Monday, 27 February 2012

Censorship? What should we censor for children?

Our journey back from Manchester, after the excitement of seeing Peppa Pig Live, was, since it was on the train again, full of the same stresses of the journey there, only with the added interest of a couple of incidents.

I was in two minds as to whether to talk about both of them here, but I'm going to split them out and deal with them separately in two posts, so: -

First up, the "filmwatcher" and a question of censorship.

You know how you often get folk on the train with their laptops out, pretending to work but actually watching films or playing computer games on-line?  Our train home was so full that yes, you've guessed it, three of the children and I had to squeeze around a table already occupied by a gentleman who was watching a film on his laptop. Don't I sound all posh referring to a gentleman.  Would 'man' be better?

The two older children sat opposite, and I sat next to him (the man) with my youngest (aged 3 years - that's relevant later) sat on my knee.

My girls and I immediately managed to cover every remaining portion of space on that table with "stuff".  Magazines that we'd bought for the children for the journey home, snacks, drinks, and a lunch box.  The man took it all in his stride, and simply continued watching his film with his headphones on.  I had respect for him at that point.  He was coping remarkably well.  I concluded that he either had children or was used to them being around.  Anyone else would have been tutting by now.

I glanced out of the corner of my eye at the screen (he was sitting next to me.  It's not officially nosey if I can't help but be observant is it?) to see if I recognised what he was watching.

On catching site of the screen and taking in the image, I immediately twisted my youngest around slightly more on my knee so that she was facing away from it, and rested my hand on top of the lunchbox to block her view, despite the fact that she probably couldn't see it anyway due to the tight angle of vision she'd have had.

The reason for this, is that the scene I caught sight of was Daniel Craig with a plastic bag fastened over his face in some sort of torture scene.  I wondered initially if the film was James Bond, but I'm reliably told that it was probably Layer Cake.

The man seemed oblivious to the fact that his film was showing a torture scene and a small child was sat next to him.  Honestly, she couldn't see it at the angle I had her, probably couldn't have seen it before, but still, he was completely oblivious.  I re-evaluated by conclusion that he was used to being around children.

However, that film also had 'scenes of a sexual nature'.  And, very interestingly, the second that a naked Daniel Craig was on screen on top of a naked female co-star, the man's hand shot out to the laptop touchpad to fastforward and skip the scene.

I have never seen a hand move that fast.  I had to try hard not to giggle.  My instinct was not to embarrass him; so I pretended to be equally oblivious to his scene skipping.

He then realised he'd skipped too far ahead, tried to skip back a little bit, overshot and ended up back at the naked bodies, and had to skip right back off them again!

I sat wondering whether he was skipping the scene out of courtesy to me?  But if so, why?  Did he think having breasts on his screen would embarrass me?  Why would that embarrass me?  I see naked breasts every day - it's a (debatable) advantage of being a woman.  Because it had a naked Daniel Craig in it?  Don't skip that on my account.  I definitely won't be embarrassed by that!  Or just for the sake of the 3 year old?  In which case, if he censored the sex, why on earth didn't he censor the torture and suffocation?

I wondered what principles he was basing his censorship on?  Whether he was doing it for himself (embarrassment), for us (compassion or empathy or both), or because he felt he should (peer pressure)?

I'd have preferred him to skip the torture scene and leave the sexual scene on; if I had to choose between the two.  Ideally I'd have avoided both until she's a little older!

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your views on what, if any, responsibility falls on someone watching a film in a public place.

If you want to hear more about our half term trip, with tips to avoid the pitfalls we fell into click the following links:
Taking children to the theatre? Our adventures at Peppa Pig Live
Taking children on the train?  Here's what you really need to consider.
Trying to buy wine?  Tesco Express choose bureaucratic nonsense over common sense

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Taking children to the theatre?: Check out our adventures at Peppa Pig Live!

Click here for tickets near you
A frustrating trip to the local store and a stressful ride on the train later and we arrive in Manchester.

The travelling isn't over though.  It turns out we are staying at the Arndale Travel Lodge, which, according to my map, is at least a Metroshuttle ride across town. (free though!)  It turned out to be a Metroshuttle ride across town followed by half an hour walking along the side of the Arndale centre twice, being pointed in the wrong direction by helpful passers by twice and having to console four walking children and maintain their enthusiasm for the walk (the lucky youngest was falling asleep in the buggy by now - buggy troubles on the train were worth it!).

They all coped incredibly well, and were praised accordingly, when we finally found the hotel.

The hotel was fine.  What more can you say about that chain?  Although I did ask for extra sheets and an extra duvet and pillow, just in case.  Every mother knows that if you don't have spares you are going to need them!

And so, the exciting morning arrived.  Worn out from jumping on the beds the night before and not getting to sleep until nearly 9pm (bedtime is usually 7.00pm) they slept late and we had to get them to breakfast fairly quickly.  We found our way to the Opera House (another long walk, confusing moment trying to locate the another supposedly obvious Metroshuttle stop and another Metroshuttle ride later) in plenty of time.

Booking tickets for the 10am morning showing was our best move of the entire trip.  The circle was practically empty, allowing us more freedom of movement and better sight lines to the exits (with our 5 children to 2 mums ratio on this trip I had turned into Matthew Bourne!)

My youngest wanted to cuddle Peppa Pig.  I had to explain that this was a show that we were going to watch; that Peppa would be on the stage and that we probably wouldn't be able to give her a cuddle today, but that we would blow her lots of kisses which I was sure she'd appreciate.  Youngest duly placated.

Sweets were handed around just before curtain up.  (Bought outside the venue and took inside.  We are not made of money you know)  And the show started.

I had been given advance warning that the show contained puppets, not adult-size characters, and I'm glad I had the warning.  I think I'd have been a little disappointed otherwise.  But it's done very well.  The puppeteers interacting with the puppets very obviously, not trying to pretend they are anything other than puppets, but equally not pointing it out.

Frequent visits from Miss Rabbit at opportune times were met with glee and the children sat transfixed, which is all we could hope for.

I was actually beginning to relax until, after the interval (when she'd been to the toilet once already), the youngest pipes up:

"I need a wee wee, mummy!"

In a fraction of a second I'm calculating...... approximate time since the interval; approximate length of the second half factoring in the length of the first half; the current point in the story arc; an assumption as to how long the cast will need before the afternoon matinee for rest; to work out whether I'm better taking her now (missing a section) or wait and risk missing the end when she can't quite make it.  I'm listening to the actors on stage whilst asking my daughter if she needs to go now, or if she can wait.  She hesitantly says she can wait.  But; with my nearly acquired spy-like skills I work out the approximate distance to the toilets, the time required, and listening to every word they are saying on stage I work out that they are all about to go on a balloon ride.... Great! They are bound to drag this bit out.  And I don't think she can wait - she just doesn't want to miss anything.

Right.  GO GO GO!

I hoist her up into my arms, trundle down the aisle (empty to the end - I said it worked out well going to an early showing didn't I), run up the stairs and tear across the area behind the seats to the archway leading out to the toilets.  Luckily Manchester Opera House circle is perfectly designed for those with children.  Right up until we went through that archway my daughter could still see the stage perfectly.  And then we were through...

Down the corridor, turn the corner (careful not to swing around too hard and bump her head on the wall), five more steps, throw open the door to the toilets, up 4 steps, throw open the next door, run in, place daughter down on her feet stood in front of the toilet.  A quick downwards swish, an upwards lift onto the seat, a grab of enough toilet paper, a pause (take a breathe), lift her off, wipe, upwards swish, hoist her back up, and fling open the door again.  Retrace our steps, and step back through the archway less than 2 minutes later.  Then return to a slow stroll, (so as to catch my breath before sitting back down and sounding like a dirty caller with all the heavy breathing).  Back across the rear of the auditorium, down the stairs, into our aisle, sit back down, AND still remember to grab the small bottle of anti-bacterial hand wash that I keep in my bag at all times, to wipe her hands before they go back in the sweetie bag. (that shaved a good minute off our time outside the auditorium.)

And you know what... they still hadn't landed that balloon.  She didn't miss a thing. Supermum!

The rest of the day was fun; mainly because we had achieved our aim of getting them to the show and therefore were feeling fairly smug.  Another Metroshuttle to the station; which my eldest was happy to note was the purple line which we hadn't yet tried out, making a full set of all three.  Who knew 'Metroshuttle bingo' would be so much fun.  We had a picnic lunch from M&S, including pre-filled wine glasses for the train ride home.  I told you I'd get that Rose at some point!  And braved the train home.

The train ride home was even more stressful than the one there...and a final post to fill you in on the dodgy film watching antics of some train passengers and the appalling customer service from the catering team will follow soon to finish this set of posts about our half term adventure!

If you've picked up some tips from our adventure, or had a giggle, then my work here is done!

The first two instalments of our trip are here:
Tesco Express chooses bureaucratic nonsense over common sense
Taking children on the train: here's what you really need to consider
And part four is here:
Censorship?  What should we censor for children?

Friday, 24 February 2012

5 Quick Ironing Tips - For Busy Women

So you've barely got time to throw on the lippy in the morning, never mind get all those clothes ironed.  How can you speed up the process to leave yourself time for a cuppa?

1.  Prioritise 

When you haven't got time to iron the shirts, how do you think you've got time to mess about ironing those tea towels, or that under sheet for your eldest's bed?  Scrap that!  Tea towels should be folded and put away as soon as they are dry - no ironing required.  Under sheets?  Come on!  You are going to lie on them and they'll be hidden under the duvet anyway.  Fold them and go.  The same goes for children's vests, pants (knickers, not trousers), socks, tights, pyjamas and, if you can bear it, pillow cases and top sheets.  Most of these items won't be seen and those that will won't retain creases for long.  I know some folk who iron the gusset of pants to get rid of bacteria.  I figure that if I've cleaned them properly it shouldn't be an issue.

2.  Don't Over-dry

Over the winter months our clothes inevitably end up on dryers next to the radiator.  This is an effective way of drying clothes, but the tendency is for them to over-dry.  Cotton based clothes like men's shirts can be a nightmare to iron when they are over-dry.  The best plan is to get them off that dryer the second they are dry.  In fact, they should be very slightly moist and should be ironed as quickly as possible once they are off that dryer.

3.  Use Water

You need a water spray bottle to get those 'over-dry' sections moist before ironing them.  And if you have a steam iron, use it!  Water is your best friend.  You need enough so that the crease is wet before you iron it, and dry afterwards.

4.  Foil

Get a reflective ironing board cover.  They reflect the heat back up to the underside of the material.  Lining the underside of your own cover with foil has much the same effect and is cheaper.

5.  Go Large

Use the largest ironing board you can cope with.  The added space will allow the clothes to sit on top without slipping and allow you to iron bigger sections before having to more the clothes along.

And with that folks; off you go for that cuppa!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Taking children on the train? Here's what you really need to consider.

And so, it's Valentines day and my friend and I are taking our children over to Manchester for an overnight stay (without husbands) so that we can see Peppa Pig on stage the next morning. We are so romantic. But it's half term and Peppa is only on for a couple of days.
East Midlands Trains

We decide, somewhat foolishly you might think, to take them on the train, partly because we have been getting a fair bit of snow over the peaks and we didn't want to get caught out and partly because it just seemed to be the easiest option.  At least it did.  Before that marvellous thing called hindsight.

We drive five minutes to the station in my mate's 7-seater, supposedly stopping off for a bottle of wine en route (click here for why I came away empty handed and won't be shopping with Tesco again anytime soon)

Then we all climb into the train just after midday.  We have packed lightly knowing that we'd need to carry everything.  I think we did pretty well.  My mate had one medium trollycase and I had one dispatch bag.

I feel the need to elaborate on that point for a moment to stress the momentous nature of it.  My mate had one medium trollycase - for an overnight stay for herself and her three daughters (five, three and three).  I had one dispatch bag for myself and two daughters (five and three).  That's pretty impressive packing for women! All we took were toothbrushes, PJs and clean pants (that's knickers by the way, not trousers).

We also had a separate picnic bag and a single pushchair (buggy) just in case the little ones got tired.

My first tip for travelling with children on the train is definitely to pack efficiently. You don't have enough hands for the children, never mind for bags as well.  A dispatch bag that you can slot over your body leaving both hands free, or a rucksack, are probably the best two options.

My second tip is to ensure 'before' you get on the train, that you are stepping into the carriage that has a large enough storage space for your pushchair.  It turns out that East Midlands Trains aren't that great for storage space!  It took ages to find a slot to shove the thing.  In fact their website doesn't even appear to mention them, though cycles, luggage and even pets are covered, so presumably they don't expect anyone to need them.  Mother's with babies be warned.

Our next problem was sitting down.  Remember, there are seven of us.  The carriage wasn't particularly full, but of course the four table areas, which seat four each, all had a single person sat in them.  All other seats were in pairs.  Now my friend is excellent at multi-tasking, but even she couldn't manage to sit in block of two seats with three children.  So we really needed to get around a table.  Did any of those individuals already sat at the tables offer to move?  Of course not.  We were struggling to get five children sat down safely and within eye shot of us and no-one even thought to say; "would it help if you sat here?".  We were, on this stretch of the journey, lucky that the next station was only five minutes away and lots of people got off.  You can imagine how fast we jumped onto the table that become free.  I'd still not even sat down myself until this point to keep eyes on them all.

So finally the five girls are sat around the table eating their packed lunch (still in only four seats of course - it's lucky they are fairly small) and we are sat just behind them so that we can see everything, and they can pass us their rubbish between the seats.  The rest of the journey was pretty good.  They ate, we chatted.  Time passed pleasantly. Third tip - take a packed lunch!

It's only when you have to get off the train that the panic sets in and stress levels peak.  Particularly when, just five minutes earlier the youngest decides she needs to toilet and we all find ourselves down by the exit doors, kids nearly falling over as the train does that slowing down thing is does before stations, and panicking when the toilet door rolls itself shut automatically with the youngest in there on her own.  You can't hold it open either - I tried.  So we were lucky to get her finished and dressed just in time to get off the train.  I'm seriously tense now.  Nervous that we've left something behind (coat?, child?)  In the words of McNulty (The Wire) we 'front and reared' them: my mate getting off the train first and helping them down, me following to ensure no-one got left behind and bringing the pushchair with me.  You won't be surprised that there were no members of staff on hand to help, despite the massive gap between the train and the platform and the tiny legs that had to jump over it to get off.

So fourth tip, if I'm honest, is don't get on a train unless you have a much improved ratio of adults to children than our measly 2:5.  It's a real shame though, because they do love it.  It's just so stressful for the adults.  I was terrified they were going to somehow fall off the platform.  I spent most of my time simply re-counting them.

Trains are great at getting you from A to B, at doing it without you having to drive, or park, or navigate town centres in a car.  What they are not great on is remembering who their customers are and what their customers need.  Maybe if they addressed that shortfall and thought about how their trains could be more child friendly, they could encourage more people to use them.

And next we had to find the MetroShuttle...more on that later with our antics at Peppa Pig Live (here)
And had to brave the train home again.  Find our why I had to consider censorship on the train ride here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Tesco Express chooses bureaucratic nonsense over common sense

I was refused service in Tesco Express last Tuesday.  Was I causing trouble? No. I was attempting to purchase a bottle of Rose to take away on a half term jaunt to Manchester.  My friend already had a bottle of white with her, but I am a massive Rose fan at the moment, so I wanted to take one with me.

The lady serving on the tills asked me for ID.  It's a good job I wasn't drinking anything at the time with the spluttering I did. 

"Sorry?" I said, thinking I had misheard.
"Do you have any photo ID?" she repeated.
"Er, no. I don't tend to carry my driving license about." I said, rummaging through my purse, yet knowing it was futile. 
"I can't serve you if you haven't" she said.
I laughed, half still thinking it was a joke. "But I am " (cupping my hand furtively round my mouth and whispering) "37!".
" Sorry" she says. "But now I've asked you I can't serve you unless you have photo ID.
"Seriously?" I said  (I know.  I was so stunned I couldn't even speak properly.)

So I returned to the car, which my friend had already began to pull out of its space, thinking I'd jump in and off we'd go.  The car containing all five of the children my friend and I were taking on our trip.
"They won't serve me" I said incredulously. She laughed, thinking I was joking.
"They won't serve me because I don't have ID"

She laughed a little too hard frankly (wink)
"Do you want me to get it?" she said.
"Er"  I felt fairly ridiculous at this stage.  "Yes please!"

She reversed the car back into its space, got out, took the money off me and strode into the store.  I could see her through the window.  She went to the till and had a discussion with the lady on the till.

Then she returned to the car.  Without the wine.

"What happened?" I said.
"They refused me too." she said.
"Because they think I'll give it to you!"

Now I was somewhat buoyed up by this little adventure.  And feeling very smug about my newly found youthful good looks I told my husband the story on my return home.

"Oh yes" he said, "I've read about this.  I heard that they refused a pensioner too, even though she showed her pension book".

Thanks for the vote of confidence love!  So it's not quite my youthful good looks after all.  It turns out that some stores have gone ID crazy.  They have told their staff to 'always' ask, and to refuse service if photo ID isn't presented.  Check out the story about the pensioner (93 years old) here.  Yes I know the source of the story isn't particularly known for its honest journalism, but still, I am proof that this craziness exists.

I thought about it a lot.  I considered that yes, it was possible that some kids might be sophisticated enough to pop on some stage makeup and make themselves up 'older' to buy alcohol.  But surely, if that is your worry, you set up a serious of quick and easy questions that only those over age would know.  For example; where does Marty live?* Or where are Salt n Pepper?**  Or who should Molly Ringwald have got together with in the first place in Pretty in Pink?***  That at least gives you more data to decide if you really want to go the route of asking for that ID.  Answers below, and if you knew them you are closer to 40 than you'd like to admit!

Always asking for ID assumes you have employees with no common sense at all.  At Tesco Express.  Hmmm?  What do you think?

Tesco Customer Services information here.

* Hill Valley.  
** Here.
*** Ducky.  (Gives a whole new perspective on "Two and a Half Men")

If you want to find out what happened next on the train trip to Manchester (2 mums and 5 children!) click here.
And for our adventures once we got to Manchester, click here.
And for the censorship we had to consider on the train back, click here!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Liebster Blog Award: Yippee! My first award!

This week I have been honoured to receive my first ever blog award!  I am, some might say, stupidly excited by this.  I say that it is quite normal to be excited when someone other than your husband expresses an appreciation of your work!  I accept it with thanks and whilst wearing my best frock, as is tradition in award giving spheres!

I have Catherine over at Low Impact Parenting to thank for the award.  Her blog is full of humour, despite the increasingly chaotic sounding household she inhabits and it sounds like she's doing a grand job de-cluttering and recycling to make way for her new addition to the family due in March.  I love the variety on her blog, from how to make Seville Marmalade, to breastfeeding and sewing, and the fact that she's doing it with one eye on the planet.  She succeeds in reminding me to savour the moments.  You can follow her @lowimpactmama.

This award is for blogs with 200 followers or less.  The idea is to share appreciation of blogs (Liebster meaning dearest, or favourite, in German), to link back to the kind soul who passed the award on to you, and to pass on the accolade to a further five deserving bloggers.

This is no easy task.  I have discovered many deserving blogs, some well established, some relative newbies like me and reducing that list to my five favourites has not been easy.  But, here it goes:

Firstly, check out the The Undercover Granny.  It's interesting for me to see things from a Granny point of view, and she has a fun take on life, recent posts including a look at dating for the over 50s and a look at the various types of mummy bloggers she's encountered (a favourite post of mine - I wonder which one I fall under?)

Another blog that always makes me giggle (and that's my pre-requisite for any blog I am reading!)  is Mymumdom.  Blogging with a definite sense of not taking life too seriously, she is a kiwi in the UK with a son and three daughters that look a 'lot' like her (I saw that gallery post from the graduation!)

Check out Me.He. And Them. Written by three best friends; the stories always seem to strike a cord with me, or elicit a giggle, or a strong emotional response.  This post in particular, on breaking the news to your child that you are going back to work, made me well up.  It's a reminder that, as mums, we are not alone in the challenges we face.

On a more serious note, Mrs Shorties Mind is written by a mum of three suffering from Post Natal Depression.  It charts her journey, her changing attitudes to mental health and is a refreshing, honest account of her experiences.  (And a big thumbs up to her husband who has stuck by her through the ups and downs.)
This post, Not Really Grooving made me really consider the fine line we walk in maintaining mental health, its relativity, and its transient nature.  I often feel like I am operating in a fuzzy ball, with no 'get up and go' as my mother would say.  But I just take it as naturally part of who I am and have never considered where on the line that state falls.  And then, when I have a day of focus and activity, a day full of energy, I wonder how on earth I could maintain that state.  It feels much more like living in the moment.

And finally; a blog for the Mulberry loving, cupcake eating, pretty interiors mummies.  Honey's Mummy is a lovely collection of gorgeousness, great tips, advise and musings on motherhood.  One to enjoy with a glass of wine.  I love it.  Though I am seriously jealous of the cake!

So there it is.  My five recommendations and to whom I pass on the Liebster Blog Award.  Enjoy!

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