Football and Females

I don’t know why I started liking football. I know I started supporting Tottenham thanks to Glenn Hoddle and his skills, and I know I started supporting York City because they were my local team. I could have chosen any sport really, but it was football.

At the time I was at an all-girls school in York, a school I spent four years in, and played football once, so there was no influence from school.

It just happened. I liked football and it suited me.

Fast forward several years, Shaun comes to the UK and he has no choice – he has to like football. Having never played it in Australia, but being very much aware of it, he had to support Tottenham. He rebelled and chose Hull City of all teams – though soon changed his mind (you’re allowed to change once, those are the unofficial rules). Before H was born we’d spend all our money and weekends up at White Hart Lane, fulfilling my dream of seeing several games there. My first ever game, my friend lent me her season ticket, and I did it on my own, meeting friends before and afterwards. When I sat down for the first time at White Hart Lane I wanted to cry with happiness, and it wasn’t long before I was dragging Shaun along too.

That all had to stop when H arrived. But she has no choice now either, she has to like football. Luckily she does, and I’m making sure she has the opportunities to play the game which I never had. Every weekend she trains with Carshalton Athletic, she used to have lessons with Crystal Palace. She wants to go to a game, and most excitingly of all, she’s following the England Women at the World Cup, and fancies herself as the next Fran Kirby. She had a training session with Casey Stoney back in May which has got her back into playing the game.

Has there ever been a better time for a girl to be into football? I’m not sure. Things feel like they’re getting better all the time. We had tickets for England v Germany at Wembley, but that morning H was sick so we couldn’t go. We’ve got tickets for the FA Cup Final at Wembley on the 1st August – and actually, women’s football is a great, affordable starter level for the game. Most importantly of all, it’s the best way to stick two fingers up at anyone who thinks football isn’t for girls. Sure, the games might not be held at the main ground (boys still get priority), but they’re happening, and if they keep getting popular like they are, then who knows where they’ll end up.

H has already had the comments a few times. “Girls can’t play football!” she’s been told, and I want her to be able to run rings around those who say it, score a goal and just run away, having proven her point, sticking a metaphorical two fingers up at the world. Enjoy the game – that’s the important thing, because that’s what it’s all about.

When you read the story of Fran Kirby and how she gave up on football after suffering depression when her mum died, before regaining her love for the game, leading to her being England’s youngest player at the World Cup, experiences like that help children like H know that it’s okay to stop. That you can start again. Good things can come, and if you love it, you’ll find a way once you get that love back.

Football Mum of the Year training session with ENgland's Casey Stoney

But it’s also kind of depressing too. England threads about the Women’s game, and lots of sexist comments. I even saw a photo with an England player celebrating scoring a goal while being photoshopped onto a kitchen. Why is it so difficult for some people to understand that football isn’t just a boy’s thing. It’s for everyone. It’s exciting.

If we’re really going to compare the male vs female game, I feel right now the women are much better ambassadors for the game than quite a few of the men. Maybe it’s the fact they’re earning less money so they don’t do stupid things. You can wait around after a game and get their autographs (to be fair, we did that a few times at Tottenham, but often the players didn’t have time for everyone).

So yes, it’s a much better time for H to be playing football, she’s happy doing it, and I hope that happiness continues. The female game continues to grow, and I’m hoping one day she’ll play for a local girl’s team – they start a bit later than the boys ones – but that can change the more girls that get involved.

I’m loving that she’s at the age where comments like I’ve overheard don’t get to her. She just wants to play football, score goals, and that’s all. Long may it continue.


The Phone Rang

Our phone hardly ever rings. It’s usually just my mum, but it was too early in the afternoon for her. So I picked it up. Maybe it was an emergency?
“Hello Madam!” said the voice down the phone. “We’re calling as we have a record this number has had a car accident on it recently”

Now, common sense says there’s NO WAY they can trace an accident on your phone number, but you know, I was a bit bored, and occasionally I have a sense of humour so I didn’t put the phone down on him.

“AH! Yes! You’re right! There was a crash!” I confirmed slightly excitedly, my plan forming before I had time to think it out.

The chap on the end of the phone sounded quite excited by this point. He asked me some questions.
“How long ago was it, madam?”. I confirmed it was a week or so ago.

“My daughter was playing with two cars made from Lego, and they bumped into each other” I said, stifling a giggle and expecting a big swear from the man, or that he’d just put the phone down on me. Instead I got an “Excuse me?” kind of tone. He sounded confused.

“Were there many people in the car please madam?” I confirmed the car had four Lego people in it, and they were all quite damaged, while trying not to laugh too much, though the giggles were rising up and it was getting much harder. He’s going to stop this call any time now, I thought.

But no.

“One moment please madam, I’m going to refer you to my supervisor”
The supervisor GRABBED the phone. You could almost feel the pound signs coming out of the earpiece bashing him on the head or something.

“Madam! I hear you’ve had a crash!” and he asked me the same questions all over again, to which I reply with exactly the same answers. By now I was spluttering with laughter at the ridiculousness of it. I mean, truly, I am describing a crash my daughter had when she was playing, with two cars made out of Lego, and her Lego people got a bit damaged in the process. But they seem to like it.

But at this point it’s no good. It’s too funny. It’s the most ridiculous spam call I’ve had in my life. I can no longer hold it together and I have to tell them I can’t do this any more.

“Look, there is no crash. Have you not heard of Lego? These people were 2cm tall! We rebuilt them. Nobody is hurt. I know you’re a scammy spammy kind of place, and I felt sorry for you. But it’s not real. I’m sorry, but this is making me laugh way too much. Goodbye”

and I put the phone down on them. I think this may become a new pastime of mine, engage the spammer in pointless talk so they feel better about themselves.



I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My first miscarriage, and everything that happened. So if this is a trigger subject, please move on.

See, I miscarried fairly early on, but enough to be in a lot of pain. I was in agony, in fact, the worst pain I’d ever felt there – and must have only been about nine weeks along. I was no longer in pain when it left me. When I’d ‘given birth’ so to speak, if it’s possible to do that at nine weeks when you’re having contractions and you’re in constant pain, taking nothing more than paracetamol (fat lot of good that does you).

It passed. It then came out of me the following morning. We kept it. In a little tub. I asked the hospital what I should do with it – did they do anything with it? Or is that it? I couldn’t look at it, I was too busy being in shock, shaking in a way I never had when I was cold.

The nurse said “oh, just flush it down the toilet” so I did.

And immediately regretted doing so. But it’s too late. But what could I do? Bury it? While that has a more significant meaning we don’t live in the same place any more. It’s not like I could keep it and take it with me from house to house. It’s not like it could be buried in the family home, a plant placed to remember it.

It was flushed. Gone.

Silly, silly, stupid me. Why did I listen to them? I know I’ll never see it again, and I don’t yearn for it, it’s more the thought that we did what we did, and how undignified is that for the thing?


I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m not kicking myself. I’m just wondering why I listened. It doesn’t change a thing that happened. If I were five years younger I’d say “know this for next time” – as these days there isn’t another ‘next time’.

I don’t want to light a candle to remember it. I just want to know that what I did was something I wish I hadn’t done, but I had no alternative. There was nothing else. The confusion and tiredness, the upset and sadness stopped all rational thoughts. But like I say, I’m not beating myself up about it. Life goes on. H was born.

So maybe by writing about it, it will go away. That often happens. Once it’s written it’s gone. Maybe this is my goodbye. Sorry thing. I didn’t think. I wasn’t in a fit state of mind to think straight, I just assumed everyone knew what to do. The system failed me, and I failed you. Sorry.



We’re reaching the last few weeks of Year 1. While Reception felt like the longest school year ever, Year 1 has flown by. I’m actually really surprised how quickly it has passed. This time next year brings a new challenge – exactly where will our lives be?

There are so many decisions to make, ones that don’t need making just yet but will do at some point.

From September we have to apply for H’s Junior school. It isn’t an automatic transfer there any more since it became an Academy – and so we go through all the stress again. It’s almost certain she’ll get in, and she’ll be kept with her classmates so I’m not too worried – but having to go through the stress of applying then waiting again is something I could do without because you never know, something might go wrong.

What has Year 1 brought? It’s kind of funny – in our first year our class felt like we were all a group of mums together, whereas Year 1, we’ve kind of broken into groups; a bit like our children have! It’s kind of strange, and I’m not the only one to see it – there has been quite a shift. I know a few mums outside of school and have made some good friends too – the kind of mums you can rely on for emergency childcare and playdates after school, and our kids all get on well too – and that’s all that really matters.

H is doing well – she actually hit a lot of her Year 1 end of year targets by the end of the first term, in maths and english, which we’re delighted about. At our last parents evening (in February) she only had one more subject to get to the required level, so I knew she was keeping up fine. I have to say, I hate that you have these levels to achieve, but she isn’t stressed about it and enjoys learning, so it has been a handy guide for us to help her get there too.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Reading-wise, she still isn’t a free reader, though has been at home for over a year. Every week she reads her Annie paperback – it averages about three complete reads in that time. She’s still on Lime, though I’m encouraging her to talk to her teacher and ask what she needs to do, as I can see she’s ready, and I’m thinking that if she asks her teacher then we’ll know what needs working on. She isn’t frustrated by it, though I know we’ll eventually run out of books!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

She claims she can’t do maths, then will solve a random more complicated sum than they’ve been working on, which always surprises me.

Sports-wise, she’s definitely coming on really well. We’re back doing football every weekend, and she’s enjoying running around for an hour and a quarter which helps with her fitness. School are doing more balance related things and I’ve noticed she seems less clumsy, though I’m wondering how much will be to do with her glasses. Swimming, she just got her Stage 3 after two terms in her new class – and in less than a year of getting her Stage 2. Everything seems completely on track, and she’s happy and confident.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

I’ve noticed she colours things in better using pencils than crayons or felt tips. She really takes her time about it. We were sent a colouring book a while back which we need to have a sit down and colour on as it was nice and relaxing.

At Rainbows she’s really loving being around a different circle of girls – and I find them all funny too. Five and six year olds are weird though. I say that having once been one myself.

I can see her confidence really coming out on a daily basis, from cycling, balancing, speaking out loud in front of people (like her assembly), and so many other things. She’s still a couple of months off turning six, but as the youngest in her year at school she’s done us really proud.

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I was having a conversation with a friend last week, we were talking about bullying at school. It has happened to H a few times, and now my anger has gone and it has been dealt with, I have a different perspective.

See, I was bullied at school. I don’t remember what happened exactly, it was a long time ago. I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t get involved and left me to sort it out. It might have worked, who can say? There are no Sliding Doors in real life, it is what it is. My sister was bullied too and my parents got involved. Again, I’ve no idea if it helped. I don’t remember being bullied until I hit big school at 11. In fact, it didn’t happen for a few years. I had no idea what to do. So I just learned to talk quickly and run faster and keep my head down which seemed to help.

But it’s happened a few times to H at the tender age of 5. It seems like it’s something which is more ‘normal’ these days. But in some ways, I think it’s a good thing it’s happening now, as long as it isn’t affecting her time at school. If it gets to the ‘I don’t want to go to school’ phase, then I’ve missed the signs. But it hasn’t.

Instead we’ve made sure she knows she isn’t in the wrong (once she has explained the whole situation and how it happened). We’ve made sure she knows what the correct thing to do is (tell a teacher or someone in charge). We’ve also made sure she knows to not be upset by it – easier said than done, but she can be quite tough when she wants to be.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate that she’s learning about these things at such a young age, but at the same time I’m glad she’s learning to deal with them, if that makes any sense? If it ever gets worse she’ll be better equipped to deal with it. People can be evil. Children can be evil.

Nobody has hurt her though she has been spat on more than once. She knows what to do. It’s disgusting, and it’s dealt with. She has been shoved by other kids in the playground into areas she isn’t meant to play in, and was upset by it, but “didn’t let them see” – just had a little cry and cuddle with me at home. Is it fair? No – but we can’t change other people. You can only make sure those in charge are aware.

Has anything been done? Probably. They can’t talk about the other children to you, but they can reassure you things have been changed. You have to trust them. We’ve had nothing reported back to us lately by H.

I do wonder if the bullying at school made me into who I am today. It didn’t define me, but I was too scared to stand up to them. I hid. So it has definitely shaped me. I don’t want bullying to shape H. I want her to grow up with the confidence to tell them to bog off and leave her alone, and keep out of trouble. I want it to be something she forgets about when she gets older. After all, we only ever bring up our children and change it if we didn’t like how our parents did it, right?


Two Wheels Good

We’ve tried from time to time with H, to remove the stabilisers from her bike. Nothing ever came of it, she has pretty bad balance just like me. We knew it was something which would come with time, so didn’t rush things.

Yesterday I finished work early (due to having a 10 hour day today), and we headed to the local park, taking H’s bike. I came up with the idea of removing one stabiliser, so she still had some balance but not total balance and had to control some of it herself. She wasn’t happy about it, but got on with it.

Then we switched sides. She was definitely not happy about it as she had to re-think her balancing. Around now the bike may have been thrown on the floor, followed by her stomping off and stamping her feet a bit.

Then Shaun hit on the brilliant idea of her cycling on the freshly cut grass. She wasn’t open to this suggestion.

So I said “I’m bored. This isn’t much fun for me watching you be cross, let’s go home shall we?” to which H turned around and said “NO! TAKE OFF MY OTHER WHEEL!!!”

So Shaun did, and she sat on the bike and much to my amazement, started cycling on the grass. It was quite incredible, considering she’d not been keen a few minutes beforehand.

After that, there was no stopping her.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to stop her either.



H is having a confidence spurt at the moment, things which she swore she couldn’t do two weeks ago, she now can. For example :

She can now tie the bow on her school uniform and tie laces.

She takes showers. This was after claiming she hated them for as long as I can remember. After swimming you can’t get her out of the shower, which I think was the breakthrough point. She even has her hair washed in the shower – result!

Her front crawl is really coming on at swimming lessons. We’re just mastering her coming up for air and continuing to swim which is going fine – she’s very strong on her back, and pretty strong on her front but very good at holding her breath.

She has started to ask the meaning of words again which is good, rather than just reading. She’s so close to being a free reader at school. I’m not sure what’s holding her back there, but I know she’ll be there before the school year is out. She has been reading longer books at home for months now and always talks about the stories and what’s in there – her books are on repeat readings.

Playing Uno. We play every night after school – I never EVER let her win, and she beats me plenty of times – it’s great fun and I don’t mind losing as she’s such a good player. She’s mastered the sly face, pretending she has a card she doesn’t, as well as some good tactics. She has a good teacher 😉

Football. She goes happily again. We’re going to Wembley properly in a couple of months too. There will be a Tottenham friendly in the summer and I’m definitely taking her to White Hart Lane. Harry Kane is to H what Glenn Hoddle was to me. This is a good thing, though let’s hope Mr Kane doesn’t try a pop career.

Music. She’s obsessed with the Matilda Musical soundtrack. I bought it for her, and since it arrived there hasn’t been a day go by without it being played. The lyrics to the songs are on the artwork so she reads along with it. Annie is also a big favourite – I bought her the original Broadway recording on CD (I remember borrowing it from York Library when I was young!) which she’ll get at some point before we go to see it on stage in November – probably a birthday present.

Her nature. She’s so caring and loving and thinks a lot about other people. Most nights I’ll cuddle up with her in bed, and I’ve found myself repeating what I used to do when she was a baby and wanted me in the bedroom – when I’d lie on the floor and pretend to sleep. Except these days she’ll sit up, grab some covers and put them over me to make sure I stay warm. Then she falls asleep.

So that’s us at the moment. She’s currently very tall, and at almost five and three quarters is occasionally in Age 8 clothes which fit her, thanks to her height.


An Average Day.

Haven’t done one of these for a long time. So here’s a random day in the week.

6.30am. Alarms go off, wake up. H comes in for cuddles with me. An old tradition which hasn’t gone away yet.

7am. Out of the shower and dressed by now, H is also getting dressed while I’m busy drying my hair.

7.20am. Shaun has put a load of fruit into a tub for me while I’ve been getting H ready, so I grab it and run for the train. The train arrives and it has been reduced from 10 carriages to 5. Not ideal, and I’m lucky to get a seat. Everyone is squashed in like sardines.

8am. At Clapham Junction, buying my lunch as I work through and eat, apart from Thursday.

8.10am. Get into work. Eat Breakfast. Work. Eat lunch. Get abusive emails. Argue with them. Ignore them. Go back to them. Despair. Read their emails out loud to my coworkers using a funny voice then everything feels fine again.

2.10pm. Finish work. Run for bus and train home. Rely on Southern Trains. Train delayed (‘has not left Clapham Junction’ I’m reliably informed by my friend who is on this train). Discover another train has been moved to a different platform. Run to it. Become aware of the twenty minute gap getting smaller. Get train. Does not stop at our stop. Watch my stop go by. Know I’ll need to get a cab to make it to school on time, another £10. I’m also picking up friend’s child as she can’t get back in time either.

3.15pm. Get to school late. H not in office thank goodness. Take H and friend home from school and see what snacks we have in the cupboards. None. Make mental note to add to the food order for Wednesday.

4pm. Osteopaths. Get to lie down for 45 minutes but have to keep checking in on H as she’s sat with me. She’s pretty good at sitting reading and being quiet.

5pm. Chop vegetables for tea. Put in soup maker. Make soup. Get to sit down. Make H read her reading book for school. Go through book bag and find she still hasn’t handed in her home learning she did on Friday evening. Also find a letter about a school event which is being held at 2pm which is no good when you work.

5.45pm. Take H swimming. Sit and chat with other mums for half an hour and have the same “oh gosh hasn’t the time flown” chat we have every week.

6.45pm. Arrive home. Wait for Shaun. He is on a Thameslink train which is of course running late. This wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have pilates in 15 minutes. So I stand on the doorstep as this will obviously make him come home faster.

7pm. Make it to my pilates class in time. Someone has taken my spot. I like the bit near the fireplace so I can hold on for balance, but I’m late. So I wobble a bit and long for the lie down mid-way through.

8.15pm. Get home. Have my tea. Realise I’ve had nothing to eat since 1pm and this is why I’m so light headed.

9pm. Complain about the lack of good television programmes on and probably watch some random old repeat of Gogglebox because it occasionally makes me laugh.

11pm. Sleep. Have dream about forgetting to add snacks to the food order. Realise it’s true, but I’m not getting out of bed to do it. Repeat to fade.

6.30am. Wake up next morning having remembered the day – I forgot to renew my Travelcard online, so I need to get to the station five minutes earlier, working on the assumption my train will be on time and won’t be shortened (as it’s sod’s law this happens when you’re not organised). Repeat to fade.


H sat with me, and looked sad. “Mummy, school is getting so difficult at the moment” she told me. She burst into tears. “I’m finding it really hard. We’re being taught some really difficult things”.

I gave her a big hug. She’d unknowingly hit a lot of her end of year targets by the first term this year, so it doesn’t surprise me she’s getting pushed a bit, but in doing so, is it all too much? I don’t know. I just reassured her, told her not to be sad, and that it’s okay not to get it straight away, as it would make sense at some point. That it’s okay. That she mustn’t feel bad if she thinks she’s the only person who doesn’t understand.

She works hard. She keeps up with the work, but this is the first time I’ve seen the pressure from school being brought home, where she thought she couldn’t cope.

(this was then followed with her testing me on maths, as I said I knew everything in the world as I’m a mum, this is a known fact you know)

“so what’s three times twelve then mummy?” she asked. I answered “thirty six” which as we all know is correct. “WOW! How did you know that mummy?” she said “you got it RIGHT! TA DAAAA!” which also makes me wonder what it is she finds so hard at school, she was too tired out to remember.

They learn so much more in Year 1 than I ever did – I know this year they have to jump to Year 2 standard to keep up with all the curriculum changes implemented by our previous government. I know I was reading and writing at her age, but all this maths too? Times tables? That didn’t happen until the second year of junior school. It’s no wonder she feels pressured and no wonder I can relate to the pressure. But she can do it, she’s probably just a bit overloaded, right? She loves school, she loves learning.

So then the Tories come up with this fabulous idea. Keep children in school from 8.30am to 6pm. Awesome! This is great for so many reasons.

1. I will never see my child but can spend my entire day at work earning loads of money to pay for our vastly overinflated rent as we’re a) too old to buy under any dodgy Tory scheme and b) slaves to our rent and the area we live in, despite our rent being double what most people pay for their mortgage.
2. I won’t have time to cook a meal at night, so we’ll have to rely on ready meals and things like that, thus putting money into the chain supermarkets which I’m sure probably help fund the Tories too.
3. I won’t need a childminder any more – so she’ll effectively be out of work and earning less!
4. H will be exhausted, so will sleep well every night. I can only hope we’ll get homework too to really get those eyes a closing.

This is a great idea because….

1. My five year old daughter will see what it is like when she starts working in fifteen or twenty years time. Brilliant.
2. Her school holidays will be shortened from 13 to 7 weeks, so the teachers will be exhausted too, the Holiday Clubs will have to move somewhere else to accommodate the extra children, but at least they won’t go bust like our childminder will.
3. Holidays will still be expensive, but that’s okay as we’ll all be working as there are SO MANY JOBS (apart from the people who’ve all lost theirs thanks to all these changes)!! Hallelujah!
4. Youth Crime will be reduced. What a relief. I still remember the day when someone at my junior school set fire to it. It took us ages to hear the alarm as we were in a little prefab outside the main building.

What bloody awful ideas. This country really scares me at the moment. I can be sarcastic about it all I want, but my daughter’s education isn’t going to suffer.


Teaching Politics To a Five Year Old

I am not the best person to teach anyone about politics, which in turn makes me think I’m possibly one of the best, especially when it’s H I’m teaching.

My parents never brought up the subject of politics with my sister or me, and I didn’t want it passed down. We never went with them to vote (or maybe we sat in the car while they did), and were never involved. I was brought up in a Lib Dem house, almost certainly, although my dad got so fed up with all the parties he was pretty much voting for the Monster Raving Loony Party before he died.

I wish I’d talked about it with him more. So I had to make sure H knows how important it is to vote. When I hear people saying they don’t vote because they don’t agree it frustrates me. Here in Carshalton/Wallington our seat was a marginal one; a Tory seat for many years. Our LibDem Councillor got in with a higher majority last time around, and “hurrah!” we all thought as that kept the Tories out. Oh.

So she needs to know how important it is to vote. So I’ve been collecting all the pamphlets of all the politicians, so she can judge for herself.

carshalton wallington election leaflets

So that’s Lib Dem’s, Conservatives, Labour, Green and UKIP. I laid them all out in front of her and asked her who appealed. She immediately went for UKIP. I asked why. “because the man is in a wheelchair” she said. I told her they were the baddies, and explained how they want to make changes to immigration – and that somewhere there may be another man like her daddy who wants to come and live in the UK, and actually, their policies would possibly stop that happening, and stop there being another little H from existing somewhere. She didn’t like that. So UKIP are out, phew.

She then went on to the Lib Dem’s. “What’s that in his mouth?!” she asked, when seeing Tom Brake’s wonky front tooth. I explained what it was and she seemed satisfied enough with that. Yellow isn’t her favourite colour so she swiftly moved on.

Red, that’s her colour. Siobhan Tate is our Labour MP and she kept going back again and again. “Why is there a lady doing this?” she asked. She doesn’t know whether it’s a lady or man thing, it’s just everyone else is a man. The leaflet would be put down and picked up again. Something was dragging her back to it.

But I know Blue is her favourite colour. But she didn’t like the Tory man’s face, so that was immediately discounted. Greens were rejected due to being green, although the man looks “friendly”. (I’m not so sure about their copyright proposals, personally)

So far nobody has come knocking on our door to ask for votes or support. I feel kind of neglected.

My friend Emma keeps getting loads of letters from the Lib Dem’s – so many she’s thinking about taking out a restraining order.

So what has H learnt about politics? UKIP are baddies, our Lib Dem candidate has dental issues, red is her favourite colour and she likes a lady writing about things, plus she was interesting. Blue isn’t to be, as is green. So going on her first impressions she’d vote Labour.

I’ll take that!

Anyway, on Thursday at some point she will come with Shaun or I, or both of us, and watch us vote. It’s important. If she doesn’t get used to it, how will she know what to think about when she gets older? Will she even get how important it is? Eventually.

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