Wednesday, 18 February 2015


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.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Stationary stationery

A quick spelling lesson for you first. A car can be stationary, as it has an a in the middle. A pen is stationery, as it has an e in the middle. Easy peasy.  It's the only way I've ever been able to learn this one though.  And if it helps one other person, I've done my duty for the day.

I, like many people, have a bit of stationery love going on.  Nothing beats cracking open a new notebook and christening it with that first sentence, be it a shopping list, some random thoughts, or the first page of what will become the next big novel & make you far richer than JK Rowling. 

Unlike many though, I'm not picky about stationery brands.  If I like a pen, a notebook, whatever, I don't care if it came from the pound shop or that hoity toity stationers filled with Japanese totchkes and prices displayed only in ancient runes.

With this in mind, meet my new notebook.  A new book, filled with blank pages, filled with possibilities.  From the discount store at the top of town, my hardest choice was which colour to choose.  But if purple is the colour of creativity, then I'm hoping it'll do its magic on me.

I love the purple themed prompts, inspiration & quotes, a simple way to break through writer's block, or just break a smile.  After all, who doesn't want to be the old woman in purple?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Winter morning playtime

They, being the Met Office and the TV weather forecasters, keep promising us snow. The snow seems to have other ideas, and instead we've had plenty of hailstorms, cold, wind and sleet, but nothing you could really, honestly call actual snow. Much to Squeaky's disgust, and my general relief. Her school is on the side of a pretty steep hill, with narrow streets all around, filled with badly parked cars. It's often the first to close if there is snow around, and childcare is an expensive hobby.

All the cold does have its up side.  We can wrap up nice and warm and head to the park. This time of year there's no staff around to try to enforce the petty "No Photography" rules, and hardly any other kids to get in the way either, so Squeaky gets free rein of the whole playground, though it means I have to put in double duty on swing pushing, roundabout spinning, hand holding, and trying to make the giant hamster wheel thing turn.

The park is almost always quiet before ten on a Sunday, most people are sensible enough to still be tucking into their cornflakes, and watching Andrew Marr (or Doc McStuffins, depending who has the TV remote). But it was pushing twelve when we arrived, after a quick shopping trip, and the place was still deserted.  Bliss.  Squeaky is getting more adventurous as she gets older, bigger and stronger, but she is still quite reluctant to have a go if there are much bigger kids around, she does best on her own or with one or two buddies to encourage her.  So a playground to herself gave her plenty of scope to stretch her confidence as well as her arms & legs.

I've never been a big fan of the spiderweb climbing frame. Maybe because we didn't have them in my 1970's West Midlands childhood, I dunno.  But I have to admit, it makes for some good exercise.  But please, indulge my memory and bring back the huge metal slide that burned the back of your legs in the summer, that's what I say.

We weren't completely alone though, an inquisitive little robin came over to see what we were up to, I think he was hoping we had sandwiches.  Sorry mate.

Oh, and then we popped into the castle for a quick visit to the ladies.  Any chance for an impromptu history lesson, and a quick explanation of colloquial English phrases. Pulling the chain makes so much more sense when you've actually seen an old fashioned loo, doesn't it?

Yes, I actually did take a photo of the loo. And you've looked at it.  That says something about us both, really, doesn't it?

We're joining in with Coombe Mill's Country Kids linky. Pop on over.  Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Storage Tips For Busy (And Messy) Families

As any busy parent knows, tidy homes and toddlers don’t often play nice together. It’s bad enough during the baby and crawling months, but when toddlers find their feet and learn they can move things from one place to another the tidy troubles really start.

This is when you need to make friends with storage solutions. Because while you might not mind having toys strewn around the living room during the day, after bedtime it’s nice to transform the space into an adult area, preferably without too much fuss.

Storage Furniture and Boxes

Anything that has storage space inside it, from coffee tables to end tables and fashionable chests or trunks, makes the ideal toy storage receptacle. Another handy benefit is that you can keep TV remotes, laptops or tablets safely stowed away from sticky fingers when you’re not using them.

A downside can be the heavy lids, so they’re not totally suitable for little children to use on their own. For storage toddlers can safely use themselves, opt for plastic storage bins with rounded edges and light tops. They’re usually stackable which saves space, and the see through ones make it easy to see what’s inside.

A third idea is to get slightly older children involved in the craft of making their own storage boxes. Shoe boxes, for instance, can house all sorts of small-toy collections, and are easily personalised or decorated in a morning’s painting or cut-and-stick session. Having a hand in creating their own storage boxes might also encourage kids to use them. Well, you can live in hope.

Storage Ideas for the Bedroom

Children’s bedrooms don’t have to resemble a bombsite, although admittedly they seem to like them this way. Parents however, especially the one who does the vacuuming, prefer to keep things up off the floor.

Hooks and shelves are the way to go. You could consider building a toy and book nook in a corner of the bedroom, using fitted shelves to house games, collections, and books. Provide beanbags, or one of those nifty indoorwigwams, and it’s a cosy place for either solitary games or playing with friends.

If you’ve got lots of sports equipment as kids get older, think about swapping traditional bed frames for an ottoman bed with a lift up mattress. That hidden space takes care of a multitude of items that aren’t used every day but need to be within easy reach.

Flexible Off-Site Storage

Having a growing family puts you in a permanent state of transition. Year on year needs change as the youngest members grow, and as their needs change so do parents'.

In the early years, you want everything safe but that might mean getting rid of precious furniture or other items you’d rather keep. As the kids grow and become more responsible and able to recognise danger, it would be nice to bring those items back into the house. You can’t do that if you sold them or gave them away.

It would be a far better idea to pop them into self storage until you want them again. Self storage is a growing phenomena that it seems people are only just discovering for mundane, everyday storage needs.

People overwinter expensive garden machinery in small storage rooms, or keep precious family heirlooms and paper documents in large lockers. So why not put grown-up furniture into store for safe keeping while you’ve got babies and toddlers around the house? There are plenty of reasons, from a safety aspect if you have glass-topped items, or simply because you don’t want something valuable covered in fruit juice or scribbled on. And especially if you don’t want to spend those precious, early years constantly nagging and cleaning up.

Storage in the home is a personal thing, with some preferring shelves, some liking cupboards and others preferring boxes. Whichever you like best, getting it organised so you can find stuff and keep a reasonably tidy home will save your sanity.

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