In association with Unite Students

I never had the opportunity to GO to university in the traditional sense.

I mean sure, I WENT – I got the degree and everything – but I already had a two year old, (teenage pregnancy and all that), so I didn’t ever do that whole ‘pack all your belongings into the back of a Nissan Micra and spend three years living in a shared house on pizza and cheap beer’ thing. I did share a house, technically, but it was with Bee, and she was too small to drink beer and we didn’t have enough money for takeaway.

From day one then, my ‘university essentials’ have been ‘an entire small two bedroom house full of things you need for a family.’

I got on with it though, it was all good.

What it does mean though, is that I had to put a little extra thought into helping Bee to make that leap from home to university, as I knew that I hadn’t had the typical experience myself and so wasn’t sure entirely what she should expect. With Belle too, if she decides that’s what she wants to do, it’s going to be a massive step, especially given how difficult she has found school over the last couple of years.

She wouldn’t be alone in feeling anxious about it though.

According to a report from Unite, 61% of students feel anxious about making the leap from school to university and only 9% –  less than one in ten – say it closely matched their expectations. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it, but either way we’re clearly not prepared.

The worry is perhaps not surprising given the apparent lack of information and advice from parents – 77% of 16-19 year olds heading off to university said they hadn’t been given advice on sex or mental health, 72% hadn’t had advice about relationships and 66% were in the dark about drugs.

I find that pretty shocking, don’t you?

I’m not saying I would do a big sit down ‘this is what you need to know’ type talk before they packed up the Micra, but they’re such important topics, surely they’re an ongoing conversation with young people, whether or not they go to university?

We do seem to do a bit better on the practical side.

66% of 16-19 say they’ve been given advice on things like cooking and money management, although even then, that’s a third of students going in with nothing? Throw in stats like 55% of parents not thinking their child will be able to cook a meal from scratch, and you can’t help but wonder if there is room for improvement here.

Would you feel confident in your teenager’s basic cooking skills? Could they whip up something more impressive that a massive bowl of cereal?

As a bit of an experiment, I thought it might be fun to test out just how prepared Belle might be on a practical level by gathering a few university essentials. View Post

Over the last few years I’ve started doing this thing whenever I travel anywhere of bringing Bee back some local currency as a present. (I buy myself tasteless fridge magnets, but that’s probably a whole post in of itself – a treat for another day.) Not only does this tradition mean I have a useful thing to do with leftover holiday money, but it also means that I am technically giving her cash, which she always likes.

(She has from time to time, when things have got desperate, thought about exchanging it all for pounds, but I think she’s been disappointed by the value of her Vietnamese Dong.)

compare foreign exchange rates

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Although this is a very lovely and thoughtful gift, it’s undermined by the fact that my approach to travel money generally is a bit backwards. In my head, people who order foreign currency in advance for trips are OLD PEOPLE who are just overthinking things. ‘Look at me,’ I think to myself, ‘getting cash out at an ATM and casually paying for things abroad on my card like a pro-traveller.’ Then I get home and realise that my bank charges me a fee AND a percentage on all non-sterling transactions and I realise what a doofus I am.

And then I forget about it until the next time I go abroad and the VERY SAME THING happens all over again.  If I ever do think to buy foreign currency in advance then I just go into the post office because I really don’t know how it works otherwise. Thinking about it I really don’t know where the cocky attitude has come from as I am clearly RUBBISH at the whole thing. View Post

Now don’t get me wrong, I rate Camp Bestival massively as a festival in of itself for families. It’s ace.

But when you go with teenagers and they don’t want to hang out with you and you’re forced to strike up creepy sounding conversations with seven year olds in toilet queues about their Max and Harvey VIP lanyards, well, let’s just say it’s a different kind of experience from when I first went over ten years ago.

I’ve never been ‘maternal’ in the traditional sense. I’ve never longed for children and not had them. I’ve always joked about how annoying children are generally and how they cramp your style when you want to do fun things like go to pubs/sit in silence/not hang out with children.

And then they grow up and you think ‘oh right. Only hang on a minute because actually you were pretty cute.’

I walked around Camp Bestival by myself for two days and all I saw were happy families. And yes I know that that wasn’t actually what I saw but that’s what it felt like. I saw wives looking chilly and husbands fetching them fleeces. I saw dads pushing babies in wagons and mums dancing with toddlers. I don’t know what was the matter with me to be honest. When I got the chance on Friday night to hang out with a friend with a one year old I offered to carry her and danced with her and sneakily kissed her on the head when no one was looking.

I was like a 37 year old single women with no children and a ticking biological clock. View Post

Post in association with Uncle Ben’s

Do you have a particular meal that reminds you of your childhood?

Our family went through a vegetarian period in the mid 1980s, when I was about eight or nine years old. I’m not sure if it was an ethical choice, or whether we were just too poor for meat maybe, but I think vegetarianism was quite a thing in the 1980s. My mum has a recipe book I remember very well called ‘The Vegetarian Feast’. Inside the book she kept an empty Tesco brown rice packet, with a recipe on the back for a rice and bean bake.

My mum sent me a picture of the best before date on it as proof of how long she has had it tucked inside the front cover.

rice recipe

It’s this rice and bean bake that I would think of if you asked me to pick a favourite family meal from my childhood. This and Jaffa Cakes, but that’s not really a meal is it? (Although I did eat seven Jaffa Cakes yesterday, so probably should have counted it as a meal.) When Uncle Ben’s got in touch then recently to see if I’d like to cook a family meal that reminded me of home comforts and family memories, I knew exactly what I was going to make.

We talked about it on the family WhatsApp group.

‘I always use one of those packets of rice,’ said my sister, ‘it’s much simpler than faffing about cooking it.’

She actually said that WITHOUT PROMPTING, I didn’t set her up for it at all. It’s true though isn’t it? Wholegrain rice seems to take about two weeks to cook from scratch. View Post

This year I popped my Love Island cherry. As far as cherry popping experiences go, it has been a good one – I certainly haven’t been left underwhelmed. In fact, Love Island has become an integral part of my evening. I even found myself giving relationship advice to a friend yesterday based on the exploits of the Love Island contestants.

‘If you’re finding yourself thinking too much about it,’ I said to a friend who has been seeing a new man for a couple of months, ‘maybe it just isn’t meant to be? It’s like Wes and Megan,’ I said, getting into my stride. ‘Wes was perfectly happy with Laura, but still at the back of his mind he felt like he could potentially be happiER.’ (Who doesn’t want to hear that from someone you’re dating?)

‘But then he got with Megan and he just KNEW,’ I said. ‘Maybe if he was right for you you would just KNOW?’

I feel like this total acceptance of everything that happens on Love Island as FACT probably says a lot about my approach to relationships generally, but we will brush over that bit for now.

What I want to talk about today is how sad I am that Sam and Georgia finally made the decision to leave the villa together. Aside from the fact that Sam is the only one of the boys who I could ever begin to vaguely imagine myself having sex with, (‘he’s relatively kind of small and like a weasel’ I wrote in my family WhatsApp group, ‘so pretty much my type’), I have developed something of a soft spot for Georgia.

I think it’s because she reminds me a bit of myself. View Post

A couple of years ago Belle and I told my mum that Bee’s favourite thing was flamingos. My mum loves to jump on a theme for birthdays and Christmas and we thought it would be funny if Bee ended up with a succession of flamingo themed gifts.

And we were right. It WAS funny.

Do you know what though flamingos? We’re done now. You’ve had your moment, we’ve had enough. It’s time for flamingos to get in the bin.

I’m sick of going into EVERY SHOP IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD and finding some kind of novelty flamingo merchandise. It seems that flamingos have become the new salted caramel and you know how I feel about that.

Yes you’re cool with you’re crazy pink feathers and your bendy backwards legs, but you’ve made your point. We get it. We don’t need all of our umbrellas from now on the have a flamingo head as a handle.

Yes you, you heard me.

flamingo gift ideas

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

We definitely do not need: View Post