Saturday, April 29, 2006

SLOW publishing ~ authentic publication of a niche magazine

Brew of the day: Peppermint and Licorice (Don’t look at me like that. It tastes fabulous. Honest! Now, put your feet up, and drink!!)

We live in a manic culture desperately hurrying to…er, where is it we’re hurrying to exactly? I’ve forgotten. Most of us probably have! Despite this, we’re starting to hear more about living a slower life and often hear it reflected in terms like ‘slow food’…where we make our food slowly, eat our food slowly, ideally even grow our own food, live more simply, etc. I’ve recently read a wonderful book called In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore. Though being notorious for reading quickly, I didn’t read it that slowly.

So for our Saturday Morning Cuppa here’s a tale of slow publishing. It’s my tale.

The Mother magazine’s evolution when compared with some other publications is not too different to the story of the tortoise and the hare and hopefully illustrates that in the world of natural parenting publications, slow and steady authenticity wins the race.
When I began The Mother magazine I went to print with a first edition print run of 1000 copies and with just 30 pre-launch subscribers. GULP. I’ve never been so nervous (and I’m NOT a nervy sort of girl ~ ask my husband) as the day I left that first issue for printing. Oh My God!! Apart from the fact it truly felt like I’d left my vulnerable baby with a stranger, I also wondered if it would sell; would anyone ever buy it? I had no fingernails left that week, I can tell you. Well, I had 60 subscribers by the end of the first week after the magazines were posted out. Thank goodness! By the time I was ready to take the second issue to the printer, I felt confident in the growth which was happening. And it has grown faithfully ever since. I’m currently preparing our eighteenth issue for press.

My day to day work life revolves around full-time mothering. Apart from attending to business phone calls and checking emails, I actually do the administrative or editorial work at night after the girls go to sleep. In the early days I worked day and night around the girls. But I’ve learnt the hard way. To do a job properly you have to focus on it and you can’t do business work AND be present with your children at the same time. Now the girls are 8 and 10, I can get comfortable pockets of time in the day to catch up on bits and pieces. They’ll disappear up the village and climb trees or pop down to the bottom of the garden to bake mud pies ~ that’s my cue to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak. If we do any home education stuff I really need to be in earshot so I can answer their questions.

Our readership defies stereotyping! I’m often amazed when talking with subscribers that they don’t fall neatly into one category but come from all walks of life. And despite the title of our publication, not everyone who reads The Mother is a mum ~ or even plans to be. Some people choose to subscribe because they like what it represents. Some hope to have children. Some have five kids and no life partner. Some are lesbian and did a DIY conception job; some are gay and love how femininity is portrayed in our pages. We have menopausal breastfeeding mums and mums who’ve completely vaccinated their kids. Mums who are happy to let their kids eat junk food day in, day out. And still, these mums, despite our strong ethical stance, get something enriching from The Mother and keep re-subscribing.

We have career mums and stay-at-home mums. And we have many dads who subscribe and are more passionate about the ideals we present that their partner is. Grandmothers subscribe so they can get a better idea of how their children are raising their grandchildren. Our readers span every economic level. They include teachers, health care professionals and, of course, journalists. What I do know is that if someone is prepared to spend money on an annual subscription then they clearly get something from this publication.

I don’t actively promote The Mother magazine and have always trusted it to grow organically, healthily and, most importantly, ethically. And it has. There’s no point unnaturally forcing something that is meant to be wholesome (else it loses its flavour). Somehow (thanks no doubt in large part to the internet) it has found its way into the homes and hands of families from more than 45 countries. We have a US publisher and a NZ publisher ~ two passionate, dynamic and thoroughly gorgeous mums (Cindy and Lynda) whose work enables the magazine to reach some of these places while allowing us to reduce air miles by not having to post everything out from the UK.

The magazine touches a chord in people who don’t want to be fed diluted editorials (where the editor is too scared to take a stance) or to be bamboozled with page after page of in-your-face glossy adverts. An editorially led magazine doesn’t rely on advertising to function well as a business. Our economy is always fluctuating so in lean times when people choose not to advertise, a magazine needs to know it has the financial support of its subscribers. My pet hate with magazines is when adverts are placed right next to articles on the same topic. Personally I find it very disrespectful not to mention downright insulting to the readers.

I’m not drawn to the idea of lying (which is the only word for it) about readership figures to advertisers in order to get in revenue. This is widespread in publishing even among the self-touted ‘authentic’ parenting publications. To be honest, it makes me nauseous to the core and I genuinely feel sick at the thought that anyone in this field could do that. And yet it is happening. Unfortunately, I hear about it far too often.

More than a handful of times I’ve suggested to an advertiser that they might prefer to advertise elsewhere because we don’t have the readership necessary for their product to sell well. Lately more than a few businesses have contacted me after having been *bullied* by another magazine (in the natural parenting field) to advertise with them. I’m not joking! All their stories have the same theme, yet none of these business people know each other. Nevertheless it has caused me to stop and reflect on my own publishing journey.

The one thing I’ve really learnt about my magazine is that the only form of advertising that works for The Mother is good old fashioned word of mouth. People either love or hate The Mother magazine...they aren’t neutral about The Mother any more than the magazine itself is neutral on any given topic. Racing to become a fast-growing magazine or claiming high circulation figures to ensure advertising revenue isn’t my goal. If The Mother is going to be here for the long haul, then she has to continue as she started. Slow and steady and subscriber-supported.

My vision has never been to lure advertisers in for the sake of a quick buck but to keep my readers challenged, informed, inspired and interested. Sometimes I do that, sometimes I don’t. I know I can’t keep everyone happy with every article I publish. I take editorial risks all the time. You see, it is important that I grow too. The Mother represents my own evolution. If I’m too afraid to challenge myself then the magazine will stumble.

We have a very high re-subscription rate and I think that speaks for itself.

Truly the thing that brings me much joy is what I call the gift subscription chain. I make a note next to a subscriber’s name of who has gifted their subscription. To watch that new subscriber fall in love with The Mother and then go on and give a gift subscription herself which then goes on to another mum and another mum is truly rewarding. In fact, for me, it is priceless.

If a magazine wants to claim high figures to boast its circulation status then ETHICALLY (for the sake of authenticity and transparency) it should print within its pages a statement of ownership and circulation and be prepared to be audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC). The other side of this is that unless the magazine chooses to be audited (thereby showing their authenticity) by the ABC, their advertisers are never going to be honestly told how many magazines have been sold.

A magazine like The Mother, because it doesn’t go out of date quickly; has a high educational content and is often pictorial, can be said to have as many as twenty readers per copy IF (and it is a very big if) it is found in doctor’s waiting rooms, libraries etc. It may of course take a year to get this many readers but what good is that to an advertiser wanting quick results? I, however, would never claim a readership level like that even though it does sit in public areas. Three readers per copy is more likely for ANY natural parenting magazine, regardless of where it ends up. One has to be realistic though. If a magazine is in a public waiting room, it is almost impossible for someone to read the whole issue while sitting there so it doesn’t really count as a reader, does it?

I am often asked by subscribers why The Mother isn’t sold in mainstream chains like WHSmith or in supermarkets. Here’s why: We operate on a cash payment for goods basis. Chain stores only operate on a sale or return basis. They have NO INVESTMENT in making sure the magazine sells. If it doesn’t sell they haven’t suffered any loss. I’ve seen the magazines of my competitors sitting behind other magazines on shelves which are so stuffed with publications that they’ll never be found. And because it is sitting on this shelf all alone and unseen, it is STILL considered to be *read*. At the end of its shelf life, the front cover is ripped off the magazine and sent back to the publisher. It can’t be resold and, environmentally, is an insult. No ethical publisher committed to green or natural living would operate this way. Our ethos at The Mother is to support independent shops NOT supermarkets or chains. Why would a magazine promoting conscious, ethical, green or natural parenting actively encourage its readers into a supermarket to find them? Sorry, but it is like putting a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t FIT!!

So while you won’t find The Mother in a supermarket you will find it in the hands of genuinely ethical businesses such as the Born nursery shops (Bristol, Bath and London), Seven Generations, Free Range Kids, natural health clinics (like Shiatsu, Chiropractors, Reiki practitioners etc,.) independent midwifery clinics,, yoga classes, with birth pool distributors, health food shops and independent bookstores. Our priority of course is to make it available through subscription and the upside of this for advertisers is that they receive genuine readership figures not a pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

I really admire the work and thoughts of Neil Crofts, founder of Authentic Business and author of Authentic: How to Make a Living by Being Yourself. Key questions in his Authentic Business checklist ask: Is the company respectful of others? And does it avoid exploitation of resources and customers?

He says that an authentic business “understands that profit is like breathing – you have to do it, but it is not why you get up in the morning. The purpose of an authentic business is positive by definition because authenticity is about the fundamental purpose of a human being. To understand positive we use the Native American belief that our responsibility for our actions extends seven generations forwards.”

So when a business allows, or indeed encourages, bullying tactics for the sake of raking in advertising money, what is this teaching the children? And how does this impact us for seven generations.

Discussing integrity, Neil Crofts says, “Authentic businesses are by definition respectful, honouring and non-exploiting.”

If we stand up and tell the world we’re living a conscientious life then this HAS to be reflected in all areas of our life, including (and especially in) our business. There is no point wrapping our kids in pyjamas made from fair-trade, organically grown cotton or hemp if our business actions are deliberately deceitful. Honesty is always the best policy and if that means SLOW publishing using SLOW money (that is, NOT sale or return), then surely that can only be a win win for everyone?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Radio announcers, Rumsfeld the RAT, relationships

Brew of the day:
Rose and chamomile ~ LOVE tea!!

Life feels much brighter this week since I’ve kept away from mainstream media. I did, however, have an email advertising a wonderful device! A bumper helmet for toddlers learning to walk. Now you can rest assured that your little one won’t crack his skull open. Good lord, whatever next? How did humanity survive for so long without such inventions?

And in the USA parents can outsource the potty training and bike riding of their children. Apparently the average parent takes 2 – 3 weeks to help their child learn to ride a bike unaided but an expert can teach your child in 2 hours!! And don’t make the mistake of thinking it could only happen in America. It’ll be in other countries before we know it. One of my most precious father/daughter childhood memories is of learning to ride my little bike without training wheels. The absolute delight I felt when I realised my Dad was no longer supporting the bike and I could do it on my own is something I can still feel to this day 35 years later. Why would ANY parent want to pass on something like this to someone else? Again I find myself living in No man’s Land shaking my head in disbelief. Why are people so out of touch with what children need?

Rumsfeld: What was I saying last week about the only benefit to vaccination was the cash which lined certain people’s pockets? Found the following info on the noticeboard at my chiropractic clinic yesterday: Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld earnt more than $5 million dollars from selling his shares in the firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu (the drug of choice once Avian Flu takes over). He also retains shares worth $25 million or more. Tamiflu is bought in mass quantities by the government in order to treat a predicted outbreak of flu.

Radio Announcers:
Last Sunday was the 11th anniversary of my first kiss with Paul. I always consider it our true anniversary rather than our wedding day. At the time we met Paul worked as a breakfast radio announcer. A woman in my community warned me off him on the basis that all radio announcers had huge egos. Yeah, well, I’m sure a good chunk of them do….what with loads of women lured along by their sexy voices (let me warn you if you’ve been lusting after one ~ there is a good reason why most of these men are on radio rather than tv)…anyway, I’m glad I followed my intuition and didn’t get swayed by her. Of all the people I’ve ever met, Paul has the least ego.

There is a saying that ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’. A song too, I think? Maybe that’s true for most people. I don’t need my relationship to end before I can fully see what I’ve got! I begin and end each day in Paul’s loving arms. I’m painfully aware that one or other of us could have our life force snuffed out at any time. I need to live in the present moment and to always be grateful for what I do have while I have it ~ always and eternally grateful for the thousands of times he’s showed me kindness, tenderness, love. Grateful that our paths ever crossed. I can’t imagine how different my life would be without him. He’s shaped me enormously and his ongoing ability to make me laugh or bring a smile to my face (even when I’m mega pissed off with something)…well, it’s like living with an angel (in a good way!). It’s like having my own guardian angel walk hand in hand with me through life.

Last year at this time we had a *renewal of our vows* ceremony which we shared with friends. Paul said that for all the trials and the difficult moments life had brought our way (little did we know at that time how much worse 2005 was gonna get!! YUK) he’d rather go through all that again with me at his side than to have it all plain sailing and to have to live life without me. I didn’t manage to come up with anything as profound as that during the ceremony but I certainly feel the same as him in this respect.

Other relationships:
Have had a low-grade mourning lately (well, for a few years now!!) at the lack of intimate friendships in my local community. We’ve been here seven years and still nothing. Nothing that would make it painful for me to move to the ends of the Earth in a nano second. I often think it must be me …and then I think of the close friendships I do have ~ some of which are long term. They’re amazing women and I’m honoured to have them in my life. I love them to bits and trust them with my life. Just wish they weren’t so darn far away or spread across the globe. As I age though, I find I’m becoming further left of centre (is that possible?). I was talking to someone this week that I really admire ~ a real gem of a lady ~ who isn’t a native of this area either. She’s also found it hard to make friendships here in Cumbria. I looked at her disbelievingly. She is truly one of the loveliest people I know and if people are rejecting her then I can only think it must be ‘this place’.

One thing I’ve long observed here is that the locals have their family and childhood friends and have no need to extend outside of themselves ~ so they don’t. No surprise then that those I have connected with at any level aren’t originally from Cumbria. The locals call us ‘incomers’ as if we’ve brought some disease. I find the men of Cumbria even harder to fathom than the women. They don’t talk, they grunt. And they don’t make eye contact either.

Ramona Rebecca: Happy birthday little sis!! Enjoy that bright and brilliant Aussie sunshine.

Rural Life:
Just peeped out the window and there is a whisper of mist across the valley. A stunning Spring day awaits ~ once the girls wake up we’ll have a family walk and take in the beauty of the hills and valley. Have a lovely week

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Partners in GRIME!

Brew of the day:
Ginger and Lemongrass Tea
Lovely childhood memory ~ my gorgeous mother grew lemongrass in our garden when I was a child. She used to send me outside with a pair of scissors to collect a batch for brewing so we could share a cuppa together. It is such an exotic, warming scent and tastes just wonderful. And anything that reminds me of my mum can only be a good thing. Love that wombyn to bits!

Yesterday morning Paul turned the local radio on for the weather forecast and we caught a very brief news item about global warming and how the three degree rise in temperature will mean billions of humans along coastal areas being displaced (some more gloomier forecasts later that day suggested dying rather than mere displacement).

My girls, Bethany (10) and Eliza (8), wanted more information despite already being wised up on environmental issues. I explained that coastal or low lying cities would go under water when the ice caps melt. Bethany was distraught and wanted to immediately phone her best friend Chloe who lives in London. Paul and I both said that her parents already knew about global warming and would make choices to get them out of there before it happens. “ But I HAVE to talk to her!!”

Clearly inheriting the loose cannon gene from me [the one which wants to ‘save the world’ and shout at everyone through a mega amplifier to get their shit together; stop being so careless, selfish and irresponsible] - the girls immediately got dressed and, without breakfast, headed off up the village to ‘save the world’ from the effects of global warming. Oh dear.

Part of their campaign plan included wanting to put up a poster in the school bus shelter telling everyone to come to a talk they were giving on saving the world and how we must all work together. Ah the passion!

Cue: mother filled with equal combinations of absolute admiration (and pride) and cringe factor #10…their plan was clearly NOT the path of How to Win Friends and Influence People. Last summer was rather horrendous and depressing as the girls had been ousted by all the village kids (bar the young 5 year old twins) because they were different (which no doubt included being home educated; dietary choices; lack of awareness of certain music idols, etc.). Each night Bethany would go to sleep crying. I feel ill remembering it.

As they headed away from the house all I could think was that I wanted to protect my daughters from other people’s ignorance. Paul pointed out that it was inevitable that they’d be so proactive and passionate and vocal. Born to a mum who finds it physically impossible to keep her gob shut; sends off letters here, there and every where; walks the talk of ‘we each make a difference’ by even the tiniest action ~ well, clearly, they don’t stand a chance!
Paul said “I don’t care if people think I’m weird. I don’t care if people think my wife’s weird” (Kicked his shin at this point!) “But I do care if people think my kids are weird.”

Well, the kids let go of the sign and lecture idea on their own, but instead collected litter from all around the bus shelter area. There is a large rubbish bin right next to the shelter but obviously the local kids can’t be arsed to put their rubbish into the bin which is closer, but would rather fling their rubbish into the adjacent wooded area.

Despite the cold and bitter wind, Bethany and Eliza dragged a full council bag of rubbish back home so we could recycle it. They stood at the back door, filthy & covered in grime. Bless ‘em. I felt so, so proud of the girls. Fortunately most of the contents are recyclable, however, had it not been picked up none of it would have decomposed in the ground.

I thought I’d got the state of today’s children off my chest with last week’s blog and yet this week it has still been top of my day to day thoughts. Frustration, anger, impotence, sadness… at one level, why should I care what the hell other people do to their kids? None of my business. But I do care! And I fear that will be my downfall.

Apparently kids in the UK watch up to 53 hours a week of television. 53 hours. More than two days a week! Given most of these kids will be in school 5 days a week, WHEN and how are they interacting with their parents, siblings, wider family, friends and community? Another report I read this week talked about the incredible percentage (sorry, can’t remember the exact number, but it was shocking) of under two year olds (in the USA, but it is also reflective of other ‘modern’ countries) with a television of their own in their bedroom. I had to read that information twice. Surely they got it wrong? Why the hell does ANY child need a tv in their bedroom, let alone a toddler without language skills?

On the radio yesterday was a report about the ritual killing of children still happening (in other countries and by some ethic groups in the UK). When we hear this or indeed look at religions and cultures of the past who partook in such sacrifices and killings, it (rightly so) fills us with horror.

Here’s the kicker: our culture is making child sacrifices and killings (albeit very, very, very slowly) every day and all the time on the altar of modern life, with the widespread use of poisons on crops; antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy; processed foods; lack of sunlight and exercise; fluoridated water; parental neglect; mass vaccination programmes; televisions/computers and computer games; mobile phones, etc.

It’s cruel, SHOULD be criminal and is downright selfish on the part of those who condone it or practise it ~ be they government officials, schools or parents.

We took the girls to the cinema the other day and I was horrified by the adverts shown ~ nothing like the ones I see at the chick flicks. For *****’s sake, one ad for coco pops suggesting kids need it to form part of their balanced diet. Since when did processed chocolate and sugar become ‘healthy’ or indeed necessary? Have I missed something here? And then there was an advert with talking cows and who told kids how important cows’ milk was for their growing bodies. Brainwashing of the sickest sort. And we as parents let this happen?

Also in the news this week was the fact that teachers in schools are being bullied by children as young as three. Sorry folks, I don’t care who you are, how rich you are, how *important* your career is, NO CHILD OF THREE YEARS OF AGE SHOULD EVEN BE IN SCHOOL. They should be at home with their mother! That aside, one broadcaster on Radio 5 Live suggested that perhaps the teachers were being a bit ‘soft’ by not being able to cope with these children. Loved to have seen her try it for a day at a rate of pay probably less than half what she gets for sitting in a studio saying such stupid things!

As a home educating mother with only two children to teach, there are moments that can be challenging when they’re both wanting attention, wanting questions answered at the same time, etc. How the heck can you meet the needs of 30 children at once? The short answer is, you can’t.

What I don’t understand, because it seems so darn obvious to me, is why the media were thinking it was the fault of the teachers? These are kids that are clearly suffering Attention Deficit Disorder. Not that the kids have ADD as such, but that they are screaming out for attention because they’re clearly not getting any….either at school OR at home. The deficit is not their ability to give attention but that their parents are not giving them adequate attention. “Better to be wanted by the police than not wanted at all”, my late friend Jeannine Parvati Baker used to say.

Some kids are apparently winding their teachers up so much that the teacher ‘loses the plot’ and gets angry…same kids then video this aggro on their mobile phones and use it as evidence of ‘abuse’. What do they need mobile phones in a classroom for anyway? I have no hesitation in saying that this complete lack of respects mirrors what is happening in their own home. Don’t blame the teachers…get parents to take responsibility for what’s happening!

Bottom line is it isn’t remotely natural to have thirty kids in an environment with one adult for the purpose of education (which means to ‘draw out’). How can you draw out or inspire each child in a situation like that? You can’t ~ or at least very rarely and for a very short moment of time. How ironic I pay taxes to educate other people’s children but get no tax relief for educating my own children at home.

Had a luxurious hour in a cafĂ© with a friend this week. During our chat she said her new boyfriend had picked up the latest copy of The Mother magazine and read my editorial where I wrote about my mother-in-law dying as a result of the flu vaccine earlier this year. I went on to cover childhood vaccination and wrote “Injecting poison into the body of an infant, child or an elderly person to protect them from disease is the greatest global terrorism we will ever face.”

“SHE CAN’T SAY THAT!!” he said, outraged. Oooh I’d loved to have been there, but alas, she’s too scared to introduce us now.

Er, sorry. I did say that. And I’ll say it over and over again. Vaccinations are deadly. It’s an insidious way of changing the human DNA. We’re killing our children slowly (though in some cases quickly) but surely. And we’re knocking off our pensioners, too. Vaccine damage happens in many, many ways. Some obvious, some not so obvious and certainly not openly visible in the short term. Kids’ immune systems are being compromised, their brain and body poisoned. Global terrorism for sure. Kids sacrificed on the altar of the Holy Cow of modern, blinkered thinking…vaccination is a viewpoint which doesn’t see the whole picture.

And what are the types of reactions which happen? Here’s a few: epilepsy, convulsions, Alzheimer’s Disease (long term), allergies, optic neuritis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, SIDS, diabetes, asthma, eczema, brain damage, leukaemia, ADD, hyperactivity, brain, lung and bone cancers, autism, death. Let’s be honest here, if terrorists sprinkled powders in public areas or infiltrated our water supplies with products which caused any of the above things to happen, we’d be outraged, frightened, calling for justice. We’d be ‘TERRORfied’. But not so with vaccines? How odd.

Sorry folks, this is the truth. HEALTH COMES FROM WITHIN.

The mainstream media has a lot to answer for in its ability to spread fear across the globe like wildfire. Have a look at what they’re currently feeding us about bird flu. Just last week they were reporting that about 100,000 UK school children would die from it. Why not use column inches to educate rather than scare? Why not show parents how to truly nourish their kids?

Health ~ this is far more important than giving our offspring a good education. There is no price we can put on health. It covers so many aspects and can’t be achieved through a vaccine or vitamin capsule.

Food ~ alive, vibrant, fresh and organic. Sugar is NOT a food nor are soft drinks, processed foods, e numbers or any additives, colourings, preservatives.

Love ~ kids NEED to feel loved, welcomed, appreciated and to live in a harmonious environment which includes not feeling constantly ‘rushed’. Kids equate parental love with their parents being ‘present’. Actions speak louder than words.

Exercise ~ daily and enjoyable use of all body parts even in winter. We’ve done a fingers up to the British climate and have a rebounder (mini trampoline) so even on the worst of days we can still ‘move’.

Rest and sleep ~ kids need plenty of sleep in a room with fresh air circulating. They also need rest and to be able to have ‘daydream’ time whatever their age.

Fresh air ~ taking exercise allows us to inhale more. Oxygen is needed throughout our body and to ‘think’ clearly. We don’t get fresh air when stuck in cars or buildings.

Sunshine ~ Even with Vitamin D supplementation we still need to get out into the sunshine. Even on a cloudy day we still absorb vitamin d and need to get outside. Basic stuff, really. Sunglasses stop our eyes telling our skin when we’ve had enough sunlight. If we followed common sense then we’d know when we’d sunned ourselves adequately. Don’t even get me started on sunscreens and the damage they do!

There is absolutely NO proof that vaccination protects against disease. I come across study after study showing disease outbreaks even in communities with a 100% vaccine uptake. Go figure? And as for the ignorant people (doncha just wanna shake ‘em?) who state that unvaxed kids put their vaccinated kids at risk…it’s not rocket science, you know? Either a vaccine protects a child or it doesn’t. Why fear the unvaccinated children?

And before you start on about herd immunity (which is bullshit) there is only ONE reason for the pushing of a high percentage of people vaccinating. It has nothing to do with health. It’s called money. Pharmaceutical companies, government ministers who invest with them, doctors and nurses who administer the injections and the sales representatives who sell them to the surgeries, don’t make money from people who don’t vaccinate.

My children have been protected from vaccination. I wouldn’t vaccinate for all the money in the world. Not now. Not ever. Millions and millions of children haven’t been so lucky. Those mindless people who suggest that the benefits of vaccination (the only benefit is the money which lines the pockets of the above professions) far outweigh the risks, clearly haven’t LOST a child or had them brain damaged from a vaccine reaction. It always strikes me as the most insensitive and stupid thing anyone could say on this subject. Would you sacrifice YOUR child to protect hundreds of others?

Some children react to vaccines immediately. Some are hit a few days later, some weeks and others, years. If anyone thinks for one minute their child hasn’t been affected, they ought to think again. At the very least vaccination causes calcium to be leached from their children’s bones.

You simply can’t put poisons like this in a human body and expect it to stay healthy in the short or long term. There are loads of books to fill in the gaps for those who care enough to research this further.

Vaccination Roulette and The Vaccination Bible, to name just two.

Joanna, an expert on vaccines, is joining The Mother magazine as a columnist from our summer issue. Yaheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! She is the director of the Vaccination Awareness Network, a mother and an author (Vaccination: Everything you should know about your child’s jabs and more’)

Televisions and computers are killing the brain cells of our children. Changes like this aren’t necessarily visible to the human eye. Went to see a friend the other day so the girls could play with her seven year old. Her little girl, however, had recently been given a computer game so didn’t *need or want* to play with humans. So very sad. This seems to be infiltrating even the more natural living families too.

The radio waves from mobile phones have been shown to cause cancerous cells in the brain, but even this doesn’t seem to matter to most parents. Obviously couldn’t happen to their child.

Last week’s blog covered Coca Cola. This is just one thing consumed readily by today’s kids. Sugar, the poor man’s cocaine, is in just about everything that’s processed. Even some brands of organic peanut butter have sugar in!! Unbelievable.

So we drug our kids with sugar, pack ‘em up with e numbers and give them repetitive diets (wheat, dairy etc, three times a day). The diets of today’s children lack variety. There isn’t enough vibrant and living food on their plates or on their palates. Some parents give their kids multivitamin tablets. All this does is produce expensive yellow pee. Supplements should come in the form of organically grown superfoods like algae, spirilina, chorella, etc., (living food, NOT laboratory talcum filled-tablets) and ideally taken in liquid form for assimilation. Kids don’t drink enough (if any) water. Soft drinks and juices don’t count.

I love that the You are what you eat TV programme has brought natural and living foods into the mainstream, but the truth is that the popularity of the show really doesn’t hinge on these foods but on the overweight people they’ve chosen. Instead the viewers want to see the crap food they’d eat in a week laid on the table. They want to know how the host, Gillian McKeith, rates their poos. Sad but true.

I did laugh when I asked the owner of my local health store what impact the show had had on her business. She said that now people come in and ask her if she’s heard of ‘sunflower seeds’. OMG! Can you imagine? Someone only discovering sunflower seeds because they watched that show? What a sad state of affairs.

A friend recently wrote in her online journal about supplementing kids with Vitamin D because we live in a temperate climate and are tropical creatures by design. I don’t suppose anyone stops to think what happens to kids locked in centrally heated schools all winter with little exposure to natural daylight?

Collectively, we don’t deserve this rich and glorious planet. And it’s enough to break my heart. I rejoice with each blade of grass beneath my toes; a radiant sunset; natural springs for collecting my family’s water supply and the lovely hills around me.

I’m looking at my own place in the scheme of things. I endeavour to eat low on the food chain, partaking of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains. And yet, some of the non fruit and vegetable additions to my diet (quinoa, rice, lentils) are imported. Fair trade or not, my consumption also contributes to global warming. I’m aiming for the 100 mile food challenge where my family and I only eat what has grown within 100 miles of where we live. Trouble is, here in Cumbria, unless you want to live off meat and cheese (which I don’t) there is very little else. I grow what I can in my garden but the growing season here is very short. I can live entirely off what we produce but that is only for 3-4 months a year (not including storing apples, pears, pumpkins etc)

I’m constantly questioning where I want to be living when global warming really takes hold and the oil wells run dry… when the trucks can no longer deliver foodstuffs to us on tap.

Currently I live in a country of 60 million people which can’t even feed itself. It imports potatoes and carrots for goodness’ sake! There is no excuse for this. I despair when I look at this beautiful land around me. Field after field given to the raising of sheep and cattle. Why? This is so environmentally unfriendly (won’t even go into the ethics) and such a ridiculous use of land. What the hell is our government playing at? Why are they not investing in correct land use?

Something will bust inside me soon. I can’t remain dormant on the issues which dominate my mind.

At tea time last night, Bethany said to me that if it is going to be hard to feed millions of people because of droughts etc, then humans will have to cut back on having children. Er, yeah. I’ve not yet told her it is the number one reason I’ve chosen not to have more children. Eliza asked me the other day “why do people always think about what they want, rather than what they have?” This from an eight year old?

It sums up everything really. Want house. Want car, want dress want partner, want holiday. Want this, want that.

We’ve got everything we need at our finger tips but collectively we’re too blind to see it. We just want moooore! We have the money and resources to feed and house every human being on this planet. The US alone currently spends the equivalent on the military as would feed our global brothers and sisters. That’s just one country’s spending. What does it say about us as human beings that we allow this sort of thing to happen? That we let charities raise money to drip feed resources and food rations when money is so readily available through the taxes we pay?

Needless to say my current take on what’s happening to the majority of the world’s modern kids doesn’t fill me with great joy. That, combined with my increasing exasperation at the lack of real action taken by those wielding the most power on environmental issues, has brought me to the point where I can only trust my allegiance with Mother Earth and that she’ll tell us all to “GET OFF MY BACK!” And that she’ll roar loud and boot the lot of us off with volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, drought. And then, we’ll be more than orphaned. But ultimately, in a climate of such apathy, maybe it is the best answer?

Hi to both the Emmas..thanks for your comments. Anita ~ the audition was this. They’d take 40 girls at a time into the room (without their parents) and get them to say their name and age. That was it!!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The case of the missing daemons!

Brew of the day: Cinnamon and Cardamom (again!)

God love Cinnamon! ‘Twas made for me and meeeeeeeeeeee alone…
Spicey girl that I am (read into that what you will)… I use that spice a lot, especially in my breakfast smoothie.

I also love grinding whole Cardamom in my mortar and pestle ~ it is an almost erotic scent ~ sweet and darn sexy ~ and brings out the White Witch in me as I play in my teeny, tiny bright yellow kitchen. Cardamom is right up there with Cumin in the must-haves on my spice shelf. (Cumin is an intensely divine and earthy smell which reminds me of a deliciously smelling man, er, that’d be my dh lest there be any confusion!) How can I concentrate on writing now? Sheesh….Never too early in the day for such thoughts I don’t suppose.

Killing our children with Coca cola, cell phones and e numbers

The ‘LOWLIGHT’ of this week was Thursday when I took Bethany to Kendal in the Lake District to audition for the coveted part of Lyra in the motion picture The Golden Compass (Northern Lights, from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy).

Along with more than 2000 other 9 – 12 year old girls we stood in the cold rain for four hours under a vast ceiling of umbrellas. Agggh. Motherly love gone wrong, I tell you. However, there was clearly something I needed to witness that day and it has really shaken me.

For those who don’t know the story, Lyra lives in a parallel universe where humans have daemons (an animal guide that changes form and decides on its final animal shape about the time its’ human hits puberty). Without a daemon, the person would die or be ‘missing its soul’. There, but not quite there. The crux of the story is about secret experiments on children where their daemon is ‘cut away’.

One of the reasons I thought Bethany might stand a chance going for the part (besides her Drama Queen skills) was because the casting directors were looking for a girl who wasn’t immersed in the 21st century. Given my child doesn’t have coca cola, a cell (mobile) phone, e numbers or watch tv or play computer games, I thought she had the potential to fit the bill. Heck, she doesn’t even know who the Spice Girls are.

(Award winning independent production company Twenty Twenty Television are making a programme called History of Childhood ~ an experiment which takes kids back in time, so to speak, so they get to experience the childhood their parents had. Wow ~ the possibilities in this ‘could’ be great. Imagine, a world without mobiles, emails, junk food on tap, computers ~ a childhood of SLOW TIME…

Instead, with luck, these kids will read, play board games, climb trees, make mud pies, socialise and have eye contact, build dens, play cricket. And they might even have mums who think it is worth being with their kids while they grow up. This is almost worth getting a tv for!)

Meanwhile, back at the audition line up ~ standing for all those hours, and watching these Lyra hopefuls, brought home to me very harshly why I so much want to live the life of a hermit (apart from family and a few close and treasured friends, of course). Most of these girls were spending their time texting or chatting on their mobile phones (to the horror of Bethany and Eliza who thought it ironic that those girls WERE immersed in 21st century habits) or drinking coca cola/coffee or getting ridiculously crazy on e numbers (it was nauseating watching what parents let their kids ‘eat’).

Not surprisingly, it went through my mind several times that most of these children will have been raised on artificial milk. Did you know that the UK government spends 14p per baby promoting breastfeeding whilst formula milk manufacturers spend around £20 per baby on their marketing? As a culture we should be absolutely appalled and ashamed. According to a feature article in this month’s Ecologist magazine, the infant formula industry makes $450 for every baby not breastfed for the first six months of its life.

I *KNOW* I’m labelled one of those weird parents who deny their children the great pleasures of life (like coke), but to be frank, I really have to wonder how conscious the average parent on the street truly is, despite living in an information age. Fortunately, my kids aren’t remotely tempted by Coke. And if that makes ME weird, then FABULOUS!!

Coca Cola is pure poison. Long promoted as the REAL THING, it is used in many highway patrol vehicles to remove blood from the road after a car accident.

You can put a t-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be GONE in two days.
If you pour a can in the toilet, the REAL THING will clean your loo within two hours. You can use coke to remove the stains from vitreous china.
Got rust on your chrome car bumper? Coke! Pour coca cola on your eroded car battery. Or use it to loosen a rusty bolt. It removes grease from clothes.

The active ingredient in coke is phosphoric acid. Its pH is 2.8. It will dissolve a nail in four days. To carry coca cola syrup a commercial truck must use the Hazardous Material place cards reserved for highly corrosive materials. The distributors of coke have been using it to clean the engines of their trucks for 20 years. And parents let their children drink this? Some years ago The Mirror portrayed my family as freaks with a headline that our kids had never drunk coke. How tragic that protecting my kids from this ‘drink’ is considered questionable.

What will it take for parents to wake up and stop poisoning their children? It strikes me as not only ignorant but incredibly selfish to raise children on this stuff. We’re NOT doing our kids any favours by being part of this cultural insanity.

Poison, of course, takes many forms. At the risk of sounding judgemental (which is easy to do in black and white when you’re so passionate about something, such as children’s health and well-being) most of the girls at the audition looked like their ‘daemon’ (soul) was missing. Apart from a few exceptions, the children were not exhibiting the ‘light’ I would expect in the eyes of a child. I found this deeply disturbing!! However, if this is what most mainstream children look like now, then this is what will be considered *normal*. And as we all know, at least here in Britain, normal for some strange reason means ‘natural’. This lack of ‘light’ had nothing to do with standing for all those hours in the rain ~ kids are quite capable of creating magic and mischief even in confined spaces.

What killed the light in those children’s eyes? Coke, constant exposure to cathode rays from tv or computers? Are their brain cells being eroded by mobile phones which radiate their brain each time they speak? Did their brain not have the chance to develop properly because it was fed artificial/fake milk rather than what they were biologically programmed to expect (breastmilk)? Or are they simply not used to having communication with a ‘live’ human being? Were they raised by substitute care givers or modern technology instead? Did they not discover the pleasure of eye contact and soul to soul smiling?

A friend of mine reckons the whole world is just one big lunatic asylum. I can’t help agreeing with her. Because everyone else is doing and imitating acts of lunacy, no one can see the madness of it all. Instead they point their ‘crazy’ fingers at people who aren’t swept into the hypnotising insult of current culture and call US mad.

Get me out of here is all I can say…Just don’t cut away the souls of my children. I live for the light in their eyes.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Learning to play

Brew of the day: Apple & Cinnamon
Sorry for the delay this week...have been offline. So, it's Wednesday afternoon tea rather than Saturday Morning Cuppa.

The average working parent in the UK spends more time answering emails than playing with their children, according to a study into such things. It doesn’t surprise me. Last week I had trouble with my ISP and was offline for several days. After swearing for the first 24 hours (bad Aussie habit!) knowing that for each day I was offline I’d have loads of emails to catch up on, I gave in and just decided it really didn’t matter and to use the time to clean the house and have extra time in the garden!

Knowing my inbox would be heaving I went to my local library to check for anything that required urgent replies. Next to me was a young mum with a baby (about 12 months old) in a pram…The baby was NOT happy in any way. But did this mother make eye contact with her child? Did she do anything to console the child? Nope. No eye contact. Nothing. Instead that child cried for about ½ an hour. I ended up with major puncture marks in my tongue. It wouldn’t have killed her to pick the child up and walk around for a couple of minutes or hold the child in her lap ~ anything! Anything to show that the child was more important than the bloody emails. Judgemental mother dominated my head space as I struggled to comprehend the messages in my own emails above the screaming child.

I see this a lot in supermarkets..Howling babies and mums who apparently don’t seem to hear the screaming baby. I would much rather a mum took extra long at the checkout to attend to her baby’s needs than to ignore them. Where did our culture learn this dysfunctional parenting?

I recently wrote an editorial about the fact I don’t play dolls with my daughters. Didn’t play with them much as a child either. I also believe it is important that kids have unstructured play as well as playing without adult supervision. This doesn’t mean we can’t be involved sometimes in their imaginary play.

This week the girls have made me various mud pies…chocolate and orange, lemon and coconut. I’ve marvelled at Bethany, who is now ten, totally immersed in the mud pie creations. Does the average ten year old still play mud pies? I’d asked them to tidy up the kids’ area of the garden as it was getting rather messy with various containers everywhere. I took them some old shelves for storing things on and to my surprise when they had tidied up, they’d done so very consciously. All the saucepans were on one shelf. All the small containers together, and another shelf for glass jars. So organised! Sexy Domesticated Dad gave me one of those smiles that hinted that they probably didn't inherit it from me! He'll keep!

We’ve planted half a dozen fruit trees to make a mini orchard in the back garden (peach, cherries, apples and pears). The girls have loved helping me around the garden. Our herb garden is now set up and it is taking vast amounts of will power for the girls to not start harvesting. Our first batch of sunflower seeds are emerging on the kitchen window sill. I LOVE sunflowers...Already our garden is filled with Blue Tits coming to feast on the sunflower seeds we’ve left for them on the cherry tree.

Next week we’re building a polytunnel from wood and waterpipes. Polytunnels are wonderful for still being in the garden even in the worst of weather. The cat seems to get joy from us all being in the garden and races around like she’s high on e-numbers!

Playing with our children takes on various forms but mostly it is about being involved in their world or allowing them to be part of ours. My favourite time with the children is actually when we’re out walking ~ not play as such, but very pleasureable because we get to see the world in Slow Time rather than racing by in a car. This recent change to milder weather has been a God send.

It's almost Bluebell time in the woods so once the sun manages to peak his head out, there'll be lots of picnics to nearby destinations. I might be crap at playing dolls but I'm great at playing the 'gardener' in the games my girls play. They love it when I come to visit their cafe.

I visited a friend yesterday who lives with her family in a 40' yurt..It is gorgeous. Huge wood stove; compost loo; spacious and cosy circular space. Delicious! They're surrounded by cherry trees, ducks, chickens, geese ~ true rural idyll. Over a hot organic fennel tea we both chatted about how incredibly blessed we are that we chose to be stay at home mums and to enjoy actually being with our kids ~ to have time to sit beneath the trees and chat, read, enjoy the wildlife around us.

I can only begin to imagine how different the tone and texture of my life would be if I wasn't involved in the day to day life of my children either by working for someone else rather than from home, or by them going to school five days a week. Counting my lucky stars and appreciating every day I have with my little bambini. And learning to play!