Monthly Archives: December 2010

Dear Julia Donaldson, on rhyming for Northerners.

Dear Julia Donaldson

I think you are an amazing writer and poet.  However, I have a problem with some of your rhymes.  In Stick Man, you rhyme laugh and scarf.  And In Tyrannosaurus Drip, you rhyme can’t and plant.  Sorry Julia, but they don’t rhyme, not in the North of England.  Each time we get to these bits, and we get there a lot, because my kids love your books, the words stick in my throat.  And the time I had to read Stick Man in public, at playgroup, how humiliating.  Apart from that, we believe you are a complete genius.

Laugh rhymes with phaff, gaff, naff.
Scarf rhymes with barf, hearth,
Plant rhymes with pant,
Can’t rhymes with not a lot up North.

Best wishes
Penny

For more Dear So and So letters click the pic:

Dear So and So...
By the way, I’ve been shortlisted for the Brilliance in Blogging Award, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, would you take just one little minute to vote for me?  I’m in the first category – Fresh Voice of 2010.  Just click on the flag:
Thank you :) x

The Cheat’s Guide to Christmas Cards

I’ve never been totally comfortable with Christmas cards.  I love writing and letters, but all that excess paper always upset the environmentalist in me.  At school I used to donate to charity and give all my friends a chocolate instead.

These days it’s trickier.  The family mantra as regards Christmas has always been Keep It Simple.  I do send cards  if I am going to write a letter, to relatives I don’t see often.  Last year I discovered the Jib Jab card.  It’s much more personal than an ordinary e card.  With Mr A’s work and my theatrical background (drama teacher) multimedia just seemed more us too.

So this year I cast us in a disco extravaganza, it took ages to choreograph ;)

It’s really simple to do, and people I have emailed it to seem to have appreciated the giggle.  Head over to jib jab for more ideas.  If you are in the US you can even have your mugs transferred onto mugs.  I think you have to pay to join, but no more than a box of Christmas cards.  Make sure if you do cheat though, that you donate something to charity too.  I find it makes the e card an easier pill to swallow.

By the way, I’ve been shortlisted for the Brilliance in Blogging Award, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, would you take just one little minute to vote for me?  I’m in the first category – Fresh Voice of 2010.  Just click on the flag:
Thank you :) x

From play to performance

It’s the first week I have joined the Sleep is for the Weak writing workshop and I have been meaning to for so long.  I’m trying to fit in an OU Diploma in Creative Writing, although I keep finding myself blogging instead of doing coursework.  Maybe the writing workshop is a good compromise?

The writing prompts are all to do with remembering and childhood.  This is a mix of seeing the nursery show from my child’s perspective (prompt 3), which stimulated some ‘bittershiny’ baubles of memory of my own childhood experiences of performing (prompt one).

Miss L
Mummy is it nursery today?  Is it the show?  I don’t want to be in the show.  I don’t want to sing Beatles songs, I want to sing 12345 Once I caught a fish alive.  I don’t like it when all the mummies and daddies are staring at me.  It’s too loud.  I don’t know where we are.  This hall is huge.  Why are we in the church for the show?  Why aren’t we in nursery? Everyone is looking at me.  This is where we do playgroup.  With Mummy.  I miss Mummy.  I want to be with Mummy.  I’m poorly. 

Me
Year 1-  I am standing in the school hall at lunch time, small and excited and fresh from running round the playground.  My best friend has dragged me in to audition for the choir.  The teacher hits a note on the piano, it reverberates off the polished wood floors and across to the wall where the pull out wooden climbing frame is fixed.  It sounds beautiful.  She asks me to sing the note back, I do, loud and proud and full of enthusiasm.  She tells me ‘No’.  I am sent back to the playground.  My friends can stay.

Year 3 – I am a snowflake, we are doing the Nutcracker.  I have a floaty white costume and I twirl and dance beautifully.  Someone knocks the Christmas tree and lots of decorations fall off,  Tracey says it was me.  I am cross and say it wasn’t, but everyone is staring at me afterwards.  Laura says she can see my pants through my costume.  I am cross with mummy for putting me in navy pants, she smiles and tells me how well I did.  She didn’t notice the decorations fall off.

Year 6.  We are auditioning for Snow White.  I refuse.  My teacher asks me to ‘just read the witch’s part’ so that Joanne can audition for Snow White.  I make a very scary witch.  The next day I am cast as Snow White.  Jenny teases me and says I’ll have to kiss Ian who is the prince.  I cry and refuse to do it.  But something has changed in me.  After Christmas I write and direct a play for my class.

Year 7 – I am cast as Cinderella.  I am supposed to kiss Prince Charming Paul, but we just skip that bit.

It just kept on going from there, I loved Drama at secondary school, I studied it at University and I became a Drama teacher.  It took me time, and lots of encouragement to find my confidence.  And a teacher who cleverly tricked me into performing when the spotlight was elsewhere. 

Confidence is a delicate little bird, it needs to be nurtured and released slowly into the world.  I took Miss L to a drama workshop recently that was about play rather than performance and she absolutely shone.  I know performing is a useful skill, but sometimes it heaps on a whole load of pressure on where it just isn’t needed.

Thanks for reading, looking forward to reading the other posts :)

Assuming the Ostrich position at Christmas, or a headstand, downward dog, cat, cobra, child’s pose, corpse pose for that matter…

Mr G attempts a headstand
I could be blogging about Christmas, but if you hadn’t guessed already, I am a bit of an ostrich when it comes to Christmas.  I like to bury my head in the sand/snow, and pretend it isn’t happening for as long as possible.  Bit like this picture of Mr G.  So how do i keep calm and carry on? 
I’ve recently rediscovered yoga.  I have found an amazing teacher whose class keeps me sane.  Every week I feel totally transformed afterwards.  This week I feel on cloud nine, and a bit cheeky.  One week I cried all the way home, but in a really wonderfully cathartic way, some sad feelings that needed to be let out.  By the time I got home I was fixed.  Last week I felt soooooo sleeeeeeeepy.  Next week she is promising to help us feel grounded in the run up to Christmas.  Normally whatever I need to feel I feel, yoga seems to untangle the day for me. 

I’ve always dipped into yoga and have some good memories.  Lying on the mat relaxing at the end I always have some random thoughts drift by.  Today, my mind drifted back to yoga experiences in my past. Some funny, some magic, one scary.

My very first yoga class was terrifying.  Me and my fellow trainee teacher H ran out into New Cross screaming with a mixture of laughter and shock.  H was white with fear and shrieked most the way home that he felt violated.  The teacher was clearly a sadist, the walls were covered in chains and she spent and hour and a half poking and prodding and sitting on us to get us into positions I have never seen since in a yoga class.  The sort of class that gives yoga a bad name.

I attempted yoga again when me and Mr A first moved in together in Brighton, when our relationship was still young and he would attempt things he thought were silly to impress me.  The teacher of ‘Beginners Yoga’ used to spend an age demonstrating each pose while Mr A made up his own poses with names like ‘taramosalata’ behind her back.  It was fun, but for all the wrong reasons.  I found another class with my cousin, it was amazing, like being on drugs without any nasty side effects. After just five minutes breathing and holding my tummy I was smiling like a crazy lady. Since then I’ve been hooked.

Next me and my teacher friend K attempted yoga, this time in Brixton.  We sabotaged all health benefits each week with a pint of shandy and a packet of crisps in the pub afterwards.  I’m not sure if it was the yoga or the chat, but it got me through one of the most stressful points in my teaching career.

Then there was pregnancy yoga, lots of sitting on swiss/gym/birthing balls discussing our symptoms followed by some very gentle stretches and lots of lying on bean bags.  Heavenly.

And mother and baby yoga.  I absolutely swear by this as the best baby bonding, mother nurturing experience I have found.  I did it with both kids.  I spent some of the time feeding or trying to soothe a grizzly baby rather than participating, but with Mr G especially, I noticed after a few weeks we really settled into it.

Lying there in the relaxation bit tonight, where the teacher comes and helps you stretch your arms and legs, pulling really gently from the wrists and then the ankles and giving them a little squeeze, it suddenly hit me why I love this class so much.  It was such a motherly gesture.  When you spend all your time mothering, yoga gives you some of that back.  It was my mum who first introduced me to yoga and relaxation – both such wonderful gifts which I intend to pass on.

Both my kids are picking up loads of moves from Wayballoo, so I think they’ll love kids yoga class when they are a little bit bigger. I’m just waiting until they are both old enough to go together, rather than juggling Mr G while Miss L refuses to participate without me, because stressing me out defeats the object of relaxing them.

The Gallery – Sparkle

The theme at Tara’s lovely Gallery this week is Sparkle.  I nearly gave up, because catching sparkles, well blimey, that sounds like a job for a ‘proper’ photographer, with special equipment.  Because sparkles are elusive little creatures I reckon, you think you’ve caught them, but then they dazzle you, leave you blinded and left with a bit of a blur.  Being more of a writer than a photographer I love to yank tease out the story behind my photographs to fit the prompt.  Luckily something sparked.

On Friday night I went out with my Mummy Mates, it’s been four years since we met at ante natal classes and we’re still going strong.  It’s nearly Christmas (Did you know? I try to deny it for as long as possible, while engaging in enthusiastically in all Christmassy pursuits that don’t involve shopping). So we shunned our standard issue sweatshirts and jeans stained with all manner of kid stuff, and donned our party frocks and posh shoes for a night of eating, drinking and cackling. 

Sparkly, shabby chic, silver party heels were my shoe of choice.  But hey I don’t get out the house that easily, first I had to distract someone else who had taken a shine to them.  Here they are as modelled by Mr G, I reckon between us we caught a sparkle:

Pop over to The Gallery for some more Sparkle
By the way, I’ve been shortlisted for the Brilliance in Blogging Award, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, would you take just one little minute to vote for me?  I’m in the first category – Fresh Voice of 2010.  Just click on the flag:
Thank you :) x

The must have Christmas present of 1984

I was tweeting about what to buy my 4yo this Christmas, do I buy the Barbie she has seen advertised on telly really wants?  I object to Barbie on lots of levels (pink stinks, unrealistic images of the female body, gender stereotyping, over packaging, not Sindy), but I know deep in my heart that I also really loved my Sindy dolls.  Elsie, who writes the wonderful Babylonlanetales blog and specialises in the art of coveting things, sent me a picture of the Sindy house she bought her 6yo daughter on eBay (very good move).  I was suddenly transported back.  When I was little I so coveted a Sindy house like this:

Many years later I found out that one Christmas my parents did buy me a Sindy house. But when my Dad took it home and began to put it together he decided it was badly made heap of plastic junk and took it back to the shop.  Instead I got a Dolls House.  In all fairness, this was a great present which stood the test of time.  Its occupants upgraded to a larger residence, although its contents are still cherished possessions:
Mr A’s mum remarked recently that the Dolls House bears a striking resemblance to the real Alexander Residence.  We both peered inside, looked round the room we were stood in, looked back into the Dolls House and went quiet for a moment.  It’s scarily spookily true (except we have carpets).   I wonder if this one move by my parents all those years back may have helped define my tastes somewhat. So extending that argument to its logical conclusion…had I been bought a Sindy House, would my house now sport a roof terrace, stables and pool?
I doubt it, so many influences contribute to defining your tastes (and your income). But it hit me that toys can have a huge impact on your life.  And that I am still no closer to knowing what to get the 4yo.  Sorry, I get in some hideous wrangles over the politics of toy buying,  I now know how my parents felt…
So did your toys define you?  What stands out looking back?  What do I get the 4yo for Christmas ;)
By the way, I’ve been shortlisted for the Brilliance in Blogging Award, if you’ve enjoyed reading this, would you take just one little minute to vote for me?  I’m in the first category – Fresh Voice of 2010

My Year in Facebook Status Updates

I saw this on the wonderful Headhuntress in Hampshire’s blog and had to join in. It’s an application on facebook that makes a collage of you status updates for the year.  For me it was made by the fact that it got my Race for Life time in. 
There’s also an update about a very bizarre event last week.  I received a phone call from an old lady referring to me by name and asking if I was going to be dressing up as Santa at Bardells garden centre the following day.  I actually panicked for a minute, I used to be a drama teacher and thought I might have been volunteered by someone.  Fortunately it was a case of mistaken identity.  I think she might have said Teddy, not Penny.  I hope so, a female Santa, that’s scraping the barrel.

If you want to try it, get the app here: http://apps.facebook.com/my-year-in-status  Let me know if you do and we can all link up:
Headhuntress in Hampshire

The Gallery – Pearly Whites

The theme at The Gallery is white.  On the drive to playgroup today, the trees were frozen white.  Against the clear blue sky they looked stunning.  I saw lots of photographers out and about.   I probably should have taken five and captured the magic but the kids were wailing.  I wasn’t in the mood either, I’m finding ages 2 and 4 combined totally unbearable quite challenging this week.  So instead I took a mental picture. 
Tonight I looked through the photos of my enfants terrible as babies.  There they were wrapped in white hospital blankets and white towelling babygros.  And a special drawer in my heart, which I think I must I have locked in the midst of all the recent tantrums, reopened.  I could see so much of the wonderful, (if a bit headstrong) little people they have become.  And they had lovely pearly newly grown whites to show me:
Miss L and Mr  G aged 11 months and 9 months.

Smile.  It’s a new day tommorow. 

Lots more white stuff in The Gallery this week, did you manage to catch the tree pictures I didn’t?  I have just seen Tara’s post, she did and it’s beautiful.  She mentioned the White Witch in Narnia too, funny because that’s who I have been mostly emulating this week.  I even wrote that I was a white witch in this post last night, but then I deleted it because I thought white witches are normally good.  So thank you also Tara for the Narnia reference my tired brain was hunting for.

And ‘ere can I interest you in a little giveaway I’m hosting to do with a little white rabbit caled Miffy?

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