I was never like this about Pacman

You may be thinking that Fortnite is the American way of spelling the word used in the English language to describe a period of time equivalent to two weeks.  And there you would be wrong.  Very wrong indeed *throws head back and laughs maniacally*

If you haven’t heard of Fortnite you either:

a) do not have children

b) do not have a games console

c) have been living in a hut in Tibet.

Let me try and explain it to you.

Animated characters get on a ‘Battle Bus’, which resembles an old charabang crossed with a blimp, and are dropped on a remote island.  Depending on what level you are at you may glide down to earth on a sort of kite thing or if you are further up the food chain you will be floating to the ground using a jaunty parasol.  I have no clue why.  All the characters look like they’ve been on steroids for a very long time.

Apparently, the aim of the game is to be the last person standing in a shootout/looting competition between 100 players.  (You can play as a squad but I don’t want to complicate things any more than I have to).   You only have one life and once you’re dead, it’s game over.  You can also get the characters to do the dance moves de jour by pressing a special combination of buttons on the controller.  Hence your muscle-bound avatar, with a dodgy orange mohican and painfully tight fitting combats, can pull off The Floss or Carlton Dance whilst on a killing spree.  Nice.  It’s the little things…

Look at them.  Look at the girl on the left, completely zombied.  That’s the future right there…

The Scoundrels are so in love with this game that Nothing Else In The World Matters.


Such is the all consuming nature of this game that it’s even made the tabloids and daytime telly, with discussions about children becoming evil warmongers and meltdowns galore if it’s hinted at that maybe they’ve had enough after 3 hours of nonstop slaughter.

We’ve always had a rule that there is to be no tech or telly unless you are ready for school.  That rule has been amended since the day neither of them had remembered to brush their teeth, bring their PE kits and the youngest Scoundrel was wearing trousers with a huge gaping hole at the front.  He hadn’t noticed….

The current rule is no tech or telly in the mornings.  This worked well at first.  But it seems I have created Another Monster.  Now The Scoundrels are up, breakfasted, showered, dressed, faces squeaky clean and teeth so white they can blind a person from 50 yards.  They have packed their schoolbags with everything required for the day, including PE kits AND packed lunch and are ready, like perfect Instagram children, by around 8am.  This leaves 25 minutes before we need to leave the house.  During this time I imagined we would have harmony in the home, maybe time to read a few chapters of our books or savour that first cuppa of the day.


No.  They spend that precious time arguing over who has bagsied first on the X Box after school.  I swear bribery has been used to try and get me to say one Scoundrel had bagsied it first before his beloved brother.

My house resonates with the sounds of “Rez me, quick!”, “We need to get some wood and materials!”  “Use your common pistol!!!”  each shout getting more and more frenzied.  And should I have the nerve to declare “Tea’s ready!” I am met with tantrums a two year old would be proud of.  BECAUSE YOU CAN’T PAUSE THE GAME FFS (they don’t actually sat FFS, but give it time).

I asked The Hair to have a chat with The Scoundrels as things were getting out of hand, and I feared they would both turn to drink and drugs as young adults, trying to get their ‘fix’ of adrenalin elsewhere.

I could here lots of gentle chatter – and then The Hair’s voice started to rise.  Pretty soon it was at full Football Coach in a Training Session During a Thunderstorm volume.    Hastily I walk into the living room to try and calm him…only to find he is now giving battle plans and tactics from the sofa and demanding The Scoundrels: “Get some cover!!” “Stand still and assess where the enemy is!!”  “Use the crosshairs on your sniper and kill him!”

You can take the boy out of the RAF…





Keeping Mum

The decision to actually become a mum when you have a chronic illness is one that I often see discussed on various forums on t’internet.  Should I come off my meds to conceive?  Should I try for another baby?  How will I cope?  

I often want to comment and give my ten pence worth, but I hesitate.  I keep quiet.  Because there is no right answer.

The Eldest Scoundrel was born during a time of uncertainty and stress.  He was conceived in the months after I had miscarried my first baby, just weeks into the pregnancy, and after losing my Dad.  I had been having symptoms, like numbness and tingling and double vision, over the previous years and they flared up after these traumatic events. I should have gone for an MRI to see what was going on, but this was delayed when we discovered we were pregnant again.

Should I have held off until I knew for certain what was going on physically?  The honest answer is I never gave it a thought.  I had this burning inside me to become a mum and I was driven totally by that desire.  Selfish and irresponsible?  Maybe.  But The Hair and I talked about the what if’s, and decided that a life without children was not something we wanted.  Whatever it took we would make it work.

It was harder than I could have ever imagined.  The first weeks after giving birth were a blur.  Physically I still felt well, pregnancy often puts MS into remission, and I would spend hours just staring in wonder at this perfect human being we had created.  I was diagnosed when The Eldest Scoundrel was about 5 weeks old.  I was breastfeeding him before I went in for the MRI.  I remember looking at other people with walking sticks and  wheelchairs and thinking “Will that be me one day?”  As time went on, symptoms began to flare up and there were days when I found it difficult to feed, difficult to get out of bed, difficult to function at all.

But you get through.  You dig deep and you get through with gritted teeth and tears in your eyes.  You adapt and overcome.  I’d invent games that involved me lying down a lot and slept whenever he did.  The house was a tip (no change there to be honest…), and there were days when I felt like The Worst Mum In The World because we hadn’t even left the house that day.  I battered myself for not being ‘enough’.

The Eldest Scoundrel was 22 months old when I fell pregnant with the Youngest.  I was actually pregnant before we officially decide to ‘try’ for another.  Oops.  I was apprehensive, my symptoms were quiet but I knew about the calm before the storm.  I worked up until a few months before having the Youngest Scoundrel.

Caring for a toddler and a newborn was demanding to say the least.  I sat and cried some days, the post natal depression kicked in, I felt defeated.  But you keep going.  You dig deep again because you’ve done this before, you will get through.

This time, though, the load felt lighter.  I was a more chilled mum.  I realised that your real mum friends don’t care if your child is crawling/weened/wearing Armani/your house resembles a skip.

I also realised that having children is hard, full stop.  Chronic illness or not, it is demanding, at times thankless, but it also a source of immense pride and joy.  Cliche indeed, but true nonetheless.

So if you’re thinking about becoming a Mum, or thinking about trying for another baby, look deep inside, listen to no-one except your loved one and your own heart and do what makes you sing.

Mothers Day.jpg


Three Cheers for World Book Day…

… said no parent, ever.

This is a bittersweet post, because this year I do not have the trauma of pulling an outfit out of thin air.  The youngest Scoundrel is in Year 6, but his class are going to an event at the High School, so they are relieved of having to turn up as Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland and will be required to wear school uniform.

As a writer, it is of course part of my job to read.  I love to read.  The Scoundrels were read to every night (and more) from the day they appeared on this earth until they were old enough to tell me my character voices were terrible, and they wanted to read by themselves.

I love books.  I love the smell of books.  I love that feeling of opening a new book and diving into the story.  Love it, love it, love it.

And it’s not World Book Day I dislike per se, it’s the dressing up faff I object to.

Whoever thought it up must have really hated their parents when they were growing up, and now they have wrought their revenge by creating an annual event that breaks grown-ups all over the globe with the thought of how the hell they are going create an (insert favourite fictional character here that requires access to the BBC Costume Department for it to look anything like The Real Thing) outfit the night before World Book Day.

It’s the same every year in charity shops in towns across the country.  Desperate mums, and it generally is mums, or grandmas, searching for something that could transform their little one into the Gruffalo or some other mythical beast.

Today I witnessed a woman buying a cream coloured fleece hoodie, one of those with a hood with ears and a bear’s face on it.  She was telling the woman at the till that she planned to cut off the hood and the sleeves, then make the sleeves into leggings and the top into a tabard.

“What’s she going as?” asked the nice lady on the till.

“A lion,” says the woman.

That poor child.  She’s going to look like a badly groomed poodle.

Of course, you can just go on-line and buy an outfit for £2.50 and ship it in from China, but that’s cheating.  You do know that don’t you?

Thankfully there are many easy options – The Boy in the Dress and Matilda spring to mind.  I think there should be some law introduced whereby any children’s book author can only create characters who dress in a school uniform.

The Scoundrels love to read, and I’m so happy that they share my love of the written word.  And of course, they loved to dress up as their favourite characters from their favourite book, but I’m just putting it out there…I’m so glad I don’t have to have to do another World Book Day ever again.

The Youngest Scoundrel on World Book Day 2014.  I can’t remember which character he’s supposed to be…(it’s the MS)









How to survive half term


It’s Half Term in these parts.  Two words that strike fear into the heart of many parents, but especially those with a chronic illness.


There are a plethora of parenting blogs and Facebook pages that tell hilarious tales of surviving school holidays, usually with a lot of swearing and copious amounts of alcohol.  This is not one of those.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against swearing (unless it’s aimed directly at me) or alcohol (as long as you’re buying) but there is little out there to help people like me get through.


To be honest, one week I can just about cope with.  Now that the Scoundrels are nearly 13 and actually 11 the physical pressure to play with them constantly has worn off, but I don’t like them being on their devices all day either.  It’s about getting the balance right if you can.  You also have to be very selfish and ask for help from those around you, family and friends can be lifesavers.  Swallow that pride and reach out for help, or as I did, cry on the phone to your mum until she gives in and comes over to cook the dinner.


It never ceases to amaze me how just having noise in the house all day affects my fatigue.  My cognitive function is blown to pieces in a very short space of time with the pretty much constant bickering, singing, beat boxing, whistling, Donald Duck impressions and owl noises, the eldest Scoundrel being responsible for the latter two.  I need to have time out from them for an hour or so.  I retreat to my bedroom and stare out of the window or close my eyes and chill out.  The deal is they can play on the Xbox during that time as long as they don’t scream when Ronaldo/Scoundrel scores a goal on Fifa.  Obviously, this doesn’t always go to plan and World War 3 may erupt if someone feels they have been robbed of two minutes of game time by their evil sibling.  But you got to give these things a go…


Fenella/Me (Photo Credit Cosgrove Hall Films)

If I scorn a quiet hour in favour of, for instance, doing the hoovering or some such masochistic venture, I turn into Fenella the angry Welsh Kettle Witch from Chorlton and the Wheelies.  I make rash decisions like banning the Scoundrels from their devices for 24 hours which only makes my own life more miserable, not theirs.  Or I yell at The Hair about how grumpy I am and how I want to hurt people with pointy sticks.  Or I weep into my pillow mumbling nonsense and begging to go to bed at 7pm.



So, here’s my 5 Top Tips for surviving half term with a chronic illness:


  • Plan Ahead – there are loads of free and simple stuff to do. The internet is bursting with ideas.


  • Rope in some help – family, friends, any help you can muster. Next door’s pet can be a good hour of entertainment for the kids.  And your neighbour might appreciate their pup/cat/gerbil being played with if they are out at work. (Do this safely though, I don’t want lawsuits because you all jumped over the fence and tried to play ball with a savage guard dog.)


  • Lower your expectations – let the house go to pot. Don’t feel like every day has to be filled with a non-stop schedule.  Let the kids entertain themselves sometimes.  We used to have “Do whatever you like afternoon” which excluded tv and devices.  Naked bouncing on a washing up liquid and water covered trampoline anyone?* ** Bit chilly in the February half term, but you get the general idea.


  • Get some rest – build in rest days, if you’ve got a full-on day make sure the next day is at home. Simple but it works.


  • Be kind to yourself – life is not a competition. Your mobility issues and symptoms are real.  Do what you can and don’t beat yourself up.  And don’t think because you don’t have a lot of money/big house/endless energy you will ruin your children’s lives.  I have friends who are lucky enough to have all those things, the house with a swimming pool, luxury cars on the drive, fabulous holidays – their kids still say stuff like “You’re ruining my life” or “You’re so boring” or “We never do anything”.  And it’s not that they are brats – it’s just what kids say.  All of ‘em display ungrateful little git attitudes at some point.  It’s their job.


One day at a time people, one day at a time.


* Be assured I did not join in with the naked bouncing.  I just watched from a safe distance.

** Please note there is a certain level of risk involved in this activity.  I cannot be held responsible for what happens in your garden.

My Funny Valentine

Aaaah, it’s that day of the year where many single and married women (and I daresay men too) around the world wonder what has happened to romance.  I know there will be some smug ones among you whose other halves have gone the whole shebang with flowers and chocolates and candlelit meals for two… I can only imagine what that is like.  The Hair took me out for Valentine’s.  Once.  I’ve never seen a man look so bored.  This evening we will have a lovely meal cooked by Yours Truly, I’ll get myself a nice bottle of something fizzy and drink it all to myself whilst he goes out to assess a football coach who is going through his coaching badge for the FA.


I find solace in the fact that despite being the Patron Saint of Lovers, St Valentine didn’t have much fun either.  Legend has it that he was martyred for secretly marrying Roman soldiers (to other people, he didn’t marry loads of them himself) and refusing to renounce the Christian faith.  These shenanigans got right up the nose of the Emperor Claudius II who ordered him flogged, stoned and beheaded.  You don’t see that on the cards in Tesco do you?


Pope Gelasius, who bestowed the sainthood on old Val, decided the pagan feast day Lupercalia which was celebrated on February 14th and when everyone partied in honour of the Roman god of fertility, would now become St Valentine’s Day.  And behold, a massive commercial behemoth was born, a day where unrequited love and loneliness are highlighted almost to the levels experienced at Christmas.


I know I sound like a Scrooge, or the St Valentine’s Day equivalent, but I know there will be a lot of people who will be experiencing the day without their loved ones for many reasons.  It will be my mum’s thirteenth Valentine without my dad.  Soft bugger that he was, he would usually get her a soppy card and some flowers, although she’ll be the first to admit, these public displays of affection only really blossomed late in the day.  It still aches though to be reminded he isn’t here.


So may I suggest a bit of self-love if you find yourself lacking in the romance stakes.  I have a date with the amazing Emi Howe of Helsby Holistics who will work her massage magic whilst I relax on a hot water bed.  This will leave me feeling like I am floating on air and unable to string a sentence together as I will have turned into a massive jelly.  If you’ve never heard of a hot water bed massage you need to watch this.  It’s a little film I made for Emi all about it .


If this isn’t your idea of heaven (in which case we can longer be friends) here are a few ideas that may float your boat a little better.


Watch your favouritest film in your jammies.  Wine and chocs optional.  But don’t let it turn into a Bridget Jones moment…


Treat yourself to your beverage of choice in your café of choice.  Cake is not optional and must be consumed.


Buy yourself some flowers – go for tulips or peonies, not roses.  And not from the local garage either.


If you still feel glum, I’m with Miranda Hart when it comes to the feast day of saint of lovers.  Over to you Miranda…

I don’t know the full history of St Valentine but I do know it was a feast day to celebrate love and affection, not a commercial day to make anyone feel lesser, isolated or alone. So I shall be on twitter all day to chat to anyone feeling lonely. Please RT #Hartsvalentineday




And remember, it’s just one day. Don’t get your knickers in a twist about it.



I’m not The Right Fit


I’ve just got a knock back for a job.  I really fancied this job too.  It was a post as a part time Admin Assistant for a charity.  A really great charity locally.  Apparently I’m not The Right Fit at this time.  So I’m wondering, does that mean I might be The Right Fit at some random point in the future?  Or is my Fit something that is fixed, rigid?  What exactly is The Right Fit anyway?  I had all the necessary AND desirable qualifications and experience.  What you might call The Right Fit.

I’ve never had to job hunt before.  It’s all new to me at the grand old age of forty… **coughs says something unintelligible** .  In my previous incarnation as a globe-trotting telly type I just kind of wafted between jobs.  I was like Tarzan, swinging through the jungle of vacancies, grabbing the the best looking vine, beating my chest whilst letting out a cry of triumph.  I actually said ‘No’ to a few things.  How flippant is that?

But now I am not the Right Fit.  They didn’t even know I had MS!!

Not The Right Fit…

OK I’m rambling now, but really… if you’re going to turn someone down give them some honest feedback.

“We read your CV and frankly you’re completely crap.  Why the hell did you bother applying?

“You are clearly a numpty who would last five minutes on the job before you got bored.”

“Your CV scared us.  You are clearly too qualified for this job and better than all of us put together.  Please go somewhere else so we won’t feel intimidated.”

I bumped into a friend yesterday who was beaten to a Midday Assistant’s job by a Grandma.  Apparently, Granny came across better and had more experience.

“More experience of what exactly?” asked my perplexed friend.  “Of watching children eat?”

The reason I’m job-hunting is to keep The Hair happy (I have news about The Hair…that’s another blog post though).  Well actually that’s not strictly true.  We tend to have this conversation regularly:

The Hair:  We could do with some more money coming in.

Me:  ::Looking around the room for help::

The Hair:  Have you sent your novel out to any publishers yet?

Me: ::Looking for emergency escape route::

The Hair:  ::Running his fingers through his luscious locks in exasperation::  Your writing is the world’s best kept secret

Me:  I’ll just get a job it’s easier

The Hair:  You can’t get a job, you need to pick The Scoundrels up from school, taxi them to hockey, football, futsal, hockey, football, futsal, football and hockey.  And Scouts.  And the dog would be left all alone all day and that’s not fair.  We got a dog because you would be working from home.  Writing your book.

Me: Well Elizabeth Gilbert worked in a bar before she was a famous writer.

The Hair:  She didn’t have MS.


I love my writing, but the pressure to earn a JK Rowling income from it makes me want to run away.  I might get a Christmas job in Tesco.  That’ll keep him quiet for a bit…





Did I miss anything?

I’ve had a bit of a hiatus over the summer.  This is due to a combination of having The Scoundrels at home for the holidays and seeing my arse about many things in life.

I also took a break from social media and discovered that I get so much more done when I’m not watching cat videos.  I love and hate Facebook in equal measure.  I looked at some posts of families having  A Lovely Time and muttered bitterly to myself, because I KNOW that they are really sat weeping in a corner, with a bottle of gin, next to a chuff chart etched with their own blood, counting the days until the kids go back to school.

This was pretty much my summer;

  1. I dyed the boys’ hair
  2. We had Days Out
  3. I spent an inordinate amount of time at skate parks

Obviously none of these things went smoothly…

The hair dye I thought was semi-permanent was not.  It was permanent.  Permanent.  It took two goes with L’Oreal Natural Brown to restore some semblance of order.  Actually it did little to disguise the fact one had previously had red hair and the other one purple.

Days out were either in the hissing down rain or spending a fortune at indoor activity venues because of the hissing down rain, or involved them being utterly bored and moaning about how evil I was making them do something that did not involve technology.  The rest of the time I spent hours sitting in skate parks around the North West of England watching The Scoundrels avoid certain death by a whisker.  It was so bloody stressful.

All this meant that by the time September rolled around I was broken.  Into many, many, many tiny pieces.  Teeny tiny fragments of weeping mess and snot.  I’m just about recovered.  It’s not been pretty.

One positive has emerged over the summer break though.  The good thing about The Scoundrels getting older is that they entertain themselves so much more, so physically I’m not so worn out.  The bad thing is they need ferrying everywhere so cognitively I really struggled.   There are occasions where I have to get friends to collect the kids from school or various sporting activities because I can’t remember how to drive or if I can remember how to drive I can’t remember where I’m going.  One of the buggerations of this sodding illness is that I have to go through a medical every three years to make sure I’m fit to drive. It’s a pain in the arse if I’m honest.

It’s all the more reason I need to make shedloads of money so I can hire a chauffeur.

So do excuse me, I need to find a really well paid job that I can do from home between the hours of 10.00am and 11.30am, term time only, with 6 weeks paid holiday.  Should be a cinch 😉