Friday, February 29, 2008

Halfy birthday to you

Our boy was born 23 and a half years ago today (29 August 1984) so this is his sixth half-birthday. Does that make him 3? We gave him six candles, anyway. And some Maltesers.

Excuse the messy kitchen. It's been a busy week. (The bit you can't see is immaculate.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cat or furry toy?

No, it's all right; the girl in the previous story wasn't in one of our most academic classes. Scotland does have some young people with sense. The story was genuine, but I translated her comment slightly. I wasn't there at the time, but she more likely said something like, "I cannae dae mair than yin essay, so I'm waiting till it's time to dae the yin I can dae." I decided to make it more refined for you people who live south of Edinburgh.

This is Daughter 2 and Sirius. He's such a cuddly boy.

I'm so sorry I haven't been visiting blogs much. I've been so busy doing work stuff. I'll be back. And I might some day get around to doing Molly's "I'm from... " meme, if I ever have half an hour to call my own. Meanwhile, it's midnight 10 and I have things to do. It's all very well for you ladies of leisure.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A new one on me

Our students have been sitting exams. In paper 2, they have one and a half hours to write two essays: thus we point out that they should spend about 45 minutes per essay. There are various questions to choose from.

My colleague noticed one student just sitting there doing nothing while her fellow-classmates scribbled furiously. Worried that the girl might be ill, she approached and asked her if she was all right.

“Yes,” said the girl. “But I can only answer one of the questions, so I’m waiting for the first 45 minutes to be up and then I’ll write the essay.”

(Hello, Meghs - how kind of you to unlurk and what a nice comment! Do pat your cats for me.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

After I'd done the ironing...

... and gone out of the room with the ironed clothes, leaving the water jug (for the iron) on the ironing table...

... our son...

...and the cats...

...had fun with the jug...

...and our daughter took some photos. With my camera.
We drink water out of this jug at mealtimes.
We've given it a good wash.
Edited to add:
Ok, Gina. I take your point. I mean that we pour water out of this jug (or pitcher) into glasses and then drink the water. Mind you, maybe the cats' way is the way to go... But I think my head is too big.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

More books and cats

Actually, I got these books for Christmas too, now I come to think about it – except “The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl”, the one on the top, which I bought myself. I’ve mentioned it before – it’s a touching and inspiring account written by a fellow blogger about how she got her life back from depression and overweight to happiness and fitness. What a girl. Her story is riveting and she also writes very well indeed. Including apostrophes. I do recommend it.

It’s sitting crookedly on the pile because it’s on top of Janet Street Porter’s horridly fascinating autobiography (part 2) which I dropped in the bath. This is not good for books but it doesn’t matter in this case. JSP is a journalist with a very good opinion of herself and if I saw her standing on a river bank with her back to me, I might well be tempted to give her a little shove. Only into a shallow river, you understand. Or a bath.

Of this second pile, I’ve so far read the Don Paterson, the Janet Street Porter and the Dietgirl. Now, however, I’ve abandoned the Mitfords temporarily for Sebastian Faulks’s “Engleby” (very good so far), which is our book group choice, and “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, which I’m rereading so that I can pretend I know it awfully well for my (very intelligent) Advanced Higher students. A week or two ago, two of their essays on “The Return of the Native” made me doubt whether I could actually do any better myself. I didn’t tell them that, though. One has to maintain the illusion.

Girl in pyjamas with happy cat last night.

Boy in pyjamas with happy cat this morning.

Boy in pyjamas with other happy cat.

Boy in pyjamas with relaxed and happy cat.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Books and names

These are the books I got for Christmas; all delicious; all just what I wanted.

How many of them have I yet read? Can you see the markers in the Mitford letters and in "Poem for the Day Two"? That's how far I've got. I've only dipped into the others.

Why can't I be a lady who gets to sit at home all day, sipping coffee from a porcelain cup and nibbling grapes?

Apart from working all day and also Tuesday evenings, I spend too much time marking and preparing work. I also have to study books to teach them. And then I have to read our book group's chosen books. And of course a bit of evening blogging goes on too, I have to admit. And three evenings a week I go up about 10 to my mother's to spend the night with her. I keep other books there.

Still, the Mitford letters (between six aristocratic sisters) are entertaining. I bet they didn't work so hard as we all do.

They all had fairly unusual lives, but one of the more conventional married the man who became Duke of Devonshire. Very wise; might have thought of this myself. Actually, my plan as a child was to marry Prince Charles.

Anyway, in one letter she tells of a friend of her son's. The friend was called Lord Ancrum and when he arrived at some social event the announcing chap asked him his name. The chap misheard him and announced him as Norman Crumb. From then on, his friends naturally called him this, even sending him letters addressed to Norman Crumb, Esq. Shortly after this, Lyndon B Johnston became President of America so the young man became Norman B Crumb, or indeed Bread Crumb. I presume that this chap is the well-known Conservative politician now known mainly as Michael Ancrum.

I was relating this tale to Daughter 2, who mused that the upper classes, some of whom she has met at university, often have silly nicknames. She recalled that the mother of one posh friend is called Twinks and actually introduces herself as such: "Hellew, I'm Twinks X."

Of course we do call Daughter 2 "Boots" most of the time. But we don't actually tell strangers this. Except all of you, of course.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

February 9th

It was sunny and mild today and I took my mother for a walk in the Botanic Gardens. Spring is in the air.

This afternoon our son was vacuuming the dining room and temporarily put the cushions on the table. Cassie liked this.

I have a cold, the kind that makes your nose and eyes stream and your teeth ache.

I had some friends round for the evening. We started teaching together in 1973 and the last one of them has applied to retire in June. This means that I shall be the only one still working. Sulk.

We’ve had social gatherings every couple of months since we met. We used to talk about men. Then children. Then teenagers. Then weddings. Now we discuss our pensions and our ailments. And in Jan’s case, her grandchildren.

I love our catlets dearly but I wish they’d stop scratching the wallpaper. So far they mainly do it in reasonably unseen corners of rooms, but – hmm. Dido, the cat of my youth, never did this.

Cats nowadays… what’s the world coming to?

Tomorrow I hope to do some gardening of the tidying variety: cutting down the dead stalks of perennials and removing last year's leaves, which lie which lie in a soggy brown blanket over snowdrops, crocuses and primroses in the back garden. Why is it that, even though I raked up all my leaves last autumn, I end up with a fresh supply at the end of the winter? It’s one of the mysteries of gardening.

This would have been my dad's 88th birthday, the first since he died.

Snuffle, sneeze, drip, blow nose.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Two grannies

Unremarkably, I had two grannies. One was born in 1885, the other in 1895. I was born in 1950, so as you can probably work out, one was 65 and the other was 55 at that point.

For both of them, my older brother and I were the only grandchildren.

The older one, Granny S, moved down to England when I was 5 and we didn’t see her much from then on – only on occasional visits. She developed dementia in her early 70s and grew gradually more confused until her death when I was 18. I don’t feel I really knew her. I never knew at all Grandpa S, who died the year I was born. I feel sad about this.

The plate above was part of her wedding china. One day she was carrying a lot of it through to the dining room on a tray when she dropped it. This is one of the few pieces that survived.

My other granny, Granny C, lived just along the road from us until we moved house when I was 12 – but we moved only about a mile away. She and my grandpa were very much part of our lives. Granny C was an absolute darling. She lived for her family, had the illusion that my brother and I were perfect and loved all things domestic: sewing and knitting and cooking and gardening.

However, she had a sad family background. Her mother was from the island of Arran but left the island, went to work in Glasgow, got married, developed TB and then died when her children were 7, 5 (my future Granny) and 2 years old. Their father got his sister to come and be his housekeeper, but she wasn’t a very motherly person and didn’t give the children much love. Even more sadly, the 2 year old daughter also got TB, was a sickly child and died at 14. Granny C and her elder brother, Alec, were very close. Then their father remarried when they were 16 and 18 and their step-mother made it clear that they were no longer welcome in the house. Alec joined the army and Granny came to Edinburgh and got a job as a sewing maid in a big house.

Alec was gassed during the war. He was never well again and survived only till late 1921.

My granny and grandpa got married in 1921 and Alec gave them a wedding present of two blue and white vases. These sat on either end of the mantelpiece until my granny was an old lady and had a home help once a week – and this cleaner broke one of the vases. This is the other.

Both my grannies seemed like very old ladies to me, with cottage-loaf figures and white hair pulled back into buns. I'm now 57, two years older than my younger granny was when I was born. Strange thought. I'm not a granny yet, nor does there seem any prospect of becoming one in the near future. Fortunately I already have the cottage-loaf figure and the hair will probably be at least grey by the time it happens so at least no one can say I'm not prepared.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Why do I blog?

Daughter 2 was having a nice early night with a book. Then she got up to fetch something. Guess what had happened by the time she got back?

I’ve been out of the blogloop all week and indeed hardly in it at all for several – all due to ridiculous busyness.

Thank you for your answers to a couple of posts ago: why you blog. These had some points in common but were interestingly different in other ways.

Like Tanya and others, I do it partly because I’m a compulsive writer. I enjoy putting words together; trying to make them say exactly what’s in my head; getting the rhythm right.

I think I also do it because I’m quite a shy person. My son doesn’t believe this, because these days I hide it fairly well most of the time and I no longer worry all that much what people in general think of me. And of course my job involves talking to large groups of students, which is different. But I do sometimes lack confidence in my complete fascinatingness – who doesn’t? – and in social groups will sometimes notice myself speaking quite fast so that others don’t have to listen to me for too long. Blogging is such a good medium for shyish people. No one has to read you and you never know if someone has got bored and stopped reading half way through a post.

I suppose there’s a self-selection process: almost by definition, people who read your blog are likely to be interested in what you have to say and to share your sense of humour and outlook on the world. Unless they’re only looking for pictures of cats.

And comments, however brief, are indeed a bonus. Every time you post, you step out of the shadows and shout, “Listen to me!” You feel less silly if someone replies.

I read one or two excellent blogs that get hardly any comments. I imagine that this is because they don’t comment on others’ blogs and so not all that many people know they’re there. I rather admire this. Presumably they don’t need confirmation – that reassurance that yes, other people know what they mean, like how they write and occasionally feel the same way.

And of course blogland is a community. Like the rest of you, I do have actual friends, though none of them knows about my blog. Blog friends are… just very pleasant. They tell you things that sometimes your real friends don’t. You get an insight into their daily lives, sometimes many thousands of miles away. You may even get to meet some of them – a sort of internet dating without the anxiety that they may not find you attractive.

Lastly, of course, it’s so much more fun than cleaning the oven. Or, in some of your cases, than doing your paid employment. Hello Salford!