Aunties should be seen AND heard

So I’ll admit it.

I don’t like small children.

If you’re upset by that, don’t read the next bit…

I simply cannot stand babies!

There, I’ve said it.

I’ve often thought about why this is and the best I can come up with is that I’m the youngest child.

Bear with me, I’ve thought this through.

Each of my brothers and sisters were forced to put up with a crying, crapping usurper in their house, my poor eldest brother had to put up with three of them. So they got used to the crying and the crapping, some of them changed nappies, they all had to take care of a younger sibling. As the youngest, I never had to do that. I never had to learn to be patient with a tiny human, I was never forced to put my needs aside and care for a helpless baby. As a result, I admit, I have a selfish streak in me.

And this streak allowed me to decide, at a young age, that I didn’t want to waste my life in the pursuit of a crying, crapping usurper. I decided, and some of you might need a sit down after hearing this;

I never wanted to be a mother.

There, I’ve said that too.

I made a conscious decision to give up being a mother, in return for the freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted. Once that was decided, I was no longer bound into the cycle of;

Find a mate,

Find a mate,

Find a mate,

Damn it,

Can’t find a good one,

Time’s ticking

Ok, you’ll do.

 

So I set off into the world, hoping to see as much of it as I could.

So, for some of my niece’s and nephew’s early lives, I was a ghost, an elusive creature only heard about in stories and seen in photographs. They mostly grew up with a vague recollection of this colourful person bending over them, but crucially, not actually touching them.

Some of them lived abroad, so they saw me more than others, but I was never fully in their lives. I simply turned up with suitcases of chocolate, spent a few, fun-filled weeks and jetted off before it became too real!

I do not regret this. I repeat,

I DO NOT REGRET THIS!

Why?

Because instead of trying to communicate with a small child who can’t properly communicate. I was off gallivanting, experiencing life.

All kinds of life. Good and bad. The amazing stuff and the crappy stuff.

I know the brilliant things life can bring, if you are open to all of life’s possibilities and I know how life can really f*ck you up, if you’re doing stupid shit.

I know how easy things can get out of hand and you find yourself in the worst possible part of a coastal French city, with someone you don’t really know, with the sinking realisation that decisions you have made that night could get you killed.

ahh the stupidity of youth 🙂

But that’s a story for another time…

Parents seem to think that becoming a parent makes you uniquely qualified to deal with parenting issues. I would like to counter that being a parent sometimes provides a barrier to effective parenting.

And before you parents get your knickers and pants in a twist, let me clarify.

I’m not saying that you are not good parents.

I’m saying that you are not effective parents.

A subtle, but important difference.

This is not because you are rubbish and don’t care, it’s usually because you are good and care too much. You are too invested, because you love your children. I love my nieces and nephews, but sorry guys, as much as I do love and care for you all, if it came down to my life or yours, I’d have to stop and think about it. I probably wouldn’t go flinging myself in front of a bullet, I have a selfish streak, remember!

A parent would, in a heartbeat.

A parent wants to make the right choices. They want the child to make the right choices. Ultimately they want the best FOR the child/young person. An Auntie wants the best OF the child/young person and takes pleasure in handing the child back, when they get too annoying, screamy or filthy.

An Auntie has all the time in the world to listen to all the grievances of an unreasonable, petulant Teenager. They don’t have to live with it.

They can provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, because they’re not involved and to be honest, they don’t really give a shit about the day-to-day nonsense that consumes a parent’s life.

Aunties and uncles provide a very useful service. Especially those who do not have children of their own.  They provide the one thing that parents cannot.

Distance.

They are able to take a step back and see the whole picture. Often, they are party to both sides and are able to evaluate an argument fairly, because they are that one step removed and are, on the whole, emotionally detached.

For the child, especially a teenager, they are something very important…

they are NOT the parent.

They are someone with whom you can talk about stuff you could never tell your parents.

Parents, please understand they are not trying to commandeer your position of parent, trust me, they don’t want it.

Many many times in my life, I have had enough knowledge to broker peace within a warring household. I have had the full rundown of complaints and demands from both sides. The parent and the teenager. Usually, peace could be achieved very simply, but I have been unable to act…

Why?

Because, what would I know? I don’t have kids and therefore anything I have to say on the matter is null and void.

So parents, if you are sitting with your brother or sister, talking about your child and they make that face –

IMG_3367

Ok maybe not that face, heeheehee.

Maybe something like this.

IMG_3363

Or this.

IMG_3371

You know, the look that says,

“I have somethin to say, but ima gonna hold it in, cos this fool won’t listen.”

Ask them to give it to you straight. And just listen, I mean, really listen.

WITHOUT BEING OFFENDED.

They’re not judging you. They’re not trying to tell you what to do. They’re not suggesting you’re not a good parent.

They may want to simply offer advice. Advice which you can take on board or simply ignore.

They may simply be a peace envoy coming from the Teenage enemy bringing news of a possible peace accord.

Whatever it is,

Hear what they have to say.

It might not save your life, but it just might make your life easier.

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Making music

So one day back in November, I walked into my living room to find a recording studio, set up by my fabulously talented Niece, Darbi and her friend Vikki.

After being totally astonished at the relatively cheap equipment you can get nowadays, the modern equivalent of pressing record on a cassette tape in your bedroom is now a quite sophisticated multi-track system on a computer.

Unbelievable!

Anyway, I was really lucky that the two of them were gracious enough to let me have a go. We had a ball, just messing around and

This is the result

Life Appreciation Day

I’ve been like a kid in a sweetshop since I’ve got back to Manchester (Cities! Yay!) and I’ve realised how easy it is taking things for granted.

Throughout my life it has been a case of not realising until it was gone.

I used to play sport, I loved Sport, especially Trampolining, it was the only thing I did religiously, twice a week, team training.

But that wasn’t all I could turn my hand to. I’d play a bit of Badminton, a touch of Tennis and a hint of Hockey. I had the option of playing sport whenever I could be bothered to lift myself off the sofa.

I’ll play Tennis at the weekend, I used to say to myself. If not this weekend, I’d do it next weekend.

It wasn’t going anywhere, the Tennis courts will be there next weekend.

And, to be fair, they are still there, and actually look a lot better now. Salford City Council have outdone themselves, I think, every time I limp past the courts

…that I can no longer use.

You see, I am no longer able to make use of the courts, since an accident left me unable to play Tennis, Badminton or Hockey and there’s definitely not a chance in hell of me doing any Trampolining.

In fact, the last time I touched a trampoline, my friends had a meltdown
2016-02-25 (1).png
Because it was Trampolining that killed me

Literally.
…but only for a few minutes

However, the effect is permanent.

No more Sport.

Sure I can still hit a ball/shuttlecock, but there’s no way I’m running around afterwards. Sport is now lost to me and I miss it.
And there’s no getting it back – ever!

So having spent four and a bit years in the middle of nowhere, having nothing of consequence to do, no place of consequence to go – and no, a fancy restaurant just didn’t cut it, sorry Fylde Coast people – and ridiculously high taxi fares – seriously Fylde people, the cost of your taxis is just plain crazy! I realised that I missed living in a city.

I had taken Manchester for granted and I had lost it, but unlike Sport, it wasn’t gone forever.

Upon my return to civilisation Manchester, I was a little bit punch drunk. I really felt like I’d been released from Prison and the world was in front of me again!

There’s just so much to do!

I found a website, called Meetup, were I found so many different groups of people to join, Socialising, Knitting, Singing, basically anything you fancy doing, there’s a group that are planning on doing it, somewhere, sometime. If not, you can start your own.

Plus, I discovered Uber, yes, yes, I know, I am well behind the curve on this, but bear with me.

Uber is a revelation. My favourite bit is watching that little car approach and then seeing the taxi arrive. I have had some lovely chats with different drivers, who all seem so lovely (I don’t think it’s all to do with the fact that they know I’ll be reviewing them) and it’s great, at the end of the night out, not having to worry about having money for the return trip, because it’s all done on Paypal.

(If you’ve never tried Uber and want to try it, use this code  amandam13108ue and you’ll get a free ride worth £10)

Yes, I feel a bit sorry for taxi firms, but it’s their own fault, Salford taxis were rubbish, they were always ‘five minutes away’, even though that’s what they said half an hour ago and you’re still waiting. And frankly some of the dispatchers were not just rude, they were so far past it, that it was just a shimmer in the distance.

So, I now appreciate this city, this dirty, busy city, that receives more than its fair share of rain and grey skies. I appreciate it far more that I would have had I simply stayed here.

Is it my imagination or has the weather been great this past week, too?

I remember when I first arrived in China, I used to wake up every morning and think,

Bloody Hell, I’m in China!

After a few months, I realised that I’d lost the excitement and so I was determined to make it a ritual, I woke up every morning, made my one cup of coffee for the day (real coffee, not instant – it was so expensive and hard to get hold of) sat out on my balcony watching people pass by thinking, bloody hell, I’m in China!

I appreciated every single thing that happened, even the rubbish/nasty/horrid things, because I knew that I’d be going back to the UK and I’d never have that experience again.

So what am I saying?

It’s simple. I have learned to appreciate things.

I don’t mean things like fancy cars, restaurants and all that other nonsense.
I’m not in China anymore, but I wake up (most days) thinking,

Bloody hell, I’m alive!

I take an inordinate amount of joy in the little things, a blue sky, Missy having a stretch and a yawn when I roll out of bed and she realises it’s time to get up, baking a cake. I revel in the minutiae of life because… well, why not?

Try it with me.

Tomorrow, have a Life Appreciation Day.

Take the time to appreciate the little things you usually take for granted. Things like:

Having a roof over your head.
Having food and drink
Being able to walk.
Being able to smile
Having someone to smile at
Breathing fresh air
BEING ALIVE!

It’s really easy to get sucked into the day to day, but try to resist. Remember no matter how bad things are, there’s always a silver lining –

you’re still alive and breathing, that’s not nothing!

Trust me, you’ll have a great day.

“I’m just being honest”

I have spent the last four years, closely observing the modern teenage girl. Not in a creepy, stalker, hang around school playground type of way.

OK, I did occasionally hang around school playgrounds, but it was my job and I was paid to do it.

Also, before I get complaints about why I’m not addressing the behaviour of boys, I just want to admit, I don’t know enough about boys, mainly because I worked in a Girl’s House.

Living in a boarding school allows you a lot of time to really get to know the psyche of these strange and sometimes baffling beings. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy, I just want to address what I see as a worrying development in basic manners.
Somewhere along the way (and personally, I blame the Spice Girls) two things have happened.

Firstly, somehow, being breathtakingly rude is perfectly fine as long as it’s said to someone’s face.

Being a Bitch has somehow become a legitimate behaviour model. Indeed, modern girls like to say something mean and unnecessary then proclaim, loudly and proudly, how much of a bitch they are, followed by, ‘That’s just how I am’ – as if there’s absolutely nothing they can do about it and it’s a kind of involuntary action or automatic response. So now being a bitch is a good thing.

It goes hand in hand with being a ‘strong independent woman’ presumably…

Conversely, at the slightest hint of reciprocal bitchiness, they somehow take immediate offence that anyone could ever utter something so mean and unnecessary. Again proclaiming loudly, ‘She’s such a bitch.’

Suddenly being a bitch is a bad thing again.

Confused? You should try keeping up with an explanation of why W deserved to be slut-shamed on Facebook (Yep, that’s an actual thing now), because she borrowed X’s shoes to go out with the object of Y’s affections and messed them up and now Z can’t wear them.

Secondly, young women have decided that being astonishingly rude is somehow OK as long as they end with, ‘I’m just being honest’.

Don’t get me wrong, honesty is a great thing. But seriously, do they have to be so mean? Haven’t they heard of politeness?  Has no-one taught them the concept of an acceptable white lie? The idea that if it would cause upset, the polite thing is to keep it to yourself?

Since when did honesty rank above nice on the acceptable behaviour scale?

I always considered myself the direct sort, but sometimes these modern girls take even straight-talking me aback. Sure, you can think,

“her eyebrows look like two caterpillars fighting”

but there’s no need to utter it out loud!

On the one hand, the feminist in me loves the fact that they are so uninhibited and feel empowered enough to call someone a c*nt (see, I can’t even write it :))

But is it ever necessary to do so?

– especially now that Thatcher’s dead, but I digress…

On the other hand, it’s all just so needless.

In the old days, we all knew who the girls with loose morals were, no-one felt the need to say it out loud, and especially not to their face. Nowadays, a few clicks on Facebook allows you to upload a picture with the word, WHORE underneath it. Ensuring that an entire School community and even future employers, can clearly identify them.

Where did this come from?

I don’t want to lay blame at a specific door, but I will, cos that’s just how I am. I say it straight up!

I blame Reality Shows and American TV series like, but not restricted to, ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘Pretty Little Liars’.

Reality shows are very dangerous, because they present stereotypes and behaviour that young people believe to be real. It’s there in the description, reality shows. However, instead of reflecting the reality of life, they have created an alternative reality, which is slowly becoming the norm. Young women don’t know that this is mostly staged, because conflict and aggression are good for ratings. No-one wants to watch nice people getting on with each other. It’s much more exciting to watch what happens when Sephora confronts Jacinda, because she’s been talking about her behind her back.

The American shows are seductive, because all the girls are impossibly gorgeous and the boys are so hot. They live in glamorous houses and have exciting lives. It’s easy to imagine that if you act like them maybe you can live like them. We had such shows when I was younger, Dallas and Dynasty come to mind, but they were about grown-ups, not people my age at the time and set in a world so far removed from my own, it was like a different planet. Now, these shows are in school settings and revolve around teenagers doing accessible teenage things.

OK maybe murdering your best friend and covering it up isn’t exactly an accessible teenage thing, but you know what I meant 🙂

All of these things have shaped the way modern girls think.

So, at the risk of coming across like a slightly common version of Debretts, I would like to offer my own attempt to shape the way girls think.

My top five ways to be a better person.

1. You don’t have to be a bitch to succeed in life.

  • In fact being nice can often get you to where you want much quicker.

2. Try a little empathy.

  • Imagine how you would feel if someone said the same thing to you.

3. Don’t be so quick to get up in someone’s grill (youthspeak, I’m so cool!)

  • Conflict might be good to watch on TV, but who wants to live with constant conflict? It’s so stressful.

4. Listen more, talk less

5. Think before you speak

  • Before you fly off the handle responding to what you think (or are told) someone has said, just think about it first, then consider points 1-4 above.

To all of you who know me well and are sitting there thinking of the hypocrisy of me telling people to be nice, just remember the most important saying that a teacher can use:

Do as I say, not as I do

😉

The way I see it…

I believe the media, pundits and politicians who have weighed into the Corbyn debate have got it all wrong. They believe that labour lost the vote because they moved too far to the left I believe labour lost the vote because they inched slowly and painfully into ridiculousness, where many moderate centrists who were uncomfortable with voting Tory, looked at Milliband and said, I’ve no idea who you think you represent, but it’s not me. I believe many people were looking around for someone to say something that

  1.  sounds authentic and not written by consensus via a focus group and
  2. reflects even a tiny percentage of what they believed in.

I believe that the angry ones, who know that something isn’t right, but feel like there is nowhere to turn, fell for the obvious authenticity of Farage and were prepared to overlook the more unsavoury parts of his message.

Others looked around at other parties and found something that resonated, but felt a little ‘best of a bad lot’ about it.

I, realised just in time, that I lived in a marginal seat and therefore helped the labour candidate take the seat.

But then, the loss, oh the loss.

I, and many others, realised that there’s no point sniping from the sidelines and so rejoined the Labour Party.

I’m reminded of a scene in one of my favourite shows, where the character says:

“People want leadership… and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”

I believe that we’ve been drinking sand, in so many different forms and in so many different ways, that we now completely believe it’s water.

We have started to believe that politics is all about having good teeth and looking good in photos. We have got used to debate being “you said this, I think that’s stupid!”. We’ve forgotten that we should be voting for people who want to talk about the issues, rather than just sniping at each other.

And then Jeremy Corbyn came along and reminded people that

It’s about the policies, stupid.

We know something’s not right, let’s see if we can get together and work out some ways to sort things out. I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few ideas, maybe we can talk about them at conference and see what we can agree on. Then let’s make that what we do for the next five years and beyond.

Because it’s not about the cult of personality.

It’s about the fact that Corbyn has managed to persuade people who had long since given up on politics, to get off their arse and go out to see a guy talk about welfare or migration policy or housing. Look at the crowds, be in the crowds, it’s a palpable thing. Many of the people there were the 33% who didn’t vote, have never voted. Many of them are young and realise that they have a vote. They have a say.

It’s not about old style or new style. It’s not about 80s politics/ new labour. It’s not about left or right.

It’s about wrong and right.

I believe the British public are not inherently right wing racists. I believe that the absolute majority of people are inherently decent and given the chance, all things being equal (and no media Devils on their shoulders) they would make decent, fair choices.

Most of them are afraid, many of them feel hopeless and helpless and believe they have no voice and no choice.

They are leaving their comfy homes, their bedsits, their various abodes because someone is finally, finally, saying something out loud that they have been thinking in their heads.

It’s not about Corbyn, it’s about what he says.