Thursday, 29 November 2012
Monday, 22 October 2012
Spare a thought today for calamitous wedding planner Michele Connelly who made the mistake of expressing the views of 'da management' in email, accidentally sending it to the client and then incurring the wrath of her bosses. Ms Connelly's apparent faux pas was to suggest that the prospective bride and groom weren't the kind of client Stoke Park Hotel in Buckinghamshire wanted to attract. (The hotel has been used as locations for "Four Weddings" and Bond film "Goldfinger"). In her defence, I'm sure her assessment was entirely in line with what her bosses required of her.
Leaving aside my irritation at the Media's tendency to make random incompetencies in the working world headline news, what's even more ridiculous in the story of Stoke Park's navel gazing is that the insulted bride is considering legal action for defamation.
In case you missed it, here's the story http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2221351/Stoke-Park-Hotel-wedding-planner-sends-snobby-email-wrong-type-people-bride.html.
I'm sure that there are conversations like this happening around the UK as I type. I married in the lovely St David's Hotel & Spa in Cardiff Bay in September 2011 and couldn't have been happier with the service I received, but a certain other well known hotel in leafy woodland was far less helpful and clearly had the attitude that it had quite enough business, thanks, without negotiating on minimum numbers - irrespective of the fact that they would have had the business 'in the bag' and we were at the time in the middle of a recession.
Hubby & I outside St. David's Hotel, Cardiff
However, miffed as I was, I did not go to the The Daily Mail or consult 'Injury Lawyers 4U' or whichever nebulous body it is that deals with emotional slights to the frail bridezilla.
I'm not quite sure what the the bride to be here hoped to achieve and in fact nobody in this story comes out of it very well. I would have had more respect for Stoke Park's management if they had supported Ms Connelly rather than panic and wash their hands of her. But this seems to be typical of the standard of management across businesses of all types in the UK. For all the jolly team bonding / team building / office parties we're forced to endure, if you cock up, you're often on your own.
As it is, the bride and groom to be have found another wedding venue - Parklands, a 17th century mansion on the Essex/Hertfordshire border. Presumably a venue with a harder grasp of the idea of sales and profit than Stoke Park. Let's hope to God their service is seamless or it'll be another easy day for reporters and a whole heap more 'upset' for the hapless couple.
Thursday, 18 October 2012
Oh for heaven's sake. In that tome that gives me palpitations, aka The Daily Mail, Laura Libbert today asks the sterling question "Was I wrong to let a stranger's 5 year old son see me naked"?
Apparently, she was accosted by a horrified mother as she wandered around the communal area of a female changing room in her gym 'au naturel'. Cue much muttering of "well I let my sons (4 and 6) see me naked and they don't have a problem" and desperate canvassing of friends for their opinion - basically "be loud, be proud and woggle those dangly bits sista"
You know, nudity isn't actually the issue here, it's the lack of consideration for others' feelings and the lack of social awareness which seems to blight so many trips out with children these days. I don't care if you run naked like natives with branches in your hair at home, I don't want my kids viewing your shrubbery. To be fair, it sounds as if the writer accidentally dropped her towel rather than auditioned as a model for an Art Life Class but a bit of decorum wouldn't come amiss.
The article also raises the question of when it is no longer appropriate for children to see adults naked - or is it always OK? Are we creating sexual hang-ups by hiding genitalia away? I think children are becoming sexualised far too early. Do I want my children to have sex education at 5? No. Do I want my daughter dressed like a beauty queen at 5? No. I think the point is that parents need to be on the ball (if you'll pardon the pun) to ensure that THEY take the lead in their child's sex education and are filtering the morass of inappropriate material thrown at all of us by the Media each day. Will I be letting my kids have a Facebook account? No. Mobile phones? For anything other than emergency calls? No.
I'm sure at this point there will be much tittering (missus!) and cries of "well let's see how smug you are lady when they are pre-teens and your ears are bleeding from the demands" And I've a horrible feeling they'll be right.
But is it wrong to want to protect childhood innocence for as long as possible?
Monday, 15 October 2012
Lately, Caitlin (4) has come back from school asking why her tummy is so big (it's not). Apparently she has been teased for clearing her plate at lunchtime. To say I was horrified is an understatement. Of course, the whole incident has been underplayed and a family comparison of tummies made to reassure her but it has left me wondering when does a child's obsession with weight start and can we protect our daughters from what, at her age, is nonsense?
Not what you want for your kittens
There's no denying that the UK has a high level of obsesity amongst its youngsters and, sad to say, if you look at the parent, you can usually see exactly where the child has got it from - no, I don't believe it's genetic, more a product of the eating habits and nutritional education parents give their kids. But, on the other hand, I have also written about the challenges I have getting my kids to eat food that's healthy for them. I hate seeing kids wandering down the street early in the morning munching on crisps or chocolate for breakfast. I loathe loathe loathe the advert for a particular meat based snack based on the old 'Hank Marvin' joke. But, again, I am not a glowing role model for healthy eating either!
We could blame the media for its constant obsession with celebrity weight loss. We could blame Disney and Mattel for the unrealistic body shapes they have given Princesses and Barbie (except they look pretty healthy to me). We could blame the fairytales we read where the pretty princesses' only goal in life is to have a nice dress, a good pair of shoes and meet a prince (sadly I know plenty of women in their 40's who still believe that one!). But who buys the magazines, reads the stories and turns the TV on? We do!
As a society, we are very blame-orientated these days without really wanting to examine our own parenting skills too closely. As kids we were allowed sweets at the weekend, cake at tea only if we'd cleared our plates and then eaten bread and butter and we always ate at the table. A Sunday treat was sitting round the coffee table in the 'living room' (lounge) with sandwiches watching the Sunday drama (usually something turgid by Sir Walter Scott) and, later, The Clothes Show.
We never went to restaurants unless we were visiting the grandparents in Plymouth and then it would be Wimpey (remember Rum Babas?) or "The Golden Egg". There was also the Mallard Cafe on Plymouth Hoe where you could sit on a promenade overlooking the sea and they served lemonade and cupcakes. Later, my mother used to take my sister and I to Marments (in Cardiff), an old fashioned clothes shop on two floors which had an Edwardian style lift with mirrors, fountains and a circular coffee bar which served limeade so green it looked nuclear and was so fizzy it gave you a headache. We'd drink this while munching a Danish Pastry.
As I said, I'm no nutritional role model! Like most aspects of parenting so far, I think I'm going to have to play the weight issue by ear.
Friday, 12 October 2012
So Jan Moir (of the Daily Mail) thinks that taking a child out of school to attend your wedding day is wrong. Hmm. Leaving aside the issue that in time gone by having a child out of wedlock would have made you a social disgrace (in which case I'd be the talk of the Village), I find it hard to understand why some female journalists are so 'anti-women'.
I also can't understand the draconian insistence that children must attend a full term of school when they cannot even read or write (and in some cases are still wearing nappies)! Of course I can see that attending school on a regular basis teaches valuable life skills which will stand kids in good stead when they enter the employment market but can we please use some common-sense? What if you happen to die in term time? Will your bereaved partner have to request permission to take the kids to the funeral?
The headmistress of our local Infants School is wise enough to understand that sometimes circumstances like this do arise and a few days absence per term are overlooked. The children also have a teddy bear they are allowed to take with them and photograph so that pictures can be included in his holiday album. Whilst holiday companies continue to fleece parents mercilessly during school holidays, I'm sorry to say that absences are only to be expected.
A recent trawl of cottage letting websites revealed that some companies were adding as much as an extra £100 per week during school holidays. Basic economics or basic greed? You can fleece me once, but I won't be coming back! The same principle of not removing kids from school during term time doesn't seem to apply, I note, for school trips abroad!
It would be interesting to see what would happen to a holiday company that did not inflate its prices during school holidays. Would it sink without a trace or would it attract loads of loyal family customers? Either way, it's time for a radical rethink about this issue or there'll be more staycations than vacations - and that, ironically, given the cost of living in the UK, could be even more expensive for families.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
I think it's fair to say that the report published today suggesting that excessive use of technology and gadgets could cause long-term physical harm in children has pressed quite a few guilt buttons around the country. Further, the report, by Dr Aric Sigman, suggests that even a child's well-being and social skills could be affected.
Dr Sigman is a Chartered Biologist,a recipient of the Chartered Scientist award from the Science Council and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.
The report suggests that ANY TV viewing for children under 3 is dangerous to their well being and development. To prevent this Dr Sigman suggests banning television until a child is three years old and then setting a limit on screen-time, with three to seven year olds limited to just half an hour of viewing per day.
Mr Tumble - clearly a danger.
The report also highlights how modern children will have spent more time watching TV than they do in school over the course of their childhood and criticises parents for using gadgets as ‘electronic babysitters’.
Well, guilty as charged, m'lud. However, in my defence....
The only channel my children watch is CBeebies. We have a few DVDs, generally second hand Disney or the current favourite, Wallace & Gromit but that's about it. Frankly, given the cost of brand new Disney DVDs, I'd be tempted to replace Tinkerbell with Dick Turpin because the phrase 'daylight robbery' springs to mind.
The TV is not left on as background but at the end of the day if I am alone and trying to cook tea, then yes, it is a babysitter.
Hubby and I don't let our kids watch adult TV. I do remember breast-feeding through an entire episode of Midsomer Murders once but I don't think Caitlin has any homicidal tendencies (although having seen some of the sibling rows around tea-time, I do wonder).
Where possible, we all eat together in a separate room without the TV. And talk. But, how many homes today have the room? Look at the composition of the nine millionth housing 'development' appearing near you and chances are there will be just one or two 'family' sized houses, the rest being 2-3 bed boxes or worse, yet more flats.
I was born in 1964 and during my childhood remember "Watch With Mother" and in many ways that's the point. I think TV can be an educator if it is used in a supervised and sensible fashion. Sitting down with your kids to watch something like Justin's House or Numtums is a nice 'family' experience. I remember Trumpton and Chigley, Candlewick Green, the Pogles, the Clangers and Hectors House. Of course there was Playschool and Playaway too. It was all so innocent.
Today, on the other hand, Postman Pat has a mobile and a helicopter and to me this is symptomatic of our urge to update everything, to modernise, to 'make relevant'. That, may well be where the problem lies. I'm surprised More Than isn't sponsoring the programme to promote pet insurance for Jess.
Adult culture is constantly being repackaged, dumbed down and targeted at the most vulnerable - our children, for example the ubiquitous Hello Kitty. And don't get me started on the teen mags. I remember the raciest letter you ever got in Jackie's Cathy & Claire column usually read "I kissed a boy, am I pregnant". The same level of sex education, ironically, displayed every morning on Jeremy Kyle. Then there's the gender diversity crew who think there's something wrong with little girls liking pink and that boys should be playing with Barbie.
Having a girl and a boy close together, I have been able to observe closely the differences in gender development. Here's a newsflash from our house - little girls like pink, they like princesses, they like make-up. This is not because some evil pink stasi has them in their sights. It seems to be some sort of simultaneous evolution among little girls of a certain age. Newsflash two - boys like to break things, hit things and take them apart. The sexes are wired differently. Ieuan occasionally wears his sister's ladybug costume but even he (at 3) is now finding it a tad 'girly'. Caitlin is endlessly fascinated by my jewellery (very small!) and make-up (slightly crusty).
TV is, for better or worse, part of how we live now but the responsibility and to a large extent control of our children's well-being and development is in the parents' hands. We'd be better off worrying about the quality of the nation's parenting, the exorbitant costs of childcare and the lack of support for working mothers than about the amount of TV children watch.
Sunday, 7 October 2012
Today, at The Art of Wellbeing Show in St. David's Hotel, Cardiff, I was lucky enough to hear Lama Rabsang, a Tibetan monk, talk about the art of happiness.
Born in Kathmandu, Lama Rabsang, spiritual teacher at The Dharma Centre in Brynmawr, first studied to be a monk age 11 under the direction of his uncle. He then went to India to Palpung Sherabling, where he completed his studies. After entering a three year retreat he was appointed discipline master of Palpung Sherabling Monastery, where he stayed for four years. From there he travelled via Birmingham all the way to Brynmawr!
Today, Lama Rabsang works on a voluntary basis, organising meditation classes and ‘drop in’ sessions, for people who may want to learn more about the ancient teachings of Buddhism. He regularly travels to three sites in Finland where he gives empowerments, teaching and instructions, and leads the regular prayers, teaching and meditation sessions at the Brynmawr centre, as well as offering public teachings and advice for individuals.
Buddhists dates back to the historical founder, Siddhartha Gautama, who is more commonly known as the Buddha. He was born as a prince in Nepal in 623 BC but the religion came relatively late to Tibet, in the seventh century. It teaches about four noble truths linked to the existence of suffering and Buddhists believe in karma, meaning people are reborn in different situations, possibly thousands of times.
So what did the Lama advise? Briefly, he told us nothing is permanent and that we will never be truly happy unless we learn to live mindfully, experiencing the joy of each moment. He told us that negative thoughts cannot and should not be resisted. He said that negative emotions like anger, desire, jealousy, envy and greed cannot be pinpointed to one particular point in the body and we should just let them wash over us like a wave and if we do this, they will soon be gone.
This has a particular resonance for me during the 'arsenic hours' of 4 - 7 each evening when the kids are wound up, tired and likely to kick off at the smallest thing, I frequently find myself shouting and then wishing I hadn't!
Lama Rabsang advises that when we reach the end of our rope we should absent ourselves and sit somewhere quiet for a few moments to, as he put it, "simply be".
If there are situations in our lives that we do not want, we must either seek to change the situation or practise forgiveness. For example, a cheating partner should either be left or forgiven. Staying put in unhappiness will not help us. We must accept, change or move on.
He also advised us to practise the art of gratitude. He told us that here in Wales we are vastly better off than his fellow countrymen in Tibet and yet we are always chasing more, more, more.
Mindful meditation may be the answer to help us to focus on living in the moment. He gave an excellent example of how we are too future focused. We spend ages cooking Christmas dinner, he related and yet after many hours shopping, preparing vegetables, planning the menu and setting a beautiful table, we will sit down to eat and promptly start discussing our plans for Boxing Day.
I could have listened to him for much longer because he radiated an enviable calm and happiness which filled the room.
Truly, a thought-provoking, and out of the ordinary experience for a Sunday afternoon.