Category Archives: General

My Bathroom Mirror

For weeks I used this mirror

It showed me better than the rest

Less wrinkles, smoother, sleeker, younger.

Not like the others, where every line and blotch sprang out.

It was a mystery to me. Why this mirror?

Yesterday I cleaned the windows…

While my cloth was out, I wiped my favourite mirror.

A film of dust dislodged and polished to a shine.

I admired my work. A strange, older woman looked back at me.

She looked like the one I see in other mirrors.

Who knew that dust could be the secret to eternal youth?

Applying a Snapchat filter to my face.

The polishing cloth showed reality. I’m not using it again.


Beach Joy

Occasionally, something happens which brings me back to blogging. Today, we had our afternoon dog walk on the beach. We are so lucky in Hartlepool to have beautiful beaches but we have one favourite. The beach along the Headland is superb. It s clean and deserted, with the most amazing industrial pier which was part of the Steetley Magnesite works until 2005. The skeleton of the amazing pier stands proudly as a reminder but marks our walk target because from parking to pier and back again is exactly two miles.

Alfie dragged us down the steps to the beach today and proceeded to bunny hop along the beach – something he only does when filled with joy. My idea of joy is to get my toes in the sand and then in the sea. Today the sea was freezing, so the feet didn’t stay in long!

There were only a few people there today, which is quite normal for this beach. One man was fishing, up to his thighs in seawater, two people were surfing – hardly surprising as the waves were amazing today with lots of white horses galloping on to the beach.

As we walked back, we were both reminiscing about how, as children, we lay on our backs in fields, listening to the Skylark sing high in the cloudless sky. I was swept back to the Mill Field in Easington, where I spent holiday time with my Grandma. A Skylark sang its song high above the Headland to accompany us back to the car.

A joyful afternoon, only a couple of miles from home.

A Short Love Story

Restless sleep. An arm flung out in the night. Waking, she tucked it back under the duvet and icy cold, it rested against his hands. She expected him to flinch, move away, stirred from deep sleep by the cold intrusion into his comfort. Instead, he wrapped his warm hands around her chilled arm, sharing his heat with her. That is love.

Moving house

Yes….at long last, I’m back to blogging. There hasn’t been a lot to report and I’ve lacked inspiration lately but sometimes there’s a flurry of news and I get back to the blog.

This morning I wrote about my dad and the strong possibility that he has some form of dementia. (

The other big thing in my life at the moment is moving home. When dad went into care last November we had to put the house on the market and downsize. The first estate agent we used was a bit too laid back for my liking and so we changed agent and within a week we had a buyer.

We got all the legal stuff rolling and then also found a bargain house that we both loved. I started packing boxes. Life was looking positive.

Lat week we got a call to say that the person buying our buyer’s house had dropped out. We were devastated. We had already paid for a survey and searches – money we really could have done with for day to day living. Now we are back to showing people round and either hoping for a new buyer or hoping that our existing buyer can sell his quickly now that his is back on the market too.

Why don’t we do it like Scotland? It would save so much heartache for everyone concerned. People would think very seriously before making an offer if it were legally binding.

We have a viewing on Friday. They haven’t sold their house yet. Not very hopeful on that one as the one thing I have learned over that last few years is that you don’t view houses before yours is sold.

It all ends in tears.

Hospital Parking

This morning I had to pop down to my local hospital for an ECG. I have been having some palpitations recently so my GP wanted to see what my heart was playing at. I have been to the hospital on several occasions and was familiar with the ‘pay on exit’ system which seemed fine to me and worked well. You paid for the time you were there. You could pay by card. It was easy.
On arrival, I noticed that the barriers were gone and a sign told me that I needed to pay at the machine. I went to the machine and realised that I didn’t have enough change. I could have 20 minutes free or pay £3 for up to 12 hours. I had been told that the ECG would only take 5 minutes but didn’t dare risk the 20 minute approach. I had a £5 note – but the machine didn’t give change. There was no facility to pay by card but I could pay by mobile.
The lady in front of me didn’t know what to do and just gave up and left her car without paying. I rang the number given and wandered back to my car as I knew they would ask me for the registration number and I wanted to be certain I got it right. When I got through, it asked me to key in my ‘location’. This was a number back on the payment machine. I scooted back to the machine and entered the code, wandering back to my car. It wanted my bank card number. I rummaged through my bag to find my purse, then to fish out the right card. ‘Key in the expiry month’…..’Key in the expiry year’…..card back in purse. ‘Key in the three digit code from the back of your card’….rummage for purse and fish out card again. ‘Would you like to park the car with this number?’ Erm… ‘This number?’ Erm….no. ‘Please hold’.
By now, I was getting just a bit frustrated. A man on the phone asked me for the registration number and then put me back on the automated system. ‘Please key in the last 4 digits of your bank card’. Aaaarrrggghhhh! Rummage and fish again. ‘How many hours would you like?’ Well, actually, just one would be fine but you are going to make me pay for twelve! Hooray! You have paid £3.20 to park your car. What?? Oh! The 20p is an admin fee.
I made my way to the ECG Unit, sure that this experience would trigger my palpitations once more.
What an absolute shambles – and to add insult to injury, this money doesn’t even go back to my local hospital where it would be well-used, but to a private company.
And yes, the staff have to pay to park as well. For goodness’ sake….

Pre-dawn thoughts

I woke in the early hours yesterday with a strange thought in my head. I was thinking about someone who has some OCD issues and suddenly pictured this situation as an image of a large pool of water, absolutely still, like a sheet of polished glass. This is the state of perfection which must not be spoiled under any circumstances. Woe betide anyone who creates even the tiniest ripple on the surface of this perfect pool. I pictured the water with the merest frisson of air, starting to move and change and then with a small pebble dropped on it, ripples spreading outward in perfect, rhythmic motion. I wondered what effect this would have on him, knowing full well the turmoil this would create for him. I then realised that actually, the perfect surface only reflects the man himself, every feature shown crisply and cleanly. However, the rippling water, disturbed by someone else, begins to reflect faces of others around him, whose lives are affected by his complexities and difficulties.
Let’s all get out there and create some ripples. Perfection is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Our Day Out

One of the biggest problems of being a carer is the difficulty of having a day out or a break away from the person you look after. Logistically, a lot of arrangements have to be in place before you can get away and spontaneity is not a possibility. We have previously used a local care home for dad’s respite care but we thought we would give Country Cousins a try. They provide you with fully-checked live-in carers so that your relative can stay in their familiar surroundings and stick to their usual routine.

Last year we added RHS Chelsea Flower Show to out calendar and promised ourselves we would go in 2014. It is easy to think of reasons why you won’t be able to do it but in a moment of madness I booked two tickets online, knowing that this would commit us to having some time on our own together.

Our lovely Carer arrived the night before and the following morning we set off for our day out. We took the Grand Central train from Hartlepool to London King’s Cross. It was a relaxing journey. We had packed a lovely picnic and a nice bottle of Malbec, so arrived in London feeling relaxed and happy!

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A quick Tube journey found us at Sloane Square Station and then a short walk in the warm sunshine took us to the gates of the Chelsea Royal Hospital. The show was every bit as lovely as we thought it would be.

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We wandered from one area to another, noting our favourites and planning what we could do with our own garden. The weather was generally quite kind, with just one torrential thunderstorm sending people rushing to the indoor exhibits and leaving the site with lots of puddles for the rest of the day.

Here are some of our highlights.

We both loved the wide variety of water features and there is definitely going to be some sort of pool or pond in our garden really soon. This was particularly attractive:

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This was also very appealing. The use of plants vertically was so unusual too.

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For a bit of fun, we enjoyed seeing this outdoor sitting room:

Outdoor sitting room

There were so many amazing things to see but we both adored the Waitrose displays because the mix of flowers, fruit and vegetables arranged according to colour was so appealing.



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We loved the tree ferns!

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And some other highlights here:

A very unusual Bougainvillea.



Cushions of lovely flowers:

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Towering glass flowers:

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Crowds gathering to watch the BBC teams filming:

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A tree house with revolving turret:

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The scent of the Lilies:




The driftwood horses:

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Two tired but happy people made their way back to King’s Cross, where we rounded off the day with a superb pizza and a glass or two of wine before getting the Grand Central back to rainy Hartlepool.

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We had the most wonderful day!


I must not disagree with Mr Gove. I must not disagree….

This morning we wake up to news that Mr. Gove wants teachers to do more to improve behaviour in schools. Does he really think that this is not a top priority for schools already? Without good behaviour, children can’t learn. It is disruptive in the classroom and deprives others of their right to education. Every teacher I know would agree with this. Schools have working policies which are driven by good behaviour and have accepted sanctions for dealing with those who can’t behave acceptably. So far so good.

What Mr. Gove doesn’t seem to understand is that children have changed massively since his schooldays (even though he openly admits to being a naughty boy at school in Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen: I started teaching in September 1975 when the cane was used regularly to discipline children. I only witnessed its use once and never want to see that sort of thing again. However,  parents were usually happy with the system and if a child went home to tell parents that he / she had been caned, they generally got  boxed ears at home too for being naughty in school. Not so today. The cane came and went. The rules on disciplining children changed and other methods had to be found to ‘encourage’ good behaviour in the classroom. Now we come to the hard part…..

I have a over thirty years of experience in the classroom and have never found any one particular method of discipline universally acceptable. Every child is different. Some respond well to a stern look. Others will just laugh at you and tell you where to shove your discipline. Not only that, but I have often come across the backlash from home after punishing a disruptive pupil. I have had parents on the phone telling me what they would like to do with my choice of sanction. In one school, I witnessed a mother storm down the corridor, buggy with child being ploughed down the route to the staffroom, assorted ranks of children trotting behind,  aiming for the cowering member of staff locked in the staffroom and punching a hole with her fist through the wooden door. She clearly didn’t like the school disciplining her child!

So what is to be done? according to Mr. Gove, we go back to lines and litter-picking. What he doesn’t tell us is what we do next when the child (and its parents) say ‘F*** your lines. I’m not doing them!’ We start on a journey which generally leads to some sort of exclusion (‘2 days off school? Thanks dry much!’) or silent containment in a cubicle in a converted gym changing room.

I have been guilty of using litter-picking as a punishment. It isn’t nice and looking back now, I’m not happy about using it either. Having said that, I taught Japanese children for a while and they told me that schools in Japan don’t employ cleaners. The children clean the school at the end of the day. This is an interesting way to get children to accept responsibility for their school’s appearance but is done by all children, not as a punishment. Would I be happy if my grandson was told to pick up litter? I think the answer would have to be ‘No’. However, I know for a fact that if he had been naughty at school, we as his family would do everything in our power to show him the error of his ways!

It has been interesting to write down my thoughts this morning because I don’t have an answer to the problem. Every teacher wants good behaviour. Every teacher tries a wide variety of methods to reach this goal. But every school has a small number of pupils who simply can’t be reached. They will kick out (sometimes literally) against discipline, will abuse teachers both verbally and physically (I myself have been pinned up against a wall by my throat for asking a boy to pick up a piece of paper he’d dropped on the floor) and laugh in your face if you remind them that this will go on their record. The answer, in my opinion, still lies at home. In an ideal world, parents will ‘teach’ good behaviour and respect before children start school and then  schools and parents will pull together to tackle poor behaviour. once they are in school.

But sadly, this is not an ideal world, Mr. Gove, nor is it likely to be whilst we continue to criticise teachers and imply that they are not able to deal with behaviour adequately.

Big brother….hooray!

This morning on the news there was an item about CCTV cameras and people’s responses to them. Some people were wearing special contact lenses, flashing lights, spectacles, hooded tops, to avoid detection by the cameras and hide from them. I do ‘get’ what they worry about but I find the presence of these cameras reassuring and don’t feel any anxiety whatsoever that I’m being watched by an average of 70 cameras each time I go out. I really don’t feel that my civil liberties are being compromised at all. I am not breaking the law. I am not having an illicit affair. I am not speeding in my car, selling drugs, alcohol, cigarettes to little children. I have nothing to be ashamed of other than possibly having a bad-hair day or wearing socks with animal print soles. Why should I worry?

I wonder what would happen if one of these people with the anti-camera obsession was mugged? Would they still feel the same about the camera that picked up footage of the assailant, leading to an arrest? Or if a driver left the road and hit their granny? Or if their child was approached by a stranger in the street? I suspect they would have a different view of CCTV then.

The Parenting Manual

In February 1980 I gave birth to a long-awaited little girl followed in June 1983 by a second. I couldn’t have been happier. After all those years of temperature charts, tearful disappointments and despair, I had the most lovely little girls. Who wouldn’t have been proud and happy?

Then reality hits. These little people are a lifetime commitment. You will be responsible for keeping them warm, loved and fed. You will cry when they are unhappy. You will feel their disappointments and celebrate their successes. You will scrutinise their personal relationships and try hard not to influence them but fail miserably. You will bite your tongue almost every day.

They don’t come with a manual. People will tell you what you should do but that doesn’t mean you have to listen. You know what is best for your children because nobody knows them as well as you.

The other thing ‘they’ don’t tell you is that no matter how old they are, they are still those little people you blew raspberries on, sang nursery rhymes to and kissed goodnight for years.

I feel extremely lucky that my girls have never made us feel anything but lucky. They have not (so far) brought us any feelings of shame or let us down in any way. Yes, they’ve had difficult times but together we have done what was needed to get things back on track.

As a Careers teacher, I tried to guide them along the right path. Girly number one is incredibly academic whilst her sister, though intelligent, did not want to go down the University route. I argued, but lost. Whilst daughter one did qualification after qualification, her sister started work with a local organisation and has worked her way through the ranks, exactly as she wanted to do. She is now in a management position with sights set on the next level and the next challenge. Daughter number one achieved the dizzy heights of Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors today. This is a prestigious position for a young female and one which she will continue to work hard in as well as being a lovely mum to her two boys.

Looking back, I count my blessings and celebrate with great pride that even though there was no manual, we must have done something right to have two such successful and lovely girls.