Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Little Bit Lost

I’ve been boring friends, family, Twitter followers (sorry) and myself lately with the issue of where to raise Tom. I feel like as soon as he gets into any kind of trouble, I’ll blame myself.  I can’t afford to move to the posh end of town unless we get a lodger. Even if I do, the authority couldn’t tell me which school Tom would get in until we moved, so there’s a strong chance we’d go through the expense and upheaval of moving, only for him to get into a less-than-decent school nowhere near our new house. We could move to somewhere more rural, but I wouldn’t like that. Tom comes first, but a lonely and miserable mother does not a happy child make. I keep snapping my laptop shut late at night when I find myself considering eerie-looking cottages on the Moors.

We stayed with Mum for Easter. I don’t come back often, because it reminds me of living here when Tom was a baby. The memories are bittersweet: a mixture of taking him for long, sunny walks in his pram and of arguing with Mum and my obsession with getting back to Manchester. I felt like I had been forced out of the place where I belonged through my own stupidity – and like everyone else was having wild parties while I was changing nappies (which was true.) I was  too immature to realise that stuff like that isn’t really important. There’s still a photograph of a rainbow over Manchester hanging off the wall of the bedroom I shared with Tom – and a crumpled DPercussion sticker on the mirror. Even though I’ll be eternally grateful to Mum for taking me in when I was pregnant and despite the fact this is a lovely place to raise kids, I just wanted to get back.

So, I did go back – just before Tom was two. I moved in near one of my closest friends, not in the trendy part of town, but in an area where I could afford a great house near good parks, not too far from the city centre. And three years on, we’re still there, but when your child gets to school age, things change. Our friends who are still in Manchester mostly live in the opposite side of town and there’s much more happening there for children, which means the rent is extortionate.

Last night, we went for a dusk walk to the park where I took Tom when he was a baby. It was so quiet; all we could hear were the birds and the air smelt sickly with early summer flowers.

“Why can’t we live here?” he said.

“We used to.”

“Why did we move?”

“I don’t know.” I said.

After I put him to bed, I felt guilty. Then there was a programme about Lowry on the telly, he lived not too far from us. It made me feel excited about going home. The city has got loads going for it when it comes to raising kids and there is plenty of green space – you just have to look a bit futher for it. Parties aren’t the only reason why I love Manchester.

We do need to move soon, but not to the countryside or the suburbs. I’ve got a year or so before Tom’s going to start wanting to join the kids who play in the road. In the meantime, things aren’t desperate where we are, it could be much worse. I don’t know how we’ll get where we need to be, but there will be a way.

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Sleeping Like Logs

Things are chaotic at home and I’d been thinking of getting away this Easter break. Nothing too far away, not for too long:  just one night in a basic hotel with my mind and the book. When I was asked to review the Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool, it was an obvious yes;  it’s definitely not too far away and is far better than basic. But there was a flaw in my plan for a peaceful escape – how could I stay at the Beatles themed hotel without the biggest Beatles fan I know?

After weeks of anticipation, we cut through Mathew Street, passing The Cavern and the Wall of Fame.

“This is so exciting!” Tom said, dragging his robot wheely case behind him.

And even though I used to walk that same old route to work every day, I knew how magical it was to him.

When we arrived at the hotel, it lived up to Tom’s expectations and surpassed mine. Life -size statues of each of the Beatles perch above the grand entrance and the top-hatted doorman makes it all feel very posh. Thankfully, the atmosphere is relaxed and I didn’t feel out of place as we checked in in our pumps and relative scruffs.

The Beatles theme continues throughout the public areas; from sheet music hanging from the reception ceiling, to huge photographs in the corridors and on the stairs.

“Ooh, isn’t it lovely and light in here?” Tom said as we stepped into the glass lift – and I wondered who was actually reviewing the place.

We stayed in a Deluxe Room, which had a huge portrait of Lennon over the plush-looking bed and bright decor.  Tom made himself at home in the bright yellow swivel chair, figuring out the remote for the wall-mounted telly.

We didn’t have dinner in Blake’s, the on site restaurant, because we were going to catch up with an old friend (which was brilliant – but this isn’t a review of her cooking and company.) It was past eleven by the time we got back and Tom went to sleep without a bedtime story. I’d forgotten my phone charger, so  asked concierge if they had a spare and it was delivered minutes later. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit my phone – but that was a blessing  because it saved me wasting hours online. After a hot bath, I put on my Mothers’ Day pyjamas and a hotel robe and climbed into the incredibly comfortable bed. I adjusted the air conditioning and pillows and got ready to write.

It was 9.41 when I woke, my blank notebook flopped open on the pillow next to me.

“Mum?” Tom said.

The bedside lamp was on, but the rest of the room was dark thanks to the kind of heavy blackout curtains you get in really good hotels. Outside, the city was in full swing: buses splashed through puddles  and Mersey seagulls screeched, but both of us had slept through it all.

We arrived in Blakes for breakfast seven minutes before they stopped serving. I am a veteran at  getting to hotel breakfast with seconds to spare  – and used to the dirty looks and hurried service that go with it. There was none of that today; we were told to relax and enjoy – and we did. I needed the good coffee and Tom loved the choice of hot food, mini boxes of cereals and jam on croissants. After breakfast, it was back to the room to grab the robot suitcase and check out. We headed to the wonderful World Museum and Walker Art Gallery, but not before buying a Yellow Submarine colouring book from the Hard Days Night gift shop. And that proved to be the perfect entertainment on the not-too-long journey home.

Verdict

Tom: “I liked the Beatles Hotel because the croissants were yummy and I could watch the Madagascar Penguins on the big telly and I liked the pictures of The Beatles and the big glass lift. I liked the Yellow Submarine record player but it wouldn’t play any songs.” (The juke box in reception is just for decoration.)

Me: Unpretentious, with excellent service and all the gloss you’d expect from a four star city hotel. The added quirk of the Beatles theme makes this a special place to stay. Right in the middle of town, so don’t expect silence, especially not at weekends (although if you haven’t slept properly for weeks, the comfy beds will probably compensate.)

The Hard Days Night Hotel, North John Street, Liverpool, L2 6RR, 0151 236 1964, http://www.harddaysnighthotel.com

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Last Chance to Speak Out

I know I’ve nagged about this, but it really is wrong.Please please if you haven’t already, take five minutes to email strengtheningfamilies.consultation@dwp.gsi.gov.uk and tell them that you think the proposals to charge parents with care to claim the maintenance their children are entitled to is unjust. This Tory proposal assumes that people are able to make their own amicable arangements and punishes and penalises them if this is not possible – not only charging them an initial £100 to open a claim, but deducting as much as 12% from any maintenance collected. 97% of parents with care are women and ultimately it is children from Britain’s poorest homes who will suffer if this outrageous proposal goes through.Today’s the last day to speak out, so make yourself heard, especially if you’re a single parent who this affects. Don’t be apathetic. If you think it’s unjust but aren’t affected, imagine if you were. Look at this wonderful letter to Theresa May from Gingerbread and this excellent article from today’s Guradian. Please just take five minutes to say you think it’s unjust and why – this can’t happen.

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Less Coffee, More Adult Conversation

“Hurry up Green Man, it’s freezing.”

Wearing a circle skirted dress for the school run on a gusty day wasn’t the wisest choice. I waddled all the way there, clutching it against my sides. When I was handed a boy, a book bag, a PE kit and a Mothers’ Day card, I forgot about it and it flew up in my face.

“This crossing is taking forever,” I said, wrestling with the book bag and the parcel and the wayward skirt, Tom clinging to my little finger. “Where is the Green Man?”

“Maybe he’s gone on holiday.”

“You think so? Where do you reckon he’s gone?”

“Morocco.”

“Nice. I don’t think he can just go on holiday without asking another green man to stand in for him though, otherwise no one would be able to cross the road safely while he was away.”

“I know! He rang the other green man and said ‘Hiya mate, will you do my job for me when I’m on holiday?'”

“Maybe. There’s got to be something in it for him though. Perhaps he’ll bring him back a present.”

“Yeah. Yeah, he’ll bring him back a pair of slippers and a keyring.”

“What if they wanted to go on holiday together though?”

“There are loads of green men. Infinity green men.”

“What if they all wanted to go to the Green Man festival on the same weekend?”

“Is there really a festibull called the Green Man Festibull?”

“Yeah.”

“Can we go to it?”

“Maybe one day.”

Then the lights changed.

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