Empowerment Parenting

6 July, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about differing parenting styles, apparent in children in the playground and at parties.  Sometimes it feels like we’re inundated with the selfy-helpy world of how-to-bring-up-your-kids. Having spent thousands of hours on facebook, er, researching child rearing, one day it struck me, I finally realised where I had been going wrong.  It was one of those “aha” moments, that changes your life forever.   Having tried my new approach out on more than two children, I can honestly say it’s totally amazing and it will change your life too.  I call it the GeddityerselfTM method.

There are only two rules in GeddityerselfTM parenting.  But they must be followed at all times.  They are:

  1. Say no to “no”.  Yes, that’s right we say no to saying no and we say yes to saying yes.  We never ever say yes to saying no.  No, we’d never do that.  So if your child asks for something, you always say “Yes”.  You can choose to that with an endearing term such as  “darling”, “sweet child of mine,” or for a teenager, “mummy’s lickle lamb” (always goes down a treat).
  1. The second rule is that you always follow that “yes” with our second foundation mantra; Geddityerself TM.

This works with children of all ages.  Here are a few examples;

Child:  “Mum, can I have a drink?”
Mum:  “Yes darling.  Geddityerself TM

Teenager:  “Mum, can I have a car?”
Mum:  “Yes, Geddityerself TM.”

Child:  Can I have lunch?
Mum:  “Yes, my love.  Geddityerself TM.”

Child:   “Can I have an allowance?”
Mum:  “Yes, my lickle lamb. Gedditoffyourdad.”

The sceptics amongst you might be thinking, but does this really work in real life?  Here are just a few of the many thousands of letters I receive everyday, from ordinary people, just like you.  The one thing they have in common is they have changed their lives, and the lives of their children, for the better using the Geddityerself TM  method.

“We were on our way to leave our seven children with social services one weekend, when we heard about your Geddityerself TM parenting method. Your blog was a turning point in our lives. These days, we all live as one big happy family.  Honestly, we can’t thank you enough.”
John & Olivia Walton, West Virginia, USA

“GeddityerselfTM parenting is a work of great emotional depth.  It challenges the holes in the fabric of redundant ideals of the western parental system.  I am in no doubt that I have been a better parent to little Sergey, Tatyana, Ilya, Leo, Marya, Petya, Nicholas, Varvara, Andrey, Michael, Sascha and Alexis since studying it.  Oh, and my wife, Sacha is getting on much better Timmy, my illegitimate child now.  (Although, she’s still a bit frosty with his mother).
Leo Tolstoy, Russia

“Fantastic!  You deserve a prize.”
A. Nobel, Stockholm

“Your gas bill is now overdue and requires immediate payment.”
British Gas, FTSE 100 Company, UK

Buy the Geddityerself TM Approach today for £199.99

While stocks last!

“The pressures of parenting and money meant my husband and I were both working second jobs, to make ends meet. We couldn’t cope. With the help of Gettidyerself parenting, I gave up my evening job as a prostitute and my husband stopped dealing crack on weekends. Instead, we spend our free time running happily through flower meadows, like other families. Thank you so much.”

Disclaimer:  Due to unprecedented demand, the Gettidyerself TM method has, er, completely sold out in all leading bookstores and on Amazon.

Copies are still available at the Wednesday market in Witney.  (Cash only)

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I live in a rural community, a small village with no street lights.  It’s surrounded by fields which are sowed and ploughed each year, by one of the three farmers who own all the land as far as the eye can see.  We watch the fields change throughout the seasons; the tractors ploughing, watching new plants appear in spring wondering what’s coming this year.  It changes see, each year the fields are a different colour, I think it’s called crop rotation (but stop me if I’m getting too technical, ok). Some years, we have masses of bright red poppies in golden corn fields, or vivid yellow oil seed rape, another year it’s green stuff that’s a magnet for swans.  Then in the late summer the combine harvesters drone all night, bringing in both the harvest and a bout angry monster nightmares for the children.

We go out and watch the combines sometimes, it’s a messy old business, but it’s efficient.  Not like the weeks of back breaking labour it must have taken in the good-ole-days.  This mechanisation has caused a redundancy amongst in the relationship between farmer and village.  We don’t help him with his harvest, he doesn’t sell produce locally, I barely know the three who farm around my village.  There is no Cider With Rosie round here.  Gone are the days of kids with (hopefully blunt) scythes, gathering the hay into bales, snogging under the horse-drawn cart.    And this naturally begs the question; if they’re not off school for the whole summer to bring in the harvest/snogging under the cart; then why exactly are they off school for so long?  The only reasons I can think of are;

  1. Keeping Thomas Cook in business with ridiculously inflated prices during the holidays.
  1. Stopping women getting decent paid jobs because no-one on a normal wage can afford 70 days of childcare a year.

School’s-out-for-summer once meant that work experience began and the children contributed to the economy.  Ok, I’m not really saying you should put your children to work in the fields, or up a chimney, (although if they really want to do it and they’re seem naturally good at it, who am I to tell you to hold them back in life?).

combine

Not all children are ready to drive combine harvesters.

The issue of trying to fit in work around school holidays is one that has failed to be addressed by any political party.  The women I’ve spoken to about this, (in my research to find a way to work more than my sporadic self-employment) all seem to rely on a bit of childcare and a lot of family support.  But, this is not an option for all of us.  I, like many, don’t have family to ask and although I can ask friends, there are only so many times you can expect someone to happily have your three children all day.  I’ve been self employed for about 4 years now and with the recession my work has reduced considerably.  With my youngest now in school (phew), I could get a part time job, except covering the school holidays.  Childcare is a problem, the problem being that the cheapest childcare starts at £3.50 per kid, per hour.  I’ve got three of them, so I’m looking at spending £10.50 an hour to go to work.  Ok, there are tax credit incentives to help with this, but many single parents really do find that the more hours they work, the worse off they are.

The big issue here is that as an economical entity, can Britain afford to support the massive amount of single parents on benefits?  It doesn’t make sense to structure our country’s economy around school holidays for the sake of, well what?  Teaching unions?  The UK currently has 2 million single parent families, really, shouldn’t we be trying to address their return to work in a more practical way?  We often hear talk about part time work for mothers, but the issue is not part time, many of us can manage that on a daily basis.  The issue is finding a job with 70 days holiday a year.

School holidays are determined by the Local Education Authority (LEA) for Community and Community Funded schools and set by the school governors for Aided and Foundation schools.  Schools are required to teach a minimum 190 days per year, offering 2 sessions a day.  There are guidelines on the number of hours of teaching per week (21 to 24) depending on the age of the children.  But, interestingly, there is no maximum number of days they are allowed to teach, this is determined by the contracts between the schools and teachers.  Overseen by the big daddy, teaching unions.

The new kid on the block of hope with all this is Free Schools.  These school are a government initiative to support the setting up of independently managed state schools  They are run by charitable organisations and do not have to follow the National Curriculem, there are currently 79 of them open in the UK.  Many are faith based schools, such as the Avanti (hindu) school in Harrow, the largest of the free schools in the UK.  Many of them are also under-subscribed.  Currently, all of the free schools operate conventional holiday term dates.  But do these schools spell out some hope for a re-organisation of holidays for the struggling millions of parents trying to make a living?  Will they be the forerunners in a re-organisation of school holidays that will enable many single parents to return to workable hours on even a part time basis?  Possibly, but there are other things the Free Schools bring to UK education.  One of the more worrying aspects is The Department of Education (DoE) allowing them to employ unqualified teachers without an open application procedure. Their website says:

 

“Free schools do not have to employ teachers with Qualified Teacher Status (although certain specialist posts will still require QTS).  Instead, Free Schools have the freedom to appoint the people they believe are best equipped to deliver their unique educational vision, for example an experienced instructor or lecturer from a further education institution.  Ensuring the highest quality of teaching is paramount to the success of each school.”

Interesting, isn’t it?  Free Schools’ teachers operate on the self-belief of their capability in teaching, rather than specific qualifications.  I wonder if this system that will in time be a precedent to the other struggling government departments (other than MPs, where it already openly operates).  Will we have Free Hospitals, where people who believe  they can operate perform surgery on brain tumours?  Or, perhaps we’ll have self appointed Free RAF pilots who, having done karaoke to R. Kelly a few too many times, believe they can fly.  Sort of like an employment based X-factor, but without tedious auditions.

Another aspect of education they’re allowed to take less literally, is with staff contracts, again the D.o.E website explains:

“One of the additional freedoms enjoyed by Academies and Free Schools is the ability to set their own terms and conditions for staff. The Free School’s Academy Trust will be responsible for employer and employee pension contributions, and for administrative matters relating to pension provision for all staff employed by the Free School.”

If that isn’t a direct hit in the eye against Teaching Unions, then I don’t know what is.

Despite the many short comings of the Free School system, the fact remains that we have arranged our economy around un-workable term dates and this means we perpetuate the benefit-dependent, single parent population.  It’s not true that single parents don’t want to work; people who say this have probably never raised children alone – so they have no idea how appealing it sounds to spend all day with adults.  Probably, in the same way, staying home with children, sounds really homey and loving (instead of shouty and tantrumy).  Few people prefer to raise their children on the poverty line, when additional earned income might offer them so much more.

There are no immediate or easy solutions to this, but it’s interesting that those expensively equipped educational buildings, our state funded schools, sit idle and empty for 175 days per annum, almost half a year.  Surely, there must be something we can do with them?

How to Leave Feedback

26 April, 2012

My basic rule of thumb with leaving feedback has always been; the worse the event – the better the feedback I leave it.  Sort of like leaving reverse feedback actually.  So if I go to something that I think is utterly, mind blowingly shite, then I often just feel sorry for them and tell them it was good.  I mean if they don’t know how crap they are, then they’re a long way from change.  So, instead of shattering their reality and spending months resetting their dysmorphic self belief (back down to zero), I tend to leave them happy in ignorance.

I once received a copy of Oxford Montessori’s school brochure (when I  only had one child and actually cared about that sort of thing – his education and stuff).  It was full of spelling mistakes, incorrectly used words and even a map which had one of the schools located on the wrong side of the street.  Here’s a quote I remember;

“We will inform you if your child is illegible for the government voucher scheme”.

Illegible instead of eligible?  I think they were offering my child the chance of their amazing education skills for only £5,000 a year.  I thought the brochure was the best indicator of the school they could possibly send out to be honest.  I didn’t ring up with corrections, I rang the local state school and had a look round instead.

With workshops I’ve enjoyed, I’ll often leave a bit of feedback on small things that could be improved like, “move the venue from East London to Birmingham” etc., all helpful stuff.   Generally speaking, it’s received by the host with, er, hostility.  This happened recently, so I’ve decided to have a bit of a re-think on feedback and how to leave it.

My new forumla for feedback is based on my many years of research, trial and, oh-s0-many errors.  I think I’ve now developed an exciting new approach which will give you incredible results.  Soon, you will find people hanging on your every word and inviting you to be a public speaker at their events.   Please feel free to copy it, or expand on it in your own intimate style.  Although no two situations are ever exactly the same, with this method you will get massive-results-which-blow-your-mind. The conversation should typically go along these lines;

Host(ile) facilitator:  Hey, How was my workshop?

You:  “Oh your workshop……” (pause for thought, like you’re thinking back to the actual day, instead of remembering your lines.  Basically the more you pause at this stage the better the overall effect.  So fill that pause with something like imagining yourself walking backwards through your whole house – include garage and/or sheds).  Then when you’ve done that, you can begin…

You: “Oh it was, well, really fantastic”

Host(ile): Really?  Do you really think so?  I mean I know I’m relatively new to this but….

 You;  (interrupt with enthusiasm) “Oh, yeah, you’re not the biggest, that’s true, but OMG! you’re so the best, the best, it was fan-tas-tic. Really, really good.

Host(ile): Wow, that’s so nice of you, I’m so glad you liked it.  We’ll be doing some more later in the year…

You: (interrupting enthusiastically)  More! (a slight scream should enter your voice now)  Oh, yeah, I’d like more, yeah more.  I’m just going to keep coming again and again and again it was sooooo amazing.  Thanks. (Deeply exhale and if light up a cigarette if you’re outside). 

 

Host(ile):  You’re welcome (he looks happy). I’ll tell you what, shall I put you on our mailing list.

You:  Yes, Yes, YES!

I guarantee, you’ll get a much better result if you use this method anytime you’re asked for feedback.  If you need to practise this complex technique before you use it then write some feedback about my blog below.  (Just scroll up if you need help remembering the formula.)

Introductory price: £7,777.99  (cash/paypal)

H x

I’ve been trying to buy a second hand car.   This can be a difficult thing to accomplish as a single woman who knows nothing (useful) about cars.  My last car was a silver one and it was very expensive to maintain, as well as being very unreliable, so never get silver.

Another thing I learned last time, was to be very careful about who you buy it from.  Previously I have avoided all the dealers.  Instead, I bought my last car from a retired middle aged couple in leafy North Oxford.  They had a genuine reason for sale and were effusive about the car and sad to be selling it.  Turned out they were a couple of crafty old shysters who swapped my cash for scarp metal in their neighbour’s recycling boxes.

The man I bought my last car from

They’d banged an old tyre on at each corner and called it a “car”.  They assured me the engine was “very quiet” and off I rolled, literally downhill all the way from there.  They hadn’t climbed to the top of the Saga cruise ship without using other people as their stair lift in life, I was to discover.  The “car” had everything replaced by my local garage over the following three years.

This time I decided on a Vauxhall Zafira.  Wtf?  I hear you ask. I’m sure you imagined me in a vintage sports car or saw me as a sophisticated Yummy queuing up in environmentally customized 4×4 outside the school gates?   I hate to disappoint, but there are a few intelligent reasons which led me to choose Vauxhall over Lexus, Range Rover or Maserati – they’re all called price. Chiefly, the price is right because Zafira’s qualify for a government scheme called Motability for the disabled.  It’s really clever, just like the name, a synergistic combination of motor and motility, or motor and ability, (or motab and ility).  Anyway, exactly what the scheme is doing for the disabled?  By signing over the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) each month for three years, anyone in receipt of Higher DLA can lease a brand new car with full servicing, tyres and Road Tax included.  After three years they can chose to upgrade again to a brand new vehicle if required.  This clever scheme has run since the 1970s and has managed to both create a whole consumer base for new cars (people who would never have afforded them and wanted to get out) and simultaneously has managed to boost the flagging motor trade with thousands of sales per annum.  Clever eh?  It was introduced by the Late Lord Goodman (before he died).  Anyway, the upshot for me of all this is that there are tons of second hand Zafira’s around,  they’re low in price,  low in miles and have a full service history.  I was going to have one.  Motability is the biggest supplier of second-hand cars in the motor industry, but you can only get one of their used cars from a motor dealer.

So out on the hunt for a good deal, I first visited the Bellinger Vauxhall dealership in Wantage.  I had two of the “Oh-my- god children” (omgc) with me, which sufficiently deterred any of the salesmen from an approach.  We even ventured into one of their glassy showrooms where I acquired lots of new biros (and the omgc acquired all the complimentary biscuits).  We were just about to leave; feeling very satisfied that Vauxhall had a lot to offer, when a salesman approached.  Five minutes later I found myself huddled over a brochure trying to decide which of the brand new cars I’d be most interested in.  The omgc excelled themselves by playing quietly together near one of the show cars.  Sensing my dilemma (I don’t actually want a new car), my dealer said if I wasn’t fussy on colour, he’d see what he could do.  (Please god, not silver.)   He disappeared for ten minutes and when he came back he generously added £1,000 to the price of each of the cars, saying he’d found the new price list.  Weird.  At this point I wanted a fast exit, so I asked the omgc to stop filling the show car with forecourt gravel and we left.

I needed a car with more space for the kids

Now, I learned an important thing on that outing.  No one takes a woman seriously if she has two dirty young boys in tow.  She’s just not considered mentally competent.  So when I visited Hartwell Vauxhall in Kidlington, I made sure I amassed four dirty young boys and an idea of a competitive price.  The hustle was on.  And then it was off.  Could it have been the sight of my old banger part askew on their lot, or the sound of breaking plastic which arose unidentifiably from the back seats while we did the test drive?  I’m not sure, but I was mighty upset when I saw Sami prize the top off the gumball machine and generously share his stolen hoard.  I rushed over hoping no one else had seen.  Patiently, I explained that they had to pay for the sweets and they were there to help sick children with Leukaemia.  Looking at me with total scorn, omgc #1 said “Eating loads of sweets isn’t going to make them better.”  Another hasty exit, (but I didn’t make the kids empty their pockets of gobstoppers).

Eventually, I found a car.  Well, actually my 85 year old mother found it in her local paper.   She told me to ring the garage in Tewkesbury, and while I was on the phone she interrupted asking;

“Will they take a cheque or do they want cash”

“Would they prefer a Banker’s Draft?”

“Can you pay now by phone, or do they need the card?”

Eventually, I told her that we’d play them hard by going to see the car before buying it. Savvy – that’s me.

Jason Jones Autocare was the final stop on my car buying journey.  He turned out to be brilliantly eccentric, everything I’d ever imagined in a second-hand car dealer.  He was vaguely recognisable from the photo on his website, obviously taken around 1988, when he was svelte and youthful.  He couldn’t find any of the many cars he’d promised me were in stock.  He couldn’t work the basics on his own computer and had to get someone old enough to be his grandfather to tell him where to click (it was that hard).  He also had a great sense of humour (obviously).  However, he managed to get me the car I wanted and to undercut the main Vauxhall dealers by about £1,500.  This was without giving me any special discounts or deals, so what can I do but recommend him?

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, he knew all about the silver cars and he advised me to go for a blue one.  He said they’re really reliable and never crash.

Me and my new motor

(Should I mention that the kids smashed a window on it before it was a week old?)

Nah,  let’s not spoil it eh?

Crazy Sexy Gym

31 January, 2011

I have found the ultimate gym experience.  Before you ask, no, it’s not on YouTube or anything remote where you don’t actually have to move your body.  It’s a real life, get off your arse and move around gym.

Ok, it’s not a gym, but nearly.  There are a few little differences,  my Crazy Sexy Gym beats a traditional gym hands down on all the differences.

The first thing about Crazy Sexy Gym is it’s not called IRON BOLLOCKS, it’s actually called “Curves”.  You know, curves, like on a real body that goes in and out.  I’m just beginning to work on the “in” bits, but I’ve got all the “outs” nicely sorted, so I’m halfway to the perfect body already, which is why I’m not even going to call it “Curves”, but Crazy Sexy Gym.

Crazy Sexy Gym has a circuit of exercise machines, about ten of them, with some aerobic (sprung) boards in between them.  The idea is that you work your way round this circuit  Curves workout circuit three times.  You carry a little electronic tag which you plug into each machine.  This tag sets the machines to your individual resistance and off you go, a full body work out takes 30 minutes.  The really brilliant thing about this is that every time I think to myself, “I hate this, I totally hate this and I can’t carry on,” a recorded voice says “change stations now”, indicating that my full 30 seconds on that machine is over and it’s time to do 30 seconds on the next machine.  Cool isn’t it?

The ambience of Crazy Sexy Gym is unlike your normal sweaty, pushy, gym.  As you work your way around the circuit you will converse with the other women there.  (Did I mention it was women only?)  The discussions are about holidays, shopping, puddings, the amazing sale on at Evans etc.  This goes on for the entire duration of your workout, you will be breathless by the end, but you’ll know everything that’s happened in Corrie and EastEnders (but not Holyoaks).  One of the reasons I joined Crazy Sexy Gym was that when I did my trial workout, everyone else in there was at least 25 years older than me.  As I jogged heavily on the sprung boards for 30 seconds, they made comments to each other like “Oh, it’s wearing me out just looking at her” and “It’s alright when you’re young.”  I felt like I was on a Cindy Crawford exercise DVD or on in a wet Baywatch swimsuit.  I hadn’t felt that fit in years; that’s a pretty good start I thought, so I joined.

Compare that to last time I was in a proper gym (I mean exercising, not using the loos).  I was ambling power walking on the treadmill when some 26 yr old, size 8 pentathlete started sprinting right next to me.  I was trying to watch 60 Minute Makeover on the flat screen at the time.  (Have you seen it?  It’s where a load of people ransack your house in the name of home improvement.  But, they only spend 60 minutes doing all the renovations.  So literally like 30 people charge in, paint the rooms, refit your carpets, replace major appliances and install a new kitchen.  Then when the buzzer goes, indicating they have fulfilled their 60 minutes of unskilled destruction, they stop and leave it exactly as it is.  Personally, I can see a few problems with this methodology, but they’ve never shown the owners crying and the house falling down, so it must all be ok).  Where was I ?  Watching daytime TV as a skinny, fit, thin bird sprinted a quick marathon next to me.  Now, one thing I know about a lot of these “perfect” body types is that they are actually desperately insecure about how they look and genuinely think they’re fat and ugly.   I considered sweetly saying; “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude, but do you realise your fat legs are thumping your feet so hard on the treadmill that I can’t hear this show?”  But she wouldn’t have heard me as she had some cool music on her iPod frying her Crazy Empty Head.  So instead, I decided to leave.  I stopped walking and next thing I knew I was lying on the floor behind the treadmill.

Another interesting thing about Crazy Sexy Gym is the changing rooms.  Apparently, they let the members decide what facilities they wanted.  The members opted for a kitchen rather than showers, which says a lot really doesn’t it?  Personal hygiene is taken seriously though and there is a free supply of wet wipes and deoderants for everyone to use.  Believe it or not, no one nicks them either.  The changing rooms are carpeted not tiled so  there’s no danger of a fall.  Instead of ugly metal lockers, they have nice little pine cubby holes, each one filled with a pair of very white trainers.  There’s a pair with big labels in the soles saying “Susan Whitingale”, I’ve found they fit me the best.

Changing rooms at Curves

Typical changing room at Curves.

So, now for the science.  They weigh and measure you once a month.  I worked out there twice a week for the first month, half an hour each time.  Then I had a month off with Xmas and heavy snow.    When they finally measured me, I’d lost 4 inches over my body.  That’s including an inch of my stomach, half an inch of each thigh and one off my boobs (but you’d never know it).  And I hadn’t even been for a month.  Pretty amazing I think.

You know what they say, you can’t argue with success.
Can’t recommend it higher than that.  Cost is £34 a month, give Crazy Sexy Gym a go.

Byeeeeee x

Dutchess of Skid Row

23 May, 2010

I have three of the “oh my god” children here wreaking havoc for the day. With mine, there are six kids under eight in my fairly negligent care. My neighbour, has very kindly, just added chicken wire to the gate to stop them escaping, keep them safe in the garden.

My current number of godchildren is nine, for no good reason. I haven’t got any money to lavish on them, let alone leave them in a generous will. They get some (god) motherly tough-love and a share in a dvd at Xmas. Sometimes, I remember some of their birthdays and, if there’s special offer on in Poundland, they might even get a present. I’m thinking of declining any further god kid applicants, (and handing out free condoms to my friends).

A mum from school said, “Nine, that’s like Royalty”. Yup, I’m sure you’re thinking, Princess Grace of Monaco, I know.  But, believe it or not, I could be a lot more Fergie – inappropriate humour used to make situations that are bad, far worse. I read an article on her this week in the Daily (it must be true) Mail. She is apparently on skid row again since she lost her job running a Weight Watchers meeting.  Although, during the interview, she bought the £1,300 chair she was sitting in, as a spontaneous present for a friend. Her latest business venture went into liquidation owing £600,000, plus £200,000 to her solicitors and a few others who are owed smaller sums (like £20k).

Now, I always quite admired how Fergie survived the 80s and 90s. I’m not normally one to knock someone when they’re down. But the woman does get £250k a year from her ex-husband. On top of that she earned £2 million A YEAR representing Weight Watchers. Is this really the ex-princess who went into a “deprived” housing estate to help normal people get their lives together? I can’t believe no one thought of pitching that show the other way round? Normal hard working people, show hopelessly out of touch ex royal, how to manage her life and live on under £2.25 million a year.

It would go something like this:

Common (sense) bloke: Don’t worry luv, I’ll help you. I can teach you a bit of common sense with money. How much do you spend a year right now on non essentials?
Skint Fergie: I only spend on essentials. Nothing else.
CsB: Ok, then, how much is yer mortgage?
SF: My more gauge? Quite high, I suppose, about ½ a mill.
CsB: Half a mill, great, I used to work in’t mill. How many ton of flour do you get through a year?
SF: Well, I had to cut the cakes right down when I worked for Weight Watchers. But I have to admit, with all this stress, it’s gone up a quite a bit .
CsB: . So that’s in full productions, great. And you say you worked at Weight Watchers?
SF: They let me go.
CsB: Too fat?
SF: No. I was made redundant and since then, I’ve spiralled into a bit of debt.
CsB: Easy to do if yer not working. Do you get any support from that ex husband of yours?
SF: Two fifty a year.
CsB:. Well that won’t go very far. I’m sure it helps, with little extras though, like clothes and shoes.
SF: That’s exactly what I told him.
CsB: What about benefits, are you entitled to any?
SF: I get a lot of criticism about this. But yes, I take all the benefits I can get and that’s basically what keeps me going.
CsB: Aye, it’s hard surviving on benefits. What about family, do you get any help there from your parents or your in-laws?
SF: None. My side are poor polo players. His family live the life of royalty, but they won’t help me.
CsB: That’s terrible. Do you need help with housing? Where do you live?
SF: My ex husband was left a house by his granny. I’m in his spare room.
CsB: You don’t have to live like that luv. I’ll get you on the housing list. But, you’ll have to go into B&B for a few weeks.
SF: What? A hotel? That would be amazing.
CsB: Well, it might be a bit hard, but it’s just for a few weeks.
SF: Oh fabulous. Be a darling and book me for Mustique.
CsB: Don’t be daft luv, you can’t go to focking Spain.

Come on Sarah; how many people have your sort of disposable income, with no overheads? For now, just stop promoting yourself as a role model and guru of social change. Focus on strengthening your tenuous link with the real world first.

Girl, get a grip.

I'll never give up, (my Harrod's gold card).

It’s been a tense past few days in Witney.  A lot of intense negotiations around the town.  Who was telling the truth? Well how should I know?  But my gut instinct told me I had to find out.  These are hard economic times and big mistakes can have long term consequences.  Sure, there were a few fraught moments when, frankly, I thought I couldn’t trust myself, I’m just a mum, I have no in depth knowledge of such worldly things.  Who am I to question the powerful prevailing forces in this town?  But that’s the way life goes, just as you abandon all hope, things click into place and it all comes together.

Only a week ago, I was standing outside a garage in Witney crying at the forecast written down infront of me.  It was going to take billions of pounds to keep my car on the road and get it through the MOT it had just failed.  What could I do?

The man in the garage had helpfully spread doom and gloom about the difficulty of finding the right parts, and the utter impossibility getting them delivered anytime soon.  I felt like the owner of a vintage Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, rather than the Skoda Fabia I’d driven in.  As I sat in the car, sad and stressed, I read down the list of “Fails”; suspension, bushes, lights, lights cluster, then a strange thought crossed my mind.  “What if this was just another rip-off piss-take of a vulnerable and defenceless woman?  Then I thought, “Even if she weren’t vulnerable and defenceless, it could still be a rip off.  What if my car was actually ok?”  I ran with it.

Actually, I drove with it, all the way to my local garage and showed them the fail.  They started crying.  For them, having spent so much time caring for my car over the past few months, this was akin to seeing your child trip over in a bridesmaid dress, and arrive at the church plastered in mud.  It just couldn’t be happening.

So Steve, my local mechanic, kicked a few of my tyres and peered at my light cluster and after this mechanical inspection he announced; “Ders nufin wrong wiv dat car”.  Then in his professional capacity he advise me to, “Get it redone at Olly’s. He’ll pass it. That garage is a prick, for failing that.”  Ours minds were one (briefly).  He called Steve over, (both mechanics are called Steve, but only one of them can drive).  After a several minutes of discussion about bookings and slots etc., where they both attempted to remember what was on the calendar, without walking six feet to look at it, they agreed on Thursday.

Thursday morning it went in a failure, and Thursday afternoon it came out the proud owner of it’s MOT.  If I were one of those mums who kept my kids certificates for swimming, reading, breathing etc., then for sure, this one would be up on display with the rest of them.

However, my Fabia’s outstanding achievement also left me with the predicament of the dodgy first MOT,  I had now paid for the test twice.  So I rang rip-off garage.  (I should clarify, this absolutely wasn’t the local Skoda dealer.  Last time I went in there, they told me I needed the engine completely stripped and rebuilt for emissions output.  Steve’s comment that time was “Dats total bollocks”).
I enthusiastically let rip-off garage know just how well my car had done in today’s MOT, hoping they’d be happy for me.  Not wanting to be unfair about the situation, I left it up to them to decide to refund me or be reported to Trading Standards.  I told them to think about it and give me a ring back.  It was strange how quiet the man at the other end went.  I don’t know him, but I’d guess he doesn’t talk to many assertive women.  Anyway, he obviously really liked me, because he eagerly called back within five minutes.  He said that although MOT is a matter of the “opinion” of a mechanic, (rather than a rigid set of requirements for you car to be on the road).  And because they didn’t like having dissatisfied customers, (so kind of them to think of me), in light of these two things, they would give me a full refund.

How very sweet of them.

Then with consumer power pulsing through my veins, I went to the village hall and voted in the General Elections.  I forgot to stay up and see who’d won the Witney seat though.

Bye xxx