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SCHOOL HOLIDAY FAMILY BREAKS WITH SUNPARKS Sunparks holiday villages in Belgium, Holland and Germany are ideal for a family break. With plenty on offer for all the family from the sub-tropical waterpark "Aquafun" to the Kids' World play areas to relaxing spa facilities and exploring the local region by bike.

Hello from Mumsnet Towers...

Where, frankly, we've given in and accepted that Christmas is coming whether we like it or not (rather like the Royal wedding). So we've gathered your delish Christmas recipes, garnered your advice on surviving the festive season and doing Christmas on a budget, rifled through your recommendations for the best toys and presents, and started to get in the spirit with your Christmas customs. May we recommend armchair shopping via the Mumsnet mall, not forgetting MN membership discounts.

This week's Q&A guest is mega award-winning author and screenwriter William Boyd. Come and quiz him about his novels and Any Human Heart, starting this Sunday evening (see TV round-up below). Downton is sooo last week.

And finally, if you'd like to be in with the chance of winning £150 White Stuff vouchers, then tell us what you think about retailers displaying lads' mags. 

Now for this week's parenting news...

Ministers challenged over midwife numbers: Mothers and babies will suffer unless the coalition government sticks to its pre-election pledge of funding more midwives in England, says the Royal College of Midwives. RCM general secretary Cathy Warwick said the prime minister and deputy prime minister had pledged to continue the previous government's goal of 3,000 extra midwives, but an RCM survey of heads of midwifery shows two-thirds of maternity units do not have enough midwives to cope. A Tory spokesperson said birth-rate predictions had changed but that the government's "commitment to meet the needs of expectant mothers remains". (Guardian, 17.11.10)

Gender split in unemployment: More than 1 million women are unemployed, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data, the highest number since 1988. Unemployment among men fell by 40,000 during the quarter year up to September, but the number of women out of a job rose by 31,000. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber pinned the blame on public service cuts and warned that more women would lose their jobs in the coming year. The number of people in part-time jobs - 7.98 million - is the highest on record. (Telegraph 17.11.10)

HELP TO SAVE SPURGEONS Children who suffer bereavement and loss without help may deal with it in terrifying ways - gangs, drugs, alcohol, antisocial behaviour. Spurgeons' unique child bereavement counselling service could close by Christmas due to a lack of funding. Please help us to save this vital project.

Other stories in brief

Hot threads

Quote of the week: AbsofCroissant gloats over future royal revelations in a discussion about the weird things in-laws do: "Just wait till we get Kate Middleton on this thread."

Competitions
This month's prizes are:

It's easy to enter (and keep an eye on winners' corner to see if your name has come out of the hat).

TAKE HOME THE BIGGEST FILM OF THE YEAR! Buy Disney Pixar's Toy Story 3 on Blu-rayTM Triple or Double Play and get double Disney Movie Reward points for one week only from 22 November. Terms apply. Find out more!

Aitch's TV round-up: Any Human Heart, Sun 21 Nov, Channel 4, 9pm
Those of us suffering from the televisually challenging condition known as 'severe Downton withdrawal' have been tossed a new fix by kindly Channel 4, in the form of this delicious adaptation of William Boyd's chronicle of the 20th century, Any Human Heart. I'm loth to employ the word 'sexy', because in the context of a modern historical TV drama it calls to mind The Camomile Lawn and this is so much more than that, but gosh <fans self> it really is rather swoon-inducing. The sets are stunning, and the costumes and cut-glass accents most alluring. Jim Broadbent, Matthew Macfadyen and pretty-boy newcomer Sam Claflin play the lead character, writer and generally craven chap-about-town Logan Mountstuart, while Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander are intriguing as Wallis Simpson and Edward, Prince of Wales.
This show (and others) are being discussed in our Telly Addicts Talk forum.

Recipe of the week: personanongrata's Christmas pudding
It's Stir-Up Sunday this weekend, so here's the only recipe you need to ensure 'oohs' and 'aahs' come the pudding course on 25 Dec. It's simple to make (little helpers can do the stirring) but is proper, all-day cooking, so allow plenty of time for the steaming part. 
You can review this week's recipe here - or why not post one yourself?

That's all, we're off to invite Kate Middleton to check out our new Royals topic.
Love, MNHQ   

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL TICKETS OFFER Cirque du Soleil returns to the Royal Albert Hall on 5 January 2011 with its breathtaking acrobatics and magical staging to present TOTEM. Mumsnetters can get 20% off all adult and child tickets for selected shows throughout January. To redeem this offer simply click here.

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