• A virtual blog written in wee

    Maybe we all need to be issued with a new Guide to Great Britain...
  • Letting Your Imagination Breathe With Geox

  • Netflix presents Marvel’s Jessica Jones #streamteam

  • Maintaining a Sense of Calm Parenting


A virtual blog written in wee

Maybe we all need to be issued with a new Guide to Great Britain...

Maybe we all need to be issued with a new Guide to Great Britain…

Did you know that in WWII spies used to write their notes in urine? The notes could be read by lighting a match underneath the paper to heat up the urine. Its an ingenious free way of creating invisible ink and i’m told that if you want to experiment with this idea there is a bit more detail in Conn Iggulden’s Dangerous Book for Boys (one of my eldest son’s favourite reads).

I’ve been thinking about these ideas a lot recently as I’m both puzzled and flabbergasted by current censorship issues and internet privacy. It seems to be one of the over-riding themes of current society. On the one hand we have Freedom of Speech, on the other hand we are completely censored, both on a national and local level.

The government look to snoop into my personal internet activities, read my text messages and so forth in case of terrorist activity. I expect they will enjoy such gems as: ‘ the child had a meltdown today on the school run’ and ‘please buy milk’. That’s not to say I can’t see the point, but surely, like the spies in WWII, some international terrorists might be a little bit more sophisticated and one step ahead.

It’s the more local censorship issues that i’m starting to worry about. For example, i’ve been signed up to an agreement, without my permission, which forbids me from speaking online about a very major aspect of my life. This really does present a problem for me because the majority of my support network and friends are online. I meet up with them occasionally but they live all over the world, former work and university friends whose opinion I value live as far as Australia, America, and various European countries in between.

When I started one of my first jobs I had to sign an agreement where I wouldn’t discuss various aspects of my work. It wasn’t a case of national security, it was box ticking for the sake of it.

The very value of social media is in the fact that I don’t have to write the same email many times to canvass their opinion and also, if they don’t have time they don’t feel obliged to comment. Indeed, this blog and the blogging community have been a great source of support or given me insight and perspective which has been valuable.

But no more, i’ve been gagged. I cant talk about one of the biggest aspects of my daily life. I cant seek the perspective of others, I can’t offload and I can’t criticise. I’m assuming positive comments and conversations are allowed but that seems hypocritical, so I shall remain neutral.  I think that has influenced the quality of my writing for the past few years. Its a shame. As a result of this i’m also not signing up to various Facebook and Twitter pages, where not doubt value information is passed on, because I don’t want to be snooped upon even more. I have succumbed to the very things which I try to tell my children not to do.

Without getting into debate about the merits of Freedom of Speech and personal expression, what should and shouldn’t be said either online, in the playground or in the pub and the greater good of it all, surely there is an argument that openly having debates about circumstances, incidents or values whether considered good or bad by the majority is a good thing? I’ve always taught my children to express themselves, to talk through problems, to tell others about the bullies in life and to reach an opinion following consideration and debate. Why does this apply in childhood and not in adult hood and why should institutions, brands and these large organisations fear such things if they stand by their approaches?

Like the spies in WWII I need a new way to communicate. I’m starting to feel that maybe the way forward is a virtual blog written in wee…

Letting Your Imagination Breathe With Geox

GeoxLowRes-4We were kindly invited along to the GEOX store in London’s Oxford Street  to meet renowned American children’s author Dallas Clayton. As massive fans of children’s books we were absolutely thrilled as Dallas Clayton not only writes well, but his illustrations are awesome.

The event was to celebrate Dallas Clayton’s collaboration with Italian shoe brand GEOX. Now, GEOX are my children’s favourite shoe brand. They produce comfortable, sensible, well made yet incredibly funky shoes and they come in a range of sizes which seem to fit all the children in my household from the ultra wide-footed eldest to the narrow footed littlest. In fact, they are the only brand which this year produced a sensible range of girls winter shoes and boots which were funky yet suitable for school when me and Fifi went on a quest for some. Frankly, they are great and I’m hoping to get a pair for Christmas for myself.

GeoxLowRes-63Anyway, back to the event- Dallas Clayton has created a special children’s book called ‘Gerald’s Missing Shoe’ and at the event he read the story to some enthralled children. The store also hosted Sharky and George to entertain the children. It was like a huge children’s take-over and I think that sort of event is absolutely THE BEST.

This sort of collaboration is really great as not only it engages the children and highlights to them the importance of reading and a good story, but it demonstrates well the values of a brand to parents. I’ve always felt that GEOX do try to produce really good  quality practical shoes for children but this emphasises their approach. Gerald’s Missing Shoe is the first in a series of books, the second one: Eleanor’s New Shoe will be out in February alongside the new S/S 2016 collection. We cant wait!

GeoxLowRes-11If you’d like to have a look at GEOX for your kids we buy ours from John Lewis but you can buy the whole range directly here.

GEOX kids shoes shoes1

Disclaimer: We were invited to the event and gifted these lovely shoes.

Netflix presents Marvel’s Jessica Jones #streamteam

Hello, it’s Alex here, I went to an event for Claire, I’m good like that, and here is my write up.

Back in November 2013 when Netflix announced it had signed an agreement to make 4 series based on the superheroes of New York’s Hells Kitchen, I have to admit I was excited. If you don’t know your Marvel super heroes that well, Hells Kitchen is home to Daredevil, probably my favourite superhero. We’ve had the Daredevil series on Netflix already this year and it turned out to be more brilliant than anyone really had any hope of expecting, so when Jessica Jones premièred on Netflix over the weekend, breaths were held as it had an awful lot to live up to.

matt murdockBut lets take a step back for a moment; when I say superhero, you say spandex. It’s natural, even though the cinematic Spider-Man, Batman, Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Captain America or Iron Man aren’t quite as primary colour as a lot of the comic book stuff you might have seen as a kid, the cinematic outings, Nolan’s Batman films aside, are probably best described as “family friendly”. Unless of course you’ve got the Blu Ray of Watchmen or Kick Ass in front of you but that’s something else entirely.

Daredevil (you can read my review here) was gritty and violent. Very violent. Right from the start people got hurt and hurt badly, and if they did get hurt, they weren’t okay for the next episode because actions had consequences. Netflix Studios managed that very difficult thing of getting people with super powers rooted in the real world- it was like the very best bits of NBC’s first series of Heroes distilled and held at that level for an entire series. It was no surprise that a second series was commissioned before the first had ended.

Unlike Daredevil, Jessica Jones isn’t such a long established character. Matt Murdock’s alter ego has been around since the mid 60’s but Jones was created in the early noughties. Despite that, she’s done lots of stuff but the series (so far at least) focusses on her private investigator role, keeping it properly grounded in the more gritty world that Daredevil created.

Jessica_Jones_NetflixSuperhero movies are often a compromise, partly due to their run time but partly due to the apparent need to have an origin story taking up half the movie. When Sony rebooted Spider-Man and made it all teen angst, they didn’t need to tell us how Parker became Spidey, anyone seeing the movie could suss that out. Jessica Jones avoids that trap entirely, despite a serial inherently having more time for something like an origin story, the viewer is plonked down right in the middle of the action. It’s not until we’re a good way into the first episode we get an inkling that Jessica Jones has super powers (it’s hinted at subtly in the lead up to her lifting the rear end of a car off the ground but nothing more than that), and it’s all dealt with in a really offhand way- “tell anyone and they’ll think you’re crazy” is what she tells the bloke who threatens to expose her. Nice touch.

There is an overarching villain, played by ex Doctor Who David Tennant, called Kilgrave, who, we learn, had a run in with Jessica Jones a year ago and was almost killed. He has a dead creepy super power- compulsion and this is shown off to graphic and chilling effect at the end of the first episode.

As part of the Netflix StreamTeam (well, my wife is a part of it, I went on her behalf) I went to the UK launch event of Jessica Jones in Shoreditch yesterday evening. We watched the first couple of episodes on a HUGE telly and I’m already hooked. Although it is dark, there is a strong vein of humour in it, character driven, through some great dialogue. I just know that some of my insults of choice going forwards are going to have been originally uttered by Jessica. For Marvel aficionados, Luke Cage (aka PowerMan) also appears- he’s due his own series which starts next year and filming is already under way. Sadly he lacks his iconic yellow t-shirt but that’s to be expected.

Following on from Daredevil was always going to be difficult but Jessica Jones unexpectedly manages to pull it off- it’s both darker and funnier- and after watching the first couple of episodes, I can guarantee that this weekend is going to see me watch the rest of them.




Maintaining a Sense of Calm Parenting

calmAll of my children are very strong willed, I think that is both a strength and a weakness because it isn’t necessarily a good thing for dealing with others and for learning how to compromise. The impact of this though is that I often find myself challenged in all manner of ways from what they want to eat, which books we should read at bedtime to issues relating to clothing and school.

As I want to set my children a good example, it means that when I’m being screamed at or there is point blank refusal I have to try really hard not to lose my temper and shout. Sometimes I manage to do this and sometimes I don’t. However, one of the things that people always say is how calm I seem even at the most challenging moments. Even when i’m raging internally I’ve managed to maintain a calm approach. I struggle with anxiety, I question my parenting on a daily basis but one thing I am proud of is this calm approach to challenges.

Today was one of those days. We had bought little Ned some new shoes, he choose them himself and although we had them fitted he could pick any pair he wanted in the shop. He was very happy and proud of them all weekend. Yet today when it came to going to school he point blank refused to wear them. I had to decide what to do and I thought that really he should wear his brand new shoes instead of ones with holes in so that was what happened. This resulted in a tantrum all the way from home to school and beyond. Strong willed eh?

Rather than losing it, or losing the will to live, I thought I would simply just ignore the tantrum and try to carry on as normal. I didn’t raise my voice and when he refused to move I simply picked him up. This was very challenging but ultimately I think its the right thing to do. It provides the child with a way out, a chance to stop without repercussions and it also means that they don’t achieve anything from behaving this way. This is a skill that I learnt when I realised that my eldest was using breath holding as a way of manipulating situations and its helped me in some of the hardest moments.

I think there are a few things to consider to help you achieve calm in your parenting:

  • A sense of humour. Many of these incidents are actually very amusing, its hard not to laugh but probably best not to outright. If you can see the funny side of what has happened that completely prevents any loss of temper.
  • Maintain the ‘this will pass’ sense of perspective. Things change, children challenge. Its a phase and a circumstance.
  • Maintain a good dialogue with all your children and then when situations arise I find the other children help me to deal with them.
  • Consider the worst case scenario. This wont be it.
  • Don’t reward anger with anger, this fuels the situation.
  • Reason, but not too much. Repeat your stance clearly and in an appropriate manner and carry it out if it is the right thing to do regardless of what is being presented.
  • Remember that you are the adult and its your duty to parent. You are not your child’s friend, however it is best to do this in as calm and controlled manner as you can.
  • Enjoy these tantrums as a moment of childhood and nothing more. They are another aspect of your child’s personality and an important part of growing up and learning.
  • Teach your children that inner peace and calm come from within by demonstrating that you can maintain your calm in even the most challenging circumstances.

Do you have any strategies and tips for dealing with tantrums whilst maintaining that inner calm? If so, please post them below I’d love to hear!

Book Review: There’s a Monster in My Fridge By Caryl Hart illustrated by Deborah Allwright

theres-a-monster-in-my-fridge-9780857076120_lgIf you want one of those exciting, enjoyable interactive books for your three year old then this is it. Little Ned loves this book and its become a little ritual for us to read it over lunch, the vampire in his underwear never fails to make us laugh.

This is simply a good fun picture book, perfect for Halloween but as we’ve shown in our household perfect for anytime when you need a bit of cheering up featuring very low level horror (but as such which makes the 3 year old think he’s grown up). We genuinely love the way the split pages work in this book and it has to be one of the best uses i’ve ever seen them put to.

With great illustrations, its well written and best of all its fun. There isn’t much more you can ask for in a book and in my opinion its perfect for you to share with your little nursery go-er. I think this is Caryl Hart’s best book yet.

If you’d like to find out more then you can have a look here.