Category Archives: Blog Post

Podcasts & Facemasks

An attempt at improving my book tally in 2022 has grown into something unexpected.

I love to read. It’s a real pleasure and as a busy mum of three, it’s a treat to get through a chapter without being asked to “watch this funny TikTok” or “watch this move on Kirby” or “mum, where are the black Converse?” That said, all three of my kids also love to read so at least there’s a positive to the constant interruptions. See it, do it!

I set myself a challenge in 2022 to read 100 books before the end of the year. Recommend a book for me, here. I’ve attempted this before and while I’m doing better than in 2020, my tally sits at 23 with less than four months to go. Pretty lame, but at the same time, I’ve finally, YEARS behind the trend, discovered podcasts!

The perfect Sunday for me involves having all the school uniforms washed and ironed, the house tidy, the washing basket empty, a roast in the oven (while I can still afford the gas), and 30 minutes to myself to put on a sheet mask and listen to an episode in solitude.

Like 90% of my book choices, the podcasts I’m obsessed with are crime thrillers and true stories.

The most recent podcast I’m listening to is The Teacher’s Pet from The Australian. This podcast spans 4 years of investigations into the disappearance of Lynette Dawson from the northern beaches area of Sydney in 1982.

Hosted by journalist, Hedley Thomas, the 16-part series uncovers incredible witness testimony and just this week, led to Lyn’s husband, Chris Dawson, now 74, going on trial for her murder. I won’t spoil the verdict as I’m 100% encouraging anyone interested in the crime genre to give it a listen. You can find out more here.

Previously I’ve listened to In the Dark from APM Reports. Across 2 seasons this investigative journalism podcast, hosted by Madeleine Baran details the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling. Find out more here.

Away from the scary real-world stuff, I’ve really enjoyed the Word of Mouth podcast from BBC Radion 4. Hosted by Michael Rosen, the host, and special guest (there are 142 episodes and different guests in total) dive into the English language and unearth all manner of secrets, meanings, and funny anecdotes. One to stick on and instantly learn something new. Find out more here.

French & Saunders – a favourite double act from the 90s and beyond for me, are now into their 3rd series of the ‘Titting About’ podcast, and honestly, listening to it as a home worker makes me feel like I’m having a laugh in the office. There is nothing they won’t discuss and I have to recommend the health episode – purely because it made my 8-year-old son run out of the room in horror – constipation will do that to you! Listen here.

Finally, I have loved dipping into A Bit Of Optimism by Simon Sinek. 30-minute-ish episodes, again with special guests to cover a multitude of different topics and subjects. The habits of successful people, what to do when things don’t get better, how to be resilient, and of course, a healthy dose of true crime. Listen to my favourite episode with David Mittelman, here.

If you’re obsessed with a podcast and want to share a link, drop me a line on the contacts page. I’m loving opening my mind and ears to new conversations, opinions, and takes on things.

Oh, I almost forgot! Sheet masks. No podcast indulgence would be quite as effective without a good quality sheet mask on your face and I know it’s not just me who swears by this winning combo.

Personally I like a good tea tree or coconut/collagen mash-up, mainly because I’m old and need to take advantage of any and all ‘natural’ stimulants to stop my face from sliding off. Big shout out to Home & Bargain for stocking 99p ones that are actually good and to Boots and Superdrug for the £6 carbon pay day efforts that make you feel a teeny bit dewier.

How do you listen to your favourite podcast? What’s your genre of choice?

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The Invasion

It’s been a billion degrees for the last month and now it’s raining so of course, the 8-legged population of the North West thinks it can stroll into my living room.

Absolutely cannot cope with spiders. August has been mega hot here, like silly hot. I’ve had a better tan sitting on the front doorstep watching the kids play than after 2 weeks in Benidorm. Silly hot. Then the inevitable happened. The heavens opened and to quote my Geordie dad, it ‘stotted down’, prompting the biggest house spider I’ve ever seen to come racing into the living room at 9:45pm.

It stopped just short of my feet and froze at the sound of me shouting ‘SHHHITTTTTT’. You can scroll, there’s no spider pics here.

Luckily, my eldest daughter bought me a beautiful coffee table book last Christmas. It’s the bright pink Kate Spade book, ‘Things We Love’. It’s packed full of lovely things and it weighs a tonne which is the only way I’m able to still write this blog. It was dropped from a great height and a sense of calm was restored. The other outcome was spending the evening with a giant arachnid who clearly had plans to hop up, watch a bit of Netflix and chill – before devouring me, not in a good way.

I’m not scared of many things as proven here, but I am terrified of spiders. I don’t mind the small ones, just minding their business. It’s the big bastards, full of bravado who’re like ‘what are you doing in my house?’. I once sacrificed my three-year-old son in the hallway to see where a massive house spider had gone. Unfortunately for all involved, it was above the door he had to pass through to get back into the bedroom. Much screaming ensued and now he’s also scared shitless. My parenting bad.

I love Autumn but sod the soggy spider invasion. Invest in coffee table books now and save yourself!

God bless Kate Spade.

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Happy New September

I’ve bought a new diary and planner. Does anyone else start their year in September rather than January?

You’d think after 10 years I’d be much better at this blogging lark, but low and behold! It’s been another 5 months since I last put digital pen to digital paper. It’s been a busy one and yet another emotional rollercoaster. Buckle up, we’re gonna recap!

In March I was due to have a fourth diathermy laser treatment for my HHT. If you’re new to the blog, you can read all about my superhuman ability to bleed from my nose and mouth at any given moment, here.

I had recently had covid, again you can read about that particular shit show here. And despite knowing this and the fact my PCR test showed positive, I was invited onto the theatre ward. I turned up, mentally and physically prepared for another general anesthetic, only to be told it was a non-starter. It’s difficult all this surgery stuff.

I have to make sure I have adequate time off work. I have to make sure the kids are looked after for a couple of days because the operation wipes me out for a good 48 hours. I have to make sure my mental health is ready to deal with the fact this particular surgery holds very little hope of being 100% successful. To have all of that in order and then be held in a corridor like a leper was pretty crap, to say the least.

My mental health bounced. I lost confidence in my work, having to turn my camera off during meetings all the time, and beginning to feel myself pull away from wanting to go out and do stuff that usually makes me happy.

I referred myself to Talk Liverpool and after a 7-week wait, I was able to access a bunch of online modules to help me improve my mental health and wellbeing. I found some of the coping mechanisms relatively helpful but I really needed to talk to someone. Sadly, this didn’t happen, other than one phone call in which I was told I was ‘showing improvement’ and therefore referred back to my GP. I felt a bit bamboozled by it all really and not at all ‘improved’.

In May I buggered off to Portugal for four days R&R. I only had one nosebleed during that time which is hella surprising (aeroplane aircon, humidity, increased alcohol intake etc) and so I looked at villas and realised very quickly that I had no option but to return home. Damn it!

July was a whirlwind. I started a new job, my boy turned 8 and my mum flew us to Spain for a 14-day family endurance test, I mean holiday!

I’ve never been to mainland Spain in August before. This one warrants it’s own blog post. Sit tight for ‘Benidorm Bitches’ in the coming days.

I’ve had the fourth diathermy laser surgery. It didn’t go well. I came around in recovery and suffered 4-days worth of ‘ocular distortion’. Apparently, this occurs when you don’t fully close your eyes during a GA. On top of not being able to see straight, my nose was back to bleeding again as before, just four days post-surgery.

I’m currently awaiting a clinic review appointment and I can’t lie, I feel really down about it all. I’m back to daily journalling and trying to find a little joy in each day to keep my spirits up.

So here I am. My nose is still goosed, my vascular system is constantly trying to make my life more difficult and I SERIOUSLY need to lose some weight.

On the positive side – my bloody brilliant daughter smashed her GCSE’s and has already started her A Level programme. My middle wonder got a full bill of health in her recent HHT clinic, won a local and national art competition, and has become a fantastic little swimmer. What about the boy wonder I hear you cry? Well, he continues to amaze us all. He learned how to play chess in about 8 minutes flat, has learned how to swim (forward roll, backward roll and handstand in the pool) this summer AND he has enjoyed his first visit to Liverpool PRIDE.

This is what keeps you going, isn’t it? The little things. The smiles, and hugs and daft kitchen dances and good news and seeing friends and family and date nights and lovely dinners and hobnobs and coffee in bed on weekend mornings.

September is the start of a new academic year and for me a chance to renew the promises I made to myself in January. If you’ve any advice or great hacks for staying positive, being more disciplined or limiting those crappy times to maybe just an hour, or half a day when it all seems overwhelming, hit me up on the contact page.

Here’s to ‘keeping on’. Happy New Year.

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FREElance

It’s Saturday morning and I’m toying with the idea of going freelance again.

Completing a self assessment tax return comes with an undeniable sense of freedom, like a fresh start. A divorce from financial burden. A free pass to flirt with the world of interesting, varied and often highly stressful work again. The pros and cons list is a tome in itself and in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic there seems to be much more opportunity in ‘remote’ work.

I’ve straddled both sides of the journalism world, freelance and contracted and enjoyed lots of fantastic benefits, the most prominent being flexibility. The security of a fixed salary payment on a fixed date every month is highly appealing, but words like ‘secure’ and ‘fixed’ have never been that attractive to me.

If Monday involves writing copy about concrete blocks for a council, Tuesday is product descriptions for an indie clothes label, Wednesday is website copy for a well known high street bakers, Thursday is a feature on student bars and Friday is a Premier League match report – I’m happy as Larry. Yes, even despite knowing I may not get paid for this work for another 90 days.

But then summer comes along and the idea of a holiday is floated, new school uniforms are needed, a prom dress, a new laptop, the latest Nikes and suddenly managing all those invoices can become chaotic vs the simplicity of a guaranteed salary payment.

Weighing up the varied nature of freelance life involves being 100% honest with yourself about the real investment it takes to pull it off successfully. The pitching, research, negotiating, deadlines, interviews, self assessment, time management, dealing with the guilt of working non-stop and never being able to turn your brain off from work and the ‘ooooh there’s a story in that’ mentality. Oh God, I love it.

But you know, I’m still mulling it over.

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Worrying About Will

Good morning! I’ve been at my Chromebook since 8:15 am. The kids have had Easter eggs for breakfast, the eldest is packing to go away with school for a few days and no one, NO ONE can find any Selotape in the house for Logan’s rocket. It’s been a ride.

Amongst all the chaos I’ve managed to write around 3,000 words. I’m trying to focus on smaller submissions to bring my publications CV up to date a little. However, creativity on demand is hard going. I had no idea there were so many phenomenal independent magazines, journals and periodicals in the UK alone. This afternoon looks like research (reading), fresh air and more chocolate.

In other news, I’m worried about Will Smith. I don’t condone violence and he had no right to slap Chris Rock at the Oscars. It was a dumb move which shrouded his much-deserved Oscar win with a monumental shadow.

The conversation around comedians and where to draw the line in terms of personal attacks is also an interesting one. I’ve been reading Will’s recent autobiography and put it down again twice as his insistence on reiterating his struggle with cowardice towards his father caught me off guard. Reading about it felt like it concluded every paragraph in the book. I suppose the reader gets a sense that power and ego has been a struggle his whole life.

The Red Table Talk between Will and Jada, to me felt completely unnecessary and potentially signalled the start of Will’s unravelling. Recently Jada posted a short video of Will being pissed off that she had just started filming him while asking for help with their marriage to some guru dude – again, to what end?

I’m likely talking out of my arse because who really knows what goes on behind closed doors and backstage? I’d just be gutted that a brilliant actor might throw in the towel.

How are you spending Bank Holiday Monday? Probably not worrying about Will.

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Covid Calling

I’ve felt like a sitting duck for two years. Now I have Covid.

It’s been a week. My HHT symptoms are off the scale (lots and lots of nosebleeds). My youngest daughter had steroid injections in her surgery scar, which I had to stop three minutes into the procedure as she was screaming in pain. And this morning we both tested positive for Covid resulting in my own, long-awaited HHT diathermy laser surgery, scheduled for Tuesday next week, being cancelled.

Deeeeeeep breath. It’s fine. We’re fine. Our Covid symptoms so far include headaches, dizziness, sore throats and snotty noses. Basic flu symptoms, really. If this is the worst of it, we’ll count ourselves lucky.

Safe to say I was a bit pissed off on Instagram

Initially my two youngest we’re frightened when I said I had tested positive. Their lived experience of Covid is their Nan and Granddad catching it and Granddad becoming a ‘star in the sky’ just three days later. It’s still frightening.

We’ve done everything right. Vaccinated at the earliest opportunities. Washed our hands, kept our distance, wore the masks – and yet it’s still hunted us down.

Reassured, we’ve ordered more lateral flow tests, an Asda food shop and my mum stopped by to help top up the gas and electricity (yep, still on pre-pay metres in 2022, talk to me about budgeting!). We’ve got lots of clean pyjamas, Calpol, board games, art supplies, books and a decent sized garden. I’ve already explained why the kids can’t have their tech plugged in all day every day. Cheers, Rikshi!

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday. We didn’t have anything in particular planned but with the fine weather set to last and the BBQ dusted off, it would’ve been nice to get the family together to celebrate my mum. It made me realise how gutting it’s been for couples who have spent thousands on weddings only to have them cancelled once, twice, three times. The families who’ve missed big birthdays or had to watch funerals of loved ones on Zoom. The front line staff who have had their lives turned upside down knowing the government couldn’t care less. It’s such a shit storm, isn’t it?

Into isolation we go.

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Decade

I’m celebrating 10 years of blogging with Covid and a 4,500 word giveaway. What a mash up!

I received an email from WordPress today which stated it’s my 10 year blog anniversary. My first thought was how different I am to the person I was a decade ago. Unrecognisable sums it up. 2012 I was a newly wed with 7 year-old and 6 month-old daughters and struggling with post natal depression. Life as a RAF wife never suited me. Too isolated. I turned to blogging as an escape from life behind the MoD wire, documenting thoughts, routines, aspirations.

Typing away in Costa like all the cool 2012 bloggers.

Fast forward 10 years and isolation is back – only this time it’s thanks to a positive Covid test this morning. It’s been a transformative decade. I took my blogging to college and earned my NCTJ Journalism qualification, enjoyed a freelance career covering all manner of phenomenal events and experiences and added a little boy to my brood. I also shed a husband, moved 160 miles across the country back to Liverpool, was diagnosed with an incurable disease (and dyspraxia) and landed my dream job in the Premier League. It’s been a ride.

Above all else, I still love to write. This morning I joined an online BIPC online seminar hosted by my former boss and good friend, Jo Austin, to brush up on my analytics skills – all the while taking page after page of notes. My 61 item online Asda food shop was handwritten before being typed in on the website and a whole slew of birthday and celebration cards have been decorated with my distinctive scrawl today, just to pass the time.

Even something simple like formulating a short quote on Instagram for a fantastic self-employed friend of mine (go get ’em, Carmel) is a thrill. Proof reading homework, commenting in reading records and typing up epistaxis severity scores every day makes my soul happy.

I’m reading more in 2022. I’ve managed 13 books so far, the most recent being ‘In A House Of Lies’ by Ian Rankin, another of his TV famous Rebus series. I love the challenge of switching authors in quick succession, it’s a great lesson in writing style. Join the 2022 book challenge here.

My blogging set up has not changed in 10 years

As part of my ‘100 books in 2022’ challenge I listened to ‘Windswept & Interesting’ narrated by the author himself, the big yin, Billy Connolly on Audible. Still one of my favourite comedians and story tellers since watching him on TV in the 80’s cavorting across the stage, my mum and dad in pleats laughing. I’m always inspired by the desire to make people laugh and the level of commitment it requires. Reading is integral to writing. You can’t do one without the other. Something I obviously wasn’t wise to when I started out blogging.

The level of cringe in my early blog posts is enough to have you crying with laughter (or physical pain) I’m sure. So with my sights set firmly on the future (and not past blog posts such as ‘Is Anyone Out There’ and ‘Geordie’s Round Up), I’m setting a new goal for my writing.

THE GIVEAWAY BIT

To celebrate a decade of writing I’m giving away 10 custom blog posts/articles up to 450 words each for copyright free publication. If your business website could benefit from some fresh new copy or you want to mix up your own blog with a guest post, interview or feature, get involved. Similarly, I love a bit of creative fiction too. If you fancy being the main character in a super short story, I can make that happen! Forgot to write your best man’s speech? Need a snappy intro for your thesis? Challenge accepted!

The first ten people to email katereillyjames@gmail.com with contact details and a line or two about how you want to use the 450 words – wins! It’s that simple. All articles will be organised via email/phone/Zoom and entries are open NOW and until 30th April 2022. Strictly one entry per person/organisation. SME/Sole traders only and no redrafts.

Here’s to words. Old, new, fascinating and familiar.

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In The Morning

I’ve begun a new routine this week and after just four days I’m learning things about myself I don’t particularly like.

I’ve tweaked my routine to better suit my return to teaching and while the first week is always fraught with nerves and excitement, the extra two hours in the morning have essentially just afforded me more time to worry.

I’m a worrier. I’m trying not to be, but it creeps up on me like a theif in the night who lingers until my 5am alarm, then steals all my enjoyment of the alone time and headspace I had planned.

I read a brilliant book. ‘Morning, how to make time’ by Allan Jenkins is a beautiful collection of early morning thoughts, musings and observations which inspired me to change my own routine. A quiet space, uninterrupted by social media, news, electronics, even lights sometimes. Time to make a brew in the dark and just sit. That was the plan. To just, be.

I’ve been getting up at 5am. I’m naturally competitive and love the idea that I’m getting a head start on the day before the succession of terraced house bathroom lights switch on and my street comes to life. It is peaceful, at least outside.

My favourite part of the new routine, which began in earnest just four days ago, is standing in the cool wet grass in the back garden, in the dark, while I hang out the washing. It’s wonderful. I could stand there for hours. It’s quiet, calming and I’m enjoying the fact our adopted Magpie family comes to eye me suspiciously from the garden wall. Almost accusing me of stealing their places in the dawn chorus.

I’ll stand out there for as long as I can. Watching the sky change colour and window panes illuminate with streaks of daylight. I stay because as soon as I head back inside the noise begins.

Right, who needs what today? Pe kit? Flute? Snacks? Have their reading cards been filled in? Where is her tie? Urgh those shoes need a wipe. Did I request Friday afternoon off for her hospital appointment? Who’s bringing them home today or is it after school club?

A quick glance at the bbc weather app mocks my choice of outfit for work with heavy downpours expected all afternoon. I do not want to wade home in sandals, better go back to my wardrobe and rearrange. Now, I have 1,200 calories today, what can I have for breakfast? Run the shower, think about today’s lesson plan. That student is struggling with shorthand, another is keen and will need more stimulation, another has visions of a political career which makes me nervous.

Looks like it’s porridge again then, although a dollop of rhubarb yoghurt and granola is worth the same calories. Hhmmmm.

I’m feeling under confident teaching that new module later today. I’ll swat up on the journey in. If I drop the kids off at 07:45 I can get the 07:55 bus and have 30 mins to revise. Yes, that’s a good plan.

Concerned about the eldest and her recent blood results. Going to have to come up with a better plan to make sure she’s eating a more varied diet.

I’m starting back at Uni next week too. I wonder if my certificates are still in that suitcase in the loft. That’s a weekend job, for sure.

Must check when pay day is and rearrange direct debits for this month. The perils of starting a new job. I can do that on Saturday morning. Oh no, it’s the sleepover. I’ll need to get a head start on shopping for snacks and decorating before her friends come. Ahh, I’ll fit it in, somewhere.

Ironing done, bags packed, washing on the line, showered, lesson plans complete, oh, charger! Okay, bags packed, again. It’s time to wake the kids up.

I’m not sure how long it took author, Allan Jenkins to shed the mental workload in order to be able to enjoy the early morning twilight. His book reads like a whispered conversation between two secret friends. My early morning experience feels more like a drill sergeant barking orders and the potential stresses of the day ahead.

Aside from the blissful laundry routine, and it is blissful to me, waking two hours earlier in the morning to ‘get a jump start’ on the day seems to have jump started my over active brain. It’s mentally exhausting.

I’m writing this at 5am on Friday morning, day four. I’ll head out to stand on the grass in a moment and likely worry if this blog post is a load of waffle and debate deleting it before 9am.

I’m naturally awake at 5 now, it’s still dark, the kids are peacefully snoozing away and there’s a full white wash to go out on the line. This is my peace. It may be only a fleeting moment before the cogs in my head begin to slowly churn and process the back catalogue of thoughts and to do’s, but it’s enough to make me set my alarm again for Monday.

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Truth Brownies

When the ‘Treat Yo Self’ approach to life gets out of hand, how does someone devoid of all discipline make lasting changes to benefit their health?

I had a slab, not a slice, a slab of chocolate brownie and a Cadbury’s Twirl for my breakfast. It’s hospital day today. I’m booked in for some investigations this afternoon to see if the persistent pain in my ribs is HHT related or if I’m just fat. I’m 99% convinced it’s the latter. Yesterday I had a bowl of sugarpuffs for breakfast and I can’t work out if that’s better or worse than today. In fact, yesterday I had Sugarpuffs with semi skimmed milk (I’m not a complete animal, who drinks full fat milk?) followed by garlic bread with cheese at lunch, followed by a BBQ dinner of sausage (no bun), cheese burger (all the brioche bun), mixed salad, red pepper hummus, those amazing mini poppadoms from M&S, chocolate brownie and 6 custard creams. Anyone at IMA want to try and work out how many calories that equates to?

I’ve got a serious issue with lack of discipline. When I was young I could eat whatever the hell I wanted and stay slim. I was very active as a teen and 20 something but the moment I got pregnant, i kissed that little luxury goodbye. I didn’t eat for 2, I ate for 12, for the whole 9 months. I put 4 stones on in 9 months. The baby weighed in at less than 9lbs, don’t try to make me feel better.

In between babies 1 and 2, I went from a size 14 to a size 10 again and looked and felt a lot better. However that wasn’t due to hard work and effort, it was the Divorce diet of stress. It’s SO effective.

I’m no as heavy as I was when I gave birth in 2010. It’s so depressing because I’m not even carrying another human being this time. But as you’ve probably learned from my breakfast choices this morning, I’m lacking any kind of will to do anything about it.

I am reaching critical mass though. I’m making my boyfriend delete pictures of me. I’m not jumping in selfies with my kids. I HATE my wardrobe and it’s entire contents. I’m dreading getting back to work because it means I have to see people who will DEFINITELY notice the weight gain. I’m back to wearing all black outfits in an attempt to hide my bulky frame.

It’s hard going all this, isn’t it? I find it’s far too easy to give yourself some slack but then struggle regain a healthy balance. All bodies are beautiful, stop comparing yourself to others, and my personal favourite, treat yo self. When I happen across these inclusive, nurturing, well-meaning posts on Instagram, all my brain hears is: “EAT ALL THE FOOD, WATCH ALL THE PRIME” and nothing else.

Today’s excuse is, it’s the last day of the month and surely tomorrow, 1st September is the BEST TIME to start again. Seriously, what is that all about?Starting diets on a Monday? Start healthy new habits on 1st of the month? Why? Why isn’t 09:17am on Tuesday 31st August the best time? I’ll tell you why, because I lack self discipline.

I’m at a cross roads because I can’t understand why I can’t commit to just not eating shite and moving my ass regularly.

I love to move. Razzing about on my bike makes me dead happy. Starting my day with yoga and HIIT makes me happy. Dragging the kids out on a long walk or blitzing a 25 mile, 2 day city break with my better half, stuff of dreams.

A lack of discipline and no get up and go can be lethal. Just ask my recent DKNY bumbag purchase, which is already on the last belt buckle hole.

I need your advice, your input, your motivation because I’m seriously sad about this whole situation. It’s getting me down. I want to feel good in my clothes again. I don’t want to have to sit out when my kids are arsing about in the garden/park. I don’t want to wear head to toe black (although it’s SUCH a good look).

Hit me up and how you get the balance between feeling and looking good, and living a little.

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5 Things I Hate About School

Getting the kids back to school is a wonderful thing when it comes to routine, food consumption and of course their overall educational advancement. Loads of things about it suck though.

It’s that time again. September is a huge month of change, more so than January for me, as kids of all ages re-emerge from their tech and halcyon days of trampolining/TikTok video making to stick on a tie and go learn something new.

Loads of parents/carers and guardians will already be on countdown to the moment the school gates open, but for me personally, it’s a 50/50 split. Part of me wants to live somewhere remote(ish) and homeschool/travel the world and enrich my kids minds in a totally different way. But then part of me realised how important their friendships are to their overall well-being and man, who wants to spend 24/7 with their mum. That said, if I won the lottery we’d be travelling for a year and they’d bloody well like it!

I loved school as a kid and teen. I cried the day I left senior school. It was the stability I craved as a military kid who moved around. Leaving felt like the safety net had been pulled from underneath me as the enormity of the responsibility I now felt hit home. As an adult, I’m firmly in the camp of ‘oh I’d go back in a heartbeat’ and relive the care free days of English coursework and sunny days spent on the athletics track.

There’s so much more I hate about school as a parent.

1. School Uniform Shopping

The quality of school jumpers and cardigans is shit. The queues (which start at 7am because only two shops in the whole borough stocks your school) are shit. Take a ticket and wait to slowly die on pastel cushion covered benches at Clarks, shit. £50 for a pair of shoes my darling son will have scuffed to death before October half term, also shit. Someone I follow on Twitter piped up the other day calling to ban school logos on jumpers/cardigans. I get it. Supermarket plain block colour jumper/cardigans are great quality and cost a fraction of the cost. Why’s that not a thing?

2. Pointless Paperwork

Our primary school sends home SO much paperwork that is 100% unnecessary when we have a school to parents texting facility which works fine. I mean sheet after sheet of local education authority notices, changes to the start and finish times due to Covid, fundraising, lost property, it never ends and it’s rarely helpful. Stop killing the planet sending out and update on the safari park day out – just text it!

3. Missing My Gang

My three haven’t started back yet and I’m already missing 10pm games of Mario Uno at the kitchen table. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a G&T and solitude on a Wednesday night when they’re in bed by 8:30pm, but kitchen discos, film nights, late laundry sort outs and marathon Insta reel viewings is just as fun. No really. Boo to education taking them away from pairing socks and running about with undies on their heads, twerking to Mr World Wide!

4. Reading Books

I love to read, as do my kids. We’ve battered all the Chip & Biff, Famous Five, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, JK Rowling, Julia Donaldson, Charlie & Lola, Elmer, Roald Dahl and Flower Fairies collections time and time again. it’s not a struggle to get them to read. They’re now onto murder mysteries which is awesome because listening to them talk about the plot and characters and who they think ‘summit’ is the best. School reading books are woeful. My ten year old has brought home the same Wonder Woman comic book like three times in one half-term. They’re not varied enough. Not exciting enough, not enticing enough. I’m starting a petition to make Rick Mayal’s live reading of George’s Marvellous Medicine, mandatory for all primary school kids. Where is the drama? The fun? The challenging dialogue?

5. Losing Stuff That Costs Money

Rewinding back to school uniform here. How do kids lose so many items of closing in such a short space of time? A school jumper, with a name printed clearly on the label, that they take off and out on the back of their chair or in their (also clearly labelled) tray until the end of school, can vanish into thin air without anyone having any idea of how it happened or where the jumper has gone. What do you mean you’ve come home without any PE shorts? You were just wearing them? Why is there a detention slip in your bag about a missing tie? How do they do it? This whole situation causes me so much stress, every academic year.

That’s it. I’m not asking too much, am I? Text important stuff, don’t lose stuff, stop making school uniform inexplicably expensive, invest in top tier reading material and maybe give them a few more days off so we can pair socks and twerk to PitBull tracks as a family. Thank you.

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Summer Loving

8 weeks, 7 seasons and a whole load of miles later, summer 2021 is almost over and out.

It’s late August and my Paris 2016 throw back pictures are making me sad. Who could ever have known what was in store for the world in the time that has passed? From sunrises at Sacre Coeur to school uniform panic buying and booking pre-term covid tests.

It’s been a lovely summer though, all things considered. We made some memories in London on a four day city break. Did all the fun touristy stuff, London Eye, Emirates Airline cable cars, Uber boat own the Thames, Hamleys for Lego, Leicester Square for M&M’s and a spin around Liberty a la Cruella. We’ve watched tonnes of films too, our collective favourite being Emma Stone as Disney villain, Cruella. The fashion alone is worth the £20 Disney plus streaming fee. The Croods 2, SpaceJam (oh dear) and Free Guy all ranked highly with the Reilly James clan.

Sticking with the telly box, I’m 5 episodes away from finishing all 7 seasons of Mad Men and WHAT a ride! Still in love with Roger Sterling, the massive idiot, Joan is an inspiration, as is Peggy, although her hair annoyed the life out me for the entire show. Pete Campbell is still a slime ball and Betty, sheesh where to start with Betty?! The soundtrack to my 2021 summer will always be the Mad Men opening credits and I’ll always be eternally grateful that I didn’t become a writer in the 1960’s.

The weather has mostly been amazing an afforded us gorgeous afternoons doing community volunteering and visiting brilliant fundraising initiatives such as The Sunflower Maze. A fab way to spend a couple of hours while helping to fund our amazing NHS.

We’ve also fallen back in love with the garden this summer. I’ve taken more time to actually look after it and I think we’ve clocked up 4 if not 5 highly successful BBQ’s so far. The kids got heavily involved in preparing frozen fruit platters and skewering mushrooms, before taking swingball to a whole new championship level. Loads more summer pics in the gallery.

Taking a break from scrubbing the damn bbq grill, we headed out for dinner earlier this week at Maray, Bold Street in Liverpool. It’s always a treat to have someone else cook and when the food is as good, and the service as friendly as it is at Maray, it makes it extra special. All the hummus, pan fried hake and ginger cake. It wasn’t meant to rhyme, sometimes it just writes itself.

Back to soundtracks quickly, I discovered ‘Brooklyn In The Summer’ by Aloe Blac on a work trip to London and now I can’t get it out of my head. It’s a belter track.

Pleased to have the footy back this summer. Didn’t realise how much I’d missed it. Curios to see what the season has in store for newly promoted Brentford as well as my beloved Toffees with Rafa at the helm. I mean, how bad could it be, right?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with The Blue Room, BBC Spoort and BBC 5Live again this summer thanks to my phenomenal friend and BBC Sport/5Live Producer, Dave. Legend. Coupled with Frankfurt Expo, Bloomberg and my first ever wedding photography gig, it’s been a busy one. My eldest daughter starts out on her acting career this week and I’ve never been more proud of her courage and determination.

It’s back to school for all four of us next week as I make a very welcome return to the classroom. I’m getting new shoes and everything. While I enjoyed the challenge of a new PR project, the 6 months I spent outside of the college environment just made me realise how much I missed it. So NCTJ class of 2022, I hope you know what you’ve let yourselves in for! Shorthand and VJ and Portfolio, oh my!

How’s your summer been? Which memory stands out the most for you?

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6 Weekend Things

I do love a good listicle and they say sharing is caring. No idea who ‘they’ are but let’s dive in, shall we?

The weekend is but a moment away and as I count down to packing my kids off for a weekend with their dad, fold and put away the last of the laundry and log off my work computer, I think about writing another list of things to pack into the two day work break. It’s easy to see why life feels like a bit of a merry-go-round at times.

This list is fun, no really, and it matters not an iota if I don’t tick off a single item by Sunday evening. It’s a list of opportunity rather than responsibility. There’s a bit of everything. Chill, fresh air, creative pursuits, baking and organised chaos!

1 – Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez

I ordered Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez after a recommendation from a colleague. I’m preparing to interview a doctor next week and my colleague suggested I read up on the gender disparity and inequality in the health care industry as detailed in the book. Technically this is preparation work, but I already know it’s going to ignite something in me to read more, and that totally counts as personal development. I’m always looking for book recommendations, if you’ve got one to share (or ten, no one ever has just one book recommendation) drop me a line katereillyjames@gmail.com

2 – Mad Men

Alright, I know I’m like 15 years late to the party, but I’ve just started watching Mad Men season 1 on Amazon Prime and i’m totally hooked. I’ll get at least two episodes in this weekend. I’m outraged by the every day sexism, the misogyny, the double standards, and yet I can’t help but admire Don Draper, played expertly by Jon Hamm. The fashion, the dialect and the early 60’s aesthetic, plus everyone smoking all the damn time. I’m 6 episodes in and I’ve committed to the long haul. Can’t stand Mr Campbell and adore Joan Holloway. Dying to know what’s wrong with Betty’s hands? And how cute is a teeny Kiernan Shipka as their daughter? Wait til they find out she grows up to be a witch!

3 – Ebay

Urgh, it’s that time again. I routinely do an Ebay selling haul twice a year and while the app now makes it much easier to list your items, it’s still a pain in the ass. To spice things up this time, I’m also clearing out my boyfriends wardrobe to add to the massive bin bag collection waiting patiently in the spare room. i’m told Sunday, early evening is the best time to list as buyers are more likely to have time to bid and see an auction through to the end, hopefully encouraging a last minute flurry of offers. This task alone will likely wipe out Sunday, but it’ll be worth it for the money – honest! Zara dress BNWT for £5 anyone?

4 – Urban Graffiti

I’ll be back at Springfield Park, Knotty Ash at 6am on Saturday (because I’m a complete weirdo who can’t lie in, especially if the weather is dry, no chance) to chalk the pathways for the local children and those visiting Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. I’ve created some fun playground games on the paths a number of times previously and as it’s set to rain on Saturday afternoon/evening, these modern hopscotch will vanish ready for the next ones. This also counts as mini yoga/pilates once I’m done weaving my way along the paths. I’m shattered afterwards.

5 – Community Spirit

I’m loving having a couple of creative tasks to get on with this weekend. Secondly, i’m breaking out the sewing machine to make a start on some bunting for our local foodbank, The Drive. We’re having a crack at the ‘In Bloom’ competition this year and determined to spruce up a triangle of wasteland/grass into something for all the community to enjoy. I’ll be making giant floor cushions, picnic blankets and bunting to brighten up the planters and railings. Pass me the pinking shears!

6 – Pumping Iron

My HHT has been pretty bad this week. I’ve had a nose bleed every day including 4 whoppers on Monday which saw me calling into work sick and dizzy on Tuesday morning. My lovely colleagues suggested I try dates as a healthy iron supplement. So my plan is to have a go at making date flapjacks to munch on throughout the week as they keep really well. Thanks to Sabah and Nikki for the heads up. I’ll bet they taste a million times better than plain old iron supplements. Yuck. If you’ve never heard of HHT before and wonder what it’s like to sporadically bleed like you’ve been punched in the face, head this way to learn more.

What are you up to this weekend?

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Baby Driver

I was having a little reminisce yesterday and I realised I missed the taxi ride into town, all dolled up, slightly tipsy and raring to dance my legs off, more than I miss nights out.

Nine times out of ten, if you call for a cab to take you from the suburbs into the city centre here, you’re getting club tunes and break neck speed. It’s a ride in all possible ways and it never fails to set you up for an epic night out. The cabbie will be looking to get you out of his cab as soon as possible, in the best mood possible and so this is the winning formula.

With his ears bleeding from a selection of screeched lyrics of dance classics including but not limited to: “PRETTY GREEN EYEEEESSSSSS’, “BABY I GOT YOUR BACK LIKE WE’RE STILL SEVENTEEEEEEN’, and “AND BOY I THINK ITS TIME YOU KNOW, WE’RE GONNA TAKE IT NICE A SLOW’. If you know, you know.

There’s something really special about this 20 min period of a night out. You’re hyped, you look and feel a million dollars, you’re taking selfies, you’re possibly swigging a mini on the way in to meet the girls and you know all the lyrics.

That’s where it stops for me. At least for now. The thought of going out beyond that cab ride, into the packed out bars and clubs is a risk I’m too scared to take. I’ve had both Astrazeneca vaccinations and I’m testing twice a week in a bid to keep my kids safe. I know I wouldn’t be able to relax, let my hair down and fully enjoy myself.

Plenty of people are though. They’re having a ball packing out the bars for the Euro’s and weekend nights and I don’t begrudge them anything, we have to live, and maybe learn to live with Covid too. I hope they’re loving those taxi rides. Belting out the tunes and laughing themselves silly.

The risk is still too high for me and my babies. I don’t even know what it will take for me to declare the world fit for purpose again? Maybe it never will be. Waiting for COVID to be fully eradicated seems like a stretch, doesn’t it? Waiting for the UK government to do absolutely anything conducive to restoring whatever ‘normal’ was also seems a bit pie in the sky. Maybe when we no longer have to wear masks? Or show our vaccination certificates or stay 2m apart.

Where do you draw the line on returning to ‘normality’?

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Precarity

WHAT a hell of a month June was. You still with me? Clinging on? Yeah, me too.

I did it all last month. Soaring highs and the deepest of lows. Not one, but two of my three kids had accidents which resulted in broken bones. I’ve been to court and back, three times for good measure. I traveled 1000+ miles and island hopped to lay on golden beaches and stare in awe endless skies swept with jaw-dropping sunsets. I also battered London’s art scene in a 12 hour jaunt to the capital, and started a self improvement plan in earnest following a Thursday Throwback that really hit home. on an emotional rollercoaster scale, we’re talking Pepsi Max Big One, on repeat.

I’m feeling incredibly creative recently which is due in part to a trip to Saatchi Gallery to see JR Chronicles exhibition. An artist I’ve admired for a number of years, JR gives a global voice to marginalised communities in order to tell their stories and correct society’s bias. His work is incredible and to see the camera he found on the Parisian subway which kick started his career, was truly special. Sliding doors. You can watch his TED Talk about the impact of his work, here.

At the start of the month I traveled up to Scotland for four idyllic days on the isle of Seil, one of the Slate Islands. Crossing the ‘Bridge Over The Atlantic’ for the first time to our bothy, wifi replaced with skyscapes I could never have imagined, i knew it was going to be an amazing trip. The beaches at Arasaig and Morar took my breath away, as did Calgary Bay on the Isle of Mull.

Catching the Harry Potter Express at Malaig and walking beneath the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct, framed with blue sky, was a treat. Later at the equally iconic Clachaig Inn at Glen Coe, I retraced my dads footsteps from back in the late 80’s. I also took the opportunity to follow in 007’s tyre tracks and drive the Lock Etive road or Skyfall road as its known. Eat your heart out Bond!

Loch Lomond, Castle Stalker, or Castle Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhh as made famous in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Oban fish and chips, cycling Kerrera thanks to amazing loan bikes from Oban Cycles and free passage on the basic b*tch ferry made for a truly memorable trip. Having adopted the farm cat, charmed on M&S mackerel pate, and sat on the patio, wrapped in blankets waiting for the stars, this Scotland trip is top 5 one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. A soaring high. Check out the bothy here.

From high to low, low and stressful. First up, my son fell off the play equipment at school and broke his foot. This required plaster and a wheelchair as he’s on diddy. This presented about as many logistical issues as you can imagine when I have two other children who need to get to and from school twice a day and a full time job to hold down. TWO WEEKS LATER, my middle kid launches herself off a swing in the back garden after our first ever, and highly successful BBQ at home. The crack of the impact still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. Broken humerus and two nights in hospital – tended to by THE SAME ORTHO CONSULTANT LOOKING AFTER MY SON, I collected my ‘Parent of the Year’ award on the way out. I mean, you couldn’t write it, could you?

The poor kid (the second casualty) struggled with the pain a lot and so after 6 hours sleep across three nights and a whole load of morphine ( her, not me), I spent just 10 minutes preparing for a huge interview and unsurprisingly, came out of it feeling utterly meh.

On the up again – I taught shorthand again this month and I LOVED IT. I started working out and cycling more. I’ve lost three pounds but I’m sure its down the sofa, insert wink emoji here. My mum is super happy after a little surprise windfall and has treated herself to a new Dyson. My eldest kid smashed her GCSE mocks and isn’t injured in any way, although I’ve probably just jinxed that. A good mate smashed his shorthand exam, I worked with Kiss FM and I finally met my lovely work team, in person, for the first time since starting my new job in February. Yep, five months ago! I climbed Kinder Scout again, this time with the eldest kid. The weather was pants, my dad cried off saying he’d hurt his back (suspish), and with the new diet regime I couldn’t eat strawberry laces all the way around the hike. That said, I managed to eat plenty of caramel Snackajacks at the summit and my dad got his front and back lawn mowed. Alls well that ends well.

How’s July looking?

Check out all my photo’s from June (including some x rays for the gruesome fans) over on the Gallery, here.

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Kinder Scout

Giving up Kinder Bueno for Kinder Scout has been three years in the making.

6:15am Sunday: I’m stood in the kitchen in my pjays making an epic packed lunch. Tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches, roast chicken salad sandwiches, mini Soreen bars, flapjack(shop bought, I’m not mad), cookies (also shop bought) lots of water, grapes, two packets of Sainsbury’s rainbow laces, chocolate buttons, cheese and onion rolls and coffee.

An hour and a half later we pulled into the car park at the foot of Kinder Scout, a mountain in the Peak District, just a stones throw from the pretty village of Hayfield. It’s bright and breezy an rain is forecast for 1pm so without further ado, with my pocket bulging with rainbow laces, me, my boyfriend and my Dad, set off.

The first thing that struck me, or rather it, was a massive squirrel which had fallen victim to an electricity pylon and was hanging, bat like from the wires, by its melted back feet. I almost chucked up, rainbow style. I hurried past and refused to look up for the rest of the trip.

Passing Kinder Reservoir, the abandoned pump house and secluded £3.5m estate (many conversations about lottery wins ensued.) we started to climb. There’s something really peaceful about falling into step in comfortable company. The odd sheep interjecting, a cuckoo, skylark and goose adding to the chatter.

Having reached Kinder plateau in 2 hours, running on rainbow laces alone, we stopped to take in the view and snap some outcrop photos. Dropping my Canon EOS 1300D camera on the rocks, I vowed to listed to my dad’s expert safety advice of “Kaaaaattttteee maaaaannn, (he’s a geordie) stand still before you take the bloody picture.” Don’t worry, the camera survived to tell the tale in the photos you see here.

Kinder Downfall waterfall allows for some epic shots too and having inhaled a chicken salad sandwich and a handful of grapes, I was back to arsing about, slipping, splashing and snapping in the water.

We touched lucky and missed a huge rain cloud which dropped it load all over neighbouring Stockport and Manchester, to reach the Kinder and Kinder Low trig points at lunch time. The views are incredible. Mam Tor at Edale to the east and on a good day, Snowdon and Cheshire out to the South West. Kinder Reservoir on your right hand side, glistening in the sun.

I was surprised by and awe-struck by the amount of people hill/fell running. Their bodies highly tuned to withstand the uneven ground conditions and steep inclines/declines of the mountain. At 663m above sea level, Kinder Scout is no Snowdon, but it’s still a hefty challenge.

I’ve put so much weight on over the last three years and more so during lockdown and my current role which involves me sitting at a desk for 7 hours a day isn’t helping either. I don’t want to look nor feel like this any more and having picked up on the fact that historically, May is an active month for me (Superhero challenge and charity abseil ) I didn’t wan’t to miss an opportunity to pick up on the momentum. I’ve chosen Kinder Scout over Kinder Bueno’s. It’s time for a change.

We made the circular trip in 5 hours, dodged the rain, chatted, laughed, said a hundred friendly hello’s, slipped, tripped but didn’t fall and definitely didn’t get electrocuted like that poor bloody squirrel by the car park.

My dads dodgy knees still in tact, we arrived home in time to watch the Grand Prix and put everything in the wash before tucking into a sensational Sunday roast. Sundays well spent and a cracking start to my May movement plans!

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Faces of Liverpool

Liverpool is a truly diverse city and this Explore Liverpool feature proves it.

My thanks to Donna Staunton and the team at Explore Liverpool for inviting me to interview for the online platform back in September 2020, when the world felt like a very different place.

Faces of Liverpool is a brilliant feature which highlights people from all walks of life, who call Liverpool home. We’re not talking just famous faces and celebs, the regular feature highlights the voices and stories of ordinary scousers and adopted-scousers, like me, and gives the readership an insight into what makes the city so special for them.

Three of my favourite Faces of Liverpool interviews so far are:

  1. Natalie Reeves Billing – https://www.explore-liverpool.com/faces-of-liverpool-natalie-reeves-billing/

2. Ngunan Adamu – https://www.explore-liverpool.com/faces-of-liverpool-ngunan-adamu/

3. Oisín Hassan – https://www.explore-liverpool.com/faces-of-liverpool-oisin-hassan/

Three very different people with totally different experiences of Liverpool and why they call the city home.

My own experience of moving to and back to Liverpool at various stages of my life has enabled me to see Liverpool through a different lens each time. While the city landscape has changed beyond recognition in places, the people, the warmth and vibrant energy has remained, even through the pandemic.

The iconic landmarks I have spoken about in my Faces of Liverpool interview, will remain ingrained on my heart as they represent more than just meeting places. The Bombed Out Church, the Littlewoods Building, Liverpool Cathedral, they all stand tall as symbols of my journey through life and its ups and downs and there’s so many more to come.

This is my Faces of Liverpool story – https://www.explore-liverpool.com/faces-of-liverpool-kate-reilly-james/

My thanks also to John Drysdale of NoGuru and Marco Pierre White, Chapel Street Liverpool for the photo.

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