- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
You know when I was younger I never believed all the stories I heard about teenage boys and their aversion to soap and water. I was brought up in a household of girls and the fight for the bathroom first thing in the morning and last thing at night involved medieval swords and armour. As a young woman I was obsessed with cleanliness and thought that everybody was, then I got married and had children, first my blue eyed daughter who takes great pride in the way she looks and who barricades herself in the bathroom for hours on end, singing to the mirror and hogging all the hot water and then my boys. Bundles of joy?...Yes they are. Handsome little dudes? Yes that too. Scruffy little sods....Sadly yes. When it comes to choosing a shampoo for the family I am looking for something that cleans well, doesn't make my hair feel like wire wool, is well priced and at this moment in time, announces to the world that my lads have been in the bath, have been thoroughly scrubbed and are for a few minutes at least, totally clean. I get all that and much more with a shampoo that I think has been around as long as I have. Vosene Original. I remember well, bath times as a little girl. Mum would dig her nails into our heads as she worked the shampoo into our hair and when it was all rinsed she had this awful habit of twisting our hair around and around to squeeze all of the water out. It was Vosene that she used then and it is Vosene that I have returned to, now that the children are getting older and bathing more difficult. The design of the bottle has changed a little over the years and to be honest I really don't have that much interest in it. As long as it's easy to hold, easy to open with wet hands and doesn't pour all over the bath if I accidentally knock it over then I really do
n't care. Vosene's bottle is not as robust as the old tear shaped one was, but it serves it's purpose and I do hate to think I am paying more for the fancy packaging than I am for the shampoo within. The shampoo itself is a henna colour, dark brown and resembles treacle in colour and consistency. I have to say that's where the resemblance ends though because the most noticeable thing about this shampoo is most definitely the smell. Vosene describe the smell as medicated but don't be put off by that. It's most definitely not that clinical hospital smell that many people associate with the word medicated. I would describe it as a clean, almost herbal smell, quite strong but not overpowering. Wella say that this shampoo has active dandruff protection if you use it often enough, not too sure about that one to be honest as I rarely suffer from dandruff, this could be down to the shampoo or the fact that I don't have a dry scalp, I honestly couldn't say. Don't be put off by the colour of the shampoo. My daughter has blonde, almost white hair and mine is a mousy brown, the results are good regardless of hair colour. A squeeze of Vosene, about the size of a 10p piece produces a good lather, and I live in a real hardwater area. When rinsed my hair smells clean and is tangle free. I have noticed that I get a lovely shine to my hair when I use Vosene and it is very manageable. My hair seems to stay cleaner, longer too which has to be another bonus. I have to be honest and say that my biggest reason for buying this though is the smell. It lingers, it smells clean and it's not a girly flowery smell which means we can all use it. The boys come out of the bath with that 'mums been using the scrubbing brush' golden glow and their hair smells clean and pleasant. Oh yes I l
ove this shampoo! Vosene is good value for money at less than two pounds for 250ml, does the job well and leaves a lovely clean smell behind that speaks for itself. For those of you that don't like so strong a smell there is also a milder version available at the same price. Do I recommend it for everyone? I do. For smelly teenage boys, it's a must.
Ok, I admit it. I watch Most Haunted. I am one of those sad people who spends far too much time watching the live weekend show and then sits there and announces that it was rubbish, only to settle back down for another dose as soon as the opportunity arises. I wonder what it is that makes being scared such a great feeling? I am the worlds biggest coward, but I love scary films and spooky places. One of the recent live shows was centred around the beautiful historic city of York and one of the locations visited was The York Dungeon. I have to say I don't need an excuse to visit York, it is to me one of this countries treasures, but when my son asked whether we could go visit the dungeon I jumped at the opportunity of a day out. Situated on the corner of Clifford Street in York, not to far from the majestic Clifford's Tower I have to say that my first impression of the place wasn't that good. The building itself made me think of some of the old banks that we have here in Nottingham, boring and official looking. There was a queue of about 20 people outside the building and there was a young man dressed as a zombie entertaining the crowd as they waited to enter the dungeon. He was funny. He was having a joke with the people waiting, regardless of age and any doubts I had about standing in the queue went completely out of the window. " Who's here for the bondage experience?" He asked those waiting " Who's here to be whipped and chained?" You haven't met my husband, but he's a strange guy and his hand was up like a shot. We waited in the queue for about 15 minutes as people were let in in groups of about 12. As we followed everyone into the building it occurred to me that this experience was either going to be very good, or very tacky. I
;t was quite dark inside. We paid at the desk and bought a very well presented glossy brochure which cost us three pounds fifty. There was a sign above the desk that said that if we weren't offered the opportunity to purchase a brochure by the staff we would receive one free, an effective reminder to the staff to remember the suggestive selling training they had obviously received and I remember secretly hoping that the young girl manning the till would forget. We were ushered forward to the first 'experience' and I have to say that experience is the right word to use for this place. There were displays depicting the plague, not the rats and the fleas, here the emphasis was on the gory side of living during the plague, the boils, the puss and the horror of it all. We were at the front of our group and as we passed one area there was an almighty scream and the grotesque head of a boil laden woman appeared at a window. No, it wasn't a mirror. It certainly made us jump though. Each area of the dungeon has it's own interactive area and for the plague section we were ushered into a doctors surgery where a man who looked a lot like the guy with the withered hand in Scary Movie 2, told us all about the torturous healing techniques that were used back then. At one point he demonstrated on a very realistic dummy how blood letting would occur and as he touched the 'victim' a squirt of water shot out and made us all jump back. Our next journey took us to a time when the superstitions of witchcraft were everywhere and people lived in fear of being accused. Again there were displays and exhibits and then an interactive area. We were ushered into a dark area where above us there was a bridge with a dummy leaning over looking into the water where you could see the body of a woman, submerged below the ripples. I thought it looked pretty boring, I have to say, and
made for the door to the next area, anxious to move on. I jumped out of my skin when the 'dummy' on the bridge shouted "Halt" He then began to tell us of his job as a witch hunter and pointing down at me I was accused of being a witch and dancing naked in the moonlight. (Mental note to self to get the height of the front fence raised) I held my hands up. I admitted being a witch, apparently I would then be burned at the stake. The poor women who protested their innocence were subjected to the ducking stool where they would be held under water for long periods of time. If they drowned, they were innocent. If they didn't they were witches and died anyway. Comforting thought isn't it! As we moved through the Dungeon we came across many experiences including the Romans, the Vikings, a clever optical illusion called The pit of Despair and my hubby's favourite The Torture Chamber. In The Torture Chamber there were gadgets to make your eyes water. Suspended on the wall, as you entered the chamber was a man on a wheel that was being turned and stretched, mercilessly. My son got a lot of pleasure out of turning the wheel as fast as he could, I can see he resembles his father. We had to stay in this area for a few minutes as the group in front were still in the interactive room that accompanied the chamber. A stately looking gentleman, with a regal wig and walking stick wandered the room talking to himself. At one point he shouted "Mercy" out loud and when the crowd laughed he shook his stick at one of the children and screamed "I'm not insania" which made us all laugh again. The waiting between sections wasn't too much of an inconvenience, but it could have been better and I would have liked to have moved on a little quicker. T
he experience that accompanied the Torture Chamber was the story of Guy Fawkes and although I know he has a connection with York, I didn't actually feel that the story belonged in the experience. I noticed some of the children got a little restless by then and when we moved into the final experience this didn't get any better. The final room is dedicated to Dick Turpin who was hung at York. The was a very clever camera set up that projected moving facial images onto a model that depicted Turpin. I have to say I was impressed but even I had started to feel a little restless by this point. The final part of the tour was to witness the hanging of Mr Turpin and the little guy in the wig appeared again and tried to encourage us to become the watching crowd "Everybody jeer!" he shouted. There were a few half hearted boo's but most people just looked at him blankly. After the hanging there was nothing more to do than follow everyone into the obligatory shop that all these sorts of exhibits seem to add to the exit of every tour. The shop was expensive but it was very nice to see that most of the stock was relevant to the tour and there were trick displays and fake blood rather than Carebears and Barbie Dolls. As we had walked the experience I had noted toilets and corridors that provided not only alternative access for people in wheelchairs but also a get out clause for those of a nervous disposition. The was a sign at the start of the tour that gave a warning for nervous people but although I could see very young children getting upset, I think most others would be fine. I have to say that parts of this experience did make me jump and the effort put into the costumes and the exhibits were really appreciated, it just felt like some parts of the tour, especially the Guy Fawkes area
just didn't fit in. I did see a sign that said they were going to add a vampire section soon. I would love to see what they could do with that story. The whole experience took just over an hour to complete and as I have said before we were in the queue outside for 15 minutes. Had it been a cold wet day I doubt we would have waited as there is little room to queue inside. The York Dungeon is by no means a cheap thrill. Adult Tick et GBP 10.45 Ch ild Ticket (5 - 9 years) GBP 7.45 Child Ticket (10 - 14 years) GBP 8.45 Family tickets and fast track tickets are available and you can book online. I definitely enjoyed my visit to York Dungeon, it was fun. I can see why they hike the price up though, it's not the sort of place you would visit twice, after all it's the element of surprise that makes it so exciting. All in all a definite reccomnedation, but a pricey one. If you have bloodthirsty children or like me a strangey sadistic husband, I would give this place a go. Thanks for reading Mand xx
It's sods law isn't it? First the dryer coughs and splutters its last hot breath, just as Christmas approaches and I need it most and then the washing machine starts to sound like someone is mixing cement in it, making a grinding, crunching sound like it has turned cannibal and is slowly eating itself. Like most of you, there is no way I can manage without my washing machine, not with three teenagers and a messy husband to run around after. Well I started saving my pennies as soon as Christmas passed over but to be honest it was going to take me a while. Then I had a bit of luck. The local bingo hall had a prize draw and it was my ticket that was plucked from the basket. I found myself the proud owner of a brand new Candy Aquaviva 1300 washer dryer. Of course I was thrilled. It's not everyday you get something so useful for free. I was really excited, especially as it was delivered the very next day. What do you do when you win something so great? You jump straight on the net and see how much the little beauty would cost you if you had to buy it. This one is available from Tesco Electricals Online for a penny under two hundred and thirty pounds. Hmm, thats not a lot of money to pay for a good washer drier. I did wonder how good it would perform but hey, remember, this was a freebie. I was still chuffed. When it was arrived it was really well packed. I have to say though, that although I was happy that my new machine was very well protected, unpacking it was difficult, especially as at one stage we had to lay the machine on it's back and to remove the support bar underneath the machine and it then had to be lowered onto it's front for access to the underneath. I would suggest that if you are going to install this machine yourself you make sure that you have some help as I can tell yo
u it wasn't easy to manoeuvre and was extremely heavy. The blue and red hot and cold pipes came with the machine and installing it was really easy. The Candy Aquaviva is a standard size and fitted lovely under my work surface with no ugly gaps around the sides. There are however little feet on the bottom of the machine which can be extended it it needs to be raised. The washer has been given a B rating for it's wash and a C for energy, pretty average I would say. It's white and clean looking. Nothing special but then saying that there is nothing wrong with the look of it either. You know what it's like ladies, new is beautiful and I was more than happy for this nice new machine to take the place of my old knackered one. Let's face it, washing machines are like willys, when you've seen one, you've seen them all, it's what it can do for you that really matters. The instructions were clear and easy to read and understand and the machine came with a manufacturers Guarantee Period - 1 Year Labour + 5 Year Parts Warranty. So, what has this baby got to offer? 5.5kg (11lb) wash load. The door on this machine is much bigger than on most washing machines and in my opinion that makes the drum appear deceptively bigger. Personally I think 11lb is pushing it, especially if you want to make sure everything is washed properly. There is a safety button above the door that prevents you from opening it if the machine is in use but as soon as you turn it off the door will release.There is an indicator light to show you when the machine is in use and you select your wash options by turning a dial on the machine. It's actually very easy to operate and we had it washing for the first time within minutes of installing it. In the soap drawer there are compartments for pre
-washing, main wash, bleaching and softener. I never add bleach to any of my clothing but for some the bleach pocket would be quite handy. 2.5kg (5.5lb) drying load. Hmm.....Read on. 1300 rpm spin speed. The washer I had before this one was the Creda Excel 1200. Compared to the Creda, the spin on this one is much quieter. There is a spin protection system built in and the weight seems to distribute itself much better. Of course this balance means that when spinning, the machine isn't going to go for a dance around the kitchen whenever it's too full. 11 Wash programmes. Options include a fast wash cycle, extra rinse option, rinse hold option and an intensive wash option. I have to say I have no complaints with the wash I have received from this machine. The economy wash which is for non fast colours at 50 degrees does get the washing nice and clean. 2 Drying programmes. There is the normal dry, and the high temperature dry. Not a lot of choice but then hey, how many ways are there to dry something? Well, in the case of this machine there is actually only one way. Slowly.............. Very, very slowly. To call this a washer drier is actually an insult to some of the better brands. I wonder sometimes if my washing would have dried quicker had I ran around the garden with it, waving my arms in the air and praying for the sun to shine. Stop laughing. I am serious. I put two towels in there the other day and it took over an hour and a half on the high temperature to dry them and then they still needed airing. It doesn't matter how little you put in the drum it still takes ridiculously long to dry. It gets hot OK, in fact if you have little ones I would watch them around the glass window of this machine because they could very e
asily get burnt. It almost feels like so much effort goes into heating the door that the washing inside comes a sad second. I know what you are thinking, what are you moaning for? It was free for goodness sake. I know, you're right, but if I had gone out and bought this I would be extremely disappointed. As it is I am still going to have to go out and purchase a new drier for my kitchen, that's how bad this one is. So my opinion of the Candy Aquaviva 1300 washer drier is that it's a good little washer. It washes well, spins well and looks good too. As a drier it really lets itself down and I have to say that if you have young children and drying is a necessity in your house, as it is in mine, I'd look elsewhere. This may be a cheaper option but you really don't get your moneys worth in the drying department. Thanks for reading.
The government says that children with special needs should be educated within mainstream schools. Many of these kids are disruptive in the classroom and have very specific behaviour problems. This has an effect on the other children in the class. Does inclusion work? Is this fair? My eldest is in year 11 and about to take her GCSE's. She is an extremely bright girl and all her mock exams indicate that she will be looking at A's and A *'s in all her subjects. We are of course very proud. I totally understand therefore that having a disruptive child in the classroom would be devastating to her and if that were the case I would of course be concerned. My second child is on the autistic spectrum. He goes to a school for children with severe disabilities and we are very happy that he is there, although saying that, the road to get him there required hiking books and ropes, if you know what I mean. My youngest son has Aspirgers Syndrome and ADHD, he goes to mainstream school and presents as severely disruptive. Apart for the guilt that I feel over the disruption he causes, there is also real anger that many of his behaviours are being misunderstood and mismanaged. My son has been labelled disruptive, disobedient and a liar. My son's perceptions are very different to other children's. He sees situations in a very different way to the way you or I would. This doesn't make him a liar, but that is the label he very often carries around with him. He finds many situations very difficult. Imagine not being able to tell by looking at someone if they are joking with you, or cross or sad. Children like James cannot do this so they very often perceive a situation to be very different from what it actually is and this makes them anxious and stressed. What do you do when you a
re stressed? These kids tend to either withdraw, many of them attempt to do this by putting something over their heads to reduce the amount of space they have to deal with, or they show symptoms of real excitement, running around the room, shouting, interrupting. Children like James have great difficulty knowing what is appropriate. For example, James doesn't know when he is talking too loud, we have to remind him. He will talk constantly when someone else is talking and we have to constantly remind him of social boundaries because he is unable to read the signals for himself. What I am trying to show is that this behaviour is often mis understood and often we perceive his behaviour wrong too. This doesn't stop the disruption and it doesn't help the other kids in the class but it might help you to see some of the problems that these kids are having. Of course often the situation is made worse by the other children who don't understand and view this behaviour as funny. So what is the answer? The government believes and says that these children should be in mainstream schools. I am sure that many parents feel that we have a choice and are digging our heels in to keep them in these schools. The truth of the matter is that we should have a choice, but we don't. Getting an educational statement for a child is very hard. I live in Nottingham and here it is nigh on impossible. This authority is closing two of its few special schools as they predict that in five years time the number of children with special needs will fall by 25%. Anyone who has experience in this field will tell you this is not true and what they mean is that they are effectively going to make it that much harder for these children to get a statement of their needs, often the only way to access special school provision. So do they support these kids properly? No, effectivel
y many of these children have to fail before they can access much of the support on offer to help them. Some schools are better than others, but from experience many of them struggle to find the cash to help these kids in the way they need. Who takes the brunt of all this?Everyone. The teachers, the other kids, my son and me, because I end up sorting the mess out when it comes home at the end of the day. Now I fought hard to get my eldest son in a special school, we strongly believed that it was the right place for him. I stand by that decision. I will, however, fight just as hard to keep my youngest son out of one, as I believe, with the right support, he can succeed in mainstream school. Whether he will be able to stay at the school he is at at the moment is debatable. There are teachers at the school that are working heroically to help him succeed, there are others who believe that my son should be in special education. There are certain structures that need to be put in place to help my child succeed, many of them cost money. This money is hard to access and without, a statement, which is a legal document, I have to rely on the school to provide the support he needs and they have to keep trying to find the money to fund it, while the money is being found my son exists, rather than succeeds in the education system and the rest of the kids in his class and the staff that teach him, pay the price. As it is, my son is constantly having to be removed from lessons, is being bullied constantly and I should think sending many a staff member home at the end of the day with a bloody big headache. Then he comes home and makes life hell for the rest of us. What can I do? I keep in touch with the school on a daily basis, I suggest ways to support him, I sit at home and worry and then when James comes home I try to help him make sense of the things
that he is so confused about and also reassure him that we are on his side. So does inclusion work? I know it does for many children and I desperately hope it can for mine. I think though that there should be a choice. Read the paperwork, read the code of practise. It will tell you that choice is there. Maybe in some authorities it is, but not in mine. Getting the education that my child has a right to is a constant struggle and one that has had me crying with both frustration and fear. Watching my son doggy paddle within the system, collecting labels that are dragging him under the water, labels like 'Idiot' 'disruptive' 'naughty' and 'ignorant' I do wonder just how close to drowning they are going to let him go before someone somewhere throws him a lifeline. What works for one child will not necessarily work for another, mainstream school is right for some, not for others. Not supporting these kids, not giving them statements to protect their rights to an education, effectively is setting them up to fail. Without support many of these kids become unwanted statistics, on league tables that already have unrealistic targets, targets that schools find difficult enough to meet, without children like mine pulling them down. Is it any wonder that many schools seek to get exclude these kids? Is it any wonder that so many of these kids slip through, what is already a very tattered net. It's half term. A time when I can relax. It's hard work having two children with special needs at home all day but while they are with me I know they are safe and understood. One day I hope I will be able to feel the same when my youngest is at school. You know, sometimes I look at my son and I feel it would be easier for him if he had 'I have a disability' tattooed to
his head, at least that way people wouldn't be so quick to label him, maybe that way he'd get more of a chance. I welcome your comments on this subject. I am working with a group of parents to try and raise awareness of this with others and I would love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading. Mandxx
Wouldn't it be a boring world if we all liked the same things? It is the choices that we make and the things that we find attractive that make us all different and that is definitely a good thing. Take furniture for example. There are so many different designs to choose from, so many styles, so many different materials. Some people find themselves drawn to very ornate pieces. Large, lavish pieces of wood with decorative corners and fancy edging are some peoples idea of style and elegance. This sort of furniture is not for me though. I like plain and simple. I like crisp clean edges. I like strong bold lines and smooth surfaces. I like simple, yet chic. When I am shopping for furniture I am looking for practical. As many of you will know, I have two boys with special needs and as you can imagine the furniture in my house can sometimes take a real battering. When I am shopping for furniture I need to make sure that the furniture I buy will be suitable for the, sometimes extreme treatment my boys might subject it to. So where do I usually end up when I need something in a hurry? Ikea! For those of you that don't know. Ikea is a Swedish company. The idea is that they provide a wide range of home furnishings with good design and function at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them. My local Ikea is about 5 miles from where I live in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. The store is well signposted and adjacent to the A610 and the M1, making it ideally situated. The car park is huge. I think it has to be because Ikea is a massive store. It is nicely laid out with plenty of disabled parking which was nice to see. Outside the main doors is a play park for the children. It was nicely fenced in and well maintained but not suitable
for you to leave your little ones alone in. We arrived at the store at about 9.30 in the morning, not realising that the store didn't open until 10.00. The restaurant was open though and we were surprised to see how many people were in there, until we noticed a sign saying that all tea and coffee was free before the store opened. What an excellent idea. We sat, we drank coffee, we relaxed and we even had breakfast. An 8 piece breakfast with all the trimmings cost me a pound. I have to say I was impressed with the service and the customer consideration before I had even entered the main store. So relaxed and replenished, after the twenty minute drive that it took us to get to the store, we set off around Ikea to seek out the bargains. So what do they sell? Well I would say that if you had to furnish and equip a house in a hurry you would be able to do it all here. Ikea pride themselves in providing design opinions to allow you to furnish your house in the way that you want. On entering the store you are able to wander around various tasteful interiors, decorated and furnished to give you an idea of what you can achieve with the products on offer. So for example there are little living rooms and kitchens, bedrooms and office areas for you to peruse. Children's bedrooms and playrooms, so inviting that the fussiest of children would be happy. Multi function rooms that would have the pickiest teenager in heaven. If there is one thing that Ikea will fill you with, it is ideas. So you have seen something you want. Who fetches it for you? You do. Using the pencils and pads provided, you note down the aisle number and position of the item in the warehouse and then when you get to the end of the store you can then pick your choice up. Sounds great doesn't it? All your furniture and household accessories under one
roof, with no fuss or no hassle. Well, like most stores Ikea has its good points and its bad points. What do I like about Ikea? I like the bright colours that they use for some of their furniture. I like the variety and choice on offer. I like the different designs and handy ideas that are dotted around the store and of course I like the price. There is no question that the prices of the furniture at Ikea are really competitive, and the furniture is of a good quality. I'm not saying it is of superb quality and in the same breath I am not saying that it is poor quality. Ikea furniture is tough, durable and usable and priced to suit the average pocket. Ikea say that they 'tough test' all their products. I wonder if they have jobs for my boys. There is a lovely free catalogue on offer that can help with your selections. I like to take one home and browse at my leisure. If you can't visit in the day, the store is open until 10.00pm, which I thought was great. It's a big store and it takes a while to go round it all. Therefore, Ikea have lots of toilets with baby changing facilities to make life a little bit easier for the customer. Its clean and well lit and the staff that are dotted around the store seem polite and well informed. Before I go on to tell you about some of the things that don't work for me, I have to mention the trolleys. Now I have lugged a trolley around many a store in the past, fighting to run a straight line and desperate to avoid hitting someone. Many of you will understand when I say that some trolleys have a mind of their own. The trolleys at Ikea are the Rolls Royce of trolleys and a pleasure to push. You might laugh, but with such a big store, a good trolley made all the difference. OK, so onto the bad point
s. Firstly those two words guaranteed to have even the most competent DIY fanatic breaking out in a cold sweat........FLAT PACK. Much of the furniture on offer at Ikea comes as a flat pack. Why? Well, it saves space. Storage and packaging costs are lower and as well as being easier for you to get home, it means that the money saved can be passed on to us. The customer. I have to say that more and more furniture from other stores is now being flat packed. In Ikeas defence the instructions seem much clearer than we have had from some stores and even my husband, who has a habit of trying to read them upside down has managed our Ikea purchases quite easily. Personally I don't mind flat packs, it means I can fit more furniture in the car in one go. I did wonder how disabled customers managed to shop in Ikea, with flat packs to collect and carry but I was pleased to see a young lady make for a gentleman in a wheelchair at the till and offer assistance. I would also suggest that if you aren't very good at lifting and carrying, you take someone else with you as DIY means just that. Another grumble. The layout of the store is terribly confusing and often I have found myself going around and around in circles trying to find my way to a particular section. I would almost describe the display area as more of a village than a store and it is very confusing. It is well lit though and there is plenty of aisle space,leaving room for both prams and wheelchairs. The only other thing that put us off was the fact that when you leave the store after paying for your purchases there is a small bricked off area that prevents you from taking your trolley to the car and this meant that Mark had to fetch the car up to this area before we could load it up. Now my hubby is a fit bloke
and for him that was no hassle. I would question how difficult it would be for someone a lot older or less firm or perhaps a single mother. I did look around to see if there was anyone nearby in case they were needed to help but I have to say I didn't see anyone. Delivery is a standard price. Excellent if you live a good few miles away, not sure I'd be happy paying the same if I lived around the corner though. All in all ,it was a really worthwhile trip and as usual I saw lots of things I wanted to buy and lots of ideas I wanted to try. Ikea is a good store and there is a lot on offer. I know many of you will be sitting reading this thinking that Ikea is actually the store from hell but it really is a matter of taste and opinion and for me Ikea has good quality, affordable furniture that can withhold the onslaught of my boys longer than most other brands. What did I buy? I bought an up-lighter for five pounds ninety. I bought two breakfast bar stools for a tenner each. I bought some white plates and bowls at 50p each and a lovely flower print for my newly decorated bedroom wall. The staff on the tills were fast and efficient, the queues small and I was able to pay with my Solo card. I have been told that the queues at the weekend are really bad. I'll stick to going midweek I think There is a bistro for coffee and snacks as well as the excellent restaurant I have already mentioned. There is also a Swedish food shop, that didn't sell that much and contained mostly biscuits and sweets, but Mark and I did laugh at the big bags of frozen meatballs on offer at just under three pounds. How Swedish is that! I went home very happy and when the coffee table took no more than five minutes to erect, Mark was happy too. If you haven't been to Ikea, you
really should check it out. It might not be for you, but then again you might be pleasantly surprised. Thanks for reading Mand xx
I have to admit that when those in the know, in the cinema industry, start talking about turning one of the worlds most magical books into a motion picture I very often cringe. Such books are so powerfully written that the reader creates their own interpretation of the characters and the scenery that make the tale so absorbing, so believable. Our imaginations are wonderful tools. The ability to close your eyes and lose yourself between the words on a page is a gift that we are very lucky to have and I am very often resentful of movie directors and special effects people, trampling over the many worlds and scenarios that I have created around the stories that I have shared. Lord Of The Rings- Return of the King is the third and final instalment in a trilogy that has long been hailed one of the greatest stories ever told. Episode one....The Fellowship of the ring left me wondering if the cinematographer had made a mistake with the film. One minute we were watching little Frodo discover the ring and the next there he was, standing on the edge of a mountain, this mighty quest ahead of him and then the credits began to roll. Huh!......What was that all about then. The scenery was stunning and the costumes amazing. We had been introduced to many of the main characters that would accompany us on this wondrous journey of discovery, but I think introduction is the right word for this film. The Fellowship of the ring, laid all the groundwork for the films that followed. Episode two.....The Two Towers would have been really hard to follow I think without seeing the first and even then there were so many sub plot lines going on in the background of this film that I found myself getting lost around many of its twisting corners. There were so many stories to be told, so many really important foundations that needed laying, so many ingredients that needed throwing into the mixing bowl if the finishing cake were to be iced properly. Where 'T
he Fellowship' concentrated on Frodo, 'Towers' began to strengthen many of the other characters. We are introduced to the hideous Gollum, we get our first glimpse of the battle ground and when this particular film ended I was left with a whole host of questions, the most prominent of them all being....Where was this all leading? Having seen The Return of The King. I now have the answer to my question. It was all leading here. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam(Sean Astin), our brave and loyal hobbits, are on the last, but hardest stage of their journey to destroy the ring. With them the hideous Gollum(Andy Serkis), dead set on taking back his precious and prepared to kill to do so. Sauron's orc army is on the move, out numbering our hero's fifty to one, things look bleak for middle earth. Pippin (Billy Boyd) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) are off to Minas Tirith to warn King Denethor of an impending attack. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen )prepares for battle, knowing that he is the king that can unite the Fellowship and bring the people together. With the help of King Theoden's Rohan crew, trusty elf (Orlando Bloom) and dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) he ventures into the mountains to call forth an army that consists of the tortured souls of dead men. Can good conquer evil? Can middle earth be saved? Will Frodo succumb to the power of the ring? I will tell you no more. You will have to see the film. Lord of the Rings, Return of the King was visually stunning. The scenery breathtaking, the special effects truly amazing. Each of the characters was taken to another level in this film. Credit has to go to Elijah Wood who was able to make us believe in Frodo, however impossible the road ahead seemed to be. I did find him a little gooey at times, but hey, he was only three foot tall for goodness sake. His loyal friend Sam, who seemed to just be tagging along for the ride in the two previous films became much more
than a friend to little Frodo, he becomes Frodos life force, his motivator. Any doubt about the importance of this character are quickly blown away and Sean Astin, who plays him, is a face to look out for in the future. In Gollum, the hideous, snivelling guide, I found myself looking for humility. I found none. Again an important character. Through Gollum we are able to see the strength and the conviction that is Frodo. Looking at him we can see the constant battle that rages within him as he fights to keep the ring from taking him over and reducing him to the monster Gollum has become. Viggo Mortensen is another actor who has been able to evolve his character throughout the three films. Where as in the first film we see him almost bitter and unyielding in his resolve, by the time we get to part three Aragorn has learnt to be a king and a leader. Orlando Bloom sizzles as the quiet, yet enigmatic Legolas. I have to admit that every time he came on screen my mouth watered. When you read the book one of the things that Tolkien definitely gets across to you is the horror that is the army of Orcs. We are talking about creatures with no humanity, no pity, no remorse. Their grotesque images, their uniform evil is brought to life in this film. For the cinema goer to understand the heroics of the characters fighting for middle earth, their foes had to be fearsome and these definitely were. Giant trolls, fire breathing dragons, mammoths with spikes the size of tree trunks attached to their tusks, ridden by painted demons. The special effects were superb and definitely believable. All credit to writer and director Peter Jackson. The music soundtrack was excellent. The music was appropriate and not at all overpowering, adding to the scenarios rather than distracting. If I had to moan, and I am loath to do so, it would be the big spider. It reminded me of one of those old dinosaur films. It is only when you see this film that you realise wh
ere Peter Jackson was leading with that long winded opener and then the confusion that was the large number of , what seemed insignificant characters and needless sub plots that made up episode two. He was leading here. The final battle. The final episode. Peter Jackson brought Middle Earth to life and made me believe through his stunning photography and hideous battle scenes that this was a fight we desperately needed to win. Yes, it was gruesome. There was a scene where the Orcs use a catapult to shoot the decapitated heads of those men that had fallen in battle, over the walls of the city. Jackson is able to portray the evil of this army, in all its glory, without resorting to buckets of fake blood. I entered the cinema with so many questions I needed answering. I have to admit I was a little worried that Jackson was going to be one of those naughty little directors that felt the need to leave a few edges frayed, just in case some fat bigwig waved a wad of cash in front of his nose and asked him to invent a continuance somewhere along the line. I am delighted to say that all my questions were answered, all frayed edges neatly ironed flat. Where I found the second hard to follow, this film brought everything together. One plot, one mission. What I got was three hours of riveting entertainment that left me almost overwhelmed and exhausted, but totally satisfied. I have to say that this film did nothing to damage the images of Tolkeins world I had already conjured. In fact I would say that it brought them to life. There were a few children in the cinema and I did notice a few of them were getting a little restless as the film went on. Three hours is a long time but it wasn't too long. Not for this film. I think the certificate 12 A is about right. There isn't that much blood and gore, but the images of the Orc army are disturbing and the fight scenes are intense. I would suggest before you take your youngster t
o see this, you decide whether they will be able to sit still for the full three hours. I personally had to drag myself out for a wee I was so desperate not to miss anything. The ending of the film, when the battle is over and all is right with the world again drags on a little for me. My opinion. The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King is one of the best films ever made, like its predecessors, a spectacle of the first order but more sculpted, more finely tuned. The Oscars are already decided this year mates, this one wipes the board. Go see it on the big screen. If you wait for DVD you'll wish you hadn't.
I remember well, as a child, that wonderful moment when the car rounded the corner of what seemed an endless country lane and at last I could see in the distance the outline of the elephant house and if I was really lucky, a real live elephant. I remember the excitement that I felt as we drove through the gates of the zoo and the man that sold the tickets came up to the car window and my stepdad paid us all in. I think a trip to the zoo would rate very highly on my list of favourite days out, when I was a girl. As a mother now, I love to explore new places and new experiences with my family, but there is something wonderful about revisiting the places that meant so much to me as a child and sharing those experiences with my own children. Twycross Zoo is one of those experiences that we return to year in, year out. In an ideal world I would love the opportunity to introduce my children to these wonderful animals in their natural habitat, but seeing as so many of them are sadly now rare and protected species and I am no closer to winning the lottery and being able to afford a trip around the world, the local zoo is the next best thing. I do feel it is important that my children see these animals, if only to help them understand that when we talk about animals facing extinction they are living, breathing things, not just two dimentional pictures on the internet and in books. Twycross Zoo opened to the public in 1963. The zoo was the brainchild of Molly Badham and Nathalie Evans, who started out as the owners of a humble pet shop and now own what is in fact the 5th largest zoo in Great Britain. It houses the UK's best primate collection and is acclaimed by zoologists and conservationists throughout the world for its success in breeding endangered animals. What else are they famous for? Remember the chimpanzees on the PG Tips advertisements? Well they live here too. Being a big zoo, this place has to have a big car park. It has, hu
ge in fact. What's really good about it is that there are plenty of attendants to help you out if you have trouble finding a place to park. We have visited at all times of the year and although in the summer it can get very busy, we have never had to wait for more than 10 minutes to get into the zoo itself. The zoo is in the open countryside and spans over 40 acres. It is well planned though and you never have to walk far to the next exhibit. Leaving the car park behind you, the first thing you come to at Twycross Zoo is the toilets. Oh, what a fabulous idea. Someone has thought about the needs of its clients. Lots of buses and coaches travel to the zoo everyday. If you have kids, you will know that usually the first thing they want to do when they get out of the car if go to the loo. The toilets are spacious, accessible and clean. Kids sorted out, hands washed and it's off to find the animals. I don't know about you, but in my family we all have our favourites. For me it is the Monkeys, so cute and so interesting to watch. Monkeys are unpredictable and get up to all sorts of naughty things. I remember going to the zoo once and a rather vicious looking spider monkey took a liking to the ice cream that one of the children had in their hands. Before we knew what was happening it had swung down from the branches of the tree it was sitting in and threw itself at the glass, protecting it from us and vice versa. Well my son was only little at the time and the ice cream was launched into the air at top speed as he ran off screaming. Bless him, it was funny though. If monkeys are your thing then you have definitely come to the right place. My personal favourite is the Howler Monkey. We always seem to get to the zoo around feeding time and the noise that these monkeys make is hilarious. For Mark, it is the big cats that he loves to see. Lions, tigers and leopards. You can see them all at Twycross zoo. For those of you that are
worried about caged animals I have to say that the living quarters of these animals are big and spacious and I love the way that you have the opportunity to look at them inside and out, through the glass windows that are fitted into each exhibit. Alongside each animal are displays that tell of the animals natural habitat, its eating and mating habits. Conservation is a big factor with any good zoo and Twycross is no exception, many of the displays are there to make the visitor more aware of the plight, in the wild of each of the creatures on display. Feeding times are well signposted and while I could think of nothing I would rather see less than watching a big cat polish off something dead and smelly, the boys were fascinated. Gemma is a sucker for all the baby animals on show and as I have already said, Twycross does a lot of work to breed many of their animals in captivity. The last time we went to Twycross Zoo a new baby elephant had been born. He was so cute, although I wouldn't exactly call him tiny. He had a hairy little back and cute floppy ears. The children were enchanted. There is a nursery where the baby chimps play. It was lovely to watch them on their little climbing frames with their soft toys and teddies. Watching them it was easy to compare them to our own children as toddlers. For my youngest it was the Reptile house that held the most appeal, especially the young crocodiles. There is an extra charge for the reptile house, but it was only about 20p and went towards a conservation project that was just getting off the ground, so there were no complaints. This is another area of the zoo that I ran around, rather than walked. I hate spiders and anything that resembles one. This is my idea of hell and I could have won a medal for the speed that I shot around the whole exhibit. It's really hot too, too hot for hanging around. Mark Junior likes the giraffes. There were four of them the last time we went.
I do like them and will stand for ages watching them outside in the enclosure, stretching their necks for the leaves, held high in baskets on the top of telegraph poles. The bit about the giraffes that puts me off is that obligatory visit to the inside of the giraffe house. Have you ever smelt a giraffe? No? Well I can tell you they really stink. Again, this is another place that I run through rather than walk. Other animals we love to see are the orangutan's, (Gemma has an English teacher with bright red hair and she swears he is related.) the seals and penguins (I was able to arrange for the boys to go in with a keeper and feed them with a big bucket of fish. What an experience!) and of course my other favourites, the otters. Make sure you visit the gorilla house too. Very impressive. I did mention the PG Tips chimpanzees didn't I? Well like I said they live here, at Twycross Zoo. They are much bigger than they look on the TV I can tell you. Last time we went, the kids were in stitches because one of them had a piece of bright red plastic he had pulled from a cup and was trying desperately to stick it up his bum. It's amazing the things that you remember isn't it? There is an education centre with lots of touchy feely exhibits for the children to explore, of course learning more about the world as they do so. My kids love it. Everything at the zoo is well signposted, but if you are worried there is a really attractive guidebook available that not only gives you lots of information about the animals on show but also makes a really great keepsake too. There are two gift shops, one pricey and one much more reasonable. A couple of pounds will buy you a keepsake from the zoo and the proceeds all go to help the animals. There are lots of ice cream vendors, a coffee shop and a restaurant, a snack shop, selling hot dogs and burgers and a licensed bar. Prices are reasonable and the food is good. Picnic tables ar
e spread all over the zoo, but to be honest it is so pretty and well maintained that we often settle under a tree to eat our lunch in the shade. The only trouble we have ever had has been with the wasps that hang around in the summer. One day in particular I sent the air bright blue with the string of obscenities that escaped me as I was bombarded by the nasty buzzing, crawling things. (Yes, I know I am a wuss!) For the little ones there is a small ride area, donkey rides, a train ride and a massive adventure playground with a picnic area. There is also a petting zoo and an indoor soft play area. Twycross Zoo is more than a day out, it's an education. So much to see, so much to do, so much to be learnt and if you want to make the day even more special they have a really good animal adoption scheme that would make a fantastic present for anyone.Like most British zoos, Twycross receives no government funds and relies entirely on money spent by visitors to continue its work I would recommend Twycross Zoo as a day out for everyone. The whole park is accessible for disabled people. All the paths are even and level and the toilets and amenities are clean and spacious. Baby changing rooms are abundant and there are toilets dotted all over the zoo. If you are planning a visit, the zoo is open all year around (except Christmas day) from 10.00am until 4.00pm in the winter and 5.30pm in the summer. We visit in the winter as well as the summer. It's amazing how different the animals look at different times of the year and as well as the outside exhibits, most of the enclosures have inside buildings so the day out is not spoilt if it decides to rain all day. There is plenty to keep you and the children amused for the whole day. The zoo is situated near the village of Twycross, Leicester shire. Despite its rural location, it is only four miles from the M42/A42 (which links the M1 and M6) making it readily accessible from an
ywhere in central England. Admission Prices for 2004: Adults £7 Children £4.50 Senior Citizens £5.00 Party rates available on application Car Park: Car Parking £1 Is there any better day out for the whole family than a trip to the zoo? I think not. Thanks for reading. Mand xx
Lets face it, writing a letter can be tedious and for this reason the E mail was welcomed as a fine alternative to putting pen to paper and adding a stamp. E mail is no longer the novelty that it once was though and tapping away at a keyboard can produce a piece of writing that looks as boring as pen on paper once did. So what is the answer? How can you make people sit up and take notice when you send them an E mail? The answer is simple.......Incredimail! Incredimail made its debut in the year 2000 and has in my opinion gone from strength to strength. The idea behind Incredimail is to bring E mail to life, wake it up, make it fun. With Incredimail you are able to customise your E mail making it both personal and more efficient. The download itself is available from www.incredimail.com. (Download file size : 6 MB.) Incredimail is easy to download, but there is demo that all you sceptics out there can view before taking the plunge. Incredimail is available in a number of languages including English, French, Italian and German. The programme installs at the flick of a button. Great for me because sometimes the thought of downloading something new is a put off in itself. Incredimail did it all for me and very efficiently to. It chooses the best place to store your files, pops them away neat and tidy and gives you a nice little incredimail envelope to grace your desktop. On commencement of the programme, Incredimail send you a couple of easy to read, bright, colourful E mails to help you get started. I think the thing that impressed me most about this programme was the simple way that it was set up to guide the user. Incredimail has an accounts wizard that helps you by locating your other active email accounts from other email programs on your computer and asking you if you would like to import the same settings from one of the accounts. So you have Incredimail, you have
your E mail account running with it, you need then to import all your contacts and E mail addresses to your new programme. What good is futuristic E mail if you have no-one to write to? You can do this with the click of a button, it's easy. Incredimail supports multiple accounts too and those of you, like me, with Hotmail accounts need not worry, Incredimail supports them too. Another thing I love about this set up is that I feel very much in control and to be honest I think I have definitely learnt something from using it. I use my Incredimail for reading all my E mails from both of my addresses but I was able to choose which of these I wanted to use to send my E mails using. I can feel many of you sitting there worrying that this might be a little complicated for you. I can assure you it's not. I have to admit that I had a problem configuring my Outlook Express settings. I am really not that good at all this technical stuff but setting up my Incredimail accounts was a breeze and filled me with confidence. OK, no more technical info, yes folks, thats about as technical as it gets with me. What makes it so great? Well there are loads of really great things to do with Incredimail. You can choose your backgrounds. No more sending out those flat white pages with 'hello' popped up in corner to attract someones attention. The choice of background is huge and if you don't find anything in your paper section that suits your mood, a click on the download button will take you straight to the Incredimail paper section and you can get yourself a few more, again at the click of a button. Whatever mood you are in, whatever sort of message you want to send, I bet you will find a background that suits you here. You have your background, what about your fonts? You can make your words big, small, curly, straight, high, low, you name it, you got it. You can draw your own signature and add it to
your mail at the click of a button. Incredimail is so much fun. Incredimail emoticons are out of this world. Forget :0) and other old fashioned greetings. I can send kisses, flowers, blow bubbles, little cats and dogs and naughty flies with magnified eyes. If I can't find the one I want, off I go again to the download site and get some more. I can send animations, sounds and even record an audio message to someone and send it with this programme. I have a lot of friends online so I am constantly sending out get well wishes, birthday E cards and Thank you notes. Before I got this programme I would have to scour the net for free E cards and then they get a link rather than the immediate surprise of opening a card. Incredimail gives you your own E card section and again, if you don't find what you want, one click takes you to the E card page where you can download more. OK, so you have your mail, it's looking great all you have to do is send it. You can ask for a read request if you want. This will tell you when your mail has been opened. Click the send button and off it goes, but not like a normal E mail, no, no, this is Incredimail, have you not grasped how innovative this is yet? The mail goes off with a whoosh, maybe it becomes a jigsaw and tiptoes away, or rolls into a scroll and flies off the screen whatever it does it goes with style. I use Norton's Anti virus and whenever I send a mail out it scans it quickly before it goes. Very reassuring. Forgotten to add something important? You have the option to call it back too. My Incredimail checks my accounts for incoming mail every 5 minutes. Why? Because I told it to. You can set it to check as often as you like. When you have mail you can choose how you would like to be notified. This is my favourite option. You could have a butler, walk onto your screen and announce "You have mail Madam" or a little kitty that meows when you
have incoming. The choice is yours and a click of a button will allow you to change your notifier to suit your mood. Whatever you choose, when you have mail, you will know at once. I hope by now I have you all thinking Wow! Well you should, it really is great fun. Knowing you lot though, someone is trying to read between the lines and find the catch. How much is all this going to cost me? Nothing, well not for the stuff I have just told you about anyway. You get it free although you will have to put up with the odd advertisement flashing up in a one inch by four inch box in the corner of the screen. You can manage that can't you? When you download the programme you will be given a free Letter creator option that is yours to use for a month. To be honest I never bothered because I could do most of it with my Incredimail E mail anyway. If you decide that you want to buy it though it will cost you around thirty dollars. There is a premium service for Incredimail too. It will cost you about the same as the letter service and means that you won't get the ads in the corner of the screen and you can add a different notifier to each E mail address in your account. Personally I can put up with the ad and am more than happy with the free service. If you decide to upgrade though, again its at the click of a button. I want to reassure you that because this is a free service you won't get inundated with spam. I don't get any to be honest. I get the odd E mail from Incrediamail, keeping me up to date with a any new additions (about one a fortnight) and everything else is by choice. Have I found anything to complain about? Occasionally I will send a mail and when I talk to the person I sent it to they will say they couldn't see the pictures or the moving emoticons. I have to say though that in the past year the instances of this have decreased. What I usually get is great feedback about the coo
l mail I am able to send. I have sent and received to both Hotmail and AOL. I first tried Incredimail when I got my computer. I was using Millennium then and I have to say it was a little glitchy. I now use XP professional and I have never had a problem. If I do have a problem it is usually because my E mail server is down. (I am with NTL....Need I say more!) Incredimail is a great programme. It's free and it's practical. It makes keeping in touch with your friends so much fun and I have found that my Friends have really enjoyed receiving the mail I send them. Great graphics, great colours, great sound effects too. I love my Incredimail. The layout is good and pleasing to the eye. Navigation is easy and service is fast and efficient. I have found Incredimail to be very reliable. Check out the demo, it won't hurt to look. I think you might like it. They have an extensive question and answer and section and also step by step guidelines to help you decide if this is for you. Thanks for reading Mandxx
Being a typical woman, I am very fussy about the cleanliness of my house and I am very particular about the products that I use. I like things to not only look clean, I like the fact that when you walk into a room, you can immediately smell that it has been cleaned. For years now I have used Flash Lemon All Purpose cleaner because it is a very versatile cleaner. I thought I might tell you about it. We have all seen the advertisements for this product on the television. The ones where the man cleans the kitchen within seconds to keep his lovely wife happy...Yeah right! It definitely doesn't work that great...but it does work. OK here goes, on with the op, but first a little useless information to add to your trivia base. Flash liquid is made by Proctor and Gamble, the same company that is responsible for big brand names like Pampers, Pantene and Bounce. The bottle I have is the litre container, they also make half litre bottles.I use a lot of this stuff everyday in my house so the litre bottle is better value for money. The container is clear and made of a strong plastic with a section taken out to provide a handle. There is the flash logo on the front of the bottle, a picture of a nice clean floor, and half a lemon. On the back you have little pictures of ' clean things' to give you some ideas of where you can use this product. A kitchen, a bathroom, a bin....a dog bed?? There are of course the usual precaution notices. Keep away from kids, watch your eyes, wash your hands after using etc. The liquid itself I would describe as almost florescent in colour, sort of a bright greeny/ yellow colour. The smell is amazing. It is a really strong lemony smell, definitely not a cleaning fluid smell. I have to tell you that I refuse to use certain products in my house because the smells are so bad and strong they have taken my breath away, literally.This one smells pleasant, really nice and when you use
it the smell lingers, without being too intrusive. It lasts a long time too, because a little goes a long way. I would like to be able to buy an even bigger bottle though. I use it in the kitchen, bathroom and all around the house. I like to put a bit down the toilet as well, because it smells so great. Its versatile,easy to use and most importantly it is does a great job of the cleaning. Flash works good with grease, will take the ring from around the bath when the kids have all had a soak and brings the floor to a shine without leaving a stick residue. Its especially good on the chrome, my taps always look great when I use this. If you use it neat you need to rinse it off, but diluted it is fine on its own. I paid £1.39 for my litre bottle of Flash All Purpose lemon. I bought it from Morrison's.Flash all purpose comes with different smells too...Pine and a lovely Woodberry smelling one, so for those of you that don't like a lemon smell, you do have a choice. I have used these too and the smells are great too and again , they linger. I really use this all the time and would recommend you try it.
Seeing as it's Christmas, the season when many of us partake in the amber nectar I thought I would share with you my most embarrassing drunken moments, thus shattering any previous image you might have of me being a good girl. I first got drunk at the age of 15. I used to teach first aid and was one of the youngest in the group to do so. I think they forgot how young I actually was and when the classes used to end, everyone would pile into the local pub for a nightcap and I went with them. I remember thinking that I was really grown up, especially when I was bought the odd drink or two. Well as happens one night I drank too much. I polled home very much the worst for wear and desperate to make sure that my step dad didn't find out I had been partaking of the amber nectar. I stuck a stick of chewing gum in my mouth, straightened myself up and strode into the living room with a huge smile on my face. I remember giving a false yawn, going over to my parents to say goodnight, bending to give the necessary peck on the cheek, over-balancing and giving him a full on 'gizzajob' head butt before falling back and ending up on my backside in the middle of the living room. I was grounded for a month. I think that was how long it took for the headache to vanish. His, not mine. We all go through that stage where going out for a drink with our friends is the best thing in the world. When I was about 18 years old my friend and I were invited by our boss to be ambassadors for the shop we worked for at a Chinese New Year celebration at a local nightclub. He saw this as a huge honour. We saw it as an excuse for a cheap night out. I am not sure if you are aware of it but the Chinese are very generous people, especially around their new year. Well everyone that came up to say hello bought us a drink and it didn't take long for us to become rather the worse for wear. Because we were there on behalf of the company we were dressed very c
onservatively. This didn't stop us from storming the stage and doing our own rendition of like a virgin down the microphones. Everyone cheered and we were a huge success as we danced and crooned to the song. They cheered even louder when I fell off the stage. The headache that followed that night out was a doozie. On a night out with some of Mark's family we found ourselves with the opportunity for a lock in. Mark was with the boys and some of his sisters and I made our way to the pub in question. Well we had more to drink and I had definitely had too many and became concerned that Mark and the boys hadn't got to the pub. I was worried that they would lock the doors and he wouldn't be able to get in. So I went outside, through the side door to see if he was coming. As I did this, Mark and the gang came in through the front door and the landlord, who had been waiting for them to turn up promptly locked the doors. So there I was, stuck in the middle of nowhere, no Mark, no friends and nobody responding to my attempts to get let back into the pub. Well I may have been drunk but I wasn't stupid. I knew how vulnerable I was so I hailed a taxi and went home. There I was, midnight, standing outside my house with no keys and no coat. What could I do? I was freezing and couldn't get in. I decided in the end that I would have to break a window. Well I threw 4 bricks and 2 logs at the kitchen window and nothing happened. I threw my shoe and my bag and still the bloody thing wouldn't break. By now the window had been seriously reprimanded by me. I had given it graphic details of what I intended to do to it if only I could find something heavy enough to break it. In the end I got so tired that I sat on the doorstep to wait for Mark to come home. The police found me asleep there, curled up like the cat when they came looking for me. Mark had reported me kidnapped. A week before my wedding I went out wit
h the girls and my husband to be went out with his mates and we met up back at ours for a party afterwards. As you can imagine,being the bride to be, I was encouraged to drink a lot. When everyone had gone home and my husband to be had gone to bed I decided to pay a visit to the little girls room before going to bed myself. After using the loo I was shocked to discover that the door was jammed and though I pushed it as hard as I could it did not budge. I can tell you I was very upset at the prospect of having to spend the night in the toilet and began to cry like a baby. I pummelled the door with my fists while crying out pathetically 'let me out....please let me out.' After what was, in fact, a good hour, my pathetic cries managed to penetrate my husband to Be's deep sleep and he came to my rescue.....opening the door in seconds, using the handle. Do you know,I was really grateful and threw myself at my knight in shining armour. 'It took me a good few minutes before I realised that I had been pushing the door.....when I should have pulled it.....opps!! Toilet doors seem to be a problem for me. Have you every found yourself stuck in a toilet? I mean really stuck not stupid stuck like the story I have just told you. Well I have and it's not funny I can tell you. I stumbled to the toilet this particular night and rather than sit with the door wide open as many girls do I shut it and slipped the bar across. As I sat on the loo I happened to glance up at the lock and I suddenly realised that there was no handle to the bar and I couldn't get a hold on the bar to undo the lock. Well I shook the door, I pulled it, I swore at it and I begged it. It wouldn't open. Being the self conscious idiot that I am I hadn't the courage to shout out when I heard someone in the loos, so I sat quiet and waited for them to leave and then carried on trying to get out. Well half an hour went by and I had called Mark al
l the idiots on the planet for not sending someone to look for me. I realised that if I didn't do something I was stuck for the night. So I climbed on the loo, onto the top of the cubicle and straddled the door in the most unladylike way, with my ass on display to anyone who might come in.( It was a very short skirt) Well the movement of the cubicle must have jiggled the lock because as I got my leg over the door it swung open leaving me swinging on the top of the door. Of course it was at that moment that my sister in law walked in. I have never lived that down I can tell you. You know how people have silly words for some items, well we have lots of silly words. When we went to the local chip shop after a night out, Marks sisters and I would always buy a bag of chips and smother them in what we called 'Ujar' (Salt) and Aridark (Vinegar) We must have sounded like right idiots standing there asking each other if we wanted this on our chips. Anyway Marks sister was a right one when she had a drink and she always used to leave the shop with either the vinegar or salt pot under her coat. Her hubby Pete took them back it's ok. Anyway one night we went to the chippy as usual and the owner started to accuse me of stealing his salt bottle. Well Mark was mortified and went into this huge speech about the fact that although his sister was a character, his wife was above reproach and would not do anything like that. As he spoke his sisters and I were pulling faces and saying how awful it was that I was being accused and then bursting out laughing.(We were very drunk!) Anyway in the end the shop keeper sighed and said ok, maybe he had made a mistake. We left the shop and Mark had a smug look on his face as he announced that no one was going to call his wife a thief. We walked up the road and Mark started to eat his chips. He was really mad when I offered to salt them for him. He took the tub back to the shop and apologised. I said sor
ry too. ( I only did this the once and do know it was very wrong! And for those of you wondering, yes, Mark really is that nice) When coming back from a night out on the town many years ago, Mark and I fell asleep on the last bus and didn't wake up until we got to the terminus, over a mile away. Another time I didn't have my coat. Good job we had the drink to keep us warm. That was a very long walk home. Every Christmas after the turkey we all settle down in front of the TV and relax. I like a sherry or six while I am cooking the dinner and am usually very merry by the time it has been eaten. Anyway I had a fit of the giggles and decided to throw the odd peanut at Mark while he was watching the TV. He had been drinking too and so he threw one back and so it went on. I have to win and always try to get the better of him so I threw a handful, then he did, the kids joined in and there were peanuts flying everywhere. It was a lot of fun but the mess afterwards was terrible. We were finding peanuts for months after, down the sofa, behind the pictures on the wall and even under the carpet. The thing is none of really like peanuts but I keep buying them as our peanut fight has become sort of a tradition. The Millennium was a merry time for everyone and we had a party at our house. Everyone was drunk and it was a fantastic night to remember. I had spent a lot of time preparing for this party and I had planned the food, the drink and the music. At the time there was an Irish jig song in the charts I think it was called Tell Me Ma. Anyway the kids loved this song so I decided to add it to the play list. I was in the kitchen, getting a drink when I heard chanting. 'Show us your legs, Show us your legs' Mark was in the centre of a circle with his trousers pushed up as far as they would go and he was dancing the Irish Jig. It was wicked fun and before you knew it everyone was dancing the Iris
h jig in the middle of the living room. I danced too, but with my skirt hitched up.Too high. I was told after that everyone could see my knickers. Ok last one. I couldn't talk about my drunken moments without mentioning the time I chased a flasher. I love to barbecue and when Gemma was little the girl next door and I used to barbecue for the kids and then sit out on the balcony and enjoy a glass of wine or six. Anyway this particular evening we had had many a drink and were both rather gone. I went into the house to get some more when I heard Kim howling with laughter. I rushed outside and she was stood there struggling to get her words out, she was laughing so much. Anyway it turned out she had just been flashed at. I was mortified that I had missed all the action and decided that it just wasn't on that I had missed it. I ran down the road shouting .."Come back! I missed it!" Alas he had gone but it was funny at the time. My brother in law gave me a little guardian angel yesterday.He said that of all the people he knew I had the worst luck and she would keep me safe. I bet you believe him after reading some of these . It was good to remember some of these mad times, although the thought of being stuck in the loo still fills me with dread. Thank you for reading. For those of you that don't know me. I am a good girl really, honest. For those who do know me....SHHHHUSH!
Once upon a time there was a teenage girl who went every week to the library. She went with her friend and they walked all the way there and all the way back. One day on the way to the library, the girls friend felt a little tired and seeing as it was a hot sunny day she decided to sit on a bench for a few minutes. Well they had only been sitting there a few minutes when the girls started to cry. "What's the matter?" said her friend, "Why are you crying?" "I'm crying because I can't go to the library" she said. " The library has shrunk and I won't fit through the door!" Looking down the road her friend, saw the library in the distance. It did look very small. She suddenly realised that her friend had never stopped on the way before and didn't understand how things look smaller when you are further away from them. Her friend was very upset and didn't feel like going to the library anymore. So they went home. ( This is a true story!) Many people have asked me " What is Aspergers Syndrome ?" Asperger's syndrome is a neurological disorder that shares many of the same characteristics of autism. A person suffering with Asperger's syndrome will have problems with communication, difficulty with social relationships and limitations in imaginative play and creative play. I could fill you full of facts and figures at this point but I feel this would make it even harder to understand. Let's try and explain this in a way everyone can understand. We have many skills and abilities that we acquire as we grow, that most of us totally take for granted. If someone stood in front of you and asked you to guess their age, you would probably be able to have a reasonable guess and not be too far wrong. We are able to make judgements about a lot of things without even realising that we are doing it. By listening to the
tone of someone's voice or looking at the expression on their face we are able to work out whether they are happy or sad, or angry and we can then respond accordingly. People with Asperger's syndrome are unable to read these signals and they therefore have real problems in social situations and can get very frustrated when they don't understand. When two people are talking at the same time, we are able to separate the two voices and if you like 'tune in', to one or other of the conversations. A person with Asperger's may find this much more difficult and may not be able to make sense of either conversation. Where a person with autism would very often choose to avoid friendships, many people with Asperger's Syndrome would desperately like to be friends, but have no idea what a friend is or how to make one. People with Asperger's take things literally and struggle with things like jokes and metaphors. Telling someone with Aspergers syndrome "'if you eat much more you will burst'' could leave them very confused and upset, wondering just how much food they have to eat before they burst. You cannot see this condition as you can many others, people with Aspergers syndrome look perfectly normal and because sometimes some of the symptoms are hard to separate, a lot of the children are labelled 'naughty' and very often have had a hard time at school before they are diagnosed. Looking perfectly normal, means that they are really quite vulnerable and also susceptible to bullying. OK, so I have told you a little bit about the condition. Let me tell you a little more of the problems that a child with Aspergers might face. My son has Aspergers syndrome. I thought it might be helpful for me to explain some of the problems he has so that you might be able to see the affect that having this condition has on his life and the way he behaves. James suffers from poor concentration.
Standing still for more than a few minutes is really difficult for him. If I am trying to chat to him he will be hopping from leg to leg, moving his head so that he can look anywhere except at me and sometimes he will do silly things like stand on his own foot. We believe that he actually gets comfort from the sensation he gets when he hurts himself this way. Usually in this situation I would remind him that he is hurting himself and he will usually stop doing it. James is under the impression that we know exactly what he is thinking so sometimes he will stop in the middle of a conversation and expect us to automatically know what he was going to say. When someone else is talking to him he will expect them to know what he is thinking too and if I am in the room he will look at me, expecting me to answer for him. Play for James is role play based. What I mean by that is if James is playing at something, it will always be a scene from his favourite TV programme and he will get very angry if someone tries to change the scene or move any of the props. If another child comes to play for any reason, James will not know what to do and I have to play with them for most of the time putting structures there that make him feel comfortable. Lining cars up is a game that is played to extremes in my house. So many times I have tripped over a line of cars in the living room as both boys have this habit of making really neat lines with their cars and both of them know exactly which car goes where and in what sequence. James has difficulty with words. We had a problem at school recently where James was getting really angry and disruptive in the classrooms at school. It turned out that some of the teachers called the children by their surnames. Now James found this very difficult to cope with. He had be known as James or James Haxby, never just Haxby. He couldn't understand why the teacher was calling him by a name that was not his. So you see James was be
coming upset because this teacher was looking at him but calling him by somebody elses name. Does that make sense? I hope so. We have watched other children the same age as James shy away from him. He can be very strange at times but I have also watched them bully and be really nasty to him. James is always bullied. He has no idea when someone is being nice or being mean too him,so sometimes someone will hit him constantly and he will call them friend. When James started his new school it was not so much 'if' James would end up getting bullied and hit, it was more a case of when, as he seems to attract the bullies where ever he goes. This makes my son very vulnerable as when someone speaks to him he immediately assumes they are his friend. It is for this reason that I never let him out of my sight, that and the fact that while most children learn not to speak their mind as they grow, James will tell you or anyone he meets exactly what he thinks of them. If a fat lady walks past, James will tell her she's fat. If a man with a big nose walks past, James will tell him he has a big nose. New places and situations are difficult for my son and these are the times that people make judgements about him and label him 'naughty' or me a bad mother. I have had people come up to me and ask me why I haven't given him a good hiding. After I have taken a few dozen deep breaths I walk calmly away. I mean, should I stand there and shout at my son for feeling confused or afraid? Would you hit out at someone just because they were lost and didn't know where they were? This is what I would be doing if I hit out at him for showing me in the only way he can that he is not managing a situation very well. Thats not saying that James isn't naughty at times. He most certainly is, but I have to be careful that I make sure that his punishment is both relevant and immediate. I have to make sure he knows what he has done
wrong or else I am actually doing him no good at all and will just confuse him further. James's world was very different from ours once. Now we are starting to feel the need to share it with him so that he might feel that his is as right as we feel ours is. James thinks very differently from the way we do, and yet his thoughts are strange but so logical. I had a conversation with him the other day about The Bill. His favourite TV programme. He wanted to know if we could go and say hello to the policemen at Sunhill Station. I explained that it was actually a set and just a TV show. He looked at me and said. "I don't get that." So I explained how the show was made up of actors who pretended to be policemen because that was their job. James then said that they shouldn't do that " Because pretending to be a policeman was wrong." So I explained how it was OK because they were actors and they were just pretending. " When they die, they don't really die" says I. " Of course they do mum" he said. "If they didn't die they'd have come back to work at the station the next day and they didn't, so they must have" I gave my son a big hug and gave up. I hope by sharing some of this with you I have been able to help you understand a little more about Aspergers and maybe helped you think twice the next time you see a child 'kicking off' in a supermarket or on a bus. If you feel your child might have Aspergers Syndrome I would suggest that you start a diary as I found this really helpful when I got to see the doctor. I forgot to say so much but the diary gave the doctor a fuller picture of what was going on at home. I have found when talking to my boys that it is best to keep it simple. Sometimes you can say too much and the message can get lost in the words. Learn to take that deep breath. I can
9;t tell you the number of times Mark has pulled me back kicking and screaming because someone has questioned my parenting skills. The National Autistic Society can provide you with cards that some people may find useful. They state that the child has Aspergers Syndrome and gives them the number of the NAS if they want further information on the condition. (Please note that these cards do not fit up the nostrils of these ignorant people no matter how hard you push!) Enjoy your child. It's not the end of the world and I know that my boy is so much more than this diagnosis. OK he has Aspergers Syndrome, but he has so much more too. James is a really sweet child who loves to be cuddled.(The harder the better) He has a precious smile that lights up the room and he has the sweetest little freckles on the planet. Someone once told me to draw circle and section off a little piece of the pie for all the things my child was good at or enjoyed. I was then told to save a section which I labelled 'Aspergers'. When I got down, I was to take away the section that was 'Aspergers' and look at all the great thing that were left to celebrate. After all, Aspergers is a part of my little boy, but it isn't all of him. I hope this has been helpful to someone. If anyone would like any help or information...Feel free to ask.
An 11 year old boy in Liverpool took and overdose of painkillers and died as a result. Another death, another child. Another life lost. Mum said that the child was being persecuted and couldn't even travel to school in the morning without a constant barrage of abuse and the fear of being hurt by some of his peers. The school said that they weren't aware that there was a problem and they had a strict anti-bullying policy. I say enough ! One child taking their own life out of desperation and despair is one too many. It has to stop and it has to stop now. I wasn't shocked when I heard the statement from the child's school. I wasn't shocked when I heard exactly the same statement when the last 2 - 3 children who felt that there was no way out, nowhere to go, took their own lives. How many times are schools going to be allowed to get away with producing a policy for bullying and using it as an excuse for standing by and letting our children be hurt? A policy is only worth the paper it is written on, if it actually works, and sadly in a lot of cases, a policy is a piece of paper that sits in a file, in an office drawer, gathering dust until the time of year comes around to review it. Having a piece of paper that states that a school will not tolerate bullying is not enough. How many times has the excuse 'We weren't aware of the problem' been offered up as an excuse. Not good enough! In my experience many kids who are being bullied do tell. They tell until they are blue in the face, but the people who should be listening don't have the time. I can talk from experience when I say that some schools have real problems with bullying and unfortunately it is easier to ignore the victim, after all, these are usually the withdrawn, quiet children who don't make very much noise and are not causing any trouble within the classroom. Why upset the apple cart? It will sort itse
l f out won't it? Before I made the decision to move my son to another school I made 18 separate visits to the school he was at to try and sort the problem out. I used to hear the school secretary sigh on the phone whenever she realised it was me. The head teacher would make a point of telling me that she was really busy whenever I managed to pin her down, and my son found that his class teacher was a bit sharper with him and he got into trouble more often. They said that my son had problems interacting with the other children in the playground. They even hinted that if he was being bullied, he brought it on himself.....Hello! On lots of occasions I almost felt bullied myself. Bullied by the system. A system that wasn't protecting my child from a bunch of kids his own age. When I eventually decided that we had to move him for his own sake, the look of relief on the head teachers face told me that I had made the right decision. I had to keep fighting for the rights of my child. I am his mum and as such I have a duty of care. Schools have a duty of care too. Do we not leave our children with them on a daily basis. Is it not right that we should expect them to be safe while they are there? The law says that our children have to go to school. We have little choice. The law should therefore protect our kids while they are in the care of the school. They should be protecting our children. In my opinion in many cases they are not doing enough to effectively sort these problems out. I have talked to mothers who have been asked by the school to prove that their child is being bullied and others, like myself who were told that their children brought it upon themselves. It seems to me that a very clear message is being sent out to the victims of these horrible acts and that is that they might as well keep quiet, telling can sometimes make things worse in the long run. 'we weren't aware that this was happen
ing in our school. We didn't know that there was a problem!' Well you are not doing your job properly then are you? Your policy is not working is it? You're not listening! How many more kids have to go through so much bullying that they feel there is no option but to end it all. Take their own life? How much more evidence does there need to be before something is done to protect these kids? How many more adults will have to carry the burden and emotional baggage that being bullied at school can leave them with? How many more bullies are going to grow up thinking that what they do is acceptable, because no one is telling them otherwise? Is it any wonder that society is becoming more violent? My gran used to say that our school days were the best years of our lives. For many kids that has to be a really scary thought. Rant over! If you have a child that is the victim of bullying then there is a really good website that you might find helpful. It's called Bullying online and it has some really useful advice for parents. http://www.bullying.co.uk/index.html Bullying Online has linked up with the Anti Bullying Campaign in London so that parents and children in despair can either pick up the telephone or use their computer to contact someone who understands what they're going through. The Anti Bullying Campaign was founded in 1985 by Janet Perry after the tragic death of her son Mark who had been a bullying victim. Calls to the group are rising year on year, up from 16,000 in 1997 to 20,000 last year. Training is given to schools as well as resource material for teachers to use in class. We need to act now, before more children lose their will to live, before more innocent lives are lost.
I really want this review to be positive and helpful rather than me wallowing in self pity so I suppose I had better start with what depression is. You know all the text book waffle so I thought I would tell you what depression is to me. Depression is the dark cloud that hovers over my head and pours hot tears over me on a bad day. It's that feeling that nothing is going right and nothing is ever going to go right again. It's the river of tears that flow at the slightest word, or look or mistake. It's the sleepless nights. It's the mirror in the hallway that shows the picture of the ugly woman with the sad face and no smile. It's the feeling that most people would be better off without me in their live. Being a burden, being a fool, being afraid. This is depression to me. So how did I get it? Why me? I have found that people who have never suffered with depression very often find it really hard to understand how we find ourselves like this. Let me try and explain it in my own, simple way. I think that as you travel through life you pick up plenty of suitcases along the way. Some of these cases are light and we have the time to stop and undo them, look at the contents and then put them away. Some of these suitcases however are much bigger and much heavier. We try to unpack them and sometimes we succeed but other times we end up stuffing the contents in the back of a drawer instead of checking through them and folding them neatly away. There is only so much room at the back of the drawer and when it gets too full it all comes tumbling out, all over the floor leaving a mess that has to somehow be cleaned up. For me I had more suitcases than I could carry by the time I was sixteen. I had a mother who hated me. I had a father who was taken from me in the most tragic of accidents,I was homeless for a while, I was belittled and ignored. I managed to unpack some of my burdens but I pushed many of
them to the back of my cupboard. When the children were born I admit I found it hard. I wanted so much to be the perfect mum, to make sure they never had the childhood I had and I thought that meant abandoning my own needs and concentrating on those of my children. I hadn't time for all the luggage that being a mother left me holding, where did I put it? You guessed it. Back in the cupboard. When my son was diagnosed as having Autism I found myself carrying not only suitcases but also two crates and a trolley. Show me a cupboard that could hold all that! Mine couldn't. The doors bulged and then burst off, the contents came pouring out and my life fell apart. It took me a long time to realise that something was really wrong with me. I lost my temper for no reason, I hated everyone and then I hated myself. I wanted people around me and then I wanted them to go away. My reflection in the mirror made me feel physically sick and all I wanted to do was lie around and cry. I got so that my normal daily routines just didn't happen anymore. I had so much to think about, so much going on in my head that I didn't have time for anything else. The housework didn't get done and even my nightly pleasures like a long soak in the bath felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. Sleeping was hard as the thoughts that interrupted my daytime, danced in my dreams too so when I woke I was still exhausted. So how did I find my miracle cure? I didn't. I don't think you ever do. I think depression is something that you have to learn to come to terms with, learn to live with and be aware that you are susceptable to for a long, long time. Learning to live with it has meant having to learn more about myself. Learning about myself has meant taking a long look at my life and making certain admissions and promises along the way. I would like to share some of what I have learnt in the hope that it may help you too
if you ever feel that you need it. I think one of the most important things I have had to learn is that I am not and never will be perfect and I can try to be as much as I want it will never happen. I had to realise that like everyone else I have my limitations. It's ok to say no. It doesn't make you look bad or weak. It's actually a strength because it means that you have been able to realise that some things are beyond you and admit that. When you start to admit your limitations you will realise that people don't blame you for it, or even expect as much from you as perhaps you thought they did. Look at the person next to you. Or your neighbour, or the pretty girl at the bus-stop over the road. Even though they may look perfect they are not. The have their problems too, maybe not as bad as yours, maybe worse, but they do have their problems because nobody is perfect. I think we have to learn to like ourselves. It's so much more important to like yourself than to spend all your time worrying what everybody else thinks of you. "If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying? " Shantideva Life can be hard and we all have our ups and downs. I don't know about you but I have spent far too long worrying about the things and the people who have shaped my past. I have sat and felt sorry for myself on a daily basis. I think sometimes it is more comfortable that way. Taking that big step away from all that is familiar can be very hard but I sat down one day and suddenly realised that I had wasted over twenty years being angry at the sins of my mother. Twenty years that I couldn't get back I don't want to lose another day. I don't want to give anyone the satisfaction of thinking they have beat me down. Let people help you. It's too easy to try and ram everything back into the cu
pboard and carry on. Talking about your fears and your worries is the best medicine anybody can prescribe. You may well find that many of the feelings that scared you so much or made you feel so sad are justified. By talking them through you might find the strength to take a good look at your problems. You never know there might be a few that can then be folded up and put away. Having someone listen to you might be just what you need after all it was bottling everything up that got you in this mess in the first place. Try talking about things when they happen, that way they might not get trapped at the back of the drawer at all. Be prepared to forgive yourself. Admit to yourself when you've made a mistake. We all make them, it's just some of us are harder on ourselves than others and are less able to forgive ourselves. Admit when you were wrong, stop blaming yourself and move forward. Remember to dream. Life can seem pretty hard without something to hold on to and look forward to. A dream doesn't have to be full of princes or princesses or castles of gold. A dream can be of something simple and achievable. Something that will make you feel good about yourself or give you a sense of achievement, a sense of value, of self worth. Without our dreams life would be a pretty sad and lonely place. Our dreams keep us going, our successes make us strong. Share your dreams with the ones you love. You might feel like they are shutting you out. Could it be that you are actually shutting them out? I offer you this advice as it was offered to me. Please don't think that this is a miracle cure. There is none. I have my good days and my bad days, my highs and my lows. At the moment I average 3 bad days for 4 good. A while back I felt that every day was bad and I had nothing left to live for. 4 good days is one hell of an achievement and I feel I am beginning to take my life back. Go to th
e doctor. Let them know you need help. Admitting the problem is a huge step forward. Remember depression is an invisible predator, you can't see it coming or feel it either. You don't know its with you until you feel its claws around your throat, so don't blame yourself or others if you miss the warning signs. I have a very low dose of an anti depressant. I feel very strongly that the strength to beat this comes from within and not from this little bottle but they help me sleep and sleep is something I am in need of at the moment. My youngest son is being tested. The general feeling is that he too has some form of autism. I know now that I have to be strong but this time I am prepared to accept the help offered to me by my husband. This worry come by trunk not suitcase, but there are two of us carrying this one, not just me. Thank you for reading the ramblings of this mad woman. If I have helped just one person then this op will have done what I intended.
When you think of the Victorians, with their fancy skirts and stiff collars it's hard to imagine the gentry of the time doing little more than having tea in the parlour or strolling in the park on a sunny afternoon. It seems though that our Victorian ancestors were a lot more adventurous than many of us give them credit for. Apparently they had an absolute fascination with caves and thought nothing of clamouring around in the dark in pursuit of the admiration and accolades they would receive for their bravery. Poole's cavern in Buxton was a favourite tourist attraction for the Victorians but this fantastic cave had been in use a long time before that. The day we went to Poole's cavern was a beautiful hot summers day. The visitors centre is quite small but was really interesting. There were all sorts of artifacts on display that had been found in the cave dating from the earliest man to the Romans and beyond. Luckily for us there was a tour due to leave, although they are only half an hour apart anyway so had we just missed one we wouldn't have had too long to wait. The mouth of the cave wasn't immediately visible as we left the centre so we were quite surprised to find it tucked away a few yards down the path. Before we went in the guide, a young woman in her early twenties checked to see if anyone was claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. I am claustrophobic in some situations but I have visited many caves and have never had a problem so I decided to risk it. Living in Nottingham we have been able to visit lots of caves. Nottingham is built over a labyrinth of caves. In most of these you have a flight of steps taking you down into the cave so it came as some surprise to find that at Poole's cavern there were none. It was actually quite an experience to walk from the heat of the day into the cold, damp belly of the cave. The cold hits you immediately and it took a couple of seconds for my eyes to adjust fr
om the brightness of the day to the shadows within. That said the cave is actually lit, in sections. In the Victorian times guides would have given the visitor a candle but as the caves became more popular there was a line of gas lamps installed. There is one still standing within the cave, it doesn't work of course.The guide explained how they had to keep the lights off as much as possible as any seeds that were brought in on the clothes and shoes of visitors would germinate. She showed us a patch of grass growing on one of the damp rocks. This particular rock had a spotlight shining on it. She explained that they wanted to keep the cave as natural as possible so didn't want to encourage this artificial growth. I understood that, it did make me think however about the wonder of life, seeing that patch of fresh green in this dark, hidden corner. Using a torch to highlight different areas, our guide brought our attention to an area that had been excavated. It was sectioned into different squares and in a couple of sections there were bones, human bones, a femur and a skull. She explained that although we thought the cave extremely cold, the temperature within remained constant and was actually warmer than the bleak temperatures generated in an average winter back then. This was the reason that early man had come to the caves in search of shelter. Apparently altogether there were over 4000 items found, including Roman artifacts which led to the first part of the cave being known as the Roman chamber. There is a debate as to how Poole's cavern got it's name. Was it named after John Pole who owned the land that the cave was discovered on, or was it after William Poole, an outlaw thought to have hidden out in the cave in the 15th century? Of course being a romantic I prefer to believe the latter and there is evidence to prove that he was around at that time. William Poole was a flasher. No, not the dirty old man type. A fl
asher was someone who would clip the edges off coins, melt them down and make money. I suppose you could call him the equivalent to a forger these days. Anyway when they excavated they found evidence of the clippings that were made. I think for me the most exciting visitor to the caves was Mary Queen of Scots. I have read much on the life of Mary and I know that from the time she was imprisoned she was held in some pretty poor conditions. Mary developed chronic rheumatism and came to Buxton to drink its healing waters. It is said that Mary came to visit the cave and when she could walk no further she asked for the pillar she stood under to be named after her. Apparently some of the guides have been in the cave alone and heard footsteps in the dark. Some even think that it is Mary. It was amazing to be standing there, where she might have stood too, all those years ago. I of course had to touch the cold, wet wall of the pillar. It felt good to be so close to the history surrounding it. There is a section where many of the visitors who walked the caves in previous centuries had scratched their names into the rock. In those days it was a way of recording that you had been there. Quaint....18th century graffiti! If I may I would like to try and tell you about the physical structure of the cave. Poole's cavern is huge and magnificent. The moisture that drips through the walls is acidic and forms calcium carbonate which drips down from the ceiling and becomes stalagmite and stalactites. Very technical I suppose but what does it mean? It means that the cave is always growing, always changing. The stalactites that hang from the ceiling look like needles, or even long spindly fingers. The biggest has the end missing but still hangs magnificently in the centre of the cave. It is known as the flitch of bacon as it is supposed to look like half a pig. On a visit to Peak cavern in Castleton we discovered that they also have a structure t
hat has been given the same name. Ironic that in a time when food was scarce, both structures were thought to resemble food. There is an area of the cave where stalagmites are growing up and they look like poached eggs, being white with a yolk coloured peak. Evidence of the growth within the cave is the tiny stalagmite that has started to form on one of the hand rails in the cave. I wish I could tell you everything we saw but not only would that make this opinion too long, it would also spoil it for you if you should choose to visit the caves. I have no doubt that I would be unable to describe the beauty and the wonder that is on display in this cave. You will have to go see for yourself. I will tell you that at the end of the tour there is a huge rock that shimmers in the artificial light around it. To me it looked like a cauliflower covered in a light frost, you know the type you get on a November morning. We spent a few minutes here as everyone tried to decide what they thought this resembled. This particular structure was the subject of a competition on Blue Peter and someone got to name it. It is officially called the Sculpture. James said he would have called it mashed potato. This being the deepest part of the cave, the tour guide talked a little about some of the unscrupulous people that would have hung around at the caves entrance offering to give tours to the nosey Victorians who wanted to venture inside. She explained how many an unsuspecting visitor would follow a guide into the bowels of the cave only to find them at the mercy of the guide, who after placing them in the most vulnerable of positions, would rob them and leave them to find their own way out. With that, she turned off the light. When we came out into the sun again we had a great laugh as all of our glasses kept steaming up and we couldn't see a thing after emerging from the cold into the heat of the day. The cave i
s open from 10.00am to 5.00pm daily from March to the end of October. It is open in the winter but it is advised that you call ahead to check as rain can make entrance difficult. To get there we followed the A6 from Bakewell. (The views along the way are spectacular and the cave is well signposted.) We paid for a family ticket to the cave which cost us just over fourteen pounds but that covered us for two adults and three children. This was a great price and value for money is guaranteed as if you pay and don't complete the tour you could have a refund. There were toddlers and oldies in our group and everyone enjoyed the tour. My kids loved every minute of it. I would definately say this is a visit that suits the whole family. Take my advice and take your camera. For those of you that don't like tight, closed spaces I can reassure you. The cavern is very high and very wide. Nowhere were we asked to crouch down, or mind our heads and hard hats were not even needed. The floor felt a little slippy in places but not so bad that you had to take tiny steps. All the raised areas have a decking floor and I felt safe and secure during all parts of the tour. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and the guide was confident, knowledgeable and really friendly. Disabled access is limited but I think just getting into the cave is an achievement and they have done a lot of work to level the walkways and make the footings firm. There is a gift shop, nice clean toilets and a café and outdoor seating area. The car park is large and free too. I think the great thing about this cavern is the great pain that the staff are taking to preserve it and keep it natural. I got a real feel that they want the cave to continue to grow and change in the way it would have done if it had been left undiscovered. Good for them. I definately appreciated it. Go visit, you'll love it. Thanks for reading........Mandxx
Lead us not into temptation. A line from the lords prayer. Somewhat apt now that the Christmas season looms over us once more. Having watched as the shops in the local centre hurry to take down the pumpkins and masks that have adorned their shop windows for that last few months, only to see them replaced the very next day with a bold, yet garish Christmas theme, I am amazed at how soon we are hurried from one season to the other. Let's face it, get this one out of the way and the chocolate eggs that herald the coming of Easter will be back in the windows again. It's a commercial world we live in, that's for sure, but who's fault is that? Is it the advertisers, who constantly brainwash us with the newest products and the latest gadgets? Would you blame the media who shove the rich and famous down our throats on a daily basis, showing us what we could have if we were rich enough? Is someone to blame? Have things changed that much? I sat on a bus the other day and heard an elderly couple talking. They were discussing the amount of presents they intended to buy for their grandchildren and after moaning about the price of everything they came out with that age old saying......It wouldn't have happened in my day. We would have been grateful for what we got. It got me thinking about my own children and the huge Christmas lists they had written a month earlier. It got me wondering whether my children were less grateful than we were as children. I remember as a girl the thrill of Christmas morning, rushing down the stairs to dive upon the pile of presents in the corner of the room with my name on it. I was, and still am, the sort of person who loves Christmas for it's feel. I used to love the fact that dad didn't have to go to work and that the shops didn't open and the milkman always brought enough milk to feed the whole street the day before because he had the next couple of days off. I l
oved the smells from the kitchen and the fact that for once you were allowed to eat chocolate before your breakfast. I loved the fact that mother never moaned about the mess in the living room, even though it was piled high with wrapping paper and empty boxes. I loved the carol concerts and the special Christmas cartoons that used to start really early in the morning, so even though you had dived out of bed at a ridiculously early time, there was something to leave on the TV in the background. I loved the visitors that popped in unexpected. People who had really made an effort to come and see everyone. I loved the laughter as many of the adults had a little too much to drink and sang along to silly songs and hugged us and wished us Merry Christmas a hundred times. I think I loved it most because it was a happy time. I sat with the children this evening and an advertisement came on the television, you know, one of those 'You haven't done this one yet, but why don't you start paying for next years now' kind of ad. One of the kids groaned and when I asked them why, they replied that it was too early for such ads and "We haven't even got this one over yet!" It made me wonder, hearing him repeat a phrase that I used often when I saw the same advert, what I was teaching my children about Christmas. I mean, the things that I do, the things that I comment on are shaping the way my kids see Christmas, from an adults point of view. We sat together and I initiated a conversation about Christmas by asking them what they like best about it. Of course presents was one of the first things that was said. They are children, it's understandable, but then they talked of many of the things that I remembered and loved from when I was a girl. The sights, the smells. My daughter talked about the carols that were sang and then she said that sometimes on Christmas Eve and Christmas day the carols make her want to cry because
they are so beautiful and make her feel so sentimental. I had to smile because often they have the same effect on me. My son said he loved the Christmas dinner, with all the trimmings. He told me I made the best Christmas dinner in the world and again I smiled as I remember saying the same thing to my mother, many years ago. It made me realise that although I seemed to thinks so sometimes, the presents weren't everything to the children. They even remembered who's turn it was to put the fairy on the top of the tree this year. So what makes it so different? Why do people see Christmas so differently now? When it comes to Christmas is there a generation gap? No, I don't think so. I think it all comes back to this commercial issue. The advertisements and the media are a constant reminder to us of the cost of Christmas. I think in the times before advertising became so prominent, people still 'kept up with the Jone's' so to speak. It was customary to buy as much as you could afford at Christmas, but I think in most cases this was because it felt good to make Christmas special for the kids. I know I would question whether I had bought the right gifts if my children didn't want to show them off when friends came round. You only have to remember comparing presses on the first day back at school to know that nothing has really changed in that area and let's face it, what we had then might not have seemed the same when compared to what the kids are getting now but I bet you if you ask your parents, they still spent every last penny getting you whatever was new on the market the way we do for our children now. Go back even further. Think of the father that stood for hours making the dolls house or the sled that would delight his child on Christmas morning. Do you think the effort meant less to his child than ours now means to our own children? No, I don't think so. I don't think that the effort I make to
make my kids happy at Christmas is any less either. We all do, or did, what we can to make it special and I think there is no generation gap in that. It's something that has happened for generations. There is so much more scope, so many more toy's to choose from now, but in twenty years time the computers and DVDs that we buy now are probably going to look as trivial as the Space hoppers and Chopper bikes that we coveted back then but I bet you parents will still be buying whatever's fashionable, even if they have to save for months for it, as we all often do. I don't think we will ever stop trying to do the best for our kids, or trying to make them happy. It would be a sad world if we did. I think what I am trying to say is that if you look under all the expensive looking toys, and fancy wrapping paper, things aren't that different than they were many years ago, we just do what we can with what we have, just like the generations before us. They didn't have the shops that we have or many of the toys available today. I bet you that there would still have been parents scrimping and saving to buy them for their children if there had been, for the same reasons we do and will continue to do, because there is nothing on this earth as beautiful as the smile of a happy child on Christmas morning. I do think there is one major difference between Christmas for this generation and Christmas for ours and that is that with there being so much more media access and such a build up to Christmas, our children are more aware maybe of the financial burden that it puts upon us. I think we have to remember to try and keep it special for the kids. I don't want my children to remember the dark circles around my eyes as I struggled to make everything just right, or the hours I have spent trying to work out what we can and can't afford this year. I certainly don't want the kids to feel guilty for what they have rec
eived. I want them to remember Christmas as a happy time, when we had fun and ate too much. Please remember that the presents aren't the only thing that make Christmas the special time it is. Thanks for reading.