About Me

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Mid Winter or my imaginary life as a cat

Mid winter. I wish I was a cat, so I could curl up at any time of the day and fall asleep under the Christmas tree, wake up and stretch, yawn and fall asleep again. Actually I did get to lie in this morning - first day of the holiday. I read The Moonstone (not sure I can stick with the narrator much longer, my mind keeps wandering even more than his) and watched the birds from my window. I guess I'm very lucky to have a spouse who climbs a ladder to hang the feeders so that we get a great view of wild birds from our bed. The sparrow population seems to be increasing, the starlings went crazy over the RSPB suet block and the goldfinches have started to turn up again.

I've wrapped almost all the presents now and will drop a pile off tomorrow, go and buy a free range turkey from BBC Radio 4's market of the year, along with some goose fat, a pound of chipolatas, some bacon and some veg, visit my mother and then go home, pretend to be a cat and fall asleep under the tree again.


Friday, 11 November 2011

A rock in the sea

Novembery. Walking across the town square at twilight, I had the sudden realisation of being quite high up on the Northern Hemisphere, on piece of rock between the Irish and the North Sea, breathing in cold air.


Friday, 28 October 2011

The last day of the half-term

A cold sunny day. Across the road a magpie perches on chimney top and I mentally prepare my self for a funeral, where I will see aunties, cousins and maybe an uncle I've not seen in years, as well my father and his wife who have travelled from Kent and are due to arrive any time.

I hope it won't be too bleak but my uncle died during an operation, apparently a procedure went wrong and precipitated a heart attack. One of my cousins has had to fly in from Spain where she lives. It'll be lovely to see her but it's a shame that we only get together in such circumstances. I'm hoping eccentric aunt E will be there. But not looking forward to witnessing my other Aunt E's grief at losing her husband.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A bit of literary, another funeral and why ' try not be nasty' is excellent advice

Went to London where I saw a play and accidentally got involved with the Bloomsbury arts/literary festival in the Persephone bookshop. It was very nice to talk about 'lost voices', eat scones with jam and cream and drink tea. Back home again, I have another funeral to attend - it's getting a bit scary: intimations of mortality is putting it mildly.

I think I've got the autumn glums. Or more likely it's my age. Descent into the menopause is a bit shit really. I have been feeling creaky since  I slipped and pulled a muscle in my leg.   Writing schemes of work doesn't help. Whoever thought up the idea of schemes of work was clearly a masochist. It has to be the most boring chore, even ironing becomes an attractive alternative.

Thank goodness for BBC radio I-Player. Yesterday I caught up with Sunday's Desert Island Discs with Mark Gatiss and what a lovely chap he seemed: funny, sensitive and thoughtful. After losing his mother and sister in quick succession, his advice was, given the nature of this existence and the suddenness of death/tragedy, we should avoid nasty, hurtful behaviour. Afterwards I rang my mother to whom I'd been superior and bitchy the evening before. Nowhere does my tendency to combine aspects of  a grumpy old woman and a nasty teenage surface more than it does when I'm with my mother. Next time I get frustrated over her desire to be loved and wanted and prattle on about the family, just as I've settled down to watch some nonsense on TV, and take sadistic pleasure in pointing out the holes in her thinking, I'll try and remember his advice.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The 'F' word

Stephen Fry's programme on language is a blinder. This week's dealt with taboo words, euphemisms* and swearing. Good to know there's lots of scientific evidence that nothing works as well as the 'F' word when you miss the bus, bang your thumb with a hammer and are sick to the back teeth of the petty and not so petty annoyances of everyday life.

Now I know why I get cross when foul mouthed teenage girls are..err..foul mouthed on the bus, when I can  swear like a trooper in the staff room. Context is all it seems. Which is probably why my darling still insists in pointing out that swearing doesn't become me after I've downed three glasses of wine on night in the pub with a few friends.

Taboo to you too.

*Still smiling at the extract from 'Round the Horne' where Julian (or was it Sandy?) from the Universal Party ('we come from the left, the right and the centre') delights in 'shaking hands with the honourable member.'

Friday, 7 October 2011

The seasons they come....

My friend's son's funeral was sad but also uplifting in a way. I've never been to a funeral with military honours and it was very moving.

Meanwhile, work is good right now and autumn is gathering momentum. This morning there was a scattering deep of red leaves on the pavement. The depth of the red was startling. The woman from the hairdressers - where I had my hair dyed autumn colours this afternoon - said the unexpected heat wave is predicted to generate a beautiful autumn. I hope so.The evening sky is starting to take on a sweeping magnificence and as I write these words I realise that my blog is becoming cyclic..celebrating the seasons once again.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Ready for Battle

Over the moans and getting on with it. Maybe it's good to retreat for a while but now it's back out in the midst of the battle.

I'd almost forgotten about the helmet, the light but resilient chain mail and the finely wrought sword, especially designed to cut through the crap. There they were underneath a pile of books and papers in the wardrobe, still gleaming gold in the early autumn sun light. Still a good fit.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Nips and Shadows

A large block of fairtrade dark chocolate and an unashamedly romantic novel provide some protection and comfort. A hundred and twenty new students - all those names; as I age, my memory is definitely getting worse - and the awful tragedy of my friend's son's death make me feel in need of a little comfort.

Brrrr...Autumn is making her presence known, kissing the leaves into early shades of red and orange. It's reached the point where I'm putting the central heating on in the evening. A sharp nip pervades.

Unsurprisingly, I feel somewhat melancholy. Fortunately, I'm too busy to dwell in the dumps for long. All those new students and a couple of new people to manage will help keep me occupied. Sudden death is well...so shocking. I have written about death in these pages before but although one came sooner than expected, they were not unexpected. I don't know how my friend will cope in the weeks to come as she takes in fully the implications of what has happened.

I've booked a two nights, three day trip to London at half-term to do a bit of Christmas shopping and explore a part of London I've never been to before. A choice of two depending on the weather. A play perhaps and a couple of museums before it's back to fine tune schemes of work. I might attend a service at St James's. The services there are beautiful and the sermons thoughtful and intelligent: accepting the presence of God without bashing one on the head with theological certainties. Although it is not a spiritual thing in itself, standing in a building created by Christopher Wren adds a certain something.

Sometimes it's good to get away by oneself...anonymous within a crowd. Free to observe and think. Two nights is just enough, after that it gets boring and one longs for company and that old familiar face, who doesn't get as many holidays as I do but also appreciates a bit of peace and quiet on his own. A little bit of absence is good for the heart.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

And sometimes life get very real and serious

In the midst of the small preoccupations, life suddenly takes a very serious turn. Last week one of my best friends lost her son in the most tragic of circumstances. All the petty stuff was blasted aside as we stared for a moment into the abyss of meaninglessness and strove to gather ourselves and we're just friends, there to help support the family. It would be highly inappropriate to write in detail of others' sorrow or broadcast their business on my blog (if only others had the sense not to use facebook as if it were the Daily News) but as it affects me, then at least I hope I may be forgiven for alluding to it up here in cyberspace.

Sometimes words won't suffice.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

For a moment life becomes like Torchwood

On my way home today, I was stopped by some  young men with fixed, blankly bland expressions and plastic badges with 'The Gospel of Jesus Christ' printed on them, who asked me had I ever read the bible. My answer that yes, I was aware of the gospel, was followed up by the odd remark, 'Do you know some people are describing Jesus as a prophet?' I got annoyed at this point and brushed them off, whilst thinking that this could be an episode from Torchwood. Are these blokes from another planet? No, just anti-islamic.

As I walked away, they shouted behind me, 'Don't forget, in this time people will refer to Jesus as a prophet!' Who exactly, racists like you?' I wondered, as I crossed the road and headed towards the market. 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Achy legs

The North Yorkshire coast is beautiful but my legs still ache from climbing up the 1 in 3 road and taking short walks on the paths around Robin Hood's Bay (I'm so unfit!) It didn't rain all week but, as we crossed the Pennines, it got darker and by the time we got home it was raining. Welcome home.

Back to work tomorrow.

Friday, 12 August 2011

A stone in the sea

I've now been married for 25 years. As I jokingly told my husband, he'd have served less for murder. Unfortunately, at the same time as this happy celebration, I'm balancing the sad loss of my friend Pat. Life goes on and she'd be the first one to tell me so. Sadly, I can't attend the funeral, which will be humanist and ecological: buried in a decorated cardboard coffin, she'll rest under an elder tree on the West Pennine Moors; I can't think of a better place. On holiday in North Yorkshire, I plan to cast a white stone into the sea. The stone is smooth but not rounded, having several sides to it. Unpolished, it sparkles slightly when I hold it to the light. It feels comforting in the palm of my hand. If I can find some handmade paper - plain white otherwise - I will write a message for my wise and feisty friend and, with a prayer of thanks for her life, wrap it around the stone and cast it into the North Sea. Does that make me a pagan? A little perhaps...but there's something about the spirit of the elements that Christianity forgets to uphold.

Meanwhile, riots have taken place in which four people have died .... how have we got to this place? Anger, frustration a sense of unfulfilled entitlement? Gang culture? Shit politics? There's a sickness at the heart of it all that we cannot undo. At least not on our own. I prayed about it.

Lots of my friends find it hard to believe that I have religious beliefs. Surely you're intelligent enough to realise the presence of a God is scientifically impossible and, anyway, what about all the bad things that happen, they ask. I can understand this. This world is full of horrendous things: hatred, war, murder, sex trafficking, abuse. How is it possible human beings can do these things? Maybe, as human beings, we have to accept we don't have all the answers and, without abdicating responsibility, search for answers outside the parameters of the 'material world'? Ever since I decided to trust the possibility of God, my life has been subtly transformed. I understand why to many people belief in God seems illogical but for me God is beyond logic. When I was a student, I stumbled across Keirkegaard, who wrote about taking a step beyond objective logic; it's a step I'm glad I made.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Bad News

The news has been bad: ninety-odd people killed by a right wing lunatic in Norway and the death of Amy Winehouse. My friend Pat also died this week. She had decided to stop the treatment and passed away at 3.00pm on Monday. It's left me a bit blank. Grasp your life and live it to the full, people say when their friends die; today could be your last. But I don't feel like that. I want to wrap my self in a light protective blanket and think. Not sure about what, just wherever the train of thoughts and emotions takes me. But I have stuff to do. I have to call in work and fill in a form, buy a birthday card and a find a card for Pat's family. Hopefully not a standard commercial sympathy card with 'Our thoughts are with you at this difficult time' and a watercolour image of light shining through an open window. I'll look for a blank one with an image Pat might have liked. Then take some shopping round to my mum's house.

Ordinary things.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Spoonfuls of Art and History

I once heard, or more probably read, a metaphor that described life as being measured out in teaspoons. Perhaps a person's life that can be measured so is to be pitied. Even so, my own life sometimes seems as though it's being measured out or at least divided into chunks. Chunks made up of terms and holidays. The summer break being a time to relax, unwind, play a bit.

So far, I have been to London with a good friend, who sweetened my tea with spoonfuls of art and creative thinking. First off, we went to see an open studio exhibition of abstract work on hand made paper in the home of Irma Irsara in Finsbury Park. It was wonderful to see work so full of rich vibrant colour.Irma doesn't just work in this medium but also creates in other mediums, such as stained glass installations. There was something very beautiful and joyful about Irma's work, that I haven't seen much of for a while. Edgy art is fine but sometimes it's great to be engulfed in something more life affirming. My friend, a creative embroiderer, who also makes hand made paper, was in her seventh heaven and has hopefully made a significant creative contact.

We also visited Dennis Severs' House in Spitalfields. Dennis created an amazing impression of the C18th and C19th in the house where he lived. He died far too young at 51 but his historical recreation (or should that be installation?) was taken over by the Spitalfields' trust. It is open to the public at rather odd times: Mondays after the first and third Sundays of the month and occasional Fridays, which seemed in keeping with the slightly eccentric feel of the place. Fortunately, we were in London at the right time to visit and were welcomed in by a rather imperious, dark haired gentleman with a 'Shush!' - one must not speak or it may ruin the experience - and took a tour through time. It was, as the Georgians might have said, 'A most excellent experience.'

Irma Irsara

Dennis Severs House

There's a You Tube link to a BBC 4 documentary at:

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Never Let me Go

Earlier this week, I cried, if not buckets, than enough to fill half a tea cup watching the film adaptation of Kazuo Isiguro's 'Never Let me Go'. A unique vision of dystopia in which resignation takes on a heroic status in a universe where love cannot conquer the inevitable but makes what ever kind of life there is to live endurable. It also spoke, indirectly but powerfully, of the malevolent tendency of the privileged to exploit those they believe to be somehow less than themselves. It wasn't as good as the book and missed out one small but important segment but it was an excellent adaptation all the same.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Farwell to a 'Starlet'

Yesterday I said good bye to a former colleague. Kath Fry, who on retiring from teaching maths at the college in 2010, discovered she had lung cancer. She kept a grounded yet (and she'd so hate me writing this) inspirational blog in which she charted her ups and downs in a clear eyed, dispassionate way, to keep friends and interested parties up-to-date with what was happening. Early in May, her daughter informed followers she had passed away. Tributes would follow in the Manchester Evening News. This turned out to be unintentionally amusing when Sir Richard Lees, head of Manchester Authority was misquoted. He described her as a 'stalwart of the Labour Party', which was printed up as 'starlet of the Labour Party', which I'm sure would have ticked Kath.

Although non-religious the funeral was incredibly spiritual. It honoured the spirit of a unique individual in a unique way. The singing of the choir was incredibly moving and their secular rendition of 'Freedom is Coming' sent shivers from my knees to the top of my head. Given that Kath's name was Fry (old English for 'free') it seemed all the more fitting.

Sunday, 15 May 2011


In my last random rambling I mentioned the idea of making reparation for errors of the past. Actually, it's not that easy to do. Asking for forgiveness has to be in context or appropriate. For all of those instances where it's way too late, then it's more a case of developing a contrite attitude and moving on.

But it's not always others we hurt, quite often we can also hurt ourselves. As human beans we don't always know what we are up to. Our shadow can emerge when we least expect it and learning to distinguish our shadow from what might loosely be termed our real selves, seems to me to be a lifetime's work. I do believe, however, that when we behave in ways which are contrary to our true selves we eventually realise - or others will let us know - and we return to where we should be. I suppose that makes me sound quite old fashioned, a bit like Thomas Aquinas with his idea that once we recognise that which is truly good, we will follow it. And as for what is good, then the best answer to such an abstract question is that which we intuitively perceive to be so, or the nearest we can come to that.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Moving on with the story

L.P. Hartley famously said the 'the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.' It's not difficult to see what he means. We are no longer the same as we once were. Our actions, our behaviour, our appearance, our attitudes will have changed, sometimes drastically, sometimes subtly and yet who we once were is part of who we are in the present - what we have become.

Recent events have caused me to think about the way we move through time...we have no choice but kicking, screaming or dancing to move through the moments and the hours. Without time we would not move, we would not create, we would not co-operate in the narrative of our life.

I was in the library yesterday and came across a book in which some American self-help writer was giving advice on how  to live an authentic life. All well and good I thought, flicking through the pages, but then I came across a statement which said that the cause of all our problems is believing in the stories we tell ourselves. I have to say, I didn't like her choice of language. I suppose the writer of the self-help book was referring to 'negative' ideas rather than 'stories' in the way I use the term. Describing negative expectations as 'stories we tell ourselves' totally devalues the whole idea of story. If we read good stories and if we recognise and value our own stories then I think we act creatively. To me the word 'story' is a very powerful word: it has characters and settings and mysteries and twists in the plot that we are not meant to be known in advance. It helps me to see life as a process in which we participate, and even co-operate, but which we do not design. Through our story, our own personal and communal narratives, we have the opportunity to grow, to become....to be in the moment, as it moves through the past and into the future...never stopping, never fully in control but, hopefully not out of control either...In my imagination, as each moment passes I am in the process of being written.
When we look back at out past, it's a little bit like reading a well thumbed novel. We might try and grasp motive and character and twists of fate and pinpoint where we acted wisely, messed up, enjoyed, felt miserable and so on...but we cannot rewrite it, we cannot change it but, maybe, if we are lucky, we learn a little.

As I leave the past behind and move into the future, I trust the author has my best interests at heart and that maybe there's some happy chapters here and there but I have to be prepared to trust and recognise that I really don't know how it will all pan out. It's a process forever under construction.

Hmmn.. I appear to have lost L.P. Hartley. The image of a foreign country is a good one but I can, if I want to, actually visit foreign countries and examine their the culture, the customs, the works of art, the slums, etc. But the only place I can visit the past is through the memories inside my head and when I look back it's not really foreign at all - I recognise it all too well and am reminded that I ought not to linger there too long - for once I have made my peace and my reparations, I realise it is the present that really needs my attention.

Monday, 2 May 2011

To set before the queen

A lovely, lazy time with family, the odd walk and no work. Coming home via London, we only saw dribs and drabs of the wedding crowd but we were well out of the way on the Euston Road. A few of the faithful shared our railway carriage as the Virgin Pendolino sped north. 'Well,' said one, a Girl's Brigade leader with a Merseyside twang, 'I didn't get to see much but at least I can say I was there.' I can't get my head around whatever it is that motivates people to love the Royals in quite such an irrational way.

Twenty odd years ago, I ended up performing as part of a community show in front of the Queen. It was very odd. Though not perhaps as odd as the council thought we were. I can still see the expression on the council leader's face as he watched the opening number of 'Strange Spooky Town* - a celebration of 150 years of local government', already selected by his underlings as part of HRM's itinerary. Mystified? Slightly horrified? Confused? Whatever, whoever co-ordinated the local media coverage did their best to keep our too late to cancel open air performance in the town hall square from the press and the TV cameras. Which was a pity, as not only did the local BBC reporter express disappointment that they didn't get us on film but the Queen was impressed, or so we were informed by a palace press release to the local paper a week or so later.

My main impression of the Queen was that she was petite, looked much better in the flesh than on camera and exuded a distinct quality of good health and glow that must surely have derived from a combination of enormous wealth and copious quantities of Royal Jelly. This was a few years prior to her annus horribilis.

*Not quite its real name!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Keys, bliss and the royal wedding

I woke up and thought, 'Yo! The holidays!' and then discovered about an hour later that I'd left my keys at work. So I had to go and get them. Oh well, at least it gave me an opportunity to buy some nasturtiums on the market. One of the best things about the move to the new college is that I get to walk to work through the market and get early pickings at the plant stalls.

It really is a beautiful day. Unseasonably hot for April, spring is literally bursting all around: a frog, a baby blackbird and small, unidentifiable butterflies in the garden (they never stay still long enough to be identified) and spiderwebs shining in the sun. Idyllic. A tiny moment of heaven. And no need to think...well not about classes and course work or any of that stuff. Bliss.

Tomorrow me and him head off to see my dad in Kent. My father will be eighty on Easter Sunday and so it should be a grand celebration. We are staying in a flat overlooking Viking Bay and I just can't wait to feel the sand between my toes and the salty suds on my, hopefully, not too swollen feet.

Returning home by rail via London on the day of the Royal Wedding could be hard work but, hopefully, the crowds will have no reason to flood out the Euston Road as we walk from Saint Pancras to Euston station. I've always been pretty ambivalent about the Royals. Not a fan but not particularly anti either; I've always quite admired the way the Queen conducts herself and holds on to her quaint but not entirely useless standards. I wonder what it feels like to believe you're God's special representative for the nation? Somehow it seems perfectly in keeping if you're Elizabeth the First, Queen of the Golden Age but not so perfect in 2011. Standing in the fast track queue in Marks and Spencer's this morning, I noticed one of the more up market tabloids (The Mail or the Express) whining on about Kate Middleton's weight ('Let her Eat Cake'.) Is this the start of the backlash?

Monday, 4 April 2011

The sexual habits of the dunnock

Idly looking out of the French window this morning as I buttoned my grey overcoat before heading off for work, I noticed a pair of dunnocks in the garden. They're often to be found scuttling under the laurel but this time their behaviour was distinctive. The female, rear end raised and tail up high, was fair shaking her booty, while the male bird pecked in and out.

Apparently it's not uncommon. To quote from the RSBP:

'Dunnocks are fairly quiet, unassuming birds. You'll often see them lurking underneath bushes or shuffling around flowerbeds, looking quite boring. But did you know they have riotous sex lives that might make Russell Brand blush?

We often think about birds living perfect lives as if in a Disney movie. They snuggle up together in their nest, have lots of fluffy babies and stay faithful for life, right? Not true, unfortunately.

Dunnocks have adapted to make use of different breeding strategies. Both males and females want make sure their genes are passed on to the next generation. Where food is plentiful, territories need not be so big, and so there's less opportunity for overlap with those of other birds. Where life is tougher, the territories need to be bigger and that means more interaction with other dunnocks.

For females, that may mean mating with more than one male, in the hope that they'll both help rear her chicks.

Clearly, that doesn't suit the males. So before mating, they may try to remove a rival's sperm by pecking the female's rear end (the cloaca - through which both poo and eggs exit) and encourage her to eject it!

However, what works for one pair of dunnocks might not work for another. There are several different strategies they might use:

* A male paired with a female (monogamy)
* More than one male paired with the same female (polyandry)
* A male paired with more than one female (polygyny)
* 'Pairs' with two males and two females (polygynandry)

And it's all going on in your shrubbery...' (RSBP, 2009)

Indeed. So engrossed was I watching a bit of raw nature in my own back yard that I missed a bus and was almost late for work.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The beautiful boy gets wasted

The march was a glorious success. People came from all over the United Kingdom to say no to the cuts and yes to an alternative. Apart from a small group of young anarchists, the march was peaceful. I am glad that I went and that friends were happy to accompany me.

Meanwhile the days got longer and the sun shone more and I took a musical detour back to my youth, rediscovering The Only Ones. Listening to Peter Perrett's fabulously bored, sexy drawl and that magical wall of decadent sound transported me back over thirty years. The tunes sound better than ever, although the doomed romantic lyricism now carries an extra layer of poignancy, given the long lasting impact hard drugs were to have upon him. The band reformed in 2007, following the success of Another Girl Another Planet after it was used on an advert. Checking them out on youtube, I'd forgotten how striking the young Perrett was and how naffed off I was when a gig we travelled into Manchester for was cancelled, a handwritten note about 'unavoidable circumstances' pinned to the door.

Here's what I missed:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The return of the light and a spot of editing

The days are lengthening and it's such a relief. Like something slipping from my shoulders. I thought I'd coped well with the dark afternoons but it's only as they start to disappear and are replaced by daylight that I realise winter steals my happy chemicals.

I also edited my last few posts. Maybe rewriting takes away from the authenticity of a blog but it was getting even more self indulgent than usual and that's not what I set out do. In the end, I had a super moan to a manager I know about how stressed up the staff felt regarding observations and have ended up as a part of a group looking at management-staff communication and the interface between maintaining professional standards and supporting stressed out 'worker bees'.

I've also decided to join the March for the Alternative on March 26th with a friend and two of my colleagues. Stand up and be counted as they say. I just pray to God that I don't get 'kettled' somewhere where there are no toilets! Or worse being threatened with a knock on the head by a police officer: 'Listen mate, I'm very peaceable. Honest!"

The government's turn around on the selling off of our remaining national forests is a real victory. We need to make sure they honour this but with groups like 48 Degrees updating supporters on the net, they won't get away with doing anything on the quiet.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Tuppence a bag

This morning I spotted three rather than the usual two dunnocks. A new male wanting in on the act? Dunnock's are notoriously promiscuous, if such a description can be applied to the natural world, and a male dunnock will follow a female around to ward off other interested parties for weeks.

Two new blackbirds, male and female, have been shown the door by our usual pair, who are now into their second year in our back garden - a fine looking male and a female with a sideways on crest of speckled white beneath her chin. The goldfinches flock in increasingly large numbers and two greenfinches spent time on the new stainless steel feeder this afternoon.

According to the RSPB, our five feeders (peanuts, two black sunflower seed, nyger seed and yellow sunflower hearts, plus occasional fat balls) represent a 'feeding station', which sounds very efficient and useful and makes me feel like I'm in Eritrea rather than Lancashire.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Reasons to be cheerful 1, 2...

Not the most jolly of weekends having to put the final touches to the paper work. Why am I allowing this thing (Internal Inspection) to drive the light out of my life? No smart arse positive thinking ripostes please...like 'Because you're letting it.' When this is over I plan to walk part of the Fylde Coast, feel the cold breeze on my face, smell the brine, watch the waders fly across the estuary and blow half a tun of bureaucratic bollocks out to sea.

Meanwhile, my little bundle of joy is 24 on Monday. As you can see, he likes wrestling heroes. This one, Mick Fowley is also a respected fiction writer.

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Sunday, 9 January 2011

The birds of the air and a spot of real life

Visits from siskins and bullfinches put a smile on my face and my mind off the state of the nation. Went back to work on Thursday but it was quiet and empty, maybe not a bad way to get back into the routine, which kicks in properly tomorrow.

During last week I visited 'Ship of Fools', where I learned that the main boards editor Erin Etheredge had suddenly passed away. The response has been quite overwhelming. My nephew was rushed into hospital with what turned out to be a blocked bowel and I've been helping keep him occupied with a Harry Potter text quiz. Today I caught up with a ex-colleague's blog in which she gives a candid and unindulgent account of living with lung cancer. Earlier in the week we had a book group meeting, where I had a chance to have a good chat with the organiser who also has cancer and is coping well. All of which puts stuff into perspective somewhat.