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Tuesday 29 January 2013

Middle Class Woes

Tragedy has struck the Tin household. Our dishwasher is dead. It had a good run, bless it, having been bought from friends when they moved house 13 years ago. That's German engineering for you, I suppose. It had been on its last legs for the past six months or so, and had been declared dead twice before, only to have been magically resurrected by Mr Tin's fair hands. This time, however, it's definitely terminal. Of course, it decided to go out with a bang - quite literally - when we were entertaining aforementioned friends on Saturday night, blowing a fuse and temporarily taking all other kitchen appliances with it (including the oven, causing a momentary panic until we decided takeaway menus were thankfully not required).

As household appliances go, dishwashers definitely fall into that "nice to have, but not really essential" category, let's face it. Plenty of people manage without them all the time. Yet when you are used to having had one for such a long time, not having one feels like your right arm has been cut off. (Well, it doesn't really, because you just get your husband to do all the washing up as too much water aggravates your eczema.)

bish bash Bosch

Also traumatising me this week are cheap reed diffusers. As we all know, reed diffusers are the new scented candle. I was reminded of their middle class status since a recent visit to my local John Lewis store established that they seem to stock more of them than even - gasp! - cushions.

Anyway, I purchased some reed diffusers at a local discount retailer a while ago, which provided a delicate scent in my bathroom for many weeks. The thing with discount stores, however, is that you get whatever they have in stock at the time, and the replacement reed diffuser just doesn't quite cut the mustard, giving off a strangely synthetic smell along with the orange and neroli. Note to self; just as cheap scented candles are never worth it, it seems that applies to the general world of household fragrance.

Finally, a thought about lightbulbs; How is it possible to have so many spare lightbulbs, yet it is always a struggle to find one that fits when you need one?!

Friday 25 January 2013

Random Thoughts of the Week - the Snow Joke edition

Remember bleats? I think it's probably time to resurrect them this week.

- This week I've been musing about timekeeping. The children's school has been open all week through the snowmageddon* (*a few flakes) we've had here in the UK, but they did open late on Monday to allow everyone extra time to get in. It amused me greatly therefore, that it was still the exact same families running towards me with that "we're late" expression on their faces when I'm on my way back home, as every other morning. Seems even an extra hour to get to school doesn't help with ones internal body clock. Some people are just naturally late for everything, it seems.

- I've also been kind of glad I don't have teenagers (yet - although eldest daughter does a good impression of one on occasion). At least my children are still at the age where I can dress them in sensible warm snow clothing without them making too much of a fuss about it. It did make me smile when we saw a family in London last weekend where the parents had obviously lost the "you're not going out like that" argument, and while parents looked snug and warm in their thick coats, hats, scarves and gloves, teenage daughter looked slightly blue in a thin faux-leather jacket and Converse. Also - hoorah for having been skiing recently and having the right gear to actually fit my children!

- Whilst snow does make for such pretty pictures, I think I'm just about ready for spring now. That may be a tad optimistic in January, however!

Monday 21 January 2013

In the words of Samuel (not Boris) Johnson. (An Ode to London)


I've always felt that I'm a small-town girl. Not a country girl, not a city girl, but definitely a small town girl. A "town-big-enough-for-suitable-amenities-but-small-enough-to-get-to-know-it" sort of girl. It's just those are the sort of places I have been brought up and lived for most of my life. I'm pretty sure the limitations of country living would probably outweigh country air and the stunning vistas for me personally, and I feel like I've done my big city stint (a year working in Paris). When I left university, the nature of my course etc meant that a lot of my peers migrated towards London, but I never particularly felt the need to join them.

That doesn't mean that I steer clear of cities, by any means - quite the contrary, I love nothing more than a city break! Paris will always hold a special place in my heart, but I do also have a particular fondness for London. We have an old friend who still lives the metropolitan single lifestyle in London, and once a year he throws a party, which my husband and I use as an excuse to leave the children with the grandparents and do our best not to look too provincial.

I have to say that it was probably the first time that I've seen London in the snow, and I must say she wore it pretty well.

Nevern Square

We stayed in our favourite hotel, hung around the tourist traps of Knightsbridge and South Kensington, soaked up the atmosphere, met up with old friends, took in some culture, wined and dined, and generally enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Victoria and Albert museum
I do love the V&A - best done without kids in tow though!

We're already planning our next visit - this time probably with the children in tow, as they seem to love it just as much as we do...

Monday 7 January 2013

Snow Is Silly Soft Stuff.

This was going to be my Christmas and New Year recap post, but we went skiing over the New Year week, and quite frankly it makes Christmas seem like such a long time ago that really there doesn't seem to be much to say about that at all. (Turkey. Lurgy. Kids. Think that covers it.)

I've probably previously trotted out the lame joke on here that I use to describe my relationship with skiing whenever anybody asks me. "Ah", I say, "I liken going skiing to childbirth - I scream, cry and curse my way through it, yet always still feel a weird compulsion to do it again once it's over". And if you think I'm exaggerating about that, you should have seen me sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of a red run somewhere in Italy last Thursday, once again cursing the fact that I don't really like speed, which, apparently, appears to be kind of fundamental for most other people when enjoying skiing. 

Personally, I've always preferred gliding slowly, swan-like down a piste, soaking in the mountain air and enjoying the scenery. I'm definitely all about the posing, the sunshine and the vin chaud. The skiing for me has always been slightly secondary, which unfortunately appears to make me the exception, and the one who everyone else has to wait hours for when they have zoomed to the bottom at 90km/h (the apparent top speed of one of our party. Mine? 38km/h. Which statistically was probably quite likely to have been on a chair lift, let's face it.)

"But skiing", other people will tell you, "is such a great family holiday". Well, not really. Not if you assume that a family holiday means you all spending quality time together. This is definitely not the case in the early years of childhood, when you will hardly see your children as they are in ski school, and maybe afternoon childcare to enable you to not spend time with your husband who is busy doing 90km/h while you are dawdling along at your own more sedate pace. 

We spent a final Saturday skiing en famille, which I loved, and which did give me a taster of things to come - namely that both children will soon be outrunning me while I scuttle along desperately trying not to think of the sticky end I could come to any minute. The bad news is that I think the kids might be hooked...

Of course, the fact that I fell and twisted my knee on the first day both gave me an excuse to stay in the chalet on day 2 drinking tea, reading a book and soaking up the sunshine at a stationary pace, but also probably contributed to my fragile mental state for the rest of the week. Skiing is definitely mind over matter, and I fear the mind played nasty tricks on me this time.*

Anyway, the fact that we also had a non-skier in our party for the first time meant I had someone else to moan about the speed freaks at, and go on walks with, which was lovely and highly recommended. Also, I have to say that skiing is an excellent environment to observe the middle classes in their natural habitat. From this exercise I have decisively concluded that Fat Face is definitely the new Boden, and Spyder jackets are so 2011!

Well, here I am, sitting back at home in front of a computer, reflecting on a week of such amazing highs and lows, and knowing that I'll soon be getting the call from our friends wanting to know if we're "in" for next year. For the first time I really don't know what answer to give.

*(On a slightly separate note, but still on the subject of mind tricks, why is it that the more I fly, the less I like it? I have been on airplanes regularly since the tender age of 4 months, and with living abroad and regular business travel reckon I have probably clocked up close to 100 flights in my lifetime. Also, both my husband and brother work in the aviation industry, and I'm more than aware of the stringent safety requirements at all stages of the process. This should reassure me, surely? Why then, do I feel the urge to scream "We're all going to die" the minute we get thrust back into our seats on takeoff?)


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