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Upping Sticks

My blog has returned! No longer is it pushed to the depths of my endless to-do list, but back for your (hopeful) enjoyment for the foreseeable future.

See, the reason for my complete lack of blogging of late is because we have moved house. Yes, we have upped sticks, packed up the house, the kids and the dog to move away from the hustle and bustle of living in London, for a quieter life in the countryside. It has been about five years in the planning, three of which were fraught with ‘shall we, shan’t we’ conversations and in the last year it has been the head mash that comes with selling and buying your home.

We lived in our last house for eleven years, our three children have been born there (not literally) and our family of five has acquired ten tonnes of clutter along the way. With our eldest boy about to embark on Year 6 and our twins heading into Year 3 of juniors, we felt that the time was right to make this move.  However, it is no mean feat trying to relocate five lives (plus a dog, although to be fair he really only needed his blanket packed).  Not only did we have to find someone to buy our house, we had to find a house we liked enough to buy, find three school places and work out hubby’s new commute.

Selling our house was an experience I wouldn’t wish to repeat anytime soon.  As a serial renter before me and hubby bought our now former family home, the whole selling house business was something I viewed on TV with the likes of Kirstie and Phil seemingly completing the process in a day. It didn’t look that hard, I just needed to adopt a loud assertive voice and a confident sales patter. Or so I thought. When the droves of buyers (seriously there were a lot) decided to invade our home I found myself acting more Gollam than Kirstie, gathering up my ‘precious things’ and muttering under my breath when prospective purchasers turned their noses up at our choice of décor.  The first few buyers through our door I practically hugged, offered homemade cookies and a spreadsheet of the pros and cons of living in our street. As the numbers went up and no offers were on the table, my sales approach become a little lacklustre.  I no longer felt impelled to gush about my happy home but instead allowed them to show themselves around and have free reign in looking through my cupboards.

I think my lack of enthusiasm came after the many frustrating questions such as ‘its quite small for a box room isn’t it?’ or ‘your stairs are a bit steep aren’t they?’ or ‘why isn’t there a downstairs toilet?’ (which was asked whilst rooting through my understairs cupboard, presumably looking for Harry Potter).  One delightful purchaser asked hubby ‘where the stink pipe was?’ whilst examining our decked patio, not really sure what her intentions were but each to their own! One couple who seemed very interested and who I actually mouthed “its in the bag” to hubby about, said they would have bought it but were put off by the view of houses across the street.  Erm..this is a London Borough and not the rolling hills of Wales!

No turning back now!

No turning back now!

However, our saving grace came one Sunday afternoon whilst I was sitting at the dining table with the children doing homework, a roast dinner emitting delectable smells around the house and I was channelling my inner Mary Poppins, with much less singing involved.  Our Estate Agent had done their usual Crystal Maze style challenge of a 10 minute warning of an impending viewing, meaning we had to ready the house in record time and hide the dog in the neighbour’s garden.  The prospective purchasers arrived whilst I bribed the kids not to talk under any circumstances as they have a tendency to point out flaws. Example, buyer will compliment wallpaper, child will explain Daddy had to cover something up. Buyer will point out fence panels, child will own up to the ‘quick job’ they overheard from their parents. Thankfully, the buyers this day were a very keen young couple embarking on their first home and hubby and I were both on a mission to get our house sold! While hubby bombarded them with information on loft insulation and ‘reliable boiler systems’, I was retelling all the happy memories that had occurred in this home and what a good vibe it has! And despite our dog actually breaking through the fence to say hello, the couple made an offer the following morning!

Many people informed me over the weeks following our sale that moving house was ‘the most stressful thing you can do in life’.  Now, as a mother to twins I reckon I can turn my hand to most pressured situations so I smiled my reply and promised to ‘prepare myself’ all the while feeling smug that I had it in the bag! Yeah right. For anyone who has moved, they will know that it is not a stress free experience. Firstly, even after we had majorly decluttered, had a boot sale and carried out numerous trips to the charity shops with unwanted goods, it dawns on you how much stuff you actually own. I became so intimidated about packing it all up that I literally hid the moving boxes and found a million reasons not to embark on the process. Finally, a good friend of mine couldn’t stand it any longer and came round to get me started.  After a full day of wrapping, boxing and ridiculing my possessions, we had only actually packed up half of my kitchen! It’s then that I realised the enormity of the task in hand.  And if it was going to take me that long to pack up our house, how long would it take to unpack at the new house!

Moving day came around far too quickly and after shipping the kids off to my parents, hubby and I spent our last night in what was now someone else’s home.  I expected to feel sad and a sense of attachment, but without the children at home and our belongings all packed up, plus sleeping on a mattress in a bare room looking much like a squat, it didn’t feel like home anymore. I was ready and excited for our next step. And apart from leaving our family, friends and the best neighbours ever behind, I couldn’t wait to embark on our next chapter.

We have been in our new home for almost three months now which is hard to believe.  The time has flown by. The children have settled into school and made friends. Hubby has become a long haul commuter and is actually reading real books again (so proud) and me and Chester are settling in with the thoroughbred country dogs over our local park as he tries to repress his hooligan side. Lets just say you can take the dog out of the City but you can’t take the City out of the dog!



I Am Never Drinking Again….

noun: hangover; plural noun: hangovers
  1. 1.
    a severe headache or other after-effects caused by drinking an excess of alcohol.
Today, I am suffering with my second day of a hangover and I am definitely feeling the alcohol blues!  I know its self-inflicted and I shouldn’t expect sympathy, but I didn’t intend to end up feeling this way!
On Saturday I had a girls night out to mark the occasion of my leaving do.  You see, me, hubby and the kids are moving to the country in a few weeks time and to celebrate/commiserate my departure I decided to invite my local ladies to come have a glass of something with me.  The danger of this is that a lot of us ladies are Mum’s, who not able to have much of a social life any longer, so tend to unleash hell when we are allowed out to play.
From what started as a few cocktails in the first bar, soon moved onto Rose Tequila shots in the second bar! From my initial plan of sipping a few glasses of vino whilst sitting down and chatting with the gals, ended up with us arms around each other screeching along to the resident band.
This is all fine and dandy.  It does us good to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves every now and then but we always forget about the morning after.  The moment you wake up not quite remembering how you got home, you piece together the night before with the aid of debit card receipts from the bar you ended up in once the cash ran out. You struggle to lift your head from the pillow, realising you are still wearing the top from the night before and your bedroom floor resembles a French noir film with clothes strewn from bathroom to bed, not from passion but from drunken undressing.
For me, my hangover starts in the middle of the night, my dreams are filled with images of people handing me tiny teacups of water that I can never quite reach to my mouth.  From this, I will wake up with an insatiable thirst as if my mouth is full of sand but I still haven’t quite got the energy to reach out to grab the bottle of water beside my bed. My sleep after this is seriously staggered, a term I like to call Winesomnia, when the dehydration and lack of body salts or whatever it is that makes you feel as if you have had your organs removed, will cause you to lay awake feeling completely exhausted.
When I finally drag myself out of my deranged slumber, I find that I’m walking like Mrs Overall, not able to straighten my back, my head is pounding and the nausea is kicking in.  I decide to use the shower as a recovery tool but find myself slumped in the corner almost rocking as if I’m a victim in a thriller having just witnessed a murder.  Post shower, I find myself applying moisturiser about 5 times, to which it instantly disappears as my skin is crying out for dehydration alongside my liver and kidneys.
As the thought of even sipping water makes me feel like I want to hurl, I chastise myself for overindulging the night before. Why couldn’t I switch to soft drinks at the second bar, why did I have to drink shots, what the heck was in those cocktails? I send out my very sympathetic hubby for my not very healthy hangover cure of can of coke and salted crisps. I think it’s the sugar, caffeine and salt that is appealing and I feel that it is my only hope now between me functioning as a normal human being or my children thinking I have been possessed by some alien being with crazy hair (haven’t quite got the nerve up to brush it yet!).
The coke and crisps help a tad. It means I can now talk in two-syllable answers and my shuffle has become a little more upright but beyond having a movie afternoon, I feel like I have the mothering skills of Mrs Hannigan. In fact, I can still only whisper the contents of what I drank the night before as the memory is still turning me green.
As the evening draws near and I finally have to stop wearing my sunglasses in the house, I have an insatiable need to eat stodge.  I am scavenging in my kitchen cupboards for high calorie carbs, I am desperate for melted cheese or chips or a combination of both. At last tea is starting to taste less like vodka and there are glimpses of the old me returning.  As the kids head to bed with promises that ‘Mummy will be better tomorrow’, I am hit hard with the alcohol blues, the last and most dreaded part of my hangover when my mind is racing with feelings of woe. This is the time I need to hit the sack and remember that next time there is an offer of a night out that I will be the sensible one.
So here are my new rules for surviving a hangover:
  1. Make sure you have absolutely no plans for the day after the night before.  It is very important that you keep conversations to a minimum until you learn the ability of speech again.
  2. Try and eat when you come home from the pub. I know this is sometimes tricky when inebriated but believe me if you can negotiate a sandwich making session you could soak up some of that alcohol.
  3. Drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks during the evening out. It really works as proven at boozy dinners when there are jugs of water on the table, much less wine is consumed. If you are a vodka drinker its easy to just have the mixer in between the vodka fuelled version of the drink.
  4. Apparently it is not advisable to start your hangover with painkillers but instead with a multivitamin as this will help replace those nutrients you wiped out with your cocktails last night.
  5. Finally, and most importantly for me, designate a close friend to be in charge of your desire for shots. The minute you suggest a round of shots, she/he is allowed to slap your hand or confiscate your purse for a half hour time out session.
Should be an obligatory test in between rounds to see whether you have had enough to drink!

Should be an obligatory test in between rounds to see whether you have had too much to drink!

Looking For Jimmy

As I sit here and type, my feet are throbbing, my head is pounding and my stress levels are just starting to calm down from their earlier crazed state.  Along with this feeling of utter exhaustion, I also now have a new-found respect for teachers, teaching assistants and any member of staff that deal with children as a job.  The reason for my current state of mental and physical health is due to the fact I have just returned from a school trip with my 6-year-old twins class to the Tower of London!

As most of you know I have twins, a boy and a girl.  Non-identical, in looks and definitely personalities.  As their class approaches the end of the infants they were treated to a big excursion with the whole of their year.  An educational visit to the Tower of London.  We live in a London Borough, so it’s a fairly manageable journey of around 45 minutes to our destination and with it being the last school trip of their young years before Juniors, I decided to put myself forward as a volunteer.  I have attended a few school trips in my time as a parent but not many ‘big trips’ as my eldest was in infants when the twins were babies so I missed out quite a bit.  However, I still fully expected that today I would mainly be coasting along behind the teachers, able to look at the various exhibitions with my only responsibility being the holder of the coats or something similar.  How wrong I was!

Heading to the Tower!

Heading to the Tower!

Each parent helper were given a team of 6 children and my team included my twins.  I knew the other kids in my team by name but not much more than that. As they eyed me up to see what sort of ‘helper’ I was going to be, I also had a split second decision to see what type of ‘helper’ I would decide to be. Should I allow them to use my Christian name? Was I expected to be authoritarian or more ‘down with the kids’? How much can you raise your voice at a child that isn’t your offspring and how much ‘knowledge of history’ was I expected to impart with them?  First job was to assemble my team into pairs, this was no mean feat despite it appearing an easy task.  Firstly, I had 3 girls and 3 boys so one pair would have to be mixed, this was a no deal situation with my daughter! Secondly, I was hoping to sit my son with the most immaculately behaved child in the year as once he has an audience he will perform his best material be it a dance, a song or a joke to get a laugh.  Finally, I picked the pairs that seemed to work for me and then the children rearranged themselves anyway!

We are very lucky as the children have exceptional teaching staff, they are well organised, sympathetic, have a constant air of control and good humour, perhaps an intravenous drip of Valium as well? There were plenty of teachers and parent helpers amongst the children so we were capable in numbers and headed off up to the big smoke on our local council coach AKA a sauna on wheels.  The journey was fairly pain-free, managed to resist the urge to eat the packed lunch on the way there and avoid vomiting into the seat tidy.  Thankfully, the kids were fine as well!

My hubby is a police officer in the bomb squad and in his 20 year career he has made a wide circle of work mates.  This can be good and bad in equal measures.  A bad example would be when we had our mini-honeymoon in a posh hotel in Kent (as we had 3 month old twins and a 4-year-old so had to put a proper honeymoon on hold).  This night away was the weekend after our wedding, where as parents of twins we hadn’t slept a whole night in 3 months so really really needed it!  So when we entered the hotel restaurant I wasn’t my usual cheery self when greeted with a Policeman’s Ball and lots of hubby’s mates joining us for drinks!  However, a  good perk would be that an ex-copper mate of hubby’s, called Jimmy, is now a Beefeater at the Tower of London, which meant hubby gave him the nod about our visit and we were able to arrange for the children to meet and greet with him.

We arrived at the Tower and it was hot! As usual us Brits constantly moan about the lack of good weather and the minute the sun peeks out of the clouds we all melt. But the Tower was breathtaking and we soon soldiered on.  I found myself trying to engage my group with nuggets of history as they all started to give me the slip with the expanse of the River Thames beside them.  I managed to lead them over to Traitors Gate, which was in the general direction we wanted to be heading towards and explained to them (wrongly probably) how crooks were taken through here by boat to the dungeons. With their interest back in play, I waffled on about some other exaggerated facts and we safely made it inside the castle walls.

Our first stop was the darkly lit rooms containing the Crown Jewels.  As we queued to get to the main attraction, again, I treated my team to interesting (hopefully true) facts about how King Charles and fellow gentleman of his time grew their hair as a sign of wealth. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the crowds of tourists and other schools made their way through the corridors so we could feast our eyes on Her Maj’s best bling.  There was lots of oohs and aahs, mainly from the parents, but the children were impressed too and we found a dusty corner to draw some pictures of the crowns for their fact files.  I was feeling fairly confident with my team.  I had raised my voice a few times as they tried to disperse and found my best option was to guide them much like sheep with outstretched arms in order to keep them in check. I swear one of the little girls was wearing an invisibility cloak because as soon as I did my headcount of 6 she was always missing and when I frantically called her name she appeared next to my elbow as if she had been there the whole time!

Hubby’s friend Jimmy became a bit of wild goose chase. Having only his name and the knowledge of his job title, I was left to harass other Beefeaters, asking them if they were Jimmy and they in turn sent me onto the next one.  Eventually, the children were just randomly shouting ‘Jimmy’ at anyone in uniform hoping that he would appear.  I was starting to think that he had got wind of 90 children on his tail and was hiding out in the staff room but thankfully he did find us during our lunchtime on the grass and he was great with the kids.  Especially as they were instructed by their fact files to ask a Beefeater a question, Jimmy was then treated to a Spanish inquisition 10 minutes of random questions fired at him such as, “Where is your gun?”, “What would you do with a sword?” and “Do you eat only beef?”. Reading through one of my teams factfiles she had put down as her question to the Beefeater : Question- Where is Jimmy? Answer-At the West Gate. I asked her about it and she said that was the question she had asked the first Beefeater on the way in!

It was a super informative day and I think although the kids were a bit overwhelmed with history, they enjoyed it too.  My team was great, even though my son does tend to take on a Tasmanian Devil approach to historical places with me removing him from various sculptures and my daughter always gets a bit tearful with loud noise/crowds/not having the partner she feels entitled to and I had to then walk the rest of the way round with her attached to my leg whilst trying to continue my sheep herding technique with my team. I did spend a portion of my day shouting out the 6 names in my group, not that they misbehaved much, but with big crowds there are always opportunities to get lost. I now feel like I have form of Tourette’s and even though I’m at home now, I still feel the impulse to shout their names every 5 minutes and to keep checking for the little invisible girl.  I’m sure this effect will die down eventually.  All in all, it was a very successful day and if you ever find yourself at the Tower for a school trip and the children’s interest is wavering, just bring up Henry VIII, tales of beheaded wives always holds their interest!

Football’s Coming Home….Again…

The long-awaited World Cup is here, direct from Brazil, where the nations of the world assemble their elite footballers and put their super teams on show.  Each team hopes to power through the rounds, fighting off other foreign lands with their fancy football skills, silly haircuts and Oscar-winning performances of falling over.

I’ll admit that I am a half-hearted football fan.  I was raised a Tottenham supporter by lifelong fans (my Dad and older brother) and I have married a Chelsea supporter who is raising two Chelsea supporting sons.  I’m not sure my Dad would have agreed to the wedding had he been an Arsenal fan though! I admit that premiership football does bore me slightly, where top teams are funded by billionaires playing fantasy football with their never-ending cash flows. But the World Cup does appeal to me, as every team has their own unique style. You have the celebrity footballers putting on their best performance as an obvious audition, in order to get poached by a leading club.  Then you have the underdogs, the countries that you have to Google to find out where they are, the teams with that rabbit caught in the headlights look about them, where they just scatter about looking a bit like my 6-year-old sons team on a Saturday.  It really is entertaining.

And no matter what your opinion is of this country, when England are in the running, you can’t beat the feeling of national pride, with the St. Georges Cross adorning houses and cars across the country, pubs packed full to the rafters with supporters, all hoping that this year could be the one!

But it never is. We know how bad England are but we never give up on them as we know they could be better.  We still talk about 1966 or Italia 90, try to hang on to that now forgotten greatness, praying that this year we will be our year.  Then it dawns on us that we might not be match fit, that the team was probably assembled by Roy Hodgson using the eeny meeny miny mo technique to choose his elite squad, with the players meeting for the first time on the plane.  Perhaps we can blame it on the weather? I mean it is quite hot in Brazil and our boys just aren’t used to the heat.  Plus the pitch just isn’t up to scratch, I bet there are lots of potholes where Gerard or Sturridge could break an ankle in these sorts of conditions!  With plenty of excuses prepared, we hope that England can surprise us.  We have an easyish group, we are certain to at least go through to the next round.  I mean Spain went out and they were World Cup winners from the last tournament so anything can happen!

So we watched the first game against Italy with bated breath, we shouted at the TV screen, gave random instructions as if we were experts in the game, pleaded with the players to just try that little bit harder in order to actually get the ball in the back of the net. But we lost, 2-1.  We did alright, we tried our best, next match will be better.  Blitz spirit and all that. Italy were a good side, we will have no problem with Uruguay, isn’t that Suarez fellow nursing a knee injury? It’s in the bag!

Oh dear, de ja vu, 2-1 again.  Time to pack your hair net Wayne, home we go.  But hang on, if Italy beat Costa Rica and Uruguay and then we beat Costa Rica, isn’t there a chance for us? Can’t we even get something for trying our best? That’s how it works at my son’s football, couldn’t England could get some sort of free pass for not spitting as much as the other teams?

Whatever happens, we will be the same at the next World Cup. We will hang our flags, sing that Frank Skinner football song clinging on to that hope that the final will one day be in our grasp.  My advice to Roy would be to try to organise a way to have my Mum on an earpiece direct to the players on the pitch.  If they could hear her disappointed tone of ‘For goodness sake, you’re not even trying!’ they would most certainly buck up their ideas!


Our discarded dreams of success.

Our discarded dreams of success.



Happy Fathers Day!

A dedication for my Dad on Fathers Day.


Dear Dad,

I feel very fortunate to have you as my Dad. In the words of Frenchie from Grease, my go-to film for advice as a teenager, she said to Sandy: “The only guy a girl can rely on life is her Daddy”. Many friends of mine have had strained, often absent, relationships with their Fathers and I have always felt fortunate that not only have we always had a solid family unit, but that you have always been a key part in mine and my big bro’s life.

You are the backbone of our family unit, you grew up as the only male amongst your three sisters which provided you with the ability to be a modern man, despite growing up in the 50s. With close relationships with my Aunts you have always treated women as equals and never displayed one iota of male chauvinism. You grew up in a post war Britain with a…

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Facing My Fears

With my 40th birthday hurtling towards me next December (sob) I thought I might look into the concept of *bucket lists. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not planning on expiring next year (hopefully) but more that I’m moving into a new era of my life and giving my 30s a bloody good send off.

Top of my list is overcoming a few of my fears as it seems that they are starting to grow in number and become more irrational in their strength. Having said that, I’m not rushing into it and definitely not planning on boarding a plane (hate flying) with a jar of spiders (arachnophobic) en route to a circus full of people on stilts (honestly, the whole unnatural height of stilt wearers freaks me out). I decided instead to start simply and address my growing fear of heights.

My new-found feelings of vertigo have come out of nowhere. I cannot recall being bothered about heights as a child, was happy to climb to the top of mountains/buildings in my youth, but over the last few years I am unable to descend beyond four storeys without having wobbly legs. I first noticed it when I took my parents on the London Eye.  I had been looking forward to it, took the afternoon off work and even booked the tickets in advance. We walked into our pod cheerfully chatting and started our ride to the top, at which point I felt a sudden panic, sat on the bench in the middle and stared at my feet. My Dad was trying to point out London sites along the Thames but all I could do was resist the urge to lay on the floor and adopt a foetal position. The last thing I wanted to do was to move to the window and I wasn’t confident my legs would work anyway. As we reached the top, I studied my shoes, feeling waves of nausea, ignoring the odd looks from fellow passengers and assuring my parents that ‘I was fine and they should enjoy the view’. After what felt like an hour, we came to the bottom and I literally burst out of the pod wanting to kiss the pavement outside for being land borne again!

I tried to dismiss this behaviour with the theory that it was because I’ve become a bit of wimp with fairground rides and after all it is essentially a giant ferris wheel. This is another thing with ageing, the fact that I now worry about safety on theme park rides. One of my fondest teenage memories is ‘The Eggs’ ride over my local park when the fair came to town in the summer. A rickety old ride where you could spin your own pod while zooming high up in the air. You couldn’t pay me to go on this ride now unless I could have a look at recent safety test certificates. Even with regard to the slickest rollercoaster at a popular theme park, hubby has to reassure me that it is very unlikely that the seatbelt won’t work and that g-force would also keep me seated. I think I would rather hold the coats and watch then risk it though.

So I decided that my first bucket list objective would be to cure my vertigo before it gets out of hand and I end up not being able to drive up my local multi-storey car park.  To make this happen I booked for me and hubby to climb the O2 in London. If I could climb over the top of a big building, looking out of the window of it in the future would be a breeze in comparison surely?

The ascent!

The ascent!

We arrived at the O2 on quite a grim day and were led through our ‘training’ which left me thinking that I had underestimated this whole climb thing. I thought it would be a set of stairs that we could walk up quite easily.  Not so.  It transpired that we would have to put on their special climbing suits, special climbing shoes and learn to negotiate ropes with metal clip thing’s, as if embarking on a rock climbing expedition. Ignoring the height I would be reaching, I felt quite excited at the prospect as I have always wanted to climb and feel that my last little bit of bravery is dwindling, so needed to do it soon. After we were kitted out, we stood at the bottom of the ascent (as pictured) and were instructed to clip ourselves onto the wire as this would stop us ‘falling off’. I considered that this would be unlikely but there wasn’t anything else to grab onto and it was a bit windy so thought it was wise that I was shackled to something.

The actual climb over the O2 is a lot trickier than it looks, mainly because you have to thread your metal clip through metal compartments all the way up the wire. You get the hang of it after a bit and to be honest its a good distraction from seeing how high you actually are! It doesn’t take long to reach the top and although I wasn’t keen on the shoes we were given initially, I was thankful of their grip as the surface is quite slippery.  I braced myself for the summit as we neared the top of the climb and I actually didn’t feel too bad. I think maybe this is because you are literally climbing over a big tent so it sort of feels safe. At the top you are able to unclip and there is a viewing circle so you can mooch about and look at the sites whilst swinging your metal clips between your legs like a weird sort of Morris Dancer. The view was pretty spectacular and I didn’t once feel the need to cling onto hubby’s leg or the least bit like vomiting so felt like I had really grown as a person/climber/non-vertigo worrier.

A birds eye view of the River Thames.

A birds eye view of the River Thames.

However, the climb down was not as straightforward. The path down seemed a lot steeper and I had to resist the urge to rebel against clipping myself back onto to the wire and to use it as a giant slide instead. But then a gust of wind caught us off guard and I was more than happy to reattach. My family had come along for support, so as we descended the O2, I could see my children, parents and mother-in-law at the bottom cheering us on. My eldest shouted out ‘Are you scared Mum?’ at which I just rolled my eyes to the other climbers in a ‘Kids eh?’ kind of a way as obviously I was now feeling like I had completed my own Everest and not in the least bit scared of heights anymore.  My next challenge? The Shard! Now I just need to Google their safety certificates…..

* Bucket List

noun: bucket list; plural noun: bucket lists
  1. 1.
    a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

Has Spring Sprung?

In the last few weeks, Spring has emerged with beautiful sunshine against a flawless blue sky. I am so pleased with this turn of events I have felt like channelling my inner Noddy Holder and shouting ‘Its Springtime!”. Following a very wet winter, with a majority of the UK starting to grow webbed feet, we longed for some dry weather and here it is with sun to boot.

I love Spring. It is definitely my favourite season. Summer is a contender, but last year it was super hot and with three children consisting of my 10-year-old son suffering from early sulky teenager syndrome, my 6 year-old boy/girl twins with polar opposite personalities (aka difficult to please) and an overheated dog, it was challenging to say the least. Autumn can be pretty with its vibrant coloured trees and carpets of conkers, but it is also the time of increased spider activity and those particular creepy crawlies just spoil the whole season for me, leaving Winter which is cold or wet and feels constantly dark. But Spring has all the makings of perfect for me, the weather is mild enough that I can rid myself of the abominable snowman look I have been sporting over winter and I no longer have the stressful school run activity of locating missing gloves and trying to persuade my daughter to wear mismatched woollen accessories.

Spring has the whole rebirth thing going on as well, nature has woken up and the children are back out in the garden acting as if they have just been released back into the wild. We currently have blue tits in the nesting box in our garden, which is fascinating my daughter who has now taken to digging up worms and leaving them on the tree for the ‘blue tit babies’, I have tried to dissuade her from this activity and that worms have feelings too but she is on a mission as an adoptive parent to her new bird family. I love the emerging blossom on the trees transforming our ordinarily drab street to something much prettier, along with hardcore daffodils popping up in odd places such as dual carriageways and roundabouts.

Gorgeous mini triffids

Gorgeous mini triffids

I’m probably enjoying the long-awaited burst of flora more than others, hayfever sufferers I sympathise. The minute the first bud pops up on a tree my poor Mum is sneezy, drowsy, teary and other such dwarf names. While I’m taking pleasurable inhalations of freshly mowed lawns she is bah humbugging the misery of the production of pollen.

Woohoo trees are pretty again!

Woohoo trees are pretty again!

For me, Spring impels me to think about diets more so than in January. With a bit of decent weather, some of the general public (you know who you are) decide to flash the flesh in summery ensembles, far too early in the year and looking a tad unprepared for them. My youngest son is definitely of this ilk, if there is the teeniest bit of sunshine, even if the temperature is chilly, he kits himself out in shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops despite the shade of blue he is turning on the trampoline. The minute I decide to don some sort of skirt/dress garment that will expose my unprepared pins, I inevitably will bang into a table and produce a huge bruise on my calf, thus limiting my anticipated flesh baring for at least a month to avoid looking like I have been kicked by a horse.

Spring is also the misconceived time for cleaning. Who ever decided the concept of ‘Spring Cleaning’ should feel rather guilty about it. Just as the weather is improving and nature is bursting with life we are expected to shut ourselves away and start cleaning our skirting boards. Personally, I have surface cleaning down to a fine art, thorough cleaning is just not in my make up. With three children and a young Labrador there is often little point in trying to keep order of my household chores, I would much rather play cars with my youngest son or allow my daughter free rein of her paints on the kitchen table. However, I have started to make out I’m more of a clean freak for my oldest son’s benefit, to encourage him to be more tidy and at the very least for him to see his pants on his bedroom floor as a faux pas.

As a Spring fan (careful not to say Springsteen there) I would like to encourage others to feel the same as me. For hayfever sufferers, try not to look at it as a time of pollen induced stress but embrace the antihistamine and move on. For all of us, forget about cleaning out your kitchen cupboards and go for a walk in the sunshine instead. Embrace your obscure summer fashion choices of yesteryear and not stress about the pallor of your skin, remember we are in it together. Most importantly, we need to see Spring through the eyes of our children, my three little ones also love this time of year, from finally getting out and about in the great outdoors without the need for fifteen layers along with the reintroduction of ice-cream on a sunny afternoon, as well as being able to appreciate the beauty of nature whilst seeing creatures emerge from their winter slumber.

I was hoping to end on a quote from my favourite quote bank, aka Ferris Bueller, but instead I turn to published poet and author Margaret Attwood:

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

My Over-Acting Thyroid and Me

Half term week is now drawing to a close and what an eventful week it has been. Hubby has been away with work for the whole week so me and my three little cherubs had made ambitious plans to spend some quality time together.  Each day was planned with military precision, weeks ahead of the half term, ensuring each child covered an activity of their choice, saw at least one of their buddies and took turns to sleep in hubby’s side of the bed. And we achieved all of our goals and much more with events popping up as the week progressed. What I hadn’t prepared for, however, was a sudden dash to my local hospital.

At the grand old age of 38 I consider myself to be in fairly good health. Other 38 year olds such as Angelina Jolie and David Beckham may be looking a bit more youthful than me but so would I on their pay packets! But generally I’m doing alright. However, over the last year or so I have been experiencing palpitations, a sort of a weird heart fluttering sensation coupled with the feeling that my heart is skipping a beat. I have visited two separate doctors, one of which put it down to ‘hormones’ AKA ‘women’s problems – get on with it’ and the other put them down to eating too much chocolate and perhaps I should cut down…. erm no can do I’m afraid. I tried to seek comfort from their conclusions, tried not to convince myself that I had some sort of heart condition and tried to ignore them, I even affectionately named them ‘my palps’ when discussing the sensation with friends and family.

Except this month they felt worse and after terrifying myself through self-diagnosis online, I decided to visit doctor number three. He was a bit more thorough and sent me off to hospital for a blood test and an ECG (heart test). Typically, while hooked up to the ECG I didn’t have one of ”my palps’ so was sent on my way.

Our half term continued and whilst in a toilet in our local library, trying to help my youngest son out of Batman costume so he could have a wee, my doctor rang. He said that he was concerned about my blood test results and that I should go to the hospital for further tests, he explained that my thyroid levels were high and that I needed to speak to a consultant about it. So, not really knowing what a thyroid was, I took my time and after lunch dropped the kids off with my Dad and took my Mum up the hospital with me to find the ‘Medical Assessment Unit’ I had been instructed to visit. After endless corridors of my local hospital we finally found our destination and I gave my name to the nurse behind the counter. The nurse said that she had been expecting me and led me to a ward of about 6 beds and gave me a hospital gown. I suggested that there must be some mistake and that I was just coming in for a chat, she just smiled at me sympathetically and closed the curtained wall of my bed, telling me to make myself comfortable.

Trying not to feel like I was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I decided I had better go with it as me and Mum proceeded to work out how to tie up the massive faded blue patterned hospital gown (Stella McCartney really needs to move onto hospital wear after her Olympic designer range). In the following 5 hours (!) I was prodded and poked by a variety of nurses and doctors, had numerous tests involving lots of needles as well as a Tommy Cooper style impression to see if I had the shakes. Finally, after witnessing lots of scribbling on clipboards and hushed conversations between medical staff I was given a conclusion, I was told that my thyroid was in hyper mode, that I had an overactive thyroid and this was the reason I was experiencing palpitations. They were concerned as to why I had ‘ignored’ these symptoms for so long, to which I did try to explain the whole chocolate diagnosis. I was then told that I would have to start a shedload of meds,  that I would be sent for a CT (brain) scan as I had complained of headaches with ‘my palps’ and a lot more blood tests, etc., were to come. There was even talk of some radioactive treatment in the future. They said they were going to watch my heart rate to see if I needed to stay in the night.

My Mum looked worried, I tried to brush it off as a ‘I think it’s very common’ and then started to worry about having to call my Dad and ask him to organise my overnight bag. How would he choose my pyjama’s as I often improvise pyjama tops with my Nirvana and Foo Fighters t-shirts and furthermore, my dressing gown had a massive coffee stain down the front of it thanks to my dog Chester jumping up at me that morning. Thankfully, I was able to save my Dad from this ordeal as the nurses decided I was OK to go home with my take-out bag of drugs.

The miserable ward I manage to escape from!

The miserable ward I managed to escape from!

Yesterday, I had my CT scan. I was instructed to lay on a bed in front of a giant metal doughnut looking machine. The nurse then made a swift exit and my bed began to move inside the doughnut, my pillow started to heat up and a red light began to move across my head, then it started to make an industrial Hoover type of noise as my bed shifted back and forth. Starting to feel like I was in a bad Sci-Fi movie, I tried to look up into the nurses room but couldn’t quite see. After about 10 minutes, my bed spat me out of the doughnut and I was told I could leave and that my results would be sent to my doctor. I scanned the nurses face for any sign of concern but she had the whole poker face down to a fine art.

I am on day 5 of my drugs now and ‘my palps’ thankfully have decreased, I am trying not to Google my overactive thyroid condition too much as there is always a worst case scenario that I might not need to know. I still have more tests to come and a trial and error course of meds to sort my thyroid out, but I am hoping my ‘hyper’ thyroid will calm itself down and behave for the foreseeable future.

House of Pain

I am emerging from a weird sort of hibernation today. For the last three weeks my house has resembled an episode of M*A*S*H with makeshift beds and bandaged bodies groaning from different rooms. I have taken on the role of Hawkeye and have been administering pain medication to my three poorly patients. My patients have been my husband, my dog and my daughter, as all three of them have had operations.

Firstly, hubby was booked in for a minor operation. We have decided to draw the line at three children and to ensure this is a definite choice, my hubby made the brave decision to have ‘the snip’ (only took 2 years of me badgering him). He wasn’t completely willing as apart from the obvious fears of the pain he may have to endure, I think there is a male ego thing related to this particular male operation. For Mum’s we become fairly used to being pulled around and examined with little dignity from the minute we get pregnant and long after the baby is born. I had so many examinations during and after my pregnancy with the twins I was pretty much on auto pilot of stripping off from the waist down at every appointment, even if the doctor was only interested in my blood pressure! After three children, all delivered naturally and numerous smear tests, I did find it a little tricky to feel too sympathetic about my hubby’s upcoming surgery but I did understand his concerns.

On the day of the operation, my husband and I travelled by train to a clinic in the west end of London, which literally had the smallest waiting room I’d ever seen. We waited amongst the other nervous looking men and their partners until he was called through for the procedure. In just less than an hour, my hubby emerged looking a bit pained. I had expected him to be walking like a cowboy having just dismounted from his horse but it was the opposite, he wasn’t able to take big steps but instead was sort of shuffling. Clutching his paper bag of dressings and leaflets we carefully left the surgery and ambled down the street towards the Underground. Hubby was now resembling a geisha with his tiny steps and his legs shut together which meant I had to adopt a similar walking style so as not to leave him behind, this seriously doesn’t work in rush hour London. Apart from flinching everytime the dog or kids came anywhere near him and walking tentatively for a few days, his recovery has been fairly straightforward.

Next up on the hit list was our dog Chester. As a 2-year-old male Labrador, Chester has become a little over sexed of late. Thankfully, his heightened hormones have mainly been directed at cushions, his bedding and a weird obsession with Chihuahua’s and he hasn’t tried to hump any of us.  However, whenever we were out on a walk, Chester’s hormones were raging at any dog that was unlucky enough to cross his path. Whatever breed or gender he was climbing aboard, I was left trying to drag him off the poor dog he was violating and apologising profusely to the horrified owner. If a Chihuahua was within a 2 mile radius he was gone, nose shoved in a place that made the features of the toy dog literally cry out for help. When it came to the point of an annoyed dog owner suggesting he ‘sort my dog out with some bricks’ I knew it was time to seek veterinary help!

Not a happy patient!

Not a happy patient!

We visited the vet after determining what the difference was between a castration and a vasectomy, which was a little reminiscent from the week before with my hubby. Chester was led away, his tail wagging, oblivious to what the rest of the day had in store for him, again it was a little reminiscent of the week before with my hubby. We collected him that evening with his massive cone to wear, struggling to walk on wobbly legs and a private area that would make the bravest person heave. His recovery has been a bit more laboured, he hasn’t been allowed out for walks for two weeks and for a dog who has a 2 mile run every day he has been super miserable. The cone that he was supposed to wear was a nightmare, not only did it take a wrestling team to fix it on his neck, but once he was wearing it, he proceeded to nudge the backs of our legs with it and scrape it up and down the walls. He has finally recovered after two weeks in depression with my constant shouts of ‘leave it alone’ after we abandoned (and he proceeded to chew) his cone. He has been out for walks but not amongst other dogs as yet, that test is to be trialled next week when I immerse him back into doggy society and hope that he has learnt to control his hormones a bit more.

My last patient of the month was our little girl. She has always had abnormally sized tonsils and adenoids, suffers with constant glue ear and is always dealing with some sort of cold. In her six years of life, we have visited numerous doctors to no avail, were told that she will ‘grow into her tonsils’ or that she can ‘learn to live with them’. After a concerning amount of time off school last year with throat infections, she was finally placed on a waiting list for surgery. The date we were sent, of course, was the week after Chester and hubby’s operations. I had longed for a solution to my little girl’s constant anguish with illness, but when the day arrived for her to have the problem eradicated, I was petrified. We arrived at the children’s ward bright and early one morning and settled Millie in her sterile and unwelcoming bed, against colourfully designed walls, amid hospital equipment and toys.

The view next to my daughters bed.

The view next to my daughters bed.

After the consultant talked us through the upcoming procedure of removing said tonsils and adenoids, puncturing her ear drums to drain fluid and inserting grommets, we had to paste on our hopeful smiley faces for the sake of our anxious looking daughter. We were led to the operating theatre were I was given hospital scrubs to wear, as I would be accompanying my little one through anaesthetic. Hubby was placed in the most starkly decorated relatives room ever seen and I followed her hospital bed and nurses down the daunting corridor and into pre-op. My job was to distract my daughter as the anaesthetist inserted the needle tap thingy in her hand. So I proceeded to promise my daughter the world in exchange for her looking at me and not the hand that was being dealt with. Unfortunately, her tiny hand didn’t accept the needle insertion so they had to try the other hand. I changed places with the surgical team, choking back the tears as my little girl stared wide-eyed at me looking frightened and begging me ‘to keep her tonsils’. They managed to put the needle in her other tiny hand and within seconds she was out cold, at which point I almost collapsed in a heap. One of the nurses led me back to the relatives room as I burst into tears, blubbering at the nurse ‘she didn’t even count back from ten’. Hubby was waiting there opposite another Mum, in much the same state as me, as we waited the longest 45 minutes of our lives.

The most depressing waiting room I never want to see again.

The most depressing waiting room I never want to see again.

Thankfully the surgery was a success, however, once back in childrens ward an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic kicked in resulting in her heart racing, her temperature raging and the poor little lady vomiting. Thankfully, the nurses were quick to react and brought her back to normal with medicine and a fan. We then spent the next 9 hours trying to make our little girl comfortable and feeding her crisps and sandwiches (doctors orders) so no ice-cream as expected. The last two weeks of her recovery have been tough, she has suffered greatly with pain, especially in her ears, her appetite is non-existent and her diet has mainly consisted of jacket potatoes and chocolate milkshakes, but she is starting to turn a corner now. The pain has eased and she is starting to show an interest in food again. I am spending far too much money on my food shopping and hosting a kind of Generation Game each evening bringing different food items in front of my daughter with an accompanied ‘Wow look whats on the menu tonight!’.

Three weeks, three operations and three poorly patients. I’m hanging up my scrubs for now.

Technophobic Parenting

Being a parent can often involve a multitude of roles covering everything from cleaner to chef or chauffeur to psychoanalyst and the negotiation talents of Alan Sugar for when it comes to mealtimes/bedtimes or bickering between siblings is often helpful.

The latest required string to my parental bow is the need for technology know-how. Don’t get me wrong, I can confidently find my way around the internet, am fairly proficient in Word, Excel and Powerpoint and hopefully Social Media savvy (although still trying to become enamoured by Twitter). However, when we bought our 10-year-old son a tablet for his birthday in December, his knowledge of the internet in a week left me in the dust. Trying to keep up with him clicking between various tabs was like trying to understand the conversations in one of the modern Star Wars films. In the early days of his new gadget, I sat down with him to ‘show him the ropes’ but instead ended up with my first-born helping me create a Google account while he become frustrated trying to explain Google + to me. Say What Now?

This is the child that has looked to me for advice from birth. Those big green eyes have penetrated my soul as he has quizzed me about all manner of weighty subjects over the last ten years, as I in turn imparted my pearls of wisdom about what worms eat, or if Spiderman has to wee like normal people, but computers, this is a whole new world that I wasn’t ready to share with him yet. A world that he is sort of doing a lot better at than me worryingly.

computer says no

Our son is not only a bit of a computer whizz kid, but I am proud to think that he is a sensible little fella too. He has a nice group of friends that are all polite boys, we have never had any fears of him being bullied and on the whole, apart from the usual strops about going to bed early or not wanting to eat his broccoli, he is a happy child. And like most other parents, I thought I knew my son, we talk a lot, he tells me lots of things about his school life, he talks to me regarding his concerns about whether he’ll make the Chelsea soccer squad when he’s an adult and I in turn try to steer him to other career choices, but I was suitably shocked to discover that my innocent little man was actually making YouTube videos.

He sometimes borrows my laptop as he started writing a blog last year (  and I am actively encouraging this new-found desire for creativity by allowing him use of my computer. However, when he left it logged on (again!) the other night after he had gone to bed, the only tab open was YouTube displaying the numerous videos he and his friends have been making.

The thing is, my son and his friends are addicted to Minecraft and for those of you who are not familiar with this game, it is basically a combat, building, strategy type game with graphics which remind me of those that were used on Ceefax many years ago. Yet despite its seemingly awful layout, it has become the biggest thing for young gamers worldwide and most definitely amongst my son’s friends. He has assured me that the Minecraft he plays is only single player mode and that the things he builds/blows up are only in his realm and that he doesn’t have the ability to talk to anyone on the site. Phew…However, he and his friends are sharing their Minecraft creations with each other on YouTube. To me, this is mental. YouTube is a place I use to view music videos and film trailers, YouTube is also the place some people go to watch porn, upload dodgy videos of themselves and a lot of stuff that is definitely not suitable for a naïve 10-year-old. My other major concern, when I saw the fresh face of my son on his YouTube video talking to his friends and the World Wide Web (argh!) about his latest Minecraft tactics, is who else is watching this!

This then provoked the conversation I had been dreading. Me and hubby sat down and talked to our innocent boy about the risks he runs from posting videos on YouTube, that it’s not just his mates that could be watching and that some bad grown up people may pretend to be a 10-year-old Minecraft fan and will want to talk to him and that’s not OK. The confused expression that I was met with during this conversation made my heart skip. This young boy of mine is on the verge of growing up and is doing so into a very different world that I experienced when I was his age.  My computer knowledge at 10 was watching my older brother take at least 15 minutes to load Pac-Man onto his Spectrum with ear-piercing screeching noises emitting from his cassette deck.

I’m excited for my children’s technological future and I personally want them to embrace it (within reason) and be able to become savvy in its positive sides. If tablets and whiteboards are the way forward in the classroom then I want my children to know their way around them with their safety being paramount. I talked with my son about how people should act appropriately online and what sites he is allowed on. We have told him to never use his real name or to show his face in any YouTube videos, if he needs an avatar then he should use a cartoon one like mine. As an extra safety measure, I am attempting to fold washing behind the chair in which he sits on his tablet and have a little peek at what he is accessing.

When we bought the tablet for his birthday present we downloaded the parental controls as suggested by the information provided, however, it wasn’t very clear to me what he was protected from exactly. Can he stumble across adult content from an innocent Google search? Can he be cyber bullied on gaming websites? What should I be worried about when it comes to him being online unsupervised? It makes me feel unable to protect him from this virtual world he is embracing and such a long way from the days he spent creating pictures of the Tweenies on the CBeebies website. But as long as we make this technological journey together or with my interfering eye over his shoulder, there’s no reason for him not to benefit from this new world he is discovering.

If you have any concerns over your children’s safety online, there is help available. The ever so knowledgable people at Childnet are launching a Safer Internet Day on 11 February to help concerned parents and their tech savvy children explore how to enjoy the internet in a safe and responsible way. Virtual worlds needn’t be places to fear, Disney Club Penguin are running the campaign ‘It Starts With You’ which also offers help to parents and children on how to make the online world a better place. Just make sure you ask permission before using your child’s tablet to look them up.