Thursday 28 October 2010

History made real

My MIL (mother in law) has been staying with us for 2 weeks. This gives us a chance to be tourists in our own city and on Monday we visited Hampton Court Palace.

After a ridiculously horrid journey we were happy to arrive at the serenity of the Palace. I was very impressed with the helpful staff in their bright red uniforms, the cloaks that you can borrow for free to roam about like a courtier (a real hit with our tot who looked very cute in the red one), the amazing clock that shows the time, phases of the moon, astrological chart, and month of the year, the maze and the very manicured gardens. The rooms displaying the life of young Henry VIII were particularly effective using three chairs in each room to show the changing dynamic between Henry, his first wife Katherine of Aragon and Cardinal Wolsey. It was difficult not to feel for both Katherine and Henry in the room showing how many children they had and how many died. Henry had more kids in his lifetime many of whom died. I wonder how he felt about that...I know in that day it was common for children to die but still, it must have been hard for the young king.
As we walked around the Kitchens, I got a sense of the work needed to make the Palace run.
After Henry we went on to see King William III's history. He and Queen Mary II tried to knock the whole Tudor glory down to replace it with Baroque modernity but were defeated by bad luck. The most impressive room in this part was the one showing masses of weapons arranged on walls in intricate patterns (yes, my crochet head was seeing possibilities here) and the walk through the different State rooms.
If you enjoy real history then take out a mortgage (it ain't cheap) to visit the Palace but keep away from the cafe ...I found a hair in my sandwich. Yuk yuk yuk.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Come on Austerity, you don't scare me.

Recession bites. In the Plummy Mummy household, we have been cutting back on quite a lot of things for some time now.
I want to go back to work. I want to look after tot too. If I could find work and went back my severely reduced salary (compared to pre-sprog) would mostly go into the cost of childcare and transport. Is there any point? I count myself incredibly lucky that we can currently afford for me to stay home to look after every day extra I can do so is a blessing.
Flexibility, especially in a recession is almost a four letter word. Working at home is still not an option for many jobs or for employers who don't trust staff to actually do any work (stupid really, as for some, more work can be accomplished at home without the distractions of the office).
Diwali and Christmas are just round the corner...wonder how many home made presents I can get away with. Growing up, we didn't even do presents at these was more about being with family.
Are the Tory cutbacks scaremongering and an attempt to ensure that we all hate Labour for the mess we are in (even though some bit of my brain keeps saying it's not all Labour but the damn Thatcherites who ultimately left us in this mess and the w****r bankers).
Or are the Tories right that we need to all cut back, cut down, cut off in order to save the economy?
Austerity is not a word I have used for many decades but both I and Mr P.M. grew up in poor households so it won't be a shock to be back there again for a while. And as my MIL just reminded me, we (the British Isles not us personally) have been through this. They managed so I pray we can too.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Apple day Woodlands Farm Trust

I really need to learn to read more carefully. I had hyped up the Woodland Farm Apple day for tot telling her we could pick apples like the presenters on the Cbeebies ident for Autumn. She has been practicing her apple picking technique for a few days. It turns out there was no picking to be done. It was a day to celebrate all things apple but not to pick your own. The apples on sale came from Pippins farm in Maidstone (you can go there and pick your own plus other fruit) - we managed to get the last 2 having got to the stall so late.
I also managed to get the last jar of Cathy's Hot Lips - what a great name. This is the only thing she sells and my goodness after a taste, my tongue was really on fire but in that wonderful way. I'm sure I'll only have a little of it then give the rest to my mate's husband who's into all things hot.
Tot nearly pushed over Rosie's Cakery stall grabbing the very last cupcake which was yummy coffee flavoured (yes, hubby and I ate it while we placated her with a toffee apple topped cake from the cafe).  Other stalls that caught my attention were the Kelsey's Farm pumpkin one and the Care Grow Chilli Specialists though we didn't indulge in either on this occasion.
We are incredibly lucky to have this farm in our area and that they hold such events FOR FREE. You are encouraged to make a donation which is well worth doing as the farm has very little financial aid. 
A perfect afternoon was completed by taking our coffee into the cottage garden. Bliss.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Online safety

The other night I caught a documentary about Bullies Online part of which focused on the issues of Internet access on mobile phones. Kids cannot run home now to escape from the bullies if they have any form of Internet access there. The parents of one boy were not able to help him as he was not willing to talk to them about the problems he was having. Ultimately, the boy killed himself. This is sad on so many levels - that he couldn't talk to his parents about his problems, that he was not able to have a safe haven at home and that the impact of bullying is still woefully misunderstood/hidden.
As a mobile phone designer, I had to spend some time thinking about the balance of safety for children vs. respecting their privacy/not treating children like idiots.
OK you can put filters in place to protect children but these must enable them to get to the content they are interested in. Social networking and location based services add complications. Other considerations were cost, parental control and how to handle abusive situations.
When you buy a handset and can prove you are 18+ then content is open to you. If you then pass this phone onto your child, IT'S UP TO YOU to ask for the 18+ content to be turned off. It's also up to you to ensure that wifi, bluetooth and location based services are controlled as these are normally done from within the handset and not by the operator.
So not only do you have to refresh your Maths, English and Science skills but you have to be an IT whizz. Ultimately though our kids need to learn how to steer themselves safely too - learn what is appropriate content and behaviour online and to talk to either us or some other responsible adult if they come across or are sent the wrong sort of things.

Luckily there is help on hand in the form of advice:
Childnet fact sheets on safety

Mobile operators advice: the operators seem to differ wildly in their approach to this issue.
Vodafone have advice on safety online but only when you sign up to their Vodafone 360 (so basically rubbish)
Three have an advice page
Orange have an excellent help page on Orange safeguard
Microsoft online safety advice - includes a page which breaks down child safety a bit more. Is for the PC but could equally apply to their mobile internet devices
02 - very impressed with their easy to find section about Young People's services on their home page which links to an excellent page of child protection advice. Well done 02.

Other resources
Child Explotation and Online Protection: to help protect against child sexual abuse online

Friday 8 October 2010

Bogus roofers in Plumstead

The police have been round to warn our street of bogus roofers. Apparently these guys spray a roof with water, then knock on the householder's door and say they were working in the area, noticed the water dripping, and then offer to fix the guttering at a high cost.
So beware.

P.S. I absolutely hate when people come to door touting for business, promoting a religion or even collecting for charity and think that it can be quite menacing having this sort of unwelcome intrusion. I've had utilities suppliers being sarky that I don't want to save money by switching to them, or charity collectors being very uncharitable. And before any assumptions are made, let me make it clear...I do donate to a number of charities that are close to my heart and that I have taken the time to research regarding their use of funds etc. And we keep an eye on utilities suppliers too.
On last night's Watchdog, Martin Lewis from the Moneysaving Expert site was on about how to beat cold callers, junk mail and unwanted calls away. I'm off now to print a massive NO COLD CALLERS sign :)

Thursday 7 October 2010

A note to PlumBun re Sainsburys

Don't know how to contact you but you mentioned your love of Tu clothing. Well if you are willing to travel to Crayford, then you will find Tu on the 2nd floor of the new giant Sainsbury. My plumber said he got quite a few good clothes for his tot there.
Mind you, you will have to navigate the rather busy Crayford roundabout system but if you are happy to do so, you will be able to stock up.

Commonwealth Games

One of the advantages of being a stay at home parent is that you can sit around all day eating chocolate and watching TV. Obviously I jest but it is partly true. I am not interested in sport and had I not been home, wouldn't bother watching the Commonwealth Games.
However, the other day I tuned in to see Robbie Renwick, the Scottish swimmer, grinning and proud as he received a gold medal. It's not often you see a Scot doing well and as part of the Plummy Mummy household hails from North of the border, it was an excellent sight to see.
I and tot have watched the excellent swimming, the indoor cycling, some squash and then last night caught three amazing events: the men's shooting, the women's weightlifting and women's gymnastics. Zoe Smith, the 16 year weight lifter who won a bronze medal is inspirational. She was born in Greenwich and goes to school in Bexley. Here is a girl that has just done well in her GCSEs and also has time to represent her country and do so well. She's 16 and a lot younger than the Gold and Silver winners - definitely one to watch for the future. I was pleased my tot saw her and even though she may not understand, the Games show her what people are able to achieve when they strive  hard.
The gymnasts were AMAZING. Their ability to fling themselves in the air and twirl before coming down to a perfect stop was just unbelievable.
It's a shame that a lot of the media attention around the Games have been on the failures of the host nation. Again like South Africa there are a lot of complaints about conditions, security and health. On some forums the Games have been used as a way for knobheads to be racist in the guise of national pride.
I'm am somewhat surprised that given there was 7 years to prepare, that things aren't ready. Yet I wonder why the Commonwealth committee or whatever aren't doing periodic checks to make sure hosts are on track and if they are not, then either penalise them or cancel the events.
Despite all the controversy, I for one am glad to watch when I can and hope that through the Games, we will become familiar with people who will be competing here in 4 years time. And that my tot will be inspired to do more than me and get off the couch.

Network, network, network

I've had a technologically challenging day today. Woke to find that once again, the 3 network was on the blink and I couldn't browse the web, make calls or get texts. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. This invokes the "getting out of the bed on the wrong side" feeling for me as it's my habit to wake up, read the news headlines and log into Facebook to see what's happening. I know the latter is pathetic but when your only company for hours on end is a 3 year old, it's nice to read that your adult friends have lives and that they think of you once in a while.
So I was grumpy. Even more so as aforementioned tot had been coughing and moaning all night long. Poor lamb. Poor me.
Eventually, I logged onto my laptop and failure no.2 happens. I couldn't connect to the Internet. NO INTERNET ACCESS. You might as well brick me up and leave me to howl like a wailing banshee (is there any other sort). I felt totally cut off.  And quite angry. I mean how hard is it to give me good network and broadband coverage. 

So my questions to you all:
1. What mobile networks are you on and how reliable are they around Greenwich, particularly Plumstead
2. What broadband supplier do you use and how reliable are they?

I don't want to know what handsets you have (not an apple lover unless it's crunchy and goes into a crumble) and I'm not being nosey just trying to find out what works around here.

As you can see, broadband is back for a bit. Yay me and having just read Facebook, I haven't really missed much (it's a bit like Eastenders that way).

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Means tested benefits

I may be missing something here but why isn't child benefit means tested. And a benefit that you apply for, rather than getting automatically.
When we decided to put tot into daycare, we applied for child tax credits. Filled in many forms. Produced much evidence. Then got nowt as hubby earned slightly too much. But well, that was fair I guess. So surely the same system can be used to figure out who gets child benefit. Making people apply for it rather than receiving it automatically is bound to reduce the amount paid out.

Friday 1 October 2010


This morning I noticed blood on our sheets. Not alas, a result of some kinky conjugal games but my husband scratching in his sleep. He has eczema as does our 3 year old. In some ways, they are very lucky because it's contact eczema rather than food allergy eczema. Even so, we have to be careful with our washing powder, the bath products we use, any perfumed products. We have lots of emollient and steroids on hand to keep things under control.
After every bath, and every day before nursery, I lather our tot in Diprobase. And when she comes back from nursery or playing in the park, I have to inspect her hands for any traces of sand or dirt and hope that she hasn't washed too many times as wet hands can quickly become itchy hands. I have to check her inner elbows and behind her knees.  All these areas are really prone to eczema and left unchecked, she would end up with raw, bloody, skin prone to infections. She would be up most of the night which would also mean less sleep for all of us, something that can make the condition worse.
We are very lucky in that her nursery seems aware of food allergies and eczema. There are info posters up of another tot who is not able to eat certain foods. A good reminder. And for my tot, they have quickly understood that we prefer her to wear her own spare clothes rather than the nursery ones.
A friend is not so lucky and has a tot that can break out in bad eczema if she goes near the wrong food or touches the wrong thing. And it seems her nursery needs educating. If yours is the same, then you may find the School packs on the Eczema org site useful.

I would be interested in hearing of any other useful tips for dealing with eczema.