About Me

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Outside,  fine but dull grey mists leave the ground chilled.  Inside the rapidly moving train people engage with electronic devices. No more friendly conversations with people thrown together for two hours around the compact tables of a second class coach.  Each of the passengers around the table is sealed inside their own private space.  Sometimes, when I look up I see  the woman with the short blond hair looking at my. Perhaps she wonders what I tap into one note on my little machine. Does she intuite that I write of her? Perhaps she is relieved she is not forced to converse with me?

The clouds become less dense and the warmer light behind penetrates through.  The train continues through the heart land of the country. 

As I often do on the train,  I listen to an episode of Desert Island Discs.  I chose June Brown,  the actress  now aged 90 years old. Her relationship with music is engaging.  I think she would need conversation should she share a train table,  though I suspect I would need to upgrade to first class

I walk From Euston to St Pancras down Phoenix St accompanied now  by Catlin Moran doing her Desert Island Discs. Two very different but equally engaging women.  Caitlin, I am sure would chat away the whole journey,  should she happen to sit down at my table or walk between stations with me.

Settled on the fast train to the East Kent Coast and I pull out my paperback and ponder why I am fascinated by the places and spaces in between.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Look! We have come through

DH Lawrences's famous words were written about his relationship with his lover, as they defied convention and culture and overcame the obstacles that faced their love. Nothing quite so romantic for me but after two difficult professional years in which the institution in which I work 'required improvement' we got the necessary 'good'.  Not that things have got easy mind, the challenge of teaching the new syllabus and the demands of teaching adults and young people coming back - and not always voluntarily - for a second, third or even fourth chance, is still as difficult and rewarding as ever. To say nothing of working in the most emotionally volatile team but amazing team this side of the Irish Sea!

And indeed, to say nothing of being the late-middle-aged daughter of elderly parents - praise the Lord for supportive sisters!

'More for less' is the mantra and we seem to wait in vain for the government to step  back and fund us properly. Meanwhile, a possible take over from a richer and more powerful institution stands in front of us. More unknowns.

Nothing stays the same; everything changes and sometimes I long for the past when it all seemed simpler but then as my old senior manager used to say, 'hindsight is  wonderful thing.'

In a couple of days' time, I go to spend time with my recently widowed father and connect with the Kent coast almost 300 miles from my northerly home. How I love to visit Reculver on a cold February day or shop for nice treats in Canterbury.

Hopefully, I will have time to write abut my journey before I go back to the all consuming life of a full time lecturer in further education.

Song of a man who has come through

Sunday, 1 January 2017

A winter walk as the sun goes down

 (Photo taken on a different day)

I am lucky to live not far from the West Lancashire Moors, recently given SSI status by the powers that be. A very good thing which should, hopefully, protect it from fracking should it come our way, which I fear it will if the government's energy policy continues unabated and local authorities are overruled.  Beneath the Moor lies the small town where I live and my avenue is built upon the gradual hillside which signals the end of the Lancashire/Cheshire plane and starts the upward ascent to the moors. Behind the neighbouring avenue is a small clough, known locally as Nellies' Clough, home to Hawthorn, various spruce, the odd sliver birch and a culverted stream which finds its way into the River Douglas and beyond. This is where I like to walk when I have been couped up at home too long.

Not just Sunday but New Year's Day;  today the paths were very quiet, a handful of  people walking or exercising their dogs. The sun sends a golden glow across the land, as I walk up the hill, up the wooden steps out on to the narrow path. Turning around I see below me quite a steep ravine, to the spot where the culvert crosses the path and the fields open out. I imagine this is an old place, an old path, a way where medieval carts came down from places like Belmont on their way to West Lancashire.When I reach a certain point, now bracketed on one side by 1970s houses and a wooden fence, I feel the expanse of the plane opening up be

It looks as though there are  some changes to the broken down old barn, where I wish for, but never see, the owls that are rumoured to roost there. The ivy has been removed from the windows and the wall rebuilt. It is no longer possible to push through the low bramble to the old iron gate that faces towards Bolton.  This is as far as I will go. As I walk back down the sun is softly blinding.

Now alone in my tiny office, the sky has turned a transparent yellow rising into an almost sapphire blie as evening takes hold.

(photo taken 1.1.17)

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Two rainbows for Andrew

Andrew's funeral was a lovely, as far as funerals can be described as such. It took place in a beautiful old church, tower  dating back to the fourteenth century. His brother read a most moving eulogy and, as we stood around the graveside and the curate read from the burial service, a rainbow shone over the green spaces, copses and houses that that covered the land below.  Disappearing  from view it was soon followed by another, spread in a larger arc across the landscape as far as the West Pennine Moors and it was hard not to believe he, and we, had been blessed.

Memories, a few bevies and a bite to eat were shared afterwards in a panelled side room at Wetherspoon's. His immortal innings - 14 for  150 balls to force a draw -  will not be forgotten.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

How to get my soul back...part 1

The end of October brought sad news. A dear friend, who had suffered bravely for a long while, passed away. As I guess it often does for most people, such events put things in perspective. For me, this has cut through the daily grind of working in a system, which lost its heart and soul to number crunching quite some time ago. Yet, being aware of this has not affected the fact I have, somehow, over the past few years become a total slave to it. A loss of soul on my part.  Never has it been clearer that I have let the bastards grind me down. For a start, I did not visit my friend enough, although my husband did. Too busy working at home, as well as working, at least temporarily, crazily unsocial hours. It's not that I dislike my job,  only that it has become so relentless that my line manager, who is around 17 years younger than me has quit without another job to go to.

So...how do I keep my soul in the 'relentlessness' of my occupation, which is not seen as a problematic by those who govern but rather as the correct state of affairs endorsed by those whose role it is to oversee us?

Well, this weekend I only did one small job and rested. I've also been reading Alan Bennett's 'Keeping On Keeping On' - Diaries and miscellaneous writings 2005-2015. An apt title that applies to everyone really. As for me, I can't just throw the towel in, not for another 4 years at least, unless I am made redundant with  a  reasonable pay off.  But keeping on keeping on need not be as bleak as I have let it become lately. I need to remember to take time out for myself and for others. Because if I don't one day they (and me) just won't be around any more.

I also took some time out last week to write a little Eulogy for my friend for the facebook thread his cricketing pals have set up to mourn his passing.

His funeral is on Thursday and I think it will be quite special.  I hope his memory will remind me not to be such a slave to the system and help me to tread more of a middle course and get something of my life and my soul back. I also hope and pray that he is now at rest and in peace in God's timeless embrace. 

Meanwhile, here on Earth, I take comfort from what Alan Bennett wrote in the introduction to 'Keeping On Keeping On ':

In the ten years covered by this book politics has impinged more than I care for...I fear that there will be a Tory government for the remainder of my life. And with it England dismantled...As the government continues to pick the state clean...why should it stop? If there is money to be made out of the probation service why not still exhibit the insane? Is there any large corporation nowadays which one wholly trusts and which doesn't confuse honesty with public relations?

 Some of these sentiments I more moderately voiced  in King's College Chapel in 2014...I could have suggested then that taking a leaf out of the government's book the Church of England too should run solely for profit, parson's given targets and made to turn up at Epiphany with statistics of souls saved. Except the trouble with such jokes is that they are a joke no longer and in this senseless world in which even the bees find the government arrayed against them, moderation is hard to hold on to. (Bennett A, 2016)

Why take comfort from such bleakness? I guess it is because when someone I admire as much as Alan Bennett is able to articulate so well what is going on, it seems to me, caught up in the world of the whoever it is I work for, squeezed beyond belief by the government yet still expected to meet the highest standards, I know that he speaks for many alienated souls. I listened to my colleagues the other day comparing working in this sector with fighting J.K. Rowling's dreadful dementors

I began this blog by taking about getting my soul back but maybe it is not that my soul is lost, merely that it is alienated by the soul sucking Voldemorts who currently run the show.

How to unfreeze my alienated soul: 
Step number one: the oppressors  do not own me. 
Step number two: take time out.
Step number three: remember at all times who I really am.

Image result for candel

Saturday, 3 September 2016


Outside the back bedroom window where I sleep, the elderberries glisten darkly on the tree that appeared as tiny sapling a year after we moved to the house.  They signal the start of autumn and the continuity of the seasons as surely as the Church calendar.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Those who went before - some memories for Mothers' Day

Inspired by the Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life,  I fell to thinking of  great grandmother Rachel, who I never knew but whose memory was cherished by my grandmother, Richmull, and her two sisters Edna and Eliza-Anne. It saddened them deeply that they were never able to visit her grave.

Widowed young, Rachel's  youngest child was born out of wedlock. Just after the first world war, she took her two younger daughters to Australia, leaving the elder one, who was working and ‘courting’ behind. The story does not end happily. As a child, the idea of wicked relatives was not confined to story books. Bullied by her sister-in-law - my grandmother would recall her mother being burned on the arm with an iron -  soon Rachel became ill. A couple of years later, she died from cancer. My grandmother and great aunt decided to return home with only a handful of photographs and some locks of Rachel’s hair, one of which my grandmother kept for years in a sewing tin, to remind them of their mother and their shared misadventure. Returning home was quite an adventure, however, with exciting rickshaw rides through Singapore and an board romance for Great Aunt Edna.

As a result of the move to Australia, my grandmother had lifelong issues with her kidneys, after becoming dehydrated in the intense Queensland heat. Back in the damp, cold north-west of England, she married a miner, who contracted a particularly nasty flu virus in the 1930s, which would leave him disabled. My grandmother worked full time while her husband looked after my mother. A non-smoker, my grandmother died aged 68 in 1968 from lung cancer triggered, perhaps, from working in the carding room in a cotton mill or from pouring liquid explosive material into bombs as a munitions worker in World War II.

Thinking and writing this has made me realise the narratives of our forebears are important and should not be forgotten. Yet they will be if we fail to tell our children or fail to write them down. And even then, the stories of their lives will vanish as if they had never been.

Joy and sorrow blown away like dust from our hands.