Stand and stare

Sometimes it would be nice to press pause and enjoy the moment, rather than stressing about to do lists, where to go next and what’s happening tomorrow. As I type this I have in mind the lines from a well known poet who basically observed life is pointless if we don’t appreciate it. It goes something like this:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.       

BY William Henry Davies.

He was from Wales, which figures as it is one of the most unspoilt and beautiful landscapes I have come across.

My favourite line is ‘No time to wait til her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began’, because (for me) it also refers to spending time on human relationships and soaking up every moment with family and friends. Imagine if your back turned on smiling eyes – it would shut-out so much promise of an even happier moment.

I also  have to remind myself of the greater world outside of the personal ‘bubble’. Ignorance is our greatest enemy in making our world a better place for all. Some people revel and bask in ignorance whereas I work hard to fight it. A while ago I asked Unicef what would make the biggest difference to children living in poverty and they answered with the fight against climate change. I wrote to my MP but didn’t get a response. I shall try again….If everyone spent 5 minutes a day lobbying for more to be done on climate change they would start to listen and we would make those political leaders stop and stare. Having read the Campbell diaries on the Blair years it is astonishing the number of issues politicians have to juggle at any one time. Unsurprisingly it is the issues that bother the voting public the most that get the focus of attention. So, in the case of climate change, we need to be making more noise to get it pushed up the agenda. It would make a refreshing change from all the rhetoric on the economy wouldn’t it?

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. See more on my campaign here.

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Should have stayed in pj’s

Boy am I glad to see the back of this week. The cherry on the cake was making the effort to turn back on the morning school bus run when we realised it was mufty day to switch from uniform to home clothes. Having gone to the lengths of driving to school because we had to miss the bus in order for my daughter to change clothes, we realised that actually the theme was pyjama day and she shouldn’t have bothered changing at all. “Oh didn’t you read the last email?” muttered a passer by…No. As I saw my daughter rush into school past the headmistress who looked slightly ridiculous greeting the pupils dressed in her fluffy pink dressing gown, two thoughts occurred to me: 1) I hoped that at least one other parent didn’t get the last email so my daughter would have at least one fellow un-pyjamed out-cast for solidarity and 2) did the headmistress look more or less like a lesbian in a pink dressing gown (according to rumours she is having a ‘fling’ with the reception teacher).

Thankfully because of her parents, my daughter has grown-up with a resilience to these minor social misdemeanours so tolerates the teasing she gets for not conforming to majority (her mother’s fault) through occurrences such as mis-read emails, mis-interpretations and going against the grain of out-dated, semi-rural popular belief “girls don’t play football”.

Sometimes this approach, accidental or intended, makes life harder but on the flip-side it makes it a whole lot more entertaining and a tiny bit revolutionary as well – because you don’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks……unless its really important….and not much in life is THAT important.

So goodbye crap week and hello to December.

BTW, On my way home earlier today I passed a woman walking a dog with a rug on its back with the words ‘Hearing dogs for deaf people’. What a brilliant use of canine intelligence – check out their website here.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can support the campaign, check out the site here.

Thanks for reading.

In praise of domestic appliances

My apologies for being offline. Myself and my family have been struck down by the sick bug from hell. Good old winter d and v. It started off with my daughter and then hopped onto each one of us in turn. Of course the tumble dryer decided to pack up at the same time so I was desperately drying bedclothes in the airing cupboard, by the fire and on an old fashioned Victorian dryer suspended in the utility room which was in fact pointless as it is just as cold as outside in that room.

While going through all this a couple of thoughts popped into my head: how did they cope with winter viruses before a good source of heating was invented to keep warm? (in our case a very powerful woodburner); how miserable must it have been to do all this washing before the invention of the washing machine and tumble dryer? To think it was only my Grandmother’s generation (so not very long ago) that had to cope with the mangle and hand-scrubbing is difficult to comprehend – how the hell did they find time to do anything else? Particularly if you have a husband who needs a complete change of clothing everyday because of being outside or doing manual labour (as I do).

Of course you could argue that these technological advancements has just freed us ladies up to pile even more onto our ‘to do’ list. But I still would opt for being busy doing other things than faffing around with a mangle on a daily basis.

While my daughter was being sick (with about 5 minute rest inbetween poor thing) I had her snuggled up under a blanket in front of the fire, then I powered up the tablet and found a The Snowman film on YouTube to help her take her mind off being ill. It worked a treat and she just watched entranced as the story unfolded of a little boy who makes friends with a snowman and goes on a magical journey with him. I had forgotten that the ending is actually quite sad but also poignant, as  he rushes outside to see his snowman the following morning and finds that he has melted away. It is quite symbolic of many things in life, which are enjoyable but too often brief. When my baby boy was ill a couple of days later I showed the film to him but was unsure he would enjoy it being only 2. In fact he loved it and was just as enchanted by it as his sister.

It also made me think of how awful it is to be ill and to have no energy to enjoy life. Children who are terminally ill need escapism as well as medication and treatment, which is why I think the charity Make a Wish is so wonderful. If you can spare a mo check out their website. If you fancy watching the Snowman check out this link on You Tube – it shows the full version complete with an intro from David Bowie – I had no idea he was part of it!

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can donate or support the cause in some way visit their site.

Thanks for reading.

The importance of ESP in cars

My husband is a member of an online community in his industry, He regularly logs on (excuse the pun) to find out the latest views on forestry and arborist equipment as well as join in on the general mumblings and grumblings about either not enough work, too much or pricing. Last night however a whole different topic dominated the community online.

One of the members had reported that his wife and 3 year old boy had been involved in a serious car accident and that his wife had escaped with a broken arm but his toddler was in a coma. He had reported this a few days ago and reading the timeline last night, it was shocking to read the subsequent updates. The hospital had concluded that his child had suffered a severe break in his neck to the extent that he will not be able to breathe unaided. Tears pricked my eyes just imagining the hell that guy is enduring. Life is cruel. What an impossible situation to be put it as a parent. How does a child of  three continue to grow with an iron lung? My husband and then started to talk about it but the horror of it is so unimaginable that I couldn’t bear to think what I would do except “just count to five while standing on a level crossing”. But with the advancement in medical technology what about hope? We are all hoping that things will work out for the family and that the little boy gets the chance of a future.

I then started to think about road safety. When I worked with the police, the statistic that kept increasing in the crime reports was the KSI figures – the numbers of people killed or seriously injured on our roads. It is such a difficult issue to tackle the police almost accepted that this figure would continue to go up and that the best they could do was try to minimise the extent of the increase. It prompted me to look t car safety and euroncap tests. Since 2011 Electronic Stability control (ESP) has been fitted as standard in cars as part of European legislation. The primary aim of this function is to control a skid so that the car goes in the direction of travel the driver is steering towards. It is estimated that ESP reduces the likely-hood of a crash by 25% and is claimed to be the most important tool in road safety after the seat belt. Watching footage of my husband’s car under crash test situation is not a peasant experience and I am keen for him to upgrade to a safer vehicle with ESP as standard and a more resilient chassis with a better safety rating. I will cost but I’d rather pay with money than a child’s life.

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

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Party all night and sleep all day

Apologies for a lack of blog last night. Another pound in the post to Unicef. The reason, to put it bluntly, was because I was busy settling my baby boy to sleep after a busy day out partying with his friends to celebrate his 2nd birthday, which culminated in a pub meal and his lordship spewing all over me and the table!

His timing was impeccable. Enjoy a day at the farm on tractor rides, watching farm shows, and sliding down a toboggan on a big inflatable ring, eat a giant birthday cookie and a load of sandwiches and chips, then  ring it all up at the pub later at the precise moment when the waitress says, “I’m sorry you will have to vacate your table in 15 minutes as this table is booked for another sitting,”. We hadn’t even had a chance to order puddings. Never mind that we had booked the table weeks in advance (the booking alone had two phone calls and a visit pub before getting it confirmed). It also took 45 minutes to get the food to our table, so its not as if it was our  fault it was delayed. I wasn’t informed that we would be restricted on time until we arrived at the pub – a bit too fucking late to do anything about it then. So I am glad my son spewed over their precious table – serves them right for trying to do two big parties in one night.

In fact what is wrong with British restaurants? This isn’t the first time we have had problems with service. The food is either late or below par yet the bill is always pricey. I think eating in is the new going out.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you are able to donate that would be great – check out my page on Unicef’s site here.

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passion v science in motorsport

Just came back from another evening out with hubby (I know we are getting spoilt at the moment while Mum is in the country happy to babysit for us). This time we ventured out to our local cinema to see ‘Rush’ the Ron Howard directed film about the duel between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda. As I have aged, I have found myself less tolerant of observing blood and guts. So when I was watching Niki in agony a he had his lungs pumped of all the crap that had accumulated while he sat in a burning car for a minute, I felt faint and nauseous. I know when I am going to faint when an ice cold feeling falls from the top of my head and I know I need to remove myself from the situation or risk ending up on the floor Its pathetic isn’t it, but unfortunately I cant control it.

Watching the film the two different approaches to racing emerged – passionate drivers and scientific drivers. Looking back over the decades, it is fairly easy to split drivers into these two categories. For example, Prost, Stewart and Schumacher join Lauda in the scientific approach, constantly examining racing engineering to increase competitiveness and matching this with precise and consistent driving. Senna, Mansell and Alesi were drivers who manhandled the car round the track, willing to put their lives on the line and get every last inch of performance out of the car by driving it on the edge. 

Today’s drivers also fall into these categories too, with the scientific ones gaining a reputation for excellent car set-up and passionate drivers providing a spectacle for the fans as they take risks on the track.

There is one driver who I find difficult to place in either camp. Like many fans, everyone has fond memories of the era of F1 they grew up watching. For me it was the nineties and the driver who successfully bridged passion and science was Damon Hill. Contained, determined, focused but with guts and a dry wit.

This picture sums him up well…


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Swiss army knife journalism

Today I had the pleasure of working with a broadcast journalist. I was expecting her to rock up with a cameraman but today she was on her own with a considerable multi-task mission ahead of her. I stood back amazed as she rigged the tripod up, mounted the camera, adjusted the position, checked the frame, checked the lighting with a white piece of paper in front of the lens, checked the sound, put her headphones on, then started the interview. She said to me “the last thing I think of is the question, the set-up takes so long”. Yet she made it look so quick but complicated, buzzing round the camera, pulling levers, pressing buttons, like a little whirlwind before standing to the side of the camera and asking good questions to get some good responses for her film. I was impressed.

The whole time she was with us she was like someone possessed with an objective that none of us were entirely party to. She was entirely tuned in to what she wanted the end product to be and what shots she needed to get the right film clips that she could then string together back in the editing suite.

The best demonstration of this was when she had concluded a one to one interview. Obviously she couldn’t film herself listening to the interviewee and she needed some shots of this. So, to my amazement she turned the camera to a chair n the room, asked me to sit on it so that she could get the focus right. Once sorted she then sat in the chair whizzed her make-up bag out of her rucksack, shoved a ton of make-up on using the reflection in the camera lens as a mirror and then started nodding to herself in front of the camera, as if she was nodding in acknowledgement to what someone had said, except that someone was a big black motionless camera. To us she looked nuts, “It will all become clear once you see the film” she said.

Later on she did a ‘summing up’ piece to camera, which involved even more make-up and repeating the same sentence several times with me pressing the record button every time she was ready. I am looking forward to seeing the end result and how all her bizarre actions make complete sense once edited. I asked her about her journalism career and she said she enjoyed this job the most as she identifies the story, researches it, films, it and edits it for production. A true journalist and a true professional.

There were times though when she needed help. For example at one point, when interviewing my boss, she asked me to hold the boom mic to get the best sound. This involved me kneeling down next to his lap and holding the mic ‘just below his knee’ sat in his office like that in front of a large window for all the world to see, was a very comical and compromising position.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can donate to the campaign that would be great – visit my fundraising page here.

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Wish your school was here

Yesterday I received an email that made me growl. It isn’t often that this happens but I couldn’t help releasing a “grrrr”. The acting head-teacher of my daughter’s school has decided to fine us for going on holiday during term-time. We are being made an example of.

We have never previously requested time off in term-time but my father wanted to treat us to the holiday of a lifetime and term-time was the only time it could happen. t was booked in January and then we found out about the news legislation on fines a few months later. Had we known the fine was going to come into effect we wouldn’t have booked the holiday.

Quite what fining us will hope to achieve is baffling considering we had never previously holidayed in term-time. The cost, $120 is enough to cover  food shop for a family of four for over a week, so it is not easy to dismiss. I put up a fight arguing that the time we booked was several months prior to when he new legislation was made public – so it is not as if we made an informed decision.

While away we will be visiting Haiti and Jamaica and my daughter will get the chance to meet local schoolchildren and share experiences on culture and schooling. There is bucketloads of educational value in these experiences so I don’t understand the logic.

Maybe the Head is just a little bit jealous……I will make sure we send her a postcard.

I am blogging every day for Unicef. Check out my fundraising page here.

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Too young for arthritis

I discovered today that a member of our family has arthritis, aged 10. This is very difficult to comprehend not only because she is a child but because she is one of the most active children I know. She loves climbing, swimming in the sea, camping and the great outdoors, so it is an even greater tragedy that she has a problem that will hamper all the things she loves to do.

She first had it as a baby, I didn’t know this was possible. Her parents are obviously distraught and I desperately want to see them, despite the many miles they live from us, just to give them support and for their daughter and mine to play just like they used to show that life goes on.

I visited the website Arthritis Care and it has some really good information and advice for children and parents as well as films and articles about people who have been diagnosed in their toddler years, in primary school and in their teens. The site says that it is important children lead an active life and that parents aren’t too overprotective, Swimming is a particularly good exercise for kids as well as adults and the elderly as it helps to keep the joints moving with little or no stress on the joints. I know from experience of a wonky shoulder and collarbone that swimming helps to free off the stiffness that accumulates particularly as the weather gets colder.

However despite all this positive advice and optimism, it is unfair that a chid should have to grow up with enduring arthritic pain and I hope for my relative’s sake that it is both mild, manageable and infrequent so that she can continue being the fun-loving outdoorsy girl that she is.

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef. If you can help with the campaign visit my Unicef page.

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GPs’ patience wears thin with Jeremy Hunt MP’s insane policies

If you stop moving you atrophy. So every week I try to swim and exercise as much of my body as possible with a view to preventing arthritis. This morning I went to my powerhoop class and my skeleton was positively creaking under the strain of exercise. I felt like such a granny and I am still in my 30s so God knows what I will be like in my 60s.

I went to the Doctors to have my wonky coil removed and it  turns out that my womb is slightly wonky too – great! So I will have a scan to see what is preventing the coil from sitting correctly. While I was having the delightful experience of an internal examination (I have lost count of how many doctors, nurses and midwives have investigated that region over the years), we started to talk politics and the crazy policies that Jeremy Hunt and his department are devising. My GP said that (I quote), “he will kill off the primary care service”. Female GPs will become a thing of the past as the Government demand evening and weekend surgery opening hours. “I already work a 60 hour week and I have 2 children, where am I supposed to find the capacity for even more working hours?”. In addition to an all male GP service, the quality of service will rapidly diminish, the trainee GP who was in with the consultation said, “They are proposing that anyone under 75 should only have 5 minutes with their doctor, that is just dangerous – how are we supposed to diagnose accurately based on discusson and examination that is 5 minutes long?”. They then mentioned how bureaucracy in the NHS had worsened since then change in Government. Sounds like they are putting form-filling ahead of patient consultation – Makes sense doesn’t it? Almost as much sense as publicly declaring GP’s salaries – I am at a loss as to how that is for the public benefit.

My doctor also said that applications to become a GP had gone down by a third in the past year, which she put down to the consequences of Government changes.

The doctors then mused as to what they would do if Jeremy Hunt was on their list of patients, “Well I’d strike him off”, they said.

“He is bound to have a private doctor though”. They added.

So who is in the best position to advise on the future of GP surgeries? The former MP for Culture, Media and Sport or two practicing Doctors with over 30 years experience between them in healthcare working 60 – 80 hours per week? If you think the Tory Government could do better with their healthcare policies – sign this petition now.

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