Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Think you're ready to be a Parent? Take this quiz to find out if you're really ready for a baby!

You've bought the cot, washed the teeny tiny baby grows in Fairy non-bio and read What to Expect When You're Expecting from cover-to-cover but are you really ready for the joys of parenthood?

Having been there and bought the posset-stained t-shirt, I have put together 10 scenarios to help you find out.

Enjoy! And if you like, please share with your soon-to-be-parent and parent friends. They could probably do with a laugh. Thank you.

Scenario 1: Taking a pregnancy test


1.    Pick up pregnancy test.
2.    Select other random items such as wine, condoms and WD40 to confuse cashier.
3.    Take test.
4.    Stare unblinking into middle distance for ten-minutes.
5.    Prepare dinner.


1.     Carry on as usual until you hear a shriek.
2.     Stare unblinking into middle distance for next 18 years.

Scenario 2: Two weeks before the birth

1. Carefully pack overnight bag with essential items for you and baby. 
2. Re-pack overnight bag, marvelling at your preparedness and forward-thinking.
3. Erase all memory of overnight bag.

1. Step over partner’s overnight bag in hallway.
2. Go to partner’s drawers.
3. Put oldest and most inappropriate underwear (anything red and black or adorned with Nat's Hen Party Magaluf 'On it 'til we vomit' 2010 is good) into a Tesco carrier bag.
4. Take to hospital.    

Scenario 3: Birth Day

1. Put on an outfit you might wear when you are bedridden with Norovirus.
2. Eat some very out-of-date food.
3Use your largest mixing bowl as a portable vomit urn.
4. Attempt to dry shave legs and make important telephone calls between disabling stomach cramps.
5. Ask partner to drive you to a destination 10-minutes away.
6. Try not to vomit, defecate, or punch anyone in the face during the journey.

Scenario 4: Prepare for the magical time at home following your little one’s birth by:

1. Not opening the curtains, putting out any kind of bin for two weeks, forgetting to feed the dog and filling your hallway with empty cardboard boxes.
2. Sleeping for only 40-minutes a night.
3. Throwing a party inviting all your closest friends, relatives, neighbours and some people you have never spoken to, ever, from work. Do not give a start time.

Scenario 5: Operating a baby car seat 

1. You can simulate the precision required to connect the buckles of a baby’s car seat by asking NASA if you can practise the pilot-controlled Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) docking procedure.   

Time allowed before deep space meltdown: two-minutes.

Scenario 6: Technology

Are you ready to share your cutting-edge gadgets with a small child? 

1. Mobile phones – Alternate between dunking in toilet water and orange juice every three days. Delete all contacts apart from your manager’s mobile number. Call this repeatedly. If someone answers, rustle paper and make ‘ba ba’ noises until they swear and hang up. 

2. Tablets – Remove all protective covering. Smear with honey, Sudocrem and body fluids.

Download European apps of singing vegetables at a £1-a-go. Do not stop until your bank makes contact about unauthorised overdraft fees. 

3. DVD players – Break off all small doors. Jam jigsaw pieces and sausage rolls into holes where doors used to be.

4. Favourite DVDs  and CDs – Decorate with felt tip. Now use them as ice skates.    

Scenario 7: Train Journeys  

You can recreate the awkwardness of getting a small child in a buggy onto public transport by placing a chimp in a supermarket trolley.

1. Pick the train time you want to get. Don’t get this. Or the next one. Watch the one after that pull away.

2. On train, put your chimp trolley directly in the path of anyone entering or exiting train.

3. Half way, announce loudly that you need a poo and that it's coming right now.

4. Make remaining train journey without chimp eating ticket, cramming face between headrests or becoming the focus of everyone in the carriage.  

Scenario 8: Childhood Illness

If you are an ‘I haven’t been to the Doctor since I was a nipper’ type of person, you’re about to get reacquainted with your GP; Kids are one-stop-disease-shops. 

Points to remember:

1. Expect a contagion outbreak every other day. From the common cold to thread worm, kids’ illnesses are the gifts that keep on giving.  

2. Despite brand new immune systems, a child with Chicken Pox will usually be back to their bouncy self in two to three days. You, however, will be flat out for two weeks, mentally divvying up your possessions between friends and family in between death throws.

Scenario 9: Lifts

Think calling a lift is easy? This is how toddlers like to roll:

1. Call the lift.
2. Press the button ten times until it jams.
3. Call the other lift. 
4. Wait until doors open, bounce through gap and ricochet off walls.
5. Press lift intercom.
6. Ask Security if they are Buzz Lightyear.
7. Grin, point at or poke adult of your choice for duration of journey.

Scenario 10: Questions

The good thing is you have about three years before children can articulate. 

It is essential you use this time to research the bigger religious, political and social questions because very soon you will have your own mini Jeremy Paxman shadowing and barking questions at you every minute of every day.  

Common themes include:

Death: what is it?

Sex: what is it?

God: what is it?

Prepare for any answer you give to be followed by ‘why?’ and any subsequent discussion to end with ‘because it just does’.  

Right, any questions?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

£70-a-week food shop – Are you having a giraffe?

‘Phrrrrt!’ was the noise I made when Ed Miliband claimed he spent £70 on his weekly shop. Out of touch? Just a Lidl.    

The average food bill for a family four is estimated at around £100 a week. As a family of two adults and a small child our weekly grocery shopping regularly hits around the £100 mark.  Not to mention top up trips to Little Tesco.

While a friend of mine with three children under 10 said she was struggling to bring in her weekly shop at under an eye-watering £185.

Ed’s guestimate would be about right if it related to just food, the trouble is there is so much more to a food shop.

A quick review of my receipt yesterday revealed several unexpected items in the bagging area including, a bottle of Southern Comfort (but it has cherry in it), a six pack of nice ‘n’ spicy Nik Naks (they were on offer) and a strawberry chapstick. ('Pur-lease Mummy, I love straw-bees').   

Asda is a particularly dangerous when it comes to picking up every day essentials. 

I go in for a Toastie loaf and come out with two deck chairs and a Godzilla onesie.   

So how do you stick to your shopping guns?

Here’s a few tips for saving lolly on your weekly trolley. 

Vouchers – You know all those wafty bits of paper they hand you when you get your change, some of them are actually fairly decent offers.  Anything from £6 off your next £40 shop (£6 that’s like two bales of toilet rolls!) to bonus club card points, it’s all money, use them!

Shop online – I am a shopper’s dream. No list, just time on my hands and a vague idea that I need to buy some sustenance.  Stop! Shop online - no distractions, no impulse purchases and no kid bribes.

Some supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose offer free delivery slots if you spend a certain amount.  

Meal planning – I am guilty of being a one meal shopper. Yes it’s yawnsome but you’d be amazed by how much you save by planning next week’s meals in advance. 

Meal planning reduces random trips to the supermarket and is a great way to make meals stretch. So if you’re having a chicken roast on Sunday, use the leftovers to make a chicken casserole or chicken goujans the next day. 

Less meat - As my Dad always barked when I was little: 'Eat the meat!'

Meat is the priciest part of the meal. Plan a few meat-free meals every week, such as pasta, jacket potatoes or home made pizza.

‘Whoops’ aisle – Elbows ready! The Whoops aisle is the place for items that’s just about to go out of date or where packaging is slightly damaged.  There are lots of bargains to be had and you can always pop stuff in the freezer to have another day.  Check out Kate Barrett’s blog – who rustles up gourmet meals for just a few pence: http://domesticgoddessingonashoestring.blogspot.co.uk/

Do you have any ideas for frugal food shopping?

Let me know on here or on Twitter @melissablamey

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Peaches didn’t die of a heroin overdose but a broken heart

The headline that Peaches might have succumbed the same way as her mum, of a heroin overdose, struck more of a chord with me than I would imagine.

Yes, I was as shocked as anyone at Peaches sudden passing but to discover that it might be in the same way as Paula died says much more about Peaches’ state of mind.

To her thousands of Twitter followers Peaches was a wholesome beacon of light, living out the perfect young mum existence, raising two boys, mashing vegetables, walking her dogs, painting Easter eggs. But beneath the veil of home-spun fun life might have been quite different.   

What I have learnt is that becoming a mother doesn't necessarily erase the loss of losing a mother.

I didn't lose my mum to such rock-and-roll circumstances as a heroin overdose but to common, household-name, cancer.

Loss of a parent at any age is visceral and raw but for children and young adults it seems  particularly destructive, leaving many forever weakened and fragile by that loss. 

It’s scary to admit that when I became a mother myself, it helped, but it didn’t heal. In some ways it made the absence more apparent.

In the early days I would see new mums with their mums everywhere. Steering them through the down times, the sleepless nights, the sore bits, the days when they didn’t have time to shower.    

I was fortunate to have a lovely supportive partner. But when I find myself huffing into a paper bag outside Sainsbury’s to stave off another panic attack I wonder, is this me or what happened to mum still?

You see sometimes on the really dark days (luckily these are few and far between), I resonate with those people who are brave enough to square-up to the unknown and slip into a drugged sleep.

I suspect there is nothing afterwards but maybe, just maybe I would get to see my mum again.
I imagine sharing a Guinness with her on a sunny Autumn day. She would probably bark at me 14 years’ worth of stiff talking to.  

Asking why I didn't leave ‘so and so’ sooner, why I still highlight my hair (you’re almost 40), why I wrote such a verbose inscription on her grave (grief does funny things) and, importantly, why I gave her car boot treasure away.

My mum died aged 49 and like many people whose parents have died I expect to die at the stroke of midnight on the same day.  I also think that despite the warnings I am pursuing the same path.

There are many steps I could take to avoid breast cancer and yet here I am, blithely drinking my daily allowance of alcohol, not exercising and rarely checking for lumps and bumps.

Perhaps Peaches was on a sabotage mission too?

In trying to recreate the idyllic childhood she had had and taking thoughtful well planned steps to avoid inflicting the pain she had felt, history repeated itself anyway.
Consciously I want to avoid the same route as my mum’s death; sub-consciously I think there's something darkly comforting suspecting it might be the same.

Whether the cause of Peaches’ death proves to be true or not, I hope that wherever she is she’s at peace. Or enjoying a natter and cold Guinness with Paula.

Good night sweet girl. 


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Food Bank Bucks

If, like me, you are still rubbing your tummy like a happy Samiad after a glut of indulgence over Christmas then perhaps it’s timely to think about food banks in Bucks.

This was my 39th Christmas and despite the joy of being able to share it with my little family, something ugly crept in and gnawed at its glittery edges.

Maybe it’s the downturn, maybe it’s growing older but this year I was acutely aware of the grubby consumer Grinch pawing at my purse.     

Supermarkets, stuffing their aisles with goodies to eat from September, adverts touting sales before Christmas day, Easter eggs on sale from 1st January, all before the pounding of weight watchers and gym membership started.

It’s like we’re on a giant fun fair ride whose only aim is to shake as much change out of you as possible.   

The ‘Pig Goes Pop’ game my 4-year-old received for her birthday has become a cheap plastic reminder of what we have become.  

Born, consume, pop.

Each day the need in Britain grows for food banks.

Unemployment, escalating energy bills and rising food costs are pushing more people than ever before to the financial brink and into food poverty. 

Hunger is horrible.  Or, at least, so I am told.  

I am fortunate enough to only know hunger through choice. True hunger ebbs and flows.  First you feel shaky and weak, then pain which fades until all you feel is hollow and tired.                 

Speaking to Kate Vale, Food Bank Coordinator of One Can Trust - a Bucks-based charity that provides free emergency food parcels - there are around 12,000 children in Bucks living in income poverty.

This translates to approximately one in five children in High Wycombe going to bed hungry.

Sadly, the demand for short-term emergency food parcels in the area is growing. Latest figures from One Can Trust show that number of food parcels issued in 2011 was 225; in 2013 this figure rose to 3,347.

In order to use a food bank you must be referred by a registered agency, such as a healthcare practice, social services or a homeless centre.

Donations, from schools, supermarkets, companies and individuals are delivered to the Big Yellow Self-Storage centre on the London Road. The food is then checked (it must be within use by date), sorted and packed by volunteers for delivery to those in need in the area.

There are around 100 volunteers who generously give up their time to help One Can Trust pack and distribute the food parcels; however, there is always need for more.

I know there are wider term issues to consider here.

I appreciate that food banks are a quick fix, a sticking plaster for something fundamentally wrong with the system - whether that’s cutting people’s benefits, rising unemployment or something else – but we and the Government can’t ignore the rise in food banks.      

I hope to give up my time soon. If you can give up one or two hours a week or offer food donations contact One Can Trust here http://onecantrust.org.uk/contact-us/ or call 07731 789313.