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Is Your Mum’s Life as Ordinary as You Think? #It’sAMumThing

My mum’s 72, and I thought until I began writing this that she’d had quite an ordinary life raising me and my two older brothers in a boring little village in Scotland. 

But as I began to consider her life I realised it was far from conventional.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

Over and above raising me and my oldest brother, my mum also raised a son with  learning difficulties in the 60’s and 70’s when there was very little help or  understanding.  She fought to get him into mainstream education and then she  fought to get him into special education when she realised he’d become a target  for bullies in his mainstream school aged just 5.

She stood as a councillor in a male dominated local council, was a member of the  village community council to ensure her children had a great community to grow  up in and was actively involved in fundraising and spreading the word for her  political party.

She started the first playgroup in the village and was a pioneer member of one of the first women’s groups in the village.

She moved to London with my dad for a while when my brothers were toddlers and she caused uproar upon her return to our little mining village when she walked down the high street wearing a miniskirt.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

How about this flower made from maps instead of real flowers this Mothers Day?

Because we were never rich she didn’t get to go abroad until in her 50’s when she went on an 18-30 Club holiday to Tenerife!  My oldest brother, throwing his law degree to the wind had become a holiday rep:  I’ve seen the photographs of those holidays and believe me they out-partied every single one of the youngsters.

And when her, my dad and my middle brother, who continued to live with them until only recently, went to Florida they were met with a hurricane.  Everybody else was driving out of Florida as they were driving in.  Mum said: “It was just a wee bit of wind and rain.  I don’t know what they were running away from?”

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

She’s walked down Sunset Strip obliviously videoing the prostitutes, and partied so hard in Times Square when the Yankees won the World Series that she broke that prostitute filming  video camera.

And when oldest my brother came out as gay in the 90s mum didn’t bat an eyelid (and neither did my dad).  In fact, she made it easier for him to tell her:  When he said: “I’ve met someone special,” she replied: “What’s his name?”

Shortly after my brother came out I told my mum that at 22 I was pregnant (and single) with teenboy.  Her response: “There’s worse things than a baby.”

And she looked after teenboy every day so I could go to college to study journalism and then she did the same when I began working in newspapers.  If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have been able to study or work.

When I started to write this blog entry my plan to tell you all that getting to go to the Not On The High Street’s #BYOM event was a highlight for a woman who hadn’t had the most exciting life.  But as I began to write I realised that my mum, for all her adverse impact upon my self-esteem (that’s definitely a mum thing isn’t Shappi Khorsandi?), is a women who has really lived a life less ordinary in a very ordinary village where it’s still frowned upon to be different.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

Mum, daughter & comedian – Shappi Khorsandi

My mum is mad, she’s up for anything.  She’s tired now she’s 72, and she’s annoying and a bit hard work now but I think a lot of that is down to me not wanting her to be old and forgetful.  I expect her to be the mum and granny she was in her 50’s.

But despite getting on a bit she still helps me with the kids and works hard on our business.  She gets excited about the small things in all of our lives; she likes to get drunk on sherry with my brother in law and annoy my dad; she wears bright colours and no make-up; she cuts her hair short cos she can’t be bothered doing anything with it and the only shoes she’ll wear are crocs or flip flops cos all the stilletos she wore in the 60s ruined her feet with massive bunions.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

When I took her with me to the Not on the High Street event I was slightly embarrassed in a teenage kind of way by the Crocs on her feet and her blingtastic cardigan – I felt self-conscious again in a teenager kinda way by her parochial attempt to be glamorous – does anybody else revert to being a teenager if they spend more than a couple of hours with their mum?  We didn’t really circulate because she can’t stand for long now, so we sat and she ate lots of the delicious little nibbles that were handed round by delightful waiters who had lots of smiles for the old lady who would tried everything they brought to her especially the cakes.

If you sat down beside her she’d chat to you but otherwise she was quite happy on the white couch with her cocktails and canapés.  She sat there with a quiet confidence I hope to one day achieve.  She sat there and rocked with laughter at Shappi’s rudest of jokes.  And showed her naivete when she turned to me after Shappi’s final joke about a middle eastern man always gets his abandoned suitcase back in Paris and said: “I don’t get that one”.

I was supposed to review the event by Not On the High Street but instead I’ve wittered on about my mum.  But somehow I think that’ll be ok because it was an event celebrating mums.  And it turns out my croc wearing, short haired, bling loving, batty old mum’s life was always less ordinary and she should be celebrated for it.

Hmmm, who knew…?

This year for Mother’s Day I’ll be buying my mad old mum something from Not on The High Street cos she deserves something as different as she is.

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

I love the label on these earrings it makes them so much more special

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

the bar at 5 Cavendish Square at the #BYOM event from Not on the High Street

#ItsAMumThing #BYOM by Not on The High Street - celebrating our mums this Mothers Day

my wish on the wishing tree

In case you didn’t realise it my mum and I were at the Not on the High Street celebrating mums event at 5 Cavendish Square in London.

**I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet.  I have not paid for the product or to attend an event.  I have editorial content and retain full editorial integrity.  

Mumsnet Bloggers Network

Not on The High Street


Talk to Your Teenager about Homelessness

Just a few months ago shortly after coming home from Uni for the summer Teenboy became an arse.

He was a rude, disrespectful, incredibly angry, abusive, cruel, party animal who turned our calm and happy home into a battlefield where we all walked on eggshells.

That is, until he lost his temper one time too many.  He shouted and swore and railed at me.  He blamed me, he ranted at me, he called me names and screamed at me that I’d failed him.

And then he stormed out.

He didn’t return home for 3 months and in that time we talked only once.

But luckily for him and for me, he had my parents to go and live with.

If he hadn’t had that I dread to think where he would’ve ended up.

But one thing’s sure, if he’d disappeared that night and I didn’t know where he was staying despite him being a 19 year old adult I would’ve reported him to the police as a missing person.

Just a week ago I went out in London’s Kings Cross with outreach workers who try their damndest to help young people living on the streets.

And the whole time I was walking around the streets of Kings Cross in the biting freezing December cold I don’t think I’ve ever felt so grateful to have not lost teenboy to our city’s streets.

What Hell Must They Be Running From?

There are children and young people living on the streets of all our cities, not just London, who have never experienced parental support or love.  For them, sleeping rough is better than living at home.

I can’t even begin to imagine the hell their homelives must have been.  It took me an hour to heat up after being out in the biting cold wind of that December night.  I can’t imagine spending day and night being that cold but I can imagine wanting to be free from an  emotionally freezing cold home where violence or emotional abuse is the norm.

I cannot picture a life that is so bad that I would rather sell myself for sex than go home.  I can’t begin to imagine sleeping outside with danger at every turn: drugs, pimps, paedophiles, thieves, people who take advantage, victimise and brutalise again and again.

But sometimes, just sometimes it’s one argument too many that sends a teenager hurtling onto our streets.  It can be the high emotion of simply being a teenager, the feeling that nobody understands them, the pain of trying to fit in and failing, the fear of disappointing parents and friends.  Sometimes, just sometimes it can be just one tiny thing that tips them over the edge and then the stubbornness borne of being a teenager will prevent them from returning home.  Or they think you don’t want them cos they’re too much work, too emotional, too angry, too hurt, too teenager.  And so they stay there on the streets that will ruin them forever.

Not Missing

As cold day turned to freezing night Pete Middleton, an outreach worker specialising in helping young homeless people from New Horizon Youth Centre took me out with him on his rounds of the 3 train stations in and around Kings Cross and the surrounding streets.

As we walked and talked Pete constantly kept a keen (and very experienced) eye out for any child or young person his intuition told him could be vulnerable or homeless.

It’s Pete and his team’s job to reach out to these young people night after night, to spend time with them in the hope of gaining their trust so they can help them.  If they’re over 16 he’ll try over and over to get them to come along to the New Horizon Youth Centre where they’ll find structure, food, a shower, help and advice to get a roof over their heads and, hopefully, a future.

I was amazed when Pete told me that the majority of young people they help have never been reported as missing.

And it’s a sad fact that New Horizon and other similar projects are unable to physically help under 16s.  They HAVE to refer them to social services.

Sadly, a lot of these homeless children have run away from social services involvement in their lives, or their family has put the fear of god into them as regards the power of social services and they’re terrified of them despite the good work we know they often do.

And too often these homeless children just can’t see that social services can help them and sadly they’ll do their utmost to not be found again.

And unbelievably just like the over 16’s many of these children have never been reported missing.

Take Care This Christmas

As we run full speed into one of the most emotionally difficult times of the year with hopes of family tranquility and expectations of family arguments before the turkey has even been carved please stop and consider that each and every one of us could be just one argument away from losing a child or teenager to the streets of our cities.

Please talk to your children.  Make them aware of the realities of living on the streets.  If you can, take them to your closest city on a freezing cold evening forget their hats and gloves and walk them around for an hour.  Sit with them on a bench or a wall for just 15 minutes.

And when they complain about being cold explain to them that woman or girl over there in the sleeping bag begging for money has been out in that cold all day and will be out in it all night because they don’t have a house.

Explain to them that no matter what they do that you will always love them and support them.  Tell them that everybody makes mistakes and you’ll forgive every one of theirs just like you did when they were toddlers.

Tonight, can I ask you to hug your child and tell them that you will always love them no matter who they are or what they do with their life.

Find out more about New Horizon Youth Centre

New Horizon are financially helped by The Railway Children

Read more on how to talk to your child about homelessness at Mumsnet

The Railway Children are supported by Aviva.  They’ll give the charity £2 every time you comment on one of the discussions on  Mumsnet (see above)

Give us Back our Free Inedible Inflight Meals

Just a few years ago it was the norm when you flew abroad on a package holiday to receive a ‘delightful’ but free airline breakfast, lunch or dinner and at least one free drink on shorthaul package holidays to Europe.

But it would seem since the creation of budget airlines that holiday companies (stand up First Choice, Thomson, et al) think it’s acceptable to charge you for your inflight food and drink even when you haven’t paid budget prices for your package holiday.

Holiday companies, without reducing their holiday prices, have happily jumped on the ‘budget airline’ bandwagon of making us pay to eat on their planes while charging premium holiday prices.

And it would seem that we’ve all gone ‘ok then of course you can change me an arm and a leg for a sandwich and a drink on top of the thousands we’ve already paid you for our holiday.  On my recent First Choice flight to Lanzarote it cost £3.90 for a chicken sandwich and £1.60 for a can of coke .

It’s not just the inflight food they’re charging for either it’s extra luggage weight.  It’s pay to sit together, pay to get more legroom, pay to book your seat in advance.

What on earth is going on?  And who said it was ok to start charging us?

As you can probably tell I’ve just returned from holiday.  I booked my holiday through First Choice and I paid £650 per person for an all inclusive break to Lanzarote (it was the holiday from hell, but more about that another time) and then they wanted me to pay extra to ensure my family sat together.  But what they didn’t highlight is that if you’re travelling as a family with children then you get to sit together for free anyway!

Upon booking online they urged me to book my seats in advance and pay for the privilege of choosing where I sat.  Who remembers the days when you checked in at the airport for your package holiday and they showed you the map of the plane seats and asked you where you wanted to sit – for free?

And they wanted me to pay them so I could take more of my clothes on holiday.  What they omitted to tell me was that although each suitcase has to be 15kgs or less, when you travel as a family it’s the total weight of all the suitcases that is measured not just one.  So I could’ve taken 20kgs as babyboy’s case weighed just 10 kilos.

Every time I paid the holiday instalments (I paid in 3 installments) they charged me a percentage of the total paid for the pleasure of paying with a credit card.  I paid by credit card because given the state of the economy I was afraid First Choice would go tits up and I’d lose my holiday and my money.

I’ve since learned that if I pay £100 on credit card and the rest on debit card I’m still covered by my credit card should anything happen to the holiday company.

Then for weeks prior to the holiday I received update emails from First Choice reminding me of all the wonderful, amazing things I could pay extra to enjoy on my flight.

Call me old school, but I expect to get what I pay for.  If I’ve paid budget prices I expect to pay for extras like inflight food, drink and luggage.  Well, when I’ve paid £5.50 for the flight then I don’t mind paying for a packet of Pringles once I’m on board.

But when I’ve paid premium prices for a package holiday I expect a whole different level of service and inclusions.  When I book a package holiday and especially when I book an all inclusive holiday I expect it to be all inclusive from the minute I board the plane.

I want my crappy free inflight meal.  I want my one free drink with it and I want it to be followed by a cup of too strong tea that I can spill down myself when the turbulence hits.

Who said it was ok for package holiday companies to start charging us for extras?

Do Ryanair and Easyjet have a lot to answer for?

Or should the holiday companies be pilloried for copying the budget airlines and sneaking these extra charges in?

Or does the blame lie with us?  Are we too complacent?  Should we stand and up say to these holiday companies ‘No, no more extra charges, we pay you enough bloody money for our holidays give us back our free inedible inflight meals.’





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