Category Archives: Misc

Margaret coming to stay

(Ansafone message Fri Feb 13th 2009)

Hello it’s Margaret – I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed, I thought you’d be home starting to cook my elaborate dinner.  Ummm, it’s 6.30 and I just rang to say I’m about to leave, but I’ve only checked everything in the house 5 times so far, so I’ll probably need to do it a couple more times and then I’ll come along so I’ll be with you, I don’t know, probably 9 o’clockish.  I’m really looking forward to it – I hope you are!  See you soon


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Josiah’s Day

Josiah S. Shadow.  A long time ago.

I wake up at 7.00 o’clock.  At 7.15 Daddy comes in to tell me it’s time to get up.  At 7.25 Daddy comes in to tell me it’s time to get up.  At 25 to 8.00 he comes in and yells and says that I wanted to be woken early to get up to finish my homework so why am I lying in bed still and have I used my inhalers and had a shower and where’s my homework and what else did I have to do.  At a quarter to eight he comes in and screams at me but by then I’m very slowly getting dressed under the bedclothes, putting food-stained shirt and trousers on over two day old socks that I’ve also worn all night.  I later describe this as having a thorough wash.

Before sitting down to breakfast I go out of the room twice in a stompy manner because I don’t like the way my brothers are looking at me.  I eat three bowls of rice crispies with about 3 sugar puffs on the top of each.  Then I watch Mummy rubbing out all the home work I did last night while Daddy was looking after me, because it isn’t tidy enough.  So now I have to do orl of it again and I might as well not have bothered doing it last night.

Next I spend ten minutes sliding about in the utility room in my socks, so cleaning up the stick insect poo that is on the floor.  Daddy and Mummy remind me four times that I’m meant to be doing my teeth, and I have a fight with Isaac about whether the door should be half way or three quarters of the way closed.  Then there’s just time for 10 minutes of homework (that’s five words) before it’s time to go to school with a note for Mrs. Jones saying please can I have longer to do it.  Mummy screams it’s time to go now and it’s my fault if we’re late, so I put on my shoes, pull my socks right down to my ankles, ruffle up my hair to make it look as if it isn’t combed, and wait outside for about 5 minutes while Mummy runs up and down the stairs shouting.

PS  Isaac and Samuel are worse than this.

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Joys and disappointments in the summer holiday (ii)

Still not by Josiah, 2004

Here is one of my dad’s totally stupid ideas.  He suggested pretending that some of the red-headed Irish girls we met one evening in France were called Joy, and giving a blow-by-blow account of the night’s proceedings.  That would be ‘Joys in the summer holiday’, though I know I wouldn’t get away with it.  First of all, they were actually called Sinead, Aiofe, and (sigh) Victoria.  Secondly, despite the deceitful effect of the silvery moonlight, they turned out to have just a tiny aura of disappointment.  Even Victoria Joy.  I know it is a terrible thing to say, but they didn’t have the exotic allure of The Arcata Girls, who we met last year at Grizzly Creek.  You won’t know Arcata.  It has a webcam, and a major attraction is its swamp.  No, I’ve never been there either, but you see what I mean by exotic allure?  So the red-headed Joys would have to be classified, reluctantly, as a disappointment, except for the third and final problem.  You said you didn’t want to hear about our sordid dating experiences. So here we are at the end of the second paragraph, with nothing useful said on the subject.  Null points.  And I think I started a sentence with a sentence with a conjunction, so that would be minus uno.  Not a brilliant start.

So I’d better tell you about a real joy from our French holiday.  We went to Paris.  Romantic, n’est ce pas?  It was great.  We got up at 5am, and got lost on the way to the station before taking a train journey that lasted about three hours.  Then, because it was such a lovely day in Paris, my dad had this great idea that we should do a 10 mile walking tour of the city in thirty degree sunshine before going to the Musee d’Orsay.  The pictures in there are so great that they had about two thousand people in each room.  At the ends of the building are big station clocks that look as if they were made for Buster Keaton to hang from.  Probably to get cool.  One was just by the teashop, which we reached as it closed.  The best picture was that last one that Van Gogh painted just before he killed himself.  Crows over a cornfield.  I really identified with that one.  Boy, was that day a joy.  Do I love Paris.

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Joys and disappointments in the summer holiday (i)

Not by Josiah in 2004

You would think that writing that essay about your holidays would get easier as you got older.  Instead it seems to get more and more difficult.  And to complicate it with joys and disappointments – well, that creates a problem.  My friend Kirsten said ‘Tha’s jus’ shan’, but as I said to her, that is not the sort of language you can use in an English assignment, though she’ll find it easy otherwise.  She will find it difficult to know what to leave out.  Kirsten is in the heights of shrieking euphoria if she just sees someone in the street who looks a bit like some guy from Brookside (joy).  Whereas she will descend into a black gloom for the rest of the day if there’s not enough milk in the morning for her additive-laden psycho-pops (disappointment).  Which she only eats about twelve of, to save calories, then has a Mars Bar and a bag of crisps at break.  She can have a dozen joys and disappointments a day.  At the other extreme is my middle brother, who my mother says is about as emotional as a toilet seat.  Actually she said ‘goddam toilet seat’. Apparently that makes it a less terrible thing to say, because it is a Literary Quote, rather than worse because she said ‘goddam’, or because he might be permanently emotionally scarred.  You can’t beat rules like that.

I’m a lot more emotional than a toilet seat, and a little more emotional than my brother, but I’m pretty level-headed, and I’m struggling to find good examples of joys and disappointments. I probably need at least six to spin out this thing for long enough.  Fifteen if I write in my usual style, which I like to call telegraphic and to the point.  My dad calls it featureless and dull.  He says I should write in this style, that you are reading today, with rubbish spilling out all over the place, and totally irrelevant nonsense inserted apparently at random, as if the writer is suffering from the effects of a hallucinogenic drug.  That way I’ll only need three, more in keeping with my personality.  ‘Make them work for it’, he says. He’s at his worst when trying to be helpful like that.

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Christmas messages

Pentlands, December 2009

Saturday morning, slightly closer to Christmas than ideal for this kind of venture.  All has gone white.  Stuffed nose.  Sore throat.  Helen has risen late and as is her wont, at 11.30am has begun to look around the house for the first time this week and has suddenly discovered everything is untidy.  It’s quite clear no one else ever does anything in this house.  By 3.30 we will have been nearly adequately chided and will have constructed a to-do list and a 42 item shopping list.  By 4.30 we will leave the house, and at 6.40 we will be escorted out of John Lewis by security guards having made two purchases, one from the list and the other costing £353.  On the way home we will pick up a Swedish DVD with subtitles and afterwards will fall asleep on the sofa.  On Sunday we will need a change or a rest.

Unmissable from 2009
MoviesLet The Right One In.  Beautiful, moving, bewitching, sometimes humorous Swedish vampire movie. Even if you don’t do horror.
TVWallander.  Understated BBC4 Swedish detective series.  Watch the Swedish version.
YouTubeCommunityChannel –  clever.  How does she find the time? Or imagination?
MusicShooglenifty.  Still.  Come hear them in 2010.  And Tondal’s Vision (here is the artistic vision).
FoodMhor Fish, Callander. is upgraded

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Easter 2007

Here we are in a beautiful weekend in April with just one boy again, Samule and Isaac having just returned to York and Manchester respectively. Josiah has just been at Junior Yearly Meeting and has his bedroom floor covered in mixed dirty and clean clothes, schoolwork, gap year info, and Saffron cafe materials, and instead of writing up his Biology or Chemistry projects, he is lying in bed in a towel reading Private Eye.

Samule is in Newcastle learning to be a coordinator for his summer project in South Africa. Isaac is eating soup for breakfast with a friend in Manchester at 2pm, having been out a bit late at some clubs last night. While out he met Lucy, who Samuel met at JYM 2 years ago, and since. She is now taking a gap year being arty at home, and we have sent Isaac to Manchester to amuse her. Josiah didn’t make a Special Friend at JYM apparently, though Roisin, who he travelled with, fell for a hop-farmer from Kent (I made up the hop farmer bit). However he May Not Know. Apparently he’s the spit of some other character she’s fancied but it’s a secret.

Roisin is in Josiah’s year and is Maeve’s sister. Maeve and Samuel were also contemporaries, for quite a long while they walked to school together, both did Project Trust gap years at opposite sides of the world, and see each other regularly even to the degree of ‘drinking tea’ till 5.30am following one of Maeve’s late shifts at the Elephant just before S returned.

Why don’t you go out with Roisin Josiah? Pah, that would be like … well, it’s Roisin, isn’t it? Brother and sister? More weird?

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Christmas 2006

Is it a sign of age when you like Jane Austen more, and hip hop even less? And that lack of desire to watch violent unpleasant films, does that go away as the children grow up? Really, we aren’t narrow minded. Except Helen isn’t that keen on that World Music stuff, and for almost all of modern jazz, arrogant self-indulgent pretentious nonsense that it is, with applauding all the solos being like hugging everyone on the Tube, and oh yes, also nearly the entire oeuvre of Country music too. So that’s it settled then, narrow and probably balding as well as grey.
Which you certainly couldn’t say about our children. There may not be any girls in the house but they all smell of Herbal Essences, and I think we may get Isaac’s eyebrows done for Christmas. Samuel goes for the Afro style. Josiah just grunts ‘nuh’ to suggestions of a haircut and won’t ask Roisin to bring three three razors for the other indication.

One good thing about having them away from home is that they bring back soapy tales from a completely new environment. All of them hate questions about Special Friends, but that still leaves a couple of topics. Smule seems to be having a good time in York, or wherever he is right now, but he’s sharing several houses, and brings back glorious tales of everybody’s ups and downs and love lives, except for his own. We visited York on a pre-Christmas weekend and had to stay out of town, and travelling in on a bus where the the graffiti was on peel-off labels and the conversation good enough for a whole chapter of Samule’s unwritten novel. One was a poet and didn’t know it. He went to South Africa with a teaching charity for the summer and we got together for just a week in Cornwall where we dug holes on the beach and stared at the sea. We got to borrow his iPod. He has been reading too much poetry I think, and most of his 25 Most Played are ballads of romance or loss. His main house is across town with three girls, one of whom was taken aback to discover he’s not gay, but won’t tell her parents. So Barbara Streisand for Christmas then.

Isaac has just finished his first term of computer science in Manchester, where we stayed with Lucy the vicar’s daughter and co, who are lovely. Isn’t it curious that Jane Austen was a vicar’s daughter but none of her characters were, in fact the church hardly gets a look in, although several of her leading characters have vicar’s daughter-ish elements. Actually we know only a few vicar’s children, but with the Biddle Hughes it happened the other way round anyway, as if having children drove them to it later. Well you can see that it could. Except in their family of course. With Isaac’s characteristic advance planning we were forced to make an impromptu attempt on the record for kitting out a student for a year, at the Trafford Centre late on Saturday evening, or he’d have had no duvet. No records broken finding our way back from it though.

Also on his course are 210 nerdy boys and 2 girls. There isn’t a lot of soapy gossip (or indeed soap) in the computerish folk, but fortunately he’s in a hall of residence with a much wider range of deviancy. According to the author of the Dilbert cartoons, male engineers become sexually irresistible to their co-workers in their 40s, whereas female engineers are sexually irresistible to their co-workers from the moment they start until some time after their death. Nevertheless Josiah’s evidence-based predictions about Isaac’s group of friends proved totally inaccurate.

Having struggled round quite a few student residences of late, driven to reflect that it’s extraordinary what beautiful people emerge from such states of squalor (I don’t mean you if you’re reading this, you’re very tidy, probably pathologically, have you sought help?). Surprisingly Isaac went back to stay with a York friend recently – surprising, as the first time I thanked her mum for putting up with him, it was very good of them, came back the forthright reply ‘Yes it certainly was, wasn’t it’. According to Facebook he has no special friend, though probably should apply to marry Joanna, whose earthbound solid advice on correct sock etiquette, and accompaniment to the music dept at night, proved invaluable.

Poor Josiah is left at home having to do all the teenage heaving and sighing alone, but he’s doing enormously well at making the fuss of three. As he is number 3 we are now in a position to formalise some of the structures, and have recently discussed his need to get some new talent in, or upgrade some of his exsiting friends to level A excuses. This is the negotiating tactic where you ask to go to an event chiefly on the back of the reputation of the people you are going with. A level ‘A’ excuse is a friend with whom you are allowed to an overnight student party at a vaguely located student flat in Glasgow, and get away with replying ‘dunno’ (that second syllable reluctantly) when asked when you’d be back; Level B – normal sort of people, i.e. watch them like a hawk, and level C – unspoken message ‘I don’t really want to go but please ban me to reduce my social disgrace’.

Unfortunately this formalisation process can lead to some pressures from other parents and indeed marital disputes (Why did you tell them Catriona is an A?). Level A cards played in these circumstances are predominantly female, as they know their parents’ preconceptions (but do the subjects know who they are?). Where are the boys? Possible exception: Sam’s Calum with the hippy fuzz, Isaac’s Calum with the half empty cans of Irn Bru, Josiah’s Calum with the shy arty sister who works in Next. We add these details because they’ll help you when we test you later.

The boys as a team always been formidable, and while to the chagrin of their mother not always wearing the most sensible shoes, and they have generated a list, Emma-style, of desirable spouses as they perceive their parents will estimate them, and flutter tantalising details of improbable relationship details in attempts to throw dust in our eyes. If it was the parents real list, I couldn’t of course mention any details, but as it’s theirs it’s fair game.

Josiah is following the example of his biggest but smaller brother by going away next year to Namibia. When he comes back he hopes to go to a university and course that need to be selected between now and tomorrow. The ‘please don’t let me out’ card is rarely played in 6th year. He’s in slightly sharper clothes now, which show the extraordinary amount of stuff he carries in his pockets.
There were some round number birthdays this year. We had a pizza or something. And almost no holiday, but as well as Cornwall and a week in Northumberland some days during the Festival, which was tip-top and included a bit of everything, and the house busy with visitors. We went to Andy’s 60th at Catterline and took tea at the Rennie Macintosh house in Helensburgh (thank you BHs) We are both enjoying stuff. If you want to know, come and talk. We aren’t climbing enough hills, but NT is doing various webby projects, sometimes with Isaac’s help, Helen is doing just the two jobs still and also enjoying technology, she can miss calls on the most advanced phones possible, and text very long words with a stylus. Boy you don’t really want to hear how our eyes are weakening or jobs proving challenging, or the days too short. In some sort of recognition of the birthday, and in a desperate attempt to prevent narrowing of outlook and fossilation of ideas, and because it’s 25 years since we were there, we are revisiting India for 3 weeks in February. The now complex itinerary includes several lectures, but we’ll get to meet a lot of people, well that was the justification, will let you know. There will be no blog but we may contact our children from Internet caffs if we run out of money.

If this was a blog it would appear at and you could write abusive comments at the bottom. Give it a try in a week or two if there’s nothing much on 120 TV channels and the kids are reading too many books or whatever is the fashionable evil. Then Google will have copyright of our lives, and when the kids go dodging old pianos to scatter our high-phosphate ashes off the top of Ben Macdui, there’ll still be a nasty persistence in the ether.

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Attaching documents

Here’s a lovely image, Eyeman by Beth Shortt.  Stuggling with basic stuff when originally wrote this. Eyeman by Beth

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