Crib wars

Why do we develop sentimental attachments to inanimate objects? My in-laws are having a major chuck-out in anticipation of a new downstairs bathroom suite (in an attempt to make their 17th century cottage more habitable for their 70s and 80s. Personally I think they are kidding themselves. Most twenty year olds would grow tired of limboing under the ridiculously low beams throughout the cottage let alone pensioners). The uneven steps are a challenge for toddlers and building regs tend to put toddlers and the elderly in the same category for health and safety reasons. 

Sadly for me on the chuck-out list is the crib that was used for my daughter and son. They spent their first few months on this earth asleep in that crib and because of that I am strangely attached to it. The reason why it is housed with my in-laws is because they used it when my husband was a baby and for both my sisters-in-law. So it has been in the family for quite a while. My mother-in-law re-lined it and updated the fabric around the outside of the wicker casket when my daughter was born. It was a delight to get it back for my son’s birth (my sister-in-law having turned her nose up at it for my niece and nephew) partly because I honestly didn’t think I would see it again because we were struggling to conceive a second child.

I also have a romantic idea of keeping it for my grand-children so that it is used for three generations. But my husband looks at it from the only point of view he considers important, storage. Like my father-in-law he has put his foot down and said ‘No’! I hate being told that at the best of times (I am an only child after all) so when it is something I really, really want I feel like having a tantrum like the kid out of the old trio chocolate bar adverts.

So today as I seemed to constantly lock horns with my husband over every single thing (the crib was to me a little symbolic of our relationship) I had to decide to forget about the ‘nice idea’ and ignore sentimentality. To make life easier I find myself shifting the blame to my in-laws now (groan) .

And all over a crib…..but I find myself wondering if it is something else I am having to draw a line under too…

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Dangerous dogs

We went for a walk last night at our local beach and took the dogs. This was the first time I had walked the dogs outside in public since we had the black labrador incident a few days ago. I can’t recall if I mentioned it in this blog so in a nutshell, here is what happened:

Me plus 2 JRs walking along minding our own business, woman comes running along about 500 yards away from us launching a tennis ball for her black lab closely followed by her sausage dog. Lab is all het up chasing after the ball and decides to hare it at full pelt towards us. One of my dogs feels threatened so growls and shows her teeth, lab sees red (very unlike a labrador) picks her up  and starts shaking her furiously. She starts screaming and I realise if I don’t intervene soon she is going to get seriously hurt. So I physically extricate my dog from the jaws of this lab and get caught by the lab’s teeth in the process. As I lie my dog down to examine where the blood is coming from, the lab starts on my other jack. Needless to say this took me by complete surprise. The owner of the lab didn’t have a lead and was desperately trying to get hold of her lab to control it. I felt incredibly vulnerable and, for the first time, scared of a labrador. The owner shouted from a distance if my dog was alright while she held on to hers. I couldn’t see any major wounds just a few scratches and bruising and didn’t say anything else in the rush to get as much distance between myself and the lab.

This is the second time I have experienced a dog attack in the space of a couple of months. Needless to say it has made me somewhat jumpy. I didn’t realise that it had affected me to such an extent until last night. We were returning from a walk along the beach when a large black dog of no clear breed comes bounding along. It looked friendly enough until it raced up to one of my dogs. Now it doesn’t help that, due to my dogs’ terrier mentality, they default to defence or attack rather than submission. My dog starts to growl and then the big dog starts to get boisterous, I was suddenly anxious and scooped my dog up in my arms at which point the big dog mounted me to try and get to my dog and she showed her teeth and the other dog looked as if it was getting its teeth out too (although maybe that was my imagination) but even so I felt very vulnerable and that I was going to be stuck in the middle of a dog fight. 

We went for a dog walk today and I was nervously putting my dog on a lead every time I saw another dog coming towards us. It seems as if I have become a bit of a nervous wreck on dog walks. To make matters worse, I don’t feel comfortable walking my dog at home as my dodgy neighbour’s dog (which I have mentioned in previous posts) seems to have returned for the weekend (it stays with the ‘grandparents’ occasionally – the owner’s parents). They don’t ever bother to put it on a lead so at any point it could attack if you encounter it (as it has done to more than one dog in the neighbourhood given that it is a rather docile combination of rottweiler cross staffie).

So what is the conclusion? Dogs that bite other dogs should they be classed as dangerous?  I think the answer is yes because how can you be certain that they won’t do the same to a human? I think something needs to be done in the UK to up the ante on the control of dangerous dogs. The law as it currently stands is pathetic. The rottie cross staffie in our neighbourhood is not controlled at the very least by a lead let alone a muzzle. So what does the dog warden do? He visits them and asks them to put it on a lead – do they care? No. Can the dog warden enforce his request to put the dog on a lead? No.

So what is the point of a dog warden?

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Getting old……er

In an earlier post I remarked on a few changes in attitude that herald the transition between a twenty something and the approach of middle age. 

One of them is switching from BBC Radio One to Two because, “that’s just noise, not music” and the second was the switching of roles from demanding daughter to providing daughter. 

I have just discovered a couple more…

Taking pleasure in gardening and growing (years of being dragged round garden centres on a Sunday had made me vow never to pick a trowel before 40..whoops!). I am also a reluctant cook. I used to be can’t cook, won’t cook. Now I have to cook otherwise none of us would eat (perhaps after day three my husband might rustle up something in desperation but I am not going to test that theory). In fact last night I was so tired, I just refused to cook and discovered that toast was perfectly sufficient. So, I have decided that If I have to cook I might as well make it a bit more interesting so, despite protestations about the cost of certain ingredients, I am quite enjoying my accidental subscription to BBC Good Food Magazine. This month (or rather the August issue as magazines work in a parallel universe in the future), there are some genius ideas for kids. My favourites are (listed with links embedded to check them out for yourself): edible necklaces, fruity ice-lolly pens (just dip them in food colouring once iced to draw with them) and finally the Chocolate Jungle Jam Jar – I can’t find this online as it is only available in the magazine but basically you get a char put squidgy chocolate pudding in the base to make a jungle swamp, add a layer of wild coconut grass, jelly snakes and chocolate trees – genius!

I will have a go at some point with my daughter and will photograph the result to put on this blog.

Off to the beach now –  in the rain…..(something us oldies do when we are wasting our lives waiting for the sun before we do anything interesting)

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Finding Vivian

Oh boy I have hit a wall this week. I have just woken up after having slept since I put the kids to bed and woke up disorientated and surprised that a ‘quick’ nap at 8 turned into 3 hours. Each day this week it has been manic with feeding family visitors each evening. While lovely to have them round, it has been a bit of a challenge doing cooking and childcare hence my lack of a blog post last night – another £1 in the pot!

Also hasn’t helped that when I finally do decide to go to bed I can’t wind down. Particularly after being inspired, like I was on Tuesday night, by a fascinating BBC documentary on a woman called Vivian Meier. A few years ago, her photography was discovered in random auctions of lockers that she used to own that fell into arrears and were sold off. One of the purchasers was a 26 year old real estate agent, John Maloof, who has since profited from publicly exhibiting her works, two other individuals, Jeff Goldstein and Ron Slattery, have Vivian’s photography too. Overall there are about 150,000 photographs in a ‘fractured’ archive between these private individuals. As you will read in the BBC article linked to the documentary, John Maloof seems to show his estate agent tendencies by not granting BBC access to a negative photograph, while Ron and Jeff seem to be more amenable.

The photography uncovered show thousands and thousands of stunning images taken by Vivian during her walks around Chicago. New York and various other places in America and in other countries with one of those old fashioned box cameras. She had a talent for taking photographs that captured people from all walks of their life as they went about town, shopping, working or sleeping in the street because of too much alcohol the night before. Vivian captured a moment in their lives and each image is striking, it is extraordinary how she managed to take such captivating images of people, complete strangers. All her pictures are good, there are no duds, which shows that she had a natural talent and passion for chronicling people and society. But did she share these images with anyone? No, not a soul. She just hoarded them in lockers and in the various rooms that she used to share when working as a nanny. The children she cared for described her as a Mary Poppins character. She never married, or even had a partner and remained a single woman quietly observing the world as she existed in it and capturing her observations on camera. The BBC documentary highlights that she shunned family connections and was not close to her mother, even denying their existence when filling in ID paperwork. It was almost as if she was an angel sent to earth to record people and their lives throughout the decades with a camera. She passed away in her eighties finishing her final days in accommodation organised for her by the children, now grown-up, who she had cared for in the past. 

While I think it is fantastic that her photography was finally uncovered for other people to admire, I think it is a shame that she wasn’t contacted about them before she died. In reading how the young estate agent, John Maloof, came to find the locker for of photographs it is unclear how long he had them while she was still alive and what efforts he made to find her before she died. I would hate to think that he deliberately postponed the public release of the photographs until after her death for convenience and to further his own personal gain from the collection. 

That doesn’t sit right with me either, that her work is with private individuals, it should be in a public archive, gallery or museum. I particularly dislike the overt profiteering by John Maloof – I hope he is at least donating some of the profits to causes that help people in the cities that Vivian photographed. Until I know that for definite I am very reluctant to purchase his books on her and as for watching his film, well…I think the BBC will have done it better justice, the Beeb is, after all a public service.  

For more info on Vivian and to watch the BBC documentary on her visit the BBC’s site.

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Mums make mistakes

I fee like I am going through another coming of age, but in my thirties. I have come round to the understanding that the roles have shifted somewhat between myself and my Mum. I need to look after her more and accept that she also comes with my Stepdad (like Barbie, you just can’t ignore Ken). Therefore rather than reluctantly enquiring as to whether he will be joining us too for a visit or an excursion, I am accepting him wholeheartedly and starting to enjoy his presence. 

I am a reluctant cook but more and more I am finding myself hunting for ideas and recipes to cook for my family and others. It is an area that I lack confidence. The idea of socialising while cooking, something many people seek by felling walls between kitchens and dining rooms, fills me with dread. You need to be a confident cook while concentrating on food that will taste nice and keep small talk sustained simultaneously. However I managed it with my stepdad earlier, perhaps for the first time we had a talk where I didn’t feel awkward. It almost helped that I had something else to concentrate on.

There was an awkward moment during the transition period from being a daughter of teen and twenty-something to thirty something plus where Mum and I temporarily fell out. Because I was accepting that there were some things that my Mum did that I didn’t necessarily agree with. Things that my Mum had not recognised as issues that affected me at the time. It isn’t until much later on that the consequences of actions could be seen. What is different now is acceptance. I am accepting our relationship warts and all, because life is uncertain and I want to enjoy the rest of my life and Mum’s life, however long or short will that be. I don’t want to feel any regrets in what I should have said or done – the same goes for my Dad.

So Mum looked out for me through school, college, uni, marriage and early motherhood. It has finally dawned on me that the roles are starting to shift and I need to look after he more too, without any resentment for my change in role and the acceptance and belief that Mum did what she thought was right and for the best. No doubt my daughter will criticise me when she hits 30 – she is already starting to criticise me now. Hopefully she will came to the same realisation that I did – Mums aren’t there forever so enjoy them while you can.

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Going back to the 1950s

Do I feel like a modern woman? Is my husband a new man?

When watching TV with my daughter yesterday morning, we sat through the ad breaks and noticed that every advert was targeted at me, not her. They were all adverts about either cooking or cleaning and I found myself muttering, “Oh, that looks good”. My daughter asked why the adverts were aimed at me and not her, “well probably because those ad guys know that there are hundreds of thousands of Mums out there doing exactly what I am doing with you now, watching TV with the children while ironing etc and they want their brand to stand out as the one to buy the next time we are faced with a myriad of choice in the supermarket”. Meanwhile husband and baby boy are sat next door guzzling more breakfast and playing with cars. It occurred to me that the house was wasted on us….we should be living in a cave. Have our roles shifted since neanderthals in a cave? No I don’t think so. My husband was a bit more refined about attracting me, he didn’t beat me on the head with a club, instead he met me in a club and did his peacock display with an attempt at boogying with a big grin plastered all over his face.

I have just retreated from cleaning the kitchen for what seems like the 10th time this week (and it is only Monday) and I glance around at the decor, half admiring and half doubting the 50’s retro style that we chose for it. It then occurred to me that the inhabitants of our house haven’t changed much since it was built in 1947, even the interior style has remained similar. So there I stand in my clean 1950’s kitchen, gazing out of the window reflecting on women’s lib and how much we have moved on……….

For the latest retro kitchen products, check out: Cool Brabantia bin (if you like spending £100 on rubbish) and everything else 50’s inspired on retroplanet.

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Hickstead Derby needs Red Bull

The Hickstead Derby came and went today. To be honest, although I received a leaflet through the post from a while ago, it had pretty much slipped my mind. Not that there was any chance of reminders – you don’t see it mentioned on freeview, the radio, the papers, even on the road-side (well unless you are within 5 miles of Hickstead itself or you read specialist magazines). A combination of poor media coverage and consequent lack of appeal to the public, meant the venue didn’t even secure a sponsor for this year. It wouldn’t have gone ahead had it not been for the anonymous donation of a showjumping enthusiast. This is a particular disappointment considering Team GB won gold for SJ last year – why aren’t we still riding high (scuse the pun) on that wave of success? The sport continues to shrink back so that it’s appeal is limited to pure enthusiasts attracting lower level sponsors related to equestrianism, such as horse worming manufacturers and the like. Back in its heyday (and before the ban on tobacco sponsorship) many blue-chip PLCs were attracted to show-jumping when the BBC provided good coverage in response to higher viewing figures.

Out of all the equestrian sports, Show-jumping should carry the most appeal as it is easy to follow the scoring system, it is ‘on the edge of your seat’ viewing and it is highly dangerous. The riders all talk with normal and often northern accents, so there isn’t the class alienation that you get in eventing – many of them have larger than life personalities too.

It is encouraging that Jennifer Saunders is an ambassador for British Showjumping and I hope that she can help pull in the punters. I see no reason why companies such as Red Bull, who are known for backing dangerous and high octane sports, shouldn’t be on the sponsor list of an event like Hickstead, or at least a top rider. SJ guys and gals have far more guts and nerve than F1’s Vettel and Webber, for example, and don’t need the glamour and money to sustain their commitment to strive to be the best spanning decades (although I’m sure the money would come in handy, them horses are quite expensive to look after).

Check out a video of this year’s winner of the Derby, Phillip Miller – an incredibly, understated and highly talented bloke who has produced horses from 3 year olds to top level showjumpers. This video shows how talented he is when jumping a horse he has produced who looks incredibly difficult to ride but nethertheless he works with the horse’s strengths to get results over ‘poo in your pants’ fences. 

As Daisy Bunn states in her blog on photographing naked showjumpers ‘so many of them have nearly non-existent collar bones having taken so many tumbles!’

I think Vettel still has his collarbone intact doesn’t he?

Come on Red Bull back the real men and women….

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Dream jobs

Ow! I did my first ‘Pilates for saddlebags’ movements last night and they must be working as I could hardly move today. The hardest of all was the half plank and leg lift. I had the web page on my tablet as I tried to mimic the photos of the pilates lady on screen. She made it look so easy yet I was struggling to haul my ass up in the air as effortlessly as she made it look. It took me 10 minutes to complete the full exercise and it was a real work-out. So I am confident I will be able to lose the cm of the saddlebags. I am going to have to psyche myself up to do it tonight though, as it aches just to move let alone contort myself into some pilates moves. 

Changing subject slightly, I like cars. I would also like to channel my career into cars (but not a sheepskin-coated, gold-bracelet wearing forecourt seller). I dabbled in a motorsport company just under a decade ago, which was my career aim after leaving Uni but it didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped. I reflect now and then on what could have been (a bit like that Sliding Doors movie about 2 alternative lives running parallel because of one decision that forked the character’s lifestyle and future). I like to think I chose the better option. However, I am not going to be able to work part-time for long as once baby boy is at school, I will have to go out an earn a bigger wage again. I would love to jack it all and go into fostering, but my other half isn’t keen on the idea of getting attached to children and then letting them go again. So, I will have to get a career that I will need to try and enjoy between now and 70, or whenever I retire……..a daunting prospect.

For me the top 10 dream jobs would be as follows (in no particular order):

10) PA to actor Paul Walker (although would not be good at that as would spend too much time drooling)

9) Taster for Cadburys Chocolate (but that would either make me fat or switch my joy of chocolate guzzling to repulsion)

8) Reviewing top holiday destinations (but that would mean spending time away from the kids and it would take all the fun out of holidays)

7) Car testing (from supercars down to superminis I would LOVE it – particularly if it involved driving around the Nurburgring)

6) Rollercoaster reviewer (fantastic job – can’t think of any down-sides apart from a constant state of nausea)

5) Book critic (I LOVE reading, so to be paid to read all the time is right up my strada)

4) Social worker – I can’t now because I need a degree and I am too old and have to many commitments to go back to uni, it would be tough but I would love the chance to be making a difference – down-side would be I would be taking my work home psychologically)

3) Horse-whisperer – Again if only I had the time for the training,  I would love to help turn around problem horses

2) To get paid for work that is normally classed as voluntary – helping out with children’s charities and causes in my community

1) Owning a wedding dress shop and having enough money to buy-in the most beautiful dresses and design a few of my own too

For now I will just keep on dreaming…..

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The reluctant ‘Hippy’ in me

I have just measured my saddlebags (read yesterday’s post) and I measure 95 cm. I have never attempted to reduce saddlebags before so I do not know what is a realistic goal, so I am going for any shrinkage is good. 

I will be using pilates every night to target the problem areas to test the theory that certain Pilates movements tone up the gluteals. In a month’s time let’s see if the bags are still hangin’.

My other aim for next month is to get a date in the diary to do a power hoop fundraiser for Bhopal (the charity that supports victims of the Dow Chemical owned company that killed thousands in Bhopal, India after an accidental leak of toxic gas). It is a sign of the times that most people in my social circle look at me like I am a nutter when ever I talk about fund-raising. I receive the same treatment when I talk about meat-free eating, washable nappies, positive discipline methods and mooncups (a genius way to cope with periods see the mooncup website for more info). It seems if you care about the environment and take action yourself to protect it your seen as a bit of a freak (well at least in my neck of the woods you are). Same goes for wanting to do something proactive to help a cause. However, if I wittered on senseless about who should win Britain’s got Talent; or the latest shenanigans in Coronation Street; or who Jude Law is now going out with, I would be classed as normal and I wouldn’t have people looking at me as if I had two heads. I almost have to apologise for my philanthropic outlook. 

Contrast that way of thinking to a rural muslim community in Malaysia, who all club together to support the children of a widow. The entire community pay a monthly contribution to help put food on the table for her children. I know which community I would rather live in and grow old in.

It is not simply about generosity, it is about looking out for humankind. But it seems in the UK and in other western societies to express concern and take action invites the reaction “Well why would you do that?” As if they are searching for a hidden agenda and can’t comprehend a person sacrificing some of their own personal time to help out. If there isn’t an agenda then they default to, “oh she’s a hippy, that will explain it”. In my view this attitude has got worse rather than better – David Cameron’s Big Society is working well then,

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Diets and saddlebags

Today I have eaten half a baguette (just the bread), a massive bowl of fruit crumble and custard, one apple, 4 light rich tea biscuits, 2 slices of toast, 1 raspberry yoghurt and then that was it until hubby returned with a big bag of cookies so then had to add 2 x big choc chip cookies to the list too.

Not sure I have managed to scrape my five a day in that diet? On the positive side I did swim 30 lengths of a swimming pool at lunch-time, so hoping that canceled out one of the cookies?

My colleagues noticed that my tray in the dining hall at lunch-time contained an unhealthy mix of carbs and little else. When they asked what I would have for dinner, I get the impression they expected me to say ‘meat and two veg plus fruit’. In fact, I just have toast because that is the most satisfying way to beat hunger fast. Sounding like I have an eating disorder yet?

But for the first time in my life I am able to stay between a size 8 and 10 AND eat the foods I like to eat (mainly bread and then the odd bowl of broccoli or fruit just to inject a bit of goodness in). I have a sweet tooth so get very very low calorie yoghurts, mousses and other treats that are more sweet and less calorific. However when my Dad visits he likes to give me and my children lots of chocolate – so usually binge on the bar I get given to ‘share’ with my husband until it is eliminated from the cupboards! Is my diet ruled by keeping calorie intake low? – most of the time yes BUT when crumble is on the menu at work I find it hard to resist so I try to make it up in the pool or doing power hoop (a brilliant exercise that pummels away at your waist and hips).

My butt has shrank a little bit too, which is amazing given it has stayed so big for most of my life. However, if I kicked the sweet stuff entirely I might stand a chance of turning the butt cheeks from saggy to supple. Its the saddlebags that really need to go now. So am going to start doing these exercises daily to see what happens – read this pilates routine online. Tomorrow I will measure my baggy butt and then see if anything has shifted by the 20th July.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you are able to support this campaign, please visit my page on Unicef’s site.

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