Saturday, 23 February 2013

My new phone is too cool for me.

So, I won this phone in a competition.  I had no business entering a competition to win a £350 mobile phone in the first place seeing as I generally end up dropping them down the toilet and Rory enjoys dipping them in tubs of taramasalata in place of pitta bread.  But hey ho, I won it, and several weeks on I find myself in possession of a piece of kit that wouldn't be out of place in the Gadget Show.

It has already caused me all manner of embarrassment.  Firstly, I had to call the T-Mobile Indian call centre to sort my contract out, which made me want to cry.  Then I had to google the name of my phone while I was talking to them because I had no idea how to pronounce it (thank you very much to the bloke who did a review of it on YouTube).  Then I got the sim card stuck in the wrong orifice and had to find a pair of tweezers to extract it with while everyone in the call centre laughed at me because of course they'd put me on speaker phone.  Can now never go to India.

It turns out that that exercise in humiliation was just the tip of the iceberg, because even now I've got it up and running, I still have no idea how to actually use the thing.

The first person to call me on it was the features editor of the glossy magazine who I once accidentally sent a text message to informing her that I had a slug that looked like Boris Johnson in the kitchen.  We have never discussed this matter.  I suspect she thinks I'm a massive tool already, an opinion that can only have been compounded after hearing me calling at my smart new phone a spawny little twat because I thought (incorrectly) I couldn't work out how to answer it.  Ever professional.

Also thought I'd have a go at taking some photos with it.  Attempted to take some of Rory and I together, but I looked like a potato in every single one.  Rory (3) tutted, grabbed the phone, pointed it at me, somehow took a decent picture and then proceeded to edit it into cinematic black and white with a nice crackly effect over the top. HOW?

Was going to - you know - download an app or something on it.  First need to find out what an app actually is, but cannot admit this to husband.  And anyway, I can't even find the comma on the touch screen typepad doodah, so best not to run before I can walk.

The upshot is that I am just not cool enough for my phone.  Every day it sits there, silently mocking me.  I can almost imagine it shaking its head in despair at the disappointing owner inflicted upon it.  It could have done so much better.  If it was a man, it would be metaphorically patting me on the head and telling me I'm fun before scarpering back to its infinitely cooler ex girlfriend.  If it was a band, it would be The Magnetic Fields (everyone whose taste in music I respect loves them, yet I listen to 69 Love Songs and hear only a mishmash of tuneless, self indulgent tosspottery).  If it was a teenage girl it would be slagging me off behind my back about my inability to accessorize.  We have a serious inferiority complex going on here.

"Show it who's boss," said one of my friends. "Don't let it know that you're scared of it.  You own that phone's ass."  She is right. So I decided to have a go at activating the voice commands, with the result that it now sends an email every time I say "shitshitshitbollocks" in a panicked tone of voice.  I think we both know who's the boss; it's the smug little Motorola number in the corner.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Magic Moves Electronic Wand Review

You know what was rubbish about primary school?  Music and Movement.  Did you do Music and Movement at your school?  You know, when the teacher would wheel out the enormous faux wood tape player and everyone would have to frolic around the room to plinky plonky music pretending to be a flower nymph or similar wearing only their vests and pants? The vest and pants was possibly the worst bit, especially if, like me you had the propensity to forget to put your knickers on of a morning so had to borrow a greying pair with ropey elastic from the spare clothes box.

Anyway, yes, Music and Movement was rubbish and I was overjoyed when I left primary school and never had to do it again.

Wait? Never?  Not never as it happens.  Because after my A-levels I went to drama school, which seemed like a good idea in theory.  In practice, it actually meant three long years of more Music and Movement.  With a hangover.  "Be a tree, put your roots down and feel your branches swaaaay, bounce like a frog, swoop like an eagle..."  Prance like a bell end? Oh, knob off.

Acting and I eventually parted company and I trained to be a primary school teacher.  "You can be our School Sports Coordinator" said the head, "seeing as you, er, go the gym and stuff." Well, that sounds good.  Only, do you know what School Sports Coordinators actually do?  They go on courses to learn how to teach pissing Music and Movement, that's what. Twenty adults past their peak standing in a school hall wearing tracksuits and desperate for a fag being forced to perform forward rolls on a mat and scratch the floor like chickens. (Slight digression: They also have to go on Orienteering and Adventure Sports courses, during which I got my team lost because I couldn't read a map meant for eight year olds, then fell into a swamp which we were trying to cross on milk crates because a group of Year 11 boys heckled my breasts from the safety of the canteen window).

But now it's OK because writers don't have to do Music and Movement, and neither do parents if they avoid all the annoying, rainbow farting tots music classes and Rhymetime stuff.  So why did I find myself 'creeping like a cheetah' and 'leaping like a hare' yesterday?  Oh that's right, we got sent a Magic Moves Electric Wand to review.



It's a large plastic wand with flashing lights that your child (suggested ages: 3-7 years) can wave about whilst dancing.  Not a sex toy, which is what it looks like, although if you're into humiliation and being told what to do by a bossy yet perky woman, go for your life.  Pressing the buttons makes it issue commands such as "hop like a kangaroo" followed by a short piece of suitable music to dance to.  It's supposed to develop listening skills, teach your child to move appropriately to different styles of music and keep them fit and healthy.  Rory immediately liked it - anything with buttons to press that lights up and makes an unholy racket is going to be a hit with him.  And I must admit that it does fit in excellently with the sort of activities that are done in early years education for these types of learning.  There are 90 different prompts, which stops the activity from getting repetitive, and at random intervals, children are instructed to 'freeze' or 'dance', which Rory really liked.  It is basically like a very small, light up PE teacher.

It definitely did what it was supposed to do (wore him out), although after a bit, he sat down on his chair and continued to press the button, leaving his father and I 'wriggling like worms' on the floor and looking at each other with that "WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?" expression that you find yourselves frequently wearring as a parent.  My main criticism is that the voice of the wand is American, so the listening bit goes straight out of the window as every command was followed by Rory shooting me a puzzled look and I had to translate for him.  I do think he'll use it quite often though as he definitely found it fun.  I didn't so much find it fun as found it a convenient way of getting my child knackered enough to sleep through for once.  Yes, £14.95 worth of blissful slumber came my way last night.  Thank you Learning Resources.


We were send a Magic Moves Electronic Wand in exchange for a review.  I did not receive payment.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Healthy new lifestyle starting in 5, 4, 3, 2...

I did a little test over at Patient.co.uk.  You spend 10 minutes answering questions and it tells you how healthy you are by giving you a score out of 100.  It works like the baby centile growth charts that you ignored followed faithfully in their red books for the first year of your child's life in that it ranks you in an imaginary queue of people with 0 being very poor health and 100 being excellent health.

Nobody was more surprised than me when I ranked at number 78.  Get me.  However, the site informs me that there is definite room for improvement and has provided me with an action plan to improve my health over the next few months.  I can set myself goals and update my info as I go along so I can see how much my health has improved.  Handy.

On to the grim reality of what was wrong then:  Basically it appears that stress is a major problem for me - the only major problem with my health at all actually.  This is followed by two minor issues which are more 'room for improvement' than 'cause for concern' and these are my diet and my weight.  I'm fairly fit, exercise a fair amount and am only a size 12, but I am about 1 point over the BMI ideal range for my height and my clothes are tighter than I'd like, so it's no great surprise to me that this needs addressing.  Astoundingly, my alcohol intake is exemplary.  I make no secret of the fact that I like a drink, but I've been so stressed recently that I feel too sick to drink it, hence the good score.

Anyway, in order to start making changes I need to take a good hard look at myself.  Here's where it all tends to go wrong:

Typical Weekday:

6am - Up for a run, home before 7, shower, get dressed, whizz up some soya milk, a banana and some spinach for breakfast, drink lots of water, basking in smugness.

8am - Wave husband off to work, give Rory some breakfast, check emails while he's engrossed in the TV.  Nothing needs actioning.  All good.

9am - Clean bathroom, put washing in washing machine, do ironing.  Still smug.

10am - Take Rory into town to post stuff and go to the library.  He asks the woman in the post office why her face is so grumpy and does a runner during Story Time.  Would not mind but did not even want to go to Story Time, what with Norovirus doing the rounds and everything.  Bump into Local Smug Mummy who only feeds her child wholefoods as I am purchasing a Choc Dip to keep Rory quiet.  We smile fakely at each other for five excruciating minutes as she explains to me that she's on a diet because her size 8 jeans are a smidge too tight as she's been eating too many raisins.  Silently grind inner axe.

12pm - Return from town.  How did I not notice that the apocalypse had hit my living room before I went out earlier?  Attempt to scrape dried on Coco Pops off the table before giving it up as a bad job because Rory's whining about being hungry.  Kitchen in similar state of devastation.  Why do I not learn to clean it before I go out anywhere?  Knock up cheese sandwich for child. Eat mainly his sandwich crusts and cheese for lunch. Mull over encounter with Local Smug Mummy and come to the conclusion that at least it was better than the time I bumped into her whilst stuffing a Big Mac into my face with epic hangover, still stinking of vodka when Rich and Rory were visiting my inlaws for a few days. She told me that she couldn't bear to let her child go anywhere without her as she loves him too much. And she gave my Big Mac a dirty look.  Make mental note to start buying brown rice and lentils.

1pm - Check emails again.  Shit.  Everyone has emailed me at once, I have three deadlines looming, at least one of which I'd forgotten about and a to do list that takes up nearly two sides of A4.

1.10pm - Survey to do list.  Panic a bit.  Ignore it and play Solitaire.

1.20pm - Feel guilty for playing Solitaire while I should be working.  Feel guilty for working while I should be playing with my son.  Hide in the kitchen eating crisps.

1.30pm - Feel guilty for eating crisps.  Rummage in cupboards and eat Rory's Jelly Tots, chocolate stash and a quarter of a block of cheddar instead of doing work or playing with child.  BAD, FAT PARENT.

1.35pm - Play cars with Rory to cancel out the guilt of not doing any work and eating the kitchen and everything in it.

2:00pm - Really must do some work.  Right after I've emptied the washing machine.  Oh, washing machine broken again.  Really should phone someone about that. When I've done some work. And eaten this Kit Kat.

2:30pm - Doing some work.  Don't know what I was being so dramatic about.  Is perfectly easy to write an article whilst son plays quietly with lego in the other room. Tinkly music much like Murder She Wrote theme tune playing blissfully in head as I type.

2:40pm -Voice of Rory from the other room:  "And NOW for my latest insperiment.  You poooooouuur the water into the shoe..." MOTHER OF CHRIST, IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DO ANY WORK WITH 3 YEAR OLD IN THE HOUSE.

2:45pm - Is OK. It's not my shoe.  Will leave him to it.

3:20pm - Read article through.  That will have to do, will edit it later.  Foolishly google latest Norovirus statistics.  Not that I'm obsessed or anything.  Panic quietly and resolve to douse Rory in antibacterial hand gel every time he's been anywhere.  Google antibacterial hand gel. Apparently it doesn't work on Norovirus.  Panic a bit more.  Survey unsupervised child related carnage.  Step gingerly over bunch of grapes that have been involved in a sticklebrick squashing incident.  Empty water and floating grapes from shoe.  Gather up plethora of clothing, cushion covers etc that now need washing due to child being left unsupervised for half an hour.

3:25pm - Washing machine STILL broken.  Why have the magic pixies not fixed it?

3:30pm - Do jigsaw with Rory.  Help him write his name.  Do letters and numbers.  Do colouring in.  Construct tractor out of bog roll tube.  Get playdough out.

4:30pm - Add dried on playdough to the list of things that now need chiseling off the table.  Pick playdough out of seven toy cars with the end of a teaspoon.  Go at sofa with a scrubbing brush to get playdough out of upholstery.  Remember why we never get the playdough out.

4:45pm - Really should check work emails again, but what I really feel I need to be doing right now is perfecting my recipe for self-saucing lemon drizzle cake in a mug.  This is one of those things that those cool bloggers with proper lifestyle blogs write about.  One day, I plan to set up a parallel blog to this one which will feature home decor, style and beauty tips, music, recipes and craft tutorials.  First will need to be able to afford to get my hair cut and buy some clothes that a) look stylish and b) don't have holes in, and will also need to do more than just throw mascara haphazardly at my face every morning, and have food in the cupboards that isn't fish fingers and baked beans and a house that isn't trashed and fix the bathroom and lose a stone in weight as currently look like the before photo in an advert encouraging women to lose that pesky Christmas 9lbs and take the Spiderman theme tune off repeat on the iPod.  THIS WILL BE NEVER.  But on the off-chance that it isn't, you guys had better be ready for my lemon drizzle in a mug recipe because it will take the internet by storm, I assure you.

5:00pm - Verdict: Very nice, but I sense that I will need to perfect the recipe some more at exactly the same time tomorrow afternoon.

5:05pm - Check work emails.  Email from editor changing entire brief of what I've just written.  Respond saying "no problem" whilst really wanting to smash things.

5:30pm - Get Rory's tea.  Nibble disconsolately on a fish finger.  Spend quality 10 minutes fretting about Norovirus.

6:00pm - Remove two thirds of Rory's tea from the floor, where it has been ground in.

6:15pm - Chisel the remaining third of it off the table along with the Coco Pops and Playdough.

6:30pm - Half an hour until Daddy gets home.  Emergency clean up operation. SWEEP, HOOVER, TIDY, SPRAY, DUST, STACK, WIPE.

7:00pm - Arrange face into that of wife delighted to be reunited with her one true love at the end of the working day rather than that of knackered mother desperate to offload child and have a sit down.  Husband walks in, says "I've got a migraine", lies down on the sofa with a cold flannel over his eyes and doesn't move all night.

7:30pm - Put Rory to bed.  Read 3 chapters of the Folk of the Faraway Tree. Likely to give me nightmares later on;  Moonface and the Saucepan Man gallivanting across a land made entirely of spoons and the like.

8:00pm - Husband with migraine doesn't want any dinner. No point in doing proper cooking just for me.  Oven chips it is then.

8:30pm - Rory singing medley of inappropriate punk songs of the late 70s in bed.

9:00pm - Re-do article.  Flump on sofa for a bit.  "You look worried, what are you thinking about?" asks husband.  "Umm, work", I lie.  He threatened to divorce me if I mentioned Norovirus one more time this month.

11:00pm - Go to bed.  Check Rory to see if his head feels hot several times.  Soothe self to sleep in the knowledge that tomorrow is a day that I haven't cocked up yet and I will start it with a saintly run in the morning.

3:00am - Wake up to Rory shouting "COCKLEDOODLEDOO!" Takes 2 hours to get both him and me back to sleep.  Kiss goodbye to morning run.  Could fancy some toast.


See?  All interlinked.  I wouldn't need to worry about my diet or my weight if I wasn't so stressed.

Handily, the website gives me a list of things to help with stress, so I just have to try to apply them to the above scenario and all should be well.  I have to keep a stress diary (done - see above), discuss regular causes of my stress with a close friend or relative (err, maybe will not mention Norovirus to husband though), do deep breathing, plan relaxation time, take time out for me, exercise more and take up a hobby which has no deadlines or pressures associated with it.

OK.  I can do that.  Wish me luck and I'll update you with my progress in a month or so.

Meanwhile, go and register over at Patient.co.uk and take the health test - let me know how you get on.







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