The Power of NO

The Power of NO

There are so many memes and inspirational quotes on social media telling you to say yes to new things and new opportunities. These completely fit in with how I have lived most of my life. I’ve said yes to jobs I’m woefully underqualified for. When one interviewer asked me why I thought I should get the job as I didn’t have any experience I confidently replied, “It can’t be that hard, you can learn most things in three days.” I was offered the job, said yes and then said yes to every promotion and embraced the inevitable anxiety dreams as part of life. I said yes to a modelling job in Venice with a man called Tommy Dollar (and had to escape with the help of my mum’s credit card) I said yes to unsuitable boyfriends, I say yes to every social engagement, even if I don’t feel like going out because of my intense fear of missing out or FOMO if you’re under whatever age passes for young. Yes is the word that leads to new things, adventures and stories to tell.

I said yes to seeing the marvellously funny Sarah Millican on tour and she has a small part about feeling comfortable with saying ‘No’ and not feeling guilty about it. After the show she was giving away little badges with the word ‘No’ written on and I took one, pinned it to my coat and thought no more about it.

Other people noticed it, mostly children and the ladies at the supermarket checkout, they would ask me, “What are you saying no to?” “I got it from Sarah Millican, ask her, she’s brilliant, but quite dirty, I like her.” I would mumble in reply. I noticed that people with clipboards were less likely to approach me and far fewer people asked me for directions.

I started to think about the word ‘no’ and when I used it most and realised that it was pretty much only to my children. I hardly ever say it to a grown up, if I don’t want something to happen I will fudge around the subject, make an excuse, negotiate. The only people who get a distinct ‘no’ sometimes shouted, sometimes accompanied by a menacing look, are those little people I love most.

I tell them no when they are about to do something dangerous; when they want to got to bed later; when they are about to behave badly in a restaurant; when they want to give up a hobby because its got a bit difficult; when they ask for anything in a shop that we didn’t plan to buy. I realised how strict I was when I had been working long hours and hadn’t spent much time with them, they asked for some tat that was tantalisingly cluttering up the supermarket checkout and out of guilt I said yes. They were utterly speechless and so well behaved for the rest of the day they obviously thought I was ill.

Is this good for them? I’m I going to give them a negativity complex? Are they going to grow up thinking they must obey orders? I sometimes explain the reasons for my command but most of the time I would expect them to work it out by themselves. I dug out some of the childcare books I still had to see if I’d done it all wrong.

Many books recommend giving a child choice when they become toddlers, “You can wear the red top or the stripy top” to make the child feel like they have some control. Myself and most of my NCT group started motherhood following this advice. It worked with my son but had been completely unnecessary as he couldn’t care less what he wore and would just shrug. Then my daughter came along:

“You can wear the red top or the stripy top.”

“I want sparkly dress”

“But we’re going to the park. You’ll have more fun if you’re in leggings and a top.”

“Sparkly dress.” Sits down and folds arms.

“It’s cold outside you need to wrap up.”

Red face shouting, “Sparkly dress!”

“Grandma bought you that for special occasions, it was very expensive so you wouldn’t want to rip it when you’re playing. You can have the red top or the stripy one, the choice is yours.”

Massive melt down, brother going up the wall because he needs to run, wrestle small girl into appropriate clothes, late for the park, crashes into lunch time, throws nap out, two grumpy toddlers and me totally on edge.

So I started a different approach.

“Here are your clothes put them on, we’re going to the park.”

“I want sparkly dress.”

“No, you’re wearing these.”

Cry, whinge, realise mum’s not giving in and you have no choice, get dressed, go to the park and have lots of fun. Soon the crying and whinging part stopped. It wasn’t that I had won, we as a family had won, we could leave the house without a great big negotiation.

I recently had the privilege of working with six and seven year old children and got to watch their playtimes and relationships grow. Some children are genuinely surprised when they have to join in and do something they don’t like, usually in PE or singing. They usually have a choice and have never had to do something they do not want to do without a bribe.

The steepest learning curve is the playground. I’ve seen children apoplectic because another child doesn’t want to play ‘their game’. For some children it can be quite a shock to meet people who do not love you and will not meet your needs but would like to be your friend.

Parents who have been giving a choice rather than saying ‘no’ may find they’re still going through the terrible twos at four. It’s not too late to give this clear, simple instruction it just might take longer to sink in. (Quick note: This won’t necessarily work for children with additional needs, you’ll need a whole different set of strategies)

Anyway, after analysing my use of the word ‘no’ I have decided just to keep it for my children. There is literally no social occasion I won’t enjoy once I’m there and I weirdly miss being approached by strangers. So, I have removed my badge and I’m more than happy to direct you to the nearest betting shop.

 

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A SEND Off

A SEND Off

Last week I said goodbye to a class full of 7 and 8 years olds and a staff room full of friends and colleagues. For the last two and a bit years I’ve been working in a mainstream school mostly with a small group of children with SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) centred around one particular boy who has Autism and speech and language difficulties.

Special needs are in the news all the time at the moment due to amazing support networks and charities that keep it high on the agenda to try and secure help and understanding for people with conditions that are very difficult to understand. Autism in particular has become the latest fascination across drama, documentary and comedy – The A Word, Young Sheldon, Atypical and Are You Autistic? are just a few programmes that have explored this condition and have helped to bring it to a wider audience.

Special educational needs and disabilities is a very broad term and within a classroom it can include children with dyslexia or mild social difficulties to those with severe behavioural issues who regularly attack other children and staff and global delay which means they may be four years behind their peers in learning and development. It’s a massively complex issue and I certainly don’t have all the answers but neither do the many experts I’ve met either. This article is my mind trying to make sense of what I’ve seen and learnt:
DIAGNOSIS AND THE CIRCLE OF ‘NO’
There are more children being diagnosed with Autism or ADHD than ever before and seemingly at odds with this there are also more children waiting to be diagnosed than ever before. If you have the means you can go private, if not you may face an eighteen month wait (or longer) to be told something you already know in the hope that a label will open the gates to support that you desperately need. For many it is the start of the journey towards getting that Holy Grail the, EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) this is a legal document put together by experts across all fields that detail what the child needs to support their learning and care.

Local Authorities seem to be resistant to EHCPs as all extra care costs extra money. Parents ready for help are often caught in a circle of ‘no’. Your child may be deemed too high functioning for a full time one to one, too violent to be managed in a mainstream school, in the wrong county for a suitable special school or so good at quietly masking that they are completely ignored because the teacher is busy dealing with another child who has just bitten her. It seems that a family often needs help but doesn’t qualify for it until they are actually in crisis and even then they may be told they are having the wrong type of crisis.
LEARNING FOR PARENTS
When parents find out they have a child on the spectrum they are often sent on parenting courses which seems insulting as they have a child with a disability, they are not bad parents. However, if your child’s brain works differently you’re going to have to parent differently and more and for longer than you ever imagined. You are going to need energy in bucket loads because what works one day won’t work the next and you’ll feel like giving up but you’ll start again because you know that you can help your child reach their own personal potential. You’re going to have to set aside what you value as an aspiration because your child may not want a big birthday party or to be on the school council, they might want to just play Minecraft. You will have to fight for everything and then you’ll meet someone ready to help but you’ll fight them anyway because you’re so used to being in that mode.

You will smile and say that you wouldn’t change a thing and your child’s difference is a gift while just wishing you could go to the Christmas Fair like other families or have just one full night’s sleep. You are doing your best, you are told you need ‘you time’ but how is that even possible? Put it on the schedule? Oh to not have a schedule!

You are learning all the time and your child is changing all the time. At least on the parenting courses you might pick up that thing that will work for you and you’ll meet other parents with a shared experience. Dare I even whisper this? It’s is human nature to feel a little lucky when you meet someone worse off than you so don’t ever begrudge yourself that.

The little boy that I have been supporting is from a loving family. They struggle with his condition, he does not fit into what they hoped and dreamed and sometimes they’re tired and angry but they pour love into him and teach him when he behaves in a socially unacceptable or unsafe way. He has the most wonderful manners – even in the midst of a massive meltdown he will say, “No thank you!” to a fiddle toy and “Please!” for the paperclip you’ve confiscated because he has straightened it out and keeps putting in his mouth. No child is born with manners, he has been taught them by his family way before he came to school.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU’RE A BAD PARENT?
Not everyone is going to like this, but some children with Autism are born to bad parents. I’m afraid it’s just the law of averages. Social media groups often give support which ranges from “God gave you a special child because he knew you were strong enough to take it” to “Yr doin yr best hun u luv them kids”. Maybe, maybe not. If you’re upstairs with a bottle of vodka and a known child abuser while your daughter with ADHD is trying to feed your Autistic son Haribo for dinner, you’re not being a good parent. If you shrug and say “He’s got autism” when your child runs behind the counter at the pharmacy and grabs bottles of random pills, you’re not being a good parent.

Just to be completely clear, I’m not saying that bad parenting causes Autism or ADHD, it doesn’t. It would also be wrong to assume that every child with Autism is born into a secure and loving family.

What we do know is that children who suffer from neglect are more likely to have special educational needs and those that suffer abuse often have behavioural issues. A lot of children under the SEND umbrella have issues caused by neglect and abuse not by their brain being wired up differently.

My friend is an orthodontist, she sees neglect first hand and early on in the mouths of under tens full of grey and yellow teeth with gaping holes. She asked me if anyone ever tells parents that they are not doing a good job and I had to say no. The school where I worked offers lots of support to families but like most professionals we lean towards being positive. Do some parents not know that they are doing a bad job? Have they not heard that coke is really bad for teeth? That reading a bedtime story is a really good idea? That taking them on ‘dates’ to strangers houses is really dangerous?

“In an age of information how can you not know this!” Teachers, NHS and social workers may scream into the abyss.
IS MAINSTREAM ALWAYS BEST?
The local authority will tell parents that all schools are able to support all children with all special needs, anyone can see that this cannot be true. Sending a child to a special needs school costs more money whereas support in mainstream usually means sending in experts to give the staff methods to use which usually falls to the class teaching assistant to implement.

I’m a little biased but in my experience TAs teach phonics, maths, social skills and whack up a display with their left foot while clearing up little accidents with their right, some have 12 years experience with children others have PhDs in Engineering. When a child has special needs, behavioural issues or both a class TA can either spend the day following that child around trying to get them to do some work, stop them getting anxious and prevent a meltdown or they can work with small groups of children who need extra support with their learning so that they have the chance to attain alongside the rest of the class. That is the choice. Your SEND child could well be in that small group that needs extra help. Whatever the TA is told to do, certain children will not get the help they need to achieve their potential and this happens everyday. What do we need? More money, more training, to stop this obsession with trying to make one place work for every child. That would be a start.

All children on the spectrum are different and when schools, families and experts work together so many children with special needs can flourish. However, despite what you are told by a local authority and despite your rights as a parent in law, mainstream might not be the best place for your individual child. You might then be in the position where you have to fight for a place in an over subscribed special school because that is what is best for them.
DO SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN HELP OR HINDER THE CLASS?
Children can be very accepting. The little boy I have been supporting rarely appears engaged, wanders around the classroom stepping through and sometimes on his classmates sat on the carpet and makes continual noises. The children just accept him, most of them block out his mutterings better than the adults in the room. Sometimes the teacher has to teach around or over him if he’s decided to lie on her chair. Sometimes they ask me why he can have Play Doh for completing two sentences and walk around with bare feet, I tell them his brain is a little different to theirs and they seem satisfied with this. When he does engage and enthusiastically joins in his classmates love it! He once retold the story they were working on from start to finish, loudly, in front of the whole class to rapturous and genuine applause.

So, does having him in the classroom benefit the other children? It definitely makes children more tolerant and maybe if I’d had someone like him in my class I wouldn’t have found some of my previous bosses so unfathomable. I’ve learnt that when he can’t get over the fact that he was not in his usual place when the whistle was blown; when I can’t allow him ‘fix’ the photocopier and when another child wins a prize it is exhausting for me but it is so much worse for him. I’ve learnt patience when doing plus one in a small group for the third week in a row and revising the ‘all’ sound for the tenth time in phonics. Without a doubt the children I have worked with have made me a better person.

I have been in classes where large scale meltdowns have interrupted learning on a regular basis and the room has to be evacuated to keep the children safe. This affects all children differently, for some it causes anxiety, school refusal and stomach problems while others think its funny and exciting.

Some children who show autistic traits in a low level way are easier to teach but actually more difficult to integrate because they are not so extreme. Not taking turns, hording all the pencils, breaking rulers and making constant tapping or humming noises irritates the children around them much more than someone shouting ‘Cricket’ for ten minutes. However, it could be argued that in the future they will be better equipped to sit next to the noisy eater or the constant chatterer when they go to work and let’s face it we’ve all been there.
COPY CATS
All children have needs but not all children who cause problems in the classroom have special needs. What happens when you have someone in the class who can sit under a table for maths and get a sensory toy rather than a detention? A few of the children who would have been known as ‘naughty’ in the olden days will copy this behaviour to get the same treatment. If they’re bright enough, and many are, they will pick up on the key words like ‘issues’ and ‘anxiety’ and secure themselves special iPad time from a well meaning visiting expert.

This is problematic on many levels. We now have children who are pushing the boundaries and testing what they can get away with (like children have done since time began) moved into the group of children with learning disabilities. Not only does this put a drain on scarce resources but gives a manipulative child access to the groups set up for children who don’t understand social interactions easily. Sadly, a child who would have probably straightened out with consistent rules, a firm but fair teacher and a hobby like sport or drama will have their poor behaviour choices rewarded and reinforced.
LEAN ON ME
Anyway, enough of my rambles. Last week I said goodbye to a class of children and some wonderful, funny and inspiring friends and it was really, really difficult. I wanted to give my little boy something so he would remember me but I knew that this would be a terrible idea as he has to fully engage with his new learning support worker and forget me no matter what my ego would prefer.

As the head teacher started to announce in assembly that I was leaving, my little boy got up from his wobble cushion and walked towards the front of the hall and made the announcement to the whole school himself. The head let him take the floor, it was both appropriate and charming. Later, when I was given a card from the class I have seen grown from little year ones to big year threes I started to read it and got a little choked up. He took the card from me and finished reading it out like a caring friend, allowing me the time to sort out my eye leakage. It sounds silly, but on a really tricky day, after years of supporting him, I really felt like he was supporting me.

NatX
I’d love to know what you think, if you agree or disagree with any points do comment but please be respectful of other people’s opinions.

7 Blogs I’ve Half Written

7 Blogs I’ve Half Written

I’ve written posts but not finished them because of all the excuses you can imagine and some you can’t (I started an autism friendly acting club is a pretty good excuse, drinking red wine and browsing Rightmove and Pinterest – bog standard). As a result I have a massive backlog of things I’ve started to write about, here they are:

How much I love my dressing gown and why (plus famous dressing gown wearers)

Why the terrible twos can continue for years. Its down to two pieces of bad advice given by most modern parenting books.

My sister moving abroad has made me realise why I couldn’t live anywhere outside the UK. In true Buzzfeed style, its not for the reason you think…

The people who give special interventions to children who are struggling at school, protect children from violent classmates, deescalate children who are prone to violence, give hugs when needed, are always there if your child is worried or has lost their plimsoles/tooth and still find time to put up a display and do some photo copying are paid minimum wage! Any  teaching assistant would also know that the previous sentence is too long, not using an exclamation mark correctly and needs an expanded noun phrase. Discuss.

When your partner’s work kit does not ‘spark joy’. Or, the woes of being an aspiring minimalist and when it’s not OK to throw away someone’s stuff.

I’ve read all the ‘Habits of Successful People’ posts and have been making my bed every morning for a week. When will I become successful?

Well, there we are. I’m actually quite satisfied I’ve got all of these out of my system with this list but if you’re curious about any of them do let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Alternatively, if you want to take an idea and write it yourself I’m fine with that too X

When Your Child’s Teacher Hates Them

When Your Child’s Teacher Hates Them

Whilst sanding and painting my son’s bedroom floor I started thinking about how a child can be perceived entirely differently by a teacher and a parent.

As parents we are predisposed to be on our child’s side and sometimes we feel our child is being treated unfairly by a teacher. This could be true but it is very difficult to put yourself in the position of the teacher especially when you are often getting the edited version of events from your little angel.

The most important factor in this is that you love your child.

A teacher has sometimes thirty children in a class every year and there might be the odd one that they can honestly say they feel love for. The rest of them they teach and do their very best to make sure they know what the government says they should know by the end of the year. The majority of teachers will do as much as they can to make it interesting and along the way they will try to have a laugh with their class because its more pleasant to pass the working day if you can have a bit of fun with the people around you.

Some children they will start to care for because they know they might be struggling against problems at home or because they have a comical way about them that inspires warmth. Strange as it may seem they often take to the ‘naughty’ child and want to go the extra mile for them, sometimes they even see something of themselves at that age.

There are so many little personalities in a classroom but one thing will always be true in any work place…There is always one person that you can’t stand.

A teacher will always try not to let it show and will teach them day after day, but there will be one child that will haunt their dreams. It could be that cynical kid who takes pleasure in telling the others that Father Christmas doesn’t exist, or the one that spoils every ‘fun’ day by continually hitting the person next to them. But, it could just as easily be the goodie two shoes, the big headed know it all or the whiny tell tale that get’s your back up. It might be that child who’s just got a really really annoying voice!

Anyway, with this in mind I thought that every kid probably gets a turn at being hated by a teacher at some point in their school career whether they are aware of it or not. I started thinking about the annoying traits of my children and how they can sometimes get on my nerves (my son’s constant need to find puns and my daughter’s whinging were at the top of the list) Then I imagined how I would feel about them if I had to spend most of the day in their company but didn’t love them. Try it with your own child, it sparks some unusual reactions.

This also means you and I were probably hated by a teacher at some point in our school career. Which teacher gave a silent cheer when you had to have your tonsils out and more importantly, why?

When I think back its startlingly obvious, my secondary school PE teacher. She hated me and I her. I not only had her for PE but she was my form teacher TWO YEARS RUNNING! It didn’t seem to matter that other girls were wearing make up, it was me that was sent to the bathroom to “wash that muck off your face”. The same with nail varnish, Claire could sit there with iridescent pink claws but I was sent to the chemistry lab to have it removed. Everything I did seemed to get me in trouble. I couldn’t work out why she was like this (I rocked along with most teachers) and true to this article neither could my mum. Together we decided that although I was kind, brainy and all round rather lovely this teacher just didn’t like me, it was her problem not mine.

That’s what parents do all the time, “They just don’t like my child because they’re a boy/girl/energetic/beautiful.” Its very possible but there is usually something else that they do that really grates the teacher so much that they let their professionalism slip enough for it to show. Maybe in class your child is conceited, obnoxious or sarcastic – nothing that breaks a school rule but irritating on a day to day basis.

So why did my PE teacher hate me? Was I just too wonderful for her to cope with? No! If I look at it through unfiltered glasses it becomes glaringly obvious. I had always had an aptitude for sport but as soon as I hit age 13 I got bad skin so wore foundation and didn’t want it to rub off when I got sweaty so stopped running about. When I told my mum the teacher was picking on me I never mentioned that I would spend hockey lessons trying to jump over my stick and encouraging others to do the same. I spent cross country runs walking at the back chatting to my asthmatic friends and had my period every single swimming lesson for a term too! Despite all this she did once ask me to join the netball team but I told her I couldn’t do Saturday mornings because that was when I liked to go to MacDonald’s and look for boys. Can’t imagine what was annoying about that!

I remember my heart sinking when I found out I had her as a form teacher for another year but I’m guessing hers did the same and then some. So it’s taken a while but it’s time for me to say sorry Mrs G and I admit that I actually quite like netball.

 

 

 

The Stairway to Happiness

The Stairway to Happiness

I’m trying to be happy with what I’ve got.

Since we moved out of our flat in London six years ago to the utopian experiment of Letchworth Garden City I have wanted to extend this house.

I have note pads full of little hand drawn plans and ideas which all culminated into a fabulous design from local architects Pentangle Design. Then the long process of planning was finally granted shortly after I began my DIY and décor blog Whack It With a Hammer.

Then we got the builders quotes…

As we looked at them our hearts sank, they were all about the same amount and all too much. Then we looked closer and realised that these quotes were minus VAT, a kitchen, bathroom and flooring.

Everyone in this town seems to have had or be having an extension and they all give the same warning – “It’ll cost more than the original quote.”

“Why can’t we just be happy with what we’ve got?” sighed my husband.

Yes why? We both grew up with siblings in houses of a similar size, no ensuite, no playroom and didn’t feel we missed out on anything so why can’t we happily live here? Does the kitchen diner have to be the ‘heart of the home’ as trotted out by every wannabe interior designer or is it really about the people in it?

The friends I have told about this conversation have had many different reactions ranging from; head to one side, “Being happy, bless him. He’s so sweet.” to, conspiratorial whisper, “We can’t afford ours either! I mean is it worth the debt? I’d rather buy a sports car!”

I resolved that rather than listening to the suburban housewife in my head nagging about what we haven’t got I would embrace the inner hippie that still sings in my heart and think about what we have got – a lovely family, enough food, good friends and a pretty house.

I would practise mindfulness.

After the school drop off I sat, eyes closed and tried to concentrate on my breathing but I knew it was nearly time for Homes Under the Hammer and that made me feel agitated (if I’m going to sit on the sofa doing nothing I may as well watch TV right?).

My phone buzzed, PPI. I scrolled through my Facebook feed and my eyes jumped across memes of wellbeing about ‘today being a gift’ so you should ‘do something amazing’ and how ‘strong people are sad too’ or was it ‘sad people are strong too’ I forget. I should be mountain climbing and eating quinoa while being knocked down and getting up showing my scars as a badge of honour. The thing is, I have to go and buy potatoes and toilet roll.

I wander into town and browse in the amazing David’s Bookshop because its a nice place and I can. I feel calm around books. Look at me browsing in a book shop on a sunny day, I might go and buy bread from the bakery and pretend I’m French. Then my eyes are drawn to the adult colouring books. This makes me inexplicably angry. I try to work out why. I think its because someone has thought of a way of taking something most of us enjoyed doing as a kid and sold it back to us for £6.99 with added bullshit. The happiness industry appears to be catching up with the sliming industry.

I go home, agh this house gets on my nerves. The walls are grubby (that one will be knocked through when we extend) the furniture doesn’t fit (we’ll custom make it when we extend) the floors are scratched (no point doing them until the builders have finished)

I need to do something. Out comes my hand sander and walnut floor varnish and I start work at the top of the stairs. As I listened to the radio and varnished the floor one board at a time first to one side then the other I started to calm down. As I saw the orange scratched surface transform into a deep dark brown I felt a sense of achievement, happiness. On the third coat I imagine Mr Miagi from Karate Kid is training me for a life changing fight. This is my mindfulness, this is my adult colouring, wax on wax off. I can make this house work for us without getting in debt for the next twenty years. There’s a lot to do and it might not make the pages of Ideal Home but I’ve worked on a makeover show so I know how these things are faked for the cameras. I can try and fall in love with this house again.

So, the moral of this story is, if you really want to find inner peace and feel a sense of self worth you can’t buy it so don’t fall for the soft manipulation of the happiness industry you should just come on over and help paint my house.

(Well it was worth a try, I wonder if I can get David Wolfe to make it into a meme).

 

 

Gluegle It

Gluegle It

Last night I was doing decoupage and while I was gluing I was thinking…

I was thinking of a conversation I had with other mums about how our children can’t even imagine life without the Internet. The answer, “I don’t know” is completely unacceptable and met with a, “Well, Google it and find out then!”

My generation spent our childhoods without a world of information on our parents iPhones  – if my parents didn’t know something they just made it up. However, we have adopted and integrated it into our lives and businesses in a way that we now can’t live without it. I am one of the Luddites that still prefers to physically see and feel before buying clothes or shoes but I do grocery shopping online, when I want to know something I Google and when I want to make something I head to YouTube. Books are quickly becoming a pleasure item rather than a necessity for information.

Then I started thinking what will happen when the Internet breaks, I mean actually stops working rather than when everyone looks at Kim Kardashian pulling a moonie. Just take a moment to imagine it (not Kim’s bum, that’s too easy). In a time where chip shops have Facebook pages and you can follow cats on Twitter what happens if the Internet just stops?

First the shock as the world’s money markets go into meltdown, medical information suddenly inaccessible, everyone looking up from their phones on the train as if woken from a witch’s spell. Then the panic – how will I do my job? How will we get paid? What has Zoella bought from Primark today?

With these thoughts spinning in my head I try and remember the ingredients and method for the perfect lemon cup cakes on the BBC website and can’t. Who am I fooling if the Internet stopped what would we eat? The deliveries for supermarkets, the cash registers, shift patterns – they all rely on this technology working. I look at my vegetable patch and wonder how long it could sustain my family and quickly look up the instructions of how to make plant food from leaves on the Gardener’s World website and commit it to memory. Tomorrow I’ll take the kids to the common to collect comfrey and try and point out things that they could eat in a crisis. I picture myself as a sort of Sarah Connor from Terminator 2 giving my children the skills to survive in a harsh and brutal future – but without the amazing muscle tone and with bags of nettles instead of an arsenal of semi automatic weaponry.

Vinyl is making a come back and people are buying books like Deliciously Ella despite it all being available in two clicks. Is there an underlying feeling in the global subconscious that this thing that is ‘for everyone’ just can’t last forever? Am I just thinking too much? Does anyone else think about this kind of stuff? Should I go and join those people living underground in Arizona? One thing is for sure, in the future, before using my decoupage glue I will make sure the room is properly ventilated.

If you want to see what I made go to Whack it with a Hammer.

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I think this is comfrey?

Rave On

Rave On

Today I was digging and while I was digging I was thinking about my last night out and what it meant…

My sister had booked tickets to Classical Hacienda at the Royal Albert Hall – classic tunes from the iconic Manchester Club played by a full orchestra. So a room full of 40 somethings were transported back to the early 90s when Manchester was the coolest place on earth.

As a teenager in 1989 I was lucky enough to live a 20 minute bus ride from Manchester or as it was know then ‘Madchester‘. I also had very understanding parents when it came to having fun so got to experience the ‘second summer of love’ despite being slightly too young to do so. My main experience of the Hacienda was queuing outside with my mates for an hour and, as we was very much underage, being turned away. We’d then go to the back of the line and put our hair up take out coats off and try again. Now any underage person trying to get into the Hac at that time will remember the woman on the door and the rumours that circulated about her – she had a degree in psychology which gave her special powers so she could tell when you were lying. We all hoped to get one of the guys but inevitably got questioned by the woman and forgot our ‘dates of birth’ and ended up in the lesser known labyrinth that was Conspiracy round the corner.

The thing was, it was tricky to make yourself look older in the early 90s without looking like a Shaz (girls who were still having perms and wearing stilettos). Young people of today try and imagine what it was like to get ready for a night out without fake tan, false lashes, or gels. Imagine trying to make your 15 year old self look older in a pair of flared coloured jeans, trainers and a hooded top. Lucky for us this was the time of the rave scene and when you all met up at Sandbach services to get directions no one cares how old you are.

The press and government defined ‘ravers’ as people on drugs dancing in a field to monotonous music and this was seen as a very bad thing. In my experience (which was mostly in warehouses rather than fields due to the Manchester weather) it was so much better than your average night club. Mainstream clubs were always a bit of a meat market – full of leery blokes standing nest to the dance floor with cheesy one liners wearing chinos and shirts with a bit of paisley on the front. At raves we’d meet boys who’d talk about ‘mad stuff’ who liked to dance, they had cute long hair and middle partings and were wearing, well,  pretty much the same as us.

Of course there are still warehouse parties going on but not on the same scale as before the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act was introduced in 1994. This was brought in to put a stop to people gathering and dancing about where ever they liked and people protested by gathering and dancing about. Even if it hadn’t, all youth movements have a life span and as fashion changed it would have probably become less popular anyway – you can’t really rave in platform heels and a boob tube.

On a Wednesday night in London I was listening to the same tunes in a box at the Royal Albert Hall (my sister booked a box by mistake but it worked out well as there was waiter service which meant neither of us had to queue at the bar).

The lady in the next box works in the city and has brought a couple of her clients who are leaping around with their hands in the air. We chat about what it was like back in the day and dance about to Voodoo Ray played by the orchestra clasping our glasses of pinot grigio instead of bottles of water.

I look around and see the ravers of the 90s all grown up – their top tunes legitimised. At some point in life most of them have popped pills and danced under the stars, some of them may have been to the Hacienda before it was turned into flats (I did eventually get in when I turned 18!). Most of them hold down good jobs and need to rush back straight after the performance to pay the babysitter. So, fear not people in charge – we grew out of it.

Well sort of, I think there was something about the freedom of that time that stayed with us. My sister is chucking back the booze and shaking her curls but tomorrow its back to training for the London Marathon, Bez is freaky dancing on stage but he’s also leading the anti fracking movement, we do our jobs in marketing and IT but we take our children to festivals in the summertime and push them round in wheel barrows.

As for me, I can still ‘put my hands in the air’ I just get a bit more of a breeze when I wave them like I just don’t care.

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To find out what I was digging please go to my sister blog http://whackitwithahammer.org/