Hooping and Rallying

Wow it was hot today. I power-hooped up a real sweat this morning with the ladies in the village hall. Those who came prepared dowsed themselves in wet flannel while others, like me, just used the back of our hands. It felt good, as I have now started the ball rolling (or the hoop spinning) for the Hoopathon to raise money for Bhopal. This was one of my New Year’s resolutions so I am glad to be finally fulfilling it. I have agreed a date with the power-hoop instructors so just need to drum up the support now. It will be held in late September in a very public location in my nearest city. Hopefully we will not only help to raise money but also awareness of the charity and the continued traumatic plight of the residents of Bhopal, India’s equivalent of Chernobyl. Children are being born with deformities nearly 30 years after the accident and the corporation responsible for the accident has never adequately compensated the victims neither taken responsibility for the environmental clean-up that is still intoxicating the local water supply today. Find out more about Bhopal.

Today I discovered another biker in the form of a very friendly female estate agent. She was clearly very experienced and able to advise us on the best bike track days to go to. It got me to thinking about how many ‘undercover’ bikers there are around and also how many undercover female petrol heads there are. I have decided in the future to plan and organise an annual gathering of female petrolheads for a rally ride and drive in aid of a charity and in support of a grant to promote women in Motorsport. I am getting excited just thinking about it as I type. The first event would be modest and then we would build on it over the years, in the hope of setting up a new grant for women in motorsport of supporting existing grants such as the funding provided by the FIA. I still believe there is too much untapped female talent out there across motorsport and more could be done to support talent and get rides and drives for female competitors without relying purely on securing corporate sponsorship, which is male dominated……Watch this space.

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Phantom pregancy

I am trying to work out whether one of my dogs is having a phantom pregnancy or is genuinely pregnant. She had a litter about 5 years ago (planned) and was an excellent Mum. Since then she has had seasons that have gone by without issue but then she has had the occasional phantom. The phantoms normally consist of generally ‘down in the mouth’ behaviour (just like us girls when Aunt Irma is visiting) and an illogical desire to be in one area and to refuse to move from that area (in other words nesting). Her teats become gorged and sensitive as if they are filling with milk. She also looks a bit like a swan or duck tucking its bill under a wing in her bed as she tucks her nose under her back leg to protect her ‘puppies’. In short she is not a very happy bunny during phantoms.

Normally she rides through the phantoms and comes out the other side but as I stroked her earlier, I noticed she was starting to look a bit plump. Apparently this can all be part of the symptoms but, she has been known to ‘elope’ with dogs in the field behind our garden (we have a spaniel who lives 2 doors down who has been ‘done’but is no less amorous). He is big compared to my Jack Russell but when she is on heat there is not a breed in existence that she won’t consider. Although not sure what would happen if she encountered a Great Dane, probably assume he is all show and no go. In fact she seems to go for the hairier men..!

If your dog or cat is experiencing similar symptoms check out this link for more help and advice, although it does state that detecting the difference between a phantom and real pregnancy is difficult…..aaaaaah! As I was feeling her abdomen earlier, I was imagining the scenario of explaining a real pregnancy to the vet. Vet asks “When did she have her last season”…I dunno a couple of months ago (eek) “Have you seen her with any dogs” …yes a spaniel who has had the snip….if it turns out to be a real pregnancy I would have no idea who the daddy is – tricky if it turns out to be one of the more ambitious breeds! Anyway all will become clear in a couple of weeks…..I will keep you posted.

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East London – the best part?

A day trip to my sister-in-law’s in Leyton, Stratford, London turned out to be the ‘best day ever’ according to my daughter. The victorian terrace house they live in is straight out of the Ahlberg’s ‘Peepo Baby’ illustrations with kitchen lay-out, courtyard garden and sash windows teeming with pots of all sorts of shapes and sizes with herbs and flowers sprouting green, purple and pink flowers (including purple carrots, much to my daughter’s delight).

As we drove to the cable car by the O2 there was no end of people watching entertainments from the busy high streets of food and veg sellers and asian boutique shops, to the tree lined avenues and Victorian terraces all painted different colours adorned with geranium window boxes. My Sister-in-Law joked that you could tell who owned the houses by the railings, lion statues and paving laid outside. 

The cable car provided an amazing view of the City and the River Thames. My son had his nose pressed against the window the entirety of the trip, enjoying the copious chances to see diggers, cement mixers, lorries, boats, cranes, bin lorries and all other manner of big noisy vehicles busy around the capital.

I love the East End of London. The highlight for my daughter was a visit to a play park in Barking. It dates back to the Victorian era, in the days of the ‘promenade’ with beautiful tree lined walks and landscaped grounds. The best feature was the play park with the wooden playground equipment made set in sand for a beach with bonuses experience. It was a truly cosmopolitan play park with black, asian, white and eastern european children playing in harmony with each other and enjoying one another’s company with the willingness to share the see saw the only pre-requisite to getting along and turning from strangers to friends. My daughter lives in the countryside and goes to a village school where only 2 children are black, so it was great for her to enjoy the company of children from other ethnicities – all British but with a slightly different cultural influence. This is the London that was celebrated during the Olympics and this is the London that I am proud to be a part of. If only this cosmopolitan society was reflected across the country….it would make all our communities a better and more interesting place to live and work. 

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Nag, nag, nag. That’s all I seemed to be doing after school pick-up today. I have been using the positive discipline approach so that she experiences the consequences of her actions, therefore takes more responsibility for her actions. This has been successful. But there are times when it is not straightforward to let consequences occur.

For example, we have recently started to help with looking after some ponies a few minutes bike ride down the road. We help out the odd weekday evening and in return we can ride whenever we like. My daughter was initially enthused with this, and still is, but only if she is allowed to take charge (given the key to do the padlock, bring the horses in etc.) She doesn’t like me supervising or ‘interfering’. She is only 7 so of course I need to supervise so I have to tread a fine line (like a lot of parents the world over) by allowing freedom but also providing help, guidance and protection when needed. It is tempting to take over and I realise I have done this as my daughter becomes dis-engaged and then involves herself in her own activity (e.g. playing in the field while I finish off  bathing the pony…probably because I insisted something was done in a certain way). These ponies are not ours so If I don’t nag my daughter to tidy up after herself and I leave her to experience the consequences of her actions, I will get in the ear from the pony’s owners. I suppose I just need to take the time to explain why we need to keep cleaning up but 7 year olds are easily distracted.

However I received her school report today and was bowled over by the teacher’s comments on her progress and effort. I was brimming with pride – as an emotion parental pride just can’t be beaten. 

As she embarks on the junior school years we nervously start to glimpse at the horizon of her future that is secondary education and wince a little bit. Both myself and my husband were privately educated because the state system (at the time) was shocking. Now thankfully good schools do exist but there is no getting away from the scary 1,000 + pupil capacity and in this area they all tend to be much of a muchness. As a result, we are seriously considering moving into rented accommodation so that we are in a more flexible situation to adapt our address to suit the right school. I wonder how many more parents are going to do the same as the Government starts to mess around with the education system….

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The Big Wedding rings a few bells

Apologies for absence last night, I indulged in a girly flick at my local community cinema with my friend from school days. The tickets were an impulse purchase after dropping my daughter off at Theatre School at the same venue and noticing the poster for ‘The Big Wedding’ and noticing a few familar faces (Susan Sarandon and Robert De Niro, plus a whole load of other faces I don’t know the names of but have seen in countless films and TV shows). 

I didn’t have very high hopes and was unsure whether it was something I should have taken my mother to as is started off a bit like a blue rinse flick. However the sight of Susan Sarandon receiving oral sex on a kitchen counter-top during the first few scenes of the film made me glad I wasn’t reduced to squirming in my seat while sat next to my mother (phew!).

It actually rang lots of bells for me as the plot navigated its way through the awkwardness (albeit exaggerated) of combining families through marriage (particularly when the groom alone has 3 mothers (birth, adopted and step). I know what it’s like to have 3 Mums and it can be quite complicated although I don’t have to put up with any lesbian tendencies or lewd public conduct (at least I hope I don’t….or ever will for that matter). Although my Dad is getting rather leery in his old age. I found him chatting up my neighbour from 2 doors down the other day, in front of my StepMum too for God’s sake.

Anyway if you haven’t seen it yet then I recommend at least watching it on DVD. See the trailer here.

Right, I better get back to the discussion I was having with my husband earlier about careers and moving house. After both of us getting back and prowling round eachother with our claws out like a pair of big cats in a cage, we realise something might need to change. However, I soon broke the tension with only a threat of pummelling him with the hose gun while out watering the garden. We are all still complete and utter kids at heart and I love it.

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It was my daughter’s sports day today in scorching hot heat (well for us Brits anyway). She was an absolute star all togged up in her long white socks, sporty shorts and blue top for her team, The Eagles. There are three teams (or houses as they call them in old fashioned public schools) the Eagles, the Falcons and the Hawks. To add even more atmosphere to the children’s chants, I think each house should be given a battle tune. The Eagles I guess would have an Eagles hit, but Hotel California is a bit chilled for that purpose, although it has an excellent guitar intro. Hawks could have Highway to the Dangerzone (I’m thinking of the Skyhawk fighter jet…tenuous I know) and Falcons could have..um well the theme tune to a film due in 2014 called Falcon Song starring Rainey Qualley (daughter of Andie Macdowell)? Extremely tenuous. OK I’m struggling now so moving on….

Well the newsflash for us was that she won her race. She won it against boys too, in fact, we were super excited to see her finally realise the strength and length of gait in her ‘spaghetti’ legs. In her first sports day it was like watching a gazelle being chased by a lion, all legs and action but no real ground coverage or direction. My husband and I were pleasantly surprised to see her nail the competition (not that we are remotely competitive ourselves….)

When I went to hug her at the end, she was soaked with sweat as it was so hot today. But she had the biggest grin on her face – one of those moments she will no doubt remember in her mental catalogue of life’s milestones.

Thankfully for us there were no parents races. I would have been hideously competitive and probably would have added fuel to the recent headline ‘painkiller sales soar as parents recover from sports day participation’.

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Opening doors

When I was about 8 or 9, my ‘wonderful’ state primary thought it would be a good idea to ask our year group to do a project on doors. Yes doors. I can’t recall why doors was a chosen topic, I remember being sceptical as to the rationale behind this project as a child. The project was the brain child of a young visiting teacher. Looking back I think he was from teacher training college as he seemed to be receiving a lot of support from our class teacher in the way that a hairdresser stands back to let a ‘minion’ do the hair-wash.
“Doors are great because they come in lots of shapes and sizes and you never know for sure what lies behind them”, said our enthusiastic nicampoop of a teacher. I wish I had kept the project I did as a child for a laugh. However, it has worked insofar as I remember doing it. I don’t remember many of the other projects I did during primary school so it was memorable in its stupidity.
So what has inspired my recollection of the doors project? Well, my husband and I have just wasted 15 minutes of our life talking about doors. What type of door we should have (definitely not wood as too draughty but not UPVc as it looks crap). We have also discussed what colour it should be (blue) and how the back door should look (a bit more glass). For some reason we think it might improve the kerb appeal of the house but I am not entirely convinced it is worth the 2k minimum price tag.

My friend has been having quotes for a new kitchen and is expecting to pay 20k. The designer they had used to review their kitchen was commenting on other clients who paid upwards of 100k. Crazy money. For that I would want a full-time chef thrown in too and maybe a sous chef as support when my daughter has a friend over.

It got me to thinking how much money is wasted on bricks and mortar. I say ‘waste’ because it is hard to think of anything decorative having a significant impact on the value of a property. Sarah Beenie may have something to say about that but I could think of many better ways to spend money other than improving the cupboards that store saucepans and upgrading the countertops used to chop vegetables. Oh and doors….I can’t believe I am regretting having binned my very worthwhile school project on doors.

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