A Bed of grass

I was going to blog last night, but like some ‘vexed’ heroine from a Jane Austen novel I passed out way before my bedtime, but not on an antique chaise longue. I awoke at 1am still fully clothed and the curtains wide open letting the full moon-shine straight into the bedroom. Like a baby all put of routine, i got up, got changed managed to sleep for another hour or so and then by 3am i couldnt silence my churning thoughts any longer and retreated to a cup of tea and a good book.  I then returned to bed at 4am. As a result i feel jet-lagged, or slightly hungover but with the exotic holiday or the enjoyment of a drunken stupor, removed from the equation. I cant even turn to chocolate for a quick fix as I am on the ‘I quit sugar’ diet.

So there isnt much ‘in me’ to blog about today except my other ‘go to’ – horses.

Like many working Mums who are ‘horsey’, riding is a luxury, there is never enough time or the ‘right time’ to disappear on your own for a few hours to faff with a horse (because horses require a lot of faffing), a bit like motorbikes. So i just like to be around them (also a bit like motorbikes). I help to look after some horses near me in exchange for enjoying the odd ride. When i turned up today i notice one of the horses had a nasty case of sweet itch and a sore where his fly mask had been rubbing. So jumped at the chance to play horsey nurse (i am still about 8 really). So i get him in next to a haynet, rummage in the cupboard for lotions and potions, flick on the kettle for hot water and set to with his mane, pulling and trimming and fussing. He isnt too sure but lets me do it anyway with the odd irritated head flick every now and then, sometimes he turns his neck round me to have a cuddle. Thats what i love about horses, they all have their own unique personalities, like dogs. The key is to know how to treat them according to their sensitivities.

Like a horse i used to ride who could sense the vet had arrived even before he saw him. One time the vet turned up to give him an injection in his hock. I was in his stable and the horse was relaxed munching on hay. Then he heard a car arrive and the vet got out. The hay he was munching froze mid chomp and his ears stood up like they were on sentry duty. He was a big horse and the vet wasnt relishing the deed of inserting sedative into his neck but he managed it. As the horse got sleepy some of jis body weight started o rest on my arm but i couldnt move while the vet was injecting for fear of waking him up. There have been cases when vets have accidentally syringed themselves when a horse has moved and i didnt want that to happen.

Sadly the injection didnt work and the horse is enjoying retirement rather than motoring round the countryside, he is lucky he lives in a home where they are happy to see a horse enjoy just being a horse, hanging out in the field, without any purpose for humans accept to keep the grass down – which he does very well. I wish life was that simple – not seeking new grass, just keeping the existing grass in check.

This blog is for Unicef. Thanks for reading.

Didis and dodos

Every now and then you come across a person who fits their stereotype as neatly as a white upper middle class conservative. It was at a country club, surprise, surprise.

I don’t frequent country clubs, I neither have the budget nor the inclination, but, as most of my life experiences have come about, I was offered a freebie visit through a family friend who happened to be going with her friend ‘Didi’ after school. As it turned out Didi had a daughter the same age as my friend’s daughter and a boy the same age as my own daughter. I met Didi soaking wet in a swimming costume with a frill around her hips (which tend to be worn strangely by apple shaped women who wear it at an attempt to detract attention away from the bottom and thigh area when in fact they may as well have a sign pointing to below the hip saying ‘look here’). But don’t let the cutesy costume fool you from the Didis of this world, one look at that her steely glaze with unflinching direct eye contact told me that:

A) she probably rides horses

B) most likely to have been privately educated

C) is going to be a tad bossy and domineering as many of the ‘pushy middle class mums’ tend to be

At this point I had to scold the little voice in my head with ‘dont judge a book by its cover, she hasn’t even said a word and already she is in a box’. “Hello I’m Didi, nice to meet you, the boys are in the pool already, lets get this lot in their costumes, I assume you are staying for supper, I have lots of kindles and iPad we can ‘plug the children into’ (while she haw haws over a glass of wine…… shut-up voice in my head). I smile and nod and before I know it my friend’s children and mine are ‘cluck-clucked’ to the pool by Didi. Then pool session over, in the showers and then she is going round brushing everyone’s hair with aussie miracle spray (including my daughter who loved it), sorting the seating arrangements out in the country club bar and recommending the most expensive items on the menu.

After she has got half of PC World out for the kids and got a glass of wine in hand, she then embarks on confirming my inner voice’s assumptions. “well of course I said to the teacher, the forest school route hadn’t been properly risk assessed, it was far too close to a bridleway and any rider knows a horse can spook at anything, then buck and goodness knows what could happen” (I found this scenario so far fetched that she may as well have been including in her assessment earth tremors and hurricanes. What she really meant was ‘i want to demonstrate that I am a horse person and this tenuous link is the best way I can do that). Then came assumption b) “I have my eldest down at prep school and my daughter will follow suit, you just can’t beat the class sizes”. In between utterances she was clucking round the table like a mother hen seeing to everyone’s children and paused for rather too long at something situated on my son’s chair, prompting me to look and notice he had wet his trousers as she flounces away in quiet merciless judgement. Before her posh chaos exits the room she makes some remark about her husband playing golf’ (apparently better than her first husband), how she ‘travelled the world and London’ before settling here and listened to my views on co-education with a stony expression before saying “what a funny idea”.

So stereotypically middle-class Brit was this encounter that I was half expecting someone to say ‘cut’ and finding myself mistakenly placed on the set of the next Bridget Jones movie. If this indeed had happened I would fantasise that ‘Didi’ would once again return to her actual name of ‘Diane’ and say ‘thank god that’s over, it takes effort to play the part of a point-scoring, social climbing bitch’ and then tell me how she graffitid all over the local UKIP signs.

But that would be a fictitious character.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF – read about it here.

Thanks for reading.


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.

This blog is for UNICEF.

Thanks for reading.

Day in the life of gypsies

As my friends were comparing diaries earlier, 10 children were running amok around us. At one point my friend looked up from her week to page view and took in the chaos around her, ‘there is way too much going on’. That wasn’t an overstatement. The final ‘event’ that had made enough noise to drown out the many other noise effects of child’s play, was my daughter’s eight year old friend galloping past on her noble steed ‘licky’, while my daughter cheered on half hanging astride off the side of the fence.

Picture this one event happening simultaneously with a baby girl crying, a toddler pulling at my friend’s leg while she consults the diary, one boy pedalling past on a tractor while the other sits on the trailer, one child chasing another up and down the ramp of a horse trailer and two other children making one hell of a racket and mess in the hay barn. That’s just the children. Also add to the mix one Shetland pony, one extra large cob one medium sized cob and did I mention ‘licky’? Plus 2 Jack Russells and one Cocker Spaniel.

You may be forgiven for thinking we spent the day at a gypsy camp, but no it was just me and my nanny friends trying to have picnic, while satisfy requests for pony rides, Easter egg hunts and lots of picnic food. We also try and squeeze in a few cups of tea and ensure the toddlers are reminded about the potty despite the many distractions. For my baby boy my reminders were not frequent enough, as my daughter’s friend hollers…’ He has done a poo in his pants’…’ where?’i ask…..’ in the drivers seat of your car’. We were surrounded by poo – horse poo, dog poo, nappies and potties.

As I was leading a child on a Shetland pony who was trying to nip me as I led him along while simultaneously balancing baby boy on my opposite hip, I thought about the mantra ‘never work with animals and children’.

I also had a whole new appreciation for what life was like before contraception.

But it was strangely therapeutic sitting amongst the chaos, rather like being at the eye of a storm.

I am blogging every day for UNICEF. If you can help please check out the campaign here.

Thanks for reading.


Fallen from Grace

I feel for depressives. The sun was shining, it was a day to spend with family but could I help feeling blue? No. It was beyond my capability even to try. The reason is two-fold, time of the month plus no sleep = depressive cocktail. Its no good thinking of all the reasons why you should be thankful for the led you have got. If you feel shit, you feel shit. My husband tried to bring me round but I couldn’t even make eye contact with him. Being in he house trying o entertain children while hubby busied himself in the garden seemed to compound feelings of blues and frustration.

So we took a walk with the dogs. We literally had to drag my daughter out of the house kicking and screaming as she hates walking (has done ever since she was 2). Walking along the country lanes holding my daughter’s hand, I tried to enjoy the birds singing the pretty sunlit village and the general surroundings but my brain was determined to feel glum. My eyes pricked with tears for no apparent reason but I tried to fight them. After a couple of attempts I just cried as I walked along and let the breeze gently dry the tears on my cheeks. I started to feel better as we came off the country lanes and wound our way along a path running between fields of two racehorse studs. A dark bay gelding with a wonky white stripe down his face ambled over and pushed his nose over the fence to say hello. He was wearing a leather headcollar with his name on a brass plate ‘Fallen From Grace’. He was inquisitive and kept trying o sniff my husband’s jacket and trousers and my ears. Little boy giggled as he nuzzles at his feet hanging from the backpack carrier behind my husband. Ask I patted the neck of the horse I felt the last bits of angst and general feeling down emotions ebb away. We then carried on into a woodland and stopped for a break on a circle of wood stumps and enjoyed the surroundings. It was then that I felt back to my normal self.

So much so that when I returned to the path we had followed earlier, couldn’t believe I was the same person  treading that path, who, only an hour earlier had felt so low trying to feel positive and failing.

I would have liked to say watching the children enjoy their play and eat their ice creams from the ice-cream van complete with a chocolate flake cheered my soul, but this was only very temporary.

It was a woodland walk and a chance meeting with ‘Fallen From Grace’ that finally lifted my spirits.

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

Thanks for reading.