Friday, 24 October 2014

Eight years on, but who's counting ?

Today it's mine and Hubbie's 8th wedding anniversary. We're taking the boy to stay with my parents and we'll have a night away in a nice hotel with dinner and breakfast - bliss ! In the evening, after dinner, we'll be on air presenting our radio show so we'll be online chatting to listeners in the 'shout box' which is a live interaction with presenters during a show. It's not a conventional way to spend an anniversary, but it's pretty much perfect for us. I get to have a swim, Hubbie gets to go to the gym and we both get to be on the radio together.

So, if you will indulge me this is my post dedicated to celebrating the top 8 things about being married to Hubbie. To misquote Ross Geller from Friends: "One for every year I have been married to and loved him."

  1. He's a key member of any pub quiz team with his extensive sports knowledge. Don't ask him about popular culture or pop music though, it will not end well ! 
  2. He's taller than me - well let's face it most people are - so he's very handy for reaching things on high shelves. This isn't quite as dim as it sounds. Hubbie has a genuine aversion to DIY, but he does the 'manly' stuff around the house which means I don't have to :)
  3. His incredible patience with my backseat driving. I'm always pressing an imaginary brake on my side and will advise him what not to do when driving despite the fact that he's much better than I am at driving long distances - I rule when it comes to city driving though.
  4. Even when I doubt myself and my ability Hubbie wants me to do well and is ambitious for me. He's not jealous or competitive, but supportive and genuinely happy when things go well. 
  5. The songs - oh the crazy made up songs. Even before we had our boy he used to make up silly songs for and about me. Mostly to the tunes of current hits, but often just out of the blue.
  6. Despite wildly different musical tastes we often go to gigs together. I went with him to watch the Fall a few times and he's been to see Prince with me. There's a mutual respect if a bafflement at our respective choices of music. 
  7. When we're together we share the stupidest jokes and puns. No one else would find us as entertaining as we do each other - and ourselves. 
  8. He knows how to make things all better, whether it's finding a 'kunkarella' to make me laugh or reminding me that I don't like salmon and shouldn't order it in restaurants. 
So, here's to us and our quirky married life. If anyone needs me I'll be in the hot tub worrying about the cat being home alone.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Just stop saying first world problems - please.

Spidey was distraught he'd spun Tuesday's web on Monday

Ok, the next person who uses the term 'first world problems' will get a massive rhetorical slap from me. Apart from Jason Manford as it's the name of his most recent show and he seems a decent enough guy so he's the exception. The rest of you, however, knock it on the head please.

It's not the meaning of it I object to ie. people moaning about absurd issues that aren't entirely serious or of little consequence when compared with famine, poverty, etc. I completely get the comedy value of laughing at someone who considers it a tragedy that Waitrose has run out of Moroccan houmous just before Wilhemina's birthday party - especially when it turns out Wilhemina is a miniature schnauzer.

Of course I can identify with and laugh at the absurdity of being so apparently disconnected with the 'real world' that it's considered ok to have a Facebook page entirely devoted to mocking what's apparently 'overheard in Waitrose.' It's actually the term 'first world' that jars with me. You see it suggests that those in the 'third world' are all tutting at our "Marks and Spencer have run out of artichokes" dilemmas. That we are in some way superior and deserving of the status of 'first' while those poor pathetic sorts in poorer countries "probably don't even have houmous do they I expect ?" Surely they are far too busy digging latrines or carrying water to care about our middle class and selfish problems. How dare we express dissatisfaction with our over-fed, pompous lives filled with TV, cars and fattening food.

It's patronising in the extreme to pretend that countries in Africa, Asia or other countries that were originally identified as 'third world' do not also have an equivalent sneering culture. I recall visiting my cousin in Bangalore and her brother asking why she hadn't left for work yet and she bemoaned, "Mum won't let me have the driver today - how can I possibly go to work ?" This is in a city where going for a coffee and not being able to get wifi in the cafe was considered completely unacceptable.

The hierarchy of first, second and third world was coined to identify whether or not countries were aligned with NATO and those that weren't were 'third' in the list. It was judgemental and inaccurate back then and it remains so today.

So, here's the deal. I'm still going to laugh at the notion that someone genuinely thinks that brioche is 'a bit common,' but I might just try to encourage everyone to say something like, 'North London problems' - ok, maybe, not it's a bit too judgey. How about 'Seriously ? You call these problems ?" - ok, too sarcastic. I could just settle on 'posh problems' which is more accurate. I mean it's not like we're laughing at those who shop at Asda or Tesco or Lidl is it ?

Right, I'm off to watch the Apprentice with my decaff yorkshire cuppa and a gluten free biscuit. I'm not even going to mention that I've run out of almond milk.

Pah !

Monday, 20 October 2014

And another thing...

I found myself wondering this morning what constitutes stainless steel. I know, it's a laugh riot around here most days. Anyway, the cutlery set I've been using for around 15 years is now marked with rust stains which I'm pretty sure is not what is supposed to happen. I have a 'good set' which I can use instead, but I am still puzzled. Why do some things just not make sense ?

School photos used to include a formal photo in uniform and looking like you had been forced into it - now it's all posed like your child is in a Next catalogue photo shoot. I don't want him jumping in the air or looking down at his feet like a movie star in an aftershave advert, just give me a traditional awkward photo that his grandmothers can put on the wall unit and embarrass him with when he is 15 and too cool for school.

When did simple fairies get promoted to Fairy Princesses ? Isn't it enough to be a fairy with the magic and the wings and all that ? In the show Ben and Holly she is a fairy princess and he is an elf. Not an elf prince, a basic workaday elf. Oh and he isn't even given magic. That's just old fashioned sexism isn't it ? Admittedly it is turned on it's head from the traditional gender balance of power, but still.

Why can't I just buy a normal box of matches ? I have the worst oven in the world and need to light it using a contraption that cost £1, but needs to be refilled and since Hubbie hasn't gotten round to it yet we have been using those long cook's matches that aren't that good and are hopeless as they burn too quickly. Just a single normal size box of matches is all I need, but I have to buy either a mega pack of many boxes or pinch them from bars where smoking is not allowed, but matches are still kept under the counter.

What are toy manufacturers afraid we'll do if they don't lash the toys to the box using wires, elastic and now screws that require a screwdriver ? I mean shoplifting is annoying, but seriously when my boy opened all his birthday presents we needed a full toolkit to unpack the cars, transformer and fire engines. I'm just glad he didn't have a doll as well or we would have had to explain what looked like a hostage situation.

Ok, I'm not entirely curmudgeonly I will admit that it's better now that we have cool stuff like the internet on our phones. I mean I recall travelling on a train to Swansea at the break of dawn - seriously I was in my pyjamas and I brushed my teeth, changed my clothes and put in my lenses on the train -  only to arrive hours later to find my appointment had been cancelled and no one had been able to get hold of me. Now I'd be able to tweet them before I left and check train times and watch an episode of Hawaii 5-O to console myself when turning back half way.

So my list tomorrow includes finding a normal size box of matches, replacing the current cutlery with the 'good' cutlery and at some point getting a life.

Ok, ok, it's on my list.

Friday, 17 October 2014

It's not quite Howard's Way is it ?

I've been a bit off radar this week, but I do have a very good reason. I was on a cruise ship. In case you're wondering how I got home so quickly I'll clarify that. I was invited onto the ship, but we didn't make it to the Caribbean (sad face). I did, however, get fed to within an inch of my life - I didn't need to eat until after 1pm the next day I was still so full !

The view from the lifts is amazing !
It would have been great to actually visit the Caribbean, but it was still pretty great to be invited by Royal Caribbean to have a nosey around the biggest cruise ship in the world. The Oasis of the Seas was in Southampton this week, so while they boarded actual passengers a few of us were invited on board to sample some of the delights of a cruise. I have never been on one before and haven't seriously considered booking to go on one as a family as the only people I know who have been on and enjoyed a cruise are my in-laws and my elderly neighbours. In my mind it's a pastime for the retired and not for families with children. That's exactly why they wanted people like me to come aboard and change our minds about what cruising is like.

Not a shopping mall but the main promenade
So first up the ship is absolutely massive - the main promenade is twice the size of any other cruise ship and it's like being inside a shopping mall rather than at sea. It took us a while to board, but that was only because so many passengers were checking in super early so they could peruse the ship and take it all in. We were assured that it's actually a process that would take no more than 15 minutes in real life conditions. Security is like at an airport so you do have to walk through arches and provide photo ID before boarding.

King Julian serving at lunch 
Luscious lunch 

It's Alex the lion !
Once on board we were given lunch at Giovanni's. There are a lot of food outlets included in the price, but Giovannie's is one of the restaurants that requires an additional cover charge.  The charge is actually very reasonable, the food was delicious and the service just wonderful. It's not somewhere I'd eat often, but would be great for a special meal. While we were eating our starters we spotted these characters who joined us for photos and even came to see us at the table. I have to admit I was more than a little star struck !
Touch screen guide

This is a wall mounted guide that has a touch screen so you can see where on the ship you are, where you want to go and what activities are on that day. I've mentioned the enormity of the ship and it is a concern that you might get lost or - horror of horrors lose your child. You are never more than a few feet away from a member of staff and they are very helpful and friendly. If you lose a child you notify one of them and the entire staff on the ship stop what they are doing and search their area. Apparently it takes no more than 3 minutes to locate a lost child on board.

Trevor the fresh juice man
One of the things that I love about going on holiday is the relaxation, the fresh fruit and the opportunity to unwind. On board there is a very well equipped gym where you can do spin classes and you can work out from early morning to 1am !! We also had a mini treatment in the Elemis Spa and that would be one of my favourite places to visit I can tell you. After a workout and a relaxing treatment I always look forward to a refreshing drink of some kind. Trevor is the man who can help make magic happen. I asked for a drink based on pineapple and he created something of beauty out of pineapple, banana, orange and (as he told me conspiratorially and with a twinkle in his eye) "a little bit of peach." It was heavenly !!

Lilting music 
There is a lot for adult passengers with on board entertainment including live shows and we were serenaded by a band that included steel pans to get us into the Caribbean feel. I was interested to see what was available for children though as my son is aged 4 and I couldn't imagine what would keep him occupied and enable me to relax while on a cruise. The kids' club is a series of rooms that have age appropriate activities including science experiments, sports, arts and crafts. It's clean, well set out and staff are trained and first aid qualified. You can leave your children safely and know they are being cared for.

Outdoor pool fun 
Kids' club playroom 

My major concern was that as I have a very active child I wasn't sure there would be enough for my son to do that would stop him going stir crazy. Then we went outside and I saw the amazing sports deck with a number of fun pools, hot tubs for grown ups, crazy golf and the zipline that is included in the activities package (as is the flow rider) and you can go on it as many times as you like. In good weather it would be amazing to spend the day outside having fun swimming, playing and being active and might go some way towards counteracting the overeating that can happen on a cruise. I did a zipline along the top of the ship - I wasn't sure why I agreed to it, but as I zipped along over the carousel I was not at all scared and actually enjoyed it :)

Enormous starter
Decadent dessert 

When you talk to anyone about cruises the topic of food is never far away. There is a lot of it and it is pretty much inevitable that you will eat more than you intend to as there is so much on offer. Our food was amazing and I genuinely didn't need to eat the next day as it was so filling. There is a wide variety of food outlets to try and some are included and others require an additional charge. I did wonder what my son would make of the food, but there is so much choice I'm sure we'd find something that he would enjoy on board. Also with a cruise that makes frequent stops we could go ashore and try different cuisines in the ports.

The zipline was great fun
Overall I did rethink my preconceptions about the kind of people who go on a cruise. I mean who on earth would have predicted that with my propensity for seasickness and fear of heights I would willingly clamber onto a zipline and career along the 15th floor of the ship way above the decks ? It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we would consider booking a cruise as a family. I'm not sure I'd like to be at sea for days at a time, but a Mediterranean cruise with stops at different destinations every day might appeal. Having seen it in real life I can see what an amazing experience it could be for children to enjoy.

Disclosure: Royal Caribbean kindly invited me and some other Mumsnetters on board to experience what a cruise has to offer for families. I was not paid for this review.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Happiness is...

Neo's idea of bliss

I watched my boy come into the room where we had his surprise party on Sunday and he stopped and stood just taking it in. Then he spotted me and ran over and gave me the biggest hug and his face broke into an enormous smile as all his little classmates ran over to hug him and wish him a happy birthday.

We've been planning this party for weeks now and it was like a military operation. I woke up on Sunday morning with an aching back and a long list of things still to do. All of that faded away as I saw him running wildly around with his friends playing games and enjoying himself.

It reminded me that I have to stop and take time to look around sometimes and remember the tiny things that make me smile and feel warm inside. Things like:

  • Climbing into the 'marshmallow bed' - the winter duvet newly unpacked and fluffed and the thick mattress topper that makes lying in the bed feel like being enveloped by a massive marshmallow.
  • Wearing one of Hubbie's jumpers or sweatshirts that's way too big for me - tucking my feet under and make a cocoon to get cosy in.
  • Showing my boy photos or videos of when he was a baby and his asking what he was like 'back then,' like it was donkeys years ago.
  • Catching the cat and the boy asleep on the sofa together, or watching TV or in the kitchen nabbing treats while they think I'm not looking.
  • Waking up to find my son asleep next to me and wandering downstairs looking for Hubbie only to discover him watching baseball with the cat sitting next to him.
  • Making a cup of tea and settling down to drink it while the boy is at school and Hubbie is at work - more than that, actually managing to finish the whole cup while it's still hot (ok, warm then).
  • Sitting inside in the warm listening to the rain outside pattering onto the windows and knowing there is nowhere I have to be other than where I am.  
and of course my personal favourite 
  • Going for a swim and having the whole pool to myself - bliss !  
So the next time the cat is sick in the house (like he was this morning) or Hubbie annoys me (like he did yesterday) or my boy is driving me spare (well, just don't ask !!) I'll remind myself of these lovely things and pop the kettle on. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Up with the birds and eating magic biscuits: my morning win

Fruit for breakfast
I think it's fair to say I'm not a morning person. I used to work in an office where - unknown to me - it was widely acknowledged that it was best not to talk to me before I'd had at least one cup of tea. Unlike other 'super' Mums who are up with the birds and making lunches and preparing for the day I am lying in bed pretending not to hear my son asking if he can come in and watch the TV.

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when I would get up and go swimming at first light and go into work refreshed and invigorated for the day ahead. Now I'm lucky if I'm able to function before the cat - and that's saying something for an animal that sleeps for 20 hours of every day !

Toast for my boy 
One thing I've never skimped on though is breakfast. I was raised to eat breakfast every day and my mother was zero tolerance about this one issue. She would ensure we had porridge or boiled eggs or cereal and would supervise to make sure it was eaten and not hidden under a rug or the middle leaf of the expanding table (totally not looking at my sister there - *cough*) When I was a teenager I would gulp a black coffee and run out of the house and she'd call out to me holding a piece of buttered toast, but I'd just shrug it off insisting I wasn't hungry.

Now I'm a grown up I am the same with my boy and make sure he has something to eat before he leaves the house, but I'm not as good at making sure I'm fed too. I can go until 11am (or later) without having anything to eat and it's not the best really. I try to remember to carry healthy snacks with me to make sure I don't fade away, a banana or an apple usually, but sometimes I just forget.

Magic breakfast biscuits 

I wasn't convinced by the idea of a 'breakfast biscuit' - I mean surely a biscuit is a snack food and one that I avoid at the best of times. However, the Belvita range of biscuits has been created to be eaten as part of a healthy breakfast to slow release energy all morning rather than an immediate spike in sugar with the comedown afterwards. I popped a pack of them into my bag as an emergency and on one of my inevitable busy days I found them to be invaluable and quite tasty too ! I picked up my free cuppa from Waitrose and chomped an apricot biccie (or 3) with my brew on the bus on the way into town for a job interview. Now I'm not saying they are magic or anything, but I did get offered the job so you draw your own conclusions :)

I have to say that making a good start to the day does make a big difference whether it's...

Daily toast dilemma
Waking up to find that Hubbie has not only changed the toilet roll, but proven to me that he can actually do it and isn't relying on the toilet roll fairy


Being able to get out of the house without a row about brushing teeth, putting on shoes, finding socks, or breakfast, "I said Marmite on toast not jam Mummy."


Power walking alongside my boy's scooter to school without him swerving into the path of a car or into that pile of horses**t that's been at the top of the hill for 2 weeks now !


Dropping my boy at school then going for a swim so I've managed a power walk (uphill) and a swim all before 9am :)


Drinking a cup of tea before it goes cold - this is my favourite by far. Add a pack of breakfast biscuits and we're talking an Olympic standard #morningwin

The new Belvita flavours - yummy ! 

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVitaBreakfast. Learn more at

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Say Hello (to work) and Wave Goodbye (to being a SAHM)

I'm going to miss nonsense like this
I'm going back to work next month after being at home with my boy for almost all of his first four years of life. Since I found out that I'll be working full time I've worried about a lot of things.

  • whether my boy will be able to manage a longer day once he's going to breakfast club before school and creche after school 
  • not being there to drop him off - Hubbie will be doing the morning school run
  • how I'll cope with having to get up and commute again. I really hate commuting 
  • whether or not I'll be able to get myself organised so that I have breakfast and lunch with me to stop me spending money on food 
  • getting back from work in time to pick up my boy at the mercy of London Transport 
  • having enough time to make a meal for us in the evening instead of just putting stuff in the microwave
  • reducing the frequency that I swim from daily to whenever I can when I no longer have the whole day to fit it in
  • will the house ever get cleaned when I'm working full time ? 
  • how my boy will adapt to my working again instead of being 'his Mummy' for a living. 

I've been talking to the boy about my return to work for a while now - since before I was offered a job in fact. I told him Mummy would be going to work and he asked me why. I said it was because he is a big boy now and I can go to work in the day while he is at school. He was ok with that. In fact he seems to be excited about the prospect of going to breakfast club and creche and I have to accept that he might be looking forward to some 'mummy-free' time. Ouch !

 My boy's preferred job right now

It would appear that the only thing I haven't worried about is doing the actual job. Not because I'm so blasé that I think I will be fine, but I just haven't given it any thought yet. My lovely friend Soraya not only sent me the job advert, but helped me prepare for the interview and was pretty much holding my hand the whole day I was there (metaphorically speaking of course). She's been amazingly supportive and told me not to worry about childcare - these things work out she said - and today she asked me how I felt about the job. She knows the person who is doing the role at the moment and they are pretty impressive shoes to fill. I honestly don't know, but it's an area of work that I feel strongly about and that I believe I can make a contribution to. It's going to be challenging and interesting and terrifying all at the same time.

So for now I'm going to just worry about letting go of my current role as stay-at-home parent, because that's what this is. I'm reluctant to share the load with anyone - even Hubbie - because I've become so used to doing it myself. The dropping off, the picking up, the school meetings, the swimming lessons, the meal planning and preparation, the in-between shops for items that run out midweek and the weekday appointments for pet immunisations. The meticulous planning of every hour of every day to ensure nothing is missed and that I wring out as much as I can from the meagre 24 hours I've got.

I'll start thinking about my new role as a working parent later. When I've chosen what to wear for my first day. Worked out the best route to and from work. When I've packed my bag and managed to include everything I need for the whole day. When I've remembered what it feels like to wake up so early that it's still dark while I walk to the tram stop in the morning. When I look out of the window of the train or the office and see the world that I've been away from. When I have more conversations with adults in a day than with a 4 year old and when I make and finish a brew while it's still hot enough to call tea.

In short, when it feels real.

I can only hope it's this light when I leave the house