Tuesday, 4 October 2016

I Love Autumn....Or Do I?

I love Autumn. (The season, not my niece. Although I love her too!)

The way the leaves turn and fall from the trees and the way they crunch underfoot. How kids get excited about looking for conkers and insist on depositing them around the house to deter spiders! 

The way you can legitimately slow cook every meal and forget about salads for another year. 

I love big coats and scarfs and knee high boots. I love layering and leggings and being able to leave the house without having to shave my legs.

It's the season of Halloween and bonfires, of parties and dressing up. Of the first school holiday and birthday excitement.

But despite all of these things, I also feel fed up.

I want to hibernate. To cosy up under the duvet with a cup of coffee and a good book. I want to binge watch DVD's or discover the next 'must-watch' series on Netflix. I want to turn on the heating and view the world from the comfort of the sofa. 

I don't particularly want to talk to anyone. 

To interact in any way. 

It's not you, it's me.

Whether this is the effect of the head-cold that has been festering for the last two weeks or the onset of seasonal affective disorder (SAD - the illness lots of people claim to suffer from because they need to put a jumper on) is unclear. Despite having felt great over the past few months the doctor doesn't want to wean me off the happy pills during Autumn-Winter. Looks like he may have a point...

It's also possible I'm just a miserable sod! But you should probably keep those thoughts to yourself...

It's difficult to feel enthusiastic about anything when the idea of simply getting out of bed sets you off in a grump for the rest of the day or attempting to 'socialise' brings you out in a cold sweat. 

The question is should one just 'Keep Calm and Carry on' or curl up into a ball and to hell with the world? 

I'll let you know when I've decided...

You can find more info about SAD here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/pages/introduction.aspx

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Write Like a Grrrl

I've not done much writing recently. 

At the start of the school holidays (now a long and distant memory) I told myself that there was very little point trying to get anything written. After all, I had children to entertain and and so on. 

When they went back to school I told myself that I just needed a few weeks to get back into a routine. That I'd start again next week. 

Now I'm full of good intentions, sitting dutifully at the Chromebook most mornings after school drop off, browsing through my short story ideas before flicking over to Twitter and spending the next two hours reading about how everyone else is struggling to write something and spending their time on Twitter...

So, what exactly is holding me back? 

1. Fear of Missing Out 

A relatively new social media phenomenon called FOMO to those in the know (yes I spend too much time on social media). A fear that if you don't check your social media accounts almost constantly you'll miss out on something vitally important, such as that American bloke posting a new picture of his cat, or knowing what that woman in that TV programme you used to watch had for breakfast.

2. Lack of Inspiration

Kind of speaks for itself. No matter how hard I wish for it, the story elves never leave any ideas on the kitchen table just waiting to be discovered in the morning...maybe this only works for shoes? I'll start wishing for shoes instead. 

3. Fear of Failure

More fear, but perhaps more relevant is the fear of being crap. What if I write something and it's awful? What if I got someone to read it and they simply mumble something incoherent before running in the opposite direction rather than provide feedback? What if (God forbid) I put all the apostrophes and commas in the wrong place? What if...?

4. Life

The clothes need loading into the washer, the dinner needs putting in the slow cooker, the boys need taking to swimming lessons, the cat sick needs clearing up, the toilet needs bleaching, the carpet needs vacuuming, the beds need making...

...and so on and so forth.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Well, for starters I've booked myself into an intensive one day 'Write Like a Grrrl' creative writing workshop organised by 'For Books' Sake' this Saturday. They've promised that I'll learn to:

"push through doubt, reduce fear of the blank page, become disciplined in your practice and enjoy writing so much more."

Sounds fab and just what I need...now I'm just off to check their Twitter feed.


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Self Care Goes a Long Way

Just under two years ago I ended up in hospital for almost a week with cellulitis. I banged my hand on the hinge of a cupboard door, my eczema became inflamed and I ended up with an arm the size of a rugby ball and the colour of watermelon flesh. As you can probably understand, since then I've been a little paranoid about every little knock I take.

Yesterday I ended up with a nasty looking eruption on my finger. It was very big, very yellow and very hot. I'd also been feeling a little bit 'off'. A low temperature, achy, tired - all the fun stuff. Friends and family quite rightly pointed out that I needed to get to the doctor. After all, I didn't want to end up in hospital again.

Despite the hospital staff having told me that cellulitis had a tendency to recur and I should always get anything I'm not sure about checked out, I hesitated. "What if it's nothing?" "What if they shout at me?" "I don't want to waste their time."

I finally relented and made an appointment for this evening but part way through the day the damn thing burst. I'll spare you the gory details but I no longer had an eruption but a little hole...and now I felt even more daft for making the appointment. 

After all there was nothing to see now. Just a little hole and a low temperature. Not really worthy of an emergency appointment. So, I called to cancel...and then I got the third degree.

"Did I really need the appointment in the first place?" "What was it for?" "Why am I cancelling it?"

I understand why the receptionist felt the need to ask these questions but this is exactly why I hate going to the doctor in the first place. The feeling that I'm wasting their time. That other people need the appointment more than me. That I'm putting a strain on an already struggling service.

I remember having an appointment one Friday afternoon when the doctor confided in me that I was the only person who hadn't gone in demanding drugs and complaining pretty loudly when he wouldn't prescribe them. Apparently people book emergency appointments on a Friday if they've got a bit of a cold or a dicky tummy because they don't want to spoil their weekend. 

I was a little shocked at this! But here lies part of the problem. GP surgeries are under immense pressure but sometimes the general public are to blame. 

People booking an appointment for minor ailments which can easily be remedied by a trip to the chemist or a dose of paracetamol. People booking appointments and then failing to turn up. People calling emergency services for a broken nail. (If you don't believe me, it's right here: 

I understand the frustration of NHS staff but I'm not sure I'm to blame in this instance. In fact, I've got into trouble from my doctor for not going to see him sooner in one instance!

If you think you need to see the doctor by all means go. After all you're the only one who knows how you really feel and whether it's normal for you. But if you're otherwise healthy, have a bit of a sniffle and you have a big night out planned, then suck it up!

After all we only have one NHS, and it might not be there forever.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Starting Secondary School?

As I hear more and more stories from parents whose kids have just started secondary school (at age 11) I'm starting to worry a little about sending my eldest...and he's just started year 4! (For the uninitiated, that means he doesn't go until September 2019!)

Tales of detention for having the wrong colour socks, bills for school trips before the kids even started, begging letters asking parents to 'donate' (presumably for the staff Xmas piss up...). That's on top of the uniform which can only be bought from one supplier (and you need some kind of Lord of the Rings type quest to find them), and the 15 different types of PE kit to be worn for every sport imaginable, in all types of weather, in different colours dependent on whether your name starts with 'S' or there's a full moon...I think you get my point.

But the joy actually starts in year 5 of primary school when you have to decide whether to join the scrum to find the perfect tutor, to decide whether they should attend exam class (and then being asked by school why they're not attending when you've made the 'wrong' decision), whether they should be doing past papers on top of the weekly reading, spellings, maths and English homework that comes home. 

And that's alongside all the extra-curricular activities. This term alone my 8 year old is taking swimming lessons and tennis lessons outside school and has signed up for lacrosse, judo, guitar and recorder at school. You know, for a more rounded educational experience! I'm not surprised he simply wants to play Minecraft and watch You-Tube when he's at home...

I was staggered to find out that entrance exams for grammar school take place on Monday next week and applications need to go in now. They've only just gone back! And some poor kids have spent all summer 'revising'.

From what I've seen so far, primary school is all about encouragement. About individuality. About building kids' confidence, teaching them to know when to question and when to toe the line. 

Not only do they learn the 3 R's, and SPAG (and possibly other catchy collections of letters) but there is a focus on personal development, on mental as well as physical well-being, and on managing your emotional development. 

This is a good thing...and then they go to secondary school where the message appears to be 'conform or be punished'.

There's the academy in Kent in the news this week who sent scores of pupils home for wearing the wrong uniform, where the police had to deal with a 'disturbance' after parents gathered at the school to complain. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/school-uniform-row-hartswood-kent-headteacher-turns-away-20-more-pupils-margate-matthew-tate-a7229681.html)

Then there's my former high school, now an academy (shock, horror) which threatened pupils with the withdrawal of privileges if parents threatened to question or criticise the school on social media. One parent even likened the school to the Korean Army! (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-34289093)

When did our schools become draconian, military like institutions? Possibly when teachers pay became linked to pupil performance, but that's another blog post all together.

Rather naively I thought schools were there for the education of kids. I also thought that in this new world we live in, they were supposed to be a partnership between pupils, parents and staff. Apparently not. Apparently it's so that a bunch of governors and head teachers with a God complex can impose their authority on a group of 11 year olds by deciding that navy blue is far more respectable than black when it comes to socks.

Can you tell I'm angry? You're damn right I'm angry!

In a 2004 report regarding mental health in young people, 1 in 10 young people were found to suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. I dread to think what that figure may be 12 years on. 

Starting a new school can be an incredibly stressful time for some kids and instead of helping them with the transition we're threatening them with punishment for incredibly minor infringements of 'rules' that no-one in their right mind gives a crap about. In fact I would love to see the peer-reviewed academic evidence that backs up the claim that detention for everything improves behaviour. Or are we simply trying to run an organisation based on fear, because that's always turned out well...

I fully understand that all organisations need rules, and in the most part I'm a big fan, but then I did work in quality assurance so...

What I'm not a fan of is this nanny state mentality that seems to be filtering into every aspect of our lives. That I'm expected to hand my child over to the school system to be handled however they see fit and have my child face the 'punishment' if I dare to question it.

Now for some people reading, this will seem like a long rant with no basis. The majority of kids will start secondary school and have no issues at all, in fact many will thrive in a rules based environment. They'll happily drag 15 sets of PE kit to school, they'll wear their regulation socks up to the knee and they'll never hear that dreaded word 'detention'. 

In fact, I was one of those kids. Never broke the rules. Spent every lunchtime and after school taking part in some extra-curricular activity. To the extent that in sixth form I was taken to one side by my teachers who were concerned I was going to burn out. Turned out I did, it just took another 15-20 years to happen...

Now imagine you're the parent of one of the 1 in 10 kids who suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, or one of the 1 in 15 who deliberately self harm and now decide whether you give a crap about the colour of socks.

So, 'vive la revolution', 'power to the people' and all that! I'm off to don some stripy knee length socks, and for the record, the 3 year old will be wearing Batman socks to nursery tomorrow!

P.S: Some of the information/stats for this blog post came from an excellent book called 'Mind Your Head' by Juno Dawson and Dr Olivia Hewitt. Aimed at young people, this covers topics surrounding mental health, presenting them in an clear and supportive way. If you would like to know more about mental health and young people or know a young person who would like to know more, I'd highly recommend this book.  

Friday, 2 September 2016

Pinch, Punch, First of the Month...

Pinch, punch first of the month. OK I'm a little bit late. Welcome to my world.

Yesterday was 1st September and I decided it was a time for new starts. The boys would soon be back at school and I would regain that blissful two hours a day peace I've been craving for the last five weeks.

As I've put on a quite frankly obscene amount of weight and developed a rather useful but unhealthy wine glass shelf on my stomach I figured we would walk to the leisure centre for the boys' swimming lessons, which are handily timed at 1.30 and 4.30.

I soon remembered why I never walk anywhere with the boys, or generally leave the house. 

The streets around me are not so much paved with gold but scattered with broken glass and dog crap. The three year old fell off his scooter...twice. Quite frankly I have no idea how he didn't end up torn to shreds or covered in crap - I guess that's something at least.

The eight year old spent the journey saying useful things like, 'I'm really hot' 'My hands hurt' and 'Why do we have to come?'

The leisure centre was as grim as ever and the three year old decided to stick his feet down every exposed drain he could find...My proclamations about verrucas and monsters that live in drains quite frankly went over his head and he carried on regardless.

The best parts were saved for the town centre where we had to kill the best part of two hours. The boys spent their time trying (not?) to run into people on their scooters and shouting and screaming at the top of their voices. 

At this point I decided I shouldn't have let the boys bring their scooters but parenting is full of interesting decisions such as maintaining the safety of little old ladies versus your own sanity...I chose the latter.

I figured a drink and a snack in Waterstones cafe would calm the situation. Wrong again! A seemingly harmless game of snakes and ladders turned into World War III as the three year old threw the dice around the room whilst the eight year old constantly shouted at him to play by the rules.

I retreated to the counter to collect my coffee where the bloke serving simply glanced at my stomach and said, 'It could be worse.'


Anyway, I ended up leaving half my coffee as I huffily grabbed the thousands of bags I was carrying and hissed loudly about the boys being a disgrace, never taking them anywhere ever again and complaining that I never see anyone else's kids acting like this.

I ended up buying the biggest flapjack I could find to ensure that it took the three year old half an hour to eat it during the eight year old's lesson and off we stomped back to the leisure centre.

I finished the day off with another salad and half a bottle of wine. After canvassing opinion on social media it turns out that wine is just fruit and therefore healthy so I have no idea why I haven't lost half a stone yet.

So, there you go. Yet another rambling account of a typical day during the school holidays.

I'll be glad when Monday comes along. Even if it's just so I have something a little more interesting to write about!

But the three year old doesn't go back until next Friday, so...

Watch this space!

Thursday, 25 August 2016


When I was 10 years old I made my first visit to our local rugby club. That was the day that went on to shape my formative years.

There weren't many young teenage girls in the 90s who spent every weekend surrounded by big burly blokes - well not in my home town anyway! 

By the age of 16 I'd witnessed enough to make my university days seem tame in comparison. Half naked blokes, yards of ale, language that would make your granny blush - just a normal Saturday! For my 18th birthday a group of them even stripped for me, which was...interesting!

Of course it was all good humoured fun. Just a group of blokes releasing the pressures of a hard weeks work. Although how banging a tray repeatedly against your head does that I've still yet to work out...

Anyway, there was a reason why I suddenly decided to write all this down today...it's exam results time. (Stay with me!)

Spending all your time in a rugby club you'd think that the chances of some teenage one on one action would have been quite high. Well, definitely for some, but not really for me. 

To be honest I looked on most of those around my age in disdain. I didn't like them, they didn't seem to like me. I spent most of my teenage years in an awkward haze. The geeky older sister of the more popular one.  I was the one who worked the bar, ran the tuck-shop, helped in the kitchen. They were the ones who went out and got pissed. It was all fine by me. To be fair, they were probably all lovely people, but teenagers can be dicks. Especially me. I was awful.

I screwed up my first chance of 'romance' at the tender age of 14 with an acute attack of embarrassment, met my first boyfriend during sixth form and finally ended up dating a rugby player when I was 19...and the least said about that the better.

There was that one though. The slightly older unattainable one. 

The one who embarrassed the hell out of me by performing the haka only millimetres from my face in the middle of the clubhouse. 

The one I could never look straight in the eye afterwards. 

The one who made me blush ever so slightly if he so much as glanced in my direction. 

I was working behind the bar just after GCSE results day. Most people were outside and in he walked, straight up to me in the bar.

"Hey, how you doing?" (Although, he didn't sound like Joey from Friends!)

Now, obviously he was ordering a drink but he was talking to me. Just me! I stared resolutely at the beer pump as he continued.

"So, did you get your results?"

I looked up.

"Have you decided what A levels you're doing?"

I placed the pint on the bar. "I've been at university a year now. Studying Law."

And with that he turned a darker shade of pale, mumbled something incoherent and walked off with his pint.

And that ladies and gentleman, is how you cure a crush on a guy with a name like a biscuit!

Not your average results day tale but I hope it raised a smile during what can be a stressful time!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

All My Fault...

I don't swear much but when I do I like to really mean it. So, if you're of a particularly nervous disposition or are offended easily, I suggest you turn away now.

What a fucking awful day!

Toddler tantrum number three thousand, four hundred and...oh, who am I kidding? I stopped counting months ago.

It started off well enough. The 3 year old screamed because he didn't want to get dressed, because he didn't want to go to his swimming lesson, because he didn't want to leave the many electronic devices in the house. But I got him into the car, into the leisure centre, into his swimming gear and into the pool. Result! 

But then it all started to go wrong and the tiny part of the world I inhabit got to share in the joy that is my child. 

And this is where the swearing really starts...

I'd like to thank the people of Altrincham who are, quite frankly, a miserable bunch of judgemental fucktards. Not all of them in fairness but a good proportion. The ones who look on with frowny faces. Audibly tut when you pass them. Stand and stare. Whisper behind their hands. Laugh and shake their heads. One women even altered her path to avoid us like we had the fucking bubonic plague!

Now obviously my 3 year old's behaviour is my fault. 

It's my fault he refused to go to bed last night. It's my fault he got up at stupid o'clock this morning. It's my fault I took him out for a lovely lunch. It's my fault I refused to buy him the bubbles. It's my fault he's grown out of his trousers and I need to buy him new ones. It's my fault I try to stop him from licking lamp-posts. It's my fault he has to wear shoes in town. It's my fault I refused to go back for the bubbles. It's my fault I have to hold his hand whilst crossing the road. It's my fault he can't stick his hand down the side of moving escalators. It's my fault I refused to go back for the fucking bubbles. 

But this is all I accept responsibility for. Everything else is firmly his fault. 

I hate the way fucking middle class twats in this part of the world take any and every opportunity to look down on others. The way that they pretend that their children never had tantrums. If you're claiming they haven't then I'd suggest that (1) they're either too scared of you to do so (bit worrying), (2) their emotional development is slightly in question, (3) you've blocked the trauma from your memory, or (4) you're fucking lying!

I know it's slightly annoying when someone is screaming at the top of their lungs, but guess what? I live with him! And I put up with it far more than you do. And no, there is nothing wrong with my child, but thank you ever so much for your concern random stranger. HE'S JUST 3!!

After subjecting the good people of this blessed plot to my child's quite frankly, appalling behaviour we went back to the Leisure Centre for round 2 - the 8 year old's swimming lesson.

The dirty, stinky, cesspit that is Altrincham Leisure Centre then proceeded to mug me for another set of swimming lessons for the boys and a certificate and badge for the 3 year old. A badge which he immediately lost under a vending machine and I had to spend a good proportion of time on my hands and knees looking for.

After I'd spent a good ten minutes at reception trying to pay whilst shouting at the 3 year old to stop swinging on the turnstile the receptionist laughed and said, 'And you'll have another one to pay for before long'!

I simply stared back as the realisation of what she'd said sunk in.

Now, I know I've had to suspend my gym membership during the holidays and I've consumed a fair amount of chocolate and beer just to maintain my sanity...but in no way do I look fucking pregnant!

I then had to buy a bottle of cherry coke and a Yorkie to calm my nerves and spent the rest of the day looking at myself sideways in mirrors and shop windows to assess the damage.

So, just in case you require an executive summary: 

- 3 year old's are mini explosive devices ready to go off at any second;
- The people of Altrincham are judgemental fucktards;
- I am fat