Sunday, 25 September 2016

One Week to 'GO!'




Well, that’s it! I ran my last long training session this morning and after weeks of hard work I’m counting down the days until the 2016 Cardiff Half Marathon on 2 October. I’ve quite literally run up hills and down dales, I’ve run short sharp races across sand and, thanks to the company of my running buddy Helen, the long runs haven’t been quite so lonely. All I can do now is to try to stay as fit as possible and avoid colds and lurgy before race day.

Thanks to the kindness of many supporters, my JustGiving page stands at £486.98 raised for Pancreatic Cancer UK. This LINK will take you to the page on Pancreatic Cancer UK’s website showing the valuable research projects the charity is funding. This LINK takes you to Pancreatic Cancer UK’s tribute wall and explains why this cause is so important to me.


Friday, 9 September 2016

Green Remembered Hats

A quest to find old paperwork finds me sorting through boxes in the loft. Not that many, actually, since I’m not a hoarder and I’d rather look forwards than over my shoulder. I find the documents I’m searching for but also another folder which contains certificates. Leafing through them is quite unsettling as I discover records of achievements for everything from my degree and professional qualifications down to third prize in a miniature garden competition! Who was that girl, I wonder, who skied, swam, typed, quizzed and first-aided her way to success?


Prompted by the imminent arrival of a dear friend, I also recover a box full of our school magazines and lose an afternoon reading them. In a week that’s brought heated debate about Theresa May’s intention to lift the ban on establishing new grammar schools, I remember how liberating, exhilarating even, it felt to be in a place where academic excellence was celebrated and every girl - it was a single sex school - was encouraged to reach her full potential.  


All right for some, you might say, but I wasn’t from a privileged middle class background and I certainly didn’t have private tuition; my dad was a carpenter and joiner and Ma spent most of her working life - when she wasn't raising me and my sister - as a school cook. I remember a withering comment from a neighbour from one of the new ‘posh’ houses up the road that there surely must be some mistake that I had passed the eleven-plus and her son hadn’t. And whilst I was overjoyed at the brave new world opening up for me, I was keenly aware that my parents had to work harder than ever to pay for the long list of uniform requirements and equip me to take up my place.

So yes, I was lucky, and fortunate, too, that my parents encouraged me to go to university in an age where further education for girls was still seen as a ‘waste’. However, it’s not the rights and wrongs of our education system that are foremost in my mind as I read the school magazines, but the names and the faces. Several times I’m moved to tears; I read a funny, engaging account by one pupil of her university interview in one magazine, the next year there’s a poignant obituary to her. Here’s a poem by that gifted all-rounder in the year below me who went on to have a stellar career yet died, aged 44, of a brain tumour. There are fabulous illustrations, wonderful music - yes, one of the magazines contains a vinyl record of music and poetry - reminders of school plays and trips, sporting achievements and speech days. A testimony to the superb teachers who drew out the best in us. How many of those bright girls, I wonder, carried on achieving, how many simply got crushed by life?

Like most people, I’ve had ups and downs along the way, but the seeds of my own career are planted in those school magazines; I rediscover poems, travel pieces, life writing and reviews and remember that I worked as an editorial assistant on two of the editions. I’ll always be grateful that I was encouraged to fly and wish more children could have the same opportunity. Give a girl a pair of wings - or in my case a green hat - and you never know where they’ll take her.



Friday, 2 September 2016

Back to Work

Autumn’s in the air here in west Wales. There’s a heavy dew on the grass in the mornings, leaves are turning and a lower sun casts a slanting light across the landscape. We’re still trying to make the most of what’s left of summer and this week we enjoyed a very happy couple of days with my stepson and his lovely girlfriend in their new home, (you will see from the photos we also had a visit there from Bee who was keen to learn how to play the piano!) but now it's time for some hard work!



Our garden has ‘got away’ - so much so that I’ve been afraid to go down to the compost heap because of what might be lurking in the dense undergrowth. We spend a whole day chopping up a fallen tree and clearing the area round the septic tank (nice… actually it doesn’t smell at all which is how it should be!) just in case we have to call for Mr Sh*t , as the very cheerful man who empties the tanks is known round here. We achieve what feels like a lot …. until I look up and see how much more there is to do, but at least I’m not too scared to walk down to the bottom of my own garden now!

With just over a month to go to the Cardiff Half, I’ve been introduced to different routes by my new running buddy, Helen. Unfortunately I almost keel over after 6 miles one morning and Helen sprains her ankle on another, but I’ve also been tackling some absolute beasts of hill climbs so it’s going the right way.

As well as the autumnal feeling outside, there’s a ‘back to school’ feeling in the house. Tom’s begun writing up his PhD thesis so I’m back at my desk too. Another commission, fingers crossed, from The English Home, is in the pipeline - which I’m really looking forwards to as I love writing these features - and, after a lot of ups and downs, I’m also writing fiction again… and enjoying it at last!