Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Polite notice. A real one!

Further to my post last week, here'a a lovely polite notice I spotted at Liverpool Street station today, proving my point that if it really is a polite notice, as opposed to a 'polite notice', it won't feel the need to headline itself as such.

Here's a little plug for my Kickstarter crowdfunding project for a book about elections aimed at toddler. Here's the link - every pound or dollar helps, and I have until Nov 21 to get to the £2000 total. And here's my previous blog post explaining what I'm doing

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Does anyone know how to make a bottle of formula?

I've mix fed both my children (long story, read past posts if interested) and though number two is coming up to a year I still don't really know how to make a bottle of formula.

The instructions on most boxes of formulas in the UK say to boil water in a kettle and then let it cool for half an hour before using it to make up the formula. Clearly the person who came up with this has not held a screaming, hungry baby in the middle of the night, let alone tried to handle boiling water while doing so, and certainly not for half an hour. Do any parents use this method I wonder?

There's a story about Prince Charles, which he denies, about how he likes to have his boiled eggs just so, so his staff cook seven a few minutes apart when he is expected to come for breakfast so there is always one just right for him. Jeremy Paxman wrote about it in On Royalty in 2006 and Clarence House refuted it in 2012 in a Frequently Asked Questions section of their website. That's what the formula advice reminds me of - I feel like I should have several kettles always boiling so one has been cooled for half an hour at exactly the moment I need it.

During the course of feeding two babies, born two years apart, I have tried many methods. I have used cooled boiled water from the fridge, at room temperature, warmed in the microwave and warmed in a bowl of boiling water. I have used tap water and bottled water. I have pre made and rapidly cooled bottles before keeping them in the fridge and I have topped up boiling water with cool water to try to get the right balance. And I have only come to two conclusions - the first is using boiling water to do anything when exhausted and holding a baby is a bad idea, and the second is that no one seems to know how to make a bottle. Even developed countries with clean water supplies seem to disagree with each other - in Spain the advice seems to be not to bother boiling the water. And in America people seem to put their bottles through the dishwasher to sterilise them, something advised against in the UK.

Science journalist and author Linda Geddes wrote a great blog about this subject when my second baby was just weeks old. It reassured me that the advice really is unrealistic and confusing, but didn't actually help me work out how I should make a bottle in the middle of the night. That is probably because my baby was too young for me to make sense of anything at the time it was written - reading it back now I can see exactly what I should have been doing this past year, which will be handy for the next few weeks only as we're coming up to the end of the formula riddle, this time round at least, as we approach the day that cow's milk is officially allowed as our baby's main drink.

Still, just in case we ever have another, and so I can be the irritating one dispensing advice to friends having babies a few years after us, I'd love to know what other people really do at 3am when their baby is crying. Do please tell me in the comments section.

Here's a little plug for my Kickstarter crowdfunding project for a book about elections aimed at toddler. Here's the link - every pound or dollar helps, and I have until Nov 21 to get to the £2000 total. And here's my previous blog post explaining what I'm doing

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Democracy for toddlers!

Last time I had a baby and then started to get the euphoria that comes with the hormones settling down and some sleep returning, I started a blog. This time round I've neglected the blog a little and chosen to use the post baby yearning for change to start a business. I'm so excited!

For the past decade or so if someone asked me what I really want to do careerwise I have talked about combining education and writing. In some ways I have done that - since 2005 I have been a part-time lecturer in journalism and worked part time as a freelance journalist. It's been great and I intend to carry on doing this.

But though it's a cliche to start a business on maternity leave, I couldn't help but realise I've never before felt the energy and enthusiasm for a new project that I am now feeling.

So I am thrilled to announce my new business, Fisherton Press. We're a small independent publisher focusing on picture books for children, that adults also like reading. Inspired by some of the brilliant books we've read again and again (and again and again) over the past few years, and also inspired by the tedious ones, I'm hoping to publish books for children that excite everyone who reads them, young and old. We're aiming to publish our first books in September 2015 and hoping to publish 10-12 in the first year.

Fisherton is my maternal grandmother's maiden name. Those of you who know me personally will know she was much loved - in fact my daughter was named after her. The Fishertons had a printers on Brick Lane in East London and because of the link with printing I decided to seek my mum's permission (duly given) to use it as my company name.

The long term plan is to forge links with schools and other organisations to fulfill the education part of my aims, running workshops in schools and working out ways to get free or cheap books to children who don't own many books.

The short term aim is to publish fun, witty, beautifully illustrated books that cover subjects as diverse as farting and the birth of civilisation, targeted at young children, and to sell enough copies to make this a viable business.

I love being my own boss. Freelancing has suited me beautifully though doing the work at the same time as having young children is starting to get difficult as it just doesn't work when an interviewee asks you to ring them back the next day and you have to say sorry but you don't have childcare again until this time next week. It's no good for deadlines either. Lecturing is also great with the autonomy of being in charge of your own classroom, and the bonus of being able to see, sometimes, the difference you make to the abilities and confidence of the people who pass through your classroom. But you still have to work within the rules of your editors and your institution. I'm hoping that having my own business will allow me to try out all kinds of ideas and hunches, take risks and explore interesting ways of doing things.

With that in mind here's one thing I am trying out. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website that allows people to donate to your creative project. If the donations reach the amount you are asking for, or over, you get the money to use for your project. If it doesn't reach the target amount, you get none of it.

One of the books I want to publish is explaining elections to young children. I don't hold with the idea that children aren't interested in politics, or that politics can't be explained in an age appropriate way. In fact I think it's vital that we do so if we are to tackle low voter turnouts and general apathy. Politics needs to be normalised. And what better way than by starting young, with a story book about two children whose parents support, and campaign for, different political parties, but who remain friends nevertheless. It's a serious subject but the book is a lighthearted story - it's (hopefully) not po-faced or earnest.

I decided to try to crowdfund this project on Kickstarter as I want to pay the creators of this book an advance, as opposed to the royalty only deal I am offering most writers and illustrators. That's because although I think this book will get loads of publicity, I don't know whether it will translate into sales, and while the business is a labour of love for me, for the writers and illustrators of our books it's their job.

What I'd really appreciate from anyone reading this blog is a tweet or a Facebook link or a blog post or a mention on any forum you use linking to the Kickstarter project. I really need to spread the word about it as far and wide as possible. Here's the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/88684307/democracy-for-toddlers

And here's the temporary website for the new business - www.fishertonpress.co.uk - if you have an amazing idea for a book the young children you know would love, and I reckon most people do, please do get in touch.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Impolite notices

I've had a few months off from posting to this blog - my energies have been taken up with an exciting new project, all of which I'll write about shortly. Before I do that though I feel the need to vent a little about polite notices.

I vehemently hate polite notices. In the most impolite, want to scrawl 'fuck off' all over them kind of way. In fact sometimes that is exactly what I do. I hate the way they use the word polite, because as we all know if you have to explicitly say something is polite, then it invariably isn't. I hate them too because they seem to be primarily used as a way to pretend somewhere is child friendly when actually it is wholly unfriendly.

When we were on holiday in the south-west last year we went to Dartmouth where an inviting looking tea shop had a sign on its door saying no under eights. I was fuming - because we weren't allowed in it suddenly became the only place in the world that I wanted a coffee and a tea cake. But on reflection it was a relief, because when we did find somewhere else and our child threw up halfway through tea, at least we weren't amongst child haters and tutters. And a sign saying no children is more honest that one pretending children are welcome and then filling their walls with instructions, warnings and aggression.

The Orchard in Grantchester near Cambridge is a lovely tearoom. You can eat your cake in a deckchair under fruit trees without a care in the world bar the wasps and the occasional hard fruit falling on your bonce. It's was here that Rupert Brook was referring to when he wrote "And is there honey still for tea?" But it's ruined somewhat by notices saying what you can, can't and must do all over the place.

Or at the Royal Free Hospital where we had to go recently after an accident, and where the medical care was exemplary but the notices were not only jobsworthy and passive aggressive (and least those at The Orchard do not try to hide the fact they are aggressive) but pretended to be kind and for the sake of fun whilst really sucking the kindness and sense of fun out of the children's waiting area.

I often take photos of polite notices. Sometimes it is for my private collection so I can look at them when I feel my blood pressure is too normal and I want to raise it a bit just for fun, and other times it is just to be naughty. I took perverse pleasure out of taking a picture of a sign at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight that said no cameras. It said no mobile phones too so I took the picture with my phone. Ha! That'll learn 'em.

This sign at a playgroup at the Methodist Church on Pages Lane in Muswell Hill, North London, infuriated me. Almost everything about it pissed me off, from the idea only mums may have buggies to the suggestion that only parents with twins can use the lift, never mind parents with two children who aren't twins or one child but who need help anyway or even a person without children who needs a lift.

Yet sometimes there's a polite notice, as in a notice that is polite rather than one that calls itself a 'polite notice', that almost makes up for all the others. I liked this one at the Donald McGill Postcard Museum in Ryde, Isle of Wight:

Though my favourite one recently has been on the gate to Highgate Wood in North London. The use of the word please really does mean that though it is officious and has a steep penalty for disobedience, it genuinely is polite.

Here's a little plug for my Kickstarter crowdfunding project for a book about elections aimed at toddler. Here's the link - every pound or dollar helps, and I have until Nov 21 to get to the £2000 total. And here's my previous blog post explaining what I'm doing