A family break at Center Parcs Sherwood

We just got back from a break at Center Parcs and once again I feel really rested and like I’ve just had a really fun break with loads of good quality family time.

The best thing about Center Parcs is being pretty much on lockdown in the forest, no cars, no reality, just you and a load of squirrels. Oh and about seven thousand other people all trying to have fun too.
 
The prices at Center Parcs vary massively and I know we’re lucky at the moment to not be tied to school holidays. There is a bonus to having a September baby after all! Our seven-night break in a three bedroom chalet (they’d sold out of two-beds) cost about £1200. It’s not cheap, but had that been during school holidays it would have bee much more. I guess shared between six adults or two families it would have been better value for money.
 
I was naive in thinking that because you pay a fair amount for the self-catering accommodation, you get the other stuff at a reduced rate. No, you don’t. As you’re a trapped audience, they charge – in my opinion – over the odds. For example: £90 for an hour quad biking, £45 for a 30 minute facial in the spa, £35 for a half-hour pony school, all to me seem expensive and more than you’d pay in the ‘outside world’ but boy is it worth it!
 
I fell in love with Center Parcs the minute we hid the car away and realised we were deep in the forest, cut off from reality. It was the complete antithesis of my news-obsessed daily life, and had a little tinge of ‘the end of the world’ about it. My husband couldn’t help but constantly speculate on how much he thought it felt like we were the last humans on earth, all dwelling in some biosphere while the outside world crumbled. Luckily, he wasn’t right, and we were just having a laugh in Sherwood forest.
 
 
Although some activities are expensive, you do get full use of the pool any time from 10-9 and it’s brilliant. There are waves on the half-hour, baby and toddler pools, a cafe, free floats, slides, rapids, a heated outdoor pool, plenty of seating. You can while away hours in there and therefore, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to spend money on activities. The pool is in a big dome so you can see the sky and there’s huge plants everywhere. The atmosphere is less ‘local leisure centre’ and more ‘tropical holiday’ (sort of)
 
As this really was our ‘annual’ family holiday we chose to send the mini-me to a couple of activities including mini ballet class (£7 for 30 mins – great value) a pony ride (£8 for 10 mins – not so great value, but worth it as she LOVED it) and to ‘Elf academy’, where she spent three hours having THE MOST FUN, while daddy went off on his bike and mummy went to the spa for a facial! As a family we hired a boat £19 for an hour and bikes. 
 
 
 
There’s SO much to do, from boat hires, guided nature walks, mini golf and bowling to archery, quad biking, fencing etc. There are activities for all ages, all tastes, abilities, and budgets. There are loads of bars, cafes and restaurants and a supermarket on site – be warned, its prices are above average. We obviously were on holiday with a four-year-old who was happy hanging out in the chalet playing with toys and then going to the pool. I suspect older kids would be more interested in the activities and it could get pricey, but then that’s also the joy – that there’s something for everyone and I saw lots of families holidaying with several generations.
 
The accommodation is great, well laid out, open plan. In our three-bed we got a six-person table in the dining area, huge corner sofa with wall tv and log fire (though you can only use the logs from Center Parcs) and three bedrooms with the COMFIEST beds (don’t you hate it when you go away and the ‘double’ bed is actually two singles pushed together and you spend the night in the crack between them?!) We had french doors leading out to a veranda with a bbq we lit to roast marshmallows at night, and spent the mornings sipping coffee, feeding the wildlife and gazing into the woods. It felt so good to unplug and get back to nature. No CBeebies for us, just real entertainment provided by ‘Cyril’ squirrel and the triplet coots.
 
 
Given the bashing they must get , our accommodation was in perfect order. My only complaint was that it wasn’t cleaned once in our week-long stay, and when you have kids you could really do with someone giving it the once-over. We did call reception after five days and ask for new towels which were provided pretty promptly. I also found the provision of two toilets rolls for a six-person accommodation for a week, utterly laughable, and pretty stingy. 
 
It’s also curious that no children’s cups or cutlery are included in the otherwise well-stocked kitchen, given how family orientated the whole experience is.
 
I’d totally recommend taking these things with you, along with basics – toilet roll, milk etc, and maybe a meal or two to save you constantly paying to eat out. Talking of which, there’s a lot to choose from, a lot of chains, all really family friendly with kid’s menus, bottle warmers etc. And as pretty much everyone has kids, you feel very relaxed about yours and however they choose to behave. Most places also have a kids’ play area which is just brilliant.  For the record, my daughter behaved really well, and I put this down to the fresh air, lack of electronics, quality family time and the fact she was EXHAUSTED from swimming all day!
 
My personal favourite place to visit was Bella Italia, which was nicely decorated for a chain, the staff couldn’t have been more friendly or more helpful, the kids’ menu is £5 for a starter, main, drink and pudding and there’s a lovely little soft play area to entertain them.
 
We hired bikes to get around and again, like everything, they aren’t cheap, but it made me feel like I was on holiday and making the most of car-free roads. I felt like I was getting a bit of exercise and breathing in air fresh from the trees (have I ever mentioned before I love trees?!) The bikes guys are also really helpful and reacted really well when 1) I managed to lock the bike up and lose the key – they came and chopped the lock off and didn’t even laugh at me, thanks guys. And 2) When my husband left my bike unlocked (ALWAYS blame the husband) and some bugger stole it (can you believe that?! Am I wrong to have suspected it was the stag do?) They also just gave me a new bike and didn’t bat an eyelid. Thanks again. 
 
I hadn’t realised (proves how little attention I pay) that the parc is done up like a winter wonderland from the beginning of November, which was a really nice touch. Norah-may ‘wrote’ her letter to Santa and posted it in the box and loved the giant Christmas tree. It did feel a bit early though and started the inevitable ‘when’s Santa coming mummy?’, (never if you don’t stop asking, and don’t even think about mentioning the elf on the shelf) but for the week I was willing to suspend reality and get involved in the festive spirit.
 
 
All in all if you just get on with it, go with the prices, and get involved and fully relaxed, Center Parcs is a great place, to unwind and have a great laugh with the family on a British holiday that isn’t reliant on the weather.
 
If you’ve been let me know what you thought
 
Amy x
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An autumnal trip to Dunham and the farm

I’ve been to Dunham Massey many times. It’s one of my very favourite places to visit. I’ve always felt we’re really lucky to live in a city and have all the benefits of the incredible amenities at our fingertips, while at the same time being such a close drive to the beautiful countryside. 

Dunham in autumn is particularly beautiful, the frost lingers in the grass, the trees shed their leaves leaving a carpet of gold and the deer skulk in the woods.

But I’ve somehow never stumbled upon Red House farm tucked away on a lane near Dunham.

I found myself with a Monday off work, following working the weekend. And, as it was near Halloween I gave one of my favourite go-to websites a quick once-over (rainy city kids – it’s brill) and found a Halloween event at the farm. My parents live in Macclesfield so it seemed like a sensible place for us all to meet.

http://www.raincitykids.com

Typically on the way there it absolutely threw it down and I expected the whole event to be a total wash-out. By the time we all arrived however, the sun was out and I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.

For a little farm, the event was really good. You paid for kids and not adults, and despite me somehow managing to forget my first born’s name and being shamefully reminded by her “I’M FOUR MUMMY”, the lovely lad behind the til charged me a couple of quid less and after getting a wristband, paying a pound extra for a pumpkin, off we went.

My little girl was gleeful at the tractor barrel ride – literally a string of plastic barrels made into little cars. I wondered at first why mums were getting in with their kids, and – somewhat optimistically – threw my daughter in alone and stood back, only to see them shoot off bouncing across the fields. “I felt SICK mummy” she stated upon her return – didn’t put her off going again though!

   

 

There was plenty to amuse the kids, the barrel ride, a climbing wall, kids playground with swings etc, mini tractors, an entire barn full of giant bouncy castles, a ‘treasure’ hunt, pick a pumpkin and pumpkin carving. We spent ages there and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it, it felt like really great value for money, and it’s such a bonue when you find something that parents kids and grandparents can all enjoy.

I’m not sure what the farm is like without an event like this – if you’ve been let me know, but it’s definitely somewhere I’d head back to. I really like it when you feel like you get good value for money, and there’s loads to do. We certainly left feeling like we’d all had a really great time.

Feeling a bit peckish we headed to the Lavender tea rooms just down the road, I was keen to show my mum who hadn’t been before (Red House has a cafe, but I wanted to show my mum the delights of Lavender) but hadn’t realised it doesn’t open on Mondays – d’oh, and so we went into Dunham Massey. My parents are National trust members (of course they are!) I am not, and had to take the £6 car park charge – ouch.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s always worth it though, I find the beauty of the place utterly breathtaking. We had a fairly long walk before the mini-me got ‘too tired’ and tried to insist on having me carry her. You’re three stone now, no way! 

We all headed home, tired and having had plenty of fun, all for less than £10 (other than that car park charge! and the cake at Dunham, but let’s face it, their cake is uh-mazing and it would be rude not to!)

If you’ve been to the farm, let me know what you think. And if you have any other recommendations for autumnal activities, get in touch

amy x

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Me and mine project – June

#TeamBorg

 

 

It’s the beginning of July, and while for some this might mean long lovely summer days with the family, for me it means…the Tour de France!

Not taking part obvs, not even watching, but the grand tour that takes my husband out of the country for nearly a month. He’s a cycling journalist and this is his mecca.

It means for him the challenge of a lifetime, living the career dream, for me it means juggling work, home, a dog and a three-year-old.

(single parents, you have my utmost respect)

Last year, just before the tour, we got married. It was the best week ever. But having your husband leave the country for the best part of a month, less than two weeks after you get married is tough. Really tough.

So this year we decided we’d get some quality family time in the bag before he left. Biarritz in France is our favourite place in the world. It’s our ‘happy place’. We’ve been a good few times, mainly because when we lived in Birmingham flights were SUPER cheap, and we could nip over for a couple of days for £26 a flight and be on the beach within a couple of hours of leaving home.

I fell in love with the place, and fall more in love with it every time we go.

But the last time we went was 2012, two months before I found out I was pregnant, and we’d not managed to get back. So we decided we’d spend our wedding anniversary in our favourite place and we’d take some family to share it with us.

We got cheap flights from Birmingham and booked a nice house we found online.  

Our wedding anniversary was bliss. The house was self-catering and had a little pool so we spent the day bobbing around with our daughter and had lunch at home. In the evening we popped out on our bikes for a pizza. It was as simple and perfect as I ever could have hoped.

 

This photo for June’s ‘Me and mine project (where you take a photo of your whole family each month) is us out for pizza all together. It’s so important she has these memories – that she was there at our wedding, there at our anniversary. When we got married, it wasn’t two people marrying each other, we were a family declaring our love for each other, promising to love and support each other forever.  We are a team in our ups and our downs. I know she’s too little to remember these moments, so I hope me and mine is something for her to look back on. And it’s so lovely for us all to be on pictures together when there are so many we’ve just taken of each other.

Three days after our anniversary,  my brother-in-law, mother-in-law and her partner all flew out to join us and we had a perfect couple of  days hanging out, being silly in the pool, cycling around, paddling in the sea, just relaxing and laughing lots.

 

One evening, we even managed to leave our daughter with the in-laws and snook out for a quick drink alone. What a treat!

Biarritz is beautiful, one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been, I can’t wait to go back! 

http://www.biarritz-hotel-ocean.co.uk/

(Flights to Biarritz are available through flybe , we booked our house through Air B&B, but have stayed at a couple of hotels I’d recommend including the Mirano hotel – uniquely decorated, little chic place with amazing owners, the Oxo – small but centrally located, and the ocean – amazing hotel, best location, expensive!)

Thanks to rainbeaubelle for the me and mine project idea – where you take a photograph of you and your family each month.

 

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Hello again, I’m back!

 

My love, my light

 

I’m back! OK, so you probably didn’t notice I was ever gone! That’s fine,

 I’d only just started blogging when a glitch in the matrix set me back a little. Well – a miscarriage to be precise. Don’t feel awkward reading that, It’s a fact, it happened, and I’m learning that for some reason it’s socially unacceptable to talk about. But, I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and 15 years of radio presenting – telling all of my life stories to total strangers – means I’m used to over-sharing.

I had to take a step back from the blog, that I’d actually only just set up, because I set it up when I found out I was pregnant as something to do on my maternity leave, and once I realised that maternity leave wasn’t going to happen, I couldn’t face the blog either.

So what’s changed? Well in all honesty, it’s been a long process. Longer than I expected. Longer than I imagined it took before it happened to me.

I didn’t think about the life admin required after you miscarry a baby – the cancelling of email subscriptions telling you how big your baby is in vegetable terms, the baby yoga class updates you subscribed to, the deleting of the baby apps, the unfollowing of the many million Instagram accounts of perfect, multi-sibling families and beautiful maternity clothing that only seems to pop up in your feed just as you’re having your first ‘good’ day.

I didn’t realise I’d suffer flashbacks, and nightmares, that leaving my daughter at nursery would be like having my heart torn out, and I’d need weeks of counselling to deal with these issues.

I didn’t consider that it would take many days – weeks even – before I stopped waking up in the night and instantly reaching for ‘the bump’ before remembering I was no longer pregnant.

I didn’t realise my body would take months to get back to normal, that my boobs would stay massive, my weight wouldn’t ‘drop off’ that once a month I’d turn psycho – but wouldn’t have a clue when, as it would take at least three for my cycle to return.

I didn’t realise that every time I saw a pregnant friend or sibling children, a baby scan, or a new pram my breath would be taken away.

I didn’t realise that some people would put a time limit on your grief, or decide for you how upset you are ‘allowed’ to be upset.

I didn’t realise I’d feel so guilty, so angry, so sad, so bitter, so hollow for so long….

But with good counselling, a good online support network (MOLOs I’m looking at you) great friends (REALLY great friends) a loving supportive husband, and the most beautiful kind amazing daughter I could ever wish for, I feel like I’m getting there.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think ‘what if?’ When I don’t think about my impending due date and how pregnant I ‘should’ be right now. There isn’t a day when I don’t look at my little girl playing by herself and feel guilty, there isn’t a day when I don’t think ‘what did I do wrong’?

But now there also isn’t a day when I don’t feel positive and thankful for those who supported us.

There isn’t a day when I don’t marvel at the strength of my body to repair and recover.

There isn’t a day when I don’t think I’m also really f*cking awesome for recovering from something so physically and emotionally painful, for getting back to the gym, signing up to an online course, holding my hands up when I struggled and asking for professional help, for putting on a brave face and getting back to work, even when inside I was broken.

There isn’t a day when I don’t look at what I DO have and feel extremely privileged.

There isn’t a day when I don’t look at my daughter and feel a bit guilty for not realising earlier that SHE IS ENOUGH, for remembering how goddamn lucky I am to have her in the first place.

There isn’t a day where I don’t laugh and smile with my awesome friends and know that the future is bright

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Holiday wardrobe!

 

One of the loveliest things about going away is getting a few bits for wearing on holiday. Why I am always so keen to get something new for holiday, when I’m so rubbish at shopping at home I’m not sure, but I’m always careful to make sure it’s just one or two things, and they’re versatile. 

This year it’s some amazing high waisted jean shorts from American Apparel that can totally be dressed up or down (or even worn with tights underneath in colder months) The high waist hides a multitude of sins and they’re just long enough for thigh-flattery.

I’ve also recently discovered Joanie clothing – AMAZING vintage/retro inspired clothes in lots of sizes. (8-22) I LOVE their t-shirts and bought two for my holiday. I practically lived in them, so comfy and really cute.

I nicked the idea for the head ties from @mother_of_daughters on Instagram. But somehow she can really carry them off, and I ….can’t! ha ha, I tried, and it kept my sweaty hair off my neck, but I just couldn’t quite make it look cool – it’s from Lush anyway!

And my bag? oh, it’s incredible. It’s a tote, but you can pull one of the straps through and use it as a rucksack, which was amazing for transitioning between walking and cycling. Plus it’s made from durable fabric and has lots of pockets for threenager bits.

They’re expensive but worth it (imo) and it was my treat to myself to replace the bag that was stolen when we were burgled.

It’s from Kanken

 

This dress (that I’m doing an epically cheesy pose in) is from a great online shop I’ve discovered called Olive clothing (which works for me as I do most of my shopping online as I don’t get time to go shopping and I HATE changing rooms!). All their dresses come in one size which I think is generally about 8-14. It can be hit and miss – I’m wide-hipped and a couple of dresses have been tightish. They are also pretty short given I’m only 5 foot 4 – this was on the edge of acceptable for me! But as it was hot, I wanged some shorts underneath and wore it out, I even cycled in it. It’s muted, pretty, chic, comfy and there’s plenty of room for dinner in it!

 

And I just had to include this little beaut who’s rocking a John Lewis dress I just can’t get enough of, especially when she matches her tangle twister!! ha ha

thanks for indulging me x

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A family break to Copenhagen

Copenhagen seems to be ‘the’ place to visit at the moment, but I’ll be honest, before a friend of mine went a year or so ago, I’d barely heard of it and it certainly wasn’t a destination on my radar.

 
Now I’ve been, I can’t recommend it enough, and think it would suit couples/groups and families alike as it really does have something for everyone.
 
Be warned however, it is expensive, VERY expensive.
 
My husband was working in the city for a day, which is what inspired us to visit. He’d worked there before, but on the outskirts of pretty much an industrial estate, and felt like it was a real shame he’d not actually seen the city itself. So on this occasion, we decided to go with him and have another mini family adventure.
 
The flights to Copenhagen are quick (less than 2 hours) and fairly cheap depending when you choose to go. 
 
Flights start around £40 each way and you can fly with Easyjet and SAS from Manchester airport
 
We stayed in a hotel as it had been booked through work, but I’d recommend checking out Air B&B which a few friends have done. As I say, Copenhagen is expensive and this includes hotels, 
 
We stayed in the Vesterbro district and found the city fairly easy to navigate. Like a lot of European cities, it’s geared towards cyclists. We found a local bike hire and made the most of the bike lanes and good weather. We felt pretty safe even with a four-year-old on the back, but I would advise you do a quick read-up on the cycling rules of the Danish.  They have particular hand signals and ways of turning, which we’d read about and really enjoying doing, we felt like we were briefly living like locals and I think that’s such an important thing to do when visiting new places.
 
 
 
We were only there a few days so stuck around those areas of the city and city centre. I was so struck by a number of parks and spaces to play with children, It felt like there was a park or play area on every corner. 
 
Health and safety is obviously a little different in Denmark and children are afforded a little more scope to be brave and independent. The parks would feature huge wooden planes and boats and my daughter loved scampering over them, even if our hearts stopped briefly every now and then. She also made friends despite the language barrier. It seems play is an international language and it only takes running around in a few circles to be temporary besties.
 
I loved the understated chic of the Danish too. No glaring logos or glittery brights for the kids. Those I saw – and there were many in the parks – were clad in muted tones of blue and green and grey, I saw little boys in tights and sandals. Maybe we were just in a boho area and this isn’t representative of the country as a whole.
 
I also at found myself wondering what was different in one of the parks while watching my daughter have the time of her life pretending to row a boat. A glance around and it clicked – not a single parent had a visible mobile phone. Again, maybe I just picked a certain park with a certain demographic, but going on what I saw things seemed a little slower, a little softer in Denmark and it very much encouraged me to put the phone away and practice ‘slow parenting’ for the week and we all seemed to feel happier for it.
 
We returned to ‘the park with the plane’ several times. On one occasion a little hut was open and my daughter spent a good time playing with a doll’s house inside, little trikes were available to take for a spin too. The whole feel was that people were trusted more with things, and in return they looked after things better: I didn’t see any litter, and on the whole Copenhagen struck me as an incredibly clean city.
 
 
For food we visited a couple of lovely places I’d suggest you add to your list if you do visit the city
 Grod is a porridge cafe – yes, for real. It serves every iteration of porridge you can imagine. Although somehow our porridge-obsessed child decided she didn’t like it. Isn’t that typical?
 
Round the corner is ….. an epitome of Danish hugge with hundreds of candles lit even in bright sunshine. We sat outside soaking up the atmosphere and people-watching a couple of times, and when the sun went in on the last day, we retreated to a cosy corner. Again, it’s not cheap – about £11 for eggs on toast!!
 
We didn’t go out for meals at night, so I can’t recommend decent restaurants, that was one thing we struggled with, opting for the hotel, or a pizza place around the corner which was great.
 
It was also a huge coincidence that some good friends of ours had also booked to go to Copenhagen with a couple of days overlapping. 
 
We met up with them and went on a Go boat. These are brilliant little self-driven boats you take around a route including the Copenhagen canals and a rather busy ‘river’ section. It’s a fabulous way to have an alternative look at the city. We saw locals relaxing on their verandas, and huge yachts moored along the river. We went for an hour and took our own picnic and bottle of wine – standard. It felt fabulous and our daughter loved it. Take the map to follow the route and make sure you prebook to avoid disappointment.
 
 
 We did go to the  Torvehallerne – a beautiful market in the city. It’s packed with vegetables, coffee, artisan chocolates, it’s a classy up-market affair, and like most things in Copenhagen is pretty pricey. But it’s a great place to just have a look around the stalls and sit outside to enjoy a glass of wine while people watching in the sun. It really reminded me of Altrincham market hall for context! 
 
 
The city centre didn’t blow me away. We chose to go in on a hot busy day and our daughter was soon overwhelmed and chose to head back to the area where we were staying. It was the usual mix of big labels, souvenir shops,  and chic Danish brands worth sticking with if shopping is your bag.
 
We also spent a day in Tivoli gardens and I’d return to Copenhagen for this alone. Tivoli is a Danish theme park placed bizarrely right in the city centre.
 
 
It’s got the usuals – roller coasters, kid’s rides, cafes, restaurants. But it also has little shows, big play areas, and – as we discovered – evening shows too. We walked into Tivoli at 11:30 am, and as we were leaving at 7 pm a ballet began on one of the outdoor stages. we all sat down to watch it and my daughter was mesmerised for a good hour. We finally left at about 9 pm! It seemed expensive at about £100 for us all for entry, but for the time and enjoyment it was well worth it. The gardens are beautiful and the people incredibly friendly. We jumped on every ride immediately without delays and at one point a man helping us on a ride asked us if we’d like him to make us queue “so we’d feel at home” ha!
 
 
At the end-of-school time, you see families pouring in and groups of adults going for dinner while squealing kids race off to jump on the rides. 
 
Overall I felt like the Danish have somehow got it right with their work /life balance, It felt a slower pace, more family friendly. I felt like I emptied my bank account by visiting there, but filled up on my feel-good quota, spending really good-quality time with my husband and daughter.
 
Apparently the Danish pay higher taxes for better services, and although that means things are generally more expensive, I can’t help but think they’ve really got it right. 
 
I can’t wait to go back, I just need to get saving!!!!
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‘One in four’

So, I haven’t written here for a while, haven’t updated weekly as I planned to originally because I’ve been a bit poorly. 

 
I’d wanted to start a blog for years and never had the courage, never thought it would ‘cut through’ but on a recent Hendo with a lovely friend (who happens to be a very zen life-coach of sorts) I decided it didn’t matter what the blog achieved, or who read it, I should just do it for me, because I enjoy writing. So I did.
 
It happened that a couple of weeks after that hen do, I discovered I was pregnant. And so I realised writing this blog would be something I could do during my maternity leave. Whether people read it or not, it would be something to keep me busy and keep my brain going.
 
Except it won’t. As there will be no maternity leave. On Thursday 16th February I miscarried the pregnancy at 14 weeks. I found out a week previously – at my 12-week scan – that I had suffered a silent miscarriage at around three weeks. Despite my desire to choose ‘an option’ to bring things to an end, several things stood in my way – medical procedures and ‘protocols not followed’ etc. Things took a natural turn that saw me landed in A&E in the middle of the night.
 
I have debated in my head since then whether or not it is ‘appropriate’ to write about it here, or anywhere, whether it’s something ‘private’ that should be kept that way.
 
I’ve decided to write something though, for a couple of reasons:
 
1) It seems the general consensus is that I shouldn’t. Despite one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, it is still seen as taboo, and a ‘dirty secret’ and this makes me angry
 
2) At the moment it’s all so surreal that it feels like it didn’t happen. And I feel like talking about it / writing about it helps me to process it and make it real – I owe it to myself and the ‘baby-that-never-was’ to make it real
 
3) I feel there’s a conversation to be had – one I have been part of on several forums / social media platforms – to change the way miscarriage is perceived, and miscarriage sufferers are treated. I feel that the after care has been non-existent and there is a definite societal expectation that I will now ‘forget about it and move on’. This needs to change.
 
My hospital experience was so brutal and surreal, that when I got home I felt shell-shocked. I wrote it down just to get my head around exactly what had happened. 
 
I haven’t brought myself to let anyone read it yet.
 
I wonder whether publishing it here will help anyone else? Would it help to other sufferers to come to terms with their own experiences? Would it help anyone who’s at the start of the process to understand what might happen? Would it help friends or family of other sufferers to understand what happens and what they’ve been through?
 
Or would people just say I’m doing it for the wrong reasons.
 
Please do comment here to let me know what you think, I’d be very interested to hear.
 
At the moment it’s all still pretty raw. But I do feel incentivised to help action a change. I don’t want other women to experience what I did. I don’t want other women to feel they are keeping a dirty secret. I don’t want other women to sneak back to work in a cloud of secrecy about their absence and thus not receive the support you deserve.
 
Noone wants to be that one in four. But if you are, I’m here for you. 
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Breastfeeding. Why is it STILL causing confusion?

Here’s the story of women who were challenged while travelling without their children, but WITH breast pumps, and breast milk, give it a read:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38809100

 
Breastfeeding. Seems to be a polarising subject. Even I at times have found myself thinking that all the press surrounding women who’ve been chastised for breastfeeding in public places, isn’t actually helping the cause. But it’s SUCH an important topic for us to keep pushing, keep talking about.
 
When I had my daughter I really wanted to do it, really wanted to succeed at it, (naively thought it would be easy).  But I didn’t. She wouldn’t latch on in the hospital, they wouldn’t let me go home, I got more stressed, so did she. Four days they kept me prisoner, and eventually when I could ‘prove to them I could do it’ I was freed. I felt like a naughty school girl failing her exams, and our bond wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I tried and tried and had just about cracked it when my mum was taken ill and I had to visit the hospital several times a day without the baby. It’s amazing how quickly your supply dwindles when you aren’t providing it.
 
And that leads me to be amazed by how difficult it is to express when you are trying to breastfeed but aren’t around your baby.
 
Circumstances meant that I returned to work when my daughter was 16-weeks-old. In hindsight maybe not the best move, but it felt right at the time. I was freelance and it was the odd shift, but I wanted breast-feeding to continue and be successful and this required me to express at work.
 
I had no idea where to begin – in an office? In the toilets? I hunted for an office and apparently in my brand-new high-tech building, all our offices are floor to ceiling glass…NOPE. So the toilets? erm NOPE…where then? It didn’t take long, of whispering to mums in corners at work, to discover there are many of us, hiding this little secret and coming up against the same walls: Noone to ask, nowhere to do it. “When I worked at our London office, I used to run down to John Lewis in my lunch hour and use their changing rooms,” one woman told me. I don’t work for a tiny company. I work for one of the biggest, most liberal, forward- thinking corporations in the world. Not when it comes to new mums though it seems. 
 
I sheepishly mentioned my predicament to my male line manager, who was helpful, but the solution was to provide me with a key to the dressing room of a TV presenter. So, in my tiny gaps at work, I’d run up a flight of stairs, fumble with the lock and try to ignore the huge mirror lined with bulbs, hold my foot against the door ‘just in case’ and get to it. Feeling totally embarrassed and often so flustered it didn’t work anyway.
 
Then the other part. Where to store it? My office is giant. It’s open plan. Hundreds of people work in our space…and share the fridge….So, I’d wrap the bottle in tissue and hide it at the back of the fridge. A fridge that’s probably opened hundreds of times a day.
 
After not too long I realised this was crazy, not working for me, not healthy for the baby. And – I’m slightly ashamed to say – I gave up. Beaten.
 
I was surprised however, once I started digging how many women had suffered the same way I had, and felt they couldn’t speak up about it. Breast-feeding is a fact of life. Infact, it SUSTAINS life, and yet we are constantly derided for it by people who completely misunderstand it. The “why doesn’t she just go home and do it” brigade, who have absolutely no concept of feeding on demand. Of the stress of a mother whose baby is crying and needs feeding RIGHT NOW. Of the emotional strain on new mums who don’t quite have their confidence, and go out and give it a go, only to be crushed by a withering look and retreat to their homes, not to leave for an entire week (yes, been there, more than once)
 
We should be encouraging it. We should be educating EVERYONE about it. 
 
So why am I reading about Heathrow airport questioning a woman with a breast pump? Are you for real? No feeding rooms at HEATHROW airport? Where are we – the middle ages? When are companies going to be brought up-to-date? When are businesses going to make the right provisions and educate their staff, when are mums going to feel comfortable doing what literally comes naturally, when will we stop shaming women? Hopefully soon, and it won’t be soon enough.
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The builder who gave up his time for free

Here’s the amazing story of a man who gave up his time for free to help out an old couple:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-38826371

In a world full that’s currently seemingly full of hatred and division, I find it such a relief when a beautiful story of love and sharing cuts through.

This is the story of a disabled couple who fell victim to a rogue trader who left them without a usable kitchen. The husband – who currently lives in a nursing home – used some money (£13,000) to buy his wife a new kitchen for her birthday. Arnold has to live in a home since having cancer of the spine.

The couple couple, one can assume given Arnold’s age, have been together for a while and were separated by horrible circumstances: Imagine your husband not only having a life-changing illness, but then having to move out of your home and live elsewhere, leaving you alone.

Then as a present Arnold tries to do a lovely thing for the wife he’s left, and buys her a kitchen. Except not everyone’s as lovely as Arthur. Not the guy who left them in the lurch with an unfinished, unusable, unsafe kitchen anyway.

Well this is the part I love. Instead of reading about this story and saying “good grief some people are awful aren’t they?” and returning to work, local builder Ernie Etah heard about their plight on the radio, and fixed their kitchen for them.

The builder has swooped to the rescue, fixing their kitchen and not charging a penny. What a guy. Ernie is, as Arnold says “epic”. Ernie, we salute you. I hope other people can read the story and do the same. Maybe a bit of altruism will make the world a better place.

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As easy as riding a bike

Happy new year!

Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and very happy move into 2017. I can’t help but think that figure sounds so futuristic. Doesn’t help realising that I went to university 20 years ago this year – eek!

Christmas was lovely our end. For once I held back on going overboard with the Christmas presents for our little girl. The other half wanted to get her a bike anyway, so that was her present ‘from Santa’, we got her the Sylvanian Families boutique she’d been asking for for weeks (despite a last minute, “no, I want the treehouse” – yeah thanks Nickleodeon. God bless Ceebeebies)

And we hung a stocking full of lovely stuff.

We knew we’d get presents from so many other people – grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends etc that we really didn’t want to go overboard.

We had a lovely time and managed not to travel. We’re in Manchester and my parents are in Macclesfield while my in laws are in Leicester. Most year’s we’ve been to both and then travelled home on boxing day and gone straight back to work, so this year it was lovely to go to my parents for Christmas dinner, come home, and have the inlaws round at ours on boxing day. It’s njust nice to have your own bed sometimes isn’t it?

Something really amazing happened on Christmas day, that I’m still in awe of, and that’s my little girl learning to ride a bike. She was three in September! And I have to admit, it was a little bit of a case of ‘egg on my face’ with regard to the other half telling me she’d be able to do it, and me arguing to the other.

She had a balance bike a good year ago and has become increasingly brave on it. Getting to the point, as fearless toddler do, where she flies down hills with her feet up.

The other half (a keen cyclist) assured me, that when kids are good on balance bikes ‘the done thing’ is for them to move to a pedal bike WITHOUT stabilisers

On Christmas eve we had a ‘discussion’ about whether or not this was a good idea. My point being – let’s put stabilisers on just for Christmas day, as I couldn’t deal with her falling off, crying, having a mardy and Christmas day being ruined. His point – she’s super single-minded and once the stabilisers are on, we’ll never get them off.

So, we go into the street on Christmas day on her brand new bike, SANS stabilisers and…well…here’s what happened….

Junior Borg Rides a Bike from OJ Borg on Vimeo.

And here’s what she did on her second attempt two day’s later.

When are the CX World Champs? from OJ Borg on Vimeo.

So yeah folks, my three-year-old can ride a bike! it’s almost comical how easy she found it and how proud I am. She loves running and swimming, so maybe we have a triathlete in the making. Maybe….

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