Wednesday, 27 December 2017

I Want Your CeX

If you're stuck for something to do during the Christmas break then I highly recommend paying a visit to your local CeX shop.  Or perhaps you could visit your local
sex shop.  But I'm not taking my kids to one of those.  

The purpose of today's trip was to cash in an ancient Nintendo Wii and a shoebox full of Skylanders made redundant 3 months ago by the arrival of an Xbox.  Now that a respectful mourning period has passed, and with the promise that they could keep the proceeds of the games that they bought for it, the children and I packed a Sainsbo's bag for life and headed towards the promise of cash in exchange for a console.

I'm not sure what your workplace is like, but here is one that smells like piles of laundry dried on a bannister, overflowing ash trays and Monster energy drinks.  Alongside consoles, the shelves are heaving with shiny secondhand laptops and tablets, but the staff have to work from shitty Lenovo pcs with several keys missing - and the grime of a thousand finger prints on the ones that remain.  With dozens of lit up screens playing different demos and videos it's a no-go zone for anyone with sensory issues but the racks of alphabetised games behind the counter are a magnet for those with OCD.

And then there are the customers.......  Our visit was brief but whilst we were there the staff handled questions, objections and insults from every walk of life.  From the red-trousered dad who wanted to know "who I can speak to in Head Office about this" to the bell-end who said "This is shit.  I don't want a fucking refund, I want you to fucking exchange my game and no I won't fucking mind my language."  There was also the very nice lady who felt the need to explain precisely where she would, and wouldn't, be using her iPad and the likes of me who turn up with items for which they have to go through a whole cataloguing process in order to pay you 1p (the going rate for a Skylanders Swap Force Big Bang Trigger Happy in case you're wondering).  There was also the customer who was so suspicious of being ripped off that he went on the offensive with "NO - your're NOT going to offer me less for it" as soon as the cashier started to speak. 
Told you - 1p for a Skylander!

Here is a shop that I found challenging to be in, let alone work in but here is a shop where the staff were able to deal with everything that each customer threw at them without punching them in the face or calling them a twat.  They showed patience, restraint and initiative in the face of inane questions, personal insults and policies that are not entirely customer friendly.   

A trip to CeX is a trip out of your comfortable bubble that puts any petty work-related annoyances you may have into perspective.  It's also one of the few trips you can do with the children where you come out quids in.  Now what else can we sell.......?

Soundtrack: I Want Your Sex - George Michael

Monday, 23 October 2017

Get a Dog

If you like to carry poo bags, get a dog
If you don't care about dog hair, get a dog
If you don't mind dirty paws
Leaving track marks on your floors
Then I think that you are ready for a dog

If you want to lose your slipper, get a dog
If you like socks that are shredded, get a dog
If you're absolutely fine
Being woken with a whine
It's about time that you thought about a dog

If you like your lawn with holes in, get a dog
If you don't care much for lie-ins get a dog
If your idea of a lark
Is to be dragged round a park
Then you better go out shopping for a dog

If you like meals interrupted, get a dog
If you want to share your sofa, get a dog
If you like your skirting chewed
And to have to hide your food
You definitely ought to get a dog

If you want to walk in rain storms, get a dog
If you like a bit of slobber, get a dog
If you'd like your kids to shout
"Look, his willy's hanging out!"
Get a dog, get a dog, GET A DOG!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Goodbye to Gingham

In July 2012 I wrote about how my daughter was just about to finish her second year of primary school (you can read the post here).  This was a new blog back then and I had no idea that the process of publishing my thoughts on parenthood and saying goodbye to corporate life would lead to me becoming a writer full-time.  Turns out that 'doing what you love thing' is true.

Fast forward to today and that same 'little girl' is about to start secondary school.  The badge is sewn on to the blazer, every last item of clothing is labelled and her timetable is pinned to the wall.  We have spent more on uniform and PE kit than I spent on my first car and she is now the proud owner of a phone which she has used to arrange meet ups with friends and take part in chats that consist mostly of emojis.  She's even used it to stay in touch with me and Mr K when we're away - bonus!

I don't feel wistful about primary; this was the first summer my daughter has chosen not to wear a gingham dress and seeing her among a class of Year 6's that towered above the reception class (and in some instances are taller than me...) was a clear signal that it was time to move on.  She could do with having a mix of teachers, a mix of other children, a bit more space to grow.  Maybe it will be different when the boy moves on and I no longer get to stand on the playground chatting with the parents who have become my friends.

Secondary marks a step towards her future and whilst I don't relish the thought of exam stresses (whatever form the system takes by then....) and am pretending to ignore that fact I'll have a teenager two years from now, I'm happy to let her go a little more.  Goodbye gingham, it was nice knowing you :)

M&S's finest

Monday, 21 August 2017

Sensible Shoes

Feet hot and hurting in sensible shoes
City dirt sitting on my skin
Hair lank
Around me suits and sneakers
Vivienne Westwood and vests

A man sniffs his finger
While others stare at screens
Read papers
Look everywhere except at each other
The advert says "The world is your Oyster card"
But I am a novice, marked out by an orange ticket
The small of my back aches

The next station....
The next station....
This train is....
This train is:
Wipe clean floor
Painted metal
Change here but mind the gap
And the doors

Headscarves and rucksacks
Handbags and headphones
Work tools and iPhones

Poems and questions
Maps and instructions
Sliding doors
A pause
To let people off
Turned sideways, shuffling
Baby steps up the stairs
Feet hot and hurting in sensible shoes

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.