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


Friday, 12 August 2016

We're Going On A Wine Hunt

So, I've been a little bit quiet recently so in true Blue Peter style, here's something I made earlier!

Some of you will have seen this little poem before on my Facebook page but I figured it deserved another outing.

With apologies to Michael Rosen. It's intended as an affectionate parody, rather than blatant plagiarism - please don't sue me, I'm not worth it...

We're going on a wine hunt
We're going to pour a big one
What a crappy day!
Everyone be scared

Uh-uh! Project homework!
Crappy project homework
We can’t ignore it
We can’t just fudge it
Better just do it
Glue, stick. Glue, stick. Glue, stick.

We’re going on a wine hunt
We’re going to pour a big one
What a crappy day!
Everyone be scared

Uh-uh! A tantrum!
A massive toddler tantrum
We can’t ignore it
Can’t we just ignore it?
We’re going to ignore it
Stamp, kick. Stamp, kick. Stamp, kick

We’re going on a wine hunt
We’re going to pour a big one
What a crappy day!
Everyone be scared

Uh-uh! A dress up day!
Another frigging dress up day
We can’t ignore it
Can we ignore it?
Better just scramble around at midnight pulling together an old curtain and a pair of tights into an anglo-saxon costume. (whilst wishing we’d ignored it)
Sew, swear. Sew, swear. Sew, swear.

We’re going on a wine hunt
We’re going to pour a big one
What a crappy day!
Everyone be scared

Uh-uh! Bed-time!
Apocalyptic bed-time.
We tried to bath it
We tried to calm it
So why is it running round the living room at 10pm in just a pull up acting like a little…?

We’re going on a wine hunt
We’re going to pour a big one
What a crappy day!
Everyone be scared

Uh-uh! The sofa
The lovely comfy sofa.
We can’t move off it.
Don’t want to move off it.
Better just close...our...eyes...on...it…...

Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

One pounding head!
Two bloodshot eyes!
A furry mouth!
We’re not going on a wine hunt again!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

A Weekend in Manchester...Sans Enfants!

I think I've discovered the perfect start to the summer holidays...Dump the kids on Grandma and go have your own grown up/child like fun!

Hubby and I headed out into the big city on Friday night for some whisky blending fun. Two hours later we emerged slightly more knowledgeable (although, please don't test me because, you know...whisky drinking) armed with two plastic bottles of personalised and 'unique' blends secreted in the inner pocket of hubby's coat.

Next stop, food! So off we went in search of some very fashionable, uber trendy chicken in a basket washed down with a root beer. Tick!

Our last call of the night was the Cloud 23 bar at the Hilton which has been on my 'must-do' list for a while. After queuing on the 'carpeted area' for a while we were finally allowed access to the lift by the guy pretending to be Kiefer Sutherland in 24. The views were pretty breathtaking and it triggered a memory of a very similar bar we'd been in in Havana, Cuba. You know, before kids...

We took a few obligatory selfies whilst waiting for our drinks to arrive when it suddenly occurred to me that I was enclosed in a glass case 23 stories up, with only a guarded lift as my escape route. Cue the mild panic attack. So we paid over £20 for two drinks which were left mainly untouched on the table, I imagine to the bemusement of the lovely waitress who apparently earned a 10% tip according to the bill...

But this is where the real excitement starts! On Saturday I dragged hubby to Comic Con!

I donned my Lt Uhura dress and knee boots, attracting the attention of a particular guy on the tram who wasn't sure where to look so just took to staring at regular intervals.

And then the queuing began...the loooong snaking walking queue to get in, the queue to buy a £2.50 bottle of warm Sprite. But nothing could dampen my enthusiasm, although I'm not sure I can say the same for hubby.

I browsed the stalls like a kid let loose in a sweet shop - how much memorabilia could I possibly acquire? And where the hell could I put it all? In the end I settled for a mystery box (oooooh!), a cuddly Captain Kirk (obviously), a signed book about strange goings on at a fictional University set in Lancaster (sounds intriguing), a board game (my first proper board game beyond the likes of Monopoly) and some bits for the kids (figured I shouldn't forget about them completely).

I returned Vulcan salutes, had a chat with a guy about 2 year degrees, saw Robert Llewelyn and Warwick Davis, stood near the 'Iron Throne', was blown away by some pretty awesome cos-play, was referred to as Lieutenant by a fellow Trekkie and had my photo taken with some random guy who liked my outfit...

It was AWESOME!! An incredibly inclusive, fun , not-your-typical Saturday afternoon out.

After a quick pint (Lt Uhura and the newly acquired Captain Kirk were now off duty) we headed home for our first piece of board game action. We played Pandemic three times and saved the world twice - not bad for newbies!

A bottle of Prosecco and a wee dram later and I managed to pull a muscle sitting on the floor playing Rummikub - the well known extreme sport! I then headed off to bed with some paracetamol to frequent cries of 'ow, ooh, ah' and not for good reasons...

So, as I contemplate picking the kids up I reflect on a pretty amazing weekend. Turning over 100% of the summer holidays to the kids is totally over-rated. I thoroughly recommend taking a weekend to reconnect with your inner child - or in my case, geek!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

This is a Party Political Broadcast...

In this time of national crisis we need a strong leader. 

A leader who can unite the country under a banner of common ideals. 

A leader who will not shy away from the challenge at hand but will meet it head on. 

A leader who knows what needs to be done but can do it whilst rocking a killer pair of kitten heels.

I therefore hereby announce the formation of the Power to Parents Party (PPP). My manifesto is as follows:

  • Extra funding for the research and development of hangover-free alcohol and fat free chocolate.
  • Free babysitters for all on Friday nights.
  • Children's bedroom doors will be set on a time-lock at weekends, only opening at 9am.
  • Any child waking up at 3am will be deemed to have breached the human rights of the parents and dealt with accordingly.
  • All children's extra-curricular activities will be outlawed before 11am at the weekend.
  • Detention without trial for all under 18's with the sign off of at least 1 parent.
  • An immediate end to school 'dress up' days.
  • An immediate end to 'project homework'.
  • Children's birthday parties will consist of sausage and pineapple on sticks with a round of musical chairs and pass the parcel. All other forms of birthday celebration (football parties, bouncy castle hire, rock climbing, crafts etc.) will be outlawed.
  • At least 1 'duvet day' per month per parent with Mary Poppins on speed-dial.
  • The Panini company will be banned from creating any more sticker albums.
  • The following programmes will be banned: Numberjacks, Paw Patrol, Topsy and Tim and anything that has been subject to a 'remake' (i.e. Bob the Builder, Danger Mouse, Teletubbies, Postman Pat, The Clangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles etc. etc)
  • YouTube will be immediately taken down with anyone caught 'vlogging' being subject to detention without trial.
  • Wifi codes will be changed weekly and only made available when the bins have been taken out and clothes put back in drawers/cupboards.

As a mum, I feel I am more than qualified to run the country on this mandate and I have it on good authority that dads can be quite useful at times as well. 

Membership of the party is now open and changes/additions to the manifesto will be considered when submitted in triplicate to the PPP committee at least 6 months before the relevant meeting. 

Cheques supporting the campaign can be made payable to the PPP (US dollars only please). I look forward to your support. 

*Thank you very much.......doo, doo, doo, doo. Right. Good*


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Fundraising Fatigue?

I've been the Co-Chair of my local primary school PTA for 4 years now and in that time the PTA has gone from strength to strength. 

I've tracked down missing ice-cream vans, detached £1 coins super-glued to reply forms in the wee hours of the morning, tried to work out who exactly the Christmas card design with no name in a school of over 400 belongs to, harangued people to buy tickets via Facebook and spent hours costing juice cartons at every available retailer in the Greater Manchester area. 

I've written minutes and annual reports, contributed to newsletters (late almost every week it should be added), designed leaflets, taken photos and flexed my event management muscles. 

I've laughed, I've cried and I've also needed the odd glass of vino to calm down. But overall it's been an incredible experience. 

I've made new friends and become a part of the school community. And all this whilst looking after a young baby/toddler. In fact, I was almost 8 months pregnant when I volunteered and can clearly remember running home from my first Christmas fair with leaky boobs to feed the 6 week old! (Too much info?)

In the time that I've been involved with the PTA, the committee have experienced births, deaths, marriages, illness and hospital stays. We've looked after each others kids when things don't quite go to plan. We've shed a tear or two, offered shoulders to cry on and visits to the pub when a shoulder just isn't enough. We've drunk copious amounts of coffee and spent hours crafting, crocheting, cutting and glueing.

And it's not just the committee. We're fortunate to have a dedicated bunch of volunteers willing to run stalls, sell coffee, set up events, fold raffle tickets and anything else we can set our mind to! 

Just not as many volunteers as we would like...but that's a different issue!

Last year we hit the £10k target for the first time and I was over the moon. We've funded iPads and books, cooking and sporting equipment, activities and trips, music projects and much much more. 

All of a sudden the hard work seemed worthwhile! 

But then reality hit. 

We'd have to do it all again next year!

I had 'Fundraising Fatigue'. 

Why can't someone else do it? Does anyone really care? What's the point? Another bake sale? Aaaaaaaaaah!

A few of us felt stuck in a rut. New fundraising ideas were rejected at meetings and we felt we were rehashing the same ideas over and over again. A case of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!'

The consensus was to 'Keep Calm and Carry on' (the cliches are coming thick and fast at the moment!) and so we did. We arranged the fairs and the bake sales and the Christmas cards and the Mother's Day gifts and the Father's Day gifts... and we're on track to smash the £10k mark again this year.

Was I simply stuck in a rut or is it time to move on? It's hard to know and at least I've got until September to mull it over.

What is certain is that our school PTA is an incredible organisation supported not only by the committee, but by parents, staff and pupils. So I'm dedicating this blog post to all my PTA friends, past and present. To those that listen to me moan on a daily basis and to those that are always available via Facebook Messsenger. To those that apologise for not being able to do more and to those who do whatever they can.

Will I continue in role? Possibly... Probably... 

Depends whether the school and parents still want me. Or whether a slightly hormonal, heavily pregnant, over-eager mum turns up to the AGM. See you there!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Moving On...

You've probably gathered now that I'm firmly in the Remain camp. Two days on and I'm still angry, confused and upset over the decision. But the majority have spoken.

If I put aside for the moment concerns about the economy, about jobs, about political stability and so on, what has really worried me over the past 24 hours is the way people are treating each other.

There have been some messages on Facebook which I've found genuinely upsetting. Members of the Leave camp telling others to grow up, to get over themselves, to stop being hysterical. Members of the Remain camp making personal and insulting comments about those that have voted to Leave.

These kind of comments show a basic lack of understanding and compassion for what other people are going through. The irony being that the people making these kind of comments are banging on about democracy in action and then want to deny people their freedom of speech.

And let's face it. If the vote had gone the other way we would be seeing exactly the same kind of uproar on social media, just the other way round. 

I've seen debates go on for weeks in the media about the winner of the Great British Bake Off, about dogs cheating on Britain's Got Talent, about controversial voting in X Factor and yet only 24 hours after a vote which could potentially change every aspect of our lives we're supposed to just accept and it move on!

The real cause of anxiety for many people is the fear of the unknown. No-one really knows what's going to happen and there will probably be winners and losers. But I do believe that this will impact people's lives.

What about the Brit living and working in continental Europe who is paid in sterling and suddenly has no idea how much money they have to live on?

What about the Europeans living in the UK, or the Brits living abroad who suddenly have no idea what their future holds?

What about those working for companies based in the UK who may see their job shifted to the continent?

Only 2 days on and we're already hearing that the House of Commons is in turmoil. 

One of the shadow cabinet is sacked and approximately half have threatened to leave. 

The Prime Minister has stepped down and somewhat churlishly refused to action Article 50 until his successor is in place. 

The Conservative party are fighting over who will be the next PM and are already backtracking and saying there is no need to rush to invoke Article 50 while the EU are telling us to get out already! 

The Lib Dems wade in by saying they will rejoin the EU if elected, but I think you'll find they don't want us after this! 

Some organisations and countries around the world must be rubbing their hands together in glee at the fact that we've pressed the 'Self-Destruct' button,

A petition demanding another referendum has reached over 2 million signatories and will therefore have to be debated in Parliament. Personally I think this is a backwards step. After all the pain the referendum has caused why the hell would we want to go through all that again? And where does it end? If the vote went the other way on the second attempt would the Leave campaign demand another referendum. 

We have to accept the decision and plan for the future but we also need to understand that some people will find this difficult. 

The irony is that at the moment we've chosen to break free we actually need to show unity. We need to stand together to make the best of what we have. And the first thing we can do is show compassion towards our friends who might feel differently to us. 

People are upset. Let them scream. Let them shout. Freedom of speech is one of the important pillars of our society. Let's not lose that as well. 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Better Out Than In?

I promised myself I wouldn't touch the keyboard today but my fingers are twitching and better out than in...apparently.

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve, also known as the 5 stages of grief, is widely used to try and help people understand and manage their feelings whilst going through a period of change. I'm firmly entrenched in stage 1: shock and denial, and decided to get my initial thoughts down before I move into stage 2: anger and blame.

I went to bed about 1am last night. There was no way that I could stay up and still function today so I decided to call it a night. I slept fitfully, waking at 3am and 4am, checking my phone for updated results. When I woke at 6.45 the decision had been made. We're out.

I'm devastated. There are simply no other words for it. 

Cameron played the biggest gamble of his political career and he lost. But he didn't just lose for himself, he lost for all of us and now he's simply stepped aside to let others clear up the mess (some stage 2 feelings creeping in there!)

The past few weeks have seen some truly ugly scenes and I fear that this is only the beginning. A 52% win for the Leave side is by no means a landslide and there are millions of people who will feel lost and disenfranchised by the decision.

The school playground was abuzz with political chatter this morning, groups of parents standing round after drop off to discuss the outcome. The vast majority appear to be in shock. Fearful of the future.

Having said that I have friends and family who have voted Leave. None of them are the skin headed white supremacists that some people would have you believe, but normal everyday people living normal everyday lives. Whilst the fascists clearly exist they are certainly not in the majority. Leave voters are people like everyone else, concerned about jobs, about democracy, about corruption. They believe they have voted for a better future. I hope they're right.

I fully respect the democratic process and will eventually accept that the majority of the country want this, but at the moment I'm struggling to understand how anyone could want a leap into the great unknown given the instability of the global political climate. 

I'm English. I'm British. I'm European. I'm Human. 

But at the moment I'm struggling to feel proud to be any of them. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Love versus Hate

We live in a climate of fear.

Fear of boarding a plane, a train a bus. Fear of walking the streets in broad daylight or at night. Fear of acting or fear of not.

Some people are able to deal with these fears head on. Take them in their stride and go about their everyday lives. Others are not so fortunate. 

In the last few weeks at home and abroad we have been reminded almost daily about the horrors around us. 49 people shot dead in a nightclub, an MP brutally shot and stabbed in the street, a road rage incident leaving a man fighting for his life, a young woman killed in a car accident at a notoriously dangerous junction in my home town, another shot dead whilst meeting and greeting fans in the US. And these are only the ones that come to mind.

It's only natural to feel anxious about the world around us when confronted with stories such as these and after the horrors of last Thursday I felt that I had completely lost my faith in humanity. 

The introduction of 24 hour news, of rolling coverage, of social media may mean that we are more informed (although whether being constantly updated with speculation and opinion rather than fact is useful is debatable) but it has also made us more fearful of the world we live in. 

Horrors, tragedies, accidents, atrocities take place on a daily basis around the world and always have done, we are simply more aware of them now. 

I didn't watch the Referendum debate on TV last night, in my mind there is nothing more to be said. The campaigns on both sides have been fuelled by fear, hate and anger with both sides working hard to debunk the facts and statistics presented by the other. There has been nothing positive about this campaign and I have been reminded of a GCSE History project I did (many moons ago!) regarding Nazi propaganda.

In an interview with the Guardian, Brendan Cox said that his wife was killed because of her political views. He said that she had been worried about the direction of politics in the UK and abroad, "particularly about creating division and playing on people's worst fears rather than their best instincts."

Sadly, this seems to be the way that the media and politics work today. Scaring people into submission, into making decisions based on fear and lies. 

Today would have been Jo Cox's birthday and I have decided that today I will not be driven by fear but by love and gratitude. I am grateful for my husband and my boys, for my family spread around the UK and abroad and for my friends who are always there with a shoulder and a cup of coffee. I'm grateful that tomorrow I have the power to go to my local church and put a cross in a box and I'm grateful that I live in a society where I can put my thoughts down on paper and send them out into the world.

Fear and hate may be powerful but they will not rule my life. What will you be grateful for today?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A personal take on the horrific events of today.

I was sitting on the side of the swimming pool today waving at the 3 year old splashing about during his lesson, browsing Facebook on my phone when I read the status, "Been a shooting in Birstall. Lock your doors."

A quick scan confirmed that the unthinkable had happened. A woman had been shot in the centre of Birstall.

My mum, sister and members of my extended family live and work in Birstall. A small market town in West Yorkshire it seemed unbelievable that anything like this could possibly happen there.

I called my mum who confirmed that it had happened in the last hour, she'd brought the kids inside and locked the doors. As far as everyone knew the gunman was still on the loose and people were rightly terrified.

The rumour mill was soon in full swing. She had been stabbed as well as shot. There was more than one gunman. They were still on the loose. It was a targeted attack. She'd intervened in an altercation. 

What was clear was that no-one really knew what had happened.

At home I watched the rolling news coverage in disbelief. The market square I've driven up and down countless times swarming with armed police and journalists. The bustle of market day replaced by something much more sinister.

It's at times like this I should step away from social media. There's nothing that Facebook and Twitter could add to the situation that I need or want to know. But I didn't.

I soon found myself in a bit of a Facebook spat about the claim that the shooter had shouted "Britain First" before shooting. To my mind there was no evidence to support this and turning the incident into a racist/religious/xenophobic attack without proper facts simply feeds hatred and ignorance. Some people seemed to think I was defending the shooter. That I wouldn't feel this way if the shooter had been Muslim. This was an argument I was never going to win and so I stepped away from the conversation. 

In the last hour I've read that the eye-witness was misquoted, but this was immediately tweeted and reported (or copied and pasted) by other media outlets and the damage was done. The BBC are now running the story that the shooter may have shouted 'Put Britain First'.

We might not know whether the shooter shouted 'Put Britain first' or 'Britain First' but the media, social media and members of the public were very quick to draw their own conclusions based on a potentially incorrect quote from one eye-witness. 

The way the media, or at least some media outlets, operate in this country disgusts me. No longer content with reporting the news they seem intent on creating or manipulating it for their own gain. The need to create the most inflammatory click-bait headlines seems to over-ride any form of decency or common sense. 

What better news story than to link an attack on an MP to the upcoming referendum? Don't even get me started on the bile that spewed forth from the Twitter account of Nick Griffin today. 

The motives of the shooter are as of yet unknown but there are those who feel the need to slap a label on it. Was it terrorism? Was it extremism? Was it politics in action?

No. It was murder. 

Jo Cox was a wife, a mother, a proud Yorkshire lass, and she was ripped from her family through the actions of one man. Her husband released an incredible statement this evening. "She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous." 

From one proud Yorkshire lass to another, rest in peace Jo. 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Got the Holiday Bug?

I guess we've all been there...

We're in the middle of an amazing holiday with extended family at The Old Mill in Norfolk (check out their 5 star reviews on Tripadvisor). The sun is shining, the pool is heated, the Prosecco is flowing and the BBQ has been fired up, when all of a sudden I start to feel decidedly dodgy. Assuming I'd had a little too much sun (in England?! During half term?!) I went for a lie down. Later that evening I spent a considerable amount of time attached to the loo whilst simultaneously vomiting into a Buzz Lightyear potty. A feat I am still incredibly proud of.

Turns out it wasn't sun, anxiety or too much Prosecco but a bug which was slowly working its way through the Crosby clan. Not a great way to end a holiday but one must keep calm and carry on. 

Thankfully the effects were short-lived and I awoke feeling wiped out but capable of making the 150 mile journey back to Grandma's house. 

Then disaster struck!  The 3 year old had thrown up. 

Granny sprung into action like a cleaning ninja! Stripping the 3 year old, disinfecting the floor, rinsing the clothes. I could only step back and marvel whilst trying to hold onto the now severely depleted contents of my stomach. 

The 3 year old took it all in his stride and carried on as if nothing had happened. Making the most of those last few moments with his cousins. 

Crisis over...Or not.

Half an hour into the journey I was roused from an attempted nap by strange sounds coming from the back seat. The 3 year old had thrown up. And was continuing to throw up. All over himself, the car seat, the portable DVD player and the BRAND NEW CAR! The brand new, shiny, sparkling, company car which had been on order for months and was delivered the day before we were due to go on holiday.

Hubby tested out the new brakes and pulled into the nearest available spot. A spot which just happened to be the only driveway for miles around and, as per the law of sod, approximately 30 seconds later after jumping out of the car to attempt the clean up the owners of said driveway arrived home. After causing a minor traffic jam the owners gave up and parked on the grass verge. I mouthed a rather pathetic 'sorry' and carried on with the task at hand.

Obviously, we had no idea where anything was having just piled the bags into the bag for the journey home. The poor 3 year old ended up half naked on the side of the road, standing on his Batman coat in bare feet. 

Ten minutes later, having done the best we could with the roll of toilet paper we found randomly stuffed into a bag, we were on our way. Not wanting to spread the bug to the other half of the family the journey to Grandma's was abandoned and we headed home.

The journey took 7 hours. The same amount of time it had taken Grandma to fly from New York to Manchester that morning. During those 7 hours we experienced monsoon like conditions as we crossed the Pennines, two more vomiting sessions from the 3 year old (all skilfully caught in the now indispensable Buzz Lightyear potty) and a queue of traffic on the Woodhead Pass to rival anything the M25 can throw at you.

But finally we were home. Travel weary we emptied the car and slumped onto the sofa. An hour or so passed when hubby came downstairs and put his arms around me. "Now I don't want you to get upset...but the cat's been sick. Behind the bedroom door."


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Showing Restraint...

Do you think it's possible to take out a restraining order against your own kids? If so, I'm thinking about applying.

My kids have a perfectly pleasant middle class existence. They live in a nice house with a garden which is just around the corner from the park. They each have their own room, the 3 year old is having a new exciting bed delivered tomorrow. They have three solid meals a day including pudding, snacks and juice. They take part in activities such as swimming, tennis and lacrosse. Grandma is taking them to Blackpool for the weekend tomorrow and they even have their own annual passes to Legoland.

But apparently, this isn't good enough.

After having a (jokey) conversation with hubby about how I'm the only girl in the house and think it's about time we finally get a lock on the bathroom door, I waved him goodbye to a fun filled evening at a Radiohead gig in London. I imagined a peaceful evening of reading, writing and a cheeky glass of wine.

How wrong could I be?

Firstly, the 3 year old took great exception to leaving his friends house and so decided to jump on the furniture and generally act like a little sh1t (this is mum code to use around kids who can't spell...) Neither the threat of the naughty step or going on amber worked - in fact, both options seemed highly hilarious to him. After finally dragging him out of the house, somehow managing not to drop him on his head in the process, it then took me another five or so minutes to strap him into the car seat.

There I was, arse hanging out of a fully opened car door trying desperately to prevent myself getting kicked in the head with a plastic minion shoe. When I eventually got them off his feet he took to throwing them at me instead. As cars sped past behind my behind I idly wondered whether spending the evening in hospital would be a better option...

The 3 year old kept up the tantrum for a good hour, demanding to be driven back to his friends house long after we had arrived home and the door safely locked behind us. 

In the meantime, the 8 year old needed feeding. I hastily threw together the most random tea ever (a cheese sandwich and sweet potato tagliatelle if you're interested) and plonked it down in front of him to go try and reason with the 3 year old. Two minutes later, "Mum, can I have pudding?" 

"One, two, three..." I counted to myself very quietly, placing a pot of rice pudding in front of the 8 year old. "This isn't what I had in mind," came the reply.

Up until this point I'm not sure I understood that phrase about the red mist descending...

Thus followed an incredibly dramatic performance from the 8 year old worthy of one or two BAFTA's. Apparently I should stop buying rice pudding, it's the worst thing ever, why can't he have something else, it's not fair, you're always doing this to me, scream, shout, kick, stamp etc. etc.

Needless to say this went on for some time. The only positive thing to come from this was that the 3 year old found the whole thing so amusing he cheered up, agreed to get dressed for bed and settled down with some milk. 

After several failed attempts at apologising to me, mainly because each time he immediately asked for a biscuit and milk and stamped and screamed a bit more each time the answer came back as no, the 8 year old finally cried himself to sleep.

Now, it's at this point that I start to feel guilty. Chastising myself for not handling the situation better, after all I'm the adult etc. But after assessing the fridge situation it became apparent that the only thing for tea was a vegetable stir fry and there was no wine in the fridge.

So here I am, venting my frustration at you after a thoroughly disappointing plate of veg and no wine. 

The only consolation? I'm drinking hubby's beer!