Archive for September, 2009

She looks good….for her age….

September 30, 2009

This is one phrase I’d like to blast into oblivion with my superwoman strength.   Kapow.  Take that, you nasty little negative phrase, sewn in so insidiously deep  into our vocabulary.  Past the age of 35 no woman can just look good any more.  She can only ever look good… for her age.   Why do we do this to ourselves? (because if I’m honest it’s mostly women I hear tagging on FHA “for her age” to any compliment they pay to other women).  It’s like we’re all hard wired to think that post 35 we’re past our prime and the only way from there is down. 

It is true that from the second we’re born we get older every day but, great plastic surgery aside, there ain’t a lot we can do about that.    There’ll always be people older than us and people younger than us.  That’s the way life works and we should all embrace it and stop being so mealy mouthed with our compliments.  So let’s make a pact shall we?  Let’s not say FHA anymore.  Say it loud and say it proud.  “She looks good.”  Full stop.

After all we don’t hear many people saying that George Clooney looks good for his age do we?.  George just looks good.  Simple as.   So do we.

Men on maternity leave?

September 23, 2009

From April 2011 under (current) Government proposals, men will be able to take up to six months leave (three of them paid) during the second six months of their children’s lives if the mother returns to work.  According to Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, this will give families more choice and flexibility in how they balance work and care of children and enable fathers to play a bigger part in bringing up their children.

But will it?  It’s a fact that in the UK women are the primary carers for their children.  There’s lots of reasons for that.   Women have the babies for a start and are the ones with the necessary equipment to feed them.  They’ve got to be the ones who take off the first chunk of maternity leave.  Having taken their foot off the career pedal for a while and possibly slipped a bit down the pecking order, it’s not suprising that couples then decide that the focus should be on the man’s career thereafter.  He gets paid more anyway and  it’s difficult (although far from impossible) to juggle two full time careers with children.  Children would prefer it if the person looking after them when the school day finishes at 3.30pm was Mum or Dad and since Mum’s already in her employer’s bad books for having had all that indulgent maternity leave, she may as well continue in that vein and be the one who gives up work altogether or asks to work part time.    

Then there’s the fact that women like looking after children more than men.  In my opinion anyway.   My son was never interested in dolls.  My 4 year old daughter spends hours playing with them, cuddling and feeding them and parading them round in her toy pram.    Boys and girls are built differently.  Nuture has a part to play in that difference (nobody, including me, ever gave my son a doll as a present) but nature is by far the biggest contributor.

And finally, how many women out there who, having got through the first sleepless six months of a child’s life will want to hand over their maternity leave to the father and go back to work, just as things have got into a routine and the baby is sleeping through the night and smiling through the day.  Not many.  The estimated take up of father’s maternity leave is just 6%. 

But it’s a start.  The beginning of a challenge to the accepted view that it’s women who take time out of work to look after children because that’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it’ll always be.    There are lots of employers out there who when faced with two candidates of equal ability, one a man and the other a woman of child bearing age (and what’s that these days?  Up to 62 or so? ) will choose the man because he’s not going to take maternity leave is he?  Well now 6% of them will.  That 6% is enough to shake up some old fashioned thinking so that over time the take up increases and everyone stops looking surprised when Dad decides to stay at home with the baby for a while.    Assuming of course these proposals make it to the statute books before there’s a change in government.    Hurry up then Harman!  Get a move on quick.

On not winning the Woman in Business award

September 12, 2009

I didn’t win the Woman in Business award at last night’s Chamber of Commerce business awards dinner.  Having made it to a short list of three I didn’t of course want to lose but nor did I want to win.   Winning would have involved going up to the stage to receive some sort of trophy under very bright lights and be photographed with John Sargeant and I was worried about that for a number of reasons:

a)      The awards ceremony started at 10.30pm.  The wine drinking started at 7pm.  Do the math.

b)     During dinner, a rogue piece of lemon tart suddenly jumped off my plate and landed in my lap leaving a big greasy mark down the front of my frock.

c)      I was not wearing my hold me in industrial strength pants, due to the fact that the last time I wore said pants I pulled a muscle such was the effort involved in going to the loo.  Really. Without said pants, it was all a bit wobbly in the belly and bum department.

I needn’t have worried.  Hayley Parsons of Go Compare won and good on her.  Wales needs people like Hayley Parsons to set up successful businesses like Go Compare and create lots of jobs.  And Go Compare had to endure the bright lights thing twice because they had also sponsored an award.

 Talking of creating lots of jobs, Admiral Insurance won Welsh Company of the Year award.  There was a sharp intake of breath from the room when Dave Stevens recalled how initially Admiral planned to set up shop in Brighton, only switching location some three months later to Cardiff.  Imagine! Those 2500 lovely jobs could have been on the south coast of England rather than right here in the middle of Cardiff.  

Today has involved some more winning-of-award stress in our house because today was our village fayre.  There is a Calendar Girls feel good feeling about people lining up to compete for the best fruit jam or bara brith (own recipe) or three matched runner beans.  Something old fashioned and comforting and generally very pleasing.  My 10 year old son retained his status as reigning champion of 3 decorated fairy cakes (he went for a sports theme this year – rugby, cricket and football, all made out of marzipan) and my 4 year old daughter got highly commended for her photograph of a chicken.   They are both of them delighted with their winning certificates and so am I because nothing compares with the sweetness of witnessing your children’s joy.

First day back from holidays

September 1, 2009

Grim isn’t it?  However much you like your job (and I do like mine honest) you’d still prefer to be lying by the pool reading your book (mine was Dawn French’s Dear Fatty – loved it; I laughed and  I cried and I loved Ms French’s positive, realistic attitude towards life) than be on your third load of washing already and watching your tan fade by the second. 

Holidays are part of the ritual of family and very important in building up shared memories of  time spent together.  I cherish my childhood memories of caravanning in West Wales with my family because back then the sun always shone, the sea wasn’t cold, sand was really actually very comfortable to sit on and there was ice cream every day.  That’s how I remember it anyway. 

I wonder how my kids will remember the holiday we just had in a little resort just outside Murcia.   Their memories will certainly be different to my childhood ones.  Here are just some of the ways:

1.  My 4 year old doesn’t hold a camera to her eye when she takes a picture.  She has only ever known digital cameras.    She holds it away from her to frame her subject and then turns the camera straight round to see the photo she has taken.   Good heavens – she gets to take photos!  Back in my day film was very expensive and absolutely no one except Dad got to take a photo.    

2.  She also doesn’t know a life without absolutely everyone in the world owning a mobile phone.  No queuing up for unfeasibly hot glass phone booths and deciphering international codes to make a call home.  As far as my daughter is concerned letting everyone back home know you’ve arrived safe and sound involves sending a text.  And getting one from Gran straight back. 

3.  By the same token, the advent of text means the demise of the post card.  Pity that really.  They were always nice to get – little squares of other people’s holiday landing on your doormat.  Don’t miss writing them and tracking down the right stamps though.

4.    Factor 30 is a fact of my kids’ life.   I never even heard of Factor 30 when I was little.  I thought Factor 8 was as high as it got and that it was specially reserved for red head kids with freckles.  We didn’t go lower than Factor 15 this holiday.  That Factor 2 Ambre Solaire oil that smelled deliciously of coconut appears to have been banned, much like smoking inside, something else my kids will (thankfully) never know.

5.  They will never know the excitement of French francs and Spanish pesetas and a load of other redundant European currencies.  Just the Euro.  Same old everywhere.

Somethings don’t change with the years though.

1.  Getting off a plane that’s left a cold British airport and landing somewhere hot where the sun is shining and then when you step out getting wrapped in a whoosh of lovely hot air.    The reverse is also true.  Getting back off the plane at that same British airport a week later, wearing only shorts and a vest top, and being surprised that it’s cold here isn’t it?   We all know it’s cold at home people!  It’s why we went away on holiday in the first place.

2.  That amazing feeling  on your first night away with a whole holiday stretching endlessly in front of you.   Lots and lots of time.  Three days in, time starts galloping and somehow before you know it it’s your last night.

3.  The first paddle in a foreign sea.  Lush.

4.  How the tiniest amount of sand brought in between your toes can turn your entire bed into a giant emery board. 

5.  How brown fat looks way better than white fat. 

Must dash.  Got some school shoes to clean and some pencils to sharpen.  Because straight after the first day back from holidays comes the first day back at school.  Even grimmer.