Sep 202015

A few months ago, Britmums asked me to write about my writing journey; which I did.

It’s just been published on their ‘magazine’ and I thought I really should share it with you on here too. It made me feel quite sentimental when I wrote it; reminiscing on key people/institutions that made a huge difference. Sometimes I wonder ‘What if…?’. What if my friend, Helen T, didn’t suggest blogging? What if I hadn’t got a few lucky breaks? What if I hadn’t gone to blogging conferences? What if I hadn’t met my poetry friends? What if Helen Braid hadn’t planted the seed that I could set up my own press? What if it had all gone belly-up?

Oh, what if, what if…

It happened. It’s still happening. I believe that those small, but significant connections/decisions we make are what shape us. And sometimes, it’s only retrospectively that you can appreciate the people and events who have changed our life.

I came out of a poetry meeting the other night and, walking back to the car, I felt an overpowering sense that I had ‘found my place’. A place which has many roads leading from it and many more steps to climb, but a place I feel anchored in, safe; somewhere I belong.

And I have my Helens to thank.

Sep 112015

“Well, she says if we’re single at 40, we’ll get married and move to the country…”

Passenger, Catch in the Dark

I was listening to the lyrics of this beautiful song the other day, and it got me to thinking whether anyone actually marries their back-up person? It’s a romantic notion, and a nod to a lifelong ‘maybe’ that one day, you might end up together, with the unfinished sentence because we should be together. We both know it. We’re just not ready yet.

Except, it rarely happens and the romanticism of youth is bullied by bad break-ups and ghosts of exes and, when you actually make it to the big 4-0, married or single, you forget you even made such a promise. If you do remember, it brings a sentimental smile and you wonder what that person is doing now and take to Facebook.

Perhaps you never had a break-up person. I did and I can remember the night we vowed to get married if (like the song says) we were single at 40. I was 22 and staying at his flat in London for the night as I had my big drama school ‘find an agent’ production at The Duke of York’s Theatre the next day. He had been my first boyfriend and my first love but we had both moved on and were both nursing unhappy current relationships. We reminisced, we laughed and we made a promise. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has no recollection of this, but, to quote a current Disney film, it became one of those core memories for me and I’ve never forgotten it. (Never dwelt on it either, to be clear! It was just one of those silly, bottle-of-wine moments, but I remember it).

Anyway, hearing the song by Passenger (click here if you want to listen), made me think and wonder if it ever happens. And if it does, is it successful?

Do let me know if you know of any stories. The romantic in me (it’s a fighter) would like to hear them. In the meanwhile…

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 & 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

Published in Prole

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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.

Summertime Surprise Project

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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.


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:

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:


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.


Go away. Need tea. Go away. Need tea…

Underlying sexism

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


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.




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:


Top left corner: Baby spiders in a sack.


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?’


‘Can I have another story?’


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

‘It’s a school night.’


‘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.


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

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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

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…