Just Another Book Club

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Yes, my beautiful friends, I have set up a book club on these here pages for anyone to join in with this book worming fun.

I’m finding more and more often these days, that I’m reaching for my smartphone to entertain me rather than a book. Reading used to be my favourite pastime, but now it seems to be doing ‘If you were a cheese, which would you be?’ type quizzes. FFS (I’d clearly be Wensleydale & Cranberry btw) or looking at slideshows of celebrities who remarkably look a bit older, now that they are -you know- older.

So, I’ve started this book club as a way to motivate me to get back to my regular reading habits and I’d love you to join me.

Here’s how it will work.

  1. I will provide a list of 6 books, one for each month for the rest of the year.
  2. At the end of each month (or beginning of the following one, depending on how organised I’m being), I’ll pop a quick post giving my thoughts on the book.
  3. Your lovely selves can then provide your thoughts/opinions within the comments section and a discussion can evolve from there.
  4. Obviously, there’s no obligation. You can read all six, only three or just the one. Whatever suits you best or how much you want to join in.
  5. You can join in the discussion whenever you want, but the closer to the time I published my book review post the better, as you’re more likely to get a response from other readers.
  6. If this is a success, I’ll list 6 more books at the end of the year for the first half of 2018.
  7. Drinking wine/gin/tea/coffee isn’t obligatory whilst joining in with the discussion about these books, but it might help.
  8. Any questions, let me know.

Okay, so now for the 6 books for the rest of this year.

July: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (as you’re not seeing this in advance of July, I won’t publish the review post until 7th Aug. The next book will be a shorter one)

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August: Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson

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September: Irresistible: why you are addicted to technology and how to set yourself free by Adam Alter (I thought this would be appropriate as we’re trying to smartphone less/read more).

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October: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

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November: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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December: My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

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The chosen list of books is final. If you don’t fancy reading a particular book one month, just give it a miss that month. If I carry on with this into 2018, I’ll select the odd old classic book too. I’ll always provide at least one non-fiction book within a list.

Lastly, I just want to thank the lovely Angela at You Are Awesome blog for providing me with the inspiration to set this up. Check out her blog post here about book clubs.

So, join me! Together we can put our phones down and pick up a book. Do me a favour first though and holler below in the comments (or within the comments of my Facebook page) if you fancy joining my book club. Also, please spread the word. It will be fantastic to get people from across the globe coming together to discuss a mutual love- books.

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Nigella Lawson in her library. Further proof that I should actually be her.

The Importance of Creativity for Children

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It is often thought that teaching children art, music and drama is not as important as teaching them Maths, Technology and Science. Creative subjects have been maligned and are seen as frivolous time wasters. They are seen as merely part of “playtime” and that the most important subjects to teach children are academic. What’s the point of teaching little Jacob art as he’ll hardly make a living as an artist, will he?

Truthfully, to think this is not altogether incorrect. The chances of someone making a decent living on an artist’s wage are slim. However, children should not be taught creative subjects with the idea that they will grow up to be the new Banksy, or the new Adele or the new Cumberbatch (best surname ever by the way). No, children need to be taught creative subjects as creativity is needed in any job that they will end up doing. Whether they are an accountant, a scientist, a teacher, a secretary, a shop assistant or a lawyer. They will be required to use their mind creatively.

One of my all time favourite heroes, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson’s (he’s definitely invited to my dream dinner party) definition of creativity is:

I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Creative work in any field often passes through typical phases. Sometimes what you end up with is not what you had in mind when you started. It’s a dynamic process that often involves making new connections, crossing disciplines and using metaphors and analogies.

He goes on to debunk some myths surrounding creativity:

There are various myths about creativity. One is that only special people are creative; another is that creativity is just about the arts; a third is that it’s all to do with uninhibited “self-expression”. None of these is true. On the contrary, everyone has creative capacities; creativity is possible in whatever you do, and it can require great discipline and many different skills.

Considering that the same areas of the brain that are used to create music, are also used during mathematical processing, you can see how encouraging creativity can benefit across the board. You can watch Sir Ken’s excellent TED talk on the subject here

So, why is it so important for children to be taught creativity at an early age. Can’t we just encourage adults to think creatively in their jobs?

There have been numerous studies that show children’s experiences early on in life can greatly influence the developing brain. Children are born with billions of neurons, but only a small portion are connected to each other. Throughout childhood the connections that are underused are cutback to make the brain more efficient. The connections that are used regularly become stronger. Therefore, the optimum time for people to develop skills are in the early years of childhood. As you may have often heard before, the early years develop the foundations of a person.

Creative play fosters cognitive and social development. Crucially, it also helps nurture problem solving skills. Critical thinking and social skills are vital for a person once they join the workforce.

Whilst academic subjects such as Maths and Science are important, creative subjects are as important. Without the nurturing of creativity, our society will stagnate and languish. We won’t see new inventions that will help enable people and create a more dynamic society. We won’t see new cures for diseases. We won’t find easier and more efficient ways of doing things, thus deterring a more economically sound society. Our progress will halt and everything our ancestors have done for us, will seemingly be futile. For society to be able to progress and evolve, new ideas need to be “created”, new and innovative ways of doing things need to be discovered and implemented. This progress with society is not possible without creativity.

Sir Ken believes that the current education system is stifling children’s creativity due to more focus on academic subjects and the way subjects are taught. There are already studies that show a child’s creativity starts to decline once they enter schooling.

Nobody knows what the future of this planet and the human race holds. These are unpredictable times. We need all the creative thinking that we can get. Creativity is not to be sniffed at.

So in short, let your child do as many rubbish paintings as they like, let them build countless structures with Lego, let them role play, let them try out the violin and let them sing to their heart’s content. Children are the future and all that.

 

The Book Lover’s Tag

So, the superhot Gary at Fiction is Food nominated me to give you the lowdown on the following questions all related to loving books, which I do. A lot. Ever since, as a 5 year old, I cast my eyes upon the Roger Red Hat et al books, reading is my very favourite thing to do. For such a sociable person, I love the solitude and escapism it provides me. I’ll stop blathering on now and give you my answers.

Do you have a specific place for reading?

Whilst I have inherited my Father’s love of reading, I definitely don’t follow in his footsteps when it comes to where I choose to read. His place to read was annoyingly on the latrine. We only had one toilet in the house, so once Daddy was in there with a book, we had hours to wait to use the loo. Anyway, my specific place to read is undoubtedly in the garden, in the sun. If it’s not sunny, then on the sofa. However, when I am super rich, I will have my own reading room. It will have the most comfortable chair that looks out of a large south-facing window. The room will have floor to ceiling shelves upon shelves of books and I will be the only one allowed in this room. This will be where I will read.

Bookmarks or random pieces of paper?

I have a beautiful bookmark made for me by my daughter. It has a picture of ET that she drew on it and it has been everywhere with me. She made it 4 years ago and it’s still going strong.

Can you just stop anywhere or must it be at the end of chapter?

I can stop anywhere, but one prefers it to be at the end of the chapter.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

Tea, tea and more tea. If I’m feeling particularly decadent then wine. I generally don’t do any eating whilst reading though. Too distracting.

Music or TV whilst reading?

I love listening to music. I love watching TV. And I love reading. But never shall the twain meet.

One book at a time or several?

I used to be a one at a time girl, but now I can keep several on the go at the same time…wait, what were we talking about again? Oh books. Yeah me too. Definitely talking about books, I was.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

Circumstantially, it happens to be at home. Pre-having children and giving up my career, I read only on the commute to and from work. Though obviously, my preference would be elsewhere, if it’s abroad in the sun, looking at some stunning landscape.

Read out loud or silently?

Silently. I’m not 5.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I’m not a monster. One NEVER skips pages or reads ahead.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I neither break the spine or try to keep it like new. I’m a fan of natural wear and tear. Much like arthritis.

Do you write in your book?

I’m no longer a student, so no. If I particularly like a sentence or paragraph, I make a note of it somewhere separately or take a photo of it.

I thought I’d add some extra questions because I am self obsessed and find myself terribly fascinating (but I’d also be interested in reading other people’s answers to these questions).

What book are you reading now? 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Favourite childhood book?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

All time favourite book?

Yeah, so this is kind of impossible to answer (why did I give myself this question?!), but it would be between Paddy Clarke HaHaHa by Roddy Doyle, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Wild Swans by Jung Chang or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Actually, I think I need a whole separate blog post for this question as I’ve just thought of 20 other contenders.

Now I need to nominate some others to answer these questions. Sorry if you’ve been nominated before. Just point me towards the relevant post, if you have been.

  • Lisa at Lisa’s Ramblings a lovely lady, who not only writes a lot about books, she also writes about all types of other important issues. Not to mention the fact that she is a YA author herself.
  • Angela at You are Awesome the gorgeous Angela is another author and her blog covers social commentary and real life stories about inspirational people.
  • Christine at I’m Sick and So Are You the very, very funny Christine writes about her illness honestly and inspirationally. She’s also bloody funny, did I mention that?
  • Em at Em Linthorpe Em is ace. She won’t tell you this, so I will. She also writes about a plethora of subjects including parenting, health, life and does fabulous photography around Cumbria.

Cheers!

Chilled Summertime Playlist

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I’ve gone and done another playlist. This time it’s for chilled out summer days, where all you want to do is drink Pimms, eat Cornettos and soak up all the Vitamin D whilst it lasts. So slap on the SPF, spark up your BBQ and play these lovely summery tunes.

Expect lots of old school soul, Neo-soul, and a bit of 60s pop, rap, reggae, jazz, indie and The Fresh Prince. You’re welcome.

Which one is your favourite? Mine’s probably the Mamas & the Papas (though I love every single song).

 

Curly Girl Issues

So, if like me you have unruly, curly, frizzy hair there are problems that you have to deal with that only us Curly Girls can truly understand. Here’s just a handful of them.

When you’re watching Brave and Merida wakes up in the morning and you think “Mate, I feel your pain” (and you have to have been with your partner for at LEAST several decades before you let them see your morning hair).

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When having your hair rained on means your hair ends up resembling Phil Spectar’s. On a good day.

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When the weather is hot, your spirit animal becomes Monica Geller in Barbados.

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When your straight haired friend complains of their hair getting a bit frizzy in the rain.6717335be79db197a7fe9ec77f2d2b7c

When you have red, curly hair and you hilariously get compared to either Merida, Rebekah Brooks or worse Spuggy from Byker Grove. No actually, the worst is Mick Hucknall.

When you look back at photos of yourself from the 80s and/or 90s and you’re just grateful that social media didn’t exist back then.

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When your straight haired friend tries to give you advice on how to control your curls “Have you tried just using a bit of Frizz Ease?”.

Genius idea, it’s not like I’ve already tried using every single product available for curly hair in a pathetically vain attempt to control my hair already. Good one. I suppose you’re going to suggest I try brushing my hair too

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Do you remember that time you had a good hair day? Yeah, you remember, it was back in 2003. In June. On a Tuesday.

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When you’ve just styled your hair and you’ve done it all wrong and the only way to fix it, is to jump in the shower and wash your hair all over again.

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When your hairdresser suggests cutting you a fringe (and you never go to that hairdresser again as they clearly know nothing about curly hair. Also, do they not remember Spuggy?!).

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When you see all the wonderful, different hairstyles your straight haired friends can get and your choices are short or long and side parting or centre parting.

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When your straight haired friends say they can use any old shampoo and conditioner off the shelf.

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Even worse, when they announce they don’t even use conditioner.

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When it’s been windy outside.

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But when you’re pretty sure that having curly hair somehow gives you super powers.

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So curly girls (and boys), is there anything that I’ve missed out? Do you love your curls or hate them?

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The stress of having curly hair (it’s ok, I like my curls really)

 

“I Love Manchester” Playlist

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A quick, little Friday afternoon post for you. In homage to a fantastic and uniquely creative city, I compiled a playlist of all the best music that has come out of Manchester for you. From the “Madchester” scene to 90s rave, from punk to perfect pop and yes even to Herman’s Hermits, it’s hard to argue with the fact that Manchester is one of the most culturally rich cities in Europe.

Light up your BBQs, pour some Pimms and kick back and listen to the sound of Manchester.

P.S. They are still trying to raise money for all the families affected by Monday night’s Manchester Arena attack. You can still donate here

 

Don’t forget to let me know which are your favourite tracks.

 

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15 Favourite Films That Made Me Sob Like a Baby

Hands up who likes a good cry? Come on, I know you do. I certainly do. For me, it’s a cleansing release and wholly therapeutic. Ever since I used to sob at the Emmerdale theme tune as a toddler (my parents used to fetch me and sit me in front of the TV when it came on as some kind of party trick for their friends. And yes, my therapist has said that I’m making good progress with this of late), TV, film, music, books and art have always moved me with ease. So, for me to try and list my favourite films that have left me dangerously dehydrated is not an easy task at all as there is a plethora to choose from. So here goes, a list of 15 of them in descending order of the amount of tears shed. Please feel free to tell me which films have left you snivelling and sobbing in the cinema aisle too.

15. Once Were Warriors

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New Zealand may not be immediately known for its film industry, but considering The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Heavenly Creatures, The Whale Rider, and the grotesquely brilliant Bad Taste, New Zealand really has made it’s mark in the movie world. But it is was when I went to see Once Were Warriors in the cinema in Australia that I was first introduced to New Zealand films and what an introduction it was. Once Were Warriors tells the story of an urban Maori family set in Aukland. It portrays the reality of domestic violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse, so as you can imagine, it’s not an easy film to watch.

The bit that really sets you off: the death of daughter Grace, is one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever watched in the cinema and I would defy anyone to watch it without shedding a tear.

14. Blue Valentine

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Eurgh. I can’t even…. Never has there been a sadder film that depicts the breakdown of a relationship and ultimately a family. This film is so perfect in so many ways. The way it shows them falling in love, the way it shows the cracks starting to appear, how they try to fix their relationship and finally the inevitable break-up. The film is brilliant for two other reasons though: 1) Ryan -yes please thank you very much- Gosling, who also happens to be very, very good in this 2) Michelle Williams, who I think is one of the best female actors in America at the moment. I mean just look at her heartbreaking scene in Manchester by the Sea for gawd’s sake. She does emotional very well. The two of them were outstanding in this film.

The bit that really sets you off: as Bobby (Gosling) walks away, his young daughter runs after him and begs him to come back. Honestly, this film will literally break your heart.

13. 12 Years a Slave

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As I settled down for my favourite night of the year, the Eurovision Song Contest, I noticed that on another channel showing at the same time was 12 Years a Slave. Well, what a juxtaposition of choice TV channels had thrown up for us all that night. As one cannot get further way from the wonderfully camp and colourful world of Eurovision as you can with this film. Based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a New York born African American who was kidnapped and and sold into slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as the film’s protagonist was exceptional and quite rightly earned him an Oscar nod (personally I would have given it to him, but the Academy never bloody asks me what I think. Idiots). It did win him the BAFTA though and Lupita Nyong’o also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Female Actor.

The bit that really sets you off: When Solomon is forced to whip his friend and fellow slave Patsey (Nyong’o) by the bastard plantation owner. It’s nothing short of horrific.

12. Schindler’s List

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I remember leaving the cinema in Reading with my friend Stephen after seeing this film in stunned silence. We struggled to talk to each other about it. It seemed pointless to try and put into words how this film made us feel. It’s inconceivable to think that the events that took place in this film, actually did happen. This wasn’t some kind of fabricated, elaborate story and this makes the narrative of the film very hard to grapple with. Schindler’s List won 7 Oscars and & 7 BAFTAS. Filmed in black and white (apart from the famous red coat), it is one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest achievements in film (there’s a good chance that his greatest ever film also features further down this list).

The bit that really sets you off: generally the whole film will have you in bits, but it’s between when Schindler realises the girl in the red coat that he saw earlier has been killed and when he breaks down claiming that he could have saved so many more lives. Devastating.

11. Inside Out

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Nothing makes me cry more than a Pixar film. So here we are, with the genius that is Inside Out. What a beautiful way to try and explain emotions and what they do to us, for children and young people to understand. Believe it or not, along with Joy- Anger, Disgust, Worry, Fear and Sadness are all in fact, our buddies. Yes, that’s right. We should make friends with them and be at peace with them. I think I learnt more watching this film than I did doing my Psychology A-level.

The bit that really sets you off: Do I really need to explain? It’s the bit when Riley’s imaginary friend Bing-Bong is lost forever as he sacrifices himself to allow her to grow as a human. “Take her to the moon for me” WHAAAAAAA.

10. The Impossible

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For some reason, I stupidly didn’t think that watching a film that was a true story about a family who were separated during the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand and then (SPOILER ALERT) eventually get reunited, would be a tear jerker. What a colossal twat I was. It floored me. I mean, Ewan Mcgregor was swirled around in the devastating tsunami along with two of his sons whilst his wife was whisked off in another direction with his other son. They each thought, each other were dead. There was desolation EVERYWHERE. It would have been THE most stressful and heartbreaking day of their life. AND it was based on true events. Why would that have had me balling my eyes out and wailing?

The bit that really sets you off: There’s no contest. When Ewan McGregor is reunited with his other son and realises his wife has also survived. His little face. Mate, I barely recovered.

9. Up

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Well of course Up is in this list. I’m not a monster.

How Pixar likes to start a charming children’s film for all the family to enjoy:

  • Portray the beautiful, flourishing love between two people
  • Watch them marry. Aah that’s lovely.
  • Watch them start a new family. Just perfect.
  • WATCH HER LOSE THE BABY.
  • WATCH THEM GET OLD
  • WATCH HER GET ILL
  • AND DIE.

And that’s the first ten minutes of the film done. And now you are broken. Forever.

The bit that really sets you off: Obviously the beginning bit, but I also cried like a fool at the end when we see that their home is settled in the place that they always wanted to visit together. Beautiful.

8. Girls’ Night

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It feels like me and me bestie arebthe only ones to have watched this film. In case you missed this gem of a film, what happens is that national treasures Julie Walters and Brenda Blethyn, are the best of friends and work together in a factory. Then Blethyn gets a brain tumour, so they pop to Vegas with Blethyn’s bingo win and when they return she dies. It affected my friend in the same way as it affected me. In that, we both literally cried for days just thinking of it.

The bit that really sets you off: predictably the end when Brenda Blethyn’s character dies. It’s like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. I mean cry. Once you start crying.

7. Toy Story 3

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Damn you Pixar *shakes fist*. Why are your films so hard wired to make me a complete and utter snivelling mess? Toy Story 3 is no exception. It won the Oscar for best animation feature and unusually for an animation film, was also nominated for best film (it lost to The King’s Speech). I would have been quite happy if it did win best film though. It’s a beautiful film that illustrates friendship and that horrific moment that a person almost instantaneously grows from a child into an adult.

The bit that really sets you off: even though I started crying when all the toys held hands as they thought they were about to meet their demise in an incinerator, we all know the most emotional moment is when the toys watch Andy’s departure before they start their new life with Bonnie. Only adults will ever get why this is so gut-wrenchingly moving and incredibly poignant.

6. Selma

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The hardest thing to swallow about this film, is that everything that happened in it, didn’t happen that long ago. My parents were alive during these times and it was only 11 years before I was born. For me, that is staggering. From the look on Oprah Winfrey’s character’s face at the beginning of the film when she isn’t allowed to vote, you know that you’re in for an emotional and disturbing ride. The peaceful defiance of Martin Luther King will have you both in awe yet reeling at the injustice of it’s necessity in the first place. Whilst I’m slagging off the Academy, how Ava DuVernay wasn’t at least nominated for a best director Oscar will be one of the poorest judgement errors the Academy has ever made (especially when the abhorrent Birdman picked up all the awards that Selma should have won).

The bit that really sets you off: the ending when King makes his speech about the equality of black and white citizens. We see clips of the real life marches along with text telling us what happened to each of the film’s main characters. It is then followed by the song Glory by John Legend & Common. The effect is profound. I cried all the way home from the cinema.

5. I, Daniel Blake.

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Good ole Ken Loach, he’s not one to put a silver lining on things, is he? But hey, there really aren’t many silver linings to be found within poverty and within this film (apart from the loveliness of the film’s hero Daniel). This is a film designed to make you angry. Angry at the government and it’s unjust systems. A widower willing to work, but is deemed unfit to work by his doctor after suffering a heart attack, is in turn denied any financial support from the government. His friendship (and his moving generosity) with a single Mother who is equally suffering, demonstrates human nature at it’s best in adverse contrast with the harrowing depiction of the benefits system.

The bit that really sets you off: Whilst the horrific and almost inevitable ending will completely ruin you for the rest of the day. It was the scene where single Mum Katie, almost collapses in the food bank (in order to allow her children to eat, she had had to starve herself for days), whilst desperately trying to eat cold bake beans out of a can and apologising profusely to everyone whilst sobbing, will stay in my mind forever. Heartbreaking.

4. E.T.

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I told you Spielberg’s greatest ever film was in this list. As an 80’s child, it would be near impossible for me not to be a fan of this film, but here’s what is especially wonderful about it. It has managed to transcend over 30 years of cinema. Now my 6 year old daughter is also a big fan and every time I watch it with her, I still blub like it’s the first time I’ve watched it. I love this film in its entirety. I love how wonderfully 80s it is, I love it’s sentimentality, the cuteness of Drew Barrymore, the film’s score, Henry Thomas’s emotional performance and of course, I love E.T. himself. Even though the special effects are now outdated, if there was even just a sniff of a threat to remake this film, I would plan my boycott of its release immediately. E.T. makes me feel cosily nostalgic and it will fill me with joy forever.

The bit that really sets you off: Difficult to choose, so it’s between when Elliot screams after a dying E.T. and when they finally have to say goodbye before he boards his spaceship (even the pet dog didn’t want E.T. to leave ffs) “I’ll be right here”. *cue heart rendering music* *cue me losing my shit*

3. Watership Down

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During the last week of school before Christmas, my Primary school headmaster would fetch a film from the local video store for us to watch on the VHS player in the school hall. I remember watching fun films like the Karate Kid or family films like The Muppets. However, one year my headmaster, for reasons that will always be lost on me, came back with Watership Down. What followed next was several children crying during the film, but I cried so much and so hard, I was the only child that had to be removed from the school hall. It traumatised me so much, I haven’t been able to watch it since, I certainly can’t listen to “Bright Eyes” and I have no intention of letting my daughter see it until she is at LEAST 18. In fact, why doesn’t this film have an 18 certificate? Richard Adams who wrote Watership Down, did reflect in later years that perhaps he had made it a tad too dark. Yeah, I’d say so Richard.

The bit that really sets you off: It’s either the distressing fighting or when Hazel dies and her spirit floats off into the afterlife. Anyway, shut up, I can’t really talk about it.

2. Lion

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Whilst everyone else was banging on about either Moonlight or La La Land winning the Oscar for best film, I was in a completely different corner chanting “please, please, please let it be Lion“. However, yet again the Academy failed to take any notice of me and gave the Oscar to Moonlight (or was it La La Land? Boom!). I cried from beginning to end watching this film about an Indian child who becomes separated from his family, who then gets adopted by an Australian couple and then later in life tries to find his Indian family. At the end, when the lights went up in the cinema, there was a gentleman in his 70s crying loudly one side of me and a gentleman in his 40s in a similar state the other side. So it has to be said that if a film can make men of variable ages cry out load in public, it’s a hardcore tear jerker for sure. Also, and completely unnecessarily, can we talk about how hot Dev Patel is? Thanking you.

The bit that really sets you off: there isn’t just one bit. You will cry from the beginning of the film, throughout the middle of the film and just as the film ends and you don’t think you can cry anymore, they will show you some real life footage that will tip you over the edge. Good luck with that.

 

So here we go…..

 

Here’s the film that made me cry like no other….

 

The film that left me like a pathetic puddle on the floor…..

 

It is…..

 

1. Marley & Me

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Yep whilst most of the films in this list cover important topics such as slavery, the Holocaust, domestic violence, poverty, terminal illness and racism, the film that has made me cry like nothing else, is a a film about….a dog. A fairly stupid dog at that. It was released in 2008 and was based on the memoir journalist John Grogan wrote about his dog, Marley. We see Marley grow up alongside his owners as they get married, move, get promoted and become parents. I cried a lot at this film. And when I say “a lot”, I mean a gargantuan amount, a dangerous amount, a “is she ok, shall we call her family/a doctor/a priest” amount. I cried the next day when I thought about it and when I started describing it to a friend a week later, I cried some more. In fact, just thinking of the ending has made tears spring into my eyes right now as I type. Anyone that has or has ever owned a pet will be moved by this film that beautifully depicts the special relationship humans have with their pets.

The bit that really sets you off: I start wailing as Jennifer Anniston says goodbye to Marley as he’s placed in the boot of the car before he is taken to the vets, BUT that is nothing compared to what is to come. It’s the moment when Owen Wilson says goodbye to Marley at the vets, letting him know much he was loved and telling him he was the greatest dog. We see Marley look into his owner’s eyes as if he understands everything that’s being said to him. It destroyed me.

 

The one that almost, but not quite made the list: Mask 

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The bit that really sets you off: Rocky passes away and after discovering him in his bedroom, his Mum puts pins in the map of the world that’s on his bedroom wall, telling him that he can go anywhere in the world now.

A Guide to Hanging Out With Cloth Ears.

It’s Deaf Awareness Week, so as yours truly has cloth ears, I thought I’d do my bit to help with that awareness. I lost my hearing after having a baby and have to rely on hearing aids to hear. There’s more on that in this post here. However, even with hearing aids it’s a day to day struggle trying to hear sounds and conversations. What would help people like me, is if people were aware of the ways that would help us with our hearing issues (and in turn help you).

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So, here’s my tips for when you’re with a deaf person:
– ensure you’ve got your deaf friend’s attention before talking to them
– make sure you’re talking in their direction and don’t turn away in the middle of talking to them either. If you suddenly need to grab something that’s in a different direction to your friend- stop talking & start again once you’re facing them again. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your breath.
– don’t cover your mouth. I can’t lip read, but this still makes a difference for me. I guess we all must subconsciously lip read slightly.
– speak clearly and not too fast, but not so slowly your friend might want to slap you for patronising them.
– if your friend has asked you to repeat yourself, please make a concerted effort to speak louder. It’s surprising the amount of people who don’t do this. You’ve been asked to repeat yourself because you’re not speaking loud enough for them. Repeating what you have to say in the same volume is pointless.

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– as hard as this can be sometimes, when with a group of friends, try not to speak over each other/at the same time. It’s so hard for someone with hearing problems to keep up with everything that’s being said. Our brains have to work twice as hard to differentiate sounds.
– background noise is also a nightmare for people with hearing loss. It’s hard enough trying to understand what’s being said to you, but when your brain is picking up on other noises, it makes it so much harder.
– when out in a pub or restaurant with your deaf buddy, try to pick tables that have a wall behind some of the seats and ensure your friend gets one of these. Sitting with a wall behind you rather than the whole pub/restaurant limits the amount of “external” noise going in your deaf friend’s direction. Therefore, it will be easier for them to hear.
– try to ensure your deaf friend is included in the conversation when out with a group. It’s incredibly isolating being deaf sometimes and if they’re being quiet in a group situation, it’s probably because they’re struggling to hear.
– it’s worth remembering that the bigger a room, the taller the ceiling and the “emptier” it is (for example has a lack of carpets, curtains, big objects) the harder it is for people with hearing problems to hear. Small, cosy rooms are winners for us cloth ears.
– assistant dogs for the deaf & hard of hearing wear burgundy coats (just thought I’d add that as is worth knowing).

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– NHS hearing aids are amazing. Without mine, I wouldn’t easily be able to work, socialise, hear music or hear my daughter laugh. They have given me my hearing back for free. Long live the NHS.

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– most of us hate using phones. Contact us using any other method if possible.
– feedback on our hearing aids are a nightmare and incredibly unpleasant. Bear this is mind if you get too close to them (hugs are fine for example, just not with your head resting on our ears). Shouting and any sudden loud noise can also cause feedback.
– we can’t get our hearing aids wet. There’s amazing (and expensive) little computers inside them. Computers don’t like getting wet. That’s why you might see us swiftly getting our umbrellas out at the first sign of rain. So no spontaneously chucking us into the pool on holiday, OK?
-deafness seems to be the last remaining disability some people think it’s ok to make fun of. Maybe rethink mocking your hard of hearing friend for their disability.
– please don’t equate deafness with stupidity. You’d be surprised how often this happens. We’re not stupid, we just didn’t catch what you said.
– please don’t get frustrated if we ask you to repeat what you said. I know it’s not fun having to repeat yourself, but it’s a lot less fun being deaf. We haven’t chosen to have bad hearing, we promise we’re not mishearing you on purpose. It would make our lives a lot easier if we didn’t have to ask people to repeat themselves. Thanking you.

-never EVER say “it doesn’t matter”. What a deaf person gets from that is “you’re not important enough to repeat myself for”
– don’t be afraid to ask us anything about our hearing issues. The more people are aware of deafness issues, the better it is for everyone.
Please feel free to share this post, to help raise awareness.

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Sign language for “Thank you”

Candles with a Conscience

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Photo courtesy of SevenSevenSeventeen

Right at this moment, I have the most glorious smell wafting through the air near me. I’m burning a Hello Calm Moroccan Rose candle by SevenSevenSeventeen and the smell is devine. However, I’m not just here today to bang on about lovely smelly candles and nasal pleasure (which I do have a weakness for). These scented candles have a conscience, as £1 from every candle sold goes to the PANDAS charity. PANDAS is a charity that provides advice and support for people affected by pre/antenatal and post natal depression. PANDAS relies heavily on volunteers, so any support they receive is essential for their continuing service.

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Perinatal depression (depression that can occur either during pregnancy or in the first year following birth) affects 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men. That’s right, it’s not just women that it affects. Perinatal depression is different form the baby blues. It is more serious and is long term.

Symptoms include:

  • feeling tearful or low
  • lack of energy
  • extreme changes in appetite
  • feeling worthlessness, guilty or emotionally numb.
  • lack of or too much sleep
  • lack of interest in sex
  • difficulty concentrating
  • lack of interest in the baby

PANDAS provides a helpline, email support team and local support groups across the UK. They also have separate Facebook groups for both Mums and Dads. All volunteers that work with PANDAS have lived in experience of perinatal mental health illness.

SevenSevenSeventeen have joined up with PANDAS and have produced these lovely candles to help raise money for the cause. Their candles are made from natural ingredients (if that’s a concern of yours) and hand-poured in England. They’re an affordable luxury range of candles and with a starting price of £14, I’d agree this isn’t a bad price at all for these lovely candles that definitely have a luxury feel (most luxury candles are about £30+). They have seven different fragrances each with a different purpose or “mantra”.

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The delivery of them was very quick and come in a nice box. The candle is in brown glass and comes with a screw on lid. They would make a lovely gift for someone or just as a treat for yourself.

Last week, it was Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week , which helps raise awareness of “the most common complication of childbirth”. The campaign encourages people to ask women who are pregnant/have just given birth, how they are feeling. Thus encouraging women and giving them a chance to open up and talk. In my previous post here, I talked about the importance of opening up and talking to someone (anyone) if you have PND.

SevenSevenSeventeen candles are a great way to support a fantastic cause at the same time as giving yourself a little treat. The link for their website it here.

PANDAS Helpline: 0843 28 98 401

PANDAS Email support: info@pandasfoundation.org.uk

DISCLAIMER: I have not been paid to write this article. I wrote this post to help promote a worthy cause and great company.

Love Your Body

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As my friend looked down at her perfect little 5 year old daughter, she noticed she was squeezing her thighs. She looked up with concern in her eyes. “Mummy” she said “I’m worried that I’m going to get fat. I don’t want my thighs to get any bigger and I think my tummy is a bit fat too”. So just to remind you, when my friend’s daughter said this, she was 5 years old. 5.

My friend recalled the sick feeling she felt and how suddenly her heart started to beat hard. Whilst, this may have just been a flippant, passing comment, it filled her and me in turn, with dread and sadness. My three biggest fears I have for my daughter? Her safety, being bullied and eating disorders.

Why at 5 years old should a girl’s body shape be of concern to her? Why is she already thinking negatively about her body? And where has she got this attitude from?

In 2011, a report showed that out of 2,000 children treated for eating disorders, 98 were aged between 5-7 years (99 were aged between 8-9 years, 400 aged between 10-12 years and 1,500 aged between 13-15 years). There is as could be predicted, a larger number of girls affected than boys. Nine times as many girls were admitted than boys. The increase of children admitted to hospital with eating disorders from 2003 to 2013 was 172%. More than 90% of them were young girls. This isn’t reflective of what is truly going on as most people with eating disorders are treated in outpatient or private clinics and of course, some people aren’t treated at all. Therefore, the number of children with eating disorders is greater than what we see in reports.

So, this begs the question, what has caused this and what can we do about the disturbing increase of eating disorders in young women and children?

This article in the Guardian, suggests it is children’s exposure to the body images of celebrities. Dr Colin Michie, the chairman of the nutrition committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, blamed the constant availability of these images to children has increased eating disorders in them.

Social media can also be blamed. Young people are frequently posting images of themselves on social media for people to “like”. This constant need for the approval of their physical self can create an obsession with their body image, that in some cases could lead to eating disorders.

In 2015, the BBC reported that there was a sharp increase of schoolgirls at risk of emotional problems (where as boys’ risk remained stable). The Scientists behind the study reported that one of the reasons behind this is “a drive to achieve unrealistic body images perpetuated by social media and an increasing sexualisation of young women.” 

The only positive aspect to the increase in cases reported is that maybe either more people are seeking help for their disorder or doctors are quicker or better at diagnosing it.

As a child, I never thought about my body shape. I was never concerned with the size of my stomach or shape of my legs. As a teenager, whilst I was obviously more conscious of my body and it’s never-ending changes (and now in my 40s, it’s still changing!), I never gave much thought to my body shape and certainly nothing ever came between me and my love for food (and here I am 20 odd years later and still food is seemingly my top priority. After my daughter of course. Maybe).

So, what was the key factor in my attitude towards my own body as child and teenager? The obvious answer could be, as mentioned above, that there was no social media in my youth and less obsession with celebrities’ bodies. Whilst there was some discourse surrounding famous women’s bodies, it was never at the disturbing levels we see today. I don’t ever remember articles in my Mum’s magazines shaming women about their bodies.

However, I firmly believe the main reason I had a healthy body image was because of my own Mother. I don’t ever remember her complaining about her body or putting herself down. The word “diet’ was never uttered by her. I only remember her once mentioning wanting to exercise more. I also never remember her comparing her body to other women’s bodies or even complimenting other women’s bodies. In fact, once on holiday I remember my brother and I teasing my Mum about her ‘spare tyre’ and my Mum just shrugging and laughing it off. I know, we sounded like such lovely & charming children. The point is my Mum was so outwardly comfortable in her own skin and at ease with her body shape, we could crack these kind of jokes around her. It’s worth noting that my Mother equally encouraged me to clear my dinner plate as much as my brother was and I was congratulated when I did so.

Also, I  remember my Mum telling me that she loved her stretch marks on her stomach as they were a reminder of her children and what her marvellous had body achieved.

This is a solid point. Women’s bodies should be celebrated and not shamed. Why are people more willing to do the latter than the former? Whether it’s with regards to other people’s bodies or their own? Why don’t we hear of more New Year’s resolutions about accepting and loving our bodies rather than depriving or punishing them?

From reading and researching various articles on eating disorders in young children and through my own personal experiences, I’ve compiled a list of possible ways to prevent eating disorders in young children.

1. Avoid talking about your own weight and dieting.  As mentioned above. It’s a non-brainer. What we vocalise in the home has a huge impact on young ears. Also, when we treat ourselves to a slice of cake, can we stop saying “ooh I know it’s naughty”. Cake is not naughty, it’s bloody delicious. Life is hard, eat the cake. Guilt free.

2. Don’t tease a girl about their body and/or weight. Up to 40% of girls are teased and this can double their risk of being overweight and causing eating disorders.

3. Have plenty of sit down family meals. This one is not always possible everyday, but it’s worth bearing in mind that as parents we are role models and our eating habits can influence our children’s. Personally, I fail doing this in the week, but Friday-Sunday, we always make this obligatory.

4. Explain that images of women in media are unrealistic. We should protect our children from society’s emphasis on body shape and weight. I adore the women on social media who portray their bodies realistically. The model Charli Howard who is the founder of the All Woman Project is a fantastic role model for young women. She describes herself as a body positive activist and her Instagram account features numerous realistic and untouched photos of her showing off her lumps, bumps and cellulite. She actively encourages women to learn to love all of their ‘squishy bits’ and how normal the imperfect body is. She openly talks about the misery that starving her body to be a size 6 brought her in the past and her All Woman Project works with schools running events and workshops for young girls. Another great role model for younger girls is the radio DJ Lilah Parson, who has a refreshing and healthy attitude towards her body and food. When asked recently if she was content with her body, she answered “Yes, I’m very content. I know what clothes work for my body and I’m happy and healthy. We don’t all have to look like Victoria’s Secret models. We put far too much pressure on ourselves” When she was asked what she liked about her body, she was easily able to list a few things. When she was asked to list what she didn’t like, she just answered that she tries not to be negative about her body. How wonderful to hear a young woman talk confidently about her body and with absolutely no shame. This is how it should be. In fact, women like Charli and Lilah aren’t just role models for young women, they’re role models for all women.

5. Never mention if you think a celebrity or person has a good body. This can encourage a child or young woman to compare their body with the so-called ideal body shape and it also compounds the idea that a woman’s body shape or weight is imperative to their self worth.

Recently, a documentary film has been made about women’s body called Embrace (more information about this film can be found here). This is the word I have always used in association with becoming happy with one’s body. We should all embrace our bodies for what they are. Whatever their shape, size, colour, abilities or disabilities are.

For all of us to try and achieve the homogenised “ideal” body shape is utterly ridiculous, a waste of time and energy and downright dangerous.

I know too many women that have suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. I guarantee that if a woman hasn’t suffered from an eating disorder they will know more than one woman that has. And now, we are witnessing an increase in eating disorders in children, this madness, this attitude towards are own bodies HAS to stop.

Love your body, it’s the only one you’ll ever get. Love your bumps, your lumps, its imperfections. Embrace your body, not just for yourself, but for our all the little girls who will grow up to be beautiful women, whatever their shape.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Charli Howard:

“This can be the year that you choose to kick old habits; this can be the year you embrace your true shape, stop giving a shit about dieting and calories and choose to be happy. Eat what you want, love your squishy bits, step away from the scales (and bad boys) and don’t let anyone or anything make you feel you’re less than perfect. I’m off to cook a hearty roast dinner with my family because I don’t give a fuck about my weight anymore and neither should you bad bitches”.

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Image courtesy of the All Woman Project