Birmingham Trams

Birmingham tram

My husband and I are both Brummies born and bred – but nowadays don’t go into Birmingham city centre that much.

The husband is there this morning for a meeting and I just got a text message:

“Who the f*ck put trams here, nearly got killed”

Oh how I LOLed!!

 

 

 

 

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Winning at School Shoe Shopping is Winning at Parenting

School shoes

‘Shopping for School Shoes’ is a topic to instil fear into most parents – and with the 4th child starting school in September this meant buying new shoes for all 4.  School shoe shopping expeditions in the past have resulted in tears from children, me and, I suspect, the shop assistants – so I decided to divide and conquer, and take the children in pairs to reduce the stress (or prolong the agony – depending how optimistic we were feeling!!)

I’d taken the eldest 2 shoe shopping in Worcester – as a practice run on the train for their new schools in September (this also provided a new haunt for Pokémon go hunting – which is a good motivational tool this summer!)  After texting a friend who is proficient in shopping in Worcester (amongst other places!) we found the shoe shop she recommended and with frightening efficiency (and a bit of Googling of uniform requirements) pairs were bought for the 13 and 11 year olds with absolutely no tears or shouting #miracle.

I was concerned that this had lulled me in to a false sense of security, and hence buying shoes for the younger 2 was going to be horrific, so we headed off to our school shoe shopping regular haunt of Humphries in the Kingfisher Centre in Redditch.  Youngest child chose some with absolutely no stress at all (helped by the fact that the shop assistant had the same name as her) so the only one left was the 6 year old – who does have a reputation for being ‘feisty’…..   This had all of the hallmarks of being the nightmare.

The lovely assistant brought out 3 pairs in her size – and there was one Startrite pair I particularly liked, so I used all of my ‘mother of 4 kids’ wiles and went for the whole reverse psychology technique.  I told her the ones I liked were far too grown up, and her big sister hadn’t had a pair like that until she was at least 9 years old, so at 6, she had to chose one of the other 2 pairs.  Of course, that meant the Startrite ones I liked were clearly the most desirable shoes ever.  After some umming and ahhing I ‘gave in’ and let her have the ‘grown up’ ones!!

Winning at school shoe shopping is winning at parenting.  #boom!

 

 

Book Review: The Mysterious Miss Mayhew by Hazel Osmond

The Mysterious Miss Mayhew

 

“Tom doesn’t need any more women in his life. He already has a five-year-old daughter, an estranged wife who keeps blocking his efforts to get divorced and a mother who might be having an affair with the vicar. So when Fran Mayhew turns up – years younger and with all the tact of a dinosaur with its backside on fire – she’s just another tricky person to deal with . . . And what’s she doing in his remote part of Northumberland crawling around in graveyards anyway?
But soon Tom discovers that there’s more to the mysterious Miss Mayhew than meets the eye – and that it’s not just his heart he’s in danger of losing.”

I read my first Hazel Osmond book a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it (and very excitedly got a tweet from the author – I am easily excited!!) and so I started my second of her books with high hopes and was not disappointed!!

It was completely different to the Mr Wolfe book – but that’s definitely not a bad thing.  There are an eclectic mix of characters – but they all fit together really well.  I loved Hattie – Tom’s 5 year old daughter – and with a 4 and a 6 year old myself empathised quite a lot with some of her escapades!

The intertwining of stories also works really well – with a mixture of intrigue, romance, suspense etc.  A couple of times it felt like the story had concluded – and then there was a further development!

As well as the traditional romances – between numerous pairs of characters, it also looks at extended family relationships – and the one between Tom and his brother is particularly lovely.

It’s not quite as rammed full of sex as Mr Wolfe is – but there’s still enough, and again, it’s very realistically written – we’re not talking 50 Shades here at all!

I particularly liked the fast forwarded ending, so you could see how things had panned on a year down the line – I often finish a book wanting to know what’s happened – so I LOVED that we found out about everyone.

I will definitely be downloading more of Hazel Osmond’s back catalogue soon!

 

 

 

Dubai – 2 days in!

We are in Dubai for a few days – and whilst we are regulars here, we’ve never been in August before – and it is proper hot!!  Thankfully not as humid as Florida this time last year – but still in the 40s.  Even with flip flops on it’s too hot to walk on the sand, and going in to the sea feels like someone has been weeing in there for days #gross

** disclaimer – I don’t think they actually have, it’s just super warm **

Dubai afternoon

Anyway – couple of totally random things to brain dump so I’ve got them saved somewhere.

We were at Wild Wadi, the water park attached to our hotel, yesterday afternoon, and I was chatting to a fellow Mum in the kids’ pool – I was in a swimsuit, she was in a burkhini, and we chatted about the kids / weather etc – turns out she’s from Small Heath – about 3 miles from where I grew up in Birmingham!  #smallworld

Then, as I’m trying to get out of the wave pool at the same water park the husband announces (ever so slightly taking the p*ss) ‘Ooh, you look like Halle Berry’ to which the 11 year old responds ‘Why does Mum look like Mary Berry?’  I was not eating cake at the time I promise!!  (And clearly the husband totally resembles Daniel Craig at all times!!)

I am sure there were more things I wanted to record, but I’m struggling to remember – probably the heat!!  Therefore expect further updates in the coming days.  I’m off to finish reading Red magazine in the sunshine with a complimentary glass of champagne!

 

 

 

Book Review: Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran

Moranifesto

I should confess to being a big Caitlin Moran fan.  I loved her previous books, and went to see her live when she was touring ‘How To Build A Girl. It was brilliant – and resulted in me having a t-shirt made for a friend that said ‘Never Regret Cheese’ on it – which a) maybe you had to be there to understand and b) is a useful motto to live by!  I laughed a lot at the TV series Caitlin wrote with her sister Caroline – and am properly cross that Channel 4 haven’t commissioned a 3rd series.  I am definitely more conservative (with a big and little c) than Ms Moran – so was slightly concerned that this book might be a bit too right on, left wing and trendy for a 42 year old accountant mother of 4, but I didn’t let that stop me.

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

” ‘I’ve lived through ten iOS upgrades on my Mac – and that’s just something I use to muck about on Twitter. Surely capitalism is due an upgrade or two?’

When Caitlin Moran sat down to choose her favourite pieces for her new book she realised that they all seemed to join up. Turns out, it’s the same old problems and the same old ass-hats.

Then she thought of the word ‘Moranifesto’, and she knew what she had to do…

This is Caitlin’s engaging and amusing rallying call for our times. Combining the best of her recent columns with lots of new writing unique to this book, Caitlin deals with topics as pressing and diverse as 1980s swearing, benefits, boarding schools, and why the internet is like a drunken toddler.

And whilst never afraid to address the big issues of the day – such as Benedict Cumberbatch and duffel coats – Caitlin also makes a passionate effort to understand our 21st century society and presents us with her ‘Moranifesto’ for making the world a better place.

The polite revolution starts here! Please.”

The book started with some columns that had already been published – and some of which I’d read – but they were all great.  I particularly enjoyed the ones based around the Olympics of 2012 – as I was reading the book with Rio 2016 as a backdrop.  The book was written pre Brexit – but remembering the summer of 2012 and how everyone was in love with London was even more emotive when contrasted with the problems that the EU referendum has caused with shocking racism and intolerance in the summer of 2016.  It was also published pre the death of David Bowie – but Caitlin’s love for Mr Bowie shines through in many different chapters!

As I mentioned above – I was nervous that the political bits wouldn’t be my bag at all – but this could not have been further from the truth. I would consider myself fairly middling politically (there’s a whole chapter on people thinking this about themselves actually – and analogies with swimming speeds and middle lane drivers!) and I agree with a lot that Caitlin writes about helping others out – and how this is often the way with ‘normal’ people (not smug politicians who grew up at boarding school!).  I am lucky enough to live in a great village outside Birmingham (this is not code for Wolverhampton, it is a North Worcestershire village) and the sense of community there is excellent – with people helping each other out frequently with matters large and small.

I’m all for capitalism and people making money (as long as they pay the appropriate tax on it!) but there also needs to be a place for a welfare system that supports people who need it.  Just because I can pay for (some of, at the moment) my kids to go to private school, doesn’t mean I don’t also believe in the state system – and the same goes for the NHS v private healthcare which we as a family use both of.  I know I’m lucky and have choices – but the husband and I also work damn hard for this ‘luck’ too, and the ‘luck’ means we can be in a position to help others out as well. People who’ve done well for themselves shouldn’t sit in their ivory tower counting their pennies far away from the real world (she says, looking out of the window on holiday at the view of a 7 star hotel………) but should want to ‘put back’ a bit too.  And I think in this, Ms Moran and I have similar views.

Wow – a book review that’s gone a bit political (don’t worry, I’ll be back to chick lit next I promise!!)

So let’s all read the ‘Moranifesto’ and start a polite revolution, if we all do, who knows what benefits we could reap!

 

 

Book Review: The Invitation by Lucy Foley

I really enjoyed Lucy Foley’s debut novel – The Book of Lost and Found – and so was delighted when a friend let me borrow a copy of her second book ‘The Invitation’ to bring on holiday.

The Invitation

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Rome, 1950s. One fateful night, Hal Jacobs meets Stella, a beautiful society darling from New York. To Hal, flailing in the post-war darkness, she’s a point of light. They’re from different worlds, but both trying and failing to carve out a new life.

Stella vanishes all too quickly, until a curious invitation from an Italian Contessa reels her back into Hal’s world. They join the Contessa’s collection of luminaries on a yacht headed for Cannes film festival.

The scene on board is a fiction – scars from the war can be hidden yet not healed. Everyone is hiding a dark history, but Stella’s secrets run the deepest. Compelled by her fragile beauty, Hal is determined to bring back the girl she once was, the girl who’s been confined to history.

The Invitation is an epic love story that will transport you from the glamour of the Italian Riviera, to the darkness of war-torn Spain, and to a golden – if rather haunted – time.”

Now I’m not normally a fan of historical novels – and would not pick one by choice – but was willing to give this the benefit of the doubt – and was very pleased I did.  I really enjoyed it from chapter 1.

It is set in different parts of Italy (and occasionally surrounding countries) and describes them beautifully and very vividly – particularly the chapters that move along the Italian Riveria – it’s definitely inspired me to want to visit that area of Italy.

As with Ms Foley’s previous book – it moves between different time periods, and different characters holding the narrative, seamlessly and adds to the epic nature of the book.  I really felt involved in the book and in the fate of everyone – particularly Hal.

There are some great twists and turns – particularly towards the end – which I couldn’t possibly give away, but are very enjoyable.  I also liked that there was a proper ending with loose ends suitably tied up.

It feels well written and structured – which might sound a bit geeky, but I like that in a book.  I felt like real care was taken with the descriptions and the flow of the story – it feels like a grown up’s book – but in a good way, not a fuddy duddy way!

So all in all, yet another great book from Lucy Foley – and I look forward to her next one already.