One step at a time…

Exercise.

It’s one of those words that fill some people with utter dread.  Cycling, swimming, running, spin class, jazzercise – it doesn’t matter how you dress it up, it’s still exercise.

And no matter how hard we try, we can’t escape it. It’s mentioned all the time; on TV, on the radio, in classrooms, by your doctor, as suggested apps on your bloody phone…

Whether we’re pleading with our kids to get off their screens and go outside for some fresh air and exercise, or we’re encouraging our elderly relatives to ‘join a class and get some exercise’, it’s always there, hovering around like a bad smell. Exercise, exercise, exercise.  It’s bloody everywhere.

Personally, I’ve never really been into exercise. I mean, I know it’s good for you, and I’m aware of the benefits, but I never really got involved in that scene. I couldn’t be bothered.

I also, stupidly, thought that thanks to the fabulous genes handed down to me by my parents, I didn’t need to worry about my weight, or my health. I could pretty much eat what I wanted, do the minimum amount of exercise and still stay relatively healthy…or so I thought. How naive I was back then; so young and so stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, I dabbled. In fact, when my husband and I first moved in together, both with good jobs, no kids and more money than sense, we did what any self-respecting twenty-something-year-old couple with too much money would do…we got ourselves a joint gym membership at the Hilton… Of course we did.

Jazzercise

 

But in all honesty, looking back now, I wasn’t really in it to get fit. Not really. Yes I donned the Lycra and the sweatbands, and yes I worked that cross-trainer like a boss, but it had nothing to do with fitness. It was all about the image; the lifestyle; the scene. I was exercising; getting fit; keeping healthy; buying ‘active wear’… but it was just utter shit.

I’d rush into the office at ten past nine and casually say, “sorry, I’ve been at the gym…” Or I’d announce that I was “…taking a long lunch…” so that I could “…pop to the gym…” God, what a tit…

Then my kids came along, and not only did I have no time or money to go to the gym, I had no bloody energy! I was having a full work-out every day without even realising it. And again, those genes were doing me proud and I was back to my normal, pre-baby weight within a few months, and feeling great.

And we all lived happily ever after.

The end.

Well, actually, no. Not the end. Because something happened a couple of years ago, that changed everything.

I turned 40. (Turning 40 brings with it its own fresh Hell, but that’s a story for another day.)

And for some reason, as soon as I turned 40, those genes, those fantastic genes that had been my saviour all these years, were starting to let me down, big style!

I suddenly started to notice changes; little changes, but changes all the same. My jeans became a little neater around the waist; my dresses seemed a little tighter around the middle; my bras decided that two boobs weren’t enough – four was obviously far more appealing (you know what I mean, right?).

four boobs
The dreaded ‘four boob’ syndrome…

Then there was the lack of energy. Finally getting the kids to bed, realising it was 9.30pm and, despite the 101 things knew I could and should have been doing, instead all I wanted to do was veg on the sofa and eat.

Wait, what? What do you mean I can’t now eat a whole bar of Dairy Milk and half a glass of wine on a Monday night and still have a flat stomach in the morning?

This getting old lark was starting to get on my tits. All four of them.

It was time to do something about it. Not just for the sake of my bulging bras and distressed dresses, but for my health, and for the health of my children; because as easy as it is to be flippant about the whole ‘I hate exercise’ thing, our kids are little sponges. They see, hear and absorb everything. They take it all in and store it away for the future.

So as a family, we started making changes – more salads; fewer takeaways; more home-cooked meals; walks at the weekends; walking/cycling to school. Little things that would not only make a difference to me as a forty two year old, but which would also instill in my children a basic knowledge of good health; teaching them that being fit and healthy is important, but that it can also be fun…

And then something else cropped up, which spurred me on to take the whole ‘exercise’ thing even further.

Some of you may know that I do a bit of extras work – you know those people in the background in films, TV programmes and adverts? The ones who don’t say anything? Well, I’m one of those.

I’ve always loved the idea of being an actress; learning lines; dressing up; pretending to be someone else – it’s always been a dream of mine (a BBC period drama is my ultimate goal!). But when you have two young children and live in the north of Scotland, it’s not that easy to find (paid) work… So I joined an extras agency, and so far I have been in a BBC detective show, a South Korean crime documentary and an Indonesian film. Brilliant.

Then I got a call about another job. An advert for Aldi. Woohoo – sounded great. I’m an Aldi girl, so I jumped at the chance. “Yep”, I said. “I’m available for that one.”

Then the message came back – “There will be some light, fun jogging involved…”

Now, here’s the thing. I very rarely use the words ‘fun’ and ‘jogging’ in the same sentence, and I almost changed my mind. But instead, I took myself off to Primark, bought the cheapest, most basic Active Wear I could find, and off I went.

The filming was great and I loved every minute (and I’m sure one day that will be another story…!) but it also surprised me. I actually enjoyed the running part! Like, really enjoyed it. How odd?

So, the final chapter of my exercise story is that in the last nine days, I’ve gone for a run FIVE times. Nothing too fancy or extravagant, but I’ve been exercising and I’ve been enjoying it.

I started slowly, taking it easy and eventually working up to 2.74km just the other day. Me – 2.74km! Who’d have thought…?

Each morning, I wake up early, creep around while the family are still asleep, pull on my cheap Primark gear, set up my Run Tracker, and off I go. And I tell you, there’s nothing better than listening to bird song, with the warm sun on your back, your heart pumping, and knowing that you’re doing something good; something positive. It sets you up for the rest of the day. It’s just about finding the right thing for you.

So now, I’m not exercising to be trendy, to be cool, or part of a scene. I’m exercising because my body needed it. I’m exercising because I know it’s good for me. I’m exercising because I know my children are watching, and I can’t very well get on at them for spending too much time on the Xbox and not enough time outside getting fresh air and exercise if I’m not doing it either.

I’m exercising because I enjoy it.

And at this rate I’ll be running a Marathon…well, one step at a time eh?

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Tick or teat…?

No, I haven’t gone mad. I’m not preparing for Halloween already, and there isn’t an issue with the ‘R’ on my keyboard.

This is about cats. Yes, cats.

Coco
Coco
Button
Button

I have two of the little fluff-balls (pictured above) and I love them immensely. They don’t cause too much trouble, they behave way better than the kids, and they constantly shower us with love, hair and cat drool.

But a couple of weeks ago, I noticed something in Coco’s fur on the side of her neck.  This isn’t unusual, as Coco often comes home covered in plant burrs (or sticky willies as we used to call them). She’s our hunter, our wandered, a typical cat; often bringing home an array of mice, voles and birds with varying degrees of mutilation…so I didn’t really think too much about it. But for some reason it played on my mind a little, and after a few days I did what we all do when there’s something bothering us that we don’t understand. I Googled it. And then I kind of wish I hadn’t.

Ticks.

Tick
yuck!

I hadn’t really given much thought to the hideous little blood-suckers that hitch a ride on our poor, unsuspecting pets, causing disease and illness. But there it was – the picture on my phone of the hard, seed-like ball looked exactly like the thing I’d seen on Coco. A bloody tick.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to hold a cat down against their will, but it’s kind of like fighting with a wriggling, furry bag of knives. However, I finally managed to find the place where the disgusting lump had been, and to my absolute horror, the bloody thing had gone! At this point, two major concerns were swirling around in my brain. One, my poor little Coco had been walking around with a potentially disease-ridden beastie attached to her, and two, where the f**k was it now!!!

Thankfully, the vet didn’t seem too bothered as we keep the cats up-to-date with their flea, tick and worming vaccines. But me? Well, I spent the day cleaning floors, stripping beds and hoovering the mattresses; there was no way that disgusting little bugger was getting it’s jaws into any more members of my family.

And so yesterday, I find myself sitting on the sofa, having a nice cup of tea before it’s time to collect the kids from school. Button’s lying next to me, stretched out on the grey rug, legs akimbo waiting for her favourite belly rub. But wait…what the…? What the hell is that on her tummy?

Oh shit. There’s a wee lump! It’s not hard, but it’s not squishy either. Oh. My. Fecking. God. I push aside her mountain of fur and manage to take a photo of the offending lump.

Tick or teat...

Quickly, I send the picture to our vet on their Facebook page, telling them that it’s very red around the area and that there are, what seem to be, ‘legs’ sticking out around the ‘tick-like’ pimple.

Within minutes, they replied. “Have you tried cleaning it with warm water?”

Eh, no… hold on.

Again, this furry bag of knives did everything it could to prevent my rescue mission, but following a frantic wash with warm water and cotton wool, eventually the redness disappeared. As did the ‘legs’. All that was left was a tiny, white lump. On her tummy. Pretty much perpendicular and perfectly symmetrical with the other ‘lumps’ on her tummy.

The ticks weren’t ticks. They were bloody nipples!

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking; “what a tit!” (no pun intended), but I genuinely couldn’t tell! And I’m not alone. There are loads of threads on pet forums where people have actually tried to pull the tick-nipple off with tweezers!! Now that brings a tear to your eye.

Anyway, my point is that until this happened, I hadn’t really thought about ticks and the problems they can cause for animals. Again, good old Google provided me with a plethora of different sites, some helpful, some not so!

So, make sure you keep your pets vaccinated, and try not to mistake a tick for a teat…!

 

 

 

I don’t know my future after this weekend…and I don’t want to

Isn’t it amazing how music can take you back to a different time and place? How a few chords, a certain melody or a song lyric can instantly throw up emotions and nostalgic feelings long forgotten?

It’s Saturday, I’m just back from a film screening at the DCA, the kids have been fed and are happily playing upstairs, and I’m trying to write the final chapter of my book, a trusty gin by my side. It’s been a good day; one of those days that makes you thankful for who you are and what you have.

My husband’s making dinner (bless him) and pops through to change the record.  When he does I’m instantly a gibbering, emotional, nostalgic wreck…

The tune? Big Time Sensuality by Bjork.

Suddenly, it’s 1993 and I’m 18 again. I’ve been out of school for a year, studying a City and Guilds in Beauty Therapy, and dropping out after the first year – it really wasn’t for me. Then working for a few months as a nursery assistant. Funnily enough, I quickly found out that singing ‘the wheels on the bus’ and wiping shitty bums for £50 a week wasn’t for me either…

So I end up working in the fabulously cool (well, I thought so) Snob; remember Snob?

I’d just broken up with first serious boyfriend, had recently completed my first modelling job (payment for which also included a pair of roller-boots – don’t ask), and picked up the forms to apply for a college course, which, unbeknown to me at the time, would be where my life would change completely, a turning point, so to speak. It would be during that course that I would meet the musicians who encouraged me to join their band – the High Sounds.  With the band I performed at the Music Hall in Aberdeen, recorded an EP, and played various gigs around Aberdeen and further afield. And it was at one of those gigs that I met my husband…the rest, as they say, is history.

But in 1993, none of that mattered yet.  All that mattered was that I was young, free, single and earning money. And now, as I hear that intro, those first few lines – “…I can sense it, something important is about to happen…”, I’m right back there, standing on the shop floor in my lime-green, suede mini-skirt I bought with my 10% staff discount.  I’m sorting the clothes into size order, thinking about where we’re going for a drink after work, unpacking the delivery boxes, sneaking off for a quick fag in the staffroom (it wasn’t illegal back then!), getting excited for Christmas because that was the only time the ‘town’ was open on a Sunday (and we got double time), and listening to Big Time Sensuality on the shop cassette player. Happy, happy days.

Fast forward twenty-three years later, and my life is very different; I have a new soundtrack. We grow up, grow old and move on. But thankfully, amidst the bills, the school run, the children’s songs and the wrinkles, there’s still room for the old me; still room for memories, mini-skirts, and the occasional sneaky fag.

And there’s always, always room for Bjork.

 

Another boring holiday..?

I’m never bored.  I wish I could be, but I just don’t have the time.

Like most of us, I have so much to do, and so many ideas buzzing around my head that, as my mum always used to say, “there are never enough hours in the day…”

Remember the days when you wouldn’t dare say that you were bored, or else you’d be marched off to tidy your room, or handed a cloth and told to do the dishes..? So instead we just found stuff to do.

But that’s the problem today isn’t it? Kids aren’t allowed to be bored.

Nowadays, we seem to have it in our heads that unless our children go to a different activity every day after school, have a full itinerary of play-dates, sports clubs, organised groups and art projects during every holiday, then we must be shit parents.

Thankfully, I just read a fantastic article by Sali Hughes about how wonderful it is to be bored. (Link below.)

I read it with a smile on my face because it made me realise that we’re all fighting the same battle. It made me feel less guilty that so far this holiday the kids have only left the house twice (once for dinner with friends and once for a walk along a blustery harbour). Instead they’ve watched films, built a den, fought over their cardboard ‘laptop’ and made a Lego sarcophagus (no, really!).

Yes we’ve played Countdown together (I lost), laughed hysterically at our questions for each other whilst playing Hedbandz, played football in the garden (in between the showers), and drawn endless pictures of Harry Potter characters, but for the majority of our Easter holiday, the kids have amused themselves.

I’ve had stuff to do.  Their dad’s had stuff to do. So they’ve had to make their own fun. And, quite frankly isn’t that as it should be?

We’re here for them if they need us; we’ll eat together and we’ll play with them at some point every day, but I want them to experience what it feels like to have nothing to do.  I want them to be ‘bored’.

After all, isn’t that when creativity is born?

x

‘The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.’ – Dorothy Parker
‘I am never bored anywhere; being bored is an insult to oneself.’ – Jules Renard
‘Boredom – the desire for desires.’ – Leo Tolstoy

‘Boredom: the mental colonic irrigation’ – by Sali Hughes –
https://www.the-pool.com/life/life-honestly/2016/14/sali-hughes-on-boredom

 

Carnoustie to Calais…

In my last blog I spoke about the plight of the thousands of migrants fleeing their homes. Their battle for a better, safer life is one that has resonated with so many people round the world and it certainly made me feel uncomfortable and terribly helpless. I ended my entry with the words ‘I’m not sure how I can help. And that really makes me sad.’

Today, however I feel a little better.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get that sick feeling when I think of those awful images of young children washed up on beaches, and the daily articles still make me angry as hell, but I have found something I can do to help.

It might just be a little thing, but it’s a start.

I thought about the situation over the last few days, and realised that I could sign petitions, email politicians, get angry on Facebook, but none of that is actually giving any real help to these poor people. Right now, what they really need are those basic things we take for granted; toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, hairbrushes, shoes, socks, duvets, candles, soap, shower gel…the list is endless.

And thankfully, I have found a few people in my area – honest, caring, selfless people – who are giving up their own time and money to take some of these much-needed items to the ever-growing throng of desperate people currently stranded in camps at Calais.

Driving. All the way from Carnoustie. Out of the goodness of their hearts.

That’s exactly what’s needed.

Now, I knew I couldn’t drive to Calais (I have two young children), but I still wanted to help. So off I went this morning with my list; on a mission.

I walked around the shop and filled my trolley with things from the list, and it made me feel good; knowing that I was buying this stuff for someone who needed it – really needed it.

I watched as other shoppers went about their normal day, picking up bargains, adding things they probably didn’t need to their trolleys, but hey, it was a good price. I watched them and recognised myself. I do it all the time. I don’t have loads of money to spare every month, but now and again I find myself buying something…just because. A bottle of nail varnish? A few books? Another album from the new record shop (one I already have on CD)…? An extra-large mocha after dropping the kids off at school…? We don’t really need these things, but we all do it.

Today I felt a warm, contented feeling as I packed the items into the bag.

None of this stuff was for me. Ok, it wasn’t much – less than £20 – but it felt good knowing that very soon, someone who has gone through God-knows-what to escape the horrors of war and civil unrest, will have these items, this twenty-quid’s-worth of stuff; and they’ll appreciate it.  They need it. And I won’t miss a new nail varnish or a new book this month.

Items for refugees

Next week, these small offerings will be driven to Calais by Marianne. Someone I’ve never met. She’s a friend of a friend – you know the way it is on Facebook? The van will leave Carnoustie at 2am on Wednesday 9 September to travel the ten hours to Folkestone, where they will travel through the Channel Tunnel and on to Calais.

It’s not going to change the world, I know that. It won’t stop the problems in Syria. It won’t stop our country getting involved in issues that don’t concern us – that’s another debate entirely. But perhaps if we all have one less coffee this week, buy one less CD, one less lipstick, then maybe we can send more of these essentials – the things we take for granted – to these desperate human beings; send them a message that some of us do care what happens to them.

Want to donate? Collection points across Tayside and Angus are –

Carnoustie

Panmure Centre
141 Kinloch St
10am to 4pm

Monifeith

Seaview Primary School (Ask for Joe Whaite)
10am – 3pm

Dundee
Metalurgey
40 Dock Street (Ask for Kimbo)
10am to 5pm

**UPDATE***
DJCAD is now an official collection point for the Calais Refugee Camp Appeal. Any donations please drop them off in the boxes which will be outside the reception area at DJCAD from 8.30 till 4.30.

FURTHER UPDATE
The Carnoustie to Calais project has now become so big and has so many donations, Marianne has now handed this over to Dundee Refuge Support. For further information, please contact them on their Facebook page – https://m.facebook.com/dundeerefugeesupport

Thanks to Marianne Scott for her hard work and dedication.

Lest we forget…

I haven’t written a blog for a while. Mainly because I’ve been so busy writing my book, I haven’t really had time to think about anything else; and nothing really got inside my head enough to make me want to write.

Until now.

On Friday night, while scrolling through Facebook, I came across the most tragic and heart-breaking photographs I have ever seen; and now I can think of very little else.

The images of the bodies of young boys and girls washed up on beaches around Europe after their boats had capsized in the Mediterranean will now haunt me for the rest of my life.

I  keep thinking of those innocent children fleeing from whatever atrocities in which they have been forced to ‘live’; bundled on to boats by terrified parents, hoping for a life, a safer life, for their most prized – and possibly only – possessions; their beautiful children.

I keep wondering, what was going through their minds as they carefully buttoned up their children’s coats and lovingly tied their shoes? As they kissed their heads and explained the journey ahead, trying to make it sound like a game, an adventure. Promising them it would be ok; they were going somewhere better.

I can only imagine how they were feeling, those petrified men and women; it makes me sick to my stomach and it makes my heart sore.

And yet, despite these horrendous images plastered all over social media, there are still those with the ‘immigrants coming over here taking our jobs’ attitude. The idiots who really think these people, these human beings, are risking their lives and the lives of their precious children just to come here and take that job at McDonalds that you can’t be arsed applying for. Do they really think that’s what it’s all about? Take a close look at the fear on their pathetic faces and tell me they think that’s what it’s about. What kind of world are we living in?

It also makes me angry as hell at our government who seem to be doing very little to help compared with other European countries. The table below (from December last year) shows a list of countries offering to resettle Syrian refugees. Notice the small print at the bottom highlighting that the UK had admitted 90 refugees. Yeah, well done ‘Great feckin Britain…’ *slow hand clap

_79617540_syrian_refugees_chart_624v2

I’m not going to get all political here. I’ll leave that to those who are better educated to do so.

I don’t claim to have the answers or the ability to discuss who’s to blame and what should be done.  But I wonder how many of our politicians and our ‘great’ leaders will stand proudly in a few months’ time for their front-page pictures, laying poppy wreaths to remember the atrocities of war; being thankful that it will ‘never happen again’… Lest we forget…? Don’t make me laugh… I hope they can sleep at night.

We are human beings, and as human beings we should all have an in-built instinct to help others.  But I’m also a mother, and seeing these images scares the hell out of me.  When I look at these children and think, ‘what if that was…?’ Well, it doesn’t even bear thinking about.

I wanted to share the images, to let the world see what our glorious media hides from us, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it; to have something so horrific and so sickening on my Facebook page was just too distressing. Perhaps that makes me just as cowardly as the powers-that-be who choose to ignore them? I seriously hope not.

Seeing the pictures again today made me sick to my stomach once more.

I’m not sure how I can help; I don’t know what to do. And that really makes me sad.

The joys of an in-service day when you’re a stay-at-home mum…

Some people are lucky enough to know what it’s like to start one job at a time, and finish it. Completely. To the end. With no distractons.

And then there are those of us with kids…

So far, my morning has been a bit like this –

Woken up at 6.30 by coughing child, get medicine for said child, organise breakfast for children, put washing on, feed cats, more cereal for children, quick slurp of tea, get ironing board, wash two plates, remember we need more coffee, write shopping list, start ironing, help to make lego helicopter, slurp tea, more ironing, take washing out of machine, help small child at the toilet, more ironing, adopt the role of diplomat and avert world war three, get chocolate brioche for kids, remember wet washing, go to get washing and notice spill on floor, get cloth from under sink, see bin-liners and remember bins were emptied today, clean up spill, wash hands, hang out said washing, notice bird shit on window, swear (quietly), get kitchen roll, hear children fighting, put kitchen roll down in living room, go upstairs and help dress children, ask children to brush teeth, back downstairs, start ironing, notice kitchen roll in living room, wonder why it’s there, re-trace steps and see afore mentioned bird shit, get window cleaning spray, clean window, go to put dirty kitchen roll in bin, no bin liner, get new bin liner, wash hands, wash another plate, hear children arguing over lego helicopter, send children to play in own bedrooms, more ironing, slurp cold tea, regret slurping cold tea, wash cup, realise I’m still in my pyjamas…

…the ironing isn’t finished, the kids haven’t brushed their teeth and they are currently shouting at the top of their voices while making a mess (sorry I mean a den), there are still dishes to be done, I have no idea what’s for dinner, I need to go shopping, I have faerie door orders to finish and I’m hungry…

…but I’m taking them to the park instead – it’s just easier.

Power to the people

Social media. Love it or hate it, I think we’ve all come to accept that sites like Facebook and Twitter have become rooted in modern society. Whether it’s used for re-uniting lost siblings, highlighting those important issues the mainstream media choose to ‘forget’ about, or simply for showing off your culinary skills, the phenomenon that is social media is well and truly here to stay.

I have to admit I’ve always had reservations. Before the World Wide Web was a common household feature (yes, I am older than the internet), I remember having a conversation with my parents about how I thought this new idea was terrifying; I didn’t want it at all. I thought then that it would be the death of society as we knew it…(that’s a whole other debate!)

As the years went on, I soon realised the benefits of living in a ‘Global Village’. As a musician, I’m proud yet amazed that my music has been heard across the world. My songs have sold in parts of Europe, South America, and even the Middle East! This would be impossible for a musician at my level had it not been for the internet.

I also run a small business from home, selling faerie furniture, gardens and doors. Again, this would be a completely different business if I could not market my products online.

But just yesterday, I learned to fully appreciate the true power of social media.

Yesterday, I found my missing cat.

Yes, I know I’ve probably just lost half of you (it’s just a cat, right?), but my fellow pet-owners will understand the sheer devastation you feel when something you love is missing.

I won’t bore you with the emotional details, but one of my 10-month-old kittens, Coco, went out on Monday morning and didn’t come home. Having never had cats before, we were beside ourselves with worry. Friends said, ‘that’s just what cats do’, but ours had never ventured much further than the garden – this wasn’t normal.

The old-fashioned (or maybe just old) part of my brain kicked in, and I immediately printed leaflets with Coco’s picture and my details on, to post through my neighbours’ doors.  But realistically, I knew that the best way to get my message across was online.

I posted my heartfelt appeal on every Facebook page I could think of; trying desperately to type through floods of tears (sorry, I said no emotional stuff!). Within minutes my post had been shared numerous times by friends, family and by people I didn’t even know.

By Tuesday lunchtime we were distraught – still no Coco.

My Facebook search intensified as more and more people shared my appeal, but still there were no sightings. My leaflets, however encouraged  a neighbour (previously unknown to me) to call and let me know she had seen Coco in her garden on the Monday morning – perhaps the old-fashioned ways were indeed the best…?

By teatime on Tuesday, I feared the worst. Searching gardens and wooded areas around our house proved unsuccessful, but I somehow managed to hold the tears back as I tried to sound positive; telling the kids that I was sure she was just on a sort of ‘cat adventure’ (sorry, there’s that emotional thing again…).

Then for the hundredth time that hour I checked Facebook again and noticed a message from a lady I didn’t know. She lived at the end of my street.  I had never met her but she had seen my post and commented that there had just been a cat in her garden she had never seen before, and did I want to come down to have a look?

To cut a long (and very emotional) story short, it was Coco, and following some fence-climbing and scrambling through bushes (me, not the cat), I eventually took her home; frightened and shivering, but safe.

Once the grand reunion was over, and we had all calmed down, I knew I should post a thank you on Facebook – so many people had helped by sharing posts, and offering support and kind words. As I write this, 145 people have liked my ‘Coco has been found’ post.

145 people – that’s insane!

Not only has it restored my faith in humanity, but it has made me realise that there is a place for social media in today’s society. It’s just like everything else – there are those who use it, and those who abuse it.

If my then-unknown neighbour hadn’t commented on Facebook at that precise moment, who knows what might have happened to Coco – I dread to think…

But don’t worry, the old-fashioned girl in me prevailed, and a nice bunch of flowers and a bottle of fizz were presented to my friendly new neighbour this evening…

…some things just have to be done the traditional way.

The pen is mightier than the eBook

What a bunch of spoiled, lazy, demanding, impatient, so-and-so’s we’ve become.  We want everything, we want it now, and we don’t want to lift a finger in the process.

I am, unfortunately, old enough to remember a time when, if you were bored watching Chorlton and the Wheelies and wanted to see what was on either of the other two stations (yes, two!), you had to actually get up and change the channel on the TV; none of this ‘remote control’ business. And even then, there was only really an hour of children’s telly a day.

And remember when buying a 7 inch was a perfectly innocent and exciting way to spend your pocket money?  Now, with the press of a button you can stream any song, from anywhere, at any time.

You can watch films on your phone, send texts from your computer, and talk face to face with someone on the other side of the world from the comfort of your living room.  And technology is moving so fast we can hardly keep up.   I mean, I’m all for change if it’s required, but sometimes I wish we could just leave things alone.

Just because we can, does it mean we should?

For me, the biggest disappointment and the one thing I can’t condone is the eBook.  It’s sacrilege.

I may be in the minority, but for me, there’s still something warm and comforting about reading a book.  The smell of the pages, the blurb on the back cover, the little note about the author, the reference points, the preface…do I have to go on?

In my house, books are a thing beauty; a joy to behold.  The favourites are displayed in a bookcase, to be read, yes, but also to be looked at, touched, sniffed (yes, I know the sniffing thing is a bit weird, but stay with me).  The current reading material in a pile next to my bed, waiting their turn.

We read to our kids every night.  I love how my four-year-old son is mesmerised by words and pictures; turning the pages and eagerly awaiting the next part of the story, gradually learning to read.

My daughter (now seven) has written more stories than I’ve had hot dinners, and is adamant she wants to be a writer when she’s older (oh, and a film-maker, a director, and an actress, God help me!). They both love books – flicking the pages back and forward, searching for their favourite part of the story, memorising the best bits.  How could we do that with an eBook?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like this stuff – I have a computer, a tablet, an android phone, a smart TV – but it seems to me that all this modern technology that is designed to make life easier for the human race, is actually partly responsible for the awful state of our society.

For example, my kids heard about Minecraft from a friend.  Against my better judgement, ‘Santa’ put it onto my tablet for my daughter’s Christmas (she had asked for her own tablet but we quickly informed her that ‘Santa’ didn’t agree with technology for such young children…) and now they are both hooked on building forts, digging pits, fighting zombies, trying to reach the ‘ender dragon’, and spawning pigs… (I mean, what the hell does that even mean?)

Unfortunately, the problem is not the fact that they want to spend so much time playing these games (although that does drive me insane).  The problem is afterwards, when my gorgeous, intelligent, happy and caring children turn into absolute monsters; their behaviour is atrocious!

Now, it could be just an age thing, a phase they’re going through, but as a mum, I’m convinced that the amount of time spent using this type of technology has a lot to do with it. They never became this hyper, moody or argumentative after a good book or after a couple of hours playing outside, I can tell you that!

Surely I’m not the only one who can see that this so-called ‘progress’ could be holding us back? By advancing so quickly, aren’t we losing sight of what’s important?  Aren’t we becoming a nation of spoiled, lazy, demanding, impatient so-and-so’s?

I’m afraid we are, and unfortunately, I think this is only the beginning.

Now where did I put that remote control?

Open wide please…

I’m a wreck.

I’m shaking, I have cold sweats, and I feel sick.  I haven’t been able to sleep properly for days.  All I want to do is open a bottle of wine and stick a straw in it.

Why?

I was at the dentist today.

I’ve never been a big fan of going to the dentist (who is?), but then my childhood experience was enough to put anyone off getting their ‘wallies’ checked ever again; it was quite literally, the stuff of nightmares.

My dentist, Dr Adams (God rest his soul), had had his voice box removed many years before, and the result (for my five-year-old self) was terrifying.  I mean, the poor man had obviously gone through a traumatic operation, which left him with an inability to communicate without sounding like an irate robot-bear, but for a child, trust me, it was horrific.

And then there’s my Grandma. She had wanted to have beautiful teeth like her friends’ falsies so much, that she had all of her perfectly healthy teeth removed when she was just 16! What the hell was she thinking?  What the hell was her dentist thinking?

So you can understand why I now get a slight ‘whitening of the knuckles’ whenever that chair starts to recline and I hear those words, “…and open wide please…”

This time, however, the experience was worse than anything I ever experienced as a child. Much worse than the raspy growling of my childhood dentist. Much worse than the time I got put to sleep and woke up with a mouth-full of blood. Much worse than when I vomited on the orthodontists hand as he tried to take impressions of my teeth for my awful brace.  Much, much worse.

This time, I was there as a Mum.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the kids to the dentist for check-ups loads of times before and it’s been absolutely fine.  We were all perfectly calm and I managed to convince them both that our dentist is a lovely lady (she really is!). But this time was different.  This time my seven-year-old daughter was going to have a tooth taken out…

Even as I type this I feel terrible.  How could I let my daughter’s teeth get into such a mess that she needed to have one pulled out?  I know it was just a baby tooth and it would have fallen out anyway, but that’s not the point.  It was my fault.

So, on top of my awful childhood dental memories, I now had the added burden of being responsible for my daughters’ anguish – and believe me, there was anguish.

I sat holding her hand (yes, I actually squeezed myself onto the actual scary dentist chair with her) while my gorgeous first-born winced, squealed, gagged and moaned as the dentist pushed, pulled and yanked at her tooth.

I’ll spare you the gory details as it wasn’t pretty, but I’ll tell you my performance was bloody brilliant even if I do say so myself.  Not the slightest hint of nervousness, worry or the cardiac arrest I was sure was approaching; just encouragement and cuddles.  It was hard going, but it had to be done – she’s my baby after all.

Afterwards as we drove home, I looked at her wee, numb face, and thought about how scared she had been and how she had looked to me for reassurance and protection.

She felt safe because I was there, telling her everything would be ok, even though inside my stomach was churning and I had looked away for most of the process.  To her, I was strong, calm and gentle.  I was, well, I was her mum.

It made me feel like a bit of a fraud; telling ‘white lies’ to my own daughter, all the while knowing full well that it was going to be a bit horrible, and yes there would be blood. But when I saw how much my words reassured her, and how she climbed into the seat all big and brave because I was there telling her it was going to be fine, I suddenly felt like the proudest mum in the world.

So from now on, I’m going to make sure she brushes properly, and cuts down on the sweets – my poor heart can’t handle any more…

…and I still don’t like going to the dentist.