Wednesday, 5 October 2016

I Helped the Dawn to Break

A cool October morning
My breath hangs in the air
The leaves hang on the trees - just
Next month they won't be there

I jog along the pavement
And push just up the hill
To enter into woodland
Damp shelter from the chill

Dog walker treads his circuit
His pup grins ear to ear
I leap a fallen tree trunk
Come out into the clear

And see the sunlight streaming
Lift souls from off the land
I raise my palms up skywards
Let light pour through my hands

A field once full now flattened
I race along its side
Bright shoes across the dun earth
The plough marks straight and wide

On to a narrow bridleway
My lungs about to burst
I run right through the cobwebs
It seems that I am first

I caught the horses dancing
I made the rabbits wake
I heard birds herald morning
I helped the dawn to break

Monday, 3 October 2016

The Bosching Machine

Dear Bosch

You say you offer a superior wash

But must you announce the laundry's end

With an ear-splitting noise that's bound to send

A person racing across the kitchen

To turn you off, and I am itching

To find your bleep and rip it out

"TURN OFF THE MACHINE!!" is the family shout

It would be cheaper to use you at night

But then you'd beep, which means I might

Take a hammer to your door

And spill your workings across the floor

At every wash I'd lain in wait

To stop the sound that I so hate

Until I found, oh joy of joys!

This clip of how to kill your noise....

Monday, 26 September 2016

I want to do great things

I'm not a promoter. Not a musician. Not an events organiser or full-time entertainer and yet.... I had an idea that what our village really needed was to have a live band and indie disco evening.
Oh yeah, PowerPoint has a Reading Festival template!
I wanted to do this because 18 months ago I'd been at a friend's party where we danced until 3am to a playlist of '90s music and sank drinks like we were at the Hacienda, rather than in someone's tastefully decorated home. People I'd only spoken to on the school playground or at the local pub became teenagers once again, and friendships were strengthened as we realised that we loved the same music. It felt like we all shared a little of the spirit that we allow to shine so freely when we're young and unencumbered by mortgages and the gradual build up of life's worries.
I also wanted to do it because since taking up stand-up I'd seen some great live performances from local musicians and felt that other people ought to see how talented these bands are. The comedy night I put on was well received so how hard could it be to put on a couple of bands?
Harder than I thought. During the process of organising the event I discovered that there was an awful lot I didn't know. Like what a 'DI box' or a 'stage monitor' is, or is for. I didn't know how to pronounce 'cajon' (it's "cah-hon" - a type of box drum) and I didn't know how to connect a guitar amp to a mixer. I didn't know that you needed a sound guy to make all this work well enough that the band won't sound like they're playing underwater in a dustbin. Fortunately for me (and for everybody else), the DJ and another villager who works in radio were experts, and kind enough to make up for my considerable lack of knowledge.
Awesome sound quality nothing to do with me...
The event itself was incredible. We danced like we didn't have any responsibilities beyond perfecting our Happy Mondays moves or being able to recite all the words to "Get Your Rocks Off". We tried to drink the bar dry but one thing that I *do know* is how to make sure a bar is well stocked. We tried to eat enough food to avoid getting drunk - only some of us were successful on that front. The next morning my feet were half a size bigger, the recycling bin had over 200 bottles and cans in it and I heard how someone had stopped on the way home to "have a go on the swings" for old times' sake. Someone had also been sick in their bathroom but I'm not supposed to tell you that....
That's not even the half of it......
The evening was a fundraiser for Smart Works Reading so there wasn't any financial reward in it for me, but I did get something else extremely valuable: a reminder that sometimes we don't need to wait until we think we're 100% there to go after the things that we want to achieve. By showing my enthusiasm, people became interested. By being clear on the outcome, others wanted to take part. By being honest about the stuff I didn't know, others offered to help.
This process has inspired me to go after the things that I really want to achieve - chief among which is to ramp up the number of speaking engagements that I do. So that's why I'm off to see the Berkshire WI speaker selection committee this week to see if I can't get myself a little tour underway.  I want to do great things, how about you?

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Holidays: An Education

I don't know about you but I am chomping at the bit to get back to work properly.  I'm afraid that six weeks of squeezing work in around the holidays have led to my writing abilities diminishing beyond recognition, and I'm bored of the children being bored.  This is not one-sided either - they're desperate to be back amongst friends and the certainty of routine.

Always, always cold

There's also the small matter of whether the break has erased the efforts of the teachers over the past term.  If today's return to rugby was anything to go by (where children forgot how to catch balls and parents forgot that standing on a pitch is always, always going to be cold) then that may well be true.  Unless you frame the learning in a different way.  Which is what I'm going to try to do, so here's....:

How to keep your kids educated during the holidays:

Maths (or numeracy, if you want to be PC about it).

At primary school, depending on where you children are at in the curriculum, they could be covering anything from basic addition to multiplying fractions.  Leave this stuff to the teachers (you'll be getting homework on it anyway), instead demonstrate to them the wonder of maths by doing the following:

1. Ask them what theme park they would like to go to
2. Ask them to calculate how many boxes of cereal you will need to buy in order for the children to get in for free.  Make sure they add on the cost of all the extra stuff you ended up buying from the supermarket because "you were in there anyway".
3. Take them to the theme park
4. Ask them to calculate how much it costs per minute, per ride (answer: circa £20 unless you subscribe to the divisive wealth indicator that is a Fast Track pass).
5. Watch their little faces light up in amazement when you explain to them that even though you bought cereal packets instead of tickets, you still managed to spend £150 on one day out.

English (or literacy.  Or phonics.  Or SPaG.  I don't know what the right thing is anymore).

Poo pants.  There for all to see..
With less focus on writing and honing formal sentence structures, children get far more time to exercise their conversational skills - whether you want to talk to them all day or not.  This is great for developing their confidence in communication although you may find yourself having to explain to them that declaring "Dinner is Served" in a loud voice as they exit the toilet is not an 'appropriate' thing to say.

You may also want to plan any leisurely strolls that you want to take around your neighbourhood with care.  I recommend avoiding bus stops, unless you want to find yourself having to explain "all the swears".

If you're interested in the extent of your children's vocabulary, you could also while away some time by playing Hangman, as we did in a restaurant.  How smug we felt entertaining our children without devices.  How short-lived this was when the waiter noticed the words 'poo pants' written on the pad.

PE (joyously this is still PE!)

The one thing that I *love* about the holidays is that the children get a hell of a lot more outdoor exercise than during an average week at school.  The only challenge is that more often than not this exercise needs to be undertaken as a family.  Which means negotiation, bribery, arguments, fighting and occasional crying.  What begins as a simple bike ride or "just a walk" will morph into an hour of misery but like with all tough work outs, once you've busted through that wall you will find yourselves enjoying a tremendous sense of achievement (and ideally a pint).  If you want to avoid the misery, the solution is to go with friends - there is something about the children being around other kids that seems to silence the whining button in a way that offering encouragement / threatening a tech ban / shovelling Haribos into their hands will never do.

If you want to ride this route without whining - just add friends :)


As neither of us play an instrument, our ability to influence our children's musical tastes begins and ends with playing what we like.  We keep BBC 6 Music on the radio and if we can be arsed to connect up the iPod, they'll hear mostly indie rock, dance and (heavily edited) hip-hop.  

All this counts for nothing however as we have discovered to our great dismay.  What the children have decided is all they want to listen to is Heart.  Which means that the soundtrack to your holiday will be Shy Guy by Diana King which they seem to play on the hour, every hour.  I think Diana puts it best when she says: "Oh lord have mercy, mercy, mercy......"

Your children may also decide to search the iTunes with their friends for Cake by the Ocean by DNCE.  Did you know that it's got a version including the word "f*cking"?  Neither did I.  But now I do.  And so do you.

Sex Education

Whether on holiday or not, we all run the risk of being caught 'in flagrante' (unless you're camping, I mean seriously are you really going to attempt it when you're separated by a 'wall' that is the thickness of a high-vis vest?) but on returning to our favoured holiday destination this year to discover one of the owners had had a beautiful baby just 7 weeks earlier, our son was most interested to know precisely why he was not going to get a little brother.  Couldn't we just "wish for one"?


Whatever the lessons contain at school did not quite prepare the children for the moment when on holiday I walked down to the swimming pool which contained a large group of men, women and children of various ages, yet when I got in to the pool the men and teenage boys had mysteriously all disappeared.  I thought for a moment that perhaps I had mistakenly put my costume on back to front (now that would be horrible) but it turned out that we were holidaying at the same place as a family of Orthodox Jews.  So there's me and my girl in our speedo cossies and the ladies in their swimming dresses.  We stared a bit, smiled a bit, chatted a bit about the temperature of the pool and the weather (we were in Devon, it's The Law) and carried on enjoying our respective swims.  

Despite the differences we may have had, I learned that the way you deal with awkward questions is universal.  My husband overheard one of the dads telling his son that he had to get out of the pool "because you just have to".

This holiday has been one of revelations, of family time, of raised voices, big hugs, memorable moments, boredom, excitement, beautiful days and torrential rain, late nights and early mornings (why does our boy not understand what a lie-in is!) but above all, it has been an education.  I think we're all ready to go back to school. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

I Need a Wife - for Kindle!

Hello lovelies

This is just a little update to say that thanks to a few late nights and the power of the Olympics to entertain my children, I Need a Wife is now available for Kindle!  It's got chapters, it's got a new ending, it's even got a couple of extra poems.

To download a copy for £2.99, click here: 

Hope you're enjoying your summer, and if you're camping - I wish you luck!


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

(Why You Should) Carry On Camping

So we went camping again, this time venturing much farther than our usual New Forest haunts to the delights of North Devon.  You know, that place where it is guaranteed to rain.  We go there every year but stay on a farm.  In a cottage.  Where you do not have to walk across a wet field to go for a wee.

Under normal circumstances we wouldn't travel so far but lured by friends with whom we knew we could pass time without killing each other we went for it and at first it was lovely.  Beautiful sunshine for two days - an actual camping holiday that involved a trip to the beach without wellies - marvellous!

But then the weather remembered that we were on holiday and so sent 48 hours of rain and sea mist which caused one set of friends to go home because their tent decided to have a complete seam failure and us to have to use our fog lights in August.  In fecking August!
Actual August

Here's the weird thing though.  Despite the shitty weather that made us complete and utter martyrs for the remaining two days of the holiday and caused my husband to have to buy Tesco Trainers because he had done the manly thing of packing 'light' and his one pair of shoes got too wet to wear (that'll learn him...), we had a brilliant time and will do it again.  This is because....

1. We are friends with people who have a van.  And an awning.

Our tent has an awning.  Oh yes.  But it is not attached to a beautiful watertight vehicle that has optics and a dvd player in it.  I don't care if you think this is cheating because when your children have trenchfoot and you need peace and quiet, you will wish that you too had friends like these.  The children watched Wimpy Kid twice as we drank wine and played cards, which leads me on to....

2. We rediscovered the joy of Gin Rummy

I thought I didn't know this game.  Turns out I did - it has the same rules as every other card game: you must forget whose turn it is because you're too busy talking rubbish to keep track, you must accuse one another of cheating and the person who says that "they're no good at this game" will be a complete liar who wins every round.  We also rediscovered the joy of shops that cater for people who are trapped in one place and so need things to spend their money on.  Things like books about cross-eyed cats and multi-purpose bottle openers with the names of men from the '70s and '80s on.
This is a real book.
Richard *and* Rick? Such choice!

3. We (ok I) completely lost the plot

I blame the fact that one of the cards was a Joker used to replace a missing 9 of Clubs which meant that someone had drawn a Club on top of the Joker's head which would have been fine except that the 'Club' looked like a cock and balls.  That pretty much set the bar for the conversation which then turned into ways in which to create enormous confusion and chaos when living in a shared house that Vic & Bob would have been proud of involving UV paint, security lights and menacing gnomes.  It's been a while since I pulled a 'crying and laughing at the same time' face.  It reminded me that I need more nights like that.

4. We had the absolute best of British entertainment

You know when you're in a barn with a bar and soft play area, and a Britain's Got Talent semi-finalist walks in, juggles knives, balances a pub table on his chin and then risks drowning by having a diver's helmet put on his head and filled with water while he tries to escape from chains.  All whilst stood in an Angry Birds paddling pool so he doesn't get the floor wet?  YES THAT!!  We saw Merlin.  He's a bloody legend.  He's so much of a legend that we saw him twice.  
Just your average morning in a barn..

5. We had the absolute best of British entertainment (again)

We were planning on taking the kids to Disney at some point and have since changed our mind because we have had all the theme park fun we every need at The Milky Way.  Why fly for 10 hours to then spend a week of queuing for hours for high tech rides when you can have an 'alien experience' where you are led through the dark by a teenager from Bideford who knows they can't kid you that you're on an 'abandoned alien spacecraft' because everyone knows that you're really in some kind of blacked-out shipping container but your children will still freak out because confined dark spaces are scary.  

And why bother with virtual reality rides and Lucas Film / Disney approved 'experiences' when you can see someone's personal collection of Star Wars memorabilia which includes a spooky Luke Skywalker model and Ewok toys still in their packets!
Bez Skywalker?

Our son went on a roller coaster that he has waited five years to go on (yep, we go every year!) and as we watched through the sea mist we could just about see his beaming face as he passed the "are you taller than the red line" test to ride at the very front with his sister.  It didn't  matter to him where we were - he had made it!  

We watched a falconer who will not let you touch his birds because he is not into pissing off owls but is into getting them to swoop low over your head.  We sat right next to one of the perches to get the best view and recited his set with him, enjoying the familiarity of his spiel.

We saw Merlin (again!) and wondered how much a good sword-juggling escapologist gets paid these days.  Whatever it is we suspect it's not enough....

And so....

And so, despite the fact that every time we go camping we all end up moaning at the weather / our complete inability to pack properly  / the incredible noise and lack of sleep that combine to make you feel like you're hallucinating in the mornings / the fact you have to put the bloody tent up when you get home in order to dry it out because Britain is not the South of France.....we're going to go again.  If you're teetering on the brink of giving up too, give it just one more try - let's Carry on Camping!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

How to be more 'rock & roll' (in six easy steps)

I'm not at Glastonbury this weekend.  Haven't been to the Reading Festival for years - although I have been to a gig in the last three at which I came home stinking of spilt beer and sweat.  I don't smoke anymore, haven't touched drugs in nearly twenty years and most of the time drink de-caff coffee.  And I beat myself up when I drink (not actually hitting myself, just the usual guilt-tripping that a lot of us give ourselves because we've woken up on a Sunday with a hangover from drinking wine in front of the telly).  Sheesh.  No wonder I don't feel very rock & roll anymore.

So if I can't do all those things that made me feel a little bit wild, what can I do?  I can redefine rock & roll, that's what.  If you'd like to join me, try some of these:

1. Turn down the free stuff

Take that Waitrose!  I don't want your "free" coffee (although I will take a complimentary copy of The Times in the vain hope that my children will leave me alone for long enough to read) I refuse to stand in a queue of people with trolleys for a sippy cup full of liquid that I will then spill on my legs in the car. You can keep it.

And while we're at it...up yours!  I just insured my car with you and I DON'T WANT BRIAN!

2. Volunteer 

Hey you, yeah you West Berks council.  You know how you've cut the buses, and the library funding, and money for the arts?  Well guess what.  I'm going to give my neighbour a lift into town so they can get some books out.  And do you know what I'm going to do after that?  I'm going to book a local band to play at my village hall so people can get an injection of art and pretend that they're 15 again and drink too much and and maybe vomit when they get home.  And we'll raise money for charity while we're doing it.  And the next morning we're going to clean up after ourselves and put the empties in the recycling - alright!

3. Be a Womble

Oi!  Teenager at the park smoking weed - of course I bloody know what it is you're smoking!  You carry on dropping your tins of Monster and making a mess, because do you know what I'm going to do?  I'm going to pick that shit right up and put it in the bin so you don't win at making the park some kind of hovel.  You are not bucking the system, you are simply making a big smelly mess.

4. Talk to a Stranger

Ok - pick your stranger carefully but might I recommend the elderly woman that you see every day and say "hello" to in passing?  She'll probably tell you a joke that's a bit rude and put a few things in perspective for you.  I spoke to Daphne.  She was awesome and made me thankful that there are people out there that look out for my nan.

5. Get fit

To all the people who seem to be making it their business to f*ck up the NHS - I will make it my business to stay well away and save space for the people that really need it.  I am going to put on lycra and not give a damn if it gives me camel toe because I am (hopefully) avoiding a heart attack.  

And finally....

6. Get out and perform

Are you *still* pissed off with your drama teacher because she didn't give you a part in Godspell thirty years ago? (carrying a grudge - moi?) well do something about it!  There are groups and gigs and venues and spaces that would welcome you with open arms whether you want to sing a solo, dance the fandango or tell your favourite joke.  Just type "open mic" into your favourite search engine and see what comes up.  Then get out there and do it.  LET'S ROCK!