Sunday, 31 January 2010


February tomorrow. Nice short month with two of my family's birthdays contained within. That is, two if you ask the rest of them but just one if you ask me. How can that be? Your birthday is either in February or it isn't. Surely?

Well no. It's not that straight forward because my son has the dubious honour of being a Leapling- a child born on 29th February. And so exactly when his birthday falls is something of a moot point and one about which we all become aerated regularly.

Without disclosing too much information, I knew there was a chance that he could be born on leap day from the very outset. His due date was the 22nd but it wasn't that big a stretch of the imagination that he might be born on the 29th.

And he was. And so now each year we have to decide when to celebrate. So far he has had one real birthday and so if you ask him how old he is he will tell you, appropriately coached by his sisters, that he is 5/1. But when do we do presents and cake on the other years? The first year we went for 28th February on the basis that I needed to write his birthday on the calendar and he was born in February. The next year we went for 1st March because I was still pregnant on 28th February and he was born the following day. Neither of these seemed right. If I had to choose between them I would go for 1st March but I am in a minority of one. I did give him the chance to choose, explaining the options and the reasons for them in careful detail. However, he quickly worked out that if he opted for the February date he would get his presents sooner.

I have toyed with the idea of picking a random date, perhaps in the summer. After all, it wouldn't be his birthday in exactly the same way that 28th February and 1st March aren't. But no one but me seems to like this plan. And his other relations get confused when I keep swapping his birthday around.

So this year it will be 28th February notwithstanding the fact that of all the possible options that one cannot possibly be right.No doubt it will continue to be complicated as he grows, starts high school at 2, university at 4 etc...

Friday, 29 January 2010


"I don't want to play the sax any more."
"Yes you do. Now eat your breakfast and shut up!"

See? What a model parent I am. To be fair it didn't go quite like that but the upshot was that after a fair amount of manoeuvring on my part and some judicial emailing to the sax teacher, child number 1 is happy to continue with her studies without too much rancour.

Where is it written that all middle class children will run themselves ragged with extra curricular activities? Is it something that parents think they should be doing to enrich their life, fill time after school, put on their UCAS form, keep up with the Joneses? It certainly isn't anything new. I remember having a different activity every night back in the 70s. Music was on the list although, because we kept moving house, I had a go at at least three instruments and never reached any level of proficiency in any of them.

The whole issue of after school stuff would be a posting in itself but today I have been musing on whether I am right to encourage my children, sometimes quite forcefully, to continue with activities that they have started. I hope that I am teaching them worthy values like tenacity, that nothing comes without hard work and that being committed to things can pay dividends. I can see, with the great wisdom that I have acquired so far, that the ability to read music and/or play the saxophone is something that may prove useful and give her pleasure in later life. But does the fact that I can bash out a couple of classics on the piano enrich my life any?

Perhaps it's just fear. If she doesn't learn to read music now when her brain is at its most receptive, will she ever make the time again? Unlikely. It would just become one of her regrets. Or at least it would have done for me. So, in the absence of any information as to how she may view the situation in the future, I superimpose my own ideas on to her and manipulate her into reconsidering her decision to quit. Is that my role as a parent? Probably not. But that seems to be how it goes. And she really does want to play - she was just having an off week. But what happens if she ever asks again? Do I make her continue because I perceive myself as having a greater understanding or do I just give up without a fight? The right answer, as ever, is likely to be a compromise between the two.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


The hatch opened with an ominous creak. Cautiously, I pushed my head through and waited whilst my eyes adjusted to the gloom. Generally, I had no reason to go into the attic. I rarely needed or even thought about any of the objects that had accumulated over the years.
“Come on Auntie Jess! Let me up!”
Shaken from my thoughts, I clambered up the rest of the ladder and stepped to one side to allow my nephew free access.
“Now, what is it we are looking for Charlie?” I said, teasing him a little.
“You know!” he responded, indignantly, for our hunt was the only reason we were up there. “Jack’s scalectrix.”
“I’m not really very sure where it might be,” I offered lamely but already Charlie, with a child’s nose for treasure, was sniffing out items long lost to history.
I heard a zip being unfastened and suddenly Charlie had an old, shabby looking guitar in his hand.
“Cool!” he said. “Was this Jack’s?”
“No,” I replied wistfully. “That belonged to someone that I knew a long time ago. He’s dead now.”
Charlie, losing interest in the instrument placed it respectfully back in its case. As he continued to rummage, I settled down on a packing case to watch and gingerly allowed myself to visualise that night, testing my response as I delved deeper into my memories. I hadn’t thought about the guitar for years. Of course, I hadn’t really known its owner. I hadn’t known him at all.


The sun went down many hours ago but the air is still sultry. I feel completely at my ease and my brown, bare shoulders hold no tension. I sip slowly at my wine and watch the people around me over the rim of my glass. The bar is full, mainly locals and, at this late hour mainly men, the womenfolk having been escorted home to bed. Any who remain are either foreigners, quietly soaking up the atmosphere or those who are there as part of what is to come. Either way, they are ignored. The bar is a male domain.
The voices around me are raised but not in anger. My rudimentary Spanish would allow me to follow the conversation but I choose not to focus on translation and instead lose myself in the unfamiliar cadences and tones. The men speak with such passion that they could be discussing a matter of life or death. In fact it is probably football that occupies them.
Time passes and then, as the clock in the square chimes one, a new figure comes in through the open doors. He has the gait of a man who knows no urgency. He is taller than the other Spaniards, his raven hair tousled and falling in front of his eyes. He wears a long black coat though the night is warm and carries a dark case strung casually across his back. As he approaches, someone calls out to him and he lifts his hand in recognition, cigarette dangling between yellowing fingers, but he doesn’t reply.
I am fascinated by him. The others in the bar, though just as animated as before, now hold no interest for me. My eyes are drawn to him and seem quite powerless to look away. He sits at a table near the edge of the room and, unbidden, a young boy brings him a beer. He nods his thanks and takes a long drink before placing the glass back on the table. Then he opens the case and takes out a guitar. The light is too dim to make out much detail but I can see that the instrument is battered, the lacquer on its edges chipped, the red strap frayed. He hugs the guitar to him, resting his foot on a stool and begins to tune it, paying no heed to the cacophony around him.
Another noise forces its way into my consciousness and I look away from him to see tables and chairs being scraped across the tiled floor and stacked in a precarious looking pile to one side. And then suddenly, the room is silent. As I move my head quickly, trying to discern what is behind this sudden change in mood, I hear a crack somewhere distant and then another, louder and louder, until the insistent beat of the castanets cannot be ignored. And then another sound: the clicking of heels on marble. I turn to see where the noise is coming from and there, in the centre of the newly created space, is a woman.
She is magnificent. Her dress, red with white polka dots, is long to the floor and cinched in at the waist by a wide, black belt. Red lace cascades around her long, elegant neck, across her shoulders and down her sinewy arms. Her hair, inky black and shining as if wet, is held back from her face by a red silk rose that quivers as her feet tap. Her eyes, dark and deep set have an intensity about them that I find almost threatening. I want to look away, cast my own eyes down into safety but she draws me in like a sorceress. There is no hint of a smile across her ruby lips. I search her face, trying to identify her expression. Sadness? Indignation? Anger?
And then the guitar is playing, gently, quietly, its soulful notes resonating around the room. The dancer begins to turn on the spot, slowly at first, her arms above her head twisting like snakes, her feet tapping, persistent, unrelenting. Those in the crowd begin to clap, rhythmically but with a pace that is slowly increasing, taking their lead from the guitar.
And now she is dancing, no longer the delicate pirouetting from before but with a passion and excitement that makes it feel almost voyeuristic to watch. But I have to watch, so mesmerized am I by the power of her movement.
The music is devouring everything around me and I feel my heart thumping with the pounding beat. The room is pulsing as the blood races through the veins of those who watch. All hands are clapping. All eyes are on the dancer. But the dancer’s eyes are focussed intently on the guitar player. As she spins, her hips twisting and writhing, her head whips round so that her gaze never leaves his face. I look towards him and see that, whilst his fingers fly across the strings, his dark eyes burn into her and the red of her dress is reflected in them. I feel like I am intruding on some private passion, which, although being played out now in a room full of people, will be revisited on dark satin sheets later.
Suddenly, I am aware of a movement to my left. A man in white is pushing through the crowd and towards the guitar player. I catch sight of the glint of the blade only as it slides effortlessly into his chest. The guitar player looks up at the man and in that look I see astonishment and then understanding and a plea for forgiveness before he slumps, silently over the guitar.
The dancer leaps towards her lover uttering a scream that hardly sounds human. At once my blood turns from fire to ice in my veins. Gradually, the crowd begins to understand what has happened. The clapping stops and is replaced by shouting and the breaking of glass as tables are moved to make space for the body, for he is clearly dead already.
I sit there undisturbed and watching as a makeshift stretcher carries the musician out into the square. The dancer is weeping and trying to wipe the blood from his handsome face with the lace of her beautiful dress. Everyone seems to be outside, shouting and wailing. The man in white is being restrained by two others but shows no inclination to flee. He looks shocked, pale, horrified by what he has done. Inside I am quite alone. I walk to the table where the musician had been sitting and carefully pick up the guitar which has been forgotten in the horror of the murder. His blood is on it, cold now and congealed like day-old gravy. I wipe it away with a white napkin and see that it is still rosebud red. I place the guitar tenderly back in its case and close the zip. I am sure the rasping noise will alert someone to my presence but no one comes. Who wants to be bothered with an English woman when one of life’s great dramas is unfolding in the street? Who will nurture and love the guitar now? It mustn’t lie here forgotten. I pick the case up, place it carefully over my shoulder and leave.


My recollection of that night is still vivid, as bright in my mind’s eye as the blood that was shed. I returned home with the guitar fully intending to take lessons, to try to do justice to its provenance. But life got in the way and the guitar remained locked away in its case. Over time it became buried deeper in the mountain of memories that I subsequently built around it.
Charlie spoke and spell was broken. He had uncovered the sought after toy and was ready to leave. I closed the hatch and left my memories zipped up with the once treasured guitar where I felt they were safest.

Sunday, 24 January 2010


I have to admit defeat. That's not something I say often but I am realistic enough to know when I am beaten. And I am. I have to accept that I am not and never will be a gardener. Those delightful images that I have of me in a floral dress with a wooden trug floating round my estate selecting beautiful blooms for my drawing room will for ever remain just a dream. Well, unless I get some serious help.

When we moved into our house 14 years ago the garden was mature and well maintained. Dull, I'll grant you but cared for. Four children, some hens and several troops of builders later and there wasn't much left of it. It was time for action and those who have been following my life for a while will recall I decided that I was going to have a go at creating my own little idyll. How hard could it be?

I bought books, I read magazines and watched countless episodes of that programme about the National Garden Scheme. I even went to Chelsea in the vain hope that rubbing shoulders with Alan and the like might cause some of their magic to settle on me. If I am absolutely honest I would admit that even in the early days of my romance with horticulture I suspected that we were not going to be the soul mates that I had hoped for. I liked reading about it, enjoyed choosing what to buy and even found the weeding therapeutic. But the bits that actually mean that you have knowledge and passion for gardening passed me by.

But, despite the niggling doubts, I continued with unreserved enthusiasm. I bought and planted and watered and weeded and that first summer everything was going like a dream. My garden was beautiful - immature and new but oh so pretty. Then came the next year. Things came up, bigger and more unwieldy than before. Other things didn't made it through the winter or resurfaced a shadow of their former selves. The garden still looked pretty and neatly presented but it wasn't really going like I'd hoped.

This morning I stared out at it across my coffee cup and felt the cold hand of resignation on my shoulder. I know it's January and the tail end of the coldest spell that there's been for decades but even I can see that I can't take this garden where I want it to go. I need help.

In order to achieve a planting scheme that complies with my manifold requirements I am going to have to consult someone who knows what they are doing. I have to accept that I have neither the interest nor the motivation to learn that stuff for myself. And when I have paid for someone else's hard earned knowledge and it's all there I can continue with the bit I can do - weeding. So that's what I shall do. If anyone knows a good garden designer who has realistic ideas and will avoid anything yellow then get in touch.

PS. In case you all think I am a complete failure in the garden, I feel obliged to report that my veg bed is still going well and it's home grown sprouts again for Sunday lunch!

Thursday, 21 January 2010


One week to go until I have hand in the final assignment on my course and then that's it. All done. I say "hand in". Actually I need to press a button so that it flies off into cyber space and then hope that it gets there. A virtual pigeonhole, I suppose, is just as effective as the wooden variety. Either way it must be in by 12.00 next Friday.

So this gives me a problem. I have two pieces. I had three ideas and wrote two of them into short stories. I would have written the third but I could already see my dilemma rearing its little head so I held off with number three. The piece is worth 70% of the final mark - a not inconsiderable proportion. So obviously I want to do my best and give it my all. I thought carefully about all the things that I had learned over the last four months and did my best to incorporate them to illustrate that I had been concentrating. I have read them over and over and each time I alter something, change an image, tweak an adjective. There will come a point when I just have to choose and send one in. Some time before next Friday in fact.

But how do I choose? If I knew which was the better piece I would just send it. But how am I supposed to know? Surely that's what I went on the course for! It would be ideal if I could send both and let the tutor pick but clearly that's not really an option! I have shown them to a couple of friends and got different reactions so that didn't really take me much further forward. At the end of the day it's my piece and I will just have to choose the one I think works the best and hope I'm right. And when I do, I may just post it on here and then you can tell me what you think! So wish me luck.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


I need a hair cut. I was due to go last Tuesday and set out womanfully in the snow and ice only to get snarled up in the gridlocked traffic and so was forced to retreat to the Land of Bad Hair Days. But now, one week on, we have reached the stage of desperation . Short hair is all very well and easy to maintain but it reaches crisis point much more quickly than longer, more forgiving styles. And now I also have the tale telling sneaks that are the grey, curly ones to deal with. My hair has become one job that needs to be kept on top of. Like the ironing pile.

The trouble with hair, in my experience, is that it's never quite right and yet we women (and possibly men too but not those of my acquaintance) place such gargantuan importance on it. How it appears first thing in the morning can colour our whole day. If it sits as we'd like and shines on demand, then we step out of our door with a spring in our step and a sparkle in our eyes. Those are the days that you see, or imagine that you see (it matters not which) heads being turned or glances being lingered over. By contrast, on the days that your hair refuses to cooperate and can only be teased into an acceptable shape by the use of an excess of product or a hat, one feels more down at heel, less able to conquer the world.

There is another strange hair phenomenon that I have noticed over the years. You spend weeks looking at your hair with an air of dissatisfaction. You buy magazines and turn over the pages of any styles that catch your eye and could realistically be achieved. You discuss you hair and its failings with your friends. And then finally, you make the decision to go for a change and fix an appointment with that aim in mind. No sooner have you done this but your hair raises its game and starts to behave better than you could wish for in your wildest dreams. It styles itself to order. It looks healthy and in control. People comment on how nice it is looking. Heads are turned. Now what? To cut or not to cut? It seems a shame, especially when you have spent so long growing it. So you change your mind. You cancel the appointment. And immediately the hair, confident in its own power, goes back to its old and evil ways. It becomes unmanageable and won't play. In fact, it behaves more badly than it did before you started thinking about cutting it. But now the appointment is gone and another is not available for weeks. Hair knows this.

But I need have no fear. My appointment is today. By this evening, my life will be back under control and my hair will be my crowning glory, or at least as close to one as I am ever going to get, for another five weeks.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Do you look up into the sky on a clear night and gaze in wonder at the countless constellations that you can see? Do you mutter something unsatisfactory when your child asks, with genuine interest, which is a star and which is a planet? Do you think at that moment that you really ought to know more about the night sky and then forget all about it until the next time you see the stars twinkling? Well so do I.

There really is little more spectacular than the sky at night when all the stars are out and the clouds are at bay. In Ilkley we are relatively lucky that the light pollution is such that you can still see the stars without too much difficulty and if you go a little bit further up the valley in to the Dales then the show can be incredible.

I am not totally without knowledge. I can recognise Orion with his shining belt and the plough and I can usually locate the Pole star fairly reliably. But there my knowledge stops. All that huge expanse of space before me and next to no information.

So, when I saw that my local adult education college was running a course helpfully entitled "Astronomy for Beginners" my interest was piqued. I have to confess that when I initially saw the details, I did a brief calculation in my head of knowledge gained verses pain of leaving house for two hours in the dark and cold of January. But then I discovered that a friend, who shared no such scruples, had already signed up and that was the catalyst that I needed to spur me on and so I put my name down too.

And then the cold, dark January night was upon us. The snow had just started to melt but it was seriously cold. So I wrapped up warm and set out with my pen and pad ready to learn something. The sky was ominously cloudy. No chance of any star gazing that night but plenty you can learn in the warmth of the class room I thought.

My experience of adult education classes is that they tend to fold in the first couple of weeks through lack of numbers. As we walked into the room we quickly calculated that there was not much danger of that. There must have been 20 people of various ages and sexes sitting and looking expectantly at a beach ball with a map of the earth printed on it. We quickly found ourselves a couple of chairs at the front and then chatted in hushed tones, waiting for something to happen.

The lecturer arrived. He looked like someone who might enjoy studying astronomy and after handing out a brief outline of the course he set about to try and infect us with his enthusiasm for his subject. It didn't take long. By the end of the two hours my head was buzzing with celestial spheres and gassy planets.

And so for the next nine weeks my friend and I shall scratch at the surface of the sky at night and hopefully learn enough to pass on to our children so that they can stand with their children and point out Mars, low in the sky on January night.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


I have no faith. I have had no faith since I was 18 when I started to ask questions and could not find satisfactory answers. Even before then, my faith, such as it was, was based on what I was told not what I truly believed. I spent a huge proportion of my youth in cathedrals and other churches singing praises to God. I find sacred music and the ancient language of the Book of Common Prayer both beautiful and mesmerising and even the pomp and ceremony of the act of worship appeals to me. I am a High Church Atheist. But still an Atheist for all that.

My lack of faith gets me into trouble periodically. I upset people relatively regularly. I don't mean to but when you cannot see any evidence of a higher being and no one is able to show you what you seek, it is very difficult to display understanding or compassion towards those that do, without appearing patronising or disrespectful. No one can really explain why they believe to me. It is something that they feel. But as I am not them I cannot feel it and so I can't comprehend.

My position is easier to grasp. I do not believe in God or Heaven or any form of omnipotent being. People can understand that view. They often don't agree with it but generally they accept it for what it is. In the worst cases, they seem to pity me assuming that my life must be so much less rich than theirs without having a spiritual aspect to it. Occasionally they try to change my view, or worse still, tell me that as I age my opinion will alter and that I will slowly begin to welcome God into my life. To hedge my bets as it were. I suppose it must be comforting to think of those who have died before us happily existing elsewhere, looking down on us and blessing our actions until that time that we are able to join them and be reunited in our love. How lovely it would be to think that.

The only faith that has ever aroused a spark of interest in me is Quakerism. Like minded people quietly going about their business, believing that there is something of God in everybody and that each human being is of unique worth. In their faith, they choose to value all people equally and place great reliance on conscience as the basis of morality. A valuable Code for a worthy life. But a lack of belief in a God has to be a stumbling block to any faith or so it seems to me.

I am fully anticipating that as I grow old I will again question my lack of faith and search for something to make sense of my years on this planet. I cannot conceive of a time when I will welcome a god into my heart. Leopards and spots and all that. But perhaps, as countless thousands of others have done before me, I will crave some kind of spirituality. But if that day ever comes, and I find it hard but not impossible to imagine it, will I keep my new quest to myself for fear of the cries of " I told you so" and "We knew you'd come round" from those who have always had or never questioned their faith? Maybe. For do they ever truly accept that my lack of faith is as valid and strong as their beliefs and do I ever truly accept that they can structure their life around something for which they have no proof of existence? We shall have to wait and see. For now I am perfectly content with my view. It is part of who I am.

Monday, 11 January 2010


I have to go back to the gym. This is not one of those New Year Resolution things. I joined this time last year and have gone regularly three times a week since then. I don't mind going. I'm not addicted or consumed with guilt if I don't go. It is just part of what I do. Or did. Because at the tail end of last year the habit got broken.

There were various responsible factors - not excuses I hasten to add - why I haven't managed to get there. The top of the slippery slope was a week when the children were at home four days out of five due to training days at the two schools. Then my husband and I were away for a couple of days so that week was a bit topsy turvey too. Next, I had my assignment to complete and hand in. By this point, I was starting to make excuses for not going. Then it was the build up to Christmas. In my head I was telling myself that there was no point going because pretty soon it would be the holidays and I would go once or twice and then not be able to go again. I fully intended to go once my husband was on his Christmas break, and I did go - once. But there was snow on the ground and that meant that instead of whizzing down on my bike I had to walk. Somehow this was much less appealing.I gave myself still more time off.

Then, the kids went back to school on Monday but it was minus 5 outside and I couldn't bear the thought of getting even colder by having to get showered and changed in the middle of the day. Then, more snow than we have had for thirty years meant that they were home again by Tuesday.

The reason why I have been thinking about this is not so much the actual missing of the gym. My month or so off has made no discernible difference to my body although my energy levels have dropped a bit. It's more the way it has made my brain work. It's functioning in a way that I had thought I had grown out of. "No point starting now. Might as well wait until Monday." You know the kind of thing. I'm sure you've been there. Trouble is I thought I no longer was.

So I have given myself a good talking to. I need to get back in the flow and now the Big Thaw has finally started I will soon be zipping backwards and forwards on my bike again. So, starting tomorrow I will be building in the extra hour that it takes me to go and I won't be taking no for an answer. I may even buy myself some new kit to increase the motivation. Ask me next week and I am sure normal service will be resumed. Excuses are so last decade.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


I have one of those irritating decisions to make. You know the ones. The kind that niggle at the back of your mind. They are not important, not a matter of life or death but they just won't be ignored. I know what I should say but I am not sure that it tallies with what I want to say.

So. Here's the conundrum. As those of you that read my postings regularly will know, I dabble with making cakes. They are the celebration type. White, bit of piping, handcrafted flowers on the top. Generally I just do them for friends either for free or, if they insist, a proportion of the commercial price. At some point between me agreeing to do the cake and its actual completion, I usually fret a bit about it and moan to anyone who wants to listen (and isn't the person for whom I am doing the cake). And then, when it's finished everyone is delighted and that's the end of that for a bit. Keen readers will also remember the nightmare that I had doing a commercial wedding cake in the summer and how I swore I was never going to do a cake that I was being paid for again.

So, now we come to the issue. It was my mum's 70th birthday party so of course I did a cake (and a spare one for cutting and serving.) The party was held at a local, newly refurbished gastro pub and jolly nice it was too. After the guests had gone and we were rounding up children and cakeboxes, the chap in charge complimented me on my cake and offered me a job making them for the events that they hold there, at an attractive rate. I smiled politely, said thank you but that it was just a hobby. He told me his name and asked me to have a think about it.

So I am thinking about it. My gut reaction is to run for the hills. I am busy enough. I get stressed when I have a cake to do. Do I need to put myself through that regularly? But on the other hand, life should be all about challenges. When I actually get started, it doesn't take that long to make them. I could do myself a few commercial little designs which I could rattle off without too much heartache. And I could earn myself a bit of extra spends. But I know that I would dread it and hate having the pressure. But if I do them more regularly the pressure might ease.

And there you have it. Round and round it goes in my head and won't go away. I toss backwards the pros and cons and don't reach any kind of conclusion. I want to say no because I'm not sure I can be bothered but I know that I ought to say yes. What do you think I should do?

Thursday, 7 January 2010


A number of things have happened that have meant that I have really knuckled down and got on with my Open University course. The snow has prevented me from going far and so the list of jobs that I have to complete but which require leaving Ilkley lies untouched. In addition, I have not been sent any work for which I am paid yet this year. That won't last long I'm sure but for the time being gives me a wide window of opportunity through which to throw myself. And finally we had the Christmas holiday which, because my husband was here, allowed me to lock myself away and get on without fear of much interruption from the children.

And so, after a morning of feverish typing, I have finished the last block of the course. I still have a piece to write for the final tutorial and the final assessment to redo but I have read and considered all the pearls of wisdom that the course material contained.

I can't believe how much I have enjoyed it. I have found studying now that I am middle aged so much richer than when I was 18. My life experiences now colour my views and give me countless examples from which to draw inspiration. I have learned to think in a new way which is something that has been sorely lacking in my life for the last twenty years or so. And I have had a modicum of success. My tutor and fellow students have been complimentary about my offerings which has boosted my confidence in my ability to undertake something new.

And so, with the last few pages of course work under my belt, I feel excited. It's like when you are a child. You know that a forthcoming event has got the adults all hot under the collar and, whilst you don't really understand what's coming, you can't help but get caught up in the atmosphere. It's been a long time since I have felt like this but it's a sensation that I welcome in with open arms.

I haven't finished by a long chalk. Some might say that the final assessment is the most important part of the whole thing as it is from that that your success is measured. But I am sorely tempted to pick up my files and go right back to day 1 and do the whole thing all over again to see how I do it differently. In fact I suspect I probably shall. After all, isn't that the sign of something worthwhile?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


It has snowed in my garden. I'm sure it has snowed everywhere else too. The news and my facebook page keep telling me that the inclement weather is not confined to my road. I wouldn't know however, because apart from venturing out with the camera to take a few photos of the children in case their children don't know what snow is, I have not left the warmth of my kitchen.

The schools are closed. Actually not strictly true. The senior school more or less told the kids that there would be no school today yesterday before the big dump. I really believe that the Head must have a crystal ball, so confident is she in her weather predictions. The primary school is " partially closed". I gather that this means if you have to work and have no childcare you can send your children ( but we'd rather you didn't.) Obviously as I don't work and had two at home anyway my little ones are here.

And so when did we get so bad at snow? Some time over the last twenty years we all keeled over and decided that at the first sign of snow we needed to take to our beds and refuse to venture forth. Is it to do with the decline in the use of public transport I wonder. Can't get your own shiny, front wheel drive car out of the drive so throw in the towel and give up. But all the trains and buses have been running and, in the main, on time. Very little reason not to get to your destination, albeit a little late. Sorry, I don't mean to moan but it is so disappointing that our Dunkirk spirit appears to have been forgotten along with so many other post-war values.

Growing up in Lincolnshire I remember a fair bit of snow and I do recall the bus not coming and school being unattainable. But I lived twenty miles away and the snow was piled up to the top of the telephone box in the village. When I worked in Leeds if you didn't get to the office and public transport was running then you were docked a day's holiday. That was quite an incentive to don wellies and have a go.

I know that the snow can be challenging at times, particularly in rural areas but how many of the people, who have used the snow as an excuse not to get where they are supposed to be, can truly say that they couldn't make the journey?

More snow is forecast all week. I can stay holed up here. I am very lucky. But I may run out of patience before I run out of food.

Saturday, 2 January 2010


For the first time in living memory, I have not made any New Year's Resolutions this year. New Year sort of crept up on me. Usually I have given some thought to things that I might like to address in the coming year but somehow this time I didn't get round to it.

I have discovered that resolutions seem to get more realistic as I grow older. In my youth, I made all kind of promises to myself about diet, fitness, commitment to work. You know the kind of thing. Then they changed with my lifestyle. For several years it was all about home/work balance and after that they were focused on trying to reward myself with more "me" time. Last year, the theme was making more of my evenings with promises of cinema and theatre trips which, to be fair to me, did materialise.

So what happened this year? Well, at the risk of sounding smug, there was nothing that I either wanted to or realistically felt that I could change. I have the perfect job for me. I already go to the gym and am happy with my body. I eat healthily. I don't really drink. I have a rock solid relationship and am financially in control. Please don't hate me!

But what about the other stuff that flicks through my head from time to time? I will properly utilise my cookbooks and make a wide variety of meals? I will make more time for my children and be more family centric? I will be fully groomed at all times? Whilst these things all sound appealing, I am now old enough to know that I am setting myself up to fail.I have to work within my capabilities, taking into account my current commitments and, more importantly, my character flaws, which are many and varied. Maturity has taught me that there are always opportunities to make a new start and that I don't have to wait for January to change something. Any old Monday, or even Thursday will do.

I do have lots of plans and dreams for the coming year but I will address them as and when they fit in with everything else that I have to do. Not exactly a New Year's Resolution - more a Year Long Resolution. So bring it on!

Friday, 1 January 2010


My New Year's Eve didn't go quite according to plan! We were all invited to one of those parties where everyone takes their kids and it's a case of last man standing put the children to bed. One of the downsides of having a strong bedtime routine is that my younger two are not good with any change and don't adapt well. This, coupled with over a week of being up at 5.30 and over-giddy during the day, meant that they were begging for their beds at 7.30. Ah well.

And then, by an unhappy mixture of poor communication and alcohol, I was not in the same place as my husband or elder children as the clock chimed twelve and saw in the new decade. So I was on my own.

Anyway, I don't suppose it will make much difference to my decade that it wasn't started, in time honoured fashion, with my nearest and dearest. After all, last year I was asleep at midnight and was woken only by the fireworks that went off as the new year came in.

I am looking forward to the new year. As you will know by now, I love the start of things. We are about to go for our New Year's Day ramble up a nearby hump which Clark family legend has as an enchanted mountain. When I get to the snow-capped top, I can look down over the valley and start to make plans. Absolutley my favourite thing. Happy New Year to you all.