Parenting, profundities and humour

You and I… — November 22, 2019

You and I…


My love affair with Queen began with a love affair. To be precise my first love affair.

That sounds a whole lot more romantic than it was. I met the boy in question at his friend’s 16th birthday party because the friend was quite the geek and had no girls to ask and my friend was his sister.

I had my second kiss on the sofa in that friend’s lounge. I was 14. (My first kiss was at the school disco the previous summer whilst having my first slow dance to Hello by Lionel Richie. That boy dumped me after one day. I was quite the geek too and his street cred couldn’t take it. I tried to think it was his loss but it wasn’t until October that I got back in the game. Or maybe the game passed me by for all those months. Clever, geeky girl in sensible shoes and glasses- not really that attractive to your average 14 year old boy)…

After some time fraught with tortured teenage angst and misunderstandings that boy and I became an item.

We spent 2 and a bit years together. There was a lot of walking, making fires, meeting him from his Saturday job at Waitrose, watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, jealousy, long land line phone calls in hushed voices in the hallway, RPG, art, flat caps, crunchy sandwiches, the Sunday Mail, woods, snogging in the lighting gallery, that sofa, jumping in canals, …well actually that only happened once and it was him. Not me. Nutter.

He had a record player and precisely 3 albums. We would stack all three up and listen to them in turn before turning them all over to their other sides.

One was The Riddle by Nik Kershaw. One was Innocent Man by Billy Joel and one was Queen’s Greatest Hits.

I was smitten from day one.

I was brought up in a house where the LP collection mostly consisted of classical recordings, a few Beatles albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and steam engine noises. Yes I kid you not entire long playing records of steam trains.

Queen, then, was something else.

During our dating period Highlander was released and we had a whole new album of Queen songs from the soundtrack. The Live Magic tour happened. We didn’t go. My mum thought I was too young at 16 for Wembly. That’s a decision I regret to this day. Queen never toured again.

My next boyfriend (he was also at that party and a friend of that geeky brother of my friend) was also a Queen fan. During our time together at Uni between us we completed our entire Queen LP collection. We catalogued the songs according to which member of the band had written them. I still have that list. And half those LPs. We tried to decide who of the 4 was our favourite composer . An almost impossible task.

We mourned Freddie’s passing. We went to the tribute concert. All three of us.

We discussed the merits of different album styles. Was Hot Space really such a mistake. Could you beat the old stuff?

Because although my first experience of Queen was that Greatest Hits album, with all the classics oft belted out by drunken revellers at work’s Christmas parties or bellowed at football matches, it was the lesser known stuff that appealed to me more.

Recently during my endless taxi-ing I have been revisiting my Queen catalogue, now all on Spotify, and rediscovering some of my favourite tracks.

And at the moment that favourite is You and I.

Everyone should listen to You and I. To be honest everyone should listen to the whole of Day at the Races but I hold back from recommending that as the 5 minute long odyssey of White Man puts some people off.

You and I is accessible. But quintessentially Queen. It opens with the piano. I have a soft spot for Freddie’s piano. Maybe because I am a pianist. Maybe because he plays an actual piano not a keyboard. And he does it so well.

Next the drums crash in. I love Roger’s drums. Genius.

There is an excellent bass line for John. I am also a bass player and love a good bass line. Although before you think I can’t really have been all that geeky I played double bass. In orchestras. I tried to pretend I could play electric bass. I really couldn’t. The frets are confusing. And it’s sideways. I did once jam with boyfriend number 3 whose older brother was excessively cool but I was awful. Boyfriend number 3 once saw Queen live. He’d gone to see Status Quo at a gig and Queen were also there. Imagine going to see Quo and getting Queen. By accident. I never really forgave him for that.

Anyway there’s also a good guitar riff for Brian. There are wonderful sung harmonies. It switches between speakers (listen on headphones for the proper effect). There is a false ending. Cymbals in the bridge tap tapping away. All good Queen stuff.

But the star of the show is Freddie’s voice. It often is. I adore it.

And I love the sentiment. No more questions. Let’s enjoy tonight.

I am still friends with that boy who introduced me to Queen 35 years ago. (And with the other two). Some people think that’s wierd. It isn’t. No one needs to be jealous. The romantic part was over literally a life time ago. It was in another life. And yes we meet infrequently and don’t pick up the phone enough. But we are friends.

And that love of Queen he started. That’s still there.

Teo Torriatte my friends.

Will Power — April 27, 2016

Will Power


Tomorrow I am going out with friends for lunch.

I do this quite a lot. To break up the tedium of housework. To compare taxi-ing schedules. To bitch about school and homework and husbands and cliques. And to discuss Game of Thrones.

But tomorrow three of us are going out specifically to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

As such I thought it might be nice to get a card. And a gift. And so yesterday, having a bit of ‘parking at school hideously early to get a spot before pick up’ time free, I walked to the supermarket and, as well as restocking the fruit bowl, I bought a card and a nice box of chocolates. There are far too many ‘nices’ in that sentence. I may edit them out later. Although editing may fall foul of the ‘nice to do’ versus ‘need to do’ rule in the frantic-ness of Cub pick up.

I often buy my friends presents based on what I would like to receive. And there is no situation, in my opinion, that is not improved with a nice box of chocolates. In this case those sea shell ones. Um, umm loverly…. (That word again sorry).

Now I like to think I am a person with quite a lot of self discipline. I am especially good if I have lists to stick to. I tend to be driven by a schedule of tasks and the satisfaction of crossing them off once accomplished. Hence my cleaning rotas. And interminable To Do lists.

I didn’t have ‘Buy card and present’ on my To Do list but still I felt good about getting those tasks accomplished two days ahead of schedule.

I felt even better about myself once I had resisted writing those tasks on my To Do list just so that I could immediately cross them off.

I went about the rest of my evening. The usual. Taxi ing. Feeding people. Clearing up pots, and sweaty kits and dirty socks. Assisting with angles revision and with drawing an exploded diagram of a sandwich (don’t ask). Brushing hair containing yoghurt. Forcing reluctant children into beds. Etc. (I feel a need to tell my angles joke…should I? Oh go on then. Here is the family of angles; a baby (acute), a mum (right) a dog (reflex) and…. a dad (obtuse)…well I like it).

Then about nine o’clock, just as husband and I settled down to watch The Tunnel, my wonderful will power gave out.

I should perhaps mention that the strength of my will power is affected by many factors. The time of the month. The thing I am trying to resist/ make myself do. My boredom/ tiredness/ hunger level. The volume the ‘little voice in my head’ is set to. Etc.

The ‘little voice in my head’ began telling me that I should reward myself for my foresight in accomplishing my unscheduled ‘Buy Birthday Present’ task in some way. I was starting to regret not allowing myself to add it to the list and cross it off…

This was unfortunate. Especially as the only thing the ‘little voice in my head’ thought would be perfect as a reward was…sea shell shaped chocolates.

I lasted until the first advert break before giving in and opening the box.

So today after my haircut I popped into Lidl and replaced the box with another, considerably cheaper yet almost identical looking, and hopefully tasting, box. I then went to a friends for coffee. And as it transpired lunch.

I had left the chocolates in the car. When I got home a couple of hours later I brought them inside.

I should explain that although it is sunny here today it feels like mid winter. This has been going on for a while. There was frost on my car this morning and I am still wearing my bobble hat. The heating is clicking on and I have yet to remove my thermal vest despite it being perilously close to May. This current weather is more than slightly worrying ahead of our camping trip/wedding to the Welsh coast in a couple of days. No doubt there will be a blog entry in that. If I thaw out enough to write it.

So despite the sun and because of the frankly chilly outside temperature I had not given any thought to the possible downsides of leaving a box of sea shell shaped chocolates in the car for a couple of hours. This was again unfortunate.

Suffice to say the chocolates are no longer sea shell shaped. But rather have morphed into a multi hued slab of chocolate adhered to the box lid.

Therefore over the next week or so I shall be able to directly compare the ‘real thing’ to the Lidl rip off version. I will let you know about that taste thing. Although the melting and resolidifying process may provide sufficient doubt to render a direct comparison inequitable.

In upshot tomorrow, ahead of our lunch, I will be buying another present. Which in hindsight might have been a better idea all along.

Flowers I think.


Inspiration — March 6, 2016


Yesterday I received sad news. The night before that choir that I mentioned in Sing It Loud lost one of its oldest members.

The lovely thing about this choir, other than allowing me to sing, is that the participants are drawn from all walks of life. We are a non auditioned Community Choir and as long as you hit the top of the waiting list you are welcome. Whether you read music or not. Even you haven’t sung for years or never at all. It matters not. Our amazing choir mistress will still whip you into shape. So that our choir turns out good and entertaining performances which our swelling audiences are testament to.

I am not sure whether Glenys was our oldest member. But she was certainly a contender and an inspiration. She sat in front of me in the sopranos or ‘tops’ as we are more generally referred to! ‘Hands up tops’ is still a line shouted from the conductor’s dias which gets us all a titter…. There are others…the tenor ladies, hands down bottoms …  She joined in fulsomely in our hip rotating, arm waving warm ups.

She turned up almost every Monday night and was in nearly all our performances. Eschewing that chair that was always placed for her use. Despite, I believe, being in her nineties.

After the last concert at Christmas she came up to me, put her hand on my arm and told me what a lovely family I had. They had sat on the front row, my harshest critics. Even they enjoyed our fairly light hearted Christmas tunes.

It is lovely to spend time with such people. People at different points in their lives. Who provide a fresh perspective. Where else would I rub shoulders (during some warm ups quite literally) with friends nearly twice my age.

And it gives everyone hope. Hope that they too will enjoy such pleasures as singing well into old age.

This evening we took part in a Music Festival competing against other such choirs. We decided to dedicate our performance to that special lady. We came a commendable second. But in my mind we were winners. I am sure Glenys would have agreed.

I didn’t know her well. But well enough to know she was an amazing individual.

As the line of one of our songs went this evening…’Goodnight my angel, it’s time to close your eyes’..

Rest in peace.

Music… — December 10, 2015


Recently I made a discovery.

I am becoming increasingly tired of Steve Wright in the afternoon. His radio show does not appear to have evolved much. I used to listen to him on Radio One as a teenager and the format on Radio Two isn’t much altered. Only he is now over 50. And I am over 40. And it no longer works. To my mind.

In desperation I searched in the glove box of my car. I was in that hour and a half of school pick ups and needed music.

Under the CDs of party songs for kids, nursery rhyme compilations and audio books (Dahl and Walliams mainly) I found a dusty CD. It was called Music of the Millennium. I sincerely hoped it meant the last Millennium…

I didn’t remember purchasing it. I didn’t recall putting it in the glove compartment. So I stuck it on ‘shuffle’ and gave it a go. Anything was better than more ‘factoids’.

And I am glad I did. In the manner of all good mix tapes it took a  meandering stroll through my musical history. As the first instantly recognisable strains of my favourite band of all time came over the speakers I knew I was in for a sing along nostalgia fest.  Bohemian Rhapsody. So many memories of drunken renditions. In mate’s lounges tanked up on McEwans Export, at work’s Christmas parties, at Karaoke and other places too numerous to mention. Not my favourite Queen track (which would be too hard to pick- it depends on my mood although Seaside Rendevous always makes me smile and These Are the Days of our Lives always makes me cry…). But certainly the most iconic.

Next up another favourite. One of my ‘go to’ artists. Probably because my dad liked him and had Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on double LP. In that time when LPs were works of art. Again not the track from Elton I would have picked (which would probably have been Roy Rogers- the most melancholy song in the known universe) – Candle in the Wind- ruined for me forever by its overly sentimental remaking on the death of Princess Diana. But still in its original form a classic.

Into the Eighties next. Every Breath You Take…A love song to end all love songs. Perfectly capturing the intensity and overwhelming’ness’ of my first love affairs. The claustrophobia of early teenage romances. The jealousies. The uncertainties. The insecurities.

In a weird ‘shuffle’ moment we went winging back to the 70s and my childhood. Stayin’ Alive. The furore of Grease and Saturday Night Fever when I was around eight. If you hadn’t seen Grease at the cinema 13 or 14 times you weren’t up to much in my school playground. To be honest most of it went over my head. I didn’t see Saturday Night Fever until a few years later. I didn’t really enjoy it. Except for the music. Perfect disco tracks. Still floor fillers today.

Next on, two tracks for which I often risked battery wear down using the rewind button on my Walkman. That personal cassette player was my most prized possession. I never went anywhere without it. I spent a great deal of my 4th, 5th and 6th form years walking. Between my house and boy friend’s. To school. To clubs. I was always listening. To something. Risking being run over.

Purple Rain and In the Air Tonight. Both favourites. For me accurately capturing the raw emotion I was feeling after the break up of my parents’ marriage.

Prince  (or whatever he is now known as) has always been a secret favourite. Purple Rain – messy, shouty, complete with guitar feedback- I love it. And actually this probably is my Prince song of choice.

I can clearly remember the first time I heard the Phil Collin’s track. Sitting in my ex boyfriend’s lounge one Christmas. He must have been given the album as a gift. It sounded as desolate as I was feeling. Those incredible drums startling me half way through.

The only thing missing from this compilation to totally capture that time in my life is Bruce Springsteen- specifically I’m on Fire- ‘It’s like some one took a knife, baby, edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley through the middle of my soul’- it seems almost sacrilege to me that Bruce does not even appear on the list…

And others followed as I drove and then sat in my car…Bon Jovi, university head banging, Blondie, watching Top of the Pops with my brother, U2, sixth form, George Michael, all grown up from his Wham days making beautiful music… and on.

Just as I was about to leave the car to trudge up the hill to collect the off spring a final track started up. Wuthering Heights. Ah my, now that was an anthem of some of my friends and me. Mostly sung by and in a lake. Weird. Odd. Like us. I didn’t really want to get out of the car. I played it later to the kids. They agreed. Weird.

The compilation also contains tracks that are not really up my alley. A lot of 60s. A lot of 90s. I suppose they had to. It being songs from the last Millennium. And so like all compilations there are bits I love and bits I find a bit meh and bits that get me reaching for the Skip button. Now such a thing exists. I could have done with that on my Walkman when playing Now That Is What I Call Music 4.

But in a kind of unique moment in time, just on that random Tuesday afternoon, in the banality of the hours between 3 and 4.30pm, my car CD player’s shuffle function decided to take me on a walk down memory lane.


Old(er) Friends… — September 17, 2015

Old(er) Friends…


Recently I went to the 50th birthday party of a very dear, and clearly quite old, friend.

His partner, another very good friend, had had posters made up of him at various stages of his life. As I looked at these pictures, a couple of which I had supplied, I struggled to understand how we had all found ourselves in this room celebrating this particular milestone.

It seemed like yesterday when I was in my second year at Uni and he was a regular Sunday morning (OK afternoon, well certainly after the Waltons, we were students after all) visitor to our shared house, helping me with the crossword. Until he told me the answer to a clue was ‘Spabcharge’ and I, gullible as ever, believed him. I have never lived that down. Or let him help me with a crossword since.

I took Eldest and Youngest (Middlest was at the Cub Scout B(ring) A G(rown up) camp with Daddy (he was the nearest we had to a grown up)). And before we went to the venue I sat them down and explained that they might hear rude words. Or things about mummy that shouldn’t be repeated. To paraphrase the famous film ‘what happens at the 50th birthday party stays at the 50th birthday party’. I think they got the gist.

They were both tired but Youngest went to sleep in the corner on a sofa (much to the hilarity of my old friends who gleefully remarked that she must take after me) and Eldest was determined to carry on and allow me time with these people, some of whom I hadn’t seen for years.

I was grateful to them. It was really fabulous to catch up with my old house mates and role playing mates and sailing mates.

And it was good for the kids to see me for an evening not as their mum but as a person with history and a life before they appeared in the world.

And I guess it is true that although we all look older, with greyer hair and more wrinkles, none of us have changed all that much. It is so so easy to slip back into those habits of 25 plus years ago. The stock phrases. The nick names. The idiosychronicities we were famous for. The mickey taking. Inside we are all still 20.

These friends were with me at a pivotal moment in my life, when I was living independently for the first time, really finding out about myself.

And I am glad they are still in my life.

Although I wish the birthday boy hadn’t tipped an entire pint of beer over my jeans….. Still it will be a talking point at his 60th….

Old Friends — August 18, 2015

Old Friends


So today I spent an afternoon in the company of good friends.

We had struggled to find a date during the long school holidays when we were all around and had landed on this afternoon. Even with this date one of our usual four was unable to make it and yet another was leaving on holiday the next morning and was mid ‘pack’.

These are friends I met when pregnant with Eldest. We first made each other’s acquaintance whilst sitting on bean bags and floor cushions (surely not the most amenable seating for heavily pregnant women) at the house of our ante-natal teacher being taught about the mechanics of childbirth (not sure I will ever get over that pelvis and doll combo) and the pros and cons of drugs during labour.

I am not sure we really bonded permanently then but the beginnings were stirring. There were 7 couples expecting their first child. In the normal course of events I am sure I would never have met any of these women; our circles, professions and locations being quite disparate.

Eldest decided to make an early appearance and I missed the last session- I have since found out that this caused ‘quite a stir’ amongst the remaining course members.

Luckily for me the charity who provided the course also ran post baby support ‘get togethers’. At the first one it was me, eldest and one very heavily pregnant member who was overdue. The others were in the early throws of new borns and couldn’t make it.

The next session two weeks later saw nearly a full turn out. One lady was beautifully presented and waxed lyrical about the wonders of parenthood. I went home and cried for 2 hours.

A fortnight rolled by and super mum didn’t make it. Probably getting her nails done. It took about 5 minutes before someone admitted that they were struggling. Relief washed over me like a warm shower. And the five of us bonded and never looked back. We met regularly even after our charity provided support stopped. One lady moved away but the rest of us met nearly weekly until about two years ago when post school extra curricular activities, work and other mundanities precluded such regular meetings.

Our eldest children are now 11 and a half. And we try to meet every school holiday with varying degrees of success. Sometimes half a year may go by.

It never matters. Once we get together again it is as if time has not passed. It is like we only met the previous day. Our kids (they now number 10 between four of us) get on like a house on fire despite not sharing schools or Cub packs or sport teams. We make tea in each others kitchens. No one bristles if a child is disciplined by the ‘wrong’ mother. We are all going through the same stuff with the kids at the same time. We always feel better about ourselves and we feel like better parents, or at least more accepting of ourselves as parents, after a long chat. We bare our souls.

And so I count these women as some of the most important in my life. There are others equally important to me, including men too. It is nothing to do with the length of acquaintance. The common link is a shared history from some part of life, an ease, similar experiences, an ability to fall back into conversation as if you have never been apart, and a recognition that the pace of life means not meeting up as much as you would like, but knowing that that doesn’t mean the relationship is any less important or precious.

These are the best sorts of friendship. I love all my friends from whatever walk of life and count myself lucky to have them.

I know a lot of those friends read this blog- so there you go- feel told. Ok?

Footnote…that photo above…that is not a picture of the friends I met up with today. All of us have had at least two children, some three. We don’t jump. Without clenching…

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