Fat and Skinny had a race… Fat is a defensive issue.

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Fat and Skinny had a race,

All around the pillowcase,

Fat fell down and broke her face,

“Haha”, said Skinny, “I won the race”.

Fat is a feminist issue, or so said Susie Orbach in the late 70s. Orbach claimed that female obesity was about much more than the simple maths of calorific intake versus physical output and that, instead, gender inequality makes women fat; body fat is a way of giving the middle finger to society’s concept of the ‘ideal’ woman.

“For many women, compulsive eating and being fat have become one way to avoid being marketed or seen as the ideal woman,” she writes. “Fat expresses a rebellion against the powerlessness of the woman,” says Orbach.

I’m not sure about my opinions regarding Orbach, but I do know that weight, amongst women at least, is an issue to obsess over – and argue and lose friends over. I’ve…

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A (sort of) Love Letter To My Husband.

Image courtesy of livluv.com

Image courtesy of livluv.com

There are many great love letters in the world. This is not one of them. But, it is a realistic one. (If it’s a great love letter you’re after, then I suggest you check out Beethoven and his anonymous ‘Immortal Beloved’… Ever thine, ever mine, ever ours… Word porn on a plate, that one.)

On 19th February, it will be the 10th anniversary of when my husband and I first met. It will also be the 30th anniversary of Eastenders, and the fact that I am excited to watch the live shows is probably indicative that things have changed since our first meeting. We met in Tiger Tiger, that beacon of understated romance. I was with my friend, Alison, and I dumped her unceremoniously on the sidelines so that I could dance with ‘the one who looks like Lee from Blue’.

I took his number, got his name wrong (I was sure he’d said it was ‘Tom’), and got a cab home with Al. Three nights later, I texted him out of curiosity, and within two months we were engaged. A fortnight later and we had decided that we were so in love, we should have a baby as soon as was physically possible, and our eldest daughter was one week old on the year anniversary of our first meeting.

For the avoidance of doubt, if either of our daughters ever suggest a relationship timeline such as ours for a partner of their own, I shall lock them up somewhere and only allow them out once their sanity has returned and their legs are crossed. However, it does irk me somewhat to say this, because my husband and I knew our own feelings. And so, perhaps one day, we should trust our children to know the same.

In early 2005, when I woke up in the morning, I would be so excited at the prospect of spending a day with him, that I could not get back to sleep. The expanse of blue in a spring sunlit sky reminds me each year of our meeting. Pools of sunlight on the bedroom floor and dust motes dancing as the rays peep through the window, fill me with memories of him.

Our relationship, like all relationships, requires effort and a resolution to not take each other for granted. We both work hard and the children try our patience, and these days Eastenders fills me with TV-induced excitement, but he is my best friend. He is the person that I want to see at the end of the day, and each morning when he leaves for work, I can honestly say that I begin to miss him immediately.

I love you all the world, Ashley.

“And so it is, just like you said it would be.” Damien Rice.

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 24th February 2015

The Perfect Children’s Party. No, really!

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Last week, my eldest daughter turned 9.  (For the avoidance of doubt, she received neither an iPad, an iPhone, nor a laptop. Not for any specific moral reasons, simply because she – and my bank balance – needs an iPhone like a fish needs a bicycle.)

I cannot believe that on her next birthday, she will be in double figures. The years between now and her birth have picked me up and spun me in a tiny tornado of motherhood.

The love that I feel for my little girls is incomparable to any other. I remember being astounded after India was born at the physical sensation that it produced within me: the drag and tug of maternal love in my chest caused simply by the thought of her.

To celebrate her birthday, India wanted a party that was arty and crafty. We veer towards these types of parties, as it tends to keep the kids occupied and on-task, as opposed to hyped to the eyeballs and flitting about like Kate Bush in Wuthering Heights.

Having learnt my lesson early when it comes to opening your front door to a flood of mini-Kates, mid-sugar rush, I usually insist that we travel to the location of said parties. However, this year we broke with tradition, and booked the fabulous Fiona Burn from The Creation Station. And may I just say, what a wonderful plan that was. The credit for the ‘perfect’ nature of said party is due in no way whatsoever to me; instead, it lies entirely with the aforementioned Fabulous Fiona.

We had already experienced a Creation Station party when the girls went to their cousin, Pippa’s, back before Christmas, and it is a well-oiled machine of an event.

Fiona arrived 45 minutes early to set-up, and I had cleared floor space in our dining room to accommodate her. She then proceeded to childproof all surroundings by protecting the floor, and by the time the children arrived, Fiona was good to go.

Each child was clad in a Creation Station apron, music was provided, and they decorated photo frames and made air-drying clay models. The entire schedule ran to the minute, and my husband took a photo of the kids. We printed this off to go in their frames as a keepsake, and ushered them through to wash hands before eating lunch.

During all of this, we sat in the kitchen reading the paper (I KNOW! DURING A 9TH BIRTHDAY PARTY!) and enjoying the morning (I KNOW! DURING A 9TH BIRTHDAY PARTY!)

Just after the kids finished eating, parents arrived and collected their kiddiwinks, and we packed them off at 1.15pm with the Creation Station party bags that they’d decorated themselves and filled with their goodies.

By 2pm, we’d tidied up and left the house (I KNOW!) I cannot recommend it highly enough!

fionaburn@thecreationstation.co.uk

http://www.thecreationstation.co.uk/childrens-art-class-and-party-entertainer/hampshire-southsea

 

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 17th February 2015

Facebook: Did it turn us into a nation of bitches?

Image Courtesy of eeveelife.co.uk

Image Courtesy of eeveelife.co.uk

…Or did it just give the bitches the public forum they craved all along?

Facebook is a funny old thing, isn’t it?

We plaster it with pictures of our families and our lives, so that other people may tear them mentally and verbally to shreds.

It seems that should you dare to share too many photos of your relatives, especially if they appear to be having anything that closely resembles fun, then you will be accused of smugness.

There are armies of Facebook Nazis, from the Photo variety to the Status Slater. These are the people who complain that their ‘friends’ (that’s a very loose term on Facebook) post too much about their kids, or too much about what they’ve had for dinner, or just… too much. In which case, surely, block them from your newsfeed? Because the point is they’re using their Facebook – so you need to update yours if it’s causing you hassle to see another baby photo.

Some of the female FB Photo Nazis will complain about their ‘friends’ allegedly ‘loving themselves’, simply because said ‘friend’ shares a photo in which they do not look like a box of frogs. Presumably the FB Photo Nazi only shares the ones of themselves in which they look like roadkill. Right?

The daft thing of course, is that very few of us tend to get our cameras out just as we’re having our great aunt’s life support switched off. It’s just not a Kodak moment. Similarly, no one reaches for the camera when their baby produces the kind of poo that escapes their nappy, drenches their vest, and soaks through their skull.

The purpose of photos, surely, is to capture particular moments – ones that we wish to be reminded of. And even if you were warped enough to take a picture of your nearest and dearest splattered in poo and at the end of their tether, then surely people wouldn’t want to see it?

Or, would they?

Do people in fact wish to see you at your stressed, most miserable, wretched, worst? I fear the answer is yes – because it’s going to make them feel better about their own lives. It’s the social networking equivalent of watching Eastenders.

It often seems to me, that we are becoming a nation of spying meanies. We sit with our faces behind glowing screens, and spy on real-life. And then, when a person posts something that hints at happiness, we wee all over it.

‘Smug!’ we declare. ‘Thinks they’ve got a perfect life!’

The irony therefore, is that it’s the spying meanie who is actually declaring your life to be perfect. All you’ve done is posted a photo of something positive. You swine, you.

For myriad reasons, it is a rare day that I scroll through a newsfeed anymore. Time, work, and the loss of novelty and interest contributed to this. Each Tuesday, I post my column on my Lushnessblog page, but since I had a Facebook Free holiday last year, I have deleted the app from my phone and maintained a distance.

The danger with this is that people may then declare me smug for barely using FB. I’m not smug about it – smug by definition is an excessive pride in one’s achievements, and not scrolling through a newsfeed is not an achievement. I see it as an achievement (although I am certainly not ‘excessively’ proud of it) that I’ve had a couple of books published in my time, that I work very hard, and that my little girls are sweet human beings. Ironically, this is the kind of admission that gets your name on the FB Nazi Hate Register should you dare to declare it in public.

These days, if I wish to know how my friends are doing, especially those that live abroad, or in different areas of the UK, I go directly to their FB and have a look every so often. I know that if I want to see how my little godson is doing, then I can pop on and see, or if I wish to know whether or not my friends have had their babies, then on I can hop. But, nowadays, I leave it there.

It’s rather retro, I know, but also rather refreshing. I dare you to spend a week with not a Facebook peek. Go on. Try it. You might like it.

 

Religious Studies – The Most Important Lesson on the Timetable in the 21st Century

Image courtesy of atheistmemebase.com

Image courtesy of atheistmemebase.com

I am an atheist Religious Studies teacher. It never fails to amaze me, that people are themselves amazed when they hear that.

“How can you teach it if you don’t believe it?”

Which leads me to question, what is ‘it’? And my answer is always the same: I am not teaching anyone to be religious.

People are so critical of religion, that when they hear the words ‘religious studies’, they immediately think that I am about to knock them semi-conscious with a holy book, before sticking crucifixes up their nostrils and making them watch Gandhi on a loop.

But it is precisely because of this old-fashioned idea of RS, that I so enjoy it when parents tell me how much their children love it as a subject. Thirty years ago, RS was taught very differently to how it is taught now, and many people seem not to realise this, criticising therefore from a position of ignorance.

Whether we like it or not, religion has shaped our world, and many laws and practices within in it. It is therefore crucial that people have a rudimentary grasp of why, for example, religious people,  and many people who govern our country, will oppose euthanasia.

It isn’t enough to say, “I don’t believe it, and therefore it doesn’t matter.” Because if you live in a world where some people do believe it, then it matters, full stop.

In RS, kids are given the opportunity to shape their worldviews. They get the chance to discuss ethical issues such as abortion, homophobia, capital punishment, islamophobia, genetic engineering, drug abuse and the care of the elderly, and to make informed opinions about these.

They study issues that will affect them every day of their lives, and their minds are opened, via a philosophical approach, to a million new thinking skills and perspectives. As a teacher, I use high order questioning techniques to facilitate students in expanding their minds; to reflect, evaluate, apply and communicate.

Without this kind of education, we will breed generations of ignorance. We will breed people who cannot comprehend why it is that to label all Muslims as terrorists makes as much sense as suggesting all Catholics were members of the IRA in the 1980s.

People know the latter is false, because they have grown up in a country that used to attend church regularly – they were educated about the beliefs of Christianity – and so we need to be educated about the beliefs of many religions.

We have no hope of community cohesion and understanding if RS is not taught in schools. The abilities to empathise, argue responsibly, and form your own opinion and voice it, can never be underestimated.

You may or may not be religious, but poor is the person who is not interested in the world outside their window.