Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tis the season to celebrate...your birthday?

December the month we’ve all been waiting for since New Year’s Day. After Easter, Bank Holidays, weddings and the summer holidays we impatiently anticipate the end of the year festivities. Yet for those of us with a family birthday in December it’s a time to do battle with the Christmas hijackers. Already a seasoned gladiator in this month’s sport I decided this was the year to be prepared for the slaughter.

Before the shopping centre had decked their halls with holly, I had bought the December birthday presents and invited her friends to the party. In fact I was feeling a little proud of myself until I realised I’d forgotten to organise where we were going to take the birthday child for a ‘treat’ day out.

In my naivety we choose the National Trust’s Tatton Park as the place to escape the advent of December 25th. A popular heritage attraction with a deer park, gardens and farm we believed this place would be, just a little, exempt from exploiting the message of Christmas to its members. A quick trawl around the park’s dedicated website informed us that Father Christmas was in residence. Not unexpected we decide the farm’s animals still warrant a visit as well as a trip to the park 18th Century mansion, which we envisaged would be magically dressed in traditional and seasonal embellishments.

On Saturday, December 11th we arrived at a bitterly cold Tatton Park. After a long drive to reach our destination, the children are thrilled to see a challenging and pleasurable playground. Conveniently located near to a refreshment van, the playground wins everyone’s vote and that’s not just for the tea and chips butties.   
When the adults’ noses starting turning blue, we decide it’s time to leave and take in the delights of Tatton’s mansion house, and this is where the story goes sour.

A stroll from the park to the house takes in a stable yard, where the muck has been replaced by a brassy parade of till ringing outlets and fairground rides.

Once we get to the house we are in no denial that the exterior of the mansion looks inviting and we’re eager to thaw out and see more. But if we do we’re going to have to pay, even though we’ve paid our annual Natural Trust membership. Round one to the Christmas hijackers. We decide our next move is to try the farm. After a long ramble from the house to the farm, we are once again hit by the Christmas hijackers at the entrance. Tatton Park has decided that everyone has to pay full entrance fee to see the farm animals and if they like it or not, Father Christmas. Maybe I’m just cynical but why does everyone and everything have to be about Christmas during December and do I need to be a spook to discover where Tatton Park’s website detailed these seasonal price hikes?

Just because our daughter celebrates her birthday in December does this mean she will forever have to wear themed outfits, dine out on turkey and dance the night away to Slade? I hope not…but then she may embrace the tinsel and baubles and put my rant to bed, until next year.
Merry Christmas 
       The birthday cat cake

Monday, 6 December 2010

Out in the cold

Just like the first snow flake landing on British shores this winter, notice of my redundancy came as a surprise but not a shock. Economists have been warning us of mass job losses across the country since summer. The weatherman also lost no time forecasting a nation straddled by heavy snow. Yet I’ve been blissfully ignorant of these facts, until now.

Weighed down by countless layers of clothing to keep out the cold and desperately searching skiwear websites for available stocks, I keep asking myself the same question, what now?

First, I’m going to purchase any item that will make me look like I’ve just come from the slopes of Chamonix. The next item on the agenda, life after redundancy, appears to not resolve itself overnight.

Friends, family members and even my trusted Saturday Guardian’s money supplement all inform me that ‘being made redundant is the best thing that ever happened to them’.

In my own social circle there is some great examples of people finding their niche after being made redundant, and seizing the opportunity to go back to college or switching jobs to fit in with their families. From a former high-powered executive now training to become a midwife and a couple of great childminders who previously carved out a career in the boardroom, there is no shortage of inspiration.

Should I go back to school and become a teacher?  No came the reply, you can just about manage your own children never mind a classroom of them.
How about nursing? Societies always need good nurses but then if the sight of blood makes you feel queasy the chances are you’d be a bad one.
Place all my savings and redundancy pay, and open a business I thought? A good idea if you could think of a profitable idea in a recession.
Sell-up and try our luck in a sunnier climate has its appeals especially given my lack of warm clothing yet the likelihood that I could communicate in a foreign language is nil, cero and null.

The conclusion is that I’m going to carry on doing what I enjoy, except now I have to find someone to employ me to do just that, unless you can suggest an alternative?