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.