Tag Archives: love



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

Campfires, wild swimming, messing about with guitars: we never meant to have Arthur with us on our romantic anniversary escape to a safari tent on Dartmoor, but when the the universe conspired against us we decided to go with it.

As it turned out, it was a magical weekend nonetheless. So many special moments for our little family, made especially so by the fact that they were never really supposed to happen.

We will go back one day, as a couple, to this little corner of paradise. But we would not have spent this weekend any other way.

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



“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. 

Writing awkwardness

Over the last few days I’ve been writing about a burgeoning teenage relationship. The first, for my protagonist. I’d been wondering why there was so much to-ing and fro-ing on my keyboard, so much doubt about the right way to express things, so much angst as I painfully tapped out the scenes word by awkward word.

And then I realised this morning, just as I was about to give up, that maybe, actually my writing was just mirroring what was going on with my characters. That my inability to find the right thing to say, the painstaking cautiousness with which I was placing the words on the page, was just a living metaphor for the relationship that was unfolding.


It made a lot of sense. Because when I stopped to think about it, it wasn’t all awkward. Those excruciating moments where I just wanted to hide under a rock were sandwiched more often than not by others where the words flowed freely, where I just let myself be carried along by the excitement of it all.

It’s been surprisingly tricky transporting myself back to the mind of a teenager. I say surprising, because if I’m honest with myself I was stuck in the realms of teenage angst for way longer than I should have been. But it has been the innocence that has been hard to capture: an internal monologue unsullied by experience. In the scenes I’ve been writing this week, my protagonist has been twelve and thirteen. She’s clever, and she knows things, but she hasn’t lived them yet.

I’ve had to really hold onto that, because my main conceptualisation of this character has been as an older girl and woman. Thoughts and phrases have come into my head that seem to fit the situation she’s in, but actually she’s not quite there yet: I’ve stored them away for the scenes yet to come where they will be far more relevant.

And it’s in these coming scenes that my tolerance for awkwardness will really be tested. This first relationship, over before it had really begun, was just the warm-up to the main event, where adolescent awkwardness is just a sideline to the many layers of crazy we are about to find ourselves embroiled in.

I think it’s going to be rather fun.


Writing Bubble

Now you are three


Dear Arthur,

So now you are three.

How did that happen?

I remember when you were tiny, in those first magical, mystical days, I used to stare at you through the fog of sleep deprivation and try to imagine what you would be like when you were this age. How you would look, how you would sound, what you would do.

I never could have imagined you.

The way you draw in your breath and clap your hands in glee when something exciting happens: from the suggestion of a train ride to your first sight of snow to me making it home from an evening meeting in time to kiss you goodnight. You are excited by life, and I love that.

I love how you quickly make your way to the dance floor when a song you like comes on, throw your hands in the air and shake your booty with a huge smile on your face. I love that the dance floor is whatever you decide it is in that moment, from a clearing in your toys in the lounge to the rug in your bedroom to a select few tiles in the kitchen marked out by something only you can see.

Your imagination is spectacular. Inspired by story books and movies you create all sorts of people and scenarios to take you through your day. Wherever we are you can conjure up your own entertainment – and as your vocabulary increases you can share it with others too, making up stories for us just like we do for you.

And what a vocabulary. There was a moment recently, when you were once again telling me the story of The Polar Express, when you described the train arriving outside the window with its ‘hissing steam and screeching brakes’. Several times a day I am astounded by the words that have found a home inside your head.

You absorb everything around you, and if I stop and pause for a moment I can watch you do it. Almost hear the cogs in your brain turning as you focus in on new little details you haven’t noticed before. You ask about things of course – ‘why?’ is an increasingly common refrain, and I always try to answer you the best I can, even if the level of understanding you are seeking is beyond me.

You don’t just rely on other people for answers though. You are fascinated by how the world works, and are constantly experimenting, trying it all out. Sometimes your methods are a little frustrating – the throwing, the tasting, the taking things apart. But I know why you’re doing it, so it’s ok.

Don’t ever stop exploring, my little bear. Don’t ever stop seeking out the truth and trying to make sense of the world, even when it seems completely unintelligible. Especially then.

There is so much about your emerging personality that I hope you hold on to as you grow.

I hope you will continue to try to understand your emotions, and those of other people. When you look up at me with your big blue eyes and say ‘I’m sad’, and together we try to work out why, a part of my heart aches for my inability to protect you from the darker feelings that will inevitably engulf you from time to time. But I’m glad you want to talk about it. Know that I will always be here when you are sad or angry or afraid: my love does not need you always to be happy.

Though of course when you are my heart sings. Your laughter is, hands down, the best sound I have ever heard. I think you like it too. If there’s a lull in conversation you’ve started saying “Let’s laugh! Will you laugh with me?” It is impossible not to agree, and usually I’m giggling before I’ve even had time to answer.

You bring so much joy to my world.

There is nothing sweeter than hearing you say, “Can I give you a toy, mama?”

You say it when we’re in the midst of playing, when I’m distracted by my work, when we’re talking about something you’ve done that’s made me cross. And when I say yes, which I try to always do, you go and pick out one of your favourite cars or creatures or maybe even a train and carefully hand it over with a smile.

I think what you’re saying is “I love you, mama.”

And I love you too. Very much.

All my love for always, Mummy xxx



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.



Word of the week: family


This has been a sad week for us. We’ve said goodbye to two of the oldest members of our extended family, and Arthur has had his first experiences of the bittersweetness that comes with family funerals.

On Wednesday we travelled to Cardiff, where most of my Dad’s family are based, to attend the memorial service for my Great Aunty Gwen. She was ninety one when she died, and right to the end exuded a glamour reminiscent of times gone by. She was a wonderful musician, and though her natural home was in the classical world she still very much appreciated the more modern sound of my brother’s band and offered her advice as they readied themselves to release their music to the world.


Aunty Gwen never married, but as the sister of my late Granny she has always been a part of our family. She was a very private person, but in recent years, particularly around the time of my wedding, she began to talk of her lost love and the flame she still carried for him. I found it hard not to feel sad for her, often sitting alone at family gatherings. But as well as having the support of our extended family – particularly my Aunt and Uncle who still live in Cardiff – her memorial service brought home the important place she held in her local church and community.

I will miss her gentle, softly spoken manner, and the twinkle in her eye whenever she was reminded of her youth.

Then on Thursday we headed to The Lizard, the furthest reaches of Cornwall where most of my Mum’s family live. There we were to celebrate the incredible eighty five years lived by my Nanny, Dora, and to say our final goodbyes.

Even as we were travelling down it was clear this was going to be hard. I’m finding it difficult to know what to type now as the words keep catching in my throat and I feel tears pricking behind my eyes. She has been such an important presence in my life, so immensely inspiring in the strength and determination that saw her through some terrible tragedies and yet so calm and comforting too. Her pride in each and every one of her grandchildren was palpable, and I am so glad that Arthur got to meet her several times too over the past two years. Watching her sit with him on her knee was so magical – he seemed to ignite yet another side of her that I’d never seen before.


I read the eulogy at her funeral, and was astounded again at the life she lived. Looking round the packed church (they even had speakers outside for those who could not squeeze in) it was clear that she’d touched and inspired so many. I’m not going to retell her whole story here, but I am very, very grateful to the strangers who pushed a teenage Dora out of the path of a flying bomb in wartime Walthamstow.

My mum was so brave through it all, sharing a poem which urged us to focus on her legacy, on living our lives rather than dwelling on the passing of hers, and on doing so with love and happiness.

And my resounding memories of this week are of family coming together, solidarity in the face of sadness, with laughs as well as tears.

Sitting in my Grampa’s house with all the history it holds, watching Arthur weave between the legs of his aunts and uncles and my aunts and uncles and high-fiving his great grandfather when it was eventually time to leave.

Poring over all the incredible images my Mum’s brother had collected of their mother’s life, capturing so many family gatherings over the years. One of my favourites shows Nanny surrounded by the eldest of her many grandchildren, cousins proud as we said hello to the newest addition to our family. We’re all in our thirties now, and we were all there in that little Cornish village to say farewell to the grandmother we shared.


I know that I am very lucky to have such a wonderful extended family. And I’ve never been more grateful for my immediate family either, my parents, and my brothers, the women who’ve chosen to spend their lives with them and of course the gorgeous man who chose me, and our beautiful son.

We all gathered at my parents’ house on Wednesday evening, had a late supper and raised toasts to those who are no longer with us.


There was something magical in the air that night, and I think it is what people call love.

Goodbye Aunty Gwen, and goodbye dear Nanny. Thank you for the lives you lived. We will do our very best to live ours in a way that will continue to make you feel proud.




The Reading Residence



It’s been a few weeks now since the anniversary of our first date, but I still can’t help but marvel at how much my life has changed since Leigh came back into it – something which was completely unexpected.

At the end of 2009 I was pulling myself back together after yet another failed relationship. I made some really bad decisions in my 20s – stayed with men for far too long who sapped my strength and identity, was terrified of being alone.

For a while I don’t think I was much fun to be around. I struggled with depression which whilst it was triggered by being treated really badly by two of those men in particular had its roots far deeper in a lingering feeling I had of just not quite being true to myself – and not even really knowing who that self was. All the while I was throwing myself into my career, getting real satisfaction from my work as a teacher with brilliant colleagues and fantastic family and friends. I had no real reason to be unhappy – and it was that I finally realised fully whilst walking in the snow in East London in the early hours of New Year’s Day. I needed to relish what I had, make the most of the opportunities I was being given, stop taking things – and people – for granted. My happiness was not going to come in the form of a man – or at least not until I had made peace with myself.

And then just as I was relishing the prospect of being happy on my own for the first time in my adult life, along came Leigh. We’d known each other for years – been part of a group of friends who all went clubbing together in our late teens and actually had our first kiss in a tent at Womad back in the nineties. We lost touch soon after that despite the fact we ended up at the same university, but when I joined Facebook he was the first person I looked up. There’d always been something about him that I was drawn to, but something always held me back from making proper contact with him.

We’ve talked about it since and he felt exactly the same way. We both seemed to think that we were out of each others’ league – watched each other from afar, with a strange sense of regret for a road not taken. Then one night in January 2010 Leigh made a comment on his Facebook page and, needing someone with whom to share my insomnia, I replied. I immediately switched my phone off once I had – it was such a tiny, insignificant thing, but for some reason it felt like I’d taken a massive step in reaching out to him and I was terrified in case he didn’t respond. But when I logged back onto Facebook in the morning it turned out he had, and that little comment sparked a flurry of online banter, our mutual friends amused at the public flirting we’d begun to engage in out of the blue.

A couple of weeks later I was throwing a party with my friend Sue. She thought I was bonkers, but I invited Leigh to come. He replied to my message straight away, saying that he would love to come but he was flying off to South Africa the next day for six weeks on a paramedic training course. This piqued my interest even more – I couldn’t quite picture the hedonistic public schoolboy I remembered as a paramedic.

Whilst he didn’t make the party, our communication had shifted from a public to a private forum, and over the six weeks he was away we exchanged increasingly long and intimate messages, catching up on all we’d missed over the more than a decade since we’d seen each other and falling a little bit more in love with each other every day. I was convinced it was the start of something, but Sue was understandably wary – she’d been there to pick up the pieces when things had gone wrong in the past, and she couldn’t quite condone me getting so caught up in a man I hadn’t even really met yet.

There was a particular week in February when we’d both gone to stay with another friend, Tsering, in Barcelona. They both teased me mercilessly about my pen pal, saying that I really shouldn’t get over excited as he would no doubt turn out to have a tail or at the very least extra toes. I, however, was undeterred. I knew it was crazy, but something about it all just felt so right. Leigh got back to London at the end of February, and our first date in the real world was on the first of March.

To say I was nervous would be a massive understatement, but as soon as we saw each other everything fell into place. The chemistry was just as strong in person as it had been through the thousands of words we’d exchanged online, and we had a brilliant night. We ended up going to a gig my brother Ben’s band just happened to be putting on round the corner, so he met my three brothers on that first date too – they gave him the seal of approval, and Leigh made a joke about the band playing at our wedding. Which, as it happened, they did.

He proposed a couple of months later, and we celebrated our engagement with a trip to Barcelona where Tsering got to vet him too – Sue had already given us her blessing (with a strongly worded warning to Leigh about what she’d do to him if he messed me around). I think they were both as relieved as I was that he had turned out to be amazing despite the unconventional way our relationship had started. There was no doubt that both Leigh and I were ready to settle down.

We got married the following summer in 2011, a year which was full of change for us both: Leigh won a place at medical school in Devon having decided to retrain to be a doctor, we found a house in Brixham in need of total renovation and moved in a couple of weeks before the wedding, then a couple of weeks after that I started my new job leading an English department in a school in Plymouth. Eighteen months later we finally finished the work on the house days before our son was born, and I have now taken a break from teaching to look after him and pursue the career as a writer I always dreamed of.

It makes me a bit dizzy to think about how different things are now than they were four years ago – how much we’ve achieved in such a short space of time. I finally feel like I can be happy in my skin, and much as I was ready for change that frosty January I don’t think I could have got here without Leigh, and love.

With thanks to Sara at Mum turned Mom for inspiring this post with her prompt: “That was unexpected…”


The Reading Residence