Wednesday, 1 October 2014

thinking of songs that mean a lot to me

A friend has tagged me to put up a list of ten songs that mean a lot to me. 

It's a surprisingly personal journey, and I'm not quite sure of how much to share, but let's share the songs at least, eh? With a wee cryptic note sometimes. In no particular order:

1. Earth, Sun, Moon by Love and Rockets because of the afternoon I first heard it, which was an afternoon full of possibilities.

2. Beyond Love by The The, because someone sent it me once, and it made me change my mind.

3. Too Much Too Young by The Specials, because someone sent it to me once, and it didn't make me change my mind, although it did make me think.

4. My Old Man by Joni Mitchell (really anything off the Blue album) - because of drinking wine and being all by myself. I love to sing along with all the songs on this album, and I'm aware I do it badly, often with tears rolling down my cheeks. I love the way Joni crams words into her songs.

5. The Things that Dreams are Made of by Human League - because of dancing with my brother in the kitchen.

6. Hotel California by the Eagles, because of someone singing it to me at the Hyde Park bus stop.

7. I love Rock n Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (not Britney, although I do love Britney), because of the best proposal I ever had, and because it's just plain awesome.

8. I Don't Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith, because it's the best parental love song ever, and it always makes me cry, although it is a little too creepy to sing to one's children! Mind you, we could do this in choir, right? Also Steve Tyler.

9. Ivy Ivy Ivy by Primal Scream, because I have a feeling it is always going to be true, and because it kept me alive during one of the most difficult times in my life. I cannot get the video to appear below for some reason, but you can see Bobbie Gillespie looking vacant while singing it here.

10. Celebrate by Fields of the Nephilim, because it feels like it is within me. All the other songs do somehow relate to other people, and I thought I needed one that was all about me. This is just perfect. I love the Fields, and this is my favourite (probably, although this is my favourite video - the blue angel bit), if you're going to listen though, I wouldn't bother watching, as it's mainly just a hat on stage.

So, what about you? Can you name ten songs that mean a lot to you? Please share.

Other posts you might like:

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

a Mummy blogger: why put maternal status before your job?

Cara McKee: Mummy and blogger
Australian blogger, Em Rusciano, recently had this to say about being a Mummy blogger:
"I am not a Mummy Blogger, I am not a Mummy anything!"
And she's right. Too often, women are defined by their maternal status (or their marital status) before their work is considered. In the UK women's titles still tell you whether or not she's married (and the Ms option is often referred to sneeringly), while men's don't. Why not? Because marital status is not expected to have any impact on a man's work, whereas for women there are still expectations that she will put her family before work.

Let us hope she does. Let us hope that men do too.

Too often, when we hear about women politicians and businesswomen, we hear about the number of children they have, and the shoes they wear. It's as if they papers want to say, 'look, she's done well, even though she has children' (with a subtext of 'she's fobbing her children off on someone else to look after').

I could go on, and on, and on. Let us just say that women's work, women's interests, and girl's interests are still perceived as being lesser, which is evidenced in the way we talk about things, in the way girls are encouraged to play with 'boy's' toys, and yet, 'girl's' toys are seen as limiting. It is also evidenced in terms like 'Mummy blogger'.

I am a Mummy blogger. I am a Mummy, and I am a blogger. I expect that my experience of mothering impacts on the content, and indeed the tone of my posts. But that's not all that makes me different. I am a Yorkshire born woman living in Scotland. I am a sociologist and a goth. I am a sister. I have a lifetime of experiences which make me different to everyone else, but the easiest bracket to put me in is to call me a Mummy blogger, and that is fine, because people need to find things to read somehow, and I am a Mummy. I am not limited to that, but I should also not be limited by that.

I just don't believe that it is possible to achieve equality without raising our opinion on women's and girl's things; to believe that women can only be equal with men if we are the same, which always seems to mean like men, is a phallicy.

So, I'm a Mummy blogger, which is a fine kind of blogger to be.

Other posts you might like:

Sunday, 28 September 2014

finding out: What's life coaching all about? A guest post from Leyla Kerlaff

So, I'd heard of this life coaching thing, and I was a little bit interested, but wondered if it was really any use, you know? 

And then Leyla, a friend I used to work with, and a woman I admire and respect, told me she was now a life coach. I asked her to explain what it was all about... And here's what she said.

Leyla and baby
Life Coaching - by Leyla Kerlaff

Coaching, for me, is about figuring out what you really want, and helping you to achieve it. A coach should be able to skilfully guide you on your journey, to help you gain clarity about what it is that you are really passionate about achieving in your personal and professional life, and support you on your journey to make it a reality.

So when might you benefit from coaching? Coaching can be particularly useful at times of transition in your life, to help you reflect on, and take decisions about which direction to take in your personal and professional life. For example: if you are thinking about returning to paid work after a period of staying at home to look after your children; adapting to being a stay at home parent; wanting to change career; or just feeling lost and wanting to find your path.

The power of being coached is greater than I anticipated when I started out on my own journey. My personal experience of the process has given me some very powerful insights into how my own beliefs and behaviours have been holding me back from enjoying life fully. As a mother of three, I have first hand experience of returning to paid work after having one, then two children and then (third time lucky) of leaving a stable, permanent job to follow my heart and set myself up as a life coach. I know how tough it can be to find the balance between ‘giving out’ to your family and job, and ‘giving in’ to your self. 

However blissful (or not) that period of giving yourself over to looking after a wholly dependent baby is, and whether you are returning to paid work or not, the transition back to regaining some independence from your children can be a really emotional journey.

For me, and, I know I am not alone in feeling this, the problem begins with knowing what I want for myself, never mind knowing how to get it. A skilled coach can support and constructively challenge you in a way that those who are closest to you sometimes can’t, for fear of upsetting you, or because they are too close to be objective. From a personal perspective, I was once asked in a coaching session: “are you taking responsibility for yourself?” At the time, I had been offended by the question – I take responsibility for everyone! But, while storming across a deserted beach on the Isle of Tiree last summer, feeling utterly churned up with emotion and depleted of energy, I suddenly realised what she had meant. I had, for years, believed that my own happiness was dependent on how happy I made others, and had become so used to trying to second-guess what they wanted, that I had been abdicating responsibility for making myself happy. Instead of seeing this as a ‘failure’ and berating myself for it, I used my coaching sessions to help me to find the confidence to nurture my own feelings and thoughts, and really give myself space and time to figure out what I wanted. What I wanted was to set up my own coaching practice, and I’m so happy to have found the confidence to go for it, and to do it my way.

My way is to work intuitively in helping you to connect with your own inner guide. I believe very strongly that we each need to discover what works for us, in our own way, and in our own time. I use my facilitation skills to support you to do this through visualisation, relaxation techniques and deep questioning.

Coaching is a structured process, which allows each individual flexibility to explore what they want to, in their own way and at their own pace. The first session is spent developing a goal that truly inspires you, based on where you are right now, and where you would like to be in the next twelve months. Subsequent sessions are spent developing that vision; breaking it down to better understand the challenges and obstacles that may be preventing you from achieving it; and developing sustainable strategies to help you overcome them.

To find out more, give me a call or have a look at my website. There’s no charge for a first informal meeting with me, and I’m offering a substantial discount to the first ten clients to book in for six sessions.

I look forward to joining you on your own journey! You can contact me on 07814 851 303 or at

Leyla Kerlaff

Thursday, 25 September 2014

throwing a birthday party: the big girl turns 7

The big girl turned seven this month, and wanted an at-home party (happily, not at my home, but her Grandparents). She is awfully particular about the games she is willing to play, so I did a lot of research for the party, and I thought I'd share it with you, in the hopes that you might get any inspiration you require.

Guest List

I think it is reasonable for an at-home party, not to invite everyone in the class. To be honest, I'm not keen on inviting everybody anyway. My children know who their friends are, and they want to celebrate with them.  In my daughter's case, she wanted to invite her circle of good friends, but as her brother, and little sister were going to be there too, she invited a sibling of a friend for each of them. We ended up with a total of 13 (including my children).

It's possible to run a party by yourself, but easiest to have help. I ran the games while the Grandparents and Kenny sorted out the party table.

Setting up

We were fortunate in that my daughter wanted to have her party at her Grandparent's house (and they agreed), so they could do a lot of the set up for us. We had balloons, birthday banners, and party tableware. Granny also put some effort into cutting coasters out of the patterned paper napkins, which was really cute. Granny fixed balloons to the doors of all the rooms in the house that party people were allowed to go in. This was an easy rule to follow.  It is preferable to have some outside space if possible.


Two hours is long enough for a party with games. It gives you time for lots of fun, for party food, and for everyone to go home when they're starting to flag. We had the big girl's party on a Friday afternoon 4-6pm. This was not such a good idea, because the girls were tired from school, however, there were a lot of events on in the town over the weekend, so it seemed the best time.


I found it easiest to have a party playlist on my 'phone. This had some One Direction songs, tempered with popular songs like Happy and Gangnam Style. We're thinking dancing. Had we been at home, we would have used this with no problem, but I was glad I checked my setup at the Grandparent's house. It turned out that the bluetooth on their stereo wasn't talking to mine, and the jack I'd brought didn't fit my new 'phone! (Seriously Google Nexus! It needs extra long jacks and extra long chargers. Grr). Happily, I'd only just switched over and had my old 'phone to hand, so used that on the jack instead.


The big girl will not play any games that involve getting messy. As these seem to be the games I think of first, we needed to come up with some other options.  Here is what we went for:
  • Pass the parcel: I made sure there was a layer each, and put a sweetie in each layer. You can put small presents in, if you don't want to overdo it with the sweets, but then you need to have somewhere to put them all. I put two prizes in one big parcel, so there were two winners. This game needs to be set up in advance, with at least two colours of wrapping paper, so people know where to stop unwrapping. When you're stopping the music, try to ensure that everyone gets a turn. But if it does stop on the same person twice, they're usually happy to pass it to the next person who's not had a go.
  • Musical statues: You know the drill, you play the music, preferably something very upbeat, the kids dance and when the music stops, if they move they are out. I tend to give a sweet when they are out, to soften the blow. 
  • Musical cushions: Like musical chairs, except with less solid objects being moved about. You throw cushions on the floor, and when the music stops the children have to find a cushion and sit on it. You remove a cushion each time someone is out, until there is a winner. Keep the cushions well spaced out, and make sure the children move around the room, not just hogging a cushion.  Children seem to enjoy choosing a cushion to remove when they go out.
  • Other musical games: There are so many variations on this game. Musical bumps (sit on the floor when the music stops - last one down is out). Musical monsters (monster faces, last one is out). Musical angels (hands together, innocent face, and singing 'ahhhh', while remaining still - a bit Doctor Who that one), etc.
  • Pin the tail on the donkey: There are lots of variations on this too. Stick the clown on the nose, stick the cutlass on the pirate, stick the tiara on the princess etc. You can buy kits for not much money, or you can make your own. We found a printable pin the tail on the donkey here, coloured it in, and stuck it to cardboard, and with an old blindfold from a pinata set, we were good to go. Spin people round a bit, and let them stick or pin. Nearest to the right place wins.
  • Treasure hunt: If your birthday is near Easter, you can do an egg hunt. Otherwise,
    Butterfly hunting
    weather dependent, you can hide small objects, playing cards, or shapes around the garden, or inside.  For the big girl's party, we had butterflies (cut out with a butterfly cutter), previously we've done pirate coins in the garden, and wooden stars.  It works especially well if you have different colours (or suits with playing cards), and the children need to collaborate to ensure they've got one of each (or just three different ones). You can help ensure everyone will get a chance by ruling that everyone can only have three in their hands at once, and they need to swap them to get three to exchange for a prize.
  • Dress up: Split everyone into two teams. Each team forms a relay to dress up one person with as many silly clothes as you can find. There needs to be a pile of silly clothes at one end of the room and the people at the other. This works very well if it's Mum's clothes in the pile, and you've got two Dads to dress up. At the big girl's party we dressed up the two boys in dressing up stuff. You then need a judge to declare one team the winner. No-one seems to mind who this is, as it's a fun game.

You can make it as fancy or not as you like. We did sandwiches, pizza, sausage rolls, mini sausages, veggie sticks and hummus, grapes, strawberries, biscuits, crisps, mini cakes, and of course THE BIRTHDAY CAKE. I was asked not to bake one this year, because the girl wanted to have the same cake as one of her friends. It's all good. I like to put all the non-pudding items out first, then do the birthday cake, and serve mini cakes and biscuits after the cake. Don't forget to get some matches, or find a friend that smokes. You don't have to do any hot food, but the kids ate the pizza and sausage rolls in preference to the sandwiches. If you pass the veggies around, the children mainly seem to take some.  The amount of food you need will depend on what time of day your party is at. 

Change it up

Just playing games at a party might work well for some children, but the kids at the big girl's party were getting restive after lots of party games, pizza, and chocolate, so we took them down the road to visit the local castle.

Having something else to focus on, and doing something different, helped everyone to calm down a bit, and gave everyone something to talk about.

If for some reason you don't have a local castle, you can take them out to a play park (you might want to take some medals or stickers with you for races). And if you need to stay at home, doing something crafty can help bring everyone back into focus. You could make bracelets, or decorate a felt bag for your party favours. If you're doing crafty things, it can be good to do them at the start of the party, and move the food to the end, rather than in the middle.

What did you do for the last party you organised?

Other posts you might like:

The little girl had a hospital appointment on Tuesday and she now has her cast off. She has been growing new bone to fix the old one, and it is amazing how the body works. She was thrilled to bits to get the cast off.

I have finally come to the end of the six weeks away from the book; the time in between finishing draft one and starting draft two. It was so good to get back to it yesterday, and I've been working out some neglected back story, and generating some characters who really should have been there all along. They're there now, and will get properly weaved in during the redrafting process.

Monday, 22 September 2014

finding the prophet's grave: a walk near Largs

My youngest daughter has got to that age where she's dropped her last day time nap, but she can't quite make it through the afternoon without it yet.

I've been taking her out for some fresh air after lunch. 

One day recently, she was really tired, so I popped her in the bike trailer, in the hopes that she'd nod off, and cycled up Brisbane Glen Road. I say 'cycled'. Truth be told, I'm out of practice, and she is four and awfy heavy, so there was a lot of walking done. It was while I was walking that I spotted this gate.  It's on the left, on your way out of Largs up Brisbane Glen Road.

The Writing on the gate reads: Prophet's Grave: 1857 - 1955

There is a grassy path behind the gate, so I pulled the bike off the road, and left it with the hedge (to the right behind the gate), and got the little girl out to see where the path led.

It leads toward some trees, and there are benches to sit on and enjoy the view if you wish, but really, it isn't far from the road, before you reach the trees, where the path doubles back and you see this gorgeous wee bridge.

The bridge is tiny, and the walls are the kind that come across as more of a trip hazard than a safety feature. But isn't it cute?

You cross the bridge, and just go a tiny bit further before you get the the grave itself.

It's in a lovely setting, but looking a bit dilapidated. No matter, there is a plaque, which explains a bit about the grave (with some lovely old style spelling which I've reproduced). There is a bit in Latin too, which I've reproduced as it is currently written:
Heir layeth M William Smith, Minister of Larges. A faithfull minister of the gospell removed by the pestilence 1647.
Conditus in tumulo hoc jaceo juvenisque senexque, nempe annis juvenis sed pietate senex divino eloquio coelestia dogmata vidi, abstersi tenebras mentibus ore tonans. Attonitoque haesit animo pervera mallorum colluvies verbis improba facta meis.
"Buried in this tomb I lie, at the same time a youth and an old man - young in years and old in piety. By the divine spirit I have seen divine truths, and have dispersed darkness from the mind, thundering with loud voice. There cleaved to my feelings a very horror of wickedness, and to my words reproach of wicked deeds." Latin translation from Wikipedia.

We cannot be quite clear if this is exactly what was written on the original tomb, as it was renewed in 1710 and 1760, and then the original tombstone was copied when the site was restored in 1956.

So, why is Rev Smith referred to as a prophet?

The story goes that a plague (probably typhus, spread by human lice) hit Largs in 1647. Rev Smith had been a Minister in Largs since 1644, and was one of many people who moved outwith the town (many living in ramshackle huts) to avoid contracting the illness, but sadly to no avail. He carried on tending to his parishioners and found that he, himself contracted the illness, which brought agonising stomach pains, high fever, and confusion. When he knew he was dying he asked that two yew trees be placed either end of his grave. He said that should the trees ever meet,  the plague would return. William Smith was 28 when he died.

Local people have, since then, trimmed the trees to ensure that does not happen.  There was a period when the grave was forgotten by many, and there were outbreaks of cholera in the town, but it is now maintained again.

My Latin is truly horrible, but I do wonder if there is a suggestion that this might be the grave of more victims of the plague that befell Largs, and not just Rev Smith?

For more on this, check out this really useful website, and also this one.

What walks have you discovered near you?

Other posts you might like:

Update on the broken arm: The little girl is doing amazingly well, and we have an appointment tomorrow at the hospital, so we'll know then if she's to keep the cast on a bit longer or not.  Fingers crossed!


Friday, 19 September 2014

reflecting on the Scottish referendum: Scotland has decided, and further powers will be devolved.

I voted yesterday, in the Scottish independence referendum. 

It seems like the campaigning about it has been going on for at least a year, and the wait for the referendum itself has been going on for as long as I have lived in Scotland (and probably much longer than that).

I know a lot of people enjoyed the debate, and a lot of people have been glad to see public interest in politics. Personally I thought it was a shame that both campaigns used negativity. There were good reasons to vote both ways, and I would rather have seen those highlighted. Instead, both sides were guilty of scaremongering, both sides have accused the other of lying, and it's really hard for people to know what's true.

There's a lot of distrust of Westminster based politicians in Scotland, and with good reason. Scotland, like many other parts of the United Kingdom, is widely overlooked, and was memorably used as a test bed for the poll tax in the past. Obviously that test didn't work so well, because they rolled the poll tax out. Oops. Now lots of people are finding it hard to believe that Westminster politicians will live up to their promises of more devolved power.

Anyway, Scotland has spoken, and decided to remain in the union. But a large minority wanted independence, and they are understandably upset this morning. That large minority may not have won the referendum, but it is because of them that Westminster has promised increased devolution. They should be proud of themselves for that.

This morning some right wing Westminster politicians are decrying the devolution of further powers to Scotland, and they are entitled to their opinion. Further devolution will be negotiated, and will not just be to Scotland. Wales should also get more powers, and it is right that England will have things which only English MPs can vote on, especially if we are to disentangle our welfare systems. I am really excited about what further devolution might look like, and glad that David Cameron has talked about giving more powers to cities too. I think that if the UK gets this right (and that is going to take a lot of talking, and some compromise), we could provide a template for other countries. One about working together, respecting opinions, and being inclusive.

There are hurt feelings on both sides this morning - Yes voters because they had hoped for a chance to do things differently, and they don't trust Westminster politicians; English unionists because they just like things the way they are. I hope we can overcome those differences in the weeks and months ahead, and work together, to make things better for everyone.

Other posts you might like:

Thursday, 18 September 2014

going back to school with Getting Personal

OK, so this is a little bit late, and I'm sorry about that, but perhaps if your children are finding it tricky settling in to a new class, these could perk them up a bit... and they'd also make good birthday presents.

I should note that I'm not being paid for this post, but I did get the stuff for free, and what great stuff! I got one present for each of the children, so let me tell you about them:

First up I got a notebook for the big girl. She loves to play schools, and a notebook will encourage her to do more writing, which is always a good thing, right?  This one is a cute design and is totally personalisable. We've put her name on it, and an encouraging message. This is one of LOADS of notebooks, many of which are beautifully personalisable, which you'll find over at the Getting Personal website.  Here's the link for notebooks.

As you can see, she's a big fan, and look! The owl matches her school uniform.  The notebook costs £5.99, is lovely quality, and ringbound, and it arrived in just a few days.

Next up we got a personalised book on starting school for the little girl. It's got a cute bunny on it, and her name on every page (sometimes several times). It is suitable for boys and girls, and the story is not bad. Not on a par with The Gruffalo, but fine. She absolutely loved being able to spot her name on every page.

Now the little girl is 4, and if we lived in England she'd be starting school this year. I would say that this book is about the right age for her now. We live in Scotland, and she's got a year left of nursery before starting school, and I'm glad we've got the book now. It's good for working up to the idea of her being in school (which I'm sure will be fine, but starting nursery was sooo hard for her).  The book costs £9.99, and you'll find it here. It took just over a week to arrive.

The little girl was too busy reading the book to pose with it, as you can see, so I've used the stock picture from the website so you can see what it looks like.

Last up is the pencil case I got for the boy. It is HUGE! Much bigger than it looks on the website, but it seems well constructed, and the boy has whisked it straight off to school. He loves it. He reckons he'll be able to get the contents of his school drawer into it.

This is one of a few different pencil cases available from Getting Personal, and you'll find them all here.

I can't be completely sure, but I think the pencil case was sent to us from China. It took over a fortnight to arrive, so don't leave it until the last minute!

To tell the truth, I approached Getting Personal to ask if I could do this blog post, because I am a big fan. All their stuff is well done, and high quality. I especially love their personalised calendars, which make excellent Christmas presents (if, like me, you're already thinking Christmas presents). You'll find lots of calendars here.

Have you bought anything that was personalised?  What did you get?