Sunday, 14 May 2017


Why do my legs feel so heavy?  The weight of the weather I think - dark clouds bearing down over the fields of rape, close to touching them but still not dulling their acid yellow hue.  My fluorescent running top, designed to make me stand out, blends right in.  I am in countryside camouflage.

Afternoon running is not my thing.  I'm normally an early bird, it gets me set up for the day but with a huge burst of rain having just refreshed the earth I can't help but be drawn, heavy legs and all.

The Ridgeway path is giving to one and all this Sunday afternoon; walkers, horse riders, cyclists and a family trying to teach their daughter to drive.  She grinds gears as the sparrows make fun of her from the hedgerow.

I try to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth; it's supposed to lower your heart rate but I'm aiming mainly for the avoidance of swallowing the flies that are in abundance right now.  My nose burns and my lungs beg for a huge gulp rather than the thin wisps afforded by the little airways that come with having what was once fondly called a 'button nose' by my mum.  I give in and run slack-jawed up the hill.

Ploughed fields open up to one side and I can hear the Skylarks, their call reminding me of squelchy acid house.   I scan the sky and spot one calling out to its mate on the ground.  Hovering, trilling, making me marvel at the juxtaposition of these amazing little creatures and the towers of Didcot that I can see in the distance.  Nature and nuclear. I am satisfied.

I reach the turning point of my run and head back down the hill.  Counting off the fence posts and telegraph poles that will take me home.  A blackbird perched on a wire is singing his heart out.  I slow, then stop in the hope that I can carry on enjoying his show but he sees me as predator - or maybe as sport.  He flits 50 metres on to another resting point, daring me to catch him up.  Whistling his beautiful tune. 

(c) RSPB

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Pearl and Dean

It's a Saturday in October 1988.  October isn't known for sunshine but in my memory it's a sunny day and I am part of a long, snaking queue of children and teenagers that wraps around the front and side of the ABC Cinema in Basingstoke.
(c) Basingstoke Gazette

We throw sweets at each other to pass the time; shove our friends out into the way of people trying to edge past en route to the taxi rank and shout loudly.  Michael Jackson's Moonwalker has arrived and we can't wait to see it.

The doors open and we force our way through; frantically fishing for coins in our jeans pockets whilst straining to see how many people are running to the swinging doors that lead to the screen.  Will we get our place?

Feet pound like a drumroll on the patterned carpet as we race through the doors and force our way up the narrow stairs to find the 'best seats'.  They're near the back and grant easy access to a covered window which we plan to open during the adverts to let light in for a laugh.

We balance our buttocks on the edge of the flip-up seats, causing them to come down with a thud that sends up tiny particles of cigarette ash which reminds me of the smell of my nan's sofa.  The children call out to each other and throw Mint Imperials at the back of smaller children's heads.  There are no adults.

And then....the lights go out and a pale beam the colour of moonlight streams from the back of the room.  Dust dances and small hands raise up to interrupt its journey to the screen.  This action is something we will repeat a few years later when we start going to raves but for now, it's all harmless fun. The usherette flashes a torch around searching for the culprits amid shouts to "SIT DOWN!".
They sit down.  The torch goes out.  We follow the line of the now steady beam to the screen and we wait.  A fit of the giggles is met with a "SSSSHHHHHH!".

There is a crackle.

The screen goes from black to grey to blue.  And we know.  We all know what's about to happen.

We draw in our breath and sing as one.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Oh Boy

It is bedtime.  And your limbs are heavy.

"Carry me Mummy."

I lift you and you curl your arms around my neck, gentle fingers not quite intertwined.  You rest your hot cheek against my shoulder.  Your breath against my neck.

Your hair is tufted, rearranged while sweaty then left to dry.  It smells of grass and dust and I'm glad you didn't wash it.

You place your legs around my waist but you can't hang on by yourself.  Too tired.

I cradle your bottom with both of my hands to support you and remember when the midwife lifted you onto me - your bottom in the palm of my hand, your wet little cheek against my chest, your smell of new life. 

I wonder where the time went.  I wonder if this is the last time I'll get to do this.

Oh boy.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Middle Class Gangsta

I'm cruising in to town the traffic's bumper to bumper
I got Jigsaw jeans, I got a Boden jumper
The kids are in the back, my boy's a little prankster
We're off to Waitrose - yeah I'm a middle class gangsta

I've got style in the aisle in my Dubarry boots
I'm here to buy French cheese and exotic fruits
I'm picking up the lillies - they're £10 a bunch
And I'm picking up some sushi for my daughter's packed lunch

The vegetables I'm packing, well they're always organic
And if I can't find avocado then I'm starting to panic
I'm buying quinoa and cous-cous and wild brown rice
I'm filling up my trolley and I'm not checking the price!

My girlies like prosecco and my man likes real ale
And to counteract the gin I drink, I'm juicing the kale
I take Omega 3 for my brain potential
And I bought some truffle oil because the label said "Essential"

I never shop at Tesco, it's too big - I'd get lost
And I never shop at Lidl, 'cos I never check the cost
I rock up to the cafe with my My Waitrose card
And I grab a free latte, 'cos shopping is hard!

I'm a middle class gangsta, and I'll be one for life
And if you try to step to me, I'll pull a Laura Ashley knife
I'd love to talk all night, but this is where it ends
I'm off for kitchen supper with my middle class friends.

- mic drop -

Monday, 9 January 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Two

Coming soon to a bookshelf near you...the return of Reasons to be Cheerful!
Image (c) Tony Cocks

Well frankly it's about bloody time!  Reasons to be Cheerful, Part Two is now officially underway with the sending of a sample chapter to my lovely proofreader, Vanessa.

For this reason, I'll be posting a little less frequently on the blog, but if you want to stay in touch I'll be regularly updating my Facebook page and occasionally tiptoeing through twitter.  I'm also still out there performing so if you want to find out where you can see me next, click here.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

A Christmas Carol

You know when you think you're just going to hear a few carols being sung by your child's class and it turns out to be a full blown church service?  That's precisely what happened to me recently.  Perhaps the fact it was held in an abbey should have alerted me, but I couldn't help but feel unprepared for 'what I was about to receive'.

It wasn't all bad though; the singing was great, the abbey was awe inspiring, and I learned a very useful lesson - some things never change when it comes to carol services.  I'm willing to bet you'll find the same things too:

1. There will be a child who actually sounds like an angel

To the boy who sang the first two lines of 'Once in Royal David's City', on his own, in the abbey, in front of hundreds of people - thank you, your voice is a rare and beautiful thing.

2. Two things about 'We Three Kings'

i. The alternative version

If the person next to you also knows the "one in a taxi, one in a car, one on a scooter beeping his hooter" version it will offer you a wonderful moment of bonding.  It will also offer you the opportunity to pass on a tradition when you teach it to your children later on that day.

ii. There is a pause

Don't rush into "Oh star of wonder" - oh no.  It actually goes "Ohhhhhhhhhhh (wait for it) ...... star of wonder".  The woman next to me said it reminded her of the punk version of Nellie the Elephant.  Which means that I now have two reasons to giggle my way through the carol.  And two ways in which to get it wrong.

3. 'Oh Little Town of Bethlehem' sorts out the regulars from the visitors

Doesn't matter how many times I sing this, I always forget that "How silently, how silently" should be sung quietly (shhhhhhhhh)

4. You will revert to childhood at some point

I found myself raising my eyebrows at the re-telling of the immaculate conception and associated on/off/on again of Mary & Joesph's marriage, especially as it was being read by a child.  So when I heard a man behind me say "oh, isn't the text wonderful" I presumed he was joking.  But as I turned to him in shared mirth I discovered that he was in fact A MONK.  A monk that was stood next to A NUN.  Neither of them were laughing.  Oh the hot flush of chastisement coupled with wanting to cry with embarrassed laughter.  Such. A. Child. 

5. 'Silent Night' is best left to the children

Even the nun didn't try "sleep in heavenly pea........eeeeeeeeece".  Too high.  Best sung by six year olds.

6. Two things about 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful'

i. It's that volume thing again - the choruses start quietly.

ii. It contains the classic line "he abhors not the virgin's womb".  And there's no way I'm singing it.  Change it to "he totally loved that virgin's womb" and I'll consider it.

7. You'll probably cry at some point

For me it's all about 'Away in a Manger'.  Can't help it.

8.  'Sing Hosanna' - still challenging

When I was at school the infants used to add an extra "of kings" right at the end of the chorus.  I went to one of my daughter's first carol concerts and guess what?  It happened then, and it's still happening today. 

9.  You should shake hands with the vicar on the way out

Whether it's a "thanks for the service" or "that's out of the way for another year", it seems a fitting way to finish.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Networking Christmas

Is Christmas making you queasy?
Are festivities making you frown?
Athena makes gift shopping easy
And avoids all the trauma of town

Buy your brother-in-law a nice back rub
Buy your aunty an intimate wax

Treat the family to a great photoshoot
Help your in-laws to sort out their tax

Book a mindfulness course for your mother
Or a dream holiday for next year
Take some reiki to help you recover
Have some coaching to help your mind clear

Train your canine to become a "good dog"
Train yourself into feeling more strong
Help your husband to learn how to cha-cha
Get a workout to fit in your thong

You can outsource your post-Christmas clutter
Free that neck nerve that somehow got trapped
Outsource dinner, pretend that you made it
Get your presents professionally wrapped

We have so many talents between us
So much that we're able to do
Here's to the ladies of Athena
A very happy Christmas to you!

This poem was inspired by the ladies of the West Berkshire Athena Network - thank you for your support, friendship and endless gift ideas :D