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Those Kate Middleton photos. And why we all have the right to keep our bodies private.

Picture the scene: a long awaited holiday, a beautiful sunny day, a pool, a long cold drink… But as you lay there, you remember – what? a posh dinner coming up – a dress that would be ruined by tan lines? Or maybe your bikini top is uncomfortable: you take it off to swap it for another. Or maybe you don’t put another back on? Hey, you’re in private – there’s nobody here to see…

And then, horrors. You find out that there WAS someone there. A peeping tom who took pictures of your naked body. And worse – he’s shown those pictures to everyone: your friends, your work colleagues, your parents… millions of total strangers. It’s awful. Hideous. Unimaginable.

But it’s happened. And I don’t think that it matters that it happened to Kate Middleton. I don’t think your naked body should become public property just because you’re in the public eye. Shouldn’t every woman have the right to keep her own body private? Decide what she wants people to see and what they shouldn’t see? Shouldn’t we all have the right – rich or poor, famous or downright ordinary – to decide which parts of our bodies that people see and those that we keep between us and our loved one?

And do you know the worst thing? The person that bought those ‘peeping tom’ pictures captured of you in private with a long lens and decided to share them with the world against your will is…

A woman.

What a horrendous betrayal.

English Mum’s Holiday Snaps: the entries

So you’ll remember, I’m sure, that the lovely chaps from Ice, a new and exciting loyalty scheme, challenged you all to show us your fave holiday snaps and grab the chance to win a family Eurostar ticket to the destination of your choice.  Well here are the entries.  And very nice they all are too.  They’ve been making me go ‘oooh’ and ‘awwww’ all week.  So now it’s down to Ice to choose a winner.  Going to be a toughie, I reckon.  What’s your favourite?

And congratulations to the lovely Babaduck who won the tickets!

English Mum’s holiday snaps: Ice’s family Eurostar giveaway!

So this is very exciting!!  In the run up to the peak holiday season, Ice, a new and exciting loyalty scheme, has decided to give English Mum readers the chance to win a family Eurostar ticket to the destination of your choice!*

About Ice

Ice is a flexible and generous loyalty scheme that rewards shoppers for buying from companies carefully selected for their environmental credentials. Ice identifies sustainable products and services, which range across a variety of sectors such as food, fashion, beauty, and of course travel, presents them to customers in a one-stop shop (www.myice.com), and rewards customers generously with Ice points that can be redeemed against future purchases. **

Customers will get the same or cheapest deal available from the retailer for the particular product or service they are purchasing, and will also collect Ice points to spend or put towards, other products available on myice.com. What’s more, customers can collect up to 11 points for every £1 spent, making it all the worthwhile.

About the competition

To be in for a chance of winning, all you need to do is send me your fabbest holiday photo and email it to me at english[dot]towers[at]gmail[dot]com, telling me who you are and where the photo was taken.  Entries must be received by midnight on the closing date, which is 8th June, so basically you’ve got the whole of half term to send me your perfect holiday picture!

If you’re a blogger, please link back to this post, and if you’re a tweeter, please use the hashtag #englishmumsholidaysnaps

Extra points will obviously be awarded if you can get food in your picture somewhere :)

The small print:

*Eurostar is a brand partner of myIce.com and the family ticket comprises 2x Adult and 2x Child
tickets, up to the value of £400

** every Ice point collected  is worth 1p

There is no cash alternative to the prize.  The winner will be chosen at random after midnight, 8th June 2012.

 

The Gallery: a million paper butterflies

My buddy Taralara runs an online gallery with a different theme every week.  Not being much of a photographer, I tend to dip in and out a bit, but this week, the theme is ‘travel’ – how could I not join in!

This picture is the ceiling of the Dubai Mall, which took me by surprise when I looked up to see it filled with thousands of delicate paper butterflies.  It took my breath away.

For more entries to this week’s gallery, just click here.

The Friday photo(s): The spice market at the Bastakiya, Dubai

I so wish there was some wizardy technology that could have captured the smell of this place: utterly intoxicating… smoky frankincense… dried roses… spicy dried limes…  I bought as much as I could possibly fit in my suitcase from the baskets and sacks of mysterious, scented and dried goodies…

Dubai 087

There were a few surprises too…

but mostly the produce was traditional.  There are those dried limes again:

Dubai 088

and can you see the cinnamon sticks at the back of this cart?

Dubai 089

The bright yellow ‘fingers’ here are turmeric – then clockwise there’s dried hibiscus, dried camomile, little tiny dried rosebuds, star anise and dried ginger:

Dubai 090

I can’t even imagine how much that basket of saffron (top right) is worth…

Dubai 091

And here’s that lovely frankincense again.  I brought some back for Poppy’s Mum (well, if it’s good enough for Jesus…):

Dubai 092

Here’s the lovely dried limes (loomi) up close:

Dubai 093

I’ll need to go back and stock up.  Really soon.

Plains, trains and automobiles

Well, we’re finally home.  Our total journey went something like this:

Car from Cavan to Dublin Airport

Flight from Dublin Airport to London Heathrow (we couldn’t get a flight to Gatwick)

Drive to London Gatwick

Stay overnight

Flight from London Gatwick to Cancun, Mexico

Flight back from Cancun, Mexico to London Gatwick (delayed 10 hours)

Miss flight back to Ireland and argue with unhelpful Ryanair about why I won’t pay £1000 to get on next flight.

*pause for hissy bout of hysteria*

Drive to English Grandma’s house in Hertfordshire

Stay there two days panicking about how to get home.

Get saved by wonderful friend who suggests sailrail.co.uk

Train to Milton Keynes, then Chester, then Holyhead

Ferry from Holyhead to Dublin Port

Taxi from Dublin Port to incredibly understanding Long Stay Car Park (who didn’t charge me extra).

But I’m back!

And oh, the wonderful things I have to show and tell.

For instance, we saw this:

And we ate this:

And we did this:

… saw lots of this:

And even shed a tear at this:

Much, much more to come.  Once I’ve conquered the EU washing mountain and cleaned out the Nutties.

My 2011 mood board and my 1000th post

My lovely friend Not Supermum has challenged me to create a ‘mood board’ to show all my hopes and aspirations for 2011. So much nicer than all those boring resolutions – a gaggle of pictures that will be my inspiration for life in 2011.

And what better way to celebrate my 1000th blog post!  Thank you for sticking with me for all these years (or, indeed, for just dropping by today).

Wishing you a wonderful 2011.  Here’s to cherishing our friends and family, being open to new friendships, giving people the benefit of the doubt and loving the skin we’re in eh?

Mwah xx

English Mum’s Great Big Autumn Bakeoff

So, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is once again upon us.  Down the boat road, the blackberries are just about finished, but there are still elderberries, rosehips and sloes – all around here I can see flashes of orange in pumpkin patches, and trees heavy with big ol’ Bramleys.

The Big Autumn Bakeoff

So it’s time for another bakeoff, don’t you think?  A proper, wholesome autumn bakeoff.  What does autumn mean to you?  Is it pumpkin pie?  A rich, berry crumble?  Or maybe it’s a big, dense slab of brownie, to be eaten in front of the fire with a decadent mug of hot chocolate?

The Kids’ Hallowe’en Bakeoff

This time, there’s a proper theme to encourage your kids into the kitchen.  Their own special theme is Hallowe’en, so let the spider fairy cakes and ghostly meringues abound!  The winning entry will win this gorgeous Chef Curly from the very generous Build-a-Bear Factory.

The Rules

As usual, there are very few rules (the one about having to send me a sample of each entry has sadly been scrapped due to the possibility of lots of soggy Jiffy bags turning up on my doorstep):

1. You’ve actually got to bake something (although see below re: waffly theme wavering)

2. Take a picture

3. Email it to me at: english [dot] towers [at] gmail [dot] com, or via the contact form at the top of the page, telling me what it is and who you are.  Entries must be received by midnight on 12th November.

Cheating

Here at English Towers we like to embrace a bit of healthy skullduggery, hence a little wavering from the theme will be acceptable as long as there’s a suitably waffly and entertaining reason why.

The Techy Stuff

If you’re a blogger, please link back to this post, and if you’re a tweeter, please use the hashtag #autumnbakeoff,. If you’re neither, then just ignore this bit completely.

The Prize

Entries will be displayed in one enormous blog post (hopefully without the descent into hysteria which accompanied the last bakeoff) and the winner will be paraded through the streets of Cavan while we all throw rotten apples at them.  Ahaha fooled you again, the best entry will win a copy of the fabulous new book by Diana Henry: Food from Plenty: Good Food Made from the Plentiful, the Seasonal and the Leftover with Over 300 Recipes, None of Them Extravagant It’s a brand new book, encouraging us all to cook with sustainable ingredients, use up gluts from the garden, cook ahead, and all while spending less money and without using up our planet’s precious resources.

The Judge

The wondrous and gorgeous winner of the last bakeoff, Amy Lane, has foolishly generously agreed to be the judge.  All bribes and dodgy approaches to be made directly and not via this blog.  The judge’s decision is final.

So that’s it, then.  You’ve got loads of time, plenty of inspiration, and some very ambiguous rules.  Let’s get baking!

SeaWorld and NCOD’s Kitty Yoga

So I’m off to SeaWorld today (yeeee-ha!).  While I and my five amigos are there, we will be meeting rescued manatee, screaming on roller coasters and getting drenched  by Shamu at SeaWorld, swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove, trying out our skills as elephant keepers at Busch Gardens and whizzing down water slides at Aquatica!  But just so you don’t feel left out, I thought while I’m away I’d pamper you a little – calm the senses and treat you to a little soothing gentle exercise.

Without further ado, then, I’d like to hand you over to Ninja Cat of Death, who’s going to take you through a few gentle stretches.  Ready?

Okay then, lying on your side, arms down, feet facing forwards…  gently roll your head and look at the ceiling…

Now bend your back so that the top of your head is facing your feet.  Point those toes up!  Keeping up?

Now simply flip over to the other side in one fluid movement, keeping your head still whilst twisting your whole body…

Now touch those toes, keeping your arms forward and nose touching your forearms.  Really stretch those abs.  No falling asleep now!

Aaaaaand…relax.

Good job everyone.  Next time we’re really going to be working on those toes…

Same time next week then?

‘No naughty words on mugs – promise?’ A trip to Emma Bridgewater

So the Tuesday of half term saw us take a rather wonderful trip.  Now the Brethren are 12 and 15 it’s getting more and more unusual that everyone wants to go out together. A shopping trip mostly ends up with one ‘ohhhh okay then’ and one ‘nope, I’m playing Xbox, seeya later’, so to take a trip ‘en famille’ was rather a pleasant change.

We were whooshed to Stoke on Trent in less than an hour from Milton Keynes on the rather swish Virgin ‘leany train’ (yes, I’m sure it has a proper name too), and met up with fellow bloggers Jen, Rachael and Josie, plus Dan and Kate from Kitchen Critic.

During the journey, we established ground rules for the trip. These included:

  1. No smutty jokes – there will be small children present
  2. No wrestling amongst the crockery
  3. No naughty words on mugs.  Yes, a drawing of a willy is considered naughty.

Here’s our fabulous day in pictures:

I am pleased to report that not only did we have a lovely family day out, but there was no smut, no wrestling, and I think no willies, but when our mugs arrived from Emma Bridgewater I’ll have to check.

If you’re ever in Stoke I’d thoroughly recommend a free factory tour (book in advance!) and a trip to the Potteries Museum where you’ll find a fascinating retrospective of Emma Bridgewater products stretching back the full 25 years (on now until 26th September, entry is free).

And now the thank yous:

Thanks to the lovely Jamie, and all the staff at Emma Bridgewater for a fabulous day out (sorry about all the sniggering – it’s Josie’s fault).  Thanks to the lovely Eb for organising the day, lovely chats and listening to me panicking about train times.

And finally, special thanks to the Death Wish Child and his new camera for all the wonderful pictures (I rent him out y’know…weddings, christenings…).


The Gallery: Friendship

So my lovely friend Tara has this amazing blog where all sorts of magic happens.  Once a week, Tara (or someone else) suggests a theme and people from all over the world and all walks of life enter photos (old or new) that they’ve taken that fit the theme.

This week’s theme is Friendship.

You all know I’m not a photographer.  But I am a friend.   I just couldn’t let this one go without entering.  Here, then, is my take on Tara’s Gallery theme:

It’s a rubbish picture, but I’ve only got this one to remind me of a whole fantastic, hilarious night, so it’s very precious.

This photo was taken on New Year’s Eve (actually, New Year’s Day – 01/01/2008) with our lovely neighbours – and good friends – from next door in lovely ol’ County Cavan, Ireland.  From left to right, that’s Little C with Bert (and his laser eyes), above him is my #1 son, then C’s daughter Lou, then C, #2, C’s hubby D, and then my Hubster at the end.

C was a beautiful girl – when she was well, she had long dark curly hair and was a stunning creature.  By this stage, you can see she was really quite ill and didn’t want to have her photo taken at all.  She had made the effort to walk all the way down her drive and all the way back up ours (we used to hop over the fence, but she was too ill by that stage, her very aggressive HER2 breast cancer having spread to her bones and her brain) and was exhausted.  But we had a fab evening – we popped party poppers, drank champagne, talked rubbish, danced… and it’s a memory I’ll treasure.  C died in May 2008.  I don’t have many photos of her but this is my favourite – happy memories of a precious evening.  When C died, my friend Jay summed it up so well when she said Iit doesn’t matter how long we know someone.  If they creep into your heart they are yours forever.’

She’s right here in my heart.  All the time.

PS: And check out Moon’s Gallery entry – it’s all about yours truly!

Competition: win a mahoosive Fotowall!

Okay, so this is quite possibly the most fabulously, amazingly brilliant competition I’ve ever run.

Think about a photo you really love: a treasured picture of the kids, maybe? A beautiful beach scene?  Or maybe it’s trees that float your boat?  A fabulous sunset?  Or maybe you’re a photographer and have created an amazing image?  Maybe there’s just one photo that always makes you smile?

Now, picture that favourite photo adorning a whole wall in your house.  Imagine the possibilities!  And if you don’t have the exact photo in mind, the lovely people at Myfotowall have tons of stock images.  So if you fancy a fluttery feather on your bedroom wall (I love this one), just say the word.

Down to business, then.  Being as creative as you like, leave a comment telling me which photo you would choose to adorn your wall and why, and you could win a 4m x 2m wall, worth up to £400 of your very own.  Be as creative as you like (but if you rent your house, remember to ask your landlord first.  Heh.)

Off you go, then.

The small print:

Myfotowall.com – the company that can transform your most treasured photos into larger than life wall coverings is offering one English Mum reader a unique wallscape worth £400, for free.

The ultra simple process involves simply uploading the dimensions of the wall you want to cover, be it your bedroom, bathroom or nursery wall, and your selected hi-res picture. If you need to crop and scale your image then the Myfotowall website provides you with the tools to do so.Your desired image can be scaled up to 16x its original size and still have amazing quality.  Myfotowall will deliver the pre-cut lengths of top quality, washable, vinyl wallpaper printed with your picture, together with a hanging guide customised to your environment.

For further information visit Myfotowall.com.

* * * * * * ENTRIES TO THIS COMPETITION ARE NOW CLOSED * * * * * *

A few of my favourite things…

So I finally got tagged in Tara Cain’s ‘favourite photo meme’.  I was beginning to feel  like Norma-no-mates as blogger after blogger got tagged (no, Tara, I’m not bitter…).  Finally, though, the fabulous, 51% Linda from Got Your Hands Full and the lovely Zoe over at Diary of a Surprise Mum took pity on me and  challenged me to publish my favourite photo…

And actually, I’ve cheated a bit as there are two.  The first is a picture of my firstborn, the wondrous Mad Professor, giving his beloved Grandad a piece of his mind, as usual.  I love the look on his face (it’s obviously a good story), and you can see that my Dad’s smiling as he’s listens to his Grandson waffling on.  Magical.

#1 and DD

Second up is my favourite photo of The Death Wish Child.  He’s on a very windy beach in Lanzarote.  I’m not sure why I love it so much, but I love his scrunched up little smile and his funky denim hat: 

#2 baby

And lastly, here’s my absolute favourite song.  Hubby has it on his laptop, my rockin’, Slipknot loving #1 has this on his phone, as does funky, Chipmunk loving son #2.  It’s a proper family favourite:

So now, I tag the lovely Liz at Living with Kids, and let’s open it up a little farther shall we?  To Coastal Aussie in the land of Vegemite.  Off you go, then…

The Saturday photo: Why have a dog and bark yourself?

So oopsy, was so busy ranting about the Evil Octopus Woman I completely forgot the Friday photo.  I did have one in mind, which became even more relevant when I took a quiet wander round the English Estate this morning and discovered not only a new rabbit hole from the field into the garden, but a tunnel.  A TUNNEL!  In my raised vegetable bed.  The cheeky furry little bastards have dug a tunnel through the potatoes (the hole is in the middle and all the yuck they threw out is covering my spade):

Rabbit tunnel 1

… and under the rhubarb:

Rabbit tunnel 2

I mean, what’s that supposed to be?  They do realise it’s a raised bed and they can’t actually dig anywhere do they?  Or is it just that they’re sneakily trying to reach the carrots on the other side with a covert underground access-point?

And, to add insult to injury, where – you might ask – was my rabbit-chasing, ex-coursing greyhound during all these rabbit digging shenanigans?

I'm just snatching 40 winks...

*sigh*

The Friday photo: Edit – a challenge!

Okay then, seeing as we’re all enjoying looking at old photos so much – here’s a little challenge for you.  Publish an old photo and tell us a little bit about it :  the location/who’s in the photo/if you remember it being taken etc etc.  If you have a blog you can publish it on there and link to me, otherwise email me and I’ll publish it on here.  Off you go, then!

The Friday photo: more oldies (no nudies this time)

Ah, there’s a lot of girly squealing around English Towers at the moment.  No, it’s not Hubby chopping the wood and missing, that was last week – it’s me Ma with the photos.  From the same batch as the last lot, here’s me and the Disreputable one getting off the plane.  I LOVE this – only DD would wear the full shiny buttoned blazer/sunglasses/shirt and tie ensemble to go on holiday.  Mind you, he looks rather dashing (lovin’ those sideburns Dad dad daddyo):

The dashing Disreputable one

And this is the one that caused all the hilarity.  Look at Sensible Uncle I (although we really should think of a new name for him after the Lycheeni debacle at Christmas).  Giddyup!:

Sensible

And who says I’ve never been fashionable?  Here’s me working the jumpsuit, years ahead of my time:

Jumpsuit

I’m loving this, Ma.  Next!

The Friday fridge photo

The Friday fridge, no less

So you’ll like this.  I’m bored of the Friday photo.  I’m always hunting around for something interesting to happen, and then when it does, it’s Saturday, and by the time Friday comes around again, I’m wondering if it’s not really so interesting after all.

So anyhoo.  I’ve just been shopping.  Yup, up to Enniskillen – naughty, I know, not supporting the Euro and all that, but I only go once a month, honest, hofficer.  The rest of the time I drive miles to pay double for less choice.  And I thought how nice my fridge looked, all full up with goodies.  So I thought I’d show you.  And guess what?  Next week it’s your turn.  A description and a lubly photo of your fridge, please.  And we’ll carry it on until we run out of photos, or get bored, or er…. well, you get my drift.  Off you go, then.

 

Oh, and just in case you don’t fancy looking at my fridge, here’s a snow angel, competently demonstrated by #2 (‘y’see, Mum?  You have to kind of flap yer arms and legs’.  ‘Okay, darling, I promise I’ll come and have a go in a minute’).

 

Snow angel

Journeys

So as you know, we do plenty of driving.  In fact, sometimes I feel like I live half my life behind the wheel.  Still, we choose to live where we do, and actually I don’t mind it (and hey, there ain’t no acreage without some mileage).   So yesterday I thought I’d take you with me, as it were.  Fasten your seat belt, then:

And we’re off.  Down to the Dublin road to wave #1 off on the bus (what? of course I wait, I don’t want my cherub being abducted by an axe murderer now do I?)…

Bus

Later, I got stuck in a big traffic jam in Kells (I love these little houses, they’re all in a little row, painted different colours)…

Kells

Then it’s back home, over the lough (not looking too inviting today)…

Lough

Past the ‘Pundertakers’ (drink yourself to death, no need to leave, so…)

Pundertakers

The return school run was even less inviting: horizontal slush pounding the windscreen.  Here’s a good old fashioned Irish roadsign: where do you want to go?  Ah, whatever, just go that way.

Signs

And back home for steak and rosemary roast potatoes.  Yum.  Here’s #1 after winning the hard-fought ‘who gets to bash the hell out of the steaks with the funky wooden mallet thing’ competition:

Steak

So how was your day?

Frosty (and skiddy)

It was beautiful here this weekend.  Minus 4.5 degrees and the frost was so… er…frosty it was almost like everything was covered in white fur.  Driving to pick #2 up from a friend’s in Mullingar, though, I lost the back end of the jeep in spectacular fashion and ended up in a ditch.  Nothing dented except my pride, luckily.

Conclusion: frost is lovely if you’re indoors.

 Frosty fennel  Frosty 1

 

Frosty 2

The Friday Photo: catching up

So it’s all very well, this technology lark; computers and digital cameras and all that malarkey, but sometimes I long for a bit of old-fashionedness (is that a word?).  For example, #1, who is settling very well in his new school, thank you, needed a photo of himself to take in.  You know, a photo: one of those glossy bits of carboardy type stuff with a picture on?  Well, we don’t have any.  I mean, we do, but the last entry in my photo album is #2’s birthday party in 2004.  And as I sat having a nostalgic flick through the album (many painstaking hours’ work there, I can tell you), it dawned on me that I’ll be sad not to be able to leaf through pictures of our time here in Cavan: our new house, our garden slowly taking place, Bert being daft…

And so with that, I took myself in hand (steady) and got myself a Snapfish account, spent the whole afternoon uploading all our photos onto it (which is where I found this lovely one of #2 and Bert, taken back in May when the sun briefly shone – although I’ve done something weird to it as its gone all grainy), and then ordered 6 x 4 glossies of all my favourite photos (the whole lot only cost 10 Euro with P&P!).  As soon as they come, I’m going to spend a happy evening with a glass of wine (yeah okay, so my new regime lasted until Hubby caved into temptation and opened a nice bottle of red last night), filling in the album with the last four years’ worth of memories.

Talking of memories, it’s our wedding anniversary.  I was out shopping earlier in the week and sent him a quick ‘we won’t bother with pressies will we?’ only to receive ‘well I got you something!’.  Oh poo.  Cue furtive dash for suitable present: that Lancome aftershave that Clive Owen advertises and a rather nice soft grey cashmere (mix!) jumper.  And apparently (so my small spies tell me) he’s bought me a better present than I’ve bought him.  Well, honestly.  I pointed out that when you’re buying someone something with their own money, they’re often grateful if you’re not extravagant.  Still, I’ll let you know when I find out.