Tuesday 30 November 2010

Top tips on Driving in the snow and ice

Well after skidding down a small hill and right across a cross roads I decided now would be a good time to learn how not to kill myself or my children in a car before Christmas. So I looked all over teh internet from the AA, RAC, Institute of Advanced Motorists, Maccinfo and many others to come up with a short/longlist of top tips for driving in the snow and ice for us Brits…
1.Before even setting foot outdoors, let alone starting the engine up:
  •  Check the weather before you plan to go – don’t ignore police warnings about closed roads or advice to not travel on specific routes.
  • Ask yourself truthfully:
  1. Do you actually have to go? Is it really necessary to leave home?
  2. Can you work from home for a day or two by using the internet or home phone? It could be a good time to catch up on correspondence and stuff you’ve been meaning to do but don’t get round to in a busy office environment?
  3. Do the children really need to go to school? Could they not have some time out with you for one day? It may be a great tiem to help sort out their bedrooms, clear away the junk make ready for Christmas etc
  4. Can you change your appointments to another day? Could you not wait an extra week for your hair to be cut.
Basically, if you really don’t need to go out don’t because the less of us on the roads the better for those who really do need to be out there.

2. So you really, really, need to go well wait a sec; have you got everything you need just in case? I know over the top advice but hey think of all those poor souls in Scotland who landed up having to stay in their car ALL night because of the snow!!!!
  •  Is it a good time to car-share especially if the other person has a 4x4 ( and knows how to drive it)!
  •  Plan your journey around busier main roads as they are more likely to have been gritted. Avoid using short cuts on minor roads – they are less likely to be cleared or treated with salt, especially country lanes.
  • Get up at least 10 minutes early to give you time to prepare your car.
  •  Make sure all of your lights work properly, and keep them free of dirt so other people can see you and your signals.
  • Before you start, clear all snow from your car as snow on the bonnet can blow onto your windscreen, smow on the roof can be blown back onto traffic following or in some cases fall forward across the windscreen when you brake.
  • Keep your screen wash reservoir well topped up. Don't just add washing up liquid – use a proper screen wash additive to prevent freezing.
  • Have a clean, cotton cloth to hand to keep the inside of windows free of distracting smears.
  • Make sure you have a basic winter car kit in the boot - at the very least a scraper and de-mister for city driving, and a spade, bag of salt/grit/ kitty litter if you live in - or are driving to - a rural location. A torch, first-aid kit, tow rope, blankets, warm coat and boots, jump leads, snow shovel, warning triangle, an old sack or rug are all very handy.
  • Take food and water.
  • On longer journeys always let someone know you have set off and tell them your planned route. 
  • Ensure that your mobile phone is charged. 
  • Do a proper winter check of your vehicle, looking at washer fluid, de-icer/scraper and tyres.
  • Wear warm, comfortable clothes. Wear comfortable, dry shoes: cumbersome, snow-covered boots will slip on the pedals.
  •  If you leave the car engine running to help de-ice windows before you start the journey, make sure that there is someone with the car – a cold thief may see a warm opportunity, and some insurers may not pay out in those circumstances
Prepare to be late.

3.So you’re off but there are still things to consider:
  • Leave early! Allow yourself the extra time to drive more slowly. Other motorists will be driving slowly, and overtaking may not be an option. You don't need the extra stress of being late for an appointment.
  • Check for signs of ice before setting off and while you drive - most modern cars have ice warning lights or outside temperature gauges - ice is likely at anything below three degrees Celcius.
    The Highways Agency warns that if your tyres are very quiet, it could be a sign you're driving on ice, so take great care and slow down without heavy braking.
  • Start gently from stationary, avoiding high revs.
  •  If you get yourself into a skid the main thing to remember is to take your foot off the pedals and steer. Depress the clutch and turn the steering wheel into the direction of the skid. When the vehicle straightens steer along the road. Don't brake - it will just lock up your wheels and you'll skid further.
  •  Reduce your risk of skidding by reducing your speed, too much power is often the source of problems in snow and ice.
  • Only use the brake if you cannot steer out of trouble.
  • Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving.
  •  It’s better to think ahead as you drive to keep moving, even if it is at walking pace.
  •  Stopping distances are up to ten times longer in wintry conditions, so drivers should use all the car's controls - brakes, accelerator and steering - gently.
  •  Braking well before turning and leaving a large gap between you and the vehicle in front is also essential.
  •  If your vehicle has ABS in very slippery conditions it will not give you the same control it would in others. Don’t rely on it. Traction control and other electronic systems (ESC) can really  help – but they cannot overcome the laws of physics, so don’t rely on them, use common sense
  •   4x4 four wheel drive vehicles can keep going in slippery conditions, but their brakes are no better than an ordinary car, and being heavier, they tend to have longer stopping distances - even in good conditions.
  •  Bends are a particular problem in slippery conditions – slow down before you get to the bend, so that by the time you turn the steering wheel you have already lost enough speed
  •  On a downhill slope get your speed low before you start the descent, and do not let it build up – it is much easier to keep it low than to try and slow down once things get slippery
  • When driving downhill, choose third or fourth gear to prevent skidding.
  • Select second gear when pulling away, easing your foot off the clutch gently to avoid wheel-spin.
  • Try to maintain a constant speed, choosing the most suitable gear in advance to avoid having to change down while climbing a hill.
  •  Stay in as high a gear as possible as it will reduce the chances of accelerator movement leading to loss of traction.
  • When snow or slush accumulates in ridges between lanes, avoid putting your wheels on these unless you absolutely have to.
  • In falling snow use dipped headlights or foglights to make yourself visible to others (especially pedestrians) – but as conditions improve make sure your foglights are only on if necessary as they can dazzle other drivers
  •  On motorways stay in the clearest lane where possible, away from slush and ice. Keep within the clear tyre tracks if you can.
  • If you are following another vehicle at night, using their lights to see ahead can cause you to drive dangerously close – keep well back from other traffic.
  •  Having windscreen wipers working for a lengthy time with snow falling can be mesmeric and quite a strain – be prepared to stop and give your eyes a rest, but choose the right place to do it!
  •  If you do get stuck, straighten the steering and clear the snow from the wheels. Put a sack or old rug in front of the driving wheels to give the tyres some grip. Once on the move again, try not to stop until you reach firmer ground.
4. It’s not just you out there, you’ve got to watch out for the other buggers.
  • Lorrries can have large amounts of snow or ice on top that must come off sometime – be prepared for it to blow off on to your windscreen.
  • Watch the behaviour of oncoming traffic; you may have to avoid them if they slide towards you.
  • Expect other road users to be unable to stop at junctions.
  • Cars approaching a narrowing of the road uphill, will not want to stop in case they can't start again. Cars approaching downhill, may be unable to stop without skidding.
  • Try to leave a 10 second gap between you and the car in front.
  • The 10 second gap allows for increased stopping distances, and gives you time to respond if the car in front has problems. 
  • If the car behind is too close, find a good place to stop and let them go on ahead. (Then you can concentrate on the road ahead.
  •  If they stop, you may have time and space to steer a different course, or by slowing down you can allow time for the obstruction to clear without having to stop and restart yourself.

5. Beware of the danger zones
  • Black ice forms in shaded spots and areas exposed to cold winds.  Bridges are particularly prone to ice over first and thaw last
  • Approaches to junctions are usually more slippery, where the surface has been warn smooth by drivers constantly braking and trying to accelerate away.
  • Fresh snow can have frozen ice underneath it.  If it has fallen on dry clear ground the fresh, virgin snow will have a little more grip than where it has been compacted by other traffic.  If it has fallen on top of old snow be aware that you may actually be driving on wet ice.
  • As snow or ice melt they can leave a very slippery layer – slush is slippery stuff!

6. If the worst comes to the worst…
  • Keep track of where you are.  If you need to call for assistance, you need to be able to tell the breakdown or emergency services your location, so they can find you
  • If you must leave your vehicle to telephone for assistance, find a safe place to stand away from the traffic flow. If you have just lost control the next driver can do the same in the same place.
  • On Motorways and dual carriageways it is usually better to leave your vehicle and stand a short distance behind and to the safe side of it.

Safe driving and if in doubt STAY AT HOME!!!!

Friday 26 November 2010

It's Snowing!

It started at 1.15pm and boy you should see it now and it's only 1.30pm!!! The Boys are going to be in heaven!
I am watching it fall on the garden from my office window great thick feathery flakes, already  the grass is disappearing and the trees looked all frosted...

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Review: Thinking Slimmer – yeh right!

Diets don’t work and they certainly don’t work on me I just land up eating all the things I should not be eating then feel awful and make myself sick. Yup you guessed it I was a Bulimic in a past life. Yum!
Knowing that it is no good for me to contemplate dieting because I just get to stressed and do all the things you shouldn’t, when I read about the opportunity to try out Thinking Slimmer it seemed the answer to my prayers. Over the past nine years I have successfully watched myself get larger and larger, not massively large but enough to upset me and to make me feel a total failure in these vacuous times. I know I shouldn’t think like that but I do because it is extremely difficult not to when wherever you look you are bombarded with pictures, programmes, magazine articles, fashion shows, adverts and the like which basically equate slightly chunkier more curvaceous people as being lazy good for nothings who are clearly substandard.
Why should I have got bigger, well having children as we all know doesn’t help and getting pregnant six times ain’t helpful either. I hasten to add I don’t have six children though I promise I would have loved it if I did have that many. I was blessed with two beautiful boys and I am not complaining. However, as I always say if I knew how hard it was going to be to get them, I would have enjoyed my twenties in London much more!
Anyway at a cheerful 5ft 2 inches, I now weigh in at a handsome 11st 2lbs or roughly 156lbs and I would like to be 9st 8lbs or 134lbs, or as near as dammit. I’m not asking miracles just a bit of help with the will power so that I don’t have to diet, so that I stop eating when I am sad or stressed that I go for a walk instead which is what I know will do me far more good as well as exercise boosts those serotonin levels that make you feel good.
So not asking much am I??? Well here goes…

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Ohmygod! Not another wicked whippet!

From Right to Left: Tucker, Angel and Star
I have a little problem it's about nine inches tall and is grey from the tip of it's nose to the end of it's tail with a few splodges of white on its velvety pink paws. Everywhere I go she wants to follow and she's been doing this from the very beginning.

Now the deal was that Sassy, my evil black job (EBJ) and delight of my life when she's not running away with the loo roll, or eating  the stackers crisps out of the tube then hurtling around the kitchen with it stuck on the end of her nose, would have a litter of pups and we would sell them ALL.
I don't think anyone explained that to Angel. Angel, one of the four little girls and one of the two not sold so far, has always been the first to  look out for me ever since she was tiny. The first to run to the bars of the  pen to see me in the morning, the first to jump up for attention and the first to work out that if you climb over the top you can be free to go where you want, which is right beside me. I didn't make any extra fuss of her compared to the others, I didn't single her out in anyway but she singled me out and now I have a problem.
I have to sell her, Dear Charlie will not be brooked, and I totally understand. Five dogs would be way too many and it would be quite ridiculous; I mean it is bad enough as it is. But she's got under my skin and I know I will be heartbroken when she leaves and there's a little bit of me that says; "Oh what the heck, in for a penny in for a pound!" 
I could of course just not sell her and leave it at that but the ructions that would cause, the arguments and recriminations dioesn't bear thinking about. If Angel were to stay then it has to be his decision and there is no way he will change his mind once he has made it up.
So Angel, this fiesty squiggle of determination is going to have to have such a special family, such a special home and of course she'll have to come back for visits...

Sunday 21 November 2010

Depression: Lifelines

Where do you start when you really don't want to? I don't want to write about my depression and I avoid it if I can. Last week was hell. It constantly amazes me that I am still here and I know that if it weren't for my boys I probably wouldn't be. Sounds terribly dramatic doesn't it?
Let’s get it straight when I think, talk and write about my depression I sound like an introverted, self-centred, attention seeking moron and that is why I try very hard not to do it. But just because I isolate myself doesn't make it better, so maybe taking another tack and becoming more open might just get the opposite affect - yeh right!
Other people, those without depression dogging their heels, just don't get it and to be honest why should they? Because guess what folks you could be next! However, nothing is worse than listening to someone ramble on about how sad they are, how hopeless things are and complaining about their lives especially when they won't listen to your great solutions. Please bear in mind that your solutions probably are not great but what is great is your time and your ability to listen without judging. A hug and emphatic pat on the shoulder are sometimes the difference between a day near unbearable and one that ends with the sun shining.
At the end of this week my sun is shining because I had the friend who knows how to just listen, who gives me a hug, sits me down to a cup of tea and helps me unburden myself without making me feel like a total selfish monster. He makes no comment about the fact that I shout at the children, he doesn't raise an eyebrow while I rage against the world, and he calmly sets me to rights then checks up on me throughout the day and then the next. I am incredibly lucky. 
But even though I know I have this lifeline it doesn't mean that the battle to exist isn't hard. I steel myself as soon as I wake up silently pleading to God to help me get through the routine of getting the boys up and fed and ready for school without me imploding, going ballistic and screaming like a banshee that we are all going to be late.
I feel I am on a permanent treadmill from the moment I open my eyes to the second I close them and then it is a tick tock, tick tock, until I start all over again. I watch the clock throughout the night one o'clock, two thirty, three fifteen, four thirty, five, five fifteen, six. Time to get up! This can last for weeks on end. Is it any wonder I feel I go mad?
Then it is the drive to school and the thoughts that go through my sleep deprived mind about how easy it would be to swerve in front of that beet lorry or to lose control down the hill; the fact my children are with me seems to be the only thing that stops me.
I curse myself for my dreadful behaviour towards them knowing I am marring their childhoods and knowing that they will hate me for it and I feel so very very bad and I truly believe, when I am in an episode, that they would be so much better off without me. Then I stop myself, I call on something within me to get a grip, to stop it and get on with it. I try to calm myself and set myself small steps. Goals. Very small goals such as: Get the boys to school. Get out of the car. Say good morning to every fifth person. Get back into the car. Remember I have dogs at home that need feeding.
On the drive back I talk to myself in the car almost as if I were two people one ranting and crying longing for it to all end. For it to stop, to rest. To just get off for a while, a little bit while the other me, the stronger one  calls upon that elemental spark that clings to life like something possessed and I make it home I know not how. And I watch the hands on the kitcen clock sweep by, longing for my lifeline to get into work so I can grab on and hold tight. Just till he gets in, just hang on until he gets in then I'll be OK. I should be able to call on my family shouldn't I? But I think I frighten them too much, I frighten so many people and I need them all so much. Little do any of them realise that one call, one shoulder to cry on and I'll be strong enough to get through the day and each day I get through means one less in the episode and then it will all disappear until the next time and that may not be for months and months and months maybe even years....

Wednesday 17 November 2010

The Wickedest Whippet : Who will buy!!!

There comes a time when you have had puppies when you realise that you really do need to get them new homes. So for possibly the first and quite probably the last time here they are all together aged  six weeks...

Monday 15 November 2010

Epilepsy - Why I hate homework

I dread it every day. I try to avoid it whenever I can. I pass the buck, make any excuse but in the end I have to do it - homework and I hate it.
What is meant to take only ten minutes lands up for us taking twice, if not three times, as long and on a Friday evening when you are tired and your son is tired and you are faced with three sets of ten minute homework briefs, you know you're not going to get to bed early...
Some would say leave it for another day when he's less tired and I do, do that, but sometimes I never get a chance, not because we can't but because I may try to get the homework done when he is having a "spate".
A "spate" as I call them is a series of interconnected absence seizures some of which I can see and others I cannot. For example in those I do see we have the classic vacant expressions, non-response to calling his name, maybe a slight upward rolling of eyes and maybe even a hand twitch and chewing motion at his mouth if they last for more than 15 seconds.
For the ones I don't see, the ones I refer to as part seizures (actually called complex partial seizures), he carries on, on automatic pilot either running or walking, carrying out a function and usually he is right back to normal, though maybe a tad confused as to how he got there, before you can make up your own mind. These are horrid ones because if he is thinking about needing to go to the loo he can actually do it which aint so hot in the middle of the school dining room, I am not saying he actually goes to the loo thinking he's in the bathroom, no he just wets himself I am not sure which would be most humiliating.
Like many who have stronger seizures the ones I assume people call classic epileptic seizures or Grand mal (for the uninitiated these are known as tonic clonic seizures) after a “spate” he can be exhausted, so much so that like last night he has to go to bed immediately even though it’s only ten past five.
And there's another thing he seems to know some things perfectly one day and completely loses it the next so sometimes he can read brilliantly and the next hour or day he's stumbling and fumbling over the very same words even though he is not having a seizure! Can you imagine how frustrating that is for him and how bewildering it is for me? In fact I go nearly demented. I just don't understand it and then I get exhausted by it all too. Sometimes I find it just easier to do the homework myself...
PS. As I understand it this forgetfulness is also part of his epilepsy and that is something I learned just now as I wrote this post. Do you know what it’s horrifying how much I have to learn so that I can help him. So tonight, sans homework, I go to the Parents evening armed with a list of reading and watching for the teachers at his school so that at least we know a little more about what we are dealing with…
For those who’d like to know more go to this BRILLIANT web site: www.epilepsymatters.com
I just love Canadians!

Sunday 14 November 2010

Why cross the road when you can drive?

OK sometimes strange things happen on this small holding but this I fear is one of the strangest! I do love my chooks but boy do they get into some strange places!! It made me laugh and I hope it makes you laugh too ready to start a new week....

Saturday 13 November 2010

Just how many things can go wrong in one hour....

It started off so innocently, me reading the newspaper and the boys watching TV while the lunch bubbled on the stove. A brief respite in a busy day...a little bit of time out.
Bang! Quite literally went the lamp in the TV room along with three plates and a cup,which I had forgotten to clear from the night before, courtesy of the youngest who was trying to emmulate his hero Tom Daley off the back of the sofa onto a pile of carefully placed cushions and bean bags.
I roared to the rescue of my furntiture tripping over Bog Boy and causing injury to insult in the proces. There was a confrontation which lasted considerably longer than I intended and in mid harangue I was brought up sharply by the acrid smell of something that was once meant to be our lunch.
Returning to the kitchen through the curtain of smog I could just make out flames reaching over the side of the pot and coming dangerously close to my ever handly bottle of red cooks wine. As I stretched out to save the bottle my calm was shattered by all nine smoke and fire alarms sounding off in joyful cacophiony delighted at last to be of use, this of course intiated a catastrophic chain of events inlcuding me dropping the precious red all over the floor, puppies escaping  and charging about in panic, Bog Boy haring upstairs to sanctuary and me creating even worse stink by thrusting flaming pan into the dirty washing up water where it exlopded gunk in a six foot greasy radius.
I spent the next forty minutes trying to bring some form of order the mess and it wasn't until I was ladling out beans on toast that I noticed that Bog Boy was not to be found. When food is about Boy Boy is usually close at hand so my antennae started to twitch coupled to that there was silence. Everyone knows that silence and small boys do not muix unless there is something badly wrong...
I tracked Bog Boy to the bathroom, but the door was shut anf there was a curious heavy breathing sound coming from within.
I opened the door to be confronted with miles and miles of loo paper an overflowing lavatory and god knows what al over hte floor. In the course of going to the loo he'd used too much paper and I really do mean too much and blocked the loo and was trying to clear it by flushing again and againa and again. The water coated the bathroom floor and dribbled across the landing, downstairs in the room below it cascaded through the floor boads all over the clean laundry...
Don't you just love it when you take time out...

Thursday 11 November 2010

Bringing up boys: When you start to sound like your own parents...

There comes a time when you sound exactly the same as your own parents. It is frightening and is most noticeable when I am telling the children off. Echoing down the years I hear the same familiar phrases, the same intonation and I know rather worryingly that the same gestures and penetraing looks are thrown in for free.
Tonight was a classic. Tonight I offered my children Pasta, one of their favourites. With sausage meat balls and home made tomato and choirzio sauce, obvioulsy not one of their favourites...
The Boy: I am NOT going to eat it. I don't like it.
Me: Just sit down and let's get on with supper. You'll just have to have a little bit.
The Boy: No, I am NOT going to eat it, I will be sick
Me: Stop being so silly, you will not . Now SIT down please.

The Boy crosses his arms aggressively and looks belligerently at me from beneath his brows.
Me: Boy! SIT. DOWN...NOW.
The firmness with which I speak and the careful unnunciation of each and every word conveys the gathering menance. I will not be brooked. He sits down.
Me, brightly: That's better! Now eat up everyone.
Just as The Boy picks up his fork his younger brother pipes up.
Bog Boy: I love this Mummy, it's my favourite!

My heart sinks a bit, typical Bog Boy to open his mouth with that sort of thing! Turning to him: That's lovely Darling, now lets eat it all up.

Bog Boy gives his glowering brother a cherubic smile and I want to throttle him, now The Boy will create a stink. I glance up and across, he's toying with the pasta. With great show of effort and a whimper the one piece is placed in his mouth as if I were making him eat slugs. He grabs at his water and glugs down half of it. I purse my lips and peer over the top of my glasses.
Me: Stop making a fuss now and eat properly.
The Boy wailing innocently: But I AM!
Me: You ARE NOT. Now STOP this and get on with it.
With great show, and furious expression, he stamps down his fork on a poor unsuspecting sausage meatball, which unfortunately for him startled by the force at which it is being skewered makes its escape, along with the fork, across the table sending tomato sauce everywhere.

Me, rising out of my chair: WILL YOU BEHAVE! LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE! You will STOP this RIGHT NOW!
There is a momentary silence then a snivelling starts to emminate from the boy across the table.
Me, quietly: Stop it. Here's your fork and just get on with it now.
The fork is raised valiantly to my son's mouth. I am obviously asking him to eat poison. The sausage meat ball is nibbled.With narrowed eyes I glare at him
Me hissing: Properly!
The meat ball once again resumes its painful journey to my son's mouth to be devoured whole, only for there to be a sudden retching sound as it re-emerges almost immediately falling to the plate.
The Boy: See! It is making me sick. You are SO mean.
Me, verging on losing it:  You didn't even try to eat it. You will eat all of that up now!
The Boy, shocked: You want me to eat my sick!
me: You were not sick you just spat that out!
The Boy wailing: I was sick! You are making me eat my sick!
Me in full tirade: Don't be ridiculous. I am doing no such thing. How dare you talk to me like that. After all the time and effort I went ot to make this lovely meal for you this is how you show your gratitude! You should be so lucky that someone cares for you this much. Eat all your food up now. Think of all those starving millions...
Bog Boy, with genuine concern: Starring Villians??? Whose Villians, is he on TV???

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Monday 8 November 2010

Bringing up boys: Do they speak English???

How many times do you have to say turn off the light before they do it? It’s not a trick question. How many times do you have to ask your sons, husbands, partners, brothers even, dare I say it, fathers before they listen? And then more importantly act upon the information given? It’s no wonder they call me a nag!
I can ask perfectly pleasantly: Please turn off the light/stop picking your nose/remove your fingers from the door I am going to shut it and I am ignored. But it’s not as if they are paying me enough attention to ignore me; I mean that would take an act of will, it’s like they just don’t hear me or that I am talking another language and one that is totally alien to them. I mean is it any wonder I land up shouting??!!
The utter frustration of having to repeat oneself over and over again would send anyone sane round the twist at the best of times.
I note though, that their deafness is selective. Whisper very quietly that you are offering Mars bars to the first person who gets to the dining room table for lunch and it’s like the screaming hordes are about to descend such is their enthusiasm and one has to flatten oneself against the wall for fear of being trampled.
Things that require effort usually on their behalf, such as picking up dirty clothing and putting it in the laundry basket are the worst. You would think by all the fuss made I was sending them to their deaths.
I have visions of them complaining all the way to the Guillotine, them as the poor bedraggled sons of nobility in their tundrel, me the mean spirited Madame Defarge character and tricoteuse extraordinaire:
Bog Boy: You’re so MEAN Mummy I ALWAYS have to do it.
The Boy: You don’t love me do you? You are ALWAYS making me do things.
Me: Ha (in a French accent) ah spit on yer, yer sons of ….
Well they are my sons so of course I don’t do it I just carry on knitting and merely peer over my glasses until the tirade of abuse  is over and they fall to my will anyway…I can dream can’t I???
Now will you PLEASE pick up your socks! How many times do I have to tell you!!!! Do you think the Laundy Fairy does it???!!!

Go on you know you want to...


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