One thing that I do a lot is to think of my Mum.  She should have had so many more opportunities in life but she didn't because of ill health.  However, she always encouraged myself and my sister to be ourselves.  I didn't deal with that too well when I was younger but the hindsight afforded to age and experience is amazing, isn't it?  What you may not know is that Mum was a writer.  Not a published writer, but she had potential.  She tended to use her writing skills to enter competitions, write greetings cards inserts and create personal poems for special occasions.  Because I was feeling a bit lost this week, I went upstairs to a drawer under my bed where I keep all my 'special treasures' and pulled out a folder where I have stored of some of her unfinished pieces.  I found this (unedited):

If my father had been a more forceful character I would have entered this world as Arlene or Dolores, his favourite names at that time.  Thankfully, my mother's choice won the day and I was christened Linda.  It was the second most popular girls name in 1950 and my mother was always clued up on the fads of the day.  Even though money was in short supply, her hemline was always in fashion.

My parents, Tom and Peggy, were a loving, hard working couple who were lucky enough to obtain a new, ground floor, council flat on a small estate in St Annes.  In those days, just after the Second World War, it was a prized possession.  All the tenants took pride in their properties.  Windows shone, steps were scrubbed and gardens were tidy and cared for.  No-one locked their doors for there was nothing to fear.   The war was over and everyone was rebuilding their lives.

I was an only child, but I never felt lonely or isolated.  I had friends in the neighbouring houses, I was loved by my family and until the age of six, life had seemed idyllic.  It was at this stage in my childhood that I was to experience fear for the first time.

My mother was an Irish colleen, with raven hair and green eyes.  She had been brought to England at the age of fourteen by a well-to-do Aunt as a companion for her daughter.  She had never returned to live in Ireland again but had always kept in touch with her family.  One day a letter arrived to say that my grandfather, who was known throughout the family as 'Daddy Connell', had been taken ill and was not expected to survive.  So my mum and I embarked on our first big adventure together.  We went 'home' to the O'Connell clan.

We sailed from Liverpool to Dublin on the overnight crossing.  Unable to afford a cabin, we shared a couchette and a blanket and I encountered a drunken Irishman for the first time.  It was not to be the last.  
The sea was rough and the ship full to capacity.  I tried to get comfortable on the hard leather seat by snuggling up to my mother but, as the ship rolled with the swell of the sea, we had to cling onto the side to stop ourselves from falling off.  I felt sick and the droning of the engines and vibrations didn't help.  

I remember feeling utterly miserable and I wanted to go home.  It was at this point that the singing started.  A deep baritone voice somewhere out of sight.
"In Dublins fair city, where the girls are so pretty..."
I had heard the song often as it was one of my mother's favourites but the volume of the refrain and the power of the singer as he came into view was terrifying.  I hid beneath the blanket and risked an occasional peep.  he staggered alongside us, clutching a bottle of beer.  Each time he attempted to take a drink, the motion of the ship meant lips and bottle failed to connect and most of the contents spilled down his front.  He didn't seem to care.  I dare say his tank was already full to capacity.  At the final "... alive, alive, oh!" he slid down the wall and slumped unconscious onto the floor.  I thought he was dead.
"Don't worry, Linda," she said, "he's harmless.  He's just looking forward to going home to Ireland."

It seemed I had a lot to learn about Ireland and its people.  Over the next few weeks I would be terrified by a Banshee, fetch water from the village pump, attend an Irish wake, learn to count to ten in Gaelic and drink Guinness in Finnigans bar.  It was not the ordered life I was used to but it was never boring.

So why have I decided to share this with you?  Well, the story is about an emotional experience and it is one that I never knew my mum had written.  It was tucked away in between two other pieces and a few magazine cuttings in a plastic pocket.  I only checked in there because I wanted to see if there were any more cuttings.  Was I meant to find it today?  I also wish she'd spoken about her (my) Irish roots more but she never did.  I want to know the rest of the story - what happened at the wake, what did she think of her first taste of Guinness, where did the Banshee come from?  But she's not here any more to answer those questions.  I was also surprised to see how similar our writing styles are.  I've found a lasting connection with Mum that no-one can take away from me.


I Hate Hayfever

I hate it.  Hate it, hate it, hate it!!!!  It has RUINED my weekend.  I have been sat out in the back yard for most of the last couple of days, trying to enjoy the sun, nibbling away on bits of food from the barbecue, watching my granddaughter splash about in the paddling pool and it has all been marred by the constant sneezing, eye-watering, itchiness that is hayfever.

Tell Us Your Story : Street to School

Tell Us Your Story is giving people the opportunity to recognise and reward others who have made a positive impact on their lives or in their community over the past year. Entries are submitted online at http://www.avivatellusyourstory.co.uk/
Launched by Aviva, for every entry they will donate £1 to the Street to School Programme - a global initiative with the aim of reaching 500,000 children worldwide, helping them get off the streets and back into education.



Today, I had an invitation to a very special fashion show and I was seated on the second row.  I was aware that the designers were new on the scene and that the audience members would be very exclusive for this premier presentation...

Aural Sex

It started with the muffled giggles wafting through the wall and I knew that I was in for an hour of unintentional voyeurism.  It was always the same when The Bloke from the next-door flat brought home his latest conquest.  It was a different one each week.  How did he do it?  Here I am - the right side of twenty-five, single, willing and able, yet in bed before eleven rather than tripping through the streets in town in ill-fitting stilettos and a skimpy dress.  All my mates had other plans or dates of their own tonight.   Where was I going wrong?

The Gallery : Creatures

The first ladybird of the year.  Not really amazing but we live in a very urban area and have no garden at all, so to see a ladybird at home is somewhat of a novelty.

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This blog post was submitted for the weekly Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.  This week's theme was 'Creatures'.  This digital art Gallery is all linked at Sticky Fingers and you can see all of this weeks entries >>> here <<<

Related Links:

Spanish Inquisition


LondonCityMum seems to want to know more about me and has asked me to demanded that I share the answers to her ten questions here on my blog.  

1. Name of your first pet?
I had an Abyssinian guinea pig called Cuddles (and my sister had a rabbit called Flopsy - they lived in a hutch together).  If this is a thinly veiled attempt to find out my porn star name then the street I lived on was Curzon Road.
First Pet Name + Childhood Street Name = Porn Star Name
"Cuddles Curzon"
I quite like that actually... hhmmm *ponders career change*

2. Your most delectable piece of lingerie?
Erm... lingerie is not my strong point.   It it's not grey then it's an achievement.  If it matches then it's a miracle.  If I'm wearing it in bed then it gets in the way.  I'm a lost cause, aren't I?  Maybe I should hint at some lingerie companies to kit me out?

3. Be a famous person for a day - who and why?
I would like to be Louie Spence.  I want to dance around London and not care in the slightest.  I can do jazz hands really well but I can't do the splits any more.

4. Your neighbour's dog chews up your prized, and very expensive, Manolos. What do you do?
Why would my neighbour's dog be chewing up my shoes?
Why would I have a pair of Manolos?

5. If you could only eat three things for the rest of your life, what would they be?
KFC boneless chicken
Chip butties (real chips, homemade)
New Jersey potatoes with butter
(I'd be the size of a house, wouldn't I?)

6. Caught speeding. How do you get out of it?
Not an issue... I'd be doing 88 mph and time-travelling, therefore un-catchable!

7. Secret crush as an adult?
It hasn't changed since I was about 12 years old.  Simon le Bon... *drool* and he IS one person who has got better with age.

8. Which side of the bed do you sleep on?
As I lie down, I am on the left hand side of the bed.

9. Tom Cruise: kiss, marry or send to live permanently with the Pope?
Tom Cruise in Cocktail/Top Gun/Vanilla Sky/Days of Thunder (delete as appropriate) - kiss.
Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's sofa, banging on about Scientology - send to live permanently with the Pope.
I wouldn't marry him.

10. Rudest word you have in your (child-free) vocabulary?
My kids are a lot older now so I'm allowed to say rude words in front of them without feeling much guilt.  In fact, they have taught me one or two...
* * *
OK, now time for my questions:
  1. Who is the most pointless celebrity, and why?
  2. If you had to take a random item to an interview to help describe you, what would it be?
  3. What is your favourite cartoon?
  4. If you could only listen to three pieces of music for the rest of your life, what would they be?
  5. What film would you have liked a staring role in?
  6. What, if anything, do you wear in bed?
  7. Favourite item of footwear?
  8. Look over your right shoulder.  What do you see?
  9. If you were a flavour of crisp, which flavour would you be and why?
  10. Twitter or Facebook?
And who shall be answering these questions?

*shines an interrogation light on...*

Catherine at Baby Genie
Paula at Dipping My Toe In 

(use my questions, make up 10 of your own... feel free to change the meme to suit yourself - it's a bit of fun at the end of the day)


Review: Lacing Beads

John Crane Lacing Beads

Photo Credit: John Crane Ltd
I was asked by the lovely people at John Crane Ltd to test one of their products with our chief tester of toddlers toys, Anticyclone Amie.  We were sent the Nature Lacing Beads (from their "Branching Out" range) which help develop thinking skills and encourage hand/eye coordination.  They are aimed at the 2+ age group but Amie is 18 months old and managed to handle the wooden pieces with ease.

The aim of the product is to thread brightly coloured, chunky wooden shapes onto the red lace.  This set was called the "Nature" set and includes eight smooth circular beads and seven shaped wooden pieces.   As you can see from the photograph the shapes are two leaves, two flowers, a butterfly, a snail, a ladybird and a bumblebee.  Each shape is 2cm thick (just the right thickness for toddler hands) and is smoothly carved and brightly painted in inviting primary colours.  There is a round hole through the centre of each wooden bead and the lace has a wooden threader securely attached at one end.

To stop the beads from falling off the end of the lace, I knotted the plain coloured bead to the end of the lace and Amie took great pleasure in tipping the beads off the lace as I threaded them on but eventually joined in the threading.  The tactility of the beads is very encouraging and inviting and Amie found them very easy to handle.  We also had a good chat about each of the shapes and the colours - this encouraged a dialogue between myself and Amie.

I can see this is going to become a firm favourite at Nana's house and the box provided is study enough to store the beads in for the foreseeable future.

You can find this, and more products, on the John Crane website (I love their tag line: "timeless designs to inspire young minds").

Pith Artist


Right Leg In, Right Leg Out

No, we're not doing the hokey cokey (although we might do at the end if you sit nicely and behave)... no, this post is about bedroom behaviour... oh bloody hell... I mean SLEEP!!

It's a hot summer night... (no, this is not that Meatloaf song) and you can't sleep.  You lie on the bed and cover yourself up... AARRGGHH it's too hot.  You fling the duvet back (narrowly missing your loved one's shoulder if you share the bed with someone) and sprawl out like a starfish, then you try lying on top of your duvet, then back on the sheet, tossing (don't be rude) and turning, flipping your pillow over to the cool side... and finally end up covered up with your duvet BUT with one leg uncovered, either hanging down by the side of the bed or hooked round the edge of the duvet.

Why, oh why is that just right?

A Quick HTML Lesson - Part 1

As much as I love the platform I use for my blog (Blogger), I was more than a little frustrated when any links that I included in my posts were opening in the same page, therefore taking my reader away from my article.  I want the link to give my readers some additional information but I also want to keep the reader at least until the end of the post, not send them off on some random journey around the World Wide Web.  I could point out here that the options available using 'right click' on the mouse show "open in new tab/window" but why does this need to be any more difficult that it already is.  Reading my blog is supposed to be enjoyable, not a lesson in CLAIT.  What was more frustrating was that in my role as contributor on two other blogs powered by Wordpress, I noticed that there was an option in the WYSIWYG* post editor on Wordpress for the facility I needed.


Glee - The End


If you haven't yet seen the final episode of Season 1 and want no hint of what happens then

You're still here?  Oh, OK then.  Let's groove!

If you follow me on Twitter you will have noticed that I may have made the odd remark commented rather a lot about Glee.  I was a bit nervous about the final episode, "Journey", as I'd got a little tired of seeing Rachel sing with her eyes shut with emotion and the story lines over the past few weeks had seemed to lack...  I don't know... something Gleeful?  There have been some fabulously genius moments like Artie's flashmob in the shopping mall...
... but, I digress.

My favourite bits:

  • Sue Sylvester mentioning her autobiography - "I'm A Winner And You're Fat" (rated: 4 tears of laughter)
  • Finn telling Rachel that he loves her and pursing his lips into a tiny air kiss before they went on stage (rated: 1 tear).
  • The way in which Quinn's labour/birth story was incorporated into Vocal Adrenaline's performance song.  REALLY clever (rated: buckets of tears).
  • The fact that New Directions didn't actually win.
  • Seeing Sue's choice on her voting slip (rated: one small gasp).
  • The song that the Glee Club sing collectively to Will back at school after the competition, including the reaction from Sue (rated: three tears).
  • Sue telling Will that if he didn't let go of her hand that she was "going to puke in his mouth"(rated: a real LOL moment).
  • Seeing who adopted Quinn's baby (rated: one large gasp).

Bit's I didn't enjoy:

  • The New Directions set list.  Not impressed at all to be honest (rated: three yawns).
  • The fact that Will and Emma didn't quite make it as a couple (rated: one roll of the eyes).
  • The song that Will sings at the end to the collective Glee club at the end.  Personal reasons only.  The fact that Puck was singing along too sort of made it bearable to watch/listen to (rated: two buckets of tears).

Glee.  Missing you already.  Roll on Season 2.

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Related Links:  Quotes from Sue Sylvester (work backwards from Page 12)



"And the award for the least-observant mother goes to..."

*drum roll*


Yesterday, Son #2 was attending a confidence boosting course (yes, I realise the irony in that - he's the least needy of this, isn't he?) to aid the transition from primary school to high school.  A packed lunch was needed - all with disposable packaging - so we headed to the corner shop for a carton of drink for him on the way to school.

I sent him in with a shiny £1 coin and he returned with two drinks in grey plastic bottles, sporting those flip-out spouts.  
"Two for a pound, mum.  Can I take the other one for rounders practise after school?"
I was re-tuning the radio, glanced over, saw the very innocent looking bottles,
"Yeah, sure, love. Quick, seatbelt on.  Let's get going!"
During the day, Kev got a phone call at home from Jake's teacher explaining that she has had to take Jake's drinks off him as she knows we are very careful regarding what food and drinks he has (his ADHD is controlled by diet, sports and praise, not medication).  He was hyped up to the eyeballs and uncontrollable.

It turns out that the drinks were caffeine-based energy drinks.  What was I thinking?  Why didn't I check the bottles?  At tea time he was still buzzing and couldn't sit still, jumping up every couple of minutes, putting a minuscule amount of salad cream on his plate to dip his potatoes into (don't ask!), over and over again, talking nineteen to the dozen, stumbling over his words because he couldn't talk fast enough, rocking from side to side (the one trait that we recognise when he is becoming hyper).

He didn't calm down until about 7.30pm, so that was about eight hours of buzzing.  Crap!  It's OK to make light about wishing you had energy like that but can you imagine having so much energy that you have to run and run and run and run until you get rid of it all?  Can you understand what it feels like to have so many words in your head that you can't speak them quick enough before you forget them?  No, me neither, but that is what I let happen to my little boy yesterday.

The Gallery : Motherhood

When I heard this weeks Gallery prompt I thought that I would step out of this one.  I don't have a recent photo of myself and my children together and there isn't anything that I have in my photo archives that really fits... until I saw this...  

This picture was taken on our last trip to Knowsley Safari Park and it completely embodies what Motherhood is to me.  It's a mother, protecting her baby from the invasion of strangers in their natural habitat - arms wrapped around her off-spring, stubbornly preventing the advancement of the strange objects, the snooty expression saying, "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!"  That is exactly how I feel about my babies (even though they are not babies any more).  I never want to be incapable of stepping in and protecting them and I think that emotion has become all the more stronger since I lost my own mum.  No-one's "make it all better" hug has come close and I miss that.

But when I do need a pick-me-up, I always turn to my Motherhood Survival Kit...

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This blog post was submitted for the weekly Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.  This week's theme was 'Motherhood'.  This digital art Gallery is all linked at Sticky Fingers and you can see all of this weeks entries >>> here <<<

Related Links:


The Wits - A New Park

Today I have a very special guest poster - my son, Jake.  I shall let him explain further.

* * *

Hello, I am Jake and I am 11 years old.  I want to tell you about the new park that has just opened near my house.  A man called Mohammed (from Blackburn Council) came to my school and asked all the children what they would like to build on a park if they were allowed to do anything.  We had to draw things and Mohammed picked the best ones.  My design was chosen as one of the best so Mohammed said I could be on the design committee.  We had to go to a special meeting each week and make proper designs for the new park.  My slide and my zip wire were chosen to be made.  The slide has ladders inside it and is a metal tube that goes down and round.  The zip wire is really fast if your friends push you on it.

The park has been built for a while but it was opened properly on Friday 11th June 2010.  Jack Straw (the Member of Parliament that came to our house before the Election) opened it and all the design helpers were asked to go to the park to watch.  It was very exciting to see that children were going to play on the equipment that I had helped to design.

It is really good on there now and I went with my mum and dad today to show them everything.  There are lots of things to climb on, sand pits, the zip wire and the big slide.  There are also nice areas for mums and dads to sit and watch.  If you are coming to Blackburn then you have to go and have a look.  It is on Witton Country Park, near the visitor centre and it is free to use.  I hope you like my photographs as well.


Jog On (A.K.A. "Cool Runnings")

Ok, maybe I am a tad optimistic but if I put my plans here then I've got to see them through, right?

Tonight, I will be attempting the first "workout" recommended by the experts on the "Couch To 5K" website:
A brisk five-minute warm-up walk then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.
That sounds do-able, doesn't it?

  • Brisk walk to the canal towpath = 5 minutes
  • Jogging and walking in one direction = 10 minutes
  • Jogging and walking in the other direction = 10 minutes
  • Brisk walk from the canal back home = 5 minutes

Rinse and repeat three times for one week (although I think I may do this for more than one week as my fitness levels are zero).  I should also look at getting some proper running shoes before I move onto the next stage.

I'm really not sure if this will work as I gave up running a long time ago but I've heard that a lot of people have tried this method with excellent results.  I don't have a goal so there is no pressure either.  I shall update you later...


I walked up to the canal, jogged and walked for about 6.5 minutes and realised that I still had to get back, so I turned around and headed home doing the same.  So that was a total of just under 13 minutes with a short brisk walk either side (approximately 3 minutes each) from and to home.  Total = 19 minutes.

Considering I've done no formal running training for over 20 years I'm bloody proud of myself!!  I don't mind admitting I'm knackered and never going again it was hard work and I probably set off walking too quickly which is why I got tired so quickly.

I'm going to have another go on Sunday.  I ran the length of three bridges on the canal so I know exactly how far I got.  I'll try and go further before turning around next time.

Picture Credit:  Google Images

Cancer - Your Story : Goodbye Mam

Editors note:  This is Ffion's story - the fourth in a series that I have called "Cancer - Your Story".  If you are interested in sharing your story please click on the link and contact me.

Related Links:
Ffion at BareNakedMummy (Blog)
@BareNakedMummy(Ffion/BNM on Twitter)
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt - Pink Sherbert Photography

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This post was first published on my blog: Barenakedmummy for a Writing Workshop. Since then I have managed to finish and update it as best as my memory will let me. Going back to the day we lost her was hard but also helped me a great deal. To friends who know my blog and read me, it bought back memories of her that will remain in our hearts forever. I have added two pics which make me smile, the first of you posing in a mad way - showing off your 'child rearing hips' as you used to call them, the second is from that first meeting when you flirted with my dear husband, your wedding anniversary. Two pics that may not be say much to you, but to me make me smile and hurt so much.  

This is a blog post which I have started so many times, and never managed to finish it so here goes.... 

You lay there indignant that you weren't going for further treatment.
"They won't send me you know - they say I'm not well".
I asked you how you were (the answer I knew so well - you had days to live, you weren't going for the treatment as there was no point- it had spread into every organ)
"What do you think" was the answer you sharply snapped back at me -I wondered if you knew, if you'd picked up some hint from the doctors who had told us!

I sat down quietly next to you and apologised. My brother came in - we sat in silent together until your breathing got worse and they had to put an oxygen mask over your head and up the morphine.

You kept on asking "Where's T (my dad)" and the answer I gave time and time again that evening was "He's on the train -he'll be back now". He hadn't wanted to go on his conference but you on one of the stubborn streaks (that I have inherited) had told him he had to because there was nothing wrong with you and you were going to the other hospital for treatment.

As you got worse, my brother hung on - where's dad, where is he - will he make it? I stayed strong for him and you then - letting you both know that he was on his way. (He was stuck due to a train problem and was slowly on his way back).

Tears were running down my face, as I held on to you and to my brother. You were fading away in front of us - the strong lady that I looked up to. You held on for what seemed like an eternity and then dad rushed in.
He came up to you - put his arms around you and held you. I can't remember if you whispered his name - (many moments of that day are blacked out in my mind) but you waited until he was in that room before you passed on. 

We held my dad as you left us, departed the life that had been so good and yet health wise so bad for you. 

The arthritis which never beat you, it made you waddle and you always joked that if we shook you you'd rattle! And then the breast cancer which you fought so hard the first time and after a mastectomy we thought you'd won - the all clear had been given. But then it came back with a vengeance and you said you had no power to fight it anymore, but you did until it spread into every organ. 

I don't remember how I got home that night but we did. I walked into your room and sat there unsure of what to do. I remember the funeral director coming to talk to us but not what he said. A neighbour brought condolences, cake and flowers in a dog bowl which we know you'd have laughed at.

The day of your funeral arrived and you'd have been shocked to see the mass of people who were there. We pulled up in the funeral car and the driver had to get out and move them. It was full; you never knew how many people you'd touched in your life. Your friends, work colleagues and people whose life you'd touched in some way. The crematorium was full and there were a mass of people outside sharing in our grief. My grief is still raw now as I remember that day when you disappeared behind those curtains - I can no longer watch a funeral on tv or go to one without remembering that day. 

But we made it through, somehow with some unknown strength we all made it, me, Dad and my brother. If it wasn't for Neb (who you'd met and flirted with on first meeting him, I wouldn't have made it). My godmother (your best friend) still misses you madly and I've taken over your role of keeping her up as best as I can. 

You never saw me or my brother marry, never met my children or my brothers newborn, your three gorgeous granddaughters. The hurt of your parting is as strong now as it always has been. I wish that your body had fought harder but as you used to say "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride". 

Caru ti Mam
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