Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Are you cheating on twitter with FAcebook?

One of my first tweets this morning was:

“People who hash tag on FB make me want to poke them in the eye.”

You know, just a usual Wednesday morning tweet lacking in opinion or offence.

But, how stupid of me to tweet something so out of date! (By about 12 hours I think)

Newsflash people, you can use the hash tag on Facebook. I know… life as we know it is over.

No longer can we look down on our Facebook “friends” ( or “acquaintances” if you have been brave enough to categorise them) with disdain as they update their status with “Gonna get ma bikini on #sun #sexi #Icecreme #cantspell”

No longer can we shout at the screen “Why are you using the hash tag on Facebook you cretin?” .

No longer can we laugh smugly when they leave a space between words and mutter “have they ever even been on twitter?”

No, that is over, as once more Facebook has put its dirty fingers in everyone else’s pie.  Just look what happened to Instagram when it got hold of that? I said INST- A-GRAM – with the pictures, and the filters? Oh forget it.

But this post isn’t just about Facebook bashing, because that would make me look a little stupid. And I don’t need to write a blog to look stupid. I can just leave the house with my skirt on inside out (and I did that this morning).

If Facebook was that bad I would have come off it years ago and I haven’t. The main reason being it is so bloody convenient. As a source of information for things like local events, what your child needs to take on a school trip and whether or not you’ve missed a friend’s birthday, FB is worth its weight in gold. And, I suppose, wedding season is a pretty special time too. So yeah I’m on Facebook, and there are times I quite like it.

But I like Twitter too, well I sort of love it. I like its anonymity. its freshness and how everything is so temporary. Yes it has its flaws, they mainly come in a troll or celebrity shape. but as a whole it works. And personally, I think its success lies in the simplicity. Over complicating Twitter would be its downfall. Besides, the hash tag is complicated enough – right Facebookers?

I like the choice in social networks, I like there is variety (that’s why Pinterest is there right – for variety? Otherwise I am stumped on its purpose) and I like my social network sites to be different. I like using them for different things. Like chocolate. If I fancy something moreish and light I’ll grab a packet of Maltesers if I want something filling and chewy I’ll get a snickers. but don’t try and merge the two, that would just be kind of… clunky?

This is why think I Facebook should stick to what its good at. Connecting local people and people who haven’t spoke to for years and years. That’s its niche.
Let Twitter keep you up to date with the here and now, the moment, the trends,  the news and the opinions.

And let’s not force everything to be the same. Different is good. We like different.
And the whole copying thing? Well its all a bit try-hard isn’t it? Like the kid at school that gets a ”Beiber” hair cut 2 months too late.

I know, social networks are not timeless, just look what happened to MySpace, so they need to reinvent themselves. Imagine if we still had to start every FB update with the word “is”?
It’s ok, breathe, they are not bringing it back, that level of social network restraint is long gone.
But just imagine if we were still stuck with that “is”? Or worse, Imagine if twitter nicked the “is”?
Frances is fucked off that Facebook has nicked twitter’s hash tag

So of course, there comes a time when all social networks need to reinvent. And I welcome it – when it’s fresh and clever and it makes my life (well internet life) easier. But what I can’t stand is when things get clunky or the big brains are being lazy, and I just feel Facebook adopting the hash tag is both.

I haven’t used the hash tag on Facebook yet, but I rarely update on there, so doubt I will. But the thought of it does feel wrong, kind of like swearing on Facebook, it’s only a certain sort who can get away with it. The rest of us just appear crude or inappropriate.

Having said that, I don’t think I would feel like I am cheating on Twitter, but it certainly does feel like Facebook is.

Monday, 22 April 2013

City Love: Manchester

I'm a coastal girl, a small town coastal girl. This is my comfort zone. It's where I grew up. Where I'm raising my kids. Where I am happy.

But I do love city life...

I love being a city tourist.

On the weekend I visited Manchester, for work related stuff. It was sunny, it was gritty, it was buzzing... I loved it.

I had to navigate my way from Victoria station to the conference centre on Lever Street. Anyone who knows Manchester would tell you this is a piece of piss. But for me, the girl who gets lost in a camping shower block (not once - but twice!) this was a challenge.

The distance was 700m, I'd memorised the street map from Google  I had some map thingy on my phone. I was organised. And guess what? I did it! I got there.

But that wasn't the best bit. The best bit was walking through Manchester's Northern Quarter and falling a little bit in love with this city.


I don't claim to know much about all our cities, but I do know that every city I visit is full of such a mixture of life I could sit and watch it slowly tiptoe into the streets and then burst open all day long.

We all know London is pretty special as a city right? But there is something about the soul in northern cities that blows London out of the water.

Manchester isn't a pretty city; it's gritty, dirty and busy with promise. Just like the Manchester accent, it hits you somewhere else, that you weren't expecting.

I found myself on Thomas Street on a sunny afternoon. I'd passed vintage clothes shops and second hand book shops with speakers blaring opera music onto the street. I'd narrowly avoided being trampled by a tram and just missed out on being the landing mat of a "jump artist". Eventually I was strolling among the Northern Quarter, watching cafes and delis spill onto the street and catching sight of the city's sub cultures celebrating their subtlety in record shops and specialist art shops.


The city was exposed inthe sunshine outside bars and bistros.Wooden tables were overflowing with chalk boards, funky teapots and coloured glasses. Different accents, unusual laughter and foreign language filled the air above N4. The young, old, trendy, reserved and outrageous flowed  from indoors to outdoors, off the kerbs and into the gutters. Pockets of culture exploded into the open and I very much wished I was  part of it.

I wish I had taken out my* tab2 and captured some of the buzz in snapshot. But I was too busy enjoying it, absorbing it, drinking it and breathing it.  I don't get to cities much, I have to get my fix when I can.


*Not mine, my 5yo's sons.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Caitlin Moran and a registry office Up North

I was holding out for a bigger wedding, you know, I thought we'd probably tie the knot just after we won the Euro Millions. But as the years went by, I started to get a little impatient.
It was only when my sister quoted me a bit of Caitlin Moran that the penny finally dropped...
"Six years and a £19.99 engagement ring later, and it’s our wedding day. It was – initially – going to be in a register office in London, followed by a reception in a pub.
In boring, empty mid-October. Everyone could have got the bus home. It would have cost less than 200 quid. We could have knocked it all off in five hours flat. Oh, I wish we’d had that wedding." 
Caitlin Moran How to Be a Woman.
When I read this, I thought, "yeah, why not just do that?" It's so simple, so easy, so right, and in the day and age of the Twenty Grand Wedding, quite original!

Caitlin Moran didn't get married like this. In the end she opted for a monastery, a  red velvet dress and ivy in her hair. She herself insists "It was a bad wedding!"

And no wonder she looks back nostalgically on  their original wedding plan. It would have been really cool wouldn't it? Whatever decade.

For a start registry offices in London are usually found in beautiful listed buildings,  not  like the purpose built council breeze blocks found on the edge of leisure centres or disused libraries that we have up here.
regist off
Chelsea and Middlesbrough Registry Offices
And then there's the pub. Well it's London  so  what kind of pub do you want? You can have your pick...  you want one which only serves crisps that are hand made, freshly rock-salted and arrive in a brown paper bag, there you go. You want one with live folk  music and real ale served in a dimpled pint mug, then have that. You want tatty velvet sofas and vintage etched mirrors, then they have that too and more! And in any of those quirky, cosy, rustic taverns a bride wearing a subtle wedding dress and a groom in an open shirt and braces wouldn't look out of place.

Where as here, among the barely dressed spotty teenagers and the barely alive old boozers, you would get less attention walking into the local pub with a sandwich board saying "twat" than you would in a wedding dress.

But I still would have done it. Bought a round of pints and peanuts for the guests and had our first dance to the jukebox (unfortunately it only plays James Arthur nowadays) and demanded a lock in at the end.

But it would have been a bit inappropriate to take the kids. And I really haven't got the stamina to keep drinking past 11pm these days, so we opted for registry office and family meal - you know "somewhere nice".

And I don't regret the decision, in fact I am really looking forward to it. i think it's going to be pretty good and actually rather cool, in a non-London kind of way.

Plus,  if I had one of those big weddings, I know, like Caitlin Moran says, I would have let myself down and probably the whole of humanity down too, you know just by being a bit of a wedding twat...
"Weddings are our fault, ladies. Every aspect of their pantechnicon of awfulness happened on our watch. And you know what? Not only have we let humanity down, but we’ve let ourselves down too.
Weddings do women no good at all. They’re a viper’s pit of waste and despair. And nearly every aspect of them reverberates badly against the very people who love them the most: us. Our love for a wedding is a bad love. It does us no good. It will end badly, leaving us feeling cheated, and alone.
Whenever I think about weddings, I want to run into the church - like Dustin Hoffman in the Graduate - and shout ‘STOP! STOP THE WEDDINGS!"
Caitlin Moran How To Be A Woman

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Secret Tools!

Yesterday, my 5yo told me about some new tools his teacher has the given the class.

"They're invisible" he said looking at me with wide eyes. "And..." <dramatic pause> "... they are always in your pocket, so you can pull them out when ever you need them!"

"Ok" I said, then asked curiously "So what are these tools?"

"One is called "stick-ability" and you use that one if you are finding something hard and you just want to give up.You pull it out and stick-ability helps you keep on going"

"That's a good one" I said."What else you got?" Hoping there was an anti-wrinkle cream that actually worked in there

"There's "distraction action" I use this one a lot. If something's distracting me, like a noise or a person, then I pull it out and it helps me ignore them."

"Cool! I need that sometimes" I said thinking about time spent on twitter opposed to time spent writing " Can I borrow it?"

"No!" He replied flatly  "You need to get your own tools. These are mine."

I was tempted to reply... Well buster, I'm one step ahead of you. I've been carrying around my own pack of invisible tools since the day you were born.

But I didn't, instead I decided I would write a blog post about them. Hoping you would appreciate hearing about them...

Some of my invisible tools that get me through the week...

False Smile

Ok. We all have this one. Remember the false laugh we learnt as pre-schoolers to appease adults who don't know how to communicate with children? You don't know what i am talking about? Introduce you child to Uncle Knobhead and see what they do... A false laugh right?

Well, the false smile is how that little, wary false laugh has evolved. And when you become a parent the false smile is perfected. It is used for nearly every other parent (apart from the select few which you LOVE obvs) you see on the school run, in the supermarket and wherever else they may pop up, as they are everywhere right? It is used for every child that isn't your own that talks to you, asks you a questions or requires your attention in some way. It used for everyone over the age of 60 who comments on your child's size, attire or behaviour. And when you are a broken human being, after clawing an ounce of sleep from the depths of desperation, that false smile is was saves you from being arrested for punching a pensioner in the nose!

Tongue clipper

I put this effective little clip on my tongue every time I go to playgroup. It stops me saying stuff like...
"You are full of bullshit"
"Your child's behaviour is horrendous"
"Please don't speak to me like that"
"I really don't give a shit!"
"I know you love your child desperately, but we don't"
"Does your voice always do that singsong thing or do you save it for when you are talking to me?"

"The Big Hummm"

This is really useful to bring out every time anyone wants to give you some advice. It works with all ages; if they are 70, 7 or 37, it is still very effective. All you have to do is let them speak and listen. Then pause. Now, just when it's quiet, throw a big "hummmmm" into the air, Then pause again. They will think you are considering it deeply, when really you are thinking: "I will never ever do what you just said"

"It's OK (not really) face."

When you say it's Ok, but your face is telling a very different story. Letting someone know, it is OK, but if it EVER happens again it won't be.

Very handy to have with you at all times.

Instances I have found it worthy of being used:

  • When you pick your child up from nursery and they have been allowed to glue their hat to their head
  • When your child breaks something VERY important, Like your phone, laptop, brother's favourite toy.
  • When your child accidentally spills a drink down you
  • When your own child  spews up down your back
  • When someone mistakes you for being pregnant and you are FUCKING not! Actually, that's never ok.
  • When a stranger gets your child's gender wrong.
  • When an acquaintance calls your child Johnny. It's Jonty!
  • When you arrive to collect your child from somewhere and send out the wrong one!

So Mums, mums to be, Dads and the rest of the human race, share your secrets -what invisible tools do you carry around you?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Skillz; My top 3 falls.

There's few things I can say I am better at that anyone else. Firstly, anything that involves sport or coordination is ruled out with my first breath. Then, anything that involves deadlines or punctuality is obliterated with my second. And if it happens to require any level of tidiness or cleanliness then it's also gone...

But one skill I have acquired over the years is being good at falling.

And do you know what? I'm going to put it out there and say: I'm better than most. To be fair it has taken a lot of inappropriate shoes, some unsavoury amounts of alcohol and a clumsy DNA make up to perfect this art. But that's right Falling is my skill!

Now let's just make it clear here, I wouldn't want you to get the wrong end of the stick. I'm not good at falling in a "Oh she nearly fell  but saved herself kind of way",  oh no, I'm good at falling in a "Ha ha she landed on her face" kind of way.

And by good, I mean I have done it spectacularly, in a variety of places, in front of various people and with a vast amount of humiliation. But what I do well is damage limitation. I have never broken a bone (except the odd toe or a thumb, but no one counts those do they?).

Therefore, with the wintry weather hanging around like a bad smell, and every other day being pot luck between slippy-slidey-catch-you-off-guard-slush and fatal-ice-patches,  I was sure this week's blog would be a cringy snapshot of me landing on my arse, in the snow, in front of all the other mums at the school gate. But, alas, it isn't. I didn't. That post can wait till next year.

But not one to disappoint, I thought I'd relive my 3 most spectacular falls of all time. Just because there's nothing I like more on a Saturday morning that a bit of self-humiliation.


In no particular order...

1. The starfish

So notoriously Newly Qualified Teacher's get wankered at the end of year do. It's just how it works. They haven't quite grasped "professional drinking" and are still partaking in that no-rules "student drinking", where not being able to talk or walk by 10pm is quite acceptable.

Anyhow, after the official "do", some of us continued unofficially drinking in a night club, which is always a good idea when you will be teaching 30 teenagers the next morning. And whilst on the edge of the dance floor, stood with my new, young and trendy colleagues,one second I was stood up drink in hand, and the next, inexplicably lay on my back in the shape of a star fish. There was no obvious reason for this fall. I wasn't even doing that "dancing in one spot" thing.  If it hadn't been for the bang and the huge bruise on my arse you would have thought I just taken position down there for a rest. But no, it was definitely a fall.

And the following may or may not be true
  • There were some of the current 11 pupils in the night club
  • I was down there for some time
  • I woke up with night club sludge in my hair
  • I was still pissed the next day at work

2. The somersault.

In my final year at university, My brother and Sister joined me for New Year Celebrations. This year Newcastle was true to form: loud, drunken and cold (it was snowing in fact). After 3 years in The 'Toon I had joined in the Geordie spirit of freezing to death on a night out. This night's attire included brand new knee high boots and a mini skirt.

We ended the night at a house party. I remember downing something disgusting being passed off as punch in the kitchen, I remember doing a samba style dance to Van Morrison's 'Moondance' in the living room (pretty much entailed my house mate throwing me around the room) and I remember there were many drinking games and I joined in them all! The next thing I remember is talking to my brother at the top of the stairs slurring and spitting "No, it's totally not time to go home" and then I descended the stairs via a somersault (unplanned, obviously). The party guests in the downstairs living room, apparently had the best view as my somersault continued past the entrance and along the hallway!

 The next day I was told the noise as I tumbled deafened the party music, the fall itself was "death-defying" and my emergence, where I stood up holding the heel from my new boot in my hand saying " Yes, you're right it is time to go", would be told at New Year's Parties for years to come!

3. The scissors!

I am notorious for wearing inappropriate shoes. So when I was pregnant with my first child, I was  determined to be extra cautious in the bad weather. I decided to abandon all fashion sense and don a pair of walking boots to make the journey from my car to the school gates safely.

I had managed two days without feeling unsteady on the ice, on the third, I poured myself out of the driver seat, pushed the front seat forward, smiled at my passing colleagues, as I turned and bent over to retrieve my bag from the back seat. Just then my walking boot skidded on some ice, I lost my footing and tumbled head first into the back of my car. My pregnant arse, legs, and walking boots were left sticking out the doorway like a pair of scissors with boxing gloves on the end! I don't think any pupils were there to witness this masterpiece, but I know the male PE department did, as they were the ones who pulled me out!

So I challenge you to give me your worst? Are you better at falling than me? Prove it!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

"Captain Barnacles do you read me?"

My eldest son always had a toy he LOVED. Really loved. Toys he took everywhere. Toys he absent-mindedly left everywhere. Toys his parents spent hours retrieving from EVERYWHERE. Everywhere being playgroups, leisure centres, shopping centres, church halls and sandpits. We were forever banging on doors, after hours, asking if there happened to be a plastic Thomas the tank engine left behind. (In later years it was the less recognised and smaller die cast Lightening Mcqueen).

Therefore, we were slightly relieved when our second son, wasn't really that into a particular toy and never really got attached to a fictional character. On the downside buying birthday and Christmas presents for him was a real chore. We would desperately grasp at an idea, knowing full well it wouldn't really be right. If he showed a faint interest in something one week, we would buy all the merchandise for it and by the time his birthday came, you could guarantee he was over it.

However,this year we hit the present jackpot, Just as he started watching  "Octonauts" We ordered him this...

The Octopod!

It was a huge success, beyond our parenting dreams. In fact, aftrer opening it first he refused to open any other Christmas presents. i admit it was a bit uncomfortable to watch the in laws looking wistfully at their discarded, still wrapped presents he had barely glanced at, but still, triumph was ours... We had cracked it. We were present buying geniuses!

He played with it all day.

And when he couldn't play with it (when he was eating Christmas dinner, in the bath and sleeping) he tightly clutched the two little plastic figures, which had come with it, as if he was guarding the secret to eternal happiness.

And that's where they stayed, Captain Barnacles and Kwazii, in his little fists. They went everywhere with him. He LOVED a toy! Well, two. He loved two little toys!

Then the holidays ended and real life began again. It was with a lump of dread I thought about Kwazii and Barnacles coming on the school run with us, it was with sweaty palms I thought of them joining us at playgroup and with a sharp breath I considered whether they would float or sink in the swimming baths.

But fortunately, our middlest son was not quite as absent-minded as his brother. He would safely put them in the buggy when he wanted to slide down the fireman's pole at the park (a two handed job). He would never leave a venue without checking they were on his person. On exited the car he would say "Kwazii? Yes. Captain Barnables? Yes. Let's go"

How refreshing this was. What a clever little poppet.

But then we had a real test: playgroup. When playgroup morning arrived Middlest son bounded into the church hall. Kwazii in one fist, Barnacles in the other and the other children fell silent. He eyed their salivating mouths as they clasped sight of the NEW TOYS. In a flash he had scampered up to me "Mama! In your bag!" he said placing them safely into my hand bag and returning to the pit to fight over a broken train set and a battered pushchair  with his contemporaries.

The rest of the day we were busy. We went food shopping, to the library, nursery and had a play date. It wasn't until he was in the bath he turned to The FH and said "Where's Captain Barnables? Where's Kwazii?"

The FH turned to me, suddenly aware he hadn't seen them in his clenched fists all evening.

"It's OK I've got them" I said smugly tottering down the stairs.

My heart actually stopped when my fumbling hand could only find one plastic figure in my bag. One cat shaped figure.

Barnacles had gone.

Jumped ship.

I'd lost him.

I returned to the bathroom. Handed Middlest Kwazii, avoided eye contact and turned on my heel. "Where's Captain Barnables?" said a little voice behind me. I caught The FH's eyes, searched for some words, failed to find any, and tried not to cry."

The FH stepped in "he's on on a mission."

But try as we might we couldn't palm him off. We could tell him he was hiding, he was on an adventure, he was saving a star fish from a near fatal sea-cliff fall. But Middlest Son only repeated "Where is Captain Barnables?"

It was the last thing he said at night.

And the first thing he said when he woke up.

And every time I looked into his little sad eyes a little piece of me died.

And every time he went looking for him The FH turned to me and shook his head. Because I obviously needed help feeling guilty. I clearly wasn't managing to feel the guilt by myself. I must have looked far too happy.. Even though I was fucking suffocating in the guilt!

So then next morning I logged onto amazon and ordered a replacement. Delivery said "3- 5 days". 3-5 Days! We couldn't continue like this for 5 days. In 5 days this guilt would have eaten away like a ravenous carnivore. In 5 days I would be nothing more than a pile of bones and flesh and guilt slobber! This was clearly the emergency moment when I paid for an express delivery. This warranted the extra cost right? Wrong, At the checkout I discovered the express charge was more than the toy itself. Fuck it... we would wait 5 days.

Two days passed and Middlest Son was a shadow of him former self, clutching desperately to Kwazii, reluctant to let him out of his sight for a second; I, especially, was not allowed to touch him.

We unearthed an old Captain Barnacles that had belonged to his brother. He was wearing a red diving suit, instead of the official blue Octonaut costume and only had one arm, but we thought it would help. It didn't. He threw it away in disgust. And who could blame him? It wasn't Captain Barnables, Barnables wore blue and had two arms. This was an Octonaut impostor!

So he continued  to cling onto Kwazii. I  had to persuade the nursery staff to let him break the unwritten rule of "no toys from home" on the grounds he was being clingy after the holidays. Thank god they agreed. I couldn't tell them there was no way on this earth he was going to hand over that toy over to me, his mother, The Loser of Favourite Toys.

Then finally, one afternoon, when he was at nursery, the postman delivered a brown parcel which was branded with those lovely shiny black letters Amazon. Gushing many thank yous to a bewildered postman was the only way of stopping myself offering to  bear his unborn children as a way of showing my appreciation.

I spent the next hour extracting Captain B from its child proof packaging and then hopped, skipped and smiled my way to the school. I was giddy. This was going to be better than Christmas.

A solemn looking nursery teacher opened the door and my giddy smile slid off my face. This look was usually saved for telling a parent their child was either covered in poo or had had a scrap with another kid and come off worse. Either way I was sure I could cheer him up with Barnacles.

"He's a bit upset..." She began, looking at the floor.

"...We're not sure how..." she continued, taking a deep breath

"...But in the last 10 minutes..." she paused and then blurted out.

"He's lost his little toy Kwazii. And we can't find him anywhere."

Middlest son appeared in the doorway silently sobbing.

"It's OK darling" I said brandishing Captain Barnacles in his face. "Look who Mama found"

He paused took hold of Barnacles, checked he was wearing blue and had two good arms, took a deep breath and said... "But Where's Kwazii?" and burst into tears.