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 clichéd 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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