Sunday, 28 December 2014

Our Christmas

You reach a point in life when Christmas becomes yours. It might be just that you grow up and want to do things differently. It might not be a choice you wanted to make. It might be because your own family has grown and needs change. It is your choice how to celebrate.

I have only ever hosted Christmas once before I think. And then my Mum was with me so we did the Christmas we have always done together. Just with a smaller oven.

But this year our girls are bigger. We wanted to stay at home and Paul's parents came to stay. So for the first time ever Christmas was being run by us.

I have always adored Christmas  and growing up at home our family traditions held good. Early present opening. Bucks Fizz earlier than is probably advisable. Mum appearing in the room to open a present or two throughout the morning wearing a pinny. A walk. Sherry in a World's Best Mum glass. Fantastic food. That smile my Mum has when she is looking after her family. Lit pudding. Dad's brandy butter. Games after lunch. No time or inclination for the Queen. Home made Christmas cake. Turkey sandwiches. Stories. As we got older there were evening games and cocktails. That was always my Christmas.

So year we needed our Christmas. A Christmas to fit our family and to entertain our lovely guests.

So we did it. And just as expected it was almost exactly the same. The only difference was chicken instead of turkey (because there was less chance of me overcooking it) and the quality of the Christmas cake (I tried Delia I really did). Oh and brandy butter from a jar (sorry Dad).

This Christmas fitted our life. Just as this Christmas has always fitted. It was lovely.

But I missed my Mum and Dad. Because my Christmas is theirs. And always will be.

Unless we win the lottery and end up in Hawaii one year...

Thank you.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Journaling - Day 21

This is it. The last day of Journaling. I don't know why just 21 days - but I don't want to get bogged down with it so this will be the last for a while. Not a bad one to finish.

Things I am grateful for:
1. That the snow hadn't melted overnight.
2. Having marshmallows in the drawer for the hot chocolate
3. Time and space to read and write.

So this morning was pretty idyllic. The girls went and played in the garden early making a snowman and generally having fun. Then we got togged up and went to the hill to sledge - meeting friends from school along the way. This girls are old enough now that they didn't burst into tears when falling off a sledge and the fun lasted a lot longer than usual. But they are getting a bit too heavy to drag on a sledge home - Paul says anyway. I have a bad back so got out of it.

There was more film watching, jigsaws, games, reading, drawing and a trip to town for Paul and Tilly (Phoebe and I stay home in the warm). I wish this could go on forever.


Journaling - Day 20

Things I am grateful for:
1. Fresh air
2. New bargains from Fat Face
3. Snow at Christmas.

So today we went for another walk, this time to the Botanical Gardens. We found the bear and searched for riddles. The kids had a ball. It's all been going better than I ever expected.

We ended up in Starbucks (after a quick trip to Fat Face sales), then came home and played, watched How to Train Your Dragon 2, cooked the world's biggest gammon. As I read to my clean pyjama'd girls the snow began to fall. And fall. Beautiful. Finally snow during the Christmas holidays/

Journaling - Day 19

Things I am grateful for:

1. Christmas food
2. All our lovely gifts
3. No rain on Christmas Day

Today worked really well. Presents and smiles. A walk to the Park. Dinner (only one broken plate and some dubious roast potatoes). Puss in Boots. Famous Five. Champagne.

I am lucky to have a lovely family. Even if the smallest one really doesn't like losing.

Journaling - Day 18

Things I am grateful for:
1. Ecclesall Woods/beautiful places to walk near our doorstep
2. Community - it was lovely seeing everyone on Christmas  Eve as the kids got involved in the Nativity at Church.
3. My slow cooker.

Christmas Eve was pretty good all in. I managed to get a lot of boring necessary jobs done in the morning before taking the girls for a short walk in the woods with a packet of biscuits.

Our guests arrived in the afternoon and we all went to the Nativity at Church in the evening. I don't believe in God but was treating it as a cultural education experience (and a nice Christmassy thing to do with the added benefit of me getting to sing carols). The girls dressed up (an angel and a king), spent time with their friends and loved the Christingle part - although I'm sure my Christingles never had jelly babies on them. There were carols, smiles, candles in the darkness and it really felt like the start of Christmas. It had the added bonus that Tilly said she now thinks she knows more about Christianity than ever before so the educational bit worked.

We walked home, ate slow cooked stew and the girls went to sleep in minutes in case Father Christmas didn't come. We watched TV, drank wine and it was just lovely.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Journaling - Day 17

Things I am grateful for:
1. Paul letting me have a lie in. I was awake at 4 again for no apparent reason.
2. The cinema. Too expensive but love it when we go.
3. Marzipan. We had two extra friends over today and they made marzipan models. I expect they may have eaten quite a lot of it. I marzipanned probably the world's worst Christmas cake and may have eaten the bits that fell off.

It is inexplicable but I genuinely can't help liking the Nativity films. I took the girls to see Nativity 3 this morning after a quick gingerbread latte and some breakfast. How they manage to get some of my favourite people to be in these films is a wonder to me. I mean Ralph Little? Never mind Catherine Tate, Martin Clunes (who hasn't played a role this daft since Staggered), Duncan Preston, and Jason Watkins. I mean the script is terrible, the jokes are childish, the songs are cheesy - what made them sign up? I like to think it was the joy of Christmas and not the cash.

And despite all these down points I enjoy the films a bit too much. And not just because the girls do. Maybe it's because I don't watch enough films with children larking about in. Maybe it's because they are British. Maybe I'm just a little bit stupid.

It was a good morning.

Journaling - Day 16

Things I am grateful for:
1. Dancing
2.The Ferrero Rocher at the end of pilates
3. Having done the Christmas food shopping

This afternoon we had a little Christmas party for the girls friends who we only see in the holidays. We ate food, did come crafts, played stick the nose on the reindeer, passed the parcel and did a large amount of disco dancing. I got to talk to my friends, spend time with a one year old and watch the girls having a great time.

Then it was pilates, the food shop (surprisingly not too hectic) and an evening in front of the telly. And Christmas TV is isn't disappointing me so far this year. We loved the Wrong Mans (again) and Would I lie to you Christmas special. and we've still got Brian Pern and Never Mind the Buzzcocks recorded and it's only 23rd. I know TV is the drug of the nation, but sometimes it's pretty darn good and it makes me laugh out loud, which is good for the soul.

Journaling - Day 15

I'm getting behind. So this was Sunday. Things I am grateful for:
1. Pantomimes
2. Playgrounds
3. My Mum's chicken pie.

We went to the pantomime in the afternoon. It's an unusual one the Spalding affair. Every so nearly a perfect panto but with an audience who can't quite commit to the things you are supposed to shout out. "Do you want to sing the song everyone?" A Halfhearted "Yes" from the audience. "Well we are doing it anyway" came the smiling if resigned response (I think they've done this show at least 20 times already.

The costumes are good one minute (great in the case of the two ugly sisters) but falling apart slightly another (I swear I could see gaffa tape on the fairy). A paper mache pumpkin one minutes, an animated flying horse and carriage the next. It's a bit bonkers. But the girls faces - in particular Phoebe's - showed that it was truly the best pantomime in the world. And cheesy though it is, watching them light up is the happiest I can be.

Phoebe didn't realise the dames were boys. Although to be fair they both had way better legs than I do and the ability to walk in startlingly high heels so it's an easy mistake to make...


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Journaling - Day 14

Things I am grateful for:
1. Mum
2. Dad
3. Home

Back home home for the weekend. It's been a good day. A quick visit to my aunt to say hello, play musical instruments, gaze at fairground toys and eat mince pies. Then home to Mum and Dad's to eat, drink and play. The kids enjoyed playing in a den, decorating the tree and cake and watching a Christmas film. We all enjoyed dinner, cointreau, talking and just being downright comfortable. Goes without saying but I love coming home.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Journaling - Day 13

Things I am grateful for:
  1. My thoughtful gifts from my hugely lovely work colleagues
  2. Much as I love where I work I am extremely grateful that today was the last work day for a week.
  3. That Paul finished the Christmas shopping and bought the Radio Times.

We still have tonnes to do, everyone is ill or getting ill (including in Tilly’s case violent sneezing and subsequent nose bleeds) and Phoebe is being very wingey and quite unpleasant at times. Despite all this today still managed to be a happy day because it’s the start of Christmas. We wrapped presents and tidied the house (even managing to find the smallest present in the world I thought I’d lost in the process). I’m trying to limit my wholly unrealistic plans of a spotless house and perfect dinner because if I don’t I will ultimately fail and feel rubbish.

I’ve decided to shorten my pre Christmas list radically to help my mental health. So my list is now this and (listen to this brain) the whole family will help me and they don’t actually mind (well Paul doesn’t):

  1. Change beds. Although we might not bother.
  2. Clean out the rabbits and fish. Blooming pets. I can’t really avoid this one.
  3. Hoover. Only in rooms people will sit in. 
  4. Clean the bathrooms. Roughly just so they smell ok.
  5. Go food shopping. For turkey, pre-prepared veg and vodka.
  6. Bake mince pies and Christmas biscuits with the girls. Then eat them.
  7. Wrap remaining presents.
  8. Drink wine. Probably during all of the above. Well maybe not while cleaning the rabbits out.


So really that’s only 5 things that aren’t very pleasant and we have 6 days to do them. Even I can’t fail to manage that can I?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Journaling - Day 12

Things I am grateful for:
1. The kids breaking up from school
2. My new calendar that Phoebe made me. She isn't great at waiting for things. It's too exciting.
3. That I woke up from my nap (seriously) not feeling sick.

I was supposed to have some friends over for wine tonight but have cancelled for fear of giving them any kind of lurgey I might be harbouring. I was expecting that to be my good bit. Instead the best bit was picking up the girls. I've had enough get ups and remember to takes to last me a couple of weeks. Now I'm just waiting for the girls to go to sleep so I can drink tea, eat biscuits, sob over DIY SOS  and have an early night.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Journaling - Day 11

Some days if I write more than the grateful for and the good bit I trickle into talking about negative things. Because days at the minute can be pretty trying. So today I'm going purist for the positive and hoping to forget the rest of it.

Grateful for:
1. Comedy. It's the Comedy awards on Radio 2 today. It made me laugh on the way home, especially "Lost Voice Guy" (who is coming to Spalding in May I see.) Laughing outloud to the radio is joyful because it took me by surprise.
2. Good children's TV programmes. Because it feels slightly less useless when they watch Mr Stink instead of something where people pour slime over their heads. Although the kids do love the slime.
3. No-one being hit on the head by the light that fell from the ceiling this evening at singing.

Tilly's swimming now has the added benefit of having my friend's son in the same class. So we caught up and chatted which was fab. Then in the evening it was our last singing session with mulled wine, cake and more talking. The only problem is my throat now hurts quite a lot.




Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Journaling - Day 10

1.Tilly's enthusiasm for life - never fails to impress me.
2. A husband who helps.
3. Mookau. I just did lots more Christmas shopping.

This morning was Till'y Christmas performance. I really enjoyed it despite the random nature of the actors changing between scenes. Who knew Scrooge had so many sides to his character - some of them female. With both our girls you can always hear them singing as loud (and roughly in tune) as they can. Tilly had extra responsibilities like introducing the play and moving props at the end and took them very seriously as usual. She had been concerned about the rest of the cast's projection but she didn't need to worry. It was fab. Surely this must nearly be the end of the pre Christmas shows now? And the raffles?

I'm writing this now because in a while I have to do the trek to swimming and by the time I get back form the stifliing pool there's a chance I won't remember how happy I was this morning...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Journaling - Day 9

Things I am grateful for:
1. Mushrooms
2. Christmas lights on houses
3. Not getting a parking ticket

It's been a trying day. Not least because I'm now trying to get things done before Christmas, have no time to do anything and am trying far too hard. Tilly told me off for wanting to clean the oven. She said she won't bother when she's a grown up. I said I have the same idea which is why the once I year I actually do it it's a task of epic proportions.

The good thing today was my second week of pilates. It's such a tiny group - really friendly and welcoming. It doesn't feel much like exercise but it's relaxing and a good thing for my back. Plus it got me out of the house after 2 hours of bickering. Who knew Christmas card making could be such an angry thing. I came back after an hour much calmer and ready to tackle some stuff so it was a wise move. although I feel guilty that I haven't done any more exercise since last week.

Wow it's been one of those days. Focus on the positives love.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Journaling - Day 8

Things I am grateful for:
1. Chloe and Ian.
2. Our rabbit putting herself back in the hutch so we didn't have to chase her round the garden in the cold.
3. That I've finished writing Christmas cards. Well nearly.

I am feeling under pressure today. I knew it would start soon - the impending Christmas fear - and this is when I get a bit stupid and try to make everything 'perfect' before inevitably failing. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to handle it. I find it very difficult to limit myself to the things I have to do and want to do. I'm not thinking about it tonight it's a bit too much of a mental and emotional challenge.

The positive today though was going to see Chloe and Ian in Leeds for sausage sandwiches and chatting. It's been far too long since we've been. I feel like about most of our friends this year which is more than a bit crap. Of course it was as if we saw them five minutes ago.  Apart from the fact that Ian has grown a lustrous beard since the last time we saw him. The kids loved looking at the alternative Christmas decorations and watching one of the cat's performing daring feats. I just loved seeing oldest bestest friends. That is what this time of year is all about after all.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Journaling - Day 7

Things I am grateful for:
1. I came home this morning to find a bag hanging on my door handle. It said that I should "write some lovely lists" and inside were two beautiful notebooks and 4 coloured biros. I simply have no idea who this is from - I tried to work it out from the handwriting and failed. Thank you. I am so grateful for you and for you doing such a thoughtful thing. You made my day.
2. My friend who shares the driving with me on Saturday morning for Razzamataz. It's a massive help.
3. Eccy Road. A morning with Paul eating bacon sandwiches and doing a bit of Christmas shopping on one of my favourite streets is a good start to a weekend.

Today was such a good day it seems unfair that I have just been woken up by a nightmare and can't get back to sleep. My brain has slightly spoiled it but hey ho.

After our lovely morning, coming back and discovering my present and having a long nap on my sofa (I know what a Saturday right?) we watched the girls' dance routine to when "Santa Got Stuck up a Chimney". It was actually pretty good and they did actual dance moves in time with each other. The freestyling section was a bit bonkers but we were pretty impressed. Clearly Razzamataz is paying off. Plus they'd been playing together planning it for an hour without argument and were making good use of the disco ball.

Then we went over to one of my best friends in all the world's house for a Christmas party. The kids had glitter tattoos and played for hours with the other children and we had the chance to talk and catch up with friends in possibly the best kitchen ever. It really feels like Christmas has started. We drove home, put the children to bed and watched Hope Springs with the fire on while eating sandwiches.

I know I am so much better because I never for a moment thought "I don't want to go" and wasn't anxious at all. Plus having been out socially two days in a row I still feel happy and positive which is a massive change. Despite the fact that I'm awake at 4.48 which is frankly unfair.

Journaling - Day 6

Things I'm grateful for:
1. Fun and fascinating work colleagues and friends.
2. Blue skies.
3. Christmas lunch at work. Definitely festive.

It was our work Christmas do and once I got over my initial anxiety about turning up in a pub on my own I really enjoyed myself. The people I work with are so much fun and so eclectic it makes my life richer for knowing them. I wore sparkly shoes, danced to One Step Beyond, ate food and drank wine. And talked, an awful lot, most of which I imagine was gibberish. My head hurts today which is a shame because it really was a good night  and I don't want my lasting memory of it to be ibuprofen and a nap on the sofa. Wine is my friend and yet also my enemy...

I also bought a homeless man a cup of coffee on the way to the pub. It's a a very small act of kindness that I do very occasionally and in the freezing cold last night I couldn't just walk past. The idea I'm following at the moment encourages you to do small acts of kindness I guess so it puts like into perspective and spreads positivity. So I'm going to think about this more.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Journaling - Day 5

Things I am grateful for today:
1. Small children in nativity plays. Especially my own.
2. New sparkly shoes.
3. A comfortable bedroom where I can listen to rain on the roof.

I've just come back from a music concert at school. I was initially not convinced as it cost me £10 for the 3 of us to go and watch Tilly who takes approximately 48 seconds to play her guitar solo. Actually it was lovely (if a little long) and there was free wine although I should have gone up for seconds. Children playing instruments is a little bit magical. Plus it's made me want to tune the piano. and play again. Maybe Paul will sort that out for me as a Christmas present.

Oh and Phoebe is now 100% totally and utterly convinced she wants to learn clarinet. Or flute. Or both. But not trombone.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Journaling - Day 4

Things I am grateful for:
1. Pasta sauce. Sometimes I just can't be bothered.
2. Ice cream. See above.
3. Stationery. I'm in a list writing place and you can't beat a lovely notebook. Or a 20p one from school.

The happiest thing today so far has been watching my biggest daughter and her best friend rock and roll dancing in the kitchen. They learnt the moves at Brownies last week and through themselves into reliving the dance session with gusto. They aren't exactly strictly standard but they were giggling and so were we. I'm not sure this counts as journaling - it's a short one. But today has been a bit full on and this was a moment of happiness.

Anxiety

My anxiety has a physical feeling. It's a butterflies turning to sick feeling in my stomach. These last few months I have had this feeling from a couple of times a day to, in some cases, all day. In most situations I cannot tell you what the cause was, or how or why it went away. Or why it came back a little while later.

Anxiety doesn't totally stop me doing things. I function, albeit in a slightly dizzy distracted way. I muddle through with the things I have to do  and often it really is a muddle. In the last few weeks I have forgotten to take things with me, failed to do things I should have remembered and overall felt overwhelmed by the nature of parenting two busy bubbly daughters. I've felt a failure in most regards and I have let myself and everything else slide. There is something to say I have impossibly high expectations of myself (more of that another time no doubt) but recently I have felt like nothing I do is good enough.

My anxiety or low mood, whatever you want to label it, is cyclical. When I am at my worst it is pretty obvious to people who know me. I talk less, cry more, don't ring my mum and write nothing whatsoever. I cut myself off.

I did go to the GP and I've been talking to someone about things. It is a slow process.

The last few days I have felt more myself. Things are clearly getting better because I feel like I can make some changes. So I'm trying. Baby steps and all that. But I worry that this will come back in all it's miserable anxious stupor. So these changes need to improve things not just now but for the future which is a big ask.

It's hard for me to write about this. Partly because I don't want you to think I'm a terrible person who can't cope. Partly because I don't want to you think I'm asking for your sympathy.

But the reason I'm writing this is to add my voice to talking about mental illness. I'm bubbly and chatty (some might say loud) with a wonderful family and home. What have I got to be low about? Well the fact that I don't even know says something about the nature of mental illness.

So here it is. I'm ok by the way.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Journalling - Day 3

1. Hugs. Random ones from friends at school gates.
2. My daughter happily practising her guitar of her own accord.
3. Radio 4. Especially plays.

Manic day. Half an hour of peace in my bedroom while Paul sorted the kids out. I needed some time and after a while it was a happy time. I sat on my bed resting my eyes while listening to Paul make the kids laugh in the bath. Then I dried Phoebe's hair. Strangely the happiness twenty minutes of my day. Warm, calm, routine and strangely one of my favourite things.



Monday, 8 December 2014

Journaling - Day 2

Things I'm grateful for:
1. A warm house. It's freezing out there.
2. Phoebe seeming much better. No temperature or headache. And no waking up in the night either.
3. Angela and Freddy. I don't know many little babies anymore apart from little Freddy. And there is little better in life than a cuddle with a baby and a chat with a friend.

Journaling:
So today I started at my new gym. I say started, I mean I went to a pilates class which is hardly frantic exercise, but I'm starting slow so as not to fail and beat myself up. It's a tiny class with lots of attention and I enjoyed it. Exercise is one of the other things recommended for low mood so I'm forcing myself out there and taking it one step at a time. This gym is small and friendly. They say hello when you go in and everyone knows everyone. And so far very few women are tiny and wearing lycra which helps marginally with my self esteem. A good start if  gentle one.


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Journaling

Ok so there is a lot to catch up with. I've been struggling of late - more of that no doubt another time. But for now I've been sent a link that has inspired me to try a few changes. Apparently writing 3 (different) things you are grateful for every day for 21 days is beneficial in rewiring your brain. Mine is in need of rewiring. Also journaling one thing that made you happy each day helps you relive happy memories instead of focusing on negatives.

So here goes.

Three things I'm grateful for:
1. Paul. For having the energy and positivity every day despite me challenging positivity every step of the way these last few months.
2. My singing group. Singing makes me happy. Singing in a field whilst slightly giggling makes me very happy.
3. Our real Christmas tree. It isn't artistic. In fact it's a bit bonkers. It smells nice and is covered in memories.And Paul and I walked down the road carrying it home which might just be a new tradition. Especially since we now have a much smaller car...

So my journaling today has to be singing at the Nether Edge Market with Jacapella. I've blogged about my singing group before and I love it. It has made me use my brain a different way and has introduced me to some lovely new friends.

Today we met, drank mulled wine and ate mince pies and ran through our songs in the warm. Then we sang together in the middle of the market. We made it through all our songs with happiness and mostly accuracy (despite some of us singing parts we'd never really sung before). We didn't draw crowds of people. Most of our audience were family, friends and other singers. But we sounded lovely and enjoyed ourselves immensely. And then we did it again on the bowling green while small people queued to see Father Christmas. The sky was blue, the rain came down and a rainbow appeared above us. It was almost poetic. And pretty much in tune.

Afterwards I had a drink with my friend and wandered around the market before buying cake and heading home. It was good.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Worries

As a child I was always a bit of a worrier. I remember a Brownie meeting when a fireman came and talked about turning off all electric plug sockets at night. My Dad was resolutely determined not to have to reprogramme the Betamax video recorder everyday so refused point blank. I went to bed convinced we would burn in our beds.

I had to have the door open just so (my own palm's width) and the landing light on.

I went through a fear of my parents dying which I obviously never mentioned to them. Instead I thought it was better to say "see you in the morning" every night. If they said it back everything would be fine. If they didn't I spent hour tossing and turning expecting the worst.

I shouldn't really be surprised therefore that my own eldest daughter can worry for England. Although it only happens the instant I leave the room after I put her to bed so I'm pretty sure it's sometimes a delaying tactic. She's not daft. Mention a fear of death and what parent doesn't hang around for another half an hour chatting in a reassuring fashion?

That isn't fair really. She definitely does worry. Although the worries sometimes seem wildly different from each other.

Last night she was worried she'd upset her friend two months ago by refusing to let her do her nails. Last week it was about having to swim without goggles. She is often worried about the saggy state of her panda's arms. Often it's how long she will have to live with her verrucas and whether bits of her will fall off.

Tonight she is worried about all the endangered animals in the world and what on earth can be done about it. This one has come up more than once and, well, I can't exactly say "it'll be alright, go to bed and I'll add more stuffing tomorrow" to fix it.

So in a desperate bid to get her to go to sleep (so I can actually write something) I've promised we will consider some more fund raising efforts for the WWF (not the wrestlers of course) as a family. So brace yourselves.

Let's hope tomorrow's worry is about socks again.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Another letter to the council

To whom it may concern

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to raise this concern. The website allows me to complain about pot holes and litter but there is no way of complaining about thoughtless dangerous people parking in the wrong place. So I’m sending this to you in the hopes that it reaches someone appropriate.

Now I appreciate some parents can be extremely troublesome. I, for one, am annoying. I keep writing to the council about litter, potholes and traffic congestion. But it seems that some parents are even worse than this, especially when it comes to the use of their legs.

For many parents apparently the idea of parking safely around a school and walking 100 metres further is a terrible inconvenience. I could be forgiving and say there is perhaps a much better reason for this than ignorance and laziness. Perhaps they can’t read the signs, or don’t understand what a yellow line means. Which is worrying in itself as they all appear to have driving licences.

So some of our parents, (for whatever reason they think justifies it) park on yellow lines and up curbs at school drop off time. This makes it insanely difficult to see clearly enough to cross a road with small children and without Tufty the Squirrel (1970s road safety reference) it’s a real challenge. 

Bad parking makes the road narrower of course which also results in those drivers who are trying to legally travel down Bannerdale Road getting irate and therefore being much more likely to break the speed limit and narrowly miss running over small children on a daily basis. 

Traffic wardens simply act as a deterrent on the day and nothing more. They see them standing there and park further away. For 24 hours.

The school has tried to explain the dangers to parents. They don’t seem to listen. Signs are put up. We even had the school council (six year olds and a grown up) challenging parents directly which was a good tactic but it only worked for about three days. And if you aren’t going to listen to a six year old who are you going to listen to?

So answers? Ultimately I suspect hitting parents where it hurts is the answer. For some this would be points on their licence; for most it would be cold hard cash.

Here’s my suggestion.

Just ask your traffic wardens to start their shift a little later. Turn up at 8.45 and just see the result. 

1. Everyone could get a parking ticket slapped on their windscreen while the parents are in school depositing their children. Cue swearing and stamping from returning parents and a lesson learnt. 

2. The council earns enough money in one morning to buy the litter bin I’ve been asking for for 3 years.

Isn’t that a win win?

Yours sincerely

Northumberland

I usually do several long rambling posts about our summer holiday. But in Northumberland apparently no-one has any internet connection and frankly the weather was so cold I couldn't hold a pen. For this reason, and the fact that it's now nearly a month later and I'm trying to catch up, I'll do a summary.

Day minus one: Car breaks so we have to hire another one. Which means I spend all week panicking about scraping it on bushes and the amount of sand in the footwells.

Day One: Beamish. Flipping brilliant - highly recommended. Children now obsessed with writing with quill and ink.

Day Two: Walk to Dunstanburgh Castle. This was so windy the kids had to wear snoods in August. It was an upbeat day although exhausting.

Day Three: Alnwick Castle which involved flying broomsticks where Harry Potter did. Not that they are allowed to have anyone dressed as Harry Potter, which seems bonkers to me. Basically a great day if a bit blustery.

Day Four: Obligatory mum meltdown when my careful planning was scuppered by weather. There was no chance of going on a boat because it was too damn choppy. In retrospect I always lose it a bit on day four. We ended up geocaching and failing to find any treasure but finished up in the pub so not all bad. We gave in and lit the fire in the cottage because it was chuffing freezing.

Day Five:  Yay for Lindisfarne! We had the most fantastic day all over the island. It's our new favourite place.

Day Six: Lots of rain so we visited yet another castle - Bamburgh - which was good and full of slightly unusual exhibits and staff. One was convinced it was full of ghosts. And I mean really convinced. We ended up eating posh picnic on the beach and having a great afternoon.

Day Seven: Finally got on a boat and the sun shone. Seals, lighthouse and fish and chips. Thank goodness for that.

Day Eight: Drove home via a farm shop (thank the lord for bacon sandwiches) and an overpriced farm with llamas.

As usual we had a pretty amazing week and Northumberland could now be our favourite coastline in the UK. It is so stunning with castles peppered all the way along and sandy quiet beaches. It was flipping cold though. But we will be back.


Yorkshire Wildlife Park

I love the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. The conservation approach, the layout, the variety of animals, but essentially the reason I really love it is because it's the living embodiment of Zoo Tycoon.

In the beginning they had limited resources so they had a couple of big names, celebrities from the animal kingdom, but mostly it was full of, well let's just say it as it is, crapper animals. I mean goats are lovely but they aren't exactly what you would call wildlife. Unless you live on a mountain in Spain I suppose.

So people came to see the lions and just like in Zoo Tycoon they were disgruntled about cost and walked about with little clouds over their heads. But people kept on coming. Because it's a flipping long way to Chester if you live in Doncaster. And so money increased and the park has changed accordingly.

If you've never played the game this probably won't make much sense but it's so true to it it's remarkable. The paths got longer. More enclosures arrived. Goats were moved to make way for bigger names like tigers and giraffes. Soft play got more impressive. The shops got bigger and bigger and are now a village apparently. And there are infinitely more litter bins.

I love it. It's been like watching a computer game but in better resolution.

I am being a bit daft of course. It is essentially a thoughtfully designed evolving wildlife park and if you haven't been then you should. Because yes it's expensive but it is without doubt one of the best days out in the North. Not just because they have a spiny anteater.

Monday, 7 July 2014

#consciouskindness So Far

Well my being nicer than usual is a bit of a challenge. Firstly I think I need to change the hashtag as #30daysofbeingnicerthanusual is just too long, even though it does capture the slightly daft nature of this self imposed challenge.

I am currently liking #consciouskindness, in the sense that I'm just making myself think about being kind a bit more. And also recognising that I am actually quite kind some of the time and that I should probably stop beating myself up. But Paul says it's too difficult to spell so I'm open to suggestions.

It's also not as exciting as a happy photo a day in terms of social media interaction. There isn't much scope for comment about me helping an old lady cross the road (not that I've found one to help with that yet). I'm also finding it extremely tricky to think of extra things to be kind about. So far I've done this:

Friday - I went down our road and put Chupa Chups through the doors of everyone I know with children. Enough for one each obviously. I told Paul and he said he wondered whether people would let their children eat them since they didn't know where they came from. A depressing thought.

I also lent a friend a mattress but I'd have done that anyway so it doesn't count.

Saturday - I got cross in town and had a minor melt down. I cheered up though when we went out to dinner and I tipped more than usual. But it was a bit annoying because the waiter wasn't actually very friendly. Now I'm not sure whether the tip will have a) cheered him up and therefore improved his customer service for the rest of his shift, thus benefitting all the later customers, or b) made him think that surly service is a good thing and to carry on as he is.

At 11pm my neighbours brought us curry and rice in yoghurt pots. I know it's Ramadan but I like to think it's also karma. But that's mixing beliefs systems so probably not related. They are just kind. And good cooks.

Sunday - I braced myself and didn't say I had jobs to do when Tilly asked me to watch a loom band tutorial and help her make a 'triple single bracelet' (whatever the hell that is) despite the fact that I really wasn't keen. I did say no to the game of chess request after though so I'm not that saintly.

Monday - I really wasn't that kind and may have used some negative if a little colourful language because of the following:
People who park in cycle lanes;
People who cross roads without looking both ways and therefore nearly getting hit by bicycles;
Sheffield City Council who haven't mended Abbeydale Road and seem to think I want to ride a boneshaker;
Gross man who needed to wee on the footpath as I rode past to avoid potholes on actual road.

Let's see if I can cheer up enough to be kind later on...


Thursday, 3 July 2014

#100 Happy Days...What's next?

So that's it. 100 pictures of things that made me happy on every single one of the last 100 days have been uploaded to facebook. I will aim to do a montage when I work out how, and order a photo book because actually I think it's been a hugely worthwhile exercise for me.

Ok so most of my pictures are of the children. On their better days. But there are also lots of pictures of me being happy. And other people and things that make me happy. I have had my eyes opened to how many things do that.

Days out, my husband, friends, singing, food, achievements, wine, new things, holidays, birthdays, silliness, reading, memories, family, rabbits, playing, nights out, quiet, my home, work and even bizarrely a spot of exercise.

The idea was it was supposed to make me see that even on the worst of days there are glimmers of joy. It did that. It may be cheesy but I'd recommend it for giving a bit of a positive boost. I tried hard to pick my favourite photo - which probably has to be the one of me and the family on holiday. But instead I'm using this - a picture of me being, well, happy.



The only trouble is I'm left with a gap. What do I do now? Clearly trying to do a different thing every week for a year on www.beantrying.blogspot.com is not enough.

My good friend gave me a bottle of wine today. It was a truly kind gesture to thank me for something small I did yesterday. A couple of weeks ago I went to a comedy gig about kindness. I think that is enough to give me an idea. Perhaps I should focus on small acts of kindness.

100 days is a stretch. I mean I'm just not that nice. But I'm going to start with a month of kindness and see what happens. Not being self congratulatory just a concerted effort to be kind to someone. I'll call it #30daysofbeingnicerthanusual... Let's see what happens...

Too much to do

I've been awake since 5am. I woke up in a cold sweat in the middle of a dream where I was late to watch the girls in a show, Dad couldn't park and we'd all missed the best bit. There were also people picking up toys from the grass and people everywhere (quite a lot of them arguing with me) making me feel somewhat squished in the brain department. Not exactly hard to work out what's going on there then. I'm not at all struggling with the incessant round of child related things that are happening and feeling the pressure to a) turn up on time with all the correct children and their accoutrements and b) have a clue what's going on.

This week so far:
Monday - After work visit Decathlon and Go Outdoors in an attempt to buy relevant items for Brownie camp. Fail to buy a 'sitter' and feel frustrated that nowadays for camp cutlery it's a Spork or nothing. Mustn't forget to bring the extra child home after school (specified one). First child being picked up by a friend. Hand over extra child at 5.15. Pick 3 children up from choir and deliver to respective homes. Make tea. Insist first child finishes homework. Listen to second child's buggering sponsored read bobbins (don't get me started). Read extremely long chapter of Hetty Feather to children. Wrestle children into bed. Collapse.

Tuesday - Mustn't forget to bring extra child home after school. Second child at a friend's house. On return of second child feed all children and myself to avoid vomiting at bootcamp. Repeat homework and reading as before. Go to bootcamp. Sit sweatily on bed and read extremely long chapter of Hetty Feather to children. Repeat wrestling and collapsing.

Wednesday - Leave work early to watch Sports Day. Remember to buy cake. End up adding up scores for Panther team for Sports Day which leaves me with feeling of slight guilt in case I gave them too many points. They came second which I think is a perfect result. I don't look like I exaggerated the points and yet daughter's team very happy. Walk to fields and have a picnic for a friend's daughter and eat cake and strawberries (Hooray!). Pick up child number one from yoga. Frantically try to glue in photos, cuttings and various things that were stuck to the fridge into Arts Award portfolio with eldest daughter as it's a week late, while cooking dinner badly and trying to ignore the carnage that is my house. Have a rant about the mess and no-one picking up socks from kitchen floor. This includes me. Insist child number one does guitar practice (twice a week is fine right?). Read, wrestle, go singing. We skipped the school disco thankfully. There's only so much Gangnam Style I can take.

Thursday - Wake up ludicrously early and instead of doing housework, having a shower or making packed lunches use time effectively by finishing Bridget Jones - Mad About the Boy. Ah that's why I'm writing in this weird stilted style with no joining words. It was good though - cried a lot.

In a minute I have to start properly: not forget to send child to school with guitar, do the usual and then end the day watching eldest child get yet another award for attending extra curricular activities. Must remember to buy her another folder for more certificates. Must also fit in exercise as I can't go to bootcamp tonight. Which is tricky because my stomach hurts when I cough. Or move.

Two weeks two days to go until the holidays, and counting. Not that I'm off work much but at least I can leave everyone in pyjamas watching Little Princess with a bagel. Until at least 1.30.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Razzamataz

Nowadays things have gone somewhat bananas in the preteen activity department. The choice is endless. Add to that a child who is enthusiastic to do anything she is offered and it could be a recipe for disaster. Or at the very least a recipe for never seeing your child. Tilly hasn't chosen anything too unusual so far, but she adamantly refuses to stop doing any of the things she does. Which means we may never know if she is a natural potter but you have to draw a line somewhere.

She currently goes to choir, yoga, gymnastics, Brownies and Razzamataz as well as playing guitar. Small people social calendars nowadays are barmy. I have informed her there are only 7 days in a week and she needs to fit in her homework and a bit of actual playing at some point but none of the above seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Her favourite activity without a doubt is Razzamataz on a Saturday. She is apparently going to keep going until she's old enough to teach at it. Alongside running a farm and a sweet shop of course.

There are a few theatre schools in Sheffield. There is one 50 yards from my house. I'm still not entirely sure why we didn't try it and plumped for a trial at Razzamataz based at Norton college instead. I don't think it can have been the pull of the Duncan Bannatyne connection. It was much more likely to be because Helen, the Principal, is so darn lovely and organised. And she'd have to be with the number of children who go through the Razz doors on a Saturday. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

So my eldest has been a Razz Junior for nearly two years, and my youngest a Razz mini for one. They do dance, drama and singing each week and get the chance to perform regularly at events and annually at the big show. We are full on committed in this family. Even Phoebe's party had to be a Razz one this year.

The children adore going and I think the whole thing is so happy and well run I can't see the need to ever go anywhere else. I mean ok on a bad day I can drive backwards and forwards to Norton four times but it's a small price to pay when they are so happy. And it does usually mean I get out of cleaning the rabbit hutches. Anyway, if you check the parenting small print, driving about for at least 16 years is non negotiable.

It was the big show, "For One Night Only" at the Octagon on Sunday and it's fair to say all the parents did their fair share of ferrying about. Backwards and forwards to rehearsals and then dropping the children off for the show itself.

Then it began. The chance to see what they get up to every week and of course to glow with parental pride.

There were two acts. The first full of juniors and minis singing their head off, dancing to pop songs and acting in short versions of musicals. Mine were in Hairspray and The Wizard of Oz, but others were in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a brilliant version of Matilda. The girls got to watch the second half and were rapt watching the inters, seniors and even teachers doing their thing. Wicked was a big hit with my two. There were some stunning soloists in both acts but overall it was simply high energy inclusive happiness. With all the bouncing I never stopped to think about what the organisation of over 200 children must have been like. Phenomenal.

The kids loved it. We loved it. And yes at some points welled up.

It's three days later and we are still smiling. Watching your children grow in confidence and ability is amazing at any time. Watching them do it dressed as a munchkin and a sixties dancer and it's pretty close to perfection. (The kids were dressed up not me clearly).

So there you go. A recommendation for you, should you be considering theatre school classes for kids. They teach 4-18 year olds and you can look here to find out more.

This week my mini becomes a junior and to top all this positivity off that means that they both go to the same activity, at the same time for two and a half hours. I know, how amazing is that? I'm thinking coffee, shopping, a nap...the choices are endless.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Things I cannot do comfortably today

1. Go upstairs
2. Go downstairs
3. Stand up from sitting
4. Sit down from standing.
5. Pick things up
6. Get back up from the floor if I fall over
7. Get in the bath
8. Get out of the bath.
9. Steer.

I did boot camp. It only cost £1. And my mobility.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

For My Dad

I share quite a lot with my Dad. My birthday of course. Along with the Bean nose and the ability to wiggle my ears. It's quite a party trick but a bit more of his sense of logic would be more beneficial.

So it's father's day today and I want to write something. And not just because I didn't get the card in the post in time. Because it's a good time to say thank you. I should say it more often.

I remember the day my Dad grew a beard. I remember it clearly because it was bristly when he kissed me. And I was about six and didn't like change. Of course now I have no idea what he looks like without one. People say I look like him. Before the beard obviously.

Growing up he was everything I needed him to be. He was and still is my problem solver. And if he couldn't solve it using logic and experience he bought a book about it. He was the pre-1990s embodiment of Googling. It wasn't as immediate an answer but it was usually more reliable than wikipedia.

My brother and I had a turbulent relationship as pre-teens and teenagers. Dad stepped in on numerous occasions to help solve our arguments. He once made us write a contract to ensure we didn't go into each other's room, and he helped my brother make a pressure sensitive electronic burglar alarm. That makes it sound like it was definitely me that was a nightmare, but I was training to be a spy at the time and I'm fairly confident he had actually bought me the book (A Spy's Guidebook).

I spent a lot of time in my childhood complaining I couldn't sleep. My Dad let me sleep on the floor, or the wrong way up. He once made me a tunnel tent by tucking a sheet over my 1980s padded headboard. The man was a saint.

We had wonderful experience filled holidays and days out. On our numerous walks in the woods and bracken whoever was with Dad always lagged behind because he was showing us how to drink nettle flower juice or looking at toadstools. Which was ironic because when we got lost we always expected him to go in front and walk very quickly to get the car and bring it to us. You see, problem solver. Even if it was our suggestion.

As I got older he became my personal taxi driver and later my handyman. He must have put the same shelves up at least five times.

He tried to prepare me for life. He did the lions share of teaching me and my brother to drive. He must have nerves of steel.

Before I went to university he showed me how to change a tyre. In twenty years I've only needed that information once, and on that occasion I thought I'd run out of petrol, drove on the rims and then got a man in the garage to change the tyre. Which is only a reflection on me, not Dad's teaching ability.

I drive him a bit mad sometimes I'm sure. My grasp of money is dubious despite his best accountant attempts at helping me. He is clever and thorough and logical. I am clever and emotional and more than occasionally overwhelmed by stuff. But I have never doubted for one moment that he is proud of me. I know without doubt he didn't need to look up how to do that. That's pure sheer natural Dadness.

Now I see him with my girls and things have changed a little. He still solves problems but due to Grandad status now spends much more time making up stories about hairdressing and discussing Swallows and Amazons. He is immensely popular and to quote Phoebe "he's old but he's still really fun". I need to teach that girl some tact.

A few years ago things got hard and Dad was ill. It was tough for him, and for us all of course. Thank goodness he is now well and still cluttering up my living room with the Guardian, rejecting French beans and matching me biscuit for biscuit when he visits.

So thank you Dad. For being marvellous up until now and for the marvellousness that is yet to come.






Saturday, 14 June 2014

Love is All

Well Wednesday night was an experience.

One of the many things I love about Sheffield is the fact that everything is covered. You like climbing? There's a festival. You like books? There's a festival. You are an entrepreneur? Yep there's a festival for that to. Music? Obviously. You like documentaries? Well here you go.

The main thing about Docfest is every year it makes me wish I was still a student. If I had no commitments I'd be volunteering without a doubt. To get in to see shows, be part of the adventure, and to get hold of one of those gorgeous yellow bags. But it's just not possible to commit what with spending most of my life dropping off, waiting for and collecting children of an evening/weekend.

So I just settle for going to the odd event and this year the only one I made it to was Love is All At Chatsworth. And odd it really was.

It sounded idyllic. A beautiful summers evening spent in a field in Chatsworth, eating a picnic, chatting with friends, listening to music then watching a film about love on screen. Aahh.

The main trouble was the music was hardly relaxing. Hot Soles played first, which we weren't expecting. Accomplished as they are they didn't really seem to sit right for a romantically titled evening. They are far more suited to a raucous stage at Tramlines.

Then the Everley Pregnant Brothers appeared. Everyone from Sheffield adores them. You just have to. They are funny and homegrown. Last time I saw them they were hilarious. But last time I'd had at least 4 pints, as had the rest of the audience. They are certainly not what I'd call romantic.

Obviously I'm missing the point. I imagine is wasn't about love but about the fact that the bands were from Sheffield. But there are tonnes of Sheffield bands who would have fitted the brief more. Although maybe not many who could fill a marquee.

In my view it was altogether a little strange.

The odd got odder as the chairs were put on the stage for a Q&A before the film. This is always the part I'm fascinated by. I was filled with hope again when a teenage hero of mine, Jeremy Hardy, stepped on stage. He was followed by two film makers and the force that is Richard Hawley. It should have been fascinating.

The next fifteen minutes was a car crash. Jeremy struggled to do his job and ask questions while the audience had moved onto that fourth pint and had stopped listening. I began to feel awkward as Richard Hawley angrily half answering questions while struggling with painkillers for his bad back. He asked for an ice cream and babbled about Margaret Thatcher. Then he swore dramatically and left the stage in what seemed to be, for want of a better word, a huff. Since I got home I've seen people call him a “legend” based on this performance. I'm clearly getting too old for all this.

On the upside the film was a joy. It was a series of archive footage, mostly in black and white, from films and footage through the ages. Funny, touching, and supported by the most wonderful soundtrack, I was genuinely moved. Of course it was also more than a bit misogynistic due to the eras represented, and there were a few too many shots of fireworks/bombs and rockets taking off, but overall it was a lovely film to see. And it included My Beautiful Launderette so I was reminded of my general adoration for Daniel Day Lewis. I must re-watch My Left Foot.


So the night ended on a high. But the whole experience was...well...odd.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Audible Gasp

I evidently upset a man yesterday. I emailed him to tell him that his application for a position had been unsuccessful. I did not point out that this was in the most part due to the fact that he had no relevant experience and his personal statement was severely lacking. I simply politely said we had considered his application and decided he would not be being offered an interview. I send lots of these emails and have been on the receiving end of some in my time. It's not my favourite part of what I do.

I opened my email this morning and saw his name in the messages received. Ah, I expected he would want feedback. I just had an inkling he might be a little unusual. From the fact that he had not completed the address section of the additional form but simply put "it is none of your business".

He didn't ask for feedback. He simply said:

"How dare you reject me when you haven't even met me. Get back in the kitchen woman. Delete my details immediately. I will never apply to you again."

Yep. That noise you made then, that shocked gasp, that's the noise everyone since has made, including me. That's before I burst into tears a little bit. My manager made that noise. As did all the other managers. It's the kind of thing you hear about in films but are confident people don't actually think.

My wonderful supportive manager rang him. She is a braver woman than I am. I don't think he'll be contacting me again.

Of course he doesn't know me. It wasn't a personal attack. He's an oddball. But I was still offended which is weird because it's a ludicrous email to receive.

But it's also an odd thing to be on the receiving end of as a woman who left work and stayed home with her kids for 7 years. Not that I spent a great deal of that time in a kitchen.

I need some time to process what I think. It could turn into a bit of a rant about women having the right to choose. Or everyone's right not to be verbally abused. Or the bravery of small people with access to computers. But for now, I'm just writing it down. Because I still can't quite believe it happened.

Sufficed to say we are very disappointed he is no longer interested in our organisation.

Ibiza - Home again

One final English breakfast by the pool in Eldorado style and then we set off for home. Of course we were ridiculously early for the airport because I was terrified about returning the car. I'd expected some slow walking around it and sucking air through teeth. It didn't happen and I nearly fell over in shock.

We did a lot of queueing at the airport. The women in front and behind me in the queue both had French pedicures. I didn't even know that was a thing. Apparently it's a pre-requisite for Ibiza. It was a bit late for me to find out to be honest.


And then I knew we had had the perfect holiday. No nose bleed on the plane, we managed to locate our car in the airport car park and it actually started, which can't be relied upon in the street outside the house.  I drove home in a state of confusion wondering if I'd fallen asleep during the first Witches CD and dreamt the whole thing.


Ibiza - Day Six and Seven

By day 6 we really were feeling like Brits abroad as we had breakfast in the pub. You could have any combination of eggs, bacon, toast, sausages and beans – in whatever order you liked. The choice was overwhelming. We then invented the term “breakfast pudding” and had ice cream at 9.45am. Well the sun was shining.

I drove again, this time to the North and we visited Cova Con Marca which is stunning and well worth a visit. Following this a trip to the beach was in order since we hadn't been for 24 hours. This one had a great view but was tricky underfoot and the further you went along the beach the more naked the sunbathers were. I don't think we are Mediterranean at heart.

We went to eat. I wanted paella and it was all going well until rabbit was mentioned. I had chicken and chips.

More swimming and more sand followed. 

Then the last day arrived. Paul loves a good thunderstorm and just to finish off a perfect holiday the heavens opened. Thunder, a bit of lightening and lots of rain. For all of an hour before the sun came out. Maybe that will happen in Northumberland too. Or maybe not.

We went back to Ibiza town because I was determined to see some history.

The necropolis is worth a visit, if (as you'd expect) a little depressing. There aren't many smiles in a museum all about burial rituals and a bunch of tombs. It's good though and when you are studying Romans every little helps.

And then massive cake and coffee, followed by a bit of shopping.

We stumbled across an art market. An enthusiastic Spanish lady helped the girls make necklaces with an oven that cooked the glass beads at 850 degrees. I find it hard to believe that would be allowed at Sharrow Vale. They got a personalised handmade necklace for the princely sum of 5 euros. I've paid that for sodding facepaint.

After lunch we stopped at Amante Beach Club which is, well, stunning. We sat on the rocky beach stone balancing and chucking stones into the sea. 

Then what? More swimming. And more ice cream. Then we went down to the sea one last time and had dinner in one of the only open restaurants, on the table next to our new pirate tower finding friends. I finally managed to have sea food and the kids went full on Spanish and had ...pizza. Oh well.


We star spotted on the way home and fell into bed exhausted.

Ibiza - Day Four and Five

By day four I craved the opportunity to be up on my own drinking tea on the balcony. I was getting up earlier each day and sneaking past the girls door to get five minutes peace in the sun. It worked on day four but only because I actually got up before the sodding cockerel did.

We drove into Ibiza Town and I negotiated a public car park with relative ease. I was becoming a master of the weird backwards Seat Ibiza. 

A bit of shopping followed then a walk around Dalt Villa, and I fell in love with Ibiza a little bit more. Dalt Villa is stunning. We ate tapas overlooking the town and said wow a lot around every corner – the views are endless.

Of course we had to get back and swim some more. After dinner we went down to Cala Llonga beach which was deserted - Just for a change. We stuffed our pockets full of seashells and chatted with a lovely British couple we has seen on day three when they were being more intrepid than usand had actually found the pirate tower without sustaining injury.

Day five was a trip to Cala Niu Blau. This was after we negotiated some roadworks in Santa Eulalia and discovered that Spanish ladies with dogs do not understand about the need to walk on actual pavements. I needed my first coffee in five days by the time we got to the beach. Really I needed a stiff gin but it's not appropriate when in charge of a hire car.

The beach was, well, stunning and pretty much deserted. There is a recurring theme here.

We played. A small naked Spanish child spent time building a sandcastle with Paul and Phoebe and took an instant dislike to Tilly for some reason. We are guessing that from her pushing her backwards and saying “no” when she tried to join in. There have to be some negatives in paradise.

I actually swam in the sea and have a photograph to prove it. Whilst in the sea I chatted to one of the only other people on the beach, who happened to be English, and to live in Sheffield. We chatted about Millhouses park, primary schools and the price of flights. You can take the middle class middle aged lass out of Sheffield...

In the afternoon we went to the hippy market. We didn't buy much but enjoyed mooching around in the sunshine. The kids did keep asking “is he a hippy?” at a bit too high a volume. I finally agreed that probably the men with dreadlocks and beards who were playing tom toms out of rhythm with each other were highly likely to be hippies and infinitely less likely to sell any of their CDs.

And then back again for swimming. On Wednesdays the top bar is closed so we controversially had to play in the bottom pool, which is about fifty more metres further from our apartment. Shocking. It was wonderful and I had the best cocktail in the world at about 4pm. I was beginning to wonder how this was appropriate in Ibiza and yet not appropriate just after the school run at home.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Ibiza - Day Three

So how about getting as far from that as possible then? Well after breakfast on the balcony we did just that and I drove (very bravely and without incident) to Cala D'hort. It was without doubt the most beautiful place I have been to, made ever more idyllic because, guess what, there was hardly anyone there.

We went in the sea, paddled, built sandcastles, ate a picnic and gazed longingly at the island that is unreachable out of season unless you can commandeer someone's rowing boat. It had an air of mystery being home only to falcons and mountain goats. We debated how the goats got there. Maybe they are good at rowing.

After lunch we went exploring. Surely it would be easy to get to that pirate tower over there that is featured as a tourist attraction in the guidebook?

We travelled along a bumpy track and parked up. We had no idea where it was, and neither did the Spanish couple who thought we looked like we did. Eventually after lizard spotting for a bit we found a rock with what seemed to say "piratte torre" on it. We followed the arrow and it lead to a hippy. With hindsight we should have paid the euro he wanted (if we took a picture of his stone art work) and asked him the way. It might have saved us the scree based sliding that followed. It was a stunning view but I do wonder if anyone has ever found it. If this was in England there would have been brown signs, fee paying car parks, an ice cream van and handrails.I kind of liked their approach better but had forgotten our crampons.

So back to the pool for swimming and sangria. It came in a jug suitable for ten. We ended up decanting some of it into plastic bottles when no-one was looking.

The kids made some friends at the pool and everything was wonderful. A great day.

Ibiza - Day Two

There is nothing like Day Two of a holiday. It's that day where you get your bearings and decide whether you have made an almighty expensive mistake or not. I'm trying not to remember the yurt.

I braced myself and drove down to the beach. Which was unnecessary but practice is practice.

It was deserted. And stunning. And frankly a bit too windy. We went back to the apartments and tried the beer.

It did feel slightly like being in an episode of Eldorado with a very limited cast. There were two bars and a pub open while we were there. The first bar was by a wonderful pool and can be summed up with the words we were greeted with -  "We are Chelsea". They are also great fans of 1980s music. Not a smattering of a Spanish accent here despite 16 years in Ibiza and a menu based heavily around bacon and eggs. Excellent lager, extremely strong Sangria and a neverending freezer full of ice cream.

The other bar was run by a beautiful Spanish girl and her tanned tattooed muscle bound British boyfriend. Cocktails and tortillas.

And finally the pub run by an Ibizan who seemed to have never been to the other side of the island and who had learned his English accent from Harry Enfield. He showed us a tortoise he was keeping in a crate. I'm still not entirely sure why. They were all welcoming and fantastic, even if the contrast was a bit bonkers.

We chose the upper pool and bar for the first afternoon's relaxing. It was silent for a while but there had been a wedding on and guests started to appear out of the woodwork looking worse for wear. They perked up and started jumping in the pool. We began to feel like we were gatecrashing an episode of The Only Way is Essex - Abroad.

We went to the lower bar, drank beer and ate tortillas. I was back in Eldorado and all was well.

The kids were in the pool and in heaven. We were on holiday and I didn't have to drive again for at least another 12 hours.


Monday, 28 April 2014

Ibiza - Day One

We are definitely getting braver with our holidays. Finally we are getting out and visiting places in the world that normal people have already been to...twice probably. (Although there is plenty to say that a holiday to South Wales in a Yurt is probably a similar level of bravery). Anyway we booked Ibiza.

Just to make life as hard as possible for us I booked to go in April before the season starts, requiring a bit of planning and a lot of driving on the other side of the road. Ah well if we could cope with this we could do anything. Which is apparently the same I said about Amsterdam. And probably the Yurt. We really are the travelling kind.

Inevitably we spent the first half an hour in the airport wrecking my perfectly packed suitcase by decanting a sizeable amount of clothes into every piece of hand luggage we could find. Other than that and having to throw two perfectly good water bottles in the bin because I forgot to empty the flipping things and it all went smoothly. Although Phoebe flashing shoes did rather upset the security scanner.

The plane went up and then came down again in the right place without any ear related agony. And the sun was shining. I started to think things were going a bit too well.

We had booked a hire car at home using one of those irritating compare sites and got a ludicrously cheap deal. On arrival we realised why. Firstly we could't pick the car up at the actual airport - that would have been too convenient. We had to wait for a minibus.

My guidebook said in Spain people don't queue. We, of course, do - so queued behind a British couple in a semi patient fashion. The minibus arrived and the boot was opened just as a Spanish couple shot out of nowhere wielding suitcases. I rejected my Britishness and threw the suitcase in first like a woman possessed. I'm not sure the Mediterranean is good for me.

We were taken to a dusty car park and brick shed and queued for far too long. I wasn't keen on the Spanish negotiation that followed (well not so much negotiation as me signing a piece of paper and hoping for the best) but they lent me a car so that was the first goal achieved. I set off out of the car park and swore a few times. I initially thought it was terrifying. Although not as terrifying as the thought of scratching the paintwork. The kids were the quietest I have ever known them. I can't imagine why.

After about twenty minutes, most of which I can't remember in the slightest, we arrived at our apartment in Cala Llonga.

The view was beautiful. The pool was lovely. The bar was open, as was the Spar to buy croissants and biscuits. We swam, unpacked, ate at the only open restaurant in the complex and were shown a tortoise. Our holiday had begun.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

#100happydays Day Seven

#100happydays Day 7. Phoebe's tooth came out yesterday but she lost it at school. Remarkably there were no tears - she just left this note under her pillow.

The happy bit was seeing her chuffed that the tooth fairy came and left her money. I chuckled more because she thought the absence of the actual tooth had affected the amount paid out...

Monday, 31 March 2014

#100happydays Day Six

I have new shoes. They are spotty. They are appropriate for children probably but they make me smile, so there you go.

I've finally been through my clothes and thrown stuff away. I have very little left and not a great deal of cash to replace them.

But I have new spotty shoes.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

#100happydays Day Five

Bit of a turning point today I think. I took the girls to town on my own because Paul is snowed under and they helped me buy clothes and shoes for myself, had fun at the cycling display, printed a picture with a bicycle, bought books and we had lunch - all without getting cross with each other or me. I feel like they are growing up.

We came home and watched Mamma Mia. It was extremely difficult to explain how someone couldn't know who the father is. They liked the songs though.

#100happydays



Saturday, 29 March 2014

#100happydays Day Four


Today was Tilly's birthday outing to the theatre so my #100happydays picture is of Tilly's friends and the cast of the show.

It has been a bit of a struggle this year. She wanted to see a show but everything in Sheffield was too grown up, the wrong date, too avant garde or too expensive. I toyed with the idea of 'Fame' but decided she could wait a little longer before being exposed to teenage angst about alcohol, boyfriends and drugs.

We settled on 'Kidnapped' which is the Robert Louis Stevenson novel. It said an 'adventure for the all the family' and 'appropriate for age 6+'. Now I know some bright six year olds with wonderful attention spans, but never yet have I met one who could follow a plot about Jacobean politics.

Twenty minutes in I starting wondering whether I should have chosen Fame.

Fortunately these girls are the most amazing children in the world ever. They watched, only jiffled a bit (so little that members of the audience actually complimented me on their behaviour at the end), and took quite a lot in. They loved the swordfighting and meeting the cast at the end. They asked remarkable questions...although one did ask who "Charlie" was which made me wonder whether I should have given them a Scottish history lesson in the interval. The actors covered up quite well the fact that clearly this bit of knowledge was pretty pivotal to understanding what the heck was happening.

So the play (which was great despite being somewhat challenging), plus ice cream and giggling in the interval, questions with the cast at the end and the chance to carry a sword and everyone seemed happy.  Plus it has a bloke out of Take the High Road in it so I could briefly relive my essay avoiding youth in my head. It turned out to be a great afternoon.

I was truly astonished by these girls. She has a great bunch of friends and I enjoyed being with them. I even enjoyed driving five of them home - I never thought I would write that sentence.

So this was my fourth happy day. Now I'm knackered.

#100happydays Day Three

Day three of #100happydays but it's actually day four and I'm behind putting it on the blog already. I can sense this is going to get messy.

Bit of a rubbishy day. Not feeling very smiley. It was a toss up between this twenty minutes of relaxed happy calm, a photo of the Matilda programme because the girls sang "my undercarriage doesn't feel quite normal" at breakfast, and a photo of Phoebe's flashing shoes which flashed when I opened the shoe cupboard.

Not exactly a hoopla but I suppose to have three to choose from is a good thing. I picked this one because, well, she is lovely.



Thursday, 27 March 2014

#100happydays Day Two


#100happydays Day Two

I left work early to go into school and eat with Phoebe for Mother's day. I took cake, and this is the best kind because they make and sell it in Fusion cafe, part of my fantastic work place. We ate cake and did hop scotch (thanks heavens for TVT) before the heavens opened and we went inside where we watched them dancing. No tears when I left either. Not at all bad.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

#100happydays Day One

My friend suggested doing #100 Happy Days. Basically you take and post a picture a day, for 100 days, of something that made you happy.

At the moment I am quite grumpy. I will inevitably find it extremely hard to post only happy things without referencing something annoying. This is evidenced by my first picture which is a very happy thing but where I still manage to mention a not happy thing. I must try harder.

Anyway here goes.

Day One: An easy first day for #100happydays because it was a bonus strike day for my little one. She got to spend it with her friend so there were no tears unlike most school days, only smiles. Happy Phoebe, happy me. Plus I'm extra chuffed that I have such lovely friends who help me out when I'm stuck for childcare. Thanks Becky.


Monday, 17 March 2014

Cycling

You know that thing about it being like riding a bike? Half true.

I think it's been about 15 years since I rode a bike.Well apart from a brief weekend at Centre Parcs four years ago where I was left with a numb arse and no real desire to repeat the experience.

It's certainly been forever since I rode on a road. Largely because traffic in Sheffield is mental.

But car parking charges, petrol and my lack of waistline made me rethink. My husband cycles. People in Sheffield cycle. What's wrong with me?

I bought a bike.

I stood for thirty minutes in a well respected bike shop in Sheffield with cash in my pocket. I was completely ignored for the whole time while both of the only two members of staff on a Saturday afternoon discussed a very expensive bike with a customer who was clearly going to go home and try and buy one on Ebay. The difference was she cared about suspension and gave them the opportunity to show off. I wanted the cheapest bike they sold that would get from a to, well, b. I'm not trying to enter the Tour De France or anything.

So I took my money to Edinburgh Bicycle Company. It only took five minutes there before someone realised I needed help and I rather bluntly stated that I had £300 and five minutes to buy a bike to get me to work. I bought the cheapest bike in the shop. Everyone was happy.

It was only when I went to pick it up  a few days later that the commitment I had made hit me. This wasn't going to be all that easy. Obviously I knew I wouldn't have forgotten how to ride a bike, but I live off Abbeydale Road and even at 2.30pm the traffic is challenging.

I wobbled round the car park and cycled to the curb. I got off and walked it quite a long way up the road. I waved at some staff from work playing football and tried to pretend there was some reason why I had a bike but chose not to ride it. I was unconvincing.

Around the corner I braced myself and pulled out. Apparently I had gears. It was just a shame the one I was in was not the best for setting off in traffic. I tried to look like I knew what I was doing and deceived no-one. There is no bus lane at 2.30 so I wobbled and weaved around parked cars in fourth gear while frantically trying to work out how to change down and what on earth that other lever was for.

I got off again and crossed the road at the pedestrian crossing.

I didn't feel terribly confident so it was a while before I got back on the bike and set off up Carterknowle Road. Which is far too steep. I got off again.

A bin lorry filled the road so I decided to cycle on the pavement. Which is clearly illegal. I ran out of puff. I got off and walked home.

But you know what? You have to start somewhere. In my case I started half a mile from my house and mostly walked.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

London - Last Day

So it was nearly over - our little holiday. Fortunately the best was yet to come.

In the morning it nearly fell over a bit. we went to see Westminster and the sky was blue. The London Eye was tempting. The price and queue were not. Eveutally we plumped for a river cruise down the Thames which was still a bit pricey and a bit cold for Phoebe who is nesh at the best of times. But it was witty and informative and we always love a boat trip.

And then Matilda. I can't tell you how brilliant this musical is. The girls adored it. I adored it. Even Paul who hates musicals adored it. The cast was amazing, as is the set. We've had it on repeat in our kitchen and our heads ever since.

We had one final blow out on a meal at the train station and the girls continued to be amazing doing stickers, colouring and reading. Everything is so much easier now they are older.

A late train and we were home. All in all a fab few days.

London - Day Three

As the days slip past on holiday I always start to feel the pressure. It's entirely a problem I invent for myself. The need to ensure we experience the place we've visited with a balance of history, culture, fun - made worse if it's a flipping mini break. I am a bit of a nightmare.

So we have done animals, museum, food, movie on the first days. History it is then. Really going on holiday with me is fun.

I went to the Tower of London when I was little. I remember it vaguely and there is photographic proof of me in a T-shirt covered in road signs.

It's such a brilliant place. I'm far from a monarchist but we got through the crown jewels bit without me spending much time thinking about that and focused instead on Gangsta Granny. We spent a bit of time dodging school parties round the white tower, and didn't hang about in the torture room for obvious reasons. We chatted to a beefeater and discovered the royal mint. It's such a great place.

After lunch there was more tube travel and walking past iconic sites. The kids were probably bored of me by now. They quite liked the wobbly bridge though and I got overexcited because we passed Joe Thomas from the Inbetweeners. In true celebrity spotting style I didn't know his name and Paul had no clue who I was talking about.

Then it was the Tate Modern. I can highly recommend going with children. It makes you all look at art with innocence. It is also a bit embarrassing. I made the mistake of asking them to find one piece they loved and one piece they didn't in each room. Limiting themselves to one they disliked was a challenge. I'm pleased none of the artists were there.

It made no sense to them and perfect sense.

Then it was back to the hotel for a picnic tea on the bed spread and some telly. Followed by Paul and I sitting in the actual bathroom this time while the kids eventually dropped off and Paul banging his head on a glass shelf.

Monday, 3 March 2014

London - Day Two

Breakfast was free and nice. There was no system and we were surrounded by defeated business men and people who stuffed the wrong kind of bread in the toaster but other than that it was a cracking start. Croissants, coffee and smiley excited children.

We stopped on the way the buy sandwiches. All I'm going to say is that Subway is like a sandwich making equivalent of Aldi. We also bought snacks from a health food shop. The healthy covered in chocolate type to keep us going for the trek up Primrose Hill.

The sun shone, the playground was quiet, the children were smiling. The benefits of half term being out of kilter with the rest of the country are vast. London Zoo was great fun and the stars seemed to be aligned. Tilly got chosen to dress up as a penguin. The sun shone as we ate our complicated sandwiches outside. The owl was enticed to stand on Paul's head. We turned up at the giraffes during impromptu feeding time. Hell even the reptiles moved more than usual.

We walked to the tube through Regents Park and ate the speediest Tesco voucher subsidised Zizzi meal in history to get to the Lego Movie on time. Which is, for want of a better word, awesome. Unlike the singing that has continued from the children ever since...

We used a new tactic and put the kids in our bed so we could watch TV and move them later. We sat in the doorway awhile they dropped off with Paul making far too much noise pouring spritzers (fizzy water is louder than you think) and we worried my "laugh out loud" book was an error. But it didn't matter because they were so knackered they went to sleep at the speed of light and we got to watch the Mentalist. Quite a day.

London with the kids

A Chesterfield landslip couldn't stop us go on holiday thankfully. It was a long old train journey but we made it and walked from the station to the nearest free tourist attraction, the British Museum, not wanting to miss out on using every minute of our family London experience. We don't really do much sitting about on our city breaks.

I wouldn't say the British Museum was the best place to take children as young as ours - there is an awful lot of stuff in glass boxes - but the girls did admirably. They liked quite a few exhibits (Egyptians were popular) but we must have walked at least a mile round in a circle and I really wish there had been more hands on things for them. There is only so much looking without touching a six year old can stand. Even I was getting a bit jaded by the end and we only saw about half of it. I personally was left in awe of the building and it's contents, but left with the overall feeling that it was essentially a large quantity of things England didn't really deserve to have. Maybe that's why it was free.

The tube trains were popular with the girls, and the hotel room even more so even though it was extremely diddy. It had the design aspect of having a desk you could actually sit at while sitting on the end of your bed. The fact that that is the only way you could sit at it was of no concern. It was the optimum to place to colour in Smurf pictures that they gave them on the reception. Holiday Inn Express is clearly the best type of hotel.

Tesco clubcard vouchers and a tiny local Pizza Express made everything even better. As did the bottle of wine (us not them). Then we went back to our functional diddy bedroom for a restful night's sleep.

Of course we were all sharing a room. It'll be fine, I thought, they will stay up a bit late and we will all go to sleep at the same time. Great theory. In reality after a full day with children everyone in the world wants them to go to sleep first and we were no different. Phoebe was too excited to sleep and bounced up and down for some time while Paul and I sat in the doorway on the floor trying to pretend we weren't there. Tilly fell asleep first, then Phoebe. We daren't make any noise and sat reading in the dim light of the bathroom for so long I finished my book and had to send Paul out to buy me another one. I think he volunteered to save his aching floor impacted buttocks.

After a while Tilly knelt up and played a clapping game in her sleep. It was going to be a long night. But it didn't matter because, well........holiday!



Friday, 28 February 2014

Whittletang

Ok so I didn't make something to eat macaroni cheese with. I made a cake slice. Well I say make, I mean I buffed it and sort of made a handle but that pretty much beats any other craft achievement in my life so it's all good for the soul.

Essentially I was given a cut out shape to buff on a machine. Then I cut a wooden block into a handle shape, sanded it a lot and slightly lamented the fact that I couldn't etch it with a witty phrase because I hadn't picked a cheese knife, dammit. It's flipping lovely though, and even going to be in the gallery for a bit, alongside cake slices that may be more aesthetically pleasing but that doesn't take the shine off it for me (you see what I did there?).


I personally think the word 'whittletang' was made up by someone who had drunk a bit too much cider. Whatever it's origins it is one of my new favourite words along with 'shrewd'. 'flamboyant', 'squishy' and 'dubious'. Which of course whittletang is most definitely not. It's a bonkers word to describe making cutlery and adding handles.

The whole point of the training is to understand the student journey. Many of the sessions we offer are craft based to give them the chance to use their hands and their imaginations to produce something they can be proud of. If the students are half as excited as I was when I actually produced a cake slice then I totally get it. Whittletang in mainstream schooling may be the answer you know...

So once it's been displayed it comes back to me and if you come round for cake I will use it just to show off.