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This is a usual sight for us (well, more my husband) when we go out to eat. There’s a whole bunch of photos with me concentrating on my phone, with my mouth wide open, before this one. Then I noticed when the other half was doing. I’m no photographer but I think I am obsessed with taking food photos whenever we go out somewhere. That’s just normal, right? We both like to eat but I’m one of *those* people, the one that has to take photos before we tuck in. It means no-one is allowed to touch it before I’m done. Little Z is used it now but the baby not so much. For now I sometimes catch a cute little fist trying to swipe something.

I’m mostly used to people at other tables rolling their eyes (or whatever) and hardly now care. I do try to be discrete about it but sometimes it takes time, doesn’t it? Especially if it’s not quite set right, or it’s a bit out of focus, or the light is bouncing straight off the shiny smooth cutlery.

Ideally, I think I’d love to just stand on the chair and do it from a greater height to get more empty space in but a) Restaurants probably frown on that and b) I’m not totally bonkers, yet. Still, completely normal. Right?

Photalife

We all know the NHS has been in trouble with its funding for quite some time. The reasons have always been around funding but the media coverage wasn’t great, to say the least, so it’s been nicely brushed under the carpet for a while. Our one big out of sight, out of mind thing that looks like it’s about to blow up.

You know what’s scarier than the media not giving a serious issue appropriate coverage? It’s when every tabloid out there, regardless of affiliation, giving it the same coverage, continuously for weeks. NHS crisis is finally on all the front pages and it’s awful and scary to see. Well, besides a few that are on a different planet this week and think all things Trump are more pressing than our national health service.

We should be terrified for our older generation and those in need right now. And indeed for the next few years. You only have to glance at #NHSCrisis on Twitter and on other social media platforms to see some of the shocking incidents that really shouldn’t be happening in a world class health care system in a first world country. In Theresa May (and her profusely nodding Jeremy Hunt) land, this translates to a “few incidents”.

Just some of these are…

The Red Cross calling the whole thing a “humanitarian crisis”. (Whilst it’s not in a war situation, surely alarm bells should be ringing in Jeremy’s ears when the RED CROSS say it’s problematic?).

20 hospitals declaring a “black alert” – the highest level of alert used, when hospitals can’t guarantee patient safety.

Diversion of 42 ambulances to other hospitals in an A&E situation. Twice the number of this time last year.

Over 52,000 trolley waits over 4 hours. The worst since records began in 2010.

Cancer operations being cancelled and suspected stroke victims having to wait over 11 hours to be seen.

Patients dying, including a woman waiting over 35 hours in a Worcestershire hospital corridor.

A lot of these are being reported not only by the tabloids, but supported by doctors themselves and I’ve never seen so many medics write so passionately about the current situation.

The two huge reasons for all of this have been cited as billions cut from social care and “chronic” underfunding of the NHS in general. Social care funding has been cut, in real terms, by 11%, a large part of which affects older and disabled people, and those in care homes. Less care and beds in care homes means slower transitions out of hospitals and beds being taken up for longer. The same for mental health. More funding has been promised for mental health care by Theresa May herself but no promises of when it might arrive.

Corporation tax cuts on the other hand, are being sped through quickly, because we are open for business blah di blah and one wouldn’t want to let a little thing like paying their rightfully owed tax stand in the way of letting huge companies make a tidy profit. One wonders why we shouldn’t keep corporation tax at its current levels and feed the money made straight into where the NHS needs it the most. The same goes for all the money we’re making from those cluster bombs we’re dropping on Yemen now. I didn’t even know we were doing that until Simon Pegg popped up on my Facebook a couple of days ago. That has to add to up to a bit doesn’t it? And the £350million we’ll save (but not really because of the rebate) from our EU fee post Brexit. The government has cash. It’s infuriating to see them stand by and not fix this genuine crisis happening before our eyes.

Simon Stevens, NHS CEO has said himself they didn’t get as much as requested and the deficit amounts to a £30billon gap by 2020, with £22billion bizarrely intending to come from efficiency savings. So £8billion in real money.

May now thinks the solution is for GPs to open for longer, taking the strain off A&E. I’m not quite sure what kind of GP surgery she has. I spent a lot of time at mine last year with a new baby and small child that was catching everything, and never once did I spot a ward of beds intended to house stroke or cancer patients. Does Theresa May even understand how any of the public health services works or does she think everyone blocking a bed in A&E has a GP treatable ailment?

I’m not quite sure what Jeremy Hunt thinks about this whole thing but I always want whatever he’s having. He always looks so calm and collected, even when things are imploding all around him. I did come across an article about how he wrote a book on denationalising the NHS. Of course, he may have just been writing a pros and cons list. Kinda like Boris Johnson did with his Brexit views. It’s called “Direct Democracy: An agenda for a new model” if you like that kind of bed time reading.

The more you look at the powers that be, the more you worry. Not only for the future of the NHS, but whether this is a sign of things to come for when we finally trigger the elusive Article 50. We are handing over total control of a LOT to our current government and, so far, they haven’t been able to fix our own home grown health care institution.

You know how throughout 2016 we braced ourselves for the next celebrity death? I think 2017 (and beyond) might be time to watch some of our much loved public services disappear as we know them. 

References

http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/our-work/projects/state-nhs-finances-and-£22bn-efficiency-challenge

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nhs-crisis-latest-jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-denial-gps-scapegoating-labour-leader-conservative-prime-a7527191.html?amp

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/www.independent.co.uk/voices/letters/dont-forget-about-mental-health-when-discussing-the-nhs-crisis-a7527306.html%3Famp?client=safari

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/11/jeremy-corbyn-theresa-may-pmqs-live/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-hunt-privatise-nhs-tories-privatising-private-insurance-market-replacement-direct-democracy-a6865306.html?amp

https://amp.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/11/nhs-crisis-20-hospitals-declare-black-alert-as-patient-safety-no-longer-assured

When I look back it’s been quite a long week really. We’ve finally gone back to school after about 17 days off work and school and got back into routine. This is where I kind of regret throwing kiddie bedtime out the window.  
The night before school was a bit painful dragging Z into bed and having him ask me a billion questions about how different things are made, just to avoid going to sleep. Tuesday morning was a bit of a shock to the system but all we all survived in one sleepy piece and bedtime was bang on track again that night with all of us collapsing into sleep early ish. Our routine got scuppered slightly by the end of the week when I caught a bad cold and had to spend two days in bed feeling like a drugged up zombie. Cold and flu max tablets are magic though. They really take the edge of it all don’t they? As does comfort food.  

I had grand plans to start eating healthy again in January and I find myself almost mid-month now and still seeking out puddings with custard. As the daylight (and my immune system) have been rubbish, I figure another two weeks of heart  and belly warming food isn’t going to hurt. It’ll be February before we know it and I fully intend to start exercising. I do I do I do. 

Photalife

We’re still on our school and work holidays and I have to keep reminding myself we only have 3 days left. Argggh. It’s been a really lovely two weeks of hibernating, immense de-cluttering (how do we have so much crap just in one year??) and the odd trip out to eat, get some fresh air and to generally mingle with other humans. I’ve realised I don’t know how to just sit and chill out. I have to be doing something or need something to look forward to. I may have to relearn how to relax this year and unwind a bit. I think maybe running after two kids and a job can do that to you. Having said that, I can’t honestly remember properly much of what we’ve done over the last fortnight as we couldn’t even be bothered with the sales. I did a lot online for the boys and we were done.

What I do remember is that we went to the Manchester winter wonderland one day just after Christmas. It was SO nice and quiet as I think most people were still finishing off turkey leftovers or hitting the sales. I’m not sure there’s that much to do if you’re an adult, but its amazing for kids that love funfair rides (as well as big kids that love funfair rides). We managed to have a lot of fun and just ran about giving Little Z company on all of them as he didn’t want to sit alone. These are some of our photos from the evening. It’s been a long long time since I’ve sat on so many fun fair rides but it was mostly fun. Well, besides the one you sit on the choo choo train and your child dings the bell non stop for about 3 minutes.

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The Ordinary Moments


I’m terrible with New Years resolutions and gave up having them many moons ago. I am brilliant with new year wish lists though. Some of them I know I’ll achieve and some really are just wishes, for now anyway. But what’s a year without some wishing. So here’s everything I’d love to do this year…

1. Go to New York. I’ve wanted to go for so long and eater might be the perfect time. Trump presidency will still be in its infancy so it might not actually be that terrifying a place yet. I’m not sure we’ll make it with two very young ones, especially now the toddler just runs for his life any time we put him down but let’s see!
2. Discover the cure for cancer. This is something that’s more a HUGE wish and I’m unlikely to the find the actual cure myself. Could someone find one soon though? Each year more and more loved ones are affected and I’m forever catching up with the latest stage that friends affected by cancer are at and hoping their next painful chemo round will make it all better. I hate that they’re ill and wish we could get rid of it once and for all.  A cure in 2017 would be amazing!
3. Go back to Scotland. I’m not that fussy about which area, everywhere looks pretty beautiful. From scrutinising Google maps and Pinterest, I think I might like to do Glencoe and Isle of Skye region and maybe go on the Jacobite express. I have visions of chasing the toddler down the carriage repeatedly though. Shame you can’t strap them in on trains!  
4. Put the laundry away as soon as it’s dry. Why is this the hardest thing in the world to do? I am getting better but I’m still pretty rubbish at it if I’m very honest about it. 
5. Sort out Brexit. Is anyone even doing anything about it besides say things like “holding cards close to our chest?”. We have no plan, no aim or real targets and everything just looks a bit bad and clueless. Ideally, I’d just like to go to the EU and say we made a mistake. Oh how they will laugh. Failing that, maybe we really should try to recruit some actual experts into the team instead of some half hearted ministers that look like they really can’t be bothered with it all.  
6. Go see Conwy castle in Wales. My friend has told me a few times to go see it as I love a good wander about castles and all things history. I only recently clicked how close it is. One must go and check it out this year!
7. Write whatever the heck I want. I do sometimes stop myself from writing that potentially eyebrow raising post. I’d love to throw caution to the wind a bit more and write whatever the heck i want.
8. Visit a crisp factory.  Mr Not my year off took me to Cadburys chocolate factory this year and I don’t even like chocolate. I do love seeing how food is made though and it’s a brilliant place to visit. I think I can go through life now and maybe not visit a crisp factory (I do love crisps!) but if I find one then it would be rude not to go.  
9. Go see a bit more of Europe. We’re forever looking at far flung places and ignoring lovely Europe because it’s right on our door step. It’s looking so much more appealing now that the baby is able to toddle about non stop. Maybe Florence, and Venice, and Naples, and Pisa …and just Italy really.
10. Say what i think. I’ve gotten a million times better at airing my grievances. I will never be that mic drop girl as I always think of the right thing to say about 3 hours after the event but I’m getting there. Remember when Rachel from Friends confronted her boss Joanne whilst blubbing? That’s the stage I’m at.
11. Discover new places to eat. I think if there was a Good foods similar to Good reads, I’d completely smash my target, ring the bell right at the top and abseil down like a pro.  
12. Get better at indoor wall climbing. I can do all the kiddie walls really really well as we do them so much with Z. Maybe it’s time to buy some proper climbing shoes and move onto more adult walls. 
13. Learn to swim better. This is my hardest goal. I *think* I can do 25 metres but very badly. I haven’t swam in over 20 years. I just go for a dip when the boys go. I really need to change that!
Do you have a wish list this year? 

It’s been quite a year hasn’t it? If I’m honest, I usually get to December and wonder what the heck I’ve done the past 12 months and think how the year flew by so quickly. Thank goodness for writing in my blog and being able to look back. My memory really isn’t what it was and juggling two kids has really hammered my memory.

It’s been a year of having two little boys and watching them grow and bond. A year of discovering new places and wanting to go back to see more. A year off work and bringing up another little human. And a year where I went back to work and learnt to juggle all that comes with balancing myself and the family. Here are some of my favourite posts of the last year…

January

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Baby E turned 4 months and had just done his first roll and discovered the jumperoo. Everything was about bouncing or clawing people’s faces off. I was thoroughly enjoying my maternity leave and catching up with friends for lunch. I spent a lot of time being paranoid about one particular starey couple and thought they were judging the noisy baby. It turned out they were admiring his little buggy and mistakenly thought his car seat had airbags within it. They turned out to be pretty lovely! And lastly it was the month I wrote a bit of a ranty post to David Cameron one night. “This muslim girl can, because of her mum” went viral and the supportive comments I got was just amazing.

February

Couple time
It took us till February to actually go out again as a couple and it was only when a lovely PR company treated us to a meal. I wrote about the importance of “Us time” and we took lots of blurry pics of our delicious food. I always get a bit annoyed at restaurant lighting, its so rubbish for photos. The Other Half always reminds me its more important to them to set the mood for their customer and less about setting the mood for my Instagram photos. Boo. Its also a month I spent reminiscing at some of our imperfect holiday moments. It was for a post written for the Mark Warner competition. We didn’t win but I like to look back it sometimes to see some of holiday memories.

March

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Baby E turned the grand old age of 6 months old in March and he was becoming a very bubble baby that was still very wobbly. He couldn’t sit up and loved his feet in his mouth all the time so would spend most of his time on his back happily slurping on his toes. Little Z had spent 6 months at school by this time and he could now read, and write and do all sorts! I never realised it would be such a fast learning curve for him but he was discovering so much, including all the good and bad that comes with friendships and the big wide world. There were times when I just wanted to wrap him up and take him home but we somehow both survived his first few months.
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April

Turkey

Nemo and Captain America poolside in Turkey

We flew off to Turkey during the easter holidays, slightly nervous about taking a new baby with us. It turns out that flying with a 7 month old that can’t crawl yet is the perfect age to go. It was fabulous to be in the sun and see so many friends there all wanting to see the new baby. It was the first time one of our kids got poorly abroad and it was a bit nerve wracking but all ended well and our wonderful GP did a thorough check when we got back. And speaking of GPs, I spent so much time at the surgery, it felt like I should move in. I became convinced there must be a fifth trimester. One where your hair goes grey at lightning speed, you feel different aches and pains all the time, you spend half your life at the doctors and you wonder if pregnancy brain will ever leave you!

May

Blackpool pleasure beach
We had some fabulous weather in May so we popped to Blackpool for a nice day out. I’ve often said about I feel like its stuck in time. There are plenty of new attractions, but there are so many spots that hark straight back to the quintessential English resorts of days gone by. It’s just a lovely place to wander about and full of cheese and history. It was also BlogOn, which I love, and this year was just as good as previous years. I wrote 9 things bloggers do at blog conferences. I am totally the girl that giggles and stares at her favourite bloggers. Oh, and I met Darth Vader and was very pleased about it!

June

queens birthday
Little Z thankfully started loving going to school BY JUNE! Actually I think it was more around the April or May point but I’m so glad the penny finally dropped for him. In June, he learnt all about the Queens birthday at school but was slightly miffed there was no birthday cake in sight and, to be fair, he does have a point. He misheard her age and thought she was 19 which was still very very old in his eyes. I wrote about why I thought Brexit wasn’t a good choice for us and we shouldn’t leave the EU. Of course, we did indeed vote to leave and I still worry about what’s to come. We are basically going to Brexit based on a campaign won by people that ran away soon after, using promises that have since fallen fast by the wayside and with a plan that isn’t actually announced to anyone. I did go to Britmums 2016 though and I had a brilliant time.

July

ways to celebrate anniversary
The very first year of school ended and we survived reception. Little Z went in as a little preschooler and came out looking a bit more stretched and a lot wiser. I nearly threw my arms around his teacher as she’d taught him so much. I was really looking forward to a good 6 weeks off but was so nervous about entertaining my two little monkeys non stop for so long. I didn’t have to worry too much as we soon found a groove of sorts and managed to have a lot of fun with some hair pulling times intertwined into it. We ended up taking the kids to celebrate our anniversary and it turned out to be quite a nice outing.

August

Kelpies at Falkirk
We took a trip up to Scotland in August and it was a brilliant trip. We did a few days in beautiful Edinburgh and then took trips to Falkirk to see the Kelpies and Stirling to see the Wallace monument and Stirling castle. Its such a beautiful part of the world and I think I remember reading somewhere that Scotland has over 2000 castles. Imagine just driving to each of them to see them all and learn all about their history. One day I’d love to do it all and stay at the very tip and see the Northern lights. If someone could schedule that all in for me, then I’d be very grateful. We finished our mini tour with a trip to Luss at Loch Lomond and vowed to go back again soon to discover more.

September

baby turning 1 year old
I think I spent a lot of this month counting down the last few weeks of my maternity leave and getting ready to be a trapeze aristist. I was really nervous about going back to work whilst juggling two little ones and getting everyone to everywhere on time, never mind actually doing a full days work. It turned out I didn’t need to worry too much. The Other Half and I have had to work as a tight knit tag team and each day is different with who is dropping who off to where but we are almost there with some tweaks. All I will say is that there is a lot of truth in “it takes a village to raise a child”. In our case, it consists of us, my parents, my inlaws and breakfast club.
It looks like I squeezed a heck of a lot in. Baby E turned a whole year old and we spent time celebrating his birthday. I did one of my favourite reviews, mainly as it involved food, at the Zouk indian cookery school in Manchester and Little Z went into Year 1 after our long summery school holidays.

October

Olympic parade
October came and I went back to work and started a new chapter. I’m not sure why I was SO worried about it all but it felt like home again within about 24 hours and, once I’d learnt to juggle, I was so glad I’d gone back. There is always a huge uncertain cloud that can hover over when you’ve been off for so long but I was really relieved to slot back in. I had a huge “This is my life” moment…I think it was as if I’d seen my future for the next 10 years and that is a bit like a bolt of lightning hitting you. We spent time enjoying pesky autumn and all its beautiful colours. I’m a lover of summer so reluctantly drag my heels when the leaves start falling, like a sulky teen. It is very pretty though, isn’t it? October was the month the Olympic parade came to Manchester and we manage to rush there in the nick of time and enjoy it all. Wow, what a parade. I’ve never seen so many athletes or medals in my whole life. It was definitely a memorable experience.

November

Holiday to Abu Dhabi
I’m not quite sure how we did this but we managed to get some time off to fly off to Abu Dhabi for some good sun. Flying with a one year old that wants to walk about is pretty challenging and we somehow managed to get there quite calmly. Coming back was a different matter but I guess not everyone loves a loud baby on a flight. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic trip and so good to catch up with one of my best friends. We all got a bit poorly but managed to have a good day out at Ferrari world, visit an amazing brunch and just have a very nice chill out.

December

Christmas hot chocolate
December is always wind down month in my head and, like all good parents, we’ve succumbed to the germs the boys bring home and had hacking coughs for weeks. We’ve spent a lot of time working our way through all the Christmas hot chocolates and waiting for Little Z’s birthday. He was so excited to be turning 6 and we celebrated with a party for him and his classmates. It’s a slightly daunting concept being faced with a large number of little excited boys but, thankfully, it was a lot of fun and went smoothly. We’ve since been looking forward to family time and its been lovely catching up with everyone. I was absolutely gutted with George Michael dying and still can’t believe he’s gone. I’m not usually attached to celebrities but I’ve loved all his stuff for as long as I can remember and was so sad to hear he’d died. I really hope 2017 is better in that sense.

Looking back, it feels like we’ve had a busy year. I wouldn’t mind the same in 2017. We have no plans as such just yet but, whatever we do, I hope its a good one.

It’s almost time to wind down and I cannot wait. This week has been spent on the road most days. Long trips down South for work and long trips up north for cars have meant the week has totally flown by but been a bit or a tiring one. I’ve seen many a scene like this over the days but, of course, I can’t really snap them on my camera whilst I’m driving, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say there’s been some very pretty skies about. This is a sunset I caught on an impromptu visit to Yorkshire a couple of days ago. Driving over the tops always treats you to a very nice view. We must definitely visit more in the new year.

We’ve been full of bugs this week and sound like a cross between old men hacking away and sea lions being extra loud. We’re mostly trying to sleep it off and pop pills to try to cure ourselves. It’s not going too well yet but I really don’t want to have to squeeze in a trip to the doctors so I am tanking myself up on tea and hoping for the best. We still have another week of school left and it’s going to feel a bit slow I think. The nativity play is all done and Little Z delivered his line very loudly. It reminds me of when I used to be in the nativity many moons ago with my own very loud voice. We were the parents that kept waving to him any time he made eye contact and he was the child that waved back from the stage precisely every 5 minutes. Nativity plays are really long once your child has delivered their one line i find but it was still good. It’s always so sweet watching them all be excited and bored and shy and loud.

I’m not going to wish away the next week as there’s still so much to do…but I can’t wait till next week!

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My nearly 6 year old will officially become properly 6 next weekend and it means another year has flown by at lightning speed. He’s now in Year 1 and working his way through the Biff, Chip and Kipper range. As boring as they are, he really does enjoy their adventures and it took me a bit by surprise as it was like a little switch had gone off. Reception felt like a huge step and, at times, a struggle to get him into school week after week.

I’m so grateful it’s not like that this year, especially with me going back to work, but it’s a joy to seem him go in happily. There are definitely times when he goes in not so happily and it’s mostly towards the end of term, when things start getting a bit tiring. But then I think the teachers are mostly a bit drained by that point too. We’re going through a particularly emotional phase right now and he is trying to learn how to lose graciously. It’s not going too well right now and everyone else is a cheater, followed by distressed tears. As luck would have it, the secret life of 5 year olds is proving very helpful right now in watching other children lose too.

It’s almost time for his “activity” play and this year he is a solider that instructs Mary to go to Bethlehem to be counted. We keep encouraging him to pause for dramatic effect and project his line a bit more like Maximus from Gladiator. He keeps looking horrified at us and telling us how much trouble he’ll get into and we keep insisting it’ll go down a storm. I’m pretty sure he thinks we’re terrible pushy parents but I might give it one more go before this Tuesday’s performance. He is determined not to listen though.

He’s the lovely big brother who lets his baby brother push him about and pull his hair. We try to tell him it’s ok not to be like that all the time but I think he likes the protective role. I wonder if it’s a glimpse of their adult relationship; the big brother forever protecting the younger sibling. Some of it reminds me of my brothers and I and some of it takes me by surprise. The rough and tumble is never too much, thankfully. Not yet, anyway!

This year has been full of adventures for us all, in more ways than one, and I think we’ve created a child that is incapable of sitting indoors. Every day one of the first things he says is “how many things are we doing today?”. We’ve had to make everything sound super exciting and throw in things like “popping to the shops to buy bread” as an event. He’s not realised yet and we so we continue to have lots of trips, both big and small. I do look at him and realise how starkly different our childhoods were in comparison to his now. But I guess that happens with every generation. On our last trip we watched him get stronger with his swimming skills. He’s still unwilling to take his armbands off but I think we are nearly ready. Having never been regular swimmers it’s taken him a bit longer to get his confidence up, but we watch him slowly get better each time we’re in the pool. This time we let him go in the sea as it was shallow enough and he loved it. There’s no such thing as lounging by the pool on holidays now but it’s lovely to watch the boys splash about in the water and having fun.

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