Last week, I saw something so every day, and yet profoundly moving, that I actually welled up. A man crossed the road to meet his 11 year old son on his way home from school. Neither of them broke step, but the dad put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and lifted his backpack. The boy shrugged out of the bag, and they walked on up the road together, the dad carrying the bag.

It was clearly so routine, and all so unspoken, that I found it almost unbearable. Yet it reaffirmed my faith in the world.

I think it would be fair to say that I am in a somewhat heightened emotional state at the minute.  But it was so lovely.


27/09/2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hillary kicking ass. Love it.

Go Clinton

19/09/2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.


I read an article today that pondered whether ‘conditional parenting’, whereby parents turn up the affection when kids are good, and withhold affection when they’re not, was bad for children’s development. I’m not going to blog on that topic, but it reminded me of some of the funniest bad parenting I’ve ever seen.

We had spend the afternoon at Castle Espie, feeding the ducks and generally having a fine old time. Having one last go in the playground before heading home, we heard a boy of around 7 screaming in what sounded a lot like rage. His dad was standing in front of him holding half a chocolate bar saying “I’ve eaten half of it due to your bad behaviour”. The boy was on the ground by now, apoplectic. “If you don’t calm down, I’m going to eat the rest of it”. The boy did not calm down. The dad ATE THE REST OF IT!

We all looked on, Rich and I in disbelief, the boys in fascination as to what was making him make that noise. Well my sons, that boy’s dad is a tool, and that boy will be having a lot of therapy later on.

Now, who wants a Milky Way?

16/09/2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.


My little sister Em, no slacker in the fight for social justice herself, wrote this about Mum.  I’d add bonkers, because she was, but I couldn’t put it better.Mum

Mum. Funny. Intelligent. Compassionate. Caring. Honest. Trusting. Inspirational. Missed. 

Funny because we once bought her a giant elastic band and successfully convinced her it was a hands free kit for her newly acquired mobile phone.

 Intelligent because she was the first person you’d call for help in a pub quiz. She knew everything about everything.  

 Compassionate because when she died, people I’d never met came to tell me of some wonderful, generous, selfless deed my Mum had done to help them at their time of need.

 Caring because she cared about everyone and everything that was wrong in the world.

 Honest because she’d never lie to you, even when the truth really stung.

 Trusting because on several occasions she took young homeless people into our house to stay. Some of these people stole from her; they stole our Simpsons videos, they stole our pound coins from the TV meter. But she never, ever trusted the next person less.

 Inspirational because at 4 ft 11, a single Mum from a council estate in Oldham, stood up at a Labour Party Conference and told them what social justice really meant.

 Missed because it has been five years and it still feels like a punch in the gut.

26/08/2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The night before

On this evening, four years ago, I was curled up in a ball on the sofa, dreading the next day. Physically frightened of it. The next day would be one year since Mum died. I was not ready for it to be a year. A year was a formal marker that horrified me (how can we have lived without her for a year), but it was also the beginning of something else. The start of the anniversaries. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, in a bad way.

We were watching Catherine Tate (how’s that for a baromoter of how long ago it was?). During a sketch about the foul mouthed old lady, Peter Kay appeared as an old man, reminiscing about his dead wife. He started to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water. When you’re weary, feeling small. This was one of three songs Mum had chosen to be played at her funeral. The first, Ripple by the Grateful Dead (bless her) had seen us in. The second, Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell was a strangely upbeat moment in an otherwise dreadful event. But Bridge Over Troubled Water? Well, I cried during that like I have never cried before. And wouldn’t cry like it again, until Peter Kay started to sing it the night before that anniversary.

I’m an atheist, and yet I imagine (because I have to) that Mum is somewhere, watching over us. Did she send Peter Kay that night to let us know she was there? No. Was she happy because I took comfort from it. Yes, why not?

25/08/2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.


In a somewhat morbid fit of curiosity, I just googled (for real) Joan Halsall, my mum and found this. I have not thought about this event for years, but reading this reminded me of how proud I was of her at the time, and how proud I am of her still. She was 4 foot 11, she must have been something standing up there.  She was a fierce believer in social justice, and her social conscience was a thing to behold. She was tremendous.

17/08/2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Not in a million years


06/08/2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.


Of the many books that bring me back to childhood, three really stand out. One I can’t find in print but it was called Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles. It was about a little girl who lived with her dad who really wanted a puppy, but kept getting hot water bottles instead (the injustice!).  The other two are both by Maurice Sendak. In the Night Kitchen and the better known Where the Wild Things Are  played a huge part in my childhood. They are both beautifully drawn, and really quite surreal (the former features a cast of chefs who all look a lot like Oliver Hardy).  I also loved the musical Really Rosie. This was a collaboration between Sendak who illustrated and Carole King who sang. I know every one of these songs by heart (as will my sons in a year or two).

When I heard that Hollywood was having a go at making a live action Where the Wild Things Are, I was not filled with confidence. The Dr Seuss adaptations have been underwhelming at best, so I didn’t get my hopes up.  The news that Spike Jonze was directing didn’t help, I must confess. However, the trailer is really rather wonderful. Its evocative and surreal, and certainly the Wild Things themselves are tremendous. There is menace in it to be sure, but there’s a bit of menace in the book.

I was already won over, had bought the tickets and the t-shirt when I saw this featurette in which Sendak himself gives his full support to Jonze and the film. The man himself!

That’ll do pig, that’ll do.

31/07/2009. Uncategorized. 2 comments.


I am sitting with L, who is playing with my phone.

He hands it to me:

“Its your mum” he says.

“Hiya” I say and hand it back to him, “She wants to talk to you”.

“Hi Beth’s mum” he says “pleased to meet you”.

My heart is broken still, and its been 5 years.

30/07/2009. Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Its my NAME

Bit of an emotive topic this one. For me anyway. I chose not to change my name when I got married. It didn’t feel right to me. It didn’t indicate a lack of love or respect for the mister. It didn’t mean I wasn’t committed to getting married. Its just that, as I said many times to disbelieving friends and colleagues “Its my name!”.  There’s a feminist aspect to it, sure. I’ve never fancied buying into the traditional patriarchy wherein a woman ‘belongs’ to her father and then to her husband. But mainly, you know, its my NAME.

The mister did not feel strongly about this (in truth, I can’t see myself falling in love with someone who did). We talked about it a lot. His take on it was that Mrs S was his mother and Beth B the girl he started dating in sixth year so why would that change because we got married (I know, he’s a keeper).

I really, really didn’t expect it to be a big deal. My mum was a radical feminist, and didn’t change her name when she married my dad way back in 1979, so surely 22 years later, society would have moved on enough for it just to be something some people did. Not so. 

Lots of people were very confused. Some still are. We still get mail addressed to Mr and Mrs R S___. In truth, I think the people who do this are being belligerent.

Let me be clear. This is a choice I made, for me. I have never ever told another woman she was wrong to change her name, or tried to talk someone into keeping theirs. I’m not sure why this is a tradition that maintains, but I respect that it does. But people, usually men, seem to find it threatening that I kept my name. Well, that’s just rude. I’ve never had a discussion with a man on this that didn’t end with this line: ‘did you/would you consider changing your name to your wife’s?’. Their reaction to this (always, always incredulity) should educate them as to why I kept my own. But it never does.

Also, my name is neat. Four letters in each word, both starting with a B. It looks nice (I think). It has symmetry.

Plus, you know, its my NAME!

25/07/2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 5 comments.

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