Friday, 23 May 2014

I wanted to write a poem

I wanted to write a poem

but I didn't know what to say.

So I've sat here for an hour

just staring at the rain.

I like the use of metaphor

but can't always think of one.

The puddles are small seas

that brave ants swim across.

Similes are similar

but with as or like.

Slugs and snails love to splash

like overweight Dad-dancers.

Personification is where things become human

but it's difficult to pull off.

The cats beg to come inside-

lazy old blokes that hate getting soaked.

I tried to write a poem

but couldn't think of what to say.

So instead I'm going to sit here

just staring at the rain all day.

By the way,

modern poems don't need to rhyme

or even have a regular metre (time.)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Mind the gap

This is going to be a bit of a ramble with no point - you have been warned.

I read in The Times today that the average gap between siblings in the UK is now 3 years and 8 months. It used to be 2 years. The reasons for this are chiefly financial it seems (having two pre-school age children in nursery is very expensive). Three-plus years sounds sensible to me. The gap between my children is much larger - 7 years. This suits our family well - I love how our son (8) can look after our daughter (11 months) without having to be supervised, because he's old enough to trust. I don't mean that we leave them at home for the night and go out or anything like that, don't worry. No need to call the social.

Also there is absolutely no sibling rivalry- they are at such different stages of development.

I suppose that there are people reading this who think that the 1 or 2 year age gap between their offspring is ideal, and I am slightly mad. Fair enough: every family is different. There are advantages to having a small gap: getting over the baby stage more quickly; and ease of entertainment because they probably like similar things, so they could share toys for example.

I was never going to have a small age gap: even before I had my son I knew that having a toddler and baby in the house would send me to the asylum. I mean how do you cope with the total and complete lack of sleep for so long? Anyway, it turned out that baby #1 was a lot harder work than I imagined (he's lovely now, of course). Parenthood is such a steep learning curve, and I had little confidence in my abilities. I believe that this, in part, lead to my PND. Also he never slept. But don't get me started on that.  

I think that whatever age gap you have, you are probably happy with that. It tends to work out.

Of course you may have one child and so this isn't an issue. The average family in Britain now has less than 2 children (1.8 I think - are there lots of kids walking around with an arm missing or something?) So actually onelies are in the majority. There are still many people who are quick to judge or look down their nose at parents of only children, which annoys me. For some families, one child is just right. Especially if there are financial concerns (why bring a child into the world if you don't know how you'll feed and clothe it for the next 18 years or so?) or actually the parents are happy with their child and see no need for any more.

There will always be the people who assume that only children are spoilt. My son was an only for a few years, and he was much better behaved and less spoilt than many children with one or more siblings. That's not just me saying that, other people have told me. A child's behaviour is not down to his siblings, it's down to his parents.

There are also parents who have secondary infertility.  It must suck being told how selfish you're being by only having one child when you've been trying for years. The same goes for people who don't have any children.

People are so quick to judge aren't they?

Edit: I meant to talk about larger families too. I respect parents who manage to raise several kids to be fully-functioning human beings, while still leading normal not-too-chaotic lives. Especially if they do that without relying completely on the state for funds. And some mothers of 4-plus even work! How do they fit it all in? I am in awe. If I had four young children, I think that most of my day would be spent lying on the sofa trying to have a nap while pre-schoolers run around pulling cats' tails and eating newspaper. I couldn't bare the thought of going through the labour and newborn stage over and over - but if you've done it - good for you. And think of all the grandchildren that you have to look forward to one day. Awesome. I guess that in many countries, four or more children is the norm, and that's cool, except for the poverty side of it of course. Also many mums don't have access to contraception so really don't have the choice. But I like large families - especially if they all get on and can fit in one house for Christmas dinner.

The only other people that I respect more are those who have chosen to adopt. Seriously, wow. You people rock.

On a side note, I see that there are now more 'happy surprises' in women over the age of 35 than under 20. Apparently we've all been told for so long that our fertility drops off quickly after 35 that many women assume that they've reached the menopause in their mid-thirties. Whoops. Many women will fall pregnant within one year of coming off contraception, between the ages of 35-40. Also it seems you're more likely to have twins as you get older. All good fun.

There, I told you that there was no point to this.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lunch by the sea

 A challenge to write a story which includes the words: a teacher - grizzled - crime of passion - restaurant - magic beans


He sat at his favourite table by the window. He could see the waves lapping the shore and people and dogs strolling past. It was a sunny spring day.

"Are you ready to order?" Asked a young waitress wearing a black apron.

"Yes please."

Ben glanced at the menu.

"Could I have a jacket potato with beans and cheese. And a large cappuccino."


Ben resumed staring out of the window. He loved this part of the world - he'd always come here on Summer holidays with his parents when he was a child.

He looked up when he heard a baby grumbling at the next table. Her mother was trying to feed her a rusk but she was having none of it. She moaned and grizzled some more, pushing the biscuit away with a scowl.

"I give up." Said the mum, to no-one in particular.

Then she caught Ben's eye.

"Do you have any?" She asked.

"Me... on no. Well, that is, I have a class-full of them, but none of my own."

"Oh, you're a teacher." She smiled. "That must be hard work. What year do you teach?"

"Year 8. They are great kids but sometimes I just want to..."

"I know exactly what you mean," she replied, taking a knife out of the grumpy baby's hand. "So, how come you're not in class now?"

"Oh, well... I'm actually off sick at the moment. With stress. I came here for a break; I'm not local."

"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to pry." She replied.

"No problem. I'm here for two weeks and I've been to this restaurant a few times now. I love the view." He said.

"Yes, it's good isn't it?" She was now trying to feed the baby a bottle, to no avail. She gave up and enjoyed her panini instead.

"Here you are sir." The waitress placed his lunch and coffee on the table. "Enjoy."

"Thank you." Ben tucked into the meal. It was delicious.

An old couple entered the restaurant and sat at a table next to his.

"Enjoying your lunch?" Asked the man.

"Yes thanks." Ben replied.

"Good. Those are magic beans, you know."  

"Sorry?" Asked Ben.

"Magic beans. This is the place that Doris and I came to on our first date. We both had jackets with beans too. And they obviously worked because she fell madly in love with me and here we are today celebrating our 10th anniversary."

"Oh wow. congratulations!" Grinned Ben.

Doris said "Maybe you'll fall in love too. Are you single?"

"Oh, yes. Yes I am - currently. I was recently divorced."

"Oh I'm sorry to hear that dear. I lost my first husband to cancer. But good things can happen when you least expect." She gazed into her husband's eyes.

Ben noticed that they were still holding hands.

The waitress asked for their order and they also went for jackets with cheese and beans.

"And two glasses of your finest red wine please Miss." Asked the gentleman.

Ben finished his meal and took out his book. One good thing about being signed off was that he didn't have to think about work. He could sit and read his novel all day.

He ordered another cappuccino.

The elderly couple started their meal and clinked wine glasses.  


"Oh dear!"

Doris' wine glass broke and red liquid ran dramatically down her arm and onto her blouse.

"Are you ok?" Asked Ben, jumping up and mopping up some of the wine with a napkin.

"I am fine thank you dear," she replied.

Her shirt was ruined. It looked like she'd been stabbed.

"I suppose you could call it a crime of passion." Laughed her husband.

The waitress ran over with wipes and offered the couple a free meal, which they accepted.

Drama over, Ben returned to his book. He sipped his coffee and glanced at the view again. The sun was dancing over the waves and the seagulls shrieked at each other.
Today was a good day.

Where did you meet?

I'm not usually this mawkish, so please forgive me. I blame my lack of sleep.

In the film We bought a zoo (based on the autobiographical book by Benjamin Mee) the father tells his kids about how he and their mum first met. It was in a cafe, incidentally. The scene is especially emotional because their mother died only a few months before.

This made me think about how my husband and I met. In case you're interested, it was in a grubby low-ceilinged pub at our local football ground. It was where our church used to meet before we could afford our own building. He was the first person at the church to talk to me so I thought I'd marry him. That's a joke.

Where did you meet your other half?

I had never thought of showing our children where we met, but as the father played by Matt Damon says in the movie, it's a part of their story. My son and husband actually regularly visit (although not that room) because they have season tickets to football. But I haven't seen inside that room since our church moved buildings.  Maybe we'll all go and visit one day.

If you have children, have you spoken to them about where you and your spouse met? It might be geeky but it's part of their story before their story, so that's pretty cool.