Monday, 11 December 2017

Christmas books worth going to bed early for

Since I first heard about the idea of having a Christmas Eve box I've done them for the boys. It varies from year to year but there is always a seasonal book inside. It's something they can read in preparation for the big day and gives them a reason to go to bed nice and early. Well that's the theory anyway. Often Brown Bear just stays up reading his book over and over hoping to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas. 

Little Tiger publishing sent us some lovely books to review - just in time for Christmas. They are so beautifully illustrated and would be great as gifts. These are all softback versions of popular Christmas titles that have been reissued for the festive season. 

The nicest thing about reading a book with children is the active participation. We have read to our boys since they were very small so in the early days it was more about using their senses to enjoy the experience.

One Noisy Night is a touch and feel book with pictures that your child can run their fingers over to feel Little Hedgehog's velvety hat. I love stories that have a joining in element and this one is a bit of a mystery featuring animal characters and an adventure.

The Perfect Present is an adorable story of friendship and kindness. Bella and Billy are best friends and they want to give each other a present that will make them happy. It made me sob when I read the lovely ending to the story, but in a good way.

Santa to the rescue is more of a traditional Christmas story with the animals of Holly Tree Forest helping Santa when the bears of Mistletoe Mountain get snowed in. This is the one that Blue Bear would love the most as he is a big fan of Father Christmas stories. It's also a great story to tell the night before Christmas so it's a surefire entry for Christmas Eve boxes.

These illustrated stories are wonderful for reading to children until they can read themselves. I love collecting these stories and sharing them with my children. They have such a magical feel to them and make a nice bedtime treat in the run up to Christmas. I can't wait to give these to the bears (and one for their cousin too).

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Little Tiger sent us these books to review. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Brim full of Hygge

At the start of the year Hubbie gave me a book all about Hygge - the Danish concept of relaxation and being happy. A few weeks ago I went to a workshop to find out all about Hygge Box and I loved it. Not least because I found out how you actually pronounce the word - it's not hoo-gah it's hyoo-ger.

During the workshop we heard all about how Hygge has been interpreted as being all about white furnishings and expensive candles, but it's really simpler than that. Spending time with loved ones, sharing a blanket, eating nice food, soft lighting - these are all hygge. We made a lovely heart shaped decoration and tasted some traditional biscuits - no fancy hot choc for me that day. It reminded me of how me and Brown Bear enjoyed candles and cuddles under a fluffy blanket before he went upstairs to bed and it seems to have slipped away from us. Since the workshop I've introduced after school hygge with the boys getting into their onesies, relaxing on beanbags with a snack. It's a lovely time that they can unwind and I can truly appreciate the peace it brings to the house. 

I was fascinated by the idea of Hygge Box which is delivered to your home either as a one off or on a monthly basis. I asked if I could review a Hygge Box and look what arrived in the post this week - a Hygge Box in pretty packaging. the tissue paper inside is festive and luxurious so you feel like you are truly getting a box of treats. It's like the paper you used to get turkish delight wrapped up in and you'd get icing sugar on your fingers when you opened it. This wasn't quite as sweet as that, but it was filled with some lovely things to celebrate Advent. 

Of course there is an advent candle, some marzipan, mulled wine spices, hot chocolate mix and a kit to make crackers - including the jokes to put inside. There is plenty to do, things to eat, some items to help relax and overall it's a nice bit of self care. I can also see how it would work as a gift for someone else. As subscriptions go this is one that really appeals to all the senses. It would also make an ideal gift. 

Hygge Box was founded by Sally and Gabby whose travels have led to the realisation that they wanted to share Hygge with others. Once a month they send out a themed box of lovely things to get your hygge on. You can order a one off box for a friend - if you want to - or for yourself. I love the idea of a box filled with surprises and treats, like a special gift for no reason other than you deserve it. 

To see how I get on with the contents of my box follow me on Twitter for photos of the crafts and maybe even the tasty treats (if I remember to photograph them before scoffing that is !)

If you want to try a box for yourself you can order online here:  

Disclosure: The lovely Sally and Gabby sent me an Advent Hygge Box to review. 

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Picture this...

It's been a while since I did a photo post so I thought I'd share some of my recent adventures and share the visuals with you. 

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day at Youtube near King's Cross Station. It is one of those millenial workplaces with fridges full of drinks and food available to staff so all us bloggers arrived with empty bellies ready to pounce on the free breakfast. However, I was more interested in the guitars they had hanging up with a sign saying you could as to play them if you wish. I know when I sent this photo to my hubbie he had his eye on the Les Paul ! 

At my sons' school we held a winter ball with a Narnia theme. It was amazing and the effect of guests walking through the wardrobe and pushing aside coats to reveal the snowy indoor winter scene was magical. For me this twinkly dancefloor was the highlight - I think I might have to have one in our home ! 

Hubbie and I are big fans of Jason Manford. We've seen him live a few times and when he announced he was doing some live gigs to promote his first LP I got us tickets to see him perform in London. When we arrived we were stunned to find we were closer than expected. In fact even Jason commented on how close we were to him. If that wasn't embarrassing enough then our pizza arrived while he was still performing and we had to wait until he had finished to eat the - now cold - food. Still, he was very good indeed. 

I've been very late to the party when it comes to Dishoom and since I first ate there the morning after seeing Norah Jones at Ronnie Scotts I've been three times. Each time it's been a different location and they all have distinctive features and colonial Indian decor. I went to the soft launch of the latest branch in South Kensington. It's in the old Barkers building and used to be a cinema. It's like all the things I adore in one place. Delicious food, stylish and cinematic.  

Since I've been at Radio Lewes I've been pestering my fellow DJ and long time friend Soraya to present a show with me and the other weekend we did just that. 2 hours of inane chatter and some pretty spectacular music and we didn't even stop for breath. It was such a wonderful experience and I really hope we get to do it again soon. 

Finally, I can't even remember the context for this one, but I saw it and it tickled me so I thought I'd share with you. If you can't see the problem then I won't spoil it for you. Also, there's far too much to even outline here. 

That's some snapshots of what's been happening with me lately. I hope you're a bit more with it than I am at the moment. If not, then stick around kid we will probably get on just fine !

Sunday, 26 November 2017

I can't keep it to myself any more...

I've been trying to contain my excitement about this news, but I have been bursting to tell everyone. In fact I've already told all the staff in my local Waitrose, Yasmin who does my nails, most of the people I have met in passing since we planned it and now I'm finally telling you too. You see it's something I've wanted to do for so long, but it just hasn't happened. Now, with help from the fantastic folks at Mark Warner we are able to fulfil my wish to do something really special with the boys.

We will be flying to France for our first ever...

Family skiing holiday !!

Ok, I'm ridiculously excited about this and really, really want to tell the children. However, it's Blue Bear's birthday in two weeks and with it being so close to Christmas I want to make sure that it is really special for him. Once he has been the centre of attention in his own right we can do the big reveal and share all the amazing new things we are going to try.

Going on a plane: Brown Bear has flown before, but Blue Bear hasn't. I showed the boys their passports the other day and we talked about keeping them safe and what they are for. I asked Blue if he would like to go on a plane and of course he said yes. Phew ! That's a relief.

Staying in a chalet hotel: All our holidays with the boys have been in the UK - well Cornwall because we love it so much. We usually stay in a self-catering cottage and have days out and do activities as a family. This time we have booked to stay in a chalet hotel so we can relax. I don't have to cook and we will have afternoon tea with delicious cakes every day. Now that is dangerous !

Kids' clubs: The biggest departure for us, however, is that we have booked the boys into the Mark Warner kids club which is renowned for being excellent. Brown Bear will go to ski school in the morning and Blue Bear will go to a creche. They are confident and friendly children and will be cared for by British qualified child care staff - we are reassured that they will make friends and have fun.

Doing our own thing: Hubbie doesn't ski and has no interest in learning so I'm planning to head out to the slopes while he relaxes in the chalethotel. There is a heated pool, sauna and steam room and we have a balcony so he can just sit and read if he wants to. I haven't skiied for years so I'm going to tag along to ski school with Brown Bear and hopefully remember what to do. I think staying upright will be my main challenge to start with !

The last time I went skiing I looked like this

Buying ski stuff: Of course this has meant I've had to do some shopping for all the kit we need. It's a difficult job, but someone's got to do it. Family and friends have been advised that the boys have lots of lovely things so for Christmas they don't need any presents. However, some have kindly offered to get them socks, gloves and other things they can use on holiday. I can't wait to see what the boys make of that !

Do me a favour: So, now I've told you there is something I need you to do. You have to keep it to yourself. It it still a secret from the boys so please don't tell them. I promise I will share the big reveal when we do finally tell them. I think Brown Bear already suspects something as he said the other day, "I've never been skiing. I'd love to go." I smiled and said, "I'm sure you will get to one day."

You will definitely be fed up of hearing about it, but for now I'm just so excited !

Disclosure: We have collaborated with the lovely folks at Mark Warner to make this trip possible. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Is kindness hereditary ?

This week we had an email from the headteacher of my sons' school. In it he told us about the trip his family had taken to Romania during the last half term to deliver donated clothes to children living in poverty. We had given gloves, hats and clothes and the boys were delighted to see the photos of their donations being given. The headteacher was launching phase two of the support for the organisation in Romania and during assembly on Monday he had asked the children if they could give £2 for a child to have a Christmas meal. This must have really made an impact on Brown Bear. He came home and asked if it would be ok for him to give more. I said of course it would and what did he have in mind. "£10 would be good." I told him that was very generous, but it would mean he might not have enough money left to get a glow toy for the junior school disco tonight. He didn't even stop to consider the sacrifice and brightly announced, "It's ok I don't want a glow toy, I want to give all the money to Romania." I felt such a glow of pride.

I recall when we visited Waitrose on one occasion and our local food bank volunteers were there making an in person collection. I asked Brown Bear to take the list of required items and to read me and Blue Bear all the things on the list so we could put them in the trolley. We filled it up and also bought some cereal and milk that we had come to buy for ourselves. As we left the store I asked the boys to help load up the items for the food bank volunteers. They were so appreciative and thanked the boys who beamed and smiled at the gratitude. As we drove home they couldn't stop talking about how great it felt to give food to people who didn't have enough.

At the end of the last school year the boys went through their old shoes and we picked the ones that were in good condition, but no longer worn. We gave them to a charity that takes shoes overseas to children who need them. I explained that there are children who just don't have any shoes and we have so many that once we've used them and they don't fit any more they are still good enough for someone else who has none. They really took that on board and it seemed to give Brown Bear an appreciation of how different some children's lives are from his. He now asks if his shoes are going to be good enough for someone else to have once he outgrows them.

In January Hubbie and I are going to do a fundraising walk to raise funds for Help for Heroes. It's 20km and it's the first fundraiser we've done together since the Nuns Run we did for Barnardo's. At the time we didn't appreciate how wearing a synthetic habit and wimple would be extremely uncomfortable on a summer day. I'm hoping that this challenge being a 'winter walk' makes it a little less - well shall we say anti-social ? The boys are used to seeing us take part in charitable endeavours and also understand that we give to others as we are so fortunate ourselves.

This evening Brown Bear was sitting on his bed counting out the change in his Big Ben piggy bank. He worked out it was around £4 and I said I had another tin of change somewhere so we went through that one as well. He took great care to sort the coins into piles of different denominations and we made a note of the totals. In the end it came to just under £14. I said, "that is a lot more than you expected isn't it ?" He smiled and nodded. "Are you sure you want to give all of it ? Are you sure you don't want to keep some of it ?" There was no hesitation at all. "I want to give all of it to Romania. We have £14 and they don't."

On days when this parenting thing seems to be impossibly difficult and thankless I'm going to remind myself of how thoughful and selfless my son can be. I must be doing something right.

Monday, 20 November 2017

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it

Last night I went to see a band from my childhood. As I surveyed the room full of middle aged women and men - and a fair few gay men - I checked out the fashions in the room. You see before I left the house it took ages to decide what to wear. I wanted to 'dress up,' but it was really cold and I didn't want to freeze. What I'd forgotten of course was how hot and sweaty it gets in a venue during a gig. The long sleeved striped top and carpenter jeans I'd chosen caused me to feel fair overheated, but that might have been down to the dancing. Hubbie had expressed a wish for me to dress like this: 

Well, he is a man after all ! So I laughed and went upstairs to change into something far more suitable for a woman of my stature and age. As I watched the big screen behind the bananas showing their old music videos it reminded me that pretty much all my fashion choices in my teens were informed by Siobhan Fahey - and later Madonna. Okay so it didn't look the same on chubby asian me as it did on tall and slim pop starlets, but they had a look that was accessible and - by their own admission - thrown together. These girls weren't styled by anyone - well not until the Stock, Aitken & Waterman days anyway. Before that anyone could dress like a pop star. 

I mean this look was one of my staples - checked shirt, braces and pleated trousers. Yep did that. 

Then there were the dungarees. I have revisited this look in recent years, but back in the day I did in fact own a white pair and can honestly admit I must have looked more like a pint sized painter / decorator than a member of a pop band. 

If you grew up in the eighties you will remember the big hair. Oh yes it was big. I had very long hair back then, but I still tried to make it big and would braid it overnight to make it all crimped and wavy, then tie it up with scarves or rags. It didn't quite resemble this fab look, but I did try. 

Then there were the hats. I love a hat me and in the eighties we had the fantastic Mel and Kim big hat look and of course I had one. It didn't look quite as cool as this, but I like to think I was rocking it in my own way. 

So by the time I was at uni my clothing choices were getting more indie and less pop like, but I could still look to my girls for the cool edgy look I was going for. Look at the fingerless gloves, the red lipstick and the big coat - that's hardcore indie as far as I'm concerned. 

When I turned to my gig buddy and told her that I dressed like Bananarama for most of my teenage years she patted me on the shoulder and said, "never mind." Actually I loved being reminded of my scruffy, experimental, cheap and cheerful teenage looks. It was a bit of nostalgia and reminded me how much effort I put into my appearance. Just as the band have grown up and their look is far more sleek now, I like to think I have developed and grown into my middle aged style.

Mind you in my heart I still want to dress like this.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Go Go Ape for fruit and nut snacks

Now that both boys are at school I find that they are always ravenous when I pick them up at the end of the day. As a result I need a supply of portable snacks that I can take for them to have on the way home. We've made a strict rule that they can't have sugary snacks during the week and I want them to feel satisfied, but not so full that it spoils their dinner.

Ape coconut snacks

stylish packaging and no monkey business !

We were asked to try these new Ape snacks - moreish bite-sized pieces of coconut that pack as much punch in taste as they do in texture. They are something different and offer a change from crisps or rice cakes. The range offers mouth-watering and satisfying treats that don’t compromise on taste. Ape Snacks is available in two variants – Crispy Coconut Curls and Crunchy Coconut Bites.  All nibbles are gluten free, sugar free and high in fibre, making them the ideal snack for any time you’re feeling a little peckish.

tasty flavours too 

As you can see there is an extensive range of flavours with the Ape Curls are available in Lightly Salted, Slightly Peppered and Salted Chocolate variants, whilst the Bites come in scrumptious Natural, Chia Seed, and Sesame Seed flavours. All natural and suitable for vegans, the Ape Snack’s range is low in calories and high in taste.  I'd keep these as a treat for the boys or a post-gym or afternoon treat for me with a cuppa.

Ape’s coconut snacks are available from Boots, Ocado, Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Amazon and Holland & Barrett, amongst other leading retailers. RSP for the Crunchy Coconut Bites is between £1.49 and £1.68 for 30g standing pouch, and between £0.89 and £1.19 or a 20g bag of Crispy Coconut Curls.

Go Go Squeez Fruit Snacks

so many delicious flavours 

I often take fruit based snacks for the boys to have after sports or school. An actual piece of fruit is always good, but a these pouches of Go go squeez offer a great fun way to enjoy fruit. Each pouch contains 100% fruit and the varieties include apple, strawberry and mango - all of which my boys love to eat. The yoghurt varieties have another distinct advantage for me which is they don't need to be kept in the fridge. Once opened they should be refrigerated, but to be honest my boys wouldn't leave any to be stored for later.

yes it's 100% fruit 
no fridge - whoop whoop ! 

The pouches are just the right size and the propeller style lid is quirky and cute. On a practical level it is easier for children to open and looks like a good shape to prevent choking - which is a serious consideration if you're going to put these in packed lunches. The brand started in North America as 'applesauce' - which is big over there. I think it will do well here and we are certainly going to pack some into our travel bags when we go on holiday as a plane snack to help the boys if their ears pop on ascent.

cute and practical lid

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Ape and Go Go Squeez sent us some delicious snacks to try. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Why I'm walking to support Help for Heroes

Brown Bear had his first sleepover with the Scouts last night. Very little sleep occured, but he came home exhausted and happy. They had put up a tent, watched a movie until late at night, slept in sleeping bags and this morning he took part in a church parade for remembrance Sunday. They also observed a silence in commemoration of the fallen. At school on Friday both Blue and Brown Bears took part in a school service of commemmoration and they stood in silence to remember the fallen. Hubbie and I were home this morning when the Cenotaph was shown on TV. He scooped up Blue Bear and we all stood watching the service and even managed to keep him quiet.

A few years ago we took Brown Bear to see the poppies at the Tower of London and we talked to him about what they meant and explained that the silence is a sign of respect. He was very young, but it seems to have struck a chord with him and he still loves to talk about it. At school his project this term is WW1 and he has taken a great interest in the topic.

I worry that talking to my children about war might frighten them. That they will be sad to hear about the young soldiers and the killing and the loss. Instead remembrance is a time to talk about bravery, sacrifice and pride. I am proud that my grandfather was in the army. I never got to meet him, but I know enough about him to feel a sense of gratitude for his service. It is also important to tell my children about those who return from service. Those who have served and might now need help to manage their lives.

It is with his in mind that I wanted to tell you that Hubbie and I are raising money for Help for Heroes.

"Help for Heroes supports those with injuries and illnesses attributable to their service in the British Armed Forces. No matter when someone served, we believe that those prepared to put their lives second, deserve a second chance at life.

Every course and activity we offer aims to empower them to look beyond illness and injury, regain their purpose, reach their potential and have a positive impact on society.

How we do it

Working with a vast network of professionals and partners, we help our Veterans and their families through physical and emotional rehabilitation, identifying new career opportunities as well as financial and welfare support.

We know that those who served together, recover better together - supporting each other, enjoying the camaraderie and sense of fellowship once more.

The Nation has united behind our Armed Forces. During our first 10 years, we’ve directly helped more than 17,000 individuals and their families in this way. Offering this to thousands more who need it remains possible thanks to our supporters, and specialist charity partners."

I hope you agree that Help for Heroes is an amazing charity doing fantastic work. If you can support our fundraising efforts I'd be delighted:

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Me and my big mouth

Oh man it's been one of those days. Early on I realised I'd put my foot in it with someone and spent the rest of the day feeling really stupid and useless. Then in the evening I was at a meeting where I spoke up about inclusion and again felt really out of step with the feeling in the room. As a result I'm now thinking of ways to avoid seeing or talking to anyone for the forseeable future. This space is - of course - exempt from that.

Talking is what I do. I always have. For 4 years I travelled around the country doing public speaking to Rotary, schools, churches and any other group that would turn up to listen to me. I've trained people and hosted meetings and conferences and I produce and present a radio show. It's fair to say that my voice gets used a lot. However, I don't always think before I pipe up my deepest thoughts and on occasion this has led to me feeling daft and seeing a people look baffled by what I've said. At one point I started to do stand up and when audiences actually laughed I was so embarrassed I'd talk over the laugh so they would miss what I was saying. I wasn't a natural.

Speaking has been my job, it's been my hobby and now it's pretty much all I do. Admittedly the sentences I use are shorter and more commands than conversational, but as the boys grow older I can see that our interactions are becoming less one-sided. I hope that at some point we can even talk to each other like human beings rather than me repeating, "get your book bag," "I said put your shoes on," "Where are your socks ?"

A fair amount of my professional life has been spent in campaigning roles. I have made the case for supporting charities, for equality and diversity and worked to improve the lives of children in institutions overseas. This has made my tone expressive and at times confrontational. The only problem is that when I make a stand I get all wobbly inside and after I've spoken I feel sick and embarrassed for speaking up. It always worries me that I've said too much or made a mistake. I undermine my own efforts by feeling bad for making a stand about something. Others will say, "you were spot on," but all I can think is, "But, did I sound like a screeching harpie ?"

Today I've been called out for expressing how I feel and I've challenged a situation that really is not right. In both cases I am left feeling sick inside. This is why I am not cut out for a career in politics. I just wouldn't be able to face the criticism (real or imagined) and I'd struggle to hold back when something really bothered me. I would appear to be trivialising serious issues when I make light of things - as is my habit. Every now and again I make a decision to pipe down and not to draw attention to myself. This is one of those times.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

What's white, furry and purrs a lot ?

It's hardly news that I love my cat. From the day we met him at Battersea Cats and Dogs home and he decided he was going to live with us we've been very close. When he first came to live with us I would rush home from work to see him as he wasn't allowed out for a few weeks and didn't like being inside. He's always been affectionate and friendly and when I was pregnant he used to lie down with me. As my belly grew bigger, Neo became more protective of me and the baby. Until the day Neo got an unexpected boot from the unknown family member while he was snoozing on my belly. It was very funny.

His relationship with us as a family has developed to include first one baby - who grew into a handsy toddler - then a new child who he has also taught to give him biscuits. He loves company and often sleeps on Brown Bear's bed. They are such great pals it's wonderful to see. When I'm home he comes to sit next to me and keeps me company. I will admit I do spoil him. He has a soft bed in most rooms in the house and I have a special fleece blanket for him to lie down on the sofa. Recently he started to drink from my glass of water so I now leave bowls of water all over the house for  him. It's just the decent thing to do isn't it ?

People are asking me how old Neo is now and when I tell them they reply with remarks like, "well that's a good age,' or "Oh he's an old man now." None of these comments inspire me to want to talk to them much further. According to the vet if he was a human he would be around 75 years old. He's doing far better than any human I know of that age range. In reality - of course - he is an ageing cat and that means he is becoming an old man. He is on medication and when I take him to the vet these days they take his blood pressure and check his heart rate. If you have never seen a cat having it's blood pressure taken it is definitely worth it. I'm not sure that Neo would agree.

Of course the unspoken part of all this is that he won't always be with us. It's not a thought I want to consider so when anyone asks me, "will you get another cat when he's gone ?" I swiftly end the conversation and move onto something else. After all at this point he is like any old man, he is grumpy, short tempered, often loses his temper and likes to sleep a lot. As I type this he is lying with his head against me and is purring. I like to think this is his retirement and he's making the most of it.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Play it again sam...

I need some music this week. Some uplifting joyful music. There has been so much in the media to be angry about and frankly I just want to turn up the sound and forget everything else. If you are feeling this too, join me for a little self-indulgent musical interlude if you will: 

This is ridiculous, but I love it. No, not even sorry. 

TLC were epic, this song is a proper hanging out with your girlfriends and singing it loud choon:

This one is just so cool I love it:  

This one is pretty self explanatory: 

 Finally, one I have been playing a lot since I've been back on the radio again: 

Business as usual again soon - I promise. I just need this right now. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Mythical creatures make for magical family adventures.

Years ago when I wrote reviews for the uni newspaper the best thing was the amount of time I spent at the theatre or cinema seeing shows and movies. I knew how lucky I was and now I'm able to share this luck with my sons (and their friends) when we get invited to fantastic productions for families with children.

Pokemon Movie: I Choose You - Nationwide release


On Friday evening I took Brown Bear to watch the new Pokemon Movie: I Choose You with two friends from school. He's not a Pokemon officianado so it was interesting to see what he made of it as a first timer. It helps that the film is the origin story of how Pikachu and his trainer Ash met and became friends. I liked that fact that it starts at the beginning and explains who they are and what the Pokemon world is about. There were a lot of well informed people in the audience whose reactions to scenes suggested they have a history with the characters that gave them a deeper insight into the story than we had.

Brown Bear and his friends loved the trading card games they got before the film and the Poke ball with mini figure was a bit hit. It was certainly an exciting story with lots of positve themes about friendship, loyalty and a big helping of magic. They boys didn't stop talking about it on the way home or the next day with the oldest comparing it with the resurrection story. It is an epic tale and the storytelling is engaging.

Watch the trailer below to see what you can expect when it opens in cinemas on the 4th November.

The Hunting of the Snark - Churchill Theatre Bromley 

The Churchill Theatre in Bromley is one of my regular venues to see shows and I particularly like taking my boys. It's closer to home than the West End, they serve slushies (which Brown Bear is a big fan of) and the boys really enjoy the shows they have seen there. Churchill have a great programme of family friendly shows including the upcoming production of Hunting of the Snark. Based on the poem by Lewis Carroll this production was a huge success when it premiered in Cardiff, has been on tour to Hong Kong and comes to Bromley on Sunday 5th November.

The Boy, The Banker, The Butcher, The Baker, The Bellman and The Knitting Beaver set off on a journey to search for the mythical Snark. On their subsequent adventure they meet the Jub Jub Bird, the Bandersnatch and the dasterdly Boojum. It's a wild ride with witty songs, high energy performers,  puppetry, witty songs and plent of daft humour.

We can't wait to see the show which promises: All aboard ! The ship is departing ! All children, animals and silly people welcome ! 

Tickets for The Hunting of the Snark are available from: Box office

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Is this it ?

I think of myself as the hardcore parent in our family. The one who lays down the law, sets boundaries and follows through with consequences. However, this week I've seen this challenged and I feel a bit deflated. Brown Bear has surpassed his usual levels of self-importance and taken to just completely ignoring me. Blue Bear, however, has been with a childminder who told me he is a 'real pleasure to look after.' He has been playing with older children and growing in confidence by the day.   When I got him ready to have a bath last night he told me he could take off his t-shirt by himself and demonstrated very ably. Brown Bear, however, spent more time just doing his own thing and searching for TV programmes I'd asked him not to watch. By the time we all woke up this morning he was overtired and grumpy. As a result I was too.

I don't do well when I'm tired. I shout even more than usual and make ever escalating and insane threats. By the time I dropped him off at half term camp at 9am I had taken away the chance of going to McDonald's ever again, given all of his birthday presents to charity and banned all of his favourite programmes. It wasn't my best day. I came home from dropping both boys off and had something to eat. I felt better. If I'm running on empty I can't do this. It's not rocket science, I know, but sometimes it feels like I just don't know anything. 

Talking to another parent yesterday afternoon after a day spent with 'not my children' doing fun outdoor activities I wondered if my expectations of my children are too much. Maybe it's enough that they are happy, vibrant, funny and independent. It doesn't follow that they will also be good listeners, tidy or able to be together without duffing each other up. I have to get past thinking that everyone is looking at me and thinking, "wow she's so useless, her kids just don't sit still and listen."

Today has been a low point. I've shouted, misdirected my anger and broken down in tears. I've also upped my dosage in order to deal with my own emotional state. It might not help, but it can't make things any worse. I need to have something other than this anger and feeling of uselessness. Being mum is just not enough right now. I'm sorry.  

Monday, 23 October 2017

Halloweek and Halloweden in Cornwall

We've already had one week of half term and spent it in Cornwall. I love taking the children there and we have a few days out that we do every time we go.

The first is Lappa Valley which is the most wonderful day out for a family with train obsessed children. The steam engine takes you from the starting station into the valley itself and we rode on Ellie to get there, passing the boating lake and taking in the scenery as we enjoyed surprisingly good weather for October half term. We've been to Lappa many times before so the boys know pretty much which things they like to do and where to go first. We changed things up a bit this time though with a trip on the diesel engine which runs along a track that goes through forest land with some animal figures hidden in trees and on branches on the route. The day we went the train was held up a few times by 'leaves on the line,' but our driver was very patient and good natured about it and soon got us moving at speed again. Straight afterward we went on the intercity train that does two loops of the park and we spotted a shark in the pond !! Blue Bear did point out to me that I shouldn't be scared as it wasn't real.

As well as the trains there is a massive play area at Lappa Valley with practically a life size pirate ship and the best castle and pipe slide I think I've ever seen. The boys love it there and even on poor weather days they are happy to run around and play on this for ages. It's a great place to run off a lot of excess energy and with a cafe serving cornish cream teas and ice cream you can quite easily let them do their thing while enjoying the break. Well until the inevitable, "Muuuuuum, he pushed me," shatters the momentary peace that is.

For half term Lappa are celebrating Halloweek with spooky trains and plenty of themed events to celebrate Alongside all of the regular great attractions will two Spooks trails, one for Little Monsters (3-5 years) and for Big Beasts (6 years plus), children’s Halloween quiz, spooky colouring and a prize for everyone who comes in fancy dress! All of our activities are very family friendly and suitable for young children.  Best of all, all additional activities are included in the standard ticket price and it's such good value for what is always a great day out for us.

Lappa valley opens at 10am and Halloweek runs until 29th October.

I've been visiting the Eden Project since 2000 when it first opened and love it so much. In the years since my first visit I've seen the site grow and change and now I have children I also enjoy sharing it with them. Last week we booked a rainforest trek and Brown Bear and I walked for 45 minutes with our knowledgable guide Adam. We learned so many interesting facts about the rainforest and Brown Bear was fascinated and asked lots of questions. This is the longest he's spent in the rainforest biome as he's always found it too hot before, but the added interest of learning about the plants and ecosystem kept his mind off the heat.

Every time we go to Eden we have a few traditions. Hubbie goes to the Pukka tea tasting (and often has a pasty too), I get to have a cup of tea and a slab of delicious cake and the boys have delicious Cornish ice cream. One of our favourite things is storytime as the storytellers are amazing and really capture the magic and intensity of the spoken word. That's why I am so excited that Eden are hosting the first ever Halloweden event to celebrate half term. The Roald Dahl themed week of activities includes some of the best loved stories brought vividly to life in this brilliant setting. You can find a giant sleeping in the grounds, learn how to spot a witch and of course there is the Little Monsters Halloweden ball and disco on Saturday 28th October to celebrate the end of half term.

The ice rink is now open for the winter season and we have been a few times. There is an additional charge for ice skating and it's a good idea to pre-book as it can get busy. On the day we went the toddler session was about to begin and it's a non skating session for under 5s to encourage them to play safely on the ice. We asked Blue Bear if he fancied it, but he was adamant he didn't want to go. Maybe next time.

The Eden Project is open from 9.30-6pm and Halloweden is running until 29th October.

Disclosure: The lovely folks at the Eden Project offered us a family ticket to visit. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Adoption Week: Making memories

We've been away for a week and in the first three days the boys slept at my parents' house then at the in-laws' house then in our holiday cottage. Even tonight they were really unsettled and wouldn't go to sleep until quite late. Blue Bear asked me for a "really long hug Mummy." We're very strict about bedtime and when Blue first came to live with us we introduced him to our routine which is a bath, warm milk and bedtime stories. It took a while for him to get used to this way of doing things and now he even takes himself upstairs some evenings declaring, "I tired, I go to sleep."

There is so much he's adapted to and so many things he deals with brilliantly. When he has a blip it catches us off guard. Being in a place he hasn't been to before, seeing a lot of new people or travelling somewhere new. All of these cause anxiety and we see a side of him that we almost don't recognise. Recently when we've been going out he is insistent that he hold an adult's hand the whole time. He clings on tightly and becomes agitated about being safe. This is the child who scooters to school at top speed and waits for no one. He has his own friends and a social circle both inside and outside school.  I forget that there are things he's not ok with and this week has been a stark reminder that familiarity is really important to him.

He's never stayed at my parents' house before and he was really excited about it. I rang in the evening to see if he was ok and then in the morning. He came to the phone - reluctantly - and said, "Not again !" It was adorable and cheeky, but a relief that he was ok. He's slept at Grandma's house quite a few times so that was fine. It was being in a different cottage from last time that really caused ructions. We try not to overwhelm Blue with too many new things and this is the same place we stayed in July. We couldn't stay in the same cottage and this time the boys were in bunk beds - which was always going to be a bit of a drama. However, visiting places we've been to before was a revelation. When we were in Polperro Brown Bear said, "We had crinkles for a snack when we were here last time," as we reached the top of the harbour. As the tide was out we went to the beach this time and the boys remembered that we couldn't last time due to a high tide. At the Eden Project the boys noticed that a bicycle they had ridden before was in a different place. At Lappa Valley they noticed the new swan shaped pedaloes.

Noticing and recording memories is something we take very seriously. There is a chunk of Blue Bear's past we weren't part of so since he's been with us we've taken photos and kept momentoes of everything. I show him photos of when he first came to us and we talk about what he was like when he was a baby. Just like I do with Brown Bear. We remind him that he brought Dog Bear with him when he came to live with us. We keep in touch with his foster family as they are the vital link between birth family and us. They also love him very much and seeing how he is doing in his forever family and with his brother makes them so happy and proud. We haven't talked about adoption with Blue Bear yet, as he is still very young. However, he is a bright boy and it is not something we intend to keep from him. On holiday this week I noticed that he goads his brother now. He still worships Brown Bear, thinks he's wonderful and wants to be just like him. However, he's also braver and will jump on him knowing it's going to get a reaction. It has been lovely to see how much fun he is. On long road trips he would chat to us at the front by pointing out the sheep, or the windmills he could see out of the window. This afternoon when we passed a field of pigs the boys spent about ten minutes oinking and laughing. I tried to point out Stonehenge as we passed it, but the pig impressions were far more fun.

That's what makes being a family for me. Stupid jokes and animal noises. I hope that the boys will remember family time in their own ways and look back with joy.

It's National Adoption Week: There are over 2000 children waiting to be adopted in England. 61% of these children waiting to be adopted are in sibling groups so it's vital to find families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Adoption Week: How TV gets adoption so very wrong

Whenever adoption is depicted on TV and in films I find myself becoming annoyed. Often it's a sideline story littered with inaccuracies and often just downright made up. Further down the line - if it's even referred to - there are no repercussions and it's all but forgotten that adotion ever took place. I've become agitated seeing Stella take in a looked after child without any assessment whatsoever and not so much as a visit from a social worker. Apparently all it takes is a phone call to say that he can stay with a random adult he once knew and it's done. Hollyoaks always used to leave me bemused as vulnerable young adults would wind up living with a family they had no connection with other than living in the same made up soap land. We are so used to seeing american imported TV shows that I suspect there are people who have an entirely erroneous idea of how adoption works over here. If you believed shows like Friends or Modern Family you'd be forgiven for thinking that adoption is like a shopping expedition. Monica and Chandler were interviewed by an agency - who they lied to by the way - and were chosen by the birth mother despite their lies. The day the twins are born they go and pick them up and bring them straight home. No assessment, no home visit, no paperwork, nothing. When Cam and Mitchell adopt Lily she is brought home and again we don't see any follow up at all. At the very least this is poor safeguarding for the children involved. 

I'm going to be honest with you about the reality of adoption. There is a lot of bureaucracy. I mean loads. We had so many visits from social workers that we amended our shopping list so she could have toast during our morning assessments and biscuits on afternoon visits. I developed a system of biscuit management. The simple biscuits for the regular meetings (ginger nuts, rich teas, digestives).  chunkier cookies for the really nice social workers (Waitrose oat and fruit ones) and chocolate biscuits if they were coming to give us good news (Foxes ones in a pack with foil on). At one point I honestly thought we'd never see the end of this process. You know how contestants on the Apprentice talk about proving themselves worthy ? Well that's how we felt. And when the idiots in the jungle undertake disgusting bushtucker trials I can empathise with the bad taste in their mouth in order to achieve a greater good. And let's be truthful it is for the greater good. If you're too lily-livered for the assessment process you just won't cut the mustard as an adopter. 

Another area where the media depiction of adotion veers wildly from reality is post adoption. We rarely see children struggle with a new setting. The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fears and unknown monsters from their past that you didn't know about. Within weeks of being placed with us we learned that our boy was afraid of the dark when he freaked out in the theatre as the lights went down. We found out he wouldn't sleep on his own and had to reach through his cot to check I was next to him - all night. I realised that he would not be held if he didn't want to be and would make it very clear that he wasn't going to co-operate if anyone tried to impose on his personal space. The relationship between him and our older son was also far more fraught than I had anticipated. They both felt displaced and wanted me all to themselves. It was a constant battle to provide reassurance to both boys and they fought bitterly and cried and screamed and generally made me feel like the worst mother in the world for not being able to keep them both happy. One would push the other one out of the way then the other would hit back. At the lowest point I would close the door to the kitchen as soon as Hubbie got home so that I could just cry and be away from the pulling in two directions. No TV show depicts adoption breakdown. Or the possibility of it happening. 

Today I watched my boys running around chasing each other and play fighting. I saw Blue Bear's adoration of his older brother and Brown Bear's faux annoyance at his younger brother. He secretly loves being a role model and takes it very seriously that he can influence someone so impressionable. Blue Bear has developed an excellent skill of 'managing up' and flatters his brother's ego knowing he will have far more fun that way. I see his skills are so different and his personality is adorable. He feels safe with us and is clearly marking his place in the family with his sense of humour and stubborness. The jealously still rears it's head, but not so much any more. Hubbie worked away overnight a few weeks ago and I whispered to Brown Bear that when his brother had gone to sleep he could sleep in my bed just this once. He was delighted - he got to be my baby for one night. The other night Blue Bear woke up scared he called for me - he usually calls for Daddy. They both know that I am here for them and that I love them equally. It's taken time and hard work and is still a work in progress. 

Adoption is not the easy choice. It's not even the only choice. What it is though, is about the right adopters being matched with children who are waiting for a chance to live in a family. In some cases for the first time in their lives. I didn't learn about adoption from watching TV. I learned by living it. I am still learning. 

It's National Adoption Week: As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. There is now clear evidence that decisions for adoption and placement orders are on the rise. With this in mind, National Adoption Week 2017 is focused on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Adoption Week: Brothers, Sisters, Family.

During the assessment process for adoption we were told that sibling groups are harder to place than single children. It makes sense really. If you have no children to start with taking on 3 or 4 of them, possibly all different ages and stages and with differing needs can be a daunting prospect. I know that when we saw the profile for a group of three children including twins under two and a toddler sibling it felt like an impossible ask. The oldest child already presented with special needs and the younger ones had yet to be assessed. I wasn't sure I could manage so many children at once and I worried that if all of them had additional needs it would be a struggle to give them all the support they needed. 

Not all sibling groups can be placed together. We also saw a profile for a group of 4 children who had 4 other siblings. The 8 children ranged in age from 2 to 10 years old. The two groups of 4 were being fostered close to each other and were being kept in contact with each other. It was anticipated that they would continue to see each other post adoption and that they would remain in contact in the long term. The foster carers were actually related so it worked well. 

In yet another case there were sisters who were being fostered together and who were to be placed for adoption together. One was a white child, the other was dual heritage. Considering how adamant the social workers seemed to be that we had to be an exact match to the ethnicity of the children we wanted to be matched with I was interested to see how they would choose to match these girls with a forever family.

Yet another pair of brothers were living together in foster care and were still seeing their birth mother. The boys had different fathers and the second one was a stark reminder of the difficult relationship that he was born into. The mother did not want anything to do with him and it made him a very anxious child. 

We had made the decision to adopt two children because we knew that multiple children wait longer and that it is more difficult to place children as they grow older. It was our decision to offer a home to siblings, but it was the decision of the social workers to not choose us. I understand now that it was for the best. Our road to being parents was different from what we expected. It wasn't what we had planned for, but it was just right for us anyway. 

I hope those children all found forever families to care for them. That being in a group did not put off potential parents. If it's possible to have a great outcome I really want for those children to have had that. I know that when I look at my birth son and adopted son I see my children. My family. These boys are my life, my soul, my very heart. I hope that the children who did not come to us are loved as fiercely as my children are. 

It's National Adoption Week and this year the theme is sibling groups. There are still over 2000 children waiting to be adopted. 61% of these children are in sibling groups which is why this year the emphasis on helping to find forever families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Adoption Week: What, again ?

Yes it's that time of year again when adoption agencies and organisations seek to publicise the importance of matching children who wait with families who can care for them in the long term. In case you have 'National week' fatigue please bear with me.

National adoption week is a reminder that there are still children who do not live with their birth families - for any number of reasons. That as a society we overlook children and young people who do not have security or long term prospects. It is also a way of educating people who have very little idea about what adoption is or what is involved. I have a personal dislike of inaccurate portrayal of looked after children in the media. Whether it's on an advert or a TV show or in a children's story I find it really difficult to tolerate the depiction of children are 'in care.'

Earlier this week I listened to a radio show presented by Lemn Sissay called Origin Stories. In it he talked about being in foster care and how he chose to see it as a superpower. Then he retold the Harry Potter story from the point of view of the Dursley's who 'fostered' Harry when his parents' died. It was a far more sympathetic portrayal than JK Rowling chose to depict. It also gave credance to the notion that just because a child has had a difficult past it doesn't mean their future has to follow the same negative pattern. The longer a child waits to be placed in long term care the harder they become to match with suitable carers. We were told that once a child is over 5 years old their 'appeal' to prospective adopters plummets. This is a person we're talking about here. A child who has already experienced loss and separation and trauma.

When we first approached local authorities to be assessed as potential adopters they just didn't want to know us. Hubbie and I are different ethnicities and they told us they wouldn't have children who matched our racial mix so it wasn't worth us being assessed. No, seriously they said that to us for real.  It beggars belief that this is even a concern, but hey I've got all week to tell you about that.

So,  I'm going to post about adoption this whole week. I have so much to say about this topic and I hope you will find it interesting. Maybe you could even share the posts if you can - that is the whole point of having a 'national adoption week' after all.


National Adoption Week 2017 will take place from the 16th to 22nd October. As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. National Adoption Week 2017 will focus on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

How many women have to speak before one is believed ?

The news that women in Hollywood are coming forward to disclose sexual abuse has uncovered a surprising variety of unreconstructed and frankly misogynistic attitudes. I've seen tweets attacking male film stars for not doing anything. Online comments directed at the wife and the women involved suggesting they knew what they were doing and were complicit. Heard interviews with 'insiders' who claim he was a bully, but they never saw anything like the alleged abuse. It's baffling how much talk there has been and now he's been fired from his own company, his wife is leaving him and he's apparently going into therapy.

There is so much to unpick here, but let me begin with the much discussed issue of who is to blame for this.

No, it is not he fault of all those 'insiders' who hid the truth

No, it isn't the fault of the actresses who didn't warn other women about him

No, it's not the fault of the studio executives who allegedly knew

No, it's not the fault of the actors who allowed it go on and helped cover it up

It is entirely the fault of the man who committed the acts. It is his blame alone. He did these things to women knowing he was able to get away with it. He chose to use and abuse women and to punish them if they tried to speak out against him. He knew what he was doing was abusing his position of power. That is why he targeted young women who were in a vulnerable situation knowing he could take away their careers.

You see when a man is a sexual predator he doesn't believe that he will get found out. It is unrelenting arrogance that a man who would do this then ensure that the woman knows she will not be believed. Not many men have the capacity to have an entire industry turn a blind eye, but remember that in this industry secrets are kept like in no other. Rock Hudson was only publically outed as gay when he died - everyone who worked with him knew, but it was not made public.

To blame everyone around him is to allow these repellant accusations to be dismissed as mere fantasy. I'm choosing my words carefully as he has not been charged with anything. We know by now that just because many women accuse a man of assault doesn't mean that he will face any consequences. The fear of not being believed keeps the cloak of silence firmly in place and even once there are others coming forward it might be years before anyone actually takes action.

Initially he apologised for any pain his actions may have caused - as if he'd merely inconvenienced someone rather than tricked, assaulted and humiliated them. Then he issued a denial, claiming that it was consensual sex and he had not been predatory in his behaviour. Now his wife has left him and he  has taken refuge in therapy where he can appear to be doing something while planning how to mitigate the damage to this career and reputation. Now he has claimed he is seeking help for a sex addiction. What about his addiction to abuse of power ? The deception he has perpetrated - repeatedly - and the humiliation he visited upon the women who have made allegations against him ? How about seeking help with the complete lack of capacity to accept personal responsibility for his own actions ? Making excuses will not change what has happened I find the abuser portraying himself as the victim unplatable at best.

Earlier this year we found out that someone we have known for over a decade was arrested and imprisoned for predatory sexual behaviour. It was such a shock and to be honest I still find it difficult to believe he was able to hide it and get away with it for as long as he did. A mutual friend found out and quite thoughtlessly asked if I genuinely had no idea. Surely I must have known something ? Well you should be proud of me for not punching his lights out, but instead I explained that if I had even an inkling of anything like that I would have done something about it. I am not a bystander. I do not allow wrongdoing past me. I challenge and report what I see and hear. Not everyone does, but I do. Had I any idea he was a sexual predator I would have confronted him and reported him. I did find him odd and often remarked on it, but put it down to my being a bit oversensitive. His partner was lovely so surely I was the one who had it wrong ? I could not have known what he was doing. He hid his actions and got away with them for many years. An abuser will do that.

The news items about this will be hard for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to hear. I am struggling to keep my composure when I hear about his pathetic attempts to guilt women into having sex with him. Sitting and crying that a woman wouldn't sleep with him because he was fat - maybe it's because a woman has the right to say no. That being powerful and dominant in the industry in which that woman wants to work does not give you the right to take liberties with her. I veer between feeling revulsion and biting anger. The powerful women who have come forward to tell their stories can do so now because they are free of his tyranny. They have made a career and been successful - in some cases because of him - and can speak up. If only they had felt able to do so earlier because they would be believed and respected for speaking out.

Women involved in this are being treated with such shocking disregard and it shames us all. No one should feel they cannot report a sexual assault for fear of being treated with contempt, or threatened or because they will have their character called into question. This is not how we should treat people in a developed society.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day and it's taken me all day to decide to share the post below that I wrote a few months ago. I didn't post it back then as it didn't make sense to me why I'd share it. Now I see that it shows how all over the place I can get. The anxiety and depression I've lived with since childhood manifests in different ways. I can be fine for ages and get things done then I might go through what I'm experiencing at the moment which is a debilitating sense of failure and lack of motivation. Don't get me wrong I can still function. The boys get fed and picked up from school and the cat gets taken to the vet, but in between is a blur. I have to remind myself to eat food, make myself go for a swim and run otherwise I find my moods are too extreme. I lose my shit because someone hasn't put the bread back in the bread bin. I burst into tears in the car the other day because I heard Sam Smith's new single. It opened an old emotional wound at that moment and I couldn't stop myself. So that's why I'm sharing this now:

"You know that thing when someone asks, "how are you ?" and you say, "I'm fine." If you are British that's as far as it goes. Unless you reciprocate and ask how they are and you both nod in recognition that things are fine and move on to talking about tea or the weather or something equally important. My father in law is much more Eeyore like and when asked how he's doing will often reply, "Oh you know, hanging on by a slender thread." Now I just say, 'hanging in there Grandpa ?" to save him the trouble.

So the reason I've mentioned this is because at the moment when anyone asks how I am I'm struggling to reply convincingly. "I'm ok" is as far as I can manage and at least one of my friends has already questioned further. To be fair Jo has known me nearly 30 years so it takes some to get anything past her. A more honest summary of my state of mind right now might be, 'a bit like Brown Bear's room.' ie. untidy, messy, full of noise and scattered with random unrelated items. Frankly, I'm not doing well right now. Partly it's the long summer holiday - which I always find challenging. Mostly it's a lot of factors that are causing stress and anxiety in my life right now.

Blue Bear is joining his brother's school next week and he's very excited about it. I am too and have been trying to get back to work as both my boys will be in school during the day now. So far I've had nothing but rejection and it's really getting me down. Most of my working life I was blessed with the ability to get an interview for a job and often to get a job offer. Since becoming a Mum this skill seems to have completely vanished and I'm baffled. I was aware of the phenomenon of the 'motherhood penalty,' but I had no idea how insidious it really is. My confidence is completely shot and I find myself wondering if I'm doomed to a life of rearranging the furniture and sorting socks - which frankly could be a full time job in this house. I've got lots of lovely friends (and lovely Hubbie) supporting me with this and advising me on how to keep positive. It all helps - to a point - but each time I get a rejection it leaves me feeling despondant.

Taking on other people's stresses is something I have always done - not deliberately you understand. It's just that when someone close to me has something painful going on in their life I take it on emotionally as well. When one of my lovely friends was diagnosed with cancer I talked to her while she was undergoing treatment to help her process the emotions and practical things that were going on. We talked, we shared and we laughed. We celebrated her successful treatment by taking part in the Moonwalk three years ago. Then earlier this year she found out that she was ill again. It just seems so unfair. She is amazing and pragmatic and - at the risk of sounding like a terrible cliche - incredibly brave. I'm very lucky to know her.

When my loved ones are struggling it breaks my heart. It also breaks me physically, but it takes me ages to notice myself. I've been taking care of myself and eating well and running again so that helps. I'm not much fun to be around right now. On edge, shouty, quick to tears and completely unpredictable. I don't know what to do to make things better. I wish I could fix the things that are making me feel like this, but some things are just out of my hands."

So that's how it feels in the middle of it all. I'm not entirely sure why it happens or how to get past it, but I know it's a moment in time. Sometimes the moment goes on for a while. What I do know is that I can do this. However difficult it seems at the time I always get through it.