Friday, April 30, 2004

Aaah, spring... 

Did I mention that it was 26C here this afternoon? That's more than you get at high noon in July some years in Britain. That's rather similar to California at this time of year, that is. Needless to say, temperatures will be back to a more seasonal 10C by the beginning of next week. :(

And we're STILL waiting for leaves. Apparently it all happens at once over the course of two weeks. It's looking like July at the earliest at the moment, although the grass is at least green now.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Pissed off with everyone today- nasty rant about passive-aggressive power-hungry behaviour saved to draft. Glad to get that off my chest.

Just reminds me of why I usually prefer to interact with men and intelligent women only.

I love my mother but she drives me nuts. She and I fundamentally incompatible in various large aspects of our personalities. A typical (recent) conversation with my mother, conducted by email and telephone, but condensed here for the sake of clarity, went something like this:
Mother: So, I'm arriving next week.
Me: Wonderful! Which day?
Mother: The second. I think.
Me: Okay, wonderful. What about your other dates?
Mother: Oh, you need to know the other dates as well, do you?
Me: *Gaaaaa!* Well, yes please, it helps with planning and er...things.
Mother: Oh, erm, I'll email them to you.
e-Mother: I'll be arriving on the second of May, < flight number, flight time>. all love, M
Me: *Gaaaaaaa!*
later- telephone
Me: So, Mother, thank you for your email. Do you by any chance know when you're going to California to see Purple Brother?
Mother: Oh, um, the 14th or 15th. I think. Then I'm coming back on the 24th and coming back to France on the 26th.
Me: *Gnnnann- chewing fingers by now* Thank you Mother.

My mother does none of this on purpose. She's not being passive-aggressive or any other kind of aggressive or obstructive. She just doesn't need as much precision in her life as I do. She doesn't understand why anyone would need to know piffling details like dates of visits.

I love my mother- she is one of the most lovely people I know- but she drives me nuts.

Just for people who may be unaware of this: I live at present in Canada, and my mother lives in Northern France, some 3000 miles/5000 kilometres away. My brother lives in California, some 3000 miles away from me, and twice as far to my mother's. If she lived around the corner from either of us, a certain amount of vagueness would be understandable. But there's a transatlantic flight involved here, for Pete's sake!

Keeping three hyper children calm and quiet throughout sometimes durgy concerts has always presented comething of a interesting challenge, but the added twist of live broadcast to a nation of 30 million people made tonight's more memorable. Dill decided that her father's choir merited a loud yawn several times, and when I hissed malevolently in her ear about it, she whispered "I can't help yawning, Mummy!".

Dill has always been particularly good at expressing her opinion at crucial moments of concerts, starting at five months, with her impromptu coo from the wings, during the particularly quiet and sad part of something about the death of a child -that brought a few titters from the audience; through Crispin Steele-Perkins' solo in the Electric theatre in Guildford, during which she and Hen danced silently in the aisle aged three and five, and for which the ushers subsequently apologised profusely to the man himself, only to be told by him that he was delighted that children should dance to his music, and that dancing was exactly the right reaction.

It might sound as though my children are badly behaved during concerts, but I am just over-sensitised to what other people might think about their behaviour, and expect the very highest standards from them. I swear that people have come up to me after a performance and pressed money into my hands with which to buy them sweets, so endearingly well-behaved do they find them. Usually, several people compliment us on their behaviour. Once, the first time I took all three to a concert, when Dill was about 18 months old, she amused herself by silently emptying out my wallet during the first half; during the second half, wracked with nerves, and unable to bear it any longer, I sat it out in the foyer near the television link to the stage.

The Boff's choir came second- they were beaten to first prize of $2000 by a band of comely maidens singing well-formed polyphony. Sim declared, in a weird mid-atlantic expression of disgust, that they "did rubbish", but to be fair, their Welsh conductor had come up with some interestingly innovative techniques, important in a contemporary music entry. Still, the Orpheus Singers came away with second prize of $1000, which is as I write being frittered away downtown in "The Old Dublin", or "Le vieux Dublin", to give it its new franco name. I suppose that some might be left for the hire of music, but I wouldn't bet on it. Pop goes the weasel.

Update: you can listen to their performance here if you like.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Boff sings this evening. The amateur choir that he joined in September has reached the final of Canada's Choir of the Year competition, in the contemporary section. The two facts are not related, since this is the second time they've made it to the final in this biennial competition. The final will be broadcast semi-live this evening from a church in Montréal. He is suppposed to be a baritone. Wish him luck- he has a tenor solo.

Further distressing signs of my children going native:
*Dill pronounces the letter 'L' as though she's attempting to swallow at the same time
*All three have mentally ditched the structure "please may I have..?" in favour of "Can I have...?"- to which the only possible answer is "Of course you can. Whether or not you may is the question." Use of "please" and "thank you" possibly variable away from home. Manners failing, yet everyone tells me how polite they are- yikes!
*We eat out more times a month than we can ever afford to in Britain, with the result that our children now think it normal.
*"side-walk", "garbage", "elevator", "TV", "movie", "daycare", "sneakers", "mailbox", "mailman", "boite à lunch", "dessert" etc...

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

You never know what you're going to get- really 

My daughter Hen is Organised. I believe that I may have mentioned this once or twice before, but please humour me here- this trait in her is a source of constant amazement and wonderment to me.

She is barely 9 years old, yet for the last four years, she has regularly reminded me of things needed for school- slips to be filled in, money to be sent back, play dates arranged. She is a child, who given a project to complete in six weeks, sits down on the first day it is set and starts her research. She then divides up the work according to the number of days available, factoring in weekends away, visitors and sundry days out. She allows herself Sundays off, and usually completes the task and hands it in two or three days ahead of schedule.

Since Christmas, Hen has usually been left alone in the house for about an hour every Tuesday afternoon, doing her homework in peace and quiet, while I take Sim on the bus to his judo lesson- Dill stays at school for an art lesson. Our landlady upstairs is on hand if she needs any help, and Hen prefers staying at home to traipsing half-way across the borough to watch her brother do to others what he does to her every day of the week. If she feels lonely, she rings her Daddy at work.

Anyway, last Monday, after a confab with C from upstairs, Hen found another way to amaze me- she asked me if it was all right for C, who is nearly twelve, and with a maturity belied by her short stature (rather like Hen), to baby-sit her on Tuesday afternoon and Friday evening of last week. It transpired that C is part of a Québec-wide childcare programme for all grade 6 pupils, which teaches them how to be good babysitters. They learn first aid, basic self defence, danger awareness and how to deal with hazards, assertiveness and how to handle and entertain children. Finally, they must obtain references from doing supervised babysitting, and build a résumé of their experience, ready for their entry into the babysitters' coven at the age of fourteen -babysitters earn serious money in Montréeal, thanks to a demographic curve sharply in their favour.

Hen decided straight away that the best thing for C to do would be to babysit her, since she was only downstairs, and C's mother was on hand for advice and help if needed. They got together and organised some times and dates, and Hen rounded off the deal by asking me for permission. I am constantly bowled over by my child- how did she get to be so mature and balanced? It's a true mystery.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Breakthrough blogging 

< rant> There are very few things more guaranteed to piss me off big time than people telling me one of my children has more "personality" than the other two. Just because the child in question chooses to express more what it has, does not mean it has more of it. My children each have their own personalities, about which NO-ONE, including me, has any rights to issue judgments. < end rant>

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I'm hiating it 

I'm boring even myself at the moment, so I'm taking a week's break. I'll be around and about though.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Am I the only person who had never heard of mall-walking until today? Apparently, this craze is not confined just to Montreal- it is a north american phenomenon involving walking as fast as possible round and round a shopping mall in a particular direction. It seems to be carried out first thing in the morning, before the shops open, until the participants faint from dizziness, fall by the wayside or head straight into the coffee shop for breakfast. Apparently it is popular with older people who can't be out in the cold for long, and it certainly makes perfect sense in Canada. I suppose that in the southern states, the walkers use air-conditioned malls to escape the heat. Put like that, it does sound like a good idea, but I admit to having felt taken aback at first.

Over the last three months, ever since I started Pilates back in February, I have slowly rediscovered muscles I'd forgotten about. My stomach has regained the strength it once had, my co-ordination has improved dramatically -I'm not even walking into furniture any more- and my general physical fitness is much higher. I can't recommend it enough, especially if you are habitually behind a desk, since you don't tend to use stomach muscles much when sitting down for long stretches. You don't get hot and sweaty, you don't feel exhausted after doing it, you just feel pleasantly stretched and energetic. It is also relatively cheap, since you don't need any equipment apart from your body, and it is easy to do at home.
I, usually dismissive of organised sport/exercise in any form (wild horses couldn't drag me to a gym *shudder*), am totally sold on this. I've just signed up for a second ten-week course and I'm even taking two lessons a week for the next three weeks. The only problem in Britain is the shortage of teachers, which might make finding a class difficult.

Is it just me who has been unable to access certain sites since Thursday or Friday? Cacoa and Witho being two examples.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

White Van Hell? 

I have noticed something VERY odd about the Exeter webcam in my side bar: it doesn't seem to matter what time of day I look at it, how many refreshes I see it through, there is always a White Van right on the corner. Now, this is quite odd and statistically improbable, because having been to Exeter, I can report that there are far more ordinary saloon cars than white vans there. Yet for there to be a white van in every single five-minute slot of the webcam, there would have to be a very much larger number of vans than was my observation.

So maybe it's something else. Maybe it's a decoy white van made of cardboard, that they go and shift about a little every few minutes: the webcam is on top of Exeter college, and that's a studenty type of thing to do. Maybe that road is part of some "approved route" for white vans. Maybe there is a lot of business for white van men in that area of Exeter. Maybe a seagull -there are lots of seagulls in Exeter- has crapped on the lense of the camera, and it just looks cunningly like a white van. Maybe I'm just obsesssing about white vans- possible because you don't get that type of van here- and for all people outside Britain who may not be familiar with the white van phenomenon, let us just say that they 1) often belong to tradespeople and 2) are notoriously driven extremely badly, so much so that our wonderful plumber refused to get a white van, preferring to buy a red one instead.

Anyway, I can't stay here all day watching the webcam. I've got breakfast to eat. Toodle-oo.

Friday, April 16, 2004

My grandmother 

It's often around this time of the year that I start to miss my paternal grandmother. Like many things in her long and convoluted life, her date of birth was a mystery. Her birth certificate said the 28th of April, she said the 4th.

As a teenager, beyond the age when I would need active looking after, I often went to stay with her at Easter. My father felt that exposure to one's ancestors was a required part of growing up, but the 1000 miles between us could only be breached once or twice a year. I usually went with him to see her, at which point he would disappear for days on end.

He never really got along with my grandmother, who despite never holding down a regular job in her life, considered my father's choice of computing in the 60s as a non-starter. "When will you get a proper job?" she would wheeze through the haze of Player's cigarette smoke and gas fumes in her kitchen. She kept the cards from the cigarette packets for her grandchildren- they smelt of sweet tobacco, and to us were an insight into an adult way of life that we could only guess at. She resolutely held out against central heating despite any attempt by my father, preferring instead the heady combination of carbon monoxide and paraffin effluent emanating from her pre-war heater.

She was the most awkward person I had ever met outside my nuclear family. She was fascinatingly illogical, and used the put-down "Well of course, you always think you're right" as a conclusion to the most reasoned of arguments. She was also a wonderful repository of information about life in London before and after the First World War. I sat for hours in that stifling kitchen, dust motes and smoke hanging in the air, while she told me tales of her mis-spent youth, beyond the control of even her iron-willed French mother.

Her relationship with my father was neither totally healthy nor totally unlike the relationship of any other grown man with his French mother. She exerted terrific emotional pressure on him to do things for her, and then abruptly and repeatedly let him down. My father's older half-brother, "the golden boy" was the result of a marriage of love. My father claims to be the result of a one-night stand at an office Christmas party in 1938. He was born as the first bombs fell on London. I do not know how much of these tales are truth, how much fantasy, how much speculation. The truth is rarely laid bare in families, particularly about tricky subjects such as illegitimacy.

Because of the war, my father's father- and there really is no doubting the paternity: you just have to look at photos- and my grandmother were unable to wed straight away as was the custom when little accidents happened. Furthermore, there was the unfortunate twist of her still being married to my uncle's father, who had so comprehensively disappeared from her life that for several years she did not know where to send the divorce request. My father spent many of his formative years as a bastard, despite the fact that his mother and father lived under the same roof. When he was 8, the divorce was finalised, and they were able to marry at last.

I many respects though, the damage to my father was done. he was a lonely, emotionally neglected and distant child, and he grew into an emotionally distant adult with a hopeless addiction to trying to please his mother. My grandmother put on a show until the last three years of her 90 year life. Unpleasant to my father, sunny and cheerful to everybody else. In the last three years, senility taking its toll, the stories about her rakish youth stopped, and a cloying, almost unbearable, sweetness took over. She was constantly cheerful. When she died, my father had the words "Rest in Peace" inscribed on her tombstone in all seriousness. She had already been in peace for some time though- I believe that he wrote them for himself- free at last.

*Waves at all you poor marooned Blogger people*

Still, every cloud has a silver lining. When I publish at the moment it seems to get done in a few seconds instead of minutes.

Deidre at Liminal Musings has this excellent piece about travel, walking and itchy feet- I can totally relate to her parents' way of making adventures happen, because my father did too, and it's something that we tend to do whilst on holiday. The French call it "dépaysement"- a way of travel which deliberately challenges cozy assumptions and forces you to rethink them.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

I forgot to mention that earlier this week, something ghastly happened to our lovely, new, and uninsured camera. On Sunday, we took our friends up the Olympic Tower, and took some pictures while we were there. On Monday, The Boff opened the case to inspect the camera before we went to the wildlife park, and found that between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, a tragedy had occurred: the LCD display is knackered ("King Prawn Crackered", for all you Cockney Rhyming slang fans). It appears to have sustained severe trauma, commonly known as being dropped, without -and this is the interesting bit- without anyone touching it between Sunday pm and Monday am. We are a tad pissed off and seriously hoping that we will be able to have it mended.

And I could weep for joy today, because I have just found out that we have broadband in our Devon house. Although it is slap-bang in the middle of the coutryside- our nearest neighbours are of the bovine persuasion- we are a mere mile and a half from the telephone exchange! So many more bps than I ever thought possible. Almost the best news of 2004, apart from the bits which are better.

Fashion disaster du jour, spotted on the Metro: Jeans, wide-gauge fishnets, open-toed Birkenstock sandals, with very long toe nails- almost claw-like- poking through the holes in the tights. *shudder*

I did look for any other signs of being a witch, applying the Roald Dahl witch test, but couldn't spot any.

These are a few of my least favourite words:
entrée- when used to mean "dish"- drives me crackers
bunion (just thought of that one)
spatula (totally irrational- I use them all the time)

Most of these words I find unpleasant because of the object they represent, but some are inexplicable- like pork: I quite like pork, but can't stand the word. That's just not right.

Do you have any bug-words, words that you find so unpleasant they give you the shivers and make you feel sick?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I'm feeling so smug at the moment that I just had to tell you about it- I've sorted out my personal email inbox and managed to get it to 27% full. This is nothing short of a miracle by my standards, since it once went up to 113% of its capacity (someone sent me several bulky messages full of HTML). I wonder how long it'll last. Luckily, all the ones about *&%&?$ the Wonder drug/ scam/ degree all get delivered to a bulk folder whence they are deleted (unopened, yes of course) automatically every week. Ha! That'll learn 'em.

And with Ma-in-Law arriving this evening for a week, this should be the last you hear from me today...

Here is our version of a tulip taken at the weekend in the Botanical Garden- every year in the spring, and for about six weeks, the Garden buys in a job lot of butterfly and moth chrysalises, and lets them hatch in one of their greenhouses. It's probably done to create a pocket of real spring somewhere in this frosty land, and stop everyone from either leaving or killing themselves during March and April.
And this is the result, taken by the Boff:

They fluttered around the greenhouses like moving flowers, resting on flowers, trays of fruit and people's heads. Quite beautiful.

I often wonder whether that classic Freudian dream about teeth falling out has its roots in the fact of supposed Oedipal stage and the loss of baby teeth happening at roughly the same time. I've thought even more about it recently, because little Dill is having a rather alarming time with teeth at the moment.

Having lost one to an accident some 18 months ago, she's been gappy for quite a while. Her milk teeth are loosening somewhat at the moment, and she lost her first one in a normal way last week. So keen was she to keep the Tooth Fairy in business though, that she inadvertantly knocked out a second one while sledding in the corridor on Saturday.
If you're wondering about that caption, it reads: "How Canadians save on toothpaste."
My formerly pleasant-looking daughter now looks like a blooming hockey player, with three gaps at the front in which no teeth are growing at present. Needless to say, apples are off for the time being, which is probably just as well given their Freudian connotations.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I've been fickle. I know I have. I've spent the last couple of months actually doing things in real life instead of living through the internet. And the quality of my thinking has suffered a lot. I'd like to be able to blame it all on the increased amount of exercise I'm doing, depleting my brain cells, but that would be a rather silly avenue to explore given that I'm trying to shed some minor portliness. I love keeping up with you guys, seeing what you're up to, and commenting on your sites and basically "talking" to people online.

I love doing it, it's fun and intellectually stimulating- to a point. However, the reverse of the coin is that because I'm not tied to a timetable or a schedule, I could end up sitting in front of the computer all day, either by choice or by default. And much as half of me loves doing that, it is also what puts the padding on my rear and stops me from going out and actually "doing" things- whatever this "doing" malarkey is all about.

So I'm deliberately restricting my blogging, which means that I end up not thinking "Aha! I'll blog that!" about five times a day, but that I think a lot more"Just shut down the internet window, and step away from the screen keeping your hands in the air", and deliberately finding other "things" to do which don't involve the computer.

So I'm disloyal and fickle. I love blogging , but I don't want to do it all the time. What I really need is a parallel life, in which I may safely blog all the time, whilst my alter-ego gets on with all the practical stuff I have to do, such as tidy the flat and go over to Chinatown to buy a Go game. Also, did you notice the way I just dumped you all while some Real Life friends were here? Admittedly, The Boff stopped me from going on the computer any which way he could over the last few days, but frankly, I had some catching up to do with V and D.

I reckon blogging from work (office or home) is really the only answer- at least you can feel vaguely productive, whereas I...*dramatic clap to head*...just feel lazy and dirty. There really is no compromise, I don't think.

Road to DamascusMontreal 

Yesterday in the car, on our way back home from a wildlife park, young Dill (6 and 3/4) suddenly announced: "I don't believe in God anymore; I believe in monkeys now."

Perplexed, I had images of Indian gods racing through my head, until she explained: "I think that men came from monkeys now."

Aha, I thought, she's turned into an Darwinian evolutionist. Until recently, and utterly inexplicably given the rest of her family's firmly atheistic beliefs, she would tell anybody who'd listen that "God made us all, and he is everywhere, and he made us all in six days." (and on the seventh day he rested, I'd mutter under my breath- he has to have been a bloody man).

Thankfully for us, she's also, at the same time it seems, refined her incipient vegetarianism -I'll won't eat things with four legs and fur, but I don't mind things with fins or beaks- to saying that she doesn't like fatty meat.

Maybe we'll be safe from existential angst for another few years now...

Monday, April 12, 2004

Just lurking...Three very busy days so far, and another one today.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Excellent friends V and D with their children Z and R are in Québec at the moment. I met V on our first day at university, when I leaned over the parapet of the balcony outside my room and asked the first person I saw for some boiling water. Our building was one of those horrible 60s buildings, falling apart through poor design, but wonderfully communal and apt for the purpose; it was a tiered building with huge balconies running all the way round the u-shape. Form each balcnoy, you could look down onto the balcony of the floor below.
Anyway, I leaned over the edge and asked a scarily self-possessed and well-dressed looking girl if she had a kettle. I was very nervous, but was using my usual bravado to address the situation. She had a kettle -of course!- and I went straight down to meet her.
Later, afer we'd become firm friends (ie about a week later), she confessed to me that she had found me very scary, that I sounded terribly "posh" when I first popped my head over the balcony, and that I'd struck the fear of inadequacy into her at that moment. Silly sausage! She is one the most organised, sensible and lovely people I know, and the closest I have to a sister outside my own family. It's largely thanks to her that I didn't totally freak out at university; she was always there, calm and sensible, when things got me down. I feel so privileged to be her friend.
Moral: when you meet new people, bear in mind that they may well be at least as scared as you- no-one has a monopoly on feeling uncertain or nervous.

Anyway, we're off for a couple of days to La Mauricie, north of here, to spend some quality drinkingtime with V & D. Back on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Haha, happy days... Hen asked for walkie-talkies for her birthday, and boy are they good these days. My two oldest children are busy interfering with other peoples' enjoyment of their two way radios; they recently discovered that any given channel will pick up any transmission going on in a 3.2km radius on the same frequency. I've given them all the usual instructions about not revealing personal details to anyone. They are therefore making themselves sick with laughter by passing themselves off as evil beings from outer space. I swear that they have never seen a horror film, but they doing a pretty good impression of being evil monsters. How do they do it? D'you think I should stop them?


Is there such a thing as too much purple?

Monday, April 05, 2004

An encounter 

As soon as she climbs on the bus, I notice her. She is a mother, of that there can be no doubt. Although she is alone with her shopping bag, her slightly see-through, careworn face tells the story of a woman trying to fit too many tasks in to too few hours using too few resources.

I nudge Sim and ask him to stand up. She notices straight away and heads over, sinking gratefully into the warm seat. Sim stands in front of me and fiddles with the used bus tickets, folding them into tiny airplanes. She checks with me that he is all right in hesitant French. I assure her that he is fine- he is on his way to judo, standing up will do him good.

"Do you know how to make a boat?", she asks Sim. In response, Sim hands her his spare ticket. She exclaims at the small size of the ticket, and fishes around inside her bag for a piece of paper. Meanwhile, Sim produces a minute square from the bus ticket by folding and tearing.

The lady is busy folding a page she has torn from her diary. She nears the end of her task and hovers, unsure how to finish it. Sim explains in broken French. I am so proud of him.

She hands over the tiny boat made from an Arabic diary page. Sim smiles at her and plays with it. There is less than a minute left of our journey. In thirty seconds, Sim will press the stop request button. "How old is he?", she asks me. "Ten", I say. "My daughter is ten", she says. "She is in grade 5. Is he at Armand Heriot School?". "No," I answer, "he is at Williamson- it's an anglophone school."

Sim has pressed the button. It is time for us to get up and leave the bus. I carefully put the little boat in my pocket and we say goodbye. A week later, I put my hand in my pocket to get my hankerchief out and I find the little boat. I instantly remember the lady's kind face, laughter lines creasing the corners of her tired grey eyes and muse about how much you can learn about a total stranger in few moments.

Happy Birthday Hen 

Today is the ninth birthday of young Hen. *drum roll; pom, pom, pooom, pom, pom, pom...*

2 blooming inches of snow since last night. Hellooo, weather! There are people less than a thousand miles south in shorts and T-shirts, for crying out loud! And we're practically still in ski-wear, and we can still bloody ski if we're quick about it- outside our own front door. You can have a pic later if you like, when it gets light. Or now.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Post traumatic stress? 

The first thing you have to understand about our household is that I don't *do* baking. Ever. Or ironing, but that's a completely different matter.

Anyway, the point is that my husband does all the cake-baking in our house. I think he likes it. He likes to stick doggedly to the recipe, so his cakes are a little like chemical formulae, and that's the way he likes it. His creative side gets expressed in the detail of the cake, in the icing and decoration.

Next, I'm going to have to remind you of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", that wacky sci-fi (and the first film I ever saw in the cinema incidentally), in which the central character, who looks uncannily like the bearded guy in "The Joy of Sex"- or is that just me?- obsessively makes models of a mountain out of an obscene amount of mashed potatoes- definitely far more than his wife ever set before him, but that's a different story entirely. Anyway, the point is that bearded guy has been traumatised by his "close encounter of the third kind", and is expressing his trauma through mashed potato sculpting.

Are you still with me? Good.

Well, here's a picture of the cake that my husband baked for Hen's birthday party yesterday:

Yes, it's a ski hill.

You don't think he was traumatised by his skiing accident, do you?

While little Hen and her friends were tucking into Hen's birthday tea of sushi, antipasti, carrots and dips, sausage and cheese on sticks and Coc@ Col@ (don't ask- they're all her choice), I got the vaguest of phone calls from my mama informing me of the birth of a new human to the family, probably male. No weight, no details, no description, no definite name, no nothing.

Following a phone call this morning to my sister- I didn't know they allowed mobile phones in hospitals, but apparently they do at this one- I can now however confirm that baby Wizard made his appearance at 7:30pm Paris time last night, that he weighed 8lb 6oz (3.8 kg) and that he has dark red hair and greenish eyes. It was a normal delivery in the end, but he was not ready to come out despite being 42+ weeks, and he had all the signs of being slightly underdone. Well done Purple Sis! Photo may follow later if she can email one to me from her camera phone.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Am I the only person in the world who doesn't give Easter presents beyond chocolate eggs/bunnies? I didn't even realise it was considered de rigueur.


Easter is nearly upon us, and I'm suddenly reminded of hatching eggs. when I was little, my parents had an incubator, and hatched a variety of fowl, including guinea fowl, ducks and hens. As an eight-year old new to animal husbandry, I viewed the hatching process with a mixture of fascination and horror.

I can still remember the tremendous excitement and fascination when the hatchlings began to push at the egg from the inside with their hooked beaks, at seeing a new life unfold quietly and uneventfully before my eyes. I can equally remember helping a few of them out of their shells, strictly against the rules, only to discover that they were not quite ready, the yolk sack, their in-shell power-pack, still slightly visible between their little legs. Often these premature birds died. Even after the first few dead chicks, the excitement, almost indecent, of helping another being into this world stayed with me. And I can never see a premature baby without thinking about those weak birdlings with their see-through abdomens.

Years later, expecting Sim, I read a lot about childbirth. Visits to the midwife passed uneventfully and peacefully. Visits to the obstretrician passed in terror. They had the same look about them you see. The same look I must have had when as an eight-year old, I unwittingly "hatched" little birds prematurely. They so desperately wanted to be involved that they would do anything to interfere. Even as I booked into a hospital for the birth of my first, I was planning my subsequent home births. I'd done my reading, I knew that birth in hospital is safer for the first (although I even doubt that now).

After a long and chemical labour, I was in the bizarre position of having to deliver my baby, not to his own schedule, but to a schedule designed by a bloke who had never and would never give birth, hovering over my bed insinuating I wasn't trying hard enough and that I'd be in surgery in forty-five minutes unless I delivered pdq- thanks, you ignorant bastard, my pelvic floor thanks you for nothing- I hope you get gall stones and your balls drop off.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, my son was born after a fairly gentle 38 hour labour. Four and half years later, my sister gave birth to her son Carrot in a virtual identical way. The only difference was that Carrot, because of some confusion over dates, was allowed to bake for ten months (44 weeks), instead of the customary nine (40 weeks).

She is just about to drop number two. I just rang her in the Anglo-French hospital in Paris, where they started inducing her on Thursday, despite the obvious signs that she was not ready to go into labour- she's at 42 weeks. They will doubtless continue to poke and prod until they hatch her baby for her, possibly weeks early. She's been having two days of useless contractions, chemical ones, battling against a resisting baby and her own body. I'm so cross I could scream. Just leave them both alone, you bastards! What she needs is a nice warm hole somewhere- we are mammals, after all. What she'll probably get is a Caesarian tomorrow afternoon. It's probably just as well I'm not her birth supporter this time- I'd probably get kicked out of the hospital.

I don't know what I've done to deserve it, but all of a sudden I'm getting lots of porn junk mail to my personal email address, and some of them are 40k in size- am I right in thinking these are probably viruses?

My thought for the day 

Sometimes, it's better to do rather than think.

My, my, The Montreal Gazette has some choice quotes on its front page. Here is today's:

The cool thing about being famous is travelling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff. Britney Spears.

Excuse me, exactly how old is this girl?

Thursday, April 01, 2004


I do not like April Fool's day. Never have. Whilst I can appreciate elaborate hoaxes of the kind concocted by the national media, I feel that they actually serve a hidden purpose for the readers of newspapers to beware the printed word at all times. I quite viscerally dislike deliberate aimless hoodwinking by individuals against other individuals.

You see, I've been scarred by wandering around for entire days of my childhood with paper fishes stuck to my back, in the traditional French way, which were always subtly applied to me during what I took to be a friendly slap on the back.

It could be a symptom of a borderline Aspergers, but I just don't understand aimless deception. I can appreciate why con-men do what they do, why people in a difficult position might lie their way out of it, why fraud happens, why that bloke in the hotel lobby in London may pretend to be in Wolverhampton on business. All these deceptions have a reason, that can be worked out.

But April Fool's Day? What the devil is it about? Doubting thomases will always end up looking cool on April 1st. People who like to give everything the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, like me, look like utter pillocks. Why would anyone want to fool already credulous people? - and I was a fairly credulous child until I learnt to fake cynicism.

So nowadays, I prefer to disbelieve everything I read, hear or see on April Fool's day, unless it is obviously fake- it saves a lot of time and energy trying to work out the motivation behind, the reason for, the causes of it all. I'll just stick me head in the sand until tomorrow if that's all right with you lot.

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