Posted in Family, Personal life, Writing

History is Relative

How long ago does something have to take place before you consider it to be history?

Netflix logo
Getting our fix on a Sunday night

Last night, my eleven-year-old daughter and I were watching Oliver and Company, an old Disney film on our newly-acquired Netflix. Based loosely (very loosely) on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, it was one that neither of us had seen before, most likely because it was made at a time when I was way too old to be following the studio’s output, and before Laura was even born. Continue reading “History is Relative”

Posted in Family, Personal life

The Circle of Hawkesbury Life

Stepping out with my daughter
Stepping out with my daughter

A post about volunteering to help at the village youth club

This article was written for the May 2014 edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News, our local community news magazine

This month I’ll be resuming my role as helper at the village youth group, a role I gave up 13 years ago, having helped found the club in the 1990s.

At that time, I was married to my late husband John Green. If you didn’t know him personally, his name will be familiar if you have ever sat on the red bench in the playpark, bought to commemorate him by the youth group after his premature death from leukaemia just after the turn of the millennium.

I never dreamed in those days that more than a decade later, I’d not only be returning to the youth group, but also taking with me my daughter from my second marriage, who this term hits the important 11th birthday that qualifies children to join.

I wasn’t sure when to tell Laura that I’d been married before, but I was spared the task when, at the age of 6, she came home from a trip to the playpark with her dad and announced contentedly: “I’ve just sat on your dead husband’s bench”.

Reading names on the war memorial and other historic sites around the village, and realising their descendants still flourish in the village, is a great reminder of the circle of life, and a comfort, whatever age you are. I’m looking forward to taking my place further down the line with the Evergreens*, but for now, I’m sticking with the youth group, and telling myself I’ll be forever Young.

*The village club for retired people

This post was originally written for the Hawkesbury Parish News, May 2014 issue

Posted in Writing

Hawkesbury Upton, Centre of the World

English: Automobile Association Village sign T...
Surely all roads lead to Hawkesbury Upton?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Have you ever been to Hawkesbury Upton before?” a small child asked a group of visiting teachers at Friday afternoon assembly.

The teachers, from six different countries, reluctantly admitted they hadn’t. A ripple of “aahs” went round the parents at the back.

The child must have been surprised, because to our village children, Hawkesbury is the centre of the world. Why wouldn’t these people from Turkey, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Holland and France have wanted to come here before? The British Council clearly considered our village special, because they’d made Hawkesbury Primary the lead school in the Comenius Project. (Well done, Mrs Lewis and team, for your hard work securing the €20K grant to make it happen!)

And hadn’t we seen a steady stream of tourists throughout the summer, on a pilgrimage all the way from Bristol to see “our” Gromit? It would seem reasonable to come from even further to see our lovely village, even without a giant blue dog in our midst as bait.

The prime meridian at Greenwich, England
The Greenwich Meridian (Photo: Wikipedia)

When I was at primary school, I felt my home town was the centre of the world. In one respect, technically I was almost right: Sidcup was very close to the Greenwich Meridian.

Not so here. But what better place could there be than Hawkesbury Upton, with its strong community values, endearing customs, indelible sense of identity, village pride, and streets that stay safe even after council cuts plunge them into pitch black around midnight.

If ever there’s an election for a capital of the world, Hawkesbury Upton will certainly get my vote.

(This post was written for the November 2013 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News.)

Where do you consider to be the centre of the world, and why? I’d love to know – do leave a comment!

Posted in Family, Personal life, Reading, Writing

All Change!

English: Woodland magic Shafts of sunlight thr...
Changing Autumn colours at the National Arboretum Westonbirt, a few miles from my house  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Mummy, did you realise that this will be the last night I go to bed as a Year 5?”

Such was the plaintive cry from my daughter’s bedroom on the eve of the summer holidays. Like most children, she is averse to change, but it didn’t take her long to realise that change can also bring advantages. Not least the one that stems from the deal we did when she was still at infants school: I agreed that the number of pounds in her pocket money should equal her school year. She reminded me of our agreement the minute the summer holidays began, holding out her hand expectantly, “because, technically, I’m really a Year 6 now”.

Unlike my daughter, I positively embrace change. When I’m restless, rearranging the furniture makes me feel so much better. Not so my husband. Notorious for being unable to find things – glasses, car keys, wallet, shoes, daughter – even he feels it’s getting out of hand when he can’t find the sofa.

Changing Roles

This autumn it won’t be just my furniture that’s getting a different outlook. I will be too. After being in constant employment since finishing my formal education, I’ve decided to go it alone. Well, I couldn’t wish for a more understanding boss.

By the time this edition of the Tetbury Advertiser* rolls off the press, I’ll be working from home. I’ll be writing, blogging, editing, helping other authors, and reading, reading, reading. (I like to think of reading as a job creation scheme for other authors.)

Statuette of man reading a book
Reading: a job creation scheme for writers

As a writer, I could – and often do – work anywhere I happen to be. But by choice I’ll be working mostly at the desk in my study, overlooking my back garden, which from this viewpoint is dominated by a huge old apple tree.

The apple tree serves as a kind of arboreal calendar. Imperceptible daily changes transform it from bare branches to blossom to harvest. No matter what I’m writing, wherever my imagination has taken me, a glance out of the window provides me with a grounding reality check or where I am and what season we’re in. A few weeks ago, the old tree was so full of apples that it showed more red than green. Now with only the odd scarlet dot breaking up the expanse of leaves, it just looks like it’s recovering from measles. Before long I’ll be able to see straight through barren branches.

Changing Colours

Even that anticipated change doesn’t make me feel downhearted. 13 years of driving to work at Westonbirt has cured me of autumn melancholy. Nothing puts a more positive spin on seasonal change than the National Arboretum. Even when the autumn blaze of colour disappears, the trees spring magically back to life, their skeletons revitalised by the magical fairy lights of the Enchanted Wood’s Illuminated Trail. Such optimism is enough to make you look forward to midwinter.

But first, I need to rearrange my study…

(*This post was originally written for the October 2013 edition of the Tetbury Advertiser.)