Tuesday, 30 June 2015

living a day in my life

Around about this time last year I kept a photo diary of the last day of term.

I love doing this, because when you're in the busy slog of parenting it feels like lots of days are the same, and doing this makes you notice how much things change. Those kids are growing fast. Sometimes it's nice to capture the moment.

This year I captured a pretty lazy Sunday. The morning was rainy, and we were helping out, dismantling an art show, in the afternoon. How about I just show you?

7am, I was woken at around 6.15am by the little girl, but have managed to stay in my pit until now. The boy and the little girl have been amusing themselves.
8am: croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast, made by the litte girl (with thanks to Jus-rol). Slimming World fans, I did not have the croissants!
9am: helping the little girl to make a bag she'd been given as a craft kit.
10am: and then helping the big girl.

11am: coffee and chess before he cracks on with laying slabs in the garden, and I get on with some fun housework
12 noon: she won't get dressed, she doesn't want anyone else to get dressed. However, I asked her if she wanted to be my 12 noon photo and she said yes, tidied her hair a little, and put on a sad face... Then she got dressed!
1pm: finishing off lunch. The big girl tends to take her time, while the boy dashes off to play with his friends.
2pm: much to everyone's delight, we are going in the car to Granny's house to get some stuff done. My children hate going in the car and always kick up a fuss about it (while I can't get out of here soon enough!)
3pm: we forgot something and had to go back for it, so a 20 minute journey to Granny's took 40 minutes in the end! We are all glad to get there
4pm: the art show at the castle finishes, and we all rock up to dismantle it.
5pm: we're waiting for the menfolk to finish dismantling scaffolding, and it seemed best to get the girls out of the way, so we're playing with the mini farm animals
6pm: dinner! Love dinner at Granny's house. She's a great cook, and there is always something yummy for everyone. Thanks Granny.
7pm: stop off to feed a friend's animals. This is her gorgeous cat. She says he's a psycho, but I think he's lovely.
8pm: home! and time for a bounce on the trampoline before bed.
9pm: I spend some time recording my voice for Vocal ID
10pm: I'm shattered, so retreat to bed with a good book, and this is a really good book.
What do your days look like at the moment?

If you liked this post, you might like these:

Monday, 29 June 2015


What would people say about you if you died right now?  Apart from the tragic loss, and how people can die from reading blogs?

Today, in the latest installment in my series of blogs inspired by Fat Mum Slim's post on 50 things to blog about, I am writing my obituary.  

I had no idea how to go about doing this, so I've taken advice from this site, which walks you through writing an obituary (which has got to be a handy thing to know).  

I may not have taken it as seriously as I might. However, I have received complaints that I do not 'big myself up' enough in this post. So I've revised this post (first published 25/10/13, republished 29/6/15), in an effort to put this right. If you can't crow in your own obit', where can you?

Obituary: Cara McKee

Cara McKee, 41, of Seaside Town, Scotland, died peacefully today, while eating a particularly good Nardini's sandwich.

She was born in West Yorkshire (the West bit is important as it shows she's a bit posher than those from the other bits of Yorkshire), on 29th October 1973, to Margaret and Tony (both from Lancashire - controversial).  

Cara went to Ilkley Grammar school, but left after completing her GCSEs to do her A-levels at Bradford College.  This allowed her to spend a lot more time in the pub, although, as she was 16 she would not have been drinking, because that would be bad.
Cara briefly left education to give being a teenage bride a go on the Isle of Man. There she learned that it's not a good idea to get married at 18, but that there was traa dy liooar to do other stuff. She also learned more than you might expect about divorce law and taxation, and that living off soup is not much fun.

She left the island with the help of her Dad (who hid in a wardrobe when the landlord turned up), and went to Edge Hill College of Higher Education (then part of Lancaster University), to read for her BA (Hons) in Applied Social Sciences and Women's Studies. She came to regret this as it's a pain to fit on application forms.  

After a series of rubbishy admin jobs, Cara managed to save up enough money to study for her MA in Social Research at the University of Leeds.  She saved money by working as a Warden in a Hall of Residence (Bodington Hall), where she met her future husband, Kenny (known to the students as 'the Scottish guy'), who was studying for a PhD in Atmospheric Chemistry. As well as studying, Cara ran a weekly pub quiz, managed a debating society, and drank more cider than can be considred healthy.

Cara started her research work at the University of Leeds in Midwifery Research, but then moved to work for the Scottish Government, on Antisocial Behaviour Research.  She packed all that in though on becoming a mother, and focused instead on spending time with her children, singing songs about spiders in church halls, and being taken for granted.  

While she lived in Suffolk she was the Chair of b.a.b.i.e.s (Babies and Birthing in East Suffolk), which was an incredibly awesome way to spend some time helping women have happier births, and supporting them to breastfeed.  

However, when she moved back to Scotland she became more focused on her writing.  Her blog, 'Oh we do love to be...' became more popular than she had imagined, and that, and her local newspaper column were what she was best known for in the end. 

However, writing as Cara L McKee, she was also an award winning* poet, and wrote short stories, as well as working on a trilogy which was not finished in her lifetime, but which is being finished by her friend, the author, Steven Weaver, and is also being optioned for a TV series by HBO, who are keen to follow up on the success of Game of Thrones with more High Fantasy. The first book in The Chapter series is currently scheduled for publication in December 2015, and is already being prepared for filming, with rumours that Kit Harington (who played Jon Snow in Game of Thrones) is likely to be cast as the male lead, with Beyonce in talks over the female lead.

Cara had also been working on a children's book, set in the same world as The Chapter series, and this is also due for publication in December, in collaboration with her brother, the emerging illustrator, Eoian Lewis.

She was survived by her husband, the boy, the big girl, and the little girl, all of Seaside Town, and lots of other family. 

The family are holding a private purvey next week, with a Humanist celebrant. Cara will be buried in a woodland plot. No flowers please, but donations can be made to the Scottish Book Trust who will be distributing 'Dobbin the Wonder Horse' by Cara L McKee and Eoian Lewis to children throughout Scotland for free in 2016.

What would be in your obit?  And what would be unfinished?

The full list of posts inspired by Fat Mum Slim's 50 things to blog about can be found here.  Some other posts you might like are:

* Placed 1st in the 72nd edition of the Writer's Umbrella

Saturday, 27 June 2015

reviewing Dangerous Women

I'm afraid I'm well behind the times with this one... so behind in fact that I thought briefly that I shouldn't bother saying anything.

However, this book really bugged me.

This is a book of short stories with the central theme of 'dangerous women', which is basically cobbled together in order to piggyback some other authors onto the current success of George RR Martin, who has one of his World of Ice and Fire novellas in here.  I got it because of the George RR Martin story, and I did enjoy some of the other authors. I welcome the chance to find new stuff to read (despite the length of my 'to read' list). I don't even mind that I don't like some of the stories, however, some of these stories are just shite. Some of the women aren't dangerous; they're barely even characters, and they drag an otherwise good book down.

I've been through the stories so you don't have to.
  1. Some Desperado by Joe Abercrombie. A great Western style story with an impressive dangerous woman, name of Shy.
  2. My Heart is Either Broken by Megan Abbott. A really good story with a genuine dangerous woman, but mainly with misunderstandings, mistrust, and a horrible man. Also, that is an amazing title.
  3. Nora's Song by Cecilia Holland. I'm a fan of this historical period and so did enjoy this short story. Eleanor of Aquitaine can certainly be considered dangerous. Although Beckett might wish to suggest her husband more so.
  4. The Hands That Are Not There by Melinda Snodgrass is not a story I particularly like, but there is a dangerous woman at the heart of this tale.
  5. Bombshells by Jim Butcher. I loved this story which was fabulously non-sexist, and had the marvellous Molly as our dangerous woman. Awesome.
  6. Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughan. Raisa is certainly dangerous, in this historical, fact based, war story. This wasn't for me, but that doesn't mean it wasn't well written.
  7. Wrestling Jesus by Joe R Lansdale. This story should be embarrassed to be seen in company with some of the other tales in this book. The male characters are horrible, and the woman is nothing but a prize. She is the excuse the men use for reprehensible behaviour, while little to no interest is paid to her character.  She is accused of horrors, but no motivation given. Awful.
  8. Neighbours by Megan Lindholm. Megan Lindholm is Robin Hobb or vice versa. I like the woman. This is a good story, and an interesting take on dementia. Beautifully done. I don't see a dangerous woman though.
  9. I Know How to Pick 'Em by Lawrence Block. No idea what this story is doing in this book. This is the story of a man meeting a vulnerable woman and murdering her. The whole point is that she is not dangerous, but she needs to be, and she is too stupid to see the situation she's getting into.  Unpleasant.
  10. Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell by Brandon Sanderson. I love the title, and this story. It's beautifully crafted and well told. Complete with a dangerous woman by the name of Silence. What a great name. But Silence isn't the only thing to be feared in the Forests.
  11. A Queen in Exile by Sharon Kay Penman is a really interesting story about a Queen making the most of a difficult situation. She's brave, she's wise, but she isn't dangerous. The author adds a note to say that after the events of this story she may have been involved in a rebellion against her unjust husband's rule. It seems to me that that tale would be the one to tell for this book. Perhaps it wouldn't be so interesting though.
  12. The Girl in the Mirror by Lev Grossman. Hmm, well, people think the girl in the mirror is dangerous, but there's no evidence of it. It's a bit tediously Harry Potter-esque for me, and a shame that in a story with mainly female characters, it's a male professor who must come to the rescue.
  13. Second Arabesque, Very Slowly by Nancy Kress. Totally love this post apocalyptic story, vividly painted and totally gripping. Complete with dangerous women too.
  14. City Lazarus by Diana Rowland. Surprisingly good for a detective-type tale. There certainly is a dangerous woman, but I'm not telling you who.
  15. Virgins by Diana Gabaldon. I read this so you don't have to. Don't get me wrong, the idea behind the story is good, the characters well realised, but why make people speak with Scottish accents if you don't know how to write a Scottish accent? It's painful to read. There is also no development of the fact that the two highborn Scots turn out to be Catholic. Obviously it's not a problem that they are, but something that contentious would surely be pass remarkable? As for dangerous women, I suppose the woman in question is a bit dangerous, although vexing might be more apt. Again the story is focused on men, and women serve as troublesome cargo, service providers, and unfortunate pawns. Diana Gabaldon has done very well with her Outlander books (the characters from which are in this story), and I'm sure the TV series works better, although I found the first episode maddening for its non-problematic idea of everyone in Inverness being a bit pagan. Surely the wee frees would have something to say about it?
  16. Hell Hath No Fury by Sherilyn Kenyon. I was dubious about this story to start with. The characters are made for TV, but it sucked me in and I was quickly hooked. It's a great wee ghost story complete with morals and a very dangerous woman.
  17. Pronouncing doom by SM Stirling. I loved this story. It's set around an idea which is a really interesting if improbable one to explore. An island which has shifted in time. I'm going to add some SM Stirling to my reading list. However, the main dangerous character in this story is a man. There is a woman who has had it in for him and gets to have her day, but with permission, and with help. Hardly dangerous really.
  18. Name the Beast by Samuel Sykes. Sam Sykes is Diana Gabaldon's son. So I didn't have high hopes. I found the story hard to follow, but beautiful and poignant, and starring a dangerous woman.
  19. Caretakers by Pat Cadigan. An interesting story packed full of dangerous women. Grand stuff.
  20. Lies my mother told me by Caroline Spector. A wild card story, with some very dangerous women.
  21. The Princess and the Queen by George R R Martin. The reason I bought this book! Some back story for the Song of Ice and Fire series. This story focuses on two Targaryon factions led by said women, who while they are dangerous are vulnerable to the whims of the men around them.
Have you read it? What did you think?

If you liked this, you should try these:

Friday, 26 June 2015

celebrating summer: five things to love

This week for the gratitude challenge I'm sharing five things I love about summer. What do you love?

1. Fresh air, exercise, and SUNSHINE! All that bright, cheery, warm stuff that makes even people in Scotland want to go outside. Even the rain is warmer in summer.

2. Which leads on to al fresco dining: picnics, ice lollies, drinks on the terrace. It's all good.

3. Today marks the start of our summer holidays. SEVEN whole weeks of no school runs, no after school clubs, no forcing people to get dressed on time. OK, so it can be annoying sometimes, but seven whole weeks of FREEDOM! Huzzah for the summer holidays (and cue Phineas and Ferb)

4. Playing with water: paddling pools, water fights, jumping waves at the beach, and going swimming. It may suck for the hair, but it's so much fun.

5. Finally... we are going on holiday this year ... ABROAD! Excited doesn't even begin to cover it.

Happy Summer to you! What do you love about it?

Monday, 22 June 2015

happy in June: finishing the #100happydays

I have come to the end of my #100happydays, and I am so happy about that. I stuck with it all the way to the end, but I am so glad I don't have to take pictures every single day any more, not that it seems to have reduced my output much! 

Anyway, here are some of the pictures from the brief period of #100happydays in June:

What's been making you happy lately?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Quiet Sunday #1

This collage doesn't qualify for Silent Sunday, but I love it anyway.

Thanks to my Mum for knitting the new ballet jumper which brought on all these kisses.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

remembering Grandad

This week on the gratitude challenge, we're tasked with talking about someone we got to meet.

So I'm going to talk about my Grandad, who was a sweet, kind, loving man, at the centre of his family.

All the pictures are from my Dad's slides. Thanks Dad!
Charlie Tomlinson was born in Longridge, Lancashire, and lived at the top of the hill, next door to the cinema. His Dad was a fat pork butcher, and his Mum was kept busy with lots of children.

Charlie used to go to the cinema every Saturday with all his mates to watch the matinee. They'd get in trouble for throwing orange peel at each other. His Dad had to go into the cinema through the double doors at the back, as he was too fat to fit into the main entrance.

No doubt his Dad's weight contributed to his death, from a heart attack, when Charlie was only 4. His poor mother was by that time exhausted anyway. She'd had a daughter, May, and two sons, Charlie and Harry, that we know more about. But she'd also had another 7 or 8 babies. Four of them died in the first six months of their lives. Two or three went to fight in the First World War and never came back. She herself died just a year or two after Charlie's Dad.

At this time May, the oldest, was 24, and working full time twelve hour shifts in Ribchester cotton mill. Charlie, his brother Harry, and another infant were taken into care. Charlie and Harry immediately lost contact with the infant, who we assume was adopted.

When she got a chance, May visited Charlie and Harry in care, and was horrified by the state of them. Charlie said she 'raised hell' that they were badly dressed and clearly underfed. At that point though, there was not a lot she could do about it.

When May's boyfriend came back from the war in 1918 or 19, he was in a dreadful state. The war had been hard on him both physically and emotionally, and there just weren't enough jobs for all the young men. May sent him out to find work, and he got a job at Longridge quarry, although it was hard work, and very physically demanding.

Him working meant that they were able to marry, and take in Charlie and Harry. May's husband got a job at Ribchester hospital, and she carried on working at the mill. Charlie remembers that one of his jobs was to get the table set up for tea when he got in from school. If he didn't do it before May got home, she would kick him with her clogs still on. He always felt love and respect for May, but he also learned to fear her wrath!

Charlie did badly at school. When he was 12 he developed asthma, which May blamed on his playing football in the rain. So when he finished school he needed to find work that would be suitable for him, and his health. May's husband helped him get a job at Ribchester Hospital as a nurse.

There, unmarried staff members had to sleep in, in corridors strictly segregated by gender.

The staff did socialise though, and Charlie had a memorable night out with some of the other nurses, including a certain Lillie. They went to a dance in town and were walking along the dark country road back to the hospital, sharing an umbrella, when a motorbike with no lights careered into them, knocking Charlie down. He hit his head, and Lillie helped to look after him. There was blood everywhere, and Lillie was rather annoyed about ruining her dress, even if she found she did rather like Charlie.

The two married, and with the help of Lillie's Uncle they got a house in Longridge, just along the road from the mill, and the mill workers would clomp along the cobbled street every morning and evening for their shifts. Charlie worked nights at the hospital, finding that to be best for controlling his asthma, while Lillie did dressmaking, childminding, and then chiropody, to fit around the children. They had three. The youngest, Margaret, is my mother.

Charlie was a kind, sweet man. Mum remembers him as being unusually helpful around the house (she couldn't think of another man who ironed at the time). I remember him as being warm, forgiving, and of doing what he was told, with a wry grin.

Mum says that the only time she could remember him being grumpy was when he was ill. Then he would take horrible stinky asthma powder, which he was supposed to burn and inhale the smoke. He was advised by the doctor to take up smoking, and did, dropping the habit when it turned out to be no good for asthma.

Charlie worked four nights on at the hospital, and then two nights off. He would usually stay in bed through the day, until Mum got home from school and woke him with a kiss, and he would smile at her and say hello.

In the summer he'd get up at lunchtime and do work around the house, fixing things, but also cleaning, gardening, and he also did some cooking.

Mum recalls that she would save up her spending money until she had half a crown, and when Charlie had a Saturday off she would give him the half crown, asking him to look after it, and they would go into Preston for the Saturday morning market. She would go around choosing the things she wanted, while he laughed, telling her she'd gone far past her half crown.

Mum remembers him as being very strong. My brother and I would run into his arms when he came to see us, and he would always catch us.

I loved being with my Grandad.

When my parents split up my Mum moved into a small house which needed a lot of work. Grandad came around and got busy (I say he came 'round - Granny drove him; I'm told he could drive, but he didn't like to, so Granny always drove the car), wallpapering the stairs on a ladder when he was 77.

Whenever he visited he'd go around looking for jobs, fixing things that needed fixed, and always being helpful.

I find it amazing that he was such a giving man, considering the hand he was dealt as a child. I am so glad to have had him in my life, and I miss him, but I'm glad he got to live a long and pretty happy life, surrounded by family.

Friday, 19 June 2015

watching TV

Do we still have TV seasons?

I must admit, I just record stuff, and watch it when I can prise my husband away from the TV (or while I'm having a coffee and the kids are at school). I even sometimes watch TV with my husband! But not often. We keep that for Game of Thrones, and... no, just Game of Thrones.

So today I thought I'd tell you five programmes I'm currently watching, and ask you what you're watching that's good, because TV doesn't work like it used to do, in that you'd just pick a channel and watch it until it was so boring you were willing to stand up, walk over to the TV, and switch it to one of the other two channels. Now we have acres of dross to wade through to find the diamonds.

So here's what I'm watching at the moment (and please accept my apologies if they've finished and I just haven't caught up):

1. Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones has just finished series 5. It's partly caught up with the books, partly gone past, and partly thrown the books to the side and taken its own path. I am all good with all of those paths. I was a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse series of books and True Blood, and I was chuffing delighted when Lafayette got to live in the TV series, because he's Lafaychuffingette!

Back to Game of Thrones, I was thrilled to see what happened at Hardhome (although that was in the daytime wasn't it?), excited to see Tyrion with Dany (but where has Varys been? It makes me wonder if there's another Targaryen coming), and wondering how Jon's going to get on (because surely R+L=J, and whatever Kit Harington says J=ice, surely? And also surely Melisandre is back at the wall for a reason). I'm trying to be vague here. I am also delighted that Jaqen H'gar is still extant, and being the kindly man, rather than being the Alchemist (although is it the same person?), because I love Jaqen H'gar. I'm not sure about what is gong on in Dorne, but I wouldn't mind a holiday there. Dornish red anyone?

2. The Good Wife

Oh the Good Wife! I know that the latest season has finished (although I can't believe it), but I've given you a trailer for season 1 because I know this is a series that has passed many by, and if you haven't watched it YOU ARE MISSING OUT. Generally I have no idea what Peter was/is thinking, because surely Alicia is just the best woman ever?! I sobbed my heart out when that thing happened to Will (I'm not going into it in case you haven't watched it), and why did Danny Elfman go? Can he come back? Alicia for president of the world!

3. Scandal

I didn't start watching Scandal until series 2, and looking at this trailer I think Olivia looks a bit flimsy in Series 1. It's like she hasn't quite owned the role yet. However, I don't think you should just start now, because it's far too silly. You have to go on with all the twists and turns and accept them one bite at a time, rather than eating the elephant of daftness that is Scandal.

4. Humans

It's just started, but I've not watched it yet, but it looks good, and British too! I'm looking forward to Humans. Are you? Also, there are some seriously interesting sartorial choices in this programme. 

5. Madam Secretary

Something recommended this to me, possibly because of my obsession with Scandal. It's OK, and I have a feeling it's a grower, it's certainly getting more involved as it goes along, and I have no thoughts of switching off yet, but I can't quite work out why Elizabeth McCord is Secretary of State (which in this programme seems to mainly involve throwing vast resources at silly people), why she likes the clearly corrupt President, why the Chief of Staff is such an arse (and who was that actor in other things?), and why her hubby is so cute, and yet so incredibly dull? They make a big deal about him being cute, but he's just in-crowd cute, he's not sexy... which bring me back to Game of Thrones. In that, there are lots of references to Jon Snow being good looking, and Kit Harington has quite the following that think he's sexy, although he problematises this in an excellent and intelligent way, which makes me think that maybe he is sexy after all. Here's what he said to Out.com
“I think young men do get objectified, do get sexualized unnecessarily. As a person who is definitely in that category, as a young leading man in this world, I feel I have a unique voice to talk about that... ‘It just needs to be highlighted.’ With every photo shoot I ever go to, I’m told to take off my shirt, and I don’t.”
Not that I'm obsessed with Game of Thrones or anything... you're watching it, right?

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Exchanging homes

Three children is just that little bit more than it's polite to go to a hotel with, apparently. A cheap hotel anyway. We got away with putting the little girl in a cot for as long as we could, but now the game is up.

Static caravans and camping are options, but they're not always practical, so this year we decided to give home exchanging a go. We're lucky enough to live in a tourist town, people might want to swap with us, we reckoned.

I was particularly keen to find somewhere in my home town (Ilkley, in God's own county) - to give us our own space to retreat to, allowing us to enjoy time spent with friends and family, rather than stressing over the bathroom. There is nowhere to camp in my Ilkley, although we've camped nearby before. But I wanted somewhere we could wander into town from, somewhere we wouldn't need to drive to get to.

Just after Christmas we joined Guardian Home Exchange, who were offering a free trial. I think it was for a fortnight, although now I see their free trial is for a week. Anyway, I quickly set up a profile and contacted all the possible exchange partners, and...


No response at all.

Guardian Home Exchange offered me a special rate to extend my membership, but I decided to accept that I was on a hiding to nothing.

Then in March Home Exchange got in touch and offered me a year's membership to give them a go, and post about it.

Well, it was worth a try.

Again, I set up a profile:

  • pictures of my home (after it had been cleaned, tidied, and on a sunny day)
  • ideas for what people might like to do around here (mapped), 
  • pictures from the local area, and,
  • information about us: broad strokes about what our family is like, and what we like to do.
If you're thinking of swapping, you kind of want to know what the people are like, partly because that helps you point out things they might like.

I found people in Ilkley and I got in touch with them:
  • One said sorry, no...
  • One had sold their house (they took it off home swap after our conversation, and were very sweet).
  • One has never responded;
  • and the last one said maybe next year.
I got in touch with people a train or bus ride away, but no luck there yet either.

I decided I was being too specific, so one evening I just looked through for places I'd like to visit and got in touch with them. 

Lots of them said no.

But one of them said yes!

We're just back from a weekend in Dunblane.

I'd got in touch with them because we'd stopped off in Dunblane to get some fresh air on the way to Pitlochry last year. I was impressed by the loveliness of the place. I also looked at the pictures of their home, and thought that it was way out of our league, but there was no harm in asking...

I'm glad they said yes.

In the lead up to the swap I'd come to the conclusion that it was a terrible idea, because I live in a house with hordes of children (I only gave birth to three, but I swear there are hordes rampaging through). 

It took me more than a week to tidy away the drifts of random stuff that accumulate in any location not constantly requiring cleaning, and the rest of the areas, I seemed to be constantly cleaning, sweeping, and mopping.

On the final morning before we left I changed the beds and towels, I hoovered, and I cleaned everything again, growling at the children that dared to come near.

When we left for our weekend I was stressed out and shattered.

But then we arrived.

And the kids were so excited. They were running around choosing bedrooms, and exclaming over toys, and X Box games, and the piano (pianos are louder than I remembered).

The house was gorgeous, and it was great to be staying somewhere with so much for the kids to do. To be honest, they would have been happy if we had never left the house.

We went out for tea at a pub, which sold my favourite Pear Koppaberg cider, and Kenny 'taught' the kids to play pool while I did very little. We have never done that at home, although perhaps we should.

That night of course, the kids couldn't settle, and I ended up moving the mattresses around so they could all sleep in one room. It still took a while, they were so excited.

Naturally, they still managed to get up at 6.30am, but on the Saturday I was super excited too. Kenny had suggested we go to Doune Castle - otherwise known as Winterfell in the first episode of Game of Thrones. Also from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It's in Outlander too - Gabaldon fans.

We were just about ready to go when Terraria crashed again on the boy's tablet, causing a strop of overtired proportions. The tablet was confiscated, and the boy was prised out of the building, but he was not happy about going to some stupid castle AGAIN (although this is the first time we've been to this particular stupid castle).

So we were running late, and everyone was sick of each other. Oh the joy of family holidays.

 However, at the castle, I took the boy off, just the two of us, and regaled him with suitable-ish stories from Game of Thrones, while we explored the castle, and I wrestled an audio-guide off someone who looked a bit like they were leaving.

We explored, took lots of pictures, and I even saw a bit of a smile. We went up to the roof, and talked about what Bran would have seen from up there, and I asked him to pretend to hold a great big sword called Ice, and think 'Winter is coming'.

Winter is coming.

It turned out it was Doune gala that day, so the place was busy, but we got lunch at the Buttercup Cafe (which is great by the way, and does lots of gluten free stuff too), and then went home, to snuggle up under a blanket on the lovely swappers sofa, and watch their DVD, while quietly wondering what they were doing, and what they were like.

I woke up awfully early on the Sunday, and did some writing before taking the kids who would get dressed into Dunblane.

It was shut.

It was still nice to be somewhere different.

Back at the house the kids helped to clean up, with barely any moaning, and we left for yet another lunch out (I love eating out), followed by shopping on the way home.

At home we found our house clean and tidy, the beds stripped, and the washing machine on. I'm sorry, I hadn't thought to do that in the Dunblane house.

It is a bit weird to swap houses with someone, because you're into their lives without ever meeting them. It was nice to find some evidence of these mystery visitors - a forgotten top (going in the post shortly), a cup left in my boy's room.

Kenny asked if I'd do it again? My immediate concern was the cleaning, and he thought we could get a cleaner in next time, which would help somewhat.

I think that doing it for a weekend wasn't long enough. We needed a little while to acclimatise.

I also think that house swapping is no good for getting somewhere specific, like Ilkley. You've got to throw a lot of stones before you get a hit.

I've noticed that I've had a lot of messages offering swaps from lots of wonderful places around the world. If we could afford another holiday abroad I'd be jumping at some of them. It would be brilliant to go somewhere far away, but be in a proper home, with stuff to do, and advice from the locals. It's something that I want to try. But not yet.

Our weekend away also highlighted that there's lots of stuff we could do together closer to home which just gets put to the side because of all the things there are to do. I intend to spend more one on one time with the kids and to snuggle up on the sofa with a film more often.

That's for next weekend.

Have you tried home swapping?

*Many thanks to Home Exchange for making this lovely weekend possible.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

June: Springing into action!

 "You know, I control the weather with my moods. I just can't control my moods is all." - Nick Cave in 20,000 Days on Earth (2014)
Finally, the weather has bucked its ideas up and shone sunshine upon us. We have been singing songs about sunshine, going for walks, and picnics, and generally feeling a whole lot happier about things.

The temperature gauge has finally risen up to the 16C mark ... and kept on going! It was 19C on Friday for the kids sports day. We sat on the grass and we did not get muddy bottoms.

Nick Cave said that writing about the weather made him look forward to bad weather, because it was more interesting to write about.

I don't think it's going to work for me... But YAY! SUNSHINE! I'm going to ignore the fact that it's dipped a bit in the last few days, and wear my optimistic hat... we are very close to the solstice and so ready for summer.

Let's hope the sunshine keeps going.

How's the weather with you?

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


This week on the gratitude challenge, I am sharing my gratitude for my education.

I know there are those that think I don't use my education (I've talked about that more here), but I do. I use it every day.

There were good things and bad things all the way through, but, this being the gratitude challenge, today I'm focusing on the positive. Here are all the things I'm thankful for during my experience of education:

  • I am thankful that I don't remember nursery. I know I went, and that I went to the one at Ben Rhydding scout hut, but nothing beyond that. From the memories of those I went with though, mainly involving squashed fingers and fights, I'm glad I can just make that stuff up.
  • I am delighted that because I was tall and blonde I mainly got to be the angel Gabriel in school nativities. Gabriel rocks. Look at my happy little face. I did get to play Mary once when I was grown up, because I had brown hair and could sing in Manx. That was hilarious.
  • I am grateful that Mrs Wilkinson was my teacher in 2nd year, because she was lovely.
  • I am still proud that my poem about Autumn Leaves won a competition. I am grateful to Mr Klepper for helping me to overcome my fear and go up that pulpit to read it to the whole school and parents at the Harvest assembly. It made up for getting bumped from glockenspiel.
  • We travelled to Middle School on a bus, and I am grateful that the seats at the back had been badly damaged and replaced with un-damageable metal seats, which we would slide across as the bus bumped and lurched around corners.
  • I am also grateful that Saver Strips were so easily cheatable, and had such a great advertising jingle - 'kerching a work, kerching a school, kerching a cheaper, kerching a saver strip'.
  • I would like to thank Mr Smith for teaching me to play guitar, and apologise for forgetting all of it.
  • Thank you to Mr Guernsey for helping me to cope with my parents divorce (and for having kids with mad names who were on TV - that was cool).
  • Many thanks to the five people who voted Green in the Addingham Middle School general election. It wasn't a great result for me as the party leader. The party did, after all, have six members, but at least we were there. It's not easy being Green. I would also like to thank my fellow party members. We none of us punched the Tory candidate while he was practising his victory speech during the count. Nor when he used it.
  • I am grateful to everyone at Ilkley Grammar School who did not carry a sodding Head bag, and so didn't knock everyone for six while going through the well, or up and down B to C floor steps.
  • Many thanks to whoever put me in the class at the front of A floor for fifth year. It was a great view.
  • Also, I am grateful to the boys who flushed Mr Thompson's trousers down the toilet, and to every single school child in the whole school assembly called on the matter, who laughed.
  • Thank you to Jamie, for grinning at me through the window while I was in Mr Adlam's English class.
  • Thank you too to Mr Falloon, and to Yeti, and to everyone else who made me think that perhaps there was another way to do this education thing.
  • I am grateful to the gang of us who travelled daily on the train together, smoking and laughing, and singing songs, while clomping about in our clogs and colouring our hair with tipex (not a good idea btw). Many of us are still friends. You were immediately like family to me, and we may have done more drinking than necessary, and slightly less studying, but it was really good.
  • Thank you to Heathcliff for enticing me to study Psychology.
  • Many many thanks to the glammy Sociology teacher who wore mini skirts, had massive hair and couldn't spell 'ethnography'. You made me feel clever :-)
  • Many thanks to the staff of Tumblers and The Queens in Bradford, who pretended they thought we were 18. 
  • I would like to thank Peddyr, for teaching me Manx Gaelic, and for ferrying me around, and also for supporting me through a crisis, and being incredibly graceful about the crush I developed. Gura mie eu, Pheddyr.
  • Next up, many thanks to my lecturers at Edge Hill College in Ormskirk. In particular, the RE lecturers, who were so very welcoming and kind, and the Women's Studies lecturers, who encouraged us, and made us brave. I can do well, I will do well, and today I'm going to show the lot of them.
  • Huge thanks go to everyone who voted to allow me to form a Pagan Society, especially those members of the rugby team who really pushed the Christian-dominated and reluctant Union committee to get it through. I am truly humbled by your willingness to help out. I also made friends through that society, which I'm glad for.
  • To all of those who voted for me to be Women's Officer, I would like to say that as a former Green Party rep, I had never won in a landslide before. I was delighted. I worked my arse off, and hopefully most of you never noticed. For those that did, thank you for letting me help, and I hope I did. Milky was my president, and he was very good at it. I loved working with him, and was very sad to hear of his death last year.
  • I am still slightly gutted that I didn't win in my bid for the SU presidency; it meant I had to go and get a real job; but there were only two votes in it, so I'm grateful for everyone who tried to give me the chance.
  • I'm nearly done, I promise... I am grateful to my Granny for giving me some money toward getting my Masters, and to Leeds University for giving me a bursary for the rest. I don't know when I'd ever have afforded it by myself.
  • Thanks too to Penny Robinson for giving me a job as a warden, despite what others thought, because she knew I needed it. If it wasn't for you, Penny, I wouldn't have been able to do my Masters, and I wouldn't have met my husband.
Phew!  Well, that's me, but there's more thanks to give...
  • Thanks to Mr Frame and Ms Hughes for making my son excited about going to school. You are both truly awesome teachers.
  • Many thanks to Mrs MacDonald for making my big girl feel valued. You brought her on in leaps and bounds.
  • Thank you to Mrs Reilly for helping my little girl settle in to nursery. She loves you, and I don't blame her. 
That's it for now, but no doubt there will be more soon.

What are you grateful for from your education?