Monday, 28 January 2013

Of beds, chromosomes and naughty boys

Boys! Aaargh!

Why is the 'Y' chromosome so called? Pause to consider this for a moment before I get onto the subject of beds.

The X chromosome - the one, that when expressed as XX,  confers the female genotype - is aptly named. Xs are symmetrical (pointy, but in a rounded sort of way) and elsewhere, they are used to represent kisses. Female relatives - mums, daughters, grannies, aunts - tend to be the great kissers in our lives, so the X chromosome is aptly named. (And yes, I do actually realise that the X in the X chromosome and the X  representing kisses have nothing to do with each other! But as coincidences go, it's a pretty happy one).

Anyway, why might Y be the name given to the rather stumpy-looking male chromosome? Does it look like a little man with both fists in the air, ready to pummel another little man? Is he perhaps holding his hands up in surrender to the more elegant female chromosome? Or waving in desperation as he drowns in the sea of 45 other chromosomes, all of which are taller than him? Or does the Y look a bit like a weapon: grab it by the vertical leg and use it to bludgeon any other Ys that get too close?

Given that they were probably named by a committee of male scientists, it's funny that, when comparing the letter Y with the letter X, they chose to give the one with a bit missing to the man. What were they trying to say - that a man can do everything standing on one leg, but that a woman needs two feet firmly on the ground? If this last thought even crossed their minds (which, of course, it probably didn't) then I think they kinda shot themselves in the foot, don't you? Men don't multitask: stand a man on one leg and he'll be incapable of doing anything else. Apart from telling all the XXs around him how terribly busy he is, and how he couldn't possibly put the kettle on, empty the bin, or do any washing up.

I digress - back to beds. And boys (those members of our family with the Y chromosome). They get nice soft beds; soft covers; a warm room to sleep in. And what do they do?

They break the bed; rip its cover; scatter its stuffing all over the floor; and poo on it! Yes! I am talking about the dogs. Not the son! ... mostly, not the son - the bed breaking bit might be his; but more due to faulty construction than the Y chromosome. At least, that's his story ...

The dogs - Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins - were treated to "almost indestructible" dog beds (big cushions with tough canvas covers) for their crates, at about the time that Bertie Baggins joined the family (precisely six and a half months ago).

And it has taken six and a half months for them to demonstrate what "almost" means.

But even when it is ripped at every corner and spewing its foam-filling all over the floor, they can still share the one that has "almost" survived.

The other bed failed the "almost" bit completely, wasn't indestructible and has gone to dog-bed-heaven, otherwise known as the local recycling centre. Bertie Baggins would like to have some dirty washing in his crate.

Afraid though, that the washing had to be washed and he'll have to make do with a few sheets of Sunday Times instead.

The beds of XX family members? All intact when last checked - protected by a legion of soft toys; adorned with dream catchers and fairy lights; and adrift on a calm sea of soft music to aid sleep. Not a sheet of newspaper in sight!

Friday, 25 January 2013

To a mouse: 25th January

Written to a mouse that drowned in my watering can.
Happy Burns Night to all my fellow Scots.

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
Thou cannae swim – nae crawl nor breastie.
Thou shoudnae ha climbed intae ma pail sae hasty
Wi' oot a paddle.
I wad be laith tae flood an' drown thee
Wi' murdering puddle.

I doubt na, whyles, thou may ha thieved;
What then? Poor beastie, thou that lived!
A seedling frae my glass-housie tray
Was but a sma' request;
An' when the summer comes this way
I'll get a garden wi' the rest.

In my housie, too, thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! Trap sheared your tail of a’its stibble
That wee bit heap o’ wires an’ felt
Cost thee monie a weary nibble!
An’ me an electrician’s bill, for a’ thy trouble!
An’ bleak my mind turned murdering-bold
An’ my heart ran full carnreuch cauld.

But the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ before more traps I could deploy
Thou thought tae swim. An’ drowned.

Monday, 21 January 2013

A little bit of squashing. And unfreezing Littlest.

Still it snows.

And as AA Milne wrote -

'The more it goes (tiddly pom)
On snowing
Nobody knows (tiddly pom)
How cold my toes (tiddly pom)
Are growing.'

Littlest as Pooh. Littlest with frozen, red toes.
Littlest determined (despite the insides of her wellies harbouring sloshy puddles) to go out into the land of snow.
To hum (tiddly pom - actually, to sing Castle on a Cloud from Les Mis; something to do with the sweeping?) and work to keep warm -

Hat belongs to big brother - he'll never know!

Next job - got to keep busy in the cold - is creation of a snowman. 

When introduced later, Four-legged-friend clearly thought he could startle Mr Snow into dropping his nose, but so far the barking has failed to gift him the carrot.

Rehydration, hot chocolate style. Hot!

Followed by a spot of Littlest-squashing, when the snow-ball-rolling got out of control (this is - just to reassure you, a reconstruction of what I witnessed through the window - Littlest is fine, slope was gentle, momentum limited and her leg only a little bit squeezed).

Why did we reconstruct it? Because it looked 'ridiculous!'

All in all then, Littlest and the rest of us have squeezed a lot of experiences into a couple of snowy days. 

Who remembers the grey, drizzly days of their childhood? The boring days when we were made to wear coats because it was wet; when we couldn't play outside, because the grass was muddy and the swing would give us a soggy bottom; and when mum said 'hurry up' and 'get out of that puddle,' because she didn't want us to mess up her car with our dirty shoes. No-one. There were too many days like that and they blur into sameness. Memories come from the different days - the fun days: trips to the beach; a visit to a castle with a ghost walk or a maze; days with special outings to a ballet or the theatre; birthday parties; weddings; even funerals; and perhaps, best of all, activity-packed snow days.

A couple of blogs ago, I wrote that 'you either love snow or hate it.' I still hate driving in it, specifically other drivers driving too fast in it. But a bit like Christmas, how could anyone who has children possibly hate playing in it? Or walking the dogs in it?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Freezing Littlest

Snow! On and on it snows. And the undefined becomes defined in cold black and white:

Snow can, can't water

Gates - so provocative: whither which path?

Snowy seat

 Walking the dogs and an idle, fun, but chilly way to travel

Long walk to home, heat and dry clothes 

Bertie Baggins doesn't mind the cold ... as long as there's a bit of bread making him pose for the camera

Four-legged-friend would do anything for a bit of bread - "Snow on my nose? What snow? I'm posing! I'm getting bread!!"

Littlest - well ... wellies full of compacted snow - so full that feet were plugged firmly; a plaster-cast of wet sock, a thin film of melting snow, and outer layers of hard snow and unpliable, frozen, wellie rubber. Took half an hour or so of hot chocolate, feet up my jumper (don't ask), two dry vests, two jumpers and a warm hooded fleecy before the sensation came back and toe colour went from red to healthy pink

Poor Littlest - lots of cuddles later, had a chat about the wisdom of mothers, who do sometimes know best when they say things like "Don't lie down in the snow for too long" and "If you do that you'll get snow in your wellies." Cautionary tale? - perhaps. Or simply part of the childish fun to be had in the snow.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snow! Chasing sunsets and a golden escapee

You either love or hate snow.

If you were to ask my children, they would probably be of the opinion that I fall firmly into the hating-snow camp. But this isn't - always - true.

Yes - the over-protective curmudgeon in me hates driving in it; or trudging through it in an attempt to arrive at the school gate with Littlest, rather than get there and find she has stopped somewhere en route between car and school, dreamily ambling between snow-laden trees looking for "fairy footprints." I also hate falling over in it; don't like it's disintegration into wet, greyish slush, or worse, yellow slush, and am not that keen on snow ball fights.

However, I do like the definition snow gives to the normally undefined - such as the old cart-wheel above; the way it outlines branches of trees; blurs contours and turns the world black and white; and how it somehow softens noise.

Suddenly, on a snowy walk, I can see what the dogs are smelling - rabbits!

A ploughed field becomes a thing of beauty

That 'path less travelled' (Blog post on 31.12.12) takes on a pristine, cold, don't-tread-here-and dare-to-spoil-me beauty, while the one much travelled is full of bear-prints; rugged welly sole-prints and ... dogs.

Where all furrows lead to home - but we have to follow the footpath

And I get to chase sunsets - New Year Resolution ... tick!

Bertie Baggins ... I reckon it's time to use his actual name - much less confusing! ... rather over-enthusiastically chased the sunset. Or perhaps he chased it faster than I was able to keep up (did I plan a dietary/exercise resolution this year?) And slipped his collar. Strictly that should be slipped 'out' of his collar, but he made little effort to slip back in: "I didn't mean to escape, Mum. Honest!"

Watching the snow fall now, I have a growing suspicion that snowman-building; sledging and snow-ball lobbing will all be occurring in the morning ... hmmm ... oops! - what part of me thought it wasn't a good idea to do my daily shovel-poop-scooping patrol of the grass? Too cold today - brown skid marks tomorrow. Yuk!

Monday, 14 January 2013

The muddy world of disobedience

This is what happens when Littlest is told not to walk through the mud

And this is her not-very-guilty face ... plus a sheet of puddle-ice ... when she squelches out the other side of it

Swiftly followed by screams of "I've got mud running up my sleeves!"

What is it with modern parenting and the need to try out the 'do as I say' bit ... before shrugging and taking advantage of the photo opportunity when the child does as it pleases? Am I a soft touch? ... no don't answer that question - I know the answer. So often, I find myself saying "Don't do that" or "No, you can't" and facing a barrage of indignant questioning, which inevitably leads to my reflecting on the justification of what I said. So often, the child - usually Littlest - is right: I had no good reason ... other than perhaps 'I can't be bothered with the consequences right now' - such as the muddy boots. So soft touch or grouch? ... hmmm - probably the latter. But a grouch who is happy to admit defeat and smile when the disobedience becomes a bit of fun.

Monday, 7 January 2013


If he/she looks stressed

walks stressed

talks stressed

he/she probably needs ... a little longer on holiday ... another glass of wine ... a hug ... Littlest to say 'I love you' ... a warm Four-legged-friend to curl up at his/her feet ... a literary agent to write something encouraging ... a law against rejection letters/rudeness/people who fail to pick up their dog's poo ... a good night's sleep ... to wake up a stone lighter and without the appetite of a marathon runner ... a candle-lit bath, with a good book and another glass of wine ... a long walk on a sunny day without any muddy puddles and the consequent three tons of mud clinging to the bottom of his/her wellies ... French onion soup and crusty bread ... tiramisu ... a glass of drambuie ... the view and air at the top of a Scottish mountain ... his/her tax return to be magically completed and spirited away to a land of benevolent tax men ...

I could go on. And on. And on.

Why stressed? Why me? Why now? Two days ago, a good friend, in whose company we had just enjoyed dinner, commented that I "looked stressed" - I think he had a point: I was perched on the edge of my chair, weight forward, head in hands, tummy complaining about the topping-up of Christmas over-indulgences I had just force fed it, struggling to remain awake and anticipating a drive home and a week of getting back to work and preparing for a party. The party will be lovely - fantastic friends coming, a wonderful celebration of family - but lots to do in preparation. Work won't be lovely - it never is ... except that today someone bothered to say thank you for a job I had done. It is staggering how seldom that happens. This is the season of resolutions - maybe, we should all strive to say thank you more often. It does make a difference.

Other resolutions - my own: procrastinate less (perhaps! I suspect I quite enjoy procrastinating - in much the same way as I enjoy food and thereby fail to lose weight, I enjoy procrastinating because it puts off all the difficult decisions 'til tomorrow and allows time for thinking and writing poems and suchlike). And on the subject of writing, I resolve to post a blog, here, once a week.

And to be positive - 'It will all work out in the end. And if it isn't worked out, it isn't yet the end.'

So with that in mind - - I will resubmit.

And do more of this (the holding of hands, not the trudging through mud)

And of this 

I will chase more sunsets

and commune with trees

And smile ... cheers! It's wine time.