Tuesday, 30 September 2014

a Mummy blogger: why put maternal status before your job?

Australian blogger, Em Rusciano, recently had this to say about being a Mummy blogger:
"I am not a Mummy Blogger, I am not a Mummy anything!"
And she's right. Too often, women are defined by their maternal status (or their marital status) before their work is considered. In the UK women's titles still tell you whether or not she's married (and the Ms option is often referred to sneeringly), while men's don't. Why not? Because marital status is not expected to have any impact on a man's work, whereas for women there are still expectations that she will put her family before work.

Let us hope she does. Let us hope that men do too.

Too often, when we hear about women politicians and businesswomen, we hear about the number of children they have, and the shoes they wear. It's as if they papers want to say, 'look, she's done well, even though she has children' (with a subtext of 'she's fobbing her children off on someone else to look after').

I could go on, and on, and on. Let us just say that women's work, women's interests, and girl's interests are still perceived as being lesser, which is evidenced in the way we talk about things, in the way girls are encouraged to play with 'boy's' toys, and yet, 'girl's' toys are seen as limiting. It is also evidenced in terms like 'Mummy blogger'.

I am a Mummy blogger. I am a Mummy, and I am a blogger. I expect that my experience of mothering impacts on the content, and indeed the tone of my posts. But that's not all that makes me different. I am a Yorkshire born woman living in Scotland. I am a sociologist and a goth. I am a sister. I have a lifetime of experiences which make me different to everyone else, but the easiest bracket to put me in is to call me a Mummy blogger, and that is fine, because people need to find things to read somehow, and I am a Mummy. I am not limited to that, but I should also not be limited by that.

I just don't believe that it is possible to achieve equality without raising our opinion on women's and girl's things; to believe that women can only be equal with men if we are the same, which always seems to mean like men, is a phallicy.

So, I'm a Mummy blogger, which is a fine kind of blogger to be.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

finding out: What's life coaching all about? A guest post from Leyla Kerlaff

So, I'd heard of this life coaching thing, and I was a little bit interested, but wondered if it was really any use, you know? 

And then Leyla, a friend I used to work with, and a woman I admire and respect, told me she was now a life coach. I asked her to explain what it was all about... And here's what she said.

Leyla and baby
Life Coaching - by Leyla Kerlaff

Coaching, for me, is about figuring out what you really want, and helping you to achieve it. A coach should be able to skilfully guide you on your journey, to help you gain clarity about what it is that you are really passionate about achieving in your personal and professional life, and support you on your journey to make it a reality.

So when might you benefit from coaching? Coaching can be particularly useful at times of transition in your life, to help you reflect on, and take decisions about which direction to take in your personal and professional life. For example: if you are thinking about returning to paid work after a period of staying at home to look after your children; adapting to being a stay at home parent; wanting to change career; or just feeling lost and wanting to find your path.

The power of being coached is greater than I anticipated when I started out on my own journey. My personal experience of the process has given me some very powerful insights into how my own beliefs and behaviours have been holding me back from enjoying life fully. As a mother of three, I have first hand experience of returning to paid work after having one, then two children and then (third time lucky) of leaving a stable, permanent job to follow my heart and set myself up as a life coach. I know how tough it can be to find the balance between ‘giving out’ to your family and job, and ‘giving in’ to your self. 

However blissful (or not) that period of giving yourself over to looking after a wholly dependent baby is, and whether you are returning to paid work or not, the transition back to regaining some independence from your children can be a really emotional journey.

For me, and, I know I am not alone in feeling this, the problem begins with knowing what I want for myself, never mind knowing how to get it. A skilled coach can support and constructively challenge you in a way that those who are closest to you sometimes can’t, for fear of upsetting you, or because they are too close to be objective. From a personal perspective, I was once asked in a coaching session: “are you taking responsibility for yourself?” At the time, I had been offended by the question – I take responsibility for everyone! But, while storming across a deserted beach on the Isle of Tiree last summer, feeling utterly churned up with emotion and depleted of energy, I suddenly realised what she had meant. I had, for years, believed that my own happiness was dependent on how happy I made others, and had become so used to trying to second-guess what they wanted, that I had been abdicating responsibility for making myself happy. Instead of seeing this as a ‘failure’ and berating myself for it, I used my coaching sessions to help me to find the confidence to nurture my own feelings and thoughts, and really give myself space and time to figure out what I wanted. What I wanted was to set up my own coaching practice, and I’m so happy to have found the confidence to go for it, and to do it my way.

My way is to work intuitively in helping you to connect with your own inner guide. I believe very strongly that we each need to discover what works for us, in our own way, and in our own time. I use my facilitation skills to support you to do this through visualisation, relaxation techniques and deep questioning.

Coaching is a structured process, which allows each individual flexibility to explore what they want to, in their own way and at their own pace. The first session is spent developing a goal that truly inspires you, based on where you are right now, and where you would like to be in the next twelve months. Subsequent sessions are spent developing that vision; breaking it down to better understand the challenges and obstacles that may be preventing you from achieving it; and developing sustainable strategies to help you overcome them.

To find out more, give me a call or have a look at my website. There’s no charge for a first informal meeting with me, and I’m offering a substantial discount to the first ten clients to book in for six sessions.

I look forward to joining you on your own journey! You can contact me on 07814 851 303 or at leyla@leylakerlaff.co.uk

Leyla Kerlaff

Thursday, 25 September 2014

throwing a birthday party: the big girl turns 7

The big girl turned seven this month, and wanted an at-home party (happily, not at my home, but her Grandparents). She is awfully particular about the games she is willing to play, so I did a lot of research for the party, and I thought I'd share it with you, in the hopes that you might get any inspiration you require.

Guest List

I think it is reasonable for an at-home party, not to invite everyone in the class. To be honest, I'm not keen on inviting everybody anyway. My children know who their friends are, and they want to celebrate with them.  In my daughter's case, she wanted to invite her circle of good friends, but as her brother, and little sister were going to be there too, she invited a sibling of a friend for each of them. We ended up with a total of 13 (including my children).

It's possible to run a party by yourself, but easiest to have help. I ran the games while the Grandparents and Kenny sorted out the party table.

Setting up

We were fortunate in that my daughter wanted to have her party at her Grandparent's house (and they agreed), so they could do a lot of the set up for us. We had balloons, birthday banners, and party tableware. Granny also put some effort into cutting coasters out of the patterned paper napkins, which was really cute. Granny fixed balloons to the doors of all the rooms in the house that party people were allowed to go in. This was an easy rule to follow.  It is preferable to have some outside space if possible.


Two hours is long enough for a party with games. It gives you time for lots of fun, for party food, and for everyone to go home when they're starting to flag. We had the big girl's party on a Friday afternoon 4-6pm. This was not such a good idea, because the girls were tired from school, however, there were a lot of events on in the town over the weekend, so it seemed the best time.


I found it easiest to have a party playlist on my 'phone. This had some One Direction songs, tempered with popular songs like Happy and Gangnam Style. We're thinking dancing. Had we been at home, we would have used this with no problem, but I was glad I checked my setup at the Grandparent's house. It turned out that the bluetooth on their stereo wasn't talking to mine, and the jack I'd brought didn't fit my new 'phone! (Seriously Google Nexus! It needs extra long jacks and extra long chargers. Grr). Happily, I'd only just switched over and had my old 'phone to hand, so used that on the jack instead.


The big girl will not play any games that involve getting messy. As these seem to be the games I think of first, we needed to come up with some other options.  Here is what we went for:
  • Pass the parcel: I made sure there was a layer each, and put a sweetie in each layer. You can put small presents in, if you don't want to overdo it with the sweets, but then you need to have somewhere to put them all. I put two prizes in one big parcel, so there were two winners. This game needs to be set up in advance, with at least two colours of wrapping paper, so people know where to stop unwrapping. When you're stopping the music, try to ensure that everyone gets a turn. But if it does stop on the same person twice, they're usually happy to pass it to the next person who's not had a go.
  • Musical statues: You know the drill, you play the music, preferably something very upbeat, the kids dance and when the music stops, if they move they are out. I tend to give a sweet when they are out, to soften the blow. 
  • Musical cushions: Like musical chairs, except with less solid objects being moved about. You throw cushions on the floor, and when the music stops the children have to find a cushion and sit on it. You remove a cushion each time someone is out, until there is a winner. Keep the cushions well spaced out, and make sure the children move around the room, not just hogging a cushion.  Children seem to enjoy choosing a cushion to remove when they go out.
  • Other musical games: There are so many variations on this game. Musical bumps (sit on the floor when the music stops - last one down is out). Musical monsters (monster faces, last one is out). Musical angels (hands together, innocent face, and singing 'ahhhh', while remaining still - a bit Doctor Who that one), etc.
  • Pin the tail on the donkey: There are lots of variations on this too. Stick the clown on the nose, stick the cutlass on the pirate, stick the tiara on the princess etc. You can buy kits for not much money, or you can make your own. We found a printable pin the tail on the donkey here, coloured it in, and stuck it to cardboard, and with an old blindfold from a pinata set, we were good to go. Spin people round a bit, and let them stick or pin. Nearest to the right place wins.
  • Treasure hunt: If your birthday is near Easter, you can do an egg hunt. Otherwise, weather dependent, you can hide small objects, playing cards, or shapes around the garden, or inside.  For the big girl's party, we had butterflies (cut out with a butterfly cutter), previously we've done pirate coins in the garden, and wooden stars.  It works especially well if you have different colours (or suits with playing cards), and the children need to collaborate to ensure they've got one of each (or just three different ones). You can help ensure everyone will get a chance by ruling that everyone can only have three in their hands at once, and they need to swap them to get three to exchange for a prize.
  • Dress up: Split everyone into two teams. Each team forms a relay to dress up one person with as many silly clothes as you can find. There needs to be a pile of silly clothes at one end of the room and the people at the other. This works very well if it's Mum's clothes in the pile, and you've got two Dads to dress up. At the big girl's party we dressed up the two boys in dressing up stuff. You then need a judge to declare one team the winner. No-one seems to mind who this is, as it's a fun game.

You can make it as fancy or not as you like. We did sandwiches, pizza, sausage rolls, mini sausages, veggie sticks and hummus, grapes, strawberries, biscuits, crisps, mini cakes, and of course THE BIRTHDAY CAKE. I was asked not to bake one this year, because the girl wanted to have the same cake as one of her friends. It's all good. I like to put all the non-pudding items out first, then do the birthday cake, and serve mini cakes and biscuits after the cake. Don't forget to get some matches, or find a friend that smokes. You don't have to do any hot food, but the kids ate the pizza and sausage rolls in preference to the sandwiches. If you pass the veggies around, the children mainly seem to take some.  The amount of food you need will depend on what time of day your party is at. 

Change it up

Just playing games at a party might work well for some children, but the kids at the big girl's party were getting restive after lots of party games, pizza, and chocolate, so we took them down the road to visit the local castle.

Having something else to focus on, and doing something different, helped everyone to calm down a bit, and gave everyone something to talk about.

If for some reason you don't have a local castle, you can take them out to a play park (you might want to take some medals or stickers with you for races). And if you need to stay at home, doing something crafty can help bring everyone back into focus. You could make bracelets, or decorate a felt bag for your party favours. If you're doing crafty things, it can be good to do them at the start of the party, and move the food to the end, rather than in the middle.

What did you do for the last party you organised?

Other posts you might like:

The little girl had a hospital appointment on Tuesday and she now has her cast off. She has been growing new bone to fix the old one, and it is amazing how the body works. She was thrilled to bits to get the cast off.

I have finally come to the end of the six weeks away from the book; the time in between finishing draft one and starting draft two. It was so good to get back to it yesterday, and I've been working out some neglected back story, and generating some characters who really should have been there all along. They're there now, and will get properly weaved in during the redrafting process.

Monday, 22 September 2014

finding the prophet's grave: a walk near Largs

My youngest daughter has got to that age where she's dropped her last day time nap, but she can't quite make it through the afternoon without it yet.

I've been taking her out for some fresh air after lunch. 

One day recently, she was really tired, so I popped her in the bike trailer, in the hopes that she'd nod off, and cycled up Brisbane Glen Road. I say 'cycled'. Truth be told, I'm out of practice, and she is four and awfy heavy, so there was a lot of walking done. It was while I was walking that I spotted this gate.  It's on the left, on your way out of Largs up Brisbane Glen Road.

The Writing on the gate reads: Prophet's Grave: 1857 - 1955

There is a grassy path behind the gate, so I pulled the bike off the road, and left it with the hedge (to the right behind the gate), and got the little girl out to see where the path led.

It leads toward some trees, and there are benches to sit on and enjoy the view if you wish, but really, it isn't far from the road, before you reach the trees, where the path doubles back and you see this gorgeous wee bridge.

The bridge is tiny, and the walls are the kind that come across as more of a trip hazard than a safety feature. But isn't it cute?

You cross the bridge, and just go a tiny bit further before you get the the grave itself.

It's in a lovely setting, but looking a bit dilapidated. No matter, there is a plaque, which explains a bit about the grave (with some lovely old style spelling which I've reproduced). There is a bit in Latin too, which I've reproduced as it is currently written:
Heir layeth M William Smith, Minister of Larges. A faithfull minister of the gospell removed by the pestilence 1647.
Conditus in tumulo hoc jaceo juvenisque senexque, nempe annis juvenis sed pietate senex divino eloquio coelestia dogmata vidi, abstersi tenebras mentibus ore tonans. Attonitoque haesit animo pervera mallorum colluvies verbis improba facta meis.
"Buried in this tomb I lie, at the same time a youth and an old man - young in years and old in piety. By the divine spirit I have seen divine truths, and have dispersed darkness from the mind, thundering with loud voice. There cleaved to my feelings a very horror of wickedness, and to my words reproach of wicked deeds." Latin translation from Wikipedia.

We cannot be quite clear if this is exactly what was written on the original tomb, as it was renewed in 1710 and 1760, and then the original tombstone was copied when the site was restored in 1956.

So, why is Rev Smith referred to as a prophet?

The story goes that a plague (probably typhus, spread by human lice) hit Largs in 1647. Rev Smith had been a Minister in Largs since 1644, and was one of many people who moved outwith the town (many living in ramshackle huts) to avoid contracting the illness, but sadly to no avail. He carried on tending to his parishioners and found that he, himself contracted the illness, which brought agonising stomach pains, high fever, and confusion. When he knew he was dying he asked that two yew trees be placed either end of his grave. He said that should the trees ever meet,  the plague would return. William Smith was 28 when he died.

There is some discussion as to whether the trees in question were yew trees or holly trees. Both are at the site.

Local people have, since then, trimmed the trees to ensure that does not happen.  There was a period when the grave was forgotten by many, and there were outbreaks of cholera in the town, but it is now maintained again.

My Latin is truly horrible, but I do wonder if there is a suggestion that this might be the grave of more victims of the plague that befell Largs, and not just Rev Smith?

For more on this, check out this really useful website, and also this one.

I've also recently discovered Roger Griffith's videos on You Tube. He's got one on the prophet's grave, which is here:

Roger found the holly trees to be intertwined at high summer 2014, which is interesting. Let's hope it's the yew trees we need to worry about.

What walks have you discovered near you?

Other posts you might like:

Update on the broken arm: The little girl is doing amazingly well, and we have an appointment tomorrow at the hospital, so we'll know then if she's to keep the cast on a bit longer or not.  Fingers crossed!

Friday, 19 September 2014

reflecting on the Scottish referendum: Scotland has decided, and further powers will be devolved.

I voted yesterday, in the Scottish independence referendum. 

It seems like the campaigning about it has been going on for at least a year, and the wait for the referendum itself has been going on for as long as I have lived in Scotland (and probably much longer than that).

I know a lot of people enjoyed the debate, and a lot of people have been glad to see public interest in politics. Personally I thought it was a shame that both campaigns used negativity. There were good reasons to vote both ways, and I would rather have seen those highlighted. Instead, both sides were guilty of scaremongering, both sides have accused the other of lying, and it's really hard for people to know what's true.

There's a lot of distrust of Westminster based politicians in Scotland, and with good reason. Scotland, like many other parts of the United Kingdom, is widely overlooked, and was memorably used as a test bed for the poll tax in the past. Obviously that test didn't work so well, because they rolled the poll tax out. Oops. Now lots of people are finding it hard to believe that Westminster politicians will live up to their promises of more devolved power.

Anyway, Scotland has spoken, and decided to remain in the union. But a large minority wanted independence, and they are understandably upset this morning. That large minority may not have won the referendum, but it is because of them that Westminster has promised increased devolution. They should be proud of themselves for that.

This morning some right wing Westminster politicians are decrying the devolution of further powers to Scotland, and they are entitled to their opinion. Further devolution will be negotiated, and will not just be to Scotland. Wales should also get more powers, and it is right that England will have things which only English MPs can vote on, especially if we are to disentangle our welfare systems. I am really excited about what further devolution might look like, and glad that David Cameron has talked about giving more powers to cities too. I think that if the UK gets this right (and that is going to take a lot of talking, and some compromise), we could provide a template for other countries. One about working together, respecting opinions, and being inclusive.

There are hurt feelings on both sides this morning - Yes voters because they had hoped for a chance to do things differently, and they don't trust Westminster politicians; English unionists because they just like things the way they are. I hope we can overcome those differences in the weeks and months ahead, and work together, to make things better for everyone.

Other posts you might like:

Thursday, 18 September 2014

going back to school with Getting Personal

OK, so this is a little bit late, and I'm sorry about that, but perhaps if your children are finding it tricky settling in to a new class, these could perk them up a bit... and they'd also make good birthday presents.

I should note that I'm not being paid for this post, but I did get the stuff for free, and what great stuff! I got one present for each of the children, so let me tell you about them:

First up I got a notebook for the big girl. She loves to play schools, and a notebook will encourage her to do more writing, which is always a good thing, right?  This one is a cute design and is totally personalisable. We've put her name on it, and an encouraging message. This is one of LOADS of notebooks, many of which are beautifully personalisable, which you'll find over at the Getting Personal website.  You'll have to Google it I'm afraid, as Getting Personal have asked me to remove all links.

As you can see, she's a big fan, and look! The owl matches her school uniform.  The notebook costs £5.99, is lovely quality, and ringbound, and it arrived in just a few days.

Next up we got a personalised book on starting school for the little girl. It's got a cute bunny on it, and her name on every page (sometimes several times). It is suitable for boys and girls, and the story is not bad. Not on a par with The Gruffalo, but fine. She absolutely loved being able to spot her name on every page.

Now the little girl is 4, and if we lived in England she'd be starting school this year. I would say that this book is about the right age for her now. We live in Scotland, and she's got a year left of nursery before starting school, and I'm glad we've got the book now. It's good for working up to the idea of her being in school (which I'm sure will be fine, but starting nursery was sooo hard for her).  The book costs £9.99. It took just over a week to arrive.

The little girl was too busy reading the book to pose with it, as you can see, so I've used the stock picture from the website so you can see what it looks like.

Last up is the pencil case I got for the boy. It is HUGE! Much bigger than it looks on the website, but it seems well constructed, and the boy has whisked it straight off to school. He loves it. He reckons he'll be able to get the contents of his school drawer into it.

This is one of a few different pencil cases available from Getting Personal.

The pencil case was sent to us all the way from Australia. It took over a fortnight to arrive, so don't leave it until the last minute!

To tell the truth, I approached Getting Personal to ask if I could do this blog post, because I am a big fan. All their stuff is well done, and high quality. I especially love their personalised calendars, which make excellent Christmas presents (if, like me, you're already thinking Christmas presents). 

Have you bought anything that was personalised?  What did you get?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

liking cats more than dogs

Someone suggested I write a blog post about dogs and cats, and which I prefer.

They suggested it so long ago, that I cannot remember who it was, but I'm going to admit now that I've avoided writing it because I don't want to bug dog people, because I know that dog people really love their dogs.

My Mum and her dog c1971
I don't.

I grew up with dogs and cats. To start with we had Horace. I say we, but Horace was Mum's dog. He was a good, happy dog, who got lots of walks, until I was born. Then he was a very unhappy dog.

I am told he used to pee all around my bedroom while I was in my cot. When I was older, he would obey none of my orders, and would not leave the house unless my Mum came too.

I didn't dislike Horace, but I didn't like him. 

After Horace, my Dad (who doesn't like pets) must have refused another dog. We did have a guinea pig and a rabbit, but that didn't work out so well, so we left it at that.

When my Mum remarried we gained some cats. Her new husband had cats! Fripp (for Robert Fripp), and Joe (Cocker). Joe was a manky tom cat who set to work impregnating the neighbourhood, but Fripp was neutered, and black, and fairly tolerant. I loved that cat.

Mum got a new dog: Billy, half alsatian and half mad, Billy was a big slobbery mess of a dog who irritated the heck out of me, and never got enough walks. I was relieved when we had to let him go.

Britney, my sister's cat
When I was in my teens Joe went missing and Fripp died. We got more cats, some from Cats Protection, some from the people who seek you out if they know you're a cat person. There was Mary and Britney, Cerys (the one eyed git), and one whose name I forget, because he didn't live long, but he had a moustache like Freddie Mercury, and was one of the friendliest cats you could meet. I cried for him when he died. After I left home Mum got Danbert as well, diabetic, but not letting it hold him back, until it did. Now she only has Britney left, and she's a grumpy old thing.

As for me, I moved in with my friend Annabel, and her collection of lovely cats. I befriended her new kitten Cairo, and loved the way she would parade along the back of the sofa, until she fell off.

I didn't get a cat of my own until we moved to Largs. We weren't settled enough in most of the places we've stayed, and they wouldn't let us have one in Suffolk (because of the small children), so I wasn't expecting to get one here, but we moved in in January, called the Cats Protection League in February, and a week later, we had a cat.

He is the best cat ever.

He is an enormous ginger cat who thinks he is a lot tougher than he is, steals whatever food and drink he can find, and loves to be with the family.

He has no discernible purr, but he can meow if he suspects it is within two hours of feeding time.

He doesn't sit on laps, but enjoys resting on green cushions or blankets. If you make the mistake of using a green cushion yourself he will stare at you disdainfully until you relinquish it.

He's called Katsuma, and he is a daily reminder that cats domesticated themselves. They may not have a dog's IQ, but they're the kind of creature I'd rather live with.

What about you? Dog person or cat lover?

Other posts you might like:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

voting on Thursdays: Why Thursday anyway?

The people of Scotland will decide whether Scotland becomes independent on Thursday. Which begs the question... Why do we vote on Thursdays anyway?

Kezia Dugdale - picture pinched from her
webpage here
I have been impressed with Kezia Dugdale during the Scottish independence referendum campaign. There haven't been enough women involved, at a high level, and I thought she equipped herself well in the debate with Elaine C Smith (the actor, who did not know what the white paper said), and has generally been eloquent, polite, and thoughtful in an ongoing debate which has become increasingly nasty. I can see why she is seen as a rising star in the Labour party.

The other day, she was saying that we need to move on from elections on a Thursday, which made me wonder why it is we do vote on Thursdays?

I found out so you don't have to. 

Back in the day, when people worked Monday to Friday and stopped work at 5pm, the idea was that people would vote on Thursday, then count and announce results on the Friday, the new prime minister would choose their cabinet over the weekend, and they'd be good to go on the Monday morning.

But that's not all there is to it. Thursday was also a good day because it was often the day chosen for half day closing of shops (remember that?), so people could more easily get to vote. Conversely, Thursday was often market day, so people would be in town anyway. Also, holding the elections on a Thursday was seen as reducing the influence of religious leaders (being far from Sunday), and was considered the most sober day of the week (as people were generally paid on Fridays).

Things have changed, and, in particular, we now have the internet, which could surely be useful for voting? So perhaps Thursday is not the best day any more? Still, we stick with it. In fact there hasn't been a vote on another day since the 1930s (a Tuesday in 1931). Other countries now vote on a Sunday, and in the US they have used voting machines, which make for faster counting, but carry some problems (as Scandal makes clear).

More on this here.

What electoral reforms would you like to see?

Other posts you might like:

Update on the little girl's arm: She is healing well, and has ditched her big old white plaster for a much smaller pink stookie. She no longer has to wear a sling and she's a lot happier. Next appointment in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

offered more childcare: white old men in politics and the things women want

It seems to me that whenever there is a political decision to make, politicians start talking about more free childcare.

Apparently, this is to get the 'woman's vote'. Well, I'm a woman, and free childcare does not float my boat.

I'm not saying it isn't a good thing for lots of women having to work to keep (overpriced) food on the table.  For them cheaper childcare would be good in the short term.

But I think that the endless push for more free childcare is bad for two reasons:

  1. It undermines the value of childcare by families, which in turn undermines the value of childcare altogether, and keeps wages in that sector low.
  2. It ignores the benefits of caring for our children ourselves, not just in the short term, with the long lasting benefits of breastfeeding babies past the first few months, but also in the long term. All studies show that children do best when they are looked after by people who love them.
Money is important, of course it is. We need to keep ourselves fed, housed, and watered. But working as a waged employee is not the only way to earn money. And there is also nothing wrong with working as a team to look after your family, and earn money.

Childcare is considered a womens issue because it is mainly women who do paid work around childcare, or who work unpaid, caring for their children, grandchildren, and other family members. 

Some people argue that women are more caring, and so naturally fulfill these roles, but the advances of men into the domestic sphere in recent years (it is not unusual to see a Dad at a toddler group any more, although he might be the only one), have suggested that that is wrong

I think that most families make decisions about childcare based on practicality. For us, like many other people, my husband could earn more than me, and was willing to put in more hours away from the children. His career has taken off while I have been caring for our children, which is great, but means I'm unlikely to catch up, especially considering that employers don't think a lot of the experience I've gained in this time (in negotiation, overcoming obstacles, tenacity, juggling projects, time management, etc).

There are issues here about the long hours culture we have at the moment, wherein people are expected to show their willingness to work long hours, when actually, it would be better for everybody if people were rested. If an employer needs a job done for 50 hours a week, then they need 2 members of staff (at least one of whom could have flexible hours), not one frazzled one. There are also issues around the fact that men tend to get paid more than women. Men's work valued more. Address these and childcare may become a moot point.

The fact is that even with lots of childcare, there needs to be an adult in the family who can look after the children when they are sick, when others need to work at tricky times, and in the holidays. Childcare is rarely sufficient to meet these needs, and even if we reduce the long hours culture there will be people who need to work awkward hours.

Of course, there are other reasons to be annoyed at the offers of childcare; lots of people don't have children, so are not interested at all (saving the fact that they'd like to live in a world with nice people in it, presumably). But the main thing is that this is what is trotted out as a womens issue! Every time! This isn't a womens issue. This is just an issue. Women's low wages, and the low opinion of women's work in and out of the home are issues, as is the long hours culture, and the inflexibility of employment, so it seems a boss is doing someone a big favour to let them attend their child's assembly. Violence and social control of women are issues, especially in Scotland, where the Government ran a campaign warning women that drinking too much could lead to their getting raped just a few years ago.

The Better Together campaign may be getting a lot of flack for their awful advert, featuring the woman who was too busy ironing to think about the referendum, but both sides are run by white old men, and both sides are patronising to women.

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Sunday, 7 September 2014

thinking about financial independence: The Scottish referendum and the future of the pound.

There are lots of things that are of concern to both sides in the Scottish referendum debate which is going on at the moment. Some things are less worrying than others. To be honest, there seems to be plenty of scaremongering which is best left alone.

When there was a fuss in the news about the future of the pound in Scotland, I thought that that was another one of these things where the No campaign was trying to cause a stir over not much.

I was wrong.

If Scotland becomes independent, the UK would be foolish to maintain financial union.  They would have no control over Scotland's finances, and all the main parties have stated clearly that they would not maintain the financial union. With a general election on the horizon in England, they're unlikely to change their minds.

But so what? Scotland could keep the pound, and just connect it to the English pound. This has been done before. Alternatively Scotland could use the dollar, or look into joining the Euro (although I can't see that one getting very far).  We could even create our own currency if we want to. The money in our pocket is not the issue that matters here.

Scotland is a fairly well off part of the UK. There are three primary income sectors. Firstly the gas and oil sector, which is subject to fluctuation, and we cannot guarantee the income it could generate. Secondly, the financial sector (so we should have some useful expertise), and thirdly, a really strong university sector, but that relies on people coming in from outwith Scotland to generate funds.

Scotland could generate income well, but she has an ageing population and also believes in more public spending than the rest of the UK. The ageing population is a problem everywhere, although there's a higher proportion of older people in Scotland (is this because we export our young people?).

Borrowing is an important consideration for all of the UK, but If Scotland needed to borrow she'd be in a worse position than the rest of the UK, having no track record - no credit rating. We would be able to borrow less, and would need to pay more.

The SNP have described continuing complete financial union as Plan A. The main UK parties have rejected plan A. So what's plan B? And can Scotland afford it?

What do you think? Please note that any nasty comments will be removed, so just be nice :-)

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Her Dad wraps ribbon
around her cast, ready
for a party.
Update on the girl's arm: She fell down the stairs this morning, it was terrifying, but she was fine. It sounds more dramatic than it was, it was only a couple of steps, but it was very scary. I cannot wait 'til she gets her next appointment on Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Friday, 5 September 2014

choosing a favourite Beatle

Picture of my Mum, in her
Two Virgins top, taken by
my sister.
Which is your favourite Beatle?  I know that half of them are dead, one is Thomas the Tank Engine, and the other one is Paul, but let's imagine that they're back in their hey day and pick one.

Back in the day, my Mum tells me, there were only two options - you could be in camp Paul, or camp John. George and Ringo were just not on the table. Mum was, and still is, a big fan of John. Can you tell?

Nowadays though, you can be a fan of whoever you like, and I'm plumping for George. Apparently, I'm not alone. There's a quiz here, to guess your favourite Beatle, and the comments would suggest that there are a lot of George fans out there (or that George fans are more likely to comment).

The Beatles may have been the first, but there is still the idea that each personality in a boy band is a different 'type', and fans still pick one. Believe me, I spent a whole day painting 'I <3 Harry/Zayn/Louis/Niall/Liam' (or 1D for those who hadn't chosen a camp yet) on young girl's faces at a school fair recently. 

The Beatles provide a good example of the types.  There is:

John: Troubled rebel, life and soul of the party, sexy and wild. See also Robbie Williams, Liam Gallagher, and Harry Styles.

Paul: Clean cut boy next door, well behaved. See also Ronan Keating, Gary Barlow, and Liam Payne(?).

George: The alternative one, often a bit quiet, not quite fitting in. See also Shane Lynch (although not quiet), Jason Orange, and Tony Mortimer.

Ringo: The sweet one. In Ringo's case he was painted as being a bit dim, well, he was the drummer, but also lovable. See also Steven Gately and Mark Owen.

Some bands also have a token minority person, see Zayn Malik in 1D. No boy bands have a gay one on purpose as yet, as far as I know. Steven Gately was pretty effectively locked into the closet, and if there is a gay or bi one in 1D, they are yet to admit it.

So, who's your favourite Beatle? And, do you have any favourites from other boy bands? Which 'type' are they?

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Update on the broken arm: She is so bored of the cast, but did get it signed this week by her favourite teacher, who sadly, has had to leave :-( Hopefully we will get a lighter cast next week.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

sick of the Scottish independence referendum debate

I've been a definite no, and a definite yes, and so have been trying to pay attention to the debate on Scottish independence. The latest poll shows Yes and No are almost neck and neck, but really, all the mud slinging is doing my head in, and we've still got a fortnight to go!

I spent my evening last night half trying to write a post on how lovely Largs came out third most desirable place, out of all the postcodes in Scotland, and how it's true, Largs is a desirable place to live, but so are lots of other parts of Scotland...

...while half chatting to people on Facebook. 

Much of the chat is about the independence debate and the upcoming referendum. People care deeply, and they're not letting pesky things like facts get in the way.

There seems to be a lot being said about how Scotland didn't vote for the Westminster government. Well no, of course not, the Scottish people just voted for their representatives, that is how democracy works here. 

There is talk of how Scotland did not vote for the Tories. Annabel Goldie and the other Scottish Tories in Holyrood may beg to differ, but the important point is that as the Tories are a minority government in Westminster, most of the people of Britain didn't vote for them.

A vote for independence is not a vote for the SNP, despite the SNP wanting independence. Similarly, a vote to stay in the union is neither a vote for a return to London rule, nor a vote for the Tories, despite them being unionists. The fact is that most Scottish policy, including that on education and health, contrary to popular opinion, is made at Holyrood, not Westminster, already.

Rather, what is at stake is dissolving the union of nations created when the Scottish King took over the English throne in 1603, and formalised in the Act of Union of 1707.

Personally, I was born in Yorkshire, and consider myself Yorkshire first, British second. My daughters were born in England, my son and husband in Scotland. Our family is British, and my inclination is to stay British.

However, I like living in Scotland. The weather may be 'character building', but the general attitude is great. There is an ethos in Scotland about helping each other out, about having free access to health services and education, and it is different to that in England. Even in left-leaning parts of England. 

I think the Scottish education system is great, and if the Curriculum for Excellence is causing some problems, at least it hasn't been tinkered about with as much as the English system.  I also believe it is morally right to keep the NHS free.

If I could have voted for greater devolution of powers in the referendum (so called devo-max) I would have, but I can't. So I have to choose between the pro-union side, scaremongering about losing the pound and the BBC, so obscuring the issues which actually matter, and the pro-independence side who seem to be trying to make out that if we don't vote for independence the Tories will take over Scotland.  Why on earth would the Scottish government change their policy on free NHS services if UKIP were to come to power in England? The British government has as much impact on the NHS in Scotland as the European government, so I think this is just scaremongering.

I'm sure it'll work out if we do become independent, but I'd hate to see the nasty divisivenessn involved in the Yes campaign carry on. I am hearing so much about how you can't really call yourself Scottish if you vote No. I have been told I should vote No because EVEN THOUGH I am English, I have been allowed to live here.  People have told me that the older generation can be 'racist' (meaning anti-English), but that things are better now. Apparently now, the Scots don't mind the English moving here (and taking their jobs).

Personally, I can't wait until it's over.

What are your thoughts on the debate?  And if you can't be nice, please keep your thoughts to yourself.

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