The final battle in the Wars of Best Parenting:




Like this one:


I know this sounds utterly ridiculous. They are slides for children, but somehow they make the list of ‘The Great Parenting Battles’ (breastfeeding vs bottle feeding, working, disposable vs reusable nappies, Tom Hardy vs Chris Evans on CBeebies Bedtime Story*) on Mumsnet. There is the side who think any child who dares to try to climb up a slide is on a short road to juvenile delinquency, an ASBO, and a lifetime of petty crime. And, those who think that slides are meant for imaginative play. Not queuing in a line.

I genuinely had no idea that climbing slides was ‘bad’ behaviour in the UK until I joined Mumsnet. There are always threads by mothers complaining about other people’s children using slides in ways which are deemed ‘rude’. Obviously, there are differences between preschoolers on a slide and school age children. I’m just not convinced that 7 year olds need to queue to climb steps to use a slide. Or, that 10 year olds are incapable of being aware of their surroundings and sharing.


Helter 6I spent a good chunk of my childhood climbing up slides. There was a helter-skelter slide like this in my elementary school playground. There were also multiple areas with play park equipment that had slides (also, 2 basketball courts, a football field, a rocky hill for climbing in summer and sliding in winter, a nice chunk of rocky Canadian shield for fort building – there are benefits to primaries with 800 plus students and not living in a medieval city). We all climbed the helter-skelter and the slides on the larger play equipment.

UnknownWe made them into pirate ships and raided one another for treasure. They became Star Destroyers and secret rebel bases. We even played tag on them.

Neither of my girls were lucky enough to go to schools that had proper park equipment – and never will since Edinburgh council sold off all the old playing fields to housing developers. Our local parks aren’t fit for purpose – and they certainly don’t have equipment for school age children. I just find it mind boggling that a 7 year old wouldn’t be allowed to climb a slide or that multiple children can’t be expected to share a slide with some using the steps and some climbing up the slide.

Climbing slides isn’t dangerous (or anymore dangerous than climbing regular playground equipment) if children learn to share and are aware of those around them. Yes, a 3 year old might kick off about not being able to climb a slide but that doesn’t mean other children shouldn’t be allowed to climb. In my experience, most school aged children would notice and assist the 3 year old going up the stairs and wait until they slid down. If they don’t, a quick word from a parent nearby pointing out the small child would change things.

And, yes, there are some (but a small minority) of children who have 0 boundaries and no understanding of sharing due to poor parenting. In those cases, other children are usually quite capable of telling them where to go. If they aren’t, then a parent steps in. Kids are also perfectly capable of understanding that different parents have different rules and neither is ‘righter’ than the other; just different (see: mobile phones for 10 year olds). And, that different venues have different rules: you can climb a slide in a play park but not at a soft play.

Climbing slides doesn’t make a child an out of control brat. And, its unlikely to end in an episode of Casualty. Kids should be allowed to play imaginatively, pushing boundaries and learning new skills.

Slides aren’t churches. They don’t genuflecting and hard hats to use.

And, there is nothing greater than re-enacting the Battle of Hoth on play equipment in the middle of winter.


*Not currently a battle but a prophecy for May 10.

Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 09.16.07Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is part of Vintage Hogarth Shakespeare 400th anniversary series, which sees modern writers reinterpreting Shakespeare. Generally, I’m not a fan of Shakespeare finding the desperation to name him the greatest writer ever deeply tedious with an unpleasant under current of nationalism, racism, misogyny and classism. I only came across the series when I read Jeannette Winterson’s retelling of a Winter’s Tale (Gap of Time), which is excellent. I had never read Tyler, but had high hopes based on this description: 

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?”

It was a complete let-down.

Vinegar Girl a competent book and rather funny in places, but it suffers from the boring sexism that even Shakespeare questioned occasionally. Having Kate pushed into a green card marriage so her father (an academic with tenure) can keep his foreign exchange student in the US is clever. Keeping the ending in line with the original is less so, particularly when we’re meant to feel that Kate’s father truly loves his girls – despite working 7 days a week in his lab and leaving Kate responsible for everything from making dinner, caring for her younger sister and doing his tax returns. He has no idea about the lives of his daughters but somehow Kate’s meant to give up even more of her life to placate her father’s desires and questionable research. He even has a sulky tantrum when his eldest daughter moves out to make her green card marriage more realistic for Immigration services. As fathers go, Kate’s is useless and selfish.

Pyort seems a decent guy, but marrying the only man she actually knows is dull. Growing up isolated with a mentally ill mother and father more concerned with his mice than his daughters (and who was utterly uninterested in their mother’s illness) isn’t healthy. But we’re meant to believe the marriage is a love match in the end because they have a child and Kate becomes a botanist. ?This is without the ending which is all about how bad men’s lives are – that speech wouldn’t go amiss at an MRA rally.

Frankly, 10 Things I hate about you was a far more successful adaptation – at least the daughters were more realistic and their father genuinely cared for them (despite being a tool).

I’ve never read Anne Tyler before and this book isn’t making me want to rush out to read more.

What’s your number – an interesting take on consent

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 14.50.34What’s your number is a typical asinine rom-com starring Anna Faris as Ally Darling and Chris Evans as Colin Shea. The simple premise is Darling discovering that the number of sexual partners she has had (19) makes her a slut – as evidenced in a “women’s magazine” she read after being fired from her job. So, with the help of deeply slimy neighbour Shea, Darling tracks down all her ex-boyfriends to see which one should be her partner for life. Because there is a magic number of men that having sex with  would make her even more of a slut than she actually is. Shea is an unemployed musician who has sex with a different woman every night and spends his mornings hiding in Darling’s apartment so the (many) woman will leave his apartment without anything creepy like having a conversation. Strangely, at no point do we ever hear Shea’s sexual history being as being slutty.

And, yes, by know you are all wondering why I continued watching the film. As did I.

But, somewhere in this film about a woman freaking out over other women calling her a slut, believing she is a slut, an unpleasant mother whining about her daughter not having enough ‘class’, and the useless father, there is seen involving consent discussed appropriately. Obviously, and this needs no spoiler warning, Shea falls in love with Darling (and eventually she with him once she gets over silly things like being able to pay the rent) and they end up almost having sex. Despite being an utter shite in his treatment of women as sex objects, when Darling says no Shea accepts it. There is some silliness about how much of a penis in a vagina constitutes sex but that is a clearly a joke.

There is no coercion. No attempts to convince Darling. She says no. He stops.

The director chooses to ruin this demonstration of consent but having some  dude from 20 years rock up to tell Darling they never had sex so actually she’s not really a mega slut having gone over 20 partners (and no recognition that sex she cannot remember will have made her too drunk to consent).

The film is pretty much the essence of shaming women for having sex with multiple partners. Yet the only actual sex scene in the film involves a discussion of consent that is real and clear. It is a weird juxtaposition.The film is utterly tedious and probably shouldn’t ever be watched ever again. By anyone.

Reading through depression and anxiety

I have been very ill with depression and anxiety for the past 17 months. And on the bandwagon which is changing medication, unbearable side effects (gaining 2 stone when I have fibromyalgia which causes severe pain in my ankles and knees was quite unhelpful), and the limit of 6 group classes of CBT (with men), not to mention two incidents of triggered PTSD, has made me somewhat on the wrong side of struggling to work. In November, I decided to change tactics and stopped starring at my computer with fear (and writer’s block). Instead, I went for reading pretty much everything I possibly could whilst not worrying about work (getting PIP was a huge help here). I’m much better and on medication with less horrendous side effects (except dry mouth – my current resemblance to a cactus is also not the most helpful thing).

I’m not very good at the whole asking for help or for even mentioning how I am – my acting skills are far more in the area of pretending to be a manic pixy dream girl (or at least they are in my head) than being honest about my mental health. This article that I came across on FB is what I would say if I could.

So rather than break with tradition of hiding, I’ve made a list of the books that I’ve loved over the past 4 months (the rest are listed here):


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