Friday, 28 May 2010

Guest Post Day 2: Stepping up to the plate

Thanks Erica for another Guest Post day and a chance to meet new bloggers and have new input on our own blogs. This has been written by the lovely Heather at Young & Younger and if you pop over there my post should be on her blog!

When I’m on my own with the babies during the day I often imagine what life would be like as a single mum, and two emotions run through me. The first is a huge respect and admiration for those that do it, and the second is a chilling terror that I might find myself in that position. I’m spoilt, you see. My other half is not only very hands on with the babies, but also shoulders a lot of the stuff that I either don’t want to, or am not confident enough to do.

Imagining being a single parent has made me take a long hard look at myself, and recognise that I need to face some of my fears and become more independent and self-sufficient. When my dad’s away, my mum doesn’t even know how to set the alarm on the bedside clock, so she has to set a kitchen timer to count down the hours until she needs to wake up. I don’t want this to be me.

If I have a problem with the computer, the wireless connection, or most things electrical in the house I leave them to Young Daddy to sort out. He shows me how to do it myself, but I never bother to concentrate because I just take it for granted that he’ll be there the next time to fix it for me.

I have a phone phobia. I hate calling people. Not friends - I can speak on the phone for hours to friends, but I don’t like calling a stranger to book something, or query anything. I’ve always been like that. I have to really psych myself up to dial the number. So now I just let Young Daddy do it. I don’t even try anymore.

The supermarket shop. I hate the supermarket. There’s something about the lack of natural light and the aisles filled with people that makes me short of breath and panicky. So I don’t go. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been on my own once since the babies arrived nearly nine months ago. I keep meaning to take the twins and brave it, but I always come up with an excuse.

I let Young Daddy look after all of the bills, which are all in his name. When someone asks me who my electricity provider is I haven’t got a clue. How much does our heating cost each month?  No idea. When is our mortgage up for renewal? Couldn’t tell you. I should know these things, shouldn’t I? It’s part of being an adult, being a grown-up.

I’m a mum now, and I should start behaving like someone I would like my babies to become. I want my little ones to be confident, capable people. So I should act like one myself. Goodbye ‘can’t do’ attitude and hello new me…

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Gallery: Friendship

A late entry for the Gallery this week.

These are the girls I have been friends with since we started at Beaconsfield High School back in 1983:

Between us we have 3 husbands and 8 children (with a ninth on the way!) but we still get together 3 or 4 times a year with as many of the children as are free. They are lucky enough to live only 30 minutes apart still despite all going off to university. Wish I lived near enough to spend more time with them as they are a great bunch of girls.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Secret Post Club: May 2010

It's once again that wonderful time of the month when the Secret Post Club Parcels start arriving across the world!

This time mine has come from the lovely Hayley at as we chat regularly on Twitter she knew exactly what to send me:

There were 2 choc Frogs but my toddler took his as soon as I unwrapped the packet!! Will be keeping the Galaxy bar well out of reach... mmmm or maybe I'll scoff it quick before kids get home from school... mmmmmm

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Parent and Toddler Groups - Why do you go?

This post is inspired by a joke I made at a Parenting class "aren't playgroups for mums to drink coffee and gossip". So why do mums, dads and grandparents go to playgroups and parent/toddler groups?

1) Adult Socialising

Groups are a chance for stay at home parents to get to have adult interaction in daylight hours. A time to gossip and compare notes with other grown ups over a cup of coffee or tea. This may lead to new friendships as time goes on. 

For some people this maybe the only time they get out of the house during the week. As such they are vital for the mental well being of parents.

2) Children's Socialising

A chance for children to learn about playing with other children from outside their family and normal social circle. Gives them a chance to mix with a wider group of children.

They can also build on skills that they are learning elsewhere such as sharing which is more important in a large group.

3) New Experiences for Children

Often at groups there are toys and activities on offer that aren't available to them elsewhere. Either because there are a finite number of toys you can keep at home or due to economies of scale different crafts are available each week. A boon for mums that can't cope with messy craft at home.

At some groups they are visited by other bodies such as Toy Libraries or Children's Centres who bring in special games and activities on an occasional basis.

4) Fun together

Away from the pressures of home and distractions of housework, TV, phone calls etc. playgroups are a chance for adults and children to have fun together. Whether this is trying a new toy, getting messy on the craft table or as part of the sing-a-long it can be so much more relaxing away from home.

Not so good

In some groups there are still very few dad's and granddads so men can feel like odd ones out. This is changing as there are more SAHD's and hopefully more will come and join in the fun the mums have been having for years. 

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Gallery: Self Portrait

The toughest Gallery yet as like many mummy bloggers I don't like photos of me!!

So I will create a quick Smilebox of images of me...

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Me through the ages!
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Hope you liked them...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sticking together

The loss of a key member of my family and the ensuing mini family reunion has made me ponder on what keeps a family together. I know from other people's blogposts and tweets that my family has been very lucky at how close we have been, it also made me wonder how we be able to keep it up.

On my dad's side of the family when I was a child the family regularly got together each year and not just for big family events.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: old family album
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As my generation has grown up and married the times we get together are getting further and further apart. For the first few weddings it was a full turn out. Then we all started to have more commitments and moved further away from each other.

At the funeral 5 out of 7 of us were able to be there without any partners and only 3 of the 7 great grandchildren. We were trying to work out when we had last been all together. So we went through the lists of the last possible events... it wasn't my wedding in 2002 or my cousin's blessing in 2004. The last definite photographic evidence was from 15 years ago at the celebration of my grandfather's 80th birthday!

So how do we ensure that we stay in touch and see at least part of the different branches of the family? My 2 female cousins and I are now corresponding regularly through Twitter and the wider family are using Facebook as we are spread across 2 continents.

Let's hope that we can get together without the traumatic family event that caused the last reunion. We all get on when we do see each other so just need to co-ordinate or complicated family schedules.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

I was tagged with the Kreativ Blogger award by the lovely Elaine and having seen a few of these I'm glad to have my turn so thanks Elaine. So here are the rules for this one:

1. You must thank the person who has given you the award. 

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog. 

3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award. 

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting. 

5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers. 

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate. 

7. Let the nominated victims (bloggers) know they have been tagged. 

So what can I say that me at all interesting to the world at large???

Numero Uno

Whilst was at university I took up ladies' women's rugby and played for 5 years as a 2nd row and finished my career as a tight head prop. Just loved getting down and dirty in the mud with a bunch of like minded girls and then sinking a few pints in the pub afterwards...


I love learning other languages. Having spent some months living in France I used to be fluent in French - not as good these days. I can also speak some German and Italian and a smattering of Spanish thanks to Dora the Explorer.


One of my biggest hobbies is the family tree. I've traced the Isle of Wight side back to 1480, have a connection to William Wordsworth and discovered my great granddad was sacked from the police for embezzlement. Oh and my mum apparently married 2 men on same day according to indexes in London! An amazing thing to do.

En Cuarto Lugar

Before I had kids I used to travel a lot on business. Visited places as diverse as Finland, Luxembourg and South Africa. Quite glad that I can now stay close to home!

In Quinto Luogo

When I was younger I got active in politics and got elected as Town Councillor. Soon got disallusioned by the fact that most of the 50+ aged other councillors just seemed to enjoy listening to their own voices... it may be different elsewhere but will leave it to others from now on..


My kids and I love doing medieval re-enacting with the Medieval Siege Society and the Company of Saint Barbara. This has let me fire the largest working cannon in Europe Pyppes Dowghter. Come and see her in action at Arundel Castle this bank holiday!


My granddad used to compose crosswords for the Daily Telegraph. Maybe this is where I got my love of words from? I love playing Scrabble though not too hot on crosswords...

So in time honoured tradition I hand on the award to (hoping they haven't done it yet!!):

Shouty Dad

have fun!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Things I wished I'd known...

... that I should have made sure that both our names were on all the utilities bills...

I am still trying to sort out some of them that won't talk to me as I'm not Mr Willoughby. A very few let you get your name changed, others you have to change provider to get bills in your own name, but some its like a brick wall.

One bane of my life is TalkTalk. I couldn't cancel the account as it wasn't in my name so they just kept on sending bills to my husband and then when they weren't paid they kept calling him. I lost count of the number of times they would call but couldn't take my word that he didn't live at my address any more. So the calls continue and then letters threatening debt collection. 

Then I discovered they had cut off the main landline number. When I try and ring out it diverts to the TalkTalk payments department. As I've been paying BT for the landline I was just slightly cheesed off. Apparently BT can't get divert turned off so to use the landline I have to use a bypass number.. Thank goodness the main phone I use to dial out is on the Broadband so not effected. But to use the bedroom phone or the fax machine I have to remember to add the extra digits!

So the moral of the story is: if you set home with someone keep all the bills in both your names - you need to be able to talk to the suppliers!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Walter Spencer-Jones

The passing of Walter leaves a gap in many people’s lives. He was a husband to Margaret; brother of Arnold and Norah; father to Owen, Peter and Nigel; grandfather of Michael, Becky, Vicky, Roger, Christopher, Martin and Rosemary and great grandfather of Alastair, Ellie, Ben, Oliver, Toby, Edward and Sebastian. Other more distant family members were also close to him. He was proud of his family’s achievements in everything they did and was a voracious correspondent with all the family both in the UK, Africa and the USA.

The son of Welsh headmaster and a Lancastrian mother Walter was born in Lancashire during the First World War. On leaving school he joined the local bank, in the days when banking was a respected profession! His career started when the local District Bank manager said “What's the young lad going to do? ... send him along to me” and finished with early retirement (due to poor health) from the position of Trustee Manager at Lancaster.

It’s hard to imagine him as a young man shinning up the gas lamps in the street to light his cigarette... This was during the tough 1930s and several of his siblings emigrated to Southern Africa in search of a better life.

Margaret and Walter were married on Armistice day 1939 and were able to celebrate there 70th anniversary last November.

During the Second World War, due to a combination of medical history and banking background, Walter served in the Pay Corps in the UK. At one point he took a demotion so he could be posted near his family after the birth of the first of 3 sons. He quickly regained his rank and reached the highest NCO level. After the war he worked very hard to get the necessary qualifications to eventually become manager of a bank. Many ex colleagues have good memories of working with him and being mentored in their own careers.
Walter was always in control of his affairs (without being overtly so) and liked to make decisions quickly and decisively. This remained so right up to his recent stroke and it was sad that afterwards it was hard to convince him that things were being well looked after on his behalf.

One of these decisions, which exemplifies the deep and sound relationship he had with Margaret relates to “Peggy's  Hairdressers”. The income from his job was insufficient for their requirements so the hairdressing business was bought and many hours of work put in to bring it up to a reasonable standard. Margaret's unsocial hours of work meant that a lot of domestic chores were left to Walter and his cooking is  well remembered by his “boys”.  This input continued through his retirement.

His “boys” also have happy memories of car and caravan trips as youngsters towing the caravan around in the days before motorways, these include:
·      The first trip to the Lake District in a 1937 Austin 14 (named the War Horse), driving up Red Bank from Langdale to Grasmere - Margaret had to hold the gear lever in place whilst the boys got out and walked.
·      Holiday trips from Manchester to Falmouth (400 miles each way) in the War Horse, a two-day affair in those days, with Peter logging the trip at an average of nearly 30 mph!
·      Being stopped for speeding with the caravan (30 mph was the limit then)
·      Driving off on the first trip with the 'van behind the big Austin Princess to find the wheels smoking - the van brakes had been left on!
·      Breaking down on Lancaster's Skerton bridge on a busy, congested, Bank Holiday, holding up all the traffic and then being pushed off with the assistance of a policeman
·      Leading traffic on a 'short cut' to avoid congestion and finishing up in a cul-de-sac with all the cars behind.

His sons grew up and left home and he took early retirement to his weekend cottage in Dumfries and Galloway. This would be a place of happy memories for his grandchildren to come and visit. Most of his siblings had emigrated to South Africa or Rhodesia and, once he retired, many trips were made to visit them and the nieces and nephews who lived out there. 

He will also be remembered for his enjoyment of the Telegraph crossword (sometimes done without writing the answers down) and for the way he sliced his bread precisely and horizontally. Walter was enthusiastic about the research being conducted for the family tree.

His close brother Arnold and his sister Norah are unable to be with us today, due to geography or age as are many other relations and friends. They are all in our thoughts today.

We will all miss you, Walter, Dad, Grandpa, Great Grandpa but the lovely memories will always remain of a firm, fair, ever-loving Gentleman.


Written by Peter and Becky with contributions from Nigel 

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Celeb Looky-Likey

I’ve been tagged with the Celebrity Look-alike meme by Cara.I hadn't seen anyone else's blogposts on this one but she was paired with some gorgeous ladies so I thought why not give it a try...

... the results were a bit unexpected but maybe it was something to do with my glasses...

Mortern Harket was a teenage heartthrob so quite nice to be matched with him. But how come the only female is Nana Mouskouri???

OK maybe my daughter will fare better:

What a range! In the meantime I found a photo of me without glasses to see if I could do better...

Emma Thompson I don't mind at all but Pope Pius!!! Last one of these better be my son to see which handsome famous people he resembles...

At least one matches his sister - but Carol Vorderman & Charlotte Church...

Oh well I'd better hand the baton over to:

Monday, 3 May 2010

That was the week that was

I've made it through this week alive but it's been a close run thing as it's definitely been the week from hell. I hope to God I never have so many things go wrong in such a short space of time.

It started on Wednesday when a treat for my little boy of lunch at the cheap Chinese ended up as a 3.5 hour trip to casualty for a nasty bump on the head:

Whilst we were waiting our turn at the hospital the school rang to say my daughter was ill. I had to arrange for another mum to pick her up and felt guilty that I couldn't be there for both my children.

We all ended up in my bed as my daughter didn't want to on her own and I had to keep an eye on my son in case he had done serious damage. So I didn't get too much sleep with both my kids in my bed especially as they both snore and wiggle ;-)

First thing in the morning my phone rang and my dad broke the news about my granddad dying. My thoughts on this were blogged here. This obviously was a blow and it made most of that day pass in a haze but with at least one child at home with me all day I did semi-function.

Because my daughter was a combination of under the weather and slightly emotional over the loss of her great granddad I kept her off school again on Friday. This has meant that in the last 6 days I haven't had a child free afternoon at all. 

My son seems to tune in to my stress levels and adds to them in his own inimitable style by increasing the number of ways and places to put poo anywhere but the loo! He and his sister also can't cope with being together at normal weekends let alone a 3 day one.

Nearly forgot to add that my hot water stopped working on Sunday night just as I was running a bath for all us after getting wet on the seafront. When the engineer came round it was working again but he said that if it needs fixing I will first of all have to remove all the things in the way. This means a short run of work surface, the tumble dryer, the saucepan hanging rack, the neat bit of wood panelling which has the controls wired through... Oh joy thank God I'm moving out...

Luckily we had some distractions of the May Day celebrations in Hastings and a trip to Battle Abbey with my son's godfather and his girlfriend. But I also know that I drank far too much wine to get me through a tough few days and I know it doesn't help. Hopefully things are going to get better and I get back to doing what I do best being a mum to two of the best kids in the world:

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Product Review: Official England Celebration Cake

It was lovely to receive a cake in the post this morning and to have a chance to review the Official England Cake made by Elisabeth the Chef. A bit of a shame that in transit via Royal Mail it didn't arrive looking it's best!

I unwrapped the package in the presence of my 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son. She immediately realised the photos must be "famous football people" and said it looked "cool". My son eyed up the shield in the middle as being his choice of piece.

Both children liked the stickers on the ribbon around the edge of the cake. Luckily they each managed to choose two stickers they liked without a fight breaking out!

Now my 2 are pretty fussy when it comes to shop bought cakes and don't always finish a slice. I don't know if that's because they are used to homemade ones which are less sweet and have no artificial ingredients. So it's good to see that this cake said it was made from all natural colours and flavours. I also recruited another family who normally only eat home made cakes to join in. So what did we all make of it...

Scores from the judges:

E, 6 - 100 out of 5
O, 3 - 6 out of 5
J, 13 - 3 out of 5
B, 39 - 4 out of 5
S, 50 - 3 out of 5
D, 59 - 3 out of 5

The main downer from the adult judges was that it was a bit dry compared to home made, but that this to be expected as it wouldn't last if too moist. They also didn't like the type of icing but that is a matter of taste.

We all thought that maybe the estimated number of slices on the box was a bit optimistic as between 6 of us we ate nearly the whole thing! Then again it was on empty stomachs and if the cake was at the end of a meal or part of a party bag then it would go a lot further.

The overall verdict is that it would be a great cake for a football themed celebration and it went down best with the younger children.

my daughter even licked her plate to show how much she liked it!