Some treats for your ears……and your eyes

Hello friends! I hope you are well. As a little thank you for all the positive and supportive messages I received after my last post, I thought I would round up some of my favourite popular culture recommendations for you to enjoy.  I have perfect podcasts, radio, TV and film to brighten up a miserable January. Escape Brexit, Trump and the fact that the Gilmore Girls revival was a huge disappointment and immerse yourself in this little lot.

Podcast, radio, TV and film recommendations for a dreary January
I am going to start with something that I know I’ve recommended before, but it is being repeated from the beginning on Radio 4 extra and I have been re-listening. It turns out that Cabin Pressure is as funny on a second listen as it was the first time. A radio sitcom based in a small charter airline, run by mostly useless staff, Cabin Pressure still makes me laugh out loud. I actually thing it’s  irrelevant what it’s about, the actors are Stephanie Cole, Roger Allum (he of Sarah and duck fame, as well as many other great dramas – I love him!) John Finnemore, who also writes it and is fabulous and the brilliant, pre-fame, Benedict Cumberbatch and they are just a brilliant ensemble. Comedy is such a subjective thing and people often turn their noses up at radio comedy, but I urge you to give this a try. 

Eight years ago I was just starting my maternity leave. Due to lots of owed holiday I had a lovely, long maternity leave before Mini Mck arrived and I clearly remember sitting in my armchair, cosy and warm, on a dark January day, watching Barack Obama’s Inauguration. I cried happy tears and rested my hands on my swollen belly, with a sense of hope. *sigh* Such a contrast to the emotion I feel about the upcoming inauguration ceremony and I know that many of you feel the same. So, I was delighted to stumble upon Malcom Gladwell talking about Trump’s victory and what it means for the future this week. It’s only fifteen minutes long and if you feel as I do, please listen. It is unerringly positive and hopeful, in a way that makes sense and that I haven’t heard from anyone else. 

Finally for your listening pleasure I am going to give another mention to Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s film review podcast. I love listening to their wittering and even though I rarely go to the cinema I love hearing about what is out there. I’ve recently joined my WI’s film club. An outing to the cinema once a month for those of us who like films, but don’t always get to go or have people to go with. It’s been lovely to be able to make good suggestions for what we see and to be able to get back to the cinema. 

Speaking of which. Have you been to see La La Land? PLEASE do. I went last night and it was such a treat. Sublime sprang to my mind in the first fifteen minutes. There were some bits that I want to change, but that has not taken away from the fact that I still loved it. An absolutely perfect way to spend a couple of hours, especially when the news is never-endingly depressing. Think Singin’ in the Rain with a modern twist and a lovely chemistry between the two leads. I really hope it wins big at the Oscars, rather than the usual epics that take themselves far too seriously. La la loved it! 

A couple of weeks ago I happened to catch the last ten minutes of The World’s Most Extrodinary Houses and immediately though how much my eldest would love it. He has a bit of a thing for houses and his last google search is often Mansions or something similar. He is very creative, but also has a real flair for maths. I think he’d quite like to be an architect really. It has become our favourite family viewing on a Saturday Afternoon. Both the boys are transfixed and it is perfect if you like to be nosy in other people’s houses. This week’s episode is Coastal Houses, but you can still find the first tow on iplayer. 

So, there you have some lovely things to immerse yourself in on a dreary January evening. There’s only one that you have to leave the house for and I promise you that one will be worth getting wrapped up warm for. 


A ramble and some treats for your ears

Hello friends. How are you all? If you are anything like me, you are probably feeling a little world-weary and fragile this week, after the news from America. The boys now understand a lot more of what they hear in the news and Mini Mck even discusses this stuff with his friends at school, so I have been fielding lots of questions this week. Having to explain to my five year old that of course he can be friends with Child X, even though they have a different colour skin and that yes, he can marry a man when he grows up, if he wants to, because we have the right values of love and friendship, unlike others who are stuck in fearful hate, is a bit heartbreaking if I’m honest. 

On the other hand, the same five year old has also informed me this week that he would like to be President and he would be kind and make the right choices. He also said it would be a good idea if we visited countries that had nice Presidents in the future, so that’s a trip to Canada on the cards, right? I have to admit that the look of bafflement on their faces, when I simplistically explained that the new US Presidient only really likes white people, gave me a warm glow. They just could not wrap their tiny heads around why someone would think like that. 

Anyway, I have some lovely blog posts I need to point you in the direction of, but I shall save those for another day, even though it will make them out of date and instead I thought you might appreciate some treats for your ears. This one is for all of you that need to turn off the news and surround yourself with stories and things that will make you smile and laugh. I think we all need some of that right now, so here are some of the things I’ve been listening to recently. 

Radio 4 seems to have had a bit of an Alan Bennett season in the last couple of weeks, with the utterly sublime reading by the author of his latest diaries. There is nothing more comforting than listening to Bennett witter on about the small things in his life and also his witty take on the wider world. This was followed by a great interview between him and Andrew Marr on Start the Week. I love Start the Week, even when I don’t really understand what they’re talking about. I can feel it literally stretching my brain and making it better, so I’d always recommend it for a listen. 

I was utterly gripped by a podcast that had been recommended to me by my friend, Heather. Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder was such interesting and fantastic story telling. Even though the actual crime was committed thirty years ago, it is still highely relevant today and related to lots of current and even future events. I listened to all ten episodes in about three days. If you were a fan of Seriel, this one could be for you. 

The Guilty Feminist is a new one to me, in fact I only discovered it this week, after someone mentioned it on Twitter and it is truly fabulous. Funny, clever and will have you nodding along and possibly shouting “Hell, Yes!” in parts. I think, this week in particular, I needed something that celebrates women and their fabulousness. It’s definitely going to be one of my must listens from now on. 

Another thing we all could do with this week is our faith in politics, particularly American politics and there’s no better place for that than The West Wing. I’ve been a fan ever since it was on Channel 4 when it first came out. You know, when we used to watch TV week by week at the time it was on and I’ve seen all of it several times since then. The West Wing Weekly is for West Wing nerds to relive this classic TV drama and they have some great interviews too. If you haven’t ever seen The West Wing, might I suggest that now would be an awesome time to start. Put your cynicism aside for 45 minutes and try and pretend that Martin Sheen is the actual President of the United States. 

Finally, a quick word about a couple of friends who have excellent podcasts that you should always be listening to. Kat has returned for the second season of the Blogtacular Podcast, with an interview with Instagram superstar, Sara from Me and Orla. Kate from A Playful Day is also releasing episodes at the moment and this is always a lovely listen, especially in the darker months. It’s a real curl up with a cuppa and blanket kind of podcast. 

So, there we are friends. Some rays of light to soothe you in these fractious times. I hope there is something new for you or at least something you haven’t checked in with for a while. 

Until next time xxxx

The cult of busyness and giving stuff up

So many of us have become addicted to being busy. It’s like a competition and I absolutely include myself in this.  It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and Radio 4 recently had a series of programmes from Oliver Burkeman (a favourite writer of mine) about just this topic. I would urge you to have a listen. 

You know how it is. You see a friend and they ask how you are. How many of us answer something like “Oh, yes good, thanks. Well, busy, you know how it is?” And they nod knowingly and regale you with just how busy they are. Have you noticed that no matter how busy you might be, there is always someone who is busier than you and wants to tell you about it. It’s as if our busyness has become a badge of honour. The busier we are, the more value our lives have.  Interestingly, studies quoted in the Oliver Burkeman programme have concluded that people who feel that they are busier than everyone else, are in fact, not. 

Of course, I’m not denying that most of us are busy, juggling home, work and family and many of the things we do, we have to do. We have to eat and live in something better than filth. We have to work and care for our families, but we seem to have become martyrs to our own lives and choices. Like little worker bees scurrying around and not often know why or if it’s what we really want to do. 

If I look at my own life, as I have over the last few months, there are things that we don’t have to do. There are things that we can cut out of our lives that will make us less busy and I am convinced that this is the case for many others too. However, this isn’t blog post preaching to you that you are doing too much and why can’t you just give something up. You probably are and you probably should give something up, but I know it isn’t as easy as that. The things we do in our lives, we choose to do for many different reasons. It may be necessecity or because we want to provide something special for our kids. It could be obligation or sometimes just something we want to do. Just giving these things up isn’t always simple, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider it. 

I recently decided to give up a committee role I had held at school for the past year. It seemed an easy decision to make and in some ways it was. I knew, immediately that it was the right thing for me and that at this time of my life I couldn’t continue this commitment. No, actually, not couldn’t, but didn’t want to and this is where these decisions become difficult. I felt I had to justify myself, to others, but mainly to myself.

 “Oh, I can’t do it, while I still have a toddler at home full time. I can’t do it with the boys moving into Year 1 and Year 3, there’s so much change for them. Oh, I can’t do it with Mckdad’s job taking up so much time……blah blah blah!”

All of these reasons were valid and genuine, but if I had really wanted to carry on, I could’ve. The truth was that I wanted to be less busy. I wanted to be able to use my babysitting favours for doing things in the house, or even more secretly for myself. Even now, I’ve stepped down and someone fantastic has taken over I feel a mix of emotions. I know that making my life less frantic was the right thing to do and the relief at taking a leap and saying no to something feels liberating. However, I still feel guilty, I still feel the fear of missing out (that’s the control freak in me) and I still feel that I am justifying the decision to myself. 

As I write this I have an unexpected toddler free day and because it was unexpected, I had no plans. I can’t remember the last time that happened and straight away I felt that I should feel guilty for that. I thought of the rest of the world beavering away being busy, as I went for a rare and wonderful daytime run. This feels like a huge luxury in this busy world. So much so, that I very nearly combined it with going to check and open my Dad’s post, because multi-tasking makes us all feel more busy, right?  (By the way the radio documentary I mentioned argues that multi-tasking is of no use to us)

I stopped myself though. I ran along the river path instead, for no other reason than it is the route I love.  I am slowly trying to learn that there are no gold medals for busyness and that sometimes we owe it to ourselves to slow everything down. So others may well be busier than me, in fact they probably are, but that’s OK. I am OK with that, or at least I will be one day.  

Mummy Limited’s Listening Pleasure – The girl crush edition

I’ve had a bit of good fortune in the radio department recently. Mckdaddy turned 40 a couple of weeks ago (how?) and his lovely sister treated him to a iphone dock with speakers that charges your phone as you listen. So, I now have access to iplayer, in my kitchen, in scrummy stereo. It is just bliss, all my favourites while I cook tea and even better, dramas and plays while I do weekend cooking

Anyway, I actually managed to listen to this particular gem ‘live’, I am not quite sure how that happened, but I’m not complaining. 
One of my girl crushes, as you may already know, is writer, Catilin Moran. I was almost beside myself when I saw her having coffee, at the Royal Festival Hall in London, especially when she confirmed it was her in a tweet. I loved her book ‘How to be a Woman’, which made me simultaneously feel militant and laugh out loud. This interview made me want to read it all over again, which I probably will. 
Chain Reaction is an half hour comedy interview show, where one famous person is interviewed by another and then the following week becomes the interviewer to someone else. Like a chain, geddit?
This week the lovely, if somewhat croaky Tim Minchin interviewed Caitlin Moran and it was every bit as good as I’d hoped and this Friday night Moran will be interviewing Jennifer Saunders, which will also be worth a listen and as this is a Friday Night Comedy you can get it as a podcast, in case you haven’t got time to listen this week.
p.s – I also found that Stephen Fry is back on the radio talking about language in Fry’s English Delight. It’s delightful.

Mummy Limited’s listening pleasure – The bonus edition

I have the radio on for a large part of the day to dip in and out of and I often wonder what makes something worthy of writing a blog post. When does something go beyond mildly interesting to the point where I want to tell you about it. 

It’s the piece that makes me turn up the radio or listen again so that I can fully take it in without the distraction of small children. This week it was finding myself not getting out of my car at the supermarket so that I could listen to a little bit more of Fatima Whitbread talking about her childhood spent mainly in children’s homes, in the same five minutes as Frank Partnoy was talking about his book, Wait – The Useful Art of Procrastination’, surely a must read for those of us who spend many hours in the procrastinators paradise that is the Internet and particularly Twitter. 

Midweek, on Wednesday morning at 9am and repeated in the evening, is nearly always a good listen, it always has an interesting mix of guests that you would never normally hear in the usual round of people plugging their products on TV or on the radio. It’s available as a podcast, as well as on iplayer, so you should be able to get this for longer than a week too.

If you can’t though, you only have until Wednesday and so here are a couple of recommendations for this week of things returning to Radio 4 that I love and will definitely be listening to. Firstly The Long View returns today. It’s a great mix of history and current affairs where Jonathan Friedland of The Guardian compares a recent event with one in history and chats to experts and commentators. There is usually the added bonus of a great actor reading historical bits too, you may suddenly find Prunella Scales or Andrew Sachs popping up. 

The second series that returns this week is Old Harry’s Game, written and starring Andy Hamilton, it’s a sitcom about the devil. He wrote Drop the Dead Donkey and more recently Outnumbered, so needless to say, it’s funny. It returns on Thursday at 6:30pm

Let me know what you thought, if you manage to listen. As ever, I am in no way sponsored by the BBC and this is just stuff I wanted to tell you about. Enjoy.

Mummy Limited’s Listening Pleasure: Pottering to randomness

I haven’t been doing much radio listening recently. I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems that every time I catch part of something interesting which I intend to go back to, I never get the chance. Life is busy, I guess.

However, last Wednesday while Mini Mck was at nursery and Nano Mck was sleeping, I was doing one of my favourite things, pottering in the house, with the back door open and Radio 4 on.

I caught part of something that is now in it’s second series and I remember hearing some of the first and being totally diverted by it.

Don’t Log Off is a series of interviews that Alan Dein has done with people he has connected with through Facebook and Skype. I love the randomness of this programme and the fantastic mixture of the minutiae of people’s lives together with the high level of craziness that is on the Internet. There really are plenty of oddballs pervading the World Wide Web, not us obviously.

It was followed by a really gentle and amusing drama starring June Whitfield, as part of A Month of June. The episode that I caught is no longer on iPlayer, but this week’s is. I haven’t heard it, but it’s got June Whitfield and Barbara Windsor in it. What more do you need to know?


My listening pleasure

I adore speech radio and especially BBC Radio 4. It is woven into my memory as I recall listening to The News Quiz or some other comedy at 6:30 in the evening with my Dad, as he made the dinner and then The Archers as we ate it.

Now, I am at home for much of the day and it entwines itself around my routine. The Today Programme as I am getting us all dressed and fed, unless the news is too horrible in which case I can rely on Radio 2 for a bit of light relief. Woman’s Hour or a quirky documentary as I try and wrangle children and complete chores. The lovely Eddie Mair talking to me as I prepare dinner, something funny as I fold washing while Mckdaddy is in charge of the children’s bath and finally The Archers as I feed Nano and put him to bed.

I love how it surprises me, the amazing range of topics that it covers is just jaw dropping. In the space of an hour I can hear a reading from an interesting new book that I never would have picked up, a political discussion, a moving interview and some history .I love the randomness. It makes me think about things and challenges me. It teaches me and makes me shout out loud when I disagree with someone or cackle when some really good comedy is on.

A friend of mine has recently started listening to Radio 4 and has totally fallen in love with it. At first she asked for recommendations, but as expected she now just stumbles upon stuff and usually tweets me about it. I often find myself listening to something and wanting to tell everyone I know to listen or catch it again on iPlayer and as I can’t ring people each time that happens I am going to tell you. An occasional series, hopefully weekly highlighting something I think you should hear. Sometimes it may be from another station, as I do flit about, but probably it will be from my old favourite. 

My recommendation this week sums up the random element and how I tend to just run into something that makes me stop in my tracks. 

The radio was on in the background on Friday morning and I started to become diverted by a documentary about some graffiti in Sheffield. The programme was called The I love you Bridge and the presenter was trying to track down the person who had written ‘Claire Middleton, I love you. Will you marry me?’ on a Sheffield bridge. A piece of graffiti that has become so famous locally,  it is to be lit up in neon. 

It doesn’t quite turn out to be the fairytale story that we might hope, but there is something about this half hour programme that I found so compelling and I never would have know about the ‘I love you Bridge’ if I hadn’t have had the radio on in the background. 

I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know what you think or maybe you have a radio recommendation for me?

Family Meals: Do they matter?

There was an advert on the television recently that made me feel sad. It was from Bisto and featured lots of children making a deal with their parents, with promises of good behaviour, in exchange for just ONE meal a week, eaten as a family with proper gravy.

Obviously the gravy is important, although if you think Bisto is ‘proper gravy’ then you are missing out, but the implication is that just one meal a week as a family would be a vast improvement.

My sadness was compounded this morning while listening to Radio 4’s Today Programme. There was a light-hearted discussion about whether we still eat in front of the TV and I was expecting the usual set up of two commentators with opposing views. However, not only did both the contributors seem to be defending meals in front of the TV, whilst laughing at the quaint notion of sitting at a table, as a family to eat, the presenter did too.

Does nobody eat with their family, around a table any longer and does it matter? In my opinion I think it does matter and even if there isn’t evidence supporting it’s benefits it is a nice thing to do.

Eating as a family is something that my Dad, in particular, was very keen on, so when we were at his house we would almost always eat together. I can vividly remember pestering him to let me watch TV whilst eating and rarely being allowed to, however I can also remember staying at the table chatting, even after the meal was over.

I’ve inherited his fussiness over eating at the table and ever since Mini Mck starting weaning we have eaten with him, most nights. It meant some adjustment on our part, suddenly eating at 5:30 was a little odd, but it was something I felt was important. I want Mini Mck to know that mealtimes are not an inconvenience and something he does alone, but something we do together, including the cooking of it and the clearing up.

Of course, it’s not something that can be done everyday. I realise that as Mini Mck gets older and has siblings they will have things to do and busy lives that will impact on everyone eating together. There is also the special treat element of watching a film and eating a pizza, which let’s face it a perfect TV dinner. Mckdaddy and I usually eat after Mini Mck has gone to bed once a week and this is often something easy and indulgent and we often have it in front of the television. In fact, I even think this is a bit of a shame, as eating with a toddler isn’t conducive to a relaxed conversation and when we do decide to have our alone meal at the table it is a really enjoyable experience, a time to chat with no interruptions.

All of these exceptions are fine, but that is what I believe they should be; exceptions. Eating as a family should be the norm, shouldn’t it?

Restore my faith, please tell me that lots of you still hold family meals dear and that your kids don’t need to bribe and persuade you to sit and eat ONE meal a week with them.