Friday, 28 January 2011

I wasn't going to do this...

as I should be in the kitchen!

In all seriousness this has been a strange week.  A week that has seen one of the largest names in football punditry sacked in part due to comments made off air and another resign for his part in the same incident.

Clearly this has immediately caused two factions - those who agree and support the decision and those who thing it is PC gone mad, that SKY overreacted to what was a joke between mates and Andy Gray has been the fall guy.

So here's my take on the whole sorry saga: -

Andy Gray and Richard Keys were bloody idiotic.  By all means think what you like and even discuss what you like in private.  But, when you're on work premises and wired up to work equipment you need to be circumspect about what you discuss and suggesting an assistant referee is not capable of making the correct decision because of her gender is not appropriate work discussion.  Even more foolish perhaps because the decision by Sian Massey was, albeit controversial, totally correct.  A decision which, incidentally, the commentators suggested she had got wrong until footage proved otherwise.  So - for the incident in question - the only two people seemingly confused by the offside rule were Messrs Gray and Keys themselves.

It has been suggested that this was all banter - to be expected in the world of football.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines banter in the following way: -

noun. the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks;

verb. exchange remarks in a good-humoured teasing way

This argument doesn't hold sway with me.  This wasn't "banter" - Sian Massey was doing her job and derogatory remarks were addressed AT her, with no opportunity for her to respond.  It wasn't good-humoured teasing.  It was very much an "old boys' club" type remark and one which I fear is all too common in the world of sport.  Many years ago I stood on the terraces at Headingley watching rugby league when a helpful fan decided he ought to explain the offside rule to me - resulting in much guffawing from my father at the idea that I didn't understand what I was seeing.

There has also been much comparison with Loose Women and for what it is worth I think Loose Women is a dreadful pile of tripe that has no business on our screens pedalling their vacuous and sometimes sexist nonsense.  But, to use a dire cliche two wrongs certainly don't make a right and I cannot see how SKY's action should be vilified because Loose Women is still airing.

I am no shrinking violet and I can more than hold my own against a room full of male football supporters.  I have a sports degree from a top university and I have worked in an industry arguably even more a male bastion than football.  But behaviour of this nature has no place in football, indeed in any walk of life.

I am all for honesty - by all means criticise officials for their poor performance - I think as football and sports fans we have every right to do that.  But do NOT suggest that a perceived poor performance is because the official in question is female.

I really hope Sian Massey can put this behind her and carry on doing her job.  I also hope that the incident doesn't put young women off from being involved in football because that would be desperately sad and the repercussions of a few moments of misogynistic idiocy from Gray and Keys would be far more wide-reaching than anyone could have thought.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Are we, as parents, far too British?!

We all endlessly hear about how hard it is to be a parent.  The trials that face us on a day to day basis.  I actually don't think that is the whole truth.  Along with the difficulties of being a parent I think its hard to be honest about your experiences as a parent.

I know I find it so.  And not because I'm ashamed of the my child - in fact it is quite the opposite.

However it seems virtually impossible to be honest about positive parts of parenting without feeling like you're being smug.  Without feeling like you have to offer a negative at the same time to make sure the person you're talking doesn't feel bad.

And thinking about it, that is actually doing my child and my family a disservice.

For example at school the other day the topic of breastfeeding came up.  When it was my turn I said "I breastfed for 3 years and 7 months" but I couldn't leave it at that I had to follow it with "........oh but I could never get her to take a bottle".  Where the actual truth of the matter is that we half-heartedly tried for a few days and then decided we couldn't be bothered!

Similarly talking about when our children first started talking my answer was "10 months" very swiftly followed by "....oh but she didn't walk until she was almost 2".

And again when asked "aren't the terrible twos dreadful" I replied " we never had them fortunately" following close behind with "....oh but she's still not sleeping through".

And I follow the "my daughter is advanced in literacy and numeracy" with "...oh but she's slightly behind physically"

Oh but, oh but, oh but!

Those two words seem to have become a mantra for me and I'm sure I'm not alone in not feeling comfortable with being honest about my child.  In reality I try my hardest to steer well clear of discussions involving parenting, behaviour etc.  And actually this isn't fair.  It isn't right.

I should be able to honest about things without my damn British upbringing getting in the way without having to feel discretion is the better part of valour.  Just once, once I want to be honest about my daughter.   I don't want to feel like I'm being smug when in fact I'm being honest.   I don't want to start what I'm saying then trail off as my audience tries to hide their looks of incredulity.  I don't want to end yet another anecdote with ".....oh but!"

So I'm finally going to put the record straight.  Probably not to the audience I need to do it to, but still in the name of catharsis I'm going to be honest.

I breastfed my daughter until she was 3 years and 7 months and enjoyed every minute.  We didn't have the terrible twos nor was she a threenager.  She has been talking since she was 10 months old.  She is very advanced with her literacy and numeracy.  She is permanently sunny tempered.  She has never been a biter or a pusher or a smacker, and yes I know "all children go through these phases" - but she hasn't.  She simply hasn't.

In my opinion we should be honest - we should not feel like we have to deny our child because we are too keen on preserving the (possibly imagined) feelings of others.

So from now on, the words "...oh but" are no longer a part of my vocabulary.  I resolve to be honest about my daughter without being apologetic.  After all I have nothing to be apologetic for.

So....who's with me?!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Adventures in beginning to write a book!

Otherwise entitled "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh"

Somehow this is a scary venture.  It isn't that I don't have the ideas, far from it.  I have ideas coming out of my ears. If anything I have too many ideas.  The problem is whether what I write will be any good?  Will it be interesting, arresting, engaging, entertaining. Or will it be the worst type of author's nightmare - a book that nobody wants to finish <shudders>

I have written before - newspaper articles, stories at school (that usually seemed to finish with the desperate line "and s/he woke up and it was all a dream") and fanfiction.  I enjoyed it and always got a positive response.  But this is so, so much bigger.  The plot is bigger, the character is bigger and somehow the stakes are so, so much higher!

All the decisions are purely mine - what to leave in, what to leave out.  Will my herione be likeable, even traditional or will she be an anti-heroine?  Will I regret cutting one of the lesser characters? And probably what is probably the biggest decision for me - will the book include scenes.

Sex scenes.  What can I say? In some ways making your characters have steamy sex is like walking in on your parents having sex - sort of to be expected but frightfully embarrassing for all concerned.  I think some sex would fit in the plot - but how graphic should it be.  Shall I be whimsical and suggestive? Or shall I be blatant, even obvious in terminology.   And therein lies the crux of the main problem - how many ways there are to describe male/female genitalia and which to use.  On the one hand this isn't a sex book, per se, the sex is incidental - important but incidental to the plot.  On the other hand I don't want it to sound like a cheap attempt at literary porn.  

All these things have been racing around my head for days now.  I have brainstormed countless times.  I have postcards, pieces of paper, pads with scribblings galore on.  I have started writing, but oh the nerves! At times I wonder if I'm being ridiculous - that no-one will want to read what I'm writing, that I'm wasting a lot of time.  At other times I think I've got some bloody good ideas!

And the what ifs! Good lord, the what ifs! What if publishers hate it?! What if they want to change it? What if I finish it and don't like it? What if it is published and people think the sex scenes are real life and describing me?!

So where do I go now - I battle past the what ifs, past the unease and past the momentary (alright a lot more than momentary) lapses in self confidence.  Definitely battle past the dilemma as to whether it is a penis or a member or another yet to be discovered phrase!  And I embrace my ideas and characters.  What's the worse that can happen - only failure and after all as the cliche says "you're only a failure if you fail to try".

And I've tried - so by that token I'm already a success.  Anything else is just a bonus!

Guest Blogging

I had my first experience of guest blogging today - which was a blast!

Thank you to Laura from Laptops and Lullabies for having me!  If anyone is interested - here is the link.

How do YOU parent?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Willpower needed!

Books.  I love books.  I shall never be a Kindle fan because there is nothing better in my opinion than browsing a book shop and taking home a new book.  There is rarely a week goes by that I do not buy a new book. 

I was inspired by a wise person to try something different this year.  Rather than buying new books I am going to re-read every book I have in the house.  Their number is great, probably too great my husband would say.  I also seem to stick very much to type.  I have a good number of the classics, I have historical fiction, I have thrillers with a supernatural edge and I have the supernatural.  I'm not a chick-lit fan and I'm not a sci-fi fan.  I think to someone on the outside my tastes would seem boring and safe but its what I enjoy and reading to me should be a pleasure, not a chore. 

So this weekend I started cataloguing all my books - thus fueling two passions in my life, books and lists!  I am currently at book number 380 and I still have a fair way to go.  But I am already excited about revisiting some of the books I had forgotten I had. 

I have had to make a couple of exceptions to my No New Books rule (yes, yes I hear you say).  One is that I'm allowed to buy the next Cynthia Harrod-Eagles Dynasty book.  The Dynasty saga is the story of one family - beginning in the 15th Century and spanning all the way to present day.  My Grandmother started collecting these books - I borrowed them and fell in love with them - we used to spend hours discussing each book, our favourite characters, what we thought would happen next.  When my Grandmother died I was given the set of books and I have been adding to it ever since.   So I am going to finish the collection and maybe one day my daughter will enjoy them.  I still re-read them once a year, despite the fact that the glue has dried on some and the pages are falling out and I get covered in a lovely gritty substance as I read!

The other exception is adding to my Jean Plaidy collection.  I currently have 83 of her books.  I'm constantly being foiled by books previously written under one of her various pseudonyms being re-released under the name of Jean Plaidy and by books being re-released under new titles for the American market (let's not open that can of worms).  I currently estimate I need 6 to complete the collection.  So if I see any of these I shall snap them up.

So that's it.  A year, 365 days without buying a new book.  Will I cope? Will I manage? Watch this space!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Secondary Infertility - the curse you never imagine

So a guy and a girl fall in love and get married.  They decide they'd like a baby. So the girl stops taking contraception and lo and behold 9 months later she arrives.  Life is so easy isn't it?

Except it isn't.

We were the guy and the girl.

We had Emily in 2006.  She is the love of my life - words cannot explain how much I adore her.

When she was two we decided we'd like for her to have a sibling.  So I came off contraception and.....nothing.  But it was only the first month of course and we were VERY lucky first time.  Then next month.....nothing.  Six months later.......nothing.  A year, 18 months, 2 years, 30 months.   You have been trying for more than half  your child's life.  And somewhere along the line you realise you're dealing with something very different this time.

This year I threw away the third calendar since we had started trying for a baby.  Nothing makes it seem starker when you see that yet another 365 days have flown by and you are still no further on that you were last time.

I have been examined, stuck with needles and had copious blood tests done.   I have peed on countless ovulation sticks.  We have done the necessary on the first Thursday of the month, at midnight whilst supping on the nectar of a golden tree.  Well not quite, but you get the idea?  And the result of all these tests.....nothing.  A slight problem with thyroid levels but other than that nothing.  So on my notes I'm classed as "sub-fertile" yet we have no reason - nothing we can do to improve this. 

And you know, nobody every thinks there could be a problem.  So you get the inevitable "are you having another?", "Do you think you'll have more children?" Or my favourite, the delightfully passive aggressive "Mummy, I think Emily wants a brother or sister don't you?"

Well yes, I know she does - she told me she does.  When you see your own child using her toddler doll to be her "sister" you kind of get the assumption that she would quite like a sibling.   And the overwhelming sense of failure that goes with it.

So I have started being honest.  Saying "yes we would like another but we can't have anymore".  Which you'd think would solve the issue.  But no, because then people feel qualified to say "well at least you have one" or "at least you know you can get pregnant".  Which is fabulous because not only can I not have more children, you are removing my right to grieve about it because I should be lucky with what I have.  I am thankful every day for my daughter - but being thankful for her and hurting because I can't have another isn't mutually exclusive. 

At some point we will have to call time on this journey.  Because I cannot keep getting to January and throwing away another calendar that doesn't have scan dates and midwife appointments written on it.  But it is a hell of a decision to make and I reserve the right to cry, shout and scream.  To be irrational about things.  To get upset when I read yet another pregnancy announcement.

Secondary fertility is something that no-one wants, no-one expects and no-one talks about.  But we should.  We really should.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Realising a dream

Also entitled <squeeeeeeeee>

In August 1999 I bought Kerrang magazine.  With it came a CD (remember those?) of killer new tracks.  One of them changed my life forever.  The band? Slipknot. The song? Wait and Bleed.  Until this point I had never had a "favourite band" but all this was changed in the 2 minutes and 27 seconds of that song. 

Slipknot became part of my life! Every song, every album was purchased on release date.  I had Slipknot patches all over my Uni bags.  Slipknot hoodies and Slipknot t-shirts we de rigueur to accompany my baggy jeans and trainers.   My greatest celebrity crush was Corey Taylor - despite the fact I had no idea what he looked like under the mask!

I was so desperate to see them live - but somehow the opportunity never arose....gigs and tours clashed with my finals, then work and weddings.

Suddenly it was 2006 - and I was on maternity leave awaiting the arrive of our first child.  I spent the days reading and watching Scuzz and Kerrang.  And then another song to change the world! Made of Scars by Stone Sour.   Upon doing a little research what do I discover? That the lead singer of Stone Sour is none other than Corey Taylor, the iconic Slipknot front man.  And incidentally he is VERY good looking under the mask.

I laboured to Stone Sour and Slipknot. I do the housework to Stone Sour and Slipknot.  I drive to Stone Sour and Slipknot. July 2010 a chance viewing on Twitter informed me that Stone Sour we touring....and coming to Leeds!  A dodgy Internet signal and no reception made the task virtually impossible but my wonderful husband prevailed and we had tickets.

Four very long months later 3 November arrived and it absolutely was one of the best nights of my life.  I cannot describe the power of a single hour that is the realisation of a dream.  The show was immense and it will not be the last time I see them..  Definitely not!

So here's to realising your dreams - they are, quite categorically, worth the wait!

Friday, 7 January 2011


Just sometimes, Emily does something that makes my heart hurt with how much I love her.

This morning hadn't been good - had to collect her early from school due to the snow.  A round trip that usually takes ten minutes, today took one hour and thirty minutes.  There's no chance of us getting to her friends party she was so looking forward to.  Yet still she was sunny tempered.  We had to abandon my car and walk home and she skipped all the way. 

She started to catch snowflakes on her tongue - so timelessly childlike, so innocent and so much fun.  Can there be anything better than this?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Let our children choose!

This is something that has been bothering me since we started buying Christmas presents.  Why are we constantly told that girls have to have pink, fairy, princess toys and boys are to have the rugged, building, car toys?

I cannot think of one catalogue that didn't adhere to these frightfully outdated stereotypes.  For example, at Asda we were offer a choice of "Off the peg" Christmas clothes.  For girls we were told to buy Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverley t-shirts coupled with Hannah Montana perfume and X Factor jewellery.  For boys we were offered Toy Story clothes.  Now correct me if I'm wrong but isn't one of the main characters in Toy Story a strong, female?  Thus so, why is it beyond thought that my four year old might like to wear a Buzz Lightyear top or Woody wellies?

Then we come to Early Learning Centre.  I wanted to buy my daughter an expansion pack for her wooden railway.  I went onto the website and searched by age and gender. For my daughter I was offered a cleaning set, an apron, a doll's highchair. 

Sainsbury's before Christmas were running a special on dressing up clothes - for my girl I could buy a fairy, or a nurse.  For a boy I could buy a cowboy or a doctor. Because heaven forbid a female could actually be a doctor!

I have a girl - a girly girl sometimes.  She likes dolls houses and baby dolls.  She also likes Lego and railways and animals.  Her favourite Playmobil is Victorian and dinosaurs!

She is a person in her own right.  A small person, yes, but she can make her own mind up about what she wants to play with.  I don't want to take her into a toyshop and let her see a "girls section" and a "boys section". I want her to see a toyshop - one where she isn't subconsciously steered towards a section decorated in pink.

Let our children choose - they know what they want.  Let boys play with prams if they want, let girls have construction kits.  Because you know what? It doesn't matter - how can it matter.  They are children and see a toy and want to play with it.  Let us do them the courtesy and allow them to without pandering to gender stereotypes - they will have enough of that as they grow

Monday, 3 January 2011

Hello Jane Eyre my old friend.

Reading. I love reading. I have always loved reading.  Reading is my greatest treasure.  I could never, ever be bored when I had access to books.  I can sit and read endlessly, never tiring of holding the book.  

It was a revelation when I moved from First School to a prep school and had free reign of the class library.  I devoured anything and everything I could get my hands on - and formed life-long relationships with some books, that remain good friends now!

At 9 I was reading the complete works of the Bronte sisters, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Emily of New Moon series, the Little House in Big Woods series, Little Women.  Anything and everything I could get my hands on and when I ran out of books in the classroom I was allowed to visit the senior school to choose books from that library. 

Books were such a huge part of my childhood and have remained so throughout my adult life.  When my peers at school had pictures of Take That and Boyzone on their lockers I had postcards of Heathcliff and quotes from Jane Eyre.

So why am I thinking of this now? Because at this time of year, after the madness of Christmas has died down I always find myself drawn back to old favourites - to re-reading the books that I know every chapter of.  So what shall I be reading this month?

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte.
Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Philippa Gregory's historical novels
Anne of Green Gables
The Children of Green Knowe

There is something so comforting about visiting old friends, going through old heartbreaks, sharing old triumphs.  Crying as Cathy or little Joy perishes, howling at the untimely demise of Beth.  Feeling the joy as lonely little Mary finds friends in Martha, Dickon and Colin.  The relief at the moment we find out that Gilbert has "got de turn las' night". The happiness as Mr Rochester and Jane find each other again.

I cannot imagine a life without books and I'm frightfully lucky to never have to, nor will my child as I pass on my love affair with literature to her.

After all, as Gustave Flaubert said "read in order to live"