Friday, 31 July 2009

postscript to my take on breastfeeding lobby

A little while ago I wrote a post on why there is such an overwhelming push to increase breast-feeding rates in the UK. I have a short postscript to this. My post was about the fact that breast-feeding rates are an indicator of poverty and that therefore increasing the rates of breast-feeding is an indicator that poverty is reduced (while acknowledging that in itself, breast-feeding or not of course says nothing about the disposable income of the parents!)

A new project I'll be working on, which relates to reducing child poverty in Glasgow and East Dunbartonshire through making local services work for children and families who live in severe and persistent poverty, gave me access to breast-feeding rates in some of the poorest areas of the UK. The percentage of mothers breastfeeding at their 6-8 week check-up varies in these localities between 10 and 14 %.

Although I knew that the rates would be below national average, I was absolutely shocked about how low these figures are. In many countries, breast-feeding rates are 95% at 6-8 weeks. I felt it would be useful to share this percentage to illustrate how low breast-feeding rates can go if parents live in multiple deprived areas. The connections are complex and there is no real answer, and I look forward to working within this new projects with families and children, listening to them and contributing to making local services work specifically for children and families living in poverty. My suggestion to include antenatal service access in the project has been taken on board.

The data hopefully demonstrates that the push to breast-feed is not to do with individual situations, but the bigger picture. 10% breast-feeding rates have to be unacceptable. Still, we have to acknowledge that behind these statistics are real people with real choices they made, and real reasons to choose not to breast-feed.

On the topic of child poverty, I strongly recommend the three part series "How the other half live" which is currently being shown on Channel 4 on Thursdays, 9pm. Check out for background info on child poverty in the UK (1 in 3 children in the UK grow up in poverty, that's 4 million). The first episode shown yesterday was very moving and gave an insight on the extent of income inequalities in the UK.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A Message to Gordon Brown

Last week saw the start of a fabulous project, called Wee Shots. It involves one week of participatory film making with children and young people, in four different locations in the UK, a week and a minute worth of film on child poverty in the UK per location. The approach of the project is participatory, so the young people are in control of every decision in relation to what they film, how they film, how it's edited, making a total of 5 minutes of what child poverty means in the UK. The first week was in Glasgow, with the youngest group of children (8-11 year olds, with two young volunteers aged 13).

So on day 4 of the 5 intensive days, while one group of young people was out filming, the other had already been and was now working on a display about the activity. The display was completed in very little time and looked fabulous. I wasn't surprised, having worked with some of the young people before, I knew there was real arty talent present in the room. So we had time to spare. We thought it would be a good idea to send Gordon Brown a letter with a message of what this group of children thinks about the shocking levels of child poverty in the UK.

I suggested a good old traditional letter. However, this being participatory and children making the decisions, they told me a letter was boring and came up with a much better idea. A poem/song. It took the group 10 minutes to come up with this and no adult was involved in any way in the production apart from note taking:

Children living on the streets
Having no money and no treats
Ill living is so wrong
Listen to our little song
Do more about it, stop it now

Poverty is really bad and makes us really sad
Over and done with it should be
Very annoying to us you see
Everlasting is the key
Rough living shouldn't be
The time has come to make it end so this letter we decide to send
You can help us make it stop because you're at the very top

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

out of Cubling's mouth

Cubling is being brought up bilingually. This is at time hilarious. Her general language development is a bit behind that of what's considered averaged, but she's doing great with the two languages, more than making up for it. She has very creative ways of communicating with few words and simple grammar/syntax. Her word order is odd, and not sure if this is due to the German sub clause rule of putting verbs to the end.

Anyway, I love listening to her words, figuring out what she means, and continue to be amazed by her knowledge of language in general. For instance, she usually asks me questions in English (I've always believed that it's important to encourage any utterance, and never insisted on her speaking German to me) if I don't answer her immediately, she'll repeat it in German. When friends of ours visited, who have an almost 3 year old growing up with German / English in Germany, she switched to German to communicate with him, clearly realising that this was his stronger language.

I'll be having a bilingual child's carnival on this blog on 31st August, so if you have any experiences of raising children bilingually (or trilingually!) to share, please send me your posts by 30th August to blog at

Just a few highlights of my bilingual experiment that is Cubling:

I no want it eat this no!
Mummy stop, daddy told no!
I don't know/ Weiss nich
What's that noise? (hands held to ear and uttered about 473 times a day)
No want it mummy, daddy read books no. (I don't want daddy to read me books)
liebe dich
your house! (after weeks of "my" "I" and "mine" being used correctly, she now does YOU)
Mummy, doin there?
One mummy, one daddy, one I.
Where Brille is?
Daddy Fenster gucken! (she wants to see daddy from outside who is sitting inside at the computer which is on a desk at the window - clearly she is more efficient with her words)
I selbst
Oh!!! Bahnbruecke! oh, look, anozer Bahnbruecke!
now, mummy.
Where Meerschweinchen? Hiding! Elidora (the guinea pigs are called Angel and Pandora)
Where my Jacke? Vergessen! (no, not forgotten, it was in the bag)
Pocoyo sehen! Fernseher!
I fall down! Sore knee. Heile Heile Gaenschen!
Big one!
Last one! (meaning: another book/ride please)
Lala put on! Kleine Lala. No big one. (this means she wants to listen to Ein Vogel wollte Hochzeit machen. I'm not sure about the distinction of kleine and big here, just that she wants kleine lala all the time. She sometimes also insists to listen to the car CD rather than me singing: Mummy singen no, car singen).

She's starting to sing full song lyrics:
Gruen gruen gruen sind alle meine Kleider
Heile Heile Gaenschen
Twinkle Twinkle little star (with actions, so cute)
and insists on listening to the same 3 songs continuously in the car. I'm losing my mind. The three songs are: Oh du mein Hampelmann, Gruen Gruen Gruen, Ein Vogel wollte Hochzeit machen.
In the Nightgarden soundtreck is also a great favourite: I dancen!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Grief, expectation and the mind of toddlers

It is just over two weeks until the due date of my niece/nephew. Sudden realisation has kicked in that my sister in law is almost full term, and things could happen any time. Her pregnancy has passed so quickly, and only today did we get reasonably organised-even though I still don't know the route to the hospital. Me and a mutual friend will be her birth partners, which I'm both looking forward to immensely while being ever so slightly anxious if I'll be any good at it. So I'm glad I won't be alone, although it will be tricky to be ready with the 4 children between us. But we will, of that I'm sure.

This weekend, we visited the place where I last saw my brother in law. It was the hardest day in a long time, where with all the efforts of holding back tears I could not. And who cares anyway if tears well up or not, nobody's business but mine. Cubling's toddler mind displayed unexplained memory and knowledge. She'd done something similar before. For the first time in 7 months she asked for her cousin's daddy: Where x's daddy? Where uncle x? By name and description. Not once, not twice, but about 10 times in a day, and the following days, all triggered by the visit to the place where she too last saw him, as if he was still there, and could be plucked from memory. How I wish that was true. I didn't know if to stop her inquisitive and innocent two year old mind and mouth because it pains us so much to hear the question, yet she has a right to know, as much as it's a parent's instinct to keep all things death away from our children. I tried to explain, and she mouthed the words after me, understand she did not. Much like all of us. Above all, she missed him as we acutely did too.

I haven't explicitly blogged about this before, because words just won't come. And it felt very wrong at the time to blog about this. I felt uncomfortable to the extreme. I still feel uncomfortable and still unsure if I should talk about this here, yet don't see how over the next weeks I can keep blogging without bringing these facts into the open. Everything I'll be doing, much like half of my time in the past 7 months has already been, will be shaped by these facts. They are part of me and as much as I'd like to keep them private, I need to share them in some form here for upcoming posts to make sense.

So what happened? My brother in law, a healthy young man, got the flu, sought medical treatment, was told to just rest and that he'll be grand, only to end up in hospital some hours later when all was too late. He passed away on Christmas Day. My sister in law was 7 weeks pregnant with their second child.

For my part, I've tried with all my might to focus on the positives, because the loss is so big that it threatens to take over everything every single day. Still. I've used this blog for tracing the good moments we've had, while feeling always guilty to even suggest that any good could ever come from this. It's just that good things do happen and all we can try and do is focus on them, not to forget, but to keep going. I don't want to delve into cliches, simply what happened was so utterly wrong, shouldn't have happened, wasn't something we ever imagined could happen. It's good to have toddlers the same age who, when thrown together, take the intensity of parenting away to give respite. Well, they do fight a fair bit, they're two-year-olds after all. Having a family who truly sticks together. The baby. So hard to look forward to, yet so important to do so. Trying to take Cubling's cousin as an example who doesn't realise what's gone, just knows what's there, even though he holds on to that so much harder than before. I hold on to the memory of that last day spent together, how perfect it was, how happy he and his family were. How he showed Cubling giant squids, dolphins, mermaids and sea horses that day. And clearly, she must have remembered in some way because her questions came out of the blue as soon as she saw the giant squid model, without warning.

At this point in time, the grief seems momentarily being overtaken by a burst of activity, the practicalities of welcoming a new life into this broken world.

Friday, 24 July 2009

before and after

To get me over my current inability to put any of my thoughts into readable blogposts, here's a short before and after.

2 years into mummyhood, I managed to pick up gardening again (after Cubling finally forced me into giving up my allotment when she was 6 months old and it had become very clear that there was no way she would sit in a buggy while I enjoyed digging, planting, weeding and harvesting without screaming her head off - I blogged about this, please read this post because it's one of my better posts). Last year's effort was, well, not great, but this year I'm starting to see some results.

So, thanks to Glasgow Wood Recycling, I got 2 raised beds, made from reclaimed wood. I started filling one of them just after I miscarried, between bouts of feeling very dizzy and close to fainting, but the pride and spite of having done it was fab. Only now do I see the link to how I felt when I gave up my allotment, one seed for the more important seed of Cubling so to say, now planting to make up for my baby seed lost. I Still didn't have a lot of time to do much sowing and planting, I still managed to put in two courgette plants (one of them turns out to be a squash/pumpkin type plant), plenty of lettuce, lots of different herbs, one strawberry plant. Harvest time is around about now, and there's nothing better than picking a courgette, perparing it straight from the garden and eating it the same day. Desert: strawberries. Yum yum. Just as well Cubling doesn't do fruit, all the more for meeee!

Raised bed no 2 is in constant planning, once I get around to picking up compost from Alloa's dump (apparently, there's great compost to be had for free, if only I could remember to take bags). I so like the way they look, they really add to our garden, even hubby, who wasn't sure they would look nice and was reluctant to get them, is now converted. We still plan to paint them in funky colours once Cubling will be able to join the fun.

Thanks to the Towards Transition Glasgow Network, I came across the Ooooby Network. This is where gardeners can share everything around gardening, including linking up locally, sharing seeds, seedlings, produce, ideas etc. A fabulous idea, any gardener will know that you end up having too many of one veg, and being able to exchange will make your crop bigger without any extra effort. The network is growing, but a fabulous idea, so if you are a vegetable gardener, please check it out, join, and if you're in Scotland like me, join my brand new Ooooby Scotland Group!

So that's the raised beds before and after:

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Wednesday Weigh In: Off the Rails

It's been three weeks since I last posted a weigh in update. In fact, it's been 3 weeks since I weighed myself.

As far as weight loss is concerned, I've gone totally off the rails. Lots of cakes, eating out, baking cookies, comfort eating, you know the spiel. Me on a diet? You'd never guess it. Why? Well, there's been a lot of travelling and not being able to plan meals, a trip to Hampshire, a weekend away on Cumbrae, visiting friends until late in the evening and coming home so late we could just about manage a take away, meeting up with the Millbrae mums and not being able to resist home baking. Oh, and there was more than the usual occasional glass of wine.

Of course that's only half the story. The other half is lack of will power, and enjoying cakes, chocolate, ice cream, curries and fish and chips far too much.

I continued some degree of exercise, but nothing to shout about really.

Had a good time though, even if I felt distinctly bad about my lack of cake control. And ate even more. Next was my usual reaction to this: ignore the scales and simply not step on them. Head in sand, dumdidum. No weight gain, you see?! Just that my clothes tell a different story.

I knew I was in for some bad news, but at least on Monday, I was back on the Wii Fit and faced the truth of the scales. The latter was worse than expected, and my muscles are still aching which tells the story of three weeks of only light exercise (Yoga and cycling).

Of course it's frustrating to see all the hard work of 4 weeks go in just 3 weeks again. The thing is, I have a reasonable diet, minus my addiction to chocolate and cakes. I don't want to know how much sugar I pile into myself, and I do know better, having a family history of type B diabetes, and knowing the effects of it, one of my motivations in keeping my weight in check has always been avoiding it.

However, with renewed determination and having faced the demon of the scales, here we go again.

In true life coaching fashion, here are my goals for next week which I consider doable:
-one sweet item per day (rather than three or more)
-3 days of 1 hour's worth of exercise or equivalent. My original aim of 7x30mins has proven to be unrealistic, so here's adjustment which is still stretching me. Jogging shall count double because I'm not fit enough to do more than 30 mins yet.
-when eating out, go for healthy choices if available and avoid eating out

What works well:
I like the yoga class I go to on Monday evenings and it's nice me-time, yet don't find it very challenging. Running is something that has been a joy to pick up again, but I find so many excuses not to go (weather, too hungry/full, having to get changed and showered after - which makes it hard to do it during lunch breaks).
The Wii Fit is getting challenging but also a bit repetitive. It's great for exercise when the weather is rotten or for winter days, but I wish there was more choice of activities, or that I could delete the ever repetitive commentary that is meant to motivate me but in fact only irritates me. After every tiny exercise it takes a few clicks and a few comment sentences
to go to the next exercise - so a 60 min session takes well over 90 mins to complete which is
a bit annoying. Above all, it works wonders for starting out wanting to do 30 minutes and ending up doing over an hour. I've just been sent the EA active Personal Trainer for the Wii Fit to test and review, so there's something that should keep me going on the Wii Fit.

So then, how did everyone else get on? Check it out on the flabber busters website.

Starting weight: 164 lbs
Target weight: 150 lbs
Weight last time: 159 lbs
Weight this week: 163 lbs
Difference: +4
How much still to go: 13 lbs

Oh and the best of British Parent Blogging is on over at Rebel Mother.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

weekend in pictures: Cumbrae

This year's family holiday took us to Millport, aka the Isle of Cumbrae (just that everyone calls the island by the name of its one and only town, Millport). It's a one hour drive from Glasgow, we stayed one night. You may think that doesn't qualify for the annual family holiday, but for us, this year, with more important stuff to spend our annual leave on, it was. And it was fabulous.

We cycled around the island on Saturday (it's not half as sporty as it sounds, the round trip measures 10 miles and it's super flat) and stayed overnight in the Cathedral College. The Cathedral of the Isles is the smallest cathedral of the UK (in fact, Cumbrae also boasts the narrowest house in the UK), and to maintain it, the former monks' rooms have been converted into a hotel. There's a very calm and relaxing atmosphere to this hotel. It's got 3 stars, some rooms are en suite others aren't and although reasonably basic for a hotel, it's got a lot going for it. There are massive common rooms for spending the evenings in, filled with old furniture, big open fires and a library of books. You'll find the minister (or whatever you call an episcopal church man) in the common room and at the breakfast table, which is served communally at 9am. Our room had a window out (in) to the cathedral interior, which was extra special and also treated Cubling to lovely violin/piano/flute music to fall asleep to from 8-10pm. Of course, we were worried it may keep her awake, but oh no, Cubling has been transferred into a log when it comes to sleeping. Who would have thought it a year ago. Anyway, it was lovely to listen to the calming music through the monitor.

I really enjoyed the stay, and could see myself spending a week in that place. Cumbrae is a small island as you may have deducted from the above, but it's got all you need for a lovely family holiday with toddler. Beaches with heaps of shells, it's a cycle friendly island, there's plenty of quaint and beautiful shops, even a museum, a sensory trail around the coast, seabirds, seals, walks, cafe's and if you're hardy, you can actually bathe in the sea. Not for me, I'm not that Scottish yet.

Cubling absolutely loved the trip. So much to see. So much squeaking for pure enjoyment when on her bike seat. And when she pointed out the Moewe (seagull) sitting on the Loewe (lion), she even showed her first glimpse of poetry!

::Ferry from Largs to Cumbrae::
::First Steps in the Sea::

::Crocodile Rock::
::Throwing big stones::
::Mr Tumble, by Daddy and Cubling::
::Feeling the Sea::

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Get on your own fecking bike you joker

Taking advantage of the sunshine and not having to do the childminder run, I cycled to work. It's a fair distance, which is why I don't do this on ordinary days. Half way, while passing the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen (which is a bit of an overstatement at the best of times), a beer bellied man shouts at me:

"Get on your bike! hahaha".

My reaction? Inwardly fuming, outwardly ignoring. Very tempted to retort something along the lines that it would do his belly some good if indeed he got on his bike now and again.

The worrying bit is that this is not an unusual occurence. I've blogged about it before. Hubby the other day was actually pushed off his bike by a pedestrian at rush hour (no car passing fortunately) and, miracle, the police were just there to see it. I simply don't quite get why people feel the urge to attack cyclists who don't cause noise or CO2 polution, who don't kill and keep healthy, thus saving the tax payer lots of dosh.

However, there's a difference in the abuse I receive very regularly. I rarely get pushed off my bike, but I hear the exact same sentence quoted above a lot, with ridiculing laughter added to this. (Mind you I also get swear word abuse from car drivers in rush hour fury, possibly fuelled by jealousy that I'm moving when they're not). What is there to ridicule? So I investigated and my current field research result (cough cough, I asked my fellow cycling colleagues) tells me that this kind of abuse is directed from man to cycling lady. Which to me means it's sexist.

If you look at cycling patterns and indeed, barriers to cycling in Glasgow, it will strike you that there aren't many female cyclists. There are more female cyclists than there used to be, but we are still very much in the minority. Ask the ladies why they don't cycle and you get these answers: they don't feel safe because they have to share a lane with buses and taxis, or even the general traffic. They haven't the confidence to cycle in city traffic. The weather. Having to maintain a bike and deal with punctures and not having the knowledge how to do this.

So if a woman overcomes all of this and spites the Glasgow rain, maybe just having gathered all her confidence in braving the roads, the last she needs is this kind of abuse.

But how to react? I hate to just let it pass. Yet I'm lost as to a strategy that will work. I could confront and retort the abuse: "You fat ignorant bastard, the last laugh will be on me when you die of heart failure in 5 years time". I could lecture him about the joys of cycling and get to work late. I could carry a bucket of water just in case and pour it right over his head.

Somehow, I haven't found the proper approach for converting the hopeless in the space of one sentence uttered in passing?

Friday, 17 July 2009


No, it's not the Pontipines calling, although In the Night Garden is still high on the Cubling agenda. Metropolitan Mum kindly gave me the meme award. This award makes me chuckle because I remember days when I just couldn't figure out what a meme was, and try google it, you'll know why I got a tad confused. Anyway, many thanks MM for the award!!!

Well, it's a proper meme that's for sure, because what I've got to do is list seven personality traits of myself and award seven fellow bloggers that deserve recognition for the personalities that they share with the blogging world.

Do I have 7 personality traits? Let's see.

1. I'm very shy. To a silly and annoying extent. So much so that I can hardly remember ever speaking to a stranger before s/he spoke to me. And because of this, I've challenged myself to just do it. Which I did last weekend and failed to maintain a conversation for more than 5 minutes. At least I tried! It also means that I often crumble when having to speak in public. I really wish I could control my nerves better. In fact, I'd love to be able to speak like Obama. Ok, maybe asking for a bit much. I do have a decent degree of self confidence, so I really don't know why this shyness is still my constant companion.

2. I'm thrifty. So much so that you'll see me turn off the heating when it's rather cold. Or take children's clothes: so far all I ever bought apart from shoes came from NCT sales or similar. I love browsing charity shops and even in supermarkets will shop in the "offers" aisle first. I'm sure though that this trait must have been bestowed upon me by my mother whose thrift was even more extreme than mine.

3. I like to get things done and tick boxes, even if they're mental ones. It's just such a satisfying and motivating feeling. It's always more important to me to get something done and dusted, rather than paying attention to detail. Or rather, I try to pay attention to detail then get bored or impatient. Still, hopefully that doesn't equate to being sloppy...

4. I'm a rubbish lier. Honestly. There's a card game which we used to play in the student residence and I always lost it because people could spot when I was lying. Eventually I discovered that I was quite good at pretending to lie though which helped a bit.

5. I find it hard making decisions. Usually I look at things from all possible sides, talk to myself (!), talk to friends, go the issue over again and again until I go in circles and still can't quite commit myself to one side or another. I'm also easily swayed by good arguments and sometimes suprise myself at how quickly I can change opinion. Within reason of course.

6. I'm a people person in a strange kind of way. I need people around me and can't stand loneliness, but I don't have to constantly interact with people. To put it another way - people see me as quiet and on the introverted side, while I'm actually extroverted in the sense that I love taking part in discussions, chat, and to socialise, even if I don't take an active role in each of these activities.

7. I have a very strong sense of justice and can get very agitated, angry and even emotional when presented with an injustice. This is what got me interested in human rights and join Amnesty International aged 17, but I could never be bothered with the nitty-gritty stuff of law (see number 3) so didn't go down the route of studying law (and glad I didn't). So here's my current hobby horse of injustice: in the UK, people on low incomes are taxed HIGHER than those on high incomes in relation to percentage of their income. So wealth is distributed from poor to rich.

As to passing on the award, I'm quite keen to pass it to newly discovered blogs rather than the usual suspects. Which is why this award took it's time to be passed on, what with recovering from trips to England (do hangovers last longer as I get older?), running after Cubling for some extra days this week, having lovely visitors from Germany, and above all seeing the Boss himself play Hampden Park (can you hear me humming?). Leaving not an awful lot of time to explore new blogs, I hardly keep on top of reading my existing reader subscriptions.

Clairwil, well, she's not exactly a newly discovered one but one of the blogs I've been following the longest, and she currently has set an ambitious and fabulous 10,000 bulb challenge as part of her Guerilla Gardening activities. Do stop by her fabulous blog and consider donating bulbs to make a derilict part of Glasgow flower next spring.

Midwife Muse, again, I've been following her for quite some time. Her posts are extremely informative and really give an insight in how midwives are expected to square the circle and how difficult it is to provide the care they wish to give with ever reduced resources and increased paperwork. I admire her for not giving in and continuing to put pregnant women and their unborn children first in spite of the pressures and the toll it takes on her life.

Muddling Along Mummy
who is stoically coping with a very difficult pregnancy and still manages to publish thought provoking posts. I can only imagine how hard this time must be and so hope that everything will be alright in the end.

Noble Savage - what can I say, she is an amazing blogger, with fabulous post which fuel discussions for days.

Piglet: a truly new discovered blog will take you across the pond, a blog that I find very entertaining.

Wife in the North: I'm running out of things to say because Cubling is insisting to do stickers, but I really enjoy this blog too, otherwise wouldn't nominate it, would I now?

And no 7 I leave for any reader not yet nominated for this award to self nominate (let me know in the comment box). I'm off to do stickers. See ya.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

kids go politics

These past few weeks have been full of excitement.
One of the reasons for this is that I spent quite a lot of my working day a couple of weeks ago organising a visit of the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, to a Primary School in the area of Glasgow where he himself went to school. There was some history to this visit: my involvement with the school goes back a little while, having been involved in their Diversity Day last year with a puppet show and film of the making of this puppet show. Which, not banging my own drum at all, I'd highly recommend to watch ;)

This year, we went back in the run up to the UK Budget. As with other schools, we offered a campaigning workshop on child poverty in the UK. In practice this is an interactive and fun one period long workshop that raises awareness of child poverty in the UK and gets pupils interested in doing something about it. We used creative techniques, including drawing and writing massive messages to Gordon Brown.

Of course the Budget looked nothing like we had hoped for. In fact, it was so bad in terms of eradicating child poverty that it was worse than what we had dreamt in our darkest nightmares.

So we were pleased when Jim Murphy offered to visit the school, have a look at their work on child poverty and answer the pupils' questions. I was reserved, hoping that it would benefit the kids rather than be a publicity stunt for Labour. Above all I was nervous, not knowing the man in question and how to play it all.

Thankfully, Mr Murphy is not scary. Nonono, in fact, he's a very pleasant character. Yes, it was his publicity stunt, with 3 newspaper photographers taking over the session and lots of posing. And the posing kind of took over the session which I wasn't all too happy about.

BUT the kids loved it so we didn't step in. We did make sure that the kids got to ask their questions. And what questions! Only children are so direct and to the point, and fair play to Jim Murphy, he answered them all, and in a way that made sense to P5s. You can see, I'm a bit of a fan. My doubts were finally dispersed when he offered to take everybody's questions and messages to Gordon Brown personally, and get a very cheeky drawing of Mr Brown signed by the man himself, and return it to the school.

After the 2 hour stunt, 4 children knew they would want to become MPs. This was in the week of the expenses scandal, so I should say a fabulous success in getting primary school kids from a rather disadvantaged area of Glasgow interested in politics. One girl asked for an exclusive interview for the school newsletter she writes. The answer was yet again a yes.

The expectations of the children are high, and I do hope that they are kept, to keep the flame burning. The children literally embraced politics that day, such pure enthusiasm and delight at getting their pictures taken and maybe making it into the papers (they photos so far haven't been published unfortunately). And the boy whose caricature of Gordon Brown was to make a trip to London and back offered to auction it. And donate the proceeds to Save the Children.

Above all, it was great to see how politics can be translated to 9 and 10 year olds and that disengagement with politics doesn't need to be a given.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Mummy going aeroplane to Ingelland

During the past week, blogging has been overtaken by so many other things. Of course I want to blog about it all because this is the storehouse of my thoughts and my adventures. I just feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of things that went on. Or you could say I'm hungover and tired.

Yesterday, I went down south. That's what England is referred to in Scotland. It's a strange phrase, I still wonder why people don't just say "I'm going to England". Is it because secretly, it's the same country, even if a different nation? Is it bad luck to say the word England? Nevermind, Cubling is getting good at it and was rather excited that her mummy would go on an aeroplane to Ingelland to see Elli-nora (as she pronounces her name). My friend's daughter who she's not yet met because my friends are just a bit too scattered. She was so excited that she didn't mind not coming along and rather watch the aeroplane from down below.

Every trip to England I've ever made brings back rather similar observations. And these go back to my very first trip to this country when I was sweet 14 or 15.
Back then, my ideas of England were formed in school books, and through Duran Duran songs. England was the country of cool, a modern place where pop was made. The place to be, a language that rule the world (in a very positive and innocent way of interpreting those words). As soon as I arrived, I was stunned, and yet fell in love with the place.
We stayed in a host family in Romsey, Hants. It was a brick two up two down. No hall, you walked in right from the street. It was cosy, warm, the people were amazing and very hospitable. Red brick the colour of the country, in between it green gardens. brown red and green. The modern and hip of my mind were replaced by the traditional and a relaxed slowness.

I remember so much of this first visit, and the place names catch up with me on the desk of the B&B that I'm writing this on. Beaulieu. Jeovil. Blenheim Palace. I remember a painting from a museum in Brighton, a trip to the Isle of Wight, two to London, Elvis in Madame Tussaud's, Winchester, Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge and much more.
I remember my introduction to vegetarianism through the host family. They fed us vegetarian food for 2 weeks and I didn't notice anything but that this food was different and so much tastier.
I remember their lovely interaction with their toddler daughter.
I remember a small kitchen, full of cookbooks and vegetables, with seemed to grow in from the tiny garden.
I remember strange names that had never made it into our school textbooks, long hair and absence of ties, an informality I wasn't used to, and a hospitality which was amazing. These people put two of us up in a tiny weeny house, and made our stay so wonderful that my first sentence to my parents' "how was it?" was, "can I go again next year?".

Even now, over 20 years later, what I see is red brick houses and English gardens. A B&B that is run by a couple in their seventies, with flowery wallpapers, mismatching Laura Ashley patterns in the room, mahogany furniture, a fabulous garden with an apple tree.

I am given a choice of the daily newspapers at the breakfast table. What a nice idea I say, until I'm made to feel very Scottish having to choose between the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. I don't want to be impolite, so take the Daily Telegraph, dodge the offer of talking about Afghanistan and move the conversation unnoticeably to Wimbledon, before establishing the family tree of today's garden party's hosts. We had a lovely chat, and I passed on the key knowing that one of my best friends would stay in the same room the following night.

It surprised me how a short trip can take me into a whole new sphere of memories and images. It took me an hour or two to get here, the trip was so fast and if you travel without child, it's so easy to get here. Yet I feel a culture apart. These are the days where I understand why the Scots insist on their difference. These are the days I can understand
why one of the first English people I met after moving to Glasgow stated that he was a political refugee. I laughed at him at the time, but it's clear that Glasgow is politically very different. Not just from England, you only need to go as far as Edinburgh to notice.

After all these years, I still feel the same when I enter England. It's where traditional and cool meet. Cool Britannia, just that really, it's not quite Britannia. Just England.
I love it yet I'm reasonably sure I could not live here. My political stance gets me into all sort of trouble in Germany and I fear it would be similar here. Glasgow is safe. We're all red, a much deeper red than can be imagined in Germany or England.
Of course, it's a strange irony that the Scottish flag is indeed - blue.
Nevermind, this is just one more contradition of many that make this country, and I mean the whole of the UK, what it is, a fascinating place to live.

Now, I'd come to this Hampshire market town for a traditional garden party in one of the oldest houses of the town. There was a roasted hog, fish and chips, strawberries and cream and a tasty carrot cake. And it poured. The kids got soaking wet, giddy and shivering, but still enjoying themselves, until we sang and danced along to the two musicians who played close to my favourite selection of songs. And Elli-Nora? She never let go of the Highland Coo I'd brought along, cuddling in between her daddy, her dummy and the Coo when it got late and she didn't want to submit to her tiredness. A piece of Scotland in her German - English world.

I for my part chatted away to old friends, drank far too much red wine, got awfully broody when secretly observing little babies and above all missed Cubling unspeakably. It felt great being able to hold a proper conversation, even to talk about topics entirely child unrelated, it felt great being able to travel light and reading 110 pages of a book on the plane, and yet I felt like someone had chopped an arm off because I am with child and the child was not there. My instinctive bonding with yet unknown mums faltered because to them I was childless. And just like my identity was bent in their eyes, so it was in other conversations, where ignorance was maintained by choice, when I opted not to speak about the darker pages of my life. It was a party after all. And so the day was mostly enjoyed, even if at the cost of nurturing a certain distance.

Cubling would have loved to have been there. I would have loved to have shared this with her. In the morning, her first words were: Mami! Aeroplane! Ingelland!
What a welcome back to Scotland.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A Hat in Time update and featured designers

Ooh, there's excitement entering my project head. I can slowly see it all coming together. So, where is this exciting project at just now? Well, I think I'm going to stick with the title "A Hat in Time". It feels good having a title.

On the pattern front, I collated documents and pictures, created a page template and transferred all the patterns that I had received so far into said template. This reduced my total count of patterns (because I didn't have files for all of them) but I kind of expected that. I currently have 27 patterns, all rough edited, with another few forthcoming which hopefully will bring me up to my target of 30 or 33. The rough editing stage is almost complete - unfortunately there are a few patterns that need retyping, and I'm still in hope to receive another few patterns in a more malleable format than pdf.

I've also encountered a few small challenges. One of them is spelling - this is a book where some designers use American spelling, some British. I'm not sure if I'll go for consistency (and if so, which of the two?) or just leave things as they are (which my look odd). Secondly, I have to compile abbreviations which will be a challenge for all crotchet patterns. I still don't crotchet :(
The final challenge is to trim the patterns down to the minimum length required. I'm not happy having to edit other people's writing, but the page count is horrendous and will affect the production cost (and affordability). So it's got to go down.

It's lovely to see the book take its shape. And to give you another flavour of the talent that's coming together in it, here are three featured designers:

Thelma Egberts loves knitting. On 4 double pointed needles. Especially hats. And what kind of hat! Some of the cutest cuddliest, you know the type, I've ever set my eyes on. Bursting with colour and the feeling of seaside in them. She's based in the Netherlands and this is where you can admire her fabulous work.

Sophy T. O'Donnell blogs at Knits notes etc, a great knitting blog. Oh and I love her new crafts room, would love to have something like that too (and hopefully will get myself at least a craft corner at some point). She's based in beautiful San Francisco. Something else that makes me green with envy (Glasgow is lovely too though!).

Finally for today, Tiff Crotchets. She does just that, lots of little and big crotcheting projects, which really make me wish I could crotchet. Maybe one day I'll learn how to do it! I like her tag line "what happens when a mom gets hooked". And I've got a feeling she, like me, got into crafting after her kids were born.

Photo credit: Wonder Mike

Monday, 6 July 2009

The mysteries of ... Twitter

Just back from a rare venture out to a book club I've joined. Which obviously has nothing at all to do with the mysteries of twitter. It just struck me that somehow, a book club is a rather old fashioned thing. For one, there's books involved. You know those things people read before TV and laptops, and strangely, still read. Even if these people are as addicted to the internet as I am. It was a great night out. I wavered a bit to make the 30 min car journey to the other side of the city, but it was well worth it. A good book (Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart
), mercifully short as well so that I had actually read it, a lovely pub (78 in Kelvinhaugh Street, what a gem of a place! Can I have it moved to the south side please?) and good company. 4 women, 2 non mums (they exist????) and in spite of 2 strangers, we chatted all evening.

Good old traditional stuff.

Yet I'm also an internet/email/blogging addict, on facebook, soon to join linked in, love fiddling about with photo (book) software (although haven't yet ventured as far as taking pictures in RAW format which Im told is the ultimate digital photographic experience) and generally spend more time at the computer than is good for me.

I'm not on Twitter. Now there's a surprise. Everyone these days seems to be. Am I missing something? It's a serious question. So from what I gather, it's about mini blogging. I don't think I'm interested in that, I quite like maxiblogging. Apparently it's something linked to mobile phones because you send tweets by text message. That seriously turns me off, I hate texting. Then again, Twitter is the stuff of Iranian revolutions and there must be something to it that I don't get if everyone else is using it.

So what is it that I'm missing? Should I get an account? What's in it for me, a text message despising book lover? Can I get something useful out of it? I don't just want to have another gadget, waste more time on the computer but if anyone can explain to me what's so cool about twitter, please do. I'm open minded. Honest. Just don't quite get it just yet. ("Not yet" I hear Culbing echo one of her favourite phrases).

Oh and the Best of British Mummy (and Daddy) Bloggers is now up at Brits in Bosnia.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

weekend in pictures: sunflowers!

This is what I've been waiting for: a little helper in the garden.

Today's picture how to shall be... planting a sunflower:

Saturday, 4 July 2009

tagging time!!!

I have been tagged by Metropolitan Mum. Super dooper, especially because I'm a tad brain dead at the moment so here's a little get out meme, which kind of covers a few things I would have mentioned if I was able to string a couple of words together. You see, I'm a social animal this weekend, day and night.

8 things I’m looking forward to:

  • The birth of my niece/nephew
  • Completing my "a hat in time" charity book project
  • All going well, working with G. on a new book project
  • Starting a new and exciting project at work (inspiring change)
  • A book club meeting on Monday night
  • Flying to Bournemouth/Ringwood on Friday for a party and catching up with rather a lot of lovely friends all at once
  • Hopefully meeting my friend N., who lives in Mexico, in December (not in Mexico though)
  • Cubling waking up in the morning because I couldn't kiss her goodnight tonight. I don't even care about the time, I'd even be happy for her to wake me in the middle of the night.

8 things I did yesterday:

  • Visited Almond Valley Heritage Centre in Livingstone for the first time
  • Went to the pub to commiserate 3 colleagues on their redundancy
  • Cycled to Glasgow city centre and back
  • Dealt with a major toddler knee scrape and realised that my first aid kit is badly lacking in essentials
  • Thought a lot about a new and very exciting project (book project, see above)
  • Knitted almost a full square for my niece/nephew's baby blanket
  • Rode on a tractor trailer with hubby and Cubling
  • Ate an ice cream

8 things I wish I could do:

  • Sleep in at the weekend
  • See my father more often
  • Meet up with my friends more often
  • Sew better (so that I can actually make things without being scared)
  • Public speaking
  • Be witty
  • Draw
  • Beat hubby at Tetris. In fact, beat him at any game.

8 Favourite Fruits:

  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Apricots
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Tayberries
  • Rhubarb (is this a fruit? not sure)

8 Places I’d like to travel:

  • New Zealand
  • Thailand
  • India
  • Japan
  • Bolivia
  • Peru
  • Nepal

8 places I’ve lived:

  • Koeln, Germany
  • Dormagen, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Sligo, Ireland
  • Bedford, England
  • Glasgow, Scotland
  • sorry, that's it, and I thought I'd lived lots of places... unless I can list Dublin again because I lived there twice.

8 people I’m tagging (and trying not to tag anyone who's already done this or who I've tagged recently - phew, not easy!):

And now it's really time for bed...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Is it that time already????

There is something dooming over the Cartside household. It's been coming for a long time but somehow I thought that ignoring it may be a rather clever idea and work just fine for us. However, as usual, it's not mummy or daddy who make the decisions here, draw up the rules and control the timing. No. It's a 2 year old with unbound energy levels who never sits still and who just happens to have a bucketloads of ideas of her own.

Cubling doesn't like to be left by herself in a room. Nothing new there, she never did, and so she'll follow me everywhere, convenient or not. This has always included the toilet, with half hearted efforts on my side to explain that really, there was no need to accompany me because I was well able to do a pipi and a poopoo all by myself, being a big girl. Recently though, it's been rather amusing: As soon as the flush is administered, I get my gold star: "good boy mummy!". There are no boys at the childminder, so she must have picked the phrase up from her auntie, who currently happens to be potty training Cubling's 2 1/2 year old cousin.

Being compliant, I asked her if she would like to do her pipi and her poopoo in her potty. The answer was a definite "no" and "nenene".

Well, that was 3 weeks ago.

For the last week or so, there was much huffing and puffing about sore Popo (bum), Popo sauber (clean bum!) and nappy off, accompanied by much whining. There is only so much whining I can take after a long day at work, and there was heaps of it. Now, I really and truly do not want to start potty training, nappies are great, and seeing the number of accidents and amount of washing in Cubling's cousin's house, there is nothing enticing about the idea. Did I say who rules the Cartside home?

So last night I relented. Nappy off. Cubling sits on potty. For 2 seconds. Up. Down. Up. Down. Carries potty to next room. Puts potty on head (yuck!), proudly declaring it to be a "hat". Takes it upstairs, then downstairs. Momentarily her attention is diverted to another toy, there is a splash of wee, Cubling doesn't like it at all, cries, mummy gets potty, Cubling sits. For 2 seconds. Up. Down. Up. Down. Carries potty to next room. Puts potty on head (yuck!), proudly declaring it to be a "hat". Takes it upstairs, then downstairs. Momentarily, her attention is diverted to another toy. She squats (not on the potty) ...

Need I say more?
She helpfully mumbled something about "doggy!" "doggy poo doing!", slightly forgetting that she's not actually a dog. Although the similarities were striking. Of the sausage, not her.

This is followed by explaining that it would be better to squat on potty (after cleaning that is) and sure enough, she does, for 2 seconds, gets up, looks at it, and cheers "yay!!!", runs off. Not a drop in the potty.

The repeat was on tonight (without the accidents thank goodness for that).

I really and truly don't want to potty train yet. My plan was to wait until she was sure to be able to do it and then go for it in a week or so, short and sweet. But now that she can take off her clothes, and her nappy, and doesn't want her nappy on, what say have I in the matter?

photo by: kyz.

food, glorious comfort food

My diet has been on standby for the past week. I was stressed. I was trying to do too many things at once and felt like something heavy was pushing me down. Blame it on stress at work and 2 very hard weeks, a knock on the door of sadness at hearing sorrowful stories, even if from people I don't even know myself, making emotions surface that I thought I'd chased away with happy thoughts and happy actions.

Anyway, something had to give and it was food. I like food, especially if sweet. Lots of cakes, a BBQ, chocolate, grazing and eating more than I needed. Still trying not to binge eat and I think I just about managed that.

I kept up some version of exercise regime, not as frequently as planned but at least I upped the duration and intensity, and even went for a jog (the 3rd after falling pregnant with Cubling, i.e. in exactly 3 years) which was tough going, Tollcross Park is full of hills and the "heatwave" midday sun didn't help. Not that I believe in this being a heatwave, for goodness sake, it's only 25C that's nice, perfect indeed, not a heatwave! Still, it's so frustrating to get back into it and feels the legs heavy heavy heavy after just 10 mins, when you used to do a 60 min fast jog as a nice end of day relaxation time.

I should be back on track with my Recycle Week forfeit of no chocolate for a week (that's this week) and once the brown stuff is out of my system, it'll get easier again. I hope. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't gain any more than I did.

So for a very brief weigh-in:

weight today (Thurday): 159 lbs, put on 1lb since last week. 11 lbs to go.



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