Monthly Archives: October 2014

Word of the week: trains

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Over the past couple of weeks, Arthur has developed a real passion for his train set. He was given it for Christmas last year, and whilst he’s shown a passing interest before it’s only recently that he’s really given it his full attention. He’s figured out how to put the pieces of track together, and whilst he loves it when someone sits down and plays with him he’s equally happy to be given the time to play with his train tracks by himself.

And this week that’s been particularly handy.

After our whirlwind trip to London I’ve had so much to catch up on. Not least the novel, which is edging ever closer to completion though I’m not quite there yet.

Because this has also been one of those weeks when my time and focus has been stretched in all sorts of directions I hadn’t exactly been anticipating. Meet ups with friends that I didn’t want to refuse, for Arthur’s sake or mine, despite knowing it would knock my schedule out of whack. Taking over a local twitter account (@TorbayPeople) because no-one else stepped up to the mark. A piece I wrote a while ago being published in The Guardian, the excitement of which threw me a bit yesterday!

And then of course there’s Halloween, which seems to have appeared out of nowhere this year! So throw in some pumpkin carving, some baking, some costume making.

It’s all been good fun, but I have been squeezing every last drop out of every second to fit it in.

And for much of that time, when I’ve been writing or blogging or tweeting or making something or another, Arthur has sat contentedly and played with his trains. Now that it’s finally the weekend, I’m looking forward to sitting down and playing with him too.

 

The Reading Residence

Why teaching is actually pretty awesome

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I’ve spent a lot of time on here pondering on what’s wrong with education. And for good reason – there’s much about the system that frustrates me enormously, especially under the current government. But actually I truly loved the time I spent as a teacher, and I hope to go back to it one day. When I was teaching, I threw myself into it wholeheartedly. Great when I had no ties but not so great with a young family.

There’s a lot of work to be done on ensuring teaching remains a good career choice for people once their own children become part of the equation. But I’m still pretty convinced that for enthusiastic and ambitious graduates there are not many career paths that are as fulfilling.

So when I was asked by The Guardian to write an article encouraging sixth-form students to consider training as a teacher when they leave school, I jumped at the chance.

You can read that article here.

And if you want to read some of my other (slightly more cynical) articles on the world of education you’ll find them here.

Because teaching as a career isn’t perfect – but it’s still pretty awesome.

Mama and More

Y is for yawn

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This is one of the earliest pictures I have of Arthur. He’d been born less than two days before, and was still very much adjusting to being in the outside world. Everything was new. When he yawned, he scrunched up his big eyes and his tiny fists, and my heart melted.

Just as he was experiencing everything for the first time in those early days, so my world had transformed too into something I barely recognised. Its boundaries had shifted, the things that had seemed important before had become insignificant if not invisible. The edges of the universe had blurred as if to throw into sharp focus this being which had hurtled into its very core.

We didn’t move far from our bed at first. The bed where he was born. We snuggled up against the December cold, a family born along with this precious baby. Others came and went, cooing and crying and declaring his perfection. It was lovely to have them there, but lovelier still when they were gone and it was just us three.

Slowly we adjusted to our changed reality, venturing down the stairs and into the open air, that little being tucked up close beside my heart. Every step we have taken since has been an adventure, but I will never forget the magic of those moments when we lay still, cuddling and stretching and yawning and nurturing, watching and listening and glowing with the wonder of it all.

 

Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast.

Nearly there…

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After a not entirely planned almost two week break from editing the novel, things seem to be well and truly back on track.

When I started this part of the process, I set myself the arbitrary deadline of the end of October. I needed something to work towards, and two months seemed a reasonable amount of time. There were moments when it seemed like there was no way I’d make it, when the self-doubt demons stuck their oars in and totally messed with my chi, but then my pace picked up and anything seemed possible once again.

I was actually well ahead of the game when I had to down tools two weeks ago – two chapters away from applying all my scribbled changes to the digital draft, with a pretty clear idea of a final wave of additions I wanted to make before the manuscript would be ready for the next phase.

Then on the train home from London on Sunday night the doubt set in again. I was thinking about what to write for this post actually, and realised I had nothing more to add after my nebulous attempts at justifying my week away. I toyed with the idea of giving myself an extension on my deadline, then spending time writing a post explaining why I just didn’t have time to get the novel finished this week. But the irony of that wasn’t lost on me and in the end I decided just to knuckle down and get on with it.

I finished going over those last two chapters yesterday. They’re pretty damned creepy you know, even if I do say so myself. And today I’ve been creeping myself out some more by working on the flashes of insight into my antagonist’s twisted mind.

That’s flowing pretty easily, worryingly enough. I just hope he doesn’t sneak into my dreams like he did last time I tried it. That’s a case of life imitating art I could well do without.

Anyway, I digress. If everything keeps going to plan I think I should have a passable second draft ready by close of play on Friday. And on that note, I’d better get back to it!

 

Muddled Manuscript

Possibly the best toddler museum in the world

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Other than our discovery of the playground at Coram’s Fields, the hands down highlight of last week’s trip to London for Arthur had to be the London Transport Museum. As a self-confessed transport geek I’ve always loved it myself – and it turns out that for a toddler it is pretty much heaven.

He’d already been overwhelmed with the excitement of being surrounded by buses and taxis and trains as we made our way around the city, and as soon as he saw the vehicles inside the museum he was off.

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He was particularly drawn to this vintage car, desperate to be allowed to climb up over the luggage and sit inside.

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Fortunately there was plenty else to distract him. He loved the scrolling lights inside one of the side exhibition spaces – they made him jump at first, but he was soon fascinated by the words and images all around him.

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He was very taken by the miniature tube trains too – I think he spent about ten minutes pressing the buttons so he could watch them travel along their little tracks and back again, roping in any passing kids he could to join in too.

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I think I was a bit more excited than him by the full size tube train simulation, but he was intrigued by the tunnel rushing by.

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He found it much easier to get hands on with the driving in the All Aboard area, bouncing between the riverboat, train and bus like a pro.

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Once he’d warmed up a bit he was ready to tackle his favourite ride of all: a full size London bus.

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We had a fantastic afternoon, the only downside of which was that he then spent the rest of the week trying to get into the driver’s seat of the buses we travelled on. We’ll be heading back for sure next time we’re in the city, and in the meantime there is a little wooden tube train on his train tracks to remind him of his trip to London Town.

 

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Letting off steam in Coram’s Fields

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Arthur was a little superstar during our trip to London last week. There was lots about it that I think he enjoyed: he loved hanging out with new people in unusual places, and was totally captivated by the huge array of vehicles. But there was also lots that was rather testing for a toddler. Sitting still, mainly – on buses and tubes whilst we crossed the capital and in restaurants and cafés whilst mummy talked too much. He just wanted to explore, to run around – ‘walk and play!’ was his increasingly frustrated refrain.

And on Friday we found the perfect place for him to do just that. After a stroll around the not terribly toddler friendly British Museum and a very long wait for lunch at Strada, my friend suggested we go to Coram’s Fields. It hadn’t really been on my radar when I lived in London. I mean, I knew it was there – but you can’t even go in unless you’ve got a kid, and it really is focused towards the needs of the city’s littlest residents. And Arthur absolutely loved it.

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He rode on the little spring-mounted animals first, crossing between the duck and the horsey several times. Then he saw the slide, making his way up the perfectly proportioned steps to show off the skills he’s learning in gymnastics – hanging off the bar and swinging himself onto the slide whilst I tried not to leap prematurely to his aid.

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He had a go at climbing up the rope ladder too, and very nearly managed that on his own.

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There were lots of little ‘baby houses’ for Arthur to explore, and he loved running between them without needing me to hold his hand every step of the way.

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It was wonderful to see his increasing confidence, even if deep inside there was a pang of something else as I realised my little baby boy is growing up before my eyes.

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It was definitely a much-needed pitstop – it’s always great to find new playgrounds, and this is one I’d heartily recommend if you find yourself in central London with an energetic toddler in tow!
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall