Monday, 27 July 2015

An Open Letter to Children’s Shoe Manufacturers

Dear Shoe Manufacturers,
I don’t need to tell you that the summer holidays are upon us. For a working parent, this brings with it not rest and relaxation but the additional juggling of different childcare settings in an effort to ensure one’s children are appropriately looked after. Children these days are fickle – they like a reasonable mix of activities. Add that together with a job that involves shuttling up and down the M4 on a vaguely regular basis, and timetables have to be managed with military precision.
Before you think I’m complaining – I’m not. We’ve a few years of it under our belts, and we’re lucky enough to have a choice of good childcare settings that the kids are happy to attend. So, yes, it can be a little stressful sometimes, but it’s nothing compared to another stress that also rears its ugly head at around this time of year. The dreaded Back To School shopping. Or, to be more precise Back To School Shoe Shopping. We all know New School Year = New School Shoes. Just the thought is enough to bring me out in a cold sweat, however. (In fact, I’ve spent the last three days writing this blog post as I’ve had to go for a lie down after every other sentence.)
Nothing in my life is as stressful as school shoe shopping. Nothing.
Clearly, my eldest daughter (despite both looking like me and being close to me in personality), missed the “OMG, I love shoes” gene. However, even my youngest daughter, who has inherited some of her mother’s shoeaholic tendencies, is less than enamoured with this annual torture.
What is it about school shoes, and specifically those aimed at girls? When it comes to both design and build, they are dire. My children have been known to get through 3 pairs in the space of six weeks in the past. These were not cheap pairs, either. I’ve spent anywhere between £15 and £45 on a single pair of school shoes in desperation, with no discernible difference in durability. In fact, if anything, unscientific experience seems to indicate that the more expensive a pair, the shorter their lifespan. At least with a cheap pair you don’t feel quite so bad about them ending up in the bin every couple of months…
Whilst boys’ footwear mostly looks like it can withstand a) the British weather, and b) a reasonable amount of rough and tumble, young girls have to make do with dainty open shoes with flimsy straps that are barely better equipped than a sandal for the British autumn. 
I give you my top three gripes:
  1. Open fronts

It rains quite a lot in this country. Had you noticed? I wonder also if you’ve noticed that wet socks are really quite uncomfortable?
  1. Flimsy Velcro fastenings:

…behold the dreaded silver ring, or the “roulette ring” as it’s known in our house, as we hold our breath to see which gets ripped apart first – the ring, or the…
  1. Thin Soles

Is it just my children that appear to be able to unglue the upper and the sole of a shoe before the term is out? I'm sure the amount we spend on superglue is sending off alarm bells somewhere. (Do kids still sniff glue? Is that even a thing, or have all the new trendy "legal highs" we parents supposedly have to be alarmed about overtaken that habit?)
Anyway, in my desperation, I've even tried persuading my daughters to give "boys' shoes" a try. Peer pressure is stronger than my negotiating skills, however, and the trauma of the teasing I endured as a 12 year old (when my mother bought me what would now, bizarrely be the height of fashion - rounded lace-ups, but in the 80s turned me into a playground pariah when everyone else was wearing pointy slip-ons) remains with me to this day. I'm not brave enough to inflict something similar on my children.
However, all is not lost. Last year, for the first year, we struck gold when it came to 50% of the offspring at least. Youngest daughter chose these fab boot-like constructions from M&S:

Nice and enclosed, no roulette ring to worry about, and soles worthy of the name. THEY LASTED A WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR, and even better, it looks like they are selling the same ones this year.
So, if the rest of you would just be so kind as to follow their example, I'll be eternally grateful. In the meantime, I'm off to stock up on a pair in every size.

Yours, exasperatedly…
Julie

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Review; Monster High Dolls

We've had post again... No, not the lady in pink- this doll is a whole lot spookier. We've been visited by the g(irl)houls of Monster High- Miss Frankie Stein, to be precise.

To say this lady is a bit different to other dolls is an understatement.

"Monster High students embrace their imperfections and celebrate all freaky flaws because that’s what makes you who you are. The school’s motto says it all: Be Yourself. Be Unique. Be a Monster.™ "

What we liked;
- "OMG, her hair is really silky"
- "I like the funky clothes"
- "It's cool she's not pink"
- "Wow, she can walk like an Egyptian!"





What wasn't so good;
- "She's really delicate, so I'm just going to stand her on here and not play with her"
(Hmmm)
-"Her clothes are difficult to get on and off "










(Posted on my phone as our pc is out of action, hence rather wonky, sorry.. There's a whole post there about IT issues in the modern world)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Blue Jeans Blues

I went shopping for jeans recently. This is something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but have been putting off for as long as possible. Much as I enjoy the odd spot of retail therapy, shopping for jeans is a completely different kettle of fish. Unfortunately, I spend way too much time in jeans to get away with not buying a new pair every couple of years.

So, with the kids at my parents for an impromptu afternoon, it seemed like an opportunity that was too good to miss. If there is one thing I don't want to do while squeezing my thighs in and out of denim, it's have the kids dragging along. So far, so good.

In an ideal world, I would find my perfect pair, and simply buy the same ones every couple of years. The problem is that it just doesn't work like that. For starters, fashion does not pass the humble blue Jean by. For years, the trusty boot cut was my cut of choice. I blame Trinny and Susanna - apparently it had something to do with "balancing out" my childbearing hips. It seemed to work well for me in the days before children and sensible heel heights.

However, the humble bootcut made its way into the fashion wilderness, and (despite the occasional rumbling that this might be the year it returns to favoured status) that has been where it has stayed, usurped recently by the "skinny jean". The main problem with the "skinny" jean being that they don't instantly make you skinny, but instead assume you are waif-like to start with.

Good news, therefore, for those of is with the aforementioned childbearing hips as the "boyfriend" jean made its way into the scene. A looser, more flattering cut. Allegedly.

Now, what I don't understand about the boyfriend jean is why they are only apparently designed for people under five ft. Surely, the whole idea behind this cut is that they originated from women wearing their boyfriend's jeans (the clue is in the name?). Now, what I want to know why are the legs on these things so short?! Are all British boyfriends secretly blessed with the inside leg measurement of a 12 year old? It's just not logical, captain. And don't get me started on "girlfriend" jeans, which are apparently now also a thing.

It's all too difficult, if you ask me.

Which is why I'm now on my 3rd pair of "curvy straight" from The Gap. Middle aged jeans. Still, even that decision wasn't as easy as I might have hoped for. Why do manufacturers insist on fiddling with their sizing so much? Just when I thought I'd got all that American sizing lark sussed, it's gone and changed again.

So, yes, I have purchased 3 pairs of Gap's finest "curvy straight" over the years. I personally have not gained or lost a huge amount of weight in those years. The first pair (long since relegated to gardening only status) still for perfectly well. As do the second and the third. Between them, however, I am wearing what is supposed to be the exact same style in 3 (THREE) different dress sizes.

The nonsensical thing that the latest pair are supposedly a "size zero". No, I didn't believe it either. Exhibit A:






Now, Victoria Beckham is a size zero. Kate Moss is a size zero. I'm definitely not a size zero and probably haven't been since that horrible stomach bug in 1999.

You're not fooling anyone with this nonsense, Mr Gap. I therefore beg you: stop messing with my jeans.

Just. Stop.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Testing testing 1,2,3...

I've not blogged in so long, even my husband has noticed. The weird thing is that my drafts are littered with good ideas and good intentions.

The problem with spending a lot of my day at work in front of a PC is that doing so in my spare time is the last thing I want to do.

I'm therefore just trying out various different apps that might help me blog "on the run".

If I find the perfect one, you'll be the first to know about it. Until then, there's nothing to see here... Go on, move along

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Sans Titre

I have in my drafts a blog post I was going to publish about now, loosely based on our New Year skiing holiday in La Rosiere, and detailing my best tips for a family ski holiday. I may still publish that post, but it won't be today.

In a case of best laid plans, I've had to hastily throw that post out of the virtual window and instead post this one, the various potential titles of which might also be;

"The one in which I cheat death on a French motorway"

"What do the Tins have in common with the Windsors?"

or, simply:

"Always wear a fucking seatbelt"

We had a wonderful week's skiing, sunshine, good food, good wine and fabulous company. We were sad to be going home.We got on the coach in La Rosiere just before 7a.m. last Sunday morning, with the kids excited that it was a double-decker coach, and installed ourselves across the four very front seats on the top deck, and headed off on our way down the winding mountain roads in the dark. I dozed fitfully, always conscious of the precarious nature of our travel, and breathed a small sigh of relief when we reached the bottom and our journey would hopefully be more straightforward, and I did eventually drop off to sleep. I woke up again around 8.30 when we stopped at a rest-stop and various people got off to go to the toilet.

We continued on our way, and I remember marvelling at the fact that there was no traffic whatsoever to be seen on the straight two-lane motorway. When we therefore slowly but surely started moving from the outside lane towards the middle around 10 minutes later, things immediately seemed odd.The coach struck the central reservation and then, just as slowly and surely headed back to the outside of the motorway. Alarm bells immediately started ringing, and I remember someone shouting "hold tight" when, sure enough, we hit the barrier on the outside of the motorway. After scraping along it for a couple of seconds, it obviously broke, and the coach started ploughing down the gentle muddly slope next to the carriageway. Almost in slow motion, the vehicle leaned towards the right and fell onto its side, accompanied by the sound of glass shattering and people screaming.. 

Sitting on the far left, I was now being held sideways by my seat-belt, desperately holding onto my youngest daughter who was sat next to me.My husband and elder daughter, who had been sat on the right of the coach and were now therefore on the "bottom", undid their seat-belts and helped us do the same so that we could climb down. Having reassured ourselves that the friends we had been travelling with were ok, we proceeded to try and find a way out. Smashing the window closest to us with the emergency hammer didn't have much effect, but a shout from the back indicated that the rear window was passable. We therefore gingerly made our way down the coach, trying to avoid stepping on panes of glass as we went. 

Outside, the scene was chaotic, with adults and children crying and bleeding. In a stroke of luck, a private ambulance had been passing and stopped to administer first aid to those that seemed most seriously injured.It appeared, however, that everyone had managed to walk out of the coach - surely helped by two factors, the speed and location of the accident, and the fact we had all been wearing seat-belts (an opinion reinforced later to me by several staff in the hospital who kept telling us "thank God you weren't French - they wouldn't have been strapped in!"). 

How long it took for the fire brigade and ambulances to arrive is a bit of a blur, and at first their approach seemed a little disorganised, with several people asking the same questions. Eventually a bit of a system became obvious, with injuries being classified in a traffic light system of green - not injured yellow - minor injuries, red - serious injuries. The only visible injury to my family was a large bump on my eldest daughter's face, however, she looked very pale and her legs suddenly buckled under her, slumping into the arms of the nearest fireman. She was promptly laid out on the floor on a makeshift stretcher with her legs in the air, and covered with blankets, before being carried very gingerly back up to the slope into a waiting ambulance.

It was whilst trying to follow her up the slope that I realised that trying to bend my left leg had suddenly become extremely painful, causing me to be reclassified from a "green" to a "yellow". Whilst we were therefore transported to the local hospital, my husband and youngest daughter (both being "greens") were taken to a local community centre where they were looked after by the local community.

Once at the hospital, it became apparent that I was the only injured person on the coach who could speak passable French. Whilst my daughter was therefore taken away to be x-rayed (and fed!), I was called in to "help the police with their inquiries", giving both my own statement, and helping with the translation of one or two others, before being x-rayed myself.  

Having both been given the all-clear and pain relief, we were taken to a small room with other "survivors", where food and drink and children's games had been laid on. Also there was a representative from the tour operator, who was in contact with the group in the community centre. Having missed our flight back to the UK (Southampton), it seemed that there was a very small chance that we might be able to catch the last flight out - to Stansted.

In very dramatic fashion therefore, several families were reunited - a police escort accompanying the coach from the community centre first to the hospital, where we got on, then on to the airport. This involved one police car in front of the coach stopping all traffic with "blues and twos" as we passed, with two police cars bringing up the rear. "This is just like when the Queen goes anywhere!", as no1 daughter remarked.

The rest of the journey was stressful, if actually unremarkable, and we eventually got home around midnight, only around eight hours later than planned.We all took Monday off to recover, but by Tuesday the kids were back at school, and I went in on Wednesday. The muscles I pulled in my waist and neck have been gradually getting better every day, and all bruising has faded from angry purple through moss green to putrid yellow.Whether the mind will bear any lasting effects remains to be seen - needless to say, the thought of going on a coach any time soon isn't one I would cherish, and I'm still struggling a little with trying NOT to think of what could have been.

Needless to say we are all very, very, very lucky and very thankful we just walked away. In fact, so undramatic were the injuries overall that the accident barely made the British press, bar a short mention on the Guardian website, followed by a slightly longer piece on the Daily Mail (sorry!) website. French local TV did of course do a couple of pieces, which are online here and here (both containing a starring role for the back of youngest daughter's head in the arms of a French fireman).

A thousand thanks to the folk at Esprit Ski for the VIP treatment (yes, despite everything, we're thinking of booking again for next year), and all the unnamed French firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses and gendarmes - who were all singularly brilliant. 

Most of all, however, thanks goes to whoever it was that decided that Sunday 4th January wasn't going to be the day that our time was up. 



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