Friday, 28 August 2015

following these blogs on Bloglovin'

I love Bloglovin' - it's a wonderful way to find out about all your favourite blogs (and even your not-so-favourite ones) new posts.

I treat it like a magazine, flicking through to find stories I can dip into, and saving those that need a little more attention.

You can follow me on Bloglovin', along with lots of other blogs (nearly all of them that I've tried); and today for Friday's Fabulous Five, I'm sharing five blogs I'm loving following on Bloglovin' right now.

1. (these are just in the order they popped up in my feed): A Beautiful Mess

This is a great magazine-type blog, with interiors, fashion, crafts, recipes, and also think pieces. It's run by sisters Elsie and Emma, who live in the US. They are slim, beautiful, and very stylish, which put me off at first, but they're also friendly, and they have some great ideas. I am a particularly big fan of their salad jar recipes, and of Elsie's gorgeous wardrobe (and her decluttering tips), but the thing that is particularly awesome for me about A Beautiful Mess is that they sometimes make furniture!!! Like this gorgeous dining table.

2. Truly Madly Kids

This is a British blog with posts from various different people, often collaborative, which focuses on family fun. They are keen on photography and do Image of the Week posts (although over the summer they're busy having holidays and so do Image of the Summer) which you can take part in, or just be inspired by. I love this post about pocket money (what do you do? We earn stickers through the week, and then the amount earned goes on a tally in Google Keep which both parents can access - it can be anything from 50p to £2.50 a week). And here's a smashing one about food processor obsession (I want a new food processor).

3. Paul Cairney: Politics and Public Policy

This is the stuff that I studied at university (for my BA), and then later, I went to work for the government. I am really interested in all this stuff, so I appreciate that it does look a little out of place here, but this is a really interesting, accessible blog that I really enjoy. Recently, there's been this interesting piece on e-cigarettes, which I wish my Mum would smoke if she really must continue her nicotine addiction, but which I fear mainly serve to maintain people's levels of addiction. Paul Cairney is very good on Scottish politics, and has this to say about a possible return of a Scottish independence referendum. And I loved this piece he wrote about assuming people are stupid, because plenty of Scottish people assumed I was last September, and because I must admit I tend to assume that people who vote UKIP (and other parties I dislike) are.

4. Terrible Tumbles

This is my current favourite fashion blog. Many thanks to Becky Barnes of Mrs BeBe Blog for pointing it out to me. Terrible Tumbles is by Em (I think, although she's a bit secretive about her name), a tall Yorkshire lass with big feet, which is awesome for me, because what looks good on her might look good on me, and it saves me doing lots of incredibly dull shopping. I love her attitude (as demonstrated awesomely here). Her latest post is about denim, which she's been buying from Yours, which is one of my new favourite shops, so I shall head their next time (I've been wearing one style of jeggings from Simply Be for a while now, because with jeans once you find a pair that work you MUST stick, right? Well, I must. However, my jeggings have no pockets, so Yours, we've got a date.

5. Fat Mum Slim

You didn't think you were going to get a five favourite blogs post without Fat Mum Slim did you? Chantelle, who writes it, was recently at a Blogging Conference (because those are things), where she got weirded out by people telling her she was 'brave' and 'inspirational'. I guess she's just doing what she does, but if I was there, I'd totally grab he arm and tell her what an inspiration she is, was, and continues to be. I love her work. Her style is fab, and all her posts are useful in one way or another. She's got inspirational stuff like this, she's got the wonderful Photo a Day challenge, which got me hooked on prompted photos, and led to my joining Instagram (thanks for both, Chantelle), wonderful sympathetic parenting posts like this one, plus recipes, blogging advice, and so much more. I am a massive fan.

And that is my fab 5. What blogs are you loving right now? 

Other posts you might like:

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

having a #climatemoment

I've got bad news.

We don't actually control the weather with our moods. Not even Nick Cave.

It's a bit like a domino effect in a domino factory, and it's nigh on impossible to work out all the ramifications, but we do actually control some of the weather with our behaviour.

I remember when people started getting worried, when I was a kid. Then they were talking about CFCs in fridges, aerosol cans. People were talking about global warming.

I grew up in Yorkshire, and I wasn't sure that global warming might not be a good thing for me. It might warm up a bit. The river might get wider, and flood the park. I could see that people, and our pollution, had already had a big impression on the landscape. All the sandstone buildings in my town were black from smoke pollution, which had been banned with the clean air laws. It felt like we were making progress.

I felt pretty sure that we could sort this one out too.

But I wasn't counting on powerful people being willfully ignorant.

You know this rubbish weather we've been having? Well it turns out that that is due to global warming. Sadly it doesn't get warmer for us, instead, the cold, wet air that's supposed to be further north is dragged down here to rain on our summer parades.

We're getting more days like this (taken 1st June)
And less like this (taken 11 June)
But all hope is not lost. The United Nations are having a conference in Paris this November to discuss climate change. They want to come to a universal agreement on climate. We can all do what we can too.

But what can little old me do to make a difference? Even a little one? David Suzuki has a really useful list (check it out), and, inspired by that we're going to try to affect these changes:

  • We are going to walk home from school when possible.
  • We are going to buy more stuff from our local butcher/greengrocer/fishmonger (and I do appreciate we're lucky to have them).
  • We're trying to reduce what we throw out and recycle what has to go (and I'm going to add to this by complaining to companies that over-package stuff, especially children's toys which are a bloomin' nightmare).
  • We are going to re-use our shopping bags unto destruction (even if that means using a North Ayrshire Council bag in Claridges).
  • The stuff we have in our modern home is all pretty energy efficient, we have LED lights and a low energy washer and dryer (which we only use when it's raining - so most of the time). But we can improve our energy efficiency. My prime way of doing this is going to be attempting to leave the hall light off at night (there may be a riot), and unplugging laptops which aren't being used. Also, despite my love of being warm, I promise to wear a jumper before I stick the heating on.
This hideous summer has been a real #climatemoment for me. Not that I didn't think it was an important issue before, but this has literally hit it home. We need to stop climate change, because it's cheaper than moving to another planet, and also because wasting stuff is just rude.

What efforts are you making? And what has been your #climatemoment?

Monday, 24 August 2015

starting school: diary of difficult days

Miss 5 started school last week.

This isn't the first time I've done this. Mr 9 and Miss 7 have blazed a trail for her. But their starting school was pretty easy. Mr 9 couldn't wait. Miss 7 had a little more trouble when she changed schools mid-P1, but while she was sad, and would cry, which was hard, there was no wailing and gnashing of teeth.

We suspected things might be harder with Miss 5. She spent the summer telling us that she didn't like any of her friends (and she missed them, and could they come and play?), and she wasn't going to go into P1.

Seven weeks was a long time to have the idea of P1 looming in front of her. We tried not to dwell on it, and we accentuated the positive, and I tried to convince myself that she'd be fine.

But I kept thinking about when she started nursery. Quick, plaster that smile back on.

I kept a diary every day for the first week, and it's a little bit visceral, but I'm sharing it because it really helped me to know that other people had been through the same thing, and because, even though it feels awful, it really does get incrementally better.

If your little one is having a tough time starting school, then you're going through hell as well. I hope my sharing my experience can help (and I promise to give you further updates to let you know how we're getting on).


School starts back today. Everything is washed, named, and ready to go.

I wake up at 6.30am, with the alarm not due to go off for 15 minutes. A feeling of dread has settled upon me. All the kids needed to be woken up, apart from Miss 5 who is a little nervous, but excited too. Things are going to be OK.

We have breakfast and get ready. I dress Miss 5 in a pinafore, blouse and tie. She watches the transformation in the mirror. So do I. I would rather dress her up like Dolly Parton than put her into this horrible uniform, which seems designed to limit her creativity, subsuming her into the bland corporate look which schools here seem to go for.

Anyhow, she seems happy, so we get on with the morning, doing the obligatory first day of school photos by the front door.

We head off to school, and the big kids run merrily in. All good. Miss 5 is confused, "shouldn't I go in now?" Well, no. The school has decided that P1 will start at 9.30am, which is in 40 minutes. Not long enough to go home and come back, but I can see she's a bit worried, so I take her for a wee walk instead.

We come back to the school at 9.15am to see lots of her friends are here already. There is much excitement and photo taking. Does she want to have her photo taken? No.

We chat a little with friends, but she's started holding on to my leg and is getting tearful, so I take her for another little walk to get her out of the situation.

Then it's 9.30am. The teachers open the door for the little kids and get us all to queue up in the playground. They're only letting a few in at time, to find their hooks and hang stuff up. Waiting is stressing Miss 5 out, and the Deputy Head tells me to take her in.

I do. We find her peg. We're not sure what she needs out of her bag, but no-one else is either, so we leave it (apparently we should have taken her water bottle out - that would have been good to know before she went a day without water).

We shuffle into the classroom where loads of parents are milling about taking photos, and it's all a bit of a circus. Lots of people rub Miss 5's head and tell her where her friends are, but it's difficult for me to see very far, how much more difficult must it be if you're Miss 5's size?

She clamps herself on to me, screaming and crying. I try to pull her off. I kiss her and hug her and tell her that it's all going to calm down soon and everything will be alright.

Her teacher spots the situation and comes to talk to Miss 5 about her nice hair and her jumper. Miss 5 loses the plot entirely. The teacher says she'll take her and I should go, but then someone else speaks to her, so I hug and kiss Miss 5 again, while gently trying to remove her.

It ends up with two teachers prising her fingers off my leg, at which point I attempt to dash from the congested room. In the hallway there are still kids coming in and I don't want any of them to see me cry, so I turn to face the nursery door (there are no kids in the nursery this morning), pretending to study something there. One of the nursery teachers stands beside me assuring me that it will be alright. She's very kind, and it's nice to have a distraction while I try to get my head together. I have no idea what she said.

When I get outside I get straight out of there. I hate the idea that Miss 5 might look out of the window and see me just out of reach, so I go. I have messages in town. I get busy. I promise myself that I will 'phone the school after one whole hour to check how she's doing.

I am rubbish at my messages. I forget the script for the prescription I have to pick up. I forget to write the address on the parcel I have to send.

That's good. It makes it take longer.

I call the school and am told that they were just looking up my number to call me. I have a moment of terror - they are surely going to tell me that they've never seen a meltdown like my little girl's, and I'm going to have to home school her (nowt wrong with home schooling, I'd just suck at it). No, Miss 5's teacher has asked them to call and reassure me that she's alright. I cry on the phone to the school secretary. She tells me some personal stuff about herself. I am glad that she's trying to connect to me as a human, it allows me to cry and not feel like a complete muppet. Although I do anyway, that, and a rubbish Mum. Breathe.

I try to keep busy through the day. I try not to look at the clock and wonder what she'll be doing now. I make it through the day. 

I go to find out if she has. When she comes out of the school doors I wave frantically and she runs over. She's got a homework bag and she can't wait to show me the homework she's got.

I'm told she cried at lunchtime, but that she settled down again. She tells me she doesn't like her P7 buddy (I think she was hoping for someone else), and the school day was SO LONG. When I ask her later what she wants for school lunch tomorrow, she can't quite believe she has to go again. I feel so bad for making her do this. A little part of me wonders if I should maybe teach her myself, but I can't do that. I don't want to, and I believe this school is a good school, but change is really hard for Miss 5. I wish it could be easier.

I wish she could have done a few days in P1 before the summer holidays, rather than a couple of hours, so she would know what she was going back to. I'm shattered. After the kids go to bed I sit beside my husband watching TV, and I crochet, while drinking a G&T. I had promised myself I wouldn't drink alcohol on a school night, but I feel the day has warranted it.

On the plus side, all the kids started new swimming lessons today which went brilliantly. Miss 5 and Miss 7 were laughing and doing things they'd never done before. Miss 5 told me her swimming teacher was the best teacher in the whole wide world EVER. He is pretty awesome. I hope she feels that good about her P1 teacher soon.


Miss 5 is quietly crying through breakfast. She tells me her tummy feels funny, so I don't push her to eat her breakfast up, or to drink her juice. She's keen to get into her school uniform so I help her get it on straight after breakfast. Today she goes for a skirt, and she wants to wear her tie again. Her skirt is a little short I notice, which seems typical for my girls!

Her brother gets her busy playing a game while I get myself and her sister ready.

I leave it as late as I can before heading to school. I don't want to have too long at the school gate. But I don't want to faff either, so when we're all in the car it's time to go. We have a neighbour who tends to park across from my driveway, which is really annoying. I tend to wait for her to move, but this morning Miss 5 is getting more and more stressed sitting there, so I decide to manoeuvre around. I am rewarded with being beeped at. I do know you're there! I give myself a pat on the back for not swearing, as I wait for her to go, and then enjoy my boy commenting on her driving as we follow her to school (he's good at commenting on driving, he practices on me). That was good, it provided a distraction. At the school Miss 5 is getting more stressed, and a playground supervisor notices the situation and comes to intercept. I wave goodbye to the big kids and then remove Miss 5 from my leg and pass her forcibly to the woman (who did tell us her name but I didn't catch it), who takes her away. We're making progress. Only one person needed to take her away today.

I walk swiftly off but feel I must be doing the wrong thing. I see a friend and ask her opinion. "Go now," she says, "before she sees you. She'll be alright."

I sit in my car and breathe, and cry.

At home I tidy up and listen to a podcast about parenting (it was the TED radio hour, and you'll find the really good bit here). I cry.

A neighbour pops around to see how Miss 5 got on and to reassure me. Lots of people have reassured me. Even the great swimming teacher told me he'd been dragged off his mother on his first day. It does really help. I am profoundly grateful to my neighbour for taking time out to do this. She says that when I call the school they'll tell me Miss 5 is fine.

I take it as permission to call the school, and speak to the secretary again. She tells me that they're all fine, and assures me that she'd call me if there was a problem. So that's the last time I'll call. No, really. She tells me that I must know how it goes. But I don't. Just because I have other children doesn't mean I know how having this child goes. I'm winging it here.

Still, it was better today. Hideous, but better.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better still.


Miss 5 had a meltdown yesterday at lunchtime about her buddy. This is a P7 kid who is assigned to help her out. He then sits next to her. It's supposed to make her feel safe and looked after, and I vaguely know the kid who is her buddy. He's a good lad. Yesterday at lunchtime Miss 5 went into such a strop with him because she didn't want him to be her buddy that he was reduced to tears. I feel really bad for him. I also feel bad for my little girl who has escalated this whole buddy thing to such an extent that she was up and down all night worrying about it. She says she'd rather not have a buddy.

I feel like this is just a thing she's fixating on and if it wasn't this it would be another thing, but she begs me to talk to the teachers about it, and I agree. She still doesn't want to go to school though.

"Why do I have to go to school Mummy?"

"The law says that all five year olds have to go darling."
"Where is the law? Let's go and change it."

The crying this morning starts earlier than yesterday, and she doesn't want to put her school clothes on. She does though, and despite wailing she gets into the car. The big kids say goodbye and head in, which I'm grateful for, although I feel bad for them. They're not getting enough attention this week. Miss 5 begs me again to talk to the office, and I promise I will. She balks at the school gate, and I lift her bodily, so she has less traction, and hand her to the playground supervisor. A teacher whom I know Miss 5 had dealings with yesterday (when she was having her lunchtime meltdown), and isn't happy about.

I turn on my heel and walk straight away. I wish I could talk to the other Mums, but I have to get straight out of there. I don't want her to see me, it would feel like I was taunting her. Before I cross the road I catch a glimpse of her. The teacher is holding her by the arm, and she is fighting to get free. As I walk away I can hear her screaming. I feel like I'm doing a terrible thing. And I feel bad for all the other kids, I know it can't be easy for them when they're feeling wobbly themselves.

Everyone tells me that this will get better. I hope it gets better soon.

At home I do as promised and 'phone the school. I would rather have gone into the office, but didn't want to risk seeing her. I'm put through to the Principal Teacher, who is calm and lovely as she always is, and who tells me in lots of words (because she's used to dealing with parents who are too stressed out to listen properly) that Miss 5's buddy has been assigned another child, and Miss 5 will not be given another buddy. The Principal Teacher assures me that my little girl will not be neglected, and that they're doing this because they think it's the best for my little girl, but she doesn't need to do that, because I know it's all true, that they will look after her well, and that she will feel a lot better without a buddy. I check if I'm doing the right thing by walking away in the morning and I'm assured that I am, and that things will get better.

I sit down and cry for a while, and reply to all the messages I've had from concerned friends. One is from the buddy's Auntie, and I tell her how sorry I am about him getting upset. She assures me he's fine.

Later in the day it transpires that one of Mr 9's friends sat with Miss 5 at lunch, and has offered to do the same tomorrow. Miss 5 is delighted and absolutely buzzing about this girl, whom I already thought was a nice lass, but whom I now rate as fantastic. Thanks to you Miss N.


Miss 5 wakes me at 6.30am, wanting me to help her get her school clothes on so she has time to go on screens after breakfast. That was a bribe that went wrong last year, but it does work for getting people dressed with relatively little fuss, and, to be honest, I'm willing to do what it takes at the moment, so I get up, cancel my alarm, and help her into her school clothes.

She looks in the mirror, cries, and asks again why she has to go to school.

To be honest with you, I thought that the buddy issue was just something to hang her worried hat on. This morning I fear I'm right. I remind her that she can have fish and chips for lunch, and that she should hopefully be sitting with Miss N, but even that doesn't cheer her up. I break out the bubbles. Blowing bubbles helps her concentrate on her breathing and that always calms her down. After that, her brother helps hook her up with a screen. Sigh.

The crying starts in earnest when it's time to go to school, although I'm pretty sure it isn't as bad as it was yesterday. I am full of positivity, and carry on carrying on. When she starts to lose it, I chuck her outside with her brother and a pot of bubbles, while her sister and I get all the bags together. 

"How long is it going to be like this?" I ask Miss 7.

She shrugs. "It's going to take a while."

In the car we talk about good stuff that happens on Fridays, and how Daddy will be picking the kids up today. Miss 5 is asking how long she's going to feel like this, and I ask her to stop focusing on it, to think about other things. I know that's hard though.

At school the big kids dash in, and I produce the bubbles for Miss 5, she manages to blow a few while getting her backpack on. She does better at walking to the gates, and I'm glad to hear the bell go as we get there, glad it's raining, so she doesn't have to wait at all before she goes inside. The playground supervisor takes her off me. I'm sure it's a little easier today.

I walk away, and talk to some other Mums standing by their cars. It's so nice to have a friendly chat. 

I feel like this might pass. 

My husband doesn't work on Friday afternoons, so he comes home at lunchtime. I suggest we go out for lunch, and, after much faffing, we do. We talk about the redundancies at his work and how it feels to be amongst that, and we talk about Miss 5's hard week.

"You should home school her."

He's joking. We both know that I shouldn't. I make an impatient, pernickity teacher. Besides which, we both believe in school education. This school might not be perfect, but it's pretty good. Despite this I burst into tears. I feel like I should, and all the reasons why I shouldn't are things that make me a bad mother. I feel like I'm really letting my girl down.

That evening, we watch a programme about Confucius. Bettany Hughes explains Cunfucius' view of the importance of empathy: "what you do not wish for yourself, don't do to others."

It made me think.
I hate to see Miss 5 sad, but I believe in the importance of education. I am doing this to her for a good reason, and not just because I have to.


We have had a good weekend. Miss 5 wanted to go swimming, and had lots of fun in the pool. She also cracked cycling her bike, with pedals, which she's hoping to remember to tell her teacher about that in school today. Her big sister reckons it's a candidate for the golden book (notable achievements outwith school).

When my alarm goes off I find Miss 5 has snuggled in beside me. She carries on sleeping, and I look at her baby soft skin. I feel like I am betraying her. But all I can do is be positive, she'll get through this.

As we get ready I notice that she's doing better at coping with the waves of anxiety. They still bother her, but she's practicing her calming breathing, without bubbles, and acknowledging that the feeling will pass.

At the school I ask my boy to walk his sister through the gate. He is happy to help, if a little clueless. He takes her through a gate, then tells her to go off to the P1 bit of the playground. She turns around and comes back out, she's crying, but she's not screaming. I call Mr 9 over. Could he please take her to a teacher? I speak to her, remind her to do her breathing, and tell her that if she won't walk in with Mr 9, I'll hand her over to a teacher.

For the first time, she chooses to walk away from me. She's not happy, but she's come so far. I make sure she gets to the teacher, and see that she is talking to her, not being held. It's going to take a while longer, but we have come so far. I am so proud of her.

I'm going to publish this post now, although the journey isn't over. We've come a long way in a week, and I'll let you know how things get better in the weeks to come. Thanks to all those who have given us support during these difficult days.

Starting school is certainly a milestone in your life, and I've added this to The Prompt's Milestone linky.

Friday, 21 August 2015

loving the tunes: five bands I'd like to see.

So we're all a bit older, and we're all a bit wiser-ish, and going to see a band you loved as a teen is a bit tragic isn't it?

But then, we're all the same people we were when we were teens, just a bit older, and hopefully a little less impetuous.

So, I've just booked tickets to see one of these bands in October (I'm turning 42 this October - life the universe and everything). I'll let you guess which one. To be honest. I'd love to see them all.

1. New Model Army

I have not seen New Model Army play live since I was a teenager, and saw them play Leeds Universtity Refectory. They were brilliant, but the whole experience was brilliant because it was one of my first gigs. They are touring this year and will be in Edinburgh during the October holidays. This is one of my favourite songs. You can't hear Justin too well, but that's alright, I know all the lyrics, and I'll be singing along while attempting to avoid punching people while dancing. That's cloggie dancing for you.

2. Dogs D'Amour

Sadly, they are 'on hiatus', and there is no tour, but I'd love to see the Dogs D'Amour live. I just imagine it would be a rather lovely car crash with some amazing tunes, and I might just avoid smoking by the skin of my teeth. This video is from 2013.

Other bands who I'd love to see but are sadly unavailable include Clam Abuse, Antiproduct, and The Doors (with Jim Morrison)

3. The Fratellis

The Fratellis are playing tonight in Glasgow! I love the feel of their music, and I have a massive crush on Jon Fratelli, who is one of my inspirations for the main character in the book I'm writing (and that's why he sings). They're from Glasgow, and are also playing here later in the year.

4. The Sisters of Mercy

Oh the Sisters of Mercy, they are not departed or gone, and I don't recall ever having seen them play live, despite them having a massive impact on my life as a teenager. They're touring now, and I'd love to see them.

5. The Fields of the Nephilim

I've bought tickets a few times, but I've never managed to see the Fields of the Nephilim play live. I suspect that if I did it would presage the end of days, but if so, I'm sure they'd have a song about it. This video is a bit ropey, but the sounds is good. Pray now.

Other Friday's Fabulous 5 posts you might like:

Thursday, 20 August 2015

writing: A creative writing exercise

Sometimes I have ideas rattling around my head and they keep tickling me, but they won't quite come out. So here's one thing I do.

I take some brief ideas. The ones set out below came from the sentences I was recording on Vocal ID tonight. As I was recording them I was wondering if people ever said most of those sentences, which made me think about context, so I've taken some to act as prompts (thanks Vocal ID).

These ideas are supposed to be pretty general, so they can lead off in many directions, but they were ones that grabbed my fancy while my mind was being tickled by a particular thing so I suspect they may be more amendable to that thing... If that makes sense.

Anyway, you take six prompts.  Here are mine:

  1. No one else can help me.
  2. I should have asked him in.
  3. He looked so wistful as he went away.
  4. I know a story.
  5. I will not grant your wish.
  6. Now go and do not seek me again.
See what I mean? You're not likely to say most of those are you?

Right, as you've got six prompts you now fetch yourself a dice (or a dice app), roll and you've got your number.

I got 4.

Write your prompt down as a title. If you like, you can write it down as your first sentence too. Now set a timer for five minutes, and write whatever comes to mind.

It can be pants. That's allowed.

When you've finished writing for five minutes stop, and put it away. Later on you can get it out and see whether there's anything you want to convert into a poem, or find out more about.

So you can see what I'm on about, here's what I wrote:

I know a story.

I know a story. At least I know the bones. This is a tale of a girl, a beast, and a rose. Oh? You think you know the story? Which one have you heard? For there are many.

Is it the tale of the girl whose father picks her a rose, damning her to forfeit her heart? Or is it the tale of the girl who picks her own rose, forging her own path, and then dealing with the consequences herself?

Was one story begotten from the other? Or did both come from some ancient story that is older than we know?

What truth is in this tale?

You should be careful picking roses, you're likely to get hurt. And I'm not talking about the pricks, or am I?

Who is this girl? What colour her dress? Why is she picking this rose, or having the rose picked for her?

She must be young and beautiful to be idle enough to pick roses, and to merit having roses picked. But to steal a rose? Have you ever gone into a neighbour's garden and stolen a rose? Why would anyone do that?

Where to now? I definitely want to do some more research about the stories of the rose-picking/picked girl. I've already written a poem inspired by some of these stories, and I feel that there could be something else there. However, I have other fish to fry right now...

Why don't you give it a go? Let me know how you get on and if anything comes of it. I'd love to see where your prompts lead you.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Weather Project: Making the most of it

When this post comes out we will be back at school - for the first time, all three of my children will be in full time school, and I will have regular time to myself for the first time in ten years.

I'm supposed to write a book.

But as I write, I'm at the tail end of the summer holidays. A summer holidays beset with cold, wet, windy weather. There were some good days, but mostly the weather truly sucked, and now all we have to look forward to are Autumn and Winter.


Do you know what's good about a rubbish summer?

You really make the most of the good days. Those days become action-packed sucking-the-marrow-out-of-life days. We have been stuck in the house for so long (which in itself is kind of alright because Minecraft), that when we get out we want to stay out until the sun goes down. Because who knows when we will see it again?

We have had a fabulous summer because we have enjoyed every moment we could get.

We are now weary, and getting a little bored, and soooo glad to be going back to school, which is exactly what I was wanting.

And if all we have to look forward to is Autumn, then let it be an Autumn of smoke and colour. Of rain that finishes just before you go out, and temperatures which require a little wool, a pair of tights, but no bundling.

But just now, let's hold on to the bones of summer, and suck the marrow out.

Other posts you might like:

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Living right here

This week for the gratitude project I'm talking about the things I'm grateful for in my neighbourhood.

This is easy to do.

There are three things I am grateful for in my neighbourhood:

First off, the people around here are friendly. No Victor Meldrews (well there's one, but she keeps to herself), just nice people who say hello and express an interest.

Secondly, we're in a great location - with little parks to play in right next to the house. If I could move the whole estate closer to the town centre I would, but where it is will do nicely. We can see and hear the sheep and cows in the fields around the estate, and I like that too. We are a little too far from the school for my liking, but happily the council is moving the school closer. Thanks for that North Ayrshire!

The last reason I love living here is that we're on a cul-de-sac, and it's safe for the kids to play out in the street. Which I'm about to make them do! We have lots of other kids nearby, and there can be massive water fights, fun football matches, and sometimes just a big gang of kids hanging about at the park, shooting the breeze. It's the kind of childhood some people claim kids don't get (and some people complain about them having), and I'm delighted to have it for our kids.

What's good about your neighbourhood?

Monday, 17 August 2015

Looking forward to...

This week for the gratitude project I'm writing about something I look forward to, and with an important event just around the corner, I've got to say that the thing I look forward to at this time of year is the kids going back to school.

Tomorrow my youngest child will be starting primary school, and I can't say I'm not trepidatious, or that I won't miss her (or the other two - we've had a great summer holiday together), but I'm also excited.

This time last year!
All the kids are going into new classes. Mr 9 and Miss 7 will be back into seeing their friends every day, and getting more of a routine. Miss 7 is delighted that she doesn't get free school meals any more (you get them for the first three years of primary school in Scotland), so is hoping to take a pack in quite a lot. Miss 5 is going to be starting Primary 1. She's a bit worried, but excitement is building too. I've had to stop calling her the little girl on here because she's a big girl now. I think it's going to be so good for her to get pushed a little more, and to develop her friendships. I think that her separation anxiety over the holidays is a sign that she's really ready to look away from me a little bit. But I am going to show her as many times as it takes that I will always have her back. 

I'm glad we don't still live in England, where she would have started school last year. She was too young then, but I think she's ready now, and I hope it's not going to be too bumpy a start. Miss 5 is a strong willed one, and she will make her feelings known (nothing genetic there then). Starting nursery was 'interesting', but we got there, in the end, and through the difficult beginning she got stronger relationships with the nursery staff, and more confidence in being there. I'm sure we'll have a few wobbles starting P1, but she's going to be fine, and she's so excited about bringing her reading on, I'm actually kind of looking forward to those Biff, Chip and Kipper books.

Have you had the 'pleasure' of meeting Biff, Chip, and Kipper?
Kind of.

As for me, someone said the other day "You won't know who you are!" They are right. It's a massive shift. I am going to be able to focus on me more, and I do intend to get on with writing that book. I am also hoping that I'll have time to finish a thought in my head, and time to tick a few of my 'to-dos' off my burgeoning list.

What are you looking forward to?

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Saturday, 8 August 2015

fine: an emergency caesarian and the love of a good man.

I could see that the surgeon was touching my leg where it was held, up high in a stirrup, but I couldn't feel it, so that distracted me a little from what she was saying, but it didn't distract my husband. 

"No." He said. "She doesn't want to have a caesarian."

"She might have to-" started the doctor.

"It's OK." I said. "We tried the ventouse. It's time to have a section."

Medical staff swiftly moved into action. Someone got a chair for Kenny and put it beside my head. He sat down. For a moment I saw my pregnant orange belly reflected in the theatre lights, but they moved the lights and swathed me in green fabric. 

"You will feel a tugging" said the surgeon. The anaesthetist was behind my head, checking a beeping machine. A lot of other people were around, wearing masks and blue and green hats. What were all these people for?

Kenny held my hand. "Look at me" he said.

I looked at him. I tried to concentrate on my breathing, and to relax my shoulders down. He looked tired, but then it was the middle of the night. More than that though, he looked terrified. There was nothing either of us could do now but trust the doctors. I didn't tell him that I'd been convinced I was going to die in the ambulance. We've never mentioned it, but looking at him I thought perhaps he'd thought the same during that hour of pain on bumpy back roads.

I didn't think I was going to die any more, but I wasn't so sure about the baby. I wasn't sure about how I was going to cope with three children and a massive abdominal wound either. I tried not to cry as the tugging started. "I'm scared." I said.

He squeezed my hand. He tried really hard to be reassuring, but he was pale as milk himself with fear and stress. "It's going to be fine." He said.

I'd known for a while that a section might be needed. The baby had measured large and I'd been sent for extra scans and to see a consultant. I was scared, going in to see that big man, and my midwife came in with me to hold my hand. He told me that the baby would be around 10lb and I should deliver in hospital. I told him that I was a big girl and I would try to have my baby at home. My midwife squeezed my hand and nodded. She reminded the consultant that I'd already had two babies, and the last one had been at home. He was cautious, but it was my decision.

I wasn't sure about the 10lb thing. I knew women who'd been told to expect big babies and given birth to 7lbers. I didn't think that that was likely to happen to me. I certainly felt that she was big - I had to lean backwards to get enough room to breathe, but maybe she was just awkward.

When my waters broke I wasn't sure I hadn't just wet myself, which sounds ridiculous, and I had always thought it ridiculous before; with both previous births it had been completely apparent when my waters broke, but this time she probably plugged the gap with her head quite quickly, so there wasn't a lot there.

When my Braxton Hicks contractions started getting more regular I took a walk across town to a friend whose house I was supposed to be at the next day to tell her I wouldn't make it. "You didn't need to come over." She said. Then "You're going to have the baby by tomorrow aren't you?"

I smiled at her, and walked back. Kenny set up the birthing pool but didn't fill it yet. We did all the early stuff. I didn't do much to help out. Kenny fed the kids and got them to bed, and then we got into the serious swing of labour.

I phoned the hospital - they would send the midwives. I was delighted to get my midwife, and a woman who'd had to come in from the next district. The midwives ate toast, and I got into the birthing pool. Things came along OK.

Things were building up, but then transition started. I got shaky and started thinking that maybe giving birth to a baby might be a really stupid idea. Perhaps I would just not do it. Happily I had been through this before, so I knew it would pass.

It didn't pass.

I didn't want to alarm my husband, but I did want to speak to my midwife. She sent him to make more toast. I told her it wasn't passing, and she examined me. She asked the other midwife to make sure an ambulance was on standby. Then she got me moving about, going up the stairs sideways was an idea, but not one that I enjoyed particularly.

It didn't pass.

The midwives had a chat and one called the ambulance again. I was holding onto the dining table and moving from side to side like a shoegazer. 

A paramedic popped his head around the door to let us know they were there. My waters broke (again - properly this time), Kenny was dispatched to find a babysitter (happily his mate Rob was just coming home from taking awesome soon-to-be-award-winning photos at a festival so he was drafted in), and the midwives and I had a quick, quiet conversation about the slight traces of meconium in the water. Time to get in an ambulance. Not easy when you're having contractions every minute or so.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that my favourite memory is in amongst all that scary stuff. The memory of my tired and frightened husband, looking into my eyes and telling me that it was going to be fine, despite the fact that a woman was cutting me open right at that moment. I feel so incredibly lucky to have met this man who loves all of us so much, and can pull strength out of the bag when it's needed. 

Also, I'm very grateful that we have the NHS, which is so incredibly good at dealing with crisis situations.

And the baby? She weighed 10lb 4oz, and had a good sized head. The consultant was probably right about going to the hospital, but I'm me, and I felt safest starting off at home, with my midwife. If I was going to do it again (which I wouldn't), I would do it the same way. The baby is 5 now, and about to start school. She always gives us a run for our money, and teaches us more about love and trust every day.

Me and the new baby, just moments after she was born. Picture taken by Kenny.
This post is for the gratitude project.

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

in Bradford

This week on the gratitude challenge I'm talking about a city I've visited.

I've visited a few of course, but I've picked Bradford, because it's been an important city to me in my lifetime, and because Bradford itself has been on quite the roller coaster.

I grew up in Yorkshire. We've just been back for a weekend. It's a gorgeous part of the world, known as God's own county, and with good reason.

But as a teenager, it wasn't the picturesque villages, the afternoon tea in Betty's with a Fat Rascal, which I associated with Yorkshire. Rather it was clogs, and worker's struggle for their rights. Dark satanic mills, and luddites.

I went to Bradford every weekday for my A levels; clomping across the city in my clogs, all eyeliner and attitude, to get to the Community College (or the pub, there may have been a reason why I didn't do too well). 

Bradford had great pubs. I spent many a happy hour in the Cellar Bar at the Queen's Hall, and in Tumblers (The Tumble Inn), to name but two. It also had (and still has) beautiful Victorian Gothic buildings. During the industrial revolution Bradford was the 'wool capital of the world'. Bradford also has a thriving community from Asian countries, and they have added to the rich diversity of the city, with amazing curry houses, and really good market stalls (which was where I used to buy the henna to dye my hair). In the 1890s William Morrison set up an egg and butter stall in Rawson Market (where I bought that henna). This business expanded to become Morrisons supermarkets!

The poet, Joolz Denby, is based on Bradford. She also had a thing for clogs, and the beautiful Victorian architecture of Bradford. Here's her thoughts on Bradford architecture.

It seems to me that when it came to town planning, Bradford's ailing heart was ripped out, and while the surgeon was looking around to find the replacement she was distracted by nearby fancy Leeds. For a while there we worried  that the towel would be thrown in. It looked like Bradford's National Media Museum (a great visit) might close, but it was saved. Bradford's heart is beating again now. It's changed, with a great big water feature that I really rather love, and more shops on their way, but it's growing and changing while keeping it's beauty, and for that I am grateful.

Also, the people of Bradford have got rid of George Galloway, and that's got to be a good thing (they could have just asked Glasgow and saved themselves some time).

What cities do you love?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Weather Project: Songs for a soggy summer

I can't mention Nick Cave this summer without saying that my thoughts are with him and his family as they learn how to live without Arthur. I am so sorry for their loss.

I've been doing a bit of research for the Weather Project this week. I am focusing on Largs, where I live, and also, handily, there is a weather station. I cannot speak for areas such as Suffolk where there may not be cold wetness going on.

What my research led me to was the shocking realisation that this summer is a bit cold and a bit wet.

Temperatures are below average (I say below average, the temperatures haven't even bumped into average at a party for the most part). Rainfall is above average, and it's a bit windy too.

The Met Office do smashing weather summaries for every month since they started doing it on their website (I use these lots for writing). The latest one is for July, you'll find it here.

They described June as "unseasonably windy" and "rather cool." In our part of Scotland the rainfall was above average, while the rest of the UK was having more sun than average (this inspired the first song, below).

July started well but then the weather turned "cool and rather changeable ... generally, with rain or showers for much of the time, and only a few dry and warm days." Our part of Scotland had double the average rainfall*.

August is looking pretty dreich too so far, but let's not dwell. Instead come with me down a rabbit hole of blast-from-the-past songs.

1. Don't Steal Our Sun by The Thrills
2. 10.15 Saturday Night by The Cure (how young are they?!)
3. Every Day is Like Sunday by Morrissey
4. Green and Grey by New Model Army
5. Tupelo by Nick Cave
6. It's Raining Men by The Weathergirls (need to cheer you up a bit)

Miss 7 loves being Scottish, and embraces the Scottish weather. She and a friend started making up a song the other day entitled, 'Glorious Scotland'. It's not finished yet, but here it is so far. I think I need to take a leaf out of her book. I've started. I've finally got a raincoat I'm not embarrassed to be seen in.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

camping in Yorkshire

We have just come back from a weekend of camping in Yorkshire.

Unfortunately it was during this summer, so it was rather cool and rather damp, but it was lovely to catch up with old friends, and meet up with family, and to stay on our lovely campsite.

None of the pictures I took could do justice to the amazing view from the campsite. Each evening we just sat and watched it. There are also 12 birds who do awesome flying displays for your delight.
The campsite we stayed at was at Ghyll House: a working farm, run by Mike and Chrissy Flesher. It has amazing views across Wharfedale, and we were looked after incredibly well. Mike took all of us to meet the lambs, piglets, and ducklings, and we even got to feed some of them.
Mike, the farmer, is happy to chat about farming, and would be an amazing source of information for anyone thinking of writing a book set on a farm. The kids loved feeding the lambs, and I am currently intrigued with the idea of converting a raw fleece into something woven. Did you know they can barely sell black or part black fleeces, because they don't take colour, and yet they can be beautiful in themselves. There's an article in the Daily Mail (sorry) about 'rare' black sheep's wool jumpers, which look utterly beautiful. I want one! Let's drive the price up!
It has electrical hookups for those that can use them, and is really well priced, plus it's in Wharfedale! There are nice, clean, well provisioned toilet blocks, and the shower blocks are being built right now. If it was really wet it might be a bit tricky getting a car out of the field, but I'm sure you could park by the loos instead.

The campsite is 20 minutes walk from Addingham, a friendly village with a well-provisioned Co-op. We had fish and chips from Old Station Fisheries, which were delicious and also incredibly cheap, so I'll let the woman that served me off for thinking I was a cockney! I went to the pub in Addingham on Friday night. The Swan is a lovely, old fashioned pub with good beer and a live band most Friday nights. They also do food, have a beer garden, and a surprisingly enormous car park.

Addingham also has a really good play park (just by the Medical Centre).

Don't tell anyone about the park in Addingham, no-one seems to know about it!
There are also good parks down the road both ways in Ilkley, and in Skipton. Skipton boats a wonderful castle, busy market and some lovely walks, while Ilkley has some fancy shops, Ilkley moor, Ilkley lido and lots more walks.

Also, recently opened nearby is Billy Bob's Parlour - an American diner and play barn. We neglected to book a table inside (it was a showery day and we didn't think we'd need to), but at 11am when we arrived there was no room. Happily there was still room outside, so we sat there. The food was good, if a little pricey, but that's made up for by the fact it's only £1 per child to play in the play barns. There's one for little kids, and another for big kids. It can get a little boisterous in the big kid barn, but everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Billy Bob's is at Calm Slate farm, which is the home of Yorkshire Dales Farmhouse Ice Cream. Having seen the ice cream I ditched the diet and had a double scoop cone. The scoops were generous, there was caramel sauce, and the ice cream was divine. Well worth a gain, if I get one!

Miss 5 playing in the Under 7's play barn. She did this to herself.
What would you recommend doing in the Wharfedale area?