I hate February. I’m actually beginning to really hate February. Last year and the year before Andrew lost two of his grandparents; my maternal grandmother died at the end of January nearly twenty years ago, and Andrew’s other grandad fell ill in February several years ago and died two months later. Now my own grandpa is dying, my grandma is struggling with dementia (not to mention losing her husband of sixty-something years) and I’m starting to think February is cursed.

It’s grey and cold, neither winter nor spring, and any foolhardy plants that spring up are quickly frostbitten and put in their place. I’m amazed they still keep trying every year; I’m seriously considering hibernating next February and urging everyone I love to do the same. All the energy I was finding before Christmas has been hit by the mess that is January and I can’t quite summon it back, not properly. Although happily my writing doesn’t seem to be taking the same hit. If anything, it’s helping.

Daniel’s class have been studying growth. They’ve brought home little pots containing cress seeds and grass seeds. I’ve eyed each of these warily as I’m not what you’d call green-fingered. I kill off almost any plant within minutes. As we have a first floor flat with no possibility of a garden this isn’t TOO much of a problem. Not much call for a gifted gardener up here, but these school projects have needed to be done so like a good mummy I tried to forget about my Kiss of Death to plants and take care of them. They didn’t do too badly. The cress lasted two weeks; the grass is still going.

Then last week he brought home a pot with no shoots or signs of life, just thick, black soil in a pot with a coloured label that he’d drawn himself.

‘It’s a sunflower, Mummy,’ he said proudly. ‘We have to give it sunshine and water and measure how it grows.’ Oh, no. This isn’t grass or cress, this is, like, a real flower. It needs to be looked after and there’s a real chance it will fall victim to my curse and never even shoot and then he’ll have to go into school and tell his teacher and all the other children whose mummies probably have beautifully cultivated gardens that his mummy killed his sunflower and… ok, I’m rambling. But I did fret, just a little.

So I took it home, put it on the kitchen windowsill with the grass and the cress and watered it. I watered it whenever the soil felt dry but to be honest I didn’t expect much. And sunshine? It’s the North East of England, in February, which as I’ve already explained is cursed. Put together with my napalm touch, the sunflower was doomed before it even got to the kitchen windowsill.


Last week a tiny little green-white shoot peeked up out of the soil. Then it grew- it actually grew! Now it has four little leaves, a strong green stalk and it’s still growing.

It’s like a reminder that life does actually go on. I check it everyday – heck, I check it everytime I go to the sink and marvel that despite everything, the sunflower is growing and stretching up, seeking the sun just as it’s supposed to.

It’s suddenly, the last day or two, become desperately important to me that I don’t let the sunflower die. Daniel’s still vaguely interested but I have put all my hopes of a happy spring on this sunflower. I don’t know why – it’s silly. My grandparents are old and frail, and I know everyone has to die sometime. And life isn’t too bad aside from that – Andrew’s business is going really well, the children are happy and healthy and my writing is progressing nicely all things considered. I’m just not very friendly with February.

But March will come soon and the sunflower will keep growing.

Capital? VALUES?

It’s a while since I did a post on anything other than parenting or writing or any kind of rant of statement of my position on something. Mostly this is because I realise I have fairly strong views on a lot of subjects which people often do not agree with. While I enjoy discussion and debate, that’s not what I’m trying to do and to enter into debate properly is, frankly, exhausting and I have plenty of other drains on my time and energy.

I just felt this morning though that I’d like to get something off my chest.

Capital punishment. It’s Just Not Right. No-one has the right to kill another human being. It’s THAT simple. Wilfully taking the life of someone else is murder. There are cases of self-defence, there are cases of insanity. In both of those cases I’d argue that the person doing the killing probably did not willingly do so, and they will have their own demons to face. But killing another person in cold blood is wrong, and it is uncivilised. No matter that you can use a drug that just puts someone to sleep – it’s still killing them, there’s no civilised way to do that. And it’s not always painless – there are states in America that are changing the drug they use despite clear evidence that the new drug causes pain and suffering.

What about child-killers? Exactly the same – they are still human and you CANNOT kill someone in cold blood. I have been asked repeatedly, usually with a smug air of victory, how I would feel if someone had killed my children. In that unthinkable situation yes, I would probably want that person to die, to be punished, to suffer terribly. THAT is why we have a legal system and justice. I have indescribable sympathy for parents in that situation, believe me. But what, exactly, would it achieve?

And I absolutely cannot buy into the argument that police-killers should be executed. Why are the police of more value than any other member of society? And I say, aggressively, that you need to be wilfully misunderstanding me to think that I am saying the police are NOT of value. I am saying that EVERY member of society is equally valuable. Whether it’s a ninety year old pensioner going to church every week, a police officer, a teacher, a nurse, a child, a drug addict, a criminal, someone who’s gay, someone who’s arabic, someone who’s disabled…

When you start differentiating between people’s value and worth, you become something less than human. I have just finished reading The Hunger Games. One of the things that struck me was Katniss’ fury that she and the other tributes were seen as worthless, disposable. But society is heading that way. There is an increasing reluctance to take on the responsibility of caring for each other. The NHS is in the process of being sold off. The provision of wheelchairs for disabled children, for example, is seen as of less importance than making a profit from that provision. Schools are being turned into academies – the provision of quality, free education for all children is of less importance than getting a return on the investment, whether that is in the form of results at whatever cost or direct financial return in the form of sponsorship from private companies. David Cameron (and, ironically, the only generation ever to benefit fully from the welfare state is the one dismantling it) is at the helm of these processes, but he is not solely responsible. It has been underway for years, and we are responsible because we vote in people who want to continue along this path. We would rather pay less tax and have a little bit more in our pockets than support the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us.

And one day it will come back to bite us. One day, we will be the ones whose investment has collapsed, or whose pension is being cut, or whose grandmother needs a basic standard of terminal care that she is not receiving. And then we will have to ask ourselves why our values have been so misplaced.


Tirade over, normal service will be resumed soon.

Some Life, Somewhere

I love the idea of chapbooks. Those small, cheap pamphlet-type books that are produced purely because the writer just wanted to get their work out there. Because they felt they had something important to say, or they wanted to express themselves through poetry or prose, or to record some part of their family’s history or values. Those writers very bravely put their work out for people to read without thinking (much!) of the bigger picture, of getting an agent or a publisher or what happens if people don’t like it.

There’s a whole lot of discussion at the minute around e-publishing and self-publishing and should you hold out for a deal or do you do it for the money or the recognition, or do you just want to say something. I think, personally, and I doubt I’m very original here, that this is the age of the ebook, and it’s the perfect medium for a chapbook. People have short time spans available in the pressures of the modern world – even people who don’t ‘work’ like me but care full time for children or other loved ones. At the same time the explosion of the kindle, smartphone and ever-cheaper ereaders means that there’s huge potential for buying cheap publications and carrying them round easily for those moments when you do have some precious leisure time to read. I know, for example, that there’s a massive market for iPhone reading apps, whether it’s the classics, the kindle app or iBooks; I’ve had my own little bit of success with Ether Books who produce specifically for the iPhone (branching into other smartphone operating systems later in the year – hint hint) and who published my short story a couple of weeks ago. Without knowing the specific numbers involved, I know it’s been popular because my story has been in the Bestseller list since it was published (ok, bragging over now).

That small success has given me a much-needed boost. Family upheaval lately has meant that my writing has very much taken a back seat and I’ve lost direction. The email from Ether gave me a proper kick up the behind and I’ve taken up my pen again. Well, pencil, actually, since I’ve rediscovered a love for working through ideas with pencil and notebook. That, combined with that admiration for chapbook writers I mentioned above, has led me to a little project of my own.

I proudly present my own e-chapbook, Some Life Somewhere. It’s a collection of seven short stories told through dialogue, and touching on the big questions – life, death and the tricky bits inbetween. I’ll be publishing it on kindle and through smashwords later this week, and I’ll put a link to the Amazon listing on here and my website and facebook page. My very talented husband has done my cover and I love it. I’m really excited about the whole thing  -even if only my mum reads it, it’s me taking a big brave step and it’s what I need to do to pick my feet up and run along my own path as a writer.

All About April

April is set to be a busy month for me and mine. I guess there’s a good deal of Spring syndrome; already the trees are getting their summer frocks on, and the weather has suddenly gone from Big Winter Coat to Light Summer Jacket and Shoes. There’s a bunch of stuff boxed up for a boot sale (and a part of me that wants to clear out even more) and I’ve done my annual bathroom clean (not really. I do clean it AT LEAST twice a year. I’m not a total scruff).

April’s also Easter time. The last few years this has taken on new meaning for us. A few years ago Andrew’s grandad died just after Easter and it was the most closely involved I’d ever been in a death. My own grandma had died years before that but I was much younger, and didn’t see that much of her in the last few days. Over the last couple of years the months leading up to Easter have seen more bereavements, including this year. And for the last five years we’ve celebrated as Christians so there’s the extra dimension of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the salvation of mankind. Y’know, just to keep things interesting.

Last year, Easter came to mean life for us as well as death. Emily was born in early April and she’s brought so much extra life into our home. It’s more than just another person – it’s the completeness of our family; she’s an extra dimension to all of us and Daniel and her are without doubt what bring the most meaning to our lives. We’re looking forward to celebrating her birthday with joy as well as the sadness that some loved ones won’t be able to share it with us.

There’s also other reasons for hope & excitement this April. Both Andrew & I are working on different things (more of which at a later date) and it’s a beginning in more ways than one. I’ve got a massive confidence boost from the positive experience I’ve had with my first publication with Ether Books, and I’m really going to push myself with writing over the next few months.

To celebrate this April, I’m going to try and take part in the A-Z blogging challenge (quick swig of strong drink here). This is a brilliant idea which I saw over at Talli Roland’s blog, where you blog every day except Sunday throughout April, conveniently working out at roughly one post per letter per day. I’m not sure how this will work out. Probably a couple of posts will be pre-written and scheduled; I imagine several will be a bit contrived to fit the day’s letter! But it should be fun and I might get to cover some of the big questions weighing me down at the minute.

So keep a look out – I’m hoping to be a busy blogger for a while!