Posted in Personal life, Travel, Writing

The Power of the Summer Holiday

In my column for the September issue of the Tetbury Advertiser, I’m reflecting on the restorative powers of the summer holiday – mine was just drawing to an end when I wrote the copy

Scenic view overlooking bay with islands
The restorative power of a great view: early morning photo taken from the window of our camper van in Oban, the busiest departure point from mainland Scotland for the Inner and Outer Hebrides

On holiday in our camper van this summer, we had the usual struggle to recharge all the family’s electronic gadgets from a single cigarette lighter socket. Not that we’re hooked on our gadgets – in fact, we were trying to have an internet-free break. (Not difficult in Scotland, because the mountains block the signals.) But we still wanted to use our phones to take photographs and to text home, and I wanted to keep my Fitbit topped up. Continue reading “The Power of the Summer Holiday”

Posted in Reading, Writing

Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child

A post about my latest book review feature for Today’s Child Magazine

banner advert for Today's Child showing magazine cover For the last few years, I’ve been writing a regular books feature, reviewing and previewing children’s books for the free parenting magazine, Today’s Child. I first wrote for them when I was still working part-time for children’s reading charity Readathon, which provides free books and storytellers for children in hospital, and encourages children in schools to read for pleasure. But as the magazine has grown and I’ve switched roles, writing full-time from home now, we’ve changed to a freelance arrangement, though I still sneak in plenty of Readathon references! Continue reading “Summer Reading Ideas from Today’s Child”

Posted in Family, Travel, Writing

School’s Nearly Out for Summer

My column in this month’s Tetbury Advertiser marks the end of an era as my daughter prepares to leave primary (elementary) school – and I reflect on the day I left school myself.

No turning back
No turning back

It’s nearly time for school to be out for the summer, so why am I downhearted? Because the last day of term will mark the end of an era for me: my little girl will be leaving primary school for ever.

Really I should be celebrating. Laura has had the good fortune to attend an outstanding primary school, and I mean that in the OFSTED* sense. She’s gained a place at an excellent secondary school. I’ve enjoyed playing an active part in the life of her primary school, serving on the PTA for six years. I got time off for good behaviour this last year. But every parent I know who has children at senior school assures me that life will never be quite the same again.

On Your Marks…

With an aversion to change that is typical of her age, Laura is nervous of moving up, though less so with every step she takes towards it – completing SATS, visiting Open Days, planning her new school uniform. I’m sure that, by September, she’ll be eager to embrace the new opportunities that will come her way.

I know I was when I was her age. Gaining all the trappings of secondary school status was an exciting process, even if it was accompanied by my parents tutting at the expense. The smart new uniform and blazer, shiny leather satchel, a mysterious-looking geometry set in a tin, my own little hardback Oxford dictionary – all these heralded the start of a new adventure.

Get Set…

The author graduating from her American-style high school in 1978
As valedictorian at the FIS graduation ceremony: “And in 30 years time, I’ll come back and tell you how I became a writer”

Although I don’t remember my final day at primary school, I do recall sobbing as I got on the last school bus from my secondary school. I was living abroad, attending Frankfurt International School in Germany. The school was run on American lines, making much drama of our departure with a university-style graduation ceremony, complete with gowns and mortarboards.

I was voted “valedictorian” or class speaker, responsible for making a final address to the assembled parents and staff, on behalf of the graduating students. I still have the typescript of my speech, which I’d bashed out on my red portable typewriter (no home computers in those days) and sellotaped onto orange sugar paper. I spoke about how attending an international school fit us better to play our part in the wider world. The speech went down well. I remembered to speak slowly and clearly, as per the instructions I’d written to myself in big red letters around the edge; everyone laughed in the right places; and afterwards other people’s parents asked for signed copies, assuring me that I’d be a famous writer before long. Well, we were all saying what each other wanted to hear that day.

And Finally, Go!

Cover of Quck Change flash fiction collection
A late developer

Now, more years later than I care to confess, I’ve just published my very first fiction collection as an Amazon ebook called Quick Change. It contains twenty terse flash fiction pieces, arranged in chronological order by the age of each story’s key characters, from cradle to grave. Pre-publication feedback is encouraging: “very subtle, very English, very clever”; “sly, witty, surprising, with genuine twists”; “they make domesticity look edgy, sometimes dangerous, but they are also life-affirming”. So rather like the Tetbury Advertiser, don’t you think?

I just hope Laura fulfils her ambitions a little faster than I did upon leaving school.

This post was originally written for the July/August 2014 issue of the Tetbury Advertiser. Here are some other recent columns I’ve written for this popular local magazine:

*For the benefit of my non-British readers, OFSTED is the government’s official school inspection board which visits all state schools every few years and reports on their standards. The highest level of praise they give is “Outstanding”, which is what they designated my daughter’s school earlier this year.