“She’s not crying – she’s just exercising her lungs!”

EVERYONE is a comedian.

Everybody has a novel ‘in them’.

And apparently everyone is an expert when it comes to babies.

Everyone, that is, but the mums who are raising them, who are doing it wrong and should be grateful for any advice they can get.

“I tell you what I think…” is a group of words I’ve heard more times than I can count.

“When mine were little…” always precedes a pearl of wisdom which is approximately three decades out of date.

“In my day we’d have had no truck with nonsense like that!” I was told by a man waiting behind me, as I used some spare time in a queue earlier this week to book a baby massage course.

“In my day we didn’t take babies to massage and yoga and all that claptrap!” he informed me.

“You want to just put the child in a pram in the back garden! Let her cry awhile so she can exercise her lungs!”

I didn’t enquire but would assume he’s also of the school of thought that says babies don’t need cots and are quite happy sleeping in a chest of drawers.

(“Just squash her in next to dad’s socks – she’ll be fine!”)

Days later, in the hairdressers, three people climbed atop their soap boxes to inform me breastfeeding is wrong.

“It just doesn’t seem natural, does it?” said a woman with purple-dyed hair.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said a (childless, male) hairdresser. “If I have kids my wife won’t be doing that!”

Another customer leaned over and smiled at me kindly.

“There’s a reason bottle-fed babies sleep better and it’s because it’s better for them!”

(I told her this contradicted the current thinking of both the World Health Organisation and anybody who isn’t a half-wit and she nodded and said: “Exactly, love. Exactly.”)

So my advice to any pregnant women would be this: ignore all the advice.

And get practicing your best ‘nodding and smiling politely’ routine.

You’re gonna need it!

Article first published in the Westmorland Gazette on June 25, 2015


The End of the World (aka the week the TV broke at Casa Smith…)

LAST week the Sky TV box broke.

This was almost the end of the world for the residents of Casa Smith, who suddenly had to do radical things like make conversation and ponder the fact they have no hobbies.

For the first few hours (of a long four days) Smithy and I hardly knew what to do with ourselves, other than intermittently and ever more desperately pressing the power button in the hope the box would suddenly spring back into life.

It didn’t and with heavy hearts we turned our attention to filling the TV-shaped void in our lives.

On the evening of day one we cracked out some board games before quickly remembering why we don’t play board games.

It’s not an exaggeration to say divorce was almost on the cards after a particularly heated round of Monopoly.

On day two we decided to go for a Romantic Twilight Walk, but this turned decidedly unromantic after we got bitten by midges, covered in mud and the pram got stuck in a ditch (thankfully sans baby).

On day three Smithy announced he was off to conquer a village and disappeared into another room (I can only assume this is a virtual village and there isn’t now an entire hamlet somewhere being forced to watch endless Formula One and drink real ale).

On day three we tried to emulate our technology-free forefathers by gathering around the piano for a sing song.

Except we don’t have a piano and gathering round my husband’s old primary school recorder didn’t have quite the same effect.

By day four I was ready to kiss (or even marry) the lovely man from Sky when he finally came to fix the problem.
But I’m glad to say we are now back to our status quo.

Now I must go as I promised my husband I’d spend the evening ignoring him while we attempt to catch up on all the Neighbours we missed.

(Did somebody say ‘first world problems’?)

Article first published in the Westmorland Gazette on June 18, 2015

Charity should begin at home…shouldn’t it?

IN RECENT years most of us will have come across the so-called ‘charity muggers’, who hang around high streets trying to get standing order donations from passers-by.

Like most people, I’ve perfected the art of avoiding eye contact, looking purposeful and acting profoundly deaf.

But if recent events are anything to go by, these tried and tested techniques will no longer work – because now people are being targeted in their own homes.

The first time it happened at Casa Smith was in mid-May, when two earnest-looking women appeared on the doorstep proffering clipboards, lanyards and extremely over-enthusiastic smiles.

“Hello!” they beamed. 

At that point I realised I had been ambushed and no amount of looking busy was going to save me.

Their smiles fell away and they adopted ‘serious, moral mission’ expressions, designed to induce nothing but guilt.

“Do you have a grandma?” asked one of them.

The other jumped in: “Do you care if she’s looked after in her old age? Would you be heartbroken if she was lonely and poverty-stricken and did I mention lonely?”

The first one took up the baton again: “Do you agree we should help people who feel that way?”

She clicked her pen menacingly and added: “Shall we say £5 a month?”

At that point I pretended I could hear the baby crying and bid them a hasty goodbye.

The second time it happened I panicked, gave the woman a false name and told her my grill pan had caught fire.

The third time I hid in the kitchen until they’d gone.

At this point I should explain that I already make several monthly donations to causes I’ve chosen.

I’m also the first person to put money in a collection tin or champion the plight of a charity in the pages of this newspaper.

But in my opinion people should enjoy knowing they’ve helped a good cause – and what isn’t enjoyable is being bullied or coerced.

And quite frankly, nor is having to run to the kitchen every time the doorbell goes. 

Article first published in the Westmorland Gazette on June 11, 2015

A new car…and a new identity.

I’M proud to say the Smith family are no longer pariahs of the road, now yours truly has bitten the bullet and bought a new car.

I was left with very little choice after my husband told me, in no uncertain terms, that he would no longer be seen in my old motor.

(I assumed he was joking until he pulled on a balaclava and sunglasses to accompany me to Tesco.)

He said his embarrassment levels had finally reached boiling point when I was overtaken on the motorway by a Reliant Robin.

This, he said, was after weeks of people staring at us thanks a tractor-like exhaust and a fan-belt so screechy that even the local dogs had started complaining.

And apparently sheer force of will is not enough to hold bodywork together which is 90 per cent rust and 10 per cent air.

Loathe to appear like I was assisting an escaping bank robber, I realised something had to be done – and we set off to look around local car dealers.

Practical as ever, I veered towards the first thing I liked the colour of.

“Not exactly baby-friendly though, is it?” asked Smithy. “A car might be a better idea, unless you’re expecting the baby to ride side saddle?”

I conceded defeat and headed away from the motorbikes and over towards the people carriers.

But got distracted along the way by a two-seater convertible.

“Maybe the baby could stay at home while I whizz around the countryside with a scarf on my head?” I said excitedly.

This continued for some time, as Smithy vetoed yet more of my choices (apparently reliability is more important than the fact a car is hot pink…)

But eventually he managed to crack open the lock on his wallet and we put down a deposit on something economical, sensible and with a boot big enough for a pram and several shopping bags.

Basically, I’ve bought a ‘mum’ car – although I did manage to win the battle over colour.

Now I just need to trade in my stylish, high-heeled boots for some flat, sensible shoes, and get my hair cut short and ‘manageable’.

Remind me again…when did I get old?

Article first published in the Westmorland Gazette on June 4, 2015