Monday, 30 March 2015

Manor Cottages

I got disproportionately excited yesterday when we left the house in the pouring rain, got slightly lost, walked across farmland and ended up at a new heritage initiative on the Manor Lodge site. I mean I'll be honest it's early days. There is a cottage which has been made safe and is being kitted out to look like a 1940s home. They are missing some key things, like a kitchen range and a mattress amongst other things, but you can see what an important place this will be.

I flipping love living history. Ever since watching "How we used to Live" at junior school. There is no museum I like better than one where people are dressed up and making scones.  And this one will be in Sheffield. I already have a real soft spot for Manor Lodge despite it's limited opening hours (down to funding). It's an important place (where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive no less) and every time we go back it's different. The gardens, landscaping and signage are better. The flowers are stunning in the summer. I love Tudor history. It deserves to be visited.

But 20th century history is where my inner child gets excited. Anything involving butter making, ration books, open fires, gramophones or rag rugs makes me very happy.

The even better news it that they have inherited loads of the exhibits from the Heritage Museum on Ecclesall Road - I was wondering where all that went - and are planning to open Victorian shops in a barn on site which will make it even more of an interesting place to visit. Plus there is Rhubarb Shed cafe where had the biggest sausage sandwiches in a world and lovely service.

So they need support. Financial, voluntary (to help fix things up and dress up on event days) and they are also in need of some big pieces of furniture that would really help finish the cottage interior.

Clearly we don't have a Victorian chest of drawers kicking about but someone might and I can't think of a better place to put it if you have found somewhere else to put your socks. Apologies for the terrible photo but I stuffed the paperwork in my pocket due to torrential rain.

In the mean time please go and visit. I'd recommend you check the website for open days for the discovery centre, lodge and cottages before turning up and expect to see a work in progress - but they need our support and it's a great day out. Oh and check if you've got a 3/4 mattress to spare please because the bed looks mighty uncomfortable at the moment.

Thursday, 26 March 2015


Wow that's a heavy title. Here goes.

Parenting comes in stages. Some distinct, some merged together so you don't see the join. In the beginning your baby is tiny. You are frightened. Keeping them alive and everyone's sanity is a full-time job. Topics of discussion are sleep (or lack of), feeding, weaning, tantrums, potty training, development, activities. I found all the first bit pretty tough I must admit. I loved them completely and did everything I could but often found it difficult and always exhausting.

What next? School, friendships, reading, writing, sibling rivalry, homework battles, attitude. Difficult in a different way but with hopefully more sleep.

And during it all, it's always there. Are you doing this right? Should you be doing things differently? Are they eating too much sugar, watching too much TV, playing too many computer games, doing the right activities? You could drive yourself mad.

And then there's that thing on the horizon.

Growing up. Sex.

Always difficult to deal with but in our age more difficult than ever. I learnt last night that 40% of teenage boys watch hardcore porn regularly. That children in year five and six (that's next year, bugger) are sexting. I mean what the hell? That can't be right. It's the modern day equivalent of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" I guess but with the possibility of the photos heading all over the world with a touch of a button.

It's children playing adult computer games with adult words and content. It's pictures of women semi naked and photoshopped everywhere you turn. Pop singers dressed provocatively and wholly inappropriate videos on MTV.

Surely I can protect my children. They aren't old enough for this. They don't have mobile phones or tablets. They access the internet with supervision and filters. But it's not enough.

Our children might see this stuff on other children's smartphones and computers. They will hear the language we want to protect them from in the playground, on computer games and in other people's homes. And as for sexualised images of women, well they are everywhere. TV, newsagent shelves, billboards.

Sure you can do your best to limit their access to it but mine won't be in my protective bubble much longer. Two years until secondary school. A blink of an eye.

In Sheffield there is a parenting workshop run by Just attending feels like I am doing something about the one thing I don't really want to think about.

It's the opportunity not only to share concerns with other parents but to learn some strategies.

From the session last night it is clear that the parents who went really need this - we couldn't stop talking. And we will carry on talking. Hopefully in the future with a few ideas up our sleeves of how to cope.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


Today is supposed to be a good productive day. I was over the moon when my boss agreed to let me have one day off a week and condense my hours into the other four. Think what I could do with all that time. Get on top of things. See friends that I have missed terribly. Consider exercising. So many options.

This morning I was much more enthusiastic to get out of bed. I had a day of things planned - the main of which was to start a mindfulness course I'd be referred to from my IAPT counselling. This course, I have been assured, is valuable and you can only go on it when you are well. It's about changing the way you think. It's time to get on top of my mental health and stop these cycles of anxiety happening. "Book me in" I said.

I whizzed around being productive until 930. Then I got in the car and drove to where it told me on the letter. It took me twenty minutes to avoid crashing into students and to find a car parking space and when I did I could only park for 2 hours - the course is exactly that long. With little choice I decided to risk it - if I got a parking ticket I would plead anxiety or something.

I parked with four minutes to spare and ran down the road weaving through power dressed students (never happened in my day)  to get to the building. "Oh that's been cancelled. The lady couldn't do it."

"Did no-one think of letting me know?"

"We only found out at 930".

"It's 10 o'clock. I have a mobile phone. Never mind."

I rang Paul and vented. I then stupidly went into a shop and looked at clothes which wouldn't fit me and I can't afford. I'm now back at home drinking coffee and feeling decidedly grumpy.

I accept that these things happen. I also fully accept that this is a not a major thing and on balance I shouldn't be throwing my toys out of the pram. But I am allowing myself to be cross just for a few minutes until the caffeine sinks in.

This course that is supposed to help me cope with anxiety.

I know what would be a great idea. Run the course on a Wednesday morning so it's a challenge for people to change their working patterns (because we are all better and therefore presumably back at work).

Run it in a building with very little parking in the busiest part of town.

Make sure only one woman runs it so that there is no back up (despite it saying 2 on the form).

And don't bother letting anyone know by text or message when it's cancelled.

That will really help them all learn to look at the world in a different way and cope with anxiety.

Oh no, it really wouldn't.