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Public Libraries: As Good Today As They Have Ever Been

10 Oct

Source: Public Libraries: As Good Today As They Have Ever Been


Public Libraries: As Good Today As They Have Ever Been

10 Oct

The perfect complement to my meanderings last night at Dukinfield Library – as we celebrate Library Week. Stuart – the best n’brightest autie writer in the UK – grew up a stone’s throw from me. It was wonderful to have him chipping in with the exact dates of my own municipal memories – and even more fabulous to read that he feels the same way as I do;
Libraries are needed more than ever.
The perfect community base for Entertainment and Learning; ‘story-telling’ being the common theme.
And a hearty thanks to all parents who force their kids into these buildings. *It could be the best thing that you EVER do, folks…*

East of the M60

For National Libraries Week, East of the M60 looks at why public libraries have an important role in the 21st century

Dukinfield Library, Concord Way, DukinfieldThe first love for many bibliophiles: your local library, such as Dukinfield Library on Concord Way, which opened in November 1984.

Thank goodness for public libraries. With a parent or primary school teacher, they have helped ten of millions of Britons (or billions around the world) to get hooked on reading. Some, like this gentleman, have chosen the TV Times or the Manchester Evening News as their gateway drug (prior to borrowing their first book). Each day, many people call in for their literary fix. They come back for more every three weeks, sometimes carrying up to twelve items with them.

Whether Jackie Collins, Lewis Carroll or O.S. Nock, they can get sucked into a world of uncharted lands, plot lines, or travel back in time. Its mind altering…

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An Event – 29 October

5 Oct

Sharing a stage with two, scarily talented authors. In one of the most beautiful purchasing outlets this side of the Pennines. Come hear us at The Gallery, Slaithwaite on 29th Oct. Dark Woods Coffee and Cake? Or course.

Tim's Blog

Some news hot off the press about an exciting event coming up at the end of the month!  On Sunday 29 October, from 2 to 4pm I’m going to be doing a reading event with two other authors, at The Gallery in Slaithwaite.

I’ll be reading excerpts from Revolution Day and talking about the inspiration for the book. Sharing the limelight will Christina Longden, author of Mind Games and Ministers and A Cuckoo in the Chocolate, romantic comedies with a political and satirical edge (and a friend from Holmfirth Writers Group); and fellow Crooked Cat author Angela Wren whose crime novels Messandriere and Merle are set in France (Angela has visited this blog a couple of times).  So there will be a good mix of fiction – politics, intrigue, crime and romance – with some synergies between the different books.  You can find out more about Chris and Angela via the links at the bottom of this…

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Moving Funnylass

6 Mar

We have moved!

As of March 2017 – you can find the latest blogs from me, plus all of the oldies – in an all-singing, swinging n’ dancing blog that allows us to put stuff up like erm…. video, audio, horrific medical experiment and nuclear-testing trickeries… blah blah.

Head over to  – and make sure that you check out how to ‘Follow’.  And all of that gubbins.

(NB – if you were a subscriber to this ‘oldie blog’ – you will automatically be a subscriber to the new one. So if you didn’t subscribe previously – please check out the newbie and DO subscribe. Got lots of goodies in store for you in 2017. Watch this nasty-blue-light-screen-thingy… and tell all yer mates. Innit.)


Raising The Spirits

7 Dec

A lot of people find this to be a difficult time of year. In the past, I never found it to be so. I always preferred Advent to the maelstrom of the big days themselves.  ‘Cause I like my anticipation, me I do.

But after losing certain very special people from my life at this time of year, there is something much more melancholic about December for me these days. It’s hard to get enthusiastic about decorating a tree with cheapo chocs from Lidl and fighting for the last Hatchimal in Toys R Us, when even the light – the blimmin’ LIGHT – at this time of year reminds you of the people who should have been here with you. Who should by rights be standing right next to you and calling you ‘a miserable old cow’ for insisting that the kid’s advent calendars MUST have pictures of the nativity and accompanying bible verses and MUST NOT contain chocolate or any other consumerist impulses.

And I know that I’m not alone in this; the mournfulness. But I also don’t believe in retreating into myself too much – and I’m not allowed to either. Because there’s my pal at the gym who constantly says ‘oh, just give yourself a good slapping, girl – and get on with it’. So I thought I would blog a few blogs this month that might spur on the strugglers amongst us at this time of year; to share a few ideas to raise a smile and to banish the blues.

First off – we have;

A fine little theatre. Lawrence Batley Theatre in wonderful Huddersfield

A fine little theatre. Lawrence Batley Theatre in wonderful Huddersfield

Take an Uncomplicated Person to the Theatre

At first, I was going to say ‘take a child’ – because being ‘uncomplicated’ usually applies to these small humans (yeah, right.) But then I thought of panto. And how I really, really hate the panto. But how I really, really love watching other people’s faces – esp. the kids – when (for the umpteenth time) they’re shrieking ‘He’s behind you!’ Yeah, uncomplicated sorts make for the ideal theatre-chum. So with mates like these, even *I* can even bear a bit of panto.

But panto aside, I would say that my happiest times of the year are when I’m ensconced in a theatre seat. There’s just something about live performance – the cast of characters, the trepidation of wondering whether anyone will fluff their lines, whether their trousers will split, maybe someone will set off a fire-alarm etc – that for me makes theatre worth every penny; far and above being pinned into some crap, chain cinema seat whilst your eardrums are blasted by the OTT sound effects.

This year, I’ve been dragging my beloveds to productions by Northern Broadsides and dear old Huddersfield Thespians. Not to mention the other am-dram societies. I certainly can’t moan about the quality and experience of any of the above (and oh… ‘the Broadsiders did a bazzin’ job of JB Priestley’s ‘When We Are Married’ – they really did) – but even if you do spend a few quid on something which is not completely top banana and you ain’t that impressed, why not swivel your head a bit and start noticing the faces of your fellow theatre go-ers? It really is a different experience to watching the gawpy expressions that people adopt when faced with a screen.

But of course, don’t take a cynic with you. Or a critic. Or someone who has any kind of literary pretensions. Take a straightforward, uncomplicated person who will just be grateful that you thrust a bag of sherbet lemons in their general direction. I took my husband to the last performance and he’s from Birmingham. So it worked out really well for everyone concerned.

Mind you – having said that, he also hates panto. About four years ago we happened to win a family ticket to a panto in Halifax. And the two of us felt this terrible, overriding compulsion to leave. Which we did – during the interval. We told the kids that;  “it’s finished now. Wasn’t that nice?”

The drive back to Huddersfield consisted of the older child saying to her little brother; “You know, Sleeping Beauty was supposed to wake up at some point. I hate it when they change the stories.”


Dream on, girl. We can't be arsed to stay for any more of this stuff.

Dream on, girl. We can’t be bothered to stay for any more of this stuff.


The Gadgets of The Gods

14 Apr

And here’s where I reveal the secrets that keep our home ticking over smoothly … that ensure that life in our household makes the Werther’s Original advert look like an episode of Shameless.

Welcome to various items that I think on ever-so fondly as ‘My Precioussssss’. Forget ‘What Not To Buy’ – HERE is where you should be investing your coppers;

battery charger

Does what it says on the tin.

The Battery Tester
Nah – not the industrial sized car battery tester; rather, the itsy bitsy ‘check if your Duracell battery truly is as dead as a donut, or if it’s *actually* that your son has – yet again – broken an electronic item.’ I bought this over a decade ago and it’s never failed me yet. It’s easy to use, has a nice old-fashioned little meter on it and – ironically – you don’t even need a battery for it. Go buy!


Chops stuff. Lets off parental rage-steam too.

The Pampered Chef Chopper
A much better parent, cook, partner, friend and all round nicer person than me recommended that I purchase this some 8 years ago. I thought that she was taking the mickey. I mean – twenty quid for something that chops stuff up? Like I even have the *time* to make freshly prepared, healthy and nutritious food? Like I even have the will to stand in the kitchen a-cooking? Like I even have the kind of kids that would eat such stuff? But I stand corrected. It has served me well. It chops like a bugger and has ensured that my kids have eaten every vegetable under the sun (even if one of them still harbours the delusion that she only eats carrots and sweetcorn). Plus it beats the bottle bank every time for when you want to smash and pound and whack something really hard in order to get that pent up aggression out of yourself.

Crawling Insect Trap/ Flypaper/ Spider repellant

Yeah yeah yeah – generally I KNOW that it’s rotten to kill a spider – but you ain’t seen the size of the evil critters that live in 18th Century built homes. So I always *do* try and catch and then liberate them in the kids’ toothbrushing mugs BUT on the occasion where I fail, I like to know that the more sizeable sods will get nabbed by the insect trap.spider trap And come the warmer months, I do prefer to use good old fashioned flypaper as opposed to nasty chemical sprays. Plus, if you catch enough flies you can put a few of the strips together and create an interesting looking wallpaper for your 8 year old son’s room.
And most recently after the success with the sonic mouse repellant, I’ve invested in the same kind of gadget for the spiders. Seems kinder than the sticky old trap, somehow.

The Little Book Holder

book hol

Love this fella.

Another purchase that I felt dubious about – but these days I’m hooked on such implements. I’ve blogged before about the fact that until the day that I die, I’ll never abandon paperbacks in favour of the Kindle. And whether I’m sweating my bits off at the gym, or lazing around on a Caribbean beach (did you hear hollow laughter re. the latter?) – well, this little item is just a weensy piece of plastic marvel. Engineering design and precision at its best.

earplugs coloured

Drowning out irritating people since 1991.

I’ve been hooked on earplugs ever since University when – girly swot that I am – I couldn’t stand any longer to listen to those hedonistic cretins singing along to D-Ream down the corridor from me at 2am. Don’t tell the Smug-Parenting Lobby, but I’ve used these through nursing two babies (oh, the times that my partner has had to elbow me in the ribs and say; ‘it’s crying! It needs feeding!’) And now sadly, I cannot sleep without them. I even keep a spare pair in the car in case of ever having the opportunity to get an extra couple of minutes kip.

The Tangle Teezer

It might even work on dogs.

It might even work on dogs.

My mum claims that she can’t even remember buying this for me (‘Oh it was probably something I forgot to put into the shoebox appeal stuff and just gave you instead.’) And again – something I was very dubious about. I’ve got long, stupidly thick hair and it takes quite a bit to get the knots out. But don’t let the appearance of the Tangle Teezer deceive you. It may look like a cheap buy from a pound store, but it’s ruddy, ruddy GOOD. Of a morning in our bathroom, me and the daughter have been known to resort to fisticuffs over it.

The Spectacles

It was a long, hard adolescence for me.

It was a long, hard adolescence for me.

I’d be lost without my specs or my contact lenses. Literally. I’m borderline disabled with my myopia and I aim to blog a bit more about this later on. But for now, those spectacles rule! So,
don’t nick ’em, don’t tread on ’em and please don’t call me Speccy Four Eyes or Deirdre Barlow (oh the pain of being a spec-wearer in the 80s…it scarred me for life, I tell you.)

The Aloe Vera
Not so much a gadget, but I wouldn’t live in a home without one. Why? Because they are nature’s little way of helping us with minor burns and scalds. Sure, stick the afflicted area under the cold water tap, but you can always zap it with a bit of broken off aloe vera. Has never failed me yet.
(As for the gnomes. Well. They’re a bit useless aren’t they? But every home should have them too, methinks.)

It's all about the plant. The gnomes are my tasteful decorations.

It’s all about the plant. The gnomes are my tasteful decorations.


What TO Buy. (In the Name of Poor Wee Mickey.)

29 Feb

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m the kind of gal who hardly fits the stereotype of ‘possesses female biological bits. Must love shopping.’ Indeed no. Can’t abide the activity.

And yet when I heard that a good pal/colleague of mine; international coffee and barista expert, Paul Meikle Janney, had just appeared on a BBC 2 show entitled ‘What NOT To Buy’ I was somewhat intrigued.

Because at the same time that the programme was broadcast, my own little household were engaged in a war of words appertaining to a certain device that has featured in our house for some time. Such as… was this particular item useful? Deemed to be a successful buy? Or was it indeed, a total and utter pile of tosh. I began to wonder what readers and fellow bloggers might have to say about their own household Naughties and Nicies, in terms of gadgety-purchases.

So for this blog and for the next one, I’m going to attempt to address these issues and will also some of my own personal favourite ‘Must Haves.’

But to begin with, let’s go for the item that caused the minor domestic between us:

The Humane Mouse Trap

Saves heartache? Or causes hassle.

Saves heartache? Or causes hassle.

If you’re fortunate (or stupid) enough to live in a house that happens to be faced with a load of cows at the front of it and also has to contend with a flock of sheep at the back – you’re more than likely to have to entertain the odd mate of Mickey during the nippier months. The countryside is a bugger for that. Now, the smaller rodents don’t freak me out too much (I once caught a mouse with my bare hands actually. Well – I scooped the dratted thing up in my little lad’s Iron Man costume. Which he – rather ungratefully – refused to wear again afterwards, until I had washed it) but I’m not totally laissez-faire about living in a vermin ridden residence, so yeah. Mouse traps might well be required eh?

However, the man what lives with us happens to have some big issue with the thought of squishing the blood and smashing the guts out of the little blighters. And fair do’s. I mean, I wouldn’t have a problem with this stance on things *IF* the guy was a vegetarian or a pacifist or a Buddist or something. But no. He is in fact, the son of a butcher. Spent his youth chopping up limbs and the like during the 80’s with his father. And dietary wise, he also happens to worship his red meat. Will be developing gout any time soon, no doubt. And yet he wants to have mercy. He wants to give pardon to those filthy-dirty-nasty little mice that to scamper in and around our family home and that rip apart the clothes that I’ve stockpiled in the loft for the kiddies in dozens of carefully labelled-by-age-and-size boxes (‘just so you know dear – these boxes of stuff in the attic mean that … if I happen to get run over by a bus any time soon – you won’t ever have to buy clothes for the kids again. Not that you ever did anyway.’)

But I like to humour his little whims. So I purchased several ‘humane’ mouse traps. If you aren’t familiar with them, this is how it works; you place a yummmy snack in the bottom of the trap (peanut butter and chocolate combo works best) – and when the mouse enters the rectangular tube, the tunnel snaps shut on them. Harmlessly sealing them in there until you arrive. What you have to do then though, is to take them at least 1 mile away from your house in order to release them – as the little swines are clever at sniffing out the same preferred nooks and crannies again.

Sounds great doesn’t it? And perhaps it IS a wonderful little invention in the hands of some individuals. But not in the mitts of my other half; the man who has been charged with checking the traps. Because so far we have had the following issues:

        Mouse Incident No.1

– Caught 2 mice which husband duly drove away down a long country lane for release. But the 3rd rodent captured during this spate must have been Mighty Mouse. Because it actually managed to chew through hardcore plastic in order to liberate itself. (Impressive stuff. Perhaps indeed, this was the dude that later I had to catch whilst grabbing him with our Marvel superhero costume. Would make sense.) So I then went onto purchase trap number 2.

A clever mouse managed to chew through our trap...

A clever mouse managed to chew through our trap…

        Mouse Incident No.2

– Caught mouse in the trap. Fella drove it down the country lane. Arrived back home 5 minutes later with a look of abject horror on his face. He goes; “I … let it go free. Placed it at the back of the car next to the field. I had to reverse quickly as I was blocking the entrance to the road. But… I thought it would scamper away. They usually do. So I just assumed that it had done … And …”
I got the drift; “And… you reversed over it. Oh dear.”

He told me off for laughing. But I defy you not to.

        Mouse Incident No.3

– Caught mouse in trap. Fella drove it down the country lane. Arrived back home 5 minutes later with another look of abject horror on his face. “I … let it go. And this time it moved – but as I was pulling away in the car I saw a kestrel swoop down right on top of it.”

        Mouse Incident No. 4
dead mouse

My mummified mouse was in far worse condition than this one.

– As I mentioned above, I’m quite happy to catch mice with the aid of polyester dressing-up outfits. But inexplicably, I don’t like checking to see if they’re in the trap or not. So anyway, there I was adding some ‘Girl Aged 12-14 yrs’ clothes to the OCD-esque hoard in the loft and I noticed the trap nearby. I gave it a rattle to check there was no scrabbling inside. And took it downstairs to wash it out. Only to discover a mummified mouse.

Now as I said, I’m really not the squeamish sort – but this little revelation very nearly caused me to throw up onto the shag-pile. Not because of the smell or the shock or anything. But simply because of the look on it’s poor little face. What a way to die. Like some sort of Yorkshire version of an Edgar Allen Poe horror-story.

I mean, for God’s sake! If you’re going to insist on human traps – then at least bloody well check them every day. Or clean them and keep them out of the way of mice who want to experience the worst possible method of death. Or fix a little bell to the outside of the trap so that Missy Mouse can mimic the medieval practice of ringing for attention, should a corpse have unwittingly been buried alive.

Far, far better to have bludgeoned it with a rolling pin or summat, I’m beginning to think.

Anyway. I still haven’t learned my own lesson. I’m still pandering to his strange whims. The other day a friend told me all about these plug-in devices that send out high frequencies that rodents hate, thus deterring them from entering your home. So yeah, I bought one and yeah, so far so good.

Jury's still out on this one.

Jury’s still out on this one.

Although the kid’s hamster seems to have been acting even more like a bit of a lunatic recently. So perhaps I need to Go-Google why that might be.


If you’re interested, read more about Paul M-J, BBC 2 and what coffee brewing equipment you SHOULDN’T buy here:

I Don’t Bring Me Flowers.

14 Jan

“Hey Mum! Dad’s home and looks like he’s bought you some flowers!”

It’s been a long and hard few weeks. To say the least. Dishwasher died just before Christmas. Okay – the least of my worries, but bloody annoying nonetheless. Although I’ve been putting on a brave face. I’ve been trying to *pretend* that I don’t mind spending hours and hours chained to the kitchen sink in addition to all of the other millions of things that I do in life. Telling myself stuff along the lines of … chatting to the kids whilst they eat their tea and do their homework is ‘bonding.’ Reassuring myself that forcing them to put away the clean dishes is ‘promoting a sense of responsibility.’

But in truth, it’s been yet another big pain in the arse. And it came hot on the heels of the central heating packing up, the leaking chimney stack and the car needing several hundred more spending on it than we anticipated.

Still, it seems that my other half must have clocked that I was looking even more in need of botox than I normally do. Seemed that he’d picked up on the grottier than usual passive-aggressive remarks emanating from me. And had chosen to bring a smile to my lips by way of floral-treat.

I looked away when he walked through the front door. Pretending that I didn’t know. Not wanting to spoil the little surprise that he had planned for me. And then the 7 year old piped up again; “Oooh, Dad – that’s a nice flower thing for Mum. It’ll cheer her up. She’s been a right miserable old bag.”

A Coffee Plant. A rare thing that gets the coffee-heads down at the Roastery all giddy. But ..?

Coffee. A v rare plant in the UK, that gets the coffee-heads down at the Roastery all a- giddy. But. Really ..?

But Father didn’t seem to hear what the kid was wittering on about. And minutes later, the fella still hadn’t presented me with them. Instead, he was busily engaged in his usual tea-time ritual, feretting about with the toaster, trying to sort his crumpets and jam out. And then I saw it. Right next to the toaster crouched ‘my flowers’.

Which were, in fact – a coffee plant.

Yes, yet again – my other half had brought his work home with him. Although usually it’s bags of freshly roasted coffee, labels and gripes about the giant coffee firms who treat farmers overseas like crap. But today it was the Real McCoy.

And our youngest – not the most discerning when it comes to noticing what flowers could and should look like – had mistaken the plant for a loving gesture aimed at Ma.

I expertly showed not the slightest smattering of disappointment. Instead, I said; “Why’ve you brought the coffee plant home?” In between gobfuls of crumpet he replied, “Too cold in the roastery right now. Need to keep it here.”

“Goodo,” I said. And then added, “Funny – when we saw you with something green and leafy coming through the door, the kids assumed that you had bought me flowers! Imagine that! Hilarious eh? Can’t remember the last time you…”

He gave me a look. “Well. You categorically told me never to buy you flowers again. Don’t you remember? You said that they were an empty-handed gesture and you preferred more meaningful presents as a way of apology. For any guilt-ridden feelings that I might be entertaining.”

I was rather incredulous when faced with this statement. “And you believed me?!” I replied.  Following it up with;”HOW long have we been married?”

Somebody loves me. ME! ME! ME!!!

Somebody loves me. ME! ME! ME!!!

But we left it at that. Probably served me right for being so convincing when I’ve got a bee in my bonnet over something.

Anyway. The whole point of this blog is more about what transpired the next day. I happened to be trundling around Morrisons, when I noticed a rather forlorn looking bunch of roses. Reduced to less than a quid.

It suddenly occurred to me that I have never – ever – bought flowers for myself.  Not because I judge people who engage in such frippery and tokenistic gestures as being shallow and simple-minded souls (if I *DID* think that – one of my bessie-mates, our Lesley would give me a good old fashioned Mancunian pow-slap in the chops, because she’s always spending her cash on floral tributes to herself.) Nah – I’ve just never bought them for myself because it had never occurred to me that I could. That I like flowers. That they perk your living room up a bit and that – for less than a quid – you’d be a bit of a berk to look a gift horse in the mouth. That you don’t need a partner, a child, a friend or *anyone else* in your life to do something nice for you. When you can do it for yourself. Liberation, sisters!

And it’s even more rewarding when, later on in the evening your other half gets home and comments; “Nice roses. Who bought you those?” And you get to screech back at him;


And when he resorts back yet again with the; “Well – you told me NOT to…” you can just cut him off at the pass and say;

“Oh go and talk to your coffee plant. I’m sure that it makes more sense than I do. And stick your crumpet in the toaster. Because that’s the only crumpet you’ll be getting, for a few weeks.”

A match made in heaven.

A match made in heaven. Aw. (Really)

Go Ask Your Mother… Or Even Better -Grill Your Granny

7 Sep

Do you know what an ‘inter-generational’ project is? Sounds riveting, eh?

But before you expire of boredom in anticipation of today’s little bloggy-offering, please let me reassure you that this whole ‘inter-generational project’ malarky truly IS something to write home about. That it genuinely IS something that should tickle all of our fancies.

You too - can find out about an older relatives smoking habits. (Although in this photo, our kid possesses a chocolate cigar.)

See below. You too – can find out about an older relatives smoking habits. (Although in this photo, our kid possesses a chocolate cigar.)

In the days of yore, we simply used to refer to such projects as ‘Hey – I have a grandparent. Aren’t they BRILLIANT!!!??!!!’ (Ref: ‘The Fast Show’. Go Google.)

But I don’t want to get too sarky about this side of things, because lots of us (for whatever reasons) have lacked older relatives in our lives. For instance, the folk whom we could rightly claim as our own grandparents and older aunties and uncles, could have passed away when we were just wee nippers. Or maybe family breakdown meant that through no fault of our own, we were estranged from our parent’s parents.

Or perhaps even, those so-called Elders n’ Betters actually turned out to be drunken old lushes who had buggered off with a toy boy named Gazza to the Costa Del Sol (and that was just your Grandad…)

Inter-generational learning about growing up to be a Fag Ash Lil...

Inter-generational learning about growing up to become ‘a Fag Ash Lil’…

Anyways. In recognition of this – and of the fact that so many kids and young people today lack older role models in their lives, I’ve always loved creating and getting involved with such inter-generational projects. The first one that I ever heard about was run by a local community group in Gorton, Manchester. Teens who were having a tough time in life were taught how to do ‘hand-massage’ and were partnered with elderly folk in the area. As yon teen massaged the hand of an older buddy, they both got to know one another better, they traded experiences of dwelling in a (sometimes tough-to-live-in and to-grow-up-in area) and yup… you can just imagine. The youth received some great pearls of wisdom in life, made new ‘mates’… and the older ones who had lent their hands (and their heads) said that the whole project made them feel ‘less lonely’ and ‘more useful to the young people in our area.’

One of my all-time favourite inter-generational projects took place a few years ago, when I lived and worked in the Kalahari in Namibia. Whilst out there,  I trained San Bushmen youth to interview and record the words and lives of their elders. Not only did the kids find out startling new information in relation to how their ancestors used to live – before these amazing indigenous folk were kicked off their homelands – but the project also led to much improved relationships between old and young, heralding a revival in bushmen culture (the youth learning the traditional dances, the methods of hunting and gathering, the history etc. of their elders.)

The book I produced as a result of the San inter-generational project.

A wee book I produced as a result of the San inter-generational project.

It was startling that the San bushmen youth and elders often lived in the same one-roomed shack, but still knew very little about the histories of the elders. And yet… isn’t this something that we’re all guilty of?

I consider myself to be fortunate. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that my family are an unusual blend of working-class white and Pakistani-British muslim origin. Over the last two decades – collectively – we have had to overcome plenty of prejudice and bigotry (and I’m not even referring to the poor, discriminated-against Brummie contingent.) So we talk a lot. More than most families, probably.

But even then, we haven’t spent enough ‘getting to know you’ time together. And there has been a huge element of taking the grandpees (as we call them) for granted. Just ask my own Ma about the fact that she and I rarely get time to have a proper natter – because when we do speak to each other, it’s all about the littlies – the dates, the change of dates (yeh-soz Mum), the music lessons, the allergies, the tantrums, the sleeping arrangements, the bargain buys at Boyes in Ilkley and the Panto-tickets. It seems that the generation above us – and us grown-up parents, never get round to simply passing the time of day, talking about the past, mulling over not-so small matters such as Life n’ Death.

Sure, if you’re into your history as I am, you can take all of this ‘missed info’ stuff rather seriously. Urged on by the best Professor of History in the world (Carl Chinn) back in my university days, I actually recorded an interview with my own Granny. I unearthed some fascinating stuff (Gran was once wooed by a certain young Mr Cadbury, whilst she happened to be on her hols in Llandudno…) but you don’t have to be as organised as I, weirdy, nerdy-teen,  clearly happened to be.

Granny in the beret on Llandudno pier. Legging it from multi-millionaire choco-magnate. Like you do.

My Granny (in the beret) on Llandudno pier. Legging it from the advances of a multi-millionaire choco-magnate. As you do.

Because this is where the informal inter-generational project perhaps needs to be considered a bit more by all of us. I was reminded of this the other day when my ten year old informed me of a startling new nugget of information;

GIRL: Mum, did you know how you came to be called ‘Christina’?

ME: Well – yeah. I think Grandma just liked the sound of it.

GIRL: Oh no. It wasn’t like that. You weren’t given your name straight away. Grandad told me.

ME: Well… I know that I wasn’t ‘Christina’ straight away. I know that my hospital tag only had my surname on it. And I do remember seeing a few ‘arrival of new baby’ cards that referred to me as ‘Baby Jennifer.’ So they obviously changed their minds about plumping for that one.

GIRL: Well I know why and how it all happened. About two days after they brought you home from the hospital and thought you would probably be called ‘Jennifer’, the phone rang and Grandad answered it. A drunken man asked for ‘Christina.’  Grandad told the bloke that no one called that name lived there.

ME: Oh.

GIRL: Yes – then – the next night, at exactly the same time – the drunken man rang again and asked for ‘Christina.’ Again. And Grandad said the same thing. No one here called that.  And then when he hung up he said to Grandma ‘Actually – that’s a nice name isn’t it?’ And so they decided finally on your name and registered you with that name – and all of that.

ME: Great. So I was named as the result of a drunken, telephone mis-dialling phenomenon?

GIRL: Yeah! Cool eh?

nana and us babies

My Nana nurses me. My brother was probably hankering after Nana’s pink turban. Ah…the days when hats really *were* hats eh?

But this daft ‘your namesake’ new little revelation of mine reminded me of another ‘inter-generational’ discovery. Sadly, my own Nana died as a result of suffering with terrible dementia. For the last year or so of her life, her conversation made very little sense to most people. But as her granddaughter – it was perhaps easier for me than for others – to listen to her words and to try and find the meaning behind them.

But for Nana’s own daughters it must have been terribly too painful and too frustrating for them to listen to. (And if you’ve ever been through this, you’ll know that nursing a relative or friend through dementia is one of the most heartbreaking experiences in the world. This is truly a case in point where a generation-removed is sometimes a ‘balm for the soul.’)

A year or so after Nana had died – thanks to my dad’s renewed interest in family history – my mother informed me that she had just discovered that her Grandad had died in the Great War. Mum hadn’t known about this at all (because Nana’s mother had remarried when she was only small, so my mother had grown up only hearing about the stepfather in the family.)

AND YET – GOBBY GIRL HERE – already knew about this.


“But I already knew this, Mum,” I said when she told me about the fact that my dad had even discovered Great-Grandad’s war grave.  “Nana told me a few months before she died. An entire tale about how she met him when she was tiny and he was just back home on leave from the war. Wearing his uniform.”

Samuel Hight's grave 1 sml

When she finally knew where her Grandad was buried, mum left a photo of his family next on top of his war grave in Flanders.

This this little case study of course, marked a far more emotional inter-generational revelation than my recent discovery of the drunken phone conversation. And it also culminated in my parents going to visit my Great Grandad’s war grave in Flanders. Serious, heart-rending and important stuff can be uncovered – if we just listen to each other a bit more, between the generations. If I had thought to have mentioned this to my own mum before Nana died… perhaps we could have mentioned it to her more in her last few weeks and…

But no point in dwelling on it.

And on a lighter note,  as well as being the recipients of previously unheard-of information, the younger generations can also inform their elders of stuff that they might not be aware of. Or ‘grass us parents up,’ if you like. My daughter told me last week; “Grandad had no idea that you once chucked a tin of baked beans at Uncle Steven’s head. And that you always tried to get *your own brother into trouble* all of the time –  by sneaking into his room and turning the dial up on his stereo and leaving empty crisp packets filled with water on his floor.”

kung fu fighting

Thanks to my kids, my own folks are more aware of the Kung Fu fighting that went on when *their* backs were turned.

And then the titbits that you feed your own kids about what the grandpees revealed to you about their childhoods, can come back and bite the grandparent’s bums… (“Mum – Grandad tried to tell me off for punching my brother but then I said that he had no right to, because back in the 1950s he once hit another kid over the head with a shovel-handle.”)

So the moral of the tale is to keep that dialogue flowing between the budding youth and the oldies. Between ALL of us really. Or you can do as my mother-in-law has done, write down your life story and self-publish it – ensuring that your nearest and dearest find out about the bits that you may never have gotten round to sharing (although a very elderly friend of mine has done the same but has a lot more scandal to share and has therefore neatly typed out her life story and it remains under lock and key until she shuffles off this mortal coil.)

Go on Grandpa. Dish the dirt on what a miserable little swine our Dad was...

Go on Grandpa. Dish the dirt on what a miserable little swine our Dad was…

Inter-generational questioning of one another however,  can cause a bit of embarrassment. It might be pertinent for example, to advise the younger generation that it ain’t clever to grill your grandparents about their sex life (as a slap round the chops can often offend.) So diplomacy should always rule the day when interviewing your elders, my dears…

But if anyone- ANYONE – out there happens to know of a chappy who used to be rather sozzled during the 1970’s and who had a lady-friend called ‘Christina’ – you will give me a tinkle, won’t you?

Because it could be the last piece of my own inter-generational puzzle…

Teddy Boy-Dad. Apparently he had 'come to bed eyes'. But these days Mum says its in order to test the new electric blanket he got from Aldi.

My Teddy Boy-Dad once told me that “the girls always said that I had ‘come to bed eyes.'” And I’m all for trading stories Pops, but let’s leave it at that. Eh?

No Iron Age. No Iron Lady.

28 Jun

The Kid (aged 7) mooched into the room. He took one look at me and shrieked “Muvvah!” (yes…that’s how he refers to me – he listens non-stop to Just William audiobooks as read by Martin Jarvis.) And then he goes;

“Hey, Muvvah! What on Erf are you DOIN?”

I felt a little bit disgruntled. Knocked off-kilter. So I said (somewhat defensively.)

“I’m ironing.”   And he replied;

It might look vintage. But it's not-cool.

It might look vintage. But it’s not-cool.

“Wow. No. Really? That’s so weird!”   So I answered; “Why? What’s the problem?” and then the laddie came out with;

“Well. I’ve never seen you do that….fing before! How do you know how to DO it? Make the iron actually WORK. Like. I didn’t know that you could *use* it.  I mean – Grandma does it all of the time. But how do you know…how to work it? And where do you hide that… Iron-fing? And the funny table-fing what you use it on? I ain’t never seen it, Muvvah.”

But I’m not too ashamed of my lack of ironing prowess. In fact, some more sharp-as-a-knife crease obsessed pals of mine have accused me of being perversely proud of the fact that over a period of the last 12 months, I have plugged the iron in just twice (and yes, have ironed 2 items only.)

So please believe me, that there are a number of VERY valid reasons for my ironing-impotence:

1) Time. I don’t have much of it. And the precious few minutes that I do have, I refuse to waste – hunched up over an ironing board.

Another Iron Lady whose examples we do not need to follow...

Another Iron Lady whose examples we do not need to follow…

2) Scruffiness. That’s me. That’s my family. Like it or lump it.

3) Aspiration/Class. I’ve experienced enough of such misled working-class aspirations to know that the phrase ‘Oooh and her children are ever so nicely turned out’ is simply a way of keeping the masses chained to an ironing board (especially the women-folk.) In fact, the filthy-rich sorts; the uber-confident types that I’ve encountered across the world – couldn’t give a rat’s ass if their t-shirt looks like it fell down the back of a radiator for several months. So if it’s good enough for the likes of them…

4) My son. He has a strange fascination with anything that borders on the hot/flammable/dangerous.  Keep the hissing red-hot steam electrical products hidden well away from the little varmint, I say.

5) Domestic workers/ Cleaners. Similar to point (3). When  I first moved to Namibia, the more fortunate women of the poor in society, that I lived and worked alongside there –  considered themselves to be lucky to have landed a job as ‘a domestic.’ And these women had standards and dignity in spades. In fact, they held such a fierce pride in their ironing and knicker-folding ability, that it put me off fannying around with ironing boards for life.  They felt sorry for me – for my inability to do anything remotely impressive on the domestic front. They even mocked me and said stuff like “Aw Christina – did your Mama never teach you to peg out your washing nicely? Naughty Christina’s Mama!”  (traumatised by this, I am. Traumatised.)

6) ‘No Need To Iron Material!’  Especially the fact that you can now buy school uniform made out of this clever-cloth. So, nuff said. I mean – why *would* you even bother? My two tykes couldn’t give a monkey’s if their skirt or shirt is screwed up to buggery. Okay – once they turn 13 or 14, they might start to care a bit more – when some stuck-up, appearance-obsessed little twerp at the local high school tries to have a bit of a pop at them. And so, when/if that ever becomes the case, my kids can sodding well iron their own. And no, they will not be receiving a financial reward/incentive for such actions.

7) Men and Shirts.  See the last sentence above. He can, he always has and believe you-me; he always will.

sad man, ironing board, wash clothing and iron, isolated

You know that he loves it really…

8) The coolest people that I know don’t even OWN an iron.  These people are my role models. They also tend not to own hair dryers, hair straighteners or those funny little vacuum cleaners for the car (I know! How the hell do they manage? Bloody eccentrics.)

So as a constant reminder to me – never to back down on the Me No-Iron vow, one of my favourite artifacts that takes pride of place in my home, is the little beauty in the photos below.  Ironing is hateful enough when you’ve got the latest state of the artTefal model which promises to rattle through even your most hardcore ruffles at the speed of lightning – but can you imagine what it used to be like? What the experience was like for the women who lived less than a hundred years ago? Having to shove these heavy as hell things onto a range (if you were lucky enough to have one), to wait for it to heat up and then totry and minimise the dirt, the soot and the perils of it accidentally falling onto your husband’s head?

They don't make 'em like this anymore. (So we're supposed to be grateful.)

They don’t make ’em like this anymore. (So we’re supposed to be grateful.)

No. We owe it to oppressed people all over the world to sling the damned iron and the ironing board in the nearest skip.

(And if you respond to this blog and tell me that you actually ENJOY ironing, then that’s fine. Horses for courses.  I mean,  I quite like cleaning my children’s ears out with a cotton-wool bud, but I realise that it doesn’t tickle everyone’s fancy.)

Feel free to chuck this at the nearest person who makes you feel that you *should* iron...

Feel free to chuck this at the nearest person who makes you feel that you *should* iron…