Sunday, 12 August 2012

Inspire a generation - but to what?

I have seen how the past two weeks of Olympic action in London have had an effect on my little one, and while it would be fantastic if her sporting interest could be harnessed and turned into Olympic champion material, the legacy from these Games that I want for her goes much deeper - I hope for a complete national attitude change!

But first, I have to say how her interest in sport has been wonderful to watch. I once left her on the sofa watching the Olympic rowing on the TV while I went to make her lunch. Suddenly I heard a little voice happily singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat!" She then ate all her lunch as I told her that people who win medals eat fish pie!

After watching the gymnastic high bar exercises and hearing her say "I want to do that", I have also caught her on more than one occasion launching herself off the sofa into a forward roll and telling me she is "doing "nastics" - I knew it was a mistake to let her watch that!

I had to turn over from the boxing and Taekwondo though, as it was far trickier to explain why people who punched and kicked each other got cheered - I think I mumbled something about it being OK if you had special equipment and a referee but decided that not watching it was the easier option!

Her latest "thing" is saying she is going to win a race, launching herself off the far wall, zooming over to me, leaping into my arms then taking a step back, bowing her head and asking for a medal.

I think that at the moment she is more inspired by getting something shiny than doing the work to get it - but still, it's a start!

I am sure that similar things are happening in living rooms, gardens and playgrounds all over the country - so, what happens now?

Money and sport

The thing is, where do you start. Yes - V has shown an interest in various sports but if she wanted to pursue them - where do you go? How much does it cost? And what if she discovers she can't do it?

Parents also need to be inspired - they may already be motivated by seeing endless gushingly proud mums and dads interviewed on the BBC - but they must also realise that you have to make sacrifices and spend years ferrying your offspring to and from classes and shelling out cold hard cash to pay for it all!

Putting more dosh into sport is a difficult subject to tackle. Yes, I agree that sport has many benefits to do with health and self esteem and it would be great to fund it to the hilt. But another part of me would prefer any spare cash to be paid directly into the NHS and more general education. Yes - having a more sporty nation may cut some NHS bills but athletes don't go injury free for long either!

Putting money into sport is like buying a takeaway - a nice treat when you've paid all the important bills first.

It's also all very well saying that there should be two hours of sport per week in schools - great, if it gets kids off their bottoms - but the largely non sporty side of me says I would prefer my child to have a choice. Try it definitely, but not be forced to continue. Not everyone is sporty and no one should be made to feel they have to be, or feel bad because they can't run fast or jump high.

The English graduate in me also thinks that those two hours would be better spent on spelling and grammar.

Inspirational attitude

So yes - while I am sure that a many youngsters will now be inspired to become Olympic champions, being realistic, few of them will actually make it - whether cash is doled out or not because talent and support come into it as well.

That's why, personally I hope that the legacy from London 2012 goes beyond sport, and that the determination and dedication shown by the athletes is the bit that is harnessed and moved forward. Everyone has a chance to take that on board.

The bottom line is, I DO want the younger generation to be inspired by the performances of our top athletes - but for their inspirational attitude and normality more than anything else.

I want my little girl to be dedicated and driven to achieve and to try and be the best without the incentive of tonnes of cash. I am a huge football fan but have felt rather embarrassed these past two weeks about enjoying a sport populated by people who often don't seem to care that much - as long as they have a wad of cash in their pockets and the other trappings of wealth.

I want my little girl to be inspired to look up to role models such as the likes of Jessica Ennis, Sir Chris Hoy, Mo Farah and Laura Trott rather than Katie Price or anyone from TOWIE.

I want her to admire people who actually put some effort into doing something and having the determination to see it through, rather than be famous just for being famous. Those who work hard for the love of it, when the return is the knowledge that they have done it, rather than just planning another wedding when they need attention or an injection of cash.

I would rather she had a poster of Tom Daley on her wall than Harry Styles. I'd like her to admire a boy who worked for his A' Levels and an Olympic medal at the same time - and achieved both, rather than one who sings a bit and goes out with a lot of women.

Sporty or not,  I would rather youngsters looked after thier bodies as if they were heptathletes, rather than doing binge drinking marathons.

Our successful Olympic athletes are great examples of how hard work and being healthy can also bring adulation and if the Games drums that thought into our youngsters, then that's the best legacy that these home Olympics could ever hope to leave behind.

After Mo Farah won his second Olympic gold medal he said: "Anything is possible - it's just hard work and grafting". Yep! That's about it! Couldn't have put it better myself. That's what we need to get across - the sport is a side issue.

Oh yeah - and while I'm on it, if the brilliant Clare Balding can inspire some better journalism / broadcasting in the future - then that will be an added bonus!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympics live

I have written before about me wanting V to experience the Olympics - or the "Lympix" as they are known in our house - and last weekend was her big chance as we had tickets for the football at the Ricoh Stadium in Coventry.

I have been to hundreds of footie matches over the years, so knew on basic terms what to expect for myself, but I had never been with a toddler before so this would be a whole new ball game, if you will pardon the pun!

I am pleased to report that it was both fun and relatively painless, and to be honest, it was only the Olympic element that caused any problems at all, such as they were, as watching the match itself was fine.

Being an Olympic event just made it a bit harder to plan as the list of rules and prohibited items made it all seem a bit daunting. A normal match it would have been easier to prepare for.

Mei tei

For starters, I would never have taken a buggy to the game anyway, but can normally work out a place to park where walking to the game wouldn't be too much of a trek for a 2.5 year old.

In this case though, while the designated car parks weren't far, it would have taken an age for V to walk, especially if we had to stop and look at every leaf and stone along the way, as you do!

The answer was a mei tei sling which Mr A wore to carry her on his back which worked well. We hadn't used one before and after getting over her initial confusion at what the hell she was expected to do - V thought it was a huge game! "Giddy up" - she kept saying, much to her father's annoyance! 

Once at the stadium, it was the security checks that were a little time consuming but as it was all for the best, I wasn't too bothered.

At the bag check, they took everything out, and placed it all in a see through plastic bag which was sealed until you got into the venue.

Pared down

I was pleased that I had pared my bag down to the bare bones and had removed half the rubbish I seem to think is necessary to have in a changing bag like the pile of forgotten, and therefore stale, wrapped baby biscuits which must have lined the base for months.

It's unnerving having some stranger analysing all your possessions so I narrowed things down to basically nappies and a change of clothes, a drink for V and the "small snack" we were allowed, according to the rules.

The guy checking, who honestly looked about 12, looked at my high factor suncream with suspicion and made me put some on. He did the same with the sudocrem so I smelt delightful for the rest of the afternoon.

Reading the prohibited items list beforehand, I was a bit worried by the liquid allowance of 100ml. I knew you could buy bottled water inside but I didn't think you could give mineral water to young children and I didn't want her getting too much of a taste for the other sugary juice drinks on sale inside.

I put 150ml of water in V's sippy cup to see if I could get away with a bit more but of course, I couldn't! I had to drink it down to 100ml. I put the cup down and stared at him as if to say, "look, I haven't keeled over, it's just WATER!" but my steely glare was lost on him.

He allowed the banana through without question - a far more dangerous weapon in my opinion!

Going in through the turnstiles, another eagle eyed security bloke spotted the offending pink sippy cup and stopped us again because HE had been told that you could only take baby milk in. NO other liquids at all.

There followed a few minutes of us remonstrating - our main argument being that "the other bloke said it was alright!" until he called in yet another man who confirmed that our precious 100 ml of water was legal!

Once inside I bought a juice drink to top it up, the sugar content of which probably added top V's already heightened excitement!

Pooey nappy

One thing I hadn't realised about football matches from my previous visits was that the baby changing facilities, even at the new modern stadia such as the Ricoh are non-existent.

We ended up in a cubicle in the ladies, changing a pooey nappy with us both standing up! It was a trifle fiddly and I'm sure we probably left stray poo somewhere, but it is only the home of Coventry City so frankly I wasn't bothered!

During the game itself V was as well behaved as we could expect of a little one of her age. She was fascinated by the Mexican wave and the green, white and red wigs and commented loudly on both, and joined in with the cheering and clapping with a massive smile on her face.

Yes, she got restless at times, but sitting her between us and folding the seat up gave her a little place to play and dance about to Take That and the Scissor Sisters on the tannoy. And when all else failed, games on the iphone stepped in.

Her commentary on the game - "daddy, that man kicked the ball too far", entertained the crowds around us and luckily the friendly atmosphere was quite unique in that I didn't hear a single swear word - a big relief as my daughter is a sponge and I didn't want her singing any version of The Liquidator or other tunes with some choice lyrics.

She saw two goals, the first of which gave her a bit of a shock as she had never before heard the collective cheers of a 28,000 odd crowd live, but by the second she was clapping and cheering with the best of them!

Back outside, we were fleeced at the merchandise stall but it had to be done, then on the way back to the car the heavens opened and V refused to keep her head down and her hood up, preferrring instead to turn her head to the skies and open her mouth wide to catch the rain water!

Soaked, tired, but strangely exhilarated we got back to the car and got home with relative ease!

On the whole, the event was well organised and buoyed up by this success we are now preparing for sailing on Saturday. A whole different kettle of fish awaits there but I will report back!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Blessing of the Expectant Mother

I recently came across a whole load of notes that I wrote whilst pregnant. It's a good job I just wrote them for my own personal record as I was a right moany old crow and my complaints about how sick I felt would have rubbed many people up the wrong way.

Particularly those who might have been trying for a child for a while, while I was in the incredibly fortunate position to have beaten the stats and be pregnant over 40. What an ungrateful cow I sounded!

However, there were some more interesting pieces, things that with everything that happened since - i.e. giving birth and concentrating on raising a child - I had all but forgotten about!

I've decided to rehash a few in a kind of retrospective, in a more sensitive way knowing what I know now, to show myself how I have changed and maybe, as part of the process, some other people might be interested too.

Massive change

One of the first pieces I came across was a very special evening that may seem a bit "whacky" to some, but to me at the time seemed exactly the right thing to do.

In times of crisis I always turn to religion, and although being pregnant could not be termed a crisis, it was certainly a massive change to my life. It was something I needed to get my head around for sure. It took a good few weeks for it to sink in and this particular event really helped.

As the saying goes, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic” and the first thing I thought of to do when I found out about my situation, other than telling my parents, was to pray. Although I have long been a sausage on the devil's barbecue, I do still go to church, although not every week, but I do have a faith and I still pray.

I did actually want to go to church immediately but I was feeling too sick and didn't want rivers of puke rolling down the aisles, so I did what I always do and that was to offer up words asking for spiritual help and guidance and the mere act of calling on a higher authority for help is definitely a comfort.

If you’ve been brought up with it, then religion is something that never leaves you – no matter what you might think.

Belt and braces

So when my mum suggested me having the “Blessing of the Expectant Mother” I wasn’t averse to the idea. It’s a kind of belt and braces thing – what harm could it do? I wasn’t even aware that such a thing existed but she had had it done when pregnant with both me and my brother, and things worked out OK so why not?!

So, at nine weeks exactly, my parents arranged for the newly ordained and absolutely lovely Father Alan to go round to their house for the event and she made blueberry muffins and bought special chocolate biscuits. These are essential items for a religious occasion it seems!

Sadly Mr A couldn’t make it as an important work deadline kept him in London. He was very upset but as both me and Father Alan pointed out, it was just as important for this child that he keep his job.

So there we were. The priest, my mum, dad, me and the muffins in their living room as a simple service was performed. I was blessed and a safe delivery was prayed for (something I had been doing since I found out I was pregnant anyway – but having a priest do it too somehow gave it more kudos!)

The blessing also recalled the role of Mary and being likened to her predicament made me, for one fleeting moment, think that I was carrying the Son of God! Alan also read out a beautiful Celtic blessing and the whole thing was wonderful. It was calm and relaxing and gave me a tremendous sense of peace.

Afterwards we chatted and ate the muffins and generally had a lovely evening.

Physically I didn't feel much better, but mentally and spiritually I definitely felt stronger. So, whatever you believe, surely whatever helps has to be a good thing?!

Thankfully I got the safe delivery I had prayed for and, when V was nearly five months old, Father Alan baptised her.It was a fitting way to welcome her into the church as he had kind of been involved from the beginning.

Father Alan has now left our parish but returns occasionally and always asks after V. Our family will never forget his role at the very start of her life and if in the future V wants to get married and would like a Catholic service then I will most certainly be tracking him down!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Flaming 'eck!

I realised this week that I was exactly the same age as V - almost to the day - when Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon.

I can still remember being in the living room watching it on a small black and white telly. I don't know whether I was watching it live or whether it was on the news but I remember everybody making a big deal of it.

I didn't know why. I just knew people were on the moon. I didn't realise that was an unusual thing to do, I expected to go there myself one day! But I knew there was something special about it for some reason. And now I'm glad I was allowed to watch as it turned out that it was a big thing - because no one has done it since.

The fact I can remember that is why I am very aware that it is highly likely that V will remember 2012. Her twin cousins being born, the Jubilee and of course the Olympics.

I am making sure I explain exactly what each event is, picking up souvenirs and taking her to what I can, so I felt that it was important that we go and see the Olympic Torch as it made its way through our city.

Mixed feelings

Now this was a big concession on my part. I have mixed feelings about it as in my job it has become the bain of my life. Over the past year, I have had hundreds of emails about it, ranging from where you should put the capital letters when writing about it to who is responsible for recording its every move at any one time.

It has even been hard telling V what the Olympic Torch is, because normally when I talk about it every other word is a profanity.

Part of me wanted to ignore it was happening but the stubborn part, which is most of me, thought I'd be damned if I was going to miss it after all the effort I'd put in to telling the world about it!

Plus, I had no wish for her to accuse me in the future of not taking her to see it so I needed photographic evidence.

Quite peeved

I had always chided my own mum for not taking up the offer of tickets to the 1966 World Cup final when she was about two months pregnant with me - so I hadn't even been BORN!

I remember feeling quite peeved when I found out because I wanted to be able to have said that I was there, sort of, even if only the size of a coffee bean, when England won it. Mind you, this was nothing to how my dad felt when he found out, some 20 years later! He didn’t speak to her for about three days!

I only let her off when I got pregnant and realised how ill she must have been feeling. At two months pregnant I couldn’t have gone to Wembley, or anywhere where you are trapped with lots of people and no easy access to a toilet!

But I had no such excuse not to see the Olympic flame, added to that, it was practically going past the end of our road, so it wasn't actually too much effort and frankly a bit churlish not to turn out!

So, in spite of myself, I was actually quite excited about it by the time I burst into the living room, announcing, rather over enthusiastically, "V, shall we go and see the Olympic Torch?"

"No thanks," she said.

"I want to go to Thomasland."

"Tough," I thought, but out loud I said, "Now, come on V, it will be FUN!"

She didn't look convinced but as she is two and I am - older - she didn't have a choice! So, the three of us went to my parents and walked from there with my mum to find a good spot on the route.

'Kissing point'

Thankfully I had actually READ many of the hundreds of emails I had received so I knew that if I saw a group of people standing in a taped enclosure, they were likely to be the friends and family of a torchbearer so that spot would be a "kissing point" of the torch and so a good place to wait.

I was right, so luckily after a 40 minute wait, when V was just starting to get antsy, she did actually have something to see! She had got bored of waving the little flag she was given, and bored of waving ALL the flags that we were given as well. She was even bored of ripping them up!

She was literally just about to kick off when the advance entourage started to come past and as this was lots of people in colourful clothes, singing, dancing and shouting, she was transfixed. Those are her three most favourite things to do!

She stared intently as the flame arrived and as it happened right in front of us, she studied the "kiss", the transference of the flame, hard. "Can you see the fire?" I said. She must have wondered what the HELL was going on. Why are people running in the street with fire - and then passing it to someone else? What was the point of that? You may well ask the same question.

She said nothing. Until she was back in her buggy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she said, "Mummy. That was fantastic!"

So, job done. Not only had we all witnessed an historic moment, but V loved it. And she ate all her tea to boot. Olympic Torch - if you give my daughter an appetite, you can come past whenever you want!

I have to do it all again tomorrow albeit in a work capacity and without a toddler in tow. But come 2pm, when the flame crosses the border into Oxfordshire and out of my remit - I will be deleting a very large number of emails!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Just who are naps for?!

There is a popular misconception that babies and toddlers need to nap to rest their brains and regain energy. Wrong! Well actually no, that’s right, but if anyone needs to rest their brains and regain energy it’s their parents! Naps are also for US!

A nap is in fact a brilliantly designed natural piece of engineering that makes your child sleep when you are just about to drop. When you have read “The Gruffalo” ten times on the trot and you can’t see the carpet for Happyland. It’s a chance for you to rest before the adult's version of Cranky land replaces it!
With newborns, babies sleep between feeds which gives you a chance to regroup after you have spent the entire time worrying about whether they have had enough. It also gives you the couple of hours that you need in order to plan leaving the house.

With older babies, the nap is a bit of relief from finding the most stimulating ways of entertaining an awake, yet basically immobile, child without resorting to CBeebies. I can only do so many verses of “Wind the Bobbin Up” before starting to go a little bit crazy so my much-loved Danny Kaye CD was a lifesaver in those days. The Ugly Duckling was practically on a loop!
With a toddler, it’s respite from your house looking like it has been hit by a cross between Hurricane Katrina and a plague of locusts.

For a couple of hours, silence reigns, and there’s a chance for a HOT cup of tea, a bit of reading, a bit of Loose Women and, if I’m lucky, Doctors too, before heading back to the frontline of motherhood.
I say this from the perspective of one whose child has, for the first time ever, NOT had a nap today. And boy didn’t I know it! To cap it all, she chose a day when her dad was away for the weekend so there was no one to share the exhausting load!

She can normally nap for up to THREE HOURS in the afternoon so missing it was a major omission!
I am hoping against hope that it was a one off because we had been out for the morning and she slept for ten minutes on the way home, but although I put her straight in her bed, sleep was not forthcoming!

She was clearly knackered, having been zooming round Butterfly World, but in no mood to drop off when it was more interesting to recount, at length, how she had seen all the “beautiful butterflies coming out of their ‘coons’” (That’s "COcoons" - as we had to keep reminding her in the cafĂ© after getting some very odd looks!)
Given that we had been out all morning I opted to stay in, trying, and mostly failing, to at least get her to have some “quiet time” but as she is a child who doesn’t like to sit still I was fighting a losing battle. I have read countless children's books today, and retrieved toy animals from inexplicable places as some sort of typhoon hit her Little People farm at one stage and she literally recreated the "twister" scene from the Wizard of Oz, rendering herself dizzy.

We have been ballerinas and elephants, and in my case a combination of the two, and made up games with her new wooden caterpillar who she has inexplicably named “Jonjo”.
We have completed sticker books, recited the alphabet, drawn butterflies and annoyed the dog, who was quietly trying to watch the tennis. She was so tired that she was stumbling round like a drunk tryinkg to find his way home. Finally she succumbed and lay on the sofa in front of Ben and Holly while I made her tea.

The bonus was that when bedtime finally came round (very quickly after tea I have to say!), much, I suspect, to the relief of both of us, she was out like a light. Fast asleep before seven!
Now, don't get me wrong, I do want to say that we have had a lovely day, I have loved doing so many things with her, and I don't resent any of it, especially as a working mum - I am just knackered! I suspect I need her nap more than she does!

And don’t anybody dare say it’s because of my age, because name me the mother of a toddler who doesn’t get tired and I’ll point you towards a freak of nature.
As V is a 6am riser I am hoping that she might tag today’s nap onto her night time sleep, but it doesn’t work like that does it?! I am already planning tomorrow's itinerary!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Why I won't home school

As time goes on, I am beginning to think more and more about school. Time seems to be going so fast and it's not long before we will have to start seriously thinking about pre-school, as opposed to day nurseries.

At the moment our child care works - it is delicately balanced, but providing everybody is where they should be and is not ill, it's OK. How on earth we are going to manage drop off and pick ups when V is at school everyday is a whole other post.

Where she will go to school is yet another series of musings, but one thing that I have heard people talking more and more about recently is home schooling. Each to their own but personally, I have discounted this idea.

For many reasons I want to go to work. I enjoy my work for the most part, I want to retain a bit of me and as V gets older and less dependent on me, I will need to have something to do!

There is also the financial side of things, we want V to have whatever she needs and as many opportunities as possible and me working helps with that without a doubt - so - home schooling will not be an option.

But having said that, and despite my worries about the fact that SOME (and I stress SOME!) teachers I have come across can't spell, even if I felt I could give up work and teach her at home, I really don't think it would be for us.

Excuse list?

The following are my reasons - it's up to the reader as to whether they are a list of excuses to justify my continuing to work - I don't think they are!

Also, I think it is important to say that my views are not evidence based, purely my own thoughts on the kind of things that are hard to judge on statistics alone.

Firstly, I think it's important to say that I would and could never hand over all aspects of my child's learning to a school. We will always teach V at home and give her access to a wide range of experiences but I also see school as one of these experiences.

There is so much more that you learn from school than in the actual lessons.

V goes to a day nursery for one day a week and LOVES it - she is a very sociable being and I honestly don't think it would be fair to keep her at home with just me.

Apart from the fact that she would miss being around others, what I taught her would be tainted with my views on everything. I want her to be able to meet a wide range of people and also make her own decisions about what she thinks about things.

Yes - she will probably hear my views at home (I don't keep them to myself!) but by being at school she will hear alternate views as well and I think this is so important.

Plus - she will be an only child so I feel it's doubly important that she mixes with a peer group.

I don't think that home schooling groups would give her the interaction she needs or give her access to a wide range of views and backgrounds.

Hold back?

I have also never considered that school will hold her back. At two, she already knows all her shapes and colours etc, counts to at least 20 and can just about recite the alphabet. She also asks questions like "why is the sky blue?" but I don't think she will be bored at school as there is stuff I can't teach her and am not arrogant enough to think that I can.

I honestly don't know why the sky is blue - is it light refraction? I think I said it was the reflection from the sea! I would have to teach myself a whole lot more before I could even consider teaching her!

If I felt that school was holding her back, then I would supplement all she was learning with more at home - but then I planned to do that anyway.  Schools aren't responsible for ALL children's learning, they are already under enough pressure. She will learn loads at home with me, like she does now.

Plus I am rubbish at maths! I got my O'level (a PROPER exam!) but there's no way I could teach it to her!

I do believe that there are things that I will HAVE to do at home though. I see graduates coming into my line of work who can't spell properly, or construct proper sentences (and they are supposed to be journalists!). I have long been worried about the standard of learning things like this in schools and if I feel she isn't being taught this properly, then I will do it myself!

And woe betide any communication sent home with a spelling mistake in it. The offending item will be swiftly returned and marked with red pen and possibly, depending on my tolerance levels at the time, "Must try harder" written at the bottom. Teachers are SO going to love me!

I believe that you need to be able to express yourself properly in this life. I can help her with written communication, but even though she goes to groups, and hopefully will still do a lot of out of school activities in the future, a school is a vital part of gaining interpersonal skills.

And if you see spelling mistakes in this post - well, then it's another reason for sending her to school!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Banning pirate TV

I am struggling with pirates at the moment.

They are everywhere - Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Space Pirates, Aardmans latest film, cleverly titled The Pirates, pirate-themed children's parties, pirate-themed bedrooms. Why?

Why are we so determined for our children to enjoy watching the activities of criminals, let alone dress up as them or adorn their sleeping spaces with them? I await CBeebies version of The Great Train Robbery with interest - "Oh Mr Biggs, you're a very naughty boy, you must give it all back, hurrah!"

My beef is that pirates are not supposed to be entertaining, and while in many kids' TV programmes they are often portrayed as the baddies, they are generally seen as bumbling fools who rarely win the day, but in reality they were not cuddly characters, they were ruthless criminals.

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. Beneath the romanticism that has watered down their history, pirates were / are violent offenders - and I just can't sanction them being plastered all over walls in our house, or stuck to a bedspread. You might as well have Fred West wall stickers. Or send them to a party dressed as Jack the Ripper.

What example does it set children if we let think thieves are fun? I am not blaming Jake and the Neverland Pirates for last summer's riots - but you never know!

Was I the only child of the 70s to see through Captain Pugwash? He was portrayed as pompous and stupid but still likeable and still usually won the day. I just wanted him arrested.

Mind you, despite being a pirate, he was rarely seen committing any acts of piracy - because if he did it wouldn't be suitable as a children's TV programme would it?! Aaagghhh!

I know that kids' TV isn't always realistic. I know that pigs don't really talk, or any other animal - or vegetable, in Mr Bloom's case. I know that there is no such thing as a Problem Blob, a ZingZilla Island or a Night Garden, but can accept them as fanciful products of the imagination. Making pirates cuddly or funny, I cannot. I blame Johnny Depp (but not so much that if he came round to my house I wouldn't invite him in!).

Yes, you may have gathered, I have a real bee in my bonnet about this which many people, including my husband, just laugh at. But I was delighted to find my brother spouting the same unprompted views at a family gathering so there must either be something in the genes, or there was some unmentionable "pirate themed incident" in our childhood that we have erased from our memories because it was so terrifying.

Thinking about it, my mum and her brother were named Wendy and Peter after J.M Barrie's characters in Peter Pan who took on the infamous Captain Hook, so this theory may not be so far removed from the truth!

I am, however, beginning to understand that when it comes to toddlers' likes and dislikes, what I like or want carries very little weight.

My two-year-old has developed a mind of her own and knows exactly what she likes. Animals are a big thing for her, as are certain TV characters - Peppa Pig, Curious George and the Numberjacks are her latest obsessions - and to be honest, if she wants her bedroom garishly tastefully decorated with any of these themes I would be more or less happy.

But if she ever asks for pirates, I will put a petulant foot down and consign them to my own personal Room 101 where they will find Rastamouse and Manchester United waiting for them. I'm sure they will get on famously.