‘Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.’  

Credit – Refuge

Think about that for a bit.

‘Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.’

According to the Office for National Statistics, one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, so the chances are that if you don’t recognise that statement in yourself, it may well be happening to someone you know. Perhaps they’re hiding it, perhaps you have your suspicions, maybe it’s obvious but you don’t know what to do to help.

One option is to get in touch with Refuge. Refuge supports anyone who has experienced domestic abuse in any of its forms, through a range of services including, but not limited to, refuges, advocacy and a telephone helpline, run in partnership with Women’s Aid. (Open 24 hours a day – 0808 2000 247).

(If you’re nervous about visiting the Refuge website it might be useful to know that it has an escape bar across the top of the page – click on it anytime and it will immediately change the screen to show the Google homepage.)

Today, September 5th, is International Day of Charity and I wanted to use it to make sure that as many people as possible know about Refuge and that anyone looking for support, either for themselves or someone else, can access it as quickly as possible.

What is domestic abuse?

Because domestic abuse encompasses so much more than just physical violence, it can be hard to be sure whether or not you are experiencing it.

That might sound like a strange thing to say, but when you’re in a relationship it can be hard to get perspective on a situation. You make excuses for people you love, you blame a difficult background or problems at work perhaps, because you don’t want to believe that they would hurt you. You are probably scared – scared to admit the abuse to yourself or other people or scared of the consequences of taking action to get away.

If you suspect that you might be experiencing domestic abuse, take a look at the following questions from the Refuge website: View Post

Belle was having a bit of a freak out last night about starting college today.

She was doing her summer holiday homework, (clearly VERY prepared), which involved creating a Pinterest board about herself. I was throwing ideas at her, she was dismissing them. (Genuinely her homework was to create a selection of Pinterest boards. How is that homework?)

At the same time she was having a bit of a generalised meltdown. She’s doing a music based A-level and she’s worried that she can ‘only’ sing.

‘You have beautiful voice though,’ I said, ‘and grade seven singing.’

‘But that’s just a VOICE,’ she said, ‘I’ve not had to LEARN something have I?’

‘Just because it feels easy to you,’ I said, ‘doesn’t mean you aren’t good.’

She raised her eyebrows.

‘Take the Beatles,’ she said, ‘John Lennon could play the guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophone, harmonica, six-string bass guitar and some percussion. And then you have Ringo Starr playing the drums. I’M RINGO STARR. No one wants to be Ringo Starr.’

I thought that actually a lot of people probably really wouldn’t mind being Ringo Starr. I told her she needed to find some things to add to her Pinterest boards about comparison being the thief of joy.

‘The thing is,’ I said, ‘you’re never going to be the absolute best at anything – it takes a certain type of weirdo to be the best in the world at any one thing. We’re never going to be that person because we have friends and family and other interests.’

I wasn’t sure her I was winning her over.

‘You can’t beat yourself up for not being THE best,’ I went on, ‘you just have to be your OWN best.’ View Post

I was lighting some incense this morning, (to try to cover up the smell of the bin), and I after I had blown out the match I put it back into the box. I do this deliberately because an ex-boyfriend used to absolute hate it.

It got me thinking about all of the other things I make a point of doing now that I am single partly just because I can, but also partly on purpose because at some point or other in my life I’ve had someone tell me not to.

‘Is this something NORMAL people do?’ I wondered.

I suspect it is.

(I hope it is.)

I don’t even think it’s malicious. As I’m doing it I’m not seething with unspent rage and bitterness, if anything it’s more celebratory. I’ve had a selection of partners who have been lovely people in lots of ways, but who have also had their fair share of ‘quirks’. let’s say that, and between them they have, quite naturally I would think, changed some of my behaviours, even if it’s just small things.

When you find yourself on your own again it can be quite liberating to not have to think about how the stuff you do might irritate or upset another person. You can often feel quite a sense of freedom.

good things about being single View Post

Post in association with Coca-Cola Great Britain

Belle has been on her summer holidays now for ooh, I don’t know, about two years?

It feels like it anyway.

She had her last GCSE exam on the 19th of June and since then she’s been at home, mainly asleep, or at least during the hours that I’m awake. Either that or she’s watching TV or playing on her phone.

Part of me knows that it’s been a tough year or so for her, and if she wants to lie about doing not much for a couple of months then it’s probably fine. The other part of me does try to get her to think of other things to do sometimes, and encourage her to perhaps even leave the house occasionally.

(After spending an hour in the garden making the cat tubs below her skin was so shocked that she came out in loads of freckles the next day!!)

When she was younger Belle loved crafts, (remember the wall mounted make-up brush station we made out of old jam jars?), and if you catch her in the right mood and call it a ‘life hack’ she’s still quite keen. The last year of school has definitely been a drain on her emotionally and I wanted to come up with some activities that might kick-start her creativity.

As the second part of our project with Coca-Cola Great Britain, which is all about keeping plastic off the streets and out of the oceans by making recycling creative and fun for families, I thought I’d get Belle to have a go at some plastic bottle upcycling activities. We recently took part in a beach clean, which was meant to get us both thinking more about the consequences of not taking care of our waste, so this challenge was about putting those empty bottles to better use.

Coca-Cola is always looking for new ways to encourage people to recycle more plastic bottles, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean just bunging them in your recycling boxes – it could be turning them into something new at home. When you re-purpose your old plastic bottles you can do your bit for the planet and have a bit of cheap family fun at the same time. Winner winner chicken dinner.

We did some research online and had a go at four cool plastic bottle upcycling ideas – four fun ways to use your empty plastic bottles that are particularly suited to teenagers. (Belle made all of these projects herself.) Hopefully this will give you the inspiration you need to think about those empty plastic bottles in a new way, and have some fun together over the summer as a family.

Kitty cat storage pots

You may not have picked it up from the hundreds of posts on my social media accounts about my cats, but I have a bit of a soft spot for kitties. When I saw some pictures online of plastic bottles that had been turned into cute little cat tubs, well, it was meant to be.

plastic bottle cat tubs View Post

Okay, so not yet, but you can pre-order it from Amazon as of right now, which totally counts.

Now I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover but at the moment that’s all I can show you, so you’ll just have to. Here it is. Judge away:

Playgroups and prosecco book

Note MY NAME on the front, casually next to that little penguin.

*humble brag*

The title definitely isn’t an excuse for me to drink prosecco every time I mention it or do a book signing or interview or anything like that. (Do you think I will get to do book signings and interviews? That would be cool.)

I’d like to say that it has always been a burning ambition to write a novel and that this is the result of years of hard work, but that would be only half true. The hard work bit maybe, as without having put all this effort into my blog the publishers would never have found me, but aside from that thing I wrote about the camel, I’ve not really ever written fiction. View Post

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