A little out of touch and time

You know what I hate? When someone that writes a blog feels obliged to apologise when they’re too busy to keep it up. And yet here I am, making my own excuses.

I do have some valid reasons though, I’m incredibly busy with work and the children, and also undertaking the enormous (yes, HUGE) task of swapping my blog over to self-hosted. If I had more than an hour a night between getting home and going to bed I’m sure this process would be much faster, but such is life.

I find myself sitting on the train on my way home drafting blog posts in my head. I write down my thoughts in my notebook in the hopes that I’ll find a few minutes to write them up when I get home, but it just never happens. I currently have a list of 22 subjects I want to write about. I’m sure the world can survive without my thoughts on men with pointy shoes and cushions that cost £300 – but I’d prefer to think my thoughts are incredibly important.

Especially the ones about men wearing pointy shoes.

Image credit: A random watch website via a Bing image search

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Augmented reality becomes reality

I was reading a rather interesting article yesterday on how a major brand has made nifty use of augmented reality, and it got me a bit excited. Now, I’m not a lover of Marmite (for the record, I hate it) but the new app developed with Blippar has made me want to dash to the nearest supermarket and buy a jar just so I can try out this awesomeness.

Can you imagine the possibilities for other brands, as this technology evolves? Even something as simple as Sony’s TV Size Guide tool could be developed into something so much more – redecorate an entire room virtually before picking up a paintbrush, or rearrange your furniature without breaking a sweat.

The music geek in me is also getting a bit excited at all the things artists could do – ooooh the anticipation! What would you do with AR, if you could develop anything?

Image credit: Tasty days via a Bing image search

Letting my children run free

I confess, I’m an over protective parent.

Perhaps its the fact that the increase in news and media platforms have made dangers to children so much more prolific now than times gone by, or maybe its because Xander’s special needs make me want to wrap him up in cotton wool – but my children just don’t get to play outside anywhere near as much as I did when I was growing up. And they’re not alone, it seems.
Recent research from Savlon and Play England shows that children are missing out on the joys that the outdoors has to offer, and on a on a huge scale too, with shocking insights such as 42 per cent of children reporting that they’ve never made a daisy chain, 32 per cent saying that they’ve never climbed a tree, and over a quarter have never even experienced the simple fun of rolling down a hill.

Before we moved to London we lived on a working farm in Hereford – so even though we had all this space around us (80 acres of farmland all to ourselves) I was too scared to let them go outside in case they fell over or put things in their mouth when I wasn’t looking .
Now we live in the beautiful borough of Greenwich, right on the border of Kent,  and we’re surrounded by all these beautiful green spaces and walks and I know that we should be making the most of them, but I’m still making excuses to keep them inside. The result is all of us starting to get a severe case of cabin fever with tantrums galore (from me and the kids) because Xander and Piper are really itching to get outside. My fears of them having an accident are holding my children back, and that makes me sad because I practically grew up outside, playing in dirt, rolling down hills and building dens. I was a total tomboy and spent most of my summers covered in cuts and scrapes.

So based on all of this, I’ve decided to set myself a challenge to let my kids ‘run free’ and give them the freedom that they need to explore the world outside for themselves. To kick this off I’m planning to host a my own event on the 3rd of August, celebrating National Playday. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some of the parents at our nursery involved, which might also be a nice way of making some mummy friends in the area, because I have none!

Are you planning anything for National Playday? Make sure you sign up here, and download your blog badge here. If you don’t have time to host your own event, check the map here to find an existing one in your area. Lets make the 3rd of August a magical day of play that we’ll all remember 🙂

Oh and don’t forget to use the #SavlonPlayday hashtag so we can all link up and swap playday tips!

Disclaimer: Savlon is a client of my employer, but this post is entirely my own.

Update: Due to lack of time, and my children’s nursery mainly consisting of working parents , I won’t be hosting my own event now. Instead I’m teaming up with the amazing Donna at Not Yet A Yummy Mummy and taking the children to run free in Richmond Park. Come and join us if you’re in the area 🙂

Thriller Night – a crime writing Q&A

I went along to Thriller Night at the Shaw Theatre (courtesy of Time Out London, thanks!) on Wednesday night. And I’ve been trying to write this blog post since then, but no matter what I type it just comes out sounding really boring because there was just so much detail!
The night itself was a Q&A with 3 top crime writers – Tess Gerritsen, Mark Billingham and Simon Kernick – hosted by  comedian Andre Vincent.

I love crime fiction. Roughly 70% of my bookcase is made up of crime, and since I read A LOT that equals literally hundreds of books.
I’ve always harboured a secret ambition to write a book, so I jumped at the chance to pick up a few tips from the experts.

First thing I learnt? Apparently about 60% of fiction sold is crime. A huge market that could be all yours if you can write a top quality mystery-murder.

General discussion covered snobbery and nose up-turning at crime fiction (a sort of a genre fiction vs literary fiction battle if you will), literature managing to avoid the blame that TV & games receive for causing violence, and crime fiction as a guide for modern life.
All 3 authors agreed that crime fiction reflected the world around us, rather than creating violence, with Tess lamenting that “there’s nothing new under the sun – its all been done before”.
It was also interesting to hear that people actually find crime fiction comforting, rather than disturbing, because fictional crimes are always resolved. According to Andrew, in the wake of 9/11 sales of crime fiction shot up and the languishing stand-up comedy circuit suddenly prospered because people needed to laugh.

Top tips I picked up included Simon’s advice to ‘never give up’ (he waited 8 years for his first novel to be published), and Mark’s list of 3 things every agent wants:

1. Material – it’s got to be top quality
2. Be Personable – the author needs to be someone they can get on with
3. What’s your angle?- Did you do something else before you became an author? Trained in the circus? Chained to a radiator by a madman for 5 years? Something that makes YOU unique.

An agent will need to be able to tick at least 2 out of those 3 before they consider taking you on.
Make sure you write a decent covering letter too, and come up with a snazzy headline for your book. You’ll need to hook your agent in the first 3 lines for them to continue reading.
Mark also warns would-be-writers to steer clear of self publishing e-books, and keep trying for the real thing.

Most interesting for me was insight into the authors writing techniques, with all three doing it their own way. Simon explains that he aims to bash out 2000 words a day, and he plans each chapter up front. Once he’s finished he’ll go back and edit. He says that it doesn’t matter if what he’s writing is crap, he’s just desperate to get it onto paper – he can go back to it later.
Tess and Mark on the other hand don’t plan at all. Tess won’t let anyone see her work until she’s at least 6 drafts in, and Mark can’t move onto the next chapter until he’s gone back and edited his writing from the previous day.
Technique is something I’ve always struggled with because I would feel like I was doing it wrong, so it was comforting to know that there’s know such thing as wrong, just different.

I left Thriller Night buzzing with information and a determination to make this the year that I finally return to the writing that I used to enjoy so much. Now all I have to figure out is how to get my creativity back, because it seems to have vanished along with my pre-children waistline.

Any of you guys budding writers?

Seven words

My lovely friend Alex at Doing it all for Aleyna has created a linky called Seven Words, read more about it here.

The idea is to describe your current life in just 7 words, then explain it briefly.

I waited a few days to post this because I’ve been so emotional of recent and didn’t want my 7 words to be all morbid and sad, but then I realised today that I am a bit morbid and sad, and my words should reflect reality. So …

Coping with grief and healing through writing.

My last blog was a bit of a confession, clear the air, share a secret kind of post. And I realised after reading through the comments that writing can be just as healing as physically talking to another person. Especially when you’re not ready to talk to a real person yet. Not that online people are not real people, but it’s just easier, y’know?

So thats me right now. Trying to cope with grief, trying to heal through blogging.

I’m not ok

The 20th of July should see me holding child number 3 in my arms – instead it will be an anniversary of a child lost. I had a miscarriage just over 6 months ago, and yet I’m still not over it. And I wonder if it’s something you can ever get over.
I suffered with quite serious post-natal depression after both of my children, so I can see the signs, and I can see the path I’ve been falling down these past few months. Pretending it didn’t happen, pretending that I’m ok, pushing negative feelings back inside and not sharing with anyone. I feel guilty and I feel numb. And that’s not good.
This weekend was the straw that broke the camels back. Coming up to what was supposed to be my due date and being in denial, then my hot water tank exploded, I missed my work’s day out, my little guy Xander had an accident at school and both my kids have been acting like monsters in general. Small things adding up and pushing me until I want to put my face into a pillow and scream.

I know I need to do something, I just don’t know what. How do you grieve for a child you never met? How do you move on when you never gave yourself time to deal with it when it actually happened? How do you work through a depression that you’re pretending doesn’t exist?

Image credit: Paqman @ Flickr

Packing them off to nursery

This week marked the childrens first full days in nursery whilst I went to work, and already parent guilt has set in. They spend roughly 10-11 hours a day in childcare, that’s longer than the average working day!
They have breakfast, lunch AND dinner at nursery – so basically they live there and just come home to sleep.
Is this what being a working mum is? I’ve worked since Xander was just a few months old, but I was freelance and could pick and choose the projects I wanted, ones that would let me work from home or just a few days away. Now I’m all grown up and have a full time job in an office and a house in London – freelancing just isn’t secure enough anymore.
Was I kidding myself when I thought that I could do this? I’ve been through tougher times for sure, but nothing plucks the heart strings more than walking away from my children at 7:30 every morning, knowing that I wont see them till at least 6:00 that night.
Am I really strong enough to do this? How do working mums cope with this guilt? 😦

The Enchanted Forest

On Sunday we took the children to The Enchanted forest. No Jokes. It’s just down off the M25. Sadly it wasn’t hugely enchanted, but it was still very fun.
Ferried there by my good friend Mr Belgium, we sailed past places with peculiar names like Bean and Bird in Hand street – it made the 45 minute journey more than worth it even before we got to the magical woods.

Upon arriving at Groombridge I realised that I’d made that age old mistake of not planning in advance. Bad mummy. Not only did we have to pay full price for tickets, but it was also a ‘peak day’ which meant extra tickets prices and LOADS more people than would have usually been there.
The ‘peak day’ in question was Wings Wheels and Wartime, basically an excuse for hundreds of car enthusiasts to get dressed up and show off their shiny vintage cars. Amusingly there was also a turn out from the Harley Davidson contingent. I can’t tell you how I laughed watching bikers swinging from trees, but not loudly enough that they heard me, obviously.

Crusoe's WorldFirst up was a rather long walk along the river to get to Crusoe’s World. This was ah-may-zing. Worth the price of the ticket just to watch the kids climbing like monkeys all over this giant tree house thing. I even managed to rein in my over-protective mummy instincts to really let them run free and enjoys themselves. Apparently the whole structure is a recreation of the TV show Crusoe and uses actual props and artifacts shipped all the way from Africa. Impressive.

Next came another long walk through Dragons nest, Mystic pool, Castle village and the Celtic forest. I’ll warn you in advance that there is ALOT of walking to be had at Goodridge. Upside? Kids slept like the dead that night.

Follow the map round (and uphill, urgh) to the Romany Camp, Fort, Teepee and Swing Walk. Sadly this is where I realised that my camera hadn’t actually been working properly, which is a pain in the ass because not only did I not get loads of cool shots of me and the kids acting like idiots, but this was also where the deer hang out. I got so close to a mother feeding her baby deer that I could almost touch, made my breath catch in my throat I can tell you.

ZeedonkAfter chilling in the Fort (and mummy catching her breath, and oh god did I need to catch it) we made our way towards the Zeedonk, anticipation quickening our tired steps. He was pretty cool, but who’s idea was it to cross breed a donkey and a zebra, really? Humans are just sick.

At this point (almost 4 hours later) children were getting tired and grumpy, mummy was getting tired and grumpy, and the men were in desperate need of a beer. We settled for ice cream, but ended up queuing almost 15 minutes for the pleasure. Probably the only complaint of the day. That and the heat anyway, but can’t blame Groombridge for that.

Other things I couldn’t be bothered to type up were the Dark walk and the Swing Walk, various formal gardens, a fancy house that was the setting for the Pride and Prejudice film, canal boat, vineyard, and birds of prey. And probably loads of other things that we didn’t manage to see because this place really is huge. Definitely one of those places you can visit a few times during the summer and not get bored. Verdict? Great for kids of all ages and adults alike. Take loads of drinks (and a picnic) and be prepared to walk for miles – but its totally worth it.

Image credit: all images borrowed from the interwebs. Thanks Google.

The Angel’s Game – Book review

I’ve just finished The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I was going to write a review, but my head is still a bit wonky from the read to be honest.
I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not yet.

In the meantime, read this review from the Telegraph. It sums the book up pretty well, but does include spoilers so read with caution!

The only thing I’d add at this point is that the ending did disappoint me a little. Maybe I’m just a huge sadist but I’m always saddened when the death toll doesn’t include the main character.

Oh sorry, spoiler, my bad.

Video Monday

In my last job ‘Video Monday’ was huge. We’d showcase exclusive footage and upload HD versions of old favorites. It was fab.

Sadly my life isn’t quite that exciting. Sorry. So my version of Video Monday is just an excuse for me to share some of my favourite Youtube Lulz.

Today I introduce you to Kelly:

An oldie, but one myself and my friend still quote to death.

“You’re thinking of masturbate mom, extrapolates different!”

“I’ve already been to heaven, and after 5 minutes I was like – Lets go!”

“BETCH!”

“Fuck you, with something hard and sandpapery!”

“That language I don’t understand, and therefore it makes me angry”

I could go on all day …