Posted in Family, Writing

Young By Name, Old Enough for Memoirs?

How old must you be to start writing your memoirs?

The author, aged about 2, in the garden with her teddy
“Teddy and I miss the good old days of rusks and bottles of milk.”

My parents have recently announced that they’re writing theirs. I’m looking forward to reading them to find out whether their memory of my childhood chimes with mine.

My father is 80 and my mother is 78, so they should have plenty of material.

But I started writing a memoir when I was still in my 30s. I was just settling into my new life in the village of Hawkesbury Upton, and all was new and strange. At the time, I didn’t realise how young 30-something would seem to me as I got older, nor how much adventure and change was yet to come.

My daughter occasionally brings to light a treasured memory from her childhood, recalled in a fond nostalgic voice as if speaking of ancient times. She is 10.

Too Much, Too Young?

It’s easy to condemn as vain celebrities who write their memoirs at a very young age. But is it really vanity that drives them, or  pessimism, based on the assumption that the only way is down? I don’t blame them for wanting to capture every golden moment for fear that it might evaporate or be forgotten.

Cover of Kenneth Branagh's autobiography.
Aged 30, the actor Kenneth Branagh published his autobiography. He was born the same year as me.   I approve of the optimistic title: “Beginning”.

Unless your personal memory has the capacity of a sky drive, I reckon it’s worth writing down your memories as you go along. For most of my life I’ve kept diaries, more recently migrating to blogging. I’m very thankful for  the technology that ensures my recollections will remain legible. Sadly, most of my journals are not.

Your memories will never be as clear again as they are now. Or will they? A few years after my uncle died, my aunt dropped into conversation “I know him so much better now”. Having since been widowed myself, I know just what she means. Distance lends perspective, the passage of time brings objectivity – two factors which can only increase your level of understanding.

But hey, if the events of your life need reinterpreting with the benefit of that wonderful thing, hindsight, you can always edit your memoirs later – or write a sequel. You don’t have to wait till the end to write the middle. The old showbusiness adage applies to your readers too: always leave them wanting more.

So cancel my opening remark – I’m not looking forward to reading my parents’ memoirs. What I really want to read is the sequel.

As to the memoir I wrote in my 30s, I’d put it away and forgotten about it. Then recently rationalising my study, I rediscovered it in a dusty old folder. I was astonished at how much I’d forgotten. So, for the sake of posterity,  I’ve been posting chapters to my blog  – just click a chapter title to open the chapter.

Hawkesbury Tales: A Memoir of a Village Life

Who Will Buy?

Give A Fox A Bad Name


I Decide to Join the WI Choir (just added today)

Posted in Personal life

Deliver Us From Tesco

Camberwick Green - idyllic village in the children's TV programme

Trying to free up some space on my over-crowded bookshelves, I take down an old ring-binder that hasn’t been moved for as long as I can remember. Admittedly these days that could be as little as five minutes, but the dust indicates a period of years.

The label on the spine has come adrift, so I have to open the ring-binder to find out what’s inside: a collection of unpublished articles I wrote 20 years ago, just after I moved to Hawkesbury.

I’m soon reliving my first impressions and reflecting that in some ways, very little has changed. Rather, it’s me that’s adjusted to village life. But one article startles me: the one about the many charming local retail services that were flourishing then, long before the supermarkets started delivering to our doors.

There was Charlie Orchard the fishmonger, for example, who every Friday slipped fresh fish through our letterbox while we were out. A fish and chip van stopped outside our house on Tuesdays. To signal we wanted to order, we left our curtains open. A wonderful Village Market offered home produced goods. It was like having a village fete every fortnight.

When I wrote the article, many such services thrived within our village. But while my ring-binder’s lain unopened, gathering dust, virtually all of them have quietly fallen away. Reading the article was a sobering trip down memory lane. I hope that in another 20 years’ time, we’re not talking in the past tense about the few local services that still remain, particularly our Village Shop, Post Office and pubs. We use them or lose them, folks. May Hawkesbury be delivered from dependence on faceless, charmless supermarket chains. Every little helps local shops too, you know.

You can read some of these old articles about Hawkesbury’s local delivery services under the Hawkesbury Tales – A Village Memoir tab at the top of this page. The one about the delivery services is called Who Will Buy?

This post was originally written for the March 2013 issue of Hawkesbury Parish News.

Posted in Family, Personal life

Golden Times

English: Trench watch (wristlet). The type of ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(This new post is about a great idea for encouraging good behaviour from children in school: Golden Time)

For many children at our village school, the highlight of the week is “Golden Time”. Doesn’t the name sound alluring even before you know what it is?

Golden Time is a brief period every Friday when the pupils are allowed to do what they like – from playing on the computers to drawing pictures to curlng up with a good book. It’s a treat they look forward to all week as an antidote to their hectic schedule. It’s also an effective motivator for good behaviour, as staff may dock minutes from each child for misdemeanours. To allow naughty children to reform, the slate is wiped clean each week, everyone starting with a full score of minutes every Monday morning.

Attending a parents’ meeting in the classroom when my daughter was a new Year 1, I spotted on the whiteboard a list headed “Golden Time” with a number of minutes against each child’s name. Several other mums were as aghast as I was to see there were no numbers next to our children. What on earth had they done to lose all their time? Hesitantly, I asked the class teacher who smiled and shook her head.

“Oh no, Mrs Young, the numbers there represent the minutes those children have been docked!”

Phew, my daughter was a good girl after all! My relief was palpable.

English: Sundial on Moot Hall, Aldeburgh, Suff...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One recent Friday, all the girls in her class emerged from Golden Time with their hair in beautiful fishtail plaits, courtesy of their kind teacher. Next week, they were wild-haired from a lovely session of crazy, headbanging dancing.

Either way, they were happy, contented and effectively rewarded for being good all week.

I just wish there was a Golden Time for grown-ups. Or maybe there is, and I’ve just lost all my minutes for bad behaviour.

Hmm, must try harder…


This post was originally published in the Hawkesbury Parish News, November 2012.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like this one that harks back to my own behaviour in school:

What Size Is Your Jersey?

or this one about my daughter’s approach to time management:

What A To-Do! The Tale of My Daughter’s Action List

Posted in Family, Personal life

Goodbye Sun, Hello Fun

English: British version of the bugle call &qu...
“Sunset” – also known as “Retreat” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(A post about one of the virtues of dark winter nights – the excuse for the family to play board games and cards.)

Make the most of any late autumn sunshine, because now the clocks have gone back, we’re on the slippery slope towards the dark nights of the festive season.

“Sunshine – what sunshine?” I hear you cry. Optimist that I am, even I’ve given up on it this year. With uncharacteristic pessimism, I put my summer clothes into hibernation before the end of September. My cotton Union Jack maxi-dress, an investment in 2012’s patriotic occasions, never even made it out of the wardrobe over the summer. It was just too cold.

But I’m not letting our disappointing summer weather get me down. I know a way to ensure that no matter how sunless and cold the winter is, it will be a happy one in our household: I’ll hit the games cupboard.

A "whimsy" from a nautical-themed wo...
A “whimsy” from a wooden puzzle by Wentworth Wooden Jigsaws (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Situated next to the wood-burner in the middle of our living room is a huge stash of old-fashioned board games, playing cards and jigsaws. I have fond memories of learning such games from my beloved grandmother, so just the thought of a round of Scrabble gives me a warm glow, even if the wood-burner’s not alight. I love losing myself in a jigsaw (preferably a children’s one so it’s not too hard). I’m always astonished how, mid-puzzle, my subconscious takes over and I find myself slotting a piece into place before I’ve consciously realised that I’ve found the right place for it. Weird, but magical ly meditative.

My playing card collection is also a source of happy memories. I bring back packs with scenic views from places I’ve been on holiday, so sitting by my fireside, a game of Patience transports me to New York or Greece or Hong Kong. And sun.

So forget the wonders of the Wii . Never mind the excitement of the X-Box. Give me old –fashioned game technology any day and I’m happy. Cosy winter evenings, here I come!

This post was originally written for the Hawkesbury Parish News, October 2012.

Posted in Family, Personal life

2020 Vision – Predicting the Future for the Children of Hawkesbury Upton

My daughter (bottom right) at one of many sporting events in which she represented the school last year
Go Team Hawkesbury!

Since catching Olympic fever this summer, I’ve started to view the antics of our village children in a different way. 

I’ve always known that Hawkesbury turns out talented children, as anyone could see from the children’s entries section of the Village Show. Hawkesbury Primary School is renowned for producing great all-rounders, not least because it offers an impressive array of after-school clubs, from cooking and cross-country running to journalism and orchestra.

There is also an extraordinary choice of  children’s activities elsewhere in the village. Many are so popular that they are fully subscribed, even for the older age groups, who tend to drift away from such activities in urban communities.

These opportunities are only made possible by the dedication and hard work of the adults who run them. There are also clubs set up by the children themselves, encouraged by the  school to make good use of lunchtimes and enjoyed by children of all ages. Our children are lucky to have so much purposeful, fulfilling activity readily available to them, as well as our gorgeous rural setting – and they know it.

Hawkesbury boys on scooters in park
On their way to a new skate park (they hope!)

Since the London 2012 Olympics, I’ve become even more impressed by our children’s activities. Inadvertently, I’ve found myself transforming into an unofficial Team GB talent-spotter. Seeing a child cycling at speed down the high street, I fast-forward to the 2020 Olympics and picture them surging ahead in the Velodrome. Spotting a child swing with ease across the monkey bars in the playpark, I imagine them, eight years on, performing on the parallel bars in the Olympic Gymnastic Arena. Will the proposed village skate park, nearing completion of its fundraising appeal, generate members of the 2020 Team GB BMX team? I never knew BMX biking was an Olympic sport till London 2012, but it made impressive viewing.

Now there’s a good reason to help the HawksNest Skate Park appeal cross the finishing line this autumn! London 2012 may be over, but for the children of Hawkesbury Upton, the adventure may be only just beginning.

To find out more about the Hawkesbury Upton Skate Park appeal, you can find them on Facebook  or visit their website. Donations are always welcome!

This post was originally written for Hawkesbury Parish News (September 2012 edition).