Tag Archives: family

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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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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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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I’m Supposed To Be

I love routine, thrive off it, yet tomorrow’s eagerly anticipated school run has thrown everything off kilter.

I’m supposed to be ironing uniforms right now. I realised on Friday that I hadn’t tried any uniform on the kids and had no idea if it still fit. Luckily their lockdown 3.0 diet of selection boxes, pancakes and pre-Easter, Easter eggs hasn’t had a detrimental effect on their pinafores and school sweaters.

I’m supposed to be sorting out school coats in the wash. My six year old son lost his first tooth last week and with pearly white in hand, proceeded to drool blood all over his coat! Why are boys so messy?! His toothy grin is a welcome distraction from his hastily shawn buzz cut. Bring back the barbers, please!

I’m also supposed to be carrying out an undercover toy clear out while my kids are with their dad. This delicate operation involves lashing Happy Meal toys, old kids comics and magazines, rearranging books and arts and crafts supplies and gathering up the millions of errant Lego bricks which litter every single surface and edge of carpet between their two rooms.

I’m supposed to be reading the Sunday papers cover to cover, like I’ve promised myself for the last three years. The reality is I’ll skim through the Home, Travel and supplements and the rest will line the cats littler tray throughout the week. I’ll maybe have a crack at the Sudoku.

I’m supposed to be prepping packed lunches for the week ahead. Although my month long stay in a Premier Inn with three kids last October, has prepared me well for this one. If you can make a nutritious packed lunch in a Premier Inn room with no fridge or cooking facilities, at 10pm, every week night for four weeks, you’re practically an X Men.

I’m supposed to be enjoying a long soak in the bath having invested in some Pink Himalayan Bath Salts a couple of weeks ago. They’re in danger of forming some kind of stalactite (is it stalactite or stalagmite when they grow upwards?) if I don’t get around to it soon. Mmmm a long relaxing bath, proper Sunday behaviour.

I’m supposed to be prepping a Sunday dinner for when the little ones get home, before the dinner, bath, bed routine resumes and we get to chapter three of the latest Michael Morpurgo kids book. Kaspar Prince of Cats is epic by the way, especially if you can nail the voice of The Countess!

Lastly, I’m supposed to be drafting my latest creative writing piece, which is the most fun brief I’ve received in ages. Naturally, everything else is getting binned off and I’m making this a priority.

The returning school run and related responsibilities has forced me into a teenage like slump where I don’t want to do all the boring stuff. Basically, I’m rebelling. I genuinely do love routine, as a family, we thrive off it. But my last few hours of freedom will be spent typing away, knowing I’ll have to get up at 5am to put coats in the tumble dryer, while stepping over toys I should’ve donated or chucked out, living with the regret of not having read that article or soaked my dry skin in the bath. Still, it feels good to rebel, even just for a little while.

All hail the homeschoolers, the end is near.

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A Little Less Conversation

I’ve been thinking about communication a lot this week. How do you talk to someone?

If there’s one particular skill that is essential to being a journalist it’s being able to strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. It’s also the single most annoying part of being a parent apparently. “Mum you’re so cringe, you talk to anyone.”

Are you one of those people who talks to their family every day? I am. I chat with my mum probably 2/3 times a day. I call my dad once a week and the same with my brother. I also send daft videos and memes and stuff on whatsapp and Instagram as a way of checking in. Covid restrictions haven’t really influenced this routine, it’s just how we roll. Although, things have begun to change.

As January trundles on I’ve found myself feeling more withdrawn from my usual chatty self. I feel as though there are only three topics of conversational allowed and I’ m so over them all. I think I’m ready to hibernate. You know all those Christmas and new year conversations we have; “All ready for Christmas?” people ask, “yes, just a few last bits” you reply. Or, “how was New Year, do anything nice?” they’ll ask, and you say ” ahh just a quiet one at home with a few drinks, you?”. Those inevitable conversations we enter into a certain times of the year? They’re only manageable because they’re limited to like a two week period.

We’re now in month, I don’t know 9/10(?) of homeschooling and the same perfunctory conversations we were having in April 2020 and still here. Lingering like a empty wine bottle by the bin, waiting to be taken out and replaced. A lady in the park yesterday asked me if I was enjoying homeschooling. I switched into robot mode, “Oh you know, we’re getting a few bits done each day. That’s what counts isn’t it?”

She went on to tell me about how she studied IT in university 20 years ago and introduced computers into high schools for the first time. Her daughter is an architect and she’s making plans to oppose the local park being built on. 125 apartments, imagine the extra traffic? See, I listened. I asked questions about her Dachshund (who knew they barked so loud?) and her granddaughter (much less barky), both of whom we’re trying their best to get into the doughnuts in my shopping bag. She is the only stranger I have spoken to in months and the conversation left me weary.

Oh, that’s not entirely true. An Arriva bus driver told me he liked my phone case when I was paying for a ticket. I smiled and said: “Ahh it just stops me from smashing the screen on a daily basis.” We both smiled that knowing smile all Iphone users do and I went and sat down. Meh. Kind but meh.

I’m torn between wanting something new and exciting to talk about, the inauguration bought us a few covid-free days, but then lacking the motivation to engage. It all seems so trivial and I’m in danger of losing my conversational skill to funny Tik Tok videos and Instagram reels. Why bother to tell the joke when you can send a video of a cat snoring into a microphone? Right?

There are people I am close to who will say that this description does not match the person at all. I am loud, gregarious, sweary and forthright. And they are right, usually.

It’s stressing me out all this not talking. It’s like I need to perform, to be that loud, gregarious girl, always with something to say and never afraid to say it. But it’s knackering and striving to be that person is making me blue. I abhor being negative. Hate it. Always try to look at the postives. But my family are far away, my daughter is struggling with lockdown, my mum is so desperately lonely having lost my step dad in October, the list goes on and it’s mostly crap.

*Audible sigh here*

I went for a five mile walk, posted some Ebay stuff (said hello and answered the home schooling question again from the lady in the post office) and gave my head a wobble. Reset firmly pressed.

Rather than fight it, perhaps now is the time to be quiet. Embrace it. It’s going to be a busy few weeks. I’m signing off from one adventure and beginning a new one. Lots to learn, many new colleagues and people to meet and new routines to establish at home. Maybe this time was always meant to be spent in quiet contemplation? Maybe it’s time to be more of an observer and less of a participant?

January is to me, a month of change. Ordinarily I buy into various resolutions and ‘new year new me’ bollocks until around 13th when the wheels fall off. I also start writing a new diary and clear out my email inbox and message apps. This has all gone to plan, including the wheels falling off bit. But the more noticeable and sustainable change is how I communicate. It’s taking some getting used to but I think I like it. It’s less turbulent, more considered.

Communicating in the right way at the right time, as opposed to just ALL the time, is a 2021 habit I can really get behind. I never wanted to believe it, but maybe less really is more?

Are you feeling lockdown weary or covid/homeschool gagged? What are you doing to combat it? Talk to me.

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When It All Falls Down

Work is online, school is closed and the threat of COVID feels closer than ever before.

It’s day one of 2021 (for those like me, who didn’t kick start their New Year until Monday) and it’s all gone to shit already! I will be teaching online for the foreseeable future, my kids are all home until at least 18th January, and I just heard that another 5 people I know have COVID.

First of all, I have to look at the positives. I hadn’t yet bothered to iron any school uniforms, so that’s a tiny win. I’m genuinely a little bit excited about home schooling my younger two kids. We have a ‘paint your own solar system’ and a shed load of new Lego to get started on. I emailed my kids’ school this morning to thank the staff for everything they’re doing behind the scenes to ensure the pupils have access to school work and reading books. I fully support their decision to close and protect themselves and their families.

Back to window gazing it is then.

My mum, who is now part of our support bubble, having lost her husband to COVID in October, is asbolutely delighted that she can spend more time with the kids and help keep them occupied while I work. Speaking of work. I’m looking forward to two weeks worth of Zoom lessons with my NCTJ students. It’ll be the first time we’ve gone fully digital as we battled through in the news room in 2020. With exams looming, we’ll be battering the wifi to get their portfolio’s completed, it’s a challenge I’m wholly up for.

There’s no way to sugar coat this horrendous virus. Both my mum and step dad contracted COVID in October and sadly, my step dad died. My mum was hospitalised and has made a good recovery, despite her grief. Thank God for grandchildren.

Today I leaned another 5 extended family and friends have caught COVID. All of which have continued working throughout the pandemic, but have taken every precaution otherwise. No pub drinks, no meals out, hand washing, mask wearing, law abiding, and yet, they’re all suffering the effects.

Scotland has just locked down until the end of January. Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon made the decision despite believing the country is approx 4 weeks behind London, in terms of infection rates etc.

Is a UK lockdown just around the corner? With confirmed COVID figures now surpassing the height of the peak back in April 2020, surely it’s the only option? I don’t know about you, but I’m more nervous about COVID now than ever before. I’ve seen first hand how it can reduce a person to a shell. I don’t want that for anyone.

Home Schooling in 2020

In the coming weeks I hope we can go back to looking out for each other again. Checking in, saying hi, sharing recommendations for take-aways and Netflix shows. I’m going to try and source some more, fun home activities to do with the kids and share them on Instagram. It’s just small things, but they can mean a lot.

Having my family close gives me a little bit of comfort. Mentally I’m preparing to lockdown again. I think it’s coming. And if it doesn’t, then God help us all.

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8pm and Out

Lock down life has got me hitting the apples and pears much earlier than usual. What is there to stay up for?

Since I began in teaching in September, I can’t stay up on a school night. Then my step-dad passed away suddenly and I began to wake up at 4am, regardless at what time I went to bed. Next up on the bedtime rollercoaster, the clocks went back and as it’s dark at like 5pm, I’m done and turning in three hours later.

I’m not even making it through Bake Off! I woke last week to find Hermine has been booted out of the tent and Dave (DAVE! DAVE? OMG, why is DAVE still there?) smuggly through to the final. I blame myself, I wasn’t there for Hermine and her cube cake show stopper. I’m sorry.

I’ve fallen into this routine of falling asleep on the sofa/in the living room chair around the 8pm mark and waking up with all the lights and TV still on around 11pm. Realising this was detrimental to my decrepit spine and winter energy bills, I promised myself to hit the hay once my eyes got heavy. The issue with this is that I could genuinely go to bed at 6:15pm. My kids however, cannot.

At the weekend I try to wean myself off this infantile bedtime routine. But then there was an EPIC delivery of Berry & Rye Elder Flower Collins and Southern Belle Punch and I was more sleepy and sated than I had been all week. Cue me missing the last 20 minutes of S1 E4 of The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. I’m having to watch everything twice.

I guess if you feel tired, you should just sleep, right? If you’ve watched everything on Netflix, drank all the gin, read all the reading books and recited all the spellings and times tables. If the dishes are done and the uniforms are ironed, just slide into bed and rest your noodle, yeah? Is there any point in fighting it?

I just want to see Peter win Bake Off. Is that asking too much?

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Saying Goodbye

My step dad died very suddenly last month and now I have an internal rage for every single person I see who isn’t wearing a mask.

I’m well aware that there are some conditions for which wearing a mask can exacerbate a pre-existing health condition. But if the risk of catching Covid was so great to your ill health, I can’t help but think you’re unlikely to be doing the school run everyday or perusing the new season fashions in ASDA.

May be I’m being too harsh? My step dad worked for the NHS for 22 years. If you’ve ever had to go to A&E at Liverpool’s Royal Hospital, there’s a chance it was my step dad you gave your details to at check in. He was a familiar face on ‘the desk’ and more recently worked weekends when the department is usually at its busiest.

He caught Covid and four days after his symptoms manifested, he died. Age 63. My mum realised something was wrong in the early hours of the morning and tried in vain to resuscitate him until the paramedics arrived. He’d already gone.

My mum, also positive with Covid was admitted to hospital three days later. The pressure of the virus, grief, constant calls from the coroners office, funeral directors and GP surgery had taken its toll. All alone in the house, which is now bereft of the constant chatter of Sky Sports and police documentaries. My step dad’s favourites.

It took four weeks of agony to finally be able to plan a funeral service. Only 15 people allowed to attend. Minimal flowers. A drive around his beloved Anfield – he’d followed the reds all over Europe back in the day, and finally to Anfield Crematorium.

A low-flying migration of birds flew over as we exited the chapel, having said our final goodbyes and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone at the tops of our voices.

My heart aches for my mum. She’s in her 60’s. Locked down in a house full of memories, which is all but silent. Thank god for Lola cat, keeping her company. I’m visiting every day, taking her the paper, walking down to the community centre once a week for our Covid tests, always wearing a mask and sanitising our hands.

Take some advice from me. Don’t wait until Covid has taken your loved one, before you start taking this seriously. Wear the f*cking mask. Not under your chin, or under your nose. What’s the point in that? Find one you prefer, you can get them online or in any of the supermarkets, and WEAR IT! Wash them regularly and stick a couple in the car and in your coat pockets.

Wash your hands, stay the hell away from people wherever you can. The rate may be coming down, and yes, we are making good progress, but only if we keep at it.

I’ll say only this about the people gathering in their hundreds to protest wearing a mask. You’re f*cking idiots and very much part of the problem. God forbid you get sick and need the NHS. Go home.

RIP Ste, we love and miss you so, so much.

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Back to School

My kids go back to school tomorrow, and this September, I’ll be right behind them, heading for the classroom. I’ve only gone and bagged my dream job!

When I was at school (hundreds of years ago), I wanted to be a teacher. I did my year 10 work experience at my school – I interned for the PE department because it was my favourite subject. I loved the idea of playing a part in students’ development and watching them learn and master new things with your guidance.

Somewhere around age 17, I lost the thirst to learn. I knew university wasn’t for me. I was partway through my A-Levels (PE, English Lit, English Language, Psychology) when an opportunity to go home (Sydney) and work at the Olympic Games 2000 came up, I grabbed it with both hands. Bags packed, I was out of school and all ideas of education and teaching we’re left on the tarmac.

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20 whole years later, I’ve done it. I’ve finally got myself a teaching job. I’m absolutely delighted to say I’ll be joining the staff at The City of Liverpool College and I will be delivering the NCTJ Journalism Diploma programme. It’s the very course I graduated from back in 2016 and the very course I have championed to anyone interested in a career in journalism.

Since the vacancy came up online, I’ve thought of nothing else than delivering shorthand training and supporting journalism students with opportunities to expand on and polish their portfolio’s, ready for the world of work. I can’t wait to get started.

It’s inevitable that the new job has made me stop and think about my previous career decisions. It’s entirely possible that, had I have knuckled down at 17, gone to uni, got my PGCE, that by now I could be enjoying 15 years worth of educating others. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, right?

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So this September, there are four pairs of shiny new shoes (okay, mine are Nike’s) on the stairs, four new water bottles lined up ready for the first school day, and three students rooting for their momma on her first big day.

It’s going to be fairly chaotic for us all going back to an educational setting. Whether it’s the kids, teens, or adults. I hope your youngsters enjoy seeing their friends again, you settle into a routine quickly, and you’re all safe and well.

Happy New School Year!

Miss James

 

 

 

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Urban Orienteering with The Lantern Company

This summer I worked with award-winning, Liverpool-based creative events company, The Lantern Company. The Street by Street, Creative Revolution has begun, and the DIY Festival project is now live!

Back in July, The Lantern Company put a call out for artists to help create a DIY Festival blueprint for families, community groups and neighbours. The Lantern Company is known for producing memorable, artistic events ( City of Light, The Monster Halloween Ball, Lumiere London, Liverpool Sound City, Hong Kong Parade, etc.) Due to Coronavirus lockdown, The Lantern Company can’t bring people together in its usual, inspiring way and so, it launched a brand new initiative. A DIY Festival Kit.

The Lantern Company

From The Lantern Company website: “The Street by Street Creative activities have been specially designed to kick start the party, from where you live. You can enjoy the activities in any way you want – at home anytime or as a way of connecting with your neighbours.

If you want to inspire families, friends, and neighbours to come together in your block / street / local park in a safe and socially distanced way, these activities are the perfect way to come together, apart, and have a mini celebration.”

I saw the call for commissions and immediately set to work on my proposal. A few weeks earlier I’d taken to the paths of Springfield Park to create some chalk artwork challenges for kids and their families to enjoy. They were well received and so I submitted my ideas to The Lantern Company – and they loved them too!

The Lantern Company

So, it gives me immense pleasure (still can’t believe I get to say this) to present to you – The Lantern Company, Street by Street Creative Revolution, DIY Festival Kit. Included are 6 different activities ranging from dance to music, baking, art, and my very own addition: Urban Orienteering.

Playing out is the new staying in! Inspired by old school pavement games, such as hopscotch, this workshop shows you how to create your own fun trail, using basic art materials and your imagination. Plan your route down the garden path, driveway, street, or community centre, with 2m gaps, add a start and finish line and get ready to race.

Rain or shine, young or old, we’ll have you stomping, roaring, twirling, and reaching for the stars, safely with your friends, families, and neighbours.

It’s essentially an arty obstacle course. It can be as easy or difficult as you want to make it. My favourite steps have been ‘Stomp and Roar like a Dinosaur’, ‘Emoji Stepping Stones’, and ‘Walk The Plank’.

For all the info about the DIY Festival from The Lantern Company, including video workshops and downloadable PDF’s, click here.

We’d love to see your own DIY Festival pics and receive your feedback. Share your pics with the hashtag #LanternDIYfestival and have LOADS of fun! 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday Catch Up

Feeling a bit paranoid this morning. I woke up with a smidge of a sore throat and it’s making me anxious. Can’t help but think it’s due to the tonne of alcohol I necked last night though.

Before anyone worries, I’ve no temperature or cough so I’ve come to work, where I toil on my own for a few hours so I’m also staying safe and not endangering others.

Waiting to get in at work

Tell you what though, four months on, it’s still really scary all this COVID shiz, isn’t it? I try to limit my COVID media consumption otherwise I end up feeling panicky and like I don’t want to let my kids breathe fresh air or see daylight again.

I’m slightly more concerned at present as I’m due to have surgery in a few weeks and the thought of going into hospital, plus the self-isolating period beforehand is making me a little nervous. I’m sure it’ll be fine. I have to take a COVID test four days before the procedure to make sure I’m in tip-top condition, so that’s a weight off.

It’s disappointing to see so many people STILL not wearing masks in my local area. Both Tesco and Aldi seemed to have relaxed their measures. There’s no longer staff on the door encouraging people to mask up and sanitise their hands. People are back to moving your trolley or leaning over you for produce. Again, maybe I’m a bit paranoid but surely it’s better to be safe than sorry?

Just wear a mask, will yer!

I also understand that not everyone can wear a mask, but I doubt very much that accounts for the many I’ve witnessed.

So back to Saturday morning. I’m currently sat outside work waiting for someone to let me in as I’m not a key holder. It’s BOILING out. 19 degrees and cloudy at 7am can take a running joke. Speaking of which, I text my boyfriend last night (after a few glasses of wine) and said: “ isn’t it brilliant sleeping alone when it’s hot”. I’m not sure what he made of that but I think it made some sense.

I woke up this morning with the youngest night ninja sprawled out across my side of my bed!! I don’t know how he does it! My subconscious picks up every moment they turn over on the night so I’ve no idea how he sneaks in. Little beggar.

He read me the ‘Mummy and Me’ forever friends book this morning then proceeded to make me a slice of wholemeal bread, slathered with Philadelphia, for breakfast. He’s gonna make a smashing husband one day, that kid.

Full up with love, I cycled the 2 miles into work and have been sat, sweating on the steps outside waiting to get in ever since. Happy Saturday peeps!

Thunder & Lightning Ice Cream is the one

Prepare for a barrage of blog posts in the next week as a number of art commissions I’ve been working on, officially go public. Plus I’m yet to bore you all with my Scotland trip photos and anecdotes. Nice one Julia!

 

 

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Crocs, Geese, and Giant Strawberries

There are fundamental signs of getting old, and choosing to buy a pair of Crocs is undeniably one of them. It’s official, I am middle-aged. Shouldn’t I be buying a sports car and dating a 22-year-old?

Alright, so the old adage of suffering a mid-life crisis is a bit outdated, but seriously, I want my PORSCHE 911! I’m joking, although I have bagged a younger man, but that’s not news.

The weather during lockdown has been nuts. 30 degrees one day followed by 8 days of solid rain, followed by a week of mid-twenties and 40 days and 40 nights of rain again. Like I said, nuts. I wasn’t prepared for summer.

I panicked. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew I didn’t want to wreck another pair of Adidas Campus by wearing them without socks, to avoid tan lines and before I knew it I was on the Very website looking at flip flops and then didn’t stock my size in Havaianas and then after three hours of scrolling for stupid flip flops, I just went for plain black, hit order and logged out.

I wasn’t even excited when they arrived. I opened the bag and there, staring back at me, were Crocs. Not Crocs like, Crocs. They’re not mules that you slip your feet into. They don’t have air holes in the front, nor a strap that goes around the heel. They don’t have Crocs written anywhere on them bar the sole, and they don’t have the logo. Oh God, I bought Crocs, didn’t I? Shit.

The weather stayed warm and so I wore them, making sure to hide them from my teen in case she started legal proceedings against me. It’s been three weeks and so far, so good. Having published this, I won’t be surprised to find my secret Crocs have been kidnapped like in some summer sandal version of Taken. I can’t see Liam Neeson turning up to rescue my flip flops. Can you?

From crocs to geese! Yesterday I wrote about The Untitled Goose Game on Nintendo Switch and oh my days, it’s so addictive! The other worrying aspect of this game is realising that acting like a complete asshat is actually really fun! Scaring a kid into a phone box by honking at him, stealing household items from the shop, lobbing a pint glass in the canal, and smashing valuable vases is a riot! Anyone else played it yet? What do you think?

Where do the Giant Strawberries fit into all this, you may be wondering. It’s simple really. I managed to get a shed load of work done today, loads of research, I’ve started making more progress on HHT Kids too. Funding, set up, content creation, talking to our website designers, getting the ball rolling with organisation status, etc. I’ve cooked, cleaned, emailed, called, text, typed, and listened. All-day long. (Still no strawberries?!)

At 5:30pm we packed up some snacks and headed out to a new park for an alfresco dinner and some exercise. I met the cutest dog, annoyed my boyfriend by calling him for no good reason, took loads of photographs, hid my little boy as he took a quick leak in the bushes, and cycled home. Bit of TV and everyone into bed.

Here I am, trying to not rustle the packet of Giant Strawberries I told the kids must have ‘fallen out of the bag at the park’ so I don’t have to share them. The old ones are the best!

 

 

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Summer Loving

It’s officially July. This makes me happy for many reasons. A fresh start on my Everton calendar (oh hi Tom & Dom), a fresh start in my diary and it feels like summer again, which to me, means great music and good times. 

I’ve just updated the Mixtape section of the blog with 31 of my favourite tunes for the month ahead. As usual, it’s a real mixed bag in there. Everything from Beyonce to Al Green, Doves, Nick Ellis, Sinead Harnett, Earth Wind and Fire, and the King himself. Give it a listen here and send over any new music recommendations to katereillyjames@gmail.com.

Elsewhere, it’s set to be a busy month. I’ve just had a second art commission confirmed, which I’m mega excited about, more on that soon. Having just gotten into the swing of things in my new job, I’m finding managing working from home difficult.

The kids are home all day and crave structure and while I’m learning all kinds of medical terminology and working out marketing strategy, they’ve been spending way too much time on their ipads. Back to homeschool planning and prep for me!

We discovered the most awesome Nintendo Switch game earlier today. Untitled Goose Game is bloody hilarious. You play a goose, let loose on a local village and the aim of the game is to be as annoying as possible at all times.

There’s a dedicated honk button and your to-do list consists of tasks such as ‘grab a pint glass and chuck it in the canal’ or ‘lock the little boy in the phone booth’. Honestly, I’ve howled laughing playing it with my very impressionable 5-year-old. I was slightly mortified when he asked me what a phone booth is?! God, I’m so old. Check out Untitled Goose Game here.

Absolutely chuffed for the Toffees today (COYB!) and a home 2-1 win against Leicester and our first penalty of the season, at Goodison. Still not loving the fake crowd noise but a win is a win! Bring on Spurs on Monday.

Had white chocolate Coco Pops for dinner (thanks again to @Kelloggs for the fab nutrition advice for HHT patients) while emailing the European co-chair of the VASCERN HHT group for some advice about setting up HHT Kids on Instagram. If you don’t already know my HHT story and why it’s so important to me to raise awareness of this rare, vascular disease, you can get the low down here.

So after a 3 mile, 9pm walk with the little ones, I’ve blitzed the house, prepped homeschool for tomorrow (for me and them), and flopped into bed to get my first blog of July done – only to realise it’s already the 2nd…bugger!

Happy July Everyone, hope it’s a cracker for you.

 

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