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Let weans be weans

This is the post excerpt.

A recent trip to Ikea found me harbouring murderous thoughts towards a 7 year old.
I’m a good person, honest, so let me explain. My 5 year old is the reincarnated soul of Buzz Lightyear, presently living in the body of Batman. Each day he retreats to Gotham and carries out his hero duties with aplomb. My fearless caped crusader protects the underdog, fights the baddies and always saves the day. A bit of a loner, Batman prefers to work alone. On occasions after carefully assessing the risks and deciding help is required, Robin: my 2 year old is called upon. I’m not much of a theatre goer but I love this daily show. On the edge of my Ikea chair, throwing Swedish meatballs down my throat like popcorn, I held my breath as the duo take on their nemesis: Joker. Enter 7 year old, stage left, “You know Batman isn’t real? He’s a comic character who first appeared in dectective comics in 1939.” I watched in horror as Gotham city walls crumble and imaginary capes float to the floor like feathers.

I was able to affirm and reassure my children after this incident, and normal daily showings have resumed. However, it got me thinking about the importance of imagination and innocence in childhood and how the window for this seems to be shrinking. A few nights later I found myself watching my oldest friend fret over her daughter’s belief in fairies. A modest and unassuming person, she is without doubt the best young mum I have the privilege of knowing. Unaware of her brilliance she was seeking advice on what to tell her 6 year old who had been told from a reliable source (a boy in her class), that fairies are “make believe”. With tears in her eyes and question marks bulging out of her temple I told her, Read Peter to her. Peter Pan. He’ll answer her questions.
Rouseau hit the nail on its head when remarking:
“Why rob these innocents of the joys which pass so quickly,”
Sadly every boy has to grow up, but why rush this wonderful stage? Not so long ago Childhood as a concept did not exist. Kids seen as miniature adults had to work hard to cast their original, innate sins. A revered and perhaps the most enviable of all stages of life, I feel this should be stretched and indulged.
There is such a pressure on young parents to have well behaved silent ninjas who are well versed and equipped for the big bad world. On a recent holiday with my children an older lady watched dissaprovingly as our monkeys tea party raised the roof in a café. With my stress levels also through the roof my 5 year old observed that his open baked potato was like a “Fagina”. My usual response to this would be to conduct a live autopsy with napkin surgical masks. Instead with two bespectacle eyes on me I shouted at my son. Appeasing our audience, confusing my son, and leaving me hoping that the old womans next shite was a hedgehog, with exema.

Its why I choose to let my weans be weans. Allowing them this magical time of blank slates, carefree days, imagining the impossible, inventing the incredible is so important in shaping who they become. They shouldn’t be interested in whats real and whats not. And we as parents shouldn’t worry about them being unprepared. So go easy on yourself. Applaud and encourage their performances. Teach them manners yes, but never refuse a place setting at the table for Henry Hoover. Its what I intend to do, and its why ill stand side by side with my god daughter, clapping my hands raw to revive all those fairies that met an early demise because of all you non believers.

 

 

 

A Weeble in Marshmallow Hell

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As a new mother, soft play quickly became part of my social calander. I would meet up with a friend and her baby and lounge amongst our new cushioned horizons, both stifling yawns and discussing our changing nipples. The topic of conversation was always around the kids and we were always naively stationary. I yearn for those days of sitting amongst soft dolphins and coloured balls. Blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead. Even when my son started to walk, I had an easy time in soft play land. Cautious by nature, or due to his crazy mother, he has never been one to vault or run head first at any obstacles. He hid behind my leg, looked for my support to guide him up to this new found vertical land of soft play.

This changed when I was expecting my daughter. Looking like a weeble from around twenty weeks, I truly struggled to walk without toppling over. My arse, hips, and legs ignored the fact I was pregnant. Staying non-existent, small and skinny. The result being that I bobbed around, bouncing off walls, and required general assistance to stand up right. I refused to let this stop me going to soft play. I dragged myself up the plastic steps and teetered across nets in the sky. My son now 2 would assist me up, turning back often to ask if I was OK. I spent the majority of these visits in tears. Whispering to my son that nothing would change when the new baby arrived. “You will always be my baby”, I often wailed into a spongy floor. My daughter came along and sure enough, we still made the journey. With my daughter on one hip and my son by the hand, we would begin the long hike up. My son now able to clamber up, leading the way. I took frequent breaks to realign my hips, and reassure my daughter. On these occasions, I would push my face through the string bars and stare at the scene below. “Look at all those adults!” I used to marvel. Sitting enjoying a latte, sharing nachos, someone was even reading a book, A BOOK! When could I sit down there and gab? What age would my children be? The true answer, I knew, was never. Whenever the tannoy announced “would the parent or guardian…” I was already down on bended knee peering at my children, making sure they were in fact, MY CHILDREN. “You are here!” I would cry, into their confused little faces.

The whole affair is a terrifying emotional roller coaster, and I can truly say I hate every minute of it, with it typically costing me about fifty quid a visit. My kids of course love it, so off we go every other week. My husband finds the whole situation ludicrous. Having spent a childhood running along golden sands and chilling with sea creatures, he looks up at the soft play metropolis in disbelief. We have had a few attempts of sitting on a sofa with a latte and small talk. Letting our children enjoy some “independent play”. This usually lasts around three minutes before we abandon our pretend nonchalance and sprint to find our children, splitting up and shrieking out to one and other when we locate an offspring.

The thing that baffles me most in this marshmallow hell is the behaviour of the other adults within the soft play structure. The kids run wild, farting freely, offering snotters as currency, and scream out with delight at everything, and nothing at all. When there are adults within the population the dynamic changes. Kids are reminded to, “Let the wee boy go first”. I have seen grown adults nudge other children out of the way to let their child go first on the plastic death slide. I have also witnessed adults veer their children away from children of a different ethnic origin. Society seeps in and it makes me weary. I often like to gaze from my penthouse in the soft play and think imagine if us adults had a soft play. Could we all run around, let go of our inhibitions and play. Or would we all walk around like hamsters at a trance party. Rotating endlessly in our soft environment. Excusing ourselves when we cut across a passer-by. Holding a cushioned door open for the person behind us. Smiling demurely to an elder. Like an apartment block sliced down the middle and opened to reveal the well-behaved inhabitants inside.

An Eric MacMillan opened the first primitive soft play in 1976 at Sea World in San Diego. With Chuck e Cheese quickly cashing in on the idea, MacMillan is known as the “founder of soft play”. Interestingly his idea for this new play area was based on a developing theory that ball pits were an ideal therapy for physically disabled children. Where is this fantastic kernel of thought in today’s soft play? It cannot be a question of finance. If all we inhabitants are parting with fifty quid, there must be a big pot of gold at the end of someone’s rainbow.

Eric was also passionate about emphasising how children do not differentiate between play and learning. At the time of soft plays conception, MacMillan was quoted as saying,
“If adults played more, there would be far less fear and more understanding, because play is an open and honest exchange.”
Well that sold it to me.
The next time I am at soft play, I will invite all the children to sit in the café area, and demand all the adults go play. I would let you know how it goes, but you see, I have just started a really good book….

The Observer.

 

 

The sun is here to visit, and it has been marvellous.  Not here to stay we all know this instinctively and make the very most of it.  People saunter around the streets semi naked, BBQs are sold out across the country.  My own mother refuses to come in doors.  Stationed in her vintage deckchair outside, she coories into her pug and basks in it.  Occasionally she will utter, “THIS is the life”.  That apart she is lost to us.

In the absence of the sunshine, we become accustomed to being frozen.  Layers and tea are my best friends.  The Greek is unaffected by the weather.  He saunters about semi naked all year round.  Still, with the sun having his hat on, he is even chirpier than normal.  He hums away to himself in the garden at 6.30am whilst hanging the washing out.  He chats to Woody and Jessie (the wood pigeons) and checks the progress of his greenhouse.  He shouts up to me with glee that his radishes “are out”!  I stand in the doorway, with my tea, and worry aloud “is there a breeze”?  My enquiry is lost in the rabble that emerges from behind me.  My two kids tumbling over their wilkies.  Cilla (the puppy) bringing up the rear with a sun hat on and whistling, “Zip be dee doo dah”.  “It’s to be a SCORCHER the day”, she informs me.   And out I go.

My favourite past time, along with reading, is to observe.  Not one of life’s doers, I work behind the scenes in life.  The anonymous cook who takes pleasure in watching the central characters munch.  The Greek is not an observer, but very much a participant.  At any house party, he is famous. I take on the title of the Greek’s Mrs’.  When I arrive at social occasions, people always look behind me “WHERE is he”!  Over by the Margaritas is my usual response.  As their eyes, locate him he waves and pirouettes in time to the blaring Whitney Houston song.

The sunshine is ideal for the observer.  First, sun glasses on.  Second, plant arse in the background.  Third, observe.  The face armour akin to a “do not disturb” sign, it is most peaceful.  My favourite subjects to observe are children.   My kids have a million toys.  Rocking horses, pottery wheels, a 4ft batman, iPad, switches, digital cameras, to name but a few.  There are many viewpoints these days about the pros and cons of this.  I do not feel it realistic to deny my children the chance to engage in the trends of their generation.  I indulge this and become an expert in whatever the current obsession is.  Presently I am fluent in Lego dimensions, peppa pig, and all the you tube vloggers.

I also always encourage them to play outdoors.  With the current weather, I do not have to ask, they are “out back” right away and it is here that the fireworks of their imaginations put on the most wonderful show.  Reality is not welcome at these events, only the incredible and unimaginable.  Role-play is always a big feature.  When my nephews visit, my daughter is immediately demoted in the ranks.  Unsure of her new role she stomps around in the background, shouting, “that’s me away to work”, and “has anyone seen ma glasses”.  In these events, they do not reach for their expensive toys but anything else they can get their hands on.  Empty beer boxes become communication stations, a series of twigs a tightrope, the garden hose a boa constrictor.  At a recent sleepover, my eldest nephew was a sceptic at first.  “But, that’s just a garden hose!”  Said he.  Two hours later and he was running around naked with the rest of his teammates.  Hot from the desert he had found himself in, but determined to defeat the venomous villain.  My daughter shrieks with delight as she encircles the edge of the desert.  Occasionally picking up long weeds and draping them over her shoulder, “scarfs done” she shouts.  My son has become his sister’s biggest critic and screams, “you can’t have a scarf in the desert!” Whilst  my eldest nephew pipes up, “You can when it starts to SNOW!”  Polystyrene goes everywhere and I feel sorry for my neighbours. They have joined the strange trend of hoovering the grass as soon as the sun appears, and are missing this amazing weather phenomenon!

As a child I can remember playing outdoors frequently, and not just in the back garden.  My son begs me to tell his visiting cousins about these “olden days”.  They listen enraptured to a story where you went out to play for the summer.  Out with your mother’s sight, gone independently for hours.  Kirby, red rover, chap the door and run away.  Spending hours practising my skipping before screaming, “I call in my sister, is she in?” My sister always ready to excel screaming back, “yes she is!  Does she like coffee, does she like tea…”  Free spirits until our mum shouted down “come in before the bogey man gets ye”.    Not a long time ago but a time that will most definitely be lost forever.  Technology has played a huge part in this.  My son will soon be asking for a mobile phone.  He will never know the joy of your pals from across the street chapping the door and asking “ye coming oot to play”.  They will text each other, whats app one and other, no tin cans on a string.

The traditional Glasgow school games are an important part of the history of our youth.  The birth child of poverty and imagination they have a casual literature all of their own.  Rhymes for who was “het”, for playing ropes, for playing balls.  They cost nothing and kept the weans occupied for hours.  My mother and aunt are both in their 60’s now, but toss them a ball and they are young sisters again, immediately resuming a synchronised routine paused decades before: “My girls a corker she’s a New Yorker, I’d give just anything to keep her in style.  She’s got a pair of legs just like two boiled eggs…,” they chant.

Now more than ever it is a harder sell to get the kids outdoors.  The draw of the TV, Netflix, the PC, and IPad is a strong force.  Pass times are literally at our children’s fingertips.  There is a growing trend in the UK towards outdoor nurseries.  The ethos being that the outdoors is the best classroom.  Outdoor play helps develop problem solving, social relations, balance and coordination.  It also promotes resilience and calculated risk taking. Children on a computer all day are essentially engaging in solitary play.  The health implications are already evident with the continued rise in childhood obesity.  Playing outdoors is a great form of  physical exercise, it also exposes our children to bacteria, helping to build their immune systems.

The games and trends of our children’s world will always continue to evolve and change.  However, their natural landscape will be a consistent state of play.  An eternal mystery of textures and challenges.  A canvas for them to create their own apps.  To become key characters in their own video game platform.    To change the channel they see in front of them by a shared imagining.

To play.

Happy Sunday xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Promise of the Headless Octopus

Something is going on “doon the barras”.


When we visited last week for a “dauner” roon, there was a lot of building work going on. In amongst the many tourists who stop to take pictures of the old buildings, where men working hard, cursing the strange phenomenon of the sun, and pulling up old rickety kerbs. We were on our way to St Luke’s, a former church, which is now home to a restaurant and arts venue. Not serving food until 12 and my son claiming his usual starvation we relocated to a wee pub across the road, Van Winkles. Another lovely spot with a nice menu and a beer garden at the back.
A quick google later and I learned that the area is undergoing massive change. The Calton Barras Action Plan seeks to regenerate the market and the surrounding areas. Historically the Barras is an important thread in the fabric of our dear Glasgow. In the interwar years, a young mother of nine set up a market place to allow traders to sell their wares on the back of their “Barras”. A densely populated area at the time, people flocked here. The young entrepreneur subsequently opened the Barrowland Ballroom. A dance hall and now a world-renowned music venue. Whilst the Barrowland venue has sustained a booming trade, the market and surrounding are has lost its lustre and crowds in recent years. Something that the CBAP project aims to turn on its head, and allow this historical area to shine once more.
The centrepiece of this regeneration is A’Challtainn bar and restaurant. Meaning Calton in Gaelic, it is clutching our Scottish history in one hand whilst doing the Highland fling through our current culinary scene. We visited on a Saturday evening, and it was mobbed. There are a good number of fish restaurants in Glasgow these days. Gandolfi fish is definitely worth a wee swim too. I am not a fan of the Crabshakk, with a thinly sliced seating arrangement, designed to maximise bums on seats, the proximity to other dinners causes the Greek to whisper his week across to me. There is no space for my ear trumpet, so I just nod along and swig my wine. The food is lovely but presented all wrong. Seafood and shellfish do not need pompous ceremony to announce their arrival. They merely have to lie on the plate; holding up this season’s must have lemon. “Look at me”, they shout, “aren’t weeeeee so delicious”. Nor do the oysters need to arrive on a silver tray on stilts, with ice cascading down the plate. These theatrics have little to do with the food or the talent of the chef. The diner would be aswell standing up and putting a sign around his neck reading: “IVE ORDERED THE OYSTERS NOW. LOOK AT ME”
In Spain, the seafood is thrown down on your table with all the magnificent crustaceans cosying in with one another. On a trip to A Coruna years ago, my good friend and I would head out every evening sit our arses down and wait for the inevitable. “Seafood please”. Plomp. Spider crab chilling out with some langoustines. Mussels hugging the side of the silver buffet platter, wee clams cooried in. One chilled bottle of wine, two sets of crab crackers and pickers and that was our evening. Talking shite largely, but really savouring each other’s company and our ultimate fidget food. I thought of that holiday when eating in A’Challtainn. They have a shellfish counter section on their menu. The Greek’s oysters arrived with no ceremony, just their wonderful selves, straight off the flight from Barra and ready to accept their fate. I knew why I was there. My mother had been the week before and each evening on our nightly phone call she had commented “ohhh those mussels”. I was already decided in my choice. Whilst the Greek studied the menu, I was a strong confident woman. “It’s the mussels for me”, I confirmed.

This restaurant appreciates and respects the sea. I think its surroundings are a huge draw, but the quality of the produce is flawless. Some of the best mussels I have tasted, the Greek sat with his eyes closed for several minutes after those oysters. Clutching the tabasco and I suspect meditating. The last time we visited was in October last year. The squid was sensational. One of my pet hates in a restaurant are those flaccid fried rings of nothing that are called “Calamaris”. They are clearly a distant relative of a Johnny onion ring and nothing to do with the creature in question. Only in Greece and now A’Challtainn have I seen the real thing. A big ugly looking thing that again is confident in his own fabulousness. He was not on the menu this visit. Why? He ain’t in season.
There is also a section of starters and mains that air on the convoluted side, but have been skilfully paired with thoughtful and supportive accompaniments to the stars of the show.

A’Challtainn is not without its teething problems. There were many floor staff on the ground, but it seemed to be missing a head to this octopus. We had to ask for our drinks 15 minutes after ordering. The young girl who served us was clearly very busy and stressed. She described the evening’s special as a South American crab claw and squat lobster pot. What actually arrived was a pot brimming with the flavours of South East Asia. Delicious, but not what we ordered. We also had to prompt for the safe landing of the oysters from the cold counter. A person overseeing this busy evening of trade seemed to be missing.
That aside, we will be back. Crab crackers in hand. Ready for some oyster meditation, with the eternal hope that chipirones will be found in Scottish waters. Hopefully greeted by the presently AWOL head of the octopus.

Happy Sunday xx

 

The Soul Train

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My son is in primary one, and loving life. Part of his daily reports now includes who fancies whom. Who has a boyfriend, who kissed in the canteen? The same little girl’s name crops up often in his tales and he does not like this to be observed. Another rite of passage, the primary school crush. My chosen one was Ryan. I have grainy VHS footage of myself behaving unlike a 6 year old should when participating in “The farmer wants a wife”. Serenading and well, gyrating are how it can only be described. Poor Ryan shuffles from side to side, not in time to the music, and generally looking uncomfortable. Then it happened. One day an invite to kiss. “Well ok” I told the messenger. An eternal geek, this instantly raised my status in the class. Someone commented to me “I can’t believe you are going to nip Ryan”. I smiled and confirmed this. Inside I was a pinball machine. “Nip, NIP?” What the hell does that entail? I had agreed to “get off” with someone, never NIP. Did this involve nakedness, babies? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what have you done. I imagined the horror on my mother’s face as she registered this new state of affairs at the school gates.  I would be unable to meet her eye as I stood there with a newly birthed baby and a life partner.  “That’s me NIPPED”. I would confirm.  Plus nipping sounded sore. Nipping made my Ryan an amorous lobster in my mind, approaching and snipping at my skirt tails. Confused I ran to the protective cove of my nana’s house and hid behind my baked potato and episode of Home and Away. Ryan never offered his lobster claw out to me again. Understandably.

My son loves this story and does a great lobster impersonation. He always states somewhere along the line that it would never have worked anyway as you were meant for dadda. I smile and confirm this. He states it with such certainty, like identifying a colour or a shape, because that is what we have taught him. As parents whatever we decide to teach our children, becomes fact to them. We are their encyclopaedia, their fountain of knowledge. Being hopeless romantics, we have inadvertently taught our children this outlook. Through us, they will believe in fate, destiny, and soulmates. Have we made the right decision? Is there a right decision? My son also asks about religion constantly. We are not religious and have made the conscious decision to tell him we do not believe there is a man in the sky who is responsible for all. I tell him that we do not agree with the exclusions that come with this way of life. We tell him, marry someone only if you want to. Be with whomever you love, whether it is a woman, a man, or a really good cheese. We teach them about spirituality and our belief in the existence of the soul.

My Granpa Paddy tossed a coin with his best pal to approach my nana. If it had come up heads, would his pal be my Granpa? I do not think so. An East Asian proverb talks of the red string of fate. An invisible string that connects us to others. A predesigned and perfect path, which will allow us a labyrinth of encounters and shared stories. I teach this idea to my own children. A scarlet tapestry whose threads are given to us when we are born but which we knit ourselves. These strings may become tangled or stretched but never broken. When the Greek arrived on my Café floor, gift wrapped in the finest red string I was unsurprised. I have spoken many times about the differences between us. We have very different personalities. On a train journey, I sit with my nose in a book. He roams the carriages like the mayor of Glasgow. Offering stories and gin and tonics to his fellow passengers. I see a lot of my own nature in my son, and as he grows older and more aware, I can see him observe his father’s extroversion. I can feel his discomfort in this action, but I can also see pride and awe in his big brown eyes. My daughter swings from his back, the most adorable koala. She shares his nature, and welcomes the admirers, thrilling the rows of bystanders with her pigeon Greek and bigger brown eyes. Despite this difference, we share the same outlook to life; we can talk to each other across the carriage without opening our mouths.

When we stumble off the train together, I trip over the red thread that connects the four of us. My Granpa sways up ahead on the platform. Clutching his lucky coin and cursing the red string. I wave to my 17-year-old father on the opposite platform. I watch him dust the flour off his hands from the bakery. Breathing in and out quietly. Sooking in fresh air, exhaling confidence, preparing to ask the new start on a date. When he yanks the red thread, my mother spins towards him, her red hair catching the light, and illuminating the sky. My son looks up and shrieks “hey, look that big dude God has put the lights on!” Everyone laughs at his joke as I stop to knit myself some new worry lines on my forehead. Am I doing this right? What will the other passengers think at this blasphemy? Then again, they most likely did not hear. They are busying laying petals for the Greek to walk on, fighting about who gets to meet him first for a pint. As he meets my eye, he knows its home time. My Nana reaches out and stops me fidgeting with the red string around my finger. “Move yer arse and away up the road wee barra,” She whispers into my ear.

Who knows if we are doing it all right? The world today is such a blinding glitter ball of opinions and views. Maybe it does not matter that we are teaching them what is right, but that which we truly believe.

 

Happy Wednesday xx

Caravan of Love

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Its Easter and the schools are off.  My son celebrates each morning when he enquires, “Is school still cancelled”.  Contentment spills across his face as I confirm this.  He stretches and yawns enjoying this indulgence, before locating his pogo stick and springing to life.  My daughter sleeps on truly enjoying this hiatus from routine.  When she rises several hours later, around 7am, she too asks instantly “do I have wursery today?”

I adore this break too.  The mornings are the most stressful part of the day as a mother, closely followed by the return home when my children and husband have apparently been starved all day and must EAT now.  My son shrieks for a snack whilst trying to yank his school tie and head off.  The Greek is a silent raging bull.  Asking if I need any help, which in Greek means, “Hurry the FUCK up”.  My daughter sits on the sofa with her jacket and shoes on and stares straight ahead shouting “Chicken, give me chicken!” on a loop. This scene is an oasis of calm compared to the morning show.  I can remember my own mother dragging me out of bed and tearing a brush through my hair whilst I continued to sleep into my ricicles.  I have the opposite problem now.  By the time it is ready to depart, we have all been up for hours.  My son always asks for a banana to take to the bus stop.  My daughter confesses she cannot remember what she had for her starter.  I sprint around in my jammies, tripping over the puppy, and excusing my existence to the Greek.  Mornings are not for him.  He is mute until noon.  Coffee and his leprechaun mug are his only confidantes.   I have grown to accept this and I smile benignly in his direction and stick my two fingers up whenever his back greets me.

Easter break is also a favourite for us as it means caravan.  My children are well travelled, but Dunoon is their favourite destination.  Our little bubble that exists out with reality, we pack a rucksack with the bare essentials, travel via Morrison’s to stock up on beers and tuna pasta and coorie doon.  The four of us float about wearing mismatched socks and papas old t-shirts.  We raid the charity shops for batman and my little pony treasures.  We attend the bakers for cream puffs, and we throw our hairstyles to the wind, inviting birds to nest there.  The kids shriek with delight when they find a dead crab on the beach.  They are always solemn as we encase its carcass in a mussel shell, and send nothing but could wishes as we set it to sail on the sea.  Being by the Scottish sea has the same effect on myself as melting Greece does on my Greek.  I watch the waves and feel a sense of calm roll over my mind, pushing my usual bed fellow anxiety overboard, I truly feel content.  I love the smell too.  Different from the sunny Greek sea front, it reeks of seaweed and spoots.  This beach expects nothing from me.  I can wear my fleece, hat and wellies.  There will be no 2-piece bikinis here.

We communicate better as a family here.  We have long conversations over monopoly.  We stroll like a human daisy chain through the trees, playing dead every so often to trick a bunny.  Cilla the puppy is our newest recruit.  She too has fallen into the caravan life.  At home, she follows me everywhere.  I no longer pee without an audience.  When the kids are tucked up in bed, Cilla takes their place.  Poking her nose around the toilet door and staring.  She can hear the fridge open from a mile away, the dog who lives two doors down sneeze.  At the caravan, she becomes Bob Marley.  She lounges.  The fridge opens; she looks up sometimes, but with no desire to move from the gas fire.  I toddle to the toilet and nothing.  I sit aghast in the cubicle and really enjoy my solo pee.  When we go to the beach, she runs on an imaginary treadmill, back and forth, grinning from ear to ear, and shouting over to us, “Guys, this is the life”!  I look at my Greek as he says, “it sure is”.

A wave crashes and the wonderful smell comes at us.  I smile to myself as I watch his nostrils register this and I know what he will say next.  “Babes, do you fancy mussels for dinner?”

“OK” Say I.

Happy Easter xxxx

 

Spaghetti

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The clocks sprung forward what can it mean.
Do I sleep more, or less, or just the same.
As I keek out of one eye, all seems unchanged.
Pinned to the bed by multiple limbs.
Two elbows moored in my cheekbones,
Whilst hot little handies pinch on to my skin.

My mind, always the first to rise.
“No matter the time;
There is lots to get done!”
Trapped in the loveliest family spaghetti,
HUSH! I shout silently,
You will wake my babies!

Its Sunday, a day of rest,
No, No, get up and iron their vests!
The three pounds for toy fund!
Do you have it ready?
Here comes the mum, who forgot its Monday,
Again.

I view my world upside down,
At the edge of the bed.
Books, and bras,
Oh half eaten croissants,
Shite the Greek will moan.
No crummies in my bed,
He DRONES on and on.

I begin my arise,
Falling silently to the floor.
Carefully posting myself down the stairs,
I manage to avoid all the booby trap Lego.
Tea, heating on, puppy out.
Christ its cold.

Spring has sprung.
Despite the snow,
Wee daffodils look hopeful,
I retreat noiselessly,
And slip through the door.

Chaos is here.
Laughter and sneezes,
Demands for warm milk.
My spaghetti relocated,
Onto the couch.

“You don’t have TIME,
To do as they do”!
Then my daughter yells out,
“Bring the parmesan mama”
And well I cannot resist;
Can you?

 

Happy Sunday xx

 

The Melting Pot

ariel

Once a year, the four of us embark to the island of Kos to visit the in-laws.  On stepping off the plane, it begins.  My Britishness versus the Greek’s Greekness.  I start to melt, regardless of the time of day.  Pieces of me slide to the blistering runway and I realise all too late my pre-planned arrival outfit is actually a wet suit.  My kid’s immediately start to whine about their own discomfort.  Favourite blankets are handed to me, slippery toys and half-eaten sandwiches.  They demand to be fanned, carried, my daughter screams “guys who turned on the heating!”  I placate them, fan them, wipe their brows, apologise to strangers, explain their tiredness, and smile demurely as the stranger sympathises.  “Yes, yes it IS a long flight”.  I pray they do not start trying to chat to either one of my kids.  Small talk to small children, whilst melting, do not go well together.  As we approach a slippery silence I look about to find my Greek.  There he is up ahead, can you see him?  An invisible coat hanger stuffed in his mouth, unaffected by the heating, and looking generally fabulous.  He waves to old classmates, runs his hand through his hair, and looks up the sky, eyes closed, coat hanger intact.  The three of us slither over to him, and he is our Greek Scot once more.  He locates the heating dial behind my daughter’s ear and turns her down.  He throws a bottle of water over our sons head, and he fans me with his passport whilst asking if I remembered my antihistamines.

The next day we trot to the beach.  I set up camp, still melting and now dripping with factor 50.  By now, the kids have acclimatised to the heat and have pulled on the bronzed protective skin that their genes have predetermined.  My Greek is away being Greek.  Truly at home, I know the wee chat he is having could last for several hours.  My kids shout me from the shore and it is time.  Surrounded by native mermaids I begin my shassy to the water’s edge.  Barefooted I realise too late the temperature of the sand against my usually frostbitten feet, and I have no option, run, run, run, no not like that!  Why am I prancing on tiptoes, why is an invisible crab pincering my ass?  Is that my boob I can feel outside of my wet suit?  I launch myself into the sea, aiming at my children and maiming several sea creatures.

The other main barrier on this journey is the language.  My Greek is much better than it was to begin with, sure, but I am still at the stage of general enquiries, menu reading, and weather observations.  This frustration is most apparent when we spend time with yaya (grannie).  She bristles with unasked questions, attempts to read our minds, and stares at her grandchildren.  I imagine a shutter behind her eye taking snapshots of them to rewind and play in her internal cinema for the rest of the year.  The mother in me aches for her.  She has brought our Greek into our world (literally); she is the beginning of his story.  We stare at each other intently as she says, “very hot today”.  Papous (Papa) is unaware of this language divide.  He generally communicates through the food that he makes for us.  The cook in me is fluent in this language. I can taste his love in the calamari he has cooked us, I can feel his devotion in the pastichio he rustles up for the kids, and I can see him in the corner of my eye peeking out of the kitchen to witness our yummy noises.

The Greek and I are competent in Spanish.  On trips there, we both feel a sense of being at home.  We enquire about the origin of the wine, we ask for a high chair, we receive complimentary tapas that we sit atop our beers and wiggle our bums with contentment.  My children both attend Gaelic medium education.  They too have developed a visible sense of belonging to this community through the language they are learning.  They attribute these languages to different people.  English for mama, Greek for dada, and Gaelic for each other.

Language gives us a sense of identity and comfort through familiarity.  Just as the Greek is at home shouting and bawling about feta and Papandreou,  I feel like Dorothy Gale whenever I hear someone say, “am bast**ding frozen tae the marrow bone”.  Language is never static and is always evolving.  We all too have our own family discourse that only relations are fluent in.  When my mother refers to “tumshie”, we all know she means her mother, and not a turnip.  My father is a key orchestrator in our linguistic quirks.  For example: Many years ago, my parents stayed in a hotel called the Don Jami. In short, it made Fawlty Towers seem like the Hilton.  For my entire life, Don Jami has meant a cheap imitation or something that does not come up to standard.  For example; my son loves “Salt’N’Shake” crisps.  If I attempt to feed him Aldi’s “Salt Your Own”, he shrieks “mama these crisps are pure don jamis!”

Language is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.   It has been described as the core of humanity. Our written and spoken language allows us to form lasting bonds with one another, allows us to convey feelings, desires, emotions.  It allows us to participate in a culture, a society, an economy.  Written down it can create beautiful stories, emotive poetry, and records of our time.

Fluent in Glaswegian, English, Family, semi Spanish, pigeon Gaelic, it seems I now need to turn my attention to Greek.  To aim for the day, when I can say to the airport worker, “Here carry this lot of shite, I’m positively melting”.  To ask the taxi driver to wait until I have the kids seat belts in place before zooming into the night.  To tell all the mermaids to look the other way as I prepare for my catwalk to the ocean.  To tell Papous “that calamari was frigging amazing”.  However, most importantly to say to yaya;

“She is as determined as your son.  He is an excellent candidate for a sleep deprivation study”.

“Thank you for our Greek.”

“We will see you soon.”

“We love you.”

 

Happy Sunday xx