Category Archives: WBIAGW

Yes I know it’s corporate bullshit – but

Love Candles

Line the pockets of the card shop day…

Sell chocolate at extortionate prices day…..

Put too much meaning in a bunch of flowers day….

Valentines Day. I know it’s all corporate bullshit designed to make money, but still, I like it. Or I would if we celebrated, my husband doesn’t. He doesn’t see the point. Because of all the reasons I pointed out above and more, but I can’t help being disappointed.

He laughs at me for being so soppy, it’s good natured but he’s bemused that I feel the need to express my love for him on this one day – when he knows I love him, and I know he loves me all year round, so I don’t bother any more. We’ve never made a a fuss of valentines day, we hardly make a fuss of each other, dating is something we’ve never done. Meals out yes, we do that of plenty, usually because it’s a birthday, or it’s got too late to cook (this happens more than I should admit)  – But those surprising, romantic gestures for each other we rarely make for each other.

We’ve been together 9 years. married nearly 2 and I can count one one hand the number of times I’ve been truly surprised by him – and those times have been truly special – They really have. So do I put too mush weight on Valentines day? Probably. Does knowing that make me want to celebrate any less? Unfortunately not. BUT  Do I love my husband, valentines or not. Definitely,

 

Apple Swirls

2 Bramley apples (I use golden delicious instead – leaves for a smoother puree), peeled, cored and cut into chunks
20g butter
30g caster sugar
Ground cinnamon (to taste)
1x 300g Puff Pasty sheet
3 tbsp raisins (I never measure just scatter to taste)
1 orange, zest and juice (I don’t use the Orange zest or juice)
50g Icing sugar

Place the apples, butter, caster sugar and cinnamon to taste in a small saucepan. Add 1 tbsp water, cover with a lid and place over a low heat. Bring to a simmer and allow to bubble gently for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Lay out the puff pastry sheet and spread the apple filling over, leaving a 1cm border down each long side. Scatter over the raisins and orange zest then roll it up, from the longer edge, into a cylinder. Cut the roll into 12 discs (I did 18 Kat time) and lay them on the prepared baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes until puffed up and golden.

Meanwhile, combine the icing sugar with ¾ tbsp of orange juice (i use milk instead of juice). Once the mini apple pie bites are cooked, remove from the oven and drizzle with the icing.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

An ode to the AA man.

Interesting Christmas eve, eve for the Clarke household that meant we very nearly didn’t get our Christmas Turkey!

But Thanks to the AA man, our knight in Hi-Vis armour Christmas was saved…..

T’was the night before, the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

But out on the road the for the AA did they wait, because the exhaust it went clunk and on the road it did grate…

Then in the rain and the dark with orange lights all flashing,
The AA man in his yellow van came dashing.

He jacked up the car and fitted a temporary clip. So to the supermarket Steph and James could nip.

Around Asda they went to get their Christmas Dinner Because on that cold wet night that AA man was their winner!

How’s it go….God bless us everyone

Real Breasts are the best

I was having a conversation with a friend earlier today about parenting, how to deal with the big things while still maintaining open communications and it reminded me of the time we caught the boy looking at porn. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a normal teenage boy looking at naked breasts.

But it was time for the talk. Not the birds and bees talk, he’s known about that for long enough. We have a policy in this house where by if he asks a question he gets a truthful answer within the remit of his understanding. So, the sex talk came up a while ago. No. This talk was about women’s rights. About sexism and exploitation, about the damage pictures and videos like this do to girls self esteem when they think that is what they need to be to please a man and a bit about him and potentially unrealistic expectations.

I then showed him this, the real breast gallery.

It’s a fantastic project to show teenage boys and girls . It’s a non sexual look at womens breasts, It normalises the differences, it shows what real bodies look like in all colours shapes and sizes and if you’re a parent of a teenager I highly recommend you bookmark it for yourself for when these discussions arise.

One Night On The Streets…. my experience of the #P3BigSleepOut

This a cross post from my other blog but it’s an experience I though worth sharing here too…

As I was getting ready to go out Friday night, sitting on the edge of my bed pulling on a second pair of socks – it struck me how perverse the situation I was about to put myself in really was. Warm in my house, stocking up on snacks and drinks. James and I were about to spend the night sleeping rough on the streets of Wolverhampton to raise money and awareness for P3Charity.

P3 charity and social enterprise. It started in Wolverhampton and now works nationally with the homeless. They run hostels and help people from all walks of life promoting independent living and supporting some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in our towns and cities – And those homeless that we were supporting Friday night, and that they support daily don’t have a second pair of socks to pull on, they don’t have the advantage of wondering if they would be warm enough in the 2 t-shirts and hoodie I was already wearing – they have to just get on with it and so I know my night sleeping “rough” was in luxury compared to some.

 8pm – Getting going

Arriving at their hostel in Thornley Street at around 8pm we were greeting by an already amassed group of about 45 other charity workers volunteers, residents and ex residents of the hostel readying themselves for the night ahead. After a welcome from the Mayor, and a cup of tea, old duvets and cardboard were distributed and we headed towards the civic centre, and St Peters Square which was to be our base for the night. Everyone was in good spirits as we looked to prepare our beds. Those that had taken part the previous year staked their claim to their spots and we found a bit of floor just under the overhang of the civic centre…. shelter of sorts.

We're all set. #P3BigSleepOut #charity #homeless #BigSleepOut www.justgiving.com/jamesandsteph

A post shared by Steph Clarke (@therealessitam) on

A layer of cardboard (or camping mat for those that had them), a folded duvet and a sleeping bag made up the majority of the beds. Others opted to stay in camping chairs – or as one volunteer did – and air bed (cheat!!!). And we got down to the business of being homeless for the night. The first couple of hours were fun as we got to know the people around us random dancing broke out in the form of an Irish Jig and people dared not use the port-a-loo for fear of being of spun.

One way of keeping warm #dance. #P3BigSleepOut #charity #homeless #BigSleepOut www.justgiving.com/jamesandsteph

A post shared by Steph Clarke (@therealessitam) on

 Time drags on

People were in good spirits but as it crept passed midnight and everyone started to settle down reality started to creep in… I was there safe in the knowledge that my car was only 5 minutes down the road, that a hot shower and a comfy bed was waiting for me once this was over… but for the estimated 231 people who look for shelter every night in Wolverhampton, they don’t have that security.

P3 have 21 beds in their local hostel, and 5 No Second Night Out supported “emergency” beds, but that still leaves over 200 people each night out in the cold with nothing but their own thoughts for company. It was midnight and I only had 6 more hours to pass but the reality for some is this is their daily routine, and when you’ve nothing but time stretched before you, time with nothing to look forward to and nothing to think about other than where your next meal will come from, will I be safe this evening where will I go in the morning it is little wonder that some turn to the oblivion of drink or drugs to get them through it….

 1am – and so the bell tolls

The noise from the pubs and clubs kept drifting over disturbing those trying to sleep. People walked through , talking to us- and admittedly they were probably more confused by finding nearly 50 people in a doorway in sleeping bags than they would have been by one so were more open to chat and as the night wore on I became more and more aware of the chiming of St Peters clock – every 15 minutes and somewhere in the distance there is an argument and sirens….

The local police popped by a few time throughout the night, they were aware we were there and they came by to check everything was alright. At one point two PCSO’s came over while a trio of lads leaving the city a little worse for wear wandered through – they were jovial and put some money in the collection bucket the officer was holding and one of the residents joked – “you stopped me from doing that the other day officer!” – and that joke highlighted another question for me- we were there as an organised group, would the police have come to check in if I were a solo – really homeless – sleeper and if not who would? And if they did stumble across me out alone would they check if I was ok or would they just have moved me on?

 3am – Get a fucking Job!

I was still at 3am awake when a pissed man wondered the opposite side of the square. He stopped as he notices us and starts screaming abuse. Apparently it was people like us that was everything that was wrong with society (…the irony) and that we should all “GET FUCKING JOBS”.

He shouted and argued at us but with himself for a few minutes – offering to fight us all if we wanted to go over to him – big brave man wasn’t brave enough to come over and find out what we were all actually doing there and unsurprisingly no one took him up on the offer and eventually he left.

We’d all ignored him, mumbling between ourselves what an idiot he was, safety in numbers had kept us secure but I felt genuinely aggrieved and I could tell others did too. I was scared for the people he may encounter who were alone. What would he do with his aggressiveness when stumbling across an individual alone, cold, hungry and tired? Where do they go to sleep safely when there are odious people like him walking the streets?

The bigotry this one person displayed was awful and it highlighted the stigma that follows homelessness everywhere – that somehow it is a lifestyle choice to be out on the streets. What people fail to realise is that there is cracks we could all fall down anywhere. Most of the population is only one pay packet away from financial hardship and it only takes one slip, one bad decision, one wrong turn and you too could find yourself in need of the support charities like P3 provide.

I was almost there once myself, through no fault of my own – 10+ years ago and only by the grace of god did I have the support of my family and a floor I could sleep on that kept a roof over my, and my sons head.

To contrast the shouty man though others who came across us stopped to find out what we were doing, some left donations and others insisted on shaking the hand of everyone involved restoring some of my faith in the good of the masses.

 4:30am – Here comes the rain

From 4pm I managed to start to doze, on and off, with my sleeping bag pulled up right over my head to keep the breeze off my face, waking every time the clock chimed.

Cold surprisingly wasn’t too much of an issue, I remember thinking how lucky we were with the weather – for an October night it was surprisingly mild just a bit of drizzle early on but around 4:30am a rain shower hit. It came down suddenly and there was mad scramble to get under the hang over from those in the open – the wind blew spray into where we were laying and I was again wide awake.

I spent the next hour lying, listening to the murmur of conversation of those around me, to the bars emptying their bottle bins with a clatter and an argument between a group of women somewhere in the city that by the time it reached me sounded like a gaggle of geese squabbling.

 5.30am Packing up

At 5:30am the last of our visitors appeared, an obviously drunk young lady with a story of a fight with her boyfriend who had walked miles into town and just wanted somewhere to sit for 5 minutes and promised not to call the police on us if we let her rest on the end of one of the sleeping bags.

It took us a minute to get her to understand that we weren’t really homeless and we were there for charity but we let her sit for a while, a broken night sleep further disturbed and the group started to stir and pack up for the short walk back to the hostel and breakfast…..

Nearly 6am and we're starting to pack up, and so ends our night sleeping rough. #P3BigSleepOut

A post shared by Steph Clarke (@therealessitam) on

 Sleeping rough so others don’t have to

In 21st century Britain the fact that in a supposed first world country we still have so many people eking out an existence on the streets is heart breaking. There are many reasons as to why people end up homeless but it is charities like P3 that break the cycle that keeps them there. They work hard to ensure that the most social excluded are given the support they need, be it in their hostels or through their outreach workers, to live their lives to their full potential. One day you may find yourself in a position that you need the support and help of an organisation like P3 and this is why I chose to take part Friday night, raising just a little bit of money for and hopefully a bit of awareness of those people who need the support NOW.

I spent a night sleeping rough in the hope that now and in the future others wont have to and I would be grateful if you could do your bit by supporting P3 and other homeless charities in the work they do. Groups and organisations like these are always after volunteers who are able to give a bit of their time, or you can find other ways of helping through practical and financial donations (you can still sponsor James and me if you like).

 Streetlink

Finally if you spot someone sleeping rough, don’t be a dick screaming abuse like the idiot we encountered, call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 and give as much information as you can – this support line will connect rough sleepers to local services hopefully getting them the advice and support that they need.

#8 Fact About Me: I love camping

Beresford DaleRiver Dove, Beresford Dale, Derbyshire.

I love camping, waking up in a field with life stripped back to just the essentials and the day stretching out before you with no where to be.

I think it’s good for my soul to spend a few nights in the countryside,  in the tent  at least once a year.

This weekend we went camping, and while for various reasons it wasn’t as relaxed as I hoped it would be it was what I needed, an escape. The place we most often visit is Barracks Farm in the Peak District. We go with the Home Ed community to Peak Camp and it’s wonderful. No electricity and no phone signal. There’s an outdoor tap to fill your water bottles and a small wash room for you cooking stuff. A toilet block and showers that operate at 20p per minuter for hot warm tepid water and an elsan point for those that require it and that’s it.

It’s mile and half from the nearest shop and a good 30 minute walk along the river and across farmland to the nearest village. It’s a field  on the edge of Beresford Dale with green views as far as the eye can see and night skies that go on forever.

Moon over Beresford DaleThe moon from the campsite

It’s quiet and friendly, accessible, welcoming to pets and incredibly well situated for travel from the midlands and to explore the rest of both the Staffordshire and Derbyshire peaks.

This little piece of the English countryside has a place in my heart.

When can I go back again?

 

Deals That People as Beautiful as You Bought….Wowcher

I sign up for these voucher sites, Living Social, Groupon, etc. – you know the ones. They usually contain a mix of offers ranging from photo printing and weekends away, to MOTs and hair cuts and everything in between. We’ve had a lovely weekend away and some great canvases printed for the house using these sites  – my father in law is addicted to them….

However today I think they’ve misjudged their marketing….

I received an email from Wowcher with the tag line “Deals That People as Beautiful as You Bought ” – which  had me sticking my fingers down my throat and gagging before I opened even it, expecting a host of offers for bargain clothes and hair and beauty products.

What it actually contained however were offers for thread vein treatments, lipo suction and skin tag removals –

WOWCHER

What the hell is Wowcher trying to tell us??? – re-read the tag line with  a sarcastic emphasis on “beautiful” and I think you’ll see where I’m going with this. Way to make a girl feel bad about herself Wowcher – What’s next for people as beautiful as me, diet pills, gastric bypass and face lifts?