Author Archives: pinqart

Kindness

I cannot get over the kindness of our family and friends.

Since I was made redundant 18 months ago, things have been really difficult financially, particularly when Mr PinQ’s contract with the charity that he worked for came to an end and he started doing temp work.  Losing my great wage was a blow but losing his low one was devastating, we didn’t know how we could feed and clothe ourselves, never mind our beautiful Baby-Girl when she arrived last summer.

Everyone has been so generous, giving us: bags and bags of knitted, crocheted and bought clothes, blankets, a pram, nappies, a cot-bed, change bags, a steriliser; a little work to earn extra money; lessons in crochet so that I could make things for her myself; toys; a practical helping hand when we’ve needed it; somewhere to stop and feed Baby-Girl or somewhere to sleep when travelling to see family and friends; a shoulder to cry on when it has been needed; puppy- and baby-sitting; baby sign classes – the list is endless!

If that weren’t enough, a friend with a property portfolio is buying another house for us to rent so that we will have a secure roof over our heads until we can afford to buy; another has arranged for us to live in another house until the sale of the other completes.

I’ve had hard times in the past, but it was never as bad as the last 18 months and of course, it was only ever me, my old doggy and cat (when they were still alive) that I had to think about.  Having a baby magnifies those sorts of stresses a hundredfold but having such wonderful, kind-hearted and generous people in our lives negates most of that stress.

Some people handed me money and said, “Get something for the baby”, so I put it straight into savings accounts for her.  With everyone having bought her so much already, we didn’t really need anything so making sure that she has a bit of money behind her when she grows up seemed like the right thing to do with it.

I’ve even been given loads of textiles (Nan-Bear and NannaD) and clothes so that I can make things, either for Baby-Girl or even to sell.  On top of that, people donated to help me set up my own business and I’ve already bought the sewing machine that I dreamed of owning when mine broke – although I’m goign to buy the other bits when we are settled in our new home, it would be silly to buy it now just to have to transport it 275 miles!

We’ve had all of the things from the food bank that other people wouldn’t take. Things like vegetables and uncut, lovely bread: Meditteranean, soda bread, organic brown batch, olive bread, ciabatta rolls and the rest!

We are the poorest we’ve ever been financially but the richest in love because of the kindness of others.  I really do hope that there is a heaven so that I can sit down with all of those wonderful people and tell them what they mean to me.  Some of you will think, “but it as just a little thing…” it wasn’t a little thing to us.  The baby clothes from the charity shop was as gratefully received as the leg of lamb, the pork joint, the vegetables, the vegetable peeling to feed the hens, the second-hand crib, the cot-bed and everything else.  I can never sell any on any of the beautiful things that people have made for Baby-Girl, they are too precious, but I expect I will sell bags of assorted baby clothes at some point but even if I don’t keep everything forever, I will never forget the generous, kind souls that gave us so much peace of mind.  Being able to dress your baby (for at least a year) because so many lovely people have given you so much – when you didn’t know how you were going to dress her past her first few weeks, really is amazing.

I have no way to adequately express what it means to be moving to a warm home where you aren’t in a daily battle with mould.  I even think that the cough and sinus thing that I started with on Christmas day will go when we are settled.

From anyone in need, thank you to all the good people.  When you help someone who really needs it, you give a them light, hope and joy.  Even when reality hits again as it must, the benefactor will always have the memory of that helping hand, in whatever form.

N.B. I normally proof-read in case of garbled sentences, typos and grammatical errors.  I am too tired to do that tonight and I have a tonne of work to do for Saturday plus a landlord visit tomorrow so I am just leaving the post as is.  Apologies if it reads like alphabetti spaghetti!

 

19 days…

On Friday 24th March 2017, we will be filling a 3.5 tonne low loader with the penultimate load of “stuff” to be transported to the North-West.  We’re going home.

Here is where it gets a bit scary.

We don’t have anywhere to live.

A dear friend with a property portfolio is buying a house specifically for us to rent but the seller initially refused the offer and then changed her mind.  That means that the completion date could be anytime between 14th of April and sometime in May.  So I am faced with the challenge of finding somewhere for my Baby-Girl, dog and cat to live for anywhere between 3 and 8 weeks.  The chickens, rabbits, guinea-bobs and chinchilla have temporary accomodation sorted out but I need to be close by (within 20-odd miles) to care for them and Mr PinQ has several options for bunking down somewhere.

I have been bidding on social housing and searching for short-term lets but as yet, without success.  We can’t stay in the South because of Mr PinQ’s start date for his dream job. If we extended our current tenancy, I would have to manage the move on my own and with the animals and Baby-Girl, not even I could deal with the logistics alone.

We have family and lots of friends who would put us up in a heartbeat but it is too much to ask anyone to take on so much and with Puppy-Dog being so young (14 months the day before move day), she still has very destructive moments and I could never forgive myself if she destroyed something belonging to someone that we love!

I can easily get a second storage unit for the last bits of furniture and as I have said, there is a Plan B for the chooks and small furries but I am starting to get a little bit stressed about housing the rest of us.

Stress aside, I can’t wait.  I have loved being down South for the last 8 years.  If I hadn’t moved here for that job in Easter 2009: I wouldn’t have met my husband or had our beautiful Baby-Girl; I would have missed out on becoming friends with some truly wonderful people; I’d never have found my big brother (we should have been brother and sister) and Nan-Bear (his mum); I wouldn’t be doing my Creative Arts degree or have had an exhibition of my own or a piece exhibited in London as a finalist with a V&A competition; I wouldn’t have returned to the stage or begun singing again and found my panto family; I would never have begun ice-skating lessons and fallen in love with the sport; I doubt that I would have started running and cycling again; I certainly wouldn’t have had the amazing career that I did before becoming a mum and I wouldn’t be be building a business doing what I love.

We are exchanging this:

stokes-bay

For this:

dovestone

We had always said that we would return to the North-West, although we had planned to stay in the South for another 2 years, so when we were given notice on the house, it seemed like fate was telling us something.  We sat and wrote a list of decent local dog walks within a few minutes walk to an hour’s drive in both locations, the sort of walk that you would do in a morning at the weekend.  We spent five minutes on each list and came up with 12 down here and 55 with my home town as the cantre point.

We also considered different locations across 4 counties, all of which we were happy to move to and started to look at both rental and purchase costs.  Although we can’t buy for a few years yet, we found some incredible houses for sale in the North-West at less than half the price of comparable homes where we are now.

This house is out of our price range for the moment and not necessarily what we will be looking to buy in the future but a property of a similar size and in similar condition costs £160,000 more down here.

Neighbours and friends have said, “Yes, but it’s hard to get work up North.” To be honest, there is no discernible difference in the job market.  In fact, Mr PinQ has had more interviews, for better positions and a much more positive response with several more offers made than he’s had in 6 years here.

Our plans have had to change so many times in the last four months that I am still spinning.  A few weeks ago, we thought we had it sussed when I finally got a chance at a great job myself, on better pay than I had been down here and Mr PinQ was going be a stay-at-home dad.  Typically, he then got a start date that he has been waiting over a year for!  I am really pleased because it means that I can be at home with my beautiful baby, building my business and studying.

Apart from the worry about lack of accomodation from 24th March to when we can move into our new house, I can’t wait to be home.

Feeding Baby

Wow.

There is an overwhelming amount of (often conflicting) information out there.

I ignored it all.

My advice to anyone who is soon to becoma a parent: find what works for you and your baby.

I couldn’t eat much during the pregnancy due to Hyperemesis Gradivarium and if you think that is the same as morning sickness, try hurling until you suffocate yourself and begin to feel panic rising alongside the bile as your airways close and you think you are going to die SEVEN OR EIGHT TIMES A DAY FOR 39 WEEKS!

Anyhoo.  As a rule, I cook from scratch.  Even when I’ve been cash rich and time poor, I tended to devote a day to cooking and make huge batches of chillis, soups, stews and even bread that could be put in the freezer as “convenience” meals.  I’m lucky because my Mum and Step-Grandma loved to cook so I learned to cook.  Convenience food and even a lot of restaurant food just isn’t up to the high standards that were set by the magnificent women in my life.  In fact, in recent months, our menu for the week was set by what Mr PinQ brought home form the food bank – it’s amazing how much more inventive you become!  I suppose that I was hoping to be able to breast feed as a natural progression from that, feeding my baby formula that is full of palm oil really didn’t appeal to me.

“Oh here we go.  Another of those self-righteous, blow-up-your-own-backside posts about how marvellous a mother you are because your baby was breast fed.” I hear you think.  Well read on…

As it happens, I’m a realist.  I was hoping to be able to breast feed but I know plenty of lovely mums and some of them chose to breast feed, some chose to bottle feed and others had to bottle feed whether they liked it or not.  I was under no illusions on that score.  To be honest, I found the posters in the local maternity unit intimidating because the message was that the best mums breastfeed their babies and I actually felt inadequate before my baby was even born!

One of the things that went into my “grab bag” was a tub of Cow & Gate formula, just in case.  In the hospital, everyone was talking about Aptimil like it was the food of the Gods so again, I felt inadequate.

I had HELLP Syndrome, my kidneys were failing a week before the birth, my liver was failing during and after but I managed about half of my Baby-Girl’s feeds myself but I had to combination feed.  After 5 months, my milk was completely gone.

On her first day, she showed me that she was hungry by sweeping her finger down her cheek towards her mouth so on our second morning when I was snapped at by a midwife:

“When did this baby last have a feed?”

“About midnight.”

“That was over 5 hours ago!  You must wake her up for a feed every 2 to 3 hours.”

I thought, “F*** off.  She tells me when she is hungry and this place is covered in posters about feeding on demand – which is it?”

Anyway, my milk should have come in on the Wednesday (I gave birth on the Sunday) but even by the Friday, it hadn’t.  I had been too poorly and we’d been thrown on a ward with a bright light over us all night on our last night in hospital so that messed us both up and my beautiful little girl lost far too much weight.  I decided to combination feed for as long as I could and persevered with expressing and lots of skin-to-skin but I was never going to be able to feed her wholly myself, regardless of how much I wanted to.  In 5 months, I had only two days when I was able to feed her entirely myself.

I decided to do a little research into baby formula, partly because of the people raving about Aptimil and partly because we have very little money and guess what I discovered… there is NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERNCE between the brands of baby formula because it is so highly regulated.  That decided me.  Cow & Gate – that said, Lidl are now selling baby formula in their Bebivita range and it’s only £4.49 a box so I shall be trialling that in the next few weeks.

I had also planned to take the Baby Led Weaning route.  I read about how stressful spoon-feeding could be and saw the sense of letting baby have control over what they ate etc.  Then I had a little lightbulb moment.

If all baby has ever had is milk, he/she is bound to pull their face when you shove a spoonful of dinner in their mouth.  It must taste really strange.

So, the plan changed and a little shy of 15 weeks, everything that I (or Nanny or Nan-Bear) cooked got my little finger dipped in it and I let my Baby-Girl have a tiny taste.

At 17 weeks, she had her first baby porridge (Aptimil stank and she wasn’t keen so we replaced it with a plain Cow and Gate porridge and some Heinz Peach and Apricot porridge) and for dinner, vegetable and rice medleys that I’d boiled, blended and frozen and she absolutely loved them.

We tried a couple of flavours of “proper” baby food time and again but she didn’t like them.

At 33 weeks now, she has a list of “Big Girl Dinners” 50-something long which includes: hot smoked salmon; home-made celery, onion, rice and green lentil soup; crumpets; bacon sammiches; blueberries, mashed banana, smoked mackerel; tiny pots of fromage frais; scrambled egg; salami and cream cheese sammiches; home-made butternut squash and red pepper soup, black pudding; mashed potato with broccoli and cauliflower; tiny pancakes with lemon and many more.

I started a list in case there was anything that she wouldn’t eat but so far, she’s liked everything!

As a tiny baby, she set her feeding and sleeping routine and by week three, she slept through until 05:30.  That gradually got later and later and now, she normally wakes up at about 07:00.  I suspectthat is because of the combination feeding, the people that I know that were breastfeeding seemed to have to get up a lot in the night.

We start the day with a 150ml bottle and then play and cuddles for an hour and a half to two hours; then she has her baby porridge with some juice or water (I’ll come to that) and a nap until about 11:00; then it’s time for her second 150ml bottle and play for a couple of hours until lunch.

Lunch consists of one of her big-girl dinners, followed by a fruit pot, mashed banana, chopped strawberry or about 7 blueberries with a drink and then it’s time for another nap of about an hour and a half.  When she gets up, she has a little bottle (120ml) and we play for another couple of hours and at 17:30 ish, she has her next big-girl dinner, followed by a fromage frais and then it’s more play for a couple of hours and a 150 ml bottle before bed at about 20:00.

With all of her big-girl dinners and during play time, she has juice or filtered water.  Initially, my Mum had bought some baby juice and I carried on but then I realised: I was paying £1 for 500ml of watered down fruit juice.  I checked the sugar content and it’s 4.7g per 100ml and she can easily drink half a bottle in a day so…  I went into Lidl (Tesco’s or Asda’s own would work just as well) and bought cranberry and raspberry – less than 60p a litre – and watered it down with filtered tap 1:1.  The sugar content is 6.2g per 100ml so watered down, it is only 3.1g; so in making her baby juice myself, I am saving over £1.40 and she is having less sugar!

I also researched whether or not she could have fromage frais when she got to 6 months old and discovered that she can! You can buy 18 Petit Filous for £3, although it was half price in Tesco the other week so that was a major bonus.  The sugar content is 9.9g per 100g and the pot size is 47g, so she’s having 4.65g of sugar in that pot.  With a 200g jar of baby yoghurt at 10g sugar per 100g, even if you separated it into 4 portions, that’s still 5g of sugar per portion- although I suspect that you’d be tempted to feed a third or a half a jar as one dessert.  If you averaged one jar for 3 desserts, you would have to buy 6 jars and at 80p per jar, that’s £4.80.  Yet again, I am saving money and feeding her less sugar.

She eats beautifully and daintily from a spoon with only a tiny bit of mess around her mouth when I’ve overloaded the spoon or she’s been excited about what she’s eating and so far, with the exception of actual baby food, she has loved everything – she even tried Kiełbasa this evening (Polish sausage)!  I swear that it’s down to the finger dip tastes that she had just prior to trying her on puréed solids.

Now, just because that worked for me, doesn’t mean it is what other people should do.  So regardless of what route you take, it has to be what’s right for you and if you want to (and can afford to) buy organic fruit purée, then do it.  My only advice would be to read enough to make sure that you can make an informed decision but try not to be overwhelmed and let the volume of inormation out there confuse you.  In truth, you will know what is right for you so even if you read something that tells you that you MUST feed your baby on a diet that includes meat and oily fish but you want to raise them on a gluten-free and vegan diet, just read how to do that in the right way to make sure that your baby gets all of the nutrients he or she needs and you’ll be fine.

They must think we are stupid!

“Hello,
Message important for you! You have a tax refund of £ 241,76 GBP still pending! We have been unable to credit the funds on your account.”

Their email address showed as:HM Revenue & Customs <payment@germany-carsale24.com>

Honestly!  Even if the email address hadn’t been visible, the dodgy English in the subject field would have made it an obvious scam: “Enquiry from HMRC urgent for you! You have a tax refund of £ 241,76 GBP still pending!”.

Reported to HMRC.

07527915436

“Am I speaking to Mrs PinQ?”

“Ye—s”

“Hello Mrs PinQ.  I am Dave [MYAR5E] from Credit _______”

I didn’t catch the name of the ‘company’.

“It is my understanding that you have personal debt that you pay off monthly.”

“I must stop you there.  This number is TPS registered.”

“But your number was given to us by Citizens Advice and the Financial Conduct Authority with regard to your debt.”

“I don’t think so.  Even if Citizens Advice did have my details due to a problem with debt, they would not contravene the DPA ’98.”

“Well, what I don’t understand is if you can’t amanage your debt, why you have TPS.”

He then hung up.

I have reported the call to the TPS, Action FraudCitizens Advice and the FCA.  Mainly because of the people that would be suckered by these scammers – especially when they are bandying about organisations such as Citizens Advice and the FAC.

Our Last Hope

You may think that this is me playing at doing something I fancy but it really is our last hope.

The crowdfunding page has been up for 4 days and not a single donation 😥 so here are the links for those of you that would like to help – if you can afford a few pounds, that would be great, if not, please re-post; very many thanks in advance and thanks to those that have already posted the original appeal on FB:

Seven and a half years ago, after recovering from a major depressive episode and other personal issues, I moved 250 miles South, away from the people and places that I knew and loved. I had no money and many of my friends all over the world bought pieces of my art to help me to buy things that I would need. and three close friends made the actual move possible.  With only a weeks’ notice, no savings and coming into a job that didn’t pay enough to get a mortgage; my friends pitched in and helped me to rent a house and move – I couldn’t have done it without them!

Since then, I have made a lot of lovely new friends, some of whom are now like family, and met my husband and over the years, we worked hard to repay debts that had been brought into the relationship. We lived a simple lifestyle but just as we’d got to the point where things were finally getting settled and straight, I was made redundant.  I took it as a chance to recover from the stresses of the job and to focus on my studies and it turned out to be a fantastic blessing because after four years of marriage and not being able to conceive, I discovered that I was pregnant!

Now, I was earning good money in the job that I had been made redundant from so I had encouraged my hubby to take a risk and accept a one year contract working for a youth charity that meant a great deal to him.  He was finally doing a job that he enjoyed, was intellectually stimulated at work and giving something back so he was extremely happy but before our beautiful baby-girl was born, his contract came to an end.

I applied for short-term contracts (up to six months) in my field but found that I was unable to secure a position once I told potential employers that I was pregnant – even after being told that the job was mine.  I decided to change direction and do something more rewarding and was able to secure a part-time position as a youth worker.  It pays very little but it was enough to keep us from sinking and despite not yet being fully recovered from developing HELLP Syndrome towards the end of the pregnancy, I am still applying for suitable roles within my field as a quality manager.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t want to leave my baby-girl with a childminder and I certainly don’t want to go back into a highly stressful career again but I will do whatever is necessary for my family – who wouldn’t?

When my hubby’s contract was coming to an end, one of the organisations that he volunteers with encouraged him to apply for a full-time position and he is now eight months into the recruitment process and just awaiting a start date.  In the meantime, he is doing temp work on less than £250 per week, our savings have disappeared and it could be another 6 months before he gets a start date.  He applies for jobs that pay more – although he realises that it wouldn’t really be fair to start a job and then push off when the start date comes but he is only thinking of the family – but there isn’t much locally that is suitable.

To add insult to injury, our landlady has given us notice on the house.  We have 7 weeks to vacate the property.  With my hubby in temp work, me on maternity leave from a very poorly paid part-time job (and not entitled to statutory maternity pay), we haven’t a hope of privately renting and certainly no chance of buying somewhere.  That means that we are facing homelessness with temporary, emergency accommodation whilst we wait for social housing.

Now, I had been toying with the idea of starting a business for a long time and realised that our current circumstances could well be fate giving me a kick up the backside so I wrote the business plan and have set up the crowdfunding page etc.  My next job is to write some funding bids.  I have to be working or we will have to re-home the puppy, the cat, the chickens and our other furries before we are made homeless – that is how desperate our situation is now.

My weekly shop costs about £30 and it is subsidised with vegetables and bread from a food bank, as well as my Mum giving us food to bring home when we visit.  Those visits have been paid for by car boot sales and over the next few weeks, selling things that I have made at Christmas fairs.  If it hadn’t been for the generosity of family and friends, we wouldn’t have even had enough clothes for our baby-girl.

I could spend the next seven weeks breaking my back to do the house and garden up to try to get our deposit back.  We did a lot of big jobs at our own expense over the years – things that were the landlord’s responsibility but they never had the money and as some of you may remember, left us for 8 weeks with an electrical circuit that wasn’t earthed when we moved in; with no heating or hot water for over 3 weeks a few years ago through January and February and more recently, took over 8 weeks to have a collapsed bathroom roof and ceiling repaired.  Incidentally, they wouldn’t pay for the full job to be done and left us with damp, mouldy walls and rotten skirting board so I stripped the bathroom, let it dry and re-decorated just so that it was safe for baby.  With that in mind, I expect that it would be best to just clean it and spend my energies starting my own business and sorting out where we are going to live.

What is left of our savings will pay for a deposit and move but if I can’t get the funding in to start my business, we’ll be homeless within a month anyway so it really is critical that I get the funding in to start the business.

The business will not only be a way for me to sell my own pieces and to raise the profile of other artists and craftspeople but we will also be able to provide workshops in order to share our skills and knowledge with people who want to learn.  Most importantly, 25% of those workshop spaces will be free to individuals who are in some way disadvantaged and would not normally have the opportunity.  I certainly won’t get rich from it.

EU: the FACTS

Was the title of the leaflet that came through the door this afternoon.

I can’t say that I was surprised to find a UKIP logo with contact details on the back, the leaflet proved to me that they are aiming for a less intelligent following.  The “IF WE VOTE TO LEAVE THE EU” page had green headers and the “IF YOU VOTE TO REMAIN IN THE EU” using red.

N.B. The use of “WE” and “YOU”

You are part of a nice, snuggly, warm club/family if you choose to vote leave.  Isolation and doom for you if you choose to remain.

Not surprisingly, the “facts” are not particularly factual.  Opinion is not fact – even when it’s mine 😉

I had a look at it because Star (the puppy) kept trying to paw at it so I thought I would read it to her.

Now, the reason that I kept it on the coffee table in the first place was so that I could lodge a complaint.  When we got Star, Mr PinQ put chicken wire across our wrought iron garden gate and fitted the following sign (on both sides):

Please Close the Gate

The sign is approximately 5″ x 7″ (roughly 13cm x 18cm) and the gate is easy enough to operate so I was not impressed when I went out with Star earlier and found that the gate had only been pulled to rather than closed.  I was taught that when leafleting, you should always leave the gate as you found it and I KNOW that I closed it earlier; never mind the fact that there is a SIGN asking people to close the gate.

Further to all of this, I then tried to call the number on the back of the leaflet to complain about the gate, only to be put through to the UKIP membership hotline!  Really? Membership?

With my Aryan looks, I might have to ask Mr PinQ to put on some DMs so that he looks as BNP as possible and pay a visit to the local UKIP member’s office…