Thursday, 23 April 2015

I'm a single parent. Who should I vote for?

Last week, those fabulous people at Gingerbread published an article saying that single parents could hold the key to the vast majority of marginal seats in the coming election.

Reading this article did two things; firstly, it made me feel powerful. Me, a single parent, usually placed at the bottom of the scum bucket - but now, potentially able to change the way we do things. And secondly, it piqued my interest in politics. I realised that historically I'd always voted for the 'nicest' candidate, or the leader I liked the best, whose policies perhaps I didn't wholeheartedly disagree with.

This time, I thought, if my vote is going to count, then I'm going to find out more.

So I sat down and I read the manifestos of the big three, plus UKIP and The Green Party. I read them specifically from the point of view of a single parent, and the policies that would affect me. Personally.

Here's what I thought.

1. You can hardly tell the difference


Honestly - you could cover up the names of the parties on each of the big three manifestos, and you almost wouldn't be able to tell which document belonged to which party. They're so similar.

For example, I took a look at what they're all planning to do for us parents in terms of childcare. The latest research from Gingerbread indicates that half of single parents have had to borrow to fund childcare costs - so it's a huge issue for us (and pretty much all parents, actually).

These are my 'highly intellectual'* findings.


*finger in the air

Conservative, Labour and the Lib Dems are all diddling about saying pretty much the same thing. UKIP are ignoring the issue. But The Greens! The Greens are suggesting something marvellously radical; don't start school formally until seven. And until then, if you want, you can send your children to 'early education and childcare', which will be free.

YES Greens! Having seen both my sons frustrated by not being able to hold a pen properly, aged 5, and not being able to sit still for more than five minutes, and not having the freedom to move around and play - like little boys should - I applaud you.

More info on starting school a bit later in life here: https://fullfact.org/factchecks/school_starting_age_letter_telegraph-29195

By the way, one thing missing from ALL the manifestos was any mention of help with childcare or flexible working practices in the school holidays. In other words, help for parents with older children. Which is a bit of a bummer, really.

2. Education

So my kids are 14 and 12. They go to a bog standard state comprehensive - an academy. I worry about the standard of teaching there. I worry that the teachers are consumed with stress. I worry that my children have too many tests. I also worry that my children won't be able to afford to go to university. Worry, worry worry...

The big parties say a lot about education, so I'll pare it down and give you the crux:

The Conservatives appear to be clawing back the damage (actual and perceived) that Michael Gove did to the education system. They pledge to reduce the time that teachers spend on paperwork, and they will reward 'good' teachers, and support them by setting up an Independent College of Teaching.

However, they will still allow non-qualified teachers to teach in our schools, and they still support tuition fees for higher education.

Labour says that all teachers will need to be qualified. They also talk about supporting an Independent College of Teaching, and they'll get rid of Free schools. It looks like they want to regain control. And - good news - they'll cut tuition fees by a third.

The Lib Dems will also insist that schools employ qualified teachers and will establish a 'Royal College of Teachers' to oversee their development - a great idea this, considering that 40% of teachers leave the profession after just one year. No mention of rescinding tuition fees, though.

The Greens want to get rid of grammar schools and return to the comprehensive system. Class sizes of 20. Huge funding increase.Support and value for teachers. More stuff outdoors. Abolition of SATs. Looking to absorb private schools into the state system.

YES, GREENS!

I'm afraid I fell asleep before reaching UKIP's policy.


3. Money

I haven't got much. And I don't really want the Government taking more. So what are they all saying in terms of taxes, benefits and bills?

Tax


Here's a summary:


Honestly, The Greens' suggestion needs to be read in full. Take a look at their manifesto, here. The more I read it, the more brilliant I think it is.

I couldn't find much mention of tax credits in the manifestos (apart from Labour, who promised not to cut them - bravo), but most of them talked about general reforms to the Welfare System. The Greens want to cut child tax credits completely (gulp) but are saying they'll raise Child Benefit to £40 per week, per child.

Other stuff


Some of the parties mentioned other money-saving policies: The Conservatives will promote competition amongst Gas/Electric companies to keep prices down. Labour go a step further and promise to freeze energy bills until 2017. Rail prices will also be frozen. And Labour also pledge to give a million interest free loans for energy home improvements. The Lib Dems will give young people (aged 16-21) a discount bus pass.

And UKIP will take the VAT off sanitary towels.


4. Women, Cycling and other stuff

A couple of the parties talked about women. The Conservatives stated that the gender pay gap is down to a record low (but still exists). But it's the Greens who come up trumps once again: they have a whole section on Women in their manifesto, and say, amongst other thing, that they will ensure equal pay, will tackle media sexism and will also make it illegal to stop someone from breastfeeding in public.

I was also interested in what the parties had to say about cycling, which I think we all should do more of. The Conservatives surprised me here, pledging £200m to make cycling safer. I couldn't find any funding commitment in Labour's manifesto, but the Lib Dems were vocal about it, saying they'll support the Get Britain Cycling report, investing in bike lanes and other road safety measures.

The Greens are pro cycling, as expected of course. And UKIP, the funny old grandad character of the manifestos who occasionally spouts nonsense from his armchair, mentions nothing about cycling and yet promises to care for 'classic cars'.

Which was when I stopped reading.

Things that I liked: The Conservatives are proposing a Blue Belt to protect our marine habitats. The Lib Dems are planting a tree for every child born. And the prize for best quote has to go to The Greens, who wrote, simply and elegantly,

"We should recognise that not everything that is valuable has a price attached to it."

Every party has something to say. But the devil is in the detail, and actually, it may be worth ignoring the spin and the make-up and the bedazzle - and read about how they are proposing to change your world.




Sunday, 12 April 2015

Lies and truths you tell your children

My boys are 12 and 14. I lie to them on a daily basis. It is the only way I can navigate safely through the day without us all stoving each other to death.

Here are my top five lies (cue Top of the Pops music):

1. I love you both equally

I do love you both. But the truth is, I love you in quite different ways. I can't compare the love I have for you both; it's like comparing apples with pears. And just when I think I have a handle on the love that I feel for you, something happens, and it changes, or flexes.

At the risk of inducing vomit, imagine I've got four buckets, two for each son. One bucket each is full of a mother's love. That mother's love fills each bucket, right to the top. It's always there, right to the brim. Never moves.

But as well as a mother's love, there's a bucket for day-to-day love. Whilst a mother's love stays constant, day-to-day love fluctuates. One day, Teen might do something thoughtful, just little, but thoughtful, and my heart will sort of bloom. The bucket will fill up. Then again, Tween might see that I'm upset, and put his hand on my shoulder and look at me, and I'll weep with love - into his bucket, natch.

Or another day, I'll watch them both fighting, and lying, and those huge buckets of love will suddenly be filled with effing pinholes and that sodding love will make an irritating wet patch on the floor.

I do love you both. But your buckets go up and down.

2. I haven't put green things in your dinner

I have, actually. Orange things too. I've just chopped them up really small and smothered them in tomato sauce and cheese. Occasionally, to make sure they disappear altogether, I put them in the blender.

And when you eat them, unknowingly, I do a tiny fist pump under the table.*

*true

3. The internet shuts down after 10pm

There's absolutely no point in taking your phones to be bed with you because, in this street, they shut the internet off at 10pm. FACT.

Oh, and by the way, when I said I cared that you were upset that Tween had spent 5 minutes longer on the xbox than you, I lied.

In fact, in all matters internet-related, I'm lying to you. I don't trust you with it and I'll do my damnedest to stop you accessing it without me looking over your shoulder.

(I know, I'm being ridiculous.)

4. The 'c' word is 'crap'

It's not. I know you know what it is. But let's just all pretend that mummy's little lie is true for now, please.

5. I HATE cooking for you

When I've had a bad day, I will moan about making your tea for you. But the truth is, I love creating something for you to eat; it's a sort of fundamental mum thing, I think. A need to feed you properly to help you grow. I know that what I put in your mouths has a direct effect on how you behave and develop. I love mealtimes, whether we're sitting at the table or watching the telly together, tea on laps. I love talking to you when we're eating. I know it annoys you, but I love to hear about your day.

You are are part of me. And always will be.

_______________

Of course, it's not all lies. I mix the truth in there occasionally to confuse them. Keep them on their toes. Here are my top five family truths:

1. I don't care how you do in your test - just do your best

Honestly. I don't care if you come top or bottom. I just want you to work hard, do your best - that will be plenty good enough. Everyone has talents in some areas, and are shit in others. I bet Einstein wasn't that hot at rugby. Or Picasso at Biology. Or Brunel at forward rolls.

Tell me your test results. I will hug you.*

*Unless you haven't revised. Then I'll give you a kick up the arse.

2. I want you to be happy

I try so hard to make you both happy. You don't see it. Or maybe you see it, but you don't think about it. This house I bought - I bought it for you. It's near the school, you have a bedroom each, the front room is yours. The park is close by for you. I take you to places to widen your view on the world. I want you to come away from your computers and experience music, and the theatre - things that have given me so much happiness in the past. I want to give you what you want but equally I want you to learn the importance of earning your keep.

I want you to learn that love and laughter trump money, every time.

3. I love you both, and am soooo proud of you

When I say 'I love you', I mean it. I know I say it every day, and you probably don't even hear it any more, but when those words leave my mouth, I'm feeling it. That mother's love bucket is always full. And whenever you do something amazing, be it a tiny gesture of generosity, or a fantastic achievement at school, my heart bursts. I want to tell everyone how special you are. (I won't, because then no one will like me - including you.)

4. No girlfriend (or boyfriend) will be good enough for you

This is just a warning shot to your prospective partners. I am going to give them a really hard time. I will ask for CVs, references, some sort of dowry. There will be much questioning (interrogation). And only if they get 80% in the IQ test will they be allowed through to the next stage (bridge building with straws).

Oh, and if you are gay, please know this. I will be delighted. Please don't be afraid to tell me. I will support you however I can.

5. When you lie, and fight, and cheat, it disappoints me - but I will always (see 3.)

Those arguments that you have. When you scream 'NOT FAIR!', when you swear at each other, and come to blows. I hate them. They make me very sad indeed. I never know exactly who started it, but I assume that you both played a part. I know that you both lie to me when you say what the other has done. You are both shit liars (thank God) and I still recognise that uncomfortable stance, or that itchy nose, or that looking away.

Please don't lie in life. I mean, with things that matter. If you cock up, admit it, and do your best to fix it. Everyone makes mistakes. Even Olie Murs. Even The Queen. Even me. It took me a long time to learn that being truthful about it earns you much more respect than trying to cover your tracks.

But for now, when I see your lying, cheating faces, know this: my bucket's still full.

I love you.


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Thursday, 2 April 2015

My in-laws and the effect they had on my marriage

I will say this up-front. My ex in-laws are not bad people. In fact, they are very good people; church-goers, volunteers, letter-writers. They talk about forgiveness. And they've gone through a lot of personal grief in their time.

I recognise all of this and tried - really tried - to love them just as I'd seen my friends' relationships blossom with their in-laws. But I couldn't do it.

The first time I met them, almost twenty years ago, I was very nervous. My ex and I went to their house for a day's visit. Lunch, and a walk. Nothing too difficult.  When we arrived, I'd prepared myself for the raft of questions, and already pumped my ex for background info so I could take an interest in their work, hobbies...even their car. This was not going to be awkward.

But when we arrived, it was...well, weird. I was ignored. His Mum was so pleased to see her son, that she dragged him into the kitchen to ask all about what he'd been up to. I went to sit in the lounge with his Dad where, after ten minutes of me asking questions, I ran dry, and we edged into uncomfortable silence. After another five minutes, he turned the telly on.

This pattern was repeated until we had our children, whereupon my mother-in-law's focus was drawn entirely to them, and even my ex felt left out. A visit there left me feeling entirely redundant as a mother.

It was not just the lack of social interaction that made me feel awkward. Their relationship with each other was, I felt, stuck in the 1950s. She would run around making dinner, washing up, tidying, offering drinks; he would sit in his chair, mostly silent, occasionally telling extremely long-winded stories. Quite early on, he told me about an interview he'd had, with a female interviewer. He had been rejected, he felt, solely because she was a 'woman who hated men'. He had no idea that I'd worked in recruitment for ten years (because he hadn't asked). Perhaps if he'd known, he would have thought twice about telling me what I knew was a crock of absolute shit. He hadn't got the job because he'd come across as an arrogant, ignorant, idiot.

My ex made it worse. One year I'd spent a lot of time researching a birthday present for his Dad. I bought it, wrapped it, wrote the card. And when we gave it to him, my ex said to his Dad, "I chose it because I thought you'd like it."  I thought I'd misheard him. He was telling his Dad that he'd chosen it?

It seems like such a little thing, but it made me so angry. That he hadn't had the good grace to say, 'look, Lottie bought it because she's better at thinking about this stuff than me. She is trying her best to build a relationship with you.'

I asked him why he'd done it. He shrugged.

Back in the privacy of our home, I tried to explain how I felt about my in-laws to my ex, but of course, he couldn't (or wouldn't) give me the time of day. They're trying, he'd say.

And actually, he was right. His mum, in particular, did - and still does - try. She still writes to me and even sends me little gifts for my birthday. She is actually very, very kind. But her upbringing and her social experiences have been very different to mine, and at the time I just couldn't get a handle on how she, and particularly my father-in-law, operated. And now I feel very guilty at how I felt when I knew it was visiting time. How I sometimes feigned illness so as not to go. And how sometimes the stress of going actually did make me ill. It was totally ridiculous and I should have just got over myself.

My relationship with my in-laws didn't affect my marriage. But seeing how they were, together, as a unit, did. My husband saw nothing wrong with his Mum running around after his Dad. He didn't criticise his Dad in the slightest. It was normal to him, expected, felt right. And this scared me.

Because what I saw was us, in thirty years time.

I didn't want that in a relationship. When I'm old, I want to be with someone I love, and work with them as a team. I want balance in who does the chores. I want to give support to my partner when he needs it, and I'd expect support in return. I do not want to be treated like a princess; but neither do I want to be Cinderella.

I want to be like Kirsty and Phil, Miller and Hardy, Mr Carson and Mrs Hughes. I want to work hard and, when I've finished, put my feet up on my partner and say - 'tickle them please'. And he would say, 'Of course.'

And then, after a good tickle, he'd say, ' Shall I cook tea?'




Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Telling the truth in your blog

I have loved being an anonymous blogger. It has meant that I have been able to talk about my children, my love life, my ex husband, my work...all absolutely freely, without bars or limits or censorship. I have written one or two posts which I know may be considered mildly offensive, but I don't write them to be offensive -  it's just the way that the words form themselves in my brain, and drip out of my fingers, a bit swearily, onto the page.

I generally write because I feel I have something quite important, or vaguely amusing, or perhaps even a bit irritating on my mind. Nothing more than that.

But trouble is coming. I have stumped up a relationship with a fellow Twitter user (let's call him Bellend) and worse: he has seen me without a bag over my head. He knows my real name. He even (shudder) knows where I live.

And this immediately changes things.

Recently I wrote about some issues we'd had with a condom. I didn't write it to show off that we'd been having sex (honestly! Oh maybe a little bit...); much more about how stupid I felt and how horrible it was to go shopping for the morning after pill. When you're middle aged. And should know better, perhaps.

But because I wasn't quite anonymous anymore, someone who knew my partner contacted me on Twitter to rant at me. Someone I didn't know from Adam - which was pretty horrible, out of the blue, and because my skin is so thin, it hit me like a train.

A couple of people on Twitter have unfollowed because...actually, I'm not entirely sure why, because since they've unfollowed, their DM has disappeared... but I think it's because Bellend and I have been very (too?) open about our relationship. I find this odd. I mean, if they were our friends in real life, would they withdraw if they found out that we'd fallen in love? I doubt it. They'd probably invite us in for a glass of red and a celebratory olive or two.

I understand that the weird transparency of our relationship doesn't sit particularly well with my (at least part) anonymity. It probably feels like I'm either sharing way too much, or bizarrely too little. It doesn't sit right with me, and puts me in a bit of a pickle: do I 'come out', guns blazing, and share all, Katie Hopkins-stylee? Or do I drop back into the shady depths of relative anonymity and, for example, refuse to meet the new in-laws - or only meet them whilst wearing a sombrero and a heavy, woollen scarf covering my face?

Tiny bit odd?

I'm not ready to bare all just yet. I'm enjoying hiding under a blanket, thanks very much. So I'll just carry on in the half light. Until my cover's blown.


And then the fun began...



Thursday, 26 March 2015

Embarrassing your children

It was Tween's Parents' Evening last night. The ex had showed no interest in coming (as per), and so it was just me and Tween, the terrible two.

As we were leaving, Tween caught my arm. Looking me straight in the eyes, he said, "Mum. Please don't embarrass me tonight."

And so. The moment had arrived. I was used to Teen (who is 14) walking ten paces behind me, and hissing at me when I dared to talk in public above the 'whispering' threshold; but Tween? Outside of the house, Tween had always laughed like a drain with me, no holds barred; he had danced on the pavement; he even, once, took his trousers down in a shopping centre for a dare.

But now, he too has arrived in the Teenage Sulking Pit, where he thinks that all eyes are on him and laughter, it seems, is not the best medicine.

It was with a very heavy heart then, that I left the house with Tween in tow (literally, as he walked five paces behind me all the way there). And as we waited in the hall, and I dared to talk and - yes, belly laugh - with other parents, Tween stared at me with all the hate that he could possibly muster. And when I got the timings wrong and mistakenly sat down ahead of another parent, Tween couldn't stand the embarrassment, and disappeared to the toilets to calm down.

I knew it was coming. And I do understand (my God, I even just about remember) that when you're 12, adults are the friends of the devil. There's a really lovely article by Adam Gopnik which explains that, unfortunately, our whole generation are destined to be embarrassing and ridiculous in the eyes of our tweenagers - partly because we still think we're cool. At this stage, our parents had left their cool days behind and were firmly planted in the 'building patios' and 'having dinner parties' territory. We, however, are watching The Voice and downloading everything by Will.I.Am in the hope that we will like it. (Generally, we don't.)

I think I'm cool. I mean, what is not cool about me? I wear skater dresses and converse trainers. I'm a whizz on Social Media. I don't like wearing coats. And I know who Rita Ora is.

Oh yes, and I'm 44. And I like Oli Murs. Oh - and I talk loudly, fart in public, tell shit jokes, hug my children constantly, live in a tiny house, struggle with gadgets, wear a hi-viz jacket, listen to Wham.

Ah.

If you have small children, I've drawn up some helpful guidelines to help you prepare for the inevitable.

When I'm 50, my children will be adults. Tween will be stressing his way through the final year of his 'A' levels. Teen will have arisen from his pupa to be a fully-fledged carbon copy of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, and will be studying Physics with similarly uber narrowly bright people.

But when they are home, and knocking their heads on my low ceilings, I hope that they will dance with me again in the kitchen. Watch shit TV with me. Even be seen outside with me.

Because I am already missing it.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Monday, 23 March 2015

Getting help from your children

It's come to the point now when my kids, aged 12 and 14, should bogging well help me around the house.

Thing is, I'm not sure how to get the wheels turning. Most of the time, they are lazy shite-bags, who can only be arsed to do anything at all after I've had an emotional hissy-fit and taken to my bed. This might result in some sheepish loading of the dishwasher, the occasional bed-make or, if I'm lucky, some extremely half-hearted hoovering.

I know, I know - this sad state of affairs is all my fault. If only I'd trained them correctly from the off, refusing to do things for them, enabling them to be proactive. But I didn't do it. Perhaps because I thought it was my role to be skivvy. Or perhaps because I felt that I didn't have the time to show them what to do.  I know; I've scored a shabby two out of ten on the parenting scale.

Anyway, the other day, I had a bright idea. They don't currently get any allowance (when I split from their father, I told them all bets were off - and pocket money was off, too) but now I'm more settled, I could afford to give them a small amount, every month. In return for (some tiny) chores.

But when I broached the subject (how about helping me around the house in return for COLD HARD CASH?), their response was muted, at best. "Well, what would we have to do?" mumbled one. "I'm not sure I've got the time", stuttered the other, lying prostrate on the sofa, xbox controller in his hand. And then, almost in sync, both of them, "We don't really need any money."

WHAT? They DON'T NEED ANY MONEY? This was something I was unfamiliar with. I could cope with their laziness (been there), their ability to wheedle out of work (been there), their lying (been there so many times I practically lived there for a while), but this? THIS? Not needing money? This was beyond me. When I was young, money (LITERALLY*) made the world go round. I washed cars, did paper rounds, babysat, stole from my brother (yes, I knew where the key was to his NatWest globe piggy bank and I raided it for 50p once. I'm sorry. But now I've confessed, I feel an awful lot better).

The truth is, they don't need any money because I pay for their Xbox subscription, I pay for the odd PC game that they want, and I pay for Netflix. I buy footballs and shoes and hockey kit. They usually get books from the library but when they want something special, I get it for them, too.

No more. The rota is drawn up (including such helpful gems as "check lawn for cat poo" and "clean toilet - and I mean properly, not just poking it with a loo brush and giving it a flush") and a monthly amount has been agreed. I must try really hard to make them do it properly, and not be soft and paying them anyway, even if they do a bad job. Tricky. But if I can make it work, it will be fabulous for me, as I'll do less around the house - and great for them, as they'll get the double whammy of learning what it means to look after your home, as well as managing their own budget.

Wish us all luck. I've got a feeling we'll need it.



*not literally of course. the sun's gravitational pull makes the world go round, as we all know.


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Poo

Having a poo. We all do it. And most of us do it at least three times a week. We do it more often than going to the gym or to the cinema; probably more often than washing our hair.

We need to do it. If we didn't, our bottoms would puff up like balloons, and eventually pop. (Or something.) And some days we need to do it more quickly than others - like that time a couple of days ago when I ran to the front of the queue, knees together, in Waitrose loos, shouting 'GANGWAY - MY PANTS ARE ABOUT TO EXPLODE!'.

Sorry about that.

Having a good poo makes us happy. I've drawn up my own, personal, happy scale.



Yes. You read it correctly. Having a good poo is - just for that moment - better than being in love, having wonderful sex or even winning £10 on the lottery. It really is.

And when we can't do it - When Poo Goes Wrong (great title for a film starring Jason Statham, perhaps), we get depressed. Or perhaps, when we are depressed, poo goes wrong - the two things seems inextricably linked.

What I don't understand about having a Number 2:  why we don't talk about it more?  We all do it. So why don't we shout about it?

Even the subject of having a wee gets freely talked about round here. I frequently bemoan my lack of pelvic floor ("NO I'M NOT GOING ON THE SODDING TRAMPOLINE"), and saying "I need a wee" to your work colleagues seems somehow more acceptable than, "I'm dying for a dump."

But why? Why don't we talk about it? I'm wondering if it's because it feels like the ultimate personal experience. For example, to have the best poo, not only do I have to be alone in the bathroom, but I'm happiest if the house is empty. In fact, if everyone in the entire street could just bugger off for half an hour, all the better. There needs to be reading material. If anyone does have the impertinence to be in the room next door, I will ask them to put the radio on, or sing, or much better - just piss off.

Why is it so important to get it right? Because, for me, it can be a euphoric experience. If it's a good poo - complete, smooth, medium sized -  the process of pushing it out is... well, it's sodding amazing. And when it's out, I not only feel ten stone lighter physically - but somehow mentally, too. When I'm constipated, and I feel - well, like shit - and no matter how much rocking backwards and forwards I do on the loo, only the tiniest nut comes out (if I'm lucky) - then pooing can be a grim....job.

Is poo one of the last big taboos? If so, why? Most of us think of our crap as disgusting, smelly, bacteria-ridden, messy stuff, not even to be looked at in the toilet bowl. We'd rather lick the pavement than our own poo. And yet, eating your own poo won't harm you (after all, it's just come out of you, so you're not adding anything new to the mix) whereas conversely, that shiny pavement you've just licked will probably give you toxioplasmosis and lots more besides.  And in fact, the medical benefits of poo are only just beginning to be uncovered; scientists are looking into the beneficial effects of poo transplant, where crap from a healthy individual is transfused into a poorly person's gut. Apparently it can perform better than antibiotics.

So poo is natural, and it's beneficial. And we know that, if our poo looks odd, has blood in it, is a funny colour, or similar - it can be a marker for serious illness. Yet most of us don't even look at our poo. We conveniently flush it away or cover it with toilet paper before it catches our eye ("YOOHOO!"). Occasionally it makes its own way round the u-bend (which has always foxed me, by the way. I stare at the empty toilet and think - did I just dream that?).

The Germans - masters of design and engineering - have put a shelf in their toilet bowl, to catch your poo before it disappears underwater, and to force you to look at it.
Marvellous, isn't it? Although I'm not sure how widely it's used in Germany, as my North German colleague had never heard of them. And apparently they smell. And your toilet brush is in frequent use (and needs constantly replacing). But apart from that - brilliant.

In the UK, we don't normally talk about our poos in public (a bit like we're buttoned up about sex - although I think we're getting looser) - and yet we've got a gazillion nouns for it; Shit, turd, poo, dung, waste, stool, excretion, faeces, plop, crap, number 2, shite.... We've picked them up with invaders and settlers ('turd', for example, may have come from old Norse, whereas 'shit' has German roots). We can describe poo in such a rich and encompassing way - and yet we're embarrassed to do so.

Well, people of Britain - and perhaps of America too, although I'm less sure of your toilet culture - it's time we started talking crap! If there's something wrong with your poo - go to the docs! If you've had a really good shit - celebrate with your family! If you're all blocked up and need sympathy and syrup of figs - get your husband/kids/dog to look after you!

Turd is important, and it would be great to lift the lid on it, just a bit.

___________________

Further info: a couple of good websites -

http://thepowerofpoop.com/why-we-fear-poop/
http://www.thepoopproject.org/