Recently by Jo Ind
Bye bye Birmingham Post. I have been with you for more than 21 years. In those years you have been through eight editors, gone from being a broadsheet, to a tabloid, to a broadsheet and back to a tabloid again, only we don't call you that. You were black and white then, you're colour now. You were a six day a week publication when I joined. Now you are a multi-media operation of which the newspaper is only a part.
In those 21 years, I have changed too. My mother has died, I've been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I've lived in community, I've lived on my own and I've lived with my family. I've married, I've had a son, I've had two books published and I've learnt to sing jazz. I've gone from being an angry idealist determined to change the world to someone who is content to change her little bit of it and is happier than I knew was possible - same hairstyle though.
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.
A friends writes to reassure me after hearing me lament that I haven't done any "creative work" since having a child.
But parenting is creative work, she says. It's miraculous work. Just look at your son, what more creative a job could you be doing than raising him?
I find myself wanting to quibble.
Yes, creative parenting is a term very much in vogue and while I certainly have no doubt about the value and importance of bringing up children, I find myself asking if the task really is a creative one?
To be brutally honest, most of the time, it doesn't feel like it. It feels chaotic, hit-and-miss and about day-to-day survival.
Being comfortable with chaos, I grant you, is all part of the creative process but when you're writing a book or making a piece of art, there comes a point where you start to shape the madness. You limit the possibilities. You focus. You move into a phase where you know what you're doing. There comes the happy day when you look back and think: "Ah - so THAT'S what I was making."
I can't imagine I will ever know what I'm doing as far as parenting is concerned. Will it ever take shape or will it continue to be about dealing with each incident as it arises on a minute by minute basis?
It was as though a black bin bag bursting with issues had been dumped on my doorstep. I had been watching BBC2's Mary Queen of Charity Shops and, much to my surprise, found myself feeling overwhelmed as the closing credits scrolled up on the screen.
Mary Portas, the retail fashion guru, had taken over a charity shop in Kent and turned it into boutique style store by spending ÃÂ£15,000 on a re-fit and employing a full-time shop manager.
She succeeded in increasing the shop's weekly take from ÃÂ£900 per week to ÃÂ£2,000 per week but not without its costs - and I don't just mean financial. Five of the volunteers felt so alienated they walked out.
Does this matter?
I have made a resolution to never be busy again. Please help.
I have just come to the end of a ridiculously frantic three weeks in which I gave two lectures, delivered five teaching sessions in a school and sang in a two-hour jazz gig on top of looking after my family and my day-job as a journalist.
It is worth asking if being busy is a virtue. For me, it is a weakness.
I have found out the answer to the vexed question of who should cough-up when you throw-up in a taxi. The answer is that I should pay - but certainly no more than ÃÂ£40 plus the fare.
Thank you to all who contributed to my previous post on the matter. I appreciated your views, not least because there was such a spread of opinion, ranging from Caroline and Selina who thought I'd done everything I could and been incredibly decent to clear it up, to Jackie and Clifford who thought I'd not done very much at all.
More than a week after Arch, my two-year-old, was sick in the back of a private hire vehicle, the issue was still unresolved in my head so I put in a call to Chris Arundel head of the licensing team with Birmingham City Council.
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.
I have just been told off by my two-year-old. Arch was at the computer looking his usual adorable self when I took the opportunity to sneak in a quick kiss and a cuddle. (I do this many times in a day.)
"I'm not a baby," said Arch, who has only just mastered the art of speaking in sentences and evidently decided to put it to good use by rebuking his mother.
"Do you think I treat you like a baby?" I said. "Yes," he replied firmly and got back to Roary the Racing Car.
Ooch! How the truth hurts! Not least when it comes out of the mouth of a
babe and suckling big boy now.
I have to admit he's got a point. I want him to always be my baby. I've barely forgiven him for eating solids and learning to walk, never mind speaking. I think he's taking this growing up business far too far.
But now I've got over the sting of being rebuked I feel strangely consoled by this conversation. It's good to know that even at the age of two he has spotted a flaw in my parenting and is onto the case.
Where I fall short, as I inevitably will, he will make up through his self and mother awareness. I can relax about my failings. Phew!
After that insight I think I deserve a cuddle, you couldn't oblige could you Arch? Arch??
Is it really worth it? That is the question I always ask myself as I fret around booking, washing, uploading, planning, packing, delegating and farewelling before I go on holiday. At the time it is hard to believe the stress generated through the sheer effort of getting away could possibly be off-set by the pleasure and relaxation of any break that is to come.
Every time, I find myself perplexed. Why is it such hard work getting us all out of the house? Why does there always seem to be more that I can possibly manage to do?
I found something of an answer to that question about five hours before we were due to leave for our three week break in Barbados when Arch did a massive pooh - one of those kinds that spills out of the nappy and onto the vest.