Getting peeps to stop and sign

This sounds easy right?


Standing in a street, on a cold Saturday afternoon, asking shoppers to stop for a minute or two and sign a petition is not an easy task.

I quickly learnt that much of the success of the task was actually to get people to realise that they were not going to get pressured into buying double glazing; that they were not signing up to receive newsletters, mailings and unsolicited post; that I was not a Big Issue seller; and that I did not want financial contributions.

All I infact wanted was their signature (and their name, address and postcode).

It was however a good cause and after one Costa coffee (plus getting all staff in there to sign), two and half hours of freezing toes and fingers, I really got into my swing.

The majority of the people that were asked were great and if they didn’t want to sign for whatever reason, they politely declined. Lots of people did sign and were happy to talk about the issues relating to the petition.

One passer by told me that he had written to the PM only the night before…to tell him that he agreed with everything he was doing. I suggested that there was an alternative, but this was quickly pushed to one side with the passer by telling me that all the cuts should be made and all the money spent on public services should go ahead as it was all a waste of money. Each to their own but we can only try and politically educate those that remain ignorant of the facts.

And the petition – Save Birmingham Youth Services – please sign!

I hate London

I hate London. There I’ve said it now and I mean it. I really hate London. I’ve been there three times this last week and it sucks.

Yes, the nice sight seeing bits of London are great I’m sure and there is some really nice architecture, but when you are going there for work reasons it is dire.

After walking the long walk from the standard carriage of the Pendalino all the way along platform 2 to then have to pay 30p for a pee…. And then a 20 minute walk to the hotel, either that or the need to cough up a tenner for a rip you of taxi.

I got to the hotel in time to check in before my first meeting. First impressions, can’t complain as after all work is picking up the tab. Dump bags, quick lunch in head office’s subsidised canteen…very nice, then of to my first meeting of the day.

Meeting one over straight into meeting two. By the time we get to eat its 10.15pm and we find a ‘cheap’ Italian. Calzone and Peroni….£25!

Fall into bed at midnight and god the room is hot. Single bed makes turning over during sleep dangerous.

Now Trip Adviser had said good things about this hotel and its breakfast but unfortunately they have either paid people to write good reviews or peeps have lied. Breakfast at the hotel was the worst I have eaten for a long time. Congealed scrambled egg, smoked herrings floating in water…stinking, fried eggs that looked like the ones for sale in the joke shop. And the coffee…..ugh

You can keep the city. Its hustle, bustle of anonymous faces, screaming sirens, obnoxious drivers, rip of retailers and over priced hotels.

I hate London. And London hates me.

Wrapping up the week…

I thought I would do an overview of my first couple of weeks as a blogger.

One of my New Years resolutions was to attempt to write a daily blog…and I did not realise at that time just how hard it would be!  To commit to writing a daily blog demands a focus and determination and imagination that perhaps I just do not have.

Don’t get me wrong but I don’t think I did to bad, but did not manage to blog everyday and  it is one of my resolutions that I now formally amend to:  I will write a blog frequently!

Now in my blog on the 4th January I told you about our  lovely German Shepherd Mara, who had been very ill. After trying to force feed her, medicate her and mop up after her, I decided that what she deserved more than ever was a weekend where she was not forced to do anything, and during which we would shower her with as much love and affection as possible. This we did and to my amazement she actually ate food on the Friday and Saturday night. Our hopes were lifted momentarily but unfortunately on Sunday she deteriorated quickly and was euthanised on Monday evening. We were all heartbroken but knew it was for the best as she had been obviously suffering.

The subject of my My Get real peeps blog still divides the nation. Honestly, I do not have a problem with the Eastenders cot death storyline as I see it as just that. I know that some of my family and friends do have stronger issues with it and some perceive the problem being more to do with the subject matter than the actual portrayal of such. Others see the subject matter as a valid one that needs to be publicized but then have a problem with the way it was portrayed.  One thing I know for sure though is it is something that will trundle on and be discussed at work, in get togethers, on forums and in blogs…that is until the next big storyline comes along to upset a minority somewhere.

My next blog did something that I have never done before, and still feel a creeping anxiety for doing so… Chimera was a poem that I wrote a couple of years ago, but is the first time I have shared my poetry in such a public domain. Will I choose to share more…maybe!

Blogging does make you think about what you are writing and is not as easy as you might think it is. My blog about how Twitter  can hone your writing skills tried to demonstrate how wrtiting on such social networks can help you to attain better writing skills. One of my resolutions should have been “I will update my Twitter status at least daily”… it may have proved possibly a little more achievable!

The serious condition associated with anorexia and other eating disorders was one that I touched upon. I was truly horrified to discover the existence of pro-ana sites. Reading some of the posts written by pro-ana followers is disturbing to say the least but I am unsure as to what can be done if anything apart from ensuring that young people are educated about such disorders and are given positive body image reinforcement no matter what size or shape they may be.

Finally, A rose by any other name took a sneak look into the world of choosing baby names.

In a speech, Pope Benedict XVI urged parents to name their offspring in the Christian tradition, and bequeath “an unmistakable sign that the Holy Spirit will allow the person to blossom in the bosom of the Church”. In doing so, he has also  tapped into a growing public backlash against celebrities burdening their children with names such as Brooklyn, Peaches, Heavenly Hiraani and Princess Tiaamii. Parents must choose wisely and sensibly, as the resulting name can have far reaching and long lasting consequences for their child.

I finish this round up by offering 10 tips on this subject…

1. Whatever name you choose, it should have a positive connotation for you and its definition should be meaningful. A name is a strong first impression.

2. The first name’s rhythm should complement the last name. Remember to think about a middle name in the same way. Say the first, middle and last name several times to test the rhythm. Say the first name and last name together, too.

3. The initials should not spell anything undesirable. This goes for the two main initials, as well as all three initials. Winston Churchill (say no more!)

4. Check the pronunciation and spelling of the name. If you use an unusual pronunciation, your child will need to continually correct it. If the spelling is unusual, your child will have to correct that as well.

5. Be conscious of nicknames and variations. You may want to choose a name that can have nicknames and variations. This will enable the child to have more control of his/her name when older. The disadvantage is that childhood nicknames can linger on into adulthood and be embarrassing.

6. Think about what the name might be shortened to or what it might rhyme with.  A name that is easy to rhyme can make your child the target of playground jokes and ridicule. Bartholomew, for instance, one that the Pope may like. Very difficult to rhyme with anything but shorten it to Bart and … !

7. Practice the name and see how it sounds and feels. Try out the full name on family and friends. Check it out to make sure there is no history attached.

8.  The middle name provides an opportunity to use a family member’s name when it is not desirable as a first name but the same rules apply.

9. If you already have other children, think about all names as a collective.  Having a child called Thomas and then naming a second child Trixiebelle may be perceived as a bit odd.

10. Finally, don’t fall into the trap of calling your children little versions of yourself. Little David Jnr not only sounds very dated but also displays a complete lack of imagination.

A rose by any other name…

This week the Pope declared war on parents naming babies after celebrities, fruit or popular sports cars. In his address to parents, he pleaded with worshipers to ‘give your children names that are in the Christian calendar’.

The name we give our children can have big consequences for both the parents and the child…Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii was the name given to a 9-year-old girl before a judge had her renamed during a custody battle. ‘It makes a fool of the child,’ he said. Family court judge, Rob Murfitt, gave the order after hearing that the child was embarrassed about her name and had refused to reveal it to friends.

It seems that weird and wonderful names are being forced upon children all over the world. Some of the more bizarre have been banned for reasons of taste, decency or just plain daftness – Akuma AKA Devil (Japan), @ (China), and Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (Sweden)

Peaches Geldof, whose sisters are called Fifi Trixibelle, Pixie and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lilly said her name had haunted her all her life.

Thankfully it is not all wacky. Research from the BabyCentre shows that here in the UK, after 15 years as the favourite, Jack finally got knocked off the top spot by Oliver in 2009. But Oliver’s moment of glory was just that, as this year there’s a new number one in town.

My daughter was right on in there when she named my grandson – Joshua…which is this year’s most popular boy’s name although Jack is still an all-time favourite hanging in at second position for the second year running.

Noah appeared as a new entry to this year’s top 10 and with Joshua, Jack, Thomas, Ethan, Daniel and James all in the top 10 – does this signify a trend for traditional or more biblical names in the boys’ camp which will keep his holiness the Pope happy.

For the girls too it’s all change at the top.  Sophie is this year’s most popular girl’s name, ending Isabelle’s two-year reign at the top of the chart. Sophia and Isabella have entered the top 10, too, confirming these variations as firm favourites in 2010.

What will be favourites this year…with the Royal wedding in April, then Kate and William may climb the charts.

Films and popular entertainment always has an affect on choices made. Whether you are Team Edward or Team Jacob, the The Twilight Saga has certainly had an impact and influenced choices during 2010 with Isabella, Alice, Esme, Jacob and Edward coming into the charts. Popularity is sure to increase this year with the release of the new film in the autumn.

The names chosen by celebrities for their babies of course have great influence and the Beckhams will surely prove this with the birth of their fourth child. Totty for a girl? Tottenham for a boy?

Starving to be perfect?

One of my resolutions this year was to lose some weight and get healthy. Not really a serious resolution, and one that thousands upon thousands of us make every year.

Reading  Penny Laurie’s article today really made me sit up and take notice. It also left me feeling quite anxious and perturbed. This article made me aware of the existence of something I knew nothing about, the existence of a whole range of pro-ana websites, forums, and social networking sites.

For those like me, who may have little knowledge of this area, pro-ana refers to the promotion of the eating disorder anorexia nervosa as a ‘lifestyle choice’. It is often referred to simply as “ana” and is sometimes affectionately personified by anorexics as a girl named Ana.

A quick Google search on pro-ana brings up 1,790,000 hits.

Pro-ana organisations have in reality two stances with one side claiming that they exist mainly as a non-judgmental support environment for anorexics, and accept that it is a mental illness. The other pro-ana organisations deny anorexia nervosa is a mental illness and go with the  “lifestyle choice” route. This latter belief presents a far more worrying picture with the emergence of pro-eating disorder web sites, often run by young girls with eating disorders themselves.

One of these sites was the source of a Time Magazine article back in June 2005 “Starvation on the Web,” with the focus of the article being the pro-anorexia Web site, which was being run by a 19-year-old college student with anorexia.

It is these pro-eating disorder sites that simply appear to act as gathering grounds for people who have eating disorders like anorexia but who accept it as a lifestyle choice.

Starving for Perfection is a pro-ana blog whose write is clearly anorexic and who describes her blog as being used “to support one another on our journey to being thin” – She writes, “I’ve been doing really well lately with my eating disorder. I haven’t been eating much of anything. I definitely have been continuing to lose weight like crazy and people are starting to notice and worry. I love it. My arms feel tiny (which never happens)!” Comments made by some followers of her blogs tell her how great she looks, bearing in mind she is painfully thin, to which her replies are often that her stomach is huge and her thighs are so big that they overlap. Does this really signify a lifestyle choice?

This blog, alonside numerous other blogs and forums, list do and don’ts and quote pro-ana commandments:

If you aren’t thin, you aren’t attractive.
Being thin is more important than being healthy.
You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, and do anything to make yourself look thinner.
Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing oneself afterwards.
Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
What the scale says is the most important thing.
Losing weight is good/ gaining weight is bad.
You can never be too thin.
Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and success.
If you are thin, you will be loved and accepted
Being thin is more important than being healthy
You must buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself, do anything to make yourself look thinner
Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty
Thou shall not eat fattening foods without punishing oneself afterwards
Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly
What the scale says is the most important thing
Losing weight is good/ Gaining weight is bad
You can never be too thin
Being thin and not eating are true signs of willpower and success

Many pro-ana sites offer tips on how to be anorexic and bulimic, photos of thin people for “thinspiration,” highlight foods to eat that have few calories, how to “survive” eating in a restaurant, and message boards and chat rooms for support. Ana’s Thinspiration is just one of these sites and boasts pictures and quotes such as:

  • Thin has a taste all its own
  • I do eat: only what is needed for.  I can’t help it that we live in a piggish society where gluttony is the norm, and everyone else is constantly stuffing themselves.
  • Ask me to show you perfect and I will show you a thin person.
    Starving is an example of excellent will power
  • Bones are clear and pure. Fat is dirty and hangs on your bones like a parasite.
  • An imperfect body reflects and imperfect person
  • Anyone can have inner beauty. But very few can earn real beauty, inside as well as out.
  • Hunger hurts, but starving works!
  • Starving is not pain, it’s the cure.

It seems that these young women see their primary goal is to persuade others that they are perfectly fine, and that they have the right to lead their lives however they see fit.

The pressure to be thin and “perfect” in society today brings dangerous consequences for our children and young people.  On a personal level, being a follower/believer of pro-ana is a personal choice. But in the technological world in which we live, where the majority of children and young people have access to this technology and where this ideology is being openly shared and publicised the dangers are obvious.

Societal pressure to be thin – jumps out from magazines, tv programmes and even government policy. With the focus on the obesity crisis, the need for children not to be overweight and the requirement that we all lead healthy lifestyles, those children that are not perceived as easily fitting into the ‘healthy’ category face huge pressures from all directions. For such children, problems with body image can easily be heightened and the need to be accepted and to fit in could easily lead them to these ‘dangerous’ pro-ana sites.

We need to ensure that our children and young people are fully educated about the dangers of anorexia and other eating disorders. Yes we need a focus on healthy eating and healthy living, but also with an understanding of the diversity of shape and size.


It’s so uncomplicated for you
So easy to put real life on hold
To immerse yourself totally
in a heightened state
Of pure indulgent gratification
And individualistic ecstasy
With not a care nor problem
Passing through your mind
No reality check of your life
And the responsibilities you hold
Life doesn’t get much better…
In your fools paradise, your chimera
This Utopia of your ‘reality’
But at what cost other than
The greatest cost of life itself
The loss of belief, the loss of love.

Tweeting well and happy

If you haven’t joined the Twitter empire then you should. Why? Because not only will tweeting help you become a better writer so that your blogging is so much better but it will also make you and others happier…quite a claim!

1. Twitter limits your tendency to waffle
If you’ve ever used Twitter then you know that the key word is concise! You have to be concise, you have to know exactly what you want to say, and say it in as few words as possible. You have a maximum of 140 characters to spell out your key message. 140 characters – that’s it! If you are a keen blogger then you will know that 140 characters will not cover much and what’s more, all letters, numbers, symbols, punctuation and spaces all count as part of your character total. Writing short is hard…but is possible!

2. Twitter forces you to experiment with your vocabulary
Since you only have 140 characters to get your message across, you are forced to find new or alternative words to use. Words that are shorter, words that might be more descriptive, and words that get the job done in as few characters as possible.

3. Twitter forces you to improve your editing skills
Now as most of us will need to practice in order to be able to meet the 140 character limit it means that the writer will learn quick and effective ways of editing their work. Practice makes perfect and you will soon learn to tweet in a way that gets your point across in a way that inspires others to act on your tweet. You will reach the level where you will not have to ask for your posts to be ‘retweeted’, people just will!

4. Tweet your achievements however small
Tweeting about achievements and goals can help you feel good about yourself and help others by alerting them to your current situation and allowing then to support you through help or encouragement. Getting positive encouragement from your peers can be a great boost if you are trying to stick to new years resolutions or other goals that you might have set yourself. Your peers will feel good that they are able to give you this support and thus a circle of happiness. If like me you have managed a day without crisps or sweets then tweet it. Friends will then often tweet back with encouraging comments and even tips to help you with your challenge.

5. Twitter can make people happy
Use your tweets to share wisdom gained from your life’s experiences to benefit others. You might not know your audience personally but if you can reach others and help them to feel that they are not alone in whatever they may be experiencing. Not only might it help others but you will feel good knowing that there is someone out there is benefiting from something you’ve have experienced.

6. Tweet to share interests
Tweeting about current campaigns and interests that you might be involved in will help your peers have a greater understanding of the things that matter to you. Often other friends in your network may already share these interests but you may not know this. Once known, you both become happier as you have other common interests to discuss.

7. Tweeting just to relax
Tweeting when you’re stressed out and just in need of a rant is good as the character limit will not allow you to get into too much trouble. Remember though that tweets can be read by many and stay around for a long time so do think before you tweet.

I try to tweet daily, sometimes just once, often numerously. Using Twitter throughout my day helps me not only get my message across but also helps me keep up with what is going on in my world. Twitter needs little energy to be a great source of social networking. Unlike other social networking sites such as FB, I do not have to worry too much about the weird friend requests coming from strange men around the world who want to know if you have a web cam!

Get real peeps…

The story of Ronnie Branning swapping her dead child for another baby has not only drawn criticism from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (Sids) awareness campaigners but has also resulted in the BBC receiving more than 8,400 complaints.

The Beeb have now decided to end the story (which is the most complained about in the show’s 25-year history) earlier than first planned and it will end in the spring after baby Tommy is reunited with his mother, Kat Slater.

Samantha Womack, who plays Ronnie in the show, has endured verbal attacks by the public due to the current storyline, and it has been announced today that she will be leaving the show.

So what is all the fuss about?

The parenting website Mumsnet was flooded with complaints over the current storyline, prompting it to write a letter to the BBC suggesting that “as is all too common, a bereaved mother has been portrayed as deranged and unhinged”.

Ann Diamond, long time Sids awareness campaigner argues that the baby swap storyline was a “crass twist to an otherwise credible storyline” that had not done “one iota of good in educating a young audience about cot death”

For me, I totally agree that the whole issue of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is a very important one that needs handling sensitively and one that requires continuing education.

I have also learnt to accept that the Beeb is about making a programme that has attracted high viewing figures over its 25 year reign and needs to continue to do so.

Storylines over the past years have always touched on areas that will affect some more than others and that will be percieved as being far more controversial for a minority and big stories such as Stacey’s bi-polar mental illness, Syed being a gay Muslim, Phil’s crack cocaine addiction, Lucas murdering Owen, Whitney’s relationship with Tony the paedophile all being covered over the last couple of years. Previous to that we have had domestic violence, murder, adultery, Aids, incest …. the list is endless.

So for me personally, I do not have a massive problem with the current storyline. There is a choice, watch it, or don’t. I actually chose not to watch it over New Year…not because I found the whole concept of a soap covering the death of a baby and the breakdown and anguish of the mothers involved, but because I have a life and had far more positive and entertaining ways of spending the New Year.

The controversial cot death/baby swap storyline may have drawn 8,400 complaints but ratings are the highest the soap’s had in a year with 11.1 million tuned in to watch the episode aired on the Tuesday directly after the new years episodes. Average EastEnders ratings have risen to 10.7million too, 300,000 more than usual, since the gruesome storyline began on New Year’s Eve.

So yes, the Beeb may have gone a step to far for a minority, with the whole baby swap thing but hey it is only a made up story…it is not real people. My thoughts are with Womack who has to put up with the abuse shown by the shallow thinking and pure ignorance of those who have lost their grip on reality.

A stress free weekend…

My GSD is ill. Very ill.The best GSD in the world...probably

I took another trip to see Pierre, the vet, tonight and the news is not good.

She has a high temperature again and  is jaundiced.

If she fails to respond to the treatment over the next three days then this is a sure sign that there are major problems which are most probably untreatable and undoubtedly will not only cost lots of money, but will also most certainly extend her discomfort.

Another antibiotic injection, a steroid injection, and a course of antibiotics might help her through the weekend but she is still not willing to eat anything apart from the tiniest morsel (sausage has just been accepted) and she has been deteriorating fast as she is losing weight on a scale second to none.

I love my old girl Mara, but have made the decision that this weekend will be spent ensuring that she is happy, comfortable and stress free. If by any stroke of luck she begins to make improvements that would be fantastic but if not we will be paying Pierre another visit on Monday. To extend her suffering would just be too cruel.

Setting yourself up to #fail?

I made my new years resolutions which I have already spoken about in previous blogs but today began thinking about why we do it… and are we just setting ourselves up to fail?

The thoughts of a new year, new start, a chance to put an end to anything that we didn’t like about the previous year away and start afresh…surely the perfect time to sit and reflect on what we might want to do to make a change. Some small token to display to all that we can achieve whatever we might set our minds to…or not.

The problem as I see it is that we put to much pressure on ourselves to achieve it all, straight away, all together and all in one go. My new years resolutions were to get fitter, to lose weight, to save money, to be more organised and to write a daily blog. Have I managed all five as yet, no. I have managed to write a daily blog…woohoo to me…I have however not managed to lose any weight, to do any exercise, to be more organised or to save money = #fail.

Yes, it is early days and is only 5th January but there I believe is the crux of the matter. Perhaps a far more plausible and realistic approach would be to set one resolution each month as a main focus, or one every two months. Something totally achievable in a specific time frame. Where the intense pressure to suceed is not so ferocious and is far more covert.

So, my new years resolution for January is to maintain a daily blog. For February…not decided as yet but whatever it is, I am not going to stress over it.