Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why Trump was the last straw that poked me off Facebook

 

Bless this Scottish legend. We were all with you in spirit.

Bless this Scottish balloon-wielder. We were all with you in spirit.

It was Donald Trump wot did it.

Did what? Oh, well, aside from bringing incendiary fascism into public discourse, cultivating a urine-flavoured candyfloss hairstyle, and delivering all his speeches in a voice that sounds like an old man farting into a set of bagpipes, which you’d think would be enough to be going on with – he was also the last straw that poked me off Facebook.

I don’t mean the Facebook ‘avoidance’ I’ve been practising for a year or so, where I delete the app from my phone and ten minutes later open the page in Safari. I mean that I use it for a couple of essential pages (this blog’s page being one of them) and have ceremoniously deleted everything else. Including my entire News Feed. Oh my giddy aunt, it actually feels good.

I’ve been a loyal Facebooker since its early days, where all your statuses had to begin with ‘Rachel is’ (there’s a grammatical tangle-in-waiting) and that was about all there was to do. It’s been a useful thing for me. For every auto-playing Russian video or SHARE IF YOU TOO HAVE A SON MADE OF RAINBOWS meme, there was a baby announcement from a friend I don’t see often enough. Or a photo album from family halfway across the world. Irreplaceable things. Real things. But then Facebook started putting posts your friends have liked on the News Feed. And that meant an unavoidable crapstorm of opinions.

Surely (I thought) it’s not true that I like people less when I know their take on current affairs? I don’t think it is. It’s just that normally, you find out people’s opinions in very small doses. Face-to-face, and if you happen to be talking about it. Even with your friends, that happens relatively rarely. ‘Oh dear’, you might think. ‘My friend is somewhere else on the political spectrum. Oh well, they have many delightful qualities and, since we’re in conversation, we can find some common ground’. You are both considering what you’re saying, and saying it deliberately. This is how it is meant to be. Unless your friend is a newspaper columnist, that’s how it’s always been.

Then once Facebook changed their algorithms, second-hand opinions were all over the place. At first, this is only mildly annoying: ‘Oh, my friend has a friend I’ve never heard of and that friend is having a baby shower, and my friend has marked this with a Love’, you think. ‘Unnecessary information for me. But good for them’.

Then someone that you knew in high school and didn’t like all that much to begin with has a spouse who went to a party and was photographed in various stages of ‘banter’. She has Liked all these photographs. You have not spoken to your acquaintance in fifteen years. You have never met their spouse. You did not go to the party, though if you had you would have been strongly tempted to whack the spouse in the chops with their own comedy inflatable. Why is this in your News Feed, you think. You have already spent too long thinking about this party. Was the party imaginary? What is the point of your life?

Then, heaven forbid, something controversial happens in the political sphere. Someone you know likes a ranty post that makes all the points you disagree with. You feel a bit nauseated. Do they really think like this, you wonder. All the time? People – myself included – will like a post that says things that are more strident or extreme than anything they’d put on their own wall. Sometimes the posts that are liked are racist. Sometimes they are offensive. Doesn’t matter whether your Facebook friend said them or not: all of them appear on your News Feed, with their name attached.

The time this was a bigoted rant by Donald Trump, liked by someone I like in real life, something deep inside snapped in half. YOU ARE A TRUMP SUPPORTER, FRIEND. AND NOW HE IS ON MY NEWS FEED. IT’S LIKE YOU CAME OVER TO MY HOUSE AND SMEARED DOG FAECES ON MY FRONT DOOR AND THEN MADE ME COME AND SMELL IT.

I took a good look at my feed and counted the last twenty posts. Five of them were actual things my friends had written. Fifteen were posts they had liked, that had nothing to do with them or me. So I checked that I was following enough people on Instagram, and decided to jump the blue ship.

I tell you, it’s made me feel so much better. (I didn’t even mention the fact that I have zero self-control when it comes to social media, so I also have a zillion hours more free time.) I thought it would be difficult – and I was lamentably behind on the new Reading IKEA news – but it’s honestly been more of a relief than I imagined.

I kind of miss the Russian dude making his dog lip-sync Happy Birthday. Remind me to look him up on YouTube.

no I'm blooming well not

no I’m blooming well not

 

It isn’t much, but it’s all we’ve got

Photo 16-06-2016, 12 07 02 pm

I am running again. Three times a week I squeeze into Lycra, make sure I have music and a podcast on my phone, and set off. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out, and at first it hurt abominably. My body has got into some poor habits. I barely managed to keep running for the one-minute-long intervals.

Three weeks later, I’m running for three-minute intervals and my times are improving. It doesn’t feel easier – the one time I wore Tim’s heart rate monitor, I spent the entire duration in the Whoa, Death Approaches zone. But, is it possible? For me, of all people. Slowly and steadily, I think I am getting better.

***

Henry is learning to read. He has high-frequency words up all over the house, knows quite a few on sight and can spell out the rest. It’s still laborious work. He gets impatient with things he can’t master immediately (um, I wonder where he gets that from?). This morning we sat in the car before school, and his blue-green eyes roamed over the pictures for clues before settling to decipher the incomprehensible words. I watched him and tried to think back to a time when reading wasn’t as subconscious and effortless as breathing.

He got ‘they’. He got ‘said’. He got ‘Kipper’ and ‘glasses’. Despite progressing in what feels like terribly slow increments, I am amazed at how far he’s come. It’s a tiny miracle, learning to read. He’s working hard, and he’s getting better.

***
The world this morning felt very bleak. In my lifetime I have never known this country in the grip of such a vicious, cruel, divisive strain of politics. We have taken our cues from the party leaders, and become increasingly cutthroat in the way we talk to each other over Brexit. I make instant, unflattering judgements about the people voting on the opposite side to me. The discourse is angry and intolerant both on and offline. What has it done to us, this referendum we never really needed or asked for? Yesterday, a dedicated and compassionate politician, a mother of two young children, was stabbed and shot in the street. Here. Here.

There is one tiny spark of hope I can see in all this, one speck of potential in the wave of revulsion and horror that has followed Jo Cox’s murder. The prevailing mood seems to be that this is unimaginably wrong; this isn’t how we should be. We have gone too far. No one (that I have read) is saying with a sorrowful shake of the head that these things happen, that they can’t be prevented. They can be and they should be. We are more than this. We can do better.

If that’s the only place I can rest my hope for now, then here I stand. The general, optimistic truth that with persistence, people get better. If just one person at a time is willing to put in the work to be kind, to embrace diversity and civility and compassion, to call out intolerance where they see it, then we all get better by degrees.

I will put in the work. I will teach my children to put in the work. We are human, and humans can be better.

It is such a very small hope. It feels so inadequate for the tragedy of yesterday. But it’s all I have for the moment.

Photo 16-06-2016, 8 17 51 pm

We’re baaaaack!

Photo 02-01-2015 11 31 28 am

Hello lovers!

Ooh, someone oil me. I’m rusty.

But here we are in the new, improved (hopefully) Make a Long Story Short! The gorgeous header is from my talented bro-in-law, Angus Dick, the fiddling with code comes courtesy of Mr Jeffcoat, and the ums and ahs and helpful suggestions were ALL ME, BABY.

There are still some old posts that have transferred across without their photos, and I’ll be going through the archives gradually to fix them. But if you’re reading an old post and it doesn’t have its images, be a love and drop me a line on Twitter, Facebook or rach.makealongstoryshort – at – gmail.com. Then I’ll fix it. And I’d love any other feedback too.

Otherwise we’re back to business as usual, which I hope will be something like: compassionate motherhood, muddy wellies, and some cake.

I can’t wait. See you back here later in the week with a hot drink and a Twix? You got it.

A little au revoir

So flipping good at this.

So flipping good at this.

You know, blogging is a funny old thing. I started in 2009 because I wrote diary entries from India and couldn’t stop once I got home. I feel about writing the way Harry Potter (aw!) feels about getting on a broomstick for the first time: a rush of fierce joy. Words are such intricate, beautiful things. You can search for exactly the right one and put it in exactly the right place, and all of a sudden you’ve created something that makes people feel. There are lots of things about my writing style I would change, and I’d love to do a creative writing course and get critically slapped into shape. The graft of it, though, fills me up like nothing else. And when you get it right, oh, you soar.

And so to this blog. I started writing about babies once I had them, and it was a way of recording things I might forget, and reaching out to parents in similar situations. It puts shape to the emotional seismic shifts that come with having children. If motherhood is a hopeful, flailing leap into the unknown – and it is, and the unknown includes much faeces – then blogging helps me map out the fall. Where are we now? What does this feel like? Where are you, dear reader? Are we both here together?

Here’s where I am: parenting blogging is sometimes overwhelming to me. We are in an intense phase of mother-and-toddlering at the moment, and it often feels like toddlering is all I can think about. Sometimes I want to read gentle advice articles, and humorous you-know-you’re-a-mother-when-this-sucks blog posts. Sometimes I want to write posts like that. Sometimes – more often, at the moment – I want to write about something else, ANYTHING else, and I scrabble around inside for another topic and can’t find one. And then I am frightened that I am an empty well, scraped clean by dirty nappies, and I have lost my words and they will never come back and nothing I’ve ever written has ever done any good.

I am keeping the melodrama tamped down tight, since you ask.

This means that sometimes the world of parenting blogging is my salvation, and sometimes I can’t bear to look at it another second. There are days I write something that gets picked up by Mumsnet and feel great about it, and days I want to be free from the anxiety that I am not as talented or popular as the people I follow on Twitter. I am very aware that these things are not Real People Problems, and that it ends up with me spending too much time on the internet. It all feels like a lot of bother, over a blog.

So I’ve decided to take a little break for at least the rest of the year, while I decide what it is I want this space to be. It might be a more streamlined place to talk about children, or it might be something else entirely. Or it might be just the same because, like Mariah Carey, I’ve decided I can’t liiiive if livin’ is without you[r stupid blog]. I can’t not write (I know this already) but I’m not sure what I can write that is worth the reading. I’m hopeful that it might, at least, be somewhere where I learn to write shorter sentences.

I’m sorry for rambling on at such self-indulgent length (if you enjoyed this you may also enjoy my sixteen-year-old diary) but I wanted to explain why Make a Long Story Short will be disappearing for a while. Because every single person who has ever read this blog, left a comment or told me they enjoyed it has done something for me I can’t really describe. Off I jumped into parenthood, arms flailing, wondering what in the heck I was doing. But there you were, too. There you were. Thank you.

Processed with VSCOcam with lv02 preset

It’s all coming up gums around here.

A lovely Make a Long Story Short giveaway

The Brotherhood of the Chair That Pushes. I'm in.

The Brotherhood of the Chair That Pushes. I’m in.

I worried about a lot of things in the run-up to having children. Would I end up with my stomach hanging out around my knees? Would I ever get a good night’s sleep again? Would I be able to use a snot-sucker* without gagging?

*yes, these exist. And no, I can’t.

I was overwhelmed by all of the stuff, too. The options for pushchairs, cribs, car seats, breast pumps and bath wash were mystifying. I became one of those scary people looming over pushchairs in the park, crazed look in my eyes, trying to see what kind of brake it had and whether it might fit through a doorway. I was obsessed.

Double pushchairs were even worse.

Do you know what I wanted? A conference of pushchairs, and a nice lady to tell me ‘this one does this. And this one does this. Here, have a go’. Luckily, ‘conference of pushchairs’ is actually a thing, except it’s called a Baby and Toddler show, and it’s for much more than pushchairs. There’s one on 25th-27th April at Bluewater in Kent, with brand representatives, lower prices for all sorts of baby and toddler gadgets, products you can’t buy on the high street and various advice workshops, and I am THERE. I don’t need a pushchair anymore, but who knows what else I might find?!

babyandtoddlershow2014blue

Do you want to come too? The organisers have very kindly given me a pair of tickets to give away!

Here are the details:

What?

Bluewater Baby and Toddler Show

When?

25th – 27th April

Where?

Glow, Bluewater, Greenhithe, Kent, DA9 9ST

In their own words?

  • Guaranteed best prices on car seats, buggies and furniture
  • 150+ top brands and products to test, try, compare and buy
  • Meet knowledgeable experts who will help you find the right products for you and have hands-on demos
  • Hear practical advice from our experts
  • Every aspect of parenting, birth and feeding, sleeping, nutrition, finance and more is covered at our free advice workshops
  • FREE parking all day and a stress-free day out
  • We’re a bump and baby friendly show with easy access and free baby changing and feeding facilities

Is there anyone there who can potty train my toddler for me?

Unknown. But I WILL FIND OUT.

To enter the giveaway, click on the Rafflecopter link below. Extra points if you do actually know anyone who will potty train Henry for a fee. Ends midnight on 11th April

If you’d like to buy tickets, you can also get 33% off using the discount code BWB31

*** click here —> a Rafflecopter giveaway ***

A little thank you note

SAM_4012
I don’t often feel like a blogger. In my head that seems to be someone who makes a lot of money from it (I don’t), or has a huge audience (I don’t) or is brave enough to go to conferences and such (I’m not), or chases round the city after their beaming toddler looking totally and impossibly glam (HAHA).

Someone better at life than me, in other words. This is me:

1. I often write here instead of doing the housework, which means there is now dust gathering on the vacuum cleaner and piles of laundry on the floor.

2. On days where the boys don’t nap, I automatically buy in two pints of chocolate ice cream as a reward for getting to 8pm.

3. The best thing that happened to me today was finding out that a whole pot of Brussels pate is only 500 calories, because that means I could technically eat it all on toast and call it a meal.

4. Yesterday evening I talked to Tim for about an hour about the pros and cons of buying a new raincoat, because the one I want is stripy so it seems like a frivolous purchase.

‘What if it’s the wrong kind of stripy?’ I fretted, finger over the ‘Buy Now’ button. He rolled his eyes so hard I thought they might pop out.

Anyway, all of this is to say: I was shortlisted as a finalist in the MAD Blog Awards 2014, in the Best Baby Blog category! And I am ecstatic, and genuinely astonished. This little corner of the internet is a tiny fish in a huge parenting bloggers’ pond, and all the other fish are lovely people with beautiful blogs and massive followings. I keep pinching myself that I get to hang out here, even for a little while. You made it happen! Thank you so much for voting, if you did.

And thank you as well for reading what I write when I’m ignoring the laundry. Blogging has put me in touch with so many wonderful people, helped me work out my own thinking and open up to new ideas. I love being here. I hope you love it too. And I hope everything is alright with you.

(I bought the raincoat. Steady on, crazy party weasel.)

If you’d like to vote for me in the final round, I will love you forever. Click on the link below, and find us under Best Baby Blog!

And if you’re new here, you can read some of my favourite posts in the list to the right. 

MADS-2013-FINALIST-Badge

A little favour

Photo 11-12-2013 11 14 04 am

Hey you, do you like my blog?

It’s ok, it’s a rhetorical question. You don’t have to say anything. But if the answer is anywhere from ‘sort of’, to ‘only on Mondays’, all the way up to ‘I meditate upon that post about bath craptastrophes in order to get out of bed in the morning’, then you may wish to nominate it in the MAD Blog Awards!*

Oh, would you? You beautiful thing. Let’s hug.

 The voting form is here, and all you need is your email address and my url, which is http://makealongstoryshort.net. You have to vote for a blog of the year, then there are all sorts of categories on the second page. You can put Make A Long Story Short in any old one you want – or several – though obviously avoid Best Craft Blog or we’ll all end up having a big belly laugh.

I keep my current favourite posts in that list to the right, in case you want to refresh your memory about anything apart from bath craptastrophes.

A special voting badge should up on the side bar when I can get it to work, which you can click to go straight there. Until then, you can find it here. I hear bribery is discouraged, and I feel terribly English and uncomfortable about asking, but…I think it would make me feel rather tingly if you did.

And, want more inspiration about people to nominate? Here are some lovely blogs attached to lovely people:

Things My Children Said

Peonies and Polaroids

Raising Edgar

Hurrah for Gin

The Cake Hunter

*I know, I know, this sort of thing is very annoying. I will only be mentioning it twice, I promise.

Hey, you! Want to be friends?

Just a quick note to say:

Make a Long Story Short is on Facebook! (Or as we call it in our house, for reasons unknown, Faceybook or the Book of Face.)

Come on over and ‘like’ the page for updates and discussion. And tell everyone you know. Every time you ‘like’ our page, a cookie gets its chocolate chips.

I know, I know: how touching is that?

I now have to make brownies in RECORD TIME and cannot eat any of them, so I’ll be back later.

Have a good Wednesday!

OH HECK NO

Dear British Summer,

I think we can agree that this is not your year. We’ve all accepted it.

You can drizzle on our barbecues and drench our walks. You can piddle on our park outings and urinate on our youth camps. We have been soaked and muddied and frizzed to your heart’s content, if not ours.

But killing off the broccoli is a STEP TOO FAR.

I just… I can’t even… There was a line. And you crossed it.

Please consider this your two weeks’ notice.

Oh, blush

I love this girl.

And not just because she appreciates a good fibreglass Santa. I’m not saying I love her even more now she’s given me a Liebster Blog award, but, you know. It is possible to buy my love with gifts, that’s all I’m saying.

Anyway, thank you to the marvellous Emily Cole of thewienertakesitall for the award. Her blog, documenting the life and loves of her beautiful Dachshund, Mort, makes me snort embarrassingly out of my nose whenever I read it, and hence can now only be read in a non-public place.

In accordance with tradition, here are three brilliant blogs I have bookmarked on my Google Reader. (I have no idea how to tell how many followers someone has. It seems a little personal, like asking for their waist measurements.)

Kris Jackson’s beautiful blog a quick succession of busy nothings is one of my favourites. Kris and her husband, Miles, moved to Oxfordshire from the States, and she writes about their expat adventures with their gorgeous baby daughter. She’s also an amazing photographer, and always makes me want to visit England, before I remember I already live there.

I love me a good cake photo, and Cupcake Crazy Gem was the first person to inspire me to have a crack at baking. She’s very, very good. And has excellent recommendations for cupcake places to try in London, should you be on the hunt for somewhere tasty to go.

Or how about a crafty project or two? A Series of Beginnings is the home of the ever-creative Bryony, who manages to juggle a mega-cute baby with some pretty nifty home improvement.

Aaaaand finally, five fascinating facts. Oh gosh, the pressure. We’re not very fascinating. Here we go.

1) I have made a solemn vow to name all of our children after Shakespeare characters. I feel Henry is a good strong start.

2) We are not very good at sticking to nicknames: Henry goes by Henricus Rex, Hennersly, Henners, Henster, Henrickson, Sven Goran Henrickson and – a bit left-field, this – Little Tisty. Timothy feels this last one is too close to ‘Little Testes’ for comfort, but I am rather attached to it.

3) Timothy is directly descended from mathematician John Napier, who – I’m sure you already know – invented the decimal point. Get him.

4) I once sang a duet with Gareth Gates, with whom I went to primary school. They gave him the special microphone echo, but not me. I’m not bitter.

5) Between us, and counting grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins (and spouses and children), in-laws and nephews, we have 150 relatives. Heaven help us with Henry’s birthday parties.

Well, there you go. I hope you’re fascinated. Otherwise I’ll be giving you a hard stare, and don’t think I won’t, because I will. Thanks again Em!

%d bloggers like this: