THERE’S WALLY!

So, I did it. I managed to run 5k dressed as Where’s Wally. In the snow. It was ace, obviously, how could running with a lot (a couple of  thousand? ish?) of other people dressed in exactly the same costume through a park be anything other? But is was very VERY cold. I’m very grateful for the people who helped me to raise a massive £184 – which I am going to make up to £200 – for The National Literacy Trust

I did manage to get a few shots of me looking like a total wally, although there was a slight issue with everyone being too cold to hold/use cameras and phones before the race! Also I had put my spare socks over my hands for extra protection.

I actually loved the glasses. I may take to wearing them as a regular thing. 

 

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Cool medal, hey? 

I ran it in 26.5 mins. I’m quite pleased with that, especially as my training schedule was….poor, shall we say. Here’s a breakdown of my race.

1 min: ok, just try not to trip over your own feet, Smith.

2min: try not to trip over that man, either.

4min: ohmygodihaterunning.

5min: I can’t feel my face at all. It’s so cold my face has frozen. And my hands.

6 min: ouch. I am really unfit.

8 min: Ooh, that girl has lovely trainers!

9 min: That 8 year old just overtook me. Damn him.

12 min ohmygodihaterunning

14 min: It’s a really good cause though. Think of all the money you’re raising.

15 min: ohmygodihaterunning. Is that my old science teacher??

15.5 min: No. 

18 min: If the lady with the massive buggy overtakes me, that’s really not good.

18.5 min: Damn that lady and her massive buggy. And her fast fast legs.

20 min: Can 5k kill you?

22 min: ohmygodihaterunning

24 min: I can feel my face! 

26 min: If I die now, I die in a bobble hat and pretend glasses. That’s kind of something….right?

26.5 min: YESSSSS!! but how are my fingers STILL numb?

Thank you for all your support, words of encouragement and money. It’s such a great cause, thank you so much for being so generous. AND: I have discovered that there’s a superhero 5/10k race in May – costume included in registration fee. Who’s in???

 

 

 

 

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Happiness

It is the U.N day of happiness today – they want countries to focus in how happy their citizens are as well as concentrating on how to get their economies back on track. I really like the idea of any sort of happiness day, especially as it is uber-gloomy outside, despite the fact that it is officially SPRING TIME now. Seriously, Spring get a shift on. I am sick of cold grey gloom.

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train+puddle=happy boy

Happiness is a great thing, when it is around. (It’s not always.) I think I used to confuse happiness with joy. Joy is fleeting, happiness is a bit of a slow-burner. Joy -real joy- is great;  ecstatic and  brilliant, but I tend to think now that happiness on an everyday level equates to something more like contentment. Acceptance.

Here’s Polly, a week after her first birthday, snuggled up with bunny (looking rather healthy before he lost all the stuffing and some of the fur through being loved.) Totally content, and very happy.

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Happy Polly and Bunny

Here are seven things that make me really happy.

Wearing brand-new socks. All soft and snug with fully functional lycra content. No toes peeking through or worn heels. Bliss for your toes.

A peaceful cup of tea. Or coffee. Just uninterrupted, and not one that you made twnety mins ago and have only just got round to drinking. This is one luxury that having children has taught me to appreciate.

Laughing in general; I love laughing that borders on mild hysteria. But also: that sort of laughing where you know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you catch someones’ eye at the wrong moment and have to do that sort of internal giggle that you can only keep up for so long before you  guffaw really loudly and draw unwanted attention to yourself. I love that too. I call it ‘Assembly Giggles.’

Watching You’ve been Framed with children. This is one of my new favourite past-times. They quite literally roar with laughter, even if they haven’t understood the clip. And they are not cynical yet, so they don’t question why anyone was filming a man stood innocently by a table in the first place, or why most of the clips are bad camcorder tapes from the early 1990s. They just laugh.

A neat & tidy airing cupboard. Sometimes when I have just sorted ours’ out, I just open the door and gaze upon the piles of neatly folded sheets and towels. Beautiful. Bit weird? Hey ho.

New stationery. Sharp pencils, clean notebooks, all ready for idea-sorting, plan-hatching, to-do lists and random ‘I’ve been daydreaming for 5 minutes’ doodles.

Listening to music (I never said this list was rocket science.) Today I’ve been listening/doing the dusting/writing to a soundtrack of Katrina and the Waves, The Darkness,  R.E.M – shiny happy people was MADE for today, the XX (just cos,) and a Savage Garden. If you’re not too cool (or too offended by tight white flares on men) to listen to Savage Garden, then check out this track. Affirmation. Makes me smile every time.

Oh, and I agree that God probably does not endorse TV Evangelists. Some other interesting statements in there too. ..

Have a happy happiness day everyone. Or, at least, you know, have a nice cup of tea or sharpen a pencil. Honestly, it’s brilliant!

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Spring – and the danger of OD-ing on nice ideas

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New blog look. Right? It’s like going into someone’s living room and noticing new wallpaper. It’s a bit shocking initially, and you wonder if they might have gone a bit loopy, but you’ll get used to it eventually.

It is very cold right now. Winter feels like it’s been here forever. Ice skating and Christmas and the girls’ January birthdays seem a long way in the past. The sledge has been hanging up in the garage for months now, but there is snow on the ground today. Silly, half-hail stones not-much-fun-snow. Over the last few chilly weeks I have been mulling over lots of ideas and plans for the blog, for me, for t-shirts. I’ve been reading other blogs and looking at lovely photos and trying to get my blog to look the way I want it to. (I’m not there quite yet, but it’s getting closer.) I’ve done that thing where you look at so many lovely things, and binge on so much beautiful design that you start to freak out that there’s no point trying to do anything, because everything that is nice already exists.

So now I have a head full of ideas, which is great, and I’m really excited about the tiny proportion of them that might actually make it to being reality. The problem with having ideas is knowing what to do with them, I find.  And also, with a head full of ideas, sometimes other important information falls out. Like, the times I am supposed to be meeting up with other people, and what I am meant to be cooking for tea. And where anything is, in the house. I spent a whole ten minutes yesterday looking for a pile of quite important filing, which I found eventually stowed under a big green cushion, on a chair. I’m not sure why it was there.

Basically, I’m doing some brain-composting. Hopefully some good ideas will emerge ready to spring into action at some point. But in the meantime; look at these beautiful dresses I got down from the loft.

They were handmade in the 1970s by Rich’s Nanna, for his two sisters. (Now somewhat bafflingly known as Auntie Shiny and Auntie Weezer .) They are just beautiful. They’ve made my day.

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Phenomenal Woman

Just sneaking this in very late on International Womens’ Day as a note of respect to all the wonderful women who inspire me on a daily basis. My brilliant  mum, my awesome sister, my lovely lovely friends who are so encouraging and enthusiastic, and of course my feisty, independent, awe-inspiring daughters. (Who will either turn out to be the future of the world, or the death of me, or quite possibly both.) And all of the women who have inspired me through their own business and creative efforts – Nansi, Erica, Kayte, Lois, Emma – you girls.
Our t-shirt supplier, Mantis World, was founded by an amazing visionary woman, Prama Bhardwaj, our t-shirts are printed by an female entrepreneur, mum and printing genius Tricia from Cotton Craft, and our fabulous unicorn t-shirt was designed by local artist Nancy Batty. Our clothing is mostly bought for children by mums and grandmas who are keen to support local, independent and ethical businesses. Our business ethic itself is built on the wonderful power of female friendships.
And I can think of no poem better to celebrate today with than the work of a poet who has such an unapologetic, proud sense of what it means to be a woman. The wonderful Maya Angelou. (With thanks to my 6th form English teacher Mrs Ainsworth who introduced me to her.)
Maya
Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

World Book Day (and jumper foxes.)

It was World Book Day yesterday – one of my favourite days of national celebration. (Alongside national bacon sandwich day, of course. Oh, and Pi day.)  Recently, after a fiasco with the making of a bat costume (for another dressing up day at school,)  which took hours to make but made its owner look like a tiny Grim Reaper, I swore off making costumes. However, I almost immediately fell off the sanity-wagon and started dreaming up plans for Book Day dressing up costumes. Because, well, there really are not enough days celebrating the wonder that is books. And in particular, childrens’ books.

Will had to be talked out of several costumes which required far too much effort, but we eventually agreed on Captain Barnacles of the Octonauts (which were books before they became a TV show, which satisfies my inner book snob.) Luckily, this only required the assembly of a blue belt, a compass and a hat. The whole thing was made much easier by finding these printable Octonaut logos. It had the right badge on, so whatever the rest of the costume looked like, Will was a happy Polar Bear sea captain.

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I made the hat from craft foam and elastic: cheap, and required no sewing. The belt was a bit of the bit of stiff fabric at the top of curtains where you put the hooks in, (no idea of technical term) covered with some blue fabric. Only required straight-line sewing.

Polly wanted to be a Maud, from Monstrous Maud, which is an unexpected hit from a random bundle of books she bought with her birthday book voucher from Waterstones. The book bundles are the bright idea of the manager of the Bedford branch, Fern. She selects three books by different authours,  but of the same reading ability bracket, and ties them up in a nice bundle with string. You save a bit of money buying them as a set, and also you get three completely different books. Polly got a Milly Molly Mandy book, Monstrous Maud, and a book about a naughty fairy. They are all completely different, but she’s loved all three. Plus we had the lovely experience of a trip to the bookshop to choose them.

Luckily, the Maud costume required just an old black top of mine, which I livened up with a pocket in skull-print fabric. The pocket was big enough for Maud’s pet rat Quintin, which was a crucial consideration.

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(Please excuse the dirt. It had done a whole day at school by the time I got a chance to photograph it. )

Tilly wanted to dress up as Lola, and frankly I leapt at the chance of making something to honour what are probably my favourite  childrens’ picture books after my sacred Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books.  I’ve been meaning to make a pillowcase dress for ages, and Lola’s vintage-style dress prints lend themselves very nicely to one of my mum’s old pillowcases (I did ask her first, I should add.) It was ever so easy, and I just added felt heart/butterfly shapes in felt and some yellow ric-rac to add a little pizazz.

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I also, and I can’t quite believe that I am about to type this sentence – I made a foxy/rabbit toy out of Richard’s old jumper.

His head is held onto his body with poppers. It made perfect sense at the time, but I do admit that it does make foxy a bit creepy.

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Sadly, on the way to school, a wailing Tilly told me that she had changed her mind, and didn’t want to be Lola after all, and actually wanted to wear her Belle princess dress.

All in all, despite the late night, the needle/finger injuries, the swearing at the sewing machine and the blatant abuse of Rich’s work printer; I’m glad I made the costumes. They are all based on books we’ve read and the kids have listened to (or read themselves, in Polly’s case,) and loved. The children all went to school bringing their favourite book characters to life. Off the page and into their imagination. And as far as I am concerned, that is the greatest thing about reading. And definitely worth celebrating.

Though I will not be making any more jumper animals for a while.

The little things

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This is my ironing pile. Well. The two thirds of it that still fit in the basket. There’s a top in here that has been waiting to be ironed for so long that it is now too small for its original owner. (Don’t worry, it’ll be passed down to the next owner. She’ll be delighted.) The washing up is sprawling all over every available surface in the kitchen. My to-do list has spawned several spin-off lists. I could easily spend the next 48 hours cleaning and tidying and sorting and filing: all the stuff that I’d like to do in order to keep on top of things, and stay calm. With three young children in the house, I could easily spend all day, every day doing all that stuff. (In theory, anyway. In reality I’d have a nervous breakdown.)

I’m clearly not a housework obsessive, but sometimes I have to close my eyes and remember to stop trying to tidy, and clean, and sort, and just to be with the kids and enjoy the little things. When I was growing up, my friends’ mum had this poem stuck on the wall of her bathroom. It’s just a good thing to think about sometimes.

MY HANDS WERE BUSY
My hands were busy through the day.
I didn’t have much time to play.
The little games you asked to do,
I didn’t have much time for you.
I’d wash your clothes. I’d sew and cook.
You’d ask and I’d read from your book.
I’d tuck you in all safe at night,
And hear your prayers; turn out the light.

Then tiptoe softly by your door,
I wish I’d stayed a minute more.
For life was short, the years rushed past,
A little boy grows up so fast.
No longer is he at my side,
His precious secrets to confide.
The picture books are put away.
There are no longer games to play.

No Teddy Bears or misplaced toys
No sleepovers with lots of boys.
No goodnight kiss, no prayers to hear.
That all belongs to yesteryear.
My hands, once busy, now are still.
The days are long and hard to fill.
I wish I could go back and do
The little things you asked me to do.

Anonymous

Obviously I hope that when the children have grown up, the days are not long and hard to fill, but filled with other interesting things instead. It is just I sometimes need a reminder of how fleeting their childhood is. Even though, when I am tripping over the lego box for the billionth time, or searching in vain for the one pink cup that is deemed acceptable that particular day, it seems to be lasting an flipping eternity.