Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 29, 2012

For the love of .... writing. MAD Awards 2012.

When I first started blogging three years ago, lots of people looked at me sideways and asked 'why?' It was hard for them to understand why on earth I would bother sharing my innermost thoughts on a page in cyberspace which total strangers would read. I would attempt to explain how it wasn't just an online diary and would tell them all about the lovely community of bloggers, and how it was a great way to find your style of writing, blah, blah, blah but they still didn't really get it.

So, I decided to stop being over-complicated about it all and explained it as simply as this: I blog because I want to write.

Blogging has been my daily exercise, my 30 minute jog around the park, the thing that keeps my writing fit and healthy. Without it, I would never have had the confidence to tackle freelance articles for the papers or review books by actual, proper authors, let alone write a novel of my own.

My blog may have been a little neglected of late - I've moved on from the very early stages of motherhood and I sometimes don't feel I have as much to add to the 'debate' any more. But, I still enjoy this space to write about things which make me laugh, rant, stamp my feet in rage or to simply offer my view on topics as diverse as handbags, Easter eggs and my husband's irrational intolerance of fairy lights. And I still love to come here and share the ups and downs of motherhood.

My blog has, and always will be, about writing first and foremost. I love writing. I can't stop writing. And I shall continue writing until the virtual cows come home. I may not blog as regularly now as I used to when I was a fresh-faced (?) blogging newbie, but I still love my little corner of cyberspace; still love having this place of my own to write openly and freely as the mood hits me. And if my words make others laugh, cry, write an impassioned response or just tell their friends over coffee, then that's wonderful.

So, I was absolutely thrilled yesterday to find out that I have been nominated for a MAD Best Blog Writer Award. Whoever my fairy blogmother was who nominated me, I would like to say a huge thanks. I am honestly very, very surprised but utterly thrilled to be nominated and in this category particularly. Many other fab bloggers have also been nominated for this award - that's Mummy Cool, Joanne Mallon, Honest Mum, Touch & Tickle and Geek Mummy so far. I'd like to wish everyone many congratulations on being nominated and the very best of luck.

Here's to blogging and to writing.


March 14, 2012

Titanic - and me

Three years ago, I started this blog. I'd just been made redundant, so what better reason to finally do something about that dream I'd always had of being an author. A lot has happened since then, lots of ups, lots of downs, but yesterday my first novel, The Girl Who Came Home - A Titanic Novel, was published on Kindle. Here's how it happened.

I don’t have a grandfather who played in the band. I don’t have a grandmother who was hoping to start a better life in America. I don’t come from any of the ‘Titanic’ towns. In fact, there is very little to connect me to Titanic at all – other than a long held passion, interest and fascination with the story of ‘the ship of dreams’ which sank in such tragic circumstances one hundred years ago.

Long before James Cameron’s epic hit the cinema screens in 2000, I’d talked about writing a book about Titanic and over the following years I jotted down notes, kept articles I saw and planned to write something, someday. But whenever it came to putting pen to paper (or fingers to typewriter) Titanic was far too daunting a prospect to tackle. Where to start? How would I ever do justice to the event? Would I ever be able to capture a sense of life aboard this amazing ship?

Then, one day in 2011, after pursuing my writing seriously for two years, I decided I was ready to tackle my long held ambition. So, I started doing research, particularly into the Irish connection with Titanic and stumbled across a website dedicated to the memory of The Addergoole Fourteen who sailed on Titanic. I found the story of this group who left County Mayo in Ireland incredibly moving and inspiring. It was then that I realised 2012 was the centenary year of the sinking of Titanic.

I researched and researched, right down to the smallest details of the cabins my characters slept in, the meals they ate aboard the ship and the songs they sang during their evenings. I spoke to members of The Addergoole Society who were extremely helpful. I watched the movie again. I listened to audio recordings of the survivors and watched incredible images on YouTube of the Titanic setting out from Belfast and other footage of passenger’s relatives and friends massing outside the White Star Line offices on Broadway in New York when news of the disaster arrived. I studied Father Browne’s incredible photographs and read books about the disaster. I was entirely immersed in Titanic’s story and rarely talked about anything else (much to the delight of my family and friends, I’m sure!).

I wrote my novel The Girl Who Came Home in just over three months – or rather, it wrote itself (or so it seems). I knew that the timings were tight if it was to have any chance of publication as most publishers had already filled their lists for 2012 long before the idea for my novel had ever popped into my head. But my agent encouraged me to write it (I think she realised it just had to come out of me one way or another) and the manuscript was submitted to an Irish publisher in summer 2011. While they really liked the book and my writing and were very complimentary, they didn’t commit to publishing. I knew this was pretty much my only chance, as other publishers had their ‘Titanic’ books already planned. Totally deflated, I crawled away to lick my wounds.

Encouraged by feedback from family who had read the book and loved it (‘honestly,’ they said. ‘We’re not just saying this because it’s you.’), I set about self-publishing the novel on Kindle. This in itself wasn’t the easiest of tasks, being a bit of a technical luddite. But buoyed by the self-publishing success I’d seen of fellow authors (Catherine Ryan Howard and Mel Sherratt inparticular), I bit the bullet. I contacted a Belfast-based artist to request permission to use one of his Titanic paintings for the front cover of the book and, after over a decade of talking about it, and three years of taking my writing dreams seriously, my Titanic novel came to fruition.
As we head towards the 100 year anniversary on 15th April, I feel proud and privileged to be sitting alongside traditionally published authors on Amazon and am happy to have fulfilled a long-held ambition. Writing about Titanic was daunting, hectic, exhilarating and incredibly, incredibly moving. I frequently found myself so immersed in the dramas unfolding before me on the page that hours would pass by without me noticing. I discovered some incredible stories of survival, good fortune, unimaginable tragedy and heart-breaking loss. Such is the story of Titanic with all its contradictions of class division, luxury and suffering, survival and death.

Titanic’s legacy will live on long beyond this centenary year. And I suspect our, and our children's, fascination with her story will only grow stronger over time.

The Girl Who Came Home is available now on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download from and click here to download from


March 7, 2012

I think I'm missing the 'handbag gene'

If you've read Caitlin Moran's fabulous 'How To Be A Woman' (and if you haven't, you should amend this omission promptly), you will most likely have snorted in laughter at the part where she talks about handbags and particularly where she compares some of the more expensive designer ones to S&M horses. It made me chuckle anyway and she makes a very valid point about handbags and women and the - often - bizarre relationship between the two.

Certainly, a handbag can say a lot about a person - are they fashion conscious, are they using the handbag as a statement, are they 'on trend' or are they simply (and I'm aware that this may be a shocking concept) using it to carry stuff around in?

I've never really been a 'statement' handbag girl. Yes, I like my handbag to be spacious and pretty or to maybe coordinate with at least one of the items of clothing I've thrown on that day, but coveting the latest Hermes Birkin (did I spell that right?) or Victoria Beckham design is just something I don't understand. Really - I don't. I look at those expensive bags behind their glass cases and can't help thinking that I could get one which looked pretty much the same in Primark or Debenhams for a fraction of the price. That's just the way I look at it.

But, I am well aware that for many women, those designer handbags are the stuff of legend, glinting with a extraordinary 'my precious' type allure under their carefully lit cases. Even still, I was stunned to learn that according to new research, almost half a million women in the UK would be prepared to spend more than £1,000 on a handbag she loved. Gulp. Really? Perhaps I am missing the handbag-gene because I would seriously hesitate to spend £1,000 on a person I loved, never mind a bag.

Another startling handbag fact is that almost the same number of women (half a million) carry over £2,000 worth of contents around in their handbags, creating a total weight of over 4kg (the same weight as an average cat and heavier than most newborn babies). Wow. That's a lot of stuff and a lot of weight to be carrying around.

Mobiles, laptops, iPods, e-Readers and iPads account for the vast proportion of the value inside the handbag, with everyday essentials such as purses, keys, hairbrushes, tissues, children's toys, pens, books and a spare pair of shoes making up the rest of the value and weight. A veritable tardis indeed.

Reading all this got me thinking about my own handbag. So, I had a rummage inside and this is what I found: 1 purse, 3 packets of tissues, 1 pack of cleansing wipes, 1 umbrella, 3 shopping lists, 13 till receipts, 1 ice lolly stick, 1 train timetable, 1 Chewit wrapper, 1 child's sock which has been mysteriously missing for months, 1 box of Tic Tacs, 3 crumpled up tissues, 1 pen, 2 benefit lip tints, 1 chocolate coin, 1 of those Eskimo mints you get at the end of a meal, 1 plaster, 1 purple Quality Street wrapper and a handful of coffee beans which were pilfered by my son from the display at the local coffee shop.

This content is probably worth a total of about two euros, thus proving that I am not your average woman when it comes to the matter of handbags. It was quite a therapeutic exercise nevertheless and probably says something about me, although I'm not quite sure what.

If you are a handbag lover - and plan to be a bit more frugal in your purchases than the half a million women mentioned above - then you might be interested to learn that Dannii Minogue's fashion label Project D have been working with Kenco Millicano coffee (who commissioned the research into UK women's handbag habits) to create their first ever handbag from the label. The limited edition 'K Bag' (pictured, quite exclusively above might I add) will be available to buy exclusively online at from 19th March, retailing at £250 with all profits going to a charitable cause.

It looks like a perfectly nice handbag to me and a suitable accessory for transporting my many packets of tissues and kids' empty sweet wrappers around in. I'm not sure, however, what Caitlin Moran would have to say about the studs on the ends.

Why not have a rummage around in your handbag today - you might be surprised at what you find.


March 3, 2012

Lego Duplo Creative Sorter Review

As my boys grow up I often breathe a sigh of relief - no more nappies, no more folding and unfolding of buggies and no more sterilising of stuff. Phew! But I also panic often at the thought of them growing up and not being able to do the little things with them anymore, such as giving them piggy backs upstairs, tickling them until they scream and telling them the ice cream van only plays music when it has run out of ice cream. You know, things like that!

One of the things I have loved doing with my boys since they were babies is getting down on the floor and having a good old fashioned play. Jigsaws, cars, building blocks - I have literally spent half of the last six years on the floor surrounded by toys. And although the chunky jigsaws have progressed to much more detailed ones and the simple building blocks have developed into intricate Lego castles, I still spend a lot of my time on the floor.

So, when Lego Duplo invited me to be part of the 2012 Blogger Panel I was delighted. Both boys still enjoy playing with the Duplo Thomas the Tank Engine train set which we started to collect when my eldest was just 2.

The Lego Duplo Creative Sorter (pictured above) is a great starter set for any pre-school child (the suggested age range for the product is 18 months to 5 years). The set comes with 23 colour coded bricks to construct 3 animals: a giraffe, an elephant and a parrot. The clever thing about this product is that it also comes with 3 different sorting plates (which double up as box lids) which help the child sort the pieces they need to construct each animal. This is a great toy for encouraging problem solving, coordination, role-play, shape recognition and, of course, construction skills. And for the non-conformists (!) the bricks can, of course, be mixed up to make the animals differently, or to create an entirerly new species altogether.

My four year old loved this toy - even though he has been playing with the smaller Lego bricks for some time now he really enjoyed assembling the animals and, best of all, he enjoyed slotting the bricks through the sorting plates to put everything back into the box. A clever way to encourage tidying up if ever I saw one!

Our Lego Duplo Thomas train set is 4 years old and has been played with relentlessly. It still looks as good as new, so I can certainly vouch for the durability and quality of this toy. In fact, I would say it is pretty much indestructible.

The Creative Sorter retails at £17.99 in the Lego Duplo shop. I personally think it is worth every penny as this is definitely a toy which will be played with over and over again, and can be interchanged with other Duplo bricks and even with Lego bricks as the children grow up.

All in all, a definite thumbs up and a toy that I especially think would be perfect for the younger end of the suggested age group.

For more information on the Lego Duplo range, click here.

Disclaimer: I am part of the Lego Duplo 2012 Blogger Panel and was sent a set of the Creative Sorter to review. Having said that, I genuinely liked it!

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