Friday, 27 February 2015

The Prompt: Reality

Reality is: getting up, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, putting the kids to bed, slumping in front of the TV for an hour before going to bed and starting all over again.

Reality is: sometimes I “intensely dislike” my children.

Reality is:  I love my kids so much, sometimes my heart hurts.

Reality is: I try to be a good person, but sometimes I am immature and go down to a five year olds  way of reasoning. 

Reality is: having to work at a relationship. You’re not always on the same page.

Reality is: enjoying the small things in life, like finding a book you enjoy.

Reality is: learning to be happier with yourself and your choices. It gets easier as you get older.

Reality is: learning to pick your battles (especially handy with a toddler)

Reality is: Life is what you make it. 


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Book Review: Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe

My sister and I and our little brother were born (in that order) into a very good situation and apart from the odd new thing life was humdrum and comfortable until an evening in 1970 when my mother listened in to my father's phone call and ended up blowing her nose on a tea towel - a thing she'd only have done in an absolute emergency.

Not long after her parents' separation, heralded by an awkward scene involving a wet Daily Telegraph and a pan of cold eggs, nine-year-old Lizzie Vogel, her sister and little brother and their now divorcee mother are packed off to a small, slightly hostile village in the English countryside. Their mother is all alone, only thirty-one years of age, with three young children and a Labrador. It is no wonder, when you put it like that, that she becomes a menace and a drunk. And a playwright.
Worried about the bad play writing - though more about becoming wards of court and being sent to the infamous Crescent Home for Children - Lizzie and her sister decide to contact, by letter, suitable men in the area. In order to stave off the local social worker they urgently need to find a new Man at the Helm.

Man At The Helm is the debut novel by Nina Stibbe and what a fantastic read it is.  A true joy to sit down and enjoy someone elses utterly British way of overcoming their trials and tribulations.  With the "riches to rags" misfortunes of the Vogel's and the understated way the Vogel girls decide their Mother needs a man at the helm.  

They are left in a house in the middle of the country with old people and married men.  The family isn't encouraged to join in with any part of village life.   No wonder their Mother turns to pills, booze and play writing and is temporarily unsuited to housework and laundry. We follow the shambolic and somewhat feral life the children lead when left to their own devices, the disaster that is their Mothers life and the "Man List" the girls create in their search for the "helmsman" including, marrieds, fiance's and the local vicar. 

This book was a pleasure to read.  I am often commuting and found myself giggling away in my seat. To be able to narrate through the eyes of a nine year old girl and keep an adult reader entertained is a great accomplishment and Nina Stibbe did it brilliantly.  This book is gem and definitely a recommended read.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

50 Shades Of Grey. Film Review

When the 50 Shades of Grey book phenomena hit the shelves I quietly downloaded it onto my kindle, then I steadfastly ignored it.  I love reading but I'm not so ambitious and don't like it if I start a book and can't get it into it.  I feel like a failure. I frequently judge books by covers which is something the kindle has somewhat removed.  I also had quite a few friends who read it and not one gave it a good review. Appalling writing seemed to be the main objection. I'm no high-brow reader, I love a good chick-lit story, but it put me off.  Also, I'm a commuting reader and didn't want to be all flushed on the 7.40am to Waterloo after reading a bit of soft erotica.

So it was with mild curiosity I found myself at the cinema watching the film with my friend.  She asked me to go and I felt duty bound to say yes.

We settled down in a 3/4 full screening with minimal men to be seen.  I don't think I had seen either the main actor: Jamie Dornan and actress: Dakota Johnson in anything previously. A quick check on IMDB (I love that site!) confirmed this.  

The premise is Christian Grey and man who had an extremely bad start in life and adopted by an apparently well off family has made good and is now a multi-billionaire.  He has many love and trust issues and at the age of 15 was seduced by a "Mrs Robinson" type person into her world of erotic dominance/submission.  Anastasia Steele is a young college graduate who also has a slightly skewed perspective on love, probably because of a four times wed Mother, and is pulled into his world through her own naive curiosity.

Throughout the film there quite a few sex scenes, however; I didn't find them mildly erotic or particularly shocking.  From the first screening, it's been headlined about groups protesting against violence against women.  I agree there should never be violence against women in a relationship but that's not what this film is about.

Yes Christian Grey is a controlling character but the message I got from the film is; it's about freedom of choice.  He never forces Ana to bend to his will. Yes he exerts some pressure by buying expensive gifts; but there is an exhaustive contract of rules of which she can and does negotiate. She has the choice to say yes or no or just plain STOP.

The end of the film was slightly disappointing but as it's a trilogy, they've obviously left the door open for the next film.

Overall it was better than I thought it would be, but if you're not so into the hype, wait for it to come out on DVD or on TV.

I doubt I'll be sending Mr M out to the DIY store for rope, tape and cable ties.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Prompt: Dream

noun: dream; plural noun: dreams

    a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep.
    "I had a recurrent dream about falling from great heights"
        a state of mind in which someone is or seems to be unaware of their immediate surroundings.
        "he had been walking around in a dream all day"
    a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.
    "I fulfilled a childhood dream when I became champion

Dreams are funny old things aren't they?  How often do you remember your dreams and do they have any significant meanings?  I rarely remember my sleeping dreams these days.  Although I've had a few odd ones recently about being back at school (I left 20+ years ago) and going on holiday. I'm not sure if the school one means anything to me and holiday, well we've booked one and I'm wondering how we're going to pay for it.  I never seem to dream about being caught naked somewhere I shouldn't be, my teeth falling out or falling and flying.  I sometimes have "those" types of dreams but they are a bit like some holiday snaps (private viewing only). Overall, mine all seem quite mundane, I'm walking down a road and bump into a friend.  These types of dreams don't make for good storytelling do they?  I quite like it when I have remembered a dream but get annoyed if I can only remember snatches of it.  It's like starting a good book and then realising you've read it before.  I also want to tell people about my dreams.  What's that all about?  I'm not entirely convinced we want to hear other peoples ramblings about stroking their cat and it turned out to be a tiger and started chasing them through the old swimming pool changing rooms. (you get the picture).

What about the other type of dreams? (No not the mucky ones!) I mean the ambition type.  Sadly, I don't think as a child I ever had any particular ambitions.  Maybe get a Blue Peter badge or have a picture shown on Take Hart or Hartbeat.  Neither things I achieved.   Many children wanted to be on Jim'll Fix It but I never had a burning ambition to wing walk or dance with Bucks Fizz.  There was never a job ambition either, I didn't know if I wanted to be a Doctor, nurse, vet, or librarian which is probably why I am none of these things.  

I'm thinking it should be quite sad I had no ambitions but on the other hand, I have no regrets.   My 9year old wants to be a vlogger/gamer.  Good luck to him I say but don't be disappointed if it never happens. It's only a dream after all.


Friday, 6 February 2015

It's a (Minecraft) Minefield!

The five year old thinks everything electrical she touches is a swipe screen.  She tries to swipe at my kindle (original edition and height of technology when it was new) with confusion.  Father Christmas kindly bought her a Samsung Galaxy Tab3 (kids).  Father Christmas also bought the nine year old an iPad mini.

I am trying my hardest to keep up with them but I know pretty soon they will both overtake my limited technology knowledge and be hacking into the Government data frame (does that exist?).

One of the Mums on a FB group I am a member of recently asked if our older children had instagram accounts as her nine year old was asking for one.  Heck I don't even have an instagram account! Isn't it more about taking photo's and people commenting on them? Another member of a FB group I am a member of; posted a picture of her dog on her instagram account and was then upset when some nasty troll told her it was ugly and should be put down. 

One way I get round checking what the children use or download is by using one account for all of us. I've set up safe searching and haven't loaded my card details so no sneaky purchases can be made. I get emails when they download games and apps.This has worked so far for our Android products, but now Apple™ has arrived too giving me another set of complications.

This week I have been proud of the nine year old, he's been asking me if he is allowed to download a game on his iPad.  He's been describing it in detail to me in the car every morning. I'm not keen on the sound of it.  At least one of his friends has it he says.  So this has prompted me to re-search the game.  It's not a blood and gore game but I found this description  on the website Common Sense Media

"Terrifying psychological thriller is too much for kids."  "Parents need to know (game name) is a horror game that uses tension and jump scares in place of blood and guts -- and, as a result, is a lot scarier than many other titles. The sense of being trapped and defenceless in a small office quickly becomes real -- and when the animatronic characters jump out at you, you'll jump (and maybe scream). This makes the game much too intense for younger kids -- and teens should know what they're getting into."

I didn't know if app games ran by the same rules as games & videos do.  It turns out there is an Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). They provide guidance about video games and apps so that consumers, especially parents, can make informed choices about the ones they deem suitable for their family.

ESRB ratings have three parts:
  • Rating Categories suggest age appropriateness
  • Content Descriptors indicate content that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern
  • Interactive Elements inform about interactive aspects of a product, including users' ability to interact, the sharing of users' location with other users, or the fact that personal information may be shared with third parties
They have a free app which you can access from here.

I have also learnt that I can set restrictions for apps through the iPad too and will be nabbing it off the nine year old when I get home to do that.  That's if the five year old isn't watching Barbie reviews on YouTube. 

Unfortunately in the eyes of the nine year old I am the big bad Mum who says no, he can't understand the reasons why I wont let him play the games his friends do but hopefully when he's all grown up and maybe a parent too, he'll also be fighting these battles on behalf of his children.