BitchBuzz: Is Shared Parental Leave Bad for Business?

After a three week break (and a column about sales bargains I didn’t post here as it was really only timely at that moment), my bi-weekly column is back. Here’s a snippet from 19th of January. The next subject I plan to write about is weaning… that should be fun in the comments thread.

Mention maternity leave and small business owners will be the first to wring their hands over costs and inconvenience. With UK law changing  in April to allow extended paternity leave, the litany of complaints is getting louder. It’s reached fever pitch with the beginning of a consultation to grant even more extensive rights. Do businesses have a point, or is this exactly what 21st century parenthood should be like?

From the 3rd of April 2011, UK fathers will be able to take 26 weeks leave at the same rate of pay as Statutory Maternity Pay (currently £124.88 a week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, if that is less) between 20 weeks and one year after the birth or adoption. This is in addition to the two weeks Ordinary Paternity Leave already given. But on top of this, deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced a soon-to-be launched consultation on much more flexible leave between parents– perhaps shared and split into smaller chunks, taken simultaneously or even taking in other family members – and that’s really got some businesses worried.
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BitchBuzz: Baby Maths and Milestone Envy

My parenting, pregnancy and baby column appears every other Wednesday. Here’s a taster from the 1st of December:

When four weeks are no longer a month and every movement had better be the sign of a genius in the making.

The minute you get pregnant, conventional maths goes out of the window. The day you conceive, you’re two weeks pregnant. Even though there was nothing there for two weeks before. In fact, you’re pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last period even though by definition you couldn’t have been pregnant then.


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BitchBuzz: KidStart, Parenting Clubs and Other Ways to Save

My parenting, pregnancy and baby column appears every other Wednesday. Here’s a taster from the 17th of November:

Everyone knows that babies can help you burn through cash, so here are some ideas to help you store up pennies for a rainy day.

During any pregnancy you’ll be plied with lots of packs of this and that and memberships to baby clubs like Bounty, which offers mounds of free samples, or those at major retailers like Boots or Tesco. You might also hear about KidStart, an affiliate shopping programme that lets you get a little cash back when you shop through links in emails and on the website.

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What’s going on: CAF presentation, BitchBuzz parenting column and more

A few quick bits of info.

1. My first BitchBuzz column about motherhood, kids and parenting is up. It’s called Are You Thinking About Having a Home Birth? The next few are likely to focus on money, cats, baby milestones and stuff like that.

2. Next Weds (27th) I’ll be heading to West Malling, Kent, to present to a CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) Market Insight session about technology. I’ll be covering Dogs Trust online in a nutshell. I don’t know yet if the presentations will be hosted somewhere online, but they might well be.

3. My daughter slept for nine hours last night. Okay, that’s not so helpful to you, but it is to me. And this is my blog, after all.

4. Ash (my husband) is still casting an eye out for any way that he can swap some design skills for events experience. He’s spent a week at Dogs Trust HQ and a day at a centre making himself useful and is chatting to a couple of other charities and individuals; please do step forward if you need him!

This week on BitchBuzz: simple recipes and women’s resources

And no, sexists among you, they’re not the same thing.

I’ve got a bit of a list of things to write about for BitchBuzz and haven’t had the time to do much of it.  I have made a start on a new post I hope to make quite a regular one, which is Simple Recipes for Anyone; basically, if you can’t make these then you should probably step away from the kitchen, never to return.

First up is shortcrust pastry, and in the schedule (but not live yet) is chocolate ganache icing. If you read this blog, you’ll actually already have seen the recipes for both of them… Given that the vast majority of people who come looking for this site are actually seeking buttercream icing, that’ll be next.

The women’s resources, on the other hand, are quite different and much more serious. The post is all about the Women’s Resource Centre and the wonderful things it does to support women’s organisations and lobby the Government.

Oh, and top of those I got in a quick piece about the Islington Contemporary Art & Design Fair, which fellow design fans ought to enjoy as it happens over the next few weekends.

Next on the list:

  • Quick travel guide to Rome
  • A piece about a very talented UK baker who’s now launching her own business
  • A savoury recipe (I know!)
  • A post on a cute cupcake bakery (no, there can never be enough)

Just as soon as I have time to write them.

Travel guides, bluestockings and a baking hiatus

Remember a few posts ago, before it all went gallbladder-shaped, that I promised to link to a travel post on Bruges I was writing for BitchBuzz? Well here it is. I’m beginning to form a similar post on Rome in my head at the moment, and being Greek I have plenty to say about visiting Athens. In a funny way, I’ve only learned to appreciate Athens as a tourist in the last few years; as a child it was a procession of relatives’ houses, syrupy preserved fruit and the odd smell of lavender and mothballs… but that’s for the memoir I’m a little too young to write.

I’ve received a copy of Jane Robinson’s Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education to review for The F Word, too. Luckily I have an awful lot of reading time on my hands, being more of less pinned to the sofa. I’m alternating between the above and Robert Löhr’s excellent Secrets of the Chess Machine, sent to me by a thoughtful friend.

Although I’m getting up to walk around as much as possible and trying to get strong very quickly, public transport is still an issue when the slightest carrying weight or jostle to the side causes a wave of pain through my torso. Frankly, even lying still can do it sometimes, and though movement is not so difficult now, sitting up in a chair for long periods tends to make the upper two incision sites pull, throb and itch. I’m blogging lying down, having felt I ought to do something for Dogs Trust. I miss my job! At least the bloody awful pain in the shoulder has stopped; it’s caused, somewhat improbably, by left over CO2 in the system after the operation (you’re inflated with it during the procedure) and is totally excruciating. I’ve now weaned myself off the painkillers because I’m really precious about medication; I simply won’t take anything I don’t desperately need. I never touched the codeine I was given and took the paracetamol until Sunday – since Monday morning, I’m drug-free. And sore. And missing the swimming and jogging I’d recently finally convinced my wobbly bits that they could do.

So the above paragraph should explain the baking hiatus. I won’t be able to cope with standing and hefting baking trays for a few more days. I’ll be back in the saddle – work and baking – on the 1st of September, although I hold out some hope I’ll be able to go in on Friday if things improve faster…

Bruges, Bitchin’ and Bladder (Gall)

Stuff has been happening, as is the way of things.

Firstly, I went to Bruges for a long weekend and it was restful and full of food. Photos will flood Flickr as soon as I get around to extracting them from the camera. Lots of cobbles and faux-artistically angled shots of buildings, of course. That, however, lead to my next piece of news which is the beginning of a travel column on BitchBuzz. The working title is Bitchin’ Travel – it might or might not stay that way. I’m starting with Bruges but planning to cover Rome and Athens next, then possibly Barcelona. After that, wherever I think of next that I have anything to say about. Although I’m starting the column, I’m hoping to get talented readers and other members of the widely-travelled BitchBuzz team in on it; obviously between us we have a lot more scope for covering good destinations than one of us alone. Being a transatlantic team doesn’t hurt either.

Links to the column will appear here when it’s up; I’m just tidying up my first post now. I’m trying to catch up on my general writing commitments and widen the net a bit, which is why I’ve also signed myself up as one of a pool of potential reviewers for The F Word, which is pretty exciting too. BitchBuzz, incidentally, has just seen its first anniversary go by. I’m very pleased for the founding editor, Cate Sevilla; her hard work knows no bounds when it comes to her baby and it’s really paid off.

Which leads me to my final bit of news. Which actually has nothing to do with the other two, but which I feel like writing about. I am likely to need my gallbladder removed. I’m seeing a specialist on Monday; the gallstones were actually discovered accidentally while I was being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr (call it glandular fever, or mono, if you prefer) but since then there have been symptoms, etc. Anyway, the point is there are great balls of bile and cholesterol blocking up my gallbladder, and the big medical guns need to decide whether to hack out the little bagful or not. Frankly, I’m all for it – don’t need it, don’t want the symptoms to degenerate into a full-scale attack (which they’re pretty likely to). We shall see.

And that’s pretty much it. But feel free to fill me in on what you’ve been up to.

Twitter and weekend baking experiments. Oh, and book clubs.

Richmond Park Deer

Richmond Park Deer

I know – just the kind of header that tells you that this post has no single specific purpose but might cover a lot of disparate topics. I haven’t even included the deer.

Maybe I should divide this up so you can just cast an eye over the stuff you’re interested in.


I wrote quite an impassioned defence of the new-found popularity of Twitter. Far from killing it, I think it might just be what makes it better than other social networks now.

Weekend Baking Experiments

No photos here, frankly because they weren’t the most attractive looking results. And we’ve eated (sic) it. Ashley request oatmeal raisin cookies so I made an oatmeal raisin cake instead and that suited him fine. The random Internet recipe did not – I discovered halfway through folding in the flour – have any temperature, cooking times or tin recommendations. So I put it in a round silicone mould and baked it at 200 degrees, checking every 15 minutes. It took about 45, but eventually burnt a little on top while remaining a little squidgy at the bottom. I suspect, therefore, it’s best off as a tray bake. I must remember to bring back a 13 x 9 x 2 tin from Florida; American recipes so often fit this shape and it’s not that common here for some reason. Anyway, it tasted good. A little like what my cousin calls Dead Man’s Pudding, though I don’t see that as a bad thing.

I decided quite late on Sunday that making soft baked pretzels from scratch for the first time ever would be clever. Despite some sticking-to-the-baking-parchment issues, they tasted great, especially coated in salt (the poppy seed ones were a little bland). Had one for breakfast, and they held up well overnight.

Book Club

The first rule of book club is not making a reference to Fight Club. Oh, darn it.

Anyway, I’ve been invited to join a writers club on Facebook that I hope will make me actually do some more work on the Grown Up Monster Book. Largely it’s making me jealous of everyone else’s great ideas and hard work, but already I feel like I owe the fellow members my hard work which is what these groups are all about, right? Shared guilt is the way to go.


There were lots. In Richmond Park. So I crept closer and closer to try and get a decent photo with a DSLR lacking a proper telephoto lens, and this fellow obligingly let me snap quite a good shot. I have to sort out the rest of them and get them on Flickr. Then you’ll see them appear down the right, hopefully.

So, how have you all been?

UK’s Top Female Social Media Guru & Speaker 2009?

Well, goodness me, my manager must love me. She’s just nominated me for the above accolade here. What’s even lovelier is that there were people I don’t directly work with nominating me as well, and agreeing with the choice, which is really rather touching.

We’ve done a lot of talking in the past 12 months at various conferences and gatherings (just see the other posts under this category), and it’s really great to think that some of that has lead to people being impressed with what we do. Of course, we don’t do it to get people impressed with us as individuals, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t very nice to be thought of in this way.

Just today, we heard that because of a retweet from a loyal and lovely follower, a second dog is on course to find a home through our Twitter feed (see right!). This is why we do what we do; that’s our ultimate professional validation. Appearing on a list like this just adds to that, and also has a personal dimension in that we the individuals are going about it the right way.

It’s also really great to see women in this line of work being singled out; I’m not usually one for gender-specific competition (it’s much better to just be good than to be good for a girl) but I know from experience that technology is an area in which women still have to fight their corner. It’s very pleasing to see BitchBuzz colleague Vikki Chowney on there as well.

I’m smiling brightly and in the mood for more cupcakes.