Tuesday, 30 April 2013


I caused a bit of a kerfuffle amongst my friends yesterday. It was quite unintentional.... well maybe not entirely but it was an interesting and thought provoking experience nonetheless.

Early in the day, I announced on facebook that I was going to meet a stranger and would be needing the identifying cliches of a flower in my lapel and a copy of The Times under my arm. My friends laughed at me. 'How exciting!' a couple of them quipped.

Then I pointed out that had one of my teenage daughters agreed to meet a stranger that they had 'met' on the internet, on their own, in a relatively remote place we wouldn't call it exciting.

At this point the mood changed a little as my friends began to think through the possible outcomes. Within a few posts, the discomfort that they felt with my proposed course of action became palpable. I said I would post every hour so they knew I was safe. Someone suggested a safeword so they could be sure that it was me on the other end. It was a joke, I thought.

I met the lady in question and had a thoroughly pleasant time wandering around RHS Harlow Carr and taking lunch in Betty's tearoom. My cyberfriend was not a sinister stalker but a member of my University tutorial group who had not been able to make it to face to face tutorials. But my friends did not know this.

By the time I returned to the car and checked my phone, I had texts from two friends and a string of facebook messages, each sounding more worried than the last. I laughed out loud at their highly entertaining concern and quickly typed the safeword so that they knew that I had not been abducted.

On the drive home I began to think. I knew who I was meeting. No, we had not met in person but I had enough points of contact to be pretty certain that she was who she said she was. This is the wisdom of age. I would not have arranged to meet there with someone who had just turned up as a reader of my blog for example. But perhaps my daughters might?

But what struck me more was the concern that my friends showed. Yes, for most of them it was as much a game as it was to me. Yet there was that kernel of doubt, just nagging at the back of their minds, that I might be walking into danger and would need protection.

Generally, this is not the kind of situation that looms large in my world. I am an adult, I am intelligent and experienced and very rarely either need help or ask for it. But if the chips were down, like they might have been yesterday, it's great to know that I have friends out there who care enough to look out for me if I need looking out for. I like that x

Sunday, 14 April 2013


It's been a while. Sorry. Life kind of got in the way, you know how it does.

At the moment I'm very animated about a story that I'm writing. Write what you know they say so it's all about self doubt. You probably know how it goes. You have an idea, meet someone, apply for a job - whatever. It goes well. You are all fired up by it. You catch yourself dreaming about what will happen when you are successful. You might even run through a couple of conversations in your head - how you could announce your news, a pithy one liner for those that doubted you.

Then something happens. The gilt comes off the edges of your idea. You investigate it further and discover that instead of it being a priceless piece of Faberge jewellery, it is, in fact, just paste. You deride yourself for having thought that your idea could ever come to fruition. You mentally go through a list of anyone that you might have seen whilst the idea was still fresh and exciting and make a judgement on their likelihood to scoff when, as you're sure was obvious to them, it fails to come off.

By the time you've finished giving yourself a going over, the idea is such a bad one that you blush at the memory of it.

Ok. So maybe that's an extreme case but you take my point. The interesting thing about all that is the idea doesn't change. Yes, there is always time for mature reflection on something but fundamentally if you thought it was a great idea then it might well have been. And if you now think it sucks then that may well be because you are no longer on the same square as you were.

I am learning to recognise this in trait in myself and to give myself the chance to properly consider my ideas before I reject them out of hand. But what really interests me is the people that never suffer from this. There are loads of them. They have an idea and if they think its a good one then they plough on with it. At no point does their confidence in it wobble. They seem to bypass the whole self doubt thing and move straight on to completion whilst I am still wasting valuable time wondering whether I'm going to get egg on my face. I'm sure that their ideas are no better than mine but their self control apparently is.

So I'm writing a story about it. It's easy to put myself in my protagonist's place. I keep talking to people about how their self doubt manifests itself so that mine begins to look perfectly reasonable. I am also looking out for those who seem to have no self doubt at all (although surely either they are fibbing or some of their ideas must fall flat despite their confidence in them?! We can't all have great ideas every time.)

If you feel you fall into either of these camps and are happy to share your experience then please get in touch. In the meantime, I'll carry on with my story which, by next week, will no doubt have become the worst idea I ever had!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Over the years, I have found that the difference between being busy and being stressed lies in the level of control that I have over a situation. There can be deadlines and priority tasks coming out of my ears but as long as feel on top of it all I can sail over them like some majestic ocean-going ship.

But take away that element of control and suddenly it's a very different story. I feel myself starting to panic. I flick between the To Do list and the calendar without really taking in the details of either and my heart races at the impossibility of the task that I have before me.

March was a bit like that. I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say that as a family we were over-committed and as self-appointed Captain of the good ship Clark I took it upon myself to steer us into calmer waters and land before we all got scurvy. ( Ok! Enough of the sea metaphors please.)

Today I am calm. Ok, there's still frost on the grass but the sky above me is blue and the birds are singing. I have finished my troublesome Life Writing Assignment without having to blatantly lie, I have got to the end of my highly productive but actually quite stressful Fast Fiction Experiment, school is shut and there is chocolate in every corner of my house. Ok, I have one child on crutches after a nasty operation, GCSEs hammering on the door and two more quite demanding assignments to write but I am in control and so there is no stress attached to them - today.

Time to take stock methinks and focus on lessons learned. The first thing is that we survived it all. It seems that having a strong foundation of routine in place means that when things start to get choppy ( oops - sorry!)  we can fall back on how things usually run as we all singing from the same hymn sheet (that's a paper sheet - not a rope.)

I have also learned that when the chips are down, I don't actually have to do everything myself. My teenagers rose to the challenge beautifully, collecting siblings, cooking meals and generally acting as mini-mes when required. I probably need to relinquish control a little and expect more of them so that they can build on the levels of responsibility that they took up when I needed help

Finally, I should perhaps learn to say no to them more often. March would have been tricky no matter what but it was the added extras that nearly scuppered the ship. ( I give up! I can't help myself.) There is no shame once in a while, in the interests of self-preservation, in accepting that there are limits to what can be achieved.

But, then again, we took it all on, we didn't drop any balls and we have come out the other side in one piece. So perhaps biting off more than you can chew isn't necessarily always a bad idea. But don't ask me to do anything extra this month!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


‘Who can tell me what happened on 20th July 1969? 
Yes. That’s right. America first landed on the moon. And who knows who took the first step? 
Right again. That was Neil Armstrong, all American hero. And if you were to say that in a million classrooms around the world you would get a gold star. But here we know different don’t we? We know that the moon landings were faked by NASA and the American government to con the Russians. The whole thing was a giant conspiracy. 
And how do we know that? Well, those clever boffins at NASA just weren’t quite clever enough. Why are there no stars in any of the photos? And the shadows are all wrong. It’s obvious that the shots were taken in a film studio. One of the so called moon rocks even had a props mark on it! Can you believe that?! Amateurs. And if Neil Armstrong took the first step who was there to film him? Huh?
They think they’re so smart with their fake history but I’m on to them. All I have to do is get myself out of this room and then I’ll prove it to the world.’

200 words

Monday, 1 April 2013


The sky above them was leaden and she wondered if it always rained at funerals. It would seem unnatural if the sun was beating down, as though the gods were laughing. Caroline was aware of mourners sobbing as they stood at the open grave but she no longer had any tears to shed. She felt nothing, just a numbness that pierced her heart like a shard of ice. She could see Sam’s mother shaking silently as she tried to control her grief. It was wrong for a mother to have to bury her child. Was it worse than finding yourself a widow at 45? Across in the distance she could still see Kyle MacAlistair. He had been standing at the gate as the cortege passed by. He looked like a ghost, his guilt gradually stealing his soul. Her brother, angry and raw had hissed,
‘Why is he here, the bastard? He has no right.’ He beat his hand on the side of the car and the chauffeur jumped. ‘I’ll get rid of him Caro. I will avenge Sam’s death. I’ll do it for you.’
Caroline quietly shook her head. There would be no need for that. Kyle was punishing himself.

200 words