Saturday, 17 November 2012

10 things toddlers do that drive you bananas

If you were in Asda today, you might have heard me. I was the blonde fishwife bawling at the three year old to come back/put that down/don’t eat that.  Besides it being easier to take a goat to do your weekly shop, here are 10 other things toddlers do that drive you nuts:

1. Drawing on stuff – walls, the dog, themselves, you, sadly nothing is off limits to a little Salvador Farley armed with a Sharpie. The key is to have lots of scrap paper (birth certificates are good), Cif and gin for later.

2. Hiding stuff – your everyday survival kit - car keys, bank cards and mobile – are under constant threat of becoming toddler treasure. Like magpies who hone in on purely essential items, there is one rule: if they can reach it, it’s fair game. The truth is you've got to stay one step ahead: if you need it, hide it. If you've lost it, check your shoes.
3. Eating stuff – If a toddler’s five-a-day included chalk, bogies, insoles, sel-o-tape and dry dog kibble they would be extremely well nourished. This morning I caught my three year old chewing on a repeat prescription. Please, stick to the edible stuff kids.
4. Saying stuff - Me: “Oh, look, it’s Uncle Alex.”
Toilet roll used as bath toy
Uncle Alex: “Hello, Poppy how are you?”
Poppy: “I don’t like Uncle Alex. He’s got a hairy nose hole.”
5. Not saying stuff:  Kids who have grasped the concept of talking, do so, a lot. If they’re anything like mine, they prattle, all-day-long. Except when it comes to talking on the phone, then their mouths shut faster than a decent shop on Wycombe high street.
Holding phone out, pleading voice: “darling, please say hello to gramps, it’s his birthday...he’s in hospital...on the Liverpool Care Pathway...please....?” 
6. Touching stuff - I understand the desire to touch is pretty strong in toddlers. But really, everything? From train toilet seats, duck poo and dog’s bottoms, to buying apps you don’t need and calling your work while you are ‘otherwise engaged’ in the bathroom, it is never enough for a toddler to look, it needs a jolly good poke, followed by a press ‘send’ just to make sure.      
7. Weeing on stuff – I had witnessed the phenomena of ‘mums being weed on’ by little boys so was quite glad to have a slightly more 'contained’ little girl, except when it came to toilet training. Holding my little one over a public toilet one day, she projectile peed all over my new Zara jumper.
Top tip: carry a spare top and immerse them as far as possible in the loo to 'minimise seepage'.
8. Falling off stuff – we’ve graced the presence of various Buckinghamshire A&Es three this year. Always unprepared, always without change for car parks and the fetid water they call tea, always to be told she’s ok, always to leave feeling like a new parent twonk.
9. Breaking stuff – I maintain an invoice of items my daughter has ruined/broken on my laptop (including a laptop) and plan to hand it to her 18th birthday, like an anti-disney princess story.  
So far the list comprises:
X 1 X-box – reason: play dough shoved the disc drive
X 1 laptop screen – reason: danced on
X 1 car CD player – reason: used as a money box
X 1 pug dog – reason: fed raisins (ok he’s still with us but the vet did say it was touch and go)
X 1 Guerlain bronzer – reason: smashed into a million pieces, mixed with water and made into teddy food
X numerous CDs – reason: used as ice skates
10. Your stuff - what does your toddler do that drives you bananas? Do tell...

Follow me on Twitter @melissablamey 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Break-Up

Yes. I admit it.
I haven't done it for six months. Six, long, could-have-travelled-around-the-world but-watched-every-episode-of-Come-Dine-With-Me-Instead-months.   
Between writing, shopping and wiping mushed in custard creams from the antimacassars (don’t have any really but fyi they are those square cloths that Nannas put over the back of their sofas to stop your head soiling their upholstery), at the end of the day, I simply haven't had the energy to do it.
I'm amazed it's still there and hasn't fallen off to be honest. But the other day I checked and there it was. It even looks the same.
I mean, it's sulking but who wouldn't if no one had paid you any attention for this long?
Anyway, enough is enough, there are only so many excuses you make, it is time to pet the neglected elephant in the room.
This is probably going to be ugly. Shall we? 
Hello Blog.
Blog: Oh my god, it is actually you. I didn't recognise you.  I see you had to reset your password it has been so long.
I know, I know. I'm sorry, ok? No one is more disappointed than me. Anyway, I'm here and I am bursting with ...
Blog: Woah, woah back up there Paris Chiltern. You log back in, sorry, break in - I had the locks changed for a reason you know AND your new password is obvious by the way - and expect me to publish when you say? I mean where have you been? What, did the Crazy Horse cabaret not work out for you?
Hey Madam. I’ve been busy. Really busy. A proper busy bee. But I wasn't so busy to realise that I do actually need you.
Blog: You need me?
Yep. You are a string to my bow. The pork pie at my picnic. My unexpected item in my bagging area. You complete me.
Blog: Well seeing as you put it like that. Let’s do this thing big girl. Oh and don’t even think about changing my font. This isn’t a re-branding exercise. Oh and kick some of those spam monkeys to the curb before you start. “I love your blog, it made my life mine at cheap filter,” gah. Jog on you virtual pigeons pecking at the cyber crumbs of my blog cake.    
I’ll go get my virtual feather duster.
It’s hard starting a blog, keeping it up for a while and then, whoops, there you go, four months has passed since your last entry. 
But anything that requires discipline (the gym, a diet, for me, reading a book) is tough.  But in the end, whether you blog for business or pleasure it helps you. If you, like me, have neglected your blog, it’s not too late for you two to work things out.
Five things to blog about when your blog cup has run dry
What’s for dinner? Yep, people are fascinated by the ins and outs of everyone’s lives including what they eat. 
“Mmm, what are you having?”
“We’re having dairylea on toast because I can’t be bothered to go to little Tesco and that in my mind constitutes a warm meal”
“I’ll give you the recipe”.
Learnt something new? I found out what antimacassers are today. No, really? Yes. Tell your audience about something new you have learnt. Easy peasy.
Where’s the dog? No that’s not one.  I am actually wondering where the dog is. In fact I might call my next post 'where’s the dog?'. 
What are you decorating? Maybe nothing. But it’s nice to dream. Write about it.
Say what? I love blogs and books that focus on the inane spoutings of children and people in supermarkets.
For example, our three year old pronounces the word helicopter as 'helitotter' and there is much comedy to be found in faux emergency conversations:
“There are two adults stranded on the north rock face, we’re going to need a winch, alert the helitotter team immediately."
And then next week (ok maybe two weeks) I’ll give you my latest blog – five things that toddlers do that drive you crackers. 
Have you had a break-up with your blog? How did you get your writing groove back?
Come and say hi at my shiny new site

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

No Disassemble! Number Five - Our Shed - is ALIVE!

It’s big, it’s cumbersome, it’s housing arachnids with bodies the size of cup cakes. But when it is time for your faithful shed to go to the great wood chipper in the sky, what exactly do you do with a shed that doesn’t want to die? 

I inherited our shed from my mum who inherited it from her grandfather. Having carefully housed three generations of Blamey garden ‘gubbins’,  last week I looked out at our tired, saggy roofed shed squatting at the bottom of our garden and decided that it was time to euthanize our old friend. 

For a start the roof felt had gone, the boards were rotting and no matter how many litres of Country Brown fence paint I slapped on it in every spring, by autumn the wood was peeking through. This combined with the smell of wet dog and old tea bags that filled your nostrils every time you went in no longer made it a garden haven but a place to avoid.

Having decided that the shed had fettered our view for long enough, I looked around for a shiny new number on the internet.  Which I quickly found.  There she was – ‘Blooma’ - all sparkly and nubile with shiny windows, the promise of 10-year rot free guarantee and – and! – Someone will put her up for the bargain price of £30. Sold! To the lazy lady in the corner who’d rather read Heat magazine and paint her toenails than faff about for half a day putting up a shed.     

But with beautiful Blooma arriving in the next five days I faced the conundrum of what to do with the old shed.

A quick shove and a swear

Looking at its dilapidated form, I decided that all I needed to do was set aside one balmy evening for operation ‘Shed Demolition’, give it a decent shove, a good swear and the whole lot should come clattering down in perfect Green Bin sized planks.

So armed with a hammer and a bottle of pinot grigio I set to it.  A bit of tugging, a large crack – which drew one of our neighbours to his back door to give me one of his best ‘what are you doing now looks’ – and half the roof came away.  Thinking this will be done in time for Teen Mom 2 and a nice cup of tea – I set about trying to break down the walls.  However, after much shoving, some kicks, several hammer blows and lots of stepping back to take large swigs of pinot and size up my opponent, I realised that it wasn’t going to budge.

Like an opening scene from Holby City, I tipsily decided to call in back up in the form of a sledge hammer and pick axe.  But despite swinging both at the walls as hard as I could the sledge hammer bounced off the wood and out of my hand, whilst the pick axe just made neat two inch rodent sized entry holes in the wood.

Realising it was much sturdier and tougher than I had ever imagined, at this point I decided to what any sensible person would have done and began to unscrew the walls from the remaining roof.

Finally confronted with a large shed jigsaw we  - my long suffering partner, Matt, who has witnessed all manner of my wine fuelled DIY demolition projects over the last seven years – from blowing up the pampas grass with petrol, to sledge hammering an asbestos lined  chimney breast -  had to decide what to do with our shed.

Too big to be tipped, too knackered to be sold we decided to teach it a lesson and set it on fire.

For three nights shed carcass burnt on our vacant vegetable patch.
I now know that you don’t mess with 25 year old sheds. They’re stubborn, they’re angry and like Number Five they are much of the ‘no disassemble!’ school of thought.

I have learnt my shed lesson, have you?            
Just time to tweet this before I call the fire brigade....

Monday, 16 April 2012

Timed Out

There are a few things in my life I can guarantee.  

I will always overestimate how much is in my bank account. 

I will always underestimate the number of alcohol units I consume each week.  

I will always drop a morsel of every meal down my front. 

And now there is another 'inevitable'.  

I will always underestimate how much time I have.

In the past two weeks I have undergone a steep work learning curve.  So steep in fact I think even Bear Grylls would have turned on his Timberlands and said, ‘bugger that'.

Having enjoyed a relatively smooth transition from working 'for the man' to working for myself, I have been lucky to have found enough freelance writing work to keep me in Pop Tarts. However, as my two year old is about to start attending nursery three days a week (instead of two mornings – barely time to have a cup of tea and a wee) I decided to notch my work load up a little by joining one of the country's leading copywriting agencies.     

Three projects? No problem! This time next week? Of course, just send me the brief.


Like the first time I brought home our tiny new born daughter from the hospital, I genuinely did not have a clue what I had signed up for.

Morphing into Star Wars’ Jabba the Hutt chained to my lap top - Salacious Crumb - I angrily occupied a corner of our spare room for the next three days.  

Occasionally barking orders at my endlessly patient partner, such as, ‘feed the dog' and 'bring more Smarties' I didn't cook dinner, or shower for three days.  

At one point, in fear of not meeting my self imposed deadline I attempted to pull an ‘all nighter’.

A phenomenon not experienced since my days at Leeds University. An ‘all nighter’ in your mid-thirties, with a small child and a pug, is quite different.  

For a start there is no sneaking off to the bar for last orders, or necking pro-plus like pac man to help you ‘push on til dawn’. No, an all nighter in your mid thirties basically entails staying up unitl 11.30, drinking lots of early grey tea and being quite cross.
On day two, when I briefly left my work fug to *walk the dog (*angrily drag dog round park in attempt to vent work stress on innocent members of the public and squirrels) I left the boot of my car open. Not unlocked, but open. With my hand bag on show. Open. 

Thankfully it was so *brazen (*idiotic) that anyone passing must have thought I was *nearby (*an utter moron with nothing worth stealing except a prescription for complete and utter idiocy), instead of half a mile away foaming at the local wildlife.

Now two weeks into writing for the copywriting agency, I have finally found my work/life groove.    

Whether I can sustain this without turning squirrels into hand puppets is another matter.

Juggling balls - how’s your work/life/baby/dog balance?


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Songs For My Daughter

Music is important to me.  The daughter of a professional rhythm and blues drummer father and tap dancer mother, I grew up in a home where there was a track for every occasion. 

There was Rod Stewart for the good times.  In particular, Maggie May would often herald the start of a dinner party, followed by Hot Legs when it all went ‘Mexico’ half way through, then Mandolin Wind for the Blue Nun come down and After Eights. 

Then there was Dolly Parton for the sad times.  ‘I will always love you’ was my mum’s anthem, for what we later dubbed her ‘brandy and sobraine’ years.  I always knew we were in for a difficult night if the strains of ‘Jolene’ could be heard thumping through the soft top of her MG Midget when she picked me up from school.

"Repeat after me: Springsteen, good, Bieber, bad" 
Now having my own child - a blank C45 tape on which to make a musical impression - is both an immensely exciting and terrifying responsibility.

What if I mess it up?  What if she turns into a ‘Belieber’ (one who worships at the flick fringe of Justin Bieber) and decides to plant her musical roots in soulless popville forever?      

It is also a task from which I have excluded my other half.  

An exceptional talent and creative force in so many ways, sadly, he is hooked on ‘pub jukebox BritPop’ made specifically during the period September 1995 to April 1996. (I laughed, then realised that this was true – Matt)

In my mind, student union anthems by Blur, Oasis (Wonderwall is the only exception) and, one hit wonder, Space, doth not a child of music make. 

To cement my thoughts on my musical mission, I have short-listed five of my seminal songs below.  

Kate Bush – what can I say, I love the Bush.  Everything from her contemporary dance, leaping about in a leotard ‘Wuthering Heights’ years, through to her beguiling, if a little cuckoo, 2011 Director’s Cut album. 

Whilst I regard every Kate Bush track as an absolute treasure, the ballad ‘A Coral Room’ from Ariel is my ultimate cache. A song about her late mother, the killer line ‘put your hands over the side of the boat, what do you feel?’ puts me on the tears every time.

Jeff Buckley – Lilac Wine.   A heady song about a lilac tree, lilac wine made from the lilac tree and lamenting a lost love (probably after drinking too much lilac wine), this is music to fall in love to. 

And then kiss someone else too. 

Then drink too much lilac wine to. 

Then play outside the window of the person you originally fell in love with to. 

Ah, quite simply, a beautiful, cyclical song about beautiful cyclical love.   Apply sparingly.

Fleetwood Mac – You Make Loving Fun.  Taken from the Mac’s 1977 album Rumours, for me, this song is an unrivaled, for your driving pleasure, giddy up, belter.     

Sung by the gorgeous Christine McVie (although my true girl crush is Stevie Nicks) this is for life’s, ‘spank me on the bottom and call me Shirley’, good times.   

Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go to My Lovely.  A jiggly, sexist ode to a flighty woman (you wouldn't trust her to come back with your change from the bar) this song is musical gold. 

With lyrics such as, “he sent you a you a racehorse for Christmas/And you keep it just for fun, for a laugh ha-ha-ha” this song will bring a hefty splodge of ‘je ne sais quoi?’ to any damp, cold Tuesday.

Ben Folds –  Late.  I was a skeptical, rolly-eyed, latecomer to the party that is Ben Folds’ music. 

But having found him, I’m not going anywhere.  In fact, when he's dishing out the nibbles, I’m going to raid his wardrobe and sleep in his clothes. 

Taken from his 2005 album Songs for Silverman, this song is Ben’s tribute to singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, who died of a self-inflicted knife wound.  

Cheery? No.  A wonderful affirmation that when your chips are down, music will get you through? Absolutely.     

What songs do you play your children?


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Meme: My first kiss, and other scarring first moments...

Me, sporting some fabulous beads, and my mum, Lyndy, who passed away when I was 25
I was recently tagged by gorgeous mummy blogger and fellow tweeter, poshbird to complete my first ever meme.  Funnily enough, the questions are all about some of the other firsts I have experienced in my life.    

So, like Johnny Ball, I will reveal all...

First Boyfriend

My first boyfriend – if you can call the boy who I exchanged Snoopy Valentine’s Day cards and hung out with at the monkey bars during break time, ‘a boyfriend’ – was called James Hunt.  

James was in my class at primary school, a teeny, weeny school in the teeny weeny village of Frieth.  

The son of a farmer, I recall going to James’ house for a birthday party, where the only entertainment laid on was to ‘pet his ferret’.  

That’s not a euphemism.

First person I kissed?

James and I were little more than friends who swapped novelty rubbers now and again, so the hot stuff only started when I started at secondary school. 

I remember being invited to a girl’s party where we played spin the bottle.  I had to kiss a boy from the neighbouring boy’s grammar school, called Mark.  He had a receding chin (quite a difficult thing to achieve at 13) and wore a cricket jumper.  

I was horrified as he tried to make the kiss more exotic by putting his tongue in my mouth.  I squealed. 

First job?

After graduating from Leeds university with my degree in English Literature and Theatre Studies (I quickly ditched the theatre studies part after my first successful audition was to win a part on a topless stone age darts programme) I returned to my lovely home town of High Wycombe.

The first job I took was at one of those hideous telephone research centres for minimum slave, no sorry, minimum wage, where you call people at home to take part in market research interviews.

I was shown to my booth (also known as ‘a trap’) which contained a telephone, a script, a knackered old computer system and some pornography.  I don't think the pornography was meant to be there but clearly the last trap occupant had had some time to kill between calls.  

Naturally the job was hell (‘Piss off will you love, Countdown’s started’) but my fellow trap occupants were wonderful.  

An enclave for post graduates (not to mention some of the human race's finest broken biscuits who also needed to buy cigarettes and provide their mum’s some rent), it is to date, one of the funniest places I have ever worked.

What did you buy with your first pay packet?

Gosh, something sophisticated like 600 Marlboro lights and a bottle of Pol Remy. 

First album you remember buying?

It was an album by eighties dazzling pop duo, Dollar.  My 11-year old self was utterly smitten with David Van Day.  The toad.

First holiday abroad?

My parents were quite young and rock and roll so we used to pile into a jeep and go camping in the South of France.  I loved it, as being an only child, we used to go with another couple (‘Bryan and Sylvie’) and their three daughters.   

Our parents drank like fish for two weeks whilst we lived like feral children, playing in the dirt and eating sunflower seeds. Holidays like this would end up in the Daily Mail now.

How old were you when you left home?

I never left.  Sadly, my mum passed away when I was 25, so I inherited home.  I also inherited mum’s 170 year old shih tzu, Mr Toad. 

Both Mr Toad and the house were a weight around my neck in my mid twenties but I came to love them both dearly. 

Mr Toad died a few years ago (he’s fertilising a white standard rose in the back garden) but the house is now home to me, my partner Matt, a filmmaker, and our two-year old daughter.  

So now i get to foist my meme baton on to another two bloggers. 

This can be time consuming, especially the remembering part, so no pressure if you don't have the time or the will to take part. However, if you can find time in your child-addled lives, and Shouty Dad I am sure you will find this an enriching exercise.  But mostly I'd like you to do it so I can have a squiz at your answers.  

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Snowmaggedon – I don’t think snow

I was as ‘snow giddy’ as the next person when nine inches of snow started to settle on south Bucks last Saturday. 

Rushing from window to window, mewing with delight as the white stuff grew from a dusting, to a frosting, to a thick cheese cake layer.  Interrupting our film to watch the latest weather forecast and squealing with delight as twitter updates talked of ‘blocked roads’ and ‘worsening conditions’.   It looked as though The Chilterns was the eye of the perfect snow storm.

Primed for a week long snow-a-thon, when I shivered awake on Sunday, the reality of our snowfall was, well, a bit disappointing.

In sharp contrast to our last two winters, where a full blown ‘snowpocalypse’ caused  school closures, flight cancellations and road chaos, this was more like ‘travel snow’ – small, compact and manageable.  Like a game of ‘Pass the Pigs’; there to entertain you if you wanted it, easily ignored if you didn’t. 

I think the worst incident that happened involved a SMART car ‘falling over’ in High Wycombe. 

A self-confessed Snowzilla, in the build up to this year’s one day snow fest, I did notice a number of snow-induced phenomena amongst myself and my fellow men.

For example, do you recognise any of the following behaviours?   

Stockpiling - one sniff of a snow sprinkle and we’re off to the supermarket to stockpile soup, milk and matches.  You may have just bought your weekly shop but, no, must...fill...shelves...more.   

It even looked as though they were running low on those dodgy cans of ‘Nurishment’ drink in Morrisson’s on Friday.      

Rubbernecking – not content with watching the snow fall on our own patch, curiosity about ‘other people’s snow’ is overwhelming.  On foot, or by car, snow brings with it a need to know what is going on in other parts of your neighbourhood.   A mere rumour of someone ‘putting their 4x4 in a hedge off of Tancred Road’ and we’re there.  With camera phones.

Force-feeding the birds – for many of us, feeding the birds is not our greatest priority in life. We might scrape the bread board of crumbs outside from time to time, or lob the end of an old Battenburg in their direction but that is about it.  However, when the snow arrives, it’s all about hanging as many fat balls from your Forsythia as you can.      

Snow  watching –  when snow falls we suddenly become obsessed with every minutia of snow related information released from the Met Office.  How long is it here for?  When’s it coming back? Is it going to snow at the weekend? Where is it deepest?  How many flakes fell last night? Why is it white? Can I eat it? Tell me, Michael Fish, tell me.

Anti-snowsocial behaviour – according to the Lincolnite, the local Police had to deal with 198 ‘snow related incidents’ at the weekend.  This ranged from piling snow against residents’ doors to throwing snowballs at houses, pedestrians and motorists. 

Yes, with the snow, comes a certain amount of anti-social behaviour.   

However, explaining to my two year old that children hopping about like crazy mud bugs in the street because they are excited is one thing, trying to explain why there is a large snow penis on our neighbour’s car is another.    

Did I miss anything?  What did you think of the snow? 

Do you know what a 'snow penis' is?

Monday, 30 January 2012

Mum-upmanship. Brilliant. As if you don’t have enough to do.

I had a disconcerting encounter with another mum recently which led me to believe that Mum-upmanship – the concept of verbally getting ‘one over’ on another mum - is alive and, well, ready to suck the lifeblood out of you, if you let it.

I was an interviewee.  She was an interviewer.  

The job involved writing a weekly blog for her start-up business. 

Five minutes in we establish we both have toddler girls. 

Six minutes in, I say this is a good role for me as it will allow me to spend time with my two-year old. 

Six and half minutes in, she says she also works part-time to spend time at home with her daughter. 

And she has a Nanny. 

Eight minutes in, and on the subject of social media, I say I have just joined Twitter and have a paltry 100 followers. 

Eight minutes and 31 seconds in, she says she has 4,000 followers and ‘didn’t have to do anything to get them.’

Nine minutes in, a frosty handshake, and I am ejected from my interview with Business Mumm-ra.  

You may have noticed the phenomena of mum-upmanship when you fell pregnant.  Whether it was a friend, a neighbour, a colleague, or even your own mum (you never know), someone you know always chirrups that, they too, are pregnant.

Bump Buddy

Although your only common bond may have been to conceive at the same time, (that power cut was long though) you suddenly find yourself paired with your very own Bump Buddy (BB).   

Hurrah, you might think.  Someone to share the same milestones: morning vomittyness and scan dates. 

Someone to share the same questions: “When are you due?”,“Do you know whether it is a boy or a girl?”, “Is X (insert father’s name here) excited?”.

Someone to endure the same well-meaning comments: “Oh, you’ve a tiny bump, you need to feed that baby up”, or as my other half said: 
“Blimey, are you eating for two, or three, Cakey Price?”.

Of course, your relationship with your BB maybe a nine month giggle-a-thon but, as one mum-to-be, whose cousin was expecting at the same time, put it: “I felt as though I had entered a two woman pregnancy competition.” 

Before you know it, mum-upmanship can start to creep in to all kinds of foetal focused matters. 

From whether you are planning to do NCT or NHS classes, which vitamins you are or aren’t taking, whether you use bio-oil or organic, knitted-from-the-fur-of-baby-bees stretch mark cream, whether you plan to breastfeed, what kind of birth you want, through to, whether you are reading French to your unborn child through your womb wall.   

Sadly, pregnancy is just the nucleus of mum-upmanship. 

When junior arrives, there is a whole smorgasbord of scores to settle. 

For example - if you wanted to - whether you are able to breastfeed, whether your little one is hitting their mental and physical developmental milestones, which pre-school you want them to attend, what you put in their sandwiches etc.

I am only two years in, but as I overheard two Nannas in a lift frothing over their children’s successes this morning, I am pretty sure that this mum-upmanship thing is going to run and run.

What’s your experience of mum-upmanship?  How do you deal with a Mumm-ra?

Friday, 20 January 2012

Track Off! Five Very Important Reasons to Derail HS2

Pugs in Space - Whiteleaf Cross on the edge of the Chilterns   
Having been delayed, overcharged and jiggled about on many an unsatisfactory train journey in the UK, I understand the need for this country to improve its rail infrastructure.
I also appreciate that a high-speed super train will bring us in line with the rest of Europe (although interstellar space travel services are likely to be in operation before the HS2 is complete in 2026). 
I also concede that HS2 might encourage more foreign and domestic travellers to see more of our country, making it less ‘London centric’. 
But, really, is writing a highly bounceable cheque for 32 billion for a rail scheme in the hope that a few more outlying towns along the route will be colonised by Body Shop or Costa Coffee, worth it?
If the Government insists on putting forward such a flabby business case, here are my five very important reasons on why the HS2 needs to ‘track off’.
Housing - Buckinghamshire’s housing market is already in a fairly vulnerable and sad state. 
Latest provisional figures show that only 492 new homes were started in the county in the last quarter of 2011. That’s 33% less than the same quarter the previous year. Also, you only have to look around at the vast number of stagnating ‘for sale’ signs to see the lack of movement between buyers and sellers. 
Although confirming HS2’s route may have brought relief to some homeowners concerned whether high-speed Thomas the Tank Engine was going to be rattling their condiments, HS2 has brought uncertainty about house prices and homes ‘saleabiity’ to the whole area, hitting an already flagging market in the housing gooch. 
Passenger Productivity – HS2’s PR machine is working overtime telling us that the HS2 super train will shave 30 minutes off journey times.
That’s 30 minutes of cramming for an exam, 30 minutes finalising a presentation, 30 minutes pondering your ‘flat pack bee hive’ pitch for Dragons’ Den, 30 minutes thinking about bypassing Jimmy’s Pizza and cooking something real for dinner. 
When you consider what ideas may come to fruition in 30 minutes, denying thousands of passengers’ 'thought time' is a false economy, surely?
Show Business - DCI Barnaby: “You see Vicar, Miss Ingleby wasn’t hosting the cake stall at our jolly summer fete, she was conducting an affair with...” *225 mph HS2 train explodes out of tunnel in neighbouring garden, taking several red kites with it*.
The Vale of Aylesbury and Chiltern Hills’ villages, with their easy access to Pinewood Studios, have long been a backdrop for national and international programmes and films. 
From murder happy Midsomer and Oxford loving Lewis, through to Hollywood blockbusters like Sleepy Hollow and Nanny McPhee, these peaceful locations are prime fodder for producers. 
Not only will HS2 threaten to crush the investment and tourism these productions bring, but it will significantly reduce our chances of bumping into Johnny Depp at the hot food counter in Co-op. Has anyone sent a memo about HS2 to Spielberg, hmm? I wonder.
Red Kites – thanks to an intensive protection programme and people feeding them at transport cafes (not allowed apparently), the skies above the Chiltern’s are once again populated with these graceful forked-tailed birds of prey.
So much so, that we have caught them stalking our Pug.  Anyway, the point is, we’ve only just got them back, haven’t we?  
And finally, has the HS2 think tank not seen the disaster film Unstoppable? 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Bucks Baby – Five purse-friendly places to take your baby and toddler in High Wycombe

As this is my first blog post for the Bucks Free Press website, I am dedicating it to helping all those looking after little ones by posting a purse-friendly guide to the best spots in High Wycombe.

Having pounded the parks and fed the ducks everywhere, from Hughenden Park to the Rye, with my two year old, below are some of the tried and tested toddler friendly activities I have discovered to amuse and, most importantly, tire little ones. 

The Eden Centre – not to be confused with the Eden Project (although both are housed in glass bubbles), Wycombe’s Eden Centre is a haven for those moments when you cannot stomach a third repeat of your scratched Peppa Pig DVD.
With oodles of shops, cafes and strange vertical water fountains for your little one to 'sqoosh' their hands in, there is always something to do. 

If you’re looking for an energetic activity you could try one of the Gymboree music and movement classes designed for newborn through to five year olds.  Or, alternatively, if you had a difficult night and want somewhere quiet to sit, hunker down in one of Eden’s many eateries. 

A personal favourite of mine is the M&S cafe: wide seating areas with plenty of buggy room, scones the size of your head and, if you ask, someone to carry your tray to your table.  Perfect.  

Visit the Eden website for further information:

High Wycombe Library – Wycombe library is a great place to hang out with your toddler.  Four floors of books, a lift with big buttons to press (providing it is not the alarm as my daughter has done several times) and during term time, a free ‘Bounce and Rhyme’ session is held every Friday at 11.00.   

For those not familiar with the Bounce and Rhyme concept, it’s a half hour session of singing children's songs and nursery rhymes.  The little ones love it and the big ones giggle when they don’t know the words to 'wind the bobbin up.'

The sessions are popular so advanced booking is required.  For more information call 0845 2303232 or email:

Parks – if you’re looking for a place to let your little one to let off steam, High Wycombe is home to some great parks and playgrounds.

The two largest within easy walking distance of the town centre are:

The Rye, which boasts ducks and swans to feed, a revamped play area (including a large ship climbing frame), and a cafe during summer months – what’s not to love? 

The other is Hughenden Park.  Fifteen minutes walk from High Wycombe town centre, Hughenden Park is 25 beautiful hectares of National Trust land.  

With an adventure playground at one end, a cafe at the other and acres of hilly parkland in between, a morning running about and jumping on mole hills here will often mean a peaceful afternoon.

Sure Start Children’s Centres – based in Downley, Sands, Castlefield and other places across High Wycombe, Sure Start Centres offer a variety of support services for parents. 

As well as providing access to health visitors, the centres are a treasure trove of affordable fun activities. 

As one of my friends, Lisa - mum to 18 month old Dane - said:

“I initially went for breast feeding support and was given a timetable of activities while I was there.  

"I took Dane to messy play, dinky dancers and swimming. The sessions are fun, the paint doesn't go on your carpet and I've made some great friends who I now see regularly."

To find your nearest centre visit

Pets at Home – yes, this may sound a little strange but if your little one is hankering to see, or even better, touch some animals, Pets at Home based at Wycombe Retail Park is a great place to visit.  

As well as offering a large selection of marine life to gape at (remember, no tapping on the glass!) they run events to meet the smaller animals, such as guinea-pigs, rats and rabbits. Call them or drop in to find out when the events are on.

If you have other suggestions of free places kiddleywinks love to hang out, in High Wycombe, or anywhere, I would love to hear them.