Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

This programme has a lot to answer for.

I took the kids into town on the bus this morning to see Ratatouille as their Halloween trip. Some years we go to Gloucester or Edinburgh or Dublin, this year we go 6 miles down the road. On a public service bus.

Anyway, we are sitting on a pretty crowded public bus travelling into the centre of Belfast for this big treat when a nun gets on at one of the stops. (It may or may not surprise you to know that actually seeing a nun out and about in Belfast is a pretty rare experience). Of course, I'm sitting with my back to the front of the bus, but as I watch the kids' eyes grow ginormous and their mouths drop open, I know something spectacular has happened at the front of the bus.

The little one points behind me and says 'look mum, it's a sister!', to which her brother chips in 'she means the nun.' By now, the rest of the passengers are playing a particularly easy round of 'spot the protestant'.

After a couple of minutes silence, the little one looks up again and says in her best (which isn't good) stage whisper 'I wonder is she going to start singing?'

Thankyou, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


At age 4 success is . . . not piddling in your pants.
At age 12 success is . . . having friends.
At age 17 success is . . . having a drivers licence.
At age 35 success is . . . having money.
At age 50 success is . . . having money.
At age 70 success is . .. . having a drivers licence.
At age 75 success is . . . having friends.
At age 80 success is . . . not piddling in your pants.

Pretty good yardstick if you ask me

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Great sporting moments

David Humphreys giving Eddie O'Sullivan the two finger salute , as only he could, on Friday night :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Skipping Christmas

I know it's a bit early to be discussing Christmas, especially as we only carved out our halloween pumpkin this afternoon, but ...

This is a little Book Circle and Pudding Club exclusive. I get to choose the book for December, but I tell the others my choice at the November meeting next week. That's to give time to order a copy of the book into our respective local libraries.

I'd been giving the matter some thought and had even browsed through a couple of books, but tonight I came up with the answer.

I had a pretty busy today between one thing and another, and, when his sister went to bed, my son went downstairs, got a DVD and some crisps and set up for him and I to watch a movie. He chose 'Christmas with the Kranks.'

To be honest, I think I picked that movie up free with a load of Christmas shopping last year. However, its an inoffensive story about Christmas with some slapstick moments thrown in and the kids love it, so we watched the first half tonight before he went to bed.

If you're not familiar with the movie, you might recognise the book it's based on. It's a very out of character book by well known writer of legal drama, John Grisham called 'Skipping Christmas'.

I've seen the movie several times (too many times!) and although I gave a copy of it to my brother for Christmas many moons ago, I've not actually read the book. So, I think that will have to be my book for December.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Late Night Blog

I'm being very adventurous and staying up past my normal bedtime tonight, and even more adventurous by starting this post after I've had my cocoa!

Reading of Cosmo's news reminded me of the torture that is sleep deprivation. I really, really need my sleep (although obviously not tonight) and remember only too vividly the first twelve weeks of said torture after baby number one was born.

Baby number one was a bit of a bruiser, and the starvo had the appetite of a herd of horses. From day one he demanded 3 hourly feeds, and before long he was on three hourly 9oz bottles (yep, in case you hadn't realised, I'm not Earth Mother)

I clearly remember sitting in the nursey feeding him his bottles in a semi-comatose state. The unfortunate thing about baby number one was that he had a bit of a reflux issue thing going on, so four times out of five, just as I had finished giving him his bottle, it would all appear back up again like a white tidal wave enveloping the whole room.

So I had to start all over again.

And then I had to clean up the mess.

During these overnight feeding sessions I used to see the milkman on his rounds. He came at 3.00am on the dot every morning. I hated that milkman.

Of course, when you finally can take it no longer and start sneaking baby rice into bedtime feeds, you still can't sleep because you're in checking baby every three hours to see if he's alright because he hasn't woken up.

I was ready for it all with baby number two. I went into intensive training. I started drinking coffee for the caffeine. I invested in boxes of matchsticks.

But goodness, what a difference. She had the appetite of a sparrow on a diet and would sleep for eight (yes 8) hours at a time. And when she did wake up, she never cried. She just lay there and smacked her lips!

In the hospital they used to ask me every morning how many overnight feeds, and I'd simply pluck a figure out of the air. I think one morning I must have been caught off guard and said six or something because my scam was blown. Sister arrived in and told me I should wake baby up every four hours for a feed, even during the night. I distinctly remember just looking at her with my mouth hanging open thinking 'you must take me for a nutter!'

I thank the Lord every day that my babies were born in the order they were. If the starvo had arrived after the sparrow, I think I might have sold myself to the gypsies, or given him to the milkman. Certainly I'd have been a candidate for the mental institution or the divorce courts.

And on that sage thought, I'm off to kiss my two 'babies' on the head and whisper goodnight, cause I can hear the ruddy milkman coming up the street!

PS the cocoa bits a joke - honestly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If I hadn't been awake during the Caesarian ...

I wouldn't have believed it were possible this Diva was mine!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Parent / Teacher Interviews

I have Dolly's parent/teacher interview today. Why do they call them that? Who interviews whom? What happens if we don't pass as suitable parents for the school, does poor shamed Dolly have to find a new school?

At least on this occasion I am on the right side of the desk. I never particularily enjoyed 'conducting' these events. You never really knew what to expect from one interview to the next. Like the time I was hit broadside by a parent who resented me taking time off for maternity leave and left me, and all the other parents and staff in the hall, in no doubt about it!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


friends from Houston, Texas :-)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spud warfare

For an Irish family, we don't really eat that many potatoes. And when we do eat them, they're generally wee charlottes or baby types boiled in their skins. (Pluto - you can stop that thought RIGHT there!) In fact, it is unusual for me to buy potatoes larger than your average marble. The reason for this ... I hate peeling spuds.

I needed potatoes for some soup I was making yesterday, so I bought a big bag of Combers (a variety of potato local to us here in Northern Ireland). I had a few left over, and having peeled what I needed for the soup, I just kept on peeling, boiled the extra up, mashed them, tossed in a sizeable lump of butter and some black pepper and served it up with dinner.

The reaction was a bit unusual, when they arrived at the dinner table the kids just stood and stared at their plates. I explained it was mashed potatoes to which the eldest retorted "I know what it is Mummy, I just didn't know you could make it."

Did I mention I was a cookery teacher in a previous life?

We always say grace before a meal, and as eyes were closed I sensed a movement to my right and peeked out to see the youngest stretch across the table whilst her brother was giving thanks, lifting a forkfull of mash off his plate and dolloping it onto her own.

The whole way through dinner I'm stopping them from pinching mash off my plate, each others plates and I'm thinking 'didn't I teach these kids any table manners?' They're asking their dad can they have share of his but he's as bad as they are shouting back 'get your hands off', they're my potatoes!'. I'm watching all this in utter disbelief - my family, fighting over a plate of spuds.

By special request, for one night only, we are having champ for dinner tonight. For the uninitiated, champ is an Irish dish which consists of mashed potatoes with scallions (or spring onions) mixed through them, generally shaped like a nest, with a lump of butter in the middle. You can see why it's not on the menu in the Ivy.

Honestly, you try to bring them up with a bit of culture in their lives and there it is ... bogtrotters the lot of them!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Can someone please tell me

how we got from last weeks spellings (time, timing, dip, dipping, drum, drumming) to this weeks spellings (arachnid, amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles) without there being some kind of weird timewarp in between??

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I actually watch rugby for the rugby. Sometimes there happens to be a by-product.

A couple of years ago, the boys at Ulster Rugby did a calendar to raise money for the 'Men Against Cancer' charity. 15 pages (yes, I know there are only 12 months in the year, but so popular was the idea with the boys that they all wanted to be in it, so they threw in a couple of extra shots for good value!) of scantily clad, toned male bodies, very tastefully photographed. If I remember correctly, May was a very good month, as was November! There are Ulster rugby fans who read this blog (anonymously) who could keep me right on that if they feel brave enough.

Anyway, the calendar was probably the most successful thing Ulster Rugby did that season!

During the course of that same year, I had occasion to travel to Paris for an away match against Stade Francais. And lo and behold ... when I got there it turns out that the boys at Stade had had the exact same idea! What better present to bring home for friends and work colleagues, so I bought a couple.

Two things:
1) I was very popular in the staffroom that term
2) I should have realised when they came vacuum wrapped

So, if you're stuck for a wee stocking filler for the wife this Christmas, I can tell you that the new Stade calendar for 2008 is now available.
Not for the faint hearted
Pluto, you have been warned!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kicking leaves

Saturday mornings are notoriously busy round here, with mini rugby kicking off at 9.15 and Irish Dancing at 10.30. Once the 'boys' go, Dolly and I set off on our own wee routine before dancing class. This invloves a trip to Tescos to do the shopping, followed by a stop at the library to exchange books.

Normally by the time we've managed all that we are just in time for dancing, but this morning we had about 20 minutes to spare - not enough time to nip home, but not enough time to do anything else constructively either.

Dolly's Irish dancing class is in a church of Ireland church hall, which backs onto a cemetry. In the middle of the cemetry is the biggest beech tree I've ever seen, so having a few minutes to spare this morning we decided to use the time to collect some beech nuts for the nature table at school.

When we arrived, the tree was surrounded by a thick carpet of dry golden-red leaves. Moving leaves out of the way to look for the beech nuts quickly became a major leaf kicking exercise, and I think a few armfuls might have been thrown as well.

Needless to say, we didn't find one beech nut, but it was the best 10 minutes craic I've had in a long time!

The truth will out

An article in todays Daily Mail about the REAL men of sport. Some fabulous illustrations with this piece. Well worth a look.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

World Mental Health Day.

Today is World Mental Health Day.

Take care of your mental health.

Monday, October 08, 2007

It's OK, you're in the right place

Well, if you're looking for Chemical's Blog you are anyway!

A while back I said I would have to change the name of my blog and I've been playing around with that today.

Who knows what it might look like tomorrow!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why did we buy suicidal fish?

Earlier tonight I had to remove a second fish from the air filter in the fish tank. I had a similar issue not so long ago when the other original pet goldfish died and blocked the 'in' vent.

This time, the fish got stuck in the 'in' vent before it died. I believe it did it on purpose. We managed to release it while it was still alive, but it looked very poorly when major was going to bed. Before he went to sleep, son informed me that if it died, he would have a private funeral this time - he would flush it down the toilet himself.

It has since passed away.

The thing is, it's stuck behind the air pump. Ah well, the problem is now my husbands. I am in charge of counselling, he is in charge of dead fish.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This is actually a true story, not one of those emails that keep flying around..

When I was in hospital over the summer, one of the leaders from our church came to visit me. He played the 'pastoral visit card' and so was allowed past Matron during non-visiting hours when noone else was about.

We chatted for a while and before he left I asked him to pop in to say hello to a little old lady who was in a sideward near me who hadn't had a visitor since I had been on the ward. He tottled off to do that, and I plugged myself back into the MP3 player to wait for dinner.

A few minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. He was back again to see if I had any money for the carpark, as he was just home from holiday and only had Euros in his wallet. I knew I didn't have my purse, but sometimes theres an odd £1 or two floating about the bottom of my handbag, so we emptied the contents of my bag to search, but unfortunately there was nothing.

He then asked me was there a 'hole in the wall' in the hospital, which I wasn't sure about, but I did know that there was one just down the road from the hospital near the local McDonalds from past expereince with the kids! Quite a stroll mind you.

So off he set for a second time, and that was the last I saw of him that day.

Hubby phoned him later that night to thank him for visiting, and during the call he continued the story of the carpark.

It turns out, he was actually on his way to a meeting when he called in to see me, and with the added hike to a cash machine he knew he was going to be late, so he phoned the person he was due to meet from his mobile as he walked through the hospital to explain where he was and why he would be delayed.

When he came off his mobile, someone tapped him on the shoulder and I think he thought he was going to get told off for using the phone in the hospital. Actually, it was a young hospital cleaner, who apologised and said she hoped he didn't mind, but she had overheard his conversation, and she would like to pay his parking fee. He said there was no need, he was on his way to the cash machine, but she insisted.

Apparently, the girl had been on holiday just before this, and when she got to the airport to check in for her flight home, she discovered someone had stolen her ticket. Naturally, she was very upset, didn't really know what she was going to do about it and as a result was getting quite flustered. Just when she was at her wits end, another man who was on the same flight, a total stranger, stepped forward and paid for a new ticket to get her home.

So she went on to explain that this was the philosophy behind her offering to pay the carpark ticket for him, she was just passing on kindnesses in any way she could.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The RyanAir Experience

A lot of people don't like Michael O'Leary. I actually quite like the cheeky chap. And my respect for his business sense has escalated since flying RyanAir for the first time last week.

He has it completely sewn up. He has thought of everything. Time is money, and he has managed to shave every spare second off the turn-around time of his flights.

Our flight to Valencia last week was due to leave at 10.30. At 10.05 the plane taking us came to a halt on the apron at our gate. Immediately, the 'petrolman' (who had been standing waiting for 5 minutes for the plane to arrive) was unscrewing the petrol cap. No waiting around for the steps to be wheeled up to the aircraft either; each plane has its own set of steps built in to avoid delay in disembarking. And so, at 10.10 the first 20 passengers were already off the plane and into the terminal.

Air stewards double as lollypop people, stopping traffic on the apron to ensure all passengers get off, and the on again without having to stop their journey between the gate and the plane. One hostess came to the gate where she started taking boarding passes alongside the groundcrew, thus speeding up that process. Which is why, when I made the mistake of hesitating for a split second, trying to decide which person to give my boarding pass to, I was pointed at and shouted at: 'hurry up, hurry up!' This only proves the point that it's the passengers who let RyanAir down!

On the plane itself, there are no pockets on the backs of the vinyl, easy wiped clean seats, so if there are no pockets, there is no need to empty them of litter between flights. And during the flight we were asked 6 or 8 times for any rubbish. In fact, I think that was one attendants full time job - doing laps of the plane collecting rubbish! The safety cards are plastered onto the back of the headrest of the seat in front of you, saving the need to check that they're there in the first place.

Unbelieveably, our flight was at the end of the runway at 10.35

You know the line you get at the end of your flight ...'Please remain seated until ...' On RyanAir they practically invite you to form a rugby scrum at the door as soon as the wheels hit the ground. Disembarking resembled a scene from a Parachute Regiment training exercise, with the Sergeant Major standing at the door of the plane shouting 'Go! ..GO!! ..GO!!!'

So yes, he has his critics, and I'm sure the criticism is somewhat justified, but you have to admire Michael O'Leary's business savvy.