Monday, 28 December 2009


Nearly the end of the year. And the decade. That sneaked up on me. I have never really got the hang of the 21st century. I never know what to call the year. I think 2010 (twenty ten) will be easier to say than 2005 ( two thousand and five or twenty five or oh five or whatever, which always sounds like a phone number to me).

So the time comes to reflect before moving on to plan for the next year. When the last decade rolled in I was still working more or less full time and had half as many children and far fewer wrinkles. Reflecting on the whole decade seems excessive. The last twelve months though I can just about manage. And I like what I see. People say that time is flying by as if it is a bad thing. My view is that if I am achieving things then the passage of time is an acceptable consequence. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was anything else that was worth having.

This year, I have watched my children continue to blossom and my husband keep afloat whilst all around him sink. I have followed a number of my own dreams too. There have been disappointments along the way and low patches too but if I were to categorise 2009 it would fall into the pretty good section.

And next year? Well, I will continue to strive for the things that I want and grasp the opportunities as they float passed. And I will nurture mine and care for those that care for me. And it doesn't get much better than that does it?

Saturday, 26 December 2009


Well that's it! Christmas is over for another year. It was a pleasant enough day. The children woke early and I found all four of them under the eldest's duvet eating chocolate coins and giggling. Presents carefully chosen were, in the main, well received. The was slight disappointment from the younger two that gifts mentioned in a letter sent to Santa just before bedtime on Christmas Eve had not materialised but they were pretty stoical about it. For the first time, there was an open acknowledgement by the elder two that it was all a huge conspiracy by the adults. There was a fair bit of nodding and winking and bigging up of Santa's role. Daughter number two asked whether I still had the carrier that her Jack Wills top came in and I got heartfelt thanks from them for all the carefully chosen gifts, which was a first.

Then there was a fair bit of hanging about until the main event. A bit of St Trinian's and Bing Crosby as I pottered about the kitchen. We were 11 for dinner which is just about the capacity of our table. We lost our dining room a few years ago in favour of a much more practical, larger kitchen but this means that I have to be careful to ensure mess is kept to a minimum. Who wants to eat their dinner amongst a tower of dirty pans? Despite this, we seem to have lost two of the silver plated knives. They'll turn up eventually somewhere out of the ordinary.

After dinner there was some playing with new gifts before tiredness engulfed the little ones and all guests took that as their queue to leave. There was the clearing up, ably and willingly done by my husband. And finally Coronation Street on Sky+ and that was Christmas Day.

I often wonder how it compares to other people's. We eat late in the day so there seems to be no need for turkey sandwiches and Christmas cake although both were available. There is no gluttony (if you exclude chocolate coin consumption). Everyone saves themselves for dinner and then has plenty of time for digestion. And we don't drink much either. I'm not a big drinker, neither are my relations and my in laws are Methodists. Eldest daughter had a few experimental sips of her uncle's wine, a taste of things to come no doubt, but I don't think anyone qualified as tipsy let alone drunk.

Christmas Day in other houses always sounds much more raucous or is that just soap operas inaccurately reflecting life? Who knows? My Christmas Day reflects my life. Ordered, in control, well delivered and with the children firmly at its centre. Just the way I like it.

It takes at least four days for the house to get back to some kind of normality but that's Ok. The run up takes far longer. I only got one book this year (which was unusual) and so I shall take myself off to as quiet a corner as I can find, treat myself with a Bailey's coffee and, wearing my new lounging pyjamas, will enjoy an hour or two of self indulgence before life takes over again. Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, 19 December 2009


It's going to snow. You can see it in the heavy white clouds. You can feel it in the biting air. And the weatherman said so.

Actually, there is already snow on the ground. It fell silently in the dark of the early evening until not a patch of ground was visible beneath the white. The children woke and got on with their morning activities, unaware of the changed world outside. I knew of course but for a while I kept the secret, carefully judging my moment to tell them. And then out they ran in gloves and scarves and mismatched wellington boots to gallop around the garden in the dark and make footprints in every patch of fresh, powdery snow until no flat surface remained. And they make snow balls and snow angels and small snowy animals and they shriek and call to each other, oblivious of the still sleeping neighbours. And then cold and wet but with rosy cheeks and shining eyes they bound back into the kitchen and drip all over the floor whilst I strip them and put their gloves, crisp with compacted snow, on the aga to dry out before school.

This evening it will fall again. Inches are due to fall on the hard and now icy remains of Thursday's offering. We are going to a party tonight, not far away. No need for the car. The invitation boldly states "party frocks and dancing shoes". And so, bravely, killer heels in one hand and a bottle in the other, I shall set out with my husband across the valley hoping that my hair will survive the wind and my mascara won't run. And we will laugh and talk and maybe dance as the snow falls again. And when it is time to leave, the world will be bright with the moon reflecting off the freshly fallen snow and we will crunch our way home, walking down the middle of deserted streets with killer heels in my hand.

Next week, with Christmas food to buy and turkey to collect the snow will be an inconvenience to be conquered. But today, safe in my warm house with the fairy lights twinkling and carols playing in the background, the anticipated snowfall is magical and exciting and makes me feel like a child again.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


I have been pondering the role of the stay at home mum recently. It is a job that I have worked hard at for almost 10 years and one that it is very difficult for anyone who hasn't tried it to understand.

It's a very solitary life in my experience. Whilst I have plenty of friends who do not work or who, like me do a little from home to fit around the kids, trying to catch up with them can be tricky. They, like me, are all chasing around to try and fit their domestic duties and time for their own activities in the six hours of the school day. So generally, it's just me and my kitchen.

The day starts in a very hectic and regimented fashion. Trying to get four children up, dressed, breakfasted and clean requires a degree of structure to my mornings. It is my job to ensure that they all have what they need for the day - lunch money, homework, spelling book, today's can't live without toy, musical instrument, phone. The mental checklist is taxing. Generally the world does not end if they go without something but it is less stressful for all concerned if we take the time to check.

And then they are gone and the house is quiet. Most days I have some sort of plan, usually dictated by the size of the ironing pile or the state of the kitchen floor. I have my job which calls on my time for some small part of two or three days, I go to the gym as and when and at the moment I have my course work to think about. Once a week or so I meet up with friends and the rest of the time is taken by the needs of my family and the house.

Don't misunderstand me. I am absolutely not complaining. I am in the incredibly fortunate position of being able to choose to stay at home and it was a free choice that I made myself. But it is a strange way to live, in this isolation and with your own needs almost totally subsumed by the needs of others.

I heard a piece on the radio about the life of a fifties housewife and to be honest, apart from a plethora of time saving devices and the need to apply a little lippy before my husband gets home, it could have been my life that they were describing. I have been a working mother. It is incredibly difficult to maintain any kind of work home balance but it can be done. And yet I have chosen the path that my mother and countless generations of women before her chose. Is that because that is the way that I have been conditioned to think I wonder? Or is it rather that for those who have the luxury to chose, it is the solution that works best? And now that I have three girls of my own, how will my decisions influence what they choose to do?

I like the way I live. I am good at it. It plays to my strengths and most of the time I am happy with the sacrifices that it requires me to make. I do wonder what will become of me when my children are gone but that is not something to worry about just yet. And so, a week before Christmas and in the calm before the storm, I shall spend my afternoon baking for the freezer and savouring the peace and quiet.

Monday, 14 December 2009


It's official. My life is dull. Interesting things rarely happen to me - not things worthy of mention here anyway. And what has drawn me to this inevitable and slightly depressing conclusion? I am in danger of repeating myself. Not in day to day conversation (although I am sure that happens often enough) but here on my blog. Conscious that I hadn't had much to say for a few days, I started to give thought to what I might like to wax lyrical about. "What exciting, thought provoking or just mildly humorous events can I comment upon?" I wondered.

And here is the problem. It's the build up to Christmas so there should be lots to say. But all the subjects that I thought might make jolly little postings were already covered last Christmas. I have stolen all my best material. What if I started to repeat myself? Would anyone notice? Who knows? Who knows who is reading or whether they have read all 117 postings? And more importantly whether they would realise if I started recovering old ground? Perhaps I should conduct an experiment and see if I get any comments? Actually, if I post this then I have rather shot that plan in the foot.

So I hope you, my reading public whoever you are, will bear with me in this fallow little period whilst I think of new ways of covering well trodden paths or perhaps even come up with something entirely new. I better had or I will be totally stuffed by the time next Christmas comes around. And even as I type some new ideas occur to me that might be worthy of consideration. I will go and reread last year's Christmas musings and see where I should go next. A bientot.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs Clark! Too late. My eldest is in a show as I type. Again. So far this year she has been a dancer in Mother Goose, a workhouse child in Oliver, Blousey Brown in Bugsy Malone and now a Perks child in The Railway Children. After Christmas she has auditioned for and got parts in The Chrysalids, Dick Whittington and the school play.

And so, after two months of rehearsals four or five times a week she is now performing every other night for a fortnight. On the nights when she is not on stage she is rehearsing for something else which slots neatly between shows this weekend. On top of this she plays saxophone, does ballet, modern and tap dancing and plays netball and hockey for school. And then she goes to school.

Tonight, whilst she was practising her song for Sunday, the woman at the drama school told me that I really should consider getting singing lessons for her.

I mention all this not because I want to show off about her achievements. I am immensely proud of her but there are plenty of children with similar schedules around here. No, the issue is what, as her mother, is my role here? Where is the line between affording my child all the opportunities that present themselves and making sure that she is not exhausting herself and thus allowing her school work to suffer? I am not really sure. Should I stop her, make her slow down, forbid her from auditioning? I already keep some shows quiet from her to reduce her commitments and I feel bad about that because she would audition for everything that came her way if it were up to her. But school is far more important than her extra curricular stuff. So far she is doing really well there too and her tutor is in the current play with her which means she is completely aware of what she is up to.But how long can she keep going at this pace? And should I really be worried or just go with the flow until something gives?

I also have the other children to consider. Whilst not quite as busy, they too have lots of things that they enjoy doing outside school. But if I am not careful they will never all be at home at the same time and my whole life will be subsumed by ferrying children around Ilkley. And, having afforded the eldest the opportunities, I believe that I owe it to the other three to give them the same chances as and when they arise.

I suspect that the way forward is to let her keep going until she reaches a point where she can't cope and then to take her foot off the pedal for her. At the moment there is no sign of that point even being on the horizon.

So we get three weeks off before the next lot of rehearsals start. I shall relish them, then keep on keeping on and hope that I am doing the right thing.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


Today was the beginning of Christmas at our house. It was the Clark annual outing to our local farm to choose an appropriate tree and bring it home ready to decorate sometime between now and the big day.

Christmas is all about tradition and this particular one started four years ago. Before then we bought our tree from wherever was convenient, with varying degrees of success. After a particular poor year with a specimen that was more twig than tree by Christmas Eve, we decided that a change of tack was required. And so began the new tradition. We had driven passed the farmer’s sign hundreds of times and never stopped. But we decided to drive down the bumpy track and take a look.

And now, armed with wellies, gloves and a trusty saw, we pile out of the car and off up a muddy track to the Christmas tree fields. It is always muddy. Never once has the ground been dry under foot. The mud adds to the excitement as far as the children are concerned. The muddier the better.

Selecting the right tree is always a challenge. No more than 7 feet tall, not too bushy but with evenly spaced branches and a nice straight top for the star. It’s amazing how small seven feet looks when you are in a wood. Every year the children complain that the tress that I am eyeing up are way too small but experience wins over excitement and we have never yet bought a tree that doesn’t fit.

The saw is wielded and the tree is chopped down and carried back to the farmhouse, all the children helping. We then pay the farmer, bagging some eggs as part of the deal. The tree is strapped precariously to the roof of the car and home we head. It would be so much easier to buy the tree at the pop up shop down the road, But where is the fun in that? And where the memories? One year our son, who was two at the time, was mobbed by a flock of geese and had to be rescued by his intrepid sister. We look for the geese every year although they haven’t tried to eat my children again. But the children will remember that for years to come and isn’t that what being a child is all about? Learning through experiences and putting the world into context by what you see around you.

So Christmas begins. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


The time is upon me. The moment is nigh. I have to submit my first assignments for consideration and marking by my tutor by close of play on Friday.

It is terribly odd. The last time I handed in a piece of work to be marked was at Law School in 1989 and I'm not entirely sure we did much of that even then. Obviously, when I was working my boss had to correct my letters but by the time I left I was far too long in the tooth for that kind of caper and was merrily marking up the work of those junior to me.

And this has an added dimension. Handing in an essay or a letter setting out the legal position is one thing. Obviously there are style issues to consider, spellings to correct but fundamentally the points made were either right or wrong. If I got the wrong end of the stick, they would come back covered in red pen for me to do again. A reflection on my intelligence perhaps but not much else.

This is a whole different kettle of fish. By signing myself up to a course in Creative Writing I am saying either that I think I can string a sentence together in a pleasing manner or that I have the potential to do so. There is no law to get muddled, no sticks to get the wrong end of. This is all about whether or not I have any talent whatsoever. And that is really rather scary.

Now obviously I am on the course to learn. If I already thought I was the next Charles Dickens then I wouldn't have bothered. So there will be plenty of mistakes in my work. But there is always the possibility that I get a seriously low mark and that any ambitions that I might harbour of writing that novel one day will be seriously dashed!

I have to submit three pieces on very specific briefs. They are written and in the main I am happy with them. So all I have to do now is press the button. I have done my dummy run to make sure that I have understood the technology so there is no reason why I shouldn't just send them. But something is holding me back. Partly it is the need to work to a deadline. I have the time still to tweak or indeed completely rewrite. But that isn't it. It's more about the fear of it being metaphorically slammed down on my desk in front of me with a huge D- in red on the front.

I will do it. I will do it tomorrow a day ahead of the deadline just in case I have a technological disaster. But I will be a whole load happier when it is out of my control and all I have to do is wait. I shall, of course, let you know how I get on. Unless it's a D- in which case I will never mention it again!