Banter with Diversity
It’s got to be said, there are worse ways to spend a morning than chatting to Diversity.
The dance troupe from Wickford won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent, and is starring in Robin Hood and the Merry Men at the Cliffs Pavilion. And the group, which includes Dancing on Ice’s Ashley Banjo and the Greatest Dancer’s Jordon Banjo, really are Essex’s own version of merry men…
So, why are you back again guys?
Ashley Banjo: Why not, that’s the question. Why not? I feel like last year [Diversity starred in Aladdin at the Cliffs Pavilion] was so amazing. Not only was it really fun, it sold in record numbers and people really enjoyed it.
So, we were asked to come back again and it was a case of why not, it was great.
What are you most looking forward to?
Perri Kiely: They do really good cinnamon swirls downstairs!
Jordon Banjo: Ohhh gawwwd. Yeah. Treat yourself Katy, they do really good toffee cake down there too.
Cute collab: Emma Bridgewater and Russell Hobbs
It’s no secret I’m rather a big fan of Emma Bridgewater.
So it seems something of serendipity that a new Emma Bridgewater and Russell Hobbs collaboration is launching on my birthday (August 15th for those who don’t have it on their calendar!) Continue reading
1am finish: Marco and me
“My mother didn’t raise me to be a c***”
So said Marco Pierre White as he draped his suit jacket around my shoulders and beckoned over a waiter to top up my glass of Prosecco.
This wasn’t what I was expecting when I set out that evening to interview the man who once made his protege Gordon Ramsey cry.
I was at Marco’s in Brentwood – the restaurant which launched in December and serves a mix of Italian-inspired dishes and American classics – to have a brief chat with the 57-year-old chef, while he was in Essex.
I expected a difficult, challenging man. I thought I’d be granted mere minutes with him. Let’s face it, this was the fiery fella who once cut a hole in the back of the chef whites of one staff member who dared to complain about the heat in his kitchen. He HANDED BACK his three Michelin stars after five years and retired from the kitchen – despite being first British chef to be awarded three – and the youngest (age 32 in 1994) in Michelin history.
So, I did not expect to still be chatting to him about family, children, and comfort food, six hours – and several drinks – later, in the wee small hours at the spot, just off the M25.
It’s something that has absolutely baffled me for a while.
And it transpires I’m not the only one.
More than 140,000 people – me included – have signed a petition demanding that the Government’s 15 hours of free childcare starts when a child is nine months – rather than when they are three years old.
Click here to sign the petition
I have tried and tried to understand why this isn’t already the case – but it defies logic.
Think about it.
Statutory maternity pay ends typically when your child is nine months.
Then, if you return to work, obviously SOMEONE is going to have to look after your baby.
And yet there is no financial help with this – until your child is three.
That’s more than two years, where you’re looking at paying hundreds of pounds in childcare (FYI typical childcare costs are about £1,000 a month) so you can leave your child with someone else while you work.
Is it any wonder that many parents are actually forced into giving up work – simply because the cost of childcare outstrips their salary?
Sonny Jim: My number 1 priority
A few weeks back I got headhunted for a new job (aside from being Sonny Jim’s mummy I’m also editor of Essex Living magazine.)
It was a great offer and I was incredibly flattered (stuff like that never happens to me!) but it strangely reinforced just how much life seems to change when you become a mother.
Pre-Sonny Jim my priorities on the work front were (perhaps, obviously) the money, the perks, how much fun I could have with the job, how it would progress my career, and if it was a good chance to challenge myself.
When chatting to this new potential employer, I found myself asking all kinds of different questions.
Obviously the money was still important (they might be small, but my GOD children are not cheap to keep!) but I was now questioning working from home policies rather than champagne allowances (yes, I did once have a job where buying fizz on a Tuesday was a legitimate expense!) I was worrying about my office hours fitting around preschool opening hours. About flexible working. About security.
Godmothers: Sonny Jim with my girls
Sonny-Jim has two godmothers. They are two of my closest of friends.
One is an incredible single mum to an almost 17-year-old lad.
The other is mother to three boys – but her middle son, Alfie, was stillborn.
Ashingdon’s Emma Cox was pregnant with Alfie at the same time I was expecting Sonny Jim. But as I cuddled my three-month-old tot, she gave birth to a sweet baby boy, who never cried and never opened his eyes.
This was almost three years ago. And I have been in awe of her ever since.
Losing a child must be the worst thing a mother can experience. It literally breaks hearts.
And for someone to be able to take that tragedy and try and do some good, takes utterly incredible strength.
Since Alfie’s birth, Emma, and her husband Danny, have raised thousands of pounds for Southend Hospital – the place where she gave birth to all three of her boys.
And, to mark what should be Alfie’s third birthday, she has organised – for the second year now – a fabulous charity ball.
My not-so-little-boy: Soon to be a threenager
Next week my baby is going to be three.
As he keeps telling me, “I not a baby, I a big boy mummy.”
In theory I should be happy to say goodbye to the “terrible” twos, but I’m not. They really haven’t been that terrible at all.
Yes, the potty training has been trying. Yes, the end-of-the-world tears at the most random of things is tiring. Yes, the fact I can recite almost word-for-word entire episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine and Fireman Sam is probably not exactly ideal. But before we enter the threenager stage (I’m so not ready!) here are some
reasons I love the “terrible twos”.
All the feels: Only last week for the very first time Sonny Jim said to me utterly unprompted and out of nowhere, “my love you SO much mummy.” (Heart melting much?) He also tells me that “my happy now,” shows genuine concern for the feelings of others (including the trains on Thomas, “Gordon saaad mummy, he needs a rub now”) and hugs you, just because he wants to.