Sudocrem Competition!

I’ve been sent the details of this competition, which I think looks loads of fun! I love Sudocrem, it’s a constant feature in our house especially as Emily is prone to outbreaks of sore skin and it really seems to soothe it. Apparently they’ve been going 80 years. Blimey.

Have a read and then go and enter (that’s an order!).


Win yourself a £400 family activities voucher

To celebrate the launch of Sudocrem’s shiny new website and informative social media channels, we’re offering a 12 month Merlin Family Pass worth almost £400 to the winning mum or dad who shares with us their child’s (under 3) funniest photograph with the story behind it. Please note submissions must not relate in any way to the use of Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream.


It’s simple – just visit, ‘like’ the page and share your child’s funniest photograph with the story behind it.


Content should relate to children aged 3 and under only. Please note, submissions must not relate or refer in any way to the use of Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream or any other licensed medicine. Photographs and supporting text are both acceptable. The acceptance, disqualification or deletion of competition entries, without explanation or prior notification is entirely at the discretion of Forest Labs, as set out in the Terms and Conditions found on Entries can be submitted up until midnight on Wednesday 16th March 2011.

Our winner will be selected by Forest Labs staff and our wonderful celebrity midwife Nikki Kahn. The winner will be announced via on Monday 21st March 2011. Shortly thereafter the winner will be sent a 12 month Merlin Family Pass worth almost £400 (Family of 4 = 2 adults + 2 children OR 1 adult + 3 children) children must be under the age of 12 and full Merlin Terms and Conditions apply. The pass allows entry (with some restrictions) into top UK attractions including Alton Towers Resort Theme Park, THORPE PARK, Chessington World of Adventures, LEGOLAND® Windsor, The EDF Energy London Eye, The Dungeons, Warwick Castle, SEA LIFE Centres & Sanctuaries, Madame Tussauds London, Madame Tussauds Blackpool (from April), the Blackpool Tower Dungeon (from Sept) and the Blackpool Tower attractions (from Sept).Terms and Conditions relating to the use of the Merlin family pass are dictated by Merlin Entertainments Group only and can be found here:

Read the competition Terms and Conditions here:


If you didn’t already know, Sudocrem’s – Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream is one of the leading baby nappy rash treatments and has recently undertaken a full adoption of social media including Twitter, Facebook and a blog, run exclusively by some very experienced mummy bloggers. All the social media channels will be communities breaking new ground and getting to the heart of all matters that are important to parents today.


Twilight vs Harry Potter, By Request

I’d like to see a post on Twighlight vs Harry Potter please. Apparently that is incredibly important in the world of 14 year olds.

If you’ve been following my blog at all over the last few months, you may remember a post here about needing a challenge in my writing, so I asked people to leave a comment with a particular topic for me to write about. I’ve had a bit of a gap since the last one, but I’m taking up the baton again. So, thanks to Rebecca for this one, and I’ve now done my homework. Such a hardship, having to read four new books. Sigh, the things we writers do for our art…

First off, this is absolutely NOT a discussion of the theological or moral arguments around either Twilight or Harry Potter. I’m happy to write about my thoughts on this but this isn’t the place. If you’re interested in hearing my views, say so in the comments and a post shall be forthcoming. This one, however, is purely around the merits of either series as stories, in my own humble opinion. Second, THERE ARE SPOILERS! If by some miracle you haven’t read either of these yet and you want to, don’t read this post. Bookmark it and read it later, once you’ve read the eleven books in question (I’m not counting Bree Tanner as that’s a spin-off).

Ok. Now that’s out of the way, I really enjoyed both series. I resisted reading Harry Potter for so long out of a kind of mis-placed snobbery – there was Potter-mania, and I was determined not to read them just because everyone else was. When I did, I absolutely loved them and devoured each book as it was released. When Twilight was released, I resisted for different reasons – I knew it was about vampires and I have a kind of love/hate relationship with vampire stories. Also I was broke and there were other books I wanted to buy first. But when I did read them for this assignment, I enjoyed them and found the storyline rather compelling. Overall though, I think the writing in Harry Potter is better than Twilight. Rowling gives me more of a connection to the characters, the language was lighter and more engaging without losing any of its power. If asked to recommend a series for a 14 year old, I would certainly choose the Harry Potter ones.

I found the Potter books more universal in appeal as well if I’m honest. They deal very well with a range of issues that adolescents face, including but not limited to relationships and insecurities, whereas the Twilight books concentrate more on a young girl’s intense love and her own deep-rooted insecurities without really expanding from that theme. They did, however, deal more thoroughly with these issues.

In terms of storyline, obviously both series have a similar arc in that the protagonists deal with varying degrees of danger both to themselves and their loved ones and as they grow the danger also increases. In both series, too, the threat is almost always targeted at the one specific teenager rather than a general threat to mankind.

The story for the Twilight saga was, as I said, compelling, and I wanted to find out what happened to Bella, Edward and Jacob. I certainly did not expect the harmonious resolution to their triangle. BUT, this brings me neatly on to the problems I have with the series.

I found it just a little too safe. This may seem bizarre in a series where a young girl is fairly constantly fighting for her life against vampires and werewolves. But that’s the problem. She always won – in fact no, she was always saved. This isn’t as heartless as it seems – it’s just that the happy endings were just a little too contrived, and fortuitous. There was a lot of arriving in the nick of time – in every situation to be honest. In a book of our current era, starring a pretty feisty and strong girl, it seems little backwards to have the damsel in distress always rescued at the last moment, and this was only saved by the use of her shield in Breaking Dawn. This, though, wasn’t the resolution, which happened when Alice arrived in the nick of time with the evidence needed to stave off the Volturi attack. And, also, every fight situation ended happily, in every book. No-one that we cared about lost. I have two problems with this. First of all, tension-wise, in a series I would have thought it would be better to have some losses to ratchett up the suspense a little. If you think everyone is always safe, why bother about the outcome of the next fight? For example, in Star Wars – Han Solo seems lost in The Empire Strikes Back, and you need to watch Return of the Jedi to find out if or how he’s saved. Yes, you kind of know he will be, but it looks tense. More pertinently, in Harry Potter, Dumbledore dies. How, HOW can Harry go on without Dumbledore? How does he have a chance without his mentor? How can Sirius die – the first adult to take responsibility for Harry and provide a pseudo father-figure?

Secondly, it doesn’t fit. In a series which discusses intense relationships, sex, violence in some pretty graphic detail (dismemberings and beheadings occur frequently as well as burning bits of vampire on fires), supernatural monsters and drinking human blood, you might expect more casualties. No-one dies other than a couple of villains, a few human extras and one very minor character at the end of Breaking Dawn. Now, I am all for the victory of good over evil. I think it is absolutely right and proper that the bad guys are punished and the good guys aren’t, especially in what is marketed as a teenage book. But in the interests of a good story, surely there should be a little more tension than that? As I said, in Harry Potter there are actual casualties, people we care about. The final battle kills off one of the Weasly twins, Lupin and Tonks, and more. It’s upsetting, because we’ve come to care about these people, but it’s more real and it makes the survival of the protagonists more meaningful because you can see they were actually in danger. In the Twilight world, the good guys are, apparently, never in real danger because it’s always going to be a happy ending. This is good because you do care about the characters – the good guys really are good, Alice in particular is wonderful, but it does take away from the tension a little. To be honest, by the third book Bella’s preface, just as she’s about to die for someone she loves (yes, in every book), was getting a bit tiresome rather than suspenseful. Now, if you decide that your teen is old enough to deal with the issues discussed above, and to deal with the idea of a vampire romance, then surely they are old enough to deal with characters dying? Not the main ones – this is still young fiction after all, but important ones nonetheless?

I know the later Harry Potter books have been criticised for being a little too dark, too many deaths, and I would certainly want to feel that my children were mature enough to cope before they read them, but after all, fiction is one place where kids can explore issues like death and bereavement safely. And in defence, Harry Potter has the death without the gore. Twilight has the gore without the death – the visual without the substance. Without addressing grief and bereavement and mortality, it glorifies violence and gore. This is, to me, a disappointment in what is otherwise a very enjoyable series.

Character-wise, I think both books are very good. Twilight has a heroine almost all teenage girls can identify with, heroes girls would give their right arm for and an engaging supporting cast. Of the main three, Bella is a little on the depressive side for my taste, but Edward and Jacob are lovely, and their triangle is very interesting as the power shifts around. The relationship between Edward and Bella is very intense and believable (leaving the immortality aside!), and probably key to the series’ popularity. The idea of an incredibly attractive man waiting for decades or centuries, searching through the most attractive women possible, for his soul mate and deciding that you are it, with all your frailties and ordinariness, is intensely powerful and has drawn women to vampire romances for years.

Harry Potter has a wonderful cast of characters, who probably make bigger journeys than the Twilight crew – perhaps excepting Jacob. The fact that they are all ordinary teens who grow and develop and deal with minor issues like spots and dates as well as fighting the forces of evil speaks to all readers, who have been through the same torments themselves – apart from, I’m assuming fighting the forces of evil! It gives us hope that even we can fight evil if needed to, even we can rise to the occasion.

In conclusion, because I know this is a LONG post, I have to say that both series are excellent, with good plots and strong characters. Whatever my personal opinion on the weaknesses as I perceived them, there is no doubt that they are appealing, and I can only hope that in years to come my own books are read enough to provoke a blog post from someone about them. My preference though, has to go to Harry Potter. If you’ve read this and haven’t read the actual books yet, and haven’t been put off by the spoilers, here’s a link to Stephenie Meyer on Amazon and here is J K Rowling.

This is, of course, all my own opinion which is only of value to me and hopefully of interest to you! I’d be delighted if you commented on any of the points I’ve made, in agreement or otherwise, and please let me know if anyone is interested in the theological or moral aspects as I mentioned earlier.

Challenge The First

My Home Area

Can I suggest a topic – an easy one – tell us about your village/town. What’s to do. What the countryside is like. Your community? Any disadvantages.

I am suggesting this only because I love being able to visualise where bloggers are in their day to day lives!

If you’ve been keeping up with my challenge to write about new topics (if you have no idea what I’m on about, look here and here), welcome to the first result! Barbara suggested this topic for me and I’ve spent a while thinking about which angle to take, as our home area has many different aspects that I love and probably nearly as many that I hate. I’m sure you are exactly the same. In the end I’ve decided to interpret the question literally, so here you are: The Whirlwind MyLittleNotepad Guide to County Durham & Teesside.

If you want to place where we are exactly, picture the map of Britain. See the border with Scotland? If you go down a bit – a bit more…bit more…there, that’s it – you get to Newcastle. This is probably the closest big city to us. Now, go down a wee bit more. Durham and Middlesbrough are our next two large centres, although calling Durham large is stretching it a bit. It’s a beautiful city, and crammed as full of history as you can get, but you can’t call it large by any stretch of the imagination. Middlesbrough is…well, it’s bound to have a few good points. To be fair, it does have Captain Cook. He was born in Marton, a suburb of Middlesbrough although it was Yorkshire. That’s Middlesbrough for you – one of its few claims to fame was stolen from another county.

I may have been a little scathing so far, but the truth is I am actually quite fond of our little, often-overlooked corner of the world. Most people know Newcastle (coal-black ex-miners drinking ale and supporting a football team who are, shall we say, up and down in their fortunes) and Durham, if mentioned, will probably bring an image of the Cathedral to mind. Did you know, by the way, that the Harry Potter films were filmed in the cloisters here? Or that the Cathedral was one of the first places in the UK to be recognised as being of Outstanding Universal Value when it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1986? It attracts 600, 000 people a year. Rather more, I imagine, when the film crews are in for Mr Potter. Yarm, a mile from where I live now, was an important site in the development of the Stockton & Darlington Railway, the first public railway in the world, and my home town has a little-known fairytale spot that shelters the oldest surviving railway bridge in the world, Causey Arch. I used to spend magical hours here as a child, walking up to the bridge, looking down into the gorge and making up all sorts of stories in my head.

And of course, we have the Angel of the North, overlooking a notoriously busy stretch of the A1 dual carriageway. This pretty much sums up the area – a piece of art covered in scars from its industrial heritage.

One thing this area doesn’t do particularly well is prettiness. Our bordering county to the south is North Yorkshire, which is full of more pretty villages than you can shake a stick at. North of us is Northumberland with its castles and beautiful coastline and more pretty villages and towns – Alnmouth and Alnwick are particularly worth a mention (and of course Alnwick Castle is another Hogwarts location). To the west over the Durham Dales you come to Cumbria – I do not need to tell you how pretty the Lake District is. But Durham and Teesside? Not so much. There are nice bits. Quite a few green, flat bits, and the Durham Dales are lovely. We do have a couple of pretty villages but mostly we are left with the remains of the Industrial Revolution, consisting of brick terraces and town centres that were ‘improved’ in the 70s and not since. This is true throughout Durham and Teesside, and my own home town is a prime example.

Stanley, in the north of Co Durham, is an ex-mining town and if you can picture the description I just gave, you can picture Stanley. I have a kind of love-hate relationship with this place. There is virtually nothing to do – for most regular entertainments such as cinema, bowling, decent shopping, you need to go to Newcastle, the Metrocentre (the largest shopping centre in Europe, by the way) or Durham. We have a small but surprisingly decent library, a moderate supermarket (with a Tesco monster on its way) and a few pubs and working men’s clubs. If you’ve got small children, there’s a pretty good little play park (Oakey’s Field, I believe on the site of a former mine) and a nice enough swimming pool. There is a multi-purpose hall that serves as a theatre for a cluster of pantomimes around Christmas, the occasional local production and the odd touring production. This place, recently renamed the Lamplight Arts Centre in testament to the town’s mining heritage, is a source of sadness to me – I was in several amateur productions there when I was growing up and revisiting it lately it is unfortunately clear how little investment has gone into it. The seats are faded and even damaged, and the equipment has been depleted by other local venues. Ah well. Back to Stanley. As I reached the end of my teens, I couldn’t wait to leave. The town seemed to represent deadness and a lack of hope. I still can’t spend more than a few days there without remembering why I was so glad to leave. But it is my town, and it will always have a tiny, irrational pull on my heart.

One of the best things about Stanley is Beamish Museum. This is a large site with various areas set up as a town, a colliery village, and a farm (all set in 1913)

and a manor house, set in 1825. Almost all the staff are costumed, and trams and a replica bus take you from one area to another. It’s a really magical place, and has extra special associations for me as I met my husband when we both worked there for a season (11 years ago now!). The buildings are relocated from their original homes around the region – for example the Town street was a terrace in Gateshead, and the Co-operative store is part of the Co-op that was originally in Stanley, that my dad remembers visiting as a boy. It makes me imagine what Stanley was like in its heyday, when the town was living and busy and had a purpose as a community. It is also set in a lovely bit of countryside – drive along the outskirts of Stanley and you look down over a green valley that drops down into Beamish then sweeps away towards Newcastle and, far in the distance but just visible on a clear day, the North Sea.

There is more that could be said about the area. The people have problems like any other community in the Western world, but they are among the warmest, most passionate people that you could meet. There are still heavily industrialised areas such as Teesport, a few miles east of where I live, but a quick drive along the River Tees brings you to Teesdale which is wild and woodland and windy dale, a retreat from the real world. But this was a whirlwind tour after all, and although this is the end of the first post of my challenge, I may expand on the topic another time.

What is your home area like in comparison to mine? Anything you can identify with, or anything wildly different?

Keep Pushing!

Thought you might like a quick update on the challenges (see here if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

I am gathering info on my topics and have a pretty good idea on how I’m going to approach at least three of the subjects. I’ve also been given two more since the last update: 10 Reasons Why Glasgow is Better Than Edinburgh and Why Asian People are thinner than Western. Yikes, this should keep me busy!

The first post, about my home area, should be arriving in the next few days so keep an eye out. I have to say, this one (which I thought would be the easiest) is actually quite difficult, as I am putting quite high expectations on it. The subjects I’ve started to look into, ukeleles and football, are surprisingly fascinating! Though whether I’ll still be saying that after the World Cup is anyone’s guess. What I could really do with is a video of someone playing football songs on the Ukelele – Three Lions anyone? Kill two birds with one stone. 😉

If anyone’s got any more challenges, keep them coming. Unless they’re time-specific I’ll put them onto the end of the list and work my way through. I suggest subscribing to the blog to stay notified of new posts so you don’t miss your suggested / favourite topic (shameless plug over now). Or you can follow me on twitter: @rebeccaebrown.

Thanks for reading!

Push Me!

This post is coming directly after the last one for a reason. My own rule is never to put two blog posts up at the same time from the same blog as I like to focus on one at a time, plus I rarely have two posts ready at the same time! But I am breaking it this time because this post is linked to the one I’ve just done, Finding Me Now.

At the end of that post I said I needed to stretch myself more, I was in need of a challenge. So I’m asking for your help.

Over the course of the next month or so I will write a series of blog posts, based on topics you set me. They can be on pretty much anything, I will go and research where needed. The only thing I ask is that you remember I have two small children, so please don’t make it too obscure, requiring trips to the British Museum for example!

There’s a few reasons for this challenge. Firstly, it will get me doing research and finding out new facts, possibly on subjects I’ve never explored before. Secondly, it will stretch my writing skills, as I will have to suit my style to the subject given and make the posts interesting and fun instead of a school essay. Thirdly, it will give you a reason to keep coming back to my blog and I’m hoping will give me new connections here! I’m also very willing to reciprocate – leave a link to a similar post on your own blog and I’ll leave my challenge for you (heh heh).

So, have a look through my blog to see the sorts of things I’ve mentioned before. A couple of posts to look at might be Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me or Creative Writing Awards. Or give me something completely new (gulp). Post a comment, catch me on Twitter (@rebeccaebrown) or use the contact form on the blog. I’m nervously awaiting your challenges!

UPDATE: I’ve received 5 challenges, so here are the results in no particular order. Sorry, been watching too many tv talent shows lately. Anyway…

The challenges I’ve been set are: Ukeleles, Theatre in Second Life, The Passion of Football, My Home Area, and Twilight vs Harry Potter. Gulp. That’s quite a range of subjects and almost all brand new to me so lots of research to do and lots of exciting new stuff to find out, I’m really looking forward to it. At the minute, here’s the order I’m going to tackle each in, and I’ll post a link on Twitter so you can see when your favourite topic is up. (Or you can subscribe to the blog…hint hint!).

  1. My Home Area. I’m starting with a less obscure post to get me going! However there’s a lot of interesting history in this area so there’s lots of ways I could go with this, it’ll be hard to focus on one!
  2. Ukeleles. I have an interest in music in general although ukeleles are not something I’ve come across much.
  3. The Passion of Football. Doing this after the other two should just about get me to the end of the World Cup so the timing works well.
  4. Theatre in Second Life. This will require quite a lot of research I’m thinking, so will take a wee bit longer.
  5. Twilight v Harry Potter. This will take the longest to do properly, as (big admission here) I’ve never actually read any of the Twilight books.

I’m setting myself a target of the end of July to get all 5 posts up and will blog about my progress in the meantime so keep checking back. If anyone else wants to suggest new topics please feel free! I’m thinking I will make it a regular challenge for myself, so keep them coming and tell people about it.

Thanks for all your support and input so far!

UPDATE 2: Today (13 June 2010) I posted the first response to the challenge, which you can visit here, about my home area. Go me!