Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Joy of new Hobbies

So, the latest investment is represented by a 5 foot marine fish tank. Now, as hobbies go, fish keeping is relatively low maintenance. Or so I thought.

My esteemed husband has spent the last week regailing me with the facts, figures and details of this fascinating hobby and has spent some considerable time tatting and messing, filling and refilling the tank. The thing with marine fish is that, unlike the tropical fish we have kept in the past, they require the water to be salinated. A simple task one might think. Hmm. Apparently not.

So, this evening we have puzzled over maths equations reminiscent of GCSE exams, to work out how much salt is too much. Is it 34g per litre or 25g?  If we have added 39g per litre how do we know, and what do we do about it? We argue of course, that's what we do. And then we empty our calculated amount of water out of the tank and refill it with freshwater. And then, we do the calculation again and remove a couple of litres more for good measure. And then we argue and I open a bottle of wine. Things always look better when there is a bottle of wine open.

So, I think we've got it covered. Covered in salt anyway. Goodness knows what will happen when we actually put some fish in the darned thing. Watch this space!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Time flies when you're...

...well when you are doing just about anything! Especially as you get older. I seem to be always planning ahead, almost wishing the time away. There's always something that we are looking forward to, isn't there? The weekend, the next pay packet, the next holiday. And this just makes time go even faster. I want to put the brakes on...just slow down a minute will you; I need to catch up, catch my breath. Five minutes ago I was just finishing my A levels, buying my first house, having a baby...and now that baby is almost 12 years old. Whoa there, slow down! I looked at my youngest daughter the other day and wondered how much longer she would be a little girl, it seems that in the blink of an eye I'll be packing her off to university, and then what will I do?

So, the only way I can see to overcome this is to stop planning. Stop looking forward to that next holiday or pay packet and start enjoying today. This calls for a bit of 'getting my act together' I believe. What is it that I want to be doing with this time that I don't have enough of? Having goals isn't planning. I am not saying when I want to achieve things by, just that I want to achieve them. And so to the lists. I'm good with lists. I like them, in fact, I live for them.

So here's the first living in the infintessimal present list:

I must not:
1. keep glancing at the calendar and working out how many days until pay day
2. Fantasise about attending my daughters' Phd graduation ceremonies (or indeed, my own)
3. Fantasise about the death and subsequent funerals of people I hate
4. Keep working out how many weeks there are until our holiday to Singapore
5. Have suicidal thoughts about having to return to the UK in 18 months time
6. (And just because I shouldn't, even though this has nothing to do with the passing of time) walk up to fat people in the shopping mall food court with a homemade warrant card and say 'Weight watchers police, portion control,put the fork down and  step away from the plate sir'

I should:
1. Stop moaning about being bored and actually do one or all of the following:
           - research for my Phd
           - revise my spanish using all the computer packages/books I have bought
           - learn arabic
           - practice my piano
2. Actually go to work to fill my day with activity because when I am 'working from home' I am bored off my cake
3. Live by the Japenese proverb that 'time spent laughing is time spent with the Gods'

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 this 1953?

So, I have to go food shopping today. I hate it. With a passion. So, the only possible way to make this tolerable is to entice a friend along with the offer of breakfast so we can chat whilst we are shopping. So, an hour into this exciting and stimulating activity I get a text message: 'Breakfast at Paul's eh - very nice'. It would appear that not only is our bank sending my husband text messages when I draw cash out of our JOINT bank account (note the word JOINT - an account into which MY salary is paid), but the bank are now sending him a text message every time I buy something!!! Would all those persons who have not heard of the sexual revolution please raise their hand???? I mean what is this, 1953?

The whole episode reminded me of an article I read in the newspaper (and kept for posterity) just after we moved here. It was entitled 'Recommendations Family Guidance and Reformation Dept at the Dubai courts gives to newly married couples'. Now these may be for newly married couples but I think, in the choicest parts of this, there is a message for old timers as well.  I repeat those parts here for your perusal:

Recommendations to Wives:

1. Men are different from women (no shit Sherlock!)
2. Men are not talkative, so don't nag
3. Men like to be the focus of a woman's attention so don't ignore them or make them feel unwanted
4. Men, by nature hate failure, so don't criticise them
5. Men are capable of solving problems, so don't impose your thoughts on them
6. Men don't shop that much and they like a contented woman, so don't be too demanding
7. Men like a woman who can satisfy their desires, so shower them with love and care as well as appreciation

Recommendations to Husbands:

1. Women are different from men (you don't say!)
2. Women like a man who flirts with them and satisfies them sexually
3. Women like shopping and spending money, so don't be a miser. try to offer her gifts and invite her out frequently.
4. Don't think of committing adultery because it is very harsh on a woman's feelings.
5. Women's moods and attitudes change during pregnancy and menstruation so take this into consideration
6. Women need a man to trust and rely on, so don't disappoint her.
7. Women like to talk about themselves, so don't criticise them.

Please be assured that this is a genuine article from a 2008 newspaper- I have not made this up. There are sooo many things wrong with this, I don't know where to begin! Is it any wonder that the divorce courts are so busy here???

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

Years ago, I bought a second-hand book and inside it was a postcard. The postcard dated from the 1920s and was written in lovely copperplate writing. It was just a note from one friend to another, but to me it was a treasure. It rests in my mum-in-law's attic at the moment (along with a large amount of other stuff, which my father-in-law constantly reminds me of: 'Well, we would buy more Christmas presents, if we had somewhere to store them' - you know the kind of thing!).

But, I wonder whether the art of letter writing has been lost. I have kept up a long term correspondence with a friend - proper letter writing, not emails or postcards, but full on, several pages long, lots of gossip and news, kind of letter writing. I love it. There's nothing like receiving a letter from a friend because it represents something that an email doesn't. It signals that that person cares about you: cares enough to spend an hour or so thinking carefully about words on a page, sentiments, feelings, thoughts. As Katrina once said, 'every time I go for the mailbox, I gotta hold myself down, cos I just wait til you write me you're comin' around'. These days, she'd get a text wouldn't she? Not quite the same thing is it?

Letters from the past are prized. If you search on ebay for letters, even those written as late as the 1960s, they are expensive and you'll have a fight on your hands if you bid. All of those letters that scholars have pored over for generations, written by famous writers, politicians, royalty, have given us clues to the past. How will future scholars unlock the same archives, when the archives were only available for a short time in cyberspace. An email is quickly written, quickly deleted and quickly forgotten.

So, get out your pens and paper. Send a friend a note; a real note, not an email or a text, but something hand written and personal, for their sake and for the scholars of the future, give them something to study and ponder over.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Blind Panic

When Madeline McGann went missing I was furious. How could two well educated, to all intents and purposes, sensible people, think that it was OK to leave a 3 year old in a hotel bedroom on her own? I couldn't watch the news reports because I was so enraged with them. And then, something happened to me that changed my view. When I took my children to a swimming lesson one afternoon, I left the viewing gallery to get my youngest daughter changed. When I returned, my eldest daughter was nowhere to be seen. I panicked. Completely. The staff at the leisure centre were lovely and we combed the building until we found her. Her lesson had been moved to another pool, one that I couldn't see from the viewing gallery I was in. At that moment all of the anger I felt towards Madeline's parents dissipated. If they were going to spend the rest of their lives feeling what I had felt for only a few moments then who was I to judge them? Simply continuing to live was going to be a daily struggle for them.

For me, however, I still hadn't learned my lesson. A couple of nights ago my eldest daughter went home from school with a friend so that they could go to a halloween party together, organised by the local guide troop. I go trick or treating with my youngest, return home, thinking that I have two hours to wait until the party is over and I have to drive over and pick up my eldest. After about an hour at home I hear my phone ring. When I finally find it in the bottom of my bag, I have 5 missed calls from the school hosting the halloween party. I call them back and the security guard puts my daughter on the phone who relates,in a very subdued and upset voice, that the party is in fact next week and can I come and fetch her. Now, at this point I am imagining that my daughter is sat in a school she's never been to before, a 20 minute drive away, with a security guard. Hmmm. Blind panic ensues.

On the drive there, I am imagining the conversation I am going to have with the mum who dropped her off and left her there, and how I am going to have to try not to scream at her on the phone. I tell myself, it's not her fault, it's mine. I didn't hear my phone ringing. I should have had it close by me all the time.

When I finally arrive at the school, however, all is well. The guides were having their usual meeting so my daughter had simply sat watching their activities for the past hour whilst the security guard had tried, repeatedly to contact me. The other mum was blissfully unaware of any of this. Thank goodness I hadn't phoned her and ranted at her! The relief I felt was immense. I wanted to hold my daughter and never let her go. Needless to say, the mobile phone on the desk in front of me has not been out of my sight since.