House but where’s the garden? 

Today we managed to stay one step Ahead of the British weather. As Brits we are very proud of the fact that despite the weather being mostly wet this Sunday, we managed to squeeze in a social BBQ in our garden late afternoon when the sun decided to make an appearance. At about 5pm it was so sunny (after a day of cloud and rain) that we almost felt a tan coming on. It was a case of buy all the kit for the BBQ then text friends nearer the time as soon as the forecast showed signs of clearing.

After a dismal wet midday, we were sipping beer and wine, enjoying a charcoaled meat feast with the children eating as much as they like in between bouncing on the trampoline (although not necessarily in that order) followed by ice cream, chocolate sauce for the kids and our friend’s Ferrero Roche cheesecake for the grown up kids. 

Times like these when you love having children and friends – no moaning, whining or tears – just pleasure. It makes life’s lows a little easier to bear. It also made me realise the importance of outside space, particularly for children and how not enough families have access to a decent bit of green. 

We past some new build houses earlier today, some of them had postage stamp gardens and some had nothing at all. I know land is scarce but do house builders really have to be so stingy with gardens? The next generation need to have easy access to the outside, more so than previous generations with the overwhelming temptation to scare at screens all day.

There is much talk of providing homes for people but what about gardens, parks and leisure space too? 

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

calming an irritable bitch (dog)

Aunt Irma is thinking about paying a visit, I can tell because I am feeling pent up, bordering on aggressive, have spots appearing and feel like raiding the biscuit tin. Not good.

I now have an inkling as to what my JR was going through last week with all her growling and picking fights with her mum, and my husband. I am desperate to keep her rather than re-home because of behavioural issues. In a way I can relate to her and know it’s not her fault, it just the damn hormone fluctuations us bitches have to ride through.

On the advice of the dog behaviourist, last time we had this spell I used a calming collar which gives off the smell of a lactating bitch (although we can’t smell it). When I went to the pet food store today they had run out of the collars but they did have the spray. It basically comes in an eau de toilette bottle and a few squirts around dog bedding/ car etc helps to calm nerves. So I squirted some of this on their dog beds and you could tell they had noticed from all the sniffing my two JRs were doing soon after.

Whether it will work only time will tell – I just wish they did a version for humans – but maybe with a different smell to milky boobs…..eurgh! Maybe Jo Malone should do some research into it – the right product would fly off the shelves.

This blog is for UNICEF, thanks for reading. 

How nice should nice be? 

Just came back from drinks with a friend of mine who is going through a divorce and is experiencing all the typical challenges faced by a Mum of 3 children but with the added complications of financial and legal battles and a poorly elderly mother to look after too. She is one of the nicest people I know and you can see why, growing up, she had many friends and continues to be liked by so many. 

I guess the key thing is she doesn’t divide opinion, she has opinions but manages to keep them without provoking others and tolerating the nuances of others too.

I respect her and like her because I am not like that. I am sociable and I like talking to people but I also feel sometimes I am too opinionated. Yet when I try and tone myself down I feel I am not being honest to myself. There is an age that everyone reaches when you just say ‘take me or leave me’…’if you don’t like it tough’. I think this is meant to kick in later on in life when you become more cantankerous, say in your 70s. For me, it’s happening in my mid thirties. What is it going to be like when I am older……if my blood pressure hasn’t killed me by then. 

I am not as nice as my nicest friends and I regret that. This makes me wonder about my ambition to be a social worker, what are the best qualities and personality traits for the role? I don’t want to be square pegging a round hole but I really want to help children too. 

All will be revealed in 2 weeks time when I get the results of my application…I shall leave it to fate – my own personal and reliable religion.

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

Digging up the hormones

Enjoyed an indulgent little shop in my nearest Oxfam today during my lunch break. My daughter is growing at the rate of knots and after a mass clear out of clothes she had suddenly and significantly grown out of, I realised her summer wardrobe was a bit sparse. So for £16 I managed to buy her 3 t shirts, a shorts play suit and a lightweight jumper plus a book that I knew she would love and a policemans hat for baby boy so he got something too. This would have been the cost of one item in a high street shop – I am definitely a signed up member of the charity shop appreciation society.

Changing the subject, I am still trying to sort out the issue with my growly dog. Over the weekend they were a nightmare constantly fighting. So I am going to get them both spayed as soon as they are able to (you have to wait 3 months after a season). This I am told will help with hormone management. Hopefully my grumpy dog will have a better handle of her emotions after the procedure. 

Maybe I should think about it too….

This blog is for UNICEF.

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Tits up Tory policies announced by Queenie

Not too sure what to think of the bills in the Queens speech today. From a personal point of view 30 hours of free childcare will be great but this should be means tested. Why, in a period of ‘austerity’, are they handing out free childcare regardless of earnings? I am also worried about the entitlement for families where one partner doesn’t work – as they insist this new entitlement is only for couples who both work – what about children who need the stimulation of pre-school because they don’t get help at home? Or mothers who aren’t working but would benefit from their child spending some time in pre-school. It’s a narrow minded and ignorant approach to a policy designed to satisfy the chattering middle classes – it’s bullshit.

Don’t even get me started on the human rights bill – glad they left that out of Queenies speech as it quite rightly will receive a lot of opposition.

I am not sure what is trying to be achieved with regional adoption agencies – if it speeds up the process of adoption then great but still based on sound decisions by social workers, not private companies. I would be interested to hear from a social worker on whether this is a good move or not.

Housing Assiciation houses being sold off. Yeah right they will replace them ….and I once thought about becoming a nun…..have they not learnt anything from the Thatcher days?

Giving local authorities 100% power over permission for wind farms – what local authority will ever give such an initiative approval under the pressures of the NIMBYs – bye bye wind farms. Bye bye green energy. 

As you can tell still annoyed about spending my thirties under the Torys, am trying my best to find something they might be doing right – HS2 rail link to the West Midlands to get people out of London fast? 

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

Disadvantaged learners – the solution?

I picked up some interesting information from a Sutton Trust report on schools and how they support able children and gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds – some of the key findings are:

The research took into account student’s own reports of the amounts of homework being done and found a very strong relationship with success. Students who reported spending 2-3 hours daily on homework in Year 11were nine times more likely to get three A-levels than those who did no regular homework. The report suggests this is a good measure as it is likely to reflect not just student motivation, study skills and independence, but also the value schools put on encouraging students to work at home and parental attitudes and support.

Both these reports should encourage schools and school consortia or trusts to reflect on how effectively they assess the potential of all their students, but especially the most able students from disadvantaged backgrounds; how they subsequently challenge them appropriately through learning and extra-curricular activities; and how they provide feedback and support in order that they can make further progress. The Sutton Trust report argues that policy could also ensure schools have the extra support they need (through for example ‘enrichment vouchers’) to provide the additional extra-curricular and cultural activities that disadvantaged yet able students, particularly boys, need.

Bright but disadvantaged students obtained significantly better GCSE results when they had engaged in quality out of school academic enrichment activities such as educational outings or reading at home. Students who reported a more positive experience of secondary school also had better examination results. This better experience might be in terms of (a) a high emphasis on learning (b) the head teacher being around and involved in the school’s activities (c) students feeling valued, and (d) relationships between students and teachers that they saw as trusting, respectful and fair.

In summary children need better support in the transition between primary and secondary schools and extra curricular work is key to supporting children’s development so that they can realise full potential. All this requires resource and ££££ – tricky with a Givernment hell bent on further cuts.

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

bikers need to do this

Next week is Isle of Man TT time. Can’t wait to record all the coverage and get a dose of high-speed thrills from the in-board cameras. I remember speaking to an ex rally driver about someone he met at Goodwood Festival of Speed. He was a bike racer although he had never heard of the name until now. When he saw the things this guy had achieved on a bike he put TT racers on a whole different level to other types of Motorsport. He believes Formula One drivers are scientists, as it is all about precision and that rally drivers are the type who like to be on the edge, always on the brink of it. But then he admits that TT racers put a whole new category of mentality in Motorsport……….they are nuts! The biker he met at Goodwood was John McGuiness, a modest and unassuming man but the guy with the biggest cajones in the paddock. 

You only have to see the pictures of bikes within millimetres of stone walls to see what an insane amount of guts these guys (and girls) have. 

When it goes wrong, it is tragic. Racer Simon Andrews died in the TT warm-up race, the North-West this time last year. His family have set-up a charity in his name to help injured riders. A single by Kodiak Jack has been released to raise money for the charity – anyone who rides should listen to this and download it here.

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

a bad day at sea is better than…..

They say, better a bad day at sea than a good day at school/work etc.

It was my daughter’s first time sailing a dinghy and we put her out on her own in an optimist – this brilliant sturdy bathtub of a boat is a little stable cocoon, keeping young sailors safe yet still travelling well when wind catches the sail. She did brilliantly, tacking from my husband in a laser to me, baby boy and the 2 dogs in a tender. There were tears of frustration and a couple of moments with a sore head from the beam. But it all ended with a willingness to get back on the water again. As I type hubby and daughter are reading the RYA childrens guide to sailing for the bedtime read. Baby boy passed out as soon as we got back, having been out patiently on the water watching daddy and sister. 

It was by no mans idyllic however. As our first attempt at hiring sailing club boats, it took the best part of an hour and a half to locate all the masts, centreboards, helms etc and marry them up with the right boats. Meanwhile I kept the two dogs amused and kept feeding baby boy who claimed he was ‘starving’ every 5 seconds. 

I then quickly learnt how to operate the outboard on the tender before the others set sail and felt too responsible when I noticed baby boy didn’t have his life jacket on (we had left them at the wetsuit shop). I waited on idle but the tide kept pushing me towards the moored boats. I kept turning, trying to keep an eye on my daughter while stopping my baby boy wrapping the dog lead round his throat. At the precise point my hubby shouted at me to retrieve my daughter when her sails were flapping, the dogs decided to have a fight. Outboard, dogs, baby boy and daughter in a dinghy were just a little bit too much to sort out. When we got her sorted, my hubby took of in the Laser then the beam came off the mast and promptly fell into the sea (he retrieved it). 

He then had a good session while I helped my daughter wash her boat down and it reminded me of all the time and energy my parents spent helping me as a child at horse competitions. Despite the stress, you live for the moments when it all goes to plan and those moments are worth waiting for….when they eventually happen!

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

Older eyes…….but designer

Had an eyesight test today, first one in 7 years. Thought I only used them for VDU use and work kindly gave me a voucher to get checked out for free at spec savers. It also gave me money off new specs provided they were for VDU use only but turns out I am long-sighted. I found it very frustrating not to be able to see letters I used to be able to decipher – another sign of getting old.

When it came to choosing the specs I started off at the budget end and within 2 minutes was up in the designer end costing ££££. But they were so much more comfortable and made me look more of a Mad Men style secretary than an old school clerk with heaving bosoms and a chain attached. I must admit there is something satisfying about having a designer name written down the arms – why I don’t know but it makes a difference – pathetic isn’t it. They should do Similar mock designer writing on the budget ones and see if that makes more sales. I found myself wanting to investigate the box they come in too – I am the sort of person that is as much into the packaging and wrapping as I am in the product (a marketeers dream – they saw me coming).

These new specs will have to be worn when I read and drive as well as look at a computer screen so I have to feel comfortable in them as I will be wearing them most of the time. 

I wonder if they will make me look more intelligent too……it all helps.

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading. 

Growing up …

My son is very much in touch with his feminine side, with an older sister. When watching the TV ads, we heard him say “I can have that when I’m a girl”. I love the idea that you start off a boy and then grow into a girl, his older sibling is a girl, so of course he believes that will eventually happen to him.

I used to think when I was younger that as you grow up suddenly a switch is flicked and you become a mature adult with grown up thoughts. Life would be so much easier this way.

Thing is I am still waiting for that switch to be flicked and constantly have to cajole my mind to be grown-up – realistically I was grown up by the age of 17 – the rest is just experience and hard knocks.

I have tried not to become affected over the years, as some can be, of trying to be someone you are not. I dont give a jot about social status, what car I drive, what house we live in and who our friends are – people who care too much about these things aren’t being true to themselves. 

For a girl I probably have a bit too much testosterone in my body (apparently testosterone levels are abnormal in a woman if your 2nd toe is slightly taller than your big toe – mine certainly is. I was once described as an oddball, which I like because I take pride in oddness and admire it in other people (providing the odd is natural as opposed to under the influence).

What I gave discovered growing up Is that there is no such thing as a ‘normal person’, just people attempting to slot into whichever box they feel comfortable in.

I’m sure there us a box for me somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet.

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading.