Admonished by a five year old

And who better to do that to me.

A sweet little girl was waiting with her Dad in the M&S at Reading Station. I had gone in there to buy a bottle of water for my journey down to my parents.

She was waving a mouse stuffed toy. I asked her if it was an Emily Gravett mouse.

“No, it’s from Gruffalo.”

Opps, suitably corrected. Of course it was, I recognised it from the books.

She was enjoying herself standing on those circular stools that were available to reach products placed at the far back of the chiller cabinets, carefully watched by her Dad just in case she toppled. We remarked on how it made her taller so she could see what was going on.

“Are you the King of the Castle?” I asked.

“No, Queen of the Castle!”

This sufficient and apt correction proved to me it was time to move on. Stop digging before you can’t get out. Obviously I can’t compete with a five year old, and since it had been quite a number of years since my own were that age. It not only made me feel old, and out of touch with small children, I was certainly not ready for grandmotherhood – yet.

Luckily there’s still time to learn about gender equality from sweet little girls.


Don’t forget to celebrate every milestone as it happens

Today my mother was able to sign her cheques. This is a very big thing, as since having come back from hospital after open heart surgery, she has been very shaky and wobbly, making her handwriting almost illegible.

There is a fine line regarding showing appreciation and praise. My mother was very proud of herself, so suitable noises were required to celebrate this huge achievement. But these needed to be appropriate for a recovering 80 year old woman, lacking in self-confidence yet still very proud, definitely wishing to maintain her matriarchal position in the household.

Recovering from a major operation is an exhausting and a time consuming business. I suppose it’s a bit easier if you’re ‘older’, as you don’t expect everything to happen immediately, unlike the rest of the world. I remember talking to two ladies (in their late 50s) at the bus stop outside the hospital after visiting mum, and they were complaining that the bus display showed 5 minutes until the next bus.

It wasn’t that long ago we didn’t have the luxury of knowing when the next bus would arrive, 5 minutes or 5 hours!

I am very impressed at the way Brighton is set up to help old people, healthy, infirm or whatever. There are free bus passes, courtesy of my cousin Lady Dennington, Baroness of Stevenage, when she was in the House of Lords. I remember her telling me her tactics to get this proposal through without any hassle was to position the discussion right after a good dinner, when it was much more likely to be waved through. Which worked perfectly, of course!

The taxi service is wonderful. Of course my mother won’t be able to drive for ages, and she hid my dad’s driving licence since he turned 70 because she was adamant he was unsuitable to drive (that was over 20 years ago!). My parents only need to dial a local taxi firm’s number, and an automated message asks for confirmation of their address by pressing 1, and a taxi turns up within 10 minutes, letting them know with one ring on their telephone when it has arrived. Brilliant!

Another milestone: my mother received the plumber by herself, answering the door and showing him to the bathroom. She didn’t want me there, even hovering in the shadows. The nurses said to me that she should move about as much as possible, and five days after coming out of hospital she is doing exactly that. Of course it will totally tire her out, but the fact that she wants to do this on her own is exemplary.

But what really knocks her for six is when she has to attend appointments outside of the house. She is constantly reminded she could have home visits, but this has yet to sink in. Mum has been so independent, she doesn’t want to lose this because of her new pig valve – the very idea! The whole episode is an upheaval, causing unnecessary stress, but hopefully these will become less and less as she improves with time.

Incredible how a bit of transparancy goes a long way

Wow! My last post got 29 views in only a few hours! That’s truly amazing for a blog that’s been dormant for several years.

I got some very nice comments, and also a warning! The latter was justified, though. The last time I opened up to how I really felt, my (then) boss found out and told me to stop blogging! (I ignored her, of course.)

Why did this concern her? I had dreadful withdrawal symptoms from giving up my business, and wrote mournful and wistful posts about how I felt. They had nothing to do with her, but she felt that they were. It’s amazing how people can construe stuff that doesn’t exist.

Anyhow, this well-meant warning from a good friend brought this all back to me. Even though a blog is a place where you are supposed to be able to express yourself, there is still the problem of creating a potential offence.

I made the error of revealing my present financial constraints. I shouldn’t have mentioned that I have been turned down by referrers, neither should I have said what I thought about it and them. It was unprofessional and even unnecessary.

But – it did get me out of a dark space. I had been feeling particularly miserable until I had written that post. Somehow the method of getting how I felt off my chest, the very act of sharing to whoever could be bothered to read this, made me feel better.

Over the years I have been exploring and examining what makes popular blogs so, well, popular. All those mummy bloggers you find at BritMums or MumsNet who seem to have thousands of readers – what special formula do they have?

Actually it’s being transparent, honest, up front in your views. This is a difficult concept to grasp if you’ve been used to a professional or corporate life. It seems that these mums find talking like they do so easy and effortlessly. And it is exactly that, they are having a conversation with their readers.

And when you become relaxed enough to communicate like this, with or without a stiff gin to help you (or chocolate cake for those who are tee-total), all sorts come out. Stuff that really you should have buttoned your lip over. Stuff that might make your grandmother shudder (if she was that sort of woman).

And do you know what? People like reading this sort of thing. They can either relate to it, or are in awe of it (how did she have the balls to say that?). That’s why there are so many books that sell that are brimming over with sex, intrigue, bad manners, outrageous plotlines, or whatever.

Not that I read that sort of thing. Which probably means why I don’t get a huge amount of readers clamouring to read about beginner blogging – well, it’s hardly racy stuff, isn’t it?

Transparency and honesty is a difficult thing to manage if you want to maintain a professional front. But sometimes I think you should be allowed to let your hair down. That’s why I have this blog on the side. It was the first WordPress blog I created (right after my Blogger one) and it’s been here ever since.

It’s my dumping blog. Somewhere to vent my feelings. I can’t be allowed to restrain myself, or I would probably blow up! It is my safety valve. Here I will probably write stuff that would make people cringe, but if they don’t like it… well, there’s always the unsubscribe button.

And being allowed to express myself freely will show my transparent side as honestly as possible. It is what makes me human, brings me down to the same level as my readers, shows I’m on their side.

By revealing my warts and all, I could be putting my business into jeopardy. Or I could be doing it a service. Or I could just be building up another kind of following that has nothing to do with my blogging expertise.

I’m prepared to experiment and see…

Doesn’t anyone want to help me anymore?

I used to have two self-hosted blogs in addition to this one, but recently financial restraints have caused me to give one of them up. So I shall be returning to my good ol’ trusty hosted WP blog to unload.

Since this will be my ‘dumping’ blog, somewhere I can vent my feelings, it will be a mixture of all sorts of stuff, some rubbish (wallowing in self-pity) and hopefully some good (I have a load of posts from my forsaken blog to rewrite).

This is a wallowing in self-pity one today, so feel free to turn away.

I haven’t earned anything from my business since the summer, so I wanted to get a part time job to supplement my income, so I could continue to pay for auto responders, hosting, etc. Bit difficult to do if you have £0 coming in otherwise.

But – it seems I am unemployable.

I asked my previous employers for references, and they have declined. The first because she is basically a horrid piece of whatever and I didn’t really expect her to be forthcoming. The second I was very disappointed because I thought we had parted in good terms, especially since I did her a favour not long after leaving.

Perhaps if you haven’t worked for some years, you become invalid for a reference? I would love to know by how much.

And being stuck at my parents’ house at the moment looking after my mother after her open heart surgery makes it more difficult for me to sort this out. If I don’t get a suitable reference acknowledged by my prospective employer, I won’t get paid for the work I’ve already done!

Not much encouragement. Ladies, beware! If you do stay at home, and then want to return to work, you may find it difficult to get a reference from your old employer if you leave it too long.

Frustrations of discontinued stock

I’ve just found out that ASDA are discontinuing a certain kind of Bavarian smoked cheese I regularly eat.

This is particularly annoying, but I know the reason why. The majority of people who frequent that shop don’t eat healthily, as they are plebs and have no idea of what healthy is, so therefore it isn’t profitable for this particular branch of ASDA to stock healthy food.

We have been shopping there for 19 years and as soon as we find something nice and healthy to buy and enjoy, ASDA stop stocking it (for the same reasons as above). We could travel across to the other side of Reading to a much larger store to buy this cheese, but why should I waste my petrol doing that?

And when I complain to the staff, they just look at me as if I’m mad. They have no sense of customer satisfaction, and why should they? It’s not their shop or business, is it? All they care about is their wages at the end of the week and a reasonable sense of job security.

The answer is obvious: I’m going to the wrong kind of supermarket, I live in the wrong area, and I’m getting more and more crabby and snobby in my old age. But that doesn’t solve my Bavarian smoked cheese problem.

Go to another supermarket? Waitrose and Sainsbury’s do stock it, but in much smaller portions and at elevated prices. Even more annoying!

The result of a Liebster Award

Liebster AwardCarrying on from the old fashioned chain letter that tormented me in my childhood, the concept has continued online. I’m actually flattered to be chosen for the Leibster Award, where bloggers nominate blogs (or their writers) they have taken a liking to, as it shows people do read my stuff! Actually it wasn’t this blog I was nominated for, so I’m selfishly using this blog as it fits in better with the following post!

Many thanks go to Proofed by Linds for nominating me. Actually I’m going spoil things by saying she was the second person to nominate my nature blog, and I’ve only just got around to fulfilling the requirements of the Liebster Award.

It works by the nominator giving me 11 questions to answer, I add on 11 random facts about myself, and then I select 11 more questions for another 11 bloggers to answer in their Liebster Award post. You can see where the chain letter concept fits in. It is a bit of fun, and has no real function, but you never know, people might like what I’ve written. (And I do feel a little guilty that it’s in this blog and not the nature one I was recommended for.)

1. What’s your favourite food and why?

I’m such a glutton I want to say all kinds of food, which has caused my downfall with weight most of my life. So my attitude towards food has changed over the years, depending on whether it’s good for me or not. Of course my favourite would be what I’m not allowed to have, like chocolate, taramasalata and cheese (not all together at the same time), though even these in strict moderation wouldn’t be that bad…?

2. Where do you go when you want to “get away from it all”?

If it’s a beautiful day a walk in the countryside with lots of wild flowers (hence the nature blog). If it’s the midst of winter, somewhere cosy with a log fire. In both cases a valuable distraction is necessary to make it feel worth while.

3. What three things would you take to your desert island and why?

I suppose these would be skills as well as material things. Knowing how to make a fire, catch your food and build suitable shelter would be invaluable. Having a practical, sharp knife would be vital. A book about the properties of plants and how they can help you might come in useful.

4. People blog for a variety of reasons… What are your reasons?

This is a very good question. I blog because I have an overwhelming desire to tell people stuff. Sometimes it’s to get things off my chest. Sometimes it’s to explore an idea or concept. But mostly it’s to pass on knowledge to others so they can benefit from it, or to gain pleasure from what I enjoy talking about too.

5. Give three qualities that you believe make up a good blog post

An excellent headline to attract attention to your post and generate a desire to read it. A conversational style that flows easily and guides the reader effortlessly down the page. A totally worth-while subject that is easily grasped, understood and valued for what it really is.

6. What really makes you laugh – right from the belly?

Clever humour. It has to be subtle as well as downright silly. It has to be delivered in a way that’s not meant to be funny. It has to surprise and catch me unawares.

7. What annoys you more than anything else?

Bad form. Inadequacy passed off as superior. Undue inappropriate criticism. Unnecessary stupidity being given a higher prominence than it deserves.

8. What’s number one on your bucket list?

To visit all the countries of the world I haven’t been to yet.

9. Who inspires you?

People who have been successful through their own merit, hard work and perseverance. This doesn’t have to be in the world of business, but in self-discovery, helping others and changing the world for the better.

10. What would you say to King Henry VIII if you could?

It depends how much I could say without getting my head cut off! I suppose I would tell him that one of the greatest monarchs England has ever had came from his loins, but not who he thinks it would be.

11. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

To put yourself in the other person’s situation, in order to see the world from their point of view. Many disputes and arguments would be solved (or never arise) if this was taken into consideration; we are nearly always too self-centered to stand back and view the situation as a whole. This also includes listening, learning and appreciating before you open your mouth, even if it appears to undermine yourself; the benefits should outweigh the inconvenience created.

11 random facts about me

  1. When I was 18 months old I burned my left hand so badly I was forced to become right handed.
  2. I was wrapped up in my own little world until the age of 13.
  3. I had a speech impediment and had speech therapy for 3 years. Also I find it difficult to read aloud due to dyslexia.
  4. I studied music for my degree. I was rubbish at playing instruments, so I composed instead. I was never any good at music, but I didn’t realise this properly until I arrived at university, which by then it was too late!
  5. When I worked at Sadler’s Wells, the administrative offices were situated in the house of my great, great, great, great uncle Charles Dibdin (Jnr) who was director of Sadler’s Wells in the early 19th century.
  6. I can trace three of my family trees back to at least 1720.
  7. I absolutely hate peanut butter. It is the most disgusting food ever!
  8. I believe I am a Norman, whereas my husband is a Viking.
  9. As a young girl I learned how to knit, sew, do cross-stitch and design samplers.
  10. It seems at the moment my wardrobe mostly consists of various shades of purple.
  11. I absolutely adore all kinds of fish, both to look at and to eat!

11 nominated bloggers
(who can participate only if they want to, no pressure…)

Birds on the Blog

Maria Hastings Personal Stylist

Success Network

Zest Lifestyle


Nikki Pilkington

Ace Inspire

Diksha Fix Me

Tom Evans

Doreen Gowing

Fiona Humberstone

11 questions for my 11 bloggers

  1. What was your favourite pet and what was its name?
  2. What was your school life like?
  3. Have you visited anywhere exotic?
  4. When you say the word ‘scone’, does it rhyme with ‘stone’ or ‘john’, and does this really matter?
  5. Which famous person would you have liked to have met, and why?
  6. What makes you get up enthusiastically in the mornings?
  7. What’s the colour you hate the most, and why?
  8. What’s your biggest phobia (if you have any)?
  9. Do you prefer winter, spring, summer or autumn?
  10. If you won a £million in the lottery, what would you spend it on?
  11. Who in your family do you mostly resemble, and in what way?

Phew, that was actually a very difficult post to write – I hope it was worth it!

success recipes for solopreneurs

2013 is going to be the year for those who love to write. And of course, as a blogger, I am one of them!

For years the search engines made it difficult for those who just love writing whatever comes into their heads. This is because of the horrific mathematical juxtapositions created to confuse us literary types, especially when it comes to writing for the internet.

Search engine optimisation has been the bugbear of creative writing. In fact, you can’t write creatively if you are doing SEO. There is nothing more soul destroying than trying to fit in a particular word or phrase into your post a certain number of times to fulfill an expectation that will (hopefully) satisfy the search criteria and lift your website or article out of the doldrums.

In fact I bought a particular plugin for my blog that said it would help me get more…

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