20 August 2011

It's been thirty years since I found out I was pregnant with Fox. My beautiful boy, my son. Those terrible years we were estranged now over and passed, I am the mother of an adult son who lives in a different country than I do, with my beautiful grandson and I miss them both so much that I hope for miracles-I would be SO happy if Fox and 'Bas came over to the UK and my family was physically together!

Day before yesterday my husband taught me how to change bicycle tires. He and Fox would spend hours in the garage working on bikes-both love pedal and motor bikes in the same way. I know they would enjoy spending time together, and I know that Paul, in-spite of his avowed "Never wanted children" is anxious to be a father to Fox and a grandfather to 'Bas. I know too, that he feels terribly that we weren't able to get Mozart and Gonzo over, and while he has stopped asking if I have heard back from their new Peoples, yesterday we saw a ginger cat the exact colour of Mozart and we both went quiet for a moment.

Because yesterday was the one year anniversary of my arrival in Scotland, and the day before the last time I held my ginger close.

What a year it has been! I came over to Scotland unsure of what I would find-I was only 99% sure that Paul and I were right for each other and because I am after all the five thousand year old woman I knew it was very possible that the missing one percent of surety would prove we weren't a couple after all, and I would end up back on the plane to the US for another round of 'single life'.

I read and post on an ex-pat forum and often make the joke that I came over last year to see if Paul and I could share one small Scottish bathroom-but kids, it ain't really a joke! It's symbolic of all the things that can wrong in a relationship, it's a metaphor for the little things that erode away at a relationship until you are waking up in the middle of the night wondering why in the name of all that's holy you climb in the bed with that person in the first place.

I woke up this morning (BST) at 0230 not because I am wondering why in the heck I am with Paul, but because I have a WHOPPING toothache-oh ouchie! I have a dentist appointment Monday that I am not looking forward to in the least as the dentist informed me in the consultation that I have a rather lot of dental work wanting done. I'll be seeing him weekly until the middle of September. Oh joy.

Yesterday we went to lunch with a dear friend of ours, a former work colleague of Paul's who has been gently prodding him to go back to work, and yesterday was finally able to get him to admit that he misses it. I love Sarah as though she were my own sister for getting that admission from him! I watched the two of them together yesterday going around inspecting buildings and the interest, the glow emanating from my adorable husband was fantastic to see.

He was offered a really splendid job in Wales last month and I know now that he is regretting declining the offer (I'm regretting it too, the money was incredible and it would have got him back on the game).

We've been working on the house. The contractors are coming this week to start the work we can't do ourselves, which means we'll be painting and 'trimming' on the inside while the contractors are working out. We're having a fence and gate installed across the forecourt and the side garden, and some work done on the roof and a couple of the shed windows. We were going to build a log store across the bottom of the terrace wall below the back garden but have decided we are going to use the garage instead to store the logs and need to get started building the log store in there. Based on what it took us last year to get through the admittedly brutal winter (which I expect will be repeated to a lesser degree this year), we're going to need most of the garage fitted out with log stores, lol, poor Paul!

We have a lovely life. Boring but lovely in the boringness. I've got him hooked on jigsaw puzzles-next up backgammon!

I'm making good use of the time this morning-a blog post (Hi Fox and Kev, thank-you for reading:) to catch my son up (why is it that I always forget the important stuff when writing or talking to him?) washing up in the kitchen, reading a few news pieces online and answering emails, then off at a reasonable hour to get the morning walk in-the doctor wants me to lose two stone (close to 30lbs) and I completely agree!

It was depressing enough to have gained 15 extra pounds after arriving in Scotland last year, but when I was with Fox this spring I added an unconscionable twenty more! The heat/humidity made exercise impossible for me as thanks to my stoopid little heart thing I can't go outside if it's over 85F and 60% humidity because then I swell up like a water balloon, especially if I have been less than conscientious about the low-sodium diet. Which I have been for the past year, which explains the extra pounds. I now own a bathroom scale (I think it owns me, although I am trying not to obsess.)

I love my son. I miss my son. But I cannot-CANNOT-take the heat and humidity in SouthEast Alabama, not without tons of money lying about to pay for air conditioning and a car to get around. One of the things I love most about Scotland, and that I think my son and grandson would love as well, is the joy of not needing a car. I can walk to the shops for just about everything I need; I can now ride my wonderful red bicycle to the shops as well, and to the 'beauty spots' (British for tourist attraction-photo ops) of which there are many in the very near vicinity.

We rode the bus yesterday to visit our friend who'd kindly arranged a tour of a restoration being done in the town she is assigned to as conservation officer-we had an incredible time climbing all over this amazing 16th century building in hard hats and hi-vis vests, poking around at 15th century timbers reused in the 16th to build a 'merchant house' being restored to a ground floor shop and what will be a rather posh home above on the next three stories.

The only disappointment was the bustle of the workmen (in whose way we strove not to be)-it was impossible in the commotion to enjoy a sense of history; no shadows out of the corner of the eye, I think the din has driven out whatever 'ghosties' may have been there.

Just as well!

14 August 2011

So far it's been quiet-no riots in Scotland but arrests are up now on young people who've been caught 'inciting to riot' using FaceBook. I'd laugh but it's not really funny given the seriousness of the rioting, but if a FB user doesn't know by now that there IS NO ANONYMITY WITH FACEBOOK he/she deserves what they get. I don't FB and don't intend to (har-dee-har-har, you watch me have to FB now to keep up with the grandson).

We had a houseguest last week, and after he left to return to England, we jumped on the bus and went to Dundee. I'd seen the doctor Monday and been told I needed to lose two stone (sob, nearly thirty pounds!), so we used that as an excuse-need to find bathroom scales.

Which we found, and which I regret to say measure in stone and kilo, not pounds. Dammit. It sits there in the bathroom glaring reproachfully up and I stand there in the bathroom glaring resentfully down...

Dundee was not at all fun Friday. We took the bus down-lovely ride at the top front of the double decker, but within minutes of getting off the bus near one of the shopping centres we could sense something wasn't right-the vibe was tense, still, thick. I had my rucksack on and quickly began to wish that I hadn't. I felt vulnerable, as though anyone coming up too close behind me was going to be able to get at my purse and passport quickly.

We stopped at the chipper for sausage suppers (oh yeah, that helped that 30lbs alright). We took our treat back down to the shopping centre area and stood under cover watching the mist and people passing. People passing who looked hungrily and resentfully at our sausage suppers and I began to wish I'd had time to make us a lunch so we could have picnicked in the Howff Cemetery the way we usually do. I seriously thought some of the passersby were going to lunge at us, I really did, it was a VERY strange vibe going on in Dundee Friday!

People looked strange, almost as though I was seeing them through a fun house mirror. They looked angry, and on edge, and it wasn't just the young people, even the older people, the OLD people looked snarly.

We had a haggis we meant to post down to said houseguest who'd forgot to take it down when he left. Paul went into the post office and I stood outside to smoke a cigarette. While I was standing out there I noticed a beggar harassing an elderly Hindu. The beggar looked to be in his early to mid-twenties. He had his hood pulled up against the misting rain but there was something sinister about him-I kept telling myself "Oh now, you're hyper because of the riots" but eventually he left the slim pickings of the older man, walked past me rather automatically asking if I had a spare twenty pence without stopping. He made eye contact, his eyes not really registering any emotion, not even disappointment when I shook my head regarding the 20p.

About three minutes later I noticed he was back with friends. Friends who looked more seedy than he. One of the young men looked about 17 and as though he was slumming-he positioned himself across the pavement (sidewalk) from me and I started to think, "Oh hey, I think I might be about to be mobbed..." I didn't really want to think that but Gavin de Becker's outstanding little book The GIft of Fear popped into my head, the example of getting into a lift with someone who makes you VERY uncomfortable...

I got rid of my smoke (I was at that point willing to take a chance on a bobby giving me a littering fine-nae bother, didn't see a one the whole time we were in Dundee, and that was odd as we always have before) and went inside the post office.

Just before deciding to get rid of the smoke and go into the post office, the group of young men down the pavement started to row, and the young man who'd stationed himself close to me had the strangest look on his face, as though a prospect was slipping away.

When I got inside and found Paul, I moved my purse and passport to the inner pockets of my jacket. Next time we go to Dundee (or Edinburgh, or Aberdeen, or Montrose, or...) I am NOT wearing a rucksack. Which of course annoys me. For one thing, the rucksack is very handy for hauling lunches and water and purses and passports and jackets and facial tissue and napkins and camera bags. All of the things a newbie-in-town likes to carry (camera, maps) and all of the things a Scottish housewife likes to carry (purse, tissue, lunch, water, jackets, brollies, etc). It makes much more sense to carry one's food nowadays with the hygiene of most establishments being highly to question; I like my creature comforts of jackets and tissues and brollies...

But all that makes one a target. I knew I'd got off easy with that beggar-I was smoking a cigarette and it was clear I had things in my rucksack-poor and downtrodden I didn't look in my NorthFace jacket and rucksack.

It's back to money belts and concealed carry for me. I hate that. The yobs have made getting out too unpleasant.

Not to mention the spare thirty pounds weight I'm hauling around-if I had to protect myself I wouldn't be able to.

What a lovely life, eh, to be having to think "Could I fight these guys off?" No one should have to do that, and every one is lately. I read a number of horror stories this past week, and more are coming to the surface of what the regular people went through down in the riot struck areas of England last week-people pulled from their cars and beaten, mothers attacked going home from work and the library, whole families trapped in their homes as the mobs swirled through their streets setting wheely bins and cars and the occasional house, on fire.

No-one was spared if they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The older man who died after being savaged by a gang during the riot-he was standing up for the British values of his growing-up, the values I grew up with, btw, and tried to raise my son to have as well.

Oh hell, no-one was spared period. People who thought they were safe in their homes were broken in on by the mobs in some areas, diners were attacked and robbed. People had to leap from their burning homes because a gang of feral animals decided they were 'gonna show the rich and the government and the police that we can do what we want". Swear before God, that is what the little bastards are ALL saying-"We can do what we want, and the government ain't takin' proper care of us so we have to take what we want." Even the middle class, the rich, and the advantaged who have been arrested red-handed robbing, looting and vandalising.

I'm definitely out of shape two weeks away from 55. I need to get back into shape for a lot of reasons not the least of those reasons being I want to go back to Dundee and not be afraid.


We cut through the Howff Cemetery without stopping to look at any of the 16th century tombstones, hurried through our shopping and got the bus back to home as soon as possible. I don't think we'll be venturing to Dundee for a while.

11 August 2011

A police chief calls rain the world's greatest police tool, and he hailed the downpours over England yesterday for the quiet. One or two spats of attempted thuggery quickly handled by the constabularies that have been beefed up with squads from Scotland and other parts of the UK.

But I think the real reason the violence was stopped yesterday was because of the horrific deaths of three young men in Birmingham, and the beating of a 68 year old man in Ealing that left the man unidentified in critical condition.

The three young men, youngest being only 21, and the other two late twenties and early thirties, were victims of what appears to have been a racially motivated hit-and-run. Police have the driver in custody after an all out hunt yesterday. The father of one of the victims called for peace yesterday afternoon, and it appears his was the voice that finally dispersed the rampaging mobs of youth.

And what stellar (read that as dripping with sarcasm) youth! Some have been interviewed by news outlets as laughing at the police and government, and scorning the values their 'boring' parents have tried to instill; asked why they are looting and being so destructive they are replying that it is to show the police (and government and parents) that the rioters can do as they please.

These little monsters (go to hell Lady Gaga!) are laughing as they ask "Wot they gonna do, gi'me an ASBO? I'll jus lif'it" (What are they going to do, give me an ASBO {Anti-Social-Behaviour-Order}? I'll just lift it")-meaning they will simply ignore the terms of their ASBO and continue doing as they please.

And what they please to do is destroy 'rich people's property', and get free stuff. Seriously.

One young girl (aged 15) told reporters she'd participated in starting fires in small business' because the shopkeepers "are rich, and we need to show them".

Mainstream media is restraining themselves to calling them 'little blighters' but all over the UK the real label being applied is 'little bastards' and people are arming themselves, fortifying their homes and business', and organising, some unfortunately with the help of the EDL and BNP, two of the most dangerously racist groups I've ever seen, they remind me of WWII Brown Shirts, the KKK, and the NAZI political party. (You did know the Nazis were a political party, right, like the Tories, Whigs, Democrats, Republicans? That they swept to power with HItler at their head before becoming the single most dreaded name in genocidal insanity?)

Tuesday night as Croyden burned, a Polish lady had to leap for her life into the arms of fireman gathered below her first storey flat. US readers should understand that what the UK calls 1st storey is what we would call second floor, and that the heights of the floors in the UK are often much higher than we are used to seeing in the US-she had quite a leap to make, and almost didn't as she was paralyzed with fear).

The media tried to find her all day yesterday as the readers (mostly) were worried about her safety. She has been located, and she is not doing well emotionally; her sister said "We thought this was such a civilized country!"

But it's not right now, and while the violence had quieted down for now, I strongly suspect it will blaze back up once we have some drier days. Two Scottish teens have been arrested, one in Glasgow, and one in Dundee-MUCH closer to our little village, with more arrests being on the local police agenda. FaceBook and Twitter are being used to organise flash mobs, and the police have not shut down the social networking sites as they are using the information to try to prevent further violence.

Good on them, and I hope every one of these little bastards, these feral little savages of every race, religion, and apparently of every socio-economic class (several of the youth being arraigned are from middle and upper-middle class homes, ffs) have the book thrown at them.

They are being likened to the characters in The Lord of the Flies, and having read that terrifying book years and years ago, I have to agree. These 'children' are savages, frightening beyond words. One mother kept saying "I did not raise them to be like this!" and she has my total empathy-these rioting animals are NOT all from dysfunctional homes that lack grounding in common decency.

Some are of course-one mother when rung at 0245 to come and fetch her teen from the rioting was angry about being woken to attend parental duties.

And most horrifying, most saddening, maddening-several of the youths were accompanied by a parent or older relative.

God save us! I would prefer the rain to stop-I need to get another crop of peas in, and to hang out the washing, and, and, and, and...and I find myself hoping it continues to rain long enough to take the fervor off the rioters. Because I have a VERY bad feeling that this is not going to end well for the UK, that the violence and sheer lunacy WILL spread to every corner of the UK.

We are having contractors around tomorrow to see about fencing off the forecourt from the street, and installing shatter-proof double-glazing on the last front window that we stupidly didn't have done last fall. We are rethinking our shopping habits-no longer does the purse (wallet) go into the handbag or rucksack. Instead I am working on designs for new rucksacks with pockets on the straps for not only the purse, but a weapon that can be easily reached. We are starting to carry walking sticks that can be used for protection as well (very glad I learned how to use a staff all those years ago, and interesting how the moves all come back).

And every kid in a hoodie that passes our house is eyed suspiciously. The council estate with the worst reputation is across the park from us, the kids cut through the park and our neighbourhood to get to the grocery and other shops. They've left beer bottles and other litter in their wake many times, and I've caught some of their parents urinating on the hedge and lamp posts across the lane several times. Two weeks ago obscene graffiti was splashed across the monuments in the park, and a swastika painted across the bronze back of the man who donated the park over a hundred years ago-a man who made his fortune making and selling sweets to the people of the area and Scotland, and who gave nearly every pence of it back to the people in one way or another. He hired the jobless, he built housing shelter for the low-waged that was comfortable and modern for the times; and he donated parks, concert halls, and libraries-all to help the disadvantaged.

So their thanks is to paint obscenities and swastikas across one of his gifts.

As I said, we are having contractors in tomorrow-we will have a fence across the forecourt just as soon as we can get the work done as we have also had some of the yobs cutting through our gardens to get to the lane behind us. Of course, they also had to cut through other gardens, and Paul and I are not the only homeowners in the process of fortifying our homes.

Our village is a small one, our neighbours are nice people who mind their own affairs. And the yobs in our town as are capable of destructive rioting as any other yobs in big or small towns.

09 August 2011

I'm sitting here in north-east Scotland watching the news coming out of England with my jaw scraping the floor-I cannot wrap my mind around what is happening and I am starting to wonder if this insanity is going to spread north into Scotland. Frankly wouldn't surprise me, we have a lot of the same conditions and problems as the English do just now, problems and conditions that are the real source of the rioting spreading through England.

This link will take you to the Daily Mail, it's sort of our version of FoxNews-a little breathless, a little tabloidish, and a lot right-wing, but dang if they don't always have the scoop on the best photos of whatever is going on!

***There should be a hyperlink showing here but I'm not seeing it, leave a comment if you can't either:)

The pictures that the Mail has been posting the past three days are shocking. One photograph that was published Saturday made me angry to the point of shaking with it-the photo showed a child of no more than ten out in the midst of the rioting with an adult who was clearly an older brother or father, and it wasn't until last night that I was able to get the image and the thought ("Who in the hell takes a CHILD to a riot?!) out of my head.

The image was replaced with more frightening ones, when the violence spread north to B'Ham, and Nottingham-bad enough the violence had spread to the very outer skirts of the M25 (which rings greater London) and was now a mere two miles (as the crow flies) from the home of our houseguest (whose wife remained South, and is under strict instructions to 'Bunker Down' and be ready to evacuate away should thing become worse than they are already-to get to their village the rioters will need boats or cars, the nearest bridge across to the village is thirty miles from where the violence erupted last night).

This simply isn't something ANYONE expected when a gangsta (self-proclaimed, the photos he posted on his FaceBook page make it very clear, he was 'gangsta') was shot and killed resisting arrest last week. This is beyond protest, this is wanton thuggery.

A better commentator than myself has likened it to 'shopping by violence' and I think he is spot-on. Children as young as seven years old have been photographed clearing sweets counters into pillowcases-but only after having been snapped using bricks and ballbats to break the windows of the shops. They are feral, and the violence is becoming much worse. There is a viral video now showing a young asian man bleeding profusely who is robbed by passersby who first seem to be coming to his aid.

I asked Paul if he thought the violence would spread to Scotland and he said he really didn't think so, but I wonder. When I read the comments on some of the news sites I wonder-it doesn't matter where a poster is posting from, the sentiment is the same: "Multi-culturalism doesn't work; the immigrants are taking 'our' jobs; the men are here only to rape our women..."

It. Is. Scary.

I was in Los Angeles when the Watts Riots broke out. I was appalled when Reginald Denny was brutalised during the Rodney King Riots-appalled and terrified, I really understood how fragile the line between 'diversity' and mob-violence' was the day the video was released-it COULD happen because just look, it HAD happened!

And it is happening in England right now as I type this blog entry. Mobs are roaming more and more streets attacking people who are simply trying to get home; shops all over England are being looted in broad daylight, and Parliment has been recalled.

There are rumours of Martial Law.

The riots are no longer confined to the socio-economically depressed areas of Greater London. Last night diners at an 2 star, upscale restaurant in Notting HIll (a VERY posh area) were attacked when thugs broke through the windows and robbed the diners of jewelry, etc. The restaurant kitchen staff (have I mentioned that my son is a chef?) rescued the diners and led them to the safety of first the bathrooms and then the wine cellars-and I have to be honest in saying that my first thought after thank-god no-one was injured was OMFG THAT COULD BE MY SON LEADING HIS KITCHEN STAFF T RESCUE HIS GUESTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

***There should be a hyperlink showing here but I'm not seeing it, leave a comment if you can't either:)