2017 Weekly photo challenge (week 25) fiction


All three of the Little Postcards have loved a bedtime story, just as I remember enjoying my Mum and Dad reading to me as a child. My Dad’s impressions of Len the Lighthouse keeper’s wife,  shouting for him to “Lower the rope!” to get his food deliveries in this Play School story book are as vivid to me 40 years on! 


I can remember giggling so much as the howling wind and crashing waves prevented his order of supplies from getting through so he got lemonade instead of marmalade and so on. In the days of online supermarket deliveries this must seem alien to children nowadays… (For reference, the story was Marmalade for Breakfast by Judy Whitfield).

How appropriate that I should remember this the day after Father’s Day…

Illustration by David Eaton of ‘Marmalade for Breakfast’ by Judy Whitfield

The bookshelf in the top photo is in Littlest Postcard’s bedroom and still features a few baby books which have been passed down from both of his brothers. They are no longer read but when I tidied the shelf recently and had a sort out I couldn’t bring myself to part with them. 

Twinkly Night by Helen Stephens was a favourite of all three when they were very small because of the glittery foil on the pages and was acquired for free from a Government book scheme Books for Babies when we still lived in England. 

I also secretly love the Thomas the Tank Engine stories I read endlessly to my eldest. I liked the idea of this little island of Sodor… (perhaps I should get out more). His two younger brothers had less interest in the adventures of the little blue train and his friends but similarly I was loathe to part with the books. Perhaps one of their children will like them one day?

This photo (above) featured in Sunday Sevens over Christmas time and was a rather clever way to display books in the foyer to the building which houses the public library here in Gibraltar. People were invited to guess how many books were used to build the alternative Christmas tree and win a prize.

I’m linking with Nana Cathy & Wild Daffodil for this weekly photo challenge throughout 2017.

More Stories from Play School was published by Piccolo & BBC in 1976 it was edited by Sheila Elkin & illustrated by David Eaton

The Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 005: Finding community online with Polly Lavarello

In this episode of the Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast I catch up with Gibraltar based blogger and founding editor of parenting e-magazine Mum on the Rock, Polly Lavarello.

After moving to Gibraltar from the UK, Polly set up her blog Polly Mixtures and soon found herself climbing the UK parenting blog charts as she documented her experiences of having her first child. A problematic pregnancy meant Polly had to be hospitalised in Cadiz, miles away from friends and family.

After her blog took off, Polly decided to turn her attention to the wider parenting community in Gibraltar and created Mum on the Rock. Now into it’s second year, the online magazine is a valuable resource for parents in Gibraltar. It offers a ‘What’s On’ diary for family friendly groups and events along with features written by locally based parents and grandparents.

****To hear the podcast click here!****

You can also listen and subscribe to the Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast on iTunes. I would love it if you would also take the time to leave a review as that means more people will be able to find me in future. This Podcast is also available on the PodOmatic App for Android and iOS devices.

Useful links:

Mum on the Rock

Polly Mixtures

You can find Polly on Twitter as @Polly_Mixtures and on Instagram as @pollymixtures

PodOmatic
Theme music is Happy Me by Twisterium

Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 003: Baby Stepps Postnatal Depression Support


Are you, or is someone you know finding things hard after having a baby? A support group to help new mothers deal with trauma and post natal depression is looking for new members in Gibraltar.


Run by the parent support charity, ‘Baby STEPPS’, the group hopes to give new mothers confidence in their abilities and help them through a difficult period.

In this episode of the Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast, the group leader and psychotherapist Elaine Caetano told me all about the service the charity offers.

Baby STEPPS psychotherapist Elaine Caetano

Click on this link to hear the Podcast : Episode 003: Post Natal Depression Support

If you would like to know more about the support group, you can contact Elaine in confidence via Facebook or call her on 54001138. You can also find out more information from the Baby STEPPS charity.

You can subscribe to this Podcast on iTunes and on the PodOmatic App for iOS and Android.

You can also find this blog on Facebook as Postcard from Gibraltar. On Instagram and Twitter I’m @postcardfromgib

Theme music: Happy Me by Twisterium

A little bit of Gib Talks 2016

“In Gibraltar, we pride ourselves that we all know each  other. Yet, this is far from the truth. We know a public persona, or we know someone by reputation. We do not actually know much about the experiences, the thoughts and idiosyncrasies that make every person unique.” Julian Felice – organiser of Gib Talks

Today, the second ever Gib Talks took place in Gibraltar. It is a series of talks of 10 and 15 minutes in duration, in which, people can speak on subjects which are important to them and perhaps shed a different light on their personalities and interests. The event, which is run by the Gibraltar Cultural Services department, ran from 10am until 5pm and featured 18 different speakers.

 A wide range of people took to the stage from the world of politics (including the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo), broadcasters, artists and writers. There were talks on subjects as diverse as depression and dragon trees. Unfortunately for me, I was only able to attend the final hour or so of the event, but in that time I heard 3 brilliant talks so it was well worth me attending.


Each speaker was introduced by the event’s organiser, Julian Felice, a teacher and playwright (above). Their time was strictly monitored by an adjudicator in control of a large traffic light at the side of the stage which signalled when their time was up when it turned red.

The first speaker I heard was Tomasz Zakrzewicz on the topic “Life on bikes”. A passionate advocate for the use of bicycles for pleasure, exercise and commuting to work, Tomasz told the audience that there was much more to bikes than “just a piece of metal and two wheels”. Telling of the health benefits that cycling can bring like lowering blood pressure and stress relief, he said “I want to change the world a little bit” by getting more people out of cars and onto bikes. During the talk, Tomasz, who’s originally from Poland, apologised for his English saying he was still learning the language. I have to take my hat off to him for not only having the courage to stand on stage and speak publicly about a subject he’s clearly passionate about, but also to do it in a language he didn’t grow up speaking.


Next on the stage was Polly Lavarello (above) from Polly Mixtures a lifestyle and parenting blog and the founding editor of Mum on the Rock a parenting e-magazine. She told of her experience of arriving in Gibraltar with her then boyfriend, getting married and becoming an expectant mother. She felt that on her arrival here, there had been a dearth of information for people newly arrived on the Rock and that a central website with information about facilities and events locally would be a great addition to Gibraltar’s online community. However, it was her own experience of motherhood, which almost began 11 weeks early when her waters broke prematurely, which led her to seek help from the online community and eventually took her down the path of starting her own website; Mum on the Rock.

Polly says she wanted the site to be accessible to parents whenever they need it and for it to be dynamic and interactive, appealing to to new mums (and dads), parents of teens and grandparents. It was launched with the intention of having articles on a wide range of subjects including parenting, food, lifestyle, travel and health. Initially Polly approached people asking them to write for Mum on the Rock, once it went live though, she says she was overwhelmed with offers of help from people who wanted to get involved and contribute articles too. Polly says that since it’s launch in September last year, “47 different people have written for the website”and that while it’s for the community she “couldn’t do it without the support of the community”. In the coming months, Polly is looking forward to the arrival of her second child, and some exciting new developments for Mum on the Rock.

The final talk of the day was made by Fabian Vinet, a lawyer and former Government minister, and had the title ‘Eleven weeks too soon’. In his speech, Fabian told of his first life-changing experiences of fatherhood, when his baby son, James, was born eleven weeks early. From describing his frightening journey from Gibraltar to a special hospital in Malaga chasing two ambulances, one carrying his wife, the other containing an incubator in case their baby came en-route, to the birth of his son and visits to the large neonatal ward, the visibly emotional father moved the audience and there were sniffs all around.

He also shared his experience of the day when his son was due to have a second brain scan to check if the “something there” had got any worse or could be diagnosed. Being a Government minister at the time, he had to attend a meeting back in Gibraltar, so he left his wife and son in Malaga to drive back to the Rock, only to break down on the road out of the Spanish city. Whilst in the tow-truck heading to Gibraltar, he received a phone call from his wife to say that whatever had shown on the previous brain scan had now disappeared. The news resulted in him crying all the way back to Gibraltar making “the most eventful journey of the tow-truck driver’s career”.

Ending his speech, Mr Vinet showed a photograph of his, now 8 year old son, James along with his younger daughter Sophie (see above photo) and said he hoped that his story had been one of “hope” and that this being Valentine’s weekend, he impressed the importance of any future parents to be vigilant for the signs of a premature birth. He went on to say that perhaps his son hadn’t been born eleven weeks too soon after all, because the experience he and his wife had been through as new parents had changed them forever and perhaps he was born at just the right time.

Drawing the day’s event to a close, Julian Felice told the audience “Gib has talked and has had a lot to say”. Nominations are now open for anyone who would like to speak at next year’s event. I shall look forward to buying my ticket for that!

 

 

Reading; the gift that keeps on giving! An appreciation of teachers.

  


I have been very fortunate and spent a wonderful morning immersed in books. It began with listening to children read at school, then continued with some time tidying the school library. It culminated with me finishing my current book, just in time for my book club meeting tonight. As the minutes ticked by I came to realise just how lucky I am…

When teachers begin the long road to reading, with letter sounds and phonics, then blending the sounds to make words, they give such power to those whom they teach. Without the ability to read, not only would life be so much more dull (as it offers a means to escape your current situation), but it’s also instrumental in laying the foundations of our modern society. Where would we be if our doctors, politicians, engineers, scientists and lawyers (to name just a few crucial professions), had never been taught to read? 

Perhaps I’m stating the blindingly obvious here but how much do we take the ability to read for granted? How powerful a tool it is to our social and mental wellbeing. So, thank you Mrs Foreman, Mr Dixon and all my other teachers who not only taught me to read and write, but also ignited my passion for reading. Without their help I wouldn’t have gone to university, had the career I did or been able to share books with my own children. In appreciation for teachers everywhere, thank you for your persistence, patience and for helping to set our imaginations free!

To work or not to work? That is the question.

 

Tomorrow, my reception aged son will spend his first full day at school. I feel more emotional about that than I did about him starting nursery or even on his first day in reception a couple of weeks ago. He is my third and final baby you see. The whole situation leaves me with a real mixture of emotions; joy at finally legitimately having a full day to myself after 11 and a half years of full-time child rearing, excitement about what the next chapter of my life will be like and sadness that the small child years are coming to an end. But I also have an internal dilemma going on; should I sit back and try to enjoy an ‘easier’ life now I have a bit more time on my hands or give in to my lack-of-paid-employment guilt and rush to fill the ‘gap’ with a job. Since my little one started back at school this month about half a dozen people have asked ‘are you going back to work now?’ A couple of well meaning friends have even suggested job openings they’ve heard about, which I might be interested in. Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks it’s time I went back to work!

The thing is, I used to be ‘somebody’ other than just someone’s wife and mother. I had a good job, a career which after 4 years at university and a fair amount of time doing unpaid work experience and poorly paid jobs within the industry, I had worked my way up to. I used to meet ‘real’ professional people and speak to them on a level, people like lawyers, scientists, politicians, high ranking officers in the emergency services. And, dare I say it, I even earned more than my husband for a while. But, and this is a BIG but, as I grew up the one job I wanted more than anything else was to be a mother. I always knew that should the time come that I had a child, as long as we could manage financially, I’d want to give up work for a considerable stretch of time. With that in mind, we bought our first (small) house with the budget of just one of our wages, so that we could still pay the mortgage on one wage if the need arose. We were careful and we found a way for me to take a rather long extended career break. Fortunately, we were always in the position that my husband had a job and that we were able to afford for me to stay at home. We never lived close enough to our respective families to have the offer of help with the boys, neither did we think the expense of paying for childcare was worth the hassle of me working just to cover the nursery fees. So I have been a stay at home Mum for 11 and a half years, since I went on maternity leave with baby number 1.

I feel truly blessed that I have been able to spend all this time with my boys. I’m so lucky that if they are ill, I’m there. If they have a special school assembly or meeting, I’m there. If they need to be taken to swimming lessons, Cubs, piano lessons, football training, toddler group, school trips, Christmas carol concert rehearsals, I’m there. My husband recently pointed out that as his career has developed and he’s increasingly traveling away for meetings (sometimes at a day’s notice) and working long hours, he couldn’t do his job if I wasn’t at home taking up the slack. 

It’s hard work though. There’s no clocking on and off time (as all parents know), I’m on call 24/7, 365 days a year (apart from a lovely child free weekend this summer). I don’t want to sound like a spoiled child myself but as the years have gone on and the demands of bringing up 3 lively boys have changed, I have found the mind numbingly repetitive routines hard to bear at times. Sometimes I feel like the ‘professional’ me is just a figment of my imagination, it was only when I found my old work pass in an old handbag that I was reminded of what a good job I had and how far removed from it I now am. About 18 months ago, a job similar to my old one was advertised locally, and after encouragement from friends and family I decided to apply for it. I got through to the second round of interviews and ‘was kept on file’ which seemed like a huge achievement at the the time, but who was I kidding? How could I hold a job down as well as the humongous one I already have? How do you work and be a Mum at the same time? Having never done it I have no idea how you can juggle both sides of your life without it all coming crashing down about your ears! In Gibraltar, kids are in full-time school for approximately half of the year. The rest of the time they are on half days, in-service days and holidays. Children get sick from time to time too. How do you reconcile that with a boss, no matter how flexible and supportive they are?

Would I be a better mother if I had time away from the home and in work? Quite possibly, yes. Could I give something back to society? Through taxes and working, undoubtedly yes. But how do you do it? The thrill of being a professional and using my brain again is so appealing if it didn’t come with the stress of being a permanently on-call parent. Perhaps I have been out of the loop for so long it feels an impossible situation to reconcile. I guess it’s a dilemma more and more women face these days though. As girls, we’re encouraged to try hard at school to get to university, then we’re told to aim high and have a career, but when the biological clock starts ticking and we want to start a family, we realise that you just can’t have it all. You either work and sacrifice the time you spend with your family or stay at home and sacrifice your career. How do you strike that balance? There’s no magic solution to the problem, each family is different, each relationship is different, each employment scenario is different. Perhaps I’m just greedy and fancy having it all, to be completely there for my boys AND have a fulfilling professional career. At this point though, I must say I have no regrets whatsoever about making the choices I did, I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mum and if I had my time again I’d make the same decisions.

So, when people ask me if I’m going back to work now my youngest is on the cusp of full time education, the answer is very firmly no, not for the time being. I already have a job, I’m a Mum, it’s just this one is done for love, not financial reward. The world of paid work will just have to wait a bit longer. Instead of rushing out to get a new job, and at the risk of sounding lazy and work-shy, I shall spend some of my newly acquired free time catching up on housework (which is long overdue), I might even meet friends for an occasional coffee and I’ll be able to spend a bit more time on my crafty hobbies. Oh, and I’ve made a promise to myself, I’m going to give up feeling guilty about not going back to working – I’m so over that!

Summer hours

  
When we first arrived in Gibraltar, we were introduced to the phenomenon that is ‘half days’ or ‘summer hours’. This means that for the last 3 to 4 weeks of the school summer term and the first couple of weeks of the autumn term, school finishes between 11:45am and 12:45pm depending on the age of the child. Yes, that’s right 11:45am – the school day still starts at 9am, so for the very youngest students (Nursery & Reception) they have a school day lasting just 2 3/4 hours!

I completely get why this happens – it gets too darn hot in the summer time and despite the fact this is a nation well accustomed to the hot sunny weather, the school buildings are without air conditioning. You do get to a point when an open window and electric fan don’t quite cut the mustard in the midday heat. It’s not really conducive to a comfortable learning environment. 

On the flip side, if you are in a family where both parents work, or you are on your own and work, how on earth do you deal with childcare? It’s an annual headache for several of my friends who resort to flying grandparents in to take a few weeks hands-on child caring duty or face paying additional childcare costs to have their little darlings looked after while they finish their working day. In fact the half day situation, paired with an 8-week-long summer break from school, is the primary reason why many of us stay-at-home mums stay-at-home in the first place. There is only so much flexi time an employer is willing to flex in order to cater for such prolonged child caring time.

Fortunately for me and my family I don’t work (well, I don’t do paid work). This means that the 2 3/4 hours I have between 9am and school pick up time are incredibly precious. It serves as an annual reminder that this is my last chance to get jobs done unhindered and uninterrupted. It’s a last opportunity to fit in a trip to the hairdressers or get some jobs done in the house, to nip out to the gym in a last desperate attempt to get a body which won’t frighten young children on the beach or just to sit down and have a cuppa in peace.

For me, today that meant a flying trip to the supermarket and then my watercolour class. I’ve been learning to paint with watercolours since October last year. My teacher, Deborah M Lawson is a very talented and very patient lady. Myself and my fellow students agree that our Tuesday morning classes not only produce sometimes surprisingly good results but are also a form of therapy, giving us the chance to calm down and zone out of whatever is going on in the rest of our lives. At times, Deborah’s lounge (where she holds her classes) echoes to the sounds of our hoots of laughter and other times you could hear a pin drop as we try to get our heads round a new technique she’s encouraging us to experiment with. Today, we did a study on trees to varying degrees of success…

   
These are just first attempts I hasten to add! There’s quite a bit of work still to be done. Sadly I have just two watercolour lessons left before we break for the summer, I’ll miss by weekly dose of colour-filled therapy!


So after my art class a quick dash got me to school in time for the 11:45 pick up and an afternoon of fun lay ahead. I’m not 100% sure how we filled it, there were computer games, a piano lesson and a trip to the pool. It’s now after 11pm and I’ve just got back from my twice-weekly trip to the local recycling bins (the glamour!). I think it may be time to hit the hay before it’s time to start all over again!

  

Please excuse the grainy quality of this image but this is the view from our local recycling bins, I had to share it. It makes the trip worthwhile!