Tuesday, 27 September 2011


So Ilkley has entered the digital age. Last week, the analogue television signal to our little town was turned off and now if you want to watch you have to do so through Sky, cable or a set top box. Apparently.

I know this because of the irritating advert campaign that has been running for the last year. However, I have no meaningful understanding of what this actually means. I don't suppose I need to know except that the way the four 'real' channels and the Sky stuff is now distributed around my house is different and what I can watch where depends on the wiring and the age of the set. Apparently.

Now I don't mind change and I try to embrace technology but I have to confess that I struggle with modern television. I'm not one of those who says that everything that comes from Sky and cable is rubbish. If you are discerning and pick carefully, there are some really good programmes and some of the repeats have a kind of comfort factor, like an old sweater or a fire on a chilly night.

My gripes with modern TV lie in the sheer embarrassment of choice. When I was a child there were three and latterly four channels and video recorders could be found in only the very smartest of houses. This meant that everyone watched the same programmes at the same time. We would wait all week for an episode of Starsky and Hutch and then spend the next day discussing it with our mates and quoting chunks of dialogue at each other.  There was a kind of sociability about our viewing. Just look at the viewing figures, numbers that producers today can only dream of.

Now, the chances of you and your friend having either watched the same programme or watched it at the same time are very slim indeed. Discussion is stymied because someone in the room will have recorded it and not managed to catch up yet. Others are weeks behind because the series link button allows you the luxury of recording something without even realising that it's on.

Family viewing is another casualty. Whilst there were moments when I wished I wasn't watching with my mum and dad, generally when the TV was on it was family affair so we would be found in the same room doing the same thing.

I know I could insist on selecting and watching programmes with my children but our viewing habits haven't grown up like that and they watch things that hold no interest for me. So they sit in one room with America's Next Top Model and we sit in the other with Spooks.

I know that modern TV is convenient, that I can watch what I want on demand and pause it if the phone rings but I think I preferred it when you either watched or you missed it. So as we enter this new, exciting and somewhat mysterious digital age, I can't help but remember the good old television of my youth with more than a little wistfulness.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


It's been nine days since my last post. My output has dropped from at least twice a week to...well, to who knows what. I did think about stopping, either permanently or at least until something worthy of comment happened to me. That would be the easiest thing, I thought. But then I've never been awfully good at the easiest thing. Instead I revert to type. I analyse. I work out what has caused the slow down in output and try to figure out how to fix it.

Well, what has caused my uncharacteristic silence is easy to identify. Nothing to write about. Simple. But then I have to ask why I have nothing to say. My life hasn't been particularly devoid of excitement over the last week or so. In fact it was my birthday so that alone could normally generate a least three decent ideas. It is true that after 313 posts there is a danger of revisiting old ground but let's be honest, who is ever going to notice except me?

So, my analysis continues, if life has continued apace with plenty of material to go at, why have I not sat down and written anything? Lack of time? I don't think so. I waste masses of time. I can always find a slot to put pen to paper.

Confusion strikes me now. I have subjects to write about. I have time. I have written nothing. Why not?

Of course, I know why not. My personal soul searching is just a thinly disguised attempt to take myself to places that I don't want to go. I know exactly what's wrong. I write loads when I'm feeling either:
a) supremely self confident that what I publish is witty or thought provoking or both and will elicit a positive response from those who read it; or
b) I don't care whether people think it is or not.

Ergo at the moment I feel neither of those things. When you start to worry about what people say or in my case, don't say about what you choose to reveal in such a public forum then suddenly it becomes too difficult to do. I fret about how my words might be misinterpreted. I harbour concerns about the impact that my public laundry service might have on those that I love best. Sometimes I even worry what my mum and dad might think.

And then suddenly there's no spark, no devil may care attitude and no blog!

I like to blog. I like that it makes me organise my thoughts into some kind of coherent argument. I like the record that it is forming of our day to day life which will be there when we have all forgotten what got us steamed up. But most of all I like that I can say what I think without fear.

So I need to ditch the worries or it won't work. I need to rediscover the me that doesn't care what others think on the basis that if they hate what I write then they won't bother reading it. Most importantly, I need to remember how to not take life too seriously. So please stick with me. Normal service should be resumed shortly.

Monday, 12 September 2011


Someone suggested that I was a pushy parent last week. It grated. I have never considered myself in those terms. However, the suggestion did give rise to some musing on the point. I've been wondering what I see as pushy, how I believe I differ from that description and what those around me might think ( although I have to confess to being relatively unconcerned about the latter.)

When we were children, my brother and I had pretty strong ideas about what constituted a pushy parent. Our parents did not come close and, with the security that that knowledge provided, we mocked mercilessly those that we thought did fit the bill. Certain of our friends' parents were to be avoided at all costs and we took a kind of pride in keeping our own achievements well under our bushels, proof positive, we believed, that we were not the product of a pushy environment.

When my children were babies, I was very aware that it was a thin line that I walked. How easy it would be to tip over into being something that I had mocked. In groups of women, their names now lost in the mists of time, I soon discovered that no one really listened to what was said about a child that was not their own. They were simply waiting for a gap in the conversation where they could insert some other amazing detail of their own offspring's development. I missed proper conversation. I went back to work.

At school it was the same. Mothers telling me loudly and often about how far up the reading tree they were. Entries for school competitions which had the tell tale signs of an adult's hand. Parents whose path to the Head's office was so well worn that they could walk it with their eyes closed. That was not and still is not me.

So why might I be perceived as pushy I thought. Well, my children are busy. Perhaps that's it? Maybe busy children can be equated with the style of parenting that allows for no gaps in the schedule lest boredom creep in. But our busyness is organic. The children's enthusiasm, joie de vivre and, dare I say without sounding pushy, talent has filled their every spare moment. In many ways it would suit me if they didn't show such vigour and we had some more downtime but I see my role as a mother to facilitate their desires as long as it is prudent to do so.

I suspect the downfall of my reputation as a non pushy parent has been facebook. It is the perfect platform to show how proud I am of my children's achievements (although, ever conscious of reaction because part of me does care what people think, I keep a lot of their successes back.) This may be seen as boasting, something my brother and I ridiculed but I believe hard work should be rewarded with praise and I am always pleased to see the achievements of other people's children trumpeted in a similar manner.

At the end of the day, we are all doing our best to bring up our children. I hope that I am helping my four to grow into rounded, confident and happy adults by supporting and encouraging them and providing advice and guidance when they reach a crossroad. If this is pushy then bring it on. I happen to think it's what parenting is all about but none of us will really know how we've done until they are grown and by then it will be too late!

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Driving through Bradford yesterday, I chanced to sit in a queue outside a sari shop and so had plenty of time to admire the outfits in the window. They were beautiful. The fabrics, some in strong, jewel colours, others more subdued and elegant, were all delicately embroidered with metallic thread and there were beads and sequins to accentuate the designs and add sparkle. I could have walked in and bought any one of them.

Then I looked down at my own attire. Jeans of course, on their second day and so slightly bagged at the knee and with a paler patch where I fell and rubbed the indigo out. A nice enough top, grey cotton with lace but nothing special. None of it could be called smart and nothing came anywhere close to making me feel like a woman.

Now you may say that the only person who controls what I wear is me and therefore I only have myself to blame if I don't feel that I can hold a candle to the women in their saris. And this is of course true. I am solely in charge of my own wardrobe and consequently the image that I  project to the outside world but I am also a product of my environment.

When I worked in an office in the 90s I tried to look the part. Suits, blouses and heels were the order of the day every day. But then my home became my workplace and things changed. I needed practical clothing, stuff that I could wear to crawl around on the floor with the children, that could withstand constant washing and would protect me from the elements whilst walking around town. Jeans. They fit the bill.

I've been wearing jeans for over ten years now. There is a brief spell in the summer when I cast them off but generally that's what I'll be in. At the start of every season I peruse the catalogues and make half hearted decisions to smarten my wardrobe. Sometimes I even buy things. A skirt perhaps or some tailored trousers. But they don't get worn. They either aren't comfortable or I never find the perfect shoe. And most days nobody actually sees what I have on underneath my coat so there hardly seems any point making an effort.

But I do miss dressing as a woman and making an effort. Heels make you carry yourself in a particular way and if you are wearing a skirt you have to think about how and where you sit. I have now reached the point where I have barely anything feminine in my wardrobe. If someone were to invite me somewhere smart for lunch I would have to go shopping first. I watch 50s films and long for an age when clothes had structure and were well tailored instead of soft and designed to hide a multitude of failings. And yet if I bought these things they would never get worn.

I know myself well enough now to know that there's no point planning to change my image this season; nothing will change. However, staring wistfully at those beautiful garments yesterday did make me wonder whether perhaps I ought to make a little more effort.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


One of the many reasons why I love 'Pride and Prejudice' is that it is so relevant to me. I, like Elizabeth Bennett, am constantly leaping to conclusions based on ill founded ideas and then having to change my mind. A case in point is our family's recent holiday to Disney World in Florida.

I'm happy to admit that taking the children to Disney was something that I felt we ought to do rather than a burning ambition. However, having decided that the ages of the children made this an optimum year, we booked. I was pretty certain that it would not be for me despite having no concrete evidence on which to base my decision. I imagined small, overcrowded spaces filled with screaming children. I visualized men dressed in unconvincing animal costumes and expected banal platitudes at every turn.

Boy was I wrong? The Disney parks are huge, clean, immaculately manicured. The paths between areas are wide with perfect flowerbeds and water features. There was no litter and no signs of wear and tear on anything despite the huge numbers of people passing through each day. And it all ran like clockwork. Getting all those people through the queues and on to the rides is no mean feat but it was achieved with order and decorum. At no point did my children moan whilst waiting because there was always something to look at or do to keep them entertained.

Even leaving the park was trouble free. We watched the fireworks at Epcot on our last night. There were thousands of people there who all left at the same time as us and yet we were in our car and on the road within 15 minutes of the show ending. Incredible.

So, once I'd relegated my prejudices to the back of my mind, I got on with the task of enjoying myself. We were there for 14 days and were at a park for 12 of them. I had imagined that we would be able to bear no more than a week of it with quieter days in between. In fact, as it turned out we spent our quieter days at Disney's water parks and had no time off at all. There was too much to do to sit still for long. However, having commanded a mission to Mars, taken part in a disaster movie, watched countless 3 and 4D shows, spent some time on safari in Africa and driven a car on a test track (amongst countless other things), I found that I lost my grip on what was real. It was all rather intriguing.

Yes the Disney message is all a bit mushy and over sentimentalized. Memories are made here. Dreams can come true. But somehow I found myself buying into that because, fundamentally, that is what I believe too. Work hard, aim high and seize the day is not a bad mantra for life.

I don't need to go back. We had a fabulous holiday but the world is a big place and I feel I have taken from Disney what it has to offer me. However, I would now have no hesitation in recommending the American Disney experience to anyone, no matter how sceptical they are. Of course, Orlando is big and brash. The roads, the cars and the portions are all huge but the customer service is exceptional and the attention to detail is second to none. The Disney experience is something that I don't think we could do here. We don't have the space and our attitude is all wrong. But there with the American 'can do' philosophy it works like a dream. And dreams can come true!