I’m not really here!

I mean I am a real person obviously, but I’m actually writing this on Thursday, and you’re reading it on, well, not Thursday. How cool is that?? I just told the computer, and it remembered to do it all by itself. I feel like a character in a Graham Greene novel, sending a letter out to a spy in some far flung part of South America, with instructions for him to post it on a particular day, at a particular time, from a postbox marked with a black crow.

I love being at that age where although I can use it fairly well, technology still has the power to amaze me. How do voices come out of your phone without it even being connected to anything? Where even IS the internet?

It’s all very impressive.

So here’s my question today – if you weren’t here either, where would you rather be? You can be anywhere in the country, in the world, in the whole universe, doing anything you like.

Of course if you weren’t here, and I wasn’t here either, which I’m not, this conversation would never have happened, and you wouldn’t know what the question was to answer it, but let’s try not to think too deeply about the whole thing.

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Last weekend I had the whole weekend to myself.

I will say that again for emphasis. The Whole Weekend.

It doesn’t happen often, but the forces of nature and orbits of the planets and such like all aligned so that everyone apart from me was somewhere else. The prospect was quite overwhelming, and by Saturday night I had resorted to making origami animal friends for myself, but we’ll brush over that part.

Keen to make the most of it, I set off on Saturday morning for a day of doing all the things that no one else in my family enjoys terribly much, like mooching about in book shops, and spending money in cafes. One thing I particularly like about being on my own is that you can leave places as soon as you like, so after fifteen minutes or so in a modern art gallery, when I realised I didn’t really understand what was going on, I could just leave, nodding sagely to myself, and know that no one would judge me. View Post

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So, this week is half term, joy oh joy. Seriously, what is it with all the school holidays?? Just when you’ve settled back into work – BAM! – there’s another one.

Anyway, this week, to make up for the fact that I’m spending most of my time working, (by which I mean hiding), in my attic office, on Tuesday I took Belle and a friend from school to London. We began our day with a tour of the CBBC studios, where they got to do all kinds of exciting things like pretend to be Newsround presenters, and sit in chairs that Take That had once sat in.

Although Belle spent the whole tour with an autograph book clutched in her sweaty paw, we didn’t see anyone famous. No Chuckle Brother photo opportunities for us. Outside the studios though, while we were deciding which tube to take, we had better luck.

“Look!” Belle’s friend whispered excitedly, nudging me and jiggling about on the spot as a vaguely familiar looking man strode purposefully past us, “it’s HIM!”

“Who, who!!” Belle joined in frantically.

“Well don’t just stand there then,” I instructed, always one to play it cool, “run after him!” View Post

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Who doesn’t like champagne and smoked salmon for breakfast? A fool, that’s who, a fact that Lego appreciated as they plied me with booze and snacks this morning, whilst I played with the new Lego Friends range and got disproportionately excited about the teeny-weeny coffee machine and ketchup dispenser.

(Gosh, that was a long sentence wasn’t it? I really must be excited).

If you haven’t come across it already, Lego Friends is the new range of Lego designed particularly for girls. It’s the same Lego building experience, but is based on years of research and development that has shown that girls prefer more ‘real life’ play, featuring scenarios they encounter in their own lives. As a mother of two girls, I can vouch for this. Most little girls I know aren’t interested in aliens and robots and rockets, they want realism and detail. Hence the tiny ketchup dispensers. View Post

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…that last post was my 300th!

My 300th post, and I marked it with nonsense about guinea pigs wearing clothes.

*ashamed*

To make up for it, here is a link to a very serious news story about the extension of the Bank of England’s quantitative easing programme.

There, that feels better.

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According to the BBC today, more and more people across the world are putting their pets in clothes. We’re expected to hit the £30million mark this year in the UK alone. Crazy times. Personally I find it depressing enough having to buy clothes for my children, so I definitely would not waste money on dressing a pet. That said, the only pet we’ve had recently has been a goldfish, which would rather limit my options anyway to swimwear.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to share with you a few alternative pictures of dressed up animals. Just for the lols, as the cool kids say.

So here you go… View Post

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Exciting times today my virtual chums.

I’ve had a couple of competitions running over the last few weeks, one to win a fabulous 3D mobile phone, and another to win a book of sex tips. And no, they don’t come as a package, although that could be fun too.

*mind wanders*

Anyhoo, today I am announcing the winners of both competitions, so hold on to the edge of your seats… View Post

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As the wrinkles spread and the boobs head south, we still feel likes teenagers inside don’t we? Today I have a guest post from The Undercover Granny, on getting old, grey hair, and staying positive…

When I was young and heard old ladies saying they still felt 18, I used to snort with derision. How could this possibly be true? Surely there is some kind of old person’s switch that flicks the moment you reach 50 and thoughts of music, clothes and romance are replaced by a desire to knit, grow lavender and tut loudly at anyone having even the tiniest bit of fun.

Now 52 and a granny myself, I realise this is, of course, complete nonsense. I still feel as if I’m in my early twenties and it’s only the odd creak of my bones and the strands of grey in my hair that remind me I am no longer a mere slip of a girl.

When my son was small he embarrassed me hugely in a queue in a shop by asking loudly why old ladies all had the same haircut and if they all went to the same hairdresser. It is perhaps this alone that has left me determined to keep my hair longish forever and not succumb to the pressure to have it teased into a white helmet.

In most respects I feel no different now to how I did in my younger years. But it is undeniable that growing older brings with it a sense of peace.

In your teens and early twenties there’s a real immediacy to every problem. If you might have to miss a party it can feel like the end of the world. If a boyfriend is drifting away it feels, momentarily at least, as if your life is over.

With age, however, you learn that you won’t die if you don’t buy that gorgeous yellow mini skirt and, in fact, having some money in the bank or not running up an overdraft is a lot better for your emotional wellbeing.

In essence, I believe you are the age you feel – as long as you look after your body and mind – and that it can be really freeing to leave behind the tiring drama of youth. Just make sure you retain a sense of optimism and the feeling that anything is possible.

I’d love to hear how you feel on the subject.

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As regular readers may know, I love books. I love the moment they arrive in the post, I love looking at them stacked up in shops, I love stroking the covers, and I especially love books arranged in colour order.

This morning I came across this amazing video, which I wanted to share with you. I’d love to claim I’d discovered something new and exciting, but as I was the 2,592,842th person to watch it, I think I’m pretty behind the times. Still, if you’re not one of the 2,592,842, you should definitely watch it. It’s just beautiful.

Why do you love books?

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This evening I’m at a new writing group at The Bristol Folk House called The Steady Table.

The idea behind it is to give people the space and time just to write, be it poetry, short stories, or a J K Rowling style wizardy blockbuster. All you need is a steady table right? The trouble is, I’m so used to ‘making the most’ of every minute, of squeezing every bit of work time out of the day, that the idea of three whole hours just to write creatively is a bit daunting. I feel almost guilty, as though indulging in a passion for fiction is just that, an indulgence.

That’s the point of the group though isn’t it? Expressing your creativity should be a perfectly valid use of time, and we need to accept this, and not be afraid to embrace it. Tonight though, I’m easing myself in gently and writing this post instead. It sort of counts doesn’t it?

*looks doubtful*

The group is great – a fascinating, diverse mix of people, including a man called John who eats pizza with a spoon* – and I’m sure that I’m going to enjoy the time out once I get over the fact that I’m allowed to write made up stories. Seriously – fiction – what’s that about? You’re allowed to tell actual lies!

I love the idea of going somewhere different, somewhere special to write. If you’re the type of person who can work on their own, there are of course loads of options available – forums, online groups and flexible distance learning creative writing courses – but I work from home all week. Coming out is a treat.

On my way over in the car I did think up an idea for a story, just in case they wouldn’t let me sit down without a synopsis, but I haven’t quite got around to writing any of it down yet. I have had a cup of tea and a very nice chocolate brownie though. It would seem there are some things I feel less guilty indulging in.

If you’d like to join me to do some scribbling on a Tuesday evening,  follow The Steady Table on twitter.

*John eyes me curiously when I look up from my typing and ask if he spells his name with an ‘h’.

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I had a bit of a quandary this morning. Part of me wanted to spark some sort of timely political debate, and ask you what you felt about the government’s decision to downgrade vocational course like fish husbandry(?), but then I thought ‘Nah, who cares about that, I’m what’s important here.’

So instead I want to ask for your help – help of a literary nature.

I’m putting together a feature for a regional magazine, and I’m looking for towns, cities and landmarks that are featured in well-known novels. They have to be in the south-west, in Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon or South Wales.

I know you’re a clever lot, so I thought you might have some good ideas for me. I also thought it might be interesting for you to read other people’s suggestions. Selfless I am…

Thank you!

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I read some research today that I found fascinating. A group of European researchers have found that the media can influence how readers interpret the amount of power held by somebody, purely through the angle they use to shoot the photo.

Pictures shot from below are seen to represent powerful people, while those shot from above are seen to represent less powerful people. The media therefore can change how we feel about individuals with just a bit of clever photography. This might all sound a bit obvious, but what you might not think about so much is how this influences our perceptions of gender.

In their experiments, Dr Steffen R. Giessner, Associate Professor at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), and his colleagues found that there are more photographs of women in advertisements, newspapers and magazines shot from above than from below, while the opposite is true for men.

All these camera angles therefore reinforce our perception that men are powerful and women are not, strengthening our stereotyped ideas that women cannot become leaders.

“Such simple associations of power and angle of shot do not take place in a social vacuum,” said Giessner. “Rather, context related to power (such as within organisations, or portraying the 100 most important people in the world) easily trigger our thinking about power. As a result we may consciously or unconsciously use cues to show the attribution of power in a picture.” He concludes: “While it is the job of researchers to uncover such effects, it is the job of the media to decide when to use and when not to use such subtle cues.”

So there you go.

Have a look for yourself – flick through a magazine or newspaper and notice the camera angles. Are there more women shot from above? Does a simple picture change the assumptions you make about people?

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