Saturday, 8 October 2016


These are strange days. There is movement wherever we look. Whether it’s self-destructing participants in the so-called ‘global race’, or the actual mass migration of displaced human beings, walking the finest of lines as they cross land masses to what they hope will be a better life.

24hr reports and views hold us in a weird limbo. At once frozen, yet constantly agitated. The earth turns (did I read 650 mph?) and social media carries the thoughts and reactions of countless millions, at a speed that may well be outpacing the planet.

When I was first introduced to the concept of the blog, with the launch of Blogger, around 1999/2000, the possibilities were abundantly clear. Five years ahead of Facebook, anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection could log their thoughts, opinions, interests, causes, etc, and belong to a network of like-minded online diarists. It was a truly exciting moment.

I didn’t actually start my own blog until July, 2009. Square Sunshine steadily grew a following. Mostly people who were interested in the observations of a grandfather. Later, others who liked my tentative efforts at photography and poetry. Back then I always had something I wanted to share. A funny moment, a special occasion, a sobering discovery. In turn, I could pop over to my favourite places and learn about a whole range of life experiences. It genuinely felt as though I had moved into a new and friendly neighbourhood where interesting and informative individuals passed the time of day (or night) chatting over the cyber fence.

Then, after a while, my posts became less frequent. I often found that I had little of consequence to say. Years ago, the weekly column I wrote was mostly inspired by our young daughter. I had thought I might take a similar route with the blog, only this time prompted by the antics and activities of grandchildren. It worked for while. But, as I’m so inclined, I found myself distracted and eagerly filled in the blanks with anything and everything that took my fancy. I feel it was at this point when Square Sunshine lost its focus. Eventually the posts were sporadic, and often out of kilter with what visitors had perhaps come to expect.

I called it a day at least twice. I played around with the design, the look, the feel, the style. I posted enthusiastically but quickly ran out of steam. The lengthy periods between posts were beginning to look like neglect.

All the time, I was still dropping in on my favourite blogs. Not necessarily commenting, but passing by and giving a wave. What I noticed was, that old neighbours were shutting up shop at an alarming rate. Some blogs disappearing entirely, some halted abruptly with no explanation. I know of at least two regulars who died, their blogs left as a tribute. That or grieving relatives had no access to the relevant passwords.

This summer I resolved to give it one more go. I redesigned the header, tidied up my sidebar, and began posting every few days or so. When I called in on old neighbours, a handful were home, and producing greatly entertaining tales. Others were either out, not answering the door, or had moved from the area.

From my point of view, blogging, at least in the form that I consider to be typical of its heyday, is waning. It has been for some time. In part, the medium has been, like districts of our great cities, quietly ‘gentrified’. Increasingly, blogs are slickly presented, but a little 'flat-pack' in calibre. Too often a visual bombardment of heavily filtered pics and neurotic narratives. Certain traits have invaded blogland like Japanese Knotweed, obscuring and obstructing the neighbourliness and sense of community.

Me, stringing sentences together. © Robby Bullen - Cartoonist

I’m not going to say I’m shutting up shop and moving on…again. But I am going on a *virtual* winter vacation, in an attempt to get some serious writing done.

No doubt I’ll continue to bump into some of you on the crowded streets of Facebook, or maybe in the picturesque lanes of Instagram. One place you won’t find me is on Tweet Street. 

Thanks to all who have dropped by. It's been great to have your company. Take care, and have fun.   

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Miss Perfect?

These are the days that will shape our children and grandchildren, and I know that the little ones will adapt to the world they know. For a time, they will lay claim to it, as we once did. They will be okay with the hand they’ve been dealt, because they have little to compare their experiences to, other than our own back stories which, to them, are just that. Stories.

Kids have a natural gift for being able to relate and respond to the essence of individuals. 
Judging by physical appearance alone is such a negative burden.  

Even though I am a born optimist, and even though I have complete confidence that the younger generations will strive to make good the mess others have created, there are things that concern me. Things that all too often remain below the radar.

This morning I read this article. It highlights research findings by Girlguiding, into the pressures on young girls, to look perfect.

The following quoted figures are shocking.

559 seven – ten-year-olds took part in the survey:

36% said they were made to feel the most important thing about them was their looks

38% felt they were not pretty enough

35% agreed women were judged more on their appearance than their abilities

23% felt they needed to be perfect

The pressure to appear perfect is, no less a burden for boys, I’m sure.

The School of Life have produced an excellent animation that examines the ‘Perfectionist Trap’. It’s less than 4 minutes long, and well worth watching. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Kiddies Party

When our daughter was born, 37 years ago, we had already decided that we wouldn’t have her christened. Religion, we agreed, boiled down to a matter of faith. And as neither of us were strong on religion, it just didn’t seem right to secure for her, membership of a club that she had no inkling of. Yes, it was a question of faith, and she would, from her experiences of the world and those she’d share it with, either make the leap, or not.

The same applies to politics. I hold my views (left of centre) but I never consciously pushed those views Heather’s way. Sure, she would grow up witnessing my reactions to certain events and injustices, but in the end her own opinions would be formed from her learning and understanding of life.

The picture isn’t very different today. I always answer questions from the grandchildren honestly and with fair-mindedness. I don’t go on a rant about how the government is ruining the country. Nor do I subtly attempt to indoctrinate them in one line of thinking or another. If they raise a subject that presents a moral dilemma, I usually ask them what they think might be the right thing to do. The answers are almost always logical, and devoid of all artifice. We really should put the kids in charge. What could possibly go wrong?

Mary addresses conference with a knowing smile.

Yesterday I read about the “Teddy Bear Mandate”, and afterwards my heart sank a little. The initiative, from the British left-wing political organisation, Momentum, is designed to engage children in a certain type of politics. Personally, I think it’s questionable, at least. Children will be encouraged to make protest banners with the aim of helping them to become activists and attend protest marches. It’s the “Teddy Bear Mandate” because kids will be asked to think about what their teddies stand for:

‘Bring your favourite toy to the party where we will imagine the party it might join and lead, and what it stands for.

What is your toy’s mandate, what are the positives that would make your toy a great leader of a totally new party?

What does your teddy stand for, what are its values and how would it make positive changes?

And, finally, what powers do they possess?’

Delegates are mesmerised by the 'new politics'. 

I’m all for kids being empowered, engaged, included, involved, etc. But I want them to figure politics out for themselves. I want them to have the chance to grow up listening to many and various views, to learn about tolerance and social justice, to realise how it feels to have empathy and compassion. I’m not sure that much good can come from a back-of-a-cigarette-packet-idea, the success of which lies in the use of a child’s Teddy Bear as a catalyst. But then, I'm not a politician.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Comic Timing

You know how it is. You crack a joke and people laugh. Then some bright spark suggests you should be on the stage. And, with perfect comic timing, they follow with, “sweeping up!” Cue an even bigger laugh than your original witty story received.

This has happened to me on many occasions, in the past. I’d like to say it put me off treading the boards or having a stab at ‘stand-up’, but the truth is, I’d be paralysed with fear if I had to stand in front of an audience and perform. These days any attempt at humour is made in the company of friends and family, or from relative safety, this side of the keyboard.

But the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd hasn’t deterred other family members from taking to the stage. We’re not a million miles from pantomime season and, for the fourth year running, SW is getting excited about this years school production. And it’s…The Sound of Music…with a Star Wars twist. Feel free to rewrite the lyrics to those classic Rodgers and Hammerstein numbers.

SW (with fellow actor) in Aladdin, 2 years ago.

SW's mum (far right) in Wizard of Oz, 30 years ago.  

Okay. Places, everyone!

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Art of Growing Kids

I recently listened to this 5 minute clip from BBC's Woman's Hour. I love the gardening analogy that Alison Gopnik, a developmental psychologist, uses to describe what parenting should really be about. That parents aren't creating a particular kind of plant, but developing an ecosystem, a nurturing environment in which many, many different kinds of plants can flourish. Well worth a listen, if you have 5 minutes to spare.

Two little girls flourishing in their own garden.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Every Picture

The girls are back from France, and full of tales about their travels and adventures. And so it was, over Sunday lunch, we learnt all about their holiday. The high point was a surprise visit to Disneyland Paris. In fact they still had no idea where they were going until 5 minutes before arrival. Mum and dad had told them they were visiting a castle, and that there may be a play area to explore. Not exactly a fib, was it?

But aside from accounts of the main attraction, there were those eagerly recalled, unexpected incidents. The owner of the gîte who appeared with a couple of farmworkers carrying a trampoline for the girls to use. The huge man who stood in front of his own children, just to get himself the best view of a fireworks display and light show. The enthusiasm with which food was described. The facial expressions that conveyed trepidation about travelling under the sea to a foreign place.

They left their cameras with me and I've downloaded a haul of photos. Lots of fun shots, fuzzy shots, mugshots, and a few that really made an impression on me. These aren't purely pretty views or popular attractions. They are moments of imagination or curiosity. Explorations, impressions, and fleeting ideas, frozen.

'Reflections' by SW
'Minnie's Ears' by Imogen
 'Candles in Amiens' by Iris

Saturday, 3 September 2016

DO NOT ever grow up (it's a trap)

I'm always left with a heavy heart after reading accounts of how children are unhappy. Recently, this BBC item caught my eye. According to the Children's Society annual report more than one third of 10 - 15 year old girls are unhappy with their appearance. Such a sad state of affairs, that kids should be hung up on this kind of thing at any point in their young lives.

There follows some words of advice, from young women. Things they'd say to their younger selves.

This started me wondering what advice I might give to my younger self. I quickly drew the conclusion that, even now, I'm really not qualified to offer any advice. And when I was a youngster, I rarely, if ever, listened to advice.

All I would say to my grandchildren is, keep drawing those beautiful pictures, keep inventing wonderful stories, don't forget how to be silly. As much as we want children to have our old heads on their young shoulders, with all the best intentions, it ain't gonna happen. But we can support them, love them, and try to help them build confidence in what they do. We can also reassure them that failure is not to be feared. Mistakes and setbacks are important in teaching us what works and what doesn't.

Keep bouncing back

Keep drawing. (Chewbacca by Iris)

DO NOT ever grow up (it's a trap)

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Missing You, Already

All three girls came to us for lunch on Friday. Part of a plan to allow mum and dad some packing time and space before all five head off to France the very next morning.

Our first floor flat is quite small. And it becomes unbelievably small when three active children are slotted into the equation. It's also quite warm all year round. I'm sure the girls think it has something to with being old. I believe it’s because we’re closer to the sun. The girls feel the warmth, even during the winter months. So we heat fill them up with eggs, chips and beans, then offer an ice-cream dessert as an antidote extra special treat.

Then I suggest, “Let’s walk to the shop,” (only a mile across country).

Muted response.

“We could buy lollies.”

Did three girls ever don their shades and sunhats more quickly? And I speak as someone who has just watched a considerable slice of the Olympics. So I know how to gauge speed.

Trips to the shop seem to take no time at all in their company. All the constant chatter, the running ahead (them, not me) and the extras like choosing an apple that’s fallen from the tree near the railway bridge, setting it still in the middle of the road, and seeing who can kick theirs over the humpback bridge with the fewest attempts.

Two ‘Pop-ups’ and a ‘Twister’ later, and we’re plodding our way home. Our group becomes straggled due to an almost microscopic blister on Iris’ toe. I hang back with her, offering reassurance that her foot will be intact when we get home. It seems to work, for a while, until she complains of stitch. She’s holding her left side, at a point around her hip.

“I don’t think you get stitch there."

“You can get stitch anywhere,” she says. We walk on in silence. Well, I walked, she limped, slightly.

Then, at the end of an enjoyable few hours, dad came to pick them up. Normally when we say goodbye, it’s in the knowledge that they will be just a couple of miles away. But this was us saying goodbye before they crossed the channel to France. An altogether different prospect.

The view from the gîte appears to be quiet and still. Rather like our days without the girls in them.

They were hugged, we were hugged. We did ‘high fives’ (several times) and we told them how much we love them. Then, just when I thought the old heartstrings couldn’t tighten much more, Imogen looked me square in the eye and asked a question in such a way that only a promise would suffice as an answer.

“Will you still be here when we get back?”

All three stared, waiting for my response.

We’ll do our best. Of course we will.”

Ouch, that really tugged, young lady. But who knows what though processes are taking place inside such a young head? This is the girl who asked me to print a photo of Monty, their dog, so she can see him when she's away. I had to print another, of all three girls, to pin up next to his basket, so he could see them, too.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Cobs and Monsters

When I was about seven, I watched an episode of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene, which included a scene where the “baddie,” in black armour, lurked on a great staircase. I couldn’t sleep for nights. In my dreams/nightmares he was always after me. A pursuit that caused me to eventually wake, hot and breathless.

A few days ago, the eldest of our twin granddaughters (by ten minutes) told me she’d had a nightmare. For her, a giant Christmas tree began to move and wobble, generating monsters that began to chase her and her family. In fact the monsters in question were hideous hybrids of her favourite animals. Anyway, the family all crammed into the smallest of their two cars, and made their getaway. This, her sister told me, was the severely abridged version. “Ugh, she told us this at dinner, and it went on forever. We were all, like, *pulls the expression of someone in a catatonic trance* enough, already.” Sympathetic little soul.

Swan, Flying by Imogen

It was a different tale, today. Today number one twin presented me with a hand drawn picture of a swan, flying. I think it’s charming, but then I would, wouldn’t I?

A place for imaginings.

She’s also been taking advantage of this hammock that her dad’s suspended beneath their horse chestnut tree. The perfect place for recording her imaginings.  

Monday, 22 August 2016


Each summer, when I was a kid, my green-fingered gran would enter her blooms and various categories of produce into the local village shows. The fruits of her labours were judged and invariably won prizes. I suppose I must have been proud, but I was most likely distracted by the sights and sounds of village folk gathering to inspect the exhibits for themselves.

I have a pretty good memory for these kinds of events. Though it’s not photographic. Unless, of course, slightly out-of-focus, tilted-in-the-frame snaps count.

My gran (on the right) with her neighbour, Mrs Cooper, all dressed up for the Owlsbury Show.

A couple of things I recall, with great clarity. My great uncle Harry laying at full-stretch in the wooden box-cum-sidecar that my grandad used to carry his tools and goods in. On a trip to the Owlsbury show we followed grandad and Harry through the winding lanes, to the site where a considerable square yardage of off-white canvas had been carefully erected. Grandad, sat upright on his Triumph Thunderbird, and Harry reclining, his hands clasped behind his head, with the summer sun occasionally spotting through the leafy branches, lighting up his silver hair.

The second vivid image is that of my grandad stood talking to a man with a huge block of wood to one side of him. The surface of the wood was studded with nails. Some with their heads just above the surface, others bent double, and some brutally misshapen. I believe the idea was to drive home a six inch steel pin with three blows.

I begged grandad to have a go, and he did. The prize for successfully hammering the nail home, was sixpence. I’m guessing it was probably a penny for three blows. Anyway, the challenge was on. Grandad took a nail from the man and pushed the sharp end into the wood. Just enough to make it stand upright. Then he took the hammer and delivered an almighty blow. The block shook, the nail sunk to its middle into the wood, the man had lost his jovial smile. Another whack! This time there was only a small gap between the nail head and the wood. On the third strike, the nail was buried. The man dug deep into his trouser pocket and retrieved a sixpence. He handed it over to grandad and, in turn, grandad passed it to me.

I held on to that little coin tightly, for the rest of the afternoon, before it was tempted away from me in exchange for a bag of sweets.  

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Summer of Love

Yesterday we enjoyed a family day out under sunbeams. We breathed deep, the heavy fragrances of ageing roses and lavender, served up on barely perceptible waves of crushed grass.

We picnicked under a plane tree, and watched children wearing their warmth lightly as they played.

Later on there was ice-cream. Dripping salted caramel, vanilla, and raspberry sorbet. Crunchy cones and sticky hands.

SW, nicely captured by her sister, Imogen.

SW was looking forward to having a sleepover at her best friend’s house.

There was a little apprehension, that emotional tug we feel when facing time away from the family home, even if it is just one night.

"Love you."

After she’d been picked up, our daughter went into the garden, to find that SW had left this message.

Sunday, 7 August 2016


I was born and raised in the countryside, so you might think my formative years were awash with wild life in all its forms. In a way it was, I suppose. But knowledge and awareness are not the same as having contact and bearing witness. This is how it was with foxes. I heard them bark late into the night, from the comfort of my bed. I saw evidence of where they’d been, and what they’d left behind. I caught fleeting glimpses of stealthy movers in the surrounding fields, but I never saw one, up close and personal.

Fox by SW

Of course, foxes have been urban dwellers for a long time now. I’ve seen a vixen with her cubs in the car park of a major city hospital. Our daughter had one who was a regular visitor to her city garden, just yards away from six busy lanes of traffic. When I used to take the Thameslink from Wimbledon Chase to Farringdon, another fox family had established itself as something of a landmark. People craned to see them lazing in the sun or, on a wet day, sheltering in the lee of a steel cabinet that housed the gubbins necessary to the efficient operation of the track.

Slick Fox by Immy

I suppose the point I’m making is that you probably stand a greater chance of spotting a fox in the town, than the countryside. In the sixteen and a half years we’ve lived in this deepest rural setting, I’ve only spotted a few. Mostly catching them in the headlights as they trot imperviously across the road ahead. Once in broad daylight, on the lawn of a neighbouring house.

Foxy, the friendly fox.

Early in the 80s, I interviewed a local man who had rescued a fox cub, and kept it as a pet. That would be very controversial now, but I found the visit fascinating. Jack Toms, his wife, and “Foxy”, were all perfectly charming.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016


When I was about 6 or 7 years old, someone gave me a torch as a gift. It wasn’t just any old torch either. It had filters. I don’t remember if I changed the colour by sliding a switch or pressing a button, but one thing’s for certain, red, green and white shone brightly for me. However, I didn’t use the torch to see my way around in the dark. In fact I don’t recall thinking of it as a useful device in that way. To me it was a toy. A key to unlock my imagination.

The best place to appreciate the full effects was under the bedclothes. Pre-duvet folks will know that with a sheet, two blankets and an eiderdown pulled over your head, the world became a very dark place.

Illustration by SW

Sometimes I used to screw my eyes tight shut until when at last I opened them my vision was blurred and watery. The ideal time to turn on the torch. Suddenly the folds and shadows, moving in and out of focus, were cave walls or wild seas. A red filter brought an extra air of menace and on occasion I’d have to pop my head out into the open, just for some reassurance. The green filter reminded me of the sea. Although thinking of how vivid it was, perhaps the leaking of some radioactive substance would have been more accurate. But the sea, it was, and one I had no fear of drowning in.

These adventures were almost always followed by the same dream. There was a small trapdoor in my mattress, probably about the size of a small shoe box. Yet somehow I lowered a rope with a cage at the end and, one by one, I would rescue random animals by calling them into the cage and hoisting them up through the impossibly small trapdoor to the safety of my bed. These rescues could last some considerable time and, by rights, my bed should have collapsed under the weight of saved animals. Often my bedclothes were in disarray in the morning. So either I was a restless sleeper, or the mess could be attributed to a hoard of escaping creatures. One other odd thing: I could never find that trapdoor, in the daylight.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Rapunzel: the real story

Rapunzel was locked in a tower, high.
High enough to reach to the sky!

One day a prince came on his horse,
and what did he want? The maiden, of course.

He reached out to take Rapunzel, on his knees.
Then he cried out, "Come down, please!"

"Oh my prince, I really would.
I would if I knew I could.
But alas, my hair isn't long enough..."

"But I need you!"


Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Silly Season

Yesterday we spent a few hours with our daughter and our grandchildren. We munched our way through some cookies, had some wonderful fresh ham baguettes for lunch, followed by chocolate sponge made by SW's own fair hands.

It was a fine day, so I mowed the grass and, afterwards, SW asked if I would play a board game she had made up. We played it few times. Each time I won, I grabbed my sun hat and declared it the 'Celebratory Hat". The levels of daftness quickly escalated, so I decided to trawl YouTube for some of my favourite comedy clips, just to demonstrate how high the silly bar has been set. The girls enjoyed this one in particular. At one point, Iris asked, "Why is he doing that?" I replied, "He's just being silly. And it's perfectly fine to be silly, especially when you're on your school holidays, and especially especially when you're only seven."

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Grandad Can Be A Rock, & Role...Model

When I was growing up during the 60s, that’s to say when I was growing to rely heavily on music as a life support system, the word ‘grandfather’ was only spoken in the same breath as ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ in a pejorative sense. Aimed at male members of the older generation who thought the Mike Sammes Singers were hip.

Back then I couldn’t imagine myself as a father, much less a grandfather. Although rock star seemed a distinct possibility. At least it did in the mirror. And as for the heroes of the day, well, do me a favour, didn’t you hear the man? “Hope I die before I get old.”

Like dreams, catchy song lyrics don’t always deliver, so many of the ‘names’ managed to foil Daltrey’s frustration-filled wish. He, along with others who have had gerontologists scratching their heads survive, still. The drugs and the Rock ‘n’ Roll were powerful factors, but sex was always going to win the day. Our libertine luminaries have become grandparent rockers.

My favourite among them is Keith (Keef) Richards. The man who has defied medical science to edge beyond his three score and ten. I recently watched him in Julien Temple's documentary, 'Keith Richards - The Origin of the Species', giving an entertaining account of growing up in post-war Dartford. And what struck me most of all was the touching tribute he paid to his grandfather, Gus. He’s even written a children’s book, dedicated to Gus. A permanent ‘thank you’ to a grandfather who made such a profound impression.

Those affectionate recollections of Richards’ relationship with his grandfather resonated. My relationship with my own maternal grandfather is well documented throughout this blog.

Seems Keef and I share some things in common. We both love our rock ‘n’ roll, we’re both a little anti-establishment, and we both revel in our grandfather roles. I’ll let the man himself have the final word:

"At first I was a bit wary and then I thought for moment... I suddenly thought about grandfathers and the relationship between grandchildren and grandfathers and what great thing it can be if it can happen."

Monday, 25 July 2016

Big Friendly Read

Kids come to different things in their own time, in their own way. It's called development, and we all experience it, at varying paces. Reading and a love of books is not something everyone gravitates to instinctively. But most of us love stories, and all of us have imagination. Sometimes we just need a door to be unlocked.

I'm a huge fan of initiatives like this year's Summer Reading Challenge. Follow the link for more information on The Big Friendly Read.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Got any grapes?

Kids do the marvellous things. They bring sunshine into our lives. They melt our hearts. They dismantle our arguments with crystal clear logic. And they are responsible for landing us with EARWORMS!

The theme tunes to children's programmes are just something we take on the chin. Even the songs from Frozen can be excused through gritted teeth with, "Actually, it's a really great tune."

But around the age of six or seven, kids are well on the way to excellence in the art of annoyance. I should know. I went through a lengthy stage of only answering my mum with "Arp." I've know idea where it came from, but the more she protested, the more I kept saying it.

A while back, our granddaughters were constantly filling every gap in conversations with, "What does the fox say?" followed with, well, if you bother to watch the video, you can read the lyrics for yourself.

But yesterday, SW landed us with the Duck Song. Truly an earworm to beat all earworms. I dare you to listen all the way through.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Moon Cheese

The girl's been at it again. Maybe one or two vaguely recognisable influences in the story but, even though I say it myself, the artwork is 'knock-out'! So proud of her.

© 2016
© 2016

Monday, 18 July 2016

Tickling the ivories

Ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation, SW will play a short piece entitled "On the River". I thank you!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Whatnot at 7 Day Wonders

By way of an experiment, I've started a new blog. I'm not sure where it's going, or even if it's going anywhere, but I've kicked it off with a post about me and some of the things I've discovered about myself, having indulged in a little 'thinking time'. Check it out at 7 Day Wonders. I've neglected this blog for so long, I feel it will serve as a poor signpost. It now reminds me of a board my gran used to display outside her gate during tomato season. She lived down a lane that carried hardly any traffic - much like Square Sunshine - but despite the odds, she eventually enjoyed a steady flow of customers. I can but hope. 

Thursday, 30 June 2016


Something sweet, simple and innocent. These things help to restore our spirits in such trying times.

Water, fire, air, and earth. With harmonious nature added for good measure.
Courtesy of SW.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

In, Out, or Stitch-Up?

The twins were deep into BBC’s ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ when I asked if they’d mind pausing the programme for a moment as I had a serious question for them. There followed quizzical stares and semi-impatient fiddling with the remote. After all, what could be more serious than the trials of a man whose task it was to create a bra from scratch?

I hoped I wasn’t patronising them when I posed the choice of being in the EU or out of the EU. In spite of having worked with a European Documentation Centre in an academic setting, and having a strong enough grasp of European Humanities to earn me a 2.2 Hons, breaking the referendum down into understandable form, was not easy. In fact, I had rather been hoping someone would do the same for me, but that’s another story.

So I basically went with the, “going it alone” v “being a part of a bigger family” line. Imogen immediately opted for being independent from other rule-makers and having complete control. Iris thought about it a little longer, before offering this: “Well, I think we should join up with other countries. We should join Australia. Then we wouldn’t need to use a plane, or a train in a tunnel under the sea. We could just drive there.” And suddenly, it was all pins, tucks, and fragile fabric again.

As I posted earlier, on Facebook, I've decided how I'll vote in the referendum. After all that's been said and done, I've reached my own conclusions. It's hard to see beyond the negativity, the scaremongering, the self interests, and the pernicious points of persuasion that dance around the headlines of hate. But see beyond it we must. The only clear fact, either way, is that no one actually knows anything. Politicians have been spinning for so long now, they've lost sight of their principles. Like most people, they've got their fingers crossed. So it's down to us. Take your hopes and wishes to the polling booths on the 23rd, shape them into a X, and imagine you're sealing your dreams of a better future, with a kiss.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Grandad's Birthday Cake!

When I asked my eldest granddaughter how she managed the barrage of tests recently undertaken at her primary school, she answered, "Oh, okay." But then she added, "Apart from spelling. I didn't do so well in that, I just know it. I failed that one." In these situations you always want to come up with one of those 'grandad knows best' or 'listen to your old grandpop' remedies, but kids are smart and they know when you're trying to smooth things over. So I settled for explaining that spelling and grammar will come. These things, I told her, you'll learn along the way. For the time being, try to put all notions of failure to one side. Of course she hadn't failed, and I'm pleased to say that her creative output is as full-on as ever.

Yesterday she was eager to show me her latest short story.

Emily's Grandad was coming round. Emily liked her Grandad very much, and whenever he visited Emily, it was always a special day. But this time it would be even more special because this time it was his birthday.

Emily made a present, and party hats (with the help of her Mum). She even helped her Dad blow up some balloons. But there was just something missing...that something was the cake!

Emily rushed into the kitchen. She had never made a cake before, but everyone else was busy. She had a general idea of how to make one. She'd need a bowl and spoon and an egg. There, she cracked her egg. "Hmm," she thought, "what else? I know, Grandad likes banana and chocolate. She rushed to the fruit bowl and grabbed a banana, and on passing, she snatched a chocolate bar off the shelf. She raced back to the bowl and tipped them in, and stirred. "it didn't look like this when Mummy made it," she thought. 

"Now what else? I know, jam!" She poured the red sticky liquid into the bowl. "One more thing. Sugar." She popped it in, covered the bowl up and put it into the oven. The deed was done.

'Bing' wen the oven. She took it out. She looked at it. It was a jammy, eggy, chocolaty, banana, sticky mess. "Oh dear," she thought. It was still missing candles but Emily wasn't sure whether they'd stay put or sink to the bottom. So she left it.

'Ding dong' went the doorbell. Emily rushed to the front door. There in the doorway was her Grandad. "Hello Emily," he said. "Happy Birthday, Grandad," answered Emily, who was still clutching the bowl, tightly. "What have you got there, Sweetie?" asked Grandad. "Oh nothing, it's just...we forgot to get you a birthday cake, so I made one. It's not very good, though," answered Emily. 

"You don't know that. How about I try it?" "Okay," answered Emily, nervously, as her Grandad took a mouthful. "It's bad, isn't it?" began Emily, tears filling her eyes. "Emily, this is the best birthday cake I've ever had." Emily was shocked. "Yes," continued her Grandad, "I love the banana and the chocolate twist. "You do?" asked Emily. "Yes. So you forgot a few ingredients. I love it all the same."

And he gave her a huge hug.

Illustrated by Primrose (AKA SW)
Written by Primrose (AKA SW)

Monday, 25 April 2016

Care and Commitment

Is too much expected of you as grandparents? is an interesting piece, and it raises some questions about the extent of grandparents' roles in the care of their grandchildren.

Personally, I think, before committing yourself, it makes sense for all parties to understand where their primary responsibilities lie. Talk to your kids before saying yes, and be honest about where the limits are. We have a good arrangement whereby we have committed to 'pick up' duties throughout school time, and we are on standby for 'extras' when our help is needed. This allows our daughter to work, covers childcare for our grandchildren, and allows us space to go about our own business. But if it's a regular undertaking, a routine, talking it through thoroughly is absolutely key if you want it to succeed. There have to be established lines and limits, if feelings of resentment are to be avoided.

Friday, 4 March 2016

The Wizard Princess

What better surprise on World Book Day, than being presented with a snazzy little book? This one came directly from the author/illustrator, herself. And this time it's SW's young sister, Iris.

 The Wizard Princess - Hermione.
 In a land, far far away, there was a princess called Hermione.
She wanted to be a wizard.

She lived in a castle, but she didn't want to be a princess.
The castle was bright pink. Hermione did not like bright pink.
...her mummy did bright blue on the castle.
"Thank you!" said Hermione. I like bright blue, mummy.
 The End.