Friday, 22 May 2015

listening: 5 podcasts/radio programmes worth listening to.

Today I'm sharing 5 podcasts or radio programmes which I've listened to lately, and found interesting. What are your thoughts on them? And what have you been listening to that's worth sharing?

1. First up is Howard Jacobsen on A Point of View (BBC Radio 4) from 3/4/15 talking about George Osborne's 'mankles', which is a ropey topic, I grant you, and yet fascinating.

George Osborne has been getting leaner throughout the lean Tory government, and I wonder if, with no more fat to lose in continuing lean times (thanks for that, Tories), he's now reducing the fabric in his suits.

Fashion historians used to say that women did that, in times of austerity. That hemlines would rise as budgets got tighter. If it was ever true, it has not been in my lifetime, but it's still an idea, and I guess George Osborne might be trying to embody it?

2. Next it's In Our Time on the Lancashire Cotton Famine from Radio 4 on 14/5/15, which I really enjoyed because some of my family came from Lancashire, and my Mum would tell me about the mill workers heading down their cobbled road to go to work in their noisy clogs and waking her up in the morning.

Because of Lancashire's cotton industry, and the tradition of employing women, there never was the idea in Lancashire that women should stay at home (unless they needed to care for children, but childminding was also used), until it was enforced in the last century. This was a really interesting programme.

This is taken from a local Labour website. You'll
find the image, and also Naz's fascinating story
3. Also from 14/5/15 was a fascinating interview on Woman's Hour with the new Bradford MP Naz Shah. Naz has come from an incredibly difficult background to steal George Galloway's seat in Westminster. If that weren't reason enough to love her, then I don't know what is. Listen to hear her story, and also a really interesting piece on Frida Kahlo, plus Auschwitz survivors. You can't beat Woman's Hour.

4. Thinking Allowed is one of those programmes which has me shouting at the radio, there's lots of interesting stuff, but some utter nonsense (imho), and Laurie Taylor's old school laid back style drives me to distraction. This episode from 16/5/15 talks about the brain development of young children and the excuses given for current discourses encouraging working class parents to have their children spend more time in daycare. Pam Lowe, talking on the matter, mentions Baby Mozart, which was popular a few years ago, but has since been shown to have no impact whatsoever. She also talks about ideas that brain architecture is hard wired in the first 1000 days of life.

5. My final pick is from The Life Scientific on 24/3/15, and is a really interesting interview with Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, an expert in the teenage brain. This programme is particularly interesting as a follow on from the previous Thinking Allowed episode, and the teenage brain is a truly fascinating place.

What have you been listening to lately? Anything good?

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

introducing The Weather Project: controlling weather with mood.

 "You know, I control the weather with my moods. I just can't control my moods is all." - Nick Cave in 20,000 Days on Earth (2014)

Nick Cave grew up in Australia, but now lives in Brighton, England. 

Living in Brighton (which is in the South of England and has nothing on other parts of the UK as far as inclement weather goes), Cave became sick of the British weather. He found himself, like so many of us on this island, obsessing over it, so he wrote a diary of it. 

In doing this he found that it was more interesting to write about bad weather, so he started looking forward to it. He also found that the process of writing about it somehow fictionalised it. 

This sounds good to me.

Monday, 18 May 2015

boys with long hair

My boy, and his rather smashing hair. Out clothes
shopping (btw - boys clothes are awfy dull)
While the boy was off school recovering from a minor op, he got a visit at 7.45am from a community nurse, to check on his wound.

As you can imagine, at this time, I was busy getting everyone ready for the day, so the boy had been instructed to let the nurse in and give me a shout. He did, and was very polite to the nurse, and I left the girls to it and went downstairs to supervise.

The nurse was friendly, she greeted me, confirmed why she was there and then turned to my boy:
"Are you the big sister then?"
He looked a little confused at this, and turned to me, quizzically, before explaining to the nurse that his sisters were upstairs, and he was the boy she'd come to see. 

She was obviously surprised, but rather than apologising for her honest and forgiveable mistake, she turned to me and asked:
"Does he choose to have his hair like that?"
I get asked this question on a regular basis, and there's always a part of me that's tempted to say "No, I hold him down and pull it until it grows like that." 

Of course he chooses to have long hair! It's not the most common of boy's hairstyles, but it's not weird either, I mean, hair does grow, and there are plenty of long haired men and boys out there. 

Why does he want it? Partly it's because he likes to be a bit different, but it's also partly about belonging with other long-haired boys, and indeed being a little bit rock. And who wouldn't want to be a little bit rock?

His hair might surprise people at first, but his friends don't have a hangup about it, just like they're not bothered about the lad who likes pink. Also, he is fine with it, so why should it surprise anyone else?

It always makes me wonder what people would say if one of my girls had really short hair. Would they assume she was a boy? Would they ask if she'd chosen to have it? Wouldn't they use other things, like her clothes as indicators of her gender? 

The boy is well practiced in correcting people about his gender, and he doesn't mind much, although it does confuse him. After all, he doesn't dress or act at all girly (and he's got two sisters so he knows what they're like). 

Mostly people just apologise. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes people won't believe him when he says he's a boy. They laugh and tell him about Bill, the tomboy in their family; and they assure me that he'll grow out of it.

My boy is most definitely a boy. It's what he identifies as, whole-heartedly. He's a boy with long hair. There's nowt wrong with that. (and btw, if he'd been born with female gender, and then told me he was a boy, there'd be nowt wrong with that either).

Sunday, 17 May 2015

happy in April

Sorry it's late - it completely slipped my mind to be honest! But here are a few of the photos I took for the #100happydays mission in April. 

Have you done the #100happydays challenge? If so, did you keep on checking to see if you were really still supposed to be doing it, because it does seem to drag on a bit!

However, it's always good to focus on the positive. Stuff like this:

My sister came to visit, and we went up the Lighthouse in Glasgow. That's one awesome view.
The weather got pretty good, and my husband broke out the brazier, which makes him happy.

I rediscovered colouring in because of Valentina Designs fabulous artwork, which I just can't resist.

We went to see The Kelpies, which were awesome.

I went for a walk with a camera and found a heron!

We had a great time visiting my brother in Manchester.

My little boy got sick, but was well cared for and got better again

The weather was sometimes really rather good

We planted up the garden with lots of lovely plants (which don't look half so good following some rubbish weather)

I spent time building lego with my big girl.
What good stuff did you do in April?

Promise to get the May one to you a bit quicker!

Friday, 15 May 2015

cinching it in: 5 wide belts I love.

I've been dieting with Slimming World since the beginning of this year, and have finally had to admit I've gone down a dress size.

I'm at that awkward bit of losing weight - I've dropped a size and some of my clothes are too big, but I'm not yet small enough to get into the things in the loft. I must have been this size on the way up, surely? 

Anyway, I don't want to buy lots of new clothes in this size, so I'm making the most of the things I've got, and amending some of them to fit me better, and to suit me better.

With the summer holidays coming up I did buy some new clothes, and I shared a picture on Facebook of some of my new outfit options. I invited opinion from my friends, as I wasn't sure what I should keep.

I got lots of opinion. EVERYONE liked the middle outfit the best.  But here's the thing - the middle one was the most annoying of the three outfits. It was the least comfortable, and required the most underwear. 

My friend Emma said, "Middle give you shape, form and life. Rest are just drapes or sacks. Go wild and give your lovely shape a proper outing."

Comment was also made about my legs.

I pondered this.

I could see what everyone meant, but I was comfy in those sacks!

I came to the conclusion that the answer lay in a wide belt.

With a wide belt (+ a vest and a shrug), I can turn my maxi skirt into a dress short enough to show off my legs on days when it isn't FREEZING.

With a wide belt I can cinch in the waist of a sack-like maxi dress to make it much more flattering, and to break up the pattern a bit.

I can also use it to get more wear out of my too-big clothes (I'm also amending them with scissors and needle).

I suspect I'm going to need more wide belts, so I've been browser window shopping and thought I'd share some of my favourites with you.

Apparently, wide belts work best on tall women. If you're shorter, you might want a narrower belt.

Although I suspect I'd still want a wide belt if I were shorter, because I love the little bit of pirate chic it adds to an outfit.

Here's a new thing I'm doing - on Fridays on the blog I'm sharing 5 good things. 

So, I've had a look for some gorgeous wide belts, and here are my recommendations (you can click on the image to be taken to the store). Prices are correct at the time of writing (15/5/15), and do not include delivery.

This tan cutout PU belt is from Dorothy Perkins. This is currently £12, and I really like the look of the overlaid skinny belt.

I found this belt which is leather and elastic on Amazon. It's currently £7.79.

This PU elasticated belt is from ASOS, and fastens at the back with press-studs. I love it's 80s vibe. The price is currently £10.50
I think that this leather Obi waist belt might be my favourite of the lot. You could go questing in this belt. It's currently £20. 

This belt from Yours is the bargain of the bunch as it's currently been reduced to £2. It is described as 'leather look' so I guess it's PU, with an elasticated section and a narrow bit at the front. I'm not sure how flattering those narrow bits are, but at £2 I'd definitely buy it if I was buying other stuff from Yours. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

grateful for a welcoming friend

This week on the gratitude challenge I'm talking about those special people who make you feel welcome in a new place.

Making new friends is always hard. You've got to find a place for yourself among groups of people who've sometimes known each other since they were little kids. You don't know the in jokes, you don't know the places to go, and having someone that takes you under their wing is just awesome.

So, today I'd like to give a shout out to:

Chocolatey Clare - who danced with me, when no-one else would at a disco in the Isle of Man, and convinced me that I would be welcome if I moved there. She wasn't right, but she was kind, and I won't forget it.

Clare sadly died in an accident a few short years after this happened, causing me to go back to the island for her funeral, and stay another year. It was her fault islanders! But don't worry, I don't plan on coming back again. 

I will remember her for reaching out to me, and for her infectious giggle, her army surplus shirts, and her constant supply of Marlboro. She was a wonderful, warm person, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who mourns her loss.

Three good friends helped me settle in in Suffolk: Cate, Angela, and Jo all had sons the same age as mine, and would follow up with daughters. They had a regular rythmn of playdates and toddler groups, plus Thursday morning coffee at Waitrose (how I miss that), which they fit me right in to, helping me to quickly feel at home in glorious sunny Suffolk. Thank you ladies, and let's always keep in touch.

After Suffolk I moved to Moffat, a gorgeous little town surrounded by hills. There I was made welcome by Sheila, who introduced me to everyone she could find, or so it seemed, and always made sure that I, and everyone else at the toddler groups she went to, was not alone. Sheila also organised end of term nights out for Mums. Always a success. Often hilarious. She's an incredible woman. Mother of four, Minister's wife (that's Scottish for Vicar btw - not an MP), brilliant photographer (check out her instagram account), and now also student nurse. Not to mention that she can absolutely rock a denim pencil skirt.

We all need someone to welcome us from time to time, let's try to be the welcoming person, because it makes such a big difference.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

grateful for our health

It can be mawkish at times, this gratitude challenge. I'm supposed to be grateful for our health this week, but I don't think I'm very good at being grateful.

I expect good health. It doesn't always happen, and we get through that, although it can be really hard. Mental health issues are hard because they can be really hard to talk about, but physical health issues can have similar problems.

Also, ill health is just so tiresomely boring. For everyone. It's horrible being the ill one, and it's horrible living with them. Adjusting to the ramifications of the illness can be more horrible still. Read more about my fun experiences with pain here.

So again, I feel I'm not so much grateful for our health when it's good, as relieved. And when someone's health is bad, well that ranges from annoying (why oh why do my children always get sick immediately after holidays?) to chuffing furious, about my brother getting cancer twice, and about the people who have died. I'm grateful that my brother hasn't died; but mostly I'm furious about what he's been through, and terrified lest he, or anyone else important to me (and apologies for the callousness of that), should have to go through that again.

And of course, we will. 

Let us not be grateful for the days it doesn't happen. Let us fight to make more of those days. We are big fans of Orchid  - a charity fighting men's cancers; but there are lots of brilliant organisations out there. I am grateful to them for all the work they do, and to all the doctors and nurses, and related professions who work so hard to make those hard days less hard, and to make serious illness less serious, and less common.

Let's all support them, and support our NHS.