Monday, 29 September 2008

Brothers and Sisters

More nice photos.

My two have always been great pals, and it started from the beginning really.

There is a photo of Mark's Mum (or her arms) when Eleanor had just come out of hospital.

I also like this one of the two of them joking together when Eleanor was very young - she thought Jack was the funniest thing since sliced bread (and still does).

Finally, Eleanor got this picture included in an exhibition at Ferens Art Gallery a few years ago, which is a picture of her and Jack which she did, which sums up their relationship.

Family photos

I think I am finding away of getting my new camera photos onto Blogger, but it may take some time. I have been trying to change my name on Facebbook to one which is more accessible, but this too defeats me for the moment, at least.

I thought I would put some more photos on using the library scanner, because I have many albums of really nice photos of my kids.

Quite funny, the second photo of Mark, Jack and Eleanor. Obviously you have a new baby, and things are a little chaotic lol

I like this photo of Eleanor in a high chair, when she was very young, but obviously as bright as a button. I used to sit her in this bouncy chair and talk to her while I was washing up.

Bottom photos include one of me and the kids in Blackpool.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Two Things Green/Blue

I took this picture on an early morning dogwalk round the Green (for those living in the US it is a green space in the middle of a village) of the Yorkshire Village of Hutton le Hole. Nice photos, as they have the early morning hazy light.

When Jack was a toddler he played in this stream.

Of course, you've got the blue sky and the sky reflected in the stream which makes it blue too.


Although we don't have to do this now by any means in the past we have had to budget (I shouldn't really go on about money so much, it is a little wearing) I still like getting a cheap feast by means of raiding the local Tesco Express's chiller at strategic times during the day. Often at three o'clock when I walk to school (this is for tea) and later at 7 pm. These are the really brilliant reductions - things can be got for 10p.

We have always eaten healthily and here is a photo of a sample healthy tea for about £2. Actually it is from the local Sainsbury equivalent of Tesco Express, which is even better as Sainsbury's is quite upmarket. Some of it is quite fancy like salsa dip.

I picked up this sort of money saving tip from my friend Fiona, who has brought up a family of four on very little income. She is a bright person and I think she quite enjoys this as she is pitting her wits against the system, in a way. She had all her accounts on the computer which she used to pore over, a tight rein on the household and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of when many local supermarkets would be reducing food. She used to go to a place like Iceland and get lollies on a trip out because the cost of things like this in fun parks and the like is quite exhorbitant, whereas lollies at Iceland cost £1 for four kids. (Also, if you look at the photo you will see that I am carrying a rucksack containing all the food for the day, so that I did not have to pay a lot of money for a load of junk food at any outlet, which is what she used to do.) I think she used to take a large white loaf and chopping board on any family outing and whip it out to make a jam sandwich for her four on the hoof.

Actually Fiona is very funny and once swept into a garage forecourt in her people carrier (she had budgeted for this necessary if expensive transport for a family of four on little income) and said to the forecourt attendant ' Family Outing', as if that's where they went on their outings LOL Once she brought her daughter Claire out of school a bit before the others for an appointment and when someone asked why she said 'Star Pupil' LOL She also did things like buy presents that she saw as a bargain for peoples' birthdays often years in advance so they got a superb present on the day. However, sometimes this didn't work out as she completely forgot about them the time the birthday came round and they remain in her attic gathering dust, maybe for the grandchildren's eighteenth LOL Her attic was a wondrous magical place as in it were objects to suit any occasion; for instance, for Halloween once, she had about seven outfits, three witches hats, books on witches, plastic bats,caldrons and other items. I had to make do with a few masks, a devil's fork made out of a kitchen implement, and a black cat cuddly toy lol. She used to shop at Lidl and when I was working there and used to ring her from the till on my mobile if I saw any choicy reductions. lol I especially did this when they had reduced fruit and veg: for some reason they do a third of the price thing from time to time.

I hope Fiona does not mind me writing about her, if she reads this, but I think she mainly goes on Friends Reunited lol

As I have a lot of time (I admit it, I probably would not be doing this sort of thing if I was still working) I go blackberrying, and went just the other week, around where we live. Completely free food. (Talking about free food, when we went to Fraisthorpe the other week we tried to get some razor shells a la Hugh Fearnly Wittingstall by means of pouring salt down the holes so that the shells would emerge for our BBQ, but I think the salt we used was too refined because nothing happened lol) We looked at a tiny box of blackberries in Morrisons and they cost £1. I made a crumble with it, and even Jack ate some. From the bush to the table in one hour - you can't get any healthier free eating than that.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Two Things Product Label

I feel qualified to speak on this subject as once years ago I worked in Quality Control at United Biscuits which made KP Crisps. It has since closed down (draw any conclusions you want) and I haven't seen KP Crisps around for a long time - it seems to be all Walkers nowadays.

However, when I worked there on the crisp line after they had done the KP they then did the Marks and Spencers on exactly the same line, the same crisps, except that they were in different packets, and of course the Marks and Spencer would have cost a lot more. So the only difference was the label - it was the same product. I bet if you gave someone a packet of KP and a packet of M&S and asked them which tasted better I bet they'd go for the latter. A sort of placebo effect, except with crisps.

I myself only buy own brand products as a result of this crucial insider knowledge. As we normally shop at Morrisons the own brand will be considerably cheaper than the branded products sitting to them, and could well have higher production standards, as the factories will want to keep the supermarket order.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Mama Mia

Last night I went with my friend Sally (pictured here with her son Ross, who lives opposite and who is friends with Jack - looks like they're having a great time in this, typical teenage boys lol), her friend Dale, Eleanor and other friend of Sally's to see 'Mama Mia'. When I went round to Sally's Jack was ensconced in Ross' room, where they spend most of their time, and the unmistakable sounds of light jazz drifted down the stairway. I was quite impressed by this, that they were listening to jazz, but Sally said it was just the soundtrack to a new game Ross had bought LOL

Dale is an intensive care nurse. She actually bikes to work early in the morning and does a twelve hour shift. She was telling some funny stories about junior doctors and how they generally just stand there helplessly while the nurses take over.

'Mama Mia' was a musical based on the songs of Abba. I've always liked Abba, and have 'Abba Gold' (I am not afraid to admit this). I can see this film becoming a classic as there were lots of women coming back for the second time to see it and some were singing and dancing in the isles, rather in the manner of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, though obviously this film is a whole lot more wholesome lol.

Sally told me an interesting tidbit that Julie Walters is not a natural singer and dancer so had to get drunk for some of the scenes. I spent a lot of my viewing time looking out for this, and it's true she looks tiddly on occasion

A nice evening.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Children's Play

I hope we have given our kids good play experiences.

We have been to Sundown Adventure Park (close to home), Legoland, and even Disney World, Paris, but I don't think you can beat playing in the back garden. All were memorable, though we spent most of the time queuing at Disney World, though I quite enjoyed this and spent some time quite agressively working out which rides to go in the minimum space of time based on observation and when people would be taking their lunch. I took the kids to Legoland, but Mark sensibly took himself off to Stonehenge on the same day. I think we borrowed a buggy and I piled the kids in when they got tired so that we actually went on most of the rides, again based on logistics. I like to get my money's worth.

As for Sundown, we have been there quite a few times, but I don't like the way everything is garish and plastic and everything is in your face, with all the imagining done for you by designers. I secretly think things like this are more for the parents. 'Sundown' is actually a great success commercially speaking, having started off by a farmer in a chicken shed and now expanding all the time. A lot of the rides have been based on Disneyland, but on a smaller scale, and you don't have to queue. Actually, all things considered, a better experience than Disneyland.

When I had Jack I did buy expensive educational toys, but quickly realised aagain that these were more for the parents. Jack played with wooden spoons and rolled around on brown crinkly paper which made a noise, which his Dad had done before him.

The kids have a lot of toys, but they have always enjoyed playing outside. We had a paddling pool and I did buy water pistols, but these quickly broke and you are just as well off with washing up liquid bottles, plastic bins and buckets. I used to quite enjoy myself putting bath toys like ducks,whales and divers into the paddling pool to make an attractive ensemble and play experience, but they were soon scattered to the four winds LOL I also liked getting a dolls house and putting all sorts of interesting little things in it as well as people and furniture, like horses, treasure and even tigers onto a table when Eleanor and her friends came home from school and this actually did work, as they spent ages playing games with this and constructing stories round it. I used to keep biscuit tins in with little odds and ends, even things like plastic toys from cereal boxes.

I bought an a climbing frame for the kids to play on and did it properly with bark chippings. (For the eagle-eyed amongst you, the orange plastic sheeting was a stopgap lol)Of course they loved this, as you could make a den in the middle of it. I used to sometimes put the slide bit into a paddling pool for a water ride.

They play out on the street ('larking'), and we are lucky enough to back onto a tenfoot which is the track that backs onto garages, and they have spent a long time playing hide and seek on this. I used to pull them about on a tractor tied to a piece of rope while walking the dog (Someone once said 'You've got your hands full') round the block. This tractor made quite a lot of noise, and you could always here us coming. We also have sledges, which I pulled them to school on, and which they use on a railway embankment near here which has terrific slopes.

I do think we are lucky to live where we do, which is pleasant and safe, with little traffic (not the inner city)where people still talk over their garden fences and where kids can still play out until sunset in the street. I don't know whether there are that many places left like it.

Playing in the Back Garden in the Sun

I have just been looking through some old photos this morning and quite like this one in the back garden which was taken two years ago (the last time we had some decent sun) by me in safety indoors behind glass.

It is quite dreamy, what with the flowery parasol, and the light catching the CDs.

Serious waterplay, now they are older. Only a hosepipe will do LOL

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Tribute to Tessa

A few months ago we had to have our old dog Tess put down because she was unable to get up in the night which was distressing for her. She actually had survived a stroke the year before, so had an extra year of life. A few weeks before she died (at nearly sixteen)she was still attempting to run.

We got Tess from the RSPCA as a puppy. She had been found wandering the streets. Quite a lot of dogs look like Tess, and that has led to speculation over the years that other dogs seen in the street may be her one of her long-lost relatives. Sometimes people have thought I have been in a particular shop because a dog looking exactly like Tess has been tied outside.

Tess was whining when we got her in the car at the RSPCA, and to be honest, never stopped. We could never leave her for long outside say, a giftshop on holiday, because of the commotion which ensued, and she usually attracted a small group of dog-loving old ladies round her who had heard the pitiful noise who looked daggers at us when we emerged. Mark used to do a whistling whine like Tess if anything went wrong LOL Tess was hyperactive when she was younger and needed three walks a day (the collie in her perhaps). She only stopped needing a halti when she was twelve as she used to pull all the time. (This was when I used to let little boys take turns in walking her home from school). She could run very fast and used to do a very fast run at me and then swerve at the last minute like she thought it was funny LOL

However, she was also gentle and you can see that we trusted her with the baby Jack. The only time I ever saw her with her hackles risen was when she was protecting the pram from another dog.

When we used to have proper snow I used to push the baby buggy round the park like a snow plough with a few feet of snow piled up in front of us because, as I say, she was a dog who needed to be walked regularly no matter what. Actually it's not a bad thing having a dog when you have a baby because it gets you into a good routine, gets you and the baby out and about regularly meeting people during the day. It also gives you regular exercise and gives the baby plenty to look at and plenty to talk about.

She used to like swimming, and there is a blurred picture of me on honeymoon in Scotland with Tess, though why I am carrying her like that I don't know as she was quite a big dog (We must have treated her like a child, and in another picture she has obviously been upsurped lol) She used to swim right into the middle of the lochs, and all you could see was a little head moving slowly but surely in a determined doggy paddle with lots of puffing and blowing. When we moved here she satisfied her water lust by making a beeline for the boating lake from about four hundred yards, causing ducks to scatter and a crowd to gather while I stood trying to get her out and to placate the parkie at the same time. I did it by rustling any disgarded crisp packet I found nearby.

Sad to see Tess go (and I cried) but she had had a good life.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Two Things Old/Fashion

Two things for the two things.

Firstly a shop in the seaside town of Whitby selling antique (old)style fashions. If you enlarge the picture you can see jet necklaces draped over the cabinet. Whitby is famous for jet and it is, of course, millions of years old.

Here is an ancient mosque. It was Jack's homework which he started in a desultory fashion but which I completed because it had to be in the next day. It has be made from a chocolate box and the master stroke is how the little buildings and town surrounding the mosque (mosques usually rise above their surrounding towns in a transcendental fashion (sorry) as befits their status as buildings of spirtuality and importance embodying an ancient religion) have been fashioned from the little tray on the inside of the chocolate box put upside down. They just look like little streets and buildings.

It's great they do this sort of thing in schools to foster an undertstanding of other cultures, but this little mosque embodies culture clash, East Meets West, and all sort of other ironies. You have an ancient Eastern religious building made out of a manufactured symbol of Western self indulgence, chocolate, ancient stone religious palace fashioned out of brand new cardboard. But I think Jack was just glad he got his homework in on time LOL

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Photos Illustrating Jack's Progress

1. I got quite friendly with a lady called Fiona and we used to take the kids all over. Here is me on a ride at 'Sundown'. Fiona was full of vim and vigour, in fact is a local parish councillor, but she liked kids to do what they are told, and sometimes didn't get on very well with Eleanor, as you can possibly tell from her face on the photo or maybe she just wasn't expecting to have her photo taken. Fiona is very kind and practical and here is the little Halloween party she did, cake made by her.

2. Here is Grandma, dressed in her best for Jack's first birthday. We lived in one of four cottages called 'Paradise Row', which were two up two down, but with a shared garden which Grandma's friend Edie used to look after all the time. (This may sound as if we were living in poverty, but this was in the idyllic village of Cottingham where the price houses are sky high (for round here), and the house itself went for a pretty penny to a single Yuppie girl. We were only poverty striken later when we moved here. However, Grandma had lived there for sixty years and at the start things were probably quite different.) It had the original fire place which I put cushions against so Jack wouldn't hurt himself while walking.

3. Jack on his fourth birthday, looking very shy and unsure. Fun in the backgarden.

4. Sunlit days. Jack met his best Alex round about this time and I like the way he is looking at him here, though the other boy isn't so sure. Alex made Jack laugh and brought him out of himself. Here is a picture of my friend Tina who was a social worker at Jack's birthday party with one of her twins.

5. Jack's Sixth birthday, and look at the contrast in him in two years. Party at ours' organised by me. OK, so you're not a party animal so play to your strengths so I organised an imaginative treasure hunt and games. You may see a clue under the harmonica on the fireplace. Me in the pink jumper at a Toddler event and Eleanor doing a funny smile at the lady taking the photo who was probably doing the same sort of smile at her.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Cleft Lip and Palate

I just tend to write about what ever I feel like.

I thought I would write a more about my son, who was born with a cleft lip and palate, and which is a subject I know quite a lot about. Although I do smoke and drink now, I most definitely did not when I was carrying him so why he had it is just one of life's little ironies.

As his cleft was not picked up on the scan his birth was actually quite dangerous a lot of fluid had gone into his mouth and he had to be resusitated. I was on gas and air and awa with the fairies but I remember Mark frozen in his chair by my side and I remember wondering why he had not followed the team but he must have seen what he looked like, and it must must have been a shock. They rushed him away and Mark went with him. Such was the quality of the gas and air that when they brought him back I couldn't see there was anything wrong with him.

Of course I loved him straight away regardless because he was my baby and one of the happiest period of my life was waiting for him to be born and we had quite an idyllic time living in a little cottage with me walking the dog, spending time making elaborate healthy food and reading books about childcare. I always like to read around subjects and enter imaginatively into them lol

It is a very good provision for Cleft Lip and Palate in Hull and two hours after he was born the Consultant Orthodontist Mr Coope was by my bedside with a photo of his sister on her graduation day who had had a cleft and was the reason he had gone into orthodontics. It was a Sunday and he was on his way to Church. On the same day Mr Hart the Consultant Plastic Surgeon also arrived, who has a special interest in the condition and who climbs mountains to raise money for children with it in the Third World. So we had two very committed professionals with us at the outset.

I had wanted to breast feed Jack but made do with an electronic pump 'Daisy'. Enough said. However, Jack got his mother's milk for six months, supplimented with 'Aptamil', which is the baby milk with all the essential fats for brain development. (I had read all the baby books lol)

We also had Mark's Grandma who was living next door and who had been around children all her life. Very old people have a special relationship with the very young and tend not to give a hoot about things so she took him around in a buggy (looking rather odd) to all her social activities among all the other old ladies without a care in the world. She was nearing the end of her life and she had a last golden summer with her baby great grandson, I have always liked to think, the son of her favourite grandson.

We had top quality NHS plastic surgery and orthodontic treatment over seven operations, including a bone graft (cost us nothing) which made Jack look like what he does today. If he wants he can have a final op at fifteen to straighten his nose, but he really is not bothered, and says he doesn't want to be 'like Michael Jackson' (though all this may change when he discovers girls).

Jack has not always been the exhuberant person he is today. When he was four he could hardly say boo to a goose, had barely intelligible speech, and a stammer. For his first photo at school I had to go in with him because he was nervous of having his photo taken. However, again he had five years of first class speech therapy with senior speech therapist Liz Buckles, and apparently features on training videos.

I am quite a retiring person but I knew it was imperative that I went against type and got him out into the world, mixing and making friends. We moved when Jack was three to where we are now and Mark was out working a lot and we were quite isolated. Quite a predicament.

Because I am a little odd there are sometimes issues of trust about myself and other people's children. It is hard to get past this sort of thing but the fact is when Eleanor was a baby I was up to thirteen hours on my own with her and Jack, with the bare minimum of help, except for fortnightly visits from my Mum, and Mark's Mum who came once every Thursday morning. What happens nowadays is that people look at the kids and know that I am OK, but then it was quite different. However, we started to get friendly with our next door neighbours Mike and Claire and their little girl Ellie who started to come round to play with Eleanor. I put a lot of effort into buying toys and setting up games, blowing up paddling pools, climbing frames, sandpits, wendy houses, crafts and generally making the house a great place for kids.(I actually know quite a lot about how kids play as a result of this). Other kids must have heard the three of them having a whale of a time in the back garden and soon this house was a Mecca for kids, many anonymous off the streets LOL I forced myself to go to all the Toddler Groups in the area (even when secretly I hate things like that), got friendly with a Social Worker whose son had also been born with a cleft and ran a Toddler Group with her for two and a half years. (I was even seriously considered as a childminder for her twins (LOL)) I have actually been an informal childminder.

Gradually Jack got more and more confident because I had pushed him out into the social world and because his speech therapy was starting to yield results. He also attended an excellent free nursery near here in quite a deprived area. Hull City Council always do good nurseries in areas like this to give kids the best possible chance in life. Also round here kids tend to play out on the streets, which I think is a very good thing for them, so when they were old enough I let them and now they have a lot of freedom to do what they want. Jack also made a very good friend at school, Alex Lyon, who is a very strong character, to say the least, whom he has now been friends with for eight years.

At the moment I am merely a shadowy bumbling figure in the kitchen, needed mainly to provide drinks and sustenance for themselves and assorted friends, but I take great pleasure in seeing them enjoy themselves. I probably let Jack get away with murder (as you can probably tell from some of the photos) but then I can remember the pathetic little waif he started out as. Lots of things came together very well for him in his life story, so far, I think.

Monday, 8 September 2008

More Scottish photos

Scotland is a beautiful place, but often let down by the weather. So I was pleased with the picture top left which makes it look almost Mediterranean in its loveliness, except here you've got the greenery, and there is even what appears to be a mysterious mythical lost island in the background.

To the right is what it looks like normally, shrouded in mists. Quite funny this set of photos. Why I have an obsession with taking photos of people from behind walking I don't know. Something to do proving that we have actually been there, and putting us in the picture. Eventually Jack gets fed up LOL

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Two Things Music/Note

It is quite difficult representing music in visual form so I have plumped for one of the CDs we have suspended in our garden, which catch the light. If you wanted to be a bit fanciful are like a flat CD coming to life on the turntable giving off a kaleidoscope of colours, both visually and aurally. I often think they look a bit like planets suspended like this.

Harmony of the Spheres

Music is emotion
It strikes the deepest chord
The passions of Puccini
The march that provokes the sword
The tender love in lullaby
What has this to do with rote
Mysteriously at its essence
Mathematical patterns of the note

Saturday, 6 September 2008

What I have done today

I may start a new sort of diary posting.

Last night Holly stayed over night at our house because Eleanor has fallen out with Eden (girls of this age seem to fall in and out with each other very quickly). I said that I have a picture of Eden on my blog and Holly requested to see it but started pulling faces at the picture lol. I am sure that will all be friends with each other eventually and I reminded Holly and Eleanor that they have been known to fall out with each other on a number of occasions. They went upstairs to watch some children's DVDs which they had obtained from 'the Chinese bloke at the hairdressers'. They have some caterpillars from the garden which they are looking after and which they let move about in a dolls house by the corner of the bed. I have found out from this that caterpillars must sleep because sometimes in the morning the a caterpillar has been very still, lifeless even, and I have been alarmed but it can be 'woken up' by being picked up in the palm of Eleanor's hand and seems to be perfectly alright.

We went into town to buy some trousers for school and pick up Eleanor's new glasses which are little brown square ones, which are quite fashionable now and are like her teachers. Jack said they were 'Peter Parker glasses' and this started a general conversation about comic heroes. Jack has picked up from somewhere that Heath Ledger took an overdose because he was traumatised by playing the really scary new joker in Batman. I was curious about this and took the opportunity of having a look at his biography in HMV. Not true at all. However, I looked at some of the pictures of the new Batman film in Waterstones, and it does seem unnecessarily black and nightmarish, like a lot of films now.

We get the sweat shirts from Rawcliffes but it is always a good bet to get trousers from somewhere like BHS. There was a great sale at BHS on and Mark got me a sheepskin coat £75 reduced to £15 so I can wow them at the school gates. Jack was fingering a Simpsons T-shirt for a long time so we got the hint and bought him it.

The we went for dinner at The Subway. I love the Subway and had steak and melted cheese, with lots of salad. Got a shock to my tastebuds when I ate a guerkin, however. I should really not ask for everything but I like my money's worth. I like the way you can choose what bread you want and it is toasted and it is a sort of conveyor belt of sumptuous things added to your sandwich in quite a theatrical way. It's a bit of an improvement on MacDonalds, and I imagine it must have started in somewhere like New York as a delicatessan.

Then we went to Waterstones. I got the Life Of Pi because it is famous and I want to know what it is all about. The kids got comic sort of books. When we got home I covetted Mark's books because he always get more interesting ones and I get the pretentious ones lol

We also went into HMV and I got the 'Electric Light Orchestra' which I have always thought were great, tuneful and cheerful and am not afraid of admitting this. We put it on in the car and the kids thought it sounded old-fashioned and tinny (the quality of sound is nowhere as good as you get now) but were soon jigging about to 'Sweet Talking Woman', when they thought I wasn't looking. Great melodies always stand the test of time.

Then we went to Hessle Road to get some new shoe shoes for Jack. We have always bought expensive Clarks shoes (up until recently £40 ones) while he was growing up but it seems less important now and this shop was cheap shoes par excellence. I can never buy any shoes from here as they last a few weeks what with the distances I travel on my dogwalking. Jack has wide toes and there was some debate about whether his feet would be crushed by the narrow shoe. However, the argument that won it was mine that the shoe would very quickly loosen up because it was made of cheap material, and would probably fall to bits soon anyway LOL

Well, I have already read 'Life of Pi' quickly. Some of it is quite interesting about animal behaviour, and it seems to be some sort of allegory. I think the different animals he is in the boat with stand for different aspects of the psyche or different religions. I think what has happened to him is so traumatic that he can only write about it allegorical terms, possibly, but can't see how it all fits in. Can't make head nor tale of it to be honest. Started reading Mark's book 'Will' about Shakespeare and the bawdy goings on. That's more like it LOL

Read a bit more of Life of Pi last night and it is really a very uplifting and humanist tale which turns horrific events into a poetically written encounter between a man and a tiger in a small boat. Maybe a sort of allegory of the human condition in which people use their skills, intelligence and tenacity
to fight back against impossible odds. So that's why it won the Booker Prize. While I am trying to write this Eleanor keeps pushing in to see clips of the X Factor on You Tube. LOL

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Two Things Church/Lady


The lady stands in a clearing
The leaves they whisper
Their ancient lore
Branches form the arches
Of a church rising from the forest floor

I have done my picture again without all the waffle, given the lady a face and done a lorne effect on Dumpr which really does make scribbling quite artistic in an instant and very satisfying way.