When Daddy Fell Into The Pond…

Undoubtedly one of my favourite books as a child was the Ladybird book of Bedtime Rhymes…full of fun little dittys which made me chuckle, wonder and above all else happy.

My favourite was ‘When Daddy Fell Into The Pond” by Alfred Noyes

I defy anyone to read this or have it read to them and not break out into at least a small smile…

For me it gives delight in several ways. Firstly, it depicts so accurately those wintry weekend days when as a child I would be all like ‘there’s NOTHING to do…I’m BORED!!’ (Despite having a mountain of toys and a zillion books which of course at that particular time were just not enough for a 7yr old!) It brings a certain nostalgia as I remember that feeling of ‘oh would something exciting please happen’ and then my parents doing something to break the monotony – never quite as dramatic as falling in a pond but usually more along the lines of saying let’s play a board game, let’s go for a walk & hunt for conkers, or my mum saying let’s bake a cake – yes she did let me lick the bowl out! Happy days…

This brings me to the second reason why I like this poem – It doesn’t say that ‘Daddy’ fell in the pond deliberately and as a child this thought would never have occurred to me but reading it now as an adult I do think it’s certainly something which could be inferred…as parents we do all do daft stuff to keep our children happy…slapstick humour works wonders with kids, I’ve lost count of the number of times I pretended to befall some crazy harmless misfortune for my boys entertainment… so as a child I loved it coz of that childish delight in seeing a parent fall for something silly and as an adult it brings a new twist of knowing that perhaps the joy was deliberately engineered and what a great Daddy this daddy is!

Finally this poem shows the genuine infectiousness of laughter – of how having a giggle, being a good sport (coz let’s face it the Daddy could’ve gone bananas and had a total sense of humour failure but he didn’t) and seeing the brighter side of all things can make the world around us, even just for that moment, a better place.

It brings me to another favourite poem – I’m not quite sure who wrote it as there have been multiple authors attributed in the past, but I first heard of it when I was reading up on Spike Milligan. Whoever did write it they were insightfully spot on about the power of a smile 😁

I leave you with these words and my smile…

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Bonkers about Conkers…

I remember when I was very young an Autumn craze was to ‘play conkers’ – we’d string them up and use whatever tricks we could to harden them and then we’d swing our conkers at each other’s to crack and break them apart. On and on it would go until only one remained – oh how the winner would swagger and swank about!!

Now I collect them but, instead of battles, they face a gentler life in a bowl! It’s possibly not as exciting for them but they remind me of a time of innocence and give me pleasure.

What simple things give you happy memories?

What a difference a year makes…

This past year has been (wait for it many cliches ahead) a real rollercoaster -emotionally and physically. It’s been a journey (yep I went there!) that at times I’ve wanted to get off, to take a break and just watch others ride by whilst I focus on remembering to breathe. Other times it’s been joyful, uplifting and full of such love that I could have burst if that were possible.

Mostly this has been related to my personal life (other blogs to follow if I can find the words) but there has also been one hugely significant change for me – my job.

A year ago last week I started a new job and so this week has been a period of reflection for me. I’ve thought about all those decisions I’ve made throughout my adult life that’s led me to be where I am and to be the person I feel I am today. Sometimes I didn’t know that these decisions would be momentous but I have to admit I knew this one would be – I just didn’t know if it would be good or bad – I just hoped like hell it would be good!!

…Well, it has been! I have gone from working in a place where I spent the first six months sobbing in the toilet every day and towards the end if I got through a week without tears falling it was a miracle, to working somewhere I feel at peace.

At my last two jobs, providing pastoral support in state secondary education, I knew I was doing good, making a positive difference and I’m glad I did what I could; but along with the fabulous highs of seeing my students succeed and achieve, both academically and personally, more than they would ever have thought possible, it was emotionally draining, lonely and absolutely heartbreaking at times; I was taking that home with me and eventually I realised I needed to move on before I lost who I was and before it affected my family more than it already had.

So I took a chance, a leap of faith into the unknown – instead of looking for another similar role that I was certain I could do standing on my head but which would come with significant angst, I found a role at a specialist university that I thought looked interesting, exciting and that I thought I could do well but which would be a challenge.

And oh it has been a challenge! But it has also been liberating, stimulating and working in such a creative, adult environment has been so calming – I’m on a voyage of self-discovery (sorry I’m not done with the cliches just yet!). I’m not saying every day is amazing or that I haven’t had bad days and I know I’ve much more to learn; but I’m loving what I do and I am finally part of a team. I haven’t experienced that utter dread, on a Sunday night, of knowing work is due…I certainly haven’t cried those tears of sheer frustration and solitude.

Life isn’t all about work but most of us spend so much of our days doing work that surely we have to be happy and fulfilled in it if our lives are to have balance and feel good?

So what have I learnt?

Be honest with yourself

Value yourself

Dare to dream – that you CAN do something different if you want, you CAN break free from what you feel confines or brings you down

Believe in yourself

Be brave

Take that step outside your comfort zone

Embrace the unknown

Set sail on your own adventure and see where you end up – whilst it might not be where you’d thought you’d be, you might just find it’s where you want to be after all xx

Ahhh Autumn, how I love thee…

Bright colours of red, copper and gold glint off trees. The sky is a bright deep blue, the air is getting crisp and the sunlight is clear and somehow brighter, sharper than the glow that envelopes us in the summer (for UK dwellers read caveat: “if you’re lucky that is!”). The smells of Autumn: bonfires and apples, gentle spices like cinnamon and beeswax candles – reassuring aromas that soothe my soul.

It’s my favourite season, I think because it brings back such wonderful childhood memories:

…Walking to school with my sister, scuffling through the piles of leaves and searching for beech masts missed by the squirrels and mice in the fallen husks

…a cup of hot tomato soup steaming in the cold air as we watched the fireworks display on the school field

…harvest festival in the huge school hall and seeing the stage covered in veg, fruit, tins of goodness knows what and then singing favourite hymn ever ‘Autumn Days’.

This wonderful hymn was written by Estelle White, a former nun and music teacher. She believed that you could find beauty in the everyday world and so she penned a song giving thanks to some of the simplest things with the jolliest of tunes.

I sang it to my boys to help them sleep when they were very little and even now many (many) years later if I sing the words “Autumn Days…” one of them will respond back with “when the grass is jewelled” (possibly they’ll roll theirs eyes but hey the point is that they still say it!) and it always makes my heart smile.

So here is a little taste of this hymn for your delight (when listening it helps to try to hear a 200 children singing their hearts out along to this tune full of cheer and goodwill on a crisp golden autumn morning in the school hall… ahhh such very happy Autumn Days!)

https://youtu.be/w9mvrkQbzgc

Thank You Estelle White for showing the beauty in the humblest of things and for my happy memories…

Looking out my kitchen window…

Looking out my kitchen window as I wash up; cursing myself for forgetting I’d bought concentrated washing up liquid and having used too much so I’m up to my elbows in soap suds and sneezing at the overpowering scent of artificial lemon stinging my nasal passages!!

I notice a young boy, 14 maybe 15, sitting on my front wall; he’s swinging his legs, heels slamming into the bricks with a rhythmic thud-thud-thud. In one hand he clutches a can, I can’t tell what but he’s swigging away like it’s a favourite nectar. In the other hand he holds the inevitable phone that no one seems to be able to live without. Headphones protrude and I realise he’s swinging his legs to a tune; just as Gloria Estefan predicted, the rhythm has got him and he’s away in his own happy musical world.

The light is fading, dusk is falling and the temperature is too; the boy’s breath steams like hot dragons puffs in the chilly air. The street lamp has gently pinged on and is creating a warm glow overhead, shining on the tree by the edge of my driveway. In the Spring this tree blossoms the most magnificent white blooms but now in autumn it has leaves which turn deep red before scattering themselves in the winter wind. They glint in the lamplight and gently flutter in the evening breeze.

A car pulls up, not fast but the brakes still squeal indignantly as the driver halts beside the boy. Out jumps another young man, baseball hat on backwards, baggy jacket and trousers barely hanging on in there around his bottom.

The boy jumps off the wall and a complicated handshake takes place; lots of slapping, punching, side swipes and eventually a brief one arm half embrace – stiff but familiar.

The car moves off and honks it’s horn ‘Barp-b-b-Barp!’ With a slow casual about turn the boys slink off down the road together, laid-back, chilled and not a care in the world.

It’s all in the name…

This summer we visited the Tank Museum at Bovington in Dorset.

We’ve been before and there’s always something new to look at – plus there’s SO much information on show that it’s hard to take it all in just in one visit.

There absolutely hundreds of tanks, tracked vehicles, armoured personnel carriers (these are NOT all the same thing I have discovered after making several faux pas and apparently bringing shame on my son – ‘oh muuuuuum’!!) on display; there’s a vast number of personal accounts of time spent at war in and around these vehicles, all poignant and thought provoking; there’s the history of the tank from its inception, evolution and application through different wars and you can learn to signal with flags (although maybe not if you’re me as I am not that well-co-ordinated!).

At 1pm every day there’s a short ‘mock battle’ between a couple of tanks, which everyone is welcome to watch. We all sit on a grassy hill, eating our picnics whilst listening to Vera Lynn, Glen Miller et al over a crackly tannoy (ahhh the British quaintness of it all) when all of a sudden these tanks come roaring and rolling across the battle ground firing at each other and at the end of the demo a flag is planted – of course!!

We’re all warned that there will be loud bangs and the such like but it never fails to make me jump practically out of my skin and emit just the tiniest of screeches – much to the amusement of my fella (oh and the man behind me who I distinctly heard snort!)It really is a bit of good fun!

What struck me on this visit, as it did before, is the cool names that we like to give our military hardware – tanks and their close relations are always seemingly given fierce and feisty names which presumably are supposed to send shivers down the spines of the enemy whilst evoke feelings confidence, leadership and indefatigability in the home team.

For example, as I wandered around the museum I found tanks called ‘Chieftan, Challenger, Maurauder and Crusader’…how inspiring! A far cry from the first tank – Little Willie….which, even if it was a derogatory nickname for the German prince m, it still isn’t the most scary of names is it?!

Clearly we learnt our lessons from then onwards as the world went on to produce all sorts of armoured vehicles and chose far more impressive names like Tiger (HUGE metal monsters guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of you regardless of their name) the Luchs (Lynx), Leopard and the Scorpion too…always very suitably aggressive monikers for these battle vehicles.

So far so good you say? Hmmm…So we then have the Tortoise…okaaay, well it’s not necessarily the most fearsome creature but it has a solid shell and THIS Tortoise is HUGE… a 78 ton self-propelled gun so I suppose we’ll allow that one!

What about the Sherman V Crab then? This is actually my favourite tank – it’s a mine clearing tank with fabulous chains on the front which whip the ground – awesome! I forgive it being called after a crustacean just on that point alone!

We get right back to formidable menacing business with the Centaur Dozer, the Praying Mantis and Saracen – definitely a spine-chilling ring to these machines!

…and then there is Stuart “The British Honey”…

…oh dear and we were doing so well weren’t we?!!

Hugging, NOT Leaning…

Sitting in McDonalds car park whilst I munch on my Big Tasty and sip my Coke (I know I know!! I promise to run an extra 5km this week to make up for it) and there’s a chap loitering under the umbrella’s trying not to get wet in the rain…

… I notice a silver car pull up and out climbs a young woman and, yep, she’s who that chap’s been waiting for – they hug…a proper fling your arms round, pull in tight and squeeze hug… there’s no kissing, there’s no hint of romance, there’s no leaning – nope, none at all – it’s a proper full on friendship ‘oh how I’ve missed you and it’s SO great to see you hug’. She’s red cheeked and looks like she’s going to burst with happiness and he’s laughing like a loon – they wander off into McDonalds chatting nineteen to the dozen…

A small moment of joy in this crazy world and I got to see it in a McDonalds car park.

What’s been your moment of happiness witnessed this weekend?

Epilogue…

I love the film While You Were Sleeping; it’s witty, it’s sometimes bittersweet, there are laugh out loud moments that are just joyful and it’s observant. I hope you like this little clip…

Leaning