Category Archives: Socialising

Looking Down – the Joy of using a Smart Phone

I will admit it. I’m fed up to the back teeth about the backlash against smart phone use recently.  Not just from my husband (that old chestnut) but also from …..ummmm social media.

You may have seen this you tube post on Facebook and Twitter called “Look Up” . Hell, you may have even shared it.  You might have even written “Oh this is a must watch. Everyone can learn from this”.  I do hope you didn’t share it whilst on your SMART PHONE people.  Oh the irony.

I just hate the fact everyone moans about everyone being on their phones, usually through posts on their phones, when we really have to just learn to live with the fact that they aren’t going away.

Which brings to me the BEST things about using your smart phone.  It’s nice to look up but there is a lot to be gained from LOOKING DOWN.

It’s not just Social Media that people use Phones for.

Social media is my gateway to news articles, political issues, magazine articles, online content, blogs.  Basically I don’t buy magazines or newspapers, but I can access most things on my smart phone and I do.  My head is down because I’m reading about FGM in Egypt or getting to grips with the conflict in Syria, because someone has blogged an easy to read article.  If I had a newspaper on my lap, apparently that’s alright is it?

I access the BBC website daily on my phone.  It’s the only way I get to find out about the news because I’m at work too early, have dinner at 6pm and can often go to bed before the 10pm news.

 It’s Great for Kids

Obviously, the important thing here is “moderation”. My kids love using it, but it’s a real treat for them, a great bargaining tool and is a great educational tool.  Obviously alongside all the other great things about childhood like schooling, sport, countryside and conversation.  It’s just one more useful tool for them.  My daughter improved her letter writing using a phonetics game on my ipad, when she was struggling.  It felt like she was playing a game. I don’t think I would have had the same enthusiasm from her at the dinner table with a pencil and me.

The video talks about “Swings hanging still.  No kids in the playground.” I just don’t believe this has ANYTHING to do with social media.  My children (3 and 6) would choose the playground over a smart phone any day of the week.  I imagine most children would up to a certain age.  The playgrounds are very very busy whenever I see them. Lunch time they are empty….because duh, it’s lunch.  They are busy just after school pick up. Weekends around here, it’s hell at a playground. queuing for the swings and slides. I get really fed up people think children are at home being zombies.  I have yet to see any evidence of this.   I really don’t get it.

Whilst we are on the subject, I get really bloody irate at everyone talking about the hey day of their bloody childhood.  The Golden Years is a psychological state of mind.  Our parents did it, their parents did it, their parents before them did it.  I spent an hour or two every week on the Commodore 64 (yes, I’m that old), I also played weird new zippy games that had parts to it and hours and hours playing Barbie dolls by myself.  None of which my parents did.  My mum and dad were always trying to shove me out of the house. I did go out, for hours down our BIG garden, but it’s not different to now.  WE are having the SAME conversations with our kids. Their toys are more sophisticated, as will their children’s and their children’s children.  Get over it!

 It’s Improved my Social Life

I am an introvert.  I will choose home over every other option open to me.  I hate meeting new people (although I appreciate that you have to sometimes to find new friends) and I have children and very few babysitting options.  For me, chatting on Facebook or to people on Twitter has opened my eyes to a new kind of friendship.  It’s not deep but it’s supportive.  I know a lot of gregarious people over the years that had a tonne of friends who they met up with socially in pubs and clubs but had no more understanding of who they were or anything deeper than I have with my twitter friends.  I knew one guy who constantly slagged of his loads of mates.  Just because they live in my phone, doesn’t make it any less important.

It’s Supportive and DOES show the good and bad times

The second point on the video was about not sharing the bad times and creating a great veneer of a life via social media.  You’ve obviously never seen my bloody Facebook timeline then. It is a pit of whinge, disaster, personal sadness and insecurity.  It is also a place where I get to celebrate the good times with people, watch lifelong journeys happen and join in with watching families grow despite being 10,000 miles away.

I Have Learnt so Much

Through the blogging community, twitter, articles and news feeds I have learnt so much.   I have read more feminist articles than you can poke a stick at, rounding my views, focussing my arguments.  I have glimpsed, through bloggers, a small understanding of what it is like to raise special needs children, disabled children or just challenging children.  This has not only taught me empathy, but has shown to be useful for me in real life.  I know the right things to say, the things to avoid saying and the attitudes to take. I have no one close to me with these family challenges, so I couldn’t have learnt any other way.

I have connected to a lot of people on Twitter that have proved useful to my life.  Connecting to someone who runs a website about moving out of London has been a great source of information for me.  All of which I read via my phone.

I have also learnt that I use bobby pins the wrong way up, that too many people are being drawn into UKIP’s web of lies and that Gogglebox’s posh couple have their house up for sale. Admittedly, these aren’t that important, but they are entertaining none the less.

I Still Read Books

Oh yes I do.  I do most Looking Down when the tv is on, or when I’m bored at work, or on a train, or waiting in a queue. I think it’s good use of my time.  In the evening, I read a book. On my kindle (50% of the time).  Does that count? It’s a device. I’m looking down.  I did make a conscious decision to buy a paperwhite so I wouldn’t be distracted by email or Facebook posts.

The thing is, if I was reading a political book that would be ok to most people. The fact I’m reading a political article on my phone isn’t a good thing.  I find this weird.  I’m still taking in information on both counts.

My mate was a big bookworm growing up (as was I) and she used to get into trouble reading at the dinner table.  Sounds like a familiar argument to me.  It’s still not “in the moment” is it?

I’m always reminded of this photo when I think of the good old days before using a phone.

reading newspapersSocial bunch weren’t they?

Using smart phones is not a fad, they will stay with us now, but the use of them will follow the trajectory of a fad for individuals.  Inevitably we will spend a lot of time looking down when we get them for the first time, when we are young and when we are in particular situations like standing by ourselves and feeling self-conscious.  However, we will soon work out BY OURSELVES when they are invading our lives too much. Maybe at a low point in our life or when you look around the dining table and realise we aren’t engaging.  Then we impose our own limits to things, in our own time.  Just like my friend couldn’t read at the table, so too we will impose those rules. No devices after 9pm to help me sleep. Consciously placing the phone elsewhere when you have visitors or putting them in our pocket.

It just kind of annoys me that people think it’s ok to tell me that I’m looking down too much. I’m looking down just the right amount of time at the moment thank you very much.

I’m being defensive. You bet I am. My life is better for Looking Down.

10 years of Marriage

Well, we made it.  Lasted the course. Made it to 10 years relatively unscathed.

It’s been many lows but many more highs and despite the tricky period we are currently in (raising small children) we are still managing to make each other smile (occasionally).

Our 10 years brought us:

  • 2 house moves
  • 4 years of infertility
  • IVF
  • The birth of our daughter
  • Another 2 years of infertility
  • A natural pregnancy and the birth of our son
  • 6 years of University to gain a degree, through all of the above and working
  • A severe flare up of my Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Some great holidays. Some not so great.
  • The ups and downs of an actor hubby
  • Lots of wine and beer and finding funny moments throughout

I wouldn’t suggest for a second that I thought our marriage was in trouble.  We have our moments and lots of arguments and months of wondering whether we’d make it through after particularly hard times.  We still talk about issues (a lot) and still smile at each other.   I also wouldn’t suggest for a second that we were besotted/made for each other/head over heels in our relationship.  I’m not sure we ever were. I think we represent the vast majority of couples, who are together because we still love each other, still enjoy each other’s company (most of the time) and know that marriage isn’t easy, often has to be worked at, involves a great deal of compromise but the benefits reaped are soooo worth it.

The last few months have been tricky for us.  We’ve argued a fair bit. Dealt with work issues and children issues.  We went away to Spain, but were there with another couple and we did family things.  We had this trip booked for Brugge back in February and I did wonder whether it would tell me something about the state of my marriage.  Whether 2 days away with just the two of us and no other distractions would demonstrate whether we no longer had anything in common or that we were still in good shape.Champagne

Well, I’m pleased to say (with relief) that it was the latter.  We giggled and chatted on Eurostar all the way there.  Upon arriving in Brugge, we walked around a bit, I even put out my hand to be held (shock horror: I’m not tactile at all, hate holding hands, ruins the rhythm of my walking).   I actually quite liked it.  We got tipsy in the afternoon and really had a ball.

Even the hangover on the Friday didn’t dampen things for too long (I was a little grumpy) and we really enjoyed each other’s company.  We didn’t talk about the kids too much either. Result.

The journey back home was very different to the one there. We ended up sharing our table seat with 2 key members of Cirque du Soleil (The events director and the director of operations) and we all got very merry on buffet car wine and talked and laughed the entire journey.

Our trip away was finished off with a lovely meal in The Wolsley, which had a fabulous atmosphere and the management gave us some macaroons (correct spelling: macarons) with an edible plaque wishing us a happy anniversary.

All in all, we have had a fabulous time and my heart is warmed that we’ve come through it exactly the same as we went in.  Nobody is more relieved than I am.



The Fight

It’s always nicer when it isn’t you.

There you are.  Enjoying a meal out with friends in a restaurant with kids, in a foreign land and then the atmosphere changes.argue

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but things become chilly.  The wife gets up after her meal and pretends to be busying herself with the kids larking about on the beach.  The husband busied himself clearing his plate and that of his daughters, head down, not speaking.

This is what happened to us, one day on holiday. Then it was time to go home.  A relaxing wander down the boulevard from the beach to the rides, the “bouncy thing” the two girls are desperate to have a go on.  We headed off to our car to dump an excess bag, they wandered to theirs with our daughter and theirs to do the same.

We crossed the road with The Monster to meet them, but they seemed to be spending an awful lot of time at their car.  So we headed into the little fair ground, found out the cost of the Bungee Trampoline and purchased the tickets for the girls in readiness.

Then we waited. Waited some more.

Eventually I left hubby behind with The Monster and wandered down the road to find out what the hold up was.  The girls were leaning against the wire fence holding hands with very worried faces and my friend took one of their hands and walked them towards me, wiping a tear from her eye as she did so.

Clearly her and her husband were having a rip-roaring argument.

We’ve all been there.  You can never pick the right moment to finally kick off. It had been brewing all day (or so my husband said) and I think a criticism of a parenting manoeuvre had been the last straw.  The husband is very hot-headed, so he got pretty angry.  My daughter and their daughter looked quite alarmed.  It’s never nice to see a big argument.

My friend looked up at me (she’s shorter) with a look of apology and asked me to take the girls for me at which point she walked back to the car, had a few more (unheard) words with her husband and stalked off in the other direction, shortly followed by him.

Neither of these two are drama queens. They don’t argue for a bit of excitement.  This was a big deal.

So we took the girls in. I reassured both of them that it was completely normal.  Made a joke to Pickle about how me and her daddy do that sometimes and tried to diffuse the situation.  They soon forgot all about it as they leapt in the air on the bungee trampoline and hubby and I did a little post-mortem on what we’d seen.  We’ve not been having the best time, ourselves.  Lots of argument in the last 6 months, but I’ve not been too concerned about it. Raising young children is a mighty task, especially as we share the childcare and both work as well.  How anyone escapes divorce will always be one of life’s great mysteries to me.  I spend far too much time angry at my husband for not swilling a breakfast bowl.

Anyway, I digress.  We did a post-mortem, because let’s be honest, it’s always nice when it’s not you.

We didn’t know how long these two would be off up the road “having it out” so once the bouncing was over, we paid for all 3 kids to go on a roundabout as well.

Eventually after 2 rides, we saw them walking back alongside the fair ground, so we took everyone back to their car.  Immediately their daughter said she wanted to come in our car, bless her.  Pickle looked alarmed again.  I told both girls that everything was fine and brushed it off. Both girls went in their car, we followed in our’s with The Monster.

As we climbed the steps to the front door the husband turned to me and said he was very sorry about having such a public argument. He felt awful the girls had witnessed it as well. I told him, with a laugh, that I thought it was good for Pickle to see other couples argue.  At least she doesn’t think it’s just her parents.  He smiled.  He added he thought it was important that they had come back with them because then both girls could see that he and his wife had made up, had reconciled their differences and I agreed.

Still.  Nice when it isn’t you, hey?



When I was a girl (both little and big) I had very little confidence.  There were a lot of incidences where I was dumstruck in social situations and had no idea how to handle them.  On one occasion me and my sister arrived at my brother’s fancy dress competition at school with our multi coloured ponchos on (it was the 70’s!) and were handed a ticket to take part.  We were so embarrassed and didn’t know what to do so we attempted to shove the ticket into our mum’s handbag.  She caught us out and did a great big embarrassing snorty laugh before giving it back to the ladies at the desk.  I was always a bit angry about that, like my lack of confidence was my mum’s fault.

I did ballet, but my sister did no extra currilcular activities. I stopped ballet 2 years in, once I was in a class of 3 and the other 2 girls were older than me and wouldn’t speak to me.  My sister did no activities at all.

I have always been a bit unimpressed my mother didn’t have us do lots of activities or that she didn’t try and encourage us to be more outgoing, but having witnessed my daughter today, I may have figured out why.

Pickle has always been a bit of an emotional girl.  She’s 5 now but very unsure in circumstances she’s not familiar with (not unlike me), however since her operation 4 weeks ago it has really got bad.  The first birthday party she attended about 8 days after her operation, she clung to me like a limpet and refused to take part.  This isn’t massively unusual for her, if I’m there, she does hang on to us for about 10 minutes, until a friend puts their hand out or an entertainer gets her doing something.  This time it took over an hour (the party was only 1.5 hours long) before I could leave her and then she got hit by another child accidently and ended up back with me for 10 minutes.

Yesterday I took her to her first tennis lesson.  We HAD talked about it.  She had initially had to be convinced to try it out. Once she had agreed I did discuss with her what she will be like when she gets there.  We weren’t pushy, but we told her why we thought she’d enjoy it and encouraged her by reminding her how good at swing ball she is.  I then reminded her, that her friend would be there and there will be children of lots of different ages and abilities. I said I know she’ll want me nearby and I would be staying with her the whole time and she needn’t be clingy. I tried to mitigate her lack of confidence.

A few days beforehand at bedtime I told her I was taking time off work to take her and that I hoped she wouldn’t getting worried about going or change her mind when we got there.  She told me that she would be brave and wouldn’t get clingy or cry.

Well, the promises of a 5 year old hold little weight I’m afraid.  She was fine when we first arrived but the minute we got on the court she clung to my leg and cried and cried and cried.  Nothing could convince her to let go or take part in any of the activities.  She kept crying and eventually after 20 very LONG minutes, I took her back to the car and drove her home.

I was fuming!!!  I was so cross I could barely put my thoughts into words.  We drove back in silence.

Now, before you start thinking I’m the cruellest mother ever, it’s one thing for me to have a few hours of contemplation of events and quite another when it’s happening right there in front of you.  An hysterical girl, a trainer who is trying his best to get her to play, a woman in high heels (me) attempting to “join in” to convince her child, all the other mums OUTSIDE the court sitting down watching their children follow instructions, the £27 cheque, the time off work.  I was massively embarrassed and I am positive that any one else in my position would have been as well.  It’s hard not to be cross.  Irrationally I wanted her to be just like the other children and just get on with it.  The trouble is she isn’t one of the other children, she’s my child and she’s different. The sensible adult in me knows you should “feel the fear and do it anyway” but that’s a big old jump for a 5 year old who just wants “to go home”.

I was still angry when I got her back to the house and left her with her grandma and brother and got back into the car to go to work.  Being left alone for 45 minutes for my journey to work I dwelled on what had just happened.

Is she just lacking confidence? Is it just that she’s taken a bit of a knock since the accident?  Will this sit with her for the rest of her life so she’s always a bystander and never taking part?  Is there anything I can do now that can boost that confidence?

Then I thought about what I was like and realised I was no different. I don’t think there was any coincidence that my lack of out of school activities was probably linked to my general nervouseness in groups.  I’ve never been one to “muck in” and I have no idea why I thought my daughter would be any different.  I think I partly blamed my parents for not building my confidence and partly blamed the fact that I had a sister 18 months younger than me an therefore I never needed to find a playmate.  That is not the same for Pickle. Her brother is 3 years younger than her and it’s likely they’ll have less in common as they get older.

I’m not sure if there is something I should be doing here?  Do I gently and slowly find a way to encourage her to take part more often or do I accept that she is a bit of a wall flower and watch as she misses out on some wonderful experiences because of it?  I know I missed out on so many things because I couldn’t even speak to an adult and I really don’t want her to have the same issues.  Do I stop trying to book her into activities?  Do I decline party invites before she even knows about it because I can’t be dealing with the leg clinging and crying? Because even if she said she won’t I know there is an 80% chance she will.

Anyone with any advice on what I can do?

The Big Chop

I have had long hair FOOOOREVER!  Well, for a very long time.  I started growing my hair in 1992 as I had  a perm for some time (I know, I know, but it was cool, man).  Over the years I have had a few minor haircuts, bringing the hair to up a bit, but generally it’s been long.

More recently it’s been VERY long. It’s probably been this long for about 5 years and I did like it.  I liked it on the Saturday, just after I’d washed it (30 min), combed it (30 min), blow dried it (45 min) and straightened it (10 min).  You see the problem there.  Nearly 2 hours had to be put aside to make it look nice.  That was just one day though.  Due to the level of care I needed to put into it, I only did that once a week.  It was alrightish on Sunday, acceptable on Monday, Ok on Tuesday but pretty much after that it looked a mess.  If it wasn’t messy it was requiring constant brushing or dry shampoo.  I was having to be inventive with hair styles (side plait, plait, side bun, bun, low pony tail).  I’m a busy working mum and frankly it was driving me to distraction. I’d had enough of it.

I blogged about it here in October and I’ve been counting down the days until my hairdresser returned from maternity leave to do it.  Between that time I have swung wildly between wanted to have it done and thinking I’m a complete idiot!  On a Saturday, I love my hair, but I had to focus on the other 6 days when I really didn’t like it.  As well as remember the length of time it took to look after it on that Saturday.

So, here is my Saturday hair.

Long hairApologies for my goofy face.  Not my best look.  Look at my hair though………my lovely flowing loooooong hair.

So, then I booked D day.  It was 2 Saturdays ago now, but as you may remember I was languishing on a hospital camp bed on the Friday as my daughter was going to be wheeled into surgery, so I texted the hairdresser and said I was unlikely to make the appointment, but I didn’t want to cancel it just yet.

On Saturday morning hubby came up to the hospital with The Monster and I headed home with TM for a bit of rest, some house tidying and for him to have a lunch time nap.  I had forgotten about the appointment.  However, thankfully my hairdresser didn’t and she rang the doorbell and there she was, ready to do the big chop! Was I ready.

Well, yes I was!  It was hot, I had had a bit of a time with my daughter and hospital and my hair was annoying me.  After my colour was put on we went through my Pinterest board of hairstyles (Can’t believe I ever said I didn’t “get” Pinterest) and we worked out what she was going to do.


Here it is.

Long Bob

Now, I only took the photos on last Saturday, so this is not hairdresser completed hair (it was a week old by then). None the less, I achieved this wash, blow dry and straighten in under 30 minutes and quite frankly I LOVE IT.  It was so liberating.  The front is longer than the back as requested and as soon as I saw it I said “I love it, but next time, let’s go shorter on the back”.  I really want it to look more angular.  So there you have it. I did it.  For a hundred reasons, this cut is so much nicer and easier.

I have had a lot of compliments about it and people have said it is very flattering.  Hubby was surprised that he liked it so much, although he did add that he though it was a “grown up” hair style.  Well I’m 40 now, about time I took a moment to have a grown up look.

So what do you think?