Thursday, 24 February 2011

Back away from the television slowly....

A short and in-depth look into the state of Cbeebies.

Cbeebies used to bring with it a guarantee of producing shows that we could watch together - shows we could share and talk about.  Now I don't know whether it is because Emily is getting older or whether I'm getting more cynical or whether indeed the quality of programming has decreased quite dramatically Cbeebies is not something I want on in our house.

These are some of the worst offenders: -

1. Tellytales

This is some sort of storytelling show complete with children who look like they don't want to be there, dreadful songs and words spoken so you can't hear them.  It is a nice idea - children putting on amateur productions of tales from around the world - but the actual reality is dire.  Poorly put together and not engaging at all

2. Nuzzle & Scratch

OK this is a programme that seems to give health and safety advice in all manner of everyday situations.  Good idea I hear you say? Except the two main protagonists are a pair of alpacas.  Accident prone alpacas.  Coupled with a pair of hideously mannered twins this is definitely on my avoid list!

3. Big Cook Little Cook

Big Cook Little Cook documents the everyday adventures of two cooks in a cafe - Big Cook who is called Ben and Little Cook who is of so little consequence he doesn't in fact have a real name and is delightfully called "Small".  Every day they have a different customer in the cafe and have to make an appropriate dish.  Armed with a variety of annoying and tuneless rhymes and a flying spoon to purchase missing ingredients Ben and Small bumble their way through cooking a dish.  Ben has all the personality of a wet fish, whilst Small is on crack.  I think.

4. Dirtgirlworld

Words cannot express how much this programme freaks me out.  Seriously.  Animated characters but with real mouths.  Completely horrifying.  There is nothing else to say

5. Gigglebiz

This is the latest offering from Justin Fletcher from Something Special fame.  In conclusion - Something Special, great.  Gigglebiz? Not so much! It involves Justin dressing up as a variety of characters - including the "Northern" weatherman Arthur Sleep, chef Dina Lady and the explorer Rabbits Johnson.  Sort of slapstick for children without the humour.  I just don't "get" this show - incidentally neither does my four year old who watches it with a face like thunder.  It's a shame as I wanted to like this as I have a lot of respect for Justin who is amazing at what he does but this is just poor.

6.  Little Charley Bear

One of the newer programmes on Cbeebies.  Voiced by James Corden.  And that is where it falls down - I simply can't take it seriously!  I really, really want Charley Bear to forget himself and shout "Gavlaaaaa".  This programme is a tricky one to place - it seems to be for the younger end that Cbeebies cater for, but nothing much happens to keep their attention.

7.  Me Too

The everyday tales of a childminder - called Granny Murray and her various charges.  Granny Murray has clearly never been Ofsteded - when her charges sleep over they sleep in the same room as they play in - scissors and all!  I'm also not sure how she keeps her business going - she never seems to have more than 2 children at a time - although that's obviously very pleasing on the adult/children ratio!  The children never seem to want to go Granny Murray just wonderful or is she drugging them?  Who knows!  Again an annoying array of songs - as every morning you have to help the parent find their way to work.  Now I don't know about you, but one I'd found my way to work once, I was pretty much set.  It worries me that the parents need help every time they go! 

8. Rastamouse

Another of the new shows.  Watched it once - NEVER again! It seems really popular too but I just can't find anything remotely likable or amusing about it.  Fortunately it has never been requested again as I would have to put my foot down and say no!

9. Step Inside

This would be a lovely programme.  It would - apart from the utterly freakish face on the side of the house.  More suited to a Hammer Horror film than a children's programme.  Enough to give one nightmares for weeks!

10.  Tommy Zoom

Another hybrid show - part real people/dogs and part animation.  Hideously behaved child - not great story lines.  Again I can't see the appeal

So there we are.  My damning indictment of Cbeebies! We do watch the odd programme, thank heavens for Grandpa in my Pocket, Mr Bloom's Nursery and Green Balloon Club.  I'm finding this a tricky age in a way as she isn't interested in what is on CBBC yet but is too old for virtually everything that is on Cbeebies.  So when she's tired after school all I can say is thank goodness for DVDs!  We are mainly watching DVDs and I'm introducing her to DVDs from my childhood - so much more fun and capture her imagination so much better.

I am pleased though she's growing out of Cbeebies at the same time as I find it so dire - makes it so much easier!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Stylish Blogger Awards!

I'm utterly delighted and not a little astonished to find out that the fabulous StupidGirl who's blog can, and SHOULD, be read here has awarded me with a Stylish Blogger Award!

As a recipient of this award I am supposed to share seven random facts about myself so here goes: -

1.  I adore tattoos. I have 18 tattoos (if you count them all separately), my husband has none

2. I am obsessed by the Tudor period - art, poetry, history. Everything about it. If I could choose a time to travel back to it would most certainly be then.  I would of course be rich!

3. I am probably the only person in the world who doesn't own or at least want to own a Kindle.  I love books too much - the smell, the feel - to ever want an electronic copy of my favourites.

4. I played rugby union for 4 years and rugby league for 2 years (these ran concurrently!).  Rugby League is by FAR the harder to play!

5. My favourite place in the world is Whitby. I love everything about it from the atmosphere, to the quaintness, to the tuppenny machines in the arcades! Our daughter has been every year of her life so far and this will continue!

6. My favourite song ever is Eagleheart by Stratovarius - such wonderful, cheese, true and honest rawk!

7. I am double-jointed and can make all my fingers bend just at the top knuckle.  I can also make my toes move side to side.  These really freak most people out!

So that's it, 7 things about me.  And now I'm also supposed to recommend a further 10 blogs so here goes: -

Tales of a mother to two demons 
Fabulous recommendations for make up and afternoon tea!
Muddling Along Mummy
Blogging about beauty products
A frank blog about motherhood to a newborn and toddler
The not so glamorous side of pregnancy
Blogging the journey of becoming a writer
Getting through motherhood!
Journalist, writer and general rugby league aficionado

And of course, the lovely blogger - and dear friend - that started this

A London girl's thoughts on a lot of things!

Thank you!!!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The dreaded writer's block

Well this isn't a subject I particularly wanted to cover but here I am.  A good couple of months into the blog and I have blogger's block.

I have spent the last week writing and re-writing, starting blog posts on various topics but I'm just NOT feeling it.  I can't get past the first paragraph.  Everything I write seems stilted and passionless and well, just boring.  The other topics I've written have just flown off my keyboard - completely easy to write and I've felt so happy with them so I suppose this is my first real test.  How am I going to get past this block?

So, I shall make a plan.  I'm going to aim to blog a couple of times a week.  I'm going to do a "Talking Point Tuesday" where I shall write the more contentious subjects I want to cover then do another blog post on a Saturday which will be on anything and everything!

I also think I need to get past the mindset that I worry about whether the subjects I write are too inflammatory.  I have come from a world where the last 7 (weeps) years I have been using an online forum.  One where you have to be careful about what you say, what you write.   And I'm finding the journey into blogging very different - it's quite hard to come to terms with the fact that I can actually write whatever the hell I want and not worry about anyone else!

I also wonder if I'm aiming too high too soon.  I don't want to be a Gordon Comstock type and try and write an epic every day.  But I have made no secret of the fact I want to be noticed.  I want my writing to reach thousands of people - I need to remember that it isn't going to happen overnight but I sometimes find trying to promote my blog underwhelming and very demoralising.

My other worry is spreading myself too thin.  I'm also, trying to write a novel at the same time as this blog, not to mention trying to be a good mother, be a good wife, run a household and work from home in the family business.

I think I need to try and organise my time better, give myself set times during the day for doing the writing and the work.  Make sure I am not stressed by the amount I have to do and make sure I'm relaxed enough.  I'm also going to take my notebook everywhere in the hope that where I least expect it, inspiration for a blog post will bite me.

Interestingly I seem to be having no trouble in writing my novel.  Well that isn't strictly true, I have a problem in that I have too many ideas and I can't decide which one to concentrate on!  Seems I'm never satisfied!

So that's it - the tragic ballad of a girl who wants to write but who can't find anything to write about....although its seems I've written a blog post quite easily so hopefully I'm out the other side!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted

So said Percy Bysshe Shelley in his Defence of Poetry written in 1921.

I'm inclined to agree with him.  I can't say anything other than I love reading poetry.  I love the way the words roll over you as you read, I love the rhythm and (sometimes) the rhyme.  I think sometimes there are times when only reading poetry will do - and much like with my fiction reading habits I love to revisit my old friends.

Inspired by a lovely friend, who wrote a post on her gorgeous blog about her Top 10 poems - which is well worth a visit - I thought I would do mine and see how they compare!  So, in no particular order her are those poems which make me happy - nothing more, nothing less

This was a poem I first discovered when I was tiny.  My Grandmother used to read it to me whilst she looked after me before I started school.  I love the images that the poem conjures - totally ridiculous, but so right somehow.  I am going to introduce my little girl to the poem when she gets home from school today and hope she shares the same enjoyment.

Another poem I discovered in a book at my Grandmother's house.  Slightly older this time but I remember sitting in her spare bedroom memorising this poem so I could say it to myself over and over again.  As I have got older it has come to hold an even more special meaning - the lines "And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying/And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying" really evokes memories of Whitby to me - probably my favourite place in the world.  On a holiday with my then fiance I remember sitting in our hotel room, looking out over the sea and reading this poem and it was so, so apt.

The first of two Tennyson poems I have chosen - this invokes memories of very happy school days.  Sitting in Mrs Severn's English class reading the poem, acting the poem out, making it into a graphic novel.  How can you not love this poem when you have played the Lady of Shalott, smashed a mirror and frightfully dramatically, as is the wont of an twelve year old schoolgirl, died in a boat made of cardboard boxes! A poem that never fears to make me cry - but cry in a good way.

The Things That Cause a Quiet Life - Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

I fell in love with Henry Howard at some point in my third year at Grammar school - in an amalgamation of a history lesson and an English literature lesson.  I love his work - I find them so gentle,, which is at odds in my mind to the period in which they were written.  I struggled to narrow it down to just one poem to include here but I just love this one.  I also used to find it so tragic that he wrote about yearning for a quiet life when in reality he was quite bombastic and destined for an early grave courtesy of Henry VIII - with the dubious honour of being his last victim.

Dulce et Decorum Est - Wilfred Owen

Another poem I discovered courtesy of school.  I have come to believe this is a poem that every child should read in secondary school.  It is so evocative, so thought provoking.  "Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! - An ecstasy of fumbling/Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time" how can that not fail to make you understand just part of what the horrors of war can be.   I think the poignancy of this poem also comes from the fact that Wilfred Owen did not live the war out did not live to see the impact his poem would have on future generations.

The Highwayman - Alfred Noyes

I admit I have a penchant for dramatic, long poems that can be read out loud with gusto!  Poems that make you breathless as you get faster and faster as the words come tripping out of your mouth as the rhythm takes you over! I just think this poem has everything, fantastic imagery, star-crossed lovers and a ghost - what more can you want from a poem?!  This poem should be read in winter, when the wind and rain are lashing and you're warm inside of an evening.  Just wonderful

The Supply Teacher - Allan Ahlberg

I defy anyone to read this poem and not instantly laugh out loud at the aptness of the words.  How easily Allan Ahlberg transports one back to the classroom and to the excitement of finding out you have a supply teacher for the day! How true the last verse - when you know that anything that went on in the classroom can be blamed on the Supply Teacher.  A more modern poem than I usually like and a very simple one but so sweet that I can't omit it! Probably less well know than the famous "Please Mrs Butler" but I love this one so much more.

The Charge of the Light Brigade - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Another poem devoted to the glory of war and the utter tragedy of war.   How 600 men can simply be destroyed in the blink of an eye.   But somehow the poignancy is heightened by images the first verses convey.  They conjure for me images of young men, eager to be heroes, dressed in their regimental finery.  Ready to go to glory that was in fact their death.   I love, yet again, that you can read this aloud so fervently, so passionately.  That it is a story, not in prose.

Hope - Emily Bronte

Haworth does that to you!  I have a daughter named after her.  I think there is such an oxymoron that she wrote about hope when her life - and that of her siblings - was so tragically short.

And because I couldn't leave this one out, I'm going for an eleventh poem!

Love That Doth Reign and Live - Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

In the end it turns out I can't make the choice between this and the previous Henry Howard poem.  I love how sweetly he talks about love. I just have such a weakness for poems about the chivalry and passion of love.  This to me evokes just everything about the Tudor period.  I always feel sad that these poems aren't more well known - I discovered the poems quite by accident at school and they have brought me so much joy since.

So there we are - my favourite poems.  Probably quite a cliched choice but they are poems that speak to me and that, after all, is what poetry should be about.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Glorious eccentricity makes for a happy life

Eccentricity.  The quality of being eccentric.

I have always been a little off-centre.  Slightly different.  As a child I had a pet hankie called Miriam.  I had a tiny little black hat that had come from a toy - I used to paint a face on my middle finger, put the hat on and make my finger into Aleister Crowley.  I was 9 - go figure!

I have never felt the need to ascribe to popular fashion - I wear what I want, when I want.  If I like it I buy it.

When my peers were listening to Take That and Boyzone, I was listening to Iron Maiden and musicals.  In sixth form when my friends had posters of Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio in their little corner of the common room I had postcards of Henry VIII and his six wives.  The beauty of my school was that individualism was encouraged and celebrated.  There was no feeling that you had to conform to a certain stereotype which is so important in my opinion.

But with glorious eccentricity I was blessed with the hide of a Rhino.  In short I don't care what people think of me.  I sailed through school and university completely secure in myself.  Happy in the way I dressed, the way I looked.  I have never sought nor needed validation from people to be happy in my choices.  People used to say I was odd, weird even.  I used to simply feel sorry for them because they were so desperately mainstream. 

Even now I'm definitely different from the other parents at Emily's school.  In more subtle ways these days but I have a nose piercing and some visible tattoos.  But still I don't care.  I love me, my husband and daughter love me and that's what matters.

I really hope that I can instill in Emily the same attitude.  That it is OK to be just what you want to be without having to act or dress or behave a certain way to gain approval.  That if people don't like you for what you are or what you wear or what you listen to then they really aren't worth knowing in the first place.  I see girls and boys walking past to the local secondary school in the morning and they are all identical.  Same hair, same bags, same clothes (those in the sixth form don't wear uniform). It makes me so sad that there is no individuality.  Just endless clones of what someone has deemed to be the way to be.

It is so, so important to me that my child goes through life being happy.  I just hope I do a good enough job that she can be happy with herself and have the courage of her convictions first and foremost.  That she can be just who she wants to be and doesn't need to adhere to a prescription of how she has to dress and act and think.  Then I think I will have made a success of being a parent.