Sunday, January 30, 2011

Silent Sunday: Haunting


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stop looking at your belly button!

I read a wonderful post today. One that brought tears to my eyes. It wasn't meant to make people cry, I don't think, but to get them to react and I hope it served its purpose. The post was written by the wonderful Heather at Note from Lapland and it relates to the revolution taking place in Egypt and how a lot of people are just not talking about it. I started writing a comment but it started going on and on and I realized that I probably should write my own post.

It started with Tunisia. They call it the Jasmin Revolution, but the media here are calling it 'civil unrest'. First off, please, people from the media, call it what it is. It's a revolution. It started mid December and got stronger and stronger through January. When thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life unite and take to the streets to get rid of a corrupt and dictatorial government, it is a Revolution not just civil unrest. The official number of people that gave their lives in the name of what you call  'civil unrest' is 78, although the UN estimates it at more than 100. Most of them were killed by the bullets of the guns fired by the police. They have succeeded in getting rid of their corrupt president Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years. This particular revolution was not covered half as much in English speaking countries as it was in France. There are a lot of people of Tunisian descent in France, including a few of my friends. Tunisia was a French colony and France still has a lot of links with Tunisia hence the enhanced coverage. I have seen friends updates on Facebook, cheering on their 'brothers and sisters' over there. A lot of them have family there and a lot of them visit them on a regular basis. As a sign of solidarity, a lot of people have added a ribbon on their Facebook pictures, the Tunisian flag. Social media sites like Facebook and|Twitter have somewhat helped in organizing that revolution. Their fight still goes on...

It has now moved onto Yemen, Libya and Egypt. 74 people have died yesterday alone in the name of Freedom in Egypt. Once again, people from all walks of life, Christians and Muslims have united to try and defeat a corrupt government and get rid of a dictator. This too is a revolution, not just civil unrest. The army is starting to join in with the protesters, just like it did in Tunisia. I don't claim to know much on this, I am no expert on the Middle East and I wasn't watching it as much as Heather was but there is one thing I know. Shutting down the Internet, mobile networks and landlines, creating a virtual communications black out on a so-called democratic country is not acceptable. It is against the most fundamental right of the people of any country, most of all a democratic one, the right to Freedom of Speech. The right without which we, in the blogging community, wouldn't know each other, the right we are using on a daily basis talking about this and that, ranting about this and that. In one of those countries, a post like this or this could have landed me in prison. Take a look at your own posts, which one would have landed you in prison or even worse, dead? In Tunisia, at least 6 bloggers (as per Reporters without borders, a French NGO advocating freedom of the press in the world) have either been arrested or disappeared (some have been subsequently been released). Bloggers like you and me, people just expressing their views, like you and me. There isn't much we can do from here, I can hear some of you say. There is. What we can do is keep talking about it, stop taking it for granted and if we can support organizations like Reporters without borders by donating some money, then do it. There are 112 netizens, as they call them, imprisoned around the world, bloggers like you and me.
Something else I'd like to see, is for the Irish media to stop looking at their own belly buttons as we say in France. In proper English, it would probably be to start looking further than their own noses. Stop putting events like this at the back end of the news as if it was some kind of 'fait divers' or A.O.B. It is not. There are more important things happening in the world than the circus that is Irish Politics, or some murder trial going on here. Yes, there is an election looming, yes, Irish politics have been a massive circus, worthy of any storyline in any soap you can watch. But the Irish media has barely talked about the Tunisian revolution, very little was said in yesterday's news about Egypt. On one particular channel, this was even reported a while after they showed a piece on how the cost of dying in Ireland was going up. This revolution is certainly more important than the cost of a f*****g burial plot in Ireland! Who wants to know that it will cost you more to be buried by the sea than it will cost you inland? Or how many TV cameras from other countries have shown up in front of the Dail today. Or how Bertie Ahern's (the previous Prime Minister that got us in the mess we are now) only regret is not having built a national stadium.

I have often joked with Mr Foodie and other Irish people on how the Irish media are short of announcing the death of a dog that got run over by a car in co. Cork when more important things are going on in the world. I rely completely on the French or UK media to know what is happening in the world, not the Irish one. Because the Irish media is just turned inwards. I know we live on an island and things happening somewhere else might seem far and unimportant, but they are not. This very insular approach to the news is frustrating, and for me, coming from France, when important things are top of the news no matter where they happen, quite infuriating. Maybe it's a lack of resources, maybe it's a lack of interest on the part of the Irish public, I don't know. The Irish media doesn't seem to have any foreign correspondent (apart from the guy that stands in front of the European Parliament and reports on the EU/IMF deal, or the guy they have in Washington that has to resort in making entertainment programs, probably to justify why he is there on a permanent basis). They very rarely use anybody from the outside even to report on events happening around the world. And if you listen to the Irish Media, well, there isn't really much happening in the world worth talking about for more than 5 minutes. Just a revolution or too, and a blatant attempt on the thing they hold so precious, the very cornerstone of their job, Freedom of Speech.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Silent Sunday.

It's meant to be a silent sunday but I never told you that I did get my wonderful new camera for Christmas. So I'm getting to grips with it. Here are a few pictures I took this week. 
A lonely hare in the field on a frosty morning.

Even the spiderwebs were frosty!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hurricane Noelie.

Life with a 20 months old is quite something, as most of you know or remember. Noelie will be 20 months old in 10 days and, believe it or not, she is quite a handful.

First of all, she won't shut up! Marie is quiet, she is very independent and most of the time, as people say, you wouldn't even know she's there. She is there but, more than likely, she is sitting somewhere in a corner reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. Although she is not quite 8 yet, her reading maturity is the same as a 10 and 1/2 years old child (not according to me but according to the test her teacher got her to take) and she is quite the bookworm. The only problem for us is to find books that are appropriate for her age but do challenge her in the reading department (any ideas, anybody?). But Noelie, well, she is far from quiet. She starts talking the minute she gets up and won't stop until she goes to bed. I have lost count of how many words she has mastered and in which language but she is now able to express herself fairly well. Everybody is 'gone in car' if they are not within sight but she'll happily switch 'gone in car' to 'parti' if she is talking to me. She can imitate a few animals and if asked (either in French or English) which noise does a cow, dog, cat or other makes, she will happily oblige you. She can ask for biscuits, apple or banana or simply 'mange' (eat) and for her 'dink'. She says 'pease' and 'merci' as well as 'hello' and 'bonjour' and 'bye' or 'au revoir'.

She is shoe and hat mad. Her 'chaussons' (slippers) are her most prized possession. They have to be on at all times, even going to bed. And her 'bapos' (which are meant to be chapeau or hats) provide her with hours of fun putting them on and taking them off again. She loves her dolls and will wheel them around the house in their buggies. She also loves pretending to eat (foodie mummies do make foodie babies!). She will order to you to 'sit there' and 'mange' (eat) and pass any plate, spoon, cup, pot to you and will also tell you 'I can cook' (thanks Cbeebies!) and ask you if 'c'est bon?' ('is it nice?). She understands requests in both French and English and will comply with said requests most of the time (unless it requires her to step away from the press she is currently emptying). She loves music and singing and dancing around and reading books and colouring (the wall seems to be a great canvass!).

My baking press is one of her favourites to empty (it must be all the nice colours and funny noises cake decorations make). And the breakfast / biscuit press is her most favourite destination in the kitchen. So, after all the hard work we put in in the past few weeks, tidying and cleaning and rearranging everything, I am very keen to keep everything 'right'. But she doesn't seem to understand my need to keep stuff off the floor and in the presses. So this morning, I took a preemptive action and childproofed the kitchen. There is only one press she can open and that's the breakfast/ biscuit press but at least my baking supplies are now safe, not to mention all the cutlery and medicines / cleaning products that we store under the sink.

Childproofing the Foodie way!

Might not look like much but quite effective.
 She hates her nose being stuffy and will blow her nose, or wipe it with a tissue. She loves eating and sleeping and we are really lucky that she goes down for her nap for at least 2 to 3 hours without a fight. She also loves going to bed at night and will sleep for a good 12 hours straight (she only wakes up if she has a cough and will refuse to sleep if she feels unwell, which doesn't happen too often thankfully). She has 12 teeth and another 3 that just cut through the gums this week. She also feeds herself although she still needs help with putting things on her fork.

And lastly, if you want to make her happy, just put on 'Oui-Oui' (that's Noddy in French) or even better 'Becca Boo' which is the way she calls In The Night Garden.

However, if you make her cross, she will let you know and shout a loud 'No!' and will give out to you. She might even try to bite you if you invade her private space too much or maybe pinch you.

So what's next? Well, potty training is on the horizon. She warns you before she goes for a 'caca' or if she does a 'pipi'. She is fascinated by the toilet and you literally cannot go to the toilet without her following you in and trying to look down to see what you're doing, all the while trying to pull her trousers down. So what do you think? Do you think she's ready? Or is 20 months too young still for her to get the whole concept? When did you start potty training your children?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The wind of change.

When we moved to the countryside over 6 months ago, we put boxes and furniture where we thought they should go. Gradually, we realized that the way things were didn't really work for us. The house didn't feel homely and cosy. It was pretty much unchanged from when we moved in. There were no personal touches, clutter was accumulating and it didn't really feel like we had made it our own yet.

So since we came home from France, we have been rearranging room after room in the house. That involved a lot of furniture being moved from one room to the other, a lot of furniture being moved from one side of the room to the other. Little pieces of furniture, and big pieces of furniture. And of course of lot of cleaning, and a lot of rubbish being thrown out. Magazines from 2007 still lying around (some even older than that). What for? Why do we keep all this stuff. On the off chance that one day, we'll read them again? But to be honest when do we ever read a magazine again? I kept all my cooking magazines, but for all the other types of magazines, I just kept the recipe pages and threw out the rest. Sometimes, you just need to be a bit ruthless. Forget about being sentimental. Stuff just accumulates and you end up buried under clutter everywhere. That candle that has been gathering dust on the mantle piece that you can't light anymore. Chuck it out. Broken toys, pieces of plastic crap that you pick up with children's magazines or in the odd Happy Meal. Worthless junk. Just throw it out.

That's what the past couple of weeks have been dedicated to. Throwing out rubbish, being ruthless and unsentimental, cleaning top to bottom and finally making the house our own. A couple of trips to Ikea (I couldn't reorganize the house without taking one or 2 trips to Ikea!), a small chest of drawers, a new chair for the sitting room and a few cheap paper lamp shades later and finally, the house starts to feel homely, cosy and more importantly ours.

And the most amazing thing is that you don't need to spend a fortune to bring a bit of change to your house. Just look around and reuse what you already have. That lamp that was gathering dust on the playroom table used to light up that plant that kept being knocked over in the hall actually looks great in the corner of the sitting room and you won't have to spend 10 minutes everyday picking up the soil from the hall floor. (Ok, I'll cut the crap. It doesn't look all that great because the plant is actually on its death bed from being knocked down way too many times and not being watered enough. But it would look great with a normal and healthy looking plant). Those chairs that were just taking space in the kitchen and where junk was piling up have now found a new purpose and a new lease of life in the master bedroom. That coffee table that looked a bit shabby doesn't look that bad now, in the corner of the sitting room, half hidden by the sofa that was in the playroom. Just look at what you have and think outside the box, who said that kitchen chairs can't go in a bedroom or that the picture that was hanging in the toilets wouldn't look good on the kitchen wall, that throw that you used on the sofa could look good on your bed. So go on take a good look around and make your living space work for you! It can make a whole lot of a difference!

The girls love their new tidy playroom and their definitely bigger bedroom. I love my new chair (it wasn't an aesthetic decision, I desperately needed a chair I could sit in. Anytime I sat on the sofa for more than 5 minutes, my back would get stuck and I wasn't able to walk properly) and I actually enjoy keeping the house clean because there is less clutter around. So despite not taking any New Year resolutions (I don't believe in them), we have actually managed to make our life a little bit better to start off the new year. What about you? Have you changed anything for the new year?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cold creatures.

It all started the week before Christmas. Slowly but surely, the house started feeling colder and colder. With overnight temperatures falling close to -20, I thought it was normal to feel the cold. Noelie wasn't too impressed though, neither was Marie but with a few extra layers, it wasn't something that was too much of a problem. I come from a hot (ish) climate but I'm also used to cold winters but this was nothing I had ever experienced. Some of the rooms in the house were like walk-in freezers, the playroom's entrance had been condemned. I put it down to the size of the house and the number of big windows, thinking that the cold was getting in that way. The tips of our noses were frozen, our hands were red with the cold and not to mention my feet, who despite being in 2 pairs of socks (one of which a pair of ski socks) and a pair of Fuggs refused to warm up. I noticed that some of the rads were not working well and tried to come up with various explanations. The obvious one was that we probably ran out of oil. I tried ordering some more but the earliest they could deliver was well after Christmas day, and if things went according to plan, we wouldn't be in Ireland then.

The day we left for France, I gave the girls a bath and resorted to get both of them dressed in the warmest room of the house, the hot press. Thankfully, our hot press is more of a walk-in wardrobe than your traditional hot press so getting dressed in there was easy enough.

Then we left for our 2 weeks holiday. I had made sure that the heating was left on for a couple of hours a day, to ensure that the pipes would not freeze, I didn't go as far as leaving the taps running though. When we came back a couple of days ago, knowing that the house wouldn't be very warm, we had arranged for the girls to stay at Mr Foodie's mum and dad's for a bit, hence giving me time to get everything unpacked and the house cleaned and warmed up.

This was not to happen. The day we got back, the house was so cold that I kept my big heavy ski jacket on until I eventually gave up piling up the blankets on my legs on the sofa and went to bed fully clothed. Mr Foodie was very grateful for the pair of skiing thermal long johns he had bought in France. He has now earned the nickname of Robin Hood, Men in Tights after parading around my parent's house in them, demonstrating his fashion - showmanship (is that even a word?) for all to admire.

The day after we got back I ordered oil which was to be delivered yesterday. In the meantime, Mr Foodie and myself piled on the thermal ski clothes we had the great mind of buying in France. We went to bed around 7pm for a couple of nights and started watching the first season of 24 on DVD from the box set Mr Foodie received at Christmas. Getting up in the morning was a nightmare, there is nothing worse on a good day than leaving a nice warm bed knowing it's cold outside, multiply that feeling by at least a million and you might have an idea of what it's like to get up in a cold, freezing house. At some stage, I actually thought it was warmer outside than it was inside!

The oil came yesterday and, to my surprise, there was still some left in the tank, indicating that the problem was not it (doh!). We truly had a problem with our heating system. We called our landlord who showed up within the next 30 minutes, tool box in hand. In the meantime, Mr Foodie's mum and dad had arrived with the girls and our 8 month old niece. The house was so cold that Marie kept her jacket on, only to take it off in favour of her house coat and a pair of gloves and snuggled under her duvet (at 4.30 pm). Our landlord tried to fix the problem but, since he is not a plumber, couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. He got in contact with a plumber he knows, who promised to come out to the house first thing in the morning. The girls went back to Mr Foodie's mum and dad's for the night as there was no way they could stay in the freezer that our house had become.

True to his word, the plumber was at the door at 9h15 this morning. After a good look around, he identified that the problem came from the pump. Some valve on it wasn't tightening properly and needed changing. He went off to get a new valve and came back with it. He took the whole thing apart and put it back together with the new valve. The only thing was that he left the back door open all the time. The malfunctioning valve was causing the pressure to fall, meaning that the hot water wasn't being pushed through the rads and the rads weren't heating up. Once he had fixed the pump, he put the heating back on and carefully made sure that every single rad in the house was working. At that stage, I was shivering with cold and my knees were refusing to stop shaking. Our landlord supervised the whole operation which took more than 2 hours. So now, the house is warming up slowly but surely, I am glued to one of the rads and will probably need to be peeled off it in a bit. How did people do it before? Before central heating, before thermal underwear and fleeces? I truly don't know and really admire them. I'm not a cold creature, neither are my girls. Warmth is what we need and thank goodness, warmth is what we will now get! Now, I'm off to put my bikini on!

P.S: Happy new year everybody (I'm not a big Christmas and New Year greetings fan, so please don't hold it against me!)

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