Mind Your Manners!


‘What do you say?’

This was my mother’s standard response whenever she gave me anything. Things were withheld from me until I said the ‘magic words’.

It was the early seventies and manners still mattered then.

Sadly, times have changed.

In the beginning they were just words, much like reciting the Lord’s Prayer at school. I said them without thinking but as I got older I began to understand the importance of the words that society required me to say.

Good manners are a code of conduct based on courtesy. When we are saying ‘Thank You’ we are showing our gratitude and respect.

People don’t have to do things for us. It is not our right to receive. However, today’s society seems think that it is their right to receive. As my wonderful MIL used to say,

Those buggers come from Havington, instead of Givington!

When I think of all the things that people have done for me over the years, ‘Thank you’ seems an inadequate response.

Note, I say what people have done for me as opposed to what people have bought me. Of course I am thankful when I am given a gift but it’s never the gift itself that I am thankful for, it’s the fact that the person has thought about me. Most precious of all is the time that people have given me because that is the best gift of all and it’s free, as are manners.

Saying thank you is a sign of respect. It shows the giver that what they have done is valued. If the receiver simply takes without acknowledging it, the giver feels that their gift (or deed) is meaningless and makes for unpleasantness.

I have watched a society change to one where manners don’t matter. I see rudeness and ignorance everyday. Examples such as when I stood aside to allow a young mother through with her pram and she walked past me without acknowledgement of any kind.

On one occasion, I said ‘You’re welcome!’ as one young mother walked past me.

This was her response..

Fuck off!

Charming, eh?

A wise young lady made the point that sometimes people might be rude because they are having a bad day and it is a good point and worth bearing in mind but usually it’s just a case of bad manners because that’s all the person knows. This is the sad reality.

I have given up my seat on buses for the elderly and pregnant. I open the door for people, regardless of gender or age. I am a courteous driver. I mute my phone in cafes. These are small actions but I have been the pregnant lady on the bus and I have been the driver stuck at a junction at the mercy of someone letting me out and I know the difference that these small courtesies can make to somebody’s day. Mobile phones? Don’t start me! That’s a whole blog post all to itself!

It seems to me that in today’s society there is a distinct manners, etiquette, politeness and courtesy malfunction!

Inconsiderate Drivers

Living opposite a school reveals ignorance and inconsideration on a daily basis by parents who drive their children to school. They selfishly (and illegally) park on the pavement so that pedestrians have to walk into the road to get past. Seemingly protecting a wing mirror takes precedence over a human’s life.

They park on the yellow zig-zag lines despite the big yellow sign that tells them not to and they have little consideration for the residents who live around the school. Unbelievably (or not) one parent actually parked in my neighbours driveway one morning but unfortunately for her – my neighbour came back. Oops!

The way I see it is that it’s only a matter of time before somebody gets hurt either by being knocked over by a car or knocked out by an angry resident.



The younger generation seem to be too busy interacting with their mobile phones to be courteous but there is a minority movement known as Steampunk who’s core values thankfully include good manners.

At face-value, steampunk is about fashion but it’s it’s much deeper than that – it’s a way of life.

Coined by author Kevin Jeter as a way of distinguishing him and fellow sci-fi writers from the futuristic ‘cyberpunks’, steampunk mixes the technology of today with the aesthetics of the Victorian era. Undoubtedly there are many dark aspects of the Victorian era that need to remain there but good manners were an important part of that society and the steampunk movement, albeit in a small and eccentric way, is trying to bring it back. Thank God for eccentrics, I say!

My Theory

I have a theory that behind every rude child/teenager there is a parent who failed to teach them any manners.

I was taught to be courteous and in turn taught my children to be the same – even The Boy who has social communication problems.

I’m tired of living in a society that doesn’t show respect for one another. How do we correct this though? Sarcasm either goes over people’s heads or incites an angry response like Lady Eff Off’s.

Why do we have this problem?

Studies show that the problem is mainly with 18 – 34 year old’s. Over 55’s generally exhibit better manners most likely because that they are of a generation where manners were important.

Today’s youths are generally narcissistic and self-centered. They are the me generation who couldn’t give a ferret’s fart about people who they don’t identify with. We have progressed so far with technology over the last few decades but the price is that our society has changed for the worse. I refuse to be ill mannered and though ignorance can make life unpleasant, I will continue to fly the flag for good manners and hope that it inspires others to be more polite and considerate.

Thank you for reading.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners” ~ Laurence Stern


Image Credit by woodlywonderworks Via Creative Commons

Steampunk Image Credit Zyllan Fotografia Via Creative Commons





Once Upon A Time in a Potbank


From the 18th century to the 1960’s, Stoke-on-Trent’s landscape was dominated by thousands of bottle kilns. Today there remains 47, all of which are listed.

I was born in the heart of the Potteries so perhaps it’s no surprise that I’ve worked in two of it’s potbanks. The first of which was one which made hotel-ware.

I turned up to my interview slightly overdressed in a pencil skirt, blouse and high heels. I was 16 years old and probably looked more confident than I felt as I click-clacked alongside the supervisor who was showing me around the factory. I couldn’t help but gawp at the pint-sized women who were balancing large wooden planks filled with teapots on their shoulders as if they weighed nothing at all. There was apparently a ‘knack’ to it which I never did master.

The interview was a formality. I turned up, got taken on and was trained up. It was that simple.

My job was Fettler/Sponger

FETTLER – Potting department. Clay end. Male or female who uses a variety of little tools to remove the rough seams and edges on the clay piece after it has been made by casting.

SPONGER Occupation. Potting department. Clay end. The person, male or female, employed specifically to remove seams and wet clay which had been created during the potting process.

I remember the noise and layer of dust that covered everything. The air was dry and cigarette smoke mingled with perfume and sweat – the kind that makes your eyes water.

Two weeks into the job I had the audacity to get sick and the management sacked me as I’d taken time off when I was still in my probation period. I appealed and won my case for unfair dismissal but I never went back.

Three years later I took a job as a ‘labourer’ on a twilight shift in another potbank which made tableware.

My job involved loading clay onto machinery which sliced it into pieces which would then drop onto moulds to be pressed to form a plate, bowl or saucer. These were then baked and stacked into piles which I would load onto trolleys while trying to maintain a steady flow of clay on about two other machines at the same time. Every so often (when I got talking) one of my makers would bellow out “OI, STOP GABBIN’ AND GET YER BACKSIDE BACK OVER ERE!!’ and that was just the women!

The factory was full of characters the likes of which you could write a book on. No airs and graces – just proud, hard working folk who knew how to have a laugh.

I loved every minute of it.

Working in a potbank was hard work and the conditions weren’t ideal despite vast improvements in health and safety compared to years ago…

In living memory, a pottery worker’s living came at the sacrifice of their health with lung diseases such as Pneumoconiosis which came from breathing in dust. I can only imagine how bad things were before health and safety laws forced companies to make improvements to working conditions.

No post about the Potteries would be complete without mentioning the dialect that is almost exclusive to Stoke.

Examples of Potteries dialect or Ar ter toke crate!

AY ~ Something I say about a 100 times a day since I’ve gone deaf.

ADAMANT ~ 80’s pop singer and brand name of a particular type of pottery made by Twyfords.

BOG ~ Common UK slang word for toilet extensively used in Stoke-on-Trent (and me)

CLACK ~ Potteries for the epiglottis. (“foone an ambulance duck, eets stuck in me clack!”)

DUCK ~ Term of endearment

OATCAKE ~ Local delicacy (also be found in random supermarkets in Bury)

FRITTENED DEATH~ Extremely frightened  ‘E’s frittened death of having to get a round in!’

MARD ARSE ~ A spoilt person or man + flu = mard arse

NESH ~ Doesn’t withstand the cold too well. (like me)

PEE DEE ~ Pay Day

RITES SPIES ~ Wrights Pies (the ultimate in pie experience)

CHAYS ~ Nice on an oatcake with some bacon

SHAPE ~  Woolly things in fields that go well with mint sauce.

It was spoken broadly in my day (especially by the potters and miners) but seemingly people don’t use it as much in everyday conversation so it will inevitably die out, sadly.

When I started work at the potbank in 1989, it employed 500 people and was split into three divisions – hotel-ware, mugs and tableware. The hotel-ware was particularly profitable but table-ware (where I worked) was facing major problems.

Sir John Harvey-Jones was brought in and as part of BBC2’s Troubleshooter series, he sought to improve the factory’s fortunes. His findings showed that a substantial amount of money could be saved if they axed about 100 unskilled jobs and replaced them with a machine.

Mine was one of those jobs, as were the makers that I laboured for. Our roles were made redundant to make way for a dust pressing unit which would mechanically do our jobs more efficiently and without the need of a tea-break.

We had to work alongside it while the teething problems were sorted out and a huge cheer would go up whenever the sodding thing broke down. Regardless of our impending redundancies – morale remained high. That’s the spirit of the Potteries for you.

Clocking off for the last time was emotional. Some jobs I’ve been glad to leave but this wasn’t one of them.

Despite the introduction of more technology – the company now employs over 700 people and that’s not bad for an industry that is in decline – in the Potteries at any rate.

Despite swapping the kilns of the Potteries for Lancashire mills, I am, and always will be, a Potteries girl.

Potbank 2

This post is in response to a request by theatre directer, Sarah, as part of an event at The Victoria and Albert museum in London at the end of this month. Maybe you have worked in the potbanks yourself and would like to share your memories?

You can get in touch with Sarah at: memoriesofpotbankworkers@gmail.com by 16th October.

Bottle Kilns Image via Creative Commons by ‘Pessimist’


Chasing Sleep


I’ve haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in three years.

The primary reason for my sleep disturbance/insomnia is actually the menopause or the ‘this effing menopause’ as I affectionately refer to it now. Before this I had no problem getting my eight hours in. I had my fair share of racy dreams (mostly about Nick Rhodes) but then my hormones decided to revolt and nowadays I’m lucky if I can get two hours in between hormone induced panic attacks and when I do dream I’m usually naked on a public toilet or being chased by tidal waves.

There are many reasons why people struggle to get a good nights sleep.

Daytime Habits

Loafing in front of the TV all day watching Jeremy Kyle and doing sod all in the way of exercise.

Watching TV, playing video games or social networking in bed.

Guzzling down copious amounts of coffee (or gin) – key word is STIMULANT.

Working nights or shifts

Having a bedroom that’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep, as in, total shit-hole with crap curtains and last months undies decomposing in the corner. So grand a scale of shit-hole is your boudoir that the rats evict themselves!

Psychological Problems

Stress is a major reason for insomnia and there are many reasons why people get stressed.

Health Problems

Asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, cancer, and chronic pain. Common medications such as antidepressants, cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine, diuretics, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, and high blood pressure medications can also interfere with your sleep. I’ll include menopause here because, although it isn’t an technically an illness, it does create a whole heap of shitty symptoms and insomnia is one of them.

So what can we do?

The Effect of Music on Sleep

A survey of 6,000 British adults by Travelodge showed that 20 per cent like to listen to classical music before bedtime with the most popular sleep-inducing composers being Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. The study also revealed that 85 per cent of Brits listen to music to help them get to sleep with 13 per cent reporting that they have sweet dreams if they fall asleep when music is on. I’m presuming they don’t mean Slipknot?


Sweet dreams are made of this?

The hotel chain put together a Top Ten ‘Kip Chart’ from the findings. Mozart came in at number seven, making him the top sleep-inducing composer. Coldplay smashed it at number one making them the band most likely to send you to sleep. Not entirely sure that’s an accolade they ever hoped for but there yer go.

I’ve known about the calming effect that classical music has on babies since I had my little man and Classic FM has been lulling him off for the last six years. It also helps me to nod off, mostly. However, staying in the land of nod is generally my problem and that’s down to dips in my blood sugar levels causing adrenaline surges which trigger panic attacks. Listening to classical music helps calm me down during an attack, especially the choral stuff. Maybe I was a nun in a past life?

Last week BBC Radio Three looked into the effect that music has on the subconscious via the Why Music weekend with the centerpiece being an all night performance by composer Max Richter. In the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live by the BBC (eight hours to be exact) King of Kip, Max, was joined by soprano Grace Davidson, five string players and an audience (complete with beds) who were encouraged to experience the music through the state of sleep. The piece is called, er, Sleep.

I also feel that there is an intuitive connection between sleeping and music beyond this – and this connection is summed up by the tradition of the lullaby, which seems to be a universal in human culture ~ Max Richter

Having nodded off fairly quickly that night, I woke up at 12.08am having an encounter of the panic kind so I went downstairs armed with my pillows and radio. Having apologised to the lurcher for waking her up (costing me a Bonio) I curled up on the sofa. Having remembered about the BBC programme, I listened to that in the hope that it would distract me from the familiar yet unpleasant sensations that come with a panic attack. The music was almost ethereal in parts especially when the soprano was giving it some and it evoked something within me which made me cry but in a good way. Most importantly I found myself calming down quite quickly. Nice one, Max!

I’ve since downloaded a condensed hour version of Sleep and can honestly say the combination of making sure that I had a small snack (some rancid organic sugar free peanut butter on toast) before bed to help with the blood sugar levels and listening to the music helped me sleep all night.


I had another one of my naked on the toilet dreams but to be fair I did need a wee. Not sure why I was naked though?

So, after trial and error, here are my kip tips..

  • Make your bedroom a haven of tranquility.
  • Have a light snack before bed. Note – kebabs aren’t light snacks.
  • If your OH snores – sod him off into the shed.
  • No caffeine after six or at all.
  • Ease up on the gin or abstain altogether. Alcohol sends you to sleep alright but you’ll be up at 2am with a mouth drier than a popcorn fart.
  • Leave the electronics downstairs (except a radio)
  • Use that radio to listen to classical music (or Coldplay)

Night Bless and don’t let the sandman throw sand in your eyes!

Image Credit Eirik Newth via Creative Commons
Slipknot Image – Bill – via Creative Commons


Spin The Black Circle

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The soundtrack to my childhood is on vinyl – somewhere.

A few years ago, having been seduced by the digital form of the CD, I decided to flog almost every record that I owned in a car boot sale – fifty pence for an album or a pound for a double. A moment of insanity that would come to haunt me.

You see, I’ve grown up with music. Dad was a ‘Hi-Fi buff’ who spent hours sat in front of his mammoth speakers in search of the ultimate ‘stereo experience’ which I found hilarious because he was deaf in one ear. Music was his passion and one of the last records he listened to was my Queen album – one of a few which I kept back from the blasted car boot sale.

The album contained The Show Must Go On. Written primarily by Brian May it’s a song about Freddie’s determination to carry on performing despite the fact that he was dying.

Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on

Apt lyrics for my Dad – a man who knew he was losing his battle with cancer.

My love of music starts way back in the decade of grim decor and fashion aka the 70’s. In 1978 I got my first record player along with the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever – a film that I wasn’t old enough to see. It would be a few more years before I got to see JT in his undies!

In 1979 I bought I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats with my pocket money and had no idea that the song was about a 16 year old girl who went on a shooting spree because she didn’t like Mondays!

Equipment itself has come a long way. Edison’s phonograph kicked it all off and has evolved into the tiniest of devices not much bigger than a stamp. (iPod). I wonder what Smack my Bitch Up would sound like on a phonograph? Edison would spin in his grave faster than Pete Burns… right round baby!


One of Judge Jules’ early gigs ha ha – not really. Don’t sue me.

Music is much more than an art form. It connects people, or it used to.

Records were vitally important to the development of music and of all music cultures. With that being pushed by the wayside, I can’t see an iPod uniting us. In fact it separates us, the streets are full of people bumping into lamp posts, listening to their own little universe, and there’s no sharing in that. ~ John Lydon

It wasn’t always this way..

Music played a big part in boosting morale during world war two. It captured the spirit of a nation that refused to be broken by Hitler. Hearing Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade evokes feelings of nostalgia and gratitude. Nostalgia because despite the hardship of the war, my parents had fond memories of that time and gratitude because I owe my life to those who died for our freedom.

My taste is eclectic which means there is a genre to suit my every mood and there are a lot of em. Rock gets my heart pumping whereas classical relaxes me. I love Punk with it’s angst and nihilistic attitude that reflected a time of teenage rebellion with the Sex Pistols summing up the attitude of a generation with “No future”. Listening to the likes of the Sex Pistols and The Clash was part of my own teenage rebellion. The day I skimmed Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols across the kitchen worktop was a memorable one to say the least. my mother miss-lit her fag in shock at the word ‘bollocks‘.

I’ll give you bollocks, Madam!~ Mum circa 1984

Despite embracing the digital form, I’ve felt disenchanted with music for a while. Then one day I had an epiphany when I realised that what music was missing was soul. And I don’t mean the genre.

CD’s are almost clinical. They have a ‘clean’ sound and while that may suit the techno sound, I think it robs other genres of it’s soul. I also missed the tactile experience of placing a record on the deck and trying to keep a steady hand (a difficult task when pissed) as I placed the needle on the record waiting for the inevitable crackle and hiss. But that’s just me. Music and sound is subjective. Millions of people have never looked back and think of vinyl only in a historical or value sense. As technology surges forward, I find myself hankering for a time of simplicity.

I deeply regret flogging my collection but am in the process of creating another one and it’s not lost on me that I’m often paying double or treble what I paid for them originally. Lesson learned. No more boot sales. Unless it’s to buy. 😉

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Music evokes powerful emotions and listening to Ella Fitzgerald transports me to days of childhood watching my mother doing her thing in the kitchen and Frank Sinatra instantly makes me think of my dad crooning along to That’s Life, Jack Daniels in one hand, Marlboro in the other. Despite the secondary smoke inhalation, those were happy times with memories that have become so important to me now that they are both gone. Music takes me to a happy place and back to a time when life was simple and happiness was a book or a new record. Simple pleasures…

My parents may be gone but they live on in the music. A record is made of up of grooves and within those grooves are memories and a memory is something that can’t be taken from you.

End Note :

Dear Boys, please don’t flog my records in a car boot sale after I’ve gone.

I will haunt you.

Love, Mum.

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The song is ended but the melody lingers on.


Imagination Makes A Cloudy Day Sunny


It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The 70’s was the decade of all things naff. Naff clothes. Naff decor. Naff gadgets with the height of luxury being a teasmade. Yet as hideous as it was with it’s tartan clad teens with wing spans for collars, children still enjoyed the best toy ever designed..


The 70’s was arguably a difficult era with strikes, three day weeks and the rise of Maggie and the Morons. Times were grim, even more so when Thatcher finally moved into number 10 in 1979.

Though times were difficult, we didn’t go without. We always had a toy on our birthdays and Santa didn’t disappoint at Christmas, despite our mother’s threats of having us put on the naughty list. We had pocket money every week which we had to earn by doing chores – mostly crap ones. Mum was SS trained and woe betide us if we moaned about doing them!

My mother was ALL about routine and her routine was cocked up something rotten during school holidays. She looked forward to the long summer one with the enthusiasm of an inmate on death row. Bless ‘er.

To be fair, we were annoying gits.

We lived in an old house with what seemed to me to be a massive garden. In retrospect it wasn’t that big it’s just that most things seem bigger from a child’s perspective, like Cadbury’s Creme Eggs.

There was a garage (separate from the house) which I wasn’t allowed to play in, not that it stopped me. To Dad, it was a place of sanctuary – somewhere to indulge his carpentry skills while Mum scoffed her way through a family sized bag of Revels during her monthly psycho do’s. To my mother, it was a place to banish him to when she wanted to watch The Gentle Touch. To me it was escapism.

One venture into the garage almost proved fatal because while I was having a root around one day, an old back door fell on top of me. By some miracle I was pulled out with just a scratch on my nose. My traumatised mother gave Dad a verbal lashing for leaving the garage door unlocked. I have no recollection of the door falling on me but Mum assured me that it did. Incidentally, a bang to the head would certainly explain a few things. Ha ha

From then on the garage was strictly out of bounds. Or so they thought because I knew where the key was kept. 😉

To this day the smell of engine oil and wood shavings are evocative of the hours I spent in there. When I wasn’t trying to kill myself under back-doors, I was reenacting my favourite TV shows, like Dallas. I could do a mean impression of Sue ‘AM GON KEEL YEEEW JR!’ in those days!

When I walked in it ceased to be a garage. It was like entering a musty old wardrobe full of moth-balled coats and walking out into Narnia. If only in my head..

I didn’t need other children to be able to play. In fact, I much preferred to play by myself. Other kids seriously cramped my style.

Toys of the 70’s were simple. Star Wars was one of the biggest films of the decade so there were the gratuitous naff toys to accompany it.  We didn’t have Kindles. We had comics and books. The highlight of my week was buying a new Enid Blyton and Christmas was never complete without an annual of some description. I do have a Kindle but I still get the biggest thrill from the old fashioned way of choosing actual books from a shop or using the library.


Pong was as techno as it got. And it was shit.

Children watched Why Don’t You And Blue Peter for rainy day inspiration and they’d get all creative with a bog roll holder and some Plasticine. For me, rainy days were the perfect excuse to curl up for hours on end with my books because reading was where I found my bliss – escapism at it’s best.

While a part of me says you can stick your technology, another part of me is thankful for it because my son has autism and it’s proved invaluable to us.

It’s a myth that people with autism don’t have imagination. Some of the most creative and imaginative people have Aspergers Syndrome. Hans Christian Anderson, for example, is thought to have had it.

The Boy has an elaborate inner world. It may be very different from the way his peers see the world it but in my opinion the autistic mind is a beautiful mind. He has obsessions, the latest being Lego, or Legouch as I call it because I keep standing on the sodding stuff. Every day is about Lego, specifically Ninjago (Masters of Spinjitzu) have to give it the full title or he tells me off. He watches the cartoons then reenacts what he’s seen. He lives and breathes the stuff in the obsessive way that is a common of autistic children. I may be crippled from constantly standing on the stuff but at least he’s over his obsession with serial arsonist, Norman Price of Pontypandy. Small mercies, folks.

My son is happy in his world. Technology helps him to cope with the real one a little bit more by providing a distraction from the overwhelming stimulus. However, there was a simplicity in the era of my childhood that no longer exists. We are living in a digital age where children choose to stay indoors over playing outside. I already find technology to be totally overwhelming and I fear that with each technological advance humanity will take one step closer to becoming disposable. A sobering thought, no?

Yes, the 70’s was a naff-fest in fashion, decor and, well, everything but children climbed trees and tired themselves out playing. In those days, most children knew how to play.

Image Credit by JD Hancock via Creative Commons


Confessions of a School Caretaker

All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother. Call me old fashioned but I totally bought into the whole ‘homemaker’ vibe. However, fate had other ideas and when my then husband became ill. I had no choice but to work part-time to makes ends meet. One of my jobs was a school caretaker. Yes, school caretaker! Not all school caretakers look like Argus Filch!

Some are 5ft 1″, brunette and wear Reeboks innit?

The school was purpose built in 1939, just before the second world war broke out. The Anderson shelter wasn’t dismantled and filled in until the 1980’s. That’s one of the things I loved about the place, it’s history.

When I started working there in 1995, it had hardly changed at all since it was built. Part of my job was to maintain an ambient room temperature which is sort of impossible when you have menopausal staff who are shivering one minute and flinging off their cardies the next. Nightmare!

Although most of my work was mostly done around school hours, sometimes I’d nip down to do some gardening and it was a joy to listen to the children singing nursery rhymes. It was hard to believe that one day those little angels would become moody, acne-ridden, angst filled arse-holes, like I was.

The downside to the job was having to deal with vandalism..

Each Monday morning I’d apprehensively open the gate and hope that the local louts hadn’t been up to their usual tricks of kicking in fence panels, or worse, smashing in windows. Once, I found an old mattress and some used condoms behind the shed.

The. Dirty. Bastards.

Shagging someone on a stained mattress in the grounds of a nursery school?

Classy, no?

The empty cans of Tesco Value lager gave some clue as to the level of ‘chav’ I was dealing with. That said, at least they were using condoms so I suppose there was some degree of intelligence in there.. After a minute of intense effing, I snapped on several pairs of Marigolds, scooped up the offending ‘joy bags’ with a shovel and marched across the playground in the direction of the bins. As soon as I got home, I plunged my hands in disinfectant. The council came and carted away the mattress of shame and we planted the area with prickly shrubs as a shag deterrent. Only a complete idiot would risk puncturing his clackers on that lot!

My strangest find were some photographs of a lady that I found scattered over the grass one morning. I couldn’t go around the neighbouring houses knocking on doors asking who they belonged to cus, well, they were a bit saucy, innit! I decided to take advice from the head teacher, who almost choked on her Polo mint when she saw the lady resplendent in her suspenders and DD peep-hole bra. She concluded that it was best to deny all knowledge of them and fed them through the shredder.


One of the cutest moments was when I was changing the paper towels in the toilets and one cute little boy held out his painting to me and said. ‘Hold this, Mrs lady, I’m going for a poo!’

Just wonderful.

Originally, the school had three intakes of forty children a year but nursery classes being opened within nearby primary schools meant that numbers started to dwindle. The council took the decision to close the school when the intake dropped to 25 saying that it was no longer financially viable. Despite a petition put forward from thousands of people, many of whom had attended the school themselves, the council pressed ahead with it’s plans to close and on a summer’s day in July 2005, after 66 happy years, the nursery closed.


Happy memories of the nursery at Christmas circa 1940’s

During the big ‘clear out’ the head called me into her office and showed me some of the log books she’d found from during the war. Everything was written down. The nit nurse was mentioned a LOT. But one entry stood out to me the most. It simply said, ‘The children had their tea in the air raid shelter’. Imagine that?

I felt emotional as I stood looking round the empty building on that last day. A building which for so many years had been full of life and laughter. The walls, once adorned with paint (and dried pasta), were now stripped bare and there was an echo to the room that only comes with emptiness.

As I walked through each room, I could hear children’s voices (not literally, I’m not that bonkers, yet) I could hear their squeals of joy as they sped around on the trikes and the ear-piercing shrieks as they shoved each other over on the playground. I heard the rumble of the prams and the shrill sound of the teacher’s whistle. I saw my eldest running with his egg and spoon on sports day looking as camp as a row of tents with his floppy wrist. I saw my middle son sat there with a tea-towel on his head – picking his nose through the ENTIRE nativity play!

Good memories..

I was a good caretaker. I was proud of what I’d achieved and having a touch of OCD came in especially handy when it came to locking up. There were no unlocked doors or windows on MY watch, ever! However, it did take me about an hour to do my checks and re-checks…

With a heavy heart, I closed the gate for the last time and I allowed myself one last look before another chapter in my life closed.

I doubt that I will ever find a job like that. I loved every second of it. Going to work in the morning was never a chore. I loved the building. I loved the people I worked with. I loved how I ended up on the annual school tea-towel, standing there with my tiny broom and enormous arms poking out of my head..

The building sat empty for quite a while. The privets became overgrown and the cherry blossom leaves blew around because I wasn’t there to pick them up. It was sad to see. Then one day I noticed that the privets had been cut and a shiny new sign was in place of our old one. It had been bought as a private day nursery! I TOTALLY love that the building still knows the sound of children’s laughter. A new chapter in it’s life and long may it continue…I am proud to be part of it’s history.

A pity they let the old punishments die. Was a time detention would find you hanging by your thumbs in the dungeons. God, I miss the screaming ~ Argus Filch ~ Miserable git caretaker in Harry Potter


The Great Escape

Garden Spid (531x800)blogIt’s commonly known that the only fears we are born with are the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Any other phobia is learned..

My phobia of spiders can’t have been learned from my parents as neither were afraid of them. However, I do remember my brother screaming like a girl at a One Direction concert at the sight of the teeniest one on his bedroom wall..

So I’ll blame him.

My earliest memory is when I felt one crawling around in my nightie. Long story short, I screamed the place down, My mother ran in and mashed it into the carpet. Hello, phobia!

Every time I screamed at the sight of a spider, Mum would storm in, grab it with a piece of bog roll and fling it down the toilet. With each flush, I felt a pang of guilt that a life had been ended because of my irrational fear. At least Dad used to liberate them back into the garden.

Spray it. Swot it. Annihilate it. That was Mum’s motto.

Rumour had it that my mother had had a bit of an unfavourable experience with an Alsatian once and it made her intolerant to anything with more than two legs. Also, she couldn’t be arsed coaxing insects into glasses when Corrie was about to come on. No live pause in those days!

But karma is a bitch because one summers day, Mum had been gardening and she’d kicked her slippers off in the garage. Task completed, she went to put a slipper back on and was stung on the toe by a startled bee who’d crawled inside. We heard her shout ‘YOU LITTLE SOD!!’ (which instantly put us kids on the defensive) and then she went Chuck Norris on it with the other slipper. My mother would have had a shit load of apologising to do before she got to go through those heavenly gates, eh?

But THE incident which still leaves me cold is this..

Tarantulas first came into my life in 1987 when ex-hubs bought one after his father had died. Despite being phobic, I didn’t have the heart to argue. Sadly, after a few years of trying to cope (and the knowledge that females can live for 25 years) my anxiety got the better of me and hub’s brother adopted her.


Fast forward to 2007 where in a cruel twist of fate I discovered that the new man in my life had FOUR of the bastards In his BEDROOM!

I had a choice. I could either put as much distance between him and his crawlies as possible or I could try to conquer this phobia once and for all. Again, I tried but despite my best efforts, the anxieties crept in and the paranoia of one of them escaping and suffocating me in my sleep terrified me. Obviously I wasn’t the spider’s biggest fan but it was a sad day when I saw that one had joined the choir invisible. There was no chance of me putting my hand in and fishing it out but I did feel a twang of sadness that this little creature’s demise.

We lost another after we moved house. The shock of being carted about may have proved too much for it or maybe it was a male who had simply come to the end of his life as they have a significantly shorter life span compared to females. My bet was the years of trauma on having to see OH’s arse peeking out from under the duvet had finally seen it off?

By the time we had The Boy we were down to two spiders (in tanks) still in the bedroom. I piled books onto the lids to thwart any attempts at escape and slept with one eye open. All was well. As well as it can be in a room with fucking arachnids, that is. Except that OH didn’t quite close the lid properly one night and I woke up to the sight of a couple of tarantula legs doing the can-can through the smallest of gaps. I was rendered motionless with fear. My WORST nightmare was coming true…

It was ESCAPING!!!

Before long, there were SIX legs poking out and I broke all kinds of world records getting out of bed. I grabbed The Boy out of his cot and on last glance before slamming the door shut – the cheeky sod was legging it along the bookcase. The spider, not my son.

Hysteria kicked in and I kept slapping my face to make sure I hadn’t actually died? I was on my own, with a baby, and OH was stuck in a meeting miles away so I phoned the only other spider appreciator that I knew.. ex hubs!

The spider was now at large in the bedroom but EH strode in there like Bear Grylls. Granted, he almost trod on him as the spider was the same shade as the carpet, but he captured him and bunged him back in his tank. For this, I am eternally grateful for him and his lovely partner for coming to my rescue.

OH got the bollocking of his life when he got back home..

I named the spider, ‘Cooler King’ after Steve McQueen’s character in the Great Escape because, as escapes go, it’s up there with the very best.

I don’t know if it was the excitement of the escape or the shock of coming into direct contact with OH’s dirty undies but Cooler King didn’t live much longer before scuttling off into that big old web in the sky. The ultimate escape, bless ‘im.

Having faced my worst nightmare (sort of) I’m not as scared of them as I was but I’d probably still die if one dropped onto my face.

Not to mention the dreams I occasionally have of spiders escaping from tanks…

Hopefully, this post wont give YOU nightmares?


Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now..


I was crap at PE. Not only was I crap at it, but I hated it as well. I hated everything about it down to those horrible scratchy pants we had to wear. Having been blessed with the coordination of Frank Gallagher after a few hours in the Jockey, it’s safe to say that sports were NOT my forte!

This post sums up my sporting achievements and woes (mostly woes) throughout my school life.

~ Infants ~

Lets face it, It’s OK to be crap at PE when you’re five.

GymnasticsOnce a week we went down the local drill hall to do gymnastics. The smell of feet was overwhelming along with the whiff of sick where someone had barfed up their Spam fritter after doing a forward roll. Mum bought me a black leotard, which I spent a lot of time extracting from up my bum! My one and only BAGA award was for a near perfect bridge. GO ME!

~ Juniors ~

The ante was upped in the juniors. Suddenly sport got serious and we were placed into houses, like in Harry Potter, only, shit. I was in yellow house, so in Potter world that would be Hufflepuff..

Rounders – The rounders kit came out and we were picked in teams. Fully expecting to be crap at it, I amazed myself by not being totally crap.

For every few miss-hits, the bat would connect with the ball and I would wallop it across the road. I even managed to win my team a game or two which ensured me being picked by choice the following week instead of being picked last, which was the norm for me.

Things were relatively bearable until we moved across the other side of the city. It was a new house, new school, new people and I was a walking mood, having just started my periods. The new school was big on sports. It had a massive brag cabinet with trophies and row upon row of team photographs (with some hilarious hairstyles) taken over the years.

Dance – All legwarmers and leotards with a really annoying teacher who fancied herself as Lydia (the dance teacher) from Fame. We didn’t pay with sweat. We paid with detention. She soon realised that I looked shite in a leotard and was about as coordinated as a fly after it’s been blasted with Raid.

HockeyI knocked a girl’s tooth out the first time I played.

JavelinI gave myself a nasty clout round the back of the head first throw and nearly impaled one of the teachers with the second.

High JumpSpent more time face-planting the safety mat than I did in the air.

Long Jump –  First (and only) attempt required first aid.

HurdlesAfter knocking them all down (and bleeding all over the PE instructor) it was decided that my talents did not lie in hurdling.

Shot-putt – Hand to eye coordination issues nearly rendered a fellow pupil unconscious.

100 metre sprint  –  Feeling thoroughly dejected by this point, I found myself back on the track (plasters on both knees) with the PE teacher (lets call him Teach for simplicity) shouting ‘For crying out loud, just run when you hear the bang, OK?!!’

Teach fired the starter gun and I ran like my mother had just caught me with one of her fags. Seconds later I was rolling around on the ground trying to get my breath back (I genuinely thought I was dying) when he sprinted over in his obscenely tight tracksuit bottoms and slapped me on the back saying. ‘1st place! You’re in the athletics team!’

I momentarily basked in the glory of actually winning something. But as Mozzer from The Smiths so eloquently puts it…

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I’m miserable now

Because within a short time, I found myself racked with anxiety as I was loaded onto a bus on route to the local athletics stadium to run for my town and county.

I didn’t want to be in the athletics team, truth be told. I was agoraphobic even then and the thought of running in front of hundreds of people had me dry heaving for weeks before the events. In his infinite wisdom, Teach put me down for the 4 times 100 metre relay race as well as the 100 metre sprint because, well, he was a bit of a twat. I was still having baton issues in the practice runs before the race. Hadn’t I already proved that I was rubbish at relay?

In the event, it was a fumbled baton exchange. On seeing my team-mate sprinting towards me (all red faced and jowly) I assumed the position, stuck my arse out and prayed that I wouldn’t drop the sodding thing. Somehow I managed to keep hold of it and pass it on to my teammate. I think we came fourth and I can’t remember where I came in the 100 metre but it’s safe to say I didn’t win or even come a close second. Teach (NOT a happy bunny) was sulking away in his X rated track suit.

The euphoria of my sports day win had turned to a misery worthy of a Smiths song. Here was something that I was genuinely good at but my useless brain wouldn’t allow me to take it further without sending my anxiety levels through the roof. So I gave up.

It isn’t just about confidence. It’s about having a brain that doesn’t cope well under pressure. All my life, this is how it’s been. Maybe if I’d have persevered I would have found a way to cope? But the truth is that I didn’t even enjoy running because I was self-conscious of my Brad Pitts and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to run in my cardi.

High School

My sports life consisted of a series of excuse me notes (thanks to Mum), a near drowning incident, a nervous twitch every time I heard a starter pistol and a phobia of batons for life.

Nuff said?

Creative Commons Photo Credit ~ ‘Pete’


You Want To Put That Camera Up My What?


I saw the gastroenterologist on Monday and gave him my list of symptoms that I’d typed up via a Word document. Mr Gastro was most impressed with my graphic descriptions. “Well described!”, he said. I preened a bit.

‘Are you thinking cancer?’, he asked. I answered truthfully, ‘Yes!’.

Mr Gastro then ordered a colonoscopy.

At the mere mention of the word, my bum cheeks involuntarily clenched and my bum-hole snapped shut faster than a Venus Flytrap. You see, I’d consulted Dr Google a few (hundred) times leading up to the appointment so I knew exactly what it entailed.

Mr Gastro told me that he doesn’t think it’s cancer. I told him that while I appreciated that he was trying to put my mind at ease..both my parents had cancer. Dad’s being the aggressive kind which saw him trundling along the conveyor belt in the crematorium within six months of being diagnosed.

He didn’t try and fob me off with IBS. In fact, he never mentioned it. He thinks my symptoms require a closer look and by closer look, it means shoving a camera up my bum.

He proceeded to tell me what he thinks it is. Which is that my bum and stomach are ‘not communicating with each other. Typical, even my insides have social interaction issues!

At this point he told the nurse to make it a combined colonoscopy and gastroscopy. Basically, a camera up the chuff and one down the throat in the same appointment, folks.

If the tests come back clear, he will refer me to a specialist to sort out the ‘communication’ problems.

So I’ve been issued with some preparation (stuff what gives you the shits) and I have to wait a decade for an appointment to come through, as there is apparently a huge waiting list. I’ll probably die of old age before I get one. Or the Tories will have killed off the NHS in which case, I’ll have to flog a kidney to sort my bowels out.

In the meantime, I am tormenting myself with the gloom and doom from off the net…

Colonoscopies aren’t the most pleasant (or dignified) of procedures. You have to eat a special diet two days before the test and then you drink the preparation and wait for the world to fall out of your backside. Not looking forward to that, truth be told, but at least I’ll briefly be able to get into those skinny jeans I bought in a moment of denial last year.

No doubt I’ll be made to wear one of those ridiculous gowns that make you look like a complete twonk. Incidentally, I put one on the wrong way for a gynae examination and ended up flashing my minnie to a corridor full of old people. The nurse frog marched me back into the cubicle before one of them had a coronary.

To say I’m anxious is an understatement of massive proportions. They’ll be no need for that preparation because I’ll have shit myself dry with worry by then.

I’ve had procedures done before. I’ve been under GA twice and had umpteen people poking around in my insides. I’ve had an emergency C section and given birth TWICE, all without fear but now I’m a wimp and I blame the menopause because when my oestrogen buggered off, so did my bottle!

A colonoscopy involves a thin flexible tube being coaxed around the bowel. It allows them to see what’s what and you can watch it on the monitor if you wish…

Er, no ta.

I’d rather watch the box set of Geordie Shore, without sedation.

It can find ulcers, polyps, inflammation and tumors. It is the most effective way to diagnose cancer of the bowel.

My Googling sessions have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages are the numerous people who say ‘colonoscopy? Walk in the park! Didn’t even know they’d been in!’ He he.

The disadvantages are the people who, for whatever reason, have had the experience from hell and feel the need to put the fear of God into everybody else.

There will always be these stories, not just to do with colonoscopies, but with most things. There are risks with this procedure but there are risks with all procedures. My dad’s misdiagnosis’s shook my faith in doctors but maybe I should focus instead on the fact that they probably saved the life of my youngest son who had to be born via emergency C section because I was bleeding internally, my eldest who had a testicular torsion and my middle son who was hospitalised as a baby with gastroenteritis. Mum’s cancer was caught early. My dad was extremely unlucky but I do have more to be thankful for than not.

I rationalise that given my symptoms, it’s probably wise to go through with it. Chances are it’s not anything sinister but leaving it to chance isn’t a risk I should be taking given my family history.

So I have to find a way to keep myself relatively calm over the next few months until it’s all over. My coping mechanism is to find the humour in the situation. Tell a few crap jokes. (ha ha) Also, I make no apologies for talking about matters of the arse because I think that we don’t talk about it enough. We get embarrassed about bum stuff and that costs time and ultimately, lives.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m bricking it, and I’ll probably have talked myself out of doing it by the time the appointment comes. So I need people to tell me to stop being such a silly cow about it.

I’ll tell myself it will all be OK. I’ll wear the silly pants and try not to die of embarrassment when the air that’s been pumped into my bowels explodes in the consultant’s face. Another perk..

When I saw Sara’s (Mumturnedmom) prompt was calm, it reminded me that I must try to be as calm as possible or I’ll end up running out of the hospital still wearing my paper pants and flashers gown.

Going for an Eartha Kitt ~ Jim Royle


Life is a Highway


From the day we are born, we’re on a journey. All of us are headed to the same destination (aka Death De Mar) but we each take different routes along the way.

Throughout our travels, we encounter challenges. We all experience love, joy and happiness as well as sadness, tragedy and hopelessness. Life can be good and a total bitch in equal measure.

Sometimes the road is bumpy as hell (with annoying roadworks and potholes) and we feel frustrated like when we get stuck behind a tractor for an eternity (or Stop/Go man takes the piss) and sometimes it’s smooth and enjoyable. In my experience, the moment that I acknowledge happiness, life throws down a stinger.

The ‘Big C’ became part of my journey when Dad was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, on my birthday as it goes.. You could say that his life choices of slumming it at the ‘Greasy Spoon’ cafe (despite my mother’s nagging) and smoking were a contributing factor in his illness. His choice not to act on his early symptoms, combined with him being misdiagnosed twice, cost him his life and my insistence that Mum saw her GP on her mentioning a bloated tummy and brown discharge (at the age of 65) probably saved hers.

Cancer made short work of my dad but I liken my mum’s experience to swatting an irritating fly. In her case, one well aimed whack got the bastard and she lived for another six years to die of something completely unrelated. Mother 1 Cancer 0.

Our journeys aren’t just about us.

As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

Cancer has entered my life once again but this time it’s my friend who is suffering from this horrendous disease. I haven’t known her long but our boys play together so we’ve become friends. She has advanced cancer but If you saw her you wouldn’t imagine she’s ill. She looks well. She’s certainly fitter than me and by her own admission, she doesn’t even feel ill. However, the scans tell a different story…

I have been around cancer. I’ve experienced the effects of cancer but I don’t know how it feels to have it. Nobody can know unless it happens to them.

My friend is a wonderful lady. By her own admission, she chooses to be positive. Despite the indifferent attitude of the cancer specialists, she’s giving it a run for it’s money and good on her, I say.

She told me that some days she finds it hard to get out of bed to face the day, which is totally understandable. So I made her a card with a quote which reflects this along with her desire to be positive.

Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.

I am deeply sorry she’s going through this. I can’t stop this from happening to her but what I can do is be there for her for support. Nobody should ever have to go through this alone. Cancer is an incredibly difficult journey to to be witness to so one can only imagine how it feels to be living it.

Most of us have times in our life when we struggle to face the day, for whatever reason. I’ve got lost a few times and questioned what it’s all about but ultimately, all roads of thought lead back to the fruits of my womb. My body resembles a clapped old three wheeler (think Trotter van) but I look at my boys and know it’s all been worth it.

My latest run in with one of life’s proverbial potholes resulted in me having to assume the ‘On your side, bend your legs and face the wall, dear’ position while my GP swiped her index finger around my rear-end. No doubt I’ll end up having a camera up it (oh-the-joy) before the year’s out  but as long as it gives me peace of mind that my botty probs are simply an IBS flare up or yet another menopausal perk, I can cope with a bit of bum invasion. Dignity, me dears, went out the window the day I went into labour. These days, ‘dignity’ is a song by Deacon Blue!

Nobody’s journey will be free from heartache. Bad things happen but It’s what we learn from the experience that matters. Reading stories about the Holocaust has taught me that hope can exist even in the most horrific of circumstances. Our freedom to choose our own attitude throughout any given circumstance is something that nobody can take away from us. Nobody can make us feel bad about ourselves without our permission!

People enter our lives and the journey changes direction. It’s like a Sat-Nav that keeps re-calculating. However, in the journey of life, there isn’t a reverse gear. We don’t get to go back and do things differently. We can only learn from our mistakes and move forwards. Maybe if we knew how our lives will pan out, we’d be too scared to live them? All I know is that I’ve made it to almost 45 years of age so far and count myself lucky. The journey so far has been full of tears and laughter and with each sharp bend of the road, I’ve learned a little bit more about life.

There are a few more miles left in this ol’ jalopy yet (despite a biological age of 102) and I’d like to think I’ll manage a cheeky sideways skid when it’s ‘destination reached’ aka, the big scrap yard in the sky. Knowing my luck, I’ll be towed in on the back of a recovery truck but a girl can dream, eh?

Until then, it’s on with the ride..

I think it’s my adventure, my trip, my journey, and I guess my attitude is, let the chips fall where they may. ~ Leonard Nimoy