Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Happy Easter!

I've been a little lazy lately with this blog as I have been working on a novel, which has been taking an inordinate amount of time to do. Mainly because I keep changing my mind on which point of view to use (won't bore you with the details!).

But it's nearly Easter so I thought this fun picture of some hardboiled eggs my daughter and I did for her school competition would give you a laugh. They were surprisingly fun to do, except when we kept glueing our fingers together with craft glue. The MermEgg won runners-up while mine remained at home for our personal admiration. Unfortunately Humpty Dumpty came to a sticky end, true to the nursery rhyme, when our semi-feral cat pushed him off the table and munched away merrily.

I found an old article of mine on Babyworld that I thought I would share with you, all about the trials and tribulations of being artistic at Easter. Read it here and laugh, weep, sympathise. I should say 'Don't try this at home' but the point of it is to do just that so, er, try away.

Happy Easter and enjoy the chocolate!

Friday, 9 March 2012

A blast from the past

Today I was tagged in a post on Facebook. I felt gloriously famous for a short space of time. It was like being part of the cool girls' club, something I've never managed before.

I used to write for parenting website Babyworld, and often I would admit my parenting foibles for the sake of a few quid. Well, I am a pen for hire. I am wondering if this is now coming back to bite me when my confessions are making it into the website's blog for others to read. But I still felt a glow of pride, even though what I had written leaves me in a very unfavourable light.

It was weird reading it today, five years on from publication date. Things haven't changed too much, except when I do say a bad word, I am quickly told off by my lovely daughter for being naughty. She really has turned into my nine-year-old conscience. I suppose I was bound to grow one one day.

Hope you enjoy the article - a trip down memory lane for me!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

A hairy situation

It's odd how a normal, everyday bra-fitting experience can quickly turn into a nightmare. 

It wasn't the humilation of being measured by a stranger (I've had all sorts of weirdos conduct this task in my lifetime, notably a woman who shouted that I was 'very small' when being fit for a maternity bra and who ordered me to bend over and shake my breasts towards the carpet to try to fill the cup out more). Instead it was the horrible realisation that - it being winter and all - I had neglected to shave under my armpits for a week.

What a situation.
1. Do I fake an emergency phone call and run out of the changing rooms?
2. Do I go through with it but do everything in my power to hide the offending growth?
3. Do I act all liberated and not care about looking like a gorilla? We're all women, right?

Well, Cilla, I ended up choosing contestant number 2. The measurer came back in and I stood, penguin-like, upper arms stuck to the top of my body, while she tried to measure me. It wasn't to be though. She had to get the measuring tape all around my front and back and the only way to do this was by lifting my arms and exposing my shame.

Image from

OK, that image is not me - it's taken from a site all about armpit hair and why women have it. It's natural so why the heck do we spend so much money - £280 million a year (2007 estimate) - to get rid of it? And why do we slam shave-free celebrities such as poor Julia Roberts who became known more for being pretty hairy woman after this photo?

The BBC thought it was worth dedicating an entire article to the subject. Shaving under the arms certainly isn't a new thing - women have done it for thousands of years to separate themselves from the common masses. But now it seems we're going the other way - becoming so smooth that we might as well be boiled eggs on hair-free legs. Hygiene is all very well but we're becoming worryingly pre-pubescent in our tastes especially with regards our pubic hair. It seems so ironic that many men spend so much money on hair-growth products, or on hair transplants, while we spend a fortune trying to pluck, wax, thread and destroy hair with chemicals. Wouldn't it be great if we could do a swap? Give our unwanted hairs to the men of the world who lack it atop their heads?

None of the bras I tried on fitted correctly (that's another story) but I nearly bought one as an apologetic gesture to the assistant who had to face my hirsuteness (is that a word? it ought to be). Needless to say the first thing I did when I came home was to remove the offending fur... and promptly spray alcohol-containing deodorant onto the freshly mown skin. Ouch. A blow for feminism and for my poor, bullied pores and follicles.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Are all men Buddhists?

As happy as Larry, not Laura...

Last Saturday, I had a horrendous experience at a birthday party. The sad admission I have to make is that it was my daughter's party, and she was obviously a firm believer in that song 'It's my party and I'll cry if I want to'. What made it worse was that it was a joint party and the other girl kept wondering why mine kept running out the room in tears. The moral of the story? There are two, actually.

1. Never have a joint birthday party.
2. Never have a birthday party.

I handled it pretty badly and I think I may have acted in as bad if not worse a way than my daughter. I kept my cool in front of others but I took her into the ladies' loo and hissed that she'd better get her act together. I didn't do the modern parenting thing of acknowledging and respecting their feelings - you know, that feedback crap where you sound like a lobotomised new-age shrink and say 'I feel your anger. I see your pain.' No, I acted like a demented dictator and ordered that she go back into the room and enjoy herself or else. The icing on the proverbial birthday cake was the fact that, once all the kids had disappeared in a haze of sugar-coated hyperactivity, my daughter came up and brightly said 'That went well, didn't it?' What planet had she been on all that time?! Certainly not the one I had been inhabiting - Planet Mortification with a few satellite moons of Anguish, Despair and Deja-Vu (yes it's happened before and, like the birth amnesia mothers are supposed to get - I am not one of them, hence having an only child - I get party amnesia and think it will all be fine).

After I had necked a couple of glasses of wine, the morose regret set in. I had handled it badly. I should have listened, reflected, even hugged her instead of berated, threatened and cajoled. So I went onto amazon to find a book on how to deal with overly emotional children (no it wasn't for me, though I admit I acted like a three-year-old too). I came across what looked like a good choice, downloaded it straight onto my Kindle and started reading.

There were some tidbits in there that struck a note but one that stood out was how to control your own temper when your child's is soaring off into the stratosphere (no, I am not an amateur astronomist despite my many references in this post to outer space). The thing is you're not supposed to react emotionally to a situation. Instead you react 'wisely'. Well, if it were that easy we would do it naturally, wouldn't we? The book recommended training yourself to get into this frame of mind, and the process it used was through mindfulness, which leads me to the point of this post's title.

Mindfulness is of course being in the moment and experiencing it as it is, without judgement or feeling - a very Buddhist concept. Just observing. Kind of like being on morphine, I reckoned, but without the nausea. You detach yourself from your emotions and observe. This stops you reacting emotionally when your child screams 'I hate you!' and you can inwardly laugh and realise that it's not them speaking really, just their anger, or frustration. You don't care as much. Apparently.

I have normally only achieved this when medicated or drowsy. I have been a keen advocate of mindfulness without really practising it for years. It's something I keep meaning to get round to but am, um, too busy. And perhaps this is the crux. We can all learn mindfulness but it requires you to concentrate solely on one thing at a time and feel it to its fullest. Men are supposed to be naturally like this - to only be able to do one thing at a time - and women laugh at it in all their multitasking glory. But maybe the men are on to something. Perhaps this is why they are less emotional and - dare I say - hormonal than we are. Because they give 100 per cent to one thing while we try to give 100 per cent to many and then get annoyed because we can't and then people don't appreciate our efforts and ... and ...

Maybe women should take a leaf out of the opposite sex's book and take things one step at a time, one project at a time. Sit back and relish the moment before it passes. And never ever run a child's birthday party. Ever. Again.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Do or diet

Happy New Year to you all!
I have been ashamedly silent for the past month. This has been because of the manic activity surrounding Christmas. Church services, school events, family get-togethers... it has been non-stop. Now it feels odd to be so quiet. Do any of you feel the same - that you just don't know what to do with yourselves now that you're not rushed frantically off your feet? I always dream of these times - to sit down and read a book or do some writing. But when it arrives I find myself toe-tapping and fidgeting. So really, I had no excuse not to update my blog and start this year off as I wish to continue.

Since new years are synonymous with diets I thought I could dedicate this post to that very theme, especially since the BBC has some juicy articles on the subject. The first was this piece on Lord Byron - first of the faddy flab-busters. Mind you, his diet sounded appallingly awful for the man who advocated hedonism and pleasure in many of his writings. I wonder if he had a special exercise routine that he could have made a DVD from nowadays - Look Pale and Interesting in a Month! This is what a fascinatingly named Victorian had to say about it all:

[Dr George Beard wrote] "Our young ladies live all their growing girlhood in semi-starvation...[in fear of] incurring the horror of disciples of Lord Byron". It didn't help that Byron himself had suggested that "a woman should never be seen eating or drinking, unless it be lobster salad and champagne, the only truly feminine and becoming viands".

To be honest with you, a diet of lobster and champagne sounds rather delicious, and certainly much more interesting that rice cakes and miso soup. And as for women never to be seen eating, well that could explain a lot behind secret snacking nowadays. But was Lord Byron anything to write home about? Judge for yourself from this image:

Lord Byron
He's looking the other way. Quick! Grab a pasty and eat it in one!
A pasty? Yes, indeed. Because this is the second item that caught my attention today, and which flies against the grain of any diet, celebrity or not: the combination of starchy potatoes, fatty pastry and red meat - which will be the subject of the world's first pasty competition in March, as the BBC revealed
Cornish pasty 
The humble pasty, which is Cornwall's first and arguably most famous foray into fast food, now has EU protected status which hopefully means that any shocking adulterations of its natural state will be vilified. Just the other day I walked past a Cornish Pasty Company stand that was advertising apple pasties alongside other bizarre combinations. In my mind, this is like putting chicken tikka on pizza: a culinary culture clash.
Unfortunately I can't indulge in pasties anymore, my digestion being rather delicate these days. The combination of fat, starch and protein is just too much unless I want this Cornish celebrity to keep visiting time and time again. Armed with digestive enzymes I might be able to tackle on but would need to be kept in solitary confinement until the digestive processes have run their course.
So what will my diet be for this year? Well it certainly won't be the following: 

An old advert for bathroom scales

I don't allow scales in the house because if I did they would end up being hurled out of the window in rage and despair. I live with two people who seem unable to gain weight, leading me to the conclusion that I am absorbing their fat through osmosis or similar. It's settling happily on my upper arms, tummy, bum and thighs each time my husband or daughter eat a doughnut or chocolate bar whilst I munch boredly on a lettuce leaf. My daughter has taken to loudly reassuring me in public: 'You're NOT FAT MUMMY!!!' while I bumble along in my puffa jacket which, despite being in slimming black, is not slimline.

What the above illustration does not show is the mother balaning precariously on her tiptoes, other leg in the air, trying to bring the weight down a stone or two. She'd have lost the sheet too covering her modesty - it all adds extra pound-age. On the rare occasions that I do weigh myself this is what happens, as I squint at the figure through nearly-closed eyes, so worried am I to see the amount. This nearly results in serious injury as I crash into a cabinet or flat on my face on the bathroom floor so I think I will play it safe in 2012 and follow the delusion diet. That way everyone is happy.

All the best for 2012!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Useful Uses for Pets

I've been rather quiet lately on the blog but this is because I have been pursuing other artistic endeavours. At the end of last summer, my daughter and I decided to try our hand at making our own picture book to give as Christmas presents to the rellies. She came up with the title and it all sort of grew from there! The idea was to have humorous drawings (intentionally, not unintentionally, had I been the artist) with rhyming observations.

It was great fun to do and a nice way to spend an afternoon with your young one in the pursuit of something of mutual interest. The evening spent scanning the images was not so interesting but it resulted in our being able to upload everything onto a book-making website called ... and now we're waiting excitedly for the first few copies to roll in. (When I say first few, this is because I only ordered three... paying for my own book feels rather disheartening rather than receiving the royalties from others popping out to buy it).

If you fancy seeing what you could do, or checking out what we did, you can preview the book for free at Blurb. I'd be happy to sign any copies! ;-) 

More anon!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A very private pregnancy

There is such a thing as privacy these days. Apparently. But you need to tell everyone about it, as Jess Ratty proved in this article in the Guardian.

Pregnant woman using a laptop
Did you tweet the first time you felt the baby kick? Photograph: Andreas Pollok/Getty

What I thought was rather ironic about this article was the fact that Ms Ratty (by nature as well as name?) thought that she was giving her unborn child Facebook anonymity but decided to tell readers from around the world. Granted, she's not giving hourly updates on her pregnancy but she's guaranteed a wider readership on the social networking site than on Facebook. Unless she has hundreds of thousands of followers. The nice pay cheque for writing the piece would have been a decent incentive too.

But Ms Ratty has raised a valuable point with regard privacy in pregnancy... and beyond. As soon as you have a bun in the oven everyone suddenly thinks you're public property. Forget Facebook - you have random people walking up to you in the street to ask if they can touch your bump. They ask about your due date. Do you know what you're having? What name will you give the child? Suddenly saying something about your pregnancy to a group of Facebook friends seems more normal than listening to a random person tell you you'll have a boy because of the way you are carrying or because your nose is a certain shape.

I must have looked fierce or smelt oddly or something because people generally kept away from me when I was pregnant. They'd ask how far gone I was but no one stroked my stomach, thankfully. Though a perverse side of me wondered why other people were pestered and I wasn't. Luck, I suppose.

The intrusiveness set in after I had given birth. These are some of the questions levelled at me:

1. 'Are you breastfeeding?'
Why - are you?

2. 'Why is your baby not wearing socks? Do you know what the temperature is outside?'
She's not wearing socks because she pulls them off the second they're put on her, and, yes, I do know it's five degrees out there.

3. Was it a natural birth?
No, I had her hanging upside down off a lamp post. Is that what you mean by natural? If you can ask such a personal question, surely you can ask me whether I had her vaginally or not. That's right - use the correct anatomical vocabulary.

4. When are you having your next?
First, you're assuming I'm having another. Second, do you really want me to inform you of the next time that I have unprotected sex? Because that IS what you're asking. There's not the possibility of an Immaculate Conception.

5. (Three years down the line) Why do you only have one? Surely you know how damaging being an only child is?
Look, I am an only child and I think I've done OK. And the reason why I haven't had more than one is... I'm infertile. (Queue tears on my part and a swift exit on theirs.)

Some people have thought me cruel to throw the infertility card at nosey-parkers but I don't see why. I do know women who struggled to conceive after their first child and the emotional torment they face when people asked these very personal questions. If someone has the gall to ask you why you haven't multiplied your brood after your first then they've got to roll with the punches. It's like when people pester me for either not drinking or only drinking a glass of wine. 'What's wrong with you?' I find 'I'm a recovering alcoholic' to be a useful reply in these circumstances.

Because it seems that people are happy enough to ask you questions that are extremely personal but they are not prepared for the embarrassment of an answer that doesn't fit with their idea of acceptable conversation.

Maybe a good way around is for women to have business-type cards with their Facebook account name on them so, when Joe Public accosts them in the street for the low-down, they can direct them to an appropriate social networking platform for the answer. Or maybe they should just get a big Tshirt with 'Mind your own business' blazened across their bump.