Getting the Government to quit

The apathy over climate change reflects the apathy that used to exist over wearing seatbelts in a car, smoking, HIV and drink driving, to name but a few. While all these examples impact on personal health and safety, climate change is about global health. Reports after reports by scientists passed to Governments show our C02 emissions continue to climb to harmful levels causing more freakish weather and an environment that is becoming increasingly difficult to live in for a lot of people.

The poorest are the first to suffer, which is probably why the apathy is so severe because they rely on charities to give them a voice and power. By the time it hits the people who have the ability to do something about it, it will be too late.

In September this year Europe’s leaders will gather to discuss global issues, yet climate change is not top of the agenda and charities such as Oxfam are lobbying hard to get leaders not only discussing this life-saving issue but also committing to a crackdown on C02 emissions.

Climate change is the most important issue to address to help people in poverty and to protect our children’s future. Yet it is the least talked about and the UK media seem uninterested in giving it coverage, assisted by the sneers of personalities like Clarkson and the vanity of people driving big 4×4 vehicles on road.

It takes less than a minute to lobby the Government so do so now here.

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The right kind of schools

I have often praised Channel Four for their documentaries, but this latest one is another example of incredibly watchable TV. Mr Drew’s School for Boys shows the worst of pupil behaviour can be tackled with the most incredible patience and willingness to seek the best for the boys.

It got me thinking that one of the best qualities you can have as a teacher is patience, but I’m not sure this is the same quality needed for good parenting.

The next programme was about a school that was considered to be the last chance saloon for boys who had been excluded from mainstream education, many suffering from ADHD. I particularly enjoyed the part of the programme where horses were being used to help with behaviour issues. Animals are non-judgmental and therefore the boys didn’t feel threatened and seemed to relax a little and be happier in their own skin.

In some cases, certainly at Mr Drew’s school, the boys weren’t getting enough sleep. Sleep is so intrinsically linked with behaviour, I know it through my own experience and that is why I am trying to get to bed before 11pm….

Ī will get there…..

But just before I go, the case of the teacher who as stabbed to death by a pupil months before she was due to retire, is an example of why children’s behaviour is so important for their own lives and for the lives of everyone else and society.

That said, sleep beckons.

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A decade of diligence

It is our 10th wedding anniversary this Thursday and I am eagerly awaiting a rare weekend away as my mum and stepdad will be moving on to take care of the children while we move out to take care of each other for a little while (the dogs will also go on holiday to a couple who do not have children). There are various locations to choose from, Venice, Rome, Paris. But for those who are on a smaller budget but lucky enough to have a ‘bolthole’ (caravan, campervan, boat) we will be spending the weekend cocooned in sleeping bags on our incredibly small boat with a keel separating us.

It is apparently going to be very cold this weekend so I am not optimistic as to how much sleep we will get. We are however going to be away for 2 nights and after planting the seed of thought in my husband’s brain along the lines of ‘you must be joking if I am going to freeze my tits off for 2 nights in open water to mark the 10 year milestone…. don’t we deserve at least one night of slightly more luxury i.e a bed) he has promised me ‘a surprise night’ and one night within a jetty distance of a cosy marina with all the facilities. That’s more like it. As with most guys, you have to plant the seed and then watch it grow in their minds until it flourishes to become their unique idea – the same skills to be a wife are probably applicable to teachers and mothers. This is why I often accidentally call my husband by my baby boy’s name and vice versa. Although I was particularly worried at what my subconscious was up to, when I nearly called my boss my baby boy’s name, thankfully only his PA heard it and saw the funny side.

I think I must put boys all in one category in my neuron filing system with the following prompts: ‘handle with caution’, ‘give firm consistent encouragement’, ‘praise frequently’ and ‘choose your battles’ but in all cases stick to your guns until they come round to your way of thinking – it will just be re-badged as theirs.

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Olympic hopes in a day trip

There are 2 sides to every coin, heads and tails, this can be likened to the places where we live – some places are on the up and make you feel good while others are on a downward spiral and make you feel rather depressed. But what is heartening for our future society is a third type of place to live – a place that is aspirational and open to all to join the ride. This is a place that used to be down and out but that didn’t stop the people living there from taking pride in where they lived, they just needed some help. I am talking about urban regeneration, where people from all sections of society are given the opportunity to enjoy where they live thanks to a better landscape, town planning, business, education, jobs and services. The right to have opportunities, to be respected for your differences and for those to be celebrated. Unlike the areas reserved for the upper middle class and upper class, these are areas that are socially inclusive and offer an insight to what lies ahead for future generations.

The best example of this is East London and the legacy of the 2012 Olympic Park. I had the pleasure of taking my children to this park today and we walked from the velodrome, to the Olympic stadium and swimming pool. Along the route both children had acres of beautiful landscaped grounds to cycle and run around in, insightful and dynamic play areas that made use of nature to entertain the children (such as pumps of water, a movable dam play system, climbing walls and running tracks). The opportunity to have a go n the velodrome or the swimming pool and take part in activities and events. For adults and OAPs, the chance to relax in beautiful surroundings and enjoy green space and sky while sipping tea, coffee at one of the many cafés housed in wooden contemporary architecture built in sympathy of the surrounding environment.

As you walked around you got a sense of optimism for the future and could see how the area will continue to flourish as the newly planted borders, shrubs and trees have done in the year or so since the Olympics. There was also a trust respected by the visiting public and upheld by the local community that the area would be safeguarded from anything that would threaten to devalue it. I saw no evidence of vandalism , littering or mindless damage. I also saw no signs saying ‘don’t touch’ or ‘keep off the grass’ or ‘no dogs’ or ‘no ball games’. Its as if in giving people freedom to enjoy such a space they in turn are doing their best to look after it. I just hope that in 10 years time it will continue to have the feel good factor and show promising progress for the future and that all sections of society continue to take pleasure from it.

Because it is a blueprint for what is possible when society works together and wouldn’t it be great if this could be replicated in other cities too?

I am blogging every day to raise money for UNICEF – support the campaign here.

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Putting a paw down

I am no dog behaviourist, but I think my once straight-laced, best in class, best in show little Jack Russell is staging a protest for she has become a rebel.

I don’t tolerate bad behaviour in dogs. I confess I frown at people who think it is ok for a dog to snatch food out of children’s hands, jump on furniture and loo on the path. As much as I enjoyed the film Marley and me, I believe Marley could have been better behaved if his owners had been firmer with him.

Our JR is now in her 10th year, but when she was a puppy, I recall turning up for the first training class in our local village hall and being told by the teacher, ‘you can’t teach a Jack Russell to be obedient, they are too free-spirited and strong-willed’. In saying this she had thrown down the gauntlet and I was determined to prove that my JR could be obedient and even be the most obedient. I had tough competition, particularly from the collie who had herself so firmly wrapped around her owners left leg in heel work that she looked like some kind of trouser accessory. In the command for ‘down stay’ a spaniel laid so flat and remained down for so long that she became the dog to beat. The majority of the owners could traipse around the perimeter of the hall with their backs nice and straight as their hounds bobbed up and down in unison against their legs. Meanwhile I was almost bent double trying to ensure the treat used for bribery was close enough to my JR’s nose to keep her motivated. There are cats that are bigger than my JR so I did develop back pain.

She was a tease. In down-stay, she would remain down until you had reached the other side of the hall and then she would decide to lift her bottom up, for no apparent reason. But in sit stay she was the quickest to get her bum down,mainly because she was closer to the ground than the rest of the dogs. It was this skill that secured her bonio prize at the Christmas party during a ‘sit stay’ version of musical statues.

The titbits to motivate her had to be pure meat, dog food versions just wouldn’t cut the mustard, they would be sniffed at and then ignored. But this method did work and she managed to come third in the class at the end of term (of course the collie won).

But no sooner had the ink dried on her certificate, she started to develop selective hearing, almost as if she would weigh up the pros and cons of obeying each command and only chose o obey when it suited her. For example, she will only obey the ‘sit stay’ command if she is in the village hall where we did the training. She certainly won’t do it if the ground is too wet or muddy.

She has tolerated the arrival of children and has had to increase her tolerance levels since baby boy arrived, as he has a tendency to cuddle her a little too vigorously. So I think this recent lapse in behaviour is something to do with demanding attention in a crowded house. Today was particularly bad. This morning I found her surrounded by chocolate wrappers that she had extracted from my handbag. This was chocolate leftover from a girly night at the cinema yesterday and she polished off the lot. As she sat looking at me on the dog bed she was wearing an expression that mixed sheepish with satisfaction. Later on in the dog walk she rolled in fox mess and then found baby boy’s sultana box in my bag (which was deep in the recesses so she must have really rooted around for it) and guzzled the whole lot. Even though I had reprimanded her in the morning she looked at me defiantly. If she was human she would be a teenage girl with a hoodie chewing gum and lighting up a fag while telling me what her next ‘tat’ was going to look like.

To add to the day of doggy issues, both her and her daughter became fascinated with the engine compartment of my husband’s transit van suspecting some rodent had nested there. They were so keen to flush it out that they jumped into the engine from underneath. My husband popped the hood to see what was going on and found two jack Russells staring at him near the dipstick. He ill-advisedly encouraged them to do some further investigation resulting in the daughter JR getting stuck. In order to release her he had to undo some of the engine parts.

My vet once said that JR’s are a magnet for trouble and that is true, it is also what makes them so endearing (although sometimes I say this through gritted teeth).

I am blogging every day for UNICEF – read more about the campaign here.

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The Rolls Royce of timewasters

Life is precious and in an ideal world, we would all like to make every minute count. But life is also a maze with lots of dead- ends and U-turns and times when a lot was sacrificed for little achievement. That feeling of achievement or lack of can make the difference between a bad day or a good day at work. On a minor level, failure is not getting to the bottom of the to do list. On a major level it is being in the position of someone like John Kerry who, after nine months of negotiators, has failed to engineer a framework of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Having looked at the media coverage, I get the impression peace will never be possible under Netanyahu. The whole process needs to learn from the Northern Ireland experience. In fact John Kerry needs to have a chat with Mo Mowlam. They need to stop the talk of each sore being terrorists as an excuse for not continuing. A lot of forgiveness of Sinn Fein and Unionist terrorism was cast to history for the benefit of future generations. That is what Netanyahu needs to think about, the future, rather than vengeance.

On the back of a fairly depressing news broadcast about conflict around the world, I next watched a documentary about Rolls Royce and the number of man hours and investment they channel into achieving ‘perfection’ for people with more money than sense. The average car costs 200k and options tend to be from 50k onwards, such as hampers made out of platinum to the tune of 20k. Of course the hamper will never be used, but apparently that’s not the point. A special project to embed diamonds into interior panelling hoes wrong when the RR quality control team decide it is not good enough. So the silversmith then casts aside his 350 hours spent on the project to start from scratch. Meanwhile the ‘front of house’ manager at RR scans the grounds surrounding the factory to check the grass is the right level and that the trees are the right shape. While I acknowledge it must be a privilege to work for such an esteemed brand, I do not envy the amount of time the entire staff spend on meaningless crape for people who cannot think of better ways to spend their money. 200k alone on a car is ostentatious to say the least but the average RR owner has 7 cars – and that is the best they can do with their disposable income. What a monumental waste of money.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF to raise money for the charity. For every missed day of blogging I pay a pound. As I missed last night due to internet connection problems, another pound goes in the pot. Read more about the campaign here.

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The average person in the UK consumes 23 spoonful’s of sugar and that is before they have consumed any fruit juice, according to Aussie TV presenter, Sarah Wilson, who has launched a book about quitting sugar for life (gulp).

Sarah argues that since the 60s it has become increasingly easier and cheaper for food manufacturers to use sugar, which is why more and more f is are eating way more than our RDA. Most of the time we don’t even know we are consuming it. So what is so bad about sugar Sarah takes human evolution back to when we were a bunch of cables scavenging the land for food. Rarely we would come across a berry and when we did, we would gorge on it, but that would be that for the next few months. The key damaging ingredient in sugar is fructose. Because of our history of lack of berry foraging, our bodies are not designed to take on too much fructose, it is hard for the body to breakdown so it is stored as fat. In addition to affecting obesity figures, Sarah says that there is scientific evidence that some diseases that have seen an increase over the past few decades are linked to too much sugar in our diets.

As I was listening to her interview, I began to think about whether I could try this diet, to les a little  it more weight, but, more importantly experience the health benefits. I live sugar and am probably addicted to it. Sarah has ‘quit sugar for life’ (title of her book) and provides recipes and healthier sugar alternatives to attempt.

I am tempted to give it a go, but this is the sugar mountain I have to face…..

Today’s menu for Tom:

1 coffee with sugar

2 Satsuma

3 slices of honey and seed bread

1 small bag of mini party ring biscuits

1 milkybar

1 beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower and Marmite toastie (no I am not pregnant)

A few roasted broad beans (might as well have just sucked on some sea salt)

2 unashamedly big bowls of rhubarb crumble (with rhubarb roasted Ina ton of sugar topped with buttery sugary crumble)

I might have sneaked some Easter chocolate off the kids too.

So, do you fancy my chances cutting out sugar?

How about I get this book when its out on the 8th May and I will tell you how I get on?

I am blogging every day for UNICEF. Read about my campaign here.

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the people’s fashionista

I am a big fan of social enterprises, those that benefit other people and support fair trade as well as the bottom line.

I received some combat trousers from Next the other day and was shocked at how appallingly made they were. The stitching was all jagged and frayed and the material was flimsy to say the least, you could almost picture the sweat shop that it came from somewhere in Asia. When you hear on the news that they are making record-breaking profits, you have to wonder about their profit margins.

People Tree is a company that offers fair trade fashion. It is obviously more expensive than Next but the cotton it uses is thicker and softer, the quality vastly superior and their ethical credentials excellent. Their catalogues feature pictures of the people in India who make the clothing and how People Tree are ensuring they get a fair deal and work in good conditions. It is not just marketing spiel, they really do care. However, their designs are just not for me. I have tried to wear a few of their dresses and they just make me feel fat and old – never a good combo. So I tend to stick to their two piece sets as I find these more flattering. I wish they did shoes, as I have yet to find a good fair trade shoe label.

Children’s clothing is slightly better with the range of fair trade brands, with Frugi being my favourite. From time to time Marks and Spencer sell products using Fair trade cotton, but this doesn’t extend across their range.

I think fashion still has a long way to go on ethical trading, which is why I am more comfortable hunting for items in charity shops than flicking through the sale rail of a high street brand.

Kate Middleton has been commended for supporting the British high street but I would like to see her using her profile to raise awareness of fair trade and wear brands that promote the social enterprise business model. She would be doing far more good this way – Baby George should be dressed ethically too.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF – cluck here if you can support the campaign.

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The Ladies Room

If I was to consolidate all of my clubbing experiences through my teens and early twenties into a short film aired in the ladies toilets of a nightclub, then it wouldnt be too dissimilar to the storyline of ‘The Powder Room’, a British film a million miles away from Working Title scmultz. A girly flick with grit. It works because the ladies room of nightclubs across the country re-enact mini soap operas every weekend. Of course the same concept wouldnt work in the men’s urinals, although it may be abit of an eye opener as to what dialogue, if any, is exchanged between guys.

Watching this film was almost like a fond trip down memory lane, with those memories significantly exaggerated and dramatised. It covers pretty much every scenario a woman may find herself in at a British nightclub. All except the ease of access to the loos. Wherever I went there was always a huge queue and not enough time to hang around like it was some kind of seedierversion of a coffee shop, where you might like to hang and chat. I cant recall ever spending longer than 10 minutes in the ladies, I  favour of hollering at eachother in the club. You couldn’t seek the solace of a smoking area because smoking was allowed everywhere, including in the loos.

The film at times made me hanker for my clubbing days but in the main I am glad that time is behind me. I watched it with one eye on memories of my youth and one eye on what may lie in store for my daughter and what choices she will make when put in similar scenarios. I hate to think that she would be anything like me, if she is I hope she has the luck and resilience yo go with it.

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Moving on up

Time with the family is often fraught over the holidays because my husband and I are like our 2 Jack Russels. Some times we are quite happy to share a bed together, other times we want to rip each other’s throats out. We do actually growl at each other in frustration over disagreements.

We disagree a lot. Disagreements often begin as follows, hubby has a certain way of thinking about something. I have an alternative approach. Hubby doesn’t do alternative approaches, it is his way or the highway. If you try and suggest a different way he discounts it immediately without listening to what you have to say. In the majority of cases if it is not similar to his opinion then he is not interested. There are two ways of dealing with this mentality, accept or fight. On the whole I fight and eventually get my voice heard.

Unfortunately for my daughter, she is having to figure out how to work with her Dad when he will not listen to her opinion. Gone are the days when she w’s a toddler and all my husband had o donnas say ‘no’. Now she has her own voice, independent thinking and views that are often contrary to her Dad’s. So very often I am caught as the piggy in the middle, trying to encourage my hubby to listen p his daughter more and encourage my daughter to reason with her Dad better by recognising what he is asking her to do, showing that she respects him but at the same time voicing her opinion. My husband just starts shouting if he feels he isn’t being heard so this ‘UN peacekeeping’ process can be quote exhausting.

But I am hoping that my daughter is observing that behaviour like this is not to be perpetuated through submission. My Mum calls me confrontational but she is in a situation where my stepdad only has to say jump and she says ‘how high’.

Things need to move on.

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