Thursday, 13 November 2008

What would you like your epitaph to say?

I’ve never really thought about it! I like Billy Connolly’s idea – he said that his would be written in tiny words on his gravestone so that the reader would have to go right up to it to read it. It would say “You’re standing on my balls”! For obvious reasons, that would not be suitable for me!

I do know what I want my funeral to be like. None of this bright colours and celebrate my life rubbish – I want people to MOURN me! Black bombazine for a year at least!

My hymns will be Abide With Me and The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended.
The poems will be Remember Me by Christina Rossetti, and Funeral Blues by WH Auden.

My wake will be full of drink and people wailing – if there are not enough of these (although There bloody well should be or I’ll haunt you all!) then you can hire professional mourners. You know, the type that wail hysterically and for prolonged periods!

Seriously though, I would just want something simple. Something that means something to those that are left. Something like “Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep”! Something to comfort those who loved me.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Tell me something you think I won’t know about you.

When I was about 4 or 5 years old I shoplifted. I have no idea what possessed me to do it. We were in the Central Bookshop on Victoria Avenue in Blantyre, Malawi (as opposed to Blantyre, Scotland as some of my readers are in Scotland!). I was an ambitious shoplifter – I took a bookmark!! My mum discovered what I had done when we were half way down the street. She was furious, and marched me straight back up to the bookshop to confess my sin and apologise for it. We went into the bookshop, and I had to explain to Hamid (the owner) what I had done, and that I was extremely sorry for it, and I would never do it again!

I was ashamed and mortified, although he was very nice and understanding about it. My mum’s methods had their desired effect though – I never again stole anything!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

With hindsight what would you do differently?

When I left school I went to university. I had good grades for my Highers, and I thought it was expected of me – in fact as I have said before, I expected it of myself.

Looking back now, and looking at the various things I have done for jobs, I should have gone to catering college on leaving schools. Although I have worked as a chef, I am not qualified. All that I know is self taught (and taught by my mum), and I have experience. I have experience of working in busy kitchens, catering for parties at home, being a personal chef to large families, and pre-preparing meals for peoples’ freezers.

When I left school I didn’t even think of becoming a chef. It didn’t occur to me until I was working in a pub, and desperately wanted to work in the kitchen because, I believed, I was a much better cook that the person who was there! Which I was – modest too!

If I had gone to catering college I could have ended up with a much better job, with better pay. However, working in that trade is never well paid. And the hours are terrible, especially for a single parent.

I have also thought that I should have gone into nursing. Not from any overwhelming need to help people, but because when my mum went back to studying in her 40’s I helped her a lot. I learnt all that she learnt just from helping her study, and it would have been nice to have benefitted from that! The wages and hours are crap again though!

Back to the drawing board I guess!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

What is the biggest regret in your life? Can you do anything about it now?

I don’t actually have very many regrets in my life. There are things that I would like to have done, but that’s not really the same as regretting what I did or didn’t do.

The only thing I do regret is not having had more children. I know I’m only 31, and I do still have time (dependent on finding some nice man somewhere), but I do regret not having had a brother or sister for Isla close to her age.

I was an only child and, although I was brought up closely with my cousins, it wasn’t the same as having a brother or a sister. On the other hand, it did mean that I have never had to deal with sibling rivalry – at least not first hand – and have never had to put up with the fights that can only happen between sisters. For some reason, I think that only sisters can hurt each other like no one else can.

I regret not having more money, but that’s something that we all regret!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

What have you found most difficult in your life?

I think the most difficult times I have had in my life were when I was at boarding school and university.

My mum and dad first sent me to boarding school because the local primary was rubbish. The teacher I had was ignorant – had I stayed another couple of years I would have got a brilliant teacher, but my mum and dad decided they couldn’t wait that long, and sent me to the local prep school – thanks to a very clever headmaster who managed to get me an assisted place along with the scholarship that I had already won. I liked the teachers, and the work was ok, it was just that I didn’t like staying away from home. I would have loved it there if I could have been a day pupil, but boarding made me miserable.

From the prep school I won a scholarship to Fettes College in Edinburgh. This soon turned into the most miserable and difficult time I have ever had in my life. The work was hard – as I have said before I have only really been good at languages, and I got into trouble for not doing well in other subjects. I started to misbehave – just a little! I started smoking – not because it was cool I don’t think, just because I felt like it. A friend and I would meet another friend in the woods and smoke there. We got a little more adventurous after a while, and snuck out of our bedroom windows with a couple of older girls and sat on the ledge, three floors up at night! It wasn’t long until we were caught. One of the mothers had driven past at night, seen our glowing cigarettes, reported us, and our house mistress called the whole dormitory for a meeting. She explained how it had been reported, that cigarette ends had been found below the windows, and that the people responsible had to own up or everyone would be punished severely – typical adult threat – she couldn’t really have punished all of us, but the main threat was that if we didn’t own up and we were found out we would be expelled. So, the four of us owned up. We were then packed away to the Sanatorium (sick bay) for the night, while our parents were informed that we had been suspended. They were to come and collect us the next day. We had a wicked night locked away in the San that night! We laughed and joked and took pictures, but the next morning when we woke up we were all quite subdued. We had to go and see the headmaster, who gave us a stern talking to, talked a lot about responsibility etc, and that as well as suspension we had to pay a £30 fine which would be sent to Cancer Research – no idea if it ever was sent.

My mum and dad hit the roof. My cousin was staying with us at the time, he was at my old prep school, and had apparently also been playing up a bit at the same time. His parents were overseas at the time. The way I saw it, I got an extra week’s half term – my mum and dad didn’t quite see it the same way. After a couple of days it all calmed down, and by the time I went back to school we were quite light hearted about it. My mum said that if the housemistress gave me a hard time I should tell her that I’d been to confession, confessed my sins and been absolved by the priest, so if God had absolved me there was nothing she could do about it!

I really did try to buckle down after I went back to school. I tried to work hard. I arranged with the English teacher I’d had the previous year for some extra lessons – that was wrong as he wasn’t the teacher I had for that year. I didn’t get on with my current teacher, and got on great with the last teacher, who also happened to be the deputy head, and was lovely and more than willing to help me. The housemistress said I had to cancel the lessons – I did, and he wasn’t at all happy with what I had been told to do. She used to delight in upsetting me and making me cry, to then accuse me of putting it on, and only crying “crocodile tears”. I got more and more miserable, and spent hours on the phone to my mum crying my eyes out. Eventually my mum had enough of this, and phoned the housemistress to try to find out exactly why I was so unhappy. The housemistress said that she couldn’t possibly spare the time to talk to her as she was late for lunch, and put the phone down on her. My mum was hopping mad, turned up at the weekend to take me out for the weekend, and the only time I went back was to pack all my things up.

After that I went to school in Dumfries, and, once I had made the friends that became friends for life, I was extremely happy there.

University was another matter. I went because I thought it was expected of me. Certainly my teachers expected it, I thought my parents expected it, and I definitely expected it of myself. It was not at all what I imagined. I thought I was studying languages, which would have been fine, but there were all these modules I had to take like Business Studies, Economics and Accounting which I just couldn’t get my head around. In fact, despite the fact that my dad used to be an accountant and tried to help me, I failed Accounting about 5 times!

I got very depressed at uni, and ended up taking anti depressants for a while, which didn’t actually help the situation. Also, I was working at two part time jobs to make ends meet, and I just couldn’t do it any more. At the end of second year I decided to drop out and work full time, which was a good decision, even with hindsight.

I have had other difficult periods of my life, but none that made me as miserable as boarding school or university.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

If you won the Lottery, what would you do with the money, and why?

If I won the lottery – and I’m talking a big win here, like £50 million or so I would do so many things! The first thing I would do is have a massive party! Then I would give my parents a LOT of money to finish the house and then do whatever they liked.

I would buy myself a house in Scotland and a fab car, and I would have lots of dogs. Isla would go to a good state school – none of those private schools! I would donate money to the SSPCA and would dog walk for them – just for a reason to get out of bed every day!

We would have fantastic holidays every year to the Caribbean, or Australia.

There would be none of this “money won’t change the way I live” crap. It certainly would change the way I live – I’d have a blast!

Monday, 3 November 2008

If you were an animal, what type of an animal would you be, and why?

If I was an animal I would be one of my own dogs – spoilt and loved!

Tell me about the dreams you have for your life.

I dream that one day I will meet the man of my dreams. He will be tall, dark and handsome. He will want children, and be fantastic with Isla. He will want to sweep me off my feet. We will live in Australia (where there are miraculously no beasties any more – it’s a dream remember!) and go to the beach every day à la Home and Away! OR, we will live somewhere like Devon or Cornwall, in a little stone cottage with roses around the door with our own private little beach OR we will win the lottery and live in a Scottish baronial castle OR we will live in a croft in the highlands cut off from everything except the phone and internet. Actually that last one is probably more likely when tall, dark and handsome buggers off and I’m left all depressed and cocoon myself away from the world in my little croft milking the cow, collecting eggs and spinning wool. I will be surrounded by cats and dogs, as they are more reliable than men!

Seriously though, I would just like to meet someone who could make me and Isla happy, and who would like more children as well. In the Gers??? Nah, I don’t think so, hence the need to go back to UK at some point!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Describe something you still want to achieve in your life.

I want to have achieved something worthwhile in my life. The only thing I have done so far is have Isla. That is, in itself, worthwhile, but I want to leave something else behind me. I want people to be able to say about me “she did what she set out to achieve, and she made a difference”. I don’t know how to do that yet, but I’ll think of something. I’m hoping that if I can get into the training for the RSPCA that could be a start.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Describe the greatest changes that you have seen in your lifetime so far.

When I was little there were things in science fiction that I really thought would happen. Like, but the year 2000 we would all be wearing shiny suits, and eating food pills! I also thought we’d all be speaking on video phones and flying around in spaceships. Well, not a lot of that has happened! We don’t wear shiny suits (well apart from Jonathan Ross), we don’t eat food pills and the great majority of us don’t fly around in spaceships. We do, however, have the video phone, sort of. When I was little it was the stuff of dreams; now we just switch on our computers, turn on Skype or MSN and chat to our friends around the world, face to face, and free.
When I think how things have changed just in my lifetime it amazes me. What will things be like when Isla is my age – how will things have changed by then?

When I was small, my parents listened to records on a turntable – since then we have had tapes, cd’s, mp3’s. I listened to music and stories on a walkman, now Isla listens on an iPod!
TV was non-existent when I was growing up in Malawi, and when we finally did get one there it was only with a video player. When we got back to UK, TV was a huge novelty. We had a TV and a video in Scotland, and technology didn’t really change for quite a long time. There were people who had satellite TV back then, but I don’t think it was really worth what they paid for it then. Now satellite TV is commonplace, with boxes with built-in hard drives – Sky + - TV has never been so cool!

It wasn’t until after we moved to France that dvd’s appeared. We had come to France with a pile of videos, knowing that if we wanted to buy any new ones, we’d have to ask other people to buy them, as even internet shopping wasn’t common then.Now we have dvd’s, we can buy them almost anywhere as they are multi language, and if you have a multi region player you can get them from anywhere in the world. Things have gone even further now with blu-ray (not really sure what that is) and you can even watch video files on your computer or your iPod!

Cameras have changed too – my mum and dad had 35mm cameras when I was smaller, and in fact when I started to own cameras they were still using the same type of film.Now I have a great digital camera, and film is nowhere to be seen!
Computers too have changed beyond all recognition. When I was small we had a ZX Spectrum 16k. You attached a tape recorder to the computer, and all the games and programmes were on the tapes! You could also type in lots of garbage and end up with a square on your screen – you could change the colour of the square and if you were really clever you could make the square stripy! This was cool!

We didn’t get another computer for a long time. Eventually we bought one from my dad’s office which was an Amstrad 286 I think, with Windows 3.1.We thought it was great! The next one was a 1gb computer with Windows 95 – it was state of the art for a little while. What makes me laugh is that now my phone has a larger memory than that!!

Which brings us rather neatly onto mobile phones, whilst skipping our more recent computers which aren’t that interesting because they’re modern with Windows XP.
The first mobiles I saw were massive! You had to lug a massive battery pack around and the only place they were really useable was the tops of hills!
Now they’re small and funky, with built in cameras, mp3 players and massive memories! You can send video messages, picture messages and sound clips to people.
You can do your email, watch films, listen to music all on one little piece of kit. How cool is that!