Shameless plug on behalf of CEA. In particular, on behalf of two contributors.
This is a Guinness World Record attempt to have the most contributors to a single anthology. 100 authors have been chosen and the anthology is available to pre-order here.
To complete the record, at least 1000 copies must be sold. As mentioned, there are 100 contributors. Two such contributors are a friend of mine and a sister of mine. Respectively, Leonie Harris and Naomi Lucas.
Support, if you can, by pre-ordering a copy of the anthology. Whether or not you purchase it yourself, please spread the word so the team can achieve their goal.
This is a personal blog about our recent family holiday around the south coast of England. My partner’s eldest daughter (C) invited us to her wedding and, as she lives almost 200 miles away, we couldn’t just pop down and come back in a day. We also have the problem that my other half (D) gets ill after travelling so would likely need a day to recover. This also meant that going down just for the weekend would have been taking a chance with his health.
As I had already decided that we were going to have a holiday this year, and had been trying to arrange to see my partner’s daughters, it made sense to make this our holiday so we booked a caravan for a week.
We did quite a few things so I’ll put it in sections per day.
Day 1: 7th August 2017
This day wasn’t particularly interesting as it was when we travelled. It’s a good thing I like driving! It took us around five and a half hours in total. We started out around 10am. On the way, we made two stops. The first was just a convenience break and to stretch our legs. The second was for lunch. We had noodles. I may have been a little more excited about there being a noodle place than I ought to have been. Well, I was happy.
We arrived at Winchelsea Sands in Winchelsea Beach at about 3:30pm. The caravan was lovely. It had three bedrooms, a large living and kitchen space, a shower room with sink, and a separate toilet and sink. We had expected the boys to share a bedroom but they didn’t need to so they were happy. They don’t mind sharing but it’s nice that they had their own space.
My eldest son (R) and I decided to have a wander and explore the area. There was not much to explore. These pictures show some ducks, a small church, and a view from the beach.
It was very quiet at Winchelsea. There are a couple of pubs within walking distance of the caravan park, and a couple more within a short drive. Apart from that, there was a shop and a barber next to one of the pubs, and a game dealer along the other end of the road.
The caravan park did have an entertainment venue although the ‘entertainment’ was mostly bingo at The Lobster Pot. We had one meal there. There was a small arcade where we popped in a couple of times. We won enough prize tickets for the boys to get a couple of small toys and sweets. There was also an outdoor swimming pool. We had taken our swimming things as we like swimming but didn’t use the pool as we spent most of the days out so the pool was closed by the time we got back.
Day 2: 8th August 2017
This was my favourite day mainly because D finally got to meet his two granddaughters. Well, he had met the first one (Baby1) but she was only a couple of weeks old then, D never got to hold her, and it had been two years since then. This was the first time we had met the second one (Baby2). It was the first time the boys had met C or the babies.
Anyway, we had arranged to meet up with C and the babies at Hastings. I’d never been there and it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.
Well, we met up with them outside the Royal Standard pub. I thought we were going to go for lunch but they’d already eaten before they came out. So, because I like to go to every sealife centre in every place where there is one, and I thought they would like it, I suggested going there. With three adults, a 17 year old boy, a 12 year old boy, a 2 year old girl, and a 9 month old girl, it’s not easy to find something that everyone will enjoy and be able to do!
So, we went to the sealife centre (I think it’s called Blue Reef Aquarium). There were rays, sharks, an octopus, seahorses, and lots of different fish. Everyone had a good time there. Baby1 looked like she was trying to tell us all about the fish while Baby2 seemed to be more interested in R’s long hair! They both tried to take some pictures with my camera.
After we had looked at all the sea creatures, we walked by the beach to Hastings Miniature Railway. It goes a little way along near the seafront and back again. D didn’t go on but the rest of us did. Baby1 fell asleep on me on the way back but she liked being on the train. It was lovely to see everyone happy (except F, he always looks grumpy but he said he was happy).
Once we arrived back where we started, we went to an ice-cream shop. D took a fingerful of my ice-cream to give to Baby2, who enjoyed it so much that she tried to wrap her hands around the whole thing and made lots of mess!
R loved making a fuss of the little ones, as did D. It was quite funny (but also cute) to see a former soldier and a teenage boy cooing over a baby.
Day 3: 9th August
This was a Wednesday. After a busy day with the girls, D needed a rest so I took the boys out for the day. We had a list of places we’d like to visit and a friend had offered another suggestion. I asked the boys where they wanted to go and we decided on St. Leonard’s Church in Hythe.
It was a good drive away from where we were staying. I’d given the choice of there or Herstmonceux (which is one of the places we wanted to go but didn’t so we’ll be doing that next time) as they were both about a 45 minute drive but in opposite directions.
We went to The Crypt at St. Leonard’s. There are skulls and bones on display from where a burial site had been dug up to build on. It was small and we didn’t stay for long. It was interesting, though. We had seen a few things on the way there so, as we drove back, I told the boys we could do one of the other things. We got to Romney, Hythe, and Dymchurch Light Railway. We had arrived at Dymchurch station and decided to go to Romney on the train. We were going to go to St. Mary’s Bay as it was nearest and cheapest. However, when we were told there was nothing there but there was an exhibition at Romney, we decided on that instead.
Images: bones and skulls at The Crypt, St. Leonard’s; sheep have the TARDIS at Model Railway Exhibition display
The model railway exhibition was good. There were lots of buttons to press as well as models and memorabilia. We had lunch at the cafe there but that wasn’t worth writing about. The man in the railway shop was very nice. He corrected himself on his tautology when he asked for a PIN number, and he seemed rather joyed about having sold his first heraldic keyring (I’d bought one for D as he’s the only one of us whose surname has any English heraldry).
We went on diesel trains. I was a little disappointed as I was hoping for a stinky steamy at least one way! It was a nice day out, though. When we got back to the caravan, I can’t remember what we did. I think R and I probably played Boggle (we did a lot of that in the evenings). As Wednesday is usually date night for me and D, we decided to still have a date night. We went to the pub round the corner (Pub 31). It was OK but D was boring. We had one drink there, a pigeon came inside, and then we went back to the caravan. It looked like they were doing karaoke at The Lobster Pot (on the caravan site) but D didn’t want to do that. I don’t really understand why. He said he only does that if he knows people. Now, that would make sense if he actually got up and sang but he won’t. So, the one time they did something other than bingo, we didn’t go anyway!
Day 4: 10th August
We had planned on seeing K (D’s younger daughter) but she was at work in the morning so we couldn’t see her until late afternoon. So we decided to do something in the morning. We went to the town of Rye. Considering how small it is, it wasn’t easy to find things! We visited Rye Castle Museum and Ypres Tower (it’s all one thing). For a small place, there is a lot to see. I really should review some of these places (I reviewed a couple but forgot some). We walked up the steps of the tower, had a great view over the harbour from the rooftop, and had a wander around the cannons in the gun garden.
After that, we wanted to go somewhere for a cup of tea. There were lots of tea rooms but it was lunch time so they were mostly packed. We found one called The Cobbles Tea Room. Like many of the best places, it was along a side path thingy. None of us actually had tea. The boys and I all had hot chocolate, D had coffee, and we all had a piece of cake. It was ever so nice in there. The two young girls were working so hard, doing their best to accommodate people when they started to get busy.
Once we had finished in there, it was time to make our way over to see K. We weren’t sure if we were going to do anything with her. We hadn’t made plans but said she could decide when we got there. As it happened, she hadn’t been too well so we just stayed at her home, had a cup of tea, and chatted with K and, later, her mum and mum’s partner.
K told us about her work at a zoo, and about her plans to go to university next year. R plans to go to university next year too so they have that in common. In fact, all four of the children got on well. The boys had met K once before but that was two years ago. Hopefully, it won’t be that long before we see them all again.
I think it was this day that we tried looking for a chip shop for tea when we got near to the caravan park. It turns out that there are no chip shops around Winchelsea. I think the nearest was at Rye but there was nowhere to park by it. We ended up at a pub called The Smugglers. The food there was nice and fresh, and good portions for the price. I had a dressed crab salad.
Day 5: 11th August
We visited Battle Abbey. It was one of the places on our list of places we wanted to go. I’m glad we did go, and I’m sure the others were glad, too. We spent a couple of hours there exploring ruins of the Abbey and some of its associated buildings as well as a walled garden, walks, and a play area. I think I did review this one but I can’t remember where (probably Tripadvisor).
When we arrived at Battle Abbey, there was a lady promoting English Heritage membership who wanted my t-shirt – I was wearing a purple Doctor Who t-shirt (which I also happen to be wearing as I write this).
As we left Battle Abbey, I did decide to join English Heritage, especially when the lady suggested visiting Dover Castle. Between that and Battle Abbey, it was cheaper to get a year’s membership. Even better is the fact that R, being 17, counts as an adult for non-member price purposes but a child for membership.
Anyway, we had an enjoyable day there. We would have stayed longer but D was getting tired from all the walking and climbing. We had some lunch at a little cafe/tea room. We went to go into one but then we realised it was dirty and didn’t sell real food (only had pastries and pre-packaged sandwiches) so we went into a different one, which was clean and had a good selection of food. I think it was called Bluebells Tea Room.
We drove a long way back (partly because it was easier to get out of Battle that way but mostly because we got a bit lost). We drove along some country roads and some coastal roads so it was a nice drive. When we got back, we found that there was a fish and chip van which visited the nearby pub on a Friday. If we’d known that, we’d not have had a big lunch! Oh, well, I think my jacket potato and salmon was a better option than fish and chips.
Day 6: 12th August
The day of C’s wedding, the reason we had gone down south. We had a relaxed morning of not doing a lot. The wedding wasn’t until the afternoon. We started out in, what we thought would be, plenty of time to get there and decided to drive through the villages, thinking it would be a little quicker as it meant cutting off a rather tricky corner.
As we drove through the villages, we were held up by a group of cyclists. Once we had passed them, every single traffic light was on red (I’m sure I don’t remember there being that many traffic lights) so we ended up a little late. Only a few minutes, and we weren’t the last ones there so that wasn’t too bad. We missed C walk down the aisle but we didn’t miss anything else.
Personally, I always find weddings boring but Baby1 offered a little entertainment with her cheeky grin and trying to upstage her mum and dad.
Later, there was the reception (well, two of them, one afternoon and one evening) which was nice. We got to spend time with D’s family. He said he felt accepted by all of them, and he hadn’t felt like that before. He got to have more cuddles with his granddaughters and my boys went outside with D’s niece and nephew to look for meteor showers. It’s nice that they’re all of a similar age with some similar interests.
D and R played with bubbles outside with Baby1 as well, and the boys and K played bubbles with each other. They were all smiling, which was nice, especially for F as, I mentioned before, he doesn’t do much of that. It looked like everyone had a good time. We went straight to bed when we got back to the caravan.
Day 7: 13th August
After such a busy day, D needed to rest on the Sunday so I took the boys out. We took the Battle Abbey lady’s advice and visited Dover Castle.
As there was an event, we had to pay a little bit to get in but nowhere near the amount it would have been without membership! We also had to park quite a long way from the castle because the car parks were full. It was about a half an hour walk from where we parked to the castle. It was a good thing D hadn’t come with us, he’d never have made that, never mind the walking around the castle!
It was fantastic there, though. We spent about three hours climbing steps up to the top of the castle, down to the underground tunnels, wandering the battlements, visiting buildings, and enjoying beautiful views.
Images: in and around Dover Castle. F looking out to France; part of the castle buildings; cannons inside medieval underground tunnels; barrels in a castle room; a great hall inside the castle; Roman lighthouse and Anglo-Saxon church; near the entrance to the castle
We also enjoyed a meal at the NAAFI restaurant, which was expensive but otherwise very nice. The event was medieval jousting so we had a quick look at that but couldn’t get a good view so we went to the event tents and bought some marshmallow.
I think F mostly liked looking through the talking telescope across the sea, where we could see France. I think R particularly liked the Anglo-Saxon church and Roman lighthouse.
After three hours of exploring, we called it a day and took the coastal route back to the caravan. Once we got back, we started packing. D had made himself useful by tidying up.
Day 8: 14th August
This was the day we came home so it wasn’t very interesting. We had to leave the caravan by 10am so we started out quite early. It didn’t take us quite as long to get home as it had done to get there. We only made one stop, which was at Oxford service station, where we had lunch.
We were all quite tired when we arrived home. Well, we got to D’s first. I got us some chips from the chip shop as we hadn’t had any while we were away. Then we had a cup of tea, watch some TV, and I brought the boys back to mine.
I think there were probably a couple of other things we did. Oh, I remember, R and I had a wander to the beach one evening, D and I had a wander to the beach a different evening. F didn’t go on a beach at all but he didn’t want to. We spent a little time at the arcade, and R and I had a walk around Winchelsea (there’s not much there but a pub and you can see the sea from the top of the hill). I couldn’t remember which evening that was!
We took lots of good pictures (and some not so good ones). I wrote about a couple of places we visited here.
I think that’s all for now. It took a while to write that for some reason. I could seem to get my head into gear! Anyway, it’s done now. I hope you enjoy it. I’ve decided that we’re going abroad next year or the year after so I’ll be back to tell you how that goes (I’m sure I’ll write something before then).
Zoe’s Place Coventry must secure more funding to enable more families to access their services.
Just four out of their six bed spaces are used due to a shortfall in funds.
Zoe’s Place Coventry is a hospice for children age 0 to 5 which offers respite care for babies and infants with life-limiting conditions as well as end of life care and support for families.
The Coventry hospice is based in a purpose-built facility and is the third of its kind. The other two are in Liverpool and Middlesborough. Zoe’s Place was founded by Professor Jack Scarisbrick, current Chairman of Trustees, in 1995. And the Coventry Hospice has been here for around 5 years.
The Birth of Zoe’s Place
Professor Scarisbrick had recognised a need for specialist respite or palliative care for families with children who suffered from life limiting or life threatening conditions. Crucially, these facilities were most needed during the early years of a child’s life thus Zoe’s Place, a hospice for 0-5 year olds, was born.
‘Zoe’ is a Greek name which means ‘gift of life’ and was, therefore, chosen as an apt name for this important facility. After hard work in development, fundraising, and finding suitable premises, the first Zoe’s Place Hospice opened in Liverpool in February 1995. This signified the beginning of a unique and much needed service.
A second Zoe’s Place opened in 2004 in Middlesborough while the Coventry facility opened in 2011.
Services provided by Zoe’s Place
Zoe’s Place provides ‘coffee and chat’ sessions, sibling support groups, and palliative care but their core service is to provide age specific respite care. About 35 families from across Coventry and Warwickshire attend the hospice on a regular basis. This gives many parents time to recharge which they would not otherwise have or to spend precious time with their other children.
Zoe’s Place provides specialist one to one nursing care for 0-5 year olds to meet the needs of the child. Occasional day trips are organised by play therapist Helen Lloyd who also plans activities and identifies appropriate sensory materials for the play areas. Other full time staff include specialist care assistants and domestic staff.
The Coventry hospice is a 6-bed facility with specialist cots and equipment in each room. A large, brightly coloured bathroom with hydrotherapy bath is easily accessible from the main play room which, again, is a bright and spacious room with specially chosen and designed toys to suit the needs of its young visitors. This room leads, via a large patio door, to an enclosed garden covered with a canopy.
As well as these rooms, there is a soft play room and a sensory room with lights, music, and suchlike to stimulate the senses. There are also other small garden areas as well as a family room where a television, small kitchen, and separate outdoor area can be used.
The most important room for many families, though, is the ‘Starlight’ room. Sadly, some families come to Zoe’s Place for end of life care for their child. The Starlight room offers a small bed and crib in a private space where parents can spend time with a child who has passed away.
Costs and funding
The cost of running Zoe’s Place is around £1.4 million per year. This would allow the service to open all day, every day and provide nursing care and facilities for the 6-bed facility. While Zoe’s Place receives modest statutory funding, the hospice must rely on the kindness of the local community for around 85% of necessary income.
Regrettably, due to a lack of funding, Zoe’s Place Coventry is unable to run to capacity and is currently only using four of its six bed spaces although the hospice is still able to cater for more families with day services. While children do not have to stay overnight volunteer co-ordinator Elly Petrucci would like to secure funding to maximise the potential.
Elly, recently appointed to meet fundraising objectives, hopes to achieve this with the help of an initiative to increase volunteer fundraisers from around 20 to 50 regular volunteers, as well as the idea for people to give their time for one-off events challenged to raise just £20 which would pay for one hour of care.
Fundraising and events
Just two years ago, Zoe’s place was only able to open two or three days each week. Now, thanks to the support from the community, this wonderful facility, essential to so many families, is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. However, to continue to run and improve the services, continued support and a regular income is needed.
Zoe’s Place runs various events throughout the year including skydives, obstacle runs, bike rides, treks, and mountain climbs as well as smaller scale social events. Third parties are also encouraged to organise coffee mornings, fashion shows, and other events with which Zoe’s Place can offer support and guidance.
To find out more about Zoe’s Place Coventry, take a look at their website http://www.zoes-place.org.uk/ which includes news and information about the latest events in the ‘Smile’ newsletter.
My partner (D) and I happened to have some time to ourselves at the weekend. My eldest son was with his Dad, preparing to go on what I hope is an amazing holiday – a cruise around the Canaries. The youngest was away at camp.
D had asked for another ‘date day’ as we had enjoyed such a thing a few weeks ago. We decided to make the most of not having the boys and go away somewhere. Because of having to drop off the little dude on Friday and pick him up on Sunday, we didn’t want to go too far but we had previously talked about going for a weekend away together at the seaside.
Our nearest seaside resort is Skegness but we don’t like that very much. Our next nearest (also easier to get to) is Weston-Super-Mare. We decided on that destination and that we would travel Saturday morning (8th July 2017) and return Sunday (9th July 2017). D had never been there and didn’t think there was anything there. I had been a few times but I didn’t remember much about it nor do I recall doing anything other than going to the beach and the pier. So I was as surprised as D to find there was actually quite a bit to see and do.
We were also both surprised at how easy it was to drive around, how quiet it was compared to other seaside towns, and how clean and friendly and pretty everything is around there. We visited a few places but I didn’t want to write a separate review so I will put them all here.
It did take longer to get there than we had hoped. Firstly, D had felt ill in the morning so we didn’t start out until an hour after I had intended. He was then sick on the way (I don’t think we were even half way there) and, after he’d thrown up out of the car window (thankfully not inside the car), we stopped at services or a rest. Once we were back on our journey, he was feeling much better. The traffic wasn’t too bad but there were four times when it slowed down so that we were travelling an average of 20 miles an hour on motorways! I got a little stressed as I wanted to get there earlier so we could have lots of time to do things.
Well, we did get there eventually. Just before 1pm, I think. Our first task was to find a car park. There was one which we had seen on a Google search but that seemed to only be a short stay. So we continued to a long stay. It was a grand total of £3 for 24 hours parking. We left the car there and wandered to the hotel.
We had requested a ground floor room. Unfortunately, there wasn’t one available. I think we may actually have booked the last available room. There was, however, a lift. It must have been the smallest lift ever seen but I know D was grateful of it as he would have struggled with the stairs.
As we entered the building (which has disabled access), we were greeted by a lovely lady who checked us in and had a chat with us. The room was not very big but big enough for our needs. It had an en-suite shower room. The door to that didn’t shut. Otherwise, the room was quaint and comfortable. We had a really good sleep. Basics are provided – soap, toilet roll, towels, kettle and tea/coffee. There is also a TV.
For somewhere cheap, quiet, homely, and comfortable near the seafront, this is a lovely place. We’ve already said we will stay again.
We had planned to pop into a pub for a drink on our wander up the promenade but we couldn’t seem to find one which wasn’t also a restaurant. So our first stop was the SeaQuarium. I particularly wanted to go there and it was closer than we thought.
It cost £19 for the two of us. We spent about half an hour. The entry cost includes as many return visits as you like throughout the day. We didn’t come back again, though. We did enjoy looking at the sea creatures and reading more about them.
D already knows a lot about such things. Anyway, the SeaQuarium was pretty much the same as other sea life places. As I said to D, though, I know it’s a ‘seen one, seen them all’ situation but it’s one of those things I just like to do. He doesn’t mind as he is happy to do anything and usually enjoys the same things as I do.
Cabot Court Hotel and Nick’s Bar
On the way back to the hotel, D wanted to stop off for a beer. There were lots of eateries but there didn’t seem to be many places which were just bars or just a simple pub. We came across the Cabot Court Hotel. This was a Wetherspoon’s. Not everyone’s favourite thing but it does have a pleasant familiarity. Well, you wouldn’t have known it was a Wetherspoon’s. It was so lovely. It is a Grade II listed building, spacious on the inside and plenty of outdoor seating. We sat on a shady bit of a sun deck where we had a sea view.
I do have a few pictures from here but D is on all of them and I don’t think he would want me to share (if he lets me, I will add them later).
This time of year just happens to be cider festival time so we had cider (we probably would have had cider anyway). We were surprised to find the prices were cheaper than some of our locals in the Midlands. We just had one drink each here and then we wandered a little further up the road to Nick’s Bar.
I didn’t take any pictures from Nick’s Bar. I think I was already a bit tipsy on one drink! We had a couple at Nick’s Bar. Again, the drinks were cheap. The seating was mostly outside here as well. It was a nice place. It was busy but not crowded. Saying that, I could describe most of the town the same way. We sat and chatted for a while. D said it seemed the time went slowly but not in a bad way. We enjoyed a chat and a drink in the sun before we headed back to the hotel.
We got back to the hotel about 5pm and we’d booked a table for dinner at another pub for 6pm. So we got changed and ready then wandered back out.
The Old Thatched Cottage
The Old Thatched Cottage is only a few doors away from the Welbeck so it was a very short wander. I am a little disappointed that I didn’t take any pictures of it but I’m sure we will go again.
Another Grade II listed building, the Cottage dates back to 1774. It’s a beautiful building. When we walked in, we were the only people there although it did start to get busier not long after. The waiting staff were very pleasant.
D had a homemade pate starter and a gammon for his main course. I had crayfish tails (only recently have I discovered that I really like crayfish) and then hake braised in white wine and lemon. I also had a glass of Port and a soft drink. D didn’t have anything to drink because he’s odd like that.
The meal was delicious. We both really enjoyed what we had. However, at almost £50 or the two of us, it was one of our more expensive meals. It was worth it but we might try somewhere cheaper next time.
Once we had finished our meal, we headed back to the hotel again. I’d asked D if he wanted to wander a little more as he’d mentioned Birnbeck pier. As it happens, I discovered that it’s disused and unsafe to actually visit. Anyway, we got back to the hotel and both promptly fell asleep (it wasn’t even 7pm). Just after 9pm, we woke up for a bit. I would have liked to walk along the sea as it’s something I’ve not done but we were both still tired so went back to sleep.
Speaking of things we haven’t done, this was, in fact, the first time I’ve been away with just a partner. Not counting nights away with my sisters, I think it’s also the first time I’ve been away without children. D seemed both surprised that I had never had a holiday with a boyfriend and happy that the first (hopefully of many) time away as a couple was with him.
I was wide awake at about 4am. Again, a little wander would have been nice but I didn’t want to go by myself and I knew D needed more sleep before we headed home.
We got up at 8am and started out by 9. We took a walk up to where we had parked the car and had a look around. D had been intrigued by something he thought looked like a castle. I don’t think it did look like a castle but, when we saw it up close, I could see why he thought that. It turned out to be Knightstone Island (which isn’t an island, it’s part of Weston-Super-Mare seafront). There are a couple of tea rooms there. One, Dr. Fox’s Tea Room, looked nice. We were going to go in but they weren’t quite open. So we decided that we’d head home and stop on the way for something to eat and drink.
When we got home, D suggested that next time we should start out a little later and go to Dr. Fox’s so we could have breakfast looking out to see. I must agree that it would have been preferable to the service station sandwiches. Not that they were bad but a sea view with a nice breakfast is always going to beat a service station sandwich.
Our journey home wasn’t quite as long as the journey there. I think it was the best part of 4 hours to get there whereas it was 3 and a half coming back. Not much difference but we did have a longer stop and the traffic was better.
Once we were home, we relaxed for a while before I had a little bit more of a drive to pick up my little man from camp. He said he enjoyed it. Now I need to know when the next one is so I can plan another child-free weekend! D said he would like to go back to Weston-Super-Mare. He’d never considered it. He spent 10 years living in Hastings (which is another seaside town and where his daughters still live) but he says he likes Weston better. It is fairly quiet for a seaside resort but it has beautiful scenery, and a few things to do. On our next visit, we might stay a little longer if we get chance and go on a ferry to Flat Holm island, visit the helicopter museum, and maybe go to Wookey Hole or Cheddar Gorge which aren’t too far away.
Whatever we plan, I’ve really enjoyed this weekend and very much look forward to some more of the same.
When people immigrate to the UK, there are a number of criteria required to gain citizenship. Along with spending a certain number of years (the number varies depending on other rules), passing an English test, and having no criminal convictions, applicants for British citizenship are required to take the ‘Life in the UK’ test.
According to the Office of National Statistics, latest available data shows that non-UK nationals comprise approximately 11% of the UK labour market. Over 2.1 million are from the EU while the estimate is around 1.9 million for migrants from outside the EU.
Many migrant workers do not currently have permanent residence in the UK. Given the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s relationship with the European Union, non-UK nationals may have concerns regarding the security of their employment and residential tenure.
Thousands of people across the country have taken the citizenship test yet more than 1 in 3 failed. The test, which includes a variety of questions on British history and culture, requires 75% or 18 correct answers from 24 questions. The official test can be taken over again but costs £50 each time (you can try the practice one for free as many times as you like).
You either love Steve Steinman’s shows or you’re wrong! The latest masterpiece from the genius who has gone from Stars in Their Eyes to self-penned shows and a performer in his own right, Iconic follows The Meat Loaf Story, Vampires Rock, VR Ghost Train, and Bat the Symphony.
With fans dressing up as iconic film characters (I went as Batman), the most recent instalment from the amazing talent that brought Baron Von Rockula to many a stage brings powerful songs from iconic shows pieced together by a storyline described as “Set in the future where movie theatres have all but disappeared a magical cinema still stands. Run by an old usher Benson, who does his best to entice people to buy a ticket for the midnight screening and give them a night they will never forget.”
Usher Benson is played by the wonderful John Evans who spoils the audience with his incredibly emotive vocal talents. Iconic includes songs from Batman, Kill Bill, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and James Bond, to name a few.
Dancers Hayley Russell, Penny Johns, and Victoria Jenkins dominate the songs with their powerful, passionate voices. Each member of the cast is so talented and Steinman has made the most of that with renditions of songs including Sound of Silence, Bad Romance, and We Don’t Need Another Hero. Not forgetting, of course, to mention the fantastic band who are just as much as part of the show as Steinman, Evans, and the dancers.
As well as the singing and dancing, the show is imbued with Steinman’s unique brand of humour which fans have come to associate with the shows. As always, the audience was rocking and the cast happily signed merchandise and had their pictures taken after the show.
A short story which I wrote in 2011 while working at a play and stay group. I remember the little boy who inspired it, although I do not recall the exact circumstances under which it was inspired.
This is a story about a little boy who wants to share his food with a robot. The little boy is called Marvin and the robot is called Rhys.
One day, Marvin took his toy robot to nursery. “Mummy”, said Marvin, “do robots like nursery?”
“I am sure that they do”, said Mummy.
“Can Rhys come to nursery with me every day Mummy?” asked Marvin.
“Robots only sometimes like nursery, Marvin, they don’t like to go every day.” said Mummy.
Marvin settled into nursery with Rhys the Robot by his side. Rhys sat next to him all the time. The teacher read a story. Marvin didn’t usually like stories. He wasn’t very good at keeping still but today he asked his teacher: “Do robots like stories?”
“Yes”, his teacher replied, “robots love all kinds of stories.”
So, Marvin and Rhys sat very quietly to listen to the story. Then it was time to play. Marvin liked to play but he didn’t always like to share. Today, he asked his friends, “Do robots like to share?”
“I think they do.” said Marvin’s friends. “OK”, said Marvin. “My robot called Rhys would like to share all of the toys with you.”
Then it was time to go inside, and have a drink and a snack.
“What do we have for our snack today?” asked Marvin.
The teacher showed Marvin everything the children could choose. There were apples, grapes, raisins, bananas, cheese, and carrots, and the children could choose milk or water to drink.
“I don’t like any of those things.” complained Marvin.
“Would you like to have a taste of apple?” asked the teacher?
“No thanks”, said Marvin.
“How about banana?” she asked.
“No thanks” said Marvin.
“What about raisins?” the teacher continued.
“No thanks”, insisted Marvin.
“I know”, said the teacher, “do robots eat bananas?
“No, I don’t think robots like bananas. They are too squishy”, said Marvin.
“Do robots like apples?” asked the teacher.
“No, they are too hard for robots to eat”, Said Marvin.
“OK”, said the teacher, “do robots like raisins?”
“Yes”, said Marvin, “they are just the right size for robots.”
So Marvin listened to his teacher and he shared some raisins with Rhys the robot. Soon after, it was time for Mummy to fetch Marvin from nursery. Mummy asked Marvin all about his day. He told her that he did everything that robots liked to do.
“Mummy”, he said, “if I can’t take my toy robot to nursery every day, do you think I could be a robot every day?”
“Well”, said Mummy, if you are going to be so good and share and try new things then you can be anything you want to be.”
“OK Mummy”, said Marvin. And, from then on, Marvin was really good all the time. (OK, not ALL of the time – that would be impossible – but most of the time!).
This is a personal story. I have a couple of reasons for writing this. One of those reasons is simply because I am a writer and writing is how I do things. Another reason is to help other people. Recently, I have seen and read of other people trying to protect their children and feeling guilty about it.
Before I begin, I must clarify two things. First of all, as I write, it may seem matricentric with the mother as resident and father as non-resident. While I do realise that these situations can occur the other way around, it is still most common for mothers to be the resident parent and it is the case for me. Secondly and, perhaps, most importantly, I am absolutely an advocate of children spending time with both parents. I truly believe that, with certain but very few exceptions, it is a cruel person who would deny a father his child (or vice versa). In my honest opinion, a good mum will not push a dad away or prevent him from seeing his children. I must digress here for my intention is not to rant.
So, here is my story. I have two children. They each have a different father. My eldest child has a good relationship with his. My youngest, however, does not have the same. When I finally left our shared home in March 2014, I made sure that my son still saw his dad. I would take him over there on a Saturday. We began with having days out together but, without going into detail, this set-up didn’t work. I then started leaving my son with his dad for a couple of hours eventually encouraging him to stay overnight. My son didn’t want to stay there. Of course, I felt bad for making him stay but I would have felt bad for not encouraging it. It was a no-win situation for me. I could make my child go to his dad’s knowing he didn’t want to go or I could be ‘one of those’ mums, seen as someone who had stopped a father seeing his son. I have seen too many mothers deny their children a relationship over petty or selfish reasons, and I have seen too many loving fathers made to feel like they don’t deserve to be a dad or their children are better off without them. Sometimes this leads to them feeling unable or unworthy to fight while manipulative mothers turn children and other family and friends against them. I won’t deny that there are plenty of dads who simply do not bother but I am also very aware that there are mothers who play the game. I didn’t want other people to think this of me.
I continued making sure my son went over to his dad’s every weekend. After a while, it became every other weekend or would cancel because he had other plans. My son was so relieved each time he didn’t have to go to his dad’s, especially once I’d met my new partner. Since the day they met, my son has preferred my partner’s company to his dad’s.
My son had begun to get quite upset, not really understanding why he had to go to his dad’s. All I could say was ‘because he’s your dad’. I knew my son’s reasons for not wanting to go – mainly because he was just ignored, left to watch television while his dad played computer games. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with children watching TV sometimes but I do have a problem with it being all they do. Dad never cleaned or tidied either. I’m not the tidiest of people myself but there is a big difference between a couple of dishes in the sink because you haven’t got around to it yet and having a house full of rubbish all over the floor, dishes constantly stacked, and mess everywhere because you just can’t be bothered. As you can probably imagine, I was reluctant every time to send my son.
What I did, in the end, was to let my son decide. After he’d been going for about a year, I told him he’d have to keep going for another year, which happened to be his 11th birthday. I thought this a reasonable age to decide, and a reasonable amount of time to give his dad a chance at being a dad.
Well, in the end, neither my son nor I had to make the decision. I had decided to ask for maintenance. Not long after this, my son’s dad suddenly didn’t have a job any more. He stopped using social media and he got rid of his mobile phone. I could no longer contact him other than just turning up at his door. I did this a couple of times and there was never any answer, regardless the time or day. He was due to have my son the weekend before my son’s birthday but we could not get hold of him. I had managed to get a message to him via mutual friends. I found out that the message had got to him by sheer co-incidence that I happened to be walking past somewhere he happened to be. He made excuses for not having contacted. So, he had got the message but chose not to respond.
Even though his dad had made it obvious he wasn’t going to make any effort, I still felt bad that I wasn’t taking my son to see him. With no way of contacting, I couldn’t make any arrangements so the choice was out of my hands.
If I thought that my son wanted to see his dad, I would still make the effort but he doesn’t. He has chosen my partner to be his dad. This is something else about which I feel strange. I don’t like children being raised to believe someone is their parent when they are not. I don’t like the idea of a step-parent taking over and replacing a parent when the parent wants to be involved (and has given no reason not to be). However, my son knows full well who his biological dad is and he knows who loves, nurtures, and cares for him as a dad is supposed to. They are not the same person.
This is not some sort of justification post, it is me getting thoughts out of my head and confirming things. I did not stop a father seeing his child, I made as much effort as I could to keep him involved so there is nothing to justify. It has taken me a long time to stop feeling bad about it, although I know I never had to feel bad about it.
I hope that this post can help other people in similar situations. The main points I am making is that there are times you will feel that whatever you do is wrong and that the right decision to make sometimes has to be the lesser of two evils.
I will never condone any parent deliberately keeping a child away from another parent out of convenience, spite, bitterness or selfishness or even opposing parenting style. It is normal for a good parent to feel guilty if the children do not see the other parent. A good parent will do what is best for the child. This usually includes ensuring a good relationship with the other parent. I say ‘usually’ because, as I said before, there are some circumstances in which the child must be kept away.
The way I see it is that if you have made an effort but the effort is ignored and you make it clear that the door is always open, then you have done all you can. My son has a loving family, including members of his dad’s family (because it’s not their fault he chose not to bother), my family, and my partner and his family.
Anyway, I hope I have put my point across clearly but I think this may have come across a little disjointed. I no longer feel guilty that my son doesn’t see his dad because I have come to realise and accept that my son is happy. He is old enough and intelligent enough to know what he wants and I have made sure he knows he only has to ask if he wants to see his dad.
So for all those mothers (and fathers) who do make the effort or who have a good reason not to, please don’t feel bad. In those exceptional circumstances when keeping the child away is the best thing for their own safety, think about how much worse you would feel if you didn’t keep them safe. For those who have tried to keep someone in your child’s life who has proven they are not interested, well done – you can be proud that your child will know you did your best. As for those who keep a child away from a loving parent because of selfish reasons, think about how your children will feel and whether that is best for them.
Musings, problems, thoughts, troubles, trials… No, these are not merely a string of random words. They are words which were considered for the title of this piece.
This, it could be said, is a product, in itself, of the ‘grasshopper mind’.
What is a Grasshopper Mind?
A grasshopper is a small insect of the order orthoptera, suborder caelifera. They are related to crickets and katydids. They spend their days hopping about and minding their own business.
As grasshoppers are known for their jumping and seemingly sudden movements in random directions, it seems an appropriate metaphor for someone who is unable to focus.
A grasshopper mind means that a person may ‘jump’ from subject to subject in an entirely unpredictable way. Their focus of attention does not remain in one place for very long.
Do You Have a Grasshopper Mind?
Do you ever get that feeling that you want to be doing twenty other things while you’re already busy with twenty more?
Do you ever read something interesting but never get to the end because you’re off on a tangent at every other paragraph, with an incessant and insatiable need for more information about this character or that piece of history?
If your answer is ‘yes’ then you too may well be the owner of a grasshopper mind.
Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?
The best answer to this would be ‘both or neither’. If it is essential to focus on one thing, flitting from one random thought to another may not be ideal for the situation. However, changing subjects regularly means unlikelihood of becoming bored, usually learning a lot of things (albeit little bits about a lot of things as opposed to in-depth knowledge of one or two subjects).
People with grasshopper minds can find it difficult to concentrate. This is not usually a good thing. On the other hand, taking a break from one task and occupying oneself with another can be advantageous at times.
A surgeon performing an operation really needs to concentrate on the job in hand without becoming distracted. A writer, though, may do well to have a wide selection of ideas and distractions in order to come up with new thoughts.
Of course, a surgeon, for example, may well have a grasshopper mind because it does not necessarily mean a total inability to focus. It can mean that a mind wanders when unoccupied or when not occupied by a particular focus or specialism.
Can a Grasshopper Mind Be Controlled or Overcome?
Some people can control their level of distraction. Sometimes all it takes is to find a single thing of special interest. Even the least focused person is often able to obsess about something they love.
A grasshopper mind can also be used to advantage. It promotes creativity and lateral thinking, a chance to come up with ideas which, with a linear thought process, might be overlooked.
As with anything else, some people will find it easier than others to concentrate on one thing or to control their urge to veer off on tangents.
Note from the author: I had originally written this for publication elsewhere but was too short and they didn’t like the artwork. Of course, by the time I knew this, I had already begun working on 42 other things and didn’t want to edit it (partly due to time constraints but mostly out of sheer laziness). I asked my other half to improve the images but he takes too long. So here it is for you instead. I hope you have enjoyed it. I also thought the end was a little abrupt but that’s grasshoppers for you. Did you know there are, according to www.orthoptera.org.uk, 27 species of grasshopper and cricket native to the UK? That’s not many really, considering there are, according to Rentokil, around 650 species of spider. I love insects and arachnids. I could write a post or three about them but probably won’t. I am also a lover of words and their meanings and origins, etc. There is a connection here 🙂 The study of the origin and changing meanings of words is ‘etymology’ and I find it amusing when my other half calls it ‘entomology’, which is the study of insects. OK, I’m done. Goodbye for now.