Blog Archives

Guest Post: @Pint-SizedMoo in the Jungle

So last week I tagged the wonderful @PintSizedMoo, a lovely Twitter friend,  on this continuing “I’m a Celebrity” meme, but since she’s not yet blogging (despite having a fascinating take on life), I invited her to respond via a guest post on my blog. So, before they announce the King/Queen and we all collectively go “Nooooooo, not FATIMA!”,  here she is taking the floor: @PINTSIZEDMOO!

Here it is @pintsizedmoo – The Interview:

1. What is the one thing about being a parent that makes you scream, ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE!’
Teenage logic – when they think they have the perfect comeback to your argument and it makes perfect sense in their head; just no one else’s.

2. What skills, if any, do you have that would be useful in the jungle?
Quite handy in the kitchen so I’d like to think that I could add a few (non-poisonous) things here and there to make food a bit more interesting.  Also I think I would be pretty good as a mediator when people got themselves into arguments. Oil on troubled water and all that…

3. How are you likely to annoy people if you were stuck with them for three weeks?
Not being argumentative enough. Some people like a really good rant, fight, shout, squawk.  I’ll never be one to put my fists up.

4. What is the worst thing you have ever eaten?
Can’t think of anything truly revolting that I have eaten.  I think I’ll go with tapioca pudding from school.  That was revolting.  That and semolina.

5. What luxury item would you take into the jungle with you?
I guess I wouldn’t be able to take an ipod.  I do find it easier to do anything with music in the background and it’s a great mood enhancer/antidote.  So, failing that, it would be some moisturiser.  Similarly vain as Piglet confesses to be, and I wouldn’t want to come back any more of a wrinkly old prune than when I went in.

6. What is the most daring thing you have ever done?
Diving from a 5m diving board.  Used to dive regularly when I was a pre-teen.  The 3m board was ok but the 5m board scared me witless.

7. Who would you miss most if you went into the jungle with a bunch of strangers?
My husband and my two best friends, Gail and Nic. Oh, and my gorgeous labrador, Dizzie.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my children too, but they are learning to be independent so I’ll leave them to it while I’m in there.

8. What celebrity, alive or dead, would you like to have with you in the jungle?
I think Louis Theroux would be a cool guy to have in the jungle.  I like his dry style and I reckon he could tell some fairly fabulous stories.

9. What would scare you about being in the jungle?
Having to eat something revolting in a challenge.  I honestly don’t think I could manage that without “chundering ev’rywah” (which will mean nothing if you haven’t seen Youtube Gap Yah).

10. After leaving the jungle, you go to a luxury hotel. What’s the first thing you do?
Have a shower with some Jo Malone shower gel and then slather some JM body lotion all over.  I like the word ”slather”.

I tag @cjturner72 and her wonderful blog at http://cj-villagefate.blogspot.com

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Trolling for Information….

Was shocked at the recent news that Dom Joly has had to call in the police over recent “trolling” attacks on his Twitter account. I grew quite fond of him and his scaredy-cat ways when he was on a reality TV show a while ago and, while I accept he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the troll in this particular case makes really horrid threatening remarks about his family and, in particular, his children. Up until now, I had heard of trolling in regard to certain comments on blog posts etc., and never been that concerned – you can delete these comments after all. Then last night, on Twitter, someone was receiving a troll “attack” on their blog and having a little back and forth dialogue on the subject. This was just a regular mum with an inoffensive blog post. I finally woke up and realised it can happen to anyone. But I am also appallingly ignorant about them. I have no real idea what a troll is, so I decided to educate myself.

The first thing I have learned is that the term “troll” is not adopted from the name usually given to small, hunch-backed midgets with challenging hairstyles living under bridges and waiting to scare random goats. That’s where I thought the term came from: someone who sits “underneath” a comment stream or Twitter message trail and just watches; then comments nastily to disrupt the conversation. Well, Mrs Pigletinapoke, you are wrong. According to website http://www.flayme.com “trolling” is actually a fishing term, a method of “trailing bait through a likely spot hoping for a bite.” I’m no Ray Mears, so would never have got that one in a million years! However, this definition puts a whole new perspective on the activity for me. Trolls are not the passive watchers I thought they were, waiting for a chance to assert themselves inappropriately. No, these are people actively seeking confrontation; actually instigating it where none exists.

It seems a troll is more like your regular stalker-type but with a serial killer’s mentality. They’re not your average “autobot” that seeks out and feasts on any keywords in your blog posts or tweets and then signs up to follow – in the main these bots are equivalent to the irritating telephone salesmen that keep phoning you with offers on things you don’t want. Annoying but essentially harmless. No, a troll is much more personal. He or she likes to be mean. Nastily mean. Death-threat mean. Not just in a cynical, dismissable way but in a really unpleasant, trying to screw around with your brain kind of way. Offensive, bigoted and often appallingly well-informed, trolls can attach to you or your internet persona for whatever their sadistic reasons are and literally make your on-line life hell.

Lord knows the internet is a scary enough place! This blog alone has been randomly found by people searching the web for such things as “man-pig”, “men dressing up then kissing”, “wasps in knickers” and the absolute weirdest: “dried pig scrotum”. In what context one would ever be searching for that, I don’t even want to know! So the emergence of trolls who search for people to pick on is a given when you consider the sheer strangeness of some of the people active on the world-wide web.

I’m no psychologist but even I can assume that these people must be attention-seeking shut-in types with an axe to grind against anyone who does not fit their mould or who catches their eye in some way. They pick on a person, a personality trait or an opinion and crap all over it for the sheer “fun” of it. It’s worrying stuff for someone like me, and for the children I have brought up in my image. I don’t do well with full-on confrontation, and I’m pretty sure my kids would be horribly upset by anyone deliberately being hideous to them, even if that person is only on-line.

So what can we do to protect ourselves against these so-called trolls?

There are three main theories from what I can glean. One camp advises not to “feed the trolls” – ignore, disengage and even remove yourself, your blog, your social network accounts etc. for a time before changing your online ID etc. This is the most straightforward option, but a little voice in my ear whispers “Isn’t that a bit defeatist?” I don’t do confrontation, but neither do I do bullying and this seems like a clear-cut case of bullying to me if you have to remove yourself and re-set your on-line life while the troll that caused the problem remains untouched. So hiding is not what I would recommend.

Another camp advises “understanding” the trolls – trying to get to the route of their issue with you and realising that they are probably depressed or have some sort of impaired judgement problem of their own. Yeah, yeah – enough with the “kill it with love” approach. Some of these trolls may also be vindictive little teen busstards who simply think it’s funny to sit on-line and insult other people. Loving and understanding a fairly normal teenager is hard enough, without having to pick the best bits out of a twisted sick “misunderstood” one. I would love to see the altruistic person who can receive such abuse or see it being directed at their loved ones and still “love” the poor depressed person doing it to them. I’d like to shake that person’s hand, they are a better human than I will ever be.

The third camp seems to make most sense to me. You don’t engage with the troll, you simply report him to the site host each and every time he/she enters your sphere. The website host or social network have an obligation to investigate anyone making threatening or abusive comments to another person on their network. They can shut the troll’s account down. He may re-surface, but surely even a depressed aggressive shut-in is going to get fed-up with having to re-create an account 300 or so times and will go back to pulling the wings off bluebottles or whatever they do for their sad kicks. If the comments and threats they have made are racist, religiously motivated or sexist, those messages and the promotion of them is also illegal. You can bring in the authorities to deal with them. Some may think they are untraceable, but my friend in the Met Police assures me there are ways to track anyone down on-line: it just takes time.

I guess the upshot is that the internet, like the school playground or workplace, is just another dog-eat-dog arena where everyone is trying to be top banana and crap on the people they consider beneath them. It is society displayed in on-line form. It’s been going on for centuries, and I have concluded that what I have to do is teach my kids to recognise on-line trolls for the bullies they are, and deal with them as they would in any other social situation. Their existence is a fact of life – how you deal with them is the important thing for you.

Have you been the victim of a trolling attack? How did you deal with it? Would love to hear what other people think.

I’m Bored….Summer Holidays Suck

“I’m bored…”. Two of the most overused, annoying and machine-gun-attack inducing words in the English language. Usually accompanied by flouncing, flopping, leaning etc. Ugh.

One and a half weeks in to the six-week summer holiday, and I have heard these words no less than 4,000,000 times already. As I write this, I am hiding in my office. Ostensibly working but actually in retreat from those words, those faces and those expectations. This is the bit they don’t tell you about becoming a mum. You also have to become a clown, magician, comedian, sports supremo and party planner ready to whoop up some fun and creativity at any given moment the children are not in school. Sadly, it is clear I just don’t have it in me to be all of those things, all of the time.

Only ten days of it so far, and I have already started to become sarcastic. I even suggested to someone on Twitter this morning that they might like to dart their hyper-active toddler with a safari-style tranquilliser gun. Stick a Haribo on the end and they’ll be mesmerised enough to let you get them square between the eyes. Anything for a few moments respite from “I’m bored….what can I do, Mum?”

There are many helpful blogs out there devoted to entertaining the kids (for free, in some cases) throughout the nightmare that is the school holidays. Most are aimed at younger children than mine and so simply do not apply. I have a pre-teen and a teen. One male, the other female. The combination alone is enough to induce a migraine. They never agree on what constitutes “fun”, and never will. So to retain my sanity, I have resorted to cynicism when it comes to what I am prepared to do to entertain them this holiday.

One of the depressing things about working from home is noticing that the ironing pile is bigger than me. 5ft 4 inches tall is one mo-fo of an ironing pile. And there’s more in the machine being washed as we speak. So this morning I suggested to the children that they lay all of the clothes out flat on the lawn and spend the day rolling over them until they got all the wrinkles out. That suggestion was met with blank stares.

The other bit about working from home is I am suddenly drawn to Delia Smith. First and foremost, you should know that I sometimes fantasise about stuffing Delia with apricots and breadcrumbs, wrapping her in tin-foil and shoving her into a pre-heated oven until she says sorry for making me and anyone else out there feel inadequate with her smug organisation. No-one smiles that much whilst making a spag bol unless they are chopping magic mushrooms. That aside, her recipes are easy enough for even a numpty like me to follow. Or Numpty’s children. So I have suggested several times over the past week or so that we could all make a nice meal for Dad/brownies for a picnic/phallus-shaped cookies to amuse Mum together, a way of whiling away the long hours between 11am when they rise from their pits to 10pm when I decide they either have to go to bed or be sold for medical experiments. None of my cooking mamma ideas have yet cut the mustard. I hate mustard anyway.

We are lucky enough to perch practically on top of tennis courts which are free to the public. When I suggest to the children we go and play tennis, they are – almost – enthusiastic. Only yesterday did I realise that this is because they can tag-team at one end to cleverly aim balls at anywhere except where my racket can reach and therefore have me running around like a maniac, sweating and turning puce much to their amusement. Even this nasty tennis-bullying, however, does not entertain them for more than thirty minutes. Only happy-slapping would do that. And to be honest, I am in danger of imminent cardiac arrest so tennis is most definitely off the menu.

Bike-riding is something they would like to do, but frankly I object on the grounds that nothing has ever been the same shape since double-ventouse deliveries. There is not a saddle known to man that does not make me pee, chafe or simply weep. So forget it, kids. When I suggest that older teen might like to take pre-teen out cycling around the lovely country lanes, that blank serial-killer stare greets me once more. Ditto swimming. It appears unless I am in the pool with all my wobbly bits on display for public- and offspring – ridicule, they are not happy to just let me sit at the side watching. Selfish mutts. They have no appreciation of the pain of the Brazilian that would be necessary before I can even don a swimming costume, not to mention the Hay Diet I would have to embark on which takes at least three months, I’ve been told. It’s not happening.

So here I am at Wits’ End. The only thing that appears to be interesting enough to illicit a grunt from Teen Girl is Chessington World of Over-Priced Crap. Except when we get there, she will be happy for ten minutes then want to go to Dubaiiiiii (said in a whine only she can perfect). Pre-Teen Boy is off on a football camp in eight days (and counting) – hoorah for the beautiful game. May it always release me from parental servitude! As for the remaining four weeks, I am already thinking they could dig their own holes under the patio and perhaps erect a springboard so they can somersault into them in creative ways before I cover them over and give them marks out of ten?

Hang on a mo – Social Services are at the door. How boring. Must dash.