Monday, 31 December 2012

Ready for a new year - did we leave anyone in the old one?

A cup of sentiment and some ill-thought-out resolutions. Another new year is nearly upon us. Are you ready? 

Doesn't really matter - the Bells will chime whether you put your head under the pillow or elbow your way to the front of the crowd. We're moving into 2013, one way or the other. 

Only we can't all move on, not every year. Eventually we'll have to get off and say that this year - or that, or the other - is the year I get off and stop. For everything there is a season and all that...

And as we pass through into a new fresh year, ripe with potential, there's bound to be a burden of sadness for those not coming too. Those we left in the old year. 

It doesn't mean we're not excited about what we'll find in the next 12 months, it just means another farewell, perhaps unexpectedly sorrowful. That's all. 

Then, as Pete says, there's a time to laugh and a time to dance too.

See you on the other side and let's make 2013 the best yet. 

PS This post was going to start off as a consideration of the nonsense of the notion that to be bereaved around Christmas is somehow worse than any other time of the year. It doesn't matter what time of year you lose someone, the first festive season will still suck. 

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Just when you think you've got a plan...

The nativity sheep
So there I was staring the festive season squarely in its twinkly eye and making plans.

Way back in December I had a lovely selection box of nights out and Christmas gatherings lined up - I even knew what I was going to wear to each. 

Then a chill blast of mortality gusted through. The Panther's dad had died. And we stepped off the December express into the sidings of funerals and grief. The party clothes hung unworn in the wardrobe. 

Still, we managed a subdued but comfortable family feast and I made some more plans for the 'tween days. 

In the gap between one year and the next, while children played with their new toys and games, I was going to attend to mind, body and home. Yes. There was going to be a lot of yoga, some spring cleaning (followed by sessions on eBay), plus the luxury of reading and writing.

This would leave me renewed and ready to welcome another year. Only the lurghy had other ideas. 

First Boy Three went pale and started coughing. Poor chap wasn't well at all, sweating and shivering. 24 hours later I succumbed too. 

And that's it. I'm still in my PJs, nothing has been ticked off a single list. Somewhere on an optimistic afternoon a week or so ago I decided that this year I would run a 10K, write a book and, even, clean the car. They are still as far away as the moon. 

What of it? The entire world - or at least the portion of it that has anything to do with children - are dropping like plague victims, so we're nothing special. Bereavement isn't even mark us out - we've all got to go sometime.

It just goes to show that it doesn't matter what our plans our, life in some form will come and laugh at them. Maybe the lesson is about acceptance. In which case, pass me another segment of chocolate orange and let's see what's on telly.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Blogging For Happiness - the workshop

About a year ago Blogging For Happiness was published. My guide to the many ways blogging can bring benefit. 

For a while, I was quite 'job done, move one' about it. Pleased to have written a book but ready for then next thing. 

Then I met a woman, who read my book and came up with an idea. 

Mo Ferrington is a clinical hypnotherapist. She suggested that there might be more to be had from Blogging For Happiness and wondered if we couldn't run a workshop on the subject. 

So on Saturday, 26 January, in Bridge of Weir there will be the first Blogging For Happiness workshop. 

The blurb says: "Everyone has a book inside them and a blog is a great place to start. Come and meet the author of Blogging For Happiness who, with Mo Ferrington, is talking about the benefits of writing a blog."

Cost £9.50, booking essential. 

Do you fancy it? 

Blogging For Happiness - the workshop

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Review: Wonder World Soft Play Glasgow

No photos as they wouldn't let me take any.
"...too cold to play ball. So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all. So all we could do was to Sit! Sit! Sit! Sit! And we did not like it. Not one little bit...."

That was Boy Three and I at home one miserable afternoon just before Christmas. So before the Cat could arrive and hang up his hat we decided to seek a little excitement. 

Fortunately, Glasgow has a new place to go on a miserable afternoon. Hurrah. A new soft play called Wonder World opened its doors in Middlesex Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow. 

First impressions are very "wow". Floor to ceiling murals are impressive. 

Boy Three couldn't wait to get his shoes off and get going onto the soft play apparatus.

As he headed off into the matrix he posed for a moment so I could snap a photo on my phone. However, before I had time to click a member of staff appeared at my side and said: "No flash photography."


"No photos. They aren't allowed."

"There should have been a notice."

"We make announcements on the Tannoy quite often."


By which time Boy Three had vanished. Have you noticed that with soft play? It's impossible to keep an eye on your offspring and just when you start to feel rising panic as you fruitlessly scan the equipment you child turns up behind you. 

I tweeted @WonderWorld10 to ask why they have such a Draconian policy on photography. "We introduced the photo policy based on the feedback that some parents prefer it," came the reply. 

Maybe some do prefer it, but I think an absolute ban enforced with such enthusiasm is going to get a few backs up - not least mine. We parents don't like to be told what to do, particularly when there's no good reason for it. 

However, annoying photo incident apart, Boy Three and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours at Wonder World. 

We liked:

The food was good and homemade. 

There is a lot of interesting equipment to play on. 

It's big enough for grown ups to go with their kids - Boy Three and I spent far longer than I had anticipated exploring without either of us getting bored. 

It's warm and clean. 

There were plenty of attentive staff. 

We didn't get rushed out when our time was up. 

The balls that whizz up tubes. 

The space rocket mountain. 

Plenty of on-street parking.

We liked less: 

I couldn't find the code for the free wifi (Why not put it on the receipt?)

Inside the play equipment you can't hear what the Tannoy is saying. 

Slot machine cars - we've already paid to come in and bought food and drink. It's the soft play equivalent of sweeties at supermarket checkouts. 

The plastic hand grips on the space rocket mountain - hard on a soft body that's sliding down. (Why not run a couple of thick ropes down the front of it so more children can climb without getting stuck in a queue?)


In spite of the photography policy and the slot machine cars, we'll be back to Wonder World Soft Play for the good food and well thought-out play equipment. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

How to fail at fashion and social media all at once...

A bit of a turkey
Earlier this week I had an interview for some work... something interesting that would slot nicely into the portfolio career. 

I was all organised - I'd read as much background as I could find, printed out CVs as requested, put on makeup and dressed as a grown up. 

A bit like a grown-up. Dress with polo neck jersey underneath. Boots and scarf that co-ordinated. Nothing too flash or distracting. I was hoping to create an illusion of being professional and business like. 

As far as I could tell, the interview went well. As much as you ever know with these things. Lots of hand shaking and thank yous.

Then I left. As I left the building I realised that my polo neck was on the wrong way round. Not, I'll admit, a catastrophic fail, but maybe enough to put a huge dent into the shiny image of efficiency. And if they could see the manufacturer's details printed at my throat I might have tipped myself into the crazy-lady-let's-keep-smiling-and-she'll-go-away category. 

Oh well. Nothing I can do about it now. 

So I went home and tweeted about it. 

A little while later, considering the work and being curious, I looked for one of the interviewers on Twitter. There he was. Click. Follow.

Then. Oh. He had favourited my Tweet. The one where I told Twitter about my failure to get dressed properly. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, here is a cautionary tale. 

First of all, when you get dressed, don't be so busy blogging and tweeting that you don't have time to look in the mirror to check everything is on the right way. 

And secondly, if you do fail to put your clothes on properly, don't tell the world about it, especially if you made efforts to make sure your world contains one of the very people you don't want to know that you are incapable of successfully dressing like a grown up. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Hurry, hurry only a few hours to grab the perfect pant

Are you still struggling for inspiration for the man in your life? 

Not socks again, for pity’s sake. And nothing hobby related because you know it’s not really what he wants.

As you know I rail against sweeping sexist generalisations such as "men are rubbish" or "boys are smelly".

However, here's one I have found - over many year's experience - blokes do tend to get some rubbish stuff at Christmas. 

That's because they are notoriously difficult to get presents for (yes, I know, but it's true). They tend to buy the toys they want when they want them, they have all the kit they need for their hobbies and, often, they don't care about smelling nice. 

We've all faced the struggle to pick something, made a decision, bought and wrapped it, only to find it's still on the chest of drawers by the summer. 

Here are the worst offenders:

  • Hankies,
  • Navy blue and white stuff if he goes sailing,
  • Anything by Jamie Oliver (He wants Nigella),
  • Anything that hints at improvement (Gym membership),
  • Gimicky stuff with Bart Simpson, The Muppets or similar on them,
  • Anything that makes a fart noise – the only fart noise he likes is his own,
  • A Christmas jumper.

Well here’s something you can both benefit from – a lovely pant. has men’s undergarments on sale and there’s still time to order for the man in your life. 

Hmmm. It might be the Panther of New’s lucky year.

So rather than fobbing him off with golf tees, driving gloves or other old-before-his-time nonsense get him some underwear from 

This post was created in partnership with

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tiffany Rose: maternity frocks for special occasions

Sheree Murphy in
Tiffany Rose
Post in association with Tiffany Rose.

I know she is beautiful, has a devoted hero husband and pretty much anything she wants, but I feel a bit sorry for Kate Duchess of Cambridge. 

First of all, she's barely allowed to puke in private. Hospitalised for extreme morning sickness, the poor woman is now scrutinised more than usual wherever she goes. Does she look barfy? Ooh, she's a bit peaky. I don't know about you, but if I need to make a call on the big white telephone, I want to be alone, at home in my own bathroom. 

I was lucky not to get morning sickness too badly, but I did spend quite a lot of time feeling a bit bilious and that was bad enough. I wanted to burp and sigh and not have to go near food (or anything else with any kind of smell at all). Yet this woman's job is to smile politely in the face of all manner of odours and not look remotely queasy. Hats off to her, it's not easy.

Chaps - for the nearest similar thing, imagine having a vom-y hangover and pretending you don't but it goes on for days. 

Then the world insists on calling you the wrong name. She's not been Kate Middleton for a while now yet more search engine traffic hunts for that than just about anything else apart from Justin Bieber and One Direction. Still, the same thing happened to her late mother in law. She was Lady Di or Diana Spencer for years. 

Hopefully for Kate she'll start blooming soon - which is media speak for replacing eating with being sick as your preferred activity. But what'll happen then is the whole world will focus its gaze on the few inches around her navel watching for evidence of her growing uterus. 

I imagine though that she'll manage to dress her burgeoning figure elegantly and show no evidence of some of the style trials other pregnant women suffer. Do you think we'll see her dunking her cankles in a basin of cold water? Will she wear her husband's Croc's because none of her shoes do up? Do you think she'll find a solution to the fact that pants and trousers inevitably fall down under the bump? No chance - she'll glide serenely through maternity without so much as a sweat rash or varicose vein. Ho hum. 

Anyhow, to the point of this post. She could do worse than to select her maternity wear from Tiffany Rose.  

It's bloody rubbish being a grown up

View from Stirling Castle
Look, over there. The grass is greener

Once upon a time adulthood couldn’t come fast enough – no one to say ‘eat your spuds’, ‘it’s time for bed’. Suiting yourself – short skirts, makeup, joining CND, choosing when you wake up.
Now I live among the grown ups all the time. I’ve joined their gang. I’ve qualified.
You might imagine it’s all picking and choosing, expressing myself. Cool and creative – driving my personal bus along my individual highway.
Well you’d be wrong. From this side of the fence, being a grown up is rubbish, proper stinky, sticky, smells of shit rubbish not the nice clean crumpled paper sort.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that earning your own money and deciding to eat chocolate and bacon for supper at the signs you’re an adult. Neither is being able to gamble, access porn or get a tattoo. Having sex, drinking gin and driving a car don’t define an adult even though they are quite fun.
  • Grown ups put other people first. And not in that slightly gratifying ‘look how big I’m being about this’ way either. They just sigh and put their plans back in the mental filing cabinet. 
  • Grown ups get to stay up all night with children, babies and worry. It used to be a badge of honour, now it just gives you bags. 
  • Grown ups suddenly realise they are too old for the night clubs they can finally afford.
  • Grown ups are the ones who end up doing all the stuff that other people don’t want to.
  • Grown ups fill precious space in their heads with meal plans, after-school activity rotas and fictitious conversations with teachers.
  • Grown ups can buy party dresses but then find they haven’t got anywhere to wear them.
  • Grown ups have loads of booze (look the cupboard is full of bottles), but they don’t drink it because they know it’ll make the morning feel horrible.
  • Grown ups find themselves crying when they read the news.
  • Grown ups have all the gadgets and apps they need to access every single song they could ever want to listen to, only they can’t remember who it was that had that hit, you know the one, with the chorus.
  • Grown ups know they have to be patient and kind when they understand someone is upset – though they’d rather not.
  • Grown ups have to bother with stuff that come in the boring white envelopes.
  • Grown ups have to go to funerals when they’d rather be anywhere else.
  • Grown ups aren’t boring because they want to be.
  • Grown ups know time is precious but they can’t help wasting it forgetting what they came upstairs for.
Being a grown up is rubbish. I’ve tried it and I don’t like it, can I stop now?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

What’s next year’s challenge going to be?

It’s good to have something to aim for – something in the year to give a sense of forward process as the months and days zip past. 

In previous years I’ve done 10Ks, half marathons, climbed mountains, walked through the night and written a book. Not at the same time, of course. 

Last year it was a two-wheeled endeavour, cycling from Glasgow to Edinburgh.  

Now – perhaps surfacing from the fog of recent years - I’m feeling a little restless. I need a goal. Something to get my teeth into. 

I’ve been mulling the possibilities over and come up with some options. 

A long walk.  

Walking isn’t much of an achievement for me. That’s to say, I know I can do it, all day and all night if necessary. So for a challenge to have the necessary novelty it’d need to be a long walk – somewhere I’ve never walked before. The West Highland Way would qualify, although I don’t really feel the need for a midge-based challenge. Other suitable long walks may apply.

A long bike ride. 

Glasgow to Edinburgh was so good I’m going to do it again. I’ve already applied for a place for Boy Two and I and we’re looking for people to come with us. But once again that’s not an achievement because I’ve done it before. Possibly a longer route – Land’s End to John O’Groats or somewhere where the middle bit might be more attractive? 

Another mode of transport.

Horses or kayaks would both be something of a challenge. Water or hooves? Actually both are intriguing because they aren’t easy to do like, say, leaping on a bike or striding out from the house. However, I think the challenge would need to be a ‘thing’ with a start, a finish and a purpose. 

Further afield.

The Great Wall of China, Micha Picchu, the Equator, the Poles, Uluru, for example. You know exactly what it’ll look like when you get there but you still want to smell and feel it for yourself. There are dozens and dozens more I could list. 

Doing a little good. 

Loads of the challengy things are all about charity - raising money for with each step towards the top of Kilimanjaro and all that. That's all very well and good, but I don't really want to go round asking the same patient and generous friends for donations again. Instead, I'd be quite keen to donate something else - my time or expertise. Maybe I could lend a hand somewhere...

Sights and sensations. 

The Northern Lights – still unseen. Honest, I’m beginning to think it’s the Aurora’s little joke. I lived in the North East of Scotland for years and never saw it despite looking and looking, I went to Iceland and it was cloudy, then earlier this year when it was apparently visible as far south as Loch Lomond I didn’t have a babysitter. I’ve hankered for a musical moment too – maybe a little drumming or a big sing. I took part in Handel’s Messiah when I was at school and I’d love to do that again. 

Decisions, decisions….

Obviously if I took up horse riding I would need some natty gear and might look for a lady’s tweed jacket from Equestrian Clearance.  

I was invited to write a post on behalf of Equestrian Clearance which was rather handy as I was planning to do this post – containing kayaks, horses and bikes - anyway. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Nativity: The mother and father of bad manners

Today was Boy Two's Christmas show and for another year the festive spirit was somewhat flattened by the rudeness of a few parents. 

At our primary the Christmas show takes place on three consecutive mornings to accommodate everyone. The format is fairly fixed. Nursery first for two songs, then a couple of numbers each from primaries four, five, six and seven with a little extra something from the choir or music group. 

The big finish is the nativity with primaries one, two and three providing the traditional cast of angels, sheep, kings and so on. Full spectrum of dressing gowns, tea-towels and tabards on show.

We all know we don't really have much interest in the bits that don't have our children in them, however cute and well-rehearsed they are. Harsh, but true. 

But what boils my blood every year is the sight of parents getting up and leaving the school hall as soon as their kids' bit is over. This causes a disturbance and means that later performing children are faced by empty seats. 

We're all busy and doing important jobs. Do you not think I haven't got a million better things to do than watch other people's kids fidgeting and lisping their way through We Wish You A Merry Christmas? 

However, I - and the other better-mannered parents - sit there til the end. We do it because it shows respect for the children and their hard work, the school, the other parents. 

How can we expect our offspring to learn about manners, respect and civic duty if they aren't surrounded by examples of it? It's a fairly important lesson that when you say you're going to do something you do it until the end.

You departing parents (and there were more dads who left than mums) must know that the rest of us all just as likely to be bored, fed up and numb of bum. We're sitting there thinking of the things we should be getting on with too, writing lists in our heads and itching to check our phones. 

So next year, for the sake of all our children (and my blood pressure) just sit still. It's an hour an a half out of your life once a year. 

That was the ninth Christmas show at our primary and, all things being equal, I'm likely to attend another eight before Boy Three graduates to secondary. This, if nothing else, qualifies me to pass judgement. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Junior bake off - my boy says shoo to the pastry bicycle

Boy One with James Morton
There was much excitement this Sunday. There was a celebrity in our midst.

 You could tell something was happening by the number of people whose casual weekend morning attire was arranged with feverish precision.

And the reason for all this tastefully styled Boden... the BBC Great British Bake Off runner up James Morton. He was in Quarriers Village to judge a children's cake contest.

My senior son had entered with a chocolate orange concoction good enough to get into the final, along with around 50 other kids.

It looked set to erupt into e-number-fuelled mayhem at any moment as kids stood behind their naked sponges and armed themselves with piping bags and butter cream.

When the moment arrived to start the mass ice off, Boys Two, Three and I were banished through tight lips. "Go. Away. Now."

So we took a turn around the play park and returned to find the Somerville Hall above the Three Sisters Bake a flurry of sprinkles and mini marshmallows.

Boy One was standing proudly behind a mountainous gateau complete with icing antenna.

James Morton - who wears a cardigan with as much brio as he works a food processor - was faced with the enormous task of picking some outstanding bakery items.

He declared Boy One's effort, entitled 'Boris Johnson Before The Makeover' to be the most exciting. He said: "I think this is much more creative and exciting than my choux pastry bike."

James Morton's choux pastry bike
James' choux pastry bike

Boy One should be rightly proud of his achievement. 

I'd also like to report that James was utterly charming and can come round for tea and cakes any time he likes. 

Boris Johnson before the makeover, of course

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Are you ready for Christmas? Money saving tips

Santa cuts back on reindeer
Don't you just hate that question? It's like "have you been on holiday yet?" or "is it your day off?" from the hairdresser. 

A stupid question that no one really wants to hear the answer to. Especially, it seems, when your answer is: "Yes thanks. I haven't really got much to do anyway."

The reply you're supposed to offer is something about being stressed, exhausted and broke. That the annual season of excess is being seen as an endurance challenge and it's only going to be any good if you've just about given your all on every front. 

Excuse me, what a lot of nonsense! 

Christmas is supposed to be fun and a good excuse to spend time with those you like, doing things you want to. (Obviously as well as a religious festival and celebration of Jesus' birth)

Here are my tips for frugal festivities to add to the #XmasSavingTips:

  • Agree not to buy presents for the adults in your family (or otherwise). No one needs a gift set of smellies, some socks or a box set of something.
  • If you must give gifts, set a limit or do a secret Santa.
  • Don't bother giving much to little kids - save your money until they present you with a correctly spelled and properly punctuated list. Babies don't know it's Christmas and neither do dogs, cats or ponies.
  • It is a couple of days of over-eating not a six-month siege - you don't need half the food you're going to buy in the supermarket. Make a list and stick to it.
  • If you don't like your colleagues, don't go to the office party, that'll save a few quid.
  • Keep track of what you've bought, don't - as I did a couple of times - stash things bought in advance and then forget about them.
  • You probably don't need a new dress.
  • Ok, you do need a new dress.
  • Last year's decorations will be fine.
  • Shop smart - don't blindly enter the high street fray. Have a good google first.
  • If you must buy things then use something like Quidco to save a few extra pounds - or the equivalent to give to charity. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Royal prank - horrible story but no one committed murder

via Flickr from Muffet
No one dialed for murder
And not even nearly...

The news that the nurse who was taken in by prank calling Australian DJ's may have committed suicide is truely awful. Not least because she leaves two teenage children.

But there's a savage noise building. It's the sound of howls of indignation and outrage as Tweeters bay for the blood of someone... anyone.

Only there isn't really anyone directly to blame, is there?

For those under a rock, this happened not long after the Duchess of Cambridge's extreme morning sickness (not barfing off a cliff, but that would be a much more entertaining interpretation) was announced.

Poor pukey Kate was holed up in hospital while the rest of us speculated, told each other we'd known all along and tried to work out other ways to join the party.

A pair of radio DJs in Australia - with a habit of Robin Galloway-style phone pranks - came up with a great wheeze. They'd ring and pretend to be The Queen and Prince Charles asking how their grand daughter in law's gestation was going. Hil-ar-ious.

A poor nurse got this pair on the phone and fell for it. Even if she had her doubts she was unlikely to say "Excuse me your maj, you're not you, are you?"

The resulting call in which the nurse revealed details of Kate's condition was broadcast on the radio. And pretty much elsewhere.

Even Prince Charles had a bit of a chortle about it.

And we'd all moved on and started to forget about it... until the nurse was found dead. Suspected to have killed herself.

Now the radio DJs are the worst kind of evil and their station not much better.

Let's have a look at where the fault really lies:

  • Arguably the hospital should have briefed their phone staff better.
  • Possibly the radio station could have found a different victim. Or they could just not do wind-up pranks.
  • Some say they should always ask victims for permission before broadcasting their humiliation.
  • Then, perhaps, people could stop tuning in and listening to the pranks - which, like all other entertainment in this genre - is just bullying dressed up as humour.
  • Or maybe the public could cease to find anything to do with the younger Mrs Windsor fascinating. It's not a fluke that websites and publications are jam packed with royal tosh.
  • How about that the hospital could have supported their staff member better?
  • Alternatively, her friends and family might have tried harder.
  • What if laws were tighter, broadcasters better regulated? 

You see. Everyone, one way or another, contributed to the death of this poor woman. Yet, no one could reasonably have foreseen this might happen. 

It's really important that perspective is maintained. There's no doubt those involved feel awful enough without rabid lynchmobs circling them - online or otherwise. 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bon Voyage to Sir Ranulph Fiennes as he starts his coldest journey

Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Mad as a box of frogs. Bonkers and batty.

It's easy to find words to describe the 68-year-old man who is on his way to Antarctica to embark on the Coldest Journey on Earth

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is attempting to cross Antarctic in winter. It will take him, and six colleagues, around six months during which it will be mostly dark and, at times, as cold as -90 degrees C. 

Crazy, yes?

I don't think so. I heard him speaking at an event to commemorate the life of Scott's right hand man Birdie Bowers. Sir R was a revelation. 

Charming and funny, he gave a fascinating talk about his life, his expeditions and what makes him keep on striving for new, and increasingly inconvenient, frontiers.   

You can see what would persuade people to risk life and, at the very least, digits to follow him to the actual ends of the earth. Forget James Bond, this old-Etonian, former soldier is the real deal. Action hero and heartthrob for those of a certain age. 

The double force of his determination and confidence that whatever, arguably unnecessary, goal he had set himself is one worth throwing everything at, is impressive. 

Imagine the focus necessary to rise above boredom, fear and physical discomfort in order to get where you're going. Many of us would likely nip outside saying 'I might be some time' just to end the misery of it. 

For a long time, what kept him going was his first wife Ginny. She organised the expeditions even - for one - spending six months in a frozen wasteland marking the time until he came marching home. 

Dying of cancer, she made him promise to find someone else and have children with them. Children they failed to have together. So he did, second wife Louise produced Elizabeth in 2006.

Age and parenthood might have mellowed him, but I doubt it. 

Over the years of expeditions, it must have been necessary to make peace with mortality. You couldn't put yourself in such danger otherwise, not if you have even half of the wit Sir R has about him. 

Perhaps that's what has him strapping himself into expedition gear again rather than pulling on a nice pair of tartan slippers. The end is inevitable, sooner or later, so better meet it roaring than whimpering. 

I wish Sir Ranulph the best of luck with his expedition and hope he returns to inspire another generation. Not to explore the Antarctic, but to know that with guts, self-belief and a bit of planning, anything is possible. 


On the day of his visit to Inverclyde, I have it on good authority that the only requirements the explorer had for himself, was a couple of hours off in order to go for a run. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Coming off Citalopram - getting a buzz

Towards Grangemouth from Stirling
A little calm on a sunny day
It has now been a little over three months since I started the process of coming off citalopram

I think that now I can say I have finished with it... for the time being at least. 

If you haven't been following the thrilling story of my decision to come off anti-depressants, then I'll recap. 

I began taking citalopram as a treatment for depression (postnatal and life's a bitch varieties) a little over three years ago. 18 months later I followed my GP's advice and halved the dose. I was unaware at the time that the side effects of withdrawal would leave me feeling more bonkers than I ever was in the first place so I hurried back to the pharmacy. 

After doing some therapeutic Googling I decided to have another go. Only this time I would cut down incredibly slowly. 

Three months later, I'm done. 

How did it feel? 

The side effects became considerably more physical and stranger. I found myself feeling incredibly cold (yes, I know I live at more than 55 degrees north and it's winter, but even so). I also had strange tingly sensations over my face and especially around my lips. Quite often I felt dizzy especially if I moved my head quickly. Odd stuff and if I hadn't been expecting some sort of effects, I'm sure I'd have been very worried. 

And now? 

Well yes. Good question. It's been such a long time since I was myself, untroubled by hormones, grief or drugs that I can hardly remember. But the way I feel is vaguely familiar, so it must be me. 

Things feel less woolly and wrapped up, therefore, unsurprisingly the highs are higher and the lows lower. 

What I learned? 

Citalopram is a fantastic treatment. If you are proscribed it, do not hesitate. It will make you feel better and give you the space in your head to recover your equilibrium.

However, it takes a very long time to come off comfortably and, in my experience, there is not enough advice and support about what to expect and how to do this. 

It's a jungle out there

Did you watch I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here? You might have seen comedian Brian Conley being removed from the jungle in obvious distress after some sort of breakdown. 

It transpires he had suddenly stopped taking the antidepressants he'd been on for years. The effect was messy and underlined what I've been banging on about. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A strange encounter in the mist...

Strathclyde Loch
Anyone there?

Strathclyde Loch

Strathclyde Loch
Ugly ducklings...

Strathclyde Loch
Mist melts off
Yesterday morning, my Super Sister and I had one of our all-too-rare walking dates. Instead of the planned trip to the Whangie, overnight snow persuaded us to change our plans and have a circuit or so of Strathclyde Park. 

When we set off the mist was so thick we could have been anywhere. Only the rumble of the M74 gave a clue to the fact we weren't alone in the middle of no where. 

We set off - anti-clockwise in case you're interested - at our usual brisk march and began our business of setting the world to rights. 

Before long a man came out of the murk towards us. 

We didn't pay much attention until he hailed us. 

"Excuse me ladies, can I give you a leaflet?" He reached inside his bag. 

I assumed we were going to get something about the park - or maybe its flora and fauna, but no. 

"It's about abortions."

We were, rather uncharacteristically, lost for words. 

After all, for various reasons neither of us is likely to trouble the pee-on-a-stick aisle of our local pharmacy again. 

If you set out to spread the word - however wrong-headed (IMHO) that might be - surely you don't pick somewhere almost deserted and with hugely impaired visibility.

And even if you thought you had approached almost the entire female child-bearing population of Lanarkshire, this isn't logically where you'd go to get the stragglers. 

So, after a moment, we looked at each other and said: "No thanks."

"But, there are pictures here that the doctors don't want you to see..." he pleaded to our departing backs. 

The encounter left us shaking our bemused heads and asking questions. 

  • Does he regularly canvas the walkers and runners of Strathclyde Park? 
  • Does he ever get anyone to listen to him?
  • Does that kind of approach - particularly on this subject - ever, ever change anyone's opinion?
  • Did he particularly want to speak to us, or would anyone do? 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Hanging out and learning about baking

Hot new baking tips I gathered this week: 

If you want strongly coloured icing, spend money on the best colours you can find. 

To make an iced cake easier. Freeze a Madeira sponge and ice it while half defrosted. 

If your cake won't rise, maybe the baking power isn't fresh. 

Too much baking powder can be counter productive. 

If you are too impatient to cream butter and sugar properly, know this and choose a recipe such as carrot cake that uses oil. 

To pipe successfully choose a bigger nozzle. 

At least half marg not all butter makes a lighter icing. 

Smear food colouring up the inside of your piping bag before you put icing in to make cook smeary coloured icing.

When in doubt, cheat. 

All these tips came courtesy of the very lovely Kate Moore, Whitworths Sugar's baking expert.

Kate was so impressive, she could deliver baking advice, while talking on the phone and icing buns with one hand. 

Watch our hangout to see how she does it. 

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