Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Tartan Shorts 2

TV plot teaser of the week: Oh dear! I really wanted “Joey”, the “Friends” spin-off, to be good but relocating him to Los Angeles and making him even dumber does not a sit-com make. Even the appearance of Drea de Matteo (the superb Adrianna from “The Sopranos”, who got ‘whacked’ last season) didn’t improve matters. Laugh? I almost started. Incidentally, all ten episodes of the 6th and final season of “The Sopranos” will not air until 2006.

Key West news story of the week: Bill and Hilary Clinton were in town on Saturday for a Democratic Party fundraiser, attendance at which was advertised at $1,000 a plate. My phone call enquiring, “Can’t I just bring my own and hover at the buffet?” fell on deaf ears.
In related news, a local survey asked 100 women if they would sleep with the former President. Almost all replied, “Nah, not a second time.”

Song of the week: “Message in a Bottle” by The Police. I heard it on the car radio and nearly mounted (no sniggering please Russell) the sidewalk in excitement. Still the greatest pop single, EVER! Find it, play it loud and let your spine tingle.

Curious State law of the week:
In Alabama, it is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. N'uff said.

Child quote of the week (after the excitement of seeing kids take to the air during ‘Peter Pan’): “Do you think this hamster could fly?”

Monday, January 24, 2005


I’ve been asked by several people (okay, only the one) to relay a bit more information about the children in my charge so I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to secure interviews with both boys before the monosyllabic, incoherent teenage years kick in.

First up is Kieran Campbell, the elder of the two brothers, who will turn 12 years of age in March this year. A 6th grader at the local middle school, Kieran is very smart, creative and artistic. He’s currently studying piano and the trombone and many of his paintings and drawings adorn the family home. Although slight of build for his age, this doesn’t stop him enjoying all outdoor activities and team sports and now that the local football (i.e. soccer) season has ended, he’s signed up to participate in the new baseball season which kicks off in February. He’s also just gotten his hands on a top of the range shooter in order to skulk his way around the paint-balling field at weekends with his pals. Great!

Much of Kieran’s spare time recently has been taken up with rehearsals for “Peter Pan”, the latest musical production of local children’s theatre group “Keys Kids”. He played one of the pirates and on Saturday night we all went along to the local High School to see the final performance – and very impressive it was too. The Key West symphony provided the musical accompaniment and children were flying round the stage on what seemed to be the thinnest of wires while lawyers hired by parents twitched anxiously in the wings… just in case!

During a quiet break in his busy schedule, I managed to strap Kieran down long enough on the La-Z-Boy to ask him about his life and inspirations, his hopes and his dreams.

Favourite Colour (always start with a deep and probing question!): Green
Favourite TV Programme: “Fear Factor” (Game show where contestants endure a series of harrowing tasks including the consumption of repulsive slugs/cockroaches/eyeballs etc.)
Favourite Movie: “I Robot” (In the near future, computerized subordinates rebel and reek havoc among the masters they’re supposed to serve and obey! Mmnn, slightly worrying this.)
Favourite Music: Face-melting rock
Favourite School Subject: Reading
Favourite Book: The Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer (Damnit, more reading I need to catch up on!)
Favourite Harry Potter Book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Favourite Place Visited: Lake Tahoe, California
Favourite Sport: Soccer, (i.e. football)
Favourite Animal: Monkey
Favourite Restaurant: Outback Steakhouse
Favourite Food: Ribs
Favourite Au Pair: “You Neil.” (Good answer kid, here’s your five bucks.)
Favourite Girlfriend: Jessica
Best Friend: Cole or Austin
What do you want to be when you grow up: An artist
What’s the one thing you’d change about the world: Pollution

Next week... Kyle - be afraid, be very afraid!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Au Pair/Parental FAQ

After last week’s melting incident with the naked flame of a lighter, I’ve been pondering other potential tricky situations that parents and those to whom they outsource their childcare management needs, encounter on a regular basis.

I’m sure there must be a ton of overpriced books out there by Dr Phil or Oprah or Johnny Ball (remember him? Zoe’s Dad?) offering complicated and long winded solutions, usually involving some kind of reward system or sensitive show of affection. But I reckon an interactive, internet database of all possible problematic..um.. problems is the key to their swift resolution and the spreading of the gospel.

So to get the ball rolling, here’s one or two questions I’ve been frequently asking myself over the past couple of weeks. All opinions and answers welcome together with fresh predicaments to be unraveled. Remember, a problem shared is a problem multiplied throughout the population so that it’s not just you that wakes up screaming in the night.

- Does popcorn smothered in melted butter constitute a healthy and balanced after-school snack?
- Is there no limit to the number of reasons why homework can be delayed/evaded/ignored all together?
- Does a child ever say, “I think it’s time for me to go bed now.”?
- Who is Ashanti?.. or Ashlee Simpson?.. or Ja Rule Featuring Fat Joe & Jadakiss?
- What is an acceptable length of time to lock a child in a basement after a tantrum?

More to come once I’ve had a lie down.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Tartan Shorts 1

This is the first of an occasional (or regular?) series of briefs covering anything and everything that catches my eye. Suggestions for future information nuggets are very welcome.

Film of the week: “SIDEWAYS” A brilliant, low budget-looking effort about two guys who go off on a bachelor-week road trip to the wine country of Southern California. Good wine, good food, good humour, some heartbreak and an object lesson (if one was needed) on why it’s not big or clever to go running naked through an ostrich farm late at night!

TV plot teaser of the week: Abby in ER gets kidnapped at gunpoint by some rough looking gang dudes and shots are fired! Dun, Dun Dun!

News quote of the week: Republican Senator Rick Santorum, devout and devoted family man (obviously) and champion of the church’s traditional moral principles. Evolution, he says, can be taught in public schools but only as a still-controversial scientific theory that “has holes”.

and finally...
Child quote of the week: “So what else do you think we can melt with this lighter?”

Neil's First Ever Proper Blog

It’s been a week now since I left the hurricane-battered shores of Scotland for the hurricane-battered shores of South Florida. On the whole, it’s been very warm but the Weather Channel correctly predicted a cold front moving in yesterday and I had to rush to the disaster emergency manual to see if this necessitated the wearing of long trousers - thankfully not.

I’m here in the States because a few months ago my friend Suzanne got in touch, much troubled at the scurrilous rumour that I had been seen dressing up in a suit and tie and looking for a “proper” job.

“No,” I lied unconvincingly. “I was.. eh.. going to a fancy dress party.”

“So why don’t you come over and spend the winter in the tropical, sun-kissed, paradise resort of Key West and help me look after the boys then?” she enquired.

“Duh-hurghhh, okay then!!!”

Suzanne is the wife of my late school friend, Robin Campbell, and she has two sons, Kieran aged 11 and Kyle aged 9. Also occupying the house is a dog named MacTavish, a female cat called Ginger Cookie and a hamster called Kiki. Not to be outdone, I have adopted a couple of young mosquito friends as pets who I’ve affectionately named Wee Bastard and Fuck Right Off. They enjoy nothing better than feasting themselves on my pale and pasty Scottish flesh so I assume they’re female? Ha, ha!

Telling people I was going to be a nanny/au pair before I left, brought out the inevitable Mrs Doubtfire/Mr Poppins jokes, especially as I have zero experience of child-rearing but so far so good. The house is still standing and both boys have all limbs and appendages intact after a week so I’m marking that down as a success.

I’m basing my child management strategy on two key principles.

1. Kids like Harry Potter therefore I must finally read the books to enable me to keep up with the conversation and relevant cultural references.

2. Kids need to learn humiliating defeat as well as occasional victory so make every effort to thrash them at any sport or leisure activity at all times.

I’m on page 39 of the first one and the second one comes oh so naturally, thank you very much.

By the way, in case the INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) stumbles across this, I am, of course, definitely NOT here to break the law regarding illicit employment and am definitely NOT getting paid a weekly wage for my services along with full board and lodging. Cause that would be illegal, right?

The only thing lacking in this job (NOT that it’s a proper “job” of any kind, you understand) is an au pair club, a society of like-minded individuals who could meet weekly, network, discuss their profession and exchange ideas and best practice. I envisage it kind of like the Rotary but with more wet t-shirt competitions. Extensive scouring of the yellow pages has come up blank so watch this space for details of the all-new Nannies Imparting Care, Education, Professionalism And Intelligent Reasoning… or NICE (au) PAIR for short.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Neil's First Ever Blog

So this is a blog eh? Basically just some blank space on the internet where people can dump their thoughts and comments or tell the world at large what they've been up to? Jeez, it would take some kind of self-absorbed person to think that others might be interested in what they're doing day to day. Better try and make it interesting then...

Saturday Jan 8th: Got up, had breakfast, drove around in car, came home, had dinner, went to bed.

Sunday Jan 9th: Got up, had breakfast, drove car to airport, hopped a flight to America, started new life, etc...........