Monday, 28 November 2011

In the Twilight zone and wondering why it took me so long

The laddie is a vamp
Admittedly not first with the latest, but his weekend I watched the first of the Twilight movies... just to see what the fuss is all about, you understand. 

The Twilight films are a series of supernatural romances based on the books by Stephenie Mayer. They involve a vampire, played by Robert Pattinson, who has the hots (as much as anyone who isn't actually alive can get the hots) for a human played by Kristen Stewart. 

Sharp-eyed parents will have noticed Pattinson as doomed prefect Cedric Diggery in the Harry Potter films. Specialising as a far-too grown up school boy, at least Rob has an excuse as Edward Cullen in Twilight - he's 104.

And what is the fuss all about then? Well actually if you excuse Twilight a few moments of supernatural silliness it's a proper, simmering, slow-burn love story. Rob smolders with animal urgst - "I don't know if I'm strong enough to resist" and Kristen, well, she does a fine turn as a stroppy teen. That bit where Edward puts his arm around Bella Swan and everyone at school looks on is high-school romance in a nutshell. 

It's very sexy without there being any actual sex and the swelling soundtrack just adds to the intensity. And when movies are so often set in sunny blue-skied places, it was wonderful to see the mist-and-pine moodiness of Washington State. I've been there and it really is like that although I don't remember any blood-sucking creatures shinning up trees at top speed or playing baseball in the thunder. 

I do have a few questions: 

  • Carlisle Cullen is a doctor, surely he can get his hands on an almost plentiful supply of blood, can't he?
  • If it's so hard for the vamp family to restrain themselves over a drop of the red stuff, how can he manage in a hospital?
  • Doesn't a diet of only blood make you terribly constipated and wouldn't that account for Edward's miserable face most of the time?
  • Why do you have to keep on repeating high school when you've been 87 times? 

Come on, Twihards help me out here. I feel a serious Edward Cullen fixation coming on, but if I'm going to invest in the New Moon DVD and work my way up to the one that's on at the pictures, I need some answers. 

PS, before he asks, I'd like to point out that in some lights the Panther of News and Robert Pattinson are virtually indistinguishable. And, ask yourself, have you ever seen them in the same room?

Friday, 25 November 2011

The pitfalls of my new exercise regime

I'm making a bit of an effort to get rid of a few pounds at the moment. Kind of like the kids clearing out their cupboards in anticipation of a festive haul... but I'm making a little space in my trousers. Hopefully.

I seen unable to apply myself to biggish chunks of exercise. During the day, when the youngest boy is in expensive childcare, it is too frivolous to spend too much of the time leaping about and sweating when I could be earning money. Evenings are difficult too as I'm delighted to expend all my energy on three boys and one husband.

And so I've decided to try to jam little bits of exercise into small slack corners of time - five minutes here, three minutes there. If you think about it, smokers will leave their desks/microscopes/machines/whatever for a few moments several times a day without reducing their output much. And actually, if you discount the drastically toxic effect of nicotine, getting a leg stretch and some, ahem, fresh air once in a while is a good thing.

I toyed with the idea of creating the Fag Break Fitness System where you dashed out for as long as it would take to smoke a tab as often as a 20-a-day addict would do. And in the interests of variety the FBFS moments could include a go on the Wii Fit (no good for me unless there is a nine-year-old boy handy to set it up), a few weights, some yoga, a dance, running on the spot, a fast bike ride or - and here's the point of this post - a boing on the trampoline. 

I will avoid the usual comments about pelvic floors and simply advise practice at the bounce-clench or clench-bounce if we're being pedantic. 

So there I was the middle of one cool, clear November morning giving it laldy (it's a technical term) on the trampoline in the garden. And apart from the people next door, who I'd seen going out, no one really overlooks our garden, so I was free to leap inhibited. Bear in mind our trampoline makes a noise like an ancient bedstead in a rented student flat during freshers week.

Then I saw it. A ladder, end first coming round the corner of the house. Bounce, bounce. It took a couple of jumps to register what it meant by which time the young window cleaner was standing there watching, a look of incomprehension followed by horror on his slim face. For a moment it was as if he'd forgotten what his chamois and steps were for.

"Morning," I yelled, bouncing on just to show I wasn't embarrassed. 

"Er," he said, looking at his bucket and remembering what he was doing.

"Um," I couldn't pretend any longer. "I'll leave you to it," and I clambered down, rushed inside and hid in a room with no windows. 

So there you have it: A heath warning for the Fag Break Fitness System. Getting caught can seriously harm your serenity.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver 
published by Atlantic Monthly Press

Monday, 21 November 2011

Should Aspie kids be made to join in?

Does your child join in? Do you have to make them take part or do they go willingly?

My son is 12 and over the years we've been to drama (until the teacher moved), Beavers and Cubs (some reluctance), Scouts (until he refused point-blank), swimming (happily), yoga (happy at first), and one our two other short- lived attempts at 'activities'.

But mostly I get the feeling my boy would happily sit at home and build things out of Lego our play a game. Should I be coaxing and cajoling him out of the house - or is there little point?

This week I was at a coffee morning organised by the Renfrewshire autism outreach support team - both of them. They had asked a mum whose son is now 15 to tell her story and answer questions.

Her son was diagnosed at seven with Asperger's and dyspraxia. To help him physically she took him to a special needs gym classes in Glasgow. She took him, with much nagging and persuading for the first few years until he started to enjoy himself. Now he is in the national squad and himself volunteers in the running of the club.

Marvellous. His mum told how she spent long hours talking him to the club, helping him train as he sobbed, forcing him to take part when he was desperate not to. She, unsurprisingly, is evangelical and thinks all kids should be make to take part. She tell the tale of how her boy was drilled, in tears, on his bike until he could ride.

I felt guilty that my efforts are puny in comparison. My boy doesn't do bikes and I don't make him. He doesn't like sport and I really don't think I've the stomach for insisting in the face of real distress. I also don't think the lack of a cycling proficiency test certificate will hold him back in life.

In some respects I have sympathy, I can ride a bike but until very recently I didn't. I'm hated sport at school. Hockey was horrible. 

Another mum told how she drove her son to scout camps, took him home to his own bed then brought him back in the morning over several days.

My boy goes cheerfully to youth club once a month, he took part in the school's historic film club for the few weeks it ran. He did say he might like to join a drama group again so I'm going to try to find him one. Is it enough? Should I be trying harder? Does it matter?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Blogging for happiness: there's more to writing a book than writing a book

So that's it. My book Blogging for Happiness is at the printers, nine months our so after the idea was conceived. It would be really easy to draw parallels to gestation - mood swings, good cravings, late nights, early mornings, inconvenience, intense emotions and a much anticipated baby.

But that's not it. Apart from the baby at the end, pregnancy has nothing to commend it and I am delighted that I'm never, ever doing it again. On the other hand, writing a book was very satisfying and actually quite fun in parts. And if anyone likes this one I'd very much like to do it again.

As with pregnancy, book writing isn't all that much like you think it's going to be. Here are some of the things I've learned over the past few months.

There's more to writing a book than writing a book. When I typed "the end" on the last page after some 50,000 words way back in June, I fondly imagined that was me done. It was not, there were a couple of revisions, proofs to read, covers to choose and an index to compile.

Writing a lot makes reading difficult. I'm used to writing but this one took me by surprise. The more I wrote the less I could relax and enjoy reading for fun. Weird.

Indexing is very satisfying. Who knew? 

It takes about a week to get over the buzz of going on to amazon and searching your own name. 

There is a sensible way to deal with someone calling you "inspiring". And that's to smile and say "thank you", but the reality is the strongest urge is to snort coffee over your keyboard and snigger.

Having real people reading your real book is scarier than you'd think. Certainly more scary than having people read other stuff I've written, which they do quite a lot of the time.

Press releases can take you by surprise. I write press releases, I read them and I ignore them. Never before have I been the subject of one. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Red Rover, Red Rover - did this game win us over?

Was the Red Rover game by Mattel a boy's best friend or a pitiful pooch?

The game is very simple, it's a talking dog that asks for certain colours, numbers or shapes of bone. Players need to find them and stick them in the dog's mouth. 

There are two levels, one where the dog asks for colours and a slightly more complex one where the dog wants shapes and numbers. Mattel recommend it for children aged three and over. Boy Three is two and a half, but he was very taken with the talking dog and the fact the bones fit in the dog's backpack. Boy Two very patiently played with him and it is an excellent game for children of different ages.

So, the review:

How irritiating is this game? Lord knows we don't need anything else that talks in this house, but as speaking toys go, this one isn't the worst by a long chalk.

Battery bind? It does take three AA batteries, but isn't too hungry. The first set I put in are still going strong. 

Mummy feelgood (aka how educational is it?) It rates pretty highly because it reinforces colours, shapes and numbers. Also it's pretty good for teaching turn taking and game rules.

Will it break? Ours hasn't yet and I have three not careful children and hard floors. 

Best bit? The bones go in the backpack so it's less likely to lose the pieces. If I was empress, then I'd make a law that all games and toys had to be self contained in all their parts.

Worst bit? The nose button isn't so easy to push sometimes it takes a couple of goes. A more positive action would be better.  

Is it worth £19.99? Probably, both as a buy it for yourself and as a present. 

Disclosure: we were set a Red Rover game to review.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Grown up women will clean up in the I'm A Celeb jungle

Lorraine Chase
I spent today with my chums at and had a bit of fun writing about this year's I'm A Celeb crop. I think this will be the year of the Old Bird.

So it’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here time again. Are we in for the usual round of gleefully watching stars vomiting as they do revolting things and get stroppy as the going gets tough?

Of course, there’ll be some of that, but, this year, I think it’s going to be different. You see, 2011 is going to be the Year of The Old Bird.

This time producers have bucked the trend of mixing glamourous young things in the hope of creating some sexual chemistry and sprinkling in a couple of seniors to have someone to do the cooking. Let’s face it, the world doesn’t need another Katie Price and Peter Andre moment.

Obviously there is still one babe, Jessica Jane Clements, who will look amazing in a bikini, they would be breaking TV law to miss her out. But otherwise the stars of this years show are going to be the mature women – Hart to Hart legend Stefanie Powers, Luton Airport star Lorraine Chase, athlete Fatima Whitbread and Benidorm actress Crissy Rock.

These old girls are tough – there will be nothing Ant and Dec can chuck at them that will trouble them in the slightest. In fact, I’m prepared to make a prediction: their utter domination of the show will lead to a change in the way the world views more mature women. By Christmas governments will crumble to be replaced by rod-of-iron grandmothers.  By Easter older women in industry will be dashing through the glass ceiling, having cleaned it on the way, and this time next year statistics will reveal that the post-menopausal will earn more than bankers. Reading glasses will be the new killer heels, and air conditioning will be turned up everywhere because “of course it’s hot in here”.

The rest of this article is on the STV website.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

X Factor is the new Sunday lunch

Apparently watching telly on a Saturday night is the new Sunday lunch. Or at least M&S say so and thats about as official as it gets in some circles.

That means we are having a more meaningful and memorable bonding time with one-sided yelling at Louis Welsh than gathering around a roast dinner. 

And, actually, when I stop to think about it, that's how it goes in this house. We can't really be bothered with stuffing things up a chicken's cavity on a Sunday morning thus are far more likely to be in a family huddle over a pizza the previous evening. 

We were doing it long before M&S told the middle classes it was a cool thing to do. 

Does that make us trend setters? 

If so - try these on for size:

Dust is the new housework

Flats are the new heels

Twitter is the new meaningful conversation

Aldi/Lidl is the new M&S/Waitrose

Trampoline in the garden is the new going to the gym

DIY is the new paying for it

Early nights are the new rock and roll

Putting on a jumper is the new turning the heating up

Portfolio career is the new smashing the glass ceiling

Wearing trousers is the new waxing

Putting on specs is the new squinting 

Sneaking off and hiding from the kids is the new educational play
Sofa surfing brothers

Friday, 11 November 2011

Take a moment, please

pic: Luckynick @ Dreamstime

Kelly, aka Domesticgoddessque, has hosted a series of guest posts about Remembrance Day. They are an arresting and thoughful collection of posts. I urge you to take a few moments to visit and read them this morning. 
Here is mine:
They shall not grow old…
 They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
From For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

As far back as I could remember I had stood somewhere cold as the quiet fell. The only sound the creaking of toes flexed in polished shoes and distant traffic.
Dad was in the TA for years and so we turned out to watch the seeming interminable laying of wreaths. Then at school, the same thing only the ranks were more restless.
So, in a way, it wasn’t that significant, just something you did in November.
The moment I got it, wasn’t  the 11th hour, nor the 11th day and I’m not even sure it was the 11th month.  It was in the chapel at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst the morning of the day of my brother’s passing out ceremony.
I was so proud of my brother and the day was full of promise. A bit of ceremony as only the British Army knows how, and later the ball, the frock, the fun.
Then I looked around.
The walls of The Royal Memorial Chapel are covered with mention of young men and women, like my brother and his colleagues. Only they had died in places like the Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and the Gulf.
Full of life, humour and youth they had gone to work, but not come home.
We will remember them.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

You know you're a blogger when...

This morning I found myself standing at the kitchen sink. Three inches of cold scummy water glinted in the sunlight. Congealed grease had set like the skin of a lizard rippling  between waterlogged crust island.

So, what what was my instinctive response?

Tip the nasty mess out and reclaim shiny stainless steel with hot blasts and soap?

Or leave it to answer the siren call of inbox?


To find my camera to capture the interesting colours on the slime. Yes, blogging about how pretty my slutty housekeeping was turning out was more tempting than restoring some hygiene or doing some paid work.

I realise that it's probably only one of the ways to tell you are a blogger.

Here are some others.

You know you're a blogger when you tell the entire internet things your husband doesn't even know.

You know you're a blogger when your husband communicates in search terms he knows you'll find on analytics.

You know you're a blogger when you start telling friends what you've been doing and they say: "Yes, I already know."

You know you're a blogger when you regularly get invited to events hundreds of miles away that you probably wouldn't fancy going to if they were next door.

You know you're a blogger when the postie thinks you have a serious retail therapy habit during review season.

You know you're a blogger when the upside of something going wrong is juicy blog fodder.

And today's offering - you know you're a blogger when someone offers you money to make a video reviewing a sex toy.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sticking point

At the moment everything in my house is sticky. Boy Three is exploring drinking vessels. He is combining this with experiments about the properties of various liquids and courageous charting of all quarters of his home.

Consequently, many of the most unexpected places are horribly adhesive. My steering wheel, the keyboard, my hair, my shoes, something in my pocket, coins in my purse and, shudderingly, the toilet seat.

So, my plea to anyone who might care is for a team of hygiene pixies to go before me with a legion of well-wrung winged cloths.

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