Archive | November, 2012

For small people and their big people – a Christmas experience like no other, this Sunday

29 Nov

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Does this look like fun to you?  Well imagine this but with added Christmas magic.  That’s what you’ll find at the West Norwood Feast this weekend.

Click here to read my post on what Tea Dance for Little People-style fun you’ll find at the very special Christmas Feast this Sunday.  To give you a taste, it involves a rapping Santa and a Fairy-who-fell-off-the-Christmas-tree!

Celebrate Christmas Norwood-style 1st-2nd December

19 Nov

The ads are on the telly, green and red is featuring more and more in our lives – before you know it it’ll be Christmas week and we’ll all be freaking having not bought a single present.  Or maybe that’s just me.

If you’re bored of the standard grotto / candy cane combo, then get yourself down Norwood way where there’s plenty of imaginative stuff happening to get you into the Christmas spirit.

On Saturday 1st December we’ll be turning on the West Norwood Christmas lights with a special night market.  Between the hours of 4-8pm there’ll be a steel band, carol singing and a performance from Brixton band, The Effras to keep you warm.  There’ll also be a magical light installation, mulled wine, kids activities and delicious hot food.

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Then the very next day, on Sunday 2nd December a very Christmassy West Norwood Feast will take place.  Many of our regular stalls and acts will be there along with some new ones.  We’ll also have some very special guests joining us from Tea Dance for Little People, so look out for a body-popping Santa, the Fairy-that-fell-off-the-Christmas-Tree and a Head Elf who loves a hoe-down.  They’ll be wandering around granting wishes, answering your questions and bursting into spontaneous performance.  Little Feasties will be able to make a special Christmas wand at the Elf Factory which will be popping up all over the place.

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Tearing your hair out ‘cos your house looks like a bomb’s hit it? For some other mother one has.

17 Nov


Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic journalist who lives in Gaza, tragically lost his 11-month old son, Omar in the violence last week.

I remember getting into bed one night during a tough few weeks with Nancy, feeling absolutely broken and frustrated as I knew that I would wake up the following morning to start another difficult day already exhausted.  I felt terrible that I was pretty down and negative about it all, so I wanted to find a way to snap out of it.  So in a moment of concern for others which was rare at this exact point in my life, I told Tom that when Nancy wakes in the night (cos I knew she would) and then wakes up at 5.30am ready to start the day (cos I knew she would) I would try to think of all the women in the world whose babies are waking them up to start far less ideal days.  Those women and children who don’t have homes.  Those who don’t have Dads around, or wake up in danger.  Or those who wake up unsure about how they’ll feed themselves today.

I just wish this article had popped up in my Twitter feed that night.  It tells the story of Frances Harrison, the first ever female foreign correspondent to have a baby and bring him up in a war zone.  As it was it did pop up at a similarly significant time.  It happened when I was on my way to work in my fifth week back.  I was feeling beaten after five weeks of attempting to do a 5-day week in 4 days, of the cycle-train-tube journey into work and then the same going back only with a childminder pick-up added in.  And on top of all this, dealing with the truck-load of challenges that the job always throws up, right from day one.  Oh and so much more.  But it turns out this is nothing compared to what the writer of this article has had to live with to maintain her career whilst raising her son.  Frances managed to juggle motherhood with a ridiculously demanding and dangerous job.  One that would mean she’d have to fly off to some other country at a moment’s notice.  That she’d have to set up home again in another war zone, desperately looking for (trustworthy) childcare and having to wean her baby in a hotel room.  All while trying to meet her next deadline.  So suddenly having to travel for two hours across London each day and spend my evenings working every now and then seemed like a holiday in comparison.

But actually, while I found what she managed to achieve incredibly inspiring, it was the stories that she was able to tell that really put everything into perspective for me.  Yes her family life was hectic, dangerous and unsettled.  But because she did it she was able to tell stories in an entirely different way – from the perspective of a mother.  Those final two paragraphs had me burst into tears on the spot as I walked into work.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it for hours afterwards – spontaneously sobbing whenever it popped into my head.

Reading. No, not just reading.  Seeing the dying women she described giving their babies, ‘…one last breastfeed, knowing they’d otherwise starve in a place where milk cost more than gold’ led me to imagine the cocktail of emotions that this would conjur up in the heart of a mother.  How heartbreaking and unbearably terrifying it must be to know that you’re about to leave your precious, helpless child in such a dangerous, wretched place.  Not knowing what will happen to her, but knowing that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, while at the same time trying to stay strong for her, since as we all know, they pick up on fear and worry.  Only a mother, who has watched her own child grow and thrive on the milk she made with her own body, and who has shared hours of special moments breastfeeding her own baby, could ever really know how powerful this image is to mothers everywhere.

These stories enabled me to really, properly empathise with people living in war zones in a way that I never have before.  So while many people will say Frances was crazy or worse, selfish and inconsiderate for putting her son at such risk to ‘continue her career’, I have nothing but admiration for her.  Of course it’s upsetting that her son was at risk, that he was exposed to the worst of this world at an age when he should’ve been only surrounded by the best of it. But if it meant she was able to connect with people in this way, in a way that could provoke some kind of action big or small, then surely you can see why she did it?  After reading stories like this, most will at least view their own life with renewed perspective.  Others might share these stories with their friends.  Some might even donate to charities.  Maybe there are others would do even more, I don’t know.  But I think it is an incredibly valuable and admirable thing to be able to open people’s eyes to what is happening in the wider world in this way.

Ever wonder what your baby is dreaming of?

15 Nov

So does Adele Enerson, except for she has taken to snapping her little boy, Vincent in different sleeping positions and imagining what it is he could be dreaming about.  She then draws over the pictures to bring his dreams to life.

The result – just pure cuteness.

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11 Nov

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”
Pablo Picasso

Life just got even betterer!

7 Nov

Life just got even betterer!

Amazon I ♥ you for posting this through my little ol’ letterbox today.

Look.  It’s Mad Men season 5.  Finally!  Can’t wait for cosy early nights snuggled in bed with the big man, whiskey mac in hand, slowly working our way through. But why does he have to be doing a Don Draper on me tonight by working late, waaa!

And do you know what?  Sky Atlantic can sod off.  Now it’s here I’m glad we had to wait for our time with the handsome, charming and intriguingly brooding Don Draper. This way we get to have him all to ourselves.

Your ‘baby’ could be anything – a cafe, a book, a dairy-free yogurt

6 Nov


Image source:  ‘Freedom’ by Yatou

There’s been lots of chat and debate about what Stylist calls ‘power maternity leave’ this week.  According to Stylist, power maternity leave is a trend that sees women on maternity leave using this break from their careers to learn a language, take up a new hobby or even set up a business.  Of course, this has provoked real debate between those who think it’s inspiring and enterprising, and others who say it makes regular mothers feel inadequate and like they failed by not achieving such feats in their maternity leave (we all know how hard just getting through the day with a baby can be after all!)  Or worse, that these women have their priorities all wrong and should be using maternity leave to care for their babies.

I personally made a decision to use this time to reflect on my career, to see what things I gravitate towards and where else my interests might lie, now that my time and energy wouldn’t be completely dominated by work.  Of course, what happened is that my life instead was completely dominated by Nancy instead.  For the first 12 weeks at least. BUT I *did* come out the other side.  Things did get easier.  The big problems were replaced by little problems that I started to obsess about.  It’s easy to obsess about your baby when you’re a first time Mum.  And as soon as I realised that I was doing this too much I decided that I needed something else going on in my life.  Something that got me out and about more and provided a healthy balance between being a Mum and being me.  So I started to volunteer with the street market that I’d previously been helping out on.  We worked out a role sourcing and booking the entertainment and activities which was something that I could do when I had the time.  I also started a blog (this one) which was dedicated to staying curious as a Mum – exploring all that London has to offer, having wonderful experiences (with baby of course), basically getting the most out of life.  Which is what I’ve always loved to do and didn’t want to change in motherhood (the blog has changed slightly since!).

BUT

I don’t want to talk about this side of it.  Because this isn’t and shouldn’t be just about Mums.  I believe myself to be so lucky to have been able to take 11 months out from work.  To get away from the constant churn of work, late nights, stress.  To have time to do something else, to reflect, to consider what I really enjoy doing, feel passionate about and want to give my time to.  Because when you’re at work you simply can’t do this (not in my industry anyway).  Having this time and the experience of having a baby instantly put everything else into perspective.  I feel very blessed for that.  And I feel bad that other people don’t get to experience this.

Now I’m back at work things are less than ideal, but having created and given birth to a little life, I now respect life and appreciate it more than ever before.  My parents gave me this life.  It’s precious, it’s a miracle.  It’s mine.  And it’s not going to  last forever.  So while I enjoy my work and will give it my all (and actually I’m more focused than ever), I’m not going to spend my evenings tapping away in the office.  I’m not going to take on any more than a healthy amount of stress.  If I want to spend some of my spare time volunteering for a cause I feel is important, or trying out something I’ve always wondered if I’d be good at, then yes, I will do that.  It makes me happy, makes me feel alive, introduces me to interesting new people, gives me purpose.  I also feel that following your passions is a great example to set as a mother.

But my point is, everyone should be able to take a few months or a year to reflect and re-appraise things.  Anyone should be able to do a 4-day week to pursue other dreams.  Your ‘baby’ doesn’t have to be a baby.  Why not do a 4-day week to write that novel you’ve always meant to write?  Why not take a few months off to research and build a business plan for that cafe you’ve always wanted to open?  Lots of people have commented about how many people can’t afford to start a business.  But these days it doesn’t need to cost anything.  Fewer businesses need premises.  You can build an audience for nothing.  All you need is determination and time.  Hmm.  ‘But time is money’ – who can afford to go down to 4-days, to take a year out?  I’m going to come back to this another time because it is possible, I’m convinced of it.  I had no savings, loads of debt and huge outgoings when I fell pregnant.  My work didn’t give me enhanced maternity pay.  I had no idea how I would survive on the tiny £128 a week given to me by the government, but I did.  And I had loads of baby stuff to buy too.  But it just goes to show, it is possible with some saving, cutting back, switching mobile networks (£40 better off a month!) to fund some time off to explore other things.

Obviously the issue is that there aren’t loads of part time jobs.  Flexible working is only really given to Mums and even this doesn’t work as well as it should in many cases.  BUT WHY?  This HAS to change.  Surely.  It seems archaic that in this world where we’re so connected and flexible in every other sense, most jobs are so dominating and rigid.  Maybe we need to create that demand, I don’t know.  There is a big thing about portfolio careers right now which I think is interesting and will write more about.  It’s basically the idea that you can have a number of different roles for different reasons – one for money, another for love, time dedicated to learning, volunteering, whatever you’re interested in doing.  We’re all complex creatures after all – we have loads of skills, passions, talents.  Obviously it’s not for everyone, but I love it as an idea.  It feels much more civilised and really, really liberating.

And that will do for now.