Rage against the Machine – So that was 2016…

Today is the last day of 2016. This was the year that bought us events such as the first British man in space (well done Tim Peake), Brexit, a man becoming US President whose name sounds like an amusing bodily function (I’m looking at you Trump – you had better live up to your name and come up trumps when you get into that White House next year), Team GB coming 2nd in the medals table in Rio, unspeakable horrors of humanity in Syria which are sadly still ongoing, the passing of many famous faces (too many to name here sadly but, in this respect 2016, you’ve been an absolute Cockwomble)  and a giant cock causing controversy in a front garden in Scotland. Yes, you read that right, a giant cock…

I don’t know what’s wrong with it myself. Beat that Edward Scissorhands!

It’s been a year that’s been unkind to many and one that most can’t wait to see the back of. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs this year, as have my friends and loved ones, so I am feeling ever hopeful that 2017 won’t be as much of an arsehole as it’s predecessor. As I just mentioned, 2016 took away many famous faces from us, which I know in the grand scheme of life isn’t the end of the world, but it is truly saddening to hear of the passing of these folks. The people who you grew up seeing on TV, hearing on your radio, reading about in your newspapers. I may not have known them personally, but they have all, in some way, helped shape my life and make me who I am. I have vivid memories of my mum singing along to George Michael, hearing Wham! brings memories of family parties as a child (and perms, oh god, the perms!) and watching Harry Potter with the dulcet tones of Alan Rickman echoing through the corridors of Hogwarts will now forever be etched with sadness. Too many people and faces to mention, but here are just a few of those greats we leave behind in the class of 2016. Rest well folks.

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As well as saying goodbye to some well loved famous faces (many of whom I sadly couldn’t fit in my montage above) we have also had major changes in our political climate. The biggest seen for a generation in fact. Here in the UK and Europe we had Brexit and, in the US, we had Trump v’s Clinton. Two major political events which have managed to cause a monumental tidal wave of rage, anguish, disbelief and a barrage of opinions. It’s been pretty ugly at times if truth be told.

“Nobody saw it coming!” say the headlines.

“How the hell has this happened?! I don’t know anyone that wanted Brexit!” I see on my Facebook timeline.

Opinion poll results and predictions were hideously inaccurate, and in many cases, just plain wrong.

But why?

Firstly, what are opinion polls? Well, they are just that, polls to gauge opinion. So clever aren’t I? No, you’re right, I’m not. Bear with me…

Companies and groups, such as ipsos MORI, YouGov and ComRes ask the public to divulge their views and opinions relating to certain questions and then they collate them into a results poll and give us stats based on their findings.

But why do we even bother with these polls? Who is it they’re actually polling?

Well, here’s the thing, there are lots of factors which meant the polls we saw this year were inaccurate. It wasn’t just one reason.

People like polls.

They also like stats.

They like to be able to plan for the future, they like to know what lies ahead. We are creatures of comfort and habit and by preempting these vote results, we can at least try and plan for what our next steps are going to be financially and personally. Here are just a few of the reasons as to why the poll results we saw weren’t as predicted;

  1. The people polled aren’t from a nearly wide enough selection. Too many graduates, too many upper and middle class people and not enough poorly qualified, elderly or working class voters are asked. Therefore we only get a fragmented view in the poll results.
  2. The polls aren’t done over a long enough time span. They are usually only done over a 3 day time frame and that’s not nearly enough time to ensure a wide range of people are reached and questioned.
  3. Lots of people just don’t want to stop and answer poll questions. Too busy, don’t want to divulge their opinion, etc.
  4. Voter turnout predictions were wrong. They were underestimated and, in the example of Brexit, it was the remain voters who actually came out in force and who weren’t polled that helped contribute to the inaccurate poll results.
  5. The number of people that answered, “I don’t know yet”, when asked if they were voting leave or remain regarding Brexit were quite high. Sadly, you can’t use “I don’t know” as an option in a referendum so these unsure votes were allocated into one camp or another based on their answers to other questions asked in the poll. Sadly these reallocated results weighed too heavily in favour of the remain camp when, in actual fact, a large number of them ended up being leave votes.

So, as we have seen from the headlines this year, these polls aren’t a particularly reliable way to gauge opinion regarding these big political events anymore. They didn’t foresee Mr Orange is the new Black getting into the White House. They can help the country to keep ticking over in the meantime, until the actual result is announced, but they aren’t Mystic Meg. They cannot ever be 100% accurate so we shouldn’t take their results as gospel, nor be surprised if they turn out to be wrong.

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The problem with Social Media

The biggest bug bear for me this year, and this is ironic given I am a blogger and I am CONSTANTLY on social media, is Facebook.

I’m not going to treat you all like you’re idiots, because you’re not. Of course you’re not! You read my blog!

(Only joking, I’m the biggest idiot of them all to be honest. Just ask my husband).

The thing is, Facebook lies. There. I said it.

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Everything on your timeline has been put there by the powers that be at Facebook because their ‘clever algorithm’ notes what it is you like and dislike and tailors what you see accordingly. If you like seeing cats, Facebook will show you more cats. If you like seeing toddlers fall asleep in their chocolate mousse, Facebook will show you that…oh alright, and so will I. This little dude of mine went a bit viral earlier in the year with this stupid video (it’s not even funny and I got a MASSIVE amount of grief from people for letting my toddler eat a chocolate mousse. I am apparently setting himself up for a short life full of pain, rotten teeth and diabetes. See, I am totally smashing the doo-dahs out of this parenting malarkey)…

But, back to my point which was, do not trust what you see on Facebook.

Facebook is not a newspaper, nor a news website, and it doesn’t claim to be either. The thing is, we have changed. We don’t need to go to the shops every day to buy a newspaper to find out what is happening in the world, we can just reach over and grab our iPhone and there it is, at our fingertips. We also don’t need to look very far for news. Who has time for that these days? People often, myself included, wake up, have a shower and read Facebook whilst drinking a cup of tea or coffee. It’s part of the routine of our day. We like to check in with friends and loved ones, we like to see what people are up to. It’s an ever changing online diary of people’s lives and I am all for that which is why I use it. That said, it is not a reliable means of obtaining news. Facebook doesn’t vet news stories on there. if someone wants to make something up, they can and as long as it isn’t offensive, nobody can stop them. You can write what you want.

‘Facts’ can be made up. There is no automatic fact checking on there. And this is where it gets dangerous.

During the run up to Brexit and the US election, people were on Facebook more than ever. In fact there was a social media frenzy. People were sharing posts with quotes of ‘facts and figures’ which were often heinously inaccurate, people were liking and sharing things that they agreed with and all the while, they were blissfully unaware that by clicking ‘like’ (or ‘love’, thanks to the new Facebook reactions – an even better way of filtering our opinions on things eh?!) on all these posts that they agreed with, they were slowly but surely filtering out any alternative opinions that would differ from their own. They were creating their own little bubble and when that bubble burst in epic style, yep Brexit and Trump, I’m talking about you, people were stunned.

“I don’t know anyone that voted leave!” said some.

“All my friends and family were voting Clinton. All the polls said she was ahead. What the hell happened?” said others.

The fact is, if we had taken time to step out of our social media bubbles, stopped clicking ‘like’ on all the Facecbook posts saying what we wanted to hear, found other news stories from reliable sources away from Facebook, actually spoken to people face to face, we would probably have not been so surprised with the results after all. The differing opinions were out there, we just chose, or should I say Facebook chose for us, not to see them.

It shelters us from seeing what we don’t want to see. A kind of ‘social media utopia’ if you will.

This year, there was rage against the machine. People rebelled against the media machine which was feeding us information, they went against what social media and reporters were telling them and they voted for change. That is the overwhelming thing to take away from 2016.

It really was the year of change.

Whatever way you voted, the cards have now been dealt and it is up to us to ensure that, going forwards, we educate ourselves in a way which means we are informed, that we take the time to read up on things before just hitting that like or share button on Facebook to ensure they’re factually correct and that we don’t just dismiss other peoples points of view.

Think before you click.

 Here’s to a less eventful, and less hate and anger filled, new year.


 I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my rambles this year and I want to wish you all a happy and healthy 2017.

Now, where’s that Gin? New years eve beckons…




The Summer that was… (2016)

So, Autumn is officially here.

The leaves are starting to change colour and fall (yay for crunchy leaf walks, nay for loads of leaves rotting in my garden that I need to pick up and really can’t be arsed with).

As a little memento of our summer, I have compiled some of our photos into a slideshow to look back on.

You don’t have to bore yourself rigid watching it (it’s like when you’re being made to look at someone else’s holidays photos and you have to pretend to be really interested when, in actual fact, you’re wishing for a power cut to make it stop and would rather have a gynecological exam than look at anymore bloody photos…) I just wanted to have a keepsake on my blog to look back on when I am old and wishing I had a toddler who still crapped on my carpet at home. What am I saying, that’ll never happen but you know what I mean. I moan about them (lots) but I do love them, I don’t always like them, but I always love them.

So here’s my Summer 2016 Montage…

It’s only 10 hours long.

Sorry.

Not sorry.

😉

Gems.x




Wales 2016: Day 1 – “The day the Sea didn’t look as deep”…

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After the crap-ness that is packing the car, we managed to set off on our journey to The campsite in Wales.
The car boot was fit to bursting, as was the roof box that our friends kindly lent us so we could manage to fit some more shit in the car (I promise I only packed essentials…like a box of fruit cider, a Margarita mixer, some tequila and copious snacks, which incidentally filled an enormous ‘bag for life’. You can never have too many snacks…)
The sun rose over the M4 (picturesque eh?!) and all was well. We were on our way to the land of Dragons and Sheep.
The car was packed, 2 out of 3 kids had gone back to sleep and the other one was happy to sit and watch the world whizz by as we drove.
I cracked open the Jelly Snake sweets about 5:45am for sustenance and with that, before we knew it, we were already heading over the Severn Bridge.
We reach the bridge toll and see it’s now £6.60 to get into Wales. £6.60!!! That’s halfway to a bottle of Bombay Sapphire!! Absolute insanity.
Still, I managed to scrabble exactly £6.60 in change, pay the nice man in the booth and whoosh our way into Wales.
“Yay!!” comes a voice from the back of the car, “we’re in Scotland!”
“No poppet, we aren’t, we’re in Wales” I reply whilst shaking my head. “I told you lots of times we are going to Wales and we’ve been there for the last 2 years…”
“But I thought we always went to Scotland camping mummy?”
“No Hun. We’ve only ever camped in Wales. That’s why you bought a Welsh dragon toy last year and cuddle it in bed every night”.
*Face palm*
We press on and pause for a much needed wee and breakfast stop in the sanctuary of the Golden Arches, where we meet up with our camping companions. We sit indoors, all bleary eyed and sleepy so we can devour a suitably crap filled breakfast of pancakes and syrup, sausage and egg muffins and greasy Hash Browns. Just what the doctor ordered.
Just as we are about to leave, a lovely older lady who works there comes over looking like a balloon seller at a funfair. In fact, you can bearly see the woman for balloons.
Oh shit, I think to myself, she is going to give these to the kids…
I hold my breath as she shuffles ever closer, the noise of the balloons squeaking together sets my teeth, and my nerves, on edge.
I glance over at my husband who has now clocked the McDonald’s balloon maniac and to say he looks less than enthused about the impending situation it is an understatement.
The kids see her and that’s it, party fecking central…

“Balloons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” they all squeal!

They all grab one from her as they trampoline up and down on their seats.

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All us adults give each other, and the balloon lady, a wry smile and tell her thank you through gritted teeth. The kids by this point are already smacking each other over the head with said balloons and wielding them like Lightsabers. Joy of sodding joys.

So now, not only is the car going to be fully loaded with camping stuff, a husband on the edge and hyper kids after a McDonald’s breakfast, we now have 3 balloons on sticks to cram in. Beam me up Scotty…preferably to a bar where there is Gin on tap.

 We finish up, squidge our way back into the car along with the balloons and set off for the campsite. We aren’t far away now and this section of the journey is very interesting/scenic. We go past the Tata Steel factory, a random thing to note perhaps but the sheer scale and size of this place on the landscape is truly something to behold, with it’s smoke and steam bellowing out from it’s many chimneys. We then pass through Swansea, a mixture of retail outlets and seafront but it does look like a lovely place. On we then go through the countryside until we reach our destination, Port Eynon on the Gower Peninsular. A tiny old fishing village with beautiful coastal walks, a stunning beach and scenery to die for.

The campsite we stay on is called Carreglwyd and it is situated almost on the beach, just behind the sand dunes. It has a decent toilet/shower block, a small on-site shop which sells essentials like bread, milk and eggs and a pot wash area. It’s facilities are basic but clean, and nothing like reading festival… 😉

They have a van go around a few times per day selling essentials, as well as fresh fruits and veg if you don’t want to take all that yourself, and the Ice Cream lady also makes her rounds a couple of times per day. There are a couple of fish and chip shops a two minute walk away and there is also a pub and a restaurant. All bases are covered.

As we check in, my husband comes over and tells me that Keith Allen (Lily Allen’s Dad) is staying at the campsite. I can see him sat on a bench with his dog outside the reception. It takes all my willpower to not go over and disturb him to ask for a quick selfie, and it practically killed me to not start singing Vindaloo at the top of my voice…

Proud of my self restraint at not ambushing Mr Allen, we went off to find a suitable pitch and then did battle with the tents. Our friends are regular campers, we aren’t. We only go once per year and therefore, my tent putting up skills aren’t my strong point. Still, I do the dutiful wife thing and help my husband wrestle the enormous thing up and after an hour or so, with minimal swearing and toddler chasing, camp is made.

The kids excitedly put their blankets and pillows in their sleeping pods and me and my other half, naively, decide to stay in the same pod as each other because the boys want to split themselves up. No good can come of this. He hates air beds, being cramped and is quite broad. I am small, claustrophobic and hate grumpy men. You can see the problem that is looming can’t you…

We decide to head straight to the beach to stretch our legs and to make the most of the sunny afternoon we have thankfully been greeted with. We pack our numerous bags of crap up, buckets, spades, snacks, towels, swimming stuff, spare clothes for all the kids, you name it, it’s packed, and head off to the beach.

As we reach the end of the walkway, we get our first view of the sea and the kids all shout with delight. It’s a lovely moment, ultimately made even better by my eldest announcing, “Wow! The sea doesn’t look as deep today!” Truly insightful. He’s destined for greatness that one…*ahem*.

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“WOW! The sea doesn’t look so deep today guys!”

After a bit of a walk along the rocky part of the beach, we reach the sandy part. Warm, golden sand, sunshine, sea breeze, salty sea air and very happy kids. It almost feels too good to be true.

We set up camp on the beach and while away the afternoon making sand pictures, sand castles, body boarding, paddling and eating snacks. Perfect.

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We head back, shoes and bum cracks full of sand, and clean ourselves up ready for a lovely wholesome dinner of Bolognese that my friend had made and frozen ready for us to have for dinner that night. Such a good idea when you don’t want to cook on that first night when you’re all knackered from an early start. We have a beer/cider or two and a cheeky margarita (no, I wasn’t joking. I honestly did pack a Margarita mixer and some tequila!) before unanimously deciding bedtime is a good idea about 9:30pm. It rocks going away with friends who are equally as knackered as you are, no guilt about buggering off to bed early whatsoever, yippee!

We tuck the kids into bed and they’re all super excited about sleeping under canvas. I’m a little more apprehensive.

It all starts off well, until about 1am I hear the toddler crying. I try to leap out from the back of the sleep pod, having to hurdle over my half asleep husband in the process and fall out of it like a drunken teenager wearing stilettos for the first time.

#stayclassy

 I see to the toddler but he’s now fine so I leave him in with his brother and ungracefully struggle my way back into the double sleeping bag I am ‘sharing’ with my other half. I say, ‘sharing’ because while I was out seeing to the toddler, he has stolen the entire sodding thing for himself and I have no sleeping bag to climb into. What a tosser.

I wrestle it back off him and struggle back into it, but the small amount I am given isn’t doing my claustrophobia much good. I managed to drift back off to sleep only for the toddler to rev up again about 15 minutes later. Fecking hell.

I spring from the air bed again, clambering over my husband who by now is resembling an enormously annoying, and pointless, speed bump. I’m falling all over the place and decide this is a loosing battle so I shove the toddler in with my husband and I hop in with our middle one. The husband doesn’t look too pleased about the card he has been dealt but I am tired, cold and pissed off, so he can have the toddler and I will sleep next to the peaceful, angelically sleeping, middle one.

#mummyforthewin

We wake to sunshine on day 2….

(story continues tomorrow)




A Life is Knutts Review: Joe Browns – Holiday Shop, Summer Collection 2016

“Here comes the sun, doo, doo, doo, doo, here comes the sun, and I say…oh, and now it’s gone again”. Welcome to the Great British Summer!

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Living in the UK, we are used to getting every type of weather in the space of a few hours. Hail, Snow, Spring Sunshine, Strong winds, Searing heat…we get it all.

Despite this, we still manage to make the most of whatever weather we have, regardless of what we are doing. Keep Calm and Carry On as they say!

It’s been a while since we went abroad as a family, Sicily in 2010 to be precise (mainly due to the fact our middle one, who was 1.5 at the time of said holiday, had such an epic meltdown whilst trying to board the plane that we wanted the ground to open up and swallow us to save any further embarassment!)

We tend to do staycations now which, in my opinion, are just as fun. The kids couldn’t care less where they are, as long as they’re with the people they love, having fun, you could be on a beach in Bognor for all they care!

A few weeks ago, a blogging opportunity arose which was being run by the lovely people at Joe Browns.

Joe Browns is a UK clothing company who specialise in ‘quirky’ and unique fashion. If you’re after quality fashion staples, but with a little something extra to set it apart from the crowd, you’ve found the right place! I have shopped with Joe Browns many times before so, when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance!

They asked for bloggers to choose an item of clothing from their Holiday Shop to review and to then take a colourful photo of it to post onto Instagram using the hastags #JBHolidayWardrobe and #JoeBrowns.

I chose the ‘Tremendous Tunic’ (priced at £34.99 – price correct at time of writing). It came in 3 different prints/fabrics and I chose the Denim Patchwork version.

I loved the look of this. I am not really a ‘girlie girl’ and I like my darker colours, so this tunic suited me down to the ground. Feminine, without the frills and ruffles.

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After waiting a few days, my parcel from them arrived.

The excitement of being sent some clothing, guilt free, was overwhelming. Being a mum of 3 boys means I rarely spend money on myself so being sent something free of charge was utterly brilliant!

I opened the package and had a look at the tunic. The first thing that struck me was how light the material was. It looks like denim but feels very soft and will be super on a hot day.

The straps are leather effect and the buckles on the straps are chrome plastic, another sensible style idea by Joe Browns so that they don’t get hot in the sun and burn you like metal ones would.

The buttons are super cute and are all different patterns/pictures. It’s little details like these which really set Joe Browns apart from their competitors.

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I’m very short (think Hobbit, minus the hairy feet…for now anyway) so finding dresses and things which suit me is quite difficult. As soon as I put this on however, I could tell it was a super fit for me both in length and width. I would opt to wear it over leggings or jeggings, something like that with some Vans or Sandals depending on how you want to dress it.

I vary in size from shop to shop, between a size 10 and an 8 (depending on how many milkshake cocktails I’ve tested that week!) so I plumped (no punn intended) for the size 10 as some previous reviewers had said that their clothes can come up a little small. The 10 fitted me perfectly so make of that what you will. Either I was having a fatter week (yes) or their clothes come up a little on the small side (possibly).

The Joe Browns Holiday Shop collection is really lovely and has something for everyone. Girlie summer dresses, sandals, casual shoes, tops, shorts, tunics, you name it, they have it. All made from high quality materials to a super standard so they’ll last for a few summers to come…as long as you don’t have a toddler like mine who is capable of destroying anything within minutes, including my sanity.

If you would like to check out Joe Browns Holiday Shop, you can do so by clicking this link!

Thank you Joe Browns for a guilt free shop and to all of you for reading!

Much love, Gem.x

Disclaimer: I was sent this item, free of charge by Joe Browns, for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words are my own.