Sunday, 28 February 2016

walking up the glen: walks around Largs

We've got a day off! The grandparents have taken the kids away for some fun times and we get to do what we want.

I quite fancied the cinema, but then I looked at all the sexist rubbish that was on (honestly film-makers you are allowed to have women characters who actually do stuff you know), and decided against it. 

Happily, Spring is in the air, so my husband and I set off for a walk up the glen. It was a beautiful day for it. Daffodils are coming up and getting closer to blooming, and we visited the prophet's grave, and then headed on a little way to Middleton Trout Farm, just below the Chinese lake (which is where we were aiming for and we'll get it next time!).

Spring... it's coming!
Middleton Trout Farm was gorgeous on a day like today, and it was fun to take lots of pictures.

And these trees reminded me of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising. Eek!

Up the glen there are plenty of old trees that look like they once lined paths that are there no longer, but these lovely ones line a bit of the road, adding a little drama.

Now I'm off to disobey all the house rules and eat my tea off my knee. Hope the weather is kind to you.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

poetical: 6 poets well worth checking out.

Louise Gluck

Louise Gluck is an American poet who I cannot believe I hadn't heard of before a friend shared one of her poems with me the other day. You can find her poem, Fable, here, and if you're anything like me, you'll be thinking 'yes, yes, I know where this goes, until she pulls the carpet out from under your feet' - awesome and so interesting.

Andrew McMillan

Mr McMillan has been winning a lot of awards lately after the release, in 2015, of his first book of poetry, Physical. There's a list of all the good things that are happening in his career on his website, and his poetry is astounding. You can find Finally here (and do read it because it stays with you), and for a real treat check out this Guardian Books Podcast wherein you can hear Andrew talk about and read his own work in his beautiful South Yorkshire accent (after around 12 minutes).

Nordahl Grieg

Nordhal Grieg was a controversial Norwegian poet who is perhaps most famous for a poem I'm currently obsessed with - Til Ungdommen, a pacifist poem written in 1936 - I love this version (with handy English subtitles) which is sung by 'elfgirl93' to the tune composed for the poem by Otto Mortensen in 1951.

The poem has an obvious anti-war message, but it's also been used more recently in the aftermath of the terrible killings carried out by Anders Breivik. People young and old chose to sing the song when they came together carrying candles and roses to remember the dead shot down by Breivik. I love that the poem starts with a call to action, and then reminds us that our belief in humanity is both our sword and our shield. The best translation I've found is done by Robert Powell, and you can find it here (it's a pdf).Grieg died in his 41st year, in 1943. A war correspondent, he was in a Lancaster bomber which was shot down.

Brian Bilston

Brian won last year's Great British Write Off, which I must admit I'd never heard of until someone shared his winning entry on Facebook (At the Intersection). You'll find it here. It's a fascinating ven-diagram poem about a man and woman's take on an outing. Not what one might think of as poetry initially, but really interesting.

Sara (Mum Turned Mom)

Sara is a blogger who tends to write and share a poem a week for her 'The Prompt' linky. One of my favourites is the one she wrote for the prompt 'grow'. I love the gentle wise woman beauty of it, and you can read it here.

Benjamin Zephaniah

I've got to admit that I have problems with reading non-standard English. I love the writing of Iain (M) Banks but could not read Feersum Enjun because the non-standard English drove my inner pedant to distraction. And I must admit I find Benjamin Zephaniah's non-standard English an irritant when I start reading his work, but I think in the end it lends a genuine performative beauty to his work, which is written to be read aloud. I've got two examples of Benjamin's work to share with you, which I love. The first is about Britain, and sums up my feelings about Britain and immigration beautifully. You'll find it here. The second is a glorious call for ecological consideration, which you'll find here.

The poets I choose to share with you here are ones that I've come across day-to-day, and it's only when I'm compiling posts like this that I realise that so many of them are men! It is not the case that women are under-represented in poetry, rather, their work is under-represented in the coverage poetry receives. This isn't just a poetry issue of course, it's across the board, but it's important to state the issue, and look harder. Too often women's work isn't taken seriously, by agents, by publishers, and even by readers. Women still hide behind men's names to get their work read, and that's a terrible state of affairs. I promise to keep looking. Next time I share some poets worth checking out I hope to have a more balanced selection.

Friday, 26 February 2016

running about for Prostate Cancer UK

My friends in our home town of Largs often comment that they've seen my husband running by their doors. 'Isn't it great' they say, 'that he's keeping himself fit'?

Aye. It's just pure brilliant.

Most days when he comes in from work he'll tell me that he's not going to have his tea yet, because he's going out for a run. So he'll chill out for a bit while I make tea for me and the kids, and then later on he'll go for a run around the town, sometimes along the seafront to the next village, always wearing his flourescent spandex get up, and his special bluetooth headphones.

On the weekend, he does a special long run. This takes several hours and involves several laps of our town and the next village, looping back to pop to the loo and consume things with Power or Energy in their names, which I am not sure actually count as food.

I have a sneaking suspicion that he's avoiding us.

However, he's going to put all of this running to good use in a few weeks, and run the Edinburgh Marathon to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, a condition which his father survived a few years ago.

Please make all his running around worth it and sponsor him here. Many thanks in advance.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

searching for home: immigration in Britain today

David Cameron is trying to forge a deal with Europe before Britain holds the referendum to decide if the people want to remain a part of the European Union. Turkey is busting at the seams and begging other countries to take more refugees in, while other countries are standing with their backs turned, fingers in their ears, singing 'la la la'. 

These are the same countries which have contributed to the climate change causing massive problems with agriculture in Syria.

These are the same countries which profit from providing weapons to those that will buy them.

I don't get it.

My main problem, I think, is that the earth is a ball of rock with some rather lovely chemical reactions on it, handily positioned to enable life to exist. One particular species is doing rather well on that planet, and, being one of them I don't particularly mind about that. But I do have issues about the games that are being played.

It started off with little tribes of people doing what they needed to do, and respecting or arguing over each others boundaries. But people moved, and moved on, and some of those boundaries got taken more seriously. In the days of Empire building it was as if the earth was some giant Risk board, but thankfully those days are now at an end (I think). 

Now the countries seem to be guarding their borders like my kids guard their cereal box forts at the breakfast table. 'No more people in here!' Although people are allowed of course. The right people. Just not poor people, or people in need.

But boundaries are not cereal box forts. Really they're just lines on a picture of the earth, and the people who want to move are real life human beings who need food, water, and respect.

Would you watch your neighbour's house collapse and say 'well, we'll take two of you in, but no more than that... and don't think you can help yourself to biscuits'?

If someone down the road had a housefire and you could take them in for the night would you argue that actually they should stay at the first house they went past?

My own family have had to get away from a dangerous situation, carrying what they could, and making what economic provisions they could, in straitened circumstances, moving to a new country, and having to rely on the kindness they could find. They found it. You can read about it here.

And I know that there is an argument that one night might be fine, but they'll stay! Well, if they stay it's because we've got a country that's worth staying in, and isn't that a good thing? If they stay they bring their skills, and their genes, and their willingness to be here, and isn't that a good thing? 

There are no people who originated in Britain. We have all moved here at some point. Our language is beautiful, and reflects the waves of immigration we have experienced.  We can not only cope with more. We should surely welcome them. 

Molly, the neighbour's dog. I'm not letting her in. She'll eat stuff and run about and bark and before you know it there will be dogs everywhere. (Clearly I'm kidding. Molly's a lovely dog. Dogs just freak me out is all!)

Sunday, 21 February 2016

watching the kids grow

Have you seen the blog Mum Turned Mom? It's great for lots of things, and well worth checking out.

One of the things Sara does is a monthly photo (or several) and post about her children, and how they're all getting on. It's rather lovely and you'll find her posts here.

I love the idea of a monthly photo of them all together, because it's pretty hard to get that when you've got three. They seem to move with Brownian motion, never remaining together for long.

I don't generally like to share too much about what my children are like, or how they're getting on (unless you're my friend, in which case I'll whine about it endlessly), because that's their business. But I could go for a photo a month.

I started in October, on a trip to the cinema (in case you wondered about my choice of carpet).

Miss 8, who normally won't do photos, was completely enamoured with this idea. Miss 5 pulled a face in every single one, and Mr 10 merely tolerated the process. He's wearing his school shoes because he left one of his trainers at school. Completely lost. It took his sister approximately 5 seconds to find it the following Monday. Miss 8's dress is supposed to fit age 8-9. I know she's a little taller than her friends, but why are dresses so bloomin' short!? She is also wearing her leopard print cardi, which is her absolute favourite. The boy is a big fan of this coat, although he's hoping for something neon next time. Miss 5 is wearing her crocs which she loves to absolute death, and would choose to wear every single day if she possibly could. I feel the same about my clogs.

I may have tinkered with the colours in this one. I couldn't help it. I love the rock star vibe Mr 10 has going on. I love that Miss 8's leggings are a mess, and that she's got one sock higher than the other, and check out that cute smile on Miss 5! I left this for far too long after it happened before putting it into the blog post, and so can't remember why Miss 8 is in her normal clothes while the other two are in school uniform, but I suspect that this is the week that the children took it in turns to be mildly ill, but managed to vomit at school and thus we had to follow the 48 hour rule.

Look! I made the December one super Christmassy! This is what happened: I couldn't get the kids to stand up against a plain-ish background without messing about and pulling faces, and so it took me chuffing ages to take the photos, therefore when I finally managed to get them all within a photo frame, without jumping, I had a quick tidy up (do you like how I left the brush in the background for authenticity), stuck a candle on the table (and told them not to touch it or blow it out), and took a photo. Ta da! A friend says that Miss 5's expression is sooo like me, which is probably true, but I'd rather be known for the maniac teacher look Miss 8 is rocking. I would like to point out that Mr 10 is sporting his one remaining red item of clothing in this picture. He does not do red, so this is probably the last one for a while.

Look it snowed! There was just one snowy day, but it happened to be photo day, and the kids were all playing together outside, so I snapped them there. I really like this picture. Miss 8 has had a hair cut and it really suits her, Miss 5 is messing about which is so very her, and Mr 10 looks like he's actually having fun. He's practicing for being a teenager these days so it's good to see him smiling with his sisters.

I've changed the app I use for doing these photos and I miss the papercut font, so I might change again, but I'll stick with the Linocut font for now.

This month I got a picture of them all playing outside together again, in the rain this time. I asked Miss 5 not to stick her tongue out for this picture, so her brother joined in on the cheeky action. To be fair I did get another picture where they're all smiling, but this is much more what they're like. A daft wee team with a horrible mother who makes them play out in the rain when they start doing laps of the house. You couldn't see it in the last picture, but Miss 5 has had a fringe cut in and it's completely changed the way her hair falls, making her look so much more grown up to me too!

I'm loving doing this monthly photo of the kids, and can't wait to be able to compare them year to year.

Do you do something like this too?

Friday, 19 February 2016

on t'internet: 5 fabulous web sites

I've been asked to share a few of my favourite websites. These aren't the ones I go to all the time (I had a look at those, and they're an embarrasing overview of social media addiction, trust in google, and the stuff I do for work), but they are useful. You might have already come across these websites, but just in case you haven't, here are five great websites which are worth checking out.

1. is a brilliant website set up because apparently companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo etc just can't get the staff! They're wanting to ensure that young people learn how to do coding so that they can eventually go and work for them. They reckon that schools are not good enough at teaching coding, so they're planning on helping them get better, but also providing tutorials themselves for kids (and adults) who would like to learn.

We've tried it, and it's easy and fun. My son went straight for Java Script because he's already done some coding at school. My daughter did the starter stuff. It was pretty easy to get stuff right, and there was enough wiggle room to play with to make it fun to use. I'm sure it would be more fun if you did it with friends, but it's a great place to have a go.

2. The boy has reached the age/maturity where he's ready to watch more challenging films. He tells me (and lo, it is true) that 12A means that it's suitable for ages 8+ if that child is OK with it, and probably with an adult. Weren't age ratings once a lot clearer than this? Anyway, what it boils down to is, he can probably watch The Hobbit, but I'd best watch it with him (and try not to mutter about how there are so many hobbits when there are so few female hobbits). This can tiresomely involve watching films to find out if you can watch them with the boy, and this website has come to the rescue on that. It provides guidance on what films are suitable, to whom, and what the issues might be. All from adults. No two children are the same, and this lets you make an informed decision. Thank you Commonsense Media.

3. I love Debbie Cameron's blog: Language: A Feminist Guide, which clearly and articulately discusses issues in our language (and language is so important because it frames our understanding. She wrote this post recently about the sexist examples used to explain words in dictionaries, and why it matters (eg rabid feminist). And also this one on the title Mx. Fabulous work which always makes me think. 

On the subject of titles, did you know that France has now scrapped the title 'Mademoiselle' on official forms etc. Adult women all get called 'Madame'. This is similar to the way 'Mrs' used to be used in the UK, and I wish we could go back to that. A couple of my children's teachers call themselves Miss, but I cannot wrap my head around using a child's title for a grown woman, so I forget the '' Sorry teachers.

4. I cannot knit. I can crochet, and most of the time that suits my needs just fine, but I would love to be able to knit a nice warm pair of socks. I'd always imagined these to be grey, and ever so slightly fluffy, but recently I've found out about self-patterning sock yarn(!), which sounds so amazing that I'd love to be able to give it a try (which would require knitting). If I ever manage to cast on, I would be heading to Winwick Mum for sock patterns and clear instructions, as well as a community to help counsel me through the heels. I've got her website bookmarked for the day I manage to cast on successfully, and you can find it here.

5. My last choice here is another blog: The Fluent Self by Havi Brooks. I can't remember how I found this blog, but I can remember being befuddled by it the first time I read it, and that tends to turn me right off, but this time I read it again, and then I tried some of the techniques Havi uses for destuckification. Now I follow the blog and every post feels like a generous gift of beauty. It always sparks ideas, and encourages me to forgive myself for mistakes made, and to be courageous. Thank you Havi.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

11 questions answered

I am taking so much inspiration at the moment from the lovely Sara of Mum Turned Mom, I'm using her prompts for poetic inspiration, I'm blatantly copying her idea of a monthly sibling picture (and more on that in a forthcoming post), and today I'm answering 11 questions she has posed...

Here are her 11 questions, and my answers.

1. How did your blog get its name?

Our family moved to live by the sea and I wanted to accentuate the positive, so was influenced by the famous song... although I got the words a bit wrong. I keep thinking of changing the name, but I've got kind of fond of Oh we do...

2. What fictional character would you most like to meet?

This is a bit self centred, but honestly I'd most like to meet my own characters, especially the landlady of the pub in a book I'm writing. I guess I know them already, but it'd be nice to hear what they say when I'm not writing it. I always have trouble imagining what they're all doing while I'm focusing on the ones in the scene as well, so it would be lovely to go to the pub and have it all going on right there... although I'm not sure I'd fancy the beer.

3. Where in the world would you most like to live?

Here - we've got a good school, good shops and good health services. I would add some more family and friends, and some blooming sunshine. Perhaps we could move the whole thing to Cornwall or lovely sunny Suffolk? That would be perfect.

4. What is your dream job?

Writing. I love to lose myself in creating a story, and I hope I'll be able to share those stories one day. I'd love to be an author! I'm working on it... watch this space.

5. What is your favourite meal?

Something someone else cooks! I'm not a big fan of meat, but love good cheese and a yummy salad. With ice cream from Nardini's for pudding.

6. What motto best describes your approach to life?

This year I'm aiming for a kind mindset - a kindset. I think caring is terribly underrated in our culture, but it's very important in life. Not sure it's a motto mind.

7. What is your earliest childhood memory?

Playing with a miniature replica aga, with my best friend and neighbour, Emily. We lived in a big house full of grown ups back then because my parents had lots of lodgers. We had to downsize after a while and I was gutted to move away from Emily.

My little brother, me, and Emily

8. What has been your most important life lesson?

Even wonderful things come to an end. And we can survive that. The end of my first marriage was pretty awful. It's hard to see that there's a way forward when your world is crumbling around you. However, that time passed, and although I'm sad that I am now less trusting, I'm glad to have learned that the wheel turns and keeps on moving.

9. What are you frightened of?

Death, sickness, pain. Still in lots of pain with my shoulder right now, and pain is scary. There's been too much death already this year, so we'll have no more of that thanks.

10. Are you a glass half full/glass half empty person?

It is what it is. Glass half empty probably, but I'd rather just drink it and refill.

11. How would you like to be remembered?

Caring, ascerbic, creative woman who wrote all the books your favourite films and TV series are based on. A national treasure.

I'd like to pass on 11 questions to you now, so here are mine:

  1. What's your favourite scent, and what does it remind you of?
  2. What is your favourite time of day, and why?
  3. If you were thrown into the book you are currently reading, where would you be and what would you do?
  4. Where are you writing this? What can you see?
  5. What would you do if you could do anything you wanted for a few days?
  6. What would be your ideal holiday?
  7. Where will you be in five years time?
  8. What's your favourite colour?
  9. What's the last thing you watched on telly?
  10. What's next on your reading list?
  11. What's the weather like with you?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

fashion blogging... (don't worry, it's not me)

The lovely ladies at Stuff Mom Never Told You were talking about fashion blogging the other month (my finger is on the pulse, as you can no doubt tell), which is the closest they've come to talking about my kind of blogging, so I was fascinated by what they were saying about how people earn money from their blogs.

Fashion bloggers can get sent free clothes, but some of them also manage to earn a living from their blog by getting sponsored to wear the clothes, and talk about them. I certainly go to fashion bloggers to get inspiration on what to wear, rather than going directly to the stores. I am especially keen on:

Sadly, most bloggers, even full time bloggers, don't earn enough from their blogs to call it a wage, so we have to do other stuff, and it's really hard to get a publishing deal for things that have already been on a blog, unless you're publishing it because your blog is already huge, in which case you might already have the money coming in.

Lately I've been working on stuff that I want to get paid for, so I've not been able to share it with you. I'm sorry about that, and hopeful that when it comes to fruition I'll be able to let you know when to buy my work.

In the meantime, I don't want to monetise this blog because I don't really like blogs that are like that, and I'm not currently taking on any more unpaid work, besides which, I'm not going to be a fashion blogger, because this:

But I still love blogging. I love joining up with linkys, and chatting with all my lovely readers, and it's also a space where I can think through things pertaining to the writing happening elsewhere... so I'm not going away.

Watch this space.