Sunday, 16 October 2011

the sinister rabbits of childrenswear

I know you 'boys in tights' Googlers will just love these.
Last week I was ready to publish a nice 'boys in tights' post to show our latest discovery. Hamish spotted these beauties in H&M and was determined to have them. Aren't they boyishly pretty? I have to admit I am becoming more than a convert to boys tights. I think it's because they are just much more pictorial than girls tights. I would find it hard to resist tights with bears and foxes and racoons too if I was still a kid. As luck would have it we also spied some 'daddy-style' boxers in the same print.

But just before I wrote this post I read Plan B's post 'The strange taxonomy of children's clothes'. She writes about how in the world of children's clothing animals are divided into two camps: boys animals and girls animals. Not by gender as in boy doggies and girl doggies but as Plan B says there are animals which only feature on boys or girls clothes. To quote:-

Boys' animals:
Reptiles and amphibians (all sorts), insects (all sorts except butterflies (and ladybirds)), lions and tigers (but not, it appears, leopards), hedgehogs, alsatians but not most other dogs, crustacea (all sorts), bears, sharks and whales, aardvarks, dragons.

Girls animals:
Cats, rabbits, horses, most farmyard and domestic animals (though I remain uncertain about goats), all small rodents (except rats. Rats don't seem to feature strongly on children's clothes of either gender); dalmatians, dachshunds and yorkshire terriers, butterflies, fish (other than sharks) but not crustacea, seahorses (do they go with horses or fish, do you think?), birds (all sorts except parrots), zebras, unicorns.

Parrots, giraffes and elephants, turtles and most Australian mammals appear to be unisex.

The question Plan B poses is who decides that racoons are for boys and yorkshire terriers are for girls? It's a question that really grabbed me. The sort of topic that I am really interested in. And it got me thinking and for a while I was a little stumped. I got in touch with a couple of friends who I thought might have some insight into this. One has worked in design for many, many years imparting his excellent knowledge to people like me. He thought that there were 'no rules' regarding which animals belong to each gender, rather the way in which the animal is styled and coloured can determine which gender it was suitable for. I can see that; in fact hedgehogs could actually feature on clothes for either girls or boys depending on how 'rounded' or 'cuddly' they are depicted. For boys, when I think of hedgehogs, they definitely have to be more 'true to life'. My friend also asked me to consider "sinister rabbits and horses" on boys clothing. That made me laugh, it sounds far too much like a bad dream.

Prada Collection Spring/Summer 2012
My other friend works for a designer in Paris. She spoke about motifs used in womenswear where anything goes. She sent me some links to next Spring/Summer's Prada collection which has a vintage car motif as a core feature of the collection. It's very pretty and I guess that women's prints don't often feature more 'male' motifs, but as she said, times have changed and now at events such as Indigo prints are no longer really split into categories as buyers prefer to look through everything for something that catches their eye. Childrenswear is different though. It's definitely not, anything goes.

But in writing this all down to Plan B, I had a thought. I couldn't say that I have ever really consciously thought about which animals are for which gender, but shout an animal at me, and I could probably tell you without a pause which gender it should be for. And why is that? I bet you can do it too. I mulled it over for nearly a whole day, until the only conclusion I could come to was that it comes down to the ferocity of the animal and/or the ickiness.

Foxes, bears, sharks, alsations, etc, all a little wild and/or ferocious:- all for boys.

Dolphins, rabbits (patently the normal, non-sinister variety), little birds:- not really very ferocious, and def. more for girls.

In my view the only insects that I am happy to handle are ladybirds and butterflies (and caterpillars actually but they are def. in the boy category) and thus these are the accepted girls insects. I may throw in a dragonfly as well as they come in pretty colours, but most other insects are a bit 'icky' and thus more boyish.

But, there are also exceptions to the rules. Cath Kidston has a terrier motif that features on both boyswear and girlswear. I'm betting pandas would bite you, but they are quite girly, aren't they? But then again, maybe because they are vegetarian that knocks them down the ferocity scale. What do you think? Do you think it's the ferocity of the animal that determines which gender it is allotted to?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Like son, like mother

Copyright: Orla

Orla has decided that she really, really needs a camera. I am always harping on about how much better it is here in Germany because the children play with traditional toys, yadda, yadda, and aren't asking for Nintendo DS's as soon as they pop out of the womb. I do believe I can be heard to complain quite often about parents who give their children digital cameras when they turn 2.

Copyright: Orla

But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised since both of mine see me with a camera hanging round my neck on a near daily basis, and have to put up with the mamarazzi documenting their every move for posterity. We went out yesterday to see my friend Beth running in the Asics 10K run round the west of the city. And she did really well and we shook our non-Pot Noodle-brand pot noodles at her and her friend as they ran past us breezily (Beth is from the town in Wales where they 'mine' Pot Noodles), and afterwards we went to the Zoo, which is where Orla decided she really had to take a photo of me and Stevie. I've only ever let her use my little Canon before that is on it's last legs, so no great loss if anything happens to it, so this was her first try with my DSLR. I think she did well, don't you? And of course, then Hamish wanted a shot........

'The Secret Vice' by Hamish

Talk about nervous? As I put the strap over his head I was bracing myself for the noise of it clattering off the stone steps at the mountain goats as he got himself into position. Hamish's style is less traditional portraiture and more 'covert operation' style. As you can see, he's not the only one with the secret pink dummy problem.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

pump up the jam(my dodgers) - pt 2

'pump up the jam(my dodgers) - pt 1' is here.

So last week at my diabetes consultant appointment I just said 'yes' to going on one of these sessions. It just popped out as a standard German response without me thinking. And so today I turned up, full of dread to see what they had in store for me. Except that when I turned up, it wasn't a group thing, it was just me and sitting down I was asked "So, what would you like to talk to me about?". I could barely get beyond the thought blaring in my head, which of course was "Nothing". But I managed to come up with something that I thought might avoid too many difficult talking points. So I said I was interested in hearing about the insulin pump. That it had been many years since I'd been talked through it and that maybe it would be a good option to consider.

And that is how I have ended up sat here tonight with a canula stuck into my stomach with a metre's worth of clear (narrow) plastic tubing hanging off it. Seriously, even I know I deserve all I get. And it's quite uncomfortable. I haven't even got a pump attached to it, just tubing which I have to say I am feeling squeamish about snagging on my clothes.

I felt squeamish enough just inserting the thing in, to the point that on the way home there were a couple of moments where I thought I might just faint rather than think about my bag knocking against it as I walked. I'm sure you don't want to hear all the in's and out's of insulin pumps, but here's some bit's you might be interested in. They are about the size of a mobile phone and as a woman they suggest that you wear it in your bra. You have to sleep with it, and when I queried that it would be like sleeping on top of your mobile phone which sounded slightly uncomfortable, it was scoffed at. I am tempted to sellotape an old similar shaped mobile on to my side and see if it wakes me up when I roll on to it.

Similarly to a mobile phone it makes noise: it beeps when it is running low on batteries and when it is running low on insulin. Great, but I don't want it telling me that there's 20 units left at 4am. My normal 'pen' manages to keep that to itself until I take the lid off in the morning. Apparently, it also makes audible clicks as it is releasing insulin into you, which can be a bit of a pain if you are in a quiet environment.

From what I have read people seem to love their pumps, but I am not convinced it is the thing for me. You need to be testing your blood glucose 4 times a day and while it provides a constant release of a small amount of insulin into your system, you still need to carb count and pump in the amount of insulin units you need for each meal. I had assumed that they would have the technology to be able to have it take it's own reading of your blood glucose and adjust the insulin accordingly, but apparently not. So for the moment I think that I will pass on the pump and stick with my pens, but don't be over surprised if at some point in the future you see me rooting around in my underwear while we're out for dinner as I administer my insulin. Just don't mirror my action and want to chat about it, that's all.

pump up the jam(my dodgers) - pt 1

Did you ever read 'Yes Man' by Danny Wallace (pal of Dave Gorman and author of various other things)? There was also a film I think. Anyway, the premise of 'Yes Man' is that Danny Wallace decided to say yes to every invitation, opportunity, favour, etc, etc, that came his way. I've been thinking about that over the past week - mostly that I should probably read it - as I seem to have the problem of not being able to say 'no' to enough things.

I made an error last week, one that has haunted my dreams on a number of occasions since. I have noticed that I am more open to experiencing different things since moving to Berlin, but I hadn't been as aware of how often I just agree to things particularly when the requests are made to me in German. It's because it's just easier. To say 'no' often involves having to give a valid explanation of why you are saying no, and that can be just too much hard work in a foreign language.

Anyway, last week I got caught out. I had an appointment with my diabetes consultant to discuss my latest blood results, and following a quick blah-be-blah about post-exercise hypos, I stupidly agreed to attend a session which I shall call 'How to be a good diabetic'. These things normally involve sitting around with a Diabetes Specialist Nurse (or Consultant Nurse) and a bunch of diabetics and talking about carb counting, healthy eating, foot care, blood testing, and so on.

I have been invited to attend these sessions for the past 26 years and to date I have managed to avoid them. When I was a child and first became a diabetic I had to attend a children's diabetic clinic probably once every 6 months and the appointment would last almost a full day. It would involve all the standard stuff: getting weighed, height measured, blood taken, blood pressure checked, and a visit with the consultant. But all of that if you are lucky takes maybe an hour to complete, give or take waiting times. The rest of the day was spent sitting miserably in a circle with other diabetics and being encouraged to talk about issues. Aside from that being nurse-led torture, there were three things that I particularly hated about these sessions.

The first was that there was usually a child who had been salvaged from the grips of death. They would have gone undiagnosed by parents who hadn't known what the symptoms of diabetes were, and didn't think about going to the doctor with their child until the weight loss, extreme liquid intake and lethargy, etc, etc were hard to ignore. And even then, most times it wasn't even eventual realisation by the parents that something was wrong that that got them there. Usually, these kids were in-patients who had arrived at the hospital by ambulance. Hearing about the failed kidneys and serious health malfunctions of near-skeletal 10 year olds never really made me feel positive about my diabetes.

There was inevitably another child who I would have classed as a 'good diabetic'. Someone whose life revolved around achieving perfect control, and for whom diabetes was the major focus of their life. They always enjoyed talking about best practice in rotating injection sites or some such stuff, and even in my youth I recognised the fact that I didn't want diabetes to rule my life to such a degree. I have it, but I don't want it invading into every aspect of my life. I certainly don't want to be talking about it all the time. And so, my life-long avoidance of other diabetics began. Because as soon as another diabetic clocks you as a fellow injector, then it's like an invitation to give you their medical history in all it's marvellously uninteresting detail.

But the thing I really hated about these sessions was that without fail the nurse or diabetic sister would lead the discussion on to diabetic expeditions. I'm sure that's not what they were really called, but they were forever trying to get you to agree to go on a 'holiday' (I can barely bring myself to use that word) with other diabetics (hold me back) and they would try and entice you into going by showing you brochures which depicted children testing their blood glucose halfway up a mountain. And they were smiling while they were doing it. So patently they were mental as well as diabetic. Poor souls. NOTHING could have persuaded me to go on one of these trips. NOTHING!

It was at this time that I began honing my talent for creating excuses as to why I wouldn't be able to go. Nowadays (in the UK at least), I believe I am leading the way in the field of 'instantaneous fabricated reasons to get out of diabetes-related situations that I am not much partial to'. But here, I just can't think fast enough, and lack the vocabulary to make lying easy. It's a bit of a bummer.

[Gosh it's a bit long this isn't it? If you're still with me, I'll split it into a second part. That'll be 'pump up the jam(my dodgers) - pt 2'...]

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


This month we're reading....literally. At the weekend Orla read her first words. We'd been talking about phonics at school and then she picked up a copy of Living etc and started sounding out some of the words on the cover. And it all started with the 'for' in 'Go for bold'. Talk about thrilled? I was over the moon!

Man, I was sure she was going to be a 'heat' reader as well. But I guess we'll start on the Miss Gray's Interiors Reading Programme for Young Ladies. Once we've mastered 'Living etc/Elle Decoration', we'll take it to the stage two, 'World of Interiors/Wallpaper', and finally ramp it up with intensive study of 'Architectural Digest'.

As for the photo above, this is Orla just home from school, having discarded her uniform and clutching September's Living etc which she took to school with her in her bag to demonstrate to her teacher. I had to put a hand to my eyes when she told me that she'd told her teacher that I was 'so proud of her for reading my magazine'*, but hey, she still deserves the piece of celebratory cake.

*Note to self: must remember to leave some James Joyce/ Goethe/ etc lying around for the kids to pick up.

A day out in Britzer Garten

Part of the bridge at Britzer Garten where we saw a crab/lobstery -looking thing crawling in the grass at the edge . I couldn't be sure as there were too many people around poking it with their fingers.

One of the many mosaic things for the kids to enjoy hiding in.

Hamish is in the middle of acting out a little pirate story. Aaaaarrr!!

They even had a little mini-Oktoberfest going on. German expats - can you name the song ?

There were even owl and eagle displays!

I was totally impressed by the kazillion seats dotted around. 

I lost the kids in the maze. 5000 tiny sharp stones in my sandals and I'm running after nobody.

Some of my babies were really tired. Maclaren do triple buggies, right?

A very happy belated German Reunification Day to you! I hope you had a good one. We considered heading to the Brandenburg Gate on the bikes for a few hours or beer drinking, wandering, and pretzel eating, but as we'd been last year, and with the weather so good we thought we'd either head to the coast or visit Britzer Garten for the day. Much as the kids love the seaside, I couldn't really be bothered with the drive, so we decided to try our luck closer to home. We'd heard of Britzer Garten through some friends, as a great place to take kids as it has a little railway. And we'd all tried to go there, but it was incorrectly Googled and instead we went to Sudgelande (a park where there are old steam trains hidden in amongst the bushes and paths made from disused track. Ah, now, did I not post the photo of me doing my bit to revive silent movies??).

Anyway, this time we got the right place. It's at the Tempelhof side of Neuk├Âlln, in Berlin. And it's fantastic. There's just so much to do there. There are flower gardens and nice nature-y walks, and simply tons of things for the kids to play on. So much in fact that the kids could quite easily walk for miles and miles because around each corner there would be something else for them to play with, whether it was a swing hidden in amongst the trees, climbing bars, little houses and huts, mosaic elephants, sand and water play, it was the best park I have been to for having things for the kids to do on a walk.

Aside from that there were also animals that you can pat - goats, donkeys and sheep, and there was a display of birds that you couldn't pat. Owls and eagles and other things (must brush up on my ornathology really) that made squeaky noises. We also passed a boating lake with lots of (mostly grown ups) sailing remote controlled boats, which Hamish rather enjoyed. And as we were walking we heard a band playing and headed towards the noise where we discovered they were holding a little mini-Oktoberfest. It was really good fun.

Stevie was starting to wilt by this point and we decided to take a trip on the little train. You have to pay extra to go on the train (It was 3 Euros for S & I to get in to the park and it cost another 3 Euros for us all to go one stop on the train.) I'm not sure how much it is to go a full round trip, but we wanted to just get closer to the car park. In usual manner we got on the train going the wrong way and ended up at the furthest away point from our car that we could possibly be. So on the way home all my little darlings had a little snooze...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Waking the dead.

Because even the long dead get wound up by other people's mobile phones ringing.

Schloss Charlottenburg. Lovely, but I won't be back I suppose. 

I tend not to publicise my blog through Facebook. Mostly because I really don't want the people I don't really like reading it. And of course I am friends with them on Facebook, because sometimes you just don't have a choice in these things. I am referring of course to 'smeeviee's family'. I'm mumbling just in case they can hear me. That's one thing I hate about Facebook; I have yet to find an acceptable way to say 'I don't want to be your friend' to them. Saying, 'Um, we're not really friends in real life' doesn't really go down well, nor does 'I don't want you noseying through my business, even though I have no issue with strangers and people I haven't actually seen in 30 years doing so'. - perhaps because they're not going to take offence and go on and on about it for years afterwards.

Anyway, at the end of last week and this weekend we've had Stevie's parents staying with us. At this point I should mention that in actual fact I am far more tolerant of his parents than he himself is. I sometimes get the impression that he could quite happily wave them back on the plane an hour and half after their arrival. Much as I'd love to outline where my tolerance breaks down, I will resist, because you just never know who's reading. And it's not that I have written down all the hundreds of little funny anecdotes I have, more because they are super defensive and wouldn't appreciate the little tales I tell about their son.

Long may they never Google my name. That's all I can say.

But, I'm losing my thread. What I was going on to say was that upon arrival this time I was met by a complaint: that I hadn't updated my FB status to say how excited I was at their impending arrival, when I had done on numerous occasions before when my friends had visited. I think it was meant as a joke with a little bit of seriousness wedged in at the back, but they didn't seem too happy when I joked right on back that I forgot, but I'd be sure to put on FB just how excited I'd be when they left. Maybe it was that big chunk of underlying truth that rendered it unfunny to them, I don't know, but hey, I was laughing.

But in actual fact, we've had a pleasant few days. It can be quite difficult to entertain visitors who don't really want to see the place, and would be happy enough to just sit in the apartment for the duration. But I took them to Schloss Charlottenburg on Friday and managed to provide them with some impromptu entertainment by getting myself thrown out (and very likely banned) from a mausoleum. It wasn't fun. After listening to a lengthy list of 'Do's and Don't's' from the attendant outside it was a bit embarrassing to see the same attendant racing into the mausoleum at warp-speed to drag me out no more than a minute later. But on the positive side at least I found out that my phones 'silent' mode doesn't work. Silver lining's and all that I suppose. And it put a smile on my visitors faces for the rest of the afternoon seeing me hauled out and publicly shamed. And that set us up for the rest of the weekend which was pleasant and a lot less eventful.
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