Being 46


Today is my 46th birthday and I have been enjoying a weekend of celebrations.  One of the advantages of a summer birthday is that there’s always lots going on, especially in a holiday seaside town, so it was a festival on Friday and carnival today.  Carnival week is the highlight of our town’s year and its fun to have a birthday in it each year.  On my 40th birthday not only did we have the big carnival parade but a display from the Red Arrows too, who else gets that on their 40th?

This weekend has been one where I’ve felt truly blessed of my life.  Friday was so special as I got to take Little Miss to her (and my) first big music festival.  She’s a big Jess Glynne fan and when I saw she was headlining Friday night at the festival,  we made the plans.  I will write another piece about the festival, but it was a very special day with so many amazing memories. Jess Glynne was brilliant, not only as a singer but in her words of empowerment and encouragement to her young fans but the day was so much more than the music, creative writing, painting, nostalgia (Vic Reeves), curiosity,  relaxation and of course festival, glittery eyes! I felt so happy and me at the festival, my voice hoarse from the singing and achy feet from all the walking and dancing.

The festival was the unusual catalyst which made me realise how happy and content I am with my life.  There are always issues to be addressed, a biggie next year is finding a school place for our son which meets his SEN and helping our daughter settle into secondary etc.. but generally we’re in a good place at the moment.  For the first time in many years, I feel that so many areas of life, family, well being, finances and work are healthy and positive.  We have those extra pennies for treats like the festival, we’re saving hard for the children’s future and its only a few years until we are mortgage free.  After a few years where I neglected my own health, I’ve taken control again and feel so different, I’ve lost the extra weight I was carrying and returned to running seriously.  My birthday today started with a 5 mile run and I felt great for doing it.  Professsionally things are pretty stable, however without wishing to tempt fate, there is a very exciting project in the pipeline and one that I feel I am able to embrace as the children are older and I can devote more time and energy to it, fingers crossed all works out.

At 46, I’m finally confident and comfortable being me, I no longer feel I have to try to be someone I’m not.  I’m not a party animal but still like to meet up with friends for a quiet drink, I love to read, write and bake, not the most rock’n’roll of hobbies but in doing them I feel the ‘flow’ and relax.  My values are strong, I’m political and will stand up for injustice.  I’m becoming more and more concerned about our impact on our planet and am trying to take positive action.  I think my presents today really reflected who I am, an essential oil diffuser as I like to use the oils for wellbeing, funky pumps to add a splash of colour to outfits, book tokens, fresh flowers and some eco friendly gifts which will be used regularly.  With such lovely gifts, I did feel loved and understood  by my closest friends and family.

I have no issue with my age I’m not trying to be younger but to age gracefully and healthily, to have fun and embrace life.  Life is what we make it and I’m excited for the future.


Voting ..


Today where I live there were elections for both our town and new county councils, a busy day at the booth where I had to choose 8 candidates! Politics is my guilty pleasure, I studied it at uni and follow it closely.  For me its not about a political party but the processes, culture etc.. Despite this keen interest, I am exasperated about the current political system and do wonder if we are at the time in history where our party political system will implode.

I always vote in every election and say a quiet thanks to the suffragettes every time. Although, I live in an area where one party holds every seat and there is never any competition, I still gamely go along and make my choice. 

Today, for the first time ever,  I paused at the booth and wondered why am I doing this, I don’t feel represented.  In fairness, the town council was a fairly easy choice, I know a lot of candidates and despite party politics they are all good people trying hard to improve our town. 

I struggled with the next layer of government, our new council.  We pay one of the highest council taxes and yet I genuinely struggle to see how it is spent to improve services in our small town. All schools have deficit budgets and our library, with its opening hours cut, is always under the threat of closure, despite it being the hub of our town and housing so many additional services.  I don’t have direct experience of services for the elderly but I am sure it is a similar state too as there are always local campaigns for all services. I despair at some of the decisions made around education and key services and do feel other towns in the county benefit more than others. Ironically the most common council employee in our town is not for services but teams of traffic wardens raising revenue which is not reinvested in our town. The wardens are legendary in their ticketing and not just for obvious violations but really obscure ones you didn’t even know were illegal!

I’ve lost confidence in regional politics how do these people represent me and provide the best services to our population? And this is just at a local area, I’m not confident in our national political system either. I’m an ordinary citizen and yet feel unrepresented. I can’t help but feel that is how extreme political parties develop, preying on the politically vulnerable and isolated, polarising opinion, turning people against each other and I am fearful that this is how our country may become. We need to become more focused on solutions, serving all members of our communities and respecting differences so that when we do vote we are confident that our voice is heard.

A random act of kindness from Melbourne to Brighton


This weekend we have spent some time with an amazing lady, I like to think of her as our family’s fairy godmother for her kindness to our children and the friendship she gives both Mr S and I.  She is an incredible person and with her determination and hard work she is now the owner of a very successful business and helps to sponsor a school in Africa for which she does not simply provide financial help but has been out to give hands on practical support. I am in awe of her and can’t believe we’re lucky enough to call her a friend.  The children were keen this weekend to find out how we became friends as our lifestyles are so different and simply it comes down to a little act of kindness from which a friendship blossomed.

We first met at Melbourne airport after arriving on a flight from London in December 2006.  I don’t travel well and had spent the previous 12 hours sleeping and vomiting violently so was not in the best state to make a new friend, all I wanted to do was collapse in my hotel bed.  We were all on a cricket tour to watch the Ashes in Melbourne and Sydney and ended up getting a taxi together to the city centre.  It was on the journey that we discovered that she was travelling alone as the husband of the couple she had booked to travel with had suffered a serious heart attack days before (happy ending, he survived and we met him at cricket games in the future) I knew how I would feel about arriving in a new country and the prospect of a holiday alone, so we all agreed to meet up for the Christmas day dinner, its so much easier to go to something when you know that there will be a friendly face there.  In the meantime, we had a day to get over our jet lag and as we were staying in different hotels I managed to get a message via the rep to make sure she was ok.  We all met as planned for lunch and had one of the best Christmas days, we got on so well and as she now had two spare tickets for the very best seats in the ground, we took up her kind offer of joining her at the match.  Whilst we had tickets, we got the rep to sell these so her friends could get a little compensation for missing the match.  We had such a good time at the cricket with our friend and others in our group and we would meet up in the evenings for drinks and dinner, it was just a lovely relaxed time.  Mr S enjoyed her company for her cricket knowledge, humour and general loveliness and I found a friend to chat all things girlie with and a companion to come to the theatre with, one of my personal highlights on the tour was a brilliant night out at Priscilla with her whilst Mr S played at the casino. It was a fantastic holiday and we all agreed to meet up at home.

The friendship did continue when we returned home, via email, phone calls and visits.  Our friend loved to come down to the seaside (she has only recently moved to Brighton) and we would visit her too.  We shared a number of hobbies, so during the years, we would meet up to watch England cricket games together, to run races and simply enjoy each others’ company.  Over the years we’ve got to know each others friends and families too.  Its always been lovely to spend time with each other and its a friendship where the three of us are close.  She was a reference for our adoption application for the way in which she knew us as a couple and has always been supportive.  Since the children have arrived she has been generous, kind and thoughtful to them and she has reassured, counselled and supported us, she is a magical person.

Our weekend in Brighton has just reminded me of what a beautiful person our friend is in our lives and also what a super stylish and accomplished woman she is, a role model to us all.  She is the friend you can’t believe is your friend and I only hope we give to her some of what she gives to us.  Its crazy to think that a little act of kindness has led to such an important friendship.

My little corner


Over this past week, I have been undertaking a little upcycling project to transform my bureau into something more in keeping with our newly decorated lounge.  The bureau was the first piece of furniture I bought for our new house when we moved in 13 years ago, it was second hand and I carefully, sanded, primed and varnished it to complement our lounge.  The bureau is the hub of my life and I sit at it daily to write, organise and plan.  It also contains so many treasures and memories, as well as every essential.

The upcycling was a simple job to undertake and a good distraction.  I chose a paint by Rust-Oleum, clotted cream, which didn’t need the bureau to be sanded or primed but simply painted and then finished with varnish.  The paint has a chalk like finish but must be stirred carefully or it can become quite lumpy in places. I used 2 coats all over the bureau.

The children were both keen to help me in this project so there are a couple of (hidden) places where the finish is not quite as precise as I would have hoped.  Its a compromise I was happy to make.  I took the children individually to the garage where we chatted and worked, simple pleasures and its lovely to see how proud they are of their work.  In addition to the paint and varnish, I also changed the handles for a slightly different look.

My bureau is a treasure trove of my special things, below is a small selection of some of the things I keep in it.  Firstly is the bag of chargers, I have them organised and neatly labelled.  Next to the bag is a postcard by Matisse, I saw this painting in L’Orangerie in Paris when I was 20 and loved it, I’ve had the postcard ever since.  I have quite a few special postcards of paintings, people, patterns, inspiring quotes etc.. in my bureau. Some I send to friends, often for no reason just to let them know I’m thinking of them, others I keep and others become book marks!  The plastic folder is full of articles in magazines or newspapers that I’ve enjoyed, cards from friends, tickets from special events, a little memory box to make me smile. My Filofax and Clipbook are the key to my organisation and used daily, I’ve tried to streamline into one but I prefer both, the Filofax is for dates and deadlines, the Clipbook for more creative projects. The small notebook computer is my daily computer for admin and bits and pieces.  Our family computer and accessories are elsewhere so this computer is simply mine for admin and it’s size makes it convenient and accessible. I cannot resist good stationery and I have a lot of pencil cases and pens and pencils, .  This is my favourite pencil case at the moment by Poppy Treffey which stays in my bureau, I also have a small pencil case in my bag (Cath Kidston) one for my work bag (gold Sparkles) etc.. I am addicted!  The small make up bag contains aromatherapy oils, as I often diffuse them at my desk. I bought this in Melbourne on our first trip to Australia, my family nickname is Skippy hence the design.  The bits and pieces bag does as it says, glue, sellotape, blue tac, scissors, tippex, stamps, small sewing kit etc.. The letter rack is for daily admin, cards to be sent, correspondence cards and even a cheque book for those really rare times when you have to pay by cheque. For some random reason I also keep the name labels here, I always seem to be labelling something. There are always lots of little me things in my bureau, pin badges, photos, stickers, candles etc..


I am really pleased with my little upcycling project, the colour works well in the new lighter room and I feel back at home in my little corner.

A working day in my life …


Last weekend, I wrote a day in the life of a typical Saturday in the Sparkles household. Today I am writing of a typical week day to illustrate my working week and the demands of trying to juggle family and a working life. I work in a special needs school as part of the senior management team, but have a flexible working agreement so my hours are 9 – 2.30, 3 days a week and until 5pm on our meeting night, I have one full day off a week normally a Thursday but I do change it depending on work demands.

6.15am        The alarm goes off and I get up. I’ll never be a morning person but once out of bed, I’m fine and simply get on with my day. The first job is always to put the kettle on, I need at least two cups of tea in the morning to make me feel myself, and whilst I wait for the kettle, I unload the dishwasher and start to set the table for breakfast. The radio has to be on and I’m a big Chris Evans fan, I grew up in my 20s listening to his radio 1 breakfast show and now in my 40s he’s still my breakfast dj.

6.30am       Shower time. My routine is quick and organised, I can shower, dress and put on basic make up in around 20 minutes. My hair is short and needs minimal styling so this helps. Little Man awakes around now but is happy to potter around in his bedroom or pop into the kitchen for a drink. I may have a cheeky glance at Twitter but that’s dangerous for my timings as I easily get drawn to blog posts.

6.50am        Now I’m dressed, I get the children organised. Little Man likes to talk to me in his bedroom as he gets dressed, I normally leave their uniforms ready the night before as every little thing counts in our morning routine.

7.00am        I wake up Little Miss, she’s not a morning person and there’s often a few groans as I open the curtains and air the room. We chat (okay I talk she grunts) for 5 minutes and then I leave her to get dressed and go to the kitchen.

7.10am       I make cup of tea number 2 and get breakfast ready, this is usually cereal and surprisingly we all like porridge so I often make it on the hob. We like it with lot of different fillings, honey, raisins, bananas etc…

7.20am        Breakfast for us all. We’re still getting used to Mr S being home as for the past 2 years he has been away working during the week. Little Man does his calendar and then we all sit down for breakfast.

7.35am       Whilst Mr S supervises teeth and hair brushing, I tidy up the kitchen and finish the lunches I prepped the night before. I make my lunch which is normally a salad as I’m not crazy on sandwiches. I then finish packing the school bags, it’s a busy day today as Little Man needs old clothes for forest school and his kit for football training. Fortunately most letters, permissions and payments are made through the Parentmail app now so there’s no letters to remember.

7.50am        The children play in the playroom whilst I brush my teeth and put a little lip gloss and perfume on. If Little Miss wants a fancy hair style, I help by plaiting her hair or pinning it up. Today’s hairstyle is simple so I’m not needed to help.

8.00am        I get my school bag ready, if everything is calm, I’ll take a quick look at work emails and may need to make a call to work about any urgent issues. This is my choice but by giving me flexible working conditions, I want to help things run smoothly in the department, a quick phone call now may stop my time being used later. I only needed to send a quick message today and there was nothing urgent in my emails.

8.15am        I get coats, bags and shoes ready and ask everyone to go to the toilet. We need to be ready to leave for 8.30am

8.30am        As Mr S is at home at present, I don’t need to do the school run so jump into my car and drive to work, this takes less than 5 minutes, by the time I park, sign in and walk to my office its around 8.40am

8.40 – 2.30pm           Work. Work is always a whirlwind of activity, today I lead our assembly, meet with a colleague from the LEA’s Virtual school to discuss progress and support, visit every class to see all our students and staff, meet with senior colleagues and try to catch up on my never ending list of things to do. It is a really positive day at work but not every day is like this, I have been in tears this week because of my utter frustration with budgets and staffing.  Sometimes its really difficult to leave on time and I often feel conflicted over my role as a senior leader and parent.

2.40pm        Back home and I catch up with Mr S who had to go to school earlier as Little Miss had an accident at lunch time. She fell over and has a nasty deep cut on her foot, he brought new socks and shoes to school for her but decided she was well enough to stay the afternoon. Whilst I always try to walk the school run, we take the car as her foot was heavily bandaged and if it’s still bad we may take her to the local cottage hospital after school.

3.20pm        We’re at school for pick up, Little Miss seems to be ok so we drive home. Little Man is staying at school for football training so I run to his classroom to say hello!

3.30pm        Home and it’s time for a snack and drink. A family friend comes around to see us, she used to babysit the children when they were little and they love her. She married a few weeks ago and has brought around photos and her dress for us to see. Little Miss is allowed to try on the dress which is beautiful and her and the bride dance around and do twirls, it’s just lovely. The bride’s mum is a good family friend and has come round too, it’s a perfect way to end the week. Mr S collects Little Man from football whilst our visitors are here but he is suitably unimpressed by the wedding dress and photos and after saying hello heads to the play room to play Wii U with Mr S. Whilst we have had visitors today, this is the time we either do clubs, have friends around, pop in to see neighbours or play in the garden or inside.

5.30pm        Time to prepare for tea, as its Friday, it’s a very simple tea of fresh pasta,  sauce and garlic bread.

6.00pm        Its teatime and a catch up for the 4 of us, it was the first forest school so Little Man is very chatty and Little Miss is keen to talk to about weddings.

6.30pm        Tidy up time in the kitchen and a little bit of kitchen dancing for me. Fortunately, it’s just loading the dishwasher, washing a few pots and then emptying lunch boxes today, I love Fridays no packed lunches to make! I put in a wash of very muddy forest school clothes as Little Man will need them again tomorrow as he has a forest birthday party.

7pm       I settle down with the rest of the family to watch the end of the Lego Master final.

7.20pm Mr S does Little Man’s bedtime routine whilst I do some jobs at my desk, sorting out lifts for tomorrow’s party, sending a few emails etc.. Little Miss reads quietly on the sofa.

8pm       I take Little Miss up to bed and listen to her read before tucking her in and kissing her good night.

8.30pm At this time, I might read a book or blog, tonight I start typing up this post but stop for ..

9pm       Cold Feet, its one of my favourite tv programmes and makes my Friday night!

10pm     I continue to write this post for another 30 minutes and switch off the tv to listen to Sounds of the 80s on the radio, I’m an 80s girl and love the Friday night nostalgia.

10.30pm     A final quick tidy up, clothes into the dryer, switch on the dishwasher and then it’s up to bed, I check that both children are sleeping peacefully in their beds.

10.45pm     After a wash, change and a quick game of Scrabble on my phone, I settle down to sleep for around 11pm.

This was a pretty good day, but I was very grateful for Mr S being around and being able to do the school run, go back to the school when Little Miss hurt herself and then collect Little Man from football. If I had to do those things which I quite often do, it would have made the day much more demanding and stressful. For me there is no easy way to juggle work, family and running a house, I simply rely on lists and being incredibly organised. It would be nice to have more time in my day but I’m sure all mums feel like this and it’s a matter of making the best of the situation you are in. It would be interesting to complete this exercise in another 5 years to see what a day in my life looks like when the children are both in secondary school. I’m sure I’ll be missing those precious times such as the school run, cuddles on the sofa etc..

A day in my life …

When we were doing our adoption home study, one of the activities was to write a day in our lives. I think the aim was for us to think about how our daily lives would change with a child in our house. There were quite a few activities like this during the home study and our patience was tested a little, however it became another activity to complete to satisfy our social worker that we were ready to welcome a child. I was thinking about this activity a few days ago and whilst my original isn’t to hand to compare with, I decided to blog a day in my life to look back on in the years to come. I chose yesterday, Saturday, it was a very ordinary but typically busy day in the Sparkles’ family.

6.30 am, I am woken by Little Man stirring at 6.30am, no matter what time he goes to bed he is always up, bright as a button at 6.30am. He’s really good, he pops to the toilet and then plays with his toys in his bedroom. When Mr S gets up 10 minutes later to make a cup of tea to bring back to bed, Little Man potters down with him and I can hear them chat away in the kitchen.

6.45am, Tea in bed, courtesy of Mr S and the three of us awake talk about the day’s plans.

7.00am, Up and dressed for a run. I’ve tried to run at different times of day, but this works best for me. 7 – 8am is my hour on Saturdays and Sundays and I run off road through the local country park, it’s one of my favourite times of the week, great views, great music and just me.

7.15am – As I leave for my run, Little Miss wakes up and asks if she can join me. I agree to run past the house at 8am and if she’s ready she can do the last mile or so with me.

8am – Little Miss is dressed and keen to run with me so we head off for the last part of the run together. She’s a good running partner and we chat away whilst running.

8.30am – Back home and Mr S is making breakfast. We all sit down together to eat.

9am – Shower, dress and apply some simple make up.

9.30 -10.30am – Household jobs, laundry, tidying etc.. I try not to do much housework on a Saturday but this hour gives me time to do the daily jobs and keep on top of things.

10.30 – 11.30am – Little Miss and Mr S pop out to visit a friend and Little Man and I walk into town for our normal Saturday routine, the children return and choose books in the library, we go to the bakers for fresh bread for lunch and WHSmith for the Times, (I buy it for the excellent column by Caitlin Moran, Nadiyah Hussain’s bakes and the weddings page!) We might pop into a café, but today Mr S phones to say they are now at the festival field and we go to meet them and pick up a takeaway coffee here. In our town there are festivals and fairs most weekends in the summer, but this is the last and a really popular one for locals, our good bye to the season.

11.30am – We meet up with Mr S and Little Miss and there’s a great atmosphere in the field, we bump into lots of friends and acquaintances and its lovely to catch up and potter around the stalls. There’s also live music and story telling for the children in the late morning sun.

1pm – Back home and lunch is a little later today than normal after our trip out. In the autumn and winter its always fresh soup and bread for lunch at weekends. My lovely Father-in-law bought me a fantastic soup maker so 25 minutes later we sit down for lunch.

1.45pm – I have a cup of tea and read Caitlin Moran’s column and Nadiyah’s recipe in the Times magazine.

2pm – Normally I wouldn’t do homework on Saturday but the weather forecast for tomorrow is awful and we need to do a nature walk to collect examples of seeds and fruits in our local environment. I did a little reccie on my run this morning, so I return to the country park and the children enjoy finding the seeds and berries and burn off a bit more energy running around and climbing trees.

3.00pm – There’s a craft fayre in town today, again the last of the season, so Little Miss and I head down to look around, whilst the boys stay at home to do some Lego. The fayre is excellent, definitely the best of the season and I buy a necklace and some greeting cards. We may have sampled the fresh fudge too!

4.00pm – Back home and I’m preparing dinner in the kitchen. I love my kitchen and Saturday is the day to try new recipes or make more special dinners. I have Zoe Ball on the radio and it’s another of my happy times and places. After a busy day, it’s a simple tea, I’m making a potato gratin, with fresh veg and gammon steaks. Normally I have a helper but both children are busy playing a new game on Wii U.

4.30 – 5pm – Tea prepped I’m watching the football scores come through with Mr S as the children continue to play. There’s a late winner for Bristol City so I’m happy with the day’s results.

5- 5.30pm – Back to the kitchen to cook tea and set the table etc..

5.30 – 6pm – Tea around the table in the kitchen. I am a stickler for all the family around the table for meals. Whilst we have had a healthy menu today, we do have treats too, last night was pizza!

6- 7pm – Whilst Mr S does showers and pyjamas I tidy the kitchen before sitting down with a cup of tea to read. My current read on my Kindle is Amy Poehler’s Yes Please.

7pm – Strictly time. I LOVE Strictly Come Dancing and it’s my time that nobody dares to interrupt. Fortunately the children love it (and secretly Mr S too) so its family time around the television. Mr S takes Little Man to bed around 7.30pm for a story and Little Miss and I cuddle up to watch the rest of SCD.

8.40pm – As Little Miss watched Strictly with me she managed to get a later bedtime, it’s a quicker bedtime routine and the promise that she’ll go straight to sleep. She’s really good tonight, but I think she’s hoping that if she’s good this first week, she’ll be able to stay up late in the weeks to come.

9pm – Mr S and I sit down together. I get out my laptop and finish the Little Loves post I’ve been writing since Thursday, it’s been a busy week. There’s nothing much on the tv and we end up watching sport and chatting before bed.

11pm – Bedtime. On my way to bed, I always go into the children to check on them and to tell them I love them, I want the last thing they hear everyday to be something reassuring and loving. When I’m in bed, I rarely read but prefer to listen to music and often play a game of scrabble on my phone before sleeping. I’m lucky in that I never have any problem falling asleep and will sleep straight through to 6.30am

My working mum dilemma


This post is about my current work dilemma, it is not should I work or not, I enjoy working and want to continue working part time, its trying to decide what I want such a role to look like.  Late in the  last school year, I finally accepted a promotion to a senior position as a member of the leadership team in my school. I say finally, because I have been at my school for many years now and have been invited to apply for senior positions before. I never did as I was either undergoing fertility treatment, going through the adoption process or had a young family. As anyone who works in education will attest, it’s a demanding and consuming job and at these times, it was an easy decision not to apply for the promotion as I would not be able to do the senior job it as I would want to. Fortunately, I never felt the need to prove myself or climb the career ladder and was genuinely happy being a classroom teacher. When I returned to work after my adoption leave I worked 2 days a week and this has gradually increased as the children went to school and I have taken on additional duties to support the school. Over the last few years,  I have negotiated to work 22 hours a week over 4 days in school. This being teaching, I easily do another 10 hours a week at home and there is the constant thinking of work, checking emails etc.. The hours have been key to me being able to work, my employers have been very supportive and flexible and I do all the school runs except for one afternoon which Mr S does. This is so important for me, I need to have that daily contact with the children’s school as one child has a full time 1:1 TA and I need to liaise with her for feedback and to work together to provide the best support. My working hours  can make for some crazy school runs, gates open at 8.45am, I settle the children in their classrooms, run to my car, drive across town and then lead a school assembly at 9am, at the end of the day, I am always running out of work and hoping all the traffic lights are green, there is a parking space nearby and be expectantly waiting at the classroom door. I am so grateful to my employers to allow me to work as I do and one of the reasons I took on my position this year, which was negotiated on my historical working hours was to show my support to them. However, I was still unsure whether I could truly commit to a senior position and asked for a provision that all parties would  meet by Easter 2017 to discuss the situation and to mutually decide if I continue in post or return to teaching and a full time appointment made. I am conscious that this time is approaching and its nearly decision time. I genuinely don’t know what to do, there are some aspects of the job which are great, working with colleagues on their professional development, supporting a NQT, helping to design our curriculum and doing some innovative work with our SEN students, however there are frustrations, meetings, meetings and meetings, exasperation at the bureaucracy and protracted decision making prevalent in education, though I should add this is mainly external and the one which I was always worried of, the pressure of being a part time senior member of staff, the never ending to do list and my professional motivation to try and do it all. As a teacher, I will always take work home but I recognise that work is creeping into home life more and more.

At the start of this year after a pretty manic Autumn term, I began to reflect on my life and started to attempt to work out who I am and what I want to do. I am working through a self help book, I think its one of the few I’ve ever read called Designing Your Life. Rather than just reading it I am doing the tasks too and its helpful, I don’t have the answers yet but its enabling me to understand why I do what I am doing. For example, I didn’t realise the effect of my Dad’s unemployment in my teenage years and I think my strong work ethic comes from this difficult time. Mr S is self employed and I’ve always felt it important that my permanent job balances the unpredictability of his, a strange logic given in the 19 years we’ve been together he has always had plenty of work and no periods of instability, yet I think my job helps give me the security I crave. My job is not simply about stability though, I love teaching and I cannot think of another career I would like to pursue so my work design is not about finding me but finding a balance. The balance is not simply from work, aside from my little family I would like to spend more time with friends and my wider family, go to the gym, run for longer and more often, be creative etc.. but I need to create that time. I don’t think there’s a magic formula for the perfect balance, it’s what suits you and your family needs best at the time and compromises will always have to be made.


Image from,uk

On our holiday flight, Little Miss starting voicing her concerns about our joureny.  Saying out loud the questions to worry the nervous flier, what happens if we crash, how do planes crash, what if we’re over the sea?   Fortunately, I’m a confident traveller and her questions didn’t worry me.  I am of the opinion that if anything were to happen its unlikely that we would know and as I now would only fly with my family we would all be together which is of some comfort.  I answered Little Miss’ questions patiently and gave her lots of reassurance.  I told her I’d been on lots and lots of flights and never had a worry.  Her response was of course to ask even more questions, how many flights had I been on, where had I travelled to?  The question of the number of flights got me thinking and I started to tot up my flights, something which ended up being quite an interesting social history.  Little Miss is only eight yet has already been on eight flights, at her age I had not yet been on a plane and all my childhood flights total less than her score so far in her little life.  By my calculations I have done 64 flights but I’m sure I may have missed the odd journey.  I have gone as far west as the Caribbean and to the other side of the world, Australia twice, thanks to Mr S passion for cricket.

I find it unbelievable now but my first flight was as an unaccompanied minor aged about 9 with my brother to Scotland.  We were dropped off at Heathrow by my parents and collected at Edinburgh by my grandparents, my abiding memory of the flight is being forgotten by the BA chaperone on the plane.  I waited more than five years after this for my next flight, when after years of ferry and road trips around northern Europe my family finally discovered the sunny package holiday and we had three before adulthood.  Of all my flights the most popular destinations are Edinburgh and Paris.  Paris is much to do with my studies and Edinburgh because both Mr S and I had relatives in Scotland whom we liked to visit. My flights reflect different periods in my life, there are the city weekend breaks, hen dos and weddings, long haul flights to exotic destinations as a couple and now the family holidays.  Air travel is so much cheaper and accessible that flying is so much more routine.  I love to travel and am always planning new destinations, my dreams for the future are to visit America, I thought a trip to Disneyland/world in Florida or Orlando  (a bit more research needed) would be perfect to celebrate 10 years as a family in 2020 and my big dream trip is to fly into JFK and explore New York.  I love flying and the opportunities it allows to discover our world, despite Little Miss’ questions I will continue to enjoy every flight I take with a sense of wonder and excitement.





A Summer Digital Detox?


I don’t know if it was my desire to follow the Olympics but the big digital detox I try to achieve on my summer holidays wasn’t so effective on our recent Mallorcan holiday. During the day, I did leave my iPhone and Kindle in the room, sand, water and heat not being the best conditions so it was just in the evenings when I would log on thanks to the free Wi-Fi and use a few key apps and tools, Twitter #teamGB,, photos apps and Spotify, not many tools but it meant that I was on online more than I have ever been on holiday.

On our holiday, I really noticed how digital our world is.  As a language teacher, I would encourage my students to visit the country and immerse themselves in the culture, watch tv, listen to the radio etc.. Yet this year we had BBC1 and 2 on our hotel television and listened to Chris Evans at breakfast.  Fortunately it was wall to wall Olympics coverage and therefore an added bonus, but in other years I’m not so sure I would have wanted the normal schedules, I go on holiday to escape daily life and who doesn’t like to watch a local soap opera and guess the storyline through exaggerated gestures and sniggers at the ropey costumes and set.  Another observation on holiday was the number of children entertained by their tablets in restaurants, some eating and playing, a real pet hate of mine.  For me, family mealtimes are very special times to talk and laugh together.  I’m the first to admit the children had tablets to keep them entertained on the flight but they used them rarely during the holiday.

I can’t help but feel that the proliferation of digital media means we are losing the opportunity to feel and live the culture of the country we are visiting.  We ate out each evening in the local town and it was a challenge to find authentic Spanish meals among the pizzas and pastas and yet when we found those restaurants the food, its freshness and taste were superb.  Every restaurant seemed to have the same children’s menu sausage and chips, burger and chips, pizza etc..  We asked for the children to share an adult’s meal and it was always readily agreed giving them a little taste of Spanish specialities.  They both loved tapas and Little Miss always is an amazing eater she will try and enjoy all food.  Eating out in restaurants meant that the children tried a few words of Spanish too which makes the MFL teacher in me very proud.

Our holiday showed that its becoming more difficult to do a digital detox without depriving yourself of some of the things you like to do.  Our digital world has evolved and in some ways this is brilliant, no longer do I need a Walkman and cassettes or CDs, camera, a pile of books as they’re all on my iPhone and Kindle. However its all about balance, so we need to feel comfortable putting our devices to the side and playing, talking and relaxing.  We will never remember the game we played on a tablet but will cherish the memory of the mass water fight, being clapped on to a slide and doing gymnastics in the pool.