Peter and Jane: A Whole New Kind of Mummy-Blog

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Mummy-blogging has been a big thing for years now. You can find mummy-blogs everywhere. There are mums who try to be unmumsy, mums who try to encourage healthy lifestyles for kids, and mums who write simply so that others can empathise with them.

Being a mother, it’s inevitable that I’ve written about my children, but I’ve done so in a way that illustrates something about my life, not theirs.

I read an article recently in the New York Times by a mother who had realized that her incessant documenting of her children’s lives was, without doubt, an invasion of their privacy, and that when they are older, they are most likely going to be less than happy that most of America went through the intimate details of their puberty with them.

These days, mummy-blogs are a bit passé, they’ve been done and, sometimes, done well, but generally we’ve all been there, read it, and moved on. However, I have discovered a page on Facebook that is a delight to read.

The author of the page is anonymous and she states that the experiences are fictional, although I am willing to stake my salary on it that 80% is her experience of motherhood to a tee, with some hyperbole thrown in for dramatic and humorous effect. Or, it’s at least a metaphor for the kind of days that we all have. The kind where we are jumping up and down, mouthing out every expletive we can think of, hidden behind the kitchen wall, praying to the goddess of parenting that we be beamed up to a land of wine and oblivion, and that the hours between 3 and 6pm would not pass so excruciatingly slowly.

‘Peter and Jane’, as it is called, is more than worth a read whether you are a parent or not, though I would advise that you at least be an adult. I would also advise it as a pre-requisite for parents-to-be, because although you’ll read it and scoff and giggle to one another in smug union that this will never be you, one day, it will.

Well worth a ‘like’, you’ll feel better for it! … – https://www.facebook.com/peterandjaneandmummytoo

Grubby Pompey…

My husband and I have been wandering around the city (with purpose, not aimlessly) this summer, instead of always using the car.

I am normally a staunch defender of Portsmouth, and maybe it is simply because we have returned from a week in Cornwall, but, has it always been so filthy?

On our way back from Gunwharf, we took in the derelict building opposite the Hard, the grim-as-ever Tricorn area, and the dilapidation next to what was once the Air Balloon, and wondered if we are simply seeing it through different eyes. I can only imagine what holiday-makers think as they depart the ferry and find themselves on the flyover. “I’m a tourist, get me out of here,” springs to mind.

Religion…

For the first time last week, I read the various News’ columnists’ work online, and some of the comments left by readers.

One of my pieces, that dealt with the concept of faith, had a polite enquiry as to whether or not I was able to discuss various religions in this paper, such as Islam.

In response to that reader, I’d like to say that yes, absolutely, and that I have written long pieces about Islamophobia and media generalisations regarding Muslims, especially in light of global affairs. This is of particular importance to me, given my teaching specialism, and I’d like to state, as I always do, that the central message of Islam, real Islam, is always that of peace.

 

First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 27th August 2016

 

 

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Bullying and Bystanders

 

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We urge children who are being bullied, to tell someone. Tell a parent, tell a teacher, tell who ever cares for you. We also tell children to stand up for their friends if they are being bullied, to have their back, and to tell the truth. All of these are easier said than done, but are crucial life lessons to learn. The concept of ‘bystanders’, who stand to the side and do nothing but allow the bullying to occur, is one that has had catastrophic consequences in world history. We need only learn about the Holocaust to acknowledge this.

But what about when we are adults? Is bullying any less of an issue, or is it just as rife but under different guises, and never discussed?

A definition of bullying is intending to hurt someone, repeatedly, and it can be emotional or physical. Kids often keep quiet for fear that it will simply aggravate the aggressor, and because they believe that they will therefore suffer further for it. But is it any different for adults? Do we ever really practise what we preach?

A new term begins in a couple of weeks, and I expect that there are children out there who are dreading the return to school. Children who know that there is a group of peers, or perhaps just one in particular, with a whole bunch of negligent bystanders, waiting for them in the playground. These children will be on edge, simply waiting for the bully to hurt them, whether with insults, or by lying about them, laughing at them, or hurting them physically.

And I am willing to bet that there are adults too in that exact same position. Fully grown adults who are keeping their heads down, keeping their mouths shut, and trying not to aggravate the aggressor.

Schools always quote bullying statistics but, for the people being bullied, it constitutes 100% of their life. If you are being bullied, then try to speak out. If you are the negligent bystander, then try to be braver. And if you are the bully, then shame on you.

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Local Parking Charges

I popped into Southsea last week for the first time in a while and parked, as I usually would, in Waitrose. For as long as I can remember, it’s been £1 for a minimum stay, or free if you shopped in the store.

Much as it makes me sound like a total tightwad, I was shocked to be charged £2.50 after a 40 min stay, because I’d only spent £8. It transpires that you now need to spend over a tenner to get free parking – otherwise, according to John Lewis, it’s not worth their operating the car-park. Even the person operating the barrier looked embarrassed to impart this obvious twaddle. After all, it’s operated just fine for the past two decades so I suspect the honest response is rather more simple: they’d like to make more cash from it. End of.

 

Small World

I’d like to thank everyone who contacted me about the coincidences column that I wrote. Several people emailed with fascinating tales of complex coincidence, following my piece about the Jungian concept of synchronicity.

I had my own experience of coincidence on holiday this year when we bumped into good friends whilst in deepest, darkest Cornwall, which had me thinking about ‘small world’ clichés.

I remember once, a long time ago, bumping into my English teacher whilst I was at a restaurant in Rouen, France, and also being stood behind two girls from my school in the queue for Space Mountain in Florida. If you have an example of small world coincidence then please do contact me, I’d be fascinated to hear.

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First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 20th August 2016

 

That certain something that bonds us as Friends…

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There are people we meet in life with whom we click. Firm friends who see us through the great times, the fun times, and the times when all we do is sob and snot on each other. But what is it that connects us? What it is that whispers to some unknown part of ourselves, and enables us to establish those bonds that make us not friends, but Friends?

I have been buddies with Jodi Webb, nee Simmonds, for 31 years now, and I know that whatever happens, she will be there for me. We have seen one another through some tough times and some incredible life adventures, the bonkers (or sometimes tragic), nature of which many people don’t encounter until they’ve lived a lifetime. We have certainly not led uneventful lives. But here we are, 3 decades later, and I know that no matter what, she has my back, and vice versa.

Clearly there was something about she and I that just clicked on the day that we met, all those years ago. When Jodi and her husband, Dave, come round for a meal, it is simply a given that she and I will spend most of it laughing until we cry and, best of all, our husbands get along extremely well, too. We are all completely at ease with one another – no pretences, no lines that can’t be crossed, free and open to speak about anything that is on our minds. And that level of total liberty is rare in life, isn’t it? To feel that you can discuss anything, raise any opinions, and truly be seen by other people for who you are.

It’s strange isn’t it, these connections that human beings are lucky enough to stumble upon as we go through life? Some of my closest friends are those whom I have known for years, often from school, but others were met later in life, through uni and work. People come and go, acquaintances are made and lost, but every so often you are so firmly on one another’s wavelength that bonds deepen, trust and loyalty are built, and you know that you are real Friends.

According to Aristotle there are 3 kinds of friends. Those with whom we enjoy socialising or carrying out our hobbies with, those to whom we have a civic duty such as colleagues or neighbours, and then those with whom we are real Friends (obviously some of these may cross over). He suggested that the latter are mirrors to one another, a soul inhabiting two bodies, hence the incredible bond that you can sometimes have. Within this category, it goes without saying, we should also be able to include our partner. These Friends are the people to whom you can say absolutely anything, for whom you don’t put a spin on a story so that you come out best, to whom you don’t exaggerate or underplay,  or care about creating an impression in front of. These are the people we can speak to when we are at our lowest – when we may feel ashamed of our behaviour or to whom we may admit things we’d never tell to another. A rarity.

Another person you may have heard of once or twice, Charles Darwin, said that a person’s friendships are the true measure of their worth, and if that is true, then I count myself as rolling in it. If my mates see something in me, when I am at my barest self with them, all my faults and fuck ups and fears, but also all of my love and compassion and care, then how incredibly lucky am I?  Thank you, Friends, you know who you are.

 

Cleaning the house when your kids are broken up from school…

I can’t be the only person who is currently, thanks to the summer holidays, watching their home being destroyed around them.

I am sitting at night on the edge of the sofa, unable to relax upon spotting the toys, pens, pencils, tiny scraps of chopped-up paper, bin-bag-dresses, and glue, that are the natural accompaniments to every movement of a 7 and 10 year old who have broken up from school.

This morning I caved and whizzed through with a speedy version of a deep clean. This will have been wasted – by tomorrow they will have cycloned back through the house undoing my good work – but for the sake of my own sanity, and simple hygiene, I had to do it.

 

Home Coffee comes to Cosham… Three cheers!

If you live at the north end of the city, then lucky you. Home Coffee (who have been thriving in Albert Road for over 18 months now), have come to Cosham, and the décor, the staff, and the food, is fabulous.

It’s refreshing to see somewhere, the likes of which is, for unknown reasons, usually confined to Southsea, opening at the forgotten end of the city. Greasy Spoons are ten a penny (and who doesn’t like a fry up once in while?), but it’s lovely to finally have an establishment that recognises it’s not only the inhabitants of Southsea who eat avocado et al, and would like to do so within walking distance of their own homes.

I fully recommend it.

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Some of the wonderful guys from Home Coffee, image courtesy of aboutmyarea.co.uk

 

First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 13th August 2016