Thursday, 30 April 2009

First Loves and Broken Hearts

"The worst thing a guy can do is let a girl fall in love with him when he doesn't intend to catch her fall" Anonymous
The weirdest thing happened to me last night. I dreamed about my first love. It was one of those dreams that is so vivid and haunting that it stays with you long after waking. I could clearly hear his voice and see his dimply smile and everything. He looked exactly the same as I remember him only his front teeth were rotten (perhaps this was just a tiny corner of my brain protecting me from overwhelming regret and reminding me that he wasn't the guy for me after all!) Rather bizarrely I was interviewing him for Desert Island Discs and I was touched to hear that he had chosen songs which reminded him of our time together! Wishful thinking. Even during the very best of our time together (and it was a long relationship as far as teenage romances go) he was about as deep as a puddle. After 3 years he still spelled my surname Allen instead of Allan and toiled to remember what colour my eyes were. To think I put up with that. Love is as blind as a very blind mole with cataracts and a blindfold on.
I can't imagine he gives me so much as a second thought nowadays. In fact I would put money on him struggling to remember even my first name. I'm probably nothing more than a blurry memory to him. And yet I'm annoyed at myself for admitting that he has made such an impression on me that there's barely a day goes by when I don't think about him (loosely mind, I don't waste tears on him or anything - "Never cry over somebody who wouldn't cry over you" good advice.) Trying to forget someone you once loved is like trying to remember someone you never knew. It's impossible unless you go through some kind of brain cleansing technique or ask for help from Derren Brown. Young love is an intense and painful experience. It leaves scars like nothing else.
In my dream I was trying to explain to this person the profound effect he has had on my life and how I never really got over him. I wanted to let him know how he had influenced my behaviour in subsequent relationships and how I had felt so let down by him. He kept laughing at me (revealing that delightful row of brown, crumbling teeth) and I was getting more and more tongue tied and frustrated. I desperately wanted closure on something which has plagued me for years but he wasn't listening. Funny that..
Now, my relationship with this person happened a million years ago (well, nearly 20 but it feels like another place and time) so it amazes me that he still occupies a place in the dark recesses of my mind. How easily I can conjure up his image if I want to. Young love is agony, especially unrequited love. Thank goodness I never have to go through that again! I can't bear the thought of my son having to endure it either but I guess it's just another part of life's cruel learning curve. The thing about first love, you see is that we give ourselves so wholly to the other person believing that nothing could ever go wrong. At seventeen I truly thought I would spend the rest of my life with this person. My naivety leaves me breathless now. I want to reach out for that foolish young girl and give her a good shake. Strange to think I will never give my heart (or at least the broken fragments that he left me with) away like that again. I am quite happy to be mad old cat woman. Okay, I might end up smelling a bit foosty and babbling to myself but at least my feelings will be intact thankyou very much.
Ernest Hemmingway never managed to forget his first love. In chapter 34 of his novel "A Farewell to Arms" (written about his one true love who he never got over) he wrote -
"Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. It has only happened to me like that once"
Some people think his unresolved feelings of hurt and loss were the reason he ended up taking his own life in the end. There are some who may scoff at this theory but there are a handful of us who have experienced love in it's true sense who will understand.
Maybe my relationship with this guy felt so special because it came at a time when everything else was so simple. Do we always see our past through rose-tinted specs? Like remembering the summers of our childhood being hot and endless and the snow being whiter and deeper than it is now? I'm not sure if there was more to it than that. As I remember the tiny details of last night's dream I know that I felt disappointed to wake up from it. There was so much more I wanted to say to this person, perhaps even offer him a hug of forgiveness that would signify my mending from the experience. Plus it would have been nice to have heard some of those Desert Island Discs!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

On being a ....

good friend.
I met up for coffee with my old friend Paul today. Well, he's not old, our friendship is. We were both trying to work out exactly what we think makes a good friend but we found it quite difficult to sum up. We ended up questioning things which we had previously taken for granted.
Over the past 37 years I have had a lot of people come into my life. Some of these encounters have resulted in intense, fun and short lived experiences whilst others have turned into more slow burning and solid friendships that have stood the test of time and survived the trials of life. There is no single definition of what a good friend is because we are all looking for different things. My idea of a good friend is somebody who is there for me no matter what, who doesn't turn their back on me even when the going gets tough. I must be able to trust them and hope that they would be loyal i.e. if someone was bad-mouthing me I would expect (at the very least) that they would walk away. They don't have to always be cheerful but it's nice to have a laugh and for someone to encourage you to lift up the folded down corners of yourself and explore them from a different angle. I think I am fortunate enough to have friends that do that.
There's Beth who has stood by me through thick and thin, who has never judged my mistakes (and there have been plenty) who is generous and thoughtful and who believes in me and everything I do ("Friendship without self interest is one of the rare and beautiful things in life"- James Francis Byrnes)
There's Caroline who makes me laugh like nobody else I know and who is impossible to be miserable around. She's just what the doctor ordered and everyone should have someone like her in their life ("My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me"- Henry Ford)
There's Paul who is the only person I can be on the phone to for three hours talking about everything and nothing and still meet for a coffee the next day and not struggle for topics of conversation. We clicked on some kind of level over 20 years ago and I haven't looked back since ("What is a friend? A single soul in two bodies."- Aristotle)
These are the friends I can be myself around and not worry about being rejected or criticised. I consider my best friends to be those who have been around forever, who seem to know what I'm thinking without having to ask, who I cannot imagine not seeing or speaking to on a regular basis.
But - I also have friends who have let me down in some way. One friend (who only a few years ago I could not have imagined ever living without such was our bond) left to live abroad and completely cut herself off from her old life. Not so much as a 'cheerio'. I now know she visits Edinburgh often and yet she doesn't think to pick up the phone to say 'hello'. That hurts but I have accepted that she clearly wanted to cut ties and my pride has prevented me from pursuing the friendship in any serious way. Despite this treatment my door (and heart) will always be open to her and if she rang my doorbell right now I would have nothing but smiles and hugs for her. So, perhaps a friend can be someone we no longer see, who has no interest in us and yet still occupies a place in our hearts. Keeping a friendship alive takes hard work. It's a two way thing.
Rather selfishly I do expect to get something out of a friendship. There have been occasions where I have had to ask myself "What does this person bring to my life? What am I getting out of this relationship?" There have been times when I have had to question whether pursuing a toxic friendship is detrimental to my well being. Some friendships were never meant to last.
I refer again to my favourite self help guru, Geneen Roth and her book "When You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull Up a Chair (50 Ways to Feel thin, Gorgeous and Happy When You Feel Anything But) -
"A friend is not a friend when you find yourself keeping secrets from her because you fear that if you told the truth she would be hurt or lonely or unhappy with her own life. When you begin snipping off your happiness to match the size of your friend's unhappiness it is time to take a serious look at the friendship. Not every friendship is meant to last forever. Make it a priority to develop friendships that applaud your strengths and celebrate your successes. It takes courage, maturity, honesty and a reservoir of self-love to assess the vitality of a friendship"

It's a difficult dilemma but when it is consistently painful to have a friend in your life it is probably time to let go of that relationship. However, you may decide that the joy of that friendship far outweighs the limitations and decide that it is worth the effort of holding onto it after all. Ending a friendship does not necessarily mean that you are closing your heart to your friend.
I think I am a good friend. But then we all like to think that! Just to be on the safe side I Googled "What makes a good friend" and came across some sites which I plucked these from -

Are you a good listener?
- yes
Are you approachable? - I like to think so
Are you trustworthy? - very
Do you avoid gossiping about others? - Oh come on, I'm not a bloomin' saint!
Would you defend a friend? - to the death
Do you know the dates of your friend's birthdays? - they are scorched on my brain (Paul, you lose points here)
Can you help your friends see the dangerous or risky aspects of their actions? - I try but Caroline just won't listen to me about those flippin' great big rocks!

There was one entry that said 'a good friend is someone who lends you their jeans'. Mmm. Not much point in that girls, I wouldn't even get my big toe into them!
Here's to friends everywhere!

On being a ....

single mum. As a mum to a rather hyperactive five year old, I am often accorded a status just shy of sainthood.
"I don't know how you do it?" friends say, with that mixture of pity and awe that single parents seems to elicit. I sigh deeply and shrug bravely,
"You just have to get on with it."
There's no question that single mothers face significant difficulties, not the least of which is financial hardship. I am studying at the moment and I like to treat my writing as a full time job (and hope that one day it will be) so there is alot of juggling involved. I met a fellow author at a Christmas lunch last year and she was amazed that I ever found the time to write. She has a supportive hubbie (who earns good money), a full time nanny and one child the same age as my son and STILL she struggles to complete deadlines. She actually has a sign on the door to her office (office - what a luxury. What's wrong with the kitchen table?) that she puts up when she is writing with her daughter at home. It reads - "Please do not disturb unless you are bleeding" I gave up a long time ago even attempting to write when my son was around. I know women are supposed to be able to multi-task but there is a limit for goodness sake. I got so worried that I was distorting my wee boy's concept of time ("In a minute.." "I'll do it just a second...") that I decided it was in both our interests to wait until I was alone before switching on my laptop.
There are also massive emotional challenges that we single parents are faced with - just last night I had to reassure my son that he would not wake up with leprosy (the school assembly had been all about this and the 'kind' person who had come in to give the talk went into graphic details about weeping sores and not being able to hold a pencil or ever cuddle your mum again- gee thanks for that!)
There are so many hats to wear as a lone parent and when the day is over and we collapse into the sofa for that well earned cuppa there is nobody there to share the burden or to discuss what has happened during the day. The important decisions sit very firmly on our shoulders. Last night I laughed weakly when I googled 'single parents' to get some support and all these dating websites popped up. Dating! Are you having a laugh? I did consider having a peek just to see if all the prospective dates looked like me - smeared mascara halfway down my face (on a rare day when I had bothered with make-up), bags under my eyes that you could have packed your holiday luggage in, flushed cheeks from the efforts of the bedtime routine (I'll tell you about that in a minute!) and bedraggled, unbrushed hair loosely scraped back from aforementioned florid face. Yeah, what a catch boys, you don't know what you're missing!
Anyway, I resisted taking the route of looking in at some of the sites but did wonder how single parents had the time, energy (or available babysitters) to look for love.... The one brilliant thing about being a single mum (well actually there are some benefits to bringing up your child alone but that's a whole other blog entry!) is that you are never alone. Even when you are, you're not - if you know what I mean. Yes, it's a tough job but I wouldn't hand my notice in for all the tea in China.
Right, as promised here is last night's bedtime routine (just to give you a glimpse into my mad world)
7pm - I run the bath while putting away ironing and laying out school uniform for tomorrow. Junior finishes his homework and gets undressed. The rule about leaving his dirty clothes in one pile flies out the window and I am still finding smelly, rolled up socks behind the TV and hanging from the living room lampshade this morning.
7.15pm-Junior has bath. If a visitor arrived at this point in time they would be forgiven for thinking that Free Willy has been in my bathroom. I wipe down the floor and walls, tidy away a million marine animals while Junior gets into his PJ's. We have a race otherwise I know this might take all night.
7.40pm-All dried and cosy in PJ's (which had to be re-done as they were on inside out and back to front). I attempt to dry Junior's hair but he won't stand still long enough. In between handstands, ninja moves and being dragged into the 'anomolie' (which is really just the rug on the floor) we manage something that resembles Tina Turner on a damp day.
7.50pm-Heavy chat about leprosy and lots of reassuring cuddles.
8.10pm-I am asked to do a rendition of Pink's "So What" on the green plastic recorder which I think I manage extremely well and Junior dances so he obviously agrees.
8.15pm-Storytime. Mr Men tonight and I therefore have to adopt various funny accents and expressions which makes me appear quite mad. Mr Tickle sounds like Graham Norton on helium and Mr Uppity sound like her majesty the Queen.
8.35pm-Junior still seems to have an abundance of energy left but I am failing fast. I agree to let him read to me from the "Walking with Dinosaurs" book (his favourite) and I nod and make the right noises while fighting to keep my eyes open. I get asked why dinosaurs can't come through an anomolie and eat us and to my horror I reply "Just cos". I am officially brain dead.
8.45pm-Junior tucked up in bed listening to Spike Milligan poetry (he laughs himself to sleep) and I return to the scene of devastation that is my living room (there has been a lego explosion and the felt tips seem to have bred on the kitchen table while I've been away). I do dinner the dishes, put ironing board away, make tomorrow's packed lunch, write some comments in Junior's homework book, tidy up best I can before collapsing onto the settee to check emails etc.
Dating? When am I supposed to find the time for that?!!!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Dangerous childhood!


"If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older"
Tom Stoppard (British Playwright - b.1937)
I've just finished a discussion with my Mum about whether we, as parents 'molly-coddle' our children and over-protect them, resulting in some of the fun being sapped from their childhood. I enlightened her as to what I used to get up to as a wee girl and I don't think she was very pleased!
When I watch my wee boy riding his bike - he's still a bit wobbly but has none of the fear that seems to accompany us as adults -my heart is in my mouth most of the time (my motto is "no hands, no teeth") but I seem to have forgotten the risks I took as a youngster, during those blissful years when I felt invincible and immortal (and the days seemed longer and warmer). Evil Knevil didn't have a look in.
I was welded to my bike for most of my formative years. I had various contraptions, mostly second hand but that didn't bother me in the slightest. As long as the wheels turned, I was happy. I even had one with one white tyre and one black but then I always did like to stand out from the crowd. My Dad liked to make sure that the front brakes were always nice and tight - something which my best friend found out to her detriment when she was travelling at 30mph and pulled them on as hard as she could. The words concrete and pain spring to mind.
When I think about the stunts we pulled on our bikes it's a miracle that any of us have lived to tell the tale. Balancing on the handlebars as we raced one another, getting 'backies' and covering the driver's eyes for that extra bit of excitement, cycling and roller skating at the same time (!) cycling backwards and (my personal favourite) no hands with my jacket pulled up over my head so it acted like a parachute. All at top speed down the steepest roads and all without crash helmets and shin pads to cushion any falls. I never felt so alive as I did on my bike and I still have the scars to prove it. I don't know when I suddenly started feeling so frightened of everything. Some people never lose their fearless streak (look at my friend Caroline - her climbing adventures make my hair curl - but what a buzz she must get. I envy her lust for the dangerous side of life).
Things are very different when you become a mother. Worry and fear become your constant companion the minute you become a parent - it's the unfortunate price you pay for love. No wonder my mum cringed when I told her about my action packed childhood - she was oblivious to my antics before today. What did she think I was doing on those long, summer evenings- making daisy chains and drinking Ginger Beer? Jolly hockeysticks! Lucky I didn't tell her about all the other crazy and death defying activities that took place out of her view - lying stomach down on the frozen lake looking at the trapped insects underneath while James McDougall jumped up and down trying to crack the surface, jumping off the stacked hay bales down the (secluded) farm lane, sledging down Platt Hill, travelling at 90mph towards the main road with nothing but a flimsy fence to stop us from certain death. If I thought my son was going to attempt any of the things I tried as a young girl I would lock him up today and throw away the key! And yet what would that achieve? In this world of health and safety gone mad, helmets and harnesses and ridiculous rules are we robbing our young people of experiencing true adventure? Or are we just saving them from some serious bumps and bruises (or worse)? Who knows. All I know is that I would not have changed the freedom of my childhood for anything. However, I won't be putting fate to the test any time soon. My son's crash helmet will be tied as tight as it ever was!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

A Good Read


"A house without books is like a room without windows"
Heinrich Mann

When I get the chance and when I can stay awake long enough at night to manage (!) this is what I'm reading at the moment ~ The Outcast by Sadie Jones. I am really enjoying it.

What are you reading?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Memories of Bonnie

"A pet is never truly forgotten until it is no longer remembered"
Lacie Petitto

Last night I finished reading "The Craggy Hole in My Heart and The Cat Who Fixed It" by one of my favourite writers, Geneen Roth. My pillow is still wet this morning. This was such a brilliant read for anyone who has ever had a cat in their life. It's funny, tender and inspiring and I would urge anyone to have a read. The book is not all about Blanche (Roth's cat, who turns out to be male - "The first time she visits the vet, we discover that Blanche is a he..but there is no question about changing his name; the being in this cat's body is definitely a "Blanche") but teaches us about how to love without reservation and accept that we might someday lose those who we believe we can't live without. I want to share some of it with you.

"By the time he is two years old Blanche weighs twenty pounds. He looks like a furry pyramid or a goat with curly stomach hair. It doesn't help that (he) has a girl's name and I have to keep correcting everyone that she is a he. He is the kind of cat that you can dress up in a bonnet and wheel around in a baby carriage, which my eleven year old neighbour, Rosie does several times a week. As soon as you pick him up, he relaxes his body and purrs. When Rosie isn't wheeling him up and down the block, I walk with Blanche around my neck like a monkey, like a second heart. I feel like a cliche. For the first time in my life, I am not afraid of being too intense, too effusive, too needy. No matter how many times I kiss him, hug him, pull his tail and turn him upside down, he doesn't turn away. Blanche is a love sponge with a thousand petal-pink lipstick marks on his head"

"Blanche is my oasis. I don't feel crazy next to him. I don't feel as if I need to measure up to his standards. I can marvel at the way he finds the sunniest place in the house, stretches out his paws like he is surfing on light, then falls asleep - all of it without apology, as if he unquestionable deserves love, warmth, beauty, affection, quiet, rest, contentment. As I watch him, which I do continually throughout the day, it occurs to me that it is possible to live in the world without the low-level anxiety, frustration and hypervigilance I've come to associate with being alive"

I love this picture of Bonnie - she had a knack of finding the only rectangle of sunlight in the house to crash out in. Poignantly, this is the exact spot in my living room where she died.
She was a constant support and friend to me during some difficult times. Cats' whiskers are so sensitive, they can find their way through even the narrowest crack in a broken heart. Bonnie was there for every significant moment in my life - five house moves, two major relationship break ups, a degree, the birth of my son to mention a few. I will never forget the day I came home from hospital with my new baby, nervous about how she would react to this wrinkly, squirmy bundle and worried about she would cope having to share me after having me to herself for so long. I needn't have worried. She was a great sister - tolerant, gentle, protective, like she knew this new little boy was just an extension of me and therefore worthy of her love.
Bonnie left a big void in my house and in my life when she died. Geneen Roth's brilliant book brought back some memories for me about my feline friend - some happy, some sad. Yes, it was one of the most painful things I have ever done, saying goodbye to Bonnie. Despite the pain, I have no regrets and I feel lucky to have known her. I will keep my heart open to experiencing that special love again - the love that only a cat can bring.

Bonnie
21st January 1992 ~ 28th December 2008

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Thoughts on education



"To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education. I call it intrusion" Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Monday, 13 April 2009

A Spring in my Step


"The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun's kiss glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze"
Julian Grenfell

I happen to think that certain parts of Edinburgh are lovely all year round but at this time of year they are ridiculously beautiful. Here are a couple of photos I thought were really nice - the first one was taken in the Meadows and the one below that was snapped beside the Water of Leith. Spring has sprung!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Blackbird bathing


"Poor indeed is the garden in which birds find no homes"
Abram L. Urban



I have just finished watching a beautiful lady blackbird having her afternoon bath in my Mum's garden. What a lovely sight. I could have watched her all day. My parents' garden is a haven for birds of all descriptions but my favourite has to be the feisty female blackbird with the wonky feather on her head who comes every year and visits the back door for her chopped cheese and grapes. Sheer bliss and something we should never take for granted.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Strawberries and Tigers

"A woman was jogging in the forest when she realised that a family of tigers had leaped from a mountain and were going to be feasting on her for their next meal. She started to run but was not used to navigating her way through dense trees and before she knew it she was standing at the edge of a cliff. Ever resourceful, she scampered down the side and hung on to a clump of vines.
Meanwhile, the tigers gathered above her, breathing heavily and licking their lips. Then she heard a roaring below her and saw another family of hungry tigers making their way up the cliff. She knew then that her life was over. At that moment she noticed a ripe strawberry hanging from the vine. Surrounded by tigers her life flashed before her: the years she had spent running away from the past and towards an imagined, better future, believing that true love and joy were waiting for her right around the corner. All those ripe-strawberry moments she had passed up, waiting for riper, juicier strawberries - for her life really, truly to begin.
With the starving tigers all around her, she realised there was only one thing to do. She ate the strawberry. And although she did not live happily ever after, she enjoyed that strawberry more than she'd ever enjoyed anything, ever."

There is a moral to this story. There are always tigers above us and tigers below and even so we refuse to eat that juicy, ripe strawberry hanging an inch away from our faces. I've seen it again and again. People get the job of their dreams or move to a bigger house or reach their goal weight or find the love of their life. But then their mum gets ill or their child breaks an arm or their friend loses their job. They escape some of the tigers and forget to enjoy the strawberries on the way.
We have no choice about the tigers above and below us. That is life. Pain is a part of life. You manage to get one part under control just for another to fall apart. Yes, you may be lucky enough to experience a long period of time when everyone and everything is well. Whether it lasts an hour, a week, a month, a year, eventually there will be more tigers. But there will also be more strawberries. The sun will keep coming up, your child will say something that cracks your heart open, a new friend will appear and you will once again be struck by the unbearable wonder and tenderness of life. Most of us ignore the strawberries because we believe that there is something even better up ahead. We spend our youth waiting for our lives to begin, we get old waiting for our lives to begin and we die waiting for our lives to begin. As if there were such a thing as finally getting it right! As if perfection really exists.
A certain kind of perfection does exist, even though the tigers will never go away. Perfection is choosing to enjoy the present, to embrace what life offers in whatever form it presents itself, even when you are not as thin as you would like to be, you hate your job, you owe money or someone you love is dying. When there are tigers above you and tigers below you there will always be a strawberry right in front of you. Pick it. Enjoy it. Let yourself have that much.

From "When You Eat at the Refrigerator Pull Up a Chair" by the brilliant Geneen Roth.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Nobody's Diary


"You can change the chapter, you can change the book,
But the story remains the same if you take a look"
Nobody's Diary by Yazoo (Alison Moyet)

I've been having an 80's revival in my car this week and I came across this brilliant song I hadn't heard for ages (it's 26 years old and I can remember the performance on Top of the Pops like it was yesterday!)
This line from the song really sums up how I am feeling about someone at the moment (the person will remain nameless for obvious reasons!)
Sometimes people choose to run away from a problem instead of looking at the reasons why they have become unhappy. They think that by changing job/partner/hairstyle/home/all of the above it will make their life change in the process. However if they are not prepared to look inside themselves and make the changes that really matter, to address the issues that have made their life take a nose dive in the first place all that's going to happen is that they will carry all the baggage from their old life with them into their new life. The world around us is fairly easy to change but it's far more of a challenge (and a very worthwhile one) to change ourselves and how we tackle the things which have hurt or scarred us. It's all very easy to blame other people for our failures and unhappiness but there comes a time when we must take responsibility for ourselves and try to change the story and not just the book.

Take a blast from the past at
http://www.last.fm/music/Yazoo/_/Nobody's+Diary

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Aaghhhh!!















"What ought to be done is neglected, what ought not to be done is done; the desires of unruly, thoughtless people are always increasing"
Friedrich Max Muller


I have officially had enough of thoughtless people. Why are there so many of them?!! As I strive to raise my wee boy to think about the consequences of his actions and to show consideration towards other people I feel like I have a constant uphill struggle because we appear to be continually surrounded by selfish, unthinking idiots.
Right, seeing as I am on a rant here is a list of just a few of the thoughtless acts that drive me MAD! Most of these things have actually happened to me in the last few days and I hasten to add they are not extraordinary occurrences but seem to be happening on an alarmingly regular basis. Deep breath, here goes...
1. People in front of me in the queue at the supermarket who clock me with one loaf of bread and a bottle of bleach then proceed to load the four million items from their trolley onto the conveyor belt. I would just let me go first.
2. People who dump mattresses and televisions on country lanes - just phone for a special uplift, it'll save you petrol.
3. People who casually walk past OAP's who have dropped their coins and watch as they struggle to pick them up. Spare a minute, you'll be old one day too.
4. People who ask me when my baby's due - I'm not pregnant!
5a) People who knock down the one sound-proofing wall between your house and theirs and then proceed to put up a 52" Dolby surround sound television on that wall and watch horror movies until one in the morning.
5b) People who hammer, saw and drill every night just when my wee boy goes to bed (same person who owns the massive telly)
6. People who think that everyone within a 5 mile radius wants to listen to their dog barking in the back green until midnight. How about taking the poor creature for a walk once in a while or even better, don't get a dog in the first place.
7. People who bang into you and don't say sorry.
9. People who swear in front of children.
8. People who let the door shut in your face, or worse don't thank you when you courteously take the time to hold the door open for them.
9. People who drop their empty cigarette packet NEXT TO A BIN!
10. People who on the first sunny day of the year decide to shatter the tranquility by positioning their speakers on their balcony and blasting the entire neighbourhood with happy hardcore. Can you not just appreciate the bird song for one minute?
11. People who sit behind you on public transport straight after extinguishing a cigarette and then breath all over you. P.U.
12. People who cough and don't cover their mouths.
13. People who let their dogs poo all over the school path. Have you any idea how many times I have had to clean the back of my car seats? Take a bag with you.
14. People who throw their McDonalds trash out of their car window (or any trash for that matter - what's wrong with waiting until you get home and putting in the bucket?)
15. Thoughtless drivers. Well this requires a whole section for itself!
a) People who park so close to your car that you can't actually get back into it.
b) People who tailgate!!
c) People who use up the last parent/child space when they are clearly without child.
d) People who overtake you at 90mph whilst on their mobile phone.
e) People who text whilst driving. Eyes on the road PLEASE!
f) People who use eyelash curlers (yes, that's eyelash curlers) on the approach to a busy roundabout. That makes me very nervous when you are in the car behind...
g) People who overtake you on a slip road. What's the hurry?!
h) People who cut in front of you at the last minute because they can't be bothered queuing in the longer lane of traffic. What makes you so special!!!?
i) People who park horizontally across three spaces.


Okay, okay I am aware that this makes me sound like a grumpy old woman. Fine, I'll hold my hands up to being a total Victor Meldrew (and yes, I admit that on the odd occasion I have actually said "I-do-not-BELIEVE-it!") but what's wrong with having standards. After all, manners cost nothing. I just happen to believe that if everybody thought before they acted and considered other people just once in a while the world would be a better place. So I will continue to bring my son up to be a kind and thoughtful boy. If people could just make this a little bit easier for me then I'd really appreciate it. Rant over!!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

What a wonderful world



"After sleeping through a hundred million centuries, we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked - as I am surprisingly often - why I bother to get up in the mornings"
Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow





Saturday, 4 April 2009

Thought for today


"It is never too late to be what you might have been"

George Eliot

Friday, 3 April 2009

Brain wiring!

I think I've cracked the reason why I don't like maths very much. It came to me in a flash as I sat trying to work out some trigonometric identities in the very bedroom I studied maths in as a teenager (and felt exactly the same as I do right now!)
With maths there is a right and wrong way of doing things. We must arrive at the correct answer or else we fail. Simple. There is no room for creativity with numbers - you either get it or you don't. Sadly, most of the time I don't. I have a creative mind you see - it's why I like writing. Some people love the idea of having only one correct result, a definite answer to a problem, a satisfactory solution. It's like a boundary in the brain that says "Ok, this is the way it is - stick to the rules and you'll be fine'. 2+2=4 no room for deviation.
The thing I love most about writing is that there are no real rules. Maybe I'm just a bit of a rebel! Granted there are certain grammatical principles - punctuation, sentence structure, spelling - but at the beginning of writing a story I don't allow myself to get hung up on these. There is this glorious feeling of freedom as the fingers bash around the keyboard transferring the thoughts in your head onto the screen. No rules, no boundaries, the world is your oyster. You can create people, situations, solutions without there being an exact linear path. My advice to people starting out is not to worry about what you're writing. Mistakes and paragraph structure can be rectified at the end - that's what spellchecker and cut and paste are for. Just let your creative juices flow and worry about the errors later. Trust me, you'll never get past the first sentence if you try to get it perfect.
This has been an epiphany for me. On this misty April morning I have realised something I don't think I knew before. Understanding maths has never come easy to me. My failure to grasp it has thrown more obstacles in my path than anything else in my life. Even as a mature adult with sackloads of qualifications under my belt I am restricted in my career choices because I don't have 'O' Maths. How frustrating!
I may just scrape together enough understanding of the basics to get a pass in my exam (I hope so) but none of this will have come easy to me. Blood, sweat and tears is an understatement! My brain aches every time I open my text book. But, this DOES NOT make me stupid. I always thought I was, and it didn't help having a maths teacher who reinforced this idea (Thanks a bunch, Mr Kane) What a waste. The simple fact is that my brain is wired differently. I wrote a book for goodness sake, of course I'm not stupid! And how dare anyone think I am...
I will continue to struggle my way through this open learning maths course (and there's another thing I've just realised. This is open learning! I'm doing this entirely on my own. No teacher , no support. I think that makes me a genius!) in my pursuit of becoming a teacher. It's the one thing that stands in my way and I am determined to jump this final hurdle because I know I will make a fabulous teacher. Who knows, maybe now I have accepted that we can't all be good at everything some of the pressure will lift and I'll find myself actually enjoying maths. Is that a pig flying past the window?...

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Children's Book Day 2009

Today is Hans Christian Anderson’s birthday (http://hca.gilead.org.il/), the day chosen by the International Board on Books for Young People to inspire young readers and to promote good quality books for children the world over.
In honour of International Children's Book Day -(http://www.ibby.org/index.php?id=269)
I have compiled a 'top ten' of favourite reads from my childhood - books which have branded themselves onto my consciousness and in some ways influenced my writing style and imagination.
I would recommend everyone get their hands on at least one of these books. Enjoy!
1. Mrs Pepperpot series by Alf Proysen
2. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
4. Watership Down by Richard Adams
5. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
6. Charlotte's Web by E.B White
7. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
8. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis
9. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
10. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In all good book shops August 11th 2009!)
Happy reading...

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Thought for today


"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all"
Emily Dickinson
Find out more about Emily at :