A mini Betty made from baby clothes

Handmade doll made with baby clothes

Recently, after a year long subscription I cancelled my delivery of Mollie Makes magazine. I adored it initially, but just found it got too samey after a while; oh look, more Japanese style embroidery. I also found it seemed to focus less on tutorials and more on showcasing other people’s work, less do it yourself and more buy it for yourself. And the craft projects it did have were rarely things I’d make myself, I mean, what am I going to do with a felt macaroon or needle felted animals. And if I see one more hipster wedding with comedy moustache photo booth and “thrifted” vintage table cloths I might vomit.

Every now and again there might be a project I’d give a go but it wasn’t enough to keep me. However, one of those projects in one of the last magazines I got was a little Mollie doll, which I had to admit was pretty cute, and I’ve had a plan for a while to make dolls for the girls. But then I came up with an even better way to improve the project.

A couple of weeks ago DH and I sorted through mountains of clothes that the girls have outgrown. Much of it is second or third hand anyway, but some of it we can sell at a local NCT sale. Some of it we gave away. There were a few outfits though that just reminded us so much of the girls as babies, and we couldn’t bear to part with them. But I wondered what to do with them. It seemed pretty pointless to just stick them in the attic and get them out every 10 years to look at.

A lady on Twitter makes lovely teddy bears from baby clothes as a momento for you or toy for your child. They are really gorgeous, and you can buy gift vouchers which make a fab new baby present. That was the sort of thing I wanted to do but I’m not really a fan of teddy bears so I thought I would make a doll, wearing clothes made out of baby clothes.

The intention is to do one representing each of the girls. Hopefully I will do a better job of the next one, having made several mistakes and discovering several holes in this one that I had to fix. I used the template from Mollie Makes, issue number 14.

Mollie Makes Magazine pattern

Mollie Makes Magazine pattern

Gap baby dress
Too cute!

I mostly used my sewing machine, but the jersey material was quite a challenge to machine sew as it over stretches as you feed it through. Unfortunately most baby clothes are made out of lovely soft jersey material. But the face, arms and legs were just made from undyed muslin.

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Newborn baby dress
Betty’s debutante dress

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The leggings are from the first newborn dress Betty wore when visiting nana for the first time. The dress Mini Betty wearing is from a gorgeous dress my dad bought from Gap, and I even did a sort of vest for the body using a Jojo Maman Bebe vest bought by my colleagues, just so I could use as many of the items as possible. All these outfits remind me of my newborn daughter, and now I have immortalised her in doll form. That sounds really creepy doesn’t it? At least I didn’t get one of those ghastly reborn dolls made in her image to cart around in a pram!

Handmade doll made with baby clothes

I can see all the mistakes I made in the doll, as I’m just not that great at sewing. But I really enjoyed making it, it felt really special, and I’m actually rather proud of it. It was a lot easier than producing the real thing.

This isn’t a toy for the girls though, oh no no no no no. This is to remind me of my beautiful little girl, because while she will probably always be beautiful, she won’t always be little, nor always mine. Plus this one is a lot quieter than the real thing.

I mustn’t leave it too long to make a mini Iris either. She’s not even two yet but she is already commenting on the distinct lack of photos of her around the house, typical neglect of the second child.

So, while its nice to keeps old baby clothes as momentos, it’s even nicer to do something with them. If you have enough, a quilt is a lovely idea. I’ve just realised though, that I need to make sure I keep a babygro intact, so I can still have those “I can’t believe they were ever that small” moments.

Baby vest
I can’t believe she was ever this small!

This post has been linked up on Handmade Monday and Ta Dah Tuesday!

The real anti aging scandal

wrinkled lady
Wrinkles: beautiful or banished?

I’m getting to that age now, that age where my skin starts to noticeably change. Partly it’s age, partly years of sleep deprivation and yo yo dieting. The wrinkles that I get from sleeping solely on one side have started to take longer to flatten out in the morning, and my forehead betrays my tendency to worry.

So it was with interest that I recently watched an episode of the BBC “documentary” series Horizon which was about aging and the research behind anti aging. The episode appeared to be sponsored by Unilever, with umpteen experts from Unilever’s research institute. The presenter of this episode was Dr Rozine Ali, a surgeon. While it was great to see an intelligent, professional woman on our screens, it was a shame that she was delivering this misogynistic clap trap, but then aging and anti aging is a woman’s game isn’t it? I’ll have more to say about that later.

Dr Ali explored (with the help of the Unilever experts) different ways in which scientists are looking to reduce the speed and signs of aging. The primary causes of aging were found to be UVA rays from the sun, free radicals from the oxygen around us, and high glucose which attaches to collagen and makes it more brittle. Solutions included a chemical found in coral and other sea creatures which protect them from the sun’s rays near the surface of the water, which may in the future be able to be extracted or synthesised to protect us from harmful UVA rays; a pill with all of our dietary needs to help combat free radicals (it’s that or eat half a kilo of broccoli a day to get the equivalent from food; and advances in glycobiology which looks at the affects of glucose, which might one day come up with an age reversal treatment.

What struck me most about this documentary was that at no point did it ever question why we should care about aging, and have billions of pounds being spent on research into it. You could argue that with increasing life spans anti aging is important. What is the point of increased life spans and better medical interventions just increasing the years spent with decreasing mobility and mental faculties? I completely agree, but this documentary wasn’t about an aging body, it was about an aging skin. I welcome research into how to make our bodies healthier for longer, how to keep our joints working and keep our brains active, so that we can be independent and valuable members of society for longer. But I resent this emphasis on removing all visible signs of getting old, and the more we do it the more we feed into the myth that younger is better. The less we see of real aging the more we revile it and see it as odd. If the media ever celebrates old age, it is only those who look young for their age or who are indulging in youthful activities, staving off old age with botox and belly dancing instead of bridge and biscuits.

Why do we want to avoid looking old so much? There are many reasons, so interrelated that it is hard to tease them apart. The most obvious one is the influence of the media and the beauty industry. With so much of our culture based on visual media, and with the development of HD screens, our screen idols are under increasing pressure to keep the signs of aging at bay. This filters down into those of us in the humdrum world of real life, who forget that the likes of Michelle Pfifer and and Heidi Klum are part of the privileged elite blessed with beauty outside of the ordinary realm, and that we can’t possibly emulate them without excellent genes and a entourage at our disposal.

But that doesn’t explain why we find an aging body so aesthetically displeasing. The beauty industry is a convenient scape goat. Cosmetic companies make their bread and butter from convincing us that we are haggard old slatterns who should hate our bodies. It’s in their interest to point out that not only do we look old, but looking old is Bad. The US anti-aging skin are market is worth $2.3 billion, so they are certainly doing a very good job of it. But as much as I would like to demonise the beauty industry, I don’t think they are the only culprits. Ultimately it is down to our feelings about the elderly and our fear of growing old. In capitalist societies people are valued for their productivity. People who are unproductive are cast into the shadows, placed into homes where they are subject to abuse, or left to die in hospital corridors. Our feelings about the elderly are tied up in our own fears about becoming unproductive, and ultimately our fear of death. East Asian cultures that tend to value calmness and serenity as emotional states, have less negative feelings towards aging, and view their elderly as keepers of tradition and sources of wisdom. Interestingly this corresponds with use of anti aging skin care products. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, 46% of total skincare product launches in the UK carried an anti-aging claim from 2009-2011 with France and the US at 47%. China and Japan followed with much lower numbers-27% and 19%, respectively.

beauty advert anti aging
Don’t you dare show your real age

With a world of information just a Google search away, the elderly will become even less valuable, losing their status as the guardians of information, waiting to be passed down through generations. You don’t need to ask your grandparents about your family history any longer, it’s all available on various ancestry websites. And I expect you barely speak to your grandparents any more unless they’ve figured out how to use text or Skype.

Funny how the current trend for vintage can be found in every craft and lifestyle magazine or blog, but few pay homage to the people from whom the 40’s tea dress or Bakelite homewards came. Pin your hair into victory rolls, but don’t dare betray a sign that you remember VE day.

The casual use of cosmetic surgery nowadays is moving the goal posts for everyone. People are congratulated for not looking their age; the chance occurrence of being born with youthful genes conferring them honorary membership of the Bright Young Things, but in every other advert in women’s magazines is the reminder that it can all be taken away should their youthful façade begin to crumble. And this is predominately a women’s issue. There is no female equivalent to the Silver Fox. And while men’s use of cosmetic surgery to combat the aging process is increasing, there isn’t same pressure to defy nature that there is for women.

Anyway, this fractured ramble is essentially a plea to people to stop worrying about visible signs of aging. If we can all stick two fingers up at the beauty industry’s demonisation of old age, we can all just look the way nature intended and stop wasting our money on creams with ridiculous additives like pentapeptides and retinol-A and spend it on better things like yarn, and biscuits, or enormous stag cushions.

Pedlar stag cushion
Pedlar Stag Cushion. Only £165. Well, you can afford it if you just stop buying anti aging creams!

DIY domino magnets

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I mentioned that I had plans for the dominoes that I recently bought from a charity shop. Well I got this idea from Lulastic, a blog that is basically a cooler version of mine, with a bit more lentilly parenting thrown in for good measure. Anyway, she had the idea of sticking magnets on the back of thrifted (now there is a wanky word du jour – just trying it out!) dominoes and sticking them to the fridge.

I had some strips of sheet magnet that I ripped off something before I threw it away, can’t remember what, but I left them on my fridge waiting for the right project. This was definitely it. I just cut up the strips and glue gunned a piece onto the back of each domino. It took 5 minutes in all and looks very cool. The kids love it and just make patterns with the dominoes, but I think it will be a good game for Betty to play, when I figure out how the rules myself…

A 10 minute pin board spruce up (and bit of free safety advice)

For some reason I decided to deep clean my kitchen today. Under ordinary circumstances this would be unusual behaviour for me, but today it was even more extra ordinary given that I had about four hour’s sleep, thanks to the inexplicable nocturnal behaviour of darling Iris. Plus, yesterday I ran 5 miles. Well, it was 4.8 but 5 sounds even more impressive. Anyway, it was under this duress that I set about cleaning my kitchen. Well, mainly it was rearranging.

A month or so back we had the fire brigade round for a home safety check. Basically they check out your house for fire safety and give you advice, in the hope that they can minimise any chance of having to return to your house under less desirable circumstances. It’s a free service that anyone can use, just check out your local station website for details on how to arrange one. Apart from the excellent safety advice, I can’t overstate the immense excitement from Betty over the firemen’s visit. She got to sit in the engine and talk the helmets of the firemen waiting outside with the rig.

Our house is brand spanking new and rented and as such is pretty safe in terms of windows, circuitry, smoke alarms and the like but one thing they did recommend is moving the toaster and kettle out from under the wall mounted cupboards where they were originally sat. They said that should either get stuck without us realising then the heat from them could ignite the cupboard above. This is actually quite relevant for us as our very cheap Asda kettle no longer switches itself off so we have to remember to not let it over boil. So finally I took the firemen’s advice and moved said items to a safer location. Much safer, and I advise you to do the same.

Reorganised kitchen

During my kitchen reorg I decided our notice board needed a bit of sprucing up. I had a bit of fabric I bought from eBay with the intention of making dining chair pads, but those can just be added to the long list of planned projects. Instead I used some of it to cover my pin board. I’m afraid I don’t have a before picture but it is just an Ikea cork notice board with a wooden frame. I was hoping I could pop the cord out of the frame and cover that and wedge it back in, but the frame wasn’t constructed in a way which made that possible. So I simply covered the whole thing in fabric.Fabric covered pin board

To secure it I simply sewed the corners really tightly with very little skill as you can see below. No need for neatness, just longish stitches pulled tight in each corner, and that’s it.

Fabric covered pin board

Here it is with significantly less crap put back on it than it started with.

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So there you have it as promised, a 10 minute project to spruce up your notice board, and some home safety advice thrown in for free!

Sweet charity

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I’ve been on a bit of a charity shop binge this week. I went away over night for a bit of father-daughter bonding, which was mostly spent eating, drinking and mooching around charity shops. I love shopping in charity shops, but I am not brilliant at it. I don’t have that keen eye for potential, nor an ability to get away with tat in my house! And when it comes to clothes, I wish I was one of those sorts of people who can just whip up an outfit from other people’s cast offs, but I am really just too conventional. Invariably I pick things up and think ooh, I quite like that, then look at the label and find it’s Marks and Spencer’s ::shudder:: I know I listen to the Archers (religiously) and crochet and stuff, but I’m not there yet!

Today, with another day of summer holidays looming, with no holiday and no discernible plans I decided to stop moping (we’ve all been ill this week) and take the kids to the local city farm and to the Emmaus “superstore” nearby. The kids were predictably unimpressed by the animals, which was a shame, as Gloucester City Farm is a little haven in the middle of urban detritus.

Spectacularly underwhelmed by the cute ducks and chickens

They were much more impressed by the warehouse sized Emmaus charity shop and ransacked the toy corner then amused themselves on the many sofas (naicely of course!). Meanwhile I roved around the place casting a beady out for charity shop gold.

Now here’s the thing about charity shops, and thrift shopping in general: it’s a long game. I’ve posted about it before. I was enjoying reading Bazaar Style from the library yesterday, and it was full of flea market finds, and “…this Chesterfield sofa that the owner found in a skip and reupholstered…”. Now I don’t know where the people featured in these books live but it certainly isn’t here. Oh, there was furniture outside people’s houses as we walked to the City Farm, but ain’t none of it Chesterfield.

The other thing about these books is all the re-purposed and handmade items look great in Swedish apartments, New York studios and British period properties. But they don’t look quite at chic in a bijou, boxy new build, so new the postcode won’t even work in sat navs. No-one is writing Barratt Home Chic. Maybe because new builds will never be chic, but, well, beggars can’t be choosers and I bet my heating bills are peanuts compared to those drafty, run-down God I want one period properties.

20120811-195546.jpgI uhmed and ahhed over this sugar bowl, I mean, I don’t even use sugar unless I’m baking (and I have at least four different kinds for that). Does anyone still take sure in their tea or has it gone the way of smoking. Certainly no-one I regularly have over does. But, those ladies at Bazaar chic weren’t ones to question the functionality of something so pretty and neither was I. I liked the mug too. You can never have too many mugs.20120811-195556.jpg

20120811-195604.jpgThis top and shoes were from my trip away with my dad. My dad set me a challenge to just buy at least one thing after spending 2 days traipsing around all the charity shops Derby has to offer and coming out empty handed, save for a few Enid Blyton books, which Betty will no doubt eschew in favour of Horrid Henry or the next installment of Captain Flynn and the Pirate Dinosaurs. The top is from Uttam, and it even had the tags still on, so reduced from about £35 to a bargainous £2.50. In the next charity shop I saw these shoes which were a perfectly complementary shade of teal. “Let them be my size” I begged to the Goddess of shopping, and lo, they were my size. At £9 they were pricier than I would expect to pay but they are Monsoon and real leather. Now I had myself an outfit!

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These lovely shoes bought for a mere pound more than made up for my £9 frivolity earlier in the week. You can never have too many pairs of black shoes, right?

20120811-195644.jpgI have no idea what I am going to do with this pillow case, but with Bazaar Chic that doesn’t matter, you should buy something because you like it. And because it costs 50p.

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This print is by John Strevens. No, I’ve never heard of him either, I just liked it.

So, today’s haul (nearly all) pictured above (except for the teal top and shoes), also included a Tom Wolfe top for DH, a Guess Who knock off game for Betty, a pretty tiger print for Iris’s room (it’s about time we made it into “her” room, rather than the “spare” room, which isn’t actually going to be spare until she sleeps better and can go in with Betty), a joke book for Betty (so she can stop telling jokes like “Why did the cow cross the road? Because he had a sock on his head”), some dominoes (more on those soon…) and a couple of compulsory teddies for the girls who actually behaved beautifully. The grand total: TEN WHOLE POUNDS! Actually, it was £8.75, but I needed to spend £10 to put it on my card. “If it doesn’t come to ten pounds just make it ten anyway” I said benevolently to the girl totting it all up. I could have found some more tat to fill my bag, but the girls were coming to the end of their patience and I was losing perspective over whether a carved soap stone owl was Bazaar Chic or just plain rubbish, so I quit while I was ahead. In fairness we also took a bag of our own stuff to the charity shop, so we about broke even on the decluttering front.

So remember, charity shops, play the long game. Kiss a few frogs to find that Prince. Well, you know what I mean, if frogs were commemorative plates from Lanzarote, and the Prince a Diane Von Fustenburg wrap dress. That you display artfully on your wall with your other designer togs. It’s Bazaar Chic doncha know?

Crochet Heart Pattern

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Over the past month or so I’ve have been giving beginner’s crochet classes to a lovely group of women at my local library. I think the classes went reasonably well. I massively underestimate how long it would take to teach the basics to a group of seven. This is no reflection on the course attendees, simply a matter of scale. When learning crochet the most important and hardest thing is knowing where to stick your hook. Having to stop at each step to check everyone is getting theirs in the right space is time consuming when you multiply it by seven.

By the third class though, everyone had made a heart. Through this they learnt to increase and decrease stitches which made it an excellent project as well as cute.

I promised them faithfully that I would send them the pattern, but I wanted to check it was right as I hastily noted it down during the class (hey, I only charged £2 a go, I’m not exactly a crochet sensei yet!) The pattern is below. The heart it makes is about 3 inches, but it could be easily scaled up by repeating rows 10 and 11 (obviously with different stitch counts). This is my first published pattern so let me know if there are any problems.

Heart Pattern

Abbreviations

St(s) = stitch(es)
Dc = double crochet
Dc2tog = double crochet two stitches together
Ch = chain

2ch
Row 1: 2dc in 2nd chain from hook (1st chain) chain 1 then turn (2 stitches)
Row 2: 2dc in each stitch, chain 1 then turn (4 sts)
Row 3: 1dc in each stitch, chain 1 then turn (4 sts)
Row 4: 2dc in 1st stitch, 1dc in next 2 sts, 2dc in last st, chain 1 then turn (6 sts)
Row 5: 1dc in each st, chain 1 then turn (6 sts)
Row 6: 2dc in 1st st, 1dc in next 4 sts, 2 dc in last st, chain 1 then turn (8 sts)
Row 7: 1 dc in each st, chain 1 then turn (8 sts)
Row 8: 2dc in 1st st, 1dc in next 6 sts, 2 dc in last st, chain 1 then turn (10 sts)
Row 9: 1 dc in each st, chain 1 then turn (10 sts)
Row 10: 2dc in 1st st, 1dc in next 8 sts, 2 dc in last st, chain 1 then turn (12 sts)
Row 11: 1 dc in each st, chain 1 then turn (12 sts)

Continue, making the first curve of the heart

Row 12: 1dc in each of the first 6 sts, chain 1 then turn (6 sts)
Row 13: 1dc in each st, chain 1 then turn (6 sts)
Row 14: dc2tog, dc in next 2 sts, dc2tog, chain 1 then turn (4 sts)
Row 15: dc2tog x 2 (2 sts)
Tie off

To make 2nd curve of the heart join new yarn in the 7th st of Row 11, i.e. in the middle next to the 1st curve

Row 12: 1ch then dc in the same st, 1dc in next 5 sts, chain 1 then turn (6 sts)
Row 13: 1dc in each st, chain 1 then turn (6 sts)
Row 14: dc2tog, dc in next 2 sts, dc2tog, chain 1 then turn (4 sts)
Row 15: dc2tog x 2 (2 sts)
Tie off

Sew in the ends.

Happy Hooking!

Golden Girls: the new generation of role models

 

I’ve had a strong dislike of sport for a few years now. Oh, when I was young I made a good pretence of liking football. I supported Chelsea from a young age, and when I was a teenager I used to buy Chelsea Magazine. It helped keep me knowledgeable, with a view to keeping up with the boys’ conversations, specifically one who I fancied liked crazy who also supported Chelsea. But now I’m in my 30s, two kids, and so much going on I just don’t have the time or energy to maintain an interest simply for conversational purposes. In fact my faux interest has turned full circle to active dislike.

I’ve fully embraced my distaste for sport, and can quite often be heard muttering about “inflated pay and under performance”, “bad behaviour of sportsmen” and “breeding ground for aggressive behaviour”. Until recently I thought sport was frivolous, pointless, and a waste of money (I know, this from a girl who gets her kicks from yarn bombing.) Yesterday however, and in fact these past 9 days of London2012 mania, have been a revelation to me: it’s not sport I hate, it’s football.

I watched gripped as Heather Stanning and Helen Glover breezed to the finish line in their boat to grab Team GB’s first gold medal. I could barely suppress the tears watching Jessica Ennis giving the performance of her life last night, clinching the gold for the women’s heptathlon.

I’ve quickly gained skills as a judge for events like the Synchronised Diving, and Artistic Gymnastics, giving the TV the benefit of my wisdom, picked up from the BBC commentators. “Ooh, very little splash, that’ll be a good score”. “Look that that, totally out of synch.”

 

I’ve marvelled as the country has united in it’s support for TeamGB, and basked in the glow of success, if not the sun. People on Twitter are reporting feelings of joy and humility simply from watching these people compete. Joy and humility are the emotions that I associate with watching major football competitions.

Jessica Ennis Olay Advert
Poster girl for the new generation?

 

 

Jessica Ennis: young, attractive, successful; the media made her the poster girl for London2012, and under that immense pressure she delivered. It’s too early for me to count properly, but my rough estimates are that about third of our medal haul so far has come from women. How refreshing for our daughters to see these women as role models. People like Katie Price, Cheryl Cole and anyone from the cast of TOWIE (I couldn’t name a single one) are revered for their looks, what they wear and their diva-like behaviour. Jessica, Victoria Pendalton and Rebecca Adlington are also being lauded for the bodies, but for for what their bodies and do when combined with the drive, the dedication and the grace under pressure from their minds. These are people who have worked single mindedly for years in the pursuit of one goal. They have respected their bodies, and honed their minds to get the maximum from them. And on winning they have thanks everyone from the crowd to their PE teachers. They’ve hugged and congratulated opposing teams. They’ve beamed in pride and shed tears of joy atop the podium.

Here’s what they haven’t done:
Scissor kicked a member of the crowd
Sworn at the referee, team mates or any of the spectators
Deliberately sabotaged an opposing team by kicking, hitting or elbowing them
Got blind drunk and made a spectacle of themselves during a major competition
Raped anyone
Slept with their team mate’s wife
Refused to shake hands with an opposing team member
Been accused of racist abuse of opposing team members

Ashley and Cheryl Cole Lottery Advert
Thou shalt not worship false idols

Do you know what Heather Stanning does when she is not training to be an Olympic Rower? She’s a Captain in the Royal Artillery. Jessica Ennis is a Psychology graduate, and Victoria Pendleton is also a graduate. These are women with brains and brawn, and a drive to succeed.

Now let’s talk money. Team GB athletes are funded mainly by the National Lottery World Class Performance Programme. They get this money in two ways:firstly through their Performance Programme, which pays for coaches, sports psychologists, acclimatisation and other training needs. This is worth around 55k for “Podium Level” athletes. They can also apply for a personal award, which covers their personal living and sporting costs. This ranges from 13k to 28k. Obviously being a world class athlete costs more than that so they have to rely on other sources such as sponsorship, with many athletes having other jobs, to earn money, but also as a stepping stone to life after relatively short careers. There is an earnings cap set at £65,163 above which the athlete’s award will start to be deducted, meaning that once an athlete starts pulling in the sponsorship money, their contribution from the WCPP is reduced.

Estimates vary, but Chelsea footballer John Terry reportedly earns about £150,000 a week. Yeah, look at those noughts.

Maybe now we can get over our eternal disappointment at the performance of our footballers. Isn’t it time that football and footballers stopped dominating sporting coverage. At last we have some real role models gracing our screens and our papers. Real people, real faces, real achievements. And it’s not just me who thinks this; my Twitter timeline was awash with similar sentiments. Most of this in the control of the media, but we can control what we chose to consume, and we can tell them what we want. We want to see more of these hard working and committed young people. We want to see more women in sport. We want to see more interesting sports than a bunch of men kicking around a ball for 90 dull minutes before the penalty shoot out which we will inevitably lose (don’t they train for these things?). The BBC must also be praised for its excellent, comprehensive coverage of the Olympics (bar a few inane presenters, Gary Linekar I’m looking at you). But if we have another all male short list for BBC Sports Personality of the Year I’m cancelling my licence fee. Personally I think Ennis should win it, fortunately it doesn’t matter, because she has already won the biggest prize of her career.