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