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When you are: December 2009

30 December 2009

[2] Changing of minds

What has been funny over Christmas is the changing of minds from the two Grandmothers. Before seeing the 4D scan one was "it's a girl" and the other "it's a boy", now both have changed their minds having seen the facial features from the scan.

Only one is currently correct, but both will claim victory as they had correctly identified the sex at some point.

All will be revealed in March...

28 December 2009

A cracking Christmas!

The wee fella has had a cracking Christmas. But nowhere near as cracking as either Grandpa or Grandma, who both ended up in A&E.

It all started on Christmas Eve. The usual night before Christmas, the house was quiet, nothing was stirring, not even Daddy's mouse, although he was working at home. The professional that I am I missed the arrival of Granda and Grandma, so popped down a little later to say hi. And I was greeted with a pale looking Grandma. OK, what have I missed? What I missed was Grandma (wearing boots for style rather than function) go down like a sack of spuds in the snow (inches from the clear path under the garage eaves). What I missed was her bounce off the Focus (which we're trying to sell) on the way down. What I didn't miss was the trip to A&E through some pretty awful driving conditions. I was expecting a scene from Fairytale of New York - a drunk, a punk and an old slut on junk. but it wasn't to be, just one fracture after another being patched up and sent home. I guess that's what happens when we forget what to wear and how to walk in ice and snow. Maybe the drunks will be along later, eh?

Back home in time to do a proper Christmas. Last year was really good for the smallest person in the house, the first time he really knew what was going on with presents, eyes lighting up at the sight of them. This year, with all the hype from nursery and school, was the first time he really knew the association with the presents and Santa. Shall we leave Santa something to eat? Yes. What? A biscuit. OK. Daddy brought in two biscuits, and promptly got told off - "just one, Daddy". Can we leave two out for Santa - oh, no, just the one. And to drink? Coffee. Eh? That's right, we had to make a coffee for Santa. Reindeer dust and a carrot for Rudolph, lovely for him, not so great for Santa. No drink-sleighing around Scotland then, the police are not going to breathalyse him after leaving our house!

Christmas morning, and we head downstairs. There, in front of the fireplace, is an almost empty bowl with some oats left and the end of a carrot. Next to it is a plate with a few crumbs of biscuit. The coffee cup - just a dribble left. But what's that? Snow? Big snowy footprints leading from the fireplace to the tree. And what's under the.... eh, where's he gone? A minute later our own Maggie returns with a wipe and is down on his knees trying to clean up the snow off the carpet. Only when he was down there did he notice the big pile of paper under the tree. We still had to clean up the snow first, we were not getting away with that!

And as we're opening present number 14 of 2,345 we get a phone call from Granny - she's in A&E with Grandpa's cracked ribs. Another sack of spuds, but doing the indoor slalom down the staircase instead. I was just glad we had a turkey crown, no bones (broken or otherwise) to be found in there!

And daddy's Christmas? Well, I woke up to find Cheryl Cole in my stocking. It would have been great the other way round!

16 December 2009

Season of goodwill - commuting hell!

We've had our third annual trip to Bo'Ness for the long journey on the Santa Special calling only at Birkhill and the North Pole. It started out like a regular commute hell, but rapidly changed.

We were there in plenty of time. Having set off from home with enough time to get through any traffic, and hopefully have a cuppa before departure, we arrived with time enough to warm through. Everything went like clockwork, even if the dense fog slowed us down a bit. Successful toilet stop, no strops in the shop, no wriggling in the cafe. Just a well behaved Daddy. And our Santa hunter was good too.

Having left MOTS to finish up, the boys headed to the train. Coach C, so that's three down from where we stood at coach F, just into the fog. It was really atmospheric with the fog shrouding the train, with steam coming up from under each coach from the heating and more so from the passing engines - two engines to haul this many presents! As we boarded so did a family of 4 right behind us. As it happened, both of our tickets were on the same table. Hmm, 7 cramped around one table? This isn't good, not when given all the kids ages they should all have seats. As MOTS boarded she noticed on the table behind and across, there was Granny for the table behind sitting on her own, with only one ticket for 1 on the table. 5 seats over 2 tables, 7 seats on one table? Surely not. After a brief nod from one of the volunteers (almost wrote staff, not the case) we moved. Shortly after which MOTS sort of nodded down to me to look at the ticket. And there in the bottom right was a code "7N". Same as on Granny's. Funny that, 'cos the seats opposite had "7S". And the table we just left had "6S". The tables in front and behind of where we were now? "6N" and "8N". Ahh, sussed it. Table numbers 1-8, S (South side) and N (North side). Hmm, we're on the right table now. No wonder Granny wasn't happy at us moving there, these were our seats with hers. One can only surmise that as the family of 5 wanted to spread out that our ticket was shoved on the table behind. It's like GNER NXEC East Coast on a good day! Season of goodwill? RAMMIT!

santatrain.jpg
The wheels on the train
go round and round...
And we get the off...

On our way out of the station we were soon in Greenland on our way to the North Pole. The trees were all completely white with a heavy frost that made it look Christmas card perfect, and the fog added to the atmosphere. Pictures are on the online album now, even the one showing MOTS struggling to fasten her antlers!

Santa came for a visit on the way to the North Pole. Now we have to realise that our little fella never asks for anything, so the concept of getting specific things for Christmas is at the moment a bit alien to him, as are advent calendars but that's another story. He was sat opposite me, so I knew when Santa was coming because the eyes lit up, enough to power a small Scottish village for a decade*. (*Official ONS figures). And if that wasn't enough, then "Here's Santa" at 127 decibels confirmed it.

The big man: "What do you want for Christmas"
Little fella: "Blue one"

That was it - "Blue one". A blue what? "A blue one". OK, here's Santa's present (appropriate for gender and age, as always). And it's opening, and it's a car, and it's BLUE! Hey, Santa's good, isn't he. And that was something else, the big man pulled through, he knows, he's been watching all year and he knows. What a guy!

On the way back we never got told to stop singing (a first) and even junior started to join in (another first). A generation missed on singing nursery rhymes, and we get him going with Jingle Bells. I'll try it on Christmas morning, see what carnage I can create...


07 December 2009

[2] The final trimester

The final trimester has begun. And what, exactly, have we done to prepare for number 2's arrival?

NOTHING.

Apathy isn't the word, nothing has been done yet. The pram is still in the garage as a pushchair gathering dust, the car seats are still in bits in the garage gathering dust, the nursery is still missing bits of border where number one has torn them off and has additional wall decorations where Daddy wasn't quick enough behind him and a handful of crayons.

Purchases to date: None. Purchases due: A new bath mat and a new changing mat. Beyond that, maybe some SMA and perhaps some Infacol. And maybe some more earplugs.

06 December 2009

Now, the end is near, as I drive my final coupe

The hunt for a new car is still on, and since the last update things have changed a bit, thanks in part to the test drives, magazines (including the odd car magazine) and visits to showrooms.

The movers and shakers from last time are:

Toyota Verso. A new entry in the race, it's a Toyota so should still be going when the cockroaches are the only things left on earth. But... our local dealers don't seem to want to sell any. With 3 branches of the same dealer, two were tried and despite me being in and out of the car in the showroom I wasn't asked if I need help at all. In the other a wait at reception brought nothing, but eventually (on visit number 3) got a salesman to take my details and arrange a test drive for this morning. In terms of what we want for anything behind the front two seats it seems to tick more boxes than we had, so surely it's a winner? Well, not on the face of it - for the same price (and slightly less) you get more for your money from the Qashqai. Ride? I have no idea if it was standard on this car or unique to the vehicle we took out, but when we hit 63(ish) there was a horrible flapping noise - starting like a caught bag, but certainly wasn't. The noise was awful, loud, and certainly not drivable for any distance. Worst part was the salesman said nothing, and tried to make light of it. Below 60 - nothing. Above 60 - needs a powerful stereo or a fire engine at the side of you to drown it out. If it was a general fault then it shouldn't be in production, if there's something wrong with that one car then at 1,100 miles on the clock it needs looking at. And not a good advert. So what was the noise? Even Junior asked. That, my son, is the sound of a sale floating away. Current verdict: The candle, my friend

Seat Altea XL. First test drive, first opportunity of a good deal on a 1 year old with 5 grand off the price (that was almost 1 grand for every mile on the clock). But with having to go top spec and top engine to get the C02 down and mpg up and electric windows in the back (reason number 1 for a change) then it will lose faster. I don't buy top spec, I don't buy bottom spec. Mr Average, that's me. Flexibility has worked its way up our wishlist, which the XL doesn't have. It has a massive boot, but the flexibility isn't there. The ride was fine, and I loved the wipers being hidden so they reduce the wind noise - not that I listen to wipers being buffeted at 70 anyway, but it's a nice touch. Current verdict: The embers are still glowing for our first love, but they are dying back.

Mazda 6 Estate, Mazda 5 The Mazda 6 seems to be loved, by Top Gear, by What Car?, by anyone. So what did we think? Well, we couldn't get near the 6 in the showroom so looked at the 5 first. Bit of a bus, but other than that OK. One thing on our essentials list was missing - a power socket in the back. How will we power the kids DVD players? Running a cable from the front socket. But then I can't power the Tomtom. So here we have a 20 grand car missing a 5 quid power socket. Oh, look, the 6 is free now! Having seen and ruled the 5 out I made a direct approach for the rear door. In we go, and.... nothing. Fantastic, this is penny pinching at its best. Since we looked I have had a few calls from Mazda to see if I had everything I needed. In terms of chasing sales leads they are the only ones to do this (both dealer and head office have called), so credit where it is due. And I did offer the feedback that if they have stuff like this missing then I won't be buying, the product just isn't right for us. Test drive? No point, mate... Which is a shame, by doing the homework it flagged up a car that we hadn't considered and yet in the brochure looked good at ticking a lot of boxes. But for a family car the family need to be occupied on the longer journeys, and that's why we bought DVD players that we can't plug in. Current verdict: Tighter than a Yorkshireman in Scotland

qashqai.jpg
Cafe Latte, Nissan style
Nissan Qashqai. A hassle-free drive (apart from rearranging twice due to icy conditions and an awkward school system that has afternoon kids present on Friday mornings). Excellent ride height, great presence, a list of standard equipment to knock the spots off equally priced rivals, but those rear seats don't have the flexibility of the Verso's. And the rear power socket is in the back of the middle seat, so that has to be down as an armrest to get to it. Hmm. But it was the better ride, it was better built (the Verso's Turkish kebabs versus Sunderland's finest Vaux) and the overall feel was one of quality and comfort. Ruled out a while ago, back in, and after driving it it's at the top. But here's the snag. Well, both of them really.

  1. To get any versatility in the rear seats and any decent increase in boot space over what we have it'll have to be the +2.
  2. The new facelift is due in March, and there's only 1 unsold stock car available. So there will either be the £900 hike (plus VAT rise, plus depreciation, plus low chance of any discount) or trying like nothing else to get a nearly new, again with low stocks

With this, the salesman didn't try and sell me one. Which is a shame, because if he had then we might just have bought one on Friday, and avoided the ear drumming we got from the Verso today. Current verdict: Preferred bidder status.

The end is in sight, it's just the wrong side of the VAT increase. And possibly the wrong side of a new model introduction. Unless, of course, someone is so desperate for the new model they trade in their old model with only a few miles on the clock...

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