working mothers and children's health 
Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 09:10 AM
Posted by Administrator
It seems slightly frivolous to complain about my mild feelings of irritation at this survey and the way it has been reported when one reads stories like this. And it is also perhaps a bit rash to intervene when I have no training or experience in data analysis. But here goes anyway. This article, taken from the BBC website, is a fairly typical report of the findings. To summarise, research has shown that the children of working mothers are likely to be more unhealthy than those of non working mothers.

One of the investigators , Professor Catherine Law, notes here that ‘they had not looked at fathers in this study because fathers’ employment levels had not changed whereas the numbers of working mothers had increased dramatically.’

I understand the point, but the way the research is couched is likely to fuel feelings of anxiety and guilt felt by (some) working mothers. Surely in the case of every working couple the responsibility for ensuring that children are eating healthily and taking exercise should be a joint one. Why couldn’t the research have been framed more neutrally as a contrast between single and dual income families? (Evan Davis, interviewing Professor Law on the Today programme, made a similar point.)

Apparently socio-economic factors had been taken into account in the survey to ensure like was being compared with like as far as possible. I wonder whether that means that a working couple earning 50K between them was compared with a family in which the man earned 50K and the woman stayed at home. But if the working mother in the first family gave up work the joint income would drop to say 25k – a factor which might itself impact on the health and well being of her family.

This is part of a wider trend to focus obsessively on working women/mothers while apparently forgetting that these women usually have husbands or partners. Nick Cohen, for example, in a recent Observer article has a go at working women who exploit their female cleaners and nannies. But many of these professional women will be half of a couple in which a man is also benefiting from such services. And single men employ cleaners too – why are they exempt from blame?

Even those who defend working mothers do so in a way which implicitly views them differently from working fathers. Here is Sally Russell’s response to the survey, taken from the BBC item linked to above: "With many more mums having no choice but to work these days and with government policy actively encouraging it, it is difficult to know how mums can do better.” Here again there seems to be an assumption that the default and perhaps desirable situation is that the mother should not work. It is almost implied that it is a shame that more women are working, rather than a positive reflection of huge improvements in the educational and career opportunities for girls.

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normblog profile 
Friday, September 18, 2009, 07:51 PM
Posted by Administrator
Norman Geras’s normblog is one of my favourite bookmarked sites – it covers a wide range of issues from jazz and cricket to politics and religion and I nearly always find myself in agreement with Norm’s take on things (except when it comes to this burning issue). So it was very gratifying to be invited to complete a normblog profile recently. This is a weekly slot in which bloggers are asked to answer any thirty of a total of fifty questions about their tastes, views and blogging experiences. If Prof Geras noticed a recent spike in his blog stats this was probably down to me fretfully consulting the archives to see what answers others had come up with!
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Rereading Georgette Heyer (again) 
Thursday, September 17, 2009, 08:54 PM
Posted by Administrator
I’ve organised quite a few conferences now – but none have generated quite so much enthusiastic attention as Rereading Georgette Heyer. In the past I’ve filled in endless complicated forms trying to squeeze some money out of one funding body or other to help support the many costs involved in running a conference – to no avail. But in the case of Heyer we have actually had a spontaneous offer of sponsorship out of the blue from the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance.

The colloquium was discussed in a blog in The GuardianWhich authors are worth a whole conference? – and we’ve also had enquiries from a researcher who has requested permission to film parts of the conference as part of a projected BBC documentary on Heyer. I think part of the interest is due to the fact that this is – we think– the first conference dedicated entirely to Heyer’s novels. But another important factor is the simple fact that so many people really ENJOY reading (and rereading) Georgette Heyer. Although I’ve had politely appreciative feedback after other conferences, none has ever been the focus of intense online discussions where people say things like:

“Oh dear Lord, a Georgette Heyer conference! You may well see me there. I have now been bitten by the bug!”

“Head for Cambridge if you’re a Heyer fan … Some of the presentations sound amazing”

“I SOOO wish I could be there!”

Among other little tasks associated with the conference, I’ve had to note some suggestions for a bookstall. Heyer herself seems the obvious choice, but I suspect most attendees will already have a complete set. What else might the typical Georgette Heyer fan be tempted to buy? Patrick O’Brian? Diana Wynne Jones maybe? Or Lois McMaster Bujold? (One of the things I’ve learnt about Georgette Heyer readers via the internet is that many of them (like me) are also science fiction fans.)

Rereading Georgette Heyer is a joint Lucy Cavendish College/Anglia Ruskin production – click here to find out more.

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Book title meme 
Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 05:48 PM
Posted by Administrator
I came across this on normblog . Answer the questions using only the titles of books you've read this year and without repeating one. And don't cheat!

Describe yourself: Lady of Quality (Georgette Heyer)

How do you feel? In the Dark (Mark Billingham)

Describe where you currently live: Main Street (Sinclair Lewis)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Roma Eterna (Robert Silverberg)

Your favourite form of transportation? Family Roundabout (Richmal Crompton)

Your best friend is: Lavinia Ursula Le Guin

You and your friends are: Hominids (Robert Sawyer)

What's the weather like? This Perfect Day (Ira Levin)

You fear: Disgrace (J.M.Coetzee)

What is the best advice you have to give? It Can’t Happen Here (Sinclair Lewis)

Thought for the day: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Philip K. Dick)

How would you like to die? Greybeard (Brian Aldiss)

Your soul's present condition? Life and Fate (Vasily Grossman)

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urbs in rure: Review of 'Banburgh First' holiday cottages in Northumberland 
Sunday, August 30, 2009, 02:17 PM
Posted by Administrator
There don’t seem to be many online reviews for Bamburgh First cottages in Northumberland and I couldn’t find an entry for them on tripadvisor – so here’s a review for anyone searching for one on Google ...

We stayed in Oswald Cottage which is part of the ‘Adderstone’ Collection. This group of refurbished cottages is located just off the A1, about four miles from Bamburgh castle. Bamburgh First’s main selling point is its emphasis on stylish, sophisticated interiors and mod cons. (We’ve stayed in some rather dispiriting cottages in the past which have clearly been furnished very cheaply and/or unimaginatively). Oswald Cottage is one of the smaller properties. It has a large open plan living area on the ground floor. This was attractive and comfortable – the children particularly appreciated the large flat screen TV and full Sky package.

The kitchen is modern and well-equipped - the children made full (perhaps excessive) use of the ice maker. All the rooms have bold colour schemes and are decorated with modern paintings and other objets. There was excellent attention to detail throughout – pretty much everything was good quality and well designed. A welcome pack – including delicious jam, biscuits and cake – was included, as well as smart hotel style toiletries. (Generally the atmosphere is more like a boutique hotel than a holiday rental.) The company seemed well run – enquiries were answered quickly and efficiently. The location is convenient for Alnwick, Seahouses and Lindisfarne as well as Banburgh itself. The only slight disadvantage was that the cottages aren’t particularly attractively situated and there is no garden, just a small courtyard where cars are parked.

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