Friday 26 June 2009

Boy talk

In case you are the lucky owner of little girls with no insight into the world of little boys, let me fill you in. I've just driven back from an outlet centre about 30 minutes away. This was the (pretty much one-sided) conversation my son had with me all the way home:

Son: Mum, you know the Transformers?
Me: Mhmm. (not really but sure I'll go with you on this)
Son: Well you know the bee guy? Well he is super powerful. Crossed bones is also super powerful, but not as powerful as bee guy.
Me: Oh right. Why's that?
Son: Well crossed bones is powerful. He goes THWAK BOOM BOOF. But bee guy, he goes POW BASH THUNK KAPOW
Me: Wow. That sounds pretty powerful
Son: But there's that other guy. You know. What's he called again? You know the slime guy?
Me: Not really my darling. I've never seen transformers.
Son: (as though I'm not even there) Well slime guy always attacks bee guy, but crossed bones goes THWACK BASH to both of them. And then they go KAPOW, SMASH, AAARGGHHH, DOOF, BASH, AAAARRRGGGHHH. Come here sucker! I'm going to smash your head. KAPOW, SMASH. No, you die slime man. BOOF. I'm going to steal your power. You will have no power crossed bones. No! You'll have no power bee guy. SMASH. SMACK. BASH. BLEEUGH. AARGGH

This goes on for quite some time.

Eventually the killing action from the back seat is over and he says:
Mum, when can I get a transformer toy?

Funnily, I'm not convinced I'm going to buy one anytime soon.

Monday 22 June 2009

Pool of tears

I gotta tell ya, I'm a woman on the edge. I can feel it. I'm like a pressure cooker and am about to blow. I cannot deal with anymore stuff going wrong. What is it about this year? So far in the space of the last two months we've had:

- our kettle died - new one needed
- our microwave died - new one needed
- our washingmachine died (but could at least be fixed instead of replaced)
- our dishwasher has begun leaking (this problem has so far been ignored)
- our roof started leaking requiring us to rethatch it for a cool £13 000
- the three year old decided that the rotary washing line made an excellent swing and has broken it. New one needed, not yet bought.
- the kids needed new beds as trying to squeeze a five year old into a cot bed just wasn't working. So new ones had to be bought
- the phone died and had to be replaced
- the printer cartridges for the printer I have (which isn't THAT old) are no longer being made. This means I will very soon need a new printer
- my computer is so old and slow that it gasps along at a 1995 pace. I'm ignoring this because I cannot afford a new one
- but topping the list of things that have gone wrong is the swimming pool.

If you ever buy a house, no matter how lovely the house is, DO NOT BUY IT IF IT HAS A SWIMMING POOL. Not unless you or your partner are a swimming pool engineer.

Our pool was built in the early 80s. Everything about it needed to be overhauled (including the fence around it). We have until now ignored this because pools are expensive. VERY.

But given the forecasts for a hot summer, we thought it was high time we fixed it. So we got a man what does to come and fix it. And he did. And I paid him £1200 of your British Pounds for the priviledge. For one glorious (yet rain filled) week the pool worked (we didn't go in it because of the rain and cool temperatures so the fact that it worked sort of passed us by).

This weekend I had to backwash the pool. I followed the instructions given to me. Except, one of the vital instructions (which was told to husband, not me) was that the backwash hose must be kept straight with no kinks in it. Unbeknownst to me, husband had mown the lawn and had curled the hose up. Husband hadn't passed either of these facts onto me. So I backwashed the pool and low and behold, the fitting holding the hose in burst. Costly mistake number 1.

Then I attempted to empty the leaf basket, as per the instructions. I did this but noticed as I was doing it that it meant plenty of air was getting into the system. The man wot fixes pools had managed to get all the air out. But I didn't know how else to empty the basket without opening it and letting air in.

Anyway, I then tried to manually vacuum the pool. This worked for about 1 minute before the suction went - exactly as it had done before I paid £1200 to have it fixed. I guessed it must be air in the system. Husband came and helped to bleed the system. It still wouldn't suck. So I resorted to the automatic cleaner instead.

The automatic cleaner got stuck, so while I attempted to move it to the shallow end, a pipe came undone. So I had to turn the cleaner off to get it back on. Once reattached, I went back into the shed of evil (as I've now come to call it) and turned it all back on again. But apparently I turned something on in the wrong order. I still don't know quite what.

In a split second, the filter lid cracked open and sprayed water everywhere. I hit the 'TURN EVERYTHING OFF AND PANIC SWITCH' and ran to call husband for help. (You might be wondering right now why he isn't in charge of the pool as this is obviously a boy job. Good question. One I have asked myself many, many times. Answer is still awaited). Husband took one look at the cracked lid and proceeded to have a strop. Rightly so. I had in the space of 20 minutes managed to break three things that before I got there were all working well.

He stropped. I wept. I stropped. We all ignored the pool. We didn't have a happy father's day.

This morning I called the pool man. I explained, rather embarrassed, about the littany of disasters that had taken place. I could hear him rolling his eyes down the phone.

Now here's the really, really good bit. Our type of filter no longer exists. It is obsolete. The chances of finding a spare part for the bit that has cracked is roughly equivalent to our chances of winning the lotto, which would incidentally solve all of our problems.

The man said he would call around and hunt for the proverbial needle in the haystack, but we'd probably need to buy a new filter. Filters are not cheap. They are vast pieces of machinery that probably easily cost the same as a pleasant weekend mini break to Paris, including a champagne dinner.

But without one, the pool cannot function. At all. So we can either pay for this new piece of kit or just ignore the pool altogether and laugh off the £1200 already invested in it. I'm all for filling it in or turning it into a fish pond or emptying it out and making it a skate boarding pit.

I have no money left. Nothing. Not a penny. The tax man will be expecting a small cheque from me by the end of this week and he might just have to have a tear filled telephone call from me instead.


I don't like being a grown up.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Virtual reality

This will be a brief post as I've just updated my other blog and it's 9pm and my husband will be home any minute and might expect me to be a 50s housewife and actually have produced him some dinner (I haven't) so will have to rustle up something exotic like pasta and pesto. With peas.

Anyway, I had to post because on Sunday I did something I've never done before. Well, that's not strictly true, I've done it once before but his was different. I met people from the interweb in real life.

I first became addicted to the internet when I lived in NYC and was planning a wedding. Back then, every spare moment I logged onto - a fabulous forum for wedding obsessed bridezillas. And while I did give away all of my many wedding magazines to a fellow knotter, she just picked them up and I never met her.

Then I moved to the UK and had a baby. A difficult baby. Cue Without the kind souls on that forum, I might have just curled up into a ball and wept (actually I did that anyway but at least I felt I wasn't alone in doing it). But I certainly never met any BWers.

Then I had a brief flurry on but the people there just scared the bejesus out of me and there was no way I'd ever have gone to a Mumsnet meet up.

Then we moved house to a new area and I knew no-one. So I used the meet a mum boards and did actually meet some people from the internet. But it wasn't like we had a long virtual friendship first. It was kinda: hey, anyone want to get out and chat instead of going slowly insane on your own? I stayed in touched with one or two but nothing more than a Facebook alliance now really.

Then came the world of mummy blogging. I didn't even know it was a world. I just stumbled upon it and thought how marvellous it was that you could spout off reams of twaddle and have random strangers feed you twaddle back. It is amazingly addictive how you come to know people so well, and experience all the highs and lows of their lives with them. It makes reality tv pale into significance.

And then thanks to Susanna at British Mummy Bloggers and Silver Cross, there was a mummy blogger meet up. The chance to meet virtual friends in real life. I'll admit, I had an ulterior motive for going along to meet other mummy bloggers. I wanted to understand the community better and how the meet ups might work so that (wearing my dashing PR hat) I might be able to advise clients on it all. But I was also intrigued to find out who some of these people were who have supported me in my mad plans to sail across the ocean and whose lives I have shared so initimately for so long.

We met at the Rain Forest Cafe in London, which is an amazing place and somewhere I'll be taking my kids in the future. The other mummies had their children there and they were enthralled by it. Silver Cross demoed their lovely new products, which were almost drool-worthy enough to tempt me to have a third child. But not even the Halo Buggy and Doodle High chair are that good.

The strange thing was, that chatting to the fellow mummy bloggers felt like I was meeting up with old school friends. You don't really know them, but you do. Their real life personalities are just like those on their blogs. You have an instant understanding because you've shared so much of their lives already. So it was really lovely to chat to so many of you. I know I should name and link to you (as many of you have kindly done to me) but I a) know I'll forget someone and will feel like a poop for doing it and b) I really, really do need to go get some food on the go.

But suffice to say it was a great experience and one I'll certainly repeat. And any other mummy bloggers who didn't go to this one, do try to make the next!

Right, now to tie my apron on, prepare a G&T for my husband and prepare to look cheery and gay while asking him about his day. That's what the books say right?

Friday 12 June 2009

Schizophrenia - I am a PR person and a mummy blogger

I had a fabulous meeting with the lovely Suzanne from A Modern Mother yesterday. We spent a good amount of time discussing how businesses and their PR people should be interacting with mummy bloggers. Now I don't normally talk shop on this blog. This blog is about me being a mum. But when I'm not being a mum, I run a PR business from home. So I wear both the PR and mummy blogger hats. And it's not always a comfortable fit (try wearing two hats at once and you'll see what I mean).

Anyway, Suzanne has written a great post inspired by a similar post from GeekMommy over in the US about how companies shouldn't expect mummy bloggers to run their competitions for them for free. And I fully agree. Any PR or company that thinks they can get a blogger to not only host but also run the mechanics of a give-away on their blog for nothing other than a free sachet of soap powder is 'aving a larf. But apparently this is happening a lot in the US. Give it a few more months and I'm sure it will be happening here in the UK too.

The comments section of GeekMommy's post made for fascinating reading with many bloggers jumping in saying that they're fed up with being expected to do the PR's job for free. There were lots of the usual comments too about how PR people don't even bother to read their blog and send them info about baby products when they actually have teenagers or ask them to write about a cleaning product when their blog focuses on fashion. Or whatever. I'm making some of these examples up but that was the gist of it.

This same accusation is levelled at PR people by journalists who say that PR people have never read their publication and send them completely irrelevant info and just expect a free plug for their client instead of giving them a decent story.

PR people are I believe, hated the world over. I often think you'd be better off saying that you're a prostitute, a banker or a politician than admitting to being a PR luvvie dahling.

But wearing my PR hat, squashed quite firmly over my ears, for a minute, here's the challenge we have:

Challenge 1: The scope of the media and blogosphere
Think about how many magazines, newspapers and websites there are out there. Think about how many writers - i.e. individuals with their own specific likes and dislikes - there are that PR people are expected to know inside out. Now add to that the huge number of bloggers, all with their own lives you as a PR person are expected to know even more personally - from what age their children are to whether they're an eco warrior or a fashionista. It is a nigh on impossible task.

A good PR person will have a database of contacts who they come to know over time and will give them the things they need in the way they need them. But it is still a task that takes a gargantuan amount of time, time not usually paid for by the client. Which is why things aren't always as personalised as they should be. I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that with pressure from clients to reach as many people as you can, it's pretty hard to keep things personal.

And if you're still thinking: Tough, that's your job, well yes. But imagine for a minute that you as a blogger or journalist have landed the golden egg and some publisher wants to turn your musings into a book. You want your book to be bought in the thousands, if not millions, so that you can buy an island and drink daiquiris for the rest of your life. You're not allowed to employ a PR person. You need to get the book out to as many influential people as possible. Start writing a list of every newspaper, magazine, TV show and blog you'd like your book to appear on. Now find out who covers book reviews at those titles. Now find out what type of books they like to read, how far in advance they review books, whether they like exclusives, whether they always require free books to give away in order to publish a review, where to send a book to, how they like to be contacted etc etc etc. And that's for one book. One product. One customer. Multiply that out for several customers with several products and you'll start to feel the enormity of the task facing PR people.

So to sum up, while I'm in now way excusing shoddy PR practices of spray and pray, if you receive a pitch from a PR person that isn't 100% personalised to you, try not to hate them too much for it. If it really annoys you, delete it or let them know what you do like so that they can get it right next time.

Challenge 2: How big is a blogger's scope of influence?
We know that bloggers are influential. The reason they're influential is because what they write is perceived as honest, not PR puff. The minute it smacks of PR puff, people will be turned off. But not all blogs are created equal. How many of your client's target audience is each individual blogger reaching? Probably not that many. Add up multiple bloggers and you start to get a cumulative effect. But your client wants to reach as many people as possible - whether that's through one uber-influential blogger or multiple less influential bloggers.

The challenge for PR people is knowing who the influential bloggers are. How do you work out which bloggers are the influential ones? By number of comments? Number of followers? Asking for their visitor stats? Do all bloggers even track their visitor stats? At the moment, a lot of it is guesswork. Trial and error on the part of PR companies. And measuring the results can be difficult too. Sure you can track links and click throughs but it's not all scientific. So you're spending a lot of time getting to know people and personalising info for them without really knowing whether it's going to have an impact on the client's bottomline. Tricky.

Challenge 3: Not all bloggers know who they are
Many mummy bloggers are new to the game in the UK. It's growing fast. But how many of the bloggers even know themselves what they want their blog to be? Most start out as a journal - a place for personal musings (like this one). But many quickly realise that blogging takes up a good amount of their time, time they could be spending earning a living. So they start to think about how they can get their blog to earn them a few pennies. It changes identity from a journal to a revenue generating venture. For some this is very low level, pocket money really. While others try to turn their blogs into information portals or ezines (or they might have set them up with this in mind in the first place) to actively generate revenue and make a living from it. Then there are the blogs that are set up purely as an extension of their business to help them boost their SEO and business credibility. They're often desperate for content but are they willing to promote another company's product? And if so, will they only do it if there's a quid pro quo?

So you see, the PR community is trying to understand and interact with a community that doesn't fully know yet what it's trying to be. The PR community need the blogging community to help provide some of this clarity. And I know from some of the work underway at British Mummy Blogger Network, this is starting to happen.

Challenge 4: PR is not paid for publicity
PR people are tasked with getting their client's 'free' publicity, not paid for advertising. The minute they have to pay for anything other than product, it starts to drift into the sphere of advertising. So if bloggers ask to be paid to write about something it's a) not normally something the PR people have the budget for and b) it brings into play the whole question of ethics and would seriously impact bloggers' credibility. You don't pay a journalist to write about your company in a newspaper. They're paid by their publication. This gives the journalist freedom to write whatever they like. Bloggers want the freedom to write whatever they like, yet expect to get paid for doing it. Why would a PR person do that? They might as well then pay for an ad and then at least they can be sure that they're going to get the message they want out there. It's a difficult area. I don't think bloggers should work for free, but equally, an outright payment model just isn't right either.

Taking my PR hat off for a minute (it's getting scratchy) and donning my lovely mummy blogger hat (sensible with a wide brim), let me say this to PR people:

How do you get a blogger to write about your clients/company? Sending them a press release will never cut it. You do need to know your blogger, what they like, dislike, how old their children are, what they write about, whether they're single, going through a divorce or about to set sail across the Atlantic ocean. (Gosh, who could that be?)

That requires a LOT of time. It means actively reading and commenting on bloggers blogs. It means engaging with them about things that actually mean something to them. It means being a blogger yourself. And if you're not a blogger and you're not a mum and you're trying to reach mummy bloggers, might I suggest that you employ a mummy blogger to help you out on your campaigns? There are plenty of mums out there who would love to be able to work around their children, doing something part time. Why not recruit one of them to work on your campaign to help you understand who the other mummy bloggers are? It's a win win.

Don't post spam in the comments box. Do it and you deserve a slap. With a dead fish. And yes, it is obvious that it's spam even if you say 'I love your blog, look at my great new site for kids toys.' Flattery works, but we're not that gullible.

Product reviews. Right now, UK mummy bloggers are probably still open to receiving products to review if there's something in it for them. For example, if I was asked to review a new washing powder, I just wouldn't. Because quite frankly I could give a rat's bum about soap for clothes. Sparkling whites just aren't on my list of priorities. However, if Musto or a similar sailing company sent me a pitch and asked me to review their new ocean going boots/gloves/quick-drying shirts I'd say yes please and would be more than willing to give a fair appraisal of them on my sailing blog. Because I need that stuff and getting it free in exchange for a review seems fair to me. From their point of view, they'd have to ask: how many other sailors are reading this blog? What if she slates our stuff? Are we trying to attract more women into sailing? If the answers make sense, then it's worth them doing it. If not, it's not. Simple

And if the people at Musto weren't sure about the answers to the questions above, they should take my next bit of advice and ask bloggers what they want and who they reach. I know this takes work, but once you've identified which bloggers you think are most influential for your company/client, email the blogger and ask them for more info about their audience, visitors stats and what they want from you in exchange for writing about your company. Is it free products, the chance to try something out, publicity - what? These are people, not businesses you're dealing with. Often they won't even know what the answer is, but by starting a conversation with them you're on the right track.

Product reviews are just one tool. A key thing for most bloggers is audience. They want people to visit their blogs. - whether it's to drive revenue, catch the eye of a publisher, meet more people or simply have the notoriety. They want people to comment on their blogs. Any publicity you can give them will help them boost their numbers, so think of ways you can help promote them in exchange for them promoting you.

Think creatively. Run competitions to write about a subject (not a product) where everyone who gets involved gets something and the winning entry gets a bigger prize, heaps of publicity and a ticker tape parade (just kidding on the last bit). In exchange, they agree to include a link to your site or mention your site in some way.

Remember most of all that mummy bloggers are a community. We're a virtual network of friends who rarely if ever meet but with whom we share hugely personal information with. Try to understand this dynamic. Know that the mummy blogger doesn't live to write about your stuff. They're looking after children, running businesses, going to work, doing laundry, cooking, shopping, having sex (probably not much), doing hobbies, running PTA meetings, staying in touch with family members, remembering birthdays, walking the dog and generally living. They also happen to blog about it.

I don't think anyone has the perfect answer as to how to work within this dynamic - I'm both a PR and mummy blogger and I don't have a de facto answer - but thinking like a mum is probably a good start.

Monday 8 June 2009

Seven years ago today

Seven years ago today I was doing this:

And this:

And even this:

Seven years ago I was in South Africa, in the mountains, surrounded by family and friends and several bottles of champagne.

Tonight I am alone with my pc, two sleeping children (thank god) and a husband who is on the far side of the USA on business. I should feel melancholy but I don't. We had a marvellous evening out on Saturday in which I drank almost as much champagne as I did on our wedding day. What's more, this year I got the anniversary present right. Read here for how I didn't last year.

I'm not sure I've ever blogged about me the bride (aka Bridezilla - who woulda thought it?) but now is not the time. I am too tired. But I shall revisit the subject at some future point when life is less busy. I could also have written about how things have changed in seven years (new country, two kids, new jobs, new houses, less sex, more wrinkles, less money) but I've used up my word quota for today so can't write anymore.
The purpose of this blog post was just to mark the occasion, otherwise it might pass by altogether without notice. And that would be something worth being melancholy about.

Happy anniversary to us. And just because it's such a marvellously mad picture, here's one more of the happy couple taken slightly more recently - Presenting Mr & Mrs Home Office Mum:

May we continue to laugh for the next seven.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Enid Blyton - the new supernanny?

I am currently reading my children Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree triology. I have to confess that the Faraway Tree books were my absolute favourites for years and years and years - way longer than it was acceptable for them to be really. So I am thrilled that my children are now old enough to listen to a story being read without the need for pictures (although pictures would be useful for the three year old who tends to get ants in his pants after about five minutes). When I was a child, we had a hard back full colour beautifully illustrated version of the books. I've searched the interweb far and wide but have yet to find it or something approaching it.

Anyway, that was not the point of this post. Re-reading Enid after all these years makes me realise that parents were a LOT stricter back then. And children were FAR better behaved than they are today. Jo, Bessie and Fanny seem to spend days and days toiling in the garden, darning worn clothes, ironing, doing laundry, making beds and taking care of their mother when she was poorly. They do this without a single gripe or groan. Neery a whinge nor a whine.

And then at last, when they are released for a day of freedom from toil, they're sent off on their way with a fabulous picnic of bread and butter and some fresh peaches. Not a cheese string, Innocent smoothie or packet of pom bear crisps in sight. Not even lashings of gingerbeer, because that was reserved for the Famous Five and possibly the Secret Seven. The Faraway Tree bunch never had anything quite as outrageous as fizzy pop. However, they did scoff down inordinate quantities of pop biscuits, google buns and toffee shocks, all of which I'd still like to try before I die.

So how exactly did Jo, Bessie and Fanny's mum get it so right? She was certainly fierce and when Curious Connie came to stay, told her in no uncertain terms that crying will get her nowhere and that if she didn't do as she was told she'd go to bed without any supper, a fate worse than death by all accounts. And she certainly wasn't shy of doling out the odd spanking. On the one occasion the children wanted to wear party clothes to a tea at Moonface's she insisted that they wear their old clothes, which they griped about, but she put her foot down and said it was old clothes or they weren't going. So the children dutifully donned their shabby chic attire and skipped merrily off.

That wouldn't have happened in our house. In our house it would have resulted in several screaming tantrums from all parties before they finally left the house in their old clothes but with some fuck you nod to the long arm of the law like wearing underpants on their heads.

If I could employ Mrs Jo, Bessie and Fanny (not sure of their surname) to take charge of my sons I would. Having started out my parenting journey with such good intentions about behaviour and being consistent and instilling good values and having angelic children, it all seems to have gone tits up.

Behaviour is a constant battle. My children seem to think it's ok to hit their mother and give a huge amount of cheek and fling things about in a fit of pique despite me having tried reward boards, positive parenting, time out, naughty step, buddy charts, sending to bed without supper, shouting, out and out bribery and even smacks (aplogies to the anti-smacking brigade). Obviously I didn't do this all at once. That would have confused even me. And possibly the lack of consistency has been my downfall, but I challenge any parent to keep on and on and on with the same method if it just doesn't seem to work.

I'm starting to think that the more military style of parenting of the Enid Blyton days had a place. Children were more courteous and had good manners and cleared their plates and were grateful for boiled onion skin soup and dry bread. Are today's children just too spoilt?

I'm beginning to think so. My children are not given masses of anything, but they do seem to think it's fine to break brand new toys, walk around the garden in socks with the express purpose of destroying them, take one bite of an apple and put the rest in the bin and demand whatever they see advertised on tv as though it is their god given right to have Lellie Kelly shoes and make up set (yes, the five year old wants those despite being a boy). And they are called out on all of these things, but it's as though whatever lesson was learnt yesterday is forgotten today and so the craziness continues.

I've seen very fierce parents in action and think that they are being too mean to their children, they are people after all with their own minds. I've seen parents who are horizontal about disciplining children and I want to give them a good shake and say "Children need boundaries!!" I like to think I'm somewhere in between. But inbetweenville seems to be have little effect at all.

Do I need to return to the Enid Blyton school of parenting - perhaps send them off to Dame Slap's school for a while? I'm sure by today's standards it would be viewed as tyranical parenting but I'm beginning to think that that's what is needed. How do you instil that old-fashioned respect that children used to have for adults? How do you get your children to respect you as a parent? I know it's earned, but HOW DO YOU EARN IT? I'd like to think that what I've been doing as a parent should rustle up a smidgeon of respect, but it doesn't seem to have.

For some reason if I threaten them with 'telling your father what you just did' they beg me not to, not because he's in any way fierce, but because they don't want their father to think less of them. So why don't they feel that way about their mother? Sigh.

All suggestions to be sent by a squirrel in a tatty red jumper please.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Dilemma: summer body or summer food?

This must be the longest spell of good weather I have experienced since I moved to the UK in 2003. If this is global warming, bring it on.

We have a swimming pool in in our garden. I'm not sure why but I always feel that I have to justify myself when I say this. We don't live in a mansion with acres of grounds, a tennis court, stables and pool. We just happen to have a pool in our garden. It is a pain in the arse 99 out of every 100 days. But for the last few it has been marvellous. The boys have swum everyday and have had friends over to splash around with them. We are the envy of all.

Yesterday we had a friend over and the mum coolly whipped off all (I mean all) of her clothes in the garden without batting an eyelid before slipping into a bikini. Yes, she has a child and wears a bikini. And she looks like super model in it. I wanted to weep into my iced elderflower cordial. I decided that I really did need to give myself a good talking to and stop eating so much, not to mention cutting back on the gallons and gallons of wine I've been consuming of late.

But what's the point of al fresco dining if not to dine? Admittedly, summer foods can be a lot lighter than stodgy stews and steamed puddings, but we've BBQd so much that I'm starting to resemble a sausage. And although I've eaten my body weight in salad, I've washed it down with good helpings of creamy potato bakes. Then there are the lazy smorgasboard dinners outside in the sun, cold meat platters, cheese boards, grilled asparagus - just lovely summery food - but lots and lots of it.

And today, given the magnificence of the weather, I felt it was my patriotic duty to create a summer dessert that celebrates the infamous British strawberry. After reading a recipe in the Sunday Times magazine this weekend, I made sure the Ocado man delivered all the necessary ingredients so that I could create a dessert masterpiece, something I've not done for a while (well since deciding to sail across an ocean).

So I made this:

It was dead simple, dead gorgeous and dead tasty. It would also quite possibly result in dead me had I attempted to eat all of it, such is its richness.
So you see, this is why I can't wear a bikini. Summer food is just too good to ignore. It's a tricky choice: summer food or summer body? I know which one is winning around here.
Sod it, there's always winter to slim down.