Monthly Archives: June 2012

Yesterday Morning – For No Good Reason

Summer fog obscures the view to seaward but ashore the air is clear beneath the solid white sky. The red sandstone of the headland is emerging but its crown of conifers is still just a smudge of green on the mist.Our river meets the sea by that headland. It’s a great place to swim. The brackish water has carved a pool between the sandstone and the pebbled bank of the beach. I’m not swimming, though. It’s early, the kids are at school and I’m at the other end of the beach, at a picnic table, drinking coffee.

To my right, the sea is pawing at the shore. It’s a quiet, calming sound between the occasional rumble and crash of the breakers. Above and below the surf’s rhythm is the low rattle of stones being dragged back by the undertow and the piercing gossip of predatory gulls that are staking out my table. The owner of the kiosk where I bought my coffee has a dog and she knows something that the gulls don’t. She’s realised that I have no food on my table and is now ignoring me. You’d think the gulls would twig – after all, they have a birds-eye view.

The first time I came to this café was on the way to the railway station. My sister brought me here before I set off on the long journey to my home in a northern seaside town. It was a hot sunny morning and I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to go home and look at the North Sea, I wanted to stay here by the Channel. Now, I am home. I’ve moved back to the South West and my soul feels easier. I am very lucky.

I have no good reason to tell you all this, I just want to. And I hope that, wherever you are, there is a place like this for you – somewhere that you can top up on tranquility and lose yourself in daydreams.

I have to go now, I want another coffee but I only have a £20 note. Best I climb back up the cliff to the town and get some change …

Not so foggy now


Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Musing


Tags: , , ,

Out of the Noses of Children

My ten-year-old nephew slept in my bed last night. I left him watching a DVD on my laptop . When I came to bed he was asleep, the film finished and the laptop in hibernation. I slid quietly, carefully into bed. He woke, needing a visit to the bathroom. While he was gone I checked my emails.

‘What’cha doin?’ he asked on his return. Throwing himself on the bed he bounced up and down, wide awake and full of mischief.

‘Nothing. Just looking at something. Come on, get back into bed, you’ve got school in the morning,’ I answered. Like that was going to work. He continued to bounce, fidget and chatter while I deleted spam and emptied my junk mail folder so I started to close everything down, knowing he’d never go back to sleep unless I turned off the computer, and the bedroom light. Just before the screen went dark, I noticed a smear across one side of it. A sticky, hand-shaped smear.

‘What’s that?,’ I asked. ‘I cleaned that screen only the other day.’

‘It’s got nothing to do with me,’ replied my nephew.

‘I think it has. It wasn’t there before.’

‘Well … It’s something what happened that I don’t really want to tell you about.’

I was rather horrified. What could it possibly be? I wasn’t going to press him for an explanation though, because I’m nice. I looked at him. He had one side of his mouth pulled up into a lopsided smirk.

‘I sneezed,’ he said. ‘There were lots of bobbles of horrible stuff on it.’

‘You sneezed on my computer screen?’ I started to laugh.

‘Yes. And that’s where I wiped it off.’ He pointed to disfiguring smudge.

‘Oh yuk! You sneezed on my bloody laptop!’

‘Yes, but don’t worry because when you come to sell it—’

‘It’ll have your DNA all over it?’ I interrupted.

‘No, it’ll be worth more.’

‘More? Why?’

‘ It’s got my snot on it – you should get an extra £10 when people find out.’

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Family Life


Tags: ,

The Worst Day of the Year in the Northern Hemisphere

I am a creature of the light. I don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder but I do feel much happier when my world is filled with bright light and the days are long.


If only I could freeze time so that it’s always June. I love the short nights. I love looking out at 10pm and still being able to see daylight smudging the sky. And I really love waking at 4a.m and finding it as bright as mid-morning so Boo! to the Summer Solstice.

I  look forward to and dread Midsummer. It is the pinnacle of the year when light triumphs over dark and we have the longest day but it’s also when the wheel turns back and spins us down to the depths of winter nights. I wish all my days could be Midsummer days. I realise that I wouldn’t appreciate it so much if it were so but I’m willing to give it a try. I also realise that the Winter Solstice is a time for celebration but I’d think I’d still like to just live in June.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Musing, Nature


Tags: , , ,

Short Furry Legs and Big Ideas

We have a Jack-a-huahua. That’s right, a cross between a Jack Russell and a Chihuahua. And he hates the postman. It’s not personal, the dog’s fearsomely territorial and the postman will keep poking stuff through the front door. As far as the dog’s concerned, it’s just not on. His belly may only be three inches from the ground but he can take care of his patch, thank you, and he is NOT, repeat NOT putting up with some bloke trying to get through the letter box every morning.

At least I think that’s what’s going on. Maybe he just wants to read our letters.

The other day I heard the usual cacophony going on at the front of the house and wandered through to rescue the mail. A large, cellophane-wrapped article had thumped to the mat and our fierce, warrior-hound was busy savaging it when I came around the corner. I bent to shoo him away and saw the word Mslexia beneath the dog drool and shredded plastic.
‘That is mine, you four-legged fiend,’ I said and pulled the magazine away. The dog gave up willingly enough, the postman had gone and his argument wasn’t with me, so he trotted off to his bed without a backward glance. I carried away my magazine and stashed it away for later.
Mslexia is a magazine for women that write. I love when it arrives because under that cellophane is a literary jack-in-the-box. The instant I open the front cover, inspiration comes springing out. I save up my reading until I can sit quietly and absorb, absorb, absorb. Then I will feel motivated to pick up a pen or crank up the laptop. Sometimes we all need a fire lit under us and this magazine does it for me. I’ve only read the new writing section, I’m saving myself for the rest.
I used to feel the same way about Granta but they changed the format and I fell out of love. I rely solely on Mslexia at the moment so it’s no wonder I’m rationing myself – especially as it’s a quarterly! I should go on the website ( because there are lots of extra content but I never get around to it. Never mind, I have set myself some goals (and I intend to stick to them). They are as follows;
1. Get my short stories polished up.
2. Go online and research where to send them.
3. Send them.
4. Go off to my graduation and hope the dog tears up any rejection slips that arrive while I’m away.
There, I’ve written them all down, and where other people can see. I’d better get on with it instead of just writing/thinking about it. First though, I’ll just go and read a bit more of my magazine …

I said I was sorry!

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Struggling Writers


Tags: ,

Same-Sex Marriage – So What?

I have said elsewhere in my blogs that I am an atheist – religious faith is essentially meaningless to me. I only mention it again now because religion is impacting on something I feel strongly about – same sex-marriage. Actually, marriage is also something I refuse to buy into (too much commitment, shudder, shudder) but like faith, there are many people to whom it matters a great deal. It is the greatest declaration of love between two people, two fully consenting adults* who want to show their unity to the world. In the forms of marriage service I’m familiar with, the couple promise to love, honour and cherish each other. And to forsake all others, etc. It’s an honourable contract between two equals (at least in theory). How can homosexuality be seen to pervert that? If two people want to publicly cement their relationship , what difference does gender make? ‘It devalues marriage!’ some may cry but, really? Surely the point is that same-sex couples want to get wed because of the status that marriage confers on a relationship. Shouldn’t that be something to celebrate? Once upon a time, strict rules applied to every aspect of human existence. Shame, ostracism and, sometimes, extreme forms of punishment could be meted out to transgressors. It didn’t stop the rule breaking though, did it? Fear of a vengeful god or eternal hellfire wasn’t enough of a deterrent. Babies were still born out-of-wedlock, spouses were still unfaithful and so on and so on. The difference is, then it was all kept a shame-filled secret, now we’re all on view. We may not have Orwell’s version of Big Brother but we are all on record all the time. CCTV, tracking cookies, credit-ratings. It’s all out there. Even our mobile phone signals are used to track us down. Whatever the rights and wrongs of present-day society, at least we have open-ness. It’s not so easy to hide an unmarried, pregnant girl in a nunnery. It’s not so easy to pass off another man’s child as your husband’s. There are fewer and fewer places to hide our shame so, now, we don’t hide it. We’ve become defiant. So what if someone has kids by different fathers? So what if your parents aren’t married? So what if openly gay people want to openly get married? Secrecy can breed cruelty and pain. Frankness can disarm a critic.

I hope that the UK government does vote for gay marriage. I warm to the Unitarians, the Quakers and the more liberal Judaic sects for their support of this move and I don’t think that the more conservative churches/sects/ideologies can opt out. Having said that, I can fully understand why they would want to. In fact, by the terms of their beliefs, they have to reject gay marriage because it’s a sin in the eyes of God. I believe that they’re wrong but if that’s what people believe, then that’s what people believe and I feel for them because they’ll be caught between a rock and a hard place if the law changes. But, this is a nation, that’s governed by the State and not the Church and it will be interesting to see how this works out.

In the meantime, I look forward to a day when race, creed, colour and sexuality are unremarkable and unremarked on. Here’s to when we care only whether the people around us are decent-hearted folk who are doing their best.

* I realise that this isn’t always true but that’s a whole different subject.


Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Musing


Tags: , , , , , , ,


Hooray! I’ve finally cleaned out Shedward. The spiders had moved in whilst I was away and dust covered every surface. I should clarify, for anyone who reads my blog of the same name, that Shedward is the garden shed where I worked on my dissertation. It was good, if a little daunting, to see all my notes, pictures and plot lines pasted to the walls. I feel rejuvenated. The novel will be finished … I’m going to work up to it, though. I think I will re-read and re-work my short stories and (maybe) send them out. Now that I have my MA, I’m conscious that I need to keep the pressure on without the incentive of deadlines. I haven’t helped myself by moving so far away from the contacts I made at university and my job makes getting involved with the literary scene down here a slow process. Never mind, in cleaning my outer shed, I’ve also cleaned my inner shed. I hope that means I’ve got headroom to acquaint myself with the writer in me.


Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Struggling Writers


Tags: , ,

Jubilations and Tribulations – Child Shaped

‘Close the window,’ said my niece. ‘I’m getting rained on!’ We were driving up to town today to, among other things, get her belly button pierced.

‘No, no,’ said her best boy pal J. ‘If we close the window, a baby panda will have its life taken away. For every second the window stays open, we adopt a baby monkey. And there will be cake.’

I love J. He’s a really nice guy but I can’t pretend he’s not bonkers. Bonkers in a good way. There is a large paddling pool in our garden and one day J. came for a splash about with other kids from the neighbourhood. Unlike the other kids, he left his underpants behind. Washed, dried and folded, they were presented to him a few days later.

‘I’m not taking them home,’ he said.

‘Why not?’ asked my sister. ‘They’re your pants.’

‘No I’m going to hide them in your house and you have to find them.’

Like all good parents, my sister warned him of the consequences of his decision. ‘If you do that, J. and I do find them, I will hang them outside where everyone can see them,’ she said.

‘Game on,’ said J.

Game on indeed. So far the pants have been found in the fruit bowl and hung from a bamboo stick in the hedge. Then the pants were hanging in my bedroom doorway so they spent the Jubilee weekend fluttering from my sister’s bedroom window. His mother can see our house from her front door – doesn’t she recognise those black and yellow boxer shorts?

Today, the pants turned up in the kitchen. We were planning to put them up the telegraph pole with our Jubilee Union Flag but J. beat us to it and now they’ve disappeared again. Don’t worry we will find them – I favour flying them from the car aerial …

Kids. They are just too damn smart for my good – or smart-mouthed, anyway. Last weekend the family and I decamped to a friend’s house for a party to celebrate our Queen’s 60 years at the helm. Tribes of small people rampaged through the garden and threw each other off the trampoline before arriving at the barbecue shouting ‘I’m bored, I’m hungry.’  The sound of burgers being chomped replaced the shrieks of the younger kids and the bleeping of the older ones updating their Facebook profiles by mobile phone, then darkness descended and the brave among us set off to the park to see the fireworks. When I say brave, I probably mean well-oiled. The adults certainly were and I’m sure some of the wilier youngsters had been ‘minesweeping’ when no one was looking – several of the scooters being propelled by little boys followed uneven, zig-zaggy courses. One lad seemed quite relieved when my sister commandeered his wheels and took off down the street giggling. She had definitely been on something stronger than orange squash. The elder brother of the now scooter-less boy watched my sister go with a thoughtful expression on his face. He’s blessed with a personality that is utterly and unquestionably honest. He wouldn’t know how to lie if his life depended on it, as I soon found out. Erupting into peals of laughter, the boy ran up and down the street in front of me shouting ‘She’s the oldest woman ever to get on a scooter!’ He repeated himself a couple of times as my sister circled around him, still giggling. Not to be outdone, I said to the boy, ‘she won’t be the oldest woman for long because when she comes back, I might have a go. I’m even older than she is.’ The boy stopped walking, paused for a tiny moment then turned to face me. He threw his arms wide, looked me in the eye. ‘Obviously!’ he said.

Tact and diplomacy clearly aren’t on his to do list either.

The world has changed and moved on since I was young – some of the changes are good, some not. I’m not one for comparing today’s kids with dimly remembered contemporaries from my childhood. I know that people will contrast past and present youth culture but I didn’t expect to hear my nearly teenage niece doing it.

Tonight, whilst my niece was out of the room, I changed TV channel from the chick-flick she was forcing me to watch and discovered a programme about punk rock. Ah, now those were the days. No contest, the chick-flick was history. When my niece returned, her mother and I were arthritically pogo-ing on the hearthrug and reminiscing about a time when we were a similar age to my niece and nephew. A time when young people were angry and looked scary and poked safety pins through their skin. We remembered tall, spiky hair that took a whole can of hairspray  to combat gravity, bondage trousers, bum-flaps and anarchy t-shirts.

‘Oh look,’ my sister yelled in ecstasy. ‘There’s Johnny Rotten. He’s the bloke I named my chainsaw after.’

‘I know, Mum,’ my niece replied. ‘You told me already.’

I looked at her to see if she was bored, contemptuous or pissed-off about missing her film but she wasn’t. She was interested. She was actually enjoying the music. At the end of the documentary, after listening to Siouxie Sioux, Adam Ant, Hugh Cornwell and Rat Scabies etc, my niece faced her mother and me with her hand on her hip and her lip pulled up in a threatening sneer. ‘Music in your day was all angry and “I’m gonna cut you” stuff,’ she said. Then she smiled. ‘Music in my day,’ she swayed her hips and winked at us, ‘is all heyyy, I just wanna f*** you. Which do you think is better?’

Er …

Let’s go back to cake and monkeys and hiding underpants.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 9, 2012 in Family Life


Tags: , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: