‘Tis The Season….

With December now upon us, I wanted to write a blog about something that plays on my mind every single year.

Christmas is a magical time for most. The anticipation, the gathering of families, the food….even remembering loved ones we have lost….Christmas is the time to do all that.

We all know how hard certain people work over the holidays. There are no end of jobs I could name that require working all over Christmas, including the day itself. Emergency services, care workers and even restaurants and such. All these people work so hard and things would be chaos if we didn’t have these dedicated people working over the festive period.

But I wanted to talk about the people who never get a second thought. Retail workers.

I may have already even lost some of you that are reading this by just saying the words ‘retail workers’….but seriously, try and keep with me for a bit.

I have worked retail. It would never have been right for for me to post a blog about working in retail over Christmas before, because it was my job. Now, I am in a new job. A job where I get to have the Christmas week off. Retail workers aren’t so lucky.

This isn’t a comparison blog. It isn’t a dig at any other job, it is simply a post about retail at Christmas. Shop work isn’t exactly saving peoples lives. I get that. I do.

But let me tell you as someone who has experienced it for years running, it’s awful. Last year, I worked for two weeks straight in the lead up to Christmas day. Long hours every day. I worked two weeks straight with no day off, had Christmas day off then was back at work early the next morning for the dreaded ‘boxing day’ sales. And a full seven days after Christmas of solid work. So in three weeks over the jolly season, I had one day off. Christmas Day.

Aside from the two straight weeks of working, there were all the other days I did before that. It all starts for retail workers in bloody October. The shops get all the Christmas merchandise in and we are expected to put it all out, often working late nights and early mornings in the last few months of the year. There are also all the late night shopping shifts we had to do. Any sacred day I had off, I couldn’t face doing Christmas shopping of my own. If I ever finished my shift before the other shops in town shut which was rare, I had already had enough. The last thing I wanted to do was traipse around busy shops trying to get Christmas cheer and look for presents. I just didn’t have any interest in it.

As I have touched upon, last year was just awful for me. I barely saw my children in the weeks leading up to Christmas. If I ever said no to a shift, my contract would be mentioned. The contract where I had signed I was willing to do ‘overtime’ . I mean….there is overtime and then there is ‘overtime’. There is a difference. I just kept telling myself it was more money. It was money to give the kids a nice Christmas. But by the time I had the money in my hand, I didn’t care. I couldn’t think straight. Most of my Christmas shopping last year was done two days before the big day. I finished at 4 o’clock and quickly whizzed around town picking up anything I could find. No thought really went into any of the presents I chose. It was miserable. Those two weeks before Christmas, I was so run down from working so much. I love Christmas Eve, as most of us do. I have spent every year since my Littles were born making it nice for them, watching their excitement build up over the day. In all my working years, I have mostly worked every Christmas Eve, but since the Littles came along, I have only worked mornings on a Christmas Eve. I have always been home to them by three in the afternoon at the latest. Even if it meant starting at 6am (and sometimes it did), I would make sure to get home to them so we could have the evenings together. Last year. I had to work from 10am to 7:30pm at night. It was a forty-five minute walk there and back. I was out of the house all day. I didn’t get in til half past eight that night, and the kids were already going to bed, having already done all the exciting things kids do on Christmas Eve. That Christmas Eve was, without a doubt, the worst one I had ever had. I had a manager that favoured a select few in the shop…and despite having worked my arse off and dropping everything to go in at any given time with no complaints in the month of December, he had decided to gift just two people with Christmas cards and shop vouchers. It was a slap in the face for the rest of us. To work that hard and not have the manager treat ALL of us the same was shit. I was missing the kids, I had no Christmas cheer and worked like a dog on 24/12/2015 and for what? A thanks would have been plenty….I got nothing. (In case anyone was wondering about the end to that story, I kept quiet and seething on Christmas Eve, then when I went in on Boxing Day for another long and pointless shift, I let rip. I let the manager know exactly what I thought of him rewarding two girls in the shop and not all of us. The manager admitted it was a dick move and that my point was valid.) You want to know what our shop of ten workers got as a ‘Christmas bonus’ that year? One packet of chocolate coins to share between us. I wish I was joking. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the shop had closed at half-five and I could have walked home, but oh no. I had to stay for a couple of extra hours sorting the boxing day sale out.

And unfortunately, it isn’t just certain managers that treat the employees with disregard. In my case, during the festive season, I never had a thanks from any of the customers. They were all in such a hurry. Of course, not all customers are rude in December. I’m not stereotyping and calling everyone grumpy. But not one of them ever really looked me or any of my work colleagues in the eye and said thanks. And the ones that were rude were just awful. They thought because it’s Christmas and that they have a way more important job than us, that they had a right to stand there and shout at us about things that were out of our control.

That’s enough of my experience in retail. This isn’t about me, although I have just written an entire blog about how miserable I was last year you could be forgiven for thinking that.  Just try and disregard all of the above and read this next bit for me.

In any shop you go in this Christmas, you will be served by an actual human. This human has probably already done a never ending rota of shifts with extremely long hours. They are probably counting down every second until they get their next day off. You can guarantee that this retail worker would already have been shouted or sworn at during the shift because some customers turn crazy in December. They may have even had a few snarky comments about how they have it easy. They may have just had a long tale from a snob of a man in a suit claiming he has no time to shop because he only has two weeks off for Christmas, then the person behind them may well have shouted at this same human worker for not serving them quickly enough because they had to listen to the superior man in front drone on. You should also be aware that the worker would have been yelled at by management at some point for not being quick enough or not meeting sales targets. You can bet that the worker is on minimum wage, possibly on a FOUR hour contract but expected to do maybe up to FIFTY hours in the Christmas weeks. The worker of course, has always wanted a bigger contract, but management care more about money and sales than people and it would be a very real inconvenience to them to have to pay someone say….twenty-five hours holiday when they can pay them four. The worker will still be expected to do ten times the four hours a week all through the year, just without the added security of a bigger contract of course. You should probably keep in mind that the worker serving you has possibly been there from 6am that morning. You should know that they could be there til as late as 10pm that night, then have to do it all again tomorrow. If you walk up to them and think they have it easy standing there serving at a till all day, you should know that they probably had a fifteen minute break once in eight hours because even though laws are laws, it somehow doesn’t apply to retail. And before you really get carried away with the idea that they have ‘just been standing at a till’…you should know that that very morning they were no doubt lugging heavy delivery boxes around trying to get it all out for the customers in time. You should also remember that a lot of these workers don’t just get to go home when the shop closes, they have to stay behind and plan out sales. They have to do shop floor plans and move stuff around. They have to re-price every thing. They have to put the whole shop back in order because for some reason, December is the month for some customers to pull stuff from shelves and leave them in different places. You should know that although retail workers are guaranteed Christmas day off, they will be expected to work every day but then, including all of New Year.You should know that they don’t want to ask you a million questions about store cards and email things when serving you, but if they don’t ask…they face possible disciplinary action. You should be aware that their manager will be comparing them to their work colleagues and that if they aren’t making as many sales as others, or giving out as many store cards as what they should…they will be getting a telling off. You should know that you really, truly and absolutely would make a retail workers day if you just looked at them, smiled and said thanks. If you wanted to be super generous, you could even throw in a Merry Christmas.

For anyone working in retail this Christmas, I promise I will be friendly. I promise that I will be thinking of you and I promise not to make your job any harder than it already is. I also promise to sign as many petitions about shops not opening on boxing day as I can. Because it is absolutely pointless and nobody needs that. Merry Christmas to you all.

And everyone else working over Christmas, the emergency workers, the carers, the chefs, and all the thousands of other people that have to work those days….thank you. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year a thousand times over. The Littles and I are planning a little something for ‘giving back’ but it’s not as special if you boast about it on the interweb for back pats and praises so we will keep the actual giving private. Thanks for reading!

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It Was Just A Joke….

I read an article the other night that got me thinking. I know, it must have been quite the read to get my slow brain going.  It was an online article about confidence and the way certain moments in life will have affected us.

There was a bit where you could comment about an event or something that has happened which has affected the person you are today and I was really shocked by all the people that have had things done or said to them that were so bad, it has led to them having no self worth or confidence.

I have touched upon this story on my blog before, but I didn’t go into detail. After seeing everyone else share their tales of humiliation, I thought I would tell mine. Because why not, I love to make everyone cringe on my behalf….clearly. It is just one of many stories I have about growing up and never quite fitting in. Now I have grown up, moved on and wish nothing but happiness to all the people that ever gave me hell. I’m nice like that. (Or you know… I love the whole ‘kill them with kindness thing’ so much that it has become my motto.) But as a teenager,  every comment, every act of cruelness directed to me felt like it would leave a permanent scar….and I suppose this story I am about to tell is the one that left the most destruction. The deepest wound.

My first few years at high school didn’t go very well. Most of my friends that read this blog will already know this. For different reasons…I struggled to master the old high school lark. I never quite fit in.

I think I was around fifteen or so when I decided to walk in and show everyone that I didn’t care about what they said. I decided that if I didn’t have many (or sometimes even ANY) friends…then I would just have to make some. At the time I thought I could do it, I really thought I could become a whole new person and adopt a new personality so that people would like me. It didn’t quite turn out like that. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why I thought putting on lashings of black eyeliner and putting ironic bumper stickers on my bag would make me any cooler, but I was certain it would work.

At the start of the year, we all had new classes to contend with. New teachers, new rooms and the most important thing….new people to get used to. One class stood out to me in particular….Science. Physics to be exact. On our very first day, I decided I loved this class. I loved the teacher who made classic old man jokes and I loved the subject itself. (I know, weird kid.) I also loved that he had split us all and partnered us up to sit at a table with for the rest of the year. Because nobody much liked me, I would never, ever get picked. You know the kid that would always get picked last…but even worse than that because people didn’t even want you despite being the only person left to pick? That was me. So the fact that the teacher gave people no choice about who to sit next to made my life easier.

The tables were made for two and I got sat next to a boy. I had never been in any classes with this boy. He didn’t know much about me, I didn’t know much about him and to my complete surprise, that first lesson…he actually spoke to me. This carried on for a week, the three times we had Physics. We spoke, we laughed, we worked well together and got high marks.

After a great week of lessons, I walked in to Physics and one of the other boys tripped me over right as I was making my way to my table. My physics partner saw and rather  than laugh with the whole class, he asked if I was OK. I know, this all sounds like the base for a very cheesy high school movie doesn’t it? Except for the fact that this particular movie will have a very different end to the ones you will see on screen. The geeky girl does not end up with the popular guy in the real life version……

Anyway….he asked if I was OK. In my eyes….he was basically an angel sent down to be my friend and look out for me. Being a hormonal, isolated teenage girl…that one simple question made me have a huge crush on him. I fell pretty hard. Throughout my whole time at high school, he was really the only boy I ever proper fancied. I soon realised he was very ‘in’ with the popular gang…. as in the gang that made my life unbearable on a daily basis. But it didn’t put me off. It just made me fall deeper. Because he was always the same to me in lessons. He made me laugh, he spoke to me lots…we got so close that he even started writing me little notes during class. Nothing really romantic or anything…but enough to make me think he cared.

One day, I walked into Physics and he was looking at me funny. I asked him why he was staring and he said that it was because I looked nice. Then….he actually said the words….”Your hair looks pretty, you should have it like that every day.” Oh my god!! An actual real living high school person just said something nice to me. Everything was going to be OK. In fact, it would be more than OK. We would be high school sweethearts and he would protect me from all the bullies. We would be together and obviously get married. And in years to come , we would laugh about our days at high school together, glad that we both got through it OK. (I know right. How desperate was I as a teen?)

After about a month of this guy being wonderful to me, someone else in my physics class cornered me at the end of the lesson. This other person was one of his friends and he had never been nasty to me, but he had never exactly been kind to me. He told me that my Physics partner (AKA: love of my life *ahem*) was wanting to meet me at break time. He said that he suspected he was going to ask me out. He told me where to be and what time and walked off, leaving me a complete mess.

I was full of excited nerves…and felt that I would actually be physically sick. No guy had ever asked me out before. And not only was this a guy, this was one of the cool kids. This was a person who I actually liked and clicked with. I just couldn’t believe my luck.

By this point, I did actually have a friend in the year below me. Crazy I know! This friend also happened to be a guy and we would usually hang out at break. I ran up to him, spilling the beans about how Physics guy was going to ask me out and how I was the happiest girl in the world. My friend didn’t say much. He didn’t discourage or encourage. He walked me to where I was to meet my future husband and hung back.

As I walked up to Physics guy, I found it quite alarming that he was surrounded by a particular group of people who really did like to give me trouble. There were probably about ten of them, and they really, utterly and truly…despised me. A mix of boys and girls. They were all gathered around him, and started nudging each other when I walked up to them. Obviously in hindsight, I should have ran away there and then….but I was blinded by teenage love, what can you do?

Physics guys eyes lit up and he actually took my hand. I thought that he must really like me to gather these people here. That it was some grand gesture. A big screw you to all my haters if he was willing to ask me out in front of this lot.

And ask me out he did. It wasn’t very romantic, I mean…we were teenagers. He said something along the lines of….”I like you and think we should go out. As in boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Amazing. What a time to be alive. I nodded and was so happy that I went to hug him. I was a little confused when he stepped back as if he had just been burnt. I was even more confused when he started laughing so hard he had to clutch his belly. The gang around him laughed as well. I heard one of the girls say to someone ‘I can’t believe she thought it was real.”

I made the whole situation more painful for myself than it needed to be by just standing there. I couldn’t quite get my head around what had just happened. I mean…this guy liked me, why was he laughing and acting all grossed out by me?

I just stood there, not knowing what to say. When he finally stopped laughing, he spoke.

“Did you really think I was being serious? I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last person in the world. You are disgusting. Everyone hates you.”

Then someone from the gang chipped in with ….”He would rather go out with the Physics teacher than you.”

He laughed again, nodding in agreement. “I really would.” Then he walked away with the group, most of them still laughing.

My friend from the year below who had walked me there just sort of directed me to a quiet place in the school field and thankfully…didn’t utter one word about what had just happened. And he never, ever mentioned it the whole time we were friends which I really appreciated. No, he didn’t stick up for me. His street cred would have been ruined. But he never made things worse for me. He didn’t abandon me and for that I was grateful.

I went home and I cried myself to sleep. Not just that night, but for many nights after. I actually was so distraught and gutted by the whole thing, that I managed to bag the next day off school. The ordeal must have made look a little ill, because my parents were no pushovers when it came to time off. I cried and replayed it in my head a million times. In every replay, I beat myself up. I never thought….why did he do it? How could he be so cruel? My thoughts were always…..how could I be so stupid to believe him? Why did I show my face to be humiliated? Why did I bring this on myself?

Of course, it was extremely painful to go back to Physics and face him again. He smirked really nastily at me and from then on….acted like a moron if we ever had to share a book or do an experiment together. I would turn a page and he would make gagging noises and wipe off my obvious digustingness from whatever I had touched. He basically became the class hero and I became more of a loser than I ever had been. The class I once loved now became an hour of torture three times a week.

Out of all the incidents I endured at school, that was the one that stayed with me. It was the one that hurt the most and yes, changed me for how I would act with men later on in life. You see, at the time….I honestly believed Physics guy liked me. We got on so well and laughed all the time, it was a shock that it was all a joke.

After high school I went out with people casually. I never, ever believed that they wanted to be with me. I honestly just waited for the day they would tell me it was all a big joke. I convinced myself every time they were seeing someone else and that the whole reason they were with me was because they wanted to impress their friends with what a twat they could be when they dumped me. Of course, these casual things would fizzle out with no cruel jokes, no bad blood, no nothing. But I was always waiting for it.

The day my first real boyfriend asked me out, instead of giddily saying yes and blushing like a loved up puppy, I stood there with my arms folded. I frowned as he stood there waiting for my answer. You see, he had chosen to officially ask me out in front of five other people….on a rooftop of all places. When the silence became deafening, I asked him if he was joking. He shook his head, obviously confused. With these people watching us, I asked him a million questions to determine if he was telling the truth or not….it was embarrassing for him and it made me look like a loon. I asked if him and his best friend were in on some prank to destroy me…which puzzled him no end considering his best friend had only met me once and that my boyfriend himself had never ever been cruel to me in any way. After that, we officially got together and he explained that my behaviour that night had been really weird. I didn’t go into why I had acted the way I did, I just brushed it off and decided that in order to never be hurt again, I would just have to care less. Eventually, me and my first official boyfriend broke up. The reason he gave me when he ended it was that I just didn’t appear to care enough. He was right. I had built myself a brick wall, then added another one hundred layers of brick wall around it just for good measure. Drastic from that one single high school event maybe….but at the time it was something I thought was necessary. All the relationships I have had have been a mixed bag. Some have ended with the common ‘cheating’. Some have fizzled out. Some have ended because just like my first boyfriend told me…I just didn’t seem to care enough. (By the way, that makes me sound like I have had loads of relationships…..we can use the term relationships loosely….most of what I have been describing have been casual dating lasting no longer than a few months…a couple have been serious.)

Isn’t it absolute madness that one teeny thing can change you for life? Being asked out for a joke is that one thing that changed me. It still affects me today. I find it hard to accept compliments. I can’t just say a simple thank you. I have to tag a joke on the end of your compliment or say something sarcastic. And that means about anything…whether it’s a compliment about my looks…or my outfit that day….or my personality….or even if someone simply messages me and says….’Great blog’….I find it hard to accept that they genuinely mean it all because some high school kids upset me one day. Of course, as much as it affects me from time to time….I am getting so much better. With the help of my friends, I have learnt to say thank you. Even if deep down I don’t fully believe the compliment…. I would like to think you mean it and I won’t throw it back in your face because that’s just awkward and insulting for everyone. I am getting better.

It was definitely one of those moments in life where you will be laying in bed as a grown up, and suddenly…when you can’t sleep at three in the morning, that day will come back to you and the humiliation and shame you felt at the time will make your cheeks burn.

But it’s also a moment that I learnt from and come away from as a stronger person. I read a quote in a book once….the exact words I can’t remember….but it said something like…..”People are mean because they are scared. People are mean because they are trying to find out who they are themselves……people are never mean for the sake of being mean. There is always a reason’

How true is that? Looking back now….I know that the Physics guy liked me. Perhaps not in a romantic way…but I certainly didn’t make up our weeks of friendship, laughter and concern. He perhaps felt he had no other choice if he wanted to be accepted at school and I was an easy target. He wasn’t mean to be mean, he was mean to try and figure out who he was.

Of course, some people are just arseholes.

I am proud of the fact that if I see someone new now, I don’t act like that humiliated girl from the school field. I act like a grown up. Even if inside I don’t believe that they could possibly want anything to do with me. I at least try to believe it…..It’s been years and I am a very different person to my angsty teenage self. If I meet someone new in the near future, I am old enough and wise enough to know that high school is long gone. This is real life now. People aren’t so mean with age. I hope.

Reading that online article shocked me at just how many other people have experienced the whole ‘asking you out for a joke’ thing. So many people have been through the same. At the time, I honestly thought I was the only person it had ever happened to. You have enough dislike for yourself to believe that you are the only person in the world who could generate such a cruel joke from someone. As I got older I realised we all had our own various forms of hell at school. We all suffered in some way.

My bestie and I were talking the other day…this might make her embarrassed but she has always been my little cheerleader. She has always had confidence in me and sees me very differently to the way I see myself. And she asked me why? Why do I dismiss myself so much? I guess it is hard seeing someone do themselves down time and again, whether in a jokey way or real. But many of us insult ourselves before others have a chance to.

Over the years, I have had very special people in my life try to convince that I’m not that girl who everyone runs away from. I was like Elphaba only minus the green skin. And special powers. Basically, I was a really uncool Elphaba who couldn’t even sing. But to quote Wicked itself….I’m Not That Girl….(anymore) .

I’ve spoken on here before about how those years changed me into the person I am today. And sometimes, even if I don’t believe others like the girl I am now, I like the girl I am now. She’s stronger because of everything.

I’m not bitter anymore….I just wanted to share this story after reading that so many others have been through it as well. Even when you think you’re alone….you aren’t. There is always someone there.

And getting older, dealing with serious matters such as life, bills, relationships, jobs and sadly even deaths…..it doesn’t make these troubles that you once had nothing. It doesn’t make them go away. These are the things that shape us and turn us into who we are. But to anyone out there who has struggled or is struggling….don’t ever let it define who you are. Take it with you, learn from it, but don’t let it overtake you and ruin relationships or ruin your self esteem. Wear the struggles as your trophies. Be proud of who you are now and keep that head up.


 

On a completely different note….Don’t forget it’s flu jab time!! If you have health problems, are over the age of 65, have children who need it done or none of the above but you are just considering getting one, do it. Please do not be ignorant and believe everything you read…..these jabs save peoples lives.

I had to get one because of past medical history and up until this year…I ignored the flu jab letters and clinics. But as you all know in February I got the flu + a nasty chest infection + mild pneumonia. It was probably the worst I have ever felt in my life and that’s something for a girl who had a hole in her heart. It knocked me down for nearly a month and I honestly believe had I been any weaker, it could have been a very different outcome.

It helps my Dad with his chronic illness every year, it helps so many people.

Of course, I never demand people do this or that. I don’t force people to think how I think. Everyone will have their own opinion and that is that. But if you are even considering if you should get one…. I would kindly push you in the direction of the jab….for your own good of course😉

And if it helps sway anyone…. Yesterday when I had mine, it was painless due to the dreamy male nurse I had. All good, all good.

Please take flu seriously and don’t let it kill you.

On that cheery note, I’m off for a cuppa. As always, here’s a couple of totally unrelated pictures. I went out the other night for the first time in aaaages. It was such a good night!

 

 

 

A Jersey Contract – Broken

So I’ve been pretty quiet ’til now. OK , it actually only took me a few hours to jump on this blog as most of you probably guessed I would.

The news broke yesterday that Jersey Boys, the West End show, my most favourite show I have ever seen, the best show in the universe (OK , I’ll stop)….is coming to an end. And thanks to the few that messaged me asking my thoughts on it. I think the only way to get my feelings out is through blog world, as I always do. It should answer some questions.

Everyone knows by now that I was a Jersey Girl. I was mad for it. It was my happy place. I lost count of seeing it. A very talented man called Sandy Moffat introduced me to the show that would forever become my favourite. For two whole years I lived and breathed Jersey Boys. Every person on that stage became stars to me. The story was magical. The songs were timeless. The world was happy.

Then, a huge cast change shake up came in March. Every single one of my faves left and I had to take a breather. I wrote a blog about how I would support the new cast and everyone knows that since March, I haven’t even been back to see the new cast. But before you all shout at me, just because I haven’t seen them does not mean that I haven’t been supporting of them.

Jersey Boys was my favourite show. I read every review they got with pride. I got excited for the praise the ‘new’ (not so new anymore) guys got. I watched every TV performance they did. Every new person I met I would tell them to go see Jersey Boys. I have supported them quietly from afar.

My original reasons, in that first month or two for not going back was simple….I needed to get my head around a new cast, I needed to take a breather and go back realising it would be a slightly different show than the one I had seen.

But then it got more complicated. I had poor health from my absolute nightmare in February, I had to change jobs, I had less money than before and work shifts where I had to be up at 4am. The thought of going to any West End show was utterly terrifying when I was that exhausted, and true to the tale….I didn’t see one show. I have not seen a West End show since March, and that West End show was Jersey Boys. It’s not a simple case of me missing the old cast and not going. It was that….and I make no excuses for that. It was that in the first month, maybe two. But I always had every intention of going back to the show that made me so happy.

If a person goes to a show once, loves it with all her heart but can’t go back because of money issues, or living far away, or being a single Mum with no-one to help with her kids, or being a teenager who can’t afford a repeat due to not earning for themselves…..does that make them less of a fan then somebody who has been multiple times? Of course not. It makes them equally a fan. When I went countless times in those two years, I met a girl who had seen the show once and fell in love with it. She was just as big as fan as me. She was desperate to go back but her circumstances didn’t allow it. The fact she had went once was proof enough for me that she adored the show.

I do not ever try to be dishonest on this blog, as cliche as it sounds, this blog is my own personal diary. My sadness at the ‘old’ cast leaving was very real to me and I could not face going back. Then, as I said above, it turned into NOT being able to go which in turn made me want to go back.

Jersey Boys is closing in March, and before then….I will be going back to see it once more. I will say goodbye in my own way. I will probably cry like a baby. I will be the usual me.

I am so very sad that Jersey Boys has to close. Granted, there are worse things going on in the world right now….but that makes it all the more sad because we need these West End shows with talented casts lighting up our day to day lives. They are an escapism. And the thought that I can no longer go and escape to the show that means so much to me has hit me like a shit ton of bricks this morning. The option has been taken away from me.

I have said my feelings on the matter, now I want to talk about Jersey Boys as a whole.

The fact that the cast and crew are dealing with the news is enormous. It’s not just a show, it is their jobs. From the directors to cast, from costume people to wig guys, they are all employed and working on a show where no doubt the people will feel like family. As when any show closes, not just my favourite, my heart really goes out to every single person who will be saying goodbye.

I think that the two Matts, Declan and Simon are doing a brilliant job with stunning the crowds each night. And I know that they have to carry on as all shows do when they get the bad news of a closure. They themselves have managed to entice a whole new fan base to the show, I’ve seen it on twitter. They kept the old fans coming back, gained new ones and of course, wowed the people that were there for a one off night of entertainment. I wish them nothing but the best for the future, and look forward to seeing them perform on stage together.

The Jersey Boys contract has been officially broken, and with it…..a little piece of my show loving heart. I know the ones who will already be booking several shows to give it a good send off, and I would urge everyone that has never seen it, or seen it before and wants to go back to book up and see it. Make the last few months one big party and see it off in style.

Jersey Boys, I thank you for the years of joy you provided me. Not so much for the late nights and delayed train journeys and making myself bankrupt to see you, but it was all worth it!

It will be an emotional goodbye. X

 

A Night At The Popera

I can now officially tick Operatic Pop off the list of things I needed to see before I become more of a loner than I already am and eventually retire on a remote island where there are no other people and nothing at all to do but melt away into my own bitterness. I’m such a hoot.

I am definitely a West End girl as you will know if you’ve ever read this blog. Due to certain things happening this year, I haven’t been able to get back to London in months for a show. So when the lovely Tommy Goodridge announced he was off on a tour with the Vox Fortura lads as a support act to G4 on the Back For Good tour, and that they would be stopping at Clacton-On-Sea, I decided I had to see it.

Vox Fortura had already greatly surprised me after being on Britains Got Talent. I have never really listened to opera music, nor did I ever watch a series of Britains Got Talent until this year. I will be the first to admit that I only tuned in to see how Thomas got on. I didn’t realise just how much I would love Vox Fortura and their unique style of singing. And I certainly didn’t realise that I would be jumping at the chance to see them as a support act on tour.

The perfect cherry on top was my bestie phoning me up to say that she wanted to travel for an insane amount of hours and come and see them with me, so we planned the weekend and counted down the days.

In the lead up, I of course downloaded Vox Forturas album Heroes on iTunes and listened to it all the time. Not because I had to. Not because I thought I should as I was going to see them at a show. But because I fell absolutely in love with it. Well done Tommy G, knew you would be doing albums and all that jazz one day!!

In booking the show to see Vox Fortura, I hadn’t really figured out what I would think of G4. I mean, I’d heard them before and thought they were good, but I couldn’t say what I would feel. I didn’t know much about the genre they did. I tend to get so wrapped up in one thing (theatre, books, a good old Netflix series) that I forget to explore the other things that are out there. So I set off for the weekend forgetting about everything else except for the fact that, A) I would get to see my best friend and B) I would at last get to see Vox Fortura on stage.

I met Ali at the train station after she traveled for an absolute insane amount of time and off we went to check into the Premier Inn on the sea front. There, we were greeted by a lovely, friendly guy who was happy to chat and ask us why we were there. It’s the little things like that which make or break a weekend. Then we ran to grab some food. We went for classy and decided to dine in Mcdonalds. Yes. Dine. We even had napkins and everything. Have you ever known anything so posh? No. Didn’t think so.

We got to the theatre and sat in our seats in the stalls. With a malibu and coke of course. When in Rome. Or when In Clacton-On-sea. Same, same.

From the moment G4 came on in their glowing suits singing a medley of Queen, I was sold. I decided in the first thirty seconds that I was already a G4 fangirl. It was that instant. Some people have either got it, or they ain’t….and G4 have got it. It was right up my street. Not knowing much about them, I expected them to do a set list and have amazing vocals and walk away being like’Ah, that was nice.’

I wasn’t prepared for just how good their vocals were. I wasn’t prepared to enjoy every single song. And I honestly wasn’t prepared for how funny they were. In between songs, they had me in stitches. I would go from laughing like a loon, to getting chills when they sang. The variety they packed into the show was endless. They did the Queen medley as mentioned above, they did a musical theatre medley, a boyband/pop song medley, classic opera songs, they even serenaded some lucky lady in the audience. They did a medley inspired by the live shows they’ve seen and all of it was just brilliant!

I do have a particular stand out moment from G4 of the night though, and I have to try and write it down so you get what I was feeling. As a tiny tot aged 3, my old fashioned Dad sat me down to watch a film that would become my all time favourite film ever. Carousel. I have watched the film hundreds of times. I have mentioned it in this blog. I tell everyone to watch it. The songs are all beautiful, but one song in particular….You’ll Never Walk Alone….is everything. Many people now (unfortunately) associate the song with football, but it means so much to me. It means my childhood and dreams all wrapped into one. So when the theatre hushed and the music started up for this song, I honestly nearly jumped off my seat I was that excited. Jonathan and the boys did the most haunting, gorgeous version of You’ll Never Walk Alone and I had to hold back the tears. It just felt perfect hearing that sung so beautifully after a difficult nine months or so. That is a moment from a show that will stay with me forever and I thank G4 for not knowingly giving me such a wonderful gift.

My other stand out moment came just before the interval. I had already been completely sold and hypnotised by G4 by the time the Vox Fortura men walked on stage to join them and another great support act (a fifteen year old opera singer called Katie who was just brilliant) to sing One Day More from Les Miserables. There were flags and everything. Flags! (Writing tonights blog has perhaps made me realise I need to get out more.) It was so awesome seeing Tommy up there with all the other guys singing such a powerful number.

During the second act, Vox Fortura got to do their songs. And woah!! Having listened to their album on repeat for a few weeks now, seeing the songs performed live was all kinds of lush. The whole theatre was silent as we listened to the unique and gorgeous voices on stage. But seeing Thomas sing Make It Rain was so worth it. He was so good! He was proper in the zone and I love how much passion Vox Fortura put into it. It is also so bloody nice to see such a kind and talented guy do so well for himself. He looked like a complete pop star up there, and I sincerely hope the group go on to have tours of their own and bring more albums out. I definitely think the music world is missing an act like Vox Fortura, they are needed to inject some life into what we hear on the radio right now.

Then it was back to G4 where they performed classics like Livin On A Prayer and I Want To Know What Love Is which gave me and Ali flashbacks for the show that started it all, Rock Of Ages. The talent on the stage was something else and the way Jonathan held some of those notes was incredible. But G4 work so well, because each of the men are so good at what they do.

At the end of the show, both groups and Katie were standing in the hall for a signing and chat. We couldn’t leave without telling Thomas he was great, so we decided to queue up, not thinking it through. Because by the time we arrived at G4, I had nothing for them to sign. And me being me, told them so. Awkwardly. They were SO lovely about it! We all know I have a tendency to say stupid things but luckily they were super sweet, and I feel like I talked so much AT them, they kind of didn’t notice anymore how weird I had initially been. Also, a very kind theatre guy overheard the conversation and probably took pity on me as I was handed a flyer which then got signed. Phew. We moved down the line and said to Katie how brilliant she was. I really hope she goes far. Then we came to Vox Fortura. I was actually nervous about seeing the other guys!! I had obviously built them up to be superstars in my head. The three of them were lovely and it was so nice seeing Rodney, Julias Williams III and Elias face to face! Then it was time to tell Tommy how great he was. It was so lovely to see him again, it’s been so so so long. The only awkward thing about the night….(you know, the only bad thing after telling all of G4 that I had nothing for them to sign and all that jazz) was when we asked Thomas if he could say a quick hi outside, and he said  yes, so off we went to wait which is not really a thing you do at a concert show.

Then we suddenly realised just how stupid we looked, we were standing right near peoples coaches, people probably being G4 , who had no idea that we were outside to say a quick bye to Thomas. And that was a huge problem, because if they would have come out…they would have come out and thought it was incredibly rude that we were hanging around outside when they had already given us their time in the hall. It wasn’t a West End stage door after all, and we would have been absolutely mortified if anyone thought we were there trying to catch more glimpses of G4 because that is just not what was intended…. So then we were seriously torn if we should just go, but then we felt bad as we said we would say bye…and I don’t know, I just wanted to explain that in case anyone saw us that night being strange at the back of the theatre. In the end, we just kind of half crouched behind a tree. Which obviously looked worse. But luckily, we don’t think anyone saw us and we did get a goodbye with Thomas.

We also bumped into him this morning as we explored Clacton, which was nice but also a little bit mortifying on three hours sleep and looking like I’d been in a tumble dryer for seven hours.

When we got back to the hotel, Ali and I had our own mini late Birthday celebrations and it was such a gorgeous night. Today was spent strolling on the beach, eating banana sauce flavoured ice-creams and drinking tea on the promenade. And unfortunately for Ali, her day was also spent with two hundred million and fifty six hours travelling. It only took me an hour to get home. (Sorry to brag love, you still on that train?!)

It was a much needed day away for me, and I enjoyed every minute. I will now forever look back on the 23rd of September with magical memories. I will also love Vox Fortura more each day and become a fully fledged G4 fangirl. You know, in between work, life and waiting for Hugh Jackman to hurry up and whisk me away to a private exotic island where we can listen to Popera forever more.

And speaking of Popera, I’ve just found G4s Christmas album on itunes. Boom!

Bank Holiday Blues….

When I escaped retail and hospitality, I also escaped having to work on a bank holiday. For many years, I have stood behind a counter or a salon chair, watching others get out and enjoy their bank holibobs. Of course, the same applies for all the emergency service workers, care workers, waiting staff and all the other great people that have to work on a holiday. It wasn’t just me. But I used to stand there and want so badly to be out there enjoying it all. I would get people in who would actually moan about it being a BH , and I would want to eyeball evil them until they melted.

So now I am out of that world and able to enjoy the BH with the BH humans (I feel like Ariel feels when she gets legs.), the Littles and I thought we should set out on a day trip. Just like always, I suggested the beach. Everything seems better at the beach. I am still pretty hopeful that I can retire on some exotic island with Hugh Jackman somewhere in the future, but that is a topic for another day.

Before we left, we huddled together and had a major chat about beach safety. In the last two weeks, twelve people have died on UK beaches which is an absolute tragedy, and a reminder to drive home what we do and don’t do when faced with Mother Nature. The Littles have listened carefully all week, they definitely get that an ocean is not to be taken lightly. It is important the kids have a sense of fun and excitement while being cautious. I will be the first to admit I would rather them always be over cautious than anything if it means them being as safe as possible.

When we arrived, it was even more glorious than we first expected it to be. The weather was getting warmer and warmer during the car journey, by the time we arrived it was a gorgeous summers day. And not even too stifling like it has been all week, maybe because we were near the coast. It was perfect. We strolled down to the sea front, spent a few pennies in some good old fashioned arcades, then made our way to the sea, sun and sand.

The Littles had their swimming gear at the ready, but we decided to go in with our clothes on first for just a paddle. Our paddle lasted just two minutes before they decided to brave it with swim wear. The ocean was dreamy, warm and somewhat clear for an English beach! Clearer than it looks on our pictures anyway. The sand was all rippling underneath our toes and it was PERFECT. We got lost for an hour or two, the kids splashing away and swimming while we put an endless cycle of sun lotion on and drunk plenty of fluids.

After a while, we dried off and reluctantly made a move from our little spot of lush-ness. I told the kids not to put their shoes on until we were on the concrete, so we went up the ramp and stopped while they were de-sanding themselves and of course, this took about ten hours. While we were stopped, we jumped suddenly as a bag filled with stuff came crashing down near my feet. Right next to us was a grandma, a mother and a boy who looked older than Lex, but younger than Leona. He was clearly in a meltdown about something and was the one that had thrown the bag in a strop.

His grandma told him it was time to go and to pick the bag up, to which the young boy of around eight screamed… “I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING LEAVE, THAT FUCKING BAG IS HEAVY, I’M NOT TAKING IT. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME YOU BITCH.”

My kids looked at me in horror. Now listen folks, they know what a swear word is. Their granddad swears and doesn’t even realise he’s doing it half the time. He will do it in a way that’s like ….. “Oh, I fucking love this song.” or “Ha, I pissed myself laughing.” kind. I swear myself. I am certainly no angel. In fact, my best friend will testify that I swear too much when I am upset or stressed. I have always made sure not to swear in front of the Littles, but I am sure at some point over the last ten years one or two may have slipped out near them. They also have kids in their class who have sworn before. So I am not being blind to the fact that it happens or that they themselves will never swear, but we didn’t expect to hear it yelled like that on a packed beach on a lovely summers day.

The mother of this boy just walked away and left him there, while the grandma told him again to get a move on and pick up the bag. He yelled a few more swear words and stood there, his arms folded. I swiftly told my kids to make an exit, and just as we started walking, we saw grandma pick the bag up, put it in his hand and him slinging it again  as hard as he could, this time narrowly missing an older couple, yelling the F word at the top of his voice and even trying to push his grandma. Then the Mum wandered back and they all started swearing and yelling at each other. I did see two people walk up to them to no doubt say something but we didn’t stay long enough to find out what happened. It was a horrible sight to see and the Littles kept asking me why they were all so angry. I guess they are quite simplistic and think….we have a beach, we have the sun, we have everything we could want, so why all the upset?. I explained that some people are going through struggles and that although I didn’t agree with the boy or the adults (especially the adults, because it is no doubt where the boy learnt it from) yelling at each other like that….we don’t know what is going on in their lives and we never will. They might be going through something. Who knows.

We went to get some food while I sympathised with the staff, particularly one girl who was dealing with an extremely rude table and looked like she wanted to cry. The food was lovely and the kids had almost forgotten about the incident with the boy. We decided to go shopping in the town and it was a successful trip all round, even if I did feel guilty about every single person stuck behind a till today.

As we were walking back to the car, we heard some shouting and commotion behind us. My sister who was on the trip with us was sorting through her bag for something so we had to stop. The shouting got nearer and after a while, a woman, probably mid thirties had nearly stopped alongside us, shouting all sorts of disgusting stuff, including the C-word. She had a buggy with her and a baby of what looked to be around a year old.  She was shouting and swaying, she looked drunk.

“LOOK WHAT HE’S FUCKING DONE TO MY BUGGY. HE’S AN ABSOLUTE FUCKING C*** I CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE HIM THE STUPID PRICK. HE’S FUCKING BROKEN MY FUCKING BUGGY. YOU GET HERE NOW YOU TWAT.”

This went on for some time so we obviously walked away, but she started following and shouting. We crossed the road and though she wasn’t following US, she was going the same way. As we crossed, we saw a man and a young boy, again around eight or nine and the boy was shouting as well.

“MUM STOP BEING  A FUCKING BELL END, HE DIDN’T FUCKING MEAN TO BREAK THE BUGGY.”

Then what was clearly her partner, the man, piped up…

“YOU ARE A STUPID BITCH. YOU’VE SPENT ALL MY MONEY AND THIS IS HOW YOU TREAT ME YOU BITCH,EVERYONE’S FUCKING LOOKING AT US NOW.”

All this between the adults while the young boy started kicking stones in the general direction of a car. A little girl of about three who was on her Dads shoulders burst out crying because they were being so loud. They were definitely being pretty disruptive. When we got in the car, Lex asked if I thought that family were acting for a TV show. I know it is probably wrong to let him believe something that’s false, but I just said yes, maybe she was. He just couldn’t get into his little head that people would be that awful to each other on a crowded street. As we drove home, he had all sorts of ideas running through his brain like how those people were probably filming a cop show (yes, he said cop, he’s a teeny bit American, clearly.) and how he wouldn’t be able to watch it because of all the bad words. I just let him go with it. They probably will have to see fights and arguments and awful stuff as they get older, so if I can make it a tiny bit easier on them when they are little then so be it.

I know that what I’m about to say makes me sound entitled and pretentious and oh so perfect and whatever else you want to call me, but those people definitely did put a dark cloud on what was a perfect day. As I told the kids about the first young boy and how he and his family might be going through some stuff, it could also be true for the second family we saw….but aren’t we all going through stuff? I saw at least one little girl scared by what was going on and my two question it all day, and I don’t think that’s fair. Everyone was trying to have a nice bank holiday. I saw a delightful old man, flat cap, walking stick, braces…. all the good bits, walking along the sea front whistling joyfully as if he’d never had a happier day. I saw a mum and dad, under one of those beach tent things trying to shade their teeny baby and laughing at her making a face. I saw my two splashing around and having the greatest time. It wasn’t fair of those people, those two families, to make a whole bunch of other people feel uncomfortable and like they had to get away. And it’s hard to even say anything nowadays, I know when I was little my parents just might have said something to the families, and asked them not to swear in front of all the other younger kids. But these days you can’t say anything without people accusing you of sticking your nose in and ‘judging’ their parenting. I wasn’t, for the record, ‘judging’ their parenting, but I was certainly judging the way they felt it acceptable to shout words like that on a beach full of children. As we got nearer to home, my kids were bickering in the back about who had just sung along to the radio better. It went on and on and on. And I am pretty sure I saw an elbow jab or two. But they weren’t ruining everyone else’s day with it. They weren’t terrifying other people.

So what would have been a perfect bank holiday, a holiday which I especially….really, really appreciated having off to be out with the kids, was slightly marred by the aggressiveness of certain people and things going on around us. And I think that’s a shame.

How did you spend your BH? Leave a comment below and I will get back to you!! I’ll leave you some pictures which for once, have to do with the blog post!!

P.S – I know there are some new readers … (hi guys!!) and I just wanted to say about the pictures above, Lex has a noticeable birthmark on his lower back. I always explain this away because he does get stared at during swimming, P.E or going to the beach. It doesn’t affect him or make him feel self conscious in anyway, and we call it his little upside down heart!! Because it is. Thanks for reading xx

Back To School Shopping

The words Back To School shopping are enough to fill most parents with dread. The money, the crowds, the money, the size issues, the money, the moody kids, the money…..it can make you want to scream into a pillow for a good five minutes. But if the signs and advertising campaigns send shivers down your poor aching spine, you are not alone.

Picture the scene…. There I am, sitting in my kitchen, writing a list of everything the Littles need for the new school year. Joining me, on my face, was snot, my regular visitor. I am sill being attacked by a huge amount of hayfever, and despite my many natural and medicated attempts and getting rd of the pest for good, it lingers. And this year it is the worst it has ever been, so that is good news.  Even writing a few simple things on a list was enough for me. All I had to do was write a single letter and the sneezing and streamy eyes would disorientate me so I had to start again. Add to that the two littles buzzing round me like hyperactive flies and me being covered in a giant sheen of sweat because of this insane heat the UK has been having, I looked proper attractive. (Attractive/Hideous snotty sweating mess is one and the same thing). By the time the car was parked and I entered the shop, still sneezing, with two littles at my side who had now switched from ‘hyperactive buzzy fly’ mode to ‘let’s bicker about everything’ mode….I already wanted to go home.

Has anyone noticed how the shops advertise the whole Back To School shopping extravaganza as some sort of holiday that is better than Disneyland? All the posters and wonderfully cheeky kiddish adverts of little ones strutting about with fancy book bags and crisp, ironed shirts.The reality is that going shopping for school supplies is like being stuck in traffic on the M25. Not great.  I do have some pointers on how the shops could make the experience better for all the Mums that do the B2S shop. (Sorry Dads, I will have to come up with something for you guys.) Unlimited coffee, Hugh Jackman as a personal assistant and sudden but extreme price drops. (OK, do this with the Dads but swap Hugh Jackman for Mila Kunis or something.)

I will be the first to admit, I have been in no hurry to get things done this summer holiday of 2016, so I naturally left everything for the week before they go back to school. I would love to say I am one of those parents that has had their kids clothes on hangers and bags packed while searching for natural, organic lunch box recipies all within the first week of summer, but I am most definitely not that type of parent. Far from it. I am the ‘Ah well, they are bound to have something left in the shops by then’ type Mum. The ‘Oh crap, I forgot to iron anything, let’s just hope the creases blend in with the world’ type Mum. The ‘ Who the hell has got time to make long fancy recipies for lunchboxes even though it is probably healthy for the littles, but hey I’ll just pop a sandwich and yoghurt in anyway’ type of Mum.

Anyone hat knows me will vouch for the fact that my children are pretty well behaved, so with that in mind I thought it would be nice for them to pick out their own stuff rather than me just dumping everything I can find into a trolley with no thought whatsoever. In hindsight, it would have been a speedier shopping trip if I had of picked their things, but definitely not as informative or educational. In my experience so far of raising two children of the opposite sex, boys are laid back and easy when it comes to stuff like this, where as girls are that bit more fussy. *Again, in my experience before anyone comes out with the stereotyping line!!!*

Me: *Armed with trolley, list and plenty of tissues for my ridiculous off the scale hayfever, I am invincible, nothing can go wrong.

“Right Leona, first up is the exciting task of picking out knickers.” (Do you guys do this? They both have plenty of underwear but for some absurd reason, every year, they need new ‘school underwear’ ….. I still haven’t figured out why we do this but …it’s just a thing. What are your ‘Back to School’ traditions? Leave me a comment below!)

Leona: *Stares at wall of underwear for quite some time. A few minutes tick by and I realise this is going to be a longer shopping trip than first thought.*

Me: “Come on then, it’s not hard. They are all pretty much the same.” (My patience lasted around five seconds, that is quite pathetic even by my own standards.)

Leona: “I don’t want pink.”

*Thoroughly looks at every pack of knickers before eventually settling on pink.*

**Same scenario happens with crop tops and vests.**

Me: “Right, socks time!! Remember we are going for the plain ones as they are for school.”

Leona: *Stares at the three choices of white, grey and black socks for way longer than necessary.*

“White please.” *Breaks into song, One Directions History if anyone was interested. This time, thankfully, not operatic style which she usually favours.*

Me: -Picks a packet of white ankle socks off the wall in her size.-

Leona: “No, wait! You’ve picked up the ankle socks. I wanted the knee highs. Knee highs are way cooler than ankle socks.” (Ha! She is so my daughter. Wonderful little nerd with an affection for knee high socks and no idea that they are not even that cool. I know, I know. It came as a surprise to me as well.)

Me: *Roots through the knee highs until I eventually find her size right at the back.*

“Now you have to pick your uniform. You wore out all your clothes last year and we are down to one summer dress so you need to pick some good choices here.”

Leona and I discuss the merits of skirts, trousers and pinafore dresses while my poor son looks bored out of his little head. Trousers are completely out of the window because Leona has always been a girly girl. And how on earth would she show case her funky knee high socks if she wears trousers? She only wears trousers if she has to. The next option to go are  the dresses. She feels that as she already has a dress, she will go with the skirt option where you get two in a pack. Great value for my purse so that’s a victory.  But just as I think we are done with this particular garment, the whole issue of black, grey or navy comes up. Admittedly, we are lucky with their school who are quite forgiving with colours when it comes to uniform. The only rule they really have is to have a green jumper/cardigan, but black, grey or navy are allowed as a bottom. Great for when everything is in the wash and you can switch to grey trousers, not so great for when your daughter is taking an hour trying to decide what to choose. She settled for grey in the end.

Next up were school shirts. Have you guys ever been school shirt shopping? There are girls, boys and unisex. There are polo shirts, mainly white…some coloured. There are polo shirts with frilly sleeves and pockets. There are plain no collared t-shirts. There are button ups, long sleeved and short sleeved. There are easy iron and basically every combination of shirt you think there could ever be. After much discussion, we settled for a two pack of white, pocket-less polo shirts and that was girl Little all done. It was traumatic, and boy Little had been good as gold throughout.

But now it was his turn to fill the trolley.

We started off with underwear for him, which again I have no idea why as he has plenty. After staring at the wall of undies for just two seconds, he picks a pack with superheroes on. Nice and easy.

Next up socks. The same scenario as Leonas where he had the choice of black, grey or white. Without really even looking, he just shrugged and said ‘Grey please.’

Then we had to pick the trousers, he picked grey to match his socks. Again a two pack, so bargain central for me.

The only thing Lex really had a preference for was the school shirts.

Lex:  “Mum, can I have a button up shirt?”

Me: “Yes you can, but remember….polo shirts are actually easier for when you have swimming and P.E and such. You don’t have as many buttons to do up.”

*I am forever looking for the laziest option, clearly.*

Lex: “But my friend B has button ups and he’s the coolest boy in school.”

Me: “It’s about being comfortable though isn’t it? It’s not really a ‘cool’ competition or a fashion show.”

*Looks pointedly at my daughter.*

Lex: *Shrugs*

“Button up please.”

So button up it was. He’s so stinking cute that I can’t even lecture him about the cool thing for long. We got him a pack of two, short sleeved button ups.

The last thing on my list for the day was jumpers for Lex. Again, the school is pretty relaxed as long as it’s green. They do have their own jumper with the school logo printed on the chest, but it is more expensive and the way the Littles grow out of uniform, it is best to go for value. I have learnt this after buying multiple school logo jumpers over the years. If they don’t lose them despite being labelled up with names and classes, they outgrow them within a month or two, it is just a fact.

We managed to again find a two pack, grabbed the last ones in his size and victory danced to the check-outs.

By the time we got home, we were all pretty done in. It is just such a daunting task to get affordable school clothing times two, and of course…times however many children you have. And it really does seem to be the case that they grow out of everything at once. I haven’t had to do such a huge school shop in years .

Luckily for me, my sister is the manager of a shoe shop and she let the Littles pick out their new school and P.E shoes, which yes, they had also grown out of. Leonas old shoes were broken and too small, and Lex had just outgrown his. If you were wondering, Leona chose some ballerina black shoes with straps and flowers. Lex chose black slip ons. But the most exciting thing of all? Lex got a shoe horn and I swear he hasn’t let the thing out of hs sight yet. It’s the little things.

We just have one more thing to cross off the list now. School bags. This is the one thing I promise them each year….If they get through a whole year of school with their school bags, they get a new one in the holidays. I think it is a tradition quite a few families do and it is an exciting one for the Littles. We are going to go in town in the week and see what we can find. My predictions are that Lex will pick out a superhero/cartoonish/football related bag and Leona will pick a bag that looks somehow way too grown up for her. She is a mini teen and that is a scary thought.

But on a serious note, I love the Littles being the age they are at, I love being able to talk with them about what they actually want and get their opinions on things. They see the world differently to me and I like learning from them. We have had a lovely summer holiday, and I know that we are really going to treasure the last week we have off together.

Also, I had Leona measured last week with her being a bit on the small side, and she’s not even as small as I thought so that’s a worry ticked off. She is actually following her own pattern and she is currently the same height as a nine to ten year old would be. Considering she is ten and a half, and everyone always thinks she is diddy, I really don’t think that is too bad at all. I was expecting her to measure around the eight year old mark but she was even taller. Go Leona!! Small but mighty.

I hope you are all having a lovely time and not getting stressed out with all this back to school stuff!! Leave a comment below about what you have been up to. But for now, as always….here are some totally unrelated to this topic pictures to end the blog.

 

The Story Of Sweep….

The story of Sweep starts on a warm spring day in 1993.

There was a young girl just six years old. And she was sitting in a hospital ward, in a hospital gown, eating hospital food. She had been a regular visitor to hospitals in her early life.

When she was born, her parents spent the first year taking her to doctor after doctor, because they knew something was wrong. And they were right. After many months, doctors found the little girl had a hole in her heart. And it was making her super poorly. In fact, if it had been left any longer, it could have been….well. You know. Worse.

So when she was a few years old, she had an operation. Pioneering keyhole surgery which was pretty cool, because not only did it save her life….It also put an umbrella in her heart. And she didn’t know anyone else who had something as awesome as an umbrella in their body.

After the surgery, she became a different child. She wasn’t so poorly anymore. But she had a weak immune system and would easily have big crashes in her health. She caught every bug and then some. She also had asthma, so the doctors liked to see her every so often to see how she was doing.

When she got her first nasty bout of tonsillitis at the age of six, the doctors made the immediate decision to remove them. And because of her previous medical history, it meant a few days in hospital.

By this point, she was old enough to know what a hospital was. But she didn’t quite realise that they made her better, she just thought they meant pain and horrible medicines and needles and people prodding at her.

Despite her small and weedy size, and the fact she looked more like a four year old than a six year old, she was a tough little thing. So tough in fact, that it took an adults dose of anesthetic to put her under for the operation. Luckily, everything went OK with the op and she spent the night resting and trying to wake up from her large dose of sleeping magic.

Everything was scary the next morning though, mainly because when she woke up, she fell hard out of the high hospital bed, landing on her back and gave herself a few bruises, which for obvious reasons wasn’t great after an operation.

She also felt empty. It was a weird thing to feel. Somehow it seemed like she didn’t have any food or anything inside of her. Or blood, or bones, or anything. She felt like she was floating. She just wasn’t herself. She had her Mum with her of course, but she was away from all her siblings. She was away from her home and her toys.She was away from everything she knew and she wondered if it would always be like this. She hadn’t seen her Dad for a week because he worked away. She was sore and achey and everything seemed tough for the little girl who was really too young to realise that she could have been in the hospital for much worse.

Evening came and dinner was ready at the hospital. It was the first time the little girl had been allowed to eat for some time. The menu was lasagne and she couldn’t wait to eat. Her Mum helped her over to a table and said she had to go down to the hospital shop but that she would be back soon.

The little girl cut up her steaming hot lasagne, and was amazed at how good it tasted. In fact, it was the best thing she had ever eaten. She only had a few mouthfuls left to eat, and she wondered where her Mum had got to, so she looked behind her at the door. Just as she did, she saw her Dad standing in the doorway, across the ward.

He was in his work jacket and smiling at her. She got up and started running to him shouting….”Daddy, My Daddy!” just like in The Railway Children. Exactly like in The Railway Children. She looked very funny in an over-sized gown with lasagne on her face as she ran quicker than she should have been running the day after an operation.

Before she could give her Dad a hug, he held out a present for her.

It was Sweep. From Sooty and Sweep, one of her favourite TV shows. Sweep had always been her favourite. It was a puppet and it even made a squeaky noise like Sweep did in the show.

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It was the best thing she had ever seen. She loved it so much that her pain and aches somehow vanished, and she wasn’t even scared the next day when her Dad had to go back away for work and her Mum couldn’t stay the night because she had to be home with the other children. She wasn’t scared because she had Sweep.

And she has loved Sweep for many years. And she knows she always will.

Because that little girl was me.

 

**I know you all saw that one coming. And yes, it is weird to talk about yourself in the third person. And I know the story wasn’t even exciting, but it is one of my stories, and I love it.**