Thursday, 27 September 2012

The grumblings of Adventure Ted.

Last Tuesday boy three brought Adventure Ted home from nursery. This was a very exciting event. 

Ted is a slightly grubby teddy bear wearing ill-fitting shorts and a slightly sneery expression. The idea, the nursery ladies said, was that he would spend the week with us, write his diary and come back to nursery the following week for another child to take home.

Ok then.

Later I unpacked Ted's luggage - a backpack with a spare pair of shorts, an ID card and his diary. 

The diary. Ah yes.

Ted had already been to four homes before our. Lucky Ted. 

According to his dairy - written in his really neat (if inconsistent) handwriting he had had a wonderful time doing educational things and being cherished.  

How marvellous. I wonder what will happen at the Palace of Bundance. 

Here's what Adventure Ted's diary really should have said:

Day 1

Arrived at Boy Three's house to find it noisy - much noisier than nursery. There are two big brothers, unimaginatively called One and Two. They are yelling that Boy Three has once again come in and piddled all over the floor. He never does that at nursery, you know. Very nearly got my fur wet. If Boy Three hadn't kicked me I'd have got soaked. Nasty. I'm not sure I'm going to like it here. 

Day 2

I don't think Boy Three quite gets it. I'm the guest, he's supposed to be looking after me, giving me the good stuff. It was all going so well last night, I got propped up to listen to some carefully chosen stories and then tucked into bed all warm and cosy, until the middle of the night at least. Suddenly I find myself hurled across the room and, when I finally work out what happened, I find Boy Three isn't here any more. Where's the little so-and-so gone? He's only pushed off into his parent's bed leaving me all cold and alone. There's also a faint smell of wee here too. 

Day 3

Not much of an adventure today - I get taken to the dump. Marvellous. I thought they were going to fling me in the skip at one point. No, only thought it would be good to get some interesting photos. Other families take me to the Science Centre or the petting zoo, this lot? No chance. I'll be lucky if I get a spin round Morrison's while I'm here. 

Day 4

I'm getting a bit fed up with Boy Three's attitude. To be fair, the mother is making a bit of an effort. "Let's get Adventure Ted some supper, what would he like?" That kind of thing. Only Boy Three is a right smart arse and replies "Adventure Ted can't eat any supper, his mouth doesn't open because he's a toy." Bloody does. Later she put a bike helmet on me - not a good look, love. But she suggests a spin on Boy Three's new scooter. Boy Three grabs me, turns me upside down and pulls at my legs. "Look," he yells. "Adventure Ted can't scoot his legs are too short and he doesn't have any knees."

Day 5

They know I'm not supposed to get wet. It says so quite clearly in my letter of introduction. I'm supposed to be kept safe and clean. But these people are idiots. Why else would they put me on the kitchen counter when that small buffoon Boy Three is having his juice. When I say having his juice, I mean slurping and spilling his juice and then demanding some more. The fur around my legs was really rather sticky until the mother put me under the tap. I was mortified. Still, things looked up when they all went out and left the TV on - In The Night Garden, my favourite. Upsy Daisy, she'd get it. Oh yes. For a while I was a happier bear. I would even have had a smile on my face if it wasn't for the fact my arms are too short and stick out at right angles.

Day 6

I know they say be careful what you wish for, but I hadn't really grasped what it meant until today. To be frank I was bored. Stuck at home watching the mother walking backwards and forwards between her desk, the fridge and the kettle was getting pretty tedious. Yawn. Boy Three hadn't bothered to leave the telly on for me and the mother wouldn't lend me her iPad. Just when I thought I couldn't stand it any longer One and Two came home shouting. Then they decided a game of catch the bear was just what they needed. Then Boy Three comes in and puts me on the naughty step - or at least tries to. He gets very cross with me because I won't bend - I don't mean strength of character, I mean I haven't got any joints. With one thing or another, I have never been more ruffled in my life.

Day 7

Thank Paddington it's my last day. The father - apparently doing something called newzediting has been busy this week (apart from the momentous outing to the recycling centre) - but now he's writing stuff in my diary. What tosh! All about having fun and learning stuff. How much I enjoyed Tree Fu Tom, just shows what he knows. Anyhow, it's back to nursery for me and hopefully I'll get a nice, wholesome family with kind children and proper parents next time. 

Review: Splats boots for puddle jumping.



It seems Boy Three is, indeed, my son. He has new boots and he's very excited about them. So excited, in fact, that I couldn't get him to stand still long enough to take a picture of him in them. 

Instead, he was intent on throwing Tree Fu Tom moves and generally cavorting around the kitchen. 

In the end, I had to resort to making him stand on a stool just so I could get a picture. 

The reason - he was wearing his new Splats. Splats are the more comfortable wearable alternative to sweaty, squeaky wellies for youngsters who love to jump in puddles. They could be made for him. 

His pair are in Retro Red and he is very pleased with them. 

According to the blurb, they are strong, flexible and waterproof. They have non-slip souls and a reflective trim. There is a Velcro strap to afford a comfortable fit. 

However, for both Boy Three and I the most important thing is that they are blooming gorgeous. Sadly for me, they don't go bigger than a size 1.

They are generously sized and slipped easily onto Boy Three's chunky feet. They have enough give to go on if they are slightly damp, unlike wellies. Equally there's plenty of space for socks and the fit should avoid the curse of the dreaded welly sock. 




Splats RRP is £38 and they are available online or at John Lewis.

Anchor Cooking Challange - a moo-ving experience


Baking has become quite a big thing in our house. Boy One has taken up the hobby of baking with huge enthusiasm. The kind of enthusiasm only an Aspie can muster. 

However, it also transpires that, in the main, he's pretty good at it.

So when I was offered the chance to help promote the brand new Anchor Rewards Club with a spot of blogging it was an easy decision to make. 

You want us to bake something using some of the fabulous Anchor Rewards Club kitchen wear and write about it? 

Um, OK. Where do we start?

We were sent a set of silicone cupcake cases - very useful as we never seem to have enough of these and a lovely cake tin. 

Boy One had decided to make "his usual" vanilla cupcake mixture. You'd think he'd been baking for decades rather than just six months! And then to decorate them as cows "because it's Anchor and they have cows on their adverts". 

Good idea. And here is the result. 




Boy One's Fabulous Cow Cupcakes

Ingredients

150g Anchor butter salted
150g icing sugar
150g self raising flour
2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 Grease 10 muffin cups and preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

2 Put all the ingredients into a bolw and beat with a hand-held electric beater until pale and creamy. 

3 Divide batter between the baking cups and bake for about 25 minutes until risen and just firm. Leave for five minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. 

I'd like to give instructions on how to ice and decorate them, however, Boy One says he made it up and won't share his secrets. I can reveal that it involved royal icing, marshmallows, sweeties and some other tasty stuff. 


I am working with Anchor to promote their brand new Rewards Club, find out how you can get some of their kitchenwear as well as more prizes at Anchor Rewards Club.

I was sent the kitchenwear for free and will be compensated for my time. 



Review: Mr Tumble Something Special toys

Mr Tumble languishing on the naughty step
"You are very, very bad. Go to the naughty step at once," Boy Three gave Mr Tumble a right talking too. 

I have no idea what Mr T had been up to, except that the way his nose lit up might suggest he's got a bottle of sherry or two in his spotty bag. 

I know Boy Three had the hump with Mr Tumble, but I was quite fond of him. He came to visit so we could inspect him.

He is part of a range of Something Special inspired toys made by Golden Bear. The toys continue Justin Fletcher's good work on the TV show and encourage exploration of the world and use of Makatron, the internationally recognised sign language. 

Here's what we were sent and what the blurb said:


Mr Tumble Activity Toy – Press Mr Tumble's tummy to hear six fun phrases and watch his nose magically light up, with an opening waistcoat, soft textured fabric and rattle to stimulate senses, he is the perfect Something Special companion.

What we thought: I loved this toy - it's cuddly and stimulating. At RRP £16.99 it's a good value toy that is likely to become a firm favourite. 

Pick n Match Pairs Game – With 36 different pairs featuring characters and icons from the show. The Something Special pick and match pairs game is great fun and promotes co-operative fun between children and their parents.

This is a really good set of cards for kids. Ideal for playing simple games with them that teach them all sorts of social rules. At £5.99 it is excellent value.

Mr Tumble Phone - Children can watch and listen to their favourite characters by inserting a one of three characters which will magically appear on the screen and watch them move and talk to them through the phone. When you press the button they will say different phrases which children will love to repeat and follow.

I was less impressed by the Mr Tumble phone. It isn't really very interesting and I suspect that, unless your child is a huge Mr T fan, they'll get a bit bored. It's £12.99 so still reasonably priced. 

In my book, Mr Tumble can do no wrong - he is the TV equivalent of eating broccoli and running about outside - these toys reflect those values.

Review: Hotter Jade extra wide boots

While mostly this time of year with its cold dampness is fairly depressing, I am always quite pleased to put my feet away in boots again. 

Perhaps it's just me, but they sort out the whole bottom of trouser dilemma and keep my feet warm. 

Bottom of trouser dilemma, for those who are more instinctively stylish, is that uncertain zone from mid calf to floor. Do you wear shoes, tights, sandals, socks, reveal ankle or trail hem on the ground? I don't know why, but I often get it wrong. 

So it's boot season again and boot season means a new crop of styles to ponder. 

Hotter sent me a pair of wide fitting Jade boots - rather confusingly in a colour called Peacock - to try out. 

They were a definite - oooh from the minute I opened the box. Happy feet. 

There is a zip at the ankle allowing wider feet to get past the sticking point easily. 

The sole is flexible and the one-inch (ish) heel avoids that totally flat shoe waddle. 

I've had mine for a week or so and worn them for several long days - including a bike ride - and they are very very comfy. The zip fitting means feet don't slip about in them like wellies. 

These boots are bright and comfy, yet stylish enough to lift your everyday school-run look. 

Get them from Hotter online or a Hotter shop. 


The Panther has a blog

Panther through the undergrowth.
My husband, the Panther of News, has been blogging. He's a bit ranty, but it would cheer his grumpy little heart if people went to read it. 

As well as being the Panther of News, he's also the Rantparrot, for reasons that must have seemed hilarious once but now I can't remember.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Technology - making life harder in so many ways.

Password misery, as funny as the Ikea clown
Two little things, that's all I had to do this evening. Tiny little two-minute jobs, easy peasy.

I needed to book some tickets to see Phantom of the Opera next month and to subscribe to a magazine on line. What could possibly go wrong?

First the tickets, by the way it's pricey to go to the theatre, isn't it?

Stalls, circle or balcony? £15 or £75. Ooh, you decide, but do it fast or the site will tell you that you've run out of time, again and again. Before you can say 'let's google a seating plan to see if the extra £10 is worth it' you're back to the beginning.


So after that, a relaxing read of a favourite magazine would be soothing, wouldn't it?

You'd have thought so. And having become the owner of an iPad recently enough for it still to be a novelty, I thought the digital version would be ideal.

Find magazine home page - simple. Click through to dead end - a doddle. Go back, read small writing, click again - no problem. Find app store, search for magazine, find it, remember app store pass word - download magazine to newsstand, a scoosh.

So far, so much more time consuming than going to the newsagent.

But the goal was in sight and I had already invested a chunk of evening. Anyhow it seemed it was just a case of clicking the 'buy now' button.

Or not. 

Suddenly I disappeared down the rabbit hole of misery that is signing into iTunes on a new device. Password forgotten obviously. How does anyone remember all of them?

Not to worry, I'll confirm it with my other email address. What was that then? Some time later I learn it is the Panther's email address and he's in the pub. He forwards the link to me.

Only, by then, too much time had passed and I was back to the beginning. So rather than draw the panther from his huddle I tried the 'answer the question you first thought of' option.

Right - what was your first concert? Easy - David Essex, Sands Centre Carlisle 1985-ish, though I may very well have said Siouxie Soux Aberdeen Capitol 1986, which is a much cooler option. It's obviously important to appear cool to a computer.

The other question asked where where I was on Jan 1, 2000.  I know where I was, but what did I actually say? I could have said Mum's house, Cumbria. The name of the house or the town. Which was it?

Anyhow, by the time I'd tried all permutations to no avail both iTunes and I had had enough and declared the game a Bogey for the night. Sigh. I just had to read an old-fashioned book. 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Is the tits off page three campaign a bust?

Observations from a former tabloid journalist who has breasts.


There's a new campaign to get the tits off page three of The Sun, details of it have crossed my desk several times in the past couple of days. It's nothing new, the arguments have trundled on since the first time The Sun showed a picture of a girl without her vest one, but this one does seem to have more momentum. 

Of course, The Sun isn't the only organ to show naked knockers. Among others, The Daily Star - where I worked for a couple of years - does too. 

I didn't meet any of the women who featured on page three, although I did write about them, putting words in their mouths from time to time. I do know they aren't exploited - they get well paid for their work and the pictures are, arguably, tasteful. If you've got great tits and a flat stomach, here are far, far more exploitative things they could be doing to earn a coin. 

During maternity leave for Boy Two I read the paper regularly and was doing so while breast feeding him. His big brother, then two and a half, sidled over, looked at me, looked at the paper open at page three, then pointed at the picture and said: "Mummy." Slightly cute, but then again...

Another time, I was meeting someone for lunch in a Glasgow pub and passing the time by reading my paper. Presently, I realised that several other customers, all men, were watching me looking at the page with the big photo of the boobs. It was a horrible feeling.

I have no idea whether men buy red-top tabloids because, with their news, sport and horoscope predictions, they get a glimpse of perky bosoms. Perhaps once, they did. These days, though, it's easy to get much more full-on flesh-showing pictures anywhere, even on your phone.

And supposing the boobs were banished, what then? Do you think that the images of women that appear in a newspaper would be selected on gender neutral values? Not on your nipples. Photos are often selected for their sexiness - the show of curves, cleavage or bottom. Whole stories stand or fall on the relative attractiveness of the person they are about.

The other factor in this equation is the utter truculence of a newspaper man or women who is being told what to do. They hate it. Journalists believe they know better and hell mend anyone who tries to suggest otherwise. 

Tabloidpersons are, perhaps, particularly prickly. They know what The Reader wants, don't they? They also know - I remember it well - that it becomes extraordinarily tiresome to face the regular criticism by, frequently, those who have never read a copy of the paper in their lives. 

Inasmuch as you would be badly placed to pass judgement on Lanarkshire or Leeds if you'd never been there, not having read the paper should disqualify you from comment. 

And yet. And yet.

It would be rather excellent if breasts lost their special cachet and were treated with the same so-what as an elbow or a nostril. I used to have really large breasts and one of the reasons I had an operation to reduce them was that I hated the fact that utter strangers felt that it was OK to comment on them. Or even, oddly, to point out to me that they were big. 

Then I learned from flat-chested chums that their lot was just as bad. Blokes consider it's hunky dory to make ironing board and fried egg jokes and expect the recipient to find them funny. 

If I thought that we could reduce the female breast - after all, hardly a rare object - to something much more ordinary by banning page three pictures, I'd be at the head of the campaign. Sadly, I think that if it helps, it'll only be by the smallest of margins.

Still, though, the world has changed a lot since 1970 when the first busty bare babe bounced into The Sun. Of course, it's time for a change. I'm just not sure that this campaign will achieve it. 














Tuesday, 18 September 2012

It's raining early signs of sexism

Proving that boys do sing
Boy Three is something of a music fan. From behind me in the car he will yell his approval or otherwise of whatever choons Radio Two is pumping out on our journey to nursery.

He often asks who's doing the singing. Perhaps he compares notes with his little chums over snack and juice.

This time we were rolling along to the sound of It's Raining Men by The Weather Girls.

"Who's that singing?" he said.

"The weather Girls...  It's raining men, hallelujah," I warbled.

"But girls don't sing," he said.

"What?" I considered screeching to a halt.

"Girls don't sing," he was very definate.

"Yes they do. I just did," I thought I'd try some logic before we got into gender politics.

"Ok, girls who don't live in our house don't sing," I think he meant girls who aren't his mother.

"Why not?" 

"Girls are rubbish," this time I did screech to a halt, or stopped with as much of a screech as I could muster from 25pmh on a back road. 

"Girls are not rubbish, and anyway I'm a girl," I was shocked.

"Other girls," he said.

"Why? What's rubbish about girls?" I tried not to get shrill.

This time he paused, picking his nose and thinking.

"Girls don't wear red t-shirts?"

"Right."

"They like pink. That's why they're rubbish."

What followed was The Lecture. Probably the first of many. 

I was dismayed by this exchange. He's only three, where did this idea come from? OK he lives in a house dominated by boys and but, rest assured, they don't get away with sexism of any kind. And I am setting the most egalitarian example I can, whenever I can.

Sure, there's pink at home but still...

How can I teach my boy that girls aren't rubbish... singing or otherwise?



Monday, 17 September 2012

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Saturday is caption day....


Boy Three is certainly a look-before-you-leaper. Not one for planning an exit strategy, this was where he got to yesterday. Obviously my first thought was to take a picture. 

What caption should this picture have?

Break From the Routine This Lunchtime




A word from a sponsor:

Packing a lunchbox for a child surely requires a lot of creativity and variety on the parent’s side; the contents of the lunchbox should not just be tasty and nutritious, but it must also appeal to the kids, especially when they open their lunch boxes at school. With hardly any time to experiment with the lunch menu during the weekdays, parents do go with a standard set of food items such as sandwiches and fruits, biscuits and baked food variants to make the lunch enjoyable. Most parents do not experiment with the menu for primarily two reasons: i) They usually do not have time to cook up a variety of dishes, and ii) the parent might not be sure whether the kid would like the new dish or not. At the end of the day, it is important that the kids are happy with what they see in their lunchboxes.

Letting the kids decide their lunch menu and getting them to help prepare lunch may be a surprise for them. Parents can plan on breaking from the lunchtime routine on weekends and holidays by taking kids to the grocery store to shop for their veggies and fruits, decide on a recipe, experiment with the ingredients of a known recipe or simply help in the kitchen.

While the older kids battle it out with the more elaborate preparations such as pizzas, pies and stews; younger ones can safely go ahead and experiment with salads and sandwiches, choosing the mix of vegetables, fruits or fillings that they love to eat, generously using their favourite Anchor spreadable on the sandwiches and Anchor Squirty Cream with fruit salads.

Very young kids can handle ingredients, shred lettuce and grease pans, while those above five years can use blunt tools to shape food or cut cheese or
Anchor butter, garnish and measure ingredients. Children above ten under  supervision can manage simple recipes, handle kitchen tools, shred vegetables, and correctly identify ingredients. Teenagers easily learn, improvise and cook their own food, ably assisting parents with the cooking process.

This content was provided by Anchor Dairy but I took the pretty picture.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Things I want my sons to know...

My sons learning team destruction
Always give your spouse birthday presents in bed. 
This rather baffling bit of advice is number 21 of 25 things the Good Men's Project thinks a son should learn. Excuse me? What difference does it make where you give a present, as long as an appropriate and timely?

In fact, surely it would be better if one's son knew how to take a hint. I want my son to know how to be aware of the subtle, and not so subtle, clues a spouse leaves to what they want surprised by. Oh, and I'd want my son to know it's wise to set up some kind of alert so he knows when to start his sneaky observations.

I'm sure the Men are Good and their hearts probably in the right place, but some of their suggestions are cobblers.

For example, number three A guy who hugs a lot is comfortable in his own skin. No he isn't, he's drunk. I'd like my son to know how to avoid any party's inevitable piss-head. 

On the face of it, number seven, Crank up the tunes when you have to clean the house, seems wise. But actually it suggest you don't clean the house unless you have to. I want my sons to know how and when to keep their homes properly without being nagged into it, by spouse or squalor.

Or the homophobic If you like guys, I will fight for your ability to have equal rights in every way. The subtext is if you don't like guys it's OK to leave the gays to inequality and bigotry. 

And some of them are down-right dangerous. Take number 20, Radical honesty will get you very far in this world. Most people don't have the guts to speak their mind, regardless of the consequences. Speaking the truth is all very well - especially to oneself, but radical honesty... not so. It means saying it how you see it, whatever. So "yes, your bum looks huge in that", "hello boss, your halitosis is raging today" and  "no darling, it's not you I think about when I'm having a wank" are how it will go. I want my sons to know that understanding the truth is always a good idea, but speaking it isn't.

In at 15, There is nothing wrong with a Cuban cigar once in a while. Um, doesn't matter how expensive or Cuban it is, it's still carcinogenic. I want my sons to know that smoking is a mugs' game, whatever way you do it. 

There are lots of other dubious ones swinging from the slightly nauseating Look deeply into the eyes of the one you are falling for to get a glimpse of his or her soul, to the slap-worth Read poetry. Looking deeply into someone's eyes shows you, erm, their eyes and, sure, read poetry but only if you like it. 

My list of things I want my sons to know would also include:

If you are worrying about something, ask yourself if it will matter in a week, a year, a decade and decide accordingly.

Be polite. Rudeness is very unattractive and has a way of coming back to haunt you. 

Don't try to impress the cool guys, they won't always be cool. 

Take responsibility for yourself, no one else will do it quite as well. 

Keep yourself clean and tidy. Grunge might look great, but it smells horrible. 

When you're on a night out, keep your money for your taxi home and your door key somewhere you won't lose them. 

Oh and look after your mother, you don't know when you're going to need her... but you will. 

What do you want your sons to know?





Review: Rivetz Racer card sculpture

Rivetz Racer
Boy Three has a go

Boy One, who, as he keeps telling me, is nearly 13, loves building things. He is very keen on Lego, quite happy with Airfix and, to my delight, my go-to child for assembling home-assembly items. 

Therefore he got first dibs on the Rivitz Racer paper sculpture kit. And, frankly, it's not noisy enough to attract either of his brothers' attention. 

What's in the box? Sheets of strengthened card, that you pop out and a rivetz gun. Oh, and instructions and plastic rivetz. 
Rivetz Racer
Ta-da, the finished racer

How does it work? Follow the instructions and pop the bits together using the gun and rivets. 

Sounds fiddly. It was. Boy One, usually pretty good at fiddly, got quite frustrated with it. I think a younger child would probably need some help. 
Rivetz Racer
A Boy, the Car and a pile of bits

What did we like? It was very satisfying to see flat sheets turn into a model. The paper wasn't really paper, more like plastic so it was very strong. I had worried that it would tear and there would be weeping and wailing, this wasn't the case at all. Also the rivets hold quite firmly, but you can re-do them if necessary - and it will be necessary. 

What did we like less? Look at the help of off-cuts and the floor was covered with little discs too. On the other hand, there's no glue or other sticky stuff. Also, as Boy Three found out once his big brother had completed it, the finished thing is a model and doesn't 'do' anything. 

Who is it good for? Children who like building things and have some patience. Parents who also have patience. This is great fun, but not a 'this will keep them busy while we do something else' kind of toy. Probably quite a good toy to do at granny's because there isn't any lasting mess. It's supposed to be for kids aged between six and 12, I'd say a six year old would need an awful lot of help to do this, so be prepared. 

Is it worth it? At around £12, then yes it probably is. It provides quite a lot of entertainment for the money. 




Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Pink stinks but it's also very useful - everyday inconsistencies

Ending the Freshnlo Pedal for Scotland in pink
All the pretty colours
I hate glitter ghettos, full of those nasty pinky girly things all sparkles and lace. Yuk. 

I've talked before about how reducing our female children's choices to pink or purple will reflect in reducing all their other choices. Imagine if a girl could only be a firefighter if the helmet was a pretty colour

How can we change the world, save lives and do other important stuff if we can only do dressed in the same shade as a freshly cooked lobster? It's clearly rubbish. Matter closed.

Then I bought myself a bike jacket, just in time to do the Freshnlo Pedal for Scotland. I chose fluorescent (obviously wise for visibility) pink - not the yellow, green or silver on neighbouring hangers, but pink. 

I had also recently bought a pink cover for my iPad (US Army- approved according to the blurb), a pink rubber skin for my phone and a purply pink trimmed case for my camera. My sock drawer is full of salmon and fuchsia shades and my favourite pair of gloves couldn't be rosier if they tried. 

The reason for this fixation with the colours of blush, berry and beery nose is self preservation. Well not exactly self preservation, but stuff preservation. 

There are four males in this house, and me. And all of them will help themselves to my stuff willy-nilly. Thereafter the stuff will be, at best, elsewhere, but more often lost, broken, grubby or otherwise sullied. 

I have discovered that by wrapping the most attractive bits of stuff in a force-field of femininity it keeps them a bit safer.

Three out of four of my male house-mates wouldn't be seen dead anywhere near lady-like hues, because they are FOR GIRLS. The fourth house-mate (Boy Three) is young enough not to care about such distinctions as he tears through stuff with locust-like dedication, but he is already learning.

It raises one big question: Given that I heartily oppose the pinkification of little girls, is it OK to use the same colour apartheid for my own benefit?






Monday, 10 September 2012

Pedal for Scotland: things I learned

Last minute adjustments to the banner

Made it! 

Wheely busy at the People's Palace

Waiting for the off

Finally we can see the start
Today I know how Mr Tumnus feels. The bottom half of my body feels rather like it belongs to another creature. 

I haven't found a magic portal to another world - our wardrobes are far too full to get through. No. Yesterday, along with more than 9,000 others, I took part in the Freshnlo Pedal For Scotland (AKA the longest bike ride I've ever done). It took us 47 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh.

Here's what I learned. 

Your mother is sometimes right. She suggested I might need padded knickers, and I did. 

Cycling with a crowd takes a bit of adjustment. It was only when we were in the thick of it that I realised that I had never been cycling with more than one other person at a time. And even then It was quite hard to avoid collisions. Add a few hundred more and you have to raise your game fairly fast. 

The early start you first thought of probably isn't early enough. We met up at 8am but still weren't over the start line until nearly 10am. My calculations didn't consider those 9,000 others. 

A few inches can make all the difference. Ileene, who is wise in the ways of cycling, adjusted my bike seat and what a difference. 

Scotland is a country of contrasts. Our route took us through streets of buildings with steel sheets for windows as well as wide ways lined with well-groomed mansions. 

City planners make questionable decisions. Some of those well-groomed mansions were, to say the least, architecturally 'interesting'. 

Nanaimo is a city in Canada. It's a city where the local delicacy is the eponymous bar - a delight of chocolate, creamy stuff and coconut. Thanks Debbie, I'd love the recipe. 

Social media and cycling don't mix. You can't tweet or Facebook very well when you're concentrating on not falling off.

Edinburgh has some fantastic cycle routes. People of the Capital, you don't have much excuse for not getting on your bikes. 

47 miles is a long way, but not perhaps as long as you'd think. 

I am a cyclist. Not just a woman with a bike. 



Who's joining me next year?




Monday, 3 September 2012

Proof that children don't read the parenting books

Boys Two and Three didn't read the chapter on loving nature
and how educational historical role play is.
The theory of being an excellent parent is fairly straightforward. All you need to do, is follow the sage advice in one of those books, you know the ones, and all will be well. 

It's a bit like suggesting that all you need to do to lose weight is to eat less and move more. If it was that simple, we'd all be slinking around in our favourite clothes instead of passing them by in favour of something that fits. 

If it was that simple I wouldn't have to send an email to the Panther of News this morning containing this line: 

"Boy Three's sandals honk of pish, so you'll need to spray them liberally with Febreze or send him to nursery in his Crocs if that doesn't work."

Classy stuff, I know. 

The reason the three-year-old's footwear is so malodorous is that he has stubbornly refused to read any of the volumes on potty training. If he had he'd know that a, he should have got the hang of it and that b, emergency vehicle stickers are incentive enough for anyone. 

Then it struck me that I have come across lots of evidence that children are not paying attention to what the parenting experts are saying. 

For example:

They are supposed to be oblivious when you 'hide' courgette in tomato sauce. They are not. 

Equally, they are supposed to be so impressed by having their meal arranged into a smiley clown face or a tableau from a Cbeebies show that that they wolf down everything. They do not. 

They are supposed to follow when you set a good example of, say, the proper use of cutlery. They do not. 

Children with Asperger's are not supposed to tell lies, what with being literal an all. Not so, mine will refuse to grease a non-stick pan because it's, d'oh, non-stick, while lying about having done his homework. 

Getting them helping with cooking will make them want to try a wider variety of foodstuffs. Er, no, you just get a messier kitchen and later meals.

Involving them in cooking will also teach them stuff and enable them to help in household chores. Nope. Instead you will occasionally have to act fast to stop the house burning down. 

Keep them constantly exposed to fair, liberal and feminist notions and they will develop similar attitudes. How come then my kids' favourite programme is Top Gear?

Get them involved in household chores and they'll start to be more aware about cleaning up after themselves. Hahahahaha.

If you offer healthy balanced meals to your child, they will choose the right foods for them. No they won't, they'll learn to raid the fridge/ lick the butter/ steal biscuits. 

Make routine tasks a fun game as in "let's see who can pick up the most toys or sort out the odd socks the fastest". If they can spot a hidden courgette, you're not going to get away with this one. 

Alternatively take heed of the best bit of parenting advice I was ever given which is "this too will pass" and, by and large, eventually, it does. 

Meantime, keep hiding the courgettes.









Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Richard and Judy photo

Richard and Judy on a sofa
On the sofa with Richard and Judy
There are some things you don't want to inflict on your imagination, ever. Jeremy Clarkson as Christian 50 Shades,  Geri Halliwell and Russell Grant doing yoga, or Richard and Judy in any form of intimate act.

But then, weirdly, when presented with one of those images you just can't keep your eyes off it, train-crash style.

I know this because there is a picture 'out there' of R and J on the familiar setting of a sofa doing something very unfamiliar. Troubling doesn't begin to cover it. 

Now this image is a very good fake, not the real thing. An original does exist and, in any case, Judy would demand a much classier sofa than that. But, if like me, you dwell on the Internet at all, you've probably seen it all and know exactly what I'm talking about. You may even still be suffering unpleasant flashbacks.

Later, in a newspaper office I overheard a phone call. Someone claiming to be the photographer was offering the R&J image for sale. Not only was he professing to be the sleazy snapper but was claiming to have been an, erm, occupant of the sofa.

He alleged that the couple were paying other papers not to publish. 

What he failed to grasp, matters of taste and veracity aside, was that what people do in privacy is by-and-large their own business.

And, furthermore, if there was after all that still a story, the chances of it making the paper are utterly remote in these post Leveson days of media caution.

All of which is weird considering how many thousands of people have had the misfortune to see this doctored snap on their internet devices in the comfort of their own homes.




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