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GP June July 2017

The June/July edition of The Green Parent magazine includes the latest in my series of interviews with parenting authors and experts.

I spoke to Milli Hill, the founder of the Positive Birth Movement, about The Positive Birth Book and how women can be empowered to have the birth they want.

You have rights and you have choices. You can be in the driving seat and decide what feels right for you. You have options and it’s worth exploring them. And finally, you can do it! You CAN do it.

I was very taken with this book and have since been recommending it to all my pregnant friends. It contains everything you might ever want to know about birth and is written in a relaxed, chatty style. I wish I had read it before I had my two children! Whatever a positive birth means to you, this book will make you believe you can do it.

 

You can read the feature here (PDF).

mantra

I’ve been having a bit of a tough time lately. Oh, don’t worry – nothing is actually WRONG.  Everything has just seemed a bit difficult. You know the sort of thing – keeping on top of the house, looking after the boys, thinking about my work direction, trying to get time to be me rather than Mummy. When something as mundane as forgetting to buy olive oil is enough to make you snap, you know it’s time to take a hard look at yourself.

But as they say, when the student is ready the teacher appears, and help has recently come from two directions, one more unlikely than the other.

I recently interviewed the artist and author Lucy H Pearce for The Green Parent‘s August/ September edition (I work quite a way ahead for them – put it in the diary!). Lucy is the author of five books (and is working on her sixth and seventh as we speak) and we were chatting about her first, The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood. It’s been a long time since I thought of myself as a creative person (have I EVER thought of myself that way?) and while I was reading the book I struggled to see myself in the “Creative Rainbow Mother” archetype that she describes.

mermaid_hair

But somewhere along the line a little spark of creativity has been kindled deep inside. Since reading the book I’ve had my hair dyed an array of “mermaid’ colours, and after speaking to Lucy by Skype, I have even, perhaps more profoundly, been drawing a bit (not to mention filling page after page with labyrinths). And trying out a bit of lettering. This might not sound like much to you, but when you consider that my bullet journal generally just consists of very unfancy to do lists in my usual scrawl, this is a big change.

I won’t spoil the forthcoming interview (!), but Lucy highlighted the difference between creativity and “artistic-ness” and gave me a whole new way of looking at the blank page with a sense of excitement rather than terror. Thank you, Lucy!

labyrinths

In that vein, the picture at the top of the page is of a spread I did in my bullet journal of my new mantra (you can see the cover of my bullet journal in this post). When everything gets on top of me, I sing this quietly to myself: “Back and forward flows the sea, back and forward flows the sea, back and forward flows the sea.” If you want to hear the tune, go to the BBC website and listen to the Beachcombing episode of CBeebies Radio show Waterways. Waterways is a really charming and calming listen – I recommend it! And yes, CBeebies is still playing as big as a part in my life as it was when I wrote the “Iggle Piggle is a dying sailor” blog post that ruined In The Night Garden for so many people.

I love the sea – despite living more or less as far from the coast as you can in this country – and this gentle melody, ebbing and flowing like the tide, helps to ground me and stop me feeling overwhelmed. How can you feel stressed about forgetting to buy olive oil when the waves are always crashing onto the shore, pulled by the moon?

Manford

The most popular thing I have ever written is almost certainly this old blog post from November 2012, The Secret Meaning Behind In The Night Garden‘s Opening Words. Written after watching too many episodes of ITNG while my oldest (then my only) son had pneumonia, it was a mostly-joking-but-OK-maybe-not-completely look at whether Iggle Piggle is really a dying sailor hallucinating in his last moments.

This post gets a steady stream of hits every day with occasional surges in popularity. One of its biggest peaks was in October 2015 when comedian Jason Manford chanced upon it while watching ITNG with his daughter and basically thinking “what is this all about?”. He posted about it on Facebook, and thousands of people clicked the link. Many people agreed. Quite a few thought I was sick / bonkers.

To my great surprise I got an email this week from Jason’s Absolute Radio show producer asking if they could make a video based on the post. How funny that he still remembered it and was tickled by it after all this time!

The video was posted on the Absolute Radio Facebook page.

It was great hearing my words performed in a dramatic reading like this – and it was even better to read all the comments! By the way, Jason, I still think I should get a scriptwriter’s fee…. What do you reckon?

CODA: I almost crossed paths with Jason back in April 2014 when I was a reporter at the Birmingham Mail helping to cover Stephen Sutton’s inspirational fundraising. I had hoped to chat with him about his support for Stephen but on the very day I was trying to get hold of him he was actually visiting Stephen in hospital in Birmingham. I can’t believe that was nearly three years ago. Stephen, you were amazing. RIP.

 

I’m still not doing too well with that “finishing books” resolution but here are the ones that I completed in March. I’m nearly at the end of a few though so hopefully April will be a bumper month!

the_unmumsy_mum

The Unmumsy Mum – Sarah Turner

I very rarely laugh out loud at books but I LOLed numerous times at this one, until I got to the chapter where she talks about losing her own mum, and then I most definitely got something in my eye. This book is so true to life, and just so incredibly British! If you like The Unmumsy Mum Facebook page you will love it.

unmumsy_mums

The Unmumsy Mums: A Collection of Your Hysterical Stories from the Frontline of Parenting

This is a little Kindle freebie companion piece to The Unmumsy Mum, and will definitely appeal to fans of the Facebook page. It’s pretty amusing and quick to read, and will raise a few embarrassed chortles of recognition and horror.

children_of_green_knowe

The Children of Green Knowe – Lucy M Boston

I have mixed feelings about this classic children’s book. It starts off so well, with a deliciously creepy setting in which a young boy goes to stay with his great-grandmother in an old manor house surrounded by floodwater. And there are other children there, children who lived there hundreds of years before. Are they ghosts? Presences? Energy imprints? We never find out, and actually nothing much really happens. Even the great showdown with the sinister “demon tree” Green Noah passes by in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. I wanted to love it, but I was left disappointed. One of the sequels (The River at Green Knowe) came bundled with it, but I’m not sure I will bother.

Also on the go

GP Apr May 2017The April/ May edition of The Green Parent includes the latest in my series of interviews with parenting authors and experts.

Distinguished anthropologist Robert A LeVine, co-author of Do Parents Matter: Why Japanese babies sleep soundly, Mexican siblings don’t fight, and parents should just relax, told me about the almost five decades of international parenting research he and his wife Sarah have conducted – and what Western parents could learn from mothers and fathers around the world.

Parental practices in non-Western societies are full of surprises, if you’re a middle-class Western parent. For most parents, it is hard to imagine ways of child-rearing other than those that are conventional in their communities. They are amazed, sometimes outraged, that anybody could do things differently.

You can read the feature here (PDF).

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