Friday 26 October 2012

My Next Big Thing

The very light and lovely Polly at Caught Writing has tagged me to talk about My Next Big Thing using the questions below, and then to pass the baton onto fellow bloggers and writers. I am very glad and honoured she chose me, as it just so happens I have an idea! This meme originally began, I believe, by Karen McCann, author of Dancing in the Fountain.

So, My Next Big Thing, I hope, is that I'm taking tentative steps towards penning my first feature length story. As this is my first attempt at writing a chunky piece of fiction, I thought it a wise idea to stay within the confines of my comfort zone, writing about what I know, and have experienced. The main career and creative arcs in my life so far have been within the music industry, as a DJ, and psychology, as a counsellor. I should rightly include being a mum as well! The story is essentially a psychological drama/thriller set in the mid-nineties clubbing scene.

I have been thinking and dreaming my novel since March this year. I'm still very much ensnared in the planning and plotting stage, for me, it's very important the subplots I have in mind, gel clearly and believably with the main thread of the story. I'm about to take a deep dive into the shape and tone of my characters, and that should really help tie up the looser ends of the various plots.

Anyway, here are more of the details...

What is the working title of the project?
It was only a week or so ago that the name came to mind. I may well change it, at the moment, the title is based on the main back bone of the tale. And the title is... Four Gigs. I guess I wanted a punchy title that really related to the job of the main protagonist, Jessica Dance, and the social scenery the story is set against. And as a sub heading/title to Four Gigs I am possibly thinking of something along the lines of....'What happens when your groove goes missing.' A strap line such as this could work on a variety of levels with the story's themes and character journeys.

Where did the idea come from?
Originally, I had in mind a story whereby the main character is a therapist, that idea is still whirring away behind the scenes. Then, through writing my Once Upon a Time posts, and this post in particular, I really started thinking about my life as a DJ, and how I almost 'made the big time' but didn't quite due to circumstances I'll save for another blog post. I liked the idea of writing a story that combined my past and current passions, music and psychology. Living vicariously through my main character, and her career success, may help to lay to rest some of the lingering residues of what, for me, could have been and never was. I think it's the most fitting story for me to pen, and I have a lot to gain from writing it.

What genre does the project fall under?    
I have to admit to being a little clueless here, as I'm not really aware - apart from the main ones - of all the genres out there... But Four Gigs would lie somewhere between psychological drama and thriller, I think.

Which actors would you chose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Now this, I found, was a tricky question, given that I haven't watched much TV or many films of late. Whoever I choose for the central characters would need to be in their late twenties, and thirties. So I did a little research basing my decision solely upon whether the face was a good fit. And here is my all British cast of main players...

  • Jessica Dance - Felicity Jones, she has the dark brown hair and green eyes and straight forward, natural, almost tom boyish femininity that Jessica possess.

Felicity Jones as Jessica Dance - Image, Google.

  • Ben Jones, Jessica's current boyfriend - Jim Sturgess, remember how cocky and irritating he was in the film of the book, One Day?
  • Katrin Chase, Jessica's friend of dubious intent - Ruth Wilson, who can aptly carry off 'seductive'.
  • Lucas 'Flipper' Dance, Jessica's younger brother, who suffers from bi-polar disorder - Jamie Bell, he can weather an expression that looks like he's got a lot on his plate.
  • Lucy Dance, Jessica's mother - Kristin Scott Thomas, intelligent, critical, both strong and fragile.
  • Richard Dance, Jessica's father - Bill Nihy, I think he would play the 'philandering buffoon' rather well.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your project? 
This is going to be a challenge, so I will attempt to give this my best shot...

Jessica Dance, or Jessy D, is a talented and very in-demand club DJ with plenty of, and perhaps too much ambition, until the day she finds herself with the wrong record box, and has to make choices, about her career, her relationships, everything she knows, until ultimately, she's forced to face the reality, and the fallout from a childhood accident.   

How was that for an elevator pitch?  I hope it wasn't too cliched and unoriginal, it may need some work.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
In all honesty, given how saturated the publishing market is, I think this novel may need plenty of self marketing first before an agent takes the remotest interest, so I will probably go down the self publishing route, which is no bad thing given applications like Kindle.

How long will it take to write the first draft? 
This may not be realistic but I would like to have the first draft written within a year and a half. I am hoping when Little A's hours increase at nursery next year, I will have the time to write this, or else, there are going to be some early mornings!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Again, this was quite difficult as I haven't read fiction widely for a while, it's been psychology texts and baby books for the last few years or so! However, I am a big fan of Ian McEwan, he is a master of narrative twists, writes beautiful prose, and isn't afraid to explore the darker recesses of the human mind, especially in his earlier works. I find reading, acknowledging, the more unpleasant side of human behaviour, something we all have the potential for, thanks in large to the reptilian part of our brain, a cathartic experience. Although not really related in genre, I'm also a fan of Douglas Coupland. I love his philosophical take on the human condition, and how well rounded and authentic his characters are. His novels are littered with quirky, well observed personalities.

Who or what have inspired you to write this novel?
My career as a DJ, and being a part of something that was at the time, so exciting, so anti-establishment, so much fun; the acid house movement of the late eighties and nineties. It was a time of wonderful creativity, personal happiness and I was blessed with so much opportunity. In a way I want this story to be a thank you, a love letter, to the music scene that gave me a life, a purpose, a reason not to work the nine to five.

What else about your project might pique your readers interest?
The story is set in Leeds, Manchester and London. I want to make the clubbing experience, the DJ lifestyle as authentic as I can by referencing the clubs, record shops, music, and some of the actual DJ's that existed at the time. This story isn't just about clubbing and DJ'ing though, they're the back drop, it's really about the relationships between Jess, her family, friends and boyfriend, and the interpersonal conflicts she has to understand and work through. I'm hoping the story won't just appeal to twenty and thirty somethings, but to the now forty and fifty somethings who partied and played back in the day.

And now I would like to pass the torch onto the following bloggers and writers who I think are great. (Please don't feel obliged to do this, and your project doesn't have to be a novel or writing in general).

Lynsey the Mother Duck - Lynsey is currently writing a piece of fiction, Camomile Crescent on her blog, which is really well written, and I think she has some other writing projects up her sleeves too, so I'm very much looking forward to reading what she has to say.

Dorky Mum - I really, really, really enjoy her writing, and I have a sneaking suspicion she has some bigger writing projects in mind. And if she has, I'm dying to know what they are!

Mummy Plum - She writes the most beautifully enchanting posts, and I think she is working on something at the moment, but as she is a month away from meeting her second child, I won't hold her to responding to this, maybe at a much later date ;o).

Wednesday 24 October 2012

#Once upon a time - Cheese Straws

Once upon a time .....

I baked cheese straws with Grandma. I can still see the way they crumbled, like flaky earth, between my fingers, and taste the salty cheddar on my tongue.

Some memories are immortal, unbreakable, clung onto like the last ever embrace, the last ever Spring, never relinquished nor forsaken by present concerns or future dreams. These memories, I believe, are the ones that dance on the surface, that shine like a long lost friend, before two eyelids seal, concluding their life's work at the final breath.

And so during my last moments - toes crossed these won't befall me for a long, long time to come - I hope it's Sundays with my Grandparents, as well as sublime recollections of Little A and Younger Dad, that fill the dying cells with warmth and love and reassuring familiarity, until the dark voyage takes me who knows where...

Until I was about fourteen years old - and all I cared about was boys, clothes and music - my Dad offloaded my brother and I at our Grandparent's home every Sunday afternoon, sometime, I think, between the hours of two and six thirty. I can't remember when I started going, I might have been five, all I recall is that Sundays were about Grandma and Grandad. And I longed for those afternoons with my two adored relatives.

Grandad put 'gentle' into gentleman; warm, kind, generous of his time. Grandma had a mind sharper than a lemon tree; wily, observant, precise. Never a day passed when her nails weren't painted, or her hair immaculately arranged.

Sunday afternoon's were the reserve of treasure hunts, hide and seek, clothes horse dens, pulling stubborn weeds from flowerbeds that flanked the lawn, smelling plump tomatoes in the humid greenhouse, leafing through the musty pages of copious volumes of Readers Digest and The National Geographic piled so high in the secret cupboard they obscured the oval window at the rear - my imagination cultivated, ripened, harvested, before enjoying pancakes soaked in butter and golden syrup in front of Bonanza and the Muppet Show.

Sometimes Grandma and Grandad glided across their dining room floor, swirling, dancing their ballroom waltz for us. Grandad taught me his graceful one-two-three, one-two-three, while I stood atop his polished shoes. Meanwhile, Grandma's bedroom was a study in feminine mystery; a mirror, a comb and a brush aligned perfectly on the dressing table; brightly coloured lipsticks that drew irregular lines over my small puckered mouth; a wardrobe full of kitten healed shoes, and a special golden pair that dwarfed my dainty feet whilst stumbling with a silver handbag dangling inches from the floor.

And while Grandad and my brother tinkered with Meccano, Lego and Airfix models, Grandma and I got to grips with wooden spoons and pre-greased baking sheets. Our time was lovingly spent stirring the ingredients for meringues or vanilla sponges, Grandma instructing me on the correct appearance of whisked egg white peaks, on the exact stiffness of a cake batter as it dolloped from the spoon into the bowl. And we experimented, often floundering, with homemade toffee, chocolate and ice cream.

But it was making cheese straws I remember with particular fondness...

On with the pinafore aprons, mine double knotted, hands washed, then Grandma fetches the brown mixing bowl from the light blue cupboard full of orange Tupperware, stacked foil containers, and the not so secret stash of grandchild treats. Together four hands crumble the butter and flour. Cheese and water added, Grandma rolls out the pastry, while I cut strips off and twist them on the oven tray. Grandma carefully places the straws using heavily padded gloves with a bright flowery print onto the shelf of the stand alone cooker. Then the smell... that savoury smell, the smell of melting cheese, of comfort and cuddles and generational tenderness, the smell that could only spill from a grandmother's kitchen.    

Grandad sadly passed away when I was fifteen years old. The day of my wedding Grandma was trapped - her joints crumpling - in a nursing home, unable to attend the happy day. In my heart, the wedding cake was a fitting tribute to all those years, all those afternoons spent blending, infusing, whisking, rolling. And the wedding desert, it wasn't a traditional cake, was a layered tower of sweet toothed fancies; passion fruit meringue pies, white chocolate cheese cake tarts, mini cup cakes, and crowned with one of my favourites, a vanilla sponge lavished in lemon icing.

My love of food, especially those cosseting savouries and sweets, can be traced solely to Grandma. When I bite into a buttery slice of Madeira cake or jammy almond slice or crunch on a cheesy bread stick, I always think of her. And my Grandma's culinary legacy? Well I love creating her signature dishes, Yorkshire pudding, strawberry crumble, tiffin... And in my kitchen today, Little A and I enjoy nothing more than the simple pleasures of baking banana muffins, whipping cream, and dunking fingers in smooth, melted chocolate.

In loving memory of my Grandma and Grandad.

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.

You can read my other once upon a time stories here.

Once Upon A Time
Grab the badge code ...

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Monday 22 October 2012

100 Word Challenge - Glaciated

My body prickled with cold. Flashes of his gaze, that knowing exchange, abused my thoughts.

It might be a Spring morning but frost permeated the kitchen, ice dislocating words between allies, and Winter will bring heartache and shattered ties...

"Did I want him?"

"Yes, that's what I asked," Charlotte jabbed.

"No, not like that. I mean he was attractive. But repelled me too. Listen Char," I pleaded, "I would never have gone for him."


"Yes, really. You're my friend."

Heart beats jolted in the hollow of my throat. Then it occurred to me...

"Char, you're deflecting guilt onto me."

Now Charlotte stood rigid, glaciated.

"Why? Why Char?"

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was... and Winter will bring...

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

Thursday 18 October 2012

The Bobby-in-a-mow

Little A's imaginary play mate is 'Bobby-in-a-mow'. The other day I realised Bobby-in-a-mow rhymes with Gruffalo, and well, I just couldn't help myself. So here's my rendition of that wonderful story by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler...


Little A climbed the stairs to the kitchen as fast as she could.
Mummy saw Little A and thought she's up to no good.
"Where are you going to, youngest one of the house?
Come back to your bedroom, and pick up Mickey Mouse."
"That's very organised of you, Mummy, but no -
I'm off for elevenses with Bobby-in-a-mow."

"Bobby-in-a-mow? Who's Bobby-in-a-mow?"
"Bobby-in-a-mow! Why, didn't you know?

"He has a frightful perm, and frightful nails,
And frightful fungus on three waggly tails."

"Where are you meeting him?" 
"Here, on the stair,
And his favourite game is pulling mummy's hair."

"Pulling mummy's hair! I'm off" Mummy said.
Bye bye, Little A," and away she sped.

"Silly old Mummy! Doesn't she know,
There's no such thing as Bobby-in-a-mow?"

Little A climbed the stairs to the kitchen as fast as she could.
Daddy saw Little A and thought she's up to no good.
"Where are you going to youngest one of the house?
"Come look what I've found, a slimy grey louse."
That's very inviting of you, Daddy, but no -
I'm off for elevenses with Bobby-in-a-mow."

"Bobby-in-a-mow? Who's Bobby-in-a-mow?"
"Bobby-in-a-mow! Why, didn't you know?

He has a crooked back, and joined-up stumpy toes,
And a massive great bogey dangling off the end of his nose."

"Where are you meeting him?" 
"Up by the fridge,
And his favourite game is scaling Daddy bridge."

"Daddy bridge! I'm off" Daddy said.
Bye bye, Little A," and away he sped.

"Silly old Daddy! Doesn't he know,
There's no such thing as Bobby-"

But who is this monster with the frightful nails
And frightful fungus on three waggly tails?
He has a crooked back, and joined-up stumpy toes,
And a massive great bogey dangling off the end of his nose.

"Oh help! Oh no!
It's Bobby-in-a-mow!

"My favourite game! Bobby-in-a-mow said.
"You'll feel ace spinning on my head."

"Ace?" said Little A. "Don't call me ace!

I'm the bossiest creature, now get in place.
Just amble beside me and soon you'll know,
Mummy and Daddy are mere putty and dough."

"Okay," said Bobby-in-a-mow, creasing with glee.
"You start walking, and I'll come and sight see."

They wandered and walked till Bobby-in-a-mow said,
"I hear yawning in the bedroom ahead."

"It's Mummy," said Little A. "Why, Mummy, hello!"
Mummy took one look at Bobby-in-the-mow.
"Goodness me!" she said, "Bye bye, Little A,"
And she picked up her duster and ran away.

"See?" said Little A. "Told you so."
"Outstanding!" said Bobby-in-a-mow.

They wandered some more till Bobby-in-a-mow said,
"I hear water running in the bathroom ahead."

"It's Daddy," said Little A. "Why, Daddy, hello!"
Daddy took one look at Bobby-in-a-mow.
"Heavens above!" he said, "Bye bye, Little A,"  
Hiding behind the door he quivered, "I don't want to play." 

"Well, Bobby-in-a-mow," Little A said. "You see?
Mummy and Daddy fall in line behind me!
But now I'm bored and I need some fun.
My favourite game is - Bobby-in-a-mow ski run!"

"Bobby-in-a-mow ski run!" Bobby-in-a-mow said,
And faster than a cheetah he evaporated instead.

Little A climbed the stairs to the kitchen as fast as she could.
She found the chocolate mousse and it tasted rather good.

And if you liked this, you might also like my versions of Stick Man and We're Going On A Bear Hunt.

News Flash - I entered this piece in a competition hosted by the lovely Mummy Constant to win either a Gruffalo Trunki or Chums set. Anyway, Bobby-in-a-mow scooped the first prize of the Gruffalo Trunki itself which I'm simply over moon about - Trunki's make the perfect toddler travel accessory! Hop over and give Trunki an extra special seasonal 'like' on their Facebook page.

Tuesday 16 October 2012


No, not Monday again.

I breathe out, and try to accept the unavoidable ... another Monday morning.

In years gone by, an eternally dishevelled Bob Geldof lamented, "I don't like Mondays." I was eight years old, every day seemed the same, get up, go to school, watch Grange Hill, overlook Blue Peter, eat what's on my plate, in bed by seven thirty. I didn't understand Bob's angst ridden musings on Mondays. Why was this day so rotten, so heinous?

Then I grew up.

And I got it.

On Sunday evening, after the X Factor results, after fleeing into the hopes and aspirations - most rejected, a couple accepted - on Dragons Den, it dawned on me that, yet again, I hadn't made a plan for the week. No menu plan. No order of to do's. No ideas for fun stuff with Little A. Selfishly, the only content satiating the grey matter were flashes, thoughts, clever ideas for future posts...  

Mondays and Fridays are days both dedicated to general domestic toil. But they are diametrically opposed, sat at polar ends of the homemaking spectrum. Friday comes bursting with glee, all chores silver lined, there's a lightness, a playful frivolity when I waft the duvet into its bed cover, it's very nearly the weekend, Younger Dad will be home, I can taste impending rest, I am inches away from my Saturday morning lie in. The bells of Monday, on the other hand, toll the start of, well the start of the working week, and that's it. Monday is another reminder of how aimless and disorganised I can be. Unless it's a Bank Holiday, Fridays always win.        

This Monday morning I am on auto pilot. A pile of clothes need washing. The dish washer needs emptying. Younger Dad fills in the blank holes with further errands, a tie needs dry cleaning, a CD needs posting, his personal assistant needs a birthday present, could I look around for something suitable? I'm becoming a little flustered, there are other pressing jobs too. I consult my filofax, I review the Gruffalo themed calendar hanging in the kitchen, and a cohesion of linear activity unfolds. I have a plan.

Little A and I head into Chiswick. First stop, Turnham Green. I unload the car planting Little A, her scooter and various bags on the pavement. I ask Little A to wait, not to move from her spot. But while I'm bent down tying my trainer lace, I notice the scooter has gone. I look up to see Little A escaping up the pavement, hastily heading towards the main road. "Little A, STOP, come back here NOW." She startles, turns around, sheepishly rolling back towards me. I am cross. "Little A when mummy says STOP, you stop, when mummy says WAIT, you wait. Do you understand?" "Okay mummy." "So what do you do when I say wait." "I stop mummy." I think she got the gist of my lecture. I dismantle the pointing finger.

We drop Younger Dad's tie off at the dry cleaners, it won't be ready until Saturday the assistant says, apparently spot cleaning takes a few days. On to key cutting and shoe repairs, I need a spare set of front door keys, but the shop is frustratingly out of stock on one of the keys required. It seems silly to have replicas made barring one, so annoyingly, I decide to return another day. We drop bags stuffed with old muslins, baby towels and never used swim nappies at the children's charity job. Making our way back to the car, I intermittently continue my warnings about 'wait' and 'stop', Little A oblivious to my parental overtures, stares ahead, watching the trains passing on the overhead bridge.  

On to the supermarket. But first, a birthday card for a little friend, and to deposit an envelope of earnings at the bank. At the card shop, Little A begins relieving the shelves of their cards. At the bank, she insists on sitting on the chairs furthest away from me, those closest to the automatic doors. That scenario is definitely not happening. "Little A, I want you to sit on these chairs near mummy please, and wait there." "Okay mummy, I'm going to stop for you." She's getting it...

Monday morning is the big grocery shop, I want to get it over and done with as soon as I can. Little A is determined to walk but after wandering the length of one aisle she's had enough, and I squeeze her back into the trolley, much to my relief - after reading this post - so for now, I prefer her chained and padlocked to my side. I make sure to treat myself to a pain au chocolate, and Little A, an In the Night Garden magazine; the Makka Pakka plastic toy (and sponge) had already snared two little eyes before I had the remotest chance of any diversion. Great. More tat.

Monday is the day my purse is refilled with pointless coupons. I don't find these enticements brighten my day in any shape or form. '£0.82 off your next shop'. That's debit busting. 'If you spend £70 on your next shop, you'll get 450 extra points.' I never spend over £70 at this establishment, and I'm unlikely to ever fill the trolley with extra eggs, pasta, fishcakes, a new grater for some added points that will grant me another '£1.02 off my next shop'.

Back at home, I'm tired. Worn out. Little A, owing to the morning's lack of exercise, is offensively buoyant. Monday's have increasingly become a no nap day, today is no exception. She attempts to settle but those peepers ain't shuttin. No nap. No rest bite for me. I plan on later penning the beginnings of this post while Little A enjoys her 'just before tea time' allowance of CBeebies. But then I remember, Monday is bin day... the oogie poogie bin (food waste), the kitchen bin bag, the nappy bin, and the recycling...

And while I'm disposing the bags of waste, rotting food, cardboard, glass, plastic, paper, I realise that I'm feeling short tempered, a wee teary, and it's not just today, it's been for the last few days. My irritability could spell a slide into lower mood, I'm sensitive to the change in season, and I worry, will this mean I need to increase my dose of medication?

But today I awoke to Tuesday,  and it's been a brighter, more spacious day, and I felt fine.

After writing this, I sat back wondering what the point to this post was, then it became clear... I was writing about Monday after all.

What are your Mondays like?

It's very belated, but I'm also linking this post up with the excellent Monday Club.


Monday 15 October 2012

100 Word Challenge - Sleeping Dogs

It can't be that time...

... Time for truth to reveal its purpose. What good was going to come of this? 

"What did you mean Chrissy?"

"Nothing, just that David was under hand."

Did we need to mine the raw detail, empty the past of painful scraps?  

"How? I want to know."

"I'm not sure."

"C'mon Chrissy," Charlotte's impatience aroused, "Spill."

"It's just that David's eye's wandered."

"To you, you mean? I did notice."  

"What? Why haven't you said anything before?"

"And it's not as if you looked away."

Impatience took flight into righteous indignation. 

"Char, why now?"

"Did you want him?"

Can't sleeping dogs just sleep...

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ... it can't be that time ...

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

Saturday 13 October 2012

Big World. Little Me.

Sometimes, just sometimes, it's as if Little A and I occupy two separate worlds. I, an infinite universe of dirty bowls, tea bags and mugs, faded bed sheets, and kitchen table clutter. My little flatmate, a social whirl of tea dances, dressing rag dollies, conspiratorial chats with blue ted, and exercising - walking - the bedroom door stop (it so happens it's the shape of a dog).

Little A's world is rich in its simplicities. Mine, by comparison, is scant in its complexities. I wish I could swap the ironing, the folding clothes, the potty emptying for a minute's immersion in my daughter's magical interpretation of life. Just a moment to see things through her eyes, unfettered, unpolluted, pure.

So in a vicarious bid to slip on Little A's shoes and view things as she does, I thought it a jolly good idea to start immortalising all those words, phrases, concepts that define her world before memory loses its grasp, and those quirky toddler gems are lost in the dust forever.

Welcome to Big World.Little Me. anthology, of sorts, of Little A'isms.

Back in the day, Little A was able to pronounce the word music with assured clarity and diction. Since then 'music' has morphed into 'moonix'. Now Little A adores dancing to moonix, whether it's running around and around our living room, or shaking her hands to the radical beats - dad rock - thumping in the family car. She is very partial to Mumford & Sons, Talking Heads and occasionally, a touch of Kraftwerk. She especially loves 'rocket moonix' (rocking music). The other afternoon in the kitchen, Little A taught me the 'see saw dance',' the folding arms dance', and 'the dizzy dance' to the sounds of chill out moonix wafting from the radio. Another DJ in the making perhaps?

We were once a family of three. Now we are a family of four. I don't know the exact moment Bobby-in-a-mow graced us with his presence - I'm assuming he's a he - I certainly can't recall the formal invitation to take up residency in our home. But alas, Bobby-in-a-mow is here to stay, I can't actually see him, although I'm given daily assurances that he's floating about on thin air. As you've probably guessed, he's Little A's alibi and esteemed playmate. And when Bobby-in-a-mow isn't invisible, he's teddy, or bunny, or monkey, or dolly. Bobby-in-a-mow can often be located watching TV or dancing to moonix (see above). Once I asked Little A, "who's Bobby-in-a-mow?" To which she curtly replied, "he's just Bobby-in-a-mow mummy." Well that put me straight. Oh, and then there is the Bobby-in-a-mow song ....

Version 1.
Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Bobby.

Version 2. (mummy's remix)
Wibble. Wobble. Bibble. Bobble.

I always forget that I have a tattoo on the top left of my shoulder. It's of Pegasus, the flying horse, but it's a little blurred these days, faded like my jeans. The tattoo is a reminder of my student days, a throw back to care free living, and copious bowls of vegetable pasta. I can't quite believe it, but smudged Pegasus is nearly twenty one years old. Is it that long since I sat my finals? Anyway, inquisitive as she is, Little A has a habit of reminding me of it, usually when we are bathing together. "Mummy, mummy, look, it's your tootat," as a stubby finger prods firmly against my body art. "It's a tattoo, Little A, a T.A.T.T.O.O.O.O." "Tootat mummy," she always responds, knowingly saying it on purpose. I never bother re-correcting her. Secretly, I pray she never learns to pronounce tattoo correctly; 'tootat' is so unbearably charming.

Normal Work.
"Are you going to normal work today Daddy, or are you going to work on an aeroplane?"

Little A isn't exactly clear about the concept of work. All she understands is that Daddy leaves in the morning, suited, black bag slung over his shoulder, and returns just in time for one last 'night, night'. Younger Dad travels abroad quite frequently with his job. So Little A differentiates between 'normal work' and 'working on an aeroplane'. On our last visit to the doctors it all got a little confusing...    

Doctor "So what does your daddy do?"
Little A "He goes to normal work."
Doctor "What does he do there?"
Little A "No, no, today he's working on an aeroplane."
Doctor "Is he a pilot?" (Younger Dad is most definitely not a pilot)
Little A "Yes." (I'm not sure she knows what a pilot is)
Doctor "Does he take you flying in an aeroplane?"
Little A "No, cos, cos, cos I need... a passport."

...I didn't see that punch line coming. But of course she's right, she'll certainly need a pass port if she wants to visit Daddy's sky borne office in the clouds. I didn't enlighten the Doctor to Younger Dad's actual profession, we left him thinking my husband's Biggles.  

Last Time.
At the moment Little A is going through a phase where she wants to do everything on her 'woone' and most times, there has to be a 'last time' for every activity. Only, last time doesn't actually mean last time, it means  the first of many... And this is all my fault. For the sake of an easier life, planting a solid rod in my vertebra, I have indulged Little A in her requests of 'again' by repeatedly telling her, "now this is the last time Little A." Only to return again and again. This very, very bad habit, on my part, is at its most prevalent at bedtimes with Little A's persistent demands of 'last gentle back', 'last cuddle', 'last water'... Last has regretfully lost all it meaning. When will I ever learn?

What are your little darlings' favourite 'isms?

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Season(s) of Motherhood

The other afternoon, I found myself quietly watching and wondering from the rectangular frame of Little A's bedroom window. Her room resides at the back of our flat. The window looks out onto the neighbouring street lined with cars, fallen leaves, and the half eaten rejects, the only visible clues, of stringy, malnourished foxes. I enjoy looking out of this window. I love the simple past time of watching people go about their day. I just hope that no one spots my voyeuristic curiosities as they pass thirty feet below.

On this particular afternoon I view mothers and minders pushing rain coat laden buggies, frowning and smiling by turns, hurrying dawdling toddlers on yet another school run. The local 'old boy' is carrying far too many shopping bags than his stooping back will allow. Over the road two parents are unburdening their car of two dogs, three children, and a weathered buggy. This family have always intrigued me. Both parents work, and I assume are doing 'well', as they have not one but two live in nannies. Their children, all under five, are very close in age. Their little boy is only weeks older then Little A - I can remember his mother stepping out of the backseat, hobbling towards the front door, with the tell tale infant carrier in hand, my thoughts focusing on the scene - how this could be me in the days to come.

My eyes search the top of the road where it meets the main thoroughfare, commuter traffic quarrels, buses hum, cyclists roll by. Then my gaze is robbed by the trees. Their tops are painted in splashes of fiery colour that seem at odds with the seamless green below, like a hairdresser has dyed one half of his client's head. I am clearly reminded that it is Autumn, the season of reduction, that nature is effortlessly undressing herself, while I remain the same, untouched by transformation, fully clothed in yesterdays foliage. Is Autumn really here? Where's it all gone? What have I been doing?  

Sometimes, I feel stuck in the same season. It's not Spring or Summer. They imply newness and life. It can't be Autumn. Too much colour. Too much change. That only leaves Winter. Motionless, never ending Winter. Days and weeks can feel like an undying loop of 'same'; same breakfast, same games, same park(s), same casseroles, same shopping list, same clothes line... I try to find sparks in the mundane detail, "look at that bright yellow car over there Little A", "let's go collect some leaves today," "does the dinosaur hamster live in that bush?" I do my very best to add colour to the daily routine; I play the googly eyed monster, I play giddy up horsey, I am most things Little A requires of me. But so often my enthusiasm is found wanting, caged by the monotony...    

Some days, I fly away to a different destination, an alternate reality, a childless fantasy of career, sleep, and free will. I pine for the old world, a time bound place of structure and daily definition. A world where I wasn't constantly on watch. A world where I wasn't perpetually worrying about safety. A world where my head wasn't invaded by frightening thoughts of suffocation, abduction and death. I revisit the shades of grey I felt about having a baby. Do I, daring to say the word, 'regret' having Little A? No! Not in a million galaxies. Not in the space before time existed. A world without Little A is no world at all. I love her with blinding ferocity, from the furnace of my core. The ambivalence's I feel confuse, upset and coddle in guilt. I never realised the work of a mother meant embracing so many conflicting feelings - am I alone in this experience? I like to think not.            

But when I look back upon the past, to the days before Little A, I also realise these too were filled with prediction, banality, and boredom. Was my life really more interesting, more stimulating, more fulfilling? In some ways yes, but in many more ways, no. The difference now, the burden of life as a stay at home mother, is the solitude, the lack of mature company. So recently, I dusted down my diary and filled our weekends with adventures with friends, especially those with children, in a bid to satiate my need for social connection other than my darling daughter. My blog is a great friend too but it's not the same as face to face chit chat over a slice (or three) of lemon drizzle cake and a cup of finely brewed tea.

I need to remind myself that although Winter might appear inert, fixed in silence, underneath the cold mossy bark, the icy mud, the sodden grey grass, lies dormant potential, the longing for reinvention. Soon Little A will leave her toddler years behind her. I don't want to wish these precious years away but I am looking forward to a new season, one where I flower again. Life may seem static, paused on red, but I also know that in this unmoving there lies a paradox; underneath my tired expression, underneath the faded jeans, the woollen jumpers, the ageing underwear, I'm changing, the person I once was is no more, can never be, but who I am set to become is for now a blank page...

This was inspired by a recent post by Sara Bran that really resonated with me. 

Monday 8 October 2012

100 Word Challenge - Homeward Bound

Charlotte returned from her room, the furrows lining her brow the depths of my deceit.

The faded slogan on her blue t-shirt made light relief of the expression she bore...

'I woke with another headache'

"Chrissy, there's ten thousand in my account."


"No," Charlotte sat ashen on the sofa, "This can't be from him."

"Who else?"

"Haven't a clue. The sender's anonymous. But why else would Mark ask?"

"Why though? When was the last time you saw David?"

"C' Can't remember. This whole thing's sick. It's my ...."

"Fault? C'mon Char."

"You called David a duplicitous idiot? This connected?"

"No, I meant something else."

Guess truth was homeward bound.

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ... I woke with another headache ...

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

Thursday 4 October 2012


It's not often I focus the attention of 'need' and 'want' in my direction. I'm prized an hour's self indulgence when Little A takes her afternoon nap, which, of late, is regretfully becoming fewer and far between. 'Need' and 'want' are two bullying words that monopolise Little A's vocabulary, morning, afternoon, and evening, her memory lapsing, failing to locate that magic of all magic words - please.

So thank you, and thank you once again to the smashing, and very on trend - this girl rocks a dress - Anya at Older Single Mum, for bestowing upon me sparkly sprinkled lashings of desire dust, so that I may take a moment or two to reflect upon WHAT I WANT for a change. Yes, a moment to cocoon myself in all things me, me and me.

But what do I want? That's the million dollar question. When I thought about this post, my head drew an oceanic sized blank. I couldn't even count on one hand the things I wanted, only making it to my middle finger. Oh dear. So on this occasion, I'm going to take a leaf out of Mummy Plum's book, start small in the vain hope that I might invoke my inner Goddess of wanton self centredness - the Goddess in charge before I fell pregnant - to help pull out of the bag some big, bad, bold wants ....

Younger Dad to stop snoring. His snore guard (yes, the snoring is that loud) broke a few weeks ago, which means the double bed is often occupied by one parent at a time. And it's usually me, on account of how lightly I sleep, who ends up on the living room sofa (there's a spare duvet stuffed behind it). Our king size memory foam mattress has since forgotten my neglected post natal contours. I've taken to stuffing cotton wool in my ears but this fails to adequately muffle the grunts, the rattles, the chainsaw amputating the wooden limb. The other night, after sleepily reallocating to the lounge, the cotton wool needed reinforcement by an added cushion over my head - but even this failed to silence the bass heavy rumbling perforating the useless wall that was supposed to shield me from Younger Dad's nocturnal noise.  

Time. I think I'm going to have to remove all time wielding devices from my home. The sound of the minute hand tick ticking the hours away, is a constant reminder I just don't have enough time. And what I mean by that is enough time for me. I would love just an extra hour in the day to exercise, to read, to connect with friends, to dye my hair, to do nothing, to dream, to bathe in a mountain of bubbles .... This year I was supposed to balance the mental with the physical, the social with the solitary. And I've come up short. Any one know of a good personal organiser?    

Ideas. For the last six months or so I've been imagining a plot for a short story (or lengthy fiction) I have in mind. It's been a very stop start process. Two weeks of intense brain storming, questioning, followed by a month of nothing, a drought of inspiration. I want, want, want original ideas for interesting subplots, ones that really meld with the main plot line. I do have ideas but I worry they are a little obvious. Incidentally, the main narrative hinges on the accidental swapping of two DJ record boxes - that's all I'm saying...    

Central heating. Back in August our combi boiler went 'part time'. After fifteen years of loyal(ish) service, it's memory jolted to a halt - it recalls hot water with youthful vivacity, it just can't remember how the central heating works. Every year we've had to install new parts for some reason or another, but this Autumn, and especially as we are looking to move, we decided enough was enough. So today, we are having a brand new boiler installed. Over the last few weeks, the mornings have been decidedly chilly, so it will be a relief to have the heating back on... Guess I can tick this off my want list now?    

Pyjamas. The nights are getting noticeably cooler. I've already dressed the mattress (the one I rarely sleep on - see snoring) with a thicker tog duvet, and an extra fleece throw. But that's not enough, I want some new pyjamas - a brushed cotton pair(s), that will cushion me from draughts, that will insulate me, along with a (new) dressing gown, from the weekend caterwauling on X Factor. I don't know if this is your experience but I find new pyjamas are a little like a fresh hair cut; after one wash they never quite look or feel the same again.

Bed Socks. There's nothing more coddling, more comforting than a pair of thick, fluffy knee length socks. I just love that feeling of woolly fibred feet rubbing together under the covers. My idea of middle aged heaven is a duvet, pyjamas (see above), socks, a good read, and a warming bowl of custard (and crumble). Anyway, I need new socks. And NOW please. My old pair, which I've worn the last couple of nights, just don't cut it anymore. Waking up to toasty feet is nothing short of divine. Look at these beauties...

Image Courtesy of Google Images

This list of wants is turning into an all out frump-a-thon. Hardly big, bad or bold.

Lets see if I can up the ante!

UGGS. An expensive pair of sheepskins is a fashion staple for my Winter wardrobe. I've worn UGGS (not the same pair) for nearly ten years. When it comes to footwear, I err towards quality.This means a hike in price. But I feel good quality clothing equates to longevity - until my 40th birthday that is - when Younger Dad presented me with a gorgeous pair of chocolate UGGS. One season later, my big toe had managed to bore a hole through the sheep skin. They are still operable. But this breach in security gives me a logical excuse to demand another pair!      

Lotions and potions. I love, love, love to luxuriate my skin in softening serums, thick velvety moisturisers and anti aging magic (I know it doesn't really work but I like it all the same). This Summer I had my skin tested at the Dermologica stand in the Westfield Centre. I tried some samples of their products at home, and just loved how they looked and felt on my skin. The daily skin smoothing cream is gorgeous. So I've been saving my pennies to procure a range of their wares in the coming weeks...

Image Courtesy of Google Images

Another product I ran out of a while ago, and that I need to get my hands on, is the wonderful Bobby Brown Extra Face Oil. It's one of the best night time products I've indulged myself with. Oil is so, so good for the skin. But this oil gives my face that extra glow, a palpable suppleness, a feel good factor after viewing my bedraggled extremities first thing in the morning.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

How did I do? Am I forgiven for the frump-a-thon?

So what do you want?...

Lynsey The Mother Duck
The Pretty Good Life 

Tuesday 2 October 2012

The Slap

The art of discipline, I find, treads a delicate balance between draconian finger pointing and liberal indulgence. Between castigation and permissiveness. The (good) text books and psychologists applaud firm boundary setting, and I agree, for children feel safe and emotionally held when they buffet against the parental  limitations of 'no', 'I've already warned you once', and 'you do that again and I'm switching off Rastamouse.' Consequences teach the invaluable lessons of cause and effect, Hindus and Buddhists, I believe, call this Karma.

I like to think that I am flexible in my approach to boundary setting, that I pick my battles carefully, that daily raids of the fridge or an extra episode of Timmy Time aren't worth raised words. I like to think that if I give a little, my will full offspring might reciprocate in kind. And this seems to work (most of the time), Little A being hesitantly malleable to requests of 'socks off', 'shoes on', 'books back on the shelf' (please).

But yesterday afternoon was different. Yesterday, I had to dish out some 'proper' discipline...

The scene was set a squash and a squeeze before teatime. Little A sat perched on my lap, facing me, at the kitchen table.

"Mummy can I do some painting?"

"No, I'm sorry sweetheart, it's tea time in ten minutes."

And with my response, Little A's eyes began to water, her face began to redden, to contort with toddler fury, and then, without a blink, a small hand administered a stinging slap, nay, whack, that planted itself on my right cheek bone catching the hollow of my eye. BIG. ALMIGHTY. OUCH. I loudly mirrored (screamed) my displeasure at her behaviour...

"Little A you really, really hurt mummy. Say sorry."


"Right, then it's time out on the thinking cushion."

"No! No! I don't want to sit on the thinking cushion."

"I'm sorry Little A, but that's where we're going."

So I packed her up, and took her forthwith downstairs, down to the cushion on the floor in mummy and daddy's bedroom. The thinking cushion only presents itself in times of physical outbursts - there haven't been many but recently Little A has begun testing her physical nerve, again.

On the way, there was a request for the potty. Mid flow, a sobbing Little A apologised in earnest. I wanted to say okay, to cuddle her with pants and trousers concertinaed around her ankles. But I knew I had to follow through. So I gently acknowledged that I'd heard her sorry. But, I had said it was the thinking cushion. So the thinking cushion we must go...

"Noooo Mummy!"

I firmly held a wriggling, resistant Little A on the cushion, wrapping my limbs around her body. She remained on the cushion for two minutes (she's two years old). Then I explained to her why we had done this. That we don't hit, nip or scratch other people (and certainly not mummy). That I could see I'd angered her when I said 'no' to paint. But that we still don't lash out when we can't have something. And that, importantly, she'd caused me pain, and must say sorry (again).

"Sorry Mummy."

And a big fat hug ensued.

In the aftermath I felt unsettled, upset, a bad parent. Although I know it's often necessary, it always saddens me when I have to play bad cop. Boundary setting and disciplining is a fine art, made all the more challenging by the anger it fires in me when Little A misbehaves. Sometimes it's like taming two beasts. It really is an aspect of parenting I don't enjoy, that I feel quite unsure about, that I will have to increasingly engage with, no doubt, the older Little A becomes... (minefield).

So how do you handle discipline?

Monday 1 October 2012

100 Word Challenge - Ring. Ring. Ring.

Charlotte's tears softened, finding restraint against my shoulder.

She withdrew, the resignation brushed intently upon her expression.

"I could really do with that coffee Chrissy."


I felt relieved, hungry for equilibrium, and hungry for more cereal.

Charlotte steadied, redeeming her composure with every sip of caffeine.


Charlotte's mobile hollered. Suddenly it was in my hand.

"Anonymous - Want it Char?"

She nodded.

"Hello? .... Oh .... I was gonna call you .... Okay, I guess .... How are you? .... I'm so sorry .... Yeah .... On Saturday .... Really? .... Why? .... Okay, speak tomorrow."

"Chrissy, that was Mark, David's brother. Funeral's in two days. Said I should check my account?"

I'm linking up with JB47's 100 Word Challenge. This week's prompt was ... suddenly it was in my hand ...

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

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