Suncream, Sand and Smalls


Kids’ clubs on holiday. Ooh that was once a controversial topic. I don’t know what the current thinking is. Are they frowned upon by people who don’t understand the concept of: parents need a break too?

“You have kids and then don’t even want to spend time with them on your family holiday” – people have been known to say.

In the past, I have been known to say, in response to this: “fuck off!”

Everyone who owns small children knows that holidays are not what they were pre-kids. In fact, there should be an alternative word for a holiday with your kids, that probably wouldn’t include the word, ‘holiday’. A few weeks before, the anticipation is great. A few days before and you are feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the task of packing for babies/toddlers/checking partner’s/if you’ve got time, you throw in a bikini and a sarong for yourself. By the time you get to the airport, you are heading straight for the Wetherspoons, or, if you’re lucky, the lounge where you feast on the complimentary drinks, while your kids are already wondering who this person is and when can they have a break from this stressed out individual – hey parents, we need a holiday too!.

A holiday by a pool seemed like a brilliant idea back in January, when all you could dream about was sun. When you descend on the pool on your first morning, however, the reality is that none of your children can swim and you have to be on it like a hawk. You buy yourself a cocktail just because it makes you feel grown-up, oh and as if you are on holiday. It then sits getting warm next to the Kindle that is switched off and realistically, will remain switched off for the duration. The 3 s’s: sun cream,  sand and smalls – nuff said. If you are clever, you have somehow managed to bribe grandparents into joining you – probably on the proviso that they will get to spend quality time with their grand kids (mwahahaha). If you didn’t do this, you may well find yourself booking them in to the kids’ club, whilst alleviating your guilt in the knowledge that if you didn’t, you may well kill them and that they are just going to have so much fun in there with all those other little monkeys, who are muttering away to each other over the craft of the day: call this a holiday? I can do this crap at home.

My ex and I used to go on holiday to a hotel in Scotland, where there was a kids’ club. That’s why we went to that hotel. Recently the girls were talking about those holidays and one of them said that they had hated the kids’ club. Next thing I know, they’re all muttering in agreement. Rubbish! I told them. You loved going to that club. Admittedly it was run by a Scottish matriarch whom everyone, including the parents were terrified of. Every morning there was a long queue of hungover parents, waiting patiently in silence, counting down the minutes until they were next to sign for three hours of freedom. A couple of times we went to this hotel with my sisters. One morning my little sister decided to have a laugh with our brother in law by pretending to admire his new phone, whilst changing his ring tone. This particular morning we were all standing ashen and silent in the long queue, when my brother in law’s phone boomed out: “I’m hung like a donkey!” in an Alan Partridge voice. The matriarch didn’t look best pleased and it did cross my mind that she never treated our kids the same after that.

So where do you stand on this one? Are you putting your kids in a kids’ club while you relax by a pool this summer, or are you of the opinion that holidays are for the family to spend all the time together. Don’t worry if you feel this way. I won’t swear at you, because my kids can swim, put on their own sun cream and pour my wine when I am stuck to the sun lounger. There is light at the end of a very long tunnel. Happy holidays 🙂



The Journey: Perfectionism vs. Excellence

This post is looking at the concept of perfectionism versus excellence. I am relating my thoughts mainly to the teaching of martial arts. However, the same concepts are transferable when we are teaching our children as their parents, the way in which teachers at school are teaching our children, the way you may be experiencing being taught as an adult. We must not confuse excellence with perfection. Striving for excellence is a personal journey. Striving for perfection is usually trying to follow someone else’s path.

Life is a journey

Life, as we all know, is a journey. It takes us to some amazing places, some scary places and some shit places. We meet so many people along the way: some travel with us the whole way, others only for a part of it. Some of the people we meet on our journey aren’t very nice and others change our lives forever. For some people their destination comes sooner than they were expecting and for others the journey is long.

Teaching is an evolving journey

As a teacher I am always reflecting: thinking about what made a class good, or what didn’t quite work. On how students learn and thus on how to teach. Teaching for me is a journey in itself and my perspective is often changing. I actually feel that it is evolving, because I feel that I view things in a better way now.

Martial Arts provides a structure

Martial Arts are highly structured and disciplined – this, of course forms a great deal of their appeal. In a world that feels chaotic and we often feel out of control, martial arts remain a constant.

Perfection is someone else’s standard –  it is an illusion

There are many types of martial arts. Each one has its own benefits and many of the benefits are shared throughout all of them. Sometimes, however, I feel that instructors strive for perfection, borne out of a misguided conception of the Art. Of course it is important that standards are kept high, but standards remain, with the best will in the world, subjective. Perfection is an illusion. What’s perfect to you will not be perfect to someone else.

In Taekwon-do, there is no right or wrong answer to getting a move correct. The answer is fluid. It will depend on interpretation and is subject to Chinese whispers, as Grand Masters pass their knowledge to masters who pass it to instructors.

Striving for perfection is demotivating – make yourself happy by trying your personal best

So those instructors, or indeed any sports coaches or teachers who strive for their idea of perfection are, I feel missing good teaching techniques and goals. Put martial arts, for example in the context of people’s lives: for most students it is a hobby. One that keeps them fit and strong just like other sports do, while at the same time providing them with a structured goal setting system. This is highly motivating, until you get an instructor who is pushing for his or her idea of perfection at every stage. Let’s contextualise it again: there are few other sports or hobbies that strive for perfection in order for you to do brilliantly at them. Watch a game of international football and plenty of mistakes are made, but overall the standard is often high. As teachers, coaches and instructors we should not expect the student to make us happy by trying to be perfect. They should be trying to make themselves happy by doing their personal best.

Excellence is personal and inclusive

I believe that Taekwon-do instructors and other coaches need to approach their teaching with a broad mind. Striving for blanket perfection of a technique may seem like an admirable goal, but it is an exclusive rather than an inclusive way of teaching. How can someone with a disability, for example, be included in this approach? How can an older, less flexible person be made to feel that they are succeeding? What about a person who lacks power, just because that is the way they are made?

It is about being as excellent as you can be, rather than as perfect as someone else thinks you should be

Striving for perfection with students is a demotivating method. Take a teacher in a school. They aren’t looking for the students to get 100% all the time. They are encouraging each student according to what is expected of them as an individual. A student whose teacher is looking for perfection will never feel that they are getting anything right. As parents we can be guilty of this too. It is not about lowering standards, it is about individual goal setting, encouragement and support. It is about being as excellent as you can be, rather than as perfect as someone else thinks you should be.

Striving for perfection will never make you happy

For too long I feel that some martial arts teachers have failed to see students as individuals. I have seen this on my own teaching journey. I myself in the past have expected students to be able to do more than they are perhaps capable of at that time. If a student is striving for perfection, they will never be happy, no matter what they achieve.

Motivate with personal targets, rather than demotivate with unachievable expectations

So my teaching journey has now brought me to a point where I see every student with their own abilities, strengths and restrictions. I am not putting any limitations on what they can achieve and I will push them as far as I can, with the knowledge that I am motivating them every single step of the way, rather than demotivating them with my own unachievable expectations. This way, they will achieve so much more than they ever would with the goal of perfectionism. If you never feel good enough, your journey will end.

The Fruits of Perseverance Taste Sweet

I remember when I was weaning my daughters, I read somewhere that you have to introduce a food 20 million times (actually, I think it is about 20, but I lost the will by approximately 5) in order for the child to like it, if they aren’t immediately enamored. This always seemed like a step too far for me, as a frazzled parent with 4 young children. There was only ever so much spitting and throwing and puking it back up that I could take. I would soon give up. Hence, perhaps the reason why my 17 year old still hates fish. But then again, so does my 47 year old sister. Aren’t there just some foods that we will never like, no matter how many times we try to?

Or are there? Did I just give up too early? Should I have persevered?

The thing is, teaching Taekwon-do has made me realise a thing or too. Not so much about food, although doing the training has meant I haven’t had to worry too much about how much I eat, but actually more about how we learn.

You see, as teachers we have a whole load of knowledge that we want to impart. Some of it is quite basic and some of it is bloody complicated. When we first show a student a new move, we expect them to struggle with it: where to put the hands, which hand on top…there’s a few issues going on that they need to grasp and we have the patience to let them try and to keep trying, until they begin to master it. Once they get it, we feel pleased, for both of us. For them, because they have achieved something new and for us because we can enjoy watching them progress.

However, this is where the food comes in. Usually when we learn something new, we don’t get it straight away. Often it takes many, many attempts to master the technique and during all this time, we need to be reminded of how to perform it over and over again by our instructor. It is so important for teachers and students to understand that we do not learn things on that first attempt. In fact, it can actually take far more attempts than a student may feel they have got the patience for. It is imperative however, that we, both teachers and students, do not give up – unlike my abandonment of foods. My lack of perseverance of reintroducing them until my children ‘got them’. We must never feel that the mountain is too high to climb and so to make do with what we already are comfortable with. How limiting is this view!

I know that if it takes 5 demonstrations of a technique or 5000…hell, even 50,000, eventually that student will get it. And actually, the fruits of their efforts will taste all the sweeter for persevering.

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Up Yer Bum!

THE swimsuit to wear this summer (apparently) is Brazilian inspired aka up yer bum. I asked partner whether he thought this was the appropriate look for me in Spain and he faltered. I took it as an out right ‘no!’ I’m too old. My arse isn’t botoxed or surgically enhanced and besides…it just feels like you’ve got a permanent wedgie.

If the truth be told, I’ve see them on Instagram and I’m not sure I’m convinced. No doubt when the Olympics start in Rio this week, however, the BBC will find some choice shots of Brazilian ladies for their VT’s, beach volleyball perchance, to convince us all that this type of swim suit can, indeed look good. While at the same time I will be chucking things at the telly going: you sexist producer bastards. Show us some cock in lycra!

In fact, there is a whiff of buttocks in the air at the moment, as Channel 4 hosted a games show where contestants got their butts (and knobs) out. Ffs why? Where’s the mystery? C’mon ladies – a guy may have a small penis but be fucking Einstein. Conversely, he could be hung like a friggin’ donkey and be Donald Trump. It’s not all about the dick. They are important, but we can be flexible.

Nudity is in the air. Naked old geezers have been photographed cycling in Kent (of all places) and there is a nude restaurant just opened in Elephant and Castle – the go to place for romance.

Summer is certainly the time for tits and bums to get an airing…not mine you understand, but other people’s. What is acceptable these days? I see so many teenagers flashing their flesh on Instagram for likes. One vague sighting of a daughters’ arse and I’m on it like a car bonnet. Meanwhile they couldn’t give a monkeys. Where are the standards? I haven’t got a bloody clue. Because on the one hand you’ve got the naked octogenarian on his bike and on the other you’ve got teenagers showing off their abs. Abs that have been encouraged by fitness gurus on Facebook. Oh, and their arses – inspired by Brazil and the Olympics…

I would really love the Olympic legacy to read more like this: girls inspired to take up sport after Britain’s successes in the Rio Olympics.

Come on ladies: nail it!