Sunday, 29 August 2010


Book Extract

I ran away. 
Well, ran to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill, climbed upon the first bus that arrived and ended up three miles away atop a double-decker bus going to Edgware.
I was thirteen when I made the decision to run.  Two of my friends in the home had pestered to come with me, when told of my secret plans for escape. 
We set off excitedly on our adventure, hoping to start our new lives away from the children`s home.  With only a few hours of daylight left, we knew we had little time to plan our break-out, so we didn`t plan. The driver of the bus didnt appear to detect anything suspicious about three teenage girls clambering onto the bus outside the children`s home heavily laden with bulging plastic bags.  Perhaps it happened more often than we realised.  We scurried noisily up the steps of the bus onto the top deck all sharing the same nervousness and exhilaration that only "girls on the run" could possibly feel.  We were on our way!

Wiping  away the condensation from the windows and peering out into the darkness as the driver accelerated into the unknown streets, the three of us chattered  like excited monkeys.  Pulses racing, adrenalin pumping, we became embroiled in our thoughts of what lay ahead although we hadn`t really considered what we would do once we had reached our destination, or indeed, where it would be.  There were no discussions or suggestions on where and how we might live.  It didn`t occur to us that as thirteen year old girls, we actually stood very little chance of surviving in the "real world".
We wanted independence from the home.  We considered we were way too grown up to be treated like the little ones, and anyway, I was the boss and nobody told me what to do!

The journey ended unexpectedly.  With a screech of hydraulic brakes, the driver swung the bus into Edgware Bus Station and stopped.  Startled, we all looked at each other.  We were puzzled.

"Was this it?
What now?
We were not ready!"

We decided to stay put.

"Get off the bus - Everybody off!"  came the booming order from below us.  Aware that we were indeed the only passengers on the bus, we very quickly deduced that the command was, infact, directed at us. 

We had to think fast.  This wasn`t going according to plan; or it wouldn`t have been if we had one.
"I think we had better get off", I whispered to the girls after a short panic-stricken moment, when we all sat staring at each other open-mouthed, in the confines of the top deck.
"I aint getting off" Heather hissed at me. 
Looking at Elizabeth and being aware that she hero-worshipped Heather, I realised that perhaps we had reached our first major hurdle in this race for freedom.  I silently berated myself for allowing them to come with me.  They were defiant.....I was hungry and surprisingly tired.  It suddenly occurred to me that I no longer had a real desire to continue this life-changing expedition.

After a short, heated altercation with my trusted escapees, it became obvious that I had no real option than to give myself up and return to the home.  To be honest, I was rather looking forward to it but would not dare tell the other girls of my weakening sense of adventure and imminent change of heart.  It had seemed a good idea at the time.  Heather and Elizabeth were adamant that they would not be giving up their quest for independence.  Although I told them there was a good chance the police would be summoned to have us removed from the bus, they ignored my reasoning.  Grabbing their plastic bags filled with clothes from beneath the seats, they clumsily clambered down the stairs of the empty bus.

"Wait for me!" I shouted after them, frantically grappling under the seat for my bag of belongings: a clean top, a pair of jeans, a new training bra, size 30aa, and an orange I had stolen from the kitchen table.  After sev eral frantic moments, ripped remnants of plastic in my hand, I stood up to leave.  Shocked and scared, I was to find myself staring into the face of a uniformed policeman, who looked abnormally tall.  His head dusted the roof of the bus as he moved towards me, his helmet tucked under his arm.  Not a word was spoken.  My energy levels had reached their lowest ebb and I certainly had no inclination to wrestle with him atop the number 23 bus terminated at Edgware Bus Station.  So, I gave myself up without the hint of a struggle.  Downheartedly I told him my name and address and was soon taxied back to the home in the back of a police car.  Depleted and sad I silently worried about my friends.  Where were they? Would they get caught? and was it too late for supper?

My house mother asked repeatedly as to the whereabouts of Heather and Elizabeth upon my return to the home.  I could truthfully tell her I did not know.  They left no forwarding address.
The girls were "on the loose" for a couple of days- causing much discussion and rumour amongst the remaining children in the home.  They eventually were to return to the home only to pack their belongings.  They were being transferred to new homes in different parts of the country.  I would never see them again.  I missed them terribly - and learnt another heartbreaking lesson in being nobodies` child.

The same extract altered to read in the third person.  Which one do you prefer?

She ran away. Well, ran three miles up the road……on the top of a double-decker bus. Two of her friends in the home had pestered to go with her, when told of her plans for escape. They set off excitedly on their adventure, hoping to start their new lives. With only a few hours until darkness, they knew they had little time to plan their break-out, so they didn’t plan. The elderly driver on the bus didn’t seem to find anything suspicious about three teenage girls getting on a bus, outside the childrens` home, laden with plastic bags. Perhaps it was a regular occurrence they were not aware of.

They scurried noisily upstairs to the top deck, all sharing the same sense of nervousness and exhilaration that only “girls on the run could feel”. Jocasta felt she had done the right thing by putting on her trainers as she imagined she would have an awful lot of running to do.
Staring out into the darkness as the driver accelerated away into the darkened streets, the three of them chattered away excitedly like a group of chimpanzees. Pulses racing, adrenalin pumping at an alarming rate, they became embroiled in their thoughts of what lay ahead, although they hadn’t really considered what they would do once they had reached their destination – wherever it may be. There were no discussions or suggestions on where and how they would live. It didn’t occur to them that as thirteen year old girls, they actually stood very little chance of surviving in the “real world”.
They wanted independence from the “home”. They were way too grown up to be treated like the little ones were – and anyway, Jocasta was the self-appointed boss and nobody told her what to do!
The journey ended unexpectedly. With a screech of hydraulic brakes, the driver swung the bus into Edgware Bus Station. Startled, they all looked at each other. They were puzzled.
Was this it ? What now? They weren’t ready!
They decided to stay put, even after the driver yelled up the stairs “Get off the bus!”  “Everybody Off !”

As they were the only passengers on the bus, they quickly deduced that the command was directed at them. Jocasta looked nervously out of the window. It was dark and very bleak. Street lights and shop fronts brightened the area but there were very few people about. She noticed a young couple holding hands as they walked along the darkened street and into a restaurant and wished she was with them.

They had to think fast.  This wasn’t going according to plan, or it wouldn’t had been if they had one.
“I think we should get off” Jocasta whispered to the other girls after a short panic-stricken moment, when they all stared open-mouthed at each other in the confines of the top deck.
“I aint getting off!” Heather hissed in her direction, her usual pasty look becoming increasingly red and blotchy with anger and defiance.
Looking at Elizabeth, with her mousey straggly hair flopping into her scared hazel eyes and being aware that she hero-worshipped Heather, Jocasta realised that perhaps they had reached their first major hurdle in this quest for freedom. She silently berated herself for allowing them to come with her.
They were defiant………Jocasta was ……… hungry, deflated and tired.  She had no real desire to continue this life-changing expedition as the enormity of the situation finally struck her.
After a short altercation with her trusted escapees, Jocasta realised she had no option than to give herself up and return to the Home. If she was honest, she was rather looking forward to it, her warm bed, her own room, but she dared not tell the others.  It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Heather and Elizabeth were adamant that they would not be giving up their pursuit of independence. Although Jocasta told them there was a good chance the police would be summoned to have them removed from the bus, the two girls ignored her reasoning, grabbed their plastic bags from under the seats, pulled their collars up over their ears and clumsily clambered down the steel stairs of the bus.
“Wait for me!” Jocasta shouted after them, frantically grappling under the seat for her bag of belongings: a fresh top, a pair of jeans (she only ever wore jeans), a new training bra (size 30aa) and an orange she had swiftly stolen from the kitchen table while no-one was around. The bag had become wedged firmly under the seat and she tugged with all her might to retrieve it. After several frantic moments - ripped remnants of plastic in her hand - she stood up to leave. Jocasta was shocked, and scared, to be faced with a policeman who looked too tall to be on the top deck of a bus. His head dusted the roof as he moved towards her. His helmet was tucked under his right arm. Not a word was exchanged between them. Jocasta did not have the energy or inclination to challenge this massive body in his dark blue uniform atop a number 23 bus at Edgware Bus Station, so gave herself up without a struggle. She even told the truth when asked her name, age and address, a rarity when faced with authority.

PC Richard Paisley was fed up. He was about to leave the station when his sergeant entered the office at Edgware police station.
“Rich, there`s been a call come through from a bus driver over at Edgware Station. Pop over there on your way home will ya? Summat about kids not getting of the bus”.
“Ok Sarg” Richard replied. He was not happy. He knew what was likely to happen. If the kids were stroppy there was every chance he would have to return them to the station. That in turn would mean questioning, filling out forms and waiting for parents. He had promised his girlfriend that he would be home by 10pm as she was getting fed up with his ever increasing hours. He was thirty-five years of age and at last wanted to settle down. He had lost count of the amount of girlfriends he had lost due to his continued absence from home.  He grabbed his helmet, car keys and jacket and headed out into the station carpark.

Jocasta was soon taxied back to the home in the back of a silent police car. PC Paisley sighed a huge sigh of relief. He would be home by 10.30pm. Jocasta was depleted, sad and wondered where her friends had fled and when they would be captured. Once home Jocasta was questioned by the house mother as to the whereabouts of Heather and Elizabeth. She could honestly answer that she had no idea as they had fled before her, leaving no forwarding address.
The girls were on the loose for a couple of days – causing much discussion and rumour amongst the remaining children in the home - and were only ever to return to the home to pack their belongings. They were being transferred. Jocasta would never see them again.
She missed them terribly – She had learnt another heartbreaking lesson in being “nobodies child”.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Bye Bye Little Olly

Today we lost our little furry friend Olly the hamster. This morning I opened the door to the playroom and took my customary look at his green cage with all amenities, including en-suite toilet, and strained to see his tiny fluffy body in it`s usual place.  My first thought was "Oh, he must be in the toilet upstairs".  But then as I waited for his descent from the capsule, my eyes fell upon one of the many tubes in his all-singing, all-dancing deluxe cage.  In the tube leading into the lower section of the cage I could see something at the very bottom of it, which was not usual.   On closer inspection and with the aid of my specs, I realised it was Olly.

Gingerly, I edged closer to the cage, an uneasy feeling of trepidation overwhelming me.  Olly had been known to occasionally sleep in other places than his little hideaway bedroom, and I hoped, somewhat dubiously, that this was the case again this morning.  Sixth sense however, was warning me otherwise. Why would he choose to sleep in a tube rather than his cosy bedroom filled with deluxe hamster bedding?  Peering into the cage I could not see any movement at all, so figured the best thing to do would be to open the top flap of the cage.  Ordinarily this action would precipitate Olly wakening and scurrying towards the sound on the promise of food.

On opening the lid, I watched his lifeless body in the hope that I might see movement.  But there was none.  Not a flicker.  Nothing.  The fur blockage remained in the tube.  The stillness and silence was deafening as the realisation hit me. 

Backing out of the room I prepared to tell my son Cain that we had lost our funny, furry little friend Olly.

RIP Olly the Hamster


Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Our trip to Brighton very nearly didnt happen as we nervously consulted weather updates.
Although only two and a half hours from home, the thought of spending our couple of days away dodging showers did not appeal to us at all.  The seaside can be a depressing place seen from under an umbrella.

The photos I took do not give justice to the beautifully warm weather we enjoyed in Brighton.  The first day, although not particularly sunny, was as warm as toast.  The sea breeze complimentary, with no chill, made our strolls along the seafront most enjoyable. 

Our arrival coincided with lunchtime so it wasn`t long before the traditional coastal aromas tempted us into finding a suitable eatery.  An extremely proud propietor whom I nicknamed Mario served us with the biggest chips I had ever seen and we all hungrily consumed his food with gusto watched intently by large squawking seagulls the size of small dogs. 

A local airshow provided further entertainment by flying planes in formation overhead.

Families, lovers, the world and his wife, walked leisurely along the busy seafront; narrowly missing each other due to the volume of people. Pushchairs, dogs and children jostled for position of the designated footpath. Despite this, the atmosphere was pleasant, friendly and relaxing.

We walked along the lively pier, taking in the noises, lights and ambience of such a vibrant place.  Money was pushed expectantly into slots in the pulsating arcade.  More money was lost as my daughter and I tried desperately to win a big teddy for baby Eden. The grabber just would not do as we willed it to do!

My son tried his luck on the mechanical horse race. His fist flew into the air when his nominated horse creaked across the line first!

Outside the covered arcade, on the wood slatted pier, the sea could be seen far underneath our feet. I held tightly to the pushchair.  My son and son-in-law tried scoring a goal by shooting a ball through holes in a plasterboard wall.  Unsuccessful, they watched amazed when I very nearly managed it!  I surreptiously limped for a full half hour as a result.

Down by the marina, the riggings clanked together loudly as the evening drew in.  After the hustle and bustle of the promenade, the peace and tranquility of the marina was in stark contrast.  Restaurants plied their trade by seating their diners outside overlooking the many boats anchored in the marina.  It was such a vision of beauty and serenity. 
We chose a pasta restaurant, one we hadnt tried before and eagerly awaited our meals as we had become hungry again after our afternoon by the sea.  Unfortunately the restaurant served my son-in-law a mussel dish which  resulted in him vomiting twelve times throughout the night! My daughter will be sending them an uncomplimentary email in the very near future.

Luckily, once the dodgy mussels were unceremoniously dispensed off, my son-in-law was able to enjoy our next day.  Shopping!
After a short meander through the shopping centre we headed out to the more interesting shops. The shops in Brighton are colourful, flamboyant, bohemiam and welcoming.  It soon became apparent however that dragging a nine month old baby, an eleven year old boy and a decidedly delicate son-in-law was just a tad cruel and unfair. My daughter and  I tried nipping into little shops that we couldnt resist but felt increasingly guilty as they waited in the searing heat outside.
Costa Coffee provided some refreshment in the shape of cupcakes and red berry coolers, but the heat of the day was proving to be unbearable for shopping, so we reluctantly headed back to the beach for one last wander before heading back to the car. 
I was happy with my purchase of an unusal mirror decorated by skillfully placed piano keys.  My son bought himself a "never-ending" bouncing ball, a moneybox and an extremely loud harmonica, which serenaded us for most of the journey back to Hertfordshire! 

Friday, 13 August 2010

The Rising of The Sun

Again in bed
almost asleep;
thoughts surfaced demanding my attention,
refusing to return to the dark corners of my mind
where I have sent them
many moons ago.

Nightly silence  magnifies these thoughts
and troubled memories,
bringing them to the fore
like a raging river
splashing and crashing heavily into rocks.

Images  forgotten
now projected in technocolour
inside my mind;
as clear as the brightest day
yet confused and jumbled.

Words spoken
repeated over and over again
in time with the beating of my heart
as each memory
increases in speed and ferocity.

Awake in the darkness
nothing to hear
 but the constant replays inside my head;
replays that disappear
with the rising of the sun.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Our First Date

“Hello !”

I yelled down the receiver as I squashed and balanced the handset between my shoulder and my left ear whilst holding the hot saucepan in my right hand.

“Er…is it a bad time?” came the reply.
I recognised the Irish accent and cursed quietly to myself.

“Why did I have to pick the damn phone up?”
“No, No….its fine” I lied.
“Its Mick, Do you remember me from last night?” he asked.
“Of course I do,” I giggled, rolling my eyes in exasperation.
“Hang on!” I added, “You told me your name was Jon”
“Oh, I did?” he chuckled,
“doesn’t matter, you can call me whatever you like”
“Ok, i`ll call you Jon then, i`m not calling an Irishman Mick!”
We both laughed. 

Their eyes shone with mischievousness as I explained my plans to my two youngest children.
“What if he sees us Mum?” Jemma asked.
“He wont be expecting two children to be looking for him, will he?” I replied.
“Go now and remember – man standing outside pub or sitting in convertible car outside pub”,

With that, the two of them were gone - out the front door, giggling as they ran up to the end of the road. Within three minutes they were back, standing, panting in the lounge, obviously exhilarated by their introduction to espionage.

“There was no-one there Mum” Charley squeaked, struggling for breathe as they had run the whole distance.

I sighed with relief.

I didn’t fancy him anyway and had no intention whatsoever in going on a date with him. I had agreed to meet him whilst in a state of drunkenness at my local club the previous week, even though I was not the slightest bit attracted to the gentle-speaking Irishman. I had seen him in the club on several occasions and was a little intrigued by his manner. He didn’t appear to be overly confident and didn’t look as if he was enjoying himself particularly either. My group of friends were familiar with his group of friends, but no-one took much notice of the silent Irishman with the glazed-over eyes.

“You alright Love?”,

I felt someone`s hand shaking my shoulder to rouse me. I slowly raised my head to see three men standing in front of me. I smiled and assured them I would be fine once I had found my friend, who had disappeared a while ago. I remember waffling on about us girls always sticking together and being somewhat perplexed as to why they had not returned sooner. I recognised the three guys as Frank and his two friends – one of them being Jon. They stood and attempted a light conversation with me but I was well past wanting to converse with anyone. It must have been about 1am, I had had enough to drink and my feet ached from dancing. All I wanted was for my friends to return so we could leave the club.
Eventually, it dawned on me that neither of the girls I had gone with were going to return. I was angry and confused. Jon offered to walk me to my car as long as I dropped him off in Harrow. I agreed to being escorted to the car but was not prepared to drive into Harrow.

“I`ll drop you at the end of my road in Harrow Weald” I told him.

He was happy with my offer and we took the long path back to the car together, me leaning on him for support. The club was within a mile of my home, so I saw nothing wrong in rolling the car down the hill towards home with a little alcohol in my blood. After all, there were no traffic lights to encounter and only one smallish roundabout to negotiate that was always clear in the early hours of the morning. I had a convertible escort at the time and was having trouble with a stiff catch on the roof. Consequently, I was not always able to do the left hand side of the roof up properly. On this particular occasion the roof was loose as I had been unable to force the catch closed. I informed Jon that he must hold on to the roof as we drove down hill. I was passed the point of being embarrassed about my cars` inadequacies and giggled at the silliness of the situation all the way home. As promised, he happily left me at the top of my road without so much as a kiss goodbye. I was relieved and somewhat touched by his gentlemanly behaviour.

He did however make me promise to turn up for our next date.

My Children - My World

My children hold the most important position in my life. My heart would not beat without them for they are so instrumental in holding it together and filling it with love.
To see them happy is of paramount importance to me and I have strived to do so since the day they were conceived. I had separated from their father in 1992 and the following five or six years had been a roller-coaster of emotions for all of us. Joanna, the eldest was a headstrong teenager who had been persecuted by bullies before we had moved away from our previous family home. This had made her very challenging when it came to disciplining.
There were many shouting matches between us, tantrums that I struggled to defuse and deal with, but I always felt that she respected and trusted me when I made certain demands for her improvement in behaviour within the new family environment. This was made frustratingly more difficult for me as it had become obvious that my two girls, although having only two and a half years between them in age, were never going to be close friends and confidants.
Almost from the day she was born, Jemma seemed to take an instant dislike to her older sister. Joanna would try to boss Jemma about and Jemma would physically attack her.

Despite reassurances from well-meaning friends, sadly, things have not significantly improved and the girls remain as different as chalk and cheese. The arrival of a baby brother four years after Jemmas` birth, did not bond the girls, they fought over him as if he were a favourite toy.
One memory sticks in my mind of when they both demanded he look at both of them at the same time! I despaired. Jemma was to win the baby brother war as they bonded from the start and are still very close emotionally to this day.

Jemma survived her life as the middle child remarkably well. Despite seeing the devastating effect bullies had not only on her elder sister, but also on us all as a family, she grew with an inner confidence to be admired. She would stand for no nonsense and was focused on her ultimate aim to be successful and independent. I once overheard Joanna proclaiming that she was going to marry a millionaire, to hear Jemma respond by stating:
“I`m not going to marry a millionaire, I`m going to be one!”
Jemma is an achiever, I can emotionally support her when she allows me. Joanna wants to be an achiever, but is easily distracted away from her ambitions and will seldom allow me to be instructive or emotionally supportive.
Charley is a combination of the two girls………… achiever who fiercly rejects my emotional input. He has been blessed with musical talent which allows him to travel the country as a professional singer.

My Devon

I penned this poem for my eldest granddaughter Devon when she reached her first birthday.  Devon was born with PFFD which is a debilitating disability and means she was born without a femur in her left leg; consequently she wears a prosthetic leg.  Despite this she thrives magnificently and is growing into a beautiful, self-assured young lady. 

When you were born the angels cried, they had to say "Goodbye"
they wished you every happiness and sang a lullaby
they sent you on a journey to join us here on earth
we welcomed you with open hearts, cherished you from birth.

From the moment you were born, twelve months ago today
you have filled our lives with happiness in your own special way,
You have taught us what`s important - put us all to shame;
helped us learn life can be cruel, yet we can smile again.

Devon, you are beautiful - your face beyond compare;
you generate such loving - enough for all to share.
Big blue eyes, a button nose, a star from head to toe,
commanding much attention everywhere you go.

You shine just like a twinkling star up in a darkened sky;
beaming down on everyone as they pass you by.
Radiating happiness, our worries disappear
You are such a special angel, we need not shed a tear.

You make us proud to love you - we love you more each day
We thank the Lord for giving us the best in every way.
One year old! We are truly blessed, each day has been a dream
We will cherish you forever - our very own sunbeam.


I wrote this poem when a six year old girl choked to death in the canteen at my son`s school a few years ago.
It was a time of intense grieving not only for the parents but for other pupils and mothers connected to the school.  Tears were shed in the playground for many weeks as we all publicly mourned the loss of little Hannah.  Stunned by the cruelty and poignant realities of life and death, we shared our grief and disbelief at such a significant and devastating loss of a beautiful little girl.

Our school has lost an angel
He called her to his side;
Wanted her beside Him
no matter how we cried.

Took away her smiling face,
her golden curls, her joy
to play with other angels;
a cherub to enjoy.

Many friends she left behind
United in our grief
but blessed to have known this "shining star"
Although her life was brief.

RIP Hannah x