Saturday, 8 August 2015

Run Tracey Run

In my New Year Blog  I decided that I was just perfect the way I am ( ha!). This however bizarrely proved not to be true. I am a middle aged woman with all of the joyous stuff that entails; middle aged spread, insomnia, digestive issues, hormone issues- hurrah!

this is me eating my words

Time to take myself in hand I thought. I rejoined Slimming World, although just online ( I don't recommend that method) as previously going to group had melted my brain sufficiently to put me off for life. I lost around 9lbs, eventually. Upping my fruit and veg intake helped with my energy levels and digestion, but it wasn't enough. What about exercise I thought? What about it? I HATE EXERCISE. I don't like getting dirty, or sweaty or out of my comfort zone or out of breath.  This was going well.

What about Couch to 5K ? I naively thought. It's a running programme for absolute beginners to get you from couch potato to running 5K in 9 short and painful weeks.

Painful they are. You are eased very gently into the programme building up from running a mere 60 or 90 seconds in the first weeks up and up with more running and less walking until you can run for 30 minutes or 5K without stopping. Wee buns.

So despite disbelief, alarm and much hilarity amongst my family and friends Himself and I began the C25K challenge. I run Tuesday, Thursday and either Saturday or Sunday every week. I am in the middle of week 6. I have "run" for 20 whole minutes without stopping. It hurts, I sweat, I pant and I wobble, but I can do it.

So, any morning you happen to be in Victoria park and see a wobbly sweaty middle aged woman dragging her feet around the park while singing Taylor Swift aloud, gimme a wave, I might need the encouragement.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Dating Game

I haven't dated for some time ( thankfully). From what I hear the life of the single woman over 30 is still as confusing and hazardous as it was back in the day. Online dating is an excellent way to meet people, but as some friends have experienced, it is as fraught and cringeworthy as ever it was.

A friend was researching dating sites recently and came across Beautiful People, where "every member who contacts you will be gorgeous". How marvelous. The catch is you have to have your photo scrutinised by current "beautiful" members before you  can join to determine if you are beautiful enough. Yep that's a real site. I'm sure the people on it have just been unlucky with their previous unattractive partners. allows you to join even if you aren't a super model.You can have a free profile which allows you to search members and "try before you buy". There is a bizarre profile feature that asks members to disclose any habits to potential dates . One guy picks his toenails. Why would you disclose that? Surely you want someone to date you? If that's what you are disclosing what are you hiding, ugh!

I know of several single men who are finding partners far and wide through
Plenty More Fish where you can sign up for Over 40 dating, single parent dating, or "naughty fish" for the openminded...... . It is free, and no strings sex seems to be readily available so LTRs are not necessarily the aim of the members.

Then there's the usernames. I'm not sure about you but I think "Hannah-loves-horses" might get more potential matches, and matches with potential than for example "Screamsalot" or "DirtyDave". A friend of mine has been having an on off romance for several years with a man she refers to only by his user name which is unfortunately "Sticky".

When signing in to WiFi in our home we can see the neighbours various options. The unpleasant and odd single male neighbour has named his "Route-her? I hardly know her". Strange he's not been snapped up.

 I wonder how those of us who have been out of the game for some time might fare if suddenly thrust into the scary world of online dating? Given that perfectly normal teenagers are now selling themselves short on Tinder, the hope of meeting a decent, kind, reliable mate with GSOH for LTR is slim at best.

We spend a lot more time in life in relationships than in work, choosing a life partner is  a serious business. I think online dating should be treated like a job interview. Spend time on your profile, make yourself look dateable, and not desperate.Turn up on time, dress smart, prepare to ask and answer lots of questions, tell them all the good things about you, don't mention your ex, your kids or your debts. If, like some of the companies I've interviewed for recently, they are shabby, dull or rude don't take the job.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Dump, Donate or Redeploy.

I am a clutterbug, my beloved is a clutterbug ( although a tidier one) so are my 3 daughters. Our home is groaning with the weight of "stuff" we have accumulated in the 3 years we have been living here. It's easy for me to get rid of things that don't belong to me, but I struggle to deal with my own bulging drawers, shelves and cupboards.

This isn't a particularly bad one....
For those of you who have Facebook, the "Timehop" app will greet you each morning with the posts that you were sharing this day last year and all previous years you were on Facebook. Mostly they don't make any sense and are not worth reading, much less sharing, but the odd time they trigger a memory and raise a smile. A few weeks ago my Timehop shared my post from the same day in May 2009. It stated " I've got a skip and I know how to use it". I remember that time well. I felt like I do now, that my life needed a shake up, that I was bogged down in stuff. I was single, living with my daughter and felt like I needed a new start.

I ordered a skip and proceeded to shake up my life. I am a great believer in "cosmic gestures". I believe you need to physically and mentally make room in your life for a new friend, new relationship, new baby or new job before it comes to you. My skip was me telling the universe  "off with the old, bring on the new" Within 6 months I had a new relationship, was pregnant with our daughter, and had moved house and jobs- Whoosh!

I am in the same zone right now. My eldest daughter is finishing school and  starting University after the summer, my middle one starting school in September. It's time for me to shake up my life , to tug all the old stuff from under the beds, off the top of the wardrobes and the back of the cupboards and show the universe that I am ready. Ready for a new challenge, a new start and hopefully a tidier home.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

My Manifesto

Let's face it , the current league of over privileged gentlemen in power  in London , and the rabble of bigots, hypocrites ex-cons and fanatics who hold the reins in Northern Ireland are less than inspiring. I am utterly bored with the tit for tat sniping and one-up-man-ship that seems to be politics these days.

I have a solution, let me rule the country! It's already in a mess, most people are deeply unhappy about at least one thing they have no control over and none of the current options are remotely inspiring.  What's the worst that could happen? Here's what I would do if I could.


Introduce further compulsory subjects in school to GCSE-
at least one one language ,
cookery including nutrition
running a home, including financial planning,
driving and maintaining a car,
 parenting .

Shorter school holidays-
seriously 8/9 weeks in the summer, who needs that?
Young people who leave school at 16  would need to work, do an apprenticeship or  go into further education , no benefits.
All 18 year-olds would do 1 years national service, either in the military the Police service or in the community.
Free University or further education for all, providing they can hold down a part-time job and keep their grades over a C average.

All  of those found guilty of a crime should perform some sort of recompense to their victims.
Automatic rehab for drug and alcohol related offenders.
Custodial criminals to live in basic but comfortable conditions.
No TV computer or phone access unless it is earned by rehabilitation and recompense to society.
All prisoners to have a library, access to education and exercise, as well as good nutrition.

State Benefits
I don't believe that our current benefit system is working. Those who are capable of work should work."Jobseekers" need to be looking for work, not watching TV and taking kids to school still in their pyjamas. I would pay benefits for a couple of months if someone loses their job, after that they would need to be doing something to improve society to earn their keep. Making dinner for old people, painting park benches, clearing litter and grafitti, cutting grass. This would spur those who want a job back into work and those who are too lazy would realise life is not a free ride.

I'm all for it. Northern Ireland is infinitely richer and with a greatly improved gene pool since the arrival of  immigrants from the EU and beyond. In my experience immigrants do a lot more to integrate into our culture than we do to try and understand theirs. They work, pay taxes, bring up their children well and bilingual. What's not to like?
I do not believe in an open door for the poor and disenfranchised of the world to come and claim benefits and free healthcare however. People who wish to benefit from living in the UK need to be contributing to the UK through taxes and labour.
Refugees of all nations need to be helped by us, and all the wealthy nations. It's partly our fault the world is in such a mess, our government needs to use it's influence on the other  G20 members and think about the people who are victims through no fault of their own.

This is an important one. I am not crazy about the game, but I know a few who are. Football, to me, says a lot about what is wrong with our society. It is expensive, elitist and unfair.
Young men are paid countless millions to kick a ball about when children in our country are living below the breadline.
Cap the wages, take sponsorship, and opportunities away from those who commit serious crimes. Punish thuggish behaviour with proper fines. Fining a premier league footballer £100,000 is like fining you or me £10. It means nothing.

This is my best idea, only let those who were born within 50 miles of a club to play for them. Geordies for Newcastle, Scousers for Liverpool. Can you imagine a team getting to the top of the league because of talent, drive and training rather than  Italians?
Imagine going to St James' Park on a saturday afternoon to watch the Newcastle Derby with only Geordies and Mackams playing. Spending £10 on a ticket and getting a pie in the interval. Wonderful. Bring back the beautiful game.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Art is Dead, Long Live Art.

Imagine with me a future where painters can only buy two colours, actors spend their whole working lives playing the same part, dancers only "street dance" and musicians only play songs written for them and do not compose. Sounds horrendous, no? Yet this is exactly what seems to be happening in fiction publishing.

 Large scale publishing is killing literature. I get that it needs to be profitable , but at what cost?  If you write you will one day look into publishing your work. What you get from publishers , online writer's resources and agents is a long list of what they do not want. Publishers do not want , wizards, vampires, rhymes, short romantic heroes,  too long, too short, too many or too few chapters. They want a cover letter, biography and synopsis, correct spelling, punctuation and grammar and they want to be grabbed from the first sentence. No pressure then. If you choose to write for children the list of do's and don't's is even longer. Publishers expect you to research your audience, to craft your writing to fit in to a particular genre, age group and educational stage and to still be original ,entertaining and most importantly sale-able.  

If you have written a bestseller however, all of that goes out the window. They will publish any old dross you pump out. They will send you on book tours, into schools and expect to find yourself on the sofa with Ruth and Eamon; not to mention fighting off all of those Hollywood film offers. Publishers are not interested in good books, they are interested on marketable writers and best selling books.

The music industry  is going the same way. You only have to think of the previous winners of shows like the X-Factor to see the industry is eating itself. It is so busy giving us what it thinks we want that it is dying on it's feet. The moguls cry no one is buying music anymore, but why is that? Could it be because when a record company gets hold of a young artist they push them to produce, to tour to appear at the opening of all the envelopes. They tell them what to perform , what to wear, who to be. Is it any wonder they burn out, drop out and lose their muse? Creativity is an organic thing , it needs to be fed and nurtured. The best way to kill creativity in my humble opinion is to try to make it into a formula.

I used to think self -publishing through companies like Blurb and Createspace from Amazon was just a vanity project for those who refuse to believe their work isn't good enough to be published, but I have changed my mind. I think it's the future. If you have any talent and you put the work in sooner or later people will take notice. Why whore yourself out to publishers and agents who's primary interest is frankly, their own advancement and profit? 


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hire Me!

I am on the hunt again. Domestic drudgery and full time child care is really not my bag so I need to work. I do have a job, the managers and my colleagues are great, but it's not a good fit for me. I am BORED!

I dread the over complicated and repetitive applications I am forced to write, especially those who want a "full employment history"
here are some of the jobs I have had since I left school

Junior in a hairdressers- hair is surprisingly smelly.
Running the family B&B( mostly turning the hoover on and lying on the beds)
Housekeeping supervisor in a London Hotel ( see above)
Bar maid in Yorkshire "Let's have a real Guinness poured by the Irish barmaid" cue my blushes as they watch me pour two measured half pints into a glass by pressing a button.
Child minder ( disaster)
Cafe Manager
Restaurant Manager
Restaurant supervisor
Receptionist in sunbed place. I had a good tan back then.
Drinks waiter in one of Belfast's first gay clubs (where I was viciously attacked by a crazy lesbian because I turned my back on her )
Beauty therapist
Aromatherapist and Reflexologist ( I am fully qualified)
Salon Manager
Self employed recruiter for beauty staff
Self employed domestic ironer/ cleaner with small team.
Telemarketing team leader
Door to door and phone survey monkey
Sales administrator
Tour guide, people rounder upper and mover-alonger, Titanic fact aficionado
Enquiries officer medical company
Receptionist medical company
Firewarden walkie-talkie killjoy ( current position).

I am sure there are more I have long forgotten, most of them I enjoyed for a time , but boredom is a problem for me. That and years and years of being a bottom rung employee. There is nothing wrong with being at the bottom, after all someone has to do the work. Unfortunately even in this day and age employers see employees as a number, dispensable, disposable and fairly worthless. Apart from the very smallest companies who generally realise the value of a good employee and seek to keep those  they have trained.

I think I should be an employee consultant. A manager of mine told me once I was a great advocate for the staff, every company needs me!

This is what I would tell employers,

Hire staff well before you expect to be busy, so they are trained to cope when you are.

Employ young people and retirees, great for a balance of enthusiasm and experience

Don't ask stupid interview questions ( "who is your favourite Lion King character"- I was asked this once; or "what do you know about the company", "er whatever I have read on your website.")

Have a good staff room. Keep it stocked up and have  a cleaner. A large table in the middle of the room is best for staff relations. all staff should use it including managers. occasionally buy lunch/ fruit/ cakes for everyone.

Know everyone's names. Have social events regularly- not always alcohol related.

Provide proper training- not "shadowing."  Real training by someone who is accountable should that training be unsuccessful or incomplete.

After 3 months in the job ask your new recruits what they love about the job and what they hate. Aim to give them more of  what they love and  less of what they hate. There will be other employees who are their polar opposites.

If the company is doing great, tell your staff. The same if it is doing badly. Ask your staff what to do to get more sales/ footfall/members, or how to save on outgoings.

Do not excuse lateness, but always aim to give time off requested.

Reward a job well done, every time. If someone's performance is waning ask them why.

Job swap with your lowest paid staff at least once a year.

Always stick up for your staff in the face of public criticism, but get to the bottom of complaints.

Pass compliments on to your team.

So if you know of anyone who is looking for an employee who can tell them exactly where they are going wrong, gimme a call :-)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

50 Shades of Hypocrisy.

For the record, I haven't seen "the" movie yet. I probably will for curiosity's sake. I am very happy for the handsome and charming Jamie Dornan. He is a local (to me) lad and deserves success as much as anyone.

what's not to like?

Now what am I trying to say here.
Any intelligent person who has read any of the "50 Shades" novels will realise they are about female sexual fantasy, and not domestic abuse. I have no desire to be stalked by a gorgeous billionaire, wait............ no really, it would be truly creepy; but I doubt there is an adult out there who hasn't fantasised at one time or another about what it would be like to have someone else dominate them. Now most of us wouldn't be in to the whole torture chamber, nipple clamp sensory deprivation bit, but a well timed slap of the buttock? or your lover telling you what to do in the bedroom, why the hell not?

The movie is a reaction to a phenomenally successful book series. They are cringingly badly written, with one dimensional characters and almost impossible sex scenes but they have  been published and are unbelievably popular We all know in reality most women would run screaming from Christian Grey, even if he was gorgeous. This however is fantasy, it is fun escapism nothing more. If teenage girls believe this is what love is we need to look at parenting, not blame it on EL James or Sam Taylor-Johnston.

Now to my point. a few weeks ago Facebook and Twitter were awash with "Je Suis Charlie" profile pictures as we were all devastated by the massacre of French journalists and cartoonists in Paris. We all condemned the violence and stated our right to freedom of speech and expression. Now, just a few weeks later , those same facebookers and twits are exclaiming we need to boycott 50 shades and donate to women's refuges instead. Hypocrite much? You can't have it both ways. either we have freedom to like what we like, or we are all robots obeying what big brother tells us to like.

I am a feminist, of course I do not condone violence against women ( or anyone else), but I defend mine, and your right to watch or read anything we damn well like.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

I Am An Idiot

It's true, I am an idiot. I am 40 something , mother of 3, employed, in a long term relationship and people expect me to know stuff, and to not be an idiot, but I am.

I forget stuff all the time. I get into my car to go somewhere and  end up on my way to school or the supermarket when I intended to go to the park. I look at a recipe to make something new for dinner and go to the shops immediately forgetting what I need to buy. I have put a trolley load through the supermarket checkout only to realise I don't have a purse with me. I have filled my car with petrol and had to leave my phone with the cashier and zoom home to get money to pay.
I lose my car in a car park at least once a month, it's a miracle I have never left the children behind
(so far).

I was reminded of a majorly idiotic episode in my past today. At a cafe I asked the server for two red fruit shoot. She put everything I ordered on my tray and as she turned to get the kids drinks she repeated "two red fruit shoot" as she picked up two purple fruit shoot. It reminded me of a time  when I was working in a hotel bistro. I was having a lovely time serving and chatting to  a gay couple. one of them had severe allergies so throughout  their meal I made several trips to the kitchen checking ingredients and suppliers with the chef. After their meal , during a lengthy discussion they decided they would like ice cream as we couldn't guarantee no nut residue in any of the puddings. I duly went off and made them two lovely sundaes.You can just imagine  the look on their faces as I set the dishes on the table in front of them, ice cream of various flavours, fresh fruit, sauce a parasol and all topped off with some delicious chopped nuts. Doh

I have no doubt that I will have plenty of chances to show off my idiot calibre tomorrow putting my car through the MOT. "Indicator!" cue wipers "Break!" cue clutch "Fog Lights! " "What?" can't wait.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

School Run Style

I had a little smirk to myself earlier this week when  the papers unveiled Colleen Rooney's new collection for Littlewoods with the strap line "perfect for  the school run".

What is this magical "school run"? Is it like a weekend in a country house where you have 17 separate outfits and accessories to suit every activity?

Is it a special social event that only parents  and child carers are privy to and that requires a specific and stylish outfit?

Remember Trinny and Suzanna? They were all over the school run back in the 90's encouraging mothers to accesorise in beige and Navy. There are entire blogs dedicated to this mythical event.

For most of us the school run is less fashion event and more frantic 30 minutes early in the day where you try to get 1 or more child out of your possession for a few hours. You leave  the house with kids, book bags, satchels,wellies scarves and hats( because they won't wear them) money in different labelled envelopes for  the 40 different events taking place each week and try to remember your own bag.

If I can get my two safely dispatched within 10 minutes of  the bell ringing wearing two matching shoes and having remembered to wipe the snot/ porridge residue off my top I consider that a successful "school run". If I have forgotten to put on my gingham belly top/shorts combo with matching pump and an easy and practical "up-do" to compliment my sunglasses maybe I am normal after all.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The Part Time Writer: Things I have Learned from Facebook

The Part Time Writer: Things I have Learned from Facebook: Like so many of us I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, or rather with  the those who post , and  those who don't. T...

Things I have Learned from Facebook

Like so many of us I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, or rather with  the those who post , and  those who don't.

These are some of  the things that Facebook has subjected me ( and you )to

1. People are very proud of  their children. I am, you are, this is normal and cool.
 Nappy contents, first burp, loud farts etc , not cool.

2. Some people over share. The ins and outs and ups and downs of  your relationship with your best friend, mother in law or spouse is no one else's business ( or remotely interesting) You are not Kim Kardashian.

3. A photo, or two from your holiday is fine, but NO ONE wants to see more than 3.
 Let alone photo 47 from album 3.

4. Your dog is cute, but  no one needs to see a video of his bath, really, no really. Not

5. Posting " OMG I am soooo annoyed" without proper explanation and cryptic clues is like OMG sooo annoying.

6. No one wants  to see your Christmas tree or piles of presents, Let alone step by step pictures of them being opened.

7. Adding someone as a friend  and never commenting or liking anything  they post is creepy stalking, stop it.
 If you don't want  to join in leave .

8.Don't re-post stuff you haven't read, or like random photos of sick children you have never met. What's the point?

9. No one will think you are a bad person if you don't post some random poem about how much you love your sons. You are probably too busy running them about, washing their football kits and wiping their noses to post such nonsense.

10. Giving people pointless cryptic messages leading to the colour of your pants WILL NOT CURE CANCER. Neither will tipping cold water over your head, stop it. It's pointless.
Make a donation , say nothing, Facebook (and I) will thank you for it.

Rant over, back to over sharing my life ;-)