sarah miles

Triple blogger and a bit of a lush.

Aug 302015
 

Well, it’s been a very hectic three weeks, to say the least.

The majority of August has been taken up with Paper Swans’ launches of our new book, Schooldays. I have, on three consecutive Saturdays, hosted events at London, Oxford and Edinburgh. It’s been fab and if you want to know more you can read about it here.

The highlight of last week was going to Harry Potter studios. I know lots of bloggers have gone (for free, grr) and ‘done it’ but we were there for the love of all thing Rowling and with a daughter named Hermione, it was the only place I felt I could freely call her name and not get looked at in ‘that way’. It was bloody excellent. We are all avid Potter fans, so it was a safe bet really, but OMG, just SO worth the money, to get in. Everything else was a massive bit of a rip-off. £25 for the video of your child riding a broom. I have 3 children; that’s £75 for 6 minutes of footage nobody will ever want to watch more than once (I KNEW my maths GCSE would come to good use one of these days). We didn’t purchase.

However, the chance to see all the sets and props and all those images and things that are SO familiar to Potter fans, in the flesh – just indescribable. My sis and I were in seventh heaven. And the kids quite liked it too. I *might* have bought my daughter, Hermione, Hermione Grainger’s wand for Christmas. I absolutely will not be waving it at home on my day off, shouting ‘Alohomora!’ at the dishwasher.

One, stand-out thing from the last few weeks is that I took my eldest daughter to Edinburgh with me. During that trip, we went to the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh (which is EXCELLENT btw) and there was a program by St. Andrew’s University where you could age yourself (and change your sex, see yourself as a chimp etc.). Despite the fact that I think I look a bit like Legolas as a boy, I saw my daughter aged 70. This made me well-up because, in real life, I’m never going to see that. She looked lovely.

Legolas

Legolas & Me. Sittin’ in a tree…

My 70 year-old daughter

My 70 year-old daughter

 

School starts any hour now (argh!) and life will get back into routine. Which I am eager to break at any opportunity. I have various poetry events to got to, including the Poetry Book Fair at the end of September where I have a stand. I have also signed up for two courses with The Poetry School (yes, two!) and today is my 12th wedding anniversary which  is being suitably celebrated with my OH feeling ill and asleep upstairs, kids fighting and me sipping a celebratory viognier and catching up on my blogging. This is what marriage is all about, folks!

Until next time x

Aug 132015
 

A few months ago I heard that a poem of mine had been accepted for publication in Prole, a renowned poetry/prose magazine. Well, today, it landed on my doorstep and there I am, on p115! It is a poem I wrote about the year of my birth when the headlines were filled with the IRA but also the year that Live and Let Die was released (you’ll be singing that for the rest of the day now – you’re welcome).

Anyway, it was a poem that just flowed and needed very little editing – a rare thing indeed, but proof that you know in your gut when something has worked. Just need to write another one now…

Aug 132015
 

I’ve been in a bit of a quandary of late, about blogging. Having had a year when I didn’t really blog and focused on my poetry instead, I have been wanting to come back to it. Not as a full-on blogger – those days are gone and I have no interest in brands or stats or any of that side of it. My conference days are over and I actually have come full circle and want to just have a tiny space of my own on the internet where I can off-load.

The thing is, over the last four years I have started three blogs and one website (Paper Swans) and I find I have spread myself a bit thin. Paper Swans is now running as an independent press and (trying) to be a business, even if a non-profit one because, let’s face it, there’s no money in poetry; it’s definitely a labour of love from all ends of the spectrum. So, Paper Swans is my priority and very time-consuming, if in the most enjoyable of ways. Think Twitter, Facebook and Candy Crush rolled into one.

My cooking blog, What Would Nigella Do? simmers along in the background, although I have been trying to give it a bit of TLC lately – let it know it’s not forgotten.

So, that leaves my writing blog and this one. And even though I am not going to close either of them, I feel like the writing one has become a bit redundant as I only post the odd bit of flash fiction on it now because other writing I do is (theoretically) in-line to be edited and polished up and sent off to publishers for consideration. So, I can’t publish it on my blog and, actually, I don’t want to any more. But I don’t want to shut it down – I might just mentally and emotionally put it out to pasture.

And as for this blog? Well, it’s my first ‘baby’ and I love it. It saved my sanity four years ago and, because of it, I have met a lot of lovely people and made some truly great friends. I want to go back to using it as intended; to give myself a voice. And so, I have made the decision to use it more (weekly-ish) and, once again, talk about everything on it – my writing, my life, insignificant things, important things. It will be of little interest to many, but a great friend for me. And, yes, I do think of Hello Wall in that way.

Case in point – now I have written this post, I feel a lot better. Like I’ve spring-cleaned my internet existence, like things have been cleared up, like I’ve spoken to a friend.

Jul 222015
 

I have the pleasure of being a participant in Capture by Lucy’s Summer Surprise Project (#summertimesurpriseproject). I love things like ‘random acts of kindness’ where you tell a stranger you like their jacket, buy coffee for the next person in the queue or put your neighbour’s bins out – just because you can. This project is about sending a parcel to a stranger. You are sent their likes/dislikes (mine liked purple, stationery and reading and is allergic to bananas) and you make up a little parcel of things new, old, recycled, made etc. and post it off anonymously.

CKhYs4lWcAAok3B

This Sunday, we are all opening our parcels and I am so excited. My parcel was received this week and is perched by my desk, ready to be opened and, no doubt, it will make me smile. Not because I am getting something, but because somebody has thought about each item, parcelled it up and sent to me; somebody unknown and who I can’t thank but somebody who will be unwrapping their own mystery parcel at the same time and also feeling the love of human nature.

Sometimes we need to turn off the news and listen to our hearts. People are lovely. This project is lovely. Despite what the media will have you believe.

My thanks to Lucy.

Lovelyinformal  Very pleasant or enjoyable; delightful:
OED

Jul 102015
 

There are, of course, a whole host of meaningful things that bother me, like imminent threats of terrorism; FGM and James Naughtie leaving the Today show. But, I’ll leave you with the trivial stuff:

Pinterest

Used to love this. I could while away the hours, literally, consulting with the flowers. Now, I get a timeline of  ‘recommended’ pins and a whole load of crap from people I don’t want to hear from. Result: used to be hooked for hours, now hooked for about 45 seconds.

pinterest_badge_red-2The longevity of helium balloons

I reckon they stick a pin in them and laugh as we leave the store.

Coffee shops not cleaning their tables

We put up with it and kid ourselves that sticky is urban, but it’s not. It’s just sticky.

The new(ish) Post Office system of self-mailing parcels

Takes longer than the queue and less people are employed. And, what qualifies as a parcel? Grrrr.

Non-stick Pans

That stick.

BMW Drivers

Every time.

When people say ‘pacific’ instead of ‘specific’.

Couldn’t be a wider gap.

Toilet roll hung the wrong way

Flap down. Please.

Teenagers swearing loudly in the street/on trains/in earshot of my children 

Shut the f**k up.

Breathing or resting on me while I try to sleep

As Prince said: Get off.

Moaning about the state of the house and doing nothing to rectify it

There’s more than one interpretation of D.I.Y.

Morning

Go away. Need tea. Go away. Need tea…

Underlying sexism

‘What’s for dinner? I don’t know. Do you?’

Subtweets

Just @ them. We don’t need to know, thanks all the same.

Shop signs/chalkboards that have incorrect spellings

If you’re not 100% sure, go get a dictionary.

People with really sweaty faces

I know they can’t help it, but it makes me feel nauseous

Litter at NT properties, forests and the like

What part of your brain told you it would be fine to leave your crap on the ground anywhere, let alone in this beautiful place?

Toenail clippings on the bathroom floor

*looks at husband*

People who don’t say thank you when you hold a door/let them out at a junction/let them pass 

Plain rude.

Unflushed Public Toilets

Just put a bit of welly into it – if I can flush it before I sit, you could have flushed it before you left.

 

 

Jul 032015
 

22689_1586761778275517_6117338729490390545_nToday, I joined The Women’s Equality Party, set up by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer.

Why? Well, I have always been proud to call myself a feminist, in the truest sense of the word: that men and women should be equal. In many places, including the UK, this is not so. If you need persuading, read more details here. I have never joined a political party before, I suppose I have never felt a whole and total allegiance to one particular party and their policies. However, when I saw the launch of The Women’s Equality Party and read about their mission and ideals, I didn’t take much convincing to join. £4 pcm – less than a latte and a slice of cake.

I have taken the liberty of copying their ‘objectives’ from their website:

#WE are pushing for equal representation in politics, business and in working life to ensure women’s voices are heard at the same volume as men’s.

#WE urge an education system that creates opportunities for all children and an understanding of why this matters.

#WE strive for equal treatment of women by and in the media.

#WE are pressing for equal pay and an equal opportunity to thrive.

#WE are campaigning for equal parenting rights and shared responsibilities at home to give everyone equal opportunities both in family life and in the work place.

#WE seek an end to violence against women.

 

Nothing I disagree with there and I would be interested to talk to someone who does disagree with any one of these objectives.

I know I am generalising, but I think that much of society, both men and women, don’t realise how indoctrinated sexism is within our society. Things like when you graduate from university, you gain a bachelor degree, or a masters. Both traditionally male terminology. Things like getting comments and whistled at  – not so much now, but as a teenager, I remember always bracing myself to walk past a building site, being unsure how to react to the comments – if I looked cross or ignored them, I ‘d get told to ‘lighten up’; if I forced a smile, just to make it easier to get past, I’d get asked out on a date. Why was the onus on ME on how I should react to THEM? Men can walk down the road topless and not expect to get assaulted or raped because of it; I’m sure it would be a different story for a woman.

I know this is all stuff that has been said before, but the point is, it doesn’t change and there are many more (and worse) examples to corroborate the situation. This is why I am so glad that an official political party has been formed to address and action these imbalances. Society won’t change overnight, but it can change – I really believe it can. We’ve seen suffragettes, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa…all making change happen. Regular people, changing the world for the better. I want to be a part of that and this is why I have joined The Women’s Equality Party.

https://womensequality.org.uk

#WE

 

 

Jun 302015
 

I must confess, this is a post I never dreamed of writing.

For a start, it’s about spiders. Spoiler for all you arachnophobics out there – pictures below. Not big scary tarantulas, mind you. Just Mr & Mrs Skinny-Legs.

Secondly, it’s about the preservation of our eight-legged ‘friends’. Again, not a concept I have ever been passionate about.

Lastly, I am in a real dilemma. My (not so) hidden Buddhist traits are getting very feisty and, as we all know, non-violence is the best way to win…

So, I take you to a place that was once the subject of my most (in)famous blog post – my downstairs loo.  About three weeks ago, I noticed that in the corners above the facility, like Frazier and Ali, were two skinny-legged friends, barely noticeable due to their size. No more then a ten pence piece. Resisting the urge to Dyson them, I left them there, a pair of arachnid bookends, just doing their best to live their lives.

This, in itself, is a quite a thing for me. I would say that, up until the age I had children, I was probably arachnophobic. I’d freeze when I saw a spider and the bigger and hairier it was, the more I would cry. Yes, I actually cried.  Having kids sort of made me overcome ‘the fear’ and, with the help of a *certain* Peppa Pig episode, I toughened up and bucked up the courage to extend the Dyson hose to the arachnid in question and (while looking the other way and humming) suck it up.

This goes against all I truly believe – a deep down, secular, innate belief that no living thing should be killed by another.

Well, possibly wasps. I’m working on it.

Seriously, I believe that everything, bloody ugly and scary as it may be, deserves to have its life and is, at the end of the day, just trying to make its way in the world.

So, I allowed Mr & Mrs Skinny-Legs to stay put and, as I am the only one that seems to clean the house above the waist, nobody else even noticed they were there.

Then they grew. And grew. Their legs remained as spindly as ever but their bodies got fatter and I became more and more aware that, as I sat on the throne, they might leap onto my head and run up my face and tangle in my hair and…you get the picture.’

My *rugged* South African husband, who scoffs at my fear of bugs, “doesn’t like the skinny ones” and refused to relocate them to the garden. He told me he’d Dyson them. (I inwardly laughed at the fact that he still believes he actually hoovers). I did exclaim, ‘No!’ but actually felt relieved of the moral burden.

Needless to say, they are still there and then, today, I saw THIS:

babies

Top left corner: Baby spiders in a sack.

IMG_9406

Top right corner: Baby spiders everywhere.

Both, much skinnier again and one has had babies and the other has had a ball of babies. All ready to skitter over my house and, no doubt, be my full quota of spiders you swallow while you’re aslaaep *fingers in ears…lalalalalalala…can’t hear you…*

So, the question is,’What the Holy crap do I do now?’ I can’t Dyson BABIES! Neither do I want them pitty-pattying above my head while I catch up on Waitrose Weekend.

The Buddha says, ‘No.’ But the Dyson is just across the hall…

Mar 042015
 

There are times when I love my son so much, my heart hurts.

Tonight, I was telling him about the sponsored ‘sleep-out’ my brother-in-law and 12 year-old nephew are doing to raise money (and awareness) for youth homelessness. My son has always had a conscience pricking at him, It’s something I recognise acutely. He has been near tears before when we saw a homeless man asking for change but I (really) didn’t have any so I said we’d come back after popping into town, where I would get some cash for the man. He talked about him all around town and, on the way back to the car, we went to give him the promised money but he was gone. My son remembers this like it was yesterday. It happened two years ago, when he was 5.

Anyway, my little campaigner-in-the-making was listening intently as I explained that by sleeping ‘rough’, his uncle and cousin would experience a tiny bit of what it was like living on the streets and it would help them to understand how it feels. He asked if he could do it too but I told him that he was too little.

‘Would you do it, Mummy?’

My heart sank a little as I lied, ‘Of course I would.’

***

Fast forward past the usual bedtime hassles of:

‘Can we have a sleepover?’

‘No.’

‘Can I have another story?’

‘No.’

‘Why can’t we have a sleepover? – we’ll be good…’

‘It’s a school night.’

‘So?’

‘It’s against the law on a school night.’

I know; I get a bit desperate sometimes.

Anyway, a while after all the usual shenanigans, I went to check on the kids and found my son curled up in the corner of the hallway in his duvet. After berating him with the usual ‘school night’ argument he looked up at me, big wide eyes:

‘I was trying to be like a homeless person, Mummy. To see how they feel. It’s very uncomfortable’

I let him sleep on his bedroom floor instead (yes, even on a school night) and told him how proud I was of him. ‘You’re going to save the world one day, Love.’

He just might.

sleepeasy

If you are interested in sleeping out for the homeless, click here.

addendum My sincere thanks to the YMCA who read this post and sent my son a personal letter of thanks for his support.

How (not) to complain to a school

 Blog  Comments Off on How (not) to complain to a school
Feb 252015
 

b89b1939402f1321bbddcad9d401083fBeing a teacher, I just had to share this article from The Guardian
about complaining to a school.

It’s spot on. Every parent should be sent a copy to read.

 

 

Feb 242015
 

images-1I have three kids; that’s a LOT of kids’ parties. With number three in Reception class, I have adopted a very laissez-faire approach to parties of any kind and the glimpse of an unexpected envelope in the book-bag makes my  heart sink a little.

Except they’re rarely in the book bag anymore, they’re via email where you can’t escape them.  There’s no false claims of loss or non-arrival – it’s there, in your inbox, awaiting an RSVP.

Recently, I have been subjected to something even worse: Save the Date emails.

Bunnikins is having a party in seven months time, so can you Save the Date? (subtext: your child better f**king be there or I will stalk you and bad-mouth your name in the playground and everyone will KNOW what a crap mother you are).

Is it just me or is asking me to save the date for a child’s party somewhat OTT? Actually, I think it’s bloody rude. I can hardly say, ‘No, I won’t save the date because something better might come along’ or ‘Actually, I am so tired of ferrying my kids to parties every weekend my child won’t be coming and we shall be at home instead, doing nothing of any substance’. I don’t WANT to save the date, thank you very much. This is not a wedding or some once-in-a-lifetime occasion. It is a kid’s party.

My daughter turned 10 recently and I offered her a party or £100 cash to spend as she pleases. She took the cash. It was the cheaper and easier option for me and she got to buy a pile of sparkly crap from Claire’s and enough stationery to furnish a new Ryman’s store. It was a win-win situation:

  • No invitations to send
  • No RSVPs to collate
  • No hall to book
  • No entertainment to organise
  • No food to prepare
  • No party bags to fill
  • No clearing up
  • No thank yous to write
  • No second-mortgage to take out…

She was happy. I was happy. In fact her siblings have also expressed a wish to do the same, which suits me fine.

You may think me more of a party-pooper than a party-popper, but, for me, the stress and expense is just not worth the hastily forgotten two hours of mayhem and (usually) tears.

 

Incidentally, it is my birthday today and I’m not having a party either. Might have a spend-up at the weekend though ;-)

 

Feb 152015
 

feb
So, how did February get here so fast, eh?

I have survived Friday the 13th and side-stepped having to watch 50 Shades of Shite at the cinema.

Valentine’s Day has been and gone as has my littlest daughter’s 5th birthday. Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday and that doesn’t just mean pancakes, that means Lent. I know what I should give up (alcohol), what I might give up (biscuits) and what I will probably give up (trying).

I don’t do Dry January, mainly because I think January is the most miserable month of the year and possibly the time when some wine-fuelled joy is most needed. Lent always encompasses my birthday and, much as I like to think I’m strong-willed, I am not and the thought of dragging myself through another birthday without alcohol to numb the pain is, frankly, a naivety. I am also off for a couple of weekends away in March and living’ it up with a diet coke just isn’t going to happen.

Biscuits are a maybe. I teach and the significance of a choccie digestive at 11am is highly under-estimated by the majority of the population. There was near-revolution in one school I worked in when, in recessionary cuts, they stopped supplying chocolate biscuits to the staff room. Talk about cut off your nose to spite your face. The power of a sneakily dunked bourbon was missed completely.

I am (as ever) determined to give up something…which of my vices it will be may well be a last-minute (and hastily revoked) decision.

My birthday, I don’t mind so much this year. Dragged kicking and screaming into my forties, I now discover I have never felt so confident. It’s great. I no longer give a damn about what people think of me or how they will judge me if I choose to wear my hair in an Elsa plait despite my tell-tale wrinkles. Sod it; I am loving the freedom of my forties and have never felt so good about myself. I am in full-flow mid-life crisis (new car, new *sort of * career, and, as my husband has commented, wearing a lot of bangles. I am re-living my A-ha days…).

Yep, February is a great month for me. Full of ups and not so many downs.

Wish I could say the same for March…

 

Feb 142015
 

It’s Valentine’s Day and social media is a-flutter with its lovers and haters.

I fall somewhere in between and I believe Valentine’s Day is very much a subjective occasion.

When I was young, in my late teenage/twenties, Valentine’s Day was huge. The thought of not getting a card was enough to spiral me into a Bridget Jones type angst. Cards, flowers, dinner, great sex – all of this mattered. Back then.

Now, nearly 42 and after 11 years of marriage, I am resigned to the fact that I have no secret admirers, nor am I likely to acquire any on the way. I was forewarned by my husband that ‘I haven’t got you anything’ and, to his word, he didn’t. It doesn’t bother me a lot, but it does bother me a little. Like many others, I don’t need a special day to tell me I am loved and I don’t buy into the commercialism, but if you go back to the origins of Valentine’s Day, it is about a man who was willing to die in order to facilitate love. And that’s pretty special. He should be remembered and love should be celebrated. With all the tragedy that permeates our news headlines, I kinda like the fact we make such a fuss about something which is, at the end of the day, a positive thing. Lovely, in fact.

I also get the Valentine haters. Perhaps those who are not loved, who are in abusive relationships, who are lonely, whose experience of love is a wholly negative experience. Those who have loved, and lost.

It’s the people who ‘don’t give a damn about Valentine’s Day’ but actually do, that bother me. The not caring but quite willing to vociferously slap their damning opinions in the faces of those who are either trying to have a nice day or are trying to ignore everything heart-shaped. If you want nothing to do with it, then kindly bugger off.

Live and let love. That’s what I think, anyway.

 

My card to my husband. Married life, eh...?

My card to my husband. Married life, eh…?

Jan 212015
 

IMG_7339Like much of Britain, I was dismayed to hear that Kraft (who bought Cadbury’s) have been rather ‘Krafty’ *groans* and changed the chocolate on Creme Eggs. No longer does thick dairy milk surround the sweet, gooey filling but cheap, thin chocolate that tastes as sugary as its filling.

I tweeted my alarm to Cadbury’s, Facebooked my torment and then, today, I decided that I really had no right to damn these new ovum without actually trying one. It took all of 5 seconds to persuade myself to buy one.

Ok, a box.

First up, it’s now a box of 5. Robbed of an egg before I’m even off the starting blocks.

Secondly, I mentally prepared myself to push aside my prejudice and judge it for what it is. Being an RS teacher, and having recently finished teaching The Good Samaritan, I urged my pupils to take heed and judge people by what’s on the inside, not on the outside or what label they have attached to them. So, I applied this wisdom to the new Creme Egg. I closed my eyes and bit off the top and…

…I am NOT happy. I’m not convinced the inside hasn’t been changed a bit too, but the chocolate is now a darker colour, thin and really sweet. The old chocolate was thick – sometimes it was an almighty effort to bite through it, especially if it was chilled. It was milky and cloying, which balanced the oozing, sugary filling and every mouthful was a mission of pleasure to complete.

IMG_7346The new egg lacks texture, taste and I would like to know who thought they could change a British institution and get away with it. No, that sounds a bit UKIP-y *shudders* but you know what I mean. Generations have grown up with the uniqueness of Creme Eggs and their limited annual release simply made them more desirable. It was a talking point, ‘Creme Eggs are back in the shops!” and mental notes were made to sneakily buy one next time you were in a shop or petrol station. They were a guilty secret to be scoffed (sometimes whole) and savoured.

Now, I realise that this is very much a ‘first world problem’ and in relation to the horrors of the news headlines, bastardising Creme Eggs is, perhaps, not such a big deal.

Except it is. Change it back, please, Kraft. Because there’s a significant part of the nation that won’t be buying them any more until you do.