Monday, January 15, 2007

Tuesday mornings are my usual time for chatting on IM with my friend from Missouri. We've known each other for about five years now and become real pals over the ether, sharing the good times and bad, variously cheering, encouraging and commiserating with one another. Today I'm worried for my friend after reports of appalling weather in Missouri here. She works fifteen miles away from her home, which is pretty isolated. Even if she did make it home, the power cuts would make things more than difficult. Her house is as old as mine - more than 150 years - and seems to be hanging on by a thread to life. If, as I'm hoping, she's decided to stay in town with one of her nieces, then I know she'll be worrying about her animals at home. These things always make me feel so helpless, especially when I know someone who might be suffering. Hang in there, Loretta!

On a happier note, I've been hearing people talking about a new American import on Channel 4, Ugly Betty. It was even recommended by our rector on this blog, so I decided I had to see for myself. By the wonder of the wwweb I was able to watch the first episode (albeit subtitled in French, which actually made picking up the US dialogue slightly easier!) and then through the similar wonders of Freeview I was also able to see episode 2, this time with breaks for adverts but no subtitles, alas.

Was I impressed? Hmm. It's a comedy, right, so the characters have to be exaggerated, predictable and a bit stereotypical. As with most situation comedies, the viewer needs to be one step ahead - to see the disasters that await the character before they happen and then laugh smugly when the character reacts in the prescribed way. That's how situation comedy works. The viewer feels superior to the hapless buffoon. It's a good formula and I admit it's present in my favourite comedies - the Vicar of Dibley, My Family etc. Ugly Betty is no different, which is a pity - it would have been nice to see something a little out of the ordinary.

So is Ugly Betty going to turn into Beautiful Betty during the course of the show? I must say I don't like the title - it makes me uncomfortable. Poor Betty isn't really ugly at all - she's a pretty actress with added glasses, braces (on seemingly perfect teeth) and outmoded clothes. Everyone else in the show is beautiful, with the exception of Betty's boyfriend - a girl with the disadvantages of glasses and braces etc has to be content with a chinless loser, naturally. Of course she has brains, which fits nicely with the stereotype. I'm going to watch some more to see if, by any stroke of good fortune, the writers bother to develop the characters. If Betty is as bright as she's made out to be, she'll get her Scottish pal to give her a makeover, ditch the braces - her teeth are fixed! - and invest in some contact lenses or more becoming specs. But will she then shed her integrity along with her Seventies clothes? I doubt if either will happen.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Living together

Sitting here surrounded by snoring dogs - my own two and my granddog, Hamish, who is staying over - I can't help thinking how much easier it is to get along with dogs than people. Dogs are simple creatures with simple, basic needs that can be easily - if not always conveniently, given the current weather - satisfied. Then they settle down at your feet and adore you. Deal.

My younger son and the contents of his house have come to stay for an indefinite period and we're both finding it hard to readjust to living together. It's been a while. Last time he was here for any length of time he was getting over the break-up of his marriage and needed cherishing. No problem - that's what mothers do. But now I'm having trouble shaking off the parent/child relationship and acknowledging him as an adult/equal. Rob suggests I think of him as a guest and treat him accordingly, but I've never entertained a guest who stays in bed all day and prowls around at night and who eats at such strange times. I worry that I have no control over him, and yet why should I?

Who is this young man who is at once so familiar and yet is a stranger? I have no parental model to fall back on. My relationship with my mother remained much the same until she died a few years ago. We were never apart for long so if any changes came about they were subtle. We didn't have to make any sudden adjustments. Our relationship remained in the parent/child dynamic. With my father, it reversed after my mother died and I became the 'parent'. That happened gradually, I suppose, although neither of us was aware of the change as it happened - it just did. Obviously neither I nor Paul are ready for that role reversal, and so we must work on viewing each other as equals.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Five things you didn't know about me

Hmm - thanks Mrs Blethers! I suppose you've shamed me into blogging again. So if anyone's out there, here are five things you probably don't know about me:

1. I repeated a year of primary school. This was, I believe, because I was considered too young and immature to go to secondary school at the age of ten. Somehow, between moving from Bristol to Leeds at age five I lost a year. I repeated primary five with a terrifying teacher called Miss Wilson, who suddenly became my friend second time round and ceased from writing scathing comments on my miserable, blot-ridden efforts at writing and even allowed me to play Puck in the end of term production of Midsummer Night's Dream (edited highlights) by dint of my being able to turn a cartwheel.

2. I have won three prizes in my life. One was a runner's-up cup in the school sports. One was a 'Bedside Guardian' for a Christmas story in that paper; the story was 'The Gospel According to St Mousethew' and was an account of the Nativity from the POV of a mouse. The last was a big red and cream vacuum flask from Maxwell House Coffee, and I had no recollection of entering the competition when it arrived. Hmm - nothing really changes . . .

3. I have three kidneys. This was discovered during hospital investigations for recurring infections. Apparently there is neither advantage nor disadvantage in having an extra one, which is rather disappointing. I wonder if I have any other spare parts.

4. I was in Czechoslovakia in 1968 immediately preceeding the Prague Spring. The Russians invaded while I was there with my brother. We brought a Czech boy back to Glasgow with us - he was my brother's pen-friend - and he stayed with us for eight months, during which time his father defected to Switzerland.

5. I was once mother to a woodpigeon called George. My grandad brought him home from the woods for me when he was a squab and had fallen out of the nest. He wasn't fledged and had a voracious appetite for porridge, which I fed him by forcing it down his throat with a pencil. Despite this apparently cruel treatment he thrived and grew into a fine woodpigeon. Trouble was, he didn't know he was a pigeon and meant to fly. He followed me about all over the place, waddling like a duck. Eventually I persuaded him to fly by pushing him off a wall a few times. After that, he remained with us until the spring when he disappeared - presumably to find a wife and have an egg. Actually, I have no idea if he was George or Georgina.

There. You really wanted to know all that, didn't you?