Thursday, 29 April 2010


Today I cancelled my gym membership. Again.

I rejoined about 18 months ago. I had decided that my solitary lifestyle was not healthy. So I joined the gym to meet some new people, wore my ipod the whole time and never spoke to a soul. But I did go to the gym regularly.

Then other things started to get in the way of my work out sessions. My Open University course was first, eating up huge chunks of my spare time and leaving little in its wake and then other bits and pieces until my gym habit was broken. And once that happens it is replaced by that negative emotion that is the bane of every woman's life - guilt. You know how it goes. I really must get back to the gym. But I can't go today and tomorrow might be tricky. There's always the evening when the kids are all home. Or the weekend?

Well, I say no to guilt. I am just not playing that game any more and so I took the bull by the horns and cancelled my membership. But now I will have to find something else to do. Classes are no good for me because I hate unnecessary commitment. I could swim or go out on my bike. And whilst I pondered my options a very strange thought crossed my mind. I could run.

Now, whilst readers who know me well stop snorting in derision and recover their composure, I should explain why this is an alien thought to me. I do not run. I never have done. And I have spent a lot of time wondering why other people do run, particularly as so many of them seem to spend most of their life strapped up or nursing some injury or another.

But I am nothing if not game. And all I have to do is replicate the cardiovascular stuff that I was doing in the gym. I'm not about to start training for a race. So this morning, by way of an experiment, I ran to school and back. It's hardly a great distance - it's about eight minutes at a brisk walk. I was in my jeans and Converses. I just set off and ran. And it was fine. I didn't die or have a heart attack.

And now I'm thinking that running might be the way forward. I can do it in that dead time when the little ones have gone to bed but before the decent telly has started. I can go with my elder two who intermittently go for a quick jog round the block. And everyone else does it. I know I don't get it yet but there must be some reason for that.

It can join the long list of u turns in my life and I'll give it a go and see what happens. But honestly people that know me well, if I start wanting a dog then get me booked into a clinic because then you will know that I have finally lost my mind.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I had my hair cut today. Sadly, I also got conned into letting child number 3 have the day off school through feigned sickness and so she had to come too. Suddenly it becomes less an exercise in self indulgent pampering and more about ensuring that child is kept appropriately occupied. You should have seen her face light up when the hairdresser suggested that she might want to have a go with the scissors. Anyway, that's another story.

My hair is currently short and getting shorter through a distinct lack of options. I'm two cuts into a new style - always a difficult period. Somehow it never looks quite the same the second time. Maybe its impact wears off or perhaps it's just easier to cut hair into a new style than to maintain it. Anyway, after a period of twirling in front of the mirror I have concluded that it doesn't look too bad. Tomorrow, however, will be telling when I try to replicate the "fresh from the salon" look myself.

The style before this one lasted, with various tweaks, about a year as did the one before that. In between new styles, I try to ring the changes with new colour choices or highlighting options because, let's face it, short hair is a bit dull.

But what does a girl do? Once I had taken the plunge and cut my long flowing tresses off there was no way back. Well, there is, obviously. But that involves going cold turkey through that awful in between stage when your hair has no discernible style and a wide selection of hats are the only way to go.

The last time that I decided to grow it long, I was fast approaching my 40s and felt that it was now or never for long hair. I had some bizarre idea that length was not appropriate on someone beyond 45. I felt it was last chance saloon for long locks. Now that I am 43 I know that to be rot. You can do pretty much whatever you like with your hair no matter what your age.

However, if I am really honest I have to admit that I am a short haired kinda gal. For all that I enjoyed flicking my mane about and fastening it precariously with one clip so that I could let it fall provocatively at an appropriate moment, really it's not me. And my hair's not that nice. The parts that aren't grey are mid brown with red undertones. It's thick at the back and thin at the front with a tendency to frizz in damp weather and if someone hadn't invented GHDs I would never even have contemplated letting it grow again.

I suspect that the reason why I think about it so wistfully now is because I know I can't have it. It's a bit like babies. You feel sad that that part of your life is over but if someone gave you another chance, you'd run for the hills. I am not prepared to put myself through the pain of getting there again and I know full well that once the length is achieved I will be eyeing up crops in the fashion pages.

So short my hair will stay and I will just have to amuse myself as best I can within those confines. I fancy it pink next time.

Monday, 26 April 2010


I'm sorry. To use a phrase rather irritatingly adopted by my daughter, my attempts to blog this weekend have been a fail. I could pretend that my weekend passed in a blur of fun filled activities and social engagements, leaving insufficient time to pen a few, well chosen words. But no. I did try but it just wasn't happening. Blogging was beyond me.

I wouldn't want to you to think that I sit down day after day and ideas just spout forth. I do have to think quite hard about what in my life might be worthy of comment and whether I have wittered about it before ( which, increasingly, I have.) But generally, when a subject presents itself to me, I am able to coin a few phrases to sum up my view, press "Publish Post" and away we go.

This weekend I knew what I was going to write about from the outset. I thought about my chosen subject, sleepovers, in a selection of the quieter moments. I mulled over my thoughts, then my angle and finally some choice and entertaining phrases to express my views. And so, when the little ones were in bed last night, I sat down at my computer in full expectation of having the final version typed and published in time for the BBC drama at nine o' clock.

But no. I could tell almost at once that things weren't going well. Instead of coming over as slightly controlling but quite chirpy, my prose sounded po faced and a bit shirty. Scrap that and start again. I wracked my brain for those quirky little turns of phrase that had skipped across my mind as I had washed up. Gone. Scarpered. Vanished. I got half way through my second attempt and when the clock chimed nine, I gave up and closed my computer down with an air of despondency.

Having given this some thought in the intervening period, I have decided that my postings reflect my mood. If I am happy the words bounce out of me with ill contained glee. If I am thoughtful then my prose takes a different style, more contemplative. But this weekend I was cross. Something happened on Friday that got my goat and I never really recovered.

And the moral of this tale? Negative emotion plays havoc with my blog. I hope normal service will be resumed soon once my temper has recovered. I may even blog about sleepovers.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


My freezer has packed in! I have been in denial for a while but I have finally had to resign myself to the fact that it is gone to the big white appliances resting place in the sky - or, if we ever get round to shifting it out of the garage, the Corporation Tip.

I knew I was in trouble a couple of weeks ago when I came back from the supermarket ladened with bread and ice lollies and other things necessary for two weeks of school holidays to notice that there was a red light winking at me from the control pad. Undeterred, I stuffed my purchases in on top of all the other food stuffs that had come to rest there and banged the door closed. Finally, I flicked the "Superfreeze" button and crossed my fingers.

However, when I tentatively opened the door some hours later, I discovered that everything was slightly softer than it had been when I put it in. There was no pretending. I was going to have to act.

I do have another freezer - a little three drawer affair underneath the fridge in the kitchen. It is usually full of things that I need to be able to lay my hands on quickly. Frozen veg, ice for my gin and tonic and ice packs for my husband's constant stream of sporting injuries. But I realised pretty quickly that six drawers cannot be decanted into three drawers, especially when the three drawers already barely shut.

After a very satisfying bout of swearing, I set to with my linen basket emptying both freezers, working out what could be or should be salvaged and then reorganising. All the meat, which was costly and still frozen solid, made the trip from garage to kitchen. Bags of frozen blackcurrants did not. I really don't know why I grow blackcurrants. No one eats them except me and so year after year, after plying pounds on friends who assure me that they would love some, I hide them in the freezer in the safe knowledge that I will turn them into Ribena as soon as I have a moment.Sadly, there was no room to save them.

Then I started to have fun. I found all those things that I bought eons ago to use in some recipe and then didn't fancy after all. It seems to me that the sole purpose of that stuff is to make me feel inadequate every time I open the freezer. So it was with unrestrained glee that I seized on the opportunity to ditch them.

By the time I'd finished I had rescued the ice lollies, admittedly now somewhat soft, the meat, some Green and Black's dark chocolate ice cream and a loaf of wholemeal bread.

Two weeks on we are in the process of eating what was already in the little freezer so that I can refill it with stuff that we actually need. Last night the kids had some sausages that turned out to be venison ones bought by my husband on a whim and then forgotten about. I did find a large block of Parmesan on top of the dead freezer which I had intended to defrost in the fridge but two weeks on I put it in the bin instead.

So, do I need a second freezer? I cook from scratch most nights only freezing the left overs which I then save until there is enough for a repeat performance. We need frozen peas and I do have a glut of fruit and veg in the summer from the garden. Ice creams are essential too or we will have to go to the park and get them - a trip to be to be avoided at all costs. I can buy my bread fresh - or go back to making my own.

So I have to conclude that, no, I really don't need to replace it. It will create a space in the garage which will no doubt be filled with a gardening gadget or bike quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. All I have to do now is get the bloody thing to the tip. Anyone got a van?!

Sunday, 18 April 2010


One should always make time in one's life to take stock. Time flies by so quickly that it is easy to continue along a particular path because there isn't chance to think about what you are doing or whether it could be done in another way. Every so often, I reach a corner where I stop and check that I am happy with the way things are developing before I run, pell mell, down that road.

At the moment, the issue that I am trying to get some perspective on is technology and my use of it in my daily life. Those loyal souls that have read all my musings may recall that when I started my blog back in 2008 I was wanting to combat my fear of technology. I was worried that my children would overtake me and consequently run circles around me. And so I made a conscious decision to embrace the technology around me so that I had a least a fighting chance of keeping up with them.

And I don't think I've done too badly. I have nowhere near the skills of my elder two but at least I know enough to keep a watchful eye on their activities. I can now do all kinds of things that I would previously have had to rely on my husband for. And this week I became the proud owner of an iphone, something that I could never have contemplated even this time last year.

But with increased technology come more and more opportunities to sit at my desk or on my phone looking at things. I facebook avidly, I blog, I follow people on Twitter, I have my course which is online and am contemplating another for September, my job is almost entirely screen based and now suddenly I have an apps store tempting me in with brightly coloured lollipops just like the child catcher. I could quite easily spend whole days attending to my various screen based projects.

So where did my real life go? What did I do with my time back in August 2008 before my little technological revolution?

And so this is what I need to consider. Do I continue to embrace all my new found skills on the basis that in the 21st century this is the way of the future? A lot of the online things that I do have to be visited regularly to get the most of them. It's a bit like an addiction. Once you are in there's no turning back.

Alternatively, do I abandon my screen for the things that I did before? I'm not entirely sure what they were. Nothing seems to have slipped from my agenda although with all the children at school, I do have time that I didn't have back then.Perhaps I just do everything much more quickly to fit it all in? Maybe it's just the pace of my life that has changed?

I suspect, as in all things, a happy medium must be sought. I should keep myself in check so that my life maintains some kind of balance. But, with all the exciting opportunities that the world wide web now offers me, surely I owe it to myself to take full advantage so that my life is fuller as a result?

The summer is coming and screens are rubbish in sunshine. I know because I tried blogging in the garden last year. So I suspect that this will make my activities self limiting over the next few months. But I will continue to keep the balance between my real life and my virtual one monitored. I wonder if there's an app for that?

Friday, 16 April 2010


Well, we're back. We have had a successful trip to London which I consider to be quite an achievement. We saw all the things that we set out to see and the children all behaved beautifully. They walked for miles and never complained once. They soaked the places up and were interested in everything that we showed them.

On the way home, I asked each of them in turn if London was what they had imagined. The older two commented on the sheer number of people. Oxford Street at 8 pm was busier than Leeds at lunchtime. Amusingly, the youngest said that he thought that London would be black because of the fire. Bless him.

And what about me? Was London as I remembered? Well, I still have the basic geography in my head and the tube stops all came flooding back. But what struck me as odd was that the first time ever I could really understand why people wanted to live there.

When I was there in my early twenties, I enjoyed myself but I always knew that my time there was finite. I was in London because I knew I never would go back again and I wanted to experience it just so that I could say that I had.

This wasn't because I had a crystal ball for gazing at my future. It was more a result of how well I knew myself at that time. I was a northern lass. I couldn't imagine ever settling somewhere that wasn't populated by northern people (apart from somewhere sunny of course). I had a whole range of prejudices about the south of England based mainly on the idea that all southerners seemed to think that northerners were either badly educated or stupid or both.

To be fair to myself, this was a pretty accurate representation of the opinions of those on my degree course who had deigned to venture beyond Watford Gap. They wore their southern accents like a badge of honour and never managed to totally eradicate the sneer from their tone even though they were now living amongst the enemy.

I, as a fresh faced idealist, found this disdain hard to take on board and it coloured my views fundamentally for many years to follow. Even when I was older and spent a lot of time in London with work, it never left me. London was for visiting but not for keeps.

So my attitude over recent days has thrown me off balance somewhat. I found myself going up escalators reading all the posters of shows that I wanted to see. I was astounded by the number of shops that still hadn't got a presence in Leeds. But most of all I was delighted by the fact that everyone has their own identity in London.No one looks like anyone else. You don't seem to find whole swarms of people all wearing variations of the same outfit. Whilst fashion was clearly being nodded to, everyone had their own take on which bits to adopt. This kind of devil may care individualism is sorely lacking in my neck of the woods.

But it wasn't something I have given much thought to before. Of course I know that my town is very limited in its outlook. There are lots of big fish in a very small pond and the pecking order is clear for all to see. I have felt trapped by its atmosphere for many years, spurred on I suspect, by the fact that I couldn't leave even if I wanted to. So maybe that's why the bright lights of the big city suddenly look so appealing.

And this time I was aware of the buzz that I have heard people talk about so many times before. I could feel that excitement that comes with knowing that you are at the centre of things. That's not something that I'm likely to find in Ilkley either!

Friends of my parents moved to London a few years back. They just sold up their beautiful home to buy something modest but central near the river. I thought they were mad at the time but suddenly their decision looks inspired.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


I have a problem. It's been an issue for a few years now and I don't seem to be getting anywhere in trying to fix it. It's something that I have difficulty sharing with my friends because to most people it is not a problem but a highly desirable state of affairs. And what could it possibly be, I hear you ask? I am too thin.

Now, before you all log off in disgust, let me say that being too thin is as legitimate problem as being overweight. It's just that it's not perceived to be. It's true that most people have the converse difficulty and that it has famously been said that you can never be too thin. But I think we all know that that's just not true.

I haven't always been skinny. Until I had my children I was a good stone heavier than I am now. I had curves where you might expect to find them and I fretted perpetually about my weight just like everyone else.

With the birth of each child I lost a little bit of me. As I dropped my pregnancy pounds, I ended up smaller than I had been before I started. Then, about three years ago, my weight finally stabilized at something which is on only just on the borderline for a healthy weight for someone of my height. I was delighted. I was tiny. I could wear anything I liked and I could eat whatever I fancied. I was in a place that most women spend their whole life trying to find and it was great.

And I'm still there. My weight never fluctuates unless I'm under pressure ( when it plummits). But every so often I see a photo of myself caught unawares and it shocks me. I have been skinny for such a long time now that it is etched onto my self-image but captured in a still photograph rather than viewed in animation, it is clear to see that I was not built to be this thin.

So what's the solution? Eat more. Simple. Well, no actually, it isn't. I eat when I'm hungry and I seem to be so finely tuned that I am hungry only enough to sustain my current weight. But I could make myself eat more or more of the wrong kind of stuff and that, eventually, would have the desired effect.

But of course it's far more complicated than that. I, like every other woman I know, am programmed to think thin is good. No matter that almost every rib shows even in repose, fret not that my face clearly requires some subcutaneous fat to maintain its smooth surface. Every instinct that I have screams at me that I must be mad to even consider gaining weight.

On my recent skiing trip, courtesy of three courses a night and the odd glass of vin chaud, I gained a few of pounds. I could see in the mirror how even this small amount improved matters. And I still weigh next to nothing. I could tip the scales at two and a half stones more and still not be overweight on the charts so there's plenty of slack to go at. But already, despite what I hoped were my best endeavours, I can see my three pounds falling away.

So I resign myself to my predicament and stop talking about it for fear of upsetting all my friends. I will keep plugging away - trying to balance the arguments that go on in my head into some ordered and logical fashion. Some say I should just count my blessings. But is it a blessing? Really?

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Memories. We each have so many. They, by their very definition, are all personal to us. Even if we try to share them, we can never get across to another person exactly what that memory means to us or how it might have shaped our subsequent life.

I have been sharing memories recently on facebook. Many of my facebook friends are people that I haven't seen for 20 or even 30 years but at some point in the past our paths have crossed. And as a result we have shared experiences, although I have to admit to some of them being a little hazy. My memories are precious to me. I am forward looking by nature and always excited about the future but I am also terribly nostalgic which is why sites like facebook appeal to me.

It's not all trips down Memory Lane but every so often someone will start something that leads us in that direction. The most recent case in point was a party in the summer of 1983. I was 16, the others slightly older and we all remember different things for different reasons. I love that. A shared experience that isn't really shared at all. It fascinates me that several people can all share an event and yet take different things away from it to carry around with them for the rest of their lives. And, because we cannot get inside someone's head and never really know what is important to them, we will never really know which parts anyone remembers.

But it's not just a name from the past that can trigger memories. The smell of buddleia takes me straight back to my grandfather's house in Suffolk. Raspberries do it for my maternal grandparents and like most people I only need to hear the opening chords of lots of records to be whisked back to my childhood. Sometimes triggers make me cry although there is nothing sad about the memories. I don't know why that happens - I suspect it to be the knowledge that those kind of moments can never be recaptured.

I have a friend who won't look back at all. They have no interest in old photos, no desire to revisit important moments in the past. They say that they have no need for that stuff and that life is all about the future but I disagree. My life is so much richer for all the memories that I possess and if I can share them with the people to whom they are also special then that enhances my memory and makes it more relevant to what is going on in my life today.

My day to day memory is, of course, shot. My brain is so crammed with the trivialities of everyday life that it off loads what it doesn't need almost immediately. But I love the thought that the special moments of today will be the precious memories of the future, preserved forever and that I will be able to discuss them with those that share them in the future and smile.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


We're going to London, all of us on a big, noisy, chaotic trip. Heaven help me.

I first visited London when I was about 10. I went with my mum and dad and my little brother and we did the Changing of the Guard and the Houses of Parliament. I'm sure we saw more but that's all I can remember. Then I went on a school trip for a week when I was 11 and went to all the big sights. I haven't been back to most of them since.

I lived in London for a year when I was at Law School and tried to soak up as much of the place as I could. But Law school is far more time consuming than university and I was skint so I didn't see as much as I might have hoped. I did come away with an understanding of the transport system though and a grip on the geography of the place so at least I can wander about confidently without looking like a tourist.
London for me since then has been the inside of a cab, a meeting room, a restaurant and then first class back to Leeds. So I am looking forward to going and doing some sightseeing.

The trip came about because the little ones have studied the fire of London at school. This included a full mock up in the playground in which both wooden and clay houses were set alight to show the contrast between the different building materials of the day. The demonstration ended with St Paul's going up in smoke which seems to have made a lasting impression on them. I have explained to the children that London has moved on a bit since 1666 but they are certain that they are bound to run into Samuel Pepys if they look hard enough.

So, we have an agenda of sorts which incorporates lots of time for getting from A to B, waiting in queues and eating. There's something for everyone and assuming I can keep the momentum up we should have a fantastic time. But I am ever so slightly nervous. It's hard dragging children round cities and whilst they are generally interested in their surroundings, once they get tired they are likely to moan. My husband doesn't know London and has a map obsession to go with his fear of being lost. This clearly is a row waiting to happen. And if my nerves get frazzled by either of the above then the whole trip has the potential to go horribly wrong.

But we'll start from a positive place. If all goes to plan and I manage keep the map where husband can see it and pretend I haven't noticed the complaints then all will be well and great fun will be had by all. I will let you know...

Saturday, 3 April 2010


There is so much to learn as a parent. I started with recognising different types of cry, which is no mean feat. And as the children grew, my knowledge and experience grew with them. Then, there was a brief hiatus when life was calm. When the elder two were around 10 and the younger two around five, there was a small window when not much changed. The big ones grew steadily, consolidating what they had learned so far and the little ones just did what the big ones had already done. Easy peasy.

Sadly, it didn't last. Now, it's all change again. It's rather like playing bingo. As fast as you can mark the called balls on your card with your little stamper, then other numbers are being called relentlessly. Pretty soon you get lost.

The issue that is taxing me at the moment arises out of the increased freedom that the elder two now have. I am relatively relaxed so far about the things that they are asking to do. My comfort zone and their expectations are currently aligned. That is not the difficulty. Where things are going awry is matching their arrangements with mine.

It's busy at our house. Just keeping on top of the household stuff means that I am pretty much going at full tilt for most of the time. And I have a number of house rules. Breakfast and dinner are eaten en famille wherever possible and I don't do sleepovers. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Picture the scene. It's 3.10 and I get a text from child 1 requesting to go to someone's house shortly followed by another from child 2 asking if someone can come here. I check the calendar to see which activities require ferrying today. From this I can calculate which child needs to be at home and when, both to attend said activity or babysit for smaller siblings so they don't have to spend all evening being driven round town.

Child number 1's text comes in first so that gets priority. The first activity is not til after 6 when husband should be back. Fine. But she needs to be home for tea and it's dark so I have to collect her. So far so good. Turning to second child's text. Can she and her friend play here? Yes but as I don't like to leave other people's 11 year olds here unsupervised, they will need to leave before I have to go and collect eldest child.

This arrangement is unsatisfactory to each child. Child 1 has been invited for tea but that messes up both the food that I have planned and the childcare arrangements later. Child 2 objects to having to cut short her plan to fit in with elder sibling's plan.

Then, the mothers of both friends invite my two to tea at their respective houses. Now I have no childcare and will have to take smallest son to Brownies (husband has missed the train). Also, the food that I have carefully cooked will go to waste because it has been frozen once already. Finally, as I don't do tea for other children because we eat en famille, I feel guilty that the kind offer will never be reciprocated. So I say no to each child and then feel bad because I have been unable to reach a solution that works for everyone. The kids have all forgotten the plan by 4.00 anyway and are busy dreaming up some other arrangement that won't work.

I know I am a bit uptight about stuff. But just getting through the days is so complicated without the addition of other people's plans, especially when those plans always collapse when the friend involves their mother who has an agenda of their own.

Some days I feel like my head will explode trying to hold all the information that I need to make it work. And I've hardly started yet. The little ones are still accompanied at all times. Heaven help me when they start texting!

Thursday, 1 April 2010


People don't like change. They are suspicious of it. It worries, even frightens them. And so they kick against it. They fight shy, seeking to preserve what they know, to maintain the status quo even if that, in itself, isn't that great.

When I was working in a corporate environment, we had a Director of Change whose sole job it was to talk people into working in a different way, embracing new ideas and technologies to make us work smarter and more efficiently. It was a thankless task. From the dinosaur partners to the fresh faced trainees, everyone liked the way they worked. It worked for them and that was enough. Who cared if there were a better way to go about things? They didn't have time to stop and take something new on board. There was work to be done.

I don't mind change. I don't mean change for change's sake and I do often use the old adage "If it ain't broke don't fix it". But I like to think my first reaction is not just "NO". I had a lot of change as a child. Moving around the country as often as we did meant that I was regularly having to adapt to new places and people. We settled. We moved on. That was life. And I liked it.

So now, I am finding the whole issue of change increasingly frustrating. On the one hand the government (and I mean any of them not just the current one) seems to like to try out new ideas on the public. The thinking appears to be that if we change enough things, we are bound to get something right eventually. They make ill conceived plans based on reports designed to make headlines from career blazing juniors . The change is trumpeted, pushed through and then those responsible move on, leaving the rest of us with systems which are often mere shadows of what they replaced.

But then, equally as irritating are those people whose default setting seems to be no without giving what has been mooted a fair crack at the whip. Ilkley is a white, middle class, middle aged town. I fit in perfectly. You can imagine how well change goes down here. The local rag is full of stories and letters about its residents getting hot under the collar over one issue or another. I am sure they all have laudable motives and believe firmly in what it is that they seek to protect. But I sometimes wish that people would just step back and think things through. Often change is a necessary evil to achieve some other, more desirable end. And with the speed at which the world is developing if we are not very careful we will be left behind so that there is nothing left for the future generations to get aerated about.

Not all change is bad. If we took that on board, we could spend more time focused on how to move forward effectively and less time fighting over what is old but not necessarily worth fighting for.