Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Hunter-Gatherer: Mouse Botherer

We have a cat named Mowzer.  He was named after one of my son’s favourite stories, “The Mousehole Cat.”  He is also a magpie cat and so resembles his fictional namesake.  A friend with a particularly warped sense of humour recently likened Mowzer to Hitler (he has a splash of black covering one eye and a little black nose, which, through squinty eyes, could pass as a moustache); however, the similarity ends there, for Mowzer is a very easy-going cat.  He’s a lover, not a fighter.  Except, that is, when it comes to creatures smaller than him.

We have a long wilderness of a garden, backing onto woodland - a cat’s paradise.  Mowzer takes full advantage of this and has brought back a selection of “gifts” to show his appreciation for the hideously expensive cat food we buy him.  So far, we have received a blackbird - no longer singing - in the dead of night, numerous shrews and a number of mice.

Unfortunately for Mowzer, we have recently carried out an assault on our garden and in particular, an overgrown wisteria and buddleia clinging to the side of our house.  Following this pruning session, Mowzer’s killing spree suddenly ceased.  We speculated that the mice and shrews had taken shelter amongst the roots of the now ex-buddleia and we had inadvertently deprived Mowzer of such easy targets.

Mowzer took to sleeping more and hunting less.  He grew more aloof and, dare I say it, sulky.  It was as though he blamed us for desecrating his stomping ground, forcing him to go further afield for a kill.  Clearly he wasn’t prepared to do so.



That is until a September chill pervaded the night air, bringing with it an influx of worryingly large house spiders.  A few nights ago, Mowzer had just eaten and was cleaning his whiskers and thinking hard about another sleep, when from the shadow of the dishwasher, a spider emerged, so big, I could see the whites of its eyes.  Mowzer pounced with a nimbleness I had not seen him demonstrate for weeks and in one direct hit, caught and consumed the eight-legged beast without a second thought.  I admit, I had to avert my gaze during this stomach churning process, but confess to a sneaking admiration for his speed and agility.

But this was just the beginning of a very active night for Mowzer.  Buoyed up by the realisation that there were creatures to hunt inside the house, Mowzer went temporarily insane.  He darted around the house, stalking anything that moved - from shadows to human toes. 

Eventually, he settled under our bed whilst we were watching TV.  I say, “settled,” but in fact a glance under the bed would be met by a pair of eyes the size of dinner plates and a swipe of his paw.  During that evening, Mowzer managed to locate and annihilate two more house spiders before disappearing through the cat flap and into the night.

In the middle of the night, I was vaguely aware of a series of thuds and noises somewhere between Bambi on ice and a centipede in Doc Martens.  The grim discovery, early on Wednesday morning, was a murdered mouse and a scattering of shoes in the hallway.  The poor creature had obviously taken refuge in the shoe basket before Mowzer, the hunter-gatherer, despatched him.

I can only conclude that the house spider has had the same effect on our cat’s enthusiasm for his life’s work as viagra has on an ageing lothario.

Mower is back.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

All Work and No Play



After months of fighting it, deluding myself that I'm a writer darling and do not have creative juices "on tap," I have finally succumbed.  I have at long last, admitted to myself that in order to write, to be a wife and mum (with all that entails) and to ensure that there is food in the fridge and a steady supply of coffee by day, chilled wine when the sun is over the yard arm, I need to grow up and get a schedule.  I have a Blackberry for God's sake!  I'm half way there! 

As most writers and bloggers with children will acknowledge, it is near impossible to achieve anything worthy of public scrutiny during the summer holidays and come September, I was itching to get back to my writing.  So last weekend, I compiled a Monday to Friday work schedule.  And mighty pleased with myself I am too!

That's not to say I haven't included a few very important sanity-preserving activities, such as Facebook checking, Daily Mail on-line gossip fix, my Twitter feed and a twice-weekly swim.  But under my shiny new schedule, these have new, more imposing titles, such as "Research" and "Free Period" (very sixth form).

So on Monday, I stuck religiously to my timetable and was amazed that I resisted the urge, first thing, to visit Facebook, thereby avoiding a dangerous foray into the time-devouring evil that is Right Move.  Instead, I immediately went food shopping (just food shopping you understand; no perusing the rails of supermarket clothes I will never wear, cut-price DVDs I will never find time to watch and post Olympic giveaway souvenirs, which would end up languishing in my already cluttered drawers).  I then tackled the leaning tower of Pisa that was my ironing basket, before swimming 40 lengths of my local swimming pool and preparing an evening meal.  Monday, on my new schedule, is a day of catching up on household tasks and trying not to catch a verruca from the swimming pool changing rooms.

Tuesday, I worked hard.  I pitched some ideas to a magazine editor, carried out some research, experienced the buzz of new ideas and felt a growing sense of optimism and achievement.

On Wednesday, I wrote poetry, formulated some of Tuesdays ideas into something coherent and purchased two birthday presents, one of which I will probably take back.  Dangerous territory for me.  A valid reason to interrupt the schedule? I could get distracted...

So here I am.  Thursday.  It's sunny and I'm resisting the urge to go back to the shops by paying my neglected blog some attention.  All work and no play.  I'm on a mission!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Clothes Doth Maketh the Woman


So how was your Easter break?  Mine was a hectic two-week whirlwind of impromptu planning (my self-employed husband was working for most of the holidays and forced to snatch time off here and there), chocolate consumption and praying that Whitsun brings with it better weather and better getaway prospects. 

I sat around for much of the Easter break, variously at the park with friends (in between rain showers), playing Mario Kart on the Wii (during heavy downpours) or drinking litres of coffee at a local indoor play centre (when all hope of a sunny dry spell was gone).

This Easter, as the rain hammered down, I frequently sought solace in stolen moments enjoying stolen pieces of my son’s Easter Eggs and had time to reflect on the sameness of my day-to-day outfits.  Add to this general sense of dissatisfaction the fact that I was unable to get a much-needed appointment with my hairdresser to get my roots done and you have a woman on the edge.

Post Easter break, which, let’s face it if you didn’t manage to go away, was literally a wash out, my mind has been pre-occupied with updating my wardrobe.  I have become a “safe” dresser – a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl, but secretly have become obsessed with acquiring a pair of Aztec-patterned leggings, the perfect ankle boot and a really wearable day dress.  I have decided that once in possession of these items (and having had my roots done), I will feel more like me and revert to a fully functioning writer, be inspired to complete my book and be a happy and contented wife and mother once again.

Without straying into Samantha Brick territory, I used to be comfortable in my own skin and adept at selecting items of clothing I felt confident wearing, with a nod-to-but-not-dictated-by current fashion trends, all the time conveying my own sense of individuality.   I remain a size 8-10 and yet, those days seem to have slipped by the wayside.  Life gets in the way.  Age gets in the way.  And therein lies the key to all this.  Age.  Women over the age of 35 are expected to adhere to fashion rules.  We should not wear skirts above the knee or skinny jeans for example.

I have conducted some preliminary research into this attitude on Twitter.  Katy Pegg (sister of Simon) recently tweeted that she was thrilled with her new Aztec print leggings.  I seized the moment and confided that I’m not sure whether there’s an age limit for patterned leggings.  Katy replied that she is 32.  I’m 38.  Does that make a difference?

Given time, I could ramble on all day about my inner struggle with this issue.  However, it seems that all it took was a word from the original fashion darling herself, Twiggy.  Flicking through a magazine in a waiting room earlier this week, I read an interview with Twiggy in which she said that she was sick to the back teeth of being told what mature women should and shouldn’t wear and that she was jolly well going to please herself, trust her instincts and wear what the hell she likes!  Of course, I am paraphrasing wildly here, but you get the gist. 

The result of this pep read?  I went shopping and am now the proud owner of a bargain pair of ankle boots (reduced from £65.00 to £10.00), a fabulous and wearable day dress and, as my Twitter followers will testify, a pair of Aztec print leggings, which, combined with a long length grey fine knit, biker boots and fresh highlights, have inspired me to write this blog.  See?  It worked.

Now if I could just find the perfect outfit that says “Hot New Literary Talent” then my work is done.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Alcohol Anxiety



It’s a little embarrassing to admit that alcohol consumption has long been something of a national sport in the UK, but more latterly it has become a national obsession, as the media continues to drip feed a steady stream of seemingly contradictory medical advice.  For example, from recent memory, I can recall that we have been advised that alcohol can be of benefit to the middle aged, only to be told subsequently that middle aged people are consuming way too much alcohol and are unaware of the dangers their “problem drinking” presents.  Officially women are permitted 2 units per day, but even that piece of government advice now has a big, fat, red-flashing question mark hovering over it.  The latest theory is that we should all have at least 3 alcohol-free days per week to allow our livers to recover.

British journalist, India Knight, has recently waded in with her opinion, rejecting the stark media coverage comparing the middle aged to partying, vomiting teenagers and suggesting that the middle aged should not allow themselves to feel guilty for enjoying a glass or two of wine.

However, I’m the first to admit that I have leanings towards hypochondria and, given that I rather indulged in the “high spirits” of the nineties (not to the point of flashing my pants in street gutters, I hasten to add), this extensive media coverage only serves to increase my anxiety over any historic hangover so that any pleasure derived from relaxing with a glass of something sparkly is now tempered by the ever present media warnings.  As far as I’m aware, there isn’t yet a help group catering for women like me, who would love to stand in the middle of a circle of sympathetic listeners and announce:  “My name is Claire.  I worry about health issues.”

This leads me to the issue of socialising with other parents.  Whilst we all cherish our children, there are times, it has to be said, when, come 8.00 pm, the desire to crack open a bottle of wine is almost overwhelming.  I know many parents who are intent on re-living their youth, their children having reached an age where they are more self sufficient or happy to stay overnight with grandparents.  The fact that time alone as a couple or spent mingling with friends is more limited by the presence of a family, only serves to heighten the thrill of any down time and the temptation to let loose and exceed the recommended daily allowance of alcohol units (or, as the powers that be put it, “to binge drink”) during those late night conversations, is something that many of us succumb to.

I know of at least three intelligent, responsible, well educated mothers who are flying the flag for the over 40s in terms of their approach to socialising.  These are the mothers who can be found donning sunglasses at the school gates after a heavy night on the town (or at home), sheepishly admitting to the number of empty bottles resulting from the previous night’s festivities.  Yet they do it again and again.  I on the other hand, have no wish to be a party pooper, but my alcohol anxiety prevents me (most of the time) from over-indulging.  Hangovers, as we all know, can be eased by a cup of tea, a bacon sandwich and some ibuprofen.  It’s the guilt I struggle to erase.



So, time for another admission.  I have been known to invent an excuse not to drink.  There, I’ve said it!  Only last night, in preparation for an evening at a friend’s house, I sent a text to another invitee, offering her a lift.  Her prompt response sought to clarify that the lift was only to my house, so that we could walk the rest of the way, ending with the loaded statement, “I hope you’re not driving!” 

Miraculously, I managed to stay within the recommended daily allowance pretending that I had had a heavy weekend celebrating another friend’s 40th and simply couldn’t risk another hangover.  Is it not pitiful that I am still bowing to peer pressure?!  It seems that we Brits simply cannot believe that it is possible to have a good time without alcohol, but until the facts and risk factors associated with alcohol can be scientifically established (will that day ever come?), I am happy to just dip my toe in the water, so to speak, whilst outwardly striving to maintain my “cool/fun mum” persona.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Lessons in maths


A new report suggests that children should learn maths through using it rather than focusing on abstract concepts.

Judith Burns, the BBC Education reporter, writes:  “Professor Dave Pratt of the Institute of Education argues innovative teaching techniques and technology could help more pupils engage with the subject.”
This is particularly relevant to me this week, after my son raised his confusion over division.  After a quick demo involving half a dozen eggs from the fridge and three bowls and confirmation that “to divide” means “to split,” my son seemed happy enough to resume play as his alter ego, Batman.

Shortly afterwards, we attended his primary school parents’ evening, to be told that whilst English is his strong subject (no surprises there given the stories he tells me on a daily basis!) he lacked confidence in maths. 

Given that the teacher nonetheless was unconcerned with his progress in maths, I continued to nod earnestly (as is my usual form at such events), before suddenly recalling our at-home division discussion.  Instead of continuing my Churchill nodding dog mimicry, I decided to ask if there was anything we could do to help.  The teacher proceeded to give us an example of how she is currently teaching the Year 2 children to add double figures, by adding the tens and units separately, something my son was apparently struggling to grasp.  They call it “number squashing” and a typical example of such a calculation would be as follows: -

TU   TU
32 + 24

30 + 20  = 50

2 + 4 = 6

50 + 6 = 56

Just a simple tweak in presentation from the way in which I was taught – back in the day – and I was left wondering whether all future mathematical challenges would be as straight forward.

Truth be told, maths was not my strong point at school.  I wasn’t a poor student, but I did have to work at it and much of the GCSE maths I learned in school has been all but erased from my memory in the intervening years.  (I blame the mercury in the floorboards at my Victorian era school).  So, it’s no surprise to me to learn from Judith Burns’ report that Government figures show that almost half of the working adults in England have only primary school maths.

So how are we to help our children with their maths homework when the problems become “trickier?” 

On discussing this with another mum, her only comment was “Wait ‘til they get to Year 6!”

In the absence of a direct hotline to Carol Vorderman, I am clearly going to have to up my game if I am going to assist in broadening my son’s mathematical knowledge.  The same mum who issued this stark warning for the future advised that her focus has always been “time and money.”   By this, she did not mean private tuition, but literally ensuring that her children could tell the time and handle money. 

I suppose it’s a start, although all the clocks in our house have roman numerals, which is confusing for any 7 year-old.  However, clearly more is needed, preferably an all-encompassing bible of mathematical teaching methods.  So if you see a woman staring blankly at the shelves in the education section of Waterstones, take pity and point me in the right direction!


Thursday, 8 March 2012

International Women’s Day – One Woman’s Wish List



Before you read any further and pass judgment on me, let me make it clear that I am well aware that the significance of International Women’s Day extends way beyond me insisting on a day of rest and demanding the boys in my household indulge my every whim.  For the record, I shall not be dangling my legs over the side of the bath and ordering my husband to shave them.  Nor will I condemn my young son to a day of drudgery at my expense (although his keenness to bake could be turned to my advantage!)

However, it has made me rather selfishly reflect on the things I have yet to achieve, some momentous, some less so, and some downright silly, which make it wondrous to be a woman. 

  1. Wearing and carrying off with aplomb, a walk along a red carpet in a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes.
  2. Becoming someone’s muse.
  3. Experiencing that glow of pride at being escorted somewhere, at some point in the future, on the arm of my fully-grown, healthy and happy son.
  4. Finding a freedom of expression without fear of causing offence, having reached the age where, in imparting wisdom and witticisms, my words are at best perceived as those of an inspirational elder and at worst, the musings of a beloved eccentric.
  5. Creating the perfect capsule wardrobe, neatly contained in my own walk in closet.
  6. Doing something truly worthwhile for a charitable cause – something over and above a cash donation.
  7. Gathering all my friends from far and wide at one time in atmospheric surroundings and hosting a party to remember.
  8. Finding the perfect shade of red lipstick.  It must be wearable and it must transform my lips into Angelina’s.
  9. Going out clothed from head to toe in vintage clothing (a sight to behold in the suburbs) and not giving a damn!
  10. Proving to our child that long-term relationships need hard work and commitment to flourish and that without love and laughter we are nothing.
What’s on your wish list?

Monday, 5 March 2012

A Butterfly Mind



I hate Mondays.  Always have.  Always will.  Nothing good ever comes of them.  They mark the beginning of a five day uphill struggle until the next two day window of life affirming pleasure and relaxation.

This morning, I attempted to lift the mood in our house as my son began to complain about the all round gloominess of Mondays.  I explained that we all feel the same.  It's a universal truth.  Mondays suck.  (I actually loathe that word, but it does do justice to the M day).  However, I pointed out that we need contrasts in life.  Without the dread of Mondays, the joy of Friday nights would be nowhere near as thrilling. 

So, after my little pep talk, my son walked into school with a spring in his step.  I, on the other hand, felt unsettled and on a quest to find as many reasons to break from my usual routine as humanly possible.

I loitered around the supermarket during my weekly shop, closely scrutinising the deals to be had and questioning whether or not I need to be buying Easter eggs just yet and spending way too long inexplicably considering Dragon fruit and clearance SIM cards.

Back home with shopping unpacked, I decided to start work.  Well, I say work, but first I had to visit the BBC News webpage to see whether the world is still turning.  Oh and then I had to look at my Facebook and Twitter accounts and have the obligatory look at Right Move to check (again) whether my dream house - within budget - was on the market somewhere on the coast of North Devon. 

I then decided I needed to be more comfortable to work.  I changed into some cotton jogging bottoms.  Jogging bottoms are working-from-home attire you understand and never see the light of day unless of course I am actually jogging.  I put on my bright pink jogging bottoms, which then channelled my thoughts towards pink skinny jeans, more specifically, the rather cool pastel pink leopard print pair I saw in the Sunday Times Style supplement at the weekend.  I began a preliminary Google search, convincing myself that this could also qualify as research for a fashion blog.  (I use this justification with disturbing frequency.  If I don't limit myself to blogging on a specific topic, then the world's my oyster.  Anything goes.  I can surf the internet to my heart's content, all in the name of research).

And then reality hit.  I may be slim and I may love fashion, but I am also nearly 40.  More to the point, I am simply indulging myself in cyberspace because I would rather my mind was anywhere but here, in the present moment on this cold and grey March Monday morning.

Reluctantly, I opened my blog and then once again allowed myself to become distracted by messing around with the design for a while before reverting to the original settings after all.  I then began in earnest and here's the result.

Oh, is it that time already?  I fancy a bacon sandwich.  Anon!

Friday, 2 March 2012

World Book Day



A few words about World Book Day.  I embrace this day.  I wish it had existed when I was a child.  Children should be encouraged to enjoy reading and to be inspired by books.

Like a lot of schools, my son's school requested its pupils dress as a character from a book.  C chose Harry Potter.  Well, we thought it fitting to pay homage to one of the most successful children's literary characters of a generation. 

Having said that, my son did, at the eleventh hour, decide that he wanted to dress as Hiccup the Viking.  I could see him eyeing my furry waistcoat.  However, in the absence of a Viking helmet, I managed to persuade him that simply donning his mum's furry waistcoat might require explanation sufficient to stretch his 7 year-old vocabulary to its limits.  So, Harry Potter he was.

We looked forward to our walk to school and had fun character spotting, although therein lies my problem.  We counted at least 3 Jack Sparrows.  Now, maybe I'm being picky, but Pirates of the Caribbean started life as a theme park ride before being adapted for the big screen.  I know, I know, there are now Pirates of the Caribbean books, but they knock out books of any old film these days.  It's hardly children's literature darlings, just more dollars for the movie producers!

Also, I overheard mothers explaining away their children's costumes as "pirate" or "princess" because they happened to have an old costume lying around the house and it was nice and easy, however tenuously related to a work of literature they might be.  They may as well have sent them in mufty and claimed that they were one of any number of red herrings littering the pages of the Where's Wally books or a random child featured in the playground illustrations in the Alfie and Annie Rose storybooks! 

Come on people!  World Book Day!  How about Long John Silver?  Or the Queen of Hearts?  A little imagination is required. 

This just goes to show how important World Book Day really is.  I shall now dismount my soap box.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Highs and Lows of Running


In recent years, I have been dogged by a lower back problem.  After retaining the services of a chiropractor or “throwing money at it” as my husband so succinctly put it, the problem all but disappeared.

However, the last week of my life has been a shining example of Murphy’s Law.  When last Sunday, my son thoughtfully and unexpectedly asked me if I was still suffering with a back problem, I laughed and dismissed it as ancient history. 

I have always been relatively fit, but this year vowed to take up jogging after hearing first hand from friends and relatives how beneficial it is for the heart and lungs and for bone strengthening.  I was keen to experience the much talked about “runners’ high” and liked the idea of a free form of exercise which could easily be integrated into my lifestyle.  Also, with many of my friends approaching 40 and suddenly becoming fitter and stronger than ever before; entering Iron Man contests, running half marathons and suchlike, quite frankly I was feeling left out.

I downloaded a beginners’ guide to jogging from an NHS affiliated website – a 10 week plan with timed running and walking intervals, designed to gradually increase the running time to 30 minutes.  I invested in some decent and rather pretty running shoes (white, silver and sparkly pink) and began my new exercise regime thrice weekly.

In brief, the last 7 weeks can be summarised as follows: -

Week 1:  Completed successfully. 
Measure of pleasure:  3/10

Week 2:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  4/10

Week 3:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  5/10

Week 4:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  8/10
Points of interest:  Experienced runners’ high.  Cheerfully greeted other joggers as opposed to sweating profusely.  Imagined unveiling lithe, toned pins and taut posterior in the summer months.

Week 5:  Completed successfully.
Measure of pleasure:  10/10
Points of interest:  Niggling concerns at potential for cumulative damage to my spine.  Decided to reduce to twice weekly, incorporating a mid-week swim in substitution.

Week 6:  Completed successfully. 
Measure of pleasure:  10/10
Points of interest:  Tried to ignore the slight ache in the right side of my lower back coinciding with my right foot pounding the pavement.


Week 7:  Completed successfully. 
Points of interest:  Attacked by sharp abdominal twinges for 2 days after first run of the week (classic symptoms of my back condition).  After an evening spent nursing an ice pack, the old familiar tightness had returned to my lower back.

I called a halt to my programme and called the chiropractor.

Unable or unwilling to say exactly what had caused my relapse (I could tell by the lack of eye contact, that he was blaming the jogging, but didn’t have the heart to tell me), he worked his magic on my spine and advised that I should not give up just yet, but see him in a week, at which point he could assess the damage.

I left his surgery on a high; totally pain free and promptly went for a run.  Sadly, I must report that my back is once again stiff and aching.  It is totally soul destroying to think that you are unable to take part in an activity you enjoy…and what is to become of my slightly-weathered-but-still-very-pretty running shoes?



Well after a night of research, I think I have the answer and it was quite unexpected when it came.  After years of mocking those people who waddle like ducks down the street in their running gear, donning expressions of intense concentration, I am to join their realms.  Power walking is allegedly as good, if not better, than running, but lower impact and more spine-friendly (my terminology, forgive me).  Even better than that, I still get to wear my running shoes and can hold onto my dream of a pert posterior and perfect pins for a little longer.  I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Superheroes in suburbia

As mornings go, this one has been a little different.  I have been given strict instructions to acquire a collectable comic for my 7 year-old with his remaining birthday money.  Now that he has discovered Spider-Man, he is suddenly a Marvel Comic connoisseur.  This newfound hobby just so happens to coincide with a former colleague launching the first issue of his own comic, the dark, fantastical, exquisitely illustrated and wholly-inappropriate-for-7-year-olds “No Place Like Home.” 

I am a comic book virgin of sorts.  My very limited experience to date is adequately covered by a handful of Beano comics purchased by my father and a cursory glance at an old Eagle annual handed down by some distant relative.  The Beano comics in no time at all became landfill.  The Eagle annual remained on my bookcase, gathering dust until such time that I finally appreciated the merits of the genre.

This discovery of comics – aside from being attributable to parenthood, also stems from having worked for a time for a TV production company amongst artists, self-confessed geeks and creative types.  A few lasting friendships were formed at this company and we are all now hitting that difficult age where we are bidding goodbye to our youth and staring down the barrel of impending middle age.  But we are not going down without a fight.  This has been non more evident than in recent birthday and Christmas presents I have received, which have included DVDs I would hitherto not have elected to watch, but now relish, including Kick-Ass and X-Men.  In short, I am not so much revisiting my youth as reinventing it.

So, intent on bagging a first “investment” issue to stash in my loft (not to read by torchlight under the duvet like a guilty teen, you understand), I decided to further investigate the Spider-Man stories.  It’s a minefield out there!  I have never seen so many variations on a theme.  There are enough villains to ensure the simultaneous running of several world wars.  Also, aside from the copious volumes on Spider-Man, there is “The Amazing Spider-Girl.” There are Spider-Man “Revelations,” and stories where he teams up with other Marvel heroes, such as Wolverine.  I’m sure a lot of you are reading this and wondering whether I have been living under a rock for years, but it has opened up a whole new world to me.

I eventually opted for Spider-Man:  Origin of Species and feel very proud of myself for becoming notably cooler.  I know a little about these things now.  I also know where to find them.  OK, it’s a Southampton mega store, but it deals in cult entertainment.  Cult, you see?  There is a difference.  Already I am sounding like a comic book nerd.  Maybe I’ll be bitten by dust mites and will morph into some kind of leaping, flying super heroine, able to drain the blood of suburban baddies while they sleep.  Watch this space.



Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Perfect Pancake

This may be my shortest post yet, but it is no less significant.

It's not too late to share what could be the perfect pancake accompaniment.  Warning:  This is not for the dedicated gourmet cook.  It is not for the old at heart.  It is certainly not sophisticated or demanding of any culinary skill.  It will also only apply to those of you who can be bothered to venture out to the supermarket at this late hour.

So here goes.  My recommendation is as follows:-

Pancake mix and execution as per Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Family Cookbook.
Cook until a little crispy.
Spoon out a generous helping of Ben & Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew ice cream and sprinkle with fresh raspberries.
Roll and devour.

Go on, do it.  You'll thank me for it!

Contended Cat

I wish I could be as content as my cat.  He is currently spread eagled on the bed - paws in the air - totally void of inhibitions and insecurities.  I think it would take an overweight pigeon flying into the Velux window to induce any change to his demeanour; such is his level of relaxation.  If I could bottle this, I would be an overnight sensation.

I meanwhile, am fretting about completing my blog, washing my hair, preparing pancake mix and making some semblance of a start on preparations for our evening meal in the two hours I have remaining before the school run.

Ideally and somewhat selfishly, I would also like to fit in some Internet research pertaining to holidays.  Do you know Easter is only around six weeks away?  These things take planning.  My husband is my polar opposite in many ways.  He is as laid back as I am uptight.  His approach is to “see what happens”.  Mine is to “make it happen.”

Ironically, the one thing holding me back on the holiday planning is our aforementioned cat, Mowzer.  We’ve only had him since October.  He is six months old and has yet to master using the cat flap.  Mowzer currently views said cat flap as simply another doorway to the house and one, which also requires human intervention to facilitate his entry.

In terms of stress relief, Mowzer the cat is not delivering either, preferring to occupy a chair, the top of a radiator or a bed as opposed to my lap.  I am viewed as a potential mate (yes, he has reached that age) at around 8.00 pm each evening, which technically, is my down time.  Watching Masterchef, whilst a maturing Tomcat grips my wrist with his teeth, all the time attempting to do something unspeakable to my arm is not conducive to relaxation I find.

However, all this will change tomorrow, when Mowzer the cat makes his scheduled visit to the vets.  My guilt is palpable.  I won’t relax tonight and tomorrow night I will be wrestling with the guilt of playing God.  No peace and all that…




Mixed messages and Pancake Mix

Before I begin, let me make one thing clear.  I respect our teachers and believe that on the whole, they do a great job.  I spent one day assisting on a school trip to Warwick Castle, chaperoning a gaggle of 6 year-olds and spent the best part of a week recovering.  Also, I still wince at the memory of my son, Caleb, in his year at nursery, deciding that the most effective way of communicating to the teaching staff his intention to go home earlier than scheduled was to deliberately wet himself in the middle of the classroom.  The ruddy complexion and slightly dishevelled appearance of the nursery teacher who greeted me at the end of the session spoke volumes.  She was the chosen one – the teacher to make Caleb realise that his plan was fundamentally flawed.  She was the one to introduce him to the bottomless lost property basket from which any number of alternative outfits can be assembled (although she was clearly no Gok Wan).  The haunted look in her eyes as she relayed the physical challenge of re-dressing my hysterical son in the oversized jogging bottoms and red Wellington boots is forever etched in my memory.  So whenever I feel like joining in the school gate banter and having a pop at the teaching staff, I recall this memory.

That said, I am struggling to suppress a rant today. 

From the outset, the teachers at my son’s school have been at pains to promote independence in pupils.  Within weeks of entering Reception, the children were encouraged to enter school unaided, laden with coats, PE bags, book bags, water bottles and lunch boxes and to locate their own pegs and carefully find homes for all their equipment.  We would receive reports of teachers refusing to assist the children in fastening the top buttons of their shirts after PE (I still struggle with this uniquely stiff button!)  They were also encouraged from the start to fasten their own coats.

Similarly, in Year 2, the quest for self-reliance continues and quite rightly so.  The children are responsible for transferring newsletters from their trays into their book bags at the end of the day.  They are expected to select their own reading books and remember to bring them home.  So far, so good.

So imagine my surprise when my son came home last night and told me that the zip-up fleece (standard uniform item, bearing the school logo) could only be worn at playtime and that he should wear a jumper.  Given that this fleece cost me £16.00, I decided to query this with the Head of Year.  I was advised that as it is warm in school, perhaps it would be better for him to wear a jumper as the classroom is quite warm, which means he would have to take it off and then again, the school hall can be quite cold, which means he would have to think to put it on again. 

Am I missing something?!  Would this not apply to all outer layers or is this just specific to the zip-up fleece?  More to the point, is my son incapable of appreciating when he is too hot or cold?

Now, he does have a jumper and a sweatshirt, which he also wears.  But in the spirit of independence and with the temperature in school being tropical and the temperature outside being somewhat variable, I thought it best to send him in a zip-up fleece in order that he could exercise free will and easily remove said item when he was too warm. 

Clearly I have a lot to learn about independence.  It’s perhaps too complicated for a 7 year-old to neatly and tidily unzip a fleece when feeling a little warm in class.  It is in fact much easier to remove a sweatshirt where the head hole is always a little too small, the action itself produces enough static in the hair to power a village and where the results are a skewiff tie and untucked shirt (definitely not regulation compliant).

This morning, I have therefore delivered my son to school in a jumper, standing little chance of ever coaxing him back into his pricey but practical fleece now that a teacher has turned it into such an issue.

OK, deep breaths.  Rant over. 

On the plus side, today is Pancake Day.  (See how I moved so smoothly from mixed messages to pancake mix?)

For once I am completely organised.  We have eggs.  We have flour.  We have milk and maple syrup.  We have sugar and lemons.  We have ice cream and berries.  We have all the components for a teatime taste sensation. 

However, we also have a wilful and independent child who will no doubt wish to take part in pancake preparations as well as their consumption.  It could get messy.  Best remove that jumper before we start, otherwise I’ll be forced to return to the forbidden fleece!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

How to celebrate Valentine's Day when it's your son's birthday


In my experience, Valentine’s Day, far from being the most romantic day of the year, has always been tricky to negotiate.

From the moment I became a teenager, Valentine’s Day immediately became a calendar date of enormous significance.  The anticipation and let’s face it pure, unadulterated fear that I would be overlooked by the Valentine’s Day postman, took on monumental proportions.

I suffered from that affliction typically reserved for teenagers – awkward shyness.  If there had been a vote on the pupil(s) most likely to nab a cool boyfriend, I wouldn’t have even made it onto the list.  If anyone did take a liking to me, they would have to be pretty direct for me to notice.  I would dread the arrival of Valentine’s Day and wince at the thought of a whole day spent in the shadow of my friend Debbie and her hoard of Valentine’s Day cards and cuddly bears.

My teenage years occurred at a time when the post arrived at a set time of day and unfortunately for me, the postal delivery service in our village was way too efficient and pretty much guaranteed a delivery before I left for school in a morning.  Accordingly, there was no get-out clause.  If I didn’t receive a card, I could not simply blame the post (pity today’s teenagers who presumably send e-cards, which are instantaneous, affording the unloved no excuses).  The best my boy-repellent peers and I could hope for was a heavy snowfall, which might slow the postman down and provide us with some semblance of an excuse.

As it turned out, I need not have worried so, as I received two Valentine’s Day cards for all but one of my years at secondary school.  This was no mean feat given the lack of boyfriend material in my year (being awkward and shy does not make one less fussy).  I only ever identified one of the senders.  The other remains a mystery to this day. 

Even at the start of my career, my Valentine’s woes still did not disappear altogether.  Office politics promote competitiveness and this would extend to Valentine’s Day celebrations.  Everyone was at pains to upstage their colleagues with the most adventurous weekend break, the most lavish gift or dinner at the best restaurant.

My then boyfriend and I decided to buck this trend.  We would bemoan the fact that Valentine’s Day was nothing more than a commercial exercise and we would laugh behind closed doors at the suckers who spent a day’s salary on the obligatory and unimaginative bunch of roses.  However, as much as it pained me to be romantic just because it said so on my calendar, I still had expectations for Valentine’s Day and luckily my boyfriend did well to see through my mock disdain.  He would mark the occasion with an impressive home cooked meal and a bottle of fizz.  We would also exchange cards, although they were invariably home made and a little leftfield.

Eventually we became husband and wife and after a few more years of dropping out of the Valentine’s Day circus, I became pregnant and it somehow became fitting that our son was born on Valentine’s Day.  What better gift than a healthy baby boy?

So now, when our social life has been somewhat curtailed, is at the mercy of the availability of babysitters and Valentine’s Day happens to be centred around the birthday celebrations of one soon-to-be 7 year-old, we are even less likely to make a big splash about Valentine’s Day.   Add to the mix our son’s propensity to stay awake later than most, which is a true passion killer (it’s all there in my book, Diary of a Sleep Deprived Mum), we might just about manage a swift glass of something sparkling before our heads hit the pillow.

Yet none of this bothers me.  We have a happy and healthy son and for me it’s my husband’s smaller romantic gestures I appreciate, like remembering to chill my wine on a Friday evening, for bringing me a cup of coffee when I need it most, for the handmade Christmas card I received, inscribed with a message and opened by a metal clasp (how clever?!) and for his ability to rustle up a mouth watering meal when I would stake my life on there being nothing in the fridge.

However and whenever you celebrate your love for someone, enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Blog Obliteration

I will be brief.  I must be, otherwise I risk taking a large and heavy object to my computer or assuming the foetal position in the corner and silently crying.

I have spent the last few hours attempting to increase the profile of my blog.  I have trawled through the help pages of www.blogger.com and checked my settings to ensure that I am maximising my potential to reach as many complete strangers in cyberspace as is humanly possible.  I have achieved very little.  My settings, in the main, required no alteration from their default statuses. 

During this process however, I found that I had failed to attach labels to my posts, which I discovered would enable other users to be directed to my posts more speedily if the labels match their search criteria.  Accordingly, I set about labelling each and every one of my posts.

Feeling very pleased with myself, I reclined with a coffee and eagerly awaited the traffic I felt sure would magically flow towards my blog.  It was at this point that I noticed my posts were no longer in the correct order, my most recent effort having been relegated to third position.

An embarrassingly long period of time ensued as I attempted to find a way of remedying this.  I’ll spare you the details, but the resulting loss of two of my posts has left me bereft, particularly as one of the posts has also mysteriously vanished from my hard drive.  It is possible that I am now suffering from eyestrain and quite feasibly a form of temporary insanity, as it’s inexplicable that I should fail to save a blog post.

The only glimmer of hope in this sorry state of affairs is that I did successfully complete my Google+ profile.  But even this is somewhat tainted by the fact that no one I know is currently using the facility so I will be touting my wares to a handful of apathetic celebrities.  That is if I have managed to connect Google+ to my blog in the first place.  We shall see…

So, if the Dalai Lama, Caitlin Moran or The Guardian happen to be reading this, please could you just give me the heads up and save my poor, faithful scapegoat-of-a-computer from the scrap man?  Pretty please?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Women behaving badly

Warning, one of my favourite poems by Jenny Joseph, begins:

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.”

The predicted behaviour goes steadily downhill from here, but that is why I love it.  Who doesn’t find the idea of an old lady spitting in the street or stealing flowers from other people’s gardens amusing?

Admittedly, I don’t know many old ladies who behave like this, although my great-grandmother once consumed two thirds of a bunch of grapes for a solid twenty minutes before machine gunning the seeds around the living room of her residential home, much to the shock of the Matron and other residents (and to the stifled giggles of my eleven-year-old self).  But she was not well at the time and seedless grapes were scarce. 

Most old ladies I know are gentle, loving and respectful.  It’s lamentable, but they are largely fearful of today’s youth, not at pains to emulate the notorious members of the younger ASBO generation.

Having said that, there are a few women shaping up to become senior citizens of that ilk.  Denise Welch for one.  Her unapologetic flashing tendencies in this year’s Celebrity Big Brother show no sign of abating and she is coming under fire, interestingly not solely for the flesh baring, but for daring to do so at the age of 53!

So, is there a cut off point for risqué behaviour and does it only apply to women?  The mantra for women of a certain age seems to be less, less, less, not more, more, more.  Less make up, less jewellery, less wine, less cake, less….fun!  There’s nothing new in saying that our behaviour seems to come under greater scrutiny than our male counterparts.  As I’m writing, I can think of a number of fashion rules, which only serve to curtail women’s freedom of expression.  I know for a fact that women are expected to forego mini skirts after the age of 35, but I couldn’t tell you who made that rule.  Isn’t that strange?   There are others.  Only the other day, I was watching the new M.I.A. video for “Bad Girlz” and coveting her mint coloured leopard print skinny jeans, all the time reprimanding myself for thinking I could wear those at my age!  For the record, I am not yet 40.

I know, I know, we all like to look and feel good.  But we are also expected to modify our behaviour and maybe even stop doing the things we enjoy at a certain point in our lives.  I could take a feminist stance and argue that there are and always have been many men out there actively behaving badly and being revered for it – Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Colin Farrell and Russell Brand to name but a few.  However, it strikes me that there is a key to behaving badly and getting away with it. 

Provided the perpetrator has intelligence, creativity, a sense of humour, an appreciation of irony and a rapier wit, they can pretty much do anything and still command respect.  Not fair perhaps, but true all the same.  Problems start to arise when an established pattern of behaviour quickly becomes a permanent fixture, with nothing else on the table so to speak.  Boob flashing, if you’re so inclined, is all well and good, but there are only so many times viewers, or anyone for that matter, will be shocked by this or moved to react. 

Dorothy Parker, notorious writer, poet and critic, is a good example of a woman we allowed to behave badly.  Her private life was complicated at best and certainly blighted by alcohol addiction.  Yet, when you realise that she was responsible for the infamous line: “One more drink and I’d have been under the host!” all is forgiven.  Likewise, notorious bad girl Tallulah Bankhead, acknowledging her own chequered history, stated defiantly:  “If I had my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner!”

Some would say that Madonna has done more than her fair share of flesh exposure in her time.  However, she has also covered up, written books, stage-managed and controlled her entire career and most recently directed a film.  Only last weekend, she has triumphed with a spectacular and athletic half time performance at the Superbowl.  Incidentally, she teamed up with the aforementioned M.I.A. for a live rendition of their musical collaboration “Gimme All your Luvin’.” However, this has not prevented Madonna’s detractors from questioning whether, at the same age as Denise Welch, she should be on stage performing at all! 

But fear not, bad girls.  Madonna is shrewd.  She has followed one of the golden rules of senior and guilt free bad behaviour.  She surrounds herself with people younger than herself, thereby keeping her finger firmly on the pulse whilst providing her fellow artists and collaborators with a platform for unrestricted expression.  One of the headline-grabbing stories resulting from Madonna’s Superbowl appearance was the “obscene” gesture courtesy, not of Madonna, but her younger protagonist, M.I.A.  No longer at the eye of the storm in press terms, Madonna is now merely guilty by association.

Madonna has worked hard to achieve longevity, which in turn has earned her the right to explain away any bad behaviour as “art.”  Poor Denise just likes, in her own words, “..getting them out for the lads.”

So there has to be another talent in evidence and preferably some younger, equally talented and naughty friends to help take the heat off.  Provided you have other strings to your bow, you have full permission to start wearing purple, flash and spit to your heart’s content.  Go on ladies, knock yourself out!


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Celebrities suffer from sleep deprivation too!

Whether or not you are a fan of Family Fortunes, I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve all heard of the game show, at some point marvelled at Vernon Kay’s “Ultrabrite” smile and understand the basic premise.  I am therefore going to use this as a neat little introduction to a subject close to my heart.  If 100 women were polled on the following question:  “Name something experienced by new mothers,” I believe right up there with “joy” and “pain-of-biblical-proportions,” would be “sleep deprivation.”

Oh yes, my old nemesis sleep deprivation, so prevalent in those early months, nay years, of motherhood.  To quote Charles Dickens:  It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  For me, the frequent gummy smiles offered by my baby son would be enough to briefly erase the near constant longing for an uninterrupted sleep of sufficient duration to eradicate once and for all the puffy grey bags hanging beneath my eyes.  The infectious hearty chuckle that only babies can muster at a simple game of peep-o would also serve to take my mind off the hallucinated crawling insects ever present in the corner of my eye.  Believe me, sleep deprivation is no laughing matter.

Actress, Terri Dwyer went public with her experience of sleep deprivation and attested to the physical and mental fallout resulting from lack of sleep.

'Sleep deprivation is a form of torture,' she explains. 'I was so run-down, my hair started falling out, and I was seeing black dots in front of my eyes.'

Myleene Klass, as a new mother, said:  “I am tired, tired all the time.  Sometimes I feel like crying because I am so tired.  People say I make it look easy, but I don’t have any of the answers, I’m still trying to figure things out.”

It is no coincidence that several of my friends who returned to work at the conclusion of their contracted period of maternity leave referred to full time employment as “a break.”

Yet there is little escape from the perils of sleep deprivation.  You might think that it is an affliction only suffered by real mothers, by which I mean those of us without a recession-defying bank balance, Hollywood lifestyle and live-in Nanny.  Firstly, let me tell you, I know a mother with a live-in Nanny and this mum is as devoted and as hands-on as it is possible to be, given her workload.  The live-in Nanny is only relied upon during physical absences and nighttime bedside attendances are fully tended to by both mum and dad.  Sustaining a career and having the financial resources to hire in help does not mean that such women are willing to take a back seat when at home.

One of the most influential messages from the women’s movement was the concept that a woman can “have it all.”  Without getting bogged down in the debate surrounding this, many of us now believe that message to be somewhat clouded by mythology.  Everything comes at a price.  We could all relate to Gwyneth Paltrow when she said:  “Some days I feel like everyone in my world has plugged themselves into my kidneys. I’m so tired…”

The point I am making here is that even Hollywood A-listers, the much revered, beautiful people; the pampered and the privileged, experience sleep deprivation too.  Just because you are an actress being paid a king’s ransom for appearing in a film, does not mean that you are unwilling to invest time in your children.  The maternal instinct is not a tap, which can be turned on and off.  So if your child is crying in the night, whether you are a supermodel or a secretary, the likelihood is that you will immediately rise from the lightest of sleeps and rush to their side.

US actress, Selma Blair is mother to 5-month-old Arthur.  In an interview with PEOPLE she was quoted as saying:  “It’s exhausting.  If I could sleep more, I would be the happiest woman in the whole world.  I’m not sleeping and it’s showing.  But I’m so blessed….I am totally going to stop complaining.” 

See there’s the female guilt creeping in. 

However, Selma has devised her own solution to the problem:  “I will just start to buy more makeup.”
Well, there are many other solutions out there (many of which have been tried by me at some point in time), but you have to be creative and adaptable.  You may hit on a solution that results in an extra hour in bed one weekend but fails the next.  Babies are changeable creatures and you have to be one step ahead.  My quest for sleep inspired a book, Diary of a Sleep Deprived Mum (no explanation required!), which is currently residing at number 1 in the Apple iBook store.  Thank you, Australia!

Perhaps the strongest message from my book is that families with newborn babies must do what works for them.  To a certain extent, we must ignore the textbooks if we hit on something that works.  I’m not advocating ignoring advice, which could compromise safety; but rather, don’t be made to feel guilty for taking steps which are not widely acknowledged.  A simple example is if you and your husband are happy to sleep separately for a time in order to ensure one of you has a decent night’s sleep, then don’t let any armchair expert tell you that you otherwise!  Supermodel Heidi Klum is an advocate of this approach, saying:  “I go to sleep pretty much when the children go to sleep! My husband has to come find me in one of their four beds and remind me that I’m still a wife too!”

It’s fair to say that men suffer from sleep deprivation as well as women (although obviously not to the same extent! *Awaits backlash*)  As Hugh Jackman so succinctly puts it: “I’m lucky to get 7 hours.  I have a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old.”

There are many practical steps, which can be taken to maximise your chances of a longer sleep.  I have referred to them as the “Nocturnal Nineteen.”  I do not pretend that they all result from my own clever scientific sleep experiments, but are a heady mix of tried and tested, accepted and rejected, bought and borrowed.  Some are short-term fixes; others are for the truly sleep-resistant child.

If all else fails, take comfort from the fact that some good can come from sleep deprivation.  Sleep deprivation forces creativity to the surface.  We have to be creative simply to get through the day on insufficient sleep – whether that is by sneaking forty winks whilst breastfeeding or constantly changing your brand of coffee to ensure maximum caffeine hits.  My experience resulted in my first book.  The rosy hue of nostalgia has enabled me to inject into this text, much greater doses of humour, fun and sex than I recall experiencing during those innumerable dawn wake-up calls.

Even Gwen Stefani, probably one of the most creative women on the planet (who else can pull off vintage Hollywood glamour and how-does-she-do-it mystique), has been quoted as saying:  “Everything I’ve done for the past five years, I’ve done while sleep-deprived.”  Well, with a successful recording career, clothing line and acting credits, perhaps sleep deprivation can be a force for good.


Friday, 6 January 2012

Last week I lost a friend

Last week I lost a friend suddenly to an as yet unidentified illness.  He was happy and healthy one minute and gone the next.  I am still trying to make sense of this tragedy.  It is particularly sad, as Ed was only 36 and as my husband so neatly summarised: “Things hadn’t really got going for him.”  That is not to say that he was lacking in achievements.  He had a successful career, a lust for life, a sparkling sense of humour and impeccable music taste.  He was also a fiercely intelligent man, did not suffer fools gladly and was a stickler for detail.

I recall my husband and I gently teasing him by deliberately mispronouncing words or being generally ungrammatical.  I’m not certain we ever enlightened him as to this ruse, as it was too much fun watching him wrestle with his conscience – desperate to correct us in no uncertain terms, but holding back…until next time.  As it’s turned out, he has had the last laugh, bowing out too soon, but leaving in his wake a pair of card-marked ignoramuses.

For those left behind, the death of a loved one is always tinged with guilt, particularly when their passing is unexpected.  There are always questions, matters unresolved, things unsaid.  My own guilt stems from my disappearance off the social radar for some considerable time after having my son.  My husband maintained more frequent contact with Ed, but even he is regretting not getting in touch sooner.  That said the guilt only really exists because we can no longer talk to Ed.  In a way, in this instance, guilt is a selfish emotion.  We can’t explain and be appeased.  Were we able to speak to Ed, I’m certain there would be no hard feelings.  In fact, lengthy hiatuses typified our friendship.  Ed was one of those people you could not see for months at a time (both parties guilty of not keeping the lines of communication open), but just as soon as one made contact, it was as though no time at all had elapsed - the sign perhaps of a true friend.

Ed was, at the time of his death, single.  However, a twin brother, doting parents and a wide circle of friends - all currently treading water and trying to come to terms with their loss - enriched his life.

On New Year’s Eve I could not have anticipated that the first social gathering of my friends in 2012 would be at Ed’s funeral.  This is not the way we should spend time together.  I have also been forced to confront my own faith, or lack of it.  For the atheists and agnostics amongst us, death is wholly unpalatable.  Whenever we are faced with death, we trot out the same cliché about living life to the full.  Do we ever really stop and think what that means?  In our heart of hearts, I think we all know that it would be a real challenge to be true to this motto.  We all have jobs and responsibilities.  Most of us have financial constraints.  With the best will in the world, living life to the full is somewhat curtailed by the very nature of our existence.  So, I believe this is why I for one find the idea of death so unutterably terrifying.

In Western society, those without faith are ill prepared for death.  It seems ludicrous.  Death is part of life and the only thing we can be certain of.  However, we don’t like to talk about it, preferring to ignore the inevitable and bury ourselves in the here and now.

Perhaps we should all be more prepared and accepting of death.  Not wishing to sound trite, but many Eastern religious philosophies and sentiments are worth considering. 

Buddhists talk of “dust on the wind” and ask what separates us from that now?  Only the breath we take.  So in fact we never disappear completely.

Hindus believe in reincarnation - that life is cyclical.  Without dwelling too much on this, I had an experience in my childhood, which for a long time quelled my fear of death and made me question whether death is in fact the end.    Hinduism also teaches that we brought nothing with us when we came and take nothing with us when we leave this world.  In fact, we will leave a little extra behind if we lead a life of goodness and philanthropy.  These sentiments are irrefutable.  It’s not a question of faith but common sense.

Well, Ed has left something behind for all of us.  We all have our memories and photographs.  We will continue to hear his voice, his laugh, his sarcasm and efforts to improve our musical education.  He is sure to get a mention in many a late night conversation and for this we will be always be thankful.