How we really feel about the NHS

NHS logo,
Not a day goes by when the news headlines don't feature a breaking story about the NHS. Whether it’s about strikes, protests, government cuts or negligence, we can't help but form our own opinions about our National Health Service.

As a controversial and often heated topic of conversation, it can be difficult to tell if there is a common thought amongst the public. Thousands, if not millions, of us turn to the NHS year-on-year and many would be lost without it – but does that mean we love it?

Compensation landslide

A report by the Standard revealed that the NHS in London alone pays on average £470,000 in compensation – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The service pays on average £700 every day for every livebirth, according to a report by the BBC.

Due to the nature of these compensation pay outs, the vast majority are due to what is deemed to be negligence. Naturally, many in the public are angry, but not necessarily at the expense of the NHS. According to a survey by First4Lawyers, 50% of people across the UK believe that negligence is a direct result of staff being overworked.

The fault of the government

One of the most interesting news stories of recent months come in the form of the protests against government decisions in regards to the NHS. Thousands have stated their hatred for the changes and cuts that are putting further pressure on staff, with many publicly expressing their dislike for the government.

More than 50,000 marched in Manchester to protest against cuts in the NHS by the coalition government during the Conservative Party conference. To add to this event, 73% surveyed agreed with the protesters saying that they disagreed with the government proposals and actions.

Fears and concerns

Of course, few of us believe that the NHS itself is completely innocent. Fears for the NHS grow as winter settles across Britain as many wonder if the NHS can handle the pressure. So far, 2013 has proved to be a difficult year overall and the added pressure winter brings could be the straw that breaks the horses back.

Many feel that the NHS could do much to help itself, even if they believe the government isn’t helping. A huge 65% believe that the NHS wastes money, which could prove to become even more problematic should the majority of government cuts go ahead.

It doesn’t look as though the NHS will be saving money through lack of compensation unfortunately. An unsettling 29% of people know someone who has been mistreated by the NHS to a significant level, meaning something must be done, even if no one knows who by.

This is a featured post.  Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

Parenting Classes

In May 2012 I wrote a post showing my support for parenting classes and admitting that I attended them when my children were younger.  I'm a huge believer in that, with the right course leader, these types of group sessions are valuable for your growth as a parent.  We don't get given a parenting manual - I mean, who wants to be told how to raise your own child?  Not me, that's for sure.  But having access to someone who will listen to you, understand what you are going through, have access to advice and complimentary materials and be there to help see you through the tough times is how parenting classes should be structured. 

As we all know, there are A TON of myths out there about what you should or shouldn't do as a parent to give your child the best start in life.  CANparent created this video short with some of the more well-known ones.  See how many you recognise.  What can you add? 

CANparent Classes and Advice Network is Government funded initiative that is currently being trialed.  It aims to brings together a number of established organisations with great track records to offer support to families. They also encourage extended family members to attend the sessions, so that includes grandparents and siblings.

CANparent classes are available until your child finishes in school year one and the range of topics that are covered are learning through play, team parenting, sleep issues, coping with challenging behaviour, creating great routines and much more.  I'm sure you would also establish a great network of parents in your area that have children of similar ages too, so you grow together as families, also knowing that you are not dealing with uncertainty on your own.

I have the CANparent team on hand to bust some more myths or to answer any of your burning parenting questions (have a nosy at their Facebook page too - they have updates that reflect issues with older children too).  If you've got something you'd like answering then please leave your question in the comments or email it to me and I'll update this post with the answers in the very near future.

This post supports a Government funded programme - please see my disclosure policy for more details.

Christmas Gift Suggestions For That Hard To Buy Person

blue christmas tree

There is always one person in your life that is almost impossible to buy a present for either at Christmas or on their birthday. Over the past few weeks I have have been scouring the internet or testing products out to create this list of affordable and unusual gifts.  Here are my recommendations.

bloom and wild, flowers through the letterboxBloom and Wild

Not too long ago, I was sent a vase full of flowers through the post from Bloom & Wild.  You can read my full review here but three weeks on, and with some careful pruning, I still have over half of the display still standing loud and proud.  B&W have different subscription offers available so this would be the gift that goes on much longer than Christmas Day.

Close Shave Society Close Shave Society

Another subscription suggestion would be something from the Close Shave Society who brag that they have high quality razors and low prices and cater for both the male and female customer.  They are managing to keep their prices so low by cutting (no pun intended) out the middle man and selling direct to the customer.

merlin, bbc, 5-series box set

Merlin DVD box set

If you know someone who is a fan of the swords, sorcery and swashbuckling adventure series from the BBC then this complete collection is an ideal gift.  You can find out more about it here but this box-set includes all five series, special bonus features, audio commentary, deleted scenes, out-takes and a "Making Of The Series" documentary.

LEGO Deluxe Box

LEGO Deluxe Box

If you are looking for a LEGO starter kit for the children or the grandchildren then this LEGO Deluxe Box  is the one for you.  It has over 700 pieces including wheels, windows, doors, a base plate and two mini figures. And the best thing about LEGO is that the basic design hasn't changed so you can always add to your existing collection and never worry that it isn't going to work (or that the batteries are going to run out).  LEGO is the best toy for expanding imaginative play.  We are big fans of the sturdy storage box too.

There's an interesting study here from Idealo that notes the price rise of LEGO in the run up to Christmas.

Guinness Book of Records 2014Guinness Book Of World Records

For the past two years we have been lucky enough to have been guests of Guinness World Records at two of their events.  The official Guinness World Records book is always high on my list of gifts and it's always one for the family and one for my nephews.  It's very possibly the only book you can guarantee is going to be a hit across all the generations.

london moleskine

London Moleskine

A friend of mine sent me the London Moleskine as a little surprise gift.  It was my first moleskine (I know...) and I immediately fell in love with the way in which it can be used for both city types and visitors.  I'm going to use it as my London travel journal and have already filled in some little bits of information that I want to remember and pass on to others.

Thomas J Fudge's Remarkable Bakery, biscuits, crackersThomas J Fudge's Remarkable Bakery

From a bakery that has been established for almost 100 years, here are some really unusually flavoured nibbly bits in both sweet and savoury flavours.  I have reviewed this product in my column on The High Tea Cast but I'd recommend grabbing the Many-Shaped Miscellany of Biscuits for Cheese as a gift that looks and feels posh.

Mamas And Papas X-Cel Dolls Pram

My granddaughters love playing 'Families' with their dolls so I've been busy knitting some clothes as part of their Christmas present along with some blankets for this fantastic Mamas and Papa's pram.   The best thing about this pram is that it looks and feels like the real thing and the accessories (changing bag and parasol) are great little additions.  The adjustable handle means that they will be able to continue playing with it for many years.

Bluffers Guide booksBluffer's Guide To...

The Bluffer's Guide books help you to perfect the art of blagging your way through a certain subject - starting with Bond, on to Dogs and then through to Opera, Management and Surfing for example.  You can buy the books individually, as a pre-prepared three-book box set or even make up your own three-book box set.  I think I may have found the perfect gift for my Dad (he's getting Beer, Wine and Cars).

Better Body Workouts For Women, book, exercise, dietBetter Body Workouts For Women

I try hard not to recommend gender specific items but the Better Body Workouts For Women book this book is a great resource which includes recommendations for fitness including a workout diary, appropriate work-out clothing, diet and supplements and clearly explained exercises with clear pictures.

Our Mouse In The House

Everyone is all about 'Elf On The Shelf' this year.  Not us though! We've got our Mouse In The House watching over the Christmas proceedings - and this is just one of the quirky little gifts and decorations on offer from Home Sense.

Straw Hat wine

Straw Hat Wine

Cheap and cheerful wine (and only available from Bargain Booze as far as I can work out - 3 for £10) but this is the only wine that I enjoy in every colour (white, rosé, red). Grab a bottle to take along to a party and pretend it's a lot more expensive that it actually is.  Trust me on this one...

Some of these products were sent to me to test/review, however my opinions remain true.  
Please view my disclosure policy for more details.


What Was The First Album You Bought?

Duran Duran, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, album cover

Thirty years ago this month I walked into Woolworth's and bought Seven and the Ragged Tiger by Duran Duran

As mentioned in my "First Five Albums" post moving up to high school in 1983 meant that I felt a bit more grown up and the discovery of Duran Duran cemented that feeling.  So I saved up my pocket money, did some extra jobs around the house and asked Dad to drive me into town one Saturday.  This album was never off my portable record player in my bedroom and, when I was allowed, I played it on my parent's stereo in the front room, taped it (sshh, pirating at such an early age - who knew?) and did the stop-start-stop-start to write down the lyrics to the all the songs in my best handwriting.

It was the start of a musical love affair that still continues to this day.  But thirty years!! Where does the time go?  

What was the first album you bought?


Soundtrack To My Life - Lynn

Soundtrack To My LIfe
Soundtrack To My Life visits another of my friends from "that parenting forum I used to frequent back in the day" that I keep mentioning. Thanks to Facebook we manage to keep in touch but I have watched her journey through marriage break-up, to single woman and then into a new and better relationship.  Lynn's Soundtrack to My Life tells that story really well - and I just knew that Mr Brightside would be in there somewhere!


REM - Man On The Moon

This takes me to a trip to Alton Towers with youth club, on a minibus smoking out of the window.
Oh, how grown up we thought we were. If only we knew back then how easy life was being 15!

Robbie Williams - Angels 

This song was my first dance to a man I married at 19.
I knew on the morning of my wedding it wasn't right, I sat on the step at my mum's at 6am with £100 in my purse, I should have ran when I had the chance!
It was our first dance and our last dance together.  Every time I hear it I don't feel sad.I feel relieved I'm not in that relationship anymore!

The Killers - Mr Brightside 

When I was newly single, my best friend Karen was always there for me.  We relived our youth going out when we had the chance watching live bands - our best song was Mr Brightside.
One of my best memories is going to Manchester to see The Killers live.  It was a day that will stick with me forever!
Karen now lives in Oz, but that song will always remind me of her. She is, and always will be, my best friend.  After all, we know too much about each other not to be!

Paloma Faith - New York 

This is the song that made me realise I was a strong woman who could make it on her own. I got myself a job I enjoyed and made so many new friends, was happy in life and met a very special man.
Our first weekend away we went to see Paloma and I stood and smiled when this song came on.  I knew that I had come a long way on my own bringing up two girls and now I could do it with my best friend and husband-to-be by my side.

Etta James - At Last 

Ste and I danced to this when we got blessed. It was the most amazing day with the people that matter the most.
The words to the song were so true.  At last, my love has come along and lonely days are over....


Soundtrack To My LIfe
Thanks to Lynn for sharing her Soundtrack To My Life journey.  You can find her as @LynnBScott on Twitter.  If you want to join in with this series you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  

Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.

Ghost Signs In Lancashire

After reading an article about ghost signs in London on the Londist website this week I remembered about one that isn't too far from my house.  Ghost signs are old hand-painted advertising signage on the side of a building that hasn't been removed and has faded over time.  This one can be seen in situ on Google maps and it always reminds me of my Grandpa because he smoked Capstan Full Strength for years.

ghost sign, blackburn, lancashire

Until recently there was another ghost sign just across the street from where I live.  I'm gutted that I didn't take a photograph of it because the building has recently had some structural work done and the side of the building is now pebbledashed. It was an old 'bed and breakfast' hotel overlooking the canal and the gable end isn't visible on Google maps.

I am now going to be keeping an eye out for more ghost signs on my travels around Lancashire - this totally fits in with my new motto of "Look Up" instead of "look around" for photography inspiration.  Have you seen any?  Feel free to add your pictures in the comments and I'll update this post if I find any more.


I can't believe I have driven past this sign many times and never noticed it. I just happened to look up today and saw it looming over me.  So... snap!  Here is it on Google Maps - King Street in Blackburn.

Thwaites, ghostsign, Blackburn, Lancashire,

Huge thanks to Lucinda Hartley who has granted me permission to use her picture (edited and enhanced by me) of the James Eccles, Coal Merchant ghost sign on Granville Road, Blackburn

ghostsign, lancashire, james eccles, coal merchant,

More Ghost Signs Around The World

Many thanks to Alison from Five Go Blogging for sharing the Smiths' Grand Teas ghost sign seen in Oakham, Rutland.  See it here in the comments.

This Dubonnet ghost sign below has been submitted by Philofaxy's Steve Morton and can be clearly seen here on Google Maps in France.

ghost sign, Dubonnet, France

Click all images for larger view in lightbox mode.


Over At The High Tea Cast... Friends Without Faces

high tea cast logo
I am ever so grateful for my online friendships and they are the inspiration for this month's article over at The High Tea Cast.  I have been online since about 2001/2002 and have 'met' many people in that time.  A special few make it to the FF list (Friends Forever) where they will remain for reasons that don't need explaining.  Do you have "Friends Without Faces"?  Have a read of the article and let me know.


The Gallery - A Younger Me

I was, I think, a bonny child so I'm not sure where it all went wrong.  I love looking back at old photographs of myself *preen* but I do think there's a certain turning point where I went from feeling naturally happy and didn't mind a memory being snapped to the insecure person that ended up not knowing how to smile properly.

aged three or four

Recently, I've either found my 'good side' or I have mastered the art of the 'selfie' as a couple of pictures I have shared have received some really nice compliments (god bless the Instagram filter and all who sail in her).  It's a new found confidence in myself as I don't feel very photogenic at the best of times.  I want that younger me back again!

I feel very guilty that during my teenage years I was overly self-conscious (probably due to the bullying) and fled from the camera lens.  Teenagers seem much more confident about seeing digital imagery of themselves but maybe this is because they have grown up with it and it's 'the norm'? The feelings of insecurity followed me through into adulthood and saw me spending more time behind the lens instead of in front of it.  

My biggest regret is that I have no photos of me holding my babies after they were born and very few pictures of me with my (younger) family at all.  Please don't ever make the same mistake.  Make those photographic memories of their younger self but also ensure that you're included too.

Find more "Younger Me" photos over at Tara's blog on week 164 of the Photo Gallery 

Soundtrack To My Life - Nigel

Soundtrack To My LIfe
Today's Soundtrack To My Life comes from Nigel.  A couple of years ago I took advantage of a blogger review offer and went up to a well-known hair salon in Bolton to have a cut and colour.  Nigel was the salon manager there and we got talking about blogging and Twitter and I made Nigel promise to write me something ranty about supermarkets. For some reason, that never happened but we did keep in touch.  Here is Nigel's Soundtrack To My Life with a very exciting development at the end...


XTC - Making Plans For Nigel 

Obviously I've chose this because of the name. I was born in 1988. My mum was convinced I was a girl so didn't have any boys names planned. My dad loved the name Nigel and my mum's famous last words were, "Call it whatever you like if it's a boy, I know I'm having a girl". So low and behold I came out a boy and got the name Nigel. My dad bought me the vinyl once I was born and I still have it to this day. When me and my brother were younger we used to speed it up and play it backwards on the record player and we would have hours of fun with it.

Robson and Jerome - Saturday Night At The Movies 

I have fond memories of this song. My nan was a huge Robson and Jerome fan and whenever I went to stay she always had it on. It was in the days when my nan used to knit and sew and I used to make pom poms with all her leftover wool. My nan never taught me to knit - I taught myself - but I wish I would have learned when she offered because she was amazing at it.

Blink 182 - Stay Together For The Kids

I grew up in a broken home as my mum an dad had a divorce not long after I was born and this song would be very relevant to that. However that's not why I have chose this song. When I was about 15/16 I started to struggle more with my sexuality and I went through a period where I just listened to Blink 182. This is one of my all time favourite songs of theirs and used to listen to it over and over again. I don't wanna be cheesy and say they helped me through because I don't think they did, it was my friends at the time that did. It's the first few lines that used to stick in my head

  "It's hard to wake up, when the shades have been pulled shut
This house is haunted, it's so pathetic, it makes no sense at all
I'm ripe with things to say, the words rot and fall away
What stupid poem could fix this home, I'd read it every day"

I related to it more to come out of the closet, I wanted to tell my mum but every time I tried the words just didn't come out at all.

Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion - Tell Him 

I never cry. But whenever I hear this song it makes me well up (I still don't cry though). I was going through an extremely tough time in my life just before I met my boyfriend and 2 weeks after we had met I fell head over heels in love with him. It was a Bank Holiday Monday and he was singing and playing piano at a charity concert in a church in Yorkshire and I decided to stay and watch. Him and his friend sang this at the concert and the whole time he didn't take his eyes off me and it felt like we were the only two people in the world; the connection was extremely intense. Whenever I need cheering up I play this song as it takes me right back to that moment four and a half years ago.

The Pyjama Game - There Once Was A Man 

This is an amazing feel good song. It's once again surrounded with the feeling of love and it's very relevant today than it's ever been. It's about being head over heels in love with someone and you would do anything in the world for them. Ever since the law for gay marriage has been passed the idea has appealed to me more and more. We discussed the idea of marriage and we both seem to want to get married. We don't want to be one of these couple that have a long engagement but the boyfriend thought we would wait a while. I'm extremely impatient to the point I want things to be done yesterday and not tomorrow. So on the day I submitted this Soundtrack To My Life (16th October 2013) I went out and bought an engagement ring to propose to him. I don't know when or how. I'm going to do it but I will do it. I'm Absolutely terrified and I hope the ring fits when I do it.


Soundtrack To My LIfe
We want to know if the proposal has happened, don't we?  You can ask Nigel on Twitter - he's @pierced_ni.  He also loves knitting, having a bit of a moan about his daily commute and a rant about X-Factor.  He is also just about to embark on a new chapter in his career so here's wishing him loads of luck!

If you want to join in with Soundtrack To My Life you can complete this form and I'll be in touch when your feature is due to go live.  

Click on the mix-tape to the right to read all the "Soundtrack To My Life" entries.

Londonist Sunday Best : Guest Editor

Londonist logo

As the 150th anniversary London Underground celebrations come to a close, it's a huge honour to have guest edited the Londonist Sunday Best newsletter this week.  Why don't you go and have a look at the articles I highlighted from their website over the last week.

As you know, my love for our capital city never wanes.  Below are some pictures I took during a quick scoot up and down Euston Road last week.  I also bobbed into the Wellcome Collection (opposite Euston Station) to use up some time whilst waiting for our train back up north and you can see part of their Medicine Now exhibition in last week's Silent Sunday picture.  I found out about this exhibition through the Londonist's "Free London" section which I highly recommend you check if you're visiting rediscovering London.

disused underground station, Euston, Leslie Green buildingBarclays Bank, Euston Road, graffiti

tiled wall, nandos

Underground Roundel, Kings CrossKings Cross Station roof

1.  Disused Underground Station building at Euston  |  2.  Barclays Bank building on Euston Road  |  3.  Tiled wall at Nandos on York Way  |  4.  St Pancras Hotel  |  5.  Underground roundel at Kings Cross St Pancras  |  6.  The roof at Kings Cross Station

Logo Credit : Londonist

Why Sam Bailey Needs To Win X-Factor

It's mid-way through the 2013 series of X-Factor so it's time for my annual lament.

After years of watching the X-Factor I truly believe that the winner producer's favourite is decided upon before the live shows begin.  Of course, the rules and regulations of voting have to be adhered to but suggestive production can ensure that the voting audience is steered towards the producer's favourite through song choice and staging.

So why do we have a panel of judges that occasionally masquerade as mentors?  Surely a mentor should be fulfilling their role by being seen to select the best song choice for that week's theme, coaching their team members through the process of learning the song and be getting involved in the staging and choreography so that their contestant is represented to the best of their ability during the live show.  If they are only judges then why have them represent a specific category?

Why not show how the contestants are progressing each week?  My mid-season X-Factor ramble from last year mentions the daily catch-up that used to exist on similar programmes.  We got to see the person behind the microphone, became involved in the camaraderie between contestants and really got behind the person we wanted to win.  This is a winner for Strictly Come Dancing as it shows that the participants are not just rocking up on a Saturday and taking part in a few rehearsals.  With the amount of media exposure available, how are we supposed to champion the contestants if we are only relying on the propaganda we can read via various online sources?  Take a look at the official X-Factor website, for example.  There's very little information about any of the contestants.

So why, amidst all this negativity, do I think that Sam Bailey needs to win the X-Factor in 2013?

Sam Bailey is, I believe, the producer's favourite this year and, for once, it's no bad thing.  Firstly, there has been no "Overs" winner since Series 1 when Steve Brookstein won and we all know how sour that turned out, don't we?  Next, Sam has singing experience; she speaks fondly about her time on the club circuit and on the cruise ships - she really has cut her teeth in the traditional way and I feel that will translate to longevity.  In the same vein, it feels like she appeals to a wide range of viewers (and essentially voters and then buyers of music).  She doesn't look out of place even next to the younger contestants although I believe that she is being kept very 'safe' by being given simple staging, strong songs and complimentary outfits - almost as if the X-Factor styling team are trying to find a distinctive overall look for her.

It's a shame that 'discovery of talent' now relies on shows like the X-Factor.  The trend for immediate fame means that people finding their spotlight are literally thrown in at the deep end.  It doesn't seem obvious that the mentors/judges carry on promoting, managing and championing their winner after the main event (unless there is the opportunity for more positive media exposure, obviously...) and during an interview on Radio 2 this week, James Arthur (winner of X-Factor 2012) appeared to confirm this.  Someone who is confident in their own skin and completely believes in their talent will survive with minimal support post-show and will enjoy the freedom to produce music that is fitting to their voice, rather than what music producers believe we want to hear.

There's no need to get me started on the way in which popular music is reflected in the charts today.  All it shows is that the media darlings of the moment are experiencing sales of their record.  And even more ridiculously, I read that the new One Direction song was considered a failure because it 'only' charted at number 4 this week.  Maybe the music industry needs to change and stop pretending that the trends on Twitter reflect everybody's view and give us something (or someone) worth listening to.

Keep up with my #xfactor commentary by following me on Twitter - @nickie72


Listography - Top 5 Life Lessons

There are a number of 'Listography' posts on this blog (but it appears to be a whole year since the last one) and when Kate sets the theme, many of them make me run to open a new blog post.  This one (Top Five Life Lessons) was just the same, mainly because I have a new Pinterest board called "Word!" and I'm now following the Cybher #MTOTD (motivational tweet of the day) stream.  

All should be taken with a pinch of salt and you should imagine me with my tongue stuck firmly in my cheek.

1.  Obviously...

Don't let the bastards grind you down

2.  The best person you can be is you!

Just be you and if people don't like it, well, fuck them.

3.  Which leads me on to...

The less you give a fuck the happier you'll be

4.  But a bit more seriously...

 The only time you should look back is to see how far you've come

5.  And finally... 

Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it's inspiring.

Do you have anything to add?


A Visit To The Guinness World Records HQ

Guinness World Records - record breaking
Five photos stitched together by Google's
"auto awesome" programme.  Good, innit?
When life gives you lemons... the Guinness Book of Records team make you try and catch them blindfolded!

This was just one of the records on offer when we were guests at the Guinness World Records HQ in London during half term. And when they weren't chucking lemons at us, they were making us stick post-it notes on ourselves or making us row upon row of pop party poppers

(These were some of the records that we attempted to break on the day - not just randomness that happens at the GWR Offices although I'm not so sure...)

One of the best moments of the day for Jake was meeting Marco Frigatti. Yes, I hear you say "Who?", just as I did.  As one of the GWR team said, he's the most famous un-famous person ever as the star of the Guinness World Records Smashed show on Sky 1.   Jake was impressed which is the main thing really - click on the pics below to see more of our day.

Guinness Book Of Records first edition
The GWR Team really put on a great day for us and we became part of an impromptu focus group for their Diamond Anniversary book, due for release in 2015, but we are sworn to secrecy. However, here's (a copy of) the first ever Guinness World Records book - a cloth cover with a protective sleeve.

No records were broken this time but I was the winner of sticking the most post-it notes on to myself and I'm thinking of introducing it as an ice-breaker at work meetings with immediate effect.

The Guinness World Records book is an annual favourite in this house and is the first present I buy for my nephews at Christmas.  To have one book that is a joy to read across all generations is a rarity in itself.
Take a sneak peek at the 2014 edition here:


Soundtrack To My Life - Susanne

Soundtrack To My LIfe
The best thing about Soundtrack To My Life is the discovery of new music - music that you should have heard at some point in your life but it's completely passed you by.

Susanne's Soundtrack To My Life has brought three new tunes into my world which, I suppose, could be repayment for being her Blogging Godmother (her words, not mine). Apparently, I explained how to send a tweet - so it's all my fault.  And on that note, it's over to Susanne...


 Air - Highschool Lover 

In July 2002 I walked down the 'aisle' to this song and I can never listen to it without feeling a strange mix of sadness, excitement and fear. Shortly before I entered the room out of which I would leave a married woman, my step-father and I sat in a small room with no windows. We'd signed the paperwork and we were waiting to be called to action. My stepfather looked at me -finally! He has been avoiding my eye all morning - and tears started to roll down his cheeks. I panicked then. In those tears I saw all of his hopes for me and all of his love too, which had often been shrouded in the cloak of 'you're not my real dad' for so many years. I knew then that the fact that my 'real dad' was not there answered so many more questions for me. It was a huge moment and this song brings it all back so vividly.

The Lemonheads - Luka

My beautiful son. I had this song play as the clock turned 6.45pm on his first birthday, marking exactly one year to the minute since he was born. I made sure that he was in my arms as the song played and I allowed myself to shed some tears. Three days later I blogged his birth story and since then I have not looked back. My son's birth ripped my life apart and I spent months and months trying to figure out how to put it back together again. In the end, I came to realise that things won't ever be the same again. I can't undo what has happened but I can work with it and find a way to live with it. This song makes me smile. It makes me think of my lovely golden haired boy- the boy who changed everything.

Ben Folds - Bitches Ain't Shit 

My husband introduced me to Ben Folds in the form of Ben Folds Five three or four days after we first met. I have a lovely memory of ditching work for the day and sitting around listening to music, randomly eating peanuts and just laughing. I love ALL of Ben Folds' music but it was seeing him perform this song that really swung this choice for me. He is an awesome live entertainer and we had so much fun watching him play piano along to this song. This song represents so much happiness for me. Being out, listening to music, laughing and sharing moments together. Happy, happy times.

Deathcab for Cutie - I will Follow you into The Dark 

For me, this is the most beautifully written songs. I had a very vivid memory linked to this song. It was three days after my son was born and I was home from the hospital. I was in the shower. I had not looked at myself since my son had been ripped from my body. But I had to. I was covered in bruises from neck to knees and I could barely stand straight and as the water beat down on me I cried - in physical pain and in emotional agony. This song came into my head and I remembered that it had been in my head at the hospital too. That moment when the machine stopped beeping and my baby stopped kicking. That moment when I thought I had lost him and I thought I would follow him. That is what I thought. This is the song I heard. Since then, I have thought of this song often and it always takes me back to that moment.

De La Soul - The Magic Number 

I think I found it. The magic number. Three. My three beautiful children. I never thought I would really feel 'done' when it came to babies but actually now I think I am. I *think*...


Soundtrack To My LIfe
You can find Susanne blogging over at Ghostwritermummy and see what a brilliant teacher I am by checking out her Twitter account @ghostwritermumm (I keep meaning to ask what happened to the missing 'y').  She also has a Facebook page where you can keep updated with her blog post and other campaigns that she is involved in.

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Flowers Through The Letterbox From Bloom & Wild

Bloom & Wild, flowers in a vase
Recently I was sent a bouquet of flowers from Bloom and Wild that arrived in a box that fit perfectly through the letterbox.  The flowers weren't squashed and really simple display instructions were included that made them look as though they had been professionally arranged in the vase.  Even my husband was impressed which speaks volumes in our house! And I can honestly say that the flowers look just as lovely (if not better) seven days after receipt and some slightly closed blooms are beginning to open.

Bloom & Wild, flowers in a box
This concept is one that I think is a great gift idea for that "hard to buy for" person and the subscription service means that you can order in advance and await a box of colour each month for as long as you want.

Aron Gelbard, Bloom and Wild's co-founder and CEO, tells me that he wanted to improve the flower buying experience without the flowers being expensive or inconvenient to receive and for the flowers to last longer than a couple of days.  He and his co-founder, Ben Stanway spent months developing their concept and launched just a few weeks ago.

You can read more about their story here and watch the video below:

Bloom & Wild, letterbox deliveryBloom & Wild, flowers in a box

If you have any queries regarding your order 
please direct them to Bloom & Wild
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