Tag Archives: identity

Lido love

I have loved to swim outdoors for as long as I can remember.

I didn’t often, when I was growing up: my first seven years were spent in the middle of the Welsh countryside, and after that, Birmingham. My over-riding memories of swimming during my childhood were the nights spent coughing with an aching head and burning eyes after spending the afternoon at our local leisure centre, contrasted starkly with the freedom of swimming outdoors on holiday – in outdoor pools, the sea, lakes – it didn’t matter, just as long as I could escape the cloying claustrophobia of chlorine-filled air.

I moved to London aged sixteen, and soon after discovered the Oasis sports centre in Covent Garden. It was a bit of a revelation. As often as I could, I would step off the grey and dusty streets and into its little outdoor pool – it was surrounded by tower blocks, but up above there was a rectangle of sky, and that made all the difference.

Several years after that, having gravitated towards East London, I found the lido on London Fields. It had only recently re-opened, and I was instantly won over by the brightly coloured poolside changing rooms and the trees peering over from the park. It was a relief from the city heat in summer, but it was in the winter it really came into its own: stripping off the mummifying layers to swim lengths between the warm water and crisp, cold air. It made me feel so alive, clawing my soul back from the S.A.D. that threatened to engulf it every year as the darkness crept in.

It’s not surprising, really, that I have found myself so consumed by Shoalstone since I moved to my new house by the sea.


There is, after all, a narrative to continue: but it was only by listening to inspirational writers, artists, campaigners and fellow lido lovers speak at the first ever National Lido Conference last weekend that I realised it had always been there.

It felt a strange thing to be doing as I headed up to Portishead on the train and the bus: two whole days discussing outdoor pools. I mean, I loved my local lido, but I was always a little self-conscious about how much it meant to me – I’d never quite been able to put my finger on the reasons why.

And then as people began to speak I realised that there was a whole tribe here to which I very much belonged. This wasn’t just about pools. It wasn’t even just about swimming. It was about community, about equality, about inspiration, about freedom. It was about finding meaning in the chaos, about connecting with people and with nature, about the very essence of what it is to be alive.


I had gone to the conference with a very specific and practical hat on: that of local councillor and chairperson of Shoalstone Pool. That persona, which sometimes feels accidental, is almost entirely separate to my writerly one, however much my town has begun to inspire my writing.

It soon became clear though that my other hat was just as welcome here – the one that dreams of better worlds, and tries to make sense of this one through carefully crafted words on a page. More than that, the weekend helped me to make sense of my entire self – the self that I’ve become – and to see how it has been woven out of the strands of my past that I thought I had long since left behind.

I realise that all sounds a bit bonkers. Maybe the euphoria was simply the result of that age-old therapy of immersion in water. As part of our weekend there was of course the chance to swim – in Portishead Lido, and in the nearby Clevedon Marine Lake.


Both were wonderful, in their very different ways – as was bobbing along next to almost-strangers, deep in conversation about this love we shared and how it might shape our futures and that of the pools we have taken guardianship over.

I know I have returned with a new passion for making Shoalstone the best that it can be, and with a sense of being part of a community that I never really knew existed. But I have also returned with a stronger sense of myself as a writer, of someone with stories to tell and a bubbling desire to get them out into the world.

Not bad for a day and a half of lido chat – and even better for the fact that all it will take to reignite this passion if ever it begins to fade is to slip beneath the waters of one of the many outdoor pools we have at our disposal in this country. First stop: Kings Cross Pond this afternoon, and hopefully Parliament Hill Lido tomorrow too.

Arthur and I are on our way up to London on a far less exciting mission than seeking outdoor swimming opportunities, but one other thing last weekend has taught me is that they are never far away – and I intend to take advantage of them whenever (and wherever) I can.


Writing Bubble



“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Looking back over my photos from this week, it is the ones of me and Arthur together that stand out the most. I know it’s cheating a little bit to call this a portrait of him, but in my defence he still, even as a confident and independent three year old, feels in many ways like an extension of my self.

I wonder if it always feels like that, being a mother? There’s a quote it brings to mind:

“Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body” Elizabeth Stone

For me these toddler years, with all of their wonder and challenge, are a critical moment in this. Perhaps it is because I have chosen a route through parenting where we are very much attached, but it is only now that I am really starting to feel us begin to articulate our separateness. Him as an incredible bundle of energy and potential, me as a whole new creature to the one I was before I bore him.

It’s exciting, but it brings with it too a sense of loss.

The cuddles help with that though. And this week we have loved exploring our together-yet-apart bodies through yoga. By which I mean mainly me attempting to rediscover well-worn poses whilst he clambers delightedly all over me.

I pretend to be annoyed that it makes it near impossible to practice how I used to, but secretly I love it.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Happy New Year!


I am wandering around in a bit of a haze today.

It’s always a bit of a blurry day, the first Monday after the festive season, and this one is made no easier by our journey home this weekend from our adventures in Iceland and the USA. It took approximately twenty seven hours to get from the house we were staying in to our front door: fun and games at the best of times and made that little bit more challenging with the addition of a three year old.

It’s the longest journey by far we’ve attempted with him, and actually he was pretty amazing – he slept for almost all of the two flights and a fair portion of the car journeys. Though of course that meant that at 2am this morning I was left negotiating with a temporally confused toddler who wanted nothing more than to play.

So today is a little more blurry than usual. But in between the essential sorting I am trying to get my focus on and think about the shape I want this year to take.

And part of that has been pondering about the place of this blog.

I feel like I’ve been prevaricating for a while now – not entirely sure what I’m blogging for, but not wanting to give it up entirely. But after taking a complete break for the past couple of weeks I’m getting closer to understanding why I’m still here.

It comes back to the initial intentions of this blog really: a place to carve out my new, post-motherhood identity – for myself, and anyone else who wants to listen. After a mostly enjoyable but emotionally turbulent couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year with my family that is feeling more important than ever.

For reasons I may or may not elaborate on in the future I’ve come back feeling the opposite of invigorated – my self-esteem has taken a bit of a beating, and that sense of identity I thought I was getting closer to having all worked out is suddenly seeming more than a little elusive.

But I know it’s in there somewhere, and this is the place, I reckon, to work it all out.

That’s not to say I have entirely worked out the shape these ponderings will take, but I have the beginnings of ideas – and certainly more than enough to get me started.

I want to continue to document Arthur’s childhood, and I’m going to do that a bit more explicitly with a shift over to The 52 Project as the drive behind my weekly photo. I’ve been sort of doing it for a while, but I want to use the project now to focus my lens a little more closely on Arthur as he grows – and maybe even to inspire a shift to ‘proper’ photography rather than a total reliance on my phone.

I also want to look more closely at Arthur’s learning and development through a journal about the beginning of our explorations into homeschooling. Whilst I don’t know for sure whether this is the direction we will take when it is actually time for him to start school, I don’t see the damage the government are doing to our education system easing any time soon. Besides, I’ve already started down this road to an extent by dint of the fact that I have chosen not to send him to nursery or preschool – a decision that rightly or wrongly it is feeling increasingly important to defend.

In fact there is much of my approach to parenting which is coming under increasing scrutiny as it continues to diverge from mainstream expectations, and this is something I’m keen to explore further in the coming weeks and months. I’m intending to start with a ‘parenting manifesto’ – a summary of the principles driving my approach and what I am hoping to achieve – and as I begin to thrash out the contents of this in my mind it’s spawning lots of ideas for further posts about the choices I have made when it comes to parenting.

Finally there is of course my writing. I am still waiting on feedback on the latest draft of my second novel from my agent, but I am hoping in the next few weeks to not only have an idea about the next steps with that but also to start work properly on drafting novel number three. And as part of this whole process I’m looking forward to continuing to link up with the lovely What I’m Writing community – without whom, if I’m honest, I might not have made it through my rather sketchy year of blogging in 2015 at all…

So there you go. A little bit of focus to the haze, a few ideas to get me started, and hopefully the beginning of a bit more blogging this year. Because whilst I have a million other things going on to take up my time I have come to realise that this one is pretty damned important to my sense of self – and I owe it to myself to get that sorted.


Writing Bubble

A new chapter

I never meant to be a mummy blogger. I stumbled into it by accident when I set up this blog, which if I’m honest I only did to give myself something to tweet about. Before that point I’d never really even read blogs, apart from the odd post a friend might link to, and I was blown away by how many people were out there, so many windows into so many worlds.

Before long I found myself getting caught up in it. Joining in with endless linkies, modelling posts on ones I read elsewhere, feeling elated when the words I wrote seemed to strike a chord, feeling frustrated when I began to focus on the stats that lurked in the background betraying how relatively few readers I actually had.

So many people were doing it better – funnier, cleverer, prettier. They were making a living from pouring their hearts onto the screens, whilst I was just taking up time that in my mind I should have been dedicating to ‘proper’ writing, or at the very least hanging out with my son.


Of course that’s only part of the picture. Blogging has given me so much else: a voice when I felt I had no-one to talk to, the confidence to just write rather than panicking about having nothing to say, a community to keep me company as I made sense of my new, often lonely, existence as a stay-at-home mum.

I was reminded of this when I went to Brit Mums Live last weekend. In the run up to it I had wondered numerous times why I was going at all. I worried that in the real world I’d have nothing to say to these people I only knew online – that when it came to it I wouldn’t really know them at all. I worried that I would feel like a fraud – not ready to buy into so much of the blogging world, just hovering on the periphery whilst everyone else got on with the serious business of carving out their new careers.

There was a bit of that, admittedly. But it was actually wonderful to meet these women in the flesh – people I knew from the blogosphere and many others besides. I realised that everyone there was doing this for their own reasons, that none of those reasons were better or more legitimate than others, and that any attempt to directly compare our many different goals and aspirations, let alone the many different ways we’re choosing to reach them, is fraught with difficulty.

I realised that rather than looking out at the journeys others are on it is high time I focused on my own.


My blog is only a small part of what I write. I cannot let it take over – not unless I decide that I want it to be an enterprise in and of itself. I need to refocus on how I can make this space one I am truly proud of, one which reflects my goals and aspirations rather than just the humdrum of the everyday. I need to refocus on my writing, on perfecting my craft. I need to refocus on my ‘brand’, however unmarketable that might be.

Because this is where I have that privilege – to write what’s right for me.

It’s the other words I need to be taking more seriously: honing my novels until they find a home with a publisher, seeking out opportunities through magazines and competitions to share my short stories with a wider audience. The time and energy and headspace that has been taken up by this blog needs to be invested there.

I’m not disappearing from here completely, but a shift in focus is long overdue. I have no idea exactly what that’s going to look like yet!

If you bear with me, hopefully we’ll both like what we find.

Writing Bubble

Who am I?


When I started this blog, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Not just with the blog itself, though that was definitely uncharted territory, but more generally too: over the previous couple of years everything I thought I knew about my life had changed. I liked where I was, most days, but I couldn’t help being curious about where I was headed.

The name of my little corner of the internet, ‘Sophie is…’, was the beginning of a sentence that I hoped I might be able to complete some time soon. With actions at first, and then, as time went on, with a label – something to replace the title of ‘teacher’ which I had worn with pride for the preceding decade.

There were obvious contenders – ‘a mum’ being the strongest one. I remember having a conversation with one of my oldest friends a few weeks after I’d entered the weird and wonderful world of blogging. Like me, she had recently celebrated the first birthday of her first child. Like me, she was struggling to come to terms with putting to one side the career she had worked so hard for. And also like me any regret or guilt she felt at that was still superseded by a strong sense of relief at being allowed, if she so chose, to be ‘just’ a mum.

We spoke about the power of that little qualifier, how hard it was for us – and for society – to accept that nurturing a child was a worthwhile use of our time. We discussed how there were days when being a mum felt more than we were capable of, even with all the time in the world, and others when we longed to be filling our time with something that reflected more of who we used to be, not just this new person we had become.

I think about this a lot, still.

I have not yet been able to relinquish my son to nursery or any other form of regular childcare. I worry that we would both miss too much. But at the same time I have not been able to entirely throw myself into being a mum.

I have needed something more.

And so, as well as ‘a mum’, Sophie is… ‘a writer’, ‘a school governor’, ‘a local councillor’, ‘an education consultant’. All of these things are exciting and fulfilling, and take an increasing amount of my time. Only the last is guaranteed to bring in any income, though I’m still holding out for those novels finding a publisher.

I know I am incredibly lucky to have the choices that I do.

But now I worry that I am spreading myself too thin. I still have not found a satisfying way to complete the unfinished sentence that began this blog.

And the blogging itself is confusing me recently – not the act of doing it, but what it’s all for. I found myself in a heated discussion about this a few weeks ago with someone who shall remain anonymous but whose opinion means an awful lot. The nature of the argument is too complicated and personal to go into here but it left me feeling a bit empty, a bit pointless.

Except I love this blog. I love how it jumps from one topic to another, piquing the interest of a wide range of people even though it never lures them in as deeply as it might if my writing was more focused. I know I don’t play by the rules, I know my target audience isn’t clearly enough defined to attract advertisers, I know that I’m not interested in making the blog in itself a commercial enterprise. I know I could channel my efforts much more effectively if I picked an area and stuck to it, but I don’t want to – not yet at least. And that is where this blog, still, is a mirror of my life.

It hasn’t yet decided where its priorities lie, it’s enjoying making the most of all the new opportunities that are presented to it, being able to say ‘yes’ to all the ones that look like they might be interesting or fun.

It’s hard, though, going from an existence where you think you have it all figured out into one where you’re not even sure what your goals are any more, let alone how to reach them. It’s particularly hard for a validation-seeking, confidence-lacking, perfectionist like me.

But I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.

And so I think I’m going to have to put to one side this desire to figure out who I am and what I’m doing with my life. It may be hard to get my head round, but I think I’m going to have to accept that, for now, Sophie just is.




For a long time my greatest fear was being alone.

I’m not sure when it started. Possibly around the time that I stopped believing in the fairies at the bottom of my garden and realised how mean people could be.

Often I would feel lonely even in a crowd. Especially then.

It took me forever to shake that gnawing teenage angst that no-one really understood me – or even wanted to. I had friends. Some really great friends, I can see that now. But at the time my paranoia wouldn’t let me appreciate them as much as I should have.

As you can probably imagine this didn’t bode terribly well for functional relationships. In my twenties I pinballed between variously inappropriate men: some lovely, some not so lovely, but none the right person to fill that chasm in my soul, however much I tried to convince myself that they were.

I began to think I should maybe look elsewhere, and decided to give internet dating a shot. It wasn’t really my thing, but I convinced myself I was being old-fashioned. I knew an increasing number of people who had found their soul-mate online after all.

One evening, after a couple of glasses of wine, I settled down to fill in the (rather lengthy) questionnaire which would give me access to one of these internet dating sites. As I made my way through the questions, responding as honestly as I could, I couldn’t help but begin to feel excited. This site was building such a detailed profile of me that it promised to only show up ‘deeply compatible’ potential partners. Whatever idiosyncrasies I feared I may have, well, they would have them too! No more trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, so to speak. This was it: my chance to find the perfect partner.

And then the results came back.

They started by saying they were very sorry, that this didn’t happen often. Well, ever actually.

But in their database of over three million people they did not, in fact, have a match for me.

This really makes me giggle when I think about it now. And it did then too, once I’d got over the initial shock. No wonder I’d had trouble finding love, had never been able to shake that niggling feeling of being alone – there simply wasn’t anyone out there who I was compatible with!

I decided it was time to make peace with myself, to accept my wonderful uniqueness for what it was, to begin to revel in being solitary rather than being afraid of it.

It didn’t last long. A couple of months later I found my future husband (sort of online as it happens) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Whilst I think I had finally got to a place where I was happy on my own, it’s hard to put into words how wonderful it was – and still is – to have found the person I’d been looking for. We have only been together for five years, but in that time we’ve shared so many adventures.

Now that we’ve embarked on this great adventure of parenthood together I’ve pretty much forgotten what it feels like to be alone. And the little person who has shared almost every minute with me since his conception almost three years ago does not care that I’m a bit peculiar. In fact he probably loves me even more because of it.

I admit that nowadays there are even times when I crave a bit of solitude.

But then I look back at how far I’ve come, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am finally happy in my skin. And whilst it might now be a moot point, I am no longer afraid of being alone.