Those who can’t.

Right, class, let’s get settled
you should all write down the date
underline it – and the title –
hurry up, now, Jake – you’re late.

Take those out your ears, now
there’s lots to do today.
We really should get started –
that phone can go away.

You all should have a worksheet.
Here, take one, pass them back.
Chloe, leave her hair alone.
Jon, keep that spare for Jack.

So, let’s read through that first bit
Who knows what Torah means?
Stop playing with the blinds, Christoph
and Joe, are those black jeans? 

No talking in the corner there.
Don’t make me ring your mum.
You’ll find the answer on your sheets –
Rae-Ann, spit out your gum.

Yes, Denise, what is it? 
You left your book at home.
Who packed your bag before you left?
Scott, leave Lorraine alone.

No you can’t go to the toilet, Steph –
we’ve only just begun
and i don’t believe you need to.
So. Torah? Anyone?

I include it here in all it’s unedited glory. I don’t love it – it’s not my usual style (although I’m not sure I’ve decided what that is quite yet), but it was fun to play around with rhymes for a change. What I loved about the criticism from the group this evening, was that everything they queried was something I’d thought about changing and then not – which must mean I’m on the right track with something.


[Fiction] Friday


Write Anything’s Fiction Challenge is a great place to find regular creative writing exercises, and just have a bit of fun with your writing. I’m hoping to give this week’s a go – although I might not get a chance to post it this Friday.

This week’s challenge: Why did the Tooth Fairy fail to deliver coins one evening?
Maybe you want to have a go?
How To Play:
1. Check the website for the weekly challenge.
2. Write for a minimum of 5 minutes… AND THEN KEEP GOING!
3. NO editing.
4. On Friday, post it to your blog.
5. Go back to Write Anything and leave the link to your post using the “Mr Linky”.
6. Visit other’s posts and leave constructive comments.
7. Use Twitter (with our hashtag of #fictionfriday) or Facebook etc to tell your network about the stories posted up.
8. Do it again next week!

Little one with half my name

When you were born,
perhaps gripped in your tiny hands,
or tucked in the folds of your knees,
you brought the spring.
Maybe you breathed such warmth
with that first shout,
the earth relaxed its hardened shell
to let new life break through?
Or with a stretch,
your perfect limbs conducted
orchestras of augur birds
to chase away the cold.
For when you yawned, I saw
attending clouds change mood
and pillow-fill the sky for you.
And with a sigh from unspoiled lungs
the winds around fell silent, hushed.
And many winters melted from our hearts,
when you were born.

February 2010

George, don’t do that.

I’m working on a poem for my new poetry group, an intimidating bunch that meet in the National Theatre’s Olivier bar on a Friday night. This week, we’re looking at humour in poetry – Dorothy Parker and Michael Donaghy, so I thought I’d work on my own little piece. As it turns out, I’ve been much inspired by a couple of other teacher-poets. Notably, Joyce Grenfell (pictured) whose recording ‘George, don’t do that’ is one my Dad bought for my mother when she qualified as a primary school teacher in the nineties. I used to love listening to the cassette while I dried up the dinner plates.
Also, the first poem I learned off by heart:
“Please, Mrs Butler
This boy, Derek Drew,
keeps copying my work, Miss
What shall I do?…” (Allan Ahlberg)
It’s a fantastic book of poems, all about life in primary school which, I’m told, are as true now as they were when we were young.
Which is a far cry from the person in my poetry group who claims his son can recite the entire of Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “When the Hounds of Spring” and is only 8.

But he doesn’t go to a Comp.

(For those of you desperate to hear my attempt at teacher humour in a poem, I’ll try and get it up… if it’s ever finished.)

The annual birthday picnic

I have a quite amazing friend, who I haven’t yet managed to fix a blog-name to. She is so much more than her job, so she shouldn’t simply be known that way, and all the other words I can think of to describe her don’t seem to really capture the essence of who she is. She’ll be the perfect wife (if the Journalist ever pulls his finger out and proposes), she’s a grammar school girl, a socialist, an activist, a chef. Superwoman? For the purposes of this post, we’ll call her Birthday girl, though already that isn’t true.

Every year, Birthday Girl invites her many friends to a picnic in the park. She takes the day off work on Friday and spends nearly 24 hours cooking up quiches and biscuits, salads and cake. The Journalist hangs in the background, salivating at the smell; a puppy dog looking for scraps. But Birthday Girl makes him wait like everyone else, smacking his hand with a wooden spoon and sending him out for more chickpeas.
And when we all arrive at the park, hungover – or tired from a morning’s football game – Birthday Girl feeds us with the kinds of food only someone else’s mother would make. Baked with love and seasoned with vintage charm.

Chorus Snoring

A wedding in Exeter bought us to Devon, where we camped for five nights in our mansion tent. I never thought I’d enjoy camping. Not because I’m a girly girl – I’m not – but because I find it really miserable to be cold, or not to have had enough sleep. This week, however, was bliss. To wake up in the morning, looking out over the sea, surrounded by green hills. At night, the only sound a chorus of snoring from canvas homes.

Camping; living in such close proximity to other people, is great writing fuel. Real life is stranger than fiction, they say. More than anything, I was struck by the hundreds of parents in the world who have no idea how lucky they are, and no idea how to play with their kids. It was frustrating, listening to the toddler behind us have to call out for his Mummy or Daddy several times before they’d stop what they were doing (reading the Torygraph, talking about the stock market, measuring the size of their BMW) before they’d acknowledge him. I was tempted, not for the first time, to kidnap the poor boy and take him back to my empty nursery. Where he’d never have to ask more than once for anything.

We were back from the (fantastic) wedding in time to sit out in our sleeping bags, a little merry, and watch the sky – a carpet of stars – light up with the Perseid meteor showers: a yearly occurrence, and one I hope not to miss again. There was something so very humbling about staring up at a vast, unending, sky so full of light. We felt small, unimportant, in awe.

Spooning with Rosie


My friends are self-confessed foodies, who’s favourite past-time is to try to outdo one another with incredible dishes made from the very best free-range, organic, non-GM, home-grown ingredients. The fact that I have destroyed my tastebuds with years of Cutters Choice, or that I can only really manage to throw together a chilli con carne, doesn’t seem to put them off including me in the invites, so I get all the benefits of their expertise, without having to spend anytime learning anything. I think that might be what real friends are for.
On Thursday night, we went along to Rosie’s, in Brixton Market, for an evening where Rosie books out all the tables, and feeds her customers whatever it is that she has decided to cook. We sit at church hall tables, on chairs that don’t match. The table cloth (eventually coloured by our BYO bottle of Merlot) is white and doily-like. The plates and bowls look happy together, but aren’t from the same parentage. It is a comfortable, friendly experience. Rosie greets us – a small, blonde bundle of cool – before heading to the kitchen to prepare. When we finish our main course, she asks if we’d like seconds, and brings the boys another plate of chicken, couscous and beans. The food is homely and warming. The wine we’ve brought goes down a little too easily for a school night. The company is near perfect, and I am happy.