Monday, 31 December 2012


Well, as the old year comes to a close and I wonder whether I may drown before the new one really gets going, my mind turns to resolutions as it does at this time each year. Sometimes I make some. Sometimes I don't but I always take the opportunity to have a good hard look at stuff to see what might benefit from a bit of a shake up.

I've already paved the way for something newish for 2013. I'm going to start keeping a diary again. I have decades worth of carefully kept diaries and then, as you may recall, two years ago I decided that my life was so terminally dull that I had nothing to say worth recording and so I stopped. My life is much the same now as it was then. However, there's far more interesting stuff going on in my brain so I have decided to resurrect the old habit. If, in years to come, anyone questions the two year gap in the sequence I shall come up with some fiendishly exciting reason as to why I was unable to put pen to paper in that period. For example, a spell on a desert island where paper was hard to come by or a temporary loss of memory meaning that I was unable to remember anything for long enough to write it down.

My other idea also has a terribly familiar ring to it. There are so many things that I want to do and never enough time in which to do them. I need to make myself some more. Obviously physicists much cleverer than I have been struggling with this problem for many a moon so I'm not sure I will be able to pull it off. What I can do however is use the time that I do have available more profitably.

I hear you scoff. Time management! That old chestnut. Pah! But actually I do waste a lot of time. I know you're thinking about my addiction to facebook and dragons but I don't actually consider those to be a waste of time and I shall continue to spend ( note the change of emphasis ) my time on those worthy pursuits. No. What I have discovered, by careful consideration and analysis, is that I waste time through guilt.

Let me explain. Each day I have two lists - the Things I Must Do list and the Things I Want To Do one. The Things I Must Do is generally more or less bottomed each day. List 2 is more problematic because it consists of things that one might possibly consider to be a bit of a waste of time. When you come from an environment, as I do, where every minute of your day has to be recorded and accounted for and if possible charged to an unsuspecting client, anything that might be described as a leisure pursuit struggles to find legitimacy.

My second list is basically made up of reading and writing. I write to practise because I want to write and I read to learn because I want to write. Both activities make me feel guilty. So, instead of just getting on with them, I faff about doing other unnecessary tasks. This results in the amount of time left for the Things I Want To Do list being so short that I no longer feel guilty about it.

This is the time that I need to reclaim for myself. There are hours of it every week - time that I spend on things that don't really need doing or that I do slowly so that I don't feel bad about spending the balance on my 'leisure pursuits'.

THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE. If I say it in capitals it looks like I mean it doesn't it? That's because I do.

Happy New Year to you all and good luck with finding that change that will improve your life immeasurably.

Friday, 28 December 2012


I haven't written anything here for ages. I would love to say that that's because my life is so busy with other writing and to a degree that's true. There's always something that needs exporting from brain to page. But actually if I'm totally honest my relative silence has another cause. I haven't got much to say. Over the years I've covered pre Christmas stress and post Christmas analysis. I've done diary keeping and New Year's Resolutions. I've done Santa and presents and several posts about snow ( not that that is terribly relevant this year.)

I've talked about my literary ambitions until I'm sure you can think of a whole host of uncharitable things that you would like to do with my manuscripts. I've pontificated about parenting dilemmas ad nauseam. (This is a seemingly endless supply of inspiration but is now difficult to cover given the number of my children's friends who drop in here from time to time. I may never mention my children by name but it's not really difficult to work out who is who!)

Domestic drudgery had also had its moment in the spotlight. Ironing, cleaning and cooking have all had a post or two. And how many times can you read about how proud I am of my children's extra curricular things without wanting to vomit?! School is also a banned subject now that I'm a governor.

And they you have it. My life in a nut shell and the grim realisation that it's really rather dull. Not much changes and if it has happened to me once in the four and a half years that I've been tapping away at this blog then it's happened a million times, been thought about, written about and had a cherry put on the top.

So from this I reach a number of conclusions :

1. It's time to call it a day and let Imogen Clark at Home pass away quietly and with dignity.
2. I need to revitalise my life with a whole range of new things that I can witter on about.
3. I need to start making it up.

I need to give the matter some thought over the coming months as my  reader figures have taken a significant tumble as there's nothing new for them to read. I am tempted to have a go at publishing a book chapter by chapter a la Dickens. This might be fun and also scary at the same time which is supposed to be good for one's soul. It is one of those things though that once started must be seen through to the end.

Whatever I decide, I will begin (or stop) in the New Year so if you, as a loyal reader, have any views please comment either here on the blog or on the facebook page. And in the meantime I'll continue to mull things over.

Monday, 10 December 2012


Oooh! What a fuss the Asda Christmas advert seemed to be causing. If you haven't seen it, it suggests that mums do Christmas and for the rest of the family Christmas appears as if by magic. No s**t Sherlock!

But of course there have been lots of gainsayers. There are those families where the man does the cooking, others who share the present buying on a romantic, festive date. And of course in many households both partners work long hours and the only way that Christmas can happen is by delegation and team work. I even heard someone say that Christmas can be a shabby affair if you don't have the time or inclination to do the whole Victorian thing. Of course it can!

However, the point that 'Outraged of London' has missed when they slam Asda's advert as insulting to women or men or anyone who happens to watch is that in many, many households across the land Asda has got it spot on. Mum does do Christmas.

In the Clark household I think they would accept that I do it all. There are two reasons for this. Firstly and most importantly I don't have a job. ( Please don't start with all that my job is in the home business! You know what I mean.) My husband works long hours to provide the wherewithal for us to have a lovely Christmas with all the trimmings and my part of the bargain is to make that happen. It's a simple division of labour that happens all year long but is just heightened at Christmas when there is more to be done. We have chosen this very traditional model of family life, it plays well to our strengths and it works for us.

The second reason why I do Christmas is because I'm a control freak. I want Christmas to be done properly and the proper way is my way so I might as well do it all myself! Even when we both worked I did Christmas. It's just the way it is. No one makes me do it. I like it (although I accept that that might not always be immediately apparent and I reserve the right to moan a bit and stamp my feet from time to time.)

This is where I part company with those that are insulted by the advert. I could delegate and make my life easier but I don't want to. I choose to do it all and turn myself into some sort of whirling dervish for a month. I do it because I want my children to have the kind of Christmas that I had, the magical ones with ridiculous traditions the origins of which no one can remember but that cannot possibly be tampered with. The ones with food that nobody actually likes but always get made because that's what you do at Christmas. In short, I want them to have the kind of Christmas that my mum made for me.
When I make the magic, I'm doing it because I want to. I can choose what kind of Christmas I want. We all can. And just because what I choose to do doesn't match what someone else's idea of how things should be doesn't make mine wrong or theirs right. It's just different.

I know that my experience of life is very different to many others but most of people in my world will watch that advert and think it's funny because it reflects how things really are. When that mum sits down at the end of the Christmas Day with a glass of wine and surveys what she has achieved single-handedly, she can rightly feel proud. She has undertaken and produced the most long awaited and memorable event of most people's year and the fact that that is a domestic task makes not one jot of difference and shouldn't be allowed to undermine her achievement. And when Christmas Day is over, I shall feel proud like that too.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


When my eldest was three and I took her to Maureen Williams School of Dance to enrol, I had no idea what I was getting us into. Now, thirteen years later, dance school is almost as big a part in all four of my children's lives as school school. We are there every day with one class or another and both my big two are incredibly proud to have little jobs helping out with music and tying ribbons for the younger dancers. Not going to dance is inconceivable and mountains are regularly moved to ensure that nothing is missed.

Every two years Dance School puts on a show. It's a lavish affair over two weekends two casts of principals and over three hundred dancers with a multitude of glittering costumes. Everyone gets their moment in the spotlight from the tiniest child who points their toes and beams at the sea of faces staring up at them to the elegant young women who pirouette around the stage en pointe, the choreography carefully conceived so that each parent gets a chance to see their own dancer.

The atmosphere in the theatre is electric. All the children know their dances and have the confidence to perform even though this environment is quite daunting for them. Backstage an army of mums and dads help out with hair and make up, changing costumes and curtains and provide encouraging words and tissues if things get a bit overwhelming. It runs like clockwork and it is a joy to be part of. When the run comes to an end and the children flop in exhaustion everyone agrees that this must have been the best show yet.

It's hard to explain why dance school is so important to us. There are the obvious things - it's great exercise for both body and mind. It teaches discipline and concentration and it's really good fun. But it's the hidden benefits that are as important. It gives my children a focus to their lives which some of their friends lack. They take from it the confidence to say that they are busy and so not available for kicking about town. They learn about team work and commitment and there are disappointments which have to be overcome. They feel a huge sense of belonging, that they are part of something that is special and worthwhile. But most of all they go to dance school, work hard and come away feeling good about themselves.

I have said before that money cannot buy what standing on a stage and performing to a supportive audience does for young people. Every time a show comes round I watch my children change and grow. When the last costume is packed away and all the photos have been giggled over, they each have a little cloak of inner confidence wrapped around their shoulders and they walk a little taller in their shoes.

We are exhausted. For two weeks we have grabbed food where was can, done homework in dressing rooms and cancelled anything that wasn't dance related. It's a huge commitment for all of us but one that we would collectively walk over red hot coals to achieve.

Next time will be the last show for my Big Ones. They will have achieved their dream to be at the top of the school, the senior dancers. And I will be grateful that dance school has done so much for them since they were tiny that this is their ambition and that, all being well, they will be there to achieve it.