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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The Joys of Renting Part oh, I really don’t know any more

A short one this time. We’re staying another year, things will be tighter, but it’s the right thing for us right now. At least, I think that’s what’s happening – I’m blogging into the night trying to make a bit of money (let’s call it job #2) – no money is forthcoming just yet though. Shaun is having to work late into the night as H has been unwell (ear infection in both ears). I’m selling things on ebay to make space as we declutter with a possible view to downsizing.

But it’s okay – we got a voting slip yesterday – asking whether or not we want Residents Parking here, a contentious subject as we have H’s school and a college who use our parking spaces, occasionally blocking us residents in.

Except. We can’t vote. Apparently private tenants don’t count. The five years we’ve lived here mean we don’t have a say.

How bizarre. Apparently our landlady can vote though, even though she hasn’t been back here for at least seven years.

Weird logic. At least it isn’t something important! But how bizarre that as long-term residents our opinion doesn’t count.

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Falling Down

Last week H fell over pretty much every day of the week. Sometimes it was just a bump or a little scratch to add to her collection, other days it was far more extreme.

On Thursday it was my birthday, we were going to sit and have Afternoon Tea for a couple of hours with no H to distract us, to talk about everything we need to as far as moving, Australia, life goes. Except we were a minute from our dining establishment and got a call from school – H had fallen over and had a golf ball sized lump on her head.

Dizziness followed, as well as a trip to A&E. She got the all-clear there which is good.

The following day she had fallen over again, scratching her leg in the process.

Today we got the dreaded Call Of Dooom again, she had dizziness this time. I swear, I’m on first name terms with school, yet she still has her 100% attendance record as these things keep happening right at the end of the day. Fortunately today I think she was just a bit dehydrated, which was easily fixed.

I’m hoping the rest of the week passes by uneventfully…. Oh, and we did get to Afternoon Tea as well – but on Saturday with H. It was wonderful and she was so incredibly well behaved – even if she hasn’t got the hang of not stuffing sandwiches into her mouth all at once!

h bump

We found out a few days later what had caused the big fall which resulted in the A&E trip. She’d been picking up her friend – the girls all like to do that, pick each other up – it seems she’d lost her footing, fallen over and her head made contact with one of the legs on a bench at school. These things happen – I mean, I’m sure we all did piggyback rides when I was her age – so here’s hoping there’ll be no more calls now before half term! It was a big bump though – and incredibly not that big a bruise – brave girl!

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What Does Family Mean To Me?

Family. When I think of family, the word ‘widespread’ crops up first. Growing up my grandparents were all close by, but their families were spread across the UK – my dad’s side in Lancashire and my mum’s in Newcastle and London.


snapshots 1

Widespread definitely defines us as a family now. My mum and sister are in York, and Shaun’s family are in Australia. Before H was born I never thought of Shaun and I as ‘family’ as such (he was obviously my husband) – to me family always felt like you have all your relatives around you – which is impossible in our case.

Once H was born, I felt like we were a family at last. Just the three of us living in our own little bubble. Members of our family came to visit and we went to see them too. Thanks to the internet we keep in touch by email or Skype so we can see each other every once in a while even if it isn’t in person.

snapshots 2

So what does family mean to me? The nucleus of the three of us, the two people I will not be without – my best friend and my best little person – us versus the world and whatever it throws at us. Family means trips away for weekends to visit and catch up, or weeks away in Australia’s case. Family means people visiting us and having quality time so we don’t argue or have problems – we enjoy each other’s company. Family means being there. So often my sister is there for me, someone I don’t mention often (she likes her privacy over the internet).

The night my dad died, my mum, sister and I stood in the car park at York District Hospital, it was around 2am in the morning and quiet apart from the goings on around A&E. We stood, the three of us hugging together having been through to the end of a horrendous experience – we were family and we only had each other right there and then.

snapshots 3

Every month we drove up from London to spend time with my mum. That to me is family – we were exhausted but we did it, spending up to ten hours sometimes, going up and down the M1 – being there.

But there isn’t just my side of the family – there’s the Australian side too – Shaun’s mum and dad are both alive, as is his Nanna – H has got to know one of her Great Nanna’s which means a lot to all of us – we have photos of four generations of Adams’s. There are many Aunts and Uncles, cousins and more – and the internet to keep in touch. I’ve often been criticised for sharing as much as I do on Facebook, but I’m friends with all of the Aunts and Uncles, and they like seeing how H is doing (and Shaun of course)!

snapshots 4

Family is us three. The three who rarely get their photo taken together in one place thanks to one of us having the camera at any one time. Now H takes photos we have a few more of just Shaun and I.

I think we’re a typical working family. We both work and earn decent enough salaries (let’s not talk about rent right now though), relying on childcare for H every morning before school, and a couple of evenings afterwards. By the time Friday evening comes we drink wine, relax and plan fun things to do at the weekend. The weekend is our family time. When we spend entire days together and don’t think about work any more. When we have lie-in’s and cuddle up together in bed, planning what we’re going to do. She might only be five but H still has opinions on what she quite fancies doing, and quite often she comes up with good ideas.

So, that’s us. What does family mean to me? Everything. When a part of a family goes away it can change things, so when you’ve got it enjoy it, be with it, love it. Don’t waste your time arguing when you could be doing something productive. Maybe it’s because I’m older – I had H when I was 39 – but life’s too short. Have fun while you can.

Lee-Hughes Family

Matalan have a new ad campaign celebrating ordinary normal modern families like us. They have created a site with portraits of normal families who also feature in an advert. After 30 years of being in business they’re celebrating – and this video has been produced.

You can take part too. Add your family photo to the link above – you could win £250 in vouchers to spend in-store at Matalan each week. Personally I’m not sure which of the photos above I’d submit – they’re all photos that make me think ‘family’ – the good and the bad ones. The ones which aren’t as good are usually due to one of us pulling a face – but then that reminds me of growing up before the digital age when my mum would be pulling a face telling my dad to “hurry up” – him usually taking the photo just as she says ‘up’  – at least we can recreate our picture-perfect worlds with digital cameras, right?

This is a blog post for Mumsnet, in association with Matalan. No payment has been received for this, it’s a competition. 

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The Joys of Renting, Part Three.

The landlady has offered £50 less per month as the lowest she can go. She is remortgaging, so using money from where we live to buy herself a house. Which you might say ‘fair enough’ to, but we’re also cursing.

We’ve had replies back from two local councillors as I’d emailed them asking what their policy would be for people like us who privately rent. Oh, and I also asked they don’t slag off any other party, as this election has got terribly boring with them all doing that.

The LibDems and the Tories are both in agreement more houses need building to bring overall rents down. While I would agree with that, I’m not exactly sure where more houses *could* be built in Carshalton unless we start building on parks which is never going to happen. There is a new development up the road, apartments for families they call it – five four bedroomed houses (luxury apartments it says) – over half a million each. There is another house on the road adjacent to ours. EXCEPT THESE PRICES ARE RIDICULOUS!!!! The chances of a first time buyer buying a two bedroomed cottage around here these days are non-existent. Instead we pay £1400 a month in rent. Two bed too small? Three bedroomed ones are now over half a million. Insane. It doesn’t help that the pictures all look like something from The Sims, but there’s no cheat to give you a few million extra pounds in real life.

So actually, I’d say more affordable housing needs to exist. Oh, and Tories, stop selling off old council houses as you’re not helping much at all, and never have. Tory man was helpful, but said ultimately that he doesn’t agree with rent controls because “they never work well” and “often result in unscrupulous landlords breaking the rules, and they also dissuade legitimate developers and investors building more properties because they fear they won’t be able to get their hoped-for return”

Mr LibDem said things which feel more appropriate to us. We’re in a marginal seat and he needs us to vote for him. He does confirm that successive governments have shunned the idea of rent capping, preferring to see a competitive private rented sector, and that governments have avoided rent caps as countries who have it had the amount of rented accommodation decreased. He agrees the long term solution is to build more affordable homes, of which the Lib Dem’s have a plan to – building 300,000 every year. I’m not entirely sure where they would be built in Carshalton, but that’s just a minor issue. Right?

Ms Labour has not yet replied, and I feel like their policies may be the ones which speak to us the clearest. I really want Ms Labour to reply and she really needs my vote. She also needs a better website. But she doesn’t want to close the local Children’s Centres whereas Mr Lib Dem does.

Right now, in Carshalton the rents are sky-high. As 40-something renters we’re already having our chances of a mortgage being put in jeopardy (according to a headline in the Metro which says 40-somethings can’t get them any more), but with the rents being so high we can’t save to buy.

There’s only one option left – a part buy, part let house of our own. Two came into my inbox this morning. One may be being built on a section of land where buildings were destroyed in the riots in Croydon, the other in a more residential area (yes I will be spending the night in Google Maps). The latter looks appealing. If we could get a mortgage for £100,000 (age permitting) we could get a share in a two bedroomed flat – losing outside space, but gaining ownership of something.

I really hate London.


** edited to add – I’ve done a few ‘who should I vote for’ polls of late, and everything says my views are Green with Labour coming a close second. So I feel in the interests of fairness I need to send an email to our local Green councillor.

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The Joys of Renting Part Two

The dust has settled a lot in the last week. The fear and anger replaced by a different sort of emotion – hope, almost?

We haven’t heard back from our landlady, she’s away, but has my message. In that time we’ve been looking online, and actually, the places on offer (and there have been some) have central heating AND a garden for the price she’s asking – things we don’t have right now.

So part of me thinks we should go to a monthly contract with a view to moving somewhere better though less convenient, while the other part really does not want to put all our things into boxes again and wants to fight for a rent reduction

I’m not sure where it will go, or indeed where we will go, there are a lot of decisions to be made, a lot of changes to make. But right now I feel like we’ve been taken for mugs a bit, and that makes me want to fight back a bit more than I did last week.

Funny, that.

I’ve written to our Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem candidates about our situation, not to get help but to find out what their policies are. So far I’ve had two emails from Tom Brake promising a full reply (not yet here), the Conservatives replied the next day (impressed, still not voting for them though) and not a peep from Labour (she’s a teacher, so I’m giving her some leeway on this). Interesting though, one for another post some day soon.

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