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Every day is Earth Day.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Tuesday was Earth Day. I’m never quite sure what all these special days mean, or who invents them. For me, every day is earth day. This takes a literal form, since I spend a vast amount of time with bits of mud adhering to various parts of my body. (I still rue the day when I went round the whole village, smiling at the lady in the chemist, having a good chat with the butcher, only realising when I got home that I had a large smear of Scottish earth across my forehead.)
Tania Kindersley

Things of the earth are of particular immediacy at this time of year. There is of course the intensive tracking of the progress of the spring grass, for the horses. It is slow to come, and even this far into April, hay is still required. There is my own private springwatch. This morning, my heart lifted to see the first of the cherry blossom out. The sticky buds of the horse chestnuts have just exploded into stinging green leaves. The pied wagtails have arrived, and are flirting shamelessly, no better than they ought to be. As we groom the horses to get rid of the last of the winter coats, and great clumps of bay and chestnut hair fall to the ground, I think the birds’ nests will be very soft and colourful this year. Horse hair is one of their favourite ingredients, and by the time I go back for evening stables, it will all have been collected.
Tania Kindersley

It is the earthy things which also provide consolation. We have suffered a sad loss in the family, and hearts are sore. When mortality strikes, I find myself staring very hard at leaves and moss and lichen, as if the trees and the green grass and the old granite stone which is so much a feature of this part of the world can anchor me and keep me safe. The blue hills console too, with their ancient perspective. I look up at them and think they were here for millions of years before puny humans arrived, and they shall stand for millions more as the generations pass away. It may sound a little doomy, but I find it reassuring.

A friend had to go to stay in a city for the last couple of weeks. I was once a very urban creature, and loved the hard pavements of Soho with a burning passion. Now, I need the things of the earth. My friend said, as we were walking past the hills and along the beech avenue: ‘You know, there were no trees. I missed the trees.’ She paused, and we contemplated the arboreal magnificence. ‘We are so lucky,’ she said. ‘Some people have no trees.’ Of course there are trees in the cities. I remember always being astonished by how verdant London was, with huge old plane trees pushing up through the asphalt. But it’s not quite the same.
Tania Kindersley

I think the idea of Earth Day is to remind humans to cherish the planet, and understand its daily marvels. That surely must be a good thing. My own private resolution is never to take the growing things for granted. I am in very real danger of getting a bit Hello sky, hello clouds, and the old hippy in me is coming out and singing her song. But nature is a miracle, and I shall never be blasé about that.

MOTHER OF INVENTION

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Wednesday, 23 April 2014
I like to think that when Plato coined the phrase that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention”, he was inspired by a remarkable woman rather than poetic expression.

Every mother is remarkable every day she cooks, cleans, teaches, works, washes and cares for her family. Multi-tasking is what we call it today, but mothers have been supreme jugglers since, well, FOREVER.

I recently read a good news story about an Israeli mum who invented a harness to help her son with cerebral palsy, learn to walk. Now that’s necessity. And as admirable as Debby Elnatan and her creation are, more than anything she symbolizes what mothers and nannies do on a daily basis.

Maybe they aren’t patent-worthy nor money making discoveries, but if they entertain a child, keep a child occupied, safe, amused, distracted, and interested, I regard the effort commendable. Give them a medal or a homemade crown…with lots of glitter and feathers.

An empty egg carton, brown paper bag (invented by a mother in 1868), with string, glue, scissors, paint and a balloon, on a rainy afternoon and voila, Miss Sara will have her own piggybank.

Games, recipes, all sorts of objects we take for granted were the brainchild of a woman who was not limited by “how”, and inspired by “what”.

Where would we be without chocolate chip cookies, bullet proof vests, windshield wipers, retractable dog leash, monopoly, disposable nappies and computers?

Grace Hopper may have not been the first person to invent a computer but she is responsible for creating a writing code for one of the first computers at Harvard University. And like every talented hausfrau she also dusted the five-ton machine to remove the moths it attracted, literally the “bugs” we now refer to when our systems crash.

I praise all the women with children in their lives who get through the day and make things happen. And I applaud them for their creativity and stamina and passion, but mostly for the unconditional love in everything they do for the future inventors and mums and nannies.



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A lesson in marathons

Posted by Mum About Town
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on Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Last Sunday, as I was looking on in awe and horror (in equal measure) at the London Marathon, my mind started to race. Is there a bigger message in this no-mean-feat other than just sweat and blisters?

As many as 40,000 people pounded the pavements of the capital to run, walk or hobble the 26.2 miles. Ranging from elite (Mo) athletes to the average fit-loving person to some pretty comical run runners, the entrants all seemed to have a point to make.

Aside from the crucial fundraising, it seems that a personal best time is the main driver. A challenge, a goal and (hopefully) an achievement drive the best of us on a daily basis. And this must be the main attraction. But does it justify the sheer pain that so many of those runners clearly experienced en route?

From what I can understand from questioning those with now aching muscles, all those signals sent from the body to the head scream: ‘PLEASE STOP’ and ‘THIS HURTS’ and ‘MY LEGS ARE KILLING ME’. But those on this running race mission hardly stop, absolutely overruling any body weaknesses. The gig certainly sounds tough.

The biggest tonic of all is the crowd. My sister-in-law, who ran the race (in admirable time), told me that the cheering of her name while showing admiration for her drive gave her the power she needed to finish the race.

And so my point this week isn’t really about running a race but more about how we introduce our children to idea of realistic challenges in their lives – therefore giving them the possibility of that glorious feeling of achievement and recognition. With our encouragement and some sheer determination, they should be made to feel that they can finish the course. Whatever that course is. And without even caring about winning.


You can read more musings from Emma at www.lifeofyablon.com.

EASTER BUNNY EARS

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 14 April 2014
When most people eat chocolate Easter bunnies they eat the ears first.

I can’t recall where or when I read this. But I can tell you I like to observe how children devour an odd shaped item of food, and what parts are leftover because rarely do they seem to consume an entire bunny…my turn to “help out”.

Does starting with the ears imply a cautious individual? Is biting off the tail indicative of a leader? Or poking a hole in the belly suggest an artistic future? The psychology would be an interesting read. However, I say enjoy and savour.

Easter offers a Christian occasion to reflect on life and meaning. Whether it is of importance for this reason or simply time for family, sharing and making memories, enjoy and savour.

You can bake hot cross buns, decorate eggs, organise an egg hunt, play at being bunnies in the park, read together. Indulge in all that is playful and fun about holidays with your children… and they don’t need to know if mum has nibbled on a discarded bunny foot.


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A day of contrasts.

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Thursday, 10 April 2014
There is a tendency to think of life in the country as monolithic. The country living magazines tend to focus brutally on baking and gardening and crafty things, as if nothing else went on outside of the cities. There is oddly little about animal husbandry, except for the occasional chicken feature, which is curious, since so much of country life revolves around livestock. Only this morning I stared into the implacable face of a very splendid highland cow.

Life in the country is very different to life in the city, there is no doubt about it. There is much less emphasis on buying expensive coffee and much more emphasis on the weather. I check the weather forecast five times a day. For me it’s a question of which boots to wear and which rug to put on the horse and how much hay we need; for the farmer up the road, it’s a matter of his very livelihood. But it’s not quite as simple as it seems. In our small village, for instance, you can get a double espresso out of a real Gaggia machine. This never ceases to amaze me.

Tania Kindersley

I was thinking about this today, because there were some interesting contrasts. I did stump down to the red mare in my very muddy boots, and I did go to the feed store and stock up on Calm and Condition. (They really should make this for humans, as well as for equines.) I did, in true countrywoman style, yell at the dog, not because I was cross with him, but because he was hunting for the last of the pheasants, two fields away. The raised voice was necessary on account of the distance. On the other hand, within ten minutes of each other, I heard two sentences which had no rural stereotype. The first came from a small gentleman of four years old, my great-nephew by marriage. The daffodils have finally come out and he is in ecstasies over them. ‘Oh,’ he cried, as if he were in a florist in Mayfair rather than in a wide Scottish field, ‘masses and masses of lovely flowers.’ The second was from a war veteran, just up the road. I was walking past and I caught a snatch of conversation. ‘I felt as if I were back in Iraq,’ he was saying. I looked up at the blue hills and thought how strange that phrase sounded, hanging in the bright air.
Tania Kindersley

Then I drove out to look at the blue hills. I do this quite a lot at the moment, because they are so glorious in the changing season. The colours are growing vivid and the last of the snow is finally leaving the high peaks. I stared at the beauty with my usual feeling of slight surprise. It never ceases to amaze me that it is all there, on my doorstep, freely available to my eager eyes. I watched the gulls fling themselves across the landscape and the sheep gather at the base of the hills and some tremendous ducks comport themselves on a makeshift pond, left over from the wet weather.

Tania Kindersley

After that rather Wordsworthian moment, I went into the shop to pick up supplies. In the magazine rack, the face of Kim Kardashian stared out of me, from front cover after front cover. I don’t really know who Kim Kardashian is, but the mags love her. I sense that she would not be quite as excited as I am by a highland cow.

On the radio, on the way home, people were talking about Maria Miller and the machinations of Westminster. I looked at the hills, which were now a low shade of violet. I wondered what I thought of the whole political farrago and could not quite frame a good conclusion. I stopped to take some daffodil pictures instead.

Tania Kindersley

I loved the city once, with a wild, passionate love. I could not go back there now. I am bucolic to my fingertips. But rural life is not always as expected as it might seem. Not all of the clichés are true.


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