I’m a chatty type-: a dander down the Ormeau Road near where I live can take an hour longer than expected if I don’t have a word with myself. Sometimes though, a chat can open all sorts of possibilities, and with my ‘Do One Thing’ this month, I’ve been even chattier than ever. Today at lunch time I took a stroll round the Christmas Market at the City Hall with my friend Fiona. If you haven’t been yet, scurry along soon, because it’s just gorgeous. A few years ago I visited the Czech Republic at Christmas time and it smelt the same, with the rich scents of coffee and mulled wine and wood smoke.  I was particularly taken with the French stall, with Provençal produce that had me reminiscing of foreign climes with soaps of lavender, vetivert and rose.

We followed our noses to the steaming vat of chowder at the Mourne Seafood Van, and what a friendly bunch they were. However, as soon as I spied the polystyrene boxes for their lobster burgers I was off on one of course, which did not appear to perturb them in the least. ‘We’ll pass that on to the big lads,’ they said, nodding away, not looking in the least aggrieved.

‘Individual sachets for sauces, that’s another disaster,’ I added. ‘You need to look into that.’

‘Aye, right enough. We just need one of those big jobbos for ketchup.’

You see? These poor lads, accosted by me before the lunch time rush, and still managing to be ever so pleasant. I was very taken with them. ‘Is she one of them un’s who’s saving the planet?’ one asked my friend, who nodded vigorously.

A couple of years ago, when I mentioned recycling or suggested alternatives to plastic, people often looked at me with barely concealed contempt. ‘Away off and stop being so bothersome,’ their eyes said, even if they managed to be civil. It’s great that attitudes are changing.

Fiona’s husband is French and she told me stories he’d shared of weddings back in his native Brittany when his parents were young. Instead of an expensive or elaborate reception, the whole village attended the ceremony, then gathered to sup stew or soup in a hall or field. Each guest brought a ‘wedding spoon’ so they could tuck in and no one had to wash up. As I trotted round the market today I chided myself for not having brought my keep-cup or cutlery with me.  (As it was, I ate my fish taco with my hands, which was slightly messy but entirely do-able, and I held off on having a drink until later).

‘If I had brought my own container would you have filled it?’ I asked the Mourne Seafood chap. ‘Why wouldn’t I?’ he replied.

And there we are. I have a sizeable handbag, so from now on, should I visit a market, I’ll have my cup and eating implements with me. The more we do this, the more it will be the norm, and after the conversation with the lads earlier, they won’t be surprised. The transition towards sustainable living is afoot, and the more of us who embrace it, the quicker change will happen.

I’ll be honest, this month has ended up being much busier than I anticipated. I write myself lists of what I want to achieve in the week to come and I self-flagellate when tasks go unticked. I was being particularly hard on myself a couple of weeks ago, and gave myself a right rollocking about why I wasn’t more on top of things.  But upon reflection, I had actually done quite a lot, especially given that The Small Child had been ill and off school, which tends to scupper plans when you are at home, trying to write.  One of my biggest problems since I gave up my teaching job is that I ‘take on’ so many smaller projects that it feels like I’m still working quite a bit, except for when it comes to being paid. There’s great wisdom in knowing when to say ‘no’ and concentrating on what is truly fulfilling.

A friend lent me Ruby Wax’s latest book, which to be frank, I didn’t expect to like. However, I actually think I agree with the author Neil Gaiman who calls it ‘utterly readable and surprisingly wise.’ I’m actually going to go and order myself a copy so I can highlight the most insightful bits. She writes with great intelligence on why we ought to forgive ourselves more, and how by doing so, this compassion will feel more natural and thus we’ll be more able to help others. Her book is by no means perfect, as you can read in this Guardian Review, but I found her musings to be useful and un-sanctimonious, a style which Anne Lamott manages too. (I spent far too much time in The Christian Union at an all-girls grammar to be able to cope with sanctimonious types).

In Anne Lamott’s fabulous Ted Talk she  tells us why we’re much more productive when we exercise a bit of self-kindness, and If I’m feeling crotchety I listen to it and always feel better.

I know that the second I go down the rabbit hole of being cross with myself, I also lose my ability to extend kindness to others, instead becoming sharp-tongued and shrewish. Wax says:

When being compassionate, there are no rules to follow. Anytime you’re moved to do something to help, that’s enough.

Wax suggests that by doing random acts of kindness, such as letting someone go ahead of you in the queue, or buying a coffee for a person on the street, you’re likely to feel a bit better about yourself. (She also includes feeling happy for people who have done really well at something, and thankfully like the rest of us, she finds that one pretty tough.)

I came up with the idea then of writing a little note or journal at the end of the week. That way, when I look back and wonder why I skipped going to the gym and missed any writing deadlines I set myself, I can say look and see exactly what was going on and say, ‘Ahh, that’s why,’ instead of assuming I’d just been lazy or disorganised.

So there we are. ‘Do One Thing’ today and be a bit nicer to yourself, and the world will thank you.

 

Calling all parents out there- are you with me on this? You come in, knackered, having been to the park/soft-play/swimming pool and the kids start up: ‘Will you help me with my lego?’ ‘Can you play Mr Funny Face with me?’ (No, because I flipping HATE Mr Funny Face,) and I get a bit peeved because I’m just through the door and there’s laundry and dishes and tidying and all I want to do is put Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ on the iplayer and disappear for an hour.

I’ll admit it: I’m not good at this. We seem to take our kids out A LOT,  and between parkrun and jaunts round the countryside at the weekend, I feel I’ve served my time as an actively engaged parent. Lately we’ve been exploring Cregagh Glen beside where we live, because it’s brilliant to be able to actually walk somewhere, and cut out the car journey. But the wee ones love it when we actually sit down in the house and play games with them and truthfully, I don’t often make the time for it. When I’ve done their homework, or taken them for ice-cream, I feel entitled to my own time  and send them off to watch TV or amuse themselves. It’s not as if they don’t have a mountain of toys scattered around the house, and anyway, isn’t creative free-play good for children?

However, I appreciate that learning to play games is a skill, and it’s undeniably fun for them. I still remember playing ‘Happy Families’ and ‘Whist’ with my mum and my grandmother. My granddad taught me how to play draughts and I used to love playing chess with my dad and brother, especially on the odd occasion when I hammered them. The other evening my dad was up and he and the little one were having a game of draughts. ‘She’s catching on quick,’ he remarked, and I felt ever so proud.

Another benefit to playing a game is that it calms them down before bed. Jigsaws and lego require a degree of concentration, which settles them more than watching TV.

Today we came down to Bangor after school and I was all for taking them for a walk on the beach to do a ‘Litter Pick’ as part of my ‘Do One Thing.’ I went off this notion sharpish though, when I stepped out of the car and felt the chill of the wind on my cheeks. The tide was in too. ‘That’s one for another day,’ I thought.

So retro jigsaws in front of the fire it was. I left my phone in the other room, and we played Connect Four and cards we had when I was wee and it was all quite lovely. I felt quite virtuous, which doesn’t happen very much. They were more than happy to sit down to some homework and I didn’t have to watch a single episode of ‘Sam and Cat’, there latest show of choice which grates upon me something shocking. I also hunted out some games mine have outgrown and I’m going to try and off-load them on my friends who are coming to my ‘Swap-shop’ on Friday night. I call that a result for a Monday afternoon.

In her book ‘Ice cream for Breakfast,’ the author Laura Jane Williams ruminates on her time as a nanny, and how if we were to listen our inner child we might be a whole lot happier with ourselves. When children, for instance, are in puerile form, it’s often down to a lack of either food or sleep. We find ourselves saying this all the time to ours, who are five and seven. ‘You’re just a bit tired,’ we tell them, when they’re over-wrought and melting us. ‘Scamper up those stairs and you’ll be better in the morning.’  (Or let’s hope to  God you are anyway, we sigh.)

Williams makes a fair point though. Sustained periods of sleep deprivation not only makes one feel lethargic, but leads to feelings of depression and an inability to cope. No wonder so many new parents look properly zombie-like, staggering around clutching coffees, ricocheting between caffeine fuelled bursts of mania one moment, and slumped in a corner the next.

I was never great at taking myself to bed early, and it was a revelation just how much better I felt when I did. A pal once remarked that an hour of sleep before twelve counted for two after. I can’t say whether this is true, but I remember the feeling of waking up after a solid nine hours and feeling something close to elation. How wonderful it was to bounce out of bed and have time to make a cafetière of coffee and slather butter and jam onto toast and glide into one’s day. Then I had children and all those feelings were parked for a few years.

Our youngest child is a terrible sleeper, which of course has a direct impact on our slumber too. She likes to come in at three am and thrash about, clouting us on the head with her little fists or positioning herself horizontally across the bed. A particular favourite is pressing the ball of her foot into the scar from my c-section. ‘Remember from whence I came’ the foot seems to say, ‘You brought this torment upon yourself.’

Usually, LSB gives up takes himself off to the other room, unless we’ve got guests in which case he suffers on. The other morning he looked particularly disgruntled, and I remembered I still hadn’t made the bed up after a recent guest had left and I had stripped off the sheets. ‘I swear, you’d get a better night’s sleep in a crack den,’ he grumbled miserably into his porridge the next day.

(Only joking, this isn’t really our house. We have far more clutter.)

Have you ever seen the episode of ‘Everyone loves Raymond’ where they leave the suitcase at the bottom the stairs and a week later it’s still there? Well we manage to take the case UP the stairs, but proceed to leave it sitting in the corner. I decant all the essential things that need washed, lest social services arrive at the door, but often the case itself languishes with bits of random stuff, for anything up to a fortnight. So last week I went to town on our bedroom, clearing surfaces and cupboards and making it all a bit more zen.  The youngest has, thanks be to goodness, slept much better the last few weeks. Perhaps we were so used to having our sleep disrupted that we just GAVE UP on making it look nice.  Now, to my delight, the room is clutter free and thus calming on the nerves.

In my bedside drawer I have all sorts of delicious unguents: hand-cream from my friend in New Zealand; buttery lip balm from my pal Aisling, and a rich emollient cream for neck and décolletage pressed upon me by the Mothership. Delightfully the small print reads ‘For mature skin.’ Thanks Mum.

However, as I get ready to bed I have a ritual which feels like a little pampering session. As I daub my hands and face with all my potions, I think fondly of my friends who bought me the gifts. It’s a lovely way to go to sIeep.

So tonight’s an easy one. Do One Thing and gift yourself a lovely sleep, if not tonight then soon. No phones, no screens, no mounds of washing on the dreaded ‘chair’ (we all have one). Low lights and maybe a scented candle. Bonne suit, readers.

 

 

One of the best things about being almost 40 is the liberating feeling of not giving a s**t. Many people, who  may have witnessed me demolish a dance floor, perhaps in White’s Tavern or Auntie Annies, may find it hard to believe that I ever had any inhibitions when it came to throwing a few shapes. What I must point out however, was that this was ‘free-style’ dancing.  These movements of mine came about from my primal response to the beat, and if I was feeling it, then I was beyond restraint.  I could always shake a leg when I was out of an evening, and once I heard the strident chords of the Stone Roses’ ‘Resurection’, or the riff at the start of Guns n’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ I was away.

However, any sort of dancing which necessitated following steps, was a different thing altogether. An inability to tell left from right, coupled with self-consciousness, meant that Irish Dancing as a child or salsa dancing as a student rendered me feeling like an uncoordinated moron. I’ve written before about the Irish Dancing lessons my mother sent me to when I was four, and the teacher who had a voice on her that could have skinned a rabbit, and under whose tutelage my tiny frame froze and my toes clenched in their pumps as I seized up in terror.

Then I endured the Glenlola Collegiate PE experience, which included some frightful instruction on a variety of ‘traditional dances.’ We had to fold our arms in ‘Dosey Doe’ to some North American barn dance nonsense, and hold hands side-stepping round in a circle to ghastly Russian folk music. I was always  paired with one particular girl whose hands were cold and clammy, like recently defrosted prawns. Once, I recall a few of us laughing at the sheer bizarreness of the activity, at which our teacher went berserk, chastising us for our lack of manners. ‘I’ll have every last one of you in a detention!’ she yelled, her jaw muscle a-quiver. ‘And that’s not a threat, that’s a PROMISE!’ Flip, she took things to heart, that one.

The hall was huge and echoey and the wooden floor was cold under our bare feet. The cold was no doubt exacerbated because we were forced to wear only an air-tex shirt, coupled with navy ‘knickers’; a cross between athletic shorts and large pants. They could only have been described as undergarments, and in today’s forward thinking Ireland, should a girl choose to wear these ‘out and about’ she would surely be inviting sexual assault, (which of course would be her own fault entirely, due to the paucity of material.)

Anyway, for these reasons I never enjoyed any formal dance lessons, and when my friend asked me to come along to an Irish Dancing Class held by Orla Longeran in a Presbyterian Church on the Ormeau Road, I said ‘No thanks, that sounds horrific.’ Somehow though, she wore me down, and up I turned and the music and the sheer FUN of it drew me in. Three years later I’m still doing my ‘one-two-threes’ and my ‘sevens’ and my reel and I’m LOVING it. Yes, I am often to be seen dancing off in the opposite direction to everyone else, but I just laugh and think how lovely the Presbyterians are, to let this mad Anglican skip about their hall, dropping the odd expletive. Orla and I get on terrifically well because like me, she is a chronic over-sharer, and I revel in the fact I never know what she’s going to reveal next, be it her temperamental guts or her poor application of fake tan. She makes me feel right at home, despite her long gazelle like legs as she hop-two-threes about, full of gracefulness and elasticity.

And now I’ve discovered ‘K-Pop-X’ at Queen’s PEC. I never thought that aged 39 I’d have developed an appreciation for Gang-ham style Korean dance, but holey moley, it turns out it’s ALL THE CRAIC, and a terrific work-out to boot. I find myself smiling inanely as I hop forwards and kick back, making little gun actions with my middle and fore-fingers, then karate-chopping the air.  ‘DJ’ calls Hannah and we make wide swoops with our arms and hold the palm of our hands to our ears.  ‘Good job!’ she calls as we shimmy left and right, opening imaginary ‘tricky doors’. And maybe that’s all there is to it:, a good attitude and uplifting tunes. I bounce out that door of a Friday afternoon feeling upbeat and energised.

Doctors now recommend active pursuits as a means to boost both physical and mental health, and anyone who has been to either Orla or Hannah’s classes would understand why.

So, should it be your living room or your gym, disco or church hall, get dancing. I’m convinced it’s taken years off me, and at least for that hour or so, all other thoughts are dispelled. I did a ‘Thought for the Day’ on the subject back in October, which is here, should you wish to listen.

(You can have a read about how dance has helped people to recover from grief and exorcise demons in this article.)

This has been a long running (pardon the pun) rant of mine, but in this campaign I want to address the environmental issues which come with running and other sporting events. I’ve mentioned the bottle issue repeatedly on www.sourweeblog.com, and today I’m focusing on other race paraphernalia, such as medals and t-shirts. I previously wrote about this here.

(This is a shoebox which has actually spilt under the wight of all the medals, which are unceremoniously chucked here and stored in a shelf under my desk, where they are rarely looked at, never mind displayed).

I read this article yesterday which Orla Smyth, local athlete and owner of Kaffe O, shared on Twitter. Tens of thousands of t-shirts are given out every year at races throughout the UK and Ireland. I know, because it feels like most of them end up in my house. I created a whole storage system for my husband’s* sportswear, and the baskets which consistently over-flow are for tee-shirts.(Incidentally, he has three baskets for said t-shirts: one for short sleeves, one for long, and one for vests. Despite my efforts to clear these out on a regular basis, by offloading them to our local charity shops, they replenish themselves in no time at all.

I’m not advocating that we dispense with the notion of commemorative memoralia altogether. I have, for instance, particular affection for LSB’s Dublin Marathon tops, (of which he now has 4). Often, when I see a runner sporting one of these, I feel a surge of connection with them, because although I haven’t run it personally, as the wife of a marathon runner, I’ve certainly been  through an ordeal of my own.

However, the planet can ill-afford this unnecessary production of items which I’m convinced is something given out now simply as habit. Race organisers have many pressing considerations when organising events. It’s probably a decision taken automatically as they prepare the goody bags: Drink: tick. Packet of sweets: tick. T-shirt, tick.

What I’m suggesting then, as today’s Do One Thing, is that if you do take part recently in these events; have a root through your stash and see if you have any old sportswear that is superfluous to requirement, and think about giving them to charity. I am going to collect items donated by Belfast Running Club down to NICRAS, a charity on University Street which supports Refugees and Asylum Seekers.  Having spoken to their manager, they are grateful for donations of any type of clothing and homeware, and thus our unwanted sportswear will find a good home.

Should you wish to take this further, why not ask your own running club to reconsider its policy of including a t-shirt as part of their ‘swag bag’. If they feel it’s an important addition, why not ask if they could offer a discount on the entry fee for anyone who prefers to go without?

The good news is that this is happening already across the world, and you can read  an article all here about runners in Singapore who are taking this idea on board and running with it. (Sorry, attack of the puns here tonight).

To conclude: if your response to receiving a t-shirt or medal after a race veers towards ‘meh’; or ‘I’ll take it if you’re giving it away,’ then please let your feelings of ambivalence be known. We have the means to do this now, through tweets and e-mail, straight from our phones, in a minute or two on our commute to work. In an effort to save both money and the environment, I think it’s a worthwhile  .

*I refer to my husband as LSB on my other site, which is an acronym for ‘Long Suffering Bastard. (He tholes a lot, poor dote).

 

 

Experimentation began in our house tonight, testing out a recipe from Saturday’s Weekend Guardian for a curry paste. I LOVE the Feast magazine, but confess that I don’t even get it open some weeks before it gets chucked in the recycling. It couldn’t escape my notice this week though as it was chock-full of recipes for curries and dhals, and got me thinking to Christmas gifts. I’ve a friend in Leeds who makes a mean Thai curry paste, which he prepares in huge batches which keep his family and several families in his locale going for about 3 months.

It can be time consuming enough making your own pastes though, and once you’ve touched your eye with chilli’d fingers it can put you off doing it again. (My eye is still smarting after earlier carelessness.) It’s a great idea then to triple the recipe and whizz up a few servings in the one go. Make a few labels (I actually used part of a tissue box here), add some ribbon and you have some pots of loveliness at the ready. It’s best to keep them in the fridge, so if you’re using cardboard labels perhaps keep to one side. Pastes and chutneys are a fab solution to a last minute gift or an unexpected guest who arrives and you think: ‘BUGGER. Not a thing have I in the house for this person.’

A nice idea is to include the link to a recipe on the back of the card and if you have the time or inclination, you could even stock up on coconut milk so you can give that as well. It’s an ideal gift to ensure turkey doesn’t go to waste after the big day.

Sadly my photo doesn’t do justice to the concoction I just made, with the addition of tamarind giving it a sort of sewage-y colour, which is something one usually avoids. However, we have just eaten it for our dinner and substituted the pumpkin for broccoli (I still to be honest, haven’t made peace with pumpkin after the deluge we had at the start of the month) and it was an exceptionally good curry. Took me straight back to Hanoi, in fact.

I remember finding my first Christmas with two babies extremely stressful. Sleeping at night was an anathema to them, and I seemed to exist in a perpetual state of bewilderment.  Anyway, a friend arrived with jars of homemade cranberry sauce and a mango chutney, and my mum had parcelled up turkey and ham and bloomer bread. For two days we feasted on soup and the most phenomenal deli-style sandwiches, and I recall feeling totally cherished, as though people had just honed in on exactly what we needed.

So it may SEEM like a simple, frugal sort of an offering, but I think folk really appreciate a homemade gift, and if it’s delicious and useful, then what’s not to love? Here’s the recipe I used this evening, and another cracker of a paste is from a BBC Good Food Tikka Masala Recipe. It boasts a fine, orangey red hue, so looks a bit more festive. Maybe go with that one….

 

 

 

 

It’s day 15: I’m half way through! Thanks so much if you’ve been following the blog and hopefully you’ve found some inspiration to make some small changes for a more positive month. After talking wet-wipes and urging you to vent your grievances and moan at people, I’ve a nice one for you today. Should you need cheering up on this mizzly morning, and who can forget, it’s Wednesday, therefore ‘hump day’, have a quick look at this little guy:

Who doesn’t love a good donkey? Well, apparently lots of people which is why they are so poorly treated throughout the world. They are worked to death in Nepal, bred for medicines in China, and forced to carry over-weight tourists uphill in Santorini in Greece. I talked to the lovely Janet Hume at The Donkey Sanctuary in Templepatrick on Sunday and she gave me a few facts about donkeys.

  1. Donkeys and mules are often said to be stubborn. This is nonsense- lies perpetuated by donkey dissenters everywhere. They are actually extremely clever and excellent risk-assessors, hence they think carefully before springing into action, as they don’t want to hurt themselves. (Maybe we all should ‘Be More Donkey’, especially my children who are always clattering off things.)
  2. The average age of a donkey is 25-30. My pal David, down at Belfast 89 has a pet donkey who is 45 years old! That must be one well-looked after creature.
  3. Donkey’s hooves and coat are not waterproof. At the Donkey Sanctuary, their hooves and eyes are cleaned every day, and they make sure they don’t get soaked as they take ages to try when wet. Poor wee pets. They should therefore always have a place to shelter, or at least wear a coat.
  4. They can also get sunburnt. Janet told us that Ledger, a piebald breed, wears a reflective coat in the summer months, and staff put Factor 50 on his ears everyday, before he heads out and about in the paddock.
  5. Donkeys grieve. I thought my poor husband was going to break down when Janet told this story. Donkeys form strong attachments to other donkeys, and they usually hang out in a pair. Should one of the pair die, (choke, sob) it’s best to let the donkey stay with them, so they can process that their friend has passed and won’t be getting back up again. This helps them process the loss. (What is wrong with me? This is supposed to be a chirpy post!)
  6. Donkeys are extremely good with children. Somehow, people have the notion that donkeys are grumpy. This is not the case, and children with autism find spending time with donkeys to be extremely therapeutic. At the Donkey Sanctuary, children have the opportunity to connect with donkeys in a safe space, because of their ‘zen-ness’

 

We had a lovely time at Templepatrick. It was heartwarming to see how pleased the donkeys were to see us, and our kids played happily in the little park and enjoyed stroking the donkeys’ velvet noses. Stevey seemed to bond especially well with Archie, who gave him a good nuzzle. He’s mad about the animals, my husband. It’s a bit like being married to St Francis of Assisi, except he’s agnostic and I imagine drinks more.

I bought some Christmas presents in the shop, (the kids went berserk, picking up Donkey related items for their little chums, ah feck it, I thought, it’s a charity). Then we had a cup of tea, basking in the glow of happy donkeys and contented children. Make it your ‘Do One Thing’ to check visit this place (ring first or check their website). It will warm your heart nicely of a weekend

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Here’s a revolting fact for you. No seriously, if you’re having a nice cup of tea and a bun look away, now. I’ve just had a scrambled egg and it’s seriously threatening to resurface. Out in the sea, there is now a new type of ‘berg’. It’s not an ice-berg, no, it’s a FAT-berg, and these are massive congealed bergs of vileness, made up of wipes that people have used to wipe their rear-ends and flushed down the loo. We can’t put all the blame on individuals, because big companies such as Andrex and Johnstons advertise some of their wipes as as being ‘flushable’. Have a read all about it here, and there’s a funny little video to help us break the habit.

‘Use us!’ these wipes say. ‘Your bottom will feel fresh and delightful without the need for a shower or trip to a bidet. And heaven forbid, say, you use an old fashioned, washable, flannel. Heavens no! You couldn’t be at that. no, let’s use wet wipes to clean our posteriors and then flush them thoughtlessly down the loo, where they DON’T disintegrate as the packs proclaim, but wreak all manner of chaos in the sewers, causing local councils thousands, as they attempt to unblock them.’

 

Honestly, I think our sewers have suffered enough. And we haven’t even thought of the poor b******ds who have to go in and sort it out! Think your day job is bad? Can you begin to imagine that task for anyone? There’s not enough gin in the world people.

 

Thus today, your ‘Do One Thing’ is to minimise our reliance on these items, or, should you be particularly attached to them, at the very least put them in a bin, not down the toilet. They are, of course, another form of plastic that we need to eliminate.

 

I’ve just Tweeted to Andrex, (@AndrexUK) to see what they’re going to do about it. I sent them a nice picture too. Maybe, if you feel like it doing another ‘one thing’ today, you could do the same and exert some pressure? Our sewers will thank you. 🙂

Today I sent my girls off to school wearing odd socks, as a way to symbolise that it’s ok to be different, and foster understanding during Anti-bullying Week, 2018. At school during assembly and in class they talked about diversity and showing respect for others. I love that this was one campaign that didn’t demand a donation to charity, instead just prompting us to have a chat with our kids to raise awareness.

I can still remember in my first week in P1, a little girl with tight ringletty curls, cropped close to her head, asked if she could join in my game. She looked so different to any of my other pals that I was a bit spooked and said ‘No,’ before galloping off on my imaginary horse. I still feel bad about that moment, even though we went on to be friends for the rest of primary school.

Now, as parents, we have so many forums on which bullying can take place that it’s terrifying. I’m glad that my children are still small so as yet I don’t have to worry about internet sites. It used to be that a child came home from school and was ‘safe’. Now they can be in their bedrooms, receiving all manner of abuse via their phones, while their parents sit on, oblivious in the other room. I’m bricking myself just thinking about that joy which awaits…

It’s brilliant that the schools are addressing these issues so early, and encouraging us to have a conversation about it. I’ve told mine about the child in the playground I was mean to, and other occasions in life when I definitely haven’t been my best self. Sadly these occasions are many and plentiful, but at least that gives me plenty of fodder from which to choose. Life can be so frantic that our interactions with children can often be functional. ‘What do you want for dinner?’ ‘Did you eat all your lunch?’ ‘What’s your homework?’ It certainly feels like there’s been plenty of information exchanged, though very little of it was meaningful.

Today’s ‘Do One Thing’ is therefore just to have a proper chat. I actually find I talk more with my kids when we are out for a walk or in the car. Conversation seems to flow better this way.

I wore two different earrings today, though to be honest, more to see whether I could get away with it. Maybe I’ll just go back to the lovely ladies at Lines and Current and buy myself a new pair instead.