Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Heinous things that nobody's actually going to make you do #1: Soft Play

Something seems to come over you when you have a baby.  You're suddenly dropped from a great height into a world that you previously knew nothing about.  What do you do when faced with alien territory?  Try to adapt and squash yourself into this odd world that seems so foreign.  There's not really another way to approach it seeing as you're in it for the duration and there's no going back.  What you don't have to do, though, is stop thinking for yourself.  Here is my first installment in a series of pain in the arse, sickeningly twee or just plain hateful things that - believe it or not - you don't have to do when you're parenting a small child:

1. Soft Play

Here is Rory (18 months), smacking himself in the face at soft play: even he hates it.

JESUS.  If there's ever a thing that's going to make you stop at having one child, it's soft play.  Everything about it is odious. If the grime and the all-pervading stickiness of everything doesn't make you want to curl up and weep for your happy place, then the unbearable noise of 50 hyped up toddlers in close proximity, the  miserable staff in grubby tabards, the eye-jarring colours and the smell of stale chip fat will.  There is always a child called Sebastian running about maiming the other children.  Sebastian's mum quite clearly doesn't want to take him home and deal with him on her own, so you get a running commentary of "Now stop that, Sebastian.  Sebastian, if you hit that little girl one more time then you're going home.  I mean it.  One more time and we're leaving.  Don't hit that boy.  If you do that again then it's home time for you." (Translation "I AM FULL OF SHIT: CONTINUE TO HIT EVERYONE AS MUCH AS YOU LIKE").  Something about being in a play barn seems to send kids feral, and they spend the entire time either sobbing or kicking seven shades of shit out of the other children (dependent on their hierarchy).

The argument for soft play is that it's a relatively safe environment for children to use to let off steam.  We all know that children need to burn off a bit of energy sometimes.  But even so, I'd really rather that Rory burnt off his excess energy outside, where his shrieking has a less concentrated effect on my eardrums and he can get some fresh air into his lungs.  I also really dislike the fact that they are basically padded cells.  Plus they're not as safe as we're led to believe.  A friend's son had to go to A&E after a particularly nasty fall at soft play, which resulted in him being knocked out for a few seconds.  He had the worst black eye I've ever seen for weeks afterwards.  We're led to believe that they're secure, child friendly places where we can sit on our backsides and drink coffee while our children run riot.  Some parents forget that they're still responsible for their child's safety and behaviour at soft play.  And, before you start thinking that I'm being sanctimonious, that includes me:  seven month old Rory was found climbing into a cupboard in the (supposedly secure) reception/kitchen area of our local play barn once when I took my eyes off him for all of 20 seconds.  Obviously that was partly because he was an evil genius as a baby, but I have to take some responsibility for it.

Really though, the worst bit is the germs.  When anyone tells me that they like going to soft play, my immediate response is to look at them with incredulity.  What about the germs?  Do they not know about all the bodily fluids in the ball pool?  THE BODILY FLUIDS IN THE BALL POOL.  How often do they think the stuff is washed?  I'm thinking never.  Congratulations: You have been fast-tracked to the front of the Norovirus queue.

Please come down from the bacteria infested padded block, sweetheart.

Around the time Rory hit 18 months old, I suddenly grew a pair and decided that we would not be going to soft play even when our friends were.  He hated it, I hated it, we were just not going to do it.  I felt more relaxed instantly.  Since then, we tolerate it for the odd birthday party (and he has only recently actually started to enjoy it on these occasions, although this is mainly because he's so excited to be at a friend's birthday party at all, regardless of where it's held) and otherwise I take him maybe twice a year, generally at that point when it's rained for 4 weeks and we're desperate to leave the house. In the summer holidays.  When there's less germs.

What do you think?  Do you love soft play?  If so, we can still be friends.  Albeit friends who will never quite fully understand each other. I still like you though.  For now, however, I'm off for a good wash; even writing about it makes me feel grubby.

Stay tuned for installment number 2: Dressing your child in stuff with bears on it.

Monday, 25 November 2013

GIVEAWAY - Stick on edible eyes

I bet you didn't know that you needed edible eyes that you can decorate your food with in your life.  Well, you do.  They're entirely free from any point whatsoever, but very cheering, and have been making my son laugh hysterically at plums and things all week.  We were sent ours by www.iwantoneofthose.com (or IWOOT as they now like to be called), and their arrival created all sorts of OMGZOPENTHEMNOWBRILLIANTBRILLIANTBRILLIANT hopping up and down in the smallest member of our household.  You'd think that we never gave him anything, but really it's just because he has a bizarre love of sticking eyes on things that shouldn't have eyes.  You may remember this epic post from a couple of years ago.  Yeah.  Just imagine how much better that would have been if we'd had some ready made eyes instead of crappy ones that I'd made myself out of stickers and a biro.

We started small by putting them on the contents of the fruit bowl, with the pleasing result of Rory begging for apples and pears with faces all the time, which doubled his fruit intake within days.  Then we progressed to scones:

What's not to love about scones with eyes, right?  Plus they're made of what tastes like a very thin but strong sort of sugar paste, so you can eat them.

Get those pastry cutters out and use them as crowns.  Give your scones toothpick spears.  You have a baked goods battle just waiting to happen.  Now, who wants some for Christmas?  YOU DO.

Buy them for £6.99 for a pack of 10 pairs of eyes from IWOOT or I have one pack to give away, so fill in the Rafflecopter below and I'll draw a winner at random in a week's time.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 18 November 2013

Why does Google send all the weirdos to my blog?

I don't often check my blog stats.  Mainly because, well, who cares?  But also because looking at things like that makes my head want to explode.  However, I do enjoy a good chuckle over the things that people type into search engines which somehow land them on one of my pages.  Some are recurring themes.  Some are genius one offs.  Others...well, they're more than a bit disturbing.

I thought it might be handy to gather some of the most popular ones together all on one page for easy reference, so I can help the searchers find the information that they're looking for.  I will also add some of the batshit crazy ones so we can all have a good old laugh at someone's expense:

Search term 1:
'Katy Ashworth Naked'

Katy Ashworth is the very annoying lady who presents I Can Cook and jumps around like a drama student who's had too much candyfloss during the CBeebies continuity links.  I have slagged off Katy here and here.  After a good poke around the internet I can categorically state that you are not going to find any naked pictures of her online.  Seriously, horny dads, I've done the leg work for you and there aren't any.  Abandon your search.  However, while we're on the subject of Katy, I'd like to mention that my opinion of her changed for the better recently when she posted this lovely photograph of her and her new baby online:

Looking gorgeous, exhausted and a bit broken, just like any other new parent.  It's so nice to see someone portraying early motherhood as it really is and not piling the make-up on and photoshopping everything.  Now Katy, if you could just see your way to looking a bit suicidal when you present CBeebies after a run of 14 or so sleepless night and to have a constant cold for the next year a la the rest of us mums, we could come to a happy understanding, I think.

Search term 2:
'Is Mister Maker Gay?'

As far as I know, he is not.  However, he could be.  The definitive answer to this question should be "nobody knows, but he certainly won't be when he finally meets me."  Yes, I know I need help.  *insert obligatory joke about rummaging in his doodle drawers here, because that never gets old*.

Here he is, shortly before being taken roughly over his arts and crafts table.

Search term 3:
'What is Mister Maker's Gloopy Glue?'

Mister Maker gets me a lot of traffic.  My hands are itching to type out an innuendo here, but I will behave and tell you that  the type of glue to which he is referring is PVA glue.  Mystery solved.  Here I am giving a Mister Maker Christmas special a test drive.

Search term 4:
'Reading Eggs'

Yes, I reviewed Reading Eggs some time ago.  Yes, it's good.

Search term 5:
'Is Tree Fu Tom suitable for Christians?'

This one comes up in my stats a lot.  Possibly because I referred to him as a satanic little bum nugget somewhere along the line.  I stand by the bum nugget comment, but the satanic bit was just speculation.

So, I searched for this on Google, and it appears that there is much debate over this at the moment (whether he's suitable for Christians that is, not whether he's a bum nugget.  He is clearly a bum nugget).  It's the fact that he gets children to join in with casting his spells that has people all of a dither.  My opinion is that he's fine for Christian children to watch as he's a fictional character doing fictional things and children can differentiate between fact and fiction from very early on.  However, if you're the sort of parent who bans Harry Potter, The Worst Witch and any kind of magical imagination, Tree Fu Tom can also be added to the list of banned characters in your household.

Now some less popular but still brilliant searches:

1. 'rat gnawing toilet seat disgusting'  Yes.  Yes it is.  And how in God's name did you end up at my blog via that?  I know I'm pretty slack with the housekeeping, but no rats have ever gnawed my toilet seat.  Probably.

2. 'I want to screw my mother'  You're going to want some therapy for that, love.  Off you pop, now.

3. 'house looks shit can't be arsed'  Yeah, that sounds accurate enough.  Welcome to the fold.

4. 'help there are flying ants everywhere'  Again, you have found your spiritual home.  Come on in.

5.  This gem from someone who had obviously forgotten what my blog was called and was desperately trying to find it based on everything they remembered about it:

'disgrace kitchen love mr maker ants swears crazy child rory'  
It's like you're watching my life on CCTV, mystery blog searcher.  (You're not are you?)

Now your turn:  Tell me the best search terms that have landed on your blog.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Thorntons Christmas Hero: In praise of my dad

I was recently contacted by Thorntons to see if I'd like to take part in their Christmas Hero promotion.  They've been sending out boxes of chocolates to people nominated by bloggers as an early Christmas treat and wondered if I knew anybody who likes chocolate and deserves a treat.

One person sprang to mind.  

This is my dad: Grumpy Old Man at large and very big chocoholic.  There are a few reasons why he deserves a treat:.

1. He puts up with the annual festive game of Dad Buckaroo with good grace.  

To play Dad Buckaroo, you will need:

* A dad who's having a snooze in a chair
* Lots of miscellaneous stuff

Method: Take it in turns to place objects on the sleeping dad.  Start easy (tissues, leaflets) and progress through heavier and larger objects.  Extra points for balancing them on his head.  If your dad wakes up and moves, scattering the objects everywhere, you lose.

2. He rejoices in the not very good:

"God, I love my car", says my dad as he trundles down the road in what we fondly refer to as 'Dad's Fun Bus'.  "It's so rubbish.  I feel really good and subversive driving this."  He even starts flashing his lights and honking his horn if he sees someone else driving a Fun Bus the same as his.  No penis extension sports cars for this dad, oh no.  And I can't believe I've just used the word 'penis' in the context of my dad.  Especially as I used the words 'vagina' and 'my dad' in a a sentence in yesterday's blog post too.  Sorry Dad.

The Vengabus is coming...

3. My son calls him Grumps:

This is definitely the short straw of all grandparent names.  It's not even Gramps.  He accepts it as his lot in life.  It suits him, actually.

Rory and Grumps: Bestest friends.

4. This phone call in July:

*ring ring*
Me: "Hello?"
Dad: "Oh, hi Lizzy, it's your dad."
(He never phones me. That is 'womans work')
Me: ""Hi Dad, how are you?"
Dad: "Oh, fine, fine.  How's your boy?"
Me: "Well, not asleep yet, the little sod.  Yeah he's fine."
Dad: "And how's work?"
Me: "Yeah, good, good.  What have you been up to, then?"
Dad: (long monologue about adventures in the Fun Bus and the caravan and the dog and being nagged by my mother and what heinous crimes he's witnessed the neighbours doing and so on).
*long pause*
Me: "So, did you want anything?"
Dad: "Oh yes.  I'm going into hospital tomorrow."
Me: "Oh right, why?"
Dad: "Having an operation."
Me: Oh. What are you having done?"
Dad: "Having a kidney out."
Me: "Having a...er, why?"
Dad: "Got cancer."
Me: "......."

For all his studied casualness when announcing this news, I know he must have been terrified.  Both of his parents died of cancer when I was 12 or so.  It was horrible and they were both so unwell for so long.  They were also both relatively young, and I know that The Cancer Gene must have weighed heavily on his mind ever since.

So far so good, though.  He came through surgery fine and as far as anyone can tell, they got it all out and he's doing well.  Brave Grumps.

He still deserves a big box of chocolates though.  As do my mum and their lodger, Annie, who both had to put up with him ringing his little bell and making ever more pathetic requests to have his pillows plumped and things when he was in recovery.  Thank you Thorntons.

Monday, 11 November 2013

My Top 5 Mortifying Bits of Pregnancy and Birth

Everyone who's given birth tells pregnant women that by the time you  push your baby out, you no longer care who sees what because your dignity is long gone.  Well, mine had disappeared into the sunset well before I even got pregnant.  I had terrible endometriosis in my 20s (think this is coming back again actually but am doing the mental equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and shouting "LALALALALA" in the hopes that it might quietly disappear) and was well used to gynaecologists, surgeons, nurses and doctors poking about in my nether regions with a torch.  You couldn't phase me with talk of dildo-cam scans and membrane sweeps.

But it turned out that pregnancy related humiliation lurked in the most unlikely of places.  Here are my top 5:

You might want some backing music for the countdown:

5. Having an enormous, screaming contraction at a red light on the way to the hospital.  All I remember (apart from seemingly unending agony, obviously), is the horror of the driver in the car next to us whose view was of me with my face pressed against the window, mouth twisted into a silent scream as I clawed against the glass with my fingernails and Richard tried frantically to make "it's OK, I'm not killing her, she's in labour" gestures at him (quite difficult to put across in mime, as it happens).

4. I hemorrhaged quite badly after having Rory, although wasn't aware of it at the time as I was so out of it.  Possibly because half my blood was on the floor, now I mention it.  Several hours later, I was lying in a hospital bed looking the colour of porridge and feeling like complete shit.  My parents were visiting and as my epidural had worn off, I thought I'd better attempt to get up and go to the toilet while there were people there to help me stand.  I stood up, immediately felt like I was going to fade away there and then, but before I could get back on the bed, something akin to a waterfall of blood spurted out of me and all over the floor.  "Um, Rich, could you pass me a baby wipe? Only there's a bit of blood on the floor" I said, in a far away voice, despite the fact that I was actually paddling in the stuff.  My dad went green.  Bleeding profusely and uncontrollably from the vagina in front of your father: the wonders of childbirth.  "Nurse to bay 5 please.  One with a big mop and bucket, if you will."

3. Approximately 3 or 4 weeks into starting my new job, I had to have this conversation with my boss:

"So, turns out I'm pregnant.  Hahahaha.  That was unexpected, right?  Wasn't supposed to be able to do that, you know.  Anyway, it doesn't matter because I've been told by my specialist that I won't be able to carry a baby past 12 weeks, and I'll probably miscarry a lot sooner than that actually, so if you'll just be aware that I might need to leave work in a hurry at some point over the next few weeks and then I'll need a couple of days off after the miscarriage..."

About 10 weeks later, after being in and out of hospital with bleeding, off work for emergency scans and spending most of the time that I was actually in work retching into a carrier bag in my cupboard, I then had to have the following conversation:

"OK, I've got past 12 weeks.  Who knew that could happen, eh?  So, um, looks like I might be needing some of that maternity pay stuff at some point"...*retch*...*heave*..."sorry about that..."

Never have I been less popular at work.

2. I had all day sickness throughout my whole pregnancy.  I'm severely emetophobic, so managed to suppress actual vomiting, but would have attacks of violent retching with little warning.  Chain eating Jaffa Cakes seemed to help, so I carried them about with me wherever I went.  One day near Christmas, I'd been to the doctors to beg for medication to ease the nausea because I felt so awful.  I'd turned up at the surgery looking like a sweaty, wild eyed, mad haired, grey skinned, skinny wreck and had been rewarded with some Avomine tablets, which I clutched desperately in my hand as I raced home feeling appalling.  Just minutes away from my front door I started to feel deathly sick.   I stuffed a Jaffa Cake in my mouth.  Before I'd even swallowed it, I'd got another one in there, then another - this was a desperate situation.  I got to a van with a man in it, who was eating a tuna sandwich for his lunch, and the smell pushed me over the edge.  I gave a massive  heave and sprayed his van with bits of chewed up Jaffa Cake, before dropping onto my knees and retching violently into the bushes for a good few minutes.  Still no vomit, but the sight and sound of me probably put him right off his packet of Chipsticks.  I eventually stood up, soggy and muddy because I'd knelt in a puddle, eyes watering profusely, and felt I owed him an explanation, but couldn't find the words ("Sorry, I'm pregnant" would have sufficed, surely?) The best I could do was to mutter "I'm not drunk", before I staggered off down the road, swaying and fumbling for my Jaffa Cakes.  The shame.

1. It was midwife appointment time: One of those boring ones in the middle where they check your blood pressure and your urine and nothing much else happens.  I got my urine sample pot out of my bag and unscrewed the top, as requested by the midwife.  She then went to take it from me, but slipped and knocked my hand upwards.  Both urine sample pot and the contents therein flew up in the air and the walls, the floor the desk, the midwife, my husband and I were all covered in piss.  Time stood still as we all looked at each other in poorly disguised horror.  I wiped a bit of wee off of my mouth.  Awkward.  I wasn't really sure of the required etiquette for such a situation.  It was my urine after all - should I offer to clean it up?  But then again, it was the midwife's fault and her room, so maybe her responsibility?  In the end, she took charge and cleaned it up, while Rich and I sat there in mortified silence, until I broke it with "I bet that happens to you all the time, doesn't it?"  "No," she replied. "NO."  Oh. 

Do not be fooled.  Inside this mild mannered looking pregnant lady lurks a screaming, bleeding, Jaffa Cake vomiting, piss sprinkling employee in disgrace.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Psychologies Magazine review and giveaway

"How to Fake the Perfect Tan", "The Hot Bags That Will Change Your Life", "Getting Him to Make That Commitment", "50 Ways to Orgasm This Weekend".  None of these articles are of any interest to me and never will be (although, I can imagine that there's a lot to be said for the 50 ways to orgasm one. Who has the time, though?  You'd never even get a wash on).  It's not that I hate womens magazines or anything; it's just that I find them entirely irrelevant to my life and personality.  I look how I look and that's that, a bag will never change my life, and I got married seven years ago to a man who offered me commitment without any need for game playing and dirty tricks, because that's how relationships should work.

I don't want to be patronized or made to feel unattractive and inadequate, and that's why I like Psychologies - a magazine which, to quote editor, Suzy Greaves, "doesn't care what age you are, what you look like...or which handbag you buy".  Instead it focuses on how you feel and what you're thinking about and encourages you to try different ways of living.  It's always been a good read and a magazine that I'm happy to read on a long train journey, and it has just been relaunched with a new design and layout.  I was sent the December issue to write about and have five copies of it to give away at the end of this post, so read on...

This issue focuses on the theme of talking: Difficult conversations, an unexpected but life changing chat and a test about how you speak to yourself.  ("QUIZ!" shouts my husband. "BRING ON THE QUIZ! Oh my God, I love a quiz.  I'll get the pencils."  He really is a complete girl).  As a softly spoken observer, I particularly enjoyed Rin Hamburgh's article about speaking up and making yourself heard when everyone can shout louder than you, which contained some useful advice.  I also thought that Doc Brown's feature about casual misogyny was an interesting and thought provoking read, and later on in the magazine I was surprised and pleased to discover a new bevy of agony aunts who look beyond giving superficial advice and aren't afraid to delve into the issues behind the problems that they've been tasked with solving.  "Aim for the nearest patch of sunshine," says one, which is sound advice that I'll try to remember next time I'm in a depressive slump.

Over all, I thought it was a refreshing and absorbing read and that the re-vamp had only improved an already commendable publication.  I did find that I missed the book section that the old version of the magazine used to carry, but that is my only criticism.

There's currently a promotion offering the first three issues of a subscription to Psychologies for £3.00 over here: http://www.kelseyshop.co.uk/home/mpurchase.asp?m=923&src=C101 or if you'd like to win one of the 5 copies I have to give away, get filling in the Rafflecopter form below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bonfire Night: You are doing it wrong

We went to the local bonfire night event last night, and it was wrong in so many ways that there was a point at which Richard and I both gave up and sat on the floor with our heads in our hands at the immeasurable incorrectness of it all.  Here is why:

1. It wasn't on actual Guy Fawkes night.  However, we will forgive this point as it is much more convenient to go and watch fireworks at the weekend when you have children.

2. It cost £6.00 per adult and £4.00 per child to get in.  A crude bit of mathematics on my fingers tells me that this totals £20.00 for your average family of four.  TWENTY QUID.  TO WATCH SOME FIREWORKS.  WHICH LASTED 15 MINUTES. (we'll get to that later).

3. As we walked through the gates into the park, we were greeted by the most disagreeable, eerie sound one could imagine to hear on a cold, dark night in November:  Someone doing a Punch and Judy show.  Are you kidding me?  Punch and Judy is petrifying even on a hot summer's day, but I assure you that hearing Mr Punch's unearthly, nasal screech penetrating the darkness is enough to send you running in the opposite direction.

4. I'm still on the Punch and Judy show here.  Lets suppose that people actually like Punch and Judy (which is a huge suspension of disbelief, because nobody actually does): What is the point of putting it on in the dark at an event attended by thousands of people?  It takes place in a tiny puppet theatre booth, making it impossible for more than about 50 people to see it.  Whereas we all got to hear every single haunting "Mr Crocodile is coming for you" and "that's the way to do it" because they'd mic'd it up so that it could be heard for miles around, with extra added reverb to make it even more terrifying.

5. Sparklers were banned for health and safety reasons.  I know they're dangerous.  I know.  But they're fun.  And anyway, they were replaced by a stall that sold light sabres for the kids to swoosh around instead.  I refer you back to the health and safety point here.  Whoever decided to replace sparklers with light sabres has obviously not got a child, because if they had a child, they'd have been poked in the eye with a light sabre, or belted over the head with one, or prodded in the guts, or worse.  I'm quite glad that Rich and I have made the decision not to have any more children, because after the blow to the spuds that he took with one of said light sabres, I'm not sure he'd be capable of providing me with any.

6. It was hosted by someone who I can only compare to Brian Potter off of Phoenix Nights.  We were subject to what felt like hours of inane gibberish and playing for time via another microphone.  At one point he was joined by some bloke from the fireworks team, leading to a particularly unfunny Chuckle Brothers effect.  We did at least three countdowns to the start fireworks, by which point, nobody cared any more. "FOR GODS SAKE, SOMEONE SHOVE ONE UP HIS ARSE" heckled a bloke from behind me to a small but vehement chorus of approval from those around him.

7. More health and safety:  a) apparently the ground was too wet to put any fairground rides up.  This doesn't bother me, because why on earth does a bonfire and firework display require fairground rides anyway?  b) It had rained a bit earlier in the week, so they couldn't do the bonfire.  Whaaaaat?  I remember watching bonfires in cascading rain in the 80s and 90s.  Other displays around the area managed to have bonfires, why couldn't we? Basically, we were charged £6.00 per head, but two of the main attractions (aforementioned pointless fairground rides and a bonfire) were not on.  Gah.

8. When Brian Potter had finally stopped talking and the (admittedly lovely) fireworks had started, someone whacked up what seemed to be something along the lines of Greatest Club Classics 2007 on the speakers.  Seriously?  Fireworks don't require backing music, especially not when it's shit backing music.  One of the other local displays apparently had their fireworks to the music from Star Wars, which is a bit pointless, but at least makes sense.  Or if you really wanted music, you could have fireworks to a rousing classical piece.  Handel wrote a one entitled 'Music for the Royal Fireworks', which gives you a strong clue that it might be suitable.  Something that sounds like it's pounding out of a squalid nightclub at chucking out time is generally not.

9. The fireworks lasted 15 minutes.  They were beautiful.  But 15 minutes long.  For £6.00 per head.

Here's what I want instead.  Take note local firework event planners:

A bonfire:  A Big One.  One that a Guy is chucked on at some point, because, after all, Guy Fawkes is what this night is all about.  There's a best Guy competition early in the evening, possibly presented by a self important middle aged man with a megaphone. There are hotdogs - made with real sausages, which several dads are cooking on huge barbecues - none of that frankfurter malarkey.  Real sausages, fried onions, mustard, tomato ketchup.  Also, enormous jacket potatoes in tin foil with baked beans and cheese.  And toffee apples, and possibly those apples on sticks dipped in chocolate and hundreds and thousands, which are basically just toffee apples for wusses.  Steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows and a nice WI bake sale table with cakes.  If it's deemed necessary, perhaps there would be some old fashioned village fete games like splat the rat and hook a duck.  AND THEY WOULD COST 50 PENCE PER GO, NOT 3 QUID.  There are sparklers everywhere, because people are not goddamn stupid and follow the clearly set out safety precautions.  They could even be kept in a designated area if necessary.

Fireworks would be announced, by the self important man with a loudspeaker from earlier and would last about 40 minutes.  They wouldn't be as fancy or coordinated as the ones we're used to now, but that's all part of it.  A few firecrackers go off and everybody cheers.  Pause for a few minutes while some dads in day-glo orange tabards set up the Catherine Wheels, and everybody goes "oooh, look, it's time for the Catherine Wheels now", because it's exciting, you know?  Three rockets go off together.  Yes, three.  "OOOOOOOOOH" says everybody, followed by an "AHHHHHHHH" at the quieter, prettier fountains showering sparks everywhere.  The display is punctuated by orange tabarded dads bravely running up setting lights to them, then pegging it back to the crowd whilst trying to maintain a hint of masculinity.  It's all a lot calmer, a bit quieter, a bit old-school and one hell of a lot more charming.  "AND THERE'LL BE A LOAD OF BOYS STANDING AROUND NEAR THE BONFIRE CHUCKING CANS OF BAKED BEANS INTO IT" interjects my husband excitedly.  I don't think this is entirely safe or necessary and it's probably something that was only ever a 'thing' in Trowbridge where he grew up, but you have to admire his enthusiasm.

There's no fairground rides to pay for or freaky Punch and Judy show.  And most importantly, everyone goes home when it's all over feeling like they've had a cosy evening out rather than like they've left the house for half an hour and been robbed blind.  How novel.  Just a thought.

Crocs Winter Boots Review

Items of clothing that I was not allowed in the 80s:

1. Neon socks.
2. Neon hairbands
3. Anything else that was neon.
4. A puffball skirt.
5. A body warmer.
6. Moon boots.

Everyone else was allowed everything on that list.  Everyone.  Not me though.,  My mum said that they were neither classic nor chic and that they wouldn't suit me.  I'm not sure why that mattered because as a child I couldn't be described as chic in the slightest, but for reasons only known to my mother, I was dressed instead in neat pinafores, Laura Ashley dresses, red wellies and cream tights.  Not cool.

When I was sent this paid of Crocs Crocband Multi 11.5 Winter Boots to review, my fashion deprived inner child was full of the sort of inappropriate glee that you get from defying your parents.  Because, look - they're more or less styled on moon boots!  A definite mind trip back to the 80s.

On taking them out for a jaunt around the local countryside, I discovered that like moon boots, they're very warm because of all the padding, and they're waterproof and although I couldn't locate any ice or snow in this weather, I could tell that the soles are grippy enough to be perfect for those sorts of conditions.  What makes them different is that the shoe part of the boots are made from Croslite™, which is the closed cell resin material that Crocs are made from.  This is a lightweight, non-marking and odour resistant material and very comfortable.

All great, right?  Just one problem:  I had nothing to wear them with.  Well, I had skinny jeans, which tuck into them perfectly, but otherwise I was at a loss.  It seems that my mother's obsession with buying 'classics' has infiltrated my life, and I find myself with a wardrobe full of velvet, fake fur and smart wool.  The jeans are about as casual as I get.  I ended up having to steal a stripy top from my husband's wardrobe for the purpose of the photo (below), but what I feel they really need is a sportier style and maybe a Back To The Future style body warmer.  Or gilet.  I think they're called gilets these days.  I wouldn't know: they're on the list of contraband clothing of my childhood.  Anyway, my friend Jo tried them on and they looked really good on her.  I'm not convinced that I quite pull them off.  Maybe my mum was right after all.

If you're somewhat cooler than me (not a great challenge), have a wardrobe full of pretentiously named body warmers and want to buy some of these retro babies, they're available now at £69.99 on the Crocs website.

I was sent this pair of boots to test free of charge.  All opinions are my own.