World Book Day: challenges for the uninitiated

All good mummies know that Thursday 2nd March is World Book Day, when little people everywhere celebrate the joy of reading.  They observe this splendiferous day by wearing costumes that their mummies (or daddies – let’s not gender-stereotype here) have lovingly hand-crafted on their sewing machine in the attic.  Or, in my case, bought from Amazon.

world book day 1.PNGBut the real problem is, no matter how much effort you put in, there is always some committed parent who has done better.  At my children’s school last year, there was a little boy dressed as Around the World in Eighty Days.  (Seriously? Are six year olds reading Jules Verne now?)  His body was an enormous globe and by some feat of technical wizadry he had a tiny hot air balloon magically floating round him.  What was the parent who made that thinking?  Don’t these people know they’re making the rest of us look bad?

In fairness, there are also a wide range of parents who are panicked into dressing their child as any character, whether it appears in a book or not.  If you see any kids turning up as characters from Star Wars, you know their mummies have just done a spot of last-minute rooting around the bottom of the dressing up box.

Before my children got wise to it, there was a happy interlude when I managed to convince one daughter to go as a witch three years in a row.  It wasn’t my proudest parenting moment, but it did have a lot to recommend it as (a) she already had a perfectly good witch costume left over from Halloween and (b) there are actually a surprising number of witches in children’s literature.

But once your children are reading books without you and start choosing their own characters, that’s when the real trouble starts.  Last year my youngest daughter wanted to go as the feline detective Atticus Claw.  I confidently ordered a tabby cat costume and requisite bandana in plenty of time, but when nothing had arrived at 4pm the day before World Book Day, I had to accept it probably never would.  I then spent two hours driving round South East London in the rush hour acquiring all the bits and bobs needed to fashion the costume myself.  It was not a happy time.

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Even teachers are in on it.  At least, I hope that’s a teacher…

This year my youngest daughter has let mummy off the hook by choosing the main character from  ‘The Girl Who saved Christmas’.  It may not be very seasonal, but I am delighted on two counts: firstly because this is a very good book, and secondly because the main character wears dungarees and a t-shirt.  Items my daughter already has in her wardrobe!  Happy days.

My other daughter has chosen to be Storme from The Long Way Home. Not only have I never heard of it, but I’m reasonably confident it hadn’t even been written when I was a child.  Worse than that though, my daughter is insisting that there is no actual description of what Storme looks like in the book.  As a result of diligent questioning on my part, I have found out that Storme lives on a farm.  I have therefore decided to go with an outdated stereotype and send her to school in dungarees and wellies.  I’m feeling pretty confident that if my daughter is reading the book and doesn’t know what Storme looks like, no one is going to challenge her on whether what she’s wearing is right or not.

Two children demonstrating their interest in diverse books from every season, whilst happily dressed in items they already had in their wardrobe?  That’s what I call #winning.  So, to committed (and less committed) parents everywhere, I wish you well with your costume, may your children live long and read much!

 

Thanks to Barnsley Chronicle for the photo at the top.

 

Homework makes me crazy, but not for the reasons you might think…

This week I am taking issue with homework.  Specifically my daughter’s grammar homework on gerunds.  Ordinarily I have an almost insatiable appetite for grammar, and gerunds are a particular favourite.  (Refresher for people less obsessed with grammar than I am: gerunds are when you use an -ing word as a noun, as in ‘My dancing is a constant source of embarrassment to my children.’)

grammar-keep-calmI particularly love them when they are in Latin.  Think of all the great Latin phrases that have gerunds and are still in use today…  Modus operandi (or MO) meaning ‘way of operating’, a phrase beloved of all TV cop shows.  Nunc est bibendum (now is the time for drinking), popular with Latin poets and care-worn mummies everywhere.  You might question how popular the phrase nunc est bibendum actually is, but I’m very excited by gerunds nonetheless.  (And if you’re wondering, yes, even I know that makes me a bit weird.)

But my excitement at my eldest child’s homework quickly dissipated when she got to gerund Blankety Blank, and the last sentence she had to fill in was:

My dad’s job is BLANK, but my mum does all the BLANK.

This is not good.  This sentence does not lend itself to empowering answers about what women can achieve. It does not lend itself to answers like

My dad’s job is watching re-runs of Top Gear, but my mum does all the high-powered lawyering (I don’t by the way, but you see what I mean).

This sentence lends itself to answers like my daughter gave, answers in which my job apparently counts for nothing because what I do is ‘all the cooking and washing’.

grammar-ironingThis made me full-on, head-spinning crazy.  I ranted that I have obviously wasted my time trottering away at work all day, because clearly it’s only the cooking and washing I do that counts.  In fact, I went so crazy that even my husband (who actually works very hard, and hardly gets to spend any time watching re-runs of Top Gear) looked slightly afraid.

But this is a serious point.  The conjunction ‘but’ is used to create a contrast – ‘my dad’s job is…, but my mum… (by implication doesn’t have a job).  Or, to put it another way ‘this homework taught my daughter about gerunds, but it misled her about what I do all day’.   Even though I hope I am role modelling being a smart working mum, it only took one sentence in my daughter’s homework to reduce me to a domestic servant.

I think there are a couple of things we can learn from this:

  1. I have an obsession with grammar that is bordering on unhealthy. (Although if you think loving grammar is a bit ‘special interest’, you should probably know about my fetish for Victorian cemeteries.)
  2. Children are influenced by everything around them. What they learn now sets their expectations for the future.  So let’s not give them homework that implies men have jobs and women don’t.  Let’s not tell them stories in which girls are passive princesses while boys save the day (I’m looking at you Early Learning Centre).  Let’s expand their horizons, not narrow their aspirations.

If you don’t think this stuff makes a difference, read this article about the impact of ‘labelling’ things blue for boys and pink for girls.  Luckily organisations like Let Toys Be Toys are challenging the stereotypes (and also have an insightful and often amusing twitter account). It’s certainly an eye-opener about how many limiting messages girls are presented with.

Lastly, returning to the grammatical theme of this blog, I know you don’t need it, but I would like to leave you with a final reminder: grammar is powerful – use your conjunctions with care!!!

 

Thanks to Good Housekeeping for the picture at the top of the blog (it comes from an article arguing that children have too much homework), Huffington Post for the ironing image (it comes from an article about how women have jobs but still do all the housework, and Not just another millenial for the ‘Keep calm’ poster.

Stop bog snorkelling and get bonding: parenting is a team sport!

Raising children is a journey with no clear destination and only a fairly limited and often useless map.  That is why friends with kids are invaluable.  It feels so much better to share your challenges with other people who also have no clue what’s going on.  Over the last few years I have shared so many challenges and had so much support from friends with children that we have forged bonds of steel.

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Gang of three: How we want people to think we look

We are like the Royal Marines of parenting.  No man left behind.  If you’re running late and your child needs picking up, if you have to drop one child and collect another from different parties at the same time, if you’ve lost the flipping homework book and have no idea what the little darlings should be doing, and, most of all, if you’ve had a rubbish week and need a glass of wine, WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.

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How we actually look

And naturally, like all highly specialised crack teams, not only are we trained to control an angry seven year old at twenty paces, but we have also developed our own vocabulary, a sort of linguistic short-hand of key information.  So if you want to get with the gang, you’re going to have to learn the lingo.  Here’s a couple of phrases to get you started…

  •     Personal grooming: you always need a haircut

Origins of the haircut:  Just because you have children, you can’t let attention to your appearance slip.  Which is why it seemed perfectly credible when one of the dads slipped out of a children’s party claiming he was ‘going for a haircut’.  He returned four hours later and sheepishly confessed he had actually spent the entire time in the pub with a mate.

How to use it in conversation: Do you actually have to work late the night my mother’s staying, or are you going for a haircut?

  •     Driving skills: do a Catherine

Origins of the Catherine:  My lovely friend was so busy yelling at her kids in the back of the car, that she entirely failed to notice the rockery looming ominously at the back of the parking space.  Luckily she was alerted to its presence by the sound of her boot caving in under the pressure. (No children or animals were harmed in the making of this phrase.)

How to use it in conversation:  I don’t want you to get upset, but I may have caressed a post on the way out of the car park.  It’s more of a light graze than a full-on Catherine.

  •     Wage slave: trotter-trotter-trotter

Origins of trottering:  As part of a fulsome description of how hard she had been working, one of our friends started typing manically at an imaginary keyboard much as a demented pig in a punk band might play the drums.

How to use it in conversation:  I’d love to come for a quick drink or ten, but I’m stuck in the office trottering my life away.

  •     Coping mechanisms: Honking arsenic

Origins of honking arsenic:  We can thank autocorrect for this one.  Whatever my friend was actually trying to text was unclear, but her meaning was plain – her mother-in-law had outstayed her welcome and my friend needed rapid and permanent relief from an increasingly oppressive situation.

How to use it in conversation: Getting my kids to do their homework is draining the will to live out of me.   If I have to make them practise their lines for assembly as well, I’ll be honking arsenic.

Now you know enough phrases to seamlessly slip into our gang and act like you have always been there.  Use this information wisely and you could be joining us on our next night out.  If you’re really canny, you may even be able to persuade one of us to pick your children up afterwards…

 If you’re now feeling wistful about the joys of friendship, why not read my blog about How to be a great friend.

PS Thanks to our wonderful BBC for the photo at the top!

The great scooter controversy

If death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down, then scootering must be her way of telling you to speed up.  Freewheeling along the pavement is the most fun a woman of my age can have in public and still keep her dignity.  It’s certainly the most fun you can have whilst trying to get two grouchy children to school.  When I’m on a scooter, with a fair wind behind me and a downward slope ahead, I feel like a rock chick.  I am the queen of the pavement, and I am living the dream.

The scooter and I have history.  In our years together I have worn through two brakes, a set of foam handles and a rubber thing that snapped off and was never replaced.  So I have been resistant to suggestions from Mr B that the scooter is past its best.  He doesn’t like the way it’s battered and scratched, or that it clatters and jangles as I career along the pavement.  Mr B thinks scooters should be shiny and inaudible.  He especially thinks they should be inaudible.  So for Christmas he said he would buy me a new one.

I greeted this generous offer with the same enthusiasm as if he’d said he would set fire to my hair.  But I am a good wife, and so, with heavy heart, I trawled the scooter catalogue for a suitable option.  And after some deliberation, I decided that a new version of the scooter I already have would be the perfect replacement.

Of course, I hadn’t taken account of the fact that Mr B had already picked the scooter he wanted to buy, and it wasn’t the one I’d chosen.   So on Christmas day I unwrapped the shiny, silent new scooter that I hadn’t chosen, and I have been waiting eagerly for the children to go back to school so I can put it through its paces.

scooter-ladies

These ladies look nothing like me. Picture someone much more dishevelled

But here’s the problem.  My husband assured me, despite my protestations to the contrary, that I needed a scooter with a soft suspension (wooden footboard) not the ‘sporty’ suspension (metal footboard) of my old scooter.  But now I have it, I have found out that the soft suspension is like scootering along the top of a very large marshmallow, with the effect that the new scooter’s maximum speed is more of a ‘disappointing dawdle’ than an ‘exhilarating dash’.  Although I would have to say that this is probably a safety feature, since it is nearly impossible to use the brake on the thing.

For those unfamiliar with the engineering subtleties of a scooter, the brakes are on the back wheel and operated by your foot.  Only this one is cleverly positioned so as to make it nearly impossible to actually get my foot on it, and when I do make contact, the brake has no sense of urgency.  In fact, it seems entirely oblivious to the importance of slowing down before I hit an ambling pedestrian or darting toddler.  This certainly makes for a more exciting journey, but, overall, I would have to say that it is not a benefit.

So I am back on the old scooter, rattling along the school-run with the sun in my face and the wind in my hair.  Meanwhile the new scooter is languishing in our hallway creating a health and safety hazard for anyone who wants to go up or down the stairs.

I love my husband.  I love that he thinks I need and deserve shiny, new, things.  It’s just that the stealth scooter isn’t the one for me.  After all, if I changed something every time I’d had it a while, or it rattled a bit, I would have gone through at least three husbands by now.  And, to be honest, I’m more than happy with the one I already have.  Whoever said ‘out with the old and in with the new’ really didn’t know what they were talking about.

PS  Unless it’s a full-on hurricane with a snow-storm chaser we always scoot to school and I love it.  Both my old and my new scooter are from microscooter and they have lots of options for children and adults.

Bath salts and surreptitious sweets: let the festivities commence!

I imagine that, if you are a celebrity, Christmas is a perfectly curated thing.  It is a Winter Wonderland of glitter and fabulousness in which everyone looks elegant, the children are charming and the presents are impressive (because no-one can truly be happy unless they have a soft-top sports car, right?)

But I am not a celebrity, so in my house things are a little more shambolic.  Christmas at Boudicca HQ goes something like this:

  • Get woken by the children at 4.30am, because Santa has been and there is every danger they will burst if they wait even a second longer for Christmas to start.
  • Admire all the thoughtful and well-informed gifts Santa has left in their stockings.
  • Discover that my dress no longer zips up and regret spending the whole of December gorging on mince pies, pigs in blankets, Christmas cake and anything coated in icing or dusted with sugar.
  • Decide to stand side-on for photos.
  • Watch my children spend three joyous minutes ripping the paper off the presents that I spent hours lovingly wrapping.
  • Pretend to be delighted when my partner gives me bath salts.  Again.
  • Spend the rest of the morning with one hand up the turkey’s bottom whilst shelling brussel sprouts with the other.  Yup.  It’s all glamour in my house.
  • Eat enough food to sustain a village in Africa for a month, whilst wearing a paper crown and listening to terrible jokes.
  • Convince myself that having a large helping of Christmas pudding with cream and brandy butter does not rule out bingeing on mince pies and ice-cream later.
  • No matter how bleak the weather, no matter how much the children protest, insist that we all go for a walk to ‘get some fresh air’.
  • Put some sweets in my pocket to sustain me whilst we’re out and eat them surreptitiously when everyone’s attention is elsewhere.
  • Slump on the sofa and munch my way through a box of Quality Street, a half-eaten mince pie that one of my children has abandoned and anything left-over from lunch.
  • Feel bloated.
  • Declare that this was definitely the best Christmas ever.

I wish you the best Christmas ever and a happy New Year!

Bethlehem or bust: why you should never try to persuade a pregnant woman to travel by donkey

If you think shipping Mary across the Middle East on a donkey was easy, then you have never lived with a woman who is heavily pregnant.  The Bible may gloss over it, but you can be sure that Joseph had his work cut out persuading Mary to go…

Joseph:  My darling, darling wife, I know that you’re exhausted from carrying our wonderful baby, so I’ve arranged for us to go away for a relaxing little mini-break.

Mary:  Are you kidding me? I’m eight months flipping pregnant.  It took me half an hour just to get my knickers and socks on this morning.  The last thing I want to do is go on a mini-break.

Joseph:  I’m sorry to hear that, my angel, but unfortunately we’re going to have to go, because Caesar has decreed that everyone has to go back to the town of their birth to take part in a very important census.

Mary:  Who does Caesar think he is?  Come here, go there, decree this, census that.  Well, we’d better be going somewhere good, because I’m not trekking about in the heat and the dust to go somewhere rubbish.

Joseph:  We’re going to Bethlehem, my angel.

Mary: Bethlehem??!!!  Bethlehem is the fungal toe on the arse-end of nowhere. Why can’t we go to Jerusalem?  At least I could go shopping in Jerusalem.

Joseph:  I would love to take you to Jerusalem, my sweetheart, and I definitely will one day, but this time we have to go to Bethlehem.

Mary:  Ok, but I haven’t been able to see my feet for the last two months, so there’s no way I’m walking anywhere.  You need to arrange door-to-door transport, and it had better be luxury.

Joseph:  Um, bit of a problem there, my most beloved.  Everyone who’s got a horse is already using it.  I’m going to have to walk, but I’ve managed to arrange a lovely little donkey for you.

Mary:  A mangy old donkey?  Every time I sit down to go to the loo, I wonder if I’m going to be able to get up again.  There’s no way I can get on and off some filthy donkey.

Joseph:  I think you might actually enjoy it, my darling.  Think of it as our last adventure before the baby comes.

Mary:  Well we’d better be staying somewhere classy.  I’m not staying with your Aunt Aphra again, she smells of goat excrement and I’m pretty sure she cooks with it too.

Joseph:  Um.  Well it was quite hard to get a room – I mean this census thing has made it a very busy time of year in Bethlehem.  Luckily my cousin Hezekiah knows someone, who knows someone, whose inn is so fancy that they’ve got a stable block, and he reckons that if we show up looking stressed enough, he might let us stay there.

Mary:  A stable block?  We’re staying in a stable block?  What if I have the baby whilst we’re there?   If I have the baby in Bethlehem, my mum will miss the whole thing.  And I’m telling you now, if my mother misses even one second of the birth, she will never let you forget it.

Joseph:  Don’t worry, my darling.  We’ll totally be home before then.

The picture above is a photo of Bethlehem taken in 1898.

Lost in translation (or what my children actually hear when I’m speaking)

All these years I thought my children were wilfully ignoring me.  Now I realise that they are listening to what I say, it’s just that they’re hearing something completely different…

What I say:  I just need to make a work call.

What they hear:  You’ve got a five minute window to take revenge on your sister for something she may or may not have done earlier.

 

What I say:  I don’t care who started it.

What they hear:  The most important thing is who started it.  We will establish this based on who can shout the loudest.  And possibly by some name-calling.

 

What I say:  Please just try the cauliflower cheese; Mummy spent ages making it and it’s delicious.

What they hear:  Under no circumstances let even the tiniest morsel of cauliflower cheese pass your lips.  Mummy has only made it because she hates you.

 

What I say:  You need to start taking responsibility for packing your own stuff.

What they hear:  Mummy’s an idiot and forgot to pack the water bottle again.

 

What I say:  Put your coats on and let’s go.  If we’re not out of the front door in 30 seconds, we’ll be late.

What they hear:  Of course you can watch the end of the TV show before we leave.  Mummy will just drive faster and swear more.

 

What I say:  NO!

What they hear: Maybe.  Try asking me again, but in a moany voice.  Mummy loves the moany voice.

 

What I say:  Please can you tidy up your room.

What they hear: Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Having the same problem?  I’m liking the phrases they suggest on KidFocused – starting with ‘Try that again because…’ as in ‘Try that again because we are always kind to mummy when she hasn’t had a cup of tea since 10 o’clock this morning and looks like she might drink your blood instead’.  Obviously that’s not the example they give on the website, but I think you know what I mean…

 

Room for improvement: my children try to turn me into wonder-mum

I really thought my children would be older before they realised that I am not the cool, fix-it-all, wonder-mum they believed me to be.  But now that they have noticed I’m not perfect, they are working tirelessly to improve me.  Obviously, this is a life’s work and something my own mother gave up on long ago, but my children are made of sturdy stuff, and they truly believe that, with sufficient effort on their part, I can do better.  Some areas for improvement they have been focusing on recently include:

My language   My children (and I can only assume this comes from their excellent schooling and not my awful parenting) are implacably opposed to all forms of swearing.  swearing2Their antennae are finely tuned to when I might be about to utter some sort of profanity, and they immediately start imploring me to stop.  To make the challenge more demanding, their definition of what counts as a swear word is much more extensive than mine. There are a number of words they object to that I didn’t even know were swear words (I mean, ‘crikey’ – that’s not a swear word, is it?)  Now that they are occupying the linguistic and moral high ground, losing my temper has become a verbal mine field.

My performance under pressure  Whilst I thought my rubbish parenting was teaching my children resilience, it turns out it is they who are teaching me.  To improve my flexibility and resourcefulness, they create a series of practical and creative challenges for me to solve on a daily basis.

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Thinking flexibly whilst remaining calm

They do it by announcing over breakfast that they are supposed to wear an Egyptian headdress, amulet and neck collar to school that day.  (Oh, how I love to scavenge round the house looking for suitable items to cannibalise into a costume whilst exhorting them to clean their teeth).  They create a sense of urgency to car journeys by accepting invitations to over-lapping parties, then shouting ‘Are we late?’ from the back seat as I desperately try to break the land-speed record getting from one part of south-east London to another.   Flexible, resourceful, able to break the laws of physics?  I fear I am falling short on every front.

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Now that’s what I call ironing

My humility.  No matter how hard I work, or what I do, my children continue to believe I am an idiot.  It is true that I don’t understand grid multiplication.  And it is also true that I have an alarming tendency to get lost when going anywhere in the car. (So in answer to the question above ‘Yes, we are probably late.’)  But I still feel that some sort of credit is due for all the swimming bags that are packed, sandwiches that are made and washing that is done (so, so much washing).  But my children shrug those things off like there’s an invisible fairy that makes it all happen.  And did you know that the fairy puts toys away, washes up after dinner and does ironing too?  What an asset to our home she is!

On the up-side, because they are of an essentially kind and generous nature, the children have started to make allowances.  Last week I took them swimming.  ‘Let’s have a race,’ said my youngest. ‘I’m better than you, so I’ll give you a head start.’  So thoughtful of her.  Now I am wondering whether I should be proud that my eight-year-old is so fair-minded, or worried that she can already swim faster than me.  Better add ‘improve my swimming’ to the list…

Thanks to Paint the ceiling page and Yoga am for the images in this post.

How to be a great friend

Behind every great woman is… a great best friend, helping her negotiate life’s ups and downs.  Best friends are the people who make the good times sparkle and the bad times bearable.  They’re an Ant to your Dec, a Mel to your Sue, they might even be a Thelma to your Louise if you’re old enough.  Because there’s something incredibly wonderful about what great friends can achieve together.

img_3875Last week something happened that made me feel really stressed and upset.  I even had a bit of a cry (unfortunately I am big on crying and small on being stoic).  And then I texted my friend Sarah, and somehow she made everything seem maybe not perfect, but not so bad.  So this is a bit of a love song to Sarah, but it’s also about everything great friends do for each other…

  • She makes everything an adventure – We can be lost, late, and have no lunch, but it’s all part of the joy, because whatever we do she brings an attitude that says ‘we’re going to have FUN!’.
  • She makes my world bigger – Not by travelling vast distances, but by stretching my thinking, by showing me different perspectives, by doing things together it would never occur to me to do on my own, and by sharing her knowledge and her life.
  • She makes me a better person – Not by criticising or denigrating me, but by inspiring me with her values, how she behaves, and the things she does.
  • She is always on my team – I’m not always right, sometimes I’m not even close to right, but she never judges me or makes me feel bad, she just helps me find a better way.
  • She is always there for me – I know that if I needed her, my best friend would turn the world upside down to support me, and just knowing she would do that means all it takes is a text from her to make me feel better.

eybn-julie-sarahEveryone needs a Sarah on their team, and, even if you don’t know it, you are probably someone else’s Sarah.

In fact, reading down the list, I realise that it isn’t just Sarah, these are qualities that all my friends have.  So now I need to stop typing, and start emailing, texting and telling them all how fabulous they are…

Glitz, glamour and good work

I work with the NHS and the voluntary sector, so whilst my job is big on satisfaction and full of lovely people, it is very low on perks.  Unless, of course, you like to gorge on hospital food in the deluxe surroundings of the staff canteen in between meetings (I don’t).  So you can imagine how excited I was when my very lovely client the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust invited me to a ball.

Keen readers will recall from my blog about dinner with the ambassador, that I will happily sell my children into slavery to spend the night wearing a fancy frock and scoffing canapes.  In fact, I love canapes so much, I sometimes think I should eat them at home, and perhaps start a ‘Canape Thursday’ tradition, the same way some couples have ‘date night’.  But I digress…

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Arnold Oceng and Colin Jackson

On Friday night, I glammed up to the eyeballs and set out for the swanky Waldorf Hilton hotel in central London to attend the EYBN Black Tie Ball.  The ball is hosted by EY’s (previously known as Ernst & Young) Black Network as part of their celebration of Black History Month, but it’s theme was very much future-focused: aspire and inspire.

It’s always a thrill to eat something I haven’t cooked myself (because my cooking is rubbish), but the real highlight was the guest speakers, who each gave a personal insight into how to build success.

Olympic silver medallist Colin Jackson, who hasn’t aged a day since about 1990, talked about learning from the people you admire to become the best you can be, and of building a team of people around you who share your dream.

Scientist and the BBC’s ‘face of space’ Maggie Aderin-Pocock described how, despite her dyslexia, she changed from being ‘the dumb kid at the back of the class’ to sitting at the front when she discovered her passion for science.

Actor Arnold Oceng, who escaped from Uganda with his mother after his father and most of his family were killed in the civil war, reminded people that you don’t go from being a refugee to a film star, you have to start small and work hard.

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Richard Blackwood & June Sarpong

Finally, broadcaster June Sarpong, who is now full-on and active in a range of charities, told the audience that you only need two things to succeed: equal access to opportunity and self-belief.

So how can I summarise the messages?  Have a dream, believe in your own ability to achieve that dream, and then work hard to make it a reality.

All that wisdom AND dancing afterwards?  You just can’t top it.  Suddenly my job seems awesome, not just because I went on a great night out, but because I get to work with organisations like the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust who are helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their dreams and build their own success, like Colin, Maggie, Arnold and June before them.  How lucky am I?

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Neil & Chelsea from the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

And as if all that glitz, glamour and good work weren’t enough, over £4,000 was raised for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and when the dancefloor was heaving with a mix of glamour and cool, I was dancing ’80s-style and wondering if the DJ would play anything by Take That.  I think that’s how every great evening should end, don’t you?