Saturday, 28 June 2008

I Really Don't Know Clouds At All

I've recently started reading "The Cloudspotter's Guide" and how my eyes have been opened.

Since I've lived in England, I've viewed the clouds as dense covering of the sunshine and blue sky I have coveted. What did I know about cumulus, cirrus, stratus? What did I care? But slowly I started to pay attention.

Where I live the weather always comes in from the west, over the Welsh hills and across the Irish Sea. When Wales looks like midnight during midday, I know in a few short minutes we will have the wind and the rain too. Equally, when the sun shines over Wales, I am confident the wind will push the clouds away here soon enough to reveal the sun.

Take today for example. The day started off bright enough. Hubby and I hurried outside to do some gardening. Or I did some gardening and hubby worked on his latest project: Stairway to nowhere. (We have a huge tree stump hubby tried to remove with no luck so came up with the idea to build steps over it. Don't ask. I already made that mistake.) Gradually, the sky darkened as the clouds thickened (and I haven't read enough to tell you what kind the clouds were but I can assure you they weren't cumulus humilis). Some raindrops fell, the temperature dropped as the wind picked up. But still we worked on. At about 2:30 I went inside to have some lunch and a rest. I thought about getting a shower but the garden and its weeds beckoned to me. I donned my gardening coat, normally reserved for winter, and went back out.

And then the clouds changed from dense grey to flat white. The sun made a guest appearance, and I came inside to write this post.

My point, if I have one, is this: As Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the author of "The Cloudspotter's Guide," says, blue sky is boring. The clouds are what make our lives interesting and give it texture.

And so this applies to my life at the moment. Hubby did not get the job he went on the third interview for. They informed him by email yesterday. (You'd think they could have phoned, seeing as he was one of two candidates for the job.) This black cloud that seems to have been over us all year is actually several clouds that have come and gone. Some seem quite threatening and black at the time but get moved on by the wind before causing too much damage. Others hang over and rain and clear and rain and clear.

I am afraid of this turn of events. I am afraid because it could mean a change to the status quo. And I, Capricorn that I am, am not one for change. Not that I don't welcome change, but I don't encourage it either. I, with four (!) closets full of clothes I mostly don't wear, can weather a financial hailstorm. I have done it before. When I started my very first job, I couldn't afford to get the electricity and phone turned on till after my first paycheck. I lived on no-brand white bread, peanut butter, and orange soda. I took cold showers, which was fine because it was July in Fort Myers, Fla. I worked at night so got by with candlelight. I lost loads of weight.

That was 27 years ago. I can change my life again if I have to. It just requires a different perspective. And "The Cloudspotter's Guide" is helping me find it.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Why It's Great to Be a Teacher

Reason 1: "Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 60-foot clipper."

Reason 2: In an essay about being an explorer, one pupil placed herself on a desert island. Suddenly, tigers appeared and chased her up a tree.
"I was fucked!" were her parting words.

Last night after a church function I attended (yes, wakeup is a secret Church of England congregant), we headed across the street to wet our whistles. That's the great thing about the churches here: they're nearly always located near a pub. Two in our group are teachers, and conversation turned to their line of work, or lines as demonstrated above. One is marking essays for Year 9 SATs. The other has taught design tech for 25 years. They've seen it all, heard it all, and entertained us mightily. The first line may be apocryphal, but funny nonetheless. The second is just too precious. If only the writer had come from Yorkshire. Then it would be "I were fucked!"

I'm sure all you teachers out there might disagree but it amused me no end. As long as my children weren't the ones being quoted.

So does anyone out there have some lines to top these?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Work! and the City

Here's something that's been on my mind for a few days:

Went with the Frenemy crowd to see "Sex and the City" film on Friday night (I know, I know, but no one else I know wanted to go). On the way Frenemy declared she'd never watched the series because she thought it was "vacuous" (but can she spell it?). And this from a woman with closet full of fur coats who buys her "fashion" from QVC.

But I digress.

So the lights go down in the cinema packed full of women and two men. The movie bores me slightly until they go to Mexico. For those who haven't seen it, there are some very funny lines about waxing and pooping in your pants.

But before it picks up, we hear Miranda -- never my favourite character -- moaning about how hard her life is as a working mother of one (with a Ukrainian nanny and supportive husband). "After all," she says approximately, "it's not like I sit at home all day. I WORK!"

In the darkness next to me I hear my friend J. go "Uh huh."

Since then I have pondered why that line was in the film. Was it pandering to what the producers perceive to be its target audience? Did the writer believe that is a line that Miranda and Miranda act-alikes would say?

You see, I'm a bit sensitive on this matter because I don't WORK! And I don't have a Ukrainian or other nationality nanny. And though hubby is around the house a LOT these days, for much of my children's childhood he has not been.

Miranda, I believe, is an alpha male in drag. There's always the hype about how Samantha thinks and behaves like a man. But I think it's really whiny Miranda who thinks and acts like a man. She's some sort of high-powered lawyer married to a beta male who happily or not fills in the gaps left by her busy career.

Her hubby could be me. Yes, he has a job too, working in a bar. But it's not a CAREER or WORK!

I just get annoyed at women like Miranda who look down their noses at women who stay home with the kids. We may not WORK! but we work because raising a family properly is hard work, but also sometimes or even most of the time rewarding, fulfilling and FUN!

I've also been pondering something else about this film. There was not a single conversation in which the M word or even P-M word was uttered. I'm talking menopause here. A group of woman, all in their 40s and one almost 50, don't talk about menopause or perimenopause? Not likely. Samantha is horny as ever. No night sweats or hot flushes? No mood swings? No dry vagina? Instead it's angst over relationships. That is so 20s, not 40s.

It's only a film, I hear you say. And, sadly, yet another film not made for our age group. I've got news for all you 20- and 30-somethings. Your 40s won't be anything like the film. But then your 30s probably weren't like the series either.

Here's something I never understood: How could Carried Bradshaw afford her Manhattan apartment and designer clothes and going out to bars and drinking Cosmopolitans every night? I can understand Miranda and even Samantha. But not Charlotte or Carrie unless they inherited some wealth along the way. They never moaned about money problems either.

And here's the last thing I will say about the film: the actresses have obviously aged and allowed that to be shown. Well done! But Sarah Jessica Parker, honey, do something about that mole on your chin. It's about three feet in diameter on the big screen. And I noticed it's had some babies on your face. And you look MUCH better as a brunette.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Happy Birthday, Gemini Boys

Today is my son's 12th birthday. Today is my brother's 52nd birthday.

Happy birthday, guys. The world's a better place with you in it, even if son is behaving exactly as brother did when he was 12. Son better watch out; brother ended up getting sent to military school. Not that I'd do that to my precious boy. And he'd probably like it, seeing as he is hell-bent on a career in the navy (no, God, no!).

He came up with this idea a couple of years ago when he was listening to my dad talk about his days as a bombadier in the U.S. Navy during WWII. Son was fascinated and decided that's what he wants to do. No, son, no. Not while there's an Iraq and Afghanistan. I feel for all the parents who have lost sons and daughters to this war or whose sons and daughters have come home changed forever physically and/or emotionally.

I don't want my boy to be a hero. I just want him to grow up safely and soundly, to know when and how to do the right thing in life, to be productive and loving and supportive of those around him.

Right now, he's starting to go through that annoying boy phase, which will pass shortly, I hope. Before my husband packs him off to military school.

Son has come up with an alternative career choice in the meantime: drug dealer. I think I convinced him that it really wouldn't make him that much money.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Jakey Update II

I realised today I haven't written about Jakey's second surgery. So much has happened all at once that the surgery seems a little less important than the first time round.

Some changes this time. The surgeon wasn't jetting off on holiday so hung around to make sure Jake was cleaned up properly, and he had the cone already assembled and put on Jake. The cone is bigger this time too so there's zero chance of Jake getting at his stitches. He also was prescribed antibiotics from the start as a prophylactic measure. The wound seems cleaner and dryer this time around. Jake is much livelier! When we got him home last Thursday the first thing he wanted to do was go on a walk. I obliged with a quick jaunt down to the end of the block and back, but he would have been happy to go further. We've been building up the walks ever since. He does need to stop four or five times for a quick rest, but I think that's because he wants to go so fast.

His stitches come out Monday, and we'll see if he still needs the cone. I'm not ready to take him to the park or the woods yet, but I'm sure that will happen much more quickly this time. The surgeon was very pleased with how the first operation turned out. He said this hip was even worse, with absolutely no cartilage left whatsoever. Poor baby. You would never have known he was in pain. He's still on painkillers but no longer takes the Synoquin. I think we'll end up with a lot of leftover painkilling medicine so I will ask the vet if there's a charity I can donate the medicine to. This medicine can be so expensive.

I expect that in six weeks' time Jake will be rampaging through the woods or the heather, behaving like the puppy he is. And he's only 10 months old. So he'll be pain-free and still young. Lucky dog!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

It's So Quiet

Ah, heaven. The house is empty but for me, Jake, and the two cats. Hubby has gone off for an interview, the third at this particular firm. I have not allowed myself to think he won't be getting the job. He is meeting with Mr. Head Honcho for the first time, having worked his way up from the lower levels. This must be it, right?

Hubby has worked hard to prepare himself for this interview. That is what he does best actually. Work. His enforced stay at home has shown up a few of the weaknesses in our relationship. Or maybe the weaknesses are my own for I have found myself feeling quite critical of what he is not without taking the time to value what he is.

I am not entirely at fault here. He has come back in a somewhat surly mood, as anyone who has been unjustly fired would be. Fired is a strong word. The proper phrase is "made redundant" as his job was effectively eliminated. His former boss, the woman who hired and fired him, keeps phoning and leaving messages. Her problem is she wants all the benefits of being a bitch, but none of the responsibilities. She doesn't like the fact that she might not be popular because of decisions she's made.

So hubby's ego has been bruised, and I haven't exactly worked hard to shore it up again. Still, I do believe in him and what he can do. And if he gets this job, maybe he'll leave me in peace to go on the computer and do whatever I want to do. Like keep up with my blog buddies and write on my own blog once in a while. And no, he still doesn't know about this blog.

A girl's entitled to a secret or two.

Monday, 9 June 2008

It All Started With the Pancetta

See, I'd bought some last week, thinking they'd be nice wrapped round a fish or chicken fillet. It had been a busy week with one thing or another until Thursday. While hubby was picking up daughter, I decided to pull out the pancetta and cook it with some fish. It would be ready and waiting for us when we got back from picking up Jake.

I reached into the fridge, but there was no pancetta. I searched high and low. I looked in the freezer. I looked in the freezer in the garage. No pancetta. I was quite distraught by this point.

When hubby and daughter walked in the door, I greeted them with "What did you do with the pancetta?" Both claimed no knowledge of the pancetta. Hubby ranted that he was sick and tired of me blaming him for everything. Daughter was in tears. Was the pancetta worth this?

On one level, of course not. It's only pancetta.

On another level, yes, it was bloody was. I don't go out into the working world everyday, so get no outside validation for my role in life. My role in life, these days, is to be the go-fer for daughter, son, and hubby. And I'm sick of it. All I wanted was to make a nice meal with the pancetta, and someone showed no respect for that.

Of course, maybe I am going crazy, as daughter and hubby suggested. Maybe I never bought any pancetta.

The next night we were watching some nonsense that son wanted to watch. When it finished, I asked for the remote. He wouldn't give it to me. I very sternly asked for the remote again. Son handed it over and muttered "bitch" under his breath. I ordered him to go take a shower and go to bed. He must have gone to daughter to complain because she came in and asked if I'd been taking my HRT. He'd neglected to tell her about the bitch bit.

We've been having outstanding weather for this country, yet I feel oddly depressed. What can be wrong, I ask myself. Oh yeah, I remember. Hubby's out of a job, mother's got health and husband problems, dog just had second surgery on hip. Friends are crap. Kids are in difficult teen-age phase.

Yep, life is just peachy. And I still haven't found the pancetta.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy!

I've been busy this last week. My dad and stepmother came over for a visit so it was days out at gardens and stately homes and nights spent playing card games. My son turns out to be a demon at poker. My stepmother is an astute card player, cardshark even. You have to be on your toes around her as she changes the rules to suit her needs. Except in poker, where my dad rules supreme.

We went to Lyme Park, where exteriors of the Pride and Prejudice series were shot. Ah, the pond from which Mr. Darcy emerged! Has Colin Firth's career since equalled those heights? I think not. My stepmother has watched the series so many times she can quote long snatches of dialogue. I bought three ferns from the garden shop. Hopefully, Jake will leave them alone.

We had a barbecue on Bank Holiday Monday that Frenemy railroaded me into. Nothing would deter her, not even my telling her that my dad and stepmother are super religious and pray before every meal. Frenemy arrived on time, immediately complained about the wine, made fun of the neighbour boy's accent ("That's why I send my children to private school!"), defended another boy who gatecrashed the party and was rude to my children (she would; he goes to private school), and openly discussed arrangements made by her daughter and the other girls for a sleepover
to which my daughter was not invited. Her husband PAPP (Pompous, Arrogant, Pretentious Prick) made no effort to speak to my husband or my father, but spent the entire time in the kitchen discussing a golfing weekend to which my husband is never invited with another invitee. When I not so tactfully suggested they talk to others and perhaps entertain another topic, he got very huffy. Another couple had said they weren't coming. My kids invited their kids anyway. When the daughter arrived, she informed me her parents would be along later.

I think these people need a remedial lesson in manners. And I need to learn to say no to them. From now on, though, either we only invite their kids or we invite other friends as well who actually talk to my husband. My dad and stepmother were not impressed.

Moving on, tomorrow is a very big day. My daughter has a ballet exam in Manchester and Jake has the second operation on his other hip. I hope he comes through OK. I'm not looking forward to his recovery.