I don’t tend to watch lots of TV but there are some programmes that I make an exception for. One of my favourite BBC comedies is Detectorists with the brilliant Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones. The filming is exquisite and I love the opening music by Johnny Flynn who also appears in one of the episodes. It’s funny and heart-warming. Can’t wait for the 3rd series to come out.
There are many films that I love, but my all-time favourite is “The last of the Mohicans”. The music and the filming is beautifully evocative. I am not sure how close it is to the book as I’m ashamed to say I have not read it. But the film has a raw sensuality about it that appeals to me.
And as for Black Sails! Well where do I start –this is as raunchy as it can get! There are 4 series – I’ve managed to watch them all…. back to back! I am in ecstasies over Zach McGowan as Captain Vane. Talk about eye-candy – I’m in love – it’s all those tight black leather trousers, open-shirt to the naval and long-dread locked hair. The scene when he emerges from being buried alive, buck naked was a scene to re-wind again ……and again….and again. Ok he looks like he could do with a good wash but he has totally mastered the bad boy look and every good girl loves a bad boy! In fact every bad girl would like Zach!
Then I discovered “Vikings”. I thought I had died and gone to “Valhalla”. Wow! With an ex-Calvin Klein model as Ragnar what is there not to love about this programme. I admit that again they all look like they could do with a good wash but….. I’m not fussy, not at my age!
I’m not sure what it is with me, but I’m the type of person who even found Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder (the Elizabethan one that is) attractive. It was the earring and the little beard that did it for me! But then again, I also liked Darth Vader. It was all the black clothing and the heavy breathing…………………
I have lost count of the times I have read Jane Austen back to back. My personal favourite is Emma although P&P I think is more rounded. But, I studied “Emma” for A level so I am afraid that I am biased. I am a classics girl at heart. For me modern literature does not come close. Each to their own but for me the classics win hands down. Plus, the fact you can usually download them for free! From time to time I do deviate but I always come back to the old favourites. Top of my leader board is obviously Jane Austen (no contest) closely followed by Thomas Hardy, Wilkie Collins, the occasional Dickens and Bram Stoker with his classic gothic horror. I also enjoy the Bronte’s, particularly Anne Bronte and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall”.
Last summer I re-read “Wuthering Heights”, a book I had not touched since a teenager. Then I found the Yorkshire dialect quite difficult to understand and “hear in my head” as I was reading. I enjoyed it more the second-time round. The ending was a little odd and I can’t quite understand why Heathcliff is seen as such a romantic hero. Not my cup of tea in the “romantic department”. I would go for either Gabriel Oak – steadfast, but not a walkover or Mr Knightly in “Emma “– he gets my vote every time even over Mr. Darcy.
Modern classics for me include Elizabeth Jane Howard particularly the series following the Cazalet family. I also like George Orwell’s “1984” and “A Clergyman’s Daughter”.
From time to time I dabble with Terry Pratchett especially the ones with the witches. My personal favourite is “Wyrd Sisters” because of its references to Macbeth. Hilarious!
I remember being totally bewitched by Philip Pullman’s trilogy. I read it before e-books had taken off. One Thursday night I finished reading the first book and then went rushing into town to buy the second as it was late night shopping. I was too late and returned home rather frustrated.
My other major favourites are the Flashman books by George MacDonald Fraser. I love them. Flashman is such a “cad, a bounder, a womanizer and a coward”. They make a terrific read especially if you like a bit of skulduggery with your history!
I also regularly read children’s books. I love Noel Streatfield’s “A Vicarage Family”. I remember reading this at school and then asking for it for Christmas. I am really delighted that I can now get it on my Kindle. Another book that I will read again is Moonfleet – I discovered this 3 years ago and was totally gripped. It is a fine, traditional rip-roaring adventure. The character who captivated me the most was Elzevir Block, the damaged inn-keeper, grieving for his lost son, whose own life has lost its value and who sacrifices himself for the love of his young friend. I cried. Does anyone remember the “Five Find Outer’s and Dog” by Enid Blyton? I used to love those books. I preferred them to “The Famous Five” and “The Secret Seven”. And who can forget the “Naughtiest Girl” in the school – all those liberty bodices and vests! I found the complete collection in a local bookshop and snapped them up for my daughter. I’m planning to read them later….after lights out….. with a torch…..and a snack…………
When I was expecting Samuel, I was overcome by the desire to knit. I think it is part of “nesting” which many pregnant women experience! We were living in Sussex at the time and there was a lovely wool shop situated in Burgess Hill. You don’t tend to find those sorts of shops very often as they did go out of fashion. It was filled with wonderful wools and pattern books and I could spend a very happy morning browsing. Unfortunately, it caught fire one day and is no longer there. I was due to have an amniocentesis test. As I knew I would need to rest for a few days after, I bought a number of pattern books and lots of lovely wool to start knitting for my baby. I started making a beautiful blanket in soft, cream Aran wool. It had a leaf pattern and you knitted lots of little squares to sew them all together. I also made Samuel a number of little cardigans and socks in various pastel colours as I had no idea as to whether I was expecting a girl or boy.
By the time Lydia arrived, I was fed up with knitting clothes, mainly because I can never get the tension right. So I moved on to soft toys – so much easier! I started with a snake, then progressed to crocodile (snake with legs!), zebra, monkey and elephant. And then I discovered crotchet and was hooked! That is when Stewart the Minion joined the family on Lydia’s 5th birthday.
Animals patterns from “Knitted Wild Animals” by Sarah Keen. Minion pattern by AradiyaToys
At this time of year, most parents are on tenterhooks waiting to receive the dreaded school report. What will it say? Will it be positive or filled with doom and gloom?
I am fortunate to say that both my kids have had very good reports but it is my little girl’s one which has touched me. Lydia is 6 and will shortly be moving up to Year 2 in September. She is the youngest of my two so has always grown up aware that Samuel processes information in a different way.
At the end of the school report there is always space left for the class Continue reading
Certain clothes can bring back rich memories. Hidden away in an old, battered, black suitcase at the back of the loft, I have kept a number of clothes that I am not yet ready to part with.
I open the case and on the top is Lydia’s orange and pink stripy Babygro that made her look like a fruity humbug and Samuel’s first pair of red checked flannel pyjamas that Nanny bought him. Under my children’s baby clothes I find my old Bastille Day t-shirt that a friend bought back from France in 1989 to celebrate the 200th anniversary. There is also my favourite black dress from Next with red embroidery on the collar. I loved that dress and kept it with the thought that one day I would unpick the stitches and create a dress pattern from the panels to recreate it. Right at the bottom, tucked out of sight I find my skin-tight black top which creates a riot of memories. I used to wear it with black leggings and a big, elasticated black belt that fastened with hook and eye. It has three strategic holes cut out, tear-drop shaped leaving little to the imagination particularly as I never wore anything under it. But that was over 25 years ago and under wiring is now my new best friend! But oh, how I loved wearing it for a night out on the town.
Looking through old photographs brings back memories of clothes made by my Mum and Grandmother. When I was growing up, Mum used to have “sewing evenings” with her friend Linda who used to come around every Thursday evening and they would sew together. Mum made me and my sister bright red jumpsuits. My grandmother was a very talented seamstress. She could create her own patterns and Zoe and I had some lovely clothes as a result. I particularly remember blue winter coats with white fur around the hoods, red dresses with white box pleat inserts and matching knickers and my ultimate favourite a silky, bottle green party dress with a pattern of little dogs in boxes with a beautiful circle skirt in which to twirl and swirl. Surely every little girl’s dream.
I am not yet ready to part with those clothes. So I close that battered old suitcase and leave it hidden with its memories, nestled in the shadows where the spiders spin and weave.
From Rags to Riches
Sometimes I feel that I am living in a hotel… but unfortunately, not as one of the guests! My role in this family run hotel seems to be the waitress!
Because of his autism my son does not use the usual preambles of speech. When he wants something his way of asking is very commanding (not sure where he gets it from!). So we have “where is my breakfast”, “get my breakfast”, “get my drink”. Or he will pass his empty plate to you and simply say “more”! He has an excellent memory so I can see a career looming as playing “Oliver”!
If he needs something, he wants it right that minute and it doesn’t matter what I’m doing. Although, I get frustrated I have found it better just to get him what he wants as otherwise he continues to yell out for it. He cannot yet comprehend that I need to finish a task before getting him what he wants. I have tried the “now” and “then” technique but it hasn’t really worked for me.
Samuel has difficulty with empathy, although this is improving his needs come very much first. For example, if his sister is crying, Samuel’s concern is that he finds the noise distressing and will even shout out “take her away, take her away”. You have to talk to him quite gently as to “why do you think Lydia is crying; what should we do to help her” ? These are behaviours that come naturally to those of us who are neurotypical but have to be learned if you are on the spectrum.
One of the things we were taught at Earlybird’s (http://www.autism.org.uk/earlybird) is that children with autism have problems in filtering out the important instructions. Therefore, it is really important to give them straightforward, simple instructions. With Lydia at bedtime I might say “come on Darling, time for bed, go and get into your jim jams”. This is in marked contrast to Samuel. I will say “Samuel” (pause – name said to get attention!) “pyjamas”. We were also taught not to always give a negative instruction as that is all that your child tends to hear. So instead of saying “Samuel, stop running” (as he heads to the road) you re-phrase it to “Samuel – walk” which is a much more positive statement. We went to the zoo once and Samuel started climbing a fence; as he was some distance away I yelled out in my best “get-here now” voice “Samuel” (pause) “down”. I am sure that someone thought I had a dog with me!