17 Dec 2009

Well done Trudie, MBE

One of my clients is the charity STARS, which helps children and adults affected by Reflex Anoxic Seizures, a heart rhythm disorder. It's founder is an amazing woman called Trudie Lobban, who this year, was most deservedly awarded an MBE and has just collected it from Buckingham Palace. Here's the news release I wrote to mark the occasion:
The Founder of two Midlands heart charities has collected her MBE at Buckingham Palace.

Trudie Lobban, who started the STARS charity from her kitchen table in 1993, was given the award in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list earlier this year.

She started the charity after her younger daughter was diagnosed with a little-known heart rhythm disorder, Reflex Anoxic Seizures, aged four and she could find nowhere to turn to for help.
Since then, the charity, based in Stratford Upon Avon, has grown to become international, with a division in the US.

In 2004, Trudie launched a campaign that succeeded in changing a government health policy. The campaign brought about the inclusion of heart rhythm disorders, or arrhythmias, into national standards for coronary care with the aim of improving diagnosis and treatment for all people with irregular heartbeat conditions.
She then founded her second charity, Arrhythmia Alliance, as an umbrella organisation bringing together patient groups, medical professionals and industry to further the gains she had already made. A third charity, based in Bristol, focusing on patients with Atrial Fibrillation has also been formed and in addition, Trudie now sits on many medical boards
Trudie is actively helped in her charity work by her daughters, Charlotte and Francesca who are both now adults. Charlotte has almost completed training to become a doctor herself. The charities employ 16 staff, mainly in Stratford.

Trudie says “I am so delighted to be receiving this award today. It’s been a long road and hard work but we have achieved so much in our efforts to help people with cardiac arrhythmias. I want to share it with the people who have worked with me to make a difference.”
Trudie’s husband, Charles, who worked tirelessly alongside Trudie since she started STARS will be especially missed today. He passed away suddenly last year, ironically from Sudden Cardiac Death, before her MBE was awarded.

Congratulations to Trudie and I wish her a very merry Christmas with her family. PS if you're in the Midlands, she is soon to be featured in the Birmingham Post women's section.
Visit STARS at http://www.stars.org.uk & AA at http://www.heartrhythmcharity.org.uk & AFA at http://www.atrialfibrillation.org.uk
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30 Nov 2009

Tackling middle Age Spread The Atkins Way

Over the past year, I have put on almost a stone and I couldn't understand why - I had not eaten more, drunk more and in fact, now we have a dog, I was doing more exercise than I used to.
Off I go to the doctor who says this weight gain is entirely, she says, due to the fact that as a woman 'of a certain age,' my body is no longer handling carbohydrates in the same way as it used to.
Now, I realise that as someone who went from a UK size six to a size eight, no one is going to be weeping for me over this weight gain and in fact, my face looks, if anything, better for the extra pounds. My body however, felt like it was splitting its skin. At 5' 3" and a very petite build, the extra pounds felt more than I should be carrying around. I wanted to 'stop the rot' - ignoring those first few pounds will make it more difficult to tackle when the next few pile on.
So what to do? I've never dieted before and had no idea how to start. My doctor recommended a low-carb diet, such as Atkins. So okay, I buy the book,Atkins Made Easy: The First 2 Weeks, buy some shakes and morning bars and off I go.
For the first three days I had the headache from hell. Right behind my eyes. Withdrawal from caffeine (no more Pepsi Max), sugar and carbs, combined. I was tired and weak, though not hungry. And by the end of those days I had lost only half a pound.
But I did not give up - for what alternative did I have - for me it wasn't a question of eating less or eating low fat - I was already eating small portions of low fat food before the diet and had only put weight on.
By day four and five, the headache had gone, I was actually eating more than I used to and I had lost one and a half pounds.
Now, three weeks in, I have lost five pounds - not the huge weight loss Atkins is famous for, but as a percentage of the 12 pounds I wanted to lose, actually pretty great. I felt good too - I don't think about food outside of meals, I found it easy to stick to - just substitute salad for pasta and still have the tasty sauce, have the sunday roast but without the potatoes. This meant I could still cook for the family while not having to do a whole different meal for myself. Decaf coff - with cream! Fantastic!
I haven't missed the carbs at all - though I know that as per Atkins programme, I will need to add some back in to find my 'critical cabohydrate level' ie, the amount of carbs I can eat without putting weight on. You are not supposed to go back to 'regular' eating, it is an approach for life.
I think people who criticise the approach tend not to know what it really involves - you aren't supposed to stuff your face with huge amounts of bacon and eggs every day or tank up on large portions of allowed food and you do need to take a nutritional supplement (I use Multibionta).
I realise that I may have found it easier because I didn't overeat in the first place - I just needed to change the balance of what I was eating but it has come as an eye opener that it can make such a difference.
I no longer feel bloated and stodgy after meals - and not because I haven't eaten as much but clearly, wheat doesn't particularly agree with me.
The hardest thing I found was giving up my nightly whisky and hot water. Now I drink a cup of Redbush tea. But I find it a lot easier to get up in the mornings, to look at myself in the mirror without feeling old and pudgy and to know that adding years doesn't have to mean adding inches.
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27 Nov 2009

New Look for NotAsAdvertised

What do you think of the new look for NotAsAdvertised? Just fancied a change and the new three column layout gives me more flexibility.
Let me know what you think!
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26 Nov 2009

Dare To Be Different This Christmas

I do PR for Hampshire Farmers Markets. They have a great idea this Christmas - ditch the turkey and try trout or goose or game.. see below

Dare To Be Different This Christmas – Hampshire Farmers Markets Will Show You How.
Does the prospect of turkey again this Christmas leave you cold? Ever wanted to try a goose or a pheasant or even a whole trout but been put off because you don’t know how to do it?
Help is at hand this Christmas at Hampshire Farmers’ Markets, where the very people who produce the food are right there to show you how to prepare your Christmas roast to succulent perfection.
Be adventurous and leave the supermarket bird on the shelf this year. Instead, head off to one of our seven markets being held in the run-up to Christmas. You can also choose from turkey, beef, free-range pork, game, hog roast or even buffalo meat. You can pre-order your chosen lunch centrepiece and get a lesson from the stall-holder, who will have reared the produce themselves, in how to make the most of your choice.
If you’re set on turkey, you can still pre-order a home-grown bird at the Farmers’ Market, knowing that your choice will be locally reared without added water and sold to you direct from the producer.
While you’re there you can also pick up unique gifts for your family from a range of locally produced preserves, confectionery, wines and ciders, lavender, soaps and plants. You could even make up a hamper using a small decorated box or wicker basket for a fabulous gift your friends and relatives will love.
Ordering from Hampshire Farmers’ Markets means you can be sure that you’re treating your family to a locally produced, high-quality, succulent Christmas lunch as well as being a great way to support your local economy.
Also available at our December markets will be traditional Christmas wreaths and poinsettias to give your home that festive feel.
Our Christmas markets take place at the following places:
Sunday, November 29, 2009:   9am-2pm Winchester Farmers Market
Sunday, December 6, 2009:     10am-2pm Petersfield Farmers Market
                                                10am-2pm Romsey Farmers Market
Saturday, December 12, 2009:  10am-2pm Alton Farmers Market
Sunday, December 13, 2009 :   9am-2pm Winchester Farmers Market
Sunday, December 20, 2009;    10am-2pm Andover Farmers Market
                                                 10am-2pm Southsea Farmers Marke
Obviously if you're reading this from afar, you can just go to your local Farmers' Market - but supporting our local economy is a great thing to do..
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16 Nov 2009

Know Your Pulse - It Could Save Your Life

One of my clients is The Arrhythmia Alliance, the UK's leading heart rhythm charity. It has today welcomed a new campaign by the British Heart Foundation highlighting the problem of Atrial Fibrillation. The BHF campaign is great news as Atrial Fibrillation is a condition often thought to be non-life threatening but the fact is one in three people with AF will suffer a stroke - which as we all know can indeed be deadly.
Arrhythmia Alliance has itself been running a very successful 'Know Your Pulse' campaign for some time.
Here is the press release I have written for them on the subject. It's well worth reading because you may be suffering from AF without realising it - you can tell by simply taking your pulse. Further down is a link to Sir Roger Moore showing you just how to do that:

The UK's most common heart rhythm disorder, Atrial Fibrillation (AF), is too often ignored or underestimated in its potential to cause misery and death.
The Arrhythmia Alliance and The Atrial Fibrillation Association, leading charities on heart rhythm disorders, are welcoming The British Heart Foundation (BHF) joining the initiative to highlight the problems of Atrial Fibrillation, a condition often thought to be troublesome but non-life threatening.
Atrial Fibrillation is a major cause of stroke. In fact, 1 in 3 people with AF will suffer a stroke, so it is vital for people suffering from an irregular heart rhythm to be accurately diagnosed and treated.
We all have a 1 in 4 life time risk of developing AF. The condition can cause few physical symptoms or it can be seriously debilitating. Even if there are no symptoms the risk of stroke remains It is thought to affect almost 1 million people in the UK and is costing the NHS one percent of its total annual budget.
AF can be detected by a simple pulse check. Arrhythmia Alliance is currently continuing its successful 2009 "Know Your Pulse" campaign with the long term goal of ensuring that pulse checks become routine. The two-week campaign by BHF, starting today, will further endorse their long term goal to raise awareness of the condition and help save more lives.
To see Sir Roger Moore demonstrate how to take a pulse, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0dAlo0MEEA. For more information, visit www.atrialfibrillation.org.uk and www.knowyourpulse.org

Atrial Fibrillation Fast Facts:

• AF affects almost 1 million people in the UK and costs 1% of the annual NHS budget
• An episode of AF can last from a few minutes to many weeks and being a progressive disorder, up to 25% of initially self-terminating AF will become permanent in 5 years, and 50% by 10 years.
• There are 16,000 strokes annually in patients with AF in England which result in: 4,300 deaths in hospital, 3,200 discharges to residential care, 8,500 deaths within the first year.
• The annual cost of stroke to the UK economy is £8.9 billion - that is £44,000 per stroke victim (Saka et al, 2009). So detecting AF and reducing the risk if stroke by effective management is Very cost efficient.
• The easiest way to detect AF is, to feel the pulse.
Contact Information
Arrhythmia Alliance: Jo Jerrome
01789 450787 joanna@heartrhythmcharity.org.uk www.heartrhythmcharity.org.uk
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10 Nov 2009

This Last Summer - I wrote a novel

I haven't mentioned this before but I don't just write blogs. I have also completed two full length novels, the first one about 15 years ago which I did nothing with and the second one, This Last Summer, which I finished last year. The book is contenporary women's fiction and the blurb is thus:
"Life is finally going well for young TV reporter Madeleine Chambers. Despite a disrupted childhood she’s looking forward to a bright future. Then one day out on a story, she stumbles upon a discovery that throws her family’s lives into disarray.
Her mother, who abandoned her young family and was thought to be long dead, resurfaces at the scene of a fire Maddie is sent to cover. Maddie tries to make sense of her discovery, while trying to maintain her focus on work, making her way in a newsroom filled with the treacherous and the lecherous.
But it isn’t long before her family learn about Maddie’s discovery and now they must all work out if they want their mother back – a decision made even more difficult by the devastating news that she doesn’t have long to live."

The book was uploaded last week to Authonomy.com, a site run by Harper Collins for aspiring authors to showcase their work. You can read it here:  http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=13370.
The story came to me when I was studying for an Open University Social Sciences certificate. I was trying to make notes, but this idea kept nagging at me so I turned to the back of my notebook and wrote down fifteen hundred words of what would be the original prologue for the book.
That prologue has now been discarded but it got me started on the next 92,000 words, written over the following ten months. It is set in the summer of 2007, such as it was, and draws directly from my former experiences as a regional television reporter with Meridian Television, from having two children with Asperger Syndrome and from the emotions of having a parent dying from a nasty and almost always incurable form of cancer.
I don't know whether it will ever be published but so far it had garnered lots of nice comments from the Authonomy community and as we speak it is Number 3 on the weekly Chick Lit chart and Number 17 on the weekly chart for all books. Of course this will have changed for better or worse by tomorrow as it's just a current snapshot.
Still, putting it 'out there' has given me more confidence that I haven't wasted my time in writing it and that I should try harder to send it out to publishers/agents, which scares the life out of me!
If you ever have time, I'd be delighted if you would take a look at it. You can comment as well if you like but you have to be a member of the community to do so. If you are a writing something yourself, take a look at the Authonomy site for inspiration!
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7 Nov 2009

Off To Market We Go

I am about to start a part-time job working as PR for Hampshire Farmers' Markets in the south of England so today, I decided to pop down to the local market at Alton and have a look at what's on offer.

I took my eldest with me and I have to say, the visit didn't start off well because after we parked, I got something out of the boot and as I shut the boot door, it clipped his head. For a few minutes, I thought we were going to end up going straight back home but after a few tears, he pulled himself together and off we went.
Hampshire Farmers' Market is a not-for-profit organisation that Hampshire producers can apply to join if they grow, rear, bake, bottle, pickle or otherwise produce their goods wholly within the county or ten miles of its border.
Among its produce are meat and baked goods, organic fruit and veg, buffalo meats, fish, game, cheeses, home made sausages, honey, Hampshire's famous watercess and all sorts of preserves.
My eldest did a fair bit of tasting and made a few recommendations for purchases which, as he'd been so brave about the head injury, I went along with. We bought, amongst other things,cakes, sausages, watercress, some cheese, a large focaccia and my son had a burger that he was very impressed with.
Going to the Farmers' Market is an adventure, a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, seeing all the different foods that aren't available in the supermarket. It's a great way to educate your kids that food has an origin that doesn't have Tesco or Sainsbury's on the label.
Many of these producers have thought up innovative products such as watercress pesto from Cresson Creative which I meant to buy but I forgot as I so impressed with the watercress flatbread - next time I'll get some.
I think it's really important to support your local Farmers Market- even if you can only afford to buy one item, you are helping not only the local economy, but doing your bit for the environment as well. The food you buy there has to be fresher and have used fewer food miles than supermarket produce. It doesn't pretend to be a total replacement for your weekly supermarket shop but it does offer a unique opportunity to buy something incredibly tasty that hasn't travelled half way across the world to get to you.
I'm really looking forward to helping Hampshire Farmers' Markets promote its members. As well as the website: www.hampshirefarmersmarket.co.uk, where you can find out about the producers, they're also on Twitter so you get up to date information about markets and events.
And the markets are held come rain, shine, sun or snow on the dates advertised, so if you haven't been to your local market lately or even at all why not give it a go - you know it makes sense.
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2 Nov 2009

Oh to be 18 again.. er, no thanks

My late Grandmother once said that although she was in her eighties, she still felt the same inside as she did when she was 18. I related this remark to my older sister the other day who said that was true for her too and asked if I could say the same for myself.

But even though I'm only half the age my Gran was when she said it, for me, the answer is definitely no and thank God for that. When I was 18 I felt like I knew it all. Like I was embarking on the big adventure of life without need to listen to the advice of anyone else because, of course, they were old and what did they know anyway?

Although in the still of the night, alone, that wasn't what I really felt. I would never have admitted it at the time, but I was unsure, untried, untested, not even knowing who I really was inside, definitely not knowing anything worth knowing about the world. But ignorance is the beauty of youth.

If we really had an idea in our heads of what was in store, we might just pull the covers over our heads and never get up again. The sheer number and variety of events, good and bad, that happen to us over the course of even half a lifetime would be too overwhelming.

At 18, I hadn't a thought in my head of what it might to like to have real responsibility, of worrying about someone else instead of just yourself, of making a marriage work through its inevitable highs and lows. The thought of dealing with the estate of a newly-deceased parent, would be terrifying wondering as you combed through the accumulated belongings and papers of a whole life, if you ever really knew them.

Although many women know this already by the time they're 18, for me, the thought of motherhood wasn't even a flash of consideration. How I would deal with two children who had special needs? If I'd thought of that one, I probably would have approached the whole concept of motherhood with a lot more respect.

As I think back to myself at 18, I cringe at the thought of how much I thought I knew, compared to how little was actually going on in my head at the time. And yet, despite that, when you are 18, every little event is a great drama, you, the star of your own life.

But now, at 42, I realise that the progression through life, gathering experiences, gaining and losing family members making good decisions and huge mistakes, is what makes you who you really are - that person you couldn't have possibly known about when you were 18. Times can be great, times can be tough but it's the grace with which you handle both those things that matters. Sometimes I succeed in this and sometimes I fail but in everything, I learn that I didn't know everything when I was 18 and I certainly don't now. Grace is something else I didn't have much of at 18.

I actually envy my Grandmother feeling she hadn't changed over the course of a lifetime but I don't think she was right. The wisdom she had at 87 comes as the product of experience. I don't have the energy, the body or the enthusiasm I had then. I was, at 18, what a new adult should be - a blank slate on which to chalk the happenings of a life to come. But, for me, what has replaced youth and fearlessness is so much more fulfilling that I don't envy my younger self at all.
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1 Nov 2009

Smashing Pumpkins

November dawns, sheeting down with rain as gusting wind tears the remaining leaves from the trees. Winter is definitely on its way. I don't really get along with winter but the first of November means that at least another Halloween is over.
My boys love Halloween but their constant nagging of  'can we take them trick or treating' (ie, door to door begging) drives me insane. And the answer is always no. I don't mind if someone else takes then, but the thought of traipsing around the neighbourhood in the cold and dark, in the hope of grabbing some tooth-rotting sugar is frankly, hideous.
Last year they went with the next-door neighbours who love the whole event. And to be fair, we always carve a pumpkin and buy a couple of bags of mini-treats to fill a bowl for those ringing our doorbell. It's just the going from house to house that I loathe.
I have always seen Halloween celebrations as an American thing, where it's a really big event. The media and retail sectors here have grabbed the day by the throat and tried to replicate the whole thing here but it always strikes me as a bit half-hearted. That said, it's hard just to ignore the whole thing when the TV is wall-to-wall Halloween.
Saturday was spent with my youngest, scooping out the slimy innards of  a Sainsbury's carving pumpkin and then letting him get on with his design. I, meanwhile, made chilli pumpkin soup and chilli-roasted pumpkin seeds (delicious and very moreish)
He was scheduled to go to his friend's house for 5pm and spent the whole afternoon asking me what time it was and was it time to put on his ghoulish make-up for his zombie outfit.
My eldest, who had spent the day in London with Dad seeing the Michael Jackson exhibition (£16 each and he still got to the gift shop in under 45 minutes flat), was staying home to dish out the sweets but had also carved a pumpkin of his own to light and put outside the house.
In the end, we had twice the amount of pumpkins than visitors. Is everyone as boring as me? Was everyone sitting at home with their candy waiting for visitors who never materialised? It appears that Halloween may well be just over-blown retail hyperbole designed to sell as much tat and as many multi-packs of sweets as possible and we reserved British are only half-convinced. We don't mind buying the goodies but going round to people's houses? I think the majority are with me on that one.
Even the little girl dressed as a witch who came to our door didn't manage to actually say 'Trick or Treat' but just looked sheepish as she held out her cauldron. Her pot was full, so presumably I'm not the only one who stocks up waiting for the writhing masses of spooky-themed youngsters to descend.
As if the lack of visitors wasn't tragic enough,  the evening was topped off by my husband who, on his way to collect our youngest, reversed over one of the pumpkins, leaving it splattered across the lane. A fitting verdict on the whole non-event perhaps?
So, goodbye Halloween for another year and hello November, onwards towards that other big waste of money.. Bonfire Night.
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16 Oct 2009

My Son, The Entrepreneur

If you have a son of aged between nine and fifteen, you are quite likely to have heard of Roblox which describes itself as an online building game - a sort of cyber-Lego. Both my sons are addicted to Roblox and have full membership accounts, although you can join for free with more limited access.
Users can build virtual worlds out of blocks and customise their "avatar" person and world as they like. In the process they learn, so the site says, "engineering, design, science and programming while playing." The site is fantastic for children who love the computer - it means they can play and learn at the same time in a safe environment and you don't need to worry what they're up to.
The child can play alone, or can choose to take part in interaction with other users. There is, I have noticed, a definite pecking order amongst the users. To be a 'Noob' is undesirable and the longer you have been a member on the site, the higher your standing is in the Roblox community. It's almost as if the site was invented for boys with social skills deficits as it allows them to interact with others without actually interacting. Genius!
My younger son found it first but it is my older son who has become a Robux-millionaire, Robux being the currency of the site. You can earn Robux in various ways on the site but don't ask me how - I'm a grown-up after all.
My younger son will design things and give them away, but Luca has set up a Ro-business designing virtual Michael Jackson shirts for Roblox Avatars. He has sold thousands of these designs to other users through his Blobbyface5 account (see image for a few samples.) He bases his designs on MJ's various costumes he wore throughout his career and has designed more than a hundred varieties.
It seems my son is a born entrepreneur and a natural salesman. He has spotted a gap in the Ro-market and has exploited it, building his catalogue of shirts and bank of Robux in the process. I wonder if the team at Roblox realised this would be another way for children to learn while using the system. I, for one, think it's great - maybe Luca's entrepreneurship will be the springboard for a life in business becoming a real millionaire so he can keep his long-suffering parents in the style to which we could become very accustomed.
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14 Oct 2009

Christmas Cards - a Friendly Gesture or an Eco-Crime?

My friend Hayley has raised an interesting question on her Facebook account. She's trying to be eco-friendly so, should she send Christmas cards this year? Would people be offended if they were just wished Season's Greetings face-to-face or via an e-greeting?
Hayley realises that this just won't do for our old-fashioned relatives for whom getting a Christmas Card is confirmation that they're still alive, but for friends you see frequently?
Personally speaking, just yesterday I ordered my cards from the National Autistic Society as a way of supporting the charity, but having read Hayley's post, it occurred to me that I could have just sent them a donation over an above my annual membership instead. But on the other hand most people I send cards to I don't see everyday (like Hayley!) so for me this route isn't quite so practical.
I suppose sending an NAS Christmas Card is also about spreading the word about the charity because I have been helped very much by their Advocacy For Education Service when we were going through statementing and their Early Bird+ programme after diagnosis and just giving a donation wouldn't have the same impact. I do believe this is such an incredibly helpful charity that we should help in any way we can. (PS you can donate here).
I do believe that Christmas cards are a huge source of revenue for charities - people who might not otherwise make a simple donation would buy a pack or two of cards and provide much needed funds for the charity concerned - this is a trade off because some charities rely on such sources of funds. (though Friends of the Earth only offer free e-cards)
But Hayley does have a good point. Christmas Cards to people we see regularly could be classed as a small-scale eco-crime. And if you then extrapolate the amount of paper and trees used up by everyone in the world doing the same thing, then we're talking millions of tonnes of paper and forests of trees. And then after Christmas, too many people will just bin the cards rather than recycle them.
One solution as already mentioned would be e-cards, another would be buying only cards made from recycled paper and then recycling them afterwards. If you can buy charity recycled cards and then recycle what you receive, even better.
I have to confess to keeping cards I have bought one year but haven't used and sending them the next year - although Sainsbury's 'so-helpful' message about "Recycle cards at Sainsbury's to the end of January 2009" printed on the back of their cards makes you feel very Scrooge-like!
And what about our children? Do we tell them that they must be eco-friendly and they can't send cards to their friends? Well, yes you can tell them that, though for children with autistic spectrum problems like mine, it is a triumph if they actually want to send a greeting to another child and I would feel duty bound to let them. Fortunately, when this happens, they soon get bored of writing so it isn't too big a problem.
For myself, although sending cards to technophobe relatives is unavoidable, I would be happy to receive an e-card rather than a paper card so Hayley can rest assured that a Facebook e-card would be most welcome.
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5 Oct 2009

What a Smart Boy!

I know I can gripe about my boys, maybe even poke gentle fun at their amusing ways, but my 10 year old younger son, Giorgio has just made this amazing animation and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. Makes me think I was born twenty years too soon - just think of the fun I could have had if I'd had more than a pippa doll and a cardboard box to play with... What do you think?
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Fancy A Good Read?

When I've had enough of the kids' backchat (which is frequently), I like nothing better (apart from a snifter of whiskey, but that's another story) than losing myself in a good book. I was reading in the Saturday Times Magazine about what the literary great and good would have as their Desert Island Books. Clearly, these people are far more learned than I, or possibly just a load of pseuds. It wouldn't look good to say you liked a good old crime thriller, would it?  There's a bit of Tolstoy here and a bit of Dostoyevsky there. Okay, if you were marooned on a desert island, you might want something that's going to take you a year to get through but for just passing the time while ignoring the kids, here's what I've read lately. There's a link to Amazon if you want to read more yourself or if you even fancy buying one:
The late Carol Shields is one of my favourite authors. It seems that in her books nothing happens, yet everything changes. Her writing makes me feel calm and centred, which I definitely need after a day with the boys.
Thomas Phelan - 1-2-3 Magic The only book on discipline you will ever need. I need to re-read it but I lent my copy to someone and never got it back.(Update - Hayley sys she has it, which I had totally forgotten.
The 'Sliding Doors' of novels, Lionel Shriver's Post Birthday World is sparsely written, which I like, as over-description bores the life out of me.
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking: This book is about the year immediately following her husband's death. I am told by a lady in a similar position to whom I sent a copy, that it is comforting to see you're not going mad. It's a good book even if your husband is still alive...
Barak Obama, Dreams of my Father. Although ostensibly a political autobiography, I found this a good and easy read as well as being inspirational.
Kathy Reichs - 206 Bones: The latest in a series of crime fiction featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, this will really hit the spot if this genre appeals to you.

JD Robb, aka Nora Roberts seems to write a book a week. If you like female detective/police fiction, you'll love these quirky, race-along novels set in the near future.
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21 Sept 2009

Happy Anniversary and other Pressing Matters

Yesterday was our 12th wedding anniversary and I'm pleased to report that they have been a dozen happy years and I couldn't have asked for a better husband.

We don't usually get each other expensive presents for our anniversary - so he got me some flowers and I got him a few hundred grams of jazzies from the newly opened old-fashioned sweet shop on Farnham's Castle Street. You know the kind, they have everything in jars so you can choose what you want. And they had giant jazzies too - husband heaven!

I remarked to the young girl serving that it was so nice to see an old-fashioned sweet shop. Yes, she said, a of of older people really like it, in a way which unmistakeably lumped me in with said 'older people'. I smiled sweetly, imagining cramming her head into one of said glass jars.

Anyway, this was, as I said, my anniversary present for my husband and very pleased he was too. After a lazy breakfast, off he went to take some stuff to the tip before we were due for lunch with my in-laws at Mikado in Ascot, our favourite Chinese, owned by Robert Cam. (If you're in the area, you must try it - buffet on a Sunday, yummy.)

My husband seemed to take quite a while at the tip, which I assumed meant there was a queue. But no. He had stopped off at Homebase. I got you an anniversary present, he said, grinning. He stepped aside to reveal.. an ironing board.

Not just any old ironing board, mind you. It was a Brabantia, thus very expensive, ironing board. But all the same, AN IRONING BOARD? For our ANNIVERSARY?

It's for both of us, he said quickly, noting my stunned silence. It's guaranteed for ten years, he added, we'll be celebrating our 22nd anniversary by then....

Oh, we will, will we? He's so thoughtful, my husband.

But after we got back from lunch he gave me my real anniversary present.. he did all the week's ironing so I could have an afternoon nap. Now he can give me a present like that every week...
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15 Sept 2009

Dinner With The Spirits

I had a small dinner party over the weekend; a dinner party with a twist. As well as some mums from my sons' school, my friend Kim Worgan came over. She was the 'guest of honour' as she had agreed to share with us her mediumship skills as an after-dinner treat.

After a lovely dinner (though I say so myself) of vegetable chilli - roast the veg first - and a hot chocolate fudge cake for dessert, we were ready to proceed.

Kim rose from the table (not literally, she doesn't do levitation as far as I'm aware) and took command of the gathering.

She explained what mediumship was about, how she could act as a conduit between those in this world and our loved ones who had passed and then she brought through a lady who had gone prematurely grey and loved cruises - my mother, to a tee. That's a photo of my mum to your left. Kim knew it was my mother as she also brings with her a pain in Kim's abdomen, a legacy of my mum's terminal pancreatic cancer. She gave through some accurate and comforting information through Kim and then reluctantly moved to the side to let someone else through.

Everyone at the table got a message of some sort, although my friend Sam's was more a menagerie of animals she had known.

Deborah, another guest later checked with her mother some of the details about a great aunt, which she hadn't known about- a purple tree in the garden. She discovered her great aunt had a lilac tree.

The format of a demonstration worked really well and everyone had a really fun evening. Kim works in the North Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey areas, so if you are interested in having such an evening yourself, especially as Christmas approaches (and we mums need all the fun we can get) please contact her via her website http://www.kimworganpsychicmedium.co.uk/ or via email: kim_psychic@hotmail.com. The costs for the evening are very reasonable considering you get a really unusual dinner party that will be the talk of your guests for a long time to come.
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4 Sept 2009

It weren't like this in my day..

Coming to the end of a long, long, long summer holiday. I haven't written anything for over a month because my children have squeezed out any energy I have as if they were sucking out the last drops from a Capri-Sun juice pouch.
Don't think I don't like having them around, I do. But for two months and four days solid? When everything they want to do besides play on the computer either requires a) great expenditure of money that I don't have, or b) great expenditure of energy that I also don't have.
They've been on a film and animation course (£70 for one for two days) and a make-a-movie course (£280 for both for a week); they've been to Grandma's several times; they've been to Italy; they've been to the park with the dog umpteen times (and complained every single time); they've watched the Disney Channel until they developed American accents; they've had friends over and been to friends' houses; they've been on bike rides and long walks. And now, by September, they are experts on Roblox, a computer animation program for kids where the worst that can happen is to be called a 'Noob'. My eldest son knows every Michael Jackson song word for word (and of course, that means so do we- I can hear it as I type).
The thing is, all of these activities, except the TV watching and computer time, involve an adult, ie, me or sometimes Grandma.
When I were a lass, oop North, I used to spend the summers wandering around the village and meandering through fields and along streams alone or with friends. My sister and I used to play out for hours, unfettered by the irritation of grown-ups, coming home only for dinner and tea (we didn't have lunch in the North-West). We used to call round for friends across the village without a parent needing to be with us.
Even on school days, my mother would leave for work at 8am and we would have to get ourselves to school, home again and start the tea, letting ourselves in with keys that were tied with ribbon around our necks. Now, I'm not saying being a latch-key kids was ideal, but it taught us independence and to make our own drink of juice if we wanted one at the very least.
Is the danger to our kids any greater today than it used to be? Well, yes, it is if you count the increase in traffic and as my kids have Asperger Syndrome, it's not so easy to let them out of your sight. But is the danger of being snatched off the street by an evil-doer any greater? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but I do know that because of the media input, the fear of the worst is much greater than it was when I was a child.
I don't remember my mother ever worrying about us being kidnapped and murdered when she waved us off on a Saturnday morning to walk to Tottington for our ballet class, or of me coming home alone from school aged 7 through our quiet village. She wouldn't have dreamed of walking or driving me to a friend's house unless it was too far for foot travel and not on a bus route.
And yet, even if my children didn't have special needs, I couldn't imagine letting them go any further than a short walk with the dog, and that's only the elder one as he is almost my size.
The question is, does this lack of early freedom do our children any long term harm? Or any long-term good? Again, I don't know the answer but I'm not about to experiment with benign neglect to find out. I would, however, be interested in your views, so leave me a comment if you have time.
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29 Jul 2009

James Taylor in Lucca - a Holiday Dream

Back from Lucca where we spent two weeks in the melting heat being eaten alive by evil mosquitos as well as lazing by the pool and eating too much. (interestingly mosquito in Italian is Zanzare but in Venetian it is Musato)
The highlight for me was seeing James Taylor in concert at the Lucca Summer Festival. James Taylor is my long-time favourite artist (though his son Ben Taylor is a firm second).
We were driving on our way to the villa when I saw a billboard advertising the festival and JT's appearance. I've already seen him five times but still, once more would be a charm, especially in the open air of a warm summer evening in Lucca's Piazza Napoleone, wouldn't it? My husband has also seen JT a few times. Reluctantly. Trouble is, he is a Blur and Billy Bragg man and only comes along to keep me company and prevent me from making an idiot of myself by rushing the stage or doing something else a 40-something woman shouldn't be doing at a concert by a 62 year old legendary former drug-addict.
I looked at my husband appealingly. Would you like to go? he asked, through gritted teeth. No, I replied, it's okay (eyes downcast).
A couple of days later we are in possession of tickets five rows from the front. (Courtesy of Luca's Euros as the credit card machine was broken) Whoopee! He's such a good sport, my husband.
And there we were just two days after that, me singing along ecstatically, husband clapping politely, insisting he was having a good time (not as good as me, obviously). Luca wanted to go too, but we would have had to sit further back, so hard luck, son.
Old String-bean was fan-bloody-tastic, as good as he was when I saw him in 1989 and with the two of the same backing singers to boot. He did the old favourites (well let's face it he's been going since the late sixties) and it really made my holiday memorable. The only downside was that I forgot my camera and had to rely on my camera phone which was a bit rubbish (see pic).
It may be the last time I see him as I'm not sure I can inflict another time on my husband. Mind you, Luca is getting older and I bet he'd go with me...
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2 Jul 2009

Kim Fixed It For Me & My Prius

My friend, Kim Worgan, a psychic medium gave me a reading the other day. Among the many things she told me that were both pertinent and accurate, she gave me a warning that I should check my car, in particular the tyres or brakes, before we set off on our trip to Italy next week.
I hadn't planned to do so as the car seemed perfectly fine, but on the strength of this advice, I booked the trusty Prius in for a summer check, a sort of mini-service at the nearest Toyota dealer.
Turns out that the two front tyres were a millimetre away from being illegal and I needed to get them changed pronto.
How spooky is that? She's good, is our Kim, you should try a reading with her if you're in Hants/Surrey/Berks- you won't regret it!
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22 Jun 2009

When impulse strikes..

Strolling through Basingstoke's shopping centre, as you do, I happen upon a stall of ladies offering eyebrow threading. This is, apparently, where with a few strands of twisted cotton and a few deft flicks of the wrist, the well-groomed consultant will rip out your eyebrows leaving you with attractively shaped brows that will need no further attention for a month.
Holiday approaching, I decide on the spur of the moment, to have a go. My fragrant lady sits me in a red leather reclining bar stool and tips back the chair. I suddenly come to my senses; I'm in the middle of Basingstoke's Festival Place for God's sake. But it's too late. She's twisting and twirling the thread and ouchy! she's ripping away like there's no tomorrow.
Tears come to my eyes. I am convinced I will end up brow-less by the time she is finished. What's taking her so long - my eyebrows aren't bushy or anything!
She shows me the results in a hand-held mirror. Impressive, though I say so myself. Then she looks at me. And how about your top lip madam? she asks.
I am fair. I do NOT have a moustache but she fixes me with such a sceptical look that all of a sudden I feel like I'm rivalling General Kitchener telling us our country needs me. Except without a mustache, okay?
Okay, I squeak, not okay at all. And within seconds she is cotton-twirling and ripping, ripping and cotton-twirling. I start to feel faint. My upper-lip has never known such unkind treatment. Minutes later, she is finished and I stagger out of the chair, £15 lighter in the wallet.
I look up to see my husband smirking at me. How does my top lip look? I ask. Very.. bald, he replies.
He supports me to the car and when we get home, I have to have a long lie down telling myself that the next time I feel so impulsive, I should turn around and run in the opposite direction.
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18 Jun 2009

Credit Crunched

For the past six months we have been a no-income family. My husband was made redundant last December (and a Merry Christmas to you too, Fidelity Investments).
Since then he has applied for literally hundreds of jobs, along with several thousand other financial services accountants who had also been turfed out of their jobs.
My husband is quite senior and quite specialised, which made the hunt for a new role even more difficult. Recruitment agents, for there were many, were with a few exceptions, useless, often clueless and frequently in need of a few lessons in the etiquette of returning phone calls. The problem is they're not evil, just overwhelmed with desperate candidates all looking for work.
The most depressing aspect was the fortnightly visits to the job centre. Last time, my husband was told he needed to 'widen his scope' in the nature of jobs he was looking for. Thanks for that, Gordon Brown. One minute you're a boss with an MBA, the next you're looking for work as a supermarket trolley collector and all those years of study count for naught. Let's see how you like it next year when your P45 arrives in the ballot box.
I was a 'Blair babe' for the last three elections. I was born a northern, working class girl from a single parent family. I worked hard, got a good career for myself, married and gave up work to look after my special needs children. We are the very kind of 'hard working family' that politicians bang on about. We did what we were supposed to do. Now, thanks to the greed of those at the very top, we're also victims of the so-called credit crunch and lax regulation of the banking system.
Now I've realised I'm no longer working class. I've pulled myself up by my clich├ęd boot-straps into the upper middle classes who pay 40% tax and don't get tax credits of any kind. Blair and his mesmerising rhetoric are gone and in his place is someone who I'm sure means well but for whom I did not vote. It's time for us to have a general election so we can cast our verdict on the state of Britain and who should lead us.
The last six months have been exceptionally stressful. Like most people, we have a mortgage to pay, food to buy and also school fees to pay for our elder son's independent special school. My husband negotiated a good redundancy package and we had hoped he would fall into a job and we would be able to keep most of it.
Unfortunately, that's what everyone else in his sector was hoping too and for the first half of the year their experience 'more closely matched what the client was looking for'.
Still, despite everything, we have been lucky. We are not destitute, we are still up on the deal, just, and my husband has had six months off to tend to his hobbies and his new Brian May Red Special guitar.
I have had company at home, where I work from, and the children have had much more access to their Dad than would have been the case had he been slogging away in the office. The sad thing is, we haven't been able to enjoy it, because of the fear of running out of money and the uncertainty of whether he would ever get a new job looming over us.
I'm going to miss him when he starts his new job in a week's time. I'm going to have to take the kids to school every morning myself as well as pick them up. There'll only be the dog to talk to and I'll have to do all the walking, rain or shine. But that's okay. That's part of my job description anyway and for the first time this year today I woke up feeling relaxed and well rested, not anxious and depressed.
Only now do I feel able to write about our experience. But, Mr Brown, you've lost our vote, not that it ever counted for anything in the Tory heartland where we live in Surrey. Our Conservative MP seems like a nice chap and I may well find myself, for the first time ever in a general election, voting with my head rather than my heart and my roots.
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13 Jun 2009

Kim's Psychic web site now LIVE

I wrote a few days ago about the website I was developing for Kim Worgan, a talented psychic medium. Well, it's now LIVE and I would love you to go and have a look at it. It's at www.kimworganpsychicmedium.co.uk.
As part of my service, I also offer a free press release to launch the site and submit it to relevant outlets and I like to think this is probably one of the more unique aspects of my company, Tirraoro Design, Web & PR.
This way, the launch hopefully doesn't go unnoticed and the press release will be posted on her site, thus increasing the rich content that search engines crawl for.
Kim's site has details of where you can see her and also a contact phone and online form in case you would like a one-to-one booking. She came over the other evening and we finished off the content together along with a bottle of wine which does so help the words flow. I've been very lucky with clients and usually develop an ongoing connection with them. I'm particularly interested in developing sites for women with small businesses and I do a number of charity sites as well.
I'm particularly pleased with Kim's site and hope it will bring her many new clients. She also does parties and will soon be coming to enliven a small dinner party I'm planning- can't wait!
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12 Jun 2009

The Dog Trainer

When we picked up our puppy from the breeder she said brightly, "He's very lively, he'll need to be trained..."
Looking back, we were like expectant new parents when asked if they're ready for the baby to arrive. When they say 'yes' you can't help smirking, knowing that they can never, ever, be ready for what is about to hit them.
We thought we were ready for the dog - after all we had two babies and got through that, how hard can it be, right?
By four weeks in, the puppy had house trained himself (hurrah!) but, like many pups, snaps and jumps at anything that moves, and if it doesn't move, forget about it!
He's chewed through my computer graphics tablet cable, he's chewed through the garden clematis, he's chewed through some newly laid turf and one of my late mother's drinks coasters. There are numerous holes in the children's trousers and pyjamas and my kitchen broom will never recover from the mauling it's been given.
So, it was time for the dog trainer! I called a few, looking for spaces and eventually found one, not too far away. He was, he told me, not a trainer but a handler. He was, he said, like Cesar Milan. In fact, he said "I am a dog." Okay, I thought, if you say so.
His advice until the lesson was, "Don't play with the dog. Ignore the dog. From today, your dog has no name." Yes he does, I thought, It's Leo. Ignoring the dog was easy enough for me, but for the boys it was almost impossible.
Off we went on the Saturday, not a little scared ourselves but rather looking forward to the dog being told what's what.
My eldest, Luca, joined the small group of puppy owners, all adults, in the middle of the floor. The dog handler, who looked a bit like Phil Mitchell, barked, "Heel" and the owners and dogs alike started to march around the room. He was so commanding, I almost joined in without a dog.
They followed repetitive commands to 'stay', 'come' and the trickiest of all, the 'down' command. One dog disobeyed so the trainer virtually lay on top of him until the dog lay down. It stayed down as well, but who wouldn't?
We've had five sessions now and Leo is much better behaved though still has a long way to go. Luca has won the most improved owner award for one week and despite being the youngest there, the handler says he has complete control over the puppy. "Your dog is not your pet, he's your hobby." he told Luca.
But what has amazed me is that far from the training just being for the dog, it has brought out Luca's confidence. The handler has a real soft spot for him, he gets lots of 'superbs' and 'spot ons' and Luca glows with pride.
One of the more bizarre aspect of the training hour is that every so often the handler shouts "Luca, what's 7 times 7?" or another similar sum. I have no idea why he does this, but it makes everyone giggle. Luca always gets the answer right as well.
Last week, he asked Luca what his hobby was. We thought he'd say football. "The dog," Luca replied, without missing a beat. Spot on, my son, spot on!
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11 Jun 2009

Learn about TV & Radio Presenting- one day workshops

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about television or radio presenting, I have news of a course that may interest you.
On 8th July 2009 Bournemouth University is hosting a one-Day Television Presenting Workshop, while on the 9th July 2009, it's offering a one-Day Radio Presenting Workshop.
As part of the course, you get to spend a day at Bournememouth University's professional studio facilities learning what it takes to become a successful TV or radio presenter. This is a great way to kick-start an exciting new career. You’ll get plenty of experience in front of the microphone or camera, with teaching from industry professionals. Every student will receive a CD/DVD of their work.
The course is being organised by an old friend of mine, a talented journalist and presenter in her own right, Vanessa Edwards. The courses cost £190. For more details call: 01202 961017 or email srickaby@bournemouth.ac.uk. If you take part, let me know how you get on!
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10 Jun 2009

Getting more 'people like us' into parliament

I've just come back from a meeting with the parliamentary candidate for Eastleigh in Hampshire, Maria Hutchings.
Maria and I have much in common, both having children affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorders. She is, you may remember, the woman who famously 'handbagged' Tony Blair during a TV show some years ago about the closure of special schools.
Since then, she's been selected to stand in Eastleigh for the Conservatives, although she herself is no dyed-in-the-wool-Tory, but just a woman who believes that if you want to get something done, you should do it yourself. The seat is currently held with a slim majority by the Liberal Democrats.
In the light of the recent expenses furore, Maria seems to be just the type of person that we need representing us in parliament; someone who is in touch with what people want because she is the same as them.
She is not one of the landed gentry with a property portfolio and a wallet full of expense receipts. In fact, I was surprised to learn that as a PPC, she does not get an allowance from Conservative Central Office and cannot claim for any expenses even though she's doing many miles travelling around to get herself known to the local constituents. Maybe this is one reason more 'regular' people don't put themselves forward - who could afford to spend several years as a candidate paying for travel and publicity costs out of family income?
I'm not a card-carrying Conservative myself but Maria impressed me greatly as someone committed to improving services for disabled people and especially those with ASD. But the reason I didn't write this on my 'Special Needs Jungle' blog is that Maria does not want to be a one-issue candidate. She has spent many months getting to grips with the issues of her potential consituents and making sure they know she will be working hard for them, indeed she already has a bulging postbag from local people needing assistance. If you would like to find out more about Maria Hutchings, you can visit her webpage.
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9 Jun 2009

Psychic Website - I've been expecting you

I've just been down to our local psychic fayre, not for a reading, but to take some pictures for a website I'm working on for talented psychic medium, Kim Worgan. The site, www.kimworganpsychicmedium.co.uk is still under construction but if you're in the market for a reading, her contact details are on there already.
Kim is a lovely lady; she has done several readings for members of my family and they have been amazingly accurate. She's not at all 'Gypsy Rose Lee', but very approachable and friendly and has a remarkable gift.
She recently travelled on a psychic pilgrimage to Nepal and had some amazing experiences and we really want her to get started on a book to share them with everyone.
Kim Worgan mainly works in the Hampshire, Berkshire & Surrey areas, but if you are based closer to Devon, I know of another talented psychic you might like to try. Her name is Lorraine Holloway-White and she has her own psychic blog where you can contact her by leaving a comment. She is another very interesting lady with a lot to say. If you're on Twitter, try lorryholly.
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8 Jun 2009

Mmm.. Dog Food..

At the weekend, we came back from a busy morning out armed with sandwiches for lunch from Tesco Express. Everyone tucked in, but Luca, the eldest, decided to watch TV while eating his. He got so absorbed, that 15 minutes later he still hadn't finished half of it.
The dog, previously gambolling in the garden, decided it was time to go in. Leo (the dog), being the gannet hound he is, spied the unguarded tasty morsel that was Luca's sausage and egg sandwich and with one bound he was on it, dragging it off the plate in his ever hungry puppy jaws.
Luca was incensed. Realising his sandwich was a goner, he leapt off the sofa, shouted at the dog and marched off to where the dog's bowl was.
"See how you like it!" he yelled, grabbed some kibble (Eukaneuba, so not just any old kibble), and stuffed it in his own mouth.
We all looked on, astonished, not quite able to believe what we had just witnessed. The dog, who didn't care one bit, ignored him totally as he was still enjoying the sandwich.
Luca chewed the kibble, slower and slower.. "It doesn't taste of anything.." he said, his face screwed up in disgust. He was oblivious to the fact that he was eating dog food but clearly felt a new understanding for why Leo might prefer a sausage and egg sarny. I couldn't tell you if he swallowed it or spat it out because my sides were aching from laughing. But both dog and boy have learned that human food is infinitely tastier than dog food and that when it comes to food.. speed is of the essence.
Mind you, this doesn't explain my younger son, whom I caught happily slurping a glass of milk.. and enjoying a nice crunchy puppy Bonio biscuit to go with it. And he's the picky eater!
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6 Jun 2009

It's My Birthday!

Today, 6 June, is my double 21st birthday (Pause while you work that out). You'd think that after so many of them I'd have got over the excitement of having a special day. But no. Everyone in my family is the same. My mum never got over being excited by her birthday and she had 66 of them (she should have had more but that's another story.) My older sister rang me at 8.30am to sing 'Happy Birthday', as she always does, wherever she is in the world (she works on a cruise ship). She gets just as excited as I do.
I'm now sitting here, still in bed at 10am, house quiet, as my husband has gone off to drop off the kids at various places for the day before coming back so we can do something nice, just the two of us. But this morning, my favourite gift wasn't the ipod nano red or the clothes I wanted or the books I had put on my Amazon wishlist.
My favourite present was seeing that my children had learned that the act of giving can be a gift in itself. They were so excited that they had thought of the ipod themselves and ordered it with the engraving "We love you very, very much". No one complained that all the presents were for me with nothing for them (this is a first). My eldest was so excited that he woke up at 4am and couldn't get back to sleep and didn't even wake me up to tell me. They both gave me kisses and cuddles and made me feel surrounded by love, which is better than any present anyway.
Personally, even though I love my own birthday, I am always much more excited by those of other family members. I can't wait to see their faces when they see what I've got them, knowing it's just what they wanted. I find keeping their presents a secret excruciatingly difficult as I just can't wait for them to open them. It's part of what families are all about, sharing their joys and happy moments as well as supporting them through the tough ones.
Not being excited by things like this is the same, to me, as being fed up with living. In a way, the presents are incidental; it's the joy of knowing you are loved and of loving that is the true gift.
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5 Jun 2009

Diets by Design Website

I've just designed a website http://www.dietsbydesign.co.uk for a lady called Sue Power. Sue is an accredited dietitian, based in North Hampshire.
She can help with all sorts of dietary needs, allergies, medical conditions and especially those among us who have small ones that are picky eaters.
Sue herself lives with diabetes and coeliac disease so she knows first hand the importance of a good, suitable diet. She also has three children, the eldest of whom has issues around food so nothing you say to her will be surprising and she will work sensitively with your child to help them overcome their problems.
At the moment, she is helping my eldest son by designing a healthy eating plan. Luca tends to inhale the contents of the fridge over the summer holidays and with our two week break in Italy coming up he is in serious danger of eating his bodyweight in pasta, pizza and mortadella.
It's great that he likes food and is interested in cooking as well, but he did not understand the relationship between the amount you eat and how much energy you use up. Sue has worked with Luca to find out what he likes and doesn't like and she is working this into an easy-to-stick-to plan so that he knows by looking at his chart what his choices for snacks are without me having to buy a padlock for the refrigerator and ban any treats from the house in case he eats them while I'm not looking.
If you think you, your spouse or your child could use a healthy eating plan or need to find a way to fit your dietary requirements into a workable plan, do contact Sue at sue@dietsbydesign.co.uk
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Home Truths

There's no one like your kids to keep your feet on the ground. The other day, I was sitting in front of the mirror in my room, touching up my make-up before going out. My 9 year old son, who has Asperger's, was sitting on the bed.
I pulled my hair back from my face and looked in the mirror as a little voice floated across the room.
"Mummy, don't wear your hair back like that. It makes you look really old."
I turned to look at him, "That's charming," I said.
"No, I'm not kidding, it does make you look old. It's better to have it covering your face. Really."
I said nothing, for what was there to say to that? But he wasn't done.
"Sorry, to say it Mummy, but it's better you know."
"Thank you." I replied, finally.
"You're welcome," he said, happily hopping off my bed, "but don't worry. You still look nice even though you're not young anymore."
And with that, he disappeared, leaving me peering anxiously at my reflection and considering perhaps putting a bag over my head before I left the room.
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4 Jun 2009

Not As Advertised

Welcome to my new blog. I already have one blog, specialneedsjungle.co.uk where I write about topics concerning special needs education and families. I started that blog because I am, indeed, part of a family with special needs, having two sons affected by Asperger Syndrome, but I found I wanted to write off topic sometimes so here is blog No2.
You may be wondering why it's called 'Not As Advertised'. This is because it seems that everything about how I had planned my life to go is exactly that; not as advertised.
I had not planned for my career to be, not interrupted, but killed, dead in the water, by the arrival of children. I had planned to go back to work, continue working in television news, onwards and upwards.
But then, I hadn't planned to have children with special needs; well nobody does, let's face it. But in my experience, though almost certainly not everbody's, a full-on career and two children with special needs doesn't mix. At least not without shed-loads of help, most likely paid for, that I just didn't want.
Anyway, although my life changed beyond recognition, it didn't end, though I have had moments when I half-wished it had. I'll be writing about all sorts of things here, in the coming months. Thanks for stopping by. I have to go and run a bath for an insistent child just now. Ho hum.
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