Monday, 28 May 2012

Driving each other mad

There is only one thing that causes massive arguments in my house and I'm sure it's the same the world over.

It's not actually in the house, it's in the car and it turns two mild mannered individuals into crazed loonies.

It happens when we head for somewhere we've never been before and I'm in charge of the map, he's in charge of the steering.
This is generally how it goes;
Ø  if HE takes a wrong turn, it's my fault for not concentrating on the road. Oh I'm sorry, I was cleaning up the child vomit you hadn't even noticed has covered the back seat and whole of the ceiling
Ø  if we can't find a road, HE DRIVES FASTER, giving me absolutely no chance of reading the street signs to see where we are
Ø  if we are lost he starts to panic, and screams "look at the f***ing map" as loud as possible at me, whilst I - not one to swear - politely respond with "stop the f***ing car and I will"
Ø  so as we get more lost, drive even faster, and now have a square metre of map fully opened and obscuring the driving view, he decides we're GOING HOME
Ø  yes, defeatism sets in. We're never going to find it, we're late anyway, he's turning the car around and going back. It doesn't matter how long we've been driving. He can't be  arsed with this shit car / shit place / shit holiday / shit night out I'm making him go on (delete as appropriate)
Ø  he ignores my shouts of "BUT WE CAN'T GO HOME’ because *through clenched teeth*  we’re in a hire car, we have to return it, to the industrial shed from whence it came, on the OTHER side of this motorway we CAN’T SEEM TO GET OFF.
Ø  too late, we've missed our flight. F***ing typical.
Just drop me at the bus stop.

NB: I'm sure the other half would give you a different story.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Champagne childcare, lemonade wages

The average family spends more than a quarter of their income on childcare and we need to make it more affordable, says a report out today.
I don’t disagree. The cost of childcare can be crippling and it forces you to prioritise and make important choices in your life. To continue with the career at great expense (not always just financial) or give it all up because you just can’t afford it?
Reports like this always make uncomfortable reading for me and throw up some terrible moral dilemmas. The idea that childcare is too expensive makes me twitch.

practically perfect in every way

As parents we expect to have champagne childcare, but we're only willing to pay lemonade wages
We want our little monkeys to be looked after by Mary Poppins and we’ll pay them peanuts in return.
Then we’ll complain about the quality of care whilst we mutter disgust at the cost of last month’s nursery bill.
Because let’s face it, we’ll pay more for a cleaner than we will for childcare and to me that just feels wrong.
But I can understand why.  More of us live away from our parents and have no alternative support network. We don’t have the option to split the cost of care between family, in-laws and the occasional day at the child-minder.
Some of us just don’t earn enough to fork out several hundred on nursery care JUST so we can have the pleasure of slaving away at an unforgiving job all day, come home to a screaming child and another night of no sleep. 
The simple answer would be to give up work and look after the kids ourselves. But guess what, some of us don't want to, or can't afford to do that either.
As working parents, what we all want is affordable good quality childcare, with brilliantly trained staff who are paid properly for the amazing job they do looking after our children every day.

But that comes at a price we either can’t afford or we’re just not willing to pay.
So yet another think tank has looked at all the evidence, all the other European countries and has made another set of recommendations. 
The report concludes that bureaucracy is restricting the childcare options we have available and the best people for the job are being put off by paperwork and regulation. Relax that and everything will better. I hope they're right. 

For now I just know that everyone should have access to good quality affordable childcare (fortunately I do) and be able to at least have a choice.

Have a read for yourself and you decide

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Somewhere to run

I’d always dreamt of having a tree house. We had 3 greenhouses and a shed, all packed to the rafters with plants in various stages of growth and tools of every kind.
But there was no room in any of them for me. A tree house would have been perfect because then I’d have had somewhere to run.
When you’re a kid, how important is it to have somewhere to run?
Two conversations I’ve had today with two very different Mums, made me think of the tree house. 
Prolific blogger mum of three world talks about sibling rivalry and her eldest needing to get away from it all. And the other, my big sister, shared her fears for her epileptic son when he starts big school, where will he run when he needs help? Both expressed the same fear that they weren’t the ones they could run to. That not being there or your child choosing to run to someone else was a sign of failure.
But it’s not.

The olden days, but no tree house

I have vivid memories of running away many times; sometimes I’d pack a bag and mean it, other times I was escaping to sort my head out.

I had friends with brilliant parents whom I loved and trusted a great deal. I had my Nan who’d be there with a strong tea and lots of sugar (before phoning my mum and gently sending me home).

I’d run away, calm down, and most importantly, come back.
This wasn’t a bad reflection on my own Mum & Dad. I feel privileged that I had other adults I could turn to and looking back, thankful that my parents let me do that.
At certain points in your life, the last people you want to talk to is your parents, either through shame, embarrassment or more likely a huge fear of disappointing them (and most of the time I was probably running away from my sister!)
Kids get stressed, kids occasionally hate their siblings and kids will often feel alone. But as long as they’ve got a tree house they can bolt to, or a friend to support them, they’ll be fine.
And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It means you’ve let them deal with things in their own way and if they’re anything like me, they’ll thank you for it and respect you so much more in the long run.
I still run away, all adults do, to have a beer, a walk, or a chat with someone other than my husband. So why should our kids be any different?

Monday, 7 May 2012

A test of community

The village shop is closing and the S.O.S has been sent out. Save our shop.

The current owners have been trying to sell for years but no one’s buying. It seems the village shop is in decline. Yet when threatened with closure all 900+ residents of our sleepy – yet upwardly mobile -  village come out to protest. So a campaign begins to keep the shop and run it ourselves. It's a real test of our community.
The big idea is a Community Shop & Post Office, owned by locals, run by locals, stocked with the things that locals want and opening just when locals need it.
This made me think, just how important to us all is having a local shop?
Ok, but do you drive past it to go and do your big shop in the local supermarket?
*shuffles uncomfortably in seat*
Do you use the post office only when you’ve carried that parcel in your bag for days cos you didn’t get chance to nip out in work?
Guilty as charged.
Do you only use the shop when you are at home and think it would be a nice, respectable middle class thing to do?
“Just walking down to the shop for the Sunday papers darling and some of those lovely organic sausages Matthew Fort raved about in the Guardian. Oh and they’ve just delivered some Hobbs bread, I do love those Baker Brothers.”
Yep, all of the above.
You see it’s not enough. Occasional use does not a thriving business make. So it’s being handed over to the community and it’s all very Big Society. We need to raise a lot of cash, quickly, and we need volunteers to run it. Soon.
The whole village has been asked to dig deep and buy shares within the next 4 weeks. This buys you a vote at the AGM and all being well, a small return in the form of a shop voucher.
I’m completely behind them and I hope this works. I also feel terribly guilty for not using it more in the past.
So go out and support your local businesses, spend with the people you know and keep your local shops going where you can – or at least where you can afford to. Use it, or as they say, lose it.
I’m off to buy shares. I’m an investor now.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Held together with glue

I remembered something today that made me chuckle.
It was something my Mum said, probably about 20 years ago, and she was in tears at the time.
“Everything in my house is glued”
It was a reference to the fact that she drops, smashes, or breaks everything. And if she doesn’t, inevitably one of her kids will (more than likely me)
Twenty years on and I’m feeling her pain. My house is starting to look the same. Most things have a missing part, a missing partner, or are just plain missing (in action. Probably down the tip by now)
As I sit here typing I can see:
·        A three legged giraffe pen holder
·        A broken wine glass (the last of a set of four)
·        A recipe book stand that won’t stand up (snapped the leg off)
·        A chipped vase (tap again)

And that’s just in one room. Outside on the drive sits my car, with the bumper hanging off (nothing an occasional kick can’t sort), the back door opens only from the inside (3 yr old comes in handy)  and the glove compartment won’t close (unless my passenger kindly wedges their knee against it). Even one of my fingers is glued on. (but that was my sister’s fault)
I never get through the day without breaking or spilling something.
Yesterday I threw Weetabix all over my 1 yr old. Today I almost threw the one year old as I tripped up the stairs. Once I tripped and threw a whole jar of pickled onions. And when I’m not throwing things I’m throwing up. All over my car ceiling (yes, inside) and in someone else’s glove box.
I’ve blamed lots of things, bad eyesight, terrible hand/eye co-ordination and hereditary clumsiness.
But basically I’m just in a rush. And now everything in my house is glued too.