Four way traffic lights on the school run

four way control

So, apparently, this is the month that Southern Gas has decided my entire road will be dug up, section by section, over the course of six months (Oh, sorry, Southern Gas, that should have read ’25 weeks’ – I guess that must be the gasworks equivalent of the 99p consumer brainwash – i.e. ‘it’s not one pound, it’s only 99p – what a ruddy bargain – let’s buy 10!’). Where do they choose to start this mammoth task? On a four way junction. Where is said four way junction? Only about 30 seconds drive from my child’s school. Deep, deep joy.

Disclaimer: we live a ten minute walk away from the school. Here’s the reasoning behind driving two days a week: on Mondays, I am on my way to work and I have a short enough window to get myself across a ten mile stretch of commuter belt road without adding another ten minutes casually strolling to and from the ‘yellow school’ as JJ likes to call it. On Tuesdays, I have EJ in the car ready to wing him up a big hill after we’ve slowed down the car for long enough for JJ to tuck and roll (only kidding) outside the yellow place of learning. He then gets his own ‘tuck and roll’ moment outside the childminder’s house before I drive onwards and upwards to the massive Tesco to pick up my click & collect shop within the time allotted. (Yes that’s right, I live my life on a ridiculously tightly plotted schedule where every single second counts – including the ones where I am sipping coffee in my slippers (wearing my slippers, you understand, not actually sipping coffee from my slippers).

Now picture the chaos that has begun to ensue in the road outside l’ecole jaune. (Bloody French O’level had to come in handy at some point in my life – come on!). Look I’m not silly, I know the short* cuts, I know the optimal parking spots, I wasn’t there when a road-rage fuelled gridlock brought the (single lane) traffic to a static face-off which could only be solved by a couple of burly builders kind enough to put their fag break on hold in order to solve the crisis with a bit of semaphore previously only used by air traffic controllers and half-cut dads at wedding discos.

And of course, I don’t want a gas explosion to take out my family home. I would rather there by new pipes. But… but, maybe now is a good time to move to Devon?



Word of the Week: Bedtime

New bunkbeds!

Anyone who read my Flat Pack! post on Wednesday will know it’s been all about the new bunk beds this week! Although it felt like a big move – and frankly, a huge transition particularly for EJ who has now gone straight from his cot to a full size single bottom bunk at the tender age of two, I’m glad that we’ve done it. Having said that it hasn’t all been plain sailing. On night one EJ climbed in and went out like a light no problem, but night two he wasn’t quite so docile and cried when I tried to tuck him in and leave. I climbed in with him, sang a lullaby, let him have his milk, tried to leave again but he was having none of it. JJ tried to take over for me bless him, but EJ just wanted his mummy! Eventually I told him I was going to go and have my shower and come straight back and, to my amazement, he agreed! Needless to say he was sparko by the time I returned and we went through the same thing last night too so I’m hoping a routine of sorts is forming and he’ll be comfortable with his new bedtime views very soon ( especially as I’m on my own with them for the next few nights while the hubster works).

It was the hubster’s birthday this week but unfortunately we didn’t have much of a chance to celebrate. In the past we have used this week to take a little holiday (this time last year we had a lovely week in Cornwall) but now JJ is at big school we can’t do that any more sadly. I will have to make a better effort next year – particularly because it will be a bit of a milestone for him!

I’ve certainly been falling into bed each night exhausted myself and feeling as though things I normally stay on top of have slid a bit – not least the cleaning this week as my cleaning day was cancelled out by flat pack hell! I am also still trying to find some kind of blogging flow to my week but right now I am writing posts at random times like 5am in the morning – and just can’t seem to get a routine to it, so it seems that most of my posting is happening in the latter part of the week. I find it such a solitary activity that I prefer to do it when I’m on my own. Unfortunately the hubster’s shift pattern is all over the place and often changes at the last minute so I rarely know where I stand.

Other than that, it’s all good and we are enjoying the absolutely glorious autumn colours ( and finally getting to wear some new layered outfits and boots!) but not so much all these squally rain showers!

How was your week?


The Reading Residence

The mistakes we make…

As I tipped over into my thirties I began to wonder where I was going wrong in life. I hadn’t had the confidence or drive to really pursue a career inMistake journalism and had drifted into a vaguely publishing-related office job instead (albeit with the wonderful addition of getting to edit The Book Monster for a couple of years). I was recently divorced after making the mistake of marrying an alcoholic. I was rapidly approaching the ovary-shrivelling ‘geriatric’ stage of fertility and living out a rebound relationship which never really had any chance of making it in the long term.

I’ve made some compromises and had to search for love the hard way (internet dating anyone?) to get to where I am now. And whilst I am very happy and feel very lucky to have two beautiful, healthy children in my life, sometimes I look at the lives of others – people who have set up successful businesses, known what their true vocation was from the word go (and how to make it the centre of everything they do), met and married their first love and had children at the ‘right’ age, created their own dream home (something I don’t even have the energy to aspire to), even people now who have set up a blog with such professionalism and knowledge of what they want out of it – that I’m stunned at what a failure my life looks in comparison. And I wonder if, over the years, I’ve made mistakes – taken the wrong fork in the road, given in to self-doubt, settled for less than I was worth.

But then I realise that my biggest mistake – the one I’m constantly in danger of making time and again with the help of all the many and varied social media platforms – is comparison itself. As the saying goes, into every life some rain must fall, no-one gets away with a life of ups (and by the way Cheryl Cole, being ‘on a rollercoaster, but it’s only going up’ is, in my humble opinion, a bit of an oxymoron, sorry love). The trick of it is to celebrate the ups and, for me, to realise that life is a learning experience and I’m still only half way through.

Perhaps being happy in the present moment is enough to cancel out any number of dodgy past life decisions, because I truly believe that everything we do in life is simply a quest for happiness, whether or not we’re aware of it and no matter how subtly we identify that feeling.



Feminism: a beginner’s guide

feminist is not a dirty word

When I was at university the only thing I really understood about feminism was that it involved Germaine Greer and lots of “texts” like The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (which honed in on the unhappiness of American housewives of the 1950s) and The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf which argued that society’s demands on women to conform to an almost unattainable standard of beauty had increased in line with women’s achievements. Then there was Andrea Dworkin – an unashamedly radical feminist who  focused on the subject of sex and pornography. To be honest these intellectual, academic women seemed like radicals or extremists at the time, synonymous with man-hating, hairy-legged, lentil-munching nutters.

But actually? They had a point. Now we see the launch of the UN’s “He for She” campaign for which actress Emma Watson recently delivered such a heartfelt speech attempting to address and redefine the true definition of feminism – one which simply argues for gender equality.


Trending on my Facebook news feed I saw that David Tenant was supporting the campaign which, essentially, is trying to get men on board and show that, in the final analysis, it’s all about human rights. There were a good 800 comments attached to his He for She selfie and I flicked through a few pages curious to the general reaction. Aside from many people commenting on how old he looks (and he’s only 42 so I can only assume the commentators are smug twenty-somethings) there is obviously still a misconception about feminism – the same misconception that led Katy Perry to reject the label whilst still embracing the ideology.

People seem to think that feminism seeks to discriminate against men – overlooking the abuse of men within relationships and all the other ways that men might suffer within society, but to me, that’s like saying Battersea Dogs Home is discriminating against cats (they’re not – I believe they take cats in too) – it seems like a way of undermining the end goal.

Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, recently argued that it is the term “feminism” itself which is the problem, claiming that if you stick “ism” or “ist” on the end of anything then it gives a negative connotation (see: racism). He suggested a new term, “genderist” which would be used to name and shame those who, either overtly or subtly undermine women. There’s been a lot of debate over that one too.

For me, the “He for She” campaign, whilst passionate and true, can never change the status quo because the men who will support it (see: David Tenant) are already enlightened and don’t have that niggling feeling of being threatened by change. The men I read about daily who threaten and control the women in their lives – the perpetrators of domestic violence – what will this campaign mean to them? They will laugh in its face.

And then there are those who would pay it lip service. I heard a snippet of a talk radio show a few days ago for which the question of the day (hour?) was ‘should men be expected to pay for dinner on a first date?’ and the male DJ was attempting to argue that, if women are truly seeking equality, then we should expect to go halves on such occasions. I have to admit that this made my blood boil a bit and I was desperate for someone to phone in and put my case for me. Unfortunately no-one did (not while I was listening anyway). My very first thought was, how extremely shallow for a man to be willing to take the first step to accept feminism by thinking of it as a money saving exercise for the average bloke. I wanted to tell him that this is an absolute nonsense in a world where women are still not treated equally in the workplace, still have lower salary expectations and where the traditionally female jobs like nurse, carer and teacher are valued (and paid) so much lower than their traditionally male equivalents.

Although this is rapidly descending into a message of doom, I do feel like all the recent debate and high profile over women’s rights and expectations can only be a good thing in helping to chip away at the male-dominated infrastructure. And as a mother of boys I feel some responsibility to show them that gender equality is a good and desirable thing.

What do you think about the UN campaign? Do you disagree with me about who should pay on the first date? Please leave a comment below.


Brilliant blog posts on

Love the Little Things 26.09.14


It’s been one of those weeks where I haven’t picked up a book or magazine at all. Best blog posts: What random searchy things people bring to my blog over on Hurrah for Gin. This one made me literally laugh out loud which is exactly what you need after the bedtime bunfight (that and a large glass of gin?).
I also loved Lucy’s Shine on you Crazy Diamond over on Put up With Rain. It’s a really lovely exploration of her daughter’s character (which sounds irrepressible!) and a heartfelt plea to her not to be ground down by the world – to retain her shine.
I’ve also read a lot of posts dissecting the MAD Blog Award experiences (as well as enjoying the Instagram pics on the night!) and I almost feel like I was there too so thanks to all who took the time to share and congratulations to everyone who was even nominated because you are all fabulous!


I’ve been catching the odd little bit of this and that – a few X factor hopefuls (sadly no Ella Hendersons this year) the absolutely hilarious Ofsted inspection episode of Big School and Jo Brand’s Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice which always makes me chuckle. I began watching a programme about men who have many wives one night which looked quite fascinating but then the hubster came in and switched over! I think I’d quite like to be one of many wives – especially if the other wives were a good laugh!


The new tune from Wilkinson (loving it!):


As Google informed me that it was officially the first day of Autumn earlier in the week I thought now would be as good a time as any to cook up a big batch of beef casserole. I cooked this one slowly on the hob for about 5 hours.

Beef stew


Some of the lovely moments in my week include eating lots of cake at the weekend over at my dad’s allotment where he won first prize for his tomatoes at the Autumn Social before being treated to a lovely Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall inspired marmalade gammon roast with the family (thanks Mum!); having a coffee and catch up with my cousin and her adorable 17 week old baby (who proceeded to puke down my top – one of the only situations in life where it is acceptable for a man to vomit down your cleavage); and last night (after a somewhat frantic school run/in-law drop off) whipping over to Kingston to meet up with the lovely Elfa from Californian Mum in London for John Lewis’s Autumn blogging event promoting their beauty and fashion ranges (where I also met the lovely Steph from Sisterhood and All That who is frankly, beautiful and looks great in bright red lippy 🙂 ). All in all, not a bad week!

Happy Friday Little Loves!



Word of the week: unsettled


It’s been JJ’s second full week at big school. He seems to be taking it in his stride but just at the point where you think a new routine is bedding in, it seems that the dust is once again un-settling as tiredness creeps in. What started off as a pretty chaotic madcap pre-bed ‘routine’ has rapidly descended into the ninth circle of hell as JJ not only encourages his little brother to ignore me and defy my every wish but also seems to be possessed by the devil a little himself, kicking, screaming and seeming to relish this new found naughtiness.

This has not been helped by the fact that their father has been working late shifts and I’ve been flying solo, although the threat of ‘telling Daddy’ has been enough to kickstart the first hints of obedience. As always, once EJ is in his cot, JJ’s defiant behaviour suddenly ebbs away as quickly as it washed in. Last night he even turned to me and said, ‘sorry for being naughty earlier Mummy’ and then ‘are you sorry too?’ to which I replied ‘yes, I’m sorry for getting cross’ and that was enough.

In the meantime EJ’s nice settled routine of going down to bed like a little lamb is also a bit off the rails as he has begun climbing out of his cot and then repeatedly climbing out every time he is deposited back in, screaming at the stair gate demanding to be released. My policy is always to ignore this kind of thing. I’ll only put him back twice – I’m not playing that game! If they have to cry themselves up into a fury then that’s what happens. It happened with JJ for a couple of nights when the gate first went up too. This time it’s different though because, whilst I studiously ignore the screaming and get on with my chores (we’re talking maybe 15 minutes here – and always with the intention of going back to soothe, comfort and reassess once the mood has changed from defiant to just plain tired and upset), JJ can’t in good conscience let EJ sit and stew, preferring to talk to him calmly and kindly through the gate which is actually really sweet and, last night at any rate, left EJ a lot more docile, just wishing for some milk before allowing me to put him back to bed once and for all.

I have to say though, every evening I get more and more on edge in the run up to 6pm when I know I will be chewed up into a mangled shadow of my former self before being spat back out at 7, grasping desperately for the G&T!

As far as the transition into autumn routine goes though, it’s starting to come together. The madness of party planning is over thanks to two birthdays that bookend the holiday period and I’ve actually taken my foot off the pedal and relaxed a bit, even treating myself to a small shopping spree, before I begin to formulate my master plan for the run up to Christmas. This breather has left me with the space to think about me again, as selfish as that might sound. I guess the summer period is always going to be a time filled with wall to wall kidstuff, but once term kicks in and they are back in the capable hands of their educators, it seems like the right time to start thinking about personal goals and dreams outside of motherhood.

So, whilst certain events of the past week have been very unsettling, I look forward to shaking myself out of whatever comfortable furrow life seems to have settled into lately and come a bit more alive with a challenge more demanding than just baking a cake or joining a linky. Watch this space…


The Reading Residence

The meaning of life…


On Monday afternoon when I returned from work, the hubster was home on a day off and EJ was having a nap. I started to notice that my vision was going a bit blurry at the edges. I don’t normally get headaches but this one was rapidly going from bad to worse. I managed the school run and agreed to take the boys down to the local swing park but fortunately the hubster returned from the gym and kindly offered to take them for me while I went to lay in a darkened room. Before I had a chance to get myself horizontal I glanced out of the window and saw a strange scene. We live right on a main road and one of the cars driving past our row of parked cars had slowed down and stopped, holding up traffic behind him. He was looking over at where my husband was crouching down between the parked cars. I hadn’t heard a shout or screech of brakes and so I wondered what was going on. Thirty seconds later they came back into the house and the husband informed that two year old EJ had just run out into the road whilst he himself had been grappling with the five year old’s hefty bike (complete with stabilisers) and EJ’s own scooter. Fortunately (extremely fortunately) he had had enough time to grab EJ a foot out into the road and haul him back unharmed, but he was completely shaken up and shouting about not taking bikes or scooters anywhere ever again.

Both boys collapsed in tears on me and we all had a bit of a cry. It’s times like this that you think to yourself ‘what if?’ and ‘there, for the grace of God, go I’. And in the moments, and hours and days afterwards you hold your children, drink them in with your eyes as they are sleeping, breathe in the scent of their fluffy heads, and try not to imagine what life would be like without them.

Another day I was walking through town on my lunch break from work and I passed an old lady on a crossing. She was old enough and frail enough to make me think that she was in her twilight years and also to feel almost a motherly instinct to help her and make sure she reached her destination unharmed. It got me thinking about life, where I’m at in the process and what that means. I actually had tears in my eyes when I put myself in that old lady’s place – looking back on my own life from far in the future, knowing that I will never have this much daily love and affection in my life once my children are grown and flown. I felt lonliness flood in, I felt the alienation of a modern world which was moving too fast for my ever decreasing grey matter. And more than that I just felt that there was this voice urging me to appreciate every single second and even in what seem like the ‘bad’ times, take that with a pinch of salt because before you know it, this special, infuriating, limiting, expanding time will be gone and it will feel like the blink of an eye.


Word of the week: Unplanned


After recent weeks of hyper planning for birthday parties and JJ’s first week at school, uniform and wrapping and baking, this last week I have let it go a bit. On my day off I did my cleaning but I didn’t push myself to cook something new or tick anything off any particular list. When I found myself with some unexpected time on my hands yesterday I didn’t try and cram in a hundred and one jobs or finish my book or start a new project. I did a little bit of catch up blogging (the wireless connection had been down the night before), read some of my book and had a cup of tea.

It was really quite liberating – I recommend taking the pressure off yourself once in a while. Although I admit that I did feel a bit anxious about time wasted or lost for a while, but I was also feeling bone tired. I think it was a culmination of my few busy weeks and a couple of sleepless nights. Now JJ is settling into his new routine I just feel like we all need to take stock and let the dust settle.

Hopefully I will return to planning and organisation for the coming months with renewed vigour!

How to shine

Choose to shine

Over at Mum turned Mom HQ this week, Sara has gone for a word as this week’s Prompt: Shine. I didn’t immediately know what to say about this and wasn’t going to enter the link up this week, but I find myself with a little time on my hands and started contemplating what ‘shine’ means to me.

The dictionary tells me that to shine is to emit light, to glint or glisten, to excel or to be immediately apparent. When I think about what it takes to shine, as a person, it takes confidence, it takes a happy, outgoing spirit who is not afraid to put his or herself on the line, and, to be more philosophical, it takes a person who can accept that they have a light inside them which can be directed out into the world, to counteract the darkness.

It’s not easy to shine or to feel like you are capable of it. It takes a lot of encouragement and championing but maybe some people are just born to project themselves and their light into the world from an early age (natural born confidence?).

It might be easy to shine if you are born with an innate talent, an innate beauty – but for the rest of us plebs here on Earth it takes a bit of practice. As a mother, how do you shine when every day seems to be about cooking and laundry and school runs and work? You challenge yourself, you shine through your actions, you attempt to bring a little light, however small, into the lives of others.

At the beginning of the year I spent a lot of time thinking about ‘random acts of kindness’. I even contemplated starting up a linky all about encouraging others to both do and share their own RAOK. I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and was very taken by the notion of happiness coming through giving of yourself, and now I’m reading a book she recommends A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn and the concept of ‘happiness’ is once again in the forefront of my mind (and I’m not missing the parallel here of the Sun – a metaphor for happiness, and the one word which we most associate with the descriptive ‘shine’).

So go forth and emit your light, people! I know you can do it.



A strange day…

Freeway Jam

Picture this: you’re all set for a normal day. Well not quite normal – normally I would wake up on a Thursday at 06.30am, get washed and dressed, grab my coffee and be out of the house by 7 on the road to start work at 8am. On this particular Thursday I had a different scenario. The hubster was down in Exeter yesterday running in a 10-mile race and stayed down there overnight. I was tasked with getting the children up fed and dressed and JJ to school for 08.45am which is what happened. Then I had to pop to the supermarket with EJ before transferring him over to the town where my in-laws live and I also work, dropping him there and getting myself into the office for 10.30am. So far so good…

Then we hit the main A road that links our two towns – a ten mile stretch – and almost immediately grind to a halt. Hmm. A little traffic I think to myself. Ten minutes later we haven’t moved an inch and I phone both the in-laws and my work to tell them that I’m likely to be a little late. I get out my coffee and EJ begins to demand I hand it over. When I don’t, he cries. I phone the hubster to tell him what’s happened and ask him where he is on his journey back east. When I hang up EJ demands my phone. When I don’t give it to him, he cries. Two ambulances and a police car pass us on the hastily carved out ‘middle track’ (there is no hard shoulder). Other people begin to reverse back down this track to attempt a u-turn at a suitable place (this is a dual carriageway divided by a hedged, grassy bank). I dismiss this notion as dangerous madness.

EJ begins to cry in earnest. It is that screaming, bored, frustrated crying which nothing is going to assuage. The muzzies begin shooting over the car like missiles. Even the precious dummy is flung with anger in my general direction. I phone my mum and tell her what’s happened (using the call to explain the mystery of EJ’s disappearing shoes (his brother threw them over the garden fence two days ago). EJ is happy to say hello and goodbye to Grandma.

By this point we have been sat still in the car for 20 minutes. I think, enough is enough, and attempt to reverse down the middle track which has somehow closed up a bit in the interim. A kindly lady runs up to tell me that I won’t be able to get round the U-turn as it’s now completely blocked. I pull back in to the left lane. Thinking on my feet I begin entertaining EJ with a game of ‘pop-up’ monkey – magicking his soft toy round the side and over the top of the passenger seat next to me. He thinks this is hilarious and begins flinging his muzzies over Monkey each time he pops up. This game lasts about 5-10 minutes before I can take no more. We are still in the same place on the road and have now been here for 40 minutes.

I switch on to the local radio channel and almost immediately find out that there has been a ‘serious’ accident about five miles up the road ahead of us, the road has been closed both ahead and behind us and we are now, essentially, trapped in the middle. A low-flying helicopter hovers above us. It seems we have hit the road at exactly the wrong moment.

I look in the rearview mirror and see other people behind making their way up round the u-turn and make the decision to attempt this course of action again. This time I am successful!! We are finally moving again, albeit in the wrong direction. I take a long route home as there is a lot of traffic coming off at the next slip road. Now I wonder, do I attempt an alternative route? But no, stuff that, the roads in to town will be jam-packed with people who have been diverted off and the thought of getting myself and EJ stuck in another jam – one we can’t escape from – is too much to bear.

I phone work – arrange to take the rest of the day off. EJ is obviously relieved to be out of the car and I get him a bowl of Shreddies and put on Cbeebies. He is happy. I am happy, but sad that my already squeezed annual leave is being siphoned off in this unpredictable way.

EJ is now in his cot, having a nap. And here I am. What a strange day…

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