How (not) to park a bicycle…

bike racks

It was said once, by someone who knows about these things, that the best designs excel in both form and function.

A product needs to both look beautiful, and work well. And be easy to use.

Just occasionally something comes along that fails so spectacularly in both departments that it merits some kind of Epic Design Fail Award.

Yesterday, I came across one of these. It is a new bicycle parking facility at Cambridge station. When once considers that the word ‘facility’ derives from the Latin, facilis, meaning ‘easy’, I think it is used very generously indeed in this case.

So for anyone else who ever comes across one of these Epic Design Fails, I have written the following helpful guide to using them.

Step One; Parking your bike.

1. Spend 18 minutes looking for a free rack. Miss your train.
2. Find one free rack, up on the higher level. Sceptically ponder the likelihood of ever getting your bicycle on it, given that even when the ‘ramp’ is dropped down it’s still at least a foot above the ground, and then you need to hoik it up above your head. And your bike weighs approximately 3 billion kgs. Miss another train.
3. Decide that there is no way on this earth that you are ever going to get your bicycle up there without breaking your neck, back and spirit.
4. After further searching, now half a mile from the station itself, find ONE empty rack, on the bottom level. Do a victory dance.
Miss another train.
5. Start trying to squeeze your bicycle into the tiny gap between the two other bikes on either side, and underneath the ones above your head. Destroy your wicker bike basket as it gets wedged and scraped between the other bikes. Only manage to get your bike about three feet in, before it gets stuck.
6. Decide to leave it there, as you are about to miss a third train.
7. Realise that all of your bags are still in your bike basket, which is now unreachable, what with being buried several feet in front of you under the stack of bicycles, helmets and D-locks, and those metal racks above your head.
8. Duck down and crawl between the bicycles, smacking your head on the metal racks above several times, ripping your tights and getting oil and blood all over your coat, until, using a long pole, a fishing rod and your new-found Arm-Extending Superpowers you manage to JUST reach the handle of your bag, yank it out and drag it towards you along the ground.
9. Spend five minutes picking up all of the things that have fallen out of your bag during this maneuver. Decide not to crawl all the way back in to retrieve your mascara and granola bar, which you can see, covered in dust, near your front wheel.
10. Attempt to lock your bike to the rack, but realise that you can’t because that would require fighting your way back down the alleyway of head-banging, clothes-ripping hell. Leave it, and run for train, wiping blood off your lapels along the way.

Step two; collecting your bike.

1. Leave the station after a long, exhausting day, and spend ten minutes trying to remember where you finally abandoned your bike twelve hours ago, while bleeding from the head.
2. During your search in the pitch dark, walk straight into three of the higher level racks, which have either fallen down or just been abandoned there, presumably by other Epic Fail Bike Rack users who just want to GO HOME NOW PLEASE. Break shin bone. Swear loudly.
3. Find bike! Cry with joy.
4. Move to put all of your bags into your bike basket so that you can unlock your bike, but realise that you can’t because your basket is still completely unreachable, deep inside the mess of metal, handlebars and WD40.
5. Put all of your belongings onto the ground, where they get covered in dust, urine and discarded chewing gum.
6. Hit head on metal rack again, while trying to locate lock. Realise that you didn’t lock it in the first place. Swear again. 
7. Finally manage to reverse bike out of rack. Notice that basket is now ripped in six places.
8. Attempt to balance your wobbling bike with one hand while bending down to pick up all of your dirty bags, and put them into basket. Bike falls on top of you three times while doing this. Swear again. Cry from exhaustion and desperation.
9. Get all of your belongings into the basket, carefully negotiate the huge metal racks that are still jutting out into the dark, and start to cycle home.
10. Decide never ever ever ever ever ever to try and use the new, shiny, unspeakably ugly, utterly impractical £200,000 bike racks again, and lament the loss of the beautiful trees that used to throw shade on the lovely, simple, USEABLE bike racks of old. Refrain from saying ‘I remember when this was all fields!’, or spend any time thinking about what you’d like to do to the moron who created this Epic Design Fail. Or the people who decided to buy it….

Good luck. Remember; cycling is good for you. It’s just the parking that half kills you.


What they never tell you about morning sickness….

morning sickness

All over the world, people have been sitting down at their breakfasts, standing around water coolers (if these actually exist any more) and waiting for the bus (ditto), while trying desperately to get their unaccustomed tongues around the buzz phrase of the day;

“Oooh, I hear she has hypereme-, hypereremem-, no, wait, hang on, hypereemic- oh look, it’s really bad MORNING SICKNESS OK?!” (As opposed to ‘good morning sickness’, one presumes.)

Hyperemesis Gravidarum, or HG, are the words we’re all struggling with. 

And for anyone who has it, just keeping any food or liquid down
for more than five seconds is the what they are struggling with.

Kate Middleton has it, apparently. And this is why, despite having been around for Millennia, talk of its existence has suddenly reached breakfast tables and water coolers and bus queues, like a wave of ancient novelty.

Any woman who has ever had morning sickness knows that it is one of the most debilitating, HORRIBLE aspects of pregnancy.

And considering that there are approximately 43,784 horrible things about pregnancy, that’s pretty impressive.

After three pregnancies, all of which came blessed with three months of unbroken morning sickness, I would rather give birth again than endure another twelve weeks of constant nausea.
No really. I would. And mine were 9lb-ers.

Considering how common sickness and nausea are in the early stages of pregnancy, very little is made of how bloody awful it is. And myths about it abound.

Here are a couple of little factoids about morning sickness that nobody tells you:

1. It doesn’t occur in the morning. Or, at least, it doesn’t necessarily only occur in the morning. I had evening sickness with all three of mine. Every night, 5pm, BOOM. Hello nausea. Hello toilet bowl.

Some women have it all day long, every day. The deal here is that we buy these poor, pukey ladies very nice shoes, and let them watch whatever they want on telly. Forever.

Some obedient, rule-abiding women have it only in the morning, and tick it off in their How To be Pregnant book.

Others don’t have it at all. We tend to ignore these people, on the grounds of excessive irritation and unfairness.

2. There is no sickness involved. Again, this isn’t the case for everyone (an amazing thing about pregnancy is that not everyone’s experience is absolutely identical, and Just As It Says In The Book. I KNOW! What are we LIKE? Human or something??); some women throw up constantly, as if they’re falling out of a night club every three minutes. Others are never sick at all. Some are sick once, consider the job done, and efficiently move on to stretch marks and haemorrhoids, presto pronto.

Given the above, it’s a teeny tiny wonder they decided to call it ‘morning sickness’ at all, really. I’d like to have been there on that meeting, and set things straight.

The Most Hellish Three Months Of Your Life, might be one suggestion.

Or, Give Me Sympathy NOW, would be another.

The sympathy thing is a big deal.

There’s a woeful lack of it, because morning sickness provides nothing dramatic for us to show anyone and thus elicit any Sympathy Nods or gifts of nice-smelling creams or four-hour foot massages.

It’s not a broken leg or a bleeding head or a catastrophic lack of style.
It’s just…nothing.

And ‘feeling sick’ is not exactly very high up the International Sympathy Scale.
It’s down there with ‘I’m a bit tired’, (who isn’t), ‘Oh God, the wifi has gone down again’ and ‘what, no SOYA MILK for my latte??’

I think I dealt with it stoically.
Most days I would sit in a corner puffing tiny breaths from between my pursed lips, before wailing “I think I’m going to diiiiieeee!!!!!” at the top of my voice and then spitting the gallons of saliva that were constantly accumulating in my mouth into coffee cups that I carried around for the purpose, until, hours later, I finally succumbed to the blissful, sickness-free hours of sleep.

In subsequent pregnancies this was probably quite embarrassing for my older children, if such puffing and wailing and spitting occurred in the Wendy house of our local toddler group.
But frankly, I didn’t care.

I didn’t care about anything except NOT FEELING SICK.

One last thing to note is this; HG is not morning sickness.
Morning sickness is not even morning sickness, as we’ve just learned.

HG is a very very bad version of morning sickness. Really, superbad. Mothers can become ill very quickly if they don’t consume any liquids for a few days, and they really do need to seek help immediately.

And maybe now that Her Royal Highness has kindly shed some green-tinged light on a serious condition that affects 1% of expectant mothers, they will now all get the attention and help and sympathy they deserve.

And so should all the millions of you out there who are only having Normal Morning Sickness. It’s awful. I feel for you. I would feel sick with you, but I’ve done my time there so I’ll just do the Sympathy Nodding, if that’s OK.

Good luck. Keep breathing. (This is key, in most things…) Keep not going near foods that make you retch. Keep demanding those foot massages.
You are a HERO! And you will stop feeling sick eventually. Usually just in time to go into the long, dark tunnel of chronic sleep-deprivation that follows the birth.

Ahhh, it’s all fun. And one day they might even thank you for it.


Liz Fraser is the author of three best-selling books about parenting. Her new book,Lifeshambles, will be published in the Autumn of 2014, or as soon as she has finished it.

Ciggie, baby. . .?

HEALTH Passive 1

MPs have backed calls for a ban on smoking in cars in England and Wales when children are passengers.

Two things are amazing about this;

First, that such a ban didn’t exist before, and second, that there are people who oppose it.

Let’s just have an ickle look at some facts:

  •          Exposure to second-hand smoke has been strongly linked to chest infections and cot death in children.
  •          Research indicates that 300,000 children in the UK visit a GP each year because of the effects of second-hand smoke, with 9,500 going to hospital.
  •          Smoking in a car creates a concentration of toxins up to 11 times higher than in a bar.

For those who are struggling with the fiendishly complicated numbers above, let me help:

Exposing your children to smoke is very bad for them.
If you do this, you are an arsehole.

Yes, it is your right to smoke.
It is also your right to be an arsehole. Of course it is.

But it is your child’s right not to have to sit in a car filled with toxic chemicals, while you exercise your Rights.

Just because they are smaller than you, doesn’t mean their Right to Life is smaller. 

It’s not about ‘controlling’ you, and squashing your freedom. It’s not about do-gooding, interfering health freaks taking your nicotine away.

It’s about not killing your child.

And if people are stupid enough not to be able to stop willingly poisoning their children, then Laws have to be put in place to try and protect them.

Of course people will flout the Law. People who are that stupid ignore most intelligent things.
But it if stops one child from dying then it’s worth it.
It’s also about belonging to a society that recognises children’s rights, and stands up for them.

Well done all 376 MPs who managed to tell the difference between freedom and selfish arseholery.

The other 107 might want to go away and see if they can figure it out too.

Plotting and planning…


When hatching a Big Plan one needs to spend a lot of time alone, working out what the Big Plan actually is. This ensures that it is not a Big Disaster.

Many cloaks are swished, and daggers swung about a bit, avoiding the genitals, where possible.

Sometimes rude words are said. Loudly.

But eventually one feels one’s Big Plan is ready, and one needs to SHARE.

To dare to pull back the thick safety curtains of secrecy, and TELL.

In order to get some feedback, and criticism.

And pained looks of dismay.

This week I have finally started sharing details of my Big Project with a very few, very well chosen people.

Writers, mainly. Men and women. All part of what I prefer to call my friends, but business-speak would fetchingly call my ‘Target Market’.

So far the feedback has been whizz bang FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC, which has only served to make me very frightened indeed, as it means I might actually have to do this thing.

And so it was that I had a fantastically buzzy, up-beat business breakfast with the very lovely Ms @dexdiva (also to be found at ) who was, it is fair to say, very enthusiastic about the Big Plan, and had some great ideas and useful suggestions.

The temptation to snog her and carry around town all day shouting ‘THIS WOMAN LOVES MY BOOK AND WEBSITE IDEA!!!’ was narrowly resisted, mainly because it was pissing down with rain.

Much plotting has been done.
Many things are going to happen.

Soon. And cloaks will be removed. Fully.

And my Big Plan will be naked before you, and you will hopefully like it.



All systems go…



Book title sorted. (YAY!!!!! 🙂 )

Twitter name sorted.

WordPress blog sorted.

Website address sorted.

Facebook page sorted.

And now, with the help of the BEAUUUUTIFUL coffee above, I am writing the intro and a few sample chapters, ready for next week.

I can’t WAIT to share it with you all!

Very very very soon….

Oh, and I’ll be asking for your thoughts and experiences, so get ready, folks…

🙂 🙂



And the news is…… *DRUM ROLL*…



The other news is that I am not about to tell you what it is.


You are allowed to hate me a little bit for this shameless teaser, but I promise that I WILL tell you soon.

And you will like it.
A lot.

And so now the next stage of the hard work begins.
Titles make it SO much easier to focus focus focus, and WRITE.

If you need me I’ll be cemented to the chair above for the next few weeks, writing like mad, and loving it.

Or just being mad and writing it.
There’s a fine line between the two, and I like to stray across it at regular intervals of about twenty minutes.

And THEN, my friends, I shall start to sneak little snippets out and share them with you.

And the fun will start. . .



Titles, titles, titles. . . aaaarrrgh!

My head is SPINNING with possible titles for my two new books.

This dizzying task is only made bearable by the fact that ‘title’ has the word ‘tit’ in it.

Other than that, it’s total pants.

So that’s tits AND pants in one blog. Lawks, I spoil you.

What is NOT total pants is Yumchaa, above.

It is, in fact, sort of like Heaven, only with coffee and free wifi and lovely tables and people so pretty and you want to sleep with them all instantly; or just sit in the corner drooling.


I think I might move in permanently, like a posh squatter.

Now, then…..about those TITLES…