Tuesday, 29 October 2013


I am feeling the love today because it's my birthday.  I am forty!

I am in no way feeling sad about leaving behind my thirties.  This is a big birthday, but it's a good one!

Looking back, I feel like my first decade was a lot of fun.  My second was pretty horrible for the most part and if we could inflict adolescence on evil-doers as a punishment I would think long and hard before going ahead.  My 20s was rather crazy, but a lot of fun too.  My 30s have been hugely fulfilling, but incredibly busy.  

Now I'm going into my 40s, and I feel like I've properly grown up, left a lot of hangups behind, and am now getting a bit more time for me again.  I'm looking forward to spending more fun time with my family and friends, and of spending my time working on things I am interested in, rather than doing jobs I feel I ought to be doing.

I do mainly think that people are people and age is just a number, but experience of life teaches you that some things just aren't worth worrying about, and you can let go of a lot of 'shoulds' and just increasingly be.

I love Jenny Joseph's poem, Warning - it shows us the path we should take, but I've got a decade or more to go before I'll be ready to buy my red hat.

Warning by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

My sunny and beautiful friend Cate said this about being 40:  
I'll let you into a secret about being 40 though (at least a decision I made when I was 40) I suddenly finally felt grown up and if I didn't want to do anything, I didn't have to - and if someone didn't like me...it's their loss.  Sad really that it took me 40 years to work that out!
I think Cate is right.  I feel grown up now too, and in charge of my own life.  I am looking forward to sharing my forties with my friends, many of whom are in their forties already, and seem to be having a pretty good time.

How do you feel about turning 30/40/50/whatever your next big milestone is? 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Monday, 28 October 2013

meeting Robin Hobb

Yesterday I had some time off being a Mum and travelled into Glasgow to see Robin Hobb talking at Waterstones.  It was lovely to be able to go where I wanted, when I wanted, and to spend a good quantity of time reading (one of her books).

I must admit, I don't get on terribly well with Hobb's books.  The names of the characters annoy me (although that's my problem - they are completely in keeping with her world), and I don't like the magicy element (again, that's my problem - magic is, after all, to be expected in fantasy).  But the thing that really annoys me is that the central character has a familiar in the form of a wolf.  This of course happens in George RR Martin's books too, and I have no problems with the direwolves, but Hobb's Nighteyes (what a name) is much more doggy than the direwolves, and that's probably why it annoys me.  I cannot be doing with dogs.

All that said, I love the way Hobb shows you people's characters, and how they are feeling, by the way they live, and what surrounds them.  I also have immense respect for women who make it as fantasy authors, and Robin Hobb has certainly made it.  However, Robin is a pen name.  Her real name is Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (ahh, Ogden - there was a lad called Ogden who was in Cider with Rosie with me, but sadly I was not Rosie).  So I wondered why she'd chosen a name usually thought of as a boy's name for her high fantasy?

I should note here, that most of Hobb's stories have been written under the pseudonym Megan Lindholm - clearly a girly name, but still not wholly hers.

I asked her.  Why did you choose the names Megan Lindholm and Robin Hobb, and why have two names?

She said that Lindholm is her maiden name (using your maiden name as a middle name is common practice in America, and I wish I'd thought of doing it), and she didn't want to be Margaret as it didn't fit well on the cover.  People call her Meggie, but she didn't want to be that, Maggie, or Peggy, or any of those things, as they seemed too frivolous, so she settled on Megan.  Megan Lindholm writes all sorts of long form and short form stories in lots of fantasy and sci fi genres.

When she started out writing the books set in the Six Duchies, she was getting into a new genre for her: epic fantasy or high fantasy.  Her publisher wanted her to use a different name, and suggested an androgynous name would be useful because that would help readers to understand her book being from the main, male character's point of view.

She had a think about it.  She went and had a look at some book shops to see what might be a good name.  She noticed that the H's were at eye level, so she decided to be a H.  She chose Hobb because it could be nice and big on the front cover, and because it brought to mind hobbits and hobgoblins, as well as hobs.  She chose Robin because it sounded good, and because it brought to mind Robin Hood.  But also because it looked good on the page.  She didn't mention choosing an androgynous name to boost sales.  She'd already done well as Megan Lindholm, but she did brilliantly as Robin Hobb.

So I've been wondering, if you were an author, what kind of books would you write, and what name would you use?  I'd like to write high fantasy myself, and I have no idea what I'd call myself.  Cara R McKee?

Some other posts you might like are:

Sunday, 27 October 2013

getting herstorical - Sally Hemings

Uncle Ian in the '70s, with girlfriend
When Kenny and I got married my lovely Uncle Ian, who is in the know about the history of my Dad's family, gave us a special album of pictures and stories from my families past.  Best wedding present ever.  

It's got lots of pages left blank, for us to fill in details of other branches of our families, but he's given me loads of information , and it's great to have.  Things that happened before we were born become much more relevant when we realise our families were involved or affected. 

There are plenty of pictures too, and they really help to bring the stories to life. In the stories of people's lives he's been good enough to include rumour and hearsay, as well as objective facts, which I think is great.  It gives us colour and interest, and also reveals much more than we would otherwise know about the women in the family. I mention the women particularly, because the men's actions are documented in records of their work, while the women quietly kept the home fires burning. 

It's only in the last 100 years or so that we've come to the point that we want to believe our history is objectively true.  Previous to that, it was alright for history to have some truth in it, even if it didn't reflect any actual facts.  But that's the story side of history.  Some facts have been recorded - things like births, marriages, coronations, service records, and deaths.  But these tell us an awful lot more about men's public lives than women's private lives.  We know more about women who were in the public sphere, like Queens, but even then, precious little.  If only we could look at historical figures Facebook profiles and see how they presented their own lives, rather than having to rely on those that came after them.

A Stuff You Should Know podcast I listened to the other day (on Revisionist History - American focused but fascinating - check it out here) gave the example of Thomas Jefferson.  Apparently Thomas owned more than a hundred slaves, and, after the death of his wife had a long running affair with an enslaved woman, Sally Hemings, who bore him at least six children.

Initially historians rubbished this, arguing that Jefferson wouldn't do this, but this was based on their moral values and their perceptions of Jefferson's character.  In fact, Sally was recognised as being the daughter of Jefferson's father-in-law (that was why she had his surname).  One of several children borne from a relationship he had with one of his slaves after his wife died. These lighter-skinned children would find themselves at the top of the slave heirarchy, getting the best positions in the house, yet there is no evidence that they were understood as half siblings to the legitimate (white) children of the owning family.  In the area where he lived, and among slaves owners, it was traditional for white male slave owners to take enslaved concubines, so why would Jefferson have been different?

More recently scientific advances have enabled DNA evidence to come to light, and as we have become more enlightened about inter-racial relationships, the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings has become accepted as a scandalous love affair.  Scandalous because Hemings had 1/8th African heritage, because she was enslaved (and although Jefferson did grant his children their freedom when they were 21, he did not do the same for Hemings), and because of a massive age difference.

We do not know if Sally Hemings was able to write - she was educated to some degree, but she did not leave a handy diary which would allow us to see if her relationship with Thomas Jefferson was a love affair she chose, considering the imbalance of power in their relationship.  It seems more likely to me that it was simply part of her duties, as it had been for her mother, and her grandmother.

I don't think the relationship between slave owner and slave would be scandalous at the time.  Far more scandalous (and illegal) if Jefferson had freed her and wished to marry her.  There is no suggestion of that.  What do you think went on?  Love affair?  Slave production?  Or perhaps she was impregnated by another Jefferson altogether?

Allegedly Jefferson was morally and politically opposed to slavery, and yet he owned hundreds of slaves, and freed very few.  He was president 60 years before slavery would be abolished.

History has been rightly called history, as it's generally written about Kings and military leaders, about captains and captains of industry, about Presidents.  About men.  Lots of people are looking at filling in the blanks now, but there's got to be some guesswork.
Margaret Beaufort.  Her words mean
'think of me often'
Pic from here

I love the historical novels of Phillipa Gregory .  Some of them were used to make The White Queen, which you might have watched (and you can see a medley of Richard and Anne stuff here).  She's using stories to give us an idea of what life might have been like for historical women.  Some criticise her for using stories, but all history is stories.  We need to look at what we 'know' from all angles to better understand it.

Phillipa Gregory left it to us to decide who killed the Princes in the Tower.  Some have blamed Richard III, some Margaret Beaufort, Phillipa even suggested Anne Neville might be to blame.  We will of course never know... but what do you think?

 Some other posts you might like are:

Friday, 25 October 2013

crazy and fat

Did anyone ever call you crazy?  Did it make you crazy?  Are you feeling so crazy right now?

I was listening to the latest installment from Stuff Mom Never Told You - a podcast on crazy women stereotypes, like sex crazed, crazy bitch, baby crazy, etc.  They were arguing that categorising women as crazy when they don't behave is basically a means of enforcing gender norms.  I can totally see that, and see how women collude in it while describing themselves as crazy when they do break the norms - when they are interested in sex, or obsessional about having a baby.

There are those who say we shouldn't use 'crazy' for all these things, because it's putting down people who are genuinely crazy.  However, I am pretty sure everyone has a bit of crazy in them at some point in their lives, and what is crazy, if not breaking norms?  Sure - some people are at some points really very debilitated by mental illness.  I've been affected myself, I'm not going to say it ain't so, but isn't that just the thorny end of a very long stick?  Isn't crazy normal?

Channel 4 seems to be obsessing about fat people of late.  Apparently there are a lot of fat people around, and it is their fault, but if you listen to the stories of fat people, you find a lot of unhappiness, and fear.  It makes me wonder if overeating isn't maybe a form of eating disorder?  One that, like all eating disorders, is linked to mental and emotional health, but one that seems to be overlooked with a whole lot of victim blaming.

I had a bit of a problem with eating when I was a teenager, and as soon as my parents realised what was going on they took me to the doctor.  I was sent to a psychiatrist and a dietician straight away, and took up eating again, mainly in the hope that they would all leave me alone, but my point is, I got help.  Maybe not good help, but an effort was made.  

Being fat is another matter.  When I go to the doctor, I get told off for being fat, and advised on what a healthy diet involves (I mean really, as if people don't know what a healthy diet involves).  I basically get told that I'm stupid and being difficult, but I wouldn't choose to be fat, and I wouldn't choose an unhealthy relationship with food.  Lest we forget, people are dying from over-eating, meanwhile the NHS is wondering whether to bother helping them.  On one occasion I went to the doctor and told him I was feeling sad and hopeless, and was comfort eating.  He did refer me for CBT, but he didn't include my eating in my diagnosis (although surely it is?).  Instead he said, as I was leaving, that I should stop doing the comfort eating.  Thanks for that then.

I'm not saying that the NHS should take charge of my diet, or anyone else's, but maybe we should have a think about why people eat too much instead of just berating them for it.  The 'world's fattest man', Ricky Naputi, is said to have eaten himself to death, and no doubt he would have, if he had carried on as he did, but he chose a swifter suicide, because he was not only fat, but also sad.  When he was trying to get help there were lots of doctors talking about his weight, but precious few talking about his mood, and how can anyone succeed without the will to do so?

What about you?  What's your kind of crazy? 

Some other posts you might like are:

Thursday, 24 October 2013

addicted: 6 things I can't live without

What are you addicted to? and why?

Pregnancy and breastfeeding have helped me kick all my substance addictions (I'm talking cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine - sorry it's not more exciting), but there are still things that I can't do without.  Are there things you feel weird if you don't get?

Here are mine:

1  My 'phone
Three addictions in one pic!  My HTC 'phone,
my computer (Scrivener open for writing the
book), and some books.

I've got to have my 'phone with me all the time.  I'd take a photo' of it, but I use it to take photo's.  I've recently upgraded from a HTC Wildfire S to a Samsung Galaxy s3 (did I see you glazing over there?).  Long story short, it's much bigger, which is great for using it, but pants for carrying it around.  I often wear clothes with no pockets, so I'm forced to either wear a bag all the time (which is irritating and catches on doors), or stick the 'phone in my bra.  The second option worked well for the HTC Wildfire S, but I do not have the cleavage for the Samsung Galaxy S3, so I keep leaving it places.

Losing my 'phone would be disastrous because my 'phone has taken over the role of ALL the things (apart from the money, but it's working on it) which used to be in my handbag, which is fantastic.  I can now share my Google Calendar with Kenny and my mother in law, and if they read their calendars this would give us perfect syncronicity ;-) so I don't need a diary.  I use Evernote (do you use Evernote yet?  It's fantastic, I don't know how I lived without it) so I don't need a notebook, or pens, I have games and drawing to keep the kids amused, I have lots of alarms to remind me to pick kids up, so I don't need a watch.  I love my 'phone.  If I don't have it, I feel like I've lost a limb.

2  The Sims

I love to play The Sims. I will play it until way past my bedtime, I will play it when I should be doing other things, I find random excuses for playing it.  My most recent one (and I think you'll recognise this as being valid), is that I can create characters in The Sims who are characters in the book I'm working on.  This helps me better get to know them, and what ways they might behave.  For example, I had a character, Brother Feather, in my book, and I was wondering how he came to have joined the chapter.  No problem.  Created him in The Sims, designed his character, and tried to get him to have relationships.  He was very good at starting relationships, and very bad at keeping them.  He fell madly in love with Cassandra Goth, who married him, but didn't like his philandering ways.  She dumped him when she saw him kiss someone else, and no amount of begging would win her back, which is why he joined The Chapter.  I am tempted to tell you all about my other characters, but that just shows the extent of my addiction!

3. Writing
I'm hoping a touch of finger
pointing can take the heat
off me :-)

I asked my children what they thought their Daddy and I were addicted to.  They reckoned that for Daddy it was playing on his 'phone, and for me it was blogging.  I suspect that this is because I keep 'borrowing' their toys, or getting them to pose for pictures, either for photo-a-day (of which more below), or for the blog.  At the moment I'm trying to replace any pictures I've borrowed from elsewhere on the web with ones of my own.  Of course, I'd never use someone else's picture and pass it off as my own, but I have borrowed quite a lot, so it's quite a mission.

As well as writing the blog, of course, I'm working on 'the book', which I keep getting ideas about, or talking about while they are around... perhaps my least well thought out one was the conversation I had with my sister and mother about what the easiest way would be to kill someone with a small blade.  I love writing, and I hope I can pull this book together to be something good.  Meanwhile I'll keep blogging, and I hope this will be something good too.

4. Photo-a-day

Yesterday's prompt was 'my mood today'
This seemingly innocuous list of daily prompts from Chantelle of Fat Mum Slim seems like a fun way to stretch your photography skills, and, indeed, just to take pictures of something different.  It is fun.  It is a great way to get inspired, and meet people all 'round the world.  It is overwhelmingly positive (so much so that the snarky types grumping about some of the pictures stand out like a sore thumb.  I have been doing this for over a year now, and it has got to the point where I sometimes think 'I don't fancy doing this prompt, I might just skip it', but do you know what?  I can't skip it.  I wake up, and reach for my 'phone (see above), to check in Google Calendar what the prompt is for today, and then it's on my mind all day.  When I take the picture I'm looking for an opportunity to edit it and then post it.  Once it's posted, I want to know what everybody else's pictures look like.  I've never been in the fab four (a daily selection of some of the great pics), and I would love to be, but it's OK.  Today's prompt is 'dark', and I don't fancy it.  I'm going to see if I can skip a day!

5  Sweet stuff
Lydia's cake... yummy

I was in a really good place dietarily a few years ago, and promised myself I wouldn't slip back into bad ways.  I slipped anyway.  I got pregnant, I started hating salads, and then we moved house twice and I got into comfort eating and all sorts of nonsense.  I'm doing better now.  Salads are back.  However, I can't seem to break out of eating too much sweet stuff.  I'm being tortured by my dentist to pay for this addiction, and of course, I've gone up a size or two.

I know that the only way to break out of this addiction is to go cold turkey (and I should probably ditch bread too).  But I don't want to.  Well, I do want to, but I can't see it happening with a birthday and Halloween just around the corner.  I could maybe start on 6th November for a month - see if I can reset my palate.  Anyone fancy joining me?

6  Reading

I know lots of people who say they don't have time to read, and I understand that people are really busy, but I can't imagine not having time to read.  I read the newspaper whenever I get the chance, but luckily it's on my 'phone, so I don't have to carry it about.  I also have a mountain of books in my to-read pile, which are slowly whittled away, only to be replaced.  Since I've started blogging I read loads of blogs, but I get them all on bloglovin', so it's like a magazine with lots of great articles every day.  On top of that there's books which I read if I don't stay up too late playing The Sims, and my Kindle, which I read if I did stay up too late, so can't turn the lights on.  When I was breastfeeding I would plough through books, propping them up in one hand, while supporting baby's head.  What are you reading at the moment?  I'm reading The Crimson Petal and the White (Michel Faber) on the Kindle, and The Kingmaker's Daughter (Phillippa Gregory) in hard copy.  Sadly, it doesn't have pictures of Aneurin Barnard in it.

This is the latest post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them here.

Some other posts you might like are:

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

celebrating birthdays and Halloween

Even though I am happiest when I'm warm and dry, I do love this time of year.  Nature celebrates the end of long summer days, by getting her glad rags on ready for the long nights of winter.  I love the greens of summer, but am glad to see the beautiful colours, and mysterious mists of Autumn.

I suspect I'm such a big fan of Autumn because my birthday falls just before Halloween, so my birthday parties have often been Halloween parties.  Bobbing for apples, and marshmallows on strings, as well as dressing up, and lots of sweets and cakes.

I love going trick or treating too.  Happily I still get to go, because my children need to be taken, but I don't usually get to dress up.

I'm excited this year, because I'll be taking the children to two Halloween dos for which I'll need to get dressed up.  Fabulous.  The crimpers and black eyeliner have been dusted off in anticipation.

I'm going to be 40 this year, and I'm not having a big birthday do.  There's plenty of Halloween dos without any extras.  I've not been so bothered about my birthday since I grew up, although I do note it's loud TICK through the year - another year gone, another age done.

One year I didn't notice the TICK.

My first child was born in 2005, and we got lots of presents and cards for him, and they just kept coming, merging into the cards I got from me.  I know Kenny, and my family wouldn't have skipped my birthday, but I can't remember having one that year.  And it didn't matter, except that I didn't notice the TICK.  I was befuddled about how old I was for a whole year, and to be honest, it's been tricky to keep track since then, except for this year.

This year I'm going to be 40, and I'm not likely to get befuddled about that.  I wasn't overly concerned about it - saw it perhaps as a TOCK, rather than a TICK, but it's just a number.  Our bodies age at different rates anyway, according to the latest research (reported here in The Guardian), so parts of me are already 40, perhaps even 50!  I wasn't worried about it until this morning, when the boy and I had this conversation:
     "You've only got six days left of being 30-something."
     "Oh no!  That makes me sound old."
     "40 isn't old."
     "What's old then?"
     "Er... 87?"
     "Wow!  That is old.  What about Granny and Grandad, aren't they old?"
     "No!  They're not old."

I guess the boy thinks people should be incapacitated by age before he considers them old.  We're lucky.  Our parents are healthy, and no, they don't seem old.  So how can 40 be old?

I should maybe up my game on the fitness front but, in order to stay not-old as long as I can, but first, lets have heaps of sweets and cake, and I'll die my hair, ready for Halloween.

When do you think you get old?  And have you ever missed a birthday?  Or got your age wrong?

This is the latest post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them here.

Some other posts you might like are:

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

looking back

What's your earliest childhood memory?

A friend of mine has a freakishly early memory of pulling himself up to stand by holding on to a radiator, which was HOT!  But I guess that's a story he'll have heard a lot, and the pain must have helped him remember, right?

My brother, me, and my friend.  I wish I still had that outfit!
I don't remember anything from that long ago, but my earliest memory is from a long time ago.  Often it's difficult to know if a memory is really a memory, or if it's just something you've been told, or seen pictures of (and thanks, by the way, to my Dad, who provided all these pictures), which you've made into a memory.  My earliest memory is something I know to be my memory, because my Mum didn't remember it, but she checked and found it to have been true.

I'm giving it some build up here, which is unfortunate, as it's really not that interesting.

My earliest memory is of being 'round at my neighbour, and best friend's house, when I was about 3.  We were playing with a toy/model Aga.  I didn't know, but her parents had just got an Aga, and they'd got this one too... but it wasn't a toy.  And that, I'm afraid, is the end of the memory.

I have no memory of this, and yet it was in my house, and
I think that's me at the back.  Is that you there Lucy?
It's funny isn't it?  What we remember.  Sometimes I have thought to myself 'I am going to remember this night out for the rest of my life', only to discover the following morning that I can't remember how I got home.  Other times memories stick, no matter how mundane.

Our history, like all history/herstory is made up of the snapshots we remember, embellished with stories, sights, smells, and feelings.  It doesn't always matter if they're true, so long as they feel true.  The time my flatulent Auntie apologised for farting will always be hilarious, because of its break from normality.  Whether she said 'oooh, excuse me!' seems unlikely, but it is none-the-less true.

Smells, of course, seem to be directly linked in to memory, so it's great that fashions in scent are always changing.  I am glad I don't smell much Fahrenheit anymore, because it takes me WAY back.  I also never seem to smell Spiritual Sky Patchouli, although I would love to... but not so much I'm going to buy any, because it wouldn't smell authentic.  The patchouli was overlaid with menthol cigarettes, and lack of laundry facilities, and stale cider, and seaside walks.  Those days are gone.

Grandma Lydia and I.  Is that you in the background, Ruben?
Now I get the smells of warm, dozy children, Grandma Lydia's chocolate cake being baked again, and Kenny's smelly trainers after his run.  But who knows what smells will drag me back to this time in the future?  

Of course, when we're passing our stories on, then smells aren't going to cut it.  We rely on photos, stories, and objects passed down.  My Uncle Ian has been rather fabulous at finding out some of my family history, and it's really important we do that.  Why?  Because we shoudlnt' think of the past as simply populated with military men and Kings.  People lived out their real lives.  What was it like for the normal people living out their lives while the Cousins War rattled on?  Or indeed, before we had the safety net of the NHS?  We need to know these things, so people cannot fool us into believing things that are just not true.  Wars and Kings are important, but they don't keep the home fires burning.  Let's all tell our histories/herstories, and we can understand the world a bit better, and at least imagine the smells they would smell.

I'm going to be looking back at the stories of some of the women in my family soon.  Have you got any good herstories in your family?

This is the latest post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them here.

Some other posts you might like are:

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Well, that's me.  Black wash in the washing machine, red wine at my side.  Hope you've all had a good October holidays, or will have a good half term.  I'm feeling pretty chilled just now, but sometimes I can be monstrous!

Picture monsterised over at

Did you hear Cher on Woman's Hour this week?  If not, you can listen to it here.  

Cher was refreshingly honest about her reactions to both her daughter's homosexuality, and to Miley Cyrus' interesting recent performance with Mr Thicke (thicke by name... for more on my opinion on his work see this post).  In both cases, her initial reaction was a massive, grumpy, over-reaction, but then, when she had a chance to consider it, she realised there was nothing to be furious about!

Still, I can't imagine her daughter, Chas, or indeed Miley Cyrus had her in their good books for a while.

I loved that Cher shared this, because it's not a character trait that people are prone to brag about.  It is not nice to live with, but it is, to me, completely understandable.  Anyone who has lived with me will be able to tell you that I do completely the same thing too.  I have something in common with Cher!

I really try not to, but I do tend to sting first and ask questions later - as you can tell, I'm blaming it on being a Scorpio (astrology is all nonsense until I either a) need and excuse, or b) think something is pretty cool about being Scorpionic).

I am really sorry about this.  I know a lot of people think I'm rather scary because of it, and generally I have a theory that that sorts the wheat from the chaff.  But sometimes I alienate people I care about and that sucks, so sorry again.

I am trying to take a breath before I respond, to talk things over with people who are used to my funny little ways before I tell someone to F' off, but sometimes I fail.  I think this might be my worst habit, but if I say it is, one of those people who know my funny little ways will no doubt inform me of some other doozies.

What about you?  Do you have a tendency to bite people's heads off?  What's your worst habit?  And, what do you think of astrology?

Some other posts you might like are:

Friday, 18 October 2013


Have you come across Theodore Zeldin?

He's a very clever man.  One of those who has incredibly good ideas so we don't have to.

At the centre of a maze
you need a good conversation
He's written a book called Conversation: how Talk Can Change Your Life.  You can buy it remarkably cheaply here.  He talks about how all of us can improve our lives by having conversations.  How honesty, and talking about important things can bring us closer by helping each other understand one another.  In doing that, we can understand ourselves better.

He talks about how conversation can be useful, and skipped over, even in our most significant relationships.

In our society we're very individualistic.  We consider a worker as an individual, not as a person contributing to a family, which is what they usually are.  We consider ourselves to be busy, doing things that are useful, and not well enough recognised.  We're all going along our paths, and not recognising that we can only go along them with the help of others, and it's only through our help that others navigate their paths.  Never mind what men can do, or women. What can we do together?

Zeldin suggests that better conversation, on topics like ambition, fear, relations of civilisations, can help us to better know our partners, and help us to make ourselves better in the course of so doing.  Through our relationships we can develop ourselves much more fully.

I love this idea, and the topics he thinks we should explore are really interesting to me.  When I come to think about it, I spend more time talking to my children about things like curiosity, friendship, and gender relations, than I do my partner, and that's just life.  But I do fancy doing something about it.  

What about you?  Do you have these big conversations?  Would you like to?  What topic do you think we should all be conversing about?

Some other posts you might like (they all talk about conversations) are:

speaking int' dialect

This weekend is National Dialect Weekend in England.   It's focusing on the regional dialects of England, and celebrating the richness they bring to our language (and the connection to place and time they give).  Dialects are also very important in Scotland (where some people did once speak Scots Gaelic, but not all), from the frankly unintelligible Doric (which the big bloke out of Brave speaks), to the slightly scary Weegie (or West Coast) accent (although that's not as scary as someone from Livingston asking 'alright darling?').  I must point out that dialect refers to different words people use in different areas, and accent to how they say words, but the two are inevitably conflated, I reckon.

Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man get different variations of Gaelic, but they all also speak English, with some fabulous variations.  I love the Manx 'what road's that down then?' (for where's that) and 'aye yessir' (yes).

I was going to say something like I'm fae Yorkshire me, but then I realised that fae would be the Scottish way of saying from, and living in so many places has got me befuddled.  

I do have a bit of Yorkshire accent/dialect.  I say onvelope, intead of envelope.  And when I get cross I might be mad about the way I've been tret, but mostly I have what my Dad calls a University accent - meaning most accent is lost and you use longer words!  What about you?  What do you say that shows your roots?  Does it come out more if you're mad?  Or if you're drunk?  Do you suddenly fall back into it when you speak to your folks on the 'phone?
A snicket
So there

Even though I'm dead posh sounding like, I do have words that I've grown up knowing were the right words, and so I still use them, although I'm getting used to people looking mystified.  You know that paved/tarmac'ed pathway between houses that pedestrians can use for a short cut?  I call that a snicket.  

One time in Rainy Town, Scotland, there was a blockage on the pavement ahead, and I called to the children that we'd go down the snicket.  I was stopped immediately by an elderly lady in her garden, telling me that it wasn't a snicket.  Snickets,  she told me, are not found in Scotland.  This was an alley.  So that's me told!

There are lots of things that people across the country use different words for.  What do you call a snicket?  A gym shoe?  Is that bug under the rock a woodlouse or a slater?  Are you ticklish in your oxter or your armpit?  Do you say aye or yes?  Wee or little?  In the scud or naked?

When we lived in sunny Suffolk the boy's teacher had a strong Suffolk accent, so it was rather unfortunate that she taught them ICT on the compooter on Toosdays.  She used to reward good behaviour with coobs in a jar.  When they filled it up they'd get a party!  My son insisted they were called coobs, not cubes, for quite a long time.  There's a great example of a Suffolk accent here.

My Granny was from Lancashire and always called the park the rec'.  Mind you she thought it was reet graidly too.

The British Library has collected sound recordings of English dialects, which are great to listen to.  See if you can find one from near you.

There is a worry that British dialects are dying out, and they might be getting softened a bit I suppose, but I still love that if you catch a train from Edinburgh to London, and fall asleep, you can always tell where you are when you wake up by the accents.  Even my children notice when we're going through Yorkshire.  'Mum!  Other people talk like you!'

And with that I shall leave you with a few gems.  The National Anthem of Gods Own County - Yorkshire (by the way, the tune for this is the tune that While Shepherds Watched was originally sung to - try it).  This version is just silly, but stick with it, Brian Blessed is coming (btw, Brian Blessed is from Yorkshire, proof, if such were needed, that it is truly blessed).

Here's some Manx dialect translation (watch out for swearing).

And to provide a wee bit of balance, this is an awesome example of the difficulties of dealing with accents.  It's in Scottish, yer ken? (warning: strong language).

Some other posts you might like:

Thursday, 17 October 2013


Today I'm sharing another post from the marvellous Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim's ist of  50 things to blog about (thank you Chantelle).  Today it's number 19:

The last thing that made me cry

Me and my parents.  Clearly I've always been
a cryer.
The last thing that made me cry was that my Dad wasn't able to come and visit after all.  I had been looking forward to seeing him, and was really glad that one of my parents was coming to visit me in Seaside Town at last.  It wasn't his fault he couldn't come, and he'd been meaning to come earlier, but I'd had to cancel that time.  It wasn't really the fact that he couldn't come that made me cry.  Rather, it was the fact that I don't get to lean on my Mum and Dad anymore.  Being a grown up sucks!

Well, apart from being able to stay up late playing on the computer and drinking wine and stuff.

My son's Easter assembly
I was literally in puddles.
I think something must have permanently shifted in my hormonal make-up when I became a mother, because I now cry at so much stuff it's unfeasible.  

I cry at mawkish adverts, I cry in my children's assemblies,  I cry if people are nice to me, and when my children are nice to each other.

I cry when I sing Jerusalem, which I do quite a lot when no-one else is there.  There are lots of fine countries in this world, but if you were unlucky enough to not be brought up in England, you are seriously missing out on that hymn (which is about Yorkshire really, right?). 

I don't feel sad, sometimes I don't feel happy, it's just that water is leaking from my eyes.  It's kind of annoying.  

However, I hardly ever do that horrible snuffling, blotchy-faced proper crying now, except I did on Sunday, and I did a while ago when I learned a close family member was sick (they've got the all clear now, thank goodness).  

I also get moved to tears by music videos, especially this one by Aerosmith, and I ALWAYS cry at those videos of crowds dancing in train stations.  What is that about?!  Here's the most recent one I watched, so you can cry too (except you won't - why would you?).  The worst thing is that if I was actually there when it happened, I would not stop and video it on my 'phone, or mouth 'wow', or stand and gawp.  I would certainly not join in.  I would get out of there as quick as I could and get on my train!

What about you?  What makes you cry?  If you're a parent have you got worse since you had kids?

This is the latest post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them 

Some other posts you might like are:

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Not doing things: 7 things I won't do before I die.

People often talk about the things they want to do before they have kids, before they're 40, 50, 60... before they die. But what don't you want to do before you die? And why don't you want to do it? Have you done it before? Or does it just not appeal?

I'm not talking about things like dying in agony. I think we can take things like that as read.  I'm more thinking of things that are perfectly reasonable to do, but you're just not wanting to do them.  Thank you!

Here are seven things I have no intention of doing before I die.  What are yours?

1 - Wearing high heels

I've tried, I really have.  I have tottered about a little bit, but mainly I have walked and danced in stockinged feet while my high heels rested under the table.  No more I tell you.  I've got chiropodists in my family, and they tell me that high heels are the enemy of feet, so I'm not going to do it any more.

I am at an advantage, I must admit.  I'm 5'9" anyway, so lets face it, I don't need high heels.  But would I really need them if I was shorter?  

2 - Eating really spicy food

I've never got the hang of really spicy food.  I'm not going to bite into a Scotch Bonnet just to prove that I can.  It hurts!  I know that there are those that think I'm missing out, and I hope they enjoy their Vindaloos, but me?  I'll stick with Korma thanks.

Runners waiting to run the Great Scottish Run
Half Marathon.  I held the coats.
3 - Running a marathon

This is another one of those things that people who are into it tell me I am missing out for not doing, but honestly, why would you do that to yourself if you didn't have to?

My other half just ran the Glasgow Half Marathon (pictured) to raise money for Orchid Cancer.  I'm glad he did.  He loves to do exercise, and my brother has recently survived testicular cancer so Orchid is close to my heart, but I am very happy to look after the kids while he does it.  Oh, and move his clothes from start point to finish line too.  What I don't like about him doing these runs is ALL THE FREAKING TIME it takes to train up for it.  If I was doing it too we'd need a nanny.  Which we don't.  So that's good then.

4 - Being thin

I've tried this too.  When I was a teenager I tried far too hard and got all willowy.  I found myself fitting into clothes and all sorts of crazy things (passing out quite often too).  I don't want to stay fat forever, but I don't mind all that much, and I figure that when I get my act together a bit I'll get thinner.  But I'm not going to try to get actually thin.  I am not interested in going below a size 16 or thereabouts, because although I do want to be healthy, and I do want to look nicer in clothes, I do not want to be hungry, and I do not want to ditch cider and cake.  Ahhh, cider and cake.  Which do you like more?  Being thin, or cider and cake?

5 - Developing an interest in cars

I can drive a car.  I drive a car lots.  It's a great big silver thing that I can fit endless amounts of children and stuff in.  I like a car that works, although you do develop a stronger relationship with cars that don't.  I used to have a battered old Citroen by the name of Bono.  So called because he both Rattled and Hummed.  You had to stop every five miles or so to refill the water tank.  I'm glad we don't have Bono any more.

Our car now is reliable, and I don't know how to do anything except drive it and fill it with fuel.  My husband occasionally offers to show me how to fill the scooshies or check the oil, but he gives up when he notices my glazed expression.  My ideal car would fill itself up (or maybe take itself off to recharge), drive itself, and (and this is important), park itself.  Or even better, take itself off to some sort of holding facility, and come back when I needed it.

Luckily Google are working on the car of my dreams.  So I guess I may get interested in cars if they manage to make that dream a reality.  But I really couldn't care less who made them.  I just need to know:

  • how many seats?
  • what colour?  Does it come in black?
  • where do I put my bag?
  • can I fit everything in it?
6 - Getting a proper job

I was brought up by a good middle class family in Britain, with a proper Protestant Work Ethic, and I have had proper jobs, but do you know what?  They're over-rated.

What do I mean by a proper job?  One where you're paid by someone else to go somewhere and put your hours in.

Now the important thing about having a proper job is that you do get money, but I'm yet to find one wherein you get enough money to put up with the nonsense you have to put up with.  This might be the case anywhere, but I do not want to work anywhere where some numpty is counting the hours I am present, and counting them as more important than what I am doing.

Generally I suck at being told what to do, so I'm hoping to just not do it anymore.  I had an idea when I was growing up that I would work lots of hours but not mind because I would be doing something I loved.  That still works for me.  I am happy to do things I love, and things I like, and things that are just plain boring, but need to be done, so long as I am motivating myself.  So, if you could all just hand me some cash, I'll do that...  Hmm, I think this one needs more thought.

7 - Voting Tory

You're supposed to get more right wing as you get older, right?  But then I started off pretty left wing.  I have this idea that I will always listen to all sides of the political argument, but it's not true.  I have no platform for the BNP, and I'm lucky enough to live in Scotland, where UKIP is a political laughing stock (see the video below from channel 4 news).

My husband said he didn't think I was giving the Tories a fair go, because I was still referring to them as the Evil Empire, but I did!  I really did.  I even thought for a wee while there, during the election campaign that David Cameron might not be too bad.  He seemed to have the interests of families at heart.  I was wrong of course.  As soon as he got into power he put his black cape back on.  Happily I hadn't voted for him.  I was thinking of doing, but memories of the poll tax stopped me.  Thank goodness.  I shall continue to not vote for the Tories.  Hopefully others will do the same, and there might be a little hope to come.

Well, I'm sure there's stuff in my list that you don't agree with, and if so, then please do share.  But what about you?  What don't you want to do before you die?

This is the latest post in my series inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about.  You can find the rest of them here.

Some other posts you might like are: