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?

Secrets of a Reception Veteran

I’ve done the time..
Darcie and I began ‘big school’ last year. We were rookie novices back then; eyes wide, shoes polished (her) make up always on (me) all ready and uncreased for every drop-off. Well my friends, times have changed, let me tell you. We are now old hands, reception veterans, if you will. And, as we are coming to the dying days of the summer term I am getting ready to pass the Newbie baton on to those unsuspecting preschoolers.
As part of this reception graduation I’ve compiled a list of my 5 essentials every Muma needs when entering the murky world of BIG SCHOOL…
1) Sharpie Marker pen
Yes, I did it too: ordered meters and meters of fabric and Iron on name tape. Of course when I was getting ebay-happy with my order I never once stopped to consider that I have never sewn anything in my life (the frog in yr 4 doesn’t count). I was trying to be The Perfect Muma. How I intended to sew on a name tape to every pinafore, polo shirt, jumper, PE kit, and apparently pants and socks too, I’ll never know! But I didn’t sweat the small stuff. Surely these Muma skills arrive with the name tapes. They didn’t and the result wasn’t pretty. Don’t fall for the ‘easy’ iron-on variety either. They peel, burn a bit and don’t survive the spin cycle. You heard it here first!
So step away from the bastard name tapes. This is all you need:
It’s Sharpie to the rescue.
2) Costume design degree
As you can tell from the above point, I am not a dab hand with a needle and thread. However you are about to enter a 10 month stretch of your life when you will be regularly challenged, often at short notice (that’s their favourite) to make some sort of costume. And of course ‘the children’ get a prize for the best one. What the actual F?! I sat up and safety pin a costume together while dream boat sleeps on and SHE gets the prize. Ok then…
I made an entire angel costume using just safety pins for the oh-so-sweet Nativity: thank you very much.
Please Note: World Book Day is the biggie, this is the Met Ball of the Primary school world. Big prizes are at stake here. Do not be fooled by any facebook chit chat which might suggest Jimmy’s Muma is just ‘throwing something together last minute’. NO SHE AIN’T. You know the story about the shoe maker’s elves… uh huh.
Find out the date your school is showcasing it’s World Book Catwalk and get over to ebay or Amazon pronto. (Unless of course you are blessed with talents like my amazing friend Holly at Oh Sew Dinky check her page out!)
3) Sunglasses
I’m not sure how to break this to you, but you’re going to cry. Possibly within the first few minutes of meeting the parents you are about to share 7 years’ worth of school runs with. Actually it took me a couple of weeks to shed a tear. I may have been in a euphoric state at first, as a result of relinquishing control of our little girl who was by all accounts a teensy bit of a handful: something along the lines of GOOD LUCK MISS SCOTT. After a couple of weeks it dawned on Darcie that this school gig was pretty repetitive and showed no signs of fading away. It made her bottom lip tremble, her face screw up and big tears fell from both of our eyes as we realised we would be saying goodbye at the same time everyday for a very very long time.
Anyway as luck would have it I was caught completely off guard no sunglasses- or my toddler to hide behind. I had to walk through the playground, thankfully flanked by my Muma Squad, sobbing. Save yourselves the ugly cry face, take sunglasses, ALL TERM!
4) Patience
This is a bit of a tricky one as you can’t just ‘add to basket’. Particularly for someone like me who lacks patience with ya know – most things. So this is an important one to practice over the summer hols: your patient face.

Here is mine. What do you think? You’d never know that inside I’m screaming any of the following,
“It says RAT EFFING NAPS not MOUSE SLEEPS. Please, for the love of god attempt to sound out the words before I loose the will to live”
Or
“I have marker penned several 4 letter words across your forehead with my eyes and If I have to listen to you harp on about how little Zachariah is far too clever for the class or that little flossychops is just plain bored due to her natural level of intellect I will reach for the Sharpie. And I will not be accountable for my actions.
5) Flexibility
I’m not talking leg above your head stuff, it’s trickier than that. I’m talking diaries. All of a sudden one of 20 Parentmail emails will hit the inbox inviting us to attend a once in a lifetime rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk, or a ‘recital’ (in the loosest sense of the word) of various shaky hitty noisy instruments. Of course you don’t want to miss such delights. It’s a drop everything situation. An understanding boss / Toddler / friends and family is what’s required here.
So Reception sounds super fun right? Bet you can’t wait…!!

Gender Neutral?! Oh please…

I’ve been hearing this term faaaaaar too much recently: 

                 GENDER NEUTRAL?! 

Oh please… Zzzzzz.
Who comes up with this stuff? 

Why do we have to find a label for everything these days? 

Can’t we just rejoice in the fact that we live in a society that will accept whichever gender orientation our kids hormonal compass will eventually point them in? 

Why does it need to be a ‘thing?’
Neutral indeed…
Here is our little GIRL, wearing her favourite Paddington Bear PJ bottoms, with a non-matching PJ top, topped off with a Spider-Man make up do. 
And yes. She’s in the park. 

(Anything seems to go on this holiday!! #dutchfashion) 

Because that’s her favourite way to be.
She ain’t gender neutral people: she’s a girl. 

And her bestest colour in the whole wide world? 
Blue.

Do we need to beat a drum and perform a little song and dance about it? 
Probably not.

I don’t mind that shops divide their clothing or shoes like they do. 

It doesn’t insult us! It’s really a short walk over to the other side of the aisle… 
Our 3 year old has no concept of ‘His ‘n’ Hers’, because we, her parents, don’t mention it. And before the campaigners rejoice, it’s not because we believe that she is Gender Neutral!!

We can often be found rooting around in the ‘boys gear ‘ for t-shirts with fire engines on, or blue trainers. 

In fact her favourite pants are her ‘boyfronts’ she pinched from her best mate Stephen (-They have a digger on…)  

CLEARLY #manstuff hmmm…

Lila also loves her 50-shades-of-pink- princess- fairy- taffeta dress monstrosity job too . And between 3.30pm-4pm on a Wednesday she can be found skipping about ballerina style in a pink leotard.
No sweat people. 

But please… Gender Neutral kids? 😾
Enough with the labels – ya killin’ me.
Let kids be kids.
Perhaps rather than banding around a new label, we should just go with the flow, and let our kids lead us. Being ‘neutral’ implies a lack of identity, a lack of meaning and indecision. No child deserves to be identifiable by those wishy washy terms.

#callaspadeaspade

Get A Life, Not A University Place.

Maybe it’s just me, but… 
I need to talk about results day. 

On Thursday, hoards of rabbit-in-the-headlights teens will be opening envelopes up and down the country, which they believe will dictate their future. 

To a degree those results will. No pun intended… 

But I want to make a suggestion:


There is more to life than university

I saw a bonkers statistic yesterday: the average student will leave university £57,000 in debt. What the… 57,000 quid! 

It begs the question: why are we pressurising our naive and confused young bloods into taking up university places as a matter of course? 
There is more than one way to skin a cat.
This is going back 15 years, perhaps things are different now that university fees have sky rocketed, perhaps the consideration IS that much greater nowadays…

However.

Every one of my peers went to university. (Apart from the one who went off with the boyfriend who set the station on fire…) The question on everyone’s lips wasn’t, “Are you going to university?” It was “Which university are you going to”. 

I fear that in a lot of schools this is still the case. Adultlets signing up for insurmountable debt to study a course in basket weaving at the bottom of the ocean. 
Because, Clearing. 

Shouldn’t tomorrow’s advice to those on the fence be more WAIT, less, “What can 3 C’s and a smile get me thank you very much?”
If you are unsure: Hit the pause button. Please. Because Miss 18+ you have time on your side. 


18 won’t even buy you a beer across the pond yet

So how about this for a piece of advice:

University isn’t going anywhere, but your #lifegoals will. Aspirations change, and the ability to carve out your own path will develop with a little more life experience under your belt. 

After all, a degree can only take you so far. Spending time on figuring out what makes you tick as a person is surely time well spent. Find out what you like and don’t like about the world. Dabble in the land of the grown ups, try it out for size. Go and live a little. Take a job. Find out just how much a quid gets you in Lidl. Travel. 
Meet people. All the people.

And I don’t just mean take a Gap Yar. 

If you’re not sure: Don’t rush in. 
Getting the grades or not getting the grades is one thing, it’s this next move which is the clincher. 
By the time I left university I had been doing exams every year for 12 years. 

That’s a long time. I was at one of those schools that held annual exam weeks in the summer (along with Shakespeare week, urgh the memory). 

The usual front page “Exams are getting harder / easier / pointless” continued to be printed throughout my GCSE’s, AS levels and A levels, dampening spirits on results day and occasionally exam day, if the press were feeling particularly hedonistic.
I see that nothing has changed this year. Gove’s ‘exam shake up’ (Don’t they just LOVE that phrase the most?!) has been splashed about once more. No doubt sending parents and teens into the pits of anxiety even before they have got their results. It doesn’t seem fair. 

Finishing the conveyor belt of education was terrifying. At the age of 22 I had never had a ‘proper’ job, my stint in Starbucks as a thirsty student doesn’t count. 

I’ll always remember my first day in my debut ‘grown up’ job. I was shown my desk, and told to settle in. Lovely, I thought… 
I stared blankly at the screen. I looked under it. I looked around it. Hmmm. The blank monitor was mocking me. I had another look around my desk, panic was beginning to take hold. I knew what I was going to have to ask…
“Excuse me, but how do I turn on the computer?”
My new boss stormed over, flicked the switch on the tower under my desk and loudly said,
“And that’s why I don’t like hiring graduates!”
She was a charmer. But she had a point, I was clueless!

when those results emerge, why not take a breath. Perhaps hit that pause button. 


Time is on your side. All is to play for.


Oh and never, ever underestimate the University of Life.


-It comes without the £57,000 gift tag too. 

Hello Black Wednesday. 

Some might think that stating the obvious is a pointless task. I however believe that if you are stupid enough to trudge your kids, and one of their friends through the pouring rain and into your local zoo’s soft play on a day where Noah is on the edge of his seat, then you deserve to be ridiculed. 

What I am about to tell you IS obvious. I mean, we all know the rules don’t we: summer holidays + rain = stay the fuck away from soft play. I’ve been in the job 6 and a half years and still I make rookie errors… And I am sharing today’s with you. 

Welcome to my nightmare: Soft play on speed.

I’m writing this on the floor next to the highly over populated gated ‘baby zone’. 

On. The. Floor.

I scanned the deafening inferno for a base upon arrival: all eyes were instantly diverted away from my glance. Why are kids taking up highly sought after square footage in the parent zone? There’s a whole hyper-colour plaza just waiting to be explored. Look lively and shift it… s’il vous plait. 

God bless the holidays. 

It’s dawning on me that the possibilities for a bout of contagious pukage are ample in this mosh pit. Swarms of under 8’s are literally salivating over the soft mats. Schools out and the germs have found a new breeding ground. Hopping between miss screechy to master whingey in a nano-second. 

Everything is sodding soaked. Rain in biblical proportions is hissing down, the zoo’s day trippers have found refuge in the soft play: of course they have. Why didn’t that occur to me before we left? And I realise this may be obvious (as is the nature of this entire post)… but my socks are wet. And come to think of it, I’m sitting on a wet floor so I probably have a wet backside too: August is such a giver. 

A thought was inching its way into my conscious, I tried to block it out, I really did… 

Nits.

There are heads everywhere. Too many of them. All full of hair, all possibly harbouring nit farms. I do air on the side of total paranoia when it comes to the creepy hair breeders. But they attack me first and it makes me edgy. For some reason Nits adore the straw-like consistency of my barnet. I’m tempted to put a hair net over my kids – and myself. I realise this may attract some attention: 

‘The crazy lady typing on the floor looks like my dinner lady’. But the minors are close. Up close and way too personal on the head to head proximity meter for my anxiety level to regulate. 
It must be well documented that rain causes FuckWitSyndrome. It’s an unfortunate condition which appears to be effecting every child without exception. Sweaty Duracell bunnies are literally running around in circles. Some with their eyes shut. All with their mouths open. Demands and accusations are vying for space on the air waves.

(Hurrah! I found a seat- just saying. I had to perform a stealth Bolt-style move to secure this desk space. Backpack, water bottles, snack pack and iPad in my clutches. The seat is miiiiiine. All I need now is for my left bum cheek to rejoin the land of the living…
)

I knew it was coming. I could tell as she approached my chair; blue eyes wide, angelic face slightly tilted for optimum Cute:

“Can I have a red shushy?”
“No”
“Can I have a blue shushy?”
“No”
“Pleeeease can I have a shushy”
“No”
“But mum I NEED a shushy”
“The machine’s broken”
“But THEY have a shushy” (points to privileged Timmy & Jimmy)
Ok, I think, let’s try and level with ToddlerMonster:
“Darling, Mummy and Daddy are on a real economy drive for the next few weeks. We had a lovely holiday last week didn’t we?” (I don’t wait for the confirmation) “Last week was tax bill time, and we are going to Holland to that cheap version of Centre Parcs before nursery starts again aren’t we. We are only here because we have annual passes- so it’s basically free. I’ve made a snack pack fit for 3 giants, AND you had lunch before we left. Have a bourbon and go play”

3 year old stares blankly, “Can I have chips?” 
*Bangs head against metal table several times*

By this point I’ve become immune to the decibel level, I lift my eyes from typing away this post and it dawns on me that the cafe area has become a sort of awkward PTA party. It’s so jam packed, demographics are falling over each other. 

It’s Jeremy Kyle meets Joules. 



Breton strips are interspersed with a skin tight jogger: Who IS Ivy Park?! I’m not entirely sure where I fit into this social tapestry… I’m wearing Dan’s golf jumper that I shrunk in the wash, complimented by 2-days-over hair. I think that makes me ‘Jumble-Mom’. 
I’ve put in 3 hours. I chose this over a career. I love that what’s left of my brain enjoys reminding me of this fact at the most opportune of moments. 
Finally the man with the broom appears: its chucking out time. 

Until September…

My happy mum-face when we finally walked in! My husband’s a lucky man…

Sports Day’s a comin’… 

Sports-Yey. Or Nay. Depending on your point of view. 

Tomorrow is my daughter’s Sports Day. We are coming to the end of year 1 and although we have been travelling back and forth from ‘big school’ for almost 2 years now, I still don’t count myself as a veteran parent when it comes to The Events.

I’ll cut right to the chase here, sport’s day is making me feel a little bit sick. Perhaps because it brings back horrendous memories of never coming 1st, 2nd … or 8th. For a die hard competitive bugger like me, this is all kinds of torture. 

My body just never backed up my Desire to mow down the opporsition.

And now it’s my daughter’s turn. 


I remember last year being gobsmacked as parents – who for the rest of the year had quietly collected their child, perhaps dressed in paisley or a navy stripe, never daring to say boo to a goose, had morphed into some kind of crazed Barmy Army. The screaming cheers and fist pumping that was going on as their beloved treasure struggled to stay on course to collect the right coloured bean bag did lead me to raise an eyebrow. Huh?! What.Is.Happening?!

I had no idea that we would need to be donning our ‘game faces’ at the school gate. Even the kids who were mid-run were looking over as murderous cries of encouragement with a few choice coaching tips essential to a 4 year olds performance continued to erupt from the sidelines during the 25m hopping finals. The slightly awkward thing was that the majority of the kids don’t have fog-horn parents, and that majority had to run along to the burning screams of the same name again and again. I couldn’t keep a straight face. My husband and I sat there wondering if we had been transported back to the 1966 World Cup final. 

This is serious stuff. Do not be fooled. The results of these races really matter. Honest…

For the next couple of weeks your FaceBrag feeds will be jammed packed with the likes of little Johnny’s skipping triumph, and Freddie’s 4 times sack race champion certificates. You might even have the benefit of video footage if the Mumatron has husseled her way to the front, for best cheers n views. Super! Something to look forward to folks. 

I’ve heard some schools quite literally make an entire day of it, with underhand picnic wars and a stealth ‘best dressed’ race. Can you even imagine! I think this must be the pay-for schools. I must count our blessings that no such wardrobe codes exists at my daughter’s school. In this weather, in our seaside town, anything goes! And in this weather God only knows what we shall all manage to bare wearing as this blazing only-fit-for-nakedness weather sucks the life blood from us.

I’m just going to mention the parents race. Does anyone actually look forward to this?! Apart from there being an air conditioned Pimms tent strategically placed at the finish line, (which there isn’t by the way) I can’t imagine why anyone would want to take part in this stenuous humiliation.

I cannot tell you how much I was actually bricking this last year. For the entire Sport’s ‘Hour’ I sat wondering when the horrendous moment was going to dawn on us, and the parents were going to be invited to the start line. As someone who makes a point of never exercising (until now that is -but more of that another time), this race hanging over me was all kinds of hell. 

Thankfully the moment never arrived. Health & Safety. Apparently during the previous years race there was a broken ankle situation during this ‘bit of fun’. Can you even imagine. Well this parent was my new hero, they took one for the parenting team. Ensuring that no one else need ever fear making a total tit of themselves in front of their offspring again. 

Instead the pre-schoolers were all tanoyed over to the start. 

Health & Safety hasn’t got to them yet… 

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