In’t Milk Brill

It’s surprising how you get used to getting your boobs out in public. Maybe because it’s just the one-out-at-a-time approach when you’re breastfeeding – or maybe the efforts of the breastfeeding militants over the past few years doing their best – but I’ve not been self-conscious about feeding Tilly.

Well, apart from that time when my (very traditional) father-in-law came into the lounge when Tilly was a few months old and I was feeding her. He looked my way and gave an alarmed look. He then sat on the sofa looking in the opposite direction carrying on our conversation – interspersing his sentences with “sorry”. I did respond to his turned back but I felt a bit desperate. He’s not to blame; he’s from the generation when it became very much not the done thing to breastfeed.

A panicked drive to A&E when we started to wean Tilly at six months made me happy I worked through the month long pain barrier that was breastfeeding when she was a newborn. She was given oral steroids due to her allergic reaction to dairy. Her mouth became swollen after munching on a piece of pasta that had touched cheese in my bowl. So far, so good on the breastfeeding front.

Things people have said along the way have made me laugh. “It’s just not natural,” had me rolling about (sorry H!). Because she is a big girl some people have said (as my nipple is in her mouth): “Are you still feeding her?” Obviously yes, otherwise I would be doing a weird teething ring option…

I had planned to give it up at 12 months but her allergy has pressed me along until I am confident she is getting all her nutrients from food. The thing is now I want to stop and there’s not a great deal of advice about how to give it up. La Leche breastfeeding league recommend self weaning. Ha! This very morning after feeding on and off all night (teething makes her want more …and she seems to be teething more often than not) I refused to feed her as I needed to get ready for work. She swiped me across the face and growled. I get the feeling she is not ready to self-wean.

But I am ready. It’s been a wonderful thing we have been able to share. It’s provided us with a thing just the two of us can do. By that, I don’t want to make any non-breastfeeders feel bad. You can create the same closeness feeding with a bottle – in my case though, I think I would have taken the opportunity of passing her over to Ken with a bottle while I got on with the house work jobs.

The house has taken a back seat… although I have learned to adeptly manage tasks one handed with a baby hanging off my chest so it hasn’t quite gone to the wall. I have fed in some unusual places. Once, while walking through Barcelona looking for a particular place, I fed her when she was in the sling. And it has been great not to have had to bother with the faff of sterilising bottles and all the equipment that goes with it.

I was hoping a non-dairy milk substitute in a cup would work but she’s not interested. Anyone been here? I’d love a fail-safe plan to work to.

And looking forward to that day when I am finally able to wean her the thing I am most looking forward to is the freedom to go to my wardrobe and choose what to wear based on how I feel (rather than easy-accessibility to my chest). Polo neck jumpsuits here I come!

Life Saver in the Park

park life cross the top

It finally happened. The heat has returned to the valley for the first time this year. The pavements of the town were swarming. You head to your usual cafe, boy in hand and baby in the buggy, and you realise there’s no chance of getting a caffeine fix.

Or at least that was how it was until a year ago. The parents of many a child breathed easier on their day-long stints in Calder Park when Park Life Café opened their doors in March 2012.

You know how it is with kids, you pack a standard day outing covering every eventuality; poo, sick, pee, mud. Changes of clothes for everyone. Snacks for the whole day. Waterproofs for the down pours. Factor blanket for the sunshine.

You get to the park without any serious life-threatening mishaps (even on five hours of sleep) and you think all is well. Except you can’t string a sentence together and are desperate for a cuppa to help you feel normal again. That’s where the café-in-the-Calder-Holmes-Park steps in.

A shining beacon offering huge plates of chips and homemade cakes too – it’s got to be said it is a fabulous place in the sunshine. The old bowling green in front of it is the ideal spot on which children can run around safely in view. And the outdoor seats are the best place in Hebden for a breakfast.

park life cafe

Kim Blackburn and Charlie Carr are qualified youth and community development workers and spotted an opportunity to provide a spot near to the skate park that would encourage young people to use. They have regular dog walkers and other customers who they call “Park People”.

They are part of Friends of the Park committee and have been involved with the Fair for Youth and say they are always keen to work with whatever is going on in the town.

They had a celebration after making it to a year of business recently and are happy to see the warmer weather return. “In Hebden we had seen the coldest summer last year and the wettest March this year (not to mention the floods) so it has not perhaps been the best year for a new business but we feel lucky we have made it through.

“This spring and summer season we have decided to be flexible about opening hours and stay open later in the summer if there are people out and about enjoying the lighter nights.”

charlie carr park life

So if the kids are in tow you’ll be made very welcome (always a relief) and if you are interested in a quiet drink on your own there’s a nice selection of art books and a subscription to National Geographic to enjoy.

Festival Time

cloudspotting logoThe festival image has shifted over time. Glastonbury, the hippy drug fest of old with all manner of scallies able to breach the perimeter fence was transformed into a veritable village of happiness and muddy fun a few years back.

Now at Glasto the kids field is pretty amazing and the wider festival has appeal with pop-up theatre scattered throughout the fields and spectacles that engage the children – it’s now an attractive option for families.

Other festivals created spin-offs as the organisers matured and had their own offspring – probably the most famous being Camp Bestival. Other events with a more laid back feel, such as Latitude and The Big Chill, have been child- friendlier from the start.

There are now so many festivals around the country that it can be hard to choose which to go for. Kendal Calling for us a few years ago was perfect. Finn was almost two – running around burning off toddler energy and enjoying outdoor dancing but he was still cautious enough to want to stay close to us.

That was our last family festival experience and with Tilly finally on her feet and on the move we have started to look for a place to go to this summer.

Cloudspotting (26th-28th July) is billed as a ‘micro music, food and beer festival’. The poster we saw invites people to join them in a “woodland paradise for an intimate summer weekend of fun”.

Based at Slaidburn, in the Ribble Valley, it seems far enough away from Hebden to feel like an adventure but close enough to deposit the children at the grandparent’s house should they need a couple of hours of sofa time.

Quality food is vitally important when you are stuck in a field in the middle of remoteness so the lure of ‘locally sourced produce’ – especially in the foodie haven of the Ribble Valley – is strong.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a muso so the fact I have only heard of one of the acts in the line-up isn’t an issue. The fab thing about Youtube is being able to check out the line-up and getting a taste of if it’s for you. I thought some of them sound bloody great.

It’s described as ‘a smashing line up of music, arts and loads for the young uns to do’. It’s a pretty reasonable £70 entry fee for a full weekend camping ticket with a nominal £3 fee for under 16s for registration (slightly higher ticket price for camper vans, etc).

Festivals in Spain looked tempting for a while because of the guaranteed dry weather but I suppose the rain risk is part of the traditional festival experience. I can’t order a heat wave for the last weekend in July but I am happy to pack wellies and waterproofs and hope for the best for a weekend outdoors.

Anyone in?

Have a look at the website:
And the blog:

Inkfolk – Easter Weekend

Inkfolk No.5So, Inkfolk… Seen the poster around Hebden? Spotted it on Facebook? Got any idea of what it’s about?

The four day event, down in the newly renovated basement of Machpelah Mill (at the junction for the station), is described as a pop-up bar, gallery and music space, and has returned this easter break. It’s the fifth session so far.

That's Saturday afternoon sorted out then...

That’s Saturday afternoon sorted out then…

And it’s not just about a night out. Goodies from Sailor and Lula vintage shop, Forage, Julia Breit and Forget-me-Knot Charity makes the basement a nice destination on Saturday. With a canal side garden terrace there’s might even be chance to enjoy cake and coffee in the spring sunshine (ever the optimist). There’s a licensed bar, serving local craft beers and wines if the caffeine doesn’t cut it.

The fabulous Magpie Cinema has featured shorts this evening using ‘Cannes in a Van’ mini film festival on wheels.

The exhibition opened on Thursday night and features work by Rowanna Lacey and Kasia Breska. Lacey’s work is called ‘Drawn Surface’ and is bespoke designs and unique illustrations applied to fabric and wallpaper among other things.

The blurb describes her work as: “Often using darkly evocative imagery and with a nod to traditional and historical pattern design she has created a truly distinctive style, using mixed media to create each piece, often using hand drawn illustrations to form the basis of the design.”

What it is is lovely. Living in London for many years Rowanna has now returned to her hometown of Hebden Bridge where she lives with her partner and young son high up on the green Pennine hills. As a response to the Valley flooding, Rowanna has been inspired to develop an “illustrative anthology” under the title of ‘Stolen Sun’.

Kasia is a fine artist based in Leeds in Oak House Studios and is a part of the East Street Arts group. She works with mixed media exploring non urban/wild spaces, approaching the landscapes as places with unique quality of patterns, colours, light and combination of living elements.

On Saturday night James Holroyd, from Back to Basics (and number one choice tour DJ for the Chemical Brothers no less for well over 15 years), is playing to a keen crowd who sorted their tickets early. Chris Price, one of the organisers said: “We are very happy that the ticket sales have been so good. We were sold out very early this time and I think that’s in part due to the low ticket price and the quality of the event. We want to keep the entry costs low so we are accessible.”

Too late for tickets for this Saturday but worth looking out for the next one

Too late for tickets for this Saturday but worth looking out for the next one

Sunday afternoon from 1pm hosts live music from WasIst Das presenting Slomo and Colin Potter. Tickets are £7 on sale from or £10 on the door.

I suppose it’s good that Inkfolk is only on every few months as something as varied and successful as this means there’s little reason to leave the valley.

Hebden Style File

Emma in animal print in Mytholmroyd

Emma in animal print in Mytholmroyd

Name: Emma Thomas

Age: 24.

Occupation: Waitress and barmaid.

Dream Occupation: Actress. Attending Manchester School of Acting. so hopefully one day will be a jolly good thespian!

Do you come from these parts? No but I’ve lived here most my life. I was born in Luton, but I count myself as a northern lass.

Describe what you are wearing today: It’s a bit chav chic/shabby chic. I like old Hollywood style but sometimes I love some big gold hoops and Adidas. I have an eclectic taste in clothes.

Do you own a pair of walking boots/very sensible shoes?  I have some £10 wellies and they do me pretty well for rain and snow.

Do you own a pair of heels and do you get to wear them in this valley? Yes I have loads and yes I wear them in the valley. When I was growing up here I had a lot of boy mates and at the same time became interested in heels and makeup etc. I would end up running around and climbing in heels.

Who is your favourite clothes maker (past or present)? I would probably say Chanel, especially back in the 50s and 60s. I also like Adidas, although that’s more of a sports make.

What look are you going for? Sometimes I dress on what persona would like to be that day. And I love any excuse to dress up – like my firework on bonfire night. My favourite yet was being a mermaid for my birthday. I also like to think of everything to my hair right down to my toenails.

What’s the best thing about living in Hebden? Although this is the annoying thing about Hebden I also like the fact that everyone knows each other. It’s a safe place to be. I adore our beautiful scenic surroundings, the fresh air and the wildlife. I also have made a lot of wonderful friends some young, some old and I will cherish them for life. I also like the fact that people can be who they want to be without being judged.

Good Day/Bad Day: Marylin Monroe/ Myra Hindley

I don’t feel right saying Marilyn as she’s far too good for me. So I don’t really know who to say? My boyfriend said it and I’m flattered but I don’t agree.

Siren Days

Siren Days

Eeeek! Extreme bad day for Emma...

Eeeek! Extreme bad day for Emma…

I Definitely Would Get Out of Bed For Less Than £10,000

Everyone needs a bit of glamour in their lives, right? Well I had more than a taste of it yesterday morning when I was involved in a photo shoot in the centre of Hebden.

A few weeks ago I bumped into Chrissie from Hat Therapy (on Market Street). Chrissie explained she had organised a photo shoot for some new promo material she wanted.

Chrissie is a milliner and I first encountered her at a WI meeting where she made floppy lifeless bits of cloth transform into incredible headpieces with little pinches and subtle adjustments.

They had a brunette model for the shoot but she was hoping for a redhead too and she asked if I would be interested…I was never going to say no!

It was fab. The day started with hair done by Debbie at Zeitgeist, a gorgeous salon on Carlton Street. The make up was done by an artist called Alison from York and while all this was happening Chrissie was busy prepping the pieces helped by her intern Holly.

Rachel from Rachel Lucie Jewellery had brought along some pretty pieces to add to the styling. Soon Shelley, the photographer from Toast of Leeds, turned up and began to shoot.

hat therapy shoot

Wonderful, wonderful. It doesn’t half look good. Have a gander at some of the gorgeous images on Shelley’s blog

Schooling in the Valley

So Montessori has done the job for us and extended the nursery period for Finn. His reception year of schooling has been less about a tiny uniform and enforced sitting down at registration and more about part-time attendance at a beautiful early Victorian property in Cragg Vale.

There has been lots of flexibility and emphasis on being outdoors. The wonderful child-led, calm approach has helped Finn to improve and mature on some levels but it is becoming increasingly obvious there is a need for firmer boundaries and more challenges. It has also been suggested Finn may benefit from a bigger peer group with different dynamics.

Now it’s time for the next step.

magnifying glass and school

Parents seem to be spoilt for choice when it comes to primary education in this area. I have counted at least nine schools within a three mile radius. A great choice is making it harder to choose.

Central Street is out – it simply does not have the provision. Cragg Vale, Scout Road and Burnley Road schools have also been knocked off the list for being in the wrong place – it doesn’t make a lot of sense driving in the opposite direction to drop off at school, adding time to the morning commute.

Heptonstall is also out (tried that one – great school but not the right setting for our little man).

That leaves Hebden Royd, Stubbings, Old Town and Colden. And that is as long as there is a place for him.

Any advice?

He’s very physical, exuberant, bright and is a darling (hmmm, as his mother I would say that). Conversely he is not exactly a compliant soul and is prone to noisy, testosterone-fuelled outbursts (I was once told by a child psychologist little boys of four have the same levels of the hormone relatively as a teenager of fourteen or fifteen).

What I am looking for is fairly small class sizes with Miss Honey teaching (from Roald Dahl’s Matilda –possibly with Miss Trunchbull as a threat down the hall…minus the chokee).

I’d like an emphasis on being outdoors, lots of life skills on the curriculum, the staff happy to comfort him if and when needed and learning about the wider world.

In a perfect world I’d like the teachers to follow him and accentuate his positives and help him to learn to love learning and, of course, help him prepare for an automatic entry into the Halifax grammar schools a few years down the line. (The great schooling choice in the area seems to somewhat narrowed at secondary age.)

Pah, not much then!

My spirited young boy needs sound teaching and consistent boundaries. He needs inspiration. What he doesn’t need is his spirit breaking (can I hear you thinking “misguided mother over-celebrating son’s qualities”?)  

Where is the place that will boost his self-esteem, further open his curious eyes and enhance his learning?

While my expectations for Finn are high I am enough of a realist to know I could not offer all these things through home schooling and that we need fabulous professionals to educate Finn. Am I being reasonable in my expectations and thinking state schooling will be able to provide the answer?

I would really appreciate any feedback and experiences of local schools stretching through to Todmorden. Any suggestions would be appreciated