Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Farewell 2008 and Good Riddance

I'll be raising a glass or two tonight to the end of a very challenging year. Yes, I'll wake tomorrow to those exact same challenges, but it's the symbolism that counts. Life as I know it will go on the same, but maybe a bit differently.

Happy New Year to all of you who read this little blog. I hope 2009 is a great year for you.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Little Boy Lost

He wasn't planned, though came to be very much wanted. He slept through the first two weeks of his life, then woke up, and wouldn't sleep through the night again till he was 3. As his hair grew, it turned blonde and curly, setting off his piercing blue eyes perfectly.

He was a happy baby for the most part. But he let you know when he wasn't. Usually it was because he was hungry or tired. His big sister would "read" to him and "feed" him by shoving a spoon down his throat. She took on a lot of the responsibility for looking after him, as long as it suited her. He would look admiringly at her from his bouncy chair. His little face would light up when he saw her.

As a toddler, he and we discovered his sense of humour. His laugh was loud and deep, an indicator of his profound amusement. He would roll his eyes back into his head, then roll them back again and laugh long and hard at our reactions. He adored his mother too, buying her plastic flowers to plant in her garden, pulling broccoli out to help with the weeding.

He started to founder a bit when he started school. Blame it on his gender and the month of his birth. His very clever older sister was only one year ahead of him in school. Where she excelled, he struggled. He began to resent her a bit, and tears of frustration became common as he tried to learn to read. He became more introverted, only showing that brilliant sense of humour at home. His mother became frustrated too, as she tried all the tricks that had worked on his sister, and often homework sessions ended in tears for all.

But underneath the sharp wit lurked a latent intelligence. His mother knew this and still pushed and tried and got him into a grammar school. Quietly, though, she wondered if she'd done the right thing by him. A few weeks into his first term at school, she knew she had. For he had become the most popular boy in his form, his year, on the bus. He still struggled with his studies though. And his mother reverted to some old tricks -- bribery and threats. Threats worked better.

He started to confide in his older sister. The bond that had always existed grew stronger. Every day after school, he waited for his sister to tell her all about his day. He showed her his school report first. He told her his hopes and dreams, his fears. She dried his less frequent tears. And his mother stood by and watched, hoping that he would come back to her, would be once again that boy who once bought her plastic flowers for her garden. And she shed tears of mourning for the boy she lost to his sister.

Saturday, 27 December 2008


I am not in a good place right now. I wanted this to be a good Christmas. I tried. I cooked. I cleaned. I invited the in-laws. I shopped for the kids and the hubby. And it all went pear-shaped for me on Christmas Day. All that giving I did didn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Because I got a set of kitchen scales and two horrendous sweaters. The in-laws arrived on Christmas Day. As MIL doled out the presents to kids and hubby, I sat on my hands, rictus grin frozen on my face, trying not to show my anger and disappointment that I didn't even get one fucking present from them. Then she finally pulled it out: a book on making things. I told her her Christmas presents for next year would be coming from the book. Then my stepmother informed me my dad couldn't call me back because he was too busy cooking the turkey for her family!

Then the kids decided to gang up against me because I'm a nag, apparently. I didn't take this very well. We spent over £1,000 between the two of them on presents, and all I got was a set of kitchen scales, two horrendous sweaters, and two disrespectful children.

The kids were sent to bed and told they won't be going to parties this week. If they continue this behaviour, I WILL be a hateful parent and keep taking more and more privileges away. I know I sound very ungrateful, and I suppose I am. BUT I'M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR CHRISTMAS ANYMORE!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Moral Matrix

That's the name of a new TV series I think should air. The idea came to me while watching Gok Wan help an ugly duckling find her inner swan. The idea of the Moral Matrix is to help immoral people find their inner morality. People such as the Barclays employee who sold inside information obtained secretly from his wife. People such as Bernard Madoff, the disgraced Wall Street trader whose pyramid-scheme fund has disappeared in a puff of smoke.

But morals aren't missing just from Wall Street. Across society in general we are seeing a general decline in plain, simple knowing right from wrong. We see it in the rise of gang culture. We see it in the number of hate crimes or road rage. We see it in the mother who organizes her daughter's kidnap to claim the ransom money.

There has been much discussion about where children should learn morals. The obvious answer is from their parents, but that doesn't seem to be happening anymore. So people point to schools and say that should be the source. But should it?

But why not television? Most homes have one. Most people watch it. Put a charismatic presenter on The Moral Matrix, run it at 8 p.m. or right after some popular program. Show people who found their moral center (usually in prison) and what they do now. And get people thinking about their actions. Well, that's a start. I'm sure that many arguments can be made against this idea and they might be very valid. But isn't this a start?

Friday, 12 December 2008

Words in search of meaning




Can you think of any others?

Now for more mundane matters: Since I've been on the Austerity Budget (started back in June when I realised hubby's unemployment could last longer than a couple of months), I've been buying cheaply as much as I can. Sometimes, though, I've wondered if it is worth it. I've made a mental list of what more expensive items I plan to go right back to as soon as the Austerity Budget days are over. For what it's worth, here are some items I've gone cheaper on and my verdict on whether I'd still buy cheaper if I had a choice.

Butter: I buy the cheapest I can find. I'm not sure that it's as good as the more expensive brand. VERDICT: I'd go back to the more expensive brand.

Bread: The cheapest brand is pretty bad. VERDICT: I'd go straight back to the more expensive brand.

Eggs: I used to buy free-range organic, to ease my conscience as much as anything. VERDICT: I'd probably go back but not because the free-range organic are that much better.

Fruit: I stopped buying fruit like strawberries out of season. They tend to be pretty tasteless at this time of year anyway. I've started buying the cheapest bananas, apples, and oranges. Not all the fruit is ripe. Sometimes it's overripe or rotten in the middle. VERDICT: I'd go back to the more expensive fruit.

Cereal: I've been buying store-brand for years because it doesn't taste that different to me. VERDICT: I'd stick with store brand.

Vegetables: I buy what's on offer but it's getting monotonous. VERDICT: I'd like a bit more variety.

Crisps (or potato chips or potatoe if your name is Dan Quayle): Store brand just aren't as good but are half the price of the premium brand, which I buy when I can find it more cheaply. VERDICT: I'd go back to the premium brand.

Juice: My daughter likes apple and is happy with the store brand. My son loves Tropicana orange juice. However, my local Tesco has raised the price to close to £3 after having it on special offer at £2 for forever. So I've switched to the store brand. VERDICT: I'd go back to Tropicana.

Wine: Never a good idea to skimp on this. Better to not drink at all. VERDICT: I like my chablis.

Meat: I've tried the cheaper cuts and yuck! VERDICT: Give me sirloin any day. Or I might become a vegetarian.

Milk: I go for the cheapest brand. VERDICT: I'd still go for the cheapest brand.

Face cream: There's controversy over whether any of these work, no matter the price. The best thing I could do for my skin was to stay out of the sun 30 years ago. I never splurged but now I buy Superdrug face cream. I still have wrinkles. VERDICT: Maybe I'll get a facelift or wear a paper bag.

Toothpaste: I'm trying the store brand. Seems the same. VERDICT: I might stay with the store brand.

Clothing: Again, I never splurged. Now I just buy less. VERDICT: I'd sure like to spend more.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Babes in the Woods

On Saturday I travelled to firebyrd's lovely home to meet some fellow bloggers. During the course of the evening, we discussed many subjects, one being what we were watching on TV. I confessed my addiction to "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here." For those not in the UK, this is a program in which celebrities (including George "Mr. Sulu" Takei and Martina Navratilova) are dropped in the middle of a jungle in Australia and have to take part in bushtucker trials such as eating camel testicles and lying in a tomb with rats, snakes, and cockroaches crawling over them. They earn meals for the camp by enduring these trials and if they fail, their campmates go hungry. It's all high drama as they all have to confront their deepest fears (that they won't get enough media exposure).

Anyway, I mentioned that this year's I'm a Celeb was like watching a pantomime. Again, for those who don't live in the UK, pantomimes are Christmas-season plays that always feature a woman playing the lead male role, a man playing the role of the Dame, a couple of baddies, an innocent but sexy female lead, and a couple of jesters to keep the laughs coming. The jokes are usually of the double-entendre variety. Audience participation is a must (as in shouting "It's behind you" to the seemingly blind lead or baddie).

This year's I'm a Celeb participants were actually auditioning for a role in the Babes in the Woods panto. Nicola, a pneumatic topless model, plays the role of Robin Hood. Carly, a footballer's partner in real life, is Maid Marion. David Van Day, who had his day in an 80s pop group, is the wicked uncle/Sheriff of Nottingham who wants the babes killed. Timmy Mallet (don't know what he did besides being annoying) is the bad robber employed to kill the babes. Esther Rantzen is the Fairy who has the babes covered in leaves so they can escape their killers. The roles of Friar Tuck, Alan a Dale, and Will Scarlett are filled by Robert Kilroy-Silk, Simon Webbe, and Dani Behr. George Takei and Joe Swash are the babes, naturally. And Brian, the gay policeman, is the Dame. Martina Navratilova sells the ice creams during the interval.

For three weeks, we in the UK were privileged to watch this audition every night. All good fun and a nice distraction from the worries of everyday life.

As was the lovely dinner at firebyrd's. Sadly, just as the party was really getting going, I had to go home as I faced a two-hour-ish drive over dark, icy roads. The memory of good conversation and company kept me warm during the drive. The thought of actually seeing the I'm a Celeb participants in a panto amused me and kept me alert all the way home. Just remember when you see their names in lights next year, you read it here first.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Who Wouldn't Want to Be My Friend?

The horrible downside of Facebook has already happened. What if your offer of friendship is turned down? It seems to have happened to me, once by my daughter and once by a former friend and colleague. Facebook has brought back a very complicated part of my life when my personal and professional lives were one. My divorce wrecked that delicate balance as work friends and colleagues struggled to decide whose side they were on or if they should choose sides. I conveniently solved that dilemma by moving to another country. One by one they all dropped me. I learned some lessons about situational friendships.

And that is what happens in life sometimes. You move on. Then you join Facebook and all the past comes swimming back into focus. And all my paranoid fantasies come to life again. Has this person not responded because he/she doesn't want to rock the boat with my ex-husband? I haven't been in touch with some of these people for a good 15-17 years. I'm curious about them. Aren't they curious about me? But when I see the (scary) cartoon character that represents my ex-husband on their list of friends, I wonder. My relationship with them pretty much ended when I moved, but they continued to work with him for I don't know how long. Did they go to his wedding (for he apparently has remarried and has a child)? How close did they remain to him? And, of course, in the background, the worrying thought: what did he tell them about me? We did not end on good terms; he accused me of spreading a rumor about him that, frankly, I don't remember doing. He wrote me a nasty letter, and that was our last communication. Time has stood still in what I think of him, which is a rat-bastard.

Maybe this isn't an ex-husband problem, but a Facebook phenomenon. You rush to find out about someone you haven't seen in 20 years, then you rest because now you know.

Sometimes people are in our past because that's where they belong. Sometimes people are in our past because we were too busy or lazy to maintain the relationship. Facebook allows us to renew those relationships if we so desire, but there can be a downside to letting people back into your life, particularly if they're the wrong people.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Thank God It's Over.

I've had worse Thanksgivings in terms of company. Like the time my stepmother's oaf of a father utterly humiliated me in front of everyone and I walked out.

I've had worse Thanksgivings in terms of having to work. Or being on my own.

But I've never had such a bad one for food. I've never cooked or overseen the cooking of such a sad Thanksgiving dinner as we had. I tried, but my sinusitis meant I didn't feel like cooking or eating. I delegated the turkey to hubby. It was tough as a cowhide, but I don't blame hubby. I delegated the green bean casserole and sweet potatoes to daughter but had to go to bed so couldn't stand by and supervise. The beans were underdone, the sweet potatoes bland. I don't blame daughter. I made the stuffing myself -- too dry. And the apple pie. That was OK, but I was unhappy with the pastry. I didn't feel like drinking anything stronger than water.

And my poor dear friend L., whom I'd invited with her family, was at home grieving for her father who had died two nights before.

Which puts the horrible food in perspective.