Gifts for Men

Absolutely no idea what to buy for the man in your life? Join the club!

It’s Husband’s birthday, and I struggle every year to find a gift that I think/hope/pray he will like. (I blame my mother-in-law for having a baby so near to Christmas.) It’s impossible. Anything that he might need, he has either bought for himself, or has recently received at Christmas; which leaves me with nothing. Literally, nothing.

I know that some couples don’t buy gifts for each other, but we do—it’s one of the ways we express our love. Husband is extremely good at this in reverse, and I have over the years received many thoughtful gifts.

This year is worse than ever, because I cannot even think of little things to buy for him. I know that he already has a stash of chocolates and shortbread and men-magazines to read. (I should clarify, by men-magazines I mean magazines about cars, not naked women.) In desperation, I searched online shops under the ‘gifts for men’ tab. This is what I discovered:

Alcohol related gifts. These seem to be popular (but he already has these from Christmas). Men, it seems, like craft beers, whiskey, and (way down the list) gin-making kits. There are many variations on this, including beer mats/towels/tee-shirts, and appropriately shaped glasses and openers. Plus, of course, the actual drinks. A good idea if not buying right after Christmas, when the cupboards are full of half-full bottles of alcohol.

Curry related gifts. Strangely, this appears as the next popular choice. Clearly men in England eat a lot of curry. Many of the related gifts involve growing chillies, or sets of spices, or aprons. Do men also enjoy cooking curry? This has not been my experience.

Coffee is third on the list. Maybe after cooking curry and drinking beers/whiskey/gin, the man in your life likes to settle down with an exotic coffee? Unfortunately, Husband has settled on Ily coffee made in a cafetiere, and in his mind, nothing else compares in terms of flavour and ease—so not for him.

Massage devices. (Again, I will clarify: neck/feet massage kits, nothing dodgy!) I don’t know what Husband thinks about these, but he has never wanted a spa holiday, so I’m assuming he wouldn’t want to sit still long enough for something resembling a hairdryer to scratch his neck.

Toiletries, with various spicy smells. Do men want to smell like an Egyptian souq? I don’t think mine does. I think he would worry if I gave him a gift encouraging him to be cleaner.

Lego. This has proved popular in the past, and has provided many contented (and noisy) hours while watching telly with me, making various well-engineered vehicles. However, I think I have given too many of these recently. Also, it seems that once constructed, these intricate feats of engineering can never be dismantled, but must be displayed on a table or shelf. My life is too short to dust them (and no one else is going to) so they simply become dirty toys that are regularly smuggled by him into the sitting room (which I try to keep clean and tidy ready for unexpected guests/visits by the police) or, worse, on top of my kitchen units.

Multi-tools are also a thing that apparently, men desire. There are many varieties, and they resemble a grown-up version of a penknife, with a hammer, screw-driver, saw, all folded into one tool. I cannot believe this is ever useful. Either it would be too heavy to be fun, or the tools would be too flimsy for real work. But perhaps I need to do further research, maybe every man dreams of owning an all-in-one tool that he can produce from his pocket to save the world/fix the wobbly table at a moment’s notice. (If all else fails, this might have to be the gift this year.)

Lamps on heads are also a thing. You can buy them incorporated into a natty woolly hat, or on an headband. Maybe men all want to be coal miners really, and it makes them feel butch? Or perhaps the whole ‘torch held in the teeth’ thing happens more often than I think? But I don’t have the sort of husband who does much D.I.Y. in dark, inaccessible places, and I think it would be like buying me a mop—so I don’t want to encourage that sort of gift-giving.

Finally, there is a whole lot of tat which is either too sexual to mention here, or too useless to even bother with. Do men really want a structure to keep their bedside table tidy? Or an illuminated toilet seat? Or a pen that can bend into various shapes? A grow-your-own bonsai kit looks fun, but the sceptic in me feels it would never work. Therefore, I am stumped. Maybe I will dig out my knitting needles in the hope that a homemade gift will show that I care. Or maybe not. Please send help.

Hoping you find what you’re looking for this week.
Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Wordle Scam

Wordle Scam

Have you discovered Wordle yet? My sister mentioned it first, saying she had found a new game online. My brother then admitted he played it too, and they started to compare scores. Then my daughter joined the club, and started to reveal her score. My sons tried to beat her, failed, traded insults. This is my family. But then suddenly, both sons managed to get the highest score, every day. They told me they are magic (I guessed this was probably not true.)

Wordle is basically an empty grid and a keyboard. You write a word in the grid, it tells you which letters are in the ‘word of the day’ and which of those letters are in the correct place. You try again on the next line, and so on, trying to guess the word before you have filled all the lines. It’s fun, passes the time, and seems to bring out a competitive streak in my family.

I told my mother she ought to play, as it would help to keep her brain young. I often tell my mother things like this. In return, she tells me to eat less dairy food and to eat brazil nuts every day. We mostly ignore each other.

I was fascinated though that my sons were managing to guess the wordle word every day, first try. They told me they had hacked the system, discovered the algorithm. Tried to appear disapproving but was secretly very impressed. Such clever sons, so impossible to parent.

My brother then pointed out that if you change the time and date on your phone, you can complete Wordle in the future, thereby knowing the word when it appears in your real time zone. Not so clever. But hush, don’t tell them that I know…

Piet Mondrian was a Dutch painter who first played Wordle. Due to lack of internet, he painted his scores.

Anne E. Thompson
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Millthorpe is not The Peak District (though it tries).

Family Holiday 2021 continued.

We packed up the house in the Lake District and left. Everyone felt slightly dirty due to water shortage/lack of showering ability. Our next holiday home was in the Peak District, and we hoped they had more water. The drive was busy, as Saturdays in July are full of people leaving and arriving on holiday, but we didn’t meet any major hold-ups. Our journey took us through the outskirts of Sheffield, and we began to wonder how near the city our Airbnb would be. The details had described it as being in the grounds of Carpenter House, in an area of beautiful countryside, but we were beginning to worry.

At the last minute, the roads turned away from the city, we drove through a few fields, and arrived at the little hamlet of Millthorpe. It was not exactly the Peak District, but was far enough from the city to not feel crowded. There were several fields of horses, and lots of the houses had stables attached—clearly an area for the horsey people of Sheffield to live.

Went for a walk across the fields. More horses. I am very comfortable with all cows and sheep; horses make me nervous but we weren’t eaten or stampeded. Walked to the local Royal Oak for dinner. The pub was ancient, with low beams and a huge fireplace. The menu was limited unless you are a cheese-lover (everything had cheese, and fried cheeses made a very nice, if rather unhealthy, starter).

Sunday 25th July

The family voted to go paddle-boarding. They discovered you could hire boards and wet suits at Tittesworth Reservoir (with a name like that, I really hope they did a Google search for ‘paddle boarding’ and not something else!)

The drive took us through the Peak District, which is beautiful and very near to Millthorpe. The weather was less sunny than last week, but still warm. We arrived at the car park, and saw several families hiring wet suits, squeezing into the little changing cubicles, struggling to carry the unwieldy boards. I decided that paddle boarding was not something I wanted to do (I felt that complete lack of co-ordination, no ability to balance and not being a good swimmer would make it less fun). Went for a walk with Bea while the others pootled about on the water for an hour.

Paddle Boarding

Everyone seemed to have fun, and we discussed it (at length) in the pub afterwards. I had real trouble remembering that the term is ‘paddle-boarding’ and not ‘water-boarding’ so I kept asking them about their experience of torture.

Monday 26th July

We went for a walk to Lud’s Church. This is a cavern, tucked into the Peak District, and makes for a pretty walk. There are many stories and legends swirling around the cavern, and Emm assured me it was the spookiest place in the world.

We walked along a pretty footpath through the woods, the sun was shining, birds singing, ferns carpeted the floor. Hard to see why it was spooky. We arrived at the cavern, and the temperature dropped as we walked between the giant-sided rocks, taking care not to slip on the moss. It was easier to understand (slightly) why someone might think the cavern was haunted. It then transpired that he had visited at dusk, on Halloween, when all the trees were bare and everywhere was gloomy and cold—that would definitely be spooky.

Lud’s Church

We left the cavern and walked up to the Roaches, which are big rocks protruding from the hills. Great views of the valley.

The Roaches

Tuesday 27th July

Walked up Mam Tor, near Castleton. This is about as high as my knees can manage, but actually was very easy as there are paths all the way and no scary precipice to make me dizzy. It was a long walk, and I was pleased to reach the top. Asked Husband to take photo for blog. Family photo-bombed. I informed them the photo was for a blog, and I would  use it whatever they looked like. Posed for another photo. No better. Decided to use it anyway.

Unhelpful Family

In the afternoon, we visited Chatsworth House. But that will have to wait for another blog.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Family Holiday 2021

Saturday 17th July
We drove to the Lake District, via Cambridge to collect Emm. Kia was safely installed in the boot, on a sort of doggy-throne so she was well-cushioned and could lie flat or look out of the window as she pleased. The rest of us squashed into the rest of the car with our luggage. The dog was very comfy.

We arrived at The Old Vicarage in Littletown in Newlands Valley. The house has a nice feel, with high ceilings and spacious rooms and views across the valley. Parking next to the house was a three-man activity, but we managed it without scraping the car. The neighbours came out to watch. Bea and Boyfriend arrived, and managed to park without as much shouting.

Beautiful Little Town.

We allocated rooms. Husband and I took the downstairs room attached to the still-being-converted barn. I thought it would be quiet (it was—but it was also a very long way from the upstairs bathrooms, which proved inconvenient). The rest of the family took the three upstairs bedrooms, and the dog took the kitchen and utility room, with sneaky excursions into the rest of the house when she thought no one was looking.

Kia deciding whether the kitchen is a suitable room.

We ate at The Royal Oak in Braithwaite. Husband booked it before we left home, and it’s lucky he did as the area was jam-packed with tourists and the pubs were full. As we drove to the pub, we saw a hedgehog, hurrying up the lane. We stopped to watch. Our house is opposite Little Town Farm, which was the setting for the Beatrix Potter book Mrs Tiggy Winkle, so it seemed appropriate. It’s rare to see hedgehogs today, as a child they were mainly of the squashed variety.

Sunday 18th July
I woke early and attempted to go for a run. Little Town is at the top of a hill, and I don’t run downhill (dodgy knees) so it wasn’t the most active run in the world. But the family didn’t know that, and they were all getting up when I returned, so I let them think I had run for miles.

I made pancakes for brunch. As I had only packed pancake ingredients (Kia took up too much space) we then went to Keswick for supplies. Went to Boothes supermarket. If you are in the area, I suggest that you avoid Boothes unless you’re feeling rich. It is very expensive. It was also full of Christians, as we had unknowingly timed our trip to coincide with the Keswick Convention, which is a big deal in the Christian world. I have never attended, but can inform you that they have their own traffic lights so the Christians can cross the road, they have large white marquees, and the supermarkets fill up with polite people who smile at each other. It brought out the rebel in me, and I felt the need to buy way more alcohol than we’ll drink in a week. I also bought the most expensive tea-towel in the world, as the house didn’t provide them and I had forgotten to bring any. £8.99. For one tea towel. One. It’s not even pretty.

After lunch we went for a walk. I had ( as you might remember) bought waterproof coat, trousers and walking boots. It was a boiling hot day, so I left all the kit at the house and wore trainers. Felt weirdly disappointed. The walk turned out to be up a mountain (they often do when Husband is in charge). I don’t do mountains, so walked a different route with Bea. Drank Pimms in the garden (still lots left after rebellious shopping trip).

Monday 19th July
Morning walk in hills behind the house. So wonderfully pretty.

After lunch we drove to Moss Falls. There was another mountain to climb, so the males set off, and I walked a little way and then sat and read. Everywhere is so beautiful.

Moss Falls
Absolutely no idea who the bloke behind me is.

We ate at The Royal Oak in Braithwaite again. Our drive there takes us through a wood with signs warning us to look out for red squirrels. Son 2 informs me this is because they are known to attack cars (pretty sure he was lying). Bea declared she had never seen a red squirrel. We all stared through the windows. There was something reddish, dead, next to the road. Bea said this didn’t count. We did however see a hare, lolloping up the lane. Personally, I think a hare is as exciting as a red squirrel.

Hope you see something fun today. Thanks for reading.
Take care.
Love, Anne x

If you enjoyed this, why not read The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary.

Family Chaos

You can’t control animals (or children…or husbands!)

As you know, I am trying to revise for exams. The Hebrew one is finished (I smashed it!) but the more I revise Greek, the more I realise I have forgotten/never understood in the first place. I have a feeling of rising panic growing inside as the exam date moves relentlessly nearer.

Now, I thought that I had at least sorted all the animals so that I could devote my time fully to my studies. I had timed the hatching of the eggs in the incubator so the ducks would be fully-grown and on the pond, I stocked up on supplies of pet food, incorporated cleaning-out times in my schedule. I was prepared. Except I wasn’t.

Firstly, the local fox decided to produce cubs, which meant it began to visit my garden at odd times of the day to snatch a chicken. The only way to keep them safe is to keep them locked inside for a few weeks until my garden is no longer seen as an easy source of food. This means the chickens now need cleaning-out more often, and they kick dirt into their water, and generally make everything more work.

Then mother duck started to sit on another nest. I calculated the date, and sure enough, they hatched this week. Which means they are now in the pond-cage I was planning to put the fully-grown ‘ducklings’ in. Which means they have to stay confined in the big cage (because if I release them on the pond now, they will sleep on the bank, not return to the pond-cage, and greedy fox will eat them—see above.) Ducks mainly spend their day putting mud into their water, which means I have to keep refreshing it. Which takes time. The new ducklings are cute, but add to the workload as I have to keep checking one isn’t stuck somewhere, plus food and clean-up schedule.

Then grumpy-old-cat-who-hates-me has started to walk further afield. She is over 20, and can hardly walk, but has decided that she will visit the outside cats each morning. They hate each other, so I’m not sure why. But she tends to climb into places that she cannot then get out of, so I have to keep remembering to check where she is in case she needs rescuing. Which takes time.

It reminds me of when my children were young, and they didn’t fit neatly into a schedule either. I’m not quite sure how families manage when they both work. I worked fulltime for one year when my children were aged 4, 6, and 8—and I collapsed in a heap at the end of the year and switched to a part-time contract. Children do not save their crises for convenient times. They will be devastated because someone doesn’t want to be their friend, or lose one shoe (only ever one) or start vomiting on those days when you have a deadline and extra stress and really need everything to be calm.

Husbands can also be a challenge (though mine is lovely of course). Yesterday Husband kindly cooked the dinner, which was incredibly kind. We had fishcakes, and rocket (nicely garnished with a tomato) and chips—all of which were lovely. There was also a dressing to go on the salad. It was a new creation, and had a pleasant taste to start with, followed by bit of a kick and then a slow burn. I don’t believe it was from a recipe book. After much discussion, the ingredients were revealed as: oil, garlic, oregano, seasoning, garlic (lots of this I think) and whiskey (which explains the burn!) I will send the recipe on request.

Hope you have an organised week—or ride the chaos with a smile if not.

Thanks for reading.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson
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Cake Disaster

It was a disaster. I tried my best, but it still looked like something a twelve-year-old had made out of plasticine. At least it made my siblings laugh (good to bring a bit of laughter to someone’s day—even if that wasn’t the result I was going for).

You see, it was my mother’s 80th birthday, and I decided that I would make the cake. (Well, to be honest, the lady who I wanted to order a cake from has moved away, and when I looked at cakes in the shops, I thought I could make one that was better. I was wrong.) Birthday cakes in our family are a thing.

When we were young, my mum always made us a birthday cake. Every year, without fail. Previously, Mum had taken some evening courses (City and Guilds) and she was rather good at decorating cakes—good enough to sell them in fact. I remember the tension in the house whenever she was asked to make a wedding cake, because if we even breathed in the kitchen we were glared at!

I also remember the time she made a huge centenary cake for a Covenanter group (like the scouts) and it was left in the larder where it would be safe. Except it wasn’t safe at all because someone (my brother) lent on it to reach something and put his elbow right through the left-hand corner. There was a bit of fuss when it was discovered, minutes before the cake was due to leave the house, and my mother did a bit of nifty icing to hide the damage.

My favourite cake had a fairy on it, closely followed by one with iced pink flowers. My brother’s cakes tended to be football-themed. I don’t remember my sister’s, but they would have been beautiful.

When I had children of my own, I tried to continue the family tradition. My results were less good, but usually passable—mainly because I went for simpler designs.

Cakes when my boys were small.

So now, with Mum about to be 80, I wanted to create something beautiful for her. She is a keen gardener, with painted watering cans in the garden (where she hides sweets for all the local children to find). I decided to make a cake covered in iced flowers, with bright watering cans all around the edge.

I found some tiny flowerpot muffin cases in Lakeland—they could sit on top of the cake.

I found a mould for icing watering-cans on the internet. Perfect.

I was busy revising for exams, but when I could think no more, I used the break to make the cakes. I have made cakes a million times. These were the worst cakes ever.

I tried to make the watering-cans. Even I could see they weren’t exactly beautiful. The red icing seemed to go everywhere. The cake (and my kitchen) looked more like a war zone than a garden. I sent photos to my siblings. My brother suggested I add a hand-grenade to complete the look. My sister said she couldn’t stop laughing.

It was a disaster. I realised that decorating cakes is not one of my gifts.

On the day, I presented Mum with her garden-war-zone-chaos cake. She looked pleased.

Hope you have some success with whatever you attempt this week. But if not, at least it might make someone laugh.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

(The photo below, found on Facebook, seemed strangely apt!)

Anne E. Thompson
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Christmas Memories. . .

One of the best things about Christmas is the memories. Do you have happy ones?

 I remember as a child, lying in bed and straining to hear the bells of Santa’s sleigh. Every year, sometime in late December, I would hear him—playing loud seventies pop music—as his sleigh drove around my home town. Mum would give us coins for the people rattling tins, and we would rush out, and Santa would lean over his sleigh (balanced on the back of a lorry—but that never struck me as strange) and pass us sweets. The sweets were never especially nice, but they were oh! so exciting! because they came directly from Father Christmas. (And thank you to the Letchworth Roundtable for organising this snippet of joy.)

My father always cooked Christmas lunch, after church and after his siblings had come round for a glass of sherry. We never ate very early. He cooked a wonderful dinner, and used absolutely every saucepan in the house. His speciality was the gravy, which was rich and smooth, made with meat juices and stock—it was like soup and he always made enough for about 57 people (and we never, as far as I can remember, had more than our family of 5 for Christmas lunch). Every year mouth-watering smells would seep out from the kitchen, and one of us would ‘volunteer’ to be Dad’s helper. This involved washing up for about 3 hours straight. Eventually the dinner would be ready, and we would carry the food to the dining table in the front room (only ever used on Christmas Day and for ‘posh’ meals with guests). Every year my parents would laugh at how late the lunch was (it often clashed with the Queen’s speech). Very often, to our dismay, we would have just said grace and be about to start when the phone would ring, and it would be ‘Aunty Pam from America.’ This was a big deal for my parents (she was my mum’s sister, but we didn’t really know her, so we mostly resented the intrusion).

When I was young, Father Christmas came secretly in the night and left a knitted sock of gifts on the end of our beds. (The socks were from my Dad’s wellies, and there was one terrible Christmas Eve when we couldn’t find them!) We could open the gifts as soon as we were awake, so we tended to wake very early. There was always an orange and a slightly bruised apple. My Dad would always get up and sit in his dressing gown watching us. When I was older, I realised that he had made some of the gifts himself, and I can guess how excited he would have been to watch us discover the farmyard, or the fort, or the puppet theatre. There is a certain smell of wood varnish, which even today zaps me straight back to Christmas Day.

I am now a mother, and I have another layer of memories with my own children. When they were small, Christmas Eve was all about preparing the food. I would turn a loaf of bread into crumbs for the stuffing, and a chubby toddler would eat all the crusts. We would sit in front of a film in the afternoon with a tray of sprouts, peeling them and tossing them into the colander ready for the next day. The youngest would diligently peel layer after layer, and then announce: “This one’s empty,” before starting on the next one.

I was always too excited to sleep Christmas Eve, waiting for them to wake and open their ‘Father Christmas presents.’ They all woke disappointingly late, and then would want to savour each gift before opening the next one (not my genes). As soon as they were old enough, I forced them to agree that we would open ‘stocking gifts’ on Christmas Eve, after dinner. I manage to sleep better.

We now all share the buying of stocking gifts, everyone adding small gifts or jokes to the named bags. Then we sit round, laughing at the person who received 29 bars of soap, or the funny tee-shirt that I bought after a glass of wine and sorely regretted ever after. . . And I know that Christmas is about God coming into the world as a baby, and knowing his peace, and being able to know him—but to be honest, this Christmas Eve opening of gifts is my favourite part of Christmas, it is just us, under the twinkle of lights from the tree, warm and relaxed, sharing laughter and love.

This Christmas will be different, an adapting of plans due to Covid, but I hope it will still be special. I hope that you will find ways to make it lovely, I hope that you add some more special memories to the storehouse in your mind.

Happy Christmas 2020 from me.

Love, Anne x

Hills of the Lake District

Off to The Lakes. . . Second Day

Fell Cottage, Near Coniston

Fell Cottage, near Coniston.

Kia woke me to say she fancied going into the garden. Let her out, and woke Husband. Went for a quick run, down the road to Torver. We saw a Tesco delivery van, which I was sure must be the one due to arrive at our cottage, but he denied all knowledge. The run was mostly lovely, running down a hill, past fields of pretty cows, and streams, and trees, and low stone walls. The run back was not as easy, as it was mostly uphill. I am thinking of buying a defibrillator—must be able to buy a small portable one for hill running.

Sheep shearing.Took Kia for a walk. She’s too old now for a really long hike, so although we’d planned to walk in the afternoon, she would need to stay at the cottage. We took her along a disused railway, towards Lake Coniston. We passed sheep being sheared, and watched while a collie rounded them up and separated the herd. Kia was very attentive, and clearly wanted to join in/give advice. Kept her on the lead.

Walked to where we could see the lake, but not the entire way there as it was longer than we thought (and Kia is now quite old, with dodgy joints).

Lunch of left-over picnic from yesterday and new stuff that the Tesco man delivered. Husband tried to organise KitKat allocation. He failed.

At 2:30 (very precise time) we attempted to set off for our hike. Kia was left in the house, which caused some angst (but when I sneaked back to check, she was asleep, so she wasn’t worried for long). Bea appeared in a sparkly skirt and bare legs; decided her wellies would be uncomfortable and went to change. Emm appeared with no coat; decided it was colder than expected, and went to change. I felt I was in a time warp, and nothing much was different to twenty years ago, except now the clothing decisions were not mine and therefore it took longer before we were ready to leave. Said nothing.

We planned to walk up a hill (mountain) to Goat Water. I was told it would take about 2 hours (it didn’t).

Walked for several hours, mostly up. It was very beautiful (see previous description and add an abandoned quarry and piles of slate) but I was too tired and got cranky (I am now quite old, with dodgy joints). Bea complained about length/camber of walk, while Jay filled her hood with rocks (really, nothing changes). Husband eventually noticed I was staggering several miles behind everyone else, and decided to change the plan. We rested on a little stone bridge, and looked across the valley. Very beautiful.

Walked back (mostly down) and managed to somehow lose the path. This was in spite of the fact that Husband has downloaded a very detailed map from Ordinance Survey site, which showed is exactly where we were (so we did know we were on the wrong path). Found a way past the quarry without having to walk too near dangerous sheer drops. Saw a nearly naked man poised on a rack. Wondered if he needed help (of the psychological kind). He jumped. We hurried to see whether he was drowning, whilst not being entirely sure what we would do if he was. He was swimming. He was with a group of friends, and they were all taking turns to fling themselves into the water-filled old quarry. Each to his own. . .

Arrived at cottage 3 ¼ hours after we set off. Next time I will take water and snacks. Dog was asleep. Cottage wonderfully comfy. Had tea and played ‘Bananagrams.’

The power went off just as I was about to cook dinner, which added to the adventure. All the chip shops seemed to be shut on Sundays, and all the pubs were fully booked. Power came on. Cooked salmon in chilli sauce and heaps of mashed potato and slightly too mushy broccoli.

Spent the evening playing games and laughing.

Slept well.

Coniston Water-gsd-lake district

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Electric Toothbrushes Can Cause Blindness

Electric Toothbrushes Can Cause Blindness

“Get an electric toothbrush,” they said.

“An electric toothbrush is much better for your gums—and gum disease is a bigger problem than tooth decay.”

I listened to the advice from my dentist, and considered whether he might be right. I have terrible teeth, and for many years as a child I neglected them, so now they are full of fillings. Plus, they’re too big and stick out (my dear husband describes them as ‘horsey teeth’). If I had the ability to change one thing about myself, it would definitely be my teeth. I guess we all have something we’d like to change.

However, now I am all grown up, I do attempt to take better care of them, and I have not needed a filling since the 1970s, so I feel I’m doing okay. I clean my teeth morning and night, with a fluoride toothpaste, and a medium sized toothbrush, which I replace regularly. I did not see the need for an electric toothbrush. I also did not especially trust my dentist, who was a new one, due to my dentist of 30 plus years inconveniently retiring. But Mr. New Dentist was insistent, an electric toothbrush was the way to go.

I left scowling.

The following weekend, Bea visited, and I heard her cleaning her teeth. She was using an electric toothbrush. She extolled the virtues, and told me I should listen to my dentist.

I scowled some more.

I looked online. There were a vast array of electric toothbrushes available, ranging from fairly cheap to needing a mortgage. I chose a not-too-expensive one, because I wasn’t convinced it would be used more than once.

Toothbrush arrived. The packaging was impossible to open, I cut my finger trying to remove it from the plastic case. I glanced at the instructions, and there seemed to be a bit missing, but perhaps they were generic instructions and referred to a different model. I carried toothbrush to the bathroom and plugged it in, hoping that it wouldn’t charge. It charged.

Returned to bathroom and scowled at toothbrush. It stood on its stand, looking smug and slightly dangerous, as if it knew things that I didn’t suspect. I picked it up and held the head under the tap until it was rinsed, then applied a ‘pea-sized blob of toothpaste’ as per instructions. So far so good. Pressed the button, and the fun started.

The toothbrush came to life with a high-pitched whirring that took me straight back to childhood and the dentist’s chair and the whine of his drill. At the same time, the pea-sized blob of toothpaste scattered into a thousand tiny specks that coated the mirror and the sink and my sweater. I realised my mistake, and hastened to place toothbrush into my mouth. It juddered across my cheek, whirred around my mouth, snagging my gums and the inside of my cheek and skimming across my teeth. I tried to stop it, and discovered I am incredibly uncoordinated. My efforts to press the stop button, rinse the brush, return to mouth, press on button, all became muddled. I splattered the whole bathroom with water and toothpaste, and some went into an eye. Toothpaste in your eye really stings. Am pretty sure I will go blind now—but at least I won’t be able to see my horrible teeth.

I managed to stop the toothbrush, rinsed it and returned it to its stand. It looked very smug.

I am looking for a new dentist, if you have any recommendations?

Have a good week.

Love, Anne x

Thank you for reading
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Secrets Every Mother Should Know

Here is one of my earlier posts. I hope you enjoy it, and will share it. It makes me smile, as all my children are now adults, and parenting is still wonderful and challenging and full of adventure, as I explored in my novel: Ploughing Through Rainbows — have you read it yet? Amazon Link Here!

Mummy Secrets

1.Boys (of all ages) never look in the back of drawers. This is true. They open the drawer about half way, have a quick look and then tell you that what they are seeking is not in there. This can be used to your advantage if, as in my house, they frequently a) misplace their own scissors and b) borrow yours and don’t replace them. If I keep my things at the back of the drawer, even the drawer where they have always been kept, then they don’t find them. Things at the back are safe. Worth remembering.

2.When they ask which child you love best, pick one. I spent years trying to explain that I loved them all equally, that I could never choose which one I loved best, etc etc – they just kept asking. So one day I picked one and gave an outrageous reason:”Bea, because girls are better than boys,” “Jay because he’s the nicest,” “Emm, because he’s clever,” They still asked occasionally (and I did try to switch which one I chose) but it put them off for a long time and always ended the conversation pretty fast.

3.When your children argue with their siblings, always be the most unreasonable. I always wanted my children to be friends with each other, not least because one day I wont be here to care for them and I want them to look out for each other. All children argue with their siblings, that cannot be avoided. However, when there was no clear reason for the dispute, I would try to be much more unreasonable than any of them. Comments like, “Right, that is no television ever again” or “I am banning all chocolate, forever” would so outrage my children that they would mutter darkly about me – together – and forget all about whatever they had been arguing about. After an hour or so they would ‘persuade’ me to modify my punishment to a more sensible one.

4.Forcing your child to eat something will not make them less fussy eaters. I am an adult now, all grown up, but I still feel sick when I smell rhubarb or gooseberries cooking and I am sure it is because I was forced to eat them as a child. I did initially try the same parenting technique with my own children (most of us copy our parents to some extent) but I abandoned it when I found peas thrown out of the window and half a piece of steak blocking the toilet. If my children did not like something, they were not forced to eat it. They did have to taste it every so often, in case their taste-buds had changed, but they were happy to do that because they knew they could choose to not eat it, if they didn’t want to. They are all adults now and they all have a varied diet. You do of course need to ensure that they have a balanced diet. However, if your child does not eat vegetables, fruit is just as healthy.
 Also, occasionally check the ingredients of what your child is eating. If the list is full of stuff you are more likely to find in a chemistry lab than a supermarket, do you really want to feed it to your child?

5.You cannot reason with an angry boy. When girls are angry, the adrenaline stimulates the speech part of their brain and they want to talk. Sometimes for many hours non stop. The opposite happens with a boy. When they are angry, the speech part of their brain shuts down and they are more likely to hit out than discuss. Something to do with testosterone. I don’t understand the biology but I do know that it is true because I have seen it many many times with my sons and my pupils. So, if a boy is angry, do not bother explaining anything until he has calmed down. If he is small, pick him up and put him somewhere safe. If he is big, put yourself somewhere safe (the washroom is a good place. Even an angry boy will not want to risk seeing his mother using the toilet and there is usually a lock on the door.) When he is calm, then you can explain to him why he was wrong, why you behaved as you did, what is an appropriate punishment, etc.

6.You cannot raise a child on your own. We all need help, mothers especially. In an ideal world, a child is raised by two parents and four grandparents and a whole world of friends, teachers, neighbours. Ours is not an ideal world, but whatever your situation, recognise that you have limitations and get help when you need it. Lots has been written about this, about “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, or even films like “About a Boy”. It is true. When you get to the absolute limit of what you can cope with, get help. I am a sometimes praised for how nice my children are and was a successful teacher, but sometimes I couldn’t cope. I recall one evening when I phoned my brother and told him I could not cope with my teenage son. He talked to him for a while (I think they just agreed that women can be very irrational at times! But it didn’t matter, it broke a cycle that I wasn’t coping with.) Don’t let things get beyond what you can cope with, that’s when horrible things happen. If you need help, get help. It is the wise thing to do.

7.When they bring home a crap picture, tell them its crap. If you always praise them they will a) never trust you to be honest and b) always feel the need to do brilliantly. I firmly believe that if you teach your children how to fail well, then they will do well in life. One of my proudest parenting moments was when my daughter lost a race in the school sports event. She was last by a considerable margin and ran the last lap with the hugest grin to huge cheers from the crowd. She was not a sporty child, she knew she was not good at running and that was fine. In other areas she excelled and she knew that my praise was genuine. If I say something is good, they can trust that it is.

8.Treat your children differently. You can treat them equally without having to do exactly the same thing for each child. For example, I can never understand the parents who buy a gift for the other child on a sibling’s birthday. Letting someone else have a turn at the treat is a good learning point, this is life, they will not always be the one who gets the promotion/job/top mark etc. This is the same when choosing a school, clubs etc – see them as individuals especially if they have different talents.

9.Don’t be fooled when your child tells you that you are either the best or the worst mother in the world. You are not. When they are about five and they tell you that you are the best mummy ever, that is very nice. Write it down and hold on to that memory. It wont be too long before they tell you that “all the other mother’s let their children do/have/go to, whatever” and they will reliably inform you that you are the worst mother ever. Brace yourself and ride the storm, taking regular peeks at the diary entry when they told you how wonderful you are and remembering that ALL good mothers are told this at some point. You are their mother, not their friend. They don’t have to like you all the time. You have to make decisions for what is best for them, not what they will necessarily want. Be brave, it is not easy. But you are the best mother that they have, so they will have to get over it. I regularly told my children, “I am not like other mothers.”

10.Do go with your gut feeling and monitor how long your child plays computer games or watches television, or uses their phone. They can stunt creativity and the ability to communicate and keep track of real life. It wont kill your child to be bored sometimes. Or even (horrors) read a book. Decide what works for you. I found that most games, whilst addictive, also needed a certain amount of time for them to be played satisfactorily. So in our house we had ‘computer weeks’. For one week, they could play computer games for as long as they liked (not including homework times, meal times and bed times, which were rigid unless they were ill.) Then, the next week, there was no computer at all. After a couple of days, they adjusted to the lack of life support and actually managed to enjoy something like cooking or reading or playing in the garden.

We never had the tricky decision of how old is old enough to have a phone–because they didn’t exist when my children were little. I don’t really agree with the ‘phones are bad’ lobby, but like everything, it can be abused and parents have a responsibility for teaching their children how to use a phone appropriately. Is having a phone at a meal table a good idea? Or when they should be concentrating on something else? Is it polite to glance at a phone when having a conversation with someone? I recently watched a programme exploring whether phones are addictive (another blog to follow). Since researching this, if I had a child with a phone, I would definitely go to settings and have the screen set to ‘greyscale’.

11.When your child is a teenager, have difficult discussions in public. This was one of the best things that I discovered. So, if I wanted to discuss with my fifteen year old his bed time, the amount of time spent on homework or any other ‘tricky issue’ I would take him out for lunch or even a to nice coffee shop. Somewhere public. Somewhere that having a meltdown would be embarrassing for him. The social pressure helped him keep a lid on whatever anger he would like to vent and we managed to have a few very sane conversations. It was well worth the price tag.


It should perhaps be noted, that when I began writing this article I asked my daughter if she could remember any of my parenting strategies. She informed me that:
I regularly told her she was adopted and suggested she could go and find her real parents (she looks EXACTLY like me, so this was never a problem for her.)
If something hurt, I told her it would probably fall off.
I wanted to burn down her primary school.
I made her move traffic cones that were blocking the road when I wanted to drive down it.
I also always told them that even if they did things that were rubbish, I would love them anyway (they liked that one.)

On reflection, I may have been a slightly rubbish mother. However, all my children have grown up to be happy, sane and good company. Maybe being rubbish doesn’t matter too much. God chose you to raise your child, He has confidence that you can do it. I remember reading: you don’t have to be a perfect mother, you only have to be good enough. There is hope for us all. . .

Thank you for reading. Enjoy your day.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. They are available from book shops and Amazon. She writes a weekly blog at:

My novel explores the fun and problems when parenting adults (being a parent never ends…trust me!) A heart-warming family saga that will make you smile.

A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

Available from an Amazon near you — why not buy a copy today?

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