Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hot - and not in a sexy way

It's been a rough couple of days. Firstly, Mr Tweddle caught Man-flu. (It's like ordinary flu, but A LOT worse...apparently)
There was a whole lot of lolling in nightwear and grunting around the house - and not in a sexy way. And then I caught his Man -flu - and there was more lolling around in nightwear and groaning around the house - still not in a sexy way.
Then as fever hit so did soaring temperatures in LA, and that is precisely when our air conditioner ground to a halt.
It was grim.
100+ degrees is hot anyway, but for a Scottish person - someone who was brought up in a climate of  sleet and rain - it's like the halls of Hades itself.
Now, in between cold drugs, and nightwear changes, and the obligatory feeding of the children (it's the law apparently) we had to work out a way to find an available air conditioning repair man during a heatwave - which is about as easy as trying to find a rainbow flag in Kim Davis' garage.

So, we call round a couple of friends and they refer their air-con people, and appointments are made, and round they come.
By this time, Mr Tweddle is half-ways recovered - he's dressed at least and awake for most of the day. I on the other hand, sit glassy-eyed and sniffling in 'loungewear,' as each air-con company gives us their pitch.
The first guy starts off with "Well you're lucky your house is not on fire. The fuse blew. Otherwise the whole thing would have gone up."

Apparently we need a whole new air conditioning system.
"Really , you're looking at around $16k," he says, in a tone that makes me feel guilty for not just having $16k in my pajama pocket - (I knew there was a reason for that pocket on the chest.)
I am sick and ashamed and really really frickin hot (and not in a sexy way) so I decide to switch off for the rest of the conversation.
And I do.
Then one single sentence is audible through the fog. I am sick, I am tired, I am going through all sorts of economic shame and yet this one sentence stands out.
I hear him say.
"And all of our workers completely speak English, so you have nothing to worry about there."

I hadn't been aware that I was worried.
I wanted someone to fix my air conditioner, not read me a book.
I was too sick to understand why I was annoyed, but I was really really frickin annoyed.
I decided, somewhat groggily that even if I did have $16K in my pajama pocket, I wouldn't be giving it to this guy anyway.
Mr Tweddle continued to listen (he's a facts collector) and eventually this aircon guy left - after charging us $99 to frighten the frickin life out of us.

He was replaced my the aircon guy 2, who announced, smilingly,  that his immune system was made of steel. I retreated to the coolest part of the house. I hated him for being healthy and I hated me for not being the kind of person who could just rustle up $16K. And the speak English thing was still bothering me, but my head was too much of a fog.

He wanted us to rip the house apart.
"Ditch everything and go solar."
"Uhm...isn't that kind of wasteful?"
 "No. It's the proper thing to do environmentally and it'll only cost you $22K!"
(I have to point out, this one wasn't recommended by a friend.)

It was a hot and uncomfortable night in Tweddley Manor.

The third air con man came this morning. He'd being working on air conditioning for years. He'd fixed and fitted for a friend of mine and for her parents, and he basically is 'the go-to guy' for her whole family.
He wandered up to the air conditioner, flicked a couple of switches and announced the condenser was broken and had blown th fuse. He had it fixed in around 20 minutes and left with a check for $235.
When Mr Tweddle had dolefully mentioned that he supposed we'd need to replace the whole system pretty soon, air-con man had laughed and said, "Not at all, that's good for another 10 years."

So, my point.
Sitting in the refreshingly cool air, first day in real clothes rather than pajamas, out of all the things to be annoyed about, I find I am still really really really really irritated by the, "And all of our workers completely speak English, so you have nothing to worry about there."

When we first arrived in this country 7 years ago, one of the first people we got to know is Latina. She speaks hardly a word of English and yet she is one of the most trustworthy, kind and hard-working people I know. She would never try to screw anybody out of money and if someone were poorly or frightened, she would offer a hug or bring soup.
I have never known her to lie.  She would never treat anybody as being beneath her, and in all the time that she has known me, she has never assumed that I am stupid or lazy or that I might delve into the contents of her purse, because I can't speak very good Spanish.

"And all of our workers completely speak English, so you have nothing to worry about there."

I wonder if he would have said the same thing to me were my eyes brown and my hair dark. I wonder if it would have felt quite as eager to point that out,  were my skin not sickly, Scottish translucent, white.
It irritates me because I can't work out why he would say it. But in a way I am glad he did, because in the middle of my Man- flu and $16K shame, I might not otherwise have heard the truth.

Which is.
The words Air Con1 man and I use are the same. Our speech sounds and sentence structures generally equate to being 'English', but the language we speak is  totally different.
And his language is not one I have any inclination learning.

Instead when I bump into my Latina friend this week, in very very bad Spanish I will try to tell her all about my weekend, and in very very bad English she will try to tell me about hers. And we will laugh about the Man -flu and the heatwave and the pajamas and shake our heads about the different air conditioning guys. And we will understand enough of the words exchanged, to feel it was a satisfying conversation.
Because, aside from the fact that I'm 5"10 and she's 5'1, we basically view the world the same.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Not taking the hump on hump day.

I keep thinking it's time for me to take a break from social media, and then catching myself in it all the time. And it's a nightmare, because there's some stuff I just don't want to know.

The constant barrage of crayzee Kim Davis, and horrendous detail after detail about Syria - if you haven't seen the video of the Hungarian photographer, then don't look for it - and photograph after photograph of smiling barbarians holding up dead animals are beginning to persuade me that the world is full of hate.

This morning, the first thing to to greet me on Facebook was some vacuous looking creature smiling as she held up a dead dove. A dove!
That's right, the universal symbol of love and peace.
And there is this complete idiot, smiling obnoxiously and holding up the body of the life she has taken.

And it's infectious.
Watching this crap I become so full of rage myself, that I dream of a scenario where the Hungarian photographer, and the female dove killer, and the lion murdering dentist from Minnesota, could all be stranded on a desert island, and we all get to watch who survives the longest. And the only rules for this scenario would be overseen by Kim Davis, because we all know how well she upholds the letter of the law.

And it's wrong.
I don't know who said it - I could look it up on the Internet but there's a good chance the answer would be false - but the saying 'Be careful how you choose your enemies, because they are whom you'll become most alike,'  has never been so relevant for me.

I'm not about to spend $50,000 and take my bow and arrow to a safari park, or start shooting pretty birds, or trip over helpless people as they flee from a war zone carrying their infants, but the level of disgust I find myself feeling when I see what these creatures are out there doing,  must be similar to the level of disgust those particular life forms feel for the rest of the world themselves.

So what do I do? Do I just steer clear of all electronics and hope that the situation will just go away? Do I tinker with my news feed, so that all I get are pictures of smiling babies and cats wearing hilarious party costumes? Or do I write a blog and say, I am not like them and I don't believe most of the world is like them either?

I've opted for the last one.


When I don't know what to think about Syria.

When I think find myself thinking about lions.

When I see a photograph of some bimbo holding a dead dove.

And I had tons of links I could've put right there. Tons. because all over the world right now, some people are doing good - no, in fact, great -  things.  Don't forget to turn your attention to them. There are plenty of good people in the world. Plenty!  Just sometimes the ugly ones seem to make the most noise - and seem to be plastered all over social media.


Thursday, May 15, 2014


My six-year-old is properly opinionated.
Actually, when I say "properly," what I really mean is "outrageously" and he's been like that from birth.
From the moment his bossy wee body first entered the world, he defied medicine by lifting his head to look around, the message in his new-born eyes, "I am the boss, deal with it."

Throughout his six short years, he has taken his own time with whatever task is in front of him. He caused concern, developmentally, as he didn't really bother talking until he was three. Then, when he did talk, it was in fully-formed sentences.
He is the single, most-opinionated, person I know,  so although I should look back on his pre talking days with a sense of "how worried I was, " I occasionally reminisce, "Those were the days."

This year, at kindergarten, he has worried teachers by his initial apparent inability to comprehend math - though now he reliably informs me that 62 plus 62 is 124, and dividing is about knowing how many groups of things you would get in a number.

Presently his reading is dodgy. There are certain words that he can read and when he comes across a word, he cannot read, he will look me in the eye and say - without any sense of doubt - "That isn't a word." So at the moment "monkey" "tree" and "umbrella" simply do not exist.

But the weirdest he has always been, is in terms of food.
To say he is picky would be an understatement. More accurately he is, "An ongoing pain in the ass."

He eats: cheese, pasta with no sauce, bread (wholemeal and french), french toast, bananas, apples, carrots, chicken, pizza, salmon, pretty much any kind of fruit bar from Trader Joes, and of course, an insurmountable amount of crap covered in sugar or chocolate.
Going to a restaurant is a drag, because there are only certain things on the menu he will consider as foodstuffs and if they're not on the menu, he would rather starve. (Except, of course, he would never really starve, as I know he keeps a stash of stuff he has pilfered from the kitchen cupboard,  in a drawer in his little desk, and under his bed.)

Oh and I've read those articles too about how you just have to "make problem foods into an interesting little model like a train or a smiley face on a plate," and it's all wonderful. And maybe that works for some kids. Maybe.
But for my kid, if you dish him up something looking like a little train, he will look at you with such disdain, that you will be ashamed for even considering yourself to have parenting skills.

He is vehement on foods he will not eat.  Vehement, because, as he explains, "They are not food."

Pretty much from the moment he decided he would concede to conversation, he has taken great offense to 'The Peanut".
Randomly, sniffing something placed before him at mealtimes or as snack,  he would ask, "Are there peanuts in that?" 'Does this have peanuts in it?"
And, I mean, for no reason.
We're not particularly big on peanuts in our house and I've always gone with the medical advice of no peanuts before 6 anyway, but from time to time, his distrustful little expression would eye me, like we were in an Agatha Christie novel and I was the butler, "Any peanuts here?"

He was complaining of late, that he felt he wasn't being respected at school. When they refused to let squeeze in beside his friend at the  'No peanut table" he announced that his life was being put in danger.  I figured that at some point, to keep the peace, I'd get him tested - if not for allergies,  for being a cantankerous, wee, know-it-all.

Recently though, that changed.
He had been given a bag of assorted candy from school and squirreled it away in his "secret stash" in his desk drawer, probably so he didn't have to share it with his brother.
It was not a school day and the house was relatively calm,  both boys were playing on computers (bad parent, bad parent).
Suddenly my 6 year old let out a weird, loud, gutteral noise and ran out of his room. Almost getting to the bathroom, he started vomiting, his little body spasming with the strength of the wretching.

Both Mark and I ran to get to him. His whole body was rigid, tears down his little red face both from crying and from the sheer force of his gagging reflexes.
We were both trying to work out what had happened?... what to do?... had he swallowed something?  should we call an ambulance?
Only 6 years old and so completely small and vulnerable. We were terrified.
"Chocolate. Chocolate." he managed to wheeze.

My other son fished out the chocolate wrapper from the hidden stash. Peanut butter cup.
When my 6 year old stopped vomiting, we gave him water,  and as a ruby-red rash started to creep its way rapidly up one side of his body,  antihistamine.
Within minutes he was fine, and announced,  "Somebody tried to poison me," in an accusatory tone.

We had him allergy tested for peanuts and the result came back, positive. Super positive, in fact.
The allergist told us if he has peanuts the next time, it would likely affect his respiratory system.

Nowadays he has his own EpiPen, he always sits in the 'no peanuts" table at school, and he is much more careful with the calibre of foods he squirrels away ( in the secret stashes in his desk, and under his bed, that none of us are supposed to know about).

And I have conceded. When my six year old dogmatically states that some foodstuffs "are not food, I'll (mostly) accept that for now. Just as he has to accept, that sometimes I'll, by chance, happen upon his stash and announce that some of those foodstuffs are "not real food either".
I hope that just as my eldest's food choices expanded with age, so will it be with my youngest.

Announcing I thought I should get my  eldest tested for allergies too, my six-year-old, chipped in.
"I can tell you what Fergus is allergic to."
"Oh what?" I asked, intrigued.
"Sharing," my six-year-old announced. And on that, with a smug little chuckle, he headed off to his room.