Recently in Family Category
Guest blogger Mimi Bekhechi, of PETA, urges families to buy their cats or dogs from animal shelters, rather than breeders or pet shops.
In the largest study of its kind, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in conjunction with YouGov have just produced the Animal Wellbeing Report, scoring more than 11,000 British pet owners on how well they look after their animals.
Woefully, according to the report, 48 per cent of guardians in "animal-loving" Britain are failing to provide their animals with even "adequate" levels of care.
For most people, it only takes seconds to fall in love with an adorable cat or dog who needs a home, but adding an animal companion to the family means pledging to love and care for him or her - for better or for worse - for the animal's lifetime, which could be the next 10 to 20 years.
I am getting keyed up over the 65-plus exam. When I was coming up to secondary school age, a whole lifetime ago, life was simple. Fraught but simple. You passed the 11-plus and went to your nearest grammar school or you failed and went to your nearest secondary modern school. It was the same throughout the country, with results like those pictured.
Despite the demonising of the legendary exam, it was far less stressful than the constant testing my children faced, and a complete doddle compared to what my grandchildren are put through.
See this woman. I've just found out that she is my great great great great grandmother.
Earlier this week, as part of a feature I was writing for The Birmingham Post, I went with family historian Paul Wilkins to Birmingham Central Library to trace my family tree and discovered, amongst other great worthiness, that I am a direct descendant of Elizabeth Fry, the woman who reformed prisons in the nineteenth century and is commemorated on the back of a fiver.
Now I'm trying to work out how it makes me feel.
We live in a world of spin. Perception seems to be all that matters. Take fast food - which is all that's on offer at most of the eatieries (imagine that said with a slight ironic sneer) that the average family can afford to frequent.
We have a brand new Harvester just down the road. It's basic pub grub with the addition of a salad bar. Burgers, pasta, pizza, the usual chicken and curry things, jackets. No change really, except in the way the menu is presented - all sorts of calorie counts are now included and suggestions for healthier options.
So it's back to business as usual after a staycation in the parallel universe that is Whitby.
It's a place full of character and characters - some of them real as well as Count Dracula, the Bram Stoker fictional creation who is central to the cultural life of the town. There's a dark edge to the place, with its decidedly ungolden sands, its place at the centre of the Goth universe (blame Mr Stoker and Whitby Abbey and do a Google search) and jet (blame Queen Victoria and fossilised monkey puzzle trees).
It may surprise you to know that I lead a double life. By day, I'm a consultant on marketing & fundraising issues to cultural organisations, but by night I'm a volunteer charity trustee. It's a privileged position as it gives me insights to situations as poacher and gamekeeper simultaneously, as many of my clients are registered charities. This is a very tough time to be working in the charity sector, particularly when involved in income generation, as the recession - or for some the fear of the impact of recession created by media reporting - bites.
Fundraising charities broadly receive their income from one of four sources: public sector support, trusts & foundations, companies, and individuals. Although Arts Council England has set up a specific fund to help arts companies through the recession, some other funders - local authorities, regional development agencies, etc. - have found themselves with dramatically-reduced resources and so have been forced to cut services and sector's support of charities has been cut back (or in many cases simply removed) and trusts and foundations have found their endowments somewhat shrunken in the face of Icelandic banking disasters and world economic turmoil. Fundraisers are now hoping that individuals will feel compelled to support projects close to their hearts - but wait, aren't these the very same individuals who are losing, or worried about losing, their jobs right now? That's right, it's the humble taxpayer who foots the bill. However, we are known as a supportive and generous nation when it comes to charity; as the phrase goes, charity begins at home and recent history seems to bear this out.
Interesting weekend so far. Country pub lunch on our annual trip to see our favourite bluebell wood was a shade disappointing. New landlord, scaled-down menu, but terrific Everards Sunchaser beer - a bitter brewed with lager hops, apparently. Highly recommended.
The bluebells, now at their best, have yet to recover from the Forestry Commission's work in the woods last year, so that was a minus, but we heard our first cuckoo and watched gliders being towed high into the air and catching thermals.
Caught the latest, longer version of Later this morning thanks to the merciful BBC iPlayer - it allows me to miss all the Jools Holland bits, particularly those cringe-making interviews.
Two things struck me very strongly: that Jez Williams, of album-pushing Doves, currently bears an uncanny resemblance to Rab C Nesbitt, and Marianne Faithfull is becoming with each passing year like a female George Melly. There was an absurd guitar player and a couple of great singers I wouldn't wanted to have missed.
So, things get back to normal, whatever that is, this week with the kids returning to school and elder daughter returning to Palm Springs to start her new life as a 41-year-old widow.
Saturday evening. 6.30pm. I'm going home in a taxi with Arch, aged two.
He opens his mouth and vomit pours out of it. "Oh no" I say.
He opens his mouth again. More vomit. "Oh no," I say even louder.
The cab driver hands me tissues but the situation is beyond tissues. Nothing short of a bucket will do. I feel helpless, as though I should be able to prevent sick from getting on the back seat of his car - but what can I do?
As we turn down our road, I ring my husband and ask him to bring some cleaning kit out of the house. When we pull up, I swap him a sick-ridden child for some cloths, get on my hands and knees and scrub the seat as vigorously as I can.
By the time I have finished, it doesn't smell and there are no solid bits but it's wet.
"I'll have to take the car to be cleaned," says the driver woefully. "I can't take passengers with the seat like that."
"Do you want me to fetch my hair dryer?" I suggest.
He's not amused.
"Does this mean you've lost a night's work? Let me give you some money," I say.
The fare is ÃÂ£8. I empty my purse, but all I've got is ÃÂ£12.50 in total. I give him that. The driver is even less amused. My husband empties his wallet. All he's got is another ÃÂ£2.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I simply haven't got any more. I don't know what else I can do."
The driver goes off with a sour look on his face and I stand on the pavement feeling dreadful and perplexed.
If I've lost him a Saturday night's work and caused him to incur the cost of having his car cleaned, am I responsible? Should I have given him ÃÂ£100? I baulk at the idea, but why not if that's what I've cost him?
Do minicab drivers have insurance to cover loss of earnings when toddlers puke on their back seats? Or is that all part of the risk they take in picking up members of the public, one they just have to endure?
To be honest, I'm glad I didn't have ÃÂ£60 in my purse, as I often do, because if I had had, I would have given it to him without really knowing if I should have.
Does anybody have any views on the rights and wrongs of this situation? Am I mean, or do I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility? I'd really appreciate your thoughts.
While some people fear losing their jobs and their homes, I'm worried I'm losing my mind.
There's a history of Alzheimer's in my family, so I don't want to sound too flippant but if I didn't laugh I don't know what I'd do.
At the relatively tender age of 46 (I had to think about that for a minute - I can't remember how old I am anymore) I have to use my diary to write down what I have just done as well as what I'm going to do. Otherwise I forget.
When I get dressed I stand in my underwear and think: "Have I just put on my deodorant or not?"
Last year I bought a Valentine's card for my husband. When I put it away in the special box where we keep such sweetniks, I realised it was exactly the same as the card I had bought him the year before.
In my youth it was only when I was totally rat-arsed that other people knew more about where I'd been than I did. Now you could tell me anything and I'd believe you - I can't remember what I did ten minutes ago, never mind yesterday.
Some friends who have suffered from a similar condition after having children tell me that a few years on you re-find you marbles. They turn up like the odd socks that have slipped down the back of the radiator. Others say it is part of an irreversible decline.
Either way I have decided to be fascinated by this fuzz that was once my brain and enjoy the different reality that it filters for me.
Recently I was feeling upset with a friend who had said something hurtful. I remembered the hurt very well, I just couldn't remember what she'd said - so that's one half of the forgiving and forgetting dealt with.
My husband struggles to buy me presents so I often buy something for him to wrap up and give me on Christmas Day. I used to think this was a farce, but this year I genuinely forgot what I'd bought so I got a surprise - and do you know, it was exactly what I wanted?
Many times I stand in a room and think: "I know I came here for something. I'll just plump up these cushions while I remember what it was" and sure enough it all comes back to me and I think how clever I am that my body managed to get me to where I needed to be even though my brain had gone AWOL.
It's as though the factual, linear part of my brain has gone revealing a soft, blurry place of feelings and impressions and intentions. I quite like it, in much the same way that I like my dreams.
I had a good last line a minute ago. I really did. Where's it gone??? Oh never mind.....