Archive for March, 2013

Tears of joy

March 27, 2013
Alice swimming in tears

Alice swimming in her own tears. Illustration by John Tenniel, from the original Alice in Wonderland

Oh dear. This leaving work business is creating some strange effects. I spent quite a bit of time yesterday in tears or welling up. Often for no apparent reason. Some examples:

Tears of joy at listening to an amazingly fab choir perform, with my littlest and her friends singing their hearts out.
Tears of frustration at not being able to shove my purse in my bag.
Tears of crossness at not being able to get into a secondhand bookshop ‘cos it wasn’t open yet.
Tears of relief at discovering that my Dad’s flu isn’t pneumonia.
Tears of onion when making supper.

But I finished the day with tears of laughter, watching Micky Flanagan on a pre-recorded telly show. He funny. He rude. He sharp. He cockerney.

If you’re prepared for a bit of toilet ish humour (and I don’t recall any swearing in this bit) here’s a sequence from the Micky Flanagan show we watched. It reminds me of the time I went to New Delhi. Ho hum.

I will start today with yoga and I will NOT be thinking of this sequence as, with the gentlest of pushes I bend and stretch into a drier day.


Buzzing and bending

March 24, 2013

Eee, my leetle brain is buzzing today! There’s so much to think about, consider, decide, work on and work up; all to be achieved without getting worked up, ideally…

At times I’m finding it hard to contain my excitement (oh how I love predictive text – with a typo that came up as ‘cisterns’) about all the possibilities for the future. In itself it’s an amazing feeling and how lucky I am to feel like this, but I also need to be careful, careful that I don’t blow the lid off the pressure cooker.

My way of dealing with this is a new found love of exercise. I used to swim when I was in my 20s, then kind of lost my motivation and the time in my 30s, something to do with children maybe? But now, I’m pleased to say I’m back on track. Alongside swimming I now do yoga and pilates several times a week; whenever I can fit it in around work and family life.

yoga yoyo

yoga yoyo

I feel quite evangelical about it, especially yoga: it makes such a difference to how I feel. At it’s best it’s like a complete reset for body and mind and it always leaves me walking taller.

I don’t practice a particular type of yoga – I don’t even really know what the different types are. Because I go to different classes each week according to my schedule, it means I experience a range of teachers, each with their own style and approach.

I’m no yoga expert and when I started I found it hard to even coordinate movement and breath. But over time there’s definitely been an improvement. Increased flexibility, strength and openness that just wasn’t there before. Years of closing myself down mentally and physically are being reversed. Wo hoo!

Last Sunday the guy next to me was like a restless horse; gangly limbs he couldn’t quite control, lots of heavy breathing and snorting and a few failed fences. I reckon he might’ve had a hangover, so all things considered I think he did really well. Of course I should’ve been able to zone him out, able to focus on my own practice regardless, but I’m not good enough for that. And anyway it was funny.

I urge everyone to try yoga and I wish children were taught some yoga stretches and breathing exercises at school. If you’re equipped to slow yourself right down and give yourself a break when you need to, then life becomes that bit easier to deal with in the first place – you know you have the antidote.

The chaos and complexity of life doesn’t go away and actually I don’t particularly want to walk around in a zen like state, un-touched by the sharp, point-y bits of life, but with yoga I think it’s possible to manage it a bit more successfully.

My next step – on the recommendation of today’s teacher – is to start doing a few stretches or sequences at home sometimes. It’s timely advice for me. Now that I’m joining the freelance world my chances to attend formal classes might reduce, so I need to have an alternative in place. I’m convinced that as I try and carve out a new career, yoga will be invaluable; vital to my well-being and therefore of benefit to everyone around me as well!

Go on, give it a try, you just might love it.

Thank you and goodnight…

March 22, 2013

So that’s it. Over. Finished.

BBC White City at night

I left the BBC for the last time as an employee yesterday. What a strange feeling. 18 years of some amazing experiences, very special friendships and proud achievements as well as a load of not so nice stuff; all rolled up in a short walk to the station. Actually it felt like a very long walk.

The day itself was lovely, beginning with the most amazing present from my Danny. A painting, or rather a multi-media artwork, created by him in secret. Little iPhone photos of its hi-sheen surface are not going to do it justice, but lets try…

Danny has painted onto an Edwardian portrait we bought ages ago in a charity shop. I wonder who she was? I’m quite sure she didn’t know what to do with herself when the photograph was taken – she looks bemused. It would’ve been pretty unusual at that time to even have a camera, yet it doesn’t look formal enough to be a studio portrait. She’s a mystery to us and she’s been waiting among our pile of secondhand frames and pictures, for her moment to shine.

Aunty Beeb ws

And now it’s arrived; she’s been given new life by Danny. Reborn as Aunty Beeb, smiling serenely at my decision to leave the BBC. I think she approves.

Behind her head is a halo provided by the iconic layout of Television Centre and drawn on by Danny. Television Centre is about to close; we both officially finish our BBC contracts on 31st March. After that TV Centre will undergo a radical transformation that will hopefully revive the building’s natural beauty. Over the years it has become obscured by the needs of a working building – extra props stores, office buildings, scenery storage areas and roads that have gradually hidden the building’s essence.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that I too am undergoing a transformation, mind you I don’t think there’ll be much hidden beauty revealed, except that a happier heart might make for a brighter exterior.

This dramatic change has been a long time coming and pretty painful along the way, but now I’m emerging into brighter light and it feels amazing. This blog is part of the process. There’s no way I could’ve done this a year ago. And now here I am leaving the safety of the institution I’ve been part of for so long, leaving it for an uncertain future. I must be bonkers, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

And there, on the painting, is all this new excitement and hope – beautiful bright handpainted butterflies. I love what this picture stands for. He’s a talented man, isn’t he. I love it so much and I love the people close to me for helping me through the gloom. You know who you are and I thank you hugely X

Aunty Beeb cu

Having got to where I am now, I’d urge anyone in a difficult, dark place to be reassured that it can be different, it will be different. It’s not permanent, so just hang on in there until the clouds start to disperse… You’re okay, you really, really are. And it’ll be worth the wait…

wavy line of crocuses

It’s been an extraordinary journey already and I’m looking forward to following this winding path to I don’t know where; but where ever it is I think it’ll be good. The key will be to enjoy the twists and turns as much as possible. Hang on for the ride!

A trip to the seaside…

March 19, 2013

I love a day out and today I went to Brighton to see my very aged cousin Marguerite. She is living in the Blind Veteran’s home known as St Dunstans, which cares for blind veterans young and old.

The building itself is an imposing 1920s creation, sat high on a hill to the East of Brighton, with beautiful views out to sea.

St Dunstan's wide shot

It was designed to reflect the layout of a plane so that its first patients, airforce veterans from World War One could find their way about; able to navigate their way around say from the ‘cockpit’ to the ‘fuselage’ or the ‘wings’. The home’s guiding principles were not just established in its layout; in all ways the home exists to give the residents inspiration, hope and the means to live a full life. Many residents are able to return to a full independent life outside, after a spell living here. It is far more than a care home.

Of course my cousin Marguerite aged 92, is an exception to the general rule; most of the residents here are much younger, wounded in active service in Afghanistan or Iraq. I haven’t met any of the younger residents as Marguerite is pretty much confined to her home on the third floor now. The entertainment and amazing facilities downstairs like the swimming pool and art rooms, are beyond her enjoyment. Staff do take her down sometimes but it’s usually too much for her – too noisy, and, although old she is still feisty and therefore apt to tell people to shut up if she deems it necessary. I might say that she never told anyone to shut up within my earshot when she was younger, she was always extremely polite. A privilege of  old age, to say what you’ve always been thinking.

Here she is when I visited today…

Marguerite waving

Marguerite waves for the camera

As soon as I asked if I could take her picture she removed her spectacles and waved. Of course it’s sad to see her so frail when once, not so long ago she was so full of life and vitality. Here she is in her 20s…

Marguerite in her 20s

She’s had a pretty amazing life – lived in Australia, travelled back by ship with her young son Michael and after active service as a WREN, became a professional portrait photographer. So while decline is inevitable at her age I suppose, it’s also important to remember how much enjoyment she’s had. She’s had her share of pain too, but over all I think she’s lived a full and happy life; grasping opportunities when they came her way and always interested in the people around her. Now, she is in very little pain, is cared for amazingly and has chocolate for breakfast.

But she is very frustrated at times. “What am I going to do about it?” she asked today. “About what?” I said. “This physical body of mine. Things going wrong”. “I think perhaps you’ll have to accept it Marguerite” I said, “bits of your body have given up long before you”. If she had her way she’d still be dancing.

I hope she carries on going for as long as she gets some pleasure from life and for as long as she’s able to assert her wishes. And I hope her memories are mostly happy ones.

To match the mixed emotions of the day, our glorious British weather lurched from one extreme to another. As I left St Dunstans there were beautiful blue skies and sunshine…

Blue skies view from St Dunstans

But fast forward awhile, probably half an hour or so to the view from my homeward-bound train…

Rainy train window

Rain, rain, go away


It’s a jungle out there…

March 14, 2013

So here I am, approaching the end of 18 years at the BBC. 18 YEARS! It doesn’t seem possible.

When I first joined, I remember being shocked when meeting a new colleague who had been there 5 years; “Blimey, that’s a long time!” said I. Ha!

There is sooooo much for me to say about this whole process of leaving and finding a new me or mes. And where to start is tricky; but what has prompted me to write this post is the course I attended today about networking. So lets start there.

I should explain, I’m taking redundancy from Aunty Beeb voluntarily, and I’m very fortunate to be able to attend some courses before I leave. I’m grateful for them because it really does feel like a massive step into the unknown.

I remember my dad, who was an army major (yes I do march as a result) telling me that when he left the army he was given no help/support to make the transition, except a leaflet on bricklaying. It hit him really hard – like a brick actually – and it took him ages to recover.

You’ll be pleased to hear that he did make the transition and is going very strong at the age of 83. He took our girls ice skating last year and here he is (with my Danny) at the fantastic Carter’s Steam Fair, having whizzed round and round far higher and faster and longer than I would care to, on the Victory Dive Bomber ride…

fairground ride

I salute you, oh father of mine!

Ummm I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about networking. 

I realised on the course today that I HATE talking – of the networking variety I mean. Actually I did realise before, I just didn’t realise quite how much I hate it. Until that is, we were shown a photo of a gallery/exhibition opening and were asked what we would do if we went there alone, without knowing anyone. How would we deal with it? How would we network there?

Well I nearly had a meltdown in the class. Glad I didn’t, but it was close.

So I learnt something, a lot actually. First, I learnt that this redundancy lark, however much I want it, is scaring the crap out of me.

I also learned that I dislike face to face networking immensely – and I learned that I need to get over it. I learned that a way to manage that dreaded alone-in-a-gallery scenario, is to find someone else on their own, talk to them (about him/herself) and then invite others into the conversation. Our tutor, Moray Coulter assured me that before long the room would be mine. Hurrah, that’ll be a first!

The act of helping others and starting open-ended conversations appeals to me. I do it anyway, but to do it and be able to call it networking is great. It also means that at the next exhibition opening I go to (darling) I can concentrate on someone else instead of focussing on my own reeeeediculous fears. ‘Generous networking’ Moray called this approach, and I like it. Lets have more generous networking I say; help each other and in so doing we will help ourselves.

I also learned, or rather it occurred to me on the way home, that rather than assuming I’m rubbish at speaking, maybe just maybe, I find other ways to ‘speak’, other ways to command the room. For example I’ve become known for our children’s parties and for ludicrous Christmas/Easter/any excuse decorations. Maybe that’s my way of holding court. I let the tinsel do the talking.

I love it; I love the creativity and I love the joy it brings. I also, lets be honest, enjoy basking in the glory of friends’ appreciation and admiration. It’s warm in there. Here are a few pictures from Elsa’s Jungle party to give you an idea…

jungle party wide shot

Jungle Party paper palm tree


Jungle party paper monkeys



Are you still there? Oh goodie.

And looking forward, to life after the BBC; shouldn’t I be looking to do something that allows me to speak, to find my voice amid all the noise?

I think that’s what we should all aim for, if we’re in the privileged position of being able to choose, which I know I am, scared or not…


March 13, 2013

close up Lemsip packet



A salutary tale for Monday

March 11, 2013

What a difference 24 hours makes. Apart from anything else it’s bitterly cold today, I’m sure its colder than my phone alleges.

When Alice and I got the bus to school this morning a lady started talking to us. She thought Alice looked tired. Probably. She said that when she was a child, she was always tired at school and then went on to tell us why. It made me reflect on Mother’s Day and blog writing and the horror of some people’s lives and how lucky I am and, well…

For 10 years, from the age of 4, this lady was sent to a Irish convent boarding school that was primarily meant for mentally and physically disabled children. She didn’t learn, she said and the children there came out dumber than when they went in. But they were punished.

“If I did something wrong” she said, “I would be hit, on the front or the back of my hand and if I didn’t learn my lesson, I’d be whacked on my inner thigh. When we were really bad we were locked in a cupboard, with no light and nothing in it, for 24 hours at a time. No toilet, no nothing.”

She finally left when she was 14 – her stepfather realised it was doing her no good and pulled her out.

She was also sectioned twice, when she was 7 and 11. She never knew why or by whom. But when her Mum died she found the evidence. Her Mum’s signature was on the papers, both times. To this day she doesn’t know why. She says she can’t forgive her, but “she’s still my Mum”. Now in her late 40s she is self-educating herself, learning to read and write. “If it wasn’t for that place I’d probably be a lawyer by now”. I don’t doubt it, she came across as a strong and bright woman who was learning to stop her past overcoming her. Amazing.

Of course I have no idea of the context of her story, or even the truth of it. But she had no reason to lie and whatever the details, it’s a salutary counterpoint to Mother’s Day and my schmaltzy post of yesterday. A child’s love is extraordinary and it’s a responsibility we must take seriously.

I don’t want this blog to be a saccharine-loaded piece of fluff. It’s easily done – just blog about the shiny bits. Of course there’s plenty to celebrate but there’s also plenty that’s a lot harder to manage, understand and cope with. And some people’s lives are simply horrendous.

This blog is part of my journey into a new happier chapter of life that I’m really enjoying so far, but my life is not a stream of sugary joy and nor is anyone else’s I know. I haven’t suffered like the woman on the bus, not at all, but I want this blog to reflect some of the truths about life, not just the good bits.

Will I be able to do it? Is the temptation to choose the sparkly bits too great? Is it a kind of therapy? Am I too shallow to blog about the tricky bits? Is the truth too risky in the blogosphere? We’ll see. Keep me in check if you please. X

A very happy Mother’s Day!

March 10, 2013

stack of Mother's Day pancakes each and every one of us Mums all doing our best, sometimes winning against the odds. Hooray to all of us when we’re succeeding and strength to us all when we aren’t…

Went on a Mother’s Day run today. Before you get all impressed (or sickened) I didn’t go very far or fast – I’m definitely NOT a natural runner. But actually it was great to be out in the World and the fresh air – seeing what there is to see…

I was given a guard of honour by some seagulls in the park!



Which is nice. And then I came across someone’s tree project – an array of mismatched bird houses, just waiting for some families to move in. Lovely.

And finally, heading home, I got a wave!


Then back home to those Mother’s Day pancakes, cooked by Elsa. Thank you love…

Elsa flipping pancakes

These are our favourites; Nigella’s buttermilk pancakes from Feast which are puffy and delish because of the buttermilk.

I hope you too get treated royally by your little ones, big ones, partners – whoever is there to appreciate your daily efforts. Have a lovely, lovely day. And finally, to serenade us all, the perfect Mother’s Day song, played by Alice…

Alice Mother’s Day 

It’s Friday!

March 8, 2013

And that’s an excuse for a plate of biscuits, to welcome the weekend. I bought some lovely little fellas last week for Elsa’s (my eldest’s) birthday party. Disco for six anyone?

Anyhow I mainly bought them for the packaging, because they’re Japanese and Japanese packaging is always lovely; such care over the tiniest details. I got them from the Japan Centre shop, Umai at Westfield Stratford, along with a few other goodies.

But we didn’t eat them because I forgot, in the midst of glow-in-the-dark jelly, drinks and tattoos, to open the packet.

So instead they are this Friday’s treat and LOOK what I found when I opened the box…

Kabaya strawberry panda biscuits

Plate of panda biscuits

They’re gorgeous, and they’re all different!!! And they’re tiny too – little things please little minds.

Oh decisions, decisions, which one to choose. I might say that there were more than this when I opened the packet but the others have um mysteriously, um, gone…

And do you know what the best thing is? You too can have Kabaya strawberry panda biscuits. Oh yes you can, delivered to your door from the Japan Centre website.

Happy Friday World, have a great weekend…

A bright spot on a rainy day

March 7, 2013

So Spring lasted a day! Back to grey rain today. Sigh.

But wait what’s this?

Alice WBD

Alice World Book Day

Amid the rain it’s Alice dressed as Cindy Lou from the Dr Seuss story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Today is World Book Day. It’s one of the highlights of our school year, especially as we’re a bit fond of dressing up in our house. Alice piled on the frothy skirts and we got up extra early in order to plait her hair with wire and pile it onto her head with a bird in the middle. Of course.


World Book Day is a fantastic annual event that brings books to life through the children that read them. Perfect. I only wish they did something at secondary schools. Surely as children get older that’s the time to keep them engaged with reading; when they’re in danger of swerving off into a world of make-up, video games, girl/boyfriends and TV? Or is that just in my house?

You know what, I’ve just checked and there’s a section for teenagers on WBD’s website. Ah ha! Mental note to self: check facts first…

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