Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A Mother's Guilt

I seem to be in permanent state of guilt. I’m guilty. I suffer from guiltiness.
I have been feeling this way since 16 May 2008. I can pin-point it to the birth of my first child.

No one warned me that being a mother meant living a life plagued with guilt. They told me of the joy, the closeness, the fulfilment, even the pain. But they failed to mention the guilt.

Guilty for that cheeky coffee you have when they’re asleep (and you should be cleaning).

Guilty for going to work ‘for a break’.

Guilty for leaving work early, but picking them up from nursery late (I had some shopping to do).

Guilty for leaving work at all.

Guilty for leaving your husband in charge – just the once.

Guilty for staying on for an after work drink.

Guilty for lying in bed for an extra half hour.

Guilty for letting them watch TV while you have a shower.

Guilty for the fight that’s just broken out because I’ve been ignoring them whilst I browse through facebook.

Guilty for breathing.

We have no reason to be guilty, no one is making us feel guilty, for some reason it’s something we like to do to ourselves. Like no sleep, a fat belly and stretch marks aren’t punishment enough?

We are mothers. We are guilty. As charged.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Courage in a cupcake

Courage - noun
:the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, without fear; 

Courage? What is it? Something you rarely see. Or you see on the tele, once a year (on Noel’s Christmas presents.)

It’s not always about saving lives or doing something worthy of a Pride of Britain award from Carol Vorderman. To me it is so much simpler. Yes it’s about bravery, but not necessarily about being a hero.

Courage is really pushing yourself to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, but for the right reasons. There’s an element of being a daredevil about it. It’s being out of your comfort zone (and all those other clich├ęs), taking risks that others wouldn’t take, putting yourself in a place you’ve never been before.

In the last 6 months I’ve been taught all about courage from an old work colleague. I doubt she even realises how brave she is.

Like many people in the last 2 years she was offered redundancy. She wasn’t out of a job, her job was relocating. She could have taken what I consider to be the ‘safe’ option and kept her job, but travelled further. But she decided to run the risk. She chose redundancy and crazier still, decided to invest that redundancy in a shop.

So with the support of her partner and family, she opened a Cupcakery. She works 14 hours a day 5 days a week, getting up when it’s dark, going to bed when it’s almost the next day. On her 6th day she works for someone else. And finally, on her 7th day, she rests (rather like someone else we all know).

I doubt it’s a roaring success 6 months after opening and although she has many loyal customers (me for one), I don’t think she’s ‘rolling in it’. It takes 3-5 years to build a solid business (so she tells me) and she seems to be in it for the long haul. She turns up for work every day with a smile, as do her family, and it’s a pleasure to go into her shop.

To me, she epitomises courage, bravery and determination. She is living proof of grabbing life by the scruff of the neck and living it to the full. She makes me ashamed to be in my (not-so-safe) local government job.

Emily from Nom Nom Cupcakery in Nailsworth (cupcakes and gifts to order, and amazing coffee) shows what it is to have courage. It’s a mental attitude, an approach to life and a determined spirit. It’s about responding positively to negative situations and living life the way you want to – not the way someone says you should.

Courage – a quality of mind and spirit, without fear, to set up your own shop in a recession. 

Congratulations Emily on making 6 months. Keep calm and eat a cupcake.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Don't sniff your own shoe

There are some really bad smells in the world.  And then there are teething poos.
Anyone who has been near a teething baby’s nappy will know what I’m talking about.
It’s a rancid, right up your nose, immediate gag reflex kind of smell. A full-on African slum open-drain, blowing down the wind smell.
I’ve put up with this smell on and off for six weeks now.  It’s making me retch and choke and vomit on an almost daily basis. God knows what those poor nursery staff are going through. The baby however, doesn’t seem bothered at all.
I have a fear of certain smells, the thought of smelling them, or putting myself in a position where I might be at risk of smelling them, is enough to send me over the edge. I’ve been known to be over-dramatic when it comes to smells. I think writing about them will make me feel better.
Tomato sauce is one. In a greasy spoon I can cope with the general pungency of deep fried food and stewed tea, but I can sense tomato sauce squirted onto a hot fried egg at twenty paces. Gag.
Any kind of poo. Adult poo, child poo, horse poo, but most of all dog poo.
When there’s something on your shoe and you dare to bend down and take a gentle sniff to double check what it might be……..even though deep down inside you know it isn’t mud. But you just can’t help sniffing.  And it’s always dog shit.                  
Retch, gag, vomit. 
And to make matters worse it lingers in your nostril hairs for hours and hours, follows you everywhere you go, so you are convinced your whole body stinks of it.  So now you’re paranoid too. Smelly and paranoid.
Dog shit on someone else’s shoe in your car? Even worse.
Vomit in your car? Awful.  Your own vomit on your own lap in your car? I’ve been there, disgusting.
Vomit on the ceiling, on the doors, even in the glovebox in someone else’s car?
Stinks. (I’ve been there too, but that’s a different blog and anyway, he forgave me)
So the moral of this story is: don't drink alcohol, stay away from greasy spoons and teething babies.
But most of all, don't sniff your own shoe.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Tourist Eyes

There’s nothing like having a visitor to make you rediscover where you live. Simply because you are never a tourist in your home town, but having a visitor forces you to behave like one.

One of my oldest friends from University came to visit at the weekend with his partner. He’s been before, his partner hasn’t. They’re from East London, as far removed as you can be from my sleepy, middle-aged, Cotswold village. 
We didn’t do anything special. We walked in the woods as I do most days but it felt different, I saw more, heard more, felt more.

We walked into the village but took a slightly different route to allow for us to take better pictures. It was beautiful.  They noticed things I’d never noticed and asked questions I’d never thought to ask.
I had a brilliant weekend and I hope they did too.
Invite someone to stay and rediscover where you live.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Tim Gudgin and 'coupon night'

Tim Gudgin retired today. He hung up his headphones.  That might not mean anything to many people, but it means a lot to me. His is a voice I’ve grown up with

Tim is the voice of Final Score, once the football results are all in on a Saturday, he’s the man you hear when they say ‘now here are the classified results’. His retirement has brought back all sorts of memories for me.

The classifieds were essential family viewing in our house. In the same way the Generation Game would be for some, the football results were for us. It was more than viewing and listening, it was a weekly family game.

Tim Gudgin has a way of reading the football results that is entirely predictable. He’s consistent with his intonation, so much so that you can guess the score just by the  highs and lows in his voice.

Brighton and Hove Albion 1 ………Arsenal…..?  the whole family would guess the rest.
But there was much more to it than that. My Mum and Dad were the local Littlewoods Pools Agents. (I’d almost forgotten this until today) They would collect the ‘coupons’ of every single person who took part in the village where I lived. It was the lottery of its day but with a door-to-door service. We’d collect your completed coupon (and your cash) and leave you with a new one. We might even throw in a spot the ball. The whole family helped collect, unfold, straighten, count money and bag.  Every Thursday, come rain or shine.

The football pools was about predicting football results. Home wins, away wins, draws and score draws. Fun if you’re a football fan but not that many of our entrants were football fans and most people stuck to the same numbers every week in the same way you do with the lottery. So rather than a game of skill, it became a game of chance.

Spot the Ball was even better. You were given a black and white picture from a football match, with players, pitch and goal, but no ball. You marked an X where you thought the ball would be. To be more accurate, you could buy (from us of course) a special stamp with lots of tiny tiny xxxxxxx’s on to increase your chances.

I owe my first foreign holiday to a win on the football pools (my Mum won, not me, I was only 4). We went every year after that.

So as you can see, Tim Gudgin reading the classified results was an important moment in our house. The moment we’d know if any of our clients had won.

We wouldn’t always be there on a Saturday, cos we’d actually be at the football. On those occasions it’s the unforgettable music of Sports Report that I remember. Getting into the car, cold or wet and switching on the radio. Brilliant.

It’s a sad day, the wonderful tones of Tim Gudgin will be heard no more and I’ll file my memories away in a safe place and rediscover them again in 20 years. 

Tonight I raise my glass to Tim Gudgin. I also raise it to my best childhood friend and fellow coupon-collector Andrea Hughes and the coupon-round of Green Street, Smithfield and Wrecsam Road.

Tim Gudgin retired today ages 82 yrs

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Audio books and music reviews for under 5s

I've posted a new review. It's a list of my favourite audio books and music CDs for Under 5s.
Click on the 'Review' tab above.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Who needs happy endings?

I don’t like happy endings.

I’m talking about books, films and songs here, not real life. When it comes to stories I like unrequited love, tortured souls and as much emotional trauma as I can stomach. Not in an unpleasant way, in a good happy way, but where things are left incomplete. I like a film or a book or even a song, to tear me apart. 
Wuthering Heights - bad love in bad weather

I love the idea that people fall in love and get torn apart, left wondering for the rest of their lives if they’ve let go of ‘the one’. Even better if the weather is bad (can’t beat a bit of rain and wind) I’m permanently living in a Bronte novel.

I was reminded of this because I’m watching Pearl Jam on BBC4. I have a huge crush on Eddie Vedder and always have. His voice says it all, always sounds like he’s been through a lot of pain and that there is so much intensity in his life. I could listen to his voice all day, while it’s raining outside. Or outside in the wind and rain, walking on top of a hill.
In honour of Eddie, his voice and the images of bad weather hearing it conjures up... have a listen. Any excuse to hear a bit of Eddie late on a Friday night.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Gallery – T for Tummy

What struck me most about Russell Grant’s Paso Doble on Strictly Come Dancing this weekend, was his tummy. The man’s lost a lot of weight and he’s certainly got rhythm. But all I ever see is his belly (and I love it!).

I wasn’t going to bother with a gallery post this week, as Tara from the Sticky Fingers blog had given us the letter ‘T’ and no pictures immediately sprung to mind. Until I saw Russell’s tummy.  And thought of mine.
It’s another excuse to post a picture that always makes me smile. I took it myself, on a poor quality camera phone, in 2008, somewhere near the end of my first pregnancy.
Tubby Turnip Tummy……… call it what you like.  Terrific.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Netball - but with fighting

I just found a Facebook page called “I am a woman, I play rugby – deal with it” So I thought I’d join.

You see I’ve just started playing rugby and I absolutely love it.

I’m the wrong side of 35 and haven’t played a team game since I was in school. I’ve always envied – even resented – blokes and their team sports. They can play no matter their age, social status or physical fitness. When we moved to the South West, my Husband joined a five-a-side team to get ‘in with the lads’ in his new work. He then went on to play a bit of cricket too. Before he knew it he had a wide circle of friends, whilst I had one or two.

Girls just don’t have the team sport thing to fall back on. Yet as a general rule – well in the workplace anyway – we are the team players. I just don’t get it.

So why don’t the majority of women play team sport?  What’s putting us off?

Well I know what put me off. Shame, embarrassment, fear of being laughed at and worse still, talked about. I like netball, but I’m just not fit enough. I’m terrible at hockey so that was never going to happen. I LOVE football, but again, too scared that I’d be crap. And who makes friends in the gym?

So at the ripe old age of 36, with two kids under my belt, a job, a mortgage, a husband that needs feeding and an unfinished house, I finally decide to try team sport. And for some unfathomable reason, I chose rugby.

I’m Welsh, so I’m supposed to be obsessed with rugby union. But I’m not. I don’t understand the rules – sorry, ‘laws’ – of the game. I was brought up watching rugby league, so don’t understand the need for line-outs, proper scums and can’t help counting the tackles.

I only went along to Dursley Rugby because the Mum of one of Huw’s nursery friends asked me. I didn’t know her, but always thought she looked like a bit of a laugh, so I went along.

And I bloody love it. Turns out rugby is netball, but with fighting.

It’s one and a half hours of throwing, catching, running, falling over, grabbing, pulling, shouting, laughing, squealing and occasionally *ahem* weeing. We have the most serious coach you can imagine, who doesn’t let us chat, mess-about or laze around. He loves punishing us with press-ups, squats and sit ups, and he’s mean to us in just the right way.

And we all love it.

You see the best thing about rugby, unlike any other sport I can think of, it is completely inclusive. It doesn’t judge you based on fitness, size, age, weight, fashion or nationality. A good rugby team needs a bit of everything. People who can think, can run, can throw, can catch, can kick, can fight, can grab. Anything goes. Find your local club and go along. I promise you, you’ll love it.

I am a woman, I play rugby – deal with it.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Jim didn't fix it (with lyrics)

Like most children of my age, I wrote to Jimmy Savile to see if he could fix it for me.
I didn’t think there was anything strange about a man in a gold lame shell suit smoking a fat cigar and giving out medals to kids. I just knew he made A-Maze-Zing things happen.

I wrote to ask him if I could be in the Martini advert on my roller skates. If you can’t remember what I’m talking about (or you’re far too young), here’s a clip.
Needless to say, Sir Jimmy didn’t fulfil my request to star in a advert for an alcoholic beverage, wearing a skirt no bigger than a belt and probably shown long after I should have been in bed.
I wrote to him again to meet my all-time hero, Bryan Robson. No response there either. But I did eventually meet him outside Barcelona Airport before the ‘99 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. What a day to meet him, had my photo taken and everything.
Unfortunately I got so drunk that I lost the camera. How’s about that then.
RIP Sir Jimmy 1926-2011
Your letter was only the start of it,
One letter and now you're a part of it,
Now you've done it, Jim has fixed for it you, and you and you.

There must be something that you always want to do,
The one thing that you always wanted to,
Now you've done it, Jim has fixed it for you, and you and you and you



Jim has fixed it for you, and you and yound you-ou-ou

Saturday, 15 October 2011

On being Welsh

I was born and bred in Wales and I’m intensely proud. I grew up singing in Eisteddfods, writing poetry and prose and performing choral recitals at the Urdd. I cry every time I hear the national anthem. I am Welsh and I am proud.

My children are English and will be brought up here. Yet somehow I think they’ll never feel pride for their country, in the same way that I feel so overwhelmed to be part of mine. In England you don’t teach your kids to be proud of their heritage. You don’t teach them about your culture and why you are who you are. But you should. And I will.

They say that to be born Welsh is to be born with music in your heart and poetry in your soul. If you ever wondered where that came from, here’s the full poem. On today of all days – when Wales showed what a proud nation they are in the Rugby World Cup – this will probably make you cry.

In Passing by Brian Harris

To be born in Wales,
Not with a silver spoon in your mouth,
But, with music in your blood
And with poetry in your soul,
Is a privilege indeed.

Your inheritance is a land of Legend,
Of love and contrast.
A land of beauty so bright it burns the eyes.
Of ugliness that scars the Spirit
As the Earth.

Wales is an old land with wounds
That weep in hills.
They wept before in the bodies of men
And in the hearts of women
And time will never heal them.

The stigmata of sorrow,
Of pain and poverty,
Of lonely crucifixion in the dark,
Remain our lives to feed.

This Land of our Fathers was built on coal.
Its rivers of mingled blood and sweat
Have forever darkened it,
Relieved only by death.

We are a sad people.
Our sadness being wrapped in harps and music
And praise to God,
For the lovely, yearning light
That feeds the Spirit as well as the eyes.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Gallery - Inspirational People

A tough subject this week on The Gallery from the inspiring (see what I did there?) Sticky Fingers blog……it’s Inspirational People.
It’s tough because I’ve already written about Nanna Peg, already told you about my very strong and slightly mad Big Sister and her beautiful and brave son. My mad welsh family with their positive outlook and crazy happy zest for life, could inspire anyone. My husband, kids, his family.....the list is endless.
Meningitis Trust Staff
I’ve worked in some great places and none more inspiring than the Meningitis Trust, a charity led by one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. In just 4 years there I met the most incredible characters. People who’ve been through the horror of meningitis. Some survived, some suffered huge loss, but all amazing.

But wherever I work, wherever I live, whoever is in my life at any given time, there is a group of people who never fail to inspire me. They are always on my mind and I miss being with them, every single day. It’s a strange collective, made up of school, sixth form and university friends, but now all bound together in one hilarious, beautiful, amazing, loving group. Some are mums, some career women, some both. Some are creative, some are tough, some sporty, some great at fashion. All are very good at bossing me around – and I love it.
Inspirational People - My very best friends

There are many inspirational people you will meet in life. But the ones who inspire me most are the ones who know me the best. I look at the way they live their lives, the different opportunities and challenges they’ve all faced and I’m inspired. Just an emali, phonecall or skype chat with any one of them, brings a huge fat smile to my face and makes me feel like I can achieve anything.
My best friends. Inspirational People.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

He wasn’t on my list

Single ladies, do you have a mental check list?
I’ve just marked the 11th anniversary of my first date with my husband and started thinking about when I was single. Then I remembered my checklist.
I used to have a mental checklist for Mr Right. Not mental as in mad, although I think I was slightly mad. Mental as in I knew it well, but never wrote it down. I kept it to myself, hidden away in my brain, to be used against every man I met.
After splitting from my first long-term boyfriend, I went through that awful phase where every male friend is a potential date. Surely we’ve all done it? You get on with someone really well and you’re so desperate to live happily ever after that you start convincing yourself they’re the perfect man.
I did this with a few people, much to the amusement of my friends, as I dated a random collection of oddballs either cos they knew someone I knew, or worse still, because I liked their family. I blame my sister and loved-up friends for most of this phase as they were usually the ‘ugly friend’ on the double date – yep we’ve all been left with one of those. Well I’d not only be left with them, but I’d convince myself to date them again SOBER and find myself having afternoon tea with the whole family before I knew it.
So after some failed and pretty horrific dates  I came up with my mental checklist and started sifting.
The list was made up of qualities that were really important to my 20 something self and my circle of friends. How he should look, what he’d wear, what he’d listen to, his family, his friends, the sports he’d play, the teams he’d support, the kind of night out he liked. It was all about fitting in.
Then I met my future husband. He didn’t meet the requirements but I couldn't resist him. He wasn’t a checklist match but I didn’t care..........checklist? what checklist?

I didn’t care what anyone else thought. And that’s when you know you’re really in love.
My advice would be, dump the mental checklist. It’s either based on what your friends would find acceptable or like mine, was simply based on the last man who made you happy. We’re worth more than that.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Epilepsy rollercoaster ride

My sister’s son has epilepsy.  My first nephew, the crazy cute one who says wacky things, draws great pictures and has a style sense to rival Gok Wan. The boy who I pretended was my son before I had my own kids. Yep I really did that, people would stop and say how much he looked like me and I would just smile and nod, never admitting he wasn’t actually mine. Big Sis didn’t mind, she secretly liked it.
I didn’t know much about epilepsy and I still don’t know enough. He was diagnosed last year and every week he displays new symptoms, fights new battles, has more challenges to overcome.  And because we don’t live near, I only get to hear about it. My sister and her husband get to live it, day and night. They're on an epilepsy rollercoaster ride and they'll never be allowed to get off.
Epilepsy isn’t just about fits – or seizures to give them their proper name. He suffers from ‘drops’ which are temporary blackouts, causing him to trip, drop things on the floor, even fall in his own food. Not a good look when you’re surrounded by 5 year olds and your dinner is now all over your face. But he sits up, wipes his face clean and gets on with it. 
He also has long periods of being in a trance-like state. He doesn’t hear you call his name (ok most 5 yr olds don’t hear that!), but he doesn’t hear you offer him chocolate or a ride on his bike either. He wants to sit in the corner in silence and retreat into his own world. Big Sis tells me this is the hardest state to deal with. Her lively, never-sit-still child hides out in dark corners and stares blankly into space. Drifting from place to place, not hearing you, not really seeing you and not reacting to the world around him.
You have to carry on as normal. You could wrap him up in cotton wool but he’s 5 and the last thing he wants is to be different. So unless things are really bad, he gets dressed and goes to school. Often falling on the way, sometimes arriving and not really knowing he’s there. On these days my sister tells me she cries silent tears. You know the ones you cry when you’re trying to hold it together but the tears keep coming anyway? Sometimes the mums at the school gate share the pain, sometimes the teacher’s look says it all.
His epilepsy is evolving and they’re still trying to find the perfect combination of drugs to help manage his illness. Children in school are starting to notice and they’re old enough to be told what’s going on. If they understand what’s happening to him they’re less likely to make fun of him. Bullying is an extra stress he really doesn’t need.
But he’s an incredibly brave little boy and he keeps on smiling. He’s always been slightly eccentric and I think this eccentricity will get him through it. It hasn’t stopped his obsession with super heroes or taken away his daredevil spirit. It seems an odd thing to say, but epilepsy couldn’t have happened to a better kid – he’s so well-equipped to deal with it.
I can’t begin to imagine what my sister and her husband are going through. I hope this post helps more people to understand. But the best way we can help is to learn more about epilepsy, not be afraid of asking questions and most importantly, don’t treat him as if he’s different.
And next time you see a child who’s behaving a little bit strange, think twice before you judge him. Next time you see a parent who looks slightly on the edge, think twice before you judge them too. You just never know what’s going on in people’s lives.
Dedicated to my Big Sister, who is so much stronger than she realises and my Nephew, the next big thing.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Remembering Me

I’ve forgotten who I am.
Has this happened to you? You won’t know you’ve forgotten until you remember. It’s a strange feeling, a bit like deja vu, a moment of weirdness but also huge joy. It brought a smile to my face.
I was sitting alone on the top of a hill looking across to the River Severn after a brief, but brisk, hike when it all came back to me. I could picture the twenty-something woman, walking for miles to get away from the city smoke and clear the hangover. With a good-looking man in tow and a bottle of wine warming in the ruck sack.
For a few minutes I sat there and felt happy as I remembered the forgotten me. A different kind of happy to how I feel most of the time, but happy all the same. So I texted my husband with a picture of view and the words ‘I love you’ – something I never text. He texted the same thing back (which was more of a shock), I think he understood the moment.
Like many women (maybe even some men) I’ve given myself away. To my husband, my work, my friends even, but mostly to my kids. So much so that I don’t even remember what I like. I’m a stranger to myself and I can only remember the me who exists to exist for others.
But I found it on that hill for a very brief moment and it felt really good. I'm going looking for me again soon.
As I write this, a group of my oldest friends are out reliving their Hacienda youth in a nightclub somewhere. I hope they get this feeling tonight and I think they will. I wish I could be there.
What i'm trying to say is, if you think you’ve lost you, don’t worry because you're still there somewhere. You may be cowering timidly at the back of the room, too afraid to come out, but you will. And when it happens it'll feel really good :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Should have gone to specsavers

I’ve always had bad eyesight. An optician once told me that you get the eyesight you need. So if you always have your head in books, you will probably be short-sighted (can see well close up, but nothing over 3 feet). If you are a football referee, then you’ll probably become long-sighted, etc etc. I've never been good at fielding, but I can read the smallest print.

Whilst glasses and contact lenses have cured most of my problems, I still don’t seem to be able to see and judge my reflection properly. What I see in the mirror is not what you see in real life and certainly not what a camera sees.

I look SO good in a mirror, seriously. I get dressed and I often think I look slim, foxy, of below average weight, and essentially not bad for late 30s. In fact, if I am really honest, I see something like this:

But then I see REAL pictures of myself and I wonder how I got it so wrong. I don't help myself I know, I mean, what was I thinking?

I’ve learned how to pose now. I never stand on the end of a group shot, I tilt my face so I don’t get a double chin, I do the whole knee-up-leg-bent-standing-on-tip-toes thing to make my legs look thinner. But the photograph still never truly represents what I’m pretty sure I saw in the mirror.

In the mirror I’m a size 10, in reality I’m usually a 14, on a photo I’m pushing obese.

But lately even my mirror doesn’t lie. The baby weight is still hanging around. I’m eating too many cupcakes from Nom Nom and with a return to work imminent, I’m struggling to fit into any of my clothes.

So I’m going to fat club. Something I thought I'd never do. I'm a bit nervous about the whole group therapy thing, but mainly I’m hoping it will improve my eyesight considerably. Either that or I'm off to Ikea for a new mirror.

Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Gallery - A Happy Memory

I'm late entering my post into this week's Gallery on the Sticky Fingers blog because I couldn't find the picture I wanted. Anyway, I found it in the loft, in a frame with lots of other pictures and I couldn't take it out (for fear of disturbing the 'arrangement'). So I took a bad photo of it, but you get the idea.

This is not only one of my favourite photos, but a really lovely memory. It makes me remember how much fun I have when I travel with my husband. When this was taken we weren't married and we were starting to fall in love with Spain all over again. This is nowhere unusual or glamourous, it's the Alhambra in Granada.

I took this photo as we were relaxing on one of the patios, basking in the sun after too much wine at lunch. We sat there and began to fall asleep.

I am a bit of a fake when it comes to romantic pictures. I have many 'captured' moments like these, but they are always taken by me (using timer delay) and most of the time I've planned them earlier. Don't tell me I'm the only person who does that??

I didn't plan this one in advance, but saw it in my mind as we sat there. So ran and set my camera up and ran back and struck my pose. And I love it.

Five minutes later we got told off by a security man for sleeping on the floor.We were embarrassingly ushered out of the area and asked to move on. Oh well. Memory made and kept.

The pic now sits in a frame with others from the same trip, when all we could afford were clip frames 'cos we spent all our money on holidays. Now they just look tacky, but I'm keeping them as they are. These kind of memories are the best.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Introducing...the LadyBib

I’ve decided that baby-bibs are pointless. It's taken two children to help me realise this, but I've had an epiphany. The wrong people wear the bibs around here and things need to change. It's not our children we need to protect from splashes and spills. It's us.

Mothers - we are being taken for a ride. Adorning our babies with every type of bib imaginable. Cute ones, funny ones, ones with slogans, made of plastic, made of cotton. Washable, disposable, even ones with arms and legs. But I put this to you - use a bib and your child will find somewhere else to put the food.


You see, as my perfect baby girl sat quietly in her high chair, looking clean, serene and still wearing the same dress I put on her that morning – I was already on my third outfit. Something's wrong here I thought. The balance isn't quite right. Why is she the one wearing the bib but I'm the one covered in snot and food?

Bibs are sold on the promise of protecting baby's clothes from spills. Errr, but she's got five times as many clothes as me. So many that I panic she won't get to wear them all before she grows out of them. So why the hell am I protecting them from spills? Surely I should be encouraging her to spill more, so I can change her more often!

Meanwhile, my wardrobe choice is so limited, that I've started wearing my husband's clothes. Oh I've got plenty of clothes in my pre-pregnancy size, but as I'm still carrying a fair amount of baby weight, I only fit into a few select maternity items, and I can't afford to buy anything new to get me through my *temporary* fat state.

So I’ve taken things into my own hands and invented the 'LadyBib'. (Sounds rude, I know). It's the most practical wardrobe item you will ever own. Trust me.

I know you can't tell (!), but I made it myself. (see photo). It covers three key areas. The shoulders (snot, sick, dribble), the front (food spray) and the back (sick you don't see until someone you fancy kindly points it out). You can slip it on over anything and wear it around the house. Just don't forget to take it off before going out.

I now only wear one outfit per day and when I get dressed in the morning, I know that's it. It's improved my quality of life considerably. In fact, I'm going to make more, so I always have a clean one while the other is in the wash.

You know I'm right.

Ditch the baby bibs, invest in a LadyBib instead. It’s the next big thing.

To make one LadyBib

Find old t-shirt (I cut up my maternity nighty – very satisfying). Find pair of sharp scissors. Cut t-shirt off around bust area. Discard bottom. Wear with pride.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Gallery - Shoes

I'm not a shoe girl, I'm more into stationery, or cardigans, or luggage. All of my shoes are practical and sensible. I don't own a painful pair of shoes that I wear just for the joy of it. The shoes gene went to my big sister, she's the SJP in our family (I'm more of a Miranda, season 1 and 2, before she got stylish).

That said, the gallery theme this week on the Sticky fingers blog is an easy one for me. When it comes to shoes I have one fetish,  and it's Camper.

Camper make quirky, comfortable, stylish and sometimes odd, shoes. Odd as in weird, odd as in 'odd' - see picture. These are Camper twins, the second pair I've owned. I've had 4 pairs of Camper in all. Not enough, but they're not cheap.

Find out more about Camper shoes here

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Abortion Access

It's rare that I have reason to write to my MP on a national issue. But the current debate on changes to how women access abortions has got me really fired up. They propose some 'simple' changes to the way women considering abortion are counselled. The simple change may include anti-abortion groups providing that counselling. It's another hurdle women will have to jump to have the right to choose whether or not they keep their unborn child.

Suzanne Moore wrote a great piece in the Guardian, it's worth a read (if you are pro-choice).
I have always believed in a woman's right to choose what to do with her unborn child.  I was happy in the knowledge that if I was ever in a situation where I was pregnant with a child I couldn't support or didn't want, living in the UK I would have the right to choose and the medical support to back that up. Obviously I prefer contraception as the best approach - but not all women have that option. 

The idea of an unwanted child being born into an unhappy life, upsets me more than the abortion itself.

Now I've got kids, I admit that's changed. I'm in a stable relationship, we are financially secure. If I got pregnant 'by mistake' then I don't think I could have an abortion anymore. I'd be too emotionally attached to that bunch of cells already, I've seen what it grows into.

But that doesn't mean I've forgotten how I used to feel and what I used to want. We should never let go of the people we used to be and the rights that were important to us at different stages in our lives. We could be in that position again in the future.

You don't have to agree, the great thing is, it's up to us individually how we'd deal with that situation. I respect everyone's opinion on this issue because we are all different. This isn't about politics, or the way you vote, for me this is about respecting a woman's ability to make decisions (without having to question, question, question...)

That's why I followed this link and emailed my MP to oppose the new restrictions on abortion access. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

That Sunday night feeling

Today I had that Sunday-night feeling for the first time in 9 months.

It swept over me like a tidal wave, starting at my feet and heading rapidly up my body, making me feel sick to my stomach. I had it even though it's Tuesday and I don't even have work tomorrow (just a bit of mopping and a trip to Nom Nom Cupcakery).

What caused this tsunami? The news that tomorrow is my son's last day in his current room in nursery, next week he starts pre-school proper. Which means he's leaving the people who've cared for him since he was 8 months old, 4 days a week, all year round except for family holidays.

Problem is, I'm going to miss them more than he will. And he's only moving to the room next door.

And this move also means I'm coming to the end of my maternity leave, meticulously timed to coincide with him starting pre-school. Cue the Sunday-night feeling.

What it's made me realise is that there are 5 stages to maternity leave and they are:

Stage 1 - counting down the weeks til you finish work and start maternity leave

Stage 2 - start of actual maternity leave and suffering from major fear of missing out (FOMO) and wishing you were back in the office (and daily internet shopping, especially babes with babies!)

Stage 3 - BLISS! Loving your baby and the new routine, loving the holiday feeling, loving the new tan, loving the cakes and coffee

Stage 4 - the return of the Sunday-night feeling as you count down the weeks to the end of the maternity leave

Stage 5 - back in work and wishing you were still on maternity leave, occasionally fooling yourself that getting pregnant AGAIN would be easier than work.

I'm at Stage 4 right now. Just over 4 weeks left to go til baby Eve also gets dumped in nursery for more than half her week. *sick feeling just returned*

On the upside, I'll be getting my morning coffee from Nero once again, having lots of laughs with the great bunch of people with whom I share an office AND my children get to make new friends.

Win. Win. Then why can't I shift this sinking feeling? (pass me the wine someone....)

This post is dedicated to Cheryle, Lucy, Frankie and Amy in Rising 3s at the amazing Treetops Children Centre in Dursley

picture shows the beautiful outside space at Treetops.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Politicians I'd like to....

The men have got MILF and we've even had DILF - but personally I'm into my PILFs..... read my post on In the Powder Room - The global spot that women rock.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Why isn't it cool to like Beyonce?

It may not be cool to like Beyonce, but surely you agree she's a decent role model for our daughters? See my post on In the Powder Room

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Allowed List – Who’s on yours?

I just watched a clip of Jake Gyllenhaal promoting his new film and just as I was thinking ‘I definitely would….’ I remembered a conversation I had with one of my girlfriends. Who, for the sake of this blog, shall remain nameless. (but she has the same name as me…and used to live next door….)

Anyway, she was about to go and see Take That. Trying to hide my jealousy I dismissed it with a curt ‘what, you mean the ROBBIE show?’ – and her response? “Yes! I know! Brilliant! And he’s definitely on my allowed list.”

The allowed list? She’s married with two kids and it’s a very stable relationship. But after ten years or so of looking at the same guy, you have to allow each other the odd fantasy to keep things alive – and this is where the allowed list comes in.

It’s not simply a list of people you’d shag sleep with. It’s a list that’s been approved by your partner, possibly for two reasons. 1) it ain’t ever gonna happen! 2) if the opportunity for a one night stand did arise, they're not really going to blame you for taking it.

And both men and women are allowed to have one.

There are unwritten rules (the men are supposed to just guess these, we don’t share them in advance). FRIENDS are not allowed on the allowed list. No way. Nada. No chance. No one we know, no one he knows, at home, work and certainly not at the school gate. Mention of a friend could seriously affect his chances of staying in this relationship.

CELEBRITIES are preferred. A list in particular. Hopefully already happily married and without a record of infidelity. Preferably living overseas and likely to never walk down your street in a million years.

So she’s got Robbie and her husband approves. I’d definitely have Jake Gyllenhaal (see picture), oh and Noah Wyle (Carter from ER), and Rob Lowe. These have all been approved by my husband (well I tried to discuss it and he just grunted and turned the volume up on the TV – sounds like a yes to me).

But it doesn’t quite work that way for the blokes. You see we choose our allowed list and they get to agree it. But they can’t choose theirs. Oh no. We choose it for them. That’s how it works, that’s the game.

I’ve given my husband Kylie Minogue, I mean if he wants to leave me for her, I would completely understand. I might even be pleased if it meant me and Kylie could finally be BFFs! He did also mention some sporty type whilst watching the athletics, but she’s gone off the list. Too fit. Not famous enough. (I mean, when did he start liking sporty women?)

Then I asked my friend who’s on her husband’s allowed list. I mean, he’s pretty good looking, and you never know it might be me *ahem* someone I know. “Oh, he can have the old woman who serves behind the counter in the co-op” she replies straight faced, with not a hint of irony.

So the allowed list – who’s on yours?