Party On!

Over the years I have found some pretty unpleasant things lurking at the bottom of my children’s school bags; forgotten about bananas that have splurged their squidgy contents all over the books and pencils inside, sticky sweets that have melted, oozed and then stuck steadfastly to anything nearby in a hardened, fluff covered, impossible to remove mess and even, on one occasion a demanding homework assignment calling for my assistance in the construction of an Anderson shelter using just corrugated card and toilet rolls.

But there is something else that can be found lurking at the bottom of a school bag and it is something that has the power to instantly engulf me in a cloud of foreboding – a birthday party invitation. For as much as it has the power to fill a child with excitement and delirium, for me it has the opposite effect.

And today in my son’s bag I have discovered just that. Not one but two party invitations and it has compelled me to write!

It doesn’t help that in our family somehow, without my agreement, a particularly unjust law has been passed, an unwritten rule that mummy will accompany the children to parties. Oh yes, of course, there will be some meaningless discussion beforehand, a pretence at some sort of negotiation taking place before the final decision is settled upon. It goes along the lines of –

Mummy – “It’s _____’s birthday party today.”
Daddy – “Are you going to take the children?”
Mummy – “Well, I can do. Don’t you want to go?”
Daddy – “This afternoon I was going to repot some plants/fix my bike/paint the bathroom ceiling (insert any other previously unmentioned but suddenly essential task of your own here) and anyway, you love going to parties, you do it so well!”
Mummy – “Oh, ok, well…I suppose I’ll go then.”
And as quickly as that the deal is done and my fate is sealed. I’m off to another birthday party.

When I was a child birthday parties were very different to how they are today. I would invite some friends to my house, we would play party games that my mum had organised, we would eat traffic light sandwiches and jelly and ice cream, also made by my mum, there would be a dancing competition, judged by my mum, and at the end of the party everyone would go home with a party bag containing a slice of home made birthday cake, lovingly made by my mum, all wrapped up in a serviette.

Nowadays, birthday parties can be pretty soulless affairs with minimal parental effort required. Why do it yourself when you can pay someone else to do it for you? Parties will more than likely be held at a play centre where the children entertain themselves out of sight of the parents in the soft play areas and ball pools before being summoned via a distorted tannoy for an unappetising dinner of cold, soggy chips, a few cold, greasy chicken nuggets, a handful of crisps and a yogurt before disappearing off again to play until they are summoned once more by the tannoy when the cake appears. This will more often than not be a shop bought offering. At the end of the party the children are ushered out clutching a generic party bag containing various sweets, a bag of flavourless and anaemic looking corn puffs masquerading as crisps, a balloon and a lollipop. In my recent experience there has been very little variety on this formula. Parents tend to make little effort compared to our own parents when we were little, instead paying other people to entertain and cater for their child’s party.

For my son’s 4th birthday four years ago I decided I was going to revive the traditional party, the sort of party I used to have as a child. I was determined not to have another one of these soulless parties where I hand over all responsibility to somebody else. I wanted a fun party that I had put time and effort into organising. And so I spent ages making and baking party food, blowing up balloons, designing and colouring banners, wrapping up a pass the parcel, drawing a giant clown for Pin The Nose On The Clown and making props and wrapping prizes for Musical Numbers and Pass The Balloon. I decorated the house with the balloons and bunting and I made up party bags for the children to take home.

While the invited children had fun at the party and clearly enjoyed playing the games and winning prizes, they did look a bit bemused by the whole thing. I don’t think they were too sure what was going on but it didn’t matter anyway because the next year Sam was swayed by what he saw his friends doing for their birthdays and so he deckared that for his upcoming 5th birthday party he wanted to celebrate in a play centre. No more home made birthday parties for him. The same happened with my youngest, one party at home and then as he became more aware of what his classmates were doing, he too wanted his next party at a play centre.

And so, this has become the norm for birthdays and we revolve around the same faceless play centres in a never ending cycle of generic parties, month after month, year after year.

But why am I so averse to birthday parties? There are many reasons why I don’t enjoy them but I’ve whittled them down to 10, some of which you might identify with, some you might not. So here they are, in no particular order.

1. They’re full of children.
Of course this will come as no surprise but, truth be told, it can be difficult to tolerate other people’s children. Just the thought of sitting in a brightly lit party venue full of noisy, screaming (either in excitement or upset) children for two and a half hours when I could be doing something else is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat.

2. They’re full of parents.
This necessitates a whole lot of small talk and I’m no good at small talk. As a quite shy person I find it a challenge to walk into a party venue, smilingly introduce myself to the gathered parents, sit down amongst them and join in with the chatter. It might sound very simple to some but for me, and no doubt for other shy people, it is anything but.

3. The present.
Buying a present for a child I don’t know is fraught with stress. I don’t know what they like, I don’t know what they already have, I can’t afford to spend a lot but I don’t want to look cheap and chances are they will open it in front of everyone at the party under the gaze of everybody. I don’t want to be the cause of the face that is publicly registering disappointment or disinterest in a gift.

4. The need to practice self-restraint with the food.
Usually the parents of the birthday child will arrange for refreshments to be provided for the other gathered parents which is all very lovely but I am always acutely aware that when I am surrounded by other (mainly) mums who I don’t really know it can be very bad form to enthusiastically grab at the proffered nachos or mini burgers or quiche. When presented with a table full of edible goodies it has been known for my eyes light up rather like a child at a sweet shop window and I have to practice a lot of self-restraint not to dive in. And then usually, just as I have taken a delicate nibble of a sausage roll I can guarantee that somebody will come up and introduce themselves to me and enquire whose parent I am while I hurriedly attempt to swallow a dry mouthful of puff pastry and try not to spray my companion with errant morsels of pastry while replying.

5. The need to practice self-restraint with the drinks.
This makes me sound like an alcoholic. I’m not. Let me explain. It’s not alcoholic drinks I need to restrain myself with, rather the open café drinks menu that is usually part of a birthday party. When the waiter repeatedly comes to the table asking if there is anything he can get me it is very difficult, almost impossible, to stop myself from over the course of the party ordering one of everything, just to try it.

6. The piñata.
Now this might sound like a bit of a strange one but from the first time my oldest child was invited to parties, the piñata has been a disaster zone. When the piñata was brought out and the sweets scattered over the floor, he always seemed to be on the outskirts of the scrum where nothing fell and despite his attempts to grab something to put in his sadly empty bag he was always left with nothing but scraps of ribbon from the piñata itself and the little broken bits of cheap plastic toys that nobody else wanted. Cue tears of despair. Consequently I started to take it upon myself to join in to help him. Now there is no way for an adult to participate in a piñata alongside a group of 4 or 5 year olds without looking desperately sad and competitive, even if your intentions are good. Scrabbling on the floor for sweets, plastic whistles and yo-yos and various other plastic tat is not a good look for a mum and the only consolation was that at least my son would have something to add to his collection of ribbons and broken bits that would cause him to smile. I may not need to throw myself into the piñata scrum anymore now my son is older and bolder but I still can’t look at a piñata without feeling a sense of dread.

7. They’re like buses…
…you wait for ages for one and then they all come at once. I can spend several blissful weeks without having to act as a chaperone to a single birthday party but then all of a sudden three or four invitations will arrive at once and sometimes all for the same weekend! Having two children obviously increases the odds for this happening and on some particularly hellish weekends we have been known to attend multiple parties on both days!

8. They go on for hours.
Parties at play centres go on for a minimum of two and a half chaotic, noisy hours. Two and a half hours! I don’t think I need to comment any further on this one.

9. End of party trauma.
Despite the party joy having lasted for two and a half hours my children are never ready to leave even though their hair is plastered to their head with sweat and their faces are bright red from the physical exhaustion of running around like wild banshees for the whole time. They are smeared with the party war paint of chocolate and ketchup smudges on their faces and clothes, as well as the remnants of some long since dissolved face paint design that has been gradually wiped and sweated off during the party and even though they have eaten the equivalent of their body weight in sweets and cake they have never had enough. I love it when the time has come to go home, when it’s time to call out, “Find your shoes now, we have to leave”. Sadly, my children don’t feel the same and every time, before we can leave, I have to go through the humiliating ritual of venturing into the ball pool and soft play jungle, crawling through tunnels while dodging flying foam balls in an effort to round up my reluctant children. Once caught they will wriggle like slippery worms on a hook trying to escape my grasp as I struggle to get them out of the soft play area. I do my best to get one child’s shoes on while keeping hold of the other squirming child and then do the same with the other child while all the time they are protesting, “but I don’t waaaant to go home! I want to stay heeeerrre! We haven’t been here loooong!”. I then have to physically propel my children forward, towards the door and out to freedom, and through my rictus grin I tell them to smile and say thank you to the host parents as we parade past the other guests and their parents who always seem to be getting ready to leave in a much more dignified manner.

10. Party fallout.
Getting out the door does not necessarily signal the end of the party turmoil. Still to be negotiated is the party bag, full of yet more sweets, balloons and more cheap plasticky whistles and yo-yos. The children will undoubtedly want to open them and consume the contents immediately and so a heated, lively debate will ensue where I will attempt to convince them that they have eaten enough sugar and artificial colouring for one day. Even after we have got home and the children have been calmed down and bathed and then put into bed the party is still not quite over. Often the parents of fellow party attendees will commence the sending of party photos. Through the joy of Facebook and Whatsapp a deluge of photos will be shared. Once, after an especially swanky 7th birthday party (that even boasted an official photographer) I turned on my phone the next morning to see 96 Whatsapp notifications each of which was an attached photo. But it wasn’t done there, oh no, the next day I was also handed a USB pen drive which contained 400 other photos with instructions to download the photos and then pass the pen drive on to another parent!

Well, this year I had had enough. I was determined not to go for another play centre birthday party for my children. I refused to pay a small fortune for another generic party! I was going to try to organise something different again. While I didn’t enforce a pass the parcel and jelly and ice cream type party on my children, I did find a happy medium. I rented a small, local sports ground where there was a small football pitch, a zip wire and some woodland to explore and play in (there was no piñata!). I was able to make sandwiches and cakes for it and the invited parents were able to sit in the sunshine talking and relaxing while watching their children play in the fresh air and I even enjoyed it myself!

So let’s try and take our birthday parties back! A little bit of research, effort and thought can go a long way to making them more personalised, to taking them away from the play centres and to injecting a bit of character and individuality back into celebrating a child’s birthday. Party on!


Death of a bullfighter

Yesterday a young man lost his life live on TV. A shocking occurrence. But are people mourning his death? No, instead it is being celebrated because this particular young man was Victor Barrio, a 29 year old bullfighter who was killed during a bullfight in Teruel, part of a festival in the east of Spain. Yesterday and now again today my Facebook feed is full of people sharing links to articles about this and video clips of the actual Moment he was fatally gored. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised to see that the majority, if not all of the comments posted on these links are full of hatred for Barrio, with hundreds of comments applauding his death and wishing the same to all bullfighters and even the audiences themselves. One comment about his death even stated, “The best thing for him! The only thing that would make it better is if there were a fire in the bullring and the doors were locked so that all the participants and spectators suffer and die together.” Really?

I too despise bullfighting. It is an abhorrent sport. I could never effectively write the words to communicate exactly how much I hate it. I see no entertainment value in seeing any animal tortured and killed. I, like most of us, feel physically sick at seeing any animal hurt or abused and would personally love nothing more than to see bullfighting and all the many other ‘sports’ and festivals, not just in Spain but all around the world, that involve any form of animal cruelty to be banned. However, I would never wish death or suffering on any human, just as I wouldn’t wish this on any animal.

Within my class of young children at school I have the son of a Spanish bullfighter, a very famous bullfighter. While this father is not a friend of mine and I am not close to him, he is a person, in fact a very lovely person. While I don’t agree with what he does this doesn’t take away from the fact that he is just a loving family man with a wife and a 4 year old son who chooses to do something that I personally don’t like. Does this mean I would be happy if he were to die in the ring? Would I rejoice in the fact he has died doing the sport that so repulses me? Of course not.

In recent times death has become so prevalent in the news; terrorist attacks, high school shootings, child abuse deaths, there is so much tragic news every day in the world. But we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that life is a precious thing and should be valued as such.

No, I didn’t like what Victor Barrio chose to devote his life to. Yes, I feel strongly that bullfighting should be banned. But do I rejoice in the fact that a young man was gored, and soon after lost his life, so publicly and on live television, undoubtedly viewed by his family and friends? No I don’t. For that would be heartless and if we can regard the loss of any life so flippantly and with such fervour then I despair of the future for this world.

Can cutting out sugar cut out pain?

For some time now I have been plagued with aching joints (partly caused by too much running but some newer pains have been diagnosed as the early stages of osteoarthritis) but I have recently suffered with terrible pains in my right arm and hand, which is frequently so bad in the morning that I can’t close my hand and struggle to move my arm. I have been trying various natural remedies which have gone some way to overcoming this because I have been determined not to resort to taking the prescription drugs that my doctor recommended if at all possible because the huge list of potential side effects filled me with increasing dread as I read down them. So, I take turmeric paste on a daily basis as well as hyaluronic acid tablets. I incorporate lots of fresh ginger into my diet and I have also started taking a natural supplement that my rheumatologist has recommended. However, I started to wonder if I could somehow tackle the problem at the source rather than treating the symptoms. Could I somehow prevent these symptoms in the first place, cutting them off at the source?

There are many foods that have an inflammatory affect on the body, refined grains, processed meats, artificial additives to name a few. And sugar. Now, I eat a very healthy diet and I don’t eat a lot of sugar; I don’t add sugar to my tea, I don’t sprinkle sugar on my cereal, in fact I don’t add sugar to anything in my diet. But sugar is hidden in many products and often in surprisingly high quantities. Furthermore, I eat a lot of fruit and dried fruit and these also contain sugar. I also eat unrefined grains and processed meat. Could these all be contributing to my pains?

A friend of mine has recently had great success with following a weight loss diet that involves cutting out processed foods and refined grains, not combining fats and carbohydrates in one meal and more importantly for me, in the first phase of the diet, not consuming any sugar, whether it be sugar added to food or naturally occurring sugar in foods, such as fruit. While I wasn’t wanting to lose weight (although who isn’t eager to lose a few pounds, especially with the approach of summer?!) I was very interested in this diet, especially in the first phase which would mean cutting out sugar from my diet completely.

There are three phases involved in total and on reading the book as well as testimonials from people who have followed it, it appeared that this particular diet has resulted in many people not only losing weight but also feeling much less achy and suffering less headaches or even headaches that had completely disappeared. There were also reports of people feeling totally reenergised and healthier. This is what attracted me to it. I wondered whether, if I followed this diet it would have any effect on my aches, especially these arthritic pains in my right hand and arm?

During the first phase, which only lasts for five days, you can eat as much salad, vegetables (but not mushrooms or potatoes), eggs, fresh meat and fresh fish as you like. You can also have canned fish as long as the only addition is oil as well as consuming 50g of brown rice, quinoa or oats each day. Permitted drinks are herbal tea, water, decaffeinated tea or coffee. Natural live yogurt is also allowed so I substituted my milk kefir. Fruit is not permitted.

I decided to start the very next day, Wednesday. I am a teacher and usually for my breakfast I take a kefir smoothie to school which is loaded with banana, ginger and turmeric. Because of the diet I wasn’t able to add fruit so my smoothie consisted purely of kefir, turmeric and ginger. While having a consistency more like a milk than a smoothie it still tasted good and it fitted in with the diet guidelines. By lunch time though I was hungry and I had grilled chicken, mixed salad and a can of natural tuna. I didn’t have my dinner until late that night by which time I was ravenous and I could hardly wait to have my dinner of scrambled eggs, brown rice with vegetables and salad.

The next day, Thursday, I had the same ‘smoothie’ and a similar lunch of chicken and salad. By mid-morning I was aware of the early, telltale symptoms of the imminent arrival of a bad headache. This isn’t uncommon for me, I get headaches a lot but I also knew that this diet can cause you to suffer headaches in the first few days while your body craves the sugar that you’re not feeding it. As the day progressed the headache worsened and when I got home from school I went for a ‘little lie down’ only to wake up three hours later still in the grip of a headache that was causing an unbearable pain in my left eye and a pain that travelled all the way from my eye to my shoulder. I could trace the path of the pain with my finger and the slight pressure of my finger on the painful area was almost unbearable. That evening I ate some brown rice, vegetables, oven baked pork slices and a homemade tomato sauce. Soon after I went to bed, hoping that I would feel better in the morning.

As soon as I woke up on Friday I could feel the pain continuing to pulse down from my left eye to my shoulder. It was becoming even more difficult to bear and I was worried that it was being caused by something else, not the diet. I went to school anyway, thinking that if it became any worse I would come home and go to the doctor.

I couldn’t face having my smoothie in the morning but by lunchtime the pain was starting to ease a little and I was able to have my chicken and salad lunch. As the afternoon progressed the pain continued to diminish and although my eye still felt tender to the touch I was beginning to feel more like myself again.

That evening I had my dinner of brown rice, vegetables, pork and tomato sauce again and not long after went to bed.

The next day was Saturday and I woke up feeling fine. The headache had gone as had the pain in my eye. This was day four of phase one. Not only did I feel great I had also lost just over 2kg which further brightened my mood!

Throughout Saturday and today (Sunday) I have continued to keep sugar out of my diet. I have had scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes for breakfast, vegetable soup and salad for lunch on Saturday and an omlette, grilled tomatoes and wilted spinach for lunch today. I have made a chicken curry and brown rice which I will be having for dinner.

During the first day or two I had felt quite hungry quite often as I adapted to not being filled up by bread and pasta but by this weekend I have been feeling much healthier and less bloated and I’m not feeling that unwelcome ‘too full’ sensation after eating.

But what about my aches? Well, while the aches in my hand and arm haven’t completely disappeared but they have lessened and I woke up this morning (always the worst time of day) with considerably less pain. I’m continuing to take the turmeric paste but I have been able to lessen my intake which I usually take four times a day to keep the pain at bay. This weekend I have only taken it once in the morning and once in the evening with the same effect.

Next week I will continue on to Phase Two and I will be interested to see if keeping the added sugar (fruit is allowed in Phase Two but is limited) out of my diet will make any increased difference.


The power of turmeric

4 weeks ago, half way through the school holiday, I woke up one day to an excruciating pain down my right arm. There was a terrible pain in the knuckles of my right hand and I realised I was unable to close my hand. I had had a similar, mild pain in the knuckles of both hands for a few months but nothing too bad. This flare up had happened overnight. 
During the following weeks my days followed the repeated pattern of waking up to the pain and the inability to close my hand. On most days this would gradually ease as the day passed, although while the pain did decrease to a degree I still had no grip in my right hand and I couldn’t hold anything or open doors, etc with it and it was very difficult to drive and to do basic, everyday things. I was using my left hand more and more. It was like some nightmarish Groundhog Day and I would look forward to the time passing as that would mean the pain would ease. 
Some days the pain has been so bad I’ve just wanted to cry. I’ve visited a rheumatologist and Was sent for blood tests and ultrasounds which I will take back to the rheumatologist on Monday to find out what is wrong. She thought it might be rheumatoid arthritis.
Ever since the pain started 4 weeks ago I have been taking golden paste (turmeric)  religiously, four times a day. The pain continued though and I was beginning to think that whatever was wrong with my arm and hand wasn’t going to be helped by it. I was scared that the same thing would start in my left hand too which would make things very difficult. I even went out and bought the drugs that the rheumatologist had prescribed for me because it was getting so bad, although when I read the endless list of possible side effects I decided to just keep them for emergencies. 
And then, on Wednesday this week I woke up and the pain was minimal and I could almost close my hand. I didn’t like to assume everything was going to be better as I didn’t want to tempt fate, but then again on Thursday morning I woke up and my hand was still feeling better. This has continued through Friday and today. While I do still have a crampy pain in my hand and my knuckles are still quite painful if I forget to be gentle when washing my hands or when putting on hand cream for example, and while it still hurts to use scissors this is usually to such a small degree that sometimes I even forget that there is a problem. 
I have put this change down to the turmeric. It has really turned everything around and has made life almost normal again. And all without needing to resort to the drugs.
So, if any of you have any aches or pains please give turmeric a try, it is so cheap and easy to make. It might take a while to see an effect, it took 4 weeks for me, but it really is amazing and any alternative to prescribed drugs has to be a good thing.

The Trials Of A Family Film Afternoon

Yesterday we had a family film afternoon. We watched the original Star Wars. We did this partly as a trip down memory lane for Mummy and Daddy so that we could see it again after all these years but also it was a way we could conduct a bit of investigative research. We wanted to see if the boys would sit through the whole film. The idea was, if they really were interested in it and it held their attention through the entire thing then we would all go to see the new Star Wars film together at the cinema. If not then it would be a Mummy and Daddy only excursion.

It didn’t start too well. As the iconic opening words began to flow up the screen, Henry got a bit lost. “There are too many words for me to read, Mummy! I won’t know what is going on!” But as it turned out, that was the least of the obstacles to his understanding. Much more of a problem for Henry, and the rest of us, was his continual commentary and questions concerning all of the movie events and all of the characters. Add to that his obsession with recounting the troubling (for him) situation of the unequal number of Kinder eggs that he and his brother had left from their Christmas chocolate stash and I think you will see how it could all be rather distracting.

To my way of thinking there are two sorts of film watchers in the world. There are those who, like myself, can sit and watch a film quietly without the need to excessively comment on what’s going on or to ask continual questions. Then there are the other type. This type can’t sit quietly at all during a film and they have to comment on everything to do with the film as well as many other things not to do with the film at all.

It turns out Henry is one of the latter types.

To give you an idea of what watching Star Wars with Henry was like, please imagine being forced to listen to the following phrases and questions, at volume and on a repeated shuffle program on an iPod that gets frequently stuck, repeating certain random phrases again and again until it hears an answer.
“Mummy, who’s that?”
“Mummy, why did he do that?”
“Mummy, is that another Darth Vader?”
“Mummy, what is he doing?”
“Mummy, I have had 2 of my chocolate eggs and Sam has only had 1 chocolate egg and I only have 4 chocolate eggs left and Sam has 5 chocolate eggs left and that’s not fair, so if I have 1 chocolate egg now and Sam has 2 chocolate eggs now then we will have the same number of chocolate eggs, Mummy, can we do that Mummy? Can I have 1 chocolate egg and Sam have 2 chocolate eggs so we have the same number of chocolate eggs?”
“Mummy, what’s his name?”
“Mummy, is he a good one or a bad one?”
“Mummy, Darth Vader is Luke’s daddy. I know that.”
“Mummy, where are the robots?”
“Mummy, did he get died?”
“Mummy, what happened to him?”
“Mummy, is that his new daddy now?”
“Mummy, has that blowed up? Are they all died?”

And then, as the end credits rolled, Henry chattered away happily about the film. “Has the film finished, Mummy? I liked that film. I liked the ones who joined them, the ones who tried hard, I liked three-three-p-o and R2 and the one with the nose, who was the one with the nose, Mummy? I liked the girl one, and I liked Shoe-bacca, I liked three-three-p-o, he was funny, and I liked Darth Vader and I liked the stormtroopers, I didn’t like the sand people, Mummy can I have a chocolate egg? Why not, Mummy? I liked that film, Mummy, they helped him didn’t they, Mummy? Mummy, who was the one with the big nose? I liked him, I don’t know his name, do you know his name? Gonzalo knows his name, he told me his name but I can’t remember it, and the girl one, I liked three-three-p-o and R2 and the one with the nose…”

And so ended our family film afternoon, our last film afternoon of the year for today is New Year’s Eve and we will be going out into town later to watch the fireworks and see in 2016. Who knows what the coming year will bring? More travels? More family adventures and exploits?

One thing I’m sure it will bring, a Mummy and Daddy only trip to the cinema to see the new Star Wars. This family isn’t quite ready for a repeat performance just yet!

Happy New Year!

How to teach your child to ice skate in 30 simple steps

I recently taught my child how to ice skate in just 30 simple steps. Yes, really! Just 30 simple steps! And today I’m going to share my secret, tried and tested method with you! So, if you would like to emulate my success this is what you need to do –

1. Find an ice rink. If possible take other family members to share in the joyous occasion. We took my mum.
2. Feel a bit bad when you can’t remember the size of your children’s feet when the assistant tries to fit them for their ice skates.
3. Hire some ice skating assistance ‘helpers’ that your children can cling on to for dear life while trying to push them around the ice.
4. Watch as your eldest endeavours to push his polar bear helper around, summoning memories of when Bambi tries to walk for the first time.
5. Watch as your youngest just stands there holding on to his penguin helper, looking a bit frustrated as he is not actually moving at all because it’s a bit too heavy for him to push.
6. Try to block out his repeated calls of “Mummy, Mummy, I need help!” hoping that he will soon get himself moving.
7. Feel your resolve waver and get up to help, ignoring your mum’s advice to ‘leave him to get on with it, he’ll soon get the hang of it’.
8. Having first checked with the rink staff that it’s ok, walk gingerly onto the ice in your inappropriate-for-the-job sandals in order to give your child a bit of a push around the ice while simultaneously holding him up as he continues to cling for dear life onto his penguin helper.
9. Find yourself now unable to leave him because you just know that as soon as you let go either his legs will collapse beneath him and he will fall in a heap on the rink or he will just stand there not moving again and will probably cry out of frustration.
10. Continue to ignore your mum’s repeated words of wisdom to leave him alone and let him work it out for himself.
11. Instead carry on pushing your youngest around while adopting a very ungraceful position with your feet stuck out at dangerously wide angles with your bottom protruding unattractively behind you while struggling to hold on to his waist in order to propel him around the ice.
12. Try to avoid your child’s ice skates that keep shooting backwards as he repeatedly loses his footing. Please ensure that you fail to see the potential danger to yourself.
13. Eventually, and inevitably, feel your child’s ice skate slide backwards and then painfully over your own foot.
14. Look down in amazement at the instantaneous and rapidly growing pool of blood that has appeared on the ice around your foot.
15. Ignore your oblivious child’s impatient calls for you to keep pushing while you call for your mum to come and help you.
16. Call for help again, in a rather fainter voice now, while your mum is preoccupied looking down at her iPad and muttering something about photos and insufficient lighting while not hearing you at all.
17. Stand in a continually growing pool of blood while vainly calling, “Mum, Mum, I’ve cut my foot!”
18. Eventually sit your child down on a nearby support on the ice and hobble over to the viewing area while still calling, “Mum, I’ve cut my foot” while your mum continues to look at her iPad, muttering about poor photo quality and not knowing how she can improve it while you leave a gruesome trail of blood in your wake.
19. Finally make it over to your mum and alert her to your plight as she gasps in horror and at last jumps swiftly into action.
20. Sit, on the brink of fainting and with your head swimming dizzily while the staff from the rink administer first aid and mop up the grisly trail of blood from rink and a newly formed puddle in the viewing area while vaguely aware of a little voice in the distance calling out, “Mummy! Mummy! Look at me!”
21. Very close to passing out now and feeling extremely clammy apply an icy towel to the back of your neck and keep your head down, continue to be aware of the increasingly desperate little voice calling out, “Mummy! Mummy! Look at me!”
22. Despite feeling very faint and dizzy make a concerted effort to lift your head to see what the little voice is so desperate for you to witness.
23. Gasp and wonder if you’re hallucinating from the blood loss when you see what looks like your youngest, ice skating around slowly but surely all on his own!
24. Look down to see your foot being bandaged up and watch as another member of staff hoses a sizeable mass of congealed blood right past you which then slides down the drain hole.
25. Look up again and see your youngest now whizzing around the rink on his own.
26. Look behind you at some newly arrived young skaters who, on seeing the remnants of blood on the ground, make noises of disgust and ask loudly, “Ewww! Is that your blood?”
27. Look back to see your youngest now actually running on the ice as if he had been born wearing ice skates, chasing after his brother and laughing loudly..
28. As the dizziness passes, try to fit your massively bandaged, and painfully stiffening foot back into your shoe while laughing along with your mum at the humour of the whole situation as your youngest comes skating gracefully over to you and skids gracefully to a halt with a professional sounding ‘whoosh’ at the edge of the rink.
29. Realise that your child is now a rather good, self taught ice skater and that your mum was right after all, you should have left him to work out skating on his own.
30. Eventually hobble off home as your children excitedly say, “That was so much fun! Can we come again? When can we come again? Can we come again? When can we come again?….”

Other methods are available.
You might choose to try those instead.
I would.

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Once, Twice, Three Times (not much of) a Lady

Today’s bike ride wasn’t one of my finest.

It started out well. It was a sunny day but not too hot, I had chosen a route varying between challenging uphill bits and enjoyable downhill stretches and best of all, because most of it would be off road I would have a rare opportunity to cycle while listening to music on my iPod.

Unfortunately I managed to embarrass myself not once, not even twice, but three times and I was only out for an hour.

Embarrassment 1 – While cycling along on a country road I was suddenly aware of a small, yappy dog that came tearing out of a driveway and proceeded to chase me while barking loudly and trying to snap at my ankle! Despite the fact it was undoubtedly small it was very fast, very loud and its mouth was full of sharp little teeth that were intent on catching my ankle.

Unsurprisingly I cycled on at increasing speed in my effort to get away from it but I was also giggling at the ridiculousness of being pursued by such a mini menace. Unfortunately I was also making an involuntary, quite loud ‘eeeee’ noise because I was a bit wary of it actually biting my ankle. This wouldn’t have been so embarrassing had it not been witnessed by a sizeable number of pedestrians as well as a man in a car who, alerted by my piercing ‘eeeee’ and the dog’s high pitched yapping all stopped to watch the events unfold. Fortunately there were no further events to see as I was much faster than the dog and escaped with my ankles intact.

I consoled myself with the thought that I’d never see any of those people again although this was proved to be untrue when, 10 minutes later I reached the point where I turn around and found myself cycling past them all once more. They all watched me cycle past and one man even pointed at me. How very rude!

Embarrassment 2 – Soon after that I reached the off-road track and so was able to listen to music on my headphones. The track was nicely even for quite some time but then suddenly, stretching ahead of me, I saw there was a very steep, rocky hill. As I started up it the song ‘Blaze of Glory’ by Bon Jovi was playing on my iPod.

Listening to a rousing song always helps me to push on up any challenging hills and ‘Blaze of Glory’ was doing just that. Reaching the top after a long, hard slog uphill coincided with the song reaching its chorus. As I crested the top of the hill the moment was Hollywood feel-good-movie perfect.

I went over the top feeling a huge sense of achievement and was compelled to sing loudly along with Jon Bon Jovi as I careered down the other side. I threw my head back and at the top of my voice sang, “I’m going dooooown in a blaaaze of glooooorrry…”. Unfortunately, having pedalled so hard on the way up I was rather breathy on reaching the top and combined with the fact I was speeding down a very bumpy bit of track my voice was not at its best and I think it would be fair to say it wouldn’t have sounded good. I wasn’t content with singing just Jon Bon Jovi’s bit either. No, that would have been far too simple. I sang the harmony on “dooooown” too. One voice seeming as two, admirable I know.

I don’t think my effort was appreciated by the people who I noticed were walking down the hill that I hadn’t noticed before now. They turned round in surprise at the sudden racket, looked decidedly unimpressed with my vocal styling and carried on walking.

Embarrassment 3 – Setting off on my way back home I eventually reached civilisation again and had to turn off my music. I stopped off in a nearby shop to buy a bottle of water and as I waited in the queue I noticed this on the packaging of some biscuits on a display next to the till.
As soon as I saw it I started to giggle but tried to contain my giggling so as not to draw attention to myself. I subtly took out my phone and took a quick photo thinking I could post it on Facebook later to amuse my friends.

Just as I took the picture a voice behind me asked, “What are you taking a photo of?” A woman standing in the queue behind me and a man who was stood with her were both straining their necks trying to see what was of such interest to me, making me giggle. “It says ‘check backside for more fun’!” I confided conspiratorially, allowing them to share in my humorous moment.

I started giggling again until I saw their clearly unamused faces. “Oh,” I said, suddenly feeling quite awkward, my amusement turning into embarrassment. I turned back around and stood in the slowly moving line waiting to be served for what felt like an eternity, all the time feeling their unamused eyes boring into my back, probably wondering how anybody could be so immature.

Oh well, tomorrow is another day and here’s hoping that tomorrow’s bike ride will be slightly less embarrassing!