Who am I?
19/08/2011

I was filling in a form yesterday, pretty standard stuff, till it came to ‘status’. There was a choice: employed, unemployed, dependant spouse, retired or ‘other’. Technically I’m not employed, though I work from home on a voluntary basis for two charities. I’m not un-employed or on Job Seekers Allowance. Dependant spouse sounded a bit pathetic, like some clinging helpless woman! Though I am dependant on my husband’s salary to fund my shoe habit! Then came the ‘retired’ option, I dithered. All my four children have now left home and are independent (except when they need some money!) Does this mean I am retired from what has been my main occupation for the last 34 years? I couldn’t bring myself to choose this title, it sounds so old, like a granny – despite now being a grandmother of four – it didn’t sound like me. I still run and cycle, wear make up and killer heels. I don’t play bowls or bingo and eschew elasticated waistbands and beige anoraks. In the end I was reduced to the last option – and firmly circled ‘other’.
Who are you?!

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For the love of horses
08/06/2011

I have loved horses for as long as I can remember. Where this came from I don’t know, we lived in a terraced house with a small backyard and the only horse I saw belonged to the rag and bone man. The first book I can remember reading on my own was Black Beauty, borrowed from a neighbour, reverently wrapped in tissue paper and with old-fashioned colour plates. I loved it and was about 7 or 8. From then on I read everything I could get my hands on about horses and ponies: all Ruby Ferguson’s books, ‘Silver Brumby’ books, ‘Flicka’ books. I drew horses all the time, had a model stable and a subscription to ‘Pony’ magazine, though I had no pony.

Every birthday and Christmas, I hoped against hope that THIS would be the year I got my dream. It never happened, despite me telling my parents what I would be prepared to give up to have one and how we could keep it in the garage and ket it graze in our tiny back garden! I never knew at the time, but every year they were working out how they could afford a pony for me, but with a younger sister and brother, it was never possible.

I can still remember the excitement of my first riding lesson, the smell of the leather and the ponies themselves. I had a black velvet hard hat and cord jodhpurs, they were the only items of riding kit my parents could afford on top of the cost of the lessons. I was instantly hooked and looked forward to my weekly riding lessons, progressing from being on a leading rein to tackling cavaletti to small jumps, cantering and galloping, it was all so exciting. I would cycle two miles to the stables at weekend and spend all day there, mucking out and cleaning tack and occasionally being rewarded by being allowed to ride bareback to a nearby field where the ponies grazed. I would cycle home tired and happy, with my Sunday roast dinner having been kept warm over a pan of boiling water. It tasted like the best meal in the world after spending all day outside!

Still my love for all things equine grew. I started to make up and write and illustrate my own books about horses. Any school project where there was a choice of subject was manipulated to include them. I subjected the whole family to the Horse of the Year show on tv annually (this was in the days when families only had one telly). I managed to go with a friend on a pony trekking holiday in High Wycombe – very posh for a girl from Cheshire. We spent the week pretending the ponies belonged to us. It was heart wrenching when the holiday came to an end, and we had to leave ‘our’ ponies behind.

Back home, we found two ponies in a local farmer’s field and, fuelled by Jilly Cooper storylines, we went and asked if we could ride them in return for looking after them. Surpisingly he agreed. I think they must have been bought for his children who had since grown up and/or lost interest in them. They were mother and daughter, Bonny and Lindy, had no shoes, their hooves were overgrown and hadn’t been ridden for years. They had no tack, except halters, (he would pay for saddles if they were just out to grass. We went down to the farm at every opportunity, grooming them and trying to ride them, goodness knows what health & safety would have said, although both ponies never managed more than a trot!

I can’t remember why we stopped going, I think it was when my friend moved away and I couldn’t manage both of them on my own (we were both about 12 at the time). For a couple of years though, I almost had my own pony. I still love horses and ponies and it would appear that my first grandson does too, that also, seems to have come out of no-where. Perhaps if he’s ever lucky enough to get a pony, I can share it with him and fulfill a childhood dream?

A Present for Victoria
25/10/2010

Next week a great twitter mate is going for an epic trip round the world with her husband and three young children.  I am SO envious and admire their courage visiting all these far flung places and Victoria’s organisational skills in planning it all.  I’m sure the nine months will pass in a flash – well certainly quicker than a pregnancy feels!

I would like to give them a guardian angel to watch over them and take care of them all on their wonderful adventure – and good health for all of them too!

Can’t wait for the tweets on their journey,bon voyage!

How important is Grandma?
10/08/2010

In my highly technical research and  experience of life in general  (well watching re-location, escaping to the country type programmes!), it seems that once people have children, they like to live nearer to their  family.  Most women want to move to live near their mothers – just not TOO close!  Is this just because they want free babysitters and childcare, or are they thinking it would be good for the children to grow up knowing their grandparents?

When I was small, my granny lived round the corner from us along with my aunties.  In those days, lots of families had relatives living on the same street, never mind in the same town.  When I was about three we moved to another town and I didn’t see them quite as much as it involved a long bus journey – my mother didn’t drive then.  A few years later we moved to ano ther county and now only saw them once a month.  Although I can’t have spent that much time with my granny, I can still remember the things we did.  She would tell me stories about when she was a little girl and how poor they were.  We used to watch wrestling and rugby league on ‘Word of Sport’ on ITV and she’d make me a dish of boiled (old) potatoes, with a slice of cold butter on top.  Once she asked me if I wanted a ‘cakey’, I eagerly waited for this special treat, which turned out to be a jam sandwich!   I stayed at her house overnight a few times and  can still remember the cold lino under my feet in the bedroom and getting sterilised milk out of the pantry for my cereal in the morning.  She used to let me run errands for her too and I would go to the greengrocers where they would pour potatoes and carrots straight into the old hessian shopping bag I took with me.  She would defend me against anybody and told me I’d ‘look bonny even if I was in rags’ and that I should be entered into the ‘Miss Pears’ competition.  (younger people will have no idea what that was!)

My dad’s mother lived about five hours away in Bournemouth and I can only remember her coming to stay with us a couple of times.  My brother had to be pushed out of his bedroom and I had to share with my sister.  Special things were bought and soap and towels put in the room, along with a mirror and clock. (Stuff that a five year old boy’s ropm didn’t normally have)  We visited her a couple of times and I can remember a garden with flowers and a swing outside.  This was a far cry from my other granny’s terraced house with its backyard and outside lavatory.

When I got married and had my children, all the grandparents were working full time (well my parents were only 42!) although living only 15 minutes away.   Because of this we used to see them about twice a week.  When my then youngest was two, we moved a two hour journey down south, so visits were rare but special.  Do children need to see their grandparents often to develop a bond with them?  These days it is easier with the internet, skype, twitte & facabook, but can that replace actually seeing them in the flesh?

By the time my parents had retired, my brother and sister both had children and lived near enough to visit and benefit from babysitting and childminding (I had two more children by now).  My sister in law lived with her parents and had childcare on tap.  I felt my children missed out having that closeness to their grandparents. the abilitiy just to call in on the way home from school.  Being able to visit them without parents in tow, so they could have a moan, or be indulged with stuff that parents won’t allow them to do or have.

Now I have my own grandsons, they also live far away, two of them in the US and the other a two hour car journey away (more if traffic’s bad).  I would love it if we were closer, so that the special relationship could develop.  Luckily they have their maternal grandmothers close by.  It would be lovely to do the little things together on our own. Just going for a walk, or doing some cooking, visitng the library or the park.  At the moment they’re all a bit young to do that.  It’s lovely however, when we do see them – it’s a special occasion and a holiday (particularly in US) and hopefully when they’re older, they’ll all be able to come and stay with us, without their parents. so we, like all grandparents, can indulge them, knowing we can hand them back at the end!

You might want to look at this too, kindly suggested by @himupnorth

http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/http://www.rias.co.uk/media_centre/allpressreleases/grandparents_take_strain_of_summer_holiday_childcare/

The Inquisition
03/07/2010

Oh no, not the cushions!  Or was it soft cushions?  All those old enough to remember the Monty Python sketch about the Spanish Inguisition will no doubt be quoting it word for word now!  Anyway,  I’ve been tagged ‘for the very first time’  (thanks ‘him up north!) so I’ll just get on with answering the questions.

1. Which (in)famous person (alive or dead) would you like to take out to dinner, where would you go and what would you like to talk about?
This is really difficult, but I think it would have to be Stephen Fry, I would take him to The Lavender House, in Norfolk, he’d love the food. Then I would talk about his love of the area, his passion for music and the experience of tracing his family tree so far back.

2. What is the best gift someone could give you (tangible please)
I would love a horse!  When I was young, I asked for a pony every Christmas and birthdayand every time was disappointed.  I was unaware of how every year my parents tried to think of possible ways of acheivng this, but it was completely out of their reach.  I had lessons, they bought me the kit, I read about ponies, drew ponies and wrote stories about them.  It is many years since I have been riding seriously, but it is still my ultimate dream to own a horse.

3. Where in the world would you most like to live?
I have always felt an affinity with the Yorkshire moors and Cornwall,  There is someting about the moors, the bleak yet romantic landscape ( though that could owe a lot to Wuthering Heights!)  Yet Cornwall, though it has Bodmin Moor, also has more beaches and coves and I would love to live by the sea, so I think Cornwall wins this one.

4. What do you most enjoy cooking?
I LOVE cooking anything and everything!  I even managed to get on Masterchef, but got knocked out in the first round as I was SO nervous.  I loved helping with cookery club at school and find it exciting getting childlren interested in ‘proper’ food.  Not organic, or fancy, just making sinple, straightforward stuff that they want to eat.

5. What is your favourite novel?
Well the first novel I read on my own was Black Beauty – I was about seven. Iit was borrowed from a neighbour and wrapped in paper as it was a prized possession.  There were no illustrations, but I loved it, perhaps this is where my love of horses began?!   My favourite novel that I have recently read has to be ‘Cloud Atlas’, it was not a book I would have chosen myself, but it was featured on a book club review and I’m so glad I tried it – it was fantastic.

6. You have your own personal Tardis, where do you go first?
I would llike to go back to my wedding day.  My dad was so nervous about doing his speech and  I wish that during it I’d reached out and held his hand. He died suddenly a few years later aged 48 .

7. How old is the inner you?
The inner me is about 14.  I never wanted to grow up and have to learn all those boring things that grown ups have to do, and I don’t like doing them now. I try and keep as physically young as I can through exercise and keeping in touch with the children.  However, I can feel myself turning into a ‘grumpy old woman’ and coming out with comments that make me cringe.  Still as they say it’s better than the alernative!

8. Theatre or Cinema?
Don’t go much to either. I think in the last 30 years I’ve been about a dozen times to each – and that includes pantomimes! It was difficult to get a babvsitter for four children, and expensive, then on top of the the cost of the thatre or cinema.  (They don’t have either where we live and it would entail a costly trip and possibly overnight stay in London). The last thing we went to was ‘We Will Rock You’ at the theatre and it was great, though that was over a year ago.  We WILL go more often!

9. Would you be famous, with all that means?
If I became famous because of some skill, or gift, that was helpful to others, then I might.  But the chances of that, especially at my age – are pretty dim! Although I did go on Masterchef, it wasn’t to ‘be famous’ I hated that it was on tv, I wanted the competition.  I would never want to be known for going on ‘reality tv’,  isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

10. You are able to learn anything at all, a skill, a language, whatever, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to sing, or play a musical instrument really well, or even at all!  Or for painting or writing to just flow effortlessly out of me – I suppose I’d better get practising then.

And now for my five ‘victims’ if you’ve done this one before just ignore it!

Victoria at http://www.itsasmallworldafterallfamily.wordpress.com

Clare at   http://clareybabble.blogspot.com

http://yummymummyno1.wordpress.com

  Emily at http://www.pantswithnames.com

Rachael at www.marathonmummy.com

Average
22/06/2010

I wish I had a gift.  You know like those people who can paint, sing, play beautiful music or even do the splits.  I’d just like to have one thing I could do better than anyone else.  I suppose the people that go on the X Factor, or BGT think they have a special something – even if it’s only knitting.  I can’t think of anything I could say was a unique skill.

I am just average.  I loved art at school, I really enjoyed it and thought I was quite good, my paintings got put up on the wall at primary school. When I went to senior school there were loads of girls who were far better at it than me, who were really gifted at it. I just managed an average ‘O’ level.  Even though I went to grammar school, I just scraped through and so always felt I had to try and keep up with those who had passed their 11+ with flying colours. 

I loved writing and spent hours as a child writing and illustrating my own ‘books’. Then as an adult writing short stories and articles and papering the downstairs loo with the resulting rejection slips.

Another of the things I like to do is cooking, I’ve catered for events for friends and family and even our town’s mayor making ceremony and I’ve made birthday cakes for lots of people.  Then I look at other peoples’ that they post on their blogs and mine look pathetic.

Perhaps I would have had a gift for skiing, if I’d had the opportunity to do it as a child?  I thought I might have been a gifted rider, enjoying my weekly hour at the local riding stables, but my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a pony so I never really got the chance. I could have been a good actress, I loved being in plays and joined our local amateur dramatic and operatic groups, but there were no local drama schools near us and there was no way Mum & Dad could send me away to one.

This is why I think it’s so important to give our children as many opportunities as we can and encourage them where they show any skill or aptitude at something.  Too often though, it comes down to cost. When you have four children, there is a limit on your finances, as well as time, to let them all try something that they decide they hate after two weeks, or  after you’ve just bought the necessary kit.

I am very good at remembering phone numbers, I know all the ones we’ve ever had as well as all those of friends and family.  I don’t need them stored in the phone.  I can also recite all the registration plates of the cars we had , both my dad’s when I was a child and my husband’s since I got married. 

Even now, I still know all the words to songs that I sang at school including; “There was a man who had a wife, nickety nackety noo, noo, noo, She couldna’ bake and she couldna’ brew, nickety nackety noo, noo, noo!”   Perhaps that is my ‘gift’?!