Baby or puppy?

Puppy pushing pram

I’m about to become a mother. And for those of you who know me, I do hope you weren’t eating when you read that or you have probably spat the food all over the floor.

Although I am nearly 50, I have decided that it is time to do it again. To become a mother. To care for something helpless. To have something love me unconditionally.

I know there will be sleepless nights. I know there may be problems with feeding. I will not look forward to the trying teenage years but I don’t care. I’m ready to do it again. In two weeks time, I will be the proud mother of a nine week old puppy!

This is not a new experience. I owned a beautiful mongrel twenty years ago who I often refer to as ‘my first baby’. She was an amazing dog, pet and member of our family and I trusted her implicitly. With me, she went through four changes of address, numerous jobs, infertility treatment and finally, the addition of twins to our family. None of this phased Bella. I was devastated when she died on Christmas Eve five years ago.

Beautiful Bella walking in wood
Beautiful Bella!

At that time, lots of my friends started to get dogs and although I missed the dog walks and being part of the ‘dog gang’, I couldn’t get another dog, not yet. It hurt too much. Even people bringing their dogs to my house upset me. When a family pet dies, some people get another one straight away. I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I ever would be. I’ve never been particularly maternal or broody but would coo over a puppy.

So why do I want a puppy now?

I have to blame the children. My life has definitely been easier without a dog. No worrying about house mess, leaving the dog for long periods and going on holiday at short notice. But my children have wanted a dog for the last few years. Even though Bella was a part of our family, they were too young to remember her. I grew up with dogs and I didn’t want my kids to miss out on that experience. And most importantly, I am ready for another puppy.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this. There are around 8.5 million dog owners in the UK according to the PMF association who carried out research in 2016. This equates to 24% of the pet owning population. The only pet more popular is the fish. This research also highlights the areas of the UK where you are more likely to have dog owners compared to other pets. In Northern Ireland it is a huge 44% whereas in London it is 9%. In 1980 the number of dog owners was around 4.8 million.  Globally, dogs are the most popular pet owned by nearly 33% of the pet owning population according to Petfood Industry.

Owning a dog has become more popular over the years but why?

Puppy was once a wolf

Dogs have a long history with humans. One popular theory is that wolves hung around our campsites, and over thousands of years those who were tamest got closer to us. After dogs entered human society, we started actively manipulating them, selecting them to be better hunters and guardians and companions.

Once dogs became domesticated, there were highs and lows. Romans buried their dogs in human cemeteries and talked about them like children. But in the Middle Ages, when the plague started going around, dogs become scapegoats. They were viewed as filthy animals.  Today, we are very much like the Romans again and talk about our canine friends as though they are family members.

So what are animals to us and what’s the appropriate relationship to them?

The answer to that depends on your history with dogs. Those who have been brought up on a farm or in the country will have seen their dogs used in a working capacity. Those in towns will have seen dogs being carried around in handbags, the ultimate accessory. I believe most dog owners today are somewhere in the middle. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Although I am adamant that my new puppy will stay on the floor when the family are sitting on the sofa, I have a sneaky feeling that this rule will change as she lies there looking at me with her big, brown eyes. After all, she will be a part of our family.

Puppy looking up with big brown eyes
A very cute puppy… but not ours.

So what happens next with the arrival of our puppy?

I am on a countdown to the arrival of our new family member and am amazed at how similar it is to becoming a parent again. You are overloaded with information about the best ways to get through the early nights, toilet training, the correct balanced diet and all the equipment you need in order to survive the first few months. This to me was exactly how I felt before having my twins. I remember feeling overwhelmed and worried that I hadn’t got a divider to put into my twins cot when I brought them back from the hospital! Oh no! What would I do? They would crash into each other and hurt each other, wake each other up or more importantly not be able to sleep!

On the first night, I realised that this was not an essential piece of equipment and my kids were just fine in the cot together. So I am going to treat puppyhood just like motherhood and remember the important things. Care and attention, food and love. What more could a puppy or a baby ask for?

What is a positive body image and how important is it for our children today?

Positive body image used in Notting Hill
Notting Hill

What does body image mean?

I think I have quite a healthy body image. I’m not saying I would do a ‘Rhys Ifans’ (ie. posture in my pants for the cameras as he did in Notting Hill) but I do find myself saying ‘Not bad, not bad’ when catching a glimpse of my reflection.

Body image has nothing to do with how you look, but how you feel about the way you look and how you embrace and accept your own body.

Continue reading What is a positive body image and how important is it for our children today?

Philanthropy? What does it mean?

Philanthropy? What does it mean?

Philanthropy - giving your money to those who need it most
Philanthropy is on the rise

If you have made lots of money on the stock market, in your business or even on the horses, what should you do with it? Invest it, spend it or give it away. If you give it away then you are a philanthropist. But what exactly does that mean?

The dictionary definition of philanthropy is

“the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes”

The Sunday Times devised a ‘Giving List of 2016‘ to showcase the people who give a percentage of their worth to good causes and the list is growing. People are ranked according to the percentage of the money they give away in relation to the amount of money that person is worth or has earned. So in the UK, the number one philanthropist is Lord David Sainsbury (great-grandson to the founder of the supermarket chain). He is worth £220.5 million and has given away 40% of his family wealth. Sir Elton John at number 10 has given away 10% of his wealth.  Alisher Umanov (shareholder at Arsenal football club) worth £7580 million has given away £100 million which although is a huge amount is only equivalent to 1.41%.

The Queen ranks at number 166 giving only 0.3% of her wealth away. And Richard Branson was worse at number 173 giving away only 0.28%. There were also comparisons between sporting celebrities. Colin Montgomerie (golf) is worth £35 million and has given away £0.9 million whereas Andy Murray (tennis) who has £57 million has only given away £0.1 million.

Why should people give their money away?

Philanthropy - Giving your money away to those who need it most

This may seem unfair of me to be criticising people who are after all giving away their money. They earned it, why shouldn’t they keep it all or keep a lot of it. My question is how much do you need? And do you want to make a difference? Do you want to leave behind or start creating a philanthropic footprint? Something that makes a difference to others and will be remembered in history for ever.

As a follower on Twitter of the Gates Foundation (Bill and Melinda Gates) I see them give their money and time to raise awareness of many issues like poverty, education and medicine. The Polio vaccine that they fund through their foundation has saved 18,600 lives a day since 1990. The number of polio cases around the world is now just 36! They have almost eradicated polio. That is an amazing philanthropic footprint that they have created. Yes, they have the money and yes, they can’t spend it all but they are making a difference. They have a lot and obviously that helps. Bill Gates is worth $87 billion but has already given away $27 billion and pledged to give away at least half of all his worth.

Who is the most philanthropic person in the world?

Number one is Warren Buffet. A self-made billionaire who has joined the Giving Pledge. An idea created originally through talks between the Gates, Warren Buffet and other billionaires across the world to encourage the very rich to pledge to give away a considerable sum of their money. It was once thought of as common to talk about how much money one earned or had. Now the rich seem more open to discussing it, especially if it is measured in how you are helping others rather than how many Ferraris and houses you have. It can be no coincidence that the Sunday Times created this ‘Giving List’ on the back of the ‘Rich List’ that they do every year.

Warren Buffet has pledged to donate 99% of his wealth. His pledge says

“More than 99% of my wealth will go to philanthropy during my lifetime or at death. Measured by dollars, this commitment is large. In a comparative sense, though, many individuals give more to others every day. Millions of people who regularly contribute to churches, schools, and other organizations thereby relinquish the use of funds that would otherwise benefit their own families. The dollars these people drop into a collection plate or give to United Way mean forgone movies, dinners out, or other personal pleasures. In contrast, my family and I will give up nothing we need or want by fulfilling this 99% pledge.”

I love his honesty. Keeping 1% of his worth still enables him and his family to continue the lifestyle he wants. He goes on to say about how time is a more precious commodity to give up than money and how generous some people are with this. You must read the pledges these billionaires have written. It makes me optimistic for the future where wealth can be shared to benefit all not just the few.

What did philanthropy look like a hundred years ago

If you want to leave a philanthropic footprint behind you, then take inspiration from this list of philanthropists from years ago. This is compiled by the Beacon awards who highlight work in this area.

  1. Barney Hughes 1808-1878 (Belfast) Bernard Hughes worked as a bakers’ boy for 6 years and in 1870 was recognised as the cities’ leading baker. He was the owner of the largest baking enterprise in Ireland. His production supplied Belfast’s poorer population with much-needed cheap bread, particularly during the harsh years of the Great Famine. He gained the respect of the community as a municipal politician and industrial reformer, donating the ground for St Peter’s Cathedral.
  2. George Cadbury 1839 – 1922 (Birmingham) George Cadbury, son of the founder of the chocolate factory, was driven by a passion for social reform. He wanted to create clean and sanitary conditions for his workers in contrast to the reality of factories in Victorian Britain. He set new standards for living and working conditions and gave the Bourneville estate to the Bourneville Village Trust in 1901. The trust was founded to develop the local community and its surroundings.
  3. Sir Montague Maurice Burton 1885 – 1952 (Leeds) A Lithuanian immigrant with just £100 to his name, founded Burton, one of Britain’s largest clothing shop chains. He started a tailoring business with the philanthropic aim of clothing the entire male population in good quality, affordable suits. He enforced an unusually short working day for the time of 8 hours, and became one of the first to instill formal welfare provisions in the workplace, introducing food halls, leisure groups and activities such as theatre, dance and sports teams. The company works closely with Cancer Research UK funding research into bowel cancer. It has supported the Movember Prostate Charity Campaign with the ‘Burton’ moustache, modeled on the moustache of their founder.

Romance, bromance and womance. What do these words mean?

Womance and bromance - the new romance
Romance, bromance or womance?

Three things happened last week.

  1. Valentines day
  2. The film ‘Hidden Figures’ arrived in the UK.
  3. I met with my girlfriends in the park.

It was a culmination of these points that sparked this blog.

Let me set the scene. It was half term last week and Friday was a glorious day. With the kids in tow, I met up with three of my close friends (we have our own acronym so we must be close or mad!) As always, when we get together, we begin to chat, forget about the kids and generally have a lovely time. We discussed Valentines day which we all decided should just be called Tuesday (normal day, no romance) and the film ‘Hidden Figures’ which focuses on an amazing group of black American women who helped the US win the space race.

Whilst gossiping away, my daughter who was eavesdropping, pulled a face when I mentioned my ‘girlfriends’. When questioned, she said the word was like ‘lesbian’. Now there is nothing wrong with the word ‘lesbian’ apart from that it describes a friendship which generally involves sex. I love my friends very much but have never (to my knowledge) ever wanted or tried to initiate sex with them.

But they are my girlfriends. They are the friends I talk to, the friends I turn to, the friends who I need to get through life, who happen to be girls. My daughter said we could rename ourselves as ‘besties’ (too similar to beasties) or G’s. Apparently shortening the word ‘girlfriend’ to a single letter makes it all ok. Who knew!

It made me wonder what word best describes the relationship I have with my close friends.

Bromance

Most of us have heard of the word ‘bromance’. The concept of the bromance really took flight with the success of the Hangover trilogy films. And it’s been around for quite a long time. David Carnie, the editor of skate mag Big Brother first coined it – a portmanteau of “bro” and “romance” – in the ‘90s to describe the close friendships between pro-skaters.

There are many stories fictional and real of great male friendships: Sherlock and Watson; Lennon and McCartney; Ant and Dec; Batman and Robin. The Blues Brothers shows a great male friendship, while Reservoir Dogs shows what happens when they go wrong.

The word ‘bromance’ is in the english dictionary.

‘A bromance is a close but not sexual relationship between two men.’

The word ‘romance’ is also in the english dictionary. There are a few definitions.

‘A close, usually short relationship of love between two people.’

‘A feeling of excitement associated with love.’

So there must be a word for a close female friendship. There is but I bet you’ve never heard of it.

‘womance’

Womance

Yep, never heard of it until yesterday and then all of a sudden, like buses all arriving at once, there it is screaming out from the Sunday Times. It’s been around for a while but never really taken off which is probably why it’s not in the english dictionary. Maybe women are luckier than men. We can show our feelings and be tactile with our girlfriends without everyone thinking we are actually ‘girlfriends’. I’m not sure men can do the same.

We have a cultural problem, I think, where we’re scared by male friendship. A truly great friend feels like a brother or sister, someone you have actively chosen to be joined to and love no matter what they do. If two men love each other like that, we get all uncomfortable. Hence, the need for a word like ‘bromance’. This helps all men to know that they can describe their ‘non-sexual male friendship’ without reverting to mumblings and red faces or god forbid, having to talk about their feelings.

This still doesn’t help me though. I need a word that doesn’t belong to the pre-pubescent community or make my daughter and her friends pull sickening faces. Not ‘womance’. Anything that starts with the sound ‘wo’ can’t be good. We use it to tell an animal or person ‘woah’ (stop) or my life is full of ‘woe’. Neither define how I feel about the special women in my life.

But the words ‘soul sister’ do. Sisters because they are my family. And ‘soul’ because of the things we talk about at a deeper level, emotionally and intellectually.  A love of the whole person, including the hidden part you can’t see. That is the essence of a ‘soul sister’. And it’s also in the dictionary.

‘A woman whose thoughts, feelings, and attitudes closely match those of another; a kindred spirit.’

Our quote is so much nicer than the men’s. Don’t you think?

So to my soul sisters everywhere. Below is a list of films which celebrate close female friendships and are fab films too! Get some of your soul sisters round and celebrate the romance. And maybe do it on a Tuesday.

  1. Thelma and Louise
  2. Hidden Figures
  3. Beaches
  4. Bridesmaids
  5. Steel magnolias
  6. Clueless
  7. The Help
  8. First wives club
  9. Calendar girls
  10. The Color purple