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Dear Santa

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

My daughter has stolen my home

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 02 October 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,

I fear I'm being pushed out of my home by my daughter.  A year ago she came to me in tears, explaining that she could no longer afford her rented flat. She was buying cheap food and doing without heating, so her three year old son was suffering. Could she move in with me until she got back on her feet?

Naturally I sad yes, and moved out of my bedroom into the box room, so they'd have more space. But what she didn't say was that her boyfriend was moving in too. I got the shock of my life when I woke up one morning to find him at my kitchen table.

Now my grandson's toys are all over the place and there are clothes on every radiator. They eat different food, at different times, so I often struggle to make myself something to eat. My daughter dominates the cooker and gets exasperated when I'm in her way.

Recently my grandson was ill with a high temperature and cried for nights on end. My neighbour offered me her spare room, so I could get some sleep, and now I only return to my flat for a bath and fresh clothes. Then I make myself scarce for the rest of the day. The only time I feel welcome is when I'm required for free babysitting.

I own a stunning flat in an affluent city location and all my daughter's old friends live nearby. My grandson attends a good local nursery and his mum is very settled. There's never any mention of them moving out. I'm made to feel that I'm in the way. What should I do?

Patricia Marie says...

By moving out of your home into your neighbour's house, you have allowed your daughter to have the run of your home, which has now become a habit.  Your daughter may consider herself at home in your property, but she needs to have it pointed out to her that this arrangement is not forever. Of course you care about her and her son, and want to keep them warm and safe, but your home is not the solution.

At the moment you are not being shown any respect - not for your space, your routines or your comfort. I urge you to stand up for yourself before this unsatisfactory situation has an adverse effect on your health and well-being.

I feel you have been avoiding the inevitable, but the time has come - you need to confront your daughter, and remember that this is between you and her, so do not allow her boyfriend to interfere, or let the two of them gang up on you.

Make it clear how upset and displaced you feel. Yes, you did offer your daughter a stopgap home but there was no mention of her boyfriend being included or this being a long-term solution.

What are their plans? What is their time frame for moving on? If there is no plan, one needs to be devised.
Has your daughter looked for an alternative place to live or contacted the local housing department? What is her new boyfriend doing about finding a new home?

In the meantime, a proper list of rules and boundaries needs to be drawn up regarding access to the kitchen, cleaning the flat and tidying up. She has to stop thinking about the flat as hers and make way for your needs too. It's possible that she may call you unrealistic and uncaring, so do make it clear that whilst your not throwing her out on the street today, things need to move forward and get sorted very soon, for all your sakes.

Have a dilemma? Please email  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Where the heart is

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Monday, 26 November 2012
It’s strange how one changes, as age marches on. When I was younger, I was a careless traveller; I thought nothing of leaping on an aeroplane at a day’s notice, and running off to Manhattan or Cochin. Now, leaving home is like a physical wrench. I like to imagine I am a citizen of the world, but sometimes I think if someone told me I would never again be able to leave Scotland, it would come as a slight relief.

As I come to the end of the first week in the south, staying with the cousins I visit twice a year, there is the usual sense of bittersweet. It is enchanting here: a charming house, a happy family, delightful dogs, green fields to walk over, a rambling garden to explore. I have all possible love and comfort; there is good conversation and good jokes and good food and fine wines. There are even horses to divert me, since the cousin’s husband runs a polo yard. I go outside to see his summer stars, all dopey and furry and relaxed in their winter coats, enjoying their lazy months off.

Things I miss number one: the mountainThe things I am missing. Number one: the mountain

Yet the sight of them makes me miss my own mare, and my own field, and my own equine routine, which has become such a defining part of my daily life. Getting out before breakfast to do the feeding and grooming and riding and groundwork has become the most meaningful part of my day. Writing, which is my job and my love, obviously gives its own definition, and I could not exist without it, but, oddly, it is the hard physical work, out in the mud and the air and the elements, which currently gives me the most joy. It’s not necessarily what I would have expected.

Slowly, slowly, for all the joy of being here, I feel the homesickness build. I am so dug into Scotland, I even find myself missing the mountains. There are no mountains in the south; I scan the horizon fruitlessly. I miss the glacial valleys and the dark Scottish woods and the blue hills and the weather coming in from the north-east. I did not grow up there; I had almost no knowledge of the place until I moved north, on a complete whim, fourteen years ago. Belonging is such a curious and nebulous concept, but the very landscape has stitched itself so deeply into my heart that leaving it, even for a short time, creates a slight gap in me, as if something is missing.

The things I am missing. Number two: this faceThe things I am missing. Number two: this face

This does all sound a bit flaky. It’s just a horse and a few hills, after all. One must get out in the world; I have hermit-like tendencies which should not be indulged too much. But then I imagine the thing as if it were the other way round - if I did not miss home, if I had no sense of belonging, if I did not yearn for the mountains - and I think how awful and arid and sad that would be. It might make my social life rather more complicated, but I wonder perhaps it is not a great piece of luck and privilege, to find a place where I am so deeply rooted. They really are my hills, and I lift my eyes up to them, and find my strength.

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