Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Bedtime Story (28/3/2018)

As I write this, rather unusually for Cornwall, it's snowing quite heavily!  The weather has been all over the place so far this year, so what else could I do but write yet another story about it?!

If you'd like to listen to this story, just click here for the podcast!

"What's Your Favourite Kind of Weather?"

"I can't do my homework," Alice loudly moaned.
"It's just too hard!"  She rolled her eyes and groaned.
"We have to write about what kind of weather we like best,
But I like every kind of weather," poor Alice confessed.

Mum pulled a face: "Surely not all kinds?
There must be a favourite type that you can find?
Or maybe think of weather you don't like and rule that out?
Then you'll just be left with good weather types to write about."

"But I like all weather, I told you!"  Alice said.
"Can't I just write about loving every kind, instead?"
And so, Alice decided that was just what she would do.
And she chose to tell her mother all about it, too.

"I love it when it rains and causes puddles on the ground,
Because I can wear my wellies and splash and stomp around.
Sometimes when the ground gets wet, I can make mud pies!
And even if you just breathe in, rainy air smells kind of nice."

"I love a cold, crisp day outside," were the next words Alice spoke.
"You go into the chilly air and see your breath come out like smoke!
Everything is frosty and sometimes, the puddles freeze.
You run around to warm up, with your cheeks pink from the breeze."

"And windy days are excellent," Alice added with a smile.
"You can throw a leaf into the air and watch it blow for miles!
You can't stand still for too long, or you might just blow away,
And when the wind is noisy, you can't hear what people say!"

Alice clapped her hands together, suddenly crying: "Snow!
Oh, it's so lovely to watch those twirling white flakes blow.
Building snowmen, throwing snowballs and sledging down the street.
It may be cold, but snowy days really are a treat!"

"But then again, a hot day is pretty special, too.
When your skin smells of sun cream and the sky is clear, bright blue.
Sunny days are perfect for a fun trip to the sea.
I lie there in the warm sand and let the sun beam down on me."

"Of course, a hot day means finding shady spots to hide,
Just to start you cooling down, before you get too fried!
But feeling the warmth on your skin makes everyone feel better.
No need for Winter boots, or a big, thick, woolly sweater!"

"Even storms are brilliant," Alice told her mum.
"With all that flashing lightning and thunder like a drum.
You have to sit by the window and watch it through the glass.
I don't mind staying inside and waiting for it to pass."

"I even like a foggy day, when the clouds hang really low.
You can barely see a thing; you have to mind how you go.
All the world looks different, depending on the weather.
But all of it is beautiful, when we enjoy it together."

"So, I can't pick my favourite; trying just gives me the blues.
I really do love all weathers and I simply cannot choose."
Alice finished writing and on her pencil started chewing:
"I think it's time to go outside and see what the weather's doing!"


Monday, 26 March 2018

You ARE Ready!!

This morning, whilst I was browsing Twitter from an account I co-run, I stumbled upon the above tweet.  I stared at it for a while, with a look of confusion on my face.  Granted, it wasn't even six thirty in the morning and confusion is basically the only look you're going to get from me at that kind of hour, but even long after I was up and getting on with my day, the general feeling of "EH?!" remained.

Because you guys, I have a pair of legs.  And Spring has literally never affected them.  Ever

The only preparation I have ever done, in the event of warmer weather finally arriving, is to shave my legs if I'm wearing a skirt/dress/shorts and to slap on a bit of sun cream if necessary.  Is that really worthy of an entire magazine article?! 

The short answer to that is no, of course it flipping isn't.  But magazines like Vogue don't make any money out of going "hey, don't forget the Factor 30 on a sunny day."  They make their cash by promoting a particular standard of beauty, which women should all supposedly aspire to, despite it being entirely unrealistic.  They make their money by filling their pages with adverts for expensive products, then printing articles that makes their readers think they desperately need those products.  Hence you'll find some ludicrous piece entitled "Ladies, Make Sure Your Nostrils Are Party Ready, This Season!" nestled close to a full page, glossy ad for some crazily expensive nose-hair trimmers.

And whilst men's magazines do have articles pertaining to a particular standard of attractiveness that guys are supposed to work towards, it's fair to say that this weird cry of "IS YOUR BODY READY FOR EASTER FRIDAY?!" and so on, is a peculiarly female thing.  Ask yourself: have you ever seen an article asking men if their legs are ready for Spring?

I've ranted about this stuff before, but I feel like it's something I will be forced to keep coming back to, as long as this idiocy continues.  Because that's what it is: idiocy.

If you have legs and it's Spring where you are, guess what?  Your legs are Spring-ready.

Do you have a body?  Are you capable of taking it to a beach?  Congratulations, you're beach-body-ready.

And so on and so on for all eternity.

Look, there's nothing wrong with enjoying making yourself look and feel good.  There's nothing wrong with choosing to read make up tips or fashion magazines, if that's what you want to do.  But there is a whole world of wrong when it comes to forcing total nonsense on women and making them feel like they might not be good enough if they're not some airbrushed, perfectly contoured, size zero waif with this season's correct armpit-colour.

You are ready.  

Right now.  

You are good enough.  If you want to lose some weight, go for it.  If you feel like doing some kind of detox or arranging an exercise plan, that's great.  But do those things for you and your own health.  Don't do them because some overpriced, glossy rag is telling you that you need to in order to be valid as a person.  

Take your body to a beach, no matter what your body looks like.  Enjoy Spring, regardless of the state of your flaming legs.  

Whatever you look like, whoever you are, YOU are ready.

Never let a magazine stuffed full of photoshopped models tell you any different.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Bedtime Story (21/3/2018)

Yesterday was... not a good day.  Consequently, I struggled for a while to even think of anything to write, but then I thought: We all have bad days, now and then.  So why not just write about that?!

If you would rather, you can click to give the podcast version of this story a listen!

A Bad Day For Denzil

From the moment he woke up, Denzil had a feeling it wasn't going to be the best day.

His alarm clock buzzed and wrenched him out of a brilliant dream.  In his haste to stop the noise, Denzil bashed the clock so hard, it fell off his bedside table with a thud, knocking down a glass of water at the same time.  When Denzil groaned and swung his legs over the side of his bed, his toes landed straight in the puddle the water had made on the floor.

And it didn't stop there.  No matter what Denzil did, everything seemed to go wrong.

He dropped his toast and it landed upside down, leaving sticky strawberry jam all over the kitchen floor.  

He couldn't find his PE shorts anywhere.

His hair kept sticking out at odd angles, no matter how much he tried to brush it flat.

Denzil hoped that once he left the house and headed off to school, things would improve.

But they didn't.

Denzil's favourite pencil snapped when he was trying to sharpen it.

His water bottle leaked all over the new comic he'd brought in to show his friends.

And when everyone went rushing out into the playground after lunch, Denzil slipped over and grazed his elbow and his knee on his right side, meaning he wasn't as good at football as he usually was.

In the afternoon, Denzil was determined that things would get better.

But they didn't.

He got four questions wrong in his maths test.

He accidentally leaned in wet paint whilst finishing off a picture he was working on, leaving a big, blue blob on his sleeve.

And as he finally started walking home, it began to rain.

That evening, as Denzil sat on the sofa, watching TV, he still felt glum.

"What's up?"  Mum asked.  She came over to sit beside him, with a worried look on her face.

Denzil let out a long, slow sigh.  "I had a bad day," he confessed.  "Everything went wrong."

Mum frowned.  "Everything?"  She cocked her head to one side.  "Did anything really serious happen?"

Denzil pointed to his sleeve.  "I got paint all over my school jumper.  And my favourite pencil snapped.  Plus, my comic is ruined and my knee and elbow hurt from falling down."

Mum nodded.  "Okay, well...  I can put your jumper in the wash.  And this weekend, we can go into town and get you some cool new stationery to take to school.  We'll try hanging the comic over the radiator to dry off and if that doesn't work, I'm sure we can replace it.  As for your elbow and knee, they'll heal in time."

Denzil pulled a face.  "None of that makes me feel better right now," he pouted.  "It's still raining outside and I'm tired and fed up."

"That's alright," Mum replied.  "You're allowed to be.  Nobody likes having a bad day."  She got up and closed the curtains.  She switched on the lamp and made the room nice and cosy.  "But you know, it's warm and dry indoors, even if it's wet and cold outside.  And you're at home, safe and sound.  This is the best place in the world to moan about your bad day, because it's also the number one place to make it all better, again."

Denzil stared back at her, thinking about her words.  The sofa was ever so comfy.  And his favourite TV show was going to come on, soon.  Plus, he could smell his favourite dinner cooking in the oven...

Suddenly, he realised Mum was right.  Nothing really serious had happened.  Just lots of annoying things, one after the other.  It was okay to be cross and grumpy, but it was also okay if he wanted to let go of those feelings and start to feel better.

"There's chocolate ice cream in the freezer for pudding," Mum smiled.  "You know, just in case that helps turn your bad day around, a bit..."

A smile began to creep across Denzil's face.  "Chocolate ice cream does make most things better..."

Mum gave him a hug and grinned.  "Whatever happened today, it's over now," she told him.  "Tomorrow, you can start again and hopefully it'll be a good day."

With that, she disappeared into the kitchen, to finish cooking dinner.

Denzil could feel his tummy rumbling as the smell of dinner wafted through the house.  He sank deeper against the sofa cushions and curled his legs beneath him.  His favourite TV show started.  The smile on his face got a bit bigger.

Perhaps the day wasn't all bad.


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Bedtime Story (14/3/2018)

We've all had that moment at some point in our lives, where we've met someone and instantly felt as though they're just meant to be our friend.  It's hard enough as an adult, navigating the whole "can we be buddies?!" situation, let alone for a child!  So, this story is dedicated to anyone who has ever set their sights on friendship with someone they think might be out of their league.

You can also listen to this story as a podcast, by clicking here.

The New Girl

She'd started school on Monday.  Jenna had watched her walk into the classroom, looking all nervous and shy.  But as it turned out, the new girl - Annie - had nothing to be shy about.  She was the coolest, funniest, cleverest and most interesting person Jenna had ever met.

On Monday afternoon, when the whole school joined together for assembly, Jenna couldn't help but notice how sweetly Annie sang.  Jenna could never hit the high notes, but Annie sounded like she should be in a choir.

When their class had PE on Tuesday, Annie had taught them a dance routine she and her friends at her old school had made up.  Everyone agreed it was really good.  Some of the moves were tricky for Jenna to get to grips with, but Annie made it look easy.

When they had a science lesson on Wednesday, Annie told the class about a really cool experiment she'd done at home once, making a bottle-rocket that really flew.

On Thursday, Annie had arrived at school, wearing a brand new coat.  The same coat that Jenna had been gazing longingly through the shop window at for weeks.

Now, as the last day of the school week rolled around, Jenna wished she was brave enough to really talk to Annie.  She'd spoken to her a few times, but she'd never been able to chat to her properly.  Annie was so cool, it made Jenna feel nervous, as though she couldn't find the right words.

Annie sat on a different table to Jenna, too, so she'd made friends with everyone who sat closer to her.  Jenna wasn't sure Annie would want to be friends with her, as well, even though being Annie's friend was what Jenna wanted more than anything.

They were just finishing off an English lesson, when the teacher explained: "After break time, we'll be getting into groups for a maths activity.  I've already planned who's going in which group, so make sure you're listening when you get back in from the playground, or you won't know which group you're going to be in."

With that, everyone got up to go and play outside.  Jenna watched Annie skip off with some of the children from her table.  She had brought a special snack to eat at break time; her cousin had sent it over from America.  Everyone wanted to try a bit, but Jenna hung back.  Annie was the most awesome person.  Whereas Jenna was... Well, she was just normal.

Jenna spent most of playtime with a couple of the girls who sat on her table.  They told stories and played games, but Jenna felt a bit left out.  The girls were best friends and she didn't really have a best friend of her own.  When the bell rang for the end of break, Jenna trudged back to the classroom, feeling more than a little fed up.

"Right, listen out for your names," the teacher called.  "Jack, Simon, Annie and Jenna:  you're Group 1."

Jenna couldn't believe it!  She barely listened as the teacher explained what they'd be doing.  She and Annie were going to be in a group, together!  Suddenly, Jenna felt horribly nervous.  What if she couldn't think of anything to say to Annie?!  She held her breath as she walked across the classroom and stood beside the new girl.

"Are you any good at maths?"  Annie asked.  Her big blue eyes were wrinkled with concern.  "I'm rubbish at it!"

Jenna blinked back at her.  How could Annie be bad at anything?!  "I...  I'm okay at maths," she stammered.  The truth was, Jenna was top of the class, but she didn't want to sound big-headed, or set herself up for a fall.

"Can you help me?"  Annie asked her.  "I'm not sure I really understand this exercise."

Jenna beamed.  "Of course I can help," she said.  "But...  You're good at everything.  You don't really need my help!"

Annie laughed and her cheeks turned pink.  "Oh, there are loads of things I'm not good at," she chuckled.  

Jenna frowned.  "But you seem so confident about everything!"

Annie shook her head.  "You can fake a bit of confidence when you need to," she explained.  "Coming to this new school was the scariest thing I've ever done.  I've tried really hard to be chatty and to take centre stage now and then, but really, half the time, all I want to be doing is sitting, curled up reading a book, or something.  It's hard being the new girl.  Everyone wants to get to know you, but you don't know them, so you're not sure whether you can totally be yourself.  Does that make sense?"

A big, broad smile crept across Jenna's lips.  "You can be yourself with me," she promised.

"You're the first person to make me think I can be myself, here," Annie grinned.  "Do you think we can be friends?"

Jenna nodded, beaming.  "Definitely."

She could hardly believe that the cool, confident, outspoken new girl was actually just as unsure and nervous as she was.  

By the end of the lesson, Jenna's face hurt from smiling.  She and Annie had learned all about one another and discovered lots of things in common.

Annie was still the coolest, most interesting and funniest person Jenna had ever met.  But now, she was something much more special as well. 

She was her friend.


Friday, 9 March 2018

Getting To Know Me

I had this vague notion, as a kid, that I'd reach an age at which I knew exactly who I was.  I even thought, as an adult, that I had reached that mystical point.  But the fact is, I don't think we ever know ourselves, completely.  Not because we don't grow more aware of ourselves and more understanding of how we think and feel as we get older, but because we never really stop growing and evolving.  We can never know all there is to know about ourselves, because each new experience has the power to teach us something that sparks a change in us.  And sometimes, we discover something new about ourselves that we never even realised existed.

As my sister put it, rather beautifully, a few days ago: "When you're most open to the universe, the universe has the most to give."

I think that's absolutely true.  And I think the more open we are to the world around us, the more open we are to learning new things about ourselves.

In the last twelve months, I feel like I've learned an awful lot about myself.  I've learned things about myself that came as a massive shock, at first.  Things that confused and even scared me.  Things that I now see as simply new parts of myself that I want to get to know better.

I no longer look at things from the perspective of "some day I will know myself completely."  Instead, I tell myself that I know who I am right now, in this moment.  And I know that whatever else I discover about myself as I go through life, I will either embrace it or work on changing it (if it's a negative trait).

But, as my sister so rightly said, to know ourselves and to learn more about ourselves, we have to be open.  That doesn't simply mean that we're looking inwards.  We have to look outwards to truly be open to everything the world has to offer.  New experiences, new places to visit, new people to get to know...  Everywhere we go, everything we do, everyone we do those things with is capable of teaching us something, not only about life and the world around us, but about ourselves.  And only by being open to new things - perhaps things we never even considered, before - will we make those discoveries.

This is only a short blog, because I'm still not done cooking, yet.  I've got a lot more to learn about myself and my place in the world and that's fine.  I'm going to have fun finding it all out.  What I really want to say to anyone reading this, is just be open.  Do the thing that scares you.  Feel the emotion that confuses you.  Push yourself a little further out of your comfort zone and see what happens.  

I look forward to getting to know you, just as soon as I've gotten to know myself.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Bedtime Story (7/3/2018)

This Sunday is Mother's Day, here in the UK.  I dedicate this story to the most awesome mum in the world - mine!

As always, you can also listen to this week's story as a podcast.

My Mum Is REALLY Awesome!

My Mum is REALLY awesome,
She makes me smile each day.
Whenever life gets me down,
She knows just what to say.

She's always there with cuddles
And she gives such great advice.
Any time we spend together
Is guaranteed to be nice.

We have so much in common,
We like loads of the same things.
We sit for hours talking.
We smile and laugh and sing.

My Mum is REALLY awesome.
She does so much for me.
Like taking me on fun days out,
Or cooking me my tea!

I like the clothes my Mum wears.
I like her pretty perfume smell.
I like the way she makes me better,
When I don't feel too well.

She's always very funny,
She makes me laugh a lot:
Sometimes when she's joking
And sometimes when she's not!

My Mum is REALLY awesome,
She's my number one best friend.
Every single day with her
Is a happy one to spend.

Sometimes we disagree a bit,
Or get cross with one another.
But we always make up in the end
And say sorry to each other.

I love my Mum so very much,
I tell her all the time.
Of all the mums across the world,
The very best is mine.


Friday, 2 March 2018

Let's Be British And Talk About The Weather...

I have an apology to make.  I swore I was going to blog more often this year and yet in February, aside from my weekly children's bedtime story feature, I wrote the square root of nothing.  Zilch. 

So, here I am, with the first shiny, new blog of March and - like the stereotypical Brit I am - I'm going to talk about the weather.  Whilst slurping from a cup of tea and fantasising about eating a crumpet.  Tally ho, chin-chin, what-what.

Britain is famous for being rainy and kind of grey.  We're used to it.  We're almost weirdly proud of it.  But in the last couple of weeks, Britain has seen the kind of weather we're much less used to: snow.  Lots and lots of snow.

If I had a pound for every person who has referred to me as "Storm Emma" in the past week, I'd have... Well, probably only a fiver, but still, I'm poor and an extra fiver would be nice.

The thing is, I was guilty of thinking that both Storm Emma and "The Beast From The East" (why must weather have names?) were going to pass Cornwall by.  Let's be honest, we just don't get particularly bad snow, down here.  Bodmin Moor might get a dusting now and again in the winter, but for the rest of us, it's generally a case of just carrying on doing our thing, whilst the rest of the country gets all the white stuff.

A couple of weeks ago, it snowed enough for me to get excited about it.  I was at work, when the heavens opened and flakes started cascading down to Earth.  Just seeing snow was strange enough, but when it settled for long enough to take the nursery kids down into the garden and play in it for a while (it was meant to be them playing, but come on, this is me talking), that was a proper treat.  And, like the best treats, it disappeared way too soon.

That was that, or so we all thought.  That was Cornwall's snow quota for the next five years or so...

And then came this week.

My family in Birmingham had snow.  My family in London had snow.  Friends in Gloucestershire had snow.  Friends up North had snow.  Cornwall... Well, we were sort of expecting a mild dusting that lasted about two minutes before melting. 

Or at least, I was.

You see, I had some kind of weird belief that I knew better than the weather forecasters.  The MET Office issued a severe weather warning and I just sort of... Scoffed.  It worries me that I take the idea of randomly stumbling upon a hitherto undiscovered ability to travel through time more seriously than I do the threat of adverse weather, but hey.  I've watched a lot of sci-fi.

So, when schools started to close on Tuesday/Wednesday, I figured it was surely just an overreaction.  Even by yesterday morning, when the weather app on my phone was telling me there was a 90% chance of heavy snowfall, I was still pretty sure that I was feistier than Storm Emma would turn out to be.  At least down here, anyway.

Aaaaand then it started to snow. 

And snow.

And snow.

And continue to snow.

By late afternoon, I was sitting in my room (having been sent home from work due to the weather), watching snow fall until I couldn't tell where the driveway outside the house actually ended and the pavement began.  Kids started sledging down the street.  The dog went outside and was monumentally confused.  Plans were cancelled, cupboards were checked to ensure we'd survive such a BLIZZARD and many photos were taken and put on Facebook, just in case anyone online wasn't sure as to who had snow and how much of it they had.

I conceded that maybe - just maybe - Tomasz Schafernaker was more than just a dude on telly, whose name my Mum adores, and actually his weather-predictions had been spot on. 

Of course, today, almost all of the snow has gone (at least where I am).  Little piles of brown-tinged sludge are dotted around and most people's back gardens have the odd white patches left, but other than that, you'd never know yesterday even happened.  Up country, lots of my friends and family members still have plenty of snow and I'm told other areas of Cornwall still have it too, but right here, it's been and gone.

Probably for the best, seeing as I've got to drive places this weekend and I have history when it comes to skidding on ice and ending up in a hedge...

It's not as though Cornwall has battled against the most almighty storm since storms began, or anything.  I'm sure readers from places like Canada are throwing their heads back and laughing at the idea of us Brits, huddled around the fireplace when the temperature outside drops to minus five and making a big fuss when there's all of about two inches of snow on the ground.  But for the people of Cornwall, who - I can't say this enough - just don't get this type of thing, usually, the last couple of days have been a pretty big event.

Besides, if nothing else, over the last forty eight hours or so, I learned an important lesson about not being so quick to mock predictions, just because the predicted things don't have a habit of happening very often.  And from now on, I promise to concede that the MET office probably knows more about the weather than some short girl with unmanageable hair does.

I was going to end this by also promising to write more often, but...  Well, I'll try, how's that?!