Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Singing

Now Wednesdays are currently a bit sad for me. Because usually on Wednesdays I sing in an acapella group. And at the moment church hall chairs are my nemesis.

My best friend and I decided some time ago that it was time to explore the world of song. It had been a while for both of us. About twenty years.

We started with a bang by trying a massive, female dominated, matching t-shirt wearing choir. Did you know that singing makes you happy? The women who went were very happy. I was less so.

I don't think I have ever felt so out of my depth. Firstly we were singing "Proud" by M-People. Secondly we had turned up on the last week of term (they had been learning it for weeks) and we had no clue what was going on.

The woman running it was incredible. A musical marvel switching between keyboard playing and singing different parts like a demon. We muddled through but it was beyond hard. Eventually it felt like it were coming to an end. Just as we were about to breathe a sigh of relief we were instructed to incorporate...the actions. I was only hanging onto the "ooo"s and "aaaah"s by a thread at this point. Turning sideways and raising my arms did nothing to help things along.

As if this wasn't toe curling enough the newbies were then asked to stand at the front so we could be performed to. I have never felt so self conscious in all my life. What is the correct way to stand when watching about 150 people perform "Proud" complete with side turns and arm waving? Do you clap at the end? They certainly deserved clapping, it was astonishing. So we did. There were three of us. It was awkward.

We were determined to find the choir for us and moved on.

Our next try was Jacapella - an acapella singing group in Nether Edge.

We arrived and quickly began chatting to another new girl, regaling her with our tale from the previous week. She told us things could have been worse and that she had tried a choir where the members had no tune to sing to and just expressed themselves by making whatever noise they fancied. Think barks and squeaks. I'm still confused even now and I've seen them on You Tube.

It was with some trepidation that we wondered what was Jacqui going to throw at us? Well there is no barking or quacking. No choreographed moves or matching t-shirts. I had a brief moment of concern the first time we did a warm up exercise (and even now can't quite get used to the shimmying), but the group could not be further removed from what we'd experienced the previous week.

It's acapella. No accompaniment, no music to read from, just the lovely Jacqui who is mind bogglingly brilliant at switching between parts while teaching and exudes enthusiasm and positivity. She would probably describe it as a singing workshop rather than a choir.

On the first week I worried I couldn't do it. I tried to close my ears when the other parts were being worked on as I desperately tried to fix my part in my head. But now it's opened up an area of my brain that was long since covered in dust. Some of the songs are fairly straightforward. Some are a challenge. All of it leaves me with a sense of achievement.

People always ask me what we sing and it's only occasionally things you'd have heard of like "Moon River." More often it's songs from around the world. Or amusing songs with great tunes. And there was one from Scotland about a half woman half seal...but I'd rather have that than M-People or John Farnham any day.

And who goes? Mostly women at the moment, although men are very welcome. We are different ages and backgrounds. I overheard one of the ladies say it was nice that some young people now came. I don't think she can have meant me.

Some can sing high. I can't. All of us like a laugh and chocolate biscuits. I can't rate it highly enough and now missing my third week I am genuinely quite sad.

So choirs in Sheffield are nothing if not eclectic. Look on Sheffield Help Yourself and you will find over 55 listed, and they are all different in one way or another. With my love of journey books I toyed briefly with the idea of trying out every one and writing a book about it. I still think it has legs. But since I've found my singing destination the idea is shelved for now.

Once I'm off this flaming sofa I will be back at Jacapella singing my head off after half term. You have to find the things in life that make you happy and this is one of mine.

Sick Note

So it's been two weeks. I'm a lot better but based on my trip into school for parents evening clearly not ready to go back to work. I feel incredibly guilty.

I've never had a sick note from a doctor before. Strange since I've processed quite a few in my line of work. The hospital gave me two weeks. My consultant wanted me to have four weeks. Never having done this before I assumed someone would need to see me to decide what more time I needed.

I thought I'd need an appointment. Apparently not, just a phone call.

I'm genuinely incapable of sitting up all day, of driving and of walking too far. So I genuinely can't be back at work. And yet the idea of a phone call proving my situation filled me with dread. My default position of feeling guilty about everything isn't helping.

So I braced myself for the call. Worried what to say. The phone rang:

"Hi, this is reception from your GP. The doctor has asked me to call you to say she's written you another three week sick note. You can pick it up this afternoon".

"Er, ok, I don't want three weeks. I saw my consultant yesterday and she thinks another two, and to see how I get on."

"Ok, I'll talk to her and ask her to change it".

And with that it was done.

I work in HR. It feels all kinds of wrong.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Stuff I like #2

6. Watching comedy panel shows with my husband. Ideally those including David Mitchell and excluding Jimmy Carr.

7. Autobiographies. Apart from the one by Ant and Dec which was truly terrible. And probably others about people I don't like. Not that I don't like Ant and Dec. I have no opinion either way. Which is weird because I usually have an opinion on celebrities.

8. Journey books. You know the kind when someone does something like goes on a walk, does up a house in the country, rises to a particularly stupid challenge that kind of thing, then writes a book about it. Although the one about narrow boats was a stretch.

9. Notebooks. And pencil cases. Any stationery really. But mostly notebooks.

10. Old style British advertising. Especially with characters. I am currently slightly obsessed with getting hold of a Homepride flour man.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Downbeat update

I am simply writing this one from a record point of view. Just in case anyone ever wants to know how long it took to recover and to remind myself.

It's been exactly a week since I was discharged and I thought I was getting much better. I woke two mornings ago with very little pain. But every day since has been worse again. It's not agony by any means - I have reduced my painkillers considerably - but I have pretty much constant discomfort in my lower abdomen - so much so that I stoop forward when I walk. I know it is better than it was and am not being negative, I simply want to write this all down.

I am also completely knackered. I have napped at some point every day so far and I have very little energy. I could go to sleep again now if it were't for the fact I have already "rested my eyes" for an hour this morning and to do it again seems like a bad idea.

At the same time I'm grumpy because I'm frigging useless. I can't help and it's driving me a bit nuts.

I can also feel my stitches - not all the time but sometimes and it makes sitting upright a challenge.

But worse than all these things is that I can't be with the kids enough. We did Lego together yesterday but I couldn't help find the pieces or put models together because I couldn't get down on the floor. On Sunday I missed watching Tilly sing in a church service. And tonight she gets an award from Sheffield Children's University and I can't go. Her dad and Grandad will but I can't. And that's the stuff I most definitely usually do. Even on school photo day on Friday I feel like I'm letting them down by not waiting with them in line for their sibling shot. My Mum will do it I'm sure, but I'd rather it was me.

So there you go. It's a bit of a downbeat post. I was going to write about daytime television but I'll save that for a day when I'm feeling more amusing. Maybe I will have another little sleep...

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Op

The anaesthetist was bizarre. He introduced himself by saying "Hello I'm the gas man". He then asked me questions at quite some speed about how sickly I get and said as a parting comment "we'll have fun". I wasn't amused or entirely reassured.

I haven't had general anaesthetic since I was 13. I haven't had a hospital experience, apart from babies, since then either. And I am a bit of a wuss. So I wasn't exactly looking forward to the experience.

To be honest it was fine. With hindsight of course. I cried before I went to sleep - that's what I do.

The operation? Well I was well and truly asleep thank goodness. If you fancy reading the details it was this.

When I woke, I know it sounds trite, but I was overwhelmed with a thankful feeling. That I was ok, and for my girls and Paul. And as I began to hear the lady in the bed next to me crying in pain, thankful that my procedure was so minor and straightforward.

I had morphine. Then anti-sickness drugs that I might have been intolerant to as pins and needles arrived in my legs and hands. My body hurt. Which wasn't a great surprise.

And then the night happened. A bit of sleep punctuated by hourly visits to check blood pressure, pulse and to give me medication. I ate a sandwich with some difficulty at about 11 o'clock at night and fended off sickness with a pill and mind over matter since I was terrified of stomach cramps.

In the morning I had a chronic bad back due to being too frightened to move. The nurse asked me why. Really?

Everything is better in the daylight. My consultant arrived early sweeping in like a highly intelligent smiley bird of some sort. She perched long enough to say the operation "went beautifully". She must be committed. I can't imagine anything about bladders being beautiful. There was a list of don'ts and then she flew out of my room again.

The catheter was removed. It wasn't nice.

After that I had to prove I could empty my bladder. Each time I weed a nurse appeared and scanned my tummy. That is once she'd worked out that she needed to press the "woman" button on the machine to make it work properly.

I left a little confused. I have wounds either side of my groin, as it was keyhole surgery, and some internal stitches. I didn't really have the first idea what I was supposed to do, only what not to do. Don't shower for 48 hours (yum), don't bath, don't use tampons, don't lift anything, don't hoover. Obviously the hoovering was going to be a major problem.

So eventually I went home and didn't do anything. I did shower eventually though if it was putting you off coming to see me.

My consultant says I need four weeks off work and since I came home I have done an awful lot of sitting on my arse. Maybe now is the time I will finish that children's story.

You'll probably be pleased to hear that I've reached the end of my operation blog entries now. I can switch back to an entry about tropical fish I've been mulling over. I imagine my number of hits will drop through the floor...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Five Days is Too Long

Today is really the first day that things have got properly tricky. Phoebe has been in tears several times, about specific things like the suggestion she had school dinners, and in general including a fight over the bouncy horse. She's tired and fed up.

I've fallen asleep on the sofa twice and had a funny turn when I took painkillers and evidently hadn't eaten enough. It's not normal for me to lie about and fall asleep so the kids feel weird.

I'm starting to get irritated. I want to move about but I can't stand up for long, or sit upright before it's pretty uncomfortable. My lack of mobility is affecting everyone.

This whole process has made me thankful. And made me think hard about the trials some people, including several of my friends, are going through juggling their ill health and family life.

I've never been out of action before. It's frustrating but I know it will end fairly quickly. Others aren't so lucky. So there are no laughs in this post. But if you are going through pain, physical or mental, I would raise my hat to you if I were wearing one, and raise my glass if I were drinking. You are amazing.

For all those suffering with the help of Macmillan Cancer nurses, you could give just a little and sponsor me.

Stuff I like #1 - in no particular order

1. Salt and vinegar flavour. On anything really. Apart from chipsticks. Because they get stuck in your teeth and it's vile.

2. Biscuits, chocolate and cheese. Not all at the same time.

3. Bags. I have lots.

4. Well written children's books. This does not include books about magic puppies, rainbow fairies and magic mermaids. Or Horrid Henry.

5. Sleep. Weird really because my children don't seem to like it at all. And are trying to corrupt me by waking me up all the time.


Urodynamics

Ok so this test (urodynamics) is not for the faint hearted. It's worse than the surgery in my opinion. Because you can feel it all, it's uncomfortable and for those of an easily embarrassed nature, mortifying.

The good thing about it is simply this. It proves beyond all doubt whether you have a problem.

So the first bit is straight forward. You drink a lot, you wee into a special toilet that measures your wee while the consultant and nurse leave the room for discretion. This is about as ridiculous as the idea of a modesty sheet during a internal examination.

After that it gets unpleasant. Essentially they fill your bladder from the other end than usual. It's quite the oddest sensation I've ever had the misfortune to endure. Throughout the process my consultant asked me how desperate for the loo I was at regular intervals and tried to distract me by discussing her holiday to Cannes and whether or not to neuter her son's male rabbit.

I told her I was desperate for the loo almost straight away. She told me she hadn't started filling my bladder yet.

So it went on. Until my bladder was full and I burst into tears. (You probably wouldn't, it's just my default reaction to stress).

Just when I thought things couldn't get worse she asked me to get off the bed and stand up. This was a significant challenge.

Then she asked me to cough. Sufficed to say it didn't go well.

After what seemed like an eternity she said I could go to the loo and asked if I wanted them to leave the room while I did it. Because clearly them watching me wee on the loo is way worse than watching me involuntarily wee on the floor.

I muttered something along the lines of, "I don't care". They were lucky I didn't garde past them shouting "get out of the sodding way".

So it proved three things. That I don't have an overactive bladder. That my body is failing me in the pelvic floor department. And that I can easily wee in front of strangers, especially if desperate enough.

Afterwards we talked at length about the procedure and there was a lot to think about. My consultant explained that she was hesitant only because of my age. The operation lasts about ten years and I would need it doing again several times in my remaining life. Each time it would be less effective than the last.

But (while I don't feel it) I am young. I am 38. With two young children. Now is the time to be able to run, and giggle, and climb, and dance, and chase.

So onwards to surgery at least with the confidence to know I needed to try and get it fixed.

You can breathe out now. That was the worst entry I promise.




In case you have forgotten, please do your pelvic floor exercises.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Exercises

Ok so I went to physiotherapy. We'll skim over the examinations. Sufficed to say my "muscle bulk" ain't great. And men don't know they are born.

I was given exercises. Some for my pelvic floor muscles, some for the weakness in my back which means I don't sit or stand up using the right muscles. Me and most of the laptop using UK I suspect.

I had to engage my muscles when I went through doorways. I had stickers all over the house: on the stairs, the bin, everywhere. When I did routine tasks I was the engage my core. I tried. Despite Paul and the kids not realising about the stickers and removing them when I wasn't paying attention.

In the meantime I started an exercise class and realised yet again that cardio could't be for me.

I went back every few weeks for ten sessions. My physiotherapist was wonderful. Some weeks I mucked about and made her laugh. Other weeks I burst into tears in front of her. Every week I felt terrible that I hadn't done enough.

I still feel guilty about it now. I should have done more. I don't know if it ever would have solved my problem but I could have tried harder. But I genuinely didn't find it easy. She kept telling me about my "brilliant brain" and how I could retrain it to send the messages to my muscles. I believed her -  it should be possible. But I couldn't do it and I couldn't go on as it was. It didn't make enough difference.

For you though it might. So here's suggestion number one:

Go to your GP and push for a pelvic floor physio referral. It can't hurt and they are truly brilliant people.

For me? I went back to the consultant. She told me that the next step was "Urodynamics." Brace yourself for the next bit. I'm being honest. It's not nice.

Admitting the Problem

Here goes.

So having a weak pelvic floor seems to be three things:

1. Funny. It must be because it's referenced all the time. "PMSL" for a start. And I've lost count of the number of articles or comments that reference "a bit of wee coming out" as a way to make the experience (and the writing of it) even more hilarious. Yeah I'm laughing my head off.

2. Embarrassing. Despite evidently being absolutely hilarious and referenced constantly very few people actually admit to having the problem. Because it's mortifying. Who wants to admit to smelling of wee?

3. Extremely common. So no-one admits to having the problem, and yet loads of women live with it. Especially ones who have had children. 1 in 3 women. I have about 125 female friends on Facebook at the minute. Just saying.

And alongside this there is a quiet resignation to it. "Well it's just one of those things. I put up with it."

I can hardly criticise. I put up with mine for 7 years. From mid pregnancy sneezing (oh good lord) to daily leakage. And worst of all a total inability to do Just Dance 4 on the wii or to run down a hill making that funny noise.

They tell you it's about whether it affects your quality of life. That's the key. Can you put up with it reasonably happily? The trouble is it's easier both physically and mentally to say that you can.

But I think for most women it is a way bigger issue than they admit to themselves or anyone else. I know for me it has affected my self esteem and the practicalities of day life. Not least the ability to exercise. But dealing with it is scary so I put it off. Me and millions of other women.

In hindsight I actually went to the GP about this on a number of occasions. And each time I wasn't examined and I was told to go away and do some pelvic floor exercises*. So then I put it to the back of my mind for a bit, resolved to do them and failed completely.

The last time I went to a gp she told me I had a "slight vaginal prolapse". (Ooh we are getting to the good stuff now aren't we...) I was referred to a specialist and told that that wasn't true. I don't. I can't say I rate that particular GP anymore (it seems like quite a fundamental thing to get wrong) but on the upside at least it got me to talk to someone who actually knew what they were going on about.

And what my consultant said? Pelvic floor exercises. Thats the first answer. Specifically pelvic floor physiotherapy for ten weeks. That sounds appealing doesn't it?


*I bet if you are pregnant or a mum already you are doing some pelvic floor exercises right now. Good on yer!

Internet speak

So the last post I did I put a disclaimer on. I indicated it was potentially too much information. I had more than double the amount of hits of any post I had ever written. I'm not sure what to make of this. Clearly we all love a bit of near the knuckle stuff so here we go.

_________________________________________________________________________________

You know all this internet speak? I genuinely can't bear it. I refuse point blank to write LOL if someone writes something funny. And as for ROFL don't get me started. Who has ever rolled on the floor laughing at a comment anyone has made on an online chat. If they did no-one would ever finish a conversation. And physiotherapists would be way busier than they are already.

But the one which really drives me nuts is PMSL. It's not that I don't have a sense of humour. Hopefully you know by now I do. I just don't like it. I imagine the following posts will give you an idea of why...

Monday, 7 October 2013

Week of Positives

Monday: I ticked something off on my actual housework list. Whoop. This week is all set to be a thrilling one.

Tuesday: Drying my eldest daughter's hair while she read her book.

Wednesday: My husband came back. Just from Birmingham but he came back.

Thursday: Nice positive stuff at work. I love my job.

Friday: No wine. Ok so this didn't feel like a positive but it should.

Saturday: Sight of my new papercuts of the kids. And weirdly re-watching Die Hard 4. Sometimes time mocking a film with your husband is the best kind of fun.

Sunday So many positives. Sunshine, sculptures, ice cream, catching leaves, beautiful children.

A little light

Ok so this week may get a bit uncomfortable for you. I'd advise you give my blog a break for a while if you'd rather read entries about Chatsworth and the theatre. If you are feeling brave, read on...

I had a letter two weeks ago. It was that letter. The one all women dread.

How can it have been three years already? Is time accelerating? It comes round nearly as quickly as I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.

It didn't scare me so much this time. Let's just say I've been here before a few times of late.

But I'm in a ticking things off lists sort of a place. It's my operation tomorrow and seemingly going into hospital instills a maniacal sense of nesting in me. (It's not too bad though because my Dad has volunteered to clean the cooker.)

Anyway I rang the GP to book an appointment. The choice of date and time was limited, just for a change, so I thought I'd make my week even more joyful by having a smear the day before my operation (and torturing myself with a lack of wine afterwards - all sponsors gratefully accepted).

All in all the experience wasn't that bad. At least that's done for another three years. Although I do sometimes wonder if I'm actually living in a sitcom:

"Just lie on the bed and cover yourself with the modesty sheet"

"Er ok." (Modesty? Really")

"Sorry but the big light isn't working"

"Oh really?"

"Mmm. But I've been doing quite well with this torch though."

"A torch?!"

"It's a head torch actually."

I thought I ought to make it clear that she wasn't going potholing. She reassured me she wasn't going to wear it.

I kept my eyes closed throughout...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Go Sober for October

Ok well I just managed to not drink for the fourth day. This may not sound like many, indeed I have managed to not drink for four days in the past, but this time it did include a Friday. And Friday night is bottle of wine on the sofa with Paul and comedy on TV night.

It was fine actually. Although I think we may have to start playing scrabble as perhaps my links between alcohol and slumping in front of the TV are not ideal.

What is irritating me somewhat is the fact that I have woken up, as early as I always do and with a stonking headache. This is surely unfair. I can't put it down to detox can I as it's day five already?

Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I seem to have replaced evening alcohol with biscuits. Can you get a biscuit hangover? Please don't say I have to give up biscuits too. This is going to be the month from hell.

Tonight is Saturday. Which is sometimes going out but more usually wine on the sofa and a film night. I'm beginning to realise this experiment may end up in changing more than just out drinking habits. Although I can't see me giving the TV to charity any time soon.

So if you want to encourage me on my way and help with through my first weekend without booze. Or simply commiserate with my biscuit related hangover you could sponsor me by, just to rub it in, clicking on the wine glass. Gah.





Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Blogging

My blog is, I understand, quite unconventional and therefore unlikely to attract me loads of followers or make me famous. Apparently this is because:

1. My posts rarely have pictures (I just can never get round to doing any).

2. They are not short enough. I admit I do waffle on but I don't fancy editing myself.

3. Sometimes they don't even really have much of a point. Like this one probably.

4. I'm crap at all other forms of social media apart from facebook. So essentially I'm rubbish at self publicising and hence my blog remains unpromoted.

5. The key way to get people reading your blog is to read other people's. This is a bit of a problem. I want people to read and enjoy mine but I just can't read other people's (unless I know you in real life of course). It feels weird. Like standing in a pub and listening intently to what the people on the table next to you are on about at length and then shouting a comment in their direction at the end. Of course this is a bad analogy but actually the people on the next table want me to listen and make comments, but probably only positive ones. I digress.

Anyway. I've clicked "next blog" a few times as I've been thinking about this and I found the following:

Most blogs are full of: a) babies/parenting tips or b) middle aged people banging on about being middle aged and/or their attempts to get fit. You would not believe how many people are blogging about marathons and triathlons.

I stumbled across one which covered both areas called "Babies and Bikes". I might make a venn diagram.

And of course my blog isn't so far removed from these. I mention parenting (ad nauseam) and moan about being middle aged every other post. I just haven't blogged about triathlons yet (I wouldn't hold your breath).

Despite all the valuable advice on how to blog, most of those out there (in my very small evidence gathering experiment) are similar to mine. We are all just wittering out into the ether, with a greater or lesser amount of photographs.

Does it matter? I guess it depends what we all want out of it. At the moment it doesn't matter to me. It's a hobby. It helps with my writing style and makes my mum laugh. And since I've never really liked the idea of writing in the way the world suggests I should, I'll carry on.

So here ends another blog post with very little point.

Oh but here's a picture of my abseiling when I was 10.




Sunday, 29 September 2013

Money

There is need to be frugal. Recession and all that. Plus there is a vague hope of buying tickets to San Francisco at some point.

So I have a new plan which involves selling anything that I don't need anymore if it looks vaguely worth it. I am trying to avoid Ebay because I can't bear stuff selling and I'm really bad at listing stuff. And how the hell you are supposed to know how much it will be to post a keyboard I just don't know.

Anyway so far the money raising is disappointing.

1. I have a phone to recycle that is worth £28.95 online (hooray) if only I could find the frigging charger (bugger).

2. Most DVDs on Music Magpie (or equivalent) are worth, wait for it, 25 whole earth pence! It's taken quite a few to get up to the minimum £10 but I've done it. Postman Pat was worth more than most of the others bizarrely. Anyway I now have more room in my TV cabinet. And quite a depressed feeling in my movie soul.

3. I have a sinking feeling that my Poang chair might actually sell on Ebay for about 99p. I nursed my child in that chair. Actually when I think about that perhaps it's not in perfect condition...

4. The girls are having a clearly out. The only problem is they will only part with things that are, frankly, worth nothing whatsoever. Unless anyone is interested in Wonder Pets? The other problem is I stupidly at some point in the past told them that any money from their things goes to them. And they are like elephants in the memory department. Arse.

I don't know about San Francisco but a flight to Glasgow by this time next year is looking unlikely...




Every day happy

I am shamelessly stealing an idea I saw on a blog to note down one thing that made me feel happy every day. It's one of those "make you focus on the good stuff" things. I quite like the idea.

On most days more than one thing makes me smile. Some days finding even one is a challenge. But this week has been pretty good all in so here goes.

22/09 Dad's smiling face. And everyone else's too.

23/09 Leftover cake.

24/09 Watching a street sweeping van clean our road. Because I wrote to the council. Now that's empowering, people. You can do it too!

25/09 Getting the hang of Que Sera Sera at singing. You'd be surprised how positive you feel when you "ooo" in the right places.

26/09 Writing a blog entry that made me realise other perspectives on birthday sharing. My Dad and husband are marvellous.

27/09 The glee on my daughter's face at the thought of Brownie camp. Personally I wouldn't fancy a holiday in January with a bunch of pre teens but whatever floats her boat.

28/09 My youngest daughter in her Razz uniform happily trotting off to an extra curricular activity. Times are changing.

29/09 Pregnant guinea pigs who can't fit in food troughs.

I wonder what joy next week will bring!

P.S. Feel free to join in yourself!




Thursday, 26 September 2013

Sharing

You may expect from that title that I'm about to talk about my children's lack of ability to share.

But no. It's actually mine.

I was 38 last Thursday. Happy Birthday you say? That's very kind of you.

But for every time someone sings Happy Birthday to me, I have to sing it again. For my husband. And my Dad. And probably Jarvis Cocker if he happened to be passing (but I don't feel quite as aggrieved about him). Because we all have the same birthday. That's just weird isn't it?

Don't get me wrong, I know that until the age of 21 whilst I "shared" my birthday with my Dad the spotlight was somewhat pointed in my direction. I can't imagine he really wanted the Mr Happy birthday cake we had when I was five. Or to watch 'Supergirl' at the cinema with four nine year old girls. Or to be woken up at the crack of dawn on his own birthday for, let's face it, about 20 years.

Hang on I'm talking myself out it this, maybe it was a bit worse for Dad than me...

But the husband sharing your birthday thing is frankly a bit annoying.

When people ask me how we met I regale them with this lovely tale:

We went to primary school together, then years later met again in a dubious (popular with students) pub. He was quite good at pool. I wasn't (which at least meant my 20p lasted a long time). He said "Are you coming out on my birthday on Saturday?" I said "Really that's my birthday too". Oh how we laughed. On our birthday we went to Spalding's dodgiest night club with friends and watched some actors dancing barefoot.

Some might say it was fate. I say I'd rather we had a different birthday.

He freely admits that the likelihood of him making me a birthday cake is slim so I mostly make my own. Unless I get to have some of Dad's. Which implies more cake. And to be fair the girls bought me one this year anyway. Perhaps things aren't so bad after all...

But I usually have to arrange nights out and book my own babysitter. Although that isn't such a bad thing for a control freak I suppose...

If nothing else I am absolutely sure that sitting down to discuss matching birthday budgets does rather take the romance out of it all. But then I suppose it does for Paul too somewhat. And god help him if he didn't spend as much on me as I do on him - that's some added pressure right there. And he does buy me lovely things. Hmm.

In actual fact this year was quite special overall because Dad turned 70. So we had a day just for him with nearly our whole family and lovely food. And despite the fact it was his special day really, Paul and I still got our names on the cake. And it was the third birthday cake we'd had in four days so I can't really complain.

Ok I give in. I quite like it really. And Paul is definitely older than me. I mean it's only 12 hours but it counts right? I'll stop moaning. Until next year...

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Stuart: My Life Backwards

I'm still a bit stunned by the play I saw on Saturday: Stuart - My Life Backwards.

I am specifically still stunned by the actor who played Stuart. Fraser Ayres played his character having a disability so well I began to wonder whether he was actually disabled. Goddness me he should have an exciting future ahead of him.

The cast as a whole were wonderful and the staging imaginative. It's a play that deserves to be seen.

Stuart is a homeless addict with a history of violence. How Jack Thorne made him as funny and appealing a character as he did, I have no idea.

Overall Stuart is moving and funny, yet dark. It included that seemingly obligatory section in all modern plays where you are made to feel really uncomfortable in order to be thought provoking. This would ordinarily at the very least irritate me (and has been known to make me rant). But in this case I thought it worked.

I didn't realise it was a biography and a film first. I'm pleased I didn't know as I have it now only as an outstanding experience of wonderful theatre.

Plus it was only £10 - which is ridiculous when I think how much money I had to pay to buy myself a ticket to Smurfs 2 at Centertainment...



Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Why it isn't that easy

Every now and then I read one of those blogs. You know the sort. The kind that encourages you to      s  l  o  w   d  o  w  n,  put down technology and other distractions and just focus on your children. I well up as I read about some adorable exhausted mother's light bulb moment and how glorious everything is now they have given stuff up and spend more time with their children. Oh how their relationships and self esteem have blossomed and how chuffing wonderful their life is.

In my weaker moments I aspire to this. I need to do as they say and stop trying so hard to achieve everything in my life. I need to stop trying to be perfect and just focus on what's important. They are so right...Hold on a minute they are telling me to stop trying to be perfect by giving me a lecture on how to be a perfect mum. I'm confused.

The reason these blogs are so appealing of course is because as parents every day we do something that we then feel guilty about. Only this morning there was an unfortunate shouting incident over a skirt. I should have calmly entered the room of the screaming seven year old and found her a clean skirt without using the phrases "you are old enough to find your own skirt" and "if anyone ever helped me put the clothes away they would know where things were" at slightly too high a volume. But I didn't. And then I felt guilty.

Later when I reflected and lamented my behaviour I read a blog entry that told me it would all be ok. If I simply change my ways, be calm and always listen to what they have to say the benefits for our relationship and my children's self esteem will be phenomenal. Good news.

So I decide this time at bedtime I will be different. When they ask for a fourteenth hug to avoid going to sleep I will give them one. When they hold on too long I won't let go and will simply hug them back. Because of course these hugs won't last forever and my child will get the message that I always have time for them. Ah you see, it's so convincing. The blogs have taught me. Let me get started.

The only question I have then is whether all these blog writing super mums have the unusual children or whether it's just me?

Give in and hold on longer is all well and good, but with my children it results in getting out of bed three times, demands for extra duvets, extended animated discussions about Lapland, a dance routine, an argument about the virtues (or lack of them) of Paddington on CD, requests for drinks and constant extremely loud butting in on each other's loving mummy and daughter bedtime moment. It's hard to feel the glow of love when you are acting as a mediator, geography teacher, appreciative audience member, long suffering mother and room service representative all at the same time. We don't go to bed like the Waltons in this house. It's more like the Magic Roundabout. With no-one playing Dylan.

So my pearl of wisdom is this. Don't beat yourself up. Don't read blogs that tell you to do stuff differently because it might be wholly impractical and/or unworkable and then you'll beat yourself up even more. Instead I recommend accepting this:

Children are bonkers. In a good way. Sometimes it's adorable. Sometimes it's annoying. You'll be fine.

I suspect I won't be asked to write my parenting book any time soon.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Mam Tor

My blog is called "Bean Rambling" - a play on words with my maiden name and the fact that I have been known to go on a bit. No, no really I do.

Physical rambling doesn't come up very much I must admit. Paul would set off now and walk the length of the country if he had the time and enough clean socks. I love, but don't exactly share his enthusiasm. Fortunately this disparity hadn't really mattered until recently because the girls couldn't be relied upon to walk to the park without moaning and/or wanting to be carried.

Now, however, we have reached a bit of a turning point so it's been time for me to embrace my inner rambler.

Our holiday this year saw the girls walking a fair bit (I had to come too) and we've done a bit more locally as well. Surprise View, Burbage and Longshaw Estate are quite popular as long as cake features heavily. I have even been known to take a flask, although I get Paul to carry it as it's quite heavy and makes me feel old.

So walking can be part of our lives now. We went today. As a consequence I am flipping shattered. Come to think of it I have considerably longer legs than the children, who appear not to be tired in the slightest. I could fall asleep right now if I put my mind to it. Like yesterday when I fell asleep during Porridge. So why are they still awake? But I digress.

Anyway we decided to try a three mile National Trust walk at Mam Tor and it went pretty well. As usual when we decide to go somewhere I hadn't got enough food in the house so I had to raid the fridge for provisions. Which consisted of some cheese and cucumber sandwiches, a few Cadburys mini rolls and half a bag of dried cranberries. Better mothers than I would have had organic flapjack wrapped in brown paper and a constant supply of unbruised bananas to hand for such a moment. Sometimes I feel like a failure.

On the upside for reference they sell ice cream at Blue John Cavern.

So as a bit of a review: it's a nice walk involving some iron age pictures in the footpath, and (if you download it) an amusing if a little gruesome audio guide, a few bogs to jump across, an eerie broken road (the result of a landslip in the 1970s) and rather a lot of sheep poo. We walked for about two and half hours and Phoebe was only carried for a bit of it (not by me thankfully).

The extra bonus was that we are currently on a budget and this trip out only cost us £5.80 (£3 for the car park and £2.80 for ice cream). Unless you count the diesel. And the new walking boots. And restocking the mini rolls. But other than that it was a cheap lovely day out.

I rather like my family. And the Peak District. And September. Not a bad combination really. I need a nice sit down and some telly now though.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Realisation

I know I bang on about feeling middle aged, but I just can't help it. It's hard to deny when all the evidence points one direction. And that's not a reference to the youthful floppy haired boy band that I hope I never have to see live.

On Friday Paul and I watched a film called 'This is 40'. We worryingly identified with the couple in it just a little too much. From the aged music referenced, the list making mania, the obsession for need for change and dreams of perfection, the bickering children and Ipad retreats it was funny and frankly unnerving.

It was as I rested back in bed, rosy from the sofa lounging and wine consumption that went along with watching the film (that's how rock and roll we are on a Friday night), that I reflected on the startling similarities portrayed in the film. If this moment was in a movie I would have sat up abruptly and looked at the self help book in my hand ("How to be a bit happier and get a bit more done") and shouted "Oh Shit" loudly.

As it was I sighed, turned the page and before long fell asleep with the book over my face.

The good news is we woke up the next morning and actually did get a bit more done. Paul chopped a tree down and I did lots of washing. Oh god.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Jacket Long Since Lost

This love is undeniable.
I met you in a Dentist’s waiting room.
Thankfully Mrs Parker’s drilling took longer than expected.
We sat in silence.

I stole you. I’m not proud but I had no choice.
My fingers trace your creases.
Born from time and relationships past.
Back old and bent.

I can leave you now.
We will part on a train, from Sheffield no doubt.
Someone else will take you home.
Love you as I have.

You will appeal to another I'm sure
Jacket long since lost
Tatty around the edges

Beautiful.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ranting About Bugs

Allow me to take a moment to divert from summer holiday memories and to rant about illness. Specifically children's illness.

We can't have a holiday, or even a month go by to be honest, without some kind of illness or related drama. Over the past seven years we have spent four nights in Halifax children's hospital when we should have been on holiday, investigated mysterious bouts of urticaria and kidney function, experienced the trauma of our very little daughter having birth mark related operations, been to A&E following a trolley man meets head emergency, zoomed at speed on a beach buggy in Wales to check out a weird spikey crab in the bottom of foot thing, and that's not even mentioning of course the illnesses (like having chicken pox on Christmas day), bouts of nits and regular bumps on the head and rest of the body.

It's pretty normal I suppose and thankfully none of it the level that some people go through. And I really am grateful because I know in reality things could be a million times worse.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I want to scream "that's enough". Tonight was one of those nights.

As I listened to Tilly recount the story of the nurse successfully removing the tick's leg that has been stuck in her ear since last Friday I carefully selected a specific flannel and towel each. Because it is important to avoid the transfer of yet more verrucas and possible shingles to the other child and the grown ups. It's just lovely isn't it?

I declare tonight that I have just about had enough.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Runswick Bay and Robin Hoods Bay

Day two and it was straight down to the beach early (having failed to get a parking space on a previous occasion I was running this like a military manoeuvre). We were so early the shop wouldn't sell us a bucket for the first hour.

Not that we really needed buckets since Paul took on his first sand engineering challenge of the week and dug a trench to the sea. Which was quite a long way and much admired by children and most Dads on the beach. The others were probably just jealous.

We bumped into a classmate of Tilly's from school and had a chat, watched a man's shoes float away with the tide (it wasn't safe to try and rescue them, honestly) and Phoebe played avoid the dogs, which was a challenge when they all wanted to say hello and pee on your sandcastle. It was a great day though and a cracking beach, in case it's helpful for future North Yorkshire holiday planners.

On the third day we fought through the communication deadspace our house seemed to be in and arranged to meet with my friend and her family in Robin Hoods Bay. It was a fab day involving rock pooling, dog walking (not Phoebe obviously) fossil hunting and fish and chips.

At one point we watched the ice cream van owner kicking over a child's sandcastle. Apparently she had dared to make it where he later planned to park his van. We were agog. And clearly destined to buy ice creams from someone less like a character from That Peter Kay Thing. Evidently the seaside can grind some people down if you sell ice creams long enough.

In the evening we went on a two hour whale watching trip. Or as we shall call it the individual seal watching trip. It was fun though I can't help but feel it was mostly a money making venture. You can't go to Whitby without going out in a boat though, although perhaps the Bark Endeavour would have allowed for more swashbuckling. Maybe next time.

So the week was going well, and I was trying to save money too by taking a flask (yep really) and picnics. Plus I now don't need to pay for foot exfoliation for a bit which is a bonus.

Whitby

So this is the bit where I return from holiday and bore you all witless with our family holiday in the UK shenanigans. Apologies in advance but it's all part of the service.

So we went to Whitby. Again. In a house we've stayed in before. Again. And it was pretty much brilliant. Again. Apart from the lack of Jumping Jimmies Trampolines which we are all grieving the loss of. Tragic.

But I'd better start from the beginning. I wouldn't want you missing anything.

The North Yorkshire coast has the following benefits:

1. It's near to Sheffield. My daughters can last the sum total of 2.5 hours in a car which gives us 30 minutes for a traffic jam. It's even better when you can split the journey up by visiting your brother and eating pizza.

2. It's beautiful. Especially when you are staying in a house at the foot of the viaduct over the Esk on the steam train line. A house which also has a playground and access to a swimming pool and is in walking distance of Whitby and rowing boats. Even if it does smell quite strongly of dogs.

3. They drive on the left hand side of the road in Yorkshire.

4. We like fish and chips.

5. Our family are keen on fossils, sand, sea, wildlife and always bumping into at least one person you know.

6. We've been there before. Which, whilst perhaps being a bit boring, does mean you don't waste time in tourist information offices, struggling to find a supermarket or generally getting lost.

So our first evening was a trip to Sandsend and the realisation that 5 years old is the perfect time to go to the seaside. At 5 you are still perfectly happy to wee in a hole in the sand and are blissfully happy leaping waves and drawing in the sand. 7 is a good age too. Although I'm not sure she would have gone along with digging her own latrine.

At bedtime the girls struggled to get to sleep with the excitement. They came downstairs at 9.30pm to tell us there were rabbits in the playground. I checked the information sheet and we definitely weren't expected to catch, feed or clean them out which was a relief. And remarkably they seem much more exciting to watch than the two in our own garden at home. Who knew?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Blogging

And this is why I sometimes detest the internet. And also why (when in a different mood) it makes me laugh. This comment was sent to me about my article entitled "dropping some bean bags" which was all about not keeping on top of my to do list.


"Thank you for sharing valuable information. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here Thanks..Also visit my page bean bag chairs Get rid of that old couch and stop laying on the floor, get a Lazy Sack! Oh, your friends will never leave .All Lazy Sack bean bag chairs are lovingly made with non-recycled, fluffy, high-density, shredded foam. We have a big selection of beanbags that you'll love!"


Ooh, I'm off to buy a bean bag! Oh no, I'm not. Bugger off you automated pile of crap. Human beings will always win (I hope)...

Later Without Jools Holland

Is is true to say that I was a touch disappointed when I couldn't encourage any of my friends to come out with me. I tried not to take it personally and took my husband instead. Who thankfully did not take my not having invited him in the first place personally...

It turns out I am becoming a real fan of the Sheffield band scene. By that I mean I now know the sum total of seven Sheffield bands (two of which include people I know), but you have to start somewhere.

I am specifically a fan of David Roch whose voice is somewhat phenomenal, and through the power of him and social media I found out about "Later Without Jools Holland". It was a night set up by Low Duo as an opportunity to showcase four local bands (including David and themselves) at the Greystones.

Greystones is a pub I love because:
a) they put a range of bands on at reasonable prices (I've seen both Mark Radcliffe and Atilla the Stockbroker there and have the Rory McLeod gig in my sights too) and
b) they sell excellent beer.

The four acts, Low Duo, David Roch, Pete David and See Emily Play were an eclectic, sometimes maudlin, sometimes crackers, passionate and (in the case of Low Duo) zany line up. We couldn't help but warm to all of them, partly because they were so damn musically talented but also for their genuine infectious enthusiasm for what they do. Paul spent most of the evening watching the guitarists somewhat in awe (Pete David in particular) and the genuine comic talent of Low Duo's lead singer has to be noted as an unexpected touch of genius. Not bad for the princely sum of £3. Well and all the beer we bought.

And you know what? I rather enjoyed my husband's company. Turns out he's really nice so I've invited him to come to see Navacross with me on Thursday at Maggie May's.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Dealing With Something

Well today was an experience.

This is, no doubt, to be the first in a short line of medical related entries, albeit with a tentative start. I'm building myself up to talking about the whole thing on-line because the topic needs shouting about from the rooftops. I will make it humorous and light hearted when I get my head around it all. But at the moment I'm still feeling a bit delicate and a touch embarrassed, just like the other woman in every 8 who has the same problem as me.

Today I had a test. It was unpleasant and unladylike, and made worse because I burst into tears in the middle of it, as is my wont. The consultant said she had "seen worse reactions" and "at least I didn't try to get off the bed during the test". There was no chance of that happening - I was too scared to move.

A lot of time was spent with the lovely consultant and nurse trying to distract me by talking about Whitby and rabbits while I was in quite some discomfort. There is a time and a place for discussion about the benefits of male rabbit castration in my opinion, but their hearts were in the right place.

Anyway the whole excruciating experience proved I have a problem but thankfully not a terrible one. And it proved I need to do something about it. Which is a date in the next few months and a topic for another day.

I am a bit down, but hopeful I guess.

This is me dealing with something that I've ignored for as long as possible. Sound familiar? If it does then maybe reading about my situation might help. Or you could take the "la la I'm not listening" approach, I wouldn't blame you.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Socks

If you had told me last week that I would have started sacrificing perfectly good socks to my rabbits I'd have...well I wouldn't have been that surprised to be honest. Nothing about these rabbits surprises me any more.

Sufficed to say we are currently on pair four. It's a shame really. I tried to sacrifice only socks from the odd sock bag, but they were either too short (not covering the wound in their tummies) or too constricting (I don't really think limiting their ability to breathe would be a good plan even if they would have had immaculate well healing wounds). So, perfectly good pairs of socks it is. Nowhere on the internet did I read this would happen when I did my extensive pre-rabbit purchasing research.

We are day five post op. Not that I'm counting down to the magic ten days of course.

It really has been the best five days of our lives. Two days of thrusting all manner of veg, fruit and soggy nuggets at them to ensure they didn't die from not eating. Then three days of checking poo, putting socks on rabbits, catching rabbits who escaped into the hall, readjusting holey socks , setting right the litter tray (that Betsy tips over every five minutes) and mopping up wee that has leaked on the kitchen floor (see litter tray).

We've worked out that the rabbits are the equivalent of teenagers in animal years. And they clearly currently hate me. I'm not really surprised. I wouldn't like someone heading towards me with the express intention of shoving my head and front paws into Sainsbury's best hosiery. And since they are still too poorly to be left alone or even let out of the hutch, we won't be rebuilding our relationship any time soon.

The nurse said today that it "could be worse" and we "should keep doing what we are doing". Excellent news. More trauma all round.

Apart from anything else, five more days of this and I'll have reached the bottom of my sock drawer, and possibly Paul's as well.

So there we go. Half way to the bit where they start to get better. £158 plus several pairs of socks worse off. Having pets is terrific.

And now? It's time to adjust socks and mop up wee. Again not a sentence I thought I'd ever write.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dropping some bean bags

I was going to put balls instead of beanbags but I was worried David Cameron would censor me.

So I have been working now for nearly eight weeks and the good news is I still love it. The place, the work and the people - so that's a pretty good start. It's the life juggling that's marginally problematic. Me and every other parent out there I guess. Work, home, Paul, kids, rabbits, family, friends, writing, my own unachievable high standards - it's all rotating overhead like I'm some kind of crazed maternal circus performer.

The bean bag I dropped yesterday was not realising that leaving infant school would be as upsetting as it was for my eldest. It wasn't the end of the world. She got a bit upset after school and at bedtime and we had a good chat and lots of cuddles. But I feel guilty of course because I should have thought about it. I was so caught up in simply getting to the end of school (and the joy of 6 weeks without making lunchboxes, plaiting hair and carrying too much stuff) I didn't think about her enough.

There are others of course. I dropped a personal bean bag by not fitting in time to edit and submit a play I've written to a writing festival. Bugger. And my blog isn't getting the time and attention I intended lately either.

If you have been the victim of the several birthday bean bags we've dropped all over the place in the last three months I'm really sorry.

And we'll not even think about the house cleanliness bean bag. It's crash landed and spilled it's contents all over the floor. Not that I ever usually throw it up there in the first place.

The trouble is I fully expect that the minute I bend down to retrieve the bean bags (this metaphor is going well isn't it) I'm going to drop a whole other load.

So who knows if things will improve. In time I guess I'll have a system. I would like to hope I could learn to keep more beanbags in the air. Or maybe grow more hands.

Oh darn it I'm about to drop a freezer related beanbag I'd better go.

So If you juggle better than I do, I take my hat off to you. Sorry I will leave the metaphors well alone and go back to rabbit watching in my kitchen. Once I've made sure the freezer bean bag is back up and dancing.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Tramlines

I must admit I was worried about Tramlines a little. Worried that I was, frankly, too old.

The key indicator was that I hadn't heard of anyone on the list (apart from Selector, who are, well, from a long time ago). As for everyone else my knowledge of the bands was linked to band members I knew. Two dads from school and my boss, specifically. Which pretty much has an air of middle aged about it right there.

But I am nothing if not determined. You simply cannot have a music festival on your doorstep and not go to it. It would be like ignoring a cream cake for three days and eating celery.

So my friend and I took full advantage and set off at five on Saturday afternoon. This has a host of benefits, the best one being that we totally avoided making tea and putting the kids to bed.

We did what we normally do and wondered down division street feeling a) old and b) too sober for it all and decided, as usual, not to bother queuing for the main stage. We did buy a wristband though because we wanted to head to Plug later.

This is where our middled aged experience come into play. Vast local knowledge meant we could come back the long way round to find a cash point that had no queue and didn't charge us £1.85 for taking out our own money. We knew what fast food to go for (Street Food Chef of course) and plonked ourselves on the peace garden grass to eat burritos, listen to reggae and read the programme. I've always been a planner and it's only in later years that I realise just how much of an asset this can be (you have to love your personal quirks you know). My spontaneity left me years ago.

So we looked through the programme, reinforced the fact that we didn't know who anyone was*, and picked some random stuff that included people we knew and a variety of venues. We are nothing if not eclectic.

We started at the Cathedral and watched Nat Johnson (lovely) drinking wine, wondering if you can have communion real ale and watching a man repeatedly touch his girlfriend's bum. I don't think he would have done that in any other venue - I think he liked the buzz of sin in the house of the Lord.

Briefly we stopped at the Library Theatre and this is the point where I stopped really remembering the names of bands reliably. It's a good job this isn't a review.

After that it was the back of Henrys to watch The Clench (fab), and then the Leadmill to wholly enjoy a band who were amazing but who cannot pronounce their own name over a microphone clearly enough for marketing purposes (the staff had no idea who they were either). Then we watched some of the Ratells who were raucous and talented, but not my cup of tea really (and someone threw a drink on my badly chosen footwear).

Finally we ended up in Plug watching Steve Papa Edwards and the Big Strong Love, who we've seen before (and has someone I know in the band). They were marvellous and deserved a way bigger crowd.

We even managed to bag a taxi home with no difficulty whatsoever. All in all a remarkable, if middled aged, Tramlines experience. Which got even more middled aged the next day when as a family we went to Folk Forest at Endcliffe Park. But middle age has to be seen as a positive if it means you end up listening to folk music, helping your child make a bow and arrow, watching a blacksmith, talking to talented crafty type friends and eating ice cream.

I guess the thing that makes Tramlines such a joy is that everyone has such a different experience. Mine was a middle aged one. Had it been on ten years ago it would have been, well, a slightly younger middle aged one. In years to come I might just sit in Endcliffe Park drinking cider and wondering what band I've never heard of the girls are watching in town.

All in all we took in bands playing indie, rock (regular and cowboy no less), folk, soul and funk. And maybe other categories if I had a clue about modern music  - I could have been enjoying grime for all I know. So next year? Why not.


*I am exaggerating for effect of course, I have also heard of (and love) the Crookes. And David Roch. Yep that's it.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Open Letter to Sheffield Council

I'm writing this open letter because your email system seems to discourage people from actually writing letters saying how they feel. I can't think why.

There was a time, about a year ago, when I requested a bin. So before we go any further, is there any progress on my bin application please? No? I knew money was tight but this seems a little ridiculous. I could have made one for each week out of paper mache by now.

While we are on the subject of money, I'm wondering about the upcoming road improvement situation.

I noted with joy last week that someone had been down the adjoining road to ours with a can of yellow spray paint and circled some clearly hazardous small holes.

Imagine my expectation, then, as I turned into our road and saw no yellow paint at all. Did your spray can run out perhaps? Can you not afford another one? It must be that for I can see no discernable difference in the state of our road compared to the other.

Of course there is the fact that we are a small cul de sac off the end of that road. But no, it can't be that you think our road is not as important as the other one? Not when the road usage is pretty much the same what with the large number of black cab drivers, quite a few residents (including elderly ones), and frankly the fact that it's an ideal place for every man and his dog to turn round (I'm not blaming the dogs by the way).

It reminds me a little of that time when you spent weeks removing the paving slabs all the way down the adjoining residential road and replacing it with lovely smooth tarmac. Then you got to the end of our cul de sac and simply gave up. I presume tarmac was limited that day too. Perhaps you should think about getting a different supplier?

Hold on, I'm being a bit unfair. I remember now that you pulled up a couple of slabs and put down a few blobs of tarmac which had broken up and fallen off by six months later. There is nothing like making an effort. And that's nothing like making an effort.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt though. I'm presuming you have every intention of fixing our road. You are simply planning to come back with another can of yellow paint when you can afford it. If you let me know how much it is I can enclose a cheque if it helps.

It is good to see, however, that you have some white paint available as evidenced by our new white lines at the end of little cul de sac road I live on. It does seem a bit odd that you have had someone paint them on when clearly you needed to come back and mend our road first, but perhaps logic isn't something applied to road mending.

All this aside, could I respectfully suggest that you encourage your line painter to go on a course or at the very least get his machine serviced. The lines are decidedly wobbly and there is a little bit of a splatter gun approach. But there is a recession on.

Anyway. I look forward to seeing some little yellow circles on our road very soon. And perhaps a new bin near the entrance to the school?

Yours sincerely
Middle aged and confused from Sheffield



Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Internet Sensation

We nearly went to the Broadfield on the way to the gig on Sunday night. As we turned the corner into the Lantern car park we somewhat regretted our decision not to. I hadn't banked on joining a queue to get in and would rather have been standing at the bar. As it was we joined the queue and looked like we were just as eager to get in as all the others.

I wasn't expecting to queue, largely because I hadn't really heard of who we were coming to see and was rather surprised that lots of other people had. Especially surprised when they were all approximately 15. We felt very old and extremely unfashionable. And in Paul's case very male.

For information short shorts over see through tights are the in thing. If you want to stand out also wear a sort of bowler hat a la Clockwork Orange.

So we queued and felt marginally uncomfortable. I'm sure some of the girls pointed.

The good news was when the door opened most of the other members of the queue went in to grab seats at the front. That and the fact they couldn't have got served at the bar anyway meant we could order stout and lager in peace. There are benefits to feeling old, honestly.

I had booked the tickets in a flurry of excitement some time ago. I think I got swept along on a tide of us being grown ups with a regular babysitter and an enthusiasm for new stuff, especially music. It was a little bit of an error, albeit a humorous one. We were still knackered from Elvis the night before (who was undoubtedly going to be a hard act to follow). And we felt very very old. I feel the need to mention that again. Fortunately we were also in a good mood so spent most of the night laughing our heads off.

There were three acts. The first was called Shannon Saunders and had a beautiful voice. She's 18. We felt old. Especially when she kept banging on about the number of YouTube views he'd got.

The second was Frank Hamilton and we both loved his set. Plus he was at least on the way to being 30 so we couldn't technically have been his parents.

The third and main act of the night was Lewis Watson. We've never seen an "internet sensation" before. He's an artist tipped by some as the next Ed Sheeran, and Paul pointed out he's also a pretty good guitar player.

It was hard to give him a thorough critique though as we were too distracted by his apparent desirability. There was tittering, giggling and commenting on his every sentence. One girl even suggested having his baby. There was also swaying. Paul said "this must be what swooning sounds like". Lewis was clearly a very attractive proposition. He looked to me like a regular fairly awkward teenage boy (he's actually the grand old age of 20). Although I'll let him off the awkward. You would be too if most of the audience giggled after everything you said. We felt old.

We left early to relieve the babysitter (yep that'll be the old couple leaving) and outside the venue sat car after car with lone men in the driving seats. I suspect waiting for their daughters in the car was preferable to watching them fawn over an internet sensation with sideways swept hair.

Did I mention I'm old?

Monday, 10 June 2013

Another Icon

Well that was a mad weekend.

On Saturday night we were VIPs. Well I think the term VIP was a stretch but we did have dinner and wine at City Hall and really good seats. One definite additional bonus was that it meant we got to leave the house at 5.30 and had the night off from the bedtime routine. Plus it was a win win because the babysitter really enjoyed the 1980s film of Swallows and Amazons apparently.

So while they were enjoying up to date cinematic experiences I was trying to convince our waitress that she wanted to ask ElvisCostello to sign my 1978 copy of "Radio Radio". She tried bless her, but failed. We were clearly not VIPS. She also told us that when Peter Andre played City Hall he found his own way to the VIP room and hugged people. We didn't entirely know how to respond.

Anyway the show started and we had fantastic circle seats with an amazing view. Of course it transpired that had we been in the stalls he might have a) danced with me b) sat on my knee or c) invited me to spin the wheel to choose a song and dance in a go go cage.... Okay, probably best to be in the circle then.

The first couple to be invited to spin the wheel were called Molly and Michael, which seemed odd since the girls had named two of our brand new fish those names just that morning. Jackson and Thistle obviously weren't Elvis fans.

So the format was basically that Elvis Costello and The Imposters were on stage with a twenty foot tall spinning song selector, a bar for audience members to view from and a Go Go cage where some choosers were encouraged to dance, for in most cases just a little too long for their collection of dance moves. Some of those selected from the audience were slightly obsessed fans from Brighton, some were daughter father combinations that made me smile (and occasionally cringe) and one lady was clearly pregnant. They didn't make her dance in the go go cage for which I suspect she was truly grateful.

It was brilliant. One of those gigs where the words pop into your mouth despite you not having voiced them for twenty years. I particularly loved "She", "Red Shoes", "Watching The Detectives" - there were so many and he was a true showman. Very funny and energetic - well he needed to be since his set was nearly three hours long.

Then afterwards I did something I have never done before in my life. I went and stood at the stage door. Which showed dedication since I's been wearing heels for six hours.

I think partly I stood there because I'd met Billy Bragg already and I thought I couldn't miss the opportunity to meet another of my teenage icons. Also I had consumed quite a lot of free VIP wine and had a single in my handbag. And a very understanding husband.

So we waited and queued. After a while Elvis appeared and various people pushed in front of me. They also pushed in front of the disabled man in a wheelchair so I didn't take it personally. Once I appeared to be roughly near the front I plucked up enough courage and asked if he would sign my single and he did. I daren't ask for a hug or a photo so I didn't get one, but he was a gent. Although Billy hugged me without me even asking. Just saying..

It was an amazing night and it really felt like I had watched and, very briefly met, a star. The tickets also happened to be one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever been given by my lovely husband. So all round,pretty terrific.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

100 Acts of Minor Dissent

My love of the Lantern Theatre continues. Mark Thomas played there twice last night with part of a show destined for Edinburgh, for the princely sum of £10, in front of a maximum of 100 people. You can't get better than that. The laughter in the tiny venue could have lifted the roof off.

It was understandably sold out, twice.

He was, as usual, honest and hilarious. The audience left armed with subversive stickers bound for terrible books in megashops and a host of ideas ticking over. (Mum and Dad would approve of his stickers to attach to Jeremy Clarkson autobiographies: "Also available in charity shops!")

It was a fantastic night out yet again.

And we are off to the Lantern on Sunday for Lewis Watson and for Lucy Porter next week. It's my new favourite place. If you haven't been yet and you live in Sheffield, sort yourself out.

Monday, 3 June 2013

The beginning of something

For reasons of privacy I don't really want to put on here where I work or really what they do. If you know me then you'll know already. Sufficed to say I started my new job today and it was good. I am knackered but hopeful.

It's been an odd sort of day. It's been a while since I've done an induction and this one was certainly eclectic. I can't really say much more. Apart from that I now know a bit more about Annie Lennox and I work somewhere that has a balm making room. I spent most of the day thinking Chloe would love it. Which means it must be good.

My overwhelming feeling so far is joy that a place like where I work exists. It seems incredible, valuable and fascinating. Not a bad start.

So now I just need to get on with this working lark and start the new bit of my life. I am flipping shattered already though.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Milestone

So this is a big week for me. I had so much planned for before it arrived and have achieved none of it. The book isn't finished, I'm still overweight, and the house is a tip. I suppose at least the rabbits aren't dead which is some comfort. My output the last six weeks has been disappointing but then I've always been terrible for setting myself unachievable goals. My resolution for 2014 should be to not do that....ah.

But I digress.

Tomorrow I go to a job, in an office, for the first time in seven and a half years. I woke up this morning and sobbed. Not because I don't want to go. I do. And not because I don't think I can do it. I can.

But because it signifies reaching a whopping milestone because I start a new job tomorrow. Since we are using the analogy, this milestone is as you might expect one which makes me look back (it was chuffing hundreds of miles ago when I last had an email account that wasn't full of groupon offers) and forwards (it stretches about thirty years long and I can't see the easy chair at the other end of it which is frankly a worry).

I'm changing jobs. Not from one firm to another, or one role to another. It's not as straightforward as that.

My proud job title has been 'Stay at Home Mum' and it has been the best, toughest, at times literally crappy, gigglingly joyful, painfully exhausting and downright rewarding job in the world. For me anyway. It was my choice and it was the right one. But there's been a reshuffle in the office and my two team members appear to be at school all day which has shaken things up a bit. Not least in my brain.

So now I will do something different and reawaken my office working life between the hours of ten and two each day. The rest of the time I will still do everything I did before. So it's not actually a change of jobs. I'll still be doing all the painful, messy, hilarious stuff before and after work and school.

Oh I see now. I have essentially invented the 28 hour day.

So cross your fingers for me. That I can do both things well and that we are all happy. Because, well that's the point.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Simplicity

I've just found a birthday cake recipe that I thought I'd try from a blog and it's got me thinking.

The lady who writes it has done loads to try and simplify her life - from decluttering to changes in how she does certain tasks. It's interesting. I have always been a person who has stuff and likes stuff, but conversely it drives me a bit mad. And I could do with a more simple approach when I start work in less than two weeks (eek).

So could I simplify things? It's possible and the results might be helpful. Things could take less time and potentially cost less money.

Obviously I can't simplify the children (their activities, social lives and family time comes first) or the pets (we've committed there so no going back now: members of the family and all that). But maybe decluttering and putting some routines and systems in place could make a big difference in tidying up, cleaning, laundry, admin and meals. It sounds like a lot of up front work though.

Essentiallyit all needs a) time to do it and b) inclination (when I'd rather be watching Touch and The Mentalist). I'll think about it some more and start by reading more blogs. Because funnily enough I can find time for the internet. Maybe I'll absorb other people's processes by some kind of world wide web osmosis.

Edited to add: I've just decluttered the kitchen cupboards. Well my sort of decluttering that involves keeping three duplicate pots of baking soda because otherwise that would be wasteful. I'm not very good at getting rid of things evidently...

Monday, 20 May 2013

So so tired: It's still the rabbit's fault.

I'm sitting at the computer now having got the kids to school only just in time. I'm eating banana bread and drinking a vat of tea from my mug that says "You can't scare me I'm a mother" on the front. I thought it might give me some oomph but so far not so much.

Yesterday we were a bit foolish and left the girls together in the pen most of the day. I have just re-read this and realise you may think I mean Tilly and Phoebe. I mean the rabbits. Perhaps my attentions have more than a little unbalanced this last week.

Anyway the girls (rabbits) had been grooming each other and sitting together - all seemed positive and very sweet. So we took our eye off the rabbit ball, so to speak. This it turns out was a rather big mistake.

It ended in a quick angry, fluff on the lawn sort of battle that I could have avoided if I'd separated them quicker. Needless to say whilst I had read for the need of a water spray bottle and a towel to throw over them (just think Rocky) I had neither of these to hand and clearly they don't respond well to stern instructions. In the end I pushed them away from each other, in slight fear for my fingers, and put one on the lawn. Which was another error as we then spent the next ten minutes trying to herd her away from the bike hut and the plants she's not supposed to eat.

We eventually caught her and put both away, but not before noticing two minor cuts over a rabbit eye each. Plus the whole thing seemed to start Betsy going back to attacking her own stitches at night.

It puts sisterly bickering over swings into quite some perspective. Although we might try a jet of water at T and P when they start screaming next time.

Anyway at 3am I woke up having had a nightmare about starting work (oh excellent) and then panicking about how Betsy was. There was no chance I could go back to sleep without checking so for the next hour Paul and I took turns to go downstairs. We looked at her, moved basil so the web cam might work (it didn't), wrapped and re-wrapped her in bandages and custom designed t-shirts which she promptly got stuck in and then took off, and generally fretted about the insanity of it all. I honestly think human babies are less stressful.

By morning she was naked again (seems like an odd term for a rabbit but hey ho) and the wound was bleeding slightly. So more wrapping and constant checking on her all day again. Joy. My sense of humour is waning more than a little.

To make matters worse, as they reach sexual maturity the fighting is likely to get even more dramatic leading to the need for spaying them both at quite some cost and most post operative angst. Times two.

I honestly thought getting them from babies would be better - but it really is a challenge. It's so difficult I feel like I should be raising money for charity - it's like my own personal three peaks or half marathon. Anyone want to sponsor me?

Saturday, 18 May 2013

End to End

It's been a busy week to say the least, and it finished with a night out for me and two of my friends to The Lantern theatre in Sheffield. And before I go any further if you have never been it's very important that you do. The theatre is tiny, so the plays, music and comedy you see there are eclectic and reasonably priced and you are really close to the action. I'd say there are about a hundred seats and that's it. Plus it's beautiful - a tiny little theatre in the heart of Nether Edge. So far we've seen Robin Ince play there and a slightly strange silent comedy from the Fringe. In the next few weeks we are seeing Lucy Porter, Mark Thomas playing a pre-Edinburgh show and singer songwriter Lewis Watson. We could have bought tickets to much much more. So there you are, go and find something you like, or do what we did last night: pick something that looks interesting and go for it.

I love a road trip story and that is what 'End to End' by the Gramophones is. A play re-enacting an 18 day trip from Lands End to John O'Groats, taken by three friends. I wondered what they were expecting when they set off. Did they expect it to be a trip full of funny experiences? Certainly there were a few presented, but the journey came across as more of an emotional one exploring the idea of adventure, risk taking, relationships and the draw of home. The dramatisations were imaginative and amusing - I especially enjoyed the micro-lighting  swimming and hitch-hiking sections. And being wafted - you'll know what I mean when you see the show.

The girls are doing the journey again up to Scotland again, this time with their play. If you live further North of Sheffield they might be coming to you - including Harrogate, Newcastle, Berwick and a few dates in Scotland too. Go and support them if you can, and then you have to go on a journey yourself to carry the idea forward.

Great night out. I feel shattered after this week but it was a lovely way to end it.

Ok so what to do today? Oh yes buy a fish tank, redress a rabbit, try and catch a 2p bus to Pete McKee's art exhibition, household chores, decorate a dolls house, plan a party, finish rabbit proofing in the rain...I guess I ought to get everyone some breakfast!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Rabbit Trauma - It Goes On

So Betsy no longer minds us putting the coat on her. This is because she can remove it in about half an hour.

When I went to bed at midnight last night she was wearing it. By 5.30 she had taken it off. I put it back on bleary eyed.

By 8am she was no longer wearing it so I sewed bits together and put it back on. By 9am she had removed it.

So then I put it on backwards with the velcro on the top and it's still like that now which is boding well. But she's probably just humouring me.

The trouble is she needs it on. She's obviously been bothering her stitches in the time she's had without it, so I'll persevere.

The other thing to persevere with is her sister. Apparently they may fall out with each other because they have been apart. So now we've got musical hutches (not literally although I might market that idea along with rabbit jackets). The hatch is shut and the ramp removed and I swap over the rabbits and their toys several times a day. Plus I make sure when one is in the run she can see the other one through the wire. It's like a medium security rabbit prison with an easily confused prison warden letting them out of their cells for exercise time. If one of them starts digging out like the Great Escape I might have a meltdown.

Right I'm off to clean out their cells, I mean litter trays and then to design a range of rabbit ear warmers.

Pretty Special - See what I did there?

Last night I skanked a bit. It's not something I've done for a good few years. I don't honestly think I have danced so much at a gig in my life as I did at The Specials yesterday. Such great music and a fantastic atmosphere. So why do I feel a bit frustrated?

It's down to the fact that I like my gigs to have something personal about them. When they don't I get the overwhelming feeling of being a bit let down. Surely bands do it all for the love and enjoy every second?

Ok I know. I suppose they would be a fool not to tour when they sell out venues and receive the reaction they got last night. Gift horses and all that.

Anyway I like a bit of banter. Terry Hall didn't exactly say much apart from "Sheffield, Sheffield" (which could just as well have been "Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes"). Throw in a reference to the state of both football teams and have a dig at Leeds and you have the crowd on your side. Very lazy if you ask me. I mind this more than I minded getting splashed in the face in the first ten seconds by a jettisoned drink (that's what I'm telling myself it was).

But obviously you couldn't call the rest of the gig lazy. The music was incredible. And the additional great thing about the Specials is that loads of the lyrics are simple. Which means you can look as if you've known the words all your life and sing along enthusiastically after only hearing one chorus.

I also loved the crowd. It was like a scene from 'This is England'. I did have to chuckle though when everyone started bouncing up and down like a maniac after the first couple of notes of the classics, like "Message to you Rudy", but couldn't keep up the level of fitness for the full three minutes. The bouncing ended up reduced to a low level shuffle. That's what comes with being middle aged. All of the enthusiasm for reminiscing and none of the fitness required for a Ska gig.

So in the words of The Specials "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think." Just have a nice sit down and a cup of tea afterwards to recover.


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Rabbit Trauma - Continued

Well it's two days post op, give or take, and things have moved on slightly.

Betsy and I have become close having lived in each other's pockets for 15 hours. I have learnt that rabbits never close their eyes and they "sleep" (with eyes open) for approximately ten minutes at a time. Usually waking up the instant you stop looking at them. I also have a strong feeling you cannot train a rabbit to do much. Certainly not to stop licking their stitches.

The nurse rang again yesterday to check she was alright. I regaled her with tales of 'bunny watch' whether she was interested or not. She suggested finding a dolls t-shirt which we all found hysterical, but clearly we tried anyway. What the heck.

The girls agreed to give up an old dolls t-shirt which does up with velcro. We wrestled her into it. She jumped out with quite alarming speed. Perhaps it was a bit dull for her. Tilly suggested drawing a basketball on the front.

Paul pointed out it was miles too big so then the tailoring began. I can only say Peter Rabbit's mother must have had excellent sewing skills. I don't have paws and I found it hard to fashion a coat that the rabbit couldn't get out of. It's no wonder she was cheesed off when he didn't come back wearing it.

We cut bits off, inserted darts (sort of) and ended up with something that looked like a cross between a Michael Jackson outfit (cue Tilly breaking into "Heal the World" for the billionth time), and Matthew Wilder's leather jacket ("Nobody gonna breaka my stride..."). It was on and it looked natty. I didn't bother with brass buttons.

Then we went about our business and eventually went to bed.

This morning Paul went to check on her and...drum roll...she was just in process of taking it off. It was like she'd waited all night to reveal her escapology skills in front of an audience. I'm worried all this attention is going to her head.

So I've sewn it up again and added bits on. She's been back to the nurse who basically seemed impressed with our efforts and said to try and keep it on her for five days. We have not a hope. I think she'll get faster at removing it as she gets more practiced. I suspect I'll need several on rotation.

On the upside by the end of the week my sewing skills will have improved and she will have moved on in sartorial elegance to be wearing some patchwork garment made out of colourful offcuts. Like Betsy and her amazing technicolour dreamcoat. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Rabbit Trauma

My coffee has gone cold. Just like when the girls were tiny and you never got a hot cup of anything. Today is a bit intense.

So to catch you up, in case you are interested in rabbit issues, Betsy's lump seems to have been a reaction to the vaccine. She was prescribed antibiotics initially in case it wasn't - apparently the same sort you get for children (banana flavour). Funny then that it cost £8.90 for about 140ml.

Getting her to take it wasn't easy. The vet suggested one of us hold her lower back down to the table and the other give the medicine by syringe. It worked once or twice but overall I wouldn't recommend this method. Unless you want a) biting, b) kicking and c) a great sense of frustration. At one point she jumped out of my arms and onto my shoulder like a parrot. I couldn't use my tried and tested child medicine method and give her a Chewit afterwards. She isn't allowed.

Google advised wrapping her in a towel and holding her legs under and forward which was more successful. By the end of the week we had the method down which was typical because of course the antibiotics did nothing whatsoever.

So yesterday it was back to the vets and he decided it was necessary to remove the lump (at the cost of the people who make the vaccine apparently, which is a good job taking into account the cost of the medicine). So I left her there. I felt like a bad mother on all sorts of levels and spent the day achieving little and fretting a lot.

At 3.30 we picked her up. The girls did well I thought - they didn't seem horrified by the large bald patch and sewn up wound. The nurse told us we have to keep an eye on her to ensure she eats and drinks, and to keep her apart from Petal as her sister might try and bite her wound. She assured us Betsy couldn't reach her own wound to bother her stitches.

Wrong again. This rabbit is like Houdini. She is stretchy and bendy and on returning home I realised she was not going to leave them alone. When she started pulling at her back with her teeth I rang the vet and he advised trying to stick a plaster over the wound. This advice, it turned out, was not wholly sound. I managed to scare the living daylights out of Betsy chasing her round her hutch trying to stick plaster after plaster to the patch of skin. Each one I put on she tore off in seconds. Eventually I built up a sort of plaster patchwork - I used everything I had. Tiny round ones to hold on massive big ones, joined together by normal long ones. She ripped them all off. I hoped the kids didn't choose that moment to fall over as our supplies were running low.

Then she managed to rip a stitch and I stuck the final plaster over the bleed while I checked the opening times and rang the vet again. By the time I was back downstairs she had ripped it off and there was no sign of it. So now I was  panicking about the stitches and the fact that she has clearly eaten a Boots plaster. Which I'm sure doesn't fit into the category of only hay, grass and nuggets.

The nurse was amazing. She agreed to come over on her way home, bringing with her a cone even though they don't normally put them on rabbits. Apparently the situation she has had is extremely unusual being so little and she has to leave the stitches alone. She explained everything, chatted to us and put the cone on Betsy, then went home.

At this point everything got a bit out of hand. Betsy, as predicted, hated it. She threw herself about and generally looked extremely stressed. The kids got upset. It was awful.

Eventually the girls went to sleep and we decided to trim the cone down so she could drink and eat properly. This we did and we left her for a while to get used to it, feeling extremely guilty.

When we went back outside before bed we discovered she had managed to push the cone up so her mouth was sticking out, but the cone was over her eyes and ears. It was a bit of a surprise (I told you she was like Houdini) and the approach did have it's merits. She couldn't reach her stitches but could eat and drink. Of course it was stuck around her eyes so she couldn't see and it was still fastened round her neck so we decided her plan wasn't a great one. The decision was made to bring her indoors and take off the cone. Not least because we'd worked out we might have to hand feed her her own poo. 

Paul stayed up until 2am working next to her, with a window open on his laptop showing a webcam. Everytime she went for her stitches he stopped her, until he came to bed exhausted. At 4am I came downstairs and took over. I've never slept on the kitchen floor before. It reminded me of camping. What with the sound of the pouring rain on the roof and me wearing more clothes than I had worn in the day including a pair of hiking socks. I'm not sure being down here helped much with the stitches but it did at least make me feel like I was trying to help.

And today? Well today I still can't bring myself to put the cone back on. It's too distressing. So instead I am doing things that take place in the kitchen. Blogging and minute writing, cleaning, I might even stretch to a bit of ironing. Interspersed of course with telling Betsy off every three minutes for biting her stitches. And for eating the carpet. She really hasn't a clue about this restricted diet for junior rabbits things. Deep joy. I'm hoping the sound of the washing machine will make her fall asleep like it used to for Tilly, although so far it's not looking promising.

Oh well it's only for a couple of days until she will apparently lose interest in the stitches as they start to properly heal.

It's just as well I like a bit of camping.