A weekend away…

Relieved. That’s the look on the faces of the family we’ve just left behind. The car is packed, full of toys, gadgets, oh and don’t forget those ‘two little darlings of yours’. A weekend away just isn’t complete without a toddler.

It all started out so innocently. Let’s catch up with our friends in Inverness. Why I would subject my friends to this, if I wanted to keep them as such was my first mistake? Anyway I set off on a three hour road trip from Glasgow to Inverness. The usual antics took place as I tried to appease Rocco Xavier, two, and bribe him with the promised land; a trip to McDonalds. His brother Paolo Felix, four, is my confidante as we shake our heads in unison, sighing ‘where did we get him from?’

Though I wouldn’t change Rocco for the world, and on the whole I find his naughty mischievous persona quite amusing at home – it’s a different story on tour. He’s got a twinkle in his eye as if he knows a secret, and although I’m being unashamedly biased he’s special, loveable and a downright rogue. At home this little character and his equally adorable but slightly more sensitive brother are a hoot. Paolo adopts the big brother role and quite cleverly steers his younger sibling away from this toy or that, using negotiating skills essential for the Peace Core, and all the while assuring his little brother his best interests are at heart. He’s the leader of the pack and a beautiful wee boy.

Enough gloating. That’s the way I see them but I’ve since learnt that’s not quite everyone else’s experience of them. I, a competent mother of two, decided to take them North to catch up with some friends. We’d moved to Inverness in Summer ’09 and spent two happy years and two very harsh winters in the Highlands. Having met some wonderful and vibrant friends here and an extra special child-minder in Mary, I was keen to get back up and see everyone. There could only be one place to stay and that was Jackie O’s house. It’s the type of house where everyone sits in the kitchen and doesn’t leave. It’s a home, it’s their home but as soon as you’re there it somehow feels like yours too. Well, that is until your two year old breaks a window. We’d only just arrived. And to think I’d stopped off at a park to tire them out – a preoccupation of mine. I’d nipped into the kitchen to russle up some tantalising beans on toast, when I was interrupted and informed of the vandalism taking place in the front room. My beloved, Rocco, had launched a toy off the window. Not the ideal start. Having been trained by C4’s Supernanny, who by the way doesn’t have any sprogs herself which is something I’m always suspect about, I explained to Rocco that there would be no throwing and that he’d been a bad boy to break the window, a status he repeats with some joy. I’m a bad boy, I’m mummy’s boy, mummy’s bad boy he says, a little phrase he knows gets me every time. If I can just get through the next hour or two and get them bathed and to bed without anymore calamities I’m doing well, and then at least I can start phoning round local glaziers. Paolo, always quick to come to the defence of Rocco under attack, explained that they were just seeing how bad they could be, ‘this is what baddies do’, he says.

To my surprise, as Jackie O had never been much of a dog-lover, the family were welcoming a new puppy into their home after years of persistent nagging from Jackie’s two teenage children. The arrival of the new chocolate lab was imminent and in came a beautiful little fur ball called Scout, named after the narrator of To Kill a Mocking Bird – made famous most recently by the Beckhams and their somewhat tacky choice of name.

The boys are going to love him in the morning, how cute I thought? And Paolo did, he stroked her and petted her and wanted to carry her like a baby. Rocco, on the other hand, saw this little napper as smaller and weaker and someone he could finally tower over, and much to our embarrassment he enjoyed taking a volley or two at the little pup. Like any new mother would, the pup’s new guardian watched over her like a lionness as we watched in horror as Rocco tried to throw all two stone of his weight about. I, Rocco’s lionness, didn’t want to believe that anyone could think that my own pup was anything other than cute. In disbelief the puppy was the star attraction and not my babies who once were. Like babies, puppies don’t stay cute for long. Only Mary, Rocco’s childminder who had looked after him since he was just five months old, looked at Rocco and saw the little bundle of joy I did. They loved each other and even a blinded mother like me could see this. I actually felt a bit guilty that we’d moved and I’d taken Rocco out of her life and his.

The potty training of Scout took precedence and when Scout peed and pooped so did Rocco. However Rocco started to take this quite literally and before I knew it I had a dirty protest on my hands and an awkward scenario in the lanscaped garden. Cif to the ready and no one would ever know. To accompany the lemon scented garden, I thought I’d introduce the boys to a spot of gardening and we’d water the plants. Watering cans to the ready, how was I to know that Paolo, not Rocco, would reach for the weedkiller and lovingly spread it over the pretty flowers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Scout the precious new pup was poking her nose in it and attempting to eat the poisonous plant. Shrieking in horror, ‘what more damage could my two little treasures do?’ Well suffice to say I didn’t stay a minute longer to find out just how bad they could be.

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Not so magical after all

There’s nothing magical about the price tag, £14.95 for a two year old and a four year old, neither of whom would have minded if I’d just let them play in the muddy puddles in the park. And what gets me in these child factories is that once you succumb and paid the hefty price – peak season prices I might add, there’s not a single attendant on the death defying slides. It’s a place where anything goes and that goes for the parents too. I suppose you’re asking the question I’ve been asking myself, why bother? Thinking this would tire my two over zealous boys out, in the hope they’d sleep later and leave mummy mummy mummy to remember the days when I had a first name. We set out for an hour or two of so called fun. Not so much fun for the parents getting stuck up slides and squeezing themselves into claustrophobic quarters not meant for anyone more than two foot. My little sponges did learn a thing or two, mostly from children worse than mine. What gets me is this is not the first time I’ve experienced this and to think I’d come back for more. I deserve every bit of agony for this alone, and agony it was. Where’s the animals mummy? Heading to the bank I’m sure, the sarcasm lost on my son. They’re over there. Two snakes, four little half cooked monkeys and a lizard, that’s the whole extent on the magical animal collection.

But what they did learn is to climb, rough it out, and the world is a place full of bullies, many of whom inhabit play places. What they’ve certainly not learnt is any discipline, football tricks or where their talents lie. And don’t get me started on the parents. Well they’re mostly well fed and could do with a trip to the park instead of letting their sprogs run wild. Oh now that I’ve started on the parents, it wouldn’t be fair to stop there. It happens at the swing park also and ever parent, hostile or otherwise, will have shared this experience. Lionesses minding the queues at the slides or patrolling the number of pushes one child has over another in the swing park. Park politics or sometimes park wars as one princess skips another in the queue. Only to be told by a loud and brashy parent: “It’s ok darling the little girl just doesn’t know any better. “The gloves are off but instead of speaking like a normal person to the adult concerned some parents would rather use the medium of their children to unleash their fury.

At first glance the play places seem like the perfect place, a haven, and not the cash cow they really are. But the sweating, the need for air or rain, anywhere but this little manufactured box. The constant search for your children who remain largely out of sight is enough to make you go running for the Valium. If you do need to recover your child the only way is up through the maze. One of the cruelest play places I’ve seen is one in Inverness which has a day nursery within the building. I presume to allow the children metal stimulation and gawk at the others whilst they run loose. Having toured many of these establishments the only relaxing time I’ve ever had is when they are completely empty and it’s like a large playroom for your kids only, otherwise they are places filled with temptations, danger, and a whole host of frightened parents. If you don’t believe me try one on a Saturday afternoon and see the full extent of the horrors for yourself. Now getting back to the parents. Some are normal and look bewildered to be thrown into this world, others know it’s a dog eat dog world and are using this to test their offsprings’ restraint. It’s a real eye opener and a cultural experience. My son was particularly intrigued at the family decked in football strips complete with complimentary tattoos. What a sheltered life he’s had so far though I’m still thinking of an explaination for him.

From now on I’ll be finding open places or dark alleys over magical marketing any day.

Self-awareness has gone out the window on Facebook by Felicity Fox

I may be preoccupied with my own two little terrors but I’d like to think I’ve not lost sight of myself and how I portray this to the world. I’m sorry to say many people have.

Call me a hypocrite for spending one-too-many hours trailing through Facebook, and I do love it but some of my fb friends and friends of friends, you know who you are, show a whole new side to themselves. And it’s not only their alter ego they are exposing, it’s everything else on show. Not wanting to get crude about it but little’s left to the imagination, if at all. Sadly it’s not just my peers I’m talking about, it’s my elders too.

Don’t get me wrong we all like to engage in a bit of Facebook stalking and it’s lovely to see wedding pics, newborn babies and fun nights out, and I myself have posted all the above, sharing only the best bits. I too wouldn’t share the mundane reality: a trip to Morrisons, potty training, the tantrums, the washing, the run of the mill – basically my life. No, no, no Facebook is no place for honesty, it’s about showing your closest 1,000 friends and family the life you want, not the life you have. Popularity too is important, it’s shameful to only have few friends on this, you must acquire as many as you can. Beware, the danger in this is you are exposing yourself to a mass audience and opening yourself up for criticism, like it or not.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it seems to be the message. And plenty seemingly do. Being a poser used to be a character trait that you would never want to be labelled as. Now apparently all shapes, sizes and egos are welcome here. Posting literally hundreds of pictures of oneself is commonplace not to mention boring. Teachers straddling cars, bikini after bikini shots, and a lot of pouting like a trout goes on, D-list celebrities look tame in comparison.

Friends in life become your worst nightmare online, it’s a case of look at me, oh it’s me again, look how much fun I’m having, me again, does my bum look big in this? It’s tragic. Don’t they know potential employers look at this?

Ask yourself this before you post, what would your mother think? Not everything needs to be public property.

Say I do…By Felicity Fox

It’s been the summer of weddings, not mine but others. I’m at that age when everyone is getting married. They’re climbing the career ladder, got the right car, got a mortgage, tick, tick, tick and now they’re ready to say I do, just in time before they look back with regret at their wedding pictures. I, on the other hand, got married more than seven years ago, when I had not a wrinkle to my name or a stretch mark. As a guest, I now get to sit back and enjoy the festivities, whilst relishing in the thought that I’m not paying.

After careful planning, accessorising, and far too much matching, I’m always amazed at how many get it wrong time and time again.

Religious or not, if you’re attending the ceremony early afternoon don’t mistake church lighting with that of a nightclub. God doesn’t want to see you in all your glory, some things should remain between you and your maker. If you must flaunt it, wear a tailored coat to the ceremony. It’s much more dignified. And remember if people are gawking at you, it’s not in awe, it’s in horror.

Staggering in six inch heels up the altar is never a good look. So if you can’t make it to the car then be in no doubt, you will be mocked. Birds nests’ too are hard to pull off. If you think it’s too much, well it probably is. Remove promptly, less is definitely more. Styling yourself on the likes of the TOWIES or wags, never has or will, earn you many admirers. Think of all the great heroines who’ve done all the hard work for you: Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Jackie O, Grace Kelly to name a few – oldies but goodies. Would they have ever slapped themselves in Fake Bake? I think not. Decide on a look, 20s, 30s, 40s, and my favourite the 50s but most definitely not the 80s. Don’t forget who was running the country then, and she was hardly known for her fashion, she was far too busy crippling the country.

One must never wear leggings to a wedding or, in fact, outdoors. Leggings have made a comeback but unless you’re pregnant or under the age of five, there really is no excuse. Big or small these are the most unflattering, cheap and pitiful garment you can attach to your body.

Looking like you’ve been licked with a paint brush from the top of your head to the tips of your toes is quite simply wrong. You’re in danger of looking like the Queen Mum, showing you lack imagination as well as style. Like make-up, feature the eyes or the lips, never both. This rule should apply for accessories too. And yes, we all make mistakes but there’s no need to go on repeating an eyesore.

Do not buy a complete outfit from an over eager sales assistant who is lying when she tells you that ‘you look great’. She is lying. Mix it up a bit, live a little. Go wild, mix the palette.

When going to see someone say I do, you should say I won’t distract from the happy couple by committing these sins, instead I’ll let the bridal party shine in all their glory or not.

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Felicity Fox

Hi, Welcome to my new blog. My name is Felicity Fox and I like to write about life. My life. Sometimes I write about the lives of others, or how I see it. It’s mostly my observations, you’ll see what I mean. I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it.

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