My reasons for not following celebrities on Twitter

Twitter.  For years, I didn’t entertain using this social networking tool, largely because I didn’t really understand it.  Being a little on the verbose side, I couldn’t imagine limiting my brain farts to a mere 140 characters.  Furthermore, none of my real-life friends were on Twitter, so why bother?

It was my good friend J who pushed me in the direction of Twitter last year and prompted me to cheat on Facebook, ultimately ending my happy marriage with it (I’m still on Facebook, but I pretty much loathe it, owing to a lot of stuff that appears on my newsfeed that is of absolutely no interest to me whatsoever).

I began my relationship with Twitter before I began blogging, and before I began Chick’s Nursery List.  I still didn’t understand what it was all about, but like most things, after I began using it, the penny began to drop.  I didn’t have much of a purpose to begin with, so followed some companies/brands that I liked.  I also followed the odd celebrity here and there.

One thing that became apparent was how potentially ‘close’ you could get to celebrities that you liked.  At least, it felt like you could get close, as you could interact with them instantly at the mere push of a few buttons.  You could send the odd witty tweet, and feel a warmth inside when your chosen celeb ‘favourited’ your tweet.  And then there’s the sheer joy of getting a retweet, or even an actual response.

But really, the likelihood of actually interacting with your idols is so unlikely, even for a Twitter genius like me.  I have 400 or so followers, and all I have to do is get into a Twitter conversation with one or two of them before my notifications start lighting up my phone every 23 seconds.  So can you imagine how hectic a celebrity’s notifications window is, probably on a 24-hour basis.  People desperately vying for a moment of their attention and adoration.  It is no wonder you’re so unlikely to get a response of any sort from celebs.

So as well Twitter enabling you to have the prospect of being so close (but yet so far) to your celebrity idols, it also allows to you to gain a glimpse into the minds of your favourite celebs, via their very own 140-character brain farts.  And my goodness, what a put-off that can be.  I quickly went off several lifelong rock idols from my early teens, largely because of the nonsense I saw them writing via their Twitter accounts.  And how gutted I now feel when I listen to their music, the music that I used to love, but am now unable to rid my brain of the pervy nonsense they tweeted shortly before I unfollowed them.

And don’t even get me started on poor grammar, spelling and general inability to string a (140 character) sentence together.  I maintain that there is nothing more off-putting than reading poorly-written drivel (as opposed to well-written drivel?).

So after a short experience of following a few celebrities, I quickly realised that there was no real point of following someone you have no hope of interacting with and who writes poorly-composed, poorly-spelt nonsense.  And I swiftly deleted the vast majority of them.

I actually feel a level of sadness that I ever ‘went there’ with these celebrities on Twitter.  Getting that close has shattered images I had of them, which I would have happily held onto had I not known any better.  People that were once so incredibly cool to me are now just silly idiots on the internet, promoting themselves in a vulgar, unimaginative and uneducated manner.

Once I began blogging and working on Chick’s Nursery List, I soon had a real purpose on Twitter.  Networking became the aim, and most of the accounts I follow on Twitter are other bloggers and companies related to children or general lifestyle stuff (now there’s a non-specific description for you!).  I have a great network of bloggers on my account nowadays, and they all interact with the same enthusiasm as I do.  I love engaging with brands to let them know that I’m enjoying their products.  I have a handful of favourite tweeters (minus the monkeymen); my favourite jewellery brand, a radio show, a local copywriter and a musician (who is able to spell and use grammar proficiently).  I still follow a couple of celebrities, but none of them are hugely famous and the rare times that they use their Twitter accounts, they seem to tweet satisfactorily.

So there you go, my reasons for not following celebrities on Twitter.  The illusion is much better than the (Twitter) reality.

Teeth

As you may be able to tell if you’re a subscriber to Free Range Chick, there has been a silence on the blog for a couple of weeks.  This isn’t the first time that this has happened.  As ever, the kids are largely to blame for this.

I’ve been working on a post that is taking me an age to write, and I’ve been chipping away at it for a few weeks, writing the odd sentence here and there.  It is feeling like a mammoth task because it is such a personal story, as well as a lengthy one (it isn’t a topical subject; it is about music!).  There’s a small chance that I may not even publish it, but we’ll see.  That was one of the reasons for a lack of blog activity lately.

The other is the dreaded teething.  My younger son Fraser has been through several months of zero tooth activity, surviving his culinary explorations with four at the top front and three on the bottom at the front.  But lo and behold, dental activity has resumed, and he has been cutting what seems like every other tooth in his head for the past couple of weeks.  We have four molars at different levels of emergence through the gums, as well as what looks like two others.  Six teeth in one go is a bit much for a 15.5 month-old, so he has been rather disturbed during the nights.  This has caused me to be disturbed in the nights also, made worse by being an insomniac, and I’ve spent much of my limited free-time during the day catching up on sleep.

All of this doesn’t leave much time for anything else, and I’m not blessed with an abundance of childcare (this translates to: I’m not blessed with childcare).

On the plus side, we’ve received a wonderful new car seat from Joie Baby for review on the blog, and Ian fitted it this morning.  Complete with wobbly video (probably), this review will be on its way very soon, as well as some promotion of extended rear facing (ERF).  If you’re not au fait with ERF, then stay tuned, as it is something that all parents with children under 5 should be getting to grips with.

So I hope to see you soon with something a bit meatier to get your reading teeth into, and hopefully by which time Fraser will have cut the remainder of his teeth!

Thanks to Jocelyn at The Reading Residence for having me on her #WOTW linky this week.  It has been an age!

Till next time.

A Day Trip to The Watercress Line (Mid-Hants Railway)

You may have previously read about my dad taking us on rail journeys when we were children.  Be it anything from our local suburban stopping service to obscure little diesel lines out in the country, dad used to frequently take us on rail adventures new.  These journeys created a fire in us for rail travel.

My love of railways still burns brightly.  I don’t know what it is about rail journeys that gets me excited.  The more obscure the line, the better.  I love railways so much that my now husband even proposed to me on a dining car on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway five years ago!

Amongst the railways we used to visit was the Mid-Hants Railway, also known as the Watercress Line.  Being one of the heritage railways in the southeast, it was never too far away for us to visit, and gave us a fantastic day out travelling on board majestic steam trains in the heart of the Hampshire countryside.

So I was beyond thrilled when I got the opportunity to visit the Watercress Line over the August bank holiday, except this time as the parent.  Accompanied by my elder son and husband, we drove down from southwest London to Alton, which took roughly an hour.

The line runs from pretty Alresford (7 miles east of Winchester) to Alton.  The main station is Alresford, which has a car park uniquely for Watercress Line visitors, but you can begin your journey at Alton and park in the Network rail car park.  I was advised that parking may be tricky at the Alton end, but there were plenty of spaces and parking cost us £2 for the day.  The availability and price of parking may be different during the week when there may be more commuters using the route from Alton in London on Southwest Trains.

The line itself is 10 miles long and is nicknamed the Watercress Line because it used to transport watercress to London markets.  (Yummy – watercress is one of my favourite salad ingredients).  The line operates a timetabled service which you can see in more detail on their website.  As well as the standard services, they also run real ale trains, dining cars as well as a variety of seasonal special events.  You can even book the chance to ride on the footplate or have an introductory driving lesson!  My personal favourite would be experiencing the real ale train; I love ale, I love trains, it has got to be a win-win.

It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot and just perfect for visiting a steam railway.  We were greeted by the friendly staff in the shop at the Alton end, who advised that there would be freight trains running along the line during the day (we like freight trains, so this was great news for us).  We had enough time to pop a conveniently placed Waitrose at Alton to pick up some refreshments for the journey, and we got back to the platform in time to see our train pull into the station.

For the outbound journey, our train was pulled by ‘Lord Nelson’, a beautifully shiny, green tender engine.  My son was totally captivated by the sight of Lord Nelson, as it was nothing like he had ever seen before – a far cry from the Class 450 Desiros on Southwest trains (one of which was standing on the other platform at Alton).

 

We boarded our train and despite it being a sunny bank holiday weekend, we were able to get seats to ourselves.  By the time the train was ready to depart, the carriage was fairly full, but not packed, which made for a comfortable journey.  The journey took a little under an hour and comprised of three stops, including our final destination at Alresford.

We were aware of the West Country Buffet at Alresford, but our son was keen to stretch his legs once we’d left the train, so as much as we’d have liked to, we didn’t stop there for any food.  I was told by a fellow enthusiast on the Alton platform that the West Country Buffet is excellent, providing hot and cold food as well as snacks and drinks.  There are also refreshments available on board the train in the buffet car as well as the other stations on the line.  We had a wander around pretty Alresford, which is a short walk from the station.  We picked up some food from a local bakery, before deciding to head back to get the next train back to Alton.

We had the majestic Wadebridge (see below) pull us on our return journey.  We were able to see Wadebridge couple up to the train before we boarded for Alton.

 magnificent

What struck me about the line was how incredibly well-kept the stations were.  They were clean and tidy, the gardens were immaculate and there was no sign of wear and tear on the paintwork or trains.  Everything was kept in such beautiful condition, and it was clear that the line is clearly well-loved by the people that run it.  I later learned that most of this hard maintenance work is done by volunteers who travel from great distances to help keep this valuable piece of rail heritage working and looking stunning.

We would have stayed for longer and perhaps alighted at the other stations if our son was a little older and able to tolerate a longer day out.  He loved his first ride on a steam train, but he was totally wiped out by the time we arrived at Alton.  He was half asleep on the walk back to the car, but simultaneously requesting to go back on the steam train (and has since been).

pretty station

If you have ever been curious about visiting a heritage railway, then please do just head down to the Watercress Line.  It is a fantastic day out like no other.  Your ticket will cover you for travel up and down the line all day.  Children and adults will be captivated by the magic of those old engines, from their sheer appearance to their smell and their sound.  Even the novelty of the slam-door carriages in an era of automatic, beeping doors will bring a smile to your face.  There is nothing comparable to the experience and atmosphere of a British steam railway, and the Watercress Line is a fine example of such a railway.

Here is a little video clip of some of the footage I shot while we were out.  I had no plans to video anything that day, but nevertheless found myself filming a bit.

Have you been to a heritage railway?  I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

Disclosure: The team at the Mid-Hants Railway very kindly supplied us with a family pass for the purpose of this visit.  This review was written by me (Fiona @ Free Range Chick) and all opinions are my own.

Flowers and Fruit for Four Years of Marriage

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This is a slightly belated post, as Ian and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last week.  Four long, tiring, hard years of modern-day slavery together (me slaving as a nurse and looking after the kids and him slaving on building sites and telephone exchanges as an electrician).  No, I jest about the slavery; that’s just life, right?

Anyway, we celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary last Wednesday, the day before my parents’ 38-year wedding anniversary.  According to Wikipedia, four years of marriage in the UK is symbolised by fruit and flowers, or in the US, linen or silk.  Being the romantics that we are, neither of us saw anything resembling a bloom or one of our five-a-day, but we did stretch ourselves to writing a card for each other.

We were both working in the day, but did make it out to a fabulous New Malden Korean restaurant called Su La in the evening.  We ate some delicious and healthy Korean treats.  We had quite a lot of fizz before we left and some more when we returned, so I was in a charming mood the following day.

I found this page on About.com which gives couples some ideas on what they could do to mark their first wedding anniversary.  Some of these were pretty cheesy, and the last one on the list took the biscuit.  In case you chose not to read the article, the final suggestion is to ‘relive the wedding night with great sex’.  Really?  I am uncertain there is a married couple on earth who took to their honeymoon suite after the longest day ever, and had incredible sex.  Many couples are so exhausted from the stress and length of the day, in addition to the copious amount of drinking and dancing, that they’re barely able to string a coherent sentence together by the time their wedding day is over.  Or was that just us?

Anyhow, I digress.  Despite our low-key anniversary celebration, Ian and I regularly reminisce on how blooming brilliant our wedding day was, despite the incoherence back at the plush honeymoon suite.  We had all of our close friends and immediate family with us at a stunning venue (Ham House in Ham, Richmond).  Everyone looked gorgeous, ate well and partied hard in the evening.  Our dance floor was full at all times, which was one of the most important things to me when I planned the entire event.

So one day, when our babies are less babyish and more boyish, we’ll be able to push the boat out a little more and celebrate our wedding anniversaries with more of a bang.  In the meantime, we’ll both still regularly reminisce on our incredible wedding, magical honeymoon in idyllic Kefalonia, and look forward to many more years together.

Happy anniversary to The Dashing Mr Chick x

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My sons wear pink, AND they have intact penises

I was recently out with my mum and younger son in our local town centre for a spot of lunch and shopping.  My baby son was 13 months at the time, and had acquired a pair of chopsticks from the fab restaurant we were in (Busaba Ethai).  He was happily waving them around, nibbling on them, dropping them etc., as we made our way around Kingston.  We wandered into a stationary shop, where one of the shop assistants was admiring his chopstick-skills.

“She’s going to be a drummer when she grows up.”

Mum and I whipped round and simultaneously piped up with,

“He’s a boy!”

We weren’t aggressive or offended, and actually found it more amusing than anything.  The shop assistant, however, was mortified and didn’t utter another word.

So what’s the big deal?  Babies must get mistaken for the opposite gender all the time, right?  Well, the big deal was this; the reason the shop assistant assumed he was a girl was because he was wearing a bright pink tank top.  It was a modified t-shirt bought in the girls’ section of TK Maxx.  It had a bulldog on the front, and I thought it would make a cool tank top with the sleeves cut off.  And it did.  He had it teamed with a pair of urban-camo shorts (very ‘masculine’, although I frequently rocked the urban-camo trousers back in my Scary Spice days, circa 1995).

If you’re unfamiliar with the gender non-specific clothing movement and groups like Pink Stinks, you may be wondering why I decided to choose a bright pink tee for my son.  Well, I was getting pretty sick of my sons’ clothes being confined to blues, greens, greys and khakis.  Men, women and girls can purchase clothes in styles of their choice in any colour, yet little boys have such a limited palette to choose from.  This is all because we’ve got it into our heads that wearing pinks, purples and lilacs will somehow make our boys less male than they are.  And this is so ludicrous because really, I’m fairly certain that nothing untoward is going to happen to our boys’ penises if they choose to wear pink.

Children are children and they all seem to enjoy and appreciate every colour.  My children certainly don’t discriminate between any colours, and they’re both boys.  They don’t even discriminate between toys aimed specifically at genders.  I don’t force cars and trains on them, although they do like these toys.  As well as their vehicles, they also have a girl doll called ‘Baby’, as well as an array toy kitchen apparatus.  My elder son loves flowers and cooking as well as horsing around and rough games.

Indeed, my elder son also takes a keen interest in the variety of nail colours that I wear, and insists that he have a nail or two in a matching colour.  In the park recently, we met a woman who saw his toe nails and asked him if he was a girl.  And when shopping in Next a few weeks ago, I was picking two lilac t-shirts for the boys in the girls’ section.  I was with my elder son, and the shop assistant said ‘I hope they’re not for you’ (talking to my son) and directed me to the boys’ section which was home to ONE salmon pink polo shirt.  Amongst other things, I told her to open her mind, which she didn’t appreciate, but hopefully it made her think about her attitude.

Anyway, I know there are other parents who take gender neutrality very seriously, probably way more seriously than I do, and have indeed written about it.  A lot of the focus is on the negative effect that the colour pink has on little girls, but there isn’t so much about the effect of limiting boys to stereotypically boyish colours/appearance.  If a girl dresses in ‘boy’ clothes, she is deemed as a tomboy, which is fairly endearing.  There is no equivalent for boys.  Little boys couldn’t possibly play with dolls, yet they’re expected to grow up and be amazing fathers.  Isn’t the whole purpose of roleplay in childhood to learn about some of the activities that children see their parents doing?  Caring for a younger sibling can be mimicked by looking after a baby doll, and surely this is a positive learning activity for little girls and boys?

Boys’ sexuality is referred to or questioned in a negative manner if they’re seen to be wearing or playing with anything traditionally feminine.  I have never heard of anyone being coerced into a sexual preference because of the clothes they wore as a child or the toys they played with.  And anyway, even if that child later discovers that they are gay, who cares?!

So there.  I just wanted to share with you my annoyance at the absurd notion that girls and boys should have certain toy and colour preferences.  They are all innocent, curious and blank canvases, and should be allowed to make up their own mind about the things that they like.  They shouldn’t have to deal with the nonsensical and historical notions that we hold around gender specificity and I can only imagine how pleasant a world with less of that attitude would be.

In the meantime, here are some photos of my boys rocking pink.  I would, as ever, love to hear your thoughts on this.

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