29 November 2012

The RAA and a Revelation!

My friend Sheila is moaning at me. She reckons I do too much saying how brilliant other Bloggers are on here.  Can't be helped, my friend, I tell 'er.

Maybe she has a point though?

Are blogs for other Bloggers or our friends and family, as well as ourselves? I guess a mixture of all.

Anyway, I'm not going to bang on about any today because I have been bestowed with yet another Award which demands these bleedin' 'tells,' which I normally resist nowadays, but in order to be able to shut Sheila up I felt I should graciously accept this one and pass it on to her, because it's the 'Reader Appreciation' one:

Dear Friends,

I really appreciate that you read my blog,

Let's catch up for a glass of wine / coffee / chat soon.

Much love

A. xx.

[This is one way of discovering who does and who doesn't, don't you think? ;)].

And a silent thanks to

Hello It's Gemma  Midlife Singlemum and Older Mum

who have all awarded me this, together with a variety of pesky questions that I now feel obliged to wade through. There's also something confusing somewhere about making a Revelation:

Where do you do most of your writing/blogging?
In the kitchen with my back to all the chaos.

What books were your childhood favourites?

It was so long ago, I haven't a clue. Enid Blyton, maybe, at a guess if you're going to push me. 

Who is your favourite fictional character?

Samantha from Sex and the City. Because she's bonkers.

What is your favourite time of day and why?

The moment the kids are both asleep, or the rare times I wake up, naturally, before they do. The peace.

Have you ever Googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?
Yes, ages ago, it was all about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a weird relationship between Xander Harris and Anya Jenkins who were set to marry, but apparently didn't.
Who would play you in a movie of your life?
Someone whose thighs had seen better days.  People used to say I looked like Demi Moore - but I hardly did when we were roughly the same age and she looks twenty years younger than I do now!

One material possession I could not live without?
The groceries being delivered i.e. the Laptop.

Have you ever been naked in public?

Not that I can remember, but there was a lot of alcohol in the 80s, so that doesn't mean it hasn't happened....

What is your dream car?
Definitely a Mercedes Convertible - the one with enough room for the kids too. I don't mind which colour.  Honestly...

What is your Star Sign?
There's lots of Pisces in my chart and that is my sun sign. Libra is the rising one and there's Jupiter in Aries which, apparently, gives me my fire.

Any guilty pleasures?   
Buying those ready cooked hot chickens in the supermarket to feed the family.

A Revelation:
I am OVER my thing about buying potato peelers everywhere I go.

So, it's at this point I would pass on the Award to some lovely loyal readers who also blog, but, today, it's for those readers who don't blog, who I appreciate anyway, so no tags from me, in honour of them. *Points at mates.*  

Let's hope that gets me off the hook with Sheila for a while, eh?

26 November 2012

Single Mums' Story - Elaine (Mortgage Free in Three) Colliar.

Here is the next in the second series of our marvellous Single Mum's Stories. It's great to have a new audience with us this time around, as well as our maintaining our current one.  We're spreading further afield all the time and it is intriguing to see what happens next.

This one is from five times World Mind Mapping Champion, Elaine Colliar.  She is 43, has two children who are 12 and four and has been blogging for just over a year at Mortgage Free in Three, her aim being to become exactly that - mortgage free in three years, but in a gentle and sustainable way.

This mission was inspired by events in 2009, when her family was smashed flat by the credit crunch and she was left with no partner, no business, repossession papers on her home and literally "71p and three nappies" to her name and the bank froze all related accounts without notice.  She says she scraped herself out of the gutter and chose 'revenge' on the banks, managing to pay off £10 000 in 22 months, half of which time whilst living on basic state benefits.

She now focuses on bootstrapping several self-employed revenue streams to claw back the financial future for her children that disappeared overnight and is a great believer that as long as you are in motion you will eventually hit your target!

She likes to have fun and to write about the little things that can make a big impact.


Elaine (Mortgage Free in Three) Colliar, 43.

Yup – another “scummy single Mum here” – actually it’s worse than that, I have two kids ……………… so does that make me a “scummy double Mummy”????

I mean I am nothing like the “perceived stereotype” but I still often feel the effects of being tarred with the same massively wide brush by the mainstream media (male AND recently female journalists BTW) ;-)  MUMSNET anyone????

OMG – you gotta love the Media brainwashing that we all allow ourselves to be sucked into don’t you?

I’m in the business of “growing men” not “raising boys” – trust me there is a very important distinction here.  Actually come to think of it – if a certain Mum and Dad one generation back had “grown a man” instead of “raising a boy” then I wouldn’t be in the position of having to do the whole “being responsible for our kids all on my own” malarkey.

Not that I am bitter – because in reality what I have discovered during the last few years is that this is actually quite a lot easier on my own.  As I look at it, I have just two kids to care for now and not three.(Tongue firmly in cheek here)

Now the “conservatives” amongst you (that’s small c BTW) will be throwing up your hands at horror at such blasphemy.  “Because kids need both parents” ……………… well the latest research from Gingerbread doesn’t bear out your claim I’m afraid.

“Parental separation by itself is not considered predictive of a poor outcome in children”

So – a “Get out of Jail Free Card” then???  Well afraid not – you see they also balance this out with:

“…… the resulting single parent status often leads to financial hardships.  That resulting poverty may be a significant factor in explaining poorer child outcomes rather than family structure”

HOLY CRAPOLA!!!!! Bring on the guilt trip.  It’s not the fact that I am a single parent that is going to blight my kids lives …………… it’s the fact that we are poor!!!  WE ARE DOOMED!!!

Funny thing is my kids don’t think we are poor ………….. (because I have never told them LOL).  In reality we live on a smidge over £800 per month, it’s tight, but doable at a pinch and every month I manage to not only pay my mortgage but overpay on the capital too.

How? Well I am super organized (lists anyone) and sure I do the “Frugal Stuff” too – I can menu plan, build a store cupboard and feed a visiting hoard with three lentils and a great slow-cooker recipe LOL.  In reality the reason we don’t “feel poor” is that we never act it.  Instead my boys and I are on a mission to not only survive as a smaller family unit but to thrive.  Our Big Bad Goal is to pay off our £126000 mortgage by Christmas Eve 2014 ………………. And we celebrate every mini milestone achieved.

Now sure, the toddler doesn’t really “get” the whole money thing, but my 12 year old does.  Money has to be earned and then EITHER spent or invested for your future.  Every penny that we have beyond paying for our necessities if ours to make a decision with …………. And we are choosing eventual Financial Freedom.

So do I have a “job” – well not in the “traditional sense” ………….. you see I live in a rural area in Scotland and if I were to get a local job it would be at minimum wage and most of that money would disappear in paying for suitable childcare……………. So instead I have chosen the much more precarious route of being self employed.

I do lots of things, I tutor local kids, I write training books,  I create Mind Maps for professional organisations, I  create online courses, I speak at conferences, I work at memory competitions ……………………. But everything I now do I have learned since being on my own with the kids. If I think I can earn some money I roll up my sleeves, acquire the skills and get stuck in. Slowly and surely this strategy is beginning to pay off……. And every penny earned goes into the mortgage account.

From 12 kids tutored last year (all whom got straight A’s BTW) I have been able to design a new course delivered via online video ……………. In response to parents wanting me to work with their kids, but me being ,naturally, unable to leave my kids at the weekend to do so……. Create the solution that gives you the best economic leverage – see?

I have a new book, not only written but ready to be launched on Amazon Kindle.  Not bad for a dyslexic single Mum – eh? (when is someone going to invent the sarcasm font???)

But more importantly I have two boys who are seeing the power of dreaming a big dream and then getting busy with the work needed to achieve the end goal ………………. “poor” is a state of mind too and I refuse to get sucked into playing that game.

Together as a family our life is about abundance, about creative solutions, about setting and achieving our goals at school, at work and as a unit.

And that “Mainstream Media” take note is a looooooong way from the Vikki Pollard stereotype.  As my 12 year old pointed out this week – Barak Obama came from a single parent family …… and he hasn’t done too bad for himself has he??? LOL

Let’s raise our glasses to our great kids and the important lessons we can share with them in the years to come………………… after all its not ”All about the Money, money, money!!”

25 November 2012

Arthur Christmas.

'By buying this DVD you're supporting the British Television and Film Industry.'

'Oooh,' I thought.  That's a good start!  (Or should I shout 'Yippee!' ?)

It begins with a little girl from Cornwall writing to Santa, asking him all the questions all our kids need answers to and then shows us his rather too-marvellously- modern military style operation which explains it all.

Only Santa Claus, is getting a bit long in the tooth for PINs and stuff, so it's run slickly by his autocratic eldest son, Steve. Think Army combats on a million elves, an awesome Spaceship for a sleigh - 'S1!' - and a meticulous, mighty 'drop plan.'

When the boys and girls are scanned to see what percentage nice vs. naughty they are, my two scoundrels sat up a bit!

There's 'Operation Santa Claus' and 'Mission Control.'  And there's the younger brother called Arthur, with his rather more caring 'Christmas is about special magic' approach.  Now think a klutzy character like Ross Geller in 'Friends' and add a diabolical laugh.

This is a charming animation film, bang up to date, with 'fancy pants technology ' according to 136 year old retired Grandsanta, by which he means Satellite Navigation and tablet computers, despite which the present due for the child at the outset of this uproarious adventure has accidentally been mis-laid.

It takes old fashioned feelings to want to avoid the scary scenario of her not having anything to open on Christmas morning, so it's down to Arthur and his honestly hilarious Grandsanta to correct the blunder in time.  They're played / voiced by James McAvoy and Bill Nighy - who refers to his Reindeer as 'A bag of fleas' and some other animals they encounter as 'Mangy morons.'  I laughed out loud as much as my children did.     

But, can they do it?  It's not 'the same old world' it was.  There are skyscrapers, aeroplanes, 'globular warming' and guns now!

Santa is played by Jim Broadbent and Hugh Laurie is the sophisticated Steve.  The lovely Ashley Jensen from Extras also stars.

If you like a feel good, family film about Father Christmas, then you'll enjoy this one. I can just hear Arthur laughing like a drain right now!

Arthur Christmas is out now on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

© 2011 Sony Pictures Animation Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure -  I was sent this DVD for the purpose of a review, but all words and opinions are my own.

22 November 2012


Me:  'Would you like some blueberries?'
3 Year Old: (Very loudly) 'Yippee!'

Me: 'Shall we go and see Claire for a coffee?'
3 Year Old: (Still very loudly) 'Yippee!'

Later on. Me:  'How about some toast and marmite?'
3 Year Old ... you can guess.

We've got 'Yippees!' coming out of our earholes and apparently copied from Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory when Grandad learns that Charlie's won his gorgeous Golden Ticket. 

How easy it is to please someone of a certain age!

'Shall we watch Arthur Christmas?'  He doesn't say 'Aaagh, what, mum?' in that really whiney, moany voice we all know, like the 7 Year Old does, because we've already watched it three times and I've been given it in exchange for a review and want to do it properly.

'Do we have to?' Or 'I'm really fed up now?' 


It's (really very loudly) 'Yippee' accompanied by a punch in the air every single time!

If only everyone were so easy to please.  A little enthusiasm for the dog's doodahs dinners I make would not go amiss, instead of the intimation that they look like they're something for the dogs - and if only 'Time for bed' were to be greeted in that manner, wouldn't we all appreciate that?

I only ever feel remotely close to it myself, if I manage to wake up ages before the children do, having slept through the night, it's the week-end, with nothing to do, nowhere to go, no people to see and all day free to do with what we will.  Someone to wait on me hand and foot or bring me Margaritas on a sun-lounger in the real Barbados - not the one the children and I regularly pretend we're going to on imaginary planes and trains - might muster one too.

You'll never look at these in the same way again!

What might make you do a rather loud (but polite, natch) 'Yippee?'

20 November 2012

The Next Big Thing.

There are great plans over Polly at Caughtwriting.  She's going on what is being referred to between us all as 'The Big Adventure' - travelling around France with her small son for a month next Summer. Plans are afoot for a book through various blog posts and it's all spelt out in this post called 'The Next Big Thing.'

This is a project being passed between bloggers at present, answering these set questions about our 'Next Big Thing,' before, naturally, as is always the case with these memes, inviting some others to do the same.

I've actually got serious plans with my writing work so was glad to be asked these questions and set out my replies here:

What is the working title of the project?
I have two projects next.   The first is getting my Older Single Mum Diaries published and the second is starting a second blog as a platform for another book I have written - about exploring natural medicine while working in the City and discovering my own gift for Hands on Healing. 

Where did the idea come from?
My real life.   Both single mums and Healers have common mis-conceptions about them.  You could say these opinions are narrow-minded if you like, but I believe they're due to a lack of information more than anything.    

What genre does the project fall under?
Both non-fiction.

Picture - National Geographic

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
People used to say I looked like Demi Moore when we were both a lot younger , but you'd need someone in their forties for the first and someone about to hit thirty in the second, someone half-Indian, 5'0".   Any ideas anybody please?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your project?
1)  Only 2% of single mums are teenagers and I believe that the rest of us - older, wiser, with exes in tow, have something to say that 'll make you laugh and feel proud to know us.  2)  When you look at the sea, you don't see the whole world that lives underneath and I want to guide you to the world that is deep within you, for you might not see it yet, but it is there!

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
You know me, I've seen how hard those self-published people work, so preferably the latter, but I appreciate that won't get me off the hook!

How long will it take to write the first draft?
They have taken years, but I have written stuff at the time, while it's still fresh.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I only really know of Single Mother on the Verge - blog and book re the first project and for the second, it would probably be the very famous 'You Can Heal Your Life' by Louise Hay. 

Who or what inspired you to write these blog posts / books?
I really enjoy the other Single Mums' Stories - other people who defy the myth of who single people are supposed to be.  They surprise me and regarding the other project, I'm starting the new blog in January when I go back to my Healing work properly.  I love watching people 'open up' a part of themselves they haven't been used to.

What else about your project might pique the readers’ interest?
People always love a good story.  Both books demonstrate courage and going against the grain.  I want to inspire and many people are intrigued, particularly when they find out about me shunning a six figure salary because I was unfulfilled.  Re the Healing one, They identify with the 'something missing' and a niggling, never-ending tiredness.  I believe their instincts will pull them to want to feel happier in their own skin.   

I know these three women have some really exciting new projects, so let's ask them what their 'Next Big Thing is!'    

Liska at newmumonline
Hello it's Gemma.
Jax at liveotherwise

15 November 2012

One Week.

one week
My friend, Older Mum is running a fab meme / linky called #Oneweek - whereby, every day, for one whole week each season, she draws together posts that reflect that particular time of year.  She doesn't mind if they're photos, poems, words or any combination.  I've put all mine into one.  Things can be a bit bleak on the coast presently, but colour can be found. 




Pop on over to hers to leaf through some more Autumnal fun!

12 November 2012

Liz Jones and Mumsnet Blogfest.

Liz Jones - Picture courtesy Mumsnet Blogfest FB.

On Saturday I went to the Mumsnet Blogfest, wasn't going to say much about it and then something happened that gave me the urge - you know, one of those times when it just takes over and, if you listen to yourself, you have to.

The sad old bint above, the Daily Mail's Liz Jones, graced us, sort of, with her presence on a Keynote panel - 'Private Lives on a Public Stage' - in the afternoon, then wrote a spiteful article about it in their Sunday paper.

The woman is full of tripe, orange in the flesh, vacant, hostile, disdainful and hypocritical.  I can guarantee she'd mostly written the article before the event even occurred because it's full of mis- conceptions and blatant lies.

'I mingled among the mums.'  No.  She didn't.  No-one caused quite the stir she did, particularly on Twitter (I have never been re-tweeted quite as much), so we'd have known if she were 'in the building!'

'I expected bile as I weaved my way between the prams.'  A) You expect bile because that's what you dish, darling and B) there was probably one pram per hundred attendees, if that.

She claims to have spoken to The Bottom of the Ironing Basket, Cambridge Mummy and Mush brained ramblings.  They print quite a different story - on their blogs and on Twitter.  She doesn't even get their names or their set-ups right.  

We all felt quite sorry for her.  That was the general consensus, be assured, despite her opener about it being 'wrong' to write publicly about your children - to a conference full of Parent Bloggers!  There was rather a stunned silence, stifled giggles and guffaw making tweets galore about the gaff. 

We truly didn't mind though. The rest of the day more than made up for the misery she shared about having spilled her guts and her friends and family being increasingly wary of anything they say in fear of being fodder for her - well, any of those she has left.  She confessed to wanting to be able to turn back the clock and not write the stuff she has, alienating practically everyone she knows, including her neighbours.  Even a crisis around her Dad's death had to be kept from her.

Miriam Gonzales Durantez - picture courtesy Mumsnet Blogest FB.

When a woman like Miriam Gonzales Durantez opens the day, moved practically to tears by the support the people of Mumsnet showed her, when her husband became leader of the Liberal party, because she had to fight to keep her own identity and protect those of her children, against all expectations of the press, the full power of other women pulling together can be seen, felt, heard.

He is now, of course, Deputy Prime Minister and she remains a lawyer with a team of 25 under her, as well as a (formidable I would imagine!) wife and mother of three sons. 

Liz Jones, on the other hand, speaks of 'queasy feelings' in her 'empty womb.'  There was nothing queasy making in that Mumsnet day. There was Caitlin Moran, who followed her and lifted the room again - with her hilarious anecdotes, writing tips ('Always ask yourself why you're writing what you are,' 'look for joy,' 'avoid snarking,' 'let things flow') and full-on frankness.

Caitlin Moran. Picture courtesy Mumsnet Blogfest FB.

There were some other top-notch journalists and Bloggers, an MP, technical expertise abounding for every level and not too many sponsors.  The day was well paced, professional, full of useful information, friendly and fun.  A bit like blogging (and even most bloggers) really.

So when Liz Jones felt she was 'in a tangled tepee of virtual knitters instead of with women who want to change the world,'  she obviously hadn't bothered to attend a session actually called 'Blogging Can Change the World' or she might have been able to write a better piece, a more accurate one, an honest one. 

And she accuses us of having 'narrow vision!'  Shame on her.

Thank you to all at mumsnet for organizing such a great event.

Here's a nod to the sponsors who made the day possible:

The Portland Hospital
Pizza Express
The Times

And another nod to some of the bloggers who made it so magical:

Older Mum
Hello Wall
Every Silver Lining.
New Mum Online
Sara Bran
Mush brained ramblings.

7 November 2012

Single Mum's Story - Kate (WitWitWoo) Sutton.


Kicking off Series Two of Single Mums' Stories, this is the utterly fabulous Kate Sutton, age 42.  She famously blogs at WitWitWoo  ['Lifestyle. Family. Hairdye!']  She is one of the funniest, friendly and most helpful Bloggers I have met. 
She started blogging in 2010 after graduating, just missing a First in English and American Literature with Creative Writing.  She 'needed a space to write.'  That 'space' is currently being peppered with outrageous, well written and hilarious accounts of her new found 'Dating' status, leaving us all begging for more.

Here, though, she makes the point remarkably well, that many of us find ourselves in a positions that we don't choose to. 
She lives in Rainham, Kent and works for a marketing agency, primarily involved with Social
Media campaigns, which plays right to her strengths.

Kate has two sons, Ben 17 and Dexter, 8.   
Lovely Anya from Older single Mum blog has asked me to contribute to her series of blog posts about being a single mum, challenging the perception that single mums are predominantly young, uneducated and living on Council estates.

I am neither young (unfortunately,) nor uneducated (thankfully,) nor do I live on a Council estate (for now,) but boy, am I very much a single mum.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been a single mum – last time round, however, I was in my late 20’s and, after picking myself up from a massive confidence blow, I coped.  Just.  I worked full time in London and found myself literally running from childminder-to-train-to-work-to-childminder-to-home … every day. 

It was, and remains, exhausting, because for the second time round, I am doing it all over again.  I have chosen to work full time and am lucky enough to have a job I love, but I still run from home-to-childminder-to-job-to-childminder-to-home … every day.

I’m now in my early 40’s and I haven’t really felt negatively ‘labelled’ as a single mum but then it’s only been six months.  Plus, I have my own home, job, car … I’m absolutely skint mind you, but, on the surface, I’m doing ‘ok.’  What people fail to realise is the story behind why I’m a single parent.  What drove me to make that decision?  Did I just decide one day that I could do a better job on my own?  That life would be easier if I ‘got rid’?

Well, in many respects, yes, I guess that’s all true.  But when your hand is forced, sometimes there is only one decision that can be made.  There is no choice.  I had no choice.  And we all have to live with the consequences.

Being educated, older and living in a nice neighbourhood doesn’t necessarily make being a single parent any easier – we all have our own stories as to why we’re in this situation.  Very few parents choose to raise their children on their own.  Ask them. 

And for those women who do fall into the stereotype, I applaud you, because I know how hard it is.

I work very hard to provide for my children because that’s how I was raised, but after I graduated as a mature student in 2010, I found out that providing was going to be harder than I’d anticipated.  It took me two years to find full time employment and Dexter and I have to deal with the fact that I’m just not around much.  Just like my eldest did first time around.  But what other choice do I have when I’m the sole provider?

I can’t give up on working because what I’ve realised about myself, having been in many a crappy situation over the years, is that I’m ambitious as hell … bloody determined, and I have a stubborn will to succeed.  Traits that hopefully both my sons have inherited. 

Because living in today’s world is HARD - whether you’re a man, woman, single parent, a couple, gay, straight, black or white.  It’s just hard.  And I refuse to let my ‘situation’ hold me back.

But that’s just me.

Read more excellent Single Mums' Stories in Series 1 from other top notch Bloggers HERE.


3 November 2012

Here We Go Again!

I am thrilled to announce that, shortly, there will be a new series of Single Mums' Stories here on this site.

In case you're new-ish, please see HERE (and always, otherwise, on the bar at the top) for the last Series that got this blog nominated for the Britmums Award for 'Change' and the MAD Award for 'Inspire.'   You can read about some of your favourite bloggers and what their interpretation of being a single mum has meant / means.

There are roughly two million single parents in the UK, of which 98% will not be the teenagers that spring to mind naturally in association with that term, according to what the media might have us believe.

That's around one in four British families that are now headed up by people like us, normal mums and dads striving to do the very best for our kids, with just as high expectations, hopes and dreams for them, despite finding ourselves in a scenario we didn't expect to.

Look out for posts from the very fine notsupermum, the very friendly and five times World Mind Mapping Champion, Elaine from Mortgage Free in Three and the very foreign situation of Midlife Singlemum.  Plus, breaking news, Tah-Dah, the utterly nothing-short-of-fabulous-in-any-department Kate from WitWitWoo has joined the crew too!

At the very least they're are going to make interesting reading.  And if you familiarise yourself with those stories already told, you'll be aware that some of them can even blow your mind.   Your perception of who single mums and dads are will be forever altered and my job might be being done!

[Figures from GINGERBREAD, a fantastic national charity that offers advice and support for single parents.  They are currently campaigning for the government and employers to make working a more realistic option for those of us who, again, go against the national notion that we might not care to!].

Make it work for single parents campaign

And while we're here, talking about starting again, please welcome a new addition to the site - a specialist dating service for mums and dads who wish to do exactly that!