Friday, 22 August 2014

The Best and Worst Political Photo Ops: How I Would Win A General Election: Guest Post

I had a wee glance at the Scotsman today (I know, it's rubbbish!) and caught a wee glimpse of Alex Salmond photo-bombing a poor lassie’s round of golf for no apparent reason.

Spending time with Alex Salmond is a good walk spoiled. 



It reminded me of the time he played football and got me thinking about how I would use the photo-op to win the heart of millions and a general election.

On the 'ead



My tactic would be to spend a day of creating the best political photo- ops ever in homage to some of my favourites of all time.
I guess I could start with the sports, but that would make me really hungry and I’d need a pasty after that and probably a pint to wash it down. Luckily for me this is a well-trodden photo-op path. All of us politicians love a pie (or a bacon roll) do we not, and so long as I’m a proper right-winger I’ll get away with having a beer.





Tosser with a pint!







Politicians love going to people’s work  don’t they? And dressing up...







I’d be sure to fit in a wee stroll along the beach. Nothing could go wrong there right?



I’d have to remember to smile of course!



I’ll spend a bit of time with my celebrity mates.



Hold a baby!



And pose for my corporate sponsors.




So that’s it. One day, many photos and then people will believe that I’m actually a person rather than a soulless and incompetent parasite who only wants to be elected cos I heard the expenses are pretty good.







Nah... Sod it I’ll just take my top off, ride a horse and shoot a gun!!!!







Thursday, 21 August 2014

Why I'm Saying Yes

With less than a month to go until the Scottish Referendum on Independence, to determine if our strong, characterful country is strong and characterful enough to go it alone, tensions are high in and around the country.

Every newspaper, every media outlet, and most importantly, everyone at work, in the playground, on the radio, on the television, on the doorstep, on the high street are all debating the ins and outs of independence.

It's an emotive and passionate issue from a very emotive and passionate people.  Never before have I seen everyone so interested and outspoken about their own political beliefs.  It's amazing to see people who never previously bothered to look beyond the ballot paper finally getting to grips with the state of their own country; assessing it, casting a critical eye over what is actually happening in the day to day lives of the people around them.

Discussion is everywhere.

And that can only be a good thing.

Without going too hard and heavy with the political reasoning behind my decision, I will openly say, quite proudly, that I will be voting a strong YES on September 18th.

You can all read for yourselves about the various issues and arguments surrounding currency, economics, etc. etc.

My reasons for voting YES are very personal.

Ever since I was we, I have always been very aware of my standing in life.  There has always been a class system, as far as I am concerned.  I was lucky enough to live in a well off area, among some very nice folk, who were all very well off themselves.

I was brought up in the fancy, upper/middle class area, where people lived in big fancy houses and mummy and daddy had a car each.  They all shopped at Tesco, and on their 17th birthdays, some of them even got some pretty sweet cars, or, were insured to drive their parents' cars.

Our school was one that aimed high, that presumed it's pupils would have fabulous Higher results, that they would go to University straight from a well-run sixth year, into Law degrees, Medicine degrees, or find themselves on Gap years.

Me?  Well, I was never meant to be there. Not really.

Mine was a circumstantial nice life and I never really fit into it.  I found my niche of course, I found it outside of school altogether, and into outside drama clubs and musical theatre societies, where I mixed with kids from all over the city, with whom I felt a hell of a lot more comfortable.

I was only in suburbia because of two factors; my mum was a single parent and my grandparents lived there.  We lived there to be close to them, and the schools were decent schools.  It was a good fit.  It was safe.

I still didn't fit in though.

Mum being a single parent and a carer for our grandparents meant that our family very much relied on benefits while we grew up.  My school uniform was bought with vouchers which meant we always got the cheapest and best, and these stopped when I was around 16, so after that I used my money from my job as a weekend waitress at a coffee shop, my £2.50 an hour, to buy myself some uniform so that my Mum didn't have to find the money.

The stuff I used to hear in the playground about benefits and the people on them too - things that had obviously been learned from parents and handed down statements:

'Scroungers'
'Lazy people on benefits'
'Get a fucking job'
'Useless'

And, well, you know the drill.
There's nothing like a dose of that now and again to make you feel like a worthless, lazy, scrounging, useless bastard, no matter how many fake Tommy Hilfiger jackets you wore to school (yuck) or how many weekends you'd lost to working since you were 13 years old pouring coffee to discerning old ladies (man, were they discerning!) for beans.

We shopped at Kwik Save for puffy crisps which were more air than crisp and shampoo that smelled like grapefruit, but would stain the grout of the tiles in the bathroom if you got it on them.

I had to hide the fact that I received (very, very, gratefully) my Education Maintenance Fund (EMA) which allowed me to buy shoes and stationery for school. My Final Fling (Prom) dress came from a charity shop.

I was never ashamed, never really bothered, but I was quite pissed off by the comments, the wee jibes, the pokes in the ribs that weren't exactly aimed at me personally, but certainly people like me. How can a 17 year old kid who has never had a job, who has never had to walk a huge distance to save the bus money, who has never had to get dry in front of the Calor gas heater, who has never had to put Polythene around the windows instead of double glazing supposed to know anything other than what they've been told by the hands that feed them?

We weren't especially well off, we were definitely the 'have-nots' in a land of 'haves' but we didn't struggle like a lot of people did.  I was very well aware of folk who had it worse.  Oh yes, there were a hell of a lot of people who couldn't afford the gas for the heater or the nice insulating plastic for the windows.  And damn, if it was cold in my house, it must have been bloody freezing in theirs.

I hope you get the relevance of what I am trying to say here - but I suppose it was no real coincidence that every time there was an election, even as a wee lassie, I noticed the politics.  I noticed them, because my family were not from these parts and my family were affronted.

We lived in an area that voted Tory.  They had their blues in their windows, proud to be 'Conservative'.  They were older, and they did not like change. My family, like the families around me handed down to me their own narrative, and yes, it was extremely anti-Tory.

Why?

The Tories vilified single parents - mothers in particular.
The Tories abhorred those on benefits.
The Tories did away with public services (in which the majority of my family worked).
The Tories like hunting.
The Tories took away things from the education system that couldn't be replaced.

Conservatism was a dirty word in our house.  No change meant no future, no equality.  It was 'jobs for the boys'. It was no higher education for people like me. It was the closure of mental health facilities where my family worked and my grandad was resident. It was the cutting of benefits which meant poor food, poor nutrition, no chances.

Yet they got in every time.  And if they didn't get in, it was the SNP.  And the SNP were viewed as a Scottish Tory in our house - the affluent folk around them, when they thought they were branching out a bit voted them in time and time again.

And I vowed, I would never vote SNP.  I owed it to my grandparents, to my mum, to my family.  We were hard working people - even if we did need a hand from time to time. We didn't deserve to be vilified.  We didn't deserve to be kept down.

I have to say here, I was wrong.  I have never been more thankful for the free education I got at University AND College due to measures created by the SNP. I am so very grateful for that.

Maybe if my grandparents were alive now they'd bear it enough to thank them for that.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years. Devolution has meant so much to us as a nation; a parliament, power, free education, the ability to offer free NHS prescriptions.

But now the opportunity has come for us to have so much more, and damn, I am all for taking it with two hands.

And, oddly, I'm feeling rather warm towards SNP for the opportunity.

Even if I will still probably never vote for them.

Nobody in this lifetime (unless comfortable throughout) will forget austerity or recession or food banks.

If you have no idea about people on welfare these days and the amount the actually get and what they actually have to do to get it, please, please educate yourselves.  It's unbelievable.

If you think that is an easy way of life, you are very much mistaken. If you don't know, you've been too damn comfortable. Lucky you.



I have my Yes sticker on my car and it fills me with joy. It's my wee middle finger to the world.  It fills me with even greater joy when I see them on other cars.  But not as much as the huge signs and the window signs and the wee lapel badges.

What I have seen more and more, is that I am not alone. Every bugger that displays a Yes is a bugger who's struggled, is someone who has rallied against the status quo and been shoved down, is someone who has felt that inequality and the sharp jab in the ribs every time they've put their head above the parapet.

I am lucky enough to work in a public service, and I see every day, first hand, the immigrants, the migrant workers, those on benefits, the drug addicts, the grannies with their grandchildren who would otherwise be in care, the budget cuts and the engineers who can't even get a job in McDonald's. They struggle like you wouldn't belive.  And they might be whatever to the media and whoever else, but they are all people and they all have a story and they all have a life, just like you and me.

Myself and my own family now - we struggle.  We are both in apparently well-paid and responsible, graduate jobs.  We struggle a lot. And we are not alone.

There are so many people out there who feel a change in the air and want to embrace it.

What is a No?

It's a negative. It's fear.  It's war and nuclear arms that we don't want or need apart from in some kind of horrific 'end-game' scenario. It's a continuation of the same. But maybe worse. With little to no say.

Yes is brave.  Yes is fed up of struggle and fed of of being turned down.  Yes is a pride, a balance, a strong positive.  It's not a maybe. It's not a can't or a won't. It's a knowledge that things might be tough for a bit, but it's also a 'fuck it - things are already tough'. It's a 'let's struggle through together and be the best we can be.'

It's work, yes, but man, I am NOT afraid of hard work.

I have never been able to afford that.

I'll leave you with what Dave said tonight.  He said:

'If we don't get a Yes vote, Scotland won't be a country any more.  It will always just be the idea of a country.'

And you know what kids?  There's a heck of a lot of truth in that.






Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Playcuters, Tick Tock Frocks and Dead Time

The best mispronunciations of anything have come from my own children's mouths. They keep me laughing and giggling throughout the years, and they add to the crazy, lovely, funny and rich tapestry of the lives we share together.

Of course, the kids grow, hiccups are corrected, and all too soon it's easy to forget about the small turns of phrase that really kept you going through the tumultuous early years.

Reading threads like these on Mumsnet really make me laugh, and I reckon that we've coined up enough from our two Blethering Boys to get you giggling.

Here are some of my favourites - it's good to have them all written down so I can remember them!


Thinking about Dead Time a bit too much...

Thomas

Dip Dip - Tomato sauce.  Now this is what we always call it in our house - from adults right down to kids.  You can't have chips without dip dip!

Not-Nots! - Octonauts.  Borne out of a very frustrating morning when Thomas was 2 years old and really wanted to watch 'not-nots' on television and I couldn't work out what the hell it was he was screaming for.  He got very frustrated, I got really wound up and there may have been a few tears shed.  I can laugh about it now, but when your first-born is shouting so vocally for something and neither of you can communicate to each other, it's pretty stressful!

The Den End - No matter how many times we try to tell him, whenever he is doing a maze puzzle, or is actually in a real maze, he is always on the look out for 'den ends'.  DEAD end, son, DEAD end. Which leads me nicely onto...

Dead Time - Yup.  Apparently it's not bed time.  It's dead time.  No wonder they are both always so against going to bed.

Mimit - 'Back in a mimit' is something I still say to them now, usually quite seriously.  That was one of those cute things that sticks.  Tom spent an entire summer when he was just over a year old telling us that he would, or I would, or Dad would be 'back in a mimit'.

Efin - This is the way that Tom spelled Ethan's name when he first started to write.  Like my 'efin' little brother.  Thank god for grammar.

Bother - Wee Efin wasn't just a great addition to our family, but something Tom spoke about constantly to strangers and anyone who'd listen about his 'new baby bother'.  Accurate.

Missisefes - Mississippi. What Tom counts to, like in the Lego Movie, when Emmet is counting 'one missisefes, two missisefes...'

Stanleeinpurl - Stan Lee, In Peril.  Tom is obsessed with Lego computer games.  This time last year he was extra-especially obsessed with Lego Marvel Action Superheroes on the Playstation 3.  It's a great wee game and we totally recommend it for your 5 year old. (I quite enjoyed it too)
A great wee feature in the Marvel Superheroes game is that the great comic book writer, Stan Lee, is a character who is trapped.  Indeed, he is 'in peril', and you get bonus points for 'saving him'.  Tom was obsessed with Stanleeinpurl and just said it all the time, as if it was this poor Lego man's full name.


'Just softing it, Mum'

Ethan

Ethan has very recently had grommets inserted, so is still learning the lingo.  While he does struggle with some stuff and we do take our time to correct him, he is very often still feeling his way around the English language.  I would just like to iterate here, I am in no way worried about his language - he has come on leaps and bounds in the last four months alone and shows us new and amazing speech every single day.  He's a clever wee bugger.

Softing - To 'soft' something is to stroke it a wee bit.  So when I say 'DON'T TOUCH in my best scary foreboding voice when he is raking around my jewellery box or touching something he shouldn't in a shop, Ethan sweetly replies 'My not touching it, my just softing it'.  And he gets away with it, adorable wee bugger.

Frissmiss - Christmas.  Cute as hell.

Frockodile/Tick Tock Frock - Ethan is a massive fan of Peter Pan and Jake and the Neverland Pirates, so he constantly talks about the 'tick tock frock'  (tick tock croc) and is always on the lookout for 'frockodiles'  I never want this to change.  I have tried to correct him, but this is one in particular that's just not budging. He's adamant!

Playcuter - Computer.  Yup, it's the computer and you play games on it, thus it is a playcuter.  I have stolen this for my own use.  It's friggin' genius.

Santa Plaws - He comes at Frissmiss.

Keeojeon Wahnd - Nickelodeon Land.  Where we went in the summer holidays!  He loves Keeojeon Wahnd!

Cunting - Cutting.  A perfect example of him using this particularly joyful mispronounciation was when he was 'cunting' his Playdough with his cutter and repeatedly shouting 'cunting! cunting! cunting! cunting!' while caught in the moment, completely oblivious while we struggled to breathe through laughing so hard.


Ah...sweet, sweet memories!
 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Everyone Loves Pizza Right? Pizza Express Review

Last week I was invited, along with Jac from Tinned Tomatoes and Stuart from CakeyBoi to indulge in some Summer Fayre at Pizza Express in St. Andrews.



What a beautiful location for a restaurant - set in a little square beside a church and the library, this Pizza Express certainly fits in nicely with the local traditional surroundings.  Although nestled in a wee building, inside it's a rather impressive and bright space, and can certainly cater for a lot of people at any one time, with a small, more intimate upstairs area too, to take you away from the hubbub of downstairs.

This particular evening, although mid-week, was surprisingly busy - although St. Andrews is a very popular tourist resort, famous for it's old architecture, golf, university, scenery and traditional local shops there's definitely something for everyone in this gorgeous wee town, so I suppose it's actually unsurprising that the local restaurants were mopping up trade.


The last, and only other time I have been to a Pizza Express was when we visited Edinburgh  in the pouring rain.  After getting completely soaked and feeling really sorry for ourselves, the staff at that particular Pizza Express made Dave, the kids and I feel completely at home.  We all had a blast, so when I was asked to try out the St. Andrew's version, I was very much looking forward to it.  Pizza Express's reputation generally precedes it, plus it was nice to get the opportunity for some child-free dining this time!

We had been invited to try the special summer menu, so when we sat our table, where we could see the guys and gals making and twirling the pizza dough (what a cool thing to watch - I wish I could do that!), we focused on that.



Our waiter introduced himself as Tom (how could I forget such a great name!?  His mother was obviously very cool and clever, like me) and he made sure we were furnished with some refreshments while we perused the menu.

The three of us opted for the Hugo Cocktail, which was made up of prosecco, lemon elderflower and  fresh mint over ice and it certainly went down a treat!  I love the use of mint on drinks as a freshener and it really did make me feel all summery!  Fab!



I decided against choosing a main from the summer menu - being a vegetarian who is particularly fussy when it comes to goats' cheese and mushrooms, it didn't leave me with any room for manouvre, although I really wish I liked goats' cheese - the Emilia Romana that Staurt ordered just looked delicious!

But we did opt for starters.

We began with some amazing Polenta chips, the Bosco Salad and The Leggara Superfood Salad from the summer menu to share.

Superfood ahoy!





What I love about Pizza Express, is that you can eat the food there and not feel like you've just stuffed yourself full of rubbish.  Oh no - this is real food, and it's good for you.  The Leggara came in at under 300 calories, which as a shared starter was a nice choice.  It was the first time I'd had Polenta chips - and wowaaaweeewa!  More please!

Absolutely delicious!  They came with a wee  honey mustard-y type dip too, which was just so moreish.  There was an awkward moment where the last Polenta chip was left, due to crazy, crazy politeness, which meant that Tom nearly whipped it away, but I saved it at the last second.  I'm not shy when it comes to scooping up delicious food.

We didn't have long to wait for our main course either, despite how busy the restaurant was.  I'd gone for the Leggera Pomodoro Pesto which was ridiculously tasty - a cute wee pizza at under 500 calories with a hole in the middle for a wee salad!  It was just perfect for a light eater like me - although it is not a problem if you can't finish your munching on-site.  Our waiter was more than happy to box up Jac's Caprina Rossa, a veggie pizza with goat's cheese, beetroot, red onion and pesto, as well as Stuart's Emilia Romana, which looked delicious and came with goat's cheese, mozarella, mushrooms, garlic oil, rocket and truffle oil.

Simply delicious - my Leggera



Jac's choice


I am a very fussy eater (although I am getting a lot better in my old age) and I often struggle to find something among the vegetarian options in a menu - often restaurants like to fall back on simply goat's cheese, mushrooms and avocado - and I very often have to eat something I'm not too keen on, but I have to say, I am very impressed by Pizza Expresses menu for this.  Even for those with plainer tastes like me, they have found a way to infuse subtle flavours and edge me into new territory without me feeling like I'd left my comfort zone, which I love.

It's a safe bet as well for those with a gluten-free dietary requirement.  I was very pleased to see a lot of very nice gluten free options on the menu and I will firmly advocate for eating out here next time I'm with any of my gluten-free buddies; I know they'd truly appreciate the offerings.

Onto desserts, and despite the fact that by this point we had pretty much eaten our body weights in food, and ordered another of those scrummy Hugo cocktails, we were very keen to order some delicious sweet dishes!

Gelato!

Jac and I had already narrowed down what we were having before we'd even got there (funny how you always pick a dessert first, huh?) and thus had settled on the Leggara Lemon and Blueberry Glory (for Jac) which consisted of a lemon curd sorbet with blueberries, coulis and a chocolate straw, and for myself a Strawberry Cream Glory, which was made up of (you guessed it) strawberry gelato, cream, strawberries and a sugar wafer curl. Oh yes!

Stuart went for a rather sophisticated looking coffee accompanied by a Dolcetti, which is a special dessert designed to accompany coffee (I know!  What a great idea, right?  I seriously need to start drinking coffee!) and there were lots of pleased noises coming from our table as we all consumed our sweet treats.



We finished up eventually and thanked our waiter and the various staff, snapping some of the kitchen staff on the way out - it's so cool to see them at work while you eat, although I can't imagine what kind of pressure that must put them under!  It must be cool though to see all of those satisfied customers eating the food you just made for them.

The guy twirling the pizza had pretty big muscles - I wonder if that's from all the pizza dough? Hmm...must get into pizza dough twirling...

We left the restaurant in no real hurry - there was no rush to get out of the door, and we were made to feel entirely welcome throughout our experience, despite the mad rush that was going on around us.  I sincerely look forward to returning.

We had a leisurely stroll around the wee town before we left, taking in some of the sights and taking the opportunity to peek into the different shop windows.  There's so much to see here, it really is worth a cheeky wee day out with the other half if you can.

















Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Depression Sucks



"Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor... I am Pagliacci."

What is it about the funny guy?  He's the one who's always laughing, the one who carries the life and soul of the party, the guy who is the fallback for every conversation, every joke, every twist of the story.  He makes your night out better, he plays child-like with the children, his natural default is energy, twinkly eyes and huge grinning.

Until we received the awful, shocking news that depression had claimed one of the world's truly greatest funny men, a man whose very life was dedicated to building up the happiness of others through his portrayals of various timeless and defining characters, we hadn't heard a lot about Robin Williams in the media recently.

As it stands, he left behind four major films which are yet to be released, from the animated voice over of the dog in Absolutely Anything to a Christmas film which is to be released on November 7th called,  Merry Friggin' Christmas,  which although I suppose will be absolutely hilarious and great, will be an extremely hard one for us all to watch - Robin was still very much the sought-after working actor, and for good reason.

We all know his legacy of films - for many of us, they shaped our very childhoods. Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire, Flubber, Jumanji, Patch Adams; heck this guy was so good, he was the only guy who made a grown-up Peter Pan in Hook a feasible and completely believable idea. 

He'd had turmoil in his life, like many of us do, and he battled bi-polar and addiction.  He'd had two divorces, and was living with his third wife, and is the father of three children (and we all know that no matter what we face in life, our children are our biggest joy and our biggest challenge.) He'd also recently had a major heart operation and faced a few stints in rehab.

His career never really courted any controversy.  Here was Hollywood's funny man.  As the tributes, which have been pouring in from all over the world, from people who knew him and worked alongside him, to others who perhaps served him in shops or knew someone who knew him say, he was the sweetest, the kindest, the funniest.




We always got the impression that he knew his worth.  He was well respected by those around him - a huge credit to his character.

It's a terrifying and truly shocking idea that someone who was as loved, as admired, as sought-after, as wealthy, as funny, as kind-hearted could feel so much of the despair, as much of the complete pain, can be enveloped by the darkness in depression so much, that he no longer finds life bearable.

It is genuinely heartbreaking to think that this man, who brought so much pure, innocent joy and emotion into the lives of millions of people across the generations was so alone in his last moments; felt so alone in his last moments.  

We'll probably never know what prompted such a wonderful man to take his own life.  We can never know what pushed him so far into the void that day that he genuinely saw no other way out.  All we can hope is that he has found his release now. Perhaps his laughter had been covering it for too long - perhaps he was finally tired of being the funny guy.

Depression is an awful thing.  If you have never experienced it in your own life, it can be supremely difficult to understand it.  Like the doctor's advice to Pagliacci, people often believe that it's possible to 'cheer up', to 'get over it', but if you are depressed this is not the case at all.  There's no real quick fix.

The last time I wrote about PND, I spoke about how I believed myself that there was genuinely nothing wrong with me.  That my own friends and family also didn't believe that there was anything wrong with me.  It is so very easy to put on a face, pull up a front and get on with it all in front of an audience - well, it's not easy actually, but it's so much easier than actually letting anyone think that anything is wrong (and I'm not a huge Hollywood funny person whose life is focused on being the good time gal - the pressure Robin felt must have been massive).

My own grandfather suffered from a truly debilitating form of clinical depression through the latter years of his life, and I saw first hand the devastation that it caused, not only to his own life and experiences, but to the family and friends that surrounded him. 

If we take one thing from Robin William's sudden and very heartbreaking death, it should be awareness.  A general awareness of this awful, life-altering disease and the power it holds over even the greatest.  It is completely undiscerning and very cruel.  It cares not if you have a fabulous life or if you are quietly getting along. 

We should also use this as a springboard to talk - talk about depression and how it is a real illness with very real symptoms and pain.  

Some things which I have see lately as useful tools for aiding discussion on depression are the Black Dog books by Matthew Johnstone





There's two specifically - I had a Black Dog and Living With A Black Dog, which are particularly good, offering insight into the life of a person who is depressed or giving illustration to feelings for those who feel the presence of the Black Dog for themselves.

Please - there's no shame in feeling alone or lonely.  There's no shame in needing a lift from those you love.  And people - please be aware of those around you.  Of how they might be feeling.  Sometimes we are just not close enough.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

#WickedWednesdays



Can we just take a moment to assess what is going on here.

Crazy child cried all the way around the Dora the Explorer ride at Nickelodeon Land (as seen HERE) but took himself off to sit between these two...scarecrows?...in the Lancashire Countryside Museum.

Well, there's some nightmare fuel for him.  And he wonders why he gets night terrors...

Monday, 4 August 2014

My Liebster Award!

I've been nominated for a Liebster Award!  Cool, huh?

How chuffed am I?

The lovely (and very talented) Live By Surprise nominated me for this a couple of months back, and I have taken a lot of time trying to wrap my head around the questions in order to do them proud!  How nice is that?!

The Liebster Award is gifted by fellow bloggers to small blogs like mine who have less than 200 followers. The goal is to help others find these blogs that are very well written, and truly deserving of a bigger following. In German, the word 'Liebster' means kindest, beloved, valued and welcome.





I am so proud to accept this award.  I am genuinely shocked and happy that anyone is reading my stuff, let alone actually recommending it to others, so this is a very lovely thing have and I am very grateful.

The current rules for accepting this award are

  • List 11 random facts about myself
  • Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated me
  • Nominate 11 blogs who have less than 200 followers and let them know they have been nominated
  • Post 11 questions for these new nominees to answer (if they choose to accept the award - it's completely optional)


So here are 11 random facts about me!

1. I'm voting Yes in the Scottish Independence decision on 18th September.  I am completely #Yes and proud!  
2. I love beer.  My favourite is Mexican lager or some local ale.  I'm very partial to Captain Morgan's and also Tequila!  After working in pubs for 10 years you get to know your drink.
3. I have an uncontrollable love for Channing Tatum.
4. I have a totally badass scar on my hand that makes me look like I'm good at sucker punches, but it's actually just where I cut it on a door frame while carrying boxes.
5. My favourite author of all time is Thomas Hardy.  My favourite living author is Wally Lamb.
6. I used to work in a sex shop and was the Good Vibrations expert while 6 months pregnant, which meant, yes, I sold dildos with a baby in my belly.  Classy.
7.  I used to be a Karaoke Hostess.
8. I've abseiled down a Hilton Hotel dressed as a bunny girl.
9. I was once so ill, that I had to swerve the car to the side of the road to open the door to puke. That was a bad night!
10. I am a complete theme park geek.
11. I love reading books about the Second World War.


And here are the answers to the questions posted to me by LiveBySurprise

1.You have the opportunity to meet any one living person in the world for tea. Who do you choose, and why?

Hmm...I choose...my best mate.  Because we live far away from each other and we never really see each other and having the luxury of time to have tea together would just be awesome.  It would be a big pub tea, washed down with cocktails.  And pudding.  If we are going to go that far, I would like pudding too.

2. What is the best feedback you have ever got on your writing?

Honestly, aside from some very lovely comments and personal emails about the writing on my blog, which I really appreciate, it was from a teacher when I was about 12.  We'd had to do a re-make of The Hobbit for class in our own words, and she chose my book as the winner in a class competition.  That was lovely enough, but then she pulled me aside and really made a big deal about my ability to write.  That was the first time I really thought that I could.  So, thanks, Mrs Bertie!

3.You are stranded, alone on a desrt island.  What is the first thing that you do?

Listen to the silence.And then sleep.  And then look for food.  I'd want to be comfortable for the week's holiday I'd give myself on that desert island before I tried to get home!

4. What actor or actress set you heart aflutter when you were 13?

I have to be honest, don't I?  Okay, but don't tell anyone.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

13 year old me thought he was hot.  I blame teen hormones...and his muscles...

5. What is your favourite flower?

My favourite flower is the sweet pea.  My Grandad used to grow them up the back of his garage wall and we used to collect them when we were wee and take a bunch home.  Summer was the smell of sweet peas in a vase.



6. Have you chosen the next topic for your blog post?  What was your inspiration?

I am writing something at the moment on house renting, which is taking a wee while.  My inspiration for because we also rent our house and are at the moment unclear as to whether we will get to stay or if we will have to find somewhere else and the realisation that it will be around Xmas time if we do.  Then I got talking to others and realised that there are a lot of people who have to deal with a lot worse.  Renting in the UK only happens because of the lack of social housing and it is a really tough gig if you happen to have small children.

7. What is the last vivid dream you remember having?

Can't say!  Ha ha!  It was rude and very strange and involved some folk I know. *blush*  Next question please!  Ahem...

8. If you were told that you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, barring any dietary consequences like weight gain or vitamin deficiency, what food would you choose?

Cheese!  Anyone who knows me knew that answer already.  I am a complete cheese fiend. And I kind of do already eat it like I'm not going to suffer any dietary consequences.  My heart must be on the verge of attack by now!  I'm vegetarian, so cheese is my life blood.

9. What blogger has inspired you most, and why?

It was actually my good friend Jac at Tinned Tomatoes who inspired me to start a blog, and who has helped me every step of the way.  I owe her a huge debt of gratitude - she has kept me motivated and filled me in on all the wee bits and pieces, despite being a very busy lady with her own amazing and popular blog.  We work together in a library, so it was kind of fate, if you will, but without her, Blethering Boys wouldn't exist.  She gave me the confidence I needed to get started.  She is also an amazing chef, cook, baker and incredibly talented and lovely lady - it's a privilege to have her as a friend. 

10. Describe the most annoying person you've ever seen in a checkout line

Oh, always the old lady with the trolley who pretends that I'm not there so she can make a big deal about ramming her trolley up my arse so she can put her milk as close to my items as possible.  Does my head in!

11. What blogging platform are you using and why did you choose it?

I am using Blogger, because Jac told me it was the best one to use!  I quite like it and now that I am used to it all, I realise how great and wonderful technology really is these days - and it's free!  Amazing really.

I am nominating

2. Isa at Yum Yum Yu
3. Winse at Winses Wee Wok
4. Kevin at The Crafty Larder
5.Amanda at CityGirlGoneCoastal
6. Ezrah at KalaKelly
7.Adriana at BearikaRose
8.Kathie at ASeaChange

My 11 questions for my fellow bloggers are:

1. What is your favourite smell in the whole world and why?
2. Do you have any filthy habits?
3. What is the one thing you need to do before you can go to sleep at night?
4. What has your biggest blogging success been so far?
5. What's your favourite book?
6. What is the main goal you have with your blog?
7. Best day of your life?
8. Anyone you want to big up or link to?  I'm a huge fan of Paper Clouds Apparel, so i'mma using this to shout out!
9. Do you always iron your clothes or are you free and easy with the creases?
10. Dogs or Cats?
11.  Random secret from your teenage years?

Nominated bloggers, please post your links in the comments box below, should you choose to accept!
  



Monday, 28 July 2014

My 5 WTF Commonwealth Sports


What is that mascot even about?



I AM NOT A SPORTS FAN!

I have however been made to watch a lot of sport against my will this evening, so consider this post a product of my ever-amounting rage at  the torture-fest that is organised sporting events interrupting the television schedule/normal life.

You're welcome.

1. Squash.



I have just spent more time than anyone should have watching this on the TV.  Two people, in a box, hitting a ball off a wall.  Isn't this just the very same game you used to play when you'd been inside a bit too long in the summer holidays, driving the adults insane.  Your mum would lose the plot with you and shout at you to 'Get Out!', and you'd traipse woefully to the garden, tennis ball in hand.

You'd spend virtually hours playing this game by yourself outside, because this was the week your best pal was on holiday, or it was the last week of the holidays and everyone was completely fed up, so you'd take it out on the harling stone outside your neighbours' house, which would no doubt bring them running out to tell you to bugger off even further up the street to bother someone else.

Why are grown people playing it now?


2. Swimming



Okay, I am impressed by fast swimming.  I'm not a big swimmer, so I am always impressed by something I can't do.  But what I am not impressed by are the varying strokes.  There's nothing more odd than watching grown, muscly, beautiful-bodied men doing the Butterfly stroke.

Why?  Why are we making them do this?  They look crazy.  And also, hello!  It makes them go slower!

People do some funny things for money in this world, but this swimming oddly in a stroke that serves no real purpose has to be up there with one of the weirdest.

3. Lawn Bowls



Right. Lawn bowls.  This is the game I am imagining I'm going to get into when I'm old.  Why?  Because, basically, it's an excuse to join one of those wee clubs where there'll be other older folk and more importantly, there will be a licensed and cheap bar, selling nips and a dash for £1.50 and packets of peanuts.

Which I am going to propose is the only reason Lawn Bowls is really still alive as a sport today.  I think it's probably one of the world's best-kept secrets - Lawn Bowls = cheap drinking on the sly, which is why Scotland's Commonwealth Games opened with it.  Like a sly wink to the guy behind the cheap veneer bar.

4. Tandem Biking



I caught this the other day.  Kudos to the sports people who are taking part in this - it is equal parts brave and talented to be able to work as a team like that, whizzing around the track at speed on a very thin, tiny, tandem bike.  Especially as part of the deal is that one of you is visually impaired.  Hats off to the men and women who compete in this sport.

My only qualm is - the person at the back has to put their nose on the person in front's bum!

It must be a streamlining thing or something (they were all doing it), but it does look pretty funny.  Definitely a 'bum' deal...(geddit?)

5.Table Tennis



The tagline for this sport is 'Agility. Precision. Focus.' and I am in no way disputing that this is what you do in fact need to be a successful Table Tennis player.

But when I was at school, Table Tennis was the lazy bastard approach to P.E.  Nobody took it seriously.  Indeed, our teacher was so annoyed by our lack of interest in physical exercise by 4th year, and the amount of girls who managed to pull out of the class every week, that she began to just let us mooch about beside the Table Tennis table for a quiet life.  Where we did nothing.  No precision, agility OR focus there, let me tell you.

The only other place I ever saw Table Tennis being played in real life and not in Forrest Gump, was at our local Youth Club in the early 90's.  By two wee boys who battered a ruined ping pong ball with those table tennis bats, which were so old, the foam had been either picked (or chewed?) off, or the very glue that had held them together had failed and the foam was just flapping about.  It never struck me that when someone was buying the resources for anywhere that they would add 'table tennis equipment' to the list, so again, I am a bit surprised that this has ended up as a sport that lots of people compete at.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Shouldering Some Weight



mumturnedmom


It's a Man's World...

Being a woman in an all-male environment is tough.

I was brought up in an all-female house.  My mum, my sister and me - so it was always going to be hard to live amongst the guys.

We weren't 'typical' females though.  Oh no.

Part of the deal about being in an all-female house is that there are no stereotypical 'male' and 'female' roles.  Indeed, our mantra in our house was always, and I mean ALWAYS 'I'm just as good as any guy and I can do it too.'

And we did.

We took out the bins, we put up shelves, we all helped to paint our rooms when we moved house, we were shown by my mum how to lay carpet, how to do basic DIY and how to craft, hang a mirror, fix a leaking tap.  The things I know about cars, machinery and basic medical problems are so innate - it's as common knowledge in our family as how to breathe.

I wouldn't thinks twice about stuff like 'female safety', or 'female roles' or any of that utter bullshit.  I kept myself safe as a person, never thought about how my vagina might make me more vulnerable or how it might stop me from changing a light bulb.  My problems were never really exclusively female.  Until I started dabbling in the adult world.

It never clicked on for me until quite late on - as a young woman I worked three jobs, walked home on my own at night and drank pints of lager because I bloody liked them, and never had a quandry about it.

When I started to live with my boyfriend (who is now my husband), I never broke on any of these things.  I still carried on, business as usual - indeed he looked to me to hang the shelves, fix the washing machine and cut the grass, purely because he didn't know how.  And he would never have been pig-headed enough to claim he did.

He knew the difference between taking the bags from me because I was a woman and just taking his share of the load because he is bigger and stronger than me.  But he would never dream of patronising or hindering my motivation.  If he had we would never have ended up together.

But sadly, not all are like him.

As is the case with a lot of girls and women who have grown up in all-female homes, I began to crave a more male environment.  For some reason I was more comfortable here.  Whether I was hankering for missed male moments or I just simply didn't register with more feminine groups of girls, that is subjective.

In these male environments, I was more comfortable, yes.  But it was here that I also found my challenges and my anger.

I took jobs in bars, and as a physically small, yet surprisingly strong person, I took great joy in exercising my ability to lift full beer kegs around the cellar, or carry boxes of beer up from the cellar and across the bar, in front of my male colleagues, who would only lift half of what I forced myself to carry.

Why did I do this?

I guess I was trying to prove myself.

It is especially tough, as a small, young-looking female, to pull weight with the guys if you can't, well, you know, pull weight with the guys.

So I made sure I could.  And I did.

I also put up with a lot of sexist banter, drunken flattery from older male customers and some pretty lewd comments.  And never thought twice about it really - those were guys.  This was how they acted, right?

I never fit in with girly groups.  My language was always too coarse, I didn't paint my nails (and have no interest in doing so), I use make-up in the most minimal of ways and I find skirts and heels too impractical for the stuff that I have to do every day.  The stuff that I like to do every day.

Yet, I had a yearning to be female too: to be utterly feminine.

I wasn't bad looking - I got a fair bit of male attention - and I enjoyed the sweetness of flirting with the opposite sex. Some guys liked me for my looks. Some, or so they told me anyway, liked my take on the world and loved to talk with me for hours about Philosophy or Art or Literature.  I enjoyed flaunting my female charms and was utterly aware of how to use them.

I also craved female friendships, without really being comfortable in them.  I agonised as much over my relationships with supposed 'friends' who used to never call me back, or openly giggled about me behind my back, or were just  plain mean in front of my face for no discernible reason.

I began to hate female friendships - I found them to be hard work, completely nonsensical in places and found that the undertones were too stressful to maintain; girls have an entirely different way of working and a lot is purely based on subtext, which I neither enjoyed nor embraced.  I liked hanging out with guys - there was never anything too deep or superficial.  For some reason, the majority of dudes just can't even read subtext, which was fine by me.

But here lay the problem.

There was a very strong line between being a strong, powerful female who could huckle grown men out of bars and the sweet lady who would giggle coquettishly at terrible jokes told by potential romancers.

There was an even stronger line between the girl who sat and talked about boys that they fancied with their friends and the girls who hung out with all the guys - apparently girls like that get a name.

And it wasn't nice.

But I didn't even fit the mold of a 'slut'.  So, go figure.

I was literally in no-man's land.

The amount of times I used to cry when I was around 19 or 20, having not fit in with the latest group of girls.

I'd sit with Dave, in my bedroom, comedically sobbing 'Why does nobody like me?  I never fit in!' while he just shook his head and patted my back.

It was awkward.

  I thought I'd found my group at college, but they were really too dramatic (not surprising really - it was a drama course!), then at University I was bowled over by everyone's openness - but again I was slightly too old, I wasn't living in halls, so I didn't get that  group bond. I spent my nights working or hanging out with my flatmates who were my oldest and bestest friends, and I already had a boyfriend, which at that stage in my life was apparently akin to being married off.  The majority being fresh out of school, a lot of them hadn't even kissed a guy, let alone lived with them.  I was already an oddity.

The one time I met a really nice guy in my Uni class and he invited me out for lunch afterwards, he was more than a bit put out when  brought my boyfriend.  I naively didn't realise he was chatting me up - I thought he was trying to be my friend.  I was actually a bit gutted - especially when he slipped off halfway through drinks and then never spoke to me ever again, even in class.

Fast forward around ten years and a shed load of life experience and here I am, the only female in a house full of dudes.  And never has my femininity been more of an issue.

As a mother of two boys and a wife to a pretty laid back and feminist husband, I have had to defend myself over and over again.

Not only have I had to prove myself continuously, but I have to be this strong, powerful female all the time.  I am no longer the young girl shifting ten times her body weight in beer kegs any more, but I certainly feel a lot of weight on my shoulders.

I carry the weight of showing my sons how to be good, honest and equality-aware men.

I carry the weight of proving myself as a working mother.

I carry the weight of challenging stereotypes every goddamned day in front of my children, who are constantly fed all kinds of stereotypocal pish through various channels; the books they read, the cartoons they watch, the colour of the toys they play with and that they see other children play with.  It is my job, and my husband's job to show them that there is no stereotype.  That in this man's world, we can challenge and question and argue and be right and true and honest.  And that it's okay to be strong and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being weak.  And that we can be weak.  And hard.

And that my husband isn't weak for supporting me in this.  And that it's his own idea!

Is he 'under the thumb'?  I must be pushy, a bit of a pain in the ass, a bit too outspoken, a bit bossy...no?

I will carry these weights my whole life.

Ye gads, that load is heavy sometimes.

With age has also come some sort of settlement within myself.  I am no longer fraught when I realise that some girly acquaintances have gotten together over a bottle of wine without me.  I'm safely out of the game, and that's cool by me - it's usually more bother than it's worth anyway.  Nowadays I save myself for old friends and vintage banter - folk who don't care if I speak about the things I speak about, or the fact that I don't like to watch docu-soaps and prefer a nice cold lager or malt whisky over pink wine.

I suppose sometimes I do yearn for close female companionship.  In reality, I really just want a girly friend to hook up with now and again to shoot the shit with.  No matter what anyone says, being female in a house full of guys is hard going sometimes.  and yes, you do need some affirmation from your own kind in some form.

Being Female is a unique and awesome experience.  It is a constant fight, in the sub-texts, in the borders and in the mainstreams of everyday life.  It's proof to your sisters, your brothers and your elders that you have indeed got this.

It's a tough gig.








Friday, 25 July 2014

Starting School Essentials

Got a wee one about to start school?  Here's a heads up on what you are going to need...

1. The Pencil Case

This is actually my own pencil case.  Too cool for school!

The pencil case is kind of a big deal.  In the sea of uniforms and matching gym bags, the pencil case is the one piece of kit which, placed on your desk, is the symbol of you.  When I was wee, a lot of though went into the pencil case and what to put in it.  In the first year however, it's not so much about personality and being equipped as a kind of right of passage into school-child times.

What I discovered was, that Tom rarely needed his pencil case in Primary 1.  School provided a pot of pencils for him, as well as rubbers, coloured pencils and sharpeners.  So it wouldn't have been a big deal if he hadn't had one - he didn't get homework until just before the Christmas holidays!

What he really appreciated was the special trip he and Granny took to get his special pencil case for his special first day at school.

It's all about preparation.  And the pencil case is a huge part of that.  The pencil case is one of the symbols of growing up, in this respect.



2. The Lunch Box


My own lunch box at school was very 80's - pink and covered in My Little Pony, and impossible to get open.  It was also extremely sturdy and big enough to fit everything - including a drink - in.  Which is all you are looking for in a lunch box.

If your new school is anything like our school, they will be promoting healthy eating, and are also on a course to make you very aware of what your kid does or does not eat from the various goodies you send.  A good lunch box for P1 will be:
  • Wipe clean - you have no idea how many messy crisps and juice and yoghurt can get inside a box which spends all day getting thrown around!
  • Sturdy - you need to be able to keep food intact until it gets eaten
  • Easy to open and close - it saves a lot of worry and frustration on your child's part
  • Big enough for everything to be inside - Tom couldn't always fit his drink in his and went thirsty all day once because he forgot to pick up his juice and was too shy to say to his teacher!

3. The Coat

Bear rocks the cheap version of the school coat, which is much preferable to the goddamn school coat.

We had to buy a goddamn school coat.  I hated the goddamn school coat.  Initially it looked like a good buy - waterproof, fleece lined and not too expensive.  But everyone else in P1 bought the goddamn coat too.  Which proved to be a bit of a nightmare.

The amount of times we ended up coming home with someone else's coat, or no coat at all because someone had gone home with Tom's coat was just ridiculous.  No amount of name tagging could have stopped it either - I had name tags all over that goddamn coat and the little children never really took the time to read. As you do.

Do yourselves a favour - don't buy the goddamn school coat.  Buy a school coat by all means - but make sure it is something fit for purpose (waterproof, a bit cosy, neat), but keep it cheap.  And don't let it be a coat which you will worry about getting dirty either - the amount of times it will end up in the washing machine in a week...ahrgh...don't get me started...!


4. Naming Stuff



Ah yes.  Definitely remember to stock up on lots of labels with your child's name on, or alternately, a really good labelling pen.  If you are anything like me, you will pat yourself on the back for getting a shed-ton of embroidered labels and spend a lot of time lovingly sewing them into various items of school clothing.

For about an hour.

Then you will begin to realise that name labels are actually a bit of a pain in the ass, and although they do mean that your kid can always read his or her name on their stuff very clearly, they are taking a crazy amount of time to sew on.

Invest in some iron-on labels and a Sharpie - much less time-consuming and definitely easier.  Especially when you get to the stage where you realise you missed that all-important expensive school jumper, or gym shoes.


5. Extra Gym Shoes, Needle and Thread, Hemming Tape...



Yep - who knew?  Extra gym shoes is something I would recommend.  Tom attends after school club, where he needs gym shoes to be able to attend games in the gym hall.  But he is not allowed to take the ones from his gym bag.  He has also attended various extra activities where he requires gym shoes to participate, but again, for some unknown reason, is not allowed to get the ones he already keeps at school.

Weird.

Needle and thread are a must - buttons that pop off, ripped tie hems, holes in schoolbags - I would just add late-night sleep-deprived sewing to your new list of skills.

And hemming tape.  Where would I be without hemming tape?  In late-night sewing hell I tell you!  It lifts hems, it seals holes in knees, it sorts out odd flaps of fabric on the bottom of trousers.  It's actual magic on a roll!


6. The Water Bottle

OOh!  Flashy!

The kids at Tom's school are actively encouraged to take in their own water bottle.  Tom is terrible at remembering to drink throughout the day, so this is actually a pretty good thing - if his peers are doing it, he is doing it too, and that is all kinds of good.

We got Tom a bottle with his name already on it, which is a great idea.  His teacher allows them to fill it from the water fountain.  And it looks super cool too.


7. The Bag

I am Iron Man!
Ah, the school bag!  The school note delivery system from hell!  Every damn day, I open the mystical portal to yet another note from the school gods, proclaiming yet another crazy fun day or reason to hand in yet more money I don't have for things which make no sense...grumble...

The bag should be small enough for a wee person to carry without it dragging on the ground when they walk, but big enough to fit a jumper, homework folder, water bottle and pencil case in. And a post bag full of mail.

Okay, I joke about the mail.

Kind of.

Do get one big enough though, or school will do untold things with otherwise clean jumpers involving dirty lunchboxes full of rubbish, which will just make you scream at the end of yet another long day.


8. Envelopes


Maybe open a seperate bank account for mystical school stuff that appears for seemingly no discernible reason.
Nobody told me about the sheer amount of admin that comes with having a kid at school.  Seriously - I could and should, have a job in admin after the amount I get through in a week.  There is always a form to fill out, a task to complete, a gymnastics class to pay for or another round of lunch money to send in.  Envelopes are very, VERY important.



9. The Noticeboard and calendar

No, i can't explain the comedy note on my board.  It makes me laugh though!
You will not believe the amount of stuff you will have to remember - so a decent organisation system is definitely something to invest in.  We are a bit old school in this house, and really love  good old-fashioned calendar and noticeboard.  It's so easy to forget what's on, or forget to even note it on the calendar, so *whoosh*, up it goes on the noticeboard until we get a chance to work it all out.  There's always crazy stuff, like special jumper day, show and tell, inset days and parents-jumping-through-endless-hoops-for-no-apparent-reason days; but please keep a note of them.  They might seem crazy and unimportant to you, but to your child, they are super important.

10. A Sense Of Humour


School is great, it really is.  But there will be a point where the teacher demands that your child must donate something to the school beginning with the letter C (actually happened!), your son will end up in the medical room more times in a week than he does in the actual classroom (clumsy bugger that he is) and yes, the jumper will come home in a lunchbox full of mashed up crisps and yoghurt.  If it comes home at all.

You will have to sit through some pretty awful school performances (in order to see the back of your own child's head behind all of the pushy parents with the super-expensive cameras) and you will find yourself marching into the school office with the forgotten lunch box for the third time in a week.

Just make sure you're not the parent who forgets that it's non-uniform day.

(ssssshhhhhh!  That was totally not me.  Maybe.)