Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Piano Lesson ..

Sometimes amid the hustle and bustle of steering four children and one husband through their day without incurring injury, physical or mental, you have to take a minute to stop and pause. To see the beauty in a world that seems to be increasingly mad, and mostly full of washing.

Not the easiest thing to do while living in the middle of a city admittedly, but then sometimes you can find delight in the most unexpected of places.

This week I had to take the reluctant Tween to her piano lesson, a joy that usually falls to The Man because he can drive and the piano teacher is inconveniently situated at the other side of the city centre. I can't drive, *gasp* having much earlier in life decided never to be the designated driver if I could help it. Well: That, a complete lack of spatial awareness and an inability to tell my left hand from my right without a marker pen. You could say that I don't drive for the social good, and you'd be right.

So my mission was to get a reluctant, piano-lesson-despising Tween from Point A (Home) to Point B (Piano) in under 45 minutes. On a bus. Through a busy city centre. During the school run frenzy. Oh yes, and not forgetting to pick up The Boy from school. In the rain.

*waits at the school gates in the rain*

*taps foot*

*looks at watch*

Boy wanders out without his ruck sack.

Me: "Where's your rucksack?"

Boy, looks around vaguely, points hopefully back at the school: "I'll just go...

Me: " Leave it, leave it. We don't need it......"

*Runs for the bus stop*

Did I mention I have a twisted ankle? I have a twisted ankle.

*limps last 50 yards towards the bus stop*

And then the bus didn't come.


Another bus, one sulk, two strops and a fight over who is sitting next to who later, The Tween was deposited, sulking, at a piano. The Boy and I were left on the piano teacher's doorstep with nothing to do for the next half an hour, though the rain had stopped. Just.

With very little choice of where to go or what to do, we trudged through the streets before, walking down one of the mainest of main roads in the city, we spotted a squirrel over a wall.....


.....which  led us towards a church and it's graveyard. I do love a good graveyard, I do. And so we set to exploring.




... but not only did we explore: The Boy practiced his reading on the gravestone inscriptions with a little bit of geography thrown in. And history. And spelling. There may have been talk of the meaning and use of biblical quotations.


And a quick lecture in design and Victorians. And Victorian design. And Victorian death traditions. And Victorians. (I like Victorians)


AND a quick game of Hide and Seek. Well, he is only seven.

Spot the Boy
We were, to The Tween's high dudgeon and glowering contempt, five minutes late to collect her, happier and (one of us) grubbier than what we were when we dropped her off.  ....

Next week we're going to take her again. She's going to be thrilled*

*She isn't.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A Confession ...

Alright, I admit it. 

I did it.

 I did post a bare, naked #nomakeupselfie to Facebook.

It got quite a reaction. More of a reaction than if I'd published a bare, naked full-length selfie if I'm honest. But then it wasn't my selfie that caused a minor internet meltdown. Well. Not just mine.

Although hashtagged #breastcancerawareness and inspired by the Escentual Dare to Bare challenge, the #nomakeupselfie wasn't officially linked to any campaign. With no fundraising mechanism or target in mind, the #nomakeupselfie was dismissed as a social media Chinese whisper that would achieve nothing at all.

Over the next 24 hours, Cancer Research UK received over £1million in donations and Macmillan, if my own Facebook timeline is anything to go by, were getting donations too. What started off as a Chinese whisper became a British call to arms. People gave and they keep giving. 

That's good.

TeenTwin2, social media maven that she is, was the first to bring the then-not-a-phenomenon to my attention by tagging me in her own #nomakeupselfie on Tuesday.

"You have to do it Mum," she said at tea-time, "It's important."

"But why is it important? How's it going to help anyone?" I asked (like most people on the internet did) while juggling too many sausages and a seven year old boy (which they weren't).

"It's to raise awareness" she said.

"Awareness?" I said.

"Awareness." she said firmly.....

And it has raised awareness if the spontaneous giving to cancer charities is to be believed.

It also raised her own, her twin sister's. And mine. Over the past couple of days we have, without a snigger or a blush, talked about breasts, the importance of checking them. and how to check them.

And, you know what, that's good too.

No make-up selfies
Our #nomakeupselfies

We made a donation to Cancer Research UK. You can too. Make a donation here or Text BEAT to 70099 and donate £3.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

School. Rules.

I have ranted long and hard and often about my daughters' school's stringent and often petty uniform policy on the blog. I'm not going to stop though ....

TeenTwin2, having landed herself a part-time job, got her very first wage packet at the weekend and, being the kind of girl she is (a spendthrift) was down the shops at the first available opportunity to splash the cash on some new clothes but particularly on a pair of black trousers for school.

In Year 13 and the last few months of her A levels, TeenTwin2 and her fellow students are allowed to wear what the Academy like to call "business wear" in recognition of their level in the school, growing maturity and increasing independance.

So TeenTwin2 bought a pair of slim, black capri-style trousers from the Tu range at Sainsbury's happy in the knowledge that a large proportion of her fellow students, and teachers, were wearing similar styles.

As she's spent the past 18 months wearing teeny, tiny, stretchy skirts that contain the same amount of fabric as an elf's handkerchief and keep getting lost in the wash, it was an emotional moment for me when she came home with so MUCH material in one item.

She went to school wearing her new trousers. She was wafted through the obligatory daily uniform check on the gate without a qualm in the morning but at break-time she was hauled aside by a couple of teachers in the canteen who told her that the trousers were entirely unsuitable and that she had to go home and change. Now.

The offending article.
 Disclaimer, no stomachs were originally exposed in the wearing of these trousers.

The problem? Her brand new, bought with her first wages, trousers were exposing an inch of ankle. Yes, a whole inch of naked ankle.

*Fans self*

TeenTwin2 in the midst of A level exam prep and rehearsals for an up coming drama performance wasn't keen on either missing her lessons or walking a mile and a half home and back again to change a pair of trousers for the sake of an inch of exposed ankle. She'd already been in school a couple of hours, no-one had been noticeably corrupted. Or swooned.

She asked if she could stay for the rest of the day and promised not to wear them again. They said no, and not nicely, and sent her home anyway.

She walked home in a sudden downpour of rain, humiliated, mortified, and embarrassed. Perhaps it was fortuitous that there was rain because she was sobbing. Not a thing she does lightly or often, on a scale of 1) Dead hamster to 10) Jedward being kicked off the X Factor, she was at Sob Level 11 and utterly defeated with the unfairness of it all.


But she is not her mother's daughter for nothing.

At home she dragged her teeniest, tiniest skirt out of the washing basket. The skirt that is the shortest skirt of all the shortest skirts. The one she'd worn to work on Saturday night. The night co-incidentally, in the bar where she works, they advertise as "Sexy Saturday" and the bar staff are encouraged to dress appropriately. She got that skirt. It reeked of vodka, Jagermeister and three kinds of lager but, still, she changed into that skirt.

Then she went back to school.

And her skirt?

That skirt was perfectly acceptable.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Gallery ... Adventure

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

The definition of adventure is:  "The participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises." Or "An undertaking of questionable nature." Or "Hazardous action of uncertain outcome." All of which cover our trip this weekend to see The Man at work.

The Man is in a band and, on Saturday night, the band were playing at Huddersfield Town Hall.  So I took the family along to see what Daddy gets up to when he's not at home losing his keys and looking for his phone.

And adventure it was...

TeenTwin1 brought her boyfriend, the Tween brought her phone (in case she got bored). The Boy brought his enthusiasm. He hit Excitement Level 12 at six o'clock and stayed there until one o'clock in the morning.

TeenTwin1 cried a bit with the emotion of it all (and tiredness), the Tween cried a bit with tiredness (and with the emotion of it all) and The Boy didn't cry once. But he did shout a lot. And run around a lot. And ate nearly all the Haribo I had brought with me as incentive, bribe and last resort.

But still, it was an adventure....

Man at work

I even introduced The Boy to the ancient tradition of the gig toilet selfie .... yeah, alright it's only my ancient tradition but still ....

And The Tween played the drums. Not that we knew she could play the drums. But apparently she: "HAS TO PLAY THEM IN MUSIC LESSONS" *huff* *stomp off* .... Oh.

But still. It was an adventure....

This is my entry for The Gallery 

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Check out everyone else's Adventures at Sticky Fingers

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Gallery .... Yellow

I'm joining in The Gallery hosted by Tara at Sticky Fingers this week and the theme is Yellow...

Over the past few months I have, much to the alarm of the neighbours, taken to hanging out of the bedroom window on the third floor of Quirky Kook towers in a bid to capture a shot of the perfect sunset.

Luckily, for the purposes of The Gallery sunsets, like all too brief fires in the sky that flare and flame before dimming into the dark, are, mostly, yellow. Mostly.

This is my post for The Gallery

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Please check out the rest of the entries at Sticky Fingers.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Listography ... My Top Five Inspirational Women.

I'm joining in this week's Listography in celebration of International Women's Day 2014. These are the women who inspire me ....

1. JK Rowling.
Novelist and creator of the Harry Potter series of books (the best selling book series of all time) which were made into a best selling series of movies (the highest grossing film series of all time). She's written her way from being life as a single mother on state benefits to become one of the richest women in the UK.
She is not on my list for her books or her success though, but for never losing sight of the real world, for her philanthropic work and for saying this:

Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say "it's not the money, it's the message". When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron's only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is "get married, and we'll give you £150", he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation. How many prospective husbands did I ever meet, when I was the single mother of a baby, unable to work, stuck inside my flat, night after night, with barely enough money for life's necessities? Should I have proposed to the youth who broke in through my kitchen window at 3 am? Half a billion pounds, to send a message – would it not be more cost-effective, more personal, to send all the lower-income married people flowers?

2. Jean Rook.
The First Lady of Fleet Street and often described as Britain's most loved and most loathed female journalist. Loud, controversial, outrageous and opinionated she fought her way to the top of the male dominated newspaper world in the 70s and 80s and was the inspiration behind Private Eye's Glenda Slagg.
Famously she only ever missed two deadlines for her column in the Daily Mirror during her Fleet Street career. The first time when she gave birth to her son and the second when she was diagnosed with the cancer of which she eventually died in 1991.
Her autobiography 'The Cowardly Lioness' is a fabulous read.

3. Bette Midler.
The Divine Miss M. A fantastic singer, a fabulous actress, a funny, funny woman with a smile of kilowatt voltage. She started her career singing in a gay Turkish bath house and ended up a multi-million selling and Grammy award winning artist and Oscar-nominated actress.
Who would not be inspired by her....

When I grow up, I want to be Bette Midler. True fact.

Believed to be the only photo of (l - r) Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte
(From the RPM Collection)
4. The Bronte Sisters.
Bit of cheating and three for one with the sisterhood of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. Writers with prolific, romantic and poetic imaginations, they created stories that have become literary classics as relevant to the human, and particularly female, condition today as they ever were.
Isolated in a Yorkshire village with a drunken, drug-abusing brother and a stern father, plagued by ill health, they broke into the Victorian literary scene by writing under male nom-de-plumes, but the feminist content of their work (particularly in Anne's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Charlotte's Shirley) still raised eyebrows in a patriarchal society.
The sister's life story is generally considered tragic, hundreds of tourists flock to the village to visit the Parsonage where they spent much of their lives but it is their ambition and determination to break out of the confining bonds that Victorian society demanded and expected of them that I find inspiring.

5. Mo Mowlam.
British labour party politician and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who oversaw the signing of the historic Good Friday Peace agreement in 1998.
After her retirement from political life due to ill health, she became a vociferous opponent of Blair's War in Iraq. She died, aged 55, in 2005 from complications resulting from a brain tumour, the severity and terminal nature of which she hid from colleagues in the cabinet and Houses of Parliament while an MP.
Down to earth, plain speaking, politically shrewd, irreverent, sometimes outrageous and always charismatic, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock described her as "a hell of a woman."

This is my Listography 
Check out everyone else's inspiring women at KateTakes5

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 8 March 2014

International Women's Day 2014 ... A Day for #LastingChange

Today is International Women's Day and to mark the occasion I'm lucky enough to share the story of not one but four inspirational women.

This is Joyce, a poultry farmer from Tanzania. Through mentoring and training from The Gatsby Trust funded by Sports Relief, Joyce has been able to expand her business from just a few chicks to over 300. She's even been able to extend her property and is waiting the arrival of another 400 chicks next week.

The training that Joyce received from The Gatsby Trust means she can make her own chicken feed therby saving herself money, and she's also been taught how to recognise disease in the chicks so she can keep her clutch completely healthy.

Other poultry farmers in the area now turn to Joyce for advice and training and consequently an entire network of women poultry farmers have been given the power to broker deals with supermarkets and are able to promise a constant supply of product. Something neither Joyce nor the other farmers would have been able to do on their own.

Joyce is supporting her family, paying for her son to attend boarding school and, as an entrepreneur, is creating a #lastingchange for other women and their families in Tanzania.

And it's all thanks to the funding from Sports Relief and the work of The Gatsby Trust.

This week, three more inspirational women flew to Tanzania to meet Joyce and other female entrepreneurs like her.

Annie, Tanya and Penny are the women behind Team Honk, three bloggers who in 2012 decided to do more for Sport Relief than just blog about it. Since then between them they've inspired hundreds of fellow bloggers to get together, get out and raise money for Sport Relief.

For Sport Relief this year bloggers up and down England are taking part in the Team Honk Relay carrying Mr B the baton the length and breadth of Britain from Lands End to John O'Groats. So far they have raised over £22,000 and the total is growing everyday.

That money will find it's way to help projects like The Gatsby Trust and more like it, empowering and educating women like Joyce all over the world to make a #lasting change for their future.

And if that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.

So how can you help these inspirational women? You could ..

  • RT, share and support any updates you see with the #lastingchange hashtag
  • DONATE You can help create #lastingchange by sponsoring #teamhonkrelay for Sport Relief.
  • GET INVOLVED Sign up for your local Sport Relief event here

And thank you for helping to create #lastingchange.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Life Truths, The Essential Guide.

The TeenTwins having reached 18 years old surely it must fall to me, as their mother, advisor and protector, to arm the pair of them, the best I can, against the slings and arrows that outrageous fortune might throw at them as putative adults. 

And even if it isn't, I'm going to have a go anyway.

Not that they'll listen. Or believe me.

Nevertheless here is my cut out and keep guide of essential truths guaranteed to lead to a happier, more fulfilled life for everybody.


But maybe not blondes.


  • Blondes don't have more fun. They just talk about it more.
  • Not everyone has a book in them.
  • It's not what you know or who you know, it's what you do with what you know and who you're with.
  • Everyone is the same colour under the skin
  • When someone says; "It's not you, it's me.." It's usually you.
  • Sometimes people are knobs, you just have to learn how to handle them.
  • Hearts don't break. They just feel like they do.
  • Little white lies can hurt.
  • Your hair will always look it's most fantastic the day you have an appointment at the hairdresser.
  • Real men rarely come first.
  • Refusing to admit you're wrong, doesn't make you right. Ever.
  • Size does matter.
  • Love is not always enough.

And, of course,

  • It's scone, not scon. *tuts*

A scone. Not a scon.

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