Monday, 28 July 2014

Britmums live Keynote - I did it !!!

It's possible I'm the last person to post about Britmums live as it was over a month ago now. Last year I posted immediately after and it wasn't until a few weeks later that I really had processed how much I'd gained from being at the biggest blogging event of the year. This year I've taken some time to really get some perspective on the weekend and how much I learned from it all. 

My badge was as wonky as I was on friday night !

There were some welcome changes from last year including a covered area outside the Brewery in East London so that we could meet and greet at the start and during breaks. Considering how beautiful and sunny it was the outside option was much appreciated. It also meant I got to speak to some people who I might not have met otherwise - those bloggers I've been chatting to on Twitter for ages and who I wasn't sure I'd find if they didn't look exactly like their avatar.

Having been before I did have a wish list of things I wanted to achieve this time so I was a bit better prepared and not as 'rabbit caught in headlights' about it all. Here are some of the most memorable aspects for me.

Literary agent speed date: I bottled out of this last year and regretted it so this year I took a deep breath and went through the double doors to talk to lovely Louise. She helped me to focus my ideas and to think about a compelling story rather than the gimmick that would sell my book. All I have to do now is finish it !

the secret ingredient is beetroot
Ooh it's a Vitamix !

Brands: I've always felt a bit awkward about talking to brands, but this year I decided to meet and greet during the quieter bits before lunch and at the start of the conference. I talked to them all and worked out who I could find a fit with. I also got my son a football and bucket and spade for our holiday so that was good. The cloakroom came in handy for storing all my goodies while I went to the sessions.

Sessions: I may just have chosen unwisely, but I found the sessions that I attended were pretty much the same as last year and one was just unintelligible. I won't say which one to be fair to the speaker. I'd been in two minds whether to go to Nigel Camp's sessions on video technique and wished I hadn't missed them in favour of the ones I chose. I collared him and mentioned I was sorry I hadn't gone and he kindly offered to give me and my lovely friend Louise some top tips from his session right there ! He did a personalised video tutorial for us outside in the lovely covered area, so I'm delighted I read his badge and chatted to him during the break. Thanks Nigel, you were fab :)

Me and lovely Jen - hic ! 

Thanks to the lovely wine sponsors me and my pal Jen were nicely happy for the awards ceremony on Friday evening. I hadn't stayed for the BiBs last year as I was so tired, but I'm so glad I did this year, not least as I know a few of the winners so I was even more delighted for them. A lot of bloggers were staying over and met for dinner, but living so close I went home on Friday night. Before I did that, though, I ran all the way to the Betsey Trotwood pub in Farringdon to catch Sara Pascoe doing her Edinburgh warm up show. I was so glad I caught the end of her set, she is fab.

It was up and out early on Saturday morning for another day and even at 8am as I walked to the Brewery I could feel the butterflies in my tummy - yes the nerves had already started !!

Bloggers Keynote: I have spoken to a fair few audiences in my life. Some have been a bit scary. None have made me quite as wobbly or nervous as the Britmums one. I know how to reduce a room full of people to tears - I used to do impassioned speeches about the orphans and refugee children I worked with overseas. I struggle, however with the pressure to make people laugh and gave up my stand up aspirations because of the fear that no one would laugh. The post I read was a bit preachy and a bit teachy and I hoped it had a few laughs in it. All day my fears were:

  • When I get up there will be a smattering of polite applause as no one knows who I am
  • When I'm talking there will be a low hum of conversation as it's just not interesting enough
  • When I walk off the stage, it will be to silence and tumbleweed.

In reality I was so incredibly terrified that I barely noticed what was happening while I spoke and all I could think about when I watched it back was that I hadn't said 'Thank you' to the audience for listening at the end. I did it though and thanks to Nigel Camp I saw how many people kindly listened to me. I am so glad I didn't see that before I got up to speak !

Heads, shoulders knees and boobs... 

The Good Enough Mums Club: We had a sneak preview of the show with some songs and dance numbers and this came hot on the heels of my mini retreat with Pippa from The Story of Mum. The retreat was a much needed boost reminding me that I am indeed good enough :)

The main thing I gained from being at Britmums this year was coming face to face with the reality of my "imposter syndrome." That sense that you are not meant to be somewhere or you're going to be found out at any moment as a fake. I still feel like I don't fit in. It is entirely like being at school where the 'cool girls' all hang around together and I'm not part of the group. Despite trying far too hard to fit in.

I also learned that wearing a tiara is a short cut to feeling amazing and have kept mine to wear whenever I need a little lift. Thanks Emma (Freud) for that - your keynote was great and sitting in a room filled with women (and men) wearing tiaras made my day :)

I am wearing a tiara - oh yes I am :) 
If you're umming and aahing about whether or not to go to Britmums next year I'd say go and get your ticket now while it's at super early bird price.

If you don't know anyone else there you can always come over and say hello to me :)  

Saturday, 26 July 2014

A fun family afternoon at Foal Farm animal sanctuary

Lovely Foal Farm animal sanctuary 

I probably mentioned that at Easter I asked not to receive chocolate (I was still off it from January) so  instead Hubbie sponsored a rabbit for me. Tootsie lives at Foal Farm in Biggin Hill and I hadn't had a chance to go and meet her so this week we decided to pay her a visit on a sunny afternoon.

Hear hear !! 

I think this sign as we were going in explains why I love their approach so much. They really do put animal welfare first. Foal Farm is an animal sanctuary where no healthy animal is destroyed and if they cannot be rehomed they live here as a permanent resident. In order to support and keep these resident animals they have a sponsorship scheme to pay for food and vet's bills. Tootsie is one such resident and she lives alongside cats, horses, and many other animals.

Hello ponies

The animals are very welcoming to visitors and when we arrived there was some activity around the stables so we said hello to the horses and ponies who were very friendly.

Secret garden 

Hunting wabbits 















Aware that we had come to see one special animal, though we made our way to the 'secret garden' area where the rabbits are. My boy and Hubbie led the way to the Bunny House, but not before we saw the lovely little village that my boy remembered from his visit with Daddy when they came to choose Tootsie for me.

Where the bunnies live !
I'm famous !!
















We looked around the Bunny House, but couldn't spot Tootsie so we said hello to all the other rabbits and then went to ask at reception. All the sponsored animals get a mention on the walls in reception and their sponsors are named too. As you can see I'm one of many who sponsor Tootsie - she is clearly a very popular lady !!

Tootsie poses
Meeting Tootsie



We were told that she is now in the 'Bunny Park' with her companion Fiver so off we went to look for her. At first we didn't see her in the outdoor pen that she shares with her 'boyfriend' so we visited the others who all have lots of space to roam around. When we came back to the pen we spotted her sitting right next to the gate so we'd just missed her right in front of us !!

Receptionist
Ginseng

One of the really nice things about Foal Farm is that the animals are really part of the life of the farm. There are resident cats who are allowed to roam around and meet and greet visitors, one even sits at reception desk ! Sadly there are a lot of cats who are waiting to be rehomed, including kittens and we decided to visit them.

Meeting kittens
Kitten patting the glass 

A lot of people prefer to have cats as kittens and when you see these guys you can see why.

SO CUUUUTE !!

There is so much to see at Foal Farm and a lot of learning about how pet owners should be responsible and care for their animals. Our lovely friends Neil and Sarah rehomed their cats Lily and Milo from Foal Farm and our cat is from Battersea Cats and Dogs Home. As we were leaving we spotted him in cardboard form :)

It's Neo !! 
As you probably already know our favourite family farm is run by lovely Fiona and her family at Coombe Mill in Cornwall, so I'm delighted to share this post on the #countrykids linky that Fiona hosts :)

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

It's not all work, work, work you know :)

When the boy was born I stayed at home for a full year to be with him. Then I went back to my job and soon after decided I didn't want to be a working mum and took the redundancy package on offer and stayed home with him until now. As he's going to school in September I've decided it's time for me to look for work that fits in with this big change. As I review my work history it brings to mind something that Hubbie said to me recently. Hold onto your hats...

This is a good one...

You won't see this coming...

*clears throat*

I am the real Miss Rabbit !!

I know, it's a bit of a shock. I'll give you a minute to process that fact before we move on. *makes a cup of tea* 

Now you've had a few minutes to recover, maybe I should clarify what I mean. To be exact Hubbie calls me a cross between Miss Rabbit and Nessa from Gavin and Stacey. You see every now and again I will drop into the conversation a job I have done that is so random that it sounds like it can't be true. It's not deliberate, like a humble brag, "Oh, yes it was like when I parked cars for the Sultan of Brunei and he let me keep a Ferrari." It's far less exotic than that.

Would you employ this woman ? 

On holiday when I made the boys toasted waffles with chocolate spread and strawberries I mentioned that I don't eat them myself any more. Years ago there was a Belgian waffle van in Ealing Broadway next to the jewellery stall that I worked on. The woman who ran the stall was my Maths teacher's wife - he looked like Bluto from Popeye - and the lad who used to wheel the barrow out in the morning and back into storage at night was called Vince and smelled of weed. The lads on the fruit stall opposite used to undercharge me - the perks of being 'colleagues' - and I learned all the different names for semi-precious stones, but never worked out how to put the puzzle ring back together.

Hubbie laughed.

It was just the latest in a long line of jobs that I've done that sound made up but they really aren't. I mean why would I make up that one ? It's not beyond reasonable to have done so many different things. It is rare for anyone to stay in the same job for years and years any more and if you think about it I've worked since I was 16 and I'm 44 now, so my having done a crazy number of jobs isn't so unlikely is it ? So when I say something like, "I was interviewed for a radio show in Sierra Leone," I'm not trying to show off, I probably forgot about it until the moment I just said it.

At times it must sound like I'm lying, but I'm not. I really did work in Transylvania and yes the water was poisonous, but the alcohol was not. When you put it like that it does indeed sound a bit bizarre.  

Yes, I really did meet the actual Sheriff of Nottingham. No, I really did. His name was Mr Fulton. He was very friendly, not like the Alan Rickman one at all.

The other Sheriff of Nottingham.

It seems unlikely, but I did travel to Cork on Sept 12th 2001 with my boss and it took us over 2 hours to check in because they had suddenly introduced new security measures in light of the attack on the twin towers the day before.

When I worked for a paging company I was often mistaken for a doctor because I had a 'beeper.' Well, that and the fact that I'm asian, I guess. The boss really did say that he thought mobile phones were a phase and he had no idea who any of the acts were that he had voted for as one of the judges of the inaugural Mercury Music Prize.

And finally, should you ever find yourself in possession of a copy of the electronic version of the PUSH guide to which university (1997 edition) that is indeed my voice on the CD. I had high hopes of a career as a voiceover artist, but alas, it was not to be.

So, I haven't driven an Eddie Stobart truck or worked as a living statue like Nessa, nor am I part of the Mummy's volunteer fire service or a helicopter pilot like Miss Rabbit, but on my past form surely it's only a matter of time before those are on my CV too ?

In the meantime please wish me luck with my job search :)

Could this be my next job ?

Monday, 21 July 2014

London Safari: Lions and hippo and bears(kins). Oh my !!

Now I know I say that you can do the most fun things in London, but I bet you never knew you could do a safari did you ? Well, prepare to be amazed as I show you how - please be aware, however, I have played fast and loose with the definition of safari !

Earlier in the week Hubbie took a day off so we could have a special trip to London before the school holidays start and it all goes crazy. What we forgot, of course, was that it's already tourist season so it was still busy !

Watching and waiting 

Bears(kins): 

As it was such a lovely day we decided to get to London early and watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It is something I went to as a child with my parents and whenever family visited from India they would want to go so I've seen it a few times before, but I wanted my boy to experience the brass bands, the horses and to witness what so many visitors come to London for. It was far too hot for him though, so we took a break from standing behind people holding up their cameras and iPads and found a space in the throng to people watch instead.
Real soldiers 

Lions: 

Once the ceremony was finished we walked to Trafalgar Square and our boy wanted to get up close with the lions around Nelson's Column. Hubbie lifted him to an eye watering height and I kept my feet firmly on the ground. Then they decided to pose next to one of the lions which is the classic photo opp that all tourists have to do. In fact I told the boy that there is a photo of me with my Dad doing almost the same pose from way back in the seventies. He was disappointingly non-plussed by this nostalgic revelation.

It's a long way up !!

My brave boys take on a lion

Then at the weekend our boy was a busy chap. He had a birthday party on Saturday morning and they had a bouncy castle !! Then we went to the launch of Totstars Academy which is the latest development for our favourite pre-school activity in Croydon. It was sweltering inside and he insisted on having his face painted so we waited for him to be painted as superman (surely that is just borrowing Daddy's glasses and taking them off ?) They new venue has a fabulous indoor football surface which isn't strictly outdoors, but looks like grass so I'm cheating just a little bit :)

Essential face painting 
Big kicks 

Hippo:

It was blazing hot this weekend so we decided to wash out the hippo paddling pool / sandpit that lives at the bottom of the garden. The boy enjoyed helping Daddy fill it up with the hosepipe and then had a good old splash around and blew some bubbles until it was time for bed.

Filling the paddling pool with a hosepipe

Splash !! 

I'm not sure next week will be quite so hot, so I'm glad we made the most of it :)

And... relax :) 

This post is part of two lovely linkies this week:

#countrykids with the fab Fiona of Coombe Mill:

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 


Point and Shoot with the lovely Em of Snowing indoors:

  Point+Shoot_snowingindoors.com

Friday, 18 July 2014

I tell you what I want, what I really really want...

Well, if I'm being entirely honest it's to have one day where I don't feel overwhelmed by the toddler terror in my home. The domestic terrorist if you will.

More and more, recently I'm convinced I'm having a nervous breakdown and it's all because of someone who's not even 4 years old yet. When my family jumped at the chance to have my boy over to stay last week I was relieved to have a break from him. Me and Hubbie spent the evening missing him and wondering how this was the first night we'd ever spent at home without him. I was about to pat myself on the back for finding a sanity solution when I phoned to say good morning only to be told he'd head butted someone. Before breakfast.

Sigh. Calm shattered.

In my desperation I burden anyone I meet with my frustration at my toddler:
  • The woman who made my free tea at Waitrose: She assured me it won't last and when I said could he come to live with her she smiled kindly. I think that's still a no though.
  • One of the women who works at my son's nursery: She suggested I send him to Ju-Jitsu. That's all I need, my violent toddler learning how to hit more accurately !
  • My yoga students who have grown up children - and in one case grandchildren: They advised it's a phase. Apparently they're worse later. AARRGGHHH !!! 
  • I must have been stressed as I even found myself talking to Emma Bunton (you know her off of the Spice Girls) about my errant boy. We're not mates or anything I saw her at an event and she told me her boys were the same and to hang in there. She then said my boy looks gorgeous and to give him a hug from her. I officially love her now :) 
My new best friend :)

If you are also struggling to work out if you're losing your mind or just a bit tired, I've put together a little quiz like they do in magazines. Not that I read magazines of course, I'm far too busy / stressed / tired for that kind of indulgence ! Anyway, here goes:

1. Do you wake up already exhausted to the sound of, "Mummy, can I brush my teeth ?" "Mummy, can I feed the cat ?" "Mummy, I need the toilet" ?

2. Is it normal for you to feed a least 3 other people/pets before you are fully awake ?

3. Do you regularly eat 'lunch' at 4pm having missed breakfast as well ?

4. Is a lost hat / sock / shoe reason enough for a complete meltdown (yours) ?

5. Do you cry at every single thing featuring babies, dogs or 'inspirational mottos' on facebook or in adverts ?

6. Have you used your child's full name (yes, including middle names) more than once in the last week ?

If you can answer yes to all these questions then rest assured you're probably not having a nervous breakdown, you're just being held captive by a toddler. It does improve, apparently, but I can't tell you when.

He's asleep on the sofa at the moment, so I'm going to tiptoe to the kitchen and make some tea.

Wish me luck !

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Not a lot of people know that.

My boy makes me laugh for so many reasons. He makes me laugh because he knows his name - including two middle names - and he knows Daddy's full name - he has one middle name - he even knows that the cat has two names, but if you ask him my name it's Mummy. He knows that he is 3 and will be 4, that Daddy is 41, but apparently Mummy is one.

I like the air of mystery that I seem to hold for my boy. Like when I found out that my Mother could whistle, not just a demure, 'put your lips together and blow' type whistle, but proper loud one using fingers. This was disturbing not only because I found out when I was an adult, but because I then wondered under what circumstances she has ever needed to use this macho whistling technique ! What it did was give me an insight into my Mum as a person and not just as my parent. One day my boy will also realise that there is a lot he doesn't know about me. You can have a sneak preview:

I'm not really interested in ice cream: 

At the Royal Cornwall Show the other week as we stood in line waiting for him to get his face painted I sent Hubbie off to buy two ice cream cones - one for him and one for the boy. He got back to us and handed me one of them and held onto the other one. I was wrapping a napkin around the base of the cone to stop it melting all over his hand. The boy looked at both his parents with an ice cream cone and let out a little sigh and an "Ohhhh," of sadness thinking we had forgotten to get him one. It was so sweet.

Strawberries, yes please. Chocolate spread, no thank you :) 

I don't eat chocolate spread: 

On the penultimate morning of our holiday I revealed that I had brought a jar of chocolate spread with us as well as the jam, marmite, peanut butter and honey I had so diligently packed. The boy had been out feeding farm animals with Daddy so I thought they deserved a special treat. I made them both toasted waffles with chocolate spread and fresh strawberries. As put it on the table the boy looked at it and asked, "is that for me Mummy ?" I said, "yes," he said, "to eat ?" I laughed and told him it was. He looked at Hubbie who shrugged and then they both tucked in lest I changed my mind.

Custard makes me gag:

I just can't bring myself to eat it. Whether in a trifle or in a tart. I have to ask for crumble without custard and more than once I've been given a stare of incredulity when I've disclosed my phobia of custard. Ok phobia is a bit far, I just don't like it. No, not even custard creams. I will buy ready made custard for the boys, but I don't eat it myself or lick it off my hand if it spills when I'm opening a carton of it for one of them to eat *shudders*

I have visited every city and many towns in England:

In two separate jobs I've toured the country doing public speaking and it's meant there are few places I haven't visited at least once. Of course I haven't spent 'quality time' in all of these places, but on visiting somewhere I can usually say, "yes I've been here before," and recall some pointless fact about the place that would make a stand up proud. Talking of which...

I did one of the first stand up courses in London and used to do impro

This is how I met some of my closest friends, we were all doing silly things together in after work classes. The stand up itself terrified me to my very core, but some of my fellow students have gone on to great things. I found the skills I learned from the course very useful, but getting up in front of an audience as a 'comic' was too much for me.

I was mistaken for a diamond smuggler when leaving Sierra Leone:

Ok this one probably does require some explanation. I was working for a charity that had projects in Sierra Leone and I'd been on a visit meeting children in refugee camps and villages. I'd taken small presents for the children with me in my luggage. As we were leaving the country the customs officers looked at each other quizzically and asked me to step to one side with my bag. I had to empty my make up bag onto a counter only for them to laugh as they realised I'd been carrying diamante temporary tattoos and not smuggled blood diamonds out of the country. I was relieved to say the least.
Very streamlined... not ! 

I'm quite the sportswoman:

I know I don't look it - it's not often I get mistaken for Jess Ennis that's for sure ! However, I can ski, and scuba dive, I swim most days and am a yoga teacher. I've been a regular runner for over ten years now and have taken part in a lot of 5k (and one 10k) runs. It's not something I did at school as I wasn't the sporty archetype, but I love it now that I don't have to do it.

I'd never cut my hair until I was 26:

Raised in a Sikh family it was understood that we didn't cut our hair. Me and Hubbie chose not to cut our boy's hair for the first few years of his life out of respect for my family. I'm not sure what I thought would happen if I did cut my hair, but it did mean I had the longest hair of anyone I knew at University. My hair is a fair bit shorter now. 

My rock 'n' roll hair  
Mummy is a rocker:

I've been to see Metallica a few times and used to go to Donington rock festival regularly. My favourite item of clothing, bar none, is my biker jacket and I secretly still want to be in a rock band :)

I still can't whistle like my Mum does though. That is way cool ! 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Secret spaces in South Norwood

I'm always going on about how there are lots of lovely outdoor places to play in London. I grew up in a suburb with a house and a garden where there were nice parks to play. When me and Hubbie were looking for a family home a garden was a 'non-negotiable', but proximity to open spaces was pretty important to us too. We've lived in this area for almost three years now and this weekend we discovered spaces we've never been to before practically on our doorstep.

Beautiful pond and garden

Firstly we went to an open afternoon at South Norwood station where they have a community garden that used to be a disused area behind the tracks. Volunteers have worked hard to make this a beautiful garden where children from local schools can come along and learn about gardening and grow flowers and plants from seeds.

Exploring the garden
Checking out the plants 











For those who don't have a garden it's a great opportunity to learn about gardening and growing as well as to just sit in a quiet place that is nice to look at. The event was hosted by the British Transport Police who have assisted with the garden development. The officers also shared safety tips and we met a London Transport Teddy who our boy was very taken with.

Transport Police Teddy
Reused station seats




After the station visit our boy was still itching to enjoy the sunny afternoon so Hubbie suggested we explore South Norwood Country Park. We weren't entirely sure where it was, so armed with phone maps and a vague idea of where it was we headed off. Miraculously the park is almost next door to where Hubbie and the boy go to watch Croydon play football, but it is like a little secret place hiding so much fun stuff to do. 

Fireman practice
He's the hot stepper 





















As well as a picnic area and a pitch and putt they have a great kids playground for younger ones and a more adventurous one for the bigger kids. The screeches of joy coming from the park showed how much fun everyone was having. There are places to climb, to swing and to ride on and a small shop selling teas and ice lollies - what more could you ask for ?

Round and round he goes
I see no ships
















There is a mini 'henge' - not entirely sure what that is about and a double swing that me and the boy had great fun riding on together. In fact a lot of the playground was being used by overzealous 'competitive dads' who were encouraging their kids to climb higher or use the zip wire. It was not easy to persuade the boy that it was time to go home for dinner with so many tempting things to play on.

Hubbie on the 'henge'
Double swing fun
















Taking our boy out and about is one of the things we all love doing. Now that we've discovered a country park so close by I'll be going back in the summer holidays with my boy. Hubbie has said that on a Saturday afternoon when the football gets a bit dull he might be tempted to take him here to play golf instead :)

Jiggles on a wrecking ball (tee hee)

In a moment of silliness Hubbie decided to do a Miley Cyrus tribute using Jiggles the bear on a 'wrecking ball.'

This post is part of the fun #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill 


 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall