Thursday, 19 September 2013

That Was Summer 2013

There is an autumnal chill in the air, and my blogging has been sporadic at best this year, so I'm reduced to recording for posterity the highlights of our summer in a quick multi-purpose post.

I missed out on mentioning my son's 6th party this year. 30 kids, one leisure centre sports hall, one bouncy castle and this cake which I made for my WWE obsessed child:

Followed in short order by my daughter's 4th party. Quite possibly one of my favourite parties ever. The Lavender Barn Farm in Dunham Massey was the perfect location for a summer birthday party for my pony mad child. We all loved every minute of it.

I embraced the pony theme by making this cake:

Summer moved on, and there was a tear in the eye when my daughter said goodbye to her nursery. She had attended nursery since she was six months old and I have never doubted that she (or her brother) were happy, secure and well looked after. However I could have paid off a quarter of our mortgage with the money it has cost us to send them there, so the thought of free state education, quickly banishes any sentimental moments!

Up we went to Ullapool in the highlands of Scotland to visit my 95 year old Gran, now in a residential home. Even though she couldn't remember who we were, she knew I was familiar and was delighted to see her great-granchildren. They pulled faces at each other, made rude noises, sang nonsense songs and showed each other the food they were chewing in their mouth, before collapsing into giggles whilst I mock-disapproved of the naughty co-conspirators.

We went on airplanes, boats and ponies, and enjoyed some of the beautiful beaches in this amazing part of the world.

Standing on the pier looking up Shore Street

Aboard the Summer Queen looking for Sammy the seal

Gruinard Beach on the way back from Gairloch.

Pony trekking in Gairloch

A quick turn around and we were in a static caravan in Northumberland with some lovely friends near some amazing beaches. It was our second trip to Alnwick castle this year. This time we met Harry Potter and Hagrid, and the kids also received some valuable broomstick flying lessons.

Then another quick turn around and it was time for our annual camping trip with my two closest friends and our six children. We went to an amazing campsite in Anglesey with its own private magical pathway to Lligwy Beach. The weather was perfect and we had the best camping trip ever. We went bear hunting at dusk, toasted marshmallows over the campfire, played on the beach, and visited Pili Palas where the kids walked among the butterflies and stroked all manner of creepy crawlies and reptiles. I can't wait for next years adventure.

 Splashing in the sea at Lligwy beach. Rather them than me - it was freezing in there.

Ghost stories around the campfire.

Our camping spot, looking straight out to the beach.

It's still possible to be glamorous whilst camping.

It was a very busy summer. Before we knew it the big day had come and it was the first time we took both of them to school together. Summer was over and a new chapter begun.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

First Day At School

There we were at 8.50am this morning. My husband and I suffering from butterfly tummies, dry mouths and a hot lump in the throat. 

She skipped into school without a backwards glance. Just as it should be. How proud we were of our brave girl.

I didn't cry until we drove past the Salvation Army hall, when memories of newborn baby massage classes flooded back to me. Someone very wise once told me that the days can drag but the years fly by. The pre-school years are gone. In a heartbeat.

Good luck my beautiful, funny, sweet, kind, clever girl. We couldn't be more proud of you. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Guardian Q & A

As a fan of the Saturday Guardian's Q & A section, I thought I'd join in. Here goes....

When were you happiest?
My wedding day and the birth of my babies are difficult to top, but I do enjoy the odd sporadic swell of happiness that bubbles up at an unexpected moment, when all seems well with my world.

What is your greatest fear?
Since becoming a mother I have many intrusive and nebulous fears, all revolving around harm coming to my children.

What is your earliest memory? Lying on my mother’s knee next to the fringed leather ashtray that draped over the arm of the armchair.

What was your most embarrassing moment? Having a bit of an accident when picking up the child benefit from the post office. I was 11 and too embarassed to ask if they had a toilet I could use. Mortifying.

Where would you like to live?
Same place, bigger garden, bigger hallway.

What would your super power be?
Time travel, but only backwards. The future would scare me.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? Lack of a pronounced bone structure. My aging face doesn’t have much scaffolding to hang onto.

What is your most unappealing habit?
Pull my finger and find out.

What is your favourite smell?
Fresh baked goods.

What is your favourite word?
Today it’s truculence. Yesterday it was soporiphic.

What is your favourite book?
Wuthering Heights. Great memories of my 6th Form English Lit teacher and her wafting chiffon scarves.

What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
Giant pink bunny

What do you owe your parents?
Reslience, independence, self-esteem.

To whom would you most like to say sorry?
An 18 year old Davina F. I had a bit of a snog with her ex-boyfriend in front of her. Having never had a meaningful relationship at that age, I didn’t realise that feelings could linger long after a relationship had ended.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Who - Children & husband (obvs).
What – Books.

What does love feel like?

What was the best kiss of your life?
Apart from the many wonderful kisses I have received from my loved ones, it would have to be the kiss I gave to the traffic warden so he would let me off a parking ticket. I was skint, and it worked.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Notwithstanding. Therefore. Accordingly. I’m a lawyer and they appear in pretty much every letter I write.

What is the worst job you've done?
Cleaning changing rooms in a leisure centre when I was 17. I became so inured to it that I would think nothing of pulling out the clags of hair and plasters from the drains with my bare hands.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To Florence; the Palazzo Medici in the time of Lorenzo the Magnificent.

How do you relax?
Many ways, but the common denominator is wine (or gin).

How often do you have sex?
*flushes red and mutters something unintelligible*

What is the closest you've come to death?
The M60, 1997.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Local grandparents.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Let it go.

Where would you most like to be right now?
Eating a sandwich in Walkden Gardens. It’s lunchtime, I’m hungry and it’s sunny outside.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


I notice it most when I'm driving, and there was no escaping it this morning as I drove the kids back from an unreasonably early play centre party.

The hands which grasped the steering wheel belonged to a woman of advancing age. Crepey.

I remember sitting in a pub with my dad on his 50th birthday, gently mocking the way the skin on his hands maintained soft peaks for a good few seconds after being pinched. I compared them with my collagen packed 24 year old child hands which elastically sprung back to smoothness no matter how long or hard the pinch.

Not so much these days.

I tried not to care too much this morning. It was very cold after all. I hadn't drunk much water. I hadn't used handcream for at least a week.....

These explanations weren't too convincing.

I'm a 41 year old woman. I can't avoid the hand ageing process, and the good news is that neither can anyone else, most especially those freakishly unlined 40'something actresses who claim a desire to age 'gracefully' with the assistance of only a healthy diet and some soap and water.

I looked at my hands and thought of all that they had done in their 41 years to earn their slightly weathered appearance.

They wash and dress, embrace and occasionally chastise two children. They soothe a recently stressed husband's brow. They stroke and calm an excitable puppy.

They clean a home and are extremely grateful to the dishwasher for saving them a nasty job.

They cook for a family. They ice birthday cakes.

They administer medicine to sore tummies.

They dress dollies and build lego helicopters (for hours).

They type documents which detail life stories, grievances, tragedies and misfortunes. They have written and written and written through schools, universities and degrees.

They have held more than their fair share of wine glasses.

They have smothered all kinds of snake oil onto my face in a bid to halt the ravages of time, receving only the most cursory of attention in return.

They have climbed cliff faces, grasped horses reins, fed llama's, fenced, painted, bottle fed lambs and babies, and turned hundred's of thousand's of pages.

Most of all the miraculous fact that they have opposable thumbs, renders me an infinitely lucky member of the most dominant and powerful species the planet has ever known.

I can forgive them a few wrinkles, but I think I may invest in some nice driving gloves.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

And what better time to announce our new arrival. Introducing a cunningly disguised Nelly. She is in fact a puppy and not a reindeer. We love her.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Today has been one of those days that remind me just what parenthood is truly about.

I love my children but that does not render me blind to their true nature. Children (I pray it's not just mine?) are capricious, mischief making sprites. If we're talking Freud, they are pure id; seeking instant and immediate self gratification no matter whether you are in the middle of driving around the M62, on the toilet, or in the process of actually paying for the toy they have begged and pleaded for only for them to turn on a sixpence and loudly advise the whole shop that you are a horrible mummy because you won't buy the sweets positioned exactly at child height right next to the till.

It's not the nicest word but it bears pointing out that the first definition of parasite is:
Biology An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.
The second definition is:
One who habitually takes advantage of the generosity of others without making any useful return.

Ring any bells?

Somedays I honestly think that my children will not be satisfied till they have sucked the money, life and joy out of me. 'Till I am a shrivelled, dried out husk of a person blown by the wind until I am hanging by fingertips from the cliff face of poverty and insanity, at which point they will gently but firmly stand on my fingertips with a smile on their face until I have no choice but to let go and fall into the abyss....

But that's just half term for you.

Anyhow look how cute they are. They are worth it.
*spoken through gritted teeth and a second large glass of red wine*

Thursday, 13 September 2012

I'm Sorry

What is about those words that makes them so hard to say? As a parent I spend a lot of my time encouraging, cajoling, pressuring and even forcing my children to apologise when they have done something wrong. I can see the resistance and sulkiness displayed by my children when they are made to apologise to someone they don't think deserves it, but I won't back down. It is my parental duty to make sure that my children are capable of recognising when they have done something wrong and are given the tools to subsequently make amends.

A failure to apologise for something you have done wrong shows at best a weakness of character and at worst an utter lack of respect for your fellow human or even a lack of morality. How then does it feel to find out that the organisations we are supposed to entrust with our democracy, liberty and safety have so little respect for us that it takes them 23 years to offer an apology for a tragedy that they were entirely culpable for?

In April 1989 I was a 17 year old pool attendant at a leisure centre in Stockport. During a break between shifts I was in the bar watching a football match at Hillsborough Stadium degenerate into a tragedy that caused the death, before my very eyes, of 96 innocent football fans and the injury of hundreds of others. It was a horror to watch that I have never fogotten. I can't begin to imagine how it must have been for the family and friends of the victims to spend the next 23 years being told that their loved ones were too blame for their own deaths through drunkeness and violence. Or how it must feel for 41 of those families to have found out yesterday that their loved ones actually died through the total failure of the police and emergency services to offer the most basic of first aid.

As the saying goes, no-one is perfect. We all make mistakes. What counts, and what I strive to teach my children, is the ability to take responsibility for your actions and take the necessary steps to rectify your inevitable wrongs. It is tragic that our children can demonstrate a far better grasp of the necessity of this than the pernicious, self-serving, reprehensible adults who knew the truth of what happened in Hillsborough yet who willingly engaged in a conspiracy of lies for nearly a quarter of a century.

Yesterday the truth came out and our Prime Minister said what needed to be said; "I'm sorry". Whether it is a systemic operational failure of a state organisation, or a toddler who threw her doll at her friend, the words are an acknowledgment of wrong doing and a way of moving past the hurt.

I was in the car with my daughter this morning when this song from the year of the Hillsborough disaster came on the radio. Seems as good a way as any to end this post.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Baby Ballet

Thursday morning is Baby Ballet. For one hour a week I get to watch my daughter and her classmates twirling and galloping in a froth of pink tulle through the formal oak pannelled room in our Town Hall, more usually used for weddings and ceremonies. Good toes and bad toes. Bend and stretch.

The light was streaming softly through the velvet lined windows. The girls were waiting patiently for their turn to show off their gallops and, for once, my camera was ready at just the right moment.

Baby Ballet; our favourite way to spend a Thursday morning.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Holidays and Birthdays

June is a busy month.

Having loved our holiday so much last year, we decided to try out a different part of the country Featherdown Farms style. This year it was the area around Cheddar Gorge in Somerset. 

As a true Northerner my childhood holidays mostly revolved around Wales, the Lake District and Scotland, so my experience of holiday spots south of the M6 is very limited. It's my loss and I can't wait to visit more in future years. This year we explored Cheddar (with obligatory trip to Wookey Hole), Wells, Weston-Supermare, Bath and a fair few family friendly pubs. Happy memories.

Happiness is eating straight from a
bowl of melted chocolate.

My son. The chicken whisperer.

Our home for the week. 

View from the tent. Chicken soup for the soul.

I struggle with just two of them.
Imagine if there were this many.....

I'm only playing. Honest.

Sea, sun and sand equals happy children.

My daughter turned three at the end of the month. When given a choice she requested a dancing party so we laid on a disco for 20 in the local scout hut. I seem to have a pathological need to make sure my children have extravagant memories of their birthday parties whilst envying those who put on perfectly lovely traditional tea parties more akin to those of my childhood. Just an example of overcompensating for working mother's guilt I suppose.

As usual the party passed for me in a blur of flapping about with jugs of drink, paper towels and party bags but I did manage to join in with all the other mums, dads and party guests for a rousing 'Hokey Cokey' and 'I Am The Music Man' with the birthday girl which is going to have to count as my annual nod to aerobic activity.

Here's her cake. Made by moi.
*fluffs tail feathers* 

My girl is growing up. I want to hold on tight to every giggle, every cuddle, every moment spent with her. She is so precious. Half of me wants to stand and fight Time itself. It is an intrusive and unwelcome guest. I long to preserve her just as she is today. To claw down that ticking clock and scream "Leave her alone." The other half is simply in awe of the person she is growing into, happy to trot along in her wake. Just a witness to her journey.   

She may read this blog one day, when she is grown. I will have made mistakes. I will have intruded where I am not wanted. I will no doubt be a source of frustration and annoyance, although not too often I hope. My darling girl. Know one thing. I love you and I always will.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

News Update on the Coalition


Clegg and Cameron had fingers crossed


THE last two years of government don’t count because the coalition didn’t ‘Simon says’, according to David Cameron.
Clegg explained that in some schools they call it 'creases'

As the coalition launched its Right, Let’s Try That Again campaign, the prime minister has confirmed that they had just been warming up for the first half of their term and will do proper government stuff as of now, or possibly next week depending on how the Lords Reform Bill goes.

David Cameron said: “Having to carry Nick around for the last two years making sure he doesn’t touch any sockets has been like the longest ever ‘take your child to school day’ so that’s got to give us at least six months’ worth of do-­over.

“Basically we mean everything we say as of…now. Nick, please, be quiet. Okay…now.”
The launch took place in an Essex tractor factory, with Cameron managing not to look disgusted as he answered a wide range of questions from the assembled commoners while Clegg rode around on a digger with a gleeful expression.

The government is trying to reconnect with an electorate that recently chose stuffed animals and other household objects over Tory candidates. It has promised that for the next two years it will stop mucking about and try really, really hard to hand in some finished work that didn’t sound utterly deranged.

Cameron acknowledged that difficult decisions lay ahead but made a firm promise to tackle that huge pile of papers by the fax machine first, so they could then look at all the unanswered phone messages received since 2010.

He added “What most people don’t realise is that it takes about three months to work out how to use the coffee machine and twice that to get your swipe card for the printer.”

Source: The Daily Mash