Thursday 30 August 2012

Happy New Year!

The September issue of Om Yoga & Lifestyle magazine landed here this morning. I mention this because my new column is there on the back page. (The lady pictured, delightful though she is, isn't me.)

Summer blooms are fading
September seems like a good month to launch into a new venture, because I've always thought it feels more like a new year than January does. It might be because there is a definite change in the seasons between summer and autumn, whereas December/January is winter whichever side of the divide you're on. However, I suspect it's more to do with it being the turn of the academic year.

Not that this matters to me any more. For the first time since forever, this is no longer the end of the summer holidays, but simply the end of the summer. My younger son has scooped some satisfactory A-level results, but isn't going on to university, choosing instead to study for two music-related diplomas on a distance learning basis, while working as a drum teacher and performer.

 I reckon that's a good excuse to raise a glass and celebrate a Happy New Year!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Rock on!

Number Two Son is off to Reading Festival this weekend. He is really excited and I'm really envious.

You wouldn't think it to look at me now but I've served my time under canvas in muddy fields: Reading, Knebworth, Milton Keynes, Donington, Port Vale (yes, the football ground - saw Motorhead and Ozzy there!). Oh yes, I was quite the rock chick.

NTS was finding it hard to imagine his respectable parents rocking out, so I've been digging through the photo albums to find some proof (these are from 1978).
Striking a pose. Check out those flares - and the cars!
Good times!

Looking back has in a strange way reassured me about the safety aspects of his impending adventure. In my day, we would take flags into the arena mounted on dangerous, pointed sticks so that we could locate our friends again after the expedition to the toilet or beer tent. Today NTS will simply text his mates if they get separated. (Apparently there are phone charging points at Reading, would you believe.)

We drank whatever we wanted from whatever container we wanted, whereas these days there is no glass in the arena (and I know that this is partly so that they can sell beer at inflated prices inside, but it's still safer) and there's free water for all.

We pitched our tents in a circle and had a communal bonfire, and used Primus stoves to heat up dodgy sausages.
Rockin' to the Tygers of Pan Tang
We squashed together as close to the front as we could get, danced and sang (and who knows what else!) with strangers - and had a fabulous time doing it.

We left all our stuff in our tents and never had anything stolen; NTS will be able to available himself of a locker (!) and the police are giving out free lanyards to keep phones and wallets safe.

He and his mates will have a great weekend, whatever the weather, and I won't fret about him at all while he's away. Honest.

Friday 17 August 2012

Flash post

A Matalan brochure has just landed on my door mat, featuring details of this
'iconic blouse'. Must remember to genuflect.

Wednesday 15 August 2012


One of the many things about parenthood that no one warns you of is that no matter how old your sons become, you will always have the urge to mother them.

My two 'boys' are technically adults now, but circumstances mean they are still living in the family home, which is lovely; but it does mean I have had to train myself to make vague, general enquiries, like, 'Will you be eating with us this evening?', rather than to give voice to what I'm actually thinking: Where are you going? Who with? What are you going to do when you get there? Will it be safe and legal? When will you be back? What will you do about food? Have you got your wallet/keys/phone? and, most damning of all, Don't forget to go to the toilet before you leave.

I know I'm controlling, but I'm trying hard not to be. Then this morning I thought I'd had a breakthrough. It was almost lunchtime and I was working away at my computer when I got a text from my first born:

'Hey, just letting you know I'm OK. Crashed at a mates last night. CU later. xx'

I went upstairs and tapped on his bedroom door. Not surprisingly, there was no reply. I had assumed a closed door meant he was still slumbering, but hadn't felt the need to check. A triumph in my battle to untie the apron strings!

But then I started to picture a different scene:

A weary policeman leans towards me over the desk. 'Are you telling me,' he says, 'that you didn't even realise your son was missing? What kind of mother are you?'

 Oh dear. Something else to feel bad about.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Bending and stretching in the sun

I had a lovely morning on Friday when I went to teach yoga at a nearby day nursery. It was sunny, so we went out into the garden, took our shoes and socks off and just went for it. One of the great things about this nursery is that the children are allowed, nay, encouraged to go outside and get dirty. They even have a tree specially for climbing!

The children were 3 and 4-year-olds and FULL of energy, and questions, and ideas  - and did I mention energy?
I have found that story-telling works well with yoga for tots, where it's more about making shapes and exploring what our bodies can do than anything po-faced and spiritual. Mind you, at the very end I did manage to get them to sit still and quiet by asking them to focus on Shanti's nose. Shanti is my yoga bear, pictured above.

I felt very virtuous because I cycled there and back - only about 25 minutes each way, so Victoria Pendleton doesn't have anything to worry about, but not bad for an old bird. I'm a bit of a fair-weather cyclist and don't exploit the full gear range on my bike. It has 15, but I only use the middle three or four. It's like my washing machine, which has dozens of programmes and permutations, but I only ever use 30-degree wash, woolly wash and spin; and my microwave, which I only use when I really have to, because I don't trust it. (Who said, 'Luddite'?)

Wednesday 8 August 2012

World Book Night 2013

Earlier this year I was one of the people picked to give away 24 copies of a book in honour of World Book Night. I chose Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Well, the organisers have announced that two of this year’s givers will be invited to join the independent editorial committee and be part of the group that chooses the World Book Night 2013 titles.

Copyright Julia Thorley
To apply - and of course I'm going to - I have to come up with my Top Ten favourite books and then write 100 words on why one of them should be picked for next year’s event. But what to choose?

Do I include Wuthering Heights, a book where nothing happens, twice, but that never fails to move me to tears? Do I go for something clever by Howard Jacobson, or something more mainstream (but no less clever) by Terry Pratchett? Do I stick with the classics - Dickens, Hardy, Defoe - or come bang up to date with Zadie Smith? I don't want to look pretentious, but I do want the committee to believe that I know what I'm talking about. Any suggestions?

Whatever I decide, though, it's a good excuse to spend a couple of hours trawling through my bookshelves and revisiting some old favourites.

Monday 6 August 2012

Can you feel the force?

I've been thinking about energy. There can surely be no doubt that the support of the GB fans has played a huge part in the ever increasing medal tally. The sportsmen and women competing at Eton's  Dorney Lake, for instance, have all spoken of the crowd as being an extra person in the boat. The positive energy generated by the shouting, cheering, flag waving, jumping up and down and general joy is tangible. (Sadly for the opposition I imagine it must be like swimming against the tide - especially for those who have been up against Rebecca Adlington, ha, ha).

Copyright Julia Thorley

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in Northampton with an hour or so to kill while I waited for my son to take his Grade 8 drum exam. (Yes, he passed, thanks for asking.) So I ambled over to All Saints' Church, which has a lovely little cafe inside that extends out on to the steps. This is the place where poet John Clare used to sit and write, in one of the little alcoves beside the door. In my picture, it has a potted shrub in it.

Anyway, whether it was the fact that I was forced to sit and ponder for a while or whether it was John Clare's energy I can't be sure; but while I sat I came up with ideas for a short story, a couple of possible magazine articles and a book - as well, of course, as this blog entry. Whatever the reason, I came home feeling inspired. I'll let you know if anything comes of this burst of creativity.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Don't call me Four-Eyes

Every now and then I have a incident that causes me to reflect: 'I'll use this when I write my sit-com.' One such incident occurred today: at ten past five this morning to be precise.

My dearly beloved tiptoed around to my side of the bed to kiss me goodbye before he set off to work. Well, I say tiptoed, but actually he fell over my discarded clothes and went tumbling into my bedside table, dislodging a teetering pile of books and sundry items, including, as it transpired two hours later, my specs.

As usual, I managed to go straight back to sleep after he had left, not waking until my alarm went off at seven-ish. Flailing around in my shortsightedness, I was perturbed not to be able to find my glasses, but after much squinting and carpet-patting I found them and put them on - at which point I realised that while one arm fitted snugly over my right ear, the other was heading up towards my left eyebrow. I deduced that my poor glasses must have been injured in the earlier commotion and come up against  a size 11 workboot.

Not that I said any of this to the patient lady at the opticians. 'How did it happen?' she enquired. 'Oh, you know,' I replied. 'Just life.'