The mystery of the great yellow ball in the sky, or Scotland’s first summer since 1976…


Yes. You read that correctly. After a winter that seemed to drag on for years, and a seriously bad start to the food-growing year; a very strange thing happened. I was forced to buy a bottle of sunscreen. I also removed my denim jacket for around twenty minutes before I got a bit of a draught at put it back on again.

No, seriously. Scotland got a summer. The first decent summer since 2006. I remember that summer well, Ellis was a few months old and I, crippled with post-natal depression, was too scared to take him outside in case he spontaneously combusted. I spent most of the summer gazing through the window whilst furiously dusting and tidying up all the things that didn’t need tidying whilst awaiting my latest interrogation session with my health visitor.

We have had great fun. There have been picnics (with my proper, grown-up, terribly middle class wicker picnic hamper); and plenty of visits to the community garden, where our little raised bed is thriving and providing us with plenty of fresh organic food, some of which the children even eat. We have been to the seaside, even venturing as far afield as Fife where nobody hit us with pointy sticks or chased us with flaming torches, disappointingly. The boys went to Nature Explorers at the David Livingstone Centre, which I reviewed for the Community Garden blog.

Look! See?

Look! See?

In my quest to have children who love nature and the outdoors as much as I do; it became quite the norm to kick them out of the house a 8.00am each sunny morning to let them play on the scheme’s field on their bikes with their friends whilst I conveniently forgot about the enormous pile of ironing threatening to take over the kitchen and just plonked my gargantuan backside in a deckchair with a coffee and a good book.

I did have a momentary parental ‘failing my kids’ crisis whilst listening to the insufferable Carol Vorderman on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ rabbiting on about the need to continue giving children ‘homework’ throughout the long summer break. Then I realised how much better Fin’s speech had become; and how his confidence had grown. I heard Ellis identify trees, birds and butterflies he’d recognised from his I-Spy books. I saw them run around, playing happily, building relationships (and occassionally having conflicts) with their friends. When we were out walking and they asked a question about where we were, or what they could see or hear, I would answer them as best I could. Even ‘how to internal combustion engines work?’, ‘why is Bothwell stone red?’ and ‘Would the castle still have been standing if it had been attacked by the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars’.

Dear Mrs Vorderman. Please shove your Oxford Reading Tree books and your fifteen minutes a day maths homework where the sun don’t shine. There’s more to successful, enthusiastic learning than that. Our summers are so scarce, I was determined that the children wouldn’t miss a minute of it.

(Expect a flurry of blog posts from me over the next fews days. I have another hare-brained scheme afoot. You, dear reader, have been duly warned).


And then there were four

Because, for the briefest of times – just a few weeks, it seems, and unbeknownst to us, there were five in our family.

And now, once again, there are four.

An ‘early’ period. A huge amount of blood, very quickly lost. Faintness and shaking led to the Sunday morning call to NHS24, given my precarious health.

The blood slowed, I felt better. NHS24 called back to check on me. ‘It’s probably your age, you’re getting on, your periods will get more irregular given your family history of early 40s menopause. Plus you’re on warfarin and your blood is very thin at the moment’.

Arrangements were made for me to go to my GP today for a blood test and an internal just to check everything was OK.

The thought of a baby didn’t cross my mind, I laughed when she asked me to pee in one of those ridiculous little pots.

And then I cried.

Because this is the kick in the head. I had been warned not to have any more children, that my illness – that wreaked havoc on my body throughout my last pregnancy – would probably finish us both off and leave two small boys without their mummy. Even if, by some miracle, we made full-term, the effects of my medication on a foetus can be pretty horrific, and not something you would wish on a child. The NHS do a wonderful job, but they tell it like it is; that the best, kindest and most sensible option for everyone (including themselves) would have been a termination.

Spontaneous abortion is a term I have loathed for many years, having suffered several heartbreaking miscarriages before my sons were born. I still hate it, but must bregrudgingly admit that, in this instance, it is more apt and, in a way – and I despise myself for this – I am oddly relieved that this was sudden and spontaneous, and that that massive decision was taken away from me.

But I am far from absolved from guilt.

I am numb. I am lost. I am dealing with feelings I have never encountered before. I am trying to put on my big, brave girl mask for my boys, and my friends, and all the people who don’t really understand what’s going on with my health; but inside I am a mash-up of emotions. I am rational, and calm, and objective; I am aching, and mourning and cursing this fucked up body of mine that tries to claim not just my life, by that life within me too.

I am staring at walls.

I miss you, little Fifth. I never knew you were with us, and I understand you wouldn’t have been with us for long, but I miss you now you’re gone. And I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry that I couldn’t be your mummy.


There are no photos, and no tags in this post.



Sobriety, pootling and starting the fight for Fin.


So, we are now eleven days into the hell that is the Cancer Research UK Dryathlon with only twenty one long, sober days to go.

But, is it really the ‘hell’ I thought it would be?

Well…no. In fact, I appear – at my ripe old age – to have turned something of a corner.

I feel brilliant. Seriously. I am sleeping so much better, I am waking refreshed (albeit with hazy memories of some truly bizarre and sometimes rather unsettling dreams) and ready to tackle a hour or so of home-schooling with the Child Made Entirely of Stroppiness And Playstation 2 Addiction (more about this below). The bags under my eyes large enough to bring home the weekly shop are vastly diminished, and I have lost weight. It’s probably water retention, I don’t care. I have discovered that my backside has ACTUALLY CHANGED SHAPE, my wobbly thighs are seeing an improvement in the cellulite (I’m really painting a glamorous picture of myself here, aren’t I?), and I actually did up a pair of size 10 hipster bell-bottom jeans without feeling as though I was about to pass out. It’s all good.

The biggest change, however, seems to be in my overall attitude to life and the little curve-balls it sometimes like to hurl at our heads. I am so much more chilled out about things that, a few weeks ago, would have irritated me to the point of me breaking out in hives, or sent me into paroxyms of indignant rage. Like having my wallet stolen last week, leaving the boys and I stranded in Hamilton until a wonderful friend heard my Facebook plea and came to our rescue; like the latest nonsense from Fin’s nursery; like the fact that I am still receiving eight or nine calls a day asking me about claiming back the PPI I have never, ever, taken out.

I like this new me. She’s rather nice. She’s calm, and collected, and laid-back. She’s stopped getting into pointless arguments on forums. She rather likes peace, and tranquility and reading. (I have just finished Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’, which was staggeringly good. I am now wading through Umberto Eco’s ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’ which isn’t quite such an easy read, but oddly compelling, despite me not understanding half of it because it involves psychics and stuff). She likes walking, and being outdoors, and gets far more done in a day than she used to.

OK. I’ll shut up now. But remember you can donate to my Dryathlon sponsorship here.….or else I might keep wittering on about how bloody marvellous I am feeling each day for the next twenty one days.


My new-found energy resulting from the drop in bodily toxins plus some unseasonably mild weather has led to me ditching my old-lady afternoon nap in favour of a bit of old-fashioned pootling at the Community Garden. You know how much I like a good pootle. I thrive on it.

It’s still a little early to be sowing seeds with gay abandon unless you have access to heated cold-frames, particularly as reports suggest that we may be plunged into temperatures of minus 15 celsius by the weekend; and I am saving my seed catalogues for a particularly decadent evening; but there is always work to be done at the garden. Both the outdoor and indoor beds have been thoroughly cleared, weeded and given a dressing of Fish, Blood and Bone. I have left my miniscule sprouts and red cabbage in situ in the outdoor bed for now, by my reckoning they should be ready by 2016. Sadly, all my crop of leeks bolted, and were completely unsalvageable, so have been turned into compost.

I am now on a mission to tidy and clean Polytunnel 1. This is the one we use for sowing and growing on plants for the garden members to buy to plant in their beds, and also for the flowers we use to create hanging baskets and other displays for the village. It’s a busy little place during the season, and one of my favourite places in the World. Having been pretty much dormant for the past three months, it is in dire need of a good clear out; seed and plant trays need washing so we can recycle them for this coming season; and at some point we will need to blast the outside with a water-jet to remove some of the moss and detritus from the overhanging trees that affect the light levels within the polytunnel. I am making good head-way, and very much enjoying just pottering around at the garden. You know, whilst I can. Before we are under five foot of snow.

A group of us gardening, pootling types have set up a Facebook group called Gardening Shenanigans . If you are on Facebook, and fancy a blether about sowing, growing, potting, pootling and generally moaning about the weather, you are very welcome to join us. Just request to join (it’s a ‘Closed Group’ to avoid spammers and general ne’er do wells) and one of the gatekeepers will let you in.


As the children returned to school and nursery, it was time to get Fin back into the routine of working at home. Remember, this is the unruly, unco-operative child who ‘cannot do anything properly’, according to one (and I stress one) of his nursery teachers.

We have started slowly. I am aiming for just half an hour of activities at the kitchen table, anything that engages him for longer is a lovely bonus. The aim is to bring him up to speed with where he ought to be for his age, difficult though it is to find a definitive benchmark for what your average just-gone-four-year-old should be able to achieve without difficulty.

We have surpassed our thirty minute target every day. We have been mostly concentrating on drawing and making patterns, to aid Fin with his pencil control in preparation for starting to write. Just over the course of a week, I have seen improvements in his drawing, with his pictures now actually looking like more than a frustrated scribble. He is writing his own name confidently. I discovered, to my chagrin, that he knows how to type his name, and his brother’s name, and post it to Facebook. He has completed his maths workbook which is aimed at children up to the age of five. He seems happier about going into nursery – his speech at home, and with certain nursery friends, I feel, has also improved dramatically and he is now quite confidently speaking three or four sentences at a time – for the first time, we are hearing about what happened at nursery, about games he has been playing. His stories show a keen sense of humour, a beautiful sense of childish mischief that I do not wish to see stifled.

I await my next meeting with his teacher (the one that feels he cannot do anything properly) with a certain degree of trepidation. She is not happy that I am working with him at home, as she feels that ‘undermines’ what they are doing with him at nursery. It would appear that, to her, learning to write is more important than, first, learning to sit still and concentrate. He is clearly not working to her timescale, and therefore he is a write-off, despite being extremely good at arithmetic, noticing patterns, and anything computer based. (Yes, I hear the screams of ‘autism’ from here – I hear them. She doesn’t. She thinks he is just a ‘bad child’. For the record, I believe he has a degree of Attention Deficit Disorder). It has obviously not dawned on her that he may need to learn to sit quietly and hold his pencil before he can manage the beginnings of cursive writing. I have suggested that she is expecting him to run before he can walk. She fixed me with that supercillious ‘I have a teaching qualification and you don’t’ smile. It would appear that being a child’s parent counts for very little these days. How DARE I profess to know my own child better than she does?

I always want him to know that he is, indeed, smarter than he thinks. I honestly believe he may be smarter than anyone thinks. When it comes to his future, I intend to be braver, and stronger, than I think.

I will be silenced no more.

There will be a more detailed post about Fin next week, I hope, once the Health Visitor has come around for his ‘review’. Next week is a busy week for me, involving the forementioned visit from the HV; my eye-test; my sale of a kidney to pay for the glasses I dare say I need;  my haemotology appointment where I discover whether my bone-marrow is still confounding medical science; and an interview with a lovely St Andrews Undergraduate who is studying the role of community gardens in today’s society.

Honestly, I feel like a grown-up.

Poetry for Children #1 – Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
by Eugene Field
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,–
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
And Nod.The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,–
Never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,–
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:–
And Nod.


S/P/T Day 21, and one crestfallen six year old


Today’s theme is ‘dark’. I’ll admit, I cheated with this one. This is a re-edited version of a picture on my 365project. We were running a little late this morning so it wasn’t as dark as I would have liked.

My heart, however, is dark and heavy. Ellis announced to Granny last night that Father Christmas is bringing him a Nintendo 3DS XL.  At £195.00 a pop, Father Christmas is doing no such thing. Even if Ellis hadn’t waited until four days before Christmas before dropping this particular bombshell, he would not be getting one. That’s practically the budget for both children for all their presents.

He was devastated when we told him he absolutely, definitely, most certainly would not be getting this overpriced piece of plastic. I couldn’t bear to look at him, his face looked as though I had just asked him to drown a sack of kittens.

Of course, I did what parents do. I mentally beat myself up about it. I spent last night trying to explain to him that mummy and daddy do have to send Father Christmas money to pay for all the toys he makes, and that we just can’t afford that much – especially as it wouldn’t be fair if he got one and Fin didn’t; and wouldn’t it be much more fun to have lots of little things rather than one big, expensive thing; and that Father Christmas thinks he only wants one because Calum is getting one, and Father Christmas says they are a bit rubbish anyway, really, and nowhere near as good as the Playstation2.

I tortured myself last night remembering how his lovely little face fell in crestfallen disappointment. There was no tantrum, no stropping off. Just a little six year old boy being sad, and rather brave, really, considering mummy had just pee’d all over his festive parade.

The rational, sensible, side of me tells me that no, he will have forgotten all about it by Christmas day, especially when he sees his bike. The same rational, sensible side of me also tells me that children do need to understand that they can’t get everything they want, and that life is full of disappointments and that Christmas, like life, is not just about material things.

We’re going to watch the Wartime Farm Christmas Special later on, on iPlayer. Perhaps seeing the kind of gifts that children received – and were grateful for – in 1944 will help him to realise that what he already has, and what he will receive, is far more than many children could ever dream of.


Tomtes, tantrums and twenty minute blogging

See me? I have this Christmas malarkey sorted. Totally.

Yesterday’s custard creams must have provided me with the carbohydrate boost I needed to get my backside off the sofa and my brain into gear, as last night we wrapped the presents. All of them. We also built the bikes.

Well, I say ‘we’. Richard built the bikes. I drank wine and offered gentle words of encouragement, a spare hand when required, and the requisite wifely concerned furrowed brow when another expletive-dampening sigh emitted from the poor man’s lips.

There’s a lot to be said for walking into Halfords, with your darling offspring in tow, and buying ready built and tested bikes , isn’t there? I see that now. Benefits include: Not having to frantically search for a missing front wheel washer that isn’t actually missing; not having to watch your beloved partner tear out what little hair he still has; having fully-functioning front brakes; and actually buying bikes that fit your children now rather than relying on online bike frame sizing guides that seem to indicate that your average four year old is the height of an adult wookie with an inside leg measurement that would send Naomi Campbell into paroxyms of rage .

Of course, this is Scotland, so there is every possibility that the boys will have grown the required three inches by the time the weather is decent enough to let them out on said bikes. Failing that, we have a cunning plan to strap housebricks to the pedals.

We know Ellis will love his bike. His last bike, a rusty, scratched and battered Raleigh, has been all but worn out with repeated races around the field and, seeing him ride it now, I fear for his knees as they get increasingly close to the handlebars. We are less sure about Fin. To be honest, we don’t really know how Fin will react to the whole ‘Christmas thing’. If the eight complete meltdowns about absolutely nothing we endured this morning (in a space of forty minutes, no less) is anything to go by, I do not hold out much hope for Casa del Raindrops being a haven of festive cheer and peace on Earth this Christmas morning. I rather suspect I will be in frustrated tears by 9am because Captain Cranky has declared everything ‘wubbish’, bitten his brother for picking up ‘his’ piece of wrapping paper, and thrown his bike into the Christmas tree.

But we shall see. And, of course, Bjorn the Tomte is watching.

Bjorn (Again) - See what I did there? Did ya?

Bjorn (Again) – See what I did there? Did ya?

Fin actually has a very special relationship with Bjorn. Since Bjorn arrived from Sweden, he has sat rather imperiously on the mantlepiece watching each drama, each cosy family moment, and every shrieking meltdown (mine included) with a look of rather inebriated detachment.

Over the past few days, on several occassions, Bjorn has been carried – very, very carefully, into the kitchen where I am informed by a certain small (though not as small as Bjorn, just) person that  ‘Tomte wants to tell you something’.

Bjorn then proceeds to whisper into my ear, much to Fin’s wide-eyed amazement.

Funnily enough, Bjorn only ever tells me all the kind, thoughtful, clever or brave things Fin has done. Of course, he knows about the tempers, the fighting, the screaming-for-no-reason; but Bjorn understands why Fin does these things. It is, of course, because Fin has a Tantrum Pixie* living up his nose. Everybody knows (nose?) that the only way you can stop the Tantrum Pixie* from making Fin cross is to say ‘Off you go, Tantrum Pixie*, bring back kind Fin for a cuddle’ and tweak Fin’s nose. The Tantrum Pixie* really doesn’t like that, and off he skulks, leaving kind and lovely Fin free for smiles and cuddles.

Child psychologists and other experts are probably, by now, shaking their fists at the screen and forward-planning for several years of therapy for parent-induced PTSD but, sorry, it works for us. Fin’s tantrums have, at least recently, calmed down far, far faster than when I just leave him to settle himself down. We will work on ‘ownership’ of his actions and responses when we better know what we are dealing with. Until then, if expelling the Tantrum Pixie* via a gentle tweak of the nose and some magic words stops him beating up his brother, smashing things up and terrorising his classmates, I can work with that.


You may wonder where ‘Twenty Minute Blogging’ comes into this. I have spent this morning in a most pleasurable whirl of domesticity, during which time I tidied up, cleaned the kitchen, sorted clothes and found the bottom of the ironing basket. My last task was this blog. I challenged myself to write it in twenty minutes. I managed it in nineteen.

I’m therefore awarding myself the rest of the day off.

*Tantrum Pixie – a child-friendly construct implying you suspect your child is possessed by Satan.

In which I feel a sense of guilt, and Fin rewrites the Nativity story

Yesterday, I bought myself a Christmas present. Actually, three Christmas presents in the shape of these super Letraset ProMarkers, a black outliner and a vanilla ‘skin-toned’ ProMarker. Despite having a multitude of crafty plans afoot for these bad boys (mostly involving copious amounts of jam-jars and ribbon), I am still feeling extremely guilty about spending this much money on myself in the run up to the festive season. I am trying hard to convince myself that, if I had a social life that didn’t just involve composting or wading up to my knees in dirty bog water in the name of environmental volunteering, I would no doubt be splashing the cash on some snazzy little number to wow everyone at a Christmas party or twelve. Of course, I haven’t been to any party recently that hasn’t involved soft-play, jelly and Ben 10 birthday cakes, but that’s by-the-by.

Not my own work. Not nearly slapdash enough.

Not my own work. Not nearly slapdash enough.


In other news, this afternoon is the nursery nativity.

Scarface may, or may not, have a speaking part. He is a wise man. There are eight wise persons in this particular production of the nativity, including three Wise Ladies. He might say ‘myrrh’, if he can be bothered. He might not actually make it onto the stage at all.

If he does keep his temper under control for long enough to make it from the nursery classroom to the hall without any of the keyworkers needing a Rabies shot, proud mummy apparently has a seat reserved right at the front nearest the stage stairs so that mini Richard Burton can be gently but forcibly evicted from the stage should he start fighting, unwrapping the baby Jesus’ gifts, or singing ‘Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg’ at the top of his voice whilst Gabriel announces the impending birth of the Messiah.

This morning he was practising being a wise man. Resplendent in cornflake covered dressing gown and George Pig pyjamas, he stomped imperiously around the living room whilst humming an off-key rendition of the Imperial March as I sat looking pious with a teatowel on my head impersonating Mary. He then delivered the line Luke decided to leave out of the New Testament.


As one of my Facebook chums pointed out – “Join me, and together we will rule the galaxy as father and son…”