Turn on, tune in, drop out

Music is becoming an increasingly important part of my gap year preparations.  In the transition from CDs to streaming and Spotify, I’d kind of forgotten how much I enjoy pottering around the house with music on and how relaxing it is to cook or do the packed lunches with some tunes.  I’d also forgotten how much I love to sing.  Last night I took to the mic for the first time in about ten years, and sang some folk songs with Gallant Grandpa at Boston Tea Party’s Play On.  It was great to sing about feisty young women of the 17th century, and I tested out my red lippy again which was fun.  It definitely is like putting on an instant slick of confidence (thank you YSL!)

Going to see live music was a massive part of my teenage years in Leeds, and I had the privilege of seeing both Madonna and U2 outdoors at Roundhay Park.  I now have two live music events to look forward to in the gap year – The Dixie Chicks at the O2 next year and Farmfest in August.  After singing last night, GH and I watched a brilliant BBC documentary about the evolution of music festivals and it really inspired me about the heady mix of hope, politics, fields, music and dancing (Bad Brain means no recreational drugs on my menu!)

For the last few months I’ve been challenging my vocal cords and sight-reading skills in a local jazz choir, Harmoni.  It’s so much fun practising discordant harmonies and lots of “doo-be-doos” as we work through the arrangements together.  I’ll be getting out that red lippy again for our performance at the local community centre in July.  Using the musical side of my brain is so relaxing and such an antidote to busy days of writing as I finish my contract with Action on Postpartum Psychosis.  If music be the food of love, let’s play on.

Time out with the kids

My kids are great at helping me to learn how to enjoy the moment!  This half term we have painted pottery, prepared fresh squid from Leeds market and spent a lot of time in parks.  It’s been a real joy to have my energy back and to spend time with family Up North.  Eldest has been perfecting her cartwheels in the garden and on the seafront, and Little One has been relishing the time to play with her babies, do dressing up and enjoy cuddles with her Uncle, Auntie, Grandma and Grandad.

Half term has felt like an opportunity to drop the pace a bit, and to treasure time spent with our family.  I was able to take my mum out for an afternoon drink at a cosy pub and we caught up about her recovery from a stroke last year.  Like me, she’s learning to pace herself and we are both finding out what helps us to have ‘active rest’.  Mum had made me the most beautiful patchwork swimming bag for my bikini and towel and we bought some fabric together for a secret project for Eldest’s birthday.

Today it’s swimming at the pool and chilling out in Exeter.  It’s only eight weeks then until we break up for the summer, and I know I’m going to keep learning from the way my kids live their lives in the holidays.


Little One calls me ‘mumma’.  I love to hear her say that word, it took so long to come in those months when we were hanging on every syllable.  Today has held real joy in the simple moments with my girls.  Watching Little One splash around, full of delight, at the swimming pool.  Seeing the water jets tickle her legs and tummy and watching her jump and twirl in the fountains.  Watching her grow in confidence with each soaking.

I help Eldest with her underwater handstands.  She asks me to twirl her around by her hands like a ballet dancer in the water, just like we used to do when she was small.  I find myself marvelling at the graceful, tall young person she is becoming; I remember so clearly her clinging on to my shoulders in the pool as a little girl, now she is a confident mermaid.

Back at home, Little One loves to cook with me.  She peels the leeks, cuts up the green beans with scissors and we peel carrots together.  She’s so content in these moments.  I need more of this in my gap year, more time to simply be ‘mumma’.

Retail therapy

Eldest and I had a wonderful day together today.  It’s quite rare that we get some ‘grown up’ girl time so we made the most of the sunshine and the city.  We browsed John Lewis trying out fragrances, admired bags in Topshop, New Look, Cath Kidston and H&M and then Eldest had a splurge at Primark.  At Lush we had a chance to make our own bath bomb with cocoa butter, vanilla and ylang-ylang.  Fresh, zingy pickled ginger and cucumber maki rolls at Yo! Sushi finished off a day of really treating ourselves.

As we headed around the city, we wrote phrases from the walls and windows of shops and lyrics from songs we heard to help us write ‘found poems’ when we got home.  Here are our two found poems celebrating a sunny mother & daughter day.

Greetings from the land of summer!

Open up this box to find a collection of treats

Macaroon notebook

A coffee crafted just for you

Strawberry and cranberry smoothie

Fig and cassis eau de parfum

Dust off your highest hopes –

Create your perfect day

Beautiful beginnings –

Wake up to white!

The land of summer

Inviting you in

Blue skies


Blue sky, you filtered into my soul

Sunshine, you warmed my skin

Nature’s light touch bringing the trees into bud

The freedom of woodland for my girls

Delight in their blue eyes

Water rushing, sticks clutching

Blankets and books in the dappled shade

Welcome, Spring

Secret smile

Nobody knows it but you’ve got a secret smile
And you use it only for me
Nobody knows it but you’ve got a secret smile
And you use it only for me

So use it and prove it
Remove this whirling sadness
I’m losing, I’m bluesing
But you can save me from madness


I found a tiny heart made of bubbles at the bottom of my beer glass today, and it made me think of the ‘secret smiles’ that we so often miss when life is busy or ill or sad.  I was chasing Little One as she made a beeline for the kitchen at Wagamama, but suddenly she was distracted and we found ourselves in a peaceful courtyard filled with white blossom.  Another secret smile in the midst of a fraught moment of parenting.

Now that Little One has more freedom from the buggy she roams and if I let myself get caught up with whatever she’s looking at, it almost always enhances my day.  There are some textured glass sculptures near the Cathedral and today she loved exploring them with her hands and was murmuring ‘shell’ to herself.  To us weary ones it can be just street furniture, just another distraction on the way to the carpark but how wonderful to stop and feel the green-blue ‘shell’ in the city centre.

I’m hoping I can create the space to keep learning from my kids, and to let them continue to help me appreciate how we can look for beauty even in the more challenging times of our lives.

Reasons to be cheerful (part 3)

Why don’t you get back into bed? Why don’t you get back into bed?

Why don’t you get back into bed? Why don’t you get back into bed?

Dury and the Blockheads opening refrain sums up my week really.  Why am I so damn tired so much of the time? However the song also lists some pretty good reasons to be cheerful, so here’s my list;

Mr Whippy ice cream at the school gates, escaping to the sea and watching a hail storm from the safety of the car.  Cheese scone and a cup of tea.  Two girls smiling as they play with whizzing lights from daddy’s trip to Spain.  Tulips in a vase. Elderflower cordial and sparkling water, washed down with encouraging conversation.  A hot yoga class in Cornwall to look forward to at the weekend.  Olives and Bombay Sapphire chosen with love in Spain.

Depression, or this blip or whatever is happening is a royal pain in the arse.  But I’m not going to let it steal my weird and wonderful reasons to be cheerful (even if safety mode won’t let me watch the original video and I can’t get Spotify to work)


I love the hope and longing encapsulated in Noah and The Whale’s First Days of Spring.  With my own story in mind I love the song’s answer to the feeling that we all have one chance to f*** up our lives; Like a cut down tree, I will rise again
I’ll be bigger, and stronger than ever before.

The first day of Spring.  Someone’s turned up the brightness on the colours today.  Acid yellow daffodils, a slick of cobalt across the turquoise of the sea.  Burnt sienna and bright orange on the back of the tiny crab we find in the rockpools.  On days like this all feels right with the world, and the colour is turned up in my heart.

Eldest wrote this poem which sums up our day beautifully:

To feel the sand between my toes, and see the sea as it goes

Barnacles, anemones and sea snails plenty

A couple of ice cream cones empty

Little sisters having fun, playing in the golden sun

Driving home to see a fox, hiding in amongst the rocks

How I love going rockpooling

Time travel

If I were following in the footsteps of Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous gap year memoir, I guess we could say I’m in the ‘eat’ phase! This week it’s been all about the retro, treating Eldest and Little One to their first cherry bakewells.  The almond scent and generous icing takes me straight back to happy picnics or the surprise of a cherry studded confection tucked into my lunchbox as a special treat.

Today I took Little One to one of her favourite spots for ‘munch’ (lunch).  Little Chef is the closest we get to a diner in our part of the UK, with all-day breakfasts, booths and checked curtains.  It’s definitely not one for the foodie in me, but Little One loves it and it was great to see the sparkle in her eyes when I collected her from nursery and asked if she wanted to go there for lunch.  It’s sensory time-travel for me as my dad used to take me to our local Little Chef as a special ‘dad & daughter’ evening. For the seven or eight year old me, it used to feel like the height of sophistication to jump in the car with dad on a dark crisp evening and head out to a dimly lit cafe for a jubilee pancake and hot chocolate.  Even now, it feels warm and fuzzy inside for me to share a cherry-filled pancake with one of my kids, like I’m welcoming them into my memories.  I hope Little One remembers our ‘munches’ at the Little Chef as fondly as I remember my evenings with dad.

There’s been time travel into the future this week too as I start to think a bit more about what I’m going to do when Little One starts school.  I’ve found a floristry school (I’m not sure if I do harbour an ambition to be a professional florist, and have to keep a check on the ‘just doing lovely stuff for pleasure’ vs ‘desperately trying to find a future career’ battle that regularly flares up in my brain)  Fortunately the professional floristry qualifications are way out of my league financially, so I’ll content myself with workshops – woodland design is tempting me at the moment.  I’ve also had an invitation from a friend to book a mindfulness meditation retreat after the summer, which sounds the perfect way to bring some practice of being in the present moment to my mind, which is so often drawn to the future – and to the ‘what if…’

If I snaffle the last cherry bakewell tonight I’ll be taking care to pay it the attention it deserves.