Wednesday, 30 May 2007

A Few of My Favourite Things

Took the kids shopping in town today with my good friend R. It would have been better without the Young Ones of course. Over a bottle of wine, R. and I reminisced about some of our nights out in town. We remembered the last time we went to the Tapas Bar. It was a SingalongaABBA night. We'd dressed up. R. just pulled something out of her Mary Poppins-like wardrobe. I had rented a gorgeous purple outfit and flowing magenta wig so I could look like the red-head. Of the rest of the group, only my Scottish Friend had the cajones to dress up, like the blonde one.

Now I was not an ABBA-phile in my younger days. In fact I was a major ABBA-phobe. I would quickly switch the radio station should they come on and banned their music in my presence. So how ironic and funny that I should end up at this ABBA fest. We got some very odd looks at the tapas place. But I didn't care because who was going to recognise me in the magenta wig? At the theatre, which was full of women of a certain age and gay men, we didn't feel so out of place. They invited people on stage and my Scottish friend and I, well-oiled by this stage, joined the others. We all had to sing Dancing Queen, and the audience would clap loudest for their favourite. Well, I thought I'd be a shoo-in. I had the wig on after all. But no. This being Liverpool, they went for the underdog: the old lady in the wheel chair who miraculously regained the ability to walk at just the right moment. I mean, she didn't even know the words (and why do I?)!

Then there was the time we took the kids to a SingalongaSoundofMusic night (we're big on those as you might have gathered). All the mums dressed as nuns (with fishnet tights), the girls had matching skirts and headscarfs, and the boys went as Hitler. Our costumes were quite tame compared to others. I saw Dog Bites, Bee Stings, Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String, Edelweiss, more Nazi uniforms than have been seen since WWII. But not exactly a child-friendly evening.

And of course how could I forget (or remember) the Lost Afternoon, when my Scottish Friend (SF from now on), another friend, and I drank five bottles of wine at the Tapas Bar, went to Ann Summers to check out the latest in S&M wear (where a co-worker accosted my other friend) and somehow ended up in the Vodka Bar. I don't remember how I got home.

Ah, those were the days.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

My uncle died

My uncle died today. My mother just called to tell me. She'd found out from the nursing home, not from his wife. I haven't shed any tears, and I'm not sure I will. I don't know if my uncle's death had any dignity, but his life sure didn't anymore.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate 15 years ago, around the same time as my stepdad. My stepdad had the surgery, which left him incontinent. My uncle chose the hormone therapy, but ended up incontinent anyway. The cancer never left him completely, and slowly but steadily took over his body. In the end, he had no control over his bodily functions and could barely walk. Then he lost the power of speech. He'd been in a hospice, but the insurance industry being what it is in America, it paid for him to stay for only one week. Then he would have had to pay something like $300 a day. He went home but his wife couldn't care for him. So he went to a nursing home, where they left him lying in his shit for hours. He was in a room by himself with no one to talk to. His wife wouldn't visit him there. My mother thinks this is scandalous. I think she must have felt so guilty about having to put him there that she couldn't bear to see him there.

I didn't have much of a relationship with my uncle when I was younger. It really only blossomed when I moved to the UK and got a computer. He would send me emails. Loads of emails. Jokes, pictures, pro-Bush crap. But he thought of me. And I appreciated that. It's upsetting to think this is how he ended up. I think, and my mother does too, that his death was a blessing. He didn't want to live anymore.

This brings my mother's life and eventual demise into sharper focus. She has started to go downhill, which at 82 is expected. We all live so far away from her. The conversations with my sister always include what we would do with our mother should her husband go first. My sister wants to bring her to Florida to live with her. My aunt wants my mother to live with her. My mother thinks she might go to Florida or might go to a nursing home or might live with her sister. That's if her husband goes first. If she goes first, we know where she's going, but it would create a nightmare in terms of her estate.

It truly is hell when your parents get old. I didn't expect it to be so bad. At least my mother still has her marbles and doesn't have any really bad ailments. The mother of one of my friends has early-stage Alzheimer's. She forgets to eat, forgets where she is, forgets who people are. It's scary to think that's where we'll be one day.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Is it wet out there or is it just me?

Ah, the Great British Bank Holiday Weekend. In true British fashion, we tried to defy the weather as much as possible. We went to a garden centre on Sunday. In the rain. Came home, tried out the new gas barbecue. In the rain. The gas bbq sat in boxes on the floor of the garage for nine months. Then my husband finally took it out to put it together. Three weeks and much fussing and fuming later, it's set to go. Women would just get on with it. But he found a new favourite hardware store, the Flying Dutchman, and a new buddy, the owner of the Flying Dutchman.

Today, my husband flew to NYC, and I took the kids to the cinema. Everybody took their kids to the cinema. Why did I think I was unique? So we participated in that other Great British Bank Holiday tradition: queuing. First, it was queuing for a parking space. I politely and patiently waited for an idiot to figure out how to back out only to have some young whippersnapper swoop in and take my place. So back around I went until I found a space. I warned the kids it would be a murder scene if someone took my space again. Then we had to queue for the tickets. Then we had to queue for the snacks. Then three hours later when the Pirates of the Caribbean saga had finally finished (and I'd had my half-hour nap), we had to queue at five restaurants. Then I got the idea to drive two minutes to somewhere else. And no queues. Heaven!!

Back to the Pirates of the Caribbean. Here are my thoughts on the film:

1. Everybody but Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom has really rotten teeth.

2. I don't think Keith Richards needed any makeup or costumes for his role.

3. Keith Richards is a better actor than Keira Knightley.

4. Why do pirates all seem to have Bristollian accents?

5. I think it's time they moved on to some other Disney ride to create another movie franchise. They've done Haunted Mansion. Maybe the Riverboat.

On the way to the cinema, I checked that my son had indeed changed his clothes. He likes to wear the same clothes day after day after grass-stained day. My husband and dad are the same way. They change their underwear daily, and they don't smell. But they either lack imagination or like the familiarity of the same old clothes.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Sex education continued

The internet dispute continues. My daughter thinks I overreacted. She said what they were watching was a guy strip down to his boxer shorts and then put his clothes on again. And I remembered that YouTube has a block for under-18s. Still, that's just YouTube. And although my daughter has yet to grass on my son, she has hinted that what he was looking at was far worse.

We talked about it at dinner last night. My husband sided with me (he'd better!), my son, obviously believing that keeping his head down was the best strategy, wouldn't voice an opinion. My daughter loudly bewailed her loss of freedom.

But what they look at on the internet isn't the only issue here. The mothers of these children are my best friends. I told them of course. One was very concerned. I played it down for the other because she'd been clearing out her dead mother's wardrobe all day and I didn't want to add more stress. Also, my kids were staying over at her house that night. I don't want them to get the reputation of being bad kids.

I tried explaining to my daughter that there are many things on the internet that are unsuitable for her to look at, unsuitable for me even. That just piqued her interest. I told her I would never have suspected a thing if she and her friends hadn't been giggling so much. So next time they'll be more discreet.

Perhaps I will get some tame books about sex and leave them around. Or better yet, hide them badly so they'll feel like they're doing something sneaky. They learn sex ed in school but I suppose there can be gaps.

I want to trust them. I want them to feel they can have privacy and freedom. I reminded my daughter that I don't read her e-mail or text messages. I told her that I could have done nothing but then I wouldn't be doing my job as a mother. All the time, I know I'm a hypocrit. I had no boundaries when I was a teen because my parents were too self-absorbed to set them. I had no curfew from the age of 16 so came home at 4 or 5 in the morning. My dad claims this isn't true but that's because it doesn't fit in with his newly found born-again Christian beliefs. I did things and went places I had no business doing or going to. I don't want the same for my children.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Sex education

Well, my son recovered enough from the Liverpool defeat to go to school the next day. He said he had to because it was a very important lesson. Knowing that his school does not do much for Year Six after the Sats, I asked him what the important lesson was about. Sex education was his reply. Hmmm.

When I picked him up from school, I asked how the sex education lesson was.

"Well, we learned about stiffies."

"That's right. Boys get them when they hit puberty."

"And I asked her a trick question."

"What was that then?"

"I asked if men's chest hair comes in patterns and she said she didn't know. But they do, like some are in the shape of a cross."

"If you know, why did you ask her?"

"I just wanted to test her knowledge."

What I didn't know was that he planned to continue his sex education at home with his bezzie mate. On the computer. Watching YouTube.

I heard hoots and hollers coming from the room we keep the computer in. Ah, I thought to meself, they're having a really good time on that computer game. Then my daughter came home with two friends, and I busied myself making an impromptu dinner for five children. Spaghetti with crab and onions and tomatoes. Delicious. Or so I thought.

During the meal there was lots of giggling going on. I caught one girl redhanded scraping my lovely meal onto someone else's plate. Then when I was cleaning up, I found a load of paper towels. Now we are a recycling household and paper towels don't just get chucked in the bin for no reason. I looked under the paper towels and found the spaghetti. I was starting to get pissed off, and an alarm bell went off in my head.

"Go see what the girls are doing on the computer," I told my husband.

Clump, clump, clump down the hallway he went.

"Nothing," he said. "They're playing a game."


I went down the hallway myself, softly and quietly, and peered through the crack in the doorway. They were watching a man take his clothes off. The boys had apparently watched the same thing or worse. I chucked all the children out but my two. They got sent to their rooms. Incredibly, I had never put on parental or access controls. They have it now. They'll be lucky to access the Telly Tubby website.

I blame myself. I was naive about them. I mean I was 12 once. I remember fishing "Everything you Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask)" out of my dad's underwear drawer. I don't have that book because I learned all the answers when I was 12. But the internet is a big, uncontrollable resource. There are so many porn blogs out there (which I was going to write about one day). I should have known better but now I do. I don't like to be a hypocritical parent but I have to be. I hate to spoil their fun but my house isn't going to be the one they all visit to look at this stuff. Maybe I should get a copy of "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex."

Thursday, 24 May 2007

You'll Never Walk Alone

Last night we had a small party to watch the footie. My son and daughter are ardent Liverpool supporters as is their dad. I do my bit with a running commentary: "My, he has a very large Adam's apple." "Oooh, I wouldn't want to get hurt there." "Oh no. Oh no. OH NO!!!" "The ref must be a German."

I decided to make it a theme night for the food: Italian and Greek, which go together well. I wasn't going to make Scouse. So I slaved over a hot stove all afternoon and cleaned the house somewhat. My son observed from his sick bed, or couch rather. He's had the tummy bug again. Anyway, all thought of stomach cramps disappeared when the footie started. My daughter sang and annoyed all of us. My son warned me not go "Oh no, oh no, OH NOOOO!!" Which I had to do when AC Milan scored the second goal. My friend's son turned to him as he cracked open his third beer and said, "I thought you said you weren't going to drink tonight." Ah, these children just don't get it, do they? One simply must drink when watching sport on TV.

But it was tears at bedtime unfortunately. My son was absolutely gutted when his team lost. Watching Stevie G. cry just made his tears fall all the faster. This is when a boy needs his father. Unfortunately, my son was the only male in the room who supports Liverpool. I rubbed his back and made motherly noises. But I knew he didn't want to hear "It's only a game," or "They'll do better next time." When my husband gets home tonight they can dissect the game together.

The food was good. The fizz was good. I even made a Pizz (Pimms and ginger ale with fizz on top, recipe courtesy of Mind the Gap). The Everton fans at our house weren't too obnoxious. And yes, the ref was a German.

Below is the speech Bill Moyers, TV political pundit in the U.S., gave to the graduating class of Southern Methodist University. I put it here because it is so powerful. Many of us Americans have watched in horror as the Idiot and his supporters dragged our country to its knees. We need strong leadership, though I'm not sure it's on the horizon.

"My young friends, you are not leaving here in ordinary times. The ancient Greeks had a word for a moment like this. They called it “kairos.” Euripedes describes kairos as the moment when “the one who seizes the helm of fate, forces fortune.” As I was coming here to Dallas today to ask what you are going to do to make the most of your life, I thought: Please God, let me be looking in the face of some young man or woman who is going to transcend the normal arc of life, who is going one day to break through, inspire us, challenge us, and call forth from us the greatness of spirit that in our best moments have fired the world’s imagination. You know the spirit of which I speak. Memorable ideas sprang from it: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”…“created equal”… “government of, by, and for the people”…“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”…“I have a dream.” Those were transformational epochs in American politics, brought forth by the founding patriots who won our independence, by Lincoln and his Lieutenants who saved the Union, by Franklin Roosevelt who saved capitalism and democracy, and by Martin Luther King, martyred in the struggle for equal rights. These moments would have been lost if left to transactional politics—the traditional politics of “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” But moral leadership transcended the realities at hand and changed the course of our history.

Never have we been more in need of transformational leadership.

America’s a great promise but it’s a broken promise.

It’s not right that we are entering the fifth year of a war started on a suspicion. Whatever your party or politics, my young friends, America can’t sustain a war begun under false pretenses because it is simply immoral to ask people to go on dying for the wrong reasons. We cannot win a war when our leaders don’t have the will or courage to ask everyone to sacrifice, and place the burden on a few hundred thousand Americans from the working class led by a relative handful of professional officers. As is often said—America’s not fighting the war; the American military is fighting the war, everyone else is at the mall. Our leaders are not even asking us to pay for it. They’re borrowing the money and passing the IOU’s to you and your kids.

America needs fixing. Our system of government is badly broken.

You are leaving here as our basic constitutional principles are under assault—the rule of law, an independent press, independent courts, the separation of church and state, and the social contract itself. I am sure you learned about the social contract here at SMU. It’s right there in the Constitution—in the Preamble: “We, the People”—that radical, magnificent, democratic, inspired and exhilarating idea that we are in this together, one for all and all for one.
I believe this to be the heart of democracy. I know it to be a profoundly religious truth. Over in East Texas where I grew up, my father’s greatest honor, as he saw it, was to serve as a deacon in the Central Baptist Church. In those days we Baptists were, in matters of faith, sovereign individualists: the priesthood of the believer, soul freedom, “Just you and me, Lord.” But time and again, as my dad prayed the Lord’s Prayer, I realized that it was never in the first person singular. It was always: “Give us this day our daily bread.” We’re all in this together; one person’s hunger is another’s duty.

Let me see if I can say it a different way. A moment ago, when the reunion class of 1957 stood up to be recognized, I was taken back half a century to my first year at the University of Texas. In my mind’s eye I saw Gilbert McAlister—“Dr. Mac”—pacing back and forth in his introductory class to anthropology. He had spent his years as a graduate student among the Apache Indians on the plains of Texas. He said he learned from them the meaning of reciprocity. In the Apache tongue, he told us, the word for grandfather was the same as the word for grandson. Generations were linked together by mutual obligation. Through the years, he went on; we human beings have advanced more from collaboration than competition. For all the chest-thumping about rugged individuals and self-made men, it was the imperative and ethic of cooperation that forged America. Laissez-faire—“Leave me alone”—didn’t work. We had to move from the philosophy of “Live and let live” to “Live and help live.” You see, civilization is not a natural act. Civilization is a veneer of civility stretched across primal human appetites. Like democracy, civilization has to be willed, practiced, and constantly repaired, or society becomes a war of all against all.

Think it over: On one side of this city of Dallas people pay $69 for a margarita and on the other side of town the homeless scrounge for scraps in garbage cans. What would be the civilized response to such a disparity?

Think it over: In 1960 the gap in wealth between the top 20 percent of our country and the bottom 20 percent was 30 fold. Now it is 75 fold. Stock prices and productivity are up, and CEO salaries are soaring, but ordinary workers aren’t sharing in the profits they helped generate. Their incomes aren’t keeping up with costs. More Americans live in poverty—37 million, including 12 million children. Twelve million children! Despite extraordinary wealth at the top, America’s last among the highly developed countries in each of seven measures of inequality. Our GDP outperforms every country in the world except Luxembourg. But among industrialized nations we are at the bottom in functional literacy and dead last in combating poverty. Meanwhile, regular Americans are working longer and harder than workers in any other industrial nation, but it’s harder and harder for them to figure out how to make ends meet…how to send the kids to college…and how to hold on securely in their old age. If we’re all in this together, what’s a civilized response to these disparities?
America’s a broken promise. America needs fixing.

So I look out on your graduating class and pray some one or more of you will take it on. I know something about the DNA in this institution—the history that created this unique university. Although most of you are not Methodists, you can be proud of the Methodist in SMU. At the time of the American Revolution only a few hundred people identified with Methodism. By the Civil War it was the largest church in the country with one in three church members calling Methodism their faith community. No institution has done more to shape America’s moral imagination. If America is going to be fixed, I believe someone with this DNA will be needed to do it. It’s possible. So as you leave today, take with you Rilke’s counsel “to assume our existence as broadly as we can, in any way we can. Everything, even the unheard of, must be possible in this life. The only courage demanded of us is courage for the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter.”

Some of the elders among you will remember that Martin Luther King made a powerful speech here at SMU in 1966. It’s been said—this part of the story may be apocryphal—that when he was asked why he chose SMU instead of one of the all-black colleges, Dr. King replied: “Because if John Wesley were around he’d be standing right here with me.” Martin Luther King said at SMU: “…The challenge in the days ahead is to work passionately and unrelentingly…to make justice a reality for all people.” One of your own graduates—the Reverend Michael Waters—got it right a few years ago when he was a student here: “Martin Luther King became the symbol not only of the civil rights movement but of America itself: A symbol of a land of freedom where people of all races, creeds, and nationalities could live together as a Beloved Community.”
Not as an empire. Or a superpower. Not a place where the strong take what they can and the weak what they must. But a Beloved Community. It’s the core of civilization, the crux of democracy, and a profound religious truth.

But don’t go searching for the Beloved Community on a map. It’s not a place. It exists in the hearts and minds—our hearts and minds—or not at all.

I pray I am looking into the face of someone who will lead us toward it.

Good luck to each and every one of you."

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Reader's Block

I have been suffering from a form of Reader's Block for about 18 months, since my husband started working in London. I always read a book at bedtime before, but once he was gone, I couldn't finish any book, let alone get started. I read magazines and newspapers instead while watching TV. I went to sleep thinking about my buddies on Lost (which I can't watch anymore now that it's on Sky), Prison Break, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, House, Ugly Betty.

Well, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that I'm lonely, and these TV characters help me feel not so lonely. But I also get involved in the characters, as I do in a good book. I love the feeling of reading a good book, one I can't wait to read again, can't put down while I am reading, and miss when it's finished. It's like falling in love, and it's been awhile since I had that feeling. Some books that made me feel that way are "The Corrections" and "Alias Grace". Also, anything by Annie Prouilx. But where is the love now? My bedroom, indeed my house, is full of books I've started and not finished or haven't started at all. I thought I'd enjoy reading Alan Bennett's "Untold Stories." It lies spreadeagled on the floor, open to page 167. I thought I'd like Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." Same story again.

I have read books over the past 18 months, crime fiction or something lighthearted like "Queen Camilla". But these books feel like one-night stands: OK while it lasts but nothing memorable. I'm thinking I might try Don DeLillo's latest when it comes out in paperback. Only thing is I've never liked any other Don DeLillo book.

I used to belong to a book group, which was peopled with very worthy, intellectual types -- and me. They wanted to read about science (I'm starting to gag even as I write this) and other Mensa-style topics. I wanted to read what I wanted to read. Two of the women totally intimidated me with their Firsts in English from Oxford and Cambridge. I finally left the group when the hirsute one from Cambridge made a rather snide remark that the U.S. deserved what happened on 9/11. It's like your family: you can criticize them all you want, but nobody else can.

Anyway, I read in the Guardian yesterday that some people are starting up TV groups. Great, I thought. We can talk about the mindless crap I love to watch. No, that's not what they talk about. They talk about how different networks cover the news, wildlife programs, how programs are put together. Yes, that does sound interesting. But what about Meredith Grey and Dr. Shepherd? Is Gabbie going to marry Vincent? Will House have to go into rehab?

So, I will keep an eye out for a book that will consume me and finish off my latest crime fiction. And just keep reading -- and watching.

Monday, 21 May 2007

My Mother

Today is the 32nd anniversary of my grandmother's death. I wouldn't have remembered it but my mother reminded me of it yesterday. She thinks her brother is hanging on till this day passes before he will pass over. He weighs all of 120lbs now, can't walk or do much else other than watch TV. That's no life.

This is also the 32nd anniversary of my grandmother becoming a saint overnight. On May 20, 1975, my grandmother was a difficult woman who made life difficult for those around her, particularly my mother. Then she died and guilt set in. I think about my mother a lot at that stage in her life because I'm almost there now myself. What will my life be like when she is gone? Will I still stop everything I'm doing every Sunday at 4:30 in anticipation of her weekly phone call. Will I still edit conversations so as not to bring up disturbing subjects? Will my mother turn into a saint overnight?

I think not because I see my mother through a very clear glass. She is and has been a troubled woman with some mental health issues. To be fair, though, some of them were not of her making. The year her mother died was a very fraught one for my mother. She'd had a hysterectomy complicated by endometrial tissue gluing her ovaries to her bladder. Then her mother died. Then before she'd even had time to finish her grieving, my father left her in a ruthless and cowardly manner. He moved out while we were at my grandpa's, waiting to tell us the night we'd finally arrived home exhausted from the summer and the journey.

My mother didn't react well to this news, but he must have known she wouldn't. He had moved into a gated apartment complex in anticipation of her reaction. First, she tried to take an overdose of valium but ended up sleeping for several hours. Then when she finally awoke, she got in her car and repeatedly rammed my dad's boat. She ruined the transmission of the car but the boat was fine. Then she took a bus to a neighboring town where she tried to buy a gun and a knife and called me to say she was coming back to kill my dad and me (why me?). She came back gunless and knifeless. She locked herself in her bathroom the next day while only my 3-year-old nephew and I were at home and broke a mirror, presumably to cut her wrists. My nephew and I banged and kicked at the door in vain. I called my sister, who came home and talked her out of the bathroom. The next day my mother was admitted to a secure mental health unit and I moved out of the house, never to return. I was afraid of her and what she might do. I moved in with my dad, cramping his style a bit with his new lady friend (she's been his wife for over 30 years now).

The next few years were difficult ones for my mother. She had been put on a Thorazine-type drug in the hospital and labeled paranoid schizophrenic. This drug turned her into a complete zombie, and she became dependent on it until a psychotherapist in California got her off it. She sold the house in Florida at a loss, moved 4,000 miles to be near her psycho sister, got involved with a man who stole from her, and finally ended up 45 miles away from the town she was born in and hated. But she had a job and slowly began to build a life. I was and am her only child who ever visits her. Back then I was a minor and had to visit her at Christmas whether I wanted to or not (and my dad and stepmother went skiing every Christmas anyway).

My mother has no memory of most of those events and has denied them the the one time I tried to bring up the subject. So there's never been any closure. No family counselling. Nothing. Just time. I feel no anger toward her anymore, nor fear. I feel very sorry for this woman who couldn't control her emotions and paid a very heavy price as a result. How would her life have been different if her mother hadn't died when she did, or if my dad hadn't left when he did (he says he felt he had to or he would have died of a heart attack), or if I hadn't moved out. Or if she'd just held together, even a little bit.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Bits and Bobs

Overheard in TK Maxx shoe department: a person of indeterminate gender (transsexual, I think, but not sure which way) loudly bemoaning on his/her mobile not being asked to be a pall bearer at his/her auntie's funeral, then hanging up on the person who decided he/she could be a pall bearer. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Odd rumour of the week in my part of the world: our local transsexual who dresses like a 1950s housewife and rides a bike everywhere (causing many a traffic accident) put an ad in the post office saying he was looking for a wife. I'd like to see the replies.

Teenage temper tantrum No. 1: me getting upset when a mutual friend sent two friends one of those chain texts and didn't send one to me (or so I thought).

Teenage temper tantrum No. 2: me (again!!) telling off my daughter when she came to my room while I was getting dressed to ask me if I was coming down to see mother-in-law.

Teenage temper tantrum No. 3: Daughter (hooray! not me!) upset when I refused to take two of her friends home while I was supposed to be getting ready for a night out.

Most meaningless conversation of the week: Between two friends and myself about how to pronounce tuna. Apparently, I say toona, my Scottish friend says chuna, and my friend from the Midlands say tuna. They all sound the same to me, particularly after two bottles of wine.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Internet interchange

Just read a very funny piece by D. Parvaz of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ( about Dubya. He is such an idiot. If he weren't President, I would look on him more benignly probably. Like a slightly retarded distant cousin. But he's the most powerful man in the world, and it's scary. Whoever is the next U.S. president will have so much to do to recover even some respect in the world.

I had lunch today with my friends Bob and Kate, two intelligent, well-spoken people. We were discussing the fact that the internet was invented by a Brit. I said I thought it made absolute sense that a Brit would invent the internet. I think the British have always been intrepid travellers, partly because they come from an island-nation and suffer from small-country disease (as do the Dutch). The internet is a form of armchair travelling.

The conversation then led to our thoughts on the days of the British Empire, or more specifically, the women who made the Empire great. The ones who in their crinolines and corsets went to the nether regions of India and China. When I went to India on my honeymoon, I often thought of those women as I, native Floridian, suffered through heat, mosquitoes, and food poisoning. Of course, the U.S. has their own version of tough-as-nails women: pioneers. We women today have no idea of what a hard life really is.

And then I thought I'd confide in Bob and Kate about my secret life as a blogger. How I've discovered other bloggers who make me laugh, think, and cry (Mind the Gap, Lady Macleod, Snickollet, to name a few). I think they thought I was a bit odd or sad or both, but I don't really care. I've found a world out there I would never have known existed, and I didn't even have to leave the house. All thanks to a Brit who invented the internet.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Random thoughts

We all went to a cocktail party Saturday night. My daughter gave me instructions beforehand: no getting drunk and bouncing off walls on the walk home, no dancing, no embarrassing her in any way.

I listened quietly, then proceeded to get drunk, dance like there's no tomorrow, and do my general best to embarrass her. When her little friend thought it would be funny to video my friends and me on her phone, I videoed her. When I caught the bartender mixing an alcoholic cocktail for my daughter, I promptly told him she was 12 and wasn't allowed alcohol (no matter how sloshed I was). I don't think my daughter will be telling me what to do or not to do anymore.

Still, I do feel a tad embarrassed for her. My mother never behaved this way. She doesn't drink, for a start. My parents' social life, when they were married, didn't tend to include us kids so we didn't see how they behaved when they let their hair down (if indeed they ever did). I wish I were more uptight, but I just can't be.

A friend in America recently sent me an email exhorting people to boycott Exxon and Mobil till the price of gas in America goes down to $1.80/gallon. It is now edging towards $4. I replied that I couldn't possibly support such a stupid idea. Here in the UK the price of gas is more than double that in America. Yes, it's a much smaller country and distances aren't so vast. But Americans have gotten fat and lazy, and I don't think boycotting the big oil companies is the answer. How about getting rid of the SUVs? How about walking two blocks instead of driving. How about getting a bike? How about leaning on your congressmen and women to support mass transit iniatives? My friend agreed in principle but still supports the guy behind the email.
Still in America, something I read recently finally cleared up the mystery of why junk food is so cheap. Blame it on the Farm Act, which gives subsidies to farmers who grow wheat, corn, and all those other staples that become the processed crap we eat. Farmers who grow vegetables don't get much, if anything, at all. Hasn't the government figured out that there's a link between obesity and processed foods? Nope, they're still looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Friday, 11 May 2007


The story of Madeleine McCann, the little girl kidnapped while on holiday in Portugal, is very much on my mind these days. I feel so, so very sorry for her parents and can only imagine the anguish they are going through. What will it be like to have to get on a plane to fly home if they don't find her? To walk into their home and see her room and her things and not know where she is or, worse, know exactly where she is and what she had to endure. That is, if pedophiles are behind the kidnapping, which it looks like they are.

Many people, my husband included, cannot understand how the McCanns could leave their three young children alone while they went out for a meal. The implication is that they were negligent. My husband said we would never have done that. No, we wouldn't, but I don't think that gives us the right to judge these people. I think the McCanns thought they lived in a different world, a world where people could go on holiday and trust that their children would be safer asleep inside their locked apartment with them only 150 yards away. A world where men don't have such a sick urge to sexually abuse three-year-olds that they will take them away from their safe, happy environments. The fact is it could have happened to the McCanns in their own house. They could have been outside having a drink, thinking their children were safe in bed while someone could have broken in and taken them.

I think we'd all like to believe we exist inside a bubble that no evil outside influences can burst. And then they do.

I remember many years ago, before I had children, the story of a little girl in Wales who had been camping in her back garden with her cousins. She was abducted in the night, and they found her body later on. Turned out the gardener had been spying on them and seized the opportunity. And I think there was a case in Florida where a little girl was taken in the night from her own bed by an interloper who'd broken in through the sliding glass door.

A few weeks ago, my friend R's house was burgled during the three hours during the day that no one was at home. The thieves took the kids' i-pods and my friend's mother's jewelry. My friend's mother died suddenly in December, and this cut her up more than anything. The thought that something so very precious to her was taken away from her by someone who had no respect for its real value. She is a changed person now, no longer trusting that her home is a safe haven.

And Maddy McCann's parents will be changed people forever, no longer trusting in the goodness of this world. Their peace of mind has been taken away from them, never to be returned.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

What ails me

The kids are off school with a stomach bug, which I also have but must carry on. I feel so helpless when they get ill with things like this so I consult my Symptoms book. Pain in abdomen: could be gastritis, food poisoning, ulcers, hernia, appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome. Hmmm. I run up three flights of stairs to my son's room, wake him up and make him show me exactly where the pain is. Good, not appendicitis. Run down three flights of stairs, make dry toast, pour ginger ale into glass, walk up three flights of stairs with toast and ginger ale, come down to daughter's room and check stomach pain. Not appendicitis. Run down two flights of stairs, make dry toast, pour ginger ale, etc., run up two flights of stairs. Lie down, exhausted. Visit toilet.

We're not having a good run here. My son and I haven't been very well since Easter. We both caught colds that became painful sinusitis. I kept my son off school for a week, but finally had to send him back and face the chastisement of his teacher, Mrs. Arsehole. It's coming up to SATS week and I didn't want to keep him home today, but I couldn't send him in the way he is. I'll have to face Mrs. Arsehole again tomorrow. Anyway, back to my sinusitis. I imbibed too much alcohol last weekend, and the sinusitis became conjunctivitis and cystitis as well. One week of antibiotics later and I still have the sinusitis plus a lovely buzzing in my ears that reminds me of crickets at dusk back home.

And I haven't been able to train for the 5K Race for Life run I'm doing in less than a month. Which means my friends haven't been able to train since I'm Mrs. Motivator. But perhaps I need the rest. Which I won't get since I'm running up and down three flights of stairs all day tending to my sick children. Hubby went back to London and has escaped the stomach virus. He had the cold too, but it went after three days.

I'll have to go now and do some food shopping, which makes me feel nauseous to think about. But we're out of white bread, which is all the kids will eat right now. I'll try to fit in a cup of tea in between.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

May Day

Today is the first of May and I still haven't managed to plant my potatoes yet or sow any other seeds. I try to grow my own vegetables every year but this year I'm finding it hard to get going. And we've just had the warmest April ever. I think it's because I got rid of the gardener so I'm trying to do everything myself. I've fallen in love with my back garden again and have been going round digging up the invasive plants I don't really want, planting a few others I do, and the poor vegetables are just last on the list right now. I will get round to it soon, once I'm over my sinusitis, cystitis, and conjunctivitis (what a lot of itises).

The headlines in one of the papers today confirmed my feeling that it's hell to be a woman. Apparently, as little as two alcoholic drinks per day can speed up the growth of breast cancer if a woman already has it, and increase the risk of getting it if she doesn't. Life sucks sometimes. We can't take HRT anymore because that increases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer (depending on the type of HRT apparently). We have too much fat and salt in our diets.

So no alcohol, no fat, no salt. No HRT to smooth the rough edges of menopause. Life just isn't worth living!