Monday, 29 June 2009

Confused hamster!!

Poor wee Dizzy Rascal hasn't quite got the hang of her hamster wheel yet. For some strange reason she prefers running around the outside of it!! And yes! It really is that squeaky!! Last night I had to get up at 2.30am as the noise was so bad. It wasn't much fun rummaging around the 'under the stairs' cupboard trying to locate some WD40 whilst half asleep! Dizzy just looked up at me as if to say "What's all the fuss about?"
I was just drifting back to sleep when two cats started fighting under my bedroom window. I feel like a zombie this morning and I've got a school visit in less than an hour!!
Despite the squeaky wheel (which I think is sorted now) Junior and I are really enjoying the new addition to our home. She's very sweet and sociable, loves cheese and is fully toilet trained. She actually gets up from her cosy nest to wee-wee in an allocated corner of her cage before going back to bed!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

A nice quote...

"You never leave someone behind, you take a part of them with you and leave a part of yourself behind"

P.S I'm not sure why the Pooh Bear entry (below) turned out to be such massive text but looks like we're back to normal now! Apologies for that.

"Well.." said Pooh,

"..what I like best - " and then he had to stop and think.
Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called"
A.A. Milne

I think I know what Pooh Bear was trying to say here! There is a feeling that accompanies all good things when the anticipation of what is coming far outweighs the actual moment when it arrives.
The past few months have been a journey of excitement and anticipation for me. I am happier and more focused than I have ever been and I have met some amazing and inspiring people who really "get" me and my book. I know that whatever comes from this chapter in my life these people will be around me for a very long time to come.
Knowing that "Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket" will soon be on bookshelves still feels a bit like a dream to me. I have achieved a lifelong ambition and I never want this feeling to end! I do worry that nothing could possibly match how I am imagining it will feel to hold the finished novel in my hands. All my hard work and struggle will finally be recognised and 'out there' for young people to pick up and enjoy.
As August 11th approaches I find myself feeling like a wee girl on Christmas Eve. Ah! That delicious moment just before you pull the wrapping paper off a present! The thrill of anticipation and the unnameable emotion of 'just not knowing' what lies inside. I am trying to soak in every single second of this adventure and I refuse to let myself worry about what lies ahead. There is a curious sensation in my stomach - nerves/excitement/fear/joy/all of the above (!) - which I can't quite label. All I know is it's telling me that whatever happens in the next few months my life will never be quite the same again...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

It's tough being five!

Junior had his end of term disco last night. He looked 'swish-bang', but then I always think that. It's really hard being a single mum to a five year old boy. I was never a five year old boy so I'm not quite sure how best to deal with the fragile emotions that come with that. The best I can do is try and relate how I felt as a child to Junior's present situation and deal with things accordingly. I am probably a tad guilty of boosting my son's self-esteem a bit too much but this is something I feel really strongly about. I truly believe that building confidence in children is like handing them the key to a happy and successful future. Having money or the best education in the world cannot compensate for learning about self worth. At the risk of sounding a bit 'American' - we are nothing without belief in ourselves. I regret having to wait until I was about 35 to actually like the person I always was. It feels like a bit of a waste to be honest and I hope that I am now able to make up for lost time. I have learned to accept that I am an amazing person and nobody can ever take that away from me. I accept that the qualities I once thought were weaknesses are in fact the things that have led me down the path that I am now very happy to be following. I will do all I can to ensure that my son will learn to love himself as early as possible. However, it's a cruel world out there and no matter how much I tell him "you are wonderful" "hold your head high and remember you are as good if not better than most" there will be at least ten people waiting to burst his wee bubble. Which is what happened last night.
I left him skipping into the gym hall at 6.30pm and when I went to collect him two hours later I found him sitting on the benches watching everyone else dancing to the migraine inducing, one-hit wonder, "Cotton-Eyed Joe" by the Rednex (what is it with kids and sugary, commercial guff?). I asked him why he wasn't up there showing off his best moves.
"Nobody even noticed me tonight" was his heartbreaking reply. Perhaps this was my fault for telling him that all the Primary 1 girls would want to marry him? Maybe I had over inflated his ego so much that the only way to go was down. And to add insult to injury three of the girls in his class had peeked over the cubicle when he was doing a wee and laughed at him. Not the best night for Junior then.
"And they keep coming over, pushing me and running away!" cried an indignant Junior as his bottom lip quivered in time to the music.
"That's because they like you!" I tried to explain to my tired and confused son.
How difficult a concept is that to grasp? Who would think that being five could be so complicated? And it's only going to get worse! I know I can't protect my child from the hard knocks and rejections he is going to face as he grows up in this complex and cruel world . I can only try and teach him how to retain his self belief when things don't go according to plan. A valuable coping tool for anyone.
Turns out he didn't want to dance because he knew he wouldn't win the prize for best dancer. "Why even try?" was his attitude.
Now, I can remember sitting on the sidelines at my Primary 7 school disco waiting for someone to ask me to dance - (Adrian, why oh why did you never notice me even when I was wearing my satin blue ra-ra skirt and luminous pink legwarmers?!). It was a l-o-n-g time ago but if I think hard enough I can almost hear Eddy Grant singing "I don't wanna dance" and hoping that the throb of the music and the flash of the lights would hide my misery. No-one ever did ask me to dance but I probably gave off major vibes not to come near me so who can blame them.
"Dance for the sake of dancing.." was the advice I gave to Junior last night "..not because there's a prize in it. Dance because it's fun and because you can. Dance like there's no-one watching!"
Me living vicariously through my child again? Probably...
Junior agreed to dance if I agreed not to watch. So I dutifully left the gym hall and covertly spied from a side window where I knew he wouldn't see me. And he did dance like no-one was watching - proper body popping manoeuvres and everything. He didn't win any prizes but he made me smile.'t+Wanna+Dance

"The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard"
Sloan Wilson

Friday, 26 June 2009

Like him or loathe him...

..nobody can deny that Michael Jackson was a musical genius. Here is my favourite song from the "Thriller album", Human Nature

"A template for new jack swing and hip-hop soul ballads, "Human Nature" is comparatively slower and more intimate than "Thriller's" other songs. "If this town is just an apple, let me take a bite," quivers Jackson's voice over a cascading synthesizer and percolating bass line. Though written by John Bettis and Steve Porcaro of Toto, the lyrics resonate with Jackson's yearning to break free from his tower of celebrity and mingle with young people in a "city that winks its sleepless eye."
Serena Kim, South Coast Today 1983

Thursday, 25 June 2009

"Doing all the little tricky things it takes to grow up, step by step, into an anxious and unsettling world"
Sylvia Plath

Last night I went along to the Castlebrae Awards Ceremony at the Hibs Stadium on Easter Road. I felt very privileged to have been asked to go along to celebrate the successes of the young people who attend the High School. There were lots of children (well they're not children anymore) who I last saw ten years ago when I worked at Niddrie Mill Primary School. They actually remembered me which I thought was amazing. I felt very old when a lad called Jordan got up to sing and play his guitar - a rendition of Oasis' "Half the World Away" which has very poignant lyrics about a young man and his desire to leave a stagnant life in an oppressive city. The last time I saw Jordan he was only six years old!
There were a couple of famous people there too -
Billy McElhaney who plays Jimmy Mullen in Scottish Soap Opera, River City (I came over all starstruck!) and former Hibs footballer Jackie McNamara. It was so lovely to chat to some of the kids and to see how they have grown into beautiful, clever and responsible teenagers. I felt very proud to have been involved in their education and to have had the chance to meet them again after all this time.
We are all bombarded with so many negative stories about young people these days (especially young people from areas like Niddrie and Craigmillar). It's easy to lose sight of some of the wonderful things they do (and sometimes these are done in the face of adversity and underprivilege which makes them even more amazing). It was so refreshing and reassuring to listen to their achievements and to see first hand all the brilliant and inspiring things these kids have done. Without wanting to sound patronising, they seem to be embracing life even though at times it must feel like "an anxious and unsettling world" to them. I really hope that during my career as a writer I can keep my ties with the Craigmillar area. I'll always feel a special bond with the people there.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Have a really lovely day and we'll be thinking about you.
Lots of love from your big cousin and Auntie Hazel xx
Thanks for bringing so much fun into our lives.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Wishing my...

..special Dad, John Allan a very Happy 70th Birthday!!
Thanks for everything you do for me and my wee boy. Have a brilliant day.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Sweet treats!

I was doing a bit of research for the sequel to "Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket" when I stumbled upon this website. It's the closest thing I can think of to being locked in a sweetie shop and I just had to share it with you all. It really took me back to my childhood. How I have managed to get to 37 years of age without any fillings is something of a miracle...

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

I've just had my first invite... an awards ceremony!

It's the Castlebrae Awards Ceremony and I'm delighted to have been asked along. I hope they have the red carpet ready for me?....

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Thanks for lunch, Graham!

"No road is long with good company"

Turkish Proverb

I have a what?!

This image is a screen shot taken from a news report aired on Martin Luther King Day in January 2007 on a Texas television station. A few of the local community members who had gathered that day carried signs displaying misspellings of the word "dream" and neither the station's cameraman or the editor noticed the mistake before the piece aired.
Now it's time for me to put my bragging pants on. I am a very good speller. I always have been. I think I would make a great proofreader since mistakes in text just seem to jump out at me (I share this gift with my Dad). My brain seems to instantly conjure wiggly red lines under any text that is incorrect. However, I am not completely immune to the odd error in spelling so I am a strong believer in having little ways to remember tricky words. I'd like to share a few with you now. These are all taken from a list of commonly misspelled words.

necessary - you wear one collar and two socks
cemetery - the three e's look like three tombstones in a row
stationery - remember the 'e' in envelope
dessert - you'd like seconds, so there are two s's (as opposed to the one s in desert)
separate - there's "a rat" in the middle of this word
Government - they govern over the land (they DON'T gover over the land)
diarrhoea - Run Rapidly Home Or Else Accident (!)
embarrass - I went really red and smiled shyly
liaise - you need two eyes (ii) to liaise
And last but not least, my favourite for remembering the word "difficulty" (it comes from the brilliant film "Matilda") -
Mrs D, Mrs I, Mrs FFI,
Mrs C, Mrs U, Mrs LTY.

And for those of you who are thinking "What's all the fuss about, I have spellchecker!" DON'T BE LAZY and remember that the poem below will pass the spellcheck test every time.


Need help? Try the following website, it's great -

Monday, 15 June 2009

Introducing...(drum roll please..)..

...Dizzy Rascal.
After months of begging and pleading I finally gave in to Junior's demands and got him a hamster. She is a pretty little brown and white Syrian hamster who is just 10 weeks old. She is a bit shy at the moment but hopefully in time she will let us pick her up and play with her. The lady in "Pet City" said it might take a wee while for her to settle in. She took some broccoli from my hand last night which was really sweet. It was her first night in a new home after all.
Junior is finding it hard to accept that his new pet sleeps when he is awake and is active during the night - I have pondered why hamsters are such popular pets for children when they have totally nocturnal habits?..
Anyway she was up and about early this morning when Junior was getting ready for school so I managed to snap a couple of quick photos to let you all see her. This one is a bit blurry but the best of the bunch - she is super speedy on her wee feet so the other pictures were just of her bum or a flash of beige. Dizzy has her own separate gym complete with see-saw and hammock (just in case you're thinking the cage is a bit wee for her). She also has an exercise ball and a digging tank. I didn't think I would ever have another small animal in my life but it feels nice to know there is another heartbeat in the house and that I'll have some company when Junior goes to bed at night. It's nice to have another female in the house!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Question of Sport

It's Junior's school sports day today (weather permitting) and he is so excited about it. I often wonder where this streak of enthusiasm for all things physical comes from because it's certainly not from me.
I used to dread sports day and not without good reason. It wasn't that I was a fat child (that came much later) it's just that I seemed to lack something fundamental when it came to P.E. I hated exercise as much then (with the exception of my bike) as I do now. School sports day was the pinnacle of torture as far as I was concerned. It would start long before the actual day. When all my peers were clapping and whooping with delight and anticipation, I would come out in a cold sweat at the very first mention of the event. Team picking would begin early. Even typing those words has sent a shiver down my spine. Before the days of political correctness, team picking usually took the form of the class teacher choosing the most athletic and popular members of the class to be team leaders and then to let them choose their teams. We would all sit on the benches like lambs going to the slaughter and wait for our names to be called. And wait...and wait... There was always the inevitable stragglers left behind (me included) who would form the last team. We looked remarkably like something out of Michael Jackson's Thriller video. Underdogs would be an understatement. To put it kindly there wasn't a pound of any of us hanging right. It still amazes me that teachers could have been so cruel (although perhaps not much has changed as Junior informed me this morning that his team are called "The Foxes" while his best pal is in the team called "The Worms"!).
Looking back, it was Darwinism happening before our eyes. Only the strong survive. Survival of the fastest (sic). I didn't have a competitive bone in my body, I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over as quickly as possible. I can remember actually praying the night before my P7 sports day that it would rain. Typical that the next day was the hottest on record and so with a heavy heart I packed my sky blue, terry towelling shorts and headed off for school.
If I think about it hard enough I can actually smell those musty, coloured bibs, you know the kind that let's everyone know what team you belong to (not that my team could ever have been mistaken. We looked like the Bash Street Kids). The bibs had elastic bottoms and were so uncomfortable that they just added insult to injury. Off we would all trundle to the local park, all carrying various implements of torture - scratchy sacks for the sack race, balls, cones, hoops, space hoppers (it was the 70's and 80's so no sports day would have been complete without the obligatory orange, rubber spheres with horns sprouting out the top!). I can remember the local residents hanging out of their windows and cheering words of encouragement. It was like we were going to war. And in some ways we were.
The Four Legged Race. Now, what a great idea (did you detect the sarcasm there?)
"Hurrah children, how about some ankle-breaking fun!"
I actually remember a girl losing her front tooth during the four legged race. It was all about rhythm and co-ordination you see and if you didn't have those two gifts you were pretty much taking your life (and your incisors) in your hands. The egg and spoon race was relatively tame and quite a relief for those of us who lacked talent in the speed department. We could walk slowly under the guise of being extra careful not to drop our egg (or potato (!) although strangely it was still called the egg and spoon race).
The worst part of the day for me was the obstacle course. Now I'm older and wiser I can visualise some sadistic teacher sitting alone in the staff room after hours, conjuring up the most difficult and humiliating activity course he could think of, laughing like a mad scientist. Cones and nets, benches and balls - the uncoordinated child's worst nightmares all rolled into one. What I'm about to tell you, I have never talked about so please don't laugh.
1982. A rare occasion, my team were winning at the obstacle race - we did it in relays and I was up last. I remember getting halfway across the most horrific obstacle course with plenty of time to spare.
"Now's my chance to prove I can win something, to leave this day with my head held high" I thought as I gave it my all.
I had negotiated the huge rectangle of sweaty tarpaulin (commando style, which is not pleasant if you have mild claustrophobia), the balance beam (which again is tricky if you have size 7 feet at 11 years old) and the tossing of the beanbag into the bucket and it was now time to step into the plastic Hula Hoop and pull it up over my body before moving on to the final sprint. The end was tantalising close and I was sensing a euphoria never before felt on the sports field. Horror upon horror's the hoop would not shift past my terry towelling covered buttocks. I am sweating now thinking about it. It simply wouldn't budge and the team were yelling for me to hurry up - they too had smelled the unfamiliar whiff of success and were not going to give it up without a fight. Hope faded as I saw the other team members gaining speed. I panicked and wriggled free, running with a last gasp of energy for the finish line. I got there just in time to win but my team was disqualified because I hadn't made it through the hoop. Never again did I come that close to winning a medal for anything sports related. It was my one chance and I blew it. To this day I have a phobia of Hula Hoops and the only kind you'll ever see me near are the edible kind.
In all my years of school I never won anything at sports days. Not even a rosette for trying my best in the face of adversity. A a couple of hours of sheer hell later and all there was to show for it was a sprained ankle (four legged race), a cluster of purple bruises (5 aside football), friction burns on the palms of my hands (Tug o War) and a healthy sprinkling of humiliation just to top it all off nicely.
I am confident that Junior will do well at his sports day today and I suppose like all parents I will live vicariously through him. Above all I just want him to enjoy it and not to come away from it with memories that make him feel sick when he's older. It's all hugely competitive nowadays and that's just the Mums and Dads yelling from the sidelines! I can promise you I won't be one of those parents although I will have a smile on my face if he makes it to the finish line first.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Where the Heart Is...

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to"
John Ed Pearce

"Where we love is home, Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts"
Oliver Wendell Holmes Homesick in Heaven

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

"Through the dancing poppies stole,
A breeze most softly lulling to my soul"
John Keats

"And far and wide, in a scarlet tide,
The poppy's bonfire spread"
Bayard Taylor

I have been dog-sitting this week for my (second) favourite niece, Ellie. I decided to take my camera with me today up the "bumpy lane" to try and capture the beautiful sea of poppies which borders the walk. They are so stunning, I don't think these photos will do the scene justice. But you'll get the gist!
Spot my friend Caroline's old house in the fifth picture down (what a view she had growing up!) and see if you can see the Forth Bridges in the pictures underneath. What a peaceful time I am having and Ellie (the big lump of love) is a joy to be around.

Monday, 8 June 2009

"People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit with a typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it"
Harlan Ellison

Sunday, 7 June 2009

I had totally forgotten...

..just how much I love the album "Purple Rain" by Prince and the Revolution until I put it on in the car this morning to let Junior have a listen. Needless to say, he loved it too (he has great taste in music) and I got a right old chuckle watching him playing air guitar to "Let's Go Crazy" in the rear view mirror.
This album always conjures up lots of memories for me but mostly it makes me remember the times when my best friend Beth and I would cruise around town in her Dad's car just after she passed her driving test. It was our first taste of freedom after years of experiencing the claustrophobic confines of the village where we lived. Every time I listen to "Purple Rain" the hairs on the back of my neck go up and I get the same rush of adrenalin I got when we used to stick this album in the cassette player (no CD players then, folks!), turn the volume up full, wind down the windows and pull out of the driveway to go and explore the big wide world courtesy of Jim's clapped out old Fiesta. Those were the days! It almost makes me wish I was seventeen all over again - without the angst and spots of course...

P.S "Let's go Crazy" simply must be played with the volume up as far as it will go - so best make sure there are no neighbours around! Oh, and there are Parental Advisory lyrics on some of the tracks.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Junior is doing a project called...

.."Keeping Ourselves Safe" at the moment. I guess it's deliberately included in the school curriculum for this time of year to coincide with the seven weeks holiday that is fast approaching. Kids are most vulnerable during this time so the programme covers everything from not playing on building sites/near water to stranger danger.
Last night we were discussing what he would do if he got lost in a shopping centre. It's a serious issue, I know but I couldn't help but think about this brilliant quote by American comedian Rodney Dangerfield
"Once when I was lost, I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him, 'Do you think we'll ever find them?" He said, "I don't know kid...there are so many places they can hide"'

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Thought for today...

"True friendship is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it is lost"
Charles Caleb Colton

Monday, 1 June 2009

Am I the only person...

..who is finding our recent heatwave a little hard to handle?
I was helping out on a school trip today which involved walking around a huge field in the blistering sunshine (carrying schoolbags, coats etc just to add to the torture!). There was absolutely nowhere to hide and the heat was relentless. However this was nothing compared to the journey home on the hired coach. Forty primary one children and their poor, sweaty teachers crammed into a boiling hot bus (circa 1973) with no opening windows! The wee air nozzles in the ceiling only blew in hot air so that was no help at all. The only thing we could do to relieve the wee ones of the roasting atmosphere was to close the red velvet curtains across the window to block the searing rays from the sun. We got stuck in traffic on the way home and I thought I was going to die from the heat.
I know it's nice to get a bit of sun (goodness knows we all need some to perk us up) but sometimes it feels like this country is really ill equipped for this kind of weather. Surely it's about time air conditioning was just the norm? Anyway I read that there is supposed to be frost at the weekend so don't put away those winter woollies yet!