Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Hello Blogosphere

Why, hello there internets. How are you? I'm muddling through. Just taking a bit of a break from it all, but normal service will be resumed just as soon as I figure out what normal is.

In the meantime, why not sit back with a slice of cake & a g&t?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Mam, can I just have a word?

The phrase guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of every parent outside our school gates of an afternoon.  The immediate thought process goes something like this...

  • What has she done?
  • What has she said?
  • Where has she thrown up?
  • Which part of her is bleeding?
  • What has someone else's child done to her?
Fortunately, this week's bout of terror turned out to be none of the above.  Instead, she was having an attack of end-of-term-itis, coupled with being a touch oversensitive to the needs of a tv character.  We've had a good old chat, and done the whole "no secrets" and "you can tell mummy anything" conversations, as well as giving her a mental list of other people she can talk to if she doesn't want to tell me.  I'm as happy as I can be that there's nothing more serious going on than just being in need of a week's break and the chance to wear a princess outfit every day.

Katie Morag - Who does not need to leave Struay, tears or no tears.
But be honest with me here. Am I the only person who gets that fear go through them when the teacher wants a "quick word".  Even when the teacher is considerably younger than you?  I still feel like I'm going to get detention, told to write out "I must not pull faces in assembly" 100 times, and have a letter sent to my mum.  It's amazing how school never quite leaves you, isn't it?

Monday, 11 May 2015

Time for a change

I've never been a skinny minnie, to put it mildly.  I'm not all that unfit - I can swim a 5k, and do a 3 1/2 hour Zumbathon without actually keeling over, but the only thing I can run is a bath, and while I can swim, me in a swimming costume is not a pretty sight.  So it's time for a change.

I've dieted in the past, who hasn't?  Sometimes I've lost weight, but eventually I fall off the wagon, usually with a fairly hard bump, and it all goes back where it came from.  I've been a member of a gym, but I get bored after a fairly short time, when I realise I can't read on a treadmill, and I don't like looking at myself in the mirrors.  (I don't mind Zumba, I can't see myself in the community centre's breezeblock walls, and everyone is so NICE it doesn't matter that I wobble even when I shouldn't).

So, time for a change of approach.  I've always had a slightly wobbly relationship with food. It's been my comfort, and it's been my downfall.  I craved pepperoni pizza while I was pregnant with Squeaky, and the cravings still haven't gone, despite the fact she's 5!

I was offered the chance to join in a trial with Thinking Slimmer, who are the people behind the Slimpod.  They've given me (and a group of other amazing bloggers) the chance to try out the Slimpod for ourselves, in return for sharing with them how we are getting on.  You know me though, I can't keep that to myself, I'm going to tell you as well.

Truth be told, I have kept it to myself for a little while, I wasn't sure whether you'd really want to know.  But I've been listening to the lovely Trevor, a cognitive hypnotherapist, before I go to sleep (and often while I'm asleep) for the last few weeks, and I'm honestly noticing a difference.  I'm not snacking so much, I'm choosing different foods, healthier foods, and I'm making better choices.  It's slightly strange being part of a group, but being remote from them, kind of the opposite to slimming clubs.  But for me it works.  I've come to the conclusion that you can't change for anyone other than yourself, and that includes competing with others.  I'll never be you, you'll never be me, it's a waste of good energy to try.  But I can be the best me, and I'm using my slimpod to help me be the best me I can.

Want to join me?  Well, don't go away, there's something exciting coming very soon!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Munching in Munich!

I was going to get all travel-blogger style and give you a full run down of our recent two-day jaunt to Munich, where we got caught in a monumental hailstorm, rode to the top of the Olympic tower, learned to negotiate the German rail system without speaking a word of German, and drank many good cups of coffee, and even more good beers.

But really, this is me.  We were visiting a friend, and only had a couple of days, which is nowhere near enough time to do the city justice.  I want to go back for a week and fill in the gaps that I didn't have chance to explore properly.  With an umbrella to deal with the next hailstorm, obviously, though considering the wind I might well have a Mary Poppins moment & end up flying all the way to Austria.  Being my blog though, I have got some photos to share with you.  You know the sort.



Being artistic at the Olympic Park

Beer. One of many.

If Frozen's Elsa worked in a Beerhall.
I'm slowly trying to improve my photography skills, bit by bit.  It's tough though, when time is limited and you're enjoying reality, to have the opportunity to set up a perfect shot.  This time I didn't have Squeaky dragging my arm down & making me run to the next streetlight, but even so, while I try to take a good shot, I also take many, many mediocre ones and more than a few outright bad ones.  I'll never be David Bailey (or insert other favourite photographer here), because life moves too fast for me.  But I'll have some fun along the way, and if some turn out good, all the better.

Friday, 8 May 2015


It's the time of year where the papers would normally be filled with those horror stories of parents being fined for taking their children out of school for a family trip to, well, anywhere really. This year we've had a slight reprieve due to the double whammy of the election & royal baby, but give it a few days now & we'll see photos of sad parents clutching their fine letters, and people spouting off that "it never did me any harm" (In the interests of full disclosure, I used to go on holiday in school time & have a degree, so yeah, it never did me any harm)

However, in these days of Callio and fixed penalty notices, as well as the obscene cost of childcare, family holidays during the school holidays are becoming a necessity.  The cost of an extra 2 weeks' childcare negates any possible saving of going on holiday in June, at least around here.
I see complaints about the cost of going away in the school holidays everywhere. But honestly, it doesn't have to cost more, all it takes is a little forward planning. The holiday brochures for 2016 have just come out, and that means there are free and cheap child places available.

In Summer...

We've booked our summer 2016 holiday already, and were able to secure a free child space for Squeaky, in August at a hotel with all the children's activities she could desire (basically a chocolate party & mini-disco) without breaking the bank.  To the extent that we've got a whole year before we have to actually pay for the holiday!  One third off the price to go the week earlier when we couldn't get a free child space, and actually £150 cheaper than going before the schools break up, believe it or not.

We're lucky in the respect that we only have one child - there's usually a limit to the number of free child spaces available per booking (a good reason to go on holiday with the grandparents maybe?), and there is definitely a limit to the number of free child spaces available on any given flight.  But even one free space in a family of 4 or 5 presents a significant saving.  And the cost of childcare for 2 or 3 children? Well, if you haven't got family nearby to ease the burden, the summer break can be financially crippling.  Childcare vouchers only go so far, and they rely on your childcare providers being registered - which not all are.  Same goes for Tax Credits, 70% of childcare costs is a help, but not enough.  The last choice is taking time off work - 5 weeks paid holiday per year doesn't meet the 6 weeks summer holidays, never mind the other 7 weeks of school holidays per year, sick days & last-minute inset days, unpaid leave can be the only way.

I'm not saying I agree with the term time holiday rules, but there is an equation to consider - is the (possibly) increased cost of the holiday offset by the other costs if you take time out from the school calendar - after all, school aren't going to take the children off our hands because we went away in June, are they?  Much as Squeaky's teacher may say she'd happily keep her, I'm sure she doesn't really mean it.

What do you think?

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Take a look around

I think most of us are guilty of walking around in something of a dream, I certainly am. But daydreaming our way around the world means we can miss out on some amazing sights.

While I live on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, I find it impossible to capture photos of nature that match what I can actually see.  I think it's something to do with scale, and I'm endlessly admiring of those who can capture nature in its glory. Fortunately for me, the same doesn't apply to urban scenes, where I tend to see things in a tighter focus.

This is the top floor of a Euro-supermarket that's recently opened in town, full of Polish & Turkish products & some lovely cakes & fruit juice.  I have no idea why the upstairs has mock-Tudor beams, because the building is far from that old, but it makes me smile.  I can't even blame it on the previous occupants, because that was a cheap furniture shop with broken windows.

Outside one of the churches in the town centre is this beautiful drinking fountain, commemorating a previous Royal Wedding. What a strange way to mark a wedding.  I can't find anything commemorating more recent Royal Weddings, or even the jubilee, but this fountain remains a happy reminder of days gone by.

What hidden gems are there in your town?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Election Fever

There's still over a month to go, and I am officially SICK AND TIRED of the election already. I don't wish to see the smug faces of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband or Nigel Farage, or any of the other suspects on my telly ever again.  I am becoming more despairing by the day as the various levels of racist parties push their propaganda and scaremongering through my door.

Therefore, I am declaring this blog an Election-Free Zone.  Until May I will not entertain any mentions of politics, politicians, voting, schools being used as polling stations & therefore closed, or anything other than fairies, flowers and Frozen.

In fact, I am happily embracing watching children's telly with Squeaky for the next 5 weeks, at least they don't mention the election on Disney.  I'm slightly dreading the next one already, in 5 years time we will firmly be in the grip of CBBC, and if my childhood was anything to go by, they start teaching political stuff in the top end of primary when there's an election to deal with.

In fact, this is as political as I will get.  We had mock elections, linked up with the kids telly of the day when I was in the top end of primary, and again in the top end of secondary school. I don't really remember the first, but for the secondary episode, the school took it very, very seriously. As did a small number of the kind of kids that do at that age. The rest of us were slightly less interested.  A group of the boys in my year took it upon themselves to stand in the name of one of the lesser parties, and launched the kind of election campaigning more commonly seen in the US than the UK, with rallies, entertainment, and full on electioneering.  They won with a landslide majority.  Unfortunately for the school it was a landslide majority for the Monster Raving Loony Party, and as such they refused to return our results to Children's BBC.  I was desperate for our school's proudest moment to appear on Newsround. Instead we had a special assembly reinforcing the seriousness and importance of politics and why we should get properly involved in things rather than treating life as a big joke.

Me? Nah.