Saturday, 28 November 2009

A Letter To My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

While I was out shopping today I had a quick look through this book (and later ordered it from Amazon)*.  It's a book of letters written by various celebrities (the ubiquitous Stephen Fry, Yoko Ono, Fay Weldon, Joanna Lumley, Rolf Harris and loads of others) to their sixteen-year-old selves.  It's an interesting idea and caught my imagination, so much so I thought I'd have a go at it myself. 

Dear 16 year old Me,

I know you don't weigh yourself right now, because you are tall and slim so it makes you look like a beanstalk (just ignore your brothers when they say that, they'll get bored of it one day) but as you get older you will become tall and fat and that's much harder to deal with.  Start weighing yourself now and do something about it when you see when the extra pounds appear.  Look after yourself, because guess what?  Nobody else is going to do it for you.  Yup, the buck stops with you. 

Enjoy being tall.  Wear heels more often and don't slouch.  People will look at you for all the wrong reasons for slouching, but for the right reasons for your height.  And I know you won't believe this but short people will be envious of you in the long run, honest.

OK this is a biggie: Dad will never be proud of you.  Nor will he ever be impressed by anything you do.  Accept that now and you will avoid a lot of heartache in the future.  And while I'm on the subject of Dad get some counselling or therapy about it - it might help you to avoid picking the wrong type of men to have doomed relationships with.  Mum, of course, is a different kettle of fish altogether.  Cherish the time you have with her - learn from her, talk to her about her childhood more.  And ask her to write down all her best recipes - one day you will kick yourself for not thinking of this!

One day there will such a thing as laser eye surgery - get it done as soon as it comes out and don't wait until your forties.  Of course it will be expensive but it'll be worth every penny.

Don't play it too safe - take the occasional mad risk, or do something outrageous.  In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter what other people might think.  Go on, you know you want to.

Don't believe a man when he says he is separated from his wife, he probably isn't. Or that his wife doesn't understand him, because she probably knows him only too well.   And don't believe him when he says he is only going on holiday with her for the sake of the kids.  He's not. 

Never, ever marry a man who doesn't respect his mother.  The way a man treats his mother is the way he will treat you one day. Although hang on, you will end up having his two daughters who will bring you a great deal of happiness, so go ahead and marry him. But follow your instincts and chuck him out three days after your second baby is born instead of waiting for another three years.  You'll manage better on your own. Trust me on this one.

Learn to swim!  It'll make such a difference to your summer holidays. 

At 16 you'll be thinking of the type of career you should do in the future and believe me you'll wish you'd spent more time thinking about this. You will spend so much of your life at work that it should be something you enjoy doing. Don't take any notice of the careers advisor who is a completely short-sighted, but well meaning, traditionalist who thinks girls can only be nurses or secretaries.   Look carefully at your options or you will spend the next 25+ years floating from one thing to another before finding the thing that you are really good at:  working with children.  Think about teaching, because one day you'll realise how satisfying it can be, but also investigate how to become a child psychologist.  One day you will wish you had.

I hope you learn to like yourself more, because deep down you're a good person.  Good luck.

What would you say to yourself at sixteen, knowing what you know now? 

* Proceeds from the book go towards the Elton John Aids Foundation.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Giving Thanks

Although Thanksgiving Day is an American holiday, it doesn't mean us Brits don't have a lot to be thankful for - myself included. I'm thankful for:

  • my two beautiful, healthy daughters.  Real blessings that I hope never to take for granted;

  • my own good health - apart from the dodgy back, that is;

  • good friends, some of whom I have known for 30+ years with hardly a cross word between us;

  • a job I enjoy, and colleagues I consider to be friends;

  • a sense of humour, which gets me through the tough times;

  • the blogosphere - who knew blogging could be so therapeutic and enjoyable?

  • the comfortable life my daughters and I enjoy.  This is real comfort that money cannot buy - but from knowing that we are loved by each other.
Wherever you are, whoever you, are enjoy this day of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Take My Hand: A Song to Support Abused Women and Children

Tomorrow (Wednesday 25th November 2009) the UK national charity Women’s Aid is celebrating 35 years of working to end violence against women and children by releasing their first charity single, ‘Take My Hand’. The song has been written especially for the charity to help them raise vital funds to support abused women and children. The single, which is being released to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is sung by 13 year old classical singer Olivia Aaron, with Natasha Benjamin, a real-life survivor of domestic violence. The song is based on the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, ‘Sonata Pathétique’ and its lyrics are an expression of the emotions experienced by children and young people affected by domestic abuse.

Women’s Aid Chief Executive, Nicola Harwin CBE, said:
“Take My Hand has been written especially for Women’s Aid and reflects the words of families that have survived abuse. The song reflects hope for a future free from violence and we hope it will reach out to those affected by domestic violence as well as the wider public. We want to raise awareness of the support available and raise vital funds so that we can continue to provide these services.”

Domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women at some point in their lifetime and recent statistics from the Women’s Aid Annual Survey show that last year an estimated 18,000 women and 20,000 children lived in refuge accommodation in Women’s Aid’s national network of services.

The launch of Take My Hand on the 25th November marks the beginning of Women’s Aid’s activities to mark the ’16 days of Action’, where the charity will ask the public to help them take action against violence against women and children. For more information on the ‘16 Days of Action’, go to

Natasha's story:
‘I was only with my boyfriend for three weeks when he started to become verbally aggressive. The first time he got aggressive I thought I must have said something that upset him and he went mad. He started throwing things at the walls, even a wine glass that had red wine in it. As I left the room he continued to throw things after me and a glass plate just missed my face. The first time I did try to get help I was told to leave him, but it was not that easy. When it happened again I told no one, firstly from sheer embarrassment, and later from fear.
One night I woke up with his foot on my face and my boyfriend saying he was going to stamp on me. I had to sleep in contact lenses as it was a common occurrence for him to wake me up with demands or threats. I was so afraid of not being able to see when the assaults took place as I might not be able to get away.

I experienced a severe form of domestic violence that also included a range of abuse, from controlling where I was and what I did, to pulling my hair, to eventually strangulation. My daughter witnessed the abuse and we were both very frightened of what would happen. I was only with him for six months where he nearly killed me.

I stayed in a Women's Aid refuge which provided us with safety and which gave us the support we needed to rebuild our lives. I am singing on 'Take My Hand' to not only raise vital funds for Women's Aid but also to provide a message of hope to women and children currently living with violence in the home - thanks to support services provided by Women's Aid there is hope for a safe future free from fear.’
To buy Take My Hand for just 79p, please go to

This is a charity very close to my heart. Please, please support this very worthy cause.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Things my daughters cannot do: part one

This post by the fabulous Tessa Scoffs made me laugh out loud, especially as I had had a major tantrum about the very same thing the day before.  It got me thinking about the other simple tasks that seem to have eluded my darling daughters. I'm not talking about making a cordon bleu meal, or shampooing the carpets but simple tasks.  Why can't they:
  • unplug a phone charger from the wall.  They unplug their phones from the charger and leave the charger plugged in - it's a fire hazard, but they still don't get it.   "OMG! Stop nagging me Mum!"
  • put dirty clothes in the laundry basket even though it is right outside their bedroom doors.  Noooo, the bedroom floor is much more suitable.  "I'm waiting till I have a few that need washing?"  What?
  • put the lid back on the jar/milk/butter/toothpaste, etc.  "Uh, give me chance will you?"
  • close a drawer (they seem to have conquered opening them, but the final act of closing is just Too Difficult) "What?  I was going to!!!"
  • hang up their coats.  On a coat peg, not the back of a chair please.  "But I'm going out again..." yeah, tomorrow perhaps?
  • talk instead of shout.  "She/you/they ignore me unless I shout."
  • empty out their school lunch boxes before the contents start to fester.  Oh how we love to find smelly food in them on  a Monday morning...  "It's not my fault, you didn't remind me."  Arggghhhhhhh!
  • put the butter or milk back in the fridge. "I forgot".  Again.
  • Rinse a glass or cup out instead of using a clean one each time they want a drink.  "What, you want me to get, like, germs?"
  • Put their shoes away in - guess what? - the shoe cabinet.  "But I'm going to wear them again!"
Oh, I could go on. And on. And on. 

Is it just me?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Things you don't want to hear on a first date

There's a very funny list in the Timesonline of things you shouldn't say - or don't want to hear - on a first date.  Here are a few of them, the longer list is available here:

“I can’t wait to blog about this tonight…”  
“This may sound like a platitude…”
“The pills I’m taking don’t let me think thoughts like that…”
“Sure, it looks like a wedding ring…”
[Proffers photograph] “This is my car/ex-partner/pony…”
“I’m a Sagittarian who is curious about life…”
“Here are my children. Say ‘Hello’, children…”
“It’s not a current restraining order…”
“My therapist always says…”

“You look really familiar. Have we…?”
“Mr Whiskers is so talented…”
“This is great, but I need to establish you’re disease-free…”
“Jesus told me I’d meet someone…”
“Your aura has so much anger…”
“My parents are going to love you…”
“The thing is about being an alpha male…”
“Sure, it looks like herpes…”
“I love you...”

It's been a loooooong time since I went on a date but things that have been said to me on a first date include:
"I can offer you three hours of non-stop sex....."  (no, I didn't take him up on his kind offer)
"I'm still in love with my ex-girlfriend...." 
and finally,
"My wife divorced me for unreasonable behaviour...." (reader, I went on to marry, and divorce, him.  I know, I know!)
OK, your turn......promise I won't tell anyone.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Do you cook the same meals week in and week out?

I heard about an interesting food survey today. It suggested that most Mums (no mention of Dads I'm afraid) end up cooking the same meals for their families on a regular basis. In fact it goes as far to say that most Mums rely on just 9 different meals which they serve up time and time again.

I know that it's definitely true for me, because like most people I'm a) often in a hurry and sometimes need a quick meal solution; b) I have two fussy eaters to cater for and I try to avoid making different meals for everyone; and c) if I try new meals on my two girls they usually turn their noses up at it - "what's that? Can't we have a Maccy D?"

According to the survey, carried out by Merchant Gourmet, the most popular meals cooked on a regular basis are:

1. Spaghetti Bolognese
2. Roast dinner
3. Shepherds Pie/Cottage Pie
4. Pasta dish
5. Meat and two veg
6. Pizza
7. Casserole/stew
8. Sausages and chips/mash
9. Indian/Curry

My list looks slightly different, and these would ony normally be cooked in autumn/winter:

1. Scouse - I use my Mum's recipe and it cheap, healthy and the girls love it.  Yum!
2. Nearly Cottage Pie - The Teenager likes a lot of mash and just a bit of the mince, the Tall Daughter likes a lot of mince and just a bit of mash (did I mention they are fussy?)  so instead of cooking it in the oven, I just dish it up out of the pans and call it this.
3. Tuna Pasta - quick and a favourite with all of us.
4. Pizza
5. Chicken Kiev, jacket potato and veg
6. Spaghetti bolognese
7. Homemade soups - current favourites are tomato and red pepper; leek and potato; bean soup; vegetable mulligatawny.
8. Fish cakes and chips -  cooked straight from the freezer
9. Lasagne

In really desperate measures I will even take the girls to the McDonald's drive-thru and where they can get their junk food fix - but I do this reluctantly and only when time is really at a premium, or we are on route back from somewhere and I haven't got the energy to cook a meal. 

I occasionally cook different things but only if I know they are dead certs to be eaten. New recipes with unusual ingredients don't get a look in I'm afraid, nor do recipes that start with an instruction such as 'peel and chop 6 tomatoes'.....forget it!

Is this survey right?  Do you rely on the same meals for your family, or are you an adventurous lot and think nothing of rustling up a banquet every night?  Do tell...

Monday, 16 November 2009

How To Giftwrap a Goat

Christmas is coming and most of us have started buying presents for friends and family.  But what do you get for the person who has everything?  We all know someone who is really difficult to buy for, or maybe they just don't need anything else.  Perhaps you want to give a gift that is not only quirky and different, but it will make a different to someone's life?  Well, it's always worth looking at charity websites for gift ideas with a difference.

The £15.00 it cost us for the goat will have benefitted a whole community overseas.  The Present Aid site explains it like this:
"A goat is a great gift because it produces milk for families to drink, and provides income when sold.  In Burundi, 'goat banks' provide farmers with an opportunity to invest in the future of their community. A group of farmers are given three goats, two female and one male.
Each member of the goat bank agree to provide food and shelter for their animal, and that they will pass on one of the kids from the first 'next generation' to the next member of the group. This revolving fund ensures that a whole community benefits from one goat."

Last year my colleagues decided not to send Christmas cards to each other, but to donate the money we would have otherwise spent on a charitable gift that would make a difference. Amongst the things we 'bought' was a goat and a few ducks from the Present Aid website.

As a long-time supporter of the NSPCC I was pleased to receive an email from them recently asking if I would consider mentioning their Christmas ideas.  One of the gifts they are currently promoting is a brilliant idea: a letter from the great man himself, Father Christmas:

"The NSPCC’s Letter from Santa fundraising initiative gives parents, grandparents and anyone else the chance to nominate someone special to receive a magical letter from Santa for a suggested donation of £5. The letter is personalised with the child’s name and age and is sure to confirm that Santa will be making his usual stop in the child’s home town to wish everyone a merry Christmas. The letter is written in a hand script font and is beautifully illustrated on quality colourful paper. The envelope shows that it’s been safely delivered through ‘express Rudolph Mail’. "

So not only did we not have to worry about recycling all of the unecessary Christmas cards we send to people we will see over the Christmas holidays, but we knew our money had been spent wisely, and we're planning to do the same again this year.
Not only that, but when you get to a couple of days before Christmas and you realise you've forgotten to post a card to cousin Hilda in Australia why not send her an NSPCC eCard instead?  Or perhaps you just want to make a donation
Cancer Research UK also have plenty of Christmas card and gift ideas on their website.  And if you're just not sure what to buy me, I'd love one of these Scottie Dog Hot Water Bottles, so cute! 

There are plenty of other charities worth supporting at this - or any other - time of the year, but these ones in particular are close to my heart.  Happy shopping.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

I've Survived a Double Birthday Sleepover!

I mentioned in my previous post that The Teenager-in-waiting became a fully fledged Teenager last week, but what I didn't mention was that Tall Daughter also celebrated a milestone birthday in the same week:  she reached double digits when she turned 10. 

Usually, we have a whole weekend of celebrations with two separate sleepovers and various friends and family members dropping in to see the girls, but this year I just didn't have the energy for a whole weekend of it so I persuaded them to have shared sleepover and party on Saturday night. 

We spent practically the whole of Saturday tidying the house (why, when it would be a tip again?), shopping for party food,  blowing up balloons and decorating with banners.  The girls had invited a total of 10 friends and they were all due to arrive at 5pm. 

When the doorbell rang at 4.40pm I was a little surprised that it wasn't one of the party guests, but my ex-mother-in-law in floods of tears, sobbing into a tissue. 

I should just point out at this stage that my ex-husband's family are what is known as Hard Work. They could cause trouble in an empty house, and are known for their dramatic tendencies.   Don't get me wrong I like my ex-mother-in-law and she's a doting Grandma to my two girls, but her timing could have been better and I  have to admit to being a little irritated by it.   She knew that the girls - her granddaughters - were having a party on Saturday night - and she chose that night to visit us in tears. 
So, in between getting the food ready and making her a cup of tea, I heard of how she had had yet another row with her other son (not my ex).  It's a tale I've heard numerous times before and no doubt will hear again, but one I'd rather not hear about. 

Anyway, after a cuppa and sympathy she was on her way home again and the party commenced.  It was good fun, albeit a little chaotic, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I even managed to get a decent night's sleep even though I could hear whispers and giggles long into the night.

This morning we had a houseful of girls in their pjs playing hide-and-seek before sitting down to a breakfast of cereal, toast, fruit and pancakes.  It was lovely to hear them all sitting at the table laughing and enjoying themselves and by that time it was even better for me because I knew they would all be going home soon!

By 11.30am most of the parents had collected their daughters and taken a piece of birthday cake with them, although one piece of cake went missing but the crumbs were tracked to the dog's bed. 

The party stragglers were press-ganged into helping to tidy the house (again) and after two cycles of the dishwasher, a binbag full of wrapping paper, some serious vacuuming and cleaning by 1pm it was back to normal. 

So it's all over again for another year.  Deep sigh of relief!

Friday, 13 November 2009

The Teenager is no longer 'in-waiting'

Yesterday was a milestone in the notSupermum house.  My first-born child; my angelic little baby girl that was; my gorgeous, feisty Teenager-in-waiting turned 13.  Yep, she is now a fully fledged Teenager! 

And just to remind us all of how funny Harry Enfield's Kevin the Teenager was, I had to include this which is eerily true to life:

It still makes me laugh, and I've got my very own Kevin now!

Happy Birthday Sweetie x

Thursday, 12 November 2009

I've Had a Facelift

Well, not me exactly...although God knows I'm getting close to the time when I could do with one....but the blog header.   Thoughts?   

I love it, and it was all arranged for me by that lovely Tara Cain at Sticky Fingers.  Now, I won't hear another word said about her...

Thanks Tara!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Thoughts for the day

1. My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't.
2. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.

3. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.
4. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.
5. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.
6. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.
7. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
8. Ham and eggs...A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.
9. The trouble with life is there's no background music.
10.  God must love stupid people: He made so many of them.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Lest We Forget

by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud...
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home -
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now to die and die and die.

Dulce - No - Decorum - No - Pro patria mori.

You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too -
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert -
and light a cigarette.

There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queueing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.

You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.