Would you put a QR code on your gravestone?

I heard a story on BBC Somerset last week that for some reason really wound me up. It was about three local cemeteries approving the use of QR codes on gravestones. After a little bit of research I discovered that this has been a thing for a while now, but it was the first I had heard of it and it made me inexplicably irate.

The idea is pretty harmless – scan the QR code and you can find out more about the person buried there. Nothing offensive in that is there? So why did it make me feel so uncomfortable?

Gravestones Read more

How to get a Pukka night’s sleep #sleepwithPukka

When I was younger I slept like a baby. Even when I was an actual baby. I was always in bed by 9pm, (meaning that I missed most of the interesting family incidents), and would sleep pretty solidly through the night until 7am. I would even go to the toilet without waking up, a fact my Grandad would testify to if he was still alive, me having walked in on him in the middle of the night, causing him to leap from the toilet just before I sat down on his lap.

And then I had a baby.

Goodbye sleep, so long good friend, I enjoyed our time together.

It’s not so much that Bee was a bad sleeper, she really wasn’t, but there is a special secret switch in your brain that gets flicked when you become a mother that means that from that point on you always sleep with one ear open, just in case.

And then Belle was born and I was well and truly screwed.

She has many charming qualities, but the ability to sleep for longer than 40 minutes at a time until the age of about four was not one of them.

And so here I am, left with an annoying and yet fairly impressive ability to guess the time at any moment to within about eight minutes, so aware am I of the passing of time throughout the night. Impressive maybe, but not hugely restful. Read more

Who would you be if you could be someone else for a day?

I am in my office today, (by office I mean a small room I share with two guys who work in corporate sports hospitality, to stop me going insane at home by myself), and we are listening to Absolute Radio 90s. We have a three strike policy; if two out of the three of us agree that a song is awful it counts as a strike and when we get to three we switch decades.

I know, we are super cool and you want to come and work with us don’t you? Well I’m afraid the room is full of sports memorabilia, cups that haven’t been washed in 27 weeks and assorted men’s gym kit, so there isn’t room for anyone else. Bad luck.

(Bad luck for me too as I have just totally shattered the illusion of myself as some sort of glamorous social media type who works in a massive open plan room on the 14th floor of a office block in Soho, breaking from work every now and again to play some ping pong or sit on a beanbag to brainstorm something cutting edge.)

*clears old cups away, kicks dirty white socks to one side and continues typing* Read more

An interview with Jacqueline Wilson + win a subscription to Jacqueline Wilson Magazine

This month Belle had a very exciting opportunity – the chance to ask some questions of her literary hero, none other than Jacqueline Wilson. How cool is that?

Jacqueline Wilson interview

Photo credit – Trish Beswick

We actually saw Jacqueline Wilson speak at Hay Festival last year and really loved her – she had such a warm and open presence on the stage and Belle was very taken with her. For this interview, Belle invited her friends Ella, Josie, Ewelina and Georgina to our house after school and they came up with three questions each.

Here’s what Jacqueline Wilson had to say:

Is there any link between Gina from Tracy Beaker Returns and Gina from the Dustbin Baby?! Read more

A short rant about… the casual sexism that we don’t even notice

I call myself a feminist.

I complain about the representation of women in politics and share my thoughts on pornography and the sex industry, but these are all big issues. I’m not saying they aren’t important, of course they are, but they are the bigger picture.

Recently though I’ve started noticing more everyday sexism than ever before. Partly I think it’s because I’m in a relatively new relationship and this always makes you look at the world in a new way, but it has also had a very tangible impact, not because of anything my boyfriend has said or done himself, (he is always thoughtful, courteous and kind), but because of how his presence impacts how people see me.

I’m used to doing things for myself and by myself. As a single mother I may not always be treated in the same way as a man, but I’ve not often found myself in situations where I am able to make exact comparisons. Now though, with a well spoken, 6′ 1″ man at my side, it has become very obvious indeed.

Here’s an example… Read more

Win a signed copy of Phil Earle’s ‘The Bubble Wrap Boy’ with Scottish Book Trust

Books are a big thing in our house and we love reading. Over the years I’ve set myself various reading challenges, some of which I fared better at than others. This year I challenged myself to read 100 books for example, I actually managed 104. When my sister’s boyfriend and I decided to read 25 classic novels however, my performance was less impressive.

Belle has always been a big reader, and I appreciate how lucky this makes me as a parent. I know that a lot of children are reluctant to tear themselves away from whichever screen has their attention and get lost instead in a paper based alternative reality.

The Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour

The Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour (organised by Scottish Book Trust) takes the very best UK and international authors directly into schools across Scotland and the UK to inspire a love of reading, writing and illustration. Children’s literacy is something that’s hugely important to Scottish Friendly and they are chuffed to bits that the 2014 managed to reach more than 7,000 children in over 80 schools through the tour. It’s initiatives like this that really can make the difference – sometimes all it takes is finding a connection with one book, being touched by one story, to inspire a love of books for live.

Last November the fantastic young adult author Phil Earle visited secondary schools in Falkirk, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire. Phil’s award-winning novels which include; The Bubble Wrap Boy, Being Billy and Saving Daisy are inspired by real stories and real people.

Win a signed copy of Phil Earle’s The Bubble Wrap Boy

To support the tour and to help get kids excited about books, Scottish Book Trust has given me a signed copy of The Bubble Wrap Boy to give away to one lucky reader. Here’s the blurb, to give you a flavour…

All my life I’ve been tiny Charlie from the Chinese Chippie, whose only friend is Sinus, the kid who stares at walls.

But I believe that everyone’s good at something.

I’ve just got to work out what my something is…

Charlie’s found his secret talent: skateboarding. It’s his one-way ticket to popularity. All he’s got to do is practice, and nothing’s going to stop him – not his clumsiness, not his overprotective mum, nothing.

Except Charlie isn’t the only one in his family hiding a massive secret, and his next discovery will change everything.

How do you stay on the board when your world is turned upside down?

The bubble wrap boy phil earle

Read more

Out for a Scottish golden duck – a Cricket World Cup haggis scotch egg recipe

Today’s post and recipe comes courtesy of my boyfriend, who knows much more about the Cricket World Cup than me…haggis scotch egg recipe

When I rank the clubs where I’ve played and watched cricket, much of my affection comes not from an exciting game or a personal achievement, (which were few and far between), but from the quality and quantity of the food. I can’t think of another sport where players stop for both lunch and tea, and jolly civilised it is as well. When I trained to become an umpire, there was even a column on the official match report for the standard of tea.

The professional game is just the same. It’s not so long since the players left the field for lunch at Lord’s – the home of cricket – to be met by a butler on the pavilion steps with a tray of gin and tonics, before being served a full three course lunch. If that’s what modern day professional sport was like, I would excel.

Watching cricket is equally hungry work. A day out at the test match requires a huge calorific intake, partly just to absorb the vast quantity of alcohol that goes hand to hand with watching England’s batting collapse. The scotch egg is the king of the cricket picnic and usually comes out of the cool bag early in proceedings as an aid to line the stomach before too much alcohol flows.

So, when choosing a meal to reflect the 2015 Cricket World Cup, the scotch egg was something of a no brainer. I had no issue choosing another of the ‘home nations’ as I’ve got a soft spot for cricket in Scotland. (We’ll forget that they beat England recently because that hurts almost as much as an Ashes defeat, and I’m sure it was just a scoreboard error). Read more

My favourite phone photos from 2014

You know how sometimes the very fact of having a phone in your hand whilst sat at a desk can be enough to convince you that you are working?

I found myself browsing the photos on my phone today when I should have been writing something fascinating about parenting apps, and I came across loads of photos that I totally forgotten about. 2014 was a busy year for me, physically and emotionally, and I think a lot of stuff happened without me always being completely conscious of it.

I’m feeling very happy with my lot at the moment, so thought it would be a good point at which to look back at some of the photos that make me smile and remind me of lovely days out, holidays or fun times at home.

You will notice that I hung out with Belle a lot last year!

IMAG3453

IMAG3485 Read more

How do you talk to children about sex?

“I don’t remember you ever sitting down and talking to me about sex,” Bee said to me when she was down for a visit last week. My friend Lucy was there and we were looking at a set of books about discussing bodies, sex and relationships with children.

These books in fact, from Educate and Empower Kids:

30 day of sex talks

“Well,” I said, feeling bad in case it was something I had totally forgotten to do, “I don’t think it should be a case of actively sitting down and spewing it all out. It should be more of an ongoing dialogue, a continuous learning process.”

This sounded legit. Plus I definitely remember showing Bee and a group of her friends how to use a tampon. (Not actually the insertion process, more of a detailed mime.)

“Being around your mum growing up was basically one long sex education class,” added Lucy helpfully.

Well. Quite.

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#40thingsbefore40 – sending a message in a bottle

I ticked this off my list of 40 things to do before 40 a little while ago, but have been waiting to write about it in the hope that my message in a bottle would be found by an exotic prince, held captive on a desert island miles away, but unfortunately that was not to be.

Instead, a month or two ago, I had an email that went like this…

message in a bottle

That’s not terribly exotic is it? Plus it was only about 4 miles from where we launched the bottle. I did reply, but heard nothing back. Possibly Mark was annoyed with me for littering the Somerset coastline when he was trying to tidy it up? The littering aspect was something that hadn’t really occurred to me when I added the challenge to the list, and I did feel pretty bad actively chucking a bottle into a river, but by that point I was committed. Read more