The last moan

"I don't know why she thinks she's so special. "
“I don’t know why she thinks she’s so special. “

In my last post, I wrote about how some writers annoy me with their tendency to speak only about themselves. This, unfortunately, isn’t the only thing that annoys me about some writers I have met. I promise that this will be my last moan, whine and act of bad-mouthing other writers. Well, for this year at least. You see, the other gripe I have about some writers is their inability to be nice about other writers. They clearly weren’t listening when their mothers told them, “If you have nothing nice to say about someone then say nothing at all.” Probably too busy talking about themselves to hear Dear Old Mum.

This inability to be nice seems to manifest itself in two ways. Firstly, in the inability to admit that they might even, just a tiny bit, like another writer’s work.   I’ll see a play or listen to a piece read at an Open Mic night and express my admiration of it and all I’ll hear in reply is, “It was alright.” To start with, I thought this was just me. That, perhaps, my tastes were a little different to everyone elses’. I mean, when you hear “It was alright” a dozen or so times, you do start to wonder. However, I soon saw the real way of things when I went to see a play and sat next to someone who was laughing along heartily with me (luckily, it was a comedy) and then afterwards said, “It was alright.” It’s almost as if these people feel that by liking someone elses’ work it takes away from what they do. I don’t understand that at all. If you like something, say so. It’s good to like. It puts a smile on your face instead of making you look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

The second way the inability to be nice raises its head is in the inability to be pleased for other writers’ successes. I recently had to sit behind two older male writers (who I didn’t know) who were talking about a third male writer (who I also didn’t know). Now, what they were saying was really none of my business but we were all crammed so tightly into an Open Mic night that it was impossible for me not to hear them.  Also, I like listening to other people’s conversations as they are usually much more interesting than mine. On this occasion, however, I wish I hadn’t bothered. All these two writers did was bad mouth this poor third chap in a nasty, snide, passive-aggressive way. It would have been better if they had just been honest and said, “I’m so bloody jealous that John (not his real name, or it might have been as I didn’t catch it) has got his book published. It should have been me!” But they didn’t. Instead they said things like, “Well, it isn’t very original” and “I won’t be reading it as I only read things I like”, which begs the question, “How the hell do you know it’s not very original then?” I would have liked to have said this and much else besides but, unfortunately, I couldn’t. This is the downside to listening into other people’s conversations.

Use your ears, not your mouth!

Stop talking!
Stop talking!

I have a confession to make. Many of you may not like it but it’s something I have to say. It’s something I have to get off my chest. Ok, are you ready? I don’t always like other writers. Perhaps I should be more clear. I know and have met quite a lot of writers over the past year. For the most part, I do like them. It’s just when they start talking about their work that my hackles go up and my tolerance levels go down.

You see, many of the writers I have met wax lyrical about their word-craft as if they are the only person in the world who picks up a pen and creates something. They talk at great length about themselves and their achievements. They talk over one another without listening at all to what any other person is saying. They are not interested at all in what anyone else is saying. If it’s not about them, it is meaningless.

I gave up trying to have a conversation with these writers a long time ago. What’s the point?To participate, I’d have to do what they do and that’s not me at all.  I don’t like to talk about my own achievements (small as they are) as I feel uncomfortable blowing my own trumpet. Nobody likes a big-head. And they are not having a conversation anyway. A conversation is where you ask questions and listen to the answers in order to find out more about people and the world at large. Which leads onto another question. How can you be a writer if you don’t listen and observe?

One of these writers recently said to me, “I feel I have a lot to say.” Well, don’t we all? Everyone has something to say. And these writers would know this if they just stopped talking and listened.


Under pressure

School's not always fun.
School’s not always fun.

I recently attended that thing that parents pretend to hate but secretly like and that kids really do hate – parents’ evening. Even though we tell ourselves it doesn’t matter how they are doing as long as they are trying their best, it’s still great to hear your kids are doing well and are a credit to the class. It makes us feel like we’re doing a pretty good job as parents. Or, at least, we’re doing one thing right.

This year is a SATs year for my girls. For those of you who don’t know, SATs are taken at regular intervals during a child’s schooling in England. The first of these are taken when a child is 7 (or nearly 7) and they are supposed to check children are where the Government expects them to be in English, Maths and Science. In reality, SATs mean extra pressure for teachers and their pupils as the results are published and schools are judged on them.

Because of this, my girls’ predicted SATs results were the main topic of conversation at parents’ evening. It was great to hear that both of them are expected to reach the required levels when the tests are taken in May. It was also great to hear that in some or all of the subject areas they are predicted to do better than this. I know I shouldn’t feel like this. I firmly believe that children progress at different rates and, for some, our education system is not necessarily the best way to learn. I don’t think children should be formally tested at 7 years old. I think they should still be learning by play. However, despite all my objections to SATs and the way they force teachers to teach, I was still pleased to hear that my daughters shouldn’t have any problems achieving the required standards; which shows that despite all my lofty ideals, I’m still one of those mothers who gets off on their kids doing well. I’m not proud of this but there you go.

However, I ceased to be one of those mothers and my lofty ideals came back to the forefront when my daughters’ teacher started talking about my girls ‘working very hard’ and ‘pushing themselves’ in order to achieve levels that are expected for older children. She told us the things we could do at home to help  and, I’m ashamed to say, I nodded in stunned silence. I was momentarily silenced as I tried to understand what our education system expects of our children. I thought about it all the way home and some more when I got there before finally coming to the conclusion that it expects 7 year olds to knuckle down and work their socks off to achieve results that make the school and Government look good.

What’s that all about? That’s not doing something that’s best for the children. Yes, they need to focus on English, Maths and Science but not push them to achieve their potential. If they were 16 and taking their GCSEs, I could understand it but they are not. This isn’t about the difference between a ‘C’ grade and an ‘A’. These children are 7. Some of them will still be 6 when they take the tests. And, to me, when 6 & 7 year olds come home from school (where they are all being worked hard) they should just be able to play, watch TV and complain they are bored with absolutely nothing to do (despite being given 101 suggestions). So, although I’m going to help my kids with their schooling and homework, I’m not going to put them under any extra pressure. I’m just going to encourage them to play and enjoy their childhood whilst it lasts.



Mixed Messages


Carrie dug her fingers hard into her temples. She closed her eyes tight, tried to clear her mind and concentrated. Nothing. She bit down on her lip and tired again. It was no good. There was no message coming through.

She ran her hands through her short red hair, pinched her cheeks and tired once more. Still nothing. It was impossible. It didn’t matter how much she cleared her mind or concentrated, Lee’s message was just not getting through.

Carrie jumped to her feet, knocking over the chair she had been sitting on, and began to pace around her small bed-sit. There wasn’t much room and it took all of her concentration not to bump into the dusty old worn sofa or knock over the piles of books and magazines on the floor. This wasn’t working either. Her eyes quickly searched the room looking for something, anything that could help her.

Carrie saw her mobile phone on the floor next to the chair she had just knocked over. Carrie picked it, righted the chair, sat down and placed the phone on her forehead. A smile crept slowly across her face as she closed her eyes once more. She sat perfectly still and held her breath. It was no use. The smile disappeared from her face as she pulled the phone from her forehead and threw it on the floor.

Carrie sighed and then bent down to pick up her phone once more. Her fingers worked quickly across the screen until she found the message from Lee and read it one more time. Maybe this time the message would become clear to her. It didn’t. “R u going on Fri?” it read. What was that supposed to mean? Lee had never asked Carrie if she was going anywhere before so why did he want to know now? What did he want? Did he want to be friends or, maybe, something more? It was no good, Carrie decided. She could sit here for hours and would still be no closer to finding out the truth. Carrie sighed again, tapped out a reply and pressed ‘send.’

Lee dug his fingers hard into his temples. He closed his eyes tight, tried to clear his mind and concentrated. It was no good. He’d read Carrie’s message over and over again but he still didn’t understand it. It was simple and brief in its “Yes” but what did that mean? What did she want? Was she interested in him or not? Lee read the word “Yes” one more time before he placed the phone on his forehead, closed his eyes and concentrated.

I don’t want to be like them!

Necessary for Cheerleading
Necessary for Cheerleading

When I became a parent, I swore I wouldn’t be one of those parents. You know the sort, the ones that become a taxi service and have no life because all of it is spent ferrying their children about from club to club and activity to activity. This pledge was made when my children were babies and was before I had an idea or inkling that they would grow to be one those children. The ones that want to do every club and every activity possible.

To be fair, I have said no to some things they wanted to do but, to be honest, this is because they clash with another club/activity that they already do. You see, it’s hard to say no when they are so enthusiastic about everything. They come home wide-eyed, smiling and in earnest about whatever it is they want to do now and their enthusiasm is infectious. How can I say no? Besides, in the blink of an eye they’ll be teenagers and all that enthusiasm will be replaced by angst, wearing black and locking themselves in their bedrooms so I have to make the most of it whilst it lasts.

So, my daughters’ activity list currently looks like this:

Monday Lunch – School French Club

Tuesday Eve – Gymnastics

Wednesday - After School Football followed by Swimming Lessons

Thursday – After School Cheerleading/Dance Club

Friday Lunch – Loom Band Club (I kid you not).

And it’s embarrassing to admit to others that you’ve become that person you really didn’t want to be so I try to keep it to myself as much as possible. The problem with becoming one of those parents that ferry their children about everywhere is that you run the risk of becoming one of those other types of parents. The ones you really don’t want to be like. The pushy ones.

My daughters were at gymnastics last week and it was badge week. Badge week is where the children attempt to complete a range of gymnastic moves and if they are successful they get a badge and certificate and get to move up to the next level. Now, of course, all the children want to be successful and get the shiny certificate and embroidered badge. Of course they do but, of course, they more often than often don’t. This is when it’s up to parents to be supportive with ‘Never minds’, ‘Maybe next times’ and ‘It doesn’t matters.’ That’s what parents should be saying. What they should not be saying, in any circumstances, is ‘Why didn’t you get one? Go and ask the Coach what you did wrong’ which is what I heard one parent saying to her already sad and deflated daughter.

I stood there with my mouth wide open and did an excellent impression of a fish. I couldn’t believe anybody could be so insensitive. The woman’s daughter was clearly upset that she hadn’t done enough to get the sought after badge in the first place. Goodness knows what her mother’s unthinking and, quite frankly, cruel comments had done to this girl’s confidence. And, to rub salt in the wounds further, she did indeed send the poor child back to ask the Coach, ‘What she had done wrong.”

It was then I realised that no matter how many clubs my daughters go to and no matter how much time I will spend driving them to and fro and just sitting waiting for them to finish, I will never ever become one of those parents.

A Sting in the Tail

2014-09-27 11.20.32Sometimes we are offered an opportunity that is too good to pass up. This opportunity will be a huge challenge and demand a massive commitment. It will be doubtful whether or not you can actually pull it off but, if you do, it will be absolutely amazing. So you have a choice. Turn down the opportunity because it’s too much of a risk and carry on as before, with all the ‘what ifs?’ and ‘if onlys’ that brings. Or you can take the bull by the horns and go for it because you know you’ll kick yourself if you don’t and anyway, of course you can pull it off and it will be spectacular.

This was the challenge that was presented to a theatre company I help to run earlier this year. We were asked to write, direct and perform a new 30 minute play for a festival that took place last weekend. We knew we would be up against it. That time wouldn’t be on our side. That it would age us prematurely, make us want to pull our hair out and scream but we took the opportunity anyway as, well, you don’t turn down opportunities like that.

If I believed in such things (which I don’t) I’d say the project was cursed from the beginning with delays in writing the script, problems with casting, massive fallings out and resignations (which I understand is quite common in the theatre and I really don’t know exactly what they were about. Nor do I want to), to people taking on other projects at the same time which meant that this play wasn’t their priority and festival organisers who couldn’t organise a piss up in the proverbial.

We tried our very best. We worked our socks off and aged and pulled out our hair but it wasn’t enough. After one performance (we were scheduled for two) the play was pulled by the festival organisers as one of our actors forgot her lines and then three of them froze and dithered on the stage. Understandably, that one mistake lost a lot of our audience.

So that was that. We tried and failed. And it feels crap after all the time and commitment everybody put into it. It sucks to fail. It sucks to think that it could have been so much better with more time and less off-stage dramas. So now I have to do all those clichés, you know the ones. Pick yourself up and dust yourself down, get back on the horse, lick your wounds, what doesn’t kill us… But it still sucks and it’s still crap. This is obviously why wine was invented. Joke! This is what family and friends were invented for. With the benefit of hindsight, would I change anything? No, sometimes clichés are right. It is better to try and fail then not try at all. Even if failing sucks.


UK Krampus Crackers


Sometimes you feel ‘Why am I bothering?’ Then something like this comes along to give you a boost when you need it most. I’m really pleased to be part of this project

Originally posted on Tiny Owl Workshop:

The mighty fabulous Vicky Pointing and Steve Toase have chosen the 12 flash fiction stories that will be part of the UK Krampus Crackers project. Our congratulations to the authors and our thanks to all those who submitted.

The list and a little about the authors can be found here:


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Blame it on Sooty

2014-09-15 10.20.10
Sweep, Sooty and Soo. Sooty has obviously had a hard life.

So, I did it! I completed my 5k Colour Fun Run in 30 mins with a combination of running and walking fast. I’m pretty pleased with that. I wasn’t first and I wasn’t last. I was somewhere in the middle which kind of sums up my life. I maybe would have been able to have run more if I hadn’t hurt my back 2 days before the big day looking for Sooty, Sweep and Soo.

Now, if you are British, you’ll know who Sooty, Sweep and Sue are. If you are not, you probably don’t have a clue and I don’t really know how to explain them. They are British icons. Three glove puppets who have entertained generations of kids with their loveable, cheeky antics. If you want to know any more than that, you’ll have to Google them or look on YouTube. Anyway, I took my daughters to see Sooty et al at Hull New Theatre the day before my race. My girls wanted to take their own version of the puppets with them  and it was when trying to find the cheeky bear and his friends (who were hiding at the bottom of the toy box, the rascals) that my back went crack and I went “argh!”

T0 be fair, it wasn’t totally Sooty’s fault. I’d hurt my back on holiday last year so bending over the toy box at a strange angle was never going to be a good idea. So I rested-up for two days and took some painkillers before setting off from the start line and I didn’t feel even a twinge in my back whilst I was running and walking. I was too concerned with the stitch in my side and my laboured breathing. I didn’t even feel it when I’d finished. I was too high on adrenalin and feel-good endorphins. Even after the high had worn off, I didn’t feel it. I was too busy enjoying listening to the live music that was part of the event and the cider that was in my hand. Only one cider. I didn’t want to spoil all my good work. I didn’t feel it when I jumped into the shower and washed all the paint off my body and the blue out of my hair (there was a lot of blue) when I got home.

When I did feel it was when I was clean, pj’d and sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine in my hand (I think I deserved it).  Then I felt it big time. It hurt. A lot. So much so that I had to lie on the floor which isn’t ideal for drinking wine. But, hey, that’s why straws were invented, isn’t it?

It kind of was like Holi. Holi with pain.
It kind of was like Holi. Holi with pain.


20140911_110226It’s two days until the Colour Fun Run I’ve signed up for and, yesterday, I received my race instructions. Point two is as follows:

“The colour course will begin at 1pm, colour runners will be sent in waves of 100 people every 5 minutes – these won’t be in running number order – just in the order you arrive at the start line. Please remember this event is not a race and walking, skipping or dancing (watch out for the live music along the route) is encouraged!”

Well, it would have been nice if they had told me this five weeks ago before I stepped up my training! Reading this, I just thought, “Why the hell have I bothered pushing myself?” But, there again, pushing yourself does feel good. It does make you feel like you’re achieving something in a way a stroll or skip around the course wouldn’t. Also, I’ve managed to raise over £100 in sponsorship and I wonder if people would have been so generous in their giving if I had told them I was having a Sunday afternoon stroll around the park (which is where the course is). I don’t think they would. I feel more inclined to sponsor someone if I know pain is involved so I’m going to inflict pain on myself to make sure my sponsors get their money’s worth.  And, anyway, why are they calling it a Colour Fun Run if you’re not supposed to run?

It’s funny how our decisions to follow instructions depend on whether or not they suit us. Or is that just me? I’m not talking about important laws or life and death situations, just little ones that I filter out if they don’t seem to make sense to me. For example; I picked up my race pack on Monday which, amongst other things, had my race number in it (more mixed messages, why a race pack and number if it’s not a race?). The back of my number states “This is important, please complete the details below in BLOCK CAPITALS using waterproof biro/ballpoint ink the night before the event.”

Why the night before? Why not the morning of the event or two days before? What will happen if I don’t? What will happen if I fill it in five days before? Why is it so important the night before? How are they going to know if I don’t comply? Do they have some sort of special machine that scans your race number and sets of sirens and flashing lights if you haven’t done it the night before?

So the tiny rebel in me with a mischievous streak is going to fill it in tomorrow morning to see what’ll happen. I mean, what a silly instruction. It’s just crying out to be not followed. And this blatant disregard of the rules will result in nothing. No-one will know, except me which means a can have a secret smile to myself whilst I’m running (or attempting to run) around the course.  Unless the ink fades if you fill it in too early. Or they do have a scanner. Then I’ll be busted.