Sunday 29 July 2012

Pandemoniam and Wonder

Strangely, until Friday evening, until I'd nestled on the sofa with a Tescos meal deal, until I'd nudged on the 3D goggles, I hadn't found myself swept along the swirling, euphoric waves of Olympic fever currently rolling over our nation. I hadn't even paid much thought to the torch weaving its way from county to country and around the London Eye. I certainly had no idea about the pre-event concerts and three minute bell tolling until they'd passed and were front page news.

As I said, until Friday evening ... until I watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic games.

Danny Boyle's vision was entitled The Isles of Wonder, and wonder in awe, I did, at a ceremony that was nothing short of breathtaking theatre. It told a story of British history that melded together old and new, idyllic and industrial, classical and electronic, and delivered in a way that was witty, brassy and triumphant.

I boggled at the sheer enormity of the dynamic spectacle, the choreography, and the impassioned performances from the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers.

At times it was confusing - in Dizzee Rascal's words, it was bonkers - the stage awash with constant change and activity. But I think that was the point, that life is forever influx and culture continually renewing, assimilating, finding direction.

Still, there was something magical, alchemical, in the air on Friday night. Something that spoke to my childlike sense of wonder. The maypole dancers, suffragettes, JK Rowling, neon ravers - caught me off guard, and I found myself surprisingly moved. The ceremony possessed so much heart, so much warmth, from the momentary lull amidst frenetic industry to honour the victims of war, to the emotional remembrance of those who lost their lives in the 7/7 terrorist attacks.

Images courtesy of Google

But, for me, it was the musical score that stole the show. I loved that our diverse 'rock and rave' back catalogue was celebrated by a pantheon of genre defining artists, some quite subversive in their day, like The Sex Pistols, The Specials, New Order and The Happy Mondays.

Underworld's composition, 'And I will kiss' (featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Pandemonium Drummers) was simply stunning - a track I would've spun had I still been a DJ - it formed the perfect backdrop to the dramatic unearthing of the somber industrial landscape. Layer upon layer of drums, strings and vocals pounded, cascaded and rained upon the Olympic stadium matching beat for beat, hammer for hammer, the bricks and mortar, sweat and labour of those toiling workers who struggled and fought under the austerity and physical ambition of the industrial revolution. And when the spellbinding scene culminated with the forging of the Olympic Rings, I shivered goosebumps and shed overcome tears.

Danny Boyle said of the ceremony, "this is for everyone", and it rejoiced in the nuts and bolts, the bread and butter, the common man and woman, you and me. Last Friday evening, I've never felt more proud to be British, and that doesn't happen very often ...

And wasn't the Queen a good sport?

Thursday 26 July 2012

Positively Cheerful - One Year On

Every week Michelle at Mummy From The Heart hosts Reasons To Be Cheerful, a little space where like minded souls can enthuse about the great and the good in their lives. I haven't joined in for a while - I've been both busy and lazy - but this week, as it's so sunny, and as I'm celebrating a significant landmark in my blog's history, I felt compelled to share my positive cheer with you ...

Firstly though, some good news about Little A. Her settling in period at the new nursery went swimmingly well; it was me who was treading water. The first morning Little A spent some time viewing her new surroundings from either the security of my lap or with her arms wrapped like vines around my knees. Several occasions she tried to cajole me, tugging earnestly at my hand, into investigating the various themed play areas, but I kept gently reminding, "mummy's job is to sit on the chair". My ploy worked well and it wasn't long before Little A overcame her shyness and began exploring the new faces, wendy house, paints and plasticine, fish tank, dinosaurs, and outdoor area with its sand pit and push rides on her own. There were no tears or tantrums on the mornings I waved my goodbyes. In fact, it was quite the opposite; she refused to leave when I collected her. One morning I was met with "I didn't miss you mummy". Oh, thanks. I must be doing something right if she feels this secure in my absence. I can now breathe easy and enjoy two mornings sacred leave a week from being a mum.

Yesterday, I accompanied Little A on the nursery summer outing to Holland Park. As the heat was so intense, not that I'm complaining after so many waterlogged weeks, we shaded ourselves under the canopy of trees lining the sports field. It was a lovely chance to relax in the glorious weather we're having and meet some of the other parents. My enthusiastic little Olympian took part in her first official running race. And then again, and again, and again. I held her hand as she giggled her way to the finishing line. She didn't care about the winning. She was bowled over by the taking part.

This week marks the first anniversary of my blog, or blogoversary as its affectionately known as. A year ago, the 25th July 2011 to be precise, I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a small tale about a large dog that'd frightened Little A. At that moment, I couldn't predict if I would still be blogging a year later. But here I am, twelve months on, tapping away on the keys, and with not one, but two blogs. And I have to say I'm very proud of what I've accomplished. I've discovered such a great outlet for my thoughts and creativity, swapping music for words. Who would've thought I'd end up attending a blogging conference let alone consider writing a piece of fiction. I think the first anniversary is an important one; it mirrors that I've made a dedicated commitment to my blog and writing, and long may it continue.

But do you know what I've really enjoyed and appreciated over the last year? Well it's you, my dear faithful reader. Your comments and support have been a joy to read, have spurred me on, and kept my new dream, of becoming a writer, alive. And even though we may not have met, I feel I've become acquainted with you, your essence, through reading the honest and eloquent words written on your blog. I met a small handful of you at Britmums this June. It was like a blind date with someone I already felt an easy easiness with. Like the snugly feeling when I wrap my feet in a pair of Uggs. Or the first comforting tastes of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So, I wanted to take the time to say thank you for discovering my little home on the internet prairie and sticking with me. To my readers old, and new, a cyber high-five.

As my blog is a year old, I wanted to celebrate by challenging myself with a new creative project. I used to be an avid cyclist. One of the things I appreciated the most about my two wheeled adventures was bearing witness to the passing of the months; snowdrops and ice in February, daffodils and puddles in April, roses and downpours in July or russet leaves and foggy drizzle in November. So with that in mind, I'm going to dedicate five consecutive days each season to posting a photograph(s) and a few words which capture the spirit of the time of year. I'm naming my project One Week ...

And even though it's Thursday, I'm also linking up with Hello Wall's, Wednesday Witter.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

100 Word Challenge - Forbidden Treasure

The attache case lay on the table.

David stared at the clasps. It was sealed like a clam guarding a black pearl. Forbidden treasure, he already knew its contents.

The Woman sat motionless on the other side. David felt sweat collecting on his brow. He clenched both his fists into compact grenades.

The line was drawn. There was no going back.

"David, the details of the trade are inside," The Woman instructed, "We'll wire you the cash. You know the fund. You get this wrong, you lose. We'll be watching."

David grabbed the case and left.

The future felt starved of oxygen.

He was in too deep.

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ... the line was drawn ...

This is part of a wider story. You can read the other instalments in the series here.

Monday 23 July 2012

Beautiful Bloggers

The very bright and bubbly Polly at Caught Writing recently nominated me for the Beautiful Blogger Award. In her words both my blogs 'were early must follows'. As always, I'm very touched. It's lovely to know that my words are appreciated.

Now the rules of the award stipulate that I nominate six other wonderful bloggers and then share ten factual nuggets about myself.

The nominating should be easy but the ten facts rather more challenging. Over the last year I have shared many things about myself in similar awards and memes, so I may end up repeating myself. If anything seems familiar, please, just humour me ...

And my nominees are ...

Bibsey - Her expat tales of family life in the Southern Spanish Hills are nothing short of clever, witty and eloquent. Her inspired seven words in seven days challenge has taught me a thing or two about 'proper' Spanish.

Sara Bran - I've only recently discovered her blog. It's so funny, so poignant, so well written and so damn unmissable. I love the on line identities of her two daughters; 'the teenage songbird' and the 'six year old biscuit thief'.

Scribbles from the Middle - In my book, this lady doesn't post enough. She writes in such an engaging style being both strongly voiced and delicately spoken, if you know what I mean. I love the name of her blog, and she has the best name ever, Frances Pringle, an author's name if there ever was one.

Hello Wall - Sarah is a great writer and I always find myself nodding and relating to her posts. A talented poet, and, oh, you must read this, a highly amusing parody of 50 Shades of Blah.

Save Every Step - Family Stories Past and Present - Another blog I've recently discovered. She writes the loveliest memoirs; every week she includes the transcription of one of many fascinating letters sent from an Uncle during the Second World War.

A Party of Seven - She's a mother of five and in her own words an 'aspiring photographer and observer of life'. I think her words and pictures are fabulous, and have inspired me to include more photography in my blog.

And ten things about me ...

I find writing very trying when it's that time of the month, or if I'm unwell with yet another cold my daughter has generously shared with me. Last week I was reaching for both tampons and tissues, so blogging was out of the picture; I only managed one post.

I am terrible at chess. My preparatory school had an annual chess competition. I never passed the first round. Was that the right use of the verb to pass? It confuses me sometimes. Anyway, I gave up the tedious board game in an appropriately childish huff aged ten.

I was, however, very good at kiss catch, so much so, that one day my father received a very concerned call from the head teacher about my playground antics. I was only eight years old at the time. Dad wasn't impressed. I still remember his wagging finger, his disapproving words, which I, of course, never paid attention to. The following day kiss catch resumed with gusto.

Not to sound ungrateful but deep, deep down I think I would've preferred a smaller wedding. I had what would be considered a large ceremony. There were about 107 guests in attendance. Younger Dad's family is large, and as my father dug deep into his pockets to pay for the occasion, this was very much his day too. And if I'd done things differently? Well a simpler affair with only closest family and friends. I would've preferred a wedding in the elements; a quiet breezy ceremony on a dusk lit cliff top, overlooking the swelling currents and inviting expanse of the horizon; or, just Younger Dad and I perched on a hillside in the Lake District with the mirror-still waters of Ullswater below.

From my alternative wedding, you may have gathered that I like a view. There's something so mentally cleansing in looking out over a panorama unhindered by tangled tree tops and concrete walls. It gives me freedom to think and unlimited space for my imagination to roam. If I'm travelling by bus without Little A, I prefer to sit on the top deck, and, if there's one free, I'll always grab a seat at the very front. That way I'll have an unimpeded view of where I'm going and of cars, cyclists, pedestrians, busying below. As a child, I used to spend what felt like hours looking out of my bedroom window at the Sycamores and Oaks standing protectively in the back garden, and at the dare devil squirrels jumping fearlessly amongst their aging boughs.

On the day the final Harry Potter novel was released, I, like a true Slytherin, scandalously jumped the queue. It was just before midnight when I committed the crime. There was an enormous queue snaking its way down the pavement from the closed doors of the Chiswick branch of Waterstones. It slithered passed restaurants, bakeries, banks, stationery shops... The wait would've been at least an hour had I not turned to Younger Boyfriend, as he was then, looked him in the eye and cunningly intoned, "I have a plan". And without any explanation I left my very confused beau and trotted to the other end of the line. There was so much excitement and chatter amongst children parents and friends, that no one noticed when I slyly slipped in at the front. The bookstore opened and I was the third person through its doors. Younger Boyfriend looked stunned when I returned with two hardback copies of The Deathly Hallows. I don't think he realised I had such a wily side.

I am a creature of routine. In other words, I know my mind. If it's a take-away it's either vegetables on fire or green curry, prawn pathia or a korma. If it's a restaurant I steer towards the vegetarian, fish or chicken options. If it's ice cream, it's vanilla, always. My lack of culinary adventure frustrates Younger Dad. I'm predictable and cautious, quite unlike the characteristics of my star sign.

At night, I grind my teeth. I wear a mouth guard but my jaw is so strong that I've usually bitten through the rubbery shield within a year.

My first serious movie star crush was on Christopher Reeve. He was famous for his role as Superman. Under my pillow, I kept a picture of him as the Man of Steel flying with Lois Lane wrapped in his over-sized arms. I used to dream he was flying with me instead. But alas, this was never to be. My delicate nine year old heart was broken.

No! Fly with me instead.

I am a believer in trying all things once. So I once tried a Hollywood. You know, the fully plucked look. Never again.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

100 Word Challenge - Grief

"Don't shout at me Chrissy. You just don't understand."

"Look I'm sorry Char."

Charlotte began to cry. Sunlight traced the tears flowing down her anguished face. Each heavy drop left a path as straight as a Roman road. They began falling with sudden intensity like the undifferentiated raindrops of a cloud burst. The rain turned the road into a river; Charlotte's cheeks were awash with grief.

Without another breath I moved to encase my friend in my arms.

"I'm sorry." I whispered.

"Why did you ..." Charlotte sobbed "call him ... duplicitous?"

"I dunno. Just spur of the moment."

I'd lied but truth, for now, could sail on the horizon.

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ...the rain turned the road into a river...

This is part of a wider story. You can read the other instalments in the series here.

Thursday 12 July 2012

All Change ...

So far, this has been an emotional week. It hasn't helped that I'm clouded by premenstrual tension. As I write, another storm hovers menacingly in a whirlpool of murky yellow grey over the rooftop of our flat. The cloud is circling like the base of a UFO from a science fiction movie. It's reminiscent of the mother ship in the Spielberg classic, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind ...

Anyway, the main reason I'm feeling down is because Little A finishes her time with her childminder, L, tomorrow. She was due to end the beginning of August. But a few days ago L received some very upsetting news and she's leaving the country with her immediate family this Saturday. They'll be gone for three weeks. So it has all come to an abrupt end.

This sudden turn of events has made me reflect upon the importance of L in our lives; the positive and nurturing impact she's had on both Little A and I.

When we set out on our quest to find a suitable childminder, L was the first person we interviewed. Little A was only two months old and spent most of her time watching the world from the encasing comfort of a sling bound either to me or Younger Dad. Even though we met a handful of other very competent caregivers, I knew in my bones that L was the right childminder from that initial meeting. She was warm, sturdy, down to earth and possessed an easy friendliness I felt immediately comfortable with, and trusted. It also helped that L had superb references, and that the select mothers I spoke to held her in high regard. So the decision was made.

Little A began her settling in period when she was ten months old. This lasted a month; an hour here and a couple of hours there, until I felt assured that Little A was in safe hands. She began her first full day a couple of weeks shy of her first birthday. From there on L looked after her one day a week.

She's been going to L's for just over a year and a half now. In all that time Little A hasn't fussed when I've relinquished her in the morning. At the end of the day I'm always greeted by a jubilant little girl with a bagful of artwork. L has given Little A constant care and attention, consistency and love, and bowl upon bowl of Cheerios. Her flat is a treasure trove of toddler fun; the living room lined with boxes of stikkle bricks, books, dolls, teddies, make believe costumes, and there's a tent for extra special hide-away mischief. Every week L and Little A frequented playgroups, parks and duck ponds, and Little A's imagination stretched with music, painting, glue and pipe cleaners.

For this I am very grateful because sometimes I fall down in my mothering. I'm not always the responsive or patient parent I'd like to be. In many ways L has been like a special aunt; flexible and on hand in times of personal difficulty and illness, and there have been plenty of last minute requests for help.

And for me, that one day a week, that free space on the calendar has gifted a moment to breathe. Those eight child free hours have granted a space to recover, a space to write, opportunity to see clients, time to read, time to swim, and to reconnect with friends over lunch and a glass of wine. Most of all its helped to claw back my sanity and a clearer sense of myself after nearly two years hidden under the canopy of post natal illness.

And for that I am so thankful.

I'm going to feel very sad when Little A and I wave our last goodbyes. I keep reminding Little A that tomorrow is her last day with L. But she will remain in her happy world as she doesn't really understand. I however, will most definitely shed a tear.

Next week, Little A starts another settling in period at a local nursery. She was going to start in September but we moved the date forwards owing to the latest developments with L. For now, she's going to go two mornings a week, until, when she's three, the blessed fifteen hours of Government funded childcare becomes available. I'm nervous about the change. But I keep reminding myself that Little A's time with L, her nine year old daughter, and the other toddlers L cared for, has buoyed her with the social confidence for her new adventure.

In the meantime I will write L a glowing reference.

Although its Thursday, I'm hooking up with a new linky, Wednesday Witter hosted by Hello Wall.

Wednesday Witter

Thursday 5 July 2012

#Once upon a time - Whispers In The Dark

Once upon a time .....

The bedroom of my younger childhood was an enchanting den.

It was a perfectly compact, rectangular box. Zeitgeisty wood chip lined the room from floor to ceiling. Half the wallpaper was overlaid in a dusky pink, the other, a biscuit cream. A white wardrobe, a white chest of drawers and my bed, swaddled in a fuchsia spread, co-existed in tight proximity.

This was the den where magic and invention happened. A cushion became a carriage. The bed became a space ship. An incisor placed under a bed time pillow became an object of alchemical wizardry; at night fall, just a plain discarded tooth but by sunrise, transformed into a cherished silver coin.

This was the bedroom where Santa quietly left a pillow case of surprises outside the door. Where I performed Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Sleeping Beauty. Where I learnt to read. Where I scribbled pictures and jumbled up letters in red, blue and green felt tip pen. Where I abandoned nappies in favour of a bright yellow potty. Where I thrilled in pulling open the windows of an advent calendar. Where I kept ladybirds in soggy matchboxes stuffed with damp lettuce. And where I made fetid perfumes from rose petals stifling in a bowl of water.

But at night my den became a place of shadows and unfamiliar sounds.

So Daddy, the sorcerer, routinely vanquished the horrors that lay in the darkness. With a flick of one hand, he ordered the cupboard drawers shut, with the flick of the other, he commanded the landing light flood through the open door onto the gloomy carpet of the bedroom floor.

But neither my father's reassuring measures or the closed curtains could protect me from the ominous flashes of an approaching storm. Even the cosseting layers of the heavy eiderdown, and the firmly tucked in sheets, failed to muffle the rumbling sound of one hundred wild horses galloping, unfaltering in their speed, towards me .....

A sudden burst of white light.

Counting to ten; "one, two, three ..."


The storm racing nearer, louder, towards me. I remember screaming for my parents. Then either Mummy or Daddy secured me in their arms until the tempest had subsided, and only distant thundery growls could be heard.

One dark night, past the witching hour, I heard voices. And this time, I was alone.

I awoke to the sound of whispering, the undecipherable, tangled words of people, adults, I'd never heard before. It definitely wasn't the tones of my mother, father or brother. They were all silently asleep. I couldn't see anything. No one was there. All that could be heard, was the unfamiliar whispers in the pitch black.

The hushed voices, like the pied piper, charmed my sleepy body from the warm safety of the bedsheets, and I followed the unintelligible babbling onto the landing. The whispering was befriended by rural sounds. Sheep. Cows. Pigs. I stood at the open doorway of the toilet peering blindly into the unilluminated void. Bleeting, moo'ing, clucking, discharged loudly from the toilet rim. I thought better than emptying my bladder. I turned, padding passed my parent's room. They were still asleep. Why weren't they stirred by the supernatural cacophony? The whispers continued to weave and dance around me like fallen leaves tossing in the wind, until I found sanctuary back in my bed. There I placed my hands over my ears to fend off the voices. Within minutes sleep had enveloped me ... and with that, the whispering, the farmyard noises, were gone.

The following morning I shared my nocturnal experience with my father. But he simply laughed then sung the nursery favourite, Old Macdonald Had A Farm. I attempted, again, this time more emphatically, to tell him about the whispering, the moo'ing and the bleeting. I dearly wanted him to believe me. Strangely, the voices and animal sounds hadn't frightened me. But not being affirmed by my parent seemed a far more scary prospect. Daddy began singing "and a moo moo here, and a moo moo there." I felt deflated. Why hadn't he believed me? At that moment, my Dad was no longer the protective hero but the villain who'd cast his five year old daughter, alone, into the night time world of ghosts, ghouls and monsters.

There is nothing more crushing or corrosive to a child's sense of self than not being believed.

In all likelihood I'd probably experienced what is known as a hypnopompic hallucination; a visual, tactile or auditory hallucination that occurs from sleep to wakefulness.

The whispers in the dark have since, never returned.

So once upon a time, what did you enjoy (or dislike) doing, seeing or creating? It could be anything. What were you like many moons ago? Do you have a once upon a time story to tell or picture to share? It could be a happy, sad or humorous tale. The skies the limit. So do link up below and grab the badge code ... and don't forget to tweet #onceuponatime. This is a monthly meme.

Once Upon A Time
Grab the badge code ...

<a href="" title="Once Upon A Time"><img alt="Once Upon A Time" height="170" src="" width="150" /></a>

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Every Day ... Another Morning

Good morning. Rise and shine. Wake up teddies.
Blue Teddy and Bunny are still fast asleep.

Little A, however, is bursting with the new day.

"I want a cuddle Mummy."
"Can I bring Thomas Teddy?."
"Can you take my grow bag off?"
"I want my pyjama bottoms on."
"I want my fluffy socks."
"Can you put my dressing gown on?"
"Is Daddy still sleeping?"
"No, you can't go to the toilet."
"Carry me up the stairs."
"I want a big Weetabix and a little Weetabix." 

... "and what's the magic word?" ...


A lone sock. The washing is dry.
Dishes to unload. Clean bowls for breakfast.

"Mummy, can I have another Weetabix?"

"Wait a moment."
"I'm just making my porridge."

A glass of fizzing Berocca, a St John's Wort tablet and a mug of chamomile tea.

I sit hunched at the table.
The laptop is open.
My porridge tastes good.

Milky cereal lumped on the table.

"Mummy can I have another Weetabix?"

... "and what's the magic word?" ...


Thoughts escaping through the kitchen window.
Wondering. Hoping. Dreaming.

The plot for my novel lacks colour. Why am I bothering?
Need to fill the tank with petrol.
It's raining again.
My phone just buzzed.
Must add kitchen wipes to the shopping list ...

"Little A, we need to change your nappy and get dressed."

"Can I have two minutes playtime?"

... "and what's the magic word?" ...


Watching cars, cats and the school run on a step stool.
Pink Kitty is indifferent.

Dressed in beige and waiting impatiently for Grandma.

The doorbell rings.  

"Mummy, its Grandma!"

Grandma climbs the stairs bearing surprises and hugs.

"Grandma, I'm going to the park."

"Can I put my wellington boots on?"

... "and what's the magic word?" ...


I'm linking this post up with The Gallery. This weeks photographic theme is 'The Everyday'. 

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