Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Do you have to tell yourself to Kick Ass?

I've been struggling to motivate myself today. Today I wanted to just sit on the sofa, all day, watch crap television and just mooch about.

This is one of the disadvantages of working from home. Most days I'm fine. I get up, take my daughters to school, get home, have a coffee and plan my day. Today, not so much.

This may, or may not be subliminal messaging...just saying


It's 1.30pm in the afternoon. It has been a really unproductive day, but I am finally in front of my laptop typing, Whoop!

To get to this point, I have had to do the following,

  1. Make a list.
    • The list consists of;
      • Write something
      • Clean the house
      • Finish Lego
      • Tile the window sill in the kitchen
      • Paint the bathroom
      • Paint the toilet
      • Sort out the pot plants outside
      • Finish clearing the garden
      • Have a shower and make tea 
      • Start reading my Master's degree books
  2. Had a bit of a slump after making the list and realising how much I had to do
  3. I have then tried to chunk it up, giving myself baby steps. For example;
    • Today, I will write something, do my Lego, shower and feed my family
    • Tomorrow I will clean
    • On Friday I will tile the window sill
    • I will think about the other jobs next week
  4. Then I made a list of things I wanted to write about and put a skeleton plan of this together
  5. After that I watched University Challenge with my husband (who is working nights this week, which means he is around in the afternoons, so it is even easier to procrastinate when he's there, because he lets me and we both wanted to watch University Challenge). 
  6. Then I realised I wasn't going to achieve my goal of up to 5 blog posts a week if I messed about any longer, so I finally got off my arse and came upstairs.
    Possibly more subliminal messaging...
So here I am and that's how I motivated myself to get here, but I am curious, what do you do? There are loads of people who work from home and I am sure not everybody is super efficient every day. So what do you do on the days you are feeling demotivated or are in a bit of a slump.

How do you kick start yourselves? Do you have any clever techniques I can use on days like this?

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Credits for Artwork as follows 

Caption details
Product name: Just Write. Limited Edition Glicée print from digital image. c. Peter Walters
Description: Just Write. Glicée print from digital image by Peter Walters. Sold by Artfinder.
 
Caption details
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Description: Vinilo texto mensaje de buenos días con un diseño moderno y llamativo y palabras en inglés que te invitarán a levantarte, ser duro y repetir al día siguiente. Ideal para decorar tu cuarto el de los más jóvenes de casa con una frase contundente.

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Monday, 29 January 2018

Homework for Primary School Children? Yes or No?

I firmly believe that children up to 11 should only have to take home spellings, learn their times tables and read in their own time. Everything else should be completed within the school day.

Occasionally a project about 'what I did in my school holidays' is quite a nice thing to do, but other than that, their time at home should be spent enjoying time with family, friends and any additional activities they may be involved in.

Homework, certainly at my daughters school, seems unnecessarily excessive. My daughter can spend hours on it over the weekend, and then be expected to read for an hour a day and learn her spellings. My daughter wants to do well at school and feels the pressure to complete this work, not just half heartedly, but well. As a result, her weekends disappear into just doing homework.

I wouldn't mind quite as much if my daughter had any feedback for her homework or, after she has learnt her spelling if the teacher actually did the spelling test at the time she has advised the class.

Last week, Lola, my daughter, learnt her spellings and then there was no test (this has happened more times than I would like to say). And to my knowledge I have seen no feedback for any homework.

Here is Lola, one weekend when she was doing some modelling for a local vintage clothing maker

Lola recently spent time building a 3D model for her homework, she put time and effort into it as her class was told that they were to do a presentation to the class of this project. This was prior to the Christmas holidays, Lola didn't get to do the presentation and has since been sent home with the said project as they were 'cluttering up' the class room.

So what was the point?

I spoke to Lola's teacher at parents evening and said I felt that they were providing too much homework for her age group. The teacher agreed with me and said she had to give as much homework as she was because that was what Michael Gove, had decided when he was Education Secretary from 2010 - 2014, however, based on my research, after that meeting, Michael Gove scrapped the government guidelines for homework in 2012 and left it to the discretion of the Head Teacher of the school.

I have also checked the school website, to see if there is any kind of definition on there for the amount of homework Lola should be receiving. If there was, and Lola didn't do the homework the school could come back to us with sanctions. There is not. Although, apparently parents are supposed to receive a homework schedule at the beginning of every term. I have had a child in this school since 2007, I haven't ever seen a homework schedule.

At the parents evening I said, I felt it was more important that Lola spent time with the family at the weekends, for example going to see my father, her grandfather with dementia, and attending her dance competitions, lessons and exams as they gave her good discipline and team working skills. The teacher agreed, and said that if Lola couldn't manage to do her homework because of this, I should just write her a note and to explain.

A couple of weeks later, this happened, Lola completed most of her homework but not all of it, so I wrote her a note, which she gave to the teacher. The teacher then berated her in front of the whole class and said that she wouldn't get away with this at secondary school. Since then Lola has felt additional pressure to complete all her homework.

Pressure is a key word here, year 6's are put under a ridiculous amount of pressure to succeed in their SATs, as this has a marked impact on the schools Ofsted rating. Yes, it may effect what set they start off in, in secondary school, but as my 15 year old says, it makes no difference in the long run as you do a whole raft of tests when you arrive at secondary school and they will move you accordingly after that.

So at the moment, I have steam coming out of my ears whilst I attempt to help Lola with subordinating conjunctions and coordinating conjunctions. All I keep thinking is ...

SHE IS ELEVEN - LEAVE HER BE!!!

All I know is when I was 11, I didn't do homework, I read, learnt my spellings and times tables and did the odd project. I did alright at school, I got a degree and I managed that whilst still being allowed to be a child.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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Thursday, 25 January 2018

Mindfulness = Lego

I am a big fan of Lego, when I was about 4 or 5, I went to Legoland in Denmark with my parents. I don't really remember it but there are photo's and film from that time and that is where my memories come from.

That's me, showing my pants as I lean over to get the best view of all the Lego houses.
I rediscovered Lego in my late 30's, when I was stressed at work with two small children. Building Lego relaxed me, it made me less stressed. You just follow the instructions and end up with something wonderful.

Over the years I have built many things, but my favourite is my street.

This street has a Pet Shop, Pool Hall, Barber shop, Palace Cinema and Shop
I have also started my next street, where there is currently just one lonely house.

At Christmas I was given the Brick Bank, so I am currently building that, I have had to give loads of books to the charity shop to make room for my next street, it was tough, but something had to give.

The Bank is already proving challenging, I have just completed section one (the first floor) - but just look at the floor...
Beautiful and complicated, my favourite type of challenge.

Nowadays, I am less stressed, I work for myself and my kids are bigger, life is good, but Lego is the icing.

Lego makes my brain tick in a way it doesn't most of the time. Most of the time my thoughts are quite chaotic and creative, Lego makes me think logically and systematically. I like that from time to time, its a change and change is good.

For anyone out there suffering from stress, I would recommend Lego, you need something fairly complicated to stretch yourself, but it just makes you think about nothing else except what you are doing. It needs your full attention. I suppose it is the epitome of mindfulness.


I only build my Lego when I am on my own, today the cat interfered with my Lego whilst I was building, this was unacceptable, in the end I had to wait for the cat to go to sleep. Stupid cat.



Anyway, as I tell my kids (and I have said it to the cat) Lego is not a toy, it's mine - so get off. So go and get you're own Lego, if you are not sure what to buy or whether you would like it, I would recommend you try something small to begin with like one of the BrickHeadz - maybe Aquaman? He's no Jason Momoa but he'll do for the purpose here.

Aqua Man
He is £9.99 so won't break the bank, but still, this is the downside of Lego, it is expensive. The thing I want the most at the moment is the Assembly Square. It is massive and looks amazing to build but it is £179.99. I can but dream.
Assembly Square

This isn't a sponsored post, I do just love Lego. And if any Lego people read this and want to gift me the Assembly Square...please just go ahead. 

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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

9 Things to Remember about Yourself (or, you really weren't fat as a teenager!)

I spent a lot of my time as a teenager thinking about how fat I was. I wanted to have an 18 inch waist and was horrified mine was 21 inches (I'd read something about the Victorians aiming for 16 inches in their corsets, which I had totally taken out of context).

I danced, cycled and did loads of stuff outdoors throughout my childhood, until I went to University.

I wasn't in anyway fat.

Did I have body dysmorphia? I don't think so. Did I stop eating or go on any mad diets? No.

What bothers me is the amount of time I wasted thinking about being a fat, writing my diary about being fat, talking to my friends about being fat.....

I thought all my friends were skinnier than me, I was just a different shape to them, I had boobs for a start, they came in way to early for comfort and were larger than most of my friends, which made me look bigger.

And yet, I know my friends wanted my body shape. How stupid are as young women? Comparing ourselves to others. I know it is natural to do this, and to some extent I still do it now, but it really does us no good. I worry about my 11 year old and 15 year old doing the same thing. My 11 year old has already commented on her 'massive thighs', which she hasn't got.

So what's the answer?

We talk about the negative impact of social media on young people, and yet when I was young, I would read, initially, Jackie, and then Cosmopolitan.

The models in the magazines in the 1980's were all skinny, even Elle 'The Body' Macpherson didn't have an ounce of fat on her. The only reason I can see, in retrospect, that people called her 'The Body' was because she had bigger boobs that your average model.
Elle Macpherson in Sports Illustrated


Nowadays, on social media I follow curvier models.  You can see lot's of different body types in the media for young people to aspire to.

In my view, the internet has given young people a greater view of the world and this, on the whole, has had a positive impact.

Ashley Graham is a great example of that, she is a Judge on America's Top Model and is a 'Body Ambassador', whilst having a successful career in modelling.

Ashley Graham
However, Ms Graham has stated some concerns that as a curvier model she is more likely to be considered sexier than her skinnier equivalent.

She feels that if she were to get a part in the film, she would be the 'sexy girl' and not the serious lead.


I can relate to that, when I was at school I wanted to be an actor and would put myself forward for parts in every school play. The first part I got, when I was 12, was the 'sexy secretary'. I wore a tight pencil skirt, a low cut top, with stiletto's and glasses.

At the time I was thrilled to have got the part, I was also thrilled that older boys were suddenly showing me lots of attention.

I didn't understand, that this was the completely wrong kind of attention.
 
I have a friend that has always referred to me as 'sexy Jane'. Is this because I have always been curvy. I don't know, I know she says it with affection but I think I would rather be known as clever Jane, creative Jane or something like that.

I have added a photo of myself that was taken when I was 17. I look at this photo now and wonder what on earth I was thinking. I would give my eyes teeth to have that body now.

This is how I described myself in my diary at the time. (all punctuation as per my diary, apologies)

'Me: I am five foot two inches, mousy brown hair (dyed), brown eyes. Face: alright but I have a big nose. Overweight. Got big boobs and big hips, and short fat legs.'

On the Lido at Jesolo near Venice when I was 17
When I look at this picture now and read my diary, I have realised that my self image and how I actually looked are totally opposed. I am disappointed that when I got attention from boys, and later men, I was so grateful, because I thought I was hideous,  that I ended up with dreadful boyfriends who treated me awfully. This continued into my early thirties, when I finally realised that actually, I am not bad looking, quite bright and deserve much, MUCH better. 

When I was 17 I was a bright and articulate young woman, just like my 15 year old daughter is now, but I lacked self respect.

Now, no one would ever cast a 12 year old girl to play the 'sexy secretary' in a school play.

But the sexism still continues, there are certain sports at my daughters secondary school that only the boys can do, similarly, the boys aren't allowed to wear make up at school, whereas the girls can (as long as it's subtle).

At my other daughters primary school the girls can wear earrings but the boys can not.

Our children are still brought up to think pink is for girls and blue is for boys, that fat or curvy is bad and thin is good. There are still so many things that still need to be resolved to ensure true equality for men and women.

My eldest daughter is beautiful, blessed with a tiny waist and my boobs, I can only hope her adolescence isn't wasted worrying about her body shape, but I fear this is a pipe dream.

Ultimately, we are never 100% happy with how we look, even the most intelligent and beautiful person will find fault with themselves because as humans, our brains tell us we are flawed.

We have come on leaps and bounds since the 1980's when I was a teenager. What was acceptable then, just isn't now. 

If you think about Operation Yewtree - if that was what celebrities were up to, what was your average Joe up to on a daily basis.

Here is another quote from my diary.

'4th August 1984

Today I worked in Oswestry at Oswestry Show, in a grotty little burger van with a man named Ben who seemed nice enough to begin with but later turned into a 60 year old groper. He was a pain in the ass. I can't stand working for them . All they talk about is sex sex SEX!' 

Just an average day in 1984. for a 17 year old girl.

This has turned into a long and rather troublesome post. I planned to talk about feeling fat as a teenager, but instead moved on to more serious issues around inequality and sexism.

I have tried to reach a conclusion but found, unsurprisingly, I don't have a full answer to any of these issues.

So instead here is my message to my children and you;


  1. You are beautiful
  2. You won't be the same shape as anyone else because you are you
  3. You are beautiful because your mind is bright and sparkly and full of intelligence and genius thoughts
  4. You are beautiful because you imagine and dream
  5. You are strong
  6. You are powerful
  7. Don't let anyone physically or verbally disrespect you, walk away from them with your head held high. There are people who will try to make you feel useless and small - they are idiots - see points 1 - 6 for validation
  8. Everyone is different, that is what makes them special - respect that
  9. Be kind, and people will be kind to you
Thanks for reading, and making it to the end of this. If you like it please like and share.





Saturday, 20 January 2018

The Two Things I Love the Most

The two things I love the most, apart from my family, my home, my cats, and coffee ...are reading and drinking wine.



It is rather sad, I think, that the two don't work very well together. If I drink wine and then read, I find myself re-reading what I read when I was drinking wine.

If only there was a way I could make the two things work together.

Maybe if I start reading first, then drink wine, I will remember most of it. No?

Maybe if I drink some coffee, start reading, drink wine.....No, that won't work...

My husband suggested I just buy books with larger print....hmmmmm.

Maybe if I invent some special wine, that still tastes great and does what wine does, except the thing that makes you forget what you have been reading... That's non-alcholic wine isn't it. Damn it. This isn't working at all.

I remember the days when you could smoke at work, have a liquid lunch and no one would bat an eyelid. My God, we must have done some dreadful work, and if you think that was what it was like in the early 1990's what was it like when there was the 1st and 2nd World Wars? Does that mean everyone in the offices issuing the orders to the troops, were actually a bit pissed. No wonder the wars went on for so long and were a bit rubbish when it came to planning*.

Well that digressed into a very dark place and has not in anyway resolved my problem, I don't want to run a war room, I simply want to read whilst enjoying some (quite a lot of) wine. I am not going to hurt anyone doing this (unless you count myself, I am quite aware of the impact on your health from drinking). I just want to do two of my favourite things, together successfully.

I have realised I sound like an alcoholic, I am not an alcoholic. I just like to drink red wine, often, usually in the evening, never in the morning and rarely at lunch time.

I am a fully functioning adult that takes her children to school and writes this, amongst other things. OK now I do sound like an alcoholic trying to justify this whole post. (Please don't over analyse this..)

NOT AN ALCOHOLIC

OK moving on, the problem is not getting resolved, reading V wine....hmmm reading v wine...

I think I may have to just accept the two are not compatible. Unless any of you have any genius suggestions. (You should see my hopeful face...I am very hopeful).

I look forward to hearing from you.

*I'd just like to apologise to all historians out there for all the HUGE generalisations I just made. Sorry.

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Thursday, 18 January 2018

How good are you at DIY?


I don't know about you but I am fairly good around the house. I can paint and wallpaper, use a drill, tile etc.

This is because my parents were excellent at teaching me some basic life skills, which set me up, and later I had some really dreadful boyfriends who were absolutely useless.

My husband is great at DIY, even though it stresses him out and makes him all shouty. 

To begin with I let him get on with it, largely as, at the beginning of the relationship, I arrived with my own tool kit, drill etc, in fact way more of that kind of thing than he did. He told me not to 'emasculate him' so I decided, brilliant some time off from that stuff.

In fairness, I had been living away from home since I was 18, he only moved out when he was 26 (as his Mum insisted). As a result I had needed tools along the way.

Nowadays we do most things together. Turns out I am the calm one. 

At the moment I am doing a little project of my own, I am turning a pillar wall into a black board in my kitchen.
That's the first coat of blackboard paint on

Underneath where the black board is, there will be tiles, these will go to above bin level.

This is because the bin, being where it is against the wall gets splashes of horrible stuff on the wall. If it is tiled I can wipe it clean.
This is dirty bin wall, prior to the blackboard paint - icky!!!


This will be better looking and much more hygienic.

Anyway, I am really curious about you, are you good at DIY?

Please could you fill in my poll in the side bar, once I have the results in a weeks time I will blog all the results. Thanks everso.

Please share and like xxx




Wednesday, 17 January 2018

My Teenage Diary - 6 days in 1984

This is me in 1984. It is the summer before sixth form. I live in Shrewsbury.

There is both a mullet and a perm going on here, not my best look. But, I was completely on trend at the time. Obvs.

I am deeply enamoured of someone called Nigel (I genuinely have no memory of this chap).

All spelling and grammar below is as per my diary.....ugh!

31.08.1984

This is the first time I meet him - we are at a place called The Goblet, which was like a disco/club/pub.

'Met a lad called Nigel, slightly punky, got good skin, got off with him, very lurid, right in the middle of the disco!!' 

The rest of what I say is too embarrassing, but the outcome is I don't want to see him again?

01.09.1984 (Saturday)

'My heart is in turmoil!! (I loved a double exclamation!!)(well maybe that's a slight exageration). Today I saw Nigel in town. And I phoned him up twice, and he promised to phone me tommorrow. And I'm meeting him 8 '0' Clock in the square on Monday.

...A bit of unnecessary chat about my day follows, including a note that there was break dancing on Pride Hill. Random.

'I can't make up my mind whether I like Nigel or not (I'm the most indecisisive person I know).  

 Then this,

They are called Brothel Creepers. Doh.
 'But he's got a lovely smile and really nice skin. Also he doesn't talk much on the phone. I will finish my lilac jumper tomorrow.'

Strangely, I do remember the lilac jumper. It was made of mohair and a b**ch to knit. This was back in the day when I knitted and sewed regularly. During the summer of 1984 I made at least two skirts and finished the lilac jumper and then made a similar one in orange for my friend Andy. As you do.

02.09.1984

'Nigel phoned me up. Did I want to go to his house tonight, I said I did. He was amazed.'

Question marks appear to be a thing of mystery to me.

'I caught the 7.32 bus to the English Bridge, I met Nigel off the bus. He seemed pleased to see me. Then we walked to his house'

What followed is censored, a girl has to have some secrets (also how I describe 'stuff' is awful).

'After all this we talked some more, he played music from a band he is in called TEETH. It was a lot better than I expected. They have a 1000 singles out of a song called something like 'coming out of the gloom' He has a very good voice. He asked me to go out with him, again. I might do. Although he became sort of sulky by the end of the evening. My Mum and Dad picked me up'.

03.09.1984 (Monday)

'I phoned up Nigel this evening (just gone six) I told him, if he still wanted me to go out with him I would, he said he didn't want me to, then he said he did (what a bastard) He said, what had changed my mind, well I couldn't really say I had been contemplating, he'd say I was mad. Anyway in the end he said he would phone me on Wednesday'

   
05.09.1984 (Wednesday)

'Phoned Nigel, as unsociable as ever on the phone however, a touch of wry humour touched todays conversation. Went out.'

12.09.1984 (Wednesday)

'I am sorry I haven't written resently but I have been very busy and been becoming very tired. I think I have finished with Nigel but I don't know. The conversation went like this on the phone.

'Hello'                                                                                                       Nigel
'Its Jane'                                                                                                    Me
'Yes'                                                                                                          Nigel
'I can't come to see you tonight'                                                               Me
'Why not'                                                                                                  Nigel 
'Because I don't want to'                                                                          Me
'OK Goodbye'                                                                                          Nigel
'Bye'                                                                                                          Me

End of conversation pretty bad huh!
I felt really guilty afterwards. Oh well.'

And that was it for Nigel, no wonder I don't remember him.

If you want to read more of my teenage diary, you can read the other post here

If you like this, please like and share - Thanks

Names have been changed to protect the innocent and those wearers of red socks and brothel creepers.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Mid Life Crisis? Nah, I just love Tattoos

“heavily tattooed women can be said to control and subvert the ever-present 'male gaze' by forcing men (and women) to look at their bodies in a manner that exerts control.”Margo DeMello*
Me

I would consider myself to be a heavily tattooed women. Both my arms (sleeves) are fully tattooed - although I have a little space for a few more, the top of my back is tattooed and the front of my left thigh.

I get quite strong reactions to my tattoos, people react to them like Marmite, they either hate them or love them, there doesn't appear to be an in-between.

People seem to have no filter when commenting on tattoos, its not like with a new hair style, where people are always polite, with tattoos they will turn round and say, 'why would you do that to yourself' or 'I just think they are ugly'. People would never say that about your hair. So why is it OK with tattoos? I'm baffled.

I am definitely in the minority of people in my age group with tattoos, only 9% of Generation X (36 - 50 year olds) have 5 or more tattoos. I couldn't find a stat to tell me how many of the 9% were women.

I had my first tattoo at 28, this was 10 years after I walked into a tattoo studio and then walked straight out again, terrified. But I knew, even at 18, that I was going to have tattoos. My first tattoo was a tiny daisy on my shoulder.

My advice to anyone thinking about getting a tattoo is to be brave. Better to go for the larger than you think you want, tattoo than the small one, because the small one will get in the way of the next tattoo, and the next...they are terribly addictive.

One of the most common questions I get asked is why? Why would you want tattoos?

My answer isn't simple.

Firstly, for me, it has nothing to do with the pleasure/pain principle. I get no pleasure from the pain, usually I am just exhausted afterwards because of the adrenalin. I don't enjoy the pain, nor do I enjoy the healing process, when they are all scabby and itchy. I like the end product when they are healed.

Secondly, I have always felt different, this is a way of externalising that, I don't want to look like everyone else, I like to challenge my thinking and keep an open mind, my tattoos help me do that, they remind me that everyone has the right to express themselves even when I don't like what they are expressing.

Thirdly, I see them as art, I have art on me, as well as all around me and that makes me feel beautiful.

Fourthly, I have leukaemia, my body is out of control, getting a tattoo is something I can control, I decide what goes on my body. That makes me happy.

And finally, although I am sure there is more, some of my tattoos have specific meanings for me, for example, I have some paper planes on my right arm, these represent my daughter as she is always doing origami, I find cranes, paper planes and flowers all over the house. These small representations feel special and intimate.
This is a tattoo representing my eldest, the origami unicorn is a nod to her love of origami and to Blade Runner


The reason I chose the quote above to open this blog was because I have experience of this. Men and women struggle with my tattoos, but I have noticed, as a broad generalisation that a lot of men don't find them attractive and some find them threatening (luckily neither of these things apply to my husband).

I first noticed this when I went out about 10 years ago at a fortieth birthday party, my tattoos were spreading down one of my arms and on to my back, but I didn't have as many as I have now, I had a pretty dress on, and my hair was cut short and dyed blonde. It was a salsa night and I was out with a number of female friends, during that night all my friends at some point or other were asked to dance by one of the men there, I was not.

Dancing with my friend as no one else asked me to.

I went home, and felt ugly and upset, but then when I thought about it, it wasn't me that had the problem it was them.

I know from conversations with people who have become my friend over recent years, many have assumed that I am a lesbian because of how I look. Which is ridiculous, especially in this day and age. And even if I was a lesbian, why wouldn't I want to dance and have fun in the same way as my friends. How stupid can people be?

Adolf Loos, the European Theorist said in 1910,
'Tattoos are a sign of degeneracy and only seen on criminals and degenerate aristocrats.'

I like to think that over a hundred years later we have moved on from that and we don't judge people on their external appearance, and we are, in fact more enlightened, and open minded, but I suspect it is not the case.

I know that I will get more tattoos, personally I think they are beautiful and I hope when you look at people you don't judge them purely on how they look.

As you know, I do love a stat so here are a few more for your delectation and delight xxx

  • The average age for a person to get their first tattoo is 21
  • There has been a 13% growth in the number of people getting tattoos since 2007
  • Women under 35 are almost 50% more likely to get a tattoo than their male counterparts
  • 15% of Millennials have 5 or more tattoo - this is the highest figure 
  • The majority of people, 86%, have no regrets about having a tattoo - 14% of people regret at least one.
Percentage per country of adults with at least one tattoo

USA - 42%
Canada - 36%
Ireland - 36%
UK - 29%

UK Adults with Tattoos by Age

18 - 24 - 13%
25 - 39 - 30%
40 - 59 - 21%
60+ - 9%


*Margo DeMello has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and currently teaches at Canisius College in the anthrozoology Masters program

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Monday, 15 January 2018

The Tale of the Witch & the Gryphon

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

She was plain, her hair was mousy, her face nondescript, her body average.

Even if this girl had a makeover by Tyra Banks herself, she would still be plain.

But being plain didn't matter to the girl because she was bright, intelligent, full of common sense and gumption.

The girl, lets call her Cara, was just about to go on an adventure, although she didn't know it yet.

One day, Cara had finished work, and was walking to the train station. No one took any notice of her, unless to mistake her for someone else, because she had 'one of those faces'.

She was listening to music on her phone and imagining hills and countryside. She worked in the city. She could see flowers on the hills as she walked and hear birds singing.

As she passed the Tesco Express she popped in to get something for her tea and some cat food for her cat, Woof. She picked up some spaghetti and the cat food and headed off again.

Before she had her headphones on, she saw Harry, the homeless man she passed most days, she always stopped on the way home from work to give him a £1 towards a cup of tea and for a chat.

Today Harry seemed a little worse for wear. Cara asked Harry what was wrong. He explained that there had been an incident with a Gryphon and he had left his sword at the shelter so was unprepared to help it.

Cara was used to Harry's tales of Gryphon's and swords and other mythical creatures, this was a standard part of the daily conversation, but it was unusual for Harry to get into a fight with one.


Cara asked, 'Why were you fighting the Gryphon, Harry?'

'Oh, I wasn't fighting the Gryphon, Kandor is my friend, I was fighting the witch'

'The witch' said Cara 'What witch?'

'Let me start from the beginning' said Harry, Cara sat down next to him sensing this may take some time.

'The wicked witch, Greswold had found out that Kandor, my Gryphon friend, had laid his egg, and as you know, Gryphon eggs are famously filled with gold before they hatch and become Gryphon kittens.'

'I did not know that, but please go on' said Cara now fascinated by this tale. Harry continued.

'Greswold has been keen to get hold of a Gryphon egg for many years, because the gold is not only valuable but magical. It can be used in spells to increase power, and if used correctly develop immortality for the witch, this does of course kill the kitten within, and can make the Gryphon so sad that they die of sorrow.'

'The Gryphon will only lay one egg in their life time. The Gryphon will nurture the kitten until it is fully grown and capable of living its life alone, then the Gryphon parent will burst into flames and disappear forever, going to whatever magical heaven exists for them.'

'Oh gosh,' said Cara now totally absorbed in the story, 'So what happened with you, Kandor and the witch?'

'Well' said Harry, who wasn't sounding very well at all, by this time.

'Kandor and I heard that Greswold was coming and we decided to make a stand, we could not let her get the egg.'

'Kandor fought as proudly as any eagle and as strongly as the strongest lion and I assisted where I could, but being a mere human there was little I could do.'

Kandor and the witch went head to head, they fought for a day and a night, the witch used many spells, Kandor  pushed them away, but his strength weakened.'

'By the morning Kandor had nothing left, and the witch threw one last spell which killed poor Kandor dead.'

'Oh no!' said Cara, Harry continued,

'Then Greswold turned her attention to me. She hit me with one spell, but I was already running and Kandor had whispered the secrets of hiding to me, so a witch couldn't see me'

'This is why I live on the street, I am invisible here.' said Harry, 'But she can sense what I hold.'

Cara looked at him quizzically, and he pulled out of his pocket a large egg, the size of a bag of sugar, and handed it to Cara.

'Now you, must take this.' He said as he placed it in her hand. Cara looked at the egg, it looked like a massive chicken egg, there was no indication of the magical thing within.

Then Harry whispered some words in Cara's ear and stopped breathing. The witch had fatally wounded him.

Cara, looked at Harry, and with tears streaming down her cheeks she quickly walked away with the large egg in her bag, which she carefully cradled in
her arms, like a baby.

What had Harry whispered? why, the secrets of hiding of course.

Cara had to save the egg.

And so her adventure began.


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Friday, 12 January 2018

I'm not scared of no Ghosts...

There is not much that scares me.

I like spiders - great job fella's for stopping all the flies.

I like bees....Mmmm honey.


I am not the biggest fan of wasps simply because they have multiple stings and so have a 'we don't give a sh*t' attitude. But I am not scared of them and I understand that they are part of the ecosystem, so a necessary evil.

Other than that beasts, bugs, snakes, skinless cats, needles, etc I'm all fine with.

Velvet, to me, is like finger nails down a blackboard to others. I don't know why, it just is. I think it looks lovely, I just can't stand the feel of it, sadly having kids I have had to touch more of it than I would like - thanks to those friends who brought my kids velvetty clothes and toys over the years. Thank you very much. Still, I'm not scared of it.

I am not scared of blood or gore and can deal with sick etc without heaving.

But there is one thing that scares me, it's not heights exactly, I am not scared of being high up, I am scared of doing stupid things when high up.

Examples of stupid things are as follows:
  •  Jumping out of a plane (with a parachute)
  • Doing that scary walk from a high building that they do at the beginning of I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, that literally gives me sweaty palms.
  • Bungee jumping
  • Skydiving
  • Abseiling - Although, I only attempted it once when I was 12, so I maybe better about it now (being realistic, this is really unlikely) 
All of these things are just stupid, why would you do them? I know people do these things for charity but come on, you could run a marathon or make cakes or something ON THE GROUND.

The only one of these I would realistically consider doing, is to the parachute out of a plane, but only if the plane was crashing. Which in my view is quite possible.

My husband has repeatedly explained how those big heavy lumps of metal stay in the sky but mostly I have my fingers in my ears going lalalalalala thinking about the lovely fairies holding them up, because that makes way more sense. You may have guessed, I am not the biggest fan of flying.

I have family who live in Ireland, who we visit as often as possible. We could get there by driving, sea and more driving and we have done that once.

I have to drive as I get car sick.  I also get sea sick so general feelings of sicky nausea don't make the journey much fun.

So we fly, I work on the principle that it is just a shorter period of discomfort than the other option. Flying doesn't make me feel sick I just don't like it and it does scare me a little bit. I mean, if that thing stops working we are all dead, with a long thoughtful drop whilst we contemplate the impact with the ground....shudders.

We used to fly regularly to Knock in the West of Ireland. To fly to Knock you get a propeller plane, which is smaller than a normal holiday plane.

Last time we came back from Knock we flew through storm Ewan, my family and I were sitting at the back of the plane. The plane felt like a giant had got hold of it and was giving it a good shake.

People were crying, especially after the aborted landing.

I only cried after we landed because I am brave like that (trying to be brave for my family - none of whom were fooled).

The time before that, when we came back, we had another aborted landing but this time with an actual tail hit (this is the video from YouTube). That was ridiculously scary, especially as the Captain didn't say a word to us throughout.

Now we don't fly to Knock, we catch a lovely big plane to Dublin, and drive to see the family. Much better.

I have come to the conclusion that I am fearless, and that the only things that scare me are the stupid things that people weren't actually designed for.

I am normal, why on earth would you jump out of a plane or sky dive? (weird adrenalin junkie people - this question is to you), I don't want to be a bird I am a person, I can walk to the top of a hill and get a lovely view thank you, I don't need to fly*. 

So what scares you. I would love to hear.


*Unless it is in a really big super safe, held up by fairies aeroplane

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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

There were Dragons



The mist lifted, and you could see all the cars, or were they dragons? No, they were just cars.

It wasn’t mist, it was just exhaust fumes, there was no romance here, just congestion and pollution.

But imagine, if that wasn’t everything, imagine if there was another layer beyond.

Layer upon layer upon layer.

On one layer, it is even more congested, people are angrier and sicker because the pollution has reached an all-time high.

Life expectancy has reduced to 60 years old. The eco system has been hit hard and the world’s animals are dying out, a new creature extinct every day. Yesterday, the last elephant died.

And with each animal that becomes extinct the balance of the world shifts, rivers rise, oceans get closer, ice caps melt. 

Tick tock, life expectancy is 59 years old.

Imagine Justice holding her scales, our world in one of the scales, and everything else in the other. 

Everything else is closing in and we are disappearing, we can’t balance the scales, we are beyond saving.

That was the last tortoise, and porpoise. Life expectancy is 58.

Volcanoes are erupting, ash is filling the atmosphere and the earth plates are shifting, earthquakes and tsunami’s common place.

A massive Tsunami hits Portugal, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal. They are completely devastated, only 1% of the population survives.

The last Tiger, anteater and humped back whale are dead. Life expectancy drops to 51.
Another ice cap melts in Antartica, Gentoo Penguins are wiped out. Flooding on the French Riveria scares away the rich tourists, especially when all the dead fish floated onto the best beaches. ‘How dare they’ they said, but it was them that dared, their oil fields, and fracking. Another tropical rainforest disappeared with a nod of the head, from one of them.

‘HOW DARE THEY’. We said. 

Life expectancy is 47 and all the lions are gone.

The riots started all over the world, anger at the politicians, the rich the powerful, anger at themselves for not being angrier earlier. For not making a stand before it couldn’t change.

An extinction scale event is now inevitable, more tsunami’s more earthquakes, flooding, mud slides and death, so much death the funeral homes can’t cope, bodies are left at roadsides or in shallow graves that are washed away in floods. 

Disease is prevalent everywhere, there is no clean water or sanitation, everywhere is in a third world state. 

The old third world are coping better than us, they are used to managing in difficult situations, they can make fire, and clean water – the first world order, are rubbish, without Google, how do they know what to do?

Word gets around that there are no more puffins. 

Electricity stopped working months ago.

Chaos and death, no one knows what’s extinct any more, there is no more media, except word of mouth, and there is only bad news.

Eventually, there is nothing left but decomposing bodies, fire and flood.

The world is over, the clouds have combusted, and earth is open to the heavens. 

The sky is red, but there are no shepherds delighting.

There are no people, or animals, or world.

The mist lifted, and there were dragons.

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