Tuesday, 29 October 2019

To Pitch or Not To Pitch

To Pitch or Not To Pitch

That is the question!

I began this blog almost five years ago and ever since it has been a fairly constant struggle to define what I want from it. Is it a repository of all the random interests clogging up my brain? Or is it a record of family life and Marianna's early years?

Or, is it what I initially envisaged it being, a side business that brings in some much needed cold hard cash every year?

At the moment it's a messy mix of all three. It gives me an outlet for the research I want to do without demanding academic footnoting, and it provides a platform for family life that is super easy to share with Nanny. It even makes a contribution to the housekeeping occasionally, not in the form of money but in products for review or little treats I couldn't justify shelling out on.

Books and Teddies
Like books and personalised soft toys...

Part of me feels I should strip out the randomness and do what all the blogging guides tell me: find a single niche and make this place collaboration friendly. Less gory details of local historical crime stories and way more easy-to-share listicles and sponsored giveaways.


The rest of me doesn't want to give up what makes this labour of love worth continuing. And it can't be going so awfully. Since getting back into blogging in 2019 I've slowly improved my rankings on the various go-to measures. My Kred score is creeping upwards, and I'm currently ranked #100 on the Tots100 and #32 on the parenting Rise chart.

I suppose the real question is whether that really matters? Because all the stats in the world aren't enough to make pitching for work feel any easier. Every time I go to fill in one of those boxes asking some variation of 'why should we pick you?' imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. Why should they pick me? My engagement rates aren't great. My photography isn't up to snuff. Years on and I've still got fewer than 3,000 followers on Instagram.

Blogging is an oversaturated market and there is nothing I can do that somebody else can't do better.

Except, I guess, be me.

Which brings us full circle back to the initial problem. If I want to make some money I need to lose the weirdness. But if I lose the weirdness, what makes this different from any of the other things I don't really want to do but have to if I like having the heating on at this time of year?

So, for now, at least, I'll stick with the status quo. This place is my own carefully cultivated collection of randomness, and of the occasional brand work I take on, 85% or so is with PR people who approach me.

It's not perfect.

But, then again, what is?

For more posts like this, click the picture below:
Blogging Guides

Monday, 28 October 2019

Kids' Halloween Playlist

Halloween Playlist for Kids

Halloween is one of my favourite times of year and the endless themed novelty songs definitely has something to do with that. So, here are 30 tracks perfect for your little ghouls and ghosties! (I've gone for lively and upbeat tracks for this playlist, the kind of thing a sugar hyped kid can get into even if they've never heard it before...)

Sunday, 27 October 2019

This Week - 27/10/2019

time you enjoy wasting is not time wasted

Cold and flu season has hit me hard this week. It was full council on Tuesday and afterwards I went and picked Marianna up from school and then just went to bed. I basically stayed there for the next two days feeling like death warmed over. :/

Friday evening we went around my aunts to look through the photos from my nan and gramp's house. I took my scanner with me and did about 175 in the end. Yesterday I spent the day cropping, editing and uploading them to a new imgur account. (Details HERE.) I put up all my dad's photos I've scanned too which brought the total up to almost 1500!

On the blog I've written about Mattel's new Creatable World dolls and my five favourite fruits.

Song of the Week -

For more like this, please click the image below:
This Week - Weekly Overviews

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Friday, 25 October 2019

Five Fruits

Friday Five


#5. Banana

#4. Grapes

#3. Satsuma

#2. Strawberry

#1. Kiwi

For more like this, click the image below:
Friday Five

Thursday, 24 October 2019

32 Films Checklist

Film Review

One of my bucketlist items for this year was to watch 32 new (to me!) films. Here's my progress list:

★ 1. The Witches (1990)
★ 2. That's My Boy (2012)
★ 3. Anger Management (2003)
★ 4. Click (2006)
★ 5. Maudie (2016)
★ 6. Eli (2019)
★ 7. Over the Hedge (2006)
★ 8. Mrs. Miracle (2009)
★ 9. The Littlest Reindeer (2018)
★ 10. I Walked with a Zombie (1943)
★ 11. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)
★ 12. Gnome Alone (2017)
★ 13. Santa's Apprentice (2010)
★ 14. A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)
★ 15. The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
★ 16. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
★ 17. Beethoven's Christmas Adventure (2011)
★ 18. Jack Frost (1998)
★ 19. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
★ 20. Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
★ 21. Scrooge (1951)
★ 22. The BFG (2016)
★ 23. Aladdin (2019)
★ 24. Behind the Candelbra (2013)
★ 25. Paddington 2 (2017)
★ 26. The Limehouse Golem (2017)
★ 27. Free Birds (2013)
★ 28. Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)
★ 29. Tad, The Lost Explorer (2012)
★ 30. What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
★ 31. Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans (2019)
★ 32. Tamara Drewe (2010)

★ 33. A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
★ 34. Minions (2015)
★ 35. Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
★ 36. Toy Story 4 (2019)

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Family Photo Album

Family Photo Album

I've set up an imgur album to give everyone access to all the family photos I've scanned.

You just need to log in to imgur with the username familyphotosalbum and password r863076.

I've tried to fix up some of the prints (erasing creases, etc), but if there's substantial work done I've uploaded the original scan too.


bootsphoto.com - You get 25 free 6x4" prints when you sign up.

freefotos.co.uk - Get 15 prints with delivery for £1.99; you can add as many more prints as you like for 5p each.

freeprintsapp.co.uk - Download the app and get 45 prints plus delivery each month for £1.49.

photobox.co.uk - Sign up and get 30 prints plus delivery for £2.99.

planet-cards.co.uk - Get a free personalised photo greetings card with code EPCARDFREE.

postnando - Download the app and get one free personalised postcard, including delivery, with voucher code REFC30CD72324C8.

snapfish.co.uk - Download the app and get 50 prints with delivery for £2.99.

stannp.com - Download the app and get one free personalised postcard, including delivery.

touchnote.com - Sign up and get two free personalised postcards, including delivery. It's a subscription offer so make sure you cancel the sub as soon as you've ordered them.

truprint.co.uk - Register and get 20 prints plus delivery for £1.99.

MyPostcard.com code - JESSICAGJA6

Get $3 free credit when you sign up with code JESSICA6JA6 - enough to send one postcard. On registering you'll get your own code, share that and get more free credit!

For more like this, please click the image below:
Family History

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Full Council - October 2019

I seriously considered ringing in sick today, but as it's much more a one-man-show than it once was I figured it would be more stressful trying to find someone to cover for me. So, yeah, I coughed and spluttered and wheezed my whole way through and - as sod's law dictates - because I felt like death warmed over it ended up being a really long meeting.

After item #15 I called a bathroom break for 15 mins or so. That's got to be the worst thing about chairing: you can't just sneak off for the loo, you literally have to halt the whole meeting! Still, it also gave me chance to take some cold and flu meds and get some tea. I was kind of surprised when someone approached me during the break to say it looked like I was just a mouthpiece for the Chief Exec, as I kept taking her advice.

I suppose it must look different from the floor because you do get people leaning in to say stuff a fair bit, but the content really varies. I sit between the Chief Exec (or another senior officer, in her absence) and the monitoring officer; the latter advises on legal points and the minutiae of the constitution. E.g. I conferred with her today on whether I could take an amendment straight away and then return to the substantive debate if it fell, rather than get bogged down in discussing it. The Chief Exec tends to offer suggestions on things like which officer is best to bring in if the presenting speaker can't answer.

Both also keep an eye out for people indicating they want to speak in case I miss someone - moreso today because of the constant coughing fits - and give occasional gentle nudges about timing, especially if a debate is becoming cyclical. At the end of the day though, it's my call, so when debates circle on and on I've only got myself to blame.

You can watch it on webcast HERE.

#1. and #2. Attendance and Apologies for Absence.

#3. Declarations of Interest.

#4. Confirmation of the minutes of full council meetings from 24/09/2019.

#5. Updates on Actions.

#6. Receipt of Petitions.


#7. Public Question Time.


#8. Announcements from the Leader and / or the Chief Executive.

#9. Presentation of Awards: Strive for 95+.

Dave Yeowell, executive member for education, presented certificates to three Torfaen pupils with 100% school attendance.

#10. Presentation of 25 Years of Heritage Lottery Funding.

Much of the transformation of Blaenavon into a world heritage site was helped along by heritage lottery funding. Council was shown a short video about the impact it has made.

#11. Changes to Committee Membership.

With Cllr Gauden making the move to the executive there were vacant committee seats to fill.

#12. Annual Performance Report 2018/19.

What it says on the tin!

#13. Torfaen Local Development Plan Monitoring Report 2019.

The LDP is due to be renewed but legally this still needs to be approved by council.

#14. Proposals for a Strategic Development Plan for the Cardiff Capital Region.

This item proved really controversial with many councillors arguing it would be nothing more than another level of bureaucracy, or that it would remove the autonomy of the planning committee. I disagree completely with the latter point - it would just be another aspect to consider, like the LDP (Local Development Plan) and NDF (National Development Framework). Personally, I think it could be something really positive and if we refused to engage we would just be shooting ourselves in the foot. It was eventually approved, anyway.

#15. Torfaen Council's Strategic Equality Plan Annual Report 2018-19.

#16. Motions on Notice.

Cllr Kathy Evans was away today so the first motion was deferred.

Cllr Emma Rapier proposed her motion calling on Torfaen to: support our Trade Union colleagues in demanding a fair and fully funded pay settlement for council staff; call on the WLGA and LGA to make urgent representations accordingly to the UK Government; write to the Chancellor and Secretary of State to call for a pay increase for local government workers to be funded with new money from central government; meet with local NJC union representatives to convey support for the pay claim; and, conntinue to encourage all Council employees to join a trade union.

The motion passed.

#17. Members' Question Time.

#2 wasn't asked as Norma was ill, but the rest all went ahead as scheduled.

#18. Cabinet Decisions from 08/10/2019.

These were noted.

#19. Date and Time of Next Meeting.

10am, December 3rd 2019.

Although I already knew that wasn't quite true. An extraordinary council meeting has been called for November 18th, to further punish me for agreeing to be Chair...

For more like this, please click the image below:
Council Business Explained

Monday, 21 October 2019

Creatable World

Mattel Creatable World

Over the last few years Mattel has really turned their doll game around. Less complacency and horrid shiny nylon, and way more exciting inclusivity and innovation. Their new Creatable World line introduces gender neutral dolls with wigs and lots of accessories. From a making the world a better place viewpoint, this is such a great move forward.

From a doll collecting viewpoint this is simply awesome! The dolls are fully jointed - yep, even the ankles - and the focus on customisation is really fun. The dolls are 11 inches tall and designed to appear pre-teenish, with faces reminiscent of brands like Lottie and Licca. I do wish they were a bit smaller (Stacie size, maybe) so they could be better used alongside Barbie and other 1/6 scale mainstays, but that's an 'I want these in my doll house stat' quibble.

I'm super excited for the line, and I plan on expanding Marianna's doll collection ASAP. :)

There are currently six doll kits available at £35 each.

Creatable World Black Braided Hair Doll

Black Braided Hair Doll - Box / Contents.
Starter Pack Doll.

Creatable World Black Straight Hair Doll

Black Straight Hair Doll - Box / Contents.
Starter Pack Doll.

Creatable World Blonde Curly Hair Doll

Blonde Curly Hair Doll - Box / Contents.
Starter Pack Doll - Box.

Creatable World Brunette Wavy Hair Doll

Brunette Wavy Hair Doll - Box / Contents.
Starter Pack Doll - Box.

Creatable World Copper Straight Hair Doll

Copper Straight Hair Doll - Box / Contents.
Starter Pack Doll - Box.

A second wave of dolls quickly followed...

Creatable World Brunette Straight Hair Doll

Brunette Straight Hair Doll - Box / Contents.

Creatable World Doll GKV49

Black Curly Hair Doll - Box / Contents.

Creatable World Doll GKV46

Brunette Hair Doll - Box / Contents.

Creatable World GKV31 Everyday Style PackCreatable World Everyday Style Pack ES-826

Everyday Style Pack ES-619 - Box / Contents
★ Hair Pack - Box / Contents.
Pink and Green Hair Pack - Box / Contents.

Creatable World Active-Wear Style Pack AW-348Creatable World Wigs

For more like this, please click the image below:

Sunday, 20 October 2019

This Week - 20/10/2019

Côf a lithr, llythyrau a geidw - memory slips, letters remain

On the blog I posted a couple more Welsh song graphic sheets - Penblwydd Hapus (Happy Birthday) and Lliwiau'r Enfys (Colours of the Rainbow) - along with a guide to the L.O.L. Surprise O.M.G. fashion dolls and a review of Moli, the cow who moo she was different. I also blogged about five names Marianna was almost lumbered with as part of my 'Friday Five' series, and an account of a couple who were arrested while on honeymoon in Pontnewydd!

In real life it's been a bit of a tough week, to be honest. My anxiety is so bad at the moment it's making me physically ill and I don't really know what to do about it. I've gotta go see the doctor and ask if they'll up my dosage. I've already been through all the counselling, and other than that's it's just get signed off work for a few weeks so you can sit at home and panic about all the stuff building up for you to deal with while you do so. :/

There was an overnight awayday(s) for Bron Afon board this Thurs/Friday and I had a presentation to do, so I figured a lot of the stress was related to that - spending lots of time with people and then talking in front of them. It actually went okay though. I think I might have burned bridges with a couple of people who didn't like my generalisations of Torfaen (I was asked to talk about the challenges the community faces in BA's high stock density areas so obviously it wasn't about all the good stuff happening!), but overall not too bad. Still, it's over now and I don't feel any better for it.

I dunno, I'm just constantly tense to the point of having to consciously unclench my jaw and stop picking at the skin of my fingers (dermatillomania). Like, I've been a bit teary, but nothing too bad, it's just the anxiety.

On the plus side, though, I had to do a couple of ice breaker sessions where one of the questions was about what you find most nerve wracking: doing new things, going new places, meeting new people. I was like, obviously C because of my crippling social anxiety, and everyone told me they would never have guessed I had a problem with it. Fake it 'til you make it, I guess...

Song of the Week -

New track from the GLC -

In every crowd, on every database, there's always someone from this place 
You could be in a queue or on the face of the sun, but I guarantee there's always at least one ...

For more like this, please click the image below:
This Week - Weekly Overviews

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Lliwiau'r Enfys - Colours of the Rainbow

Lliwiau Enfys - Colours of the Rainbow

For more like this, please click the below image:
Family Life

Friday, 18 October 2019

Five Names...

Friday Five


I was always very taken with the name Marianne from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. For whatever reason I was convinced it would be pronounced Mariann-uh, and decided that to get something similar I would have to use the spelling Marianna - otherwise it would be a silent 'e' all the way. It's actually a more common name than I imagined; there were 27 Mariannas born in 2017, compared to just 11 [Nanny] Wendys.

Still, even though I was set on Marianna right from the beginning of the pregnancy, here are a few potential alternatives that almost made the grade...

#5. John

First choice boy's name, after my granddad. Anthony Jr was dismissed out of hand.

#4. Jake

My favourite boy's name until an inconsiderate cousin stole it for their offspring!

#3. Bronwen

Back in school this was the name I would give my future daughter.

#2. Cassandra

This was Anthony's favourite girls' name. As I was the one incubating and birthing the baby this did not influence the decision.

#1. Robin

Possibly with Christopher alongside it...

For more like this, click the image below:
Friday Five

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Penblwydd Hapus - Happy Birthday

Penblwydd Hapus - Happy Birthday

For more like this, please click the below image:
Family Life

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Honeymoon in Pontnewydd

Honeymoon in Pontnewydd

Pontnewydd has lots going for it, I'm the first to say so, but honeymoon destination is not something that springs to mind! Yet, on September 29th 1903, two lovebirds had their Pontnewydd honeymoon cut short when police arrested them on suspicion of theft.

The Evening Express (30/09/1903) told its readers:

A HONEYMOON ARREST - Joseph Franks, a Jew, and his wife, Elizabeth, were arrested at Pontnewydd on Tuesday on a charge of stealing a gold chain value £10, and £20 in money. The parties, who were married in London on Saturday, were staying at the house of a relative when arrested. It is alleged that the watch and money were taken from the house of another relative in London.

Other newspapers elaborated on this; Elizabeth Wilson was a Pontnewydd native, the daughter of mason Thomas Wilson and his wife Hannah who lived at #5 Grange Road, Thomas Row, with their many children. (See census for 1891, 1901, 1911.) Elizabeth moved to London to work in service, and there she met Joseph. Following a short courtship Elizabeth married him at Brixton Registry Office on Saturday September 26th, giving her name as Ethel May Maclaren for reasons best known to herself. Afterwards they returned to Joseph's sister's flat at Cleveland Mansions on Chapel Street and, when she went out, stole £20, a curb chain, and a Kruger sovereign. When Hettie Franks returned the pair had disappeared, having gone to Pontnewydd to stay with Elizabeth's parents - until they were arrested with the curb chain and £17 in their possession.

Cleveland Mansions
The scene of the crime! This is Chapel Street, renamed Mowll Street in the 1930s, as it looks today.

On October 3rd the Weekly Mail continued the story:

ESCAPE OF THE MALE PRISONER - The prisoners, in charge of a Metropolitan constable, started for London on Wednesday, and when at Newport Railway Station the male prisoner gave the officer the slip, and the latter was obliged to go to London with only one prisoner.

Joseph dashed across the railway lines and left the police at a loss until an unnamed Italian man went to Porth police station on the Friday [Oct 2nd], and told them he had just travelled from Cardiff with a man who was boasting of his escape from the police. They went on to arrest him at Hafod where he was trying to get work at a colliery. The Gloucestershire Echo reported that he 'stoutly resisted arrest'.

October 10th saw Franks back in the newspapers, the Cardiff Times reported:

ALLEGED THEFT OF MONEY AND JEWELS - At Lambeth Police Court on Saturday Joseph Franks (24), described as a wood carver, was charged on a warrant with being concerned with his wife, Elizabeth Franks (19), now under remand, with stealing £20 and some jewellery belonging to Hettie Franks, of Brixton, in the early part of the week. The prisoner and his wife, it will be recalled, were arrested at Pontnewydd, where they were said to be spending their honeymoon.  
They were handed over to Detective-Sergeant Hawkins and Detective Hunt, of the Brixton police, for conveyance to London. At Newport it was necessary to change trains, and the male prisoner then succeeded in getting away from the officers, and making his escape. The detectives were compelled to come to London with Mrs Franks only. On Friday Franks was recaptured at Hafod, the arrest being affected by the local police. He was again handed over to Sergeant Hawkins, who safely brought him to the Metropolis. 
In giving sufficient evidence to justify a remand, Sergeant Hawkins stated that when told the charge the prisoner replied, "The £20 I stole because my sister would not pay my fare to Canada. The gold watch did belong to me, and I gave it to my brother, who is dead. While I was away in prison she took possession of it." 
Mr Hopkins remanded the prisoner until Wednesday, when he will be brought up in company with his wife.
If you hadn't thought Joseph was a catch before, his previous prison sentence at Parkhurst has surely convinced you! ;) This is likely to be our man below, listed in the 1902 and 1903 Habitual Criminals Registers, and I think this article might describe him and a friend being tried for pick-pocketing in August 1898.

Joseph Franks 1902
Joseph Franks 1903

The Penny Illustrated Paper brought the story to a close on October 17th:

There was a pathetic scene at Lambeth Police Court when Joseph and Elizabeth Franks, who were arrested while spending their honeymoon at Pontnewydd, Mon., were charged with stealing money and jewels from the former's sister, Hettie Franks. Mr. Armstrong, who appeared for the defence, asked Miss Franks if she really wished to go on with the charge against her brother. Miss Franks thereupon burst into tears, and exclaimed that she did not. The magistrate [Mr. Horace Smith] discharged Elizabeth Franks and bound the male prisoner over. Upon leaving the court the latter was rearrested on another charge.

Elizabeth and Joseph Franks at Lambeth Police Court

I'd love to know what happened to them after that but I haven't had any luck picking up their trail as yet!

For more like this, please click the below image:

newerPageTitle olderPageTitle Home