Sunday, November 30, 2003


ere's little a run-up-to-Christmas story I'll reproduce entirely without comment:

Orange City, Florida
A mob of shoppers rushing for a sale on DVD players trampled the first woman in line, 41 year-old Patricia VanLester, and knocked her unconscious as they scrambled for the shelves at a Wal-Mart Supercentre.

"The walked over her like a herd of elephants," said VanLester's sister, Linda Ellzey. "She's all black and blue."

Paramedics called to the store found VanLester unconscious on top of a DVD player, surrounded by shoppers seemingly oblivious to her, said Mark O'Keefe, a spokesperson for EVAC Ambulance.

State of the Purple nation 


ell, after four months in this strange country, balanced as it is between Europe and America, I have started to notice in us signs of "going native".

Firstly let us consider Dill. Four months ago Dill spoke standard BBC English in what she hoped was a cutesy, they'll- give-me-biscuits-and-sweets-just-for-being-being-cute kind of way. Now she sounds 71% Canadian. Her understanding of French is really improving, although she still stubbornly refuses to speak any outside of home.

Secondly, Hen; she is acquiring the mid-atlantic tones more commonly heard in the voices of the kids who do Dorling Kindersley CD-roms; her (aaaargh! Canadian) French is coming on very well. She understands pretty much everything I say to her, especially in context, and is talking really good pidgin French, although it's really hard to say how different it is from the other children at her school.

Thirdly, Sim: Sim's English, despite his best efforts to stay English!, is acquiring both the tones and volume of Canadian kids'. I do not mind this, since Sim is usually so quiet that hearing him in an empty library would be a problem. It is also very pleasant to see him develp the self-assurance to raise his voice a little. (Incidentally, how can it be possible for a child to have tons of self-confidence but no self-assurance?). His French is not progressing as fast as Hen's but he already knew quite a lot before we came. He struggles particularly with the written aspects, since a lot of it revolves around spelling, which eludes him even in English.

Fourthly, The Boff: He is becoming incrasingly fluent in French, dspite his efforts to deny it. He understands faultlessy most French French spoken at normal speed. Whatever made Miles Kington say that "un O' level French est un passeport à nowhere"? It's infinitely superior to GCSE French, and approaching current A' level French both in breadth and quality.

Fifthly, me: I can now understand full-blown Québecois French, which if you've never experienced it, is about as close to French French as Mississipi English is to Received Pronunciation. This makes me feel quite smug, since in July I doubted that I'd ever understand a word they said. The accent is not so pronounced in Montréal as in Québec City or east of here, but you do come across the occasional strong accent; also it seems to be a badge of honour to shoot French Canadian films in the strongest possible accents, so watching ArTV, the arthouse channel, was always a delightful trip into the unknown.

And, final proof that I too am aclimatising: last week, as I listened to Radio 4 via the Internet, I decided that I had rarely heard a more ridiculously affected accent in my life. Now, bearing in mind that my sole exposure to English when I was growing up was via my parents (both RP speakers) and Radio 4 on long wave, you will understand how much my ear must have changed in the last few months.

Do I regret any of these changes? Not at all. Moving to a foreign country is always a trip in to the unknown, but one which should be undertaken with open eyes and ears. Moving to another country is not just about changing location, but also about integrating into a new society. Ideally it should add to one's experiences, not impoverish them; I believe that is simply wicked to move to another country and to refuse to leave behind anything of the old country, in essence to recreate an enclave of the old country. This is not emigration, but merely translocation. I understand at first-hand the pressures that cause it, and the insecurities which feed it, but I feel that if you move country, you start to become a different person, and you should never fear change- change is not necessarily, possibly hardly ever, "bad". Unsettling, definitely. Different, definitely. But enriching.

What a simply ghaastly little website, my darlings 

And if reading my site in Cockney didn't quite make you wet your pants, try the splendidised version, via Daisy. It's worth it just for the soundtrack. The Boff recommends running it first through the Cockneyiser, then the Splendidiser, since the splendidiser alone apparently "doesn't change it much". Blooming cheek!

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Playing with snow 


espite his sober, calm, scientific exterior, The Boff is subject to whims at times. It's now snowing, and Hen reminded me over breakfast (pancakes with maple syrup) that on that snowy day in February in Britain -"The day everyone sat in 15 hour traffic jams in the freezing cold", remember?- The Boff had a bout of whimsy. I left for work early -just as well as it turned out, since I was one of only three staff at school by 8.30am. The Boff left a few minutes later, leaving Ma-in-Law to take the children to school. When the children emerged from the house some twenty minutes later, they found their father putting the finishing touches to a 3-foot snowman. Reacquainting himself with his inner bofflet, you might say. Aaaaaah!


...oh 2700th visitor! Say hello, and introduce yourself to the people...

Friday, November 28, 2003

Late to the party, I know... 


'm sure everyone else already knew about this, but apparently it is Buy Nothing Day today in North America, a day traditionally observed on the day after Thanksgiving. For you Brits in Blighty, it's tomorrow. This strikes me as a very good idea, cathartic as well thought-provoking. Obviously it only staves the inevitable descent into Xmas shopping hell by one day, but that's one day better as fas as I'm concerned. Our local eco-shop owner has hung jute sacking over all the shelves in his shop to mark the occasion, and will sell nothing today... So does anybody else reckon it's a bit weird to hold it on a Friday rather than a Saturday, heaviest shopping day of the week?

Day off! 


nother day off from school for the children. They have not had a week of the full five days since the end of October. Whereas in Europe the schools have holidays every six weeks, here in Québec, the school boards have "PED days", teacher training days, at alarmingly frequent intervals. I can't decide who benefits from this arrangement, but I have a nasty feeling it might be the parents, who do not have to worry about baby-sitting during holidays. The Ped days certainly don't seem to make any difference to the teachers' teaching styles.... *she says airily*
Anyway, call me a glutton for punishment, but I love their days off. If I were really brave, I'd educate them at home like my aunt did with her children (my cousin Tom, featured in that article, is now a dot-com would-be millionaire), but I have a sneaking suspicion that we'd drive each other crackers after a couple of months. We seem to achieve a lot more academically, they can learn at their own pace, which is somewhat higher than the average in a normal classroom, and the only real problems are the interpersonal conflicts they seem to need all the time...
The school they are "booked into" for next year is a teeny-weeny prep school (49 children) for four to 13 year olds. There, they will be able to work at their own pace, the curriculum being virtually tailor-made for each child. It is an academically challenging Steiner school, if that makes any sense to the educators among you, thereby combining the best of both worlds. Anyway, must go, we're in the middle of watching "Harriet the Spy"- the book's much better by the way, as is usually the case with dramatisations; I also heartily recommend Louise Fitzhugh's other two books, "Sport" and "The Long Secret". It is a shame she died young...



o those several readers of this blog who knew me at university as "Fruit Fetishist", it will come as no surprise to hear that my youngest daughter Dill is beginning to display signs of severe eccentricity. She is developing fixations for inanimate objects which are reaching biblical proportions. We are slowly amassing a collection of "objets trouvés" which all have their own somewhat unimaginative names and which she insists on anthropomorphising.

For instance, we now have in residence in our American style letter-box several sticks, all named Sticky, who have to be kept out of the rain, but must make the postman wonder. At the top of the steps to our front door lives the latest find, "Concretey" the lump of hardcore, whose plummet into the flower-bed, at the foot of a bad-tempered Sim this morning, caused no end of squawks. We also share our lives with Rocky, numbers 1 to 14, and Firconey, her friend from Whiteface Mountain. Today there was a tantrum about Leafy the artificial leaf. I shudder to imagine how she came by Leafy- he was no doubt thrown out by someone. This evening, Sim was denied his request to immortalise Leafy by including him in a collage, and Leafy had to be hugged for thirty seconds to get over the trauma of the suggestion.

I'm sure that certain people might have a lot to say about all this, but could someone please reassure me that my daughter is not a fruitcake of the first order?

Thursday, November 27, 2003


I'm often awe-struck, when out walking, by the number of people who leave their houses in the morning prepared for a day of good deeds. The traces of this are to be found in the handfuls of corn dispensed to pigeons, the pockets full of small change kept to hand out to the potential tramp, the solicitousness of strangers who will ask you if they can help as soon as you start to look lost.

A very good friend of mine has an unnerving ability to "find" distressed young mothers. She spots them in ordinary situations, walking around the shopping centre, at the library, and being Z, she just goes up to them and starts talking. Usually she has them round at her house drinking coffee within the week.

I'm always amazed at this, but really without reason to be, because it just seems to be hard-wired into her. Every day she lives her life ready to help others. She is, quite simply, an altruistic person, in a way that can't be totally disassociated from her religious beliefs, which although very strong are not evangelical, since her faith precludes proselytising.

She spends Christmas day in the same way every year: volunteering at a day centre for the lonely elderly. She runs her life truly around her altruism; her job is one which most people would consider altruistic although it is a paid job. She amazes me daily, and daily I feel thankful that she is my friend.

Shrub's resumé 

It may or may not all be true, but it's a good laugh at the expense of the most powerful man in the world: Bush, the résumé

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Here's a truly disgusting BBC story about parasites, for those that like that sort of thing. Not for the faint-hearted!

All ye shower songbirds, take note! 


here's a one of those funny-in-hindsight stories in today's Montréal Gazette, about a Vancouver teenager named Stephanie Pors, who will probably never sing again. Last Wednesday evening, in her parents' absence, and while she was innocently exercising her vocal cords with a little opera singing, her neighbours became so alarmed at the noise that they raised a full-scale police emergency squad. Apparently she is really pissed off and not seeing the funny side at all yet, refusing even to re-create the noise for her parents. Apparently she will "not be charged with excessive singing". Can you imagine trying to reassure her after that? "Oh no, Stephanie, you really have a lovely voice. It's just that it's a little...enthusiastic."


Dear Amazon.co.uk,
Since I'm going to be spending an obscene amount of money with you in the next few weeks, please could you fix so that your site is not utter crap any more? It would be really nice for example if all the prices were not GBP 508.99 or some other similarly stupid figure.
Thanking you in advance.
Yours Sincerely,
Purple Pen Rtd. (Mrs)

Running with a theme 


ince Blue Witch told us about her dream today, and Alan threatened to tell us his, I'll tell you about the dream I had two nights ago:

I was standing near the Golden Gate Bridge, on the city side, looking into the sea, when I felt a tugging at my sleeve. Without turning around, I assumed that it was Sim, who still has this nasty habit of using non-verbal communication at inappropriate times. So I said to the child: "For goodess sake, Sim, stop tugging at my sleeve!" But the tugging continued, so I turned around, and a boy was there. Roughly ten years old, the same as Sim. For a split second I thought that this grubby, barefoot child was Sim, and I was about to shout at him for being really dirty and not having any shoes on outside, when I suddenly realised that this child was not my son, but someone else's. He looked Arabic, like the kids you see in the news from the Middle-East. He had very dark curly hair and a fresh, toothy smile. He spoke to me then, in broken English, still smiling: "Come, you come please!", and he took me by the hand, past a group of smaller, equally dirty children, to where a woman sat broken on a stool, dressed in full shalwar-kamees, with a head scarf. This woman was crying and wiping her eyes with the edge of the tunic, with her head bowed. I knew suddenly that she was crying because she had lost a child, and that despite the presence of a large number of her other children, this was a void that would never be filled.

And then I woke up. Now, what was that all about, pray, oh ye dreams gurus?

Bursting bubbles 

The Scene: The kitchen, yesterday afternoon
The topic: Life-coaching of Sim, 10 and Hen, 8

Me: .....you don't get anything in life for free...bla bla...you have to have motivation as well....bla bla....just being bright doesn't guarantee you'll get the job you want...nobody will come looking for you to give you things for free...

Hen (quick as a flash): Except for Santa Claus at Christmas time and the Easter Bunny at Easter, Mummy!

Just how am I supposed to be serious with them, with that kind of thing going on?? I ask you...

Tuesday, November 25, 2003



y paper-pale daughter sits on the sofa gazing uncritically at toddlers' television programmes. I feed her at frequent intervals, and she picks up throughout the day, the unhealthy see-through flush of illness gradually disappearing. By evening she is Hen again, rather than a limp changeling left as a decoy. I marvel at how quickly children heal, and wrap her well the next morning for school.
As a child, I loved the rare occasions when I was really ill, because it meant that I could stay at home tucked up in bed reading instead of suffering the rigours of the rigid school day. Normal coughs and colds, even bronchitis, were never enough in my mother's eyes to be let off school. My favourite two weeks of being fourteen? My first dose of proper influenza, followed by chicken-pox. Sad really, and bathetic... Even now, I strangely enjoy the part of bad illness which leaves me feeling helpless as a baby and unneeded in decision-making. Lack of responsibilty is a gift sometimes.

Wooing the world... 

"I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power..."Schwarzenegger added he wished he could experience it: "Like Hitler in the Nuremburg Stadium and have all those people scream at you and just being in total agreement, whatever you say..."*
These are words reportedly from Arnold Swarzenegger back in the 70s, which he now cannot "remember" ever saying. The man also apparently toasted Kurt Waldheim during his wedding in 1996. Go Arnie! These words, from the lips of a man who would be a future president of the "most powerful nation on earth", should strike fear into all hearts on both sides of the Atlantic. And he has ambition, oh yes, he has ambition. Unstoppable ambition. Be afraid. Be very afraid...

It is becoming increasingly easy to vilify America for the ease with which its citizens can be made to swallow governmental edicts hook, line and sinker. What most people outside America overlook is that American public opinion against what is happening at the moment is also very strong. It is just that this significant majority/ minority(?) is unable to voice its opinions in its own country right now. On which subject, here is an interesting blog I found earlier, whose author quite clearly feels watched by the FBI, which sounds like a barrel of laughs.

*Via Green Fairy, from here. The as yet under-represented side of American public opinion.

a look up at the winter summer-blue sky, and the parallel trammels of the washing lines laugh at my earth-locked self

Monday, November 24, 2003

For all those with an eye for detail 


poet paints pictures with words. Whatever the subject matter or the form, the main characteristic of a poet is the new angle they bring to ordinary, or even extraordinary, things. They may be on their way to work, taking a bus, shopping in the supermarket or watching the television; they will invariably notice different things from the bulk of people, things far removed from the intention which caused their creation. For example, Snow White's mother was definitely a poet. Instead of shouting "Oh bugger!" and jumping up and down when she jabbed her finger that time, she spouted all that stuff about babies and ivory etc... Poets are born, not made, and although most people have poet moments, not all will be prompted to write down these transient emotions; this to say that most people have poetry in their souls, but that it takes a different sort of person to produce poetry.
A number of the people in my side-bar are people whom I consider to be poets. Despite the form of their writings (mostly prose), they paint a refreshingly different picture of the mundane or the odd. You know who you are. Thank you for adding positively to my soul on a virtually daily basis.

A thought 

Beauty in life is to be found in the detail rather than the broad brush strokes. The more you look, the more beauty becomes apparent.

Sunday, November 23, 2003



e spent the afternoon most pleasantly at the Ecomuseum, a kind of rescue centre for native animals. They are all incapable of surviving in the wild, so have become unwilling ambassadors for their species. Several of the animals seem unhappy to me, including the bears which pace back and forth in their compound in a deranged way. The most poignant for me though were the birds of prey; some are tethered in open enclosures, and some are kept captive in a building, to be viewed from above. In the gloaming, the separate enclosures took on the allure of dungeons containing prisoners peered at from above by leering warders.
They must feel like urban man, trapped as they are in a miniaturised environment from which they can only glimpse the taunting sky and the woods through the chain-link ceiling. Food comes free, in the shape of day-old chicks, which mostly lay neglected where they had been thrown by the captors. Deprived of the ability to act out impulses to hunt and rise free above the trees and into the sky, they must feel like the most irrelevant creatures on earth. To live in danger with your heart singing, or to wilt gently on a branch in total safety and comfort? Sounds like a familiar dilemma to me...

A courtship 


his is the story of a modern-day, old-fashioned romance. It is the tale of two people who have fallen deeply in love with each other from afar, even though they have never met. They have unspokenly passed all the usual getting-to know you stages. Without meeting, they know that they have a multitude of things in common. They have courted in the truly medieval sense of the word, with words. But they live several thousand miles apart. Both have been hurt by others, both, by being too often disappointed, lack a little confidence in this game of love. And they are possibly a little scared of meeting in case they discover that their secret garden is an ordinary garden with slugs and dead twigs. Even secret gardens have slugs, and you should not fear finding them. If you both truly feel what you think you feel, then do not fear the reality of your meeting. You would after all be meeting a friend.
True love is made of a meeting of minds plus physical attraction. You will never know whether or not you are, as you suspect, made for each other unless you meet. Lovely though living in a secret garden is, rather than sighing and pining for each other from such a distance, maybe the time has come to do some work in your garden.


I looked out of the kitchen window, and I saw, in the orange glare of the street light: two cars, both orange; one orange front garden; and one orange passerby. And I thought for a short moment that it had snowed.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Via Vanessa, the fantastic Dialectizer; for all you cheeky cheery cockney chappies out there wot need translation of this 'ere site, press here.

Friday, November 21, 2003


The Boff: So who's the balding man who has being using the shower then?
Me: Er, balding man? *looks at Boff and sees look of perfect contrived innocence on his face* Oh, that will my lover, Bernard.
TB: Oh right.
Me: I'll tell him to clean his hairs out of the plug-hole shall I?
TB: Yes please
-next day-
TB, cleaning the plug-hole: He's been here again, hasn't he?
Me: I'm sorry, I'll tell him to stop using the shower.
TB: Yes please!
Me: Stop using the shower Boff!
TB: *look of dumb horror*
Me: Well, which do you prefer? You going bald or me having a lover?
TB: I don't know!
Me: Well shall I get a lover so that you can compare two actual situations?
TB: Yeah, OK.

Now what do I do?
Yours confused,

Snow geese 


tanding in the queue for immigration at Dorval airport in July suddenly made me realise that I was a migrant for the second time in my life. The first time was when I was six years old. I remember that journey well mainly because of the stress of worrying that the French customs would find our rabbits, Rag and Tag, who were carefully concealed in a box underneath the passenger seat of my parents' car. The actual process of moving to a France seemed no stranger to me at six than any other new event in my life.
Migration is which, although undetaken with a one-way ticket, actually encompasses two journeys: one is emigration, the leaving of your birth country, and the other is immigration, the arrival in the new, unknown land.
Emigration is hardly ever undertaken lightly. Whether accompanied by elaborate farewells, or by creeping in the dead of night across no-man's-land, it involves a wrench that goes to your very core; smells, whether that of rainwater on privet hedges, or the smell of your country's food, even bad smells, are wired-in from the moment you draw your first breath in this world. The feel of the sunlight on your skin, the particular wave-length of that sunlight, even the type of rain, become objects of veneration. Your earliest, mostly sensual, memories are so intricately woven into your soul that however much you may intellectually dislike the place of your birth, those little crystals in your head struggle to steer you back there.
Immigration, on the hand, is a far colder, more intellectual process. People choose the place of their immigration usually with a lot of care, having regard to a vast number of factors. Almost none of these factors will completely satisfy the soul. Few people migrate to a different country because of the smell of jasmine or the slant of sunlight, or the cuisine to die for. Immigration is usually for hard economic facts: stay and starve, or go and live. A more toned-down, first-world version would be: stay and stagnate, or go and get ahead.
There are many stages to immigration; some of them bureaucratic, but many more are emotional. Migration is never undertaken lightly, nor is the process over once the paperwork is complete, because those smells, those raindrops and that privet keep tugging at you until the day you draw your last breath.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Divided by a common language 

If you want a really good laugh at a poor moggie's expense, go over to Daisy's now!

Next please! 


e've just got back from parent-teacher meetings at the children's school, and for all three children, the theme was the same: they don''t speak enough French in class. This ranges from Dill refusing even to make eye contact or answer her teacher even in English, via Hen, who will not use French even when she knows it, to Sim who will only speak in small groups. Apparently all three are (unnaturally) quiet in class, bother no-one, and are polite and respectful to their teachers. I have to say that they are completely the opposite at home.

Now forgive me if I sound as if I'm making excuses for my kids, but the problem sounds the same for all three, and that problem, which surely any teacher should be able to recognise, is shyness. I used to be pathologically shy as a child, The Boff still is now, and our children seem to be from the same mould (surprise surprise). Since when did shyness become such a social disease that it is now deemed to be poor will on the person's part, a refusal, rather than an inability to communicate? As a teacher, I was always very respectful of my pupils' feelings, particularly when shyness was the problem. And shyness may manifest itself as much in the apparently brash teenager or the uncommunicative mumbling adult as in the cute three year-old clinging to her mother's skirts.

People who have never been shy themselves can be very unforgiving. I remember a female teacher during my training who told me in no uncertain terms that children who would not speak up in class were simply being stubborn and should be sent out of the classroom and disciplined. I am just deeply thankful that nobody ever made me stand up in front of 25 other people and speak about something until I was grown-up enough to have overcome the problem. As a teenager, I would not even answer the telephone. As you get older, you learn all sorts of tricks to circumvent embarrassment. I may now confidently stand up in front of groups of people (as long as they are not hyper-critical or negative) and speak on any topic I of which have a good knowledge. I now almost enjoy parties, particularly if they are filled with people I already know.

Modern psychology, and indeed pharmacology, would have you believe that shyness is a social ill that can and should be cured. Obviously it is preferable for childen not to be pathologically introverted, but if they are, then surely helping them is of greater long-term use than blaming them? And shy people can be extremely effective in society. Most of of my friends are shy, and I'm very pleased to report that so far none of them has become a double-glazing salesman, an insurance broker or a used car salesperson. They all do valuable jobs totally appropriate for them, in academia mostly...

Turn to the wild side? 


funny story on Ananova today about Polish grannies turning their traditional crochet skills to knitting knickers. The whole experience seems to be a positive one so far, and rather reminded me of that documentary a couple of years ago about the traditional going-to-the-wall brogue manufacturers in Northamptonshire saved by the seemingly mad business decision of the owner to turn the factory over to the production of kinky boots.
It is good to be reminded sometimes that breaking out of the mould can be very beneficial, but I just can't get the image out of my head of wizened crones, swapping gossip and high-pitched cackles whilst turning delicate red thread into a designer thong. Is it just me who finds this very funny?
I'm naturally of a cautious bent, as habitual readers will have gathered, and my experience of the wild is minimal, bordering on nil. And I just cannot ever see myself stripping off for a calendar, like the good ladies of Rylstone did, not even for a good cause. Am I too cautious? Will I live to(obviously I'll live, that's possibly about all though) regret not having walked more on the wild side?

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Seen out and about 

Dust shadows of leaves on the pavement after Fall: a ghostly reminder of summer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003


Outside our nearest *ahem* interesting bar, this sign:

Manque de contacts avec votre conjointe? Ofrrez-vous (sic) le meilleur ici à partir du 1er décembre
Which, loosely translated, means:

Lack of contact with your female partner? Treat yourself to the best here from the 1st of December.

Just what are they offering? And is it legal in Canada?

Later: It seems that prostitution is legal in Canada, although heavily regulated, but there seem to be murky areas surrounding the activities in strip joints, which our *ahem* bar seems to be... I would link the report I found, but I'm a little worried about the consequences regarding spammers. If you want to read it, email me and I'll send you the link!

It's how you say it... 

Earlier, outside my childrens' school, I saw something which made me, busy-body that I am, go straight away to see the school principal for a quiet word. After the chat, I changed my opinion of what I had seen. I started thinking about the resposibility of witnesses, and how very subjective being a witness actually is, as well as how very subjective and powerful our choicec of words can be. Bearing witness must be one of the most responsible acts a human being can undertake, since the fates of at least two people hang in the balance of how you report what you have seen. To my mind, witness statements should be made in the blandest possible language, unless there are a large number of different points of view available. I started thinking about what I had seen and wondering how the same scene might be viewed under a number of different angles, each angle carrying with it a different, more or less powerful, choice of words. I thought about how subjective so called "qualifying" words render a basic set of facts. To illustrate my point, here is the same scene from a two angles: one factual, one with extra added adjectives and adverbs on my part. Tell me what your impressions are after each one, if you like...

The Bare Facts 

No qualifying words whatsoever. The facts as bare as I can get them:
I was standing outside the school at 9.05 am, chatting to another mother, when a car drove up and stopped outside the school. A man got out of the driver's door. He walked round to the passenger side and tried to open the door. The door was locked. The man shouted "Just open the fucking door, will you." He opened the door. He reached into the car and took hold of someone. The person screamed and held on to the frame of the car. The man pulled harder. The child came out of the car, stumbled and stood up. The man shouted at her "Well what do you expect". The child started limping towards the front door of the school. She looked back at the man several times. The man watched the child. The child got to the front door of the school and went inside. The man got into his car and drove off.

The facts plus qualifying words 

We've always been taught to embellish our language, both in writing and in speech. Here is the same set of facts, with some qualifying words thrown in where appropriate to give you a better picture of what I saw happen. Remember, these are my qualifying words, representing my angle of the facts.
I was standing outside my children's school earlier, chatting to a another mother. The children had already gone into school, it was about 9.05am (school starts at 9). A red car drove up the street very fast and stopped outside the side door of the school. A tall man wearing a woolly hat and a waistcoat jumped out of the dirver's side, ran round the back of the car and pulled on the passenger side door. The door was locked however, and the person inside did not react to the man's attempts to open the door; the man suddenly lost his temper and screamed at the person inside : "Just open the fucking door, will you ?" The door must have been unlocked, since he was then able to open the door, but the person inside did not get out. The man reached forwards into the car, and grabbing the person inside (I'd worked out by this stage that it must be a child), pulled the child out onto the pavement. The child resisted the attempt. She screamed like a a toddler and held on to the sides of the car. The man pulled harder. The child flew out onto the pavement and landed awkwardly on her feet. She stumbled and stood up straight. She looked about nine or ten years of age. The man shouted at her: "Well, what do you expect?" The man, who looked like her father too much not to be her father, pushed her roughly towards the front door of the school and started marching her there, one hand on her shoulder. The child began limping. The father gave up frog-marching her and turned back towards the car, leaving the girl to continue towards the door on her own. The child went extremely slowly, limping markedly, and glancing back towards her father every step of the way, and looking as though she was about to run away or turn back. The father stood at the corner of the building watching her, visibly angry and shaking. The girl eventually reached the front door, buzzed to be let in, and went inside. The father got back into his car and drove away.

The aftermath 

I could be more fanciful and give you a mini playlet, and a couple of monologues representing the points of view of each character in this little scene, with no apologies whatsoever to Raymond Queneau, but I won't bore you further. I'll just tell you what I found out when I went to see the principal. It appears that this child is known to have problems with taking instructions from her father, and that she is being followed by the psychology department et the children's hospital. The dad apparently refuses offers of help in dealing with his *somewhat* difficult daughter. The whole situation, as in most cases of apparent "abuse" is far too complex to be summed in one easy word. The fact is that this incident was only one of a catalogue of problems between child and parent. Reporting it was the right thing to do, and as I said at the beginning, it was important to report it in the blandest possible terms, with a minimum of intrusion from emotive language or feelings. I am able to do this because of the very particular way I was brought up, to view a problem from many angles before jumping to conclusions. Many people are not able to do this, and confuse their perception of the truth with the truth itself. Having never been called upon for jury service myself, I wonder how jurors are trained to deal with witness statements, particularly in cases where there may be only two or three witnesses...

See ya later 


won't be blogging until later today, as I'm facing a three-mile walk over to the optician to pick up my new glasses, and the three miles back again. The public transport is still on the blink outside rush hour, y'see- they're on strike. The Boff thinks I'm not well enough to do it, but I actually enjoy walking long distances. I read somewhere once that quite a few Victorian depressives self-medicated using natural endorphins released during long walks: Wordsworth and Dickens to name but two. I find that I have quite few good ideas while I'm walking, so we'll see what I come up with later...

Monday, November 17, 2003


I'm famous!!!! I'm on Quickos' friends list!


Latest silly name generator:
My goddamn rock solid ghetto shiznit name is Fellatio Wack. Which is quite funny when you consider what I do in my spare time...
What's yours?

Red Nose Day 


o yet again my body succumbs to the common cold. There's a very annoying thing about my immune system (better not slander it too much). It resists disease manfully for many days, the virus and the lymphocytes sparring back and forth, back and forth, leaving me well some days, less well other days, until my immune system, ever the quitter, says "oh bollocks!" and just gives up. So to recap: when I get the common cold, I spend ten days sickening, feeling distinctly unwell, and then I go and get the bloody cold anyway. I usually actually feel better once the cold comes, despite the annoying symptoms and large pile of hankies. Less charitable people might say I'm a malingerer. Does anybody else's body do this to them?
Talking of red noses, I have simultaneously today discovered the existence of "Opération Nez Rouge", a charitable movement aimed at....wait for it....driving drunk people home around Christmas time (seriously!)- in operation in Canada, France and Switzerland; and of a film appearing on Nov 28th, called "Nez Rouge": a home-spun feel-good romance about two star-crossed people who meet whilst volunteering for Operation Nez Rouge...

Message for Deidre 

Message for Deidre at Liminal Musings: Deidre, I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to leave comments at LM but I don't seem to get a comments box, only the name and email fields. I can't email you about this because I can't set up the damned mail programme on my new puter...
All I wanted to say today was: My son had two words at 18 months- by 22 months he spoke in sentences. I'm quite certain that yours is just biding his time until he can make proper sense...

Sunday, November 16, 2003


I know I've touched on this before, but I never cease to be amazed at how very different Canada is from the States. To illustrate the point, here is the full text of a commercial for Molson beer from the 90s:

'The Rant' (click to see the advert)

"I'm not a lumberjack or a fur trader. I don't live in an igloo, eat blubber or own a dogsled.
"I don't know Jimmy, Suzie or Sally from Canada, although I'm certain they're very nice.
"I have a prime minister, not a president.
"I speak English and French, not American.
"And I pronounce it 'about,' not 'a-boot.'
"I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack.
"I believe in peacekeeping, not policing; diversity, not assimilation.
"And that the beaver is a proud and noble animal.
"A tuque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch.
"And it's pronounced zed. OK? Not zee. Zed.
"Canada is the second-largest land mass, the first nation of hockey and the best part of North America.
"My name is Joe, and I am Canadian."

- Molson Canadian commercial

And, via Jen at Random Gestures (Hi Jen!) this article written by an American columnist, well worth a look.

You know other people think it's Christmas when... 

1) The Christmas parade happens in Montréal and Father Christmas gives his annual address to the nation
2) The Gazeteer reviewing "Elf" warns that in the film, though suitable for 5 year-olds, "Department-store Santas are revealed to be frauds"
3) You help an old lady in the Metro and she tells you that "the more you give, the more you receive"
4) Slade's one-hit wonder is on everybloodywhere
5) Canadians get a new leader to replace the old one
6) Your post box contains more catalogues than letters every morning
7) It's biting cold but you wander around with a cold sweat brought on by the worry of all that celebration

Friday, November 14, 2003

A journey 


leven years ago tomorrow, our life changed for ever. The Boff's father had died suddenly six months earlier, and he and his mother were still suffering from the after-effects not only of that, but also of The Boff's brother's death some four years before.

We had been seeing each other for several years but had not at that time made any outspoken commitment to each other. He was working thirty miles outside London, I was technically unemployed in Hampstead, but we were spending every spare moment together. We went to cinemas, exhibitions, for long walks. We had been on holiday together several times, usually with other friends as well. We were 24 years old, and we spent most weekends at parties. We looked to all intents and purposes like the students we still felt ourselves to be.

And on that Saturday in November eleven years ago, as we crept upstairs and gazed in wonderment at a thin blue line which confirmed what we already knew, we understood all at once that however grim the past, the future was bright.

One of life's little luxuries... 

The Body Shop's fig flavoured shower gel. Yummm...
hen thinks it smells yumy too (said Hen)

A thought 

Are a lack of self-awareness and a lack of awareness of how others see you just two sides of the same coin?

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Blatant consumerism 

"If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it:
Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
(William Morris*(1834-1896) from 'The Beauty of Life', 1880)


ff into town today for a bit of the above. It was only last week that I swore off buying unnecessary things, and decided to consume less in this world. This was as a direct result of seeing an eight-year boy named Dino die on camera from a totally preventable condition: hunger. I sat down and thought very hard about the way I live, and realised that several eight-year-olds could live on the surplus food that I consume every year. I have definitely cut down on the food, but stopping buying other things is proving more challenging. I spent quite a lot of money on books today, when I could easily have taken the children down to the library instead.

My general philosophy on buying stuff is this: I'm not difficult, but I know what I like. I like value, which is not the same thing as cheapness. I like things to be classical, of good quality and to last several years or decades, both in style and in substance. This is true of clothing or furniture, even appliances. There is a French proverb "you have to be rich to buy cheap" and I seem to have subconsciously absorbed the French way of shopping: to buy good quality durable items, which do not need replacing so often. This inevitably entails spending more on individual items. The Boff does not like spending money. Being an Ivory towers, ethereal sort, he is utterly uninterested in material things. (Except when it comes to sun glasses and swimming trunks, his collection of which is becoming a running joke among his sisters-in-law). There are many things people spend their hard-earned on which seem a total waste of money to me: designer clothes, bought for the label rather than any inherent qualities; machinery over-powered for its purpose; single-use gadgetry; any tat whatsoever; any item which does not fulfil William Morris' criteria.

The Boff and I complement each other on spending: we tend not spend anything over 50 pounds (100 dollars canadian, 80 dollars US) without consulting each other first. We never buy for the house without lengthy moratoria lasting several weeks, by which time the thing is either in the sale or gone anyway. That said, there are many things we spend money on which others consider would extravagance, but which we are usually able justify on ethical grounds: organic vegetables and meat, because of the reduced impact on the environment and improvement in animals' living conditions; a very expensive coffee table this year, because it is both beautiful and made from recycled railway sleepers; Green and Black's chocolate, because it is Fairtrade and organic; dolphin-friendly tuna rather bog-standard. We also boycott Nestle and prawns, petrol-greedy cars and PVC. We recycle everything we can, including clothes. We buy recycled. We buy second-hand.

And still...
...it is so hard to find a compromise between being extravagant and living like latter-day monks, because we live in a land of plenty, where having lots of stuff is normal. We have lots of stuff, and sometimes that make me feel really guilty... We are not pure enough (at least I'm not) to live in a state of total abnegation, but we do our best to be as conscious as possible. And yet we have a lot of stuff. Stuff collects around us. And all of these gestures are ultimately only gestures, because none of them are helping eight-year olds called Dino to find enough food to stay alive.

"Anything that has a real and lasting value is always a gift from within" (Franz Kafka)

*English craftsman, poet, and early socialist, whose designs generated the Arts and Crafts Movement in the later half of the 19th century. Morris encouraged to return to handmade objects and rejected standard tastes. He was associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a close friend of the painter-poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister Christina Rossetti, also a poet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Have a trip in my mind- go on, it's free! 


y Nanowrimo project has so far failed to get very far off the ground. You see, when I start writing, I find that there's still far too much unpacking to do in my brain, and I just don't have the time for all that trauma. I'm the kind of person who "compartmentalises", who files stuff away when it's not useful, or even positively harmful. I have a large box in my head which I use for day-to-day stuff. This box is actually a large pale oak chest, which is miraculously and marvellously tidy, minimalist even. Everything in there is very easily seen. All the other stuff, the irritations, the insoluble problems, the niggling problems, are packed away into boxes and tidied away beyond the oak chest. These smaller "problem boxes" are more like shoe boxes than anything more fancy. They have lids that can be shut, but occasionally I find I have to use a rubber band to keep the lid on. Some problems have to be stuffed in really tightly to make them fit.
Now the Nanowrimo problem is this: when I started writing, I found that the novel was in fact an autobiography, which those of you doing Nanowrimo will know is not within the rules. That notwithstanding, most novel is autobiographical to a large extent, since it is based on the experience, whether direct or not, of the neovelist. And who's to say what's accurately remembered and what is just plain made up? So the fact that it was autobiographical was not the problem. Part of the problem is that I believe that I should not be dwelling on things that should no longer have any influence on my life. The main problem though, is that sooner or later I'm going to have to start unpacking one of those boxes. And I just know that even one of them, once the lid is off, will rapidly expand to fill up my beautiful clear oaken chest. Even a twenty minute conversation with my father has the workers on the packing line packing at full tilt. And I had one of those conversations with him yesterday, listening to him ranting on and on in a totally unhinged, and positively elderly way about his topic du jour. So if you'll excuse me, I have a spot of brain filing to do whilst cleaning the flat- the two activities seem to fit together nicely. Why do "grown-up" parents have to be so bloody difficult?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003



n today's Gazette is an article by someone who went vegan three years, describing her rationalisation of her wardrobe to include only animal-free items. (unfortunately, I don't seem to be able to link the article in question). She threw out all leather, suede, silk, wool and cashmere items. Put simply, in its strictest form, veganism precludes the wearing of any fibre made through the exploitation of animals. Some bans seem obvious even to me, a committed meat-eater: leather and suede, whether or not a by-product of the meat industry, clearly involves killing the animal. Harvesting silk entails the death of the silk worm larva, also out for evident reasons. So far, I understand completely that if one is seriously committed to animal welfare, one would find these fabrics distateful.

Where I start finding the logic hazier is with fibres which do not entail the deliberate death of the animal, such as wool, cashmere or angora, which strict vegans also eschew. And this is where I find I cannot keep up with the logic. Vegans probably have many different reasons for being vegan but the two which spring most to mind are the animal wefare rationale, and distate for animal products , ie simply not liking meat or eggs. Strict vegans refuse to wear wool beacause it involves exploiting an animal. So far, so good. What they wear in replacement are cotton, one of the most abundantly sprayed crops in the world, whose growing by necessity entails the death of billions of insects and small animals as well as of numbers of workers in third world countries every year, and synthetics, the ultimate animal product, since they are made up of gazillions of tiny marine animals. Drilling for oil and refining, not to mention using hydrocarbons, also damages animal environments on a gigantic scale, and in a catastrophic and irreparable way- whatever Shell may say in their ads.

The more the Boff and I thought about this, the more ridiculous loopholes we found, ie: would it be acceptable for a vegan to wear the skin of an animal that had died from natural causes? Would it be all right to collect wool caught on bushes and fences? Would lambskin from still-born lambs be OK? The thing is, what I don't understand is whether strict vegans are following a train of thought and commitment to its illogical conclusion, or whether they simply find any animal products distasteful. Maybe being extremely vegan is but one manifestation of a perfectionist personality which forces huge levels of commitment from its unfortunate owner. What is more likely is that I have just missed something crucial to understanding what veganism actually is. Is veganism an ideology (subject to all the usual pitfalls of ideology), a diet (in which case the thing about the clothes would play no part), a way of minimising one's presence on this world (possibly a way of taking a step back from it), or even a religion? Or is it just a way of going one better on vegetarians? Someone enlighten me please.

Monday, November 10, 2003


No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--

-- Thomas Hood (1799-1845)

Oui, vous savez planter les choux! 


K, I won't bore you yet with the details (just wait till I have a really bad day for that), suffice to say that the children are in a "French Immersion" programme at an anglophone school, for a variety of complicated reasons. Anglophone school was never going to be my first choice (I even investigated putting them into the French French school here) but so far it is working really well. The basic pinciple behind French Immersion (hereinafter referred to as FI) is that children learn a new foreign language best when they're youngest. The FI programme thereore teaches in nothing but French for the first three years at school, and in decreasing proportions for the following years up till Grade 6, when only French and Geography are taught in French. The idea is to give bilingualism (crucial here) and a basic ability in reading and writing (also crucial) which can be built upon later.
At school, the children also enjoy the services of the lovely Mme Selma, who coaches them individually in French three times a week each. And yesterday, I managed to have a half-hour conversation with Hen in French. Okay, her grammar and vocabulary are not brilliant yet, but she cheerfully conversed with me without worrying about any of that, and showed that she is getting a real feel for the language. She also seems very good at getting her meaning across in cunning ways, by paraphrasing for example if she doesn't know the words. I'm so proud...

Are things worse for Firstborns? 


e all know about Middle Child Syndrome: the feeling that you're always left out of things, always too young to do the same things as your older sibling, whatever the age gap, coupled with an unwelcome association with your younger sibling of whom you feel insanely jealous for even breathing.
What about that lesser known syndrome "Oldest Child Syndrome". I am an oldest child. I found that the unadulterated adulation I received for those two short years have given me a megalomaniac personality disorder to last me the rest of my life. How can I put this without casting myself in a poor light? I am a seemingly quiet attention monster. I adore being in the limelight. My father spoke to me as an adult practically from birth, a relationship which bizarrely has survived to this day every convoluted twist of his own peculiar attitude to parenthood. As a child, if any new clothes came into the house, there was no question that I would get them- at least until I was 11 anyway, when my sister became taller than me. When I ask for something to be done, it is not a mere suggestion, I expect it done.
The flip side of the coin came for me in the unhealthy shape of disproportionate amounts of responsibilty placed on me, having to mediate between my parents, and their neurotically high expectations- all of which I rebelled against as soon as I was able *about 21*. I never had a teenage rebellion phase. Never had time. I was always too "responsible". Even now, I feel responsible for everything. I'm the kind of person who will apologise for having her toes treaded on, yet I loathe the word "responsible". It sends shivers down my spine, and makes me feel vaguely queazy.
I can tell that common though this is, it is not healthy for any child, so I've always been extra careful not to overload Sim with inappropriate responsibility (the kind of responsibilty I had at 8 or 9, looking after my siblings, is probably illegal now). Sim however appears to have a similar personality to my own. He generally has huge amounts of self-confidence, and simply expects things to go his way. He even expects to get more everything simply for being first. He is bossy, as bossy as I was forced to be as a child- but so is my youngest, Dill. Hen is less authoritative. And I am beginning to wonder, as I yet again pick his socks up from the floor, nag him about the homework he will do only at the last minute, and listen to him moaning about quantities of pudding received, if I have not unwittingly spawned a monster in Sim...
The Boff is very different from me, far more laid back. He is the youngest of two, but his brother died barely out of childhood. The Boff had the advantages of being a second child then, but all the advantages of being an only now-whatever they may be.
I am interested in whether you think that people's birth order influences their personality. I would love to know whether any onlies turned out bossy, whether any of you who are firsts are shy, retiring creatures. Are you a middle who has outshone your siblings? Are any of you joint oldest twins? If so, how did you sort out the chain of command?

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Pause café 


'm just about to have a coffee, despite the fact that I react rather badly to caffeine (tremors, heart palpitations, irritability. etc) so I thought that I'd share with a trade secret. In supermarkets here, a company called Van Houtte has installed coffee-grinding bars (a bit like paint mixing bars in DIY stores), where you choose your own combination of beans and grind them yourself to your coffee machine's standards. In view of my unfortunate reactions to caffeine, I like to mix approximately one measure of decaffeinated beans, and to make up the missing je-ne-sais-quoi with one measure of bastard-strong "French" beans. Result: a not too bad-tasting cup of coffee, which is theoretically half-decaffeinated.

Take heed ye sinners! 

Many thanks to Daisy for the link, and a boy and his computer for the work...

Saturday evenings... 

certainly ain't what they used to be...

nto my trendy new boots, guaranteed warm down to -74c, and over to the park to see the lunar eclipse, which starts here at the very sensible time of 6.32pm. At 8.06pm, the height of the eclipse, we are in the playground, The Boff attempting to take a picture from the top of the climbing frame, and failing because it is the wrong sort. We neeeed a tripod. At -10c it's a bit parky, but strangely there is no frost, just crunchy earth beneath the rough grass in the park (although that crunch is probably the sound of blades of grass snapping). For the last few days, we've had to use the air lock conveniently provided in our flat to avoid being sucked into the vacuum outside whenever we open the front door.
We go back in when we start to get cold, and have hot chocolate with marshmallows on top, and baklava from Azkaban, our local Iranian grocery. By 8.45, the moon has developed a beard of light, followed shortly by a wide grin. In the same time frame the children develop scowls of bad mood due to being tired, so we pack them off to bed (without a story for once! They'll live...), but not before they've had time for this exchange:
Sim: Mummy, why do people believe in Jesus?
Me: Well, why do you think some people believe in him? (I have this annoying, Socratic/teacherish way of answering childrens' questions)
Hen: Well, I think that people want to have a religion and they don't want to feel left out.
Sim then proceeds to convey his (no doubt blasphemous) views on the Son of God, before trying to find the etymology of the word god and shortly afterwards being sent off to bed by his exhausted parents.
I do wonder if my new powder blue boots will ever see -74c (nope, not even in the deep-freeze). Could I for example trek to the North Pole in them? Could I undertake a space mission in my sheepskin suede footwear? Why do they need to be comfortable down to -100F? Is it perchance just an advertising gimmick?

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The park 

This is a picture of our park, a week ago practically to the minute. What a difference a week makes...

Note to self 

Paracetamol+mead=catatonia zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Friday, November 07, 2003


It's official; I'm now the world's leading authority on Purple, ahead even of www.purple.com. I'm truly touched that anybody should take the trouble to tease me like this, as must be the author of these searches (truly touched, I mean, by the feather of madness).

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Scary roads 


ast night, a man was knocked down and killed not 200 metres from our house. Today the fuzz is everywhere, dealing with the sort of driving you'd expect them to deal with routinely: ignoring four-way stops, excessive speeding, blatant disregard for the use of indicators, all of which pass as acceptable for drivers in Montréal. Half an hour ago, I watched the "sheriff" scream up behind some guy who'd paused for too short a period at the four-way stop nearest to us,. Apparently this carries a penalty of 148 dollars, yet from our house we hear the sound of tyres screeching to a stop half-way across that junction at least five times an hour. I swear that they drive worse here than in Paris or on the M25 in London, which is saying a lot.

For waterfowl everywhere 

Goosey, goosey, gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs, and downstairs,
And in my lady's chamber.

There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers!
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.


he treatment meted out to that poor old man, whose character is not much defined beyond the notion that he may or may not be a freethinker, might seem harsh by today's standards. However you must remember that in former, less materially secure times, a sense of community and cohesion were vital to the well-being of precarious agrarian societies. Such dissention at the very heart of the dwelling, on the upstairs landing no less, could ill have been tolerated when there was hard manual labour to be done. The elderly gentleman in the ditty was clearly spending far too much valuable daylight time wrangling with his inner beliefs, instead of being out in the fields helping with the harvest.
Obviously this gent is from a well-to-do farming background (note the existence of the second floor in the dwelling place) as evidenced by the presence about the place of farmyard birds. This fowl however seems a most uncommon beast: not only does it have the run of the house, extending as far my lady's chamber, but it is allowed to express its own religious views, and indeed, to mete out punishment where it feels it to be due. This story is either the hideously prophetic precursor to Orwell's oeuvre, "Animal Farm", or is set in a Quaker community where animals have achieved equal, if not superior status, to the humans supposedly sent to rule them.
I remain uncertain about the exact significance of the left leg by which the poor old heathen was thrown down the stairs, and why the right leg could not have been put to equally good use. Suffice to say that as long as the person of advanced years survived his tumble, it is likely that he took a more active part in the running of the farm thereafter. And that he probably ate the goose for Christmas lunch.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Here's a thought 

If you're a year ahead of the game, people think you're a visionary. If you're twenty years ahead, they think you're a nutter.


All of a sudden, autumn is winter. Leaves which clung to their branch, glorying in their autumn russets, oranges and yellows, have been overcome by the transparent weight of sheets of freezing rain. Today was Fall.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003



here are those who say that you should never deal with children in anger, that showing any anger towards them or in front of them will seriously damage them. I think that this is poppycock. I mean, anger is a human emotion, right? We all experience it, however much we may deny it. Children feel anger as much as grown-ups, and tend to have tantrums, as do many adults. Obviously teaching conflict resolution as a viable alternative to bashing out your opponent's brains wth a cudgel has to be a Good Thing, and many day to day situations are successfully resolved using what are commonly held to be the feminine skills of negotiation, cooperation and give-and-take. On anger management courses, I believe that they teach just that: how to manage anger, not how not get angry any more. Yet we all (yes, even you!) feel anger sometimes. How can it possibly be helpful to tell children that this emotion they are experiencing is abnormal and should be repressed? This is garanteed to make any child feel inadequate, and even more so if they are a teenage boy being brought up by a single Mum, with few male role models.
I take a great deal of exception to people who say that you should never get angry with a child. I believe that my children ought to know when they are being annoying and irksome, for their own social development. I still remember my children's lovely playgroup teacher saying that of course playgroup was not a normal situation for children to be in, since they only ever saw people being nice to each other. The same is true of school: children are faced with bland, professional emotions which bear very little relation to the ones they are experiencing in themselves or at home.
Surely the problem with anger is not the emotion, but the way it expresses itself. We've all heard people saying "Oooh she/he has a temper on her/him" when what they actually mean is that the person is violent. Anger, like any other emotion, can be channelled and put to very good use. I find that I never tidy and clean better than when I am angry. For some reason, I see very clearly when I'm cross, and can do twice the work in half the time, with the added advantage that I can think at the same time. Of course you should NEVER hurt someone, whatever emotion you are prey to at the time. Of course it is not OK to physically hurt a child or adult or routinely verbally abuse them, or make them feel small all the time, and particularly not in cold blood. That is just bullying. What I think is OK is to tell the child that their behaviour is making you very angry, because they need that sort of clue in order to guide their behaviour; I think that expressing your anger in a non-damaging way is fine, and not only can it clear the air wonderfully, it also helps your child to see that anger is not the end of the world, and does not mean the end of a relationship.



have mislaid my house keys, it's peeing with snow out there and I want yoghurt NOW! I had to jam the door unlocked with a piece of paper in order to walk the Purple Bofflets to school, but I really don't fancy going out for any longer than 5 minutes leaving the door open, with or without Michael Moore's carefully crafted experiments about how safe Canada is. After all, let's not forget, we were burgled a few weeks ago, even if the burglar disturbed nothing and took only the cameras, he or she was still here. I'm not nervous, just not as trusting as I could be.
So I'm stuck indoors, alternately looking for keys and blogging... And still no yoghurt. Bah Hrrrumph!


It's going to be down to -10c next Monday night...

Not much really 


am dog-tired this evening and overcome with lassie-tude, so sorry, but nothing for you. We deposited Purple Sister and Carrot at the airport for a 7.30 flight. She is working half a day in Paris tomorrow afternoon, for 650 euros!! And no, she is not a high class escort, but merely cashing in on ineptitude at languages. It's an ill wind...

Monday, November 03, 2003

On safari 

Off to Parc Omega, a kind of safari park, for the day, now that The Boff is back. On our way there we were waylaid at the entrance to a small market town by the Poppy Mafia, standing in the middle of the road in a threatening manner. You rather got the impression that you'd get lynched if you accidentally knocked one of them down... On our arrival at the park, we were greeted in a similar fashion, only this time they wanted carrots rather than money.
Like the Biodome, this was very different from a zoo. The animals are able to roam a huge area. The major difference with their wild brethren is that they all beg for a living, have no fear of humans or cars, and can be rather demanding. We were chased for a quarter of a mile by a demented pig, squealing indignantly at us because although we'd stopped to look at him, we had run out of carrots and couldn't give him anything. We managed to shake him off in the end (after all, we were in a car, he was a portly porcine), but it might have been pretty scary if we'd been outside the car, possibly on a par with being chased by people with buckets...

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Witching hour 

Against my dour expectations, Trick or Treating last night was actually rather enjoyable. The rule here is that you only knock on the doors of houses which are decorated halloweenishly. The people who did not want to take part simply did not decorate. There were thousands of children in the streets, and front doors left open. Apparently it is usually bitter cold on Halloween, often raining, and generally rather nasty. Last night the sky was clear and it was 16 degrees. Most of the decorated houses were owned either by young families or by old ladies. Some householders, particularly those in first floor flats, sat in their front doorways or on their porches. Good humour reigned, the children got high as kites on sugar and attention, and it was rather like going out for a "paseo" in Spain. One particular garden was filled with the most remarkably carved pumpkins I've ever seen. Each one was a work of art. The "artist" simply said that she enjoyed drawing as a kid, and had carried on. Spectacularly.
Now the only problem is how to distribute the 6 carrier bags full of sweets and crisps we ended up with, since I'm irrationally keen on my children keeping their own teeth.

This is the best, most voyeuristic site ever, via Robyn. You'll waste hours, I promise you. It's a cyber-confessional. Here is a bit that I couldn't resist bringing you:

I was getting really sick of a neighbour's white fluffy cat taking dumps in our garden, so I decided to get revenge on it.
One day, I grabbed it and stuck it into a bucket filled with water and green food colouring I found in the cupboard. It struggled for a bit, but when it came out it was bright, lurid green. It ran off and an hour later, the doorbell rang and it was our neighbour with the green cat under his arm wanting to know if it was me who had dyed it.
I laughed so much I nearly choked to death. I think he might have guessed that it was me.

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