Wednesday, 30 June 2010


This is my 201st post.

It's almost two years since I started recording the day to day minutiae of my life. As I look down the list of post titles, I find it hard to believe that I have strung all those words together. But now, I feel the need to reflect and decide whether I am still travelling in the right direction or whether the time has come to pack up and move on to pastures new?

I began my blog as a way of nurturing the creative side of me that seemed to have got lost along the way. This I have done. I am now writing all kinds of stuff - my book of course but also various short stories and other bits and pieces. On top of that, my appetite for knowledge has been well and truly whetted and I wait with eager anticipation for my next OU course to begin.

I am also much more technically able than I was, another stated aim of the blog. I have an iphone, which, whilst defeating me on a daily basis, is still a massive step up from the basic Nokia that I was using. I now whizz about the social networking sites like a toddler in a toyshop and I can even download and manipulate photos from my camera.

And I am wiser. Organising your thoughts and beliefs into a format that is fit to be shared with friends and strangers alike is a useful discipline. It has clarified my views on a wide range of subjects and the helpful comments that I have received from readers in various forms along the way have encouraged me to believe that, in the main, I am making sensible choices in life.

But there are downsides too. The first and most obvious is finding things to write about. My life is quiet. Not so much happens to me that is worthy of note and what little there is I have written about all already at least once. Writing about my emotional state is always tempting but it's easy to forget that this is the world wide web and whilst it may feel to me like I am just off loading, I would actually be sharing with my family, friends and a whole bunch of randomers details that might be best kept to myself.

Also, having to write regularly is more stressful than you might think. I know that some people check frequently for new posts and I feel a need to keep them sated as a reward for their loyalty. Also, if they visit the site and it is unchanged too many times, they may never return. My statcounter tells me that my blog gets between 10 and 20 hits a day, more if I advertise on facebook. In total there have been 2,850 pageloads and 1,193 visitors to date of which 939 have returned more than once. When I'm feeling that the whole endeavour is some kind of narcissistic waste of time, which I do fairly often, I allow myself to look at those statistics and dare to think that I must be doing something right if people keep coming back.

I read a piece yesterday listing ten reasons why a writer should blog. I suppose those reasons are just as valid for aspiring writers too. (If I could work out how to insert links then I would put it in so you could check it out.) This article crossed my consciousness just as I was contemplating putting Imogen Clark at Home in a box marked "Things I did in the 21st Century" and closing the lid. Kismet? Who knows? But as I press publish on post number 201, I shall continue to ponder my blog's fate and try to decide what to do next. If you are a regular reader and have a view, please leave an anonymous comment and give me some guidance. Thank you.

Monday, 28 June 2010


Craft activities before breakfast are not generally encouraged in our house. I know I ought to be nurturing my children's every creative moment. I am sure that there are mums out there who would hunt out cardboard and glue whilst making toast but I am not one of them. Green paint on white tee shirt in an attempt to recreate some Japanese cartoon character at 7.30am tends not to bring out my best side.

However, notwithstanding the unmissable negative signals that they must be receiving loud and clear, some mornings the Little Ones ( as my younger two children are rather patronizingly known) bounce out of bed and need to make things before school. And if it doesn't involve me or unreasonable levels of mess then that's OK. Anything has to be better than Pokemon on Disney XD.

This morning it was beading. By 6.45 they had dug out the bead box and the string and were beavering away creating jewellery like some thriving cottage industry. My morning progressed as usual through the preschool routine and just as I was about to shout them to clean their teeth, my daughter arrived with a necklace. She held it out to me proudly and asked me to wear it.

I've been here before. Friendship bracelets, hair accessories and even earrings have all been presented to me over the years and I have loyally donned them as requested. But here was something different. Something that I would quite happily wear, although perhaps improved if fashioned out of slightly more sophisticated components than string and plastic beads. It's hard to describe what she had done but suffice it to say that using just 12 beads she has created a shape that I have never seen before and it's lovely.

And there lies the difference between someone with creative abilities and me. I have nimble fingers and patience. With the possible exception of painting, I can turn my hand to most delicate crafts as long as someone shows me how. After that I can usually use my knowledge to recreate things. I mean I can copy. But give me a box of raw materials and I am completely foxed. I can spend hours longingly gazing at yarn in my local wool shop ( but without a pattern I am lost. I adore browsing round my local craft mill but rarely buy anything, knowing from experience that my purchase is likely to end its days in a cupboard gathering dust. I have no vision, no imagination and absolutley no creative pizazz.

But armed with my daughter's design I shall now make a trip to the bead shop, explain what I want to achieve and get the friendly lady to help me to select materials to bring the design to a more sophisticated level. So if you see me sporting a rather beautiful necklace remember. I have stolen the idea from someone with creative flair.

Friday, 25 June 2010


"Hey mum! Look at those ducks!"

I turned round to see what had caught my seven year old's attention and then immediately wished I hadn't. On the grass to the right of us were two ducks, the male trying, in time honoured fashion, to have his wicked way with the female who was doing her best to shrug him off.

I didn't know what to say. So I said nothing.

"The boy one is going to keep chasing the girl one and when he catches her, he's going to love her," carried on my daughter, showing a depth of knowledge that I didn't know she had, even if her terminology was a bit off. By this point my youngest was engaged, interested and full of questions about the ducks' activities as well.

Now I know that I am supposed to be open and honest and answer all questions with as much truth as the context demands but she caught me off guard. I could see another woman who had clearly heard what had been said. She was staring at me, almost challenging me. "So," her look clearly said, "How are you going to deal with that then?" What is this, I thought, a spectator sport?!

I didn't deal with it. I changed the subject, ignored the copulating ducks and continued on our journey feeling deeply inadequate in the certain knowledge that I had broken all the parenting rules. Again.

So this week, when there was a talk at the high school about how they teach these things to the kids I went along, hoping to learn a thing or two.

There were three of us there together with two members of staff and a very young looking woman from the PCT who was hoping to deliver a ten week course on how to talk to your children about embarrassing things. Notwithstanding the poor turnout, she began by telling us how important it was not be dismissive of our children's questions but to answer them as openly as possible. I confessed my duck story to the group. The group leaded trotted out three or four stock phrases to be used when the question is posed at an inopportune moments. I tried hard to remember them.

We left an hour later having agreed that there was no need for a ten week course but a further night to look at how to deal with peer pressure and drug taking might be useful. Of this more later.

Generally I think I am quite good at dealing with difficult issues but there haven't been many. My elder two went through two pregnancies with me without ever once asking how the babies got in there in the first place. And now, whilst child number two would be quite private if it were left up to her, she isn't given a chance to be because her sister is happy to ask the most intimate questions at the tea table.

I think where I went wrong with the ducks was lack of preparation. Because her siblings showed no interest in procreation at her age, it never crossed my mind that my youngest daughter would. But she is a different child with a different mind and a different set of friends, several of whom have older brothers.

So next time I'll be ready. I know the questions may come, I have my strategies if she asks at an embarrassing moment and if I get really stuck I can always tell her to go and quiz her sisters. And when my son starts asking awkward questions I have my answer all ready - Go ask your dad!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


She stood on the grassy dunes and gazed at the landscape before her. The beach, sand not shingle, spread out like a carpet, with no variation in level or colour until it gently fell away to the white-crested waves, submitting to the power of the water.

Although it was June, the sky was leaden, the colour of shot and there was no suggestion of the sun behind the unbroken cloud. Rain drizzled down, fine and gentle and yet still it soaked through her thin, cotton blouse. Goose pimples peppered her white skin.

There was not another soul in sight. Later, the clouds would part and let the heat of the midsummer sun delight the crowds, all flocking to claim their patch of beach, territory marked by gaudy windbreaks and parasols. The day would pass, like countless other summer days in England, with French cricket, ice cream and castles. But for now there were no footprints to break the monotony of the sand.

Suddenly, the woman bounced down from the dune with an unexpected vigour. She half-skipped, half-ran across the sand, spinning round and round and laughing out loud, though the sound was wasted on the waves which kept on with their regular heartbeat. In and out. In and out.

She came to the water’s edge but she did not stop dancing. She moved through the foaming tide without altering her pace or even acknowledging its presence under her feet. Her floral skirt stuck to her legs as the ocean rose higher and higher around her thin body. Her childlike laughter rang out and up towards the heavens. And then, it was as if she had never been there.

Monday, 21 June 2010


My good mood is a delicate creature. Like a butterfly wing or a dandelion clock it can be damaged by the gentlest of touches. My mood holds my day on a gossamer thread, like a web holding a spider. It can endure the breezes that blow through it, causing it to stretch a little out of shape, before springing back to its original form. But when once it becomes entwined with something stronger and more powerful, it is destroyed and it takes all that I have to respin it before the day draws to its conclusion.

Oh how poetic we seem to be feeling today! I trust you will indulge me, if only for a paragraph. However, even though my syntax is more lyrical than of late, the point it still well made. My good mood can be shattered as easily as fine bone china.

When the sun shines I am generally happy. It's a fairly safe rule of thumb. If you want a positive response out of me then ask me when the skies are blue and you are much more likely to get the result that you seek. If I open my curtains and there is the prospect of a fine day in store then I skip through my household's morning routine with a smile. A dropped cereal box? No matter. A knocked over milk jug? Well. It's only milk. Lost homework? It must be here somewhere - let's look together.

But as the day wears on, things balance on a slightly less even keel. Someone makes a comment that troubles me in the playground - no harm intended but in it goes, worming its way into my mood. I question my actions, replaying scenes in my head. Did I upset someone, speak out of turn without intention? Has my child done something to theirs?

I shrug the comment off knowing that I have overemphasized its importance but it leaves a slightly sour taste, the beginnings of a knot inside me. From this point my mood could go almost anywhere. A shop assistant continues to talk to her friend whilst serving me. What do I care? I have no need for small talk but with my slightly damaged self esteem I feel vulnerable. Their rudeness makes me angry. I say thank you pointedly as I leave.

And as time ticks on I am swept up in a tsunami of microscopic changes, some triggered by external forces like the shop assistant, some brought about by the voices in my head that keep me busy all day long. I am sure that I never used to be aware of so many changes in my mood. As with most things, I suspect it is a result of spending the bulk of my day by myself. I notice things and then analyse them beyond what is reasonable because I can.

I'm sure my moods used to last for longer periods than they do now. If I got up happy then that was how I went to bed. I felt grumpy then I accepted that that would be the state of affairs until something distracted me from it or I forgot it in my sleep. Now if I feel the same from one hour to the next it's unusual. Still, looking for the positive as I am wont to do, it's never boring. So far today I have been confident, happy, lonely, guilt ridden, angry, sad and a technicoloured rainbow of shades in between and it's only half past two. Never a dull moment.

I suspect that most people have neither the opportunity nor the inclination to consider this balance but I, constantly on the lookout for ideas for my jottings, have finely tuned antennae and monitor the changes with interest. I wonder what the next hour will bring!

Thursday, 17 June 2010


"Good morning girls. Help!"

This was the clarion cry that greeted me from my facebook page this morning. That's another great thing about facebook. I love the way that you can pose your parenting dilemma to a vast range of people and then judge, by the responses you receive, whether your view is generally supported or wide of the mark. You don't have to change your ideas but it gives food for thought.

Anyway, today's issue was at what age should you allow your daughter to shave their legs? Tricky one. Having two teenage-ish daughters, it's a problem that I have struggled with already.

There are not many concrete pieces of advice that I remember receiving from my mother as I grew up. Most of what she wanted me to know was carefully manipulated into my consciousness until I believed it was my idea. But I clearly recall her telling me not to shave my legs until I could no longer bare not it. Those blonde, downy hairs that are barely visible to the naked eye, she warned, will grow back as dark, sharp stubble. And then, she said as if recounting a ghost story to a gullible infant, the hairs will grow thicker and thicker until you have no option but to shave. And you'll wish you'd left them alone, she added with that irritating knowing look that adults use.

I took this on board. I stuck it out until I was 20 and then I finally had them waxed. I didn't shave them until I was almost into my 30s. And my mum was right. Once shaved those hairs become coarse and dark and difficult to disguise.

So when last summer, the request came from my girls to defuzz, I trotted out my mum's advice. They looked at me as if I was a throwback from some long forgotten age and complained vociferously that they would be teased and life would be hell. I stuck to my guns and they spent a summer hairy.

Then, at Christmas when I was buying presents I had one of those "Oh isn't it fun that my girls are growing into young women?" moments and bought an epilator for my eldest. On Boxing Day, we carefully read the instructions and then set about the tiny, sparsely distributed hairs that occupied her lower legs. This was not entirely successful. The results were adequate but getting there was a journey I wouldn't choose to repeat regularly.

So, when this year the requests for hair free legs came as soon as the Lido season tickets were purchased, I invested in a tube of Veet, read them the instructions and left them to it. I could hear them in the bathroom, giggling and timing the minutes as the foul smelling cream dissolved their meagre hairs. They are delighted. Their legs are smooth and hair free and they can step out in their itsy witsy bikinis with pride.

Hair removal at 12! It's ridiculous really. But am I buying into a culture that forces our children to grow up too quickly or conceding on a battle that really isn't worth the powder? I'm not sure. I'd rather they hadn't started worrying about their appearance at such a tender age but I don't think there was anything that I could have done to prevent it short of homeschooling them. They believe it to be of great importance to them and if having smooth legs helps them ride the rollercoaster of teenager life then how can I prevent them without real grounds?

So I have passed on my view to my facebook friend and I hope it helps her with her decision. But I'm not bending on the hair highlighting issue just yet!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Before I begin, can I just say that my blog's change in appearance is entirely accidental. Blogger and I had a falling out and the current layout is the unhappy compromise. When I get chance and appropriate assistance, I'll readdress it. And now on to business.

My kitchen is full of cookery books. They are all beautiful in their own ways. The spine of my Delia Complete Course, a book that has been with me since I left home, has split and it always falls open on Yorkshire Pudding because, try as I might, I can never remember the proportion of water to milk. Others have pages gummed together with golden syrup and a few have handwritten notes scribbled in the margin where I have converted the quantities of ingredients to fit a particular baking tin.

My mum was a cookery teacher and whilst I have no memories of standing at her knee stirring things or family recipes being passed down verbally like some celebrity food writers claim to have, I did leave home with a basic understanding of food science which has enabled me to stray from recipes and still achieve acceptable results.

I used to pass whole evenings reading my favourite volumes. Some of them have beautiful prose styles as well as interesting recipes. I used to discuss meals with like minded friends and we would try out ideas that caught our attention and then compare notes as to the degree of success that we achieved.

Have you noticed how this whole post is written in the past tense? Somewhere in the last ten years or so cooking has gone from a favourite hobby to a chore. I used to build a Charlotte from scratch, painstakingly applying the hand baked and sliced sponge around the edge. Now, on the odd occasions that I make a proper pudding, Eton Mess is the order of the day. No care required. Just bang it all in a bowl and mix.

Every so often, usually after we have been on holiday, I take my favourite books down from the shelves and scan the pages for tasty meals that the whole family could enjoy together. I decide that I will introduce my children to the delights of moussaka, or calamari or a pasta sauce that isn't red. But it never lasts long. I can't seem to rediscover that boundless enthusiasm that I once had for the choosing and preparation of food.

It is such a reversal in behavior that I have given quite some thought as to why this might be. Firstly, I suspect that whilst spending my Saturday afternoon chopping and stirring over a cheeky glass of wine and then producing a meal that is savoured as a precursor to an early night no longer fits my life style. Producing 21 meals a week for six and various hangers on sort of takes the pleasure out of it.

Then there's the shopping. If I am to stray from the 6 or so meals that I make week in week out, I need to be organised. I have to plan ahead, choose a recipe, write down the ingredients, buy them and then cook them before they go off in my fridge. Too much like hard work in and amongst all the other stuff I'm afraid. I fly round the supermarket like a woman possessed so I can get in and out as fast as is humanly possible. I buy the same stuff and that way we always have something to eat, even if it's not always terribly inspiring.

And finally, I hate to moan but if I cook anything new no one but my husband will eat it and so I end up shouting about starving children in Africa and then throwing it away.

And so, in my own defence, it is hardly surprising that cookery no longer holds the same attractions for me. I hope against hope that one day I will again play with olives or make marinades but until that day my books stay on the shelves gathering dust and calling down to me about how inadequate a housewife I am!! It's chilli for tea tonight. Again.

Sunday, 13 June 2010


I have no regrets in life. Well, maybe the odd pair of bargain shoes that never really fitted or one too many drinks at a dull dinner party. But overall, given another chance, I would do the same all over again.

But there is one bit of my life that didn't quite match up to expectations, one that, with the benefit of hindsight, was not all it might have been. I wasn't aware of this at the time but twenty five years on it stands out as the least satisfactory period so far. This was my decision to read law and the subsequent three years that I spent at Manchester University.

It's not that I made the wrong decision. I didn't. I wanted to be a solicitor. I wanted to get there as quickly as I could and I did what was necessary. Had it not been for my legal aspirations, I might have studied English and perhaps gone slightly further from home to do it. Who knows? I was happy enough in Manchester. I never thought about dropping out or changing course. But I always had the slightly unsettling feeling that that exciting student thing was happening to everyone else and not me. I wasn't great at Law. It was dull and dry. I only made a couple of friends on my course. My peers were dull and dry too. I had almost nothing in common with the girls that I lived with either, nice though they were. I wasn't interested in drinking or partying having done plenty of both before I got there. All in all, I was a rubbish under graduate.

And now I have four children who may all wish to go to University. It's such an enormous decision for them to make at such a tender age. At 17, they will be choosing what to study and where, decisions that will impact on the rest of their lives. And yet, like me, they will make those decisions based on almost no personal experience.

So, what is my role as a parent? My eldest, at the end of year 8, is already coming under gentle pressure from various teachers at school who want her on their books. I can steer and guide based on my own limited life experience. Keep your options open has to be the best advice at this and indeed any stage of life. But should I discourage her from courses of action that I believe to be unrealistic or inappropriate? My parents never did but perhaps it would have been different if I had chosen Sociology rather than Law.

I know it's early to be thinking about these things but I'm trying to keep one step ahead of the game so that nothing catches me off guard. I can't do that part of my life again. I wouldn't want to. It was fine, just not quite what people expect of university life. But I can try to encourage my children to make the most of every moment rather than treading water waiting for the next stage to begin, to be brave and yet practical in their decision making and above all enjoy what they choose to do so they never look back wistfully and say "I wonder..."

Friday, 11 June 2010


How can I get my children to keep their personal space tidy?

I know. If I had the answer to that I would make a fortune and could retire to some sun drenched island in the Indian Ocean. But just because I appear to be striving to fulfil the impossible dream doesn't mean that I am prepared to stop trying. I am going to give a good fight before I accept defeat and bow out gracefully.

The little ones aren't too bad at tidying up. Unless they have had a friend to tea, when the entire contents of their wardrobes will end up on the carpet, they generally keep on top of their mess. But the big ones?!

Now I know that I am quite tidy but I didn't used to be. I only developed my fear of mess when I became mistress of my own destiny and space. When I lived at home, I organised my room very much on the " don't open that cupboard - things fall out" school of tidying. I was a teenage girl. I had a lot of stuff. On the surface it was tidy, ish. As long as you didn't open my desk drawer or try to find anything in my wardrobe the room was straight, ish.

This cannot be said of my children's rooms. Each Friday I go in to tidy up before I clean. At 13 and 12 they haven't yet reached the stage where this is a gross invasion of privacy and anything that I find is seen as payback for not having hidden it better in the first place. Today followed the usual pattern. I won't bore you with a list of all the stuff that I found that was rotting or contraband or both. Suffice it to say that Environmental Health wouldn't have been impressed.

But the thing that really got me riled was the state of my eldest's clothes. Now, she has a slightly tricky arrangement for the storage of her clothes. Whilst she has masses of hanging space, there isn't room for a chest of drawers and so she has to keep tee shirts and the like folded on shelves in her wardrobe. When I opened the wardrobe today I found everything that I have ironed for at least three weeks thrown in there willy nilly, mixed in with stuff that was clearly dirty but hadn't made it to the washing basket. All my beautiful folding was but a memory.

I admit it - I was cross. Really cross. And then I had a great idea. I refolded everything and then removed it and hid it elsewhere in the house. Even as I type I am awaiting with a sense of gleeful anticipation the shouts as she opens her wardrobes and realises that all her clobber has gone. To the charity shop, I shall tell her, on the basis that it was so badly cared for that I assumed she didn't want it any more.

I know. Childish. But strangely satisfying. It won't make any difference. She will apologise and promise to make more effort and all will run smoothly for a fortnight or so until she slips back in to her slovenly ways.

Everyone tells me that I should just close the door on it and pretend the mess isn't there and I fully anticipate that the time will come, in the not too distant future, that I am forbidden to enter but for the time being we can do it my way. I may tell her where her clothes are if she's really, really nice to me! And then again....

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


Do you ever see something on the TV or in a film and think how lovely it would be to live your life like that? Of course you do. I'm sure we all do it, especially women. That's why romcoms are so popular. Deep down, women want to walk around a stylish beach house dressed only in a man's shirt with long hair tied up in a messy but ever so sexy ponytail and long tanned legs to die for? I'm sure there's an equivalent for men - I just don't know what it is.

I have been pretending that my life was a screen set for as long as I can remember. When I was 11, I wanted to be Olivia Newton John in those satin pants. Then there was Grace Kelly in High Society because I wanted to be put on a pedestal with men fighting over me. After that it was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's because I longed to be inaccessible, quirky and ever so slightly dangerous. Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts have also featured large in my imagination over the years.

I assumed that by the time I hit my 40s I would have grown out of fantasizing about becoming fictional characters but I haven't. But some things have changed. I am slightly more realistic about what I wish for. My legs are never going to be long and I only have a decent tan for about a month a year. I could grow my hair down my back but it looks awful and botox is available but laughter lines show that I laugh a lot.

I did go through a brief stage of dreaming about houses but ultimately this is dull and a house is only a home because of the people in it. It makes no difference how big it is.

No. These days I'm drawn to relationships - not sexual ones but those between friends. I'm interested in the Sex and the City girls because I love the idea of a gang of mates with whom you share everything. The friendships in Gavin And Stacey send me off in to a wistful dream about when I was a teenager and had someone to whom I would tell even my most intimate secrets. I am drawn to programmes in which they all live in each other's pockets and wander in and out of each other's houses without knocking.

But this is odd because over the years I have become more and more anti social, seeking out friendships only with a very small group of people. I don't give much away in conversation and spend most of my time on my own. I would loath it if a friend was in my kitchen the whole time and the thought of someone wandering into my house uninvited is anathema to me.

So that begs the question, if I don't really want it why am I drawn to it? Isn't that the power of our dreams? Something in our imaginations allows us to escape, just for a moment, into a world that we could never inhabit and perhaps wouldn't want to. It's these escapes from reality that make the reality more palatable. I am never going to wear a tiara and have Frank Sinatra crooning to me over a glass of champagne but that doesn't stop me enjoying the thought of what it might feel like if I did.

Sometimes I wonder if everyone plays this game or whether it's just me but then I don't care. If you don't day dream then I think you might be missing out. Everybody deserves a little bit of fantasy in their lives don't they?

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


It is said that everyone has a novel in them if you look deep enough. We all have a tale to tell and all we need is the time to let it out.

I have time and a lifelong ambition to write a book and so, taking comfort from the fact that Mary Wesley was 70 before she published her first novel, I have decided to have a go.

I have been at it for about five months and to start with I was terribly circumspect about who I mentioned it to. What if they laugh? What if I never finish and everyone knows I have failed? What if it's rubbish? I told my husband and a couple of others. Their reaction was pleasingly favourable and gradually I have leaked it out to a few more people. And now I have decided to tell the world. After all, what harm can it do!

Until you start, you have no idea how it's going to work for you. I had seen both Kate Atkinson and Lionel Shriver speak about their writing methods. Lionel Shriver has the whole story plotted out before she begins and then just writes the story down. Kate Atkinson starts with characters and sees where they take her with no particular plot in mind at the outset.

I had had a couple of ideas for stories but had no idea how to make them into something like a novel. And then one day I struck upon something new and just began writing. It turns out that I am more in the Atkinson school than the Shriver. Things just seem to happen. It's really exciting - almost like a reading a book rather than writing one.

Now that I have fessed up to my activities you can expect to hear more about it but today, I have been thinking about the difficulty of naming characters. That the name says a lot about the character before you know anything else is obvious. Tarquin is going to be a different kettle of fish to Sapphire. But it's more complicated than that. I know lots of people. It is hard to think of a name and not associate it with its namesake. So I have been looking for completely virgin names. I find myself scanning my bookshelves for inspiration. A Christian name filched from here, a surname from there. It's a bit like naming a child ( although not nearly so important of course!)

Now that most of my characters have names I feel like I am getting to know them. I should do by now - I've written 34,000 words. I'm protective of the ones that I like, gently mocking of the more risible ones and enjoy metaphorically spitting at the baddies. Their names are now a part of them just as Imogen is a part of me. And some of them do share names with people that I know but can I say right now for the avoidance of doubt, they are all products of my imagination?!

I don't know if I'll ever finish and I think it's highly unlikely that anyone will ever read it but at least I will be able to tell myself that I had a go and after all, having a go is what life should be all about. So watch this space!

Monday, 7 June 2010


As it rained yesterday I spent some time attempting to bring my site up to scratch. It's a slow process. I fumble my way around the technological world with very little skill and I'm going to need lots of help and time to get it to where I would like it to be.

However, I did find a Followers gadget (which I installed myself) which is now on the right hand side of the page towards the bottom. You will see that so far I am my only follower. Sad. Tragic really. So if you are a regular reader and you dare put your head above the parapet then please become a follower and stop it looking like the only person that reads my blog is me! Thank you.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


It's June, I have two children of secondary school age and yet no one is revising. It's not that I have bred teenagers with a devil may care attitude reminiscent of Jim Stark. I'm not having to nag them or send them to their bedrooms every two minutes. Nor are they of genius quality, able to sail through exams with only a modicum of effort. It's just that they have no exams.

My children's experience of school is very different to mine. When I was at school you sat in a classroom, the teacher told you stuff, you wrote it down and at the end of the year you had to remember it all.

When I went to an open day at my children's school, the only class in which they were all sitting down and listening was that being taught by my old history teacher. Everyone else was working in break away groups or at computers or in pairs, all busy and focused but not all focused on the same thing. Things have certainly changed.

And now, as we approach the end of the academic year, my kids' lives go on as normal. They continue with lessons all the way up to the last day because they are not interrupted by exams and revision. They have been tested once a term in all core subjects in order to keep their tracking up to date but there is no need to swot it all and regurgitate it onto the page as a finale to the year.

As a child of old school education I find this hard to understand. I had exams every summer from being 12 until I was 22. It was just part of life. From Easter onwards I could be found drawing up revision timetables, condensing notes and making wallcharts all designed to help me ram as many facts as I could into my head. And I got good at it. With so much practise I had it off to a fine art. I knew how I revised best, I had a realistic idea of how long it would take me to learn each subject and when the exam finally came I was ready.

I understand that gaining qualifications based on an ability to demonstrate a competent memory is not necessarily the fairest system, although it suited me. I can see the benefits of assessed course work as long as it is the work of the pupil and not the parent. But when they finally get to the moment of truth, a chunk of their final grade comes from an exam, just like it always has done. And yet they have had no practice. They have not had year after year of miserable Mays to hone their skills.

I hear so many parents saying that their children have no idea how to revise. Many an hour is spent in bedrooms but nothing seems to be going in. Perhaps this is not surprising given the number of electronic distractions that greet them when they sit down at their desks. But really, by the time the heat is on and the results really matter, it's too late to start worrying about how to revise. The emphasis must be on just doing it.

I only know how secondary school works up to year 8 because we haven't got any further than that but it seems to me that exams, at least in core subjects at the end of the year can't be a bad thing. Can it?

Thursday, 3 June 2010


It’s so peaceful. The dawn chorus is long since complete but still the birds sing, uninterrupted by any man made sound. I know little of bird song but even I can clearly identify ten or more calls. Some are close by though I can see no sign of them. Others are high in the tops of the pine trees that stand to attention all around the small glade in which I sit. Their song floats down to me in a random and yet melodious tumult.

The sunlight is fighting to break through the thin, high cloud and if I look up I can see patches of blue through the tops of the pine trees. The day promises much. The rays cut through the branches, leaving the forest floor splattered with light and dark patches of green.

A wood pigeon is nesting in the eaves of the lodge just above my head and its rhythmic cooing is regular, like a heart beat. I hear no cheeping. The eggs must have yet to hatch and so she sits and waits and coos.

A bee buzzes past. It’s a harsh sound, quite out of place with the harmony of the birds and one that I subconsciously associate with danger. I am relieved when it moves on and out of ear shot.

And as I sit here I see rabbits, their white tails bouncing through the undergrowth and a red squirrel, come to investigate the remains of our disposable barbecue then leaving, disappointed, to go forage elsewhere. Just beyond that is the wigwam of sticks that my children built yesterday but that seems to hold no appeal to the squirrel, its artificial shape betraying its natural building materials.

It’s early, not yet 9.15 and so I expect a degree of quiet. But I find it hard to believe that I am sitting outside my lodge in a holiday camp at half term. Barely a human sound cuts through the harmony of the wood. I am called inside for breakfast and as I hit save a blue tit alights on the wigwam, hunting for tasty treats.

This is why we return to Centerparcs year after year. Just around the corner are all the organised activities that you could ever need but here, outside my lodge, it is calm and tranquil.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


I am addicted to facebook. I would like to say that I am an avid user but I suspect that addiction is closer to the truth. I check my page for updates at least twenty times a day, usually via my phone and can be found online at some point most evenings.

And that is absolutely fine. It’s not something that I am ashamed of or feel the need to apologise for. It’s part of my life just like chatting to friends over coffee or a glass of wine.

I have blogged about my facebook use before. Since then, my friends list has grown although it is hardly prodigious. My friends range from people that I see every day to those that I barely know but who interest me. The best facebookers as far as I’m concerned either post unusual or thought provoking comments, make me laugh or most commonly both.

Because that is what facebook is all about to me – passing comment. Those people that have a friend list but never speak are shunning a great opportunity. When people say to me that facebook is all about reading the minutiae of someone else’s day, I believe that they are missing the point.

Of course, some postings are mundane and there’s nothing wrong with that but a good facebook friend will keep challenging me with their status updates. Ambiguous or seemingly random ideas keep me on my toes. People refer me to articles that I have not read, music that I have not heard and photos of things that I will never get to visit. Some people are brave enough to make political statements, others will confess their emotional state and some are so off the wall that I really have no idea what they on about. But if someone passes comment then someone else will too and suddenly a conversation springs up.

I don’t play any of the games and I’m not really a fan of much. I just use facebook to communicate. I could get out and actually talk to people but in my real and somewhat confined world I just don’t have access to as wide an array of interesting and entertaining people as I can get to virtually. To me it’s like going to a dinner party with different guests every night. I never know who is going to be there or what they might have to contribute to the discussion but whatever it is I am fascinated.

I wish that I had more people on my page that would put their head above the parapet and talk. They might say that they are too busy to waste precious moments in a virtual world but I think I would continue to make the time no matter how busy I was because I just can’t get that kind of diversity from anywhere else. And my life is all about diversity.