Thursday, November 30, 2006

Now there's strange...

I have no idea what is going on. For months now I have been trying (and failing) to get my link list into the sidebar on my blog. I followed the instructions to the letter, but they kept appearing right at the bottom of the blog. Terrified of losing everything if I start arsing about with things of which I know nothing, I ended up leaving it. I've recently converted to Blogger beta. I have no idea what this means. I presume it's an upgrade, but it seemed Like A Good Idea. And today I came visiting and lo and behold, all my links are on the sidebar. Amazing. And I have nooooo idea at all why. Or why, when I tried to sign in the sign in bit disappeared and I could only sneak into post this by going via my profile page.

I also have just realised that my email addy seems to have disappeared off the face of this blog since my conversion. So Mad Muthas if you were failing to get ahold of me, you can email me at:

It's all Greek to me. But I am pleased as punch about my links. They look soooo much better.

I'm tempted to play around with the design as well, but a) I haven't got time at the moment and b)I'm terrified of losing everything. So you may be stuck with this plain old template for now.

And after my bad tempered postings about Chrimbo, I have finally dipped my toe into the water, and started shopping. Mainly because I woke up at 2am the other night having had a dream that it was Christmas Eve and I hadn't even started... Plus as my mil is very elderly I end up doing her shopping too and it is much much better if I am present when she starts buying things, or we end up with everything in the shop.

Ever since no 4 ended up in hospital just before Christmas one year, I refuse to get stressed about the festive season, but it does have a way of coming and biting you on the backside, so despite my best efforts, the stress does eventually get to me.

Never mind. I've sorted out my letters: P for purse (left over from some kids' party), and C for candles (bought cheap from the Natural World Shop); I've started the shopping; I'm looking at the Christmas cards (in loathing it's true, but the sooner I start...) And as mil has a shaky hand I end up helping her too. Now that's fun, as she zips about the address book from K to A and back to Y in the most illogical manner. As she's German, I also get to write in Deutsch too. Which is all very well but she wants to write a different letter to everyone. The worst year was when I accidentally told someone she hated them, instead of using the verb to have.

No 2 seems to have gone into overdrive with Brownies on festive events, so she is taking part in a nativity on Sunday (she's a wise man), singing carols next Wed and the following Sat, and having a Christmas party to boot. No 1 has declined to sing carols in favour of going to a friends' party and was mortified when I suggested I might accompany them.

No 3 is going to be the narrator in her Christingle service. No 4 doesn't know what she is going to be but has to say We Want Peace and Quiet - which is ironic as she is the noisiest of my children.

So I'm girding my loins, taking a deep breath and looking straight ahead.

It's all downhill from here....

PS. As soon as I posted this there was a thump on the doormat. Yes... our first Christmas card has arrived. It's the same every year. My cousin from Canada always sends us a card on or around the 29/30 November. How does anyone, ever get that organised? Particularly when they're sending from abroad. Times out of number my foreign cards have got posted on Christmas Eve because having missed the last posting date of six months before Christmas, I think by then, what the hell? I prefer the French approach - who send cards for the New Year. Now that's a civilised solution....

Friday, November 24, 2006

More Humbug

After my very bad tempered post about Chrimbo the other day, I have discovered that I am supposed to be providing items for the Junior School who are holding a twelve days of Christmas raffle. So for one child I have to provide something with the letter P and the other, the letter C. In a moment of glorious rebellion Spouse suggested I send in a potato. Or a parsnip. Or a pea... Oh I wish I had that much nerve... But I do have to meet these people in the playground for at least the next seven years, so I think I'll hold fire on that one till no4 is leaving.

Despite sending no 1 to Guides last night with four letters regarding various activities and £35 to sponsor said activities, I somehow managed to miss the very vital letter which said she should bring some cash in because they were having a bric a brac stall.

And today I totally forgot (even despite having made such a hoohah about paying exorbitant amounts of money for raffle tickets) that it was mufti day in the infants. So after stopping to listen to no 2's assembly I had to hare back home to pick up clothes and a bottle of plonk for the tombola.

And I haven't even BEGUN to think about Christmas shopping yet.

Tomorrow is also the BIG DAY - no 1 is sitting her grammar school exam. So we have to leave at 8am (on a Saturday, aaaah!!) and I have to twiddle my thumbs in the school canteen with all my other anxious mummy friends, while waiting for her to complete her test. After weeks of angst about it and more tears then I could care to mention, she seems to be remarkably sanguine now the day is finally here. She's spent most of the week discussing with her friends which room they're going to be in. Methinks she has been pulling the wool over our eyes a bit. As she brought herself to admit that if two of her other friends get in, actually she wouldn't mind going after all...

We're going out for lunch afterwards (nothing like a bit of bribery) and then I am hoping we can forget all about it till March.

By which time I am praying that if she does get in, she will have come to terms with the idea. Knowing my luck, she won't get in and will suddenly decide she wanted to go after all...

Ho hum.

It's never straightforward being a parent...

Save Kids TV - a very modern dilemma

I don't often stray into the political on this blog, but I have recently become aware of the very serious threat to children's tv that is being posed by the loss of advertising revenue now that food ads are likely to be banned.

Here I find myself in the horns of a dilemma, as principles dear to me in both my private and professional life have clashed thanks to the laws of unforseen consequences.

As a mum I have always hated the ads on CITV, and my kids rarely watch it as a result. Mind you, I have always told them advertising is a form of lying, so perhaps I should expose them more. I was also a keen advocate of Jamie Oliver's school dinners campaign, so I am hardly likely to weep at the loss of ads for junk food that will make my kids unhealthy. I also appreciate the points the wonderful Mad Muthas raised on their blog today about the shameless and frankly immoral way advertisers target our children (to see more, go to:


ITV have already cut down on their output for kids because kids tv is so expensive to make, and the loss of revenue that will result from losing food advertising will have catastrophic results well beyond what could have been imagined by the very well intentioned idea not to advertise crap to kids.

If ITV stop making kids' programmes that pretty much leaves the Beeb with a clear run at it. No problem you might say, CBBC is way ahead of its rivals anyway.

Actually, I think it is a problem. And a very big one.

The BBC itself wants the competition, believing it is better for the industry as a whole and our kids as a result.

And the independent companies like Ragdoll and Cosgrove Hall who over the years have provided such a huge number of children's favourites cannot simply rely on one customer - the Beeb.

With my professional hat on I can also the knock on effects it will have on my industry. There has long been a healthy and symbiotic relationship between publishing and kids' tv. Many children's classics: Postman Pat, Rosie and Jim, Tots TV, to name three I have worked on, spawn a whole slew of children's books. And while some licensed product is without doubt rubbish, not all of it is, and it provides much needed revenue for publishers to give them the freedom to take risks on less commercial but more literary projects. The relationship works both ways - a tv adaptation of a book can have huge implications for both publishers and authors, and the resulting sales can boost many a publishers' profit margins.

So a serious loss of children's tv output will have a hugely detrimental effect on my industry. Not only will our children have less choice about what to watch, they may well end up with less choice about what to read too.

Which is why though my initial response from my mum's head was to say, YAY! when I realised tv advertising for kids was being banned, when I understood what the implications were I stopped cheering. With both my heads, as mum and children's editor, I cannot but look at the future of children's tv with alarm.

And why I would urge you to join the campaign to Save Kids TV. To find out more, go to

In the meantime, send the letter below to all your friends. The more we as parents lobby, the more notice they will take...

September 2006
Dear Parent,
Did you know that ITV has decided to stop making children’s television? They have closed down their children’s department and haven’t commissioned a new show since last December, which means pretty soon Citv will only show repeats. You might think there’s far too much kids’ TV anyway, so isn’t that a good thing? Sadly, the answer is ‘No’.
British children’s TV has been strong for decades because the government requires broadcasters to make it so. ITV has a legal obligation to provide 8 hours of kids’ shows a week. In doing so, it has enriched the lives of generations of children with programmes as diverse as My Parents Are Aliens, Art Attack, Magpie, Children’s Ward, How?, Tiswas, Press Gang, Jungle Run, Engie Benjy and Robin of Sherwood.
But ITV has stopped commissioning new kids’ programmes because quality kids’ TV is expensive to make and rarely recoups its costs. With a likely ban on some forms of advertising to kids, the pressure on commercial broadcasters is even greater. What they would like to do is stop showing children’s programmes on ITV1 altogether and replace them with cheaper adult shows that attract more advertising revenue. There is the new digital CITV channel and with 10 hours of programmes a day ITV will try and tell you this fulfils its commitment to kids. But without new shows, what will be shown in those 10 hours? Repeats and cheap foreign imports.
It’s true there are many commercial kids’ channels but they are all owned by foreign multi-nationals, which don’t have the resources or the commitment to make UK shows for UK kids. Relying solely on the BBC is hardly giving children a choice. Besides, without ITV’s competition the BBC could reduce its commitment to kids. The BBC is already discussing moving kids’ television off BBC1.
At its best, British children’s TV nourishes young minds and spirits with culturally relevant drama, news, factual shows, and fun. But without new sources of funding, our children face an unhealthy diet of low quality repeats and imports.
It’s not too late. To help save quality children’s TV in this country, ask OFCOM, at Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 9HA, to hold the broadcasters to their legal obligation to support quality and diversity in children’s television. Write to your local MP, (to find your MP, go to, urging him or her to support proposals to create the additional funding needed to guarantee quality UK programmes for UK children. Finally, sign up at for more detail, future news and campaign ideas.
Yours faithfully,Save Kids’ TV, a campaign set up to defend children’s
Our children deserve the best television…

Monday, November 20, 2006

tis the season to be jolly...

Well, nearly.

Although it is still only November and I absolutely REFUSE to think about Chrimbo till 1 December, it is resolutely forcing itself into my periphery vision.

Viz today, when doing the housework, I picked up a letter from the infant school detailing the plans for the Christmas Fair, which occurs this Sunday. I'm already down for helping on the cake stall for an hour. Oh joy. That's what comes of going to a mums' coffee morning. I knew there was a reason for not going.

The letter has been sitting there for over a week. It came with a picture of stockings for the kids to colour in and enter into a competition. The school do this every year and every year my kids dutifully colour them beautifully, and so far, after six years at the school not one of them has won. That maybe about to change. As last night no 3 announced that the stocking had to be in today. At bedtime natch. I was on the verge of saying, tough luck, but Spouse is much kinder then I am and as it was an emergency allowed no 1 to cheat and colour the stockings in for her. A ten year old colouring instead of a six year old? Our chances of winning have just doubled. (Considering most of the kids who win look like they've had help, I will only feel marginally guilty if we do win).

The reason I nearly missed the deadline, was because I am still in It's Only the Middle of November I Refuse To Think About Christmas Mode. Had I not been burying my head in the sand, I might have been taking notice of why there seemed to be a group of very active members of the PTA hanging about the school gates for the past week. I read the vital letter which has only been knocking about for a fortnight (in my defence, four lots of letters every other day takes some reading and I often fall down in this department, plus quite frankly six years in the school Christmas Fair is of even less interest to me then when no 1 started there. I think I am suffering from a sever case of Christmas Fair Burnout).

Anyway. Turns out (which of course I would have known had I looked) the enthusiastic PTA members have been collecting stuff for the fair for the past week. Plus selling tickets for Santa's Grotto. This is a new departure. Normally you buy tickets on the day, so I usually whizz mine in straight away. However, in an attempt to beat the queues Santa is seeing children at intervals of ten minutes and won't be selling tickets on the day. I envisage a disaster here, as someone somewhere will be even less aware then me and not have picked this piece of vital info up, so their will I suspect be some very disappointed children on Sunday. Thanks to my dilatoriness all the tickets up to 4pm have gone. And I'm helping on a stand till then. I was in a panic as my name appeared to be down twice, so I thought the kids were going to be deprived of Santa which would have taken some explaining. Luckily I just managed to get in on the 4.10 slot, at which point my ire about the whole thing was raised even more to discover Santa now costs £2.50. So that's a tenner gone before I've even started. Coupled with which I am expected to part with another tenner for raffle tickets for each of my offspring at the school, so now we're thirty quid down. As I've just spent twenty quid on a sponsored dance I balked at the raffle tickets and said so. Now I realise I am becoming deeply deeply sad as have just spent ten minutes berating the poor chairman in the playground for changing things that worked perfectly fine. As a veteran I know these things... But I am distressed that I seem to care enough about them to even have the conversation. Aaagh... I need to get a life. And fast otherwise I risk causing world war three in the playground.

I haven't yet tackled the junior school where they have a Christmas craft fair (groan) and more raffle tickets. (Double groan).

Or Brownies/Guides who are carol singing twice and having a nativity play in which no 2 seems to be taking the part of a wise king.

And that's without no 4's nativity, no3's Christingle and no 1 &2's Carol Service.

Do you think it would be acceptable to emigrate?

Preferably without the children...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Radio 2 Music Marathon

Any fans of Radio 2 out there today?

If like me you are listening to the Music Marathon for Children in Need, you probably have your dancing shoes on. Me too. And am on the floor listening to Keith Chegwin on the Jeremy Vine show. He's barking.

I donated this morning to Terry Wogan but didn't have time to see if he read out my request. The children will be disappointed...

I've also just bought the Janet and John CD, which I can't wait to listen to.

I love Children in Need. It is cheesy and naff beyond belief, but the sight of the newsreaders doing whatever they do is worth it alone. It is a particularly gloriously English kind of thing, and of course they raise loads of money.

Fab... Jeremy is just playing The Weather Girls. How good is that???

If you haven't donated yet, go on do...

And if you're too mean, at least tune in for the great music.

I shall be plonked on the sofa later with a bottle of wine, several children and Terry....

To my bloggy friends across the pond or in Oz, guess what you can listen online and find out why Radio 2 makes my day....

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm Going to make you a Sta-ar-arr!

I've been a bit busy for blogging this week, so I'm catching up with the tale of the very important TV Audition which took place in our house last week. I was going to try to replicate the Dr Who music at the start of the blog, but I tried to transcribe a phonetic equivalent to the theme tune, and decided that no one would have a clue what I was on about, so you'll just have to hum it to yourself instead.

It is a sad fact that even at the age of 41 that tune and particularly the new jazzed up modern version still gives me shivers down the spine and has me heading for the sofa...

Roll on Christmas and the next episode say I...

If my children have anything to do with it, they are of course going to have starring roles in the next series.

Blue Peter has been running a competition for a lucky child to win a part and they just had to have a go.

There were three scripts to choose from and they chose one each. (No4 being unable to read had to be discounted from the project).

I was going to be organised and get the filming done the week before last as the deadline was last Friday but of course, one thing leading to another, etc etc the week came and went, the weekend came and went, the deadline was fast approaching and we had done no filming.

So it was that last TuesdayI realised we had reached the point of no return and we had to have a go at it. No 2 was nigh on word perfect and sat on my bed and did her piece. She was actually not too bad, although the last bit of her perfomance consisted of staring down at her toy cat, so the words came out a bit muffled. Being 8 she was probably at the perfect age, not too self conscious but aware enough she had to put some effort in. No 1 on the other hand was totally embarrassed about the whole thing, hadn't learnt her lines, kept fluffing them and then got in a huff. So I left it till the next day and promised we'd do it then.

Wednesday of course represented our last chance saloon attempt as the tapes had to be in by Friday. No 2's best friend was coming to play before Brownies and she wanted to have a go too, so I promised her mum I'd video the pair of them (having decided that No2 needed to speak to the camera more) before taking them to Brownies. Nos 1 &4 had gone to tea, and I told no 3 we'd do her after we dropped the others off.

Our first attempt was a disaster as no 2's mate hadn't learnt her lines and was reading her script and kept getting muddled up. We did it again and she was much happier.

I recorded over no 2's previous attempts and then realised that her friend was rattling a plastic bag, so had to start again. The next effort lead to her friend kicking the end of the bed, so I had to start again. Then I realised that I had still got bits of no 2's previous attempt cut into her new version, followed by no 1's rubbish attempt. So I abandoned that tape to start again, just as Spouse walked in the door and said, Anyone home??

By now the kids were late for Brownies and I was ever so slightly stressed, so I sent no 2's friend off with her tape, and went to pick up no 1 before going onto film no 3.

When we got back it transpired that no 1 had forgotten she had homework to be handed in the next day. What about filming? I said. Well, she said, I think we've got no chance of winning (you're dead right there) so I don't want to do it...

Good, it was just no 3 to go then. It then transpired, she didn't know her lines either and had chosen the longest scene to do. So I tried to prop up her script so it wouldn't look like she was reading it and got her to have a go. There were lots of pauses and the odd occasional bit of acting, but it was pretty much a disaster. We were in the middle of version 2 when the others came home and no 4 decided to shout alot. No 3 and I retired upstairs, where I managed eventually to get through the whole thing without her tripping up or no 4 screaming too loudly. I did realise when I played it back that you can see Nos 2&4 reflected in the mirror, but what the hell.

I quickly filmed no 2 for the billionth time (sadly not her best effort), but hey...

It's done. We've posted it.

They don't stand a cat in hell's chance, but aaahh, the hopefulness of youth. They are both absolutely convinced that the part is theirs....

I am soooo looking forward to the day when they discover it isn't....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

That Pesky Glass Ceiling Part 2

There must be something in the ether....

Thanks to the lovely MadMuthas who came visiting my blog, I found the lovely Glamorouse Bec of the Ladies Lounge, and discovered on both blogs some of the issues I had raised in my recent post about the glass ceiling being discussed fairly vigorously. You can find them by following these links:

One comment that interested me from Bec's blog was the notion that there should be a divide between working mums and stay at homes, so not only do we have a glass ceiling, but also a glass wall which we've erected between us.

Personally I don't give a stuff about whether someone opts to be a mum who goes to work, or one who stays at home to work. Both involve sacrifices of some kind. We were sold a lie by whoever told us that you can have it all, because quite frankly, in my view you can't. But whatever sacrifices we choose to make, they are our sacrifices, we have to live with the consequences, and no one else should give a damn about it.

I have to confess, I hate both ephitets - working mum is just daft because all mums work, period. Some go out to a job, some work at home - and stay at home just conjures up horrific images of prozac junkies of the Stepford wife kind (as indeed it is probably intended too).

Anyway, as usual I've digressed from the point in hand.

Tuning into my favourite radio station yesterday at lunchtime, I heard Jeremy Vine talking about this very issue. Apparently figures out recently suggest that there are fewer women reaching the boardroom then there were a year ago, which not unnaturally led into a discussion about the glass ceiling and whether or not women just can't cut it at the top. Finger on the pulse or what...

I found myself in the rather odd position of agreeing in part with Erin Pizzey (I always thought of her as 70s lefties radical, hence my surprise), who quite rightly said that it is very difficult for women to reach the top and keep their family life going. There was a businesswoman who was arguing the opposite point of view, but I felt her position was weakened because she didn't have children. She was clearly very successful in her field (and hurrah for her say I), but she hadn't had to ever face the dilemma that those of us who choose to have children do face. Do we still keep struggling up the coalface, against more and more odds, or do we call it a day and slide gracefully out of play?

For many women, the guilt of going out to work, the strain of juggling two lives and the natural desire to spend more time with the children, make this decision a no brainer. I also have plenty of friends who weren't particularly wedded to their careers, for whom being at home has come as a glorious liberation, allowing them not only to be with their families, but to explore other interests which they would never have done while in the workplace.

I count myself in that too - I would never have started writing had I stayed at work as all my creative energies were going into other people's ideas. I doubt I would have started running/triathlon training either, as working for me was so all consuming, exercise often came a very poor second. Taking time out of the ratrace has been very good for me personally, giving me pause for thought, and making me reassess my priorities. Which is not to say that I don't miss it, and wouldn't jump at the chance to get back in, if I could only work out a way of figuring how to do it without the family collapsing.

On the other hand, there are also plenty of women who love their children but hate domesticity (I'm one of those too!), and for whom the day to day drudgery involved in bringing up children just isn't sufficient reward for being at home. For those women, the domestic environment can be very very stifling, and personally I think they are better off being in the workplace, and probably better mothers as a result. Surely being forced to stay at home day in and day out will only breed a resentment that can do more harm then good?

The thing that always gets me about this discussion though, is it is always seen as an either/or. And always with reference to women, never ever to men. More and more we read about how bad it is for children not to have a fatherly influence, but on the whether mums should work or not debate, they barely get a mention.

So yesterday on the radio we heard from:

a neanderthal, who began his comments with the immortal words, I'm not a male chauvinist, but a woman's place is in the home (really, he did. If you don't believe me, go to the listen again facility!!), and claimed that his wife was happy at home (I'd have loved to have heard her version of events) ;

a granny who told us how brilliantly hard her daughter worked and how proud she was of her, then in the same breath undercut all that with the fact that her daughter's children were out of control because she worked ;

and finally (and this was the one that really did me in) a bitter old hag who claimed that she can spot a stay at home mum at a hundred paces. Apparently we are sad old hagbags, who don't have a political opinion and just pathetically talk about our children all the time.

Really? Really? I was throwing brickbats at the radio in response to that comment. That's how come last week at the tennis club I was in conversation with half a dozen mums about the state of our local hospital (same conversation also came up at a coffee morning); going out with friends last week we covered: Iraq, teenage pregnancies, a friend's divorce and another friend's possible impending move abroad. Sure we talk about our kids (in the same way that anyone at work talks endlessly about their job), but shoot, we all have other things in our lives too.

Of the sahms I know, one is a flute teacher, who learned music in Paris and is trying to revive her stage career; another went back to work for a mental health charity and is now a mental health commissioner; a third is a homeopath, a fourth doesn't work as such but does lots of voluntary work, a fifth gardens and so on. Plenty of my friends work in the NHS, with term time working contracts, so they can combine work and home very successfully.

Like everything in life there are no absolutes, only shades of grey, where people find the right balance to suit them and their family life.

And as to granny and her unruly grandchildren, all I would say, is one of my sisters has five children (yes I did say five) and works full time. And they aren't out of control...

The MCP doesn't merit a response...

What this debate needs I feel is a slightly different focus. Rather then beating women up for going back to work (terrible heartless crap mothers that they are) or for staying at home (Sistah! You have just betrayed the feminist movement by your actions and will be condemned to a male chauvinist hell), why not have a discussion about family life in general.

How about making it easier for men to spend time with their families, for men to be allowed to take time out from the workplace and get more involved in their children's lives? I do know one or two couples where the childcare is shared and the parents box and cox between them, but they are far and few between.

Mostly it is probably a case of money - in my case my husband's earning potential is probably three times my own, but on the other hand I would love to be able to work a way of him cutting back even if it is only one day a week, so I could work some more. It would be good for both of us: he gets vital time out from the workplace (why should men be deprived of that particular perk of parenthood?) and I get some time to feel more like a grown up and less like a faceless parent (don't you just hate being introduced to people as x's mum?).

So many of the dads I know work stupidly long hours and barely see the kids in the week - it is no fun for them, the children or their wives and I don't think it is healthy for family life.

So forget the glass ceiling.

Forget the working mum/sahm divide.

Let's call for more family friendly working conditions for all. (And that includes people without children - they should have the flexibility to deal with their own crises like dealing with elderly parents/sick pets etc). It's got to be a more rational and civilised response to the demands of modern day life.

And who knows society might even improve a tad as a result...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Well it being Guy Fawkes this weekend, we were as usual terribly unpc and held a fireworks party. Actually, pretty much everyone our way holds them. And there are usually several impromptu affairs on the allotments too (funnily enough a bonfire night party scene seems to have wormed its way into my book...) So I am very sorry for all the pets around and about, because it is a tad noisy.

In our defence we don't go on that late, but er, we do have a lot of big bangs.

This is Spouse's fault. He is at heart a pyromaniac. So Saturday afternoon, not unnaturally was spent building the biggest fuck off bonfire you've ever seen. And one of our mates arrived with a scarily lifelike guy. He had apparently made it for/with the children, but I suspect he'd have done it anyway. There is something about the 5 November that seems to bring out the inner child in men. Another friend arrived with two of the biggest rockets you've ever seen. His wife raised her eyebrows to heaven as she described the excitement engendered by the purchase of said items. And all for something that disappears in a puff of smoke, in oooh... seconds.

Me being Scaredy Cat Wuss Mum (see the MadMuthas blog for a truly frightening depiction of what kind of parent you are!), means that I hate bonfire night. Mainly because our garden is very big and dark and I have palpitations about all those sprogs running around. The only rule I give to guests is, your offspring are entirely your responsibility, I am not going to even THINK about taking them on...

So on bonfire night you'll always find me in the kitchen at parties, which also has the added bonus of keeping my feet warm (ice blocks for feet are another reason for detesting Guy Fawkes Night).

Though being a tad paranoid about Elf and Safety, I still wouldn't go as far as having a virtual bonfire as one local authority allegedly did this year. Is it me, or has the world gone mad? Though I do confess, Terry Wogan's virtual firework display on the radio on Friday morning (totally safe for pets and children) was pure glorious radio genius. I've been trying to resist it, but I'm definitely turning into a Tog...

As it happens, the kids tend to lose interest in the fireworks before the dads do, so this year Spouse did us all a favour and called it a wrap after about forty minutes (still sufficient time to beat the neighbours hands down, with whom we have indulged in friendly firework rivalry ever since New Year's Eve at the Millenium).

So then it was onto the serious stuff - adults drinking and kids running amok in the dark, while our pyromaniac builder mate helpfully burnt up all the remaining rubbish he could find.

We eventually retreated indoors around 10pm, when the children left standing retired to watch Dr Who, and the grown ups indulged in grown up conversation, which by now was mostly of the unintelligible kind.

The last guests left around 11.30pm, when I carried no 4 to bed (she had crashed out on no 2), and no 3 walked upstairs wailing, Daddy says it's four hours past my bedtime... and some. Nos 1&2 took some persuading to get to bed, but eventually it was lights out all round - Spouse by now having gone into that other realm he tends to inhabit on these occasions, when a good night's sleep is definitely called for.

At 2am I was awoken by the sound of thudding feet and screaming. What the hell? I leapt out of bed, but the thudding feet had already made it past our bedroom and down the stairs. The yelling by now was at high pitch. I followed it to the back door, where I found no 4 rattling the door knob and screaming, Where are the others? I want to go out and play.

None of my children have ever slept walked before, but it don't get much more dramatic then that...

Needless to say she didn't remember a thing in the morning, and kept me awake most of the night elbowing my back. So Sunday was a bit of a washout, and everyone flaked out rather pathetically on the sofa.

And we still haven't done the videoing for the Dr Who competition...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween, Halloween, Happy Halloween...

This blog is amazingly a year old. And funnily enough when I started it I seemed to be posting about the same kinds of things. My first post was about the hell of half term, and my second about Trick or Treating.

Now let's get one thing straight here. I don't have a problem with Halloween per se. Though I was brought up a catholic, it wasn't banned in our house growing up. Indeed, we often had Halloween parties, with bobbing for apples, dressing up, and ghostly happenings.

I am also rather partial to Tim Burton's fabulously imaginative Nightmare before Christmas ( so are the kids - No 4 has spent most of this week singing, Halloween, Halloween, This is Halloween) - so it isn't the festival itself I have a problem with.

However, I do have a big big problem with the rampant commercialisation of Halloween and this stupid bloody notion of Trick or Treating drives me insane. It isn't OUR tradition I want to scream. Why do we have to follow the Yanks on this one??? (Well I suppose we followed them into Iraq, so why not?)

If you were reading last year, you may remember that no 2 gave me not inconsiderable grief last year when told she couldn't go out Trick or Treating (telling her that we consider it begging didn't go down too well). So this year to preempt matters I made it perfectly clear that we were NOT doing it.

Spouse sensibly thought we might need a fall back position, so we could at least offer them some Halloween fun, so he suggested them dressing up and face painting.

I also had another fall back, which is that nos 1&2 are planning to enter a Dr Who competition Blue Peter are running - they have to send in a video of themselves acting out a scene from Dr Who, and if they win, tantara they get to be in an episode of Dr Who. I am not unnaturally encouraging this aim - which mother wouldn't turn up the chance to chaperone their child just in order that they can drool over the thoroughly gorgeous David Tennant? Of course, the chances of them winning against the many thousands of children no doubt applying are about zero, but hey, it's worth a shot. Anyway, after the Torchwood debacle I figure Russell owes me...

Anyway, my fallback position was that they could do their videoing instead of Trick or Treating. Which worked really well until teatime, when no 2 started with, So why can't we go Trick or Treating.
Because we don't agree with it.
But why not?
Because we think it's like begging. Because we think it's dangerous. Because it's dark and cold and I can't be arsed...
But everyone else is doing it, came the inevitable wail, you are soooo unfair.

I know. I am the most majorly unfair parent on the planet. But I have to get my kicks somehow.

In the end, realising she was on a hiding to nothing, she sulkily agreed to paint her sisters' faces instead. And after tea, when no1 hit on the idea of decorating doughnuts with spooky faces, that seemed to knock the Trick or Treat rubbish on the head. Phew.

Here, I have to say one of the joys of having four children is they can create an instant party. Which is how it was, that come 6.30 last night, the kitchen floor was covered in flour (we played find the sweets in the flour), the family room was full of paper (Wrap the Mummy) and the children were soaking wet (bobbing for apples).

They went to bed far too late, all on a huge sugar rush, but huzzah! We didn't have to go out Trick or Treating and no one complained too much.

And, we only got bothered by two lots of trick or treaters, neither of which we knew, so they didn't feel too hard done by.

And do you know what? I reckoned they actually had a better time...

PS We still haven't done our filming (the scenes in question didn't call for a witch and a cat), so that's got to be put on hold now till Friday as we're busy tonight and tomorrow. No1 is too shy to let me film her (oh dear, I can't imagine how that will turn out) and doesn't know her lines anyway, but no 2 is already word perfect. Totally lifeless, but word perfect....

A Bloody Tale

In view of the interest that seemed to be generated in my bloody finger, I thought you might like to know that it runs in the family. So here, for your delectation and delight, is a tale from three years ago, when no 3 then aged three (it's all three to me) decided that putting an umbrella in your mouth was a really, really good idea... (Do look away if you are of a feeble disposition!)

No 4 who was then quite small, was asleep and as no 3 was happily pottering about in the hall, I decided to whizz upstairs to do some tidying.

Suddenly there was a bloodcurdling yell. Holy shit, what's she done? I thought, detecting a certain panicky note that sounded like something really really bad. I flew down the stairs to see no 3 kneeling on the floor, screaming her head off with an umbrella handle stuck firmly in her jaw. (And yes, the question, Whyyyyyy? does spring to mind) I gingerly tried to get it out, and failed. I could see she was bleeding, so applied a little more force, to considerably louder yells. A pool of black blood was welling up in her mouth, and I couldn't see what damage she'd done, but it looked pretty bad to me. I ran to get kitchen roll, repeating the mantra long drummed into me by Spouse that mouths bleed a lot and they heal quickly. As I applied the tissue, and the bleeding didn't appear to be stopping, I was trying to ignore the panicky messages flying to my brain, saying helpful things like: "Are there any arteries down there?" and "How long does it take a three year old to bleed to death?"

I eventually stemmed the flow, after what seemed like hours, and inspected the damage. There was a nice big tear in her bottom palate. It probably needed stitches, but by now it was 2.15 and in an hour I had to collect two children from school. I rang my neighbour who is a nurse, to seek her opnion. She was out. I rang my friend to get her to pick the girls up. She was also out. By this time, no3 was saying she felt sick (well I suppose you would if you had just swallowed a pint of your own blood), and was shaking like a leaf. Now I was panicking about anaphylactic shock. "Don't go to sleep whatever you do!" I admonished her, but cheered myself up by thinking that as she was still yelling loudly, it couldn't be too serious.

I managed to get another friend to pick the girls up, and flew to the hospital. No3 was in such a state by the time we arrived, I had to carry her, and try to stop no4 who had only recently learnt to walk from falling over. We got there eventually, and then (at this point let me sing paeons of praise to the NHS), were miraculously seen straight away, by a wonderful nurse who produced calpol and lollipops, and a rather gorgeous young medic, who cheerfully told me that though it was a good tear, it didn't need stitches. So all's well that ends well...

The next day on the way to school, I met one of my friends. "You were the talk of the playground yesterday," she informed me. "You have such an exciting life. Mine is so boring by comparison."

This kind of excitement I can do without.

But it is a testament to the fact that my life has finally moved on, that now it is more likely to be me providing the bloodfest...