My kids have grown up and are usually somewhere else. I’m aware of the stereotypes: my son sends photographs and news of things that happen out of the blue, like fabulous sunsets and motorbike crashes; my daughter and I fill cyberspace with the minutiae of daily life, privately via this, that and Whatsap and in public where everyone else does. And as I was brushing my teeth this evening I had a bit of an epiphany.

My daughter is here for a while, with my grandaughter, and life is full of the nitty gritty of teething and tables with sharp corners. Evening meals punctuate uncertain reprieves, when my daughter and I do what we otherwise do on Whatsap, face to face. But as I was brushing my teeth I had an epiphany.

I have always despised the idea that I might metamorphose, get out of my arm-chair and unleash ‘Ernest Me’  – banning children from watching television and allowing a moustache to flourish along with a love of board games and general knowledge. As a child, I was terrified by others’ pushy parents, who tested visitors’ children on the names of the composers playing from the new stereo, lifting their G&Ts. They were the sort who had complicated conversations about geography and politics over cheese and coffee. They knew where everything came from. Some families had a ‘topic of the week’. But someone was always in charge, especially in the homes of the Doctors and Dentists (all I knew were men then), the men were in charge and they’d choose the questions and topics, as far as I could see. I didn’t realise then. It’s something teachers understand. It’s easy to feel comfortable with something you know about so it stands to reason that if you are in charge of choosing the music, you’ll know the name of the composer. I grew up thinking I was a bit dumb. I can choose the questions now.  I had a bit of an epiphany while I was brushing my teeth.

I thought: perhaps my daughter and I should choose something that we are gripped by that has nothing to do with our usual menu of natter and, on alternate days, take it in turns to do the after dinner spot. Then of course I thought of those families that play board games (and of the newsfeeds on which she, the rest of the world and I debate and argue about stuff we are interested in) and I had a bit of an epiphany. Even though we are currently in the same country, the extended virtual networks, however virtual or imaginary, are now part of a social community that does not move, even when individuals move. So the conversations that are public and private continue online whether or not they feature as our ‘topic of the week’ after supper. It may simply be that the discourse, created by and creating the users of social media, enters the room silently as two people decide against coffee. It’s neither visible nor tangible. And it may have just the same impact as the discourse created by and creating individuals’ and groups’ sensed, shared experience.

If asked to choose a ‘topic of the week’ I might sift through the causes and statements I’ve ‘liked’ or ‘favourited’ on facebook and twitter to remind myself what’s moved me.  I realise I wouldn’t ‘like’ many entries if ‘like’ meant ‘I am going to make this my topic of the week’ and I had to research whatever for a week. In truth I am more likely to discuss the things I do not like and grow increasingly gloomy in the process. In many ways it’s a blessing that, increasingly, the weightier matters my virtual friends and I discuss occupy cyberspace more often than they do the kitchen table. Coincidentally, unless perhaps a form of desocialisation derives from hyper-cyber-actvity – move over AD-HD – in which case, consequently, I usually find it easier to ‘like’ the albums showing parties I’ve attended than I do the events themselves.

And as epiphanys go, it’s gone and I can’t remember how far I’d got along the tooth brushing process and I can’t decide whether I should brush once more. But I do know, I’d like parties to stay in cyberspace and conversation to take up residence in everybody’s home.


I watched this:


It’s the Stratford East Singers’ entry in the Naked Singing competition on the Beeb tonight. And it’s uplifting. It’s unashamed in its religious drive and that’s what makes me shy away.

But that’s an excuse, really. Arguing. These singers are acting out their idea. The idea that they are part of something bigger than themselves – bigger even than the choir – touched the audience and reached Tinternet (thank you #PeterKaye) in a Nanasecond*.

I’ve spent a lot of my life complaining. I’m very good at ‘yes but’ and dredging up the darker possibility from my imagination. I used to say that I would never fall in love again in the same way that my mother swore she’d never have another dog. ‘Because they die, darling’. And then I fell in love again.

This time I really had no choice at all and I never intended to become pathetic. Like all previous loves, this one is costing me a fortune but the rewards are much better and the shops are more fun.

I’m a Granny.

*A Nanasecond is the measurement of time (somewhere between 0.25 and 0.75 of a second) it takes a Grandmother to upload #granspam and #instagran cute pics. A Banosecond is the equivalent length of time it takes for Netgranny to spring into action.

Love makes fools of us all.

I have always found it odd that people are surprised I am quite good at cooking. I think that if you have cooked about two meals a day for half a century for a lot of fussy eaters, you should be able to produce a delicious meal without burning the spuds. I mean this. I am quite judgemental really. Thus, by the same logic it follows that if you get to 59 and you don’t know which side your bread is buttered (and how to give up listening to those stories about ‘if only you’d not burnt them last week and what if you burn them next week?’) if you get that far and you haven’t realised that while you have been worrying about the spuds you have been letting the spaghetti clog up the drain and so now the sink’s overflowing,  you’re probably missing the best bits of life. So I am going to be mindful about that and neither burn the spuds or clog up the sink but enjoy an omlette.

What’s happening, right now, is actually enough. And today, right now, I’m happy.

And if we could all sing, perhaps the world would grow, from the centre of Stratford East and outward, into a decent place to live.

Thank you #stratfordeast #bbc




Today I met a Norwegian woman who teaches 17-30 year old refugees, shipped like sardines on boats, who have found a home in Norway. She works with people from Syria and Afghanistan, many of whom have had little or no education but all have stories to tell. She told me one or two and here’s a fact.

As the boats approach the coast, silence must fall on board but babies won’t fall silent of their own accord. The people smugglers administer sleeping potions and the babies fall asleep but some, perhaps three on each failing craft, never wake up again.

These lost souls are not photographed but simply buried on arrival.

The press do not tell us these tales.

Don’t tell me their parents should never have left home in the first place.  I heard stories, far worse, of what they’d left behind. Their courage and resilience is not mine. I imagine I might, quite simply, kill myself and not dare to try to find my family somewhere safe to grow.



Born in 1956, with parents and grandparents who had a peculiar secret past, I had a swing, hanging from a wobbly plum-tree over a treacherous rough terrace of brittle flint. There hours passed in changing forms of light but when the sky filled with the dark grey carcophony of low flying planes, another’s terror of another arrested me, hurrying me down grazed-knee steps to the comfort of my mother’s beating heart.

Later, in a school made from the same rough stone, Hugh, Gill and I read of totem-poles and terrifying human sacrifice and later, straying from national trust paths through tall twisted grasses, we heard imaginary drums punctuating the silence, beating out the rhythmn of our own ritual burnings.

When my brother went to London, where my sister lived, he’d become an exhibit in Central London’s hot-spots, a sitting duck behind street facing sheets of plate-glass, refusing to be cowed by the troubles’ real and threatened angry, violent blasts, that he might horrify his family over Sunday lunch.

By the time I’d finished school, and enjoyed 18 years of post-war peace, I had witnessed violent erruptions between: Catholics and Protestants; mods and rockers; skinheads and punks; greasers and rockers; Enoch Powell and the rest of the world; Greenham Common protestors and the establishment; anti-plastic milk bottle campaigners and Clifford’s Dairies (Henley);   ban the bombers and ban the ban the bombers; football ‘hooligans’ and ‘victims’ of ‘football violence’ and myriad other coflicts between one side and another including those who seemed regularly to lose and win elections.

Threats were evident in grand narratives such as the post apocalyptic – there was a terrifying repeated ‘after the bomb’ tale; threats to social order were phrased in terms of reds in beds and terrifying ideas derived from eugenics circulated by Enoch Powell; personal failure might, similarly, derive from falling under the power of some ‘external’ influence and exposing a weakness such as becoming addicted to drugs, contracting VD or conceiving a child – all of which involve some form of boundary crossing.

Growing up involved boundary crossing of course and yet, equally, not allowing others to cross the line.  Any failure to disallow another to cross the line, any form of intrusion, represented a form of failure for the one intruded upon, the weaker party, the one who had allowed the invasion.

I left home with a ruptured and tenuous sense of innoculation from a troubled outer world.

A cult was on the cards. – A grand narrative promised an alternate exoticism and yet compounded division, shattering dreams of an integration.

Later, the see-saw returned me to a ‘norm’ in fractured 80’s Britain.

Married, fractured bones shattered  dreams.

I divorced the first man I fell for, hook, line and sinker, on grounds of his irrational behaviour and encountered the wrath of those who were more invested than I in his public face, and my own. It was evident that others’ views had very little to do with what was. Romeo and Juliet’s sad story might well have inspired Capulets and Montagues to drop their feud but after an optimistic second bite of the cherry, I found that becoming a widow made me somehow accountable for disturbing the peace. The audience, longing for a happy romance, turn their dark faces towards the stage and jeer, venomous disappointment spilling into graves full of dreams, fearful and exposed.

Conflict rather than burning out, levelling as communication extends and matures or so we imagine, rages on in extremis and magnifies. Current others, to be feared we are told, even if we are in fact one of ‘the others’, since these ‘others’ are brainwashed beyond reason and should therefore fear themselves as much as those who are not ‘others’ fear ‘them’, sound, on reflection, just like the ‘others’ these ‘others’ are hoping to live with in Europe: frightened, lost and clinging to meaning.

Frightened. Lost. Clinging to meaning.

I am frightened. lost and constantly involved in the business of making meaning – writing a life – inventing a space – hopeful that, soon, that space between oppositions might gain an audience.

Fear is not a very good idea my dear – I fear. Oh dear. I fear this fear will kill us Dear – I fear. Oh, Dear.


Damage limited, I move between friends who talk of dementia and the cost of care and the wi-fi life which beats my heart, keeping me in touch with my kids and the rest of the world – there, here and somewhere else. Flickering screens speak of fences in Calais and Kent and present a photograph of Pluto. ‘I don’t know’.

Bloggy Blog

I think I’d better start doing this Blogging thing seriously.  But why?  And what constitutes ‘serious’?  Seriousness involves a purpose and I can’t get beyond unravelling a chaos.  That’s clearly not the image I project in ordinary life: I work;  I drive; I maintain a home and yet internally my experience is that when the alarm clock sounds I am in shock and the rest of the day engages me in damage limitation.

I’m not daft. I’m not impoversished. The accident of my birth was lucky. What’s wrong?