For me, putting up a tent is a bit like giving birth.

Bear with me on this…

Obviously there isn’t the same actual physical pain involved, no one would ever camp if there was, but there are plenty of parallels. Think for instance of that moment when you come to pack the tent away. You look at the tiny bag, you look at the tent, surely one just isn’t going to fit in the other? See what I’m saying here?

I don’t camp often if I’m honest, (why would you pee in a bucket and eat food warm that’s meant to be cold/cold that’s meant to be hot when you could stay in a hotel?) and all my camping is at festivals. I set out full of enthusiasm, I’m confident I can do it without pain relief/crying, but the minute I set the bags down on the inevitably sloped and rocky patch of grass next to the toilets, I turn into a monster.

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When I had an email this week to tell me I had been nominated for a Gurgle blog award, my first reaction, (after ‘what’s a Gurgle blog award?), was a mild panic – a dread at the prospect, after the whole MAD blog award thing, of having to bang on at everyone to vote for me again.

It would just have made me so irritating.

I replied to the people at Gurgle, (who it turns out are part Mothercare), and explained my ‘voter fatigue’ concerns, and they kindly reassured me that the nominations are being judged by a panel, so I wouldn’t have to annoy anybody. Phew!

So, feeling much better about the whole thing, I let out a small ‘hoorah!’

I get this special badge and everything:

I am nominated in the ‘best mummy blog writing’ category. I’m not sure how the nomination came about, whether I was plucked at random or genuinely cherished, but in any case, I am thrilled, if for no other reason than there are apparently goodie bags involved. Seriously though, it’s not just about the goodie bags.

Sometimes I worry that I am just sat here on my own at home spewing out nonsense, only to have it disappear into the ether, so it is always lovely to know there are people actually reading it. Of course I know there are people who do – YOU are right now of course – but it’s lovely none the less.

I sense I’m waffling now, so I had better stop. I can see I’m going to have to improve my public speaking before I have to stand up and make my acceptance speech.

Summary for people who got bored and skipped to the end: I got nominated for an award! Yay! Thanks!

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Do you remember a few weeks ago when I got my contraceptive implant taken out? You may not have wanted to know about it, but I told you anyway, and there you were, stuck with it.

I’d been wondering for some time about the impact it had been having on my emotional and physical health, having had it for six years, and I wanted to give you an update, to let you know if I’ve been feeling any different.

Oh

My

God

I feel like a different person. Seriously. Aside from the fact that I want to have sex with pretty much everyone I see (it did say it could suppress your libido, but this is ridiculous…), aside from that, I just feel like ME again. I’ve always tended to be the jolly one of the family, and the growing anxiety and nagging melancholy I’ve felt over the last year or so has felt all wrong.

But now..

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You may remember a few weeks ago I rose to the challenge to write a post including a camel, and even tried my hand at fiction into the bargain. Well, quite a few people liked it and wanted to know what happened next, especially my number one fan Brian. So last week while on my Arvon course I tried out my new writing and editing skills and wrote the next instalment. I also reworked the first part quite a bit, so here is the whole thing, from the beginning all over again. (It’s not long, I promise, my editing was harsh). Please let me know what you think – I can take brutal honesty – I had plenty of practice last week.

Amy lay on her back, covered by the shell of a car. Only the rise and fall of her chest marked her out from the other bodies. The sun moved slowly across the sky, as though scanning for some form of live. It shone through the broken car window onto her face, and she stirred.

Her eyes flickered open. “Well,” she thought, “that’s that then.”

They had seen it coming, it wasn’t a surprise, the only real unknown being what kind of survivor she would be. Would she battle on regardless, fighting fate at every corner, or would she just close her eyes again? As it happened, her instincts took over and, driven purely by thirst, she eased herself out from the wreckage.

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Hello – I’m back!

What do you mean you hadn’t noticed I was gone? I’m hurt.

For four days and five nights last week, (yes I counted every precious hour), I was staying at Lumb Bank in West Yorkshire, formally owned by Ted Hughes, and now one of the inspiring properties belonging to The Arvon Foundation. I was staying with 15 other aspiring writers, indulging ourselves in an almost-week of writing, drinking and talking about books.

Our live-in tutors were the writers William Fiennes and Mark Haddon and they were both fantastic – so experienced and knowledgeable and generous with their time. Plus quite fanciable, which is always a bonus.

The picture is a view from Lumb Bank. You can see why you might be inspired can’t you?

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Last night I gave in to my most self-destructive instincts and went to see Sex and the City 2, knowing full well that I would come out feeling poor, fat and completely lacking in style. It’s a bit like drinking – you know you’ll feel bad about yourself the next day, but it’s fun at the time.

I’ve read some pretty shocking reviews, and it has been criticised heavily for the product placement bonanza, so as I pulled up at the cinema in my TVR Tuscan I was feeling a little anxious, hoping that I wasn’t wasting my one child free night out per fortnight. I stepped out of the car, smoothed down my Chanel shift dress and checked the time on my Rolex, gazing admiringly as the last of the day’s sun sparkled across its jewel encrusted face. I was just on time.

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Yesterday I was on the way to the park with my sister Annabel and we pulled up behind a car that had a ‘Help the Heroes’ car sticker in the back.

“Do you think we should celebrate soldiers as heroes?” Annabel asked me. That’s the kind of heavy debate we go in for on a Thursday afternoon.

“Well…” I stalled, trying to come up with a suitably thoughtful answer, “I don’t know.” (Lame) “I certainly wouldn’t want to do what they do.”

And that’s true enough, but then I wouldn’t want to clean toilets for a living, or pack biros in a biro factory, or milk cows, or run marathons, or a million other things.

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When Bee was about three or four years old I could make her cry by pretending to be a lion.

It would start with just a serious face and a very quiet roar and initially she’d just look a little concerned. “Stop it Mummy!” she’d say. But I couldn’t stop. I’d roar again, with the same deadly serious look on my face. She’d look a bit more concerned, so I’d do it again. Her bottom lip would start to tremble and I knew this was the tipping point – I could stop and smile and she’d be ok, or I could do it one more time and she’d cry. Obviously I had to do it one more time.

I found it hilarious. I am a cruel, cruel mummy.

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“You have a lot of grey hair Mummy,” says Belle as she gets into my bed this morning. Charming. No ‘good morning Mummy’, ‘I hope you slept well Mummy’.

“Er, yes, thanks for pointing that out.”

She snuggles down and I decide to change the subject before she starts pointing out my blackheads or poking the fat on my thighs.

“Belle,” I say, “what would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?”

“What are strengths and weaknesses?”

“They are things you are good at or do well, things about you that you are pleased with, or things you don’t do so well or would like to improve.”

“Um…” she doesn’t looked particularly gripped by the question. “I don’t know. What are yours?”

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Words, words, words…

I love ’em. Can’t get enough of ’em. We use words and letters every day – we talk, we write, we read. The use of language is what defines us and sets us apart from other animals.

Of course you could argue that some people’s use of language is more limited than others. Bee for example communicates chiefly in grunts and smiley face emoticons, but she seems to get by.

How much do we take language for granted though? It’s true that the actual words we use only make up a small percentage of our communication, but it’s a pretty important chunk. What would you do if words or letters were suddenly taken away? I have to admit it wasn’t a question I’d given much thought to until I recently read a book called Ella Minnow Pea.

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Today is guest post day, courtesy of a mystery draw over at Little Mummy. I was thrilled to find out I was swapping with Eggs, Cream and Honey, as obviously I love cake. I was less thrilled than when I found out she is up against me in the MAD blog awards, as her blog is as scrummy as her name suggests.

If you want the other half of the swap, you’ll find me over there today talking about my (cough) love of all things baking. So let’s give it up for Eggs, Cream and Honey! (Welcoming round of applause)…

Chances are if you’re the parent of a teenager, you may have heard the “everyone else” phrase shouted back at you more times than you care to remember. This is the catchphrase adopted by your teen in response to the “no you can’t” line us parents feel the right to exert on occasion. They say it to make us feel guilty, inept and generally out of touch with the mass of other parents who are saying “yes”.

Here are some of the privileges everyone else might be getting:

  • a laptop of their own
  • a bedtime/curfew of midnight
  • unlimited texts and calls on their mobile phone
  • co-ed sleepovers
  • 18 and over games on their X-box
  • access to Facebook whenever they want
  • both Friday and Saturday nights out (sometimes Thursday too and don’t get me started on Orange Wednesdays)

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Yesterday, after a fleeting reference to camels, I was challenged to write a post in which camels became our only means of travel and communication. Always a girl up for a challenge, I decided to push it a step further and try my hand at fiction. So this morning I have written what is surely to become an extract from the most critically acclaimed post-apocolypse-self-discovery-tragi-comedy of our generation. Enjoy…

For a long time afterwards everything was quiet.

The water subsided and the ground was still, save for the occasional groan as the new landscape settled itself. Trees that had previously marked out the horizon were reformed as bridges between islands of debris.

The woman lay on her back, partly covered by the shell of what had once been a car. She did not move. Only the barely perceptible rise and fall of her chest marked her out as different from the other bodies. The sun moved slowly across the sky above her, as though ritually scanning for some form of live. As it moved round and shone through the broken car window onto her face, she stirred.

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