Blog a day for a month challenge: Day 4


A trip to the Museum of Childhood

Blog a day for a month challenge: Day 3
I can’t quite remember who it was that told me not to bother taking my children to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, until they were old enough to appreciate objects in glass cabinets and read the written information cards dotted about the place. Of course I’m not sure my two little fireballs will ever be able to calmly walk around any ‘china shop’ environment and so shelved my plans to visit there, ever. I even put Granny and Grandad off taking the kids, convinced it would be hard work than it was worth trying to keep them under control. 
However, last Friday, another day of driving rain and wind, when I only had charge of my youngest (eldest was out on a trip with his Aunty) I decided a trip anywhere would be better than a claustrophobic afternoon, climbing the walls and attempting to think of something else we could bake/create without turning the kitchen into a cesspit. I had once taken my eldest to the British Museum sometime ago with disastrous results but I was up for a challenge and so looked up the Museum of Childhood on googlemaps and packed my little one into the car.  
Walking into the museum, the buggy ramps and easy accessibility gave me good vibes, perhaps this wouldn’t be too bad. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
Yes the description of a room full of glass cabinets is absolutely accurate, but there is so much more. It is completely designed with children and adults in mind. Whilst littlest ran around, from the dressing up area to the sensory play area, full of brilliant light features, I tried not to get emotional. Looking at the glass cabinets, I felt like someone had taken me by the hand back to my old attic, where not just my old toys lived, but all the toys of 80s. The ones your friends had at school that you openly coveted and longed for. I had completely forgotten about the Fisher price dolls house I’d once owned (although I’d coloured in the yellow roof tiles with green felt tip) the strawberry shortcake doll, who actually smelt of strawberries, the Sylvanian family bakery (one of things I’d coveted) How did they get hold of my Holly Hobbie cookery set? There were Star Wars figures, the full set of the Defenders of the Earth, Pound puppies, porcelain and wax headed dolls and an immaculately boxed Girlsworld. Image
I had no idea the rather odd plastic Barbie-esque doll that I recalled proudly purchasing at a jumble sale, with weird curved fingers was a Tressy doll, discontinued in the year of my birth. Or that the first jack in a boxes dated back to 1500.
I had quite forgotten about my brother’s questionable chemistry set, where the various tubes of multi coloured ‘chemicals’ ended up going a rusty colour, and emitting a peculiar smell.  There was even mine and no doubt many others’ first instrument, a plastic Aulos recorder. I almost wept when I saw the collection Thomas Dam trolls (being half Scandinavian I had an enviable array of these) causing a little pang within, I had no idea where mine were or what became of them.
All of these displays were brilliantly dispersed around interactive things that kept littlest entertained while I stumbled, mouth open, down memory lane. There were 2 massive life sized rocking horses which of course were for the kids to play on. A beautifully detailed model railway which, for the fee of 20p, you could switch on and watch the little steam and diesel engines whizz round and round. 
After a pitstop in the museum cafe (great kids meal deal) we went home, littlest was exhausted from running the length and breadth of the museum and me in a happy nostalgic haze that even thinking about it now, brings a lump to my throat. The Museum of Childhood is truly a jewel of a place and am already planning my next trip back there with eldest.   

Former Apprentice candidate Katy Hopkins needs our help!

Blog a day for a month challenge: Day 2

I am putting out an appeal for a vote of sympathy for former Apprentice contestant Katy Hopkins. I can only assume having read HER BLOG that she is in a terrible situation and needs our help. It is clear from her description of what she calls ‘full time mothers’ she is a tragic victim of bullying from, one can only guess, a small army of women, who in her view, are selfishly choosing not to work. One can only speculate the terrible things these vile, buggy pushing ladies, clad in Cath Kidston, have done to poor Katy for her to feel bestowed with the right to criticise and vilify other women, who in her eyes have committed the most terrible of deeds, they made their own choices. 
If it isn’t bullying then I can only assume one of the following: she has fallen on such hard times that by criticising other women who, frankly can do what they please, she must generate column inches via provocation and this somehow assists her to ‘bring home the bacon’ as these are not the words of a successful and contented person. This type of publicity is on a level with news generated as a result of the journalist rooting through someone’s bins. Or could it be attack of the green eyed monster, perhaps Katy is a closet spaghetti hoop coated Cath Kidston addict. She did turn down the chance to appear in the Apprentice final after all, because, if memory serves, of her kids. My armchair psychology deduces that actually Katy would much rather not work as she seems desperately unhappy, resulting in casting harsh aspersions on those she envies. 
I do think Katy got a bit confused by her circling cloud of red mist when she wrote this. All mothers, regardless of their employment status, are full time. There is no such thing as a part time mother. It’s like saying you’re a part time human. However, there are some mothers and fathers, who are lucky enough to be able to stay at home to care for their children. They have the luxury of choice and fair play to them for doing it, they deserve respect for the choice they have made and their role is defined as a ‘stay at home’ mum. Their expertise include bringing up their children among many others. However, Katy chose to ignore those who don’t have the luxury of choice, who have to stay at home because of cost of a month of full time childcare in the UK is the equivalent to the average earner’s entire monthly salary, of which there are many. They are thoughtlessly swept into Katy’s broad generalisations of the selfish stay at home mother and the men who are stay at home dads, don’t even get a look in. God forbid Katy might use her place in the public eye for good use and campaign for affordable child care so those mums who would quite like to go back to work (yes part OR full time) can. However, no instead she listed the ‘types of mother she hates’ 
Apparently being a stay at home mum ‘doesn’t define you, doesn’t earn you a living and certainly doesn’t make you an interesting person to sit next to at dinner’ There are many things in life that you can choose to define yourself with: if and how you draw in your eyebrows, the respect you show to others or lack of it. Again, you get to choose some of things that define you by the way you are and the way you live however, ultimately it is your behaviour that defines you. So based on this, what defines Katy Hopkins? On the Apprentice she came across as intelligent, thick skinned and unflappable however now it seems she has regressed to courting whatever publicity she can get by whatever means. If that’s your choice Katy, I respect that, shame you can’t use it for more positive enterprises but, as any working or stay at home parent knows, we can’t have it all. 

It is with nervous anticipation I write..

..An introduction to blog month….
In this fair month of february I will be completing, as part of my list of new year’s resolutions, the self imposed challenge of posting a blog a day for a month.
Have I thought this through? Not really. Am I already quite stressed at the prospect of coming up with something publishable on a daily basis? Absolutely. Can I back down now? Not unless I want to go down in blogging history as a giant failure, flunking out of this project on the very first day.  
I have given this month some thought and have some things in mind, however I must warn you now that on some days this blog will read like a women’s magazine. I will be tackling those difficult subjects like shifting that pesky post-baby weight, no wait a second, I am not that short of material. 
I will, however, be conducting some beauty product reviews. Although I know my place, not having much experience in this field, I plan to enter an enclave of lotions and potions I haven’t entered since my teens, the pound shop beauty counter. I will be sampling the delights of my local low-cost chemist, including their £1 fake tan and eyelashes! Those things you look at and think, there is no way that is going near my face, I will be doing just that. I may also throw in some book and film reviews, actually scrub the film reviews, have committed to blogging not outings to the cinema.
I hope to provide some form of reading entertainment on a daily basis and, when I run out of ideas, well there’s always a soapbox waiting for me within the online pages of the daily mail. 

Rage on Page 3..

‘What’s strange about Great Britain, the land of good manners and an internationally revered Royal family? Tits in the paper!!’…I heard an Australian stand-up announce. His observational comedy hit the nail on the head. How did that ever come about? My occasional pontification over why does page 3 exist always came down to the same answer, because it’s always been there, certainly all my life time, and because Cosmo occasionally did a naked male centrefold, that evens it up, right?
Whatever I say on this topic it will never be quite a rounded and detailed as THIS ONE however while mumsnet debated whether to back this campaign I have to confess I thought this was already a given. I recall it was MP Stella Creasy at Mumsnet Blogfest 2012 who at the end of her talk on ‘blogging and human rights’ urged everyone to back No more page 3. However, reading the debate on mumsnet (HERE) as to whether they should back No More Page 3, there are those who think there are bigger battles we, as ladies, should focus on. I disagree. I could whittle through all the reasons why Page 3 should be banned, however, this has been done beautifully HERE and it would take me all day to list the various feminist battles we should all get behind, even just a list of links to a fraction of them would take too long! Two women a week die in Britain as a result of domestic violence to list just one tragic and harrowing issue affecting women in England today.
However, why is no more Page 3 just a feminist issue? It’s created primarily for men and the main reason I back this is because I have sons, it is for them as well as the ladies that I want there to be No More Page 3. I don’t want them to think it is acceptable to portray unrealistic and unattainable images purely of women, in a newspaper that cites itself as a ‘family publication’. I balk as I write this but lads mags and pornography (some would say these are the same) all have their place and they target their demographic accordingly and as much I hate to admit it a time will come, when my sons are old enough, ok I’m a realist, when they want to, they will no doubt obtain pornography. However, the stop gap before them being able to obtain should not be in a ‘family’ newspaper.
To ban page 3 would be a minuscule victory in the grand scheme of things but just think of the precedent it would set. The momentum it would create in support of those bigger battles; to put an end to onesided and degrading images of women being rammed down our throats at every opportunity.
It would boost other brilliant campaigns like THIS ONE to put an age rating on music videos. I have a 2 year old who cannot talk yet, however, he can already proficiently navigate an iPad and already I have to monitor what he brings up on Youtube. Did I say he couldn’t talk yet, and actually he’s not even 2 ’til next month. It would also help to us to highlight how wrong these archly body-focused celebrity gossip magazines are, who flay women of a certain appearance alive, on a weekly basis. Don’t even get me started on the general expected appearance of catwalk and photography models. This is just the tip of the iceberg and it deserves our full support.
So in the interests of presenting solutions not problems what could replace the current photography found on Page 3?
Well, we could leave the scantily clad lady there however, place a naked man next to her. Topless doesn’t count. Men can walk the streets topless, ladies cannot. At least that way the shameless exploitation and projection of the unrealistic and unattainable would be fair. Wait a second, that’s just craziness and a giant step backwards: the answer is not ‘lets exploit the men too’.
If we go for the base, stereotypical assumption that it’s for men, then lets embrace that stereotype. How about a nice page of cars, tools, DIY tips or man-sheds. Or how about some family friendly titilation: a serialised rogues gallery of Esther Rantzen-style amusing shaped vegetables – a knobbly celeriac with phallic qualities would certainly assure my dedicated readership! Or should not to make it too drastic, how about some images of naked ladies that I would happily let my boys look at all day long: Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’ or Manet’s ‘Olympia’?
I can’t but feel that since The Sun obviously loves ladies so much, as a gesture to correct the years of one-sided mis-representation, they simply hand page 3 over the feminists for them to highlight the key issues affecting women, that are still being ignored.
I know I am making light of it and I do this because I am yet to be presented with a legitimate argument to keep Page 3. In a modern age attempting to achieve equality it has no place. So in keeping with the level of the preposterous absurdity, I propose a sensible and swift resolution: invite Harry Hill to resolve this matter by getting him to dress David Dinsmore as a giant willy, obviously, and a ‘No more Page 3′ campaign founder Lucy Holms as a giant boob, and invite them onto the TV burp set by yelling FIGHT! Mr Dinsmore, prepare to be crushed.
Go and see this amazing and award winning play ‘No More Page 3’ at Finsbury park theatre – BOOK TICKETS HERE 

Have I resolved my year?

There is nothing like the mention of New year’s resolutions to polarise a room full of people. In my experience these words generally evoke a cynical response. Those things you do because you need to take your mind off the fact that Christmas has finished, it’s cold, very dark and you can no longer legitimately drink prosecco from 9am, perhaps thats just me. As a result of this rather blue demeanour it is with some reluctance I wrote this post last week and then decided not to post it. However, I then realised that I was letting them get the better of me..I had to bite the bullet. 
Why? Lets face it, the reason to shy away from strict, life changing new habits, is a common one: fear of failure. More importantly when you tell people what your new year’s resolutions are, the fear of then being questioned about your progress with passing your driving test, choir singing or learning Spanish. Those pesky resolutions that you’ve made in hast. Not properly thought through at the time and that require a wealth of resources specifically motivation, effort and time and frankly, in February’s blackness, you are now lacking the pockets stuffed with vigour you possessed on entering this agreement. It is fear of breaking that verbal contract you have made.
So bearing that in mind, there is only one way I can go from here. Make some resolutions! Here and now, online for the whoever to view my potential failings and I don’t mean eating less crisps or making use of your slow cooker/breadmaker/insert other kitchen appliance currently gathering dust here. I mean new activities and habits that I think will push me out of my comfort zone and make me ultimately better at my craft. I started this blog with the premise of talking about writing and so far I’ve prattled on about..breakfast, christmas and The Pixies, hmmm. I have a long list of articles that I have either written or plan to write which I would like to post/write in the first place. So here is my plan to increase my body of work and hopefully provide some entertaining reading at the same time.  
A short story a day for a week (no cheating allowed here i.e. putting up stuff I’ve already written, has to be thought up that day, no brewing whatsoever allowed) Date for that tbc
A blog a day for a month – February is blog month!
Regular attendance of a writing group – have only been to one of these so far and was completely naive about the whole process and was not prepared in the slightest for the fact you not only have to write stuff but you have to read it out loud to everyone who then critiques it The sort of experience that hurts you but in a good way. 
Volunteer locally either coaching/mentoring writing groups or assisting a local good cause with their social media. 
On a more personal note…
Successfully complete a 5 day (minimum) detox – already tried one of these and am not ashamed to say I failed on the first day.
Open water swimming (available in the local reservoir) something I hope to do when the weather improves a bit as apparently doing it now with no experience of water at very low temperatures is nearly suicidal) I am committed to this, I have bought a wet suit. 
Get married. Meant to do this last year but maternity leave wasn’t quite the holiday that allowed me lots of time to plan a wedding. Will I get round to it this year? Watch this space.  
Indoor rock climbing – I have attempted a little traversing in my time but nothing that requires a head for heights and a harness so this is the year I hope to give it a go – actually this saturday to be precise.  
The majority of these activities will take place in my study (not the wedding) – which currently is a resembles a derelict wasteland come boiler room, populated by toys that have lost whatever bits that require them to function and drying washing. So my first resolution is to go and tidy it. 

Is London wrong to hold its breath this weekend?

‘Hackney? Not going there mate, it’s all going off’
These were the words of the third cab driver we hailed. It was my birthday in 2011 and the riots were coursing through London like a virus. I had already watched from my flat window the helicopters casting their laser-like rays over Tottenham days before, the night of the shooting of Mark Duggan, and the resulting plumes of smoke from the burning shops left in the rioters’ wake. I am extremely lucky the riots didn’t come to my street and this was down to the close knit Turkish community taking up arms to protect their livelihoods that kept the thugs away. The whole experience left me feeling vulnerable, worried for family and utterly powerless to do anything to stop it.
After a jury deemed the shooting of mark Duggan ‘lawful’ amid angry calls from his family, a vigil for Mark is set to take place outside the Police station in Tottenham tomorrow afternoon.
The fury of the Tottenham community over this killing felt bigger than all of us and my initial thoughts on hearing about this vigil churned up the same question: while it is everyone’s right to peacefully protest, what if your previous protest ignited the worst riots in English modern history resulting in 5 deaths, countless injured and millions of pounds worth of damage, not just to buildings but people’s livelihoods? Having only my own personal experience of witnessing riot damage around London to draw on, the only conclusion I could find was that the Duggan family had not thought this through.
However, after some consideration and a little further reading, my opinions have changed somewhat. The reason for the initial protest in August 2011 came about in part due to the poor treatment of Duggan’s family by the Police who failed to properly inform them of his death. Since then it has taken nearly 3 years for the inquest to happen compared to other high profile cases such as the inquest into the Policemen who shot the brutal murderers of Lee Rigby, although this was backed up with a wealth of filmed evidence, which has taken less then a year. Police watchdog, The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is yet to release it’s report on the Police’s conduct that evening, despite the amount of time that has now passed. However, most importantly the hearing threw up convoluted, confused and conflicting statements by the Police Officers involved, who were also allowed to confer on their statements, demonstrating ineptitude and incompetence (read full details of this here). Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said the IPCC investigation into the Duggan case ‘had been a disaster from day one’. She said ‘nips, tucks and incremental improvements to this so-called watchdog will never win credibility, public or even Police trust. It may be time to shut down this failed institution and replace it with a tougher, more nimble and robustly independent body to police our police’
There have been ridiculous intimations in the media that regardless of justice, the Police succeeded in removing a gangster from our streets. Whilst there is no doubt Duggan, a father of 5, had a criminal background and by transporting a weapon across the capital this brought about his demise however, the Police remain accountable and the very least his family deserve is their basic human right, to be informed of what actually took place, something that from day one didn’t happen.
Today, in an expose by the The Independent via a leaked report, the lid was lifted on the corruption that allowed Scotland Yard to be infiltrated by organised criminals who had bribed detectives to gain vital intelligence on live investigations and thus allowing the culprits to evade the law (read more here) Today also PC Keith Wallis pleaded guilty to fabricating an email posing as a false witness who overheard Andrew Mitchell abusing Police officers at the gates of Downing Street (read more here). In recent years we have seen a newspaper shut down as a result of corrupt activity including bribing Police officers and finally the sickening cover up conducted by West Midlands and South Yorkshire Police of their actions that resulted in the Hillsbrough disaster. To be able cite such a catalogue of corruption, with very little investigation on my part, chills me to the core.
In an organisation that employs in excess of 200,00 full time workers there is always going to be staffing issues but surely it is mandatory that there is an effective Policing body to manage potential misconduct and corruption. It is the Police’s duty to clearly explain their activities. So tomorrow I will be bracing myself, not for violence, but on behalf of the Duggan family and the people of Tottenham, in hope that they succeed in peacefully demonstrating their right for the truth.