Wednesday, 17 February 2010


It is my daughter's 7th birthday today. So, firstly, a couple of pictures. Her birthday cake, lovingly hand-crafted by me (it's a butterfly of course, just in case you can't tell!):

And the felt cakes I made for her as part of her birthday present (the one with pink icing) and my son as an 'unbirthday' present (the blue icing):

Birthdays are a strange thing - stressful and exciting and unsettling in equal measures, even when the birthday is not your own. Of course, the birthday of a child brings to mind thoughts of the pregnancy with that child and of the day they were born. It reminds us of time passing and of how much the child has changed and learned and developed into their own person.

It also makes me think of how much I have learned as a parent since my daughter (my eldest child) was born, and makes me wonder if I could do it all better if I were to do it all over again. Which I am not going to.

And then there's all the social pressure associated with children's birthdays. I'm lucky, as my children are home educated there hasn't been any peer pressure on them to request big, expensive parties with every person in there class and junk food, party bags and lots of consuming of plastic tat. Or maybe it's just their personalities anyway. Either way, it's been lovely to have a relaxing but fun day with visits by various grandparents, uncles and aunts throughout the day, a homemade cake with all organic ingredients and no colourings, homemade pizza for tea, and fairly low-key presents, such as books and craft kits.

It's just made me wonder why we have to wait for a birthday or special occasion to gather everyone together. Hmm, one to ponder on. How to get all the family together in a similar relaxed fashion more often?

So, now all there is to do is to pop the wrapping paper into the kids' craft box for re-use in art masterpieces, look forward to my son's 5th birthday in 2.5 weeks, and have an evening in a very weird head-space thinking about birth and pregnancy and fertility and the passage of time and parenting skills.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Noughts & Crosses, Kryten and the cute one from The Mary Whitehouse Experience

OK, bear with me as these 3 things don't really go together but they are the things I've been doing recently!

Firstly, the Noughts & Crosses trilogy of books (in 4 parts, of course, as all good trilogies appear to be!) by Malorie Blackman are utterly fantastic. Noughts and Crosses is the first part. If you haven't heard of these books, they are children's books, though very much for older teens, set in an alternative contemporary world where Crosses (dark-skinned) are the donimant race and Noughts (light-skinned) are oppressed and ignored. It uses very clever subversion to illustrate how things can be unfair and prejudiced and explores the themes of race and terrorism in a very clear and compelling way. A warning: these books are very traumatic but utterly addictive. Despite their very bleak story, you won't be able to put them down until you've found out what happens at the end of the final book. They are not an easy read emotionally but they are powerful and extraordinarily well-written and tightly plotted.

Secondly, Kryten. OK, not actually Kryten by his alter ego Robert Llewellyn and more specifically his book Sold Out: How I Survived a Year of Not Shopping. Now, I've read a number of these books about not spending or cutting down and they all become much of a muchness after a while, but this one was different. It wasn't a diary-style memior of his triumphs and failures in his self-imposed challenge. It was a themed look at the reasons behind it and the issues which came up for him and how they linked in to his personal history and current family situation. A much better prospect. And I think one of the best books of this kind that I've ever read. Funny, honest, thoughtful and insightful

Thirdly, Rob Newman. OK, hands up who lusted after him back in the early 90s when he was part of the 'comedy is the new rock'n'roll' Mary Whitehouse Experience. Well, now he has truly become the thinking green woman's crumpet as a political activist, and if you want to improve your mind, have a laugh and a bit of eye-candy all in one fell swoop, I can do no better than to recommend this DVD: Robert Newman - History Of Oil. This is intellectual stand-up, powered by cyclists. This is a fantastic way of getting across the reasons behind green politics, and a really interesting history lesson on the west's involvement with the middle east and oil from the beginning of last century. And it's funny. Can't say fairer than that.

So, a mixed bag, but all highly recommended.

Monday, 1 February 2010


So, Imbolc tomorrow and, like last year, we had snow this morning. I just can't celebrate Imbolc until I've seen a snow-drop! (Rather than snow, dropping!)

But, despite this, I do feel the stirrings that it might be around the corner. That awful January blankness is starting to lift. Two sunny days are starting to kick that Spring hypermania into gear and list are starting to be made, plans being planned and writing being written.

So, this year, we need to do some dreaming - dreaming of our ideal life, our best life and then planning all the little ways we're going to gradually, very slowly, get to that point.

In an echo of this time last year, my husband's main job finishes in 10 days time, but looking back at where we were last year, we've moved forward so much. He's qualified now and teaching his first classes with the promise of lots more come September and lots of other avenues to pursue for applying for more. So, although his main job is going, he still has some work, so although we'll be back on the JSA, it's not quite the same.

My job is ongoing and I'm over halfway through my course now too. These changes are gradual and have taken real energy, commitment and faith and will continue to do so, but I'm holding on to the fact that so often the universe provides and changes are for the best. I'm also grimly determined that the children will not be given the example of Mummy and Daddy trudging out to work every day and hating what they do. I want the kids to see that work is something you can choose and change. T's something you control, not that controls you. I want to model a different way of relating work and family and money. Some days I worry I'm just modelling how to be very very skint. But, what the hell, I suppose that's a useful lesson too!

So, roll on the snow-drops. I'd love to hear when anyone else sees their first one!