Monday, 15 December 2014

Tyre Pressure

One of the most daunting things about having teenagers is when they and their friends start to drive. At least it is for me.

I'm firmly of the opinion that passing the driving test is just the start of learning to drive. There's so much more to learn than could possibly be absorbed during driving lessons or covered in an hour long theory test and a 40 minute practical. All the real learning about staying safe on the road stuff comes with experience.


Teenagers, by dint of youth, don't have much experience in very many things and not at all in driving by the time they reach the age when they are able to. And then, having passed their driving test, they want to drive. On the roads. In cars. All. The. Time.

And while teenagers may laugh in the face of driving danger with all the joie de vivre of youth, me? Well, I sit at home and worry, like a million mother's before me, about just how safe they are on roads that can be treacherous, particularly in winter.

And recent research from Michelin and Mumsnet hasn't improved matters either.

In October, a 1,000 Mumsnetters completed a survey for Michelin about tyres and tyre safety. Tyres are, as one Mumsnetter said: "The most important part of the car as they're the only thing connecting you to the road."

The survey discovered that safety was a paramount concern in choosing a set of tyres, but 38 per cent of mothers polled didn't know the legal tread depth of their tyres and the same amount only checked the tyre pressure once or twice a year. A disappointingly whopping 73 per cent said they just left their partner to take care of car maintenance.  And only 19 per cent understood the importance of tyre labelling as well, which Michelin says also includes a rating for wet-braking stopping distances. Who knew... not very many people apparently.



"I feel," said one mum, "that some drivers do not appreciate or understand the importance of making sure your tyres are in good working condition."

And I thought if safety conscious mums ferrying their children around don't fully understand tyre safety and tyre maintenance, what hope is there that inexperienced teenage drivers do too?

Not much, I suspect.

As a start at improving tyre safety awareness for mums and teenagers alike, Michelin, whose Total Performance tyres have a mix of grip, longevity and fuel saving designed to meet everyday driving challenges whatever the conditions, have fitted 3,000 cars across Europe with special monitoring equipment to understand how drivers drive everyday so that tyre safety doesn't end up always being left to chance.




And here's a myth buster from Michelin that I hope will make all drivers out there a bit more careful on the roads this winter too...



Meanwhile, I'll be organising my very own Driving Test for anyone who'll be wanting to be driving me and mine around in future. It may involve a tape measure *nods*





This post is written in collaboration with Mumsnet and Michelin to promote tyre safety. That TeenTwin1's boyfriend passed his driving test last week has absolutely no relevance whatsoever *cough*

Monday, 8 December 2014

Quirky and Kooky Christmas Gift Ideas

It's nearly Christmas. Hurrah... or you would if you could just find the perfect present for that difficult to buy for person in your life. But do not despair because we have a few suggestions for the perfect gift for the perfectly quirky and kooky people in your life....


Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Secret To Being (Almost) Wrinkle-Free at 50 ... Probably

Friends often ask me how I remain relatively wrinkle free as I embark on my fifth decade.

Oh, alright then. One friend once asked me. And yes, there was subdued lighting and she was quite possibly delusionally drunk, but still, it counts.

As do the many times that other people have said: "Oooh, you don't look it" upon discovering I am virtually a dinosaur. And yes, they might just be saying that because of the murderous look in my eye and the large stick I happen to be casually twirling at the time. But still, It counts.

Obviously I have wisdom to impart which will be a boon to women everywhere. so here are my top tips to maintaining a youthful complexion as you enter your 50s,...

1: Drink. A lot.
    Some so-called health professionals recommend drinking eight glasses of water a day, but I say does it really have to be water? And why stop at just eight glasses? Wine is as wet as water and tastes much, much nicer. As do gin and vodka, both of which can be happily mixed with tonic water thereby doubling the health benefits. Probably. It's called tonic for a reason, right?

2: Eat Healthily.
    And by healthily I mean: what you want, when you want.

3: Learn to Smoke.
    Have you ever seen a wrinkled kipper? No, you haven't. There are benefits to smoking that the health professionals will never tell  you. Stress is a major cause of furrowed brows, but the ability to step outside at times of emotional extremis and take a good, deep lungful of smoke can not only save your sanity but also your skin. And probably the skin of whoever wound you up in the first place too. Which is good.

4: Home Exfoliation.
    Why waste money on expensive beauty treatments when you can get the benefits in your own home? A man's beard stubble can achieve much the same results without the expense and with more thrills (hopefully) than you'd ever get on a beautician's couch.

5: Do Not Give A F ..
    Forget your age. It doesn't matter. Your experience does.  If you've been doing it right, you should have a big smile on your face by now and if you are going to have wrinkles, laughter lines are definitely the best ones to have.

Oh, and most importantly....

6: Use Photoshop.
    Or PicMonkey.. or Instagram... or any photo-editing software that you can find each and every time you post a photo on social media. Because you're 50 right. You're never leaving the house again and all people will ever see of you for evermore will be carefully edited photos on your Facebook feed.

Hurrah!

Not that I ever do that. Obviously *cough*

Me. Probably.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

At 50 .... 50 Things I Don't Understand

I thought with age would come wisdom, but with a whole half century staring me square in the face I admit there are still some things I'll never understand, however many years I live ...


50 Things I Don't Understand

.....At 50 



1: Shower gel.

2: How the wine is always gone.

3: Trigonometry.

Please sir,
 can I have some hair straighteners
4: Why curly haired girls want straight hair and straight haired girls want curls.

5: The purpose of thongs.

6: How to do the Hokey Cokey without falling over one's own feet.

7: The correct spacing when writing down mobile phone numbers.

8: The popularity of Kim Kardashian's bottom.

9: How slugs mate. And why they would want to.

10: Why fast food is never quick enough.

11: Why most people who wear sportswear do it for leisure.

12: How eggs work.

13: The Daily Mail.

14: Where dust goes when you've dusted it.

15: People who don't appreciate Tom Jones.

16: Chewing gum.

17: Why Ian Gillan doesn't have a knighthood....

18: ...or David Beckham.

19: How to make the perfect meringue.

20: Why anyone would EVER need a wine stopper.

21: Mrs Brown's Boys.

22: Local government planning regulations.

23: Litter louts

24: Bad losers

25: Religious Fanatics.

26: Fanatics.

27: Religion.

28: Miley Cyrus.

29: Where Ben Elton went.

30: How to cast on knitting.

31: What the spleen does.

32: How to drive.

33: What you're supposed to do with all the teeth when you're the Tooth Fairy .

34: Why people would trust a politician.

35: Why my life isn't like a musical.

36: The correct oven temperature for Yorkshire Pudding.

37: Non alcoholic alcohol.

38: Men.

39: Fake tan.

40: Where all the single socks go.

41: Why sliced bread is previously the best thing, always.

42: The inner workings of the flushable toilet.

43: How Paul McCartney's hair colourist gets away with it.

44: Jazz.

45: Couscous.

46: The Pentatonic scale.

48:  Eyelash curlers.

49: Why anyone would voluntarily wear a paisley patterned anything.

And

50: Life. Mostly.


*Sighs*




Friday, 21 November 2014

The F Word ...

In less than a week's time I will be 50 years old..... 50 ..... years..... old! 

That's a total of 18, 262 days or 438,291 hours or 26,298,000 minutes that I've spent on the planet..... only a third of which made some kind of sense at the time.

I am not, to be perfectly frank, entirely prepared to be an actual, whole, 50 years old. Even though I've known it's been coming since ... well... since I was 49. 

I did write, in a futile attempt at some level of acceptance, a bucket list of things to do before the big day as well as a list of things not to do. And I absolutely achieved everything I set out to do on one of those lists.....though I did have to reinstall iTunes. Obvs.

But otherwise, I'm in denial: the mulishly stubborn, kicking and screaming and quite a lot of sulking kind of denial that involves regularly drowning myself in a vat of gin and sticking one's fingers in one's ears and going LA LA LA when anyone says the F word. Any F word at all, just to be on the safe side.

Still, unless I discover the secret of eternal youth or a time machine within the next few days, which is unlikely admittedly, I will be f..f...f..ing fifty years old, like it or not.

F....f.......uck.



I suspect I'm not going to be very good at it.....




Monday, 17 November 2014

How Not to Date Women and How

Last week I wrote about the inane Dapper Laughs and his sordid approach to dating advice. This week, a petition to ban the Swiss-born American and self-acclaimed pick up artist, Julien Blanc from hosting his dating advice seminars in the UK has topped over 150,000 signatures. So far.

Like Dapper Laughs but without the excuse of being a created character, Julien Blanc calls himself "an international leader in dating advice"and can charge up to £2,000 for a "seduction class" where he "advises" grabbing women by the throat, isolating them from their friends, killing their pets, making threats, harassment and abuse as part of a winning seduction technique.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

Penguins: The Dangers .... or What John Lewis Won't Tell You ....

I am the mother of a boy who is, like the boy in the John Lewis Christmas ad, similarly in love with his penguin.

The penguin that I bought him (at half price in WH Smith's, since you're asking) for the Christmas when he was just 20 months old.....

The Boy and his first penguin


The Boy loved that penguin from the very first.

He named the penguin, with all the finesse of a one-year-old unable to pronounce the word penguin, Pen Pen and from that day everywhere that The Boy went, Pen Pen was sure to go as well ... regardless of Pen Pen's sizeable bulk and obvious penguiness.

The Boy loved Pen Pen so very much that the next Christmas, Santa *cough* in his wisdom thought it would be a really cute idea to present The Boy and Pen Pen with another penguin.

So, duly, on Christmas morning, in a gaily penguin-paper wrapped parcel, addressed jointly to Pen Pen and The Boy, there lay another, slightly smaller, penguin.

And perhaps it should have ended there, just like in the John Lewis ad, with Pen Pen and his new companion Pen waddling off into the sunset and The Boy, still just two and with a walk just as waddling as a penguin's, beside them both.

Perhaps...

But the way of the penguin is a slippery slope and not always figuratively....





Needless to say, each and every successive Christmas (for which I still blame Santa *cough*) and sometimes for birthdays (which I can't *sighs*), The Boy has welcomed a new penguin to the fold until eventually, finally, for his last birthday, his eighth, he got an actual, real-live penguin.....


The Boy and his WWF penguin
Not the actual, real live penguin..
Or at least we adopted an Adelie penguin through the World Wildlife Fund. We did get yet another furry penguin addition to the family for doing so though, for which space had to be found in an already over-penguined bed.

And now another Christmas approaches. The Boy, nearly nine, the proud owner of a myriad different penguins and one real one isn't really going to expect another penguin, is he? Is he?

Er, yes. Apparently.

And this one better not only be real, it should move in.

So thank you John Lewis. Well played.

*rolls eyes*

*Googles Penguins at Home*



All The Boy's toy penguin collection
Penguin family members who could be bothered to turn up for the photo shoot
 *rolls eyes*
*looks behind sofa*

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Gallery .... Yellow

I'm joining in with The Gallery this week and the theme is Yellow ...

One of the first colours ever made was yellow. Made from clay, the yellow ochre pigment was used in prehistoric cave art and a horse painted with the yellow pigment was drawn in the caves of Lascaux in the Dordogne, When it was discovered in 1940, it was estimated to be over 17,300 years old.

The sun has been setting the sky alight with all shades of yellow flames every sunset for even longer.

These are my Yellows ....


















Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Not Laughing

I was a teenager in the 70s when it wasn't uncommon for young women to be treated as little more than meat in a world that seemed almost exclusively catering for men. But even as builders hung off the scaffolding shouting "Show us your tits" to anything vaguely female and male drivers slowed for a good leer as they passed the girl's cross country team sweating their way back up the hill to school, women were breaking out of their moulds and becoming economically, socially and educationally free of history's traditional constraints.

Silent Sunday ...









Friday, 7 November 2014

The Wrong Pair of Tights ...

At 8.15 in the morning this week I had a phone call from The Teen's school.

Your daughter, said a cheerful lady called Jane, is wearing The Wrong Pair of Tights. Can you bring her, she added, a pair of the right tights?

I'm not a morning person I admit. It takes me at least two Peppa Pigs and a large cup of scaldingly hot tea before I can communicate with anybody in more than grunts, but I agreed to attend forthwith with The Right Pair of Tights. 

But, amidst my confusion, I lied. It was 8.15. I don't drive. The Teen's school was more than a mile away. The Boy was partially dressed, covered in toast crumbs and there was one more Peppa Pig to watch before he had to be taken in the opposite direction and I could even consider rescuing The Teen with a pair of the right tights......

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A Perspective on Whitby ...

Taking a holiday by the coast, in late October, in England, might sound like just the kind of hell on earth you need to get into the mood for Halloween. But not if you were, like us, spending half term in Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast.

We love Whitby. Since our honeymoon in 2005 (which we spent in Whitby, obviously), we have returned once or twice a year for either a weekend, a week or even longer, and whether it's October or August the weather does what it likes with little regard for the seasons. I always pack lots of jumpers and rainwear whatever time of year we visit, because I am English and a mother and can't help but pack for all eventualities.We rarely *crosses fingers* need them though, and this year was no exception, the end of October or not.

Silent Sunday ...






Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Dear Daughter...

A letter to a daughter at university. 
Year one, term one:


Dear Daughter,


Hi honey, I'm glad you're enjoying your first few weeks at university and I hope you've managed to unpack the 736 assorted boxes and bags you took with you. You're probably right, you never know when a shower caddy is going to come in handy. Or fairylights. Or a special holder for your collection of mascara.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Mother ...

The TeenTwins have been at university for a month and apart from embarrassing tears (mine) when we deposited them in their newly separate parts of the big wide world, they've taken to student life with commendable ease and enthusiasm.

There's been a few ups and downs, of course, and again, they've mostly been mine.

The first week they were gone I stood in their ransacked bedroom, with half the posters missing from the walls and three weeks of dirty mugs, plates and bowls stacked, neatly, on the dressing table like leaving gifts, and had a little weep. And not only because of the mounting bacteria levels.

When TeenTwin1 succumbed to "Freshers flu" in her first couple of weeks and ended up with a chest infection, something she's been prone to since a baby, she rang sounding sad and wan triggering an instinctive maternal hug reaction. It was just unfortunate I was in the supermarket when she rung, I'm still apologising to the trolley boy.

Then TeenTwin2 banged her head, quite badly, and texted a cry for help that her head hurt and her hands were numb. Though her hands weren't so numb that she couldn't manage to text, update her Facebook status and send a Snapchat of the resulting bump on her head, but still, it was worrying. She spent several hours in A&E flirting with a neurosurgeon and being diagnosed with concussion. I, on the other hand, spent those hours frantically panicking and chewing my nails too many miles away to be any use.

Slowly I'm coming to terms with shopping and cooking for four instead of the usual six. There were a puzzling couple of weeks when I marvelled daily why the fridge was never empty, the bread never gone and the biscuit tin still full when the pair of them claimed to never eat anything at all.

I'm even beginning to appreciate a new found domestic freedom. No longer do I have to scale a small hillock of smalls to reach the washing basket, or do three washes a day every day which is as puzzling as the never empty fridge; the TeenTwins were practically welded into their onesies and if they got dressed at all, wore what looked like very little indeed.

They've both kept in, frankly surprising, regular touch thankfully via the marvels of the internet and video chat as well as with a stream of phone calls and texts, making it highly probable and probably ironic that we've had more one to one conversations in recent weeks than we had all summer.

But I am adjusting and, in time, I might even stop checking their room on the way to bed each night because, empty, it's still a little wrench in the heart everyday.



And obviously they miss me too. Obviously.


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Thanks for the Mammaries

A complete stranger manhandled my breasts this week.

There were even pictures taken, though I suspect they're not the sort that will be shared online by a hacker any time soon,

So, obviously, I'm having to share it myself.....




... because October is Breast Cancer Awareness month when being breast aware is definitely not about Googling images of Jennifer Lawrence in the altogether.

The Leeds and Wakefield Breast Screening Service sends invitations out every three years to women aged between 47 and 73 to attend their clinics for a mammogram (an x-ray of the breast which can detect the early signs of cancer). So few women take up these invitations that earlier this year the all-female team of radiographers held a drop in event in the local shopping centre to encourage more women to attend their appointments.

I can almost understand those women's reluctance. Having a mammogram is as intimate and uncomfortable as cervical screening but it is also just as necessary. One thousand women die from breast cancer in the UK every single month.

A mammogram can detect small changes in the breast before they can either be seen or felt, and early detection and treatment does save lives: eight out of ten women now survive breast cancer beyond ten years. 

This week I had my second mammogram and it wasn't as scary as the first mammogram I had three years ago because, of course, I'd been there and done that. I knew what to expect, I wasn't phased that a woman I'd never met before matter of factly lolloped (there is no other word for it) my breasts about, nor the deep squeeze of the screening machine. I wasn't even hurt there were no flowers afterwards, nor an invite for coffee.*

In three years time when it's time for my next check up, there's a very real danger I'll have such a blase approach, I shall be whipping off my bra on the way up in the lift. Advance apologies to anyone visiting the eye clinic that week.

I don't learn the results of the screening for a couple of weeks, ironically slap bang in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness month, but I did learn one thing. I would be absolute rubbish as a stripper or a porn star because there is something very strange about standing around topless and wearing shoes.


*Amends list of possible careers*



You can support Breast Cancer Awareness either by fund-raising for or donating to Cancer Research UKBreast Cancer Care  or the Breast Cancer Campaign. The Breast Cancer Campaign want people to raise money and awareness and Wear It Pink on Friday October 24th.





*Well, maybe just a little bit.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Lament For My Towels ...

The late, great Douglas Adams once wrote "You've got to know where your towel is."

And I do. In fact, for the past few years I have known where every towel in the house is at any given time.

Several would be reclining damply across the bathroom floor, Several more curled, like sleeping (damp) cats, across the TeenTwins' bedroom floor. Thirty six of them would have been used once and dropped in the wash basket. Or, more accurately, on top of the wash basket.

The bathroom floor was the battlefield on which towels did not come to die, but dyed brutally nevertheless. Or else they succumbed, tattered and suddenly pale, to the peroxide chemical warfare mercilessly unleashed in the quest for red hair. Or blue hair. Or green.

I tried my best. Tended the limp, picked up the lame, Washed them and dried them and then, Douglas forgive me, sent them back to the fray.

With the departure to university of the TeenTwins, with a whole pile of new, soft and fluffy towels each, obviously, I dared to entertain hopes that for the first time in years I might be able to walk across the bathroom floor unimpeded by saddened, damp towel debris underfoot.

I didn't entertain those hopes for long though.

The 13 year old is a new Teen, but is just like the old Teens. Within what seemed like minutes of the TeenTwins vacating the premises, she was strewing towels around the place with as much abandon as they ever did and more. Even the piano has suddenly been called upon to play a pivotal, if inexplicable, role as a towel rack.

But at least The Boy isn't following in his sisters' reign of towel terror. Oh no. He much prefers to gallop naked around the house after a bath eschewing the use of any towels at all.

So, that's good.

*Cries a bit*

What my towels never look like

Monday, 15 September 2014

Leaving Home ....

We took TeenTwin1 to university yesterday and it proved to be just as emotional as I thought it would be. 

When we drove away I was definitely in the running to win all the Embarrassing Mother awards to be handed out in 2014 and rapidly becoming a firm favourite in the Most Embarrassing Car Passenger awards. I didn't just weep, I bawled. As if I'd left her in the wilderness abandoned and alone, rather than in a cosy little house in one of the most beautiful cities in the world with three very nice girls, several bottles of wine, 36 toilet rolls, eight pints of milk, three kettles and a whole load of excitement, adventure and really wild times spanning in front of her.

By the time we got home I'd managed to regain control with just the odd sniff and suddenly teary eyes which I could blame on the dust, of which we have an abundance.

Or I had until TeenTwin2 wrote this on Facebook:


She's not even been gone 10 minutes and already the emptiness of her side of the room is horrible.
18 years we've shared a room, with the exception of an odd weekend here or there. And now she's not even in the same city as me.
The small benefits such as being able to play my own music without having her moan because she'd rather play hers is nothing compared to how much I miss her already.
Going from seeing her everyday to seeing her once a month if that is going to break my heart but I hope she flourishes and loves university.
If you all think it's hard going to uni and leaving behind parents and pets and friends and boyfriends, try leaving your twin.
She's someone who biologically could not be closer to me, but she's also mentally my best friend and closest person; she's my other half.
I love you. Enjoy yourself and I shall see you as soon as possible.

*Wails* 
And on Thursday we take TeenTwin2 to another university in yet another town.
*Wails again*
*Doesn't stop*

Holding on and not letting go, taking TeenTwin1 to university 


Thursday, 4 September 2014

The University Challenge ...



In a couple of week's time, life at Quirky Kook Towers is never, ever going to be quite the same again. It is, for a start, going to be ever so much quieter and quite a lot tidier because the TeenTwins are going away to university.

I know, of course, they'll be back. That every so often they'll tumble through the door laden with washing and aiming themselves straight at the fridge. But really, it just won't be the same.

The preparations for their leaving have been going on steadily since their exams in June, but only leapt into action mode when they got their (brilliant, let's not deny it) A level results and were both accepted at their first choice universities. 

Now in the final weeks and days before departure, their bedroom is awash with boxes and bags half packed. Need to do lists, things to get lists, and can't forget lists are strewn about. Posters are being removed from the walls. Soon we might even discover what colour the walls are painted.

The TeenTwins are, as to be expected, excited and anxious about the next big adventure in their lives. There's been the odd wobble or two; TeenTwin1 didn't get her first choice of university accommodation and TeenTwin2 abruptly realised she's going to miss the anciently silly family cat who is older than she is. And who, they wonder, is going to remove invading spiders? 

Otherwise, their days are filled with packing, plans, preparations and partying with their equally university-bound friends and it's only me who keeps shuffling off to have a quiet little cry in a corner.

know they're going to love university, they'll blossom and flourish and have the time of their lives. (I know I did). I suspect they might become unbearably unopinionated know-it-alls who turn up unexpectedly on the doorstep with inappropriate men (because I did that too). Or even worse, they might get involved in student politics.

Either way, I hope they discover passions and have dreams, big and bold, to aim towards like the shooting stars they've always been to me; my little bright lights, even in my dark hours. But they're not little anymore, and they're not really mine anymore. They are, very much, themselves and as one chapter closes, another opens full of excitement and adventure and really wild times. Oh, and lectures and hard work and studying and stuff. Obviously. *Coughs*

I am, I know, going to miss them like limbs suddenly gone. I will look for them and they won't be there, call for them and there'll be no answer. It will seem strange and odd and like something's wrong and, although they are ready for university, I'm not entirely sure I am.



*Panics*

Monday, 1 September 2014

Never Mind....

It's the last day of the summer term and the kids are delirious with glee and you're not far behind them. You wander home happily singing "School's Out" whilst improbably balancing 879 random pieces of crap, many of which appear to be recreations of castles of England (all of them) made out of cornflake boxes. You drop them in the recycling box as you go through the door.

Never mind, because as you contemplate the summer weeks stretching ahead without the need to find uniform, wash uniform, iron uniform and unearth last week's sports kit from beneath the cat bed, you quietly celebrate that there will be no more early morning lunch box making or frantic school runs. No more pretending last night's smudged mascara and mismatched shoes are the latest fashion trend or that you really have to make a highly important phone call when Chatty Mum hoves into view.

Revelling in the freedom from the tyranny of the school routine, you very carefully spend days collecting, washing, ironing and putting every last item of uniform away anyway.

Never mind because you can look forward to luxuriating in a daily lie in. Unfortunately the children are still running on school time and drag you out of bed complaining they're "bored" as soon as the sun is up.

Never mind because you've cunningly pre-planned a range of activities and days out to enjoy as a family. Though the family flatly refuse to have anything to do with any of them because they're "boring", but never mind, because you make them do them anyway.

They sulk. They complain vociferously and continuously. They tell you all the other things they would rather be doing instead, all of which involve staying at home, wearing pyjamas and looking at screens. They drag their feet, scuff their shoes and stare morosely ahead refusing to be engaged or entertained. They say they are "bored" for the 797th time.

Never mind because by the time you straggle home totally beleaguered by their constant moans and sulks and complaints, they'll surely be exhausted and eager for bed.... Surely.

Unfortunately they're not tired.  They're never going to be tired again. And they don't want to go to bed because it's the school holidays. It's still light outside and they're NOT TIRED, although they may well be "bored". Eventually one falls asleep halfway up the stairs having yo-yoed out of bed for the 27th time and the other spends the entire night playing with a phone under the bedcovers.

Never mind, because tomorrow is another day. Though when it arrives it is just like the previous day, but never mind, because by now you've forgotten what day it is and the children are almost feral.

Never mind, because soon the holidays will be over. You try to shop for shoes that meet all uniform requirements but aren't "Boring."* You fail.

Never mind because soon it will be the first day back at school. Although you can't find any of the uniform you carefully washed, ironed and put away at the beginning of the holidays. You do, however, find an ancient lunchbox with a partially digested yoghurt capable of  waging bacterial warfare and half a ton of undone holiday homework.

Never mind, because tomorrow is the first day back at school. Never mind that their (newly completed) Holiday Diary reveals the highlight of their summer was not cleaning their teeth AT ALL. Or that their uniform labels had their names written on with a Sharpie pen 55 seconds before leaving for the school run. Or that you forgot to buy anything to go into a lunchbox and had to make do with three dry crackers and a wilted Jaffa Cake. Or that you've got mismatched shoes and smudged eyeliner and Chatty Mum has just hoved into view.

Never mind, because they were the school holidays and you survived. Well done.
*passes gin*




*There are no such shoes. Fact.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Feeling Tyred ...Allan Kaprow at The Hepworth, Wakefield


Allan Kaprow YARD

As part of the eternal quest to find something entertaining to fill the school summer holidays, you might be forgiven for thinking I have taken leave of my senses, ignored all pertinent health and safety guidelines and introduced the offspring to the local scrapyard as their new playground. 

I haven't.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Top Ten: The Best of Children's TV, 1995 - 2014

I've seen a lot of young children's TV over the past 18 years, and I mean a lot. When you have twins five years before having the next child and then wait another five before the last of the brood, you end up in a pre-school TV time loop that, through programmes that come and go, seems to go on forever.

Now The TeenTwins are 18, The Tween 12 and The Boy, eight, we have put away childish TV things and moved on but the memories stubbornly linger on. And not just for me, TeenTwin1 quakes with horror at Rosie and Jim. Still.

I know this because, in a fit of family summer unity, we threw ourselves into reliving the highs and the lows of children's TV over the past 18 years and came up with our very own best of children's programmes that we all remember. So, in no particular order.....

The Best of Children's TV 1995-2014

1: Thomas the Tank Engine.
Who doesn't love Thomas the Tank Engine? The TeenTwins did, The Tween did even more and The Boy, with access to an entire shelf of Thomas the Tank Engine videos and DVDs spanning 11 years, couldn't help but be enamoured either. We all prefer the Ringo Starr voice-over era though, because we're rock and roll like that.

2: 64 Zoo Lane.
For the theme tune. Sheer ear-worming genius... *sings* 




3: Come Outside.
A middle-aged woman, a dog and a spotty plane. What's not to like? Come Outside was thoroughly educational, I learned how pencils were made for one thing. Though the children were probably eating their own socks at the time.

4: Pingu.
None of us understood it. But none of us cared. It's also mostly down to Pingu that The Boy has 12 cuddly penguins and a real one, adopted through the World Wildlife Fund.

5: The Teletubbies.
The Teletubbies were the first TV phenomenon we were ever caught up in .The cuddly equivalent of the characters were the present to give at Christmas when the TeenTwins were small, and the fight to get one sometimes got literal in the aisles of Asda. Though Grandma did eventually emerge, relatively unscathed, with a Dipsy and a Po.
We made Tubby Toast, we ate pink custard, we called the vacuum the NooNoo (we still do) and said Eh Ho a lot (we still do). We loved The Teletubbies (We still do, though TeenTwin2 totally blamesTinky Winky for the number of Gay Best Friends she has).




6: Ben and Holly.
Regardless of the fact that Ben and Holly didn't hit our screens until 2009 when The Boy was three and the TeenTwins 15, Ben and Holly rapidly became one of our favourite must watch children's programmes. In fact, shh, I have been know to sit and watch it with no children in the room, it is that good and one day I hope to survive a jelly flood of my very own.

7: Tikkabilla.
Tikkabilla was basically the Playschool I remembered from when I was young though Brian Cant had been replaced by Justin Fletcher, a fitting and worthy successor (there is no higher accolade that I can bestow, by the way) . It even had the windows *sighs with nostalgia* but it was bigger, better and Hamble had sodded off taking Humpty Dumpty, Big and Little Ted, and Jemima with her. Hurrah. I still have nightmares about Hamble *shudders*

8: The Fimbles.
The Tween when she was small caught The Fimble wave. It was brief and it crashed, probably obscured by The Tweenies success *rolls eyes* But The Fimbles were fun, magical and ever so slightly bonkers, entirely explaining why The Tween is The Tween she is today. *Stares hard at Roly Mo*

9: Pocoyo
There are no words to explain the awesomeness of  Pocoyo. For a brief period of time, when The Boy was small, I did try to find a small blue suit for said Boy so he would be my own little Pocoyo. It's is a blessing, probably, that I never did. But, still, Pocoyo....



*sniggers*

10: Fireman Sam.
Despite the first series finishing before the TeenTwins were born and the newer, supposedly, improved* Fireman Sam not reappearing until 4 years after the birth of the Tween, the lovable hero next door was much adored by all.
And while I was constantly appalled that no one thought to give the crime wave that was Norman Price a serious talking to, I still wave at passing fire engines in excitement....until I remember all the children are in school and I'm stood in a street all on my own waving at random men in uniform.
*Sigh.*



*Not improved, we much preferred the original version.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Surviving The School Summer Holidays, An Essential Guide.

Spending a whole six weeks with the same group of people is a challenge and it's even worse when you've given birth to those people, because you have no one else to blame but yourself. So when the school holidays hove into view you should prepare yourself with some essentials to aid survival...


1: Gin
Lots and lots and lots of gin. For you, not for them.

2: Wine
Because it's frowned upon to drink gin before teatime but perfectly permissible to glug down a bottle of wine for lunch.

3: Earplugs.
To drown out their incessant moaning about being bored and having nothing to do, despite their possessing the equivalent of three toy shops and an electronics store.

4: A List of Chores
So you can give them something to do when they're moaning about being bored and having nothing to do. It's remarkable how soon they will find something to entertain themselves with if you say the bathroom tiles could do with a wipe down.

5: A List of Fun Family Activities.
That they will refuse to do, take part in or enjoy, but at least you'll feel like you made an effort.

6: Doting Grandparents.
So you can dump them with them in the sure knowledge they will never tell anyone what absolute horrors you've given birth to.

7: A Profanity Filter.
Because you don't  *bleep* want them learning more new words in the *bleep* summer than they did in the entire *bleep* school year.

8: Throat Sweets.
For when you've bleeped yourself hoarse.

9: The Patience of a Saint.

10: Tissues
Lots and lots of tissues, because there will be tears. Probably yours. (see all the above)

Good luck.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Sock Horror ...

Socks are the very bane of my life. The Boy's socks more than anyone else's.

The Tween, in secondary school,  is trussed daily into 40 denier black tights regardless of the weather. The TeenTwins, having left school, barely get out of their onesies long enough to trouble the sock drawer, but The Boy wears socks every day. He needs socks and I need them to be in pairs. And they are never in pairs.

I don't know whether the washing machine eats them or The Boy eats them, but his collection of socks has grown ever singular. At the last count, there was 17 solo socks in his sock drawer. Seventeen. Seven. Teen.

Socks of the singular variety
It was then I had a brainwave.

My thought processes ran thus: If I buy lots of socks of the same pattern, there will always be a pair of matching socks. So I did. I bought lots of black socks and then I bought some patterned socks, three packs of the same patterned socks and proceeded to feel quite smug.


Socks of smugness

What could possibly go wrong? 

I'll tell what can go wrong. There may always a pair of socks to hand of a morning, but because there are many, many pairs of the same socks it's hard to tell if the socks The Boy has on one day are different socks from the socks he had on the day before.

But it was only, while excavating a small mountain of Lego and penguins, I discovered the full horror of my sock strategy. I unearthed a small hoard of socks, all matching and in pairs admittedly, but far too clean to have gone through the daily rigours of The Boy's life.

I looked at The Boy's grubby sock clad feet, I looked at the hoard of perfectly clean, unworn, unsullied socks. I looked at The Boy's feet again. I looked at The Boy.

Five days he'd gone in the same pair of socks. FIVE DAYS. He was even proud about it.

Tomorrow I'm buying more socks, in many, many colours.

*Sighs*  

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The School Trip


 I have, this week, been on a school trip. I know, I know. I really should know better by now but The Boy used all his wiles from telling the teacher I was volunteering anyway, to threatening to fall into a pond and drown if I didn't.

This was no idle threat for the Class 3 trip was to a local RSPB nature reserve where there would be pond-dipping. I had to look up what pond-dipping was. It isn't, sadly, dipping a bottle of wine into a pond to cool during a romantic country picnic.

No. Pond-dipping is netting the pond life out of a pond, looking at the pond life and then throwing the pond life back in said pond while learning what a fascinating plethora of ugly, horrible, skin-crawl-inducing creatures inhabit our waters. Highly educational indeed. I learned, for example, never, ever to anywhere near a pond again. *Shudders*

The trip proved to be even more educational than that though...


Things I Did Learn On The School Trip.

1: Daddies can go on school trips.
Something that has never happened on any school trip, as pupil or parent, I've ever been on, until this school trip. I like it. It should be encouraged. I will certainly be encouraging The Man to put his name down the next time the opportunity crops up. I'm even going to get a pair of earplugs ... "YOU THINK I SHOULD DO WHAT?... and a wall to hide behind when I do though.

2: Health and Safety regulations are ridiculous.
When 30 seven and eight year olds want to go into a playground and can't, because there hasn't been a risk assessment? That is a health and safety hazard. Just saying.

3: Fizzy drinks can kill
Me, of shame. My packed lunch included a bottle of orange Lucozade. An item that is entirely necessary for a 49 year old woman on a school trip, on a hot day, when there's neither gin nor wine available. I got it out of my bag and a myriad children shrieked: "Miss, Miss SHE'S got fizzy pop. " I could have unveiled a Kalishnikov and got a more positive reaction. I put my Lucozade away.
Turns out there was tea. Didn't get any of that either. (See below)

4: Frogs are really teeny, teeny tiny when they're little. They also don't care where they hop. *Scrapes small frog off sole of shoe*

5: If you put a big stick in a field with a child, that child will find the big stick and hit things with it. But if you put four big sticks in a field with 15 children, somebody will get hurt.

6: YOU SHOULD NEVER FEED BREAD TO DUCKS... I knew this already, but it bears repeating.

7: Swans are cool.

8: Some people shouldn't be allowed near a school trip.
I might have thought, before the school trip, that that should have been me but rather surprisingly it turned out to be the people leading the school trip.
Our guides, supplied by the RSPB nature reserve for our visit, were intolerant, impatient, harrying and hectoring.
"Do this. Do that. Do it now. YOU'RE NOT DOING IT QUICK ENOUGH !"
Like the soundtrack to a bad German porn movie with extra added rudeness, they were very, very 1970s. They reminded me of Mr Smith, my old school's swimming teacher, but at least Mr Smith was fair: he hated all his pupils with a passion yet had the decency to despise his pupils for nearly a term before booting them into the shallow end and bruising their hip bones. (see below) 
Our RSPB Nature Reserve guides didn't have the time to get to know the individual members of Class 3 at all, but apparently despised them all regardless of personality, ability or attitude anyway. Which was nice.

9: I used to work with my son's teacher's father when my son's teacher was a child. This makes me feel really, really old 

10: I don't like sick buckets.






See below 1: I feel it is incumbent on me to say The Boy does not drink fizzy drinks, never has though maybe he will eventually.We don't keep bottles of fizzy drink in the house either, mainly because they take up valuable fridge room that could be used to chill wine.
He's never been to a McDonalds either. #justsaying
*Quaffs Lucozade* 

See below 2: Not* that I'm bitter or traumatised or anything. *I am




Thursday, 26 June 2014

School's Out For Ever.....

The Year 12 Prom
The TeenTwins have finished their exams, handed in their course work, had forms signed in triplicate and finally, totally and for the very last time left the school building.

It's been emotional and there have been a few tears it can't be denied, but mostly mine because I do get emotional at endings (and beginnings as it goes). The TeenTwins on the other hand think it a blessed release.

They're not leaving education. Both of them, exam results, UCAS points and all gods willing, are hoping to go to university. They're planning on going to different universities in different towns too which will be a whole new big, scary, exciting, frightening, thrilling adventure. But that's still months away and a distant dream they're not prepared to believe might be true. Not just yet.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Gallery ... The Longest Day

I'm joining in with The Gallery and this week Tara wants to know what we did with the Longest Day.

A Solstice sunrise
June 21st, the longest day, fell on a Saturday this year and it really did feel like the longest day. Mostly because I was awake to see both the sunrise and the sunset but mainly because I spent the hours in between with The Tween and The Boy.

I do enjoy spending time with The Tween, and I do enjoy spending time with The Boy but spending time with them together is not a challenge to be undertaken lightly or without a hard hat, earplugs and a bottle of gin. But on the Longest Day, for a short time at least, there was harmony, thanks to squirrels.

Both The Tween and The Boy like squirrels. Since we last visited the squirrels in the local park and saw someone giving a squirrel some nuts, they have both been just waiting for the opportunity to do the same so, on the Longest Day, we did.....









Feeding squirrels we learned, through trial and error, requires patience, no sudden movements, no jumping, shouting, shrieking or screaming. It could easily become my most favourite family activity if it wasn't for the finite amount of nuts one human being can carry to the park.



*Invests in a wheelbarrow*



Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

This is my entry to The Gallery, go check out what everyone else did on the Longest Day.





"My work here is done..."
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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