Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hullo I must be going...

I can't stop long as I'm off to Shropshire to visit my mother, the children are unclad, unwashed and unfed, and the house looks like a bomb's hit it. Spouse is at work pulling the teeth out of all the people who got a sixpence stuck in their mouths courtesy of a Christmas pudding and I have just run down the road in my dressing gown to put the wheelie bin out in case the bin men miraculously do come today. If, as I suspect they don't, I shall be dashing over to the tip before Spouse is back... hence my lack of time.

The Christmas festivities passed in a pleasantly bucolic haze. Christmas starts for us with the children's nativity service at 5pm. (That makes five I've attended - count them, five - but it was charming and I do like the carols). Then it was home to rush round doing last minute tidying before toddling over to the neighbours who every year bravely hold a drinks party on Christmas Eve. There was some talk of cancellation this year as the host was in India up until recently, but their children all decided that everyone would still come anyway...

We staggered back from there at 11.30pm, and for once could sit down as we had wrapped all the presents. Actually not all. One of Santa's gifts was two dalek battle packs which I had forgotten about. Santa also had to write a note to the children (with his left hand so no 1 couldn't tell me it looked like my writing) and then of course I spilt red wine over all the presents. So I didn't get to bed till 3.30 and the kids woke up at ... 4am!

Luckily, they know better now then to wake us too, but I did stagger out of bed at 7.30 to put the turkey on. And we all went to see what Santa had left by the chimney. After weeks of angsting from Spouse and I and many trips to Argos (Nos 2&3 had requested the entire catalogue, and half the things they were after ended up being out of stock), No 1 seemed delighted with skates, no 2 was over the moon about her doll's house, no 3 was thrilled to bits with Polly Pocket, though it wasn't the right one, and bizarrely, no 4 was ecstatic about getting Scooby Doo, which seemed a bit of a crap present to me. But he does talk, so I suppose that makes up for it.

They all loved their daleks sets, but of course though we had wisely bought lots of batteries, they were the WRONG sort... So Spouse had to dash out and get some more.

Meanwhile I went back to bed (hurrah, my children are now old enough that I can), leaving the turkey to sizzle at the bottom of the oven.

However, when I got up I realised that it was cooking too slowly, but as it was on a trivet, it was too high to put anywhere else in the oven. With the help of my sil and watched by bil, mil and Spouse (who I ended up banishing from the kitchen because of the stress of it all), we removed turkey from trivet and put it on a plate. Stupidly, I then forgot to put something to catch the fat, so when we did get the bloody thing out finally gallons of the stuff poured onto the floor. Mind you, it did shine the floor up nicely...

In the meantime my Christmas pud which I had made the day before (great recipe for lazy mums...) was a disaster as I forgot to put the suet in, so it had no fat to bind it. It ended up a glutinous mess, in a vaguely puddingy shape, but it did burn nicely and it tasted edible. Luckily sil had provided another pudding.

Bil meanwhile had chopped enough vegetables to feed the whole of England. So yesterday I decided to make soup from the leftovers. I was halfway through blending the remains, when my blender literally caught fire (it was a wedding present seventeen years ago, so I suppose it's done pretty well really). I then got out my smoothie maker to finish off what was left, and managed to chop the end off the plastic thingie which I was using to push the vegetables down. So that lot got thrown away. I think someone is trying to tell me something...

Still, we had a lovely day, which ended with us watching Dr Who en famille. An hour of David Tennant is enough to make this particular mum's Christmas absolutely perfect....

Ahh, bliss!

Monday, December 25, 2006

A Happy Christmas One and All

I know I've been a bad tempered old bat about the festive season, while the offspring were doing their many and varied nativity things. But now it's upon us, I do find it hard to be bah, humbuggy, much as I would like to. I took the kids to the nativity service at our local church this evening, and it was really lovely. So I'm not the Scrooge I like to pretend to be.

So to all the readers of maniac mum, I extend my grateful thanks that you've bothered to read my blog this year, and my merry felicitations for the festive season.

To end on a frivolous note. It's past 3am, and I have just spilt wine over a load of christmas pressies. One of them was to my mil from her eighteen year old great nephew. The package was so wet, I stupidly ripped open the paper so I could repackage the present. To discover that he had given her a bra. My mil is 83. He is 18. Minds and boggling don't come into it. Needless to say I've rewrapped it and forged his signature. I just hope she doesn't notice a thing....

A very merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Maniac Mum might be a bit quiet over the next few days, but hopes to resume normal service in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So little time, so much to do...

If anyone is still out there, you may have noticed I've been rather quiet. (oh good I hear you say).

The main reason was I was up to my eyes in my pesky deadlines.

I can now reveal that one of them is for my first novel - the allotment book is going to make into print next autumn, published by Harper Collins, it's going to be called Pastures New. Which is all very exciting. But having spent eight years writing pretty much for myself it's a wee bit scary suddenly having to live up to people's expectations. Every line I wrote now seems crass beyond belief, and in the end I just had to send it off otherwise I thought I'd be tinkering forever.

My other deadline is for a children's story called Awkward Annie, which will be published by Evans, although I'm not quite sure when. I'm really pleased about this as the character is based on no 2, so not unnaturally, I'm rather fond of her...

In between all of this of course, I have been attending all the various Christmas events for the children.

So far we've had:

No 2 as a cool wise man wearing shades. I know I'm biased, but she and her confederates stole the show. Sadly I don't have a picture as years of returning from these things with crappy pictures of my offspring means I tend not to bring a camera these days.

While we were doing this Spouse went with nos1 & 3 to be ecowarriors and cut down our Christmas tree (along with about twenty others - the deal is you help clear the heathland and then take a free tree home. Or four in our case. Spouse got one for mil and the kids decided they needed one each in their bedrooms. Right....)

Last Tuesday saw nos 1&2 at their carol concert. The church where this is held has very little vision so I was lucky to spot no 2 at all. No 1 surprised me by leaping up halfway through the service, to do something, I knew not wot. It turned out she'd lit a candle.

They do a repeat in the evening to which I normally don't go, but as the littlies are a bit bigger now, we all went on a moonlit walk through the allotments, which was actually rather nice. I felt a momentary pang when I realised this is no 1's last Christmas effort at her current school, till I realised I still have six more performances to go. Poor no 4, I'll be cheering when it gets to her last show...

No 4 put in an appearance as a villager last Wednesday. She had to say WE WANT PEACE AND QUIET, which she did very loudly. She then complained that she only had one line...

Last up is no 3 who is narrating in a Christingle service tonight.

Then that's us done and dusted till Christmas Eve when we go to the family service at 5pm.

So I am thoroughly Christmassed out, but in quite a nice way.

At the weekend Spouse and I did some last minute panic shopping as we were all out of ideas for everyone. Nos 2&3 have copied out the entire contents of the Argos catalogue for their Santa lists. I told no 2 she wasn't getting the Bratz house, because a) it's too expensive and b) as Spouse rightly points out, it looks like a bordello. However, her cool response was well, Santa doesn't pay for presents does he? Oh damn...

We also had the surreal experience of singing carols at high speed in our local pub on Sunday night. It's great fun, but not such a good idea on a Sunday, as neither of us felt very clever yesterday....

And we still have a week's heavy drinking to go...

Thanks to a heavy cold I can't even be virtuous and say I'm exercising.

But I have done this...

Never one to miss a trick me. I've just posted this on You Tube. The soundtrack should of course be Running on Empty, but Vivaldi can't sue!

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What's a girl got to do to get out of the house?

After weeks of having a fairly lazy time my life has suddenly gone MAD....
I have three looming deadlines. One for the end of the week. One for the end of next. And one (the most important one) for 21 December. I feel like I am chucking three balls in the air and just watching them drop... The trouble is a 9-3 working day just isn't long enough.

Last night was another mum's night out. This time it was no 4's, and a) given that I had run out of excuses for not attending and b) by the time no 4 is left at school on her own all my other mummy friends will be long gone so I facultatively reckoned I should start cultivating some more, if I am not to be left mournfully standing alone in the playground contemplating the glory days when I knew everyone in it
As well as the mum's night out, it was also no 2's first brownie carol singing adventure. This takes place annually at our local train station, and is followed by a Christmas party. Now me, I think this a tad ambitious myself. And having one year had the dubious pleasure of walking twenty over excited little girls back to brownies, trying to prevent them from death by walking under a car, I also think it is plain bonkers. This year my friend kindly did the brownies bit, while I looked after her other little girl.
First off, I get to school with no 2's brownie uniform and discover that she could actually wear her own clothes, so she is in a strop as she doesn't want to borrow friend's clothes. So friend's mum kindly pops by our house to pick up the clothes. No 2 also informed me at 8pm the previous night that she has to write a three minute talk for today. Nothing like leaving it to the last minute... So, she agrees she will write it at her friend's house. Flatteringly, the subject of her talk is My Favourite Book, and she has chosen my marathon book. I suspect because it mentions her... I am still not sure I should have let the children read it, but they all seemed keen, so I'm hoping any rude bits will have gone over their heads.
When friend had departed, I decided to sweep leaves in the front (as you do) as we now have a new brown recycling wheelie bin for garden waste. Which is great, as rather then digging stuff up and dumping it down the garden, I can dump it in the bin instead. Meanwhile no 4 and her friend had fallen out, so I had to leave the leaves half done and sort that dispute out. Then I grabbed a quick hour on the computer for my serious deadline (of which more in another blog), and then handed over the computer to no 1 (who is rapidly becoming more computer literate then me) and went to make tea.
Being a girl with a lot of foresight, and not fancying tuna pasta, I cooked Spouse and I salmon instead. My aim was to eat it at 7.30 after the littlies were in bed, before I collected no 2 from her party. Oh, the best laid plans....
At 6.15 the doorbell rang - it was no 4's friend's dad who was collecting her. This prompted huge wails all round and no 4 didn't let up for nearly half an hour, which was trying to say the least.
No 3 then decided she HAD to go on the computer too. So I let her play on our old knackered computer while no 1 looked up information about the Amazon for her geography homework.
Then I put the bath on and spent a fruitless ten minutes trying to persuade 3 &4 that they really did need to get in. By this time it was 7.20, I still hadn't eaten and the phone rang. I handed it over to Spouse and tried to extricate the littlies from the bath. After much bad tempered splashing, I got them out and in their pyjamas. No 4 was demanding a story, but I had no time, so I left no 3 on storytelling duties as Spouse was still on the phone, and I really, really had to go.
I got to brownies at 7.5o, and went to the party room to discover nary a brownie in sight. They were all downstairs rehearsing for the nativity on Sunday. Oh bugger. It's not as though they'd been doing anything else that evening. Who in their right minds would organise a programme of carolsinging/party/rehearsals for a bunch of eight year olds? And the old dear in charge looked like she was going to keep them till kingdom come, till I intervened and said I really really had to take them home now, as it was a school day today.
Then it was back to drop friend off, and pick her mum up as she was coming to mums night out too. We got back, I ran upstairs and got changed, and then we hoofed it straight out again...
And no, I didn't get to eat.
This morning no 2 presented me with a crumpled scrap of paper. Can you type that up mum, she asked. What in between making lunches/breakfasts/chasing children to brush their teeth?
Luckily she is a child who goes for the quickest option, so she hadn't actually written very much. It was full of spelling mistakes, but very funny.

So here for your delectation and delight is no 2's three minute talk.
Ah, praise from an eight year old, is praise indeed....
(incidentally, she can spell, so she tells me, but she was in a hurry...)

My Three Minute Talk

My three minute talk is about Running on Empty: Diary of a Marothon Mum, by Julia Williams, otherwise known as My Mum.

This book is about how my mum fought to run the marothon.

It all started with a seriol non-runner (my mum) who wants to lose weight but doesn’t know how, when suddenly she gets a call from her twin sister Ginia who asks if she would like to do the marothon with her. Julia wants to say no, it’s her disire to scream noooo, wich is wy of course she says …. Yes.

This book is special to me because it was written by mum & it explains how hard it was running the marothon.

My fave part is when she says she couldn’t have done it without five special people( I wonder why, Mum)
I’d recommend this book to anyone.

Thank you for listening to my three minute talk.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Little Donkey, Little Donkey...

The levels of pre-Christmas insanity has gone up a notch in our house as the offspring are beginning to start practising for their Christmas services.

At last count I have to attend the following:

Wednesday evening no 2 is carol singing with the Brownies at the local railway station.

Saturday afternoon she's singing in the local shopping centre from 4-5. No 4 has a party from 3-5 and no 1 a party from 5-7. Something's got to give...

Sunday morning no 2 is a wise man at the United Reformed Church courtesy of Brownies. We aren't actually members of the URC but what the hell. I'm all for ecumenism.

Sunday afternoon is the Christingle service at the CofE church attached to their school. None of them are performing but they'll all want to go, because mercenary little buggers that they are, they want their orange and sweets.

Sunday morning is also the time allotted for us to become eco warriors and go and dig up a Christmas tree. We did this last year and it was great fun. Basically you drive to a clearing in the middle of nowhere and are led onto the heathland by someone who's a cross between David Bellamy and Ray Mears, and then have to dig up as many Scotch pines as you can. They are not native to the heathland and are destroying it. The charity that runs it gets some free help, we get to take home a free tree, along with a halo for having done something good for the environment. Exchange is no robbery and all that... As no 2 complained last year of cold feet so won't be disappointed about missing out. Instead Spouse is going with a variety of children, his brother and sil, while I do the nativity with mil. As usual, I get the short straw...

Tuesday afternoon is the Junior school carol service - two for the price of one, as nos 1&2 are both singing. I do quite like this one, but the only trouble is it's held in the church which has awkward pillars so you spend most of the service craning your neck to find your own child.

Wednesday afternoon it's no 4's turn. I think they're doing the nativity, but it is a bit difficult to tell, as her part is that of a villager who has to say WE WANT PEACE AND QUIET (ironic since she is so noisy), and apparently has to wear pyjamas.

No 3's event takes place the following Tuesday, in the evening. It's another Christingle service, held at school and we can't bring siblings. Great... She miraculously is reading - none of mine have been so blessed before. Her teacher is notorious for having favourites and usually the same kids get picked again and again.

So I have two lots of carol singing, two nativities, one carol service and two christingle ceremonies to attend.

I clearly have too many children....

PS I will NEVER EVER mention cricket here again. How could it have gone so tits up. You have to hand it to the Ozzies though, they played brilliantly. And to dear old Freddie Flintoff, who is a prince among men and still gamely saying the series can be won. Freddie me darling, pigs and flying spring to mind, but hey, we applaud your fighting spirit...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Going, Going, Gone...

This being the start of the festive season, Spouse and I have suddenly found ourselves in an unusual whirl of social activity.

Last Wednesday I had to forswear the pleasure of a night out with mums (no 2's lot) for a birthday dinner with my bil, and on Friday I had to pass up on a night out with mums (no 4's lot) for Spouse's work Christmas do.

And because it is the first time in MONTHS that we've managed to go out anywhere together, I came down with the mother of all colds. No, anyone of the male persuasion reading this, I didn't have flu, I had a very very bad cold.

It started last Monday night. I had been for an epic swimming session at my triathlon club (for news on how the training's going, or not... hop over to - after many months I have finally got to grips with swimming crawl (well ish) and can manage about 500m continuously now. Believe me this is good for someone who used to die halfway down the second length. Normally in our sessions our trainer makes us gumbies in the beginners lane do a variety of drills, so we don't get much swimming in. He was away last week, so while the cat was away, the mice decided to play and follow the routine laid down for the slow people of the next lane. We as it turns out are even slower, as we barely got beyond their warm up. But we did manage fifty lengths, of which I was inordinately proud.

I should have known, however, that I was heading for trouble when I started to struggle more then I have done of late, and found myself rather out of breath at points. I got home, feeling fine, but woke at 2am with a sore throat. Which not only stayed, but made sure I didn't sleep till about 6am.


By Tuesday night I was feeling like death warmed up so I went for an early night to no avail, as I woke at 3am completely bunged up. In the morning no 1 was similarly afflicted,so I took everyone to school and then we BOTH went back to bed. Cripes. I can't remember when I last did that. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've done that since the kids arrived. What a relief they are all in school and finally I can collapse if I feel like it...

So I staggered out on Wednesday evening, convincing myself that I felt better, and after a few glasses of red, I didn't feel worse. However, Wednesday night followed the same relentlessly tedious pattern and again I was up half the night.

On Thursday I had to catch up with everything I'd missed on Wednesday so no more lie ins for me... And I ended up getting to bed latish because I was keeping an eye on my neighbours' teenage kids while she was out.

By Friday I was feeling absolutely dreadful and got through the day in a haze of lemsip and hankies. I really wanted to cry off the work do, but I knew Spouse wanted me to come and thought maybe I could find a second wind halfway through the evening.

Second wind, my aunt.

What happened instead, dear reader, was that I lost my voice. It disappeared about halfway through the evening. So I spent a very (un)merry night gesticulating wildly at people I barely know and just thinking I want to go home....

Around midnight after imbibing a rather large brandy it miraculously returned enough for me to at least talk at a low pitch for the rest of the night.

Thankfully, our Saturday morning routine has now changed since no1's exam so we don't actually have to get up that early anymore (huzzah), though I did have to go and watch no 3's modern dance lesson, during which I felt I might just keel over. By the time we got back my voice had gone again. Where's it gone? enquired no 4 in an interested manner - good question. The rest of them were just rubbing their hands with glee when they realised that whatever mayhem they committed Mummy couldn't shout at them for once.

When I woke up my voice came back temporarily, so the next time it disappeared they were all helpfully suggesting I just go back to sleep and it would come back again.

We ended the day with my huddled under a blanket sipping hot milk laced with brandy and honey and watching Robin Hood. Which I have to say was somewhat better this week. The Sheriff of Nottingham had captured someone who apparently had the secret of black fire, which looked suspiciously like gunpowder to me. I know nothing of these things but Spouse reckons black fire was something completely different and gunpowder probably hadn't been invented then. But hey, this version of Robin Hood hasn't so far bothered to stick with the facts, so plus ca change. I do like Keith Allen's Sheriff, but Guy of Gisborne is way too sexy. Robin looks like a puling schoolboy by comparison. If I were Marion I'd give Robin the heaveho and go off with Guy. He's a much better bet...Anyway, I digress as ever. There was good fun to be had this week in terms of Much being made (in a highly unlikely manner) into a lord and a nice good old fashioned explosion to end it all. But it's still not a patch on Dr Who...

Sunday was spent having lunch with friends and luckily my voice returned for the duration of the day.

I still didn't feel one hundred per cent, but at least I could speak. And I managed to stay up to watch Torchwood instead of hiving off to bed as I'd planned.

That too was better this week.

Having had the unlikely pairing of Gwen and Owen to contend with a couple of weeks ago, and the even more unlikely pairing of the girl with the unpronounceable name and the alien last week, it was nice to have NO SEX this week. Someone should tell the makers of Torchwood that adding gratuitous sex scenes does not an adult programme make... Although I didn't quite get what was going on with Jack and Ianto at the end when they were talking about stop watches (unless it's some kind of gay thing that I don't get) - and they still seem to be sending each other significant glances, so no doubt we'll see them in bed before too long.

However, that aside, this was a cracking episode, in which Susie who was killed in the first episode got brought back to life and then proceeded to drain the lifeblood from Gwen, before Jack eventually killed her again - though not without her telling him there was something in the dark coming to get him. Great stuff, and just what I hoped Torchwood was going to be like.

So it was well worth staying up for last night ... even if I can't speak today....

PS And my cup of happiness is complete to discover this morning that Matthew Hoggard took seven wickets overnight. Yay! (Sorry Bec) After the first test debacle it's nice to know our boys aren't going to go without a fight. And if (unlikely though it is - I think we're heading for a draw meself) they manage to pull it off it looks as though we've got a fight on our hands. The only thing is, after the last Ashes series I'm not sure my nerves can stand it...

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...

Monday, October 30, 2006

The First Cut is the Deepest...

Among my many talents (and clearly someone who writes a blog as witty and entertaining as this is very very talented) is a great ability to be clumsy. So much so, that as a child if anything got dropped in our house, my siblings would turn round and chorus, Jane looked at us. Not unnaturally I have dedicated my picture book, The Clumsy Cow to them...

I tell you this to explain how it was that last week, when I was cutting some bread I managed to slice the top of my finger. No, I still don't know how I did it. And to add insult to injury the next day I managed to do it again to another finger.

Anyway finger no 1 bled like a stuck pig, and it took ages to stop the bleeding. Luckily I am not a wuss about these things (that's what comes of having a mother who is a nurse), but in the end I had to enlist Spouse's help to get a plaster on without bleeding to death.

After a few days I thought it had healed up, and forgot about it.

Until Saturday when we went out to sort out tedious domestic tasks. Spouse dumped me by the Insurance Agency we use to pay our buildings insurance while he went off to buy wood (as a man this is of course a vital part of his raison d'etre). Insurance duly having been paid, I toddled off to the bank to pay a cheque in before close of business. En route I inadvertently managed to knock my finger again.

I thought nothing of it (apart from Ouch!) until I noticed a small globule of blood forming on the top of the finger. Damn. I had no tissue on me, and I had given Spouse my last tenner.

I squeezed the finger tight, and held it up to no avail. Within seconds both hands were covered in blood, and I looked like I had just walked off the set of a Tarantino movie.

I dashed into Boots, and grabbed some antiseptic wipes, quick healing plasters and some spray on decoagulant (I didn't know such things existed, but boy was I grateful for them).

The woman in the shop to her eternal credit didn't call the police, but did offer assistance in the form of a tissue. She also offered first aid. Except it was denied by her boss. Apparently Boots staff can't do first aid on their customers. Obvious health and safety issues there...

Anyway, I was by now feeling like a total prat, and just wanted to get my plasters and get the hell out of there.

But oh no. My life can never be simple. I had to use my credit card having no money, and although I was spending the princely sum of £12, thanks to having made two expensive online purchases the previous day my card security was compromised and I found myself (still pouring blood) being ushered to the back of the shop where I held the phone as gingerly as I could and answered some security questions.

It could only happen to me.

By now an interested crowd had gathered around me, and I was feeling more stupid then I probably ever have in my entire life. So it was with great relief that my purchase could be made, and I was finally able to escape.

I used the antiseptic wipes to clean my hands, and managed to get the anti coagulant spray on to stop the bleeding. It was only when I went to put the plaster on I realised in my panic I hadn't bought proper plasters but spray on ones.

And I was too late for the bank.

Still on the upside, my finger has now stopped bleeding and should I commit a heinous crime I expect my finger print has now changed irrevocably and I should get away with it...

PS Caught episode 3 of Torchwood last night and at least there was no gratuitous sex. Captain Jack is turning out rather yummy too. But I think the kids would have been frightened of the ghosts, so it's still a no go for them. They'll just have to make do with watching Dr Who DVDs instead, though No 3 cried buckets at the end of the last episode at the thought of never seeing Rose again. I have a hunch we will see her again - perhaps making her way through the rift in Cardiff and doing a guest spot on Torchwood? Then again, that wouldn't cheer no 3 up, because she definitely won't be watching Torchwood for at least a decade....
Whereas I will. There are advantages to motherhood after all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Talking of Torchwood

... As I mentioned it in passing yesterday. I am going to have a bit of a rant today. Why oh why did they make it for grown ups? No 1 is spitting mad that she can't watch it. I thought perhaps once we'd vetted it, we might let her, but on the evidence of the half of the show I watched, I don't think so.

If you were the other person in the country who didn't see it, the plot revolved around an alien who needed orgasmic energy (they must have had a laugh in their editorial meetings!) to sustain itself. Consequently it had infiltrated a girl who was going round shagging everyone. And turning them into little piles of dust afterwards (as you do) - a novel way of ending a relationship...

Not only that said nymphomaniac also got to snog the lead female (as I missed the beginning I'm not yet up to speed with all the characters yet) - which frankly was gratuitous as it turned out that the orgasmic energy thing only worked with blokes.

Now call me a reactionary old bat (it's ok I know what I am), but how much of this was strictly necessary? I can see that the makers of Dr Who might have got fed up with the inevitable restrictions from working on a show for kids. And I don't mind sex on tv if it advances the story, but quite frankly this didn't. They could easily have the alien feeding off another kind of energy - how about mobile phones for example? - or even as Spouse said they could have done the same thing with snogging. SF films are full of aliens who kiss the life force out of their prey - it could have worked here and still been suitable for small children.

The thing that really really peeves me about this, is that Dr Who is a fabulous intergenerational watching experience, and as a family we all sit down on a Saturday to watch it together (so far Robin of the Hood hasn't quite matched up) - and all the kids know about Torchwood. Russell T Davies and the Beeb must have known that they would want to watch it. It seems like shooting yourself in the foot to cut off half your audience like that. Never mind that up and down the country parents are cursing him for depriving their offspring.

I think that is an act of breathtaking arrogance to stamp on the dreams of half their audience like this. If it was another section of the population, think of the outcry. But kids? That's ok, they don't count. The fact that said kids will grow up to be potentially lifelong fans should be exercising the good folk at the Beeb. You stamp on their dreams at your peril.

No 1 is so cross she has even sent Russell Davies a letter about it, as she thinks this is majorly unfair.

And she is right.

I'm not going to let her know that simply by going to the website she can watch again... So it's actually going to be hard to prevent kids from watching it if we're not careful. (OK so she has parental controls on her account, but what's to prevent her logging onto mine and working it out. She's a savvy kid. I'm sure it won't take her long).

I am also sure there are parents who won't be as scrupulous about letting kids watch Torchwood as I am. But it really really isn't suitable.

And I think that is a great pity. Because with a little tweaking it could so easily be perfectly ok for Dr Who's younger fans, and I think it's shortchanging them to have left them out like this.

I will still be watching.

But I wish the kids could be sitting next to me when I do...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding Through the Glen

After our debacle of a holiday in France/Germany this summer Spouse and I felt a little pampering was in order for half term. Sadly Spouse has used up all his holiday, so a little pampering was all it could be. However, something being better then nothing, I duly went online a few weeks back to search for that elusive thing - a weekend break in a hotel, that was a) affordable and b) practical for a family of six. A cunning friend put me on to Hilton Hotels who are running a series of breaks which amazingly fulfil both criteria. Not only that, but for the first time ever we got a family room with a connecting door ensuite (normally we're all cramped in together, which is why we don't often stay in hotels...).

So, the next dilemma was our destination. Given that the offspring are still severely anti castle following out last trip en famille, I had to discount Warwick, even though Spouse and I both really want to go there. I thought about Bath, but that too, is too full of old ruins to be very attractive. In the end, hearing via one of my writing friends that Nottingham Castle was holding a reenactment weekend featuring none other then Robin of the Hood (the tv version holding up fairly well in this house as a substitute for Dr Who), that seemed like as good a destination as any. I figured (rightly) that no 1, who is more anti castle then the rest, might be persuaded to go to one where she got to see jousting. I also had the ace up my sleeve that my sister and her offspring live not too far away and arranging for the cousins to be there, proved a master stroke.

My friend was slightly concerned that we would bring the rain with us - given that it was pouring here on Friday, I not unnaturally shared her concerns. However, fortunately the sun came out late on Friday afternoon. Spouse managed to get off early, we picked the sprogs up from school and off we set. Of course the M25 being what it is, we then sat in a traffic jam for the best part of two hours. But luckily we had Chris Evans' All Request Friday to keep us going. So that was all right then.

Getting into Nottingham itself was something of a trial, however. I had downloaded some instructions from one of those online mapping companies. Which is all well and good, but of course, they lack any kind of discretionary input, and you don't get any sensible instructions like, turn left after the second set of traffic lights. Instead we were looking for the slip road, before the roundabout and managed to miss it - not knowing precisely which roundabout the computer meant. I am never ever going to get sat nav...

Luckily our Road Atlas had a city plan of Nottingham. And I realised were heading along the south side of the square we needed to be on. Great, all we had to do was turn left and left again, and we should hit the road we were after.

Unluckily, we missed the tiny left turn we were after.

Luckily I could see if we kept going on the road we were on, we could get round the back of a shopping centre and hit the right road.

Unluckily, our map ran out round the back of said shopping centre, so we had to follow our noses to get to the right place.

Luckily we managed it and the road we were on was meant to turn into the road our hotel was on.

Unluckily it didn't. Or rather it did, but we weren't allowed to enter it.

Luckily I found another way round.

Unluckily, I forgot to tell Spouse to turn right at the correct moment.

By now we weren't speaking, and no 4 was desperate for the loo. After heading several miles in the opposite direction, we found our way again, reached the road we were after, only to discover we couldn't turn up it. Spouse managed to do an illegal U-turn, to get to the road we were after, and finally, hey presto we had arrived at our destination. Phew.

It's been over ten years since I was last in Nottingham and it's changed a bit...

Anyway, once that stress was over, everything else was great. The kids had a huge room and we had the bliss of one next door.We got a wonderful meal for nothing as part of our deal - and for once the kids got offered something more substantial and healthy then chicken nuggets and chips. Eat your heart out Jamie....

The next morning we had a huge breakfast, before going for a stroll. We were so excited by the sight of a Primarks (we don't have one near us) we had to go for a bit of shop. Which is how our children have all ended up with hooded jackets/puffa jackets. Oh dear. We have four little chavs now. But at least they were warm...

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick swim before meeting my bil, sister and their five sprogs at the castle.

The sun amazingly shone all day, so we were able to enjoy the jousting and other events around Robin Hood's life. The kids enjoyed cheering Robin and booing Guy of Gisborne and the sheriff - no 2 enjoyed it all so much she kept accosting all the actors, who must have been soooo glad that they came and stood by our section of the stands....

Hats off to the organisers. It was a great day out. And we were rewarded at the end of it by the sight of our offspring joining in a group of Dutch mediaeval singers who roped them in to play instruments. Between my sister and I we managed to provide about half the children...

I was also rewarded by meeting in the flesh my efriend, Elizabeth Chadwick, who had told me all about it. She was busy slaving over a cooking pot while we were enjoying ourselves, but it was great to meet her.

The two big ones went to stay the night with my sister, while we tried to persuade the little ones that the Sheriff of Nottingham had kept them prisoners till the morning, so they wouldn't feel left out. No 3 wasn't at all convinced by this and rumbled us as we got to the hotel. She had worked out that her sisters were with her cousins, but assumed they were all back at the hotel. Which of course they weren't. The inevitable It's Not Fair! scene ensued, before we managed to pacify her with the end of Robin Hood. Despite entertaining some misgivings about the series still, I did think the best line of the programme had to go to Keith Allen. When one of the character said I shot the sheriff, Keith appeared from the shadows to say, no you shot the deputy. Well it made me laugh...

No 3 was further satisfied with the promise of more swimming so by the time we got to my sister's yesterday she was completely pacified, so we didn't feel too guilty.

We had a lovely relaxing afternoon before heading off in the rain home. Sadly our journey was horribly slow, ensuring we missed the beginning of Torchwood, but, still. It was better then driving 150 miles and putting up a tent in the pouring rain....

Tuning into Wogan this morning I heard the very sad news of Paul Walters untimely death. Like thousands of people up and down the country I am sure I am not alone in mourning the loss of this wonderfully talented man. Mornings just won't be the same again. Hats off to the magnificent Terry Wogan and his team, for pulling off such a wonderfully moving tribute to Pauly without the slightest mawkishness, and much great humour. I'm sure he'd have loved it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

That Pesky Glass Ceiling

I'm not usually given to polemic on this blog, the purpose of which is entirely selfish. It allows me to let off steam about the madness of my everyday life and gives my writerly ego a boost when someone strays across it and kindly writes me an email. Every writer is at heart a huge egotist. We want people to read the pearls of our wisdom, otherwise there is No Point...

Anyway, as usual I digress.

I have been engaging in a friendly discussion with a good friend recently about the way parenthood affects the lives of women, and what happens to their careers when it does. We started off in the personal, but some of the things he said to me started to make me think of the problem in its wider context. And this week several things I have read in the paper made me think even harder.

The first was an article Mary Kenny wrote in The Daily Telegraph about the survey that Women's Hour did which seemed to suggest that the majority of twenty somethings were keen to settle down and have children, and women were turning their backs on highflying careers. Her response to this was that it proves that women are incapable of being leaders and cannot go against nature. The reason not enough of us have broken through the glass ceiling is because our nature prevents us. In effect - we just aren't up to it.

What????? Did I just miss something or did feminism never happen? I can think of a whole host of women who have succeeded in making it to the top: Anita Roddick, Cherie Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Helena Kennedy, to name but a few. I also take huge issue with her assertion that women are only interested in local politics/politics of the family. I'm sorry, Mary, but that just ain't true. Or certainly not for me anyway. If anything I've become more politicised since I've been at home with the sprogs. For a start I'm listening to the radio all day/or online so am always up to date with the news. And while I cheerfully admit my early morning listening eschews Today (too bloody miserable for words) in favour of El Tel (he cheers me up in the morning, ok?), courtesy of Messrs Mayo and Vine I usually get some good pithy analysis of what's going on in the world, so I have developed some healthy bolshy opinions as a result.

Apart from this inducing a coffee cup moment, there were aspects of her argument I agreed with. I have learnt the hard way you can't have it all, and certainly it is my experience that many many talented and brilliant women walk away from their careers to nurture their children. I am in the middle of a fascinating book by Professor Tim Spector who runs the Twins Unit at St Thomas' entitled, Your Genes Unzipped. I am clearly no expert on genetics, but from what I've read Mary Kenny is probably right, nature does come into it somewhere. Women are programmed to be nurturers and men are programmed to be hunter gatherers - society has changed, but our basic natures haven't. However, in the same book, Professor Spector also points out that it is a relatively new phenomenon for women to stay at home and raise their young, and there are plenty of societies where women did both and were treated as equal partners.

The second article I read (sorry also in the Torygraph. If I wasn't so lazy I would read more then one paper, but lack of time means I just read what Spouse brings home) - seemed to be saying something different. It claimed that scores of middle class professionals are delaying parenthood till they are financially settled, and that when they do get there, they spend a fortune on expensive techie equipment to keep tabs on their nannies at home. I did think the woman who had a webcam through which she could communicate with her nanny whenever she wanted had a point - it keeps her in touch and aware of problems at home without her having to dash back at the slightest crisis. She gets to see her children (if only via a technological link), the kids get to hear from Mummy in the day and the nanny has a back up if things go wrong.

However, if people are employing the technology to spy on their nannies then that is bonkers. If you can't bear to entrust your child to someone else then you shouldn't be at work. I have been enormously lucky with my childcare. My first childminder was someone I knew well, who happened to have a baby at the same time as I am. I went back to work comfortable in the knowledge that no1 was not only well cared for, she had a friend to play with too. In fact ten years later they are still best friends. I then had a wonderful nanny, who only left me last year when no 4 went to nursery. I am lucky enough to work from home, but even had I not, I would have trusted her implicitly. If I hadn't trusted either of them, I simply wouldn't have let them look after my children. Admittedly we can all get it wrong, but the majority of childminders and nannies are not child abusers - and I think instincts are a powerful thing. If you aren't sure, don't employ them would be my motto...

The third report I read this week is the quite staggering notion that teenage girls who are pregnant are smoking to keep their babies small, and ensure they have easy labours.

What???? Again another coffee cup moment. Actually, it turns out (well according to all the midwives who rang in the Jeremy Vine programme the other day) this one is as old as the hills. Teenage girls have apparently always done this. But surely we are talking about the Vicky Pollards of this world, here. Not all of them can be that stupid can they?

So there you have it the media stories of the week focussing on parenthood, all of which are ever so slightly contradictory.

1) Everyone is opting to settle down and have babies in their mid twenties, and women are forgoing a high flying career
2) Everyone is opting to have babies later and waiting till they are financially secure and women are carrying on with their high flying careers.
3) Everyone is actually saying sod that for a game of soldiers, I am having my babies when I'm young and smoking myself to death to retain my figure....


All of that makes for a great story in the press, but I wonder really what the truth is.

Twenty years ago I was in the middle of my university degree, reading English at Liverpool University. Through a wonderful tutor I had embarked on a discovery of hitherto unknown women writers, and my sensibilities were being awoken to feminism. The further discovery that my grandmother had had a place at Liverpool also to read English, but been unable to take it up because her father didn't believe in education for women, set light a burning ambition in me, to make the most of what I had been given.

At 21 of course I wasn't thinking about any of this. Did I but know it I had already met my future husband and the father of my babies. But it was the last thing on our minds. I think we'd have both run a mile if anyone had shown us a crystal ball of the future. As it says in the song, we were much to young to consider that kind of thing and were concentrating on having fun instead.

Once real life hit and we were fending for ourselves in the big bad world, we were too busy paying off a mortgage and getting established in our careers to consider parenthood as something we were prepared to get into just yet.

My friend reckons parenthood was anathema to us, but the truth was more complicated then that.

We both always wanted children, but having watched a couple we knew as students get bogged down with babies far too young, we weren't at all inclined to follow them. Plus when we did get married (in our mid twenties - much younger then nearly all our university contemporaries) we indulged in a DIY project to end all DIY projects. Bringing a baby into the equation at that point, would have been quite frankly disastrous, both financially and physically. The house was full of dust for about three years. (So OK, not too dissimilar from our life in our current abode, which has been an ongoing DIY project for ten years, but at least we have more rooms to escape too).

I will admit to having a fear of domesticity (which thanks to my feminist readings were not totally unfounded) . I perceived (and I don't think I was too far off the mark in this) it as a trap. Women get to stay at home and have the babies, and men are still out there in the world doing the interesting stuff. (My friend here, I know will disagree - he thinks motherhood is where the power is at, and that all men do is strut around and puff about. ) I was also terrified of the prospect of labour. I blame a rather gruesome video I watched when I was at school in which I can remember the poor mother screaming her head off. I found the sight of the bloody crumpled baby appalling - anything less miraculous and beautiful I couldn't imagine - and I wasn't at all sure I ever wanted that to happen to me...

So when friends of ours started to have babies, I admit I did panic. I saw them enter a new phase in their lives and was desperately paddling against a current which seemed to be sweeping me over the edge of a precipice into a world where I was not yet prepared to go.

At the same time I was forging ahead with a career I loved. I was editing manuscripts by the time I was 26, which at the time was quite young to be an editor. I was having fun in a busy work environment, and wasn't yet ready to give up the freedoms it offered me.

I don't know how long I would have kept this up. Nature, as Mary Kenny rightly points out, will out. And I come from a large family, very much orientated towards children. My siblings were starting to have babies, as were my friends. My fears about childbirth, the responsibility of having children, my subsequent loss of freedom notwithstanding, eventually I was going to start thinking about it too.

In the end I was catapulted into my decision. Work stopped being fun and my father died rather suddenly just before my 30th birthday. All my reasons for not wanting children suddenly seemed superfluous. Within three months of my father's death I was pregnant. Looking back I can see this was not the most rational decision I have ever made, and I probably wasn't ready to be a mother. But then who is? And now I'm glad I didn't wait till my late thirties. I've been lucky enough to have four healthy babies - I don't know how different it might have been had I started out later. And without that catastrophic event pushing me over the precipice, whose to say I wouldn't have teetered on the edge until it was too late?

We might all be anxious about entering the state of parenthood, but I doubt one of us ever regrets it.

At this stage it never ever occurred to me (in fact it wasn't an issue at all as far as I was concerned), that I wouldn't go back to work. I had worked hard in publishing for ten years. Why should I give all that up to have a baby? Plus we had just taken on a new mortgage. We couldn't actually afford for me not to be at work.

Some months ago I posted about the joy of the day no 1 was born. Everything I wrote about it is true. But what I didn't write about was my subsequent feelings of failure and despondency in the months following her birth.

We all have huge expectations when we become parents. We wonder what our babies will look like. We assume we will love them. For women, we hope the labour will be short and easy. The truth of course is that, until it happens to us, we don't know how we will feel.

As I mentioned previously, my labour with no1 was long, protracted and extremely painful. (I thought I was being a wimp, until I had no 4, also induced, and discovered that one lot of prostin ups the anti - and with no 1 I had three). I was induced, had an episiotomy, forceps and stitches. It was a far cry from the lovely natural experience I had hoped for after my ante-natal NCT classes. When she came out (memories of that ghastly video resurfacing no doubt) I didn't actually want to hold her till she was cleaned up. In fact I didn't get to hold her straightaway anyway, as thanks to the length of the labour a paediatrician was on hand to check her out (I was too drugged up to appreciate the significance of this at the time, it is only now I go cold at the thought of what might have happened).

When I was eventually left alone in a room with her, I didn't know what to do. My baby started to cry and I couldn't reach her, the effects of the epidural having not worn off meant I couldn't walk. I had sent Spouse home as he needed to sleep, and the midwives had got busy and presumably forgotten that I needed to go back to the maternity ward. I was hungry and tired and when no 1 was eventually brought to me, she latched on hungrily, noisily and painfully to my breast. It was a thoroughly miserable experience.

I am no earth mother, and for me, breastfeeding was a nightmare. My nipples were sore and cracked, I leaked all over the place. I felt like a milk cow. It was ghastly. My sisters all relished the experience, but I couldn't wait to get my body back and it was with great relief that at six weeks no 1 happily took to a bottle and I could look forward to getting back to normal.

I was hopelessly naive of course. Normal had gone. My life as it had been was over, and a new one was just beginning. But I didn't realise that at the time.

I spent most of my maternity leave, longing to return to work. Although I semi enjoyed the baby, I was frustrated by the lack of responses I got from her - newborn babies are pretty boring frankly, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying (in fact I think there is a huge culture of lying that goes on when women becomes mothers. No one, but no one wants to admit it isn't a perfect experience). I couldn't understand how my days were so unfocussed, and would pass in a daze of changing nappies and feeding. I longed to get back to my desk and have some kind of control.

And I was also harbouring a guilty secret. I didn't actually love my baby. Or at least not in the sense I imagined I would. Other people I knew spoke of a rush of mother love when they held their babies for the first time. It never happened to me. I was euphoric, but my main feeling was thank God that's over. I didn't even mind when they took her away from me. I had strong feelings of tenderness towards her, and felt a ferocious protectiveness, but love? I can honestly say I didn't love her. How can you love a blob?

What kind of a mother was I? Surely everyone loves their babies? I felt a failure. So I wanted to be back somewhere where I had been a success.

For me going back to work was therefore a huge relief. Spouse was the one who had a pang the first day he took no 1 to the childminder. Me? I was just pleased to get my life back.

Clearly, looking back I was suffering some kind of postnatal depression, but I think more then that, I was experiencing a disappointment that many first time mums feel. I grew in time to love my baby, but I also had to get to know her. I don't think there is anything wrong or unnatural in that. I can even pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with her. She was nine months old and had just learnt to play peekaboo with a blanket. Spouse and I (who were in the middle of a totally nightmarish family crisis at the time) stood and looked at her for hours as she hid behind a blanket grinning and giggling, a little oasis of joy in the middle of much misery.

From that moment on, my feelings towards parenthood changed. I still resented the loss of my freedom (and ten years on I chafe at the fact that I can never just get up and go somewhere without reference to other people), but the truth was, my work life was not getting any better and having no1 at home to escape to was a blessed relief.

So when I fell pregnant with no 2 and work was becoming stressful beyond belief, I took the decision to bow out of the race I had been in so long. I hadn't even bumped the surface of the glass ceiling, and it took a long long time to get over a feeling that I hadn't achieved my full potential, but I also didn't want to miss out on my children growing up. We only get one shot at it, and I didn't want their memories to be of Mummy never being around. I can still remember the secure feeling I used to get when I walked through the door after a school day and my mother would be calmly sewing in a corner. I wanted to give that to my own offspring. (Not sure they get much calmness, but they do have me...)

Of course, as everything in life, this comes with a price. In order to be at home, I have had to say farewell to my glittering career. I have looked on enviously as others, younger, brighter, more ambitious then I have taken my place, then overshot me. I have chafed at doing tedious often poor paying freelance work (though of late fortunately that has improved), and been bored rigid by the drudgery of domesticity.

But for all that I have been blessed with the opportunity of watching my children grow, and much as I might bitch about it, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. And though I have been hanging onto my career by my fingernails, I have just about held on and now I can start looking outward again and think about facing the world once more. I've lost ten years it's true, but what I have gained has been incomparable.

So going back to Mary Kenny, maybe she is right. Maybe I didn't ever have what it takes to get to the top. But I think the truth is perhaps not so black and white. I was certainly ambitious enough and capable enough of getting much higher. But I have a feeling, even had I got there and forgone children, I would now be looking around and saying So What? I know plenty of men my age who think similarly. I also think, certainly in my industry, which is very female orientated, there is a huge brain drain that goes on once women start to have babies. Of the ten or so talented women I worked closely with a decade ago, only a couple still work full time in the industry, and they don't have children. That can't be a good thing, surely. The men get to the top in publishing by default, not because they are better then us. On the other hand, I do know career women who work crazy hours, hardly see their children, are knackered and stressed beyond belief in order to break through the elusive glass ceiling. And so many men I know complain about not seeing enough of their children. That is just plain bonkers.

Maybe the next generation have got it right and are focussing on the right things. We are genetically programmed to mate and procreate. Everything else is mere chaff. But then I look at all those teenagers and despair - do they not have any ambition or hope for doing something other then produce a child they can't afford to care for? After all any idiot can have a baby... That can't be right either.

The truth is out there, somewhere. But I suspect it is slightly more complicated then Ms Kenny would have us believe. My generation has been one of the first to have the choice about when we have our babies and how we deal with our careers when we do. We have in lots of ways got it very badly wrong, and maybe the younger generation is quite rightly stomping into tell us so. Maybe they will learn from our mistakes and get it right. Maybe.

Or maybe they'll just make mistakes all their own.