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This is about a subject which for a few years I thought applied to me - infertility. Inconceivable is about a couple, Sam and Lucy, and their struggle to have a baby. The book is written in the form of the diaries of Sam and Lucy; Sam is doing his reluctantly and feels a bit silly, however Lucy feels it would be beneficial to them both to express their thoughts and feelings. Sam is not at all sure but does his mainly to keep the peace. Lucy and Sam have been trying to have a baby for five years and one month (that's 61 periods observes Lucy, not that she's counting or anything!) They decide to wait two more months before seeking medical help. The first step is a blood test for Lucy to check her hormone levels, and a sperm test for Sam, which fills him with horror. He doesn't relish the idea of producing a sample on demand! After he does the deed, Sam has to keep it warm and get it to the clinic as soon as possible, so tries to get a taxi with the little pot safely in his underpants. He has a row with another man over who should have the taxi first, and wins by saying that if he doesn't have it his sperm will die. The man backs off! The results of the tests are normal, and the next step is something ominously called a "post coital test". I'd forgotten all about this one, but while reading this the memories came flooding back! Sam and Lucy have to have sex, then Lucy has to go straight to the clinic (without washing) so the doctor can take a swab, as sometimes a woman's body can kill off what it sees as hostile sperm. Oh, the delights of trying to have a baby! While all these tests are going on, Sam is plodding along with his job at the BBC. He's not really sure what his job is, let alone whether it has a title, but it's something to do with promoting new comedy acts. Whatever it is, it involves a lot of lunches. Sam has long since harboured the desire to write a film scrip
t, and when Lucy embarks on a course of IVF, he decides to turn their story into a movie. He doesn't tell Lucy, as she says that if he ever reveals their intimate details to anyone, she'll leave him..... So how does the story end? Is a baby the happy outcome? Read it for yourself and see, it's excellent. Although I wanted to read Inconceivable because of its subject, I wasn't sure if I'd like Ben Elton's writing style (I thought he was awful as a stand up comic years ago). I have to say though that he's done a brilliant job, its a delicate subject which he writes about both sensitively and amusingly. When writing Lucy's diary entries, I feel they could have been written by a woman. I mean that as the highest compliment. Ben and his wife have first-hand experience of IVF, being the parents of twins, so he is something of an expert. A great read. P.S. My own story ended happily, after many tests and a couple of ops, I conceived naturally after waiting to start IVF!
I must admit I hadn't heard of The Very Hungry Caterpillar until my son started primary school last September. Our family love books and visit the library regularly, but somehow I hadn't discovered this little book. It's a simple tale of a tiny caterpillar's transformation into a beautiful butterfly, beginning with the egg stage. It's night time, and the little egg is lying on a leaf. On the next day, which is Sunday, the sun rises and the egg hatches. A tiny green caterpillar appears, and he is VERY hungry - well wouldn't you be after being cooped up in an egg? Our little green hero is on the lookout for food, and lots of it. This is his menu for the week: Monday - one apple Tuesday - two pears Wednesday - three plums Thursday - four strawberries Friday - five oranges There are holes in each of these pages to show how the caterpillar munches his way through the fruit, which my son thinks is great. He is amazed at the amount of food the caterpillar consumes; it's as much as I can do to get him to eat a few grapes, let alone any of the above! Not content with all that fruit, the caterpillar still has the munchies and on Saturday goes on what can only be described as a binge. He stuffs himself with a piece of chocolate cake, an ice cream cone, a pickle, a slice of Swiss cheese, a slice of salami, a lollipop, a piece of cherry pie, a sausage, a cupcake and a slice of watermelon. "Wow" said my son, obviously impressed. "Is he going to be sick?" Well, he isn't sick but understandably he does have quite a stomach ache! A full week in the caterpillar's life has now passed, and it's Sunday. He feels the need to detox and all he eats today is a green leaf. He is now absolutely ENORMOUS after all that food, and hides himself away inside a cocoon. Two weeks go by, and the caterpillar emerges as a beautiful, colourful butte
rfly. This book has quickly become a firm favourite in our house; although my son can't read properly yet he takes great delight in reciting it from memory, especially the list of what the caterpillar eats. It's educational too, as it teaches children the days of the week, numbers and the names of various fruits and other food. I didn't realise that The Very Hungry Caterpillar had been around for so long (1970), but it has an endearing quality that guarantees its continuing popularity. Definitely one that should be on every child's bookshelf.
I'm not really what you'd call a regular magazine reader. I flick through them in the doctor's waiting room and always treat myself to a couple when I go on holiday for a little light reading. However, when I do indulge(!) it's usually "that's life!" that I choose. I like stories about real people rather than the glossy Hello! type of celebrity waffle......So and so allows us for the first time into their beautiful home etc. etc. Bull! They're being allowed in for a hefty fee, not because they're feeling hospitable! But I digress. That's life! is forty seven pages of true-life stories, horoscopes, problem pages, fiction, readers' tips and letters, fashion and lots more. In the latest issue I bought (dated 21st June), the first two pages are dedicated to something dear to a lot of our hearts - the soaps. It gives a little taster of what's about to happen in the following week's episodes without spoiling the plot. One of the best features of this magazine are the competitions. They are all relatively easy, but offer some great prizes. Cash, supermarket vouchers, Argos vouchers, a car and M&S vouchers are what's up for grabs in this issue. When I buy the mag I ususally enter the comps, and dream about what I'd do if I won the cash as my entry form slips into the post box! There are lots of real-life stories in that's life!, including a feature in this issue about a nightclub in London called "Po Na Na" where they hold a School Disco night every Saturday. It's not a kids' disco either - if St Trinian's is your thing then this could be the place for you! Sounds awful to me, but I left my school uniform behind years ago! Other stories include the girl who got married and later discovered her husband had another wife whom he never got round to divorcing. I know what I'd have done with him! There's also the lady whose Italian husband s
natched their small daughter and took her back to Italy, and refused to let her come home. The lady has recently been reunited with her daughter so a happy ending, but she missed out on most of her childhood. One of my favourite sections in that's life! is called "Aren't men daft", where readers are encouraged to write in about the silly things the men in their lives say and do - and believe me there are plenty! In conclusion, if you're looking for a magazine that will entertain and amuse you, that's life! is a very good choice. Lots of reading material at a reasonable price (57p).
Have a children's party, that is. Fine for immobile babies, but once they're over the age of 2, forget it. In an ideal world, with a spacious house and huge garden I'm sure it would work. But I have an average-sized terraced house with a garden the size of a Coronation Street backyard, and it's not practical to have lots of noisy children thundering around the place. So what's the ideal solution - hold the party elsewhere! My son had a party last year for his 4th birthday, at a place called the Playbarn - part of the Tom Cobleigh pub chain. As the same suggests, it's an indoor soft play area where the children can get rid of their excess energy. The party lasts for 2 hours, the first hour being devoted to climbing, sliding etc. and then the birthday child and guests are called to the table for their meal. There is a choice of chicken nuggets, beefburger, pizza or turkey dinosaurs, all served with chips and baked beans. This is followed with ice cream, and strawberry or chocolate sauce. Jugs of squash are provided, when we were there we had lemon and blackcurrant, but I think it varies. After the meal the birthday cake is brought to the table (you can supply your own or the Playbarn will provide one for £5.95). We took our own as my son had asked for a Bob the Builder one. After a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday", the children can go back to playing until the 2 hours are up. Children must be supervised at all times, the recommended ratio is one adult to every five children. The cost per child is £5.50, which also includes a balloon and a party bag. The party bags contain things like colouring books, crayons, stencils and a small bag of sweets. The birthday child receives a Playbarn t-shirt and a Polaroid photo of him/herself and guests. There are additional activities at extra cost, such as party games with prizes (£5) and face painting at £1 per child. I've been to several parties a
t the Playbarn, and to be honest I don't think there would be suffucient time for additional activities without cuuting down on their playing time too much. The invitations are supplied by the Playbarn, and the children have to tick their choice of food on the back. Then the party organiser lets the Playbarn know about 4 days before the event. What could be simpler? They do get very busy with party bookings, especially at weekends, so it's best to book as much in advance as you can. My son is having his 5th birthday party there in a few weeks' time, and I booked it in October! I don't think that paying for a party like this would necessarily cost any more than having one at home, as you would have to supply the food, drinks, party bags, balloons, prizes etc. And there's no mess to clear up, you just walk away and let someone else do it! I would choose this sort of party every time, I could hug whoever invented soft play areas! Great value for money, and saves your sanity.
Only ten? There are so many brilliant comedy shows it's hard to know where to begin. I thought long and hard about this, and have finally whittled it down to the final ten. Here goes: 10. BUTTERFLIES ........... I used to enjoy watching Butterflies very much. Written by Carla Lane and starring Wendy Craig as Ria, the bored housewife who was possibly the worst cook in the entire world. Her two sons (one played by a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst) and dentist husband (the deadpan Geoffrey Palmer) would sit at the dinner table with trepidation, never knowing what culinary disasters awaited them. "It's custard", Ria helpfully informed them on one occasion, as the spoon stood up in it all on its own! Ria found a friend in Leonard, a businessman who had time to talk when her family didn't. A gentle, undemanding comedy. 9. TO THE MANOR BORN ................. A wonderful series starring Penelope Keith as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, the former owner of Grantleigh Manor who is forced to sell when her husband dies. She moves into the nearby (smaller) Lodge, with her butler Brabinger, a luxury she refuses to part with. Audrey can see inside Grantleigh from the Lodge (with a pair of binoculars!) and is constantly spying on the comings and goings of the new owner Richard de Vere (Peter Bowles). Audrey's friend Marjory (Angela Thorne) thinks Richard is wonderful and has a real crush on him, where Audrey treats him with disdain. They become friends when Audrey gets to know him better, though Richard's mother Mrs Poo (short for a long Czechoslovakian name!) is desperate to hear wedding bells! Penelope Keith is the obvious choice for the role of Lady of the Manor, and it works perfectly. 8. MEN BEHAVING BADLY .................. I don't think it's going too far to say that this is a comedy that deserves the label "classic".
It may be a bit near the mark at times, but it's so cleverly written and the actors are just right for their parts. Lager plays a big part in Gary (Martin Clunes) and Tony's (Neil Morrissey) lives, and the final shot of each episode always shows them having a "meaningful" conversation - usually about bottoms, breasts or Kylie Minogue! - over a few cans. Gary and Dorothy (Caroline Quentin) have been together for some time, and Tony is desperate to get together with Debs (Leslie Ash). He does everything he can to try and impress her, including offering to shave his pubic hair for charity! It is crude in places, but if you can look past that Men Behaving Badly is definitely one of the best comedies in recent years. 7. GIMME GIMME GIMME ................. You either love it or hate it, and I love it! Written by and starring Kathy Burke as Linda La Hughes, it also stars the talented James Dreyfus as her gay flatmate Tom. Linda and Tom are always verbally abusing one another, but can occasionally be nice. On Tom's birthday he tells Linda that he'd like to wake up to Bucks Fizz. She misunderstands and organises a dance routine with their neighbours Jez and Suze, to the strains of " Making Your Mind Up" , complete with detachable skirts! Very funny. There is some swearing and general bad taste in Gimme Gimme Gimme, so don't watch it if you're easily offended! 6. FAWLTY TOWERS ............. You couldn't have a top 10 list of comedies and not include this one. "The Rat" is probably my favourite episode, where Manuel (Andrew Sachs) thinks he has bought a hamster from the pet shop, only to discover later that it's a rat. It escapes in the hotel and Basil (John Cleese), Sybil (Prunella Scales) and Polly (Connie Booth) have to try and capture it before any of the guests see it. The usual chaos that is
Fawlty Towers follows. A deserved place in the Hall of Fame. 5. THE ROYLE FAMILY ................ A stroke of genius. Who could possibly think that watching a family sitting round the TV could be so entertaining? Jim (Ricky Tomlinson) and Barbara (Sue Johnston) are Mum and Dad Royle, and are joined in front of the TV most evenings by their idle daughter Denise (Caroline Aherne) and son-in-law Dave (Craig Cash). Nanna (Liz Smith) sometimes comes along too, and while she is asleep Jim takes great delight in farting and wafting it towards her with his newspaper! We rarely see Jim out of his chair, but on one memorable occasion he strips the wallpaper with his rather large friend Twiggy (Geoffrey Hughes), using a fish slice to the sounds of "Mambo no.5" on the radio! Priceless. 4. ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE ..................... One of the greatest comedy partnerships of all time, I think. Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew and Annette Crosbie as his long-suffering wife Margaret are wonderful to watch. Victor is plagued by bad luck since losing his job as a security guard - his replacement is a black box! He has mishap after mishap, inluding getting a pint of beer superglued to his forehead and getting buried up to his neck in his own back garden by his neighbour. Wonderful actors, and a genius of a writer in David Renwick. 3. THE VICAR OF DIBLEY ................... I have hunch I know the reason I like this so much - Dawn Frenc's character Geraldine and I have the same passion in life. No, not religion, chocolate! The Crunchie-munching vicar is something of a revelation in sleepy Dibley, where a female vicar is something the residents are not prepared for at all. There is an excellent supporting cast in Emma Chambers (Alice the verger), Gary Waldhorn (David Horton) and James Fleet (Hugo Horton). Geraldine always tells Alice a funny story or joke at the end of each episode, which she never understands. Here is one of my favourites: A nun is having a bath when there's a knock at the door. "Who is it?" calls the nun, trying to cover herself up. "It's the blind man" comes the reply. "Oh that's all right then", says the nun. "Come in". The door opens and he comes in. "Nice t*ts" he says. "Now where do you want the blind?" I think some more episodes of Dibley are in the pipeline for later this year, which is great news. 2. ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES ..................... Surely the best-loved British comedy of all time, Only Fools and Horses follows the fortunes of Del and Rodney Trotter (David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst) as they try to strike it rich. "This time next year we'll be millionaires", Del is always telling Rodney. He really believes it too, ever the optimist. It's too hard to choose just one favourite moment, there are so many, but one that readily springs to mind is when Del falls over in the wine bar while trying to impress a couple of girls - brilliant. Buster Merryfield (now sadly deceased) was a joy as Uncle Albert, and could clear a room when he started a sentence with the words "During the war..." Timeless comedy. 1. THE GOOD LIFE ............. This is my absolute favourite comedy series. I won't go into too much detail here as I have written a separate review of The Good Life (please feel free to read!) suffice it to say that it epitomises for me everything that is great about British comedy. A superb cast of Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington, in roles that were tailor-made for them. Superb. Well, here endeth the list. There are so many other great comedies that
didn't quite make it but deserve amention anyway - Porridge, Blackadder, Absolutely Fabulous, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em....you're wonderful and I love you all!
I came across this book quite by accident, I had ordered a set of 10 assorted children's books from the wonderful Book People (see op!) and "The Toy Hospital" by Elaine Mills was among them. It's the story of a china doll called Marianne who lives in a tree house with a toy squirrel. The pair of them are best friends and have a lovely time playing together. The only trouble is that Squirrel likes to show off, jumping around and leaping from the furniture. "We're not allowed to do that, are we mummy?" said my 4 year old son. "Certainly not". "But Squirrel does it". "And Squirrel's silly isn't he?" said my 3 year old daughter. Indeed he is. In his quest for the limelight, Squirrel starts to show off again and runs along the washing line and up on to the roof. Despite warnings from Marianne that he will fall, he bounces up and down on the television aerial until the inevitable happens. He falls and lands in a cabbage patch, and hurts his leg. Squirrel is taken to the Hospital for Sick Toys. I wouldn't mind going there myself, there are no queues and he is seen by a doctor straight away! The doctor discovers that Squirrel has lost a lot of stuffing from his leg. "Will I ever be able to jump again?" asks Squirrel. That sentence never fails to amuse me as it reminds me of the old joke about the patient who hurts his hand. "Will I ever be able to play the piano again?" "Of course you will". "Good, because I couldn't before!" But I digress. Squirrel has his leg packed with stuffing, and needs fifteen (yes, fifteen!) stitches. The nurse then wraps a bandage round his leg and gives him a pair of crutches. In no time at all Squirrel is showing off again, seeing how fast he can go along the hospital corridors. Back home at the tree house, Squirrel
is unable to climb the stairs so Marianne puts up a tent in the garden and they both live there for a while until Squirrel's leg gets stronger. There's a sweet picture here of Squirrel sitting on a potty! One day Squirrel tells Marianne that his leg feels better, so off they go to see the doctor. The bandage comes off, and Squirrel shows the doctor how well he can walk. The doctor is very pleased with him and the friends make their way home. Marianne has a surprise present for Squirrel, on the condition that there will be no more jumping. Squirrel is so excited that he agrees straight away, but once they are back at home all his good intentions are forgotten. Up on the washing line he goes, pretending to be an acrobat. And of course you can guess what happens next - he falls. But luckily for Squirrel, his present from Marianne is waiting down below; it's a lovely bouncy TRAMPOLINE! This is a really lovely children's book, I enjoy reading it to my two very much. Even though we've read it many times and they know what's coming next, they sit there spellbound. And I don't think you can get a higher recommendation than approval from a young audience. It's books like these that will introduce children to a world of reading. A simple, but effective story. The illustrations are beautiful, drawn by the author in pastel shades and set in a bygone era judging by the clothes the characters are wearing. I hadn't heard of Elaine Mills before reading "The Toy Hospital", but if this book is an indication of her abilities I shall certainly be keeping a lookout for further titles. Very highly recommended.
Dear Gran, it's been 19 years since you left us, but I think about you a great deal and still miss you very much. I don't remember much about my other grandparents. Dad's father died before I was born and his mother died when I was two years old, so I don't have any memories of them. My other grandad, your husband, was a quiet, gentle man. We used to visit you every Saturday, and my brother and I had great fun playing in your lovely long garden. In the summer it always seemed to be filled with buttercups and daisies, and we would amuse ourselves for ages shoving buttercups under each others' chins to see if we liked butter, or seeing who could make the longest daisy chain. We would always stay for tea, which was usually something like banana or jam sandwiches followed by swiss roll. Yummy! Before we went home you always gave us a sticky sherbet lemon from your special jar to suck in the car. And as we kissed him goodbye, Grandad would press a shiny 10p piece into each of our hands. They were happy, carefree days which ended when Grandad was taken into hospital. You came to stay with us Gran, so you wouldn't be on your own. We didn't have a spare bedroom so you moved into our front room. It must have been cramped for you but you didn't complain, you were just glad to be around your family. Then early one morning, when we were all still in bed, the phone rang. You answered it as you were sleeping downstairs. It was the hospital to say that Grandad had died. He was 69 and had succumbed to lung cancer. I remember my mum crying as she told myself and my brother (we were 7 and 5) but I don't recall much else. Not long afterwards we moved to a bigger house, and you came with us. You sold your house and put some of the money into the new house so mum and dad didn't have to worry about having a mortgage. You had your own room with some of your possessions in it, but it must have bro
ken your heart to have to part with things that you and Grandad had collected together over the years. A couple of years later you had a heart attack. You were taken to hospital and I remember being really scared. All I could think of was "People who have heart attacks die don't they?" But you didn't die Gran, you recovered and came home to us. At the time I didn't know it, but this was your second heart attack; you had the first one when I was only a few months old. You had a small widow's pension from Grandad's job, and you put aside some money from this to enable me to have riding lessons. I was horse mad, and with your help Gran I was able to realise my dream as mum and dad couldn't have afforded it. You also knew how much I loved reading, especially Enid Blyton, and one by one you bought me the whole "Famous Five" series. There were 21 of them in all! I read them again and again. Although you were pleased to be living with us, you missed Grandad so much. I would sometimes come into your room for a game of cards or Scrabble to find you sitting in your rocking chair staring out into the garden with silent tears running down your face. You never spoke about Grandad to me and I didn't like to ask as you preferred to be alone with your grief. You weren't without your health problems either, although you didn't complain. You had terrible eczema on your feet, they itched so much and bled where the skin had cracked. You couldn't walk very far without stopping for a rest as your legs hurt - I later found out that you had narrowing of the arteries. 30th March 1982 is a date that will be etched on my mind forever. I was doing my O-levels that year so was upstairs in my bedroom revising when there was an almighty crash downstairs. Mum dashed into your room to find that you had collapsed, and I heard her shouting to dad to call an ambulance. I was frozen to the spot, I c
ouldn't move. I knew something terrible had happened but I didn't want to go downstairs as in my heart of hearts I think I knew. Finally the door opened and mum came in. She didn't say anything, we just hugged each other and I burst into tears. It probably sounds silly, but I kept expecting the hospital to phone and say it was a mistake and that you were fine. I just didn't want to believe you had gone. You were 74, not that old really. It was another heart attack that took you away from us. I'm sorry Gran, for not going to your funeral, but I just couldn't face it. I wanted to remember you as you were, warm and alive. I hope you understand why I couldn't go. You never lived to see me get married 5 years later, or meet my lovely children. I wish so much that you could have been at my wedding. You'd like my husband, he's a good man just like Grandad was. I hope that wherever you are now Gran, you've got Grandad, your soul mate, with you. God bless, Gran. Sweet dreams.
Yes! Yes! Yes! We first met in 1985, and I have to say it was love at first sight. It's a love affair that has continued through the years, and has stood the test of time. My passion for Harvey is as strong now, if not stronger, than it's ever been. Harvey Wallbanger, that is. My boyfriend (now my husband) introduced me to this divine cocktail on our first weekend away together as a couple. We were staying in Brighton in a cheap B&B, and wandered along the seafront one evening and called in at one of the posher-looking hotels. Standing at the bar, I couldn't decide what tickled my fancy. My boyfriend suggested a Harvey Wallbanger - I'm a fan of vodka and orange and this consisted of those, plus a bright yellow Italian liqueur called Galliano. I decided to try one. I sniffed. A faint aroma - liquorice? - teased my nostrils. I sipped. I was smitten. This was heaven. All weekend I couldn't stop talking about how lovely it was. And 16 years later it's still top of my drinks list. Here are a few recipes you can try out, the first one being the infamous: HARVEY WALLBANGER 20ml Vodka 20ml Galliano Orange juice (amount to your own taste) YELLOW CANARY 10ml Lime 15ml Cointreau 20ml light Rum 5ml Galliano Lots of ice WEDDING ANNIVERSARY 50ml Orange juice 10ml Campari 50ml Vodka 10ml Galliano FREDDY FUDPUCKER 20ml Tequila 20ml Galliano Orange juice (again, to your own preference) A nice way to finish a meal instead of the traditional Irish coffee is to treat yo
urself to a Galliano Hot Shot. Make in the same way as an Irish coffee; brown sugar, Galliano, hot black coffee and double cream. Don't make the mistake of using Irish coffee glasses, these need to be served in shot glasses. Enjoy. Unfortunately they don't agree with my husband, never mind darling, I'm always waiting in the wings!
I stared at the pregnancy testing kit, willing a blue line to appear in the window. I was sure, so sure this time that I must be pregnant. But no, I was not. I burst into tears of frustration. Alone in the bathroom, behind a closed door, I had just used a pregnancy testing kit for the umpteenth time. I was 27 years old, had been married for 6 years, and my husband and I had been trying to start a family for the past 6 months. Becoming pregnant was something that I had always assumed was the most natural thing in the world, and as soon as we stopped using contraception I was sure it would happen almost immediately. But it did not. Month after month passed and each time I got my period I would cry as if my heart would break. I thought that I must have done something wrong, that I was in some way a bad person because I couldn't have a baby. About 18 months went by, during which time we didn't tell anyone that we were trying for a baby. All around us friends and family were having babies, and although I was pleased for them I don't mind admitting I was as jealous as hell. We had tried all the usual self-help methods by now, I had been taking my temperature to try and pinpoint when I was ovulating, and my husband wore loose boxer shorts and cut out all alcohol. Nothing worked so we then decided to go to the doctor to see if she could find out why we couldn't conceive. My husband had to produce a "sample", which was sent to the hospital and pronounced normal, so that was one hurdle out of the way. I had an internal examination and the doctor said she could definitely feel something there, probably a cyst. I was referred to see a consultant gynaecologist at a local hospital. Fortunately my husband has private medical insurance which covers me as well, so I was able to be seen quickly. First of all I had to have an internal scan, which was uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing. The consultant was very nice though
and explained that I didn't have a cyst as my doctor thought, in fact it was a fibroid (benign growth in the womb). It was a bit larger than a golf ball, and he told me that this could be the reason I wasn't conceiving. If fibroids are large enough they can sometimes stop an embryo implanting in the uterus. I then had to have an operation under general anaesthetic to examine my womb and fallopian tubes. Blue dye was passed through the tubes to see if they were clear; fortunately they were. The consultant suggested a 6 month course of a fertility drug called Clomid, after which I was to come back and see him if I wasn't pregnant. I was back again after 6 months, still not having conceived and more depressed and desparate than ever. We discussed the next step with the consultant, who felt that IVF was the next logical step as I wasn't getting any younger (!) He promised that a colleague would contact us soon, and with that we left the hospital feeling a little happier knowing that we were in the hands of experts. Although the private medical insurance covered the tests and operation, it didn't cover the IVF treatment itself. My husband and I didn't discuss the cost in detail, we just knew we'd find the money from somewhere. We had a holiday in Jersey booked for the following week, and we talked a lot as we walked along the beaches. I said that it wasn't the end of the world if we couldn't have a baby (trying to convince myself). My husband didn't say a lot, I knew that he wanted a family but I wondered if he could possibly understand the physical need that I had to have a baby. By now it was occupying most of my waking thoughts. When we arrived home from our holiday there was a letter waiting for us from my gynaecologist's colleague inviting us to an appointment. I am happy to report that we never went to see him as I was already pregnant! I don't know why it should have happened natur
ally after all that time, maybe it was something to do with the operation that kick-started my system. I shall never know for sure. When I held my baby boy in my arms 9 months later, I couldn't put my feelings into words. I had something at last that I though I would never have, and I felt so lucky. I wasn't a failure, or infertile as I'd believed, and I felt truly thankful. When my son was a year old we decided to try for another baby, thinking that we were fortunate to have one child, and another would be a bonus. One month later I was pregant with our daughter! So my story has a happy ending, and I was fortunate enough not to need the miracle that is IVF. But there are many couples out there who would otherwise remain childless but for one of man's most wonderful discoveries. You cannot put a price on the joy children bring, I just wish it were more widely available so that more couples could have someone to call them Mummy and Daddy.
I had my first experience of being bullied as a child when we moved house and I had to change schools. I was 8 years old and very happy at my present school. I had lots of friends and was being taught with pupils a year older than me as I was considered to be "bright". I wasn't the only one, there were about 6 of us. Then my parents decided to move to a bigger house in a different area. It was too far away for me to go to the same school, so I reluctantly had to say goodbye to my friends. We moved just before the summer holidays, so I started at my new school in September. I was so nervous on my first day, but the class teacher asked another girl to look after me and initially everything was fine. Then a few days later, as a few of us were playing in the playground, a bigger girl, a couple of years older than me, marched me up to a wall and made me stand facing it with my hands on my head. I was completely baffled as to why she'd done it, and thought she was messing about (even though she was quite rough with me). I ran off and went back to playing with my new friends. I forgot all about it until a couple of days later when this girl found me in the playground and said "You're the one that ran off the other day aren't you? Why?" All I could stammer was "I-I didn't know what you were doing". It turned out that we weren't allowed to play too close to the school entrance (though nobody had told me) and this girl was a monitor - junior school equivalent of a prefect. And standing with my hands on my head was deemed a fitting punishment for my "crime". From that day on I dreaded going to school as this girl now had it in for me and took every opportunity to verbally bully me for no obvious reason. I was too frightened of what she'd do to me if I told anybody, so I suffered in silence. It was one of my happiest days when she eventually left to go to senior school. I hav
e never been physically bullied, but mental bullying can be every bit as distressing. My parents didn't have much spare money, so at senior school I wasn't able to keep up with the latest fashions like my peers. I pretended not to mind, though of course I did, very much. I would get snide comments about clothes and shoes which I tried to take all in my stride, but really I was so hurt inside. I would go home and shut myself in my room and cry into my pillow. Being a bit overweight and interested in my school work didn't help either, as I was thought of as a fat swot. Those girls probably thought they were being funny, but they made what should have been happy days a misery for me. Reading what I've written so far, I hope I don't come across as being too self-pitying, but it affected me badly at the time. I left school at 16 rather than go to college, just so I could earn my own money and buy my own clothes. Sometimes I regret doing this, but things have worked out fine now and I'm very happy, married with two lovely children. Bullies obviously have some sort of inadequacy in their own lives to want to make them pick on those who are smaller, weaker, or different in some way to themselves. It is the ultimate cowardice, and I despise them. If they knew what effect they had on people's lives, would it make them stop? Sadly I doubt it.
I found this Tweenies CD-ROM in PC World just before Christmas, and bought it as a present for my 4 year old son. It is recommended for age 3 and over, but my two and a half year old daughter can also manage some of the easier activities. The first time your child logs in he has to type his name in and choose a badge to go by his name. My son chose a boat and my daughter wanted a flower, but there are lots of other cheerful designs to choose from. Next you go to the main menu where all the activities are accessed by clicking on the Tweenie clock. There are five buttons on the clock which represent an activity; Messy Time, Telly Time, Story Time, Song Time and News Time. Two additional items not on the clock are Play Time and Mail; these are represented by a toy box and Doodles. A description of the activities follows. MESSY TIME This section gives your child the opportunity to be creative and use his imagination as he paints pictures, makes masks and finger puppets. Your child's masterpieces can be printed and kept for posterity (or binned later when they're not looking!) This section is very popular with my two. TELLY TIME Here there are 5 video clips to watch; Caring for a pet, Litter, My day, School and Shiny metal. This is probably not a section to return to over and over in a short space of time as the clips aren't that long and my son in particular says "I've already seen this!" STORY TIME This is where Max reads a story called "Felicity and her famous felt-tips". We look at the book as Max would see it, and there is a repeat button if you would like to hear a particular page again. Your child has to click to turn the page when Max has finished. SONG TIME Fizz and Milo introduce this section; if you click on Fizz there is a choice of 5 songs that the Tweenies perform - If you're happy and you know it, One finger one thumb, Heads, sh
oulders, knees and toes, Looby Loo and Wheels on the bus. Click on Milo and all the Tweenies appear together standing in front of musical instruments. Click on some or all of them and they will dance and the instruments (guitar, keyboards, drum and sax) will start to play. There are two tunes to choose from, and you can make the tempo faster and turn the volume up. NEWS TIME Bella's "Guess What!" quiz is in this section; there is a circle with 6 segments hiding a picture and various questions, for example, "What is the missing number? 1 2 3 -5". If your child gets it right a section of the picture is uncovered to reveal something, and the idea is to guess what it is. MAIL If you return to the main menu and click on Doodles, you can send a letter or drawing to the Tweenies. Choose a Tweenie to send mail to, and Doodles will deliver it and the Tweenie will say thank you. Doodles also delivers messages, rhymes and pictures to your child from the Tweenies. My children love this section, and think it's great when their favourite Tweenie sends them mail. PLAY TIME There are 3 games to play here - Snap, Milo's Flying Rocket and Catch. In Snap, Jake is collecting toys to put away in the toy box, but only ones that match. Different ones appear at the top of a slide, and if they match the ones at the bottom you have to click to put them in the box. In Milo's Flying Rocket, Milo needs you to help him get the other Tweenies on board, but you have to collect enough fuel to do this. I find this quite hard! Finally, my favourite, Catch. Doodles needs your help to catch as many bones as possible (they come flying over a wall!) in his bowl by moving the mouse. It's quite easy at first but gets more difficult as the bowl gets smaller and the flying bones get faster! IS THIS WORTH BUYING? In my experience, yes, definitely. It has been played with consistently since C
hristmas, which is more than can be said for some of my children's other presents! When their friends come over they have to be signed in and have a go as well, so it's highly recommended by the age group it's intended for. This CD-ROM costs £19.99, but in my opinion it's money well spent.
Duck in the Truck by Jez Alborough is a lovely rhyming book which is perfect for reading to young children or for confident new readers to try themselves. The story begins with Duck heading home in his red truck (number plate Duck 1) when he hits a rock and his truck goes into the muck and becomes stuck (you'll have the idea of the rhymes by now!) A frog appears and tries to help Duck get his truck out of the muck, but it's still stuck fast. Along comes a sheep driving a jeep (beep beep) and he lends a hand - or should that be hoof? but that truck won't budge. On the river is a sleepy goat on his motor boat, and he pitches in to help as well. Does Duck manage to get his truck out of the muck, or does it stay stuck? Are the sheep in the jeep and the goat on a boat more of a hindrance than a help? Read this book for yourself to discover the answer! I hadn't heard of this book until a couple of weeks ago when there was a book fair at my son's primary school. We went to have a look and my son, who's nearly 5, picked this one up straightaway, saying "Duck in the Truck! Brilliant!" His teacher had read it in class recently, and it obviously impressed him. The illustrations are bright and cheerful too, which can make all the difference in children's books. This is definitely one to read and enjoy again and again.
Bad Mood Bear is a charming book about a teddy bear who isn't very happy - hence the title. The story begins at bedtime with Bear tucked up cosily in his bed. His mum and dad have said goodnight but Bear can't sleep. He gets out of bed and plays in his room for a while, then feels thirsty so he decides to go downstairs for a drink. When he appears in the living room, Mum, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa bear are surprised to see him up, and say that he'll be tired tomorrow while giving Bear disapproving looks. The next morning, as you would expect after a broken night's sleep, Bear is in a very bad mood. He even throws his breakfast on the floor! My 4 year old son looked at me incredulously when I read this bit, because although he sometimes has the odd tantrum he's never thrown food (not yet anyway!) Bear's mum tries to cheer him up by playing with him in the garden, but he falls off the swing and bumps his head. Then he has another paddy and pokes his tongue out at his grandparents who are watching through the window. His Grandad says that he needs a good smack; again met with a shocked look from my son, as smacking isn't something you read about very often in children's story books. After a couple more "bad mood" incidents, Bear is sent to his room to calm down and he screams and cries for a while. Mum then brings him some milk and a biscuit, and afterwards he falls asleep. Just what an over-tired bear needs. He wakes later refreshed and happy and is much nicer to be around. He is polite to his family and friends, and says sorry for his bad mood. This is a delightful little book that even young children can relate to; after all, we're all in a bad mood sometimes aren't we?! My son aged 4 and daughter who's nearly 3 ask for it to be read to them again and again. A real gem.
My love of letter writing goes back 21 years to when I was 13. An avid Abba fan then (as now!) I was reading the latest edition of their monthly magazine when I came across the penpals section. Jenny, aged 14 from Australia had placed an ad. for penpals, and I decided to reply. I still remember posting that letter (it cost 17 1/2p!) and wondering if it would reach its destination. A couple of weeks later an airmail letter dropped onto the mat. Jenny had replied and would like to write to me. I was really pleased and so our correspondence began. At first we would write about the usual teenage things such as our families, exams, music etc. then as the years passed it progressed to boyfriends. She became engaged to Tony around the same time as I did to Andy. A few more years passed and Jenny became pregnant with her first child, a son, followed 21 months later by a daughter. I didn't have my first baby until a few years after her, but I now have a son and a daughter, coincidentally with an age gap of 21 months as well. Letters and photos of our families continued across the miles, until a few years ago a letter arrived containing bad news. Jenny's husband Tony had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is comparitively rare in males. He had been given between 3-5 years to live. I was in total shock, he was only in his mid-30's. I wrote back straight away, but I had no idea what to say. "I'm sorry" didn't seem adequate but I just wanted her to know I was thinking of them all. Tony had all sorts of treatments but the cancer spread and he died 2 years ago. I sent a card and flowers just to let her know I cared. Gradually Jenny has started picking up the pieces, and has remained strong for her children. She's a very special person, and although we've never met I hope we will be lifelong friends. Of course there will be people that you write to that you have little in common with; it's
best to to discontinue the friendship in its early stages if this is the case. When I was about 15 I exchanged a few letters with a boy from Singapore called Alvin. I sent him a photo of myself and he replied saying that in his opinion I needed to lose weight! (I weighed about 10 stone - hardly elephantine!) Needless to say, it was bye bye Alvin! These days I mostly write to people I know I'll have something in common with - usually mums with young children. There's no better way to start the day than receiving a letter in the post, so give penpalling a try. It's fun and you could make some very good friends along the way.
I'm a relative newcomer to car boot sales, but after having done a few myself I can understand the attraction. When someone buys something of yours and money changes hands, you get a real buzz! The one we go to is held in a local college on the first Saturday of the month; the advantage of this one is that it's held indoors and out. In recent months it's obviously been inside, and this is where the wallpaper pasting table comes in handy rather than your car boot! The boot sale runs from 9am-12pm but you need to be there at 8am to get a space and set out your wares. That's a real eye-opener - traders are allowed in before the general public, and before you've started unpacking they're rifling through to see what you've got. The main attraction seems to be china and ornaments, seemingly the older and dirtier the better! They're probably hoping to find a rarity for the Antiques Roadshow! I prefer to put price labels on my items, that way if someone wants to make an offer they have some idea of how much to bid. I also make sure everything looks presentable; I've sold a lot of baby clothes at boot sales and ensure that they are washed, ironed and clearly labelled with the correct size. The cost of the pitch is £6 - quite reasonable as I have seen others advertised at £8 or £9. I take a notepad with me and jot down everything I sell, then deduct the £6 to find out the profit. It's usually between £20-£25 which isn't bad when you're selling things for 20p, 50p or £1. Take a small float with you as most people don't have the right money. Back to the subject of profits - don't spend yours at the refreshment stall! Take a flask of tea or coffee, and sandwiches etc. if you think you'll get hungry. It's so tempting when you can smell bacon and sausages cooking, but try not to give in! Some good sellers in my limited experience are tools, videos and toys. Don'
;t try and sell anything that doesn't work or has pieces missing, it's just not cricket! My husband has been very successful in selling his football programmes - usually one person comes along and buys them all. You won't make your fortune at a car boot sale, but you will have fun and make a few extra pounds into the bargain.