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.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Eclipse Watching

...Or "Another way I have managed to annoy Squeaky's school"

It was accidental, honest.  I was browsing one of those Mums' forums yesterday, you know the ones. One is full of recipes, the other full of swearing and people being (or not being) unreasonable.  I'm not even sure which, to tell the truth.  And someone had said something about their precious offspring's school and their demands for specific items with which to view the solar eclipse.

I'll be honest here. Much of the build up to the eclipse has passed me by.  I'd just kind of not noticed.  Unlike the 1999 eclipse, where I owned a pair of Eclipse 99 pants, from one of the High Street fashion stores.  (Sadly, even if I still owned them, there's no chance I'd fit more than a single bum cheek in them now)  But NetMumsNet reminded me, and so I thought I'd give the school secretary a quick call to see if I'd missed a letter. Not unknown.

Not the recommended way to view a solar eclipse

The secretary sounded completely shocked that I'd asked her such a crazy question.  Eclipse? Plans? School? And then promised to find out & send a text message to the parents.  Which arrived as I was standing at the school gate yesterday afternoon, gossiping with other mums about this exact subject. Co-incidence? Conspiracy? Who knows.

Anyway, school, having not made any other plans, preparations, or even having discussed the eclipse with our beloved offspring were watching via the BBC's live stream.  Not a bad thing, as it turns out, even though Squeaky said that they were talking in English, but it was so complicated she didn't understand and it was like they were talking Japanese (her words), so she just watched the pictures.  We'd talked about it last night, so she had some idea about what was happening at least.  More than some of the other children, I don't doubt.

The eclipse, viewed from the safety of my car. Or a pretty pattern.
Me, on the other hand?  Well, after I dropped Squeaky at school, I picked up my trusty colander, and headed for the retail park. Mostly because I needed to pop into the chemists, but also because it has a big car park & I could be fairly sure it would be quiet.  And I set up my Eclipse Viewing Kit on the passenger seat.  Actually a piece of A4 paper, the colander & my phone. See?  Significant and contemporary event blogging!



I'm living in the vain hope that my colander wearing & boredom-related photo editing will attract me my very own Professor Brian Cox.  It probably won't work out, but you can't blame me for trying, can you? Just think about that enthusiasm!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Molloscum Contagiosum

Or... what the heck is that rash?

Squeaky's had eczema since she was a tiny Squeak. I know what it looks like, how it affects her, and where it tends to appear.  So when she developed a bit of a rash on her lower legs last week, I didn't worry too much. It blanched with the glass test, and didn't bother her.  Then some more bumpy spots appeared on the outside of her elbows. So I called the doctor and we popped  to show them what Squeaky has christened "my beetles", because some of them are a little beetley in their appearance.

Fair play to the (very young!) doctor, she didn't pull any icky faces, even though I'd been doing my best to hide my "ewww" for a few days.  She confirmed that the rash on Squeaky's legs was nothing more than eczema, with a little bit of hair follicle bumps (I get the same on the tops of my arms unless I exfoliate like it's going out of fashion, chicken skin I think they call it).  But that the rash on her elbows was something else altogether.  Molluscum Contagiosum to be precise.

I did the "WTF?" face (as opposed to the earlier "Ewww" face), and she turned to her computer, clicked away, and showed me pictures, and gave me a handy printout (the same one that is linked above.  If it's good enough for my GP, then it's good enough for me) explaining all about the "beetles".

Molloscum Contagiosum, it appears, is a viral condition, nothing to do with shellfish, except that it sort of looks like them - or beetles.  It's not something that has outbreaks, it's pretty much a constant in schools & nurseries.  It doesn't cause a big problem, and goes away of its own devices when it's run its course.  Unfortunately. said course is 12-18 months, and there's no real recommended medical treatment, just not scratching.

No-one needs a picture of the offending rash. Everyone needs gin in a tin.
The internet is being as helpful as it ever is when looking for information about any kind of health concern - i.e. a massive pile of  scaremongering, conspiracy theories and assorted nonsense about sudocrem or duct tape  (I can understand that, they're related to warts & verrucae which are successfully treated with duct tape, but really?).  I'm tempted to go to the local health food shop, who tend to recommend cod liver oil & vitamin c for almost everything in my experience, to see if they've got any better ideas.  They might be cheaper than the pharmacy, and you never know, they might also have some ideas for the nits that school are texting us about on a weekly basis.

Oh, yes.  Nits.  They're still a thing in school. In the same week as the Molloscum Contagiosum diagnosis, we've had two text messages about nits, and a factsheet about threadworms.  Am I sending Squeaky to a school, or a medical research lab?  Seriously, there's one a couple of miles away, and I'm beginning to wonder.  Germ vectors, that's what children are.  Tiny, mucky little germ vectors, that make me itch.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Daydreaming

Daydreaming is a lovely thing. Not necessarily the "what would I do if I won the lottery" type thoughts, though they do pass a happy few minutes waiting for a latte to cool down from the temperature of molten lava. More the kind of meanderings that end up as ridiculous action songs a la "If I was not in pantomime..." and finish up with someone getting hit over the head with a frying pan or tickled with a feather duster.

Ok, these often strike on a Monday morning, when I realise how much paperwork I need to get through, but it's either that or announcing to the office that today is officially Not Giving A Monkey's Day, and hitting the biscuit tin. But they also strike when there's nothing else doing, while sitting in the waiting room at the dentist, watching today's fifth episode of Sofia The First, that sort of thing.
I'd actually hate to not work, I need to have to do something in order to do anything. I couldn't quit tomorrow & be a full time mum, or a full time blogger, even if the money was there. I would end up doing the school run in my pyjamas, watching endless episodes of Jeremy Kyle, and growing another chin.

Instead, I've taken to wondering what it would be like to be someone else. Or something else! Some days I think I'd quite like to be a cat, lazing in a sunbeam and demanding attention. Or maybe a robin. Robins make everyone smile.



Or maybe I'm just feeling bored and need a new challenge. On that basis, I've started going to line dancing classes, in the hope my daydreams will soon be filled with cowboys in tight jeans. Ahem. I'll be in my bunk.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Holiday Friends

Holiday friendships are something I really miss about childhood. It's much harder to bond with adults when you're thrown together by a strange mix of geography, timing and the whims of the weather gods.


But for children, holiday friendships are magical. They spring from nowhere to firm & fast friends in the time it takes me to take my flip flops off. Holiday friendships transcend age, background, even language, cemented on the international languages of laughter, ice cream and fun. Sometimes even names are just details. What matters is a shared moment of fun, and a glimmer of memory to take home.

Here's to those holiday friends. Cheers, Prost, Yamas, Sláinte, Salud, Iechyd da, Skål, or whatever floats your boat.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Belonging

I've lived in Merthyr for coming up on 13 years now. Ten in a village on the outskirts, and the last three within spitting distance of the town centre. But it's only been in the last year or so that I've started to feel like I belong here, to feel at home.


It's a weird thing, belonging.  And I don't mean it in the sense people use in this town, to say being related to someone.  It's something that comes from deep inside.  I felt I belonged almost straight away when I lived in Yorkshire, but it's taken me much longer here.  I'm quite a private person, and that goes against the Valleys (especially the villages) ethos of everybody knowing everybody's business.  I guess maybe if I wasn't shy, I'd've fitted in much faster, because people actually are really welcoming, and knowing every last detail about you is their way of accepting you. But I don't work like that.

That said, Squeaky has helped me. Initially to get out and meet anyone - through ante-natal classes, breastfeeding groups, baby massage, mum & baby groups - PirateGirl's mummy is one of the best friends I could ever ask for, and that's exactly how we met.  Then, as Squeaky got older and went to nursery & I went to work, I got to know more people, in work, through work, and through the nursery (in fact, there's a former Welsh rugby international with a child at Squeaky's former nursery, that was quite a surprise!), both parents, carers and colleagues.  Bizarrely, when I first started in my job, I knew 4 people in the office, directly through taking the young Squeaky to baby groups. My icebreaking introduction was that half the office had seen my boobs and I wasn't even drunk.  But enough said about that.

Fast forward to today.  After 13 years, I've started to discover that I know people.  I go to Zumba twice a week (let's not mention those days when I don't, childcare can be a pain sometimes), and I've recently joined a line dancing class.  Squeaky goes to swimming, gymnastics and dancing lessons.  And of course, there's school and work.

I discovered a little while ago that the receptionist at my dentist goes to my Zumba class.  Then I learned she was the sister of someone I work with. One of the swimming mums (and a former mums & babies mum) goes to line dancing.  My next door neighbour's son works with a former colleague in her new job.  My other neighbour's son is in Squeaky's year at school.  My boss's son was in Squeaky's swimming class last term.  And the list goes on.

It seems that wherever I choose to go, someone knows me, or knows someone who knows me.  In the village, I would have found this suffocating.  But having been here longer now, and living in the kind of street where people keep themselves pretty much to themselves (curtain twitching aside!), it's almost comforting.  I'm beginning to feel that I should know people, that actually, yeah, I do belong here.

I might not speak a word of Welsh aside from cwtch, but I've as much right to be here as the next person. It's not about how long you've been here, but what you've made of your home.  And this IS my home, it's Squeaky's home, and I'm only now starting to realise it and recognise it for what it is.