Letter to Tron

Letter to Tron

There is a young person that has recently returned to my family fold. Her name is Tron and she’s best friends with Medusa, my niece.

I’m good at goodbyes, I’ve had a lifetime’s training, but Tron has taught me something. It is too easy to forget how nice it is being with some people. You may have fond memories but it’s nothing to the easy interaction when they are there. Most of my goodbyes have been permanent but Tron’s absence was a blink and I am so glad. I am enjoying having her around so much that I am sad when she has to go home.

Tron, I love having you in my family. You are funny, beautiful, kind and smart and you will always have a place with us. I love you and when you made the joke that if you had a pound for every time someone called you beautiful, you’d have £1! – ‘Thanks Mum,’ I wanted to bump up your money!


If you, who are reading this, know a beautiful, good-hearted person like Tron, tell them. Tell them in a way that they can’t deny to themselves. I’ve put my Letter to Tron on my blog. Whenever she denies her good qualities, it will be here waiting to remind her how much she’s loved. Boy will she blush.

Negativity is too easy. It’s too easy to hurt without realising. Let us make an undertaking to find a way to show people that we appreciate them and that without them our worlds would be greyer and sadder.

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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Family Life, Musing


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The Chronicles of EggBert

The Chronicles of EggBert

Baby birds are ugly. I mean well ugly. Only their parent’s could love them. Cuckoos are the ugliest of the lot because their parents dump them in someone else’s nest and disappear. Baby birds are ugly.I’m talking about those poor little mites that hatch naked, blind and utterly defenceless looking like something a child made out of Play Doh. EggBert Day 1

These two sparrows were slightly prettier when they arrived in my kitchen – but only slightly. Largely bald, with just the tips of their feathers poking through, they sat quietly in a covered basket to recover from the shock of plummeting from my neighbour’s eaves.

That’s the last time they were quiet.

For the last eleven days I have left my bed at 5am to blend a mixture of cat biscuits, water, mealworms, apple and vitamin powder into a gunky, smelly sludge and syringing it down their little throats. I do this every forty-five minutes or so until about 9pm. I am quite tired now and the incessant cheep-cheep-cheep coming from their ever open beaks is really quite nerve-shredding.

Egg day2.1

(And before anyone tells me off for holding the bird lest it becomes ‘imprinted,’ I could not get the little horror to gape for me.)

But all life is precious and deserves a chance and I could no more leave these guys to their fate than I can stop myself apologising when I hear and feel the tiny explosion of snail, and shell, under my foot on a dark, rainy night. So I nurse them. And I worry about them. And I teach them. And I let my niece name them EggBert. (I would not allow her to call them Jedward!) They eat, shit and grow. And cheep.

Egg day 2Bert day 2

But that’s not all they do. From the first day, Egg, the smaller, younger of the two, was easier to catch and to feed. Bert always played hard to get. He would not open his beak for me and escaped my clutches many times. On day three of our acquaintance, I had the following text conversation with my sister at 8am.

Help! Bert has escaped. He’s in the sofa!

Shit! is he OK? St F asked.

Yes but he’s in sofa. Can’t lift it by myself.

Just getting dressed then on my way.

 It’s OK. Got him with feather duster. Now fed and back in basket. Phew!

It’s lucky for Bert that Eric the Dobermann is no longer around because he’d have disappeared down the dog’s throat in a single gulp. Roger, had he bothered to get out of bed, would have stood frowning over Bert and looking worried.

The next morning I saw Bert fly for the first time. He was heading for the patio doors until I caught him. Two days after that, Egg got his first lift off. I felt so proud.

They spend their afternoons in the garden watching other sparrows on the feeder, while I keep an eye out for next-door’s cats, and their nights on my kitchen table. From a wicker basket lined with a fleecy pyjama top they’ve graduated to a huge rat cage via a friend’s cockatiel cage that St F wrapped in paper and duct tape because the bars were too far apart. And yes, before you ask, it was Bert that demonstrated how to escape that cage in less than fifteen seconds.


Today, a wet and boring Sunday, I took the brave decision to open the cage door. Only in the front room, of course. They are far too young to leave yet. – they aren’t fully weaned or feathered. I had visions of them getting into hard to reach places but, as it turns out, they couldn’t find their way out of the cage. I lifted them out and placed them on the top. My main idea was that they should exercise their little wings a bit. They can flutter about in the cage but the more they practice the better. That was the theory, anyway. Mostly they sat on the cage and cheeped at me. Their characters have swapped now. Egg is difficult one. He’s also a messy eater and usually ends up wearing much of his meal. Bert is getting that ‘puffed-up’ fledgling look and has adopted David Brent’s dance from The Office as a way of informing me that he’s hungry. Can you tell that I’m a little in love with them?


I don’t know how things are going to turn out for EggBert. I don’t even know what gender they are (or identify with) but I’ve given them the best I have to offer and I continue to socialise them with their own species in the hope that they will become successful and happy members of the sparrow community and raise lots of little hatchlings of their own.

In the meantime, I thank God that they are fast asleep now and  … quiet.

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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Nature



It Definitely Wasn’t Showy, Mrs.

It Definitely Wasn’t Showy, Mrs.

I should have thundered north in an overcrowded, hot train but time, tide and finances were against me. Instead, my sister and I went to the beach and, just as the funeral was starting in Yorkshire, found ourselves a comfy spot on the pebbles at the tide line. Quietly, without drawing attention from the few holiday makers sitting around us, we built a small cairn around the flowers that I’d brought from garden.

Further up the Jurassic Coast, hymns were ringing out in a Methodist chapel in a town perched at the edge of the North Sea. Here, by the Channel, the sea sucked and sighed over the stones below us. Nature’s dirge to remind us that all will eventually erode.

She would have loved it here. The café hidden at the foot of the cliff, the sea, the red cliffs topped with the deep lush green that causes east coaster’s to catch their breath. Best of all she would have adored the beach huts. She had a thing about beach huts. She rented one every spring and autumn. How many times did we sit huddled in blankets discussing books, writers and the sex lives of people we didn’t like?  Not enough.

Cairn built, flowers fluttering in the breeze and an inscription on a stone, written in marker pen, I made a rambling speech to the sea about how I’d planned to come dressed up a bit but, on reflection, you and I were very similar in that most of our clothes came from charity shops and were well ‘lived-in.’ As long as we were clean and had brushed our hair at some point then that was good enough. Oh, and you had to have lippy on, of course. I spoke about you riding the comet behind Rufus and Betty and I cried. And that was it. Not showy, not loud, just heartfelt. I looked across at St F and she laughed. The cheap, council toilet roll that I’d swiped from the public loo had disintegrated when I’d wiped my eyes leaving me with white fuzz all over my face.

‘By the way,’ St F said. ‘I don’t belive Betty would allow Jenny on Rufus’ comet. I think she’d be jealous. Rufus was her best pal.’

We talked through a few alternatives and then went to the café for a coffee and a scone.

It definitely wasn’t showy, but it was a release. Distance doesn’t matter, I was there to see Jenny off in my own way and I’m kinda glad it turned out that way because I could be alone in my thoughts of her.

Goodbye old friend. Thank you for teaching me about true friendship without even trying. That’s just the kind of girl you were and I miss you still.


For Jenny 2 For Jenny 1

And in case you’re wondering, I believe that Jenny has two comets by the tail and has hitched them, Boudicca-like, to her chariot and is racing Rufus across the heavens.

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Posted by on July 16, 2015 in Family Life



That Was Foolish, Mrs

You led me to some dark places, Mrs. Most of them between the pages of a book, admittedly but, and let’s not tiptoe around here, there was your addiction to Freddo chocolate frogs. Malteasers were good but I imagine they were like Methadone is to a Heroin addict.

I remember so many afternoons in your front room at the table in the bay window, scoffing Freddos and trying to come up with penetrating critiques of modern art featured in the supplements – whilst simultaneously wondering how pissed the artists were when they painted them. Your daughter, Boggy, would look up from the TV where she was watching DVDs of The Crystal Maze and say, ‘You two are foolish.’

One must never be ‘foolish’ or ‘showy’, and there must never, ever be any ‘slacking.’ These expressions that Boggy had slipped into your family’s vocabulary as she was growing up, you generously shared with me and they have become part of my vocabulary too. As has ‘Terribly heppy.’ According to you, women in old black and white British movies could go from utter desolation to carefree jollity (or terribly heppy) just by applying some vivid red lipstick. You swore blind that your mother was just such a woman. It was how you always remembered her , in my presence. It’s how I remember you – you were never without your lippy when we went out. Though it was rarely bright red.

When my other half was being a …., I lodged with you for six months and painted every wall in your flat in lieu of rent. When I was broke, and you had money, you lent me a grand – just like that. When I moved back to the south-west, you stayed firm to our friendship and when I confessed I’d hit hard times, you were there.

Oh, the times I sent you filthy texts about a certain vertically challenged, older chap of our acquaintance! You always replied in kind. Boggy would not only think us foolish but rude too. She laughed anyway. I think she’s also a bit rude.

The last email I have from you, dated 1st July, is short and to the point but the previous one on the 30th June is long and chatty. I’d been helping you with a project and you ended by telling me not to spend too long on it because ‘life’s too short.’

Ah Mrs, you went to bed three days later and you didn’t wake up. That was way too short a life.

You inspired loyalty and deep friendship in a lot of people – from the people you went to uni with to my sister, who met you in passing, once. And yet, according to you, you bumbled through life humming, ‘de de de dededede’ and wondering where your next Freddo was coming from.

You introduced me to Wallander and Daphne DuMaurier and your ancient coffee percolator that was older than we were. All those times we timed ourselves doing The Times crossword whilst the percolator gently burbled in the hearth. We were crap but we loved the challenge. Life was never boring as long as our minds were able to hop, skip and flip from subject to subject and laugh at the world’s expense while we were at it. You even tried to teach me punctuation! And who’s going to edit my magnum opus now? I haven’t even written it yet and already you’ve bailed?

I miss you. Who will I email with my daft meanderings now?

I am a confirmed atheist but right now my heart and mind are one in picturing you, riding behind ST F’s cat, Rufus and Betty on the tail of a comet singing, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. I hope that it’s true and I hope that as you roar across the galaxy you know there’s a corner of a west country heart that is forever yours.

Have fun, Mrs and be as foolish and showy as you like XXX

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Posted by on July 8, 2015 in Family Life


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Pink Floyd and a Broken Freedom

This is raw and immediate so forgive me if comes out a little confused. I will come back and edit it but I feel a need to get this out there.

Pink Floyd are celebrating 50 years as a band. I just read, a few minutes ago, an article about two of their surviving members unveiling a plaque at their old college and, in the connected articles, was a link to Comfortably Numb. It has finished playing as I write this sentence and here am I trying desperately to nail down my evaporating emotions on a keyboard.

Isolated. Living in a rural part of Sussex. One dog, one cat and the four of us Goulands. This was a period where my mother decided to pick up our education again after a lengthy gap. Probably because she was bored brainless with her life.

It’s approaching Christmas, 1979 and Pink Floyd have released a new album The Wall and my mother wants to buy this as a Christmas present for my father. Having done so, she waited until he’d left for work (he was either selling showers or working as a private investigator at this time) the next morning and played the album to make sure it was all right. She tested that cassette all day, every day (except weekends when father was home) for almost a month. By the time my father unwrapped it on Christmas Day, that was one very pre-loved item. When he went back to work, the cassette went straight back into the stereo.

Much of Pink Floyd’s canon is etched onto the souls of St F and I but it is The Wall that resonates most strongly.

Their music had arrived in our lives in my father’s sea-going kit bag, three years earlier. I was eleven years-old and my father insisted that I sit between the speakers and listen to the album he’d brought back from his ship. It was Dark Side of the Moon. From then on, my mother made every effort to track down as many of Pink Floyd’s albums as she could. St F and I loved most of it – some of it was just plain weird and some of it I heard too much of. There was an 8-track stereo in my mother’s car and the same album was always in it. When she started the car, the tape would play. Again and again, for years! It was a long, long time before I could listen to Wish You Were Here again.

The Wall came back to Norfolk with us. Home was an even more isolated place in a rural area. No school – for us.

Isolation, separation, suffocation are recurring themes that I’ve dropped into this post. And they are recurring themes in The Wall. I haven’t listened to the Floyd for a while so finding, and listening to, Comfortably Numb, blew away thirty-five years of my life.

‘Wrong, do it again’ builds into a cacophony of voices all saying different things and then … silence. When the song starts again, it is quieter, muffled, as if the singer has turned inwards. That muffled, quieter – even deadened – quality is how my life felt, to me. At fourteen, I understood what Roger and the boys were saying. I knew about walls. I didn’t realise they were walls. but Pink Floyd handed me the perfect description. Walls didn’t protect me from being punched in the mouth and losing my front teeth. Walls didn’t protect me from having baby food mashed in my head and being thrown up the stairs by my hair. Walls did give me somewhere to hide my mind, though. Young as I was, I already knew that owning or hurting people physically wasn’t enough for some. They wanted, not only power over your mind, they also needed to see inside you. To see how you work, what your thoughts are. For them it’s like watching rats in a laboratory. That’s why the wall came in useful, it hid me. That and music, of course. I sang along, I absorbed the lyrics, I daydreamed, St F and I acted out whole chunks of The Wall when we were alone and each segment of the album became a small magic spell. All of the frustration, anxiety and confusion I poured into my renditions of those songs has stayed in them, trapped by a web of magic and memory.Play any part of that album to me and the spell pops. I am drenched in those painful feelings again – even just the voice telling me I’m wrong and I’ve got to do it again shoots me backwards instantly.

All of this comes across as a bit doomy and gloomy but wait … I haven’t listened to the Floyd properly for some years – The Wall, probably not since I was in my thirties and the gap is a good thing because there is a cut-off point, unlike with my Strawbs albums which never stopped collecting memories, so I went back to a place I haven’t been for twenty years, maybe. Yes, my wall was imperfect and some of my worst demons were thrown over the top of the wall into my deepest self but I listened to that particularly meaningful song as a (nearly) free person. My wall still stands and is still in use but I have been actively dismantling it for the last few years and now it less resembles a wall, more a Stonehenge.

And that’s a good thing, right?

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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Musing


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The Luck of the Irish

For years my sister has amused herself by gathering groups of drunken Irishmen and pointing them in my direction. She only does this on one night of the year and only when we are out on the town. Yes, I am a St Patrick’s Day baby. On hearing the news, these chaps rush (stagger) towards me and demand that I kiss them for luck.

Hold on a minute … I thought the Irish were already lucky? Admittedly, not all these guys are really Irish, judging by the dreadful attempts at accents that land somewhere between India and Wales, but enough of them are and I feel cheated. Shouldn’t I be kissing them for luck?

I realise now that all my recent problems are attributable to this phenomenon – All my luck’s been stolen. Therefore, tomorrow I will be hiding in my attic.

Having said that, Happy St Patrick’s Day everybody, whether you are really, really Irish or just pretending. Have a wonderful day. Just stay away from my attic because I’m trying to recharge my own luck.

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Posted by on March 16, 2015 in Musing


Dear Dave Cousins … (A letter to the only man I’ve ever truly loved)

Dear Dave,

Once upon a time two little girls grew up listening to their mother’s music. Their mother was a Strawbs fan. In Somerset, Berkshire, West Africa, Norfolk and many, many other places in between, the Strawbs provided the soundtrack to the lives of those little girls.

I was one of those little girls. St F was the other.

In The Gambia, when I was eight and St F was three, I sneaked into my mother’s record collection and played Strawbs, From the Witchwood and Grave New World over and over whilst reading the lyrics.

In Gothenburg, five years later, trapped on a small boat with nothing to do and nowhere to go, we listened to Nomadness and Burning for You. Later, sailing that same boat down to Nigeria, St F would join me on night watch and we would sing all the songs we knew from those albums to keep ourselves awake and scare away the night terrors. I don’t want to spoil you though, Dave. It wasn’t all about you. We did throw in a bit of Steeleye Span and The Yetties too. And we did a mean version of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. But, mostly, it was about you.

In 1980 I turned fifteen and in a junk shop in Norfolk I found a battered copy of Bursting at the Seams. That was the beginning of my own Strawbs collection. I still have that LP. The sleeve is much Sellotaped but the disc remains scratch free.

I won’t bore you with all the times that you, and Tony Hooper, and all the other Strawbs, past and present, impacted on our lives – I think you get the picture – but can you imagine the shock and awe of finding that our move back to the West Country meant that we were living just up the road from you? Our (much) younger brother was at the same school as your sons. I’d be waiting to pick him up on my motorbike when you’d pull up in your car to collect your boys. I’d watch but I never approached you. Like the Magic Mountain Music man, I’m really rather shy …

Then, joy of joys, you and the band got together and performed in the village hall! Oh. My. God. St F and I were beside ourselves! We danced, we sang and, at the end, Tony Hooper called us over and wanted to know how two twenty-somethings knew all the words to all the songs. Sadly, the conversation was cut short by outside influences and, like a couple of Cinderellas, we were dragged away by forces out of our control. All the way home I kept thinking ‘Please don’t let that be it. Please don’t let that be the only time I see them.’ But it was. For about twenty years.

Fast forward to 4th March 2015.

We were late, you’d already started.

‘Aargh! No!’ squealed my sister and pounded up the steps into the venue with me thundering along behind her. We made it into our seats for the closing bars of the first song.

There you were. And there we were. St F and I looked at each other and went, ‘Eeeeeeeeeeee!’ because we’d finally made it to one of your gigs. The set was short because you were sharing the bill with two other acts but we sucked up every minute and, when you got to the final number, Lay Down, and invited the audience to sing along, we did you proud. We were word-perfect – of course.

In the intermission, I spotted you at the bar. Swerving some neighbours from our village who’d come to hear the songs of Wishbone Ash, I said ‘D’you want a drink?’ to St F and shot off without waiting for her answer.

‘Dave,’ I said, amazed at my own temerity (But I was several whiskies in). ‘Have you got a minute?’ And, bless you, you stopped and smiled and said, ‘Yes.’

It mattered to us, Dave. It was great that you and Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert signed my CD but it was fan-bloody-tastic that you came and sat at our table!

‘Aren’t you going back in to see Carl Palmer?’ you asked and we shrugged.

‘Nah, we only came to see the Strawbs.’

‘But, he’s very good.’

‘I don’t doubt it.’ I shrugged again.

There was no one to interfere this time. The whole evening was an early birthday present for me. St F got the tickets as a surprise and our friend Rude Girl had sprung for us to stay in a nearby hotel. We were unfettered and, thanks to you, at ease. While everyone else was next door listening to Fanfare for the Common Man, we swapped stories and drank a bit and, when I confessed I’d not heard of the album Prognostic, you went over to the merchandise table, got a copy and gave it to me. I don’t think the gift came easy, you were gone a while. It seems the man in charge of the merchandise may have been less than keen to part with it.

‘Did you get into trouble for that?’ St F asked, indicating the CD.

‘Yeah,’ you said.

When the bar filled up again at the next intermission, you were swept away. A chap in a Rick Wakeman t-shirt wanted to interview you for his radio show (but had broken his mic) and you were called back to the merchandise stand but, before you went, you thanked us for our company and you kissed my hand. I had told you about The Gambia and you’d laughed and said we were sad little girls. We’d laughed too but what you couldn’t know, and we couldn’t tell you, was that we were sad little girls. For all those years and, still now, we have only ever had each other – and The Strawbs. You will never understand – how could you? – but that’s OK. I get it. St F get’s it. You, Dave, gave us the stories, the music and the magic to take us away from it all. I fell in love with you back in 1972 when I was a skinny eight-year-old. I still love you now, you and all the Strawbs. But especially you. When you kissed the hand of a woman on the eve of her fiftieth birthday, you reached back to all those earlier Lorraines and, somehow, you made a difference. I know because I’ve been back and checked. I can’t explain but somewhere in a parallel universe is a little girl dreaming along to your songs and she gets her happy ending because she does get to meet her hero. And he is kind.

Thank you, from St F and from me. Take good care, come back next year and know that even if you don’t remember us, we’ll be in the audience singing along.


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Posted by on March 6, 2015 in Uncategorized


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