Saturday, 30 August 2014

haunted by books

My friend Steve, who blogs over at Shores of Night has issued a challenge:
"List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the "right" books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way."
I know he said not to over think it, but this has been rattling around my head all day.  I've been adding books to an Evernote as I deem them fit for the list, but I've now come to the point where I'm just going to finish it.

What books stay with you?

Here's my ten.
  1. Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite - Ms Brite's publishers decided they didn't want to publish this book.  She was a good seller, but this was just a little too horrible.  Publishers were leery of portraying real serial killers like vampires.  It was a little too glamorous.  She found publishers though, and it came out.  I read it.  There's a scene in it so disgusting that it actually made me vomit.  I can still picture that scene, although I wish it didn't stay with me.  I've not risked Ms Brite since, although I'm sure I'm missing out.
  2. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor - Oh Forever Amber.  I read this in my late teens and got so caught up in it.  I couldn't put it down, although I had to at one point, when I could no longer actually read the book, I was crying so hard. A glorious book, and very silly.  There's a great old film too.  If you've got over two hours to kill check it out here.
  3. The Mummyfesto by Linda Green -  
    so bad I couldn't read it, and no-one will take it off my hands. Made me realise that I could actually get a book published, so perhaps it was good after all.
  4. The Wraeththu series by Storm Constantine - interesting ideas, fab characters, and a well developed mythos. I want more books like this in the world.  Actually, there are more books like this in the world, as Constantine has recently(ish) written more.  They're on the list.
  5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - I loved this book as a kid, and it still stays with me, although my take on it has shifted. And this, again, is something that I love. A story that can be understood in different ways.  First, at face value, I empathised with Jane, and could fall in love with the infuriating Mr Rochester alongside her.  I loved the magic of their coming back together.  But then the cracks start to show.  How could he treat Bertha so? Why not marry St John? Why not marry no-one and be a teacher, perhaps write books, enjoy walks on the moors?
  6. A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin - I love the Song of Ice and Fire series, and I cannot wait for the next instalment, but the reason I've chosen this particular book is ... SPOILER ALERT ... I remember that I was lying on my cheap futon, with my elephant duvet cover on, in my damp flat in Meanwood, next door to an illegal boxing club and repeatedly broken into, when I read the bit in the book where Ned dies.  He dies!  There are myriad ways set up to save him, and you're wondering which one will come to fruition when he goes and actually dies!  Before Martin that never happened, but that break with the rules meant that surely anything was possible.  
  7. The Adventures of Charlotte the Marmot by Gerda Muller.
    And now for something completely different. I don't remember the story in Charlotte the Marmot, but the pictures were captivating. In particular there was one with a cross section of Charlotte's underground home, beautifully detailed, which completely captured my imagination.
  8. Man, Myth & Magic, edited by Richard Cavendish.  My Mum collected the magazines that form this seven volume encyclopaedia of the supernatural, which I loved reading as a teenager.  It gave me an abiding interest in religion, superstition, and ways of living, and I have no idea where it is now.
  9. The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.  These stories are a fun bit of fluff, but the characters are engaging, and well wrought.  When True Blood first hit our screens I enjoyed watching the story I recognised, and the characters I knew.  I especially liked the way that Vampire Bill said 'Sookie', and of course, the delightful Eric Northman.  I was REALLY happy when True Blood took those characters and ran with them, leaving the books to do their thing while they did something else.  I am so happy that Lafayette lived, and it made me think that I rather like it if we create characters and send them off into the world.  So I like the possibilities of fanfic.  Why not let other people play with your characters?
  10. The Bible by various authors.  I was trying to avoid this, but it kept coming back to me. Steve said it doesn't have to be the 'right' book, and I don't like this being in my list, but there you go.  I did have a copy of the Bible as a teen, full of stickers, underlinings and highlighter pen.  I spent a lot of time reading it and having it explained to me.  But then I grew out of that little bit of rebellion, and I am still angry about the lies of Christianity and the harm it does to us all.  But the Bible still impacts on me. I live in a Christian country, and everything around me is formed by the patriarchal nonsense in its pages.  Meh.
And breathe.

At home we're loving the start of the Largs Viking Festival this weekend, and I'm chuffed to bits for winning a competition with one of my blog posts (on driving).

Here's some other posts you might like:

Thursday, 28 August 2014

sharing parasites

Back to school, and everyone has been on holiday, collecting new bugs to bring back to school and share with their friends.

Sniffles and tummy bugs are all the rage, and these pass soon enough, but some things are more tenacious, I'm talking about parasites, in particular two which are the bane of nurseries and primary schools.

Head lice
A male head louse (pic from wikipedia commons here)

Head lice spend their lives on human heads, feeding on human blood.  They are not very good at walking, and cannot jump or fly at all, so they are passed on by close contact of heads. Contrary to the stated opinion of some teachers, loose hair is not more likely to spread head lice as they cannot swing Tarzan-like from head to head.  If they are unlucky enough to come off the head they will die within two days.

If you're looking for close contact of heads, look no further than a primary school.  The children seem to have no concept of personal space and spend their days squishing up to each other.  It's brilliant, if you're a head louse.  Because girls spend more time cuddling each other than boys, they are more at risk, but head lice are really not that serious.

I mean, they're horrible, and it isn't pleasant to find them crawling about on your child's head, but they don't carry any diseases.

To treat head lice you can get chemical treatments from the chemist (in Scotland you can get these under the minor ailments).  You need to comb the hair A LOT, with a fine tooth comb, and you will generally find that not all the lice are quite dead.  

Each female head louse can lay 3-4 eggs a day, and your chemical treatment will not kill these, so you'll need to do regular (daily if possible) fine-tooth combing of wet hair (it's more effective if you drench the hair in conditioner) for a couple of weeks to be on the safe side.  By the way, 'nits' is the word for the empty shell casings left on the hair after the lice have hatched out.  In cooler climates eggs are laid within about 5mm of the scalp to keep them warm (in hotter areas they can be 15cm down the hair shaft!).

You also need to tell the school that you've had head lice, however, schools don't seem to do anything about it at the moment, so you're best to also tell the other parents you know, otherwise your child is likely to get reinfested quite soon.  If everyone treats their children at the same time, and as diligently, you can wipe them out... for a while.

There is no need to wash everything in sight if you treat the infestation as described.

Are you itching yet?

Two female threadworms.  The ruler markings are
milimetres. Pic from wikipedia commons, here

Threadworms (or pinworms if you're in the US) are tiny little worms which look like tiny bits of thread, they live in human intestines, but need oxygen for their eggs to mature.  A female threadworm will fill her body entirely with lots of tiny eggs, and when I say lots I mean 11-16,000, and then leave the body via the anus to lay the eggs and then die.  This happens at night for some reason.  

When she lays her eggs she secretes a mucus which irritates the skin, causing the host to itch. Eggs are laid around the anus, and in girls, around the vagina and urethra too. The eggs have a sticky coating to start off with, and we cannot see them, so they transfer to clothing, itching fingers, bed sheets, and from there go further.

From fingers they can be transferred into mouths, and reinfest the host, or can stick onto toys, remote controls, mobile 'phones, pretty much anywhere.  When you change the beds the eggs can be shaken off and get onto drawers, carpets, and even be inhaled.  The eggs can survive temperatures of -8C, and will remain viable for up to three weeks.

Threadworms live all over the world, and around 11% of people have them, although when you focus in on children this rises massively because children are not great at hand hygiene.  Some studies have suggested that 50% of children are affected.

So, what do you do if your children are affected?  It can be tricky to spot the worms themselves, but it's a definite maybe if your child is complaining of an itchy bum, or a girl is complaining of itchy bits, especially if it's really itchy at night.  

You can get treatment for threadworms from the pharmacist on the minor ailments if you're in Scotland.  You can probably buy something at the pharmacist if you're elsewhere.  It consists of one tablet, and that's all.

However, now you've killed the worms, you've got those tens of thousands of eggs to deal with.  So wash, wash everything in sight.  Take the bedding off the beds as gently as possible to avoid wafting the eggs into the air, and wash them as hot as you can.  Clean everything initially, and hoover the house.

After that you need to be vigilant about cleanliness for a couple of weeks.  Be particularly careful about keeping kitchen and bathroom surfaces clean, and hoover regularly.  Ensure children cover their bums in bed, onesies are ideal because they're hard to accidentally scratch your bum in.  It's really important to stress hand hygiene, washing hands after going to the toilet and before eating.

After two weeks you can get another treatment from the pharmacist, and then you can relax a bit on the cleaning front.

Eurgh.  Threadworms are vile.

Of course, there are lots of things that live on our bodies and in our bodies which are fine - eyelash mites affect 80% of people over 60 and rarely cause trouble, we need bacteria in our gut or we get sick, but I for one could live without threadworms, and without headlice.  

Have your family been affected by tiny beasties?

Other posts you might like:
Broken arm but still fabulous.

The little girl had a hospital appointment earlier this week to see how the broken bones are getting on.  It is still a little bit wonky, but the doctors are happy that it is within acceptable limits.  The break is in the middle of the bone and the bone grows from either end, so will straighten out over time.  Apparently in a couple of years you'll hardly be able to tell she'd broken it.  She still has her heavy plaster cast on at the moment, but there is hope that she could get a smaller cast in another couple of weeks.  It's two weeks since she broke it.

looking forward to September

September is a special time in our house.

There's all the usual stuff; getting settled back into school, and after school clubs (the big girl is VERY excited about starting Brownies this year), the weather cooling, but still being nice enough for plenty of walks and cycle rides.

But added to that is the excitement of TWO birthdays.  The big girl will be 7 this year, the boy will be 9, the presents, the parties, the birthday teas, it's all good.  And now that we live in Largs we also have The Viking Festival to look forward to.

Last year it was 750 years since Largs was invaded by the Vikings in 1263, and we had a massive do to celebrate.  It was really good fun, but the best news is that it happens every year!
Last year's parade

We're kicking off this weekend with the parade on Saturday and opening ceremony, with music and various displays of fighting and aerobatics (weather permitting) all weekend.  Plus there are markets on the prom - food, craft, a  Vintage market, and a 'Global' market.

This year there will be a Viking Village set up (which the kids really enjoyed last year), which will be peopled by the Swords of Dalriada re-enactment group (who are rather lovely).  There will also be Viking traders from all over, so it'll be a top destination for early Christmas shopping.  School parties go down to the Viking village through the week, and I will be there, asking the re-enactors random questions.

Coin minting in the Viking Village last year
To be honest, I find re-enactors really useful for book research. I ask the women lots of questions about clothes and weaving techniques, and last year spent a while being shown what the blacksmith would do with a broken sword.  It's great to feel the heat of the fire, and see the heavy clothes the smith needs to wear.  On the clothes front, I learned that Vikings wore woven socks, as knitting had not been invented.  The re-enactors wear authentic socks, and say that they're rather hot in the summer.

The following weekend is my daughter's birthday, and on the Friday night there's a torch lit procession to light the Aubery beacon, complete with fire dancers, but Saturday is the Party at the Pencil, with the battle reenactment, the burning of the Viking longship and FIREWORKS!

Can't wait.

Other stuff we're looking forward to in September is the little girl hopefully downgrading to a lighter (purple sparkly) cast.  She's got her next appointment in two weeks, so fingers crossed for that. 

What are you looking forward to in September?

Other posts you might like:

Friday, 22 August 2014

looking for cream of tartar

What do you have for breakfast at the weekend?

Around here, our favourite breakfast is scotch pancakes.  We have a go to recipe scribbled in the front of a cook book.  If you fancy giving it a go, here's the recipe. This quantity is for a one egg mixture, I generally make twice as much for our whole family:

Scotch pancakes

120g self raising flour
1/2tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
30g caster sugar
1 egg
1/4 pint of milk

What you do is: 

  1. sift the dry stuff, and then mix it up.
  2. Slowly add the wet stuff and combine well (I use an electric whisk).
  3. Heat a frying pan or two (or a griddle if you've got one), and pop some oil on.
  4. When hot enough tip excess oil out (I keep it in a ramekin), and spoon desertspoonfuls of the pancake mixture in.  I can usually fit 3 or 4 in a pan.
  5. When you see bubbles form in the pancake mixture turn them over with a fish slice.
  6. When browned on both sides pile them up on a plate (see above).
  7. Eat them!  You can spread them with all sorts of things.  Family favourites for us include chocolate spread, butter and Rose's marmalade, and butter and maple syrup.
  8. If you have any left over wrap them in a bit of kitchen towel and pop in the bread bin.  When they're cold they're delicious with butter.

Sadly, we've not been eating Scotch pancakes of late, we've been using our American pancake recipe instead (they're yummy too, but one does feel one is letting the side down).  Why?  Because we've run out of cream of tartar and we want to buy some more.  We want a box of it, like the ones we have of Bicarb and Baking Powder, but all we can find are little over-priced satchets.  We keep thinking we'll see some somewhere but we haven't.  

What has happened to the Cream of Tartar?

I wondered if there had been a national shortage of cream of tartar, so I had a look on t'internet to see where it comes from.  You'll be glad to know that it is a bi-product of wine-making, so it's not likely that it'll run out anytime soon (I know I'm doing my bit).  So, I can only assume that people aren't buying it.

I asked my friend Mary, who makes cakes, and she has no idea why I can't find cream of tartar.  She did say though, that she doesn't actually use it in her cakes. 

Apparently its main uses are in making icing smoother, and making meringues.

I'm still looking for a proper container of cream of tartar, so if you do see any on your travels please let me know.*  So far, I've ruled out Tescos and Morrisons.  Meanwhile, we'll eat American pancakes.

Other posts you might like:

*Update on cream of tartar: Massive thanks to my readers Wendy and John Dixon who were kind enough to send me cream of tartar supplies from the Isle of Man. Loving your work people.

Also, this is the recipe I recently had published in The Guardian, and I'm chuffed to bits about that. Here's the link for that article.

Sooo excited about going back to nursery today :-)
Update on the little girl's arm: We went to hospital for a follow up appointment on Thursday.  She has broken both bones in her lower arm.  The thinner bone just bent a bit (this is a break only kids can get), while the thicker bone snapped through and was not aligned.  She had an operation to manipulate it straight, but it has gone back to being a little unaligned.  We have another appointment next week to see if it's getting worse.  If it is she'll need another two operations.  If it stays as it is now then it will straighten over time as she grows and they'll leave it.  The little girl went back to nursery today.  She was delighted to catch up with her friends.  She was a grumpy monkey afterwards.  This evening however, we chilled out with family and drew lots of cutie marks on her cast.  She's running out of room!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

debating independence

Helensburgh from Greenock, Scotland
We've got just over a month to go until the referendum on Scottish Independence. Everyone aged 16 and over in Scotland can vote, and my Facebook feed has been abuzz about it for AGES.

Remember the idea that politics and religion weren't polite subjects for conversation? Well apparently it's OK to talk about the referendum.

I'm happy that people are talking politics, but the way it's being done is often pretty nasty, and divisive.

I'm going to say right now that I'm intending on voting to stay in the Union, so you know what my biases are, but I do agree with the people who complain that the Better Together Campaign is a Tory campaign, run from London.

That said, the Yes (or Aye) campaign for Scottish Independence is being run by the Scottish National Party. Of course it is.  They promised it when they were elected.

My corner of Scotland
The Better Together campaign is basically a campaign to stay as we are.  There are carrots dangled of devo-max (an option removed from the referendum, whereby Scotland stays within the Union but gets additional powers devolved to the Scottish Government), but other than that, all they really have to do is promote feelings of Britishness (research shows that Scots tend to feel Scottish first and British second, but they do feel British), and undermine the campaign for independence.

By contrast, the Yes campaign, for Scottish independence, is promoting feelings of Scottishness, and talking about all the ways Scotland would be better off without being part of the union.  All these are, have to be theoretical, because Scotland is still a part of the union.  

The Yes campaign is very strong on Social Media.  Lots of people have great big blue blobs with YES written on them, and my friends are sharing the marketing material.  Like this one, outlining some reasons why Scotland would be better off independent.

Well, let's have a look at those points shall we?

1) Scotland is part of Britain and therefore has a few representatives in Westminster - where the British parliament is based.  Most of Scottish policy is formulated by the Scottish Government, based in Edinburgh, in Scotland's central belt.  No English areas are represented in the Scottish Government.
Scotland also sends representatives to the European Government, and some policies from that also affect Scotland.  

Westminster Houses of Parliament from the London Eye
2) This is talking about the Tory led government currently in power in Westminster.  There are a few points to make here: a) This is a minority government - most of the people of Britain did not vote for them. b) The Tory led government is the Westminster Government for Britain (see 1), and can change in forthcoming general elections.  c) The Scottish Government is currently SNP led.  There are Tory members, like Annabel Goldie, former leader of the Scottish Conservatives, and one of the representatives for my area of Scotland. d) Did Alex Salmond claim that the Scottish people didn't elect Westminster MPs when he was one, which he was until the SNP won the election in Scotland?

3) The Treasury in London does currently cover the whole of the UK.  Scotland does rather well out of the Barnett formula at the moment.  Aberdeen has made a lot of money from oil, and it is understandable that Scotland would want to make more (and also from fracking), but couldn't Scotland aspire to moving away from fossil fuels?

4) Well, it's close to the Clyde, I'll give you that, and the world would be a better place without nuclear weapons.  But 'facility' suggests it's more than a few submarines, and personally I think it would be a shame to lose all the people who work there when they have to relocate to Portsmouth or somewhere similar.

My poor little girl has recently been testing how
awesome the Scottish NHS is.  Thank you to
the brilliant staff of Crosshouse Hospital, and to
Stuart and Steve.
5) The NHS in Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government, and health policy is decided by the Scottish Government.  If England privatises the English NHS it will be a terrible tragedy for England.  Similarly Scottish education policy and funding comes from the Scottish Government, and the Scottish education system is very different to the English system.  I'm not sure what the evidence is that English schools are being privatised, but if they're talking about private finance partnerships, then that already happens in Scotland, and provides improved facilities for students.

6) Yes! There are a lot of Scottish people in the United Kingdom armed forces.  And yes, the armed forces are directed by Westminster.  I hope they mainly serve to help make people safe, but sometimes mistakes (and misdirection) happen.  This is a big issue, worth worrying about, but I'd rather our armed troops were involved in 'foreign' wars, than Scottish ones!

7 & 8) There was a GLOBAL financial crisis.  The Royal Bank of SCOTLAND had to be bailed out.  The banking system does seem to be corrupt (still), but Scottish bankers have their fingers right inside that pie.

9) Yes! Benefits are decided UK wide, and the people of Scotland seem to be more inclined to supporting the poor and needy than the English Government (which seems to be considering reinstating workhouses).  We need to wrestle control of benefits from the English government, because bringing the poor down brings society down, and is also just plain rude.

But a word of warning, be careful who you share your views with.  I've seen some fairly odd statements cropping up on Facebook, here are some examples:

  • Apparently, if we vote against independence we will never be able to sing Flower of Scotland again with pride.  Having had to sing it THREE TIMES at a school assembly last year, that sounds good to me.
  • Some parents are angry that schools have registered pupils to vote, without the parents consent (erm, why? saves them a job doesn't it?).
  • Apparently, if you vote no, you can't claim to be Scottish.  Personally I'm not bothered.  My husband is always reminding me that as I was born in England I'm not Scottish (although his daughter can be, lol), but anyway, this is just rubbish.

I'm not sure I should ask, but what are your thoughts on the debate thus far?  And how can we all stay friends for another month of it!?

Other posts you might like:

Building a batmobile with a
broken arm?  No problem.

Update on the little girl's arm: Her cast has dried and she has a picture of Twilight Sparkle on it, her arm is a lot less sore, and the swelling seems to have gone down a lot too.  She's still got a very sore thumb, so I'm going to talk to the specialist about that tomorrow.  Not sure if it's just because of where the tendon connects on the arm or if there's another small break which hasn't yet been detected.  The main thing though is that my fiercely independent little lady is still fiercely independent, and is back to jumping off the sofa (ffs).

Thursday, 14 August 2014

going back to school

Visiting Lindisfarne castle in Northumberland
I love spending time with my kids. They're great people, and it's lovely to have a whole summer holidays worth of lazy mornings, day trips, and picnics. Oh and plenty of castles too. We've had lots of time to find out about all the fun things there are to do around here (not that we've done them all yet), and just got back from a family holiday to Northumberland.

But add to that the bickering, the whining, the refusal to get dressed or leave the house (even though they enjoy themselves once they're out), and the cry of the overtired child, not to mention having no time at all to get anything done (which might be a slight exaggeration), and you can see why I'm so very glad that they're going back to school.

I'm lucky though. The children have joined a great school here in Largs, where they've made good friends, and the teachers have been supportive of them. We've only heard good things about their teachers this year as well, so it's easy to look forward to school. Sadly, the buildings and playground are past their best, and the food since the council closed the kitchen is diabolical.

I am delighted, therefore, that the council are considering making a super school. I really hope that it goes ahead and that all the Largs schools go into it. I understand that there are some queries being raised about St Mary's, but all the schools are Christian schools (much as I wish faith was kept totally out of schools), and our children will all benefit from increased opportunities to play together.

We used to live in Moffat, which has a fabulous all through school, from nursery to 18. There is one big building which is divided into two wings – the big side is the secondary school, the small side is the primary school, and there's an extra bit on the side of that, which is the nursery.

Having everyone together in Moffat means that although the age groups rarely meet, sports facilities, some outdoor facilities, and a dedicated canteen can be shared, so PE never has to be cancelled for assembly practice and the food is great. Moffat offers childcare qualifications for older kids who can do their practice in the nursery. Also the older kids run the younger kids discos so they are a lot cooler than they might otherwise be!

Moffat Academy got a new building a few years ago, which is sleek, modern, and adaptable. It's also got a covered, sheltered (ish) waiting area for parents, which would be a welcome change to standing outside Brisbane in the 3pm rain. Moffat also built in lots of bike racks to its new building, and this assumption that kids would cycle or scoot to school bore real fruit.

Of course, there'll be some things to work out. The idea at the moment seems to be that all the schools would be contained in one area with some shared facilities. This might make sense in the short term, but I'd hope that in the long term the whole school could be called Largs Academy. As for mottoes, I am particularly partial to Brisbane Primary's: AIM HIGH.

The big kids are back to school on Monday.  The little girl will have to have a couple of weeks off with her broken arm.  Pants.

Other posts you might like:

breaking her little arm!

I don't know how it happened.

I mean, I do know how it happened, but I cannot believe that it did actually happen.

Yesterday I was happy that the in-laws were back from their holidays, the kids were going to go to them for the afternoon, and I was going to get my hair done.  I was excited about having some time to myself.

I'd got all the stuff together, and we were good to go.  I gave the little girl her bag of toys, and she went outside, put her bag down, and watched her brother running about.  I went to lock up the house, and then the screaming started.

I went to see what was wrong, and found the little girl on the floor, screaming.  Really screaming.  I picked her up and could just about see that her face didn't look right, I tried to clear the hair out of her face, and was trying to find out what had happened from the older children, while trying to get the little one to breathe and stop screaming.  

I got through to her face and it looked ok.  Except that she was very upset. I tried to look at her hands, to see if she'd grazed them, and she screamed...

And I noticed that her arm was not the right shape.

How can a roughtie toughtie little girl break her arm falling over?  Not even running or anything?

Anyway, the boy had his head screwed on and he ran to get a neighbour who's a nurse.  Meanwhile I called an ambulance, because even though part of me was thinking that I should just bundle her in the car and take her to A&E, I had no idea where the right place to take her was.  We're not close to anywhere, and HER ARM WAS NOT THE RIGHT SHAPE.

The ambulance and the nurse arrived quickly, and the paramedic and the nurse discussed the way forward and I was incredibly grateful that these men who knew what they were doing had taken over.  My son was despatched to fetch the scales from upstairs and we weighed the little girl.  The health professionals gave her paracetamol and ibuprofen which I had at home, but she was still screaming.  We agreed we'd take her in the ambulance so she could take gas and air on the way to the hospital.  

Turns out that she's a big fan of gas and air.  The screaming stopped.  Stuart the paramedic kept on talking to her, and she was so good and so brave.  The other kids were brilliant too.  They carried all the stuff, and helped me make phone calls to the in laws to fetch the kids from the hospital, and to K, at work, although we didn't manage to get through to him.

They took us to Crosshouse hospital, which is further than our local A&E, but Stuart told us that they could deal with paediatric orthopaedics there, and if we had gone to our local A&E we would have been transferred, so I'm glad I called the ambulance.

At Crosshouse we got taken straight to paediatric A&E which had a lovely, friendly, welcoming atmosphere.  We met a doctor who introduced himself as 'Lucas', and told the little girl he was a 'bone doctor'.  They X rayed her arm and saw that she'd broken both her radial and ulna bones, and one of them was displaced.  Lucas explained to her that they'd put her arm in a special plaster, but that she'd need to come back in the morning for an operation.

My baby!

She was so good the whole time we were at the hospital, and to prove it she came out bedecked in stickers.  I told her that I'd take her home, but she reminded me she was supposed to be sleeping over at her Grandparent's house.  

The little girl with her stookie, sleeping over at her
Grandparent's house.
She's a determined little sucker.

We came to an arrangement.  I would stay over too.  She was happy, and I was so glad to have my in law's help.

She slept all night.  I didn't.  My baby was going to have an operation under general anaesthetic, and people can tell me it will be fine all they like, it isn't fine.  At 4.30am I was online, trying to find out about other people's children breaking limbs, which is when I came across this great blog post from Peanut Blossom (I believe it's an American biscuit).  It made me feel like it was all going to be OK, eventually.

So I thought I'd share the little girl's story too, to hopefully provide someone else with inspiration when they unfortunately need it.

Waiting for theatre
This morning we were up at the hospital bright and early, in the lovely paediatric ward, where the nurses made the little girl feel braver, and everyone was lovely.  

The little girl got changed into a gown, and got her name tag, and a smiley face on her shoulder. 

We didn't have too long to wait until she went in to theatre to have her arm straightened.  They were not going to use pins, just pull it straight, which sounds utterly disgusting to me.  I got to go with her for her anaesthetic, which was such a horrible thing to witness, but the staff were supportive and firm, and so very professional, and I felt confident about them.

I sat and read my book while I waited for her to come back.  They told me she'd been fine in recovery, but seeing me sent her into floods of tears (she really doesn't like to cry in front of strangers).  She had had paracetamol and diclofenac, but was in a lot of pain and couldn't keep still with it.

They only look this angelic when they're not
I helped her to calm down, and the doctor decided to give her some special morphine for children.  Another family on the ward lent her some DVDs to watch, and she was soon zonked out, staring at that.

We were out of hospital by half four.  Her arm is a bit sore still, but she's cheered right up.

We'll have appointments at the hospital every couple of weeks to see how she's getting on.  She's hoping that she'll get to change casts and get a purple glittery one.  In the meantime she wants me to draw Twilight Sparkle on her stookie!

I'll keep you informed.

Monday, 11 August 2014

getting your body back after a baby

Every body is different.

Every body is built slightly differently to start off with, and then there are layers of life laid over it.  If you're a big lass like me you can take that quite literally!

When you go into having a baby it's quite apparent that this is quite a major thing to do with your body.  

Trying to get pregnant, or falling pregnant can make you think about how you're treating yourself.  I've a friend who had bulimia, but stopped when she became pregnant.  She just couldn't see why she was doing it any more.  I gave up smoking the moment I discovered I was pregnant with my first child, knowing that what I was doing was affecting someone else made it so much easier.

But it's not all good news.  Pregnancy can have some interesting affects on your body.  Some pregnancies involve nausea, to a greater or lesser extent, which can wipe people out, and actually cause weight loss.  Some cause insomnia, which can really wear you down.  Some pregnancies go virtually unnoticed - even by people whom we might expect to know better.  People seem to get bigger faster in subsequent pregnancies.  It's as if the body says 'you're doing this again?  Fine!  I give up.'  And then there is all the fun of your joints becoming looser.

After you've had a baby, even though we know really that we don't need to look like we've never had a baby, everything in your life has changed, and to top it all, you're body is not what it was before.  It can be hard to cope with.  

All my babies were big, but my third was very big, and I was very big when I was pregnant with her.  Add to that the oedema I suffered at the end, which blew up my ankles, my fingers, and my tummy (because I needed a bigger tummy!).  I had to have a section, and after it, for a very long time, my tummy looked a mess.  

Late one night when I had caught sight of my body in a mirror, and was so tired that I just wept about it, I got a message from my friend Helen, asking how I was doing.  

I told the truth.

I cried, and I told her in detail all about the saggy skin and the painful scar, and the bits with nerve damage, and how tired I was and how I would never ever be sexy again.

And she didn't tell me everything would be fine, and that I should be happy about my baby.  She told me how sad she felt for me, and that she was sure things would improve but that surgery was bound to help if nothing else did.  She also suggested I go to see the doctor to maybe get some counselling, and when I told her I was fine she gently reminded me of the time I'd told her to see the doctor.  I was right, and so was she.

I'm still not happy with my body, but there's a lot of that about.  It has got better, things do, over time, and you can get surgery if you need to.  I still think it'll get better, when I've got more time, which is soon, right?  But the thing is, I think the biggest improvement can come from a mental shift, rather than a physical one.

Now I have beautiful children. I can see that they are beautiful, and that they are perfect.  They have different shaped bodies, and that doesn't matter. Whether chubby or skinny, they are beautiful and they are perfect.

And if I were to look at my daughter one day when she is forty, and she is fat and saggy and tired, would she be less perfect?

With arms she hides away, but which are perfect for cuddles.  With a tummy she hates, but which has carried beautiful children.  With saggy breasts which have fed them?  She would still be beautiful, just different.  I hope I would tell her she's beautiful, tell her she's a good mum, and then do the laundry and fetch her a cuppa.  But then again, I might be tired and fraught and bitch at her, because I'm a human.  I hope I'm nice.  But meanwhile, I need to be nicer to me.

Could you do with being nicer to yourself too?

Other posts you might like:

P.S. I doesn't seem right to not be doing the book challenge any more.  I'm staying away from it for a while, but I can't get it out of my head!  So I've been listing things to do when I come back to it.  Not yet though.  Not yet.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

driving the kids around

We don't live in the city, and we're too far from the school to walk. The bus service was withdrawn before we moved here, so we're always in and out of the car.

Because we've got three children, and all were, at one point, in car seats, we had to get a great big car to fit the seats in properly. We don't need such a big car now the oldest is in a normal seat, but I'm hardly going to switch cars because of that.

I know some people would, but to be honest with you, I find cars incredibly boring, and just want one that works and that can be relied on.  We switched to this one when the last one became unreliable, and we'll switch again when we have to.  Hopefully the next one won't be so big because a great big car is a pain when you're passing on narrow roads, or parking in the teensy weensy parking spaces which seem to be the thing at the moment.

I'm not a huge fan of driving, and I don't think I'm brilliant at it. I'm overly cautious at times, and I'm not a great fan of tricky parking spaces (although I am better at them in a smaller car). But I am aware that I'm usually driving with children, and I do try to set a good example.  I avoid speeding, and I avoid swearing, and I stress how important it is to be polite.  However, I think it's alright to call people numpties, right?  And it must surely be alright to say "no, don't bother saying thank you, I enjoyed sitting here while you blocked the road and didn't let me through even though it was my right of way," right?

The Scottish Government are running an advert about driving with kids in the car at the moment.  In case you haven't seen it it's here:

To tell the truth, me being a sassanach, I can't really make out what they're all saying, but you get the gist. There's also a website, which highlights some of the things people often do, which are teaching their children bad driving habits.  I took the quiz, and came out pretty well, although I know I could do better.  Couldn't we all?

In case you're wondering how to improve your no doubt awesome driving, here's some good advice from Scottish children:

There's a competition too, but I'm not going to tell you about it, because then we might not win!

Do you manage to set a good example to the passengers in your car?

Other posts you might like:

Friday, 8 August 2014

reading urban fantasy: a guest post by Steve Cotterill

Hi, my name’s Steve Cotterill: I’m a writer, blogger, gamer and student (amongst other things). I maintain a blog over at Shores of Night and Cara suggested we engage in a spot of guest blogging.

Out of the list of 50 topics she has, I chose to revisit the issue of genre and books, because so much of what I do is based around that kind of thing.

Whilst Cara talked about Fantasy with a pretty broad brush, I’m taking a narrower view and 
addressing a subset of the genre: in the form of Urban Fantasy. 

As most of the human race now dwells in an urban environment, the city is fast becoming our natural habitat: one with its own beauty and dangers. The way we live is constantly altering and as life gets more complex, and arguably ever safer, our desire for adventure and danger grows. It seems natural to populate our world with fantasy ideas, to explore it not only in the real world but also the world of myth and story; to bring mythology and folklore to bear in an urban setting.

As a genre Urban Fantasy takes two forms, often it’s used to refer to modern day fantasy in today’s world, but it can also go the other way, featuring urban stories in other worlds. 

Both varieties are frequently based on the idea that the fantastic may be tucked around the corner; you might turn the wrong way and find adventure, or peril; or anything else. The person who serves your coffee might be something else, something more than human. Once you get backstage, as it were, you might find legends hiding behind the world you know. 

In many stories that means that vampires, werewolves and witches (oh my) dwell in the cities, engaged in their own politics, and in many cases preying on the weak and delicious. That boy didn’t get into a knife fight, he was torn apart by a loup garou, that missing girl became a vampire’s concubine... until he killed her. This idea has become something of a cliché over time and many series do suffer from what feel like overcrowded worlds. Often the supernatural seems to remain hidden despite the odds.

Whilst the stories set in other worlds are often more blatant in how they have been designed, at their heart, they still address the same ideas as their earthbound cousins. Whether it’s New Crozubon in Perdido Street Station, Mary Gentle’s City in Rats and Gargoyles or even, reaching back to the Sword and Sorcery tradition, Lankhmar in Fritz Leiber’s Ffahrd and the Grey Mouser stories, these are living breathing metropolises with their own traditions and characters. Without them the stories would be less, somehow, to the extent that the cities are characters, as the protagonists that drive the books forward.

One of the things I like about the genre is that there’s a crossover of influences. Stories in urban settings can be as much crime or horror stories as they are fantasy, even romance gets a look in through novelists like Charlaine Harris or Laurell K Hamilton; they have a relevance to human life that epic fantasy just lacks a lot of the time.

Much as I love traditional fantasy, I’ve seen few attempts to link it to ideas like feminism (Juliet McKenna being an honourable exception) or to big ideas. Urban Fantasy, under the pens of Emma Newman, China Mieville, Mary Gentle and Neil Gaiman tackles these ideas with aplomb, exploring philosophical spaces as well as urban ones. It’s also more interesting, less tied to the shadow of writers because the genre’s composite nature makes it easier to mould and shape into something new.

So, given that I’ve banged my drum quite thoroughly, what would I recommend? I’ve selected six books that mainly focus on the city aspect.
Buy this for your kindle here

Rats and Gargoyles: Mary Gentle

One of the first urban fantasy novels I read, Rats is a heady and strange creature which features alchemy, humanoid rats, and the problem of having your gods living next door. Gentle draws in historical ideas, meshing them with fantasy ones to create a compelling world and a strong story that holds the reader’s interest from start to finish. It's deep and complex, which only makes it more satisfying to read.

Find this to buy on Amazon here
Between Two Thorns: Emma Newman

Set in the UK, in a ‘present day, present time’ sort of way, this novel bridges worlds, drawing in Faerie and a peculiar area known as the ‘Nether’, where a group of squabbling families who have served the Faerie lords for centuries dwell. Taking over old buildings they live in a fashion lost to the rest of us, as lords and ladies of estates and as people who live anachronistically; their manners
and customs are more akin to the ones in Downton Abbey than the 21.

Cathy, is the odd person out in all this. She kicks against the established order and at the start of the book has run away to hide in the human world where she can read science fiction and work towards her dream of being a human rights lawyer. At a time when British society is looking back with rose tinted spectacles to a time when there was more certainty and order, Newman provides us with a clear message that going back will only be detrimental. In addition she is brave, her faeries are not romantic, but seething beds of passion and control with the morals of alley cats.

Find this on Amazon here
Greenmantle: Charles de Lint

A Canadian hitman on the run from his old boss. A deep dark forest. A mystery under the branches and an ancient god. These are the beginning points of Green Mantle, written by Charles de Lint, one of the sub genre's defining voices. 

The novel grows from the ingredients above to provide a
satisfying tale of the clash of ancient and modern, loyalty and loss. Reminiscent of Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood novels Green Mantle taps into that part of us that wonders what happened to the old pieces of the world that was lost to our civilisation.

Buy it here, and there is more, so
much more by the wonderful Neil
Gaiman to be bought on Amazon
and elsewhere.  As he told Amanda
Palmer recently - people pay him
for this.
NeverWhere: Neil Gaiman

What lies under the skin of a city? That's the question Gaiman poses here, spinning something wonderful out of the idea that the tube stations are more than just places, but a strange mix of people and fief; that London is divided up into courts and factions that the normal person never sees. 

Richard Mayhew, hapless accountant, is drawn into this world by a foolhardy act of generosity, opening a world unlike the one around him, where barter is the norm, favours are taken seriously and people can talk to rats. Add in an angel in Islington, an Earl's Court on a tube train and seven deadly sisters and you get the picture that we aren't in Kansas anymore....

Written with a particular slant on homelessness, Gaiman wanted to avoid the idea that it was in anyway glamorous; Neverwhere brings the secrets of London to life in a way that serves the city not unlike the route taken in Tom Pollock's City's Son. Rather than impose into the the city he uses it, making particular reference to places like Knights Bridge, Down Street and so on.

Spreading across worlds and bringing in so much more than just fantasy, these books are clever, full of life and, perhaps most importantly, relevant to the way we live now.