Sunday, 31 October 2010

What I've Loved This Week.... nostalgia. For me, blogging has been a very off and on business, and this certainly isn't the first blog I've written. If you're interested, and you've got a little bit of spare time, then do please go off and have a look at my previous ones - you can find me having a tantrum here, and having it all here (but please remember to come back!)

I often think I was born in the wrong time - in my heart, I know I was meant to be waltzing with a dashing young man who's arrived at the ballroom in a carriage and Jane Austen's chosen me as her main study. Or I'm a lovelorn governess with a crush on her boss. Or Anna Karenina. Take your pick really. It often means though I don't necessarily always grasp the current culture, I'm constantly astounded by fashion, culture and hairstyles, and I'd still quite like to wear a gypsy top. Do you remember them? It's a bit of a sign of age that one.

When I first started blogging, there were only a few blogs I knew about, and there certainly wasn't any sort of network of the same size as British Mummy Bloggers. Well , there might have been, but if they existed I didn't know about them and I probably wouldn't have been accepted as a member. Wife in the North had got her book deal, and some of my Open University buddies blogged if they were doing a Creative Writing course, other than that you just sort of waited for people to find you, and you found them by looking at comments on other people's blogs. And I look back on those days quite fondly, I wasn't aware of it being such a big deal as it is nowadays, and probably we danced in cornfields and the sun always shone as well. And in this spirit of looking back:-

this week I've loved shabby. I came across this gorgeous shop while I was in York, and they do a lovely mail order service. How could you not love this gorgeous santa envelope? Or this beautiful lamp? Or these pretty jugs? Frankly I could buy up half their supply, if only I had the money. (And no, this isn't a sponsored post, they haven't offered me any incentives, I just happen to love the shop.

This week I've loved blogs. One of the first blogs I read in great big huge chunks, and still read now is Big Blue Barn West. Aims has had an incredibly difficult life, she has tales to make you laugh and cry, and she's one of the bravest women I'll ever have the pleasure to read. She's also a very talented crafter and although she doesn't blog as regularly as she used to, she's still a writer who will draw you in to her world. In a bid to look to the new as well, I've discovered a gorgeous new blog called Karen and Nigella. She has the most mouthwatering photographs of food, and she's working her way through Nigella's cookbook. I shall personally be hoping to follow her on the journey, literally if necessary, just to get my hands on some of that food.

So that's me done. What have you loved this week?

Edited to add it's no use at all me telling you I used to write other blogs and then not giving you the linky loo la's so you can have a look at them. I can only apologise and blame someone who isn't me, defeinitely not, no sirree bob.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

The One Where I'm a Mum

I think we can all agree that being a parent can be very rewarding. I think we can also agree that parenting is sometimes very difficult. All with me so far? Fantastic. And I think that a lot of people will say that the first couple of years are incredibly taxing, if this is your first baby, you alternate between terrified and horrified and if it's your second or more, you probably alternate between being tired and more tired. I can't comment on that, the whole prospect was scary beyond belief.

Now I'm a mum of a 12 year old, so I can tell you how much easier it is now, how we've got through the worst, and it's all plain sailing from here on in.

I can tell you that, but I think mummy bloggers are supposed to do it with integrity, and there's as much integrity in those statements as there is in the X-Factor.

In the last week before half term, son had a bit of a disagreement with his best friend at senior school. They've been stuck together like glue for the entire first year, although they're both part of a larger group of friends. They socialised out of school, evenings and weekends, phoning each other about homework and suddenly it's all stopped. As the mum of a 12 year old boy, I can tell you it's pretty difficult to get to the bottom of a story, I'll be entirely honest, it's sometimes difficult to get a "hello" if they're playing on a computer game.

This time though son was unusally forthcoming, which gives a little pause for thought. You wonder to yourself if they're telling you a very elaborate story to cover something else up, like detentions, or drug smuggling charges. And of course I only have one half of the story, which I won't bore you with or risk libel charges, save to say it had something to do with a lunchtime football game and goalkeeper gloves.

And my first instinct was to think how could the other boy possibly fall out with my son? He's lovely! People would beg to be his friend! My second instinct was to charge round to the boy's house and demand to know what was going on, and not leave until they'd made friends again. Maybe talk to his parents, get them to make him make friends. Perhaps get something in writing.

Of course, I didn't do that. Not just because it was a fairly cold night and the dinner was in the oven.

Because you have to let them make their own way, more and more, every single day. You have to watch them grow up and grow away, hoping they'll always stay close. And that's the hardest thing of all.

I'd love to tell you the whole parenting malarkey gets easier, but there's only one part of it that does, especially if you've got a boy. They've always, always got their eyes glued to a PS3 game or a film or the laptop.

And it makes it easier to hide your heart when it breaks, just a little.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Always Prepared

Yes, if anyone wants to point out this particular fact, I know it's not Thursday. I know I said I'd always do a post on Thursday. I know it's Friday today.


Anyway, I was thinking about me and the other half. We've been together about two and a half years now - I say about because I'm not really sure about when we started seeing each other - we don't have a first date anniversary or anything. Remind me to tell you that story another time. It's a gem.We each have our own house, and we live between the two of them - remind me to tell you about that as well, that's funnier than the first one. I think we're your fairly average, normal, everyday sort of couple - we both work full time, are quite amicable and we mingle very well with society.

We're both so normal that we have a celebrity back up plan. It's such a simple plan, I'm sure you all have one too. The idea of a celebrity back up plan is that you have one, absolutely no more than one, celebrity nominated. Then, if that celebrity ever chances upon you, you are allowed to ditch your partner and take up with the, either permanently, or on a more, how shall I say this, temporary one night basis. No questions asked by your current partner, no need for excuses, no opportunity for recriminations. They are your celebrity back up, and that is your right.

We've gone over this in some detail, but it appears that some particular items still need clarification. Like for instance this evening. Follow this conversation if you will:-

OH: Are you going to watch "While You Were Sleeping"?
Me: I might do, I like that film. (And I do, it's a bit of a guilty pleasure)
OH: It's got my girlfriend in it. Sandra Bullock.
Me: It hasn't, you swapped her.
OH: I did not! I would never swap Sandra!

The thing to note here is that, as I said before, you're only allowed one celebrity. If, however, you wish to change your mind, if you see someone nicer, or for more strategic reasons such as they've just got divorced and your chances are increased, then you may exchange. Not add.

Me: You did swap her. Don't you remember?
OH: Did I really swap her? Who did I swap her for?
Me: Rachel Weisz. (I think it was always difficult for him to choose)
OH: Oh I remember now! She's lovely! Who's yours again?
Me: David Tennant. (I keep track of mine, you need to keep up to date with the important stuff)
OH: David Tennant?!! What happened to David Beckham?!!
Me: I traded him in (on account of his tattoos)
OH: Who for?
Me: Ewan McGregor (on account of his accent)
OH: And what happened to him?!!
Me: I traded him in for David Tennant (on account of Dr Who, and all round scrumptiousness)

So you see how it works now. It's really a very straightforward premise.

And we're a very normal couple, who are prepared, if the need arises, to ditch one another at the drop of a hat, and go off with barely a glance behind us.

But at least we're prepared.

But what I want to know is - who would your celebrity back up be?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Not Old Mother Hubbard

I’m not really like Old Mother Hubbard, I’m the very opposite. Unless of course you take it very literally as there are no bones in the cupboards at all. At least I don’t think there are; I don’t really look in the backs of the cupboards, but I think I can fairly confidently say that it’s unlikely there are any bones in the cupboard. There are however plenty of other things, like maple syrup, bicarbonate of soda, hundreds and thousands and white wine vinegar. Some of them have been there for a long time. I try not to think too much about the sell by dates until I start a new recipe and need a particular item which I know I have in my cupboard, only to find out it’s not only past it’s “sell by” date and it’s “use by” date, but it’s now well into the “this is destroying your cupboard” date and the “this will kill you and several thousand people in your immediate vicinity if you remove the lid” date.

Part of the problem is I’m a bit of a cookery book fanatic. I have a lot of them, and I mean a lot. If I go to a book fair, a food fair, or probably a fun fair, I’ll return with a cookery book that contains the one elusive recipe for the absolutely perfect dessert that none of my other 25 recipe books contained. I’ll then choose a recipe I like the look of, discover I’ve got less than one tenth of the ingredients already and make my way to the local supermarket. I’ll then be staggered every single time when I walk round only to discover they don’t stock sheep’s milk cheese, fresh rosemary or dried bat’s blood, which is the absolutely essential item for the recipe and which I end up substituting with chicken stock or vanilla essence depending on the sweet or savoury nature of the dish. Almost invariably. I then potter off back home, make the recipe, and don’t get me wrong, it’s usually lovely, but I end up with a cupboard full of boxes, tins and bottles where I’ve used either a pinch or 3 drops and I never, ever come across any recipe ever again which contains them.

This isn’t the only problem I face when I go food shopping. The other half and I had a swish round Waitrose the other day, and I was overtaken by the spirit of a woman who wants to buy a lot of things in pretty boxes, which smell nice, and either say “organic”, “original recipe” or have a quaint little brand name like Fiddledeedee Pies. (If ever someone calls their range of pies that, someone needs to tell me, because I’ll be owed a lot of money). We walked round, I tried to plan meals for the entire week ahead, and we thought we’d got it well sorted, but then arrived home with no eggs which were kind of one of the very important ingredients.

When you’re making an omelette.

The problem, we decided, was that we didn’t use shopping lists. I rarely use a shopping list unless I’m going on one of the aforementioned specific recipe trips, but I associate them with a generation different to my own. I remember all too well being sent on shopping errands by my mum who had a, well let’s say, unique style. Until I learned better, I never looked at the list until I got into the supermarket, then I’d stand there while I tried to decipher what on earth she meant. Trolls were one of my favourite items which appeared regularly, and it took a while to work out that it actually said t-rolls, shorthand for toilet rolls. My other abiding memory is fininger, but I’m sure even the best educated of us could forgive my mum the slightly eccentric spelling of vinegar.

Still, it all makes for a slightly more interesting shopping experience, but if anyone can source me a recipe which uses whole nutmegs, peanut butter, dried suet, pickled red cabbage and lemon curd, I’d be eternally grateful.

Monday, 25 October 2010

What I've Loved This Week....

…is punctuality. I think it’s fairly well understood in the blogging world that to build up your readership and enhance the experience for the visitor, you need to post regularly. I’m not sure if, as part of that, it has to be good as well, but it certainly has to be regular. For all I know, you might be able to do a post that’s just your shopping list (and there’s more to follow on that later in the week). Or perhaps you could let your child just bash away on the keys, put that little gem up and call it creative?

With this lesson in mind, I decided to set this blog up with a specific structure in mind; I’d do two posts (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) that was just whatever was on my mind that week, or whatever had got my goat the particular minute I started to write. On Saturdays, I would write a proper mum post – I know sometimes you forget I’m a parent blogger, but I really am, my family are at the heart of eveything I do, and I thought I’d dedicate one post a week just to prove it to you (and me).

The one thing I was really clear about was writing one post a week where I told you about what I’d loved during the week. I’m a really positive person, and I always see the good in a person or situation, but if you read my blog you’ll think I’m a real old whinge bag, so that’s just to remind everyone that I’m really not going after half the population of the known world with a hatchet.

It’s not that many, I don’t have time.

I decided I’d do that post on a Sunday, a nice family sort of day, and it would round the week off nicely. I think that when you start blogging you have to instill some discipline in yourself – it’s all too easy to let things go, not post, and then decide you can’t be bothered to go back to it. So, all in all, I’m really pleased I decided to stick to my routine.

Except, it’s Monday, and I’m doing it today. Because, you know, life?

Anyway, moving along, because we don’t need to dwell on that partiular failing, here we go.

This week I’ve loved watching The Inbetweeners. I’m fairly sure it’s not aimed at my age group, who frankly ought to be watching Panorama and Newsnight, it’s filthy, it’s disgusting, and it’s given me a vocabulary for body parts and intimate practices of which a builder would be proud. It was the last episode this week, but there’s rumours of a film on the horizon, and I’ll be there at the cinema with all of the people who are young enough to be my children.

This week I've loved blogs. I'm really trying very hard to get round as many blogs as I can, but the trouble is I don't want to just have a quick squint at them, make some banal comment and then move on. I like to have a proper read, like you would with a magazine, and then I have a rummage through some of the older posts to see what it's all about and then sometimes I go off at a tangent because they recommend someone else and do you know what people? No time! That's what I've got, no time! I wouldn't want someone to recommend a blog to me on the basis of one post, so I have to make sure you can trust me. First up for blog I've loved this week is the lovely Penny who knocks around at The Alexander Residence. Not only does her blog look great, she's really, really entertaining, she has some great discussion points, and as her daughter's threatening to destroy her vicarious career plans, I think you should all go and show her some love. Secondly, I'm going to take you on a little trip abroad. When I was first a blogger a little while ago, I have to say the Americans really showed us the way with blogging - as with many things they did it bigger and better. When I wanted to read a really funny entertaining blog, I was pointed in the direction of Melissa at Suburban Bliss. She's a blogger who can make me laugh out loud, and then want to cry with her in the space of a few posts. She manages to be amusing even when she's down and she makes you feel better about school holidays with her some time dread of spending more time with her children. Once you read the tagline for her blog (Birth Control via The Written Word), you'll understand exactly where she's coming from, and how we're either going there or have been already.

So there's my little round up for the week - what have you loved?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The One Where I'm a Mum

Anyone who knows me will tell you I love my food. I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, but I very much enjoy eating. In fact there are few things I don't like to eat. My son has grown up with a similarly robust attitude to food, he'll volunteer to try all sorts of things and sometimes he'll like them and sometimes he won't. Unfortunately he's also cursed with a sweet tooth, but then I'd imagine there are very few 12 year olds who aren't.

When I saw a headline in the news (and I'll let you read the full article here if you haven't already) about a mother who had restricted her daughter's calorie intake to 700 a day I was flabbergasted. But also it made me stop and think about how much of our own issues with food is passed on to our children.

I'm almost constantly trying to lose weight. I know I weigh too much, not enormously so, but still overweight. Particularly if you examine the little person on the Wii Fit representing me who looks like a little orange bouncing across the screen with twig arms and legs. Depending on my own weight, and how I feel about it, the family meal changes accordingly. Unfortunately, I still equate good mothering as feeding everyone very well and seeing happy faces round the dining table, so on numerous occasions my internal calories counter goes out the window for the price of a home made lasagne or key lime pie.

And it makes me wonder what sort of influence I'm having on my son. He's a strapping lad as they say, almost as tall as me and what I would have referred to in the past as well built. He loves his food, but plays rugby and badminton at school and goes swimming twice a week. All of which is more than I do, as my exercise is currently limited to using my fingers on a keyboard. I'm not oblivious at all to the fact that we need to eat a healthy diet, I ensure that everyone eats fruit, cuts down on sweets and chocolate and vegetables aren't as scary as they might be. But should I be eating in a more healthy manner so that this rubs off on him? Should I be restricting his calorie intake without him knowing, to prevent weight problems in the future? Or do I risk having a child who's so consumed (if you'll pardon the pun) by the calorific value of cake that he grows up with an entirely unhealthy view of food?

How do you tip the scales on this one?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

When Community Goes Bad

I've blogged for quite some time now, on and off, but as far as I'm concerned it's an enjoyable pursuit, I write because I like to do it and I also think that I'm quite good at it. I like being part of the mummy blogging community because I feel as though I can have a chat with people on issues which are relevant to us as a group and get to see other people's views on subjects which I find interesting. I enjoy being on Twitter because you can join in a random chat, sit back, relax and have a bit of a laugh. But this week has made me realise that it isn't always a great place to be.

I'm not really in what I'd describe as the inner circle of mummy bloggers. I'm not really in the outer circle either. In fact, if you were looking at the inner circle and the outer circle, and then zoomed out, I'd be trying to get a bus from the next town to the circles. This means that more often than not, I don't understand the in-jokes, I don't understand who's friends with who and I certainly don't understand who hates who, who wishes the other one would get run over by a car and who thinks the other one's blogs/pictures/babies are the most disgusting thing she's ever seen.

This week, there's been the swift start and hasty demise of a new blog, written anonymously, which, if I'm honest, was just sniping for the sake of it, and nasty with it. This appears to have been accompanied by a proper old handbag slinging on Twitter and probably a load of other places on the internet I've never even heard of. There were accusations and counter accusations and threats of legal action.

And I'm sort of left thinking - well that's not very nice is it? I'm going to be really honest now - I wish sometimes I was on the inner circle of mummy bloggers - it's like when I was back at school and I wanted to knock round with the cool girls, but that never happened either. While I might want to join in their gang, I look at what they have to do, how much work they each individually put in to their blogs and businesses, and how talented they are, and I think fair play to them. I look enviously at the amount of comments and visits some people get on their blog and wish that my blog was so well read and well thought of, and then I look at how much promotion they do for it, and again I think they get out of it what they put in. I work full time, I don't get back home till after 6, I can't blog during the day and in the evening I have to try and fit in minor things like eating and chores and sleeping. So I have to settle for what I can get.

The things that really bother me though are the vitriol and downright unpleasantness that goes back and forth. Anonymity is a great thing to hide behind, and which of us hasn't spouted off at the Virgin Media Customer Service Team on a website in a manner which doesn't befit a lady? (Or is that just me?) Would these people be so brave face to face if they worked in an office and then had to carry on working with these people? Would they even be so brave if they used their real names? Anonymity has its place, of course it does, but it isn't just a convenient shield for when you want to be rude to someone.

This week I think the community has shown its claws, and sadly I think it won't show us in a good light. As a mum, I have to ask...

Would you let your children behave like that?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Some days, there just aren't words...

...and some days there are too many, and said in the wrong way. For all the wrong reasons, my temper is quite legendary, and although it's quick to go, it's quick to arrive and seems to be getting quicker. When I'm in the middle of an argument, I'll use words that I never use in any other situation, some of them aren't even swear words, and I'll speak in an entirely different tone of voice. I honestly think if I listened to a recording of myself mid-rant I wouldn't recognise the pompous, vindictive witch-hag I become.

The trouble is sometimes I lose my way in an argument, I can't remember what I've just said and I get so caught up in the moment that I'm not sure I'm still on the same side any more. If I wasn't so swept away in the heat of a fiery debate, I'd think it might be better to stop and make notes so I can remember where I've got to. Then I sometimes repeat myself, and then I can end up going round in circles, and having to withdraw a bit so I can get my bearings again. Quite often after that I have to do a quick list of the things that are still driving me into a frenzy, so there's the constant repetition of "and another thing", which is invariably accompanied by me banging my finger on the nearest hard object, even if the person I'm arguing with can't actually see me.

All in all, it's not a pretty picture, I'm vindictive, nasty and ruthless in an argument, but as soon as it's over I'm mortified. You know when you have too much to drink, and you get little flashbacks of things you did or said, and you just cringe? I'm like that after an argument. I could walk around in sackcloth and ashes, such is the shame and embarassment, because I've learned, very late in life, that it appears you can't un-say things.

And that's why I'm writing this blog today. I'm the exact opposite of ruthless today, in fact I'm ruthmore. I'm so sorry, I've had to invent a new word.

And I love you.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

What I've Loved This Week

Hi everyone! I've had such a busy week, it's all been a bit kitchens, plumbers and complaining, but it's been great fun too! There are so many things I've loved this week but I'll try to give you a little round up of what I've been up to.

This week I've loved reading  The Road by Cormac McCarthy. If you haven't read it already, I'd urge you to give it a try, but it's not easy reading. It's incredibly poetic though, moving and has a desperate isolation about it which puts me in mind of Waiting for Godot (but don't let that put you off!)

This week I've loved watching This is England 86. I know it finished weeks ago but sometimes my V+ is more relevant than the TV listings! I loved the film, loved the series more, incredibly well acted, but again with some terribly sad story lines (and if you're easily shocked, then you might want to think twice)

This week I've loved blogs - two in particular. I've been blogging for a while now and some blogs I seem to have read for ever. One which I absolutely adore (and have done for some time) is Violet Posy. I'd urge you to go and have a look - she's the shabby chic queen and makes me wish I lived in her house, or at least that she'd come and make mine look nice. Her blog's gorgeous and she has some fantastic ideas that I'm sure I'll put my mind to one day...I'd also recommend a visit to a blog that's entirely new to me and that's Kate Takes 5 - she writes so beautifully, she's really funny, and how she finds time to write with her merry little band I'll probably never know. Also, she seems to like a glass of wine, so she's always welcome here.

(PS - I'd just like to say this will be a regular feature, please don't despair if it takes me a while to get to you - I know blogging can be an extremely frustrating business but I promise you're not talking to yourself!)

So that's my week - what have you been up to?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The One Where I'm a Mum

I can understand why you're wondering, really I can. You find me linked up to the British Mummy Bloggers website (yes I know, I keep forgetting to get the badge - I'll get the badge) and you come along here expecting my words of wisdom or alternatively some carnage of a family that makes you feel better about your own, and what do you get? Some grumpy old woman moaning on about all sorts, and barely some mention of a child who's probably imaginary.

Well you're going to have to trust me, he's not imaginary, he's here, he's 12 and he's the reason I'm an expert on Wizards of Waverley Place and anything relating to a Wii. It's a long time since he was a gorgeous little baby, so I can't help you with recent tales of nappy changing, pureed vegetables or In The Night Garden. If however you want to discuss boys who are nearly as tall as you, with bigger feet than you and a pained, long suffering look every time you sing, then you're in the right place.

He also gives me ample blog fodder, because I get to share my views with you on a whole range of stuff that would be unknown to me but for his existence. Take text speak for instance. I've got a mobile phone, I'm not a dinosaur, but it's not one of those fandangly ones where you can update your Facebook, tweet and get an app to cut your toenails. When I first had a mobile phone, as far as I was concerned, it was like writing a very short note to a friend, but with a phone. How great is that? There were no funny abbreviations, no words with numbers in them, no smiley little icons bouncing up and down. And by and large, very little has changed.

Mainly because, even though I use it a tiny little bit, (much to my shame,) I can't stand text speak.

As far as I'm concerned we have a very well functioning language, it has more words than we need, many more we barely use, and even more we can't spell. So why did we need to start inventing words like "gr8", "lol" "rofl" and "eva"? When my son sends me a text message I virtually need some sort of Urban Dictionary on standby to understand what he means, and how the hell am I meant to know if he can spell properly if he uses his own words? You see, as far as I'm concerned that's the whole problem. How are you meant to be able to tell if your children are learning the basics at school if they don't even use them when they're on their own time? And it's no use assuring me that of course he knows the proper words, because I've seen grown ups who think it's perfectly fine to write a business e-mail like they're putting on a Facebook status update. I understand that our language has evolved massively since Shakespeare invented a whole batch of new words, and we hardly walk round the streets muttering zounds and forsooth (although to be fair we do use gloomy and laughable, according to our mood).

But that isn't the point, you see. I told you I want my son to be clever and if his sentences look like a long line of Wingdings and equations, then I don't see how this is going to work.

So what do you think? Luv it or h8 it?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Academic Schmacademic

I've always believed you should try your hardest at school, work for your exams, go to college, work hard again, go to university and be as academic as you possibly can be. (I'm a bit more "do as I say, not as I do" than I care to face up to, but no matter). Of course, I want my son to be happy, well rounded and popular, but it would really please me no end if he was clever as well. I know that by the time he gets to university age, it will be compulsory for him to be in full time education until he's 43, and it will cost me £65,000 per year for the privilege but needs must when the competitive mummy drives.

Similarly, I've held a disregard for what I consider to be "soft" subjects at universities, not quite proper subjects - English, yes, History, yes, The Beatles, no, and a similar no to anything relating to Coronation Street. I see more and more schools offering vocational subjects, media studies and apprenticeships and I applaud them, I really do, but also part of me thinks "where are the proper subjects?" Why don't children have to remember things any more? Why don't they have to learn stuff by rote? Why don't they just do exams? Why don't they write on slates any more? (I jest, but not too much.)

And yet this week my entire belief system was turned on its head. When I couldn't turn the tap off, when I couldn't turn the water off, when I fetched one neighbour after another, when a neigbour turned the water off, when the same neighbour tried to fit a new tap, when the same neighbour smashed my wash basin in half, and when I viewed the wreckage of what had previously been a well functioning downstairs toilet, I caught myself thinking "I hope my son grows up to be a plumber".

Of course, he'll have done a degree first, and he'll be incredibly clever. And when he can explain to you why he's just smashed your wash basin very politely and possibly in 3 different languages while he gives you a brief history of plumbing through the ages, you'll know I was right all along.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Patience is not my Virtue

Sometimes my patience is given a test, and today is one of those days. Normally, I’m quite a tolerant person, but of late I seem to have developed an entirely new persona  - we’ll call her Daily Mail Woman. I find increasingly I’m either outraged, horrified, or astounded. And almost never in a good way.

At the moment I’m attempting to sell my house. I understand we’re in a recession, I really do, and I know this is never going to go smoothly. In fact in a survey today, I read that moving house is rated as 4th in the top causes of stress.

I wish.

I wish I could get as far as moving house. I’m still stuck on the selling part and already my blood pressure is 830 over boiling. We’ve had a few people round to have a look, the estate agent has shown some of them round, the other half and I have shown some of them round, probably we’ve shown the same ones round so dreadful has the process been so far. In fact there’s probably just one couple that’s been shown round 10 times. And the feedback I’ve had so far? “I’m not sure about the heating” (I have warm air heating, rather than radiators.) “I’m not sure about the parking” (I don’t have a drive). And my personal favourite “I’m not sure about the carpets – do you think the owner would take them up and put other ones down?” (Yes of course, we can go out together and go to the shops and choose them, no expense spared and the treat’s on me. We can be new best friends for ever.)

But even that isn’t what really makes me cross. It’s articles in the newspapers declaring that the “home dream “is over” for young”. Apparently, such is the average cost of a house now, a buyer will have to save an average deposit of 10%, roughly equating to £18600 and £29700 in London.

How much?

Not if you buy my house you won’t. I don’t live in a slum, I have a good family sized three bedroomed house and I live within an hour’s commute of the UK’s second city (no, not Manchester), a journey which I undertake twice a day so I can get to my job. I’ll accept I don’t live in a leafy suburb of the Home Counties, I don’t have a conservatory, laundry room, integrated fridge/dishwasher/tumble dryer/chef/butler and I won’t even put down the carpets you like.

So the dream of buying a house isn’t over. It’s nonsense. In these times you have to be realistic, you have to live where you can afford, and you have to make a choice and stop waiting for the magic fairy to bring you a five bedroomed mansion with a walk in wardrobe and a dog.

You have to buy a house you can afford.

Mainly mine.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

This Week I've Loved...

...coming back to writing. I've written on and off for a few years now, probably more off than on, but it's good to be back. I'm starting to make the time to read blogs again, and just can't believe how many new ones have sprung up while I've been away! I'm going to really have to find some balance between reading and writing though - if I don't find the time to blog, then I'm just some crazy stalker who goes round reading other people's stuff, and there's probably already too many of those on the internet.

I'm intending to make a weekly feature of things I've particularly enjoyed and I intend devoting a special little part for blogs or blog posts that I've taken to so please feel free to leave me a comment and I'll be more than delighted to come and add someone else to my reader. 

I mean, what else have I got to do? OK, I'm a mum to a 12 year old, so there's that. And partner to my lovely other half, got to find time for him. Then there's a full time job, that pays the bills so that's got to fit in. Then there's the housework, the hobbies, the friends and the social life.

Apart from those though, I'm all yours.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Why Factor

I'm a sucker for the X-Factor, I always have been. In fact, much to my partner's disgust, I'm a sucker for quite a lot of reality TV, although to my credit I haven't watched Big Brother for the last 2 series (it's normally the sort of programme for which I'd have had to attend weekly meetings at Rubbishwatchers Anonymous). But I've watched X Factor since it was a little tiny x in Simon Cowell's eye, and I've stuck with it through Jedward and thin.

This season has me baffled though.

I thought I'd seriously seen it all when Louis put through Jedward last year, but then they were young boys and Irish to boot, and so what did you expect? But Cheryl really? May I be so bold to ask what you were thinking?

I know that there's been a huge furore over Gamu not getting through, although that's looking to be a bit of a moot point if she can't actually stay in the country. (I know things may have changed by the time I post this - at the time of writing I hadn't checked the t'interweb for approximately 6 minutes). But the other pair? The blonde one with blobs on her eyelashes or the terrifically thin Cheryl mini-me?

I have to say though, if you forget for a minute it's a singing contest (go on, try - it's not as hard as you might imagine), what this decision has done is give hope to the millions of us in the country who have never auditioned, because we're crap. All we really have to do is give it a bit of oomph at the audition, or alternatively turn up looking like we got dressed in the dark and then forget the words, muddle our way through Boot Camp, preferably just repeating the whole audition business, and then rock up to the judges houses with a bad throat or an emotional breakdown. There you have it, my key to X Factor success.

So you see next year loads more people will audition, because they'll think that it doesn't matter if you can't finish a song or you cry all through it, in fact they're the 2 things which almost guarantee you success. And loads more people will watch because they can't believe what ridiculous decisions the judges make - don't listen to those people who swear they'll never watch it again, they'll be there on Saturday, lapping it up with the rest of us, and trying to vote the no hopers out. All leading to more money from advertising revenue and those pesky phone lines.

Simon Cowell, I see your little game...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Modern Times

All is well this Sunday. The music's on in the living room, the son's just finished some grand creation in the kitchen, and the other half's doing something complicated with paperwork. I'm sitting in the kitchen, looking very business-like, tapping away at the laptop. I've checked my e-mails, done a quick round up of the various forums to which I contribute, and had a look at Facebook.

Since when did this become how I spend a Sunday? I know that I'm behind the times and I understand I have a somewhat warped view of my role in society. In my mind, I'm wearing a gingham apron, I have a dusting of flour on my hands and maybe a touch on my nose, and I've already made 3 jars of jam from the damsons in the garden. I'll be getting ready for a WI meeting this afternoon and gathering up my quilting to show the other ladies. It doesn't really bear very much relation to reality, although there is some flour in the cupboard. Somewhere.

Do you ever stop and wonder how different life is now from the last generation? And how much of our lives revolve around one (or more) of the various social networking platforms? Good heavens, I've even been known to tweet occasionally when the mood takes me.

So much of our lives is now shared with people we barely know, and I include blogging firmly within that. With blogging, we reach out to a whole group of people who may not even share the same interests but have stumbled on us through some quirk of the internet. We become part of online communities, we get virtual friends and we spend hours reading what other people have said. At least however we choose to share with people who may be unknown to us though, unlike Facebook with its privacy rules becoming more confusing than the instructions for setting up a Playstation 3.

Facebook's becoming a bit of an issue for me. I still like it, I've got in touch with people I haven't seen for years and I get to nosey around at what other people are doing. But I'm starting to wonder if it isn't all one big scam. I read an article in the Daily Mail yesterday about Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, internet nerd, and apparently, all round dysfunctional geek. I can well imagine that he uses one of the Facebook applications to count his millions, probably in Pirate pounds or something. He came up with the revolutionary idea of setting up a website where people would reveal all their secrets, their personal details and their photos. If we received an e-mail from a stranger asking us to do just that, his e-mail would have disappeared into the Spam Box and he'd be hounded on Watchdog. Apparently Facebook stores every message we've ever sent, every status update we've ever made, every single one of our personal details. Facebook's virtual spare room must be enormous. Zuckerberg believes he's setting the new social norm, that this will become our new way of staying in touch and receiving information. Do you think one day he'll commit the largest identity theft ever known, steal all our money and take over the world?

I can't help but wonder if we really know what we're doing. Although I do enjoy a game of Scrabble.