Sunday, 30 June 2013

Getting mediaeval

Day 2/51 of the holidays saw us travelling to Linlithgow in the rain.  Sigh.  

This summer we've joined Historic Scotland, so we can go on day trips to castles and the like.  

St Michael's Church and Linlithgow Palace
There are lots of cool things you can do, but we're starting off with jousting at Linlithgow palace.

I used to live near Linlithgow, and would regularly come to enjoy the peel and the lake, and occasionally venture into the palace too. It's not a good place for buggies, but it has some lovely details, a bit of romance, and some fine views. I especially love the covered seating area at the top of the Queen's tower (which unfortunately has some scaffolding up at the moment, and you can't read the sign telling you about it).  There she sat and waited in vain, for the King's return from battle.  Theirs was a love story, which is what you want in royalty, because they're generally not allowed it.

Bring on the knights!
The joust
But today battle was what it was all about. And what a battle it was!  There was fantastic, head-rolling, lance splintering, baddie booing jousting and fighting, and there were also people who knew what they were talking about showing us how to write with quills, dress in proper mediaeval dress (which must have been seriously stinky), make cords to hold our socks up (they didn't knit!  Their socks were woven and cut on the bias!), make medicines, and prepare feasts and banquets (apparently a feast is savoury, and banquets are sweet.  You had to be in the IN crowd to get an invite to a banquet).

The big girl and the Queen
(she could have done with a scarf)
Telling us all about feasts and banquets
(we weren't allowed to eat anything, sadly)
The kids had a great time, finding out about history, rolling down hills, sword-fighting, being princesses, and riding their trusty hobby-horses into battle.  I had a great time finding out stuff about the clothes (for a book I'm working on), finding out how to make a quill, and how to write with one, and just enjoying the great atmosphere.

There was so much going on.  It was really busy but the atmosphere was really good natured, despite constant rain, and there was always something to see.  I've taken loads of photos, and tried to narrow it down a bit to give you an idea.

on guard!
This is all happening again next weekend, and it doesn't take long to get to Linlithgow from anywhere in the central belt, so get over there (you can get tickets here). There's an efficient park and ride and everything. It's a great day out.

Mermaid - Linlithgow style

What have you been doing today?  And what would you recommend as a great day out?

People were enjoying the show from all over the palace

Saturday, 29 June 2013

on holiday!

School's out for summer!  The kids are sad to be changing their classes and moving away from their friends (really - not a single one of their new friends in their classes!), but excited about the holiday.  I am sad that we've come to the end of the baby days, but excited for the little girl starting nursery after the hols, and very excited that I'll get some more time to do things!  I might be mostly doing laundry, but I'm going to try to be a writer (darling).

Now Phineas and Ferb may have 104 days of summer vacation, but we have just 51, so we've got to have twice the fun of Phineas and Ferb... hmm.  We might not be building any roller coasters in the back garden, but there's so much we've got lined up.  EXCITED!!!

The big girl creates a giant apple peel
So let's start with today.  Day 1/51.  We had a lazy morning watching TV programmes, but then headed over to Callander park in Falkirk to see Mr Bloom and his CBeebies friends (and some of our friends too).  This is the first date of Mr Bloom's tour of the UK.  It is a fun day out, and they're happening in random places all over the UK, so have a look here, there might be one near you.

We're not hugely into the TV stuff, but we did plenty of running about, and lots of making. It was good fun, and very well run. I was particularly impressed with the way they handled lost children.  However if you're going I'd recommend you take a picnic as the food available was rubbish and expensive. I would also recommend you write your phone number on your child, just in case. It was VERY busy.

Tomorrow we're off to Linlithgow palace for jousting. But tonight we've got take-out and wine with friends to look forward to. Summer holidays are good already.

Add cap Iain pulls ahead in the Daddy racestion

Friday, 21 June 2013


I'm a bit of a 'big girl': 'cuddly', 'motherly', 'chunky'; say what you will (by the way, I don't mean that; if it's mean, don't bother), and I'm not thrilled about it, but I'm not concerned enough to stop eating cake either.

The big girl, beautiful, smart, funny, a great singer,
a little bit shy, and definitely not fat!
My kids have noticed that I'm chubby. The boy is learning that calling people 'fat' can be hurtful, and he's rather interested in the power of that. He and the big girl haven't been getting on too well of late, and the other day I caught him calling her 'fat'. That is a ridiculous thing to call her.  The big girl is totally not fat.  She and her Daddy are in the skinny camp in the family, and seem to have a different relationship to food than the other kids and I.  In fact I remarked the other day 'how are you so slim?', to which she replied that she didn't eat too much. And she doesn't.  If she's had enough to eat, she stops eating.  Even if there's cheesecake right there!  I know people say you should only eat if you're hungry, and stop eating when you've had enough, but come on people, it's cheesecake! (or chocolate/ice cream/pizza etc).

Hmm, cheesecake... What was I talking about?  Oh yes, the boy called her fat, and she went mad. She was really upset. So was I!  He was clearly calling her fat just to annoy her, because he knew it would work, even though she isn't fat, and even though it wouldn't matter if she was... Obviously we're somehow managing to tell the kids that it would matter if she was, and that people who look normal might be fat.  As a chubby mummy, it's probably me that's giving the kids most of their fat hangups.  Time to examine what I do!

When food is this good, you've got to have seconds!
BTW it's Spinach risotto with blue cheese and walnuts.
I tell my kids they're perfect, gorgeous, and lovely the way they are, but I remark on the big girl's slim figure (see above), and on the little girl's lovely squishy tummy, and the boy's chubby cheeks, and his being solidly built.  But I dont' think anything negative about any of the children's bodies, and I don't think I say anything negative.  But the same can't be said for myself!  They know that I get upset when called 'fat', even though I am fat.  That to me, fat is an insult.  I've always been chunky, but I did lose weight in the past, and then put it all back on, with a little sprinkling on the top after a horrible pregnancy and birth with my youngest (and last) child.  The body I had after that didn't even feel like mine, and it didn't look like something I wanted to live with.  I despaired for a while, and I still feel pretty bad about it, but things have got better (and my friend, Helen, really helped talk me down when I was in a really dark place about it).  Things will keep changing.  I might get slimmer, but I've got to learn to love my body for what it's doing now.  Because I've got to live in here.

My photo for the You! prompt - the little girl is
sitting on me, you can just see her.
As you may know, I take part in the fantastic Fat Mum Slim photo a day challenge. One of the benefits for me about being behind the camera is that I don't have to be in front of the camera!  The other day the prompt was 'You!' Turns out I wasn't the only one who felt uncomfortable being photographed; who felt too fat to be in the picture. One woman told us that she had lost her mother, and had hardly any photos of her, so even though she felt fat she got in photos with her kids, because she didn't want them to look back and not see their mother enjoying life with them.  She linked into this fantastic blog post about feeling to fat to be photographed... and doing it anyway.

Me and the boy

I want to teach my kids that even if their bodies don't look quite as they want them to, they can still be beautiful, they can still have fun, and they can still be happy.  I need to show them that myself, so I'm trying to be a bit less self conscious, and take pictures having fun with them. I hope that if I stop hiding so much I can help take some of the power away from fat, as an insult.  But I am a bit scared!  See how you only get my face in the photos? Sigh.

Are you happy to be photographed? What can help boost your confidence?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


I like watching TV programmes I like, and not watching other ones, or adverts, so I have one of those boxes that records your programmes, or lets you watch other ones on demand.

I like listening to radio programmes I like when I want to, without people talking over them, and without having to listen to radio dramas, so I listen to podcasts. I get them on my 'phone, and I listen on headphones while I'm doing boring stuff, and I don't need to be listening out for the weans.

On another lovely day in seaside town, with glorious sunshine, I set to defeating the laundry monster. I spent some quality time with my Ecoegg, my whirlygig and my headphones, listening to 'Thinking Allowed', which was all about work.

They were saying that people who are working (they were mainly talking about people working in more middle class jobs) were working more hours since the financial crisis started.  Yet, at the same time, figures show that people are doing lots of internet shopping while they're at work, and indeed looking at porn (at work! Don't these people have firewalls!?).  It seems like there isn't actually more work to do, but people are being expected to show their commitment by being present.

I have had jobs where I was expected to be present, even though there wasn't enough to do.  The worst one was when I was temping at a University in a Department which was trying to prove it needed more staff.  It didn't.  They did find some random jobs for me to do for a while, which was fun (I even enjoyed counting all the chairs in all the teaching rooms), but there wasn't enough.  It was tedious, it was mind-numbing, it didn't do a whole lot for my self-worth.  The worst thing was the agency said they wouldn't put me in another position if I walked out.  So I was stuck there... but at least it was a good place to be stuck while looking for a job.

I've been in other jobs where I felt like there was a whole lot of job creation going on.  I was busy, but what I was doing didn't really seem to be necessary.  I've also noticed that a lot of jobs call for flexibility, and yet the flexibility always seems to mean the employer gets more of the employees time!  Flexitime is just another way of ensuring people are paid for presenteeism, rather than the work they do.

However it's done, making people do more hours than they need to is a waste of their time, and messes up other people's lives.  People should be paid to do the job they are employed to do, not to be present for extra hours.  They should be valued enough to be trusted to do the work they are paid to do.  Sure, sometimes that might mean they work a bit more than their contracted hours, but sometimes it will mean they work less.

This culture of putting in the hours is taking people out of their families, for too long, unecessarily.  It is also making it harder for people with caring responsibilities to get employed.  We are missing out on lots of good people, both at home and at work.  Can we stop it please?

Dads playing with kids at home.  Can we get more of this please?

Sorry about the rant, but the state of work at the moment really rattles me.  I'd better warn you, there's an In Our Time podcast on work lined up.

What about you?  Have you had a job where you didn't have enough to do?  Or where you were just doing nothingy things which you didn't feel were much use?  What do you think about the working hours culture at the moment?

Enjoying the sunshine

Argh!  I've been neglecting you... it's been almost a fortnight since I last posted.  What can I say?  I'm sorry. What's my excuse?  Well, the good weather finally came, and I have been busy loving it.  It's back to rain today, so I'm catching up on things.

We've been having fun with family and friends, eating picnics, playing in the park, going for walks, washing everything in sight, rockpooling, playing on beaches, going out on boats, scooting, paddling, and generally having an excellent time.

Having cheeky bets on the races at the school sports day.
We even managed to entice my brother and his family up for a visit (after their holiday plans ended in a disaster called chicken pox).  He came with us to the school sports day, which became quite the event when we started placing bets on who would come first (to quote my brother: "COME ON BLUE SHORTS!").  No money exchanged hands, because apparently that would be wrong :-/

Eating Nardini's ice-cream in the sun :-)  I'm the hippyish Goth in the middle.

Running down that hill.

Do you know what the best thing about the sunshine was?  Everything.  It was warm, we didn't have to faff about with jumpers and coats and umbrellas.  Everything looked nicer. We all felt happier.  The winter this year seemed like it was never going to end, and I fear the summer is going to be far too short.  But thank goodness it came!  Our local shops ran out of sun cream the day before the rain came, and we don't really mind a little break before the sun comes back.  But remember, I said a little break.

So, what have you been doing in the sunshine?  And if you're further afield, what do you enjoy doing in the sunshine?  Keep it clean folks.

Many thanks to Eoian Lewis for photos for this post.