Friday, 17 December 2010

The Has-Been

Believe it or not, I was young once. 

I used to go out, and I danced the night away. I partied with colleagues on a school night and was at my desk not-too-bright, but early the next morning. A specific pair of skin-tight red trousers was legendary in certain quarters and single-handedly kept me in gin and tonics. 

Sadly as is true for all of us, I grew up. My body grew weary. Then I had children and my weariness became a permanent state.

Nights out these days are few and far between. They involve clock-watching to ensure getting back in time for the babysitter. The luxury of the hangover lie-in does not exist with small children. Snuggling on the sofa with a glass of red and a DVD is just so much more appealing somehow.

This Saturday, however, I'm doing it again. I'm getting glammed up in a new frock, and I've purchased new shoes. I'm booked into the hairdresser's in the morning. The thing is, it's not dinner and dancing at a top London nightspot - it's the much more difficult social minefield of the office Christmas party (or Winter Celebration, as they are insisting on calling it - that's a whole different post right there - I mean, FFS!). Shoved into a soulless room with colleagues I barely know, let along like, eating a mass-catered Christmas dinner and trying not to drink too much so I don't fall over in the new heels. 

Sounds appealing, doesn't it? Yet somehow I am ridiculously excited at the prospect. 

Keep your fingers crossed for me. It can't possibly end well.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Bleat, Bleat



My lovely friend Notes has tagged me to share my bleats with you. If you don't know what bleats are - they are too short for a blog, but too long for a tweet. Here, then, are the things currently bleatable in the Sardinetin household:

#moneymoneymoney A lottery win would be very welcome about now. By that I mean more than the £74 our work syndicate won a couple of weeks ago. It's been an interesting old year on the cash front (maybe one day my lovely husband will lift the embargo he has imposed, and let me blog the specific story), and Christmas ain't getting any cheaper. (I know we are lucky and there are people out there significantly worse off, so maybe I should wish the whole country a lottery win?)

#bahhumbug Owing to relatively last-minute changes of plan, we are celebrating Christmas at home this year. To say I am woefully unprepared is an understatement. OK, I admit - when it comes to most things, I am a last-minute kind of gal. Christmas, however, is normally the one exception. I'm usually the one with presents bought in July and cards sent on 1st December. Not this year, and it is driving me crazy.

#FairyDust I wish... No, sadly just the common or garden variety, I'm afraid. I do of course only have myself to blame. After all, hoovering is just so... well... bourgeois, don't you think? I'm much too Bohemian and intellectual to do such mundane tasks.

#wheresmymojomofo? I am of course, referring to my blogging mojo. It can't have failed to escape your attention that posts have been a bit scarce around here recently. All the usual excuses apply - work, kids, illness, Christmas. However, I will admit there is also a certain whiff of "eau de can't be arsed" hanging around the place (available in all good department stores). New year's resolution; must try harder. (All extremely ironic, really, considering I have been shortlisted for a blogging award - yes, me! Go on, click on the link and vote - you know you want to)

Who else fancies a good bleat? How about some of my new twitter followers:

Penny at The Alexander Residence
This Mid 30s Life
Muddleduck

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Schools and Working Parents

Warning: Ranty, incoherent working parent

Being a working parent requires organisation. It requires a strong routine and precision planning of military proportions - or so I like to pretend, anyway (this is obviously where I am going wrong). Homework, reading, PE kits, water bottles... they all have their designated times and days. My neighbour (also a full-time working mother) has an impressive system of post-it notes to keep track of when cakes are due in for the fundraising café, when non-uniform day is, what the deadline is for paying for the Christmas dinner.

The system of communication by school is fairly sophisticated - we get regular "parentmail" emails, and texts in rare emergencies. It is a true godsend, without which I don't think we would be able to function properly. Have you ever tried finding a note in a child's bag when that child has been at after-school club until 5pm when that child's favourite pastime appears to be sticking random bits of paper together!?

Despite this, every now and then we are still floored by a request taped to the classroom door - a recent example; "Could all children please wear black for their assembly on Thursday". For starters, I do not believe in dressing children in black - there's plenty of time for that when they are teenagers - but that's a different subject. No, what floored me was that this note was apparently taped to the door at some point during a Monday. I say "apparently", as I had to rely on other mothers to inform me of this.

DD1 goes to breakfast and after-school club Monday to Wednesday. I only take and fetch her to and from school itself two days a week. As it was, my poor, neglected child was the only one dressed in navy blue, mainly thanks to the fact that she had the intelligence to inform me of the requirement on the morning of said assembly.

Part of me feels guilty about even posting this - I do think my daughter's school is fantastic and tries very hard - but I know other people struggle with this as well. (It also leaves me to wonder how people who do not see their children's teacher at all every week can possibly cope - and vice versa,  it must also be difficult for teachers.)

Do some schools still assume there will be a stay at home parent to manage such things, or am I being unfair?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Beep beep. Beep beep. Yeah.

I don't seem to do much driving any more these days. Working from home most days means that my car stays mainly in the garage, and if it wasn't for one day a week in the office we could quite easily give up being a 2-car family. (There is of course also the fact that we recently spent a small fortune on building a double garage, so at least that is getting some use!). My husband on the other hand, has around an hour's commute each way down the motorway five days a week to contend with.

When it therefore comes to driving at the weekend, you would think that I would be happy to take over any driving, to give him a break. The truth of the matter is, however, that I am fundamentally lazy and would much rather be ferried around. Since the invention of sat nav, it's not like I even have to map read any more (which is a good thing all round, as I am sure we would be divorced by now if I did) and I can therefore quite happily sit looking out of the window humming along to the radio.

If I look at other cars on the road, I notice this is overwhelmingly the case in other cars - man driving, woman on passenger seat. My parents are the same, despite the fact that my father did not get a licence until relatively late in life (I must have been in my early teens), and therefore has a lot less driving experience than my mother.

We've all heard the statistics about women drivers being safer, so why is it still a case of:

Car = Manly pursuit

Answers on the back of an AA Road Atlas to the usual address please.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Answering Service

This post is inspired by my Twitter friend Mr Drop4Three, who is much better at these vlogs than I am and is attempting one a month as part of #vlomo10...




I thought I'd at least trial the technology - next time I might even make an effort...

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Random thoughts of the week

(Forgive me, am typing on mini phone keypad)

In no particular order:

- Can someone please invent teleporting sometime soon?
- What some people consider hand luggage really takes the p*ss
- What is so important that you have to answer your mobile whilst on the toilet?
- Why don't humans have sleep reserves, like they have fat reserves?
- Hearing Band Aid's 'Do They Know It's Christmas' on Monday made me want to scream
- Seeing my first snow of the winter in Helsinki this morning, however,made me feel instantly Christmassy
- Every now and then modern technology still astounds me; amazing how quickly news of a Royal engagement in far-away Britain made its way round a Finnish conference room

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Why is it. ..

..that despite my best intentions,  I never see much other than an office and a hotel room when I go anywhere on business?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hear No Evil...

Alison Curtis via Flickr


I happened to catch a trailer for last night's "File on Four" on Radio 4, which was apparently about young, British muslims being lured into fighting for a Jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda in Somalia. In the end, I did not have the chance to listen to it, even though in some ways the subject piqued a certain macabre interest in me.

I've always been a bit of a current affairs buff. Force-fed a diet of Radio 4 ever since I can remember, I grew up with the Today programme starting the day, and PM at tea-time. Eventually, I even started listening to what was being said, and became hooked on the tales of political machinations of the day (the will-she-go-won't-she-go of Margaret Thatcher's final days being a particularly vivid memory). In-depth, background reporting of strange foreign lands mesmerised me.

And yet recently I find myself avoiding the news more and more. Part of this is down to the fact that I am just busier since having children, and when I settle down to watch television of an evening, I want mindless entertainment, rather than anything too taxing. However, there is also a part of me that just doesn't want to hear it any more.

Let's face it; bad news is just terribly depressing. Take international terrorism, for example - start thinking about it for too long, and you realise how hopeless the whole situation is. Whilst we in the UK had to contend with terrorism related to the conflict in Northern Ireland for a long time, with hindsight this seems small and manageable in comparison. There appeared to be a specific goal, and it was limited to a specific number of people. Compare and contrast this to the threat from Al-Qaeda and its cronies, where the threat could apparently come from anywhere in the world, and the goal is inexplicable and incoherent at best.

Don't even get me started on the apparently random acts of violence that you can read about in any local paper these days!

I sometimes look at my children and think - should I really have brought you into a world where you have to worry about what's in your ink cartridges? Where someone might just knife you on the street because you looked at them in a certain way?

So, forgive me if I don't read the papers as often as I used to. Sometimes I just think ignorance is bliss.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Perfect Sandwich

So, there I was this morning, listening in to an apparently endless series of conference calls, whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on Twitter (multitasking of course being an incredibly important skill that I need to practice to keep me sharp for the workplace), when I spotted a tweet from Jay, highlighting her latest blog post. I popped over, and promptly regretted the fact that I had not yet eaten lunch. It prompted such a rumbling in my tum that I started fantasising about food...

All I had time for today, however, was a sandwich. This did not bother me at all - in my eyes, the humble sandwich is a wonderful invention, and has been a regular meal for a lot of the British population since it was invented.

So it got me thinking - if I was only ever allowed one single kind of sandwich to eat for the rest of my life, what would I choose? First, I thought of tasty Scandinavian open sandwiches - maybe a bit of smoked salmon on rye bread...


...but much as I love them, I had to dismiss them purely on the grounds of practicality - sadly, they're not really great in a packed lunch. The rye bread is not soft enough to absorb the topping, and a sandwich needs to be "closed" to keep it from falling apart.

I would therefore like to sing you the praises of the humble cheese sandwich. Not just any cheese sandwich, however - there is a definite art.

The bread has to be fresh, cut by hand from a loaf. I don't mind if it is white or wholegrain, as long as it has the right amount of softness in its bite. The cheese has to be a thick chunk of mature farmhouse cheddar - smooth and creamy, yet with the right amount of nutty bite and crumble. Add to this some juicy tomato slices, and a crispy lettuce leaf. No pickles, no sauces - I wouldn't want anything to spoil the cheddar.

Perfect.




Go on - tell me; what's your favourite sandwich? I'd love to know!

(By the way, to work out the dimensions of your perfect cheese sandwich, try the Cheddarometer! )

Friday, 29 October 2010

The Movie of My Life

I know I've been a bit of a lightweight on the posts recently. I'm not going to apologise, that's just the way it goes. However, there's nothing like a meme when the blogging inspiration is not flowing. Nickie over at Typecast  and She Means Well both posted on a loose theme along the same lines, namely what a film of their life would look like, and it got me thinking about who would play me in a silver screen version of my life. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I've only ever been told that I look like someone famous twice in my life - both times by men trying to get access to my underwear, so I didn't really take it that seriously. 

Bizarrely, the first time, I was likened to a "young Grace Kelly" - very flattering, I'm sure you'll agree, although bizarre mainly due to the fact that I was actually dressed as Magenta from the Rocky Horror Show at the time. (A most memorable night, during which there was no longer any doubt whatsoever about the sexuality of my friend M, after he rolled up in full Frank 'Nfurter costume...)

Spot the Difference
Anyway, as is widely known, Grace Kelly sadly no longer resides with us, so having her play me in a story of my life would probably be slightly tricky.

Moving on to only second person I have ever been compared to; Nina Persson - lead singer of Swedish band The Cardigans:



I think the comparison was mainly based on the Scandinavian cheekbones that we share, although I do actually think that she looks a bit more like mummyblogger in the pic above!

Anyway, as she's not really Hollywood enough, I've finally decided to go with (...drumroll please...):


Yes - Drew Barrymore - mainly as she does the slightly goofy ingénue so well, and I can't hide my slightly clumsy and haphazard side, no matter how I try to be the graceful swan. Pictured above with a certain someone my husband used to get compared to when we first met (this was the mid-nineties, when anyone with a floppy fringe liked to think they were straight out of Four Weddings and a Funeral). 

I think these days he's less Hugh Grant, and more Robert Downey Jr, though:

I so would
Anyway, as this wasn't really a meme that got passed on to me as such, I'm not going to tag anyone, but am going to leave it open to any of you that feel you fancy a go. 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Random Silliness

After yesterday's slightly whingeing post topped by a terrible night's sleep, I'm definitely in the mood for something light-hearted this lunchtime and for some reason I couldn't get this out of my head. The clip below has my two favourite ingredients; namely Muppets plus The Sound of Music. What's not to like?


Monday, 25 October 2010

I Need to Learn To Say No

source
- The vomiting bug has entered our house. It has taken out the two smallest members of the household, and is bound to come looking for the adults some point soon.
- I'm washing and ironing like it's going out of fashion (see above)
- I'm trying to do a day job whilst spending 90% of my time being asked questions for "integration"  due to co. takeover
- I've just agreed to take on the departmental newsletter
- I have a tonne of blog memes I am probably never going to get around to doing (sorry to anyone that has tagged me)
- Still haven't worked out what to buy husband for his 40th and time is running out fast (any ideas for the ultra-fussy man who has everything?!)

To say life is a little hectic at the moment is an understatement. Half term holiday?! Ha.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

In Which I Admit I Am A Cowardly Custard

My mother has always been considered...how can I put this politely...somewhat overcautious when it comes to health and safety by my father, my brother and myself. She was always the one that would freak out if we tried to climb a wall, or go too close to the edge of a high building (her own vertigo didn't help). I have always been very conscious of the fact that I should try and avoid being too cautious with my own children.

Turns out it's not actually that easy.

Maybe it's conditioning, maybe it's some kind of deep maternal instinct, but I have started to see the worst in all possible situations. Most of the time I can keep these fears under control. The only time I can't is when it comes to road safety. We have had a very close shave with each of our children - occasions that left me literally shaking and sobbing with the thought of what could have happened, had luck not been on our side. We live on quite a busy road, in quite an urban area, so trips to and from pretty much anywhere involve negotiating road safety. I am slowly starting to trust DD1, who at 5 and a half at least knows not to run out into the road, and allow her a little more freedom. I still insist on her holding my hand most of the time when we cross, however. I do still insist on DD2 (2 years younger than her sister) holding my hand whenever we are walking by a road.

I bumped into an acquaintance the other day, who also has two daughters, the eldest of is not quite yet 3. We walked through the park, with said eldest daughter on a little self-propelled car, while my friend pushed her youngest in a pushchair. At the edge of the park there are some large, wrough-iron gates, which lead straight onto a road. This road is not particularly busy, but there is a wall on the corner that makes it difficult to see any oncoming traffic. The gates were open, and the little girl (let's call her I) was merrily pushing her way towards them, showing no sign of stopping. Her mother did not bat an eyelid when she proceeded through the gates into the road. It was only when we saw the lorry approaching that she shouted out to her daughter that she should have been more careful and looked where she was going. Thankfully, the lorry was driving slowly and stopped, however, I could not help thinking that things could have been different.

I was obviously somewhat surprised at the mother's calm reaction, given my own fears. I don't want to judge her - the example is merely an illustration of the point that children and road safety probably don't mix very well. I am just as guilty of what others might consider horrible lapses of judgement. However, I am curious as to what everyone else's experiences are on this.

Do you let your children cross the road by themselves? At what ages did you start, and how did you make sure they knew about road safety?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Learning to Love my Legs?

Review post


I'm getting to that stage in life where I feel comfortable in my skin. I have come to terms with the fact that certain bits wobble more than I would like, and gravity and the fact that I have had two children is taking its toll. You can do amazing things with a bit of scaffolding and a spot of padding. However, one thing that I have always hated is my legs (once unkindly, but fairly, likened to those of a footballer). This has meant that I have learnt through bitter experience to steer clear of skinny jeans and leggings, and skirts and dresses only come out on very rare occasions.

When I therefore recently won a giveaway on the lovely blog of my style guru for a pair of children's tights from Tights Please, I mentioned something along these lines in my comment. This was picked up by the marketing assistant fromTights Please, who kindly asked me if I would like to try some new leg wear for myself to see if I could be persuaded to "get my legs out" a little more often.

I'll be honest - I was sceptical. My leg loathing is pretty well ingrained and has been for as long as I care to remember. However, I gave in and thought - what the hell. Which is how I found myself with a pair of the "Gladdis tights" by Red or Dead:

Glorious Gussets!

I've always been a sucker for nice packaging, but I suppose it is what is inside that really counts:



...and I don't know about you, but I do think my legs have looked worse. 

Who knows? Maybe I'll even get my legs out more often... 

You have been warned.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Licking Windows*

Photo by Elvis Payne via Flickr

I have forgotten how to shop. Actually, let me rephrase that; I have forgotten how to window shop, how to browse. (I am of course perfectly capable of remembering the basics of shopping - pick up goods, take to till, pay, etc).

Since having children I rarely get time to myself to wander aimlessly round the shops. Shopping has become a purely functional experience - get in, get what you want, get out. Going as a family is worse, as it involves one of us running around after the kids, whilst the other goes through the well-oiled routine.

I went into town yesterday for a hair appointment, and happened to find myself with a spare half an hour. I almost felt lost. I walked around shops in a daze, not knowing quite what I was supposed to do. There was nothing I had specifically come for - why should I waste precious time looking at things that were of no interest? The sight of Christmas decorations frightened me, and the people loitering started to irritate me. In the end I bought some tights in Marks & Spencer's and fled.

I think I'll stick to the internet in future.

--
*Have always loved the French term for window shopping -"lecher les vitrines" - "to lick the windows"

Monday, 27 September 2010

I Am A Twitterholic!



Alethea, over at Mom-on-a-Wire has tagged me in the Twitterholic meme, originally created by Kate. You have to answer the questions, then tag other unsuspecting addicts lovely bloggers.



When did you join Twitter?
(You can find the exact date at bwitterday.com)
I actually joined Twitter June 22nd, 2009, but I think it's fair to say that I didn't really actively use it until some point early this year. 

Why did you join Twitter?
I think my main reason was that I had seen so much about it in the media and was curious. Plus, I was drawn in by the promise of celebrities to stalk!

Who is/was your oldest follower? Who did you follow first? Tell me all about them. 
(firstfivefollowers.com will give you this info)
The person I first followed was Stephen Fry (isn't everyone's?)
The first person who followed me is - believe it or not - Gene Hunt


Do you have any celebrities following you or have you ever had a DM from a celeb?
I think the most famous person is John Cleese. I have no idea why, other than I think I may have been the first person to react to a tweet he once sent! I keep the e-mail from Twitter stating that he is following me under my bed. As he is a Comedy God I do wonder what he sees in my mundane witterings about work and children!

If you could follow anyone who is not on Twitter - alive, dead, real or fictional - on Twitter who would it be?
I know it's predictable, but Albert Einstein - I think he'd give good tweet!

Which came first Twitter or the Blog?
Twitter. I detailed why in my first ever post

I would now like to tag: 
Chrissie at Mediocre Mum

To have a go, the rules are:
Nick the badge and mention the person who tagged you.
Answer the questions.
Select some more fab bloggers who tweet to continue the meme.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Can We Ditch The Term "Working Mother", Please?


This post was written for the Working Mother's Carnival, hosted by Holly over at It's a Mummy's Life. Once the carnival is closed, I'll post the final link where you can also visit other entries. If you want to participate, post your contribution and then e-mail Holly the link by 15th October.

---

I am a working mother. No secret there. If I think about it logically, it describes what I spend most of my life doing. For 35 hours a week, I am contracted to serve my employer. Sometimes I even do a little more than that (what can I say, I'm dedicated). The rest of the week I spend with my children. You could even argue that being a mother is not a job, but a status, a fact - I am a mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, regardless of whether or not I am at work.

This post is not about the rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, the tos and fros of working vs not working when you are a mother. It is, however, about the terminology "working mother". Despite the fact that factually it describes me very well, the phrase itself riles me - for three main reaons. (I am disregarding the fact that it does not encompass all the other things I am/do on a regular basis. I don't even have a problem with labels per se; I acknowledge that they can be a useful shorthand.)

The first thing that bothers me is the inference that by labelling myself a working mother, I am somehow saying that women who are mothers but are not employed in the labour market do not "work". Do Stay At Home Mums (SAHMs) sit around in their pyjamas drinking coffee and watching daytime telly all day? Of course not! I would be the first to argue that being a SAHM can be much harder work than spending time in an office. So why is it automatically assumed that only paid employment is work?

Secondly, according to the latest statistics I could find (dating back to 2008), there is only a gap of 5 percentage points in terms of women with dependent children who work (68%) and women without children that work (73%). Working mothers are therefore a lot more common that the media would sometimes have us believe. Women have worked for centuries - it is not even a new phenomenon. Of course, I appreciate that this statistic does not adequately reflect the different types or hours of work done by different women. It does not, for example, show how many women are in full-time work, vs part-time work etc (the page linked does go into this, if you are interested). However, it does make me wonder; if the majority of mothers are working mothers, why do we therefore even need to specifically pinpoint this group? Does lumping everyone together in a group like this really help anyone?

Finally - how many men do you know that would immediately and without thinking class themselves as "working fathers"? Most men I know would not even consider it, even if they reconise that the label is factually correct. I think they would be more inclined to define themselves more purely by their paid professions. If I were to ask my husband what he was, for example, he would probably just class himself as an "engineer" or "project manager" first and foremost. This does not mean that he does not take his responsibilities to his children any less seriously than I do - it is simply how his DNA has been conditioned to think. Maybe if there was more talk of working fathers I would be happier with the term working mother. One thing that will be interesting to see is if this will change going forwards as more men stay at home to look after the children.

(As a very slight aside, I was intrigued to find that if I Google both the term "working mothers" and "working fathers" there were actually more results (18.6m) for working fathers vs those for working mothers (9.7m), which goes against my argument above. However, the nature of the results was subtly different- if you look at the results, very few of those on the first page for working fathers actually use the term working as an adjective, but more as a verb - e.g. "working with fathers".)

I know I have a tendency to over-analyse things. Maybe that is what I am doing here. When all is said and done, maybe being a working mother is what best defines me - after all, I haven't been able to come up with a viable alternative yet!

Whether you are you a working mum, or a SAHM - does the label bother you, or do you just accept the fact that it is a necessary shorthand?

Monday, 20 September 2010

My Life In Numbers


7: hours spent gardening over the weekend
29: number of plants still sitting in pots that need to go into the garden
4: limbs currently aching
2: Blogs I want to update
96: number of unread items currently in my Google Reader (down from 134)
6: number of things I need to make appointments with the doctor about (none of them serious, before you ask)
3: loads of washing waiting to be ironed
5: other things on my "critical to-do" list
8: number of times I have fiddled with my curtains in order to try and get optimal light level

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Gallery - A Celebration

Bear with me here, I think I'm going to need to explain this one...

This week's Gallery topic is "A Celebration". Now, I could have posted lovely photos of weddings, birthdays, Christmas including lots of happy smiley faces. This left me with a dilemma. Whilst I have been known to share the odd photo or two on the blog, I do generally try and avoid them, and I don't really want to post pictures of friends and family without their knowledge/consent.

Of course, we had the ideal opportunity at the weekend. As I mentioned in my previous post, we spent the weekend at the 40th birthday party of an old friend. Much food, laughter and merriment* ensued. I may or may not have posted a picture on Twitter of myself drinking white wine straight from the bottle. Ahem.

I don't know about you, but there is something about too much alcohol that causes everyone I know to randomly start taking photos of inanimate objects. In the "olden days", i.e. pre-digital, this was the ultimate practical joke. You could guarantee that someone would have pinched your camera during the course of the evening, and you would never quite be sure what you would pick up from the developer (bread rolls, random feet, nostrils...). With digital such photos can easily be erased, which does take some of the fun out of things.

So in the spirit of nostalgia for parties past, this, ladies and gentlemen, is my photo for A Celebration.

I give you - Disco Balls:

Exhibit 1: Drunk Photo


*OK, I mean copious amounts of booze

Monday, 13 September 2010

Naughty Step

2010-09-12_15-09-00_663_Little Packington.jpg
The lovely Pants with names has tagged me in the Naughty Step Meme. To be fair - she has probably forgotten this by now; not because she is pregnant, but purely because it is such a terribly LONG TIME AGO - a lifetime in blogging terms. (What can I say - this little baby has been neglected recently in favour of my newborn - I have been a fickle mummy of late. Must. Try. Harder).

So basically I have to tell you who I would like to put on the Naughty Step until they feel suitably chastened and regret their behaviour.

We spent the weekend at the 40th birthday party of an old (literally and figuratively - ha!) friend, and a wonderful time was had by all (more of that some other time, perhaps). We are lucky in that we have a close group of friends that have stuck around for a long time. However, this does mean we seem to spend weekends trundling around the highways and byways from one end of the country to another. Whilst heading "up north" on a motorway this weekend, I was therefore reminded of who I would like to put on the Naughty Step, namely:

Middle-lane hoggers.

There is always one, isn't there? Sitting there in the middle lane, despite the fact that all other lanes are clear ...

I don't understand it. I can only assume that they fall into one of three categories - either:
1) Elderly drivers, deaf, blind and completely oblivious to other people's pain and frustration
2) Total egomaniacs who think the world (and therefore the roads) revolve around them, or
3) American tourists who don't understand that undertaking is not allowed round these parts.

The last group is the only group I will vaguely consider to have a legitimate excuse. So, unless your name is Randy and Jolene from Little Rock, Arkansas - move over!

As this meme has been hanging around for such a long time, I won't pass it on to anyone - if you haven't done it yet, but would like to, consider yourself tagged, and tell us who you'd like to see on the Naughty Step?


Monday, 6 September 2010

Arthritis in Childhood

I was approached by Arthritis Research UK to see if I would mind writing a blog post to help raise awareness about Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA, or arthritis in childhood). I agreed mainly due to the very simple fact that my grandmother and other family members suffered quite badly from rheumatoid arthritis and I had (somewhat naively, perhaps) associated the condition with the elderly.


Of course it is not quite as simple as that - juvenile arthritis is the not same as rheumatoid arthritis, and having the former does not necessarily mean you will get the latter. There is also not one single type, but it appears that the most common type is most prevalent in young girls. Thankfully most children will grow out of the condition, but in a small number pain and discomfort will be severe. The most common symptoms include:


- pain and swelling of joints
- morning stiffness
- in very young children, it could cause difficulty in learning to walk. 
-of course as any parent knows, as very young child will not necessarily be able to tell a parent where the pain is coming from, so they might be generally moody and difficult.


however, rarer types might also include symptoms more usually associated with other illnesses (fevers, rashes etc).


If you think your child might be affected, your first step should of course be to contact your GP, but you can also find out more information by checking out the Arthritis Research UK website. 


Arthritis Research UK

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Gallery - One Day in August

29th August, 2010 - Glückstadt, Germany - Probably as far away from Bangladesh as you could imagine.




This post is for this week's Gallery.




The Gallery: Every Wednesday



Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Forgive Me, Mulberry, For I Have Sinned

Spot The Difference
 

I bought a new handbag at the weekend. This in itself is quite an event, as I don't normally "do" bags. 

I have also mentioned in a previous post that my dream handbag would be a Mulberry Alexa.  When wandering past our local Next, I spotted a bag in the window that looked sort of familiar. Even husband spotted it. "That's a blatant copy of an Alexa, isn't it?!" he said*. I ummed and ahhed and in the end decided to take the plunge - the pricetag was certainly a lot more palatable than a real one! Having stroked a "real" one, however, I must admit it hasn't satisfied my craving. 

In some ways I wonder how they get away with it, but I suppose they would say that there are enough differences to be obvious - the fact that it's not leather, and the two pockets at the front (hopefully the photo quality on the second is not too bad to make the resemblance obvious), but the inspiration is certainly clear. 

Does it matter? Why do I have a weird niggling feeling that my purchase is somehow not quite right?
-
(*Guess the brainwashing is working, then!)

Monday, 23 August 2010

If Women Ruled the World

President Tarja Halonen
Mari Kiviniemi
PM Mari Kiviniemi
If women ruled the world, things would all be different, right?

In June this year, Finland elected its second female Prime Minister. This came on top of already having the country's first female President. Hardly earth-shattering, you might say - we are not talking about a global superpower after all.

Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you with the details of Finland's political shenanigans (this lot have had more practice at coalition governments than the current UK coalition have had hot dinners and to be honest I don't understand the slightest bit about it). No, what really interested me is what having both a female head of government and a female head of state actually means for the day-to-day running of the country. Is it noticeable? 

Frankly, I don't really know. Having recently spent two weeks on holiday there doesn't really give me any sort of expertise on the subject. I would hardly say there was a significant "women are ruling this country" vibe, but then Finland is a pretty different sort of culture anyway. The truth of the matter is that Finland is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world (coming 3rd overall in the 2007 Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum, and having recently been declared Best Country in the World by Newsweek, based on a number of factors, one of which was Gender Equality- the UK coming 14th overall).

Given all of that maybe we should not expect to see too much change in Finland with both a female head of state and head of government. 

Let's take a look back at Britain's first and only dalliance with a female Prime Minister. Love or hate her (and she certainly seems to polarise opinion), there is no doubt that Margaret Thatcher certainly made an impact on the country. Whether she made a positive impact on women in politics is another question. Just a simple google search for this article seems to point to disappointment that her ascension to power did little or nothing to encourage more women to enter politics.  At one point Thatcher said: "I owe nothing to Women's Lib."

Every now and then for the tiniest split second, I get the mad idea in my head that I would like to enter politics - to make a difference and somehow do "my bit". Of course, if I think about it for more than that split-second, I realise that what I really mean is that I feel I should do more in my community - "politics with small p". The thought of party politics is pretty abhorrent to me. I don't think I'm thick-skinned enough, and I'm too easily swayed by other people's arguments! From talking to my friends and acquaintances about it, I think a lot of women feel the same.  

It won't stop me wondering though - what would it really be like if women ruled the world? Yes, it probably would be different, but are we really so naive as to think that all the problems of the human race would be solved? I for one doubt it - after all, when we can get so caught up in what is the right or wrong way to have and bring up children (see here for Gappy's excellent recent post on a similar subject if you have not already done so), you do have to wonder how we are ever going to agree amongst ourselves what the answer to society's ills are.

I don't know the answer. The fatalist in me thinks that the human race would probably still bumble along in more or less the same way - always genetically inclined to argue, fight and generally make a mess of the planet. The optimist in me would like to think that things would be that little bit better - I just wonder whether we will ever find out.

Which side of the fence do you fall on?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Wishing We'd Never Discovered Nick Jr


DD1 is eating strawberries. She is wearing a white top and dribbling strawberry juice down it.

Me: "DD1, watch what you are doing, you are getting strawberry juice down your top"
DD1: "Oh"
Me (muttering under my breath): "...strawberry juice... stains horribly...never come out"
DD1: "Don't worry mummy, you just need to put some Vanish on it."

Come back CBeebies, all is forgiven.


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(There's a longer post here somewhere on advertising and the effect on young children. Maybe I'll write it when I have a little more time to think.)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Telephobia
















I think I might be sufferering from Telephobia (also known as Telephonophobia, apparently) - a fear of speaking on the telephone.

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this. I have had various Twitter conversations with people who feel exactly the same, and if I do a quick internet search it brings up countless forums on the subject. On the one hand, I am happy to discover that I am not alone, or a complete freak for not liking to pick up the phone. On the other hand, I work for a telecoms company, so this is more than a little embarrassing.

I like to think that my affliction is on the mild side - however, recently I have started to notice that it may be starting to affect the smooth running of my family. My dust is piling up on the surfaces as I have not yet called the cleaner recommended by my neighbour. That dentist's appointment has not made itself. The swimming lessons that my children were given on holiday somehow weren't quite sufficient...

How did this happen? As a teenager, I used to spend hours on the phone to my friends (favourite phrase of my mother's: "but you only saw them at school!"), but I do now think that this was more of a strange hormonal aberration than typical behaviour for me.

Of course, these days I am reliably informed that teenagers spend all their time either on something called "FaceSpace" or txting on their phones - can any parents of teenagers confirm that they no longer have their landlines clogged up? Do your teenagers even know what a landline is?

I do wonder if modern technology is more than a little to blame for my aversion to picking up the dog 'n' bone. After all, given the choice, I would rather book an appointment online than pick up the phone. The invitations my children receive to parties these days invariably include a mobile phone number ("I'll just send them a text..."). I even recently got told off by my father for mainly communicating with my parents by email. At work we have e-mail, instant messaging and even an internal micro-blogging tool similar to Twitter enabling me to successfully avoid ever having to open my mouth.

Maybe it is time to pick up the phone and do something about it.

P.S.: Whilst rooting around on the net, I came across this blog post: http://www.sufferingfromanxiety.com/general/social-anxiety-do-you-have-telephonophobia that has some very simple tactics to help overcome this fear for anyone else that might be similarly afflicted.
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Update 17th August:. It seems that, according to this piece: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/07/st_thompson_deadphone I won't actually have to worry about this too much longer anyway - seems the phone call will soon be dead!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Introducing The Fantasy Decorator

I am truly blessed by the fact that my husband is an understanding soul. Or maybe he has already started divorce proceedings without my knowledge as he has finally realised that I have gone stark, raving, mad.

Obviously I have too much time on my hands. Not content with working full-time, having two small children, a household to run and a blog to write, one sleepless night I was gripped by the thought that "I...need...to...do...another...blog..."

Without any more beating about the bush, I therefore present to you The Fantasy Decorator, which I will be using going forward to indulge my love of property p*rn.

 If you get as excited as I do by teacups and doorknobs, feel free to take a look.

Don't worry, if bedside tables don't float your boat, just stick here for more of the same random ramblings.

(P.S. I've also set up a separate Twitter account @fantasydecor.)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Say Cheese

Source: Silvio Tanaka on Flickr
Are you photogenic?

There are some people that just seem to photograph well. They aren't even necessarily always the ones that you would consider good-looking in the flesh, but a camera lens does something magical to them and finds something in their features that instantly transforms them. There are also other people who look exactly the same on photos as they do in real life.

My children love having their photo taken - and with the advent of digital technology they can view themselves on the tiny LCD screen in an instant. They will happily pose with a radiant smile, or pull funny faces, or even on occasion look solemnly into the lens.

I think it is fair to say, however, that there are few adults that would share this natural affinity with model behaviour. I personally am finding that with age I seem to get more and more self-conscious about being photographed. This is something that occurred to me while looking through our holiday snaps. Whilst I don't actually mind being snapped when doing something else (I like to think I don't actually look too bad if taken unawares), I hate more than anything that horrible moment when I have to pose and "say cheese".

On my return to work yesterday I found a request for a photo to submit to some kind of org chart destined for an intranet site somewhere. I confess I panicked.

I basically have two posing faces; the first is some sort of demented grin with mad staring eyes and ridiculously chubby cheeks, and the second is my attempt to look sultry and basically ends up with me just looking grumpy and thoroughly miserable, neither of which particularly convey the image of friendly professionalism I wanted to portray.

In the end, hubby did a sterling job at taking an endless selection and I managed to narrow it down to something that looked vaguely human. However, if anyone has the secret to posed photos not making me look like a complete loon, answers on a disqus comment below, please!

Monday, 9 August 2010

I'm Baaaack!


At the risk of boring you all with the virtual equivalent of the holiday slide show (anyone else remember those, or was it just my parent's friends?) this is just a quick post to gloat about how fabulous our holiday was.

I know what you're thinking - "Finland? Hardly traditional holiday destination" - and to a certain extent you are right. However, in terms of the overall list of general criteria - namely weather (37 degrees!!), food (do love me a bit of reindeer, yum), attractions (daily beach and swim in the lake) - I think we managed to hit the jackpot.


Think the Finnish Tourist Board will employ me now?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Out of Office Autoreply


Thank you for visiting The Sardine Tin.

Unfortunately, I am now out of the office with little or no access to this blog while I take a much-anticipated and (hopefully) well-deserved break. As I couldn't be bothered to schedule posts or arrange guest posters, feel free to poke around in the archives if you like, or just disappear and come back in a couple of weeks.

Julie
x




Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Quick Plug For A Good Cause

This is just a very quick post to point you in the direction of something called the "Mona Lisa Million" being worked on by Dave at Mister Good Guy. This is a project that is trying to combine Website Promotion with supporting good causes. At the moment Dave has a limited number of free spaces going for anyone that would like to link their website, so if this is something that interests you, head over to Mona Lisa to check it out, where it is all explained much better than I could do! 

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Gallery - A Novel Idea

This week's Gallery Theme by Tara over at Sticky Fingers is "A Novel Idea". To quote Tara:

"A photograph which you think represents a favourite book or novel or even children's tale."


My chosen book this week: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, as it was a particular favourite of mine when I was a child. 


We are lucky enough to live relatively close to Bowood House, which every year opens up its "Rhododendron Walk" for a limited period only. We went for the first time a few weeks ago, and it really did feel like a secret garden, as there were very few people there at all (we hardly saw a soul), with lots of lovely nooks and crannies - great for playing hide and seek in. 









Sunday, 18 July 2010

RIP My Teenage Crush

DD1 and I were "enjoying" High School Musical over the weekend. I must confess, while I thought the film was harmless enough, it wouldn't normally be something I would choose to watch again. In some ways this surprised me a little. I'm normally a sucker for anything vaguely inappropriately too young for me. I have terrible taste in TV and films.

Don't get me wrong - I love a good documentary as much as the next pseudo-intellectual, and I do consider myself a bit of a current affairs junkie (I'm sure there's another post somewhere about my strange crush on John Humphrys, but this is not it), but I do like nothing more than watching a bit of trash that doesn't tax my mind too much.

However, I was a little sad to find that the male lead in HSM, a certain Zac Efron actually did nothing for me. I mean, look at him:


From a purely objective point of view I can see why millions of pre-pubescent girls swoon at the mere mention of his name. If I was twenty years younger I would probably be doing the same. Heck, if I were even ten years younger I would maybe secretly think he was a tad dishy.

The thing is, since having children of my own I just can't see teenage boys quite in the same way any more. I know you will tell me that most of the actors who play these sort of roles are normally considerably older than the boys they portray on screen (Efron, apparently is 22 - the actors who play some of the lead roles in Glee, for example, are also well into their mid- to late-20s).

This does concern me somewhat. Traditionally it is fair to say that I have generally gone for older men. There comes a point though, where this starts to limit the "laminated list" somewhat. After all, despite seemingly getting better with age, even George Clooney will eventually start to lose his looks, and I don't think I am quite ready to look at Mick Jagger in quite that way yet...


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Sparks of Uncreativeness

I haven't been feeling very creative recently.

The blog posts have dried up a little (certainly in comparison to a couple of weeks ago!). Mainly this is down to the fact that work has been ridiculously busy and I therefore have less thinking time. However, even at work my lack of creativity has been noticeable. I have a couple of things I have needed to do that, whilst not really a full-flung artistic extravaganza, are what I would vaguely class as "more creative than normal" - i.e. involving having to think about words and images.

I happened to catch a snippet of a programme on Radio4 last week called Grayson Perry on Creativity and Imagination. Sadly for some reason this is not available as a "listen again" option on the Radio4 website, and I therefore only have the few minutes I caught to go on. It essentially seemed to be a list of what he considered myths about Creativity and the creative process. The gist of his argument seemed to be that artistic creativity was neither easy nor particularly exciting (a lot of the creative process being "dull and repetitive" once the original idea had struck).

To quote from a synopsis of the programme:
"Grayson wants to (...) show how creativity isn't a mystery, but at the same time it isn't necessarily easily accessible."

I can see the argument that says that if it was easy, there would be thousands of great works of art by millions of people. However, what I didn't agree with was the inference that you somehow had to be special to be creative.*

A lot of the joy in writing this blog is not necessarily down to the fact that I have some kind of strange idea that I am going to get discovered for my fantastic writing - I have no such delusions. I have come to terms with the fact that I am never going to be a "creative genius". I can't take a decent photograph to save my life. My work will never appear in a great gallery or library. I do believe, however, that in their own way everyone can be creative.

You only have to look at the joy with which small children scribble their way through life, drawing everyone and everything with complete abandon. Why is this something that seems to be drummed out of us as we go through life, discouraged and disillusioned by both internal and external critics?

I would loveto rediscover some of that joy of experimenting, of letting myself go with something just to see what happens. Whether real life will really let me remains to be seen.

See full size image

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*Obviously I am making a big assumption that this was how the argument was going to pan out - as I said, I was unable to listen to the whole of the programme, so may well have got the wrong end of the stick. Feel free to correct me if you heard it!


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Who Loves Ya, Ruby Woo?


I am finally a grown-up. I have bought a red lipstick.

I actually bought it a while ago at Heathrow on my last trip out to Dubai, and have worn it the grand total of twice since then. This to me is completely irrelevant, for a red lipstick is something I have been hankering after for a long time. It is one of those iconic things that women are "supposed to have", like the perfect LBD (little black dress, for any men reading), the perfect pair of jeans, the perfect white shirt, a signature fragrance.... Apparently it's a STAPLE.

Despite the fact that I regularly wear make-up, I like to think I don't wear huge quantities of it - a slick of mascara, maybe a smudge of eyeshadow if I am trying to impress. I almost never wear lipstick, yet I possess quite a few in varying shades of nude, plus one or two bolder colours that seemed like a good idea at the time. And now - finally - red.

In my dreams, I suppose I imagined that I would wear red lipstick and look like a 1940s Hollywood siren. In reality, I only hope I don't end up looking like a little girl that has been playing with grandma's make-up.

I admit it - the lady on the MAC counter at Heathrow knew exactly what to say; "I prefer this one on you, it makes your eyes look really blue".

Ker-ching.

I must be a marketing manager's wet dream when it comes to lotions and potions. I am seduced by pretty packaging and promises of unbelievable results. Fake tan that doesn't streak, dry shampoo that gives your hair that "freshly washed" look, eye cream that de-puffs and de-bags, cellulite creams, nail hardener, foot polisher, hair remover... the list is almost endless. All these things lanquish half used in a cupboard somewhere.

Not all women are like this. However, from purely personal experience I think there are probably more women this applies to than would like to admit it - even women that class themselves as "low-maintenance" when it comes to beauty products.

Are we really all shallow creatures that can be bought with a promise? Or is it just me?

After all - it's only a bit of coloured grease.

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