Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Halloween !! Its Scottish and Irish ! Celtic !

English Heritage today are the latest body to quote again the incorrect fact that Halloween has come from America.

NO NO NO !!! Every year we email and tweet and try to correct this !!!

Now in Glasgow we celebrated Halloween when I was young ! I am 50 !  But reports from my family record halloween happening 80 and 100 years ago.
My uncle remembers blackening their faces and tying the opposite doors on a tenement close together and running away !
This would have been around World War 2 time.

We always carved turnips - so at least English Heritage are mentioning that - now turnips make a great smell when carved and with a candle in them - but boy are they hard to carve ! So pumpkins are perhaps a welcome import there !!

We did not do "Trick or Treating" - we went "Guising" - we were in Disguise - and we had to have a joke or a poem memorised as we went round the houses, before we would get any sweets or money etc.
And the main enjoyment about getting dressed up was the month beforehand when you thought up and created your costume !  I once went as a pantomime horse with my best friend Jane, who is now a respectable doctor !! We did a pantomime horse dance as our entertainment - the old ladies we visited were scared as their china was dancing in their cabinet so they quickly gave us our sweets !! Another year I went as a witch (apparently made my brother be the cat !) and my friend was the Alien from the Smash potato advert !  Other great costumes in my family included a dalek, a washing machine and an uncivil servant !!

We would do "dooking for apples" - dooking as a word comes from across the north sea I believe, and there would be treacle scones hanging from the pulley and toffee apples !

Now the tradition in Scotland has never stopped - its a spooky night and we did have the idea there were spirits out there so maybe best to stay near a light !  Ireland had the same tradition and it wouldnt surprise me if Cornwall, Wales and Brittany had the tradition too.

Now, please in England if you only discovered Halloween recently, yes you personally may have heard of it from America - but the rest of us have always had it, and it only got to America because of Irish emigrants !!

So lets take back our own tradition !! Also traditionally we did not go in for the majorly scary costumes and props etc you see in the Supermarkets - so lets get rid of those.

It is of course the eve of All Saints Day - or All Hallows - hence Halloween. Many of us also visit church for All Saints Day and All Souls Day the next day. And November is a month of Remembrance and on the 11th Nov we have Remembrance Sunday. Personally it also seems to me to be a good idea if the shops did not bring out their Christmas goods until after that. Certainly I have refused to look at them so far.


Ref : http://www.scotland.org/features/halloween-traditions/
and more (including the blacking faces tradition of guising -- http://www.milngavieherald.co.uk/news/local-headlines/ways-to-celebrate-hallowe-en-in-true-scottish-style-1-3929175)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Computer Games Design - Suggestions to Reduce Disruption to Family Life


Need each game to be possible to leave at any point - especially those that are not online.
As how often do you hear "But I'll lose all my progress ! I've been on this mission for an hour" ... well you are not always feeling a heartless enough parent to pull the plug at that point ...but you can see the kids point ...but also the dinner is ready or you need them to set the table ... so WHY cant the programme just save their progress ? I mean at any one point the game is just a variety of variables which presumably have numbers attached - all those could be saved - EASY !
the question is - why hasnt this been integrated into games ?  Are they trying to fuel realism (and Addiction) by creating hour long or longer scenarios/missions in games ?

Suggestion 2 - Clear Age Rating Display
An age rating could be displayed in a small box at top of screen at all times.
You could have a 18+ logo or under 18 content in eg GTA.
Could be clearly displayed the logo at all times.
Again - Simple
For example in GTA if there are areas of the programme you dont want under 18s to visit then why not just close those off for the under 18 game. Simple. Again each section is just a load of variables and functions. It does mean that age ratings have to be integral to the programming, but I suggest they should be.  And then if scenarios or missions are displayed the programme just has to check what the age rating is set to.

So I hope Computer Game Developers are listening - as well as government etc who could insist the developers do these things - although better still, the industry could take a responsible adult approach to this !  Before family life is ruined !  And really overall it would be better for the gaming industry overall too as they might even generate more sales if they got the adults on board !

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Great Gatsby

We lived and breathed Gatsby ... for a while we felt like we were in 20s New York, driving over the bridge in an open top car...chiffon scarves floating and excitement in our veins .... looking to the future.

We savoured the quotes like an exquisite sweet ...tasting the very essence of that summer ...
we debated the characters and how they felt... why had Gatsby done this ... and had the films portrayed it well.

A friend introduced me to the world of the film producer Baz Luhrmann.

But in the end, just as Jay Gatsby had reached out for what was unattainable, it turned out that passing the English exam was also unattainable.... but do you know ... I think we still love that book .... it has quietly sat back and closed its covers and is waiting ... for perhaps some future moment when hopefully it will be opened again .. the dust blown off and perhaps it will again spring to life and the sun will rise above the waters of East Egg and West Egg and sparkle on the waters as we again witness a summer with Jay Gatsby and his neighbour ... and exams will seem a long way in the past !

Keywords : Higher English, Curriculum for Excellence, CfE

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Mums can be all in a lifetime - SAHM, Part Time, unemployed, Full Time Working

Mums can be all in a lifetime - SAHM, Part Time, unemployed, Full Time Working

How many surveys do you hear which tell Mums what they should be. I say bin them all ! Listen to your instinct and if you want to stay home with your kids because you just know that is best, then do it ! And lets hope that finances and government subsidies are such that you are able to do this for a few years until your little people are heading for school.

But even then it can be tricky to find work or to manage all the pressing demands in family life. Work does not always fit in with age-ing parents, kids who need to be in three places at once etc. And the weather is not always on their side either. If they have over a mile to walk to school and nowadays the rain is invariably falling then it can be great to take them to school occasionally.

Anyway back to my original point. These surveys seem to assume that in a Woman's working life of 50 years they can be a stay at home mother for fifty years ....  I doubt many people do that !!

Here is what the people I know have done :

10 years working...10 years SAHM...10 years self employed ...aiming to work for 15+ more years
Others work part time when babies are small.
There are all sorts of options.
Many have returned to their original careers, others have taken the chance for a change of career.
Still more have retrained.
Some regret not taking more time off.

But for the sake of equality - listen to your instinct and insist on staying off with your kids at whatever time in their lifes you feel they need you. They are your number 1 priority ....

And government should do more to find part time jobs for women who want to return to the workplace, instead of this constant push to force women with very young babies to go back to work.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Higher Maths

There has been controversy this year over the SQA Higher Maths exam in Scotland.

However .... many people I have spoken to, including some in my family, did not have a particular problem with the exam. Although others were reporting some pupils to be quite distressed by the exam.

Some of the questions were designed in a way that had been experienced by those doing the new Higher. So that would have been a disadvantage to those sitting the old Higher.
There has also been some discussion over the wording of questions, where the question was not entirely clear.

Now the problem is that if they were to remove these questions and base the exam results on the other questions then this could actually disadvantage someone who had originally done better in the exam and could lead to people who originally had a lower mark coming out on top ...

Some pupils just did not even attempt certain questions...and it is possible that these pupils therefore had more time to check their other questions ... whereas those who struggled with the difficult questions may have had no time to go back and check their answers.

On a simple level lets take an example of a eight question exam for a total of 20 marks, with questions increasing in difficulty as the paper progresses.
If achieving full marks, the marks per question would be ... 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4

Now lets assume Pupil 1 finds maths quite hard so they achieve the following marks :
1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 3, 0, 0  (total = 10 / 20)

Pupil 2  is better at maths and achieves :
1, 0, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2  (they have attempted the last few questions but had no time to go back and check the earlier questions)
(total = 16 / 20)

Now, if the last two questions were removed as deemed too difficult, the marks for both pupils would then be Pupil 1 = 10/12  and Pupil 2 = 11 / 12
Now,... these pupils now appear to be much closer in results than the actual marks illustrate.

So ... how can these pupils be differentiated ? Should they both now get an A ?

Well perhaps that would be OK .... BUT there must never be a case where a pupil ends up with a lesser mark having originally had more marks.

For example lets say there was a Pupil 3 who achieved  1, 1, 0, 1, 3, 3, 4, 3

This pupil originally achieved  16 / 20 (equal to pupil 2 and much more than Pupil 1)
but if the last two questions are removed Pupil 3 would only score 9 / 12 and may well be allocated a B .... which is LESS !! than Pupil 1. This is patently unfair ...

No pupil should ever achieve a mark less than they originally achieved. So if they were heading for an A or a B on their original score then that should not be reduced.
Fine, there may need to be some adjustment for pupils who have taken the wrong meaning from a question if there is agreement that the question was badly worded.
But these decisions must not be taken lightly as people's futures depend on these results.
This is unfair to that pupil but also negative to society in general if we don't get those who are best at maths into for example engineering etc.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Time Out !

Take Time Out for Kids !

Children are the most important thing. They are our futures.

And every family should be able to take Time Out to enjoy bringing up their kids.

They should be supported if they want to take some time out from work for a few years to rear their young age 0 - 3.  And once the kids are at school, right up to the teenage years, there should be the possibility to work part time for at least one parent.

The current push to make the school day longer will not suit many kids. The school day is long enough and many kids just need to get home to relax after school.

We need to stop thinking that people who "stay at home" with kids (a misnomer if ever there was one !) are somehow a different species !
Many mothers, and a few fathers, take a few years out when their children are babies and toddlers. This is what many want to do and its great for the kids.  Relaxing in the playpark while playing with friends, running across the grass after toddler group, visiting friends, going shopping, going swimming, picking strawberries at a fruit farm, playing football, going to playgroup.  Now most of these things I have listed are free things to do,  or at least very inexpensive, as parents work together to run toddler groups and playgroups. Its a community effort !  Now surely that is worth valuing.

So lets all realise that Time Out With Kids can be a good thing.  It has been shown to be good for the children's mental health with respect to bonding with their parents, attachment theory etc. and apart from anything else it is good fun. It is what life is about.

I like this piece which was a reading at a funeral I was at recently, of a friend's father who was very much a "family man", it makes me think of how there is a "time to work, a time to spend with your young children, a time to support your older children, a time for your parents, etc." :

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:
A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.
A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.
A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.
A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.
A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for discarding.
A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.
A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peaceWhat do people gain from the efforts they make?
I contemplate the task that God gives humanity to labour at.
All that he does is apt for its time; but although he has given us an awareness of the passage of time, we can grasp neither the beginning nor the end of what God does.
I know there is no happiness for a human being except in pleasure and enjoyment through life.
And when we eat and drink and find happiness in all our achievements, this is a gift from God

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Plastic Packaging

It is my belief that we could easily have a law which required that companies had to use recycled or re-usable packaging or biodegradable packaging wherever that is possible as an alternative to using plastic which comes from a finite resource on our planet of oil.

Currently I have collected 8 Persil tubs (photo to follow !!) and am about to send them back to Unilever via their FREEPOST address with the suggestion that they could require us to re-fill our (very substantial well made) plastic tubs at the supermarket.  There could easily be a large skip at the supermarket with the liquitabs in it and a dispensing drawer at the bottom which allowed 20 capsules out at a time. This type of machine is available at driving ranges to dispense golf balls, and I am pretty sure it could be designed fairly quickly.  If they want to contact me, even as a non engineer, I am pretty sure I could design it in a day.  It would need to be only for adults to use though as these liquitabs have been mistaken by children for sweets on occasion.

Another area which I allude to in another post, is the current use of plastic packaging for feminine hygiene products, where there is a perfectly good cardboard alternative which will biodegrade and not end up washing up on the beaches half way across the planet. This is Proctor & Gamble who are currently guilty of promoting this.

Why Every Political Party Should Support "Stay at Home Working" Mothers or Fathers as well as "Working" Mothers and Fathers

If you think a about it, Stay At Home Mothers (or Fathers), certainly of small children aged 0-3, should fit in to each Political Party's idealism, along with Working Mothers, who currently fit into the supposed "economic model family" currently being pushed in society.

Here we go :

Green Party

A Stay at Home Mother (or Father) is a Green alternative. Not adding to the materialistic push to own belongings (usually made of the earth's valuable resources). And taking time to appreciate such things as the local park and to get out and about to appreciate the environment. Not adding to the carbon footprint by driving to a nursery etc.


A Stay at Home Mother (or Father) is taking responsiblity for their own children and their upbringing. Standing on their own two feet. Taking time to educate children about society and values. Mums or Dads often volunteer as part of the "Big Society" taking part running playgroups and toddler groups etc.  And if parents do their own childcare then those young workers who are employed on low wages in childcare could get out and train for a better paid job which would bring in more tax return.  The mums or dads can then return to the workforce rejuvenated once their children are a little older.


Labour had the Sure Start centres which seemed like a good idea. A place where mothers and fathers could go to find out more about parenting. By looking after your own children, this is often the first real responsibility many people have had to care for another human being. But we need to care for families and those who have family responsibility so that they are supported in this vital role for society. Being a parent of a young child gives you a chance to get out and meet people and mix with others. You can learn new skills and take this chance to learn about parenting etc. Labour should be ensuring that every mother has the option to take a few years out with their children and not just those who have saved beforehand or who have a partner working. And Labour should prioritise a review of family budgeting and finance to find out why so many families are currently visiting Food Banks.


The Liberal Democrats are famous for being "Liberal" - what does that mean exactly ? Well the definition in the Oxford dictionary should mean that Stay at Home Mothers are definitely on the agenda !
1   Willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one's own, open to new ideas
2 (of education) concerned with broadening a person's general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training.


See above - or are you just here to add some colour to the political party spectrum !!

So overall I would suggest we need a major review of Family Policy as this new Parliament of 2015 starts out.  We need to review taxation and benefits.  Obviously benefits must have limits, there is not enough money to go round to support everything, but we need to think what is it we want from and for families if our society is to improve.  We also need to look at the school years and work out how to improve our education system and set higher standards for our teenagers. And we need to review such things as internet access, pornography etc. and how this is affecting all of our children, whether they are directly viewing these things or being affected indirectly.  And.... as well as young children, we should look at how society is treating our older family members and also how this impacts on wider families as well. There is a big difference between having a grandparent who needs help, whether a small amount or large amount to having either no grandparent around or having a very active and involved grandparent who is lucky enough to have retained all physical abillity. And in fact the age range of grandparents that I know varies from 40 right up to about 80 - now that is going to make a lot of difference in a family.

So let us all call on our Political Representatives to make the case for ALL  WOMEN, MEN and FAMILIES !!

Friday, 8 May 2015

History of Scotland Independence Voting - Lukewarm to say the least!

I can remember the Scottish Assembly referendum in 1979 under James Callaghan's Labour government. I was still at school but I can remember we had an SNP sticker on our car !
To win the vote for a Scottish Assembly  :
  • 50% of votes cast had to vote in favour AND at least 40% of the electorate had to vote in favour. 
Although 51.6% voted in favour, this was only 32.9% of the electorate (due to a low turnout) so the Scottish Assembly was not brought into being.
SNP MPs then put down a motion of no confidence. And then with Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher and LibDems supporting, an Opposition motion was put down and the debate was scheduled for Wednesday, 28 March 1979.  The motion moved by Margaret Thatcher MP was :
  • "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government".
Callaghan critisised the SNP, who supported independence for Scotland, for voting with the Conservative Party who opposed devolution. The Scottish National Party were to lose all but two of their seats in the election following the no confidence vote and the predominantly anti-devolution Conservative Party won the 1979 United Kingdom general election.:The following is a quote from James Callaghan :
"We can truly say that once the Leader of the Opposition discovered what the Liberals and the SNP would do, she found the courage of their convictions. So, tonight, the Conservative Party, which wants the Act repealed and opposes even devolution, will march through the Lobby with the SNP, which wants independence for Scotland, and with the Liberals, who want to keep the Act. What a massive display of unsullied principle! The minority parties have walked into a trap. If they win, there will be a general election. I am told that the current joke going around the House is that it is the first time in recorded history that turkeys have been known to vote for an early Christmas."
The Campaign for a Scottish Assembly was formed afterwards to continue the campaign.

There was then the following vote, on September 11th 1997 and I was living in Perth and can remember voting at the local school. I remember voting for the Parliament but against the tax varying powers. (from the results it looks like about 200,000 agreed with me (astute people !!) :
The result was as follows :

I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament.              1,775,045 74.3%
I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament.            614,400 25.7%

I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers. ,512,889 63.5%
I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers. 870,263 36.5%

So a more resounding result but again it was only based on a 60.43 % turnout so not great for such an important issue.

In 1999 the Scottish Parliament was formed and Donald Dewar http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/345189.stm). (The new Scottish Parliament building finally opened in 2004)
of the Labour party was our first First Minster. It was a proud moment for Scotland as they marched up the Royal Mile from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to the Court of Session building. (Ref:

And then in 2014 we had the important Scottish Independence Referendum, agreed to by David Cameron.
This was a large turnout of 84.6 % and a very close result.
  • Yes   1,617,989    No  2,001,926
Now some people afterwards claimed that "The Vow" - an assurance made by a group of Labour LibDem and Conservative MPs assuring more powers to Scotland was what swayed the vote to a NO at the last minute. But surveys since have shown that was only the reason for a very small percentage (3.4%) of the voters. (Ref: http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/scottish-politics/the-vow-did-not-sway-the-referendum-result-new-research-shows.121704244)

So....what I want to know is why do we now seem to heading towards Independence ?  There has never been a vote in favour. The first vote was 32.9% of the electorate in 1979 and in 2014 we had 45% of the electorate.

Yet now in the 2015 General Election, David Cameron has used scaremongering tactics and politics of fear tactics to frame the SNP as something to fear. And this tactic has led to him being elected to "protect" the English electorate in some way.  And we could well see a beginning of very extremist/ divisive politics that is not wanted by at least 50% of those in Scotland. At this 2015 election it was again 50/50.

So where do we go from here. Half the electorate in Scotland are consumed by a feverish evangelical vision of the future while the other half do not necessarily share this vision - perhaps having analysed the figures and maybe raising some questions e.g. why are college places cutback etc.  But these people dare not admit their view as they will be "shouted down" by family members/work colleagues/friends. Some retain a quiet British-ness. Not the triumphalist flag waving or flag-wearing type. But the quiet type where you might not even admit it to yourself but just accept that this is how we have lived together and shared a history for the last 200 years - and its not been too bad really......

The "Middle" needs a voice in politics or we will never see sense in the UK

The UK has been ruled for my whole life by extremes. We have swayed between :

  • left wing governments who were profligate with spending and had little understanding of the private sector 
and .....
  • right wing governments who had little understanding of caring roles or of valuing the NHS
But.... the problem is   THE MIDDLE GROUND DOESN'T HAVE A VOICE !!!

Because we have a constituency based voting system for the UK Parliament, where areas are either well off areas with perhaps some less well off or poorer areas with perhaps some slightly better off areas .... but overall the "middle" vote is spread country wide, while the Conservative, right wing vote is focussed in affluent areas and the left wing Labour (or SNP if in Scotland) vote is focussed in other areas.

So the result for the General Election 2015 shows that from 36.9 % of the vote, the Conservatives have over 300 seats.

If we portray this graphically :

And then if we add in the Number of Seats each party got, the discrepancy in our voting system shows up.  

But its only when you look at how % of vote translate into % of seats held in House of Commons that you realise how great the discrepancy is. (this graph exludes votes for "Others" eg DUP/Plaid Cymru):

As a frequent Lib Dem supporter I am used to this ! Often 30% of the vote lead to hardly any seats.

And were you aware that big names like Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher often had only small percentages of the vote. Rarely a majority of the "popular vote" across the UK.

So if you want to change this lets work towards it. The electoral Reform Society works to improve things. We have Proportional Representation in the Scottish parliament and it works reasonably well. Certainly better than the Westminster System.  Because just think for example, how many more would have voted Green if they had had the remote chance of getting in in many constituencies. Proportional Representation means "YOUR VOTE COUNTS" and you can vote for the Party you REALLY BELIEVE IN !

And ... perhaps we can have a re-run of the 2011 vote on Electoral voting system reform. I personally do not remember this vote. And it was based on a low turnout and I suspect people just did not understand the issues. Or if you were a Labour or Conservative you understood it all too well and voted to protect your situation where you receive an unfair number of seats for your percent of the vote. But is that really a healthy situation ? No! Because it does not reflect the electorate. And parliament will only work if everyone has a say in it. The situation now in Scotland at General Election 2015 means that 50% of the vote has taken almost a clean sweep of the seats. Now that is not a healthy situation.
(Ref: 2011 voting system vote : http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/referendums/2011-UK-referendum-on-the-voting-system-used-to-elect-MPs) and what we voted about :: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/alternative-vote

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Gatekeepers of the Female Voice

It seems to me during this General Election 2015 that yes the political parties and also the media are now very much out of touch with the reality of the lives that ordinary people are pursuing.

With regards to Women's Issues there seems to me to be even more of a gulf.

Media Women control the "voice" of women on Radio and TV and in newspapers.
They are probably strong, strident and educated women. Well done to them etc. But they have also been successful as they have risen to the top if they are working in National TV or for a National newspaper.  Now, not everyone has their ambition or even wants to be that successful, but are they even able to represent the rest of us ? They may not have had to deal with failure - e.g. failure to pass an exam, failure to get that dream job you applied to, failure to be able to live in the town you grew up in or near your family.

And if working in media, then the nature of the job is such that they will probably have had to use nursery or childcare, if working 9-5 or maybe use a nanny if working unsociable hours. So already they have moved into quite an exclusive league.

Those of us who either stopped working or aimed for part time work or started a small business so we could work from home when our kids were young are just not in their league. And then there are the people who have failed to find employment ever - they struggle with young families. Can these media people really understand where these people are coming from ?  Now I am sure many do try, but my concern is that from their privileged position, they are able to push their own agendas. I mean who wouldn't be able to resist pushing your own ideas in the same situation ?  So we seem to have a very liberal left wing / "equality" (at paid "work" !!) agenda being pushed- its alien to me, not something I ever discussed during my years doing a science degree or working as a teacher or in a University Hospital department. And then afterwards mixing with mothers and some fathers at toddler groups / school gate etc.

So we have the media types, Womans Hour is an example, who I feel push their own agenda with the occasional token person with a differing point of view.

And now we have politicians. Our local politician proudly proclaims her grandmother is helping out with childcare while she is out at political meetings etc locally. But again if a young woman with a family has decided she can work with the long hours at Westminster then she must be using childcare or have a husband at home. But how well can they represent us ordinary women ?  And again these women tend to be confident, educated, strident, articulate people.

But in the whole debate now the one woman who is no longer approved of is a Mum who decides to take some time out and rear their own kids.  Now why is it that this is no longer approved of ? Surely if we had equality then this choice would be accepted and valued ? And subsidised / paid for ? Just as the role is subsidised or paid for if it is done by someone else ?

True equality is only going to be reached when Mums are accepted into our society.

And I know in a few cases a Dad will prefer to take on this role.

But the thing that I think would help everyone, working Mums and Dads included and even people without kids who may have even elderly relatives etc to care for is the following :

We need more options to work :
  • Part Time
  • Term Time
  • The Hours that a job requires
  • Flexibility
This will lead to more satisfied, content employees and will ultimately lead to less stress in the workplace and at home.

Many many jobs really do not need to be full time. Fine if that is what someone wants to do, but so many times there are busy weeks and quiet weeks. Why not trust your employees to register the hours they actually require. And many jobs could be 9.30 - 2.30 which would be ideal for school hours.

So we need to re-focus on getting more part time jobs and also stop the focus on young children staying at school 8 - 6 to accommodate the parents !!
I mean maybe if these Media Types and Politicians had hated school like the rest of us then they wouldn't be subjecting our young children to this !!

Why Are Mums the only Ones Not Paid ?

Currently childcare subsidies go to just about everyone who cares for kids EXCEPT for the mums !!
There is an illogical-ness in this situation !

We have the bizarre situation where the only person who can't be funded to raise their own children is a mother (or father).  Now  we should be getting annoyed about this. We should be standing up for ourselves as we deserve this as we have often had to stop working / given up a salary in order to raise our own kids.

And it is good fun - and its good for the kids too !

We used to go to swimming lessons / playpark / toddler group etc. or even just taking time to go to the shops etc. Its all time with your Mum and on a 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 basis so great for language development and for you to learn to share a bond with your kids with no pressure. So I would recommend it.

If its really not for you then by all means employ the best help but funds should be paying for all options.

If we value our future kids then we should value and recompense those caring for them.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

My Manifesto

Here is my election manifesto for 2015

I wish the political parties had a few of these - they all seem to be pledging the same boring things - no ethics or ambition involved !  What one would you add or write your own manifesto for change !

1    Children - children deserve the best start in life. Families deserve time to learn to become a family and to be able to understand their child's needs. Many families need support in learning how to play with their children, how to feed them and how to enjoy being with them. This means families need funding.  Funding should not just be going to pay for other people to care for young children. Our brain pathways are built in those first precious months and years of development. If the early years are stressful out brains in future will react quickly to stress and produce more cortisol, the stress hormone - this is a fact.  So come on politicians, FAMILY FUNDING PLEASE ! And this should take account of total family income, as parents often give and take - it really does take more than one parent or adult to help bring up children.  All family circumstances are different, some have lots of friends or grandparents, some have two parents, some have one parent. Some have a parent who works for long hours or works abroad (very common where I live). For this reason I believe that family funding should be based on total income and should perhaps follow the child themselves.  But whether parents use childcare or do the care themselves BOTH MUST BE RECOGNISED.   And I don't know an awful lot about Sure Start centres, but they might form the basis of a good idea. And toddler groups and playgroups should get the full support of society.

2   Animals - animals also deserve the best. We have lived alongside dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, pigs and horses for millions of years of human development. These animals are mammals and care strongly for their young. So they should be allowed to grow in family groups. We should not overexploit them for their milk. Currently dairy cattle have their calves removed at birth and must produce vast quantities of milk. This cant be comfortable for them. Surely someone somewhere can work out a method where the cattle can filter through the milking barn with their associated calf alongside ?  I mean the calves are still going to drink the same amount of milk overall.  And do you know that pigs are highly intelligent and can play football ?!  Yet in the EU there are still some places where they are kept in small stalls. This should not be allowed.  And even with regards to hens/chickens these need better treatment. Who wants to eat meat from an animal which has had virtually no life. The current breeds of chicken are developed to produce meat as quickly as possible and look quite ridiculous. I wonder how good this really is for us to be eating.  We should also be promoting more vegetarian options in some way, encouraging people to eat the wonderful vegetable produce produced by our farmers.  And finally we need to ensure that slaughter methods, if these have to be used, are the most humane possible. They should probably be killed by the captive bolt method and this should be supervised by CCTV. The animals should not have any fore-warning of what is happening. But as I type that it makes me feel physically sick to think that we would do this to peaceful animals. We should only be caring for them, not eating them.  For the sake of the planet as well, we get more energy from farms if we eat crops directly rather than feeding them to animals. So it makes sense ecologically and economically. And we must not give in to religious pressure to change the way animals are killed. Surely any religion would agree that we must look after the animals.  Simples - as the Meerkats say !

3 Climate Change
This is a big concern and needs sorted - guy on Radio 4 this morning talking about how this should be in election manifestos. (22 April 2015)

4  Nuclear Power
As a scientist I have a fair understanding of nuclear power, but the after effects are shocking. The time that it is going to take the products to decay are unacceptable. We need to find another method of power.  And how stupid is it to build Hinkley B (is that the name of the new one ?) right next to the sea when sea levels are inevitably going to rise ? Doh !!!!

5  Finance
World finance needs sorted out. Banks and accountants have pulled the wool over many people's eyes and completely disrupted the world financial systems so they are in a terrible mess.  Gamblers and crooks should not be in charge !

6 Monsanto
MOnsanto should not be allowed to control the world's seeds. This company needs to be stopped. And rumours are that the weedkiller it produces - RoundUp is carcinogenic.

7 Other big organisations
The same goes for Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) - many companies have been caught up in less than ethical practises and need to be stopped. Its not like any of these companies (and others eg Starbucks, Amazon) actually need the money !

8 Ecopackaging - biodegradable materials
Following on from the previous issue, companies should be required to use biodegradable components in for example nappies, pads, packaging, feminine hygiene products, washing powders etc.  Companies should be required to use such things as starch etc which will biodegrade, unless they can provide evidence that the material they have used is the only possible material that can be used.  For example look at how many solid plastic boxes for Persil washing liquitabs are just being thrown away and not used - this is ridiculous - the liquitabs could be in a dispenser at the shops and you could bring your box along to be re-filled. Easy to do and masses of plastic saved. Good for the environment and good for saving valuable and finited natural resources.

9  Online Pressures on Teenagers and Children
Children are living with a very different environment even from 10 years ago and need to learn to live with it but also to be protected from it. They need to be able to discern what is good to watch and what is not good to watch. What is a good way to live ? What do you want out of life and are you going to consider other people too ?   Society has become very materialistic.  Personally I am quite horrified by some people I see, driving gas guzzling cares too fast (bought on credit! or via dodgy business expenses), along with dyed hair/false eyelashes/fake tan.  I'm sorry but how did we come to this ?  Lets get our kids out playing, walking, enjoying life. My kids enjoyed visiting an outdoor centre but were confined to their rooms some of the time due to the experience in previous years where other kids misbehaved. Some just do not have any idea nowadays where the limits of behaviour are. And I have seen this at kids parties too. So we need to get our kids onto a firm foundation again (this follows on from Point 1). Then we might have some hope that they can withstand the onslaught of celebrity trash/porn/self harming sites/social media comments etc. And they will hopefully have some ambition then to improve society themselves as well.

10 Care Homes / Nursery Businesses
These are two areas where functions used to be done by the state and are now increasingly in private hands. A friend pays £1,000 a week for her father to be in a care home. So all that money has come from selling his house. Yet even at that he doesnt seem to get particularly good care. When I looked up the profits of the big Care Home companies, they appear to take 33% profit and many companies are linked to each other. Disgraceful !
The same happens with nursery businesses and nursery chains. Many of these are active on Twitter and Facebook etc, and via all sorts of lobbying organisations and are gradually getting money out of out gullible MPs who believe everything they say.  Organisations backing the family are unfortunately more pre-occupied with actually caring for their own kids and just don't seem to get much airtime/lobbying time etc.
But this is not how it was supposed to be. There seems to be two extremes - wasteful resources and people if its public sector (I have heard many cases from people working there and have done myself although most people work very hard) but the situation is probably even worse when the private sector is involved.

11  Huge retirement funds in public sector - particularly national government and MP, MSP jobs  - Also dealing with Retirement Age - "active" jobs and "slowing down a bit" jobs
Why should MPs retire with a full pension as though they have worked for 40 years ? This should not happen. I dont know how extensive it is but I have heard of it happening. Maybe they can get a small payout if they lose their seat, but many people are now in temporary employment - its pretty normal now.
Secondly if some people have retirement age set at 67 then so should everyone.  National government civil service jobs I suspect are still sitting at age 60. This is not on. And fireman are retiring at 50 = ridiculous ! They should perhaps be assigned a less active role eg a desk job if they are no longer fit for the job. But again why does anyone feel that the employer is responsible for employing them for life ? I mean where did this idea come from ? As a person who always worked in temporary jobs, much as I'd have loved a permanent job, I just do not get this !  If you can't do the job then you are redundant ! End of !!  I am sure many people working in physical occupations need to have a re-think at about age 50 eg foresters, farmers, footballers !! etc  Much better to employ all those under-employed young fit people who seem to have to work at Tesco, in the active roles and let those who want to slow down a bit work at Tesco for a while !!
So really that is two issues to do with retirement,

Friday, 17 April 2015

Woman in a Man's World ? or Man in a Woman's World ? Never Easy !

I just heard today about a young man who had given up on his dream of becoming a primary teacher as even though he is gifted with the children etc, he was not being encouraged and was continually being placed from college into schools with only a female staff. That is not easy for a young sporty man, and eventually he ran out of "small talk". The chatter in the staff room of our local school would have been a nightmare for me as a woman, let alone for a young man.

And yet we desperately need more men in our primary schools. Whenever my sons had a male teacher, he was just "the best" ! But our school never seemed to be able to hold onto them. They moved abroad or were snapped up by other schools. And meanwhile the women teachers (prepare for bitchy comment ...) seemed to just out-compete each other on how high a heel they could walk on !! Not great for active teaching and learning in the classroom !!  Well they didn't quite all do this but there was a bit of a tendency among some.

I myself worked in science related jobs and IT among mostly men. There would be an occasional other woman/girl to have a chat to, but they tended to work in the department offices and sensibly didn't venture out into the wider department.  So it's not easy being a girl in a man's world. Even when most of them "behave". I have to say that most of the ones I worked with were fine. There was the occasional older man with his sexist comment about women working or women's driving etc. but most were fine. But another problem is just that perception that if the job you do is normally done by a man, then if you come along as a woman then you almost have to first prove that you can do the job, before things go any further. The same does happen for the man who is assumed to be able to do it even though he may well not be as good as the women, but he fits the stereotype.

And a family member works in a factory environment and he reports that the roles are almost 100% either male or female eg only men in the factory, only women in reception, even though there is absolutely no reason why men or women couldn't do either role.  But...once there is a complete male workforce or female workforce it is hard for the opposite sex to break into that environment.
And I have a feeling that in some circumstances it just might not be wise either if not downright unsafe for a woman to work in an all male environment in certain areas. And vice versa, but I would love if people could prove me wrong on that one and dispel my suspicions.

But these are barriers and big ones. To me they seem much bigger than programmes such as Woman's Hour's pre-occupation with getting so called "equality" on boards of companies. Maybe it would be better to start at the grassroots.  At least support women or men who are working in an environment where they are just "one among many".

Because I know for me there are a few jobs I'd have maybe have liked to have a go at, but I am put off by the fact its either all male or all female typically.

Oh and another problem is environments where its all young folk working, then these are very hard for older workers to see themselves working in them, and yet the older worker might well be far more ideal for the job.

So lets start seeing some real moves towards equality - not towards unrealistic targets but supporting the brave souls who want to break the mould !

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Not Grandparents Harriet !

Harriet Harman proposes that Grandparents should receive funding for caring for grandchildren. (An exception to my argument that follows is if they are the main carer...where they are currently treated as an exception I believe). BUT ..... we must avoid this slippery slope as if this became the case then the ONLY ! THE ONLY !!!! person who was not entitled to be subsidised / paid to care for a child would be that child's own mother.

This flies in the face of everything.

In the animal kingdom mother animals care for their young.

And many of us still want to care for our young. At least at that very young age when you can show them the world. Why would you want to hand this over to a childcare worker ?

 At age 3, if you know about child psychology, at that point, interactions with other children become more important and at that age a few hours at nursery or playgroup can work well. And then at age 5, maybe with a run in of a few half days to get everyone used to it, then 9-3 school days work well. Now it may be that the next best model once kids are at school is for a parent to work part time, at least one of the parents anyway, and this is the preferred option among about 80% of parents surveyed. So maybe kids can cope with a couple of days of breakfast club or after school. But on the other days its great to be able to come home, bring a friend home some days or go to play at a friend's house, or come home after a hard day at school, switch on Children's TV/Minecraft or whatever your "thing" is, and have a snack and drink and put your feet up. Surely we can afford this for families - it's called "family life" - what happened to it ? It still happens in many families, but that is no longer acknowledged in the political classes....but in other families its been lost .... and for some, they say that working is maybe a necessity and for those families there should be financial support. But... if working is really for "you time" or a BMW, or a holiday in Dubai ... then think about it.

What is important ... 

material things ?    

... or human relationships and your relationship with your kids ?

Because kids grow up .... and even more important is your relationship with your teenagers / young adults - if you can keep communications flowing then its better for everyone - and better for "family" !

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Don't Tamper with Tampons Tampax !

Well this is not really a topic I would have chosen to write a blog post about. But after the intransigence of Proctor and Gamble Customer Services, I am afraid I have been pushed into it.

Tampons are a necessary feminine hygiene product - essential. And almost synonymous with them has become the product Tampax.

Now, Proctor & Gamble who own this brand have decided to play around with the design of the regular Tampax. Previously the paper wrapper had a thin plastic thread which meant the product could be opened quickly and in one go. No longer. For whatever reason, perhaps they want to make customers move to Tampax Pearl (which has plastic applicators = very bad for environment). Why would you change something that has worked for years ?  Something which means that the products can be used quickly with minimum fuss and presumably least chance of infection etc i.e. Toxic Shock Syndrome, something that people probably hardly hear about nowadays. But if people are having to remove wrappers bit by bit, they will inevitably end up touching the product as opposed to leaving it clean. This will surely lead to infection and may well be something which should be reported to the Department for Health as really these are verging on medical products, not something which should be tampered with, when you already had a good design.

Why would they do this ? Let's find out more about the company and their market to see if we can spot why. Or are their designers just thick ? Is that all it is ? They don't realise why they had a plastic strip in the paper and think they can just save money by removing it ?  I also read in some references online that they changed the way the thread in the product works and this has lead to more leakage etc.

Who Owns the Brand ?
Proctor & Gamble acquired the Brand in 1996. P&G is an American Multinational consumer goods company with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. Founded by William Procter and James Gamble from the United Kingdom.  Interestingly they have 5 women on their board of 12 so maybe they might pay attention to this issue !  Of more interest is they were involved in a controversy about Toxic Shock Syndrome in 1980 with the Rely brand of Tampon : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procter_%26_Gamble

How Much do P&G Earn ?
They had a turnover in 2014 of $83 billion !! and a net income after tax of $11 billion !! so they can afford to not make the changes I have mentioned !

How Big is this Brand ?
The Brand has a 45% market share in the US, with a market worth $1 billion, although in the US it lost a percentage point share in 2013 to rival Kotex. However it is not one of Proctor & Gamble's biggest brands, which are listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Procter_%26_Gamble_brands

Interesting regarding advertising and categories

The companies for this product have a guaranteed market and that age range is declining so they are going to try and make us buy dearer and dearer products - so maybe they dont really want us to buy a nice cheap cardboard product which has always worked perfectly well .... and is recyclable :

The big new market share product is apparently "U by Kotex" - I haven't seen this in the shops yet but have to say I swear by the Kotex black packaged towels (see below) which are the only product of their kind for absorbency and for some reason are no longer stocked by the big supermarkets so I have to buy them on Amazon and at the local chemist.


These products are affiliate marketing links and I may earn a small amount if you follow the link and purchase a product.

This has to be stopped - especially when there is the perfectly good cardboard alternative

and this :
I am going to contact this person to see if we can do anything :

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

An Open Letter to Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson on behalf of Families !

Nick Clegg states that :
"This Edwardian notion that women should stay at home while men go out and support the family has simply no place in this day and age. We need a modern Britain and a fair society that works for families, not against them" in the following Press Release from the Government.  (Ref : "Majority of UK believe childcare should be shared equally between couples" https://www.gov.uk/government/news/majority-of-uk-believe-childcare-should-be-shared-equally-between-couples )
But - firstly over 42% of those surveyed were not parents themselves !!!   You really can't comment if you haven't been there yourself.   I can say for certain that my views before I had children were markedly different from once I had been presented with my first "bundle of fun" wrapped up in a blanket !! Many families I know have one partner working part time or self employed and working their own hours around school days. In many cases this is because one partner has taken shorter hours because the other partner is hanging on to a job by the skin of their teeth and are having to live abroad or away from home during the week.

Other families I know have one partner who has started a very demanding/risky business and often a partner will help out with that.

There are others where one partner travels a lot for work or has meetings to attend at short notice in eg London so there is no way the other partner could devote themselves fully to a full time difficult job.

Many of the families who claim they are both working full time are also paying people to care for the children or to clean their houses or cook meals etc.  (is it only OK to cook/clean/care for children if being paid? - in which case give us an allowance then we can contribute to GDP !!)  Although the cases where I do know of both families full time, it does very often seem to involve people working for the state in a fairly secure job....but maybe that is just coincidence among those I know.

However, in most families I know, there have been compromises made, unless there are grandparents to help out. Or if one partner is working away, the other partner has to be there to keep everything going. (Not everyone has grandparents who are there to help out at the drop of a hat)


If you are interested in this there is an organisation - Mothers at Home Matter http://www.mothersathomematter.co.uk/

In my opinion, there must be effects on the children of two 9-5 workers who are out of the house along with their children 8am -6pm. There is no-one to keep an eye on them as teenagers during the day, to encourage them to study when on exam leave rather than roam the streets.  And no relaxing in front of Postman Pat during a day when nothing in particular has to be done except a visit to the shops/toddler group then home for tea (sad to lose all that in a modern day rushed world). 

And who is going to pick up the 11 and 12 year olds etc who have miles to walk home from school when its snowy, dark and icy now that our local school finishes at 4pm on a dark winters evening.  There are no school buses any more (unless you live over 3 miles away), so personally I think parents are needed to do these tasks.

Many of those who had children in their early to mid thirties also now have elderly parents to look after. Among my close friends, most have lost at least one parent but I think most have parents who either have dementia or are physically now needing help or have carers calling. And they need us to help out as well.

So please look up from your corporate/government desks and have a look out at the real world out there !

Then maybe we can start to get some proper funding to give the support that families really need !  (ie new parental allowances / restoration of Child Benefit)