The Mother Ship

I was the vessel
that ferried them to this world.
They travelled in economy,

limbs contorted,
while I billowed through the months,
growing my curious cargo.

Wedged inside the hold
they didn’t want to leave.
Wouldn’t disembark.

They saw first light
through a porthole carved
in that cramped cabin.

Then were hauled out,
two pink slippery shrimp
complaining loudly.

My bow adrift
I bled a galaxy of tears,
while alien life lay mewling in my harbour.

Love in a vase

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day here in England. My twin daughters live at different ends of the country, and because of their, and my, schedules we were, to my dismay, destined not to meet up for the day.  They were though, dutiful enough to send sweet and thoughtful mother’s day cards, and to my surprise and delight, also both sent the most wonderful bouquets.  I wish I could harness the scent, which fills our living room, to share with you, but in the absence of smellyblog here are a few studies I took of the flowers.

Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy!

Since my post yesterday bemoaning my broken Sooty eggcup, it has come to my attention that some of my wordpress friends have not heard of Sooty (stands back in horror…!)  This seems astonishing to me, but then, he has been around in England since before I was born (blimey..I hear you say…), created by Harry Corbett in 1948.  His TV show has been aired since the early fifties.

Sooty is a glove puppet (don’t tell him.. he thinks he’s a teddy bear…) who attempts magic with his magic wand, and is an occasional xylophone player.  Together with his friend Sweep, and the goody-two-shoes panda, Soo, he gets into all sorts of mischief without saying a word – Sadly Sooty is mute. Sweep does squeak, and Soo speaks in an annoying school-marm voice (I never did like Soo). I’ve pinched the show’s catch-phrase for the title of this post – Izzy Wizzy Let’s Get Busy,which was always accompanied by a wave of Sooty’s wand of course.

When Harry Corbett retired in 1976, his son Matthew took over Sooty’s errmmm…glove, and on his retirement in 1998 he found a replacement in Richard Cadell who is still to be found on TV with his puppety friends.  These day’s Sooty is quite modern and even has his own website

I’ve had fun browsing through some of the old shows to be found on youtube, but think this one pretty much optimises it as I remember it, though as a kid I watched it in black and white.   Simple times….enjoy!

It’s not my birthday

Seeing double_1It was my daughters’ birthday yesterday.  I always think it should be the parents who should celebrate birthdays, after all, it’s me who remembers it.  In fact I remember it in crisp and clear detail.

I remember being cheered and clapped by the nursing staff as I managed to waddle up the stairs to the operating theatre under my own steam.  I remember being told to curl up into a tight ball and not move as the epidural was given, although curling up into a tight ball and not moving was pretty unachievable given the size of my twin-filled tummy.  I remember the lights, the smell, the team behind the screen that had been put up to stop me seeing the caesarean incision, and my husband beside me, his anxious eyes peering over the top of his surgical mask.

I remember getting the collywobbles in my top half, due, I was told, to the effect of the drugs, and no doubt exacerbated by feeling so excited I could burst.

I remember the first babies cry, and the ‘baby one is a little girl’

‘Helen’ my husband said

Then just two minutes later the second baby’s prostestations ‘Another little girl’


I remember when they put them in my still wobbly arms, one at a time because I couldn’t really move what with all the lines attached, and I remember saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to each of them and kissing them on the forehead.

I remember that instant surge of overwhelming love.  I loved the whole world in that moment.  In fact, they were my whole world.

They had to go off to the Special Baby Unit for a couple of days as Corinne just teetered on the edge of acceptable weight (5lb) and they wanted to keep them together.  They were nestled in a single cot like a couple of sardines in a tin.  Tiny knitted bonnets on their tiny blonde heads.

Oh yes, I remember it.  And all the other birthdays and parties.  The naff magician when they were three, the bouncy castle, the bowling party, the big girls disco when they were ten, the marquee at eighteen with drunken boyfriends in attendance (boo drunken boyfriend…you know who you are…).

These days it is rare for us to be together for their birthday, in fact, this year Helen worked a 12 hour shift (although she tells me that one of her colleagues did make her a very nice cake!) and Corinne was at a wedding, so we only just about managed to have a very brief phone call with each of them.

Never mind, we’re planning to celebrate together in June, and maybe I’ll get all the baby pictures out and remind them that, although it’s their birthday, for me, it was the most exciting and wonderful day of my life!

P.S.  Reminiscing brought me to jot this down….

box hill Sepia

I remember two small girls
skipping along the hill
in the summer of their
cherry cheeked childhood

studying sticks and stones
amongst red-gold leaves
whilst clouds cast faint shadows
foretelling futures
of long-legged beauty.

Then, in the chill of evening sun
Tramping down the slope,
for warm-up tea and
chocolate cake comfort.

The Final Path

cuba cemetry for poem

Slowly, slowly,
advancing with tender steps,
emitting clouds of scarlet
with each tremulous breath,
the golden child
humbly crept

Brazenly her locks tumbled,
shrouding her shoulders
in a champagne veil
and the dusky angels
turned their heads In envy
as even the spiders silk seemed coarse

Heavy shadows blurred
the silvered path she trod,
where startled dandelions
puffed their clocks,
though time stood still
and sunrise never came

In the placid grove
where soft grasses
solemnly bowed,
the lilac air filled
with the songs of souls stirred
by an unfamiliar beat

And as they watched
that unknown child,
her iridescence faded,
turned to pearl translucence
as, with grace, she slid
into their ethereal embrace

There are no words

I am an inconsequential woman. I am retired and live a quiet life doing ordinary things. I am not religious, I am not overly into politics (though don’t get me started on Nigel Farage and his godawful UKIP party who people are actually voting for). I like happy things and cute animals. I don’t like to be abrasive, controversial or outspoken, I just really hope my blog spreads a bit of cheer.  So it’s taken me a full day to decide to post something about my feelings when I heard the news first thing yesterday morning.

My children are grown up now, but of course, I still remember sending them off to school, trying to make sure they looked vaguely clean and tidy in their uniforms, checking they’d got PE kit, dinner money, coat etc.  They didn’t always want to go, and honestly, sometimes I would have preferred to keep them home and spend the day playing silly games with them.  The thing is though, apart from the odd scraped knee, I knew they would come home safe and happy at the end of the day, and seeing them grow and understand the world was worth any sacrifice on my part.

I’m guessing school is a bit different in Pakistan.  I imagine children are more excited to learn new things than perhaps some children in England, who, not unreasonably, take schools for granted.  I imagine that the schools are not necessarily full of high-tech, state of the art equipment. I bet the children play the same games though, chasing each other, kicking balls about, doing that hand thing that girls do while they’re chanting rhymes.  I bet they laugh and make friends, make enemies, make friends again.  Shout, squeal, jump, skip… If there is one thing my travels have taught me is that kids are the same the world over.

We have had our tragedies at schools in the UK.

In Aberfan, Wales, in 1966, a colliery spoil tip collapsed engulfing a school and killing 116 children and 28 adults, in effect wiping out a whole generation from the same village in one afternoon.  The villagers at the time felt that the National Coal Board were at fault for piling waste onto unstable ground.  But nonetheless, it was a natural disaster. A devastating accident.

In Dunblane, Scotland 1996, sixteen children and a teacher were shot dead in their school by a lone gunman. He was a disgraced scout master. Mad. He’d lost the plot in the most devastating and despicable way and ended up killing himself. He was a coward too.

The men that murdered those children and their teachers in Pakistan yesterday knew what they were doing.  They do not have the ‘excuse’ of madness (though it is easy to think there is something mentally amiss).  This was an organised attack, carefully planned. They knew what they were doing. Seven of them armed with guns and wearing bomb vests.  They did this, killed 132 children and nine of their teachers, for their cause.

I am sure I echo millions the world over, when I say there are no words big and deep enough to describe the disgust, horror and anguish I feel. My heart bleeds for those children who survived, who have to live with that terrible memory for the rest of their lives. I weep with the parents who sent their kids off to school in the morning, expecting them to arrive home safe in the afternoon, and I grieve with the proud families of those wonderful people who were spending their days teaching others, and whose lives have now been snuffed out.

As I said, I am an uncomplicated sort, and there are many things in this world that I do not understand.  A cause where it is right to kill innocents, and that includes individuals that have no compassion or humanity, is one of those things.  Were these nameless men not sons, uncles, fathers?  I cannot believe that there is a religious document in this world that advocates and encourages such atrocities, and if there is, why would anyone ever follow such teachings?  I just don’t understand.

Neither do I understand how such things can happen without any obvious repercussion.  Every religious and political leader, across all faiths and factions, as well as every right minded individual across the world, should stand together, denounce this, and take whatever action is needed to ensure it’s like never happens again.

Double Trouble

Part of the Photo 101 challenge – Today’s theme ‘Double’

Oh now come on, you didn’t really think I’d waste this opportunity to share a picture of my girls when they were small did you? Lots and lots of old photos to choose from, but this one always makes me smile! I think they were about two when this was taken. I don’t think their clothes stayed this clean and tidy for long!

I have had to clean it up quite a bit (there are piles of toys on the floor in the original!), so practicing my skills in that way instead today.

Seeing double_1

It’s Magic

In response to the writing 101 challenge to write a longform piece about ‘your most treasured possession’.

I used to think that the first thing I would rescue, if there was a fire in the house, would be photographs.  They are irreplaceable reminders of the good times.  Weddings, births, holidays, Christmas’s, days out.  The past is all there, carefully arranged in photo albums, or stored higgledy piggledy in dusty shoeboxes.  Now, however, I’ve scanned the best of the older ones, and all the more recent ones are digital anyway, so they are all safely waiting on the cloud ready for me to look at whenever, and wherever I please.

So I had to think hard about what my most treasured possession is now.  At one time it might have been some jewellery that had belonged to my nan.  I wore the necklace on my wedding day.  It was just costume jewellery, not even gold, but it was a row of mother of pearl circles that she wore often, and when I looked at it I was reminded of cuddles and lavender smells.  That’s gone now though. Stolen the first time we were burgled, along with every other piece of jewellery I possessed at the time.

Not only did they take my stuff, but they ransacked the kids rooms and took all the plastic, and even homemade, bits and pieces that they had collected, every bit of electrical equipment (even the phone – no mobiles at the time so I couldn’t ring the police even). I was devastated, and the sense of injustice remains.  I’ve also been left with a feeling of insecurity in my own home which will never go away, or even recede, despite all the double locks and alarms in the world.  Thanks for that burglers.

However, I do have something to thank the miserable toadys for. I no longer invest such emotional attachment to things. I have realised that life goes on even if you’re favourite trinket goes missing. Despite my insecurities, my fear these days is not of losing goods and chattels, but of the house being trashed, or being bopped over the head, or the dog’s (and the fishes – please don’t wee in the pond) wellbeing.  Whilst I don’t want them to pinch my stuff, after all, we’ve worked hard for that and those lowlifes don’t deserve it, it really is all about my family’s personal safety these days.

My love of technology is well documented.  I am gadget woman.  Many years ago now, my husband bought me an ipod for Christmas.  I cried with excitement and joy.  Likewise, when my company presented me with my first iphone, I got embarrassingly over-excited and yes, a bit blubbery. I am one of those saddos that likes shiny new toys.  I know, it’s undignified, what can I say?

I was the first amongst my friends and family to own a tablet (Ipad of course! p.s. Dear Apple, do I get a free upgrade for the advertising??).  Again, it was my husband who forked out for it as a Christmas present.  I had to order it myself though because he is a technophobe.  Hates it all.  Mind you, he’s a bit better now and I think secretly enjoys using his ipad (course I eventually bought him one – gave me something new to play with).  When I ordered mine the Apple store was offering free engraving so I chose for him to write something gooey and lovey dovey on the back as well as ‘Christmas 2011’.

You’d think from all this I would be about to say ‘my most treasured possession is my ipad’.  Well, those that know me might very well think that is the case. My ipad and my phone go everywhere with me.  I’ve often tried to explain to unbelievers why I love it so much

‘What do you use it for’ they ask

And I set off on a list as long as your arm; l listen to music; I keep up to date with the news; I look at the weather forecast; I play games; I use online banking; I keep in touch with my friends and family; I read books and blogs;  I shop; It’s a dictionary and theasaurus; a compass; it tells me about the traffic when I’m travelling; I can visit other places using google earth; there’s a map of the stars; a calculator; my address book; my calendar; a camera; my photos…. Well that’s for starters, you get the picture, and I always forget something or other anyway.

‘it would drive me mad, all that stuff’ they say

‘Ah, but that’s the beauty of it, you can use it how you want to. You can download the apps that you want.  You don’t need all that stuff.’ Let’s face it, nobody needs Candy Crush Saga or Bejewelled Blitz.  And though it pains me to say it, I suppose nobody really actually needs Facebook.

So you see, my ipad is a treasured possession. But when I think about it, it’s not my most treasured possession.

Now, you might be thinking it’s my family.  But then you can’t call them possessions.

‘I have daughters’ doesn’t mean they belong to me. They are their own people. Even as children we shouldn’t view them as belongings, though undoubtedly some people do.  For instance, I had a colleague who told me that if she wanted anything in the evenings, a glass of wine, a sandwich etc, she always made her son get it for her rather than hauling herself from the sofa to go to the kitchen. She argued that she provided for him so the least he could do was to wait on her hand and foot, slavelike. It was not a happy relationship though, and quite rightly in my opinion, he rebelled.

Without a doubt, my children are the most treasured people in my life.  I am tempted to write something gooey about the happiness they bring me. How I would be nothing without them in my life, but I’ll spare you, and them.  Suffice it to say, even though they now live great distances from me they continue to make me smile every single time I think of them (unless I’m going through a worrying about them patch, in which case I get wrinkles in my forehead) and that is practically all the time.

I should of course mention my husband.  Can’t leave him out.  He is there, walking beside me, encouraging me, making me snort with laughter, making me cross occasionally, making me delicious food, making my world better.  Where would I be without him?

It is he who has encouraged me to write.  Pushes me in fact. Tells me when it’s good and when it’s a bit pants.  Tells me when it gets just a bit too ‘dark’ as it, bafflingly, so often does.  Tells me how proud he is that I’m putting it ‘out there’.

And now we come to the crux:  Out there.  The Internet. The World Wide Web.  The Cloud.

This is what I couldn’t do without. Having that connection is something I truly treasure.

You see, the internet was born quite late in my life, so I do remember the world without it. I remember life before Windows. I remember my first ever email. The beep beep beep of the dial up connection and frustration when you couldn’t get through. I can remember life before Google and Amazon, and Ebay, and Paypal.  Makes me feel old. (note to self…you are!)

What I mean is, I really appreciate it. The connectivity of it. I can manage without my ipad, or iphone, or laptop. There are always others. Upgrades even. New ones to buy or borrow. They would be nothing without the connectivity though. I know how I feel when we have a power cut (all too often) and there’s no wifi for a couple of hours.  It’s like my arm has been cut off.

Twenty one years ago we moved North, away from my family, and since my daughters left home, my husband and I are alone, apart from friends, in this neck of the woods.  The internet provides a means of keeping in touch that no postal or telephone system could.  Communication is instantaneous.  Now, I am even able to facetime with my mother, who at 92 is using her ipad to email and text, play soduku and word games, and play solitaire.  She lives alone and it has been a revelation to her. Given her a new lease of life (apart from when it goes pear shaped sometimes which knocks another couple of days off her I think!).  Facetimes with her are hilarious too. She keeps forgetting to hold the ipad up, so most of the time I can only see the top of her head, but it gives us both something to chuckle over.

Without the Internet I would never have been brave enough to try and publish anything. Now though, thanks to WordPress and PoetrySoup, my writing is reaching far corners of the world. Something I could never have envisaged when I started writing stories years ago.

I’m more intelligent too…well, appear more intelligent.  I see news as it happens. I feel well informed about current events, and can read opinions from all sides thanks to the likes of Twitter.  I read more because books are cheaper, free even, and appear on my devices instantly (yes, of course I’ve got a kindle). It’s modern day magic.

Yes, sad but true, this is the thing I’d be lost without. The ability to reach my family, friends and the rest of the big wide world from the sofa, and to see and share my documents, photos and projects wherever I might be.

So thank you all you clever people out there who know how it works.  I don’t need to know.  I am just a grateful user.

The routine trap

It seems that, despite my best efforts, I have fallen into the routine trap. Monday is writing and catching up on correspondence, bill paying etc day, Tuesday ironing and housework, Wednesday swimming and long walk day, Thursday shopping and yoga, Friday winemaking and gardening.

Hmmph…that wasn’t supposed to happen.  I naively believed that when I left work, I would leave all routine behind.  But no, the alarm still goes off and I still get up at the crack of dawn so that we can breakfast together before my husband goes off to work for the day.  The dog still needs walking first thing in the morning else she gets tetchy. There is still washing up to do, the bed still needs making.  But hey ho… that’s fine.  Actually come to think of it, a good routine can be a very fine thing.

When my twin girls were born they were a bit on the small side, at least one was, so they spent two days in in the special care baby unit.  I wasn’t able to visit them, let alone feed them, so through necessity the nursing staff fed them like clockwork every four hours. Consequently when they were returned to their excited mummy they were absolutely and resolutely in a four hourly routine. It was great.  None of that feeding on demand, which frankly, would have been a nightmare, for me.  Nope, they woke up at the same time, got fed at the same time, and slept at the same time, giving me some much needed rest in between.

It also meant, that as they grew up they instinctively knew what ‘mealtimes’ meant. They weren’t snacking because they ate regularly, at the right times.  Now, I know that ‘feeding on demand’ is the big thing these days.  Babies cry, you feed ’em. But I have a theory…

I believe that maintaining a feeding routine right from the word go, could be the answer to the twin (though diverse) pandemics of fussy eaters and obesity.

I have heard children (and adults) described as ‘grazers’. They just spend all day popping bits of food into their mouths, but seem unwilling to sit down to a ‘proper’ meal. ‘Course not. They’re not hungry.  It seems to me, that if they have been fed every time they’ve felt a bit, well, peckish, since they were born, then they really wouldn’t know what an empty stomach feels like.  I’ve seen kids crying that they’re starving, and being given a packet of crisps to keep them quiet, even though lunchtime is nigh.  Wouldn’t it be better to push them to go without a little bit longer? If they were really ‘starving’ surely they would be more likely to appreciate a plate of healthy food?

As adults we all feel ‘peckish’ or what my nan used to call ‘fanciful’ sometimes (I frequently fancy a bar of chocolate, and no, I’m not necessarily hungry), but hopefully we recognise that that is all it is and don’t necessarily indulge those cravings.  We mostly are fortunate enough not to be starving, but if we don’t eat between meals, we are more likely to properly recognise hunger.

As you know, I’m following the 5:2 diet, and whilst sometimes it does test my willpower to go without lunch, the lightness of an unusually empty stomach is energising and pleasing in its own way.  I feel ‘cleansed’ by giving my tummy a bit of a rest, albeit only for 12 hours or so. And the light meal I have in the evening after my fast is the best meal of the week. My tastebuds, starved of stimulation for a day, are exceptionally receptive to the nuances of the herbs, spices and flavours of any and all foods (‘cept jelly and coffee obvs!!)

Anyhoo… I fear I’m straying off subject. What I’m trying to say though, is that allowing myself to fall into a routine, in both daily life, and eating, I’m giving myself the pleasure of anticipation, be it knowing that the ironing will be done and dusted for the week once Tuesday morning is over, or that I will enjoy a delicious meal at the end of my fast.  In the words of John Lennon ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ so teaching ourselves, and our children, to appreciate a daily routine of mealtimes and work, together with down time (not to mention a bedtime routine for kids), should ultimately make us more content surely?

It’s all a matter of taste

‘Can’t eat ’em. Don’t like the look of ’em!’ the checkout blokey said to me at the supermarket the other day (yes, it was an older gentleman on the checkout, we’re very pc  ’round these parts ya’know).  He was referring to some mussels that I’d bought for our tea.  I love mussels, funny looking bits an’ all.  In fact I like pretty much most sea food, although on further discussion with said blokey, we decided whelks were overall a bit too chewy, unless you’d got the odd half hour or two to eat them.

I’ve always thought you shouldn’t be put off of trying anything by the way it looks.  Seafood in particular can look a bit, err, shall we say, challenging (come to think of it, so does a lot of my cooking… you should have seen my summer pudding the other day.  The special effects team from ‘Bones’ would have been proud).  It got me to thinking about likes and dislikes, foodwise, though.

We all have things we don’t like.  I have two brothers-in-law (brother-in-laws?? well, you know what I mean). Even though he’s 50 and should know better, one of them won’t touch any veggies except the odd teeny bit of a carrot, and is a proper carnivor, the other one doesn’t like meat all that much, much preferring to pile his plate with the green stuff.  My little niece rejects practically everything she is offered, except sweet things and…. black olives.  How weird is that?  My daughter’s wouldn’t touch olives until they were in their twenties.  They seem a grown up sort of taste.

Is there such a thing though?  We tend to give children bland uninteresting food, or sweetened stuff, or things in funny shapes – alphebetti spaghetti etc and then wonder why they are fussy.  I never did make different food for my children, they had what we had, and on the whole they ate it…curry’s, cous-cous, stir-frys, chilli – olives were one of the exceptions.  We didn’t give them much in the way of sweets (I know, I’m a cruel mother) but they are thanking me these days as, at the age of 26 they are still filling free, and they are open to trying all types of food both here and when they are in foreign parts.

Personally, there are two  things I really don’t touch (three if you count coffee…see previous posts).  Steak and jelly.

I have had an aversion to steak since seeing my dad’s plate graced with a whopping piece of meat that was oozing blood – he liked it rare.  Put me right off it did.  I’ve no doubt that if I tried it again now, I might like it, as long as it was cooked gently and not too chewy. I just can’t be bothered to try.  However, jelly is a different matter.

Apparently, when I was just a few months old, my mum tried giving it to me as one of my first steps towards solid food. I spat it back at her with contempt.  It was revolting then, and it is revolting still.  All jelly.  Strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, that gelatin stuff that holds the fruit together in flans, that grey wobbly stuff that makes a perfectly good pork pie into something totally inedible for me.  Any of it.  All of it.  Yuck.  Don’t know why, just, well, yuck.

My mum always insisted we had jelly and blancmange at my birthday parties.  I used to look at the hideous wobbling monstrosity, and was often tempted to push it from the window sill where it sat setting in the sun, but the thought of gobbets of the ghastly stuff splattered across the garden path, and me probably having to clear it up, stopped me.  The blancmange was equally bad by the way.  Basically thick milky jelly.  Yuck, yuck, yucketty yuck (to paraphrase Hugh Grant in Four Weddings).

Anyhoo, next time you invite me ’round, remember, I’ll eat most things, but for goodness sake don’t serve jelly, you might get it spat in your face.