Sunday, 9 April 2017

Oh Boy

It is bedtime.  And your limbs are heavy.

"Carry me Mummy."

I lift you and you curl your arms around my neck, gentle fingers not quite intertwined.  You rest your hot cheek against my shoulder.  Your breath against my neck.

Your hair is tufted, rearranged while sweaty then left to dry.  It smells of grass and dust and I'm glad you didn't wash it.

You place your legs around my waist but you can't hang on by yourself.  Too tired.

I cradle your bottom with both of my hands to support you and remember when the midwife lifted you onto me - your bottom in the palm of my hand, your wet little cheek against my chest, your smell of new life. 

I wonder where the time went.  I wonder if this is the last time I'll get to do this.

Oh boy.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Middle Class Gangsta

I'm cruising in to town the traffic's bumper to bumper
I got Jigsaw jeans, I got a Boden jumper
The kids are in the back, my boy's a little prankster
We're off to Waitrose - yeah I'm a middle class gangsta

I've got style in the aisle in my Dubarry boots
I'm here to buy French cheese and exotic fruits
I'm picking up the lillies - they're £10 a bunch
And I'm picking up some sushi for my daughter's packed lunch

The vegetables I'm packing, well they're always organic
And if I can't find avocado then I'm starting to panic
I'm buying quinoa and cous-cous and wild brown rice
I'm filling up my trolley and I'm not checking the price!

My girlies like prosecco and my man likes real ale
And to counteract the gin I drink, I'm juicing the kale
I take Omega 3 for my brain potential
And I bought some truffle oil because the label said "Essential"

I never shop at Tesco, it's too big - I'd get lost
And I never shop at Lidl, 'cos I never check the cost
I rock up to the cafe with my My Waitrose card
And I grab a free latte, 'cos shopping is hard!

I'm a middle class gangsta, and I'll be one for life
And if you try to step to me, I'll pull a Laura Ashley knife
I'd love to talk all night, but this is where it ends
I'm off for kitchen supper with my middle class friends.

- mic drop -

Monday, 9 January 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Two

Coming soon to a bookshelf near you...the return of Reasons to be Cheerful!
Image (c) Tony Cocks

Well frankly it's about bloody time!  Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Two is now officially underway with the sending of a sample chapter to my lovely proofreader, Vanessa.

For this reason, I'll be posting a little less frequently on the blog, but if you want to stay in touch I'll be regularly updating my Facebook page and occasionally tiptoeing through twitter.  I'm also still out there performing so if you want to find out where you can see me next, click here.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Christmas Carol

You know when you think you're just going to hear a few carols being sung by your child's class and it turns out to be a full blown church service?  That's precisely what happened to me recently.  Perhaps the fact it was held in an abbey should have alerted me, but I couldn't help but feel unprepared for 'what I was about to receive'.

It wasn't all bad though; the singing was great, the abbey was awe inspiring, and I learned a very useful lesson - some things never change when it comes to carol services.  I'm willing to bet you'll find the same things too:

1. There will be a child who actually sounds like an angel

To the boy who sang the first two lines of 'Once in Royal David's City', on his own, in the abbey, in front of hundreds of people - thank you, your voice is a rare and beautiful thing.

2. Two things about 'We Three Kings'

i. The alternative version

If the person next to you also knows the "one in a taxi, one in a car, one on a scooter beeping his hooter" version it will offer you a wonderful moment of bonding.  It will also offer you the opportunity to pass on a tradition when you teach it to your children later on that day.

ii. There is a pause

Don't rush into "Oh star of wonder" - oh no.  It actually goes "Ohhhhhhhhhhh (wait for it) ...... star of wonder".  The woman next to me said it reminded her of the punk version of Nellie the Elephant.  Which means that I now have two reasons to giggle my way through the carol.  And two ways in which to get it wrong.

3. 'Oh Little Town of Bethlehem' sorts out the regulars from the visitors

Doesn't matter how many times I sing this, I always forget that "How silently, how silently" should be sung quietly (shhhhhhhhh)

4. You will revert to childhood at some point

I found myself raising my eyebrows at the re-telling of the immaculate conception and associated on/off/on again of Mary & Joesph's marriage, especially as it was being read by a child.  So when I heard a man behind me say "oh, isn't the text wonderful" I presumed he was joking.  But as I turned to him in shared mirth I discovered that he was in fact A MONK.  A monk that was stood next to A NUN.  Neither of them were laughing.  Oh the hot flush of chastisement coupled with wanting to cry with embarrassed laughter.  Such. A. Child. 

5. 'Silent Night' is best left to the children

Even the nun didn't try "sleep in heavenly pea........eeeeeeeeece".  Too high.  Best sung by six year olds.

6. Two things about 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful'

i. It's that volume thing again - the choruses start quietly.

ii. It contains the classic line "he abhors not the virgin's womb".  And there's no way I'm singing it.  Change it to "he totally loved that virgin's womb" and I'll consider it.

7. You'll probably cry at some point

For me it's all about 'Away in a Manger'.  Can't help it.

8.  'Sing Hosanna' - still challenging

When I was at school the infants used to add an extra "of kings" right at the end of the chorus.  I went to one of my daughter's first carol concerts and guess what?  It happened then, and it's still happening today. 

9.  You should shake hands with the vicar on the way out

Whether it's a "thanks for the service" or "that's out of the way for another year", it seems a fitting way to finish.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Networking Christmas

Is Christmas making you queasy?
Are festivities making you frown?
Athena makes gift shopping easy
And avoids all the trauma of town

Buy your brother-in-law a nice back rub
Buy your aunty an intimate wax

Treat the family to a great photoshoot
Help your in-laws to sort out their tax

Book a mindfulness course for your mother
Or a dream holiday for next year
Take some reiki to help you recover
Have some coaching to help your mind clear

Train your canine to become a "good dog"
Train yourself into feeling more strong
Help your husband to learn how to cha-cha
Get a workout to fit in your thong

You can outsource your post-Christmas clutter
Free that neck nerve that somehow got trapped
Outsource dinner, pretend that you made it
Get your presents professionally wrapped

We have so many talents between us
So much that we're able to do
Here's to the ladies of Athena
A very happy Christmas to you!

This poem was inspired by the ladies of the West Berkshire Athena Network - thank you for your support, friendship and endless gift ideas :D

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Why I'm Learning to Love Football

I'll confess, I wasn't keen on my son getting 'into' football.  This makes me a traitor to my upbringing where football was the sport of choice and rugby was for "posh kids" or fat retired policemen.  I liked Chelsea because my dad supported them, but my mum supported Liverpool, so our living room featured a mirror for each team, which alongside the Coca-Cola mirror they had purchased, made it look quite a lot like a social club.
Can't see the mirrors?  Download the pics!
Frankly, a home is not a home without a selection of these...

Can't see Roy?  Download the images!
The man behind the song
(image sportworld cards)
My Great Uncle was a West Ham fan who taught us "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" and took the time to try to instil in us a love of local football with trips to Camrose to watch Basingstoke FC.  My brother and I wandered around the ground taking in the banter and the smell of Bovril, while we waited for goals that would never come.  These formative experiences prepared me well for secondary school where football chants were frequently sung in lessons.  My personal favourite was one that would be sung with incredible gusto and was beautiful in its simplicity.  It was about the QPR player Roy Wegerle and required just two things: his surname and the tune to "Here We Go". 

By the age of 14 I was going to matches with friends. We bought tickets via a friend of the 'QPR Boy' to go and watch Spurs vs Arsenal at White Hart Lane.  I don't even know how he got hold of them in the first place.  This is pre-internet - did he write off including a stamped addressed envelope?  Did he phone up the club and promise to send a postal order?  It matters not, we got the tickets, enjoyed the buzz of the tube on match day, went to the stadium, sat at the home end and then as the final whistle blew and people made their way out of their friend unzipped her jacket to Arsenal shirt.  We ran the rest of the way out.

I have experienced the thrill of the terraces, been caught in a crush as people rushed to the barriers to celebrate a goal, enjoyed the independence of going to a match with my mates (and nearly got lynched) and felt the excitement of walking up to Wembley for a Cup Final (and seen piss cascade from the bottom of an advertising hording as men relieved themselves behind it) so why on earth wouldn't I want my boy to enjoy all this?

Here's a sentence that explains why I didn't want my son to like football:

"Oi you f**king c**t! Pass the f**king ball for f**k's sake!"

I heard this at my local park from the village football team.  As I walked my children to the swings.  I wondered if their families on the sidelines had selective hearing...

Here's another one:

"Pass it to Alfie!  Pass it TO ALFIE!  PASS. THE. BALL. TO. ALFIE. NOWWWWW!!!"

This sentence was bellowed by a parent at their 6 year old.  At another village park.  At what was billed as a "friendly football club".  Nice.

So whilst our son has always enjoyed football at school and is devoted to Reading FC, when he showed an interest in rugby I was pleased as I did not want to stand next to Mr "Pass it to Alfie" every Sunday.  

Here's what I heard at rugby:

"First things first, we respect the ref."  "We play as a team."  "If someone has a bad game we don't single them out."  "We have fun."  "There is a place on the pitch for everyone."

And here's what the parents said:

Not much.  Most people were gently nursing Sunday morning hangovers but when they did speak it was to say hello.  Nobody shouted at their children.

At local rugby tournaments people are friendly, at major games opposing fans can be trusted to have a pint in the stands together.  Without exception I have found rugby to be a welcoming and well-mannered game where it is possible to attend a match without hearing someone call the ref a "f**king wanker".  And there's the added amusement of some roaringly middle-class things happening like the time I saw a mum take her son's teams' sports bottles to the pitch in an Ocado wine carrier.....

But there is a little something missing with rugby.  And I think it's best described as this:

Anyone can take part in a kick-about.  It is nigh on impossible to have a 'rugby-about'.

The 'jumpers for goalposts' adage is true.  In Devon our son was kicking a football on the grass, and within a couple of minutes was joined by another boy.  Our daughter decided to join in too.  Three soon turned into four with the arrival of another girl, the dads followed on and before long I was in goal and the pitch was awash with dad-running, silky-skills and clumsy kicks.  We had over an hour of unprompted exercise and bloody good fun.  Everyone knew what they were doing and no-one needed to get grabbed by the legs. 
Can't see the Reading kit?  Click to download the pics.
Treasured and very, very lairy

In Poole a few weeks ago we saw 20 kids playing on an artificial pitch, with two dads loosely in charge.  On the first day our boy just watched them, counting the different team shirts and trying to suss out if they all knew one another.  We concluded that they didn't.  On the second day he looked over at the pitch then looked at me and said "I'm going to ask if I can join in."  And as I watched my 8 year old son, clad head to toe in his cherished fluorescent Reading kit, trot over, introduce himself and then get heartily welcomed into the swarm I realised that perhaps football isn't so bad after all. He had 90 minutes of being part of a team, the kids all calling each other by the names on their backs and no-one being told that they couldn't play.  The team sizes fluctuated up and down as children came and went but the game carried on.  He was in heaven and I saw how inclusive football can be.  And how it needn't be like the other examples I'd come to believe as the norm.

He's still playing rugby, but now he wants to join a football team too.  Perhaps I could learn to love it.

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