Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Case of the Mistaken Bottom Blower

So here is a rule to add to the rules of life – do not assume just because there is a whiff of a waft of a stinky bottom blowing aroma around your nostrils that it was 'the baby what done it'.

Because this is what happened yesterday.

I was standing in the queue at the checkout of a well-known high street store minding my own business with my little boy strapped to my front in his baby carrier, when an aroma of brussel sprout proportions attacked my nose. Now, do not underestimate what a stinky stink this aroma was. I need smell-o-vision or would that be smell-o-blogsion (?!) to fully inform you how awful this smell was – but I can assure you it originated from the bottom area of a person.

However, it was when the woman in the queue in front of me took a gigantic step to the side away from me in John Cleese impersonating the Germans type style that I realised that there was more than just a stinky smell about to erupt.

The woman in question – a bitter looking critter, a bit like a gnarled old beech tree – then must have said something along the lines of 'how can you stand that stench?' to her husband because I quite clearly heard him say, as he stood right next to me, 'I'm holding my breath'.

Now I'm no fool. I know as well as the next parent that some real stinkers can emanate from a baby's bottom, but I can tell you this particular stink was nothing to do with my 10 month old little boy. That smell was man sized. The work of one too many McDonalds. Pasta stars and petit filous could never make that brand of smell and on such a grandiose fug like scale.

I was a little suspicious of the teenagers who were stood behind me in the queue to be honest. They looked far more like the culprits. In fact at this point I was still giving this wizened old bag the benefit of the doubt. I found it hard to think she was really making such a show of her believed - but mistaken – horror that a baby had soiled his nappy in a public area.

However, as she and her husband moved away from the checkout area post-paying and I saw her looking with daggers shooting out of her eyes and the words 'nappy' and 'should take him out of the shop' floated across the stinky smog towards me, I realised the glaring truth. She was that rude.

I was too in shock/mild mannered to confront her in person but this is what I would like to have said.

Point one. Just because you smell a stinky bottom blowing smell don't assume it's the baby in the queue next to you. Point two. Even if the baby in the queue next to you had soiled his nappy do not be so obnoxious as to think it is right and fair and kind and just to make such a show of being so outrageously outraged over the fact you are having to smell it. We all did it once.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

'Lazy rantings' - excellent

“It's not real criticism though is it? It's the unfounded, unfiltered, lazy rantings of a bitter old witch.”

Who said that, who said that?

Actually, these rather harsh, but also rather brilliant words came in the form of a tweet from Ruby Tandoh the Great British Bake Off Contestant.

She was responding to just one of a whole barrage of internet-based criticisms about how she came across on the baking programme – especially her tears and self-deprecation.

I have to say, whilst I was also a little irritated at how she constantly put herself down during the programme even when she had evidently baked well, I have full admiration for Ruby for those words.

As does another favourite lady of mine, TV presenter, feminist and crazy person (I say this in the fondest of terms), Victoria Coren Mitchell.

Victoria says we as women can learn a lot from Ruby. Women now have a voice in society but due to the introduction of not only the internet, but internet abuse, in recent years, women are being more shy about voicing their true thoughts for fear of the repercussions, she says.

Victoria herself continues she finds herself watering down (my words not hers) her opinions for fear of what people may think – I find this surprising.

She adds that it is young women like 21-year-old Ruby that we as women can get hope from because it suggests there is a whole generation of women coming through who are not prepared to be put down by a little bit of 'twittered' abuse.

Absolutely. As women we must use our voices and not be afraid of saying what we feel. We've slogged long and hard for that right after all.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Have a pompom Christmas

We're a funny bunch aren't we. I, like a host of craft/Christmas/Kirstie Allsopp lovers settled down yesterday evening to watch 'Kirstie's Crafty Christmas' and since that programme has aired, Kirstie's twitter feed has simply been alive with requests about where people can buy - of all things - the pompom makers which featured on the programme.

I too found myself searching the internet this morning to see where I could get my hands on one of these nifty gadgets.

It makes you chuckle/wonder a) about what people are really spending their time doing and b) why on earth there is this general sense that the world is obsessed with all things technological and consumer, when it seems a good proportion of us would like nothing more than to sit down with a ball of yarn and a pompom maker and make pompoms to decorate absolutely everything. Well that's certainly my intention anyway. It will work wonderfully in tandem with my new knitting hobby (Nb. Am 31 not 81 years of age for anyone wondering).

On a serious note – well slightly – it does give me a heart warming feeling that there are still a lot of people out there who get pleasure out of making things rather than being glued to the computer screen, or the television (apart from to watch Kirstie's Crafty Christmas – oh, and to tweet about where they can get a pompom maker), but it does show you doesn't it.

All this idea we need this and that highly expensive and highly technologically advanced piece of kit is really so much to do with marketing and keeping up with the Jones, who have also been taken in by the marketing, and less about what we really want and enjoy deep down.

The majority of us are of much simpler pleasures and sometimes all it takes is someone like Kirstie to come along and unlock this within us. Long may Kirstie and her crafts and her pompoms continue. Hurray!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Boarding Kindergartens for under threes - literally one of the worst things

That has to have been one of the most difficult pieces of radio to listen to.

Radio 4 has been discussing the merits – or not – of group childcare for preschoolers and to illustrate they played audio of children at a – pause for effect – boarding kindergarten in Shanghai, China.

Just so we're clear – these under threes are away from their mummy and daddy overnight Monday to Friday and get to go home at the weekend.

As the recording begins you can hear a cacophony of little children crying, one quite clearly calling out 'mama, mama'. The interpreter confirms to the journalist, 'the little boy is crying out that he just wants his mama'.

It is bed time at the Kindergarten and there are just two teachers who have to split themselves around 22 little ones, the majority of whom are crying.

The teachers finally settle them down and tell them they must not cry again because their parents are coming to get them tomorrow (Friday) and they cannot have swollen eyes. The teacher continues that they must look happy for their parents so they do not worry about them and they can be proud because they are growing up. I will remind you again here - these children are under three.

Of course we do not have such set ups in this country. We are a long way from this. We do however have half a million preschoolers attending a day nursery in this country every week. A proportion of these children are at the nursery from 8am to 6pm. Due to changing shifts in nursery workers, these children often wake up from their afternoon naps to new faces to those they were accustomed to in the morning. I can clearly envisage similar scenes of crying and calling for mama at this point in the day.

In contrast, in Fiji, it is normal for wider family members to look after young children until they start school.

I know which method I prefer. How about you?

Friday, 13 December 2013

SATs sap the fun out of learning

They want to bring back external attainment tests for seven and 14-year-olds. Oh no not those things again.

They were abolished ten years ago and that was the best thing for them. Now the chief of Ofsted thinks it's a good idea to bring them back.

I clearly remember taking a SATs exam when I was six. Yes, I was six because I was one of the youngest in my year. I can still clearly recall the teacher from the year above coming round during the exam and seeing how far I was into the test paper and saying, 'you're doing well for your age', then walking away. I'm not sure I know exactly what having such a clear memory of this means, but the very fact I remember this day above all others as a six-year-old at school shows those exams left a mark on me.

SATs were originally abolished because it was felt it was all too much too soon for primary school children. I subscribe to the idea we should be looking to Europe where children do not even start school until seven, so of course I in turn think examining young children at this age is all too much.

However, the real problem I have is that almost as soon as little ones walk through the school gates for the first time their education is geared towards learning information to pass tests and not for learning for learnings sake.

Michael Gove, the rather dubious education minister, has talked of how his crackdown on classroom yobs has failed. I would propose if children, even the naturally more rowdy and naughty ones, were introduced to learning in a fun and inspiring way from the outset they would be more likely to settle down to lessons in the first place. It's just an idea, but certainly putting more pressure on children and teachers to reach certain targets rather than enjoy the benefits of learning and teaching new things, cannot be a good thing.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A risky business over 30?!

Right ladies, get yourself a man, any man, and start having those babies right away. The earlier the better, no matter your life circumstances, no matter the waste of space of a man you may get saddled with as the father, teenage pregnancy also welcome as at least you've had those children in time.

Because ladies the race is absolutely on now as the Daily Mail has proclaimed - and so of course it must be correct - that women should have their children by the age of 30. This is because of the supposed health risks to mother and baby should you have children any later than this. Previously all this scaremongering was laid upon women over 35 but the age has taken a radical nosedive.

Now the thing is, according to these new 'rules', I have personally just made it in time. I had my second child when aged 30 and a half years old (cue smug look) and I do believe it is much better to have children earlier rather than later in life.

However, and this is the big however, it is completely irresponsible, and in fact, ludicrous, to be disseminating this message of having children in your 20s to a country which is all set up for girls to be pushed out of school and into the work place or out of school into university in order to get even more qualifications to get that high flying career.

If there was more acceptance of girls wanting to go back to the 'old-fashioned' course of wanting to marry and stay-at-home and bring up the children, then it would be more feasible for women to have their babies younger. It would mean that as soon as they came of age their minds would be more set to finding that ideal man to settle down with and start a family with. As it is women are far too busy thinking they've got to have it all.

So in part I have to say there is something in urging women to have children even younger – though the health risks to most women in their early 30s having a baby is surely negligible – but in reality, unless society makes a big shift, and the powers that be allow society to make such a big shift – then you can't start spouting to women who are already under immense pressure about what they should be doing with their lives, to pop out their babies before they hit the big 3 0.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Mums – we all need an understanding hand at times

I don't much like Myleene Klass (that's a lovely start to a blog isn't it) but I have to say she made me well up yesterday, and in a good way.

She is sitting as a panellist on The Wright Stuff this week and they were discussing Mary Berry's revelation that she used to punish her children by hitting them on the backs of the legs with a wooden spoon. (I would just like to succinctly say that I feel Mary Berry is being made scapegoat for the attitude of a whole generation and we should not look badly upon her).

But what was more interesting was a wider discussion about child punishment and parents being pushed to the very limits by their misbehaving children.

This is where Myleene piped up and said she had been in a supermarket and had witnessed this very 'being pushed to the edge by her children's behaviour' in another mother who was shopping there and who was just on the brink of hitting out at her child.

Myleene said she saw all this happening and just went up and put her hand on that mother's shoulder and the mother just burst into tears. Myleene said she even had a cry too. She explained that all mothers are tired and pushed to the ends of their tether and she just felt on that occasion all that mother needed was to feel she was not alone.

I think Myleene spoke out to a lot of mothers when she said these words, myself included. It was actually just nice to hear a fellow mother voice those feelings of tiredness and frustration we all feel from time to time. Motherhood can be an ultra competitive world and an isolating one and so often mums keep to themselves their own personal struggle.

I think however there are moments throughout the day when we could all do with a compassionate and understanding hand on our shoulder, maybe not Myleene's hand, but a hand nevertheless.