Bizarre world

My preferred search engine is Duck Duck Go, but I don’t like it when I’m looking for images so sometimes I still have to use Google.  So I was on Google image search looking for clip art for “family”.  It plays a little game of word association across the top of the page…

If you want to further refine your search, you have different options for family, cartoon, cute, mixed race etc., ending in the option “trump”.  I couldn’t figure out what that was doing there, and it didn’t have an icon to give me a clue, so I clicked on it to see, and it took me to pictures of one president (who presumably hasn’t been photographed enough for Google to have an icon in their library).  Then you can play the game again, so on the Google image page featuring Trump and his family, if you slide your gaze to the right, the (presumably negatively) associated options are “black” and “lion”…

Sadly I didn’t have time to play any more, but who knows where this might end.

Meanwhile in our own small, but sometimes equally strange corner…

Joni, expressing a true Argentinean’s confusion at the British habit of putting apple into savoury dishes (pork casserole, nothing the matter with that says the cook): “There I was enjoying a nice meal, when suddenly I came across a fruit salad…”

Danny educating me on trucks that transform into robots:  “Girls don’t like trucks”.  To which I said “But I’m a girl and I like trucks”.  “No,” he asserts confidently, “Girls like pretty things, not cool things…”

The doctor cometh

I went to get my Pap test done like a responsible woman (that´s the Smear if you´re English, Pap in the rest of the world, based on the work of one Greek doctor George Papanicolaou (1883–1962)).

The gynacologist said “How long has your neck been like that?”  So I said “like what?” And she sent me to the endocrynologist.

The endocrynologist said “Enlarged tyroid” and sent me for ultrasounding and a bunch of other tests.

The urine test showed up as having an infection, and I said “oh yes that´s happened before” so they sent me to the urologist.

The urologist sent me for more ultrasounding and a further bunch of tests and diagnosed a prolapsed bladder.  (I didn´t enjoy that second pregnancy).

He said, “it´s a minor op” and sent me for a yet another bunch of pre-op tests.

The cardiologist performed an ECG and said “this isn´t right” and hooked me up to a thing with a lot of wires that I had to wear for 24 hours.

The cardiologist said “You have a minor insufficiency, but it´s practically normal in human beings.  It doesn´t need treatment, come back in a year” and sent me back to the urologist.

Meanwhile, the endocrinologist sent me away for six months.  The bloods show that the tyroid is functioning normally.  There is a big cyst attached to the outside but there don´t appear to be any indicators that it needs operating on.

Yesterday the urologist put my bladder back in its place and attached it with barbed wire (or that´s what it feels like today anyway).

On Saturday and on Sunday they do no work at all, so it was on a Monday morning that the gas man came to call…. Flanders and Swann

The moral of the story:- Beware of the Pap….  It came back just fine by the way.

The computer programmer chronicles

8.10pm, Hazel and Martin are working together in the kitchen.

  • H: I need to go and get Joni in a couple of minutes. (He’s out at Friend’s house a couple of blocks away)
  • M: He should be here by now, I told him to be home by eight.
  • H: He’s probably forgotton, I’ll go and get him.

8.15pm, Hazel puts cake in the oven.

  • H: Right, I’m off to get Joni.

8.17pm, Hazel arrives at Friend’s house.

  • Friend’s Mother: But Joni’s not here, he left like maybe an hour ago and he said he was going home.

8.18pm, Hazel has minor fit, this is the first time Joni has ever not been where he was supposed to be, and he knows that he isn’t allowed to go anywhere else unless he comes home and checks in first.  Friend’s mother also has minor fit, she has no reason to imagine that Joni might have been going anywhere other than home.

8.20pm, Hazel goes home to make sure that Joni isn’t asleep in his bed or anywhere else that we hadn’t thought about, and to figure out who to start calling next.

8.22pm, Joni is found at home, alive and well and in the office playing computer games.

  • H (as relief turns to desire to kill someone):  Joni couldn’t you at least tell someone you were home, I went round to (Friend’s) house looking for you and when you weren’t there I didn’t know where to look for you, and now his mum is all worried about you too.  Next time can you make sure you tell someone that you’re in before you start playing computer games.
  • Joni.  But I did.  I saw Daddy.  I spoke to him and he spoke to me.  I found a cockroach in my room and the girls were both screaming and Daddy came to see what the noise was about.  He definitely knew I was home!

8.25pm, Joni and Martin despatch to Friend’s house to reassure Friend’s mother that everything is OK.  The one-way streets mean it’s five blocks to drive, but three to walk.  I have no idea why they took the car.

8.26 and a half pm, Friend’s mother arrives.  She walked so she missed Joni and Martin who were on their way to her house by car.  Hazel apologises for her inconvenience.  She’s fine, she leaves.

8.30 pm, Joni and Martin return complaining that there wasn’t anyone home at Friend’s house.  Hazel explains that this is because Friend’s parent was in our house.

9.15pm, Everyone’s finished showering and we’re sitting at the table over the evening meal.

  • Joni: Daddy I can’t believe that you didn’t remember that you’d seen me when I came in.
  • M: I know I saw you, but you didn’t tell me you were back. Next time you need to tell me that you’re back so I can tick it off on my mental check-list.

11.15pm,  Joni is going round the house repeating”I know I saw you but you didn’t tell me you were back” and bursting into peals of laughter.

When I next come up for air I’m going to start a survivors’ self-help group for computer programmers’ wives.  In the meantime I’m thinking about swopping some of the males in my life for something less high maintenance.  Possibly a rabbit.

When you go out into the world…

Electronic enemies are no fun.  When I walked away from my computer, the blog entry was three-quarters written.  Yes I should have saved it as draft, but even Microsoft Word manages to hold onto a recovery version for cases of emergency.  So I´m morosely chomping down a pot of dried fruit, and coming to terms with the fact that it matters not one jot whether this is  the fault of the computer or WordPress, since I´m never going to have the enjoyment of taking revenge on either of them.   Tis mine to avenge saith the Lord…

This week with my English students I´ve been doing discussions on giving and receiving advice, using this as a conversation starter;-

“All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”

― Robert Fulghum

Sometimes life in our house is fluffy and kindergarten.  Othertimes it´s sex, lies and videotape.  Or more likely whatsapp in this day and age.  We can´t write too much about sex, lies and whatsapp in fairness to the youth of the household.  It´s not always easy, we´re writing the script on the hoof.  So are they.

Here, on the other hand, is something of the former.  Really it´s for Granny.  Danny´s new best friend is a little mare called Flor (Spanish for flower) who arrived at the riding school a couple of weeks ago.  We are grateful we live in Argentina, because there´s no way we could afford for him to do this in England.

When he was last out of school the other day I went along to his classroom to see what was keeping him, and found him galloping around the furniture showing his teacher the things he´s learning at riding school.

Human plants

  • Danny: I don´t want to pick up my room
  • Hazel: Danny I don´t care whether you want to do it or not
  • Danny:  But you should care.  Go on, try and care…

Getting back into routine this week has been a something of a challenge after two weeks of not getting up as 6.15 in the morning.  The fact that it doesn´t get light until nearly 8 doesn´t exactly help either.  But everyone´s gone back into school fine, and tomorrow´s Friday.

Martin downloaded an app for identifying photos of plants on his mobile phone, so obviously the first thing we did was to run through some mugshots of the family;-

Joni came out as a wandering Jew, which might explain his inability to sit on a chair for two minutes without rocking.

Danny is apparently a Darjeeling banana, we have often called him a banana so I guess it´s now scientifically proven.

And Martin and I were both identified as tropicana roses.  The roses between the thorns.  Or maybe just lined from age and weather.

A dog makes a house a home

Without a dog, you’d never have anyone demonstrate how important it is to stop every day and smell the roses… and then lift your leg on them.
                                                                               W. Bruce Cameron

We sadly had to say goodbye to our dog Cami a couple of weeks ago.  She was 14 which was a good age for a street mutt, especially one who got into as many scrapes as she did.

I said we’d get a new dog, but I wasn’t in a big hurry.  But the kids were, and on Monday afternoon I arrived home to find that Boyfriend (Teen´s) had adopted on our behalf a rescue pup from the “protectora de animales”  (local pound).   In this land where scratching one´s nose in public normally requires twenty pieces of paper completed in triplicate and counter-signed by a notary, there appear to be remarkably few checks as to who can adopt a dog or where they might be taking it.   By the time I got home, it was installed, named, fed, was playing with the kids on the patio, and had very clearly moved in.  Had I had a say, we might have chosen something slightly older and better house trained.  Other than that, she´s pretty much what we could have gone for.

Approximately three months old, going by the name of Lula,     breed indeterminate MBM (medium brown mutt), short haired (hooray), plays nicely with the kids apart from the needle sharp puppy teeth, sleeps at night after the initial protests at being abandoned, and generally appears healthy and well adapted. 

It isn´t always apparent that she isn´t actually allowed on the sofa…

A few things that happened since I last blogged

We held a Scout locro making (traditional stew) weekend fundraiser, which generated sufficient cash from which we can pay our subscription to remain afiliated to (and more importantly, insured by) the Scout association in Argentina.  Boring but essential.

Danny´s celebrated his 7th birthday and we organised a party at home for his friends.

Hazel got into a protracted situation with the tax office whereby they froze my account. In other cultures this might be considered a counterproductive move on their part since I had to go and beg to be allowed to pay them.  In an unrelated incident it transpires that from now on all payments have to be made electronically.  Unfortunately, while my UK visa card works everywhere including the wee butcher over the road from our house, apparently the tax office isn´t yet so technologically advanced.  So now I have to go and open, and pay for every month because they aren´t free here, an Argentinean bank account for absolutely no purpose other than to pay the tax office.  Apparently this comes under the heading of improving customer convenience. Government institutions the world over…

We held our first Scout weekend camp of the year in the local site of El Matrero.  It was cold and sunny and everyone had a good time.

Hazel preached a couple of times.  Martin preached a couple of times too, but he´s more of a professional than I am, so I make more fuss about preparing.  Last Sunday´s was quite sweet I thought.  The feedback suggested people were listening too, always encouraging.

And Martin got back on a horse for the first time in many years.




Three go to Miramar

We had promised ourselves a couple of days in Miramar before schools went back.  First the car broke and then there was a whole hospital thing going on, so the plan got shelved until Joni decided we should set a date and I agreed to organise a camp for Easter weekend.  In the end, Martin’s leg is still open in several places, and he doesn’t love camping anyway.  The girls were in at playtime for skiving school, and for good or for ill I´m starting to get colder and harder about these misdemeanours.  So by default Joni, Danny and I won a rare and exclusive Mummy and boys trip out.

We discovered that the bus takes three hours, and the walk to our favourite campsite isn’t too arduous if you pack properly.  We made our own breakfasts on site, organised picnic lunches out at lunchtime, had icecreams in the afternoons, went out for something with chips in the evenings, and toasted marshmallows over a campfire before bed.  That’s all the major food-groups covered isn’t it?

There are a lot of birds around Miramar this year, water levels are higher than when we last went two years ago, and I enjoyed the big zoom on my camera.  We walked a lot, took photos, flew the kites on the beach, compared water temperatures between the lake; not too bad, versus the campsite pool; freezing.  I confess that twelve years in central Argentina has caused me to become wimpy about cold water although my kids are quite happy with it and they´ve never lived anywhere else so maybe it´s just age, darn it.  We went out on a boat one morning  as is our tradition in Miramar, and enjoyed walking across the top of the new water defences that have been constructed out of long mounds of rocks… Danny said “These ones don´t have a sign telling us to keep off…” Last time he saw a similar pile of rocks it was in England where kids are no longer allowed to risk scraping their shins… needless to say on this trip he went home very happy and sporting a new collection of scabs and bruises.   On Sunday we caught another bus back.  We did debate whether to stay another day while Monday was another bank holiday, but since we’d nearly run out of money, we decided it was time to go home and share Easter eggs with the rest of the family.

Sunny afternoons

We are getting organised with this year’s routines of programmed activities and free time.   Joni’s doing cycling, French and will start art in April.  Danny’s doing horse riding and has a couple of other ideas hovering in the wings but we’re still trying to figure out timetable clashes and who’s taking who where.  At the moment I’m doing a lot of juggling, but that will get easier once Martin gets up to speed and back on his bike.  For some reason most things have fallen on Tuesdays and Thursdays so in the week we have two really stupid days, and three afternoons  with space to fill with our own activities…

Danny is a fully fledged independent reader in both languages.  He also has this trick where he sets the book he’s reading to the tune in his head, so the other day he was heard doing “The three little pigs” to the melody of “I will survive”, aka Radio 4’s I’m sorry I haven’t a clue.

Our driveway is just steep enough for acceleration, and there is a strip of grass at the bottom which provides just enough braking power to arrest the riders before they hit the road; enough perceived danger to be exciting without any real damage beyond the ubiquitous skinned knees and elbows.

I’m hiding from my new computer.  It’s not the computer’s fault.  The real problem is Windows 10.  The offputter is that start thing in the bottom left hand corner full of chaos and colours and meaning that I can’t find anything.  Especially since some of the already confusing squares do bad things like move or change colour as I approach with the mouse.  Really guys, I was fine with the scroll down list of “all programmes” in black font on a white background.  And since that’s the first thing that happens to me every time I try and open the box, so far I’m dissuaded from attempting to get much further.

Then there’s spider solitaire.  I know, it’s a card game, the world doesn’t depend on it.  But it’s what I do when I’m thinking.  And, Microsoft, if you’re going to rewrite something I would have thought it would make sense to improve it rather than make it worse.  The numbers and symbols on the cards are smaller than the windows 7 version.  Opening the options I found I could change the font size, so I selected as big as possible.  This changed the writing at the top of the screen – score, time taken, statistics, shoe size etc.  but the numbers and symbols on the cards – i.e. that which I require in order to play the game – remain the same size.  Doh!    And then there’s this…


In massive letters, (presumably Microsoft proving that they could have made the rest of the game legible if they had felt like it) a warning sign that quitting the game counts as a loss in my statistics.  People, it’s not a cigarrette packet.  I don’t care about my statistics.  Which is just as well since I can’t see the cards in the first place.  What sort of creatures do Microsoft recruit (breed?) for their testing labs?  For now I’m still using my dying Windows 7 box.  When Martin finishes recovering enough to nag me again, I expect I will bite the bullet and learn Windows 10, and go searching online for a functional version of spider solitaire with legible cards and no warning screens.


The gospel in chairs

54 minutes well spent to take a look at this.  I’ve seen it three times (Ok so 162 minutes) and I still need to think about it some more, which is why I’m not writing out my raw first reactions.  You may need first to persuade that squeaking evangelical imp with anxiety issues off your shoulder for an hour.  Send him for a tea break or something, he could probably do with one.