Saturday, 22 December 2012


We have tonnes of Christmas books in our house and we aren't allowed to pass any on just yet, even the crazy board book about the Nativity. That's the one where the animals seem to know when Mary and Joseph are due to arrive and are capable of discussing the ramifications.

We read all our Christmas books at this time of the year, as you might expect, a lot. We all have our favourites.

Tilly's is 'Wenceslas' which is a moody traditional book with lots of blizzard illustrations. I'd be concerned it suggests a dark traditionalist edge to her character if she wasn't also completely obsessed with Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs. And anyway I suspect she likes Wenceslas particularly so she can force us to sing the whole carol every time we read it.

Paul favours the Grinch. Thankfully not because he identifies at all with the lead character. I suspect it's just because it's funny. A darned sight funnier than the film I think.

Phoebe still loves 'The Jolly Christmas Postman' which is such a classic I cannot recommend it highly enough. Although they do still fight over who is opening each envelope every flipping time. And she loves 'Mog's Christmas', my copy of which I've had since 1976 (thanks Joan and Ken).

And then there's me. Weirdly my favourite is one I don't think I had as a child: 'Lucy and Tom's Christmas' by Shirley Hughes. It is simply beautiful and I guess perfectly describes everyone's idyllic Christmas. But there is one page that gets me literally every time I read it aloud. It actually makes my voice falter.

"Christmas can be quite tiring. Tom gets very excited about his presents and rather cross.

So he and Grandpa go for a walk together in the snow, just the two of them. The sun is very big and red."

I can't identify exactly why it gets me. It's the walking with Grandpa line that makes me tearful. I do know I walked with my own wonderful Grandad many times down Burton Road. Not necessarily at Christmas, and not necessarily because I was being a nightmare (although maybe I was). But I remember walking hand in hand. So maybe it's that - simply a happy memory from such a long time ago.

And maybe it's the acknowledgement of of my own kids doing exactly the same.

Mum and Dad are coming for Christmas on Monday. I suspect my eldest might need a trip out with Grandad. Just because.

Thanks Shirley.
(Excuse the quality of the image. This is scanned from our book hence a very poor mirror image. The real page is stunning).

Friday, 14 December 2012

Moan Moan Moan

I apologise in advance for this. Traditionally it's men who can't handle illness. Man flu and all that.

But today it's me. I'm moaning.

It flipping hurts. When I swallow, talk and well just all the time. I'm wappy, dizzy, tired, hot, blah blah.

Now I appreciate in our house it is a bit different. Paul doesn't moan about anything much. If he complains of being ill he is REALLY poorly. I am much more of a lightweight. This I accept. But I just can't stand having a horrendous throat. Anything that stops me drinking, eating and talking doesn't sit too well with me. So I went to see the nurse and took Tilly too since she is still poorly poor thing.

The nurse saw me first and said things like "your glands are a little up". A little? Are you kidding me? Also "your ears are a bit red". Yep keep it coming, just a bit then. "You have a bit of a temperature". Do you fancy using another adjective to describe my symptoms? One that actual matches the pain I'm in? And the piece de resistance "your throat is just a bit red". It can't be just a bit red. It feels like it's full of razorblades.

So I considered myself resoundly patronised.

Then she looked at Tilly who she told much of the same on Monday but who now apparently has tonsillitis. At this point she said: "Ah, well since Tilly has tonsillitis there is a chance you will get it in a few days. You'll have to see how you go. You probably came a bit quick". Oh flipping brilliant.

Now I know you shouldn't have antibiotics unless you need them. I also know I am not a doctor, or a nurse. BUT SURELY ALL THE SIGNS ARE THERE? Even the pharmacist looked surprised she hadn't prescribed. The nurse basically said: you are a bit ill, go away and you'll probably get iller. Cheers.

The good news is that by gargling with warm salt water every day several times there is a slim chance I might be able to see off bacterial infection. Oh yum.

And poor Tilly has that minging medicine for ten days which will include Christmas Day. We've invested in a bag of Fruit Salads.

Plus of course if I do get prescribed antibiotics I will be having my first dry Christmas in many years...

So goodwill to all men/women. Apart from those who don't prescribe me medicine. Bah humbug.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

By the scruff of the neck

First thing tomorrow morning I will be taking the day, and what's left of the pre-Christmas run up, by the scruff of the neck:

1. Find out what the hell is wrong with Tilly and me. It can't be just a virus. It is frankly crap and we will be kicking it into touch. If I need antibiotics they better start tomorrow or I'll have to pass on bucks fizz on Christmas Day which is not happening.

2. Find and wash some clothes so that I can actually wear a pair of socks that match and the kids don't have to wear purple tights to school.

3. Actually buy the remaining loopy items from the girls wish lists including shower caps. If I have to look at the same website again I may scream. I don't have to compare and contrast shower cap patterns any further. I really am the master of procrastination.

4. If Tilly goes to school take Paul out to watch Skyfall on a daytime date (albeit and throat hurty coughy type of one) and eat pick and mix. This is the only thing we planned to do this week and still hasn't happened. If we do go, do not come back by way of yet another shop. I am retailed out and do not need to wander about aimlessly any further this week. If we don't go book a time to go and a babysitter and stop flapping about.

5. Take that flipping stuff to the charity shop so I don't have to hear the pirate ship rolling about in the back seat and the cannon going off as I drive about.

6. Buy those tickets. Johnny Marr and The Specials to be specific. See point 3. re: procastination.

7. Buy super glue.

That should do it. Night x

Monday, 3 December 2012

Present Equality

Well the Christmas letters are about to be written and we have somewhat of an interesting problem.

Our eldest daughter has a list which stretches for about a mile and a half including a selection of relatively pricey items including a Victorian dolls house, a snow-dome maker, climbing shoes and a host of other things.

On one hand it is great that she has given us lots of ideas. A few too many ideas if I'm honest. There is far too much room for disappointment.

Which one do we pick? Sods law says it will be the one that I then have to dust a lot in months to come. Which ones to ignore?  Inevitably that will be the one she really really wants and we'll start the day under a veil of disappointment.

And yes I know kids today should be grateful for anything they get. That's a lovely idea but it's hardly realistic. Show me someone who remembers a Christmas when Father Christmas got it 100% right. It's a good job no-one can actually get hold of him to complain. One year I was given a beautiful bike and I complained because it had no bell. Children all have brattish tendencies, even I am ashamed to say, me.

Anyway we've bitten the bullet and chosen the dolls house as it seems to be her big ask. It's also a big ask of us since we have to put the blasted thing together. Maybe mulled wine will help. Or maybe we'll end up putting the roof on backwards.

So to Phoebe. She, on the other hand, does not have a large list of expensive items. Not for Phoebe requests of Furbys or Vtech Innotabs. Nope her list consists of:

1. Swimming goggles and
2. a shower cap.

I kid you not.

Now anyone with kids will know the importance of parity, especially when kids are little. Not only do the presents need to be equal in number and ideally cost, but also in relative size.

You can buy one child a 6ft cuddly toy and one child an MP3 player of the same exact monetary value and the big box wins every time. Because the competition was decided the second they entered the room in their pyjamas.

So I have the option of wrapping Phoebe's shower cap in a Victorian dolls house sized box, or just guessing what she might actually enjoy receiving and hoping for the best. Whatever happens I need to go and source a shower cap or there really would be hell to pay...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Where did my lovely(ish) daughter go then?

I am reliably informed by my youngest daughter's teacher that she is a happy smiley joy to behold in school. Five minutes after I leave the tear streaked clingy child she is sweetness and light, engaged and enthusiastic.

I have no reason to doubt their honesty. I mean it wouldn't make any sense for them to lie.

But all the evidence I can gather suggests it must be fabrication. Most days I am greeted at the end of the school day by a grumpy monster who is reluctant to participate in anything. She no longer likes going swimming, protests strongly (with tears) about going to parties and well, pretty much, says "no" to most suggestions I make. Reading her school book is a whole viaduct too far at the moment.

At home we are treated to the joys of living with a child who never says please or thank you, and most days shouts in my face at ear splitting volume. The only apologies are barked ones that you might imagine a teenager uttering and they only arise when pudding is withheld.

Well you know what, I've had enough. I have a good mind to sit her down and tell her that it frankly isn't fair for school to get the best bit and her family to be on the receiving end of four year old, for want of a better word, arsiness. Of course there would bo no point. She hasn't really got a clue what's going on and I am supposed to be the adult after all. I should be able to hold it together.

It seems that school is actually a minefield when you are four. Tonight alone I have reassured her that she doesn't have to use a toilet if it's disgusting, and that she doesn't have to drink milk if she doesn't fancy it.  I've explained that her friend doesn't really never want to play with her again because she (by Phoebe's own admission ) is annoying, and that it's ok because she may not know how much money to take for Children in Need day but I do. It doesn't matter if she never manages to zip up her coat herself and she will know the third line of that Christmas song by the time it's really necessary.

No-one wants to see their child sobbing and clinging to their knees, or refusing to the do the things they have always loved. Poor little thing.

But equally I'm guessing not many people would take kindly to being shouted at in the face for offering to help open a Capri-Sun or for daring to suggest we ought to collectively tidy up. And I know Tilly's singing can be a little off key but she really doesn't deserve quite such damning criticism (delivered in a scream) every time she breaks into song.

So what to do? I imagine the answer lies with routine, early nights, cuddles, distraction, a chat with school and the passage of time. Or a padded room and some ear defenders...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Domestic Bliss

You may have got the gist by now that I'm not the world's best housewife. I don't think anyone, especially my other half, has been surprised that my new found time has not brought with it a higher level of order.

It was yesterday when I realised I had plumbed new depths. I'd done my usual knee jerk reaction when I opened an email from White Stuff to tell me about their latest sale and treated myself to a couple of tops. Well I have no clothes to speak of at the moment so why not?

Of course I realised afterwards that I don't have a limited wardrobe problem. What I have is a boundless ironing problem.

It was evidenced when I walked into my bedroom, turned a bit too quickly and knocked approximately 2 feet of creased clothing all over the floor. (Nope I've never seen clothing described in terms of height before either.) It was a pleasant surprise. I'd forgotten I even owned some of it.

Now for clarity I don't iron anything unless it looks truly awful. It's amazing how few creases you can see if you tuck your children's tops into their skirts and button a cardigan over the top.

Of course there are some items that I just can't cover up with knitwear. Foolish beautiful items that I bought in a fit of peak, or probably in a sale. The turnaround time of these more labour intensive clothing items is so long that if I wear one people say "I like your top, have you been shopping?" "No" I reply "I just did my six monthly ironing yesterday whilst watching Ghost."

After that things look up for about six weeks while I wear something different every day and I feel just a little bit grown up. Then the inevitable happens and I go back to the T-shirt, jumper and jeans combo until I can be bothered to wrestle with the ironing board again.

I am eternally thankful that Paul a) works for himself and b) does so in the type of industry where geek scruffy is always acceptable. It's a good job too since currently every shirt he owns is in the ironing pile. Or should I say lying on the floor where I haven't quite got round to picking it up yet. And he is even less likely to feel the need to iron than I am.

So has the ironing made it to the top of my to do list yet?

No. I hate it. It's lower down even than the filing. And a darned sight further down than blogging...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Moonko, The Aviary and more!

One of the things I have realised since selling Barefoot Books on markets is just what I was missing out on before.

I mean I still love a bit of John Lewis every now and again but I had no clue about the originality and personality that is so much more available from designers and artists. I didn't understand the time and effort involved in creating handmade beautiful things nor did I give it any time or credit. In the past even did all my Christmas and birthday gift shopping in Meadowhall (shudder).

Of course it also wasn't so easy to find five years ago. Yes there were markets but very few farmer's markets with diversity and quality available today. And finding independent departments stores was extremely tricky. Plus of course the free marketing social media provides allows individuals to promote themselves way better than ever before.

But the thing is there is more to it than that. I don't go randomly "liking" pages and shopping through Facebook. There is always a reason why I've ended up there. And that for me is people.

I meet lovely people when I'm book selling. Sometimes I get the joy of standing all day next to someone really chatty and interesting who is selling something amazing. Which is exactly what happened a year ago when I met Deborah from Moonko.

Debbie was selling her own beautiful prints as well as prints from fantastic original artists including Corinna Rothwell. Nowhere else would I have been able to get a print that so perfectly sums up one of my oldest friends' love of cheese.

Just that stall position on one pretty quiet craft fair meant I went on to discover the Nicholl's Building in all it's eclectic glory as well as Faunagraphic, Sid Fletcher, Brendan Tyree, Katie Soze and The Aviary.

So it's about originality, beauty, friendly people and connections. But better than all that is that buying from independents also often means above and beyond.

I fell in love with a butterfly antique lens pendant made by The Aviary and was given it as a gift for my birthday. It came beautifully packaged but it turns out that it had not been fired at the right temperature and the image was detaching from the lens.

I don't like complaining (unless it's the council or some large corporate faceless place obviously) but I asked for it to be changed through Facebook. Victoria couldn't have been lovelier and it was exchanged for a new one which arrived with butterfly confetti and a beautiful house sparrow keyring to make up for the trouble. The whole thing made me smile and that, coupled with the fact that everyone comments on how lovely it is when I wear it, has made this one of the most memorable gifts this year. And of course has led me to share my positive experience with the world which is exactly what is supposed to happen and hopefully will go to help promote The Aviary further. Another win win.

So this year I'll be trying again to shop independent as much as possible.

Of course sometimes it just doesn't work as well and I have to cross over to the darker side. It's nearly impossible to find the kind of incomprehensible books my brother reads on anything other than Amazon. And if one of my favourite boys wants a specific branded suitcase to keep his finger skateboards in then who am I to argue.

But for many of the rest of my loved ones I'll be shopping the stalls next to and opposite me at my upcoming fairs. I'd be daft not to.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Litter Bin continued

I received this today in response to my email/blog entry dated 1st October. I know you will have been waiting for it with baited breath as was I:

"Dear Ms Hilton
Thank you for your email dated 01 October 2012.
Your request for the litter bin to be placed on Abbeydale Road at the end of Bannerdale Road has been passed to our private sector contractor Amey for consideration.
During the first 2 to 3 years of the contract of the Highways PFI program, Our private sector contactor Amey will be providing 1000 additional litter bins. they will be discussing the location of these new litter bins with each Community Assembly area.
In future if you believe you have identified a location where the provision of an additional litter bin would be beneficial then you can suggest this location via our Online forms.
Kind regards
Customer Services
Tel: 0114 273 4567

Reply from me -  well just now actually:

"Dear new council contractor Streets Ahead

Thank you so much for your response which essentially says that my request for a litter bin near House School and a bus stop  is now on a list.

Imagine my delight at this news. I thought I was already on a list for bin consideration and now I must be on another one. This is terrific. Double the chances for success! 

You also mention the community assembly. Fortunately I already follow their social media activity so I will put my request through them too to triple the bin likelihood.

I am also thrilled to hear that there is now a specific online bin location request form. I shall bookmark this immediately. But I will miss our chatty email bin related dialogue.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Hilton

P.S. Any news from Nick yet?

Friday, 5 October 2012


This week the school has been running something unusual - the chance to go in for the first twenty minutes of class in year two and sit in on their phonics session.

I should point out at this point that my husband's company makes E-Learning and in particular made the Big Cat Phonics package for Collins. This is THE ONLY reason I had any clue what phonics was when Tilly first started school. Obviously "they didn't teach it like that in my day" so even some letter sounds I found baffling. Isn't it "n" for nest rather than a nasal grunting sound? Apparently not.

Then in reception they did an assembly where the kids demonstrated the first level of phonics and some fairly crackers actions that seemingly go with the sounds. They gave us a list of them which I glanced at, thought I ought to learn, then forgot about entirely.

In the meantime Tilly learnt to read very quickly and it's hard to tell whether turning her head from side to side while making the "t" sound had any part in her progress. And I suppose it doesn't actually matter - it's the end result that counts.

Watching the year two lesson was fascinating though. It's weird to think that you have literally no idea what a lesson looks like. No idea how their school day begins.

But it wasn't so much what they were being taught that fascinated me of course - I'm much more interested in people really.

I liked the fact that the children read the graphemes  aloud in unison from the screen (ignore the fact that I have no clue what a grapheme is). But I liked even better the fact that at the end of the slide show they all chanted "Slide show is over. Click to exit." It's clearly something a bright wag mentioned several weeks ago and now they do it as a matter of routine.

It was also hilarious, and I suppose a little unsettling, to watch many of the kids blatantly copying each other as they wrote words on their whiteboard. When asked to write a word that began with the sound "z" the word "ziply" appeared on more than one board. And despite poor Xander's protests that his name actually starts with an "X" once the idea was circulated the kids all wrote it down anyway. Kids will be kids I guess.

The whole thing has left me wondering though, does it matter that I couldn't actually have read the graphemes in unison like they did? Obviously I read words not sounds and the teachers teach it broken down so do I need to know? Does it matter that I have no idea what a phoneme or a grapheme is? I hope not because I'm going to be too busy learning how to do long multiplication and division. They don't tell you any of this when you sign up to be a parent.  I wonder if Paul can make me an e-learning package about that...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Not such a yummy mummy

Never let it be said that I only write about triviality. This one is about hair cuts.

With new found time for myself things are getting a bit weird. Yesterday I went to the gym. Yes I've now rejoined the first one I joined 10 years ago. I clearly like to share my support around for the Sheffield fitness industry.

And today I went to the hairdressers. Yes I know, mind blowing isn't it? But all of a sudden I can fit these things in and have no excuses for looking unkempt, apart, of course from my innate scruffiness.

I stumbled across this particular hairdressers a couple of months ago when I had, as usual, not left myself enough time to book an appointment and was beginning to look like Jon Bon Jovi in his worst hair period. This was the time after the hair plucking incident.

Anyway I've been there twice now (not least because I had a discount voucher) so I feel I can give them a proper review. Although I daren't name them of course because then they will know how much of a fraud I truly am.

It's the sort of place where you feel you should have had your hair done before visiting. There's all mod cons, real coffee and beautiful staff. They send you text reminders before your appointment and there is an air of self tan about the place, but in a  'with just a little effort you too could look like us' sort of a way. Which of course would be wholly untrue in my case.

I always feel like I'm a visitor looking in on how other people live. Other people who take proper care of their appearance and pluck their eyebrows more than once every 36 years.

Anyway as a customer you sit somewhere plush waiting to be collected and then the consultation begins. Now I have a background in HR and do like a bit of consultation. But usually I hope to have a vague inkling about what I'm being consulted about. Or at least that I am invested in the conversation to some extent and know roughly what to say. When presented with the subject of hair care it all goes a bit wrong.

Firstly there's the question of what my opinion is regarding hair styles, lengths, and type of cuts. I'm pretty sure choppy isn't as violent as it sounds. I bumbled through this today as usual trng to sound like I had an opinion at all while actually letting the hairdresser decide what to do.

The real trouble always begins when I get asked about my hair care routine. What products do I use before, during and after styling my hair? What's more how do I feel about them?

This is the point where I start to lie. I'm not proud of myself but it is either that or feel woefully inadequate. So yes I know what serum is, I don't just use whatever shampoo is on BOGOF at Tescos and I regularly use wax and a host of other things I can only occasionally remember exist.

I nearly let myself down today by asking how I could ensure my beautifully straightened hair could stay that way once I left the house. She tried not to look too patronising when she mentioned the difficult to grasp concept of hairspray.

The real pinnacle is when she asks me how I dry my hair. The real answer is four days out of seven I don't bother and the other three I blast it with a dodgy hair dryer while simultaneously making packed lunches and plaiting hair. Fortunately her questions were all closed ones so I came out relatively unscathed. "Do you use a flat brush like this to dry your hair?" "Yes of course I do." "Do I roll it over the bristles like this?" "Absolutely.

Before I left the salon I got a bit over enthusiastic and booked highlights for my next appointment as a pre-Christmas treat. It was only when the price of £82 flashed up on screen that I realised my rookie hair related error.

Fortunately they have a very efficient receptionist and computer system which will enable me to cancel that one...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Letter to the Council

To Whom This May Concern

I requested a litter bin at the Abbeydale Road end of Bannerdale Road back in April as you can see by my email below.

I received various responses to my letter including that my letter was on a list to be read, then on a list to be thought about and more recently that I am now on a specific bin waiting list. 

The last email I received explained that the priority criteria for getting a new bin includes whether the site is near a school (yep) and whether it is near a bus stop (yep, it is near one of those too). You can imagine how boosted I felt when the odds seemed so much in my favour. I celebrated my near win in all the usual ways like updating my status on Facebook and telling my mum. 

But sadly now things seem to have come to a standstill on the bin front and I'm feeling litter related angst.

I'm not naive. I imagine that now we are on the final list further bin related nagging will achieve very little.  But when you hit 36 years old complaining to the council is an inevitability so, sorry, but I was compelled to write another email.

I have gone one further this time and attached a photo I took today after school drop off. Unfortunately I didn't have a child with me at the time to look forlorn in the shot but I think you get the picture. 

I understand that the council has no money. I feel the council's pain. I don't have any either. If I did I would buy a bin myself.

I look forward to hearing from you in the hope that we have at least inched up the list a little, or that a surprise S7 bin fund has been discovered. Or even better that Nick Clegg or some wealthy Sheffield business man has decided to fund our bin personally. You never know your luck.

Yours sincerely
Katie Hilton

Monday, 24 September 2012

The best kind of treasure hunt

As you know I've waxed lyrical about Endcliffe Playgroup many times before. They were instrumental in preschool fun and chaos as well as helping my daughters to grow up enough to move on. Despite school starting I'm still on the committee and this weekend it was our treasure hunt in the Botanical Gardens.

It was the usual simple strokes of genius that little ones love - rushing about following picture clues, chasing pigeons and terrorising squirrels. They collected stuff of course like feathers and sticks and our lovely treasurer ignored the cries of her 7 year old ("you look ridiculous mum") and dressed up as a pirate. Just a week too late for International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Phoebe loved seeing her friends again, as did I. And the sun even shone.

It made me think once again about why all this stuff is important. This group let me have time off to myself each week. But it also allowed me to be involved in the childcare of my preschoolers. Whether it be as an extra pair of painting hands on playgroup days, raising money for the group or messing about at spin off sports days in the park.

It has a sense of community and friendship for children and adults alike. Phoebe has several little friends she loves to see outside school now, and some of my closest friends were met through playgroup. (They are wonderful even if they are terrible at pub quiz questions).

The structure and routine for my two to four year olds was invaluable to me (and the kids) and at my hardest moments the time away from the girls playgroup gave me for a few hours a week was a godsend. Plus it didn't cost the earth.

So if you are a Mum or Dad who needs a little time and space to themselves during the week but doesn't want to commit to whole days in nursery, I urge you to think about Endcliffe Playgroup in Sheffield. The Playgroup would love some new 2-4 year olds to join the lovely children who go every week, and I know there are parents out there for whom this would absolutely fit.

This isn't about signing up, this is about joining in!

Monday, 10 September 2012

My little girl is growing up

This post is going to read as pretty dramatic I suspect. Most people don't quite understand how emotional I get about things. I am highly strung. Paul says it's that everything matters to me.Which could be described as "easily stressed and soppy" but at least it's never a dull moment.

I used to cry regularly. I don't cry so much anymore. Probably because my life is in general much happier. But it does occasionally happen. And when it does I go fro broke and do it in front of the head teacher usually. Just to make me look like a complete numpty.

So my reputation as dramatic sop is due to be reinforced in the morning because my youngest daughter starts school tomorrow. It's the first time I'm felt so very sad in a long time.

I can understand if people think I'm being dramatic. Yes it's sad but come off it, she's four now and growing up, and think of all that spare time I'll have. I can finally lose a stone and write a novel. Or at the very least set myself some unachievable targets and clean the cooker.

But it goes without saying really that I'm going to miss her. We have fun and she hugs and kisses me all the time. It will never be quite the same again. She is my youngest and final child (I couldn't go through that again) and therefore my days of being a stay at home mum are numbered. God help us if my title changes to "Housewife". I'll be dismissed for poor performance.

I have never been embarrassed that I chose to stay at home with the girls, and feel proud that I have done it. It has been hard at times and more recently easy and downright fun. I wouldn't have missed a moment of it. There were times when I didn't believe people when they told me how fast the time until school goes by, but wow does it zoom.

So here we are. I just hope I can get out of the room tomorrow before I start turning red and blotchy. It won't help either of us (or the teacher, other pupils and parents) if I start blubbing in the book corner. Sunglasses aren't an option inside in rainy September so my only option is a quick hug, kiss and a fast exit. Maybe this is the time to begin my running regime.

So Phoebs, maybe one day you'll read this. Know that I've loved staying home with you and you're wonderful. Tomorrow is a new chapter for both of us. I imagine I'll embarrass myself on the way out, but that's nothing compared to how embarrassing I'll be for you in the years to come.

I love you.

Love Mum.

P.S. Pass me the tissues and no you cannot have a go on the Ipad.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


I'll be honest and admit that I wasn't entirely easy with the idea of looking after other people's children initially. Largely in case I didn't like them. Let's face it some children are horrible. Or in case they didn't like me and spent the time screaming and throwing stuff. Or worst of all that my kids wouldn't like them or they wouldn't like my kids. Because how do you handle that? I mean I'm allowed to not like my children sometimes but other people aren't (see irony of my first point).

The desire to run screaming from other people's kids conflicts with the large part of my personality that desperately wants to help people out. This is highly fortunate as it forced me out of my comfort zone  and, do you know what? It really isn't that difficult. Although to be fair I've probably only been exposed to pretty lovely kids. And nowadays it's even easier because after school they take themselves off to play and barely need me.

Obviously there is the mess to contend with but I'm not exactly a neat freak (you're kidding right?) so I make do with picking up the camouflage blanket off the lawn and occasionally emptying out bottles of perfume onto the flower beds. The rest I mostly step over.

School started back on Tuesday and things are going pretty well already. I think this afternoon shows clearly how far I've come:

Tilly: "Mum can we have some flour? We want to do an experiment"

Me: "Yes, provided you are playing with it outside"


Tilly: "Can we now have some plastic bottles and some water?

Mum: "Erm yes certainly (raids recycling).

"Mum can we have some pizza dough?


"Ok what about some butter and yeast?"


Ten minutes later

"Mum can we have a cheese grater?"


So there you have it. I feel like I'm getting the hang of this...

Friday, 31 August 2012

The pros and cons of staying in a yurt

There's is nothing like a new experience so this year, instead of an idyllic week's camping the sunshine in Robins Hoods Bay, we opted for staying in a yurt in the pouring rain in Pembrokeshire. If you've never stayed in a yurt this entry might be a useful guide. Or maybe not. Anyway I've decided to do some pros and cons of yurt because, well, the world needs to know frankly.

1. Yurts look really beautiful from the inside. Wooden balcony and fire pit overlooking the view, carved wood, wood burning stove and logs, and in our case two gorgeous leather sofa beds. Lovely.

Of course once you get the beds out and manoeuvre them into the only configuration possible in the limited space you won't turn them back into sofa beds for a full week as it's just too damn hard. So then it looks less beautiful and more like, well, a squat.

2. It's dry and warm in a yurt in the rain. And you don't have to worry about loosening guy ropes and leaking seams. The sound of rain on the roof while you are snuggled up inside warm and dry is truly lovely.

But in the rain it pretty much doesn't matter what camping residence you choose you are going to be going to bed at the same time as the kids. Or if you're lucky you could be swigging warm wine from a mug whilst trying to read the guidebook's short section on "wet weather destinations" by the light of an inadequate torch before you hit the sack a whole half hour after they drop off. I've never felt so relaxed.

3. If you worry about bugs let's just say a yurt wouldn't be your best option. I can still feel the inch long beetle inside my shoe as I type this 5 weeks later.

4. Equally if you worry about rodents you might want to give a yurt a miss. We shared a packet of honey roasted peanuts with what I'm hoping was a very small cute sweet toothed fieldmouse. Of course it could have been a rat.

5. Our yurt had a stand up hob and sink. Really this is a good benefit. I could cook bacon sandwiches inside while other more hardy campers were having barbeques under umbrellas.

But because of the size of a yurt it only came with one table and four chairs. The table was permanently positioned on the balcony, which was frankly optimistic in Wales. The chairs were movable, of course. But just as inevitably we forgot to move them out of the rain and back inside the yurt on more than one occasion. The thought of sodden bottoms made breakfast in bed the only option. I didn't appreciate the kids getting porridge on my pillow.

6. All good points and minor amusements aside there is one factor we still can't ignore. Better than a tent or not, a yurt still doesn't have a toilet. So maybe not getting to drink much wine with my husband was actually a good thing. At least it meant I spent less time trudging across the field in the dark and rain to have a wee watched by a swallow. Ah the countryside.

But don't let me put you off...

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Moving On

This is going to be a tricky week for me. My youngest daughter is moving on and I have to try and not burst into tears whenever someone says the "g" word. For the record I am quite possibly the world's biggest sop, especially when it comes to the children, and holding back the tears is not exactly something I excel at. Usually in public. Maybe that's why I keep being followed by life coaches and hypnotists on Twitter.

Anyway back in 2008 I wrote an article for Link Magazine after my eldest daughter started going to Endcliffe Playgroup. It's a gem of a little setting where I discovered I could leave her for a few hours a week to gain a bit of independence while I focused on my baby and had a bit of a break. I wish I could find the article, but I know that essentially I wrote about her beginning to grow up and me having to get used to the idea. Now of course I understand that it was the first step in a very long process of letting go that seems to go along with having children.

I know, I know. It's a cliche to say "how time flies" but now it seems to be 2012 and I really have no clue where on earth the time went.  When Tilly was little people said the time from birth until they start school is gone in a moment. There have been many times when I found that extremely hard to believe (particularly when they wouldn't sleep, wouldn't eat, threw their faces to the floor in full scale tantrum in car parks that kind of thing). But regardless of all that it's here. The last week of my youngest being a preschooler.

I know now that her starting school in September will be hellish for me. Hopefully not so for her. And hopefully I'll hold it together until I get out of the classroom. But before we reach the next bit of letting go we have to get through this week.

And this week includes me and Phoebe saying goodbye to the very playgroup that helped me out in 2008. She goes to another setting too, and don't get me wrong it's been lovely, but Endcliffe is different. They are a charity and do what they do because they love it, it's as simple as that. They are small and welcoming and have made it possible for me to actually be a part of her preschool learning as a mum, occasional helper and even committee member, whilst still giving her and me some time to ourselves and independence.

I know the staff extremely well and I trust them. I have watched them help so many children with differing needs, and have enjoyed being there as a customer and now as a friend. Phoebe will undoubtedly miss playgroup, and particularly the close friends she has made there. But of course it's time to open the doors for some more little ones and for Phoebe to go through some bigger ones (usually manned by the Headteacher).

I'll give the staff cards and gifts to say thank you, and donate something too for the new children to have fun with. But my final gesture is to ask you to help me spread the word about this place.

You can find playgroup in Endcliffe Methodist Church Hall on Ecclesall Road on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 9-11.30. It costs £7.25 a session, runs in term time, takes vouchers and all that jazz. And we have a regular toddler group on a Friday morning too from 9.15.

Please email to arrange a free visit or call Gina on 0114 2670630. Or try Facebook or Twitter or all those usual means of contact.

So if you live in Sheffield and have a little one who is aged two to four (or turning 2 soon) try it out for free in September. If you know someone who is talking about their little one taking a step to independence please tell them about us. If you don't know anyone with kids heck just send this blog out into the ether anyway what harm can it do?

Thank you. Now I'm going to try not to think about change too much for a minute or two, and go and eat biscuits instead.

Friday, 6 July 2012


Well it's been a while. To be honest I got a bit distracted by something else I've been doing (I've been writing for this), but I'm coming to terms with multiple blog personas so I'm back.

And with what more worthy a topic than...eyebrows. Well you can't just come back with a big life changing topic after several months off can you?

So I had my eyebrows tweezed this morning. To some of you this is perhaps not noteworthy. Maybe you have tweezed/waxed your eyebrows for years. Maybe you don't care about the perfect arch and have never even considered it. Maybe you are a man and don't even know what I'm on about. Or maybe like me you have secretly wondered if you did it whether it would turn you into a siren.

Well I'm here to report that having perfect eyebrows does not make you look slimmer. I know it was an unlikely outcome but you can but hope.

So how did I make the momentous leap? I was trying to have a haircut which I hadn't remembered to book. They couldn't fit me in at the hairdressers so I wandered hopelessly down Abbeydale Road in the pouring rain and randomly decided to take the leap. I know, why eyebrows? Why not a leg wax, a new shade of paint or a tattoo? (Abbeydale Road has a lot to offer on a rainy Friday morning you know). Well they didn't have much time, I have very little cash and I'm a wimp.

I suggested the use of wax. The beautician sucked air through her teeth. Well probably not but it's a lovely image isn't it? Anyway she suggested tweezers. I don't need to go into much detail sufficed to say she pulled out lots of hairs that were frankly invisible to the human eye. The first eye didn't hurt much, the second one was agony. Again I'm exaggerating for effect but it's creative licence.

Afterwards she showed me the results. And then put some make up on to cover up the red bit of skin that "had undergone trauma". I hope it doesn't need counselling.

I came home and after several hours asked the girls if my eyebrows looked different. They looked at me for a prolonged period then said "no". I don't blame them. I can't see any difference either. It was a pretty pointless exercise being ginger and all.

I will be back to the salon. Because the beautician was actually lovely and I deserve a treat every now and again. But maybe next time it'll be something with a more noticeable outcome, or at the very least less pain. And I still need a flipping haircut...

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Growing Up

My six year old has, in no uncertain terms, asserted that she now doesn't like kisses. Maybe it's been happening gradually over time but it feels like turning six did this to her. Kiss her, however lightly, and she wipes it off with the back of her hand or worse still her sleeve. Like I'm some kind of aged lipstick covered relative.

I have tried explaining that I won't rush at her with a slobbery mouth. I've tried getting Phoebe to chase her around the kitchen. But to no avail. She no longer wishes to be kissed.

Thinking about this makes me want to cry. And when I think of the phase she went through when everything had to be kissed better I feel so stupid. I know there were times when I sighed when she screamed at the slightest injury and offered her injured bit to be kissed. Why oh why did I moan?

Ridiculous isn't it? Growing up is a good thing. Honestly it is.

Of course I still have my Phoebe who loves kissing me all the time full on the mouth. But she's bound to change. Maybe I have only two more years of being able to kiss my children without complaint. It doesn't bear thinking about.

Thank goodness Tilly has confirmed that she still likes hugs. She quite often throws herself at me for a hug straight after dinner when I'm trying to drink a cup of tea and up until recently I haven't always been welcoming. I sometimes favour personal space over minor burns.

But this is a message to all mums and dads with children younger than mine. I urge you. Put the tea down. And kiss it all better. While you are still allowed.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Norton Farmers Market

Oh my word it was cold today. I couldn't feel my toes. I sent Paul to the car to find warmer clothes for me and he came back with:

a) a hat - the dubious green one that makes me look like a convict but at least it kept my ears warm, and
b) one fingerless glove with an unravelled thumb.

I donned the cold weather equipment and put a Folkmanis Kangaroo puppet on my other hand. I tried the lion but it didn't offer as much warmth.

It is a lovely market but was a slow day today. Maybe because of the cold. I did seem to sell several copies of bilingual books. Maybe the cold weather had everyone dreaming of Spain and the South of France.

The girls had fun with Paul and everything was weirdly relaxed. They went to Graves Park, spent quite a long time playing in the cafe to keep warm, and generally larked about. The larking did end up with Tilly getting her hair caught in my gazebo zip (which I wouldn't have thought possible) but even that was more comical than painful. I gave them both £2 to spend at one point and they came back with a jar of sweets to share between them (what, cooperation?) and a plant for me. I'm not sure quite what was going on.

After a large pasta bolognese, rhubarb crumble (with Rhubarb from the market of course) and two cups of tea I've finally thawed out. I'm doing Totley farmer's market tomorrow and I'll be taking ski clothing.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Birthday Girl

I thought it might be helpful for some future party planning parents if I blogged Tilly's 6th party. She's a bit into science (and maths, and well pretty much everything that's a bit hard for me to understand) so was very happy with the idea of a science party. I looked into getting a professional party company to do it but the price was somewhat prohibitive. Paul and I are muchmore reasonable.

I should also say we had lots of help. One friend is an artist and painted a sign for Tilly to go outside the cafe. Some of my lovely mum friends stayed to help out with the activities and the kids and my best friend made a fabulous cake. Plus the venue belonged to my lovely friend and she even arranged a photographer who took photos throughout the whole party. It truly was a collaborative and smiley event.

We themed the party loosely around the senses and Paul drew a representation of each on a large piece of paper. I made some less convincing pictures of each activity and throughout the party the girls attached the pictures to the sense they thought they used most. I particularly loved the fact that they put their hands up. I don't offer command such respect.

As everyone arrived we started by doing scratch space decorations, and colouring in spinners. We then tried to spin them for the longest time as we counted together.

In the other room we'd laid out bubble wrap and got the kids to try and cross it without popping any bubbles, then by popping as many as possible. After that we let them loose popping mad, including a game of musical popping bumps. The satisfaction of popping bubbles needed to be enough to cover up the fact that I forgot to choose a winner. They didn't seem to mind.

Then we got into two teams and tried to make the tallest tower out of cocktail sticks and marshmallows and then cheesy puffs. I noticed Tilly chose to be in Paul's team which was very sensible if she had any hope of building anything. His were marginally better than mine but they were both essentially hopeless - but lots of fun. They liked messing about with them making kebabs and eating a few afterwards. Again I said they could eat two, and that's how many they ate. I'm either terrifying or the girls were just extremely well behaved.

There was a smelling game where I'd brought pots of smelly things for them guess including coffee, curry and oranges. Tilly's favourite game was magnified pictures of things (taken using Paul's microscope). These included Lego, toothbrush bristles, scissors, playmobil etc. They guessed Hello Kitty only having seen a tiny section of pink bow, so not all that science focused then.

The girls used straws to move smarties about via suction, and then ate them so that was popular. Phoebe couldn't do it bless her - but this was the only thing she struggled with and was two years younger than everyone else so did really well. And she liked the extra "make up for it" smarties...

My favourite "experiment" was balloon rockets. Each child had a long balloon blown up, and held closed with a bagfastener, while we attached a short straw onto the top with sellotape. We then threaded the straw into a long piece of string stretched across the room and raced two at a time.

We also had pass the parcel with book prizes (this time I had a pack of Cat in the Hat reading books from Book People) split up into each layer. I don't often put sweets in Pass the Parcel. I'm probably a big disappointment as a mother.

The girls also decorated canvas bags to take their things home in. And they did some barmy balloon larking about.

Harland Cafe catered with lovely sandwiches, chips, brownies, ice cream and juice and my best friend made the cake and decorated it with the solar system. This was a complete surprise for Tilly and she loved it.

We ended up missing out several things including watching "Wallace and Gromit's Cracking Contraptions" tornado tube (this joins two plastic bottled together and you can create a tornado inside - we've since done this at home and it's very popular) and exploding coke (we couldn't get hold of mentos and ran out of time anyway).

Finally we had some instant snow which was measured out in individual plastic cups. The girls had a measured amount of water to pour in and watched the powder turn into snow. That got at least a few "wow"s so must have been popular.

Tilly said it "was the best party ever". I'm sure every birthday girl and boy says that but I'm accepting the review. And it didn't cost me upwards of £180...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Books, books, books

We reached the point at home where the books my Dad put away from my childhood can finally be unearthed. My eldest is nearly six and relishes the opportunity to choose the next book from the drawer of those books, which up until now have been too old for her.

The whole thing is fascinating. Certain books which I loved as a child are in honesty not much fun to read. I adored Milly Molly Mandy growing up, reinforced by my Dad using it as an affectionate term for me probably. I remember loving the picture in the front of the whole family lined up and labelled beneath, and the map of the village. But whole chapters revolve around her going to shop and buying things for members of her family. Not exactly scintillating stuff.

On the other hand I loved Worst Witch by Jill Murphy and now my girls are both very enthusiastic about her. And I myself laughed out loud at points. It's probably not as gripping as I thought it was going to be but that's probably something to do with my age.

Then there are the books with bits which frankly are a bit inappropriate. When I got to the chapter in “Lotta” called “the one in which Lotta nearly swears” I braced myself. It was a bit odd because the swear word was “damn” which is fairly mild in today's climate I suppose, but it still made me wince reading it to Tilly as she said it on every page. I wouldn't want them shouting it in the playground. The children were left at home alone a lot in the story which Tilly found a bit confusing and was somewhat tricky to explain. Probably the trickiest part though was when she found a pair of scissors and cut up her new jumper, then moved out to live in the next door neighbours barn. And that was just tricky because I didn't want the girls to get any ideas...

The House That Sailed Away by Pat Hutchins went well. Apart from the fact that the mother is depicted as a dense silly woman and the mother in law is a raging alcoholic. Oh and the bit about cannibals was interesting.

The best one so far though has to be Issi Noho. It's a story about a Chinese magic panda. If even includes a maths puzzle every time he uses magic so was right up Tilly's street. Ironically I don't remember reading it as a child but I must have.

And next she's picked the Borrowers. All four books in one which will take months to read probably but she's excited so I'll work out some answers for “can we just have another chapter mummy?” and get started. Just like my Dad did for me when I was little.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

New start...again

Well this week I've joined Slimming World with my friend. We did Weightwatchers together successfully about ten years ago but needed a change and have jumped in with both trainer clad feet.

So we did what you do in these circumstances and went to a meeting. It felt a little bit like we were in a sitcom. After the super speedy explanation of the diet which left me feeling more than a little confused we got weighed then settled down for the meeting itself. During which there was a raffle to win a very small basket of fruit and what looked like a bottle of balsamic vinegar and some bovril.

Quite a lot of people stayed for the meeting which was a surprise since the leader launched straight into questioning an unfortunate lady as to why she had put a pound on this week. Clearly most of those who had gained weight had made a swift exit. Admitting dieting no nos required nerves of steel. I was extremely impressed by the lady who ate the Easter egg destined for her niece and was only surprised that she didn't finish her comment with "so stick that in your pipe and smoke it". Maybe fear of ridicule is a motivator. I suspect we'll stay on the weeks we lose loads of weight and leg it at all other times.

Anyway it's day two and I don't really know what I'm doing, but I haven't had a biscuit or a chunk of cheese in over 48 hours so something must be going right. And I've been to the gym twice, although my legs are hurting and I feel decidedly wobbly when I stand up.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

One of those weekends

It was one of those weekends.

On Saturday we were due to see Paddington at Rotherham Civic Theatre. I has already lost the tickets for this event once in the extension detritus, but had grovelled and been sent replacements (listen up Sheffield Theatres). Then we went to B&Q to buy paint and to fight over lampshades with the kids. At some point during DIY hell the replacement tickets must have fallen out of my pocket. I thought for several awful minutes that I'd lost them forever. I think Phoebe would have lynched me. Paul retraced our steps around the shop and found them.

The show was an amateur musical which included a man in a bear costume (which looked a lot like the one my cousin wore to our wedding). Musicals aren't exactly Paul's cup of tea at the best of times but Phoebe's face was such a picture it was all fine. Frankly it's a good job B&Q don't sweep up too often.

On Sunday Paul went to work again and I took the girls to the Family in Art exhibition at the Millenium Galleries which we all loved. I must go back when I don't have to go round at break neck speed (three year olds aren't brilliant at reading the signs and number mad Tilly just kept reading the dates the pictures were painting and working out how old the artist was when they died). There were a couple of naked pictures that took a bit of explaining/distraction but generally brilliant.

Then we went over and had lunch at my friend's house. Lovely.

Until we left.

I opened the boot to put in the borrowed Lean Mean Grilling Machine and Slow Cooker (that were meant to stop me going insane during the following cooker free week) and the newly purchased pot of pink paint fell out and hit the floor of a listed building private car park. Nicky and I set about scraping the paint up with a child's bucket, spade and shoe covers accidentally brought home from the swimming pool. Numerous hasty trips back and forth with a bucket (adult sized this time thankfully) and watering can and a lot of sweeping effort on Craig's part followed. Phoebe kept saying "There's fairy dust all over the floor" and "what about my bedroom". I was just grateful it was emulsion frankly.

Before we left Tilly tripped over a stick (approximately three inches long). All in all it was like some kind of slapstick comedy.

Anyway the weekend is over as is half term and things have settled back to normality. A microwaved rice, using friend's washing machine, dust on the sofa sort of normality anyway. Roll on next week.

Friday, 17 February 2012


It's taken them a week to stop falling out...just before going back to school as usual. They are upstairs playing in a den I made them. I added an extra bit on the back which made it even "cooler" as now it has a "conservatory". That's middle class playing if ever I've heard it.

Their relationship is pretty normal I think. They love each other to pieces, get into bed together when they can't sleep, hug each other, and have even made up a special gesture they do to each other which means "sisters". They also bicker, fight and drive each other, and me, crazy.

This morning we were discussing what they wanted to be when they get older. Tilly said "scientist" as always. Phoebe said "when I grow up I'm going to tell Tilly what to do". Ah the balance of power is always a tricky one.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Always the Same

Tumble Dryer whirring
Radiators groaning
Full warm tummies

Not leaping on Mummy this morning
Cooked plums for breakfast
Happy huggy children

Baking, hairdressing
Swimming, stories
Pudding that isn't always yoghurt

Talking and listening
Listening and talking
And a bit more talking too

Staying but a little while
House as if we live here
Wish it was nearer

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Food Glorious Food

I had high hopes for myself during the last bit of the extension. I was going to manage admirably and not winge. And what's more I was still going to manage to give my family healthy varied meals despite the lack of a kitchen. Yet again a bit optimistic.

Healthy varied cooking is not exactly happening. So far we've been eating a lot of rice. Since that's pretty much the only carb you can do in a microwave. I've semi-successfully managed jambalaya and Chinese salmon (both you will notice with rice). And I can heat up a mean tin of beans or soup. We've also tried a variety of ready meals and I can confirm what you might already suspect, that they are all vile.

But my mum had thoughtfully provided me with a slow cooker and I thought Sunday was the ideal opportunity to use it. I had all the ingredients and recipe for lamb stew. Of course as it came from the charity shop I didn't have any instructions, or total confidence in it's cooking ability but went into it with a positive outlook. This was going to be an easy way to ensure a healthy dinner for everyone when we'd had a day playing in snow and painting walls. Perfect.

It takes 8 hours to cook a stew in a slow cooker. Seriously. 8 hours. This meant I had to actually get up earlier than usual on a Sunday and start chopping vegetables before I'd had my first cup of tea. Not so easy so far then.

Then I had to find somewhere to plug it in. Not ideal when you have no kitchen and the dining room is in transition mode between it's old position downstairs and it's new temporary position in an upstairs bedroom. I plumped for the currently empty new bedroom and plugged it in on an extension cable. Brilliant, now we could forget about it.

Following the snow play we returned and Paul did some decorating. In the new bedroom. For the next few hours the stew was moved about a bit while he tried not to splatter it with paint. Apparently you can't look in it as it slows down the cooking (dear lord not any slower) so we just checked that the outside was getting warm and hoped it would be fine.

Maybe it would have been. But Paul was being tidy that day and at some point in the afternoon he did some hoovering. Uplugging the stew in the process. I discovered this some time later and plugged it back in hoping that an hour out of it's 8 hour cooking schedule would still leave it edible. At 5pm I put in the weird flour and fat thickening balls and turned it up. It congealed and looked unappetising. I checked a carrot. It was practically raw.

I cried.

We had pizza. Which Paul had to collect on foot in the snow because no-one would deliver.

Since then I have arranged for the girls to eat at lots of different houses. And bought some more baked beans. We just have to get to Friday. Then my mum can fix everything.

Friday, 3 February 2012

John Peel's Shed

Last night Paul, Stan and I went to see John Peel's Shed. Not his actual shed of course. I'm not sure how to describe it really. It isn't a play, more a monologue interspersed with some projector and LP action. I have never seen a more unassuming man than John Osborne.

The show is based loosely around the LPs that John won from John Peel's show many years ago, and I particularly enjoyed the reverie with which he carefully put the records back into their sleeves after they had been played on his record player. Much of the music he talked about discovering in his teens and twenties was similar to the discoveries I made myself.

But most of the piece was about his and the nation's love of radio. It had some laugh out loud moments but in general it was simply the kind of thing I enjoy. A dialogue about something that matters to me delivered in an unusual way. Plus he gave me hope. He had an idea and he achieved it. Maybe one day that will be the same for me.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


Mum took me to the doctors
I don't think she told me why
But she mentioned chocolate buttons
And Grandma's chicken pie

That's my favourite combination
So I did as I was told
And walked into the nurses room
And said “I'm four years old”

I quickly thought something was up
I couldn't see the food
I had to take my jumper off
I thought it rather rude

I sat on Mummy's knee and wondered
What would happen now
The nurse then said that “it might hurt”
She wasn't lying, “OW!”

That mean old nurse she stabbed me
Right there in my left arm
What's worse nobody stopped her
They told me to keep calm!

You wouldn't quite believe it
She did it once again
Then tried to cheer me up with
A free sticker and a pen!

It's a good job that my Mummy
Had chocolate in her purse
Or I'd have grabbed that flipping pen
And thrown it at the nurse

It wasn't enough chocolate
To take away the pain
My arms are sore, I have been duped,
We walked home in the rain

Since we got home things have improved
With pie, TV and cake
And some rather tasty medicine
That I'm supposed to take

But next time I won't trust them
And that's especially
If chocolate is mentioned
Or chicken pie for tea.


They are knocking walls down today. I just came in the front door and ran my finger along the top of one of the pictures in the hall. Presumably to see if the dust made is ruining the state of cleanliness in my house.

This is hilarious seeing as I haven't dusted that picture in about eight months

I'm hoping that my low cleaning standards will set me in good stead for living amongst the dirt for the next few weeks. I haven't exactly got far to fall on the dust front.

Disorganisation is pretty standard too in the Hilton house although Paul and I do seem to be spending most of our time in a state of complete confusion which is a bit different. This is in part due to the fact that I tried to have a system for our box packing and two days too early packed most of the kitchen into different labelled boxes and put them in the dining room:

Condiments (yes really)

You get the idea. Well you've got to have a system. The only trouble is most of the other related items were still in the kitchen. A cup of tea required items from at least three boxes and a drawer we aren't used to using in the dining room, the kettle, milk and bin in the kitchen and therefore a round walk of at least three miles. And it wasn't worth it. Tea made with brown sugar is, shall we say, interesting.

It's exciting though. But for some reason I felt a little sad last night. Maybe it's because we are changing the house we love and fear the changes will blur the memories. Or maybe it's concern that the bathroom might fall into the kitchen. Either way I'm going out to see a friend and drink coffee and try not to think about it.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Lantern Theatre

Paul and I went to see Criminy at the Lantern Theatre. It was an odd evening to say the least. The show started at 7.30 and only lasted 45 minutes. It was a silent comedy about a bank robbery. You see I said it was odd.

It was funny throughout - some of it very funny - although we couldn't help but think it's success at the Fringe might have been to do with a later post drinking start time. If I'd have been drunk it would have been hilarious. As it was I was driving and Paul was ill so we went straight home afterwards feeling a little bemused. Which was nothing compared to how the babysitter probably felt when came back after only an hour and a half.

The brilliant thing though is that we have discovered the Lantern Theatre. I can't believe we have never been before. It is a fantastic tiny theatre, a bit tatty around the edges but with bags of atmosphere. It made me smile just sitting there. Now I just need them to show more regular children's shows please.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Grumpyumpus

The Grumpyumpus is a curious beast,
She's not very cheerful to say the least,
She stomps and she growls and she throws things about,
If you get in her way she might start to shout.

She can be pretty scary, monstrous and cross,
Snarly and frightening, she's clearly the boss,
No-one would think that an hour ago,
She was calm and delightful from head down to toe.

At 5 o'clock she was seen reading a book,
Telling a story with an innocent look,
Tucking her dollies up into their cots,
Drawing a picture and joining the dots.

But at 6 o'clock there is a glimpse of a glower,
For then begins Grumpyumpus hour,
It's the time after dinner but well before bed,
When the Grumpyumpus lifts up her grumpyus head.

She will not take her clothes off or get in the bath,
Even her daddy cannot make her laugh,
She will not clean her teeth or undo her hair,
She yells when she can't find her favourite bear.

She doesn't want Daddy but Mummy's no better,
She wants chocolate biscuits but no-one will let her,
She fights over choosing a book before bed,
And nearly ends up with no story instead.

But once the book opens as well as the arms,
The Grumpyumpus visibly calms,
Her breathing it shallows, her head it now rests,
As the pirates they dig up their lost treasure chest,

And dreams of princesses fill up her head,
She finally says it is time now for bed,
The light is turned out and the door pulled to,
But Grumpyumpus has one last thing she must do.

"I need a hug now" she shouts at the end,
Finally that's something easy to mend,
There are cuddles and kisses, then turn out the light,
And Grumpyumpus closes her eyes for the night.

Sleep sweet Grumpyumpus 'til we meet once more,
Between dinner and bedtime when you stomp round the floor,
You are lovely and gorgeous, I'll remember that when,
We have to go through this tomorrow, again.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


So far this morning:

1. We didn't wake up until 7.45. So that's 45 minutes to get ready, feed everyone and make two lunches. Unsurprisingly I went to school with wet hair and a Hello Kitty clip in. Back to the normal state of affairs then.

2. I had difficulty getting the girls ready due to lack of clean school uniform. Tilly has gone to school in a purple jumper. But it's not a multicoloured stripey top and matching tights so I'm sure it's fine.

3. I had difficulty making lunches due to lack of ham, cheese, tomatoes - in fact anything remotely interesting to put in a lunch box. Jam sandwiches then.

4. Phoebe had a meltdown because Tilly "always gets to feed her dog at the table" and apparently she doesn't.

5. I ate half a slice of toast standing up.

6. Paul couldn't find his wallet.

7. We all got wet in the rain on the way to school. Who the hell designs boots that leak and charges £100 for them?

8. I returned home and immediately attempted to make my first a cup of tea of the day but forgot to put the tea bag in.

I wish I could go back to bed but I have to wash uniform, find Paul's wallet and restock the cupboards (that we'll only have for the next five days anyway) otherwise tomorrow will go the same way.

The day has to get better right?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Pete McKee's Pub Scrawl

I was going to post about this event yesterday. But I couldn't. Because the typing noise hurt my head. I was in a bad way to say the least, but having had the best night out in ages made it all worth it.

Pete McKee posted about "Pub Scrawl" on his blog before Christmas, saying that he was arranging a night with ten artists in ten pubs in Sheffield and that you could go on the tour by buying a ticket for £5. Since Christmas presents for men are a bit tricky, I jumped at the chance to buy tickets for me and Paul, and also some friends. In the end 8 of us has arranged to go along.

Before it happened I must say we were a bit confused. You can't stop people going into pubs so what was the ticket for? I knew we were getting a programme but I had no idea what else was lined up.

We had a minor hiccup when the info came out a week before the event because it started at 6pm. Thank goodness for Grandparents. Of course we also had to fit in eating something so we ate the fastest pizza known to man at 5pm. The waitress looked confused as we punched in pin codes while still gobbling pepperoni.

Anyway what followed was brilliant. It was well organised, and well worth being on the tour. We had about half an hour in each pub. Just enough time for a drink and a good look at the eclectic mix of art on show. It had been carefully selected to represent different media and we had a great start with Ian Anderson from The Designer's Republic and had an introduction from Pete Mckee before setting off.

Everyone's favourite of the evening was probably Warp films in the Washington (named the Warpington for the night). They recreated "This is England" with loads of the actors drinking, chatting and even pulling pints. There was even a nod to "Four Lions" with a bomb carrying crow on the wall.

Paul and I loved Tado in the Bowery with their cartoon representation of Sheffield and a Panda DJ to boot. Our little group of eight moved on from the Bath Hotel a bit quicker than we should have because it was packed. It was a shame because I liked the brief look I did get of what Lord Bunn had created. You can't beat faces on vegetables in my opinion.

There was loads more. I personally love Faunagraphic and have been banging on about one of her works for ages. It's a shame she couldn't be using a spray can - I would have loved to see her at work. Maybe next time a graffiti artist could have some boards outside somewhere.

We nearly got left behind in Bungalows and Bears. Mostly because we had found a table and got a bit too comfortable but we soon caught up and ended up in DaDa. The Zoe-tropes were a nice touch but I'm not that big on penis related art myself. The night ended with the Everly Pregnant Brothers and some standing on stools to get a good view.

We drank way too much. But I guess that was inevitable. It event was an innovative idea, well executed. That coupled with how wonderful it was for Paul and I to go out properly with good friends, old and new, I couldn't have asked for more. Buying tickets made it an event that we planned for so didn't pass up and having the wrist bands meant we could always get into a venue.

Just like Tramlines this made me proud to be from Sheffield. The talent here deserves to be shouted about, as do the pubs. But oh my word my head hurt afterwards.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Apparently my lack of pub quiz ability was held in my hair. Well either that or it was way easier last night than usual. I'm guessing the latter. We even managed to get the anagram - although that wasn't my contribution I hasten to add. Ok so 10 out of 20 is still a bit hopeless but it's a bit less disheartening.

I like Wednesdays. I go out with some good friends and have a laugh. But it fell on an odd day this week and reminded me of a time past.

I was thinking of a very good very old friend yesterday (I don't mean she's 102 just that I've known her forever). We used to go to a music pub quiz together an age ago. And we often actually won that. Although that was often nothing to do with me (I'm sensing a theme).

It was a time in my life that I remember so fondly. That was a time when I drank ale out of a pint glass and could remember stuff. We won quite often and collected the beer tokens with the idea of having a free proper night out with them. We collected them for so long that the landlord ran out of tokens and had to print more. We arranged to go out without the aid of a mobile phone and it was extremely rare that any of us failed to show up. We threw money away in a quiz machine.Every Monday with some of my oldest closest friends in the world I laughed, talked and sat in our favourite pub drinking while we did it.

So here is to a time when we knew some of the answers but probably less of the important ones. I still love you and only wish that my hugs were less virtual now.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Mark Radcliffe

One extra pub, just for the hell of it...

We went to the Greystones last night to see Mark Radcliffe. It seems like a great pub and a lovely small venue for gigs.

I can't say we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. The last time Paul and I saw Mark Ratcliffe he was performing in the Shirehorses in Stoke-on-Trent.

I have loved him on the radio for years, ever since my Dad used to record Mark and Lard's 10 o'clock radio show to listen to in the mornings on the way to Thomas Cook. That was my post university purchase ledger period. It wasn't my forte. The journey there and back was the best bit.

Most people didn't like their morning show. I did. Because in those days if I committed to an artist of any kind it was all or nothing for me. Just like I positively rated any Billy Bragg song regardless of whether it was up beat and angry, or falsetto (yes really). I suppose in retrospect Mark and Lard seemed a bit edited, and based on what he said last night their hearts weren't really in it but I found it all hilarious at the time.

Since then I occasionally listen to him on Radio Two and one Six Music with Stuart Maconie. He makes me laugh more than any other DJ I listen to.

Anyway we didn't know what to expect last night but what happened was fantastic. He told anecdotes and made off the cuff remarks that were very funny as well as introducing and singing self penned songs about drinking, Manchester, London and emotions among other things. I thought it would be extremely unlikely to find a gig that me, Paul, Mum and Dad equally enjoyed. But this was it. It finished with Martin Simpson joining them on stage. We weren't expecting that at all.

I just wish I'd taken my book to ask him to sign. Oh well at least Paul asked Richard Hawley the way to the toilet. Our brushes with fame just keep get better and better.

Friday, 13 January 2012


It appears I now frequent pubs in Sheffield again. Of course it helps that three new ones have opened within a mile of our house.

The Ale House is run by the previous manager of the Sheaf View. It has all the character of the Bull in Spalding. Which never had any. But I liked the Bull because it had people I liked in it. I like the Ale House because on Wednesday nights it has people I like in it. Well the ones in my failing pub quiz team that is. It also has good beer, a juke box and judging by the records stuck around the ceiling the manager has quite good taste in music.

I tried the Millhouses a few weeks ago with a friend. I felt a bit like I wasn't posh enough to be there, which apparently is a surprise based on it's chequered past from way before it reopened this time. The food is supposed to be good so I'll have to go back and test it. Maybe my new hair style and make up will make me feel more at home. And it has staggering distance from our house in it's favour. But someone told me the beer they sell is from Cornwall which is a bit odd.

Then on Friday Paul and I went to the reopened Broadfield on Abbeydale Road. The interior is great. Character and comfort. I saw a few people we knew, and spent much of the night sitting with Tilly's reception teacher and Phoebe's pre school teacher which was really good fun. Both girls thought us having a night out with their teachers was hilarious.

The pub was really busy and we spent a fortune on wine, but the place had a really good feel to it. And it sells the best pies in Sheffield apparently. Better than all that Paul was with me in a pub, which happens pretty rarely these days. We walked home looking at the clear sky trying to ascertain which light was Jupiter, which isn't easy with blurred vision even when you have got an app.

And we drew smiley eyes on a frozen windscreened camper van. No I am not having a mid life crisis.

Hair today...sorry I couldn't resist.

Those of you who know me will also probably know that I'm not very good at the beauty regime stuff. Every now and again someone invites me to a home party where upon I convince myself that this time when I purchase the very reasonably priced (if you buy it all together and only right then and there) cleanser, toner and moisturiser I will actually use it. "Yes" I nod in agreement when the beauty consultant asks me if I can spare a minute a day to get beautiful skin. I get my credit card out, and when I get my order I look at the bottles lovingly and put them by the sink. Where they stay relatively untouched until they gather dust and get relegated to the back of the bathroom cabinet. Two years later I throw them away.

And then there's my hair. Up until Friday morning it was long, thick, ginger and, well, pretty much the same as it was when I was a teenager.

Don't get me wrong, just like my attempts to have flawless skin I've flirted with change in the hair department. I had a terrible short hair cut when I was 19 for a while, and every now and again I had a bob that I couldn't maintain or a long "sweeping" (irritating) fringe that I was constantly blowing out of my eyes and which always resulted in me clipping it up with whatever pink Hello Kitty clip I could find in the girls room.

Every time I had my hair cut I would feel better and agree that absolutely I would be back in 6 weeks to maintain this beautiful new hair style. Which I failed to do. After a couple of weeks I'd resort to tying my hair back a lot, probably making me resemble an older, and frankly more haggard, version of myself at 16. Occasionally I'd go out somewhere really nice and so I'd straighten it. Mostly I didn't.

I finally committed to cutting it off and it hit the hairdresser's floor on Friday morning. The reaction has mostly been positive, apart from Phoebe who looked at me like she'd never seen me before in her life and frankly didn't trust me either. She told me twice that she wanted me to put it back the way it was.

I'm a little freaked out by it. It's cold, very confusing when I catch sight of myself in a mirror and has made me feel like I need to wear make up all the time for fear of being mistaken for a boy. But that's probably because that's what happened when I insisted I had my hair cut off at 6 years old. At least this time there is no chance I'll also be wearing my brother's hand me downs.

Anyway I am reliably informed by my husband that I don't look like a) a boy or b) Anne Robinson, which is a bonus. So it's all good. Apart from the fact that I'll have to commit to going back to the hairdressers more often than twice a year. Oh and the fact that now I need make up lessons.