There’s a Ghost in my House

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1979

It was a night like any other. I’d been playing upstairs in my room, which I mostly did after tea. My brothers were out and my parents were in the living room. At some point I’d decided to go downstairs – our stairs being the kind that had a half landing then more steps. It was when I’d reached the half-landing and had a full view into the hallway that I saw her and by her I mean a young girl who shouldn’t have been there, yet was.

I stood there transfixed for seconds rather than minutes but it felt much longer.

While I couldn’t make out details, as such, it was a girl and all I could make out was that she had long hair.

I was nine years old. Had I hallucinated? Was my imagination working overtime?

At this point the sceptics will be rolling their eyeballs thinking ‘course you were, you psychotic mare!’

Or maybe it was sleep paralysis?

However, I know I wasn’t asleep. I could hear the TV in the background. Everything was as it should have been apart from this girl who I didn’t know and who didn’t belong in my home. I’ve experienced the sleep phenomenon a few times. It’s where you think you’re awake but you’re actually not and it accompanies the feeling of there being a presence (often sinister) in the room or hallucination and you feel paralyzed. It’s horrible!

This was very different..

A few months later, I was in my brother’s room – bothering him as sisters do. It was night-time. The landing light was on and the door was half open. We were sat on his bed which was opposite the door. A movement caused us both to look up. It was as if someone had walked across the landing and we naturally assumed it was our mum or dad.

‘MUM? DAD?’

I called out to them but got no answer. We searched the bedrooms and the bathroom but unless our parents had taken to hiding in the wardrobes, there was nobody there but us.

We went downstairs and interrogated them.

‘Has one of you just been upstairs, like in the last five minutes?’

‘No. Why? While you’re down here, you can put the kettle on though!’

Me and my brother were in agreement. We’d definitely seen someone (or something) cross the landing and we were like, ‘BLOODY HELL! – Not that we’d have said that within earshot of Mum!

Any subsequent discussions regarding ghosts were met with Dad’s uniform response, “There are NO such things as ghosts!”

Dad’s take on death was that it was final. End of. Finito! He was a self-confessed atheist and about as sceptical as a teabag when it came to the paranormal.

But I wasn’t convinced..

The following year we were given the news that we were going to be moving house. Dad wanted to live somewhere closer to where he worked. Ironically, he was made redundant a couple of years later..

I was desperately unhappy about the situation and stropped about the house in the hopes that they would see reason. They didn’t.

You see, I was born in that house and despite seeing random kids in the hallway, I was happy there. It was the only home I’d known but my feelings, though noted, were not enough for us to stay.

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On the morning of the move, I scrawled my signature somewhere inconspicuous on the bedroom wall and slammed the bedroom door shut for the last time. I took one last look at my bedroom window as we drove away in the direction of the other side of the city.

One of the first things I noticed about my new bedroom was that I no longer needed the landing light on to be able to go to sleep. In fact it irritated me to have the door open. Only weeks before, I had needed both.

One day I was talking to Mum about my ‘experiences’. She went quiet and reached for her fags (a sure sign that she was about to impart some wisdom) and said this..

‘Well, there was something that happened..’

Possibly for one of the few times in my adolescent life, Mum had my full and undivided attention. What she said next totally put the shits up me…

‘There was a family who lived in the house a few years before we bought it and they had a little girl who fell down the stairs and hit her head on the floor. She became unconscious and never woke up. Of course, we never told you children.’

No shit, Ma!

Because, had I have known this, I would never have slept again!

According to Mum, they had no knowledge of it when they bought the house. Though a decent size, the house was affordable because it was in need of complete renovation. Mum later learned of it’s history via a neighbour.

I’ve given this lots of thought over the years and this is what I’ve concluded.

Maybe I was picking up on the residual energy from what would have been a very traumatic time. When I saw her, apparently I was about the same age as she was when she died. I don’t know if it’s relevant or just coincidence.

What I saw could have been my imagination, or a hallucination. It could also have been a ghost or an imprint.

An imprint is a traumatic moment in time that leaves an impression on the building. An imprint doesn’t interact, unlike an earthbound spirit. Though the apparition appeared to be looking at me, there was no other interaction.  We’re definitely not talking Carol (“They’re Heeeere”) Ann, here. I prefer to think of it like that because it’s sad enough that a girl died without having the thought that she was stuck in some kind of limbo on my conscience.

Every aspect of my experience could be explained by normal means but that doesn’t make it the truth. Personal experience doesn’t equal proof but I’m unable to rule out the paranormal possibility. It felt real and the information that came to light afterwards lead me to believe that it was a paranormal experience of some kind.

As a society we can’t agree whether ghosts exist or not. 34% of Brits think they do and I’m one of them.

How about you?

“Ghosts don’t haunt us. That’s not how it works. They’re present among us because we won’t let go of them.”

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” I said, faintly.

“Some people can’t see the color red. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” she replied.

Sue Grafton ~ Red is for Malice

Photo Credit

Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.

DEAN KOONTZ, Velocity

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/g/ghosts_quotes.html#tUCsAlGIqY7VtQiO.99

Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.

DEAN KOONTZ, Velocity

Read more at http://www.notable-quotes.com/g/ghosts_quotes.html#tUCsAlGIqY7VtQiO.99

A Bit Of Everything

Once Upon A Time in a Potbank

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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

Yep, it’s me.

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’

mumturnedmom

Chasing Sleep

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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 certain members of Duran Duran) 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?

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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.

YES FOLKS, I GOT A FULL NIGHT’S SLEEP IN! WHOOP WHOOP!

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. ( or just have OH’s skiddy pants sent off to the local incinerator and hoover up)
  • Have a light snack before bed. Note – a kebab isn’t a light snack.
  • If your OH snores – sod them right 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

mumturnedmom

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!

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

Photo Credit

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. Ma miss-lit her fag in shock at the word ‘bollocks‘.

“I’ll give you bollocks, Madam!” My 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 Ma doing her thing in the kitchen and Frank Sinatra instantly makes me think of 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…

Mum and Dad 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.

mumturnedmom

Imagination Makes A Cloudy Day Sunny

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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..

Imagination.

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 Ma’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. Ma 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 Ma scoffed her way through a family sized bag of Revels during her monthly psycho do’s. To Ma, 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 Ma 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.

Technology?

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.

S 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.

S 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

mumturnedmom

Colour Me Beautiful (or just do your best, dear!)

6282476027_d203c9251d_zSome of the first changes I made to Mr Shambles’ man flat were to liberate it from the Cell-Block H grey windowsills and the Guantanamo Bay detention camp orange bathroom wall. You see, I knew how colour could transform a room and it’s the same with us..

Back in the day, I bought the Carole Jackson’s Colour Me Beautiful book and gave myself a mental breakdown trying to work out what ‘season’ I was. I finally decided that I was a Winter but promised myself that one day I would get my colours done professionally. Recently, Mr Shambles cranked open his wallet and offered to pay so I booked the appointment before he could say, ‘HOW MUCH?’

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This is what happens when a tomboy is forced to wear a pink skirt.

Over the past 30 odd years, I’ve found colours which suit me more than others. Aside a pink and green striped woolen skirt which I bought in the 1980’s (when I was most likely on a period) I haven’t really committed any fantastically hideous fashion crimes.

So maybe wearing a girlie pink skirt with my beloved American football shirt was a bit criminal but I was under orders to wear the sodding thing and arguing with Ma wasn’t an option. I was wearing it. End of. The result? I had a gob on me in every holiday photograph where I was wearing it. See picture opposite.

So I arrived at the consultant’s home studio, looking sweaty thanks to an air-con malfunction in the Shambles mobile. I’d been asked to take six tops with me, one of which I wasn’t comfortable wearing. Firstly, the she sat me on a stool in front of a full length mirror. Then she uttered these evil words..

‘OK if I take your make-up off?’

Bearing in mind that only a handful of people have EVER seen me without make-up, I hesitated long enough for her to know that, yes, it WOULD be traumatic, thank you very much!. I even wear my slap to put the bins out, for God’s sake!

And if you saw me au naturel you’d understand why.

After staring at me for a bit, she concluded that I was a ‘warm and clear’ which means that I have a yellow undertone to my skin (which I knew because I naturally look like my liver is packing in, innit) and so I need to wear make-up and clothes which have a yellow undertone. Pastel shades do nothing for me. As she said; ‘They make you look like you’re in dire need of a blood transfusion, dear!’

I was draped in the colours that suited me, then the ones that didn’t so I could see the difference and there was a distinct difference.

Scientificky bit…

Colour analysis is based on the 1898 color theory by artist and professor Albert Munsell. When the colour craze began in the 1980’s, there were only four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn) which focused only on whether a person’s undertone was Warm or Cool. This worked well for some but for the majority of people (like me) it didn’t work so well.. hence the breakdown. It was later refined into a new theory:

IMG_0522Deep…Dark and rich.

Light…Light and delicate.

Soft…Soft & muted.

Clear…Clear & bright.

Warm…No cool undertones.

Cool…No warm undertone

I have green eyes (with brown in one of them) so I am a warm and clear when it comes to make-up. Having odd eyes suits my overall personality. They are are different, as am I. The consultant was really taken with them saying, ‘You have the most beautiful eyes, you should really make the most of those!’. *preens*

She went through my tops and told me I was already doing it right. The one I wasn’t sure of was a yellow one. Yellow is in my palette but it was too pale. The right yellow for me is the IN YOUR FACE yellow, DOUBLE YELLOW LINES, yellow.

I’ll pass on the yellow.

I can see how the experience can be life-changing for some women. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, especially once the menopause kicks in. Why spend time maintaining your bushy bits when you can sprawl out on the sofa in your leggings (with strained gusset) watching the entire box set of Desperate Housewives?

Ma would kick my lazy arse from heaven itself if I gave up on myself. She was applying the lippy even when she’d just had her insides removed due to cancer. She’s my role model. A proud woman who never gave up and neither will I. I intend to make the best of what she sacrificed her foo-foo for.

Most people need guidance now and then and I knew I needed help when I got an answer phone message saying ‘Hi, this is the 1980’s. Can we have our Azure Blue eyeliner back?’

Now I understand that using a cool blue on my green eyes means that people see the eyeliner instead of my eyes. Likewise, using a pink based foundation will only make it blatantly obvious that I’m wearing make-up and black mascara is way too dark for my eyes..

*throws away entire contents of make-up bag*

Having my colours done has given me a much needed boost. What I’m lacking in oestrgoen, I’m making up for with colour.  You take a book of colour swatches home so you can whip em out of your handbag when you shop, thus preventing hormonally imbalanced impulse buys that will end up in the charity shop still with the tags on.

Paying was a bit traumatic but all in all, it was a good experience. The consultant was absolutely lovely and later on in the year I will go back for the style consultation and DENY that I have EVER worn leggings.

‘With THESE thighs? No, dear!’

Or Scholl’s with socks.

Shhhhhhh it’s our little secret. 😉

Piccie

DON’T JUDGE ME!!!!

Header Photo Image Credit by Yann Gar via Creative Commons

mumturnedmom

Blog On

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The rather lovely Alison over at Rubbish Wife has most generously nominated my lil ol’ blog for an award. Yes, an award!

What is it?

The Liebster is basically an award for bloggers, by bloggers. There are trillions of blogs in the blogosphere but many (like mine) have a modest following. If the blogosphere was the sea, I’d be plankton!

The Liebster award shines the spotlight on our humble blogs and as awards go, I think it’s the best one out there. Not because it’s the only award my blog has ever been nominated for (or is likely to be) but because it reminds people that the small blogs are well worth a read. I’ve been blogging for a few years now and my face lights up when someone follows me. Not because I’m about followers (I’m not) but because it’s nice to know that someone actually wants to read my ramblings. The fact that one of those followers chose to nominate me because I made her laugh is reward enough for me. Do take a look at Alison’s website. She’s a bit good in the kitchen and scrolling through her fabulous recipes will have you re-thinking the sad looking fish-fingers and chips you’re about to serve up!

I started this blog after my mum died as a way of working through my grief. She died unexpectedly and I found myself in a bit of a shit-hole, mentally. I had to channel my grief into something productive before I ended up being carted off by the men in white suits. So Mummyshambles was created and it saved me from complete and utter lunacy.

What do you have to do?

It’s customary with these awards to nominate other blogs. It’s a chain thingy. I think my pelvic floor will collapse if I don’t keep it going. Oh wait, that’s already happened…

Of course, I’m joking. It’s just about bloggers showing fellow bloggers some love and giving their blogs some well deserved attention. So I’m nominating some blogs which have made me laugh, educated me or inspired me.

So in no particular order, my nominations are…

*stands poised, golden envelope in sweaty hands, pouts at the camera for longer than is necessary*

Starring G G tells it as it is. It’s real life, warts and all. Diverse and informative. Love it and so will you.

Just Good Enough Mum A wonderful blog by a wonderful lady who blogs about her life looking after her family and autism.

Starring Stella Stella blogs about her life as a wife and mum. She’s creative. She’s also a fantastic cook. Her posts inspire me to get off my arse and bake something.

Mark, Sonny and Luca Mark is a stay at home dad to two boys and writes to maintain some level of sanity. He writes with such humour that you’re in danger of choking on your toast, as I almost did!

These Are Grandma’s Thoughts A lovely blog filled with ‘funny, sometimes serious and sometimes sad’ thoughts of a young at heart grandma.

liebster5The nominator has to set some questions for the nominees to answer so here are Alison’s to me.

Tea or tipple? Pre-menopause, I’d have said tipple. Now I can only manage a pint of beer before falling into a coma. So I’ll say tea.

Which three words sum you up? Hormonally challenged idiot.

What would be number one on your bucket list? Getting locked in the potting shed with Alan Titchmarsh.

Tattoos..yay or nay? Yay because I have one (a small one on my back) nay to the head to toe tattooed look which looks like they’ve slept on a road atlas.

The last supper: What would you choose? Marmite on toast. Deal with it, people!

Snog, Marry, Avoid: who’s the weird crush you’d put on your laminate list. BE HONEST

Snog – Nick Rhodes. Not quite as pretty as he was in the 80’s but I still would. *puckers up*

Marry – Alan Titchmarsh. Yorkshire’s finest who can lay a decent patio. I actually got married a few weeks ago and waited for him to burst through the registry office door saying ‘Doont marry ‘im lass, marry uz!’ He mustn’t have got my e-mail. :/

Avoid – Gary Lineker – he’ll pinch yer crisps.

Nickname, what’s yours? Pootle. Actually, it isn’t. I don’t have one but if I could choose one, Pootle would be it.

Super-power for a day: what would you go for? Invisibility. The only super power that any self-respecting nosy git could ever want.

City break or beach babe? I’m a menopausal agoraphobic so neither.

If you could be famous, what would you like to be famous for? Finding a cure for menopausal insanity that doesn’t involve using horse piss.

Thanks. Alison, for these questions. You know a little bit more about me. aren’t you SO glad you asked?

Now it’s my turn to ask my nominees some questions. Muhaha.

1. Why did you start a blog?

2. What is your favourite quote of all time?

3. Has anybody ever told you you look like a celebrity? If so, who? (who do you look like, not who told you, obvs)

4. What is your favourite post that you’ve written? (provide link)

5. Name five people, alive or dead, that you’d like to meet.

6. Do you believe in ghosts?

7. If you were a character from a movie, who would you be?

8. What book would you want to be stranded on a desert island with?

9. Name your guilty celebrity crush.

10. Happiness is….

And that’s it. There are all kinds of ‘rules’ about Liebster floating about but to keep it simple you..

1. Thank whoever nominated you and link back to them.

2.  Swipe the Liebster image from their site and paste it onto yours.

3. Answer their probing questions as honestly or dishonestly as you see fit.

4. Choose people to nominate (should be blogs with followers of less then 200)

5. Ask them some probing questions

6. When your post is done, leave them a message on their blog (or Twitter) to let them know they’ve been nominated.

Bask in the knowledge that you just spread some love.

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Image Credit via Flickr by Davidlohr Bueso

Image credit Via Flickr by Sarah Reid

Love and Marriage

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“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

On Christmas Day 2013, OH went all emotional on me and asked me to marry him. I watched him wavering about on one knee and briefly wondered if Alan Titchmarsh was going to burst through the door, trowel in hand, shouting, ‘DOOANT MARRY ‘IM, CUM WI’ UZ LASS!’

This did not happen.

So I said, ‘Yeah, go on then’.

The plan was to remain engaged for a few years but then we came to do our wills earlier this year and found out that we’d have to pay again once we got married so I said ‘Sod THAT for a game of conkers, matey, we’ll do it now.’

So here I am, about to dip my toe in the marital pool for the second time but, to be honest, I feel a bit of a tit getting married at 45 years of age because I’m menopausal. I AM WITHOUT OESTROGEN, for God’s sake!

Me and OH have opted for a registry office wedding and as weddings go, it’s low key. Any lower and we’d be having it in McDonald’s. Even so, I’ve allowed myself a few bridal treats..

~The Dress~

Having been around the block more times than my old Yaris, I decided to leave the virginal white for ladies with, er, less miles on the clock.

So, in the absence of my mum, I dragged a reluctant OH into town and after ten minutes of effing and blinding trying to prise myself into a selection of dresses, I settled on my fourth choice which was a black and cream number. It’s floaty, stylish and more importantly, it disguises my mammoth rear-end and tree-trunk thighs. The downside is that it’s sleeveless and despite going all out with the dumbbells over the last few months.. my triceps are still refusing to come out from behind the flab, dammit!

~ The Coiffure ~

I’ve had my roots done and I’ll be in for a wash & blow job on the day of the wedding. No ‘up do’s. No tiaras. No frills. Simples and therefore, cheap.

~ Make-Up~

I’m doing my own, people. I’ve seen what passes for make-up trends these days and I don’t want OH thinking he’s marrying Lily Savage!

The only change to my usual make-up regime will be some waterproof mascara for when the tears start (when we have to PAY THE BILL) and some lipstick – menopausal red, to match my cheeks!

However, I have booked a lady to come and spray-tan me a few days before the wedding. This is because I have legs with varicose veins on them and it looks like I’ve slept on a road atlas, innit. I’ve never had a spray tan done professionally before and my own pathetic attempts at tanning have resulted in zebra style striping and fingers that look like I’m on 60 B&H a day. I’m hoping for ‘natural glow’ as opposed to looking like I’ve been creosoted. Fingers crossed!

~Shoes~

Black. Nuff said?

~Bag~

Has to be big enough to hold: mobile phone, wet-wipes, plasters, tissues, lipstick, pit spray, brush, Rescue Remedy, Tena pads, emergency bog roll and S’ paraphernalia including Kindle, Nintendo DS, headphones, cuddly toy, snacks, drinks, Lego *pauses for breath*

Do they do holdalls in black suede?

~ Flowers ‘n’ Stuff ~

Originally, I wasn’t going to bother with flowers. Then I decided to have a posy made up for me and a buttonhole for OH. My posy will go on mum and dad’s grave and OH’s buttonhole, on his mum’s. I feel sad that they can’t be here to celebrate our special day but I know they will be with us in spirit.

What the day lacks in pomp and ceremony, I hope it will more than make up for with fun and laughter because that’s what I want to remember when I look back on the day. Hopefully nobody gets mullered and ends up in the pool minus their Speedo’s but seeing as I can only manage a pint without falling into a coma these days (and I can’t swim) I can rest easy that at least it won’t be me.

It’s been hard not having my mum here to help me plan things. I miss her beyond words. I miss them both, so much.

Life can be a heartless bitch at times but it’s what we make of the rest of it that matters. I’m here because my parents loved each other and the best way that I can honour them on my wedding day is to enjoy it and make some happy memories. It’s what they’d want. It’s what any parent would want for their child, no matter how old they are.

~ Words of Thanks ~

Ma would be happy to know that I’ve made some wonderful friends including some amazing online ones and a few in ‘real life’. One friend is making our wedding cake as a gift. Another has offered to mind S for a few hours if it gets too much for him and we have been given the most beautiful picture as a gift from a lady who I’ve never met but feel like I’ve always known. I’ll treasure it, always.

Finally, I’d like to thank my long suffering OH who still wants to marry me, despite having more than than enough evidence to have me put away in a secure psychiatric unit. Not many men would put up with my shit but he does a magnificent job of tolerating me. Hopefully we’ll reach a fine old age without one of us having put the other under the patio but I’ve measured it up, just in case.

Of course I’m KIDDING!

Or am I?

To be continued….

Image Credit by Jo Christian Oterhals Via Creative Commons

mumturnedmom

Shining Star

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You’re a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see what you can truly be ~ Shining Star ~ Earth Wind and Fire

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been three years since I sat on the stairs listening to my little boy trash his bedroom in rage..

I remember staring at a big dent in the wall where he’d smashed the door back with such force that it knocked the plaster out. The fact that it was a rented house only added to the stress of the situation because ,at this rate, we would be kissing goodbye to our £450 bond.

My head felt sore from where he’d yanked my hair hair out and I had absolutely no idea why my child (who had been happy and smiling one minute) was now angrily launching his toys against the bedroom wall (I’d removed anything that could cause damage to him or the house, obvs) Was it something I’d done or said? Seemingly it came out of the blue..

Similar incidents had happened before but never to this degree. I’d experienced toddler tantrums with C but this was wasn’t in the same league and C’s tantrums were spectacularly bad.

I was unable to calm S down and it was impossible to reason with him. Bribery? That failed as well. Ma had died the year before so I could no longer lean on her for support while OH was at work. Never in my 24 years of being a mother had I felt so alone or such a failure. It was a difficult day, to say the least.

Only it wasn’t a tantrum.. it was a meltdown and S was diagnosed with ASD and Sensory Processing Disorder a year and half later. Finally it all made sense. I wasn’t a shit mother. My child was autistic!

I have documented S’ journey from diagnosis in this blog. We have had nothing but love and support from the onset from the professionals and the school. Knowing that a lot of parents struggle to get the right support for their autistic children, I count ourselves fortunate.

When S started school, he had major problems with the worst being social and communication. It became obvious that the 15 hours of support (as per his statement) weren’t enough. He had support in the morning but was out of control in the afternoon, especially at playtime’s or during other unstructured activities. I was getting regular phone calls to go and calm him down. The school requested more support, which they were granted, and then things improved in the afternoons as well.

The school have concentrated on his strength, which is maths. Last year, he wowed the school by being able to recite the entire twelve times table! Not many five year old’s can do that. I’m 44 and I STILL can’t do that but then, I’m thick, innit..

When he started school, he couldn’t take turns. He couldn’t share. He lashed out. He had meltdowns throughout the day and he wouldn’t write or attend assemblies..

Two years later he is a different child. He will take turns. He will share. He doesn’t lash out as much. His meltdowns have reduced. He still doesn’t do assemblies but the teachers understand that forcing him to do something which he can’t cope with is a recipe for disaster. One meltdown generally makes him unreceptive for hours, which means he doesn’t learn anything.

There has been an improvement in his writing as well…

Half-way through this year he was doing most of his work on the computer as he was refusing to write and most attempts to encourage him would end in meltdown. One day he decided he wanted to do it. He still holds the pencil cack-handed but the important thing is that, not only is he writing, but it’s voluntary!

I watched him write his dad’s name on his birthday card a few weeks ago. I watched in amazement as he curled the letters for the first time that I’d seen. Maybe most parents of six year old children won’t understand the importance of this but for parents like me, the smallest acts are usually the ones which stop us in our tracks..The wordDaddy’ written without help, prompting or melt-down changed a fairly mundane day into a momentous day.

S continues to use numbers as comfort. He is never without one in some form or other. His blackboard is a mass of sums, a stick picture of me (with my age above my head – 44 – Ahem!) and him holding my hand with his age above his head. I’m maths phobic. I HATE maths. Algebra? What the hell is that about? But the little Numberjack can’t get enough of the ‘M’ word!

Without the wonderful support he’s had, he wouldn’t be the boy we know today. He is proof of what early intervention can achieve when it comes to autism and special needs. He is different but he’s accepted and loved. He copes with his day because those around him understand his limits. He’s getting better at understanding them himself but still has bad days, like yesterday when he had a meltdown and lashed out at his special teacher. He hid under a blanket for a while because he didn’t like how it made him feel to lose control and when he came out, he did French. He NEVER does French because he doesn’t like how the words sound. Truth be told, neither did I. I wasn’t overly enthralled with French either but mostly because the teacher used to throw his briefcase across the room to get our attention, la psycho.

The class has a ‘Star of the Day’ award system which rewards good behaviour or work with being able to take in something of their choice to ‘show and tell’ the next day. S has many of these awards with the latest one awarded for doing French.

I think that all little children are stars. Their innocence shines light into a world that can sometimes be dark. Sadly, they morph into teenagers and the innocence is replaced with gobby one word answers like ‘So!’, ‘Because!’ and ‘Whatever!’ Not forgetting the standard phrase of the teenager on not getting their own way…

‘I HATE YOU, YOU’VE TOTALLY RUINED MY ENTIRE LIFE, I WISH I’D NEVER BEEN BORN!!!!’ *slam* *bang* *wollop*

I have no idea where S’ journey will take him or what form his teenage angst will take. I’m just enjoying who he is now because he is happy, therefore, I am happy and I am never more happy than when he flings his arms out to me and showers me in kisses in full view of all the other parents at school. He’s my star of the day, everyday.

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Creative Commons Image by Neal Fowler

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..

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. Sorted.

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.

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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 C running with his egg and spoon on sports day looking as camp as a row of tents with his floppy wrist. I saw K, 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

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