Music I Want my Children to Listen to: The Housemartins & The Beautiful South

I've included two groups in this one because who I really mean is the singing/song-writing talents of Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway.

The Housemartins were a bit before my time and having older brothers who were into punk or rock, and a sister who wanted to marry the drummer from Duran Duran, I didn't hear very much of them until they became retro with the incarnation of The Beautiful South. I do remember seeing the revolutionary video to 'Happy Hour' on the television the first time around, and I remember thinking 'Oh that's clever, Tony Hart does people as well as Morph.' Bless me!

The tracks that appeal to me most from their greatest hits album (purchased in France on a school exchange when I was trying to impress my host's snotty male friend) are the aforementioned finger-tapping 'Happy Hour' and of course the classic 'Caravan of Love'.

The Beautiful South were my era; as a late teen the album 'Carry on up the Charts' was played to death with several tracks going on repeat. After the 15th time (I am not exaggerating) my mum would barge in to my bedroom and plead with me to listen to any other track. Those that usually got the repeat treatment were 'Song for Whoever', 'Don't Marry Her', and '36D'.

I'm not a big fan of the original female singer, Briana Corrigan, I think her voice was too sickly sweet and high-pitched for my ears. She did, however, do a cracking job on 'I Need a Little Time'; a growing sarcasm and anger dripping from her voice with every word she sang. For me, Jacqui Abbott was a far better female voice to blend with the other vocalists. To this day, I am firmly convinced that I can sing 'Everybody's Talking At Me' as well as she can (yeah, right). Paul Heaton is said to have been standing on the stairs at a party when he heard her voice on a karaoke machine, he immediately went and bagged her as the new female lead.

I far more prefer Paul Heaton's plaintiff and heartfelt singing to Dave Hemingway's melodic and caramel tones. Both are easy to listen to, but Heaton's pleading desperation seem to pull at my heart-strings more. 'Like a Blackbird on the Wire', 'Artificial Flowers' and 'I'll Sail This Ship Alone' get me every time.

Their lyrics are so very clever; ironic, endearing, heart-felt, patronising, pleading, funny, romantic, the list goes on. A very talented pair, and do you know what? I think the neighbours are going to be subjected to an afternoon of 'Song for Whoever' and 'The Sound of North America'!


The day started with my bedroom door being flung open, after several failed attempts, and The Boy running in to my open arms shouting "mummy, mummy, mummy". This is a usual occurence on the weekends. Hubby is kind and has the good sense to let me sleep in 'til 9am both days, when he helps The Boy to wake me up in my favourite way. I'm quite grateful for his failed attempts at opening the door, it means that I have time to turn over, grab my phone (which is on charge on the bedside table), fling it under the pillow (otherwise he plays with it and it's my phone) and stretch my arms out. My eyes are not open during any of this. He then gets lifted up for a huge hug, and my eyes slowly work themselves open.

Today was more special than others; The Boy was 20 months old today. That's 1 year and two-thirds. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed! Where has my little squiggly ball of flailing arms and legs gone? Bizarrely, he has a new game at the moment; he crawls around and says "baby". I'm hoping it's a game anyway, and that he's not regressing for some reason!

After various naps had happened (both boys tottering back off for a 2hr nap) and lunch had been administered, we decided to head off to a local beach, not my nearest but The Boy doesn't move easily on pebbles at the moment.

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Ladies and gentleman, this is no ordinary beach, this is Barry Island! Yes, that's right I said Barry Island. The one on 'Gavin and Stacey'. Yes there are slot machines, and yes 'Marco's Cafe' is real, but Butlins has long gone (now an expensive housing estate) and the funfair is seriously lacking in both 'fun' and 'fairness'. However it does have a rather fabulous sandy beach which has been awarded a Blue Flag in the past few years.

Wellies on, bucket and spade swinging in our gloved hands, hats on (it may be sunny but it's still February); off we marched. Paddling first, so pleased we wore the wellies. I had secretly been worried that the rubber had perished on the joins and that I would literally be paddling in my wellies, it hadn't. We splashed, splished and paddled to our hearts content. Hubby didn't lift The Boy up in time and he got soaked by the 7th wave (hubby grew up in the middle of England and doesn't believe me about these things). I ranted for a little bit but it's only water and I am a sensible mummy and always have spare clothes. Then the boys made sandcastles with the rakes and spades while I wrote messages in the sand. It was absolutely gorgeous there, definitely the first of many trips before the end of the year.

It was a lazy Saturday and I didn't want to cook so we popped into a local restaurant for our tea. As we were packing up in the restaurant, the background music changed to (and I absolutely kid you not) 'Fantastic Day' by Nick Heyward & Haircut 100.

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Things I'd Love This Valentine's Day

The ever wise KateTakes5 has declared that love is in the air for this week's Listography. If it is, I'm opening the window and investing in some air freshener, can't be doing with any of that nonsense!

I've read various blogs recently about romance, partners and love. Prior to The Boy, not once did I realise how much relationships change when offspring arrive. My mother has always maintained that for the first year of their life, it's about them. After that, they fit into your family lifestyle and routine. I'd agree with that, but for the fact that I don't remember what our routine or lifestyle was like before the arrival of The Boy. I think there probably was a lot more romance, but that's easy when there's no bottles to wash up, toys to tidy and sleep is not broken by "mummy, daddy, up-py" at 3.37am. It's a bit hard to look adoringly into each other's eyes when The Boy pushes daddy away from mummy if we even contemplate a hug.

Nevertheless, this list is a wish list; I know hubby loves me, but we do not have the finances for it. Therefore:

1) A money tree

Go on, call me shallow. Those who say 'money doesn't buy happiness' have clearly been in the position to experience it! I am not asking for a ridiculous amount of money, but enough so that I don't have to work. Oh and possibly so we can have a porch and a conservatory. Thanks!

2) A Links of London bracelet

Isn't it pretty?! I've bought the imitation one from the chemist and it just looks nothing like it. Pitying glances have resulted in it being passed onto my niece for dress-up. Oh but a real one would be divine.

3) White chocolate truffles

Achievable and realistic. I'm quite fond of the Italian ones from Marks and Spencer, do they still make them? Otherwise they sell them in Thorntons. Who am I kidding? I'd be happy with the ones from Lidl.

4)  Another four hours in the day

I wouldn't need a personal assistant/ironing lady/cleaner/gardener if I had another four hours. Maybe five. I'd dedicated two of them to sleep and the other time could be used to sort out the towering inferno of paperwork resting on the recipe books in the kitchen. But then of course, that money tree would mean that I could give up work and have that time. Do they sell them in B&Q?

5) …

no words, sigh!

Most Annoying Children’s T.V. Programmes

KateTakes5 has come up with a very interesting topic this week. I was quite anal for the first year and didn't let The Boy watch any television, with the exception of the very occasional '3rd and Bird' episode. The box may have been on in the background with my daily fix of Phil and Holly, but no children's programmes. I know, cruel hey? I also didn't let him have any sugar, salt or processed food until 1yr old either. How times have changed…

I am rather controlling in what I let him watch. My fantastic mum looks after him while I'm working and I was getting a bit fed up of coming home, turning on the television and finding certain channels on. No I don't mean dodgy ones, I'm talking the American channels (I know that seems Xenophobic but it is not. My child is British, I want him to grow up with a British accent not one learnt from the Disney Channel). In my head is that advert from a few years ago: The Wombles with an American accent. Therefore having asked her not to have Cartoonito or the Disney channel on a million times, but still finding them in use I blocked them on sky+. Yes, I used the parental controls on my mother!

Basically this list is easy for me, anything that's not on CBeebies or BabyTV is pretty much a no-no. There are some decent programmes on Nick Jnr as well. Snob I know, but I may as well get my money's worth from my licence fee. However I can identify these programmes as irritating the hell out of me, and yes some of them are on my beloved CBeebies.

1) Barney. He is a big purple dinosaur. He looks nothing like a dinosaur and they weren't purple. I don't care that he teaches the children about being kind and sharing, he's a purple dinosaur! The child actors on it are sickly sweet and schmaltzy and they do my head in. No! Not in this household.

2)  LazyTown. The rubber masks are slightly alarming aren't they? They look like the Dead Presidents about to rob a bank. And it's not very realistic: Stephanie is actually about 22 and The Boy would have no concept that Robbie Rotten is naughty so why subject him to it?

3) Gigglebiz. Justin Fletcher may well have an MBE and it is well deserved. I think that every mother should be given a voucher to use that entitles them to 3hrs of childcare courtesy of Mr. Tumble to be redeemed in person in extreme cases of tiredness. The man is a genius and 'Something Special' is a firm favourite in this house with all of us. However 'Gigglebiz' is not funny: as I see it, it's a cross between 'Little Britain' and 'Benny Hill', both of which leave me reaching for the remote control. I think he's tried to indulge his love of slapstick and enforced it on children. No thank you.

4) Teletubbies. I actually like the programme and so does The Boy, but he gets really upset and cries when they disappear over the hills. I can't allow my child to develop separation anxiety for a red creature with a flipping circle on its head and a television in its stomach! So it stays off for the moment.

5) Spongebob Squarepants. I don't get it. That's all I have to say on the matter.


While I'm at it, remember this advert?

Music I Want my Children to Listen to: The Jam

Specifically 'A Town Called Malice'.

It is without a doubt one of my all-time favourite songs. I can not help myself when I hear those opening bars; the feet start tapping, the head starts nodding in time, I whistle and then I have to sing it. Either in my head or out loud. To be honest, by the time it gets to the chorus it's always out loud. I do not care where I am, it is a must.

It was one of my favourites as a child (can you tell I have two older brothers who were into punk?), but yes it is the film 'Billy Elliott' that sparked the enthusiasm back up again. And now when I hear the music I can picture the exact section of the film and what Billy is doing at each point.

How this song manages to be so happy when the lyrics are actually so God-damn despressing, I will never know. Said to be written about Paul Weller's hometown Woking as a result of his teenage experiences there, I now know I never want to go to Woking.

"A whole street's belief in Sunday's roast beef
Gets dashed against the Co-Op
To either cut down on beer or the kids new gear
It's a big decision in a town called malice."

So yes, a song about social inequality amongst the working classes and the drudgery of his mundane life is up there as one of my favourites. It's not the lyrics, it's the melody and, to be perfectly frank, Paul Weller's voice. I've seen him in concert and he was fantastic. Literally fan-tastic; he knows what the people turn up to hear and obliges.

It's not just this song though, it's the others like; 'Down in a tube-station at midnight' (again, graphic lyrics), 'Eton Rifles (my brothers' favourite) and 'Going Underground'.

Mr. Weller is a genius, The Jam are a must.

Things they don’t tell you when you’re pregnant!

1: You know that lovely midwife that booked you in & sees you every visit at the doctors' surgery? She won't be at your baby's birth. It's not like 'Portland Babies', you won't have the same midwife all the way through your pregnancy, she won't be at your labour. Breaking news, you probably won't even have the same midwife throughout the labour. I had two. Shift changed at 7am, and a new one walked in to see me through the most stressful and traumatic experience of my life with only two hours to go. That's the NHS for you, not complaining here but you need to lose the rose-tinted spectacles before you read on any further.

2: Birth-plan. Really? Really? Really! No, no, no! Forget the whale music and candles; bring on the drugs! That's a bit harsh probably, and yes there are some lovely births that happen all the time (that stunning girl on 'One Born Every Minute' with her water-birth in the bikini with her hair artistically styled, pah!) but the vast majority just don't happen like that, from what I've heard. I went in saying "Whatever, give me drugs but no pethidine whatsoever!" I went 3/4 of the way with nowt whatsoever, 0-7cm in a matter of hours. Then I thought yep, let's try that gas and air stuff. I got high on it, ended up agreeing to whatever the midwife said and she stabbed my leg with pethidine! I then blacked out/vomited for two hours and had to be given reversal drugs. I blame it for The Boy's fluctuating heart-rate, ensuing  epidural and spinal-block, and being prepped for a c-section. So please, be open-minded; lavender oil is chuff all use when a water-melon is trying to come out of your vagina.

3: Waters breaking is the most bizarre feeling ever. I was naive and thought that 'Always' would stem the flow. Do not laugh! The only way I can describe it is as if you are about to wet yourself and you have no pelvic floor muscle control. Oh and they like to weigh the maternity towel to monitor how much amniotic fluid you're losing. This is the first step to a lack of dignity. One pack of maternity towels will not be enough, I was in for 5 days and used probably 8 packs? Luckily they're quite cheap. Oh and paper knickers (not towels like I originally wrote!) are grim and rustle when you move, buy cheap normal ones that you can bin after.

4: It is actually a hell of a shock when the baby comes out, especially if you've had an epidural. This is mainly because you can't feel anything! I remember being told to push and thinking "I can't feel anything, I'll pull a face that makes it look like I'm pushing, if I'm doing it wrong, they'll tell me!" When The Boy was presented to me, I was quite surprised because I'd had no sensational build-up.

5: Post-partum hormones are a bitch. 6 days after The Boy arrived into our lives, I stood in the hallway asking hubby where my grey cardigan was. He said he'd put it in the wash. I burst into tears and stamped my foot because I wanted to wear it. He looked at me absolutely flabbergasted and open-mouthed, my mum looked at him, he looked at her, I sobbed hysterically a bit more, she hugged me and he went and hid. We laugh about it now, but for a while there we weren't allowed to mention the grey cardigan incident.

6: Breast-feeding burns up shedloads of calories a day. You must eat and drink loads to produce good-quality milk. And actually drink while feeding. Straws are good. I may have only breast-fed for 3 weeks (see here for the saga) but my milk was good stuff and I produced loads of it. A fortnight post-partum I was back in pre-pregnancy jeans, three weeks after and I was wearing jeans I'd not worn in two years. It all went back on again afterwards though. Which is a bit of a bugger quite frankly. [Forgot to add this bit when I originally posted: it bloody hurts, it's difficult to get right & after 3 weeks it all went ahem, tits-up for us but that was my experience]

7: Having a baby kills your sex-life. Once you've done your job in continuing the human race, rumpy-pumpy will never be the same again. It's a hard memory for both of you to shake, especially if like me you fall down the stairs after a week and rip out all the stitches in your episiotomy (oh sorry, did you wince then?). Like Mammywoo says "I can’t even enjoy sex anymore. You ruined that too. I know how it ends". Asides from that, sleep is so much more of an appealing option, for both of you.

8: When your newborn baby is held by women of a certain age, they will come back stinking of Ysatis or 4711. It will taint the smell of your little one. I don't know how to prevent this from happening, but it will upset you.

9: Having a baby will be the most amazing experience of your life; life will never be the same again and it is absolutely phenomenal!


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Hairy Coconuts, Kings and Sea-shells

What did we get up to this weekend?

Well I had a minor meltdown around lunchtime on Saturday. The usual: tiredness, monotony, my house looking like a tip, etc. I've not had a happy week, and while I may enjoy moaning I have not enjoyed feeling down-right miserable. Action was needed, we needed to do something. Have fun!

We started with a haircut for The Boy. I used to cut his hair while he slept, but after the last time when I ran from the room crying after the first snip when I'd cut above his ear too short, I vowed never to do it again. We took him to the barber's that hubby uses and she did a reasonable job, plus she only took four minutes. We frog-marched The Boy in and  she asked what we wanted done. I looked at her slightly incredulously, highlights and some extensions I felt like saying. Clearly he is a baby, I just want a trim for his golden crown.

Um no, you can't use the clippers on my 20 month old son's hair; he has beautiful hair, if I wanted him to look like a flipping skin-head I'd shave it myself. Use the scissors, you know this snippy things? Marvellous invention! He sat ever so well on my lap while she snipped away for 10 minutes. Marvellous! Haircut done, I didn't need to stress.


So where do you go when it's 1°C but you want to go somewhere fun? I knew the answer to this and was desperately hoping that a new facility would pop up suddenly. Let's face it, it was never going to happen. We ended up where I didn't want to go, not because I don't like the place, but because we go there so frequently. There are four main soft-play centres; one smells of urine (the carpet was laid in 1873), the other has a fab ball-pit which stinks of wee (come on children, use your nappies!), the other has broken/missing toys and food all over the floor. This is why we always end up in the fourth place: Coconuts. Clearly everyone else had the same idea! There must have been about 100+ children there, including three birthday parties. I let hubby and The Boy race off while I cocooned myself with my 3G connection and twitter. I'm not being boring: I know every single section of the multi-level play area blindfolded, I know the areas that he needs a hand up, I know which bits my arse derriere won't fit through, I know how to fix the ball-suction-run thingy. Besides let them have a little boy time. They had fun, I got my Silent Sunday.

Then in the evening, hubby and I did something we haven't done in ages. Mind out of the gutter people! Hubby and I went out! By ourselves, without The Boy! Don't worry, he was tucked up in bed with Nana listening in to his every breath and mumble. We toddled off to view the wonders of regal history with Mr. Darcy and The Corpse Bride. She's quite good in it, he is magnificent. Colin Firth turns in an amazing performance and because of him, 'The King's Speech' is amazing; engaging, funny, endearing, heart-breaking and rousing. He is so deserving of an Oscar win for his performance as Bertie Windsor, and Geoffrey Rush (not that much of a fan) is over-whelmingly humble in it. You have to see it. We ate lots and lots of nachos with yummy, gloopy cheese sauce. Nutritional value = 567, calorific value = +4957. Not good, but oh so scrummy. Of course, I do find that Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia helps cool the mouth down after the spicy cheese sauce. Ahem! I'll go for a walk tomorrow or something.

Today we've been to the beach. Once the boys had returned from failing to get 60% of the items on my shopping list, we popped out to get some fresh air. I know, lets go and play 'plopping' with the pebbles down the beach. I forgot about the bloody tide! We found a few square cm to park him down in and he had great fun as the sun set on a beautiful weekend.

Only thing is, ever since The Boy's haircut, I've noticed how God-awful it looks. No feathering, no layering, she cut his fringe straight across so he looks like he has a bowl cut! His beautiful hair! I'm going to have to wait until it grows out for a few weeks and then put some shape into it.

Oh and he learnt a new word: FUN!

Music I want my Children to Listen to: The Manic Street Preachers


I was in a conundrum this week. It happens often, but someone normally comes along to bounce my thoughts against. I couldn't decide who to choose for this week's post. Then I logged onto twitter and following a conversation with Alex from CBeebies (yes, you read that correctly!!) I decided upon the Manics. The 'Phonics can wait a few weeks!

My chosen Manics' album is 'This is my Truth, Tell me Yours' (Alex's is 'Generation Terrorists'  by the way, I'm his new BFF don't you know 😉 )

It reminds me of the young me; the age that I still think I am.

'TIMT,TMY' was released in September 1998, when I'd just started University and discovered a new sense of freedom. Yes I was still living at home, out of financial choice, but I was enjoying Uni life while having a mother and father to still care for me (and pick up a very drunken me from Newport one night). That was the same academic year that The Stereophonics released 'Performance and Cocktails' following their amazing 'Word Gets Around'. Catatonia had recently released 'International Velvet'. And I was in a Welsh university surrounded by all this Cool Cymru music.

The album ranges massively in style, but in its entirety it reeks of the polished Welsh rock that was apparent at the time. The anthems have to be "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", a real car-windows-down-sing-at-the-top-of-your-voice belter, and the fabulous "You Stole the Sun from My Heart". While the more slower-paced "The Everlasting", kicks the album off. Nicky Wire borrowed the title from a poem after spending some time trying to think of something similar to Blur's "The Universal" (another of my fave's). James Dean Bradfield's powerful and emotional voice is showcased brilliantly on track 8: "You're Tender and You're Tired".

I haven't listened to a huge amount of albums by The Manic Street Preachers, hardly any at all of late; I'm mellowing in my old age, the teenage angst never really came into fruition! But this remains my overall favourite CD by them.

Cymru am byth!

Swings, Cornflakes & Birthday Cakes

I'm trying to make more of a concerted effort to do things on the weekend. Yes it's a time for relaxation, but it's also such a precious time together as a family that I don't want to feel the weekend has passed and we haven't left the house or got any recollection of the time passed. It's tricky, especially as we take it in turns to have a lie-in on each morning; it means we only have the afternoon to do things in. However, I like a challenge!


Saturday saw us testing out the new Maclaren Techno XLR that they very kindly sent me to review (more on that later). We went to a local Country Park and Lakes which is stunning. I took my 365 photo, The Boy tried to chase the swans and ducks, and discovered the magic of splashing in puddles with his new wellies. He needs more practise though! There was loads of mud everywhere; my boots, hubby's boots, The Boy's boots, the wheels of the pushchair, the slide, the boot of the car, the upholstery! How much is a valet? Anyway he had fun, look at his little face:

Then we came home and made cornflake cakes. This was prompted by a twitter discussion between @Mammywoo, myself and a few others, who suggested using Mars bars in it. Yum is the result. Although are you supposed to mix something else into the melted chocolate aside from the cornflakes because they're really hard to eat! Golden syrup I think I missed out, suggestions please? The Boy did really well spooning out the cornflakes, although there were a few times that he only had one flake on the spoon by the time it got to the bowl, bless him. He loved spooning it into the cases, but he now thinks that the cases are called cakes. Don't ask, it's probably best not to!

Tricky work this cake-making business!

And yes, he does appear to be left-handed.

We then popped over to Ikea for tea. He sat beautifully and ate it all up, I was so proud of him. Then on his last mouthful of pear, it tickled his tonsils and he vomitted all over the table. Joy!


Party-time for The Boy's 5yr old girl cousin. My brother always does good parties, he's a chef and does enough 'proper' party food to feed the 5,000! Egg sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, scotch eggs (or party eggs as my brother-in-law calls them), crisps, chocolate fingers, tea-cakes, iced ring biscuits, cocktail sausages. Yum! My brother had hired an entertainer aswell; some of them can be way over the children's heads, but this one pitched at exactly the right level for 2-5yr olds; magic tricks, party games, balloon animals and circus tricks. Even The Boy managed to sit down for a few minutes and enjoy it.

But at the end of the day, nothing can distract from the pleasure of a Cadbury's Chocolate Finger!

Things I wish I could do

A though-provoking one from @katetakes5 this week, welcome back!

1) Play the piano

I'm not very good at music; I was kicked out of recorder club in primary school, and only managed to stay in guitar club because I knew the words. However, you've got to have innate talent to play those haven't you? Blow a woodwind instrument wrongly and it's shrill. Pluck/strum/whatever you do with a bow a stringed instrument the wrong way & it sounds like a cat being ravaged on a Saturday night. But a piano is different: as long as it's in tune, that's the note it makes, you can't hit the key in the wrong way! (This is what I am telling myself, do not argue with me) I've even got a piano! The infant school were getting rid of theirs  a few years ago so I bought it for £100. It's sat in my dining room for 6 years now, lovingly sanded back and re-oiled. The Boy will probably learn to play it before me!

2) Lose weight

I'm rubbish, I really am! I can do it, I just can't be arsed bothered. Well I have * stones to lose to be back to my wedding weight, and with our 10th wedding anniversary in November, I'd like to do it. Plus I want another child so need to be more fit; I'll be older, it will be harder.

3) Keep my temper

I'm a Leo (not whatever that stupid new zodiac says). "The Leo type is … ambitious, courageous, dominant, strong willed, positive, independent, self-confident there is no such a word as doubt in their vocabularies, and they are self-controlled (?)." Strong-willed? Really? No, I'd never have guessed! I am learning self-control and am better with age, and with being a mother, but it's still something I have to work on. Lots! It does go on to say "A Leonian can … display … excessive hastiness of temper." So that's alright then, I'm excused!

4) Keep my mouth shut

Sometimes, just sometimes, I find myself uttering a put-down or retorting to someone. It tends to be when there is a massive lack of manners being displayed by someone who really should know better. Things/people that wind me up (and I tend to find myself saying something):

  • people not holding the door open for someone. Likewise someone not saying 'thank you' when I've held the door open for them. Yes I am that person who says "Thank you so much, oh no not a problem at all you're welcome" very loudly so they can hear me!
  • teenagers playing football outside my house. I have marched out the house several times and had stand-up rows with them. One of these days there's going to be a news report of them having done me in!

5) Win the National Lottery

I'm not greedy, I don't want six numbers all to myself. I'd be happy to share it, or have five numbers and a bonus ball. £100,000 would change our lives. And yes, I am in it, otherwise I can't win it!


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