Showing posts from 2014

January poetry day 1

To kick off our writing this first month of the new year, Maria ( and I are once again giving each other random words to spark a poem into life.  I'm going to try and explore my mother's dementia through these poems.  I may find that tricky though, having looked through some of the words we have plucked from the air but it seems a good place to begin.  This one is for you, Mum.

For the kicks Do not misjudge her or assume you know Something still, which she chooses not to share With you, the unknown once known mystery Creeping soft in those new shoes on the tiles, You knock and enter before the response Which waits forgotten in the tepid air And throw cheerful loudness into the hush Of a morning spent asleep and dreaming Of time passed but still remembered with joy Causing that rare understood smile to bloom Which whispers I am alive and live still. But this door is locked tight to you and I Have lost the key, misplaced it somewhere dark And new brightn…

How much is enough and when do you know if it is too much?

A couple of friends of mine were interested in ways to support their children with their learning at home.  It's a really tricky and very personal decision as to how much you support (as opposed to interfere) with what your child is doing in school.  I think that ultimately, you need to know your child and understand what the school is doing for them in terms of providing learning opportunities that are stimulating, challenging and fun.  Doing too much at home can turn a child off learning completely but equally, missing opportunities to reinforce and extend learning if the child is keen (see also happy to be manipulated with rewards - it's all for their own good after all) is a shame if you have the time for it - I'm not suggesting parents wear sackcloth and ashes because they have busy lives and don't have the time, by the way.  I probably make my seven year old do quite a lot at home compared to many within a similar education setting but this is grounded in what I …

'I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.' Mary Shelley.

Girl power, female emancipation - hurrah we cry.  Of course women having choices is not a luxury but a given.  Or at least it should be and hopefully will be for all women across the globe in the future.  However, recently there have been a couple of things in the media which have offered an opportunity to refocus ideas on female agency and what it means or could mean or is interpreted to mean in the twenty first century.  I have also just been to see a recording of The Old Vic's The Crucible this week, in itself a magnificent thing for many reasons but it did make me think about women, their roles and representations in a way that  I haven't before.  Of course, this isn't to say that what I was awoken to isn't something that many scholars haven't considered in the past.  I am only me though and as this blog is written by me, I am giving my small brained opinion.  To paraphrase Mark Kermode; other opinions are undoubtedly more erudite and freely available (just goo…

'Advent: the time to listen for footsteps - you can't hear footsteps when you are running yourself.'

I must admit that I do find waiting and generally being patient pretty tricky.  However, I do love Advent, that time before Christmas which is filled with anticipation and hope.  This year I am going to think more carefully about what I am thinking about and why.  I have a tendency to rush through life.  It is because I recognise that this time on Earth is so very fleeting and precious and I don't want to waste any of it.  I may never get to travel the world or write a book which is deemed good enough to  be published but I am going to have a jolly good time while I am trying to do these things along with everything else.  Having children makes life whirl past at ever increasing speeds - some things are unbelievably quick; how did they get to be so old so quickly?  I want to be in this moment, I want to see it all and feel it all and most of all, live it all.  With them.  This is it.

'Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.'

'It has always seemed strange to me... the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.'  So sayeth the mighty John Steinbeck.  Today has been Black Friday and what a black day it is.  Hordes of people desperate to have something for nothing.  It really is the antithesis to Thanksgiving yesterday and ironically hails from the same shores.  Why can't we import a festival that celebrates all that is wonderful about humankind, why do we have to have something which encourages greed and (if the tv footage is anything to go by), appalling bad manners when shopping?  Apparently, it was Amazon who imported Black Friday five years ago (thanks for that) and each year it has…

'Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.'

Oprah Winfrey said that.  I like her.  She seems a sensible woman, who has control of her own life and appreciates everything she has worked hard for.  She talks a lot of sense, in-between the self-help twaddle.  I used to watch her show, back in the day, when I was in my teens and early twenties and it was on before Neighbours and Home and Away when I got back in from work.  I must admit to having the occasional guilty pleasure, buying O magazine and seeing what the great one had to say on everything from faith to fornication via cookery tips and meditation - all in one magazine!  Incredible.  I liked her strong sense of herself, her place in the world and how thankful she was to be there.  Okay, so she also had Tom Cruise jumping up and down on her sofa but even she couldn't avoid being pulled into the glamour of Hollywood sometimes.  I admire her still for the way she has a concept of her spiritual self that she is happy to embrace and to share. 
However, this was supposed to b…

'The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt'

Sylvia Plath wrote that and she knew a thing or two about creativity.  The more I read about writing, the more I think about it and learn about it as both a scholarly and creative pursuit, the less i actually write.  Before I even began my creative writing diploma, I wrote every morning before either going to work or beginning studying and i finished the first two parts of two separate trilogies.  I had even begun to send work off to publishers.  Now I rarely write even when a perfect opportunity like NaNoWriMo knocks at my door and what i do write, I agonise over ridiculous things and find it impossible to edit and difficult to share.  I don't really have much experience of anything much so although it doesn't appear that I am 'laying myself bare', I am constantly rereading and consulting with myself as to whether someone could find something out about me, about my character, my dreams and fears, the silly things that raise a white flag occasionally and say that no, i…

'I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.'

You can thank Winston Churchill for that quote.  I wonder what he thought of chickens?  As far as I'm aware, history did not capture his thoughts on these feathered mercenaries of the garden.  I'm sure if he did have something to say about them though, it would be considered, erudite and finely tuned - purposeful you might even say.  Whether he said anything or not, I have a few things to say about these delightful birds.  I was warned that they would wreck the garden so I really, honestly was prepared for this.  However, looking out onto the sea of mud that was grass (not quite a lawn but manicured somewhere between a roadside verge and a sand-dune with a liberal spattering of moss added in for good measure), I have to admit that the ladies have beaten me.  The garden is no great thing of beauty but it was more beautiful than it is now so that is something which needs to be addressed.  I have a cunning network of a variety of fencing materials all designed to keep the chicken…

My mother's handbag

My mother's handbag was a small, brown thing.  But she loved it.  It was always slung over her shoulder, her left I think,  I began below it and as I grew, my fingers were able to reach it, then my hair brushed it, eventually my shoulders passed by the once plush pouch with its huge tarnished, silver hoops which acted as the clasp.  I was allowed to carry it too then, you see.  The bag contained the mysteries of womanhood; articles that were of interest to me like spare change for sweets and lipstick to transform along with boring and less fascinating objects like tissues and tampons.  The tan colour would have once been a deeper chocolate brown I think but time and use had weathered it.  The bag smelled of mum on the outside and leather on the inside and when i opened it, the hoops clinked together.  I sat on the kitchen floor and spent some time trying to slip the rings through one another.  They never passed each other in this way.  I sat, feeling the knot in the long leather s…

'One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.'

Words are funny things.  We need language to communicate and for most of us, that means using words.  Words are sounds strung together with squiggly lines on paper standing in for them; just signs that mean something which we all agree to abide to and for the most part, think we understand.  But rules... rules... who writes them and what if they are not written down?  What do we do then?  How do we all agree on what we mean and what is the result of misunderstanding?  I ask this because I was misunderstood earlier this week when I put what I considered a perfectly innocent comment on a friend's facebook photo stating that I was scared of clowns (it was in response to a photo of a clown, fact fans, so not as random as that might sound).  I followed this with a further comment that I found the makeup which I took as a way to hide one's face, unnerving and that I worried that the person who spent their time using a persona to interact with their public might be actually unhappy a…

Wedding music and dreams in general

I heard a piece of music on the radio today which is one of my favourites: Corelli's Concerto grosso no. 8, or to give it the other name, the Christmas Concerto.  It is a sublime piece of music and one I have loved for a very long time.  So long, in fact, that it was my music of choice for my wedding.  As Oscar pointed out in the car as we were driving somewhere and I was singing along (or rather humming badly), 'but you never got married, did you?'  Thanks for reminding me.  He did make it sound as though I had endured some wedding aisle catastrophe from which I had never recovered.  But no Miss Haversham dusty white dress hysterics for me - no,  I never got that near a church because nobody ever asked me to marry them.  It does seem silly now to have thought so much about something that never happened but I don't think it has left me needing any long term therapy.  Dreaming is essential though and as we did our 'trick or treating' last night, I did find my at…

How do we teach English?

For my Ed.D, I'm looking at English, culture, books, why we think all these are important, how we teach them and ultimately, do we need our children and young people to have prior knowledge of well, just about everything or a certain set of things in order to get the most out of their reading experiences? 
Thirty odd years ago, an American academic, E D Hirsch published his Dictionary of Cultural Literacy.  This makes for an interesting read; setting down everything that American children should know which will allow them to get the most out of their education and become successful and useful citizens.  This notion of needing to know things, that we get the most out of learning when it links to something that is already known, is something that many conservative (also labelled, traditional) educationalists over here in the UK, believe to be key in teaching English in our schools. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt and certainly, in modern children's and YA liter…

That guilty feeling...

Witch, hearts, fondue, Glitch, Almost, Thimble.

I feel guilty a lot of the time.  It is ridiculous and definitely counter productive but I just can't seem to help it.  In a self-help kind of way, I'm going to mention all the great new things that I now have time for in my life, what with working 'part-time' and all...  Dropping the children at school and being there to collect them; more study time where I actually go somewhere scholarly to focus and don't just sit around thinking that I should be doing the hoovering or something equally tedious but necessary; I've started running (again) and it is feeling sustainable right now; cycling to work instead of wasting petrol and wrecking the environment by sitting in traffic, stressing out; time to help out at a friend's stable yard and just enjoy being outside and not having to talk to anyone.  In addition, I have two new jobs and have the prospect of doing some freelance writing, now have a website, and have s…

Day 25 - Oscillate


I oscillate between knowing and not knowing
You hold the truth and did not choose to share
But now the revelation comes late in the day
But it comes, bright and charging into my life
News from the past, precious nuggets offered
For the future
Important.  Possibly.  Unknown.

Character, dissonance, holy, transcendental, traffic - several poems later...

Holy silence splashing macaw leaves
Falling characters beat a march
Drifting, transcendental in dilute sun
Autumn traffic meets misty dissonance

Day 18 = Rhubarb

Rhubarb crimson rush blush
Nonsense over-analysing backwards
Pick me up and throw me down
Making sense is not needed
Spinning leaves smoothing the path
Black clouds of gibberish

Days 16 and 17 - Hook and Semblance

This isn't a hook up
There is a semblance of a relationship
Nobody will know
Who will care but me

This isn't a hook up
There is a semblance of a relationship
Something I can tell my friends
They will believe me and be happy

That wasn't a hook up
There is a semblance of a relationship
She's forgotten my number
Left it at the bottom of her bag

She will be surprised at my message
Left in her bedroom
Scrawled on her mirror
Now she has my number

And I have hers

Day 15 - Questions

Who are you
How am I
Where are we
What are you doing
What am I doing
What are we doing
How did we get here
I want to go home

Day 14 - Lions

It's Sunday night; here comes a cinquain.

Wild eyes
Danger lurking
Swift claws biting deep
Stealth shadows twisting behind grass

Day 13 Cheerio

She says cheerio
As though she intends to return
The avoided glance suggests otherwise
The missed kiss a suggestion
That the thing that was wrong
That thing which cannot be defined
That I cannot fix because
Is lingering and biting still.

Day 12 - Placemaking

You have made your place at my side
I will not fail you
You walk before me and with me
I am not alone
You see all and do not judge
Athough I falter and trip
You have made your place at my side
I am glad

Many days - Foible, portmanteau, collapsible, Henry

Oh my goodness - four days late!  So now I have four words to write about.

Your foible?
What can I say?
Your limitations are legendary,
Your defects well known,
Your faults and imperfections?
Need more be said?
Your shortcomings are obvious
And as for your inadequacies,
Where do I start?
Your weaknesses and success in failing,
Should I go on?


You meant your sword?


I never knew that 'motel' derives from 'motor' and 'hotel'.
You learn something new every day.

Collapsible is useful,
Handy even,
Big things made small,
Neat and tidy.

Henry is Harry
The spare to the heir
Not second to last

Poetry days 6 and 7 - a combined 'cheat'! Thingness and catastrophe

The Thingness of a Catastrophe

It is is the unravelling, this thingness,
This unexpected event, the shock,
The surprise - the unknowing of it all.
The happening happens with no alarm,
No herald of disaster or change and
no 'notice'.  No red fonted approach here,
No, this sneaks up on quietened toes,
Soft slippers felted and hushed, tapping,
The catastrophe is made, born, emerged, discovered
and even looking sideways, through a squint
and under furrowed brows, all has changed
And you can never go back.

Poetry days 3 and 4 - Upon and Home

Upon the hill there lies a life
It twists and turns as a knife
The spirit does not want to leave
Though the body gasps hard to breathe

Upon the hill there lies a dent
The last sign of a life mispent
The spirit which was ripped out fast
Remains to ensure no-one gets past

They came looking for a home
A place to rest
Somewhere to call their own
They tried their best
To enter the unfriendly zone
But just like the rest
They were outcast and alone

Poetry day 3 Pernickity

She says I'm pernickity
Picking up faults
Saying them too

I say I'm honest
And insightful
I won't be the one to lie

Pernickity is as it does
Take it or leave it
Just like me

I'll leave my keys before I slam the door

Day 2 - Apples

September sun splits through lilac asters
Blackberries hang jewel-like behind cobwebs
The thud of apples punctuates the insect hum

September poetry day 1

So it's back to poetry for this month!  My first word is 'abstract'.

Don't act all abstract on me.
It doesn't suit you when
I want concrete and certainty,
Not words of mist that get lost in your fog.

Where is the life that late I led?

The title of this blog post is from Shakespeare's The Taming of The Shrew.  It is not meant as a 'woe is me', hand wringing comment but is stated as a simple fact that I have been wrangling with and am now proactively addressing.  Chatting to friends, I have noticed that many of us are actively pursuing life changes, both personally and professionally.  Two of my friends are moving to live by the sea, not because they are anywhere near retirement but because they want a better life, a slower life and one that affords some of the pleasures of retirement which my generation and those to come can probably only dream of as we work longer for less and have no pension to speak of when we finally get there.  Several others are choosing to focus precious time on their families and spend less time working, although that choice in itself clearly impacts on earning potential.  Although I am sure that there are many men out there who face similar tricky decisions around what to do reg…

Why I love films and want my children to love them too or 'why can't I watch 12A when *all* my friends do...?'

'Sticks and stones...' or The perils of language

*Spoiler Alert* Beware, faint-hearted reader, this missive contains language likely to offend.  Read on at your peril and don't say I didn't warn you.

Hearing the word 'fuck' from the mouth of a seven year old is never going to be a happy occasion for any parent.  But like everything else you're not quite prepared for, you deal with it as best you can at the time you are faced with it and keep your fingers crossed that you won't spend years paying for therapy as a result of your helpful/encouraging 'anything goes' attitude to questions between mother and child.
Language is a tricksy creature: majestic and mercurial; slipping and sliding; context dependent; designed for so many purposes and as a consequence, so ripe for misinterpretation.  I have no idea how we got to the subject of swearing, but along with anything to do with toilets, bottoms, farts, poo, willies and vaginas, as a parent you can kind of hear the warning bells going off when it's too l…


I am new to the world of chicken keeping.  I'm not sure really why I wanted to have them but I suspect it taps into my dream of having a smallholding where I could keep my horse and pigs (there's no chance of ever having a horse or pigs so chickens seemed the closest farmy type creature that I could have... I know, go figure).  
Eggs are not cheap to buy, not if you buy ones where the hens have actually had the opportunity of having a decent - if short- life where they have space to move around and can experience the sun on their backs and dust baths.  I have discovered that chickens REALLY love a dust bath and they are very funny to watch as they try to roll over and then hold their wings out to catch some rays.  It's a win win situation when both parties are amused. At least I think the hens are amused.  I'm not great at reading human faces, less so with chicken ones.
The eggs my hens produce however, must be the most expensive known to mankind.  If I factor in the cor…

Rubber bands can be so much fun...

I love a craze.  It is after all, something that I can ignore for as long as it is en vogue and then get into once everybody is bored of it and has moved onto something far more interesting.  This happens a lot with tv and music now and was a prominent feature of my childhood when essentially if the new thing wasn't about anything equine, I was just, like, so not there.  Okay, I did have a brief flirtation with a jelly bag but I drew the line at the shoes.