The scenic route

On a Wednesday I leave work early to pick my daughter up from school. It was a bad day to leave early. I am running late so i text my friend to ask her if she can collect my daughter from the bus-stop, she replies with news that she is witness to a bad accident and has asked another friend to pick up her children for her plus my daughter. I knew it was bad because she said she was waiting for the fire engines and paramedics to arrive. Turns out they had to cut the roof off the car to get to the elderly passengers caught up in the incident.

On my way back as i go round a bend, a lorry skims the side of my car knocking my wing mirror and scratching my wheel arch. Baby boy instantly asks ‘whats that noise?’ as i try and re-set the wing mirror. As i approach one of the main towns on my route, the police have cordoned off the main high street so that none of the traffic can bet through. Then ensues a mystery tour led by myself, a van, a lorry and umpteen cars trying to find an alternative route. It involves a couple of U turns, a discussion with an elderly lady about the best alternative route and then curses as we realise the first option is closed for maintenance.

I end up following a massive truck along a very narrow country lane and a very old bridge. I had no clue as to where the road would take us, but somehow we discovered the main road again, which had taken us the other side of the town on a diversion that took us through some glorious countryside that i would otherwise miss.

Sometimes its not a bad thing to follow an unplanned diversion, especially if you take the time to look around you.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Still Lost

The absence of a mobile phone is unsettling to say the least. I have been in mourning mainly because it holds a few nice pics of my kids and moments captured when I didn’t have a camera handy. It has also made me realise how it is the primary means of contact between me and most of my friends. I know they will now be wondering why I haven’t responded to their texts. I feel like I am potentially missing out on some breaking news or an invite that they will feel miffed at with my lack of response. My only hope is email but I know they don’t check their emails as often as their phones. I don’t have landline numbers for most of my friends – suprisingly.

My work colleague went above and beyond today to try and locate it – walking up and down the route that I would have driven as I left work and ringing my phone to see if she could hear it – the battery is probably dead now. Thankfully its pay as you go so I dont have to worry about calls to Hong Kong.

My biggest fear is losing sight of my child in a playground or shopping mall, even for a second. That’s all it takes to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. All the time I am losing personal possessions that’s fine but I feel, like most parents, you have to be extra vigilant when it comes to children – a sad reality. I saw a news programme yesterday of a mother who was still seeking her daughter (Katrice Lee) after 32 years. She had been shopping in a NAAFI in Germany when her then 2 year old daughter disappeared in the shop. They can only assume it was abduction. The Government are calling for a review of the initial investigation as it took 48 hours to notify border control and 6 weeks to interview key witnesses, such as the cashiers at the supermarket. Its incredible that there was such a delay. The mother says after all this time she is waiting to wake-up from the nightmare – 32 years of hell. Puts things into perspective a little doesnt it?  (read the BBC news story).

Every 3 minutes a child goes missing in the UK – visit the Missing People website for more details on how to support the search for loved ones.

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More Bobbys on the beat?

While there is quite a big election process going on across the pond, us Brits are being asked to vote for who should hold our police force to account. The Government has decided that police forces should be overseen by police commissioners, not police authorities. I would wager that probably 70% of the population do not know the difference. I am guessing even more of you don’t give a shit. But if one or two of you ar intrigued by the difference, police authorities consisted of 17 members made up of councillors, magistrates and independents who all helped oversee their regional police force (a police authority per region). There were pros and cons to this set-up. Having such a quantity of members meant that you could balance out the slightly ‘dodgy’ ones. For instance there might be the odd councillor who was well past retirement age and would only wake-up in public meetings to formally ‘agree’ on agenda items. This particular lady was so efficent at it, I thought she might be battery operated – asleep most of the time and then when the magic words from the chairman came ‘all agreed?’ She would wake-up bolt upright “AGREE” and then nod off again – brilliant! Another chap was as politically correct as Prince Phillip and would regularly use inappropriate metaphors on prostitution and rape to describe the most trivial subjects.

My experience of my local police authority gave me an insight into why you shouldn’t just opt for the person representing your favoured party without first looking at their own personal views on things. Most of the councillors I observed were complete and utter muppets (not a good attitude to have if you are serious about tackling domestic violence).

The members that seemed to make the most sense were the independent representatives who had led busy commercial lives and had not been affected by party politics. They seemed to be the ones that asked the Chief Officer Group the most sensible questions and did not use their status in the police authority for point scoring amongst their peers (unlike some councillors). I remember one councillor very inappropriately appeared at a murder investigation in his local area and started commentating on the investigation publicly because he was a “police authority member” and thought that this would go down well with his constituents – crass to say the least.

But I re-iterate at least there were 16 other members to counteract the occasional stupid or misguided actions of one of the other members. Now the Government is scaling it all down to one police commissioner, we need to make sure that one person is up to the job. I checked out the candidates for my local area and only one independent is standing and I quite liked his election statement although I think the Labour and Liberal Democrats are stronger. The UKIP candidate sounds like Dickson of Dock Green with his old fashioned policing rhetoric (there is a reason why police is more targeted these days – what’s the point in putting bobbys in dock green when the crime is happening 30 miles away – oh I forgot as long as an old lady felt reassured that she saw a policeman walk past her window the other day thats OK – thats not policing) They are also the kind of people that complain of youths hanging around in groups, while intimidating, they may not actually be committing a crime.

Whats frightening is that some of the muppets I mentioned earlier are actually standing for election. So, what I am trying to say is this – when you get your ballot papers through, dont just go for the party you always go for visit and check out what their plans are for policing in your area and see if you agree.

I am blogging every day for Unicef. I am hoping to raise £1 a day for the charity – if you contribute a pound for this blog, please visit Unicef’s fundraising site.

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London calling….

First day of half-term and…..deep breath…..embarked on an expedition to the Museum of London with baby and buggy in tow and 2 of my daughter’s ‘boyfriends’ aged 6 and 4 (not on my own I hasten to add – their Mum was with me). It would be best summarised as a crash course in crowd control and how to assemble and disassemble a child’s buggy in seconds while being elbowed at all angles by commuters trying to get on the escalator and on the tube. At times I wished (for ease) that my baby would just collapse down with the buggy too and then just spring back again once the narrow passageway/ stairs or escalator had been successfully negotiated….’flatpack baby’.

I also got a tiny glimpse into what it is like to be in a wheelchair. Everyone else takes the quick and easy route but you are the one ‘token’ person that uses the ramp or lift that takes an age to get to, no doubt cost a fortune to install and made a lot of builders grumble when constructing it. You then re-enter non-wheeled society at a meeting point that took them seconds to get to whereas it took you at least 5 minutes. The most ridiculous excursion was the lift to get from the platform to the footbridge and then back down again. My baby boy found it fun though. I lost count of the number of times I heard a female robotic voice today saying ‘going up’…..’going down’….’going up’….’going down’. I wouldn’t mind if you got an orgasm somewhere in the middle of this pattern to break the monotony.

Baby changing tends to be combined with disabled toilets, which is another interesting combination. It attempts to be all things to all people but of course the design of it fails. The baby change unit was miles away from the nappy bin, which was located next to the disabled toilet. I couldn’t leave my baby’s side while he was on the change unit so lobbed the used nappy over to the bin at the other end of the room by the loo and was pleased when I hit goal. As I reached to get something from the buggy I set the hand dryer off, all the while keeping one hand on my baby’s tummy to stop him rolling off.

The big kids were fun too. Oblivious to the traffic streaking through the city they cavorted around on the busy pavements tripping up grumpy London commuters and making myself and my friend holler like a pair of old fishwives. We finally breathed a sigh of relief when we got onto embankment, away from the roads and then we could let them run free like a pack of dogs safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t get squashed. The youngest (aged 4) was interesting in an entertaining way. If he didn’t like where you were heading he just froze to the spot so that my friend had to do some serious negotiating to get him moving again. When we were at St Paul’s he then refused to walk over the cracks in the pavement so all hopes of getting to Waterloo station before night-fall evaporated.

London never fails to entertain and the best observations dont cost a penny. A police boat zooming at break-neck speed along the Thames followed by the RNLI captured the kids attention as they walked along the river. They danced to the eclectic tune of an Eastern European busking band as we walked along an underpass and discovered MC Hammer after watching some seriously cool break-dancing near the London Eye.

The Museum of London, like all museums in the city, is free to enter. It was brilliant and displays the amazing history from the capital’s Roman origins under the guise of ‘Londinium’ through to the bubonic plague, the great fire (the current project theme at my daughter’s school) and of course, the WW 2 blitz with very moving accounts of people who lost loved ones. As you watch the films of the devastation, suspended above your head is a replica of the dreaded doodlebug bomb. The city’s heritage is rich.

As night fell on London, it felt like the Olympic games had never happened because, regardless of what cultural event moves in and out of the city, there will always be buskers, beggars, skateboarders, break dancers, traffic, grumpy commuters and cracks in the pavement. Its a city for everyone.

I am blogging every day for Unicef. If you can support the campaign please visit my site.

Thanks for reading.

Stranger danger – the case of April Jones

Its every parents worst nightmare. Your child being abducted, potentially assaulted and worse killed. The police have named the guy they are questioning in connection with her disappearance. That must mean a charge is imminent. They just need to hammer the guy for more information until he finally fesses up what he did with that poor little girl. I’m not going to make any wild guesses because it would be disrespectful to her family. Lets all hope for the best.

There have been so many high-profile cases of child abductions in the past two decades. Too many. This means as parents we need to be vigilant. Its awful to say this but when your child is out playing either at home or on holiday you have to consider the worst case scenario at all times now. For example, my daughter was playing in our rear garden. The garden backs onto a field, a disused area with an unofficial footpath running through it. We have a gate at the end for when we take the dogs for a walk. I was with my daughter when my phone rang. I went into the house to get it and then when I turned back to check she was still in the garden, I lost sight of her. My reaction was to default to the awful case of Sarah Payne who was abducted when she was playing in a field behind her grandparents house. I thought that my daughter may have gone into the field. Lots of children play out there and flit between each-others back gardens – but what if? As panic started to rise in my throat I quickly put the phone down and went out to the garden. She was in her wendy house playing and didn’t hear me calling. I then felt it necessary to warn her not to talk to anyone should they come to the gate at the bottom of the garden, even if they say they know Mummy and Daddy.

I was discussing this scenario with my work colleagues. It is very difficult to instil stranger danger in children so young. A policewoman visited my friend’s daughter’s primary school and discussed the importance of avoiding strangers if they approach you. At break-time she then changed into plain clothes and walked into the playground pretending to be someone else. She asked the children if they would like to come to her car and see her new puppy. All the children followed her to the car – they were so excited to see the puppy. See how easy it is to entice children away? What can parents do to protect their children in addition to keeping them under close supervision? No matter how closely you watch them it only takes a couple of minutes of distraction and they are gone. Just like in the horrific case of Jamie Bulger. His poor mother was in a shop talking to the assistant behind the counter, she glanced around and her toddler had gone. The security images show the sickening short space of time between Jamie walking off with the 2 older boys and his Mum rushing out of the shop desperately searching for him.

One of my friends even mentioned that it may be necessary to ‘chip’ your children like you do with dogs so that you can trace them. What has the world come to when we have to do this?

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef to protect children worldwide from famine, disease, war and persecution. If you are able to support my fundraising campaign please visit my Unicef page.

Thanks for reading. I hope when I come to do my next blog post April Jones will have been found.