Kirstie Allsopp and nesting

Finally a woman has had the balls to say women should not be expected to do everything and this is from a feminist standpoint.

Kirstie Allsopp’s views have divided opinion, like all views on life choices, there is not ‘the best’ choice and KA is by no means suggesting that women should give up entirely on higher education, it is simply a matter of priorities and like it or loathe it, most women would like to have children so why not do it earlier rather than later? Why should we bust a gut getting qualifications, salaries and everything else ticked off before children? Only to then exist on an endless and exhausting merry-go-round of work deadlines, bedtime routines and house-work, by which time we are too tired (and a bit too long in the tooth) to enjoy any of it?

In an ideal world, men would also carry babies and deliver them so partners could play swapsies with career progression and childcare. However we still live in a society where it is less acceptable by men to take a break from work and look after children, therefore women take up this role in the majority of cases. I believe being a mum is the best job in the world, but it also helps to have a bit of money coming in, not lots, just enough to pay the food bills and mortgage and enjoy  the occasional break and holiday. Not many couples can afford to do this on a single income. To get a job that pays 20k plus, most employers require a degree, so then we are back to square one again.

Hopefully degrees will not be such a pre-requisite for high-paying jobs and the value of experience, on the job training and apprenticeship schemes will once again come to the fore. This approach will help people who are young and unsure which career to follow. So many are under pressure to make these decisions at 17, work hard to get a degree in the relevant subject, only to be completely disenchanted when they enter the world of work.

I think my advice to my daughter and son would be to do what they enjoy and work and careers will come and find them . As for relationships and babies, i think these are better left unplanned because none of us ever start life knowing when we will meet the right person or whether we can have children, so to start life expecting to have this ‘ticked off’ by a certain stage in life is doomed to disappoint. If it happens, it happens.

If you make plans in life, God laughs.

Just like the Mummy and Daddy bluebird who returned home tonight to find their Oak tree gone and their nest full of babies gone with it. My husband thought he had checked the dead Oak before he felled it, but obviously not close enough. As he glanced down he saw a nest and three babies on the ground, one dead the others still alive. Cursing their misfortune and blaming himself, he moved the nest to the nearest safe place. Life happens and rarely in the way you had hoped or expected.

This blog is for Unicef.

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Not such a clever box

The trade-off of enjoying an evening off child-free is that somehow they make you pay for it the following day. My husband and I went to bed in the small hours so we didn’t quite have enough energy for the day ahead, combine this with a baby boy who didn’t get a good night’s sleep and you get the picture.

But bizarrely as soon as the children are in bed and you have a moment to sit down uninterrupted, energy levels are instantly restored, tempting us out of the decision to have an early night.

The reason for our reluctance to turn in is in the shape of a new smart TVand digi box.

My husband and I have never bought our own TV, we have managed to rely on parents’ hand-me-downs. So, when faced with which TV o get t was overwhelming. Three shops and 100 TVs later and we were making our first purchase. I was most excited about the prospect of recording programmes so was disappointed when we returned home to find the TV required another bit of tech available separately to make this happen. Surprise, surprise it was going cost another £150.

I was also excited about catching up on the isle of man tt race through the itv player on the TV. I scanned the entirety of the channel but could not find any footage of the race anywhere.

We then decided to  watch BBC iplayer instead and selected programme only  to have to wait 5 minutes in frequent pauses for buffering, because of our internet connection in the sticks.

This is why i dont get excited about technology, because it never seems to quite deliver.

So we went on a dog walk instead.

This blog is for Unicef.

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£10 million to change the world?

So, what would you do with £10 million to conquer some of the world’s biggest challenges. That was the question posed by the BBC tonight when they launched the concept of the Longitude prize, a historic award that had previously achieved revolutions such as putting Greenwich and worldwide timekeeping on the map, thanks to a grant given to a carpenter and watchmaker, who succeeded in making a watch that would keep time at sea.

The Longitude is essentially about humanity and sustaining humanity for the future. The biggest issue facing us and our outlook for the future is climate change so this featured highly in the options. I was tempted to vote for the search to find a carbon neutral power for flight, as planes do the most harm to our environment. However, the winner of The Longitude prize would only have to enable a flight capable of a distance from London to Edinburgh, which I don’t think is enough to make a significant change. I am also unconvinced that aviation companies would be falling over themselves to adopt this new energy as there would surely be significant cost implications and we all know how squeezed profit margins are on airlines already. For this work it would take some Government intervention to put pressure on airlines to adopt the cleaner fuel.

I voted for a sustainable and nourishing food source that could be easily farmed, highly nutritious and wouldn’t cause pollution and waste to create it. The current alternatives are insects – which actually looked quite good and ticked all the boxes in terms of nutrition. For 1kg of beef, 22kg of cow feed needs to be produced – for 1kg in insect meat, only 2.2kg feed is required to give to the insects. I can also see insect farming providing a source of income for farmers in the developing world too. This idea had been developed in the Netherlands and they said the challenge to adoption in the West is changing people’s mind set. I think Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall should step forward and come up with some cunning insect recipes – it would all get us grazing on grasshoppers in no time. The other option is GM food, which has received so much bad press it is hard to understand whether it is good for us or not, apparently it is and is far more nutritious. Whoever wins the prize if food becomes the goal will ave the power o improve people’s diets world-wide, help to eliminate the harmful consequences of malnutrition, such as rickets and scurvey and help those countries who suffer from famine because they are unable to source nutritious food. It may also provide a new source of income and transform farming and agriculture plus reduce pollution as it has to be a sustainable food solution.

If you live in the UK and want to cast your vote, visit the website on the Longitude Prize.

This blog is for UNICEF.

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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.

This blog is for UNICEF.

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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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immoral and sentimental

I was watching storage hunters and one particular chap managed to make 12k after finding a drawer full of jewellery and products made of ivory and rhino horn. Granted, the animals have been dead a while but the antique market is helping to fuel demand and re-kindle interest in ivory products. As a result population numbers of both the African and Indian elephants are in rapid decline, with tens of thousands killed bypoachers every year.

My husband has an ivory handled brush and comb. His sister gave it to him for his 18th birthday. I can still recall the momentary feeling of confusion and tension in the air when we all saw him unwrap it, his whole family were surprised that his sister had bought it and worried about how to respond. He accepted it gratefully and thanked his sister but I just had a head full of questions – I couldn’t believe she had bought it and that she bought it from a reputable shop, as it was brand new.

He has had this brush and comb ever since. Every time I move them to dust the dresser, I detest them. The feel of the ivory, the thought of how the elephant succumbed in order for the products to be made. However it holds a sentimental value to my husband, because it was his sister’s special present.

What do I do? I was thinking of selling it on eBay and then sending the proceeds of the sale to WWF but I don’t want to assist in fuelling the ivory trade. I googled the price of ivory and was surprised to see the number of websites offering money for ivory tusks, so there clearly is no real attempt by government authorities to halt trade as it is prevalent online.

A good petition worth your support on, calls for the BBC to stop filming programmes that encourage people to profit from the sale of old ivory items – sign the petition here.


Given the family link, which is awkward, I think I need to pose this question to Graham Norton and Maria on their radio 2 clinic on Saturday mornings.

I welcome the thoughts and advice of fellow bloggers……

This blog is for UNICEF- if you can support the charity’s good work worldwide, click here.

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Newshooks – Kate’s baby and other headlines

I am going to be on the front page of my local paper this week regarding the ongoing planning debacle in our village. I registered my objection to a planning application online and a journalist contacted me based on my comments. Before I knew it myself and a few friends had gathered together for a protest photo-shoot.

Everyone has a story to tell. I dare you to find one person in your life who hasn’t got a novel waiting to be written based on their life experiences or simple a story worthy of a news article. So Kate has announced she is expecting Prince William’s baby and I am already tiring of the endless headlines (bookies taking 1000/1 bets that the baby will be named Waynetta). It got me to thinking that our news agenda is dictated by a very small minority of people in the country and globally who have a huge say in what we should be considering as a news story worthy of reading, debating and contemplating. Journalists are people so they are also biased. Propaganda is everywhere and no country is free of it. As people who consume the news we are never sure what percentage of the story is accurate, how biased the story is and how trustworthy the journo’s sources are.

We base a lot of our political opinions on what we read, watch and hear. We may respect the views of our friends and family too – who may also merely propagate inaccurate reports that chime well with their overall views. To some extent we read what we want to read, choosing to discount balanced argument in favour of the point of view that we agree on.

A significant percentage of media reports are generated by pr agencies and in-house departments who are all fighting to get their brand publicity or their political point heard. That is why I am reluctant to read newspapers or online stories unless I am really needing to kill time. TV is no different in its level of biase. So the best thing to do is take everything with a pinch of salt (a bit like how you would approach the rhetoric of a politician) and accept that there is also an alternative argument, point of view, brand, company, political party etc that should also be considered. Its the best way to avoid becoming ignorant – but its not easy because a handful of journalists and editors are all it takes to influence public opinion – it can even make the difference between war and peace/ life and death.

Seeing War Horse reminded me of the shambolic communication that led to the massacres of the First World War. Rhetoric was believed and lots of young men died. (so being a journalist is quite an important  and incredibly powerful job) – maybe Kate and William will submit to public opinion and call baby Windsor Wayne or Waynetta?

As usual I am blogging every day for Unicef – if you can support Unicef’s good work around the world, please visit my Unicef site.

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Charity call centres – do they work

I am not a fundraiser but I understand that in a recession even charities have to adopt the hard sell approach. I have been a long-term supporter of charities like Save the Children and I donate when I am able. However, charities prefer to receive a consistent monthly donation, which I am not able to commit to.

Because of my support, I sometimes receive calls from charities asking if I can sign up to monthly payments. After I explain why I am unable, they are very understanding. I once discussed my concerns that the money I donated was going to pay the call centre staff. They tried to avoid the question by saying the vast majority of donations go to the causes and that only a small percentage go towards administration and marketing.

A few months ago I was receiving missed calls almost daily for one week from Save the Children, even though I had asked them to no longer use my number and they assured me that this had been entered onto their system. They started calling me again last week during office hours and I had to answer the call while I was at work to tell them that they should not be using my number. It was bordering on harrassment.

This evening I saw a very good advert by Save the Children aired on primetime television – God knows how much it cost them. Although the advert moved me, I would think twice about donating to them for two main reasons: 1) I am sceptical as to how donations are spent and 2) I do not like their approach of using call centre staff to target their supporters like they are cold calling to sell double glazed windows.

I will continue to support the work of Save the Children and other good charities but only if they can prove that they are genuinely ‘saving children’ and not merely raising awareness of their brand name. Their new advertising campaign, while excellently communicating their main messag,e is tainted by their shoddy approach to how they use supporters’ contact information.

I am blogging every day for Unicef to support their fundraising campaign to protect vulnerable children world-wide. If you would like to find out more please visit my fundraising site.

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The average person does not exist

Dare you to define an average person? I used to think it quite easy to box people up into their little categories but having had a few jobs working with the Great British public (I cant speak for other countries) we are all fruit loops in slightly different ways – the royal family especially included.

Everyone has a story to tell and every now and again you meet people that stand out like a sore thumb for various different reasons – but that is what makes them so interesting.

I met such a person the other day at work. He is a slightly overweight Liverpudlian covered in tats. He has bizarrely shaped facial hair and flip down shades on his specs. He his also an author and quite a good one, with several novels under his belt, a few that have been turned into films. His writing style is unique – like a really pissed off and foul mouthed Virginia Woolf using a similar stream of consciousness style. His topics lean towards the poorer end of the social class spectrum and his prose often makes you flinch but it feels real because of that. He teaches creative writing in prisons, some of the inmates no doubt inspiration for his characters. He says that characters come to him as words in his head rather than faces when writing a story and that is what gives his work depth.

I like him because he is approachable, not remotely up his arse and different because of who he is and what he writes about. He comes from a shitty neighbourhood so the odds were stacked against him from the outset to write good and do well but he did. If he was in music he would probably make a good rapper – I’m sure Eminem would enjoy his verse – but I don’t believe Liverpudlians and rap go well together….can you imagine the Beatles rapping?

I am writing every day for Unicef in the hope that some kind soul will spare £1 when they read this blog. If you are that person, please check out my Unicef fundraising site. Tomorrow, I will be writing for BBC Children in Need. This year shcoolchildren around the country will be donning their pyjamas in school with a ‘spotty’ theme and eating lots of cupcakes to raise money (my daughter included). I offered to join in but she said she would be too embarrassed if I turned up to the bus stop in my PJs – so instead I will wear something spotty and my blog topic tomorrow will be about spots and pyjamas with a link to the Children in Need website for those bloggers who can lend their support. I haven’t the foggiest what I will find to write about spots and PJs but I will give it a fair crack of the whip – I will need to think laterally that’s for sure.

Thanks for reading.

Cbeebies, Cweenies, Cteenies

Dear Director General of the BBC,

When you are not too busy fending off criticism from Savilegate, you may want to help us parents preserve the innocence of our children a little longer past 6 years old. Please could you replace CBBC with two channels – one for ages 5 – 10 and one for ages 11 plus (so that the channels are a bit more in keeping with what is deemed age appropriate for primary school children and secondary school children). I have a 6 year old daughter (nearly 7 as she constantly reminds me) who is too young for Cbeebies. She says, I quote, “Cbeebies is for babies” and this is a sentiment occupied by most of her contemporaries. She is, at times, too young for some programmes on CBBC. When I to and fro from the kitchen to the living room of an evening preparing dinner, I see CBBC programmes vary from Shaun the Sheep, Arthur and Scooby Doo (all fine) to Tracy Beaker, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Young Dracula, which, in my opinion, feature topic areas and life issues that should have a 12 certificate.

A friend of mine does not allow her daughter to watch CBBC and I feel I maybe should have followed suit but there are quite a few programmes on CBeebies that bore the pants off my daughter, but entertain my 11 month old son (In the Night Garden is a good example) so I feel it is difficult to find a happy medium.

I don’t remember experiencing this problem when I was a kid as there was no such thing as a children’s channel, just an age appropriate time-slot. The older kids got to watch the later programmes and the younger kids (at bed by 6 and 7pm) had their earlier slot watching the likes of He-Man and She-Ra. Saturday mornings were the best for kids TV and from memory I don’t remember programmes similar to Tracy Beaker or Young Dracula – it was more like Count Duckula, the Littlest Hobo and Rude Dog and the Dweebs.


I dont mean to be a frumpy old bag harking back to ‘the good old times’ of children’s TV but kids are growing up too quick now and I think a lot of that has got to do with poor TV scheduling. I dont have Sky, I just have freeview so my daughter relies on the BBC and CITV for her viewing and I just think these channels have lost their way a bit and need to do some market research with kids and parents to sort out their scheduling and the types of programmes they air.

Rant over!

(as for TV past watershed, If, like me, you dont like talent contests, period dramas and reality shows, then you are fucked… fact I dont even know why I am  paying my licence).

I am blogging every day for Unicef. Visit my fundraising site for more details. Thanks to Chloethewriter for being my first online donor – you have restored my faith in humankind THANKYOU! Chloe’s blog features amazing imagery and inspiring nuggets of literary genius – check out her blog now.

Thanks for reading.