Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Out with the old and in with the new

It's the day before New Years Eve. We've just returned home from what feels like our million mile round trip visiting relatives.

And there's just time to take a breath before the festivities begin again tomorrow!

It has all beeen good, if busy. I had imagined that there would be time for me to creep away into a corner with a notebook and pen or a novel for an hour or two, but no. But the kids loved it, and excitement reached epic proportions on Christmas Day. And that was just mine :-)

The only downside was that Dear Daughter has flared up in what can only be described as eczema, although she has never had it before. So she had a trip to my parents-in-law's GP in Sheffield this morning and now has an antibiotic and hydrocortisone cream to try to clam her skin down. Very wierd. I can only conclude it's a combination of late nights, rich food, new clothes next to the skin and a change of washing powder. Who knows?

By the way, I got that assignment back; the one I wrote in a high fever a few weeks ago. I got a very respectable II.i - nearly a First!
I shall have to try to induce fever before every deadline in future...

Wishing everyone a Very Merry New Year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Twas the night before Christmas....

And all through the house, I panicked and worried, and here shall I grouse:-

My head is about to explode, but I've nearly finished the Christmas preparations. It all went relatively smoothly, I suppose, apart from a misunderstanding over who was getting the turkey which would have led to a vegetarian Christmas dinner, had I not called my Mother in time...

I now just have the kids' presents to wrap, the Christmas cake to ice, and the house to tidy...


Think I might just break out the Pimms Winter Cup and leave the wrapping till later...

A very merry Christmas to one and all, and warmest winter wishes for the festive season.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Oh yes...

..and while I had the flu, I had an assessment due in on the OU creative writing course. I did it and submitted it, while sweating out a high fever. Hmm, not sure what strange hallucinatory thoughts may have found their way in there... Who knows, it may be my best work!

Excuse for not blogging No.358

This time it's the flu. No honestly. I know you'd probably struggle to think of a disease we haven't had in the family in the last couple of months; chicken pox, ear infections, leprosy (ok, well perhaps not the leprosy) but we seriously all got the flu on the same day, and are just now getting over it. It was horrible. For us, for the kids, for anyone who inadvertently stumbled into our plague pit of a house. There were people sweating and shivering all over the place. I completely lost my appetite and still haven't got it back properly (hoping that won't last, as planning to eat my weight in Christmas fare very soon..!) Our coughs were rattling the window frames...

Anyway, now we're just starting to get over it, and - bloody hell! It's Christmas next week! So instead of treating myself gently and eating homemade chicken soup, I'm charging frantically around the place trying to get myself organised.

Oh well, at least we won't get the flu for Christmas...

Monday, 1 December 2008

Rant of the day - Christmas presents

I received a letter from the parent representative for Dear Daughter's Reception class. Amongst all the Christmas admin was this:-

'Apparently it is tradition that the class buy a Christmas gift for Mrs Teacher and Mrs Classroom Assistant - if you would like me to coordinate this and contribute to a joint gift then please let me have your contribution. £10 has been suggested to me as a suitable guideline. I would plan on buying the gifts during the weekend of 13th Dec and therefore if you want me to go ahead with this please could I have the money by Friday 12th...'

So I replied with the following email:-

I have to say, I was a bit taken aback by the idea of a joint Christmas gift for the teachers. I'm not shooting the messenger, so don't think this is aimed at you! But I would be grateful if you could pass my comments on to whoever mentioned this 'tradition'. I have thought about this a lot. I considered just handing over the money, and swallowing any feelings I had, as I was worried about appearing to be making a fuss about nothing, or seeming to be a bit 'Bah Humbug', which I am not at all! But, on reflection I feel quite strongly about it, and there are a few things I object to:-

It seems to me to go against the essence of what Christmas is about - the pleasure taken in selecting and giving a gift, from one person to another. I am trying to teach Dear Daughter about the pleasure in giving, by letting her make or select Christmas presents for the important people in her life. In the arrangement suggested, the children will have no role in the choosing and presenting of a gift to their teachers. A joint present selected by the parent rep and given to the teachers seems to cut the children out of the process completely and turn it into something else entirely - a gift from the parents to the teachers. It is not that I object to the amount of money, as one could easily spend £5 per teacher on a small gift, (although if every child in the class contributed the suggested £10, it would produce a fund of £170, which seems a little excessive for two Christmas gifts, especially in the current climate!) but it's the fact that it is actually specified as a requested amount that seems a little mercenary! I'm sure that the teachers would prefer one large gift than twenty small ones, but I think it is important to remember what this is actually about. As far as I am concerned, giving a gift to a teacher at Christmas is about the child appreciating the care the teacher has given them, and marking the 'specialness' of the relationship. It should not be about the parents just getting their cheque books out... And, most importantly, deciding whether or not to give a gift should be the decision of the child and parent, and not requested or expected by the school! I have spoken about this with a number of teachers, both currently working and retired, and none of them have ever heard of this practice. They all thought it was pretty appalling, to be honest!

Anyway, all that said, before I received your note Dear Daughter and I had already chosen gifts for Mrs Teacher and Mrs Classroom Assistant, so I won't be contributing to a joint gift this year.

Fellow bloggers, was I wrong??

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Short posts

Have you noticed how my posts are getting shorter and shorter?

It's the credit crunch - it'll soon be last word in, first word out....

Used car salesmen

Aaaagrhhh!!! Just aarghh!

Can't live with them. Can't kill them and bury them under the forecourt of their showroom...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Christmas Theatricals Part Two...

Ok. Now this just isn't funny.

Yesterday I go into kindergarten to collect Small Son, to be told that he is goinng to be joining in the same Early Years Christmas production as Dear Daughter. Ahh, how sweet, I think. For about ten seconds. Until I realise he's going to need a costume too....

He's a Christmas Tree.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Birthday party

I took Small Son to a 4 year old's birthday party today. Let's call him Eric. Eric's parents have a most wonderful Victorian villa with beautifully furnished rooms with stripped wood floors. At the party there was (in no particular order):
A disco
A children's entertainer
A chocolate fountain
A piniatta
A table groaning with expensive drinks and nibbles from Waitrose for the adults
Party bags, prizes, cake..

It was all lovely, but the thing is, where do you go from here..?! If you give them all that when they're 4, what will they want when they're 8, 9 and 10?

It makes my child's little lunch, with a party bag containing a piece of cake and a balloon seem a bit of a poor show...

Friday, 21 November 2008

Christmas theatricals...

Dear Daughter came home from school today with a letter. It gave details of the Reception Class Christmas Production, to be staged in approximately three weeks. I came over all misty-eyed at the thought of Mary, Joseph and the Donkey. With visions of my little blonde daughter in an angel halo, I eagerly glanced down the letter to the point at which it read:-

Your child will play the role of a Cracker.
Her line is - 'The winner gets to keep the toy'

(She's playing a what?! I'm sure they didn't have them in Bethlehem... And what's all this about winners and toys?!)

But the best was yet to come:-

Please will you provide your child with a suitable costume to wear on the day?


I was on the phone to my mother before the ink had dried on the letter. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The light, the light...!

We have emerged from quarantine status finally. I feel like I've been underground for weeks! The kids have gone back to school and some semblance of normality (and my sanity) has returned. I have been to my meditation group, always a relaxing evening. I'm now trying to summon up the energy to get up and go to bed. It just always seems easier to sit there in front of the computer and read or write stuff.

I have embarked on the second part of the OU course, which is writing drama. I'm a bit anxious about this, I have to admit, as I've never written any drama before. But, fortune favours the brave, so I've been the first one to post an exercise I did on the tutorial group forum. So far only one comment, but that seems fairly favourable so I'll press on regardless.

I still haven't posted about all our life changes going on at the moment. It seems like it deserves a post all of its own really, but I've been so tired recently. So you'll have to make do with the potted version. Which is:

Dear Husband has left job. I have no job. We have no money coming in. The intention is that Dear Husband will continue to provide our daily bread by working for himself. However, we did not reckon on a worldwide global financial crisis... Oh well, we'll just have to see how it all pans out. As long as I don't have to go back to work, I don't care. I think we'd have to be starving before I dusted off my nasty lawyer persona...

So that's it really. Oh, and did I mention they took the company car back, and then I put a huge dent in the side of my ancient Peugeot 206. (that story probably deserves a post of its own too..)

Ho hum.

Friday, 31 October 2008

By the way...

I have been fiddling about a bit with the layout on my blog. This actually involves telling my dear husband, who has more technological capability than I will ever hope or dream of having, what I want it to look like. He has then rewritten some of the code to make the text panel wider. The only thing is that this has made the graphics look all a bit 'home made'. I can't get the rounded corners etc. And he hasn't got time to fix it for me at the moment.

But I think it's better than trying to read down a very narrow strip. Do you agree?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Resigned to our fate...

Dear Daughter now has the pox too. I'm resigned to it. I know the routine now - no sleep, dab with calamine lotion, repeat ad infinitum...
It's ok though, cos at least it's over and done with, and because it's half term here the kids won't have to miss school. (although that is one of the perks of having it, I would have thought..)
I'm feeling ok, if a little tired and frazzled. None of my jobs have got done, but what the hell. Life's too short to worry about admin.
The only downside really is that (of course) my OU assessment is due in tomorrow, so that has been a bit of a cobbled-together dogs breakfast of a short story. Oh well, will just have to try harder next time...
Have more news about our life getting turned upside down, but that will have to wait for the next post...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Fed up...

It's official. I'm fed up. The kids are fed up. We're all fed up.

It's half term and Small Son has chicken pox and I'm waiting irritably for Dear Daughter to take her turn. We can't go anywhere as people look at Small Son like he's got the Plague. So we're all at home getting on each others' nerves...
The kids are driving me insane this week by being obsessed with blowing raspberries, and seeing who can talk for longest using the words, 'wee', 'poo', 'bum', 'pooper', 'farting pants' etc etc.
I'm sure there must have been a time when I would have found that funny too, but by god it feels like it was a long while ago...

My kids are making me feel ancient - like some grumpy old misery, obsessed with table manners and politeness. I've lost my sense of humour today! I'm sure I didn't intend to turn into my mother, but I think it's happening. (That sounds like my mother is a grumpy old misery, which she isn't at all. But I remember wishing sometimes when I was a kid that she would just 'lighten up' a bit. Now she's as light as a feather and positively encourages my kids in their craziness - just as all good grandparents should...)

Anyway, both kids had been on the 'naughty step' by 9 am this morning. I think that must be a record.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The Pox...

It's official. Paint a red cross on our front door. We have The Chicken Pox. Or rather Small Son does. A couple of itchy spots on Wednesday night have now developed into a whole body coverage (and I mean whole) of nasty red itchy pustules.. I would post a photo, but it would put you off your dinner.

He 's not really that ill, just very, very grumpy and itchy and fed up. No-one has slept very well the last couple of nights, but at least his night-time wanderings are justified at the moment, unlike his recent activities..

And I keep scratching. I've had chicken pox and so I hope I'm just coming out in sympathy, what with being chronically sleep-deprived and all, but knowing my luck, I'll get it again.

I'm just waiting for Dear Daughter to get it now...

Monday, 13 October 2008

Seventies photos....

These photos are of me. They are (ahem) around thirty years old. A friend of my parents took them, and recently he found them, scanned in the negatives, retouched them and emailed them to me. The wonders of modern technology...

I just love them, particularly the one of me with the bridge behind. It seems almost fairy-tale like. There is a quality to film, as opposed to digital, which is hard to define, but which is tangible nevertheless.

Blogging block..

I have this wierd thing going on. Whenever I am out and about and not logged on to the internet, I have great ideas for things to blog about. Then, when I sit down at the computer, my mind is entirely blank.

So I had a clever idea: I would write down the subject matters for bogs in a little notebook and then I wouldn't forget. The only problem is that I have done this, and I have a list of topics and not the faintest idea what I was going to say about any of them. What, for example, was I going to say about 'Jamie Oliver', other than that he's a bit irritating...? Or was it just that?

There are some topics which I was clearly feeling a bit ambitious about. How does a blog entitled 'The Pursuit of Happiness' grab you? Sounds possibly interesting, but I have absolutely no recollection of what I was going to say on the subject...

It's the same for my writing too. I have (what seem like) great ideas for short stories just when I'm dropping off to sleep so I scribble them down in a notebook by my bed. The next day, my wonderful idea has been reduced to 'girl in shop, dog, piece of bacon' or something like that.

Ahh, the creative process... I have awakened the muse....

Monday, 6 October 2008

The talented Mr Skiffington

I feel bad. I should have blogged about this long before now. But you know how it is; so much to blog about, so little time.

Anyway, my brother is an artist. A painter.
And he currently has an exhibtition running in Oxford at the North Wall Arts Centre.

And he's just had a really good review in the Oxford Times. Here's the link to the review:

He's great, and the work is great - honest, authentic and technically accomplished.

And very reasonably priced....

So if you're anywhere near Oxford, go take a look this week. Or take a look at his website www.skiffington.co.uk

And more Warwick Words.... Jo Shapcott

On Friday I went to a Jo Shapcott workshop. For more about Jo, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo_Shapcott

Again, she is a most generous and clever teacher, a quality which has pervaded the writers and poets I encountered at Warwick Words. This is how the session was described:

Angela Carter wrote: 'There’s a materiality to imaginative life and imaginative experience which should be taken quite seriously.'

Join acclaimed poet, Jo Shapcott, at this workshop which will take as its subject the imagined world and give participants the chance to dip a toe into its materiality.

Well, I couldn't pass that up, could I?! We worked extremely hard over the three hour session, and each produced three poems. The first poem came from a freewrite that we all did when we first arrived. I think I'll put the poems on here, just so you can see what I achieved in three hours. Now please bear in mind that these are rough drafts, not even first drafts, and I have reproduced them here exactly as I scribbled them. No revisions! But they are interesting as you can see perhaps the seed of a poem in them.. So, this is the first poem I wrote:-

A tiny dead bird almost under my foot
Head curled down onto breast, skin flecked with feathers
I look again and it is two spiky seed-heads clinging together.
Then I see a dead cat in the gutter
Fur matted and legs splayed
I look again and it is an old scarf tangled with some twigs.
I sense foreboding everywhere these days
In counting magpies and stormy skies.
Shadowy figures lurch out of the dark
I swerve the car to avoid nothing.
A barn owl swoops across the road
A real white ghost to properly frighten
But I am calm.
I am only afraid of the thing I cannot name
That I see from the corner of my eye
That moves closer in from the edges of my world
To threaten me.

Strangely, (or perhaps not with the current climate) a few other people, including Jo, had also picked up on this dark mood, this general malaise, and so the second poem she set us to write was a hommage to a poem by Neil Rollinson called 'A List of Requirements for the End of the World' http://www.neilrollinson.com/index.htm

Because I'd been so depressive in the last poem, I didn't want everyone at the workshop to think I was some kind of suicide risk, so I tried to make this next one a bit funny...

So, here is my poem entitled, 'A List of Requirements for the End of the World' (apologies to Neil Rollinson)

These are my demands...
For this to happen when I am very, very old.
To have reached spiritual enlightenment, any religion will do.
To be crying with laughter listening to Billy Connelly telling me a really funny story.
To not to have to think, 'I wish I'd had more sex', in my dying seconds.
To be really glad I took out the 'Buy Now, Pay Later' deal on that sofa,
And overspent on fripperies on my credit card.
To ensure I don't enter some kind of collective unconscious with George Bush and
Anne Widdecome.
To be eating a full Christmas dinner, rest of Christmas not necessary.
And drinking as much good wine as I can take.
To not know, or have any inkling, that this is going to happen.
If I'm going, everyone else is too.
For it to be quick, like someone turning the light out.

And to find out that we really are made of stardust.

The last exercise was interesting. We each selected an image at random, and had to firstly write a set of 'rules' - social or physical, for the world that the image depicted. I picked out a Pieter Breugel painting of The Tower of Babel. Then we had to write a poem incorporating those rules. Mine was written from the POV of a stonemason working on the tower.

I carve the arches from the blocks of stone
Curve the rounded edge to each square piece
Chip, chip, chip, gentle cut and smooth
Careful under a loaded sky.
You ask how many I have made
And how many left to birth?
I cannot answer your question.
All I know is the stone and the chisel.
Place the keystone in the centre
And then move on to the next arch.
Sometimes I wonder how high we have to build
Already clouds lace the upper walkways
And it seems the stones are smaller these days
And veined with faults and cracks.
But we kneel before our king in fear
And chip, chip. chip, gentle cut and smooth
Careful under a loaded sky.
We work until we are told to stop
Or fall upon our stone and die.

Make of all that what you will.....!!

Thanks, Jo, and all the other participants, for a great workshop.

More Warwick Words...Joolz Denby

There's more to say about the other workshops I went to over the festival.

On Thursday, I went to a Masterclass with Joolz Denby. For more about her see http://www.joolz-denby.co.uk/. She is a really fascinating person. When I first saw her, I was a bit scared actually! She's tall and strong-looking, and she is covered in tattoos and piercings. She looks fierce. But she was the kindest, funniest and down-to-earth person. We did a great workshop. Joolz brought with her a bag of perfume samples from Harvey Nichols. We each had to pick one at random and then create a character who would wear that perfume. It was so interesting, as certain themes about identity, sexuality and aspiration emerged in nearly all the work produced. It was a strong reminder about the place that the sense of smell holds in our culture, and in writing. Joolz was very knowledgable about perfume and how it is constructed from a top note, middle note and base note, and she compared the structure of perfume to the structure of writing a novel. We packed a lot into the three hours, and I felt a real sense of achievement at the end. So thanks, Joolz!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Warwick Words...

Over the last few days, the Warwick Festival of Literature and Spoken Word has been running. This has been a fantastic event, with some wonderful writers and speakers giving their time. I have attended three writing workshops over the week, all of which have been fantastic. I have met some great writers and hopefully made some new friends. But I just wanted to talk about today's workshop in a little more detail, as this blog comes into it!

The workshop was called Writing For Children & Teenagers and was presented by the children's writer Celia Rees. (http://www.celiarees.com/) It was a great workshop, full of talk and practical advice about writing in general, writing for children specifically and how to get published. We also did some workshop exercises, writing in the first and third person, which were insightful. Celia was encouraging and very generous, and I think everyone who attended enjoyed the session. ('Hello!' to anyone reading this who was there this morning! )I thought it was a very diverse and interesting group of people, all at different stages in their writing.

We talked about a few resources. I mentioned the Open University (http://www.open.ac.uk/) and also the OU coursebook which is entitled,
Creative Writing, A Workbook with Readings, by Linda Anderson (ed), published by Routledge (2005)

Also I mentioned blogs which are of interest to writers. There really are loads, and I'm only just getting to grips with all this myself. There are some blogs listed on my page, and the other one I mentioned was Nathan Bransford's blog. He's the American literary agent. That's at www.nathanbransford.blogspot.com.
There are so many others, so if you find anything interesting about writing let me know!


I have had such a great few days!

On Thursday, Friday and today (Sunday) I attended some writing workshops organised for the Warwick Words Festival of Literature and Spoken Word which has run from 2 - 5 October. More of which later...

Yesterday, I went to the wedding of some friends from university. Dear husband and I were in our usual role of official photographers. (just another interest I have - seeing as I have all this spare time ;-)) It was a great day, one of those occasions where you have a real sense of a family's genuine love, affection and respect for each other. My friend's father made a wonderfully understated speech, but his obvious pride in his daughter and her achievements shone through powerfully. There was live music and the beer and whisky flowed....What more could you want?

I wore a new outfit, and I love it, but what I love more is peoples' reaction to it. It's usually something like,
'Wow. (Pause) I like your clothes. They're really (Pause) unusal.' Ha!

My brother was a little more forthright on his first glimpse of me wearing it:
'What are you wearing? You look like someone out of Lord of the Rings.'

Yeah thanks. Not an ork, I hope.

Anyway, maybe I shall try to battle the forces of technology that usually defeat me, and post a picture of myself in said outfit. I'm sure you could all do with a laugh....

The other thing that made me giggle at the wedding was a drunken conversation with the groom's father. In the bride's speech (she's a lawyer, so what can you expect?) she mentioned that her now husband used to send flirtatious messages to me on the class register at law school. I had no recollection of this, but cannot doubt her veracity, as flirtation is certainly a sport I once excelled in... The groom's father came up to me,
Him, putting an arm around me: 'So what's all this about my son sending you flirtatious messages?'
Me, squirming: 'Oh well, it was all in good fun, I can't really remember to be honest.'
Him: 'So did it come to anything then, between you two?'
Me, very firmly: 'No, not at all, absolutely not!'
Him: 'Oh that's a shame!'

I literally RAN from the room!!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Trinny and Suzannah on CBeebies...

Its already started. My daughter criticising what I'm wearing. She's four.

I'm in the shops and its all autumnal and chilly and I see a hat which I think is very chic, and will go nicely with my new red winter coat. So I buy the hat.

I go home and wander into said daughter's bedroom wearing the hat.
'Do you like Mummy's hat?' I ask.
Daughter looks up from building complicated Lego swimming pool, complete with steps and slides.
'That's not a hat, it's a bowl'.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008


Have you heard this word? 'Framilies'. The social networks that people set up with friends to replace the traditional family network, lost when people move away from their home towns. I think it is certainly true that a lot of people these days are closer to their friends than their families. Not so much me, as my family are close by, if completlely crazy... But I do have a 'framily' too, and I'm losing one of them to a new job in a northern town. :-( We were at school together, and I shall miss him. But as he points out, it's not exactly the other side of the world, only an hour or so up the M1.

I suppose you just have to let them spread their wings and fly the nest. It will be good practice for when the kids leave home...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Human nature, good and bad...

It has been such a wierd time recently. It all started with the dog saga last week.

I was starting to lose hope of finding Oscar and feeling awful. I spent last Wednesday making 'Have you seen this Dog?' posters. On Thursday morning I went into our local Chemist and had a chat with the lady who works in there. She took one of my posters and said she would show it to everyone who came in. She was so kind and sympathetic. I then went along the road and put up a poster outside the Tennis Club. A posh woman came up and asked what I was doing. This is how the conversation went:
(Me)'We've lost our dog and I'm just putting up some posters to try to find him.'
(Her) 'What sort of dog is it?'
(Me) 'He's a labrador cross. I'm hoping someone will recognise him.'
(Her, glancing at the poster, and then walking off) 'Oh I shouldn't think so. They're ten a penny, dogs like that.'


Anyway, that needless exchange upset me for the rest of the day. UNTIL. The lady from the Chemist rang me to say she had found my dog!!!! Someone had been in and she had shown them the poster and they had found my dog and had been looking after him!

So I contacted the lady who had taken Oscar in and went round to get him. He was at a house only a few streets away. I tell you, he was FAT! He's the only dog I know who can go missing for 5 days and come back looking better than when he left! This kind lady had done nothing but feed him, I think. She had bought him a new collar and lead and had become quite attached to him. I think she was secretly hoping he was a stray and she could keep him. I felt quite guilty taking him home!

So then I was all drunk on the milk of human kindness. Until Friday.
I was walking home from taking dear daughter to school and coming towards me in the road by my house there were 3 lads from the local school playing kick-about with a tin can. Nothing wrong with that. Then one of them picks up the can and chucks it over the hedge into one of my neighbour's garden.
Well I wasn't having that, so I challenged him and told him to pick it up and put it in a bin. There was a bit of argument and then he went and picked it up. I walked on and then I heard this clank as they chucked the can into the road. Well, at this point I completely lost my temper! I ran back down the road and shouted at these kids to pick it up and put it in a bin. They were swearing and abusive but one of them finally went back and got the can and kicked it along the road saying he was going to find a bin. I was so angry I was shaking. And I had my 2yr old son with me. I went home, had a cup of tea and called the school.

I demanded to speak to the Head, and because he was out of school that day, I was put through to the Deputy Head. Poor bloke, I absolutely blasted him, complaining about this incident and the general behaviour of some of the kids at the school; the litter and the swearing and the bad manners and lack of courtesy and respect for anyone. I expected him to say, yes thanks and goodbye. But he didn't.

He invited me into the school where I identified the can-throwing culprit who was then made to apologise to me! I gave the kid a bit of a lecture, which my dear son punctuated with 'Mummy, I need a wee', so completely ruining my oratory....

Anyway it kind of ended well. I'm just expecting my tyres to be slashed now, or graffitti daubed on my house...

But I do really believe it is important for members of the public to get involved in trying to stop incidents of bad behaviour like this. I just feel that if more adults faced up to kids who were being 'naughty', then their behaviour would be nipped in the bud and would not escalate into much more serious anti-social disorder. I heard on the news today that a man has been murdered in Norwich, trying to break up a fight in a taxi rank. This is so sad, but it must not stop people intervening. If we allow ourselves to be afraid, then the yobs and the criminals have won, and the lunatics really will be running the asylum.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The wanderer returns...!!

We have found Oscar this afternoon! Someone had been keeping him and finally called the Dog Warden when they saw one of my posters...! He has been very well looked after and I am so grateful to the lady who took him in. Apparently the person who found the dog left their name and number with the police at the weekend, but when the Dog Warden called the police on Monday, those details weren't passed on...Typical really, I suppose! There is a real problem with this gap in provision for lost/stray dogs, and the police really aren't helping. Members of the public are still not aware that the police don't deal with dogs, and so their first port of call naturally is the police. There ought to be at the very least some more co-ordinated effort to pass on information received from the public to the Dog Warden.
Our other dog was overjoyed to see his friend - so much so that he had to be put out in the garden to calm down a bit!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Still missing Oscar...

Well it's now Wednesday and Oscar has been missing nearly four days. I think I have done pretty much everything I can, short of scouring the land for him in person. It's really strange - he just seems to have vanished. No-one has seen him so far. I'm having a letter and photo (the dog, not me) published in the Leamington Courier on Friday, and hopefully that will turn something up. A few people have suggested someone may have taken him in, which is what I am hoping really. I called Railtrack today too, just to check no dogs have been killed on the line near where we live. No news is good news from them....

It's just such a shame as he is such a lovely dog - so placid and gentle, especially with the kids. And I feel so guilty, because ultimately, it's my fault he is lost as I let him slip out.

An anonymous woman called both Petsearch and the Dog Warden and left messages over the weekend saying she had found a dog. But she didn't leave a name or number and hasn't called since. It is driving me crazy. I don't even know if if was Oscar that she found, but the timings fit. I can't help feeling that if there had been an out of hours service, I might have my dog back...

This is not a good week.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Missing Oscar...

One of our dogs has gone missing. He was lost on Saturday 20th September from our house in Leamington Spa.

His name is Oscar and he is about 8 years old.
Please keep your eyes peeled if you live anywhere near us...
He is a much loved and missed family dog so we're all really sad at the moment....

Friday, 12 September 2008

Week 1 down, 15 weeks till Christmas...

Well we have managed to get through Week 1 of school. I felt like it was my first day, let alone my daughter's, what with all the stuff I had to remember.

I did ok, and managed to get firstborn daughter there on time, wearing the right clothes. Fridays are tricky - she has to wear her PE kit and take her uniform to school in the kit bag. And we have to remember a fruit snack to share. I got the PE kit right, but the fruit snack went by the wayside. Who says women can multi-task?

So no gold star for me, but we're geting there. She seems to be settling in very well, and we haven't had any 'child as leg-iron' moments. The other mums seem pleasant, although I did get what felt a bit like the third degree yesterday from someone in the playground. Her questions could have all been summed up into one, really - 'How rich are you?' In a way it would have been quite refreshing to just cut to the chase, instead of all this nice doci-doeing around the issue.

Anyway, it's nearly Friday pick-up time and we've survived it intact. Hey, we're all exhausted, but that seems like a minor detail....

Monday, 8 September 2008

The days just keep coming....

I feel bereft today.

My little girl is no longer a little girl. She has started school. And my baby boy is no longer a baby. He has started pre-school. Both on the same day. And my dear husband has gone to Holland for the week. So I'm sitting here in a silent house wondering what to do with myself until pick-up time.

It's very strange. When you are in the throes of life with babies, the focus of your world narrows on them and you feel as though the time is going to last forever. (Probably because you are awake for most of it.) And you wish and wish for some time to yourself to indulge in something just for you.

And then suddenly the time is gone. All those craft projects, trips out and activities that you didn't do and saved for another day; well, there won't be another day. Until the school holidays that is. And all those indulgent things that you wished you had time for suddenly don't seem so attractive any more.

And you find youself wanting more than anything in the world to be able to stop time, and cuddle up with your babies on the sofa. But those days just keep coming.....

You just watch, tomorrow I'll be blogging on here about them going off to university.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Market Day

Today was the highlight of the week here in the Gers - a trip to the market at Samatan, world famous for its foie gras. Every week we pledge to get up early and go the the market while there is still a baguette and a lettuce to be had. But every week, it's the same old story - we roll out of bed late and make it to Samatan in time to watch the stall holoders dismantling their stalls, have a coffee and then come home. Oh well.
Actually, today wasn't so bad. We arrived in time to see the livestock market going on in one of the big halls. This is the market for ducks, chickens, geese, rabbits, and pets. All the live kind, rather than the dead ones in the next hall. We thought the 4 year old and the 2 year old might prefer that... (and the 34 year old come to think of it)
It is quite fascinating to watch the French at these events.They are so obviously in their element; chatting and smoking with a couple of chickens dangling from a bit of string or a rabbit tucked under their arm. There was a woman with a goose in a paper sack with just its head and neck sticking out. She had it under her arm and everyone was stroking it like a dog.
I'm still not sure whether these animals are for breeding, or eggs in the case of the birds, or whether they eat them. The French seem so affectionate towards them, I'd hate to think that they just went in the pot when they got home...
But then they have a very healthy attitude towards meat and where it comes from. We are in the heart of the French countryside here, and people keep, kill and eat their own meat. It seems cruel and I'm squeamish about it all, and could no more kill a rabbit than fly to the moon, but I eat meat. So who's the hypocrite..?

Sunday, 10 August 2008

En vacances!

Bonjour from the Gers! Here we are in South West France at our usual retreat. Summer for swimming and sun and long lazy lunches (and breakfasts and dinners) and winter for skiing and nights playing sevens in front of the wood burning stove. Bliss.

It takes a while to get into the groove here. Of doing nothing. The biggest exertion is going to the local market and the boulangerie, but other than that it's just sitting and reading and writing and having a little swim and a little aperetif and a lovely dinner and then a sleep... The kids are loving it too - and when they're happy, I'm happy.

Having said all that,I have actually been quite productive since our arrival. Given the time to sit and muse, I have scribbled in my notebook a lot, and drafted out a short story to be worked on further on our return home. I have also managed to do some reading. I mean some proper reading for hours at a time-not ten minutes exhausted effort before falling asleep, which is what I normally achieve. I've just finished Wilkie Collins, 'The Moonstone', and am now reading AL Kennedy's novel 'Day'.

And I realised I haven't blogged for ages. Not sure why; a lot on as usual, but that's not the reason. It just kind of dropped off my radar for a few weeks. But having the space to think about stuff brought it back up to consciousness again. So here we are in France for the next few weeks. What luxury it is to have TIME!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Pulmonary Haemsiderosis - Appeal for Help

Please, please have a look at this http://belle-diaryofahousewife.blogspot.com/2008/07/appeal-for-help.html link.
My friend Belle is helping another friend Jo, who is trying to help another friend Marie.
It's basically a long line of friends helping each other.
So can you join in?


Thursday, 17 July 2008


“Procrastination is the thief of time.” - Edward Young (1683-1765)

OK. I'm sitting here on the computer, as I have been most other evenings of late.

I haven't written anything for a little while, either on my blog or otherwise. And I have been wondering why. Why, when I have time to write for a couple of hours, do I suddenly decide to do the laundry/watch TV/ surf the net reading other people's blogs etc etc? Clearly I am a procrastinator. This has been brought home to me, in the most profound way, by my search of Wikipedia (it's on Wiki, so it must be true...) on the subject.

After the usual stuff about procrastination being related to the anxiety associated with starting or completing a task, I was informed that people who suffer from procrastination have a higher than normal level of conscientiousness. You're talking to a mother here - guilt is my middle name....

And then, the clincher. The clear diagnosis of my innate procrastination:

'People who exhibit decreased impulse control and procrastination appear to be prone to internet addiction.'

Get. Off. The. Computer. Now. Claire.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

I should just rename this blog...

Things my kids do and say.

Yesterday we were picking raspberries in my mum's garden, collecting them in bowls. Dear daughter was dutifully filling her little bowl, and I noticed that small son's bowl was empty and discarded on the ground.
'Are you still picking the raspberries?' I asked.
'Yes, mummy'
'Well where are you putting them?' (you should just never ask these questions)
Him, breezily, 'Oh, in my pockets.'

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Serendipity and Unicorns

I went to a creativity conference in Italy in April this year. (www.creaconference.com)
During one of the workshops we were asked to select an image to think and write about. I selected the unicorn image opposite. This is 'The Unicorn in Captivity' from the tapestry The Hunt of the Unicorn, created in The Netherlands in 1495-1505. The original is hanging in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I had never seen this image before I picked it out of a table full of postcards.
I wrote about it in relation to the force of my creativity and the necessity to enable its release from 'fences' of all types. It was a very meaningful exercise for me, as it really showed up the ambivalent relationship I have with my writing. Since that time at CREA I have been generally motivated and optimistic about my work. But just recently I have been having a bit of a dip in energy and concentration. This, combined with the demands of parenthood and a ridiculously busy time, has left me a bit adrift.
Yesterday, we visited a stately home where a friend of mine is getting married in October. We are taking their photographs for them and wanted to see the venue.
There, hanging above the mantelpiece in the sumptuous dining room, was a copy of the unicorn tapestry.
A little gentle reminder to keep myself on track, I think.....

Friendship Again

Following on from my ramblings about friendship, I just found a great quotation which eloquently summarises what I was trying to say....

'Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.'

Virginia Woolf

Thursday, 3 July 2008


I have just spent the evening talking with a very old and dear friend. We have known each other for twenty years, but until tonight there were pieces of the jigsaw that makes him who he is that were missing. I don't know why he chose tonight to talk so honestly - things just seemed to lead that way. And I don't know why he chose to tell me some of the things he did. I hadn't asked, and our friendship isn't based on any need for me to know. But I was deeply moved by both what he said and the fact that he chose to tell me.

What is friendship about? A shared history? Being supportive? Offering advice and a shoulder to cry on? Maybe all these. But sometimes these get in the way of what is important; and that is acceptance.

I think being a true friend is accepting the contradiction that people are as they are, and also that they are essentially unknowable, as we all are. And being truly open to that contradiction.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Sports Day

Dearest daughter's nursery Sports/Fun Day was a hoot. Watching twenty 3 and 4 year olds running relay races was hilarious. The boys were great at the running, but when it came to the balance and control required for the egg and spoon, and balancing the bean-bag on the head, the girls came into their own.

I have to embarrassingly admit to a certain amount of trepidation beforehand, as sports have never been my strong suit (to put it mildly). Even the mention of the words 'Sports Day' made me feel all anxious and took me right back to my school days of miserable enforced participation.

Anyway, I needn't have worried. Dearest daughter enjoyed it all, and actually acquitted herself fairly well. (must get that from her father) And she won a jar of sweets for guessing the number in it correctly. So she was happy. And so was I.

I still didn't join in the Mother's Race though...

And here's a classic from the other child...

My son and I have been scaling the heights of the mountain known as potty training. We have a mantra currently running in our house:
(Me) 'Where do wee-wee's go?'
(Him) 'In the potty..!'
Before he blithely wees in his training pants.

Anyway, we are going to France on holiday in the summer and I have decided to go cold turkey with the potty training. Here's how the conversation went:
(Me) 'When we go to France, there's going to be no more nappies. So where do wee-wees go?'
(Him, triumphantly) 'In the swimming pool!'


Sunday, 22 June 2008

Lazy Sunday afternoon.

Yeah, right, who am I kidding?

All I've done today is slave. Changed all the beds, as they hadn't been done for so long, I've forgotten when I last did it.. I'm not normally so slovenly (well, mostly not) - it's been a mad few weeks with dear daughter's operation. And then I cooked and then I hoovered. And cleared up all the kids toys. And then did it again when they got them all out again. (I never learn - wait till they go to bed, Claire...)

I hate days like today. You see, I avoid housework all the time and leave everything until it absolutely has to be done all at once instead of being sensible and doing a little bit every day. And then I have a day of crashing round the house getting grumpy with everyone and feeling hard done by because I'm doing domestic stuff.

I've got quite a wierd week coming up. Check this out for a bizarre juxtaposition of events.

My dear daughter has her nursery 'Sport's Day' on Tuesday. Now my child has lots of great skills and attributes, but co-ordination is not one of them. (She takes after her mother, so I'm hoping they don't have a Mother's Race.) I'm not sure how this is going to turn out, but hope it won't result in a wholesale loss of confidence and refusal to countenance anything sporting in future.

Then, I, together with my bestest friend, are off to see Bon Jovi on Tuesday night. Now I used to like Bon Jovi. When I was 15. But we decided to go for a laugh, and to see if Jon Bon Jovi has aged well. I expect he's doing better than me. Am slightly concerned for my bestest friend's unborn child though. All that stuff about playing Mozart to them in the womb - this child is going to be getting a bit of a shock come Tuesday night... I may just have to ask them to turn it down a bit.

And then on Wednesday, we are off on holiday for a few days, en famile. Including my inlaws. And we're going to Filey. God help us if it rains. If it's sunny we can just yomp about on the beach all day and then get fish and chips. I can't even think about what happens if the weather's bad. I'll let you know how if goes.

And then on Sunday, we are off to sunny Southport to celebrate the Diamond Wedding Anniversary (that's 60 years!!) of my dearest grandparents. Have bought myself a very expensive outfit as I figure that this is really something to celebrate!

So, all in all, a busy and eventful week ahead. Watch this space for the results!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Don't they say the sweetest things...

Saying goodnight to my daughter the other night, she hugged me tightly round the neck and said,
'Ahh, Mummy, I want to keep you.'
I said,
'That's nice, sweetheart.'
To which she replied, casually,
'Yeah, but you're gonna die soon.'

Don't you just love them....

Operation tonsils

My daughter had her tonsils out on Monday. And her adenoids. And had gromits put in her ears. The full monty. Poor kid - she's only three. She was so good though. Luckily for me she chose her dad to go down to theatre with her, and not me. So he got to see them putting her under, which I think I would have struggled with. I was left to contend with a two year old son intent on trashing the hospital.

Anyway, a few hours (of blood-pressure inducing worry) later, she came round and within the day, she was sitting up in bed eating Jammy Dodgers, drinking Ribena and holding court with the nurses. Amazing.

She has got better and better through the week - as long as the pain is managed, you wouldn't know there was anything wrong with her. Night-time is the worst, as she wakes up in pain. In the day though, she is fine. She has really started to milk it though, as I think she senses that this special time of privileges (sweets and CBeebies) will soon be over.

I am now starting to return to the usual state of vague worry, rather than the full-on anxiety I have had this week.

Oh yes, she had this operation to cure a runny nose which she has had for two years. I'm trying not to panic, but at this stage, it's still running.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

An update...

Well, I have been conspicuous by my absence recently. A lot has been going on.

I finally finished by End of Course Assessment for the OU course and have submitted that. It was a bit of a slog to get it done on time, but I managed. I got some marks back for one of the other assessments which I was really pleased with. Good marks and good feedback. I will post the story on here, but I'm entering it for a competition first, so expect to see it when I get the rejection ship ;-)

We have been having our garden sorted out by some garden people. We've had raised beds put in and a new patio and will shortly be getting a greenhouse. It's like the Good Life around here.... Shall let you know how the vegetable growing goes.. Needless to say, the whole job has taken far longer than expected and cost twice as much as we anticipated. We have employed your typical British tradesman - the excuses for not turning up so far: a funeral, hayfever, the rain (of course), the van broke down. So all par for the course and perfectly normal. Anyway, the job's done, so now all I have to do is get the front drive replaced where they mixed concrete on my gravel...

My daughter is going into hospital on Monday for an operation to remove her tonsils and adenoids, and possibly have gromits in her ears. She's fine about it - I'm trying not to be a nervous wreck..

We went to our first parents' evening at my daughter's new school. She starts reception class in September. I know everyone tells you that time flies when you have kids, but I really can't believe this - she's still my little baby! We found out which class she will be in, and I was pleased that some of her little friends from nursery will be in her class with her. That's what I worry about - friends! I don't worry about school work or anything like that, just that she might be standing on her own in the playground looking all sad and lonely! Anyway, I'm sure there will be further outpourings on this subject as the time draws nearer....

Off for a nice gin and tonic now!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Forgive me, for I have sinned....

This is my first post since 15th May.

Where does the time go?? I can't believe it is that long since I have written my blog! So, what have I been doing? Well, mostly working on my End of Course Assessment (ECA) for the OU Creative Writing course. It's due in next week, so realistically I have to get it done by the weekend. I asked my tutor what she thought I ought to do, and she recommended I do two short pieces - one life-writing and one fiction. Needless to say, I have completely ignored that advice and written the opening of a novel....

And now I know why she advised me to do the two short pieces. It's just so hard! It is a completely different skill than creating a complete story, as you have to 'set up' the story for the telling in the course of the novel. You kind of think before you start, 'How hard can it be? I've read enough books. It's just a bit longer, that's all. This should be fine...' But no.

And this is all a bit of a worry, as I've only written a Prologue so far....

Perhaps I will post some chapters up here for comments, as it comes along. Depends on the mark from the ECA!

So wish me luck. Will have much more time for blogging from next week on....

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thanking my lucky stars...

I lost my temper with my daughter this morning while I was mopping the floor and she was insisting on 'helping', by spilling water and walking around leaving dirty footprints. I don't know why, but she has an inability to do as she is told at the moment. Apparently, this only extends to her behaviour at home - at nursery she is a veritable angel, as her teacher was quick to tell me the other day. This somehow seems to rile me even more when she won't do as she's told at home! So anyway there was an ugly scene and shouting and tears and Dave had to come down from the office and sort it all out.

And then I was clearing up and listening to the news on the radio and they had a report from that town in China where the school has collapsed in the earthquake. There was a recording of a woman crying, who had just found out her child was dead.

And then I was crying and thanking the universe for my wonderful life, and beautiful children, and feeling so glad that they're here to not do as they're told...

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Here's some of my work....

This is one of the short stories I wrote for the Open University Creative Writing course.

The Mole

When Dad first wakes me, I don’t recognise him. And then when I come round a bit, I know something’s wrong. He’s in my room for a start.
‘It’s your mum,’ he says slowly, as if he’s talking to a child, ‘She’s in hospital. They think it’s a stroke.’ The words aren’t really sinking in, as he’s standing there next to the bed. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw him. I mean properly, not just his back going down the stairs, or a figure passing the door. It is years. He has more wrinkles and his hair is thinner and greyer. The whole of him is thinner and greyer. He still looks angry though. I suddenly realise he is waiting for me to speak.
‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’ My voice, unaccustomed to use, sounds rusty at the edges.
‘I said, do you want to go to visit her? She won’t be coming home for a long time. I didn’t know if you would want…’ His voice tails off into, what? Confusion? Frustration? I try to concentrate as the reality of his words register.
‘I don’t know, I don’t think I can. I want to see her, but I don’t know if I can.’
His face tightens and closes, and he turns away, just as before. He paces to the door, half turns as if to speak, but then he is gone. I sit up in bed trying to make sense of what is happening. Mum. She is all. She is gone.
I don’t know how things have come to be the way they are. Incrementally I guess. It was a slow drip of silence on silence, stillness on stillness and pain on pain. I can’t remember when I started sleeping through the day. Again, it was gradual. I had difficulty falling asleep at night, listening to Mum crying in the next room and the blare of the TV and smell of Dad’s cigarettes drifting upstairs. So in the mornings, I was exhausted. I just started sleeping in and gradually my whole day shifted itself until I was going to bed in the early morning and getting up at night. Mum would clean and tidy all the time, more than was good for any of us. But when I woke in the evening, she would bring me a meal and sit and talk with me for a while before she went to bed. And then I would watch TV or read the books Mum had got me from the library. I never saw Dad. He never came in to see me and I never went to find him. It felt like he was angry with me and so I just avoided him, and he likewise. For ten years! Imagine! When I write this it seems incredible, but all of it is true. Time is a very strange thing when you live in my twilight world between days. It stretches out; the days all merging into one another and then the weeks and months, and suddenly, years have gone.
It’s difficult to know when I realised all this was a serious problem. Maybe I didn’t until this morning when Dad woke me. I didn’t decide one day that I was never going out again, it just kind of happened that way. For a while I would say to myself, ‘This can’t go on.’ And I would plan to go to bed early and set my alarm to get up and go for a walk. But I never did. I had three hundred and sixty-five excuses, at least, for why I could not go out that day. It was so much easier to sink back into my dreams for a while longer. Although logically I could see that I was not living what you might call a normal life, all kinds of justifications and answers came to my aid. And although you will be reading this and saying, ‘Good God, she hasn’t been out of her house for ten years!’, it wasn’t ten years all in one go. It was ten years of something going wrong every day.
I guess Mum and Dad could have done things differently too. Mum never encouraged me to make a life. She was happy when I left school and was at home all the time. I think she is the same as me really, but not so bad. At least she goes out. If only to the supermarket and library every week. The rest of the time she’s at home. Cleaning mostly and vacuuming. I’m surprised the carpets have any pile left in them, the amount of hoovering they’ve had.
Dad just wasn’t there. I mean he was physically present, but he wasn’t really there. He went to work and came back and ate and watched TV and smoked and did the same the day after. When I think of our family I think of those weather dolls that come out of their little houses, circle around one another and go back through their little doors. They never touch.
You are reading this and you are wondering, ‘What is going on here? This woman clearly has some insight and understanding, so what is she doing in this bizarre situation?’ And well you might! You see, I can wake up and feel fine and decide I am going out. And then my good feeling starts to slip away as I sabotage my own plans. My fears start to take me over. Even if I get to the front door, if I see another person or a car in the street, my hands sweat, my head spins, the panic rises up and I have to get back in to safety. It is terrifying out there to me. I know it isn’t, logically speaking, but to me it simply is. And I don’t know how to change that, so while you might think I seem quite normal, I clearly am not.
So, after Dad has been in to tell me about Mum, I sit for a while and think. For a few hours probably; I find it difficult to concentrate and have to keep starting again. I am panicking. I need to do something. I can’t manage without her. I can’t go out and I can’t stay here alone. Mum did everything for me. I have never cooked a meal for myself. What will I do? I get up and walk round and round the tiny bedroom trying to calm myself. Then I feel ashamed when I think of Mum lying in the hospital. The door opens. It is Dad with a tray. There is a cup of tea and a plate of beans on toast on it. He puts the tray down awkwardly on the little dressing table.
‘I’m going to see her tonight and so are you,’ he mutters. I make some sort of inadvertent fluttering gestures with my hands and then they fly up to my throat.
‘Things are going to change.’ His mouth is a thin white line, the words barely getting past his teeth. ‘We can’t go on like this. I know you want to see her. So I am going to help you.’
Suddenly I am filled with such rage against him. And against Mum. I shout at him.
‘I can’t do this. Why can’t you just leave it? You don’t understand.’
He flares up at that.
‘Oh yes I do. Don’t you dare say that. I can’t just leave it. This is all my fault. You’re wasting your life. Just like she is. And she’s helping you to do it.’ He moves around the room involuntarily, as though looking for something to grab hold of. ‘I can’t stand by any more. Get ready. You are going out of this house tonight.’ He walks out, leaving me reeling as if from a punch to the head.
Mechanically I sit down at the little dressing table and drink my cup of tea and eat my beans on toast. I look blindly out of the window at the afternoon sun and down on the untidy garden and I catch my reflection in the mirror and don’t recognise the person looking back. It is a long time since I have really examined myself. I lean closer to correct the blurred image. My eyes are weak and I am terribly short-sighted from too much reading in the dark I think. A very pale woman with small red-rimmed eyes looks back. My dark hair has grown very long and is brushed back from my forehead to reveal a pasty, soft skin, like putty. There is not a hint of colour in my face. I stay motionless and wonder if this is what I would look like if I were dead.
I used to think about being dead a lot, even when I was at school. Because of my brother Adam, I suppose. He was knocked down by a car and killed. I remember him, but not so well. Sounds and smells sometimes trigger memories, a feeling of happiness. But then they’re gone. But I remember Mum’s screaming when they told her Adam was dead. And when she stopped screaming she was different. Almost gone from herself. She either couldn’t look at me, or she held me so tightly it hurt. I remember my confusion, not so much my grief. She just kept going into his room and going through his clothes, smelling them and folding them all. And she wouldn’t let me touch anything. It was just as he had left it.
Anyway, as time went on, she came back a little, but everything was different. I never went anywhere alone. And a lot of the time I just didn’t go. Mum would suggest a game or a television programme and time would run on and suddenly it would be too late to go wherever it was we were meant to be going. It was good in some ways; Mum and I were close, so close. As I grew older and started wanting to go out alone, she would cry and tell me to be careful over and over. She would shake with anxiety when I returned, and so eventually I became as worried as she was, and just started to avoid going out. It was easier once I had left school as no-one expected me to be anywhere, and then it was just Mum and me again.
Where was Dad in all this? I suppose at first he tried to help, but he was caught up in his own grief in a different way, and he became hard and distant and angry. He never spoke about it, and neither did she. They never spoke about very much at all. It was a silent household for a long time.
I start to dress. I have no idea what to wear. It is spring, but I don’t know how cold it is outside. I err on the side of caution and put a jumper over my trousers and shirt. I scrabble in the bottom of the wardrobe for shoes. They feel strange and hard against my feet. I know they are going to rub; I haven’t worn shoes in years. I walk out of my room and down the stairs. Dad takes my arm and we cross the threshold of the front door. I am in the front garden. My pounding heart is almost choking me. It is so bright. The light is hurting my eyes. I am rooted to the spot. The pavement is hard under my shoes. And the noise! Cars roar past, the birds sing and the people talking in the street sound amplified. I am terrified. Dad has hold of my elbow and he almost drags me to the car and opens the passenger door. The tears are squeezing out from behind my tightly closed eyes, but I get in. I feel a little better once inside the car. It is smaller and quieter. Dad leans across me and fastens my seatbelt gently. The drive to the hospital is short but it seems to take forever. I am counting my breaths. At the traffic lights we have to stop and people surge in front of the car. I am pressing my back into the seat but they don’t notice. They are walking and talking to each other and seem completely unafraid.
We arrive at the hospital. I don’t remember it having so many buildings. The main entrance is bustling with people and by now I am sobbing. I think I am going to die right then and there, but Dad virtually carries me through the doors and up the stairs to Mum’s ward. And I don’t die. I don’t die because I am still breathing by the time I get to the side of Mum’s bed. She is sleeping; the eyelid and mouth on right side of her face are drawn down.
Dad pulls up two plastic chairs and we sit on either side of the bed waiting for Mum to wake up. The past weighs heavy between us, unspoken. We can’t look at each other, and then Mum’s eyelids flicker. She sees Dad and tries to smile and then she sees me and her eyes open wide with surprise. She struggles to speak and then starts to cry. I can’t make out what she is trying to say, but then I realise. She’s saying sorry. I look directly at Dad, and our eyes meet for the first time in years.

Babies, babies everywhere

Spoke to my best friend tonight. She has been trying to get pregnant for a while now and has a late period, so it's fingers and toes crossed for her. Also saw another friend today who is pregnant with her third baby. Babies everywhere at the moment. It really brought up the whole third baby issue with me again. Still not sure how I feel about it. One thing's for sure, I don't think having or not having another baby is an objective decision. It's a gut feeling about what the right thing to do is. My gut feeling hasn't developed sufficiently yet, to let me know what the right thing is. So just waiting until I feel ok about it, one way or another.
Went to the AGM for my daughter's nursery tonight, and succeeded in volunteering myself to help out with various things. I never learn - DON'T drink the free wine! I guess it's a good thing though, as I have been meaning to get more involved, and my son will be going there next year hopefully, so I'll be a parent there for a while yet.
Finally submitted my latest assessment on the creative writing course. May put it up here in a separate post. So it's head down for the end of course assessment - a piece of work which is worth 50% of the total marks. I've got a month. What am I doing wasting time on here?!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

My paints came!

All in all a very good day. My paints came finally, from the man on Ebay (thank you, sir) and I went to meditation tonight. Both these things v good. The paints are so cute - I sat in the garden in the lovely sunshine (another good thing) with the kids and we all made little paintings, and it was really sweet (apart from the usual fighting over whose turn it was and the usual kicking and hitting accompanying this..)

And then this evening I went to meditation and did some strong stretches and really worked out some of the stresses in my body. so I'm feeling all warm and bendy now..

Have been reading some other very good and funny blogs. Will seriously have to raise my game..

Monday, 5 May 2008

Living in the moment

I've been thinking about living in the moment quite a lot recently, as it's something I find really hard to do. I am such a malcontent - there is always something in my life that I'm not happy about, or seeking to change or improve, always something driving me towards tomorrow. I guess there is a positive side to all this. I am a lifelong learner, that I know. I want to experience new things and improve lots of aspects of myself. I am driven by my 'glass is half empty' psychology, in that I'm always looking for a tap to fill my glass up. On the down side, it is very hard for me to just 'be', to just enjoy where I am and what I have at this present moment in time. It's not too much about material things, more about states of being or experience. But sometimes I look at the kids sleeping at the end of a busy day and I realise that I have been rushing on to the next day and just thinking logistics. There is so much joy to be had in simply relishing the moment. People keep saying to me about the kids, 'Oh, they won't be little forever. Enjoy it.' Sometimes I feel like replying,
'Yeah, well, how about we swop for a couple of days and you can enjoy being woken up at three in the morning by your child vomiting on the floor...'
But I know they're right, really. And that, for all the day-to-day challenges in life, there is much, indeed everything, to find pleasure in.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Plague pit.

Our house is a plague pit. I started feeling ill on Friday, like I was coming down with a cold. Indeed I was, and have spent the whole time since then fighting it off. I thought I had got it off the kids who both had colds last week, but it appears not. My daughter has now come down with similar symptoms to me, including a high fever. She has been ranting and raving about 'naughty dogs', 'bad chicks' and her bedroom being 'all different colours'. Thank the Lord for Calpol.
It is so depressing, though. Last week I was full of vim and vigour, energetically breezing through a day with the kids and then writing in the evening. Now I can barely drag myself out of bed. My battery has been completely drained. So it's back to the long process of getting myself, and everyone else in the house, better.
On the plus side, I have bought myself a watercolour paints set on Ebay. My friend has one and it is so therapeutic to sit and paint little pictures. Hope I'll have the time and energy to use it..

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Just a taster of things to come?

When we were away at CREA, my parents looked after the kids. One day my Dad collected my oldest daughter from nursery to be told that she had not been behaving very well that morning. She had refused to sit down with the other children when told and she had not listened to instructions from the staff. Her teacher in frustration had announced,
'If you don't do as you're told, I'll have to tell your mummy and daddy that you've been naughty.'
To which my 3 1/2 year old replied, (in best Catherine Tate style)
'Well you can. But you'll have to ring the hotel in Italy.'

She's 3 and a half! I can't wait till she's 15...

Friday, 25 April 2008

Having a moment.

I had a moment the other day. A moment of lust for another man. (sorry, Dave, if you're reading this..) I don't quite know how to descibe it other than a kind of 'technical lust' - it wasn't as though there was any desire to pursue this feeling, and it was more of a surprised reaction that I found this man attractive. He was a lot older than me, probably by 25 or 30 years, and quite overweight with receding hair. Sounds good? No, I didn't think so either, until he took me by the hand to teach me the cha-cha-cha.
Now there is something about a man who can dance. The way he held my hands and guided me was quite exquisite. And the fact that he clearly had absolutely no desire or intentions towards me made the moment all the more sweet.

It was interesting because it makes you question what sexual attractiveness actually is. Regardless of what the glossy magazines spin us, it is not about symmetrical faces, stick thin bodies and designer clothes. It is about an ease and self-possession combined with confidence and personal power. I have been thinking a little about leadership recently, and I have been having thoughts about how sexual attractiveness fits into these models. It is not often discussed as a component, but it seems clear to me that sexual attractiveness is directly intertwined with personal power. (just ask Bill Clinton...)

I'm not sure what the upshot of these thoughts are, but I guess the main thing is that it gives us all hope that we are attractive to other people, regardless of how we look! It has a lot more to do with how we behave - how we interact, how we present ourselves and how we feel inside that matters. Also, it seems to me that if we are confident in ourselves, that confers a personal power upon us that we can then use in our daily lives to communicate with, influence and guide other people.

So thanks to my dance teacher for giving me food for thought (and the cha-cha-cha.)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Back down to earth...

Finally got back on Monday night from the jamboree known as CREA Conference.(www.creaconference.com) As predicted, the combination of lots of wine, very little time and a dodgy wi-fi connection meant that I didn't blog while I was away...

What to say? For anyone who hasn't experienced CREA, it is very difficult to fully describe. It is basically a bunch of people from around the world (32 countries this year) who are interested in Creativity, in all its facets. They get together in a beautiful part of Italy to talk, learn, feel, refresh and renew themselves outwardly and inwardly.
It is a wonderful cross-cultural experience. Every year I make new friends across the world, and we support, inform and delight each other.

I have just had so much fun this year, and have met the most wonderful people, who filled me with laughter and confidence (thanks particularly JG and JB!). I took my ukelele (thanks Tim for the encouragement!) and had a great time playing and singing. Music was a big part of CREA for me this year. Bomba, the Canadian/Cuban band were there, and they were truly excellent. It made me realise just how much I enjoy music and dancing. A new resolve to get more of that in my life!

CREA is about personal development, amongst other things. I have found out a lot about myself as usual, and have really taken time to step back, think about where I am in my life and what is happening. CREA is a marvellous opportunity to give your soul a spring clean, and there are any number of people willing to help you throw out the old and welcome in the new.

It's just a different world at CREA. Everything seems possible and your vision is expansive. Because you're away from home, it's possible to be who you really are or want to be, without the constraints caused by our normal day to day lives. However, the down side is that coming home after CREA can be a bit of a jolt back into the 'real world', with all its stresses and strains. My mission this year is to find some way to reconcile those two states - to try to take a little bit of CREA into my daily life with me.

So, my learning from CREA is all about integration - how to get the things into life that I want and how to live with the things that I can't control, how to live in the now!

Wish me luck...

Friday, 11 April 2008


I'm so glad I went to meditation on Wednesday. If I hadn't, I might have quite possibly killed my two children today...! I contented myself with howling like a banshee at them when the incessant fighting became intolerable. Meditation? I need a large vodka, I think. A friend of mine announced she is pregnant with her third child. I'm pleased for her, obviously, but it made me think. I just don't know how I feel about a third one. On the one hand, I've always liked the idea of a bigger family, but then there's all the practicalities, including, would I just completely lose my mind with three of them? Would I notice the difference? I don't know, it's a tough one. It's the thought of the sleepless nights again that gets me in a cold sweat, but I know when I hold my friend's newborn, I'll be...aahhh....well maybe....
I'm off to Italy with my husband on Monday. He's teaching at a creativity conference. Check out the link www.creaconference.com
It should be great - I went last year and had a ball. Will try and post from there, but the wine is free, so don't expect anything too coherent.
Signing out for now.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Feeling chilled!

Had a good day today. Went to a new meditation class. It is good in that it involves physical stretching and activity as well as quiet sitting. I felt quite energised when I came out, and my body certainly feels looser than it did this afternoon! I have quite a good response to my 'playground' email - see yesterday's post! The council replied saying they are going to sort out the problems, so watch this space...
We spoke a bit about being 'in flow' this evening at the meditation, which is something which has come up a few times recently in conversation with different people. I think it is this state of mindfulness, of being 'in the moment' that I am searching for. It is so elusive though, and sometimes the harder you try, the further away it seems; like a mirage in the desert! It is great though when you momentarily experience it - everything seems so easy and natural! But then the door closes again and you're back to chipping away at it all. Ho hum. Hopefully the meditation will help. Off for a hot bath and bed now.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Getting in a strop!

I took my little boy to the park this morning and found that it had been vandalised yet again. So it made me really angry, not only at the vandals, but at the Council, as they are so slow to repair anything that goes wrong. They put in a zip wire and someone nicked the pulley bit off it and now you can't use it, and it's been like that for months. So, what do I do? Of course I come home and fire off a flamer of an email to the Parks Service at the Council, and just for the hell of it I copy in the local newspaper and the local Green Party rep. And now I've just had an email from the paper saying they want to run a story on it...
Why don't I keep my mouth shut, ever?! Although, I suppose it's a good thing. Just a bit embarassing... Well watch this space. Possibly for a link to the Courier and a photo of me next to a broken slide looking 'disgruntled'....

Sunday, 6 April 2008


Just got back from a lovely weekend in London, catching up with friends I haven't seen in a long while. We set the world to rights over good food and drink, and re-established those ties that keep us in touch in spite of the crazy speed of our lives. And I woke up this morning to a snowfall and a silence never heard in London. This was my first weekend away without my husband and children in a very long time, and I freely admit that I relished every second! It was made all the more enjoyable by the knowledge that I would soon be returning to the loving arms of my family. This was an opportunity to enjoy a little quiet, read and think (on my journey) and also have a great laugh with my friends. What more therapy could anyone need?! Have been working on my next assessment for my OU course, which is due to be handed in next week, before I go to Italy. I will post it here also. It has been difficult to write as it is based on truth and is very close to my heart. So, a challenge, all in all. Roll on Monday...

Friday, 4 April 2008

This isn't quite an April Fool's Day blog, but nearly. See, I've even missed that deadline... I'm not entirely sure quite what I'm doing here, so if any poor unfortunate is reading this - sorry. I think I want to start blogging as a way of talking about my life in general, but also to talk about the writing process I am going through and post some of my efforts on my page. You will have to bear with me, as this is a voyage of discovery and no doubt will be a steep learning curve.
I have been studying the Creative Writing Course with the Open University this year. I started it as a way of carving out time for myself to write in. Having two children under three and being a full-time mum, there isn't a lot of time for writing, but gradually I am learning to make the time for myself. As Charles Buxton said,
'You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it'
It's a tough lesson, but one well worth learning, I think. It is really hard at times, and I suffer with every mother's chronic complaint of guilt. I think guilt was invented for mothers...
Anyway, i'm working towards balance in all things, even if I frequently fall over. The floor is a patient teacher.
So, this is the place where you will hear all about what I am thinking, and not necesarily about how many loads of washing I have done that day, or how much crayon I have washed off the bedroom wall. I don't know, maybe the washing and the crayon would be more interesting, we shall see... Signing off for now.