Dredd in the South-east

I have she-flu but managed to muster enough energy for ballet boot camp but not enough for a vaguely interesting blog post. I figured it had been a while since I had put a pound in the pot to Unicef for a missed post so I took the opportunity yesterday.

I have lived in the South-east all my life, the only slight movements between four counties, but recently have found the walls of the region closing in. I am starting to build up a resentment to passing landmarks that illustrate my younger years (schools, nurseries, friend’s houses etc) and would like to ‘get out’ and live in an area where there are no memories. I’m sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this admission.

The South-east is also over-crowded and full mostly of people who ant to commute to the ever growing riches of London. I wonder if this trend continues into the next few decades whether England will be closer to resembling the geographic make-up of Judge Dredd. I mentioned to a colleague of mine my concern that the rest of the country, particularly the north, was being left-behind. She said that she didnt care, as far as she was concerned, she had done ‘her time’ up north while living in Nottingham for 10 years, it was abysmal and has never looked back since moving o London.

Being someone who likes to do the opposite of the majority, i am getting more and more inquisitive as to what it would belike to live ump North and become, as the characters in the film ‘lock stock and two smoking barrels’ put it ‘northern monkeys’ as opposed to ‘southern fairies’.

A friend of my husband’s said, ‘you don’t want to move up there, they are all fat’. I believe obesity is a nationwide problem, a trip to any local supermarket proves that point (although the supermarkets themselves are assisting this trend with the increasing price of fruit and vegetables and the decreasing price of crappy processed food). In fact it is not until you step into the rest of Europe (or if you voted Ukip omit ‘the rest’ from that sentence) that you see just how fat a nation we have become. In France, for example, you would be hard -pushed to find an overweight person on a trip to the shops let alone and the same goes for Spain and the Netherlands.

I wonder if part of the reason can be attributed to the cost of food and what is offered to buy. The Spanish and French like to cook most of their food from scratch, this cutting out nasties such as added sugar, which is so prevalent n ready-made food. It is this belief in a return to home cooking that underpins the philosophy of Sarah Wilson’s quit sugar approach – cook like our grandparents used to, with ingredients rather than a fork and a microwave.

I feel the north/south divide has become so defined that contemplating a move upcountry is not dissimilar to emigrating, hence its appeal on the ‘grass is greener front’.

This blog is for Unicef.

Thanks for reading.



Treading the mill but admiring the view

My friend and I discovered we had another thing in common yesterday. We both believe that having children satisfies our selfish need to interrupt the monotony of life and continue the momentum of the treadmill that is survival. In Western society, survival means affording a weekly shop and keeping up the rent and mortgage payments (it would also be nice to be able to afford a trip away every now and again, eating out, some clothes and some nice things at Christmas). She, like me, experiences happiness with a tinge of anxiety at every uplifting moment in life. Why? Because we fear the inevitable dip following a good moment – I feel good now but surely this will not last, something shit will happen to counteract all the good stuff.

We all hope that the bad things are not catastrophic (such as losing a loved one) then life alters its course from survival to an empty existence. We all pity those who have been forced to live their lives this way because of circumstances either in or out of their control. We keep our fingers crossed we do not join the group that merely exist.

When I was younger, I thought it was unfair to perpetuate the trials of life by having children. I also didn’t believe in marriage (what does God do when you make plans?……). As far as we know there is no alternative to life, other than death. So, since we don’t know an awful lot about the after-life, you might as well give life a try and you hope your children will grasp at the opportunity and, on the whole, enjoy it. After all, as parents we are responsible for introducing them to the world in the first place so we need to make sure they enjoy their stay.

My friend and I have another thing in common. It is time of the month and hormones are raging – can you tell? After our in-depth philosopical discussion (when we talked while the children cycled down a old railway track somewhere in the South Downs) we turned round and admired the the rolling hills and blue sky. I turned to my friend and said ‘It’s shit but the view isn’t bad is it?’ We stopped and we stared.

A Mum I know cleans 20 rooms a day in a care home for the elderly on the minimum wage – just about enough to feed her and her 2 boys and pay some bills. There isn’t enough staff for theelderly residents so the care staff do the bare minimum – getting them in and out of the chair for the day-time and in and out of their bed for the night-time. My friend says there is no care involved as she witnesses this while cleaning and it sickens her. She is so tired on her return from work that she has to muster up what little energy she has left to clean her own house. It doesn’t sound like much of a life to me but she has 2 gorgeous and well-behaved sons and she smiles.

I am blogging every day for Unicef. If you are able to support Unicef’s work with vulnerable children around the world, please visit my site to make a donation.

Thanks for reading.




My cube gets blown away

Was in a particularly reflective mood today. Dont know why but I think it has something to do with Autumn and the feeling of things coming to an end like the summer. Its been an amazing year but the older you get the faster years seem to pass by.

A while ago my mum put me through the ‘cube’ personality test. It goes something like this:

You are walking alone in the desert and you come across a cube (now fill in your own answers to the following questions):

1) How big is the cube?
2) What colour is the cube?
3) How does that colour make you feel?
4) Can you see inside the cube?
5) How big is the cube compared to the desert?

You see a ladder,

1) Is the ladder leaning on the cube?
2) What colour is the ladder?
3) What is the distance between the ladder and the cube?

You see a horse,

4)  What is the distance between the horse and the cube?
5) What colour is the horse?
6) Is the horse tied up or roaming freely?
7) Is the horse wearing a saddle?

There is a storm,

1) What is the distance between the storm and the cube?
2) Is the size of the storm big or small?
3) Is the storm passing by or staying in place?
4) Is the storm violent thunder and lightning or calm and light rain?

You see a flower,

1) Is there only one flower or many?
2) Where is the flower, what is it next to?
3) What colour is the flower?

Well the cube is you and how you see yourself (and the size of your ego)
The ladder represents your friends
The horse is your lover
The storm is disruptions to your life and the consequences.
The flower represents your children.

I took the test before I had children but my main concern, once I found out what it all meant, was that my cube rolled away when the storm came and it completely disappeared from the desert. The horse got frightened and ran away, the ladder fell off the cube because it rolled away. I cant  remember what happened to the flower. Apparently this means I have a high sense of mortality – but surely everyone does? Also when I took the test I assumed people would roughly have the same results, but my Mum, unlike me, had  a huge cube that stayed despite the storm.

Finally, my horse was like a horse I used to ride – my favourite – big brown, lovable but with a small brain…..need I say more!!

I am blogging every day for Unicef. If you are able to suuport my fundraising campaign, please visit my site.

Thanks for reading.

Its all in the mind

First let me apologise for my lack of a blog post yesterday. Wednesday is a late one as I have Zumba followed by powerhoop. Exhausted (and a bit smelly) I finally settle down to the laptop and then I hear those dreaded words from upstairs “Mummy I’ve been sick!”. So I go upstairs wondering how bad it is and thankfully the splurge stayed on the bed (I invested in a heavy duty mattress cover hence why I say thankfully). I hate it when they are sick on the carpet and I HATE 1001 – it is just me or does it only succeed in producing the most delightful white foamy mess that gets deeply embededded into the carpet the more you scrub. Maybe I use too much but I have tried the conservative approach and that doesn’t work either. So grabbing a corner of each of the bed I successfully lifted the whole re-gurgitated baked potato mess and confiscated it to the utility room.

After having changed bed-linen, settled her down, an argument then ensued with hubby over getting the olds to look after her the following day while i work (he doesn’t like me working – its the alpha male syndrome kicking in). After this exhausting tirade it was the bed that I turned to not the laptop – so another £1 in the pot to Unicef.

So the title? I had an interesting conversation at work with someone who introduced me to the idea of encouraging a ‘challenge mindset’ in children when they are learning. To explain the concept she drew on examples of the typical traps that parents fall into. As she described these scenarios, I realised I fell into the dumb parent category:

1) Child produces drawing of what appears to be nothing but a scrawly mess but you ignore that fact and heap compliments aplenty on what a stunning artist she/ he is (challenge mindset alternative – ask questions about the drawing – what is this bit here? What does this represent? etc so the child understands that next time they need to add a bit more thought to their drawing and a bit more effort)

2) Child gets 10 out of 10 in a maths test that takes no time for he/she at all to complete and you congratulate the child on being such a stunning mathemetician and remark on how quickly it was completed (challenge mindset approach, “Oh I’m sorry I should have given you something a little more challenging that will take more thought for you to complete..”)

3) Child doesn’t make the sports A team. Parent responds to child’s disappointment by saying, “oh well that teacher didn’t see how good you are, never mind you are excellent at sports I know that and you know that” (challenge mindset approach, “Well that’s probably because you didn’t deserve it as I think you need to be practising more to be good enough to get into the A team. Why don’t you spend the next few terms practising and then when you come up for trials again you can try harder”

Currently I am the dumb parent who heaps praise to confidence boost but ultimately to the detriment of my child’s development. Why is too much praise negative? Because if the child believes that they are an excellent mathmetician because they did the test so quickly and scored highly or that whenever they put pen to paper the drawing is a masterpiece, they will then deliberately avoid more challenging tasks to avoid the risk of not living up to their parent’s expectations. So as parents we need to be rewarding effort  more than results so that the children are embracing the challenge and wanting more challenges as things get easier for them. As opposed to chasing approval of how good they are and then being nervous of losing this identity. Makes sense? It certainly was an eye opener to me. As a parent it eases off the pressure too of preserving your child’s self esteem because you are being positive but in a different way. You are less likely to be disappointed too because you (and the child for that matter) will not view mistakes as a failure but more as a challenge to put more practice and effort in. Brilliant! I think adults could benefit from this too. I wonder if this approach can be applied to everything – imagine turning round to your partner after sex and saying “I’m sorry, that was too easy for you, I should have given you more of a challenge…”

I am blogging every day for Unicef – see my fundraising page. I am aiming for a quid a day. So far I have received jack shit except the money that I have paid in fees for missing blogs. That is probably why I am the only twat who is doing this for charity, but anyway I will keep plugging on in the hope that in 10 years time things will have changed, the economy will be booming and people can spare a few quid.

Thanks for reading.

Much ado about nothing

Much ado about nothing – moments when you get your head in such a tizzwazz over something that turns out to be either: a) not such a complete deal in the first place or b) completely wrong.

A few examples:

1) When my boyfriend turned up to our 2nd date 7 hours late. I was convinced he was standing me up. Spent every second of every  minute of every hour for the duration of the time he was late stewing and trying to ignore my mother – “he probably just got drunk last night and is sleeping it off and has forgotten the time” – NO excuse in the eyes of a 17 year old – “If he is hopelessly in love with me then he would muscle through the hangover to see me” (I was also quite delusional at that age but who isn’t). Sure enough he turns up with a sore head, a bashful look and some garage roses and my Mum has “I told you so written all over her face”.

apologies for this random picture of a pink hippo – but it makes a nice break from my ramblings

2) The recent situation I mentioned in an earlier post when my sister-in-law got her knickers in a twist on when we were meeting up – complicated by the fact that mother-in-law and other sister-in-law had told her a slightly different version of events thanks to the magic of chinese whispers – the WORST form of communication. Emails tend to cause incidents of ‘much ados’ because people read between the lines (particularly women) and can come to their own harmful conclusions over completely innocent harmless messages – they are just read the wrong way. I have concluded that the best method is face to face – then you know what mood the person is in and you don’t have to spend long stewing over a response – you just say what you think there and then and issues can be sorted out a whole lot quicker (It also means that you don’t have a paper trail if you throw a tantrum – which is always regretted later).

3) Jealousy. I’m a realist. Everyone gets jealous and it is that complete playground level selfish jealousy and you can’t stop feeling it. I find jealousy tends to happen when you hear about something second hand. I am less likely to be jealous of my friend if she tells me she is test driving a Range Rover Evoque if I hear it direct from her rather than via another friend – why is that? The same is true of all positive, but potentially jealousy inducing, news. I found myself getting grumpy and petulant when I heard via my husband that my mum-in-law wasn’t able to pick my daughter up from school because she was waiting anxiously by the phone to hear news of my sister-in-law’s new baby. It was fine because Grandad picked her up, but why did I feel a pang of jealousy towards my sister-in-law? – Its wrong. It wasn’t until I spoke to my mother-in-law directly that all my selfish feelings melted and I was just happy to hear such great news.

It seems that news from other sources, rather than direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, causes cases of ‘Much Ados’ where we create negative emotions and feelings towards something because we embellish the story with our own, usually negative, assumptions. I don’t think this theory is to be belittled. I bet a lot of wars could have been stopped by a good old face-to-face and tete-a-tete.

Not as entertaining as I had hoped but its food for thought anyway.

Missed yeterday’s post because returned from Zumnba and Powerhoop and still had dinner to cook by which point it was stupid o clock so another £1 in the pot to Unicef. It was a good class though – I thoroughly recommend throwing a ball while hooping – good for the brain and the midriff….and not a lot of things can hit those two birds with one stone.

I am blogging every day of my life (or trying to!) to raise money for Unicef. Please visit my fundraising page if you can support me. i am aiming for £1 a day.

Can children in care go on to become Olympians?

I was reading an article today on Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds. Her achievements are an inspiration and the article features quotes from her family and her teachers detailing her strength of character, her competitiveness and her determination. Her mother said that she was always like this from very young and her teacher said that she is the same with her schoolwork.

Paralympians overcome physical scars to achieve their goals. What about people who have deep-seated emotional scars from a childhood that was far from perfect? Children who were forced to be independent and lead their own lives in order to survive from a very young age. Children in care have inconsistent emotional support and most of them have attachment disorders (they are incapable of forming bonds with parental figures because of abuse suffered earlier in life). If you were born determined and competitive does this stay with you despite a crap mum and dad who can barely feed you, let alone support your personal ambitions?

I read a column by Guardian journalist Lucy Mangan the other weekend that touched on the inequality in standards of education. More specifically, the percentage of privately educated children that go on to Oxbridge and Russell group universities. She quite rightly argued that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to educational inequality. There are children born into a world of domestic violence and abuse. Many just don’t have their most basic needs met, such as a bed to sleep on, a meal every day, a book read and are left to fend for themselves until social services are called in. Having gone through the first four years of life existing in this way can you imagine what these children must go through when they start school for the first time? As Lucy put in her column, these children are exhausted before their education has just begun because they have been too busy trying to survive the hell that they have been born into. That is the real inequality. They haven’t even got a chance in the first place.

The Olympics and Paralympics aims to inspire a generation and I wonder about the generation growing up in the care system  who have been watching the games? They may have been battered by their circumstances but do they have the strength to pull through and realise their ambitions? I would be interested to know of any athletes who have made it despite their childhood experiences growing up in care. Can you be born determined and still achieve despite suffering from attachment disorder? Adoption UK has a really good online animation – The Wall – that explains how abuse and neglect in a child’s early years can cause attachment disorder and other psychological conditions. Strength of mind overcomes physical barriers but does it work vice versa?

I hope you enjoyed this blog. If so please donate £1 to Unicef – the whole reason for my daily blog to combat child poverty and neglect worldwide. I am still hunting my first donation – so if you do donate you will be the first and I will thank you in my next blog. (the money raised so far is through the fee I pay to Unicef for missed blog days).

Thanx for reading.

Head games – getting in the right frame of mind for sport – but also for life

Becky Adlington’s Bronze in the 800m swim was brilliant. Her head however, wanted Gold, like the British audience. It was her head that let her down as she blamed the pressure from the British to win gold and that can only be a psychological issue. Isn’t it amazing how what we are thinking in our minds dictates our physical effectiveness? In Becky’s case it affected her technique so much so that she was way off her previous record. I feel really bad for her and can sympathise as we all know what it is like when you are there physically but not mentally. Not just in competitions and in situations when we are required to perform. It can affect us any time – like when you feel you didn’t get out the right side of the bed in the morning and it stays with you for the rest of the day.

I often find on days that I anticipate to be fun/ exciting/ good happy they turn out to be crap and vice versa – why is that? I went out last night with my husband. We were both knackered and didn’t really feel like going out but Mum was coming over to babysit so we had to grab our chance while we could although we just felt like nodding off. I thought ‘great we are so tired, we are just going to be irritable and snappy with each other and have a shit time’. On the contrary I just drove til I felt like stopping, saw a cool looking restaurant at the side of the road and we agreed to check it out and had a brilliant night. I bet you that if we had pre-booked a table somewhere amazing and anticipated a great evening it would have been shit.

With that in mind I try to assume that every day is going to be crap unless proved otherwise – and most of the time this kind of reverse psychology tactic works. If you don’t expect much then you might just surprise yourself and have a good time. Its got to the point that If I am dreading something I know that 80% of the time it will turn out well because I started off dreading it.

In sport it seems that emptying your head of all expectation and just enjoying the task ahead is key to winning over the psyche game. Charlotte Dujardin the GBR dressage rider performed an amazing test because she said she just went in the ring to enjoy herself and not ‘think’ herself out of the test by focusing too hard on each element of it. Being on top of your thoughts and feelings as a rider is particularly important because horses are hyper sensitive to changes in the rider’s temperament and this can make them play up and cock up too.

The fact that we have a team psychologist in Team GBR is proof of how powerful the mind is in winning medals. It is also true of how we enjoy life in general. I firmly believe that there are no limitations except those we create ourselves. Go Team GB!

I typed this while watching the women’s 400 metre final hence the olympic/sport angle and Christine Ohuruogou just won Silver – whoop whoop!

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