Thursday, November 29, 2007

Look what nearly dropped off the bottom of my Blog!

Lucky I noticed that

The Music Man is here

The piano tuner is here this morning. He is tuning the piano that has sat idle in this house for a good 15 years. I actually wondered if he would be able to tune it at all, it's in such a bad way. However he cheerfully told me that, on inspection, it had been tuned once before. In 1932.

There are weird noises coming from my lounge. Very weird. I feel like I'm living out a bad 1920s horror movie score.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snob Alert

I can't believe it! I was on my way home from collecting Dolly from her dancing this evening when I noticed that one of our neighbours has put up their Christmas lights!

I might just have to move house.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

And while we're on the subject of irresponsible parental giggling ...

Michael first started taking lunch to school when he was four years old. At this stage he was too short to see over the top of the kitchen counter.

I went into the kitchen one night to see him standing on his tip-toes with one hand stretched up and into his packed lunch for the next day. He was having a good feel around, trying to determine what was for lunch by touch.

He was obviously having some difficulty, because as I walked into the kitchen he looked over at me and, cool as a cucumber asked

'What the hell's that?'

I don't know what they're teaching them at school these days, but it's so difficult to tell them off when you can't keep your face straight!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Did you hear the one about the Irishman?

We had a friend from church come for dinner this week. My eldest (8) decided, half way through dessert, to tell us all a joke.

(As an aside, I can tell you he's eight because since the Government lost all our personal details there is now no longer the need to be discreet about such facts as his name, his date of birth, his address, my national insurance number and my bank account number. You can probably buy them on EBay for a tenner)

Anyway, always one to impress a guest, he starts into his joke:

Paddy Irishman, Paddy Englishman and Paddy Scotsman are all on a plane that is going to crash. The pilot tells them all they will have to jump out, but that whatever they shout out as they jump through the hatch, they will land in.

Paddy Englishman goes first, and as he jumps out of the plane he shouts 'gold'! Paddy Scots man goes next, and as he jumps out of the plane he shouts 'silver'!

At this point I glance up and meet (and match) my hubby's shocked look as we both share the exact same thought at the exact same moment.

Then its Paddy Irishmans turn

At this point , showing true parental responsibility, the pair of us simultaneoulsy burst into uncontrollable giggles. My son hesitates, completely ignores 'the look' I attempt to give him and gives us a funny look that says, 'why are you pair of doughballs laughing, I've not got to the funny bit yet'. Undeterred, if not a little confused, he takes a deep breath and continues:

So he jumps out and shouts ...

In between uncontrollable giggles, silent prayers are being offered 'please don't let him say it, please don't let him say it!'


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Your consideration please

I'm just home from the McFly concert. If you're going to leave a message, please type loud.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm sorry, but this just makes me angry

This quote taken from the BBC website:

Mr McCann said that, before Madeleine went missing, he and his wife had been concerned by the security at the back of their Praia da Luz apartment when "maybe the weak spots were at the front".

If that was the case, why the flip did they leave the kids unsupervised? I've said before that I sympathise with the situation, but this is just irresponsible parenting.


(Rant over)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Deal or No Deal?

Many years ago (18 to be exact) I bought my first property. It was an unoccupied mid-terrace, 2 up 2 down near the centre of Belfast. I had just qualified as a teacher and was looking to get on the property ladder. I was earning £9,600 a year and I borrowed £11,000 to acquire this bijou little house, £9000 asking price and £2000 to make it habitable. As part of the renovation work I had to put in a kitchen (it only had a sink in a scullary), install central heating and fit a bathroom as opposed to the outside toilet the house came with.

Six years later, I had the opportunity to buy the house I now live in. At that stage it was a bungalow and needed a bit of refurbishment, so in order to finance the project I decided to sell the mid-terrace. I was delighted to sell for £20,000 - a profit of £9,000 in just over 5 years!

Five years later again and we are doubling the size of the bungalow to accommodate a growing family, but at least this time I have someone else on board to share the costs! At the same time I noticed that my little mid-terrace was on the market for a whopping £89,000. A profit of £78,000 in 11 years! That would have covered the cost of our additional building and knocked a generous £30,000 of the original mortgage as well.

Today, in the local paper, I see my little mid-terrace is on the market yet again. Not only would this have completely cleared my current mortgage and the payments on my beloved Mini convertible, it would have paid for that cruise round the Pacific Islands (3 or even 4 times!) and meant I never had to sub again!

I think I dealt a round or two too early

Car Mechanics

Before you think this is going to be a rant about the prices they charge, let me explain.

On Thursday, one of the year groups in the school I'm currently gainfully employed in goes to the local Tech to undertake some practical skills. Today, I had the undoubted pleasure of accompanying them. To car mechanics class.

The lesson today was draining oil from the engine (I think) (I mean I know what the lesson was, but I think the oil came from the engine) Anyway, there was quite a bit of oil and it got into quite a few unusual places, but it was good fun.

So now I know how to change the oil in my car. Well, I know how to take it out. We couldn't replace the oil because the bonnet on the car we were working on wouldn't work so we couldn't get into the innards.

However, I still don't do putting in petrol. That's a man's job

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Twenty years ago today, a no-warning IRA bomb exploded during a Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, killing 11 people and injuring 63. I clearly remember hearing the news break on the car radio as I drove past the cenotaph at Queen's University on my way to church.

On the same day, in Denver, Colorado a controversial group of Irish christians (I highly recommend this book) were taking to the stage to perform. This (bad word alert!) was their response to what happened in Enniskillen earlier that day.

Today, as hundreds of people, including relatives and survivors, gathered in Enniskillen on the 20th anniversary of the town's Remembrance Day bomb, the town's centre was cordoned off due to a hoax bomb alert.

No more.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Everyone needs to do this!

This is an internet word game that has generated enough rice to feed 50,000 people for one day, according to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).

Do it, blog it up, pass it on!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

And now with the music ...

Five Variants on 'Dives and Lazarus' (Vaughan Williams), or 'The Star of the County Down' as it was known in Ulster. As heard on Classic FM. Still beautiful :-)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Ulster Rugby Star?

After much discussion, I have been persuaded by my 6 year old daughter that she should start playing rugby from Saturday morning.

One of the Ulster Branch rugby development officers has been in school teaching the P3 classes how to play tag during their PE classes, and the Dolly has absolutely loved it. So much so that, having had a day off today because she was sick, she spent the day bemoaning the fact she was missing rugby!

You have to see my Dolly to fully understand the conflict going on here. She's tiny and fine, she wears clothes for age 3-4. She naturally gravitates towards skirts and glitter and high heels and make-up. But she won't be put off by me telling her how cold she will be, or how wet, or even that she will be the only girl in her squad.

So it looks like, for the next couple of weeks anyway, my role is to stand on a foggy touchline as proud mum of the only girl on the pitch.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Irish Dancing

I'm returning to my class tonight after a long (5 month) absence. My fellow classmates have been forewarned of the impending danger. Extra public liability insurance has been taken out.

I have an appointment pre-booked at casualty to untie my legs from the knots they will form as I struggle to decipher my reel from my jig. Should be a great night all round!

With apologies to those who don't understand Northern Ireland politics (that would be most of us then), but this is quite funny:

And it came to pass in the year 2007, that verily, the Lord came unto Noah, (who was now living in Ballymoney), and said, ‘Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see all manner of evils, terrorists in government and the end of all flesh before me. Build me another Ark and save two of every living thing, along with a few good Free Presbyterians.’ And lo, He gave Noah the CAD drawings, saying, ‘You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.’

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark. ‘Noah!’ He roared, ‘I’m about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?’

‘Forgive me, Lord,’ begged Noah, ‘but things have changed. ‘I needed Building Control approval and I’ve been arguing with the Fire Brigade about the need for a sprinkler system. ‘My neighbours claim that I should have obtained planning permission for building the Ark in my garden because it is development of the site, even though in my view it is a temporary structure. We had to then go to appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission for a decision.

‘Once Seymour Sweeney saw what I was up to, he submitted alternative plans with the backing of the local MP, and you have no idea how hard it was convincing Paisley that you were actually on my side. ‘Then the Department of the Environment demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

‘Getting the wood was another problem. All the decent trees have Tree Preservation Orders on them and we live in a Site of Special Scientific Interest set up in order to protect the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go! And in July I had to pay off racketeers as insurance against the local kids taking the wood for the Eleventh Night bonfire.

‘When I started gathering the animals, the USPCA sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space. They said if he spotted me with any pit bulls, I would never see the Ark float.

‘Nor was I aware that marching the animals on to the Ark two by two constituted a parade, so I had to apply to the Parades Commission for permission. They just couldn’t get their heads round the fact that the end of the world is nigh, and that telling people it was could maybe even have a positive effect on community relations.

‘Then the Borough Council, the DoE and the Rivers Authority ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood. ‘I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission on how many disabled carpenters I’m supposed to hire for my building team. The trades unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only accredited workers with Ark-building experience.

‘Then Harland & Wolff stepped in, and said the project hadn’t been subject to normal tendering practices, as they hadn’t been allowed to present a business plan, so the whole thing went to judicial review. It didn’t help that the judge’s grandfather had worked on the Titanic and thought I was taking the piss.

‘To make matters worse, Customs and Excise seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species. After several neighbours accused me of being ‘on drugs’, the Assets Recovery Agency took some persuading that I had managed to put this project together without any visible means of income after I said I was relying on divine intervention.

‘So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.’

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked, ‘You mean you’re not going to destroy Northern Ireland?’

‘No,’ said the Lord. ‘The Northern Ireland Assembly beat me to it.’

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Do you believe in pyschosomatic itching?

I'm sure some of you are scratching already!

Everyone is back to school tomorrow after a week off for half term break. One of the jobs that has to be done in preparation for return to school is the 'head check'. Always best to start off with a clean sheet, so to speak. Especially as, on the last day of term, one of them came home with 'the note' ... the note that comes home via one or the other every fortnight or so ... the 'a pupil in your child's year has headlice ' note.

Are you itching yet??

I checked when the note came in of course, but sometimes it takes the wee buggers a week or so to appear. It's a hateful job - they hate having their heads checked and I hate checking. But we have an idiot proof (ah ha! But this really is idiot proof as proved by this idiot) way of checking that uses inordinate amounts of conditioner and a fine comb.

Anyway, we have been extremely fortunate so far and had 'all clear' every time, but realistically it's only a matter of time before someone gets the 'unclean' verdict.

Squirming around in your seat now??

And, when I say everyone back to school tomorrow, I include myself in that. I'm taking up my first work since surgery during the summer and covering a job in one of my Special schools four days a week until they make a permanent appointment to the post. So I'm off for an early night, safe in the knowledge that the itching on my head is purely psychosomatic :-)

Idiot-proof chocolate brioche pudding

This is my dessert for Book Circle & Pudding Club on Wednesday night. It's so easy it's unbelieveable.

You need 1 small brioche loaf, 3oz melted butter, half a jar of apricot jam, 3 eggs, 1tsp vanilla extract, 300ml milk, 300ml double cream, 3oz caster suger, 4oz chocolate chunks and 2 oz flaked almonds. (Note the not-so-subtle blend of metric and imperial measures)

Set oven to 150 oC. Cube the brioche and layer half on the bottom of an oven proof dish. Drizzle (I love that word) over half the melted butter. Spread with apricot jam and layer remaining brioche on top. Drizzle (!) with remaining butter.

Mix eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and sugar together and pour over brioche. Leave to soak in for 30 mins. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks and almonds and bake until golden and risen.

Last time I made a dessert for Book Circle, this happened. This recipe, as I said, was so easy it was unbelieveable. Unbelieveable, that is, that I should make it successfully through all the stages above, just to forget it was in the oven until my children were choking on thick, black smoke from burning chocolate chunks and over toasted almonds.

Let this be a warning to you: be careful when using words like 'idiot' and 'proof' in the same sentence. Always make sure you test it out on a real idiot first.