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What If…. A Guest Post for World Down Syndrome Day

A Guest Post for World Down Syndrome Day, by Emily

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The Bombing of Würzburg

In my life I have lived in many cities and villages, but the cities I consider “home” are the twin towns of Dundee and Würzburg. I was born and brought up in Dundee, and have recently returned to bring up my children here.

I moved to Würzburg in Germany when I was 19 years old, to work as an au-pair for a year. On the day of my arrival, I met the man who I would later marry, but that is a story for another day. Today, I am thinking of the upcoming 70th anniversary of an event that almost destroyed the city, but instead led to its re-birth.

While the destruction of Dresden is common knowledge, many people don’t know that other German cities were targeted for destruction in the closing months of the war. One of these cities was Würzburg.

When I think of Würzburg on 16th March 1945, I think of women. By this point in the soon-to-be-ended war, most of the men were at the front. The women whose stories I tell today stood on opposite sides of that terrible conflict.

The 1943 Casablanca Directive set out a series of priorities for the strategic bombing of Germany by UK and US airforces. The aim was clearly defined:

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This should have meant a reprieve for Würzburg as the city didn’t fall into any of the criteria for attack

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Würzburg had no heavy industries, or ammunition factories. The transportation links had been badly damaged in earlier attacks on the railway station and tracks. The city was known as a “Lazarettestadt”, a city of hospitals, and was temporary home to many refugees from other areas of the country.

Despite this, in the bomber command of High Wycombe, England, Würzburg was chosen as a “filler target”, for carpet bombing. It was seen as a desirable target, due to the narrow streets,  and the timber-framed houses, which would enable fire to spread rapidly. No.5 Bomber Group had experience with this tactic, in Dresden just weeks before.

The German Woman – Brigitte

Stadtmauer, Fladungen Germany

Photo of the city walls of Fladungen

Brigitte was the grandmother of my husband, and Uroma to my children. She lived for most of her life in a village called Fladungen. My father-in-law would correct me at this point, to remind me that Fladungen is actually a town, as it has ‘Stadtrechte’. Whatever we call it, the place is around 100km from my husband’s hometown of Würzburg, right on the border of what would later become East Germany.

Before she met her husband, Brigitte had lived in Würzburg, and worked as a maid for a Jewish family, so she had ties to the city.  I never asked why she left the city, and moved further south to work on the border to Austria, but this is where she met her husband. He was Austrian, and after they married, they returned to her hometown of Fladungen to bring up their children.

Hans was called up late in the war. He wouldn’t return until many years after the war ended, having walked home from a camp in Russia, where he had been a prisoner. His children did not recognise him when he returned, a skeleton of his former self. He never spoke of his time in Russia.

Brigitte rarely spoke of the war. She mentioned the shoe-maker in the village, who was shunned after the Americans came, when the local folk realised that he did indeed still have stocks of leather in his cellar. They’d never forget that their children went to school barefoot, when he complained of having run out of supplies.

With Hans still in Russia, Brigitte lived with her four children, in a crooked timber-framed house, close to the mill where my father in law later learned his trade. They survived on the produce that she grew in the garden outside the medieval city walls. Her eldest son was left to care for the younger children when she worked the fields.

She told us once about the 16th March 1945, when from her rural home, she watched Würzburg burn. Back then there was no rolling news coverage on TV, no Twitter, no breaking news, but the townsfolk knew that the orange glow in the sky could only mean one thing. The city of Würzburg had been attacked by allied bombers.

The English Woman – Phoebe

The Blitz, London

Photo of Aldwych Tube Station, being used as a bomb shelter during the Blitz

In a conversation on Mumsnet many years ago, I mentioned my links to Würzburg, and the night the bombers came. A Mumsnet user told me about her great-aunt Phoebe.

Phoebe lived in Henley during the Blitz. This period of heavy bombardment of a number of English cities from September 1940 to May 1941, was designed to break the British spirit, in the same way that the later attacks on German cities were. At times the bombers would overshoot London, and drop their load on Henley. The Blitzkrieg was not as destructive as the later bombings of Dresden, Pforzheim, Hamburg, Kassel and other German cities.

Phoebe was an active member of the WRENS, and received an OBE for her services to her country. Despite her patriotism, one of Phoebes worst memories of the war was watching the massed allied bombers fly over, near the end of the war. Alongside the worry and fear for the allied pilots and crew, there was a knowledge and a sorrow of the death and destruction that they would bring to women and children in Germany. Phoebe later told her great-niece, that the women would weep as they watched the planes fly south, thinking of the lives that would soon be changed forever.


The German Child – Herta

Herta Cleve


At 5pm on 16th March, 500 bombers took off from Reading, near London. It was a sunny and mild day in Würzburg that day, as the then 8 year old Herta Cleve remembered,

“It was a beautiful day, sunshine, wonderful. We hadn’t been to school for a long time, or only just a few times”

Herta lived in Semmelstrasse, and was due to take her first communion in the coming month. The first warning was given in Würzburg at 7pm, and a more urgent alarm sounded at 9pm.  When the alarm sounded, her mother ushered her down into the cellar of their apartment.

“I was wearing knee-length socks, but I didn’t forget my white fur coat and muff, or the little suitcase with the things for communion: a little crown, material for a dress, the nice underwear, the book of prayers, and the silver case with the rosary”.

At 21.28 flares fell on the grass of the playing fields of the leafy suburb of Heidingsfeld. Each bomber would fly over these fields, then follow a predetermined course, to drop their load on a different area of the city.

256 high explosive bombs were dropped, to destroy the roofs, windows and doors of the buildings. This was necessary, so that the following 300,000 fire bombs would be most effective. The cellar of the house, in Semmelstrasse, where Herta and her mother were sheltering, was in chaos.

“We had beds set up in the cellar for the children, for us to sleep on. But suddenly we were all lying in the corner, on top of each other. Dust, noise, roaring, then it was quiet again. 

We didn’t know what was happening. There were openings from one cellar to the next, and we heard them break through from the neighbouring house, no. 50. A fire had broken out, and the people were almost suffocating on the smoke. My mother dipped sheets and blankets in water-filled bathtubs, and hung them in front of the opening, but it didn’t help for long. We almost suffocated”. 

After some time, Herta and her mother attempted to leave the cellar. She looked up at her house,

“The curtain fluttered out of the destroyed window, and in that moment caught fire. We couldn’t leave the street. It was a sea of flames. We went back to the cellar”.

The firestorm raged at temperatures up to 2000°C, and destroyed 90% of the city centre. 21,062 homes, 35 churches and countless buildings of historical importance were destroyed. It is estimated that in the 25 minutes of the attack, around 5,000 lives were lost.  Many of them suffocated in the provisory air-raid shelters of their cellars.

It wasn’t until the next morning that Herta and her mother were able to leave the cellar.

“My mother had toiled without pause until then, and she comforted me, draped a wet blanket over my head, and said, ‘We will go to Aunt Dora in Mainviertel, where we can sleep and rest'”. 

The area where her aunt lived, Mainviertel, was still in flames. Herta and her mother were evacuated from Würzburg that day. She didn’t let go of her little suitcase, and in April she celebrated her first communion in a neighbouring village.


The Trümmerfrauen


US tanks in Würzburg


Just a few weeks after the bombing of the city, American troops arrived in Würzburg. On 1st April 1945, tanks arrived on the Nikolausberg and the next day the troops were on the river banks, underneath the Festung. The city centre was on the opposite side of the river Main, but the bridges had all been destroyed. The resistance of the Germans was short-lived and by 6th April, the US troops had taken the city, and installed an interim Bürgermeister (Mayor), who declared,

“Würzburg ist nicht tot, Würzburg muss leben, Würzburg muss neu erstehen!”

“Würzburg is not dead, Würzburg must live, Würzburg must rise again!”

While the swift intervention by US Monument Officer John D. Skilton saved the famous frescos of the Residenz, it was down to the inhabitants of the city to clear the rubble and rebuild. With so many men still not returned from the front, the women of Würzburg were recruited to assist with this work.

In July 1945, 36,845 people were still registered in the city of Würzburg: 22,407 women und 14,438 men. The German word for ‘rubble’ is ‘Trümmer’, and this was the name given to the men and women who helped to clear the rubble and start the rebuilding process. At first this was done on a voluntary basis, later it became compulsory, as only those who assisted were given food rations.

In time, the Trümmerfrauen would return to their traditional roles, as private companies took over the huge task. It wasn’t until 1964 that the last of the 2.5 million cubic meters of rubble was cleared. It would take until the 1990s until the last ruin was replaced.


Würzburg Today

The Bombing of Würzburg

Photo Credits: Würzburg, before 1945, after 16th March, now 

When strolling the streets of the city, there are very few signs of the devastation of the 16th March 1945. Occasionally, one might come across  a tumbledown wall, but most of the buildings were rebuilt, albeit not always historically reconstructed.

In the same way, lives were rebuilt, but they were never the same as before the war. My husband told me recently, that many felt that the night that turned Würzburg into the ‘Grab am Main’, the Grave on the River Main, was a just punishment for the sins of their country. Whether we can honestly say that the killing of innocents is ever truly justified, the guilt and shame of the Germans was, and is, deeply felt.

The church bells will sound in Würzburg, on the 16th March this year, as they always do, between 9.20 to 9.40pm, the duration of the air raid.

This blog post does not attempt to justify, or lessen the horrific crimes that went before. Sadly, there exists a minority of right-wing activists, who attempt to use the deaths of innocents to rewrite history, both within and outwith Germany, but these must be firmly rebutted.

There can be no drawing up of a balance sheet, with the lives of the victims of the Nazis on one side, and the lives of the victims of the strategic bombings on the other. There is no room for blame or pointing of fingers.

This year, on the 70th anniversary of the Dresden bombings, a delegation from the city of Coventry travelled to Germany. These two cities are twinned, and have worked tirelessly in the past decades to encourage peace and reconciliation. Like the twinning between Dundee and Würzburg, the friendships forged over the past 70 years between Dresden and Coventry have healed wounds. 

We have no way of altering what is past. We can only move forward together.

The story of Herta was taken from the book  „Zukunft, die aus Trümmern wuchs. 1944 bis 1960: Würzburger erleben Krieg, Zerstörung und Wiederaufbau“ by Dr Roland Flade, winner of the Carl-Gottfried-Scharold Prize.

See also Dr Flade’s YouTube videos

Five Wounds by Katharine Edgar

Review – Five Wounds by Katharine Edgar

My Goodreads Review of Five Wounds, by Katharine Edgar
Five Wounds by Katharine Edgar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A gripping tale, that kept me awake into the wee hours, as I couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it.

This is a fast-paced story, with plenty of drama and intrigue, that still manages to convey a huge amount of historical detail. I loved that this detail was woven skilfully throughout the story, without jarring one out of the narrative. The descriptions of the everyday tasks and duties, combined with historically significant events, give young readers a more rounded view of life in this period.

The writing is descriptive and tight, easy to read for both adults and teens. My 12 year old daughter is reading Five Wounds now, and is enjoying it immensely. We both found that our lack of knowledge of the specific historical period, and the Pilgrimage of Grace was a slight issue. As we read on, many of our questions were answered, but I did have a quick read of some background information to fill in some gaps.

Nan is a believable (if at times slightly irritating!) character. Her religious beliefs, and the way in which they shaped her life, explain very well her motivations. Young readers may not necessarily identify with her religious beliefs, but they can empathise with her, particularly when she makes hasty or unwise decisions.

There were a few loose ends, and some fascinating characters who weren’t fully explored, so I am hopeful that there will be a continuation of their stories in a later book.

Review copy

View all my reviews


This Little Piggy Was Caught in a Twitter Storm

This article deals with processes in feminism, but the point made about social media is true for all online discussions.

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When our online world is nothing but an ‘echo chamber’, we miss the dissenting voices, the ones that change our minds, or strengthen our resolve.

It is much easier, and more comfortable to surround oneself with those who constantly give positive feedback, but sometimes we must also listen to those who think differently. I try to read and listen to those who don’t share my political views, because only then can I make informed choices. The trick is finding people to debate opposing views who are still polite and respectful in their discourse.

Who would want to be a politician in these times of call-outs, RTs and online anger? Who would like to stick their neck out and make a statement on a controversial topic?

There is a saying in German. ‘Jeden Tag eine neue Sau durchs Dorf treiben‘, which literally translated means ‘to chase a new pig through the village every day.’ I often think of this when I watch twitter-storms erupt.

I constantly self-police my comments, and there are topics that I shy away from on Twitter. Not because I am not confident in my position, but because I just don’t want to invite the rage that would undoubtedly follow.

In recent years, this has included tweeting the friends, colleagues and supervisors of the person involved, sometimes with the demand that the person be fired. How have we arrived at this position, that a life can be ruined because of a badly-worded tweet, or a poorly expressed opinion? Or even a well-expressed opinion, that someone else doesn’t agree with!

I’ve been on Twitter long enough to know that being on the receiving end of a twitter-storm is overwhelming, frightening and pointless. The trolls and flamers move on to the next twitter-storm, and it all blows over. No resolution has been found, no mind has been changed, and everything is as it was before. Except the next time one of the onlookers considers tweeting their opinion, they hesitate, and delete the draft.

In a day or two, it will be a different pig, but the life for this little piggy might just change forever.


Featured Image

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Uploading Photos to Instagram from Computer

One of the most frustrating Social Media tasks is uploading photos to Instagram from computer or Mac. Sometimes I have a photo on my computer that I’d like to share on Instagram, and have to email it to my phone or tablet, before I can upload it. What a faff!

The problem is that Instagram doesn’t allow access to third party apps, and only wants people to upload on their mobile devices. Don’t ask me why – surely it is in their interest when MORE people share more photos. This restriction is fine for recreational users but a real pain for anyone using the service in a professional capacity.

I did some searching, and came across Gramblr, but I didn’t get on well with it at all. Then I discovered Latergramme.

This isn’t a perfect solution, as Latergramme cannot publish directly to Instagram, but it does help you schedule posts for the week or month. The free account allows for 30 posts a month. Upgrade to the premium plan if you want to post more than that, or if you wish to post to more than one IG account. The premium plan also enables you to ‘regram’ photos, i.e. to share photos from other users. It is $16 a month, so probably only of interest to the professional social media user.

It isn’t as wonderful as Buffer for scheduling social media posts, but it does help with planning and scheduling.

Using Latergramme couldn’t be easier.


Sign up using your Instagram account

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Then upload a photo


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Add your caption and hashtags


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Drag and drop onto the calendar


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At the scheduled time, you will receive a notification on your smartphone or tablet




Open Instagram, as prompted








That was easy, wasn’t it! Don’t forget to schedule your Instagram posts to share automatically via Ifttt to Twitter.

kids online

“My Mum Reads My Texts”… Checking Kids Phones and eSafety

“My Mum reads my texts”, is the digital age version of “My mum reads my diary”. Did you write a diary when you were younger? If you did, you may remember the fear of your parents reading it, finding out all those private thoughts, spying on you.

Then the similarity between the diary and the smartphone ends, because a diary is kept private, while social media and text updates are shared with others.

Many parents worry about their children, and their use of social media and smartphones. Are they being bullied – or are they bullying others? Are they sharing information that they shouldn’t? Who are they talking to online, and can they really be sure if the person that they are talking to is being honest with them – or is even the person they are purporting to be?

The best way to protect your child online isn’t to snoop on them, or read their text messages, but to have an honest and open discussion about your fears, and your worries. Children are capable of understanding that you are not trying to spoil their fun, or restrict them, but that you are trying to keep them safe.

So, what if you are genuinely worried about them?

The first thing to remember is that our kids are pretty clued up when it comes to protecting their privacy, and are perfectly able to delete messages or updates that they know would upset, worry or disappoint their parents. Almost half of children polled by researchers said that they’d seen things online that their parents wouldn’t approve of. Some of these incidents might be pretty mild, and we should keep in mind, that parents often see things online that are horrible. I’ve seen many things online that appall me!

The trick is letting kids have enough social media rope to learn how to use it sensibly, without getting tangled up in it! And that means a gradual introduction to using social media, in the beginning with more parental involvement and supervision. As the children grow older, and are more able to assess risks, you can loosen your hold and let them go it alone.

I used to say that you should set up kids’ email accounts to forward a copy to parent’s inboxes, but kids don’t use email anymore! Remember that messaging apps such as Snapchat won’t show recent messages, as they are deleted after they’ve been read – so snooping wouldn’t even be much use in this case!

Sit down and chat with your kids, and make up your own Family Media Agreement – you can use the template below as a starting point. Agree on terms, e.g. that parents have a right to check phones, if they are worried about the child, and how that will take place.

Ensure that your kids know that they can come to you and talk about any worries that they have, and promise not to over-react. Kids often don’t tell their parents, because they are worried their parents will make them shut down their messaging apps. These apps are a vital part of social communication for many children, and they’d rather put up with bullying than lose them.

As in all matters of parenting, honest and open communication is key. “Because I said so”, isn’t a reasonable answer to give to your child in this matter. If they are old enough to use Social Media, then they are old enough to know WHY you don’t want them to use a particular app or service.



Family Media Agreement (1)


12 Awesome Women Explorers, You've Never Heard Of

12 Awesome Women Explorers

It is done! Months of research, and hours of agonising which of the many wonderful women to include – today 12 Awesome Women Explorers was published. Initially only on Kindle, but soon to be available in print, and on iBooks.

One of the challenges of writing this book, was finding women who were explorers in a positive sense. Not rich, entitled white women who ‘explored’ countries where people had been living quite happily for many years, but those who actually brought a deeper understanding between peoples, or who made exciting scientific discoveries.


I’ve tried to include a few lesser known women, alongside some more familiar stories. Women like Victoria Drummond, the first British woman Marine Engineer, and Barbara Hillary, the first African American woman to ski to the North Pole, when she was just 75 years young!


Quote from Getrude Bell, Awesome Woman Explorer

Gertrude Bell, archaeologist, diplomat, and spy, who helped shape the Iraq nation, and left behind a museum that would become the Iraqi National Museum. Ella Maillart, Swiss athlete and adventurer – these stories and more were a joy to research.


Quote from Mae Jemison, Awesome Woman Explorer


I tried not to make just a list of ‘First Women To’, because as you can see from the biography of Mae Jemison, first African American woman in space, it reduces these women to a single factoid. Ms Jemison went on to do many wonderful and inspiring things.

These ‘first woman’ facts are handy hooks, but don’t tell the whole story!


Quote from Louise Boyd, Awesome Woman Explorer



I hope you (and your children) enjoy them. The book is aimed at children from around 8 years.



Carnival In Germany

IMG_0055Don’t miss my friend Millie Slavidou’s book – out today. Millie has a wonderful talent for illuminating everyday situations and events. In this book, she has sent her heroine Lucy Evans to visit a friend in Germany, and the reader follows the two girls adventures during Carnival.


Having lived in Würzburg for almost 10 years, I was happy to supply the detail and inside knowledge of the city, and the celebrations. Millie’s research turned up some wonderful information that I didn’t know about, and the book is just fabulous!

We’ve illustrated the book with stunning photos, most by a family friend, Ged Ryan. These are shared in the style of Instagram updates.

Online Writers' Workshop

Join our Online Writers’ Workshop!

The lovely Millie Slavidou and I were chatting today about collaborative writing. She suggested we write a story together, but I fear I am too much of a control freak to enjoy that. What if she took the story in a different direction, to the one I had in mind?

I suggested that to preserve our friendship, we could do a monthly Writers’ Workshop instead. When I lived in Geneva, I joined a wonderful group at the American International Women’s Club. In fact, it is due to the support and encouragement of the women in that group, that I began to share my writing, both online and offline.

Millie and I would like to invite you to join in our Online Writers’ Workshop. This is open to anyone who would like to take part.

Once a month, I will post a writing prompt on this blog. You write an article or story – fiction or non-fiction, poetry or cartoon –  and at the end of the month we will share our work online. We will link up our blogs, so that readers can hop from one to the next, and we will give each other constructive and supportive feedback.

Sign up here and follow the discussion on the Facebook Page


Join Our Online Writers’ Workshop

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Elie harbour and sands, Scotland

Secrets of Scotland – The Kingdom of Fife

It’s been a while since I wrote a Secrets of Scotland, so I thought I’d catch you all up on some of the glorious areas of the country I am lucky enough to call home. The suggestions on this blog are many, and you won’t be able to do them all in a day, so pick the ones you like best, and don’t forget to let me know the ones I missed!

A lot of tourists land in Edinburgh and drive straight past Fife to head for the Highlands. Or if they visit the area, they drive to St Andrews, and then onwards. When we pick visitors up from the airport, we always drive around the coast road of Fife, and our guests are stunned by the beautiful views.

Entering the Kingdom of Fife from the south brings one across the magnificent Forth, with (at present) two bridges, the suspension bridge for road traffic, and The Forth Bridge. Officially for trains, but actually the Forth Bridge is there to raise spirits, bring a tear to the eye of returning expats and delight locals and tourists alike.

secrets of scotland

Picture Credit

You just NEVER get tired of that view! Instead of staying on the boring motorway, to head north via Kinross and Perth, take a detour along the coast road. Off the road at Rosyth, and head towards Burntisland. The road takes you parallel to the Forth, and there is lay-by just after Aberdour, where you really must stop and take in the view.
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Head for Kirkcaldy, a town that most people drive straight through, although I’ve recently been informed that there is some stunning architecture there – a sign of the historical importance of the Kingdom of Fife, which King James VI described as “beggar’s mantle fringed wi gowd”, a reference to the fishing and trading villages of the coast. The traditional red clay roof tiles of the villages came from Holland, as ballast in the empty boats returning from selling wool, linen, coal and salt.

Your next stop should be the little village of Elie, which boasts one of the most scenic beaches in the country. The first photo at the top is the beach/harbour. It has a delightfully old-fashioned beach holiday feeling to it, with rock pools to discover, and a nice little ice cream parlour on the main street. Lunch in the Ship Inn, (apparently under new ownership, so I hope they don’t change too much!). The pub organises cricket matches on the beach in the summer season, so sit on their beach bar terrace, with the sun shining on your face and just relax.


Pic Credit 

10698023083_3977695c7f_z Don’t get too comfy though, cause there is still lots to see. The tiny village of Pittenweem is worth a quick stop, but we normally head to Crail next. Stop for coffee in the Crail Harbour Gallery, but don’t forget to duck your head to avoid the low beams! Take a walk around the village – the 13th Century church is worth taking a look at, and the Victorian turret on the site of the former Crail Castle will have hobby photographers’ fingers twitching.

If you are staying a few days in the area, then you might want to spend a day walking a part of the Fife Coastal Path, which runs from the Forth Estuary to the Tay Estuary, across from Dundee. The section between Crail and Fife Ness, or onwards to Kingbarns is one of the more rugged sections – check high tide times, as parts of the path are impassable at high tide.

If you don’t want such a long walk, then drive from Crail to Kingbarns, where you can visit the Kingbarns Distillery for a wee dram. I’ve not been to the cafe yet, but will report back when we get around to that! You can walk along the beach at Cambo Sands, catching a glimpse of golfers from the renowned Kingbarns Golf Links.


Pic Credit

If you are a keen gardener, then Cambo Gardens will delight you. The Fife Coastal Path goes along the shore, and you can walk up through the woods right into the gardens to the house (where you pay the entrance fee). From February to March, the gardens take part in the to the Scottish Snowdrop Festival, the highlight of which is the Cambo Snowdrops by Starlight event. The rest of the year sees the gardens bursting with colour, and the regular events throughout the year means there is always something to do or see.



En route to our final destination for this blog trip, the ancient town of St Andrews, we always stop at the Fairmont St Andrews, because it has the best view over the bay. Drive past the main hotel to the golf club house, and just drink it in!


Pic Credit

St Andrews is famous for two things – it is the Home of Golf, and also home to the oldest University in Scotland. Founded in 1413, St Andrews University is the third oldest in the English speaking world, with recent alumni including Alex Salmond, Prince William, Sir Chris Hoy and no less that five Nobel Laureates!

St Andrews Pier

Pic Credit

The great thing about St Andrews is that there is always a nice buzz about the town. The golfers in summer give way to the students in winter, with only a few weeks of the year the ‘quiet season’. Despite the relatively small size, the town boasts an impressive array of restaurants, bars and cafes, and pretty decent shops if you want to pick up some souvenirs.

Highlights of St Andrews include the beach (do try to resist humming the Chariots of Fire song, as you jog in slow motion along the beach!), the many wonderful university buildings, such as  the quad of St Mary’s College, the rugged ruins of the castle, and cathedral,  the family-owned J&G Innes Bookstore, and the wonderful Jannetta’s Ice Cream parlour, which serves the BEST ice cream in Scotland. The Salt&Caramel is to die for!

A lot of people are unaware of this fact, but the Old Course is closed on Sundays. We’ve been for walks with the dog on cold winter days – you really get a different view of the town. On other days, you can walk around the perimeters, and there are also guided walks, for golf fans.

Other notable restaurants/cafes in the area include Forgans of St Andrews, and Kitschnbake in Newport, which I’ve reviewed previously.

Talking to Kids About Sex

Talking to The Kids About Sex – Without Euphemisms or Embarrassment

According to Planned Parenthood, teens who had good, honest conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms or other contraceptives when they do have sex.

So how do we go about talking to the kids about sex and puberty, so that they are informed of the changes ahead, know how they can protect themselves, and how to react to the pressures from others? Without euphemisms or embarrassment.


“Mum, is it rude to call someone a ‘pussy’?” asked my 10 year old son recently. To be honest at first I was at a bit of a loss. How do you reply to this question? I will admit that I’ve never felt comfortable talking to the kids about sex and bodily functions, particularly with my son.

I inwardly told myself to get a grip and answered, ‘Well, it is a slang word for vagina. You know, boys have a penis and girls have a vagina? People use it in a nasty way, it’s like calling someone a girl, or a wimp’. (Yes, yes, I know it should be ‘vulva’, but it was the word that occurred to me at the time!)

The conversation moved on to discussing why using ‘you throw like a girl’ is wrong, and I started to think about how I’ve become more comfortable with uncomfortable topics. These are my tips for anyone who is still putting off ‘having The Talk’ with their kids.


Follow the Lead of Your Children

Many children start asking where babies come from when they are toddlers, often when a baby sibling comes along, or a family friend has a baby. You don’t have to go into great detail, but answer questions honestly and in age appropriate language.

As they get older, you can add more information when they ask. Answering questions as they come up helps avoid building up the angst of waiting for the perfect time to have The Talk.


Books and Websites

Some people feel more comfortable giving their child a book to read first, and then answering questions that they have. If you go down this route, read the book first to ensure that you are happy with the advice and message given. And don’t cop out by not mentioning again afterwards!


Keep it Simple but Factual

When they are younger, you don’t need to go into a lot of detail, but resist the temptation to give body parts weird names, that might confuse them later. Particularly when talking about vaginas and vulvas, there is a reluctance to use the correct terminology. Even doctors have been known to use the euphemistic ‘down there’ rather than say ‘vulva’.

Teaching kids the proper words promotes positive body image, self-confidence and parent-child communication, and is recommended by those who work in sexual abuse prevention. Children need to be able to talk honestly and openly to parents and teachers about their body, without fear of being scolded for using the ‘adult’ words.


 Be Confident

This is a time to grit your teeth and be breezily confident. Kids pick up on parental hesitation or embarrassment really fast, and you don’t want to give the impression that sexuality is something to be ashamed of.


Teach Consent from an Early Age

This is one of the most important lessons you can teach your kids. Don’t wait until they are in their teens to talk about consent, and boundaries. Someone once told me that they have a rule in their household:

If everyone is not having fun, everyone stops

This works really well with toddlers, who are just developing a sense of empathy. This doesn’t happen automatically, it needs to be taught. Whether it is the 3 year old who is bothering his older sister, or the 8 year old who won’t stop repeating everything their sibling says and does … it is important that children are taught that when the other person has had enough, you stop!

In our house, it was often my younger child, who just didn’t know when to stop annoying his sister! It was sometimes difficult for us to know if she was really saying ‘stop’ or not, as she’d be laughing while she scolded him. We decided on a “safe word”, which means ‘even if I don’t look or seem like this is really bothering me, I’ve had enough and I want you to stop’. Even now, years after we decided this, when someone says ‘banana bread!’, everyone stops!

We’ve also talked about reading non-verbal messages that his sister is sending. She might not be saying, ‘no’, but her facial expression and body language shows that she is not happy, and getting angry or upset. She’s stopped laughing and responding to his silliness, or has turned away.

This must be followed by everyone in the household, including parents and relations. If a child doesn’t want to give granny a kiss and a hug, then they should not be forced or coerced into doing so. It is important that children learn that they have boundaries, and these boundaries should be respected.

As the children get older, you can expand on this to include talking of boundaries in sexual relationships. As they’ve already learned about reading non-verbal messages, you can already go beyond ‘no means no’, to teach about enthusiastic consent.

It really should be obvious, but it is important to stress that if a person is drunk, high or otherwise impaired, they are not ‘fair game’, and the right thing to do is put the person to bed and let them sleep it off. This includes watching out for anyone who is vulnerable, and ensuring that others don’t take advantage of them.

While most schools teach the basics biology of sexual intercourse, many don’t include relationship and consent education. I’ve written about the importance of teaching about controlling behaviour, and recognising the Red Flags of Controlling Behaviour here for adults and for children on Jump! Mag – Controlling Friendships.


Sex and Love

Children are often told that ‘when you love someone, and the time is right, then it is ok to have sex’. I find this message troubling, as we all know that sometimes adults have sex for fun, not for love. It also puts young people at a higher risk of falling into a controlling relationship and the typical blackmail of ‘I love you, and if you loved me, then you’d sleep with me’.

The hormonal ups and downs of puberty may lead a teen to think that they are madly in love, and that this is The One, who they will live happily ever after with. And who knows – they may be right. I met my husband when I was just 19 years old and we are still happily married [mumble] years later.

A much more honest message would be, ‘Sometimes we have sex because we are in love with the person, sometimes it is just for fun. As long as you protect yourself from pregnancy and STDs, you can decide yourself when you want to have sex. Often people find sex better when they have strong feelings for their partner, and that physical intimacy deepens the emotional closeness.’


Be Discreet

Choose a time when you aren’t in a rush, and you have time to answer questions. Some people suggested that a casual discussion in the car is a good idea – it resolves the question of where to look. It goes without saying, that you shouldn’t do this when your child has a friend with them in the car!

Don’t discuss details of your own sex life – if there is any way to send them running for the hills, then the thought of their parents having sex is bound to do it.


The main thing to keep in mind is that, while you may find it embarrassing at first, it does get easier. The more open and confident you are when speaking to your child, the more likely it is that they will come back and ask any questions that they have.

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