Thursday, 8 March 2012

Hand's Up if you love Justin!

My days are nothing if not varied.

This morning I was looking at the pros and cons of a waste incinerator, writing about the amazing Alan Turing and shamefully getting almost excited about a story that isn't actually going to be very pleasant - such is the way of the journalist.

This afternoon I was bopping round the living room to pre-school idol Justin Fletcher's latest album Hands Up - on my OWN!

It had arrived in the post this morning and I decided that it definitely wasn't wrong to put it on BEFORE I picked V up from nursery. Just to check it was suitable obviously, because clearly there would be subversive lyrics on it wouldn't there?

Who am I kidding? I remember the days when I couldn't wait for Paul Young's latest album to arrive at the record shop, today I was genuinely excited that what is essentially an album of nursery rhymes dropped onto my doormat.

What has happened to me?!

I think if you have never had a child under five, the name of Justin Fletcher will mean diddly squat, but if you have, then he's likely to be a bit of a legend, the Brian Cant of his time.

Three years ago I had never heard of him but now I have joined that (formerly annoying) group who refer to "Justin" as if he is their own personal childminder.

He is known for his slapstick routines and a wide range of characters in programmes such as Something Special - which was created for youngsters with learning difficulties but loved by all and Gigglebiz - a kind of pre-school Little Britain.

He also won the first BAFTA ever given to a presenter of pre-school programmes for Something Special and in 2008 was awarded an MBE for services to children’s television.

He is in fact pretty ubiquitous on CBeebies, his latest offering being Justin's House, the first ever CBeebies programme recorded in front of a live studio audience of pre-schoolers (he obviously likes to live dangerously!) and where he and friends Robert the Robot, Dee Livery, Little Monster and various special guests get into funny situations around "his house".

It's so much fun that if Jim'll Fix It was still on the telly I would have already written in and asked to be his housekeeper!

His new album is simply a joyful collection of 20 of your little one's favourite tunes, plus some from when I was a little one too - with a pretty banging drum and bass beat underneath and Justin, who as well as singing, shouts encouraging instructions, guiding listeners through the verses and generally whipping me / the kiddies into a frenzy!

The Ibiza club vibe is surprising but welcome - in the car if I drape my arm over the steering wheel loosely and nod my head to the beat, the vibrations could make the outside world believe I was listening to something cool - if I close the windows tightly that is, so the lyrics to Incy Wincy Spider can't be heard!

Children's albums have certainly come a long way from Jon Pertwee singing The Three Little Fishes and The Runaway Train (classics though they are!)

There is also a Eurovision-esque feel to each tune and is a great album to entertain just one child or a party full of them, keeping them dancing, doing actions and singing along.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Old MacDonald, Wheels on the Bus, If You're Happy and You Know It - they are all there, together with other classics from my old Junior Choice days like The Laughing Policeman, The Teddy Bear's Picnic and Nellie the Elephant.

There's also the less familiar title song (not to be confused with Ottawan's 80's classic) and the closing track Justin's Lullaby, a completely stripped back, well sung melody intended I guess to calm everybody down again!

For all my enthusiasm, it still had to pass the acid test - what would V think?

Fortunately it went down very well, so much so that she even forgot to ask for the Numberjacks theme tune which seems to have been ever present in the car for months now and was frankly sending me slightly crazy.

Her little face as that familiar voice came out of the speakers was a joy to watch, so for the time being it will stay in the car to make our journeys together more palatable and - shh - my solo journey to work quite a lot of fun as well!

I know how TV personalities from childhood can still have an effect on you years later. When I had to interview the aforementioned Mr Cant once, I could barely speak with excitement and awe, so I'm glad that Justin Fletcher is around now so that he can be the one that hopefully V remembers most, heck, he's better than flaming Rastamouse, but that's a whole other post!

In OUR house, Justin and his Hand's Up is a hit, it's making V happy and me fit!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Live and let live, yes. But up to a point.

Smoking while pregnant, drinking while pregnant, not eating this, that or the other while you're pregnant. It's a constant debate, subjects that the media like to jump on for their phone-ins and talk shows because they are topics which will ALWAYS get a reaction.

But I for one am sick of hearing the arguments. To me there are none. We are told that smoking, drinking and eating things like soft cheeses and pate while pregnant could cause damage to the foetus. So why do any of them? End of .... in my opinion. And any amount of crying on daytime TV won't change that, Stacey Solomon.

Guidelines are there to help those of us who have not undertaken the years of research needed to find out about the damage that various things can do. Other people have so it's worth listening to them.

I am all for live and let live - if that's what you want to do, then do it, it's none of my business - but I do find it hard to understand why on earth anyone would even contemplate doing something that could potentially harm the precious load they are carrying.

There are so many things in your body that are out of your control when you are pregnant, not least the actual gowing of a baby. It always amazed me that, somehow, without even trying, an actual person was growing inside of me, in all its complexity.

Whole organs, a nervous system, a brain - things that it takes medical people years and years of training and experience to even understand, my body was just naturally manufacturing - it's still something I find hard to get my head round.

Then there's the way that your body reacts to being pregnant. I have high blood pressure when not pregnant so when I was nourishing another human inside of me, that blood pressure was hard to control. It's horrible knowing that your body is doing something that you can't change. I was told to rest in order to help, so that's what I did.

Just about the only thing that you can control when you are pregnant is what you put into your body, so not shoving things into it that are essentially poison is to me a no-brainer.

OK, maybe I was an extreme because of the blood pressure thing, but I wouldn't even eat Christmas cake because it had been "fed" with brandy.

The most upsetting thing I saw was when I was in hospital at 33 weeks, under observation in case my high BP turned into pre-eclampsia. I spent days lying there thinking calm thoughts to try and bring my BP down so they would let me out, while two of the women in my ward regularly headed down seven floors so that they could have a smoke outside. There was often a little coven of heavily pregnant puffing women out there - it made me want to scream at them, which obviously didn't help my BP!

You wouldn't shove a ciggy in your newborn baby's mouth or offer them a pint as soon as he or she makes an appearance would you? So why do it before they are born?

You wouldn't knowingly feed them dangerous bacteria, so why even risk the threat of listeria from a bit of stilton? After all, it's only for nine months.

I understand that smoking is an addiction - as is alcohol in some cases. I know that it's incredibly hard to stop, but as someone who would do anything for her little one, I think that if you can't stop for them, then you never will.

And so despite my live and let live attitude to life in general, I still find it very hard to stifle a look of utter disdain when I see a pregnant woman with a fag in her mouth, a glass of vino in her hand or a hunk of brie on a cream cracker. Live and let live yes - but I think babies should have the chance of a healthy life too.