New Thing 20 : Shears Yard Sunday Lunch

TLDR : more a dinner place than a lazy lunch, but very tasty.

This was a last minute Father’s Day booking after our plans to go hiking were ruined by the rain.

I’d normally pick a cosy pub to visit with my Dad so this exposed brick, converted warehouse wasn’t my first choice. I personally thought it was more suited to an evening meal than a chilled out lunch, however the food was excellent.

We both had the Sunday roast with beer and some bread to nibble on. It was a sun-dried tomato and parsnip bread with a marmite butter so although it was tasty I feel like you don’t need to mess with bread so a little unnecessary for the sake of being fancy.

The roast itself was delicious, the meat comes from Sykes House Farm who are a local butcher that also stock Michelin star restaurants. Nice big Yorkshire pudding and all the good stuff.

For dessert I had a chocolate brownie with an iced miso sorbet type thing. I love miso and any kind of salty chocolate mix so this was good for me.

Rating this a 9 out of 10, with one point unfairly knocked off because I fancied somewhere more chilled out for Sunday lunch.

New Thing 19 : Henry Moore Institute

TLDR : maybe it is crap, maybe I am not cultured enough for modern art.

I appreciate I didn’t give The Tetley a good review so I maybe should have learned my lesson and given up on modern art. However it was Father’s Day and raining so options were limited.

The Henry Moore Institute is apparently “one of the most important galleries in the country” according to Leeds List, who lie, and presumably don’t leave Leeds. Henry Moore himself is a sculpture artist who has made some interesting work, unfortunately Henry Moore’s work never ended up at the Henry Moore Institute.

No thanks grain tanks

As you can see at the top image some grain tanks ended up there, representing over farming. Except they didn’t really do anything with them, they were just grain tanks, which was pretty underwhelming.

Ek The idea of the current exhibits is that they are moveable – and the grain tanks are technically moveable. However they require an HGV and heavy machinery to move so they don’t exactly fit the brief and I didn’t quite understand why they were there.

Actual moveable art

Inside they had a piece of wood, the story behind it was that the artist left her family behind in Europe in the 1930s to move to America. Whilst living in New York she wasn’t able to see them so she carved wood to remind herself of them. So it fits the brief of people moving and is also an object that can be moved.

But still, it is very much just wood, that looks a lot like wood (and presumably not remotely like her family) so it was a bit of a stretch for my imagination.

Keeping it real

The artist behind this piece was saying something about how children’s toys are garish and take over your life. And whilst I have never sympathised with a piece of artwork more, I also feel there could maybe be a little more meaning to the work?

It just seems strange to me that someone could think, ah fuck these toys are annoying me, then sew some massive sheets of fabric together and blow some air in it and get it into a “very important gallery”.

And yet a trendy looking twenty year old definitely stared at it thoughtfully for a good ten minutes, so what do I know.

Art with actual meaning

There were a few pieces of work which were all suitcases with tiny sculptures in, reflecting the artist’s own experience of leaving Syria as a refugee.

Looking at them closely there was meaning to each piece and it was very intricate. It also fit the brief of the exhibition, I just expected more art that was relevant and interesting to look at and had some real meaning to it.

Rating : although it was a bit crap I’m giving it 3 out of 10. 1 point for being free, 1 point for the guy dedicated to staring at a blow up toy for 10 minutes and 1 point for having one interesting piece of art.

New Thing 18 : Hiking with a toddler

TLDR : multiple adults and a fun route required.

We did a loop around including Great Longstone and the Monsal Trail. As we passed through the village and Thornbridge Hall there were opportunities to grab ice lollies and a picnic. Thornbridge Hall itself looked fun with a big play area and cafe but it was packed out so I was glad to be heading off hiking.

The Monsal Trail is a big wide track so handy for families as you can cycle or take a pram. The track used to be a railway so there was a tunnel running through the hill, which we needed as it was a nice break from the heat.

We just did a sling walk so we weren’t stuck on the main trail, which was good as after we crossed this huge bridge we trekked down a steep route to get to the river.

We had a picnic stop by the bridge then walked under and had a splash in the shallow bit of the river then walked up to the main route over the bridge again.

After another steep route after the bridge we were rewarded with this view, then just another 15 minutes back to our campsite.

Rating : We didn’t go for a long or challenging walk, but even so I would have been way too tired carrying Emily on my own on a hot day. Plus the navigation would have been stressful. But as a group trip this was really fun and had lots of variety to keep Emily interested so 10 out of 10.

New Thing 17 : Glamping

TLDR : Stayed in the fanciest tent on a lovely campsite because I am too high maintenance for actual camping.

Back in June we had a couple of nights break with my sister, her boyfriend and my dad.

Although the idea of camping is fun I am permanently cold so need a tent fitted with a radiator and log burner. Whereas my sister can survive a couple of nights in a tent with no heating, fortunately Dale Farm Campsite do both.

This was where we stayed:

Each plot is marked out with loads of free space and wild flowers marking each area, if you like camping information then there were plenty of water taps dotted around and space to park by your tent. There was a 10pm quiet rule and no music to be played, so good for families and people who don’t want to be around annoying noisy groups.

My sister stayed at the top of the hill which didn’t have many plots so it was even more spread out and quiet, but look at the view:

The campsite had just renovated a barn into the shower / toilet / pot wash so everything was new. They also had a mini farm shop (with an honesty box / honesty PayPal account) to buy local bacon, sausages and egg, as well as fire pits to hire.

As it is a working farm we were surrounded by fields of sheep and cows, the barn is up against the camping field so we got to see all of the lambs being herded in one morning. It is also just an excellent location, surrounded by rolling hills and no noise other than the birds. The site itself was kept really well:

We had great weather so had a BBQ, outdoor full English breakfast and plenty of time sat by the fire playing games.

It was a short walk from the Monsal Trail and a 15 minute drive to Chatsworth so really handy, we also walked to the pub one night so everyone got to have a drink.

Overall it was the perfect compromise for a child who loves the idea of camping with a parent who is completely unable to handle actual camping.

Rating : for anyone else 10 out of 10, for high maintenance people who cannot sleep well unless the room is pitch black and the perfect temperature 8 out of 10.

New Thing 16 : Chatsworth Farm

TLDR : if Disney did stately home farms they would make this. Bloody loved it.

As you can see from the photos I was biased by the gorgeous weather we had in June. But I still think it is excellent.

Just pulling up to the estate I was a little mind blown by the size of the place. The huge parkland and ancient oak trees, the ridiculous sized house, enormous fountains in the background.

A little history

I say a little as it really is a little. The Chatsworth family come from Bess of Hardwick who lived within view of the estate at Hardwick Hall. Born to an impoverished family she ended up being the second wealthiest woman of her time, after Elizabeth the 1st, as she survived four different wealthy husbands and raked in the inheritance every time.

When Bess married her second husband (20 years older and very rich) she didn’t fancy his land in Suffolk so convinced him to buy Chatsworth in her home of Derbyshire. At this point he was Sir William Cavendish but later their descendents became Dukes and got insanely wealthy and built the huge Chatsworth, running out of bricks and having to take a load from the Old Hardwick Hall which is still in ruins now.

For a while they used Chatsworth as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots. And the only interesting thing I know since then is Debo Mitford (quite a long bit after).

Debo is one of six sisters:

  • Nancy wrote The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate
  • Pamela divorced her millionaire husband so she could spend the rest of her life with an Italian horsewoman (contraversial for an Edwardian born woman)
  • Diana married a fascist and spent time in Holloway prison
  • Unity was obsessed with Hitler and shot herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany
  • Decca was a communist

Debo initially seemed the boring one. She married a second son who wasn’t due to have much money and her family could barely afford her wedding trousseau. But three years after marrying Andrew his elder brother died in the war and they then became Duke and Duchess.

As well as a novelist who was involved in politics she loved the estate and used to hang out in the farm shop and give people tips on how to cook a joint of meat. The family own ridiculous property including Bolton Abbey and the numerous hotels and pubs, some of which she insisted be decorated in crazy bright colours she thought would be fun.

Unfortunately she died a few years ago, at 95 years old, so you won’t meet her in the shop now.

Back to the point

When you park up the first place you pass through is the courtyard. It’s technically just somewhere for the family to leave their horses and carriages, but it is insane. People get married in the stables, there is a huge cafe, restaurant, multiple shops, loads of outside seating and statues and water features.

In the context of a huge tourist attraction it makes sense, but it is a bit mind blowing to think it was originally just somewhere to house one family’s horses.

We didn’t go in the actual house and grounds as the farm seems more toddler appropriate, and you do not have time to do it all.

The farm itself is set up the hill a little, presumably to not get in the way of the view from the house. Even though it is a tucked away working unit, you can tell it was used by a wealthy family as all the buildings are still fancy (for a farm).

Covid meant the shop was closed but there was a coffee shop with decent espresso and ice cream.

The animals were pretty friendly and we could feed this guy:

And his little mates:

I got a bit keen and took a stupid amount of animal photos that day. But there were plenty of things for Instagram addicts, for example this shiny red tractor:

Toddler fun things

Photo opportunities aside it was really fun for children. They had an area set aside with cars and tractors that we spent way too much time in.

Up the hill again there was a huge play area with big kit for older kids with big climbing and zip lines:

But they also had a really good toddler area with a huge sandpit with a hand pump coming out of the stream running along the back:

Rating : 10 out of 10

New Thing 15 : A fancy waterfall picnic

I’m not sure if this justifies a full post as the title says it all.

All my Lake District posts are confusingly spread out over months, but this is back to the Lake District trip again.

The last day I was pretty achey after the trip up Blen Cathra so we just did a little walk up Aira Force. It’s National Trust owned so there is easy parking with a shop and toilets and an easy route running along the waterfalls.

We stopped maybe mid way up which was nice and quiet. As it was a 40th birthday we had champagne, nibbles, birthday cake and coffee.

Rating :

8 out of 10

(points deducted for me forgetting the nice blanket and the sun not coming out)

New Thing 14: Saw a shooting star

TLDR : went to the Lakes, got a bath, looked up, saw a shooting star.

I saw a shooting star, I’m not sure if this is a new thing as if I saw one before I probably assumed it was a helicopter.

But this time I was with a person who has a PhD in star related things and if he accepted my description as a shooting star then it’s going on the list.

By itself it isn’t that exciting. It looked like that two second bit where you see a firework shoot through the sky before it explodes. However it started from the middle of the sky and ended shortly after in the middle of the sky.

Now it doesn’t sound like much but in the context of having a romantic evening in the middle of the Lake District it was pretty cool.

Rating :

All I did was look up at the sky as I was chilling in the bath so effort versus reward alone this one gets a 10 out of 10.

Dangers of Doing New Things

Content warning : Just a massive whinge including disgusting descriptions of my bum infection. Enjoy.

My recent blogs have been pretty emotionally neutral lately so I think I can justify a massive ranty moan.

Coming out of lockdown and deciding to try new things and be an “interesting” person has absolutely fucked me over.

Sleep deprived, life exhausted mothers of toddlers do not get to be interesting people who do fun new things. Those who try it get a bum infection the size of a golf ball that leaks blood and pus for three weeks straight (and I do NOT exaggerate).

It was all going so well a month or two ago, pole dancing and mountain hikes and art galleries. Steak for breakfast. I think a little potter around a museum followed by a coffee is not to blame.

Running is evil

During the long boring lockdown at the start of this year I tried couch to 5k. It is hard to find time to go running but squeezing it into lunch breaks and child free Sundays the odd time was relatively satisfying. However only a few runs in I got a cold that lasted on and off for six weeks. Not even a proper, time off work justifying cold. Just a feel crap whilst going about everyday life cold.

Pole dancing is the worst

Like a fool I decided cardio isn’t for me but pole dancing would be fun… as exercise that is fun doesn’t count as exercise and therefore cannot hurt you.

Wrong.

Pole dancers are insane muscle machines. And whilst my left arm can prop a chunky toddler up for a while, my body is otherwise a flimsy, exercise hating squish. I felt so wobbly and nauseous after the sessions and then the following days walking like I had an embarrassing bum problem. I then had a genuine embarrassing bum problem.

It started with a sore little red spot which I didn’t think much of one Saturday morning. Sunday morning I was getting sore and whiney. Monday and Tuesday I was sitting wonky and fighting the urge not to compain the office due to the piss taking that would follow.

All the time it was getting bigger and redder and more swollen. When I called the doctor on Tuesday they wanted a bum selfie so I had to balance my phone on the windowsill in the shower room and take the most unflattering photo of my life.

Trying to get back to my desk before anyone questioned what I was doing I forgot to clear my screen…so my colleagues may potentially have seen it. No one assumes you have a huge swollen growth on your bum cheek (and the GP wants a photo), so it looked like I was sending sexy photos with absolutely no awareness of what is in fact sexy.

The GP gave me a double dose of antibiotics with did nothing to reduce the swelling and by Wednesday I had diarrhoea and thrush to add on to the fact I could no longer sit down. So Thursday and Friday were spent lying on my side in bed, doing a single hand type on a laptop, while a hot compress balanced on my ever growing swollen bum cheek.

The swelling was so big and sore all I could do was waddle around the house in baggy jogging bottoms, swearing all the way. I assumed it was a boil, which can get really painful.

By Saturday I woke up feeling hot and sweaty and dizzy, my daily bum inspection showed that it wasn’t in fact one boil but a collection of four boils clustered together and the whole thing looked ready to burst. So I almost fainted. The pain was ridiculous, bearable lying on my side but walking around was comparable to childbirth. But I didn’t have to entertain and feed a toddler for the day during childbirth. So I called for reinforcements and my mum came over and I resumed lying on my side.

Finally in the morning there was a boil explosion and the pain relieved significantly. However there was a steady stream of blood for hours.

I initially thought I would wait it out, and frankly thought the sight of it would make me pass out if I moved anyway. After two hours diarrhoea joined the game so I waddled to the bathroom with a handful of kitchen towel to catch the blood. In the few seconds spent washing my hands when my bum was free it looked like someone had slashed a vein in my bathroom.

After most of a day spent waiting for my bum cheek to drain I gave up and put a dressing on but the story didn’t end there and I had three long, long weeks of changing dressings regularly as so much blood kept on draining out. Altogether I had about three weeks where I couldn’t sit down easily and only managed the two minute drive to nursery by balancing all my weight on my one healthy bum cheek.

So after three weeks of not sitting down, two weeks on antibiotics, three packs of Caneston duo and an unquantifiable amount of time on the toilet I finally had a healed wound.

Pole dancing doesn’t hate me, my body does

Before I give pole dancing a bad press, my tale of woe was not a result of rubbing my bare bum on a dirty pole. It was (and I should have learnt my lesson from attempting to learn to run) my body telling me to sit down and chill the fuck out.

Boils and carbuncles come from bacteria that lives on the skin naturally somehow getting into the skin, potentially from a small nick, ingrain hair or spot. If your immune system is struggling anyway it can turn into an infection, which is common for people with HIV or diabetes. And apparently exhausted mothers.

I’d like to say that this is almost an old memory but my ‘nurse’ Emily is constantly asking me ‘if my poorly bottom is feeling better’ which is one of the more embarrassing things a child can announce on public. So the fun just keeps coming.

And whilst I have had all the joys of being able to sit on my bum for the last month I’m now in a cycle of getting a nasty cold, feeling ropey and spending a weekend in bed, getting to the point of being nearly a well human and then getting ill again.

I can’t even find anyone to blame my most recent cold on, I’m just a mucusy, pissed off, barely functional zombie nowadays.

Excluding a trip to the cinema, every Sunday planned out for ‘fun new things’ has been spent in bed or on the sofa trying to pull together enough energy to survive the coming week.

So all in all I’m feeling a bit fed up and pessimistic about there ever being a time when my body will approve of working full time, with a big commute, managing a toddler alone and getting horribly interrupted sleep.

The good news is that my default mentality would be to wallow in self pity thinking poor me, poor single mother me, no one doing regular overnights so I can sleep, my life is so unfair. But I’m so bloody tired I just can’t be bothered with self pity anymore.

I just mindlessly scroll tik tok or find a ridiculous dating show on Netflix and then watch the more ridiculous reunion of the ridiculous dating show.

So becoming a functioning zombie with poor taste is a…kind of silver lining. Two years ago I was doing a lot of angry crying and getting jealous of 90% of the people on social media so I’m going to take functional zombie as progress.

New Thing 13: Cusworth Hall

TLDR: depending on how you see it either an amazing service station or a fairly average stately home.

I’d been meaning to visit for a while, mostly as it is free and I love free things. However this time we didn’t get to have the full visit as annoyingly they haven’t re-opened the museum.

We just had a potter around the outside, hung out with the ducks and swans for a bit then had a play on the play area.

The good bit and the bad bit of Cusworth is the location. The house is on a hill with a view…of Doncaster. Specifically Doncaster’s high rise council blocks. But this does mean it is close to the A1 so for a couple of minutes diversion really handy on a journey.

The playground is good with plenty of picnic benches and green space around but it is right next to the car park.

The house, cafe and toilets are only a couple of minutes walk from the play area and car park so a good place to spend an afternoon when you’re low on energy. Which I am, as I am basically a vehicle for shoulder rides at the minute.

It probably deserves a 6 out of 10 but I’m bumping it to an 8 as I really could not be bothered with unnecessary effort or expenditure on the day I visited.

Definitely a worthwhile new thing 👍🏻

New Thing 12: Rowntree Park and Reading Cafe

I am heavily biased by the gorgeous sunshine and the fact Emily was having an excellent time with her little friend. Both biased and distracted, as I was fairly focused on not losing a child into the pond / to be attacked by a goose or other park dangers.

The park was made in the 1920s as a gift to the city from Joseph Rowntree (who gifted the rest of the world Fruit Pastilles and Smarties). If my A Level geography teacher was correct Joseph made the factories at one end of the parks and the houses at the other so the employees all stayed fit and had a bit of leisure time in their day.

I’ve been inside one of the Joseph Rowntree houses and they are like little country cottages. They are still saved for social housing as part of the charity and have very strict rules on trees and hedge sizes with big front gardens. This means the whole area feels like a pretty 1920s village rather than a council estate.

Rowntree Park runs close to the river Ouse so we walked along the river side and got some ice cream from a little ice cream boat moored up. With a two and three year old there was some swapping of cones to ensure everyone had the correct colour combinations which somehow ended up with me missing out on the rhubarb I was excited about…nothing to do with the park but I like to complain.

Linking up the main city to the park you can either cross the old bridge by Clifford’s Tower or walk further down the river to a big modern footbridge lined with deep benches. A few people were just chilling out there watching all the boats go by.

After balancing on walls we headed over to the Reading Cafe. This is a really cute little cafe upstairs, it is linked up to York Libraries so you can borrow a book while you’re there, but it also has decent coffee and good cake. The outdoor terrace was busy so we sat inside, but it was on the first floor with views across the ponds and park so a pretty spot to sit and relax.

Unfortunately no photos of the terrace as I mostly spent my time walking between the table and the toilets as toddlers are never quite sure if they need a wee or not.

The park itself had some Arts and Crafts type features. Little bridges and fake cottage style buildings.

There was a decent sized playground with a range of activities for different ages.

Super fun day. 10 out of 10.

New Thing 11: Franksters

My first new thing regret. So many excellent food options at White Rose shopping centre and I wasted my appetite on Franksters.

Someone online said it was a cross between Five Guys and Nandos. Absolute liars.

It is Burger King but twice as expensive and half as good. They don’t even have bacon.

They do serve halal though so I guess if you are Muslim and like wasting money you may enjoy.

Before I stop complaining I need to point out how sad this arcade is:

And how ashamed they should be about the blatent copying of Burger Kings most fabulous product:

1 out of 10 Franksters. Shame on you.

(… not even a big cup of coke)

New Thing 10: Pole Dancing

Really bloody hard.

So hard my whole body hurts and I am too tired to write in paragraphs. Here are the things I learnt about pole dancing in list format :

All kinds of pain

1. Accidental vulva pole collisions

It isn’t just your muscles that hurt, you may also whack your vulva against the pole and then your vulva / public bone will also hurt.

2. Chinese burn to the thighs

You don’t consider how soft the skin in the inside of your thighs is until you let go of the pole and your soft thigh skin friction burns it’s way down the pole.

3. Spine rub

I also didn’t realise what a bony spine I have. Specifically the base of my neck which has a big bone that rubbed on the floor when I tried to drag my big body up off the ground using my legs to grip up and pull my bum off the floor.

4. Inner knee bruises

I do not have enough pole dedication to sustain this injury, but one of the women had bruises on the insides of her knees from using them to grip the pole too hard. Ow.

Fun stuff

1. Super spinny

The pole spins around very easily so you only need a little tap of your foot to send you off spinning. Fun but also quite dizzying.

2. Crazy skills

I went to a mixed ability group and it was fun watching the experienced women spinning around upside down. And pretty impressive seeing their very toned arms.

3. Women are the best

The women either side of me were super friendly and chatty and told me how well I was doing, even though I’m pretty sure I was not. With it being a pole class men aren’t invited and whenever there is an all female activity I find there is normally a lovely welcoming and encouraging atmosphere, because obviously women are the best.

4. So much skin

It is easier to grip the pole with more skin out so most people had crop tops / sports bras and short shorts. Not everyone is super toned and skinny and it is nice to see normal sized women managing to do impressive things with their bodies.

Practical information

1. Sole pole

We all had a pole to ourselves (because of covid) and anti-bacterial wiped them down before we left. But I think in non covid times there are 2 to 3 per pole.

2. A bargain (I think)

My class was £8 for an hour but they do discounts for block bookings. We did a bit of warm up and stretching but other than that all pole time.

3. Big poles

It was in a converted industrial unit so the poles went up fairly high to the ceiling and some people could climb right up to the top in the warm up.

4. Chalky hands

Some people use liquid chalk (like climbers use) in order to grip the pole better if they are sweaty.

Overall

I wish I could say it was 10 out of 10, but as I wasn’t great at it and I’m feeling pretty sore it’s only getting a 6 out of 10.

Which is probably an unfair score because it is Monday and I’m tired.

I have already booked in a couple more sessions though so definitely worth it.

New Thing 9: Blencathra

Our garden bath tub hut was looking out over Blencathra so I felt like we should probably hike up it. With shaky legs after the Via Ferrata the day before and being headache drunk at midnight I was pretty skeptical I would make it up the 860m height mountain the next day.

It made it to the list so I obviously did manage but only because:

– I ate a lot of sweets

– I complained a lot

– I used those hiking sticks popular with retired people to drag myself up

– I drove down the road to an easy starting spot as I was too scared to do either of the two ridges

In my defence of the last point nine people have died walking Sharp Edge and I am aware how clumsy I am.

Taking the less dangerous route up (starting just left of the pub in Scales) was an acceptable amount of views versus risk. We had a picnic overlooking a tarn which was beautifully clear but really fucking cold.

Then at the top my hiking buddy went far too close to the edge for my comfort level to get some photos like this (whilst I sat somewhere safe and tried to not have a nervous meltdown about the death risk).

But then we had saved some coffee and fudge and sat well away from the edge and I felt better.

By the time we started to head down it was pouring with rain so we only got some sheep photos as any view further was just cloud.

(my photo)

(not my photo)

Despite the rain and shaky legs and death fear it was fun. 8 out of 10.

New Thing 8: Wetherby Whaler with no pants

So many new things! A trip to the pool at Wetherby, accidental no underwear in public and a new fish and chip shop. So excessive.

Wetherby Leisure Centre

Commitment issues mean I can’t be tied down to a swimming appointment in advance. This also means I had to call five swimming pools for Bank Holiday Monday before I could find one to fit us in.

Wetherby Leisure Centre is in a nice little spot by the river with playing fields at the back. It’s pretty retro having opened in the 1970s, but I liked it anyway.

We brought my dad along as Emily refused to attend her pre-paid swimming lesson with him last time on the basis that ‘Bubba cannot swim’ and is apparently not to be trusted carrying her.

However despite me being there as back up she still doesn’t trust him in a swimming pool context. Which is ironic given that she also insists that she herself can swim, having had no lessons since we stopped when she was 10 months old. Many times she got angry at me for holding on to her whilst we were in 1m deep water.

Ice cream bribery

Wetherby has a free car park by the bridge which normally has an ice cream van parked up. I suggested this during what almost became an insanely long getting changed session in order to hurry along the process. Whereas I was super efficient getting ready, having turned up in swimming costume, hoodie and jeans which I meant I only needed to put on hoodie and jeans.

I really like this little spot, there is a small beach and the river is very shallow and brave people can paddle out to an island in the middle (not me, too cold).

As it was hot there was a huge queue for an ice cream and during the queue time plenty of people walked past with beautiful smelling fish and chips. Reluctant to waste time invested we had an ice cream starter followed by fish and chips from Wetherby Whaler. I haven’t been there before and I am a fussy woman but it was wonderful.

After this we had a fun little splash around and then a walk along the riverside.

It’s a bank holiday and I’m high on the satisfaction of sunshine and greasy food so I’m giving everything a 10 out of 10. An excellent afternoon.

New Thing 7: The Tetley

I’m not an art person but I can definitely be enticed out by a good brunch menu.

I was intending to go to the Henry Moore sculpture museum in Leeds, which is apparently a Very Important Museum if you are into art. I do not know about art but I do know that the idea of steak for breakfast feels very Americanly excessive and I am into that.

So here I am eating steak for breakfast at an art museum. Also someone decided to create a new word for cortado as maybe cortado doesn’t sound Italian enough and Piccolo makes the hipsters happy? I don’t know, but here is a piccolo (aka cortado).

Steak was good, coffee was good, egg was good. I was high maintenance and swapped out the chips (too early) for a hash brown (appropriate) but I would technically class this as a potato rosti.

I also feel the need to point out that I did not massacre a plate of tasty food by stripey smattering ketchup across the whole thing. That was some kind of chipotle type sauce from the chef and it was also good.

This isn’t just a post about how fussy I am regarding food and drink presentation and terminology.

I did actually visit a gallery as well. Here is some evidence:

My information on this is that an art student asked some different groups to make them a chair and then put the chairs together and here it is. UNITY IS POWER. I may have missed the point.

The rest of the museum did have a point of mental health, the artist did a collaborative sculpture / audio / art / written piece approach to time spent at mental health institutions gathering information.

The take home point I got was : men are shit.

Example 1:

Next up we have chaotic piano music pumping out to signify gradually declining mental health as your family drive you insane. Unsurprisingly the phone had a male voice saying things that would drive you insane.

After this an elaborate tale of how men fuck up your life.

But don’t worry, the (ex) wife eventually had a brief period of happiness before death.

Moral of the story, don’t marry men.

And other than some video / audio extras that was it. It’s a very small gallery (but free entry).

So I’m giving the gallery a 6 out of 10

Steak for breakfast 5 out of 10

Bacon is a British breakfast food because it makes much more sense than steak.

New Thing 6: Nigella Nutella Cheesecake

I don’t generally make dessert, partially as I used to be married to someone who wasn’t bothered and also as Aldi Specially Selected are so tasty and cheap making anything feels like a huge waste of time.

Although Nigella had me sold on it being “embarrassingly easy to make and unembarrassingly easy to eat” it still took me years to muster the enthusiasm to make it.

It was so tasty. But Nigella has a very low embarrassment threshold as it was beyond what I can be arsed with. The recipe link is here if you want to judge my laziness.

The actual embarrassment is that it needs a springform tin, so I bought a springform tin, then went in the cupboard to find a brand new springform tin already there. So I obviously saw the recipe and how easy it was and yet still didn’t get around to making it and this was so long ago it no longer lives within my memory. Lazy.

One thing I need to pre-warn potential cheesecake makers is that it is bloody huge and heavy. Nigella thinks it serves 8-12 people so maybe not a valentines dessert for two (like I did).

It was also pretty expensive as it needs a fuck ton of chocolate spread, multiple tubs of cream cheese and a bag of toasted chopped hazelnuts which alone cost more than two of Waitrose’s fanciest finished and ready to eat cheesecakes.

Much like the log burner powered bath tub this gets a 10 out of 10 but only on condition that someone else puts all the effort in.

New Thing 5: Pfizered

Now these posts are definitely not in chronological order but this is bumping the queue before it is old news.

I got the vaccine this week, I was disproportionately excited when my GP text me a booking link a week before the national rollout for 32 year olds.

The text from my GP said it would be Pfizer, which I was happy with based on no actual research other than asking the few people who currently go to the office.

It was at my regular GP surgery, we had a few minutes queue including checking in at reception. I sat down for about 2 minutes, answered about 5 questions, got jabbed and left with a little card. After 15 minutes in the waiting room I was good to go.

The injection itself was quicker than most injections I’ve had and less painful. I have an annual flu jab and I had quite a few injections when I went backpacking, as well as the contraceptive injection years ago, so I feel I’ve had a reasonable range of injections to compare to.

The injection was Tuesday and I had a very slightly achey arm for a few days. I was a little sleepy but who knows if that is Pfizer or parenting.

I also used it as an excuse to stop by the Rollover hot dog stand on the way home.

A hot dog and some covid immunity give New Thing 5 a fun score of 10 out of 10. Yay Pfizer.

New Thing 4: Via Ferrata

A Via Ferrata is a series of iron rods stapled onto the (almost vertical) mountain side to climb over. You still get the climbers harness and carabiners (metal climbers clips) to clip on with, but it is more similar to a weirdly placed ladder than actual gripping onto the rock face.

This is good as you don’t need experience but you can go straight onto a really high up mountain and get amazing views.

It is a bit of a faff getting the carabiners on and off every rungs but you get in the swing of it.

We started off fairly high and then climbed down a vertical rock face and skirted across the mountain side. At one point there was a ‘Burma Bridge’ across a gorge with a wire to balance on and two wires to hold on to. With a 1,000 foot drop straight down to the rocky valley it was surprisingly not scary.

We did the extreme package for three hours so after this we climbed a huge net over a stretch of mountain which was the hardest bit.

When we finished we ended up on the old paths the slate miners used with low tunnels running through the mountain and then out along the edge with sheer drops down.

Along the route were abandoned slate buildings a metre or so from the edge. This must have been 1,500 feet up from the valley floor and even in May it was bloody cold and windy. We were told that the miners would live in them for four weeks at a time taking children up from seven years old.

I can’t imagine how horrible that would be in winter with just heavy woollen clothes and nothing waterproof.

The guide then took us to the summit of Fleetwith Pike which is 2,100 feet tall with views across to Scotland.

The afternoon itself was really fun. I wasn’t sure if I would have a panic about the height and ruin it. At the start one couple took a look at the route and went straight back which did not help my nerves. But by the end I was feeling quite proud of myself for doing something a bit scary.

Fun factor : 8 out of 10

Fear level : 7 out of 10

New Thing 3: Taco Bell

I overhyped this one in my head, I like tex mex too much for it to live up to my excitement.

However I need to point out that when you Google images search for ‘Taco Bell Picnic’ there are a weird quantity of Taco Bell picnic engagements. So what I only considered worthy of a 4 out of 10 score for a standard Saturday afternoon is somehow worthy of a proposal to many, many other people. So maybe I have misjudged here.

This was my first trip so I went for a combo box with extra sides, like a car park tapas. I ordered a Quasadilla Cravings Box for £7 with some extras

Crispy Beef Taco

Chicken Quesadillas

Spicy chips with a cheese dip

Iced Tea

Churros with a caramel dip

Which I thought was quite a bargain

Plus plain chips and then a cheese wrap for £1 for Emily. It was as bland as it sounds, I think just American cheese rolled up in a wrap.

This was before restaurants and outside dining were allowed so we couldn’t even sit on the picnic benches. Instead we had a picnic blanket set out on the pavement by the drive through so everyone could stare at us, somewhat reducing our dining enjoyment.

The food itself was OK, my American friend informs me the American version is fattier, saltier and greasier and I think I want that.

Fun factor : 4 out of 10 (should have gone to Five Guys)

New Thing 2: Garden Bath

Imagine we are friends and I invite you to my house. You expect coffee, maybe a brownie, and to sit on the sofa fully clothed and that is completely socially acceptable to everyone.

Alternatively what if I told you I’d left my bath water in for a few days. Suggested we take our clothes off, get in together in our underwear and I’ll throw in a little cap of bleach and some more hot water to sanitise it. Then once we are in I leave the vacuum running in the hall for some background noise so we have to shout a little bit to hear each other.

Sounds shit.

That is how I feel about hot tubs. The thought of being outside in hot water is a nice idea but the reality of it is actually all a bit gross and socially awkward.

Now I understand that there is always the option of only using hot tubs with someone you are quite happy being naked with anyway and the option of only using a freshly cleaned hot tub of clean water. But I have trust issues.

Does every self catering holiday let offering two night stays bother taking half an hour to empty it, faff around cleaning it, four hours filling it and another four hours heating it in between check out at 11am and check in at 4pm? Do they commit to the effort of doing this every other day? I’m skeptical.

Now some places probably do, for example look at this fancy set up with an outdoor hot tub which I would absolutely get in.

If I had £850 to spend on one nights accommodation.

Which I do not.

However I found this cool little hut with an outdoor bath. A log burner powered outdoor bath with a field of sheep looking on. So rustic, so nostalgic, this is definitely how Cumbrian sheep farmers have kept clean and relaxed for centuries. I was very excited.

You can see from the image the lovely clean, non-chemical, water we put in ourselves.

The water goes in cold and the log burner had a little inlet to let the water circulate through to heat and go back into the tub so it stays hot as long as the log burner keeps running.

There is quite a lot of very cold water in the tub there. The guide says the tub takes “two hours” to heat up so as soon as we arrived at 6.30 we got it heating straight away. We nipped out to get some fish and chips, got the fire pit on and enjoyed some champagne in the sun and it was gorgeous:

I got a little bit drunk and left my guy that I am seeing to be the responsible fire manager. Not that I can’t work a log burner but purely because I am a lazy drunk and preferred to get settled with a blanket and demand chocolates and prosecco be brought to me instead.

After two hours the top two inches were appropriately warm and everything below was bloody freezing.

After four hours it was warm enough to get in but we had to huddle around the water outlet flow to stay warm. It took another hour before it was hot enough to lie back and relax by which point it was nearly bedtime.

I did get a nice bit of chilling out looking at the stars time. But also the post prosecco regret then kicked in and I started to get a bit headachey.

Was it worth it?

The novelty factor of being tipsy in an outdoor tub with little lambs playing in the background was fun. On the basis of someone else doing all the work while I got drunk, yes it was worth the almost no effort I put in. However the second night we definitely could not be bothered with doing it again.

Fun factor 10/10 for the ten minutes of enough warmth when I could lie back and managed to spot a shooting star which made it pretty special

Effort factor 7/10 lots and lots of (someone else) adding logs to the tiny log burner to try and get the fire hot enough

(we stayed at The Stag booked through Canopy and Stars, it was gorgeous – more photos below. The £850 place is Gilpin Lodge, also in The Lakes)

New thing 1 : World Book Day

At the risk of showing off I am a two time first prize winner of best fancy dress at my office. I only have a Marge photo saved, and I’m happy I do because that was a significant face paint commitment. I even made my own necklace and dress, the things you can do when you have no children or social life!

Even better than Marge was Banana Man. I bought each part of the outfit separately which involved trips to more than one supermarket in pursuit of the exact shade of blue in those baggy older man cotton boxer shorts. They don’t exist so I just wore vaguely inappropriately tight mens pants over some leggings. I crafted a cape complete with logo. I strapped numerous real life bananas to my limbs and I turned up to the office, fully home made masked up, at 9am.

I did not a lot of work that day. I instead posed for photos and shot people with my bananas and more than likely put one in my (outer) pants for the lolz.

With such a disproportionate level of enthusiasm for a non-important event you would think World Book Day would be my absolute crack. No.

6pm nursery pick up one of the staff gives a friendly reminder about World Book Day in the morning and I couldn’t even swear out loud.

Thank god for Halloween costumes and a child who is obsessed with Room on the Broom. Except the broom we had was no longer a broom but a bald stick, so we couldn’t go home until we had foraged a suitable amount of those very thin little twigs to tape down onto it.

Once home I had to donate an old t shirt to be a cape and cut it up. The IKEA cat got wired on to the broom and the craft box came out in order to cover her existing wand which was unfortunately in the wrong colours.

As you can see she looked pretty pleased with the end result but it was not the carefully planned and home made costume I thought she would wear for our first World Book Day. But also…is this the authentic World Book Day experience? Surely real mums are a bit shit and forget things and fudge it last minute?

Either way she still talks about World Book Day and her wand and broom and cat so that seems pretty good to me.

Fun factor (for one of us) 9 out of 10

Stress level (for me) 7 out of 10

52 New Things

Long standing awkward person

Now that the world is reopening half my social media seems to be celebrating hot girl summer while the other half are mourning the loss of banana bread in their pyjamas and legally enforced solitude.

I am a shy introvert with a particular aversion to hanging out with boyfriend’s friends. This started as a teenager when I very rarely had anything to say in a group of my then boyfriend’s group. In hindsight this probably had more to do with them being a gang of vaguely racist, homophobic, stereotypical farmers I had nothing in common with than any hard-core social awkwardness on my part.

Nevertheless I decided I was pretty useless in a meeting new people context and I remember buying a book on social anxiety. This was just as interesting as it sounds, I remember nothing from it and probably gave up after a few chapters.

Still awkward, still scared

Skip forward to being 32 years old, I survived university, working abroad for a summer and turning up at various Buddhist retreats and mum clubs without knowing anyone. However when the guy I am seeing (long winded title for someone who is too old to be referred to as boyfriend) invited me to his 40th birthday party all my old people meeting stress came right back.

For anyone who knows me in real life this isn’t a surprise as I have complained at anyone who came near me about how stressful this is. I’m quite happy hanging out with my guy I am seeing on a one to one basis, and a select few other people, but then I can happily self isolate.

Unless you are bringing non verbal babies along then the rule of six is excessive in my opinion.

Learning how to communicate in a socially acceptable way

When I was on maternity leave I had an inability to make conversation beyond the topics of babies and intense hatred of men. This didn’t seem an ideal way to be successful on Tinder so I read a book on how to talk to people. As my brain barely worked in 2020 this information didn’t last long so I had to panic read this book again in preparation for the very scary prospect of talking to people.

The general gist of the book was that people bloody love talking so chill. Ask questions and try to know enough to avoid sounding like an idiot, but not so much that you become a conversation dominating show off. Let the other people be a conversation dominating show off and that is a good way to make people like you.

One thing they did recommend was to learn a little bit about a lot of things, that way you can at least figure out some questions to talk about what they love and use the right words.

For example she suggested you spend an afternoon playing squash and you’ll have a basic idea of the game and a squash enthusiast will have a great time chatting when you start using all the very exciting squash lingo. (the spoiler alert is that I did not have time to take preporatory squash classes and did in fact manage to mantain a satisfactory level of conversation). However that was basically a very long winded way to get to the point of this which is…

Trying 52 new things

The author suggested trying a new thing every week so that you have a wide variety of experiences to call on when chatting to strangers. Whilst I admit this is a bloody big commitment to being good at small talk (noting that I am still actively avoiding conversations with people I do not know well) I feel it is probably a fun thing to try after a really boring year.

So here I am committing to 52 new things for 2021 and also realising that I barely went anywhere for four months and this list is going to kick off with the bar very low so you may look forward to a post about being a shit mum and forgetting world book day coming soon (technically justifying this one as it is our first time celebrating).

Don’t fuck it up

TLDR: single parenting / step-parenting / blended families is a fuck load of effort (I assume) so choose your sperm provider wisely.

Many months after declaring my social media addiction over I have decided acceptance is best. I am too heavily invested in the lives of strangers from the Internet. I will instead add to the time spent on my phone by ranting about them, the healthiest way to spend time.

Instagram is obviously my main thing because the influences have got me hooked. @mre.souer has 45k followers and a clothing range which isn’t Sainsbury’s sale and is therefore too cool for me. At some point she started dating someone and this triggered a stranger (who I can only assume is a genuine stalker) to message her saying she was ’embarrassing herself’ for calling herself a single mum online and then dating someone in real life.

This triggered a debate about when you stop being a single mum. Obviously every sane person agreed that shagging someone and going out for dinner is not the equivalent of your child’s biological father living with you and sharing the practical / mental / financial load.

Now there is always the odd knobhead popping up saying they consider themselves single parents even though they are married and living with the dad as he doesn’t help. Yes this is a twatty situation but unless you pay for everything and do every single thing in that household and for those children then no it isn’t the same. And if you are doing all of those things the only sensible choices are to kick him out or shut up whinging to genuine single mums (strong emphasis on the first option).

After that there seems to be a grey area of confusion. Is it when you are in an established relationship (when even is that?)? When you cohabit? When you cohabit and they help out like a biological dad would?

In my opinion it is never. Once a single parent always a single parent. Unless you are in a situation where the biological dad was never present / abandons legal responsibility and the step dad adopts, I can’t imagine that is a huge proportion.

And this isn’t driven by my desire to be a martyr or a desire to claim lifelong whinge points, but rather a healthy level of pessimism about step-parent families.

Hanging out with your ex

Assuming you cohabit with the most child-friendly, desperate to be a step-parent, person possible you still have to navigate a co-parenting relationship with the child’s biological parent.

You still probably have the logistics, negotiation and all round hassle of shared custody and missed Christmases. But you also get the awkwardness of your ex regularly seeing your current partner and/or you seeing your ex’s partner. A particular kind of small talk hell the nuclear families will never know.

Children are dickheads

Even an enthusiastic partner is still definitely not a biological parent. That step child didn’t know them from day one, they’ve seen the evil step parent fairytale, they can throw out the ‘you’re not my parent’ line on a whim.

Even if the child likes that person my guess is that no kid ever goes for a step parent when they wake from a nightmare, the step parent doesn’t take the day off work when fever hits and they probably aren’t stressing about nursery drop off hours or vitamin intake.

I also think there is something about being that child’s parent and watching them grow from a tiny baby that gives you a whole other level of patience that a new partner on the scene is not going to benefit from. Toddlers are unique twats. There is no logic, no persuasive skills on earth that can tempt them out of the worst tantrums.

Parents are somewhat blinded by love, and the sensible ones are also playing the long game. You don’t want to be a ‘naughty step’ dictator or send them to their room too hastily and give them abandonment issues in later life. You don’t want to make bribes a regular thing or you will end up with a teenager who requires a cash offer in order to get out of bed on time. The end goal is to raise a decent human being and if they push you to the point of insanity some days that’s the price we pay.

Would someone who isn’t lifelong connected to that small person, who isn’t blinded by an unconditional bond going to be quite so chill? I find staying calm during the worst times beyond testing and she is my daughter. Absolutely no criticism given to anyone who realises they are not equipped to deal with high stress situations with another person’s child.

Part of me also thinks it is the sensible / only reasonable option. As a biological parent you can be the bad guy, lay down the law with your kids and still be loved at the end of the day because you are their mum or dad. Is a new person on the scene going to be forgiven quite so easily by a grumpy child? I feel like it could easily be added to a list of resentment that won’t end well.

Financial nightmare

Here’s what happens when you date in your twenties, find a person, pool your little bit of savings until you can buy a house together, potentially get married, have a baby together. They probably earn similar before having a baby, they probably put the same into the house – even if they didn’t, the plan is to die together so who cares. Maybe one person earns less after babies and part time work but they are raising that other persons child so they balance it out so they are as well off as each other.

Here’s what happens when you date in your thirties. Most people have children: different amounts of children, children of different ages, children costing wildly different amounts of either child maintenance or direct expense. The person you date probably owns a home, they may have hugely different equity to you. As you’ve had more time for careers to progress (or be delayed by pregnancies) you’ve got more chance of big disparities in income. You’ve got more chance someone got stung in a divorce.

How do you even work out what is right or fair in that big mess? I don’t know.

Fuck off

The woman criticising mre.souer for calling herself a single mum when she’d started dating someone can fuck right off.

I think this riled me up so much because I do like my single mum badge. I am proud to be a single mum because it means I do most of everything. Right now other than a Sunday daytime I am responsible for all of everything (excluding childcare hours when I’m working and THANK GOD FOR CHILDCARE).

I know this long rant doesn’t fit most people’s definition of a single mum, and yes if you cohabit with someone it does make life easier. Cohabiting couples (you’d bloody hope) share out housework and running costs of the house.

However it is in no way the same easy division of work and sharing of the emotional load that comes with being in a nuclear family.

As a person who is disproportionately obsessed with the world being fair I find this hard to come to terms with. Because I had a child with the wrong person my life will, in many ways, always be harder as a result.

So to state the obvious, when you are deciding who to procreate with : don’t fuck it up.

Matt is a knob

An unexpected side effect of becoming a parent is unnecessary smalltalk. As an introvert I probably languish in silence for longer than other people find acceptable.

Now I’m not a knob (like Matt) I’m quite willing to go along with whatever bullshit chat / make believe Emily’s ‘new best friend’ at the playground wants me to go along with. But I also don’t see the point of mundane parent chat with a stranger for the sake of it. If my child is happily hanging with her new mate and doesn’t want me I would rather waste my attention on the black pit of social media, thanks.

Matt doesn’t agree, I can’t even remember what boring chat Matt got into with me…just that he can’t for shit make a decent job of pretending to eat the ‘chips’ our daughters had kindly cooked for him.

What I do remember is that Matt and Matt’s wife were tag teaming parenting that day.

Oh man I get jealous of the parent tag teamers. They get to go to the toilet when they want to, they get to drink coffee inside when the other one is on duty in the rain, the joy! I was quite happy when Matt tapped out and I got new best friend’s mum instead. She could role play, she could hide and seek.

The girls were having such a good time that Emily got promoted from new best friend to sister after just a couple of hours (my daughter is excellent company). I thought this was super cute but it seemed to trigger a load of only child guilt in new best friends mum who seemed fucking knackered by parenting and entirety unenthusiastic at the prospect of doing it all again (I hear ya).

I obviously never miss a sob story so when I was asked if Emily was a single child I said yes, my husband moved out when she was a baby. I got the initial ‘oh wow you’re doing so well’ thing which suddenly got flipped into a ‘lucky you at least you don’t have to parent a man and a child at once my life would be easier without him’ speech. Wow.

I don’t normally shy out of the self pity Olympics / my life is more tiring than yours / I sleep less competition. I actually refrained from the desperate urge to point out all the time she spent in the peace of the indoor coffee area of beautiful silence while I stood in the pissing rain playing make believe with woodchips.

Instead I did a VERY BAD THING and excused her husband on the basis of it being hard for all mums as toddlers always want mum first. Which is a shit move on my part as:

  • Not all toddlers want their mum over dad, that’s massively sexist and a result of the fact mums tend to do more parenting. Some toddlers prefer their dad (granted, a minority)
  • If her toddler prefers her to Matt (as do I) then maybe Matt should do some other fucking work instead, rather than having his hard working baby mama feel like she is caring for both a toddler and man child.
  • I should have pointed out that what she described is absolutely not cool. She should only be raising her actual child and if she feels like she is happy with one child then that’s the only child she should have (no more babies, no more Matt).
  • The fact her little girl is so capable at making friends suggests she is doing just fine as an only child, that contrary to popular belief only children do just as well (if not better), in almost all respects than their siblinged up counterparts (see One and Only by Lauren Sandler)
  • The fact that it isn’t an absence of siblings that damages little girls but the normalisation of a loveless, resentful relationship becoming the benchmark of what to aspire to. That mummies do all the work and that’s just what happens.

Being a single parent is hard but if you genuinely think that your partner makes life even harder than that then seriously, buh bye Matt.

I know I am coming from a place of privilege in that, even as a single parent, I earn enough to afford childcare so that I can work. Also I live in a house I own and other things lots of women won’t benefit from if they were to go it alone. But seriously, an unhappy marriage will destroy your soul.

Now I know souls aren’t measurable but life expectancy is and marriage increases a man’s life span but knocks a year off a woman’s life see here if you don’t believe me.

The bastards steal a year from us! And yet men who don’t marry are bachelors, when we are spinsters or left on the shelf? Errm, shall we rephrase that single men are prematurely aging and single women are winning at life?? We are literally winning more life.

(by single I mean non-cohabiting, as Katherine Ryan cleverly points out we are all far too young to have men in our homes. Sex is still non life threatening as far as I’m aware.)

And the one year life loss is just an average, stats are still pending on how much life they sap out of you when things get so bad you start slagging your man off to strangers at the playground.

So now I’m a guilty feminist again. The avoidance of social awkwardness won out, I should have told you to leave your baby daddy (or at the very least insist he acts like a parent/adult). Hopefully the next mum she complains to is both a feminist and an extrovert with a higher capacity for brutal honesty than me.

My wholehearted apologies to my daughter’s sister’s mother.

Feminist Fail

I’m in a not so good mental health zone at the moment, lots of self criticism but then my distraction from this tends to be Instagram or reading…and both fuel my general hatred of men. Shockingly neither hating men nor yourself is the key to a contented life. I have Bupa approval for some CBT so maybe at some point I’ll get round to booking sessions in – in the hope this will give me some tools to jump off the negativity spirals before I fully go fully insane.

I have definitely mentioned before that I have massive jealously and life comparison issues. If you think I haven’t been on Instagram much I absolutely have not kicked the habit, every time my phone is in my hand my thumb automatically opens the app and resumes scrolling. I’m not joking it is actually very, very bad but also exactly what some very smart people in California designed it to be so i’ll ease off on the self guilt on that front.

What I did do is almost lose my shit, decide not to lose my shit and just mute everyone my thumb scrolled upon one Sunday afternoon that made me feel jealous. That turned out to be pretty much everyone who isn’t either a general man hater or English Heritage. So now my feed is largely feminism and castles, which sounds pretty good but makes me long for some kind of all female fortified commune where men are temporary and time restricted sex visitors only (if you don’t know about the Mosuo women already then check out this Guardian article and I’ll meet you in China).

But for now I’m going to have to continue having conversations with men. One of which recently took great joy in mansplaining my own feminism to me. Apparently I’m not a great feminist as I try to look thin, and as much as I hate to agree with a man there is a point here. Women are expected to look small as to be feminine is to be smaller than men, so that they can feel big by comparison. Food is wonderful and we restrict that to inflate men’s egos so that they feel all masculine standing next to our dainty little lady selves. They eat all the carbs, use the word ‘bloated’ approximately 4000% less (fact checked) then spread their legs wide and get comfy. We monitor what we eat, hold our stomachs in then sit compactly with our legs together.

Take up less space please ladies, it needs saving for the men folk. It sounds ridiculous but that is literally what I’m doing.

I love the body positivity movement but my internalised misogyny is so well entrenched I can’t help but equate weight loss as success – I enjoy seeing my app confirm I am underweight, the more shit my life is going the more important this is. I am five foot nine (175cm), which by British standards is taller than 98 percent of women. I’m three inches taller than the average Dutch woman – the tallest of the tall people. Despite all logic I feel as though being tall is another reason I need to be slim, as if it is only acceptable to be one type of big. Being tall and fat would be unacceptably large (as a woman). Whereas tall and skinny is willowy and that’s OK, you might be big but a weak fragile looking version of big that isn’t quite so intimidating to men.

Intellectually I want to shake off the slim preference but in reality I don’t want to see my body looking fat and it makes me feel like a hypocrite.

I love @clementineford she is a single mum, journalist and mega feminist. She gives out caps that read ‘Leave your husband’, she is fighting the good fight. But even Clementine recently admitted on her podcast that she eats differently when in public and doesn’t clear her plate as if to demonstrate to any onlooker what a restrained person she is, that she deserves to be small – that she puts effort into taking up less space. That shit is hard to shake off (side note that her podcast Big Sister Hotline is excellent).

And I wish it stopped at weight. I have yet to meet a man who is cool with full body hair (I’m talking legs, armpits, moustaches, monbrows). I know most aren’t pedantic about full scale pube removal but if you add up the time it takes up in a year to do the rest of the crap I reckon you’d be pretty pissed off about the unread novels / naps / wanks that could have been accumulated in that time.

And yet here I am…a relatively hair free lady.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg…imagine if the patriarchy refunded us on our lifetime make up spend? The cost of wedding guest outfits because women feel like they’d be judged for rocking up in the same dress every time. I’d also like our hourly salaries for the time spent researching said outfits…(gender pay gap adjusted where applicable).

As always I’m not entirely sure what the conclusion of this rant is. But I did at least feel validated that I’m not the only feminist doing stupid shit to fit into gender stereotypes because patriarchy has influenced my preferences for how I like to see my body looking.

If anyone is further along the road to hairy (@rubyrare), bigger body friendly (@bodyposipanda), make up optional  life (@florencegiven) than me then they might want to check out these ladies accounts for body positivity plus all sorts of good stuff.

And in the meantime I guess I’ll keep on being the dumbass who weighs herself before deciding whether a Monday morning mcmuffin is advisable. Fucking patriarchy.

PMT chat and stats

TMI Warning : pissing, pooing and bleeding

I just finished my 10,000th wee and third poo of the day and remembered how much of a cunt pregnancy is.

I feel a bit guilty using cunt as an insult. Vaginas are wonderful things so why do we use them as the worst insult ever? But it does have a bit of gravitas ‘dick’ doesn’t quite manage. Dicks are basic. Whereas vaginas are wonderful and interesting things so I am going to share some vagina and vagina related information for anyone who doesn’t spend their time reading vagina books and watching vagina youtube videos and generally googling vagina & co information.

Fact one : PMT is shit

Back to my many wees today, this isn’t the weirdest pregnancy announcement ever, I’m not pregnant…at least I bloody hope I’m not. I am pre-menstrual, I was sat on the toilet thinking this must mean my period is coming (my friend google confirms this is a thing). Excellent news.

I really enjoy my period arriving, I’m not generally an enthusiastic person but I am a (menstrual) cup half full kind of person. Literally half full – which is probably why I don’t mind it as it isn’t too heavy or painful. However what I do dislike is being pre-menstrual for the following reasons:

  • Bloaty mc-bloat tum. This isn’t a vain complaint, we are on kind of lockdown still – I don’t care what I look like. What I do care about is the limited amount of food I can comfortably fit in my stomach as it is too full of air. This also means constipation for 22% of us folk who menstruate.
  • Grumpiness. The cats meowed one too many times today and I genuinely wanted to kick them (but refrained).
  • Spotty face – 50% of us. Not this month though, thanks Caroline Hirons and salicylic acid.
  • ‘mega ceebs’ (term not my own, but I think it is good) total can’t be arsed-ness. Kind of me all the time, but I reach new levels of introversion when I am pre-menstrual.

And I don’t really get these but there is also the:

  • Crying (unless of course you put Little Women on, two hours solid tears when I went to the cinema pre-menstrual one time)
  • Sore breasts
  • Tiredness for 40% of us (obviously have this, unfortunately all month long)
  • Increased appetite (see above)
  • Headaches for 49% of us

(percentages from a survey that Clue App did with 4,000 people who menstruate. I use the app, it is free and good)

Sounds a whole lot like the absolute joys of pregnancy right? There is a reason for that, your body knows ovulation is done for the month so why go out and be friendly when there is no chance of getting impregnated – so it makes you hate people and want to stay home, on the sofa, in ugly pyjamas.

If the ugly pyjamas, foul mood and big tummy aren’t enough to stop you getting laid then it kind of fucks you over by reducing your vaginal lubrication. Your uterus is such an optimist it doesn’t want to waste fluid on frivolous things like sex for fun in case it already has a tiny little fertilised egg to look after. This is also why you might be constipated, it doesn’t want to let you poo, it wants to hang on for food as long as possible to get every last bit of nutrition out to look after that maybe baby.

Entering ‘Autumn’

Maisie Hill in Period Power calls this your ‘autumn’ a much nicer way of describing the winding down, taking it easy and eating comfort food most of us do at that time of year. She recommends bearing it in mind when you plan your month out, not over committing, trying to work from home a bit more and if you’ve planned to meet friends have something easy to cook at home rather than a big night out.

She also recommends using this quiet time for introspection and creativity. Reduced desire to socialise and be active often means greater focus and awareness of your emotions. Yes you might be grumpier during autumn but is it exacerbated by a dickhead in the vicinity? Have a proper think about that now before ovulation rolls round and your brain gets swayed by an overwhelming desire to fuck them.

One interesting thing I learnt from Period Power is that a tiny bit of blood for the first couple of days of your period is not in fact your period. It is classed as breakthrough bleeding and can be a sign of progesterone deficiency, along with other symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Clumsiness
  • Cysts
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Swollen breasts

Potential ways to fix it include lowering stress, addressing hyperthyroidism, and consuming more magnesium, zinc and vitamins A, B6 and C. Also seed cycling can help, which involves consuming more sunflower and sesame seeds (2-4 tbsps a day) during the second half of your cycle (the bit this blog is about) and in the first half of your cycle (first day of your period and two weeks after) including the same quantities of flax and pumpkin. To be honest it sounds like a whole lot of seeds to me, but if you are a organised and healthy individual it is worth a google.

Maisie also draws parallels between PMT and symptoms of low blood sugar and says how important it is to eat regular and healthy snacks. Seems sensible and easy and, in my case, completely unattainable.

The Pill is progesterone which is PMT

In other words – proper shit.

All the shitty stuff I’ve been ranting about can be blamed on progesterone, the shittiest of the shit hormones that dominates in the ‘autumn’ between ovulation and your period. As you aren’t fertile during this period the pill mimics this with the synthetic copycat hormone progestin to make sure a little dose every day stops you being fertile all month long. It isn’t exactly the same so you might not go full PMT, and it might not be obvious straight away as the effects can increase over time – but you are slowly filling your body with the shit hormone which is often at the expense of oestrogen, literally referred to as THE BEYONCE of hormones (Maisie Hill again).

They normally add synthetic oestrogen to the pill to stop you feeling quite so shit but I think we can all agree there is only one Beyonce.

Now I’m recycling old stats here but they are good stats so if you haven’t already been convinced that the pill is shit and genuine oestrogen is the bomb then digest these stripper facts:

  • non pill taking strippers earn an average of $35 an hour when menstruating
  • strippers who are enjoying all that fake oestrogen on the pill earn a marginal $2 more, taking in $37 an hour on average (all month long)
  • ovulating (and therefore non-pill taking) strippers are absolutely smashing it with all that genuine oestrogen with a crazy $70 an hour

(Pill facts and stripper facts courtesy of How The Pill Changes Everything by Dr Sarah Hill which is super super interesting and I massively recommend)

Now by this point it makes sense to move onto your ‘winter’ (your period), but Maisie told me to take it easy and I’ve already got both my favourite stripper facts and Beyonce down so I feel I have done enough for now.

ps if any real life friends are wondering how i have managed to write a full blog and yet not respond to a basic whatsapp message then please see above. It isn’t my fault it is my menstrual cycle’s fault. Also sorry.

Tinder, gone but not forgotten

I deleted tinder this week 🎉

Not actually a big deal, I could technically start again in ten minutes. Admittedly a minor faff to scroll through my gallery and find photos without a toddler photobombing but I’m ready to make that commitment. It does delete all conversations and matches, so if I get dumped I will have to start fresh…but that is definitely no hardship. It is probably a bit weird to pop up in someone’s DMs after 9 months like ‘hey…so I’m single and can’t be bothered swiping again, how about it? 🙋🏼‍♀️’.

Note that I put ‘if I get dumped’. Partially because I’m a bit of a pessimist and always half feel like I could get surprise dumped out of nowhere any minute. And also because I’m aware quitting things is not my strong point.

I remember one metaphor where someone was trying to justify their cheating by saying some people get off the sinking ship early doors and hop on the little dingy and have a shit time in the cold for bit – other people wait for a better ship to come by and jump straight over.

And there are people like me…

(to any non-Titanic fans, this is me going down with the ship)

Continue reading “Tinder, gone but not forgotten”

Midnight musings

I’m doing that thing the American summer camp leaders say the kids shouldn’t do, write when tired.

Tired people are sad and negative.

They didn’t want the daily letters home to worry the parents as the kids would normally be perked up again the next morning.

So unfortunately I’m an American child. Which is basically the worst kind of child (sorry people reading in America…but I’m sure if you’d served wealthy, obnoxious New York pre-teens breakfast, dinner and lunch every day for an entire summer you’d 100% agree).

If you ignore the wealthy bit that’s kind of a good metaphor for my lockdown life. My emotions are up and down, the closer to midnight it is the more fed up I feel.

This really wasn’t the blog I was planning early evening today. After a rocky start we had a lovely front garden picnic, war songs were playing, Emily was doing a wriggly little dance, bears were getting fed and the sun was shining.

Then I thought sod it, she’s not tired, and we watched the BBC VE Day special till after We’ll Meet Again (sadly no one on my street went out to sing). We had little dances together and kept popping out to the garden to listen to the evening birdsong laying on our backs under the trees. It was all very idyllic, I was full of gratitude.

Bedtime wasn’t as horrific as it can be, I watched a bit of Netflix and then succumbed to the news. Oh my god fuck the news. Fuck off. The world is falling apart, I won’t list the Covid related things that upset me – I’m sure you’re aware of all of the real life nightmares unfolding around the world. And if you aren’t then congratulations for avoiding excessive news you clever egg.

But I also read an article about humidity related climate events that aren’t predicted to happen until near the end of the century. These are life threatening to large populations, people just don’t survive without air conditioning in that level of humidity. If you can’t afford air con you die. However warning signs are that it is happening now, not fifty years from now.

I also fell into an idiots obsession with cyber warfare and I’m reading a book by one of Obama’s advisors on the topic. So that’s cheery.

So despite all this global level terror I do still manage to allocate a fair bit of time to speculating when I can see people again.

Mid afternoon I’m thinking, this is fine. I don’t like people anyway. Yes a bit of sex would be nice but so is saving £300 and 40 hours a month commuting.

By midnight I’m so lonely, I not only want sex but a hug. I want a fully grown human sleeping next to me at night. I am all the kinds of needy that The Unexpected Joys of Being Single tried to stop me being.

I know no one ever feels completely static in their emotions. Even when life is steady we go up and down. I am particularly affected by tiredness. But lockdown has brought the ups and downs to roller-coaster levels. Dancing at 8pm and crying at midnight (although I think the latter was definitely impacted by After Life on Netflix).

So anyway, it’s always nice to get things off your chest. Maybe someone reading this is travelling on the roller-coaster too and feels the same. It’s reassuring to know you aren’t the only one feeling a bit weird. And if you are having a proper bad day read this to feel a little more normal Are You Basically Three Today?

Where’s my bloody village?

An acceptable 3 miles from Dominoes but a frustrating 19 miles from Papa John’s.

I’m going to have another single parent rant over here…but it also applies to dual parent families.

Parenting is fucking hard all round. Gold star for you if you got through the week without questioning your sanity.

They say it takes a village and it is A THING.

I’m going to go off on a tangent here but I will get back to the point…

In terms of human history we have spent 5% of it as farming communities and before that we were chilling as hunter gatherers. I say chilling as we were quite literally chilling most of our lives. The labour hours were far lower, we didn’t have many possessions so didn’t spend much time cleaning, mending or looking after things. There would be a bit of the odd fire tending and weaving wicker baskets or gathering berries – but you would be doing it with a bunch of gals.

Your community would be somewhere between 25 and 150. Enough to be pretty pally with everyone, you don’t have to watch over your little ones like a hawk – no one can kidnap them, where would they even go? They would just be scampering around with their friends and all the villagers are half keeping an eye on all the little while chilling and doing the odd bit of work.

No one hoards food, the men go out hunting until there is enough for 2-3 days and then everyone hangs out on an evening, singing songs, telling stories and having sex.

One tribal group living this life still have a little ritual where the men bring the hunting spoils home and all the women do a little ‘give me your meat’ song and dance. In this scenario ‘meat’ refers to both animal meat and cock. Always good to know the penis jokes transcend time and place.

In this group the ongoing idea is the more actual meat you bring home the more your ‘meat’ gets enjoyed by the ladies. But in true village community spirit the men divvy up the spoils on the edge of the village before the hunt celebration. Everyone gets a nice bit of BBQ and sex in equal measure. Friendship is a lovely thing.

I am a big fan of the hunter gatherer lifestyle. The whole killing the smallest twin at childbirth thing takes the shine off a bit so I’m not fully on board…but still, sex and meat.

Then things got a whole lot shitter at the agricultural revolution. You’re working harder for less reward, farming is a cruel mistress. Yields are variable, for millenia the labour effort was insane and the nutritional content far lower than anything that had gone before.

Now to put things in perspective: if human evolution is the span of a human life of 80 years you spent your first 76 years as a hunter gatherer, four years as a farmer and about a week as an industrial revolution dogsbody.

But most industrial revolution dogsbodies have lived in multi generational households. You would also have your aunties, uncles and cousins in the same village. Your mates from the factory / mill live down the road. Basically there are a fuck load of potential babysitters if a disaster arises (as in…you want ten fucking minutes to yourself before you totally lose your shit). And you probably lose your shit less frequently because there is always someone to have a chat with. Yes the physical and medical dangers were far higher but socially, mentally and emotionally it was quite a different scenario.

But we aren’t living that life anymore. For most of us it became common to have both parents in the house working and to move away from extended family somewhere around (I’m guessing here) the 1980s / 1990s and after. So in evolutionary terms that’s two decades out of 6 million years. I’ve really not done the maths on this one but I’m going to say that’s what…ten minutes of your 80 year life?

So…do you think 10 minutes is enough for our mental and emotional comfort levels to adjust to such a radical adjustment to labour, social life and responsibility?

I can tell you from my stress levels the last couple of weeks it really, really is not.

Fuck me it has been hard.

But I have finally returned to my original point.

It’s hard, it’s so fucking hard.

I am a credit underwriter but lately I’ve been helping out the debt collection team making arrears calls. It’s not an easy time to collect money in, no one fucking has any because we are in the most significant economic shutdown since (or potentially eclipsing) the world wars.

And I’m trying to do it with a wild toddler in the background.

I’m also trying to stop my house falling apart, make sure we both eat well and get outside for some fresh air every day. Coupled with the fact that most nights I get woken up between every half hour and every three hours… I’m fucking tired.

But not just that, I’m lonely. I want a hug, I want sex, I want to sit next to my friends and family and colleagues – not waving into a camera.

And the thing is, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m bloody lucky! I have a house with two gardens (both small…but still counts). At the back of my garden there is a footpath leading out to various woods and fields to explore.

The only reason I can focus for enough to bang on about human evolution in the context of a human lifespan is because my ex has taken her for a government sanctioned day at his house.

I’m sat here drinking coffee from a new mug my mum sent to cheer me up, looking at some flowers my sister sent to cheer me up. I’m listening to Amazon music to chill myself out because I can afford the subscription. I’m really fucking lucky.

But it kind of isn’t about that. Celebrities have got some shit for sitting crying in their mansions about lockdown. It’s not fair, it’s hard for all of us.

Money and housing and all the rest can make sadness and loneliness a whole lot more comfortable but you’re still sad and lonely.

We are a species that needs human connection, if this makes you feel sad then don’t be hard on yourself, it is what we were designed around.

Here’s hoping this shitstorm will be over soon and all my fellow in a relationship but not cohabiting friends will get back to ALL THE SEX as soon as possible.

This former hunter gatherer needs the meat.

Pissy Pants

TMI disclaimer: masturbation, wetting myself, aggression and vagina gadgets

It has been six blog posts since I have talked about my vagina, that is six blog posts too long.

I’ll probably also write a self indulgent one about my mental health during lockdown, but I’ll start with saying I was feeling a bit crazy the other day.

It was my first child free day in ages, I put fresh sheets on the bed, I was treating myself to a masturbation session whilst intermittently drinking some relaxing Clipper tea. I even lit a scented candle to romance myself. Sounds heavenly but after it all I was weirdly frustrated and a touch angry.

I used to be fairly restrained but since being in charge (hypothetically) of a toddler (tyrant) I’ve lost my shit a few times. I like to scream, I enjoy throwing things – when they break it is even more satisfying. But this is obviously borderline unhealthy and not something I want Emily to see me doing. So I occasionally punch things to let off some steam…not because I think this is what sensible adults do – I’m quite aware this is equally, if not more, crazy. I do it because I can sneakily punch something when Emily turns away and get some release so I can carry on with my day unfettered by unnecessary rage levels.

Anyway, back to my vag.

This time I had this weird urge to sprint it out. I got my running clothes on and as I was short on time I didn’t bother going for a wee first. I had not been running in about three years and it was weirdly satisfying to go at it full pelt, but then I did a wee in my pants. Damn.

I’d like to say this is the first time I’ve wet myself, but since I have nothing better to do I’m going to give you a full account of my post birth urinary incontinence experiences.

1. A proper floor soaker

Five days post partum

Emily was nearly 9lbs, she absolutely destroyed my vaginal muscles which took half an hour to be sewn back together. She also refused to sleep unless she was being held so after 8 hours of holding her and no opportunity to go for a wee, plus ridiculous water consumption to encourage my milk supply, I really fucking needed a wee.

I had her on the table to do a nappy change, the balloons we had been given when she was born were in a tangle. Oscar (the stupid cat) panicked when she cried and sprinted off with the balloons round his neck almost strangling himself. I reached to save him and then was away from the table and freaked out that Emily could fall and remedied the situation by pissing everywhere from the stress of almost dead cat and baby (I catastrophise).

2. Bouncy damp pants

I remember my cousins wife laughing at me when I said I can’t wait to take Emily trampolining. I thought, it’s fine – your pelvic floor got battered by carrying twins for nine months. My single baby hung out high up, horrific heartburn was the pay off to avoid pelvic floor pressure.

Joke was on me. Slight toddler friendly bouncing was totally OK, lulled into a false sense of security I took a trampoline to myself and started going high and doing seat drops and attempting some tricks. Way too much impact for my half full bladder. Luckily it wasn’t a full empty out, it was a pants wet but not leggings wet amount of wee. Enough to be concerning but not enough to stop me going straight to Frankie and Bennys for a post bounce brunch.

3. Testing the waters

Following this I had a bit of concern for my capabilities. I did a few Joe Wicks videos with all the star jumps etc, got quite enthusiastic during the sleeping bunnies bouncing game to see how it goes. There was occasional dampness but not full scale urinary incontinence.

4. Total piss pants

Back to my sprinting, I think a gentle run is fine whereas a full scale sprint was too much for my pelvic floor to manage. I was wet. Wet through my pants and soaking wet leggings wet.

Even more annoyingly when I got back my ex was pulling up in the car and I had fully pissed my pants. I just shouted at him, I’ve been running and I smell and I’m getting changed and rushed past him. Technically all true but I’m hoping he assumed I meant sweat not wee.

No one should have to stand in front of their ex having wet themselves and have them realise. All bad.

Do we all get damp pants though?

My guess is mostly yes (if you’ve had a baby, and sometimes if you haven’t), unless you are French. They get a series of pelvic floor physio as standard after giving birth. How very French, I’m very jealous.

What do we get? As long as your post birth stitches are preventing your vagina falling out you are good to go.

I asked a group of mum friends and quite a few had some kind of leakage when exercising or other times. Some had caesarians so I really need to let go of the ‘I birthed a 9lb baby through my vagina’ complaint.

I then asked my online mum friends and they said to find a women’s health physio. In all of York / Hull / Leeds Bupa didn’t have one specialist on their books. I did find one lady but she had set up on her own and I had to do a bit of calling around before she was recommended. We are definitely not France. I’m really sad about the lack of care we give women post partum.

Pelvic Floor Pampering

So I was quite happy to pay to have some specialist care for my battered pelvic floor but then Covid got in the way. As much as I’d like to have vaginal muscles of steel it’s not really essential travel and I’m guessing she wouldn’t be 2m away.

So I bought myself the Elvie Trainer which retails at £170 so it is pricey and I could justify that I got a discount code and I’m saving money on lockdown etc etc but also why shouldn’t I spend money improving my pelvic floor. Not wanting to piss my pants feels like a basic desire.

So here is the slightly tadpole ish looking vagina trainer:

Click for Elvie Website

The chunky but goes in your vagina with the end sitting between your vulva. It has sensors to tell how you are squeezing (to ensure you are pulling up and not bearing down. If you are bearing down you can actually PUSH YOUR VAGINA OUT which isn’t the technical term but is literally what happens. Terrifying.).

It has Bluetooth so connects with an app and you get to play games with your vagina. Weirdly fun.

There are little hills on the screen and you have to clench and relax to varying degrees to keep the ball hovering slightly above the hills all the time. There are also targets to hit to clench and relax fast for speed. And a how hard can you clench game – a bit like a strong man at a fair hitting the gong with a mallet.

The games are kind of like snake, I’m guessing anyone reading this is old enough to have experienced Nokia in it’s prime.

Is it worth it?

Well I did a little sprint and no wee. But also I’m pretty sure this wasn’t because of one week of Elvie.

I’m a vagina geek so I’ll say yes it’s worth it. I know you can do pelvic floors with no tech but you don’t know how well you are doing and also the standard squeeze relax is boring and probably not as good a work out as having to hold / balance the virtual ball on the app.

Also pelvic floor health is really important. Regardless of having had a baby it weakens as you get older and things like exercise or even a persistent cough put pressure on it so everyone should be doing pelvic floor exercises before it becomes a bigger issue.

I think this turned out to be a fairly long rambly one so thanks for getting this far! Happy to engage in any vag chat if anyone has questions