Monday, 30 June 2014

My Kitchen Story

I think I'm supposed to be showing you how awesome my kitchen is, and how it's the heart of the home and all that jazz.

I'm almost completely sure that I am supposed to be telling you how my family and I spend loads of time in here and we love it and I love the view I have while washing my dishes and stuff.

But, I'm not going to do that.

But seeing as you're here; here's the Grand Tour.

First up is my beautiful Stick Bouquet.  It's better than flowers y'see, because, well, they don't wilt.  And you can pose them quite well.

Presents from my blethering boys
My stick collection is the only thing in my vase!
Some mothers get flowers.  Some get a nice collection of hand-made gifts.  What do I get?  A new stick.  Every time they go out.  It's nice that they think about me while on long walks with their dad, but it's getting to the point where I'm not sure if it would be okay to, er, put them back.  Carefully.  Outside.  So the, er, animals and stuff can enjoy them again...

We rent our house.  It's a lovely house and we love living here, but it is just a small flat and hence, the kitchen, although big enough to suit us just now, is quite small.


We've moved house 4 times in the last 5 years.

We've had some great kitchens.

We've had some truly awful kitchens.

This one sits high on my list - it's clean, it's safe and it doesn't have scary electrical problems or gas leaks, so I'm happy.

It is very very small though - no dining space - and depending on the state of my washing situation, not much room to move in.  Two people can cook alongside each other as long as you claim areas of space first.  And don't get annoyed easily.

I've learned over the years how to make a house your home when it's not really your home.

I love little bits and pieces - like postcards and the boys' art.  We currently have a couple of noticeboards up on the wall (one of the stipulations of renting is that we cannot put pictures up),and they are great for adding personal bits and pieces to - a top tip for those who rent!

It can look quite messy, so the trick is to keep one for 'Things To Do' and the other for rotational art - but as you can see, it doesn't always end up that way!

I also love to stick up personal mementoes.

caravaggio's medusa

This one looks a bit scary - and it is!  Caravaggio's Medusa on a shield is terrifying in real life.  I was really taken with it when I saw it in The Uffizi in Florence.  Unfortunately, we don't have any space for a full print (plus, I'm pretty sure a large one would scare the kids!), so Medusa sits on my own part of the pinboard - you know, accenting my day-to-day feelings about general housework and stuff.I like to think of her as a kind of 'warning' sign.  A friendly, arty one.  Plus, it reminds me of what holidays were like before children.  You know - relaxing and stuff.

Funny story!

I also love to collect funny newspaper clippings.  Our local paper sometimes comes out with some proper clangers, so it's always amusing to hang onto them.  The one above doesn't look as though it would be funny - but the way it's written is just amazing.  I don't know if this was the author's intention, but 3 years on, it still makes me giggle.

Next up on the grand tour, next to my beautiful collection of woodland detritus, is Tom's 'Pot of Hope'.

Originally gifted to him at school with the idea of raising funds for cancer care, 'The Pot Of Hope' was supposed to be watered every so often until such time as it would produce a flower which would dance joyously in the wind.

We're still hoping that 'The Pot of Hope' will yield some results, but to be honest, it's not looking likely.

Sad spider, disapproves...

I don't have many collections (contrary to popular belief), but I do collect something very useful - cups!

I love a good novelty cup!

I'm kind of running out of space to put them all, so I'm currently looking into thinning them out a bit, but it is tough!  I like to keep them clean with Fairy Platinum - keeps them lovely and fresh while protecting the motifs too.  Very important - especially for my older two cups (I've had them since I was 3!)

My two oldest cups!

Aren't they cool?

What's not so cool is the amount of times we all trip over the dog's water dish in a day.  I'm surprised the dog ever has any water to drink!

The kitchen is also the place where broken things come to die before being thrown unceremoniously in the bin at random intervals.  An example of such a candidate is this gorgeous Pirate Bankie which Ethan got for Xmas.

Sad face.

I told him to be careful.

Also, I have become acutely aware how stuffed with rubbish my kitchen is after being asked to give you all a wee tour.

Does everyone have lots of random stuff in their kitchen, or is it just me?

I'm not sure when I'll ever get around to using my champagne flutes in a vase....

Or even why I am holding onto wine bottles for nearly 10 years...

My recipe book collection

As I said, it's nothing much.

Nothing to see here...move along...!

*shoves you all out of the tight doorspace*

This post is an entry for the “My Kitchen Story” Linky Challenge, sponsored by Fairy Platinum

Monday, 23 June 2014

My Magic Tricks!

Childhood is a magical time, isn't it?

Full of imagination, laughter and high spirits.

Which is why you have to be a magician to keep up with them!

There are a few tricks I keep up my sleeve in my parenting bag.

I have no idea how some of them work.

But that's real magic, isn't it?

1. The Magical Countdown

'Thomas, can you put your shoes on please?'
'Tom, please put your shoes on'
'Uh huh'
'Thomas.  Come on, we have to go!.  Now!'
'In a minute'
'I'm going, I'm going!'
'Okay, okay!  Stop counting!'
'Done!  Shoes are on!'

I can't explain that one.  It even works with my youngest, who won't do anything when asked first time.  But as soon as I start counting?  Done before I hit 4.

People always ask me, what happens when you get to one?

I've never had to.

2.Quiet Playtime

Ethan didn't start sleeping through the night until he was three years old.  You can imagine the amount of tricks and stuff we tried to get some sleep.  Three years is a LONG time!  He suffered from the worst night terrors, and as a result it wasn't just sleeping through the night that was an issue - just going to bed was too.

We'd never had any problems with Thomas - he was such an easy sleeper.  His bedtime routine was perfect - bath, books, bed.

Ethan went through phases where it took hours to get him to sleep.  Then still get up in the middle of the night.  It was soul-destroying!

Eventually, his night terrors stopped and we are now getting some good sleep - thankfully - but the fear of actually going to sleep accompanied by all the things he has to do to go to sleep have become habitual.  Thus we have introduced a magic thing that stops the hours of storytelling, song singing, multiple cups of milk and endless shouting from us of 'go to sleep!'

Now the boys get to go through to their room and play for as long as they like.  Sounds crazy, right?  Surely they'll stay up all night and never go to bed?

But no - that's the magic part.  Somehow they take themselves to bed.  Sometimes earlier than planned.  Without general faffery.    Now that IS a true magic trick.  There are rules - if they fight, shout, are noisy or come out of their room, it's bed time.  And it works.  It works beautifully!

3. Stickers

I love stickers.  Stickers have the power to convince children of anything.

They convince kids that they can use the toilet.

They keep them quiet on long plane/train journeys.

They Commend good behaviour and can convince a child to get into a buggy.

It's crazy.

The inventor of stickers was a wizard.

4. Money Magic

I have to be pretty magic with my finances.  Two boys are constantly hungry and eat me out of house and home.  And don't get me started on the little bits and pieces that add up; school meals, school disco tickets, school trips, days out with family, trips to the shops.  No doubt about it, kids are expensive.

That's when I need more than a bit of magic!

Online banking with NatWest helps me to keep my head above water.

And an extra magic trick they have added to their repertoire of banking tools is their Mobile App.

With the use of my smartphone I can instantly check my balance while out and about, helping me to keep on top of my daily spending, at the touch of a button.  And, it sends me text alerts too!

The Near Me service is also great for finding a cash machine while we are out and about too - we use this a lot!  In this digital age we never carry cash (well, not the way we used to), so finding a cash machine when we are heading out to a fayre or farmer's market is of ultimate importance!

Setting up the mobile app was quick and easy, and once I had, I was able to add accounts to it so that if I found myself out and about without cash, I could even pay my friends back for helping me out (which was handy when I was at a fete the other day with my buddy and she spotted me £10)

I also had the option of sending the money to her mobile number (if she was a Natwest customer too!)

The most amazing trick that this mobile app can do though is to get cash from a cash machine without having my card to hand!  NatWest is an account I use for savings purposes, so I tend to tap into it when we are on a day out instead of hitting the main fund.  The problem is - I'm not always organised enough to have my card with me.

Which was a problem - we were at the local Medieval Fair and the kids really wanted a go on the chair swings...

No problem at all!

I simply went into my mobile app, typed in the amount I would like to withdraw and was sent a code that was valid for 3 hours.

I could the use it at any RBS, NatWest or Tesco cash machine - which was perfect for our day out - right next to a Tesco store!  (I suppose that's one of the plus points of a Tesco on every high street).

It really is the little magic things that make a big difference!

*Disclaimer: I was asked to review the NatWest Mobile Banking App in conjunction with Britmums and Natwest for their promotion #mumsmagictricks  All opinions (and  magic tricks) are my own and are used all the time in our house!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Buy All The Stuff!

When I was wee, adverts were things that happened on T.V on a Saturday morning in the breaktime between our favourite Saturday morning T.V shows like Live and Kicking or  The 8:15 to Manchester, or  Going Live.

Those adverts contained the stuff of dreams - Mr.Frosty iced-drinks maker, a Hairdressing Dolly to learn how to do doll's hair, Get Set Candlemakers - adverts were aimed right at us, pulling us in, making their mark on our minds for our Xmas and birthday lists.

It's safe to say that toys in the 90's were hit or miss - there were races at the toy store for a particular toy at Xmas, with kids dictating their favourites.  Every parent would sell their left kidney to get a hold of that years 'in' toy.

I remember with joy, receiving a Game Boy one year - it was a see-through one and came with a huge overhead clip so you could actually see the screen - by today's standards it wan't great, but back then, it was the height of entertainment technology.

Then came Tamagotchis - small electronic 'pets' that chirruped every time they needed fed, watered or played with.

We went through phases in the playground too - small, inexpensive, time-consuming hobbies that tested our fine motor skills and challenged our patience.

There were stunt yo-yos, hula hoops, plate spinning, gymnastics, handstands and cartwheel games, football cards, go-gos, POGs, Pokemon cards, TAZOs, Polly Pockets, rubber bouncy balls, skipping ropes, Skip-its, marbles, My Little Ponies... the list was endless.

I collected promotional gifts on things.  It thrilled me.

Collecting packs of Monster Munch religiously, paying the £1 postage fee to receive my 'free'  monster reflectors to go on the spokes of my bike, which I proudly displayed, making a 'clinking' sound wherever I went and making sure we bought the Daily Record every week on a Thursday so we could collect the tokens for five weeks in a row to get a free item of clothing for my Cindy doll; these are the things I truly remember about branding and advertising as a kid.

Sure, you could get a t-shirt with My Little Pony on it - if you looked hard enough or if your parents were super-rich.  We bought cheap knock-off Donald duck hats in Blackpool as part of our annual sun hat tradition.  But in the main, branding was something we either bought into or didn't as kids.  It was amazing if we got a t-shirt with 'Take That' emblazoned on it, but if not, we were just as happy with flowers or garish neon birds (such was the style in the 90's).

The point I'm trying to make is, yes, we were consumers.  But there was not even half as much pressure as there is nowadays.

And I realise this makes me sound probably even older than I fell right now, but can I just draw you attention to what is happening here?

Have you realised just how relentless and never-ending branding and marketing has gone these days?

Even if you live in the BBC cave of the supposed advert-free CBeebies bubble, you can hardly fail to notice what a tight grip branding and marketing is having on your children.


On their clothes, their shoes, their magazines, their television programmes.  It comes home in leaflets from schools, it's in the gym hall on book stands at parent's evening.

It comes on leaflets through your door, it's on the packets of the food they eat, the drinks they drink, the bubbles in their baths before they go to bed at night.

You can buy Lightning MacQueen toothbrushes, SpongeBob toothpaste, Mickey Mouse pants, Star Wars pencil cases, Iron Man bags, Iggle Piggle babygrows - you know, to start them nice and young.

Commercialism lives and breathes, and it feeds on young children.

Even the BBC, which claim to be advert free, has become one big, long, marketing campaign - yes, they have you people!  CBeebies is NOT advert free.  Oh no - it is just ONE BIG HUGE NEVER ENDING ADVERT!

For their toys, their baby items, their live shows, their magazines, their apps, their books and their merchandise.

I feel it now more than ever this year.

Now that Thomas has come to an age where he has branched out into school,  he rates his experiences alongside his peers and it's a constant clamour to spend, spend, spend.

Where will it all end?

All of a sudden, unless it is branded - it doesn't happen.

A good example of this are the measures our local heritage and entertainment venues are taking to bring in custom.

Theme parks have sold out to brands in order to survive - the evidence is clear - CBeebies land at Alton Towers, Peppa Pig World at Paultons, Nickelodeon Land at Pleasure Beach - children's areas are using brands to entice young children (and their fee-paying parents!) into the park gates, bombarding them with adverts on every channel, every ad break.

The Octonauts appearing at Sealife Centres, Thomas the Tank Engine for railways,  Lightning McQueen on Pull-ups for potty training, McDonalds on school reports (yep, that happened!) - the big brands are constantly employing the industry standard of 'pester power' to make sure that your children are making sure that you get the message.

Through them.

The point is, it's not even coming from your television any more - it's appearing everywhere.  Relentlessly.

We are losing our individualism, our ability to do anything without being unknowingly or unwittingly affiliated to or lining the pockets of some huge commercial brand.

We have to wonder if this is the end of imagination and self control as far as our consumerist lives go.

I mean, think.

How individual have your choices been lately?

Buy all the stuff! Buy it now!

Today's Pipe Dream: 'If I had a spare £16000'

Okay, so this is going to seem a little off the cuff.

But, as a huge theme park/funfair/ carnival aficionado, I have played my fair share of table arcade games.

I was slightly apprehensive about trying this, as it's slot fee was £2 for a game, but being situated among other much cheaper (and I have to say, very reasonably priced - you would be hard-pushed to findf anywhere so cheap for arcade games these days!) arcade games in Pleasure Land, Arbroath, I was keen to see what the fuss was about!

Plus, it had it's own special area within the arcade.

It was enticing.

So it starts as your normal air hockey game.

Then - a shed-load of pucks fall!

Over and over and over!

It was so much fun! 
Look what it does!

I will definitely be adding this to my 'things to get when I'm a Millionaire' list.

Or maybe this can be my equivalent of a mid-life crisis when I have to spend £20000 on something ridiculous because I am getting wrinkly?

Much better than one of those penis-extension sports cars.

Friday, 20 June 2014

That Time I Nearly Walked Into The Sea: Post Natal Depression and Me

I had Post Natal Depression.

There.  I said it.

I have started to say it to 'new people' in my life over the last couple of years.  But only every so often.  And never candidly.

I had terrible, debilitating, awful Post Natal Depression.  And it nearly completely ruined me.

How's that for a statement?

But it's true.

There's things that you can write down better than you can say to people's faces, and this is one of them.

And that's something else I struggled with.

Around 80% of my very own family work or have worked in mental health care, deal with mental health care every single day and I could not say anything to them.

And if they noticed, they never told me.

It wasn't until Ethan was nearly two years old that I realised how bad things had been.

Post Natal Depression is an absolute bastard of a thing.

You can prepare for it, you can be aware of it, but it is a sneaky, horrible bugger and it lies to your brain.  It tells you that you are okay and that you are coping and that things are not so bad - you know, as you are packing your bags while on the third crying-fest of the day with extra snotters.

Except you aren't going anywhere - oh no.  It gives you the fear, the guilt and the unknown amount of pent-up angry energy to leave, but then it ties your arms and legs down with fear, guilt and angry energy, rendering you unable to move.

It talks you out of doing anything by telling you that 'it's just because you aren't getting enough sleep', or 'it's because you are having an off day'.

It makes you tick the wrong boxes on that daft Edinburgh scale test the Health Visitor gives you while you smile nicely at her to make sure she doesn't have any concerns for you and it forces you to tell everyone that you are fine, while you tearfully beg your husband in the mornings not to leave you alone with two kids all day.

And then you realise - it's more than just one day.  It's been two months. And then four.  And then six.

And the six months rack up into another few weeks while you think about it a bit after you've spent the afternoon walking around the block about forty times while your baby cries in his pram and you break down in the arms of a lollypop lady when she asks if you are alright after you cross with her for the third time.

You decline invitations from friends and family to go out because you don't feel like it.  You stop leaving the house because every time you do, you feel like the whole world is watching you and judging you. Getting on a bus seems torturous, braving the shops is not an option. And if you do, everything moves in a haze - you feel fraught and tired and panicky.  It takes all of your strength and energy just to sit in the garden with them for an hour, hoping the postman doesn't come or that a neighbour won't intrude.  You feel guilty and tired and weak.

The feeling of sheer loneliness is claustrophobic and terrifying.  You begin to have thoughts about just leaving, just walking away from it all and letting everyone else get on with their lives.  They'd be better off without you.  Maybe your kids would be better without a mum who sits sobbing in the corner all day while pressing 'ok' on another episode of Waybuloo.

You start blaming other people - oh yes, it eats into your relationships too.

It turns your friends into enemies, your family into foes.

It makes you believe that the whole world is conspiring against you.  

I lost friends.  I stopped seeing people.  I missed out birthdays, nights out, a Take That gig, job opportunities...

I'd like to take this time to apologise to anyone affected here - it wasn't me you see.  I wasn't there.  Well, I was, but under the surface struggling like hell to re-emerge.

It kills you physically too.

There is no nap long enough to satisfy the exhaustion.  No drink alcoholic enough to dull the feeling of achy stress, no food satisfying enough to kill the urge to run.  Run, or end...something.

End as in end?  As in THE end?

Not precisely, but yes, kind of.

The urge to fling yourself down stairs, to walk into the sea, to disappear is...prevalent.

But again - completely unimaginable too.

The guilt, the fear, the self-loathing is completely in charge.  It is not keen on letting you escape.  It likes to be in control. It likes to torture you for as long as possible.

It was like standing on the edge of a deep dark hole and looking in.  Except one day I realised I wan't looking in - I was peering up at where I used to stand.


I've found this very cathartic to write about.  Nowadays the hole is far away.  It's in some woods, past a stream, behind a mountain and over a large barbed-wire fence.

So what's the point of writing this after it's happened?

There are lots of points.

  1. It's good for me to assess what went on here.  A huge part of mental health is never talked about.  So here I am.  Talking about it.  For friends, family and others to see.  Because guys, I was not normal.  I was really, really ill.  And my fuck am I not just one badass for getting out alive?  Especially after struggling through with no visit to the doctor for help?  Well, yes.  But badass and very stupid.  What doesn't kill you really does turn you into one hard bitch.  But it shouldn't be like that.  Which leads me onto my next point.
  2. If someone you know has had a baby in the last year might look like she feels like this, please be kind to her.  It is so much harder than you would ever believe to admit that there might be something wrong.  Especially if she feels badass like I did. Admitting something is wrong is bloody hard to do.    And if you are reading this and can relate, go to your doctor.  If you can't do that for whatever reason, please consider phoning a helpline at least. Try PANDAS on 08432898401 - they were really lovely when I phoned.  If phoning seems scary, try the forums on Mumsnet or Netmums, which both have some amazing women on them, ready and willing with kind words and advice and support.  Some of my best days were totally due to the help I received on such forums, and I'll be forever grateful for that.  Blogs are great for support to.  Check out PNDandMe, a safe blog to discuss pnd and postnatal issues. Twitter is also a great place for instant support and chat. Be kind to yourself.  It does get better.  Help yourself to help it get better.
  3. It's the little things.  It really is.  So yes, a PND lady needs a break from the kids as often as possible - but not too much.  I was so grateful for the half hours walk around the block I got when my father-in-law popped in and sat with them, allowing me to get a walk and some fresh air. I was extremely grateful when my mum took Tom overnight, allowing me and Dave to get out and act like adults for a night, staying at her house while she stayed at ours.  I was so, so grateful when a friend came and sat with the kids while I nipped to the shops.  I was over the moon when my husband made a point of getting the kids ready in the mornings when I couldn't, despite the fact he was heading to work.  It meant I didn't have to. It took away the repetitive relentlessness of the day.  It was the person who did the dishes when they came over for a quick visit, the friend who brought flowers and cake occasionally, the long-distance phone call between my bestest and I.  These were the tiny little things that people did off-the-cuff, but that stood out like massive beacons of light in my dark pit.  Quite often, the lady with PND will say 'no thank you', but this is very often not what she means.
  4. It's over now, but the effects are long-lasting.  To say it's knocked my confidence is an understatement.  I feel like I lost actual years of my life.  What saved me, was going back to work - where I built up community and made new friends again.  That most definitely helped my state of mind.  What I discovered about myself is that I need to work.  I am happiest when I am working.  It's not like that for everyone.  I struggled to find what fit for me and ended up taking on a lot of stuff - an Open University course, driving lessons and Zumba classes.  My mind needs to be busy!  I enjoyed it all, but looking back - should I have done all that?  I did some crazy stuff when I had PND.  Including getting married 2 months after having a baby.  But that's another blog post!

Thanks to everyone who supported me through that time.  Whether you knew it or not - it really meant a lot.

And if you have someone in your life with a small child, please be the person who does the little things.  You never know who is struggling.

Need more reading on PND?  Check out these links below:

Also, have a look at The PND Family Page for loads of extra support and perspectives

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What The Blethering Boys Are Playing Today:Lollipop Stick Aliens!

Today is a crafty kind of day, and we have a load of craft materials that we never know what to do with.  So a quick don of the thinking cap, and some googly eyes...repeat after me: EVERYTHING LOOKS BETTER WITH GOOGLY EYES.

And we have come up with some pretty cool Lollipop Stick Alien Wall Decorations.

You will need:

Lollipop Sticks (lots - once you make one, you'll be making more!)
Googly Eyes
Any other craft Material and your imagination.  We had feathers and felt tip pens.

First, lay out the lollipop sticks on a flat surface, side by side.  Glue two lollipop sticks and stick them across the back of the others, like so:

Hold it down and turn it over, pressing it against a hard surface until dry enough to work with.

Now it's time to decorate!

As you can see, Ethan enjoyed penning a nose onto his alien!  Hee hee!

I had fun making one too!

Ethan got loads out of this

  • Choice and Decision Making - he chose the colours and what we used for the face and hair
  • Fine motor skills (glueing small bits)
  • Patience (waiting for glue to dry)
  • Storytelling (there was a whole massive story accompanying our aliens!)
  • Sense of achievement
  • Mum time

Why not a have a go with your wee ones?  Don't just stick with aliens or feathers - why not try scarecrows with paper hats, dried macaroni for hair or ribbon for a tongue?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Fireman Fun

The summer season means that there's lots of Summer Fayres popping up at schools, villages and towns all over the country.  Everyone whips out their best cake and candy and spends more than they should on second-hand cuddly toys.

These are the days.

Kudos to the service folk who attend these days; the police men, the guide dog fundraisers (plus dogs!) and firefighters.

The firefighters in particular make a lot of dreams come true just by letting small children climb into those huge cabins and stick a fire helmet on for five minutes.

Amongst all the bric-a-brac, second-hand books and bouncy castles, the fire engine is certainly the most attended and most 'wow' some event for small children - my two always make a bee-line for it!

And I am always amazed at the patience and diligence the lovely firemen display when dealing with wee kids and sometimes quite pushy parents.

Thank you firemen and women, for making little people happy!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Smooze! Icy goodness!

I found healthy ice-lollies!

I found healthy ice-lollies that the kids can eat!

I found healthy ice-lollies that the kids can eat but I will steal and it doesn't matter!

We were lucky enough to be sent some gorgeous Smooze Fruit Ices, in 4 different flavours, and they were delicious!

We tried Coconut and Mango, Coconut and Pink Guava, Simply Coconut and Coconut and Pineapple and they were all very yummy!

These freeze at home lollies are coconut milk and fruit puree based and completely natural and NOT from concentrate!

Smooze is made from pure juices and purees, never concentrates or reconstituted juices; you can taste the freshness and naturally, fresh ingedients are far  healthier for you than heated up-cooled down-dehydrated-rehydrated, factory-made concentrates!
We then add the following all-natural ingredients:
  • Fruit Pectin: a natural dietary fibre found in a variety of fruits, which assists the blending of the juices & purees with the coconut milk
  • Citric acid: found in citrus fruits and acts as a natural preservative and gives Smooze a natural fruity tang
  • Ascorbic acid: a natural preservative otherwise known as Vitamin C
  • Natural fruit flavours: all straight from nature
  • Cane sugar: Smooze has on average 40% less sugar than other frozen treats. It is also worth noting that the ‘sugars’ listed in the nutrition panel also include the naturally-occurring fruit sugars (fructose) from the fruit juices and purees

Smooze is 100% vegan and free from:

  • Artificial colours & flavours
  • Preservatives
  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Cholesterol
  • GM
  • trans fats
  • Smooze is also Halal & Kosher certified
AND 100% Cholesterol Free!

As you can see, they were devoured very quickly.

You can buy these online from Smooze for £3.99 for a box of ten

5 Things My Grandad Taught Me

My Grandad was my father-figure, my role model and my best friend when I was a little girl.

Here are the top 5 things I learned from him, as a student in life.

Grandad in his favourite chair :D

1. Straight, Clean, Lines

My Grandad was a gardener.  He loved to make flower beds, veg patches and spent a lot of time nurturing plants from seed in his greenhouse.

I used to spend a lot of time in the garden with him - our relationship was built on potting up, watering tomato plants and picking strawberries and sweet-peas.

One thing we used to do together, which took a long time, was cut the grass.

He used to work for the city parks department, so knew a thing or two about maintaining a good lawn.  He'd mow the lawn and I would rake the sheared grass and put it onto the tarpaulin.  And when we were finished, we would do the most important job of all; clip the edges.

To do this, he would get out of his shed two pairs of very odd-looking shears with long handles (lawn edge-trimmers), hand a set to me, and we would stand up, shearing the edges, going all the way around the circle of the garden until we were done.  He was obviously quicker and better at it than me, so we'd work clockwise and anti-clockwise and meet in the middle.

'Why do we have to do this?' I'd ask.

And quite simply, his reply was,

'Because, it doesn't matter how well you cut the grass - if the edges are messy you might as well have not bothered'

Basically the message was - if you are going to do a job, do it properly.  Don't clean the kitchen without washing the floor and getting into the corners.  Don't wash the car without hoovering the insides.

He did this in every job he did - cutting the hedges, washing the dishes, potting up plants, turping the fences - everything was slow, methodical and always finished in it's entirety.  No slapdash solutions.

He was right.  You can do a job or you can do it well.  And it always feels - and looks - better when you do it well.

Aim for straight, clean lines and everything looks better.

2. If you want something, work for it

My Grandad was a war veteran of WW2.  He had lost an eye and was massively injured at such a young age and sent to a hospital in England to get some pretty major plastic surgery to reconstruct his face and body, which at the time was pioneering stuff.

After he recuperated and came home, you can imagine the amount of work he had to do, not only to start to live a normal-ish life again, but how he had to prove himself in order to gain employment and figure amongst his peers.

He worked like a dog, always in very physical jobs like grave-digging, gardening for the council and building and roof work.

Even in retirement he worked damn hard.  He made his own life and his own happiness.  And he passed that on to me and my sister - he made sure to involve us with all the hard tasks like waxing the car by hand with turtle Wax, sweeping and scraping the patio and stringing and netting the vegetable beds.  He knew there was reward in graft - his super-strong work ethic is the reason I need to be working all the time today!  And trying the best in everything I do.

You reap what you sow.

 3.Enjoy the present and communicate 

Sadly, my Grandad spent a lot of time very very ill with the devastating condition, Clinical Depression.

We lost him to the dark spaces in his mind, which came to get him kinda suddenly one day - although the signs may have been there for a long time before.  I was too young to remember.

I imagine as a young man of the war he had seen a lot.  That there were things he couldn't say or communicate.

But his lesson to us is to enjoy the here and now - you never know what is around the corner.  You never know what might take you down.

And always communicate your feelings.  Don't let them sneak up on you one day and steal you away.

4. Children are very special

Grandad spent so much time with us as kids, playing with us, teaching us new games and helping with our homework.

If there was a maths problem I couldn't do, he was there to help solve it in a straightforward way.

If I came to him with my football, he'd drop what he was doing and play a game with us that would last for hours.

He taught me how to play Gin Rummy and how to pick Football Pools.

We'd spend hours playing dominos.

My Grandad always had time for us, always listened and always stuck up for us - trying to see life from our point of view.

He knew children were special and that childhood was very special and he was a great investor in that for my sister and I.

5. Live And Let Live

It was cool to collect worms, but we always, always put them back in the ground.

We put nets over the strawberries but always made sure they were sealed and ALWAYS checked for any birds which may have got stuck.  And always freed them as quickly and as carefully as possible.

We spent hours watching the birds in the garden after my Nana had fed them, but always watched quietly when a sparrowhawk came to hunt some of the birds - they have to eat too.

We were always very careful when getting our bikes in and out of the shed because of the bees that lived underneath.  No matter how worried we were about them, we were never stung.  We learned not to bother the bees and they never ever bothered us.

Thank you to my lovely, amazing Grandad.  We still miss you so much.

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That time my Dad left