Thursday, 29 November 2007

Cruising the Fax

When I was in high school every Saturday night we would head for the Fax. This would be West Colfax Avenue between Sheridan and Union Boulevard.

You could count on the girls wearing the smallest outfits and as much makeup as their mothers would let them out of the house with. And the boys would have the cars cleaned and polished.

We would collect gas money to cruise up and down the street east to west and back again all through the night until our curfews. The street was absolutely gridlocked between the hours of 8 pm and 11 pm. If you were a local you took a back street.

All the high schools were represented: Lakewood, Green Mountain, Alameda, Bear Creek, Arvada, Golden, Jefferson (if you were really unlucky!).

I met my first long term boyfriend, Troy, on the Fax. He had a red Toyota pickup. He was with his mate, Danny, who was later shot in the line of duty when he was a sheriff for Denver County.

I used to cruise with my girlfriends, Ev, Kerry and Susan. Susan was with me when I met Troy.

One time Susan and I decided we would stay out all night. We told our parents we were staying at each other's homes and we headed for the Fax. What we hadn't appreciated was that at 3 am everyone else had headed home and the Fax was a lonely place at that time of the night. We ended up sleeping very uncomfortably in her car that night.

After 5 years of the chaos the police cracked down on the cruising. And I don't think anyone cruises anymore. But I learned to talk to boys on the Fax. And it will always hold very fond memories for me.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Chicago's Alleys

Chicago is a fascinating city. It was one of the first big cities I ever traveled to as a young adult first let lose in the big wide world. It is home to my beloved (if ultimately unsuccessful) Chicago Cubs. The people of Chicago are scary and friendly in equal measure at the same time.

Scariest for me has always been walking the streets of Chicago. I've walked the streets of New York at all hours including the wee hours of the morning and never felt fear the way I've felt fear at just about anytime on the streets of Chicago, specifically down the alleys of the city. But it looks to me like Chicago is looking to make a change.

Read this story about what Chicago is doing about their alleys. I love it. Even if you believe those crazies (Janell and Joe) and think global climate change is a bunch of malarkey, you can't argue that everything Chicago is doing isn't a great idea!

Go Windy City!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Beaver Scout

Tonight Sebastian took his oath to be a Beaver Scout.

Beaver Scouts is the branch of Boy Scouts aimed at 6-8 year olds. He is a member of the Old Windsor Chapter.

He promised to do his best, to be kind and helpful and to love God.

Colfax Avenue

One of the things I miss most about living in the USA is getting a copy of the Sunday New York Times delivered to my home. I used to spend an entire week sorting my way through the vast volumes of news the paper delivered.

When I moved to the UK, I looked into getting the paper delivered to me here. The cost was exorbitant and I wouldn't have received the paper until midweek. Both reasons proved enough to prevent me from doing so. With the advances in the digital world and the internet I used to subscribe to the paper online but this was back in the days when I had to pay for the service and the download time made it an excrutiatingly painful process.

How much this has all changed! New York Times abridiged edition delivered to my hotmail account every day. Free!

This means I catch up on the news from my hotmail account in short spurts equivalent to reading the headlines without any of the annoying adverts.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my beloved Colfax Avenue in Colorado had made it to the headlines. I blogged about this infamous stretch of road in two different blog posts: one about my Hardest Job and one about my First Job both of which were located at two differnt locations but both on Colfax Avenue. Nice to read somethings never change and everything changes.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Eton Mess

Here is the story behind Eton Mess. The recipe uses ready made meringues and I'm not sure I'd trust a recipe from Wikipedia.

If you want to do the meringues yourself here is Delia's recipe for Eton Mess. She's an excellent cook and I reckon this would be fabulous.

The one I had replaced the strawberries of summer with bananas which are more readily available at this time of year. I reckon you can use just about any fruit. It also had some very fine lime zest which added an interesting tang to the sweetness of the meringue.

Whirling Weekend

You might have noticed I didn't post to my blog this weekend. It wasn't for a lack of desire or ideas. It was time. Normally I post early in the morning before the children are awake or late in the evening after the children have gone to bed.

Several things happened this weekend that prevented that from happening.

  1. Friday evening was the Christmas Party for the parents of the Nursery children (Abigail's class). Let's just say that when we realised what time it was the clock had long since chimed midnight and we were well and truly going to turn into pumpkins. Our neighbours were babysitting out of the kindness of the heart and we raced home. This was not easy to do given the vast quantities of wine we had drank. We had a brilliant time and our BIG THANKS go out to Megan and Rosie who worked very hard to get it organised. I highly recommend The Tower at The Harte and Garter Hotel in Windsor as a party venue for a large(ish) group of people. We were 16 and they handled it very well. The setting was lovely. The food was delicious. The requisite holiday menu was not shoved down our thoughts and we were left to choose from a delightful selection of meals. the conversation was delightful and intriguing. All in all, a great night was had by all, I believe.
  2. Saturday we ran into Windsor at the crack of dawn to get some Christmas and birthday shopping done. We struggled to find a few things we were looking for and had to try several different shops with no success. Sebastian is still missing grey trousers/tights and grey shirt for his donkey costume for the Nativity Play.
  3. Abigail went to a birthday party for a friend of hers and apparently ran around like a crazy banshee. When she got home she promptly fell asleep in the arms of her father without having a bath.
  4. Saturday evening Marc installed a server for our home computer use. This should allow me to share files between my Mac and PC making it easier for me to use photos and videos here on the blog. Well, that's the idea anyway....I'll let you know if we ever get it working properly.
  5. Sunday morning we were again up at the crack of dawn and fast and furiously wrapping Christmas gifts for Marc's extended family. They are spread out all over the place (eg, Liskeard down in Cornwall, England, Norway, and Cambridge, England) making it very difficult to get together at Christmas time. For the last 2 years, we have arranged to meet up the last weekend in November, have lunch together in a pub, and exchange our Christmas pressies. That's all well and good if you are super organised and have managed to complete your Christmas shopping in November. I can never manage this. So we wrapped the last of the gifts in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday. We didn't return from out journey until 6 last night. We then had the mad dash of ensuring Sebastian completed his homework for Monday morning. He was a whirling dervish!

Which pretty much sums up the weekend. As we didn't quite manage to get any laundry done this weekend, neither of the children had completely clean uniforms this morning. I've decided I don't care!

Rumours of a Hurricane by Tim Lott

As a American expatriate I am always on a mission to understand the native inhabitants of this fair island. I am in equal measure delighted and befuddled by their behaviour.

My husband finds my behaviour amusing but is uncertain if my actions are uniquely me or something endemic to the the entire population of the US of A. Hard to say, really.

Part of my daily life is spent trying to navigate the waters of the cultural differences between the Americans and British.

A while back a member of the Thames Valley American Women's Club (of which I was on the board as their newsletter editor), gave me this book. I finally found it at the top of my pile and decided to see if I could fit it in before I had to get started on the next book group selection.

Rumours of a Hurricane is set in the tumultuous period between 1979 and 1990 in southern England, specifically London. Margaret Thatcher is being elected to Prime Minister as the novel begins.

The main characters are Charlie Buck and his wife Maureen. They are climbing the social ladder and navigating the rocky seas of the massive cultural change that occurred in Great Britain during the 1980s including the destruction of the labour unions, the rise and devastating fall of the property market, the effects of the implementation of feminism and the emergence of a belief in the dream that any man/woman could run their own business. The decade is easily one of tumultuous change.

But Charlie and Maureen are just trying to make it through. They start the decade in their early 50s. Their marriage is flawed to begin with leaving the couple to turn away from each other in the face of the changes . Charlie brings a suitcase of family history and a drinking problem to the journey which impairs his ability to cope with the changes. Maureen regains her power too late to repair her marriage having made too many bad choices. Their son Robert is lost in the chaos.

The title refers to an hilarious (although only in hindsight) event when a BBC weather man reported that rumours of hurricane in southern England were highly exaggerated which turned out to be unequivocally untrue. In fact, the hurricanes wrecked widesprea havoc. This is used in the book as a metaphor for the tendency during that decade to underestimate impact on people's lives of the events happening all around.

This book delivers a searing and insightful look into the psyche of the British people, particularly the inhabitants of the southern half of the island. I had tremendous sympathy for the characters and found their struggle to be real, horrifying and incredibly sad.

The novel is funny and heartbreaking. Lott is a talented writer who captures characters in a humane and vulnerable way without descending into sickly sweet sentimentality.

I couldn't put the book down. I read it morning and night in every moment of free time. My Facebook addiction suffered. My blogging suffered. My family suffered (not really - just seeing if you're paying attention)!

If you seek an understanding of the British, read this book. If you want a funny look at the 1980s in Great Britain this is the book for you. I highly recommend it! I am now going to go away and find more novels by Tim Lott.

Friday, 23 November 2007

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

My former neighbour, Gill, dropped round a whole load of books. This was on the top of the pile and on the top of my list. As soon as I completed last month's book group selection, I picked this up and devoured it.

The story is set primarily just before, during and immediately after the First World War in a grand English country house to the east of London. The characters are the upstairs moneyed classes and the downstairs staff devoted to service of the upstairs. The story is narrated by Grace, a lady's maid who was sent to work in the house by her mother when she is only 14. Grace tells the story as a 99 year old preparing for her imminent death but wanting the truth of a tragedy at that grand house in 1924 to be told.

I find tales of this era to be utterly fascinating. I thought the book was well researched and nicely written. OK, so it wasn't the most intellectual of literature but I'm not a snob.

There were some elements of the story that weren't quite believable. For example, the entire story is told from Grace's point of view as she lurks around the house and over hears conversations from beginning to end. Rarely does anyone notice and certainly no one tells her to go away.

I also found it entirely improbable that after many years as a lady's maid in the 1920s a young woman with no formal education would then go on to university as a mature student to get a PhD in archeology. Call me crazy, but I don't think so!

On the other hand, this book had a real sense of history and the descriptions of the clothing, food, and countryside were very visual. I liked the characters although some were too stereo typical and could have had some more depth. But Grace was a sympathetic character and I really loved Hannah and how she developed as she grew older.

The book dragged a bit in the middle and at 600 pages some smart editing should have been done. But the last 100 pages is so riveting I couldn't put it down. I have read that others predicted the ending. I certainly didn't and was a wee bit confused and couldn't figure out who actually did it. (Don't want to spoil it for y'all.)

This is a great fun book although at 600 pages I wouldn't call it a quick read. You don't have to think much and the story of Grace growing older juxtaposed with the story of her growing up is enjoyable.

I recommend it as a holiday read!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Data Breach

The British government has really messed up. We are included in the 40% of the population with children whose personal details have been lost. Man, I'm angry!

A Thanksgiving Video

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is truly the most blessed of all holidays. And one that goes quite deep into my heart.

There is no commercialisation of the holiday. No consumerisation, although I am a bit surprised the American retailers haven't figured out a way to suck our money out of our wallets. There are no gifts to be bought, given, expected or obligation to give/receive.

This is a holiday focused on purely being thankful. A chance to be grateful for all we have and to consider those who have less. A chance to ponder all that you have to be thankful and express that around a table of bountiful food typically made up of items native to the Americas, eg sweet potatoes, maize, turkey.

The Thanksgiving dinner is different in every family but every family has traditions. Whilst every dinner may consists of individuals different items, those items remain largely the same year after year after year.

For many in America, it is more important to return to the family home on Thanksgiving than it is on Christmas day. For that, I am grateful. And we wish we were in the states with our American family. I miss my family most of all on this day.

This year I will do 2 Thanksgiving dinners. Tonight I will prepare a small turnkey breast with some quick Stove Top stuffing (thanks to Janell), some mashed potatoes, green beans and a small sweet potato pie. Dessert will be the requisite pumpkin pie.

We do not have Thanksgiving in England so my children are at school and Marc is working. Tonight Sebastian has swimming lesson at 6:30 and since they don't get home from school until 4 we won't have time to do a big dinner. Sebastian might sink in the pool if he ate too much!

I have taken the day off but that is more in protest to the English not having a Thanksgiving than anything to do with preparing a meal. You might think this is a bit lonely but I enjoy this time of solitude to meditate on all that is around me.

Saturday will be the full blown shebang. I'll cook a proper turkey. I'll do the tortilla roll-ups for which Nanny was famous. I'll do celery stuffed with cream cheese and green olives. I am the only one in my family who eats them but I can't bear a Thanksgiving without them. I'll make proper stuffing with water chestnuts. I'll also have another excuse for more pumpkin pie. Marc would be quite happy to eat just the pumpkin pie although I do remember the very first time I served it up to him. I had to coax him to take a very small bite.

Our table will be set with our wedding china which I believe always scares the living daylights out of my children. This is a healthy fear.

One of the very first Thanksgivings was in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation. I love this story. I am grateful for the help of the Native Americans for I believe history would have had a very different outcome without their support. I am disappointed in the ending. I am ashamed that famine, disease, the theft of their land and general appalling treatment by the forefathers have left many of the Native Americans in a dreadful existence today.

But I am grateful. I am healthy. I have 2 beautiful children. We have a lovely warm, and comfortable home. We are not hungry. We are warm and we are dry. We are not afraid to walk out of our homes and speak our minds. We can read and write. We have so much which enables us to be so much. We could make do with so much less.

Before Thanksgiving we will bow our heads and give thanks. Sebastian said his lunchtime prayers at school in the dining hall for the first time a few days ago (or so he tells me) and he is very excited to say the prayer this evening. We will do as we have done for decades in my family and go around the table asking each to give thanks for what they are most thankful for.

I am most thankful for those sitting around the table with me and sharing our lives together, growing up and growing old. I couldn't ask for any more.

And today, when there are so many others who have so little, I say thanks to all of you for helping to make my life that much richer.

Spade a Spade

I've never been known to mince my words. And whilst everyone else is busy not talking about the elephant in the room, I am renowned the world over for speaking up loudly and clearly with "What about the elephant?"

This has gotten me into trouble on numerous occasions and more often than not has endeared me to others. I've had numerous managers tell me I shouldn't speak so freely and openly. It never stopped me. I've known acquaintances who have not become friends because they couldn't deal with my forthrightness.

At the end of day, a spade is a spade. I call it as I see it. People can count on me to give them my honest assessment.

Yesterday, I found out that the team I manage at work returned some of the highest scores in employee engagement in all of IS across our entire organisation. We scored first or second highest in all categories. I was thrilled to bits.

Employee Engagement measures an individual's satisfaction with their work and their manager, commitment to the organisation and general happiness with the work and their prospects for the future.

I'm not sure how much of our high scores has to do with me. I try to encourage an open and transparent environment. We have passionate debates and disagreements. We are all so different and every person brings different strengths to the team making us a powerful force to be reckoned with.

I trust them to continually strive to do their best and they trust me to have their backs. I make sure that we have as much fun as possible under what can be described as stressful, stifling and conflicting pressures. I hope they feel I take the heat for them. I stand up for them (even to senior management higher up the food chain than me).

I'd like to say thanks to my team for being the amazing team that they are. They give me their best and inspire me to do my best for them. They are all individual heroes who work together to create a superhero team and make an astonishing contribution to the value of our organisation.

I'm proud to work with them. I hope they are happy to work with me!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Hind's Head

Remember The Fat Duck?

Last night my new boss took his new direct reports out for a bite to eat. We ate at the pub that is run by the same chef that runs The Fat Duck. The two restaurants are even next door to each other.

I so wanted to be super impressed with the food given that it is much more affordable. But it was just ok. The side dishes of vegetables were fabulous but my shepherd pie was just good. I've had loads of shepherd's pie at loads of pubs and I wouldn't say this was the best I've ever had.

The Eton Mess I had for desert was to die for though! Dessert is always my favourite part of a meal anyway.

The best part though was that we got to know our leader a bit more. He got to know us a bit more. And that was the whole point. Mission Accomplished.

Writer's Block

I'm having writer's block. I don't know what to write about. Ideas?

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Brith Days

I've been doing some catching up on my blog reading and November has included quite a few birthday posts. It stuck me as a bit odd that we celebrate the person that has been born.


It's not as if they did anything remarkable that day.

I say we should celebrate the mothers that did all the hard work on that day and for 9 months prior to that day and for years and years afterwards.

When you become pregnant, another human being has taken over your body. The first 3 months a woman is exhausted and cranky. In many instances she is sicker than a dog. The second 3 months she frets that she won't be ready or won't be a good mother. The last 3 months she gives over her body to grow to an enormous size and suffers numerous inconveniences including but not limited to heartburn, sore feet, sore back, sore hips and random weeing in her knickers.

The skeleton of a woman can tell you if she has had children because having a baby causes permanent irreversible bone damage/degradation.

And then comes the actual day of delivery. Mom endures great pain. I mean, GREAT pain. Whether vaginal or c-section they both hurt. A LOT!

Then she has a baby for which she has no formal training or qualifications. Breast feeding is not easy and the hormonal imbalance following pregnancy can drive a sane woman barking mad. Milk is followed by weening is followed by mashed food is followed by finger foods is followed by non choking inducing food is followed by everything they see they eat. My son is currently eating me out of house and home despite being only 6 years old and my daughter only eats white food.

A woman doesn't sleep soundly for years afterwards. Late night feedings are replaced by midnight nightmares followed by curfew violations and dodgy boyfriends keeping them out until the wee hours of the morning.

So if it is your birthday, go out, celebrate with your friends and family, enjoy the cake and ice cream. But don't forget the one who got you here. All mothers need to celebrate birth day for getting through it and making it thus far in the journey of parenthood!

I Met a Man on the Internet

As far as strange things go, this might just be one of the strangest things to ever happen to me and my family.

I've been doing this blog for nearly a year now. On the back of this, my sister started one and my extended family (Janell and her crew of siblings) proliferated too many to link to here. In a stranger twist of fate, one of my sister's university/college roommates/sorority sisters (Leah)decided to start one.

Now hang on for this. Leah has married a man named Adrian. 'sbest friend and best man at his wedding is a man named Joe. Joe would regularly comment on Leah's blog and you could count on us disagreeing. Before I knew what had happened Joe was a regular visitor to my blog.

Inevitably, Joe disagreed with what I wrote and would express himself passionately all over my comments. Other regular visitors to my blog assumed I knew Joe. He visited Janell's blog and her family's catalogue of blogs. You can see the passionate opinions he has incited on the current post about my new boss.

So, the really strange thing is I barely know Leah. I've never meant Adrian. Joe has met my sister because she was Leah's maid of honour and Joe was Adrian's best man but they aren't buds and haven't really had more than a 10 minute conversation. But Joe visited my home Friday evening.

Yes, you read that correctly. A man I had never met and vehemently disagrees with me on just about everything had dinner with me and my family in our home. How does this happen, I ask myself (and you are probably asking me as well)?

Joe works for an international company and just recently gained responsibility for the patch that has an office near our home. When he found out he was going to be in our neck of the woods (so to speak) he dropped me a note and we arranged a time to get together.

Janell will be pleased to know that there was no physical violence. We didn't even have a single argument. We marvelled at the photographs of Joe's beautiful family and his homes (both soon to be old and soon to be new). We ogled his technology gadgets. We giggled at his Americaness. We shared a meal of traditional English curry take away. We drank more and stayed up later than we should have. We got up way too early and met up for coffee and a whistle stop tour of Windsor and the castle. Then we dropped him off at the airport.

My husband is revelling in telling people that "my wife and I had a man over that we met on the Internet." I've asked him to stop saying that.

Joe will be returning to England on a regular basis and he is more than welcome to visit us. We hope he brings his family one of these times and stays for a wee bit longer than a couple of hours late at night. We hope to show him a bit more of my adopted country.

Anyone else planning a visit?

Friday, 16 November 2007


The ballet performance last night was enchanting. All dancers did a fabulous job and Sebastian was very pleased with his performance.

I was over the moon. This little boy stood up against convention and stood amongst all the girls. To my eyes he was the brightest star. I couldn't have been prouder. He worked really hard and you should have seen the concentration in his eyes. Look at the exquisite 1st position of his feet in the photo.

He can even skip. Finally!

He was exhausted when he got home after 1 rehearsal on Tuesday night, 1 birthday party, 1 rehearsal and 2 performances last night. Go Seb!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

New Boss

I've got a new boss. It is the 4th new boss I've had in the space of 14 months but who's counting?

The top dog's first day was last week when I was in France. Bad luck, bad planning, bad karma - whatever!

The first day I was in France I got an email asking for a meeting with him the next day. I emailed back stating this wasn't possible and why, despite already telling him this on several previous occasions. We scheduled a get together for the day I returned.

I knew I would not be on my best form. I knew I would be cranky, tired, grumpy and generally not my usual charming self. I was worried.

I think it is so stressful to have a new boss. You've got to figure out who they are, how much or how little information they want/need. You've got to figure out if you trust them and if they trust you. You've got to figure out if you would follow them off a cliff or if they would throw themselves in front of a speeding train to protect you and your decisions.

So you dance. You build a relationship in a sometimes hostile environment. You try to assess what others think. You try to be not quick to judge but fast enough to not make any mistakes. You try to make sure he doesn't look like a fool to his boss which after all is what we're all trying to do.

You want to be noticed but for all the right reasons.

This is stressful.....and exhausting. I've been in the office at my normal silly o'clock every morning. Tonight I even stayed well past my witching hour of 3 pm to attend one of his meetings.

Marc helped my out by doing the school run which in itself is a bit of a nightmare this week. Sebastian is preparing for his first ballet recital which is scheduled for Thursday evening. He is the first and only boy to ever perform in a St George's School ballet recital. He has a duet with Amy which he has been practising since summer term last school year.

Tonight was a rehearsal from 5-6. So Marc had to pick Seb up at 3:40, pick up Abigail, take them home, change Seb's clothes into his ballet kit, supervise homework completion, feed the children and deliver Seb back to school before 5. I then picked up Seb at 6 and went home to clean since once again my cleaner didn't turn up - second week in a row and I am having a meltdown. Dinner will be grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for Marc and I!

Children now in bath tub then off to bed. I think I will follow shortly.....ah, just a few more emails! Gotta impress the new boss!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Someone warned me not long ago to avoid books that had won the Booker Prize. Apparently, research had proven that past winners really aren't actually very good books. It seems the books are over indulgent cerebral rubbish that try too hard to impress. They typically end up on book shelves half read.

I have to agree. And it would have been easy to put this book on the shelf half read.

But then I would have missed the part of the book that was actually worth reading.

I have a philosophy that says "Finish the book you started." A bit similar to "Go home with the one who brung ya." Ok, not really but I like that saying that! One is good manners. You figure out which.

I figure you've started a book because something compelled you start it. The description of the plot on the back cover (although we have seen previously how misleading that can be), or a recommendation of a friend, or the cover art, or a review by a so-called "literary critic".

This book I finished purely because it was the book group selection for November. Now it is true that I would not have chosen this book and I honestly would have preferred to read others from my pile. but I've made a commitment to the book group to show up and discuss the book. to do this I have to have read it.

I would have liked to have discussed this book in depth. I think it would have understanding to my understanding of the book. Reading the recommended questions opened by eyes to a couple themes which I think I missed entirely mostly because I wasn't liking the book very much until I got to the second half. By that time, I had forgotten everything I had read in the first half.

To make matters worse only 2 of us in the group actually read the book so discussion was futile.

I think the book was about class and how class is imposed differently in every culture. The book focused on England, India, and America. But I think you could examine class in just about every culture and see some common themes.

The book also raised some interesting points about globalisation, westernisation, and immigration. I just am not sure what those points are - although I do imagine them to do interesting if I could ever bottom them out.

I struggled with so many characters. I still can't figure out the relevance of Noni and Lola although I can guess they are representatives of the middle class. But I don't think their position in the story actually emphasised how powerful (or not) the middle class are in all the the relevant societies.

Verdict: Give it a miss.

Book Group: With several of the group absent and only 2 completing the book, it's hard to say what the book group thought. Not much, I guess!

NEXT BOOK: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I am really looking forward to this!

Analytical Mind

My analytical mind wanted to solve the mystery of my unpredictable blog traffic. I may have just found a causal relationship between the number of posts I write and the traffic I experience in any given month.

I have realised that the number of posts per month is nearly directly related to higher traffic, ie the most posts, the more traffic. This doesn't make any sense to me.

I check out my blog roll (blogs I read) on a daily basis. So if there is more than 1 post on any given day I read them all on the one time I visit that day. I rarely, if ever, check a blog more than once/day.

There are only 2 blogs that I take an RSS feed from straight into my email box (soon to be just 1). Everything else goes into my pageflake. My pageflake takes forever to build so I only load it once and once I've caught up I shut it down.

So if I post more than once/day do you come back to read? If so, how do you know I posted more than once? How many of you subscribe to my blog using the RSS feed? How many of you don't know what an RSS feed is?

Monday, 12 November 2007

The Vikings

Sitting round the dinner table tonight we were asking the children what they learned at school.

Abigail was very pleased with her swimming lessons which started after half term. She thinks she could swim the English Channel given the opportunity. We don't disagree.

Sebastian announced he is learning about the Vikings. Marc asked him what has he learned. Sebastian proceeded to list off an amazing litany of Viking trivia. After 20 minutes of Viking facts we decided we had heard enough.

I wonder if that is just what he learned today or if that is what he has learned over several weeks. Either way it is an extraordinary achievement.

If he learned it all today, I can't believe he remembered it all.

if he learned it all over the last couple weeks, I can't believe he remembered it all.

I can't remember to take my mobile phone with me when I leave the house or pick up my children after school. And yet he can remember that the Vikings burned their ships.

How does he do that?


I don't sleep much to begin with so when I miss a night's snoozing I get extra grumpy.

Friday I went into the office expecting some colleagues to have sent me 2 pieces of finished work. One I never received and I couldn't reach him on the phone. The other sent me something but it wasn't what I wanted. Both items were needed for a meeting I have tomorrow.

Last night I sat up most of the night tossing and turning agonising over these 2 missing/inaccurate items. I would read to take my mind off of it and as soon as I got sleepy I would turn out the light and lay my head down. within 5 minutes I had to turn the lights back on and return to my reading because my head started spinning with all the things I needed to do on Monday morning.

I hate that!

This morning I was up at 5 am and out the door by 6:30. I was in the office before 7 am. I spoke to both colleagues this morning before 8:30 and we had completed both items by midday. I had absolutely no reason to stress out last night. But I didn't know that then.

I'll sleep like a log tonight. I hope.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Black Hole

Sorry, readers, for the lack of posting over the last couple days. I've been trapped in a black hole of business. I haven't checked email, Facebook or the blog!

I landed Thursday evening about 30 minutes later than scheduled. I was thrilled to breeze through immigration but horrified to discover that the baggage hall looked like a mob scene. A flight had just arrived from Tel Aviv so armed police were everywhere. There were numerous other European flights arriving as the last flights for the evening were descending on the airport.
One of the baggage carousels was not working properly so none of the carousels were working properly. This makes no sense to me but Heathrow makes no sense to me. The airport looks like it belongs to a third world country and is falling apart. This is supposed to be the busiest airport in the world. To me it looks like the shabbiest.

Once I got my luggage (over an hour wait), I had to ring for the taxi to come back to the airport. They were not happy.

I arrived home just before midnight. I unpacked a much as I could and dropped like a rock into bed.

Up early at 6 am and into the office for an action packed day of trying to get through email and answer all the questions people needed me to answer earlier in the week. I felt like everyone wanted a piece of me.

I raced home at 3 pm to meet up with Marc and Abigail where we packed our suitcases again and picked up Seb for school. We then joined all the other crazy people trying to get home for Friday evening. We groaned when the sat nav informed us that we would not reach our destination for 4.5 hours. By avoiding the motorway we saved 2 hours and arrived at the Millichamp home by 6:30 pm a good hour longer than originally planned.

The children were starving so I was pumping them full of cookies during the drive which of course meant they didn't eat a bite when dinner was finally served up. After some heavy duty playing the children were ready for bed, well, at least Sebastian was ready for bed.

He put himself to bed. Sam followed shortly thereafter. But the girls stayed up giggling and jumping in and out of bed. The babysitter arrived and we left for the local pub.

We had some fabulous steaks and wine at the most unexpected little hole in the wall pub in the local village of West Haddon. When we returned home the babysitter admitted that after a couple of hours she had to separate the girls and Abigail was sound asleep in our bed.

Helen and I stayed up until almost 2 in the morning having a girly chat. I do wonder where our daughters get it from!

The children helped themselves to the TV and dry breakfast cereal the next morning allowing the grownups to stay in bed until almost 9 am. Sheer bliss! It was great to see Abigail and Lottie have formed such a lovely friendship. Sam and Seb didn't have many arguments and seem to have started to out grow the power struggles of young boys.

The Daddy's took the children to a park and Helen whipped up a gorgeous minestrone soup. When the Dad's returned we had some lunch and planned our summer holidays.

The drive home was uneventful and we fell into bed after unloading the car. Today I am faced with loads of luggage needing unpacking and mountain ranges of laundry. I want to go back to bed!

Cannes Photo Album

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Elvis Appreciation Day

I have a new found admiration/obsession with Elvis. Yes, I know he is dead but you would have thought differently if you had been out with me last night.

The Gartner IT Symposium always throws a big bash on the last night of the conference. The theme for last night's free food/booze bonanza was Groove Generation. They took over the Carlton InterContinental on La Croisette in Cannes. Every room and some temporarily constructed rooms were decorated with a different theme. The details included serving food and drinks typical of that era. And there were loads of celebrity singer/performer look alikes.

There was the 70s room with a disco ball and Barry White performing. OK, he didn't look or sound at all like Barry White. And disco music provided a prime opportunity for IT professionals to prove they can't dance either.

In the 90s room was a Kylie Minogue look alike but she never sang. This had the worst food. It seems we all just ate raw vegetables that decade.

Sir Paul McCartney look alike in the 60s room nor the Sir Elton John look alike (who wondered through all the rooms) did not perform but they were chatting with all the guests and I think there a photos of me and Sir Elton talking about his home up the road from mine!

We couldn't quite figure out what was going on in the 00s room. It was very quiet and the food consisted of sandwiches. What will history say about that era?

The best room by far was the 50s room. I know I wasn't born then. But I have always loved the music. They had candy floss (cotton candy) and milkshakes and popcorn. But the best thing about the room was the Elvis impersonator who sang, danced, moved and smiled just like Elvis. This man had the hips aswaying, the lip aquivering and the hair aflipping. He even sweat like Elvis.

I've got some photos and when I get back from my mobile connection here in Cannes I will upload them and you can make your own judgement.

My colleague, Jane*, and I swooned and screamed on queue. I felt like I wanted a poodle skirt and a pony tail.

Considering there weren't many females appreciating this man's talents, he really played up to us and I swear he sang Teddy Bear directly to me. My colleagues had to keep reminding me that the real Elvis was dead.

We missed his second act due the particularly addictive tunes in the 80s room which pretty much played the soundtrack of my life. Archie** amazed me when he proved he is almost as good with lyrics as I am! Elvis was disappointed when we saw him later and he told us we had missed him. Not nearly as disappointed as I was. And then I realised he was English and whilst he could do a wicked Nashville accent he was really from London. Disillusion sets in!

Back home tonight on the last flight out of Cannes to Heathrow. Can hardly wait to kiss my children in their beds as they sleep. Oh, and cuddle up to my husband! Maybe we can listen to Elvis. I want to learn how to jitterbug!

* Once again, as requested, names have been changed to protect the guilty. These people just don't live on the edge and out in the open. But I'll respect that!
** If only you knew his real name....

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

IT Professionals

I look around this conference which has roughly 6,000 attendees I reckon. And I'll tell you what I see:

  • IT professionals are male. 90% of the session attendees are men. I've been doing a rough count of the female to male ratio when I enter session. Could be the women are elsewhere but I don't see them at lunch either. This is the only place where the queue is for the gents toilet and not the ladies.
  • IT professionals are old. 85% appear to be over the age of 45 years. Grey and/or balding heads dominate the landscape. This flies in the face of everything I have been reading from US publications....
  • IT professionals have bad dress sense, no individual style little outwardly apparent creativity or individuality. Dull blue suits, red ties, grey shirts that probably used to be white appears to be the dress code. I missed that memo.
  • IT professionals have no sense of humour. Gartner presenters are for the most part some of the most talented and knowledgeable public speakers I have ever seen. And they are funny. They seamlessly weave humour into their presentations. None of the session attendees laugh. that means they have all either gone to sleep or don't get it. Both are equally possible.
  • IT professionals lack some fairly basic social skills. A colleague of mine and I have sat at lunch tables with IT professionals from other organisations and whilst we attempted to engage with them, they failed to return the favour. With a notable exception last night when a helpful Gartner consultant (Thanks, Shannon!), I have failed to network with any interesting individuals. Could be my failure. I doubt it.

I feel sooooooo alone!

WARNING: This is not a scientific poll. And I am in Europe where I think the demographics for the industry are skewed from the rest of the world for reasons I cannot even bear to entertain.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Laugh til you Cry

I have found that the best stress relief is laughter. Not polite giggles. Not the mild haha chuckle you hear when they just don't get it. I mean laughing so hard tears are running down your face, snot is blowing out of your nose, your face turns red, and your belly begins to ache when you are doubled over.

You can keep your meditation. You can keep your kickboxing. You can keep your chanting.

I find that having a proper laugh can relieve all my stress.

Last week, I was in a meeting with the managers who work for me. Some of them attended the meeting via teleconference. The meeting ended and I needed to speak to a couple of colleagues about one of the subjects discussed.

Helen* grabbed Kate and we reconvened in the conference room. We were all women in the room and Helen asked if we had seen a programme on television the night before about how to "spice" up your marriage. We started chatting about the content of the programme. Then we heard a voice over the speaker phone from one of my male managers asking us if we needed them to stay on the line for this.

WE nearly died. We disconnected the teleconference immediately and burst into laughter so hard we all had mascara running down our faces from our tears. We still can't look each other in the eye without bursting into fits of giggles.

Last night, the group of colleagues at the conference sat down at a bar on the beach after dinner. Deb** recalled a story about a trip to Belfast for Christmas with her husband and small children that was a mere catalog of catastrophes. She was laughing so hard she struggled to speak. Everyone around the table could relate to the story and was laughing as hard if not harder than she was. Deb is very professional in the office and it was nice to see this side of her. It strengthened our working relationship and relieved some of the stress that comes with travelling with work colleagues.

Today, I am missing home. I miss my children. I miss my husband. But having a laugh last night made it a wee bit easier.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the jokers!
** Not her real name either!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Bon Jour

Am posting from France. Hate to say this but we are having a great time. The weather is beautiful. Even the food is great although it is buffet style.... Hotel room has view of sea!

Had quite a long day yesterday that started at 4 am and didn't end until after midnight.

Have colleagues standing behind me waiting for me so we can all go out for a drink and a bite or several of both.

Hope to find a bit more time to write. In the mean time visit my sister's blog and make her write something!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Cannes, France

I am off this morning (silly hour of 5 am) to catch a flight to Cannes, France. I know that might sound glamorous to some but it is for work. Oh, who am I kidding? I have been to lots of places for work conferences and I have to say this is probably one of the best places I go!

Every year, Gartner puts on an IT Symposium in Cannes, France. It's really the only investment (time & money) that I put into formal professional development. And it is actually my company's time & money although spending the night away from my children is a hardship.

OK, who am I kidding? It's nice to have a break!

Last year was the first year I had ever been. The project I had been working on had just been implemented and was wildly successful. It had been wildly stressful and all my holiday had been postponed. Once we were over the hump my boss knew I needed a break. So he gave me his ticket and sent me.

I didn't know what to expect and only knew one of the other employees of my company who was also going. And I didn't know him very well.

I got there on Sunday afternoon. The flight was a bit scary, not just for me but for the passenger sitting next to me. You see, I'm afraid to fly. I know how insane that sounds since I've been flying my entire adult life but I am. During the peak of my travelling days, the company I worked for sent me on a course to conquer the fear. I wouldn't say it conquered it but it did teach me how to cope with it.

But I don't fly as much as I did back then and for the last 8 years I've usually flown with my husband. This was my first trip on an airplane in 6 years without my husband. He usually sits next to me and wordlessly holds my hand as my fingernails dig into his hand and helps me count and breath - 2 coping mechanisms I learned in those classes. I panicked when I realised he wasn't next to me. By the time we got off the ground I needed a drink. So did the woman next to me. And first aid - her, not me.

Landing wasn't much better especially when I looked out the window and realised there was only water below me. I didn't know the Nice airport was out of over the water. Oh my god, I thought I was going to faint which is probably what my fellow passengers were hoping as the tears started to flow down my cheeks and I was hyperventilating. I couldn't get off that plane fast enough.

I was surprised at how beautiful the weather was. Of course it would be. I was thousands of miles south of grey, rainy England.

A bus took me from Nice to Cannes and dropped me off at my hotel which unfortunately was quite a ways from the conference centre. I got settled in and called home. Marc just giggled at the flying story.

I made my way to the conference centre to register and was handed the programme for the event. It was huge. I sat down and started going through the sessions on offer. It took me a good couple hours over lunch to do this and it didn't remotely resemble the agenda I had set for myself before leaving.

Sessions started that afternoon. Everyday, the first session of the morning was at 7:30 am and the last session of the evening started at 6:30 pm. They even had sessions over lunch. and the titles of them were so enticing. I wanted to see everything.

Then they had events nearly every night. One night one of my suppliers flew me by helicopter to Monaco for dinner and some gambling at the Casino Royal. I refer you back to my fear of flying above. I had confessed my fears to a colleague who had agreed to fly with me and lend me his arm, literally. But at the last minute a change in helicopter assignment meant I was on my own with complete strangers. In a professional capacity. As the helicopter took off I went pale as the blood drained from my face. I didn't say a word. The supplier still laughs at me.

Dinner was great and I played black jack at the casino. I went up 375 but then lost it all including my initial investment. Dang! I had vision of retiring.

We took a coach back to Cannes which whilst much longer than the helicopter ride was indeed far less frightening.

Another evening saw us entertained at one of the best restaurants in the Old Town of Cannes. The restaurant was packed and we had a great evening of laughter and wine consumption which didn't bode well for the early morning starts.

The last evening was a Cinema themed evening at the best hotel in Cannes. Every room in the hotel was decorated in a different movie theme. They had famous movie start look alikes wondering about. The best was the Keanu Reeves look a like who took to following me around the event.

My colleagues and I had been playing a swag game - that is whoever gets the best handouts from suppliers wins. I had done abysmally to date. On the last day one of the suppliers had given me VIP tickets to that evening's event. We weren't sure what it meant until we turned up.

We had tickets to a closed off area with the best food ever and free drinks all night. I definitely won the swag competition and got loads of street cred with my colleagues!

Quite a few more colleagues of mine are coming this year. I know them better than the ones from last year and I am sure we will have a great time. Please excuse me if I don't get a lot of blogging done although Gartner does a very good job of making sure that everyone is connected and even provides computers to do so.

Bon Voyage!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Girly Afternoon

Yesterday Abigail and I had so much fun!

The childminder had to see a doctor about her bum knee so I picked up Abigail and kept her all afternoon. We popped into Windsor to buy some birthday presents for some upcoming friends' parties.

Abigail was so much fun. She lifted clothes off the rack and presented them to me asking "How about this?", "This is cute." "Ooooh, I like this."

Then we decided to get lunch. We went to Agora's. There was only one other table with an older couple seated.

Abigail sat down like a big girl and ordered her own drink. She looked at the menu just like I was doing and announced after a suitable interval that she wanted a hamburger. She told the waitress herself when she came to take our order.

Whilst we waited for our food, Abigail told me about her day. We played patty cake. then a god song came on the muzak and she said she wanted to dance. So we got up and danced.

Our food came and we sat down. She chatted about everything under the sun as she nibbled away at her chips (french fries) and hamburger.

It was like being out with one of my friends. She's funny and interesting. She asks lots of questions and is interested in what I have to say. She's got loads of opinions and lots to say. She makes a great companion.

I paid for lunch and we returned to our car. She told the neighbours about her day with mummy and without daddy and Sebby. She said she had fun and wanted to do it again.

Me too!

School Bags

We are back to school again and I have decided that school bags are the bane of my existence.

Sebastian has a school bag for his judo kit, a school bag for his swimming kit, a school bag for his games kit, a school bag for his gym kit. He has to remember to bring his spelling and pianos in his book bag on Fridays. Plus he's got to remember his hat, his cap and his blazer.

The school encourages us as parents to let the child to the remembering themselves. I can barely remember my mobile phone when I walk out of the house in the mornings but I was wiling to give it a go.

First, some mothers recommended we send all the bags in on Monday and bring them all back home on Friday. Watching Sebastian try to carry all that was an exercise in the ridiculous. Besides, it made the laundry pile for the weekend nearly insurmountable. And I had to do all the laundry over the weekend to have all the bags ready again on Monday morning. Not going to happen in our house!

So I made up a little chart of what needs to go and when. This works most mornings.

Then the school encouraged us to let the children pack the bags themselves.

That's all a bit much and pushed me over the edge. My husband and I have trouble remembering that black shorts are required for ballet and red socks are required for games. Now I find myself making up charts for the contents of each bag.

My refrigerator is covered with charts of what happens when and what we need. My head is going to explode.

Thank goodness for big refrigerators!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Worst That Can Happen

Editor's Note: The original video I posted has been deleted from YouTube. This is the second version from the same guy talking about the same thing....only better.

Beaver Scouts

The other night was Sebastian's first Beaver Scout meeting. Sort of.

It was a Halloween party so everyone was supposed to come in costume. the problem is he doesn't know any of these boys. They don't go to his school. And meeting people for the first time is hard enough. It is even harder when they are dressed up in costumes.

I went with a plan to stay with him throughout the evening just to make sure he would be ok. He was very brave and told me before we got there that I didn't have to stay.

Once we arrived his story changed. I imagine that in his mind, making new friends isn't all that difficult. You find out each other's names and then you just start talking.

I also imagine that the reality of just how extremely difficult it is to connect with people, even children, set in once he walked into the room of complete strangers. As an adult I find making new friends extremely difficult. Adults have agendas. Adults lie. Adults have secrets. Adults don't make good friends.

Sebastian clung to my leg and I started to feel myself clinging to him as I feared for his self confidence. But I knew I had to let him go. More than that, this mother bird knew she had to give him a good firm push out of the nest.

Our ray of hope arrived when a boy who lives not far from us turned up. They play well together although they are not the best of friends but at least he knew someone. I took this as my opportunity to cut and run.

I said goodbye to Seb and told him he would have fun. He looked a bit dubious but trusted me enough to say ok.

When I returned an hour later, he ran up to me and told me that the time had gone really fast. He was excited to tell me everything they had done. He couldn't remember anyone's name and I doubt he was able to make any friends but he is willing to give it another go next week.

Stay tuned!


Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.

Just for this morning, I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.

Just for this morning, I am going to step over the laundry and pick you up and take you to the park to play. Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.

Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.

Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.

Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.

Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.

Just for this afternoon, I will take us to McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.

Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.

Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.

Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.

Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favourite TV shows.

Just for this evening when I run my finger through your hair as you pray, I will simply be
grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given. I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms. The mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly and screaming inside that little body

And when I kiss you goodnight I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day.............

Editors Note: I do not know who wrote this. It was forwarded to me my a school mum - thanks, Nadia!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

October Traffic

October saw my traffic go up from last month. Phew!

I reached once again the heady heights of June and July and managed to go over the 1,000 mark for the third time in the blog's history.

I'm still having a great time writing. It has changed the way I look at my life. It has changed the way I look at me.

Thanks for reading.