Monday, 29 August 2011

Motherhood and madness, points to ponder Ruby Wax style

Time was I used to spend August in Edinburgh sitting at the top of the stairs in the Assembly rooms playing spot the sleb with my flatmate and drinking beer. 

These days I'm lucky if I make it to Auld Reekie for a couple of shows all month. This year I managed one - just one performance. However, it was a good one - Ruby Wax and Judith Owen's show Losing It.

In typically sharp style Ruby tells of her journey to depression and sets out her stall for a crusade against stigma.

Along the way she shared a few thoughts about mothers and motherhood that gave me pause for thought. I'm sure she won't mind if I share. 
She has little kind to say about her own mother. She describes her as a woman who shrieked through life and sat like a vulture ready to swoop on crumbs and other unpleasantness.

Co-star, singer Judith Owen's beautiful songs punctuate Ruby's monologues. In one Judith sings: "I want a picket fence, I want a husband and some children, but I don't know why." Oooh. Why do we want the things we want?

Ruby tells of the arrival of her three children and how, in the absence of an instruction manual, she acted like she knew what she was doing. "Then you're a mom and suddenly you're supposed to know mom stuff." She can't have done too bad because her son Max had turned up to see her show.

She speaks of loving her kids, but losing herself in the process. 

The school gate mums baffled her - and she is viciously funny on the subject - but, oh, it rang some bells. Not fitting in; not understanding the code; feeling like you're getting it all wrong.

In the Q & A at the end, a woman said her daughter had depression and, she wondered, was it her fault. Ruby rushed to comfort the woman. "No," she said. "That you asked me this question tells me you're a good mom. Don't worry, with these sensibilities, you haven't done anything wrong."


Saturday, 27 August 2011

I'm bewildered by the world - when will common sense prevail?

With signposts like this...
Have you seen the news this week? Yes. What's going on? The more I see, the more I do that "this is crazy, what's the world coming to?" shrug thing.

It started well enough with the unflappable Alex Crawford reporting on the rebels' arrival in Tripoli. She provided the best coverage and I was awestruck by her calm, professional approach. I also did a quiet internal dance of celebration that a working mother in her late 40s was showing everyone else how the job should be done.

But then things went down hill. Reporter after reporter has told of evidence of atrocity and corruption at every turn. It creates a bilious sense of outrage. How can this have been allowed to happen? No, really? Why wasn't this stopped?

Outrage is also the reaction to the news that Edinburgh's tram debacle just keeps getting worse. £700million so far and what has the Capital got to show for it? Just mayhem and waste. How hard can it be to plan and execute a project, even a big one? This is embarrassing and wasteful. The parliament building was bad enough, now this. What must the rest of the world think of us?

It certainly doesn't help the rest of the world make sense of the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison. The fact that the conviction of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was made under Scots Law condoned at the time by the world, means that the decision to release him under licence was one for Scotland alone, however ill-advised and badly executed. Don't you see? A country that can't install a decent tram system in it's main city doesn't look like one that should be trusted to deal such a delicate international situation.

Sticking with justice, the law and asses. On the one hand we have the Scottish system locking up Naked Rambler Stephen Gough again for refusing to put his pants on, while South of the Border one of the killers of Baby P is freed and rushed off to a secret location for his own protection.

All Gough had to do is to put some knickers on, but he didn't and presumably he has his reasons. However, when you think that when he was first arrested in 2005, Peter Connolly's short life hadn't even begun. This can't be right.

And don't get me started on a country that has higher than ever levels of obesity, while another one has a famine that everyone has largely got bored of talking about...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Are you a miser of sleep or a squanderer?

I said sleep...
Since Boy One appeared nearly 12 years ago I've been lucky to have had lots of opportunity to study the phenomena of sleep deprivation.

Before then, I was confident arrogant enough to think that anyone who moaned of lack of sleep was a wimp. I had stayed up all night to party, to yacht race or even to go hill walking. Easy peasy - an early night the next day and all's well. Don't know what the fuss is all about.

Fast forward to motherhood, night feeds and early starts. Yawn. Now I get it. To miss a night's sleep when you can be assured of catching up when you need is one thing, to miss chunks of shut-eye night after night when you don't expect to is torture.

But for most of us the gritty-eyed awfulness of it doesn't last. Sure, a loaf-a-thon under the duvet til noon is unheard of but things do improve. And, rather cruelly, if a rare aligment of planets affords such an exotic luxury as a lie-in, I find I wake at 7 head full of Things To Do.

But the years of nocturnal pacing have left me changed. I am stingy with my restedness. If I feel full of sleep and energy, I won't - as I used to - squander it on a late-night reading session. By 11pm I start to get twitchy knowing it could be tomorrow that Boy Three decides he needs a dawn snack. Or his brothers have a nightmare or something. I hoard sleep like a miser reluctant to spend too much, just in case, oh I don't know, just in case there isn't any more coming. Sleep doesn't grow on trees, you know.

Compare and contrast the Panther of News. For a panther he's a night owl by inclination. He's a live-for-the-moment kind of creature. So if he's all napped-up and wide awake, he'll spend, spend, spend. In his case this means sitting up watching the telly or listening to music. But it bothers me, this profligacy. From my point of view, the next time there's some middle of the night Boy action (sadly, this is not a euphemism) he'll start the next day even more weary.

So who's right? Is sleep so precious that we should conserve our restedness at all cost or is life for living however dreadful and dreary you might feel tomorrow?

Meanwhile, in one of the women's magazines, She, I think. There was an article stating that we don't need as much sleep as we think and we're not actually tired, just bored and fed up. Try instead, it suggests, to get up a bit earlier, do exercise and fill your day with stuff that doesn't grind you down. Thanks for that.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Baroque to the future – win an excuse for some me-time

Mauve-r the moon with this one
Tell me how you get some time to yourself and you could win a beautiful Victoria Jill baroque bath bottle.

Today I have to go to the car tyre fixing garage (I’m sure it has a proper name but I don’t know it) to get my slow puncture sorted out. Sadly, this is something of a treat for me. I’m actually looking forward to sitting on a hard chair in an oily waiting room for 40 minutes, because I’ll get that time to myself. I’ve got something to write and I’ve been saving things to read. No one will nag, pull my cardi or shout at me (or at least I hope not) and I can’t actually get on with any work.

It’s shaping up to what I call me time.

Me time, is as precious a commodity as spare cash and free time these days. 

It doesn’t happen very often, but I have been known to run a very deep, very hot, very aromatic bath, lock the door and soak until I’ve finished a particularly good book, or until someone knocks really really hard. 

Sometimes I go for a walk – but if I want to be alone Greta Garbo style I need to time this so it coincides with the start of something good on the telly. “I’m off for a walk. Anyone want to come? Oh, Doctor Who you say. Fine.”

I have been known to take a very slow meander around a supermarket, just to enjoy the sensation of being out alone. 

And, of course, there is metime101 – locking yourself in the lav. 

In the olden days, I used to love a wander round town, a stroll around an art gallery or spending ages cooking some fantastic new dish. That’s largely a foreign country though.

So, to the point, Jill Bowman, of Victora Jill’s boutique has agreed to offer one of her beautiful baroque bath bottles as a giveaway to one of my blog readers. 

The French-style bottles – also on sale in Harrod’s (oooh) – are filled with bath salts and foam especially created for Jill in a range of essential oil blends. And I can’t imagine a better excuse for me time than a wallow in a baroque bath.

I haven’t tested it, but I’m told that when you use the baroque bath salts or foam, if you shut your eyes, you can believe you’re in a roll-top bath, in a chateau with scented breezes wafting the muslin curtains at the open window. I don’t expect this effect withstands children clattering up the stairs yelling “mum, mum, where are you?”.

To win a beautiful baroque bottle, visit Victoria Jill’s website treasure trove of beautiful French-inspired goodies and tell me in a comment on this whether you would like bath foam or salts and which fragrance you’d like. Entries close September 25 and the winner will be chosen at random. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A DAFTS idea, but it might just work...

Brothers in harmony!
Cue drums, trumpets and fireworks. I'm going to introduce the child food reprocessing system to knock your socks off.

It's called DAFTS the Dinnertime Automatic Food Transfer System. Actually it's the brain-child of my marvellous sister and she's a health care professional, therefore, knows stuff.

Let me explain the idea behind DAFTS.

Parents seem to fall into two categories, those with small children who routinely turn their little noses up at whatever it is you've lovingly created for them to eat and those with bigger children who seem impossible to satisfy.

The first lot may spend hours with a pancake batter-splattered copy of something by Annabel Karmel. They may even have created a meal in the shape of a domestic pet or mode of transport in the hope of charming/fooling their small child into scoffing the lot. It will have failed, there may even have been tears of frustration and mutterings about ingratitude.

The second lot joined their new category almost overnight. Their children have suddenly gone from being content with a curiously named 'happy meal' or a few fish fingers and some potato wedges (AK's tome having gone to the school book sale years ago) to needing huge quantities of nourishment. They will clear their plates so fast you think they may be hiding the food. Then they ask for more, gazing longingly at your portion. Going out for meals requires a budget re-think as there are now adult-sized appetites to meet.

I'm extraordinarily lucky to have sons in both categories. Theoretically my feeding should be efficient. Any of his supper that Boy Three doesn't fancy can be scooped off the floor/chair/table/shirt and served up to Boys One and Two. Hay Presto no wastage.

Um. It doesn't work like that though. Firstly One and Two don't want to wait until their little brother has finished the long and energetic process that can loosely be called having supper. (Not much of it will be recognisable as eating actually supper though.)

And as he is using mealtimes to explore texture and sensation with his food, what's left may not be the most appetising.

This is where DAFTS comes in. It collects all the food Boy One and his peers have scattered, flung or otherwise rejected and processes them into something the likes of Boy One will devour... probably pizza or possibly popcorn or cheese toasties. Brilliant.

If you weren't as clever with your family planning as me, don't worry. With your purchase of a DAFTS food reprocessor comes membership of a brat-match scheme. Toddler parents are linked with conveniently placed brink-of teens and handover meetings arranged.

All you need to do is cough up and a brand new DAFTS will wing its way to you just as soon as I invent one. You won't regret it. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Twitter - break the news, not hearts

Twitter is a fanatic source of quick information. This evening, for example, the Panther of News and I were jolted from our Sunday night bubblegum telly by a tweet about rebels streaming into Libya.

With one eye I watched Alex Crawford of Sky give her compelling and courageous report from the streets of Tripoli and with the other eye I watched Twitter reaching fever pitch.

Among the messages of support, incredulity at what the Libyan government was saying and comment of every shade from fatuous upward were mentions of the death of Gaddafi. Right now (about 11pm, August 22) I have no idea whether he is alive or not although his desperate broadcasts on state radio would suggest otherwise.

I noticed tweets about Gaddafi's death being bounced on by all kind of people including politicians and other public figures. People who should know better.

The family of Gaddafi - alive or dead - are likely to be too busy with other matters to be concerned with my twitter stream. In any case, they are probably somewhat exempt from ordinary empathy.

It was, however, a different sorry yesterday after news broke that one of the Red Arrows had crashed. Twitter was quickly full of reports of wreckage, rescue attempts and expressions of dismay.

Quickly the fact of the accident was confirmed by officials. Then it all went a bit quiet.

Twitter filled itself with all manner of speculation, couched as fact - the pilot was pulled from the river alive, it was the woman who crashed, the pilot ejected, it was a bird strike, and several suggestions of the name of the victim.

Time passed. The newspaper office I was working in received a message from the MoD confirming what we suspected. The pilot did not survive the crash, but they urged us not to publish this fact until his family had been told.

So we, along with every other news organisation kept quiet. And a widow, a mother and father, and siblings received the worst possible news.

Meanwhile twitter contented itself with speculation and increasingly urgent requests for news. Some people used the information vacuum to conclude the worst. Others took those conclusions and repeated them freely.

Imagine one of your special people is in the Red Arrows. You know nothing untoward has happened - then you glance at twitter...

I urge you to have a moment's pause before pressing your retweet button. It only takes a second or two to check a proper news source. Twitter is quick, but not much faster than online news teams who get accurate information out as soon as it's possible. And if there's no news theres perhaps a good reason for it...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Why has Brad Pitt driven a whole city demented?

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt
OK, let's get the jokes out of the way first. I know Glasgow is often in the grip of madness, but this is different. And, yes, any number of zombie gags were funny the first time...

Brad Pitt has arrived in Glasgow to make his latest film World War Z. The centre of Glasgow has been chosen as a suitable stand-in for Philadelphia. Mr Pitt has brought his wife Angelina Jolie and their numerous kids with him, they are currently holed-up in a mansion near Kilmarnock. Unlikely as all of that seems, it is true. 

The reason I know it's true is that the entire city seems to be gripped by a mania about Mr P. Bradness if you will. Grown women with sensible jobs are squealing like idiots. Grown men with sensible jobs are almost squealing like idiots but catching themselves in time.

I'll grant you the idea of Hollywood coming to George Square is fascinating. And seeing the streets done up to look like something from America is memorable. 

Many of us who saw Thelma and Louise (yes, that scene) or Fight Club think fondly of Brad, but he's just an actor who was once rather dishy. After all, this month Edinburgh is jam packed with attractive and famous people but that city hasn't lost its collective marbles over them.

While this lunacy continues, I have a couple of questions to ponder:

If anything else was causing quite so much disruption to city centre traffic there would be much ill temper. How come Glaswegians are happy to put up with this?

If the person causing such silliness - and, if we're being a bit po-faced, objectification - were a woman, the female population would be far less understanding of their men's interest. How come it's OK for girls?

Why Glasgow? Philadelphia looks lovely, but I can't see it's much like Glasgow. 

How much will the council make from this? 

How did all those American cars get here? 

If Angelina is such an ordinary mum, will we expect to see her on the beach at Largs picking grit out of Shiloh's eye and wiping dog poo off Pax's trainer too?

And, finally, why must Z be pronounced zee?

Monday, 15 August 2011

Going to high school: Don't cry mummy

Back to school tomorrow and I've just put the kids to bed. The packed lunches are made, the bags packed and names written on things in indelible marker. 

Boy One is becomes a high school pupil tomorrow. The first day of the next stage of his academic career. He says he's looking forward to it, but none-stop talking for the past few days suggests he's feeling a little anxious too. 

We've made all the preparations we can. There have been numerous visits to school - on one occasion he and I even had lunch in the canteen. 

Staff from the fabulous autistic unit at St Benedict's in Linwood have made plans, discussed his need and gone far more than the extra mile. We've had meetings and assessments, phone calls and teaching sessions.

A new bag has been bought, trousers, shirts, scientific calculator and the Panther of News has patiently given tie-tying lessons. 

He's as ready as he'll ever be...

I'm not though. I've been a study in not thinking about it for the past few weeks. Now I'm having a go at pulling myself together. I'm sure I wasn't this bad when he started primary school.

Is it because high school is when you start to let your baby go off into the big bad world? Might be. At least at primary, I could probably have marched into school at any time and got him, indeed, on at least one occasion I did pick him up and carry him out. Not at high school though. I doubt I could even find him.

Perhaps because he's going to meet challenges and situations I can't really help him with? Might be that too. We've talked over getting lost, angry teachers, bullies, not liking French, whether or not there will be an origami club. But then I realise I can't think of everything that needs to be discussed. Today he found me in the kitchen and asked: "Do I wear one of the polo shirts with my tie or one of the smart shirts?" 

It didn't even cross my mind that he wouldn't know this. What else have I missed? 

I tucked him in tonight and he said: "You won't cry tomorrow mum, will you?"
"I'll try not to."
"No, you won't. Promise. You won't."
"OK I promise."

And I kissed him on the forehead as he snuggled down his head on the pillow next to the orange cuddly monkey he's had since he was a baby.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

I hate house work more with each passing day

Today I got a new thing of wonder - a tablet computer gizmo. It's, frankly, astounding. It plays videos, goes online, connects me with everyone and even turns itself into a book at bedtime. It takes pictures and tells me where I should be and when.

For those of us old enough to remember the first domestic computers - big old things that cost a packet and didn't do half of what this little miracle does - it's even more amazing. When I was at primary school, one child only had parents wealthy enough to buy him a digital watch.

This is the moment when I pause to boggle at the advances and wonders of technology. Where will the next decade take us, I wonder?

OK, stop wondering and boggling. Perhaps more bogglesome and astounding is the fact that housework still needs to be done. 

I merely jab my finger at a titchy screen to talk face-to-face with someone in New York for free, yet I still have to bend down to scrape the grunge off the kitchen floor. Digital enchantment performed every day and yet I must use my fingers to remove soggy stuff from the sink. Dust still needs hoovered and wiped, toilets still demand (insistently sometimes) elbow-grease attention and windows besmear themselves. 

I hate housework more than I love communications technology. Please can those clever, creative people turn their brilliant minds to solving the housework problem forever. 

With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, dried on fish mess was my muse this morning. 

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

I hate thee with each sheet and bed and mite

My brush can reach, when hiding out of sight

For the ends of being a cleaner place.

I loathe thee to the limit of every day’s

Most horrid mess, by son and husband too.

I loathe thee freely, as there’s more to do.

I loathe thee purely, as I’d love to laze,

I loathe thee with passion put to use

With better games I’d really rather play.

I loathe thee with a heat I never lose

With all the dust. I loathe thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears of wasted time; and, if I choose,

I’ll pay someone else to do it instead.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Look at my interesting pictures and sign up for the newsletter

Hardly any words with this one. Just a bald appeal for you to sign up to the new newsletter signy up thing over there on the right. 

It's new and I might, if the mood takes me, write a newsletter or something.

Go on sign up, you know you want to. 

Oh, and the bottom picture could probably do with a caption. Any suggestions?

Sock mystery solved, a few more to go

For fox sake...
That's it then, a domestic mystery solved. It seems that some 5000 socks and pants (yes pants!) turn up in our drains every year. This accounts for the weekly dating game I play with the lonely solo garments... and why no matter how hard you try, there are always an increasing number of singletons.

I once had so many odd socks that I was able to spread them out in ten sets of ten in order to use them to explain long division to a child. We had reached a desperate point in maths education: it turned out that what he called deconstruction was what I called carrying ten and I hadn't listened at that particular parents' evening.

I'm happy, because after listening to So You Want To Be An Exorcist on Radio 4 yesterday where yoga was cited as a reason for the increase in the number of cases of possession I was becoming concerned.

In order to be sure there are no evil spirits causing domestic mayhem I have one or two more mysteries I'd like solve.
  • Who sneaks into my house to return empty boxes and cartons to shelves?
  • Is that the same person as the one who sneaks in to dribble a few drops of wee by the toilet?
  • How toothbrushes just used to clean teeth are curiously dry on inspection.
  • Where my glasses are.
  • Who eats all the peanut butter.
  • Where the used up batteries come from.
  • Why the rest of the family suddenly lose their sense of smell just when Boy Three has filled his nappy.
  • What force makes all the radios tune magically in to Radio 5 when I leave the room for a while.
  • Why there is never any grown-up chocolate when I really need some.
  • What force impels people to make noise near me at either 7pm or 2pm on a weekday.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Win a Bounce 'n' Spin Zebra to celebrate a splendid idea for travelling families

It was busy at the airport. Between the garish shopfronts, holiday makers waited not so patiently for the instructions to change on the boards

"Help. Help me. Daddy, No, no. Help," screamed the toddler being hauled across the concourse by a harassed-looking woman.
Travellers unglued their gaze from the departure screens to stare at the child. Where was his father? What was that woman doing? Was he being abducted? Should they do something or tell someone?

"Help. I want my Daddy. Go 'way Mummy. Too busy. Help," continued my youngest son in his most carrying of voices. I was lugging him through the airport to find some lunch while the Panther of News was off on some luggage-based mission.

Only hours later I learned that in another terminal of the same airport, Fisher-Price were opening a shop and play area for kids up to school age. This is one of the best ideas I've heard in a mighty long time. 

I don't even begrudge F-P trying to sell as many toys as they can to struggling parents. Our recent trip - Glasgow to Salzburg via Gatwick - saw us spending a small fortune in plastic or sugar just in order to keep Boy Three from causing too much of mayhem or attracting the attention of the authorities. There were at least three versions of a certain red racing car purchased as well as numerous other bits of nonsense. It would have been excellent to take him somewhere he could try - at length - a toy before shelling out on it. 

To celebrate this marvellous innovation, open in Gatwick's South Terminal until October 28, Fisher Price have given me a Bounce 'n' Spin Zebra to give away as a prize. 

To enter, add a comment to this post before the end of August when I'll pick a winner at random. Follow my blog for a bonus second entry. 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Toasting the toaster.... bravo to Breville... and well done mum

And not a little respect to my mother, the Dowager Duchess of the Palace of Bundance...

It was lunch time at her place and her grandsons One, Two and Six were hungry again. "What can I feed them?" she asked perhaps a little concerned that at least two of them have locust-like appetites.

"Cheese?" I suggested and three pairs of ravenous eyes turned towards her. "Cheese, granny, oh yes."

"Toasted? Toasted cheese?"

Boys drooled their delight and the DD of the P of B dived into the back of a cupboard returning moments later clutching a proper old-school sandwich toaster. After some debate about how it worked - light on when it's ready or not - she vanished again. This time she came back clutching the instructions dated 1983.

That the toasties produced in the machine are just as good as they ever were 28 years ago is perhaps remarkable, but nothing like as noteworthy as being able to find the instructions!

UPDATE: We have invested the enormous sum of £10 in a new toasting machine and already it is bearing fruit - ok, toasties that get scoffed very enthusiastically.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Men Behaving Reasonably - sitcom women fight back

Do you remember Terry and June? Margo and Jerry? Victor Meldrew and Margaret? Of course you do...  Then there was Basil, Sybil and the rest...

It was the stuff of Saturday evenings on the sofa. The family gathered enjoying time together. Let's face it, there wasn't a choice then - if you didn't like what was on the wireless, then you were stuck with one of three channels on the telly.

I'm sure they were funny - I remember laughing. Out loud probably. But then I was still at school. Humour matures like an appreciation of gin. After all, my sons think Top Gear is hilarious, nearly as side-splitting as Harry Hill's TV Burp or You've Been Framed and they think the finest Tanqueray even smells too revolting to consider tasting.

But lately though I've sat through one or two sitcoms and found myself not laughing but suppressing a scream. Not, of course, that yelling at the telly is my job, normally I leave that to the Panther of News.

Repeatedly I find myself wanting to bellow at the sit-com wife: "What are you doing putting up with that man? He is taking you for granted - let him sort himself out for once."

I can't stand the pattern of a bumbling, foolish, selfish, vain or otherwise flawed main man making a mess that his long-suffering wife will merely smile indulgently at. "Ooooh Betty," simpered Frank Spencer - "the cat's done a whoopsie". You can bet your bottom dollar that Some Mother's Do Have 'Em's Betty was the one clearing up that whoopsie. 

OK, so maybe it's not that funny when you're over about 10, but is it really sexist?

I think so. You don't often get a long-suffering husband putting up with a feckless and irresponsible wife do you? Or at least not since the Butterflies family stopped hounding Wendy Craig for her crap cooking - and really we all knew they should have just made their own supper if they didn't like what she made. 

And these wives are constantly embarrassed by their husbands' antics, mortified and even compromised by them. Still, they grumble a bit, then carry on as usual.  

Men are allowed to take no responsibility, to be rubbish, to be unable to make an adequate fist of caring for his own children. They can't control their tempers, keep their jobs or even control their lust. (I'm thinking of you second-time-round Reggie Perrin and Whatsisname from 'Allo, 'Allo). Wives, mothers-in-laws and even daughters can be harpies only stopping short of hubble bubble toil and trouble, in which case the men are entirely entitled to frolic with someone more smiley and nubile. 

Men Behaving Badly was an entire show which failed to explain what Dorothy and Deborah saw in pillocks Gary and Tony. 

Please can we have some sitcoms where women don't have to behave like doormats or be treated sex objects. I know Men Behaving Decently doesn't have the same ring about it, but it might just catch on. How about One Foot in the Supermarket, about the man who does the shopping on the way home? 

Man About The House wouldn't be so remarkable while Steptoe and Daughter hardly worth a second glance and Outnumbered may eventually turn into Equal Opportunity.

This is a post inspired by Transatlantic Blonde's Feminist Friday series. She suggested TV as a topic this week.

So for her and any of our other friends brought up in the States, if you don't recognise the shows I'm talking about  - they are Family Guy only not a cartoon. And the ones that aren't are about Marge and Homer. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Giveaway: Real Body Cream tested on a toddler?

Testing team member on his way to work
I'm a sucker for smelly things in pretty pots, so when I was asked to review Real Bodycare's Real Body Cream I said "yes". I'm easy that way. 

They send me three dinky little pots and I had a quick sniff. Very nice, I thought and promptly put them down on my desk. Now, if you've seen my desk you'll know that could be an issue, seeing as how there is a great deal of stuff on here. However, I rarely lose things for all that long...

But then Boy Three got involved. One of his favourite games, when he's not lobbing things, is to post things. Currently this involves everything he can lay his hands on into the basket of his buggy via the hood. I like how his game clears my desk but I am somewhat challenged by what it does to my finding things stats. 

So, the three little tubs vanished for a while. Then I discovered them in the hunt for the stuff we'd need for holidays - so the tubs came with us to Austria. 

I tried hemp and shea (with bergamot essential oil first) and was very impressed. It smelled beautiful and really softened my skin. Apricot and shea with orange essential oil followed - lovely, but not quite niffy enough for my taste and lastly rosehip and shea with lavender essential oil, which was much lovelier than I had expected. 

However, my relationship with the rosehip and shea was somewhat shorter than I anticipated because Boy Three got hold of it. Within seconds he had emptied the little tub, some on his face, some in his eyes and the rest in his mouth. It's probably not a test that will catch on, but I can confirm that it doesn't irritate the skin and eyes of a two year old and, fairly obviously, tasted quite pleasant too. 

If you'd like a pot for yourself, I have a lovely big one to give away. Just leave a comment and tell me which flavour you want to try.

Monday, 1 August 2011

In the interests of balance... PR v journalism

I don't generally have much time for the type of blog post that says PR people are idiots because they don't understand bloggers. 

Bloggers, PRs, journalists and editors all do their thing for different reasons and different levels and forms of reward. Sometimes they have to deal with each other and a degree of understanding certainly helps for a successful outcome. 

I've done all of those things - on occasion all in the one week. You're right, this makes me something of a (new) media trollop, offering my favours to whoever takes my fancy at any particular moment. But that stops me from getting bored and enables me to feed my children. It also means I have seen the view from all sides of the fence, to stretch a metaphor.

But I don't believe there's a problem with this provided it's clear to all parties what the arrangement is. If I'm doing PR the client is paying me and I say so, if I'm blogging I make it clear what the deal is, as a journalist my copy is balanced and follows NUJ codes of conduct, and when editing decisions are made for the benefit of the reader but paid for by the proprietor. Oh and sometimes I do copy writing for which the client pays by the yard.

Today, though, I got an email from a PR person that troubled me. It said it was looking for someone to write a feature article of 700 to 1000 words about a proposed renewable energy development and then 'place' that article in the relevant regional and national press. 

I was a bit puzzled so asked for clarification. The PR agency was offering to pay me to write an article about the benefits (as far as they saw them) of their planned development and for me to somehow, using my contacts, get that article into the press. Hmmm. They said they'd get me local people who were keen on the project to interview. 

The PR person said: "We could just send out press releases but they might not get used. So we thought this would be a better approach."

Better how?

When I said that I didn't think I could place an article such as this because newspapers liked balance, she said: "It depends what you mean by balance."

I declined the PR lady's opportunity and wished her luck and hoped to think no more about it. 

However, I couldn't quite forget about it. I am troubled firstly that a PR agency would actually think this was an effective route to gaining publicity and secondly that a freelance journalist would take the money. 

I know times are hard, but if you take PR money to write something that you pretend is journalism, surely that is cheating. You either do one thing or the other - you can't do both at the same time. 

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