Put your phones down! (Why being a phone addict ruins relationships)

I often ask myself these questions. Who needs to sit on their phones all day? What are they even looking at for all that time? Dont they have more interesting things to be doing? Using your phone is one thing but being on it all the time is another. I have known my share of excessive phone addicts. People who sit on their phones all day and night, especially in the company of others, with that in particular being something that really annoys me at times. It is like people just don’t value face to face communication or time anymore. How are relationships, including friendships, expected to be maintained or grown, if the people within them are mentally elsewhere all the time? Being present physically is not enough. I know people who have brilliant relationships in all areas of their lives and those are the people, not surprisingly, who don’t let technology take over from whats really important. Living in the moment. Building what you have. Not letting recreation time become everything over everyone.

I did some cafe watching a while back, armed with nothing but a yummy hot chocolate and a pair of eyes. In the half hour I was sat there, I was surprised to observe that only about 2 people walked past without a phone. Everyone else was looking down at their screens as they walked by. Not even looking what was in front of them. This was in Birmingham, so you can imagine there were a fair few people to watch during that short time! This is something I wouldn’t have noticed before. Until you think about something within your own life, you can be pretty oblivious to it. I remember when I was pregnant, I swear I had never really paid much attention to noticing other pregnant women before, then suddenly I spotted them everywhere. 😉 Funny how the mind works. is-17

We are, of course, all guilty of doing it to some extent. Over using technology that is. I’m no exception. I am a fan of going online myself. I am an Ebay queen, I occasionally browse Facebook and I text my family and friends to keep in touch. I thought I had a good balance with my phone/home life. I always try to put my daughter first and apart from the occasional text throughout the day that requires a quick reply or a bit of browsing whilst she watches a film on repeat for the 100th time, I thought I had it in check. Sometimes you don’t notice how things start to creep into your life and take over and I am sorry to say I am a little guilty of that lately.

The occasional browse on the news sites went from a few a week to being a morning routine of grabbing my phone upon awakening and making it my first activity of the day. I am guilty of saying “In a minute” to Emi many times, whilst I lay in bed reading showbiz news so utterly unimportant, as she nagged me to get up and make breakfast. It was, I suppose, a delay tactic. I’m fully aware that the minute I get up, my long day as a single mom to a 3 year old starts, who although exceedingly lovely, is very demanding of my time and energy, which is completely exhausting. It’s a shift. So whilst im not going to be too hard on myself , adjustments can always be made to improve things. Another example is my bath. A quick 10 minute dip to clean myself turned into another opportunity to watch meaningless YouTube videos whilst she played in her room. 10 minutes started extending to 40. I always spoke to her and she ran in to see me but it’s still taking away from our time. So I am guilty of that too.

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I’m not here to shame others. I’m not here to say I know best. Parenthood is a massive learning curve. Nobody knows all the answers.We all make mistakes, some of us notice and correct them ourselves, some of us don’t notice anything and never self reflect. The important thing is to try your best. If you can say you are trying, that is the best you can do. I suppose when I needed to lye in, or extend my bath, that was the best I could do on that particular day. I still gave all of myself to my daughter outside of that time for the rest of the day. But I realise if there’s a day I need a break like that from now on, I will go and have 5 minutes whilst she’s busy rather than pushing on towards an hour.

A good parent, in my opinion only, is an honest one. One who is self aware and can admit their faults. I have many. But as long as we try and look into reflecting on things too then it will all work out ok. I still get my fill of showbiz trash headlines. (A single mom needs to dream for 10 minutes about how the other half live!) I just do it when she’s in bed or at nursery now. Our time is too precious to keep wasting.

Some of the best examples of people in my life live by this same premise.

I have a wonderful friend that may not reply for days at a time, which, if you didn’t know her, you may take that as a sign she maybe wasnt too bothered about the friendship or the importance of keeping in touch. Fortunately, I know her well and know that to not hear from her is often a good thing, as it means she’s busy and focusing on work, life, family and her children. She makes them a priority as naturally they come first for her. And that is how it should be. She replies to me when she has time. Sometimes she even surprises me with a swift response or two ;-). It doesn’t matter how long we spend apart, when we reunite its lovely, because we make time for each other in those moments. We value that time and respect that each other has taken time out of our priority lives to be there. So being in the moment with her family and not looking at her phone every night is exactly the right thing to do. Family is everything, especially where young children are involved. Her partner is equally set on making his priorities the children and supporting my friend as his partner and mother to his children. I know many couple like this and they are always stronger for it. Team work always pays off! Being present is a choice.

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I have a group of friends that I see only a few times a year for birthdays etc, however, when together, we will sit and talk for hours, with not one of us sat on our phones or being distracted elsewhere, because those present is all the input and conversation that’s needed and desired. The same goes for another close friend nearby. We often share cups of tea and lunch and just talk to each other about our lives. It always feels good to talk face to face, establishes a greater bond of friendship and makes me come away feeling positive to know that I have a friend that will listen rather than be distracted elsewhere. Time is so valuable. To give your time to someone else is a gift.

My parents are another great example of how to stay interested in each other and make reality where you choose to put your energy. Each night, after spending very different days apart, they come together at the dinner table and discuss their day. Some people say old-fashioned, I think its vital to what makes their marriage a success. Being interested and making time for each other. I find it really sad when people willingly lose good relationships or friends through a general lack of being interested in them anymore. People will always appear more interesting if they are actually listened to, noticed, appreciated and don’t have to compete with a device of some sort. Back to basics.

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A lot of people in this world currently have stopped talking to each other in person, spending far too much time transfixed by liking, following, chatting, sexting, texting. There are so many platforms to entice every different sort of person online, whether that be shopping, playing games, gambling, social media or sex sites. People are too accessible. We live in a society where you can argue with your spouse over something as trivial as doing the dishes and rather than talk it through, simply go into a different room instead and arrange to have sex with someone else at the click of a button. Relationship ended in 5 seconds. There is always someone willing and eager to smooth over a bruised ego for attention and sex. That is truly frightening to me. Does anyone stand a chance? Nobody talks and fixes anymore. Likewise, people can spend more than is in their bank account getting carried away playing poker with other real online players in a different country. The thrill and the risk is what makes the fun. Often though, money is lost and the real friends in physical form are dropped and ignored for players you will never meet on the other side of the world.

I’m not condemning these things altogether, they can be useful platforms to be sociable or spend some down time. But moderation doesn’t seem to apply anymore. There is just too much. Too much opportunity. To much accessibility. It’s up to everyone else how they choose to live. I can’t tell anyone what to do. I do know, however, whats important to me though, especially after writing this, so I will keep reminding myself of that x

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Above: Pointing the camera at the only thing on the screen that matters 😉 x

How do you fix a generation of nasty yobs?!

Yes I live in Birmingham (quite a nice town on the outskirts).

Yes I live in a mixed area of both council and private properties, this road in particular being a real mix of people and backgrounds.

I fully understand that living in a city will bring its share of crime, disrespectful people and idiots. Does this mean, however, that I should be intimidated within my own home by what can only be described as ignorant bastards without a brain cell between them? No!

I can usually get through my time here quite pleasantly. We have had trouble in the past, granted, but since about a year ago, all has been quiet. No more quad bikes destroying the calm of the avenue for hours on end at a time. No more teenagers hanging out on my front porch smoking weed that filled my house up above it. No more opening my door to find intimidating groups of men or boys right on my door step with a baby inside to worry about. I was rather enjoying the lack of people on this avenue this year. Peace had been restored.

Today, the New Year brought me some unwanted visitors. I wouldn’t usually post about something so insignificant, but I don’t actually feel it is, thinking about it. The manner in which I was spoken to today in my own hallway, truly makes me lose all faith in a lot of the new generation of human beings and absolutely makes me want to hang my head in dismay that these people are being taught that its ok to be such nasty assholes in their adult life towards good people just trying to live and bothering no one else. I say taught because there is no way if raised correctly these people would be so utterly cold, disrespectful and unsympathetic towards others in situations they themselves are causing.

Being New Year, I had a big clear out of Emis room today, with her help of course (Help includes jumping in my carefully sorted piles of clothes, emptying a box of jigsaw pieces in the area I needed to hoover and dancing around naked whilst I cleaned around her-she is 3, why not!). I had armfuls of cardboard from xmas gifts, toys she doesn’t use anymore for the charity shop, clothes to sell, you know what its like with a 3 year old hoarder! I carried the cardboard down for recycling being completely unaware of anyone being outside my door. I wouldn’t have opened it if I had heard voices. With Emi singing at me it was hard to hear anything else.

I opened my front door, which leads into a communal hall I share with 2 other neighbours, to see grown men in my hall smoking and rolling up joints at the bottom of my stairs. This may seem like nothing to some of you, but they didn’t live here, I had never seen them before in the area, and they had seemingly just walked in off the road and decided to enter my hallway and hang out in there. It is very intimidating for anyone, before events took a nasty turn, never mind afterwards.

Before I said anything, one cocky shit said “Oh alright love we are just waiting for Steve”. He smirked and turned away, feeling very happy with himself and not realising that normal people with any sense of neighbourly goodwill at least know their neighbours first names. It said a lot about him that he assumed I didn’t. I ignored this at first, knowing full well no one called Steve lives in this block, just asking instead if they would not smoke in my hall as I had a young child at home and the smell fills my flat up. They said sorry love, quite sarcastically, and carried on rolling and smoking. Staying put, continuing to talk to each other whilst facing away from me with no intention of stopping after apologising. Mocking me directly.

I said “Who did you say you were waiting for again?”. The reply was Steve, followed by a snigger and another back turn. I said “Well unless someone new has moved in since yesterday when I spoke with my neighbour Darren, no Steve lives here, so could you please leave as you don’t live here either.” I thought this quite reasonable. I remained calm and spoke sense. I had a small child on my hip. A reasonable person may have seen their intrusion and left at that point.

These were not reasonable people. There is a new generation of spoiled, uncared for children, who do what they like at home with no consequence, or do want they want on the street because of lack of education at home about basic manners, respect and morals. They grow up into spoilt, ungrateful, greedy adults, with no sense of self-awareness, with a massive sense of self entitlement and a thirst and desire for everything to go their own way at all times. Crime is ignored. Life has no meaning apart from getting through each day on their terms only. The streets are theirs to claim in their eyes. Anything and anyone is fair game.

I was quite speechless at the massive toddler tantrum that erupted from one of the blokes in response to my statement. “For fucks sake, we are just waiting for a taxi and just fucking chillin so you need to shut the fuck up and get back in your house and leave us alone, it’s a council property anyway so you have no say so fucking shut up.”

This was actually his argument. In my hallway. Knowing himself he didn’t live on this road and had intruded my hall off the streets. With my 3 year old daughter in attendance being shocked by his foul dirty mouth, listening to every word. God forbid she ever thinks this sort of disgusting behaviour is acceptable.

I was pretty shocked for a few seconds but kept my calm and said “Well you’re wrong as these are not all council, I am a private tenant and regardless of what you think I pay my rent and I have rights to my own entrance hall and seeing as you don’t live here I am within my rights to ask you to leave and stop filling up my property with smoke. You are also being incredibly aggressive and intimidating in front of my 3 year old and I don’t have to accept it in my own rented space from someone not even from this area.”

This angered him greatly, to which he started swinging his arms back and forth Kevin style, pacing the hall and aggressively lunging towards the stairs, spitting his words at me, saying “Whatever, its council, im not going anywhere, call the fucking police if you want me gone or fuck off, im staying put.”

He looked like he was so raging mad, he might run up the stairs towards me at any point if I said anything else, so I started backing up, ushering Emi inside first, getting ready to close the door and call the police if necessary. Luckily, I didn’t have to waste any more words on a brick wall, as I think his mate could see his gobby shite of a friend had overstepped the mark and scared us and said “We will go love, sorry”. He literally had to drag his mouthy friend out whilst he continued to shout obscenities about his hardship of not getting what he wanted. He actually felt hard done by! As soon as they had stepped outside I followed them down and shut the door, bolting it so they couldn’t come back in, but even then they remained literally looking at me through the glass, they had made a point of just going as far as off my step and no further, not leaving my front porch area and continuing to smoke in front of my property, swearing at me as I closed the door. (Little fucking bitch, I believe I was called that time.)

It’s fair to say, me and Emi were both pretty shaken by the experience today. Me more so. Emi forget within 5 minutes but did start acting out the days events in great role play bossy shouty sessions using her dolls as the naughty men and telling them off. She is a great story teller that girl! It’s all material for her. No awareness of the real danger in the world at that age. I hope she remains innocent until necessary.

I always try to lock the door downstairs and ask that the neighbours do also. However, they have a habit, either them or the postman, of forgetting. I have lovely neighbours downstairs who, if at home, which is rare, will help me up the stairs with my shopping if they see me struggling. I will feed their cats on days they are away. We have a good neighbourly friendly relationship. My other neighbours are equally ok, friendly enough to say hi to and quiet as mice. No trouble. But someone is forgetting, maybe on their way out on a morning, to close the door, meaning that, as both sides are out of the block for a day or two at a time, very often, for most of the week, I am the only person in this block with my daughter. Which can have its good points. It’s very quiet. Although, I have to say, it at times makes me feel incredibly vulnerable as if they were outside my front door today as I opened it, as kids have been in the past on my top step smoking, the unreasonable nastiness from that one particular bloke could have ended up with mine and Emis health or lives at risk. That is the reality of bad people and the situation I am in on my own with a child. There is no partner only hours away to make you feel safe once they get in from work as there used to be when similar things happened when Emi was a baby. Its pretty scary at times. That is not dramatizing it. It is the reality of being a woman with a child in an isolated place on my own. You never know whats around the corner and I am hoping for better things than that rubbish today.

It is not ok, in my opinion, simply to say, well its the area, you chose to live there, deal with it. Yes I chose to live here, in a decently priced rental property, as a starter home, with my partner and first baby on the way. Since being made a single parent, when things like this happen, I am a vulnerable woman with a young child. And I hate that. Because even the strongest of women, when faced with unreasonable people who could put their lives in danger if something flips them the wrong way, cannot use their strength for good to defeat or reason with idiots who use their personal rage and lack of intelligence to bully their way through life. These kind of people, with such ignorance to their own deficiencies as people, are dangerous. Bullies are not big men, they are not tough either. Nothing these people do should be encouraged or praised. The world would be better off without them. Sad but true. Nan used to say they need putting down as they bring nothing to society apart from trouble. I would like to believe you could help some people with kindness and patience but we all know that some people are beyond that sort of help.Bad habits are ingrained in them from childhood. Nan might have had a point somewhere;-) Only kidding. But that’s the question.

Short of getting rid, what can we do about it? Call the police as that moron suggested today? He and me both know that if I did, they would roll up 3 hours later, say they had searched the area and go back to real policing. They would log it and tell you to keep logging it. And on the log goes. With no end. No purpose. No outcome apart from to appease the caller and seem half interested. I have been there. Nothing actually gets sorted.

What else could we do? Join neighbourhood watch? I have never read much on them, but imagine its much the same but with the addition of lots of curtain twitching, with the end result being calling the police and logging it. Oh and having a nice sticker proudly displayed in the window. I am sure it helps in some areas but in the forgotten ones it serves no purpose apart from giving the nosy neighbours a role.

And that is about it. I hate that people see these yobs and turn a blind eye, because its easier to let them do what they want than become a target to their bullying. The men in my hallway today were grown men of about 25-30. Grown men. Not teenage kids. How are they allowed to enter someone elses property and intimidate a mother and small child trying to go about their business. My Nan used to say just leave it. She always ignored them. And for the entirety of her life within her flat on this same road, she had people smoking in her hall, keeping her awake and on edge, meanwhile assuming it was ok because nothing was said. I imagine if it was they would still have been there. Yobs don’t listen to reason. Of course, on her own, she was vulnerable too. But the fact remains, it is not ok. I will not live as a recluse being told that thugs rule and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can at least try.

It is time for entire communities to come together, take back control of their areas and work together for a better way of life. There used to be such community spirit and now people just abuse each other. I would rather live an honest life making the best of it. People should help each other, as it used to be. I am calling for better patrols of well known problem areas as a starting point. This worked before. It took endless logs from many people within this area when the anti social behaviour was at its worst but it led to a raised police presence in the area, which, I believe, is what has contributed to the quiet of the last year here. I don’t know if this will even be acknowledged by one person in relation to an individual event but I will be trying.

Good people who live their lives honestly should not have to live in fear of leaving their own home. It doesn’t matter if you live in a council home, a private rent, a bought home, a caravan, you have the right to privacy and safety. I pay my bills same as everyone else, this is my home, that hall is my entrance. I will not allow it to be taken over by fully grown bully’s. I don’t think one person can make that much difference against the war on brain dead hooligans but it does have to start with one person at least.

I will fight with everything I have to keep my little girl safe within her own home. This is her safe place. If it doesn’t feel safe, what do we have left?

That is my thought for the start of this New Year anyway. Its survival for peace. I have always fought for what I believed in and loved. It’s not about to stop with my home. Pro-active and positive. Pick your fights x

Remembering Nan at Christmas

How is it December 11th already?! This month has been a whirlwind of house sorting, tantrums (Mainly Emi, honest) seeing visitors and friends and getting ready for the big day on the 25th. Of course, it’s really all about the children when making grand plans for presents and trips to santa,which with a 3 year old, this year is ALL about those things as well as family time. However, this year is going to be a bitter sweet one for me and many others since the loss of Nan in July. It almost feels like it happened longer ago, I have to remind myself sometimes it was only this July we lost her. So I wanted to make sure I remembered the adults this year too as best as I could. This year really is about making sure that EVERYONE is ok, because in all honesty, it’s going to be really strange on the day without her here. WP_20160411_16_59_17_Pro[1]

Last year, even though ill and with very little appetite, Nan still managed quite naturally to insult my cooking to my face across the dinner table saying “Sprouts are a bit crunchy”, whilst making a point of screwing her face up and over exaggerating how difficult she was finding it to chew them with her ill-fitting false teeth. My brother kept his head down, apart from a side glance to see my reaction, probably knowing the effort it had taken me that year simply to hold any sort of Christmas after my partner had moved out only a few months before. Meanwhile, I clenched my teeth and tried not to tell her to go home. (I wouldn’t have really but I was annoyed.)

I had dared to venture away from the standard boiled sprouts option, instead adding lemon, garlic and breadcrumbs, but when faced with a 79 year old woman who knew exactly what she wanted and expected from a christmas dinner, this did not go down well at all. I remember at the time, after hours of cooking, being really annoyed at her for feeling the need to even say anything like that, she could have just politely not eaten them. But then that would be asking for her to be someone else. Now I can look back and laugh. It’s actually a really happy memory for me now because it’s just so silly isn’t it?! To get annoyed over sprouts?! People of a certain age do tend to think they have the right to say and do whatever they like and they let it out of their mouths wherever and whenever they please. Nan was no exception to this theory. It’s a humorous thing really. The best part is, they know full well that because of their age that they will get away with it. And they do. And she did. Because no one dared say anything back. It’s ok for her to upset someone but there’s a natural respect for that generation that I wouldn’t have tried to upset her in return. Funny isn’t it?

What I would give to have her insulting my cooking abilities this year.

There is something about christmas that just makes Nan feel alive again. This was her time of year. Everything reminds me of her. From going to choose the christmas tree, which we always did together (with Emi last year which was special), to seeing the Cherry liquor chocolates in M&S that I bought for her every year (and that she then bought even more of for herself because she loved them so much and often ate a whole box in one sitting whilst watching tv on an evening.) Everywhere I turn there is a reminder of her and it can be really hard sometimes not to just keep crying at the fact she is not here anymore. Most of the reminders are happy ones, but even the good ones can make you tear up. 20161203_1752391

The one thing that reminds me most of her at this time of year is Holly. For as far back as I can remember she made holly wreathes for friends and family all throughout December, trailing up to the local park with her drag bag in the dark so she wouldn’t be seen cutting away at the Holly in daylight. I think we have probably all been up with her at some point helping her get in her supplies. The house was a mess with greenery cuttings and ribbon everywhere all throughout the month but the end result was always stunningly beautiful. People came back to her every year because she was so good at what she did. She didn’t do it to make money. She never made anything from it. She did it because she enjoyed that the people who had them from her loved her work and would return every year for something she had made. They were miles better than anything you saw in standard florists or markets. She had a real sense of pride in everything she made and even though she would never admit satisfaction with anything she produced to anyone else, I know she was proud of her abilities and most of all aware of them herself. She knew.

This year, without Nan to make my wreath, I wanted to remember her in my own way by attempting it myself. Not for myself. I havent made myself one yet. I will. My main purpose in doing them was that I wanted to make one for those people who had one last year and would never get another. I wanted simply to gift them in tribute to Nan and as a way for me to stay connected to her and remember her. To try to practice the skills I picked up only last year when she showed me a few bits in the nick of time. Christmas to me, especially after a loss, is not about what you get. It is about gestures, love, cherishing what you have. We don’t have Nan anymore but we do have everything she taught us. It has been a wonderful experience for me. An emotional one of course too. I have retraced her footsteps and scrounged around the same park she did to get some holly and other greenery. Whilst there, I sat in the sunshine and just remembered her. I felt sad and happy all at the same time. Then I came home and had a go. That was very Nan. Just give it a go and try. I realised there is a bit of Nan in me too, as after I had made a few I started to see what I did wrong with the first one I had already gifted and was kicking myself a bit that it wasnt as good as those that followed. A bit of Nans perfectionism coming out in me I suppose. Now I can see why she was always so particular. The more you do the higher your own standards are. They also take thought, time and patience. I think I understand her a bit more having made a few of these, which I didn’t expect any insight into her when I started them. Funny how things work out. 20161208_1512151

Above: There is always time for a play in the park, even on our Holly collecting mission…

As it happens, I have been rather pleased with the outcome of my efforts. I will fully accept it when anyone says “Its good but it’s not your Nans” because it’s so true. She just knew what she was doing and if she didn’t it looked like she did. She was beyond practical and would always work it out. She knew how to do everything with ribbon and wire and arrangement. She just knew. I don’t. My version is to buy a base (she made her own) and stick things in as best as I can and hope for the best. As it turns out, I’m not too shabby at it! 20161210_1421231

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Once the wreathes are packed away, there will be lots of other things sparking off memories for me of our past times with Nan. My big tree reminds me of her huge real trees she used to get and let us decorate (Probably rearranging our placements once in bed, as I do now with Emi). Hiding Emis presents in the cupboard reminds me of the stacks of presents she used to drag up the road in her wheely bag to us on christmas day. Her face last year watching Emi open the presents she had chosen for her was lovely. The trifle she made every year will be sorely missed. (I never did get her recipe.) Things just keep flooding back to me and I will miss her so much this christmas. However, I am already making my own traditions, with my own little person hopefully remembering all the little things that I do for her too, which is lovely to know that the cycle of life, love and giving is not one that ends with the loss of someone special…..and something tells me Nans traditions are not going to stop at me 😉 xxxx20161210_1212541

The Benefits Cap. Why not just shoot us single parents now?!

I like Facebook. I like to see what friends and family are up to. I like to share a few things like pictures of my girl with people I know. It’s a great platform for sharing things in general. Today I saw a post that frightened me greatly.

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I was obviously aware of the new benefit reforms but not in this amount of detail. I didn’t know exactly how they would harm so many lives in relation to people in my position until I read this report. As a single parent of one child, I don’t think, currently, I will lose any money each week. (I could be wrong of course but I think I must come within the cap limit. If wrong, please feel free to correct me.)

However, there are some women with 2, 3 or more children, who have been made a single parent not through choice, who will now have money deducted from them weekly, taking into account the new cap limit, meaning they will be worse off and will struggle even more than they already do. The report admits that this will leave families at risk of losing their homes, being unable to pay their bills or rent, with losses in income estimated at about £60 per week. I know the value of living off £60 per week as a single parent to one child, so I can’t imagine the difficulty people much face when forced to lose this amount of money. Especially after being used to it and having already built their initial foundation of how they live around it. The simple fact is kids cost money. Take it away, how do you clothe and feed them?

Most people have already set up their living arrangements based on the income they already get, meaning the rent will now not get paid as that deducted money will have to be covered out of other benefits and on goes the cycle of juggling money around to make ends meet, to cover bill deadlines, to feed the kids, until something doesn’t get paid, until the kids don’t get fed, until the rent isn’t covered on time. That is how it starts. One missed rent payment leads to possible eviction. Eviction leads to homelessness. (Imagine that with 3 kids in tow.) Homelessness leads to fear and desperation. Fear leads to vulnerability. Desperation leads to prostitution. Prostitution leads to vulnerability. Vulnerability leads to danger. Danger leads to loss, death or illness. Sound extreme? It can happen and does. A lot.

Not paying the bills leads to bailiffs knocking at your door with the kids watching. Bailiffs being called leads to personal possessions being taken away and never seen again to cover the arrears of the bills you can no longer pay. Losing your things leads to borrowing money from dangerous and willing loan sharks, at eye watering interest rates as most will have no other option in this situation to cover the loss of the possessions taken that are so necessary to everyday functioning in this day and age. (We need a washing machine to clean our kids clothes. We need a computer to look for the jobs you are so quick to push us into before we are ready or able.) Borrowing like this leads to significant mounting debt that stands no chance of being paid off. Mounting debt leads to massive amounts of stress. Stress and a general lack of hope can lead to depression. Depression and no alternative can lead to death in some severe cases. Sound over the top? It is not. It happens when pushed. A lot.

Stress is the one thing that is actually most likely to hold people back from gaining the right employment. To be not properly supported and then be expected to hold down a job is just not realistic. Whilst the government are busy penalizing people for daring to have fallen on hard times, how is that going to help them to become the working citizens you expect us all to be? Who wants to live in a world where we are made to feel hopeless and are punished if we ever DARE to find ourselves in a position like I am that I didn’t ask for? The benefits system is supposed to be a fall back for when you need it. There are people who say how proud they are that they have never had to use it. Well lucky you. We are not all so fortunate.

And what about the children? It’s all very well saying “Dont have kids until you can pay for them yourself”. This isnt Cinderella. We all know, deep down, that life is not that simple. Some women are raped and anti-abortion so keep the child whilst dealing with the aftermath mentally of that horrifying ordeal for the rest of their life. Other women work really hard for a family and get abandoned by men who claimed they were the world but in time had no intention of sticking around leaving the woman to do all the hard stuff by herself as the child gets older. Others fall pregnant even with the safest and most assured methods of contraception. It can’t always be planned in the way the fairy tales or society tells us it should be. Meet, date, consummate, get engaged, buy a house, get married, start a family, live happily ever after. Yeah that sounds great, in reality it happens to very few of us. Punishing people for this all just leads to one big mess and who suffers? The people who were the last people who needed benefit cuts. Single parents with children under five and the children they carry with them. Single parents who really need the help with children under school age. Its ludicrous this had been deemed acceptable. It’s the last place the cuts should have been made.

I understand fully that cuts NEEDED to be made SOMEWHERE. But this is all wrong. Why do I see people in my area who have never worked a day in their life, sat outside at all hours, in their pyjamas, smoking pot and drinking all day whilst claiming DLA. Are they disabled? No. Could they work? Yes. Are they lazy and choose to claim disability  to get out of work? You know it. Are they wasting their benefits on unnecessary drugs and vices? Of course. Openly. Why are they not having their weekly income cut or abolished completely? How do they slip through the system yet innocent parents that really need support get punished so that society feels better about them existing? It madness. Cuts could have been made else where.

I have worked none stop since I was 16, right up until I had my daughter at 26. When I stopped working, due to there being no free childcare for under 2 year olds and having no family around us to GIVE us free childcare, my partner worked instead. The plan was ALWAYS supposed to be that once she hit nursery age, with his income already in place, anything I earned part-time over those two days she was attending would be an extra bit of income that would benefit our family, allowing us both to work and contribute. Unfortunately, from age 2, before our daughter started nursery, he left us. Is that my fault? Should I be punished for this? Do you think I enjoyed through the personal grief having to admit I would now join a group of society on Income Support that were belittled and looked down upon? Should I be made to feel any worse than I already have done since we watched him go and knew we would from that point onwards struggle just to eat properly?

I can hear some of you saying “Well she’s in nursery now, why don’t you just work now?”. People have said this to me too. Yes, she gets (on paper) 15 hours of free childcare per week. Due to it being an all year round nursery and with the staff rates being taken into account, they spread this out over the year, meaning she actually gets 12 hours per week, over 2 days, from 9am-3pm. So for me to “just go to work”, with not much outside help to fit around what I needed to be able to do to work, I would have to either find a job for just those hours (not taking travel time into account), earning less than I receive now as I wouldn’t meet the 16 hours requirement for working tax credits to be exempt from these cuts, or I would have to work 16 hours plus per week, paying out of that income for an extra day at nursery, again making me no better off or possibly worse off. On top of this, finding a job to fit with her nursery hours and collections will be hard in itself.

I have heard so many people, and friends, with young children themselves saying “We do it, why should you sit on your arse all day”. So many people go on Facebook rants about how lazy single parents are and how if they have to work then so should we. Firstly, anyone doing it properly never sits on their arse. Its full-time. You know this. You have children yourselves. You do a good job too. You know it aint easy. Secondly, you answered your own question. “WE do it.” Together. As a unit. To co-ordinate pick up times, to swap childcare duties on days off, to share household responsibilities, to have the dinner ready for the other person when they get in, booking annual holidays off to cover childcare between you for those who don’t work in education and don’t naturally get these same times off throughout the year as their kids. It is so easy to say “Just do it” when you have no concept yourself of what it takes to raise a kid by yourself. No idea of what it would take to juggle all of that life with a child under five by yourself. It is no walk in the park. 

Up until now, it has always been accepted that if you have a child under school age you were not pushed or required to work until they were in full-time school. This I feel is right.  That they are pushing now to change this to seemingly demonstrate their power, will to save money or to make a show of people already suffering, is wrong. It is not possible. By all means, when Emi is in full-time school next September, I will be working. She will still only be 4, but the hours at school will help me with finding a job that will fit better around that. I will not have to pay for all day childcare, her main school hours will at least be covered, therefore I will have less barriers holding me back from earning and working. That will be the right time to go back to work. It makes logical sense. But the benefits cap and the government in general is not what you would call logical.

What doesn’t make sense to me, is the belief by the masses of the propaganda allowed in the media to discriminate against all single parent claimers as a whole. For instance, a newspaper headline may shamelessly document a family who happens to claim £19000 “free” benefits per year, squaring them up against a hospital worker earning the same each year in a more “hard-working” manner. With the media, its black and white, its right and wrong.

What I want to know is, when you see a headline like this, do you instantly think “scumbag”. Or do you think of the reality about what that figure is covering and where exactly the money is going? Are you actually being brainwashed enough to believe that the parent is pocketing that amount of money each year for themselves to live on?

My rent, for example, works out at nearly £5300 per year. This is in a relatively cheap area. Imagine if that headline covered the cost of a London rental? This is paid directly to my landlord. I never see that money. Yet this figure is always included in the total figure of what “scum bag” claimers like me are getting. We don’t get it.We dont see it. My water rates are nearly £400 per year. My gas and electric nearly £600 per year. That is just for the two of us, being very careful to switch everything off we don’t use. Imagine the cost per year in a four or five person family unit? That is before food, clothing, phone bills, tv licence, kids costs for school etc, all the extras kids and babies need as they grow like nappies etc.

Do you really believe that people who genuinely claim as their only income are “laughing” at all you “hard” workers who have to earn your money whilst scum like me rolls around in excess? If you do think that, you have been misinformed. When you take into account travel and basic living expenditure on top of the other bills, it does not leave a lot. Anyone going on holidays at the tax payers expense and bragging about it must have other income they are not declaring. I for one am not into drugs myself. And that’s not trying to generalise myself. The type of people that flash this magical cash that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere are very often dealing or associated with drugs. Anyone like a struggling mother would probably be more likely to do a bit of cash in hand cleaning and not declare it just to feed her children, she certainly wouldn’t be flashing it, or proud of not declaring it. People need to eat. 

I know what it is to eek out your last £2.00 of the week  on the cheapest food you can find to get you through the next few days until there’s money in the bank again. I know what it is to have to feel ashamed as you cash in your saved up few pounds worth of coppers at the bank, just so you have emergency money on your card for things like milk over the weekend incase you run out. I know what it is to hold off from putting your heating on at all until at least December, preferring to sit with a jumper, blanket and hot water bottle rather than run up any more money and be landed with an energy bill you don’t have the available cash to pay, worrying your child is cold at night in a freezing flat, so much so that you sleep together to keep each other warm. I know what it is on the income I receive for my daughter, how it feels being 3 months behind with paying the water bill because it’s the last bill that gets chased and the kid needed to be fed first so you ignore it for a few months because you can, always stressing its hanging over you and hoping your services aren’t cut or you’re not hit by legal action for ignoring the red warning letters.

I hate that people paint this “scum on benefits” picture of EVERYONE on them. I also hate that people who work assume that people who claim are out to spite you or somehow getting one over on you. Claiming benefits isn’t about you. Until you have to do it, you wont understand that Mrs high and mighty “I work and you don’t”.

Say this does happen as they want and all single parents are pushed into working part-time regardless if it makes them better off or not, just to right things in their minds on some form in some office somewhere and so that the poor woman ensures her kids are not made homeless? Will there even be enough jobs for this anyway? I have looked at the Directgov website today and through the limited amounts of part-time jobs available, most of the ones I could find were night work or evening work. How does a single mom like myself with no close family or supportive partner do night work or evening work? Who watches Emi whilst I go? It works in theory in your little minds in your top paid jobs, sat behind your big desks in your nice suits your maid has ironed for you, whilst you make these rules up that are so unrealistic it would almost be laughable if it didn’t harm so many lives.

Single parents with babies will have to now search for work to meet the shortfall in benefits cuts if they cannot pay their rent. That will be their only option. Working for nothing, to pay the rent, to cover the babies child care, with nothing left over. Its disgusting. Before there is ANY free childcare at age 2? Are you kidding me?

I am not a fan of this government. However, I am even less of a fan of people who are not in the position to judge but do anyway. Stop it. You have no idea.

Parents, on their own, having to apply for help, should not be pushed into work until the child is in full-time school, unless their job income can cover their costs and they can realistically do it alone . My daughter wont even be 5 when she starts. They should be given choice or at least support and training during this time so that when they do return to work they are better qualified to get a better wage. There is currently no support in place, only unrealistic pushing which will make the mothers and childs lives twice as hard as they already are. The benefits system should be set up and in place to allow this much needed support to happen. Not to BULLY already hard done by mainly women into further hardship to save a few pounds. 

Train Travel with a Toddler. (8 Rules to Stress Free Travel)

Yesterday we made the long journey from Birmingham to Cornwall to visit family. We have done this journey a few times before, mainly when my little girl was a baby, a time when she didn’t move too much and was able to quietly sit, or sleep on my lap for hours on end whilst other passengers cooed over her cuteness and dribbly smiles.

My daughter is now heading towards 4 years old in the new year and can only be described as a live wire! She moves, she jumps, she sings whenever and wherever she wants to, as loud as she wants to! She has the energy of a flea and the attention span of a typical 3 year old, always looking for the next thrill and never wanting to sit still for too long!

So I have to admit I had not really been looking forward to this journey at all this time. 6-7 hours over three trains with a toddler confined to one space is not the ideal fr me or the other passengers! However, it actually went ok. I find to travel with children you have to learn lessons as you make mistakes. And I made lots of mistakes previously. Something I was determined not to repeat again. The last time we made this journey in June this year, it was a nightmare. It was the first time since she was tiny that I had travelled by train this far with her and I got it all wrong. I assumed that because I had booked my trains with connections, this meant that I would be guaranteed to get where I need on time. BIG MISTAKE.

RULE 1: NEVER ASSUME YOUR TRAIN WILL BE ON TIME!

PREVIOUS ERROR: My train was delayed but I actually managed to get the earlier one by ten minutes from my town to Birmingham. Even by taking this early positive step, the train then sat on the tracks outside of Birmingham New Street for 15 minutes waiting for a signaling error to be fixed or something, meaning I then had to rush to my main train. We had to rush, bags, toddler and all, down the escalators, where at the bottom she fell and came down arms and legs spread on her stomach at the bottom! I couldn’t comfort her as the doors were just shutting on the platform , we made it with about a second to spare, having to get on at the wrong carriage and drag a crying child and our cases through about 3 carriages to get to ours.

LESSON LEARNED: This time I was having none of that rubbish! You can’t rely on delays not occurring, so I got my first train an hour earlier, meaning by the time we got to Birmingham we even had time for a sausage sandwich and a hot chocolate. We had loads of time on the platform and without the rush were able to get in the carriage we needed at the right end. Such a relief this time!

RULE 2: BOOKING A TAXI MEANS NOTHING!

PREVIOUS ERROR: In june, I booked a taxi for 8am the following morning. It was confirmed. 8am came and went. No taxi. No contact. I called and was told a booking for first thing in the morning isn’t guaranteed. I am sure this is just my local rubbish company. I had to book with another firm at short notice which in itself nearly made me miss my first train.

LESSON LEARNED: This time, I said no taxis. Simple. Waiting on the trains is bad enough without stressing about even getting to the station!

RULE 3: TAKE SNACKS. LOTS OF SNACKS.

PREVIOUS ERROR: Thinking a good breakfast and a packed sandwich was enough to keep a toddler interested.

LESSON LEARNED: Kids like choice. This time I packed picnic bits like fruit, crisps, flapjacks, bread sticks, cheese…nibbly bits. It kept her snacking, filled her up and filled ten minutes for me on the journey every time she wanted a good rummage and little personal picnic, laying it all out and taking her pick.

RULE 4: TAKE LOTS TO DO.

PREVIOUS ERROR: I had hoped that looking out of the window at passing sheep and a few pens and paper might suffice. Wrong!

LESSON LEARNED: This time I was prepared. Magazine. Pens. Paper. Games on phone. Film to watch. She still spent half of the journey moaning and restless but I reckon it saved me about 2 hours of potential additional strops being prepared with activities.

RULE 5: BE REALISTIC

PREVIOUS ERROR: I used to be one of those people, pre-child, who would purposely book the quiet coach on the train so that I could avoid noisy children when I was travelling alone and wanted to bury my head into a good book. It is true that until you have kids you have no empathy for what the parent is going through in trying to travel long distances with children on the train when they don’t have an alternative option. After having her, I became very aware that I needed to try to keep her as quiet as possible incase the other passengers got annoyed.

LESSON LEARNED: In want of better words, screw em! Yes you can be considerate, which I am, but there is no way she is going to be quiet for a 6 hour journey. There is also no way she is going to stay in one spot for that long. If they need to walk up the aisle a little staying close to your seat, let them. If they need to stand up and look out fo the window at the sea as it passes by, let them. Do what you need to survive that ordeal!

RULE 6: DONT BOOK THE QUIET COACH

For the reasons I said above, people book this for a reason and you need to be honest with yourself that your kid is NOT going to comply to the quiet rule on a journey of any length.

RULE 7: DONT ASSUME BOOKING A SEAT BY A TOILET IS A WISE MOVE

I have always done this as kids need it all the time. However, you then have to put up with people by your seat constantly, or the effects of an unkept and dirty toilet, such as the smell, wafting past you every time the doors are opened. I wont be putting this one down as a priority choice next time! The toilet was in a right state on our journey down, so much so I carried her in and hovered her over the seat. The things we have to do 😊.

RULE 8: DONT LOSE FAITH IN GOOD PEOPLE

One of my biggest concerns about travelling alone is managing my child with all my bags, over big platform gaps and between stations! I am instantly nervous about these things before they happen. I have been touched by the amount of people (mostly business looking men on their way to work) offering to carry my cases between trains, reaching out and helping my little one onto the train or just offering their seat so we don’t have to stand. I didn’t struggle or have to ask for help once on this journey, it was simply given or offered, which I thanked or accepted gratefully. There are still some chivalrous people around it seems!

Those are my 8 rules to travelling with a little one. I hope it helps at least one person feel a bit better about a long journey ahead! My girl actually had a 30 minute nap at the end of the journey which was well timed to take stock of making sure I had everything in order to get off. Sometimes they do surprise you 😉.I will be prepared for the return journey in a few weeks! x

Trying to just be ill with a toddler around!

I am ill ;-(

Ok so im not dying or anything but I sure as hell feel rough. I have flu. Sore, itchy, watery eyes, a runny yet blocked at the same time nose (how is this even possible?!), achy body, constant sneezing. You lye on one side and feel the bunged up shit clear from the higher nostril and fill up the lower one on the pillow. Then it runs and you have to blow for the millionth time, leaving your nose tip looking chafed,chapped and crispy. Its hell. Sorry for the graphics. I like to share 😉

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Give me a bad stomach any day over something that engulfs your whole head and impairs your vision and function! (Not today though thanks, I don’t need a bad stomach today on top of this, I was just saying.)

I usually get a really bad cold about once a year, around November most times. Well, its end of October so nearly on schedule. Last year my daughter was still two and into quite simple things so I could rest a bit. The year before that she was still a baby so would actually sit still a lot (and nap!), plus I had a partner to help when I needed to go upstairs and recover. Being ill with young children must be so much easier if you have a partner. Dont take them for granted when you are ill ever again! Trust me. You need them ;-).

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Above: Baby days x

This year is my first experience of being a single parent, dealing with being ill, with a full on toddler (She doesnt toddle anymore, I shouldn’t call her that!) still going 100 miles per hour, with a full on cold raging at around the same speed as her. Its exhausting! We are literally not allowed to be ill because they simply don’t give a crap! Children are selfish creatures of habit and comfort and they need what they need and its your job to do it all for them. They still demand toast within 2 seconds of waking up. They talk at you none stop whilst you try to stay awake and grunt back at them through snot rags and lots of steamy cups of honey and lemon (hold it under your nose, have a steam and a drink in one ha). They still trash the house. They still need to get out and get some fresh air. They are still lovely but generally annoying when you’re not feeling up to finding their antics sweet or amusing.

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Above: Menace with the face of an angel

Today I had to get her to the doctors as she has another cough that’s lasted about 4 days. Illness does not stop this kid, shes bright in herself, it does however, keep her awake (and me) coughing all night. So on a lack of sleep from the night before, I did not want to leave the house at all. I didn’t want to get dressed. Putting on my makeup onto puffy watery eyes was, in itself, a particularly hard challenge, however, as it happens, we made it. We have been out again to a jobcentre appointment for myself this afternoon, also stopping off at the park on the way back. Lots of walking, lots of interaction for a little one and lots of activity. Yet she still didn’t rest this afternoon like I had hoped she would.

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Above: Her mind was literally blown that our local park had new equipment today 😉 x

The truth is you have to just power on forward and get through it, especially if there’s no one to take them off your hands for a few hours so you can sleep like everyone else gets to do when they have the flu. It’s not easy but you just have to take your moments where you can.  I have to admit I snuck upstairs for 10 minutes today whilst she watched Casper and closed my eyes under my duvet, still not being able to sleep and switch off as a responsible mom but just having a few minutes breather without the tv blaring at my already spinning head. It didn’t last long. Those words every tired and over worked mom dreads being shouted up the stairs came shortly after. “Mom, where are you?”. Followed by manic footsteps and a tiny girl lunging towards me, all massive blue eyes and cheeky smiles, proceeding to then jump all over me on the bed, having great fun in the process. She thought it was great fun I couldn’t fight back much.

Dinner for her tonight was 2 fish fingers and some sliced cucumber. Lazy, none time-consuming and edible. Not a great meal in itself, I could have at least done her a few chips or some bread and butter or something but I plain couldn’t be bothered. There was no energy for menu planning. I spend a great deal of time making sure she eats well usually so I think I can be excused an off day.  I also read her a really short bedtime story as my voice wasnt up to it. She grasped my game and went about then reading it back to me for ages afterwards to delay my tactic from taking effect sooner than she would have liked. On the ball that one.

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Sometimes you have to forget about keeping up with mom of the year and do what helps you to survive, when you really need to of course. Regardless of how ill I feel today, and how it must sound like I am complaining to some, having her happy and healthy and with me is all that really matters in the bigger picture. Annoying as she has seemed in my ill face today, as most of you would agree, the alternative would be far worse.

I looked at her peacefully sleeping and the days annoyance vanished completely. I really think it’s this way for lots of us and if we notice our children and watch the good bits it can be so worth it over the time you spend with them. Family isnt boring or tedious if you notice the good stuff and feel fortunate to have it. Having children is the best thing anyone can do and I am so lucky to have her in my life. Also, thankfully, most of the time I am feeling in a better frame of mind to enjoy it too. Just flu is a killer ;-/.

I do love that girl. But I’m ill and I have my limits. The flip side is that her being under the weather too means she has settled at 6.30pm tonight! Bonus. Meaning I have time tonight to bath, blog and stretch hopefully. (If the annoying chavs outside letting off excessively loud and unnecessary fireworks don’t wake her up before I head to bed!)

I’m off to drink more honey and lemon. Night all xx

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Enjoying Lifes Simple Pleasures

After a bit of a rubbish few days during the week, I spent my weekend having fun. I pampered myself, I spent time with people in my life (which most weekends we don’t see anyone) and most of all, I enjoyed my little girl and the precious time we are fortunate enough to get together at the moment whilst she is still young and willing!

 

Above: Amazing what passes the time. She loves an app!

There is no beating around the bush, or sugar-coating it, the fact is that life in general is stressful. Whether you are happily married with kids, alone, widowed, playing the field, we all choose our own paths initially and have to deal with whatever consequences or life events happen because of those choices that we made. It is so easy to get bogged down with what is wrong in life that sometimes it seems like there is nothing to be thankful for. I feel this way a lot since last year. Some days I don’t feel anything and find the days both really hard and really long.

However, I am trying to make an effort and be thankful for something every day. This is something I am consciously making myself do. There is so much to be grateful for when you make yourself stop and just look. The fact is, I am alive. I am breathing. I have a wonderful healthy and funny little girl who makes me laugh every day (So much some days that I end up on the floor, with her giggling on top of me, by that point in fits of laughter herself). I get to spend lots of time with her at the moment. When I feel at my worst I keep trying to tell myself there is always somebody worse off. It doesn’t make the nights any less lonely or the fear of not having the future I want any easier. I still feel like I wont have the things I long for most and some days that is agonising for me. But I can’t do much about that today. So I have to live day by day and just see what happens and have hope I will still get what I need and want in time.

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There are children with horrible rare illnesses that will die before their parents. There are people snatched from one another in accidents who never recover from that loss or the shock of it. I do feel bad when I have been feeling sorry for myself and think of others going through so much worse. It’s all relative to personal issues I guess and as I have said before, you can’t really explain a loss until you have gone through it. I know it takes time.

Yesterday I took my best little lady out for lunch. Nothing fancy, just a new cafe we found. It didn’t matter where it was. It was the ritual of doing something together that mattered. My sister joined us too after a while. Emi loves going out to eat.

 

Above: Ladies that lunch x

Today I went for breakfast (Didnt have to cook!) followed by a trip around the shops looking at Halloween bits with Emi. (Everything is so exciting when you are 3!) I bought some candles to relax when I do my stretches later this evening. (Bright pink ones!) I found a new shop full of cake decorating tools (Those who know me know this will excite me greatly on future trips into my town 😉 ) My daughter was happy. She spent time with both me and her dad today. She often misses him, so I was happy for her today that she was so content. (But hyper too!) She also spent the night at my sisters last night and had an absolute blast watering her garden, doing gymnastics and getting to have her fun time with her Aunty. This little girl has so much love in her life that it really fills my heart with happiness that she is so loved as a consequence of us bringing her into this world. It also gave me a rare morning with my sister, chatting together early this sunny Sunday morning whilst drinking tea, talking make-up, hair and hearing stories of their fun antics from the night before. It was a lovely, out of the ordinary routine, catch up and I enjoyed it immensely.

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Above: Absolute Pure Joy. Enjoying her adventure to Aunty Jemmas x

We made brownies this afternoon (Which didn’t work for some reason, I wasnt too thankful for that!) But a covering of ice cream and they were still edible! My daughter did a new painting for the fridge and was very pleased with her handy work. It will make me smile when I make a cup of tea now in its new pride of place.

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Above: Emis Art 😉

We caught up on Great British Menu and relaxed this afternoon after a busy morning. It was a nice Sunday.

It may not be the most exciting weekend to some but I really have enjoyed just stopping and noticing the little things and will try to do it more often. I’m not saying I wont feel crap about things or have bad days. But I would like more good ones. Life is short after all.

Sometimes the simple pleasures are just enough to get us through, if we notice them x