Archive for March, 2010

Last night, before the sublime Glee, I sat down to watch the Chancellor’s debate. Billed as a warm up to the 3 leader’s debates, I was interested to see what the different men had to say, and how they said it.

In the Blue corner was Tory Boy George Osbourne. He always seems a little ‘nice but dim’, and it has been said that no other politician would suit a regency wig quite as well as the shadow chancellor. In the Red corner, Alistair Darling. I feel quite sorry for Alistair, I’m sure he’s the butt of many a blackadder style joke with his unfortunate surname. Then in the middle, for the Yellow team, Vince Cable. A name that makes me think of 70’s dodgy moustaches.

The debate started with 1 minute statements, and then proceeded with preselected questions from the audience. It was reminiscent of Questiontime, but more focused, and more polite. The first question concerned the qualifications and qualities that each man brought to the job. Cable mentioned his private sector experience, Darling could talk about being Chancellor through the worst recession in 70 years, and Osbourne… well he talked about his ideals, but didn’t seem to have any experience to bring to the job.

They went on to discuss job creation, tax, spending and so on. There were few revelations (though the abandonment of the death tax was one – which is a shame, I like that idea! It’s not like I can use the money when I’m gone!). There were no major gaffs (a relief to the Tories apparently!), a couple of laughs, and some interesting discussion.

There are clear differences between the parties, and these debates will help to highlight those differences. The Tories are returning to form, with large cuts in spending, and cuts in taxes. The Libdems will cut everywhere, with no ring fencing (a fair, but possibly unpopular approach). Labour will ringfence, and cut later. The possibility of cross-party co-operation came up – which is good when they are in session, but bad for voters – because it reduces our choices.

The papers (and twitter!) are obsessed about who ‘won’ the debate. I don’t think there were any winners, other than democracy. All the candidates performed well, and anyone watching will have a clearer idea of the policies of the 3 parties. Who was watching though? probably people who have already decided who to vote for, and have an interest in politics. It was competing with Coronation Street afterall…


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I grow weary. Apparently, and despite being thoroughly CRB checked, I will need yet another check under the newly introduced Vetting and Barring scheme. I have yet to find any credible reason for this decision and find it utterly bizarre especially as the Criminal Records Bureau will oversee these new checks.. The necessity for a new CRB check to be carried out every time someone works for a new organisation already seems nonsensical. Despite already having a recent enhanced CRB for work the Local Authority still insist I have another one if I want to be a parent volunteer at the children’s school. I needed a fresh CRB check when I had a 20 year old student do a family placement in our home and have just been informed I need a further check if I want to continue in my role as treasurer for a small branch of a voluntary organisation. One can only presume the accounts have some sort of at-risk status that needs protecting. The fact that CRB checks are not transferable within a given time frame is absurd and the mind boggles that why after several clean bills of health to my integrity I need to submit myself to further vetting.

Midst all this red tape and procedure let us remember why these new safeguards were introduced ; to prevent another Soham tragedy. Yet many believe many believe these precautions would not have prevented that tragedy from occuring and it is simply penalising the innocent. There has been much outcry from voluntary organisations about the impact of the new Vetting and Barring Scheme with fears it could sound the death knell for volunteering. It will have consequences for other sectors too. The media is littered with stories about health cuts yet millions of health workers who have current CRB documentation will need to register with this new agency. Times are lean, is duplicating paperwork really a good use of the public purse?

I remain befuddled why after being well acquainted with the CRB form I need to jump through further hoops to register with this new body. Is this another example of the current Labour administration’s propensity for mindless bureaucracy? Is this simply a money spinning exercise under the guise of safeguarding to generate coffers for the Treasury? Or are we simply becoming more paranoid in our pursuit of a no-risk society? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments section!) please

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This is what we should all be doing, yes?  If you’re still unsure how to vote, try this quiz and see if it helps:


I just did it, and although there was an overwhelming majority in my answers, there were one or two surprises!

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Baby Slings are still safe!

In the USA last week a statement was issued by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission regarding the safety of ’sling style infant carriers’, in particular regarding their use with infants under 4 months of age.

This news has now broken in the UK with the Daily Mail giving their usual unbalanced opinion under the shocking headline: Yummy Mummy Baby Slings May Kill! The Times ran a much more sensible version of the same story.    

While the death of any baby is an immense personal tragedy for the family involved, I think it is important to get some perspective.  We are talking about 14 deaths of infants over a 20 year period in the USA.  The USA is a big place, an awful lot of babies were born over that 20 year period.  This is a rhetorical question I know, but I can’t help wondering how many babies who were carried regularly in slings during that period would have died from cot death alone in a crib, or in accidents in buggies and prams had they not been slung by their parents?

Most importantly, all of the deaths were associated with one particular style of baby sling, one that is known as a ‘bag style’ sling.  In a bag-style sling the deep pouch where the baby sits puts the baby in a potentially suffocating curved or “C” like position. This design of sling may also cause the baby’s face to turn in toward a caregiver’s body, increasing the risk of suffocation. 

In my opinion the real tragedy would be if inaccurate and scaremongering news reports on this issue led parents to be afraid of carrying their babies in a sling at all. The many benefits of babywearing are well documented.  Using a sling is good for babies and a sling can be a godsend for parents, especially if you have a baby who hates to be put down!

The vast majority of baby slings and carriers are perfectly safe, as long as they are used correctly.  These ‘safe’ sling types include ring slings, shallow pouch slings, wrap slings and mei-tai style carriers.

 The golden rules for sling safety, especially when carrying a newborn in a sling are:

  • Your baby should be close enough to kiss
  • Your Baby’s face should be visible
  • The position should be high and snug
  • Your baby should never have his chin resting on its chest
  • Your baby’s back should be straight and supported
  • Your baby’s head should be supported until they have good head control

Further information on baby sling safety and the benefits of babywearing:

Press release in response to the CPSC statement sponsored by The Consortium of UK Sling Manufacturers and Retailers

Babies Need Touch – the benefits of babywearing

Babywearing – the real deal on safety – an excellent blog post on the subject

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It’s that time of the year again, the wedding anniversary. Seven or eight years? I really can’t remember, the early years all seem to merge into a great big foggy haze of babies crying, evenings exhausted, staring through the television at some mindless US show and sleepless nights. It can easy to allow the sheer difficulty of getting out of the house with children to cloud the parts of a marriage or long term partnership that are important and which do bring pleasure. Sometimes you can be just too bloody exhausted to stand back objectively and ponder on the value of what you are building.

A few things in the news over the past couple of months have paved the way for various musings in the press about the institute of marriage. On the one hand the tabloid coverage of the very dignified separation and divorce of Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes and on the other the broadsheets dissection of the Tory policy of rewarding married couples. Cameron’s assessment of labour’s opposition to the policy concluded that “Labour’s pathological inability to recognise that marriage is a good thing puts them on completely the wrong side of their own dividing line….I think marriage is a good institution. I don’t need an opinion poll to tell me whether it is or is isn’t. That’s just what I think.”

So what do I make of Cameron’s view? Just that it’s a view, a personal view and really not the type of view, in my view, that hard fought political campaigns should be fought on. There are much more important battles to fight. In any case, what about long term partnerships? Why should they be any less valid. Many people who don’t have loving partnerships marry, whilst those who do can stay together, happily, for years.

Anyway I digress, this is about marriage so back to it.

The most poignant article I read this week about marriage, was by Alice Thomson in The Times, with her natty title, “We Mustn’t Divorce Ourselves from Marriage”. Her lovely description of Michael Foot and Jill Craigie made me yearn for that type of companionship when I am old(er) and grey(er).

The best advice that came my way was my divorced mother thoughtfully reflecting on marriage the other evening after a bottle of  Merlot.  Listening to your mother is something that as teenager I would have baulked at, but in hindsight her advice was spot on and, as I get older, I find myself reflecting on her wise comments that evening about the institute of marriage.

Watching all those around her, go through difficult times, ups and downs, moments of falling out of love and back in love – more deeply than before, she firmly believes that there is something those people have that is immensely precious and a gift that in our thirties and forties we are very easy to dismiss.

Her reflections are to a certain extent based on Buddhist teachings. Mark Epstein, who wrote, Thoughts Without a Thinker, writes that “Like everything else in Buddhist tradition, the purpose of love and marriage is to be a vehicle for awakening.” Epstein looks at how we can engage productively with relationships. He writes that “Buddhism is about investigating all the different self-experiences with the ultimate goal of knowing true reality, knowing self and other – and in an intense emotional relationship like marriage the experience of the self is stretched.”

In Jungian theory marriage could be seen as an important component for the process of individuation, the emergence of self-awareness and the inner marriage of the self. Ultimately the marriage should allow you to grow as an individual by challenging you to go within.

Marriage may come easy for some, but for others it needs to be worked at, or worked through. I have friends who have been to Relate, friends who no longer have sex, friends don’t go out with each other, or don’t go out at all but they seem to mostly come through it, if they work at it, and are happier than ever.

So as this next anniversary rolls up,  the kids are older, my mother had offered to take them for a weekend, a whole weekend, I’m giddy with excitement and the biggest challenge facing this marriage right now it where we are going to go.

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Mother’s Day

Some of the LaptopMums contributors share their thoughts on Mother’s Day. We would love to hear yours in the comments section.

Puddlepie:I’m apparently the best mummy in the whole wide world universe. I’m even better than all the Alien mummies. But I don’t feel like it much of the time. So much of my life is compromise. Compromise between family and work, between mum and wife, and forget just being ‘me’! When the kids are ill, the first thought is so often about who can manage to wangle half a days leave, rather than about their welfare. Thankfully though, at the age they are, it doesn’t seem to matter. I tuck them into bed with lots of kisses and cuddles most days, and thats what counts. So this mothers day, I’m going to celebrate the things I do well, and try and do more of them.

LadyBlahBlahs: SiL2 was visiting on my very first mother’s day. I mentioned this to my darling husband who looked horrified, then said ‘Oh, never mind, SiL1 can take her out’. It took a while for me to realise that he meant his own mother, rather than his wife who had spent the last 5 months in a state of shock looking after his daughter with no sleep. I don’t think he’ll make that mistake again.

The other day when I did nursery pick up, children were coming out with bunches of paper flowers they’d made for their mums out of their handprints. I was instantly taken back to doing exactly the same thing for my own mother, sitting at the kitchen table with my sister. I like these long standing traditions, and my paper flowers will be far more precious than a card bought in tesco at the last minute.

I always find mother’s day is fraught with dilemma. Is it a time for me to make a fuss of my own mum and her mum or is it OK to be self indulgent? Should I spend the day doing something fun with my daughter or should I bugger off to the spa for the day? This year, we will be taking the little lady out to do something fun, and I’ve booked to go to a spa with some friends in a couple of weeks. Perfect!

BeeBeeF: When I was a kid we didnt ‘do’ Mother’s Day. Mum said she didnt want flowers or presents, just for us to ‘help around the house’. As a teen, I would have much prefered to bung her a bunch of daffs and continue to ignore her rather than actually have to lift a finger to help. Poor Mum. I did manage to send her a card this year though. Now I am a mum myself, I am happy to accept any and all gifts and treats from my daughters, even though at this stage we are talking stuff they have been forced to make at school. I think last year I treated myself to a daytime nap as well. But at their age it pretty much is all down to their Dad to organise something. I remember when my eldest daughter was a baby I got the serious hump with my husband as he had made no effort for Mother’s Day at all. When I challenged him about it, he was genuinely perplexed: ‘you’re not my mum!’. I asked him who our children going to learn about proper Mother’s Day etiquette from, if not him. He has been much better since.

Cassisdijon: This year is the first year that I’m going to get a proper Mother’s Day surprise. My eleven year old daughter and her friends have made a shopping date and they’re going to the shops tomorrow (on their own, eek!) to choose gifts for their mums. My girl has been unsubtly probing me all week about what I’d like, so I hope Mother’s Day will be heavy on the book tokens and light on the cheap chocolate.

Meanwhile, my pragmatic six year old boy has made me a delightful card that reads “to MY best mummy”. He’s under no illusion that I’m the best mummy anyone could get; just that I’m the best he has. Quite right too. And my tiny girl has made me oomething chocolatey at nursery, that I’m not sure about eating due to her hygiene habits.

At the end of the day, though, Mother’s Day for me is still about my mum, my tiny, fallible, loving little mum who does so much for me every day even though I’m nearly 30. My sisters and I like to present her with a table full of food she likes and give her a gift we know she wants, so she knows how much we love her despite the mistakes she may have made along the way. If my children still feel like that about me when they’re my age, I think I’ll have done an OK job.

Agnodice: My eldest child produced a hand made Mothers Day card from his book bag the other day and whispered conspiratorially that it was a surprise before dashing upstairs. His intention of hiding it under his bed faltered when he got distracted in the process and left it lying in the middle of his bedroom floor for me to find when I was tidying later! My middle child confidentially told me that he was making heart shaped biscuits for me at school on Friday but to keep it a secret! He has been well primed by his teacher, he has told me he will sing me a special song and tidy his toys away on Sunday. The household tyrant aka my youngest child is too young to know the significance of the day and it is unlikely she will gift me a few hours extra unbroken sleep from her. Nevertheless she will smile and gurgle and bestow upon me that look of adoration that infants reserve for their mothers.

Mothering Sunday is one of those occasions, like Christmas, where if you are a signed up member of the club it is a delightful day. However for those women who are struggling with infertility or anyone who has lost their own mother it is a day coloured with loss and sadness. I am thankful for my little brood and their heartfelt efforts and will try to be mindful of those who will for whatever reason find it a sad or poignant day.

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Do you care about science?

Boffins in their ivory towers are surely irrelevant to many people during a recession, when we’re beginning to worry about whether there will be enough teachers for our schools, and whether it’ll take one or two months to see a GP. But funding for science is crucial during recessions. A recent report by the Royal Society shows, with robust data, that investing in basic research during times of recession results in economic growth.
The report emphasises the important of science education at school level, with a need for science specialists in primary schools, and that growth needs to come via investment in Universities. This at a time when the UK government is cutting higher education funding by nearly £1 billion.
Investment in Universities and schools has knock-on effects throughout the whole economy. Just this morning I was chatting to a friend, whose husband now may lose his job, because of the cancellation of a library extension at a large University. He works for a moving company – and big builds produce big contracts – someone needed to move all those books, desks, etc. The scale of the impact of public sector cuts is huge – but not just in the public sector. All of the economy will suffer.
So next time you dismiss the boffins in their ivory towers, remember that Science is one of the few areas of the economy in which Britain is still truely world-leading, and think on the importance of science, and investment in education for the wider economy.

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