Until you walk in her shoes… 

It’s an undercurrent, it bubbles away just below the surface of society. 

It rarely makes it’s way into coffee shop chat, actually it rarely makes it way into the darkest secret swap. 
This word is loaded.
Fewer words can draw out as much emotion in us.
Abortion. 
I am currently on my journalism ‘journey’. 

Cringe if you must.
Our remit is to always be looking for stories:
Angles, mostly. 
I came across a story last week: Ealing Borough council were to vote on granting an ‘exclusion zone’ otherwise known as, a Public Spaces Protection Order, around a Marie Stopes abortion clinic. 
A group, Sister Support, had launched a petition which gathered thousands of signatures. 
Crucially enough signatures to get the council to sit up and consider their wishes. 
These wishes were simple. 
Allow women seeking medical help the dignity and right to walk into the abortion clinic without being taunted by people chanting prayers outside the entrance.
Allegations of women being streamed on Facebook-live entering or leaving the clinic had been made. Being confronted by the protesters had left many patients of the clinic deeply upset. 
For 20 years. 
How many women, possibly wracked with confusion and despair, have had to walk past these protesters just to reach the treatment they are legally entitled too?
Come on Ealing. Make a stand. 
Shocked over the images of these ‘chanting elders’ I felt the need to investigate on a more local level. On the south coast we have a clinic in Brighton and Eastbourne run by BPAS. 
A charitable organisation. 
I contacted their spokesperson and asked how important this exclusion zone is, and why it is needed. 
The response was chilling. 
Brighton was by far the most targeted of the two clinics. Placards baring images of aborted foetuses, shouting indignities, attempts to humiliate and ‘call out’ any woman who dare to cross their path. 
Often the chanting of prayer and the shouting can be heard in the waiting rooms of these clinics. 
Women who are vulnerable. 
Women who are making one of the toughest decisions of their lives. 
Do they deserve this? 
Ealing council doesn’t think so. 
They ruled in favour of implementing the exclusion zone on Tuesday, October 10. 
A landmark decision that could, should, create a domino effect nationwide. 
Not wanting to be unbalanced I also contacted Abort 67. 
Abort 67 define themselves as being a ‘pro-life’ organisation who seek to educate women about abortion. 
I wasn’t sure how I would feel speaking to someone who organises ‘Public Education Displays’ as they are so-called. 
As a trainee Journalist and not yet a bonafide, experience-savvy Journo, I knew this would be a real test. 
One must remain neutral. 
I am merely reporting the facts. 
Don’t get emotionally involved. 
Their argument was surprisingly compelling. I listened while this passionate woman explained that her group see themselves as educators, and not protesters. 
Abort 67 are filling an education-void by showing images and sharing information: 
Abortion ‘The Untold Facts’. 
Not quite a blockbuster. 
Nonetheless it was fascinating listening to the other side of such an emotive argument. 
With such conviction. 
I asked what her thoughts were on the proposed exclusion zone around the Marie Stopes clinic in Ealing.
Citing ‘freedom of speech’ as one of her fundamental human rights in this country, she felt appalled that they may be silenced. 
      * * *

Abortion has been legal in this country since 1967. 
Fifty years later, one clinic can now ensure that their patients can arrive in peace.  
Free of judgement.
A fundamental human right?

This Muma Went To Court…

“I sentence you to 10 years imprisonment… Take him down!”
I shit you not, real life judges actually utter those words. Not just the ones off the telly box! Obviously those amongst us that have ever graced a court will be familiar with the Netflix-esq setting and those loaded setentenses which go hand in hand with the slightly overdone wood panelling. 

I on the other hand,I am ‘just a mum’. I’ve never received the golden ticket calling me up for jury duty (as much as I have willed that summons to drop through the letter box – especially in those early years of motherhood. A legitimate break from Mumming? Yella.) I have never been naughty enough to find myself in the goldfish bowl of a dock, and never has it ever occurred to me to exercise my right to witness justice being done, to pop along to our local court and take a pew. 

Until now of course. 

Part of my journalism training is based around court room reporting. Basically learning what you can and can’t write. Pretty crucial as a little slip up could see this muma enjoying a child free break on the inside… (However tempting that might be during my kids’ rabid slagging matches mostly thanks to multiple Sylvanian family custody battles). 

Well I wasn’t going to wait until our class were escorted to a magistrates court for a speeding find or the like. I thought I’d go in big guns: so last week I headed over to Crown Court. 
Bold, right?!

This posed a number of issues; smart clothes were suggested on the website so I dug out my funeral coat and decided that putting on lip gloss was fundamentally ticking that ‘smart’ box. 

The Crown court in our town has been there since the year dot. Wondering if I looked more Crim or barrister I asked the kindly security guards where I might find the ‘menu’ for the days proceedings. (Menu?! This isn’t the sodding Harvester! Why did I say that?! Running order, list, itinerary! Any of those would have better helped mask the blaitnet imposter syndrome plastered all over my face). 
Anyway, I chose a court after being given the options like I was ordering a fry up:

 “Well there’s a murder starting in Court A, a Sexual assault in court B, and if your quick you’ll catch the beginning of the rape trial in C!”
Christ. 
Proper baddies, sorry, alledged baddies, were everywhere. 
On the other side of what can only be described as the BFG’s mahogany double door was one of the most elaborate court room movie sets I’ve ever seen. Men in wigs, dark wood panelling, ladies in wigs, a Judge, capes, and a mahoosive glass dock right in the middle of it all. With an alledged baddie inside.
This is probably the right time to tell you that I love drama. A drama magnet if you will. I love nothing more than ‘information sharing’ with my friends, and getting the inside scoop on anything I can. 
Suddenly here I was, hearing the ultimate secret. 
The usher of the court did give me a slight death stare, but we quickly moved passed that as I asked her 101 questions during the ‘rise’ (when the judge left to hang out in his chamber, how Game of Thrones of him!)



My jaw dropped as the judge summarised this particular man’s crimes (this was a quickie before the main trail of the day, stack ‘m high…) He described how this alledged baddie had injured another so badly that the victim would need care for the rest of his life. How not only had he committed this crime and pleaded guilty (which he got a pat on the back for), he offered no explanation as to why he stabbed another, and showed no remourse. 

The accused just stood there in a hoodie, slouched to one side when the judge asked him to stand for sentencing. How could a fellow human be that evil? 
He had not one member of his family there, not one friend. What must his mother think! 
No one else watched him get sentenced to 10 years inprisonment. I was the only joe bloggs to see him meet his fate that morning.

 

I felt sick. (Point taken that I need to harden up before I take to the press bench!). 
I just couldn’t believe my eyes. Or ears. 
I watch endless crime programs, a good court room drama is always a particular favourite of mine. But this was real life. I wasn’t wrapped up in my blankly with my old slippers on the sofa. This baddie’s next 10 years was being served up right in front of me.
I did spot the judge notice my astonishment. I have been blessed (?!?) with THE most expressive of faces. 

Nothing is hidden amongst my fine lines and acne scars. Which is a major problem when playing poker. Or in court… 
As fast as he was taken down (literally, they took him down the stairs in the dock!) and the barristers switched over it was time for another. In walked the next one. Up to the dock he went. And another after him. 
It occurred to me that I wouldn’t be hard pressed to find a story in these parts.  
I saw a jury sworn in. They looked just like the jury from broadchurch. How realistic I thought!

***

The school playground that afternoon felt like willy wonker’s chocolate factory by comparison. 
Fluffy marsh mellows floated past as innocent giggles wafted by. 
And then the toddler daughter started to demand a third snack whilst we waited in the drizzle, and cried when I couldn’t produce a rabbit out of a hat. My school daughter cried becasue it was ballet day for toddler daughter. Toddler daughter didn’t want to go to ballet either.
 I put on my best judge voice, and marched them up the road – still in my funeral coat. 
I went back for more the following day. .


“Did you eat popcorn there Muma?”

“No darling, I barely breathed”

We’ve all been DUP’ed: The £1 Billion Farce.

It’s all a bit embarrassing really isn’t it? 

£1 billion 

There’s nothing like a bit of transparent corruption among friends is there. 

My husband once surprised me with a mini break, how lovely you might think. And lovely it was. However I couldn’t help but wonder where this stash of cash was when the washing machine had broken down the previous month. It had been a credit card job at the time – my husband had kept Schstum that he had been squirrelling much needed wonga under the mattress…

Do you see where I’m headed with this.

£1 billion

Our primary schools have been appealing against murderous cuts to its funding, screams of ‘We are at crisis point’ have been widely reported from head teachers, and thankfully splashed all over the press in recent months.  May did nothing.  Serving back pleas of austerity, and lack of coffers. Mock suprise over her face. 

We have all been told, just like a parent telling a pleading child who desparently wants the latest Hachimal, 

“We are broke, we have no money. Go fish!”

Ok we all said. We can’t have what we don’t got.

Well blow me down, as I switch on the news yesterday and there is our Wheat field runner of an PM – who I voted for, signing over £1 BILLION. 

£1 billion?

At first I thought the news anchor had said £1million in exchange for the support of the 10 DUP members of parliament.

My initial thought was, ‘Christ, lucky them! Money for nothing!’

But wait, what’s that you say? ‘One BILLION pounds’?! 

Dr Evil’s voice was immediately present- bellowing this figure around my head. Maybe there is a likeness between Austin Powers and Teressa that I hadn’t noticed before, although I can’t imagine her uttering ‘Shagtastic baby’. Or maybe this dark horse does, just for her Northern Irish BFF’s.

How happy did the 4 of them look! While May kept her demure face all poker, they practically skipped out of that signing press call. I didn’t even realise you could buy votes, or ‘support’. Now I’m no expert, but it sounds a teeny bit to me like CORRUPTION. 

Which brings me to my next point, a few weeks ago most of us had never even heard of the DUP. I’d voted conservative, albeit a vote I am beginning to sorely regret, not for a party which I had to google. Yet here they are running back to Northern Ireland, laden down with our cash. That’s 30% more funding per head than the rest of the United Kingdom – GMTV says so.

Cash we were told we didn’t have. 

So where’s it come from Tess? 

I’d love to know. I’m pretty sure Jeremy Hunt would like to know too. As one of the most hated MP’s ever thanks to his dictatorship over the NHS and junior Doctors, I’m pretty sure he would have loved access to this golden honey pot having towed the austerity line. 

Mrs May, you appear anything but your cheesy tag line ‘Strong and Stable’. I knew I had heard it somewhere before, but I couldn’t quite remember where. A few days ago I was grabbing my reusable bags for the lidl shop (Becasue, austerity), you’ll never guess what I saw… 

Tory slogan inspiration. I have a feeling Attenborough would argue elephants are more loyal, honest creatures however. 

At least you kept your job though eh Tess. I hear the welfare state isn’t all it used to be… 

My Dirty Little Confession…

There’s a new fad in town. It’s dirty, its fresh… it’s alfresco. 

I’m a slap dash kinda girl at heart, fads fly in and out of my life. (Although that’s not strictly true of the ‘Let’s have a baby’ fad, I’m still well and truely in the midst of that fleeting idea).
Hair extensions were an interesting fad – expensive, and created a nest effect at the nape of my neck somewhere between my scalp and those tiny bonds. It wasn’t a pleasant craze to live with, however the flicking of ones locks over ones shoulder was most satisfactory al la Cher off of Clueless… for a time. 

Anyway, I have a new fad I want to tell you about, a progression I suppose you could call it. A definite move towards middle age perhaps? The garden. My garden. Or ‘Outside Room’ as those exterior designers like to refer to it. 
This is entirely new territory for me. The only time I used to visit the garden centre was at the end of the school holidays when we’d run out of money and I’d pass it up as a fun day out to play in the wooden houses that we wouldn’t be buying. Or to look at the bunnies in their teeny cages. At Christmas time we like to just go and wander the decoration aisles taking in the tat n sparkle. Oh we have all the fun in our household. 

I’m not really sure why my attention has moved in the direction of our ‘outside room’. I have been obsessive about covering our ugly fence since we moved in 5 years ago, I haphazardly planted a few clematis, (spelling that carefully) and thought they would just grow evenly and beautifully just like they did in proper grown ups gardens, who are well seasoned at adulting.
It turns out that there is a little more to it. 

 

If someone had suggested I kept my perennials moist a few months ago, I may have thought of them as a bit pervey. I did raise some eyebrows at the garden centre when I asked Barbara of Shrubs to point me in the direction of her hardy Perineum.

I thought my growing addiction to all things green was just me. But this spring I have seen more Facebook updates concerning blossom than newborns. More lavender pots than ice cream faced tots and more ‘look at me on my new rattan BBQ set’ than new Prams. 

I’m entering a new era, and it seems my friends are coming along for the ride as well. 
Just last week one of my coolest, least ‘homey’ friends (No offence S!!) came right out and uttered a sentence which I had never expected to leave her lips, 

“Can we just talk about our Clematis Montana?” 

Once I’d managed to get past the shock of this lingering question, we sat for the next half an hour swapping not only tips for teasing tentacles along a wire, but we cooed over each other’s floral photos – that just so happened to be on our phones. 

Clematis Montana you woody, hardy, white flowering delight – you are the subject of our new Prosecco n skinny popcorn chatter.
 
We confided in each other that we like to nose over the fence of other people’s gardens and squealed in delight when we discovered we share the same ‘favourite climbing rose’ -which is freaking unbelievable I’ll have you know, outside a front door on the way to school.  Pink big blooms, climbing all around the doorway: Rose Di Caprio 😉

So it seems playground gossip (of which there is always a constant steam of, I might add!) and boys, well husbands now more than boys I suppose, are a thing of the past. 
I’m not sure this is going to work out to be a cheaper fad than my past infatuations. The garden still has plenty of space to add too! I do wish the names of plants were slightly easier though.  I did Latin at school, and even that isn’t helping me to understand these ostentatiously long names. It’s highly pretentious, Garden Snobbery. I’m still very much of the ‘tall pink thing’ vocab. It’s a whole new world out there, and I have whole lot to learn!

There is an upside to this green fingered lark – the last 24 hours has seen a deluge of rain. Moan I did not: 
“RAIN” I exclaimed, “That will save me having to get the hose out!”
Who am I, and where did I hide my cool?!

I’m sorry, but I no longer feel defiant.

As our country begins to piece itself back together after yet another terrifying and devastating act of terrorism, I have been watching the familiar pattern of defiance emerge. Candid quotes that love will conquer appear all over facebook, vigils take place, and the PM always, always, holds a COBRA meeting at 9am the following day.

In the past, when terrorists have struck around the globe I have read and  listened to Bloggers, Journalists and celebrities vow to live life to the fullest, refusing to let this rancid disease dictate how or where they live their lives. I have always fist pumped along with the best of them, not giving my next trip to the cinema, bar or concert a second thought.

But this time is different.

And this isn’t something I am proud to admit.

This time, this time has truly frightened me.

Manchester is too soon after Westminster, too soon after Brussels, too soon after Stockholm, too soon after Paris.

This time I am letting these horrific events make a difference to how we live our life as a family.

I know I should be strong, and should be shouting defiance along with the best of them from the rooftops, but this has scared me. It’s scared me most because I am a Muma and it is my job and instinct to protect my babies.  Despite my best efforts, these monsters are making me question that protection, and think again about how we lead our lives for the foreseeable future.

Crowded places will make me feel unsafe now: if somewhere as iconic and presumably hot on security as Manchester arena – the largest of it’s kind in the UK can be attacked, what hope do festivals, theme parks, cinemas, shopping centres… the list is endless, have?

For the first time ever I thanked God that we live in a tiny town that no one has ever heard of and bares absolutely no relevance culturally or politically to anyone. It feels safe here, and I feel like I can protect our young girls who are only 3 and 6 in this little piece of ‘nowhere’.

It makes me angry to think that when we plan our summer holiday trips this year my first thoughts will be ‘What is the terror threat level?’ and ‘Will it be safe?’

I can’t help it, I am just being honest.

We are due to go to Funk The Family festival in Hove Park in June. It sounds like a brilliant day, our kids would LOVE it. I’m even running a competition for tickets! But I don’t know if I can go.

I know I’ll be scanning the crowds, questioning anything that seems a little ‘off’, basically acting like a paranoid loonie.

With the terror threat level raised to critical  (I’m not entirely sure what this actually means- but it doesn’t sounds great does it?!) I just dont think I can put my girls into a potentially risky situation, if I have the choice. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusion that I can shield my babies from these monsters forever, their attacks are so random who knows what is around the corner. But at this very moment all I can think is that I must try, as best as I can, to avoid putting them in harms way. And yes, for us, that does mean avoiding crowded places for a while.

How on earth are we going to tackle this Terrorist Cancer? It keeps on spreading and growing. Neither have a cure, and all I can think is, ‘Where’s next’. 

When Shopping Got Ugly

One of my favourite pass times has always been glorious shopping. I mean, what could be better than ambling around the stores in search of pretty things? The rain and wind isn’t going to bother you in a mall, you get to rack up the steps AND put the world to rights with your carefully selected shopping Wing-man.

I was enjoying this strenuous activity this week with one of my dearest girlfriends, mooching around Brighton, the kids were at school and Nursery: sounds pretty dreamy so far doesnt it…

Well shut the front door, Topshop: we have a problem.

The clothes.

The accessories.

The shoes.

It was all wrong wrong wrong; I actually had to text my bestie to enquire who and what this ‘Ivy Park’ was, and why indeed would anyone team a heel with a teatime only trackie bottom?!

As we wandered deeper into retail-heaven we began to mull over the possibility that the clothes weren’t the problem: maybe it was us.

Have we now reached a stage in our lives where we are too old (lil bit of sick in my mouth) for Miss Selfridge? (I’m not sure a touch of cellulite interjected with the odd threadvein makes the best canvass for a bum-grazing pelmet?) But not quite old or rich enough for Reiss? (Oh but this fabric… That cut!)

This may sound like a very 3rd world problem to bring to your attention, BUT once you have seen some of the highly questionable fashion disasters on offer you may in fact agree that the mid-30’s are having a total retail-crisis.

To demonstrate my point I have selected a few items for you to consider.

Behold: the laced jean

For £49 you too could own this denim peep-show. The handy laces would at least give you the option to let it all hang out after scoffing that 2nd helping of the kid’s Mac n Cheese. That’s if your helpful munchkins didn’t get there first of course. Before you know it you’ll be streaking through Pizza Express. Something to look forward to.

topshop
The casual ‘off the shoulder’ number.

Now this one may seem harmless enough: but don’t be fooled.

My thoughts are thus: How are you supposed to pop on a cardie with this off the shoulder number as you push your Treasure on the swing for the 33rd minute? And while we are at the swings, the bloody thing would ride up with each push! I must stress too, the repercussions of picking up your darling toddler with this on: It’s indecent exposure in-waiting.

I’m all for a capped sleeve and a baggy body, but literally every top this season is off the sodding shoulder. Topshop, Zara, New Look: we don’t live in Barbados – we need to be able to pop on a knit! Think Retailistas, think…

Topshop2
The gingham and poppy floral peep-toe mule heel thing.

“Well you wouldn’t get many wares out of these would you,” was my actual first thought. I do like poppies (in a field) and I do have a soft spot for gingham I suppose (on a tablecloth that’s covered in cakes. Or on my daughter’s school dress.) But who in their right mind Mrs New Look, dreamt up this confused pair?!

img_0186
Metallic Camel hoof leggings

I don’t need to remind you about what happened to poor old Ross now do I? Unless you carry around a bottle of talc in your bag (which if you have a baby maybe you actually do!) It would be pointless buying these puppies. I’m pretty sure there would be a little tune to the chafage here that might sound a lot like you are about to soil yourself.

Maybe these camel inspired leggings are designed purely for you to stand still with your legs a-kimbo, as demonstrated by this poor girl…
topshop 4
Fluffy sh*t

Let me leave you with a lovely fluffy thought: The high street has given us bag pillows – or as I like to call it ‘The Billow’.

Behold the perfect parenting assessory. The Billow is really what all mothers need in their lives. They do say ‘baby sleeps, you sleep’. Now it won’t matter if baby takes a snooze in the park, on the bus or at the doctors, because guess what: just take off your fluffy Billow, and cosy up on the bench. I do like things that have more than one use.

That was the thinking behind this precious looking Pillow Bag wasn’t it Topshop? Please.Tell.Me.It.Was.

                                                                               Look how happy Topshop has made her!

Also available in footware: 

I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop!

So there we have it, the current high street edit. It’s not looking too promising out there right now, and this makes me sad.

Where is a 30-something supposed to shop? Don’t say M&S, and bog off Hotters. I DON’T BELONG ANYMORE!!

And on that note I’m off to the farm shop for some cakes veg. Shame I didn’t buy those adjusticable lace ups

Island Living 365

The Sweet Spot of Parenting

Did you know I have a 6 year old? I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t realised: my writing is so heavily dominated by the antics of my ToddlerMonster, that my ‘big’ girl hardly gets a mention.

Well this one is for you my dear Darcie, in the week you have turned 6.

I am a parent of 2 halves; half of me is riding out the Toddler years in all of their warped glory. The other half is enjoying what can only be described as ‘the sweet spot’ of parenting.

You see, age 6 really is the holy grail of parenting.  I have been thinking for a while now that my mini-me and childhood doppelganger is at a golden age, and I don’t want it to end.

I couldn’t count the amount of times I have been told variations along the theme of ‘It’ll be over in the blink of an eye’, and I have muttered (not quietly) That it’s not effing quick enough, as the smell of the latest missed-potty-poo explosion still lingers on my fingers.

Perhaps those ‘well wishers’ were meaning that THIS bit will be over in the blink of an eye: The Sweet Spot, age 6. Ahh, that makes more sense…

An age when an innocence prevails, and that naked trampoline time won’t get you arrested.

An age when a Saturday night means X factor and popcorn with dead pan discussions over who Simon should have sent home, instead of performing Ninja-rolls out of a darkened bedroom.

An age of sitting and concentrating on colouring, beads, painting, sticking and all things crafty without looking quite like a glitter yetti by the end of it.  However, maintaining a strong intolerance for clearing up doesn’t change. 

An age when I’m still a mummy shaped hero who can solve the worlds problems through my daughter’s eyes.

An age when Mummy still, just about, knows best (even when I absolutely have no idea what on earth I am talking about). Hanging on my every word, this gullible innocence is priceless.

An age where school means just school, and homework is weekly but minimal. We don’t argue over homework- it’s not yet important enough to warrant such effort (Sorry Mr T!). In fact we very often don’t even remember to do it. There are no consequences for a 6 year old. 

An age where their enthusiasm is infectious. The squeals of delight as the days are counted down to a holiday, birthday, or the Xmas bomb make the copious planning and pounds worthwhile.  Nothing is more important to a 6 year old than fun, the age of truly letting the good times roll.

When the going gets tough with the ToddlerMonster I have to remind myself that I won’t always know the dry cleaners weekend plans as I see him on an almost weekly basis to wash yet another wee-soaked pure wool sofa cushion.

It won’t always be like this, the magic 6 is waiting just around the corner.  I tell myself this on a loop. Well, a 3 year corner, gulp: better pass the Woo Woos.

Our prize for weathering the sleepless nights, the unauthorised co-sleeping, and the many many demonstrations of ‘spirit’ – (usually made at the Lidl check out where we all know there isn’t enough time to so much as right a wedgie in that bagging area let alone pacify the ‘Arched Back ‘n’ Kick’ sequence.) The Prize, is age 6.

Darcie, I wish I could capture your imagination, that infectious dark laugh and bottle your needy cuddles. I know age 6 is once again, ‘just a phase’, and I will miss it when it passes. For now though, let’s just build dens and be silly: growing up can wait a while longer.

 

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