Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Every year around this time I find myself perching precariously on the horns of a dilemma. Shall I keep a diary in the New Year? It may not sound like much of a dilemma but there is more to it than meets the eye.

On the one hand I can keep a diary. This would mean that I have to buy a diary and a new pen and then commit to finding time on a daily basis to writing it. Not that onerous one might think. However, because it is my diary it has to be the same size and style as its predecessors or it won't match. Once that hurdle is overcome I have to find a quiet time when I will not be interrupted and yet am not too exhausted to pen a few paragraphs about the day's events. This can be tricky. Over the years, bedtime has proved an unsatisfactory time slot because, to be honest by that time I really can't be bothered. Recently, I have taken to using the time when my smaller children are in the bath. This works well because I get ten minutes undisturbed but it does presuppose that nothing exciting is going to happen in the remaining six hours of my day. Now it is fair to say that nine times out of ten by the time I get to 6 o'clock my day is over but you never know. I might have an exciting, impromptu evening event and no space left to record it. Given that the likelihood of this is slim in the extreme, I have taken the view that it is better to run that risk than not use the bath time slot for diary writing.

This takes me to the next point. If, as often happens, I don't get to my diary on a daily basis then the days build up and I have to eventually sit down and do a week's worth in one job lot. I have decided that this is pointless because whilst I can usually remember what I actually did from one week to the next, how I feel changes as events unfold. So, if I am writing on a Thursday about something that happened the previous Monday my account of the day will be coloured by subsequent thoughts or conversations and it is hard to try and record the day with only the influences that I had at that point.

Another difficulty that I have to overcome is what I actually write down. As I get older I become more cautious about exactly how honest I can be. Before I had my children I wrote what I wanted. If people annoyed my I let them have it with both barrels. If I had a tricky problem to fathom I discussed the pros and cons as if I were having a conversation with a trusted friend. However, as soon as the first child was born my perspective changed. I started to think that when I died my child would find and read my diary and I wanted to protect her and myself from my darkest thoughts. At that point, albeit subconsciously, I started to sanitize my diary. When, a few years later I became aware of what I was doing and why, I tried to regain my former candid style but found that I have become too self conscious to bear my soul on paper and so the diaries have never regained their honesty.

So why bother? If what you write only covers a portion of your day, is a sketchy description of what you have done and doesn't accurately reflect your thought processes why waste time worrying about it? And here is the essence of my dilemma.

I started writing my diary in 1985 and with the exception of two years have written one every year since. I have them all in a shoe box, all more or less the same size and shape recording ( or not recording) my life for the last 23 years. If I have a trip down memory lane with someone and we have forgotten a particular detail I can look it up and give an accurate account of who, when and often why. Writing a diary has been a part of my persona for more or less as long as I can remember and a part of me cannot bear to look at that shoe box in 20 years time and think "What a shame I stopped recording my life back in 2009 " or whenever.

And so I have answered my own dilemma. I can never stop writing my diary. Even though its contents are fundamentally flawed and it adds to my daily quota of guilt when I haven't done it, it is a part of me and so on I must go. The diary for 2009 is pink.

Sunday, 28 December 2008


If you haven't logged in over Christmas then you missed the festive robins !! Serves you right for not following me avidly enough. Happy New Year.


Christmas is all done for another year. I have only just managed to change my blog background to festive robins and now I am going to have to put it back again. What shall I have for January I wonder. Sorry - must stop asking rhetorical questions as they don't get me very much further forward and make me appear indecisive. Which I don't think I am - do you?

I suppose I am now expected to ruminate for a while about Christmas and how it's gone in a flash taking all that preparation, list making and sheer hard work with it. But I don't really want to do that. It is gone too quickly and if you are the one in charge of the turkey it does seem that you spend all the time in the kitchen and miss the good bits but that's just the way it is. It was ever thus.

I would rather look at each Christmas as it passes and learn from it. For example, I have now got Christmas dinner off to a fine art. I can cook turkey and all the trimmings for however many there happen to be around my table without any stress. That box is ticked. I know that and so I no longer worry about it.

Another lesson I learned is not to expect too much from the day. After all it is still just the six of us. No miraculous transformation takes place as Santa delivers his presents. We will still bicker, the children will be noisy and shout at each other and at some point I will shout louder. Really it's just like any other day with presents and guests and a more complicated meal. It took me a good few years to work this out but now that I have it's fine if we all argue and I try not to let it worry me.

I never get drunk. I always start with that intention but somehow after a glass of bubbly with the mid morning mince pies and a glass of wine as I make the gravy I seem to lose my way and before you know it it's half past six and I can't be bothered. It's one of those things where the idea of it is so much more appealing than the reality. Have you ever tried to baste a 13 pound turkey whilst plastered? Downright dangerous!

And so it is finished for another year. The build up is always better than the day just as the smell of fresh coffee is always nicer than it tastes. That is another lesson that I have been taught over the years. Now I can look forward. I have always loved the promise of a new start. The new year will be my first complete year with all my children at school. I will grow more of my own vegetables having had a successful first try last year. I will make new year resolutions that I have at least a chance of sticking to and I shall wait for the spring and the light nights and the warmth and everything that helps me get through the interminably grey winter in one piece. Of this expect more in later posts. For now I will whip down the decorations on New Year's Day and start 2009 with a spring in my step.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


I have been thinking about Charles Dickens. And why not? It is Christmas and all that Dickensian bonhomie and good cheer is depicted on cards adorning my walls. It's not that though. Nor is it a tendency towards Scroogeiness (that's not actually a word is it?) I like Christmas and all it brings. Mr Scrooge is not welcome at my house.

No. My thought pattern is much more convoluted than that and I suspect will take quite some time to develop. I was thinking about my blog. It is still very much in its infancy but I started it as a way to string words together which is something I have always enjoyed doing. As a child I was always at it and as a lawyer choosing the right words often made the difference between whether a dispute was settled timeously or marched indignantly all the way to the House of Lords. However, whilst my legal training taught me the importance of the careful selection of words it also had another, less desirable consequence - the almost total obliteration of my imagination.

Creativity is important in a legal mind and is one of the qualities that distinguishes a talented lawyer from a pen pusher. Creativity can help you think round a problem and devise a cunning plan to solve it. It can help you find a way through the stranglehold that legislation and red tape can have on your client and has got me out of a pickle of my own making more than once. Creativity is not imagination though and that part of my brain which provided imaginative ideas, though fully formed in earlier life, is now well and truly frozen.

And so I decided to blog. It is still very much in its infancy and I am making very tentative progress. I have kept its existence a secret, telling only a handful of close friends carefully selected because I believe that they will be honest with me about its contents. Obviously, its not that big a secret. It's on the world wide web for a start but it is quite a personal process and so I am guarding it and consequently myself closely. So far I have used it to write about thoughts or experiences that I have had, allowing me to practise putting words together but obviously requiring no imagination at all.

And this is where Mr Dickens comes in. I was thinking about my blog's long term future. I can't expect anyone to be interested in anecdotes and musings of my own making indefinitely, highly diverting though they may be for me. What if it became a vehicle for something more imaginative, something entirely fictional? As I understand it, Mr Dickens and other great writers of his ilk wrote some of their major works as a serial, publishing on a weekly basis in newspapers. The bloggers of their day perhaps and how scary to make it up as you go along. If your audience already know that your character likes pheasant and has a limp you cannot suddenly make him a pole vaulting vegetarian for the purpose of your plot and go back to cover your tracks in the edit. I exaggerate for effect but the point is well made I think. How would that test my imaginative skills? Anyway, I shall continue to muse on this and see where it takes me. I wouldn't expect much change to content any time soon however.


Thursday, 18 December 2008


One week to go and counting . You can imagine that in a house with four children the excitement as Christmas approaches is reaching fever pitch. We are a noisy household in any event with everyone, me included, shouting to be heard over the general cacophony. At meal times we try to talk in turns but this rarely works as the younger children need to blurt their thoughts out as soon as they are formed and often have forgotten what it was that they wanted to say by the time their turn comes around. The older two have learned to talk really quickly so that they can tell their tale before they get interrupted but the frustration of never finishing a sentence gets to us all and before we know it the volume has increased again. Our poor neighbours.

Anyway, the general feeling of excitement and anticipation mounts. In contrast to my children, I build up to Christmas in a much quieter way. Obviously there is the masses of stuff that needs doing first but once the presents are bought, cards posted and food planned I can start to feel Christmassy. The catalyst is often the decorating of the house. A couple of weeks before the big day we make for our local farm armed with wellies, a saw and various shot cords to cut down our tree. It takes a while. Usually, I find a tree of the correct dimensions, the children moan that it is too small and start choosing ones that would not look out of place in a shopping centre and then gradually the reality of the situation strikes them and we end up chopping down the one that I picked in the first place. Parenting is all about patience. The tree is strapped to the roof and off we go.

Decorating it falls to the children and they adorn it with a few delicate and carefully chosen baubles which pre-date them and then lots of stuff they have made at school over the years or acquired from school fairs. I used to be a bit precious about having a stylish tree but maturity and experience have taught me that this is a pointless goal and so our tree is an eclectic mix of glitter and tat just like millions of others. I draw the line at tinsel though. A girl must have some standards.

The decorations round the rest of the house are up to me and are predominantly made up of lights. I adore fairy lights and have plenty up all year round but at Christmas the whole house twinkles. Barely a room escapes and it looks beautiful and festive and warm and welcoming and I love it. It takes ages to go to bed though. All those switches.

Monday, 15 December 2008


I have recently been contacted by someone who was a close friend when I was in my teens and early twenties. In the intervening years we drifted apart and now are having fun catching up on all that we have missed in between.

Whilst I have made friends at other stages in my life, some of them extremely good and loyal ones, there is something very special about the friends you make in childhood.
When you are young every day is an adventure and your best friend is the person that goes through that step by step with you. Because so much is new, you are constantly experiencing things for the first time as is your friend. This brings a bond that is difficult to replicate in later life. In your teens everything is about you and you have a seemingly limitless capacity to analyse and discuss every event without delay or interruption. This sharing of experiences leads to an understanding of a person's inner character which I have never again found other than with my soul mate. Friends made in later life often do not have the depth of knowledge simply because when you are no longer a child there simply isn't the time to be so self indulgent. Friends now understand other parts of me and my life - aspects such as work or the children or hopes and aspirations and often each friend is limited to one piece whilst having very little knowledge about another part of my make up. Perhaps this is a defence mechanism that we develop as we become more adept at managing relationships and seek to protect ourselves from over exposure and possibly danger of rejection. Or perhaps that's just me.

In the meantime I am excited that I am back in touch with someone who used to know me as well as I knew myself. Clearly much has happened in the gap but I am looking forward to rebuilding our friendship on the solid foundations on which it was originally based.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


I went to a party last night. There was food and then dancing. I love to dance especially if there is plenty of room to beetle about the dancefloor. It happens so rarely these days that I really relish the opportunity and if the music is favourable I can keep going all night.

It's also highly distracting to watch other people dance. Most people have one style which they adapt to suit the speed of the music that is playing. It's as if you get to a particular age and are then destined to dance in one style for ever. A few people have different dances for different genres - I think I may fall into this catagory although it does all get a bit repetitive when I get tired. Then there are the people who truely do not care either because they have had enough to drink to remove all inhibitions or they didn't have any inhibitions in the first place. People like that are a joy to watch but really rather rare. There were only a couple there last night but as I danced for most of the night I didn't really get chance to watch them.

I sing too. I really can't help it. Dancing makes me happy and so does singing. In light of this I wonder why it's something that I do so rarely. Note to self. Dance more.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


My husband is out on his Christmas Do this evening. Drinking early, some overpriced and badly cooked food and then embarrassing dancing. Sounds like the ingredients for a dreadful evening but in fact I really miss the office Christmas do.

When I was working each department had its own do and it depended on your own area of expertise as to which one or ones you were invited to. Some were a real no no. The Commercial Property do was one to be avoided. Too many middle aged partners in charge. As employment lawyers we had feet in a number of camps. Technically as litigators we would have to go to that one. Not too bad. Usually quite entertaining and generous partners so plenty of booze.

However, without a shadow of a doubt the Do to be at was the Corporate department. All that testosterone meant that there were always plenty of stags with their antlers clashing. Also, the secretaries knew how to party and because they were always being asked to stay ridiculously late to close deals they expected to be pampered with edible food and plenty of booze. In return they got dressed up to the nines and painted the town the brightest shade of red that the paintbox can offer. Fortunately, because my role mainly encompassed corporate employment stuff, I always managed to get myself a legitimate invitation . So for weeks beforehand outfits were discussed, bought, returned and rebought to ensure that the balance between the demure and yet sexy was absolutely perfect. At this point I should point out that I was very junior and unmarried and so trying to look demure and yet sexy was perfectly acceptable and very much expected.
Anyway, it was always a really good night. The partners all tried to outdo each other by how much champagne they could buy. The secretaries all drank far more of it than was good for them and a fair amount of inappropriate snogging went on in dark corners. As I said, a good night out and one which kept us going with gossip well into the new year.

The ubiquitous Christmas Do also had another, less obvious bonus for us employment lawyers. They always led to lots more work for us in January. Whether it was the junior employee acting in an insubordinate manner after one pint too many or the boss trying it on in an unwelcome fashion it often resulted in some disciplinary tangle or other. Many a job was forfeited by ill advised actions at the Christmas do and we were always there to pick up the pieces.

Which brings me nicely back to my thought for this evening. I wish I had a Christmas do to go to - not like the ones of my youth which sadly I have grown out of and can never be repeated now that I am in my forties. No, any sort of Christmas do would be nice. The shops are full of beautiful party dresses. Daytime tv is awash with articles on how to put your hair up or apply false eyelashes ( although I am not sure why as, if you watch day time tv you surely have no do to go to like me) and here I am . At home. Imogen Clark At Home. I shall organise a Christmas do for all those people who don't have an office do to go to. Still, it's not the same if you don't see your boss try to dance with his assistant and trip over a paper hat on his way to the loo. Oh well. Maybe next year....

Thursday, 4 December 2008


I really don't like people who use their creative output vehicles to moan. It's such an easy way to pen a few witty words by making observations on the world around you and then moaning about it. The BBC seems to use half its licence fee indulging old actors and journalists to do exactly that. It doesn't require much thought or reasoned argument and most people of a certain age can relate to it but it's a lazy way to write.

That said, this morning I can't help myself. SNOW. Snow is only any fun if you are skiing and the snow is deep and crisp and the sky is the purest blue and you are surrounded by a breathtakingly beautiful Alpine scene. The rest of the time it's a right royal pain.
All week the Met office have been predicting snow of gargantuan proportions. Ever since that hurricane that wasn't they have covered themselves by predicting the most extreme weather conditions. Occasionally they are right but the accurate prediction of snow seems to defeat them.
Of course, in the light of such voices of doom, the media ( which has nothing better to do since the invention of 24 hour news) goes in to overdrive and winds the whole country in to a frenzy of anticipation. It as at this point that I start to lose my rag. Notwithstanding the fact that the snow predictions for my part of the world are rarely correct, people in positions of power ( and my particular bug bear today is head teachers) start cancelling things. This all occurs despite the fact that they do not know how much snow there will be. They just listen to the media hype and over react. Yesterday the senior school decided to close before a flake had even tumbled gently from the sky.

And so, we wake this morning and open our curtains to see a thin covering. Even at 6.30 our suburban road was easily passable, clear tracks being visible in the slush. It's not even cold so there is no ice to speak of. Shame we haven't got the 8 inches that they predicted but, hey, we didn't really expect it.

Then the phone starts to ring. Lots of mothers twittering about what to do. Ilkley is a very small town. Barely any pupils live more that a 15 minute walk from school. There is hardly any snow and what there is is melting fast. But, as the Head is concerned for the welfare of his staff he will only have the school open for children of parents who work. Is this because teachers cannot drive through slush? When I had a proper job if you failed to turn up on a snowy day and personnel, on checking with British Rail, discovered that the trains were getting through then you were docked a day's holiday if you failed to make it. But that is the real world rather than the one populated by academics.

But, and I do apologise for going on but I am on a roll now, half the teaching staff and almost all the classroom assistants live in Ilkley. I am dismayed.

I know I should be pleased to have my children marauding through the house with hundreds of soggy and over excited friends leaving boots, wet gloves and chunks of ice in their wake but clearly I am not a good enough mother and I would rather they were all at school doing what they are supposed to do, learning that life goes on no matter what the weather and that snow can provide a bit of a distraction at playtime. Hear endeth the lesson. Sorry.

Monday, 1 December 2008


Today I became festive. Up until now it has all seemed a long way off. I have been full of anticipation for Christmas this year because I thought that for once I would have plenty of time to immerse myself in the preparations instead of having to do everything at breakneck speed between play group sessions. However, somehow I didn't seem to have the level of excitment that I usually have. I have been going through the motions. Of course I am very well organised and have almost bought everything we need but I wasn't a bit Christmassy.

That all changed this morning. After we had all rushed round saying "White Rabbits" and punching each other for the first of the month, the children realised that the advent calendars were out. I say calendars because over the years the Clark family tradition has built it up to four calendars - one for each child. First we had a lovely refillable Christmas tree into which I put chocolate treats ( very small ones these days as each little pocket has to have four chocolates and room for a little finger to get them out.) Then we have a candle which is my favorite but which invariably burns down passed its alloted mark because I forget to blow it out. Next a traditional card one ( this year it's a nativity scene ) with pictures behind the doors. Finally, there is a Playmobil one. Each day the children take it in turns to open a little box and put its contents on the snowy scene provided building up to a festive street scene by the 24th. Sadly, it is not really designed for four because whoever does the first day gets birds and bits of snow on subsequent days and the child who opens the fourth box gets people and Father Christmas.

The older ones now draw up a strict rota as to who does what on each day. It's really complicated but I keep out of it and they sort it out between themselves. However, I noticed that the big ones didn't rota themselves in for the birds and bits of snow.

Anyway, we did all that and everyone got horribly overexcited and then it began to snow so how festive was that? So, spurred on by that I painted the sugar paste fruits for the top of my cake gold, wrapped lots of presents, ordered the turkey and made some mince pies. Roll on Christmas.

Sunday, 23 November 2008


This is harder that I thought. You spend years planning what you will do when your youngest goes to school. You build it up to this to some kind of promised land and dream about all the self indulgent ways that you can spend your newly aquired time. My youngest has been in full time education for two months and already things seem to be going off in an unpredicted direction. As I thought might happen I seem to be moving more slowly. When I had very little time to do my housework I did everything at breakneck speed. Now I seem to be spending almost all my time doing what I fitted into 6 hours previously.That's not good.

The second problem that I am encountering is a distinct lack of enthusiam for any of the projects that seemed so enticing when I didn't have time. I suspect that part of the reason is the change of the clocks. I always find the changing of the season down into winter very draining. I am a summer girl and get a bit low as the nights draw in and the weather deteriorates to an overcast chill.

However, I think I am just having more difficulty slotting into my new life style than I could ever have predicted. I need to come up with some new tactics.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Well, that's a strange thing. I have been ill. I am never ill. I have taken to my bed once in the last 8 1/2 years. Well, that's twice now. And when you are ill and can't really function, it doesn't half make you count your blessings.

I was unwell for five days. For two of those I was fit for nothing and in bed or equivalent. For the other three I kept the bare essentials going but did nothing else. Now I am hugely behind in almost all the things that I hoped to achieve and will have to try to catch up next week. Five days.

I have friends with real illness, life threatening things who have been totally debilitated for months on end relying on friends and relations for all their needs. They have to deal with their own fears and the fears of those close to them whilst protecting the children. They can't remember what it feels like to feel well because it has been so long since they took something as fundemental as well being for granted. Being ill is a full time occupation. Five days.

I am well again. A bit thin and low on power but better. If I believed in God I would thank Him for my health. As it is I shall just have to continue to count my lucky stars.

Sunday, 5 October 2008


When I was fourteen, I decided that I wanted to be a solicitor when I grew up. I remember the moment quite clearly. I was in music lesson with Mr Storey ( who turned out to be the teacher who had the most influence on my life in many other ways too). The thought just came to me. I wasn't even sure what being a solicitor involved but it was exciting and I have always loved to have a goal so that was that. I went home and told my parents and everyone seemed to approve. The die was cast.

Now that I had my goal it gave things a greater structure. I did arts and languages for my "O" levels including Latin ( for all those tags). This lead to a similar theme with "A" levels- English for language, History for independent thinking and research, French because I was good at it and I needed high grades!

From school to university where I studied law. This was the least satisfactory part of my grand plan. I didn't enjoy my course as much as I had hoped and found my fellow students to be generally silly and immature.This makes me sound dreadfully boring but actually I had a highly developed sense of responsibility so I never missed a lecture, cleaned the flat when it was my turn and never spent more money than I had. All these things meant that I missed out on what students usually did and I found the whole experience a bit odd.

The "Milk Round" came to town and firms of high profile lawyers all set about interviewing bunches of prospective articled clerks and creaming off the brightest or most interesting candidates. I had decided that the bright lights of London weren't calling to me. I already had a place at Law School there and felt that that was enough to get the measure of the place. At that time the second legal centre in the country was Leeds, sadly a little close to home for my liking but with my sights set high as usual I tried to shine in my interviews and came away with a couple of offers. One was from Booth and Co, a large firm by the standards of the day with rich cream and blue vellum notepaper which felt heavy and important. I accepted the offer and finished my degree.

Law School was much, much better. This was what I had thought it was all about. Finding solutions to problems, thinking round issues, being "commercial ". It was by far and away the most challenging of my academic achievements to date, not least because of the incredible volume of work that we had to get through but I knew that I was nearly there. Only two more years as an articled clerk to go.

It was 1989 when I rode in the lift up to the second floor of Sovereign House in my new electric blue suit with a fellow clerk callled Adrian who remains to this day a true and valued friend. It was the start of my career in the legal world.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008


I have a job.

That wasn't part of the plan. I abandoned the old one in May 2000. A new broom for the new Millennium. The eldest child ( there were only two to go at in those days) was three and we were starting to address the thought that before long nursery would no longer be an option and we would have to come up with an alternative for when she started school. I have no idea why people say that it is easier to work as your children get older. What could be easier than taking them to nursery which covers the bulk of the working day, feeds them three meals and only requires you to go in during working hours at Christmas? Suddenly were going to have to deal with ludicrously short days, more holidays than I could ever imagine and lots of parent participation.

What to do? We thought about nanny shares and child minders. After school clubs were in their infancy in those days and so not really an option. We gradually came round to the idea of me giving up work and the idea hung there between us for some time. It was well over a year until a decision had to be made.

And then, one fateful day in February my husband was out and I had two of my closest friends round for supper. I told them of my embryonic plan to perhaps resign the following May. " Why wait?" they asked. "Why not go now?" Why not indeed? Scary but having started to think about leaving I knew that I would be treading water until then and might even start to resent having to go. And so, after a quick session with a calculator my resignation was duly offered and on May 4th 2000 I left and began a new phase of my life.

That phase continued until last week when the youngest finally started his full time education and a new one began. The aforementioned and long dreamed about phase that involves time to myself when I can start and finish projects, have lunch with friends and be able to wear my ipod while I clean as no one will be shouting for me elsewhere in the house. And I have a job....?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


And they're off! Day two of the rest of my life. So far so good. Autumn-time and the living is easy. Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high. Well, not literally but I am enjoying myself so far. What is the most surprising is how relaxed I am. I have carried out my usual household chores with a spring in my step. I can't believe how much I can get done when there is only me in the equation. It's as if someone has taken my day and stretched it. Does this mean I am achieving more or less? Perhaps I am in danger of over analyzing? Goodness me. Surely not!

All seems to be well with Littlest's school career. Came home yesterday ( first full day ) with reading book and school pants. Hmmm thought I. Not an accident at school on first day. I asked him casually. His face beamed back at me. Turns out he had gone commando on a PE day. Bet that gave his teacher a laugh. Pants were order of the day this morning. A little bit of independence and it all goes awry.

Eldest found some white netball socks but then got another written comment for walking to her locker in a scarf. In my day there were cloakrooms for coats and such like but no longer it seems. There is nowhere to keep any form of outer garment other than an inconveniently situated and smallish locker. It's autumn. It's chilly in the morning. She wore a scarf and got done! When questioned why she had not told the teacher that she was just at her locker and taking it off she said that she had not wanted to appear rude. Another parental dilemma. Show respect to your elders. Defend yourself in moments of conflict. Which prevails? One more written comment and she gets a detention and neither offence so far,in my view as a biased and ill informed parent, justified the punishment. So what should she do? Inform the teacher politely that she was just putting the scarf away - in effect answering back or take the punishment and hope that nothing else goes wrong. When I first received the text confessing to the written comment I was furious with the school, the system, the injustice of it. I rang husband and ranted at him. And yet she had done exactly what I would hope of her. I complain to my friends about how little respect children seem to pay to adults and then feel outraged when someone sees fit to criticize my child. This is going to be a steep learning curve for both of us.

Monday, 8 September 2008


So I am a week in and things don't seem very different so far. We are still on mornings only so it's just like playgroup but with a uniform and a greater feeling of significance.
So whilst that ticks on I am yet again guilt riden. Guilt is the default setting of the modern woman. I don't know anyone who isn't feeling guilt about something most days. Did my grandmother's generation, who were brought up to give up their careers on marriage and then spent their lives making a home for their family, feel guilt like we do. I don't feel guilty about not working. I work hard enough making everything run smoothly. However,what they have eaten, whether they watched too much television today, whether I have done enough to encourage their friendships and other nightmares trouble me regularly. Perhaps I have too much time to think.

Anyway, todays' guilt was focused on my eldest who started at high school last week. She came home with a written comment in her planner. Two more and she gets a detention. And her offence? Not having white socks for netball. She didn't have white socks because I misread the uniform list. It was all my fault. Mea culpa and yet it was her planner that was blotted. I am not so naive to think that there won't be others and we may well end up with a detention before the end of term for a whole variety of misdeameanors. But this was not her fault.
Husband was outraged. How dare they punish her on the very first netball lesson? I understand the need to come down hard on failings . We all know about starting as we mean to go on. But this was all down to me.

But what to do? Do we ignore it and chalk it up to experience? Resign ourselves to the thought that our eldest is not perfect and is bound to get some written comments. No. My sense of justice was challenged. At the risk of looking like a pushy parent, a role I have not stepped in to before, I wrote a message in the parents' comment section taking the blame and asking for forgiveness. We shall have to see what happens next..

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


Off he went in his new shoes and his red sweatshirt. Suddenly he looked so small. Well he is small but he looked all clean and tidy and small. But what he lacked in stature he made up for in enthusiasm. School has been a long time coming. He has waited in the playground all his life. Most of the teachers and a wide selection of pupils know him by name as the fourth in the Clark dynasty. He knows the routines, can name a few dinner ladies and is on chatting terms with the Headmaster. It really was time that he actually had a place in his own right.
We took photos and skipped off down the hill to school with Daddy in tow because of the momentousness of the occasion. In he went, finding his peg adorned with a picture of a bat on the way. Just time to give mum a big hug and a huge smile and he was gone. And that was it. Almost an anticlimax. No tears from either of us - not that I expected any. I have spent so long thinking about this day that I knew pretty accurately how I would react.
So I went home. On my own. I hadn't made a plan. It was very quiet.I am used to him not being there but this was different - more significant somehow. And so I sat at the table and tried to plan. Planning is what I do but not today.A quick clear up after breakfast and then in sat in the last few sun rays of the summer and read my book.


Only four days to go. I can hardly believe it. After eight years and 4 months of life at home with pre schoolers I am about to be on my own. How does it feel? Odd certainly. I can’t really let myself get excited just yet. We have three weeks of half days to get through so that’s just like play group really except that I don’t have to go and help.

I remember this time last year. The youngest, the last at home, started nursery for one day a week. A whole day every week. When I say whole it was only a school day so not much more than six hours but nevertheless it was all mine. I stood in town on that first Tuesday and felt completely overwhelmed by the feeling of redundancy. No one there needed me at all. Still, I shook myself out of it and determined to make the most of my new found freedom. The first Tuesday was great. I went shopping on the train. The second one I met a friend for lunch. By the third one I had no particular plan and so came home. What to do? What to do? I had made it a rule that I would not do house work on my day off except in dire emergency but faced with a whole day to myself, I couldn’t think of a single thing to fill the time. Up until this point I had passed hours whilst appearing to be concentrating on a jigsaw or making buns out of play doh dreaming about what I would do when I had time. Play my clarinet, knit, reread my dusty cook books, go for bike rides, take up Italian, But as I stood there in my kitchen with no sound and no prospect of any, my mind went blank and I couldn’t think of a single thing to do. In a blind panic I mopped the kitchen floor.

This was a revelation to me. It frightened me. Had a really lost my capacity to entertain myself? Planning an activity for every Tuesday until Christmas was one thing but what about this time next year when school began. How would I fill five days a week?

This worried me for quite some time and I would get nervous about finding myself some kind of identity. In my head I drew up timetables of activities making sure that I would have plenty to occupy me. Now that the day approaches this all seems unnecessarily controlling. I clearly don’t have enough to occupy my mind but then will that change?

Monday, 1 September 2008


Ask almost any mother what she misses most from her life before children and she is likely to say time to herself – “me time “ as it has been rather unimaginatively dubbed. What did we do with all that time before we realised how precious it was. Saturday afternoons spent watching “Brookside” omnibus and “Blind Date” because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Whole afternoons pottering around markets. Hours spent on the phone, after 6 of course, to friends that I had only just seen.

However ,when it was just me and then just us I still thought I had no time to do anything and was always chasing my tail. Busyness is all relative to how much time you have.

Whilst the amount of time my children allow me to pursue my own thoughts grows with each passing year, the start of school for my youngest will be a turning point. I will have daily time to myself indefinitely.

“What will you do with yourself?” If I had a pound…”Will you go back to work?” How does anyone achieve that? Unless you are a GP or work for a local authority it is nigh on impossible. The school day itself is deceptively short – just half a day in working terms. Then there are the holidays – 13 weeks or so. Finally the endless time off for chicken pox, sickness bugs, Nativity plays etc. Multiply that by four and you start to see how incredibly difficult it would be. I am in the hugely fortunate position to have a choice and so for the time being I choose not to.

That leads me back to the first question. What will I do?

Friday, 15 August 2008


I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I am a technophobe. It’s not that I am scared of electronic gismos and gadgets. It’s just that I really don’t understand. It’s like trying to do ‘O’ level chemistry when you can’t light your Bunsen burner. There are so many gaps in my basic knowledge that whenever someone tries to explain I sort of glaze over and then do that thing when you pretend you get it but just get further and futher lost.

I do want to learn. I really do so I have been trying to introduce things to my life gradually. Of course I can internet shop and send emails. I’m not a complete write-off but after that I wasn’t sure. I decided to start with a personal organiser.

After dropping a few hints, my husband who was clearly delighted that his wife was emerging from her post-birth fog, bought me a very basic Palm for Christmas. I spent most of Boxing Day inputting addresses and birthdays. It was all very encouraging and even the children were interested in it. It promised to make writing next year’s cards much less stressful and it even gives me a week’s notice of impending birthdays by beeping at me at regular intervals. I still get a little embarrassed when I have to make notes of dental appointments and the like whilst the receptionist hovers with a little card and it annoys me that I can’t really see a week’s worth of events all in one go but I have stuck with it. I’m in to my third year of a paperless diary. Perhaps there is hope for me after all.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008


Tuesday 2nd September is a Red Letter Day in the life of Imogen Clark. My youngest child will start school. This should give me the opportunity to take my life to some new and exciting places that are difficult to explore within the confines of the needs of preschool children.

I thought I might start by trying to embrace the ever moving world of technology. When I left work to bring up my children in May 2000, I had a PC on my desk but it was a new fangled thing that was more for show than any practical use. My secretary did all my typing and amended all my documents. Occasionally, an email, that wasn’t an office circular sent by someone fresh up North from London, would disturb my train of thought by popping up unannounced. For a client to have access to my personal space in this way was unheard of. My mobile was my own and I guarded the number preciously. I didn’t want any old person bothering me. It was strictly for my nearest and dearest and,in dire emergency,nursery to contact me. If clients wanted me then wasn’t that what the switchboard was for?

It all sounds rather quaint now but that really was how it was and I liked it. However, I left and spent the next 8 ½ years in a turmoil of tots and their needs. I had two girls when I left work and I now have another daughter and a son so there hasn’t been much time for technology. I was mildly interested in nursery cameras that popped up a picture of your sleeping bairn whilst you watched Coronation Street but really I was so bogged down in the minutia of the stay at home mum that I had neither the energy nor the inclination to open my eyes to the world outside my front door.

I don’t want to give the impression that no technology has impinged on my world at home. I like to take advantage of the mobile upgrade offers that are thrust at me so that I can change the colour of my phone from time to time and Sky + has revolutionised my TV viewing ( of which there is plenty.) However I think it would be fair to say that the world of technological advances saw me absorbed in babydom and sneaked by when I wasn’t looking. So what to do?