Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tshirts and Black Friday

Until about five years ago, Black Friday wasn’t a thing. Happening on the Friday after Thanksgiving, you could ask why it’s really even relevant to the UK. But it’s now a regular on the calendar and already my inbox is full of deals, enticements and offers.

I always have a bit of a problem with this virtual monument to greed and consumerism. Scenes of people running into shops, barging each other out of the year so they can buy stuff they don’t need or buying online and receiving goods plus acres of packaging seems incredibly distasteful.

This year it’s hit home even harder to us. We’ve recently seen some pictures of some children in rural Cambodia who are looking ecstatic. The reason? They’ve just been donated some old clothes and books donated by small son and his cousins. The truth is that we could shed these items without really noticing. But to them, it’s absolutely made their day as they have almost nothing. We could learn a lot from them about appreciating what you have.

So instead of looking up Black Friday deals (which generally come back to haunt you on Blue Monday – about the 15th January when your credit card arrives) I’ll be observing “Buy Nothing Day” and BBC6Music’s T-shirt day. Want to join me? Here’s what you could be doing instead of the spend, spend, spend!

1. Walk, run, swim, anything! Get outside and enjoy the beautiful countryside! The weather’s not great but if you wrap up warm and put up wellies on, it’s so gorgeous out there at the moment. Coming back inside with rosy cheeks beats bringing home lots of carrier bags, in my opinion!

2. Contact someone – why not phone someone for a chat, or make conversation with an elderly person? I happened to get chatting to an elderly man in the post office queue a few years ago, and we still meet regularly for tea and lemon drizzle cake (always lemon drizzle). Hearing first-hand about life in wartime Liverpool is just a privilege that won’t be available to us in a few years’ time.

Not only is it Black Friday, but more excitingly, it’s BBC6Music’s “Wear an old band t-shirt to work” on Friday. If you don’t have a band t-shirt, you could (a) borrow one of mine or (b) have a trip down Memory Lane and listen to some of those old CDs, tapes, records. Just don’t travel so far down Memory Lane that you get stuck in Milli Vanilli Road.

Make something! I always hesitate to do any kind of craft with my small son as I’m so terrible at it. However, the hour we spent making a cake with my son last week was very precious. Admittedly, there was another hour involved cleaning up and another eating cake, but those people who say they don’t like homemade gifts are lying – seriously, am I the only person who can’t get enough homemade sloe gin?

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy things, but it’s the fact that buying things we don’t need is such a talked-about topic at this time of year. If you are doing Christmas shopping, why not head to an independent shop? They are disappearing at an alarming rate and most of the money they make tends to stay in the local community.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy, and meanwhile, I’ll try to rein in my next rant!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Why I'm not embarrassed about being a soccer mum

We've just started going to football and just a couple of weeks in, I've had a terrible realisation - I am a soccer mum!

Having sidestepped some of the other pitfalls of modern parenting, I honestly didn't see this coming. And in the past couple of weeks I have noticed myself shouting all manner of ridiculous instructions to small son, to the extent that the coach is gently nudging me away from the sidelines and upstairs to the viewing area.

Even I don't understand the stupid things I've been yelling, and the over-the-top gesticulation is certainly wasted on my son, who could not pay less attention to me if he tried. I even found myself on the pitch the other day.

"Don't handle the ball!"

"Give and go!"

"You're going THAT way!"

However, although I need to tone it down, I'm not ashamed. I'm not ashamed because at least this passion means that I am watching and getting involved. One of the saddest and most prolific sights at this kind of children's sporting event or even a kid's party is a line of 20 parents with their phones in front of their faces.

I've seen children do great things on the pitch and then look for a reaction from their parents. Nothing. They missed it.

On a rare occasion, small son got a pat on the back from the coach - just a quick "well done" and a pat on the head. I saw it and small son and I shared a happy, knowing look. If I'd been on Facebook, I would have missed it and he wouldn't have been able to prove that it had happened.

Last week, I saw the football come to rest on a mum's foot. A boy ran over to retrieve it, and waited for her to gently kick it back. But she had no idea about any of this as she was on Whatsapp. I could see the disappointment on his face.

People are busy, I do get that. It's not realistic to say that you shouldn't check your emails now and then. Sometimes work calls and it's a good opportunity to have a quick look when you're not driving. But this is an epidemic. It mainly looks like Facebook too, It's almost a default setting for people who have forgotten how to share these vital childhood experiences - not just with each other, but with other parents too.

It's not a new thing. I remember my own dad avidly supporting me during my swimming lessons (and to be fair, it's not terribly exciting watching a group of children swim up and down, up and down and up and down), amid a sea of newspapers. The fact that he was interested, I think, is part of the reason I will love swimming all these years later.

So, if you have to take your child to something, why not actually be there. You might even enjoy it.