Monday 19 November 2012

We are proud to announce.....

So there’s a new arrival in our house. I am aware that many of you will have already been through this experience. Some may read with a glow of recognition and nostalgia.

Others might find yet another gushing account of how in love we are with our latest addition rather tedious – if so I do apologise.

But I can report that our new baby is settling in very well. We all enjoy interacting with the little thing.

Friday 16 November 2012

What are your top five children’s books of 2012?

With all the Father Christmases among us thinking about stocking fillers, ideas for re-stocking the bookshelves can be a very useful way of avoiding too much tat. Likewise, books make good gifts for other people’s children and help maintain peace on earth with parents who are dreading even more plastic toys invading their homes.

I'm always really interested in recommendations for children's books, so please, if you have a moment, share any books that have been a hit with your wee ones as a comment below. To get the ball rolling, here are the top five books that I think my son, who turned four in October, most enjoyed in the past year......

Tuesday 13 November 2012

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....

I must say I felt very festive picking up my latest copy of Families Leeds with Father Christmas on the front cover.

My column on page 6 documents the recent fourth birthday shenanigans in our house, a wake-up call if ever there was one of the realities of Christmas morning with small children.

Yet again there are some really great articles (my Imperfect offering aside) and a thorough round up of what's going on over the Christmas period. Oh yes there is....

You can also check out the online magazine here: Families Leeds Online

Monday 5 November 2012

WIN: A pair of Clean Heels

Being a mum has changed me – physically, mentally, socially. To name but a few of these changes:

• I can no longer live without wet-wipes.
• My attention is always piqued by the sight of a digger.
• I receive my own body weight in Boden catalogues each year.

Among the many tell-tale signs that I have a child, perhaps, are the heels of my shoes, or to be more specific, the height of them.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

A tale of two city museums

A knight at the museum - Royal Armouries

We've been to two museums already this half term - the Royal Armouries in Leeds and the National Media Museum in Bradford. Fantastically, because they're both national museums, they're free.

I'm not so homespun and organised that I packed my own supply of snacks and walked there, so after parking, a latte for moi and a Cornetto for the four-year-old, and two lightsaber pencils priced £5 from the gift's not completely free. But I am one of those comedy characters who nods smugly at the signs reassuring me that Every Purchase Supports The Museum.

And, *serious face* I really do think we should support and utilise these places, especially when they're on our doorstep.

Even from being a tentative toddler, pointing and naming, the boy has got a lot out of museums, art gallery, libraries, and botanical hothouses – anywhere my Leeds Card would get us.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Praise be the press officer....

A few weeks ago I was doing work for my old newspaper in York and was sent to cover the announcement of a new dean to York Minster, among other things.

There was a fair-sized gathering – staff, pupils from the Minster School and various dignitaries. The new incumbent was the current dean of Leicester, Vivienne Faull. I took a pew, literally, and prepared to take my shorthand notes.

The charismatic arch bishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, gave a speech, before Vivienne Faull introduced herself to the new flock.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Recipe (Scotch) corner...

A Twitter friend asked me for a recipe the other day, after I boasted about being Clairey, Queen of Scotch Pancakes.

This is not a foodie blog and I am not the greatest cook in the world, or indeed in this household. However, that is precisely why I was so puffed up by my fluffy creations. They have prompted my husband - who has been known to wrest the pan from my hands when making standard pancakes lest I mess it up - to ask how exactly I do them. So for him, @wantedmynamebut and anyone else who is interested, here's the answer....

Thursday 18 October 2012

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Brick Lane (Monica Ali)

Timing is everything, as they say, and I think I’ve realised that a book often has ‘a moment’.

Encompassing the Oldham riots and 9/11, and published in 2003, Brick Lane did indeed make a timely appearance.

And it had quite a moment. It was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and its debut author voted Best of Young British Novelists on the basis of the unpublished manuscript.

So when it was my turn to choose for book club, I remembered how Monica Ali’s first novel had been recommended over the years and dusted it off from the shelf in my head marked Books I Should Read.

The story follows Nazneen, born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at the age of eighteen for an arranged marriage to a man 20 years her senior.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Separation anxiety when I least expected.....

Separation anxiety – I didn’t know the half of it – but back when I had a pre-schooler, a trip away without him proved interesting for me, as documented in my column here, in the latest edition of Families Leeds (Page 6).

My neighbour Jim Cardwell, in his column The World According to Dad, also has some amusing points to make about the rules of family camping, and if, like me, you are the right-handed parent of a left-handed child, there’s a really useful read on page 22 by Sarah Butters, plus lots more interesting articles.

And finally, if you haven’t seen it already, there’s my account of contracting Slapped Cheek Disease while pregnant on page 12. There’s been some great feedback from people who hadn’t realised the risks the bug poses to pregnant women, so please keep spreading the word and raising awareness as we head into winter when it tends to be most prevalent.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Kadria Skincare Belly Balm With Rosehip And Neroli

And now for something completely different....

A review of a Kadria Skincare’s Belly Balm. No, that’s not a book, it’s one of a range of natural products for pregnancy, mother and baby, which was sent to me to trial and review.

Let me first explain that, being 28 weeks into my second pregnancy, I come to this with a certain level of experience and dare I say cynicism.

First time around, I was keen to avoid stretch marks if at all possible, and invested in an expensive, lurid-coloured oil from a major beauty brand, touted by celebs as a wondrous elixir.

Friday 14 September 2012

Have I got news for you......

Normally, it’s the little things I like to babble about. As regular readers of this blog will know, anecdotes about inconsequential episodes are usually the order of the day here at Book Club Mum. And of course book reviews.....although I’ve been woefully slack in that department recently and need to pull my socks up – new term, new start!

Anyway, it is something of a departure to have two rather serious things to tell you.

The first, and I think the accompanying photograph may have given this away somewhat, is that I’m pregnant, expecting my second child on December 4.

We’re absolutely over the moon here at Book Club Mum Towers, but I’ve been a little bit shy about blogging the news as, all things considered, I’m on the superstitious side of paranoid at the best of times. And we were certainly given cause to worry earlier this summer. Which brings me on to the second piece of pretty serious news I want to share with you.....

Friday 20 July 2012

Weather and holidays? Now you're talking my language....

My blog posts are like buses – there will be another one along in a minute.

This one combines two classic subjects – The Weather and What I Did On My Holidays.

The former is so awful I am more than happy to reminisce about the latter – and that’s exactly what I do in my latest Families Leeds column. Check it out here on page 6 and learn what happens when a very dedicated father resolves to turn a trip to Spain into The Lingo Show Live.....

                                       Families Leeds

Tuesday 26 June 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Are We Nearly There Yet? Plus interview with author Ben Hatch

You know how if it’s someone else’s child having a tantrum, it’s not at all stressful? In fact, perversely it’s quite relaxing, reassuring and even amusing?

That, in essence, is what it is like to read this book. Ben Hatch’s account of how he and his wife Dinah travelled 8,000 miles round Britain with their two toddlers in a Vauxhall Astra is a great read for several reasons.

To start with, there’s plenty you can relate to. The purpose of the Hatch’s trip was to write a guide book of family-friendly accommodation and attractions in the UK, and it is like an extreme version of every daytrip you’ve ever been on, complete with spilled drinks, near-miss danger moments and crack-you-up one-liners from the wee ones.

Friday 1 June 2012

Happy Jubilee!

Hello! I am currently knee deep in washing having returned from a family holiday en Mallorca (fab) with one day to turn things around before the four-day Jubilee weekend extravaganza.

A doctors’ appointment followed by supermarket sweep this morning, I am now offering my darling little boy any bribe going so he’ll leave me to the laptop to reply to 101 emails that should have been sent a week ago.

So it seemed timely to share my column in the lovely Families Magazine (Click to open the PDF, I’m on page 8), in which I pledge solemnly to be really organised and bake great cakes for the momentous Royal occasion. (Cue hollow laugh).

Baking fails aside, I am wishing everyone a brilliant bank holiday weekend and urge you to check out the online Families Magazine too, where there are lots of listings of events and activities in the Leeds area. Happy holidays! xxx

Tuesday 1 May 2012

What's on the soap box?

Competitive parenting doesn’t really bother me. If someone wants to tell me how much time they spend doing educational activities with their kids, honestly, I’m fine with that. If they want to outline in great detail the lovingly created, fresh organic meals they serve up to their offspring, quite frankly, I find it interesting.

But if there’s one thing that gets my goat, its parents who hark on about rationing or even banning television.

Can I get on my toy soap box for one wee moment?

Tuesday 24 April 2012

A star is born

I never told you about my amazing friend Carolyn, star of One Born Every Minute.

She agreed to take part in the show to raise awareness when she found out her unborn baby had a cleft lip.

And when I say she starred, I mean it. Giving birth to her gorgeous son Jamie she appeared brave, calm, and she and husband John were a fantastic comedy double act – they should have a spin-off series all to themselves.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

GUEST BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Virals (Kathy Reichs)

Introducing a brilliant guest post by book clubber Alison Bloomfield. Thank you Alison, I owe you more cake! (NB, just to explain, we don't always drink fizz at book club, it was someone's birthday!)

First let me apologize that I'm not as articulate as BCM, especially so after a late night eating cake, drinking fizz (it's the bubbles!!) and some time spent discussing the book.

*Warning - this review contains some plot spoilers!*

Since I'm the person that chose the book I was a bit wary about what the others would think of it and was fully prepared for a verbal lynching! I picked it because I'm a fan of the Kathy Reichs' Bones books so was looking forward to reading Virals - her first book in a three-part contribution to the teen market.

Friday 13 April 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Mr Pip (Lloyd Jones)

Most evenings, I glance at the news, at stories about places where horrendous things are happening and people have lost everything. I make a flimsy effort to conceive of the significance of that story.

Then I go to bed and read a chapter of the book I’m reading. I say a chapter, but if it’s good, and there’s a bit of a cliff-hanger ending to that chapter, I’ll read another, and maybe even another.

Mr Pip is set on a tropical island where people have lost everything and horrendous things are happening.

The sing-song voice of our narrator, the teenager Matilda, gives the setting a dream-like quality. As she describes the sea and the heat and the sand on the island, Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, there is a sense of the beauty of the place, and of it having been forgotten.

Friday 30 March 2012

Do I need retail therapy?

Let me start by saying that I am not a shoe person. Carrie Bradshaw, Imelda Marcos, this is not me. But becoming a mother has awakened me to the unique pleasure of a footwear purchase. Not mine, you understand, but those of my Darling Little Boy. Watching him target and splash every puddle along the road as we left the shop with his gorgeous new snow boots this winter made my heart sing, I’m not ashamed to admit.

Friday 16 March 2012

Don't forget the kitchen sink.....

I don’t know about you, but getting ready to go to nursery is my favourite part of the week. So stress and tension free. Never a cross word about getting dressed. Always a healthy hearty breakfast consumed with a smile. And out the door with plenty of time to spare we skip.

Nah. Me neither. But recently, there’s been an interesting development on the hell-that-is-Tuesday-and-Friday-mornings front. My darling little boy has developed a liking for taking things with him to nursery. I think the first ever thing he took was a toy. And it got taken up as an objet d’art in Show and Tell.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

It's a tough market

This is the second post I have written which starts with me noticing something at nursery and ends in DISASTER.

This time it was a flyer for a tots table top sale. On pretty pink paper, purple writing encouraged me to ‘Have that clear out’. ‘make some money’. ‘It’s for charity’ ‘local’ ‘there will be cake’.

It lured me in. As I put that flyer in my pocket, yet again I felt clever, observant, already very organised, frugal and waste-not-like.

Once more, I confidently sent an email round my friends, this time telling them that I was planning to hire a table at said event, should any of them wish to join me.

Thursday 1 March 2012

REVIEW: The Tickle Book

There are loads of books I remember from childhood and love with a passion. One of these, I’m pleased to report, my three-year-old boy shares an appreciation for. It’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Another, I was gutted when he rejected – namely, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch. 

For a while, I was throwing my heart and soul into bedtime books, giving it the full RSC treatment with things like Grufallo and Room on a Broom by Julia Donaldson. Until he told me he didn’t like them anymore because they were too scary. 

I never quite know what he is going to go for, and have even taken to playing it cool about books so as not to frighten him off. He’s shown me that he likes interactivity....flaps and tabs are always a winner. And You Chose is a very inventively interactive book. We love it. 

Tuesday 28 February 2012

How do I look?

Recently, my husband and I dined out, just the two of us. Sadly, we were at a well-known fast food chain grabbing a bite to eat after a hospital appointment. I wore glasses on my make-up free face and as I chomped on a burger I mused: “I’d never let my friends see me like this”. 

He quipped back: “I’ve seen you looking worse”. 

It is true. He has. And it is true that I think about how I look when I see my friends...I covert their chunky bracelets and ankle boots and I am chuffed to bits when they like my new bag. 

Then, the other night, I was off out with the girls, and that old thing came over me – the frantic wardrobe scavenging. Hot, bothered and half made up, I searched in vain for the perfect outfit. The one that made me look very thin and right on trend. The one that didn’t exist. 

Sunday 26 February 2012


It’s a funny old thing, writing about stuff. It’s a way of trying to order and record things, and perhaps that is why I find myself being drawn to lists. And in the blogging world, I have discovered that this is not unusual. Over at Kate Takes 5, there’s a whole world of amazing lists, and I have decided to join in her listography on the top five things that make me happy.

I find I have gone for the big stuff, rather than ‘bright sunshine on a cold day’ or ‘carrot cake’. Intense or unimaginative? I make no apologies. Here they are in no particular order:

1. My little boy. The smell of his hair and the heavy weight of him falling asleep on me. And every word he says. Even “I’m ready for you to wipe my bottom” and “Daddy is my favourite”.

Thursday 23 February 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years

No other book makes me laugh like an Adrian Mole diary. This one had me snorting embarrassingly in a quiet waiting room in a way that might make the mother of all embarrassing mothers – Pauline Mole herself – blush.

The secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 and 3/4 was recently voted Britain’s funniest book, but I’ve enjoyed the subsequent diaries just as much, and, in Adrian, Sue Townsend has cultivated the perfect everyman through whom she can deliver withering satire on every social issue and lifestyle trend in modern Britain.

From the smoking ban to laminate flooring, the workings of the NHS and the MPs expenses scandal, wittingly or not, Adrian chronicles the farcical elements of modern life to exquisite comic effect.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Top of the books

Don’t you just love compiling top ten lists? It’s definitely one of my top ten favourite ways to while away an hour (well, while it away in my head, anyway – there are any number of menial or not-so-menial tasks I could be doing at the same time).

So I thought it was very cool when one of my top ten favourite book club members (of whom there are ten) came up with a list of her favourite books as it stands at the moment.

I’ve put the list here. Put yours in a comment box – go on, as a total book geek, I love this information. I’ll post my own shortly, just as soon as I’ve perfected the final draft. I can do that while I reroute the electrics.....

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Trouble in the Library

When I spotted the poster at nursery I could already feel the smug sense of achievement. In an instant, I had decided to take my Darling Little Boy to meet the well-known children’s illustrator who would be visiting our local library.

Perfect timing, too, as we’d been reading lots of his books of late.  

I emailed friends and led the charge. I aimed to get there early and bag a good seat, which had the fortunate effect of causing me, for once, to arrive on time, just before it was due to begin at 2.30pm.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Time for some straight talking

Two things happened this week to give me a wake-up call as to the complex workings of my Darling Little Boy's mind as he struggles to make sense of the world. I know all you parentals out there will recognise the hilarity, wonder and awe you feel when you hear them make a dead-pan pronouncement about something they have taken in its literal sense.

Firstly, DLB started a conversation about ‘who we know in Birmingham’. This in broad terms includes my dad and step-mum, and my sister Rosie, who lives with them when she's not at university in Brighton. So he went through the list....Grandpa, Granny, Auntie Rosie.....then he came to Chris, Rosie’s one-time boyfriend with whom relations have recently become strained.

I never thought to explain Chris’s presence and then absence to Darling Little Boy until a thought occurred to him and he looked me straight in the eye and asked: “Is Chris dead?”
Following the death of his paternal grandmother’s dog, Ellie, who of course used to always be there when we visited, and now isn’t, I could see exactly how he had reached this conclusion.  

Miss Havisham, I can relate...

Of all the literary characters, it’s not ideal to find yourself identifying with Miss Havisham. But watching Gillian Anderson portray Dickens’ jilted spinster over Christmas, I suddenly had a startling realisation.

The untouched decaying wedding cake she lives with, you see, is a little bit like my cellar, which looks like an explosion in a Jo Jo Maman Bebe giant storage bag factory. We’ve got them all; the spaceship one, the paisley one, the dotty one. They’re full of baby clothes. There’s also a pram, a high chair, three buggies, a cot and toys. I’ve given a lot away but it still fills an entire room.

The trouble is, there is an emotionally-charged question mark as to whether they will be needed again.

Saturday 4 February 2012


Peter and Helen Radley live an inconspicuous life with their teenage son and daughter, Rowan and Clara, in the village of Bishopthorpe just outside York. He is a GP, she’s an amateur artist. They drive a people carrier and listen to radio 4. Rowan is being bullied at school and anaemic Clara has just turned vegan.
We soon realise, however, that this typically middle class couple are in fact abstaining vampires, fighting a daily battle with withdrawal from blood – a battle they have also forced upon their unknowing offspring.
That is until Clara is attacked by a classmate at a drunken party and finds her self-defence turns into a confusingly satisfying blood bath that her parents are forced to clean up and more importantly, explain.   
As the family’s carefully constructed life begins to unravel, we follow an energetic romp as suburban drama meets full-blown vampire fantasy.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Watch this space

I was afforded the perfect opportunity to spend the afternoon at home, with my feet up, watching several episodes of a TV series this week.

Wait a minute, what opportunity was that? I hear you ask. Well, I was taken to a clinic, sedated, and given a gynaecological procedure. As the nurse removed the drip, she fixed me with a stern gaze and said: “No driving, no cooking, no ironing and no cleaning for the rest of the day.” I replied: “No problem!” and was sped home by my husband, safe in the knowledge that our Darling Little Boy was spending the rest of the afternoon being dined and entertained by his uncle and aunt.  

So, there I was, relaxing in my favourite cardigan, on our very comfy new sofa, gripped by the quality Danish viewing that is Borgen. But it felt odd. Not because I live oh-such-a-busy-life and never get chance to watch television. No, it’s because a strange thing has happened to me. I have lost the knack of TV.

Sunday 29 January 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Me Before You

Friendly, funny, 26-year-old Louisa Clark, who still lives with her parents and serves tea at the Buttered Bun Cafe, loses her job and is forced to take a six month contract as a carer. It is clear from the moment she meets handsome, intelligent 35-year-old Will Traynor, an ex-city high flyer and action man who is now a quadriplegic, that her initial awkwardness and his resentful disdain will eventually melt into full-blown My Fair Carer.
The stakes are upped when Lou discovers that Will has set his mind on ending his life at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland. Unbeknownst to him, her secret knowledge charts her on a mission to improve his life with experiences which will enrich it and ultimately change his mind.
The irony is that she is successful in changing his life simply by being in it. Their witty banter and details about her fairly small life become intriguing to Will. He coerces and cajoles her into watching foreign films and borrowing his books. He forces her into thoughtful and thought-provoking debates on issues of the day. It’s Educating Rita with a twist and of course, as the pupil falls in love with learning so the teacher falls in love with the pupil. It is he who changes her life by opening her mind to new ways of thinking about herself and the world, and how to live.

Friday 20 January 2012

Highs and lows

My husband is away skiing. To me, skiing is the sensation of being cold and frightened half way up a mountain and always needing the toilet.
 On that basis, he has gone with friends to the French Alps and I remain here at home, with our Darling Little Boy. 
He’s been gone two days and already it has been a revealing exercise. It has revealed that our son definitely has a favourite parent, and it’s not me.
It started before my husband left, when we trekked en famille to an indoor ski slope for him to ‘warm up’ for the trip, so to speak. Having booked in we set up camp in a coffee shop. I went to the toilet and came back to find father and son giggling like newlyweds. Husband went off to buy something and Darling Little Boy wailed: Where’s daddy? I just want a cuddle with daddy....”

Monday 16 January 2012

Shop local for a good panto......

I have seen a grand total of four pantomimes during this recent festive period. Oh yes I have. And that is not counting the Cbeebies panto, much trailed and anticipated in our house, viewed endlessley on Iplayer, along with the previous two years’ offerings – kindly laid on by the BBC as a gesture of Peace on Earth to all pre-schoolers and their busy parents.
Of the live productions, here's what we thought:
Panto 1: Center Parcs in-house production of Aladin. A poor offering. Presented in a conference room, with a women playing the dame and man playing the principal boy. Darling Little Boy loved it....

Sunday 15 January 2012

BOOK REVIEW: When God Was A Rabbit

I really enjoyed this book. It’s my kind of book in that it’s by a wry, intelligent writer who has a keen eye for contemporary life and funny situations. She draws a complex central character who takes us with her on her journey.

Through the eyes of Elly, we follow the fortunes of her family, starting at her birth in late 1960s urban Essex and moving a decade later to rugged Cornwall, with the story reaching to New York and London in later sections.
There’s her mother and father, Kate and Alfie, older brother Joe and aunt Nancy, a gay actress. The characters who weave in and out of their lives drive the narrative.

They include Elly’s best friend Jenny Penny, whose mother’s neglect is subtly alluded to and yet raw. The fragile sincerity of childhood friendship and the vulnerability of the Jenny is depicted with real poignancy.
Also important is Joe’s teenage best friend Charlie, who is in fact his first love.

In Cornwall, elderly fop Arthur becomes their lodger, and along with his aging starlet friend Ginger they become part of the extended family.

Thursday 12 January 2012


The man I love has a crippling addiction which brings shame on our family. Yes, at the grand old age of three my Darling Little Boy still has a dummy. His beloved dodey. He would go to the ends of the earth for those things.
We tried to get Father Christmas to take them away, but if truth be told, I don’t think we had the courage of our convictions and when he woke up having nightmares at the prospect of it we abandoned the plan altogether.

The trouble is, it’s genetic. I was late to give up the dummy.

First Lesson of 2012

How do they do it? Other people, I mean. Immaculately stylish knitwear, a wondrous herb garden - it’s the question that always gnaws away at the back of my mind, where I harbour suspicions of some wonder drug or secret ingredient - but to a large extent accept that they are just considerably less lazy/have better taste than me.
At the moment, it’s energy. Or, to be specific, ability to cope with lack of sleep and constant physical activity.

Back in the day when I was a new mum to a tiny dictator whose torture of choice was sleep deprivation, I had every excuse to be dead on my feet. Now that Darling Little Boy is three and ‘sleeps through’, I don’t do badly for zeds.