Who gets to play Santa now we’re divorced?

A look at a report recently published, titled ‘Children, divorce and separation in the festive season’ – How the UK’s divorced and separated parents deal with the practical and emotional demands of Christmas.

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Christmas can be a challenging time for parents, even if they are blessed with a stable family and strong support network, the stress of the festive season putting added pressure on our time, wallets and emotions.

When families breakdown, the challenges are often more daunting and for parents who find themselves estranged from one another, the festive season often serves to bring many of the more difficult scenarios home to roost.

Questions about who gets to spend time with the children tend to rise to the surface again as both sides of the family seek to impose their own wishes. Meanwhile, both parents will always argue that their actions are ‘in the best interests of the children.’

A report was commissioned by Simpson Millar solicitors with these dynamics in mind – they surveyed 1000 divorced and separated parents across the UK during December 2014, to find out their thoughts and feelings as Christmas approaches.

Asking questions such as ‘how do you divide your children’s time at Christmas?’ and ‘Do your children get two Christmases, one with each parent?’ the results are rather revealing.

The report revealed that Christmas arrangements can be difficult and are often a source of added stress. Parents are always trying their best to make sure that the children have as enjoyable and fulfilling a time at Christmas as possible, while trying to ensure that that their own needs to be parents and desire to spend time with their children is satisfied.

The survey reveals a number of fascinating trends about divorced and separated parents around the country.

Almost a quarter of divorced parents spend Christmas Day together

Almost a quarter of divorced parents spend Christmas Day together

It may surprise you to learn that the UK’s mums and dads are a mostly forgiving bunch, almost a quarter (23%) of divorced and separated parents actually spend their Christmas Day together as a family.

The most common approach to Christmas for divorced and separated parents is to take it in turns every year, with 27% saying they alternate who has the children with their ex. East Midlanders were the most likely to do this, with 35% of people in that region taking the kids for Christmas from year to year, as opposed to just 23% of Yorkshire parents.

The first Christmas apart….

For every divorced or separated couple with children the first Christmas apart is possibly going to be one of the most challenging. Loneliness, jealousy over new partners or step siblings involved with your children can cause considerable anxiety, as the report  confirmed.

Asking parents what the most challenging moments during that first year were, the overwhelming response nationwide was ‘remaining on speaking terms’.

41% of divorced and separated parents found it difficult to remain on speaking terms at all and were unable to make any arrangements at all.

The influence of new partners or step children can be very hard to cope with, but some parents are more worried about adult influences, 14% of parents said they were ‘concerned about the presence or influence of a new partner’.

Planning ahead…

At what time of year do parents make Christmas arrangements?

At what time of year do parents make Christmas arrangements?

 

Most divorced and separated parents make arrangements ‘in good time’ for Christmas, but 24%

described their approach as ‘cutting it fine’ and waited until December to make plans. A small number of parents (4%) said they left planning until the week before Christmas while East Anglian parents were the most organised with 60% making arrangements between September and November.

Really Doing it for the kids?

In a classic pollster’s trick, to ask the same question in two different ways, the survey managed to find out a little more about how divorced and separated parents  actually involve their children in the decision making process.Variables including the age of the children were considered and the results are quite revealing.

The majority of parents tended not to ask their children where they want to spend Christmas with, with only 13% saying they did. However, when asked a similar question worded differently – ‘what

important factors when dividing time spent

important factors when dividing time spent with the children

factors do you consider to be the most important when dividing time spent with your children at Christmas?’ a massive 66% of parents claimed that ‘their children’s opinions’ were significant.

 

Common causes of arguments

The most common thing divorced and separated parents said they argue about at Christmas is the problem of their ex ‘spoiling’ the children. 37% of of mums and dads across the UK said this was the likeliest source of tension and over in Northern Ireland it was an issue for 67%.

As to be expected,  there were several other potential flash points.

Spoiling is a major concern for parents in Northern Ireland, with 67% saying this was a common cause

Most common cause of arguments

Most common cause of arguments

of arguments with their ex partner.

Another common cause of arguments (30%)  concerned the presence of a new step-family, 37% of Londoners said they were anxious

about this, but only 17% of people in Wales said the same.

‘Badmouthing the other parent’ was responsible for arguments between 20% of ex couples, a surprisingly low number.

So what next?

Christmas can be a tough time for families after separation – even those parenting together following a less acrimonious separation or divorce or who may have been apart for several years can find it difficult. Much of the problem is the unrealistic expectation society places on Christmas being perfect. Combine this with money worries, logistics of you both wanting Christmas with your kids and the feelings of guilt and loneliness that can be overwhelming and no wonder it can all get a bit much.

Getting through Christmas is an important part of the journey that you and your children have to go through . Even though it can be challenging for all involved there are some things you can do to make it a little easier.

Planning and flexibility 

Don’t pretend it can be the same as when you were together – Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
It’s important to put on a brave face for the children, but try and give yourself a bit of time alone to help deal with your feelings and don’t feel guilty about doing so.

Talk about your feelings as a family and maybe share ideas for a ‘different’ type of Christmas; sometime sharing your thoughts will help you feel closer.

Trying to be 'Super Parent' is exhausting

Trying to be ‘Super Parent’ is exhausting

Don’t try and be super mum or super dad attempting to fix everything. It’s exhausting and pressured for everyone. It is much better all round to stagger the Christmas celebrations so that the children can spend relaxed time with both of you.

It’s only natural to feel especially protective of your children at Christmas, maybe even a little defensive but don’t let feeling guilty mean you give into pester power from the little ones or teenagers pressuring you to spend what you can’t afford.

It’s easy to do this, especially if the kids aren’t living with you. Try and make time for cheap or free ‘treats’ that everyone can look forward to……kids often know that money doesn’t buy love better than their parents do.

That brings me to the old but true cliche – money really can’t buy you love – we know it, but there’s a strong link, especially for mums, between spending money and expressing love so it’s easy to overspend. Thing is most people care more about the thought that went into presents, rather than how much they cost so try and keep that in mind.

What kids’ value the most is relaxed time with their parent/s more than expensive material things

Spend some chilled time with the kids this Christmas

Spend some chilled time with the kids this Christmas

. Overspending  just sets up more problems afterwards which, in the long run, will make things worse for everyone. The more stressed you are about money the less able you will be to focus on your kid’s needs – so leave the credit card at home if you feel tempted to overspend.

Try to set a budget and then stick to it – shopping early and taking practical steps to avoid overspending is crucial.

Talk to the children and your ex about arrangements well in advance – realistic expectations can prevent disappointment for everyone.

Get your family on side and to recognise that doing things a little differently could help everyone deal with loss, divorce, or new family arrangements.

Try not to be too controlling or take things personally. For example, if your ex-partner says they can only see their child for a certain amount of time that doesn’t mean they don’t care. Instead of getting angry, organise things differently next Christmas

Possibly the most important thing to keep in mind at Christmas is that not the time to sort out problems and gripes. Christmas is stressful enough as it is. If possible, wait until things have settled down in the New Year.

Last but not least remember not to be be too hard on yourself – talk to friends about your feelings and allow yourself to work through them at your own pace. It’s normal to find Christmas difficult at the best of times so cut yourself some slack and have some fun :)

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The best sex toys to spice up christmas

For ladies and gentlemen finding themselves on Magic Moments’ naughty list this year, it’s time for some serious punishment with a little help from the sex toy gods.

Feeling fruity this festive season?

Feeling fruity this festive season?

Too much roast turkey, bucks fizz and nibbles, there’s so much about this time of year that just screams indulgence, and why shouldn’t it?

As the season to be jolly gets well in the swing, why not delve into an altogether different type of pleasure, when the Christmas lights go out and you find a little ‘alone time’ with your partner, among the busy party schedule?

With the help of the UK’s longest serving sex toy shopping site, Magic Moments, we have put together a tasty selection of Christmas goodies of a naughty kind, that you won’t want to open in front of granny…

Needing no introduction, other than an orgasmic wow, it’s the Intimate Labia Spreader, one of Magic Moment’s most popular couples toys of the year, packing one hell of a punch for a reactively small toy. The Intimate Parts Spreader is a ridged curve that is inserted prior to intercourse, providing mindblowing stimulation to both the G-Spot and penis.

Stylish and incredibly effective, this toy promises to be the perfect sexy stocking filler for you both to enjoy.

Next, find yourself caught in a love affair of a different kind with the Anal Fever Vibrating Love Beads. Add a little spice to Christmas night fun, as lovers of anal play all over the UK are able to snap up this powerful, visually enticing and incredibly arousing love toy online.

Enjoyed by both, you can look forward to a very naughty new year with one of Magic Moments best anal toys.

Take some time for yourself in between the festivities

Take some time for yourself in between the festivities

A remote control vibrator can prove to be the perfect recipe for a good time at this time of year. Ladies, submit to the mercy of your partner in any social environment and prepare for the unpredictable excitement this sex toy provides. Christmas office party, an evening out for cocktails or even a cosy night in with your lover, all are perfect settings for some seriously naughty fun. But shhh – keep it your little secret ;)

Single and happy this December? There are still plenty of solo sex toys out there that guarantee a good time between the sheets. From vibrators and dildo’s for the ladies, to male masturbators and realistic toys for the gents, a more pleasurable and satisfying festive period is just around the corner.

You can find all the toys listed here and much more on the Magic Moments website or call 07809 258127 for more details :)

Looking for something a little different this year?

Looking for something a little different this year?

 

Mystery window cleaner rescues elderly Timperley lady from house fire

THE actions of a quick-thinking window cleaner and a working smoke alarm have saved the life of an elderly lady after a fire broke out in her flat on Park Road, Timperley.
Fifteen firefighters and three fire engines from Stretford, Sale and Wythenshawe stations received a call from a window cleaner who happened to see smoke and flames through the window and called 999 early on Tuesday morning.

Image taken by Ben Levy at the scene. (via Twitter)

Image taken by Ben Levy at the scene. (via Twitter)

Cover jets were used inside and outside the property to bring the fire, which had started in the bedroom of the ground floor flat at Mayfair Court, under control.

The occupant, a 94-year-old lady, had managed to escape the smoke and flames because she had a working smoke alarm, which woke her up before the fire service arrived.

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “The fire had started in the bedroom. It has left quite bad fire damage and the rest of the property is smoke damaged.

“A window cleaner happened to see smoke and flames through the window and called 999.
“While he was on the phone, the smoke alarm triggered and the woman managed to get out of the flat herself.

“She had a lucky escape.”

The woman was treated for minor smoke inhalation and did not require hospital treatment.
The cause of the fire is still unknown at this stage.

The fire service has put her survival down to a working smoke alarm and the quick-thinking actions of the mystery window cleaner, who they have been unable to trace.

Residents can get a free home safety check and smoke alarms for their property by visiting manchesterfire.gov.uk

Are you the mystery window cleaner, or do you know their identity? Get in touch @Taaliah76

Is the government housing scheme all it seems?

A new scheme offering 100,000 first time buyers in the UK new homes with a 20% discount has been announced by the Prime Minister as part of a drive to ‘help people onto the housing market’

Starter home initiative will be rolled out early next year

Starter home initiative will be rolled out early next year

 

Aspiring homeowners will be asked to register their interest in buying via the Starter Home Initiative from the start of next year, an initiative that has been developed to help what some have dubbed ‘Britain’s housing crisis’.

A large part of the project involves a change to the planning system, ‘freeing under used or unviable brownfield land from planning costs and levies in return for a below market value sale price on the homes built on the site’.

Under section 106 developers are obliged to pay money towards ensuring adequate infrastructure for the community. No S106 liabilities means no responsibility to ensure this happens, the land could be bought and developed without suitable access to transport, education, open spaces and libraries that the payments are intended to fund.

David Cameron rolled out the same rhetoric we have come to expect, saying: “Hardworking young people want to plan for the future and enjoy the security of being able to own their own home’, appearing to overlook the 85,000 homeless people on social housing waiting lists in Manchester alone. There may be a need for ‘affordable starter homes’ but the need for affordable social housing is far more pressing.

The reality is that this scheme is not going to increase housing availability, nor improve affordability. Similar schemes in the past have done little more than transfer lots of taxpayer cash into developers’ pockets without really increasing output or decreasing the costs charged for housing. There is no long-term benefit or gain for society from this scheme, unlike real investment in social housing that sees new homes built, rented at rates people can afford and let to families on a perpetual basis.

Is this really nothing more than Cameron’s idea of trying to ‘buy’ election votes?

Cameron offers the same old rhetoric….

When Thatcher sold off council houses in her own bid to do the same it led to the largest shortage of social housing ever, with thousands of homeless paying the price.

The government’s denial of the role of social housing in ensuring our economic needs to be met is both short sighted and self-defeating. The current housing policies are not sustainable, as was shown by the role it played in the economic crash five years ago.

It could be an attempt by the government to delay the UK housing market from collapse. The UK is the highest indebted EU country with an ageing, pension-less population and the younger generation strapped up with increasing student debt, estimated at £44,000 each from 2015. This latest “Starter Home Scheme’ is very similar to other shared ownership schemes – we’ve had ‘buy to rent’, ‘help to buy’, ‘rent to buy’ and now ‘buy for votes’ – short term and perhaps locally they seem like a good idea but from a long term macro economic perspective the raw perspective the raw price goes up to compensate.

We do need an increase in housing stock but I’m not sure this scheme will give us that. If it were really about lowering prices then surely an idea would be to bring down all housing costs by 20%. We don’t need discounted houses, or ‘affordable builds’ – just simply more homes.

We need more affordable housing for all

We need more affordable housing for all

The Quays Mail

Here is Quays Mail – a student newspaper I helped create as part of our final year project. Go team :)

“Foodbank demand is underestimated” says Manchester expert

Food bank poverty pic

At a time of year when many people are debating the size of turkey and how many sprouts they’ll need for Christmas dinner, there are thousands more that are struggling to eat at all.
There has been a sudden, rapid growth in the number of foodbanks and supermarket ‘food collection points’. You could be forgiven for thinking that food poverty is a new problem. The truth is rather different; food, or rather a lack of it, has been a growing issue since the nineties, when the first Trussell Trust foodbank was founded by a couple in Salisbury operating out of a shed at the end of their garden.

It would seem that whilst bringing the problem to people who were previously unaware of the poverty crisis happening around them, the appearance of both foodbanks and strategically placed food collection points suggests a ‘normalisation’ of food aid for the future, according to Manchester expert, Dr Kingsley Purdam.

Dr Purdam, along with two colleagues at the University of Manchester, has written an in-depth report entitled ‘Hungry Food Stigma’; it makes both interesting and worrying reading to say the least.

The research, conducted in the North West, took into consideration evidence from a survey, case studies of foodbanks in the area and interviews with foodbank users. In this one city alone there are seven Trussell Trust foodbanks, and a further thirty other ‘free food providers’ in the area.

The Trussell Trust are opening foodbanks at a rate of two a week. Their figures reveal that the numberPrimary-Referral-Causes-Apr-Sept2014 of people they gave emergency food to rose from almost 350,000 in 2012/13 to over double at 900,000 in 20013/14. If this is the tip of the iceberg, as both the figures and Dr Purdam’s research support, then we have a huge problem and it is only going to get worse – it’s estimated that 4.7million people in the UK live in food poverty and the Trussell Trust predict there will be more than one million people using their foodbanks in 2014 alone.

This is without taking into consideration the many independent foodbanks and other informal sources of food aid that often go undocumented and rely heavily on both community support and donations.

The reasons people turn to foodbanks varies massively and, contrary to what some public figures would have you believe, it’s not because ‘poor people don’t know how to cook.’

While Baroness Jenkin has apologised for her comment, putting it down to ‘stupidly speaking unscripted’, she is not the first to make such a sweeping generalisation – former Conservative Government Health Minister Edwina Currie seemed to blame foodbank users themselves, stating that “they never learn to cook…the moment they’ve got a bit of spare cash they’re off getting another tattoo.”

Katie Hopkins has also jumped on the blame train, comparing foodbank users to ‘cancer patients’ in a recent outspoken rant on social media while Rachel Johnson, sister of the Mayor of London reportedly compared them to animals, saying “Apart from the telly and the cigarettes, they are living like animals.”

The language used to describe foodbank users seems located in a discourse of blame when in reality most people turn to them as a last resort and not as a way to ‘save a few quid’.

Linda from Sale, Manchester was forced to use her local foodbank after being sanctioned by the job centre, having her benefits suspended for several weeks. She says, “I don’t know what I would have done without the foodbank. When the job centre stopped my money for missing an appointment because my daughter was ill I had nowhere else to turn to get food for me and the kids. They were really friendly but the food they gave us was supposed to last for three days but I was sanctioned forScreen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.20.29 three weeks. Without the food from them and other friends we would have starved.”

Dr Purdam’s research found that in one North West city there were seven Trussell Trust foodbanks and one being set up, with thirty other food aid providers. It’s clear from this that any estimate of food aid use based on Trussell Trust data is likely to be a huge underestimation.

The study also shows that, contrary to public perception, the most common reason given for visiting a foodbank was benefit sanctions, followed by delays in benefit payments – it seems that this underlying issue is a major cause for concern and must be addressed as part of the food crisis debate.

Many of the people Dr Purdam’s research team spoke to described a sense of desperation and need that led to them going to a foodbank, one female visitior said that she “felt like she was begging whilst waiting for her pension credit” and another said she was “willing to turn to prostitution if she did not get help from the foodbank.”

For many people using foodbanks the impact of changes in benefits and entitlement had created a family crisis, this included the Spare Room Supplement or so-called bedroom tax introduced in 2013. Other foodbank users highlighted how recent difficulties and relationship breakdown had contributed to their financial difficulties. Whatever the case it’s clear to see that food poverty is a growing problem in both Manchester and further afield.

A key policy debate resulting from Dr Purdam’s research relates to the role of the state, the voluntary sector and commercial organisations in addressing food poverty in the UK, and the role citizens can
foodbank shutterstock imagehave in ensuring their own welfare.

Perhaps there is some inevitability about the scale of food insecurity in the UK, given the impact of the economic recession and present welfare reforms but whilst the local authority has provided some funding, food aid is still predominantly reliant on volunteers and donations.

This, along with the ‘normalisation’ of food aid with foodbanks on the high street and food collection points common in supermarkets, are issues that cannot be ignored any longer and will require us all to pull together to make a difference.

Now is also a good time to consider how food waste and reuse is regulated in the UK, compared with other countries – in the UK it’s estimated that 15 million tonnes of food are wasted each year.

With some planning and communication there’s no doubt that some of this waste could be avoided and the government needs to step up and ensure access to adequate food for all. What can be termed as ‘the localization of food welfare’ is actually nothing more than a way of brushing it under the carpet or passing the buck.

Food poverty is an issue that affects us all and needs addressing urgently although sadly it’s clear that the financial vulnerability of certain populations is embedded far beyond the temporary fix of a food parcel.

foodbank-report-header

Project – Sale West Voice Magazine. Launch Edition

Here is a link to my 12 page magazine – Sale West Voice, a hyper-local community magazine.

“Police claims are nothing more than a smear campaign” says Justice for Grainger team

It’s two years since Anthony Grainger was murdered by a police marksman using a sub-machine gun, in March 2012 – unarmed and shot at close range, Anthony was hit in the chest with the bullet entering both his heart and lungs as he sat with two friends in a parked car.

The Justice 4 Grainger Campaign is still going strong

The Justice 4 Grainger Campaign is still going strong

Both the other occupants, along with a third person, were tried and later cleared of plotting a robbery.

The family of Anthony have always maintained his innocence, claiming that he was murdered, in what has been termed ‘The memory stick killing‘ and have set up a campaign, Justice for Grainger, in a bid to clear his name and uncover the truth.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report into the shooting of Anthony back in 2013 was ‘highly critical’ of Greater Manchester Police, stating that police ‘intelligence’ was flawed when the firearms officer shot the unarmed dad-of-two.

Wesley Ahmed, of the Justice 4 Grainger campaign was horrified when the Manchester Evening News ran a story this week claiming that he and other campaigners had ‘put a £50,000 bounty on the heads of firearms cops‘ – an apparently unsubstantiated claim by Greater Manchester Police.

Wesley totally refutes the 'slanderous' claims made by GMP

Wesley refutes claims made by GMP

 

In response to these claims Wesley has released the following statement:

“The Justice for Grainger campaign completely refutes the empty allegation by GMP that it is somehow implicated in a threat to the life of GMP firearms officers and condemns the Manchester Evening News for the sensationalist and uncritical coverage of the claims made in court.

“The fact that the police made their baseless claims during a case that has no connection to the killing of Anthony makes their actions even more repugnant.

“The December 9, 2014 edition of the Manchester Evening News carried a front page splash, complete with massive typeset and hard hitting, inflammatory headline: “£50,000 BOUNTY TO KILL POLICE” and underneath “Fears firearms officers could be targeted  by criminal gangs

Anthony Grainger

Anthony Grainger

over deaths of Jordan Begley and Anthony Grainger.”

“The actual article, on page five of the newspaper actually stated that this was only a ‘police claim’ before going on to quote the fraudulent claims of GMP with no critical examination.

“The claim is unsubstantiated and unproven. If this threat was real why have GMP not arrested anyone in the two years since they first made them. It is clearly an attempt to smear the Justice 4 Grainger Campaign and those associated with it, as well as giving the court an excuse for refusing to name the police officers involved in the killing of both Jordan Begley and Anthony Grainger.

“There is no evidence at all, two internal GMP memos between staff that talk of ‘rumour’ do not constitute evidence.

“Our fight is about justice and nothing more.”

Here is a video where Wesley tries to find balance with the MEN story.

sex workers ≠ humans

Originally posted on Following the Path to Unknown:

I don’t read articles on sex work lately, as a very desperate attempt to leave ‘it’ behind.
But today I read one ‘accidentally’. Anyway. It was about a sex worker receiving whiplashes as a punishment.
I expected the comments would be ones of bewilderment and pity…
Well, I was wrong. Most people were just referring to her mother ‘who was probably’ a hooker as well. Other comments were like ‘Oh, can I fuck her too.’
It pains me to see that, although I shouldn’t be surprised.
These rude and inhumane comments didn’t come from religious and conservative fanatics. No, they came from ‘normal people’. Yeah, we care about women….as long as they’re good, not too sensual, not too daring, not to seductive.
To put this very short: If you aren’t a ‘good woman’…you can fall dead, no one cares for you…and you’ll be laughed at your face.
Wow, that’s…

View original 33 more words

Halal Meat Scandal: What’s the big fuss?

This article was written for Within magazine – The Birthday edition :)

 

10601107_773181516060948_1364743220_n Halal Hysteria has swept across the UK and suddenly we’re having a huge moral panic over how our meat is slaughtered. This has been fuelled by ‘certain’ sections of the media; having realised the threat of imminent terrorism is wearing a little thin, they’re now telling us there’s some kind of sinister plot – inflicting halal meat on innocent, animal loving Brits. Unsurprisingly, both the BNP and EDL have jumped on the anti-halal bandwagon, using the debate as a proxy for the real concern, the presence of a growing Muslim population.

1399572208

More fuel for the halal hysteria fire…

Do you really think the papers are concerned with animal rights? If so, why is the debate not about all forms of slaughter? – The fact it’s only the halal method that’s being discussed is no coincidence.

 

Why the sudden interest now – if everyone is so worried about how the meat

If The Sun says it's true it must be...

If The Sun says it’s true it must be…

they eat was killed, why have they never asked before?

That’s because it wasn’t really a problem, was it? Well, not until The Sun said it was anyway…

So what does halal actually mean? Put simply it’s like this – The animal must be healthy and uninjured. A relevant prayer is recited whilst the animal is slaughtered – using a single cut to the throat with a sharp knife. All blood is then drained from the body.

There’s no nice way to kill an animal in order to eat it, but personally I find this method slightly more palatable than the other ‘non-halal’ methods – the thought of an animal shot with a bolt through the head, or a chicken hung upside down, dipped in electrified water then having its head mechanically removed makes me lose my appetite.

We should have all our meat labeled, with a detailed explanation of how the animal was killed, and then let the consumer decide – in fact, maybe a live feed from the abattoir, relayed on a huge screen directly above the meat fridges is the way forward…

A DMarticle

It’s much easier to find halal meat now, thanks to the ‘scandal’ – silver linings n all that ;)

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