We have the opportunity to go out on a sail boat on sunny weekends. Its nothing special just a small boat with a main sail and a genoa, which, with a squash and a squeeze, can just about fit the four of us plus dogs in it. We are ‘learning on the job’ as it were and roughly catching the wind with the sails and not always following the intended direction of travel. This proved tricky when navigating the boat back to its mooring around several bobbing boats, but we managed it without any insurance claims.

Nothing could beat that day in terms of pure enjoyment. It was immensely satisfying to watch the boat carve her way through the water pulling the ribboat behind at a fair rate noiselessly under the power of wind. Nothing but the water slapping the bow of the boat and the sun glistening on the surface of the sea…..well thats not strictly true. The dogs fighting over a ball broke the serenity, my husband and daughter shouting at each other over which rope he wanted her to pull to release the main sheet and then strong words of encouragement to pull it quickly. Although I wasnt at the helm I was back-seat sailing, asking “shouldnt we tack now” and “you have seen that boat dead ahead havent you?” But once we had enough, it was back to the slipway on the rib to the cafe conveniently situated for children dying of hunger to fill up on bacon butties and scrumptious ice cream. For me and hubby it was tea and coffee (we are not great drinkers – I was virtually brought up in a pub so not overly keen on spending my Sunday in one).

I then wanted to press pause as we sat on the tailgate of the van silently licking our ice creams in contentment as we watched the comings and goings of the harbour.

Many of the boats we passed had interesting names, one stuck in my mind. It was aptly named Sanity.

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A mother’s secret

Inspired by Mary Berry’s fab new cooking programme yesterday, I decided to make a lemon drizzle cake for my work’s team meeting tomorrow. Having done this recipe twice over Christmas I was pleased that the result was third time lucky. It was also my new year’s resolution to do more baking for work (as I am surrounded by a load of domestic goddesses who do fabulous things on agas) so having done 2 bakes within the first 3 months of the year I consider it quite good going (for me). Even more impressive was preparing pancake mixture for shrove Tuesday at the same time, although I am never very good at doing the bit on the pan so let the hubby take over that bit (round about now I’m sure you are expecting me to throw in some cheap shot about how he is very good at throwing things up and down, or the other word for it beginning with t…..).

I particularly like pancake day as it is the one and only time when I buy nutella, because my daughter rather sensibly prefers choc spread pancakes. If I bought Nutella on a regular basis I would be the size of a house…why? Because I only bought the jar at 5pm today and already I have had 1 nutella pancake and 3 slices of toast pasted in nutella. I didn’t eat much else and I was momentarily in heaven. In fact thank god I don’t live on my own because my cupboard would consist of the following: white crusty bread, brown seedy bread, Marmite, peanut butter, honey, nutella, strawberry and raspberry jam, shreddies, big potatoes, baked beans, red bush tea, Cadburys chocolate and Mcvities digestive biscuits. My fridge would not be that full: apple and elderflower juice, milk, Rachels organic yoghurt, broccoli and lots of vegetarian frozen food.

Moving from highly calorific food to highly readable literature, I mentioned that I would display an excerpt from Helen Thomas’ first book ‘As It Was'(written late 1800s), which is her description of childbirth. I am going to send this to the NCT as this is what midwives would term as a successful ‘active labour’,   when everything goes according to plan and Mums to be resist the temptation to take everything offered in the pain killing dept. Although I do wonder at times if Helen could have done with some gas and air..

“I woke feeling as I used to when a child on my birthday morning, or on the morning when we were going away to the seaside. Something was going to happen that I had been counting up the days for. What was it? I had forgotten. But my baby had not slept; he was impatient to be out, and the sign was so sharp that this time it made me catch my breath. Edward (her husband) was in his bath – I got hurried and flustered and called him to be quick and let me have mine, for the pain now was so sharp, and seemed so impatient that it excited and unnerved me. Everything before had been so slow, so calm; this was a new and expected note; I could not at once attune myself to it. I bathed and dressed as quickly as I could, the pain speeding me with its insistence. My baby called me and I must hurry to him, but how? When? Edward, tying his tie at the mirror, saw my face reflected in it, and came and held me against him, and when I felt his body tremble my panic fled and I was calm again.

I ran downstairs to tell Mrs Townsend, and met Ann, who disapproved of the bother of a confinement in the house; so all she said was, “Ye’ll be worse afore yes be better.” But I was not to be frightened out of my calm any more. …

………….”The pain came fiercer and more often now, but I was full of restless energy. I went up and down stairs, and went down to lunch, and read aloud to John, who begged me to finish the chapter in Treasure Island I had begun the day before. Mrs Townsend bough tea up to our room, and we had a sort of picnic round the fire, she and nurse talking of practical matters, but I was lost to all but my own excitement, which not even the pain could subdue. I must be doing, my soul was singing and free, my body must respond however foolishly. The fierceness of the pain stopped me in all I began; I had to hold on to anything stable, and when I looked at Mrs Townsend’s face I saw pity there. But she could not speak of her feeling to me and I was glad she could not. I wanted to be alone with this fierce exultation of pain. My spirit sang in triumph after each paroxysm, but my body was like a dead weight on it. I only knew that my baby and I were struggling for him to be born. He could not go back to his quiet darkness. All was changed. He had begun his perilous journey to life -I must speed him and help him; keep him with all the strength of my body and all the strength of my desire for him, pressed forwards towards the light where his soul waited for him. I did not think this, but dimly perceived it was so.

I cling onto the bed, and feel that the pain is overwhelming me. I must not let it. Nurse comes to hold me. “No don’t touch me; go to the fire; I can smell the baby things scorching”. So by trivial ways I try to keep in touch with reality. My few garments are unbearable. I try to undress, but become confused as the waves of pain break over me, making consciousness more and more difficult to retain. But I will not let my spirit be drowned. I will not lose touch with my baby. I have a feeling that if I let go my hold on consciousness I shall be leaving him alone.

Nurse says a word of praise and encouragement, which gives me confidence in myself again. I diver as I lie on the bed, but I use every ounce of effort and strength when the paroxysm comes, and feel again the triumphant exultation. My body labours, but my spirit is free. My baby and I are struggling to be rid of each other. That  strange, secret link must be broken. He must be himself apart from me, and I must give him to mankind.

My body is seized by a new strangely expelling pain. I am again terribly alone – a primitive creature, without thought, without desire, without anything but this instinct to rid my womb of what encumbers it. I hear voices far away. I feel hands about me, but I am not I; I am only an elemental instinctive force bringing forth after its kind. A pain more rending than all bears me on its crest into utter darkness. A cry, a strange unearthly cry strikes piteously at my heart, and pierces my darkness. My consciousness strives towards that cry, my soul recognises it. It is my baby’s cry, and it leads my spirit away from the dark and back to the light.

……”Suddenly the realization of life and of all that may separate us comes to me, and I hold him close. I want him still to be all my own. His eyes close, and he nuzzles against my breast, and with his groping mouth finds my nipple. He is soft and warm and sweet. As he draws the warm milk from me, and I feel that mysterious pleasure, half spiritual, half physical, I realize that the link between us is imperishable. I am forever his mother and he my son”.

By Helen Thomas

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1.4 children

There is a place in my heart where all the good emotions and bad emotions go, perhaps you feel it too. When I am affected by a positive emotion towards something or someone, I literally feel the warmth of it in my heart. Unfortunately it works both ways and negative feelings creep into my heart like ink in water. I felt that this evening. On two occasions I had visited my sister in law, niece and nephew and thoroughly enjoyed their company. I took pleasure in admiring what a pretty and spirited little girl my niece is and enjoyed cuddles with my baby nephew. Rather than being the eldest sibling tyrant sucking parental attention away from my husband and his other sister to keep it all for herself, she transformed in my eyes to become a Mum like all of us, enjoying children but on occasions struggling with motherhood too.

All this positivity was lost in one interaction with my mother-in-law. As she mentioned my nephew and how he had enjoyed dancing to tunes on grandpa’s computer within seconds of seeing my son who she hadn’t seen for a while, I felt the black ink of jealousy and negativity creep into the place where warm positive feelings had been stored. I try desperately hard not to feel this way but I can’t help it. The fact cannot be changed that lack of phone calls, invites and time spent with us builds resentment when we are aware that my sister in law and her family are invited round frequently. It is the thorn in my side. My husband is resigned to it because he grew up with. He was packed off to boarding school while his sisters were at day school and enjoyed returning home every evening (well the eldest sister enjoyed it) the other didn’t speak to her parents for 10 years – maybe in her childish way she was trying to communicate to her parents that she felt out in the cold. I couldn’t help put two and two together when my mother in law was flicking through an old family photo album and felt compelled to explain why one summer she went away on a beach break with just the eldest sibling ‘I had a bit of a wobble, so (middle daughter) stayed with a friend’. That’s just not right. They have been living under the shadow of the eldest sibling, my sister in law, ever since. So my best way of overcoming negative feelings is not to care in the first place. It is horrid to be defensive but all I can do is pity her for missing out on the rest of her wonderful family.

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Big is beautiful

I just watched Big Ballet on channel four and was incredibly impressed by the grace of the dancers. I assumed that because the dancers were carrying weight, they would lack finesse but I was very wrong. At the end one of their trainers who used to work for the English National Ballet praised the performance but said he didn’t think that big Ballet had a future.

Well I would like to request that it does have a future as I would love to take my daughter to such a performance so she knows that size is not a factor in dance – any size can look and move fantastically on stage. What also struck me was how quickly I grew accustomed to watching bigger dancers, to the extent where I would have found it strange for a very skinny dancer to appear. History has dictated that dancers should be skinny, bordering on skeletal but why? I say bring on Big Ballet and replicate this model everywhere where skinny currently dominates – from fashion to sport.

When we were on the cruise ship there was the Flo rider for budding surfers and more experienced semi-pros. The best female surfers, who were performing stunts and confidently swishing their board from side to side were big and impressive. It looked like the wetsuit may have been a bit of a struggle but mastering the waves was not.

Big is beautiful and such experiments as big Ballet prove that thin is just a passing fashion, like mini-skirts or polo necks. Its time for a change.

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One fish Two fish

There is something both stifling and comforting about routine,

Thought the fish as it surfaced for a small discoloured flake like substance,

Upon returning to the depths, the pressure of existence stacked up, reflecting the outside,

Occasionally something from the unreachable place would disturb the landscape, but no ripples were felt,

Sometimes swimming fast feels good for no apparent reason, sometimes slow is better but it doesn’t matter which,

Every time there seems to be a better solution, amnesia is temporary and limits resurrected by the form of the fish,

Fins are useful in some other world, but for here and now they will do for we don’t have suggestions,

The bowl bears silent witness to many things, yet the swimmers remain, altering perspectives for their own entertainment,

If there is one thing that could be changed, to what purpose would it serve and what havoc would it wreak? Maybe less maybe more but we will never know for sure.

So many questions, not many answers, too many problems. Let’s just keep swimming because there is fuck all else to do……said the fish to the other fish.


As you can tell I am feeling a bit shit while staring at a goldfish bowl and this post was the result.

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Born slippy

I have just eaten half a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits and am seriously considering polishing off the rest of the packet. I had a craving that I couldn’t resist and I knew, when purchasing the packet, that there was no way I would just have a couple. Which is why I don’t buy chocolate digestives as a rule. In the same way that ex alcoholics and smokers don’t buy drink or a packet because they know it would tip the scales.

I have no explanation for this other than I am on the way out of a shitty cold and need a boost (I am also going to an exercise class tomorrow night which is run by a fifty something ex ballerina who bounces around like a cross between tinkerbell, tiger and Muhammad Ali while the rest of us try to play catch up like a herd of elephants). So I will need some spare calories in store for that.

If there is one defining change in my thirties (other than becoming a parent for the second time), it is calorie counting. It has become an obsession to preserve a relatively slim shape as age takes hold. So much so that when I do slip up, I slip up big.

I have also stopped glancing at a bbc four review of the music of the 90s because I can’t believe how long ago it was that I listened to blur and enjoyed placebo, prodigy and suede. If I was to choose a favourite band it would have to be Manic Street Preachers. I also liked the American band Live, mainly because I went to see them live at the Brixton Academy. I remember my Mum drilling it in to me that I needed to protect my one good ear (I have one almost deaf ear) from the bass of the speakers as it could be damaging. I then felt like shit as a boy came up to me and bellowed, ‘is it too loud for you or something?’. I was 15 at the time and mortified, I promptly unplugged my ear and was willing to let them bleed so as not to lose face.

It was a good time to have taken my finger out because this is what I heard


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Captivated by Jamaica

I have just heard that the company advertising the job I applied for last minute before I went away, have invited me for interview next week. Eek! It has been almost 4 years since I had am interview so am already anxious. Its also a big job and would be a big jump for me. The job is an opportunity for a complete lifestyle change. I am not afraid of change, in fact I embrace it. But there is always a part of you that wonders whether it is change for good. I will leave fate to decide that dilemma.

So, back to the holiday. I am going to re-visit our time in Jamaica. We were only there a few hours but it was enough time to really give us a taste of what a wonderful country Jamaica is full of even more wonderful people. We met a man called Merik who took us to a church so that we could understand the history of the country’s freedom from slavery and the significant role the church played in providing education and accommodation to get Jamaica’s people back on their feet after the tyranny of the slave trade. We then visited a school called St Peters and my daughter very much enjoyed talking and playing with the children. My baby son was being dragged round by the older kids who instantly wanted him to be their baby and they enjoyed playing with our buggy. I rescued him by taking him into the cool rooms of the nursery and chatting to the teachers while he interacted with children more his own size. One of the teachers asked me for a donation to fix the roof, which I gladly gave her. The children we saw were beautiful and very happy. I did have concerns over the security though. The children were playing in the garden in front of the school and the gate to the main road directly outside the school was open. I felt like I had to have eyes in the back of my head to keep a watch out for my children and the others. We were the only young family amongst a group of old Americans (it was a cruise excursion after all) and I did find it a tad disturbing that all these old people (and there were quite a few as another tour bus had arrived outside the school too) were milling around taking pictures of the children like they were some tourist attraction. The truth is they were a tourist attraction and the teachers welcomed us with open arms. A couple of younger children after a while found it all a bit overwhelming and I took one young chap to the teacher as he was crying out for his Mum. Of course the school no doubt get a welcome cash injection for accepting tourists, I suppose it is a necessary evil. But I wouldn’t like buses of tourists coming in to my children’s school every week to take random pictures of them. As parents in Britain you have to fill in a load of forms to permit the school to take pictures of your child, gates are locked and there is a coded entry system to gain access. There were similarities though, the way the classes were organised with draws and learning materials suspended and pinned around walls and ceilings to keep the children engaged. The projects the children were working on were similar. The one key difference was there was only one class for 90 children – and we balk at class sizes of 30.

We also drove past Usain Bolt’s secondary school, which he still uses for training. It is good that despite his fame he has remained in Jamaica to support his country and they recognise that and are immensely proud of his achievements.

We visited an old sugar cane estate and learnt about the history of the sugar trade and what happened once the ruling classes left. It is interesting that Jamaica has retained a similar local Government system to Britain, it is bizarre in such a hot country to hear words such as ‘parishes’ and random names you would normally expect to find only in Devon such as ‘Trelawny’.

Finally we met a lovely lady called Sunshine, who braided my daughter’s hair and put a hair wrap in mind, a work college joked that the Jamaican sunshine was trapped inside the braids. Sunshine gave us her email address and my daughter is really keen to email a picture of her with her uncle  who is of Jamaican origin although he has never been to Jamaica. I hope to return there with him as I definitely want to explore more of this fascinating country.

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