we can go to the beach.. can't wait!

In other news, Naomi is now walking very comfortably, and getting into mischief. She loves following Keiran around opening cupboards and pulling everything out of them... Keiran is developing so quickly at the moment. His drawing has changed in the last month from simple scribbles to recognisable constructions. He's drawn a lovely series of smiling faces and even a turtle! He's got a place at the local village school, Horsell Village which is great because it's a really good school and all the neighbours' kids go there. Catherine has a place at Box Hill school, which is a lovely place with a strong international focus. She's really looking forward to it, although she wants to board, no idea where we're getting the money from, but hey! It'll all be fine...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Some numbers to blow your mind...

At least 2029 homes have already been destroyed in 78 towns this bushfire season, with more than 6000 insurance claims lodged, totalling $775 million.

And it's not over yet.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Remembering.

Today is a day of mourning in Australia for those who died in the Victorian bushfires, so I've been thinking particularly of home today. We also received some bad news today. Our friend's sister lost her fiance and his mother in the fires. We are grieving for Hyatt and her family, and her fiance's family too. We are thinking too of Mark and Janet, as Janet has the awful task of cancelling her sister's wedding. I can't imagine how dreadful that must be. Janet is also 7 months preganant, so I hope she keeps well and looks after herself. More than ever we miss our friends and family at this time.

The fires are still burning, of course. Just today, more warnings have been put out, including areas less than 30 minutes drive from my in-laws' house. That's too close for comfort. The trouble with being so far away is that your imagination just runs a bit wild, and you end up imagining the worst. My in-laws are mad, but I love them and I love their house. I also love the photos I've got stored at their house and I'm hoping they will all be okay.

Anyway, I promised myself I wouldn't stay up late tonight - got work in the morning. I get caught up watching and reading the coverage online, that's my trouble. Perhaps I'll just have a quick read of the weather before I go to bed. Those of you so inclined, a bit of prayer for the people of Victoria would be very much appreciated right about now....

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Think positive...

I confess I have withdrawn myself a bit from everyone lately. Not my immediate family, but from my friends, church... I seem to be having a Thursday every day lately. I'm not sure what it is. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I've been thinking a lot about home, brought on by the bushfires in Victoria. One person commented about grieving.. it's funny but I feel as though I am grieving, yet I've lost nothing, no-once I know has died or lost anything (as far as I'm aware) so why on earth would I be? It's quite ridiculous, really. I am having a lot of pain with my back at the moment too, so I'm back on the painkillers and an occasional drink to help me sleep. That's not good either but anyway...

Think positive.

We are planning a holiday or two this year. We can't really afford it, but as long as we go on the cheap it should be okay. We've got a fabulous car, perfect for long trips, so we're thinking of a driving holiday to Germany in April and perhaps Split in Croatia in the summer. The Euro is very strong at the moment, so Germany is likely to be expensive, but Eastern European currencies have collapsed pretty much, so a holiday there would be quite cheap. So is Iceland, come to think of it! I would love to see the aurora, maybe this year (obviously not in summer) is the time to do it.

Having something to look forward to will, I think, make this year more bearable. I think we are in for a difficult time, not just 'we' personally I mean the world. I think there will be times when we will have to make a real effort to be positive, even in the annoying Pollyanna way, and remember that things will get better and that things could be a lot worse. We need to remember that the important things aren't things it's people. The people in our lives are the 'things' that give us genuine, lasting joy. It's sharing a joke with a friend, overcoming a challenge with a partner, playing a game with a child, passing the time of day with a neighbour. It isn't the flash car and the big house. Let's fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)

Perhaps that's why the fires have played on my mind so much. I have a nice car and live in a nice house. If things get really bad for us we'll have to move to a smaller house and possibly change cars to something cheaper to run, but at least I have a home and I'm not going to lose it all in one insane catastrophe. Unless a aeroplane falls out of the sky on its way to Heathrow...

Think Positive!!!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Not sure why but....

For reasons I don't quite understand, I have found myself almost constantly thinking of the people who have suffered in the bushfires. I haven't slept well this past week, I've just wanted to read everything I can get my hands on about it all. I cry when I read about what people have lost, I cry when I read about the miracles and the generousity. I also find myself thinking, for example when I'm making dinner, how much I take for granted. I can just decide to make dinner and reach for my favourite frying pan (yes, I have one, shut up) and my knife and get on with it. The ordinary things that the bushfire survivours can no longer do. Tonight, just before going to bed I filled in a couple of entries in Naomi's baby book and as I put the book away into the bookcase I thought to myself, now I'd definitely grab the baby books and that photo...

I hope I'm not morbidly obsessed or anything. I hope it's just an empathy thing, perfectly normal. Are other people doing the same thing? It all makes me wish I was back home, where I could talk to other people who would understand what I'm feeling. I've been so homesick this past week. All the Aussie families (all two of them) I knew have already moved back to Oz, it's just us here and at times like these I really miss having someone around who talks just like me...

Only in Australia

Let's face it, there are times when the Poms taking the piss out of Australia and the Yanks not knowing any better gets really boring, but there are times when you see a headline and the first thing you think is - only in Australia would that happen. Here's one such headline I just found:

Crocodile run over in Mount Isa's CBD

By Chrissy Arthur

A small crocodile has been found dead in a river crossing in the centre of Mount Isa in north-west Queensland.

Queensland police say a taxi driver accidentally ran over a metre-long crocodile while driving over the Leichhardt River crossing on 23rd Avenue in the early hours of this morning.

Inspector Ray Pringle says while there are freshwater crocodiles in Lake Moondarra north of the city, it is very rare to have a crocodile reported in the city's CBD.

"Police thought he may have been a bit strange or under the influence of liquor or something but it was all above board," he said.

"Sure enough when they went down there was this freshwater croc.

"It was quite severely injured and they looked at opportunities to save its life but the injuries were so bad it passed away.

"They're making arrangements now to dispose of the body."

You can just hear the conversation. Oi, maaaate, ya won't bloody believe it, I've just run over a bloody croc in my ute. Don't be daft, ya mug, there's no bloody crocs in bloody Mt Isa!

Is there even a CBD in Mt Isa??

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

There ought to be a manual here somewhere....

I wonder how you can tell if you're a good parent. I suppose if your kids are basically nice people that's a pretty good indication. People are always complimenting me on how well-behaved my children are, they play nicely with others, they don't have (too many) tantrums and we can take them out and be confident they will do the right thing. That doesn't seem quite enough though. Perhaps confident, carefree children is a sign of a good parent. If that's the measure, I'm not so sure I make the grade.

Catherine is so much like I think I was when I was her age. Actually, I think I was even more stressed than she is, which makes me think I must have been a bit of a worry for my mum! I remember not wanting to go to school aged 10, because I was picked on all the time, by one or two girls in particular (who shall remain nameless, because would you believe Facebook has brought us in touch again). Catherine, I think, mostly likes school, although she is so self-conscious to the point of fearing swimming lessons because she's worried she'll be teased. On the whole, Catherine seems quite worried about almost everything, at least it seems that way to me. She often assumes the worst about a given situation, which drives me totally mad because I try to see the best in things. Consequently I'm not as sympathetic to her as I should be.

I also worry I'm failing to show her that she is loved and loveable for the wonderful person she is. This is a big thing, and I wish I could do it better. I tell her every day, more than once, how much I love her and how proud of her I am. I give her lots of hugs and kisses, maybe not enough. Maybe it's not those things that matter, it's the stuff I do or don't do inbetween. I want her to take pride in her appearance, to care about how she looks, but at the same time I don't want her to obsess and worry. She already worries, who am I kidding... I try to compliment her whenever I feel she has dressed well or done something clever with her hair, but she hates clothes shopping because she doesn't like having to take her clothes off. I know just how she feels...

I don't know what the answer is. I know I was a pretty insecure person growing up, in fact it wasn't until quite recently (well, let's say the last 6 or 7 years or so) that I've become more self-confident and pretty much happy with the person I am. I hope Catherine will survive her mother and grow up to become a confident young woman a lot sooner than I did.

Picture of the day...


Isn't life just amazingly, mind-bogglingly beautiful. I stand in awe...

High-energy X-ray diffraction was used to pinpoint some 5 million atoms in the protective protein coat used by hundreds of viruses. Credit: J. Pan & Y.J. Tao/Rice University

From PhysOrg.com.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Bubbles...

Here are some moving articles I wanted to share with you:

Jim Schembri of the Melbourne Age newspaper has written a thought-provoking piece about being an ordinary Melbournian on Saturday the 7th of February...

An amazing story of survival from Kinglake...

And an article on explaining the whole thing to young children, that concludes with the thought that some things are more important than having the latest fashion item, the biggest house, the flashest car. Imagine that...

Follow Me!

Since I'm starting to feel like I'm the only person reading this drivel, this post is a little ad. Pretty please show me I'm not talking to myself and become a follower of my blog! All you need to do is click on the Follow this blog link.

PS. My Facebook friends might be wondering why I'm so prolific with note creation... I'm not, I've just set notes to import from my blog. So if you'd rather see my entries with a pretty background that changes from time to time, please stop by for a visit: Brain Babblings. It does what it says on the tin *lol*

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Of course, its the Islamists fault...

Wouldn't you believe it, some people are already blaming Muslims. Didn't take them long, did it. I'm not even going to post the link I found, it's just full of crap. There's no doubt there are some crazy Muslim extremists, but you can't tell me there aren't as many crazy Christian ones. Granted, they don't go 'round crashing planes into buildings and chopping people's heads off, but they have done something equally appalling in times past. Would you believe there's a bunch of Christian housewives in the US who where aprons with a bible-sized pocket on one side and a gun-sized pocket on the other. That's insane, don't you think? Just as these bible-carrying, gun-toting Christians are in the minority and you can't draw conclusions about all Christians based on them, you can't conclude that all Muslims are terrorists. The vast majority do what their religion demands - surrender.

I live in a town in Surrey with the oldest mosque in Britain (any guesses where that might be?) and we have a high Muslim population. I lived next to the mosque and in the summer they have an open day when anyone can come and visit the mosque. At Eid there's usually some sort of celebration in the town, banners etc. I even got used to the call to prayer at dawn... eventually! As a Christian, I would like to see all Muslims, and everyone else of course, come to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but I am glad of their culture and contribution to the town I live in. I've read about some of they terrible things that happen in other countries, but terrible things happen in *this* country too, so it's my prayer that peace will reign, and soon.

On a related topic, have a look at this footage and interview with a survivor of the bushfire at St. Andrews. the fire came up so fast, it's no wonder so many died. It was awesome and terrifying. I never want to see anything like it. Rest in peace, all of you, and may those who are left behind be healed quickly.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Vanessa needs

So I entered the text 'Vanessa needs' into my favourite search engine, and these are the results. My comments are in brackets...

Vanessa needs to get a LIFE. (Amen to THAT!)

Vanessa needs hugs. (Can never have too many of those.)

Vanessa needs Our Help. (This exercise is becoming a bit spooky...)

Vanessa Needs Australia. (No kidding, there is a person listed on Facebook whose name is Vanessa Needs. Who would have thought! I bet her attempt at this bit of time-wasting would be interesting...)

Vanessa needs To Step Up. (Step out, step over, step in....)

Vanessa needs our prayers. (But would it actually help, that's the big question...)

Vanessa needs to be smacked. (Oooh, yes please!)

Vanessa needs mah bed now. (Hm, best idea I've heard all day.)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Where do I start...

I haven't written much on the fires because I just don't know where to start.

I don't know anyone who's lost a home or a loved one, although I know people who've had to leave their home. My in-laws live only 30 minutes from Kinglake and I can only imagine what it was like for them. I've followed everything on the ABC news website, and I just find myself crying so much. I cry for the people who've lost everything, especially for people who've lost spouses, children, siblings, friends. I cry when I read the miraculous tales of survival, stories of people helping each other and rescuing wildlife. I'm overwhelmed at the generousity and kindness of strangers who have offered their homes, caravans, cars, time, skills, produce, whatever's needed to help people get back on their feet. I feel such deep sadness for the people still searching, waiting, seeking news of a loved one.

I have to admit, my biggest fear would be being caught in a fire. When I see pictures of those who have died, in my minds eye I see their faces twisted in pain and fear. Burning to death is the most painful thing I can imagine and I find it so scary.

So I'm still crying for those people who have died, those who have been injured, those who have lost so much. Please, if you're reading this blog, consider donating to the Australian Red Cross Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Even a small amount will help those in such desperate need rebuild their lives.

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Books I Have Read...

A star next to those I have read.
An exclamation point next to those I intend to read.
5 stars next to the books I LOVE
Reprint this list in your own Notes with your choices, if you want to...

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
*2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
*4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
*5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
*6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
*8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
*10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
*11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
*13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
*****16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
!19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
*****25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
*29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
*30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
*****33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
*****36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
*37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
*39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
*40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
*41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
*42. The DaVinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (En Espanol!)
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
*****48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
*49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
*****51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
*52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
*****58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
*59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
*64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
*70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
*73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
*74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
*****83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
*****84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
*87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
*90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
*94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
*****96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
*98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
*****99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I wonder who came up with this list... I also loved The Famous Five and Nancy Drew when I was little, and I love the Joy Luck Club now.