Friday, 5 June 2009

What inventions have particularly changed your "lifestyle"? How?

There are two inventions that have changed my current lifestyle. One is my iPod and a docking station, which means that in my new job I can listen to decent music, not the same tired old playlist they trot out every day on Heart FM, Cheltenham’s radio station.

The second invention has apparently been around for a long time, I’ve just never seen one and I think it’s cool, although you’d probably think I’m sad for thinking that!

It’s called a potato ricer – it’s like a giant garlic press that you stick boiled ptatoes in, squash them, and hey presto – mashed potato! No lumps either!

See, I have a sad life – I really should get out more!

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Did you ever receive a detention or other punishment at school, and if so, what for?

Although I wasn't the best behaved child at school, I rarely received formal punishments.

When I was at prep school I fell out with the music teacher, I can't remember why, and he threw me out of the choir and the orchestra! I was a bit pissed off, because I really enjoyed them, but the worst thing was still to come. We were doing a school production of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. I had been cast as one of the brothers (due to a shortage of boys in our year who could sing), and my role was taken away from me! I ended up being an adoring girl, which is sooo not me! That annoyed me!

The following year though, we had a new music teacher so I was reinstated in the choir and the orchestra!

When I went to senior school in Edinburgh, I was a bit more badly behaved, as you may know! I got detention a few times, but I can't remember what for. The bad kids had to go to the library and sit there for an hour doing whatever they liked, but quietly! I think I read books mainly! It didn't have any lasting impact on me!

At school in Dumfries I only got one actual punishment. I was in a french class, which was taught by a bloke so young he must have been a college leaver, and didn't really have a clue how to control a class. I was talking too much, so he gave me a punishment exercise to do. He picked out the longest passage in our text book and told me to translate it, and give it to him when it was done. He didn't realise at this point that French was my best subject, and by the end of the class I not only handed him my class work, but also the punishment exercise completed and correct! I did feel smug about that one - I must have been a real pain in the arse for him!

Another time, some friends and I were caught smoking byt the headmaster, and we ran away. We were called to his office, and given a strict talking to, and all the while another friend was outside his window making funny faces at us! We were trying to look contrite, whilst simultaneously trying to hold in our laughter!

I never really worked very hard at school - languages came naturally to me, so I coasted through those exams. I did study for Biology and Chemistry, but I got bored with them and ended up re-reading all my Famous Five Books! I worked damned hard for Geography - we had a project to do which counted towards our final marks. I quite enjoyed doing it, but the teacher, who was disgusting (he once picked his ear and flicked the wax at a pupil in my class) went through my project, made corrections and suggestions and told me to edit it on the computer. He was most put out when I told him we didn't have a computer - he obviously thought that everyone did, and thought we weren't normal. This was 1993 - it wasn't that common then. My dad had typed it out for me, so we had to re-type the whole thing. That teacher's attitude stank.

I didn't get many punishments at school on a whole, apart from my one major low point which is in an earlier post either in this blog or the other one.

I was either pretty well behaved, or too smart to get caught!

You decide!

Monday, 23 March 2009

What was your school food like?

My school food varied a lot. When I was at school in Malawi, I didn’t eat school meaks because we finished for the day at lunch time. At primary school in Scotland it was so-so as far as I remember – most of the time I took a packed lunch, which has left me with a life long hatred of sandwiches containing either tomato or cucumber, as they make the bread soggy!

When I started to be a weekly boarder at prep school I was introduced to some truly horrible school food! The yolks of boiled eggs could be used as bouncy balls! We had semolina and rice pudding which just looked like a dish of vomit with a bit of jam in the middle! Delicious!

Sometimes I could wake up in the morning and know what was for breakfast just by the smell that permeated the entire building. Kippers were particularly bad, as was eggy bread. I’m not a big fish eater, and if you read my other blog you’ll know
how I feel about eggs! The smell was indescribably bad!

We did get some good meals, although these were few and far between. So few, that I actually can’t remember any of them! On our birthdays though, we were allowed to choose the pudding for that day. I always chose trifle, because the cooks were really good at that! There was very little custard used (which was great because I’m not a big fan), and tons of dream topping! We had to drop a little note outside the Headmaster’s flat the night before, so that he could inform the kitchen staff of our choice. It was the one nice thing about that school – a touch of home.

At senior boarding school in Edinburgh, the food was marginally better, although I tended to eat salads a lot because they were nicer than the normal main courses! We used to get these sticky buns, which are particular to Scotland I think. They were like bread rolls, with sticky pink icing on top! Sounds weird, but they were actually really nice.

Once I went to school in Dumfries, the quality of school meals dropped slightly. I’m sure there were other things on the menu, but I always had baked potato and cheese, or occasionally chips and cheese! Very healthy! Sometimes I wouldn’t eat anything because I’d spent my lunch money on cigarettes, but that’s another story!

All in all, I would say that my school meals were generally crap, and it didn’t matter whether it was a state or private school – it was still crap! Obviously, the massive fees that are paid by parents for their kids to get a good education, don’t make their way to the dining tables.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Were you often into mischief as a child? How strict were your parents?

I didn’t get into much mischief when I was small. Incidentally, doesn’t it drive you mad when people say michievious instead of mischievous? It really irritates me!

Anyway, as I was saying, I was a pretty good kid.  My parents weren't too strict – we lived in a small village, so until I could drive, having a curfew wasn't exactly an issue.  And after that I was old enough to do what I wanted.  It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started getting into a bit of trouble.

The first time I was in serious trouble was at the private school in Edinburgh. Four of us were caught for smoking on the roof at night time. Some parent had driven past the school and seen four girls on the roof all smoking. Our dormitory was called down to the housemistress’s (complete and utter bitch) flat and we were made to confess our sins! She did that old psychology trick – “I know who it was so you may as well own up”. We did as well…what a bunch of mugs! Anyway, we were marched off to the sanatorium because we had to be quarantined for our badness! It might be catching! Our parents were called, and they came to get us the next day. We all had to go an see the headmaster, which was a bit of a waste of time – I can’t even remember what he said now. We had to pay a fine of £30 each (well, our parents did) which allegedly went to Cancer Research. I bet it didn’t though – it probably went to line the school coffers – grasping bunch of bastards. More on that in a sec. Anyway, it was the week before half term, so the four of us got two weeks instead of just one! Our names were read out in Chapel the following morning because we were so bad, and our names were up on the message board.

What drives me mad about that school, is that they keep sending me begging letters. Please donate to a scholarship fund, please donate to this, that and the other bloody fund. I wrote back to them last week telling them not to send me any letters as I wouldn’t donate to any fund in order to put someone else through the misery I suffered there.

That was my one major transgression. My mum told me that I should tell the housemistress when I got back to school that I had been to confession and that I had done my penance and that the priest had absolved me from my sins!

I was pretty good after that – the rest was general teenage stuff. I remember one weekend I stayed with my best mate in Dumfries. We went out for the evening, and because we were skint we went into the local off licence and bought cheap wine and sat by the river drinking it and getting pissed. We had told her dad we were at the pictures! Apparently we were late home, so he had gone out looking for us, and ended up following us back up the road. We were staggering and falling over and being generally pissed and extremely silly! We crept into the house, supposing that he was in the sitting room. My mate went off to the bathroom, and her dad knocked on the bedroom door. I opened it, holding myself up by the door handle on one side and the radiator on the other. He started to ask me about the film we had seen so I spouted some shite about a film I had read about, knowing full well that he knew I was lying but couldn’t seem to stop myself. He asked me if I expected him to believe me – that he’d been a justice of the peace for years and he could tell when someone was lying. So I admitted it and my mate came back into the room then – her dad said it would be a long time until we spent another weekend together. I was back the next weekend – but we were a little better behaved – or maybe we just hid it better!!

I think that’s the worst trouble I ever got into when I was younger – like I said, I was generally very well behaved, but even the best behaved kids can be a bit bad sometimes!!

Friday, 13 March 2009

A few questions for you.

1. How old do you look? I think I probably look my age – 31.
2. Where do you live? SW France
3. Are you waiting for something? Yes, a job! Oh, and Mr Right would be nice too!
4. What’s one pet peeve of yours that is not common? The sound of other people eating.
5. Do you want/have kids? I have one amazing nine yer old daughter, and I would dearly love another child, but we’ll just have to wait and see!
6. Have you ever thought about converting your religion? No, I'm not too keen on the one I was baptised into – would never consider another one.
7. Last shocking news you heard? I couldn’t possibly tell you that – I know someone who would kill me – yes, you know who you are!!
8. What was the last thing you drank? Diet Coke – well, Diet Pepsi really because at the moment it’s so much cheaper – credit crunch and all!
9. Who do you most look like in your family? My mum
10. If you could have something right now, anything, what would it be? Some money so I could book my flight back from UK in April.
11. Where does most of your family live? All over the place – we are in France, some are in England, some in Jersey and some in the middle east.
12. Where did you grow up? Portsmouth, Malawi and SW Scotland
13. Where do you want to go on vacation? Anywhere that isn’t here really! I would love to go back to Japan and spend longer there, hire a car and get to see more than what we managed (admirably!) to squeeze into two weeks!
14. Have you ever had a panic attack or asthma attack? Panic attack no, asthma attack yes.
15. What can’t you wait for? At the moment I can’t wait for my little working holiday – a change of scenery will be fab!
16. When’s the last time you told someone you loved him or her and meant it? I tell Isla I love her all the time, and mean it obviously!
17. Have your parents ever smoked pot? My parents?? I don’t think so! My dad ate some by mistake in some brownies once – didn’t realise until someone told him afterwards!
18. Want someone back in your life? I would love someone in my life, but someone back in my life?? Nah, I don’t think so.
19. What do you order at the bar? Diet Coke, or occasionally Smirnoff Ice
20. When was the last time you cried really, really hard? Watching The Tudors, when Sir Thomas More was executed. I haven’t cried hard about anything personal for a long time.
21. Where were you on July 4th, 2008? I was dogsitting at the house of the shagging lovebirds.
22. What are your nicknames? Mummy, KTB, KatduGers
23. If you could go back in time, how far back would you go? Well, I’ve already been back to the 18th century this year – well, the way of living anyway when we had the storms ! I don’t think I’d have been much good before at least the sixties, as women were meant to be much more subservient then, and that just isn’t me! Never liked authority! Yeah, I think the sixties would have suited me – long hair, hippy tops, folk music – groovy!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Did you ever attend, or act in a play?

When I was younger, my dad was in an Amateur Dramatics society in Malawi. The play I most remember him being in was Fiddler On The Roof, in which he was the Rabbi’s son – a not exactly major part, but one for which he had to grow his beard really long! All I can remember about it was that it was good, and that I spent most of the times being shushed by my mumbecause I kept singing along!


We used to go to pantomimes staged by the same AmDram Society, and they would always make cracks about having the world’s most unpopular man (my dad – the tax inspector!!) in the audience! It was all in good fun though!

I didn’t go to plays when I was at primary school in Scotland, but when I moved to the prep school we did school plays. I narrowly missed out on The Pirates Of Penzance, as I arrived a term after they had done that! The first play I had anything to do with was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – I was the understudy for the housekeeper and in charge of props! Not the most fulfilling role, but I made the fairy cakes that were used as props, so I got to eat them too! That fulfilled me enough! It might be sour grapes, but it seems to me now, that it was always the favourite kids who got the roles. It probably was too.

The year after that, we did Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat. This time I actually did get a decent role – I was meant to be one of the brothers, but I fell out with the music teacher so he demoted me to one of the Adoring Girls, and I had little more to sing than la la la! Bastard!

We didn’t get to go and see other plays at that school very often. I remember going to see a school production of My Fair Lady at a senior school in Edinburgh – I can’t for the life of me remember which one – and it was brilliant. The only downside to that was that we were put to sleep in their San (sick bay), and the mattresses in there were made or horse hair! I’m allergic to horses, so I had a great night’s sleep!! We did go to Edinburgh occasionally to see concerts in the Usher Hall – classical music mostly, and not hugely thrilling, but a good excuse to escape the confines of the school for a while!

300_Usher Hall

At senior school I was sort of involved with a nativity play – I played my flute in the little orchestra that was accompanying some girl playing Mary singing some psalm or something. My memory on this is a little hazy – my best friend at the time and I had snuck off during the break, nicked a bottle of wine, necked it and staggered back to our places! So you’ll forgive me if my memory of that night isn’t quite as clear as it could be. At least I could sit down and pretend to play my flute – my mate had to stand on stage, and very wobbly she was too!!

As for what I went to see, the only one I remember is Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw. It was quite good, but I don’t remember the story. I think we also went to see Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard – but couldn’t swear to it!

At some point during this time – I can’t remember what year exactly – we went to a local village to see our local pantomime. It was dire – in fact, if you didn’t know better, you would have thought they were taking the piss. The highlight of the evening was winning a box of Black Magic in the raffle! I have never before seen anything so embarrassingly bad!

Once I was at school in Dumfries, that was it…no more plays! I was at a proper school – i.e. one that didn’t have its head up its own arse!

The only time I have been to the theatre since, was to the opera with my friend Moses – we went to Toulouse and saw The Marriage Of Figaro.


It was brilliant – I was amazed! I’ve never been a fan of opera, but I think what impressed me was that we got our own box for about €20 each, there was a small screen above the stage with subtitles so that we could understand, and I actually knew some of the music from it! I was pleasantly surprised!


I would love to see a West End show – Mamma Mia, Joseph or My Fair Lady would be brilliant.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Did you participate in any type of recreation or athletics?

Surprisingly enough, the answer is yes! I was quite slim when I was younger, particularly when I was at school. My thyroid didn’t go up the creek until after my pregnancy!

When I was at primary school in Malawi I learnt to swim. Ever since, I’ve loved the water, and I’m an extremely strong swimmer. We used to have inter-school swimming galas, and they were great fun.

When I went to primary school in Scotland I played football, for a very short while! They always used to put me in goal, and I wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t enjoy it much! I played for the under tens Threave Rovers! I’ve got a medal somewhere, but I don’t know where. I mentioned this to my mum the other day, and she has no recollection of it at all! I thinked I only played once or twice!

When I went to prep school, I did lots of sports. I was brilliant at netball – again, I was always put in as goal keeper, but I was a pretty good goal shooter too. Occasionally I managed to play as Goal Attack, but it was more often goal keeper. I found it boring though, as I rarely got control of the ball. In the summer we used to play rounders, and I was bloody brilliant at that! I could whack the ball like the proverbial off the shovel, and earned the nickname Basher! Not very ladylike perhaps, but then I’ve never been what you’d call ladylike! I loved rounders! We also played tennis a bit, and I could hit the ball, but was never too sure of the rules! We had a swimming pool at that school, but in my years there it was more like a dark green pond! It was nasty, but on hot days, after a particularly sweaty game of rounders, we were all delighted to jump in and cool off. I also did some athletics – not the running around stuff – that’s never really been my thing – but more the field events. I was great at high jump, in particular, and long jump and shot putt. I could also do the 100m sprint, as it wasn’t too far! We did cross country there, and I truly hated it! My friend and I used to treat it as a country stroll! There would be these kids who would run around the course, and complete it in 11 minutes, but we’d be happy if we came in under half an hour!! We were never last though – there was always this other kid lagging behind us! My school report said "She is keen NOT to be known as an athlete"!!!!
At senior school (the private one) we did hockey and lacrosse, and I hated both of them. I couldn’t see the point of playing a stupid game, which made no sense to me, outside in the sun, rain or snow – and I mean that literally. I suppose it was meant to be character building – stern Scottish private school and all that! Well…bugger that for a game of soldiers!I was on the swimming team for that school though, and swam in quite a few matches. I narrowly missed out on a school trip to swim Lake Como in Italy because there wasn’t enough interest.

At my school in Dumfries we didn’t do a lot of sport. We had PE, and it always seemd to be tennis or badminton. My friend Lara and I used to play for a little while, and then sneak out the back to have a sly fag! Not very health conscious!!

Since school I haven’t participated in any team sports, unless you count darts which I don’t! I do a lot of swimming in the summer, and try to swim at least a kilometre a day, but preferably a mile. I walk the dogs around a local lake, and sometimes (but not as often as I should) work out on the cross trainer and exercise bike.

Swimming is best though!

What sports did you do, and which ones did you love or hate?

NB. Pictures Not My Own Work.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Where do all your blog readers come from?

To see where all my visitors come from, take a look at this post on my other blog, Random Ramblings and Recipes.

If you had the opportunity to change anything in your life, what would it be?

Ooh, is this a bit like “What would you do it you won the lottery?”!!

Well, my perfect life would be…

Enough money to be comfortable – not having to worry about where the next penny is coming from.

Isla and I would live in Scotland during the summer and autumn, and somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere during the winter. I would have found the perfect man who loves me desperately, and adores Isla as if she were his own. We would also maybe have another couple of children by then. I already have a boy’s name figured out, so I’ve made one tiny step towards that goal!!

During my time in Scotland, I would donate my time to walking dogs from shelters. I would also be able to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones.

Not sure what I would do about Isla’s schooling in this dream existence, but it’s a dream, so reality isn’t important!

I would have a few dogs – a black lab, and golden lab, a golden retriever and maybe a Bernese Mountain Dog. Which obviously would have passports and get used to flying a lot!

It’s a dream right…none of it absolutely HAS to make sense!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Do you enjoy participating in music, art, gardening, needlework, sewing, carpentry, mechanics, etc.? Which members of the family did these activities?

I’ve never really been one for hobbies and the like – mainly because none have ever appealed to me enough to spend very much time doing them!

I learnt various musical instruments when I was younger – see
here for my post on that. I was never passionate about any of them though.

My mum has always been good with a sewing machine, and has done various things with one, the most recent being a pool cover for our neighbour and friend, and recovering the armchair in my bedroom. She’s very clever with it, and can do beading and all sorts of things! I’ve never had the inclination to learn – I don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. She also knits, and does a very natty line in Arran jumpers, which I lived in when I was younger, and Isla had loads when she was smaller. She hasn’t knitted for a while – but is hopefully going to knit new jumpers for Isla and me for next winter.

My dad is great at carpentry. He makes great cupboards and wardrobes, and the next project I think will be new cupboards for the kitchen – which is in serious need of work! The only thing we’ve done to the kitchen since we’ve been here is to plaster and paint it – we are lacking in cupboard space and work surface! It’s amazing what we manage to do, cooking wise, in there, but it would be fab to have a lovely new kitchen!

I do the odd bit of gardening – as in, not very much at all! Every spring I buy new herb plants, because I love cooking with fresh herbs. The taste is so different to dried ones. I would also love to know more about herbal remedies. I have tried a couple before – and infusion of rosemary for a headache made me seriously ill, and an hot oil treatment for my hair left me smelling like a roast lamb! Sharpens the appetite, but only for food! Not exactly an attractive fragrance unless it’s emanating from the oven! Anyway, I plant my herbs out every year, and sometimes they grow, and sometimes they don’t! I don’t exactly have green fingers. I always say to people when I’m house sitting that I’m good with animals, but plants have a tendency to commit suicide when I’m around!

Something I don’t mind doing is card making. My mum makes lovely cards, for all occasions, should you ever need one! She can sit for hours and make cards, whereas I need to wait for inspiration and can do it for maybe an hour. All our Christmas cards are homemade, and that’s a mega marathon in about November. The card below is one I made for Isla's 9th birthday last year. She adores Hello Kitty!

My favourite thing, although I wouldn’t class it as a hobby, is photography. The reason I wouldn’t class it as a hobby is that I have had some paid work, so I would say I’m about 5% professional! For an example check out this website of a gîte I photographed nearby. It’s a beautiful house, in a lovely area. Go on, check it out and book a holiday. I dare you!

My favourite photography subjects are people. I love natural photography - none of that studio stuff, and I use natural lighting, mainly because I can't afford anything else! The photo I'm posting below is of a close friend of mine - she won't mind me posting - she signed a model release years ago! She's one of the most photogenic people I know.
I also spend hours photographing Isla, and she gets so sick of it! The dogs are great subjects too, but it takes ages to get great photos as labradors and newfs rarely stay still! The picture below is one of Isla at about 3 or four, and one of our old Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Ben.NB. All Photographs My Own Work except Thyme and Basil.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Describe the saddest time in your life.

The saddest time of my life was probably 1992. I was 15, and at school, in my Standard Grade year.

My grandfather had two cousins, J and E. Grandma worked with J during the war, which was how she met my Grandad. She got to know E and they were all great friends. When my grandparents were overseas, and my mum and her brother were at boarding school, they used to stay with Aunty J during their half terms. Aunty E had a husband and daughter of her own, but AJ and her husband had never been blessed with children, which was a great pity as she would have been a truly wonderful mother.

So, AJ and AE were always known as Aunties – and they were much loved by all of us. For me, it was like having two extra grandmothers. In 1992 AE discovered that she had cancer. She got sicker and sicker, and eventually she couldn’t live alone any more. Her daughter, L, was living with her husband in Scotland, quite near to us, by then, so it was decided that she should come up to Scotland to spend her final months. My mum and L went south to collect her in our Ford Sierra estate. They had discussed her being transported to Scotland by ambulance, but the logistics of that were just ridiculous. They would have had to change ambulance at EVERY county border, and it wasn’t feasible. They put down the back seats in the Sierra and put a mattress, duvet and pillows in there for AE. They then gave her sleeping tablets so that she could sleep for most of the 8hr journey. It went without a hitch, and they reached Scotland safely.

While AE was in Scotland, her sister, AJ, came up to visit her, along with her 84yr old live in lover, UC. She had discovered, while all this had been going on, that she too had cancer and it was terminal. I think they both had stomach cancer. She stayed with us while she was there, as it would have been too much for L to deal with.

AE died in August. I didn’t go to the funeral – I discussed it with my mum and she said she didn’t think it was necessary that I went, but it was up to me to decide. She was cremated, and I’ve always hated the idea of cremation. I didn’t think I could deal with that, so I didn’t go. I think I made the right decision.

After the funeral, my mum talked with AJ to find out what she wanted to do. They discussed her going home to her flat in the south of England, with no family around to support her and an overloaded health care system as opposed to her staying with us in Scotland, with all her family around and an excellent health care system. We all decided, as a family, including AJ and LIL UC (live in lover UC), that she would stay, and I think that she was relieved by the decision.

However, it meant a shift around in bedrooms. My mum asked Grandma to stay to help her (remember, I was only 15), so she had the small bedroom upstairs. I still had my room, as my mum thought it was necessary to try to preserve some normality for my sake. We transformed the study downstairs into a bedroom for AJ and UC, and they had sole use of the living room. Sole use mainly because there was no way we could listen to the TV at the same volume as UC, or put up with him squeaking his shoes or listen to his squealing hearing aid, which obviously didn’t work. We sat every evening on stools in the kitchen, or I went to my bedroom.

They stayed with us for five months. It was hard. This much loved aunty was dying before our eyes, and there wasn’t a thing we could do about it. She had several heart attacks, and stayed several times in the terminal ward in the local hospital, which was fantastic. Her care couldn’t have been better. Our doctors were fantastic, and close to the end, we had a Marie Curie nurse come in overnight to make sure she was ok. Several times, I went straight from school to the hospital to meet my mum there.

There were some “up” times during this period. I remember when it was UC’s birthday – I promised to make him a birthday cake, and duly set about doing it. I had all the ingredients in the bowl of the Kenwood Chef, went to get a couple of eggs from the fridge, cracked them into the bowl only to discover that they were hard boiled!! If you read both of my blogs, you will understand how I feel about eggs, so this was a major disaster! I literally had to start again, as I couldn’t make a cake that had been contaminated with cooked eggs! It gave everyone a good laugh!

Also, UC was a bit forgetful I think, and a couple of times a week he would bung me a fiver! He kept me in cigarettes all that time, and I have to say I did need them to stay sane. I know, I was only fifteen, but I think it kept me calm. My mum had no idea at the time, although she does now.

I must have been more stressed than I realised, because I didn’t have a period during the whole time they were there. I was delighted at the time, but looking back, it shows that I was actually having a tough time, only not admitting it.

We did try to make their time with us a bit fun – we took them to some local botanical gardens and various other places, and made sure we got out and about a little, while AJ was still up to it.

It about October, my mum contacted a few family members to tell them to come now, if they wanted to see her. They did come – my aunt came back all the way from Saudi Arabia, and AJ knew nothing about it, until she walked into her hospital ward. She was so pleased – she kept telling all the nurses how far her niece had come to see her. She must have known why, but as far as I know, she always tried to keep her spirits up. Possibly, alone with UC or my mum she didn’t, but I was never aware of it.

She died in November, 13 weeks after AE had died. My mum had asked her what she wanted, and it was to be buried in our local cemetery, which was outside the village, in the most peaceful spot imaginable.

We had the church service in our local town, and the man that did the eulogy was UC’s son, who she had known since he was a little boy. It was possibly the best thing he ever said. By the time we got to Abide With Me, no one could sing.

In the cemetery quite a few people from the village had come, as well as family, to pay their respects, although no one knew her well because she hadn’t been there that long. It was a sunny day, but absolutely freezing – that Scottish cold that goes right through to your bones.

L had a headstone erected a little while later, which had both AJ’s and AE’s names on it. Simple, but lovely.

I have never experienced anything that was as hard to go through, or as sad, as those few months, and I hope I never do again. Is was exceedingly painful for the entire family, not only because we lots both of them within such a short time of each other, but because it was long and protracted, and they went through such pain.

I think it made all of us stronger. Some good came out of it – my mum went back to redo her nurses training after almost thirty years. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite get to qualify as her back let her down, as it had done thirty years before. But, she’s an almost nurse, and much better and more empathetic than any nurse I have seen. She’s a born nurse, and it’s a great pity that twice, she didn’t get to complete her course.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Did you learn a hobby or craft as a child or teenager? Did you continue to use it as an adult?

When I was a child, I was never any good at art. I couldn’t draw to save myself – still can’t! I could, however, do calligraphy. I can’t remember how old I was, possibly around 10 or 11 – my mum and dad bought me some calligraphy pens and some beautiful paper to practice on. I got quite good, and could do several styles of font I suppose you’d call it.
Eventually, instead of making me draw or paint in Art class at prep school, the teacher gave in and let me design the signs for open days, parents’ evenings and school plays etc. I was delighted with this, because it was something I could do and I didn’t feel like such an idiot.

I don’t do it now though. Computers come with so many fonts, and you can always download them free, so there’s really little point. It was a nice skill to have acquired though.

When I was in my teens, and new ice rink opened up in Dumfries. So, for a few moths it became the cool place to be seen, and every Friday and Saturday night it was full of teenagers trying to look cool while falling over on the ice!I loved it so much that my Grandma gave me a pair of ice skates for either Christmas or my birthday one year. The only problem was that I was crap at skating! I could skate around the rink ok without falling over, but I could do the cool skiddy stop thing, like all the little kids who’d whizz past me if I was daft enough to go during the day. As far as I was concerned, that what the walls were for – crashing into!
The fad only lasted a few months – I eventually sold my skates and gave it up. It knackered my ankles, and kind of stopped being the cool thing to do. In fact, I think we graduated from the ice rink to the pub!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Did you or any of your family sing or play musical instruments?

When I was little and at primary school I learnt the recorder like everyone else did! I was rubbish though! I found it really hard to learn to read music, and consequently I was always about half a note behind everyone else. I used to sit next to my best friend, and I always watched what she did so that I could do the same. It didn’t matter – no one noticed – the music teacher was completely tone deaf! Bizarre – I can’t understand why a tone deaf person would become a music teacher!
I remember when I was about 7 or eight, we were doing a school play, and the recorder group were playing. The teacher asked us if any of our parents played, and to my mum’s abject horror, I put my hand up and volunteered her! She hadn’t played for about 30yrs. To make matters worse, she had to play a tenor recorder which, although it has the same fingering, is about twice the size of a normal descant recorder! She wasn’t best pleased! On that night, there were two of us half a note behind everyone else!

When I got a bit older, once we were back in Scotland, I started to learn the clarinet. I hated it. Every time I played it I ended up with a headache, and I hated the feel of the reed, so I gave that up pretty soon.When I moved school though, to the prep school, I started to play the flute, which I quite enjoyed. Oh, I also started piano lessons, but I hated the teacher, couldn’t get my hands coordinated enough and used to hide my music and pretend I had lost it! I gave it up after a term!I carried on with the flute though. I moved to senior school in Edinburgh and carried on learning there, with a wishy washy teacher who again I didn’t like much, but it wasn’t worth trying to run rings around her! When I went to school in Dumfries I couldn’t carry on with it, so my mum found the phone number of my original flute teacher from my prep school, and she taught me and a couple of friends privately. She was a great teacher, and made me want to learn. I got up to Grade 5, by the skin of my teeth! She told me that when I went into the exam, the first thing I should do, before even getting my flute or music out, was to put my inhaler on the music stand! I’ve always had very mild asthma, and the only thing it has ever really affected was my breathing when I played the flute. Anyway, the ruse worse, and I scraped a pass. I didn’t carry one after that, mainly because I had to study (ahem) for my Highers and after Grade 5 you have to learn theory as well and take a test on that, but also because I really wasn’t that good. I had finally learnt to read music though!!

I still play sometimes, although it must be over two years since the flute saw the light of day. It normally happens if I’m drunk, and it’s really not very impressive!

My dad used to play the guitar, sort of! He played it so often that when we left Malawi we gave the guitar to our gardener who then taught himself!He also played the banjo when he was much younger, and played in a skiffle group. This was well before he met my mum though.
I often wish I had learnt to play the guitar – it a much cooler instrument than the flute! I love singing, and, well, it’s a tad hard to sing when you’re playing the flute. I think being able to play the guitar is a real asset.

NB. Photos Not My Own Work.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Did you like to read? What were your favourite books as a child? As an adult?

I have always loved to read – I am a voracious reader. When I was young I read all of the Famous Five books, and most of Enid Blyton’s other books. My favourites were the Adventure books, Mr Galliano’s Circus books and the Faraway Tree books. Pure fantasy and well written enough to grab the attention of a child!

I had very few other things to entertain me, so reading was a lifeline. I have always been able to completely lose myself in a book, especially if it is unputdownable! To such an extent that I actually lose consciousness of the world around me and lose myself in the world of the book!

After Enid Blyton I read a couple of Michele Magorian books – Goodnight Mr Tom and Back Home. They were excellent. And like most girls of my age at the time, I loved Sweet Valley High! Such great teenage books!

My favourite books now are written by Diana Gabaldon. To learn more about them, go to her website, blog or Compuserve forum. They are brilliantly well written, and make you laugh, cry, sit on the edge of your seat, and, just occasionally, totally sob your heart out! If you don’t believe me, give them a go. You won’t regret it, I promise! All are available from most bookshops, except An Echo In The Bone which has yet to be published - Autumn 2009 hopefully.

I also like Lesley Pearse, Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins (for pure trash!)!

What were your favorite foods?

I’ve had lots of favourite foods over the years! I think my most favourite meal must be a full roast dinner – beef or chicken. Complete with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing and vegetables and gravy.
I also really like samoussas – see my other blog for recipes – and Chinese food. And Italian!

Sunday, 8 February 2009

What neighborhood gatherings do you recall?

In the village where we lived in Scotland we had a ceilidh at Christmas time, in the village hall, for a couple of years. A ceilidh is a social gathering, involving traditional music and dancing. In history, it was any social gathering, but nowadays there is generally music and dancing.These were brilliant. We would have a band on the stage, with a caller. The caller explains the dance to the party goers, and talks them through it until they have got the hang of it. If you have never had the opportunity to do Scottish Country dancing, I suggest you give it a go. It is fun. I don’t normally dance – I hate discos etc because I can’t dance. However, Scottish Country dancing has rules and particular steps and involves flinging your partner around as hard as possible, and the more alcohol you consume, and the more dances you do, the more bruises you will end up with at the end of the night!

We also had a couple of village fêtes – these were held in a field at the bottom of the village. All I can remember about this is that we played a game called nurdling. You get a biggish log, and lie a long stick across it. With another stick you whack the sticking up end of the stick across the log, and the person who whacks it the furthest, wins.

We also used to go out Christmas carolling every year. There were four of us who played the flute, and my uncle played guitar. We would go up and down the village every Christmas Eve for about 5 or 6 years playing and singing carols, and collecting money for our local Adult Training Centre which was for disabled people.

Apart from that, there really weren’t any gatherings. Villages these days don’t seem to have the community spirit of years gone by, which is very sad.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

What cars have you owned or driven?

Renault 11 - this is the car I learnt to drive in. It was a crappy old car - if you accelerated too hard the accelerator would stick - instant cruise control!! To unstick it you had to put the clutch down and rev it really hard!
Austin Metro - this was my first car. It cost me £500 and lasted for about two years before it blew up! Might have had something to do with the fact that it was only a 1 litre engine, and I could get speeds of up to about 95mph out of it before it started shuddering too much!

Ford Ka - my first decent car. I used money that Grandma had saved up for me since I was born to go towards the deposit, and the first year's finance was paid for as my 21st birthday present. Lovely little car, but difficult to get a baby car seat and buggy in and out of!

Vauxhall Frontera - my dad's 60th birthday present. Great car, great workhorse, and by the time it got taken away last year to a scrap yard it didn't owe us a thing.
Vauxhall Corsa - my mum's old driving school car. I also had this car in Edinburgh when they moved to France, as it was more convenient and practical with a baby being a five door car. This is the car I mainly drive now, and is also the car that I will take back to UK if/when I go back.

I had an MG Midget briefly. Well, I had it for about three years, spent an absolute fortune on it, and eventually decided to sell it as it was costing me far too much to run. I loved it, but couldn't afford it - it was too high-maintenance! I sold it on eBay, complete with loads of photographs, explaining that yes it did have rust - being a 30 year old car an all. Some bloke in Ireland bought it, I had it transported back to Scotland, he turned up to collect it and refused to. Apparently it was not roadworthy, desite having the French equivalent of an MOT. So, I ended up getting it scrapped in Scotland, but I did keep the guy's deposit. I complained to eBay, but nothing happened. So my lovely little sports car ended up as a small chunk of metal. Ah well, such is life! It was a nice fun car to have for a while, but I wouldn't have a classic car again. Too much like hard work, and too expensive.
Peugeot 807 - our family car now. It doesn't currently look like this, being bereft of a windscreen thanks to Hurricane Klaus! Lovely car to drive, comfortable and great on fuel. We don't have the seven seats, just five, as for us it isn't a people carrier, but a puppy carrier! The boot is a great size for 1 Newf and 2 Labs - gives them plenty of space to lie down comfortably.

So, what cars have you owned?

NB. Photographs not my own work, except the MG Midget.

Are there any special heirlooms, photos, bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?

I have done quite a lot of research into our family tree. I was inspired by all the family photographs that we have, dating back to 1895 – my grandmother’s father at about 5 years old. Grandma had all these photos in her flat, and a few years ago my mum went through all of them with her and put them all in to date order, worked out who was who and put them all into albums. It’s an amazing piece of family history. Grandma also has a lot of family birth certificates I think, and I’m sure she has more old photographs in her flat.
Apart from that, we don’t have anything that’s been passed down. We don’t have any antiques or heirlooms or legacies or anything.

But I think the photographs are amazing, and wouldn’t swap them for some old bit of tat masquerading as an antique!!

Are there any physical characteristics that run in your family?

There are no particular attributes that run in our family – nothing like big noses or anything. Most of us have hazel eyes, but that’s about it. Our family genes are very strong though – when members of our family have children it is almost always our genes which are the dominant ones. Thank goodness, or Isla would have ended up with a big nose!!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The Great Storm

Thank you to Joocey, who updated my blogs for me while I was off the grid! To find out about The Great Storm, go to my other blog, which you will find here!

Memoirs of a Mother will continue, just as soon as I have got rid of this rotten cold!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Stormy Weather

I'm writing this on behalf of Mademoiselle duGers, since she has not a jot of electricity, water or telecommunications. (Thanks to those infernal nasty storms that have been battering France and Spain.) Hence she has nothing with which to access her internet. Poor thing. Its a bit like the 18th Century, by all accounts, except that she does have a rather handy swimming pool to get water from, and a gas cooker to boil some water. So at least a cup of tea (albeit slightly chlorinated) is possible.

Fear not, though - I'm sure normal memoirs service shall return shortly.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

When did you first drive a car? Officially and unofficially?

We used to go into the Forestry areas regularly to “borrow” wood for the fire! We never took logs from piles, but instead took the bits that the Forestry Commission didn’t want. The wood was pine, so it burnt fast and hot, so we had to use coal as well.

I’m getting away from the point though!

We would drive up into the forests, with the dogs. We went wood hunting in all weathers, but made a dog walk out of it as well. From the age of about 12, our outings became driving lessons as well. Because the forests were empty at the weekends, and had extremely well maintained dirt roads, it was a perfect place to learn the basics of driving. Within just a few weeks, I was driving quite happily (albeit only up to 3rd gear!) through the Forestry Commission forests.

When I got to 17 (UK legal driving age), and started driving lessons I could already drive, but had never had experience on actual roads. So the basics could be skipped. My mum had actually been a driving instructor when I was a baby, so what I had learnt was the right and proper way to drive. All I needed lessons for was for confidence, and to learn the manoeuvres that would enable me to pass my test. My mum insisted that I learnt to drive in Dumfries, rather than our more local town of Castle Douglas, as it was a bigger town and had more than one zebra crossing and set of traffic lights! Castle Douglas is a pretty basic town!

I had lessons on and off for just over a year – depending on whether we could afford the lessons or not! Every day though, I drove into Dumfries where I went to school, and my dad worked. I got loads of practice.

I passed my test not long after I was 18, and got my first car a few months after that, thanks to some money left to me by an aunt. It was a banger, but I firmly believe that everyone’s first car should be a banger, because everyone knackers their first car, and I was not different!

That’s for another post though I think. Cars I have owned!

What about you? What age did you start driving and what was your first car?
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

Friday, 16 January 2009

Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?

My dad has an ancient, probably antique, Good Housekeeping recipe book – it is in a red cover, and is like my bible! There are loads of great recipes in there, mostly traditional, and I have taken loads of my recipes from there.

As you know, I was a chef, and still am occasionally, and still, I refer to this to check on cooking times for meats etc.

There are a few others that have been passed down to me like the Chocolate Fridge Cake, which is a recipe that was given to my mum years ago by a friend in South Africa. There’s also gingered cucumber, salmon mousse, and a lovely one that was a recipe of my dad’s cousin who died 9 years ago with coconut and jam! It’s very tasty. Most of my cooking skills were taught to me by my mum as my Grandma has never liked cooking. She was a very good cook – I have never tasted, or never liked any mashed potato but hers! Even I can’t get it that good! Grandma still cooks for herself, but only simple things as she’s getting older, her sight is getting worse, and she doesn’t like cooking with oil.

I remember when I was little, she had this really cool thing given to her by, I think, the Blind Society – whatever it’s real name is! Royal National Institute for the Blind or something. It was a little yellow thing, longer on one side, that you popped into a cup and when you had filled the cup up with boiling water is made a bleeping sound to show that it was full enough. She hardly ever used it, but I thought it was cool!

Anyway, to get back to the topic, here is a link to just some of my recipes.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?

The oldest relative in my family is, and always has been, my Grandma. She’s still around, at 88, and going strong despite fracturing her hip last year.

I’ve always taken a great interest in talking to her about her life, and about her parents and what she remembers about other relatives. I’m quite keen on genealogy – I love to know how we became who we are and where we came from. I’ve got back to about the beginning of the 1800’s, and can’t get any further without consulting parish records in Devon, of all places.

Anyway, my Grandma was born in Ireland in 1920, less than two years before the civil war. Her mother was a teacher, who married an English soldier. To be fair, I don’t think he was a soldier when they married, I think he was working for Ford by that time, but even so…she was bloody brave to marry an Englishman at a time when they were hated so much.

They lived in Ireland until Grandma was about 6, and moved back to England, because her father could get a better job there.

They lived in Devon for a while, but ended up living in Portsmouth, and were living there by the outbreak of WW2. Portsmouth was one of the most bombed places in Britain, due to the fact that it has (had?) the largest Naval dockyard in the country. Grandma was evacuated out to W Sussex, to an old country house, along with the rest of the staff from her office. It was something to do with the war office. They were meant to do the fire watch every night, but ended up going to the pub instead! Who knows what would have happened if a stray incendiary had dropped and a fire had happened – “oops, sorry sir, we were in the pub”! What I want to know is why the hell did they have someone on fire watch who couldn’t see! Grandma is registered blind now, but her sight has never been good!

She met my Grandad through a friend in the office, and within six weeks they were engaged. It must have been awfully romantic at the time. It wasn’t done in haste for any other reason apart from the fact that they were in love. The war was over (anyway, the furthest overseas my Grandad went was the Isle of Wight!), and she was a good girl!

They had three children, and lived in Singapore, where my Grandad was a teacher working as a civilian within the RAF. They lived at a place called Seletar and my mum went to Changi Grammar School – this was in the 60’s. Then they moved on to Tanzania, then Malawi, then back to UK. This was how my mum met my dad, and ended up going back to live in Malawi.

Anyway, Grandma spends quite a lot of time with us, and it’s really good to get her talking about “the olden days”. It’s interesting, and I love hearing about what she got up to during the war, what it was like to live through that, and what it was like then. If we don’t ask her, there is no one else to tell us from a personal perspective. Books are all very well, but they lack the personal glimpse into another life.