Monday, 31 May 2010

Dappers Review

When I was offered the chance to review ‘Dappers’ a new pilot show for BBC Three before it hits the airwaves I jumped at the chance because: 

1) Getting to see new TV before everyone else is kinda cool

2)  It features Tom Ellis who is hot, hot,hot!!!

Y’all know I’m that shallow right??? Anyways Dappers (a Bristolian word for Friends!!) is written by Catherine Johnson who also wrote Mamma Mia.  Apart from the delightful Tom it also stars Lenora Crichlow, Eddie Large and Gwen Taylor.

It’s a Comedy/Drama based on Faye and Ashley two Single Mums from Bristol who live in Housing Association accommodation (unlike any that I’ve ever’s a bit posh!!), who both have daughters and are trying to make life better for all of them. To do this they come up with all sort of hare-brained schemes such as starting ‘Woofitys’ a dog sitting service for Bristols more well off residents!!

I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like it or not as BBC Three programmes can be slightly off the wall and wacky but it was pretty good.  It didn’t make me laugh out loud but I found myself smirking quite a lot as it’s so true to life.  Although I’m reluctant to make the comparison it does have similarities to Gavin and Stacy which I’m sure we’d all agree is quite brilliant!

The characters were likeable and well acted but the funniest turns happen when they get into altercations with their posh neighbours, I’m sure we all know people that are as annoying as them!  Gwen Taylor is fab as a crazy old woman who lives in the basement with Eddie Large as her husband! It’s definitely worth tuning in to but will only be made into a complete series if the pilot episode takes off.  I hope that it does as I was left wanting more!

You can catch some clips of the show over on their Facebook page.

*Dappers is live on BBC 3 from Friday, 4th June and is also available online!!!  Go watch it!!!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Twitter & Eurovision

I appear to have turned into a bit of a Twitter addict.  I originally opened my Twitter account just because all the other Bloggers had one and I felt that I needed to as well but I never really got it!  As I’ve added more friends and other bloggers have found me, it appears to have taken on a life of its own.  It’s getting to the point now though where I actually have to ration the amount of time that I spend on Twitter or else I get nothing done.

Some nights I have no interest in talking and am more of a voyeur, just hanging around seeing what everyone else is thinking.  I may post the link to a new post or have a quick chat to people who have become real friends or rant about something and leave it there. 

The time that Twitter really comes into its own though is when something ‘big’ is happening be it a popular TV show or the Election!  One of the hard things about living on my own is that I have no-one to share my thoughts with when this stuff is going on. In days gone by this would’ve resulted in much shouting at the TV! Now I rant on Twitter and get to see what all my friends are ranting talking about too!!   It’s like having all my friends (and some verrry amusing Strangers) here in the Lounge with me!

Last night was the Eurovision song contest! For those of you that don’t know, it’s a Europe wide singing competition that is soooooo over the top, camp and outrageously bad that it isn’t even funny!  The voting is always political and so all the Balkan countries stick together as do all the Russian countries. Everybody hates England and so even if our song is great (which it generally isn’t!!) We get a lot of ‘Nil Points’!!!  I remember as a kid being allowed to stay up late and watch the scoring.....maybe that’s why I’m so traumatised by it! 

Several of my friends however absolutely love it  *ahem* Boobuloo and Nelly *ahem*  and even throw Eurovision parties!  I cannot stand it and spent the night watching DVD’s and being thoroughly amused by the running commentary on Twitter, putting in my own views and giggling rather a lot.  My vote for next year’s English entry goes to Boobuloo who spent the night watching Eurovision dressed like this:

I’m off to tweet Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Pete Waterman to see if they’ll write her a song!!!!!

Friday, 28 May 2010

Technorati Claim Test - 300th Try!!!

Feel free to ignore......just trying to claim my blog!!!!


Thursday, 27 May 2010

10 Years!!!

In January 2000 I was bored with my life and going a little crazy.  Actually a little crazy probably doesn’t even cut it!  I was on a complete self destruct mission.  Working crazy hours in a crap job, living with one of my best friends in a crap house, getting laid a lot and drinking ridiculous amounts, to the point where I now wonder how I ever made it out alive!  All whilst trying to recover from a move back to the UK and a horribly destructive relationship that had finished the year before!

So, erm.......yeah, I was an utter mess. In February 2000 I saw a random advert in the newspaper about working for Camp America who were holding a recruitment fair in Birmingham.  I thought it’d be a laugh to go along and even if nothing came of it I would’ve had a day out.  I wandered around looking at all the stalls most of whom were based on the East Coast but I knew deep down that my heart was already set on the West Coast.  One table of Girl Scouts jumped out at me (not literally) and to cut a long story short I found a camp which looked great and they loved me too!!!!

This week marks the ten year anniversary of me first going to America!!!  Can you believe that it’s been that long???  California was such a turning point for me and for having that chance I will always be truly grateful but what really gave me a chance were the people I met whilst I was there.

The first person I met when I got off the plane was Carol.  She has been one of my best friends for 10 years and although we don’t see each other too often she is totally my big Sister and even paid for my third driving test!!!!!

I know that I’ve told parts of this story before but I’m just gonna go ahead and tell it again!!! The Girl Scouts had told me that I would have a host family for the first few days of being in CA so that I could get oriented and what a family they turned out to be!  Sharon & Red were the first members of the family that I met when they arrived to pick me up.  God knows what I must’ve looked liked as I’d be travelling for hours by that point!!

That first weekend we got to hang out and chat and Bill asked me what I wanted to do so I reeled off a list of stuff and he made sure that we did it all over the Summer!  They are some of the most generous people that I’ve ever come across and what I love the most about them is that they’ve always just accepted for who I am...this generally crazy, larger than life, sometimes drunken English girl!

They’ve let me take over their house to have crazy parties and slumber parties.  They threw me a Barbie vodka party for my 25th birthday, They’ve sent me parcels when I was on crutches up a mountain and every birthday and Christmas for the last 10 years. They accepted me being pregnant with Chick without question. They’ve taken me to some awesome places including Pig Racing at the Fair, San Francisco, Alcatraz, Santa Monica, Disneyland, the Baseball. They let me steal their daughter for 6 months to come live in the UK to help me take care of Chick. They think I’m nuts because I love Birthday Cake ice-cream and WalMart. They drive me down Lombard Street every time we’re in San Fran (What?  It’s mine & Mom’s ‘thing’!!!!!).

When I flew home after that first Summer I’m not lying when I say I cried all the way home!!!  I was devastated to be returning home and so sad to be leaving my American family behind.  However, I kept in touch with them all and found a way to afford to return the second year and went straight home to them.

I hope they know how much they mean to me and how grateful I am that they saved me from myself.  I consider myself fortunate to have them and can’t believe that it’s been ten years since we first feels like a lifetime, in a good way, and they are truly a part of my family.  Unfortunately for them they are now stuck with us!!!!

I love you guys and hope the next ten years are as awesome as the last xxxx

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

We have finally made it from this (when the cupboard first decided to self destruct!!!):

To this dumbass temporary measure:

I now have this:

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Secret Post Club

It's that time of the month again........when I get a lovely parcel from another member of the Secret Post Club set up by the wonderful Heather over at Notes from Lapland

I've been a real slacker this month as my parcel did come about two weeks ago but I just haven't gotten around to blogging about it.  I received these lovely notepads:

One with a handbag motif with a pen attached to the pad and one with shoes on it and a mirror inside!!!!  How cool are they?  I was very impressed!!! Firstly because and handbags and secondly because I can never find anything to write on!!  I've decided to keep one at home and one in my handbag!  A huge thank you to the delightful Bubbleboo for sending me such great gifts.  Click on the link below to hop on over and show Bubbleboo some love:

Monday, 24 May 2010


I occasionally forget that Chick is a sensitive soul who needs looking after.  I don't mean like in a clothing, feeding, doing homework kind of way because of course I do these things without even thinking about it but sometimes, especially when things are crazy in my life, I forget that I'm dragging Chick along for the ride too and she doesn't really have a say in it.

I forget that she gets tired and grumpy too and staying somewhere different every night for a week bothers her.  I don't know why I forget this stuff but maybe I get too wrapped up in what's happening for me and presume that because she's a child she'll be ok but she seems to be a little out of sorts.  Maybe she's also fed up with the house taking soooooo long too and wants her own bedroom back!

She worries about really crazy things like us getting into trouble for double parking outside school (yep, I'm that parent....feel free to curse me!!!), she worries about me and her Dad in general, if she sees anybody hurting or in trouble even on the TV she talks around in circles about it until I can convince her it will all be ok.  I don't want her to be worrying about anything at her age, apart from maybe what she'll have for lunch, but I don't know how to stop it.  Is it something that I've done as she's grown up that makes her worry or was she born a sensitive soul?  Guess I'll never know about that ;-)

We had a fairly quiet weekend though which I think she needed and she spent a lot of Saturday just playing with her toys whilst I tried to bring some order to the house. Amazingly the weather was so hot it was like being abroad.....pretty cool (or hot!!) for England.

On Sunday we had The Punk over for the day and went swimming and to the park with a quick stop at the museum.  As we came out of the Museum Chick came running after me and tripped over her flip flops and flew across the tarmac with horrible consequences!  She has scraped all the skin off her knees and elbows and has torn the skin off two fingers as well!!!  My poor, poor girl looks like she had quite a wouldn't believe that falling over at speed would be quite so bad!  She is struggling to bend her knees and although she seems a bit better today she has indeed been milking it for all it's worth and is currently shouting downstairs for a damp cloth for her forehead so I'd better go do my Florence Nightingale duties!!!  Let's hope that she soon recovers and things settle down this week so she can get back to my beautiful happy girl!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Progress..... very slow but I can finally see a difference in my house!!!  Yay!!!  The walls are plastered and drying, the kitchen cabinets and sink are in, we have a new back door and half the plumbing is done! So now we are waiting for the Plumbers to finish and the decorators to do their stuff when the plaster has dried and then the floor can be laid!

I'm still taking the easy way out though and we are decamped at the cabin for at least tonight, mainly because I don't see the point is starting any of the clean-up operation until the house is finished but partly 'cos I'm a lazy ass and if we stay here I don't have to get up at 6.30am to let the workmen all in!

It's really warm and sunny in England today and I'm having an ok day (apart from a small car crash which I'll blog about when I've clamed down!!!) We are sitting on the dock in our shorts and t-shirts looking at the river:

I'm sure I've mentioned it before but I love that it's so peaceful here.  Apart from the very occasional barge passing you can only hear the birds so I'm going to sign off, grab my book and enjoy the last hour of sunshine whilst Chick plays with her Barbie's!!!  Hope y'all are having a good day too!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A Whiny Miserable Post!!!

I like to pretend that I'm not miserable and whiny but y'all know that I am!!! I've had a couple of days from hell! Now I understand that no-one died and Chick is still healthy so I don't have anything major to complain about but I'm having a nightmare!

I've damaged my knee and before you ask no I wasn't drunk!!!  My bro thinks I have something called Runners Knee but I'm not sure about that!  The short version of the story is that it hurts like a bitch and I have to walk like a Granny but I'll live!!!

Now I knew the rewiring was going to be tough but I hadn't quite envisaged the devastation they would cause. I got home from work yesterday and the house was like Armageddon!  The Electricians had told me not to move anything as they wouldn't know until they started what needed moving.  It turns out the whole of the bedrooms needed moving.  They emptied my wardrobe and book case onto my bed along with hundreds several pairs of shoes!!!  It was the same in Chick's room except they tore the bookcases off the walls and emptied them onto the beds.  It's bad enough that they moved everything but the kicker is....they didn't put ANYTHING back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's a bombsite to put it quite bluntly and I couldn't even bear to take pictures of the devastation.  This is without all the holes in the walls, in every room and the lack of cooking and washing facilities.  I know that at some point they will fill the holes and I will have a kitchen again but I'm at the end of my tether!!!  Chick had to stay with a friend last night so that I could try and put some of the stuff back. It turns out that moving hundreds of pairs of shoes and books when you can hardly walk is even less fun that it sounds!

Now this is all bordering on being crap right but once I finally managed to clear off my bed and sleep for an hour, the newly fitted smoke alarm decided it was allergic to all the brick dust and started beeping intermittently. I just ignored it initially but between 2am and 4am it thought it would be amusing to go off every 5 minutes!  Now you are all wondering why I didn't take the batteries out yeah?  Well basically it's a new alarm that is connected to the mains and doesn't actually f**king turn off!!!  Aaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhh!!!

So I took the easy way out and quit!!! Yep that's right I quit.  I have packed enough clothes for tomorrow and some PJ's and have decamped to the Cabin where I'm watching the sunset over the fields and river and drinking massive amounts of vino to drown out thoughts of how my house is looking today!!!!!!!!! I feel calm for the first time in 10 days and it's a lovely feeling.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Jolly Holidays & Travel Tips

The sun is shining and it’s coming to that time of year again where everyone is booking their holidays or dieting in preparation for holidays and the shops are full of glorious summer clothes that we are tempted to buy.

Now as you can imagine (given my OCD tendancies) one of the first things on my list is family travel insurance.  Did you know that airlines can stop you flying if you don’t have comprehensive enough travel insurance?    Only once have I gone abroad without insurance, to America of all places and can you guess what happened?  Chick got so sick that we ended up at the hospital with her and all the while I was on the phone frantically trying to get my insurance sorted out so that we were covered and not millions of pounds poorer!  The story ended ok though as we managed to get insured and Chick was absolutely fine!!!

Some other OCD things that I do before going away:

-          Leave spare keys with a neighbour and a friend along with emergency telephone numbers.

-          Make sure that the family has a list of our schedule and hotel names in case they desperately need to contact us (only in dire emergency though!!)

-          Take copies of plane tickets, passports and insurance policies and leave them with someone at home.  If you get into trouble/lost etc and end up at the British Embassy at least you will be able to provide passport number etc.

-          Label everything.  On a flight from Amsterdam my bag once ended up in the Middle East but I got it back because it was so clearly labelled.

-          Split up your cash into several places/bags and then if something is lost or stolen at least you haven’t lost everything.

-          Make sure I have enough to keep Chick entertained on the plane.  DS, iPod, books, a bag just for her with some inexpensive new treats in so that it take her longer to get bored!!!!

As I’m sure most of you will remember we’ve already had our main holiday this year and spent some of December and most of January in the land Down Under, so our Summer holiday will mainly be spent in Norfolk.  We had such a great time there last year that Chick is desperate to return again this year and we may even push the boat out and hire one of these:

It is my dream to own one of these but I’m still nowhere near able to afford one!  We’ll be taking lots of games, books and a bucket and spade and enjoying the high life in our little hut!!!

So what about you guys?  Do you have any great tips for things that you do to prepare for holiday?  Are you off somewhere exotic this year and want to make us all jealous, or will I be seeing you at your Norfolk holiday homes!???!  Feel free to tell me in the comment box as I love hearing about everyone’s travels!

Edited to add: Hello and a big thank you to everyone stopping by today from SITS!  I am away on holiday at the moment but promise to come and visit you all when I return!  Please bear with me as it may take me a few days xx

* This was a sponsored post

Friday, 14 May 2010

Bits & Bobs

Apologies for being such a slacker on the blogging front this week but things have been slightly chaotic around here!  As most of you probably know from my incessant Facebook/Twitter moaning, the upgrading of my house has me on the verge of a nervous breakdown!

We've been getting up super early (for us) to let the builders come in and do their stuff and then at night having to lug stuff around so that they can move to the next's like musical box moving!!!  I now have shiny new radiators, which are lovely.  The only downside is that they are smaller than the old ones, so now I have nice undecorated patches in each room!!  Same goes for the carpet which now has the holes for the radiator pipes in the wrong place....eek!!

I also have a new space age boiler that looks like it could fly alien space shuttle all by itself. It's amazingly more efficient than the old boiler and really kicks out the heat...hopefully will save me some money too!!  Yesterday the electrician was supposed to come and re-wire the house but for whatever reason didn't make it, so they are coming on Monday instead.  I think this is the part I'm looking forward to the least because as I understand it, it involves ripping wires out of the wall!!  Let's hope I'm overreacting and all will be fine!

Then on Wednesday my new should be kitchen arriving.  This is what I'm most excited about!  My current kitchen is awful and very badly designed, part of the problem being that I have four doorways leading into and out of the kitchen!  Never mind as of Wednesday it will be gone and I will have modern convenience in it's place!!!

Thankfully it's now the weekend and we are going to chill out.  Chick is waiting impatiently for Glee to start. I have a bottle of Vino in the fridge calling my name and am about to jump into my PJ's for at least the next 18 hours!!!

Also in being such a slacker this week I completely forgot about drawing the Lisa Jewell book draw and the winner is HAYLEY!!!  (We did film it as usual but my memory card has corrupted again and I can't download the video!!) Hayley to claim your prize please e-mail me by Monday at 5pm if I don't hear from you it will be re-drawn and given to some-one else!!

Hope y'all have a grand weekend!!!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's......

I was watching a programme last night called 'The Grumpy Guide to the 80's' which took me right back to being a little kid, so I thought I'd share my childhood with you!!  The thing that I remember being most annoying about the 80's (apart from my Brothers ;-) was one of these:
The lowly, humble and entirely stupid, rubix cube!  I still, to this day, am unable to complete the bloody thing! When I was young I resorted to removing the stickers to make it look completed....I've always been sensible!

I started off the 80's looking like this:

My Mum used to drive us around in one of these bad boys:

Yep, we were a cool, Rock 'n' Roll family!!!  When we had this car, I remember it was around the time that Mum and Dad managed to buy their first house.....It was brand new and on a lovely estate.  Wanna guess how much it cost?  £26,000!!!!  I can't even buy my beach hut in Norfolk for that money these days!!!

One of the first films that I saw at the Cinema was this:

I cried all the way home on the bus because ET had gone home and I thought that it was the saddest thing I'd ever seen!  

We were also probably amongst the luckiest kids in the world in the 80's as our Dad worked for Mattel and we were verrrrrry spoiled with toys, mainly as they didn't have to pay for anything!!  One of my faves was Poochie:

I had every item in the whole range and adored it.  I also had a love heart Barbie that I didn't play with because it was just so special and sadly enough they have one in the history section of the Science Museum!!! My brother had a He-Man Castle Grayskull that you could talk into!!!  For those of you that don't remember the 80's, this was cutting edge technology:

The other great thing about the 80's of course was the music.  This is the first album I bought with my own money:

Madonna's True Blue and I still know all the words as I listened to it sooooo much!!  Towards the end of the decade I thought these boys were just Gods:

Thank goodness that my taste in men has changed!  (Actually, not sure it's changed for the better!!) I had the Bros t-shirt and belt buckle and Grolsch bottle tops on my shoes....extremely attractive I was!! I know it's not the best picture but this is me at Christmas in my stone-washed denim, Bros t-shirt and neckerchief:

Really attractive?!!  I ended the 80's looking like this:

The 80's is definitely one of my favourite Decades so far!!  So what about you?  Want to share any memories or pictures from the 80's or 70's or 90's?  What's you favourite so far and why???

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Lisa Jewell Book Giveaway!!

Apologies for not getting this posted yesterday but real life got in the way and I just ran out of time!!  I've been looking back over the notes I made from Wednesday to try and type up the interview with Lisa but some of my words don't make sense.....obviously I blame the copious amounts of vino consumed (courtesy of Gallo Wines!!) so any mistakes or omissions are completely mine!!!

Lisa started her writing career over a decade ago with a six month creative writing class.  It was around the time that High Fidelity had just come out and the TV was buzzing to the sound of Friends and This Life (Ohhhhh.....Andrew Lincoln....yum!!) Lisa felt that the world was talking her lanuguage. Also at this time she was made redundant and had a little bit of money and her and a friend were on holiday and came up with a drunken scheme that Lisa should write a book!  So she wrote the first three chapters of 'Ralph's Party' and sent them out to ten agents.  Nine rejections were sent back but the 10th letter was from an agent saying that she wanted to read the whole book!!! So Lisa worked part time and in her spare time completed the book and the rest as they say is history!!!

I cannot take any credit for the following questions, as I believe only one of them was mine!!

Lisa, when you are writing, who are you writing for?
Well I have a little man on my shoulder who talks to me and tells me what works.  I don’t like glib, lazy or saccharine writing.

You are famous for your believable characters.  Do you draw heavily on Friends and Family or are they purely fictional?
It changes with every book.  Sometimes I use people in the locale but the current book I’m writing is completely fictional.

Do you have any conflict with the Readers?
I’m much more aware of the reader now and they have so much emotional investment with the books that I feel really guilty if I’m doing something I don’t think they’ll like!

Has your writing changed over the last 10 years?
It has. I moved on and developed, there has been lots of honing of skills with each book and I want each one to be better than the last.  I’m trying to avoid clich├ęs but am also inching towards writing darker stuff incrementally!

Do you have a plan when you are writing the book – a plotline?
Normally I get the idea for the next book in the middle of the book I’m already writing.  I start with the characters and then the premise but don’t really know where it’s going to go. It’s like life in the act that you don’t know what the next phone call will be about or who you will meet!  The next book is going to be a nice romantic comedy!

How long does it take from starting a book through to it being on the shelves?
It takes about two years! Firstly the writing of the book and then it goes to the Publisher.  There are art meetings and then a brief about the book.  We are marketing next month for books that will be on the shelf in January!!  (You can expect to see mine in about 10 years then!!!)

How much input do you have on the book jacket?
The Publisher normally has it ready and I trust them.  Sometimes we have completely different ideas like for Ralph’s Party but I love what they did.  European covers are usually the best.

How do you stop from getting distracted?
Well it’s very much on the PC and being distracted by the internet so I have to just shut it down!

Do you work a normal working day?
Yes I totally do. I have children so I sort them out in the morning, go to the gym, then work a day, have lunch and tea and then pick my daughter up from school. I think back to when I was writing before I had children and I wonder what on earth I was doing with my time before I had my children! I could have written 6 books a year!
With the book I’m writing now - now that I’m 8 weeks away from deadline I’m eating into my evenings, losing my telly time. I never watch TV for the last 6 weeks of writing a book. 

After the Party

You can buy a copy of After the Party here or enter my competition to win a copy.  To enter you can do any of the following:

1. Become a follower of mine.

2. Grab my Adventures of an English Mum button and display on your blog.

3. Follow me on Twitter @emmylouvic and leave me your Twitter name here.

4. Tweet this giveaway. Just copy and paste: Awesome @lisajewelluk 'After the Party' book giveaway @emmylouvic Please RT

5. Become a fan of Lisa’s Facebook Page

6. Sign up to the official ‘After the Party’ website

Be sure to leave me a comment telling me that you’ve done, or already do, any of the above as this will count as your entry.  The competition will close at 5pm (GMT) on Wednesday 12th May.  Good Luck!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Excitement - Part 2!!!!!

I may have mentioned a time or ten that I really like reading, so imagine my joy when I got the chance to go along to Random House (the publishing Company) to meet Lisa Jewell, author of Ralph’s Party and One Hit Wonder to discuss her new book ‘After the Party’!!!!  Eeekkkk!  The screams and excitement could be heard along my whole street and probably through the internet!! 

So yesterday was the big day and I booked myself a whole afternoon off work and took a trip to London, only stopping to fortify myself with a Krispy Kreme or two!!!  Luckily for me I have a very accommodating Brother and Sister in Law that live in the City and don’t mind lending me their Couch!  After a very traumatic trip on the bus (I don’t like mixing with the Common folk ;-) I made it to Random House!! 

I was going to try and take some pictures of the building but the Street was full of Uber cool London types making their way to bars or home and I already looked like a nervous geek so thought I wouldn’t draw even more attention to myself!!! As soon as you are buzzed in to the building you are overwhelmed (in a very good way) by books and posters for books which sends a geek like me into a complete’s very hard to be cool when you are so nervous and excited about something all at the same time!

Being the OCD type that I am, I was there massively early but everyone was so lovely and delightful to me that I just wanted to hug them all.  Having a peek around at everything I saw this table and I knew then and there that they were definitely my kinda people:

There were some other delightful guests there, fellow bloggers (which was very cool but slightly intimidating too) who I’d like to introduce you too:

Cate over at Bitch Buzz

Hannah at Why Miss Jones

Go over and check out their blogs because they are a whole bunch of fabulous and we can never have too many friends!!!

It’s kinda hard to describe how the evening went but the best I can do is that it was part conference, part self help group and part sitting around with friends drinking wine, eating nibbles and talking about writing, but mainly a whole bunch of fun!  We did almost a group interview with Lisa about writing and her books which I will post tomorrow when I also have a copy of ‘After the Party’ to give away !!  This is a pic of Lisa and I:

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole night (as you can probably tell) but it some ways I felt like a bit of a fraud.  All the lovely bloggers above and in fact most of the people in the room consider themselves writers but I don’t view myself as a writer at all.  I guess some of that may be self doubt but are my ramblings to be classed as proper writing? I’m not really sure!  Also I believe that most of the lovelies from last night would also like to be published Authors but I honestly don’t think I have a book in me....apart from ‘Confessions of a HR Officer’ of course!!!!

As we were saying our goodbyes and leaving, we all got given a goody bag which had this in:

Allow me one excited scream please.......aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggghhhh!!  Not only did I have an awesome night but I also got a shed load of free books!  I am without a doubt one of the happiest, luckiest people in the world today!!

Make sure that you come back tomorrow to read all about my chat with Lisa and a chance to win your own copy of ‘After the Party’ courtesy of Random House!!!!!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Election Summary!!

As promised today is the summary of all the Election stuff, what with it being the ‘big day’ tomorrow and then I shan’t mention the Politics word again for several weeks!!

So, what did I learn during the transcribing of the tapes? I say Okie Dokie and giggle a lot but actually sound much posher and much more English than I thought! I also start every sentence with ‘So’ or ‘What’! Must try and increase my vocabulary so that I don’t sound like such a dumbass! It takes forrrr-evvvvvver to transcribe 45 minute interviews and even though I only did two, I felt like I hadn’t slept for a whole week!!

I could do with listening more and really wished that I had pinned each of them down on a couple of issues. I tried to edit as much of me out of the interviews as possible and they were much more interactive than they sounded but I thought that this would initially be the fairest way. This post is my honest opinion on them all!!!

I was less impressed with the Lib Dems than I first thought I would be, as I felt there was a lot of waffle there. Can they lead the Country? I’m honestly not sure! Do I want to be European? No, I don’t think I do. Do the sums add up? Some do and some don’t. Will I vote for them? Maybe but only really to force a change.

Much to my surprise I was extremely impressed with the Conservatives. I felt that Nicky answered the questions rather than avoiding any issues and was very forthcoming on the less pleasant things that she knows people won’t like. Is it enough to make me vote the Conservatives into government? Probably not! I still remember the days under Maggie and even though I was young I just don’t think I can bring myself to tick the Conservative box.

I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get to speak to my local Labour MP as I had some really tough questions for him!! I tried everything but apart from the e-mail I posted yesterday have heard nothing in response. So the question is will I vote Labour? I don’t know this either. They’ve got us into such a sodding mess, how can we trust them to get us out of it? Are they any better than the other parties? Do they just need a new Leader to take poor old Gordon’s place? Probably but I sure as hell don’t want to end up with Harriet Harman or Ed Balls!!!

The BNP did contact me but they were unable to meet with me before the election which was kind of pointless for the purposes of this exercise!! I would never in a million years vote BNP but it would’ve been interesting to find out why he joined the party and what they have against non-whites!

I also had a reply from the Monster Raving Loony Party but (as much fun as it would’ve been!!) decided not to follow it up as there is no candidate in my Area to vote for!!! The only other parties that I didn’t hear back from were UKIP and the Green Party both of whom I would’ve been interested to talk too!

I guess reading this back I have two choices tomorrow the Lib Dems or Labour. I think I’ll be doing eeny-meeny-miny-mo on the way to the polls to decide!!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Election Edition Part 3 - Labour (Kind of!!!)

Tomorrow I'll do a round-up of my thoughts and then I promise I'll try not to talk Politics again for a while as I know I'm boring some of you!!! I've been trying to get in touch with our local Labour MP Andy Reed since last week via e-mail and staking out his office!!  I managed to get to talk to one of his Assistants today but they still haven't gotten back to me!

Then low and behold tonight I get a generic group e-mail, so I'm going to post the contents of the e-mail here in place of a proper interview!!!  (I have asked for permission to republish it but seeing as they still aren't replying I'll post it and see how we go especially as they are using my e-mail for canvassing purposes when I only wanted an interview!!!)

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In this constituency you will be deciding who represents us as our Member of Parliament for the next 5 years. It is a 2 horse race, with the Liberals in a distant third place.  There is only one choice if you don’t want a Tory government. Vote for Andy Reed or we wake up on Friday with a Tory MP for the town - only visiting the Town to get her ticket into Westminster politics. 

He says:   "I know some people might be disappointed with some aspects of what Labour has done in the last 13 years. It would be unnatural if there were not some issues where there are differences of opinion. I have felt the same and that is why I resigned over Iraq and have voted against my government at crucial times – over Student Tuition fees, Trident and even the Digital Economy Bill – on the last day in Parliament!. With me you get a strong independent voice willing to speak his mind and to put the Town first.

"But I also know people are proud of the national minimum wage, the winter fuel allowance and free bus travel for pensioners. I know they are proud of the leadership we have shown on global poverty and tackling climate change. I know people recognise the reduction in waiting times and better hospitals. I know they see the difference in school investment – when there were class sizes of 40, outside toilets and leaking roofs in our schools under the Tories. People know the Tories would take us back to the bad old days and take away much of the progress we have made.

"So whilst some will feel they can afford to flirt with the idea of voting Lib Dem in this election -remember in this Town the consequence of such a vote is to get  a Right Wing Tory MP – instead of a progressive champion for the town. The Lib Dems would have to be on about 60% in the national polls to come close here – but a small increase in their vote at the expense of Labour will simply give us a Tory MP.

If we do have a hung parliament on Friday - which looks very likely - who do you want fighting our corner in Westminster? That is the choice..

We know times are tough at the moment. Dealing with the global recession caused by the international collapse of the banking sector has sent shockwaves around the world. Greece for example is nearing collapse. Government is as much about how you deal with the crisis and bad times as about the good times. Labour led the way to putting in place a plan for recovery accepted around the world. History will show we staved of a deep depression by taking the tough decisions to invest in our economy to keep it on course to recovery rather than risk deep cuts and taking us back into a deep recession.

We have a strong and diverse local economy which we’ve worked hard to develop. Despite the current world recession unemployment in this Town remains at under 3%. If we had followed the Tory policies for the recession economists agree we would now have 5 million unemployed and twice as many companies closing down. We only have to look back at previous Tory recessions to see they thought ‘unemployment was a price worth paying.

A vibrant economy locally means a good shopping centre and leisure opportunities, but these things don't appear by accident and I will continue to work hard for local businesses and ensure we get the best, from our world class university.

There are so many issues I have been working with the local community – far too many to mention. But it is worth highlighting the rebuilding of our schools through Labour’s Building Schools for the Future Programme. The Tory County Council made a hash of putting forward its bid to government and failed to get support from local parents for its controversial plans to close an ‘Outstanding’ school in the Area. Andy will work to make sure Tory Leicestershire consults properly with schools, parents and governors and puts forward amended plans to the government for the £80m cash on offer.

I know it's not as good as an interview and I'm kind of taking the lazy route by re-posting something that was sent to me but I wasn't sure how else I could put across the Labour side to make my arguments balanced!  So yet again it's over to you!  Have you decided who you are going to put the cross next too and vote for.  have I persuaded you to go out and vote or are you ignoring my politics blogs (cheating or otherwise!!!) Have you completely turned off the TV and news until Thursdays voting is out of the way?  Are you more interested in who to vote for in the MADS?  Let me know via the comments or e-mail!!!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Procrastination and Burkas!!!!

It's a bank holiday here in England today and as usual all over the weekend the weather has been absolutely shocking.  What a change from last weekend when we were getting a suntan in the beer garden to today when it's so cold that I have the heating back on...brrrr!!!

Today I'm supposed to be packing the kitchen as my new one is arriving sometime next week but I simply can't muster the energy and have been procrastinating all day.  It's now 6.30pm and all I've managed to do today is read the paper, two loads of washing and take Chick out for lunch. We tried to go to the park but the second we got there it started raining and we all know that I'm completely and utterly allergic to the rain, so we came home and watch St.Trinians for the twentieth time this weekend!

I read a story in the paper today about how from next week France are banning the Burka and it's been bothering me all day......apparently it's already banned in Belgium.  Now I may not know so much about ethnic cleansing but this strikes me as a subtle version of that?  Why are they banning it?  They may not agree with what it represents but what are they hoping to achieve?  Surely it's just a way of discouraging Muslims to go to France.  Would we let them get away with it they were banning skull caps for Jews or infact Jews altogether.  Is Hitler back and someone forgot to tell me?

Now maybe I've completely mis-understood the whole situation and am being totally blonde, which is sometimes the case (!!!) but the article said that men could be fined and jailed for forcing their wives to wear it and that the women could also be fined because "they don't get a choice"! I get that they want to stop women being forced to wear a burka but how the heck are they going to prove who was being forced and who isn't.

This doesn't just apply to French residents but Tourists also.  Are we aiming for a Muslim free Europe?  If so please let me refer everyone back to Hitler and the Holocaust! Why do we find the burka so offensive?  Is it something that I'm not understanding...please let me know in the comments what your views are on this, as always feel free to let me know if it is me being completely blonde and ridiculous!!!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Come back......this one doesn't even mention the election!!!

I know that I've been boring some of you with all my election thoughts, so today I'm going to show you a lovely picture to make you giggle instead.  Today I got to see two of my oldest friends for a catch up. One of them has just had a beautiful baby girl that we wanted to meet and we always like a gossip!!!  This is us back when we were 17 and 18:

This is us 16 years, 9 children and 1 grandchild later.....

We haven't changed a bit right????  I wonder what we'll look like in another 16 years and how many children and grandchildren we'll have by then???

Election Edition Part 2 - Conservatives

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So day number two and over to the Conservatives.  I met Nicky Morgan at her local office which handily for me is right around the corner from my house!  I arrived right on time and had a good look around the office....nothing bizarre to report apart from a slight 'thing' for a certain Mr. Cameron, judging from the pictures on the wall!!!!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nicky as I’d heard conflicting reports as to other people’s opinion of her but I thought that (much to my disgust, as I never thought I’d say it!!) she came across very well.  If I could describe Nicky in three words I would have to go with articulate, intelligent and (seemingly) genuine.  I asked similar questions to yesterday (and again this is a monster post so I suggest grabbing a tea or vino) here goes:

I’ll start with a nice easy question! Why should I vote Conservative next week?
Because a vote for the Conservatives here is a vote for change and I think that Britain needs to be changed, we need action to sort out our Economy, I think there are elements of our Society that are broken, we need better support for Families and better Childcare arrangements and I think our Politics is broken and sick and having a whole new raft of faces in the House of Commons would be a good thing. I’ve been a candidate for 6 years in this town and hope that I have a good understanding of the views and think I would be a good voice for this Area in Westminster. It would also be good to have a Female MP in this Area and think that actually I would be the first one. Those are just some of the reasons. Locally I have a business background and have been a candidate for 6 years here at my own expense.

So no Monster Raving Loony Party then?
No!!! (with lots of laughing!!)

Who do you think will win the election?
My instinct is that the Conservatives will certainly be the largest party, whether they would win outright or not or if they could pick up enough seats and then work with the Lib Dems, I don’t know. But that’s what makes it so exciting and that’s why people are so engaged is because it’s an unknown result.

What, if as I think it will, it goes to a hung parliament? Positives? Negatives?  How do you see this working?
I think people will be interested in seeing whether parties can work together and there may be some areas for compromise so whoever the largest party is will have to take notice of other political views, so I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I have equal numbers of people saying it will never work and why not try it and see.

What do you think the biggest challenges of that would be?
There are some areas that I’ve no doubt the parties can work together on, for instance care for the elderly because I kind of think that we are already coming together on some of the big issues. Same with things like childcare arrangements and families but with things like voting reform certainly the Conservatives have very different views from Labour or the Lib Dems and I think that will be a big sticking point so it’ll be interesting to see if we can compromise.  The other thing will be to see what message it sends out to the rest of the world. My particular concern is about the strength of the pound and the Conservative government is committed to sorting out the deficit situation!

What do you personally do in the local community that voters may not be aware of?
Well, I’ve only really done things through being the Parliamentary Candidate but through that I’ve done things like setting up a Business Club so supporting businesses of all sizes.  We’ve done things like having an anti-social behaviour workshop so, getting together the Council and Police and local Residents to try and get people to talk to each other and understand what can be done and we have also held two Careers workshops getting together people to talk about CV writing etc. I think it’s all about practical demonstration and there is no point talking, if you want it to work you have to do it.

I’m a Single Mother who works very hard to provide for my Daughter however financially I’m not much better off working than I would be sitting at home on my backside claiming benefits.  What would you do to encourage parents into the work place and off benefits?
Iain Duncan Smith the ex-Leader of the Conservatives has done a lot of work for the Social Justice Office on this and basically found that your wage has to be over a certain level before there is any benefit in working which is just crazy, what we should be doing is kind of tapering the benefits and things that people do get so that people don’t lose it instantly. The Conservatives will say yes that you still need help with your Council Tax and your rent until you get yourself sorted. I was recently contacted by a Lady who as soon as she said she got a job she lost her benefits but she didn’t get paid until the end of the first month so how is she supposed to live? This is where a bit of common sense wouldn’t go amiss because one more month of benefits in the grand scheme of things I think is worth investing.

 So what about your policy to offer tax incentives to married couples?  What’s the idea behind that?
The idea is not just for married couples, it’s for civil partnerships too, straight or gay but the idea basically is that couples don’t lose out. I think that single parents get help and widowed parents get help but the people who seem to be missing out are the ones who manage to stay together and sometimes people have to pretend that they’ve separated to try and get more money.  It’s not a huge amount of money and we understand that people aren’t going to get married for £3 a week but it’s more a signal that we attach much importance to the people that are together.

What is your party’s stance on Immigration? Should we allow it? In some area’s i.e. Boston/Peterborough there is a strain on resources i.e. maternity wards, schools etc. How would you deal with that?
Our overall policy on immigration is that yes it would continue as Britain has benefitted enormously from the tradition that we have of people moving here and I don’t think that should stop. EU we have signed up as a Country and so cannot control that but what we can do is control new Countries joining the EU which is what the government didn’t do when Poland and Bulgaria joined.  For non EU we are saying that we would have a cap on the number of people who could come here and they would need to be skilled workers and they would have to have a certain number of points. Immigration is one of the issues that is mentioned to me all the time and I think any Politician, ala Gordon Brown for instance that is surprised when people talk about it, well shouldn’t be surprised as it’s mentioned all the time. We would have stronger Border Police and so monitor people coming in and out, crack down on the student visas. If people do want to come here with their families they all need to speak English and I think that helps with integration into the Community too!

I’ll come on to budget cuts in a second but how would you pay for the extra immigration and border police?
There’s a phenomenal amount of waste in the government, you know Management Consultants, government advertising, Quangos, pen pushing. So that kind of thing can be scrapped and we can re-deploy the money where it’s better used on the front line.

How would you run the NHS? What people are concerned about are waiting lists, clean wards and nurses looking after patients rather than pen pushing?
Well it’s less paper, having appropriate targets that are set by the Doctors and Nurses, so there may be some targets that are really useful i.e. being seen quickly in A&E but these don’t always work. There are too many bureaucrats and there are more Managers now than there are beds but it’s also about encouraging responsibility and pride in your work.  In our jobs at the end of the day the responsibility stops with us and to be honest David Cameron isn’t going to be coming down and cleaning the wards, that has to be the people that are actually on the wards.

What’s your opinion on Trident?
I think we do need to re-new it.  I appreciate that it’s a lot of money but it gives us a voice at the top level in the World and in foreign international affairs.  The trouble is that we don’t know what our biggest threat is and that’s what makes it so scary. If Iran get nuclear weapons and we’ve done away with ours then we would be scrabbling to keep up.

What about inheritance tax? I read that you are going to lower the limit but surely that benefits the rich rather than the poor?
It’s for Estates over a million pound that they would pay so actually in certain parts of the Country if you own a family home and have savings or whatever then you get pretty close to that level amazingly without being rich in terms of cash. A lot of people have put their money into property but don’t consider themselves to be that well off and then the families find that when they die you have to pay a vast amount of money on it.  Everyone keeps asking about inheritance tax but you’ve already paid money on it all during your lifetime with paying income tax on it and stamp duty when you move house.

Whilst we’re talking about money we all know that we need budget cuts but where are you going to make them and how will it impact our day to day life?
We have three areas that are protected: One is the NHS and we are the only party to promise to protect the NHS in real terms, International Development but of course in an effective way and defence but only on the basis that we need to review the defence budget as we need to ensure we are spending it in the right areas.  Everything else is going to be up for review but our priority is to make sure that the cuts don’t hit the front line, so not Policing etc. The kind of things that we can out on hold for a few years are road bypasses, IT Projects so that we can afford to keep the Police, Doctors, Teachers on the front line.

What about the war in Afghanistan? Would we stay there or will you bring the boys (and girls) home? Secondly will they get the kit they need?
Yes they will get the kit they need because I think we have a very serious commitment to our Military. If you are going to send them into danger you need to give them the equipment.  We don’t have a response for an immediate withdrawal but we need to think very seriously about why we are there and what we are hoping to achieve and I’m probably more bullish than the party on this because I think it’s very difficult to achieve what we want to achieve as it’s a Country of very different culture and customs and we need to ask ourselves at some point, how many more deaths do we want.

I work in education and I know that we are facing a couple of lean years due to cuts that we’ve already heard about, what other cuts are likely to be made in education?
Well I would think that the spending on buildings would stop.  I can’t write the budget and it will depend on how Michael Gover views these things but the things that will be affected are big projects and maybe things aren’t renewed as quickly for example but the plan is to try not to cut front line staff like Teachers and Lecturers. In terms of Adult Education we are setting up a million pound fund for this, so actually investing in Adult Education.

My other question on education is this.  How, apart from throwing money at it, are you going to deal with the 30,000 people a year that leave school barely literate?
Well that’s why I think we want this Community Learning Fund. There are lots of different groups at the moment and they are not achieving what they set out to achieve so we need to bring them all together to make it much simpler and to focus on making sure people are literate and numerate. As well of course as making sure our schools are no longer turning out people that are not literate and numerate.

Can you guarantee our pensions and will we have to work beyond the current retirement age?
Yes we can guarantee the pensions but we will have to work beyond the current retirement age and I don’t know how old you are (30ish actually!!!) but I will have to work until 67. We hope it won’t be extended any further but people are living longer so the idea that we used to retire at 60 and then be dead within three or five years that’s changed now and people might live 20 or 30 years even.

Getting on to a completely different topic now. The Conservative Policy Green Paper, Open Source Planning, states: 
"We will maintain national Green Belt protection, Areas of Outstanding Nature Beauty, National parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other environmental designations which protect the character of our county's landscape, stop unsustainable urban sprawl and preserve wildlife."
Leicestershire's precious Green Wedges do not have the designation of Green Belt but serve the same purpose without the same protection.   What action would the Conservatives take to protect these Wedges and preserve and protect the character and beauty of Leicestershire?
If I was elected I would work together with the other Leicestershire MP’s so that even if we couldn’t get official protection, we want to work with the Councils to make sure that these green wedges aren’t built on.  Once we lose these green lungs we’ve lost them forever and one of the big things is about not having Regional housing targets but for local Councils to decide what the demand is and part of the open source planning is to give local Communities much more of a say over where new buildings go.

What do you think are the Oppositions weakest policies?
In terms of the Lib Dems that slightly easier, I think the immigration policy which I’m not impressed with and also getting rid of prison sentences that are under 6 months. You need flexibility and that for the judges and the courts to decide.  There maybe people for whom Prison is a short sharp shock and they think I don’t want to come back here.

As far as the Labour party is concerned I think the problem is that it’s not the policies so much as the lack of credibility. Gordon Brown thought he’d ended boom and bust and so carried on spending and when we did hit a recession we had no cushion that we needed!

This is probably a silly question but do you really think David Cameron can lead the Country?
I do.  I mean I’ve looked him in the eye and said do you realise what problems there are and he said yes!

But what about the opinion of some that he is just a posh boy?  Do you think that’s true or is he more Streetwise then he’s given credit for?
I think he’s a lot more streetwise.  I don’t think anybody can be a Parliamentary candidate or Mp in this day and age without understanding how people live their lives.  Just because you are from a privileged background doesn’t mean you can’t understand other people’s lives and I think that sign a good politician is listening and finding out for yourself. His children go to State schools, he has the best understanding of the NHS and personally I think he’s mad to want the job!!!

How well do you think he has performed in the televised debates?
I think he was stronger in the second one than the first as the weight of expectation was very much on his shoulders and that’s a huge thing to have to deal with. I was really impressed when he got really angry about the Labour lie leaflets, he was furious and quite rightly because we were all furious about them.

Tonight is the final debate and it’s the Heavyweight one talking about the economy.  Who do you think will be pulling the most punches? (This was on Thursday before the debate)
Well I think Gordon Brown would’ve done but I’ll be very interested to see how he has bounced back from yesterday’s saga but I think no-one will mention it because none of the other parties need to talk about it. David Cameron studied Economics at University whereas Clegg will claim that Vince Cable forsaw all the disasters and he is well respected. Let’s see what Gordon Brown has to say. The fact is that he was Chancellor and now here we are in a dire economic situation.

So what do you think about yesterday’s saga? (Gordon Brown called a woman a Bigot!)
I think it’s really unfortunate and I think it is bad news for all politics and politicians. People were beginning to get really engaged in the election and they still are but it just kind of confirms in people’s minds that I always thought that said one thing in public and one in private.

That’s all my official Politician questions done!  So onto the ‘fluffy’ questions......How would you describe yourself in a Twitter statement i.e. 140 characters or less?
(Nicky’s Assistant chipped in at this point with Hardworking!!) Hardworking, Committed, Good with people, loud laugh and in touch with reality! (76, so that you don’t have to count!!)

What is your secret guilty TV pleasure?
Hahaha....doing this I don’t really have time to watch TV.  Let me think erm.....I would probably sit down and watch Friends ‘cos they are quite easy to watch. Oh and I loved Mistresses when that was on last year!

With all my questions done we sit and chat about Motherhood and my Town for a few minutes, exchanging pleasantries, before I step out into the rain and head back to my real life in the Ghetto where my 7 year old isn’t remotely bothered about Politics and wants to know what she can eat in the next 5 minutes and why she has to have a bath and can’t stay dirty!!!  Not sure the Conservatives can help me with these issues!!!!

Again what are we thinking? Do the Conservatives maybe sound like the right party for you? Have you already decided which way you are voting?  Did I ask the right questions or miss out something crucial? Feel free to leave me your thoughts and opinions in the comments!