Category Archives: Life

How we encouraged and protected our child’s dreams

My son Ben has the most wonderful, vivid, lively imagination. He creates fantastical worlds for us to live in. One day we’re slaying dragons, the next we’re farmers with 1,100 horses, most of which are named after his friends at school. I love his imagination, I think it’s something to be nurtured and encouraged; who knows, I might have the next Roald Dahl on my hands!

With his big imagination comes big dreams. Dreams of being a train driver, a cowboy, a farmer or a ninja. Sometimes a combination of things, like being a ninja scientist – there’s probably a need for at least one of those in the world right? I have no idea what he will be when he grows up, I just want him to be happy and to love what he does. He’s wanted to be a ninja scientist for a while now, so a few months ago we started sending him to “ninja school”, learning mixed martial arts. He really likes training and learning the moves, and he sees it as a step towards becoming a real ninja.

Post Office Life Insurance How we've helped our son reach for the stars, and beyond!

I see my role as a parent as being one of the people to guide him towards good things in life; teaching him to be independent and capable so when he’s grown up or I’m gone, he can carry on doing the good things and being the best Ben he can be. To me, parenting is about providing motivation, leadership and inspiration to my son. I’m confident that should I be beamed up by aliens tomorrow, there are enough good people around him to love and support him in this way, right through to adulthood and beyond.

The Post Office asked us to find out what Ben’s hopes and dreams were. Surprise surprise he wanted to become a ninja… (wait for it) …dog walker. Yes, you heard. Find out what some of his other dreams and ambitions are in this short but incredibly adorable video.

I do know that if he truly wants to move to Japan and devote his life to becoming a ninja, he will probably need more than a few weeks’ pocket money to see him through. Training ninjas cannot be done on the cheap. Should anything happen to me or his Dad, our Post Office Life Insurance should step in to meet all his ninja training needs and give us some peace of mind too.

As for being a dog walker, that’s a dream which can very easily be fulfilled, starting with our own pup, Penny.

Post Office Life Insurance - How we've helped our son reach for the stars, and beyond!

Being a mum, there’s so much for me to worry and fret about, although I try and be as laid back as I can so he doesn’t inherit my worries. Having life insurance is one less thing for me to worry over. Having life insurance which will help my son to follow his dreams is even better. Super ninja, or super dog walker, whichever dream he chooses to follow, I know he will be the best Ben he can be.

This post is in collaboration with the Post Office.

My Life Changing Heatwave Life Hack!

Dear Reader, It’s impossibly hot out there and whilst we are trying our very best not to complain about the lovely weather, sometimes, just sometimes it’s just too much to deal with. Short of spending my day lurking in the freezer section of my local supermarket; I have turned to an unconventional way to keep myself cool; a Chilli Paws pet mat given to me by my friend Bob.

Bob is a freelance copywriter and like me spends his days slaving over a hot desk. Even with every window in the house open, the temperature can at times be a bit much. He spotted a Chilli Paws mat in B&M and bought it for the cat who occasionally visits his house to eat all the Dreamies they can get out of him. Typically the cat was not interested in the Chilli Paws mat. Bob, realising the cooling properties of the mat, stuck it under his desk and now rests his feet on it while he works. Genius!

I have turned to an unconventional way to keep myself cool - a Chilli Paws pet mat given to me by my friend Bob.

Bob was so impressed with his new chilled out feet, he bought me one to try for myself. Admittedly it was for my overly hairy dog to lie about on; but in an almost cat-like display of disdain she rejected it and I claimed the Chilli Paws mat as my own. I’ve had the most comfortable feet in South Manchester ever since. It is a godsend. Seriously.

I bet they’re also great for hot dogs and cats too, the trick is getting them to sit on it. My dog will just not listen to reason.

Bob bought my small Chilli Paws mat from B&M and it cost him £4.99. I know this because he left the price on it. I’ve had a look on their website and it’s not on there, but they have a lot of stock which never makes it to the website, so it might be worth popping in to B&M to see if they have any in your local store. If they do buy one for everyone you know.

I have turned to an unconventional way to keep myself cool - a Chilli Paws pet mat given to me by my friend Bob.

If B&M are out of stock they are available on Amazon for quite a few pounds more than the B&M price. The small one (which I’ve got and which is perfectly adequate for my under desk needs) is about £12.

This isn’t a review; I’m not being paid anything to say my friend Bob bought my dog a present and I kept it for myself. I’m just passing on a genius solution to the hell of hot feet. One small thing, they’re probably not designed to have humans standing on them or walking on them; so do be careful not to do this because you might pop it and then you’ll be miserable with hot feet again.

A little catch up – March 2018

Last month I wrote a little catch up post and I really enjoyed writing it and I think people liked reading it too, so here I am again with all our news from March.

On paper March was supposed to be quite a peaceful month with not much going on. By the end of the month I was wishing it would all be over soon and hoping someone would let me find a dark room to lie down in for a few days.

It’s not all been bad, in fact most of it has been lovely. Mother’s Day was a peaceful affair. We just chilled out at home, I got a card and some flowers and that’s all I wanted and needed. The boys know I’m a woman of simple tastes, thankfully.

After a year of mostly hibernating and hiding from the world, I booked two social events which I knew would be good for my old soul. The first was an afternoon at the Gin Festival at Manchester’s Victoria Baths with my good friends Karen and Jen. It was a really lovely afternoon of good food, good gin and great company. It was just what I needed.

A little catch up - March 2018

The second trip out was an evening at an embroidery workshop at a new craft shop in Didsbury. It’s called Crafts and Makes and is on School Lane. I made a really cute Scandinavian Fox and learned lots of things about embroidery – something I’ve not really done since school. It’s a great little shop and one I hope to visit again very soon. I do love a good craft workshop!

So that was the good, now for the not so good. Last weekend my son who has glue ear woke up in lots of pain, soon after one of his eardrums perforated and he was really quite poorly. We tried to get him antibiotics but the GP wouldn’t prescribe them.

Two nights later his other eardrum perforated, the infection had spread and he started vomiting; he had an aversion to light and his skin went all grey and mottled. We instantly went from quite worried about our poorly son to OH MY GOD LETS GET HIM TO HOSPITAL. The Doctor was brilliant, we were seen pretty quickly too. He was given a really good check over and we were sent home with a list of red flags to watch out for and some antibiotics.

It’s been four days since our hospital adventure and his infection seems to be clearing up. I am glad we’re off school for the next two weeks, he’s absolutely shattered. He’s sleeping 14 hours a night and too tired and weak to do very much at all during the day. It’s hard seeing my normally bouncy boy like this.

One thing which has cheered him up was a visit from the Easter Bunny. Like most things with us, Easter was a pretty low-key affair. My boy was too ill to be dragged about doing stuff and a quick Easter egg hunt in the garden was about as much as he could manage.

A little catch up - March 2018

I’d spent most of the previous week inside looking after the boy, so I took the chance to escape to church for a really special Easter service in the church yard. It was well worth the 5am alarm and creeping out of the house in the dark. I got home again about 7.30am and grabbed the dog and took her for a really long walk. I was loving the fresh air, the bright, clear spring day and the fact that there was no one else around. We walked for miles and I managed to tire her out, a virtually impossible task. I felt so much better for getting out and having a bit of space to myself.

So that was March, a gin filled, crafty little month. I think in time I’ll look back on this month mostly remembering my heart being in my mouth when my son was being checked over by the Doctor. Lets hope April shows significant signs of improvement!

What have you been up to this March?

A little catch up with HodgePodgeDays – Spring 2018

Hello there. I don’t feel like I’ve been writing much about the things we’ve been doing and what we’ve been up to lately, so I thought it might be about time for a little catch up.

The last month has been a bit of a whirlwind really. We went away for a week in Devon with some friends for February half term. That seems like it was a million years ago now, but in reality it was just over a fortnight ago. We had a brilliant time. It was so good for my son, an only child, to share some space with other children. To have the more lively companionship of people his own age, rather than just his boring parents who want to sit down with a brew every hour or so.

A little catch up - Spring 2018 Devon cottage

We were incredibly lucky with the weather too. It wasn’t wet or miserable, it certainly wasn’t warm, but for the most part it was clear blue skies and sunshine. We returned home just before the “Beast from the East” made itself known and we were treated to a week of snow. We didn’t have drifts of it, but enough for the boy to go to school on his sledge on a couple of days. I don’t like snow, so I spent most of that week looking out of the window wanting it to go away so I could go out again.

I always worry a little more about some of my neighbours when the weather is bad. So I did force myself out to visit a neighbour who I am very fond of. I took her a cake I’d baked, had a chat with her and fussed her dog for a bit. It was nice to get out and I felt a bit better about seeing her. It put my mind at rest that she wasn’t starving or shivering to death and that she wasn’t too lonely.

A little catch up - Spring 2018 snow

Then I had some bad news from my husband. He’d broken my favourite chair. This really is bad news, because of my ruined spine (I have constant pain and my legs are always a bit numb and prone to going completely numb) this is the only chair I can sit it comfortably. The problem is, it’s a vintage g-plan saddleback armchair made in the 1960s. They don’t make them anymore and they’re very hard to come by. I’m hoping my original chair can be repaired, but in the meantime we’ve managed to find a replacement in Glasgow and hopefully that should arrive this week.

I was a bit cross about it, but if my chair can be repaired and my new one reupholstered, then I will have two good chairs in the house which I can sit on in comfort. I work in my favourite chair, with a plank of wood resting across the arms with my laptop on. It sounds weird, but ergonomically it’s the best set up for my back. In the meantime (and as I type this) I’m working for my bed. Three days into this working arrangement and I can’t feel the soles of my feet anymore. Hurry up new chair, hurry up!

And then it was Mother’s Day. I don’t want anyone in my life to feel like they need to make grand gestures to make me happy; so Mother’s Day is always a low key affair. I was woken with a card and a cuddle. He toasted me a hot cross bun which slid off the plate several times on its way to me before dog ate it. It’s the thought that counts!

A little catch up - Spring 2018 Devon

We hung out together for the day, none of us were feeling particularly amazing. I think we are about to simultaneously come down with colds. I even managed an early night. I’d like to say I woke up feeling refreshed and wonderful, but I woke up with a sore throat and a snuffle. And now we find ourselves in mid March.

Shall I do a little catch up post on a more regular basis? What do you think?

Me Too: I was the victim of sexual assault

I think everyone, or almost everyone must have a Me Too story. I know men and women who’ve been touched up, harassed, stalked, assaulted or raped. It’s never been a case of asking for it, or dressing provocatively; it’s about power, intimidation and a distinct lack of understanding about boundaries.

I have several Me Too stories, but the one which affected me the most and gave me PTSD happened in 2009. At the time I was working in a hospital. I was assaulted by a mentally ill man who I was trying to get to a different hospital where he could get the help he needed. Instead he trapped me in a clinic room and put his hands all over me, whispering filth and intimidation into my ear. My flesh crawls just thinking of it.

It was a couple of hours of my life I’ve tried very hard to forget. I speak about it infrequently; it’s not a secret but it’s an incident I tend to talk about in a nonchalant way, to try and make the horror of that afternoon much less than it was.

The incident was very much brushed under the carpet. He was whisked off by security and deposited in an ambulance, never to darken our door again. I was made a cup of tea and told to fill in a report. Nothing was ever done about it, I was encouraged not to take it further. I was told things like this happen all the time to nurses so I was making a fuss about nothing. They told me to put it to one side and get on with my life.

I tried to forget but I couldn’t.

Over the next few weeks and months I developed PTSD symptoms. I swallowed them down, ignored what I could and tried to normalise the rest. All of which were the worst things I could have done.

When my husband and I got pregnant some months later, every instinct I had to protect the life inside me kicked in and my PTSD and anxiety went into overdrive. I’d walk through the corridors of the hospital measuring my breath to keep the panic down. I’d be physically ill at the thought of being duty manager that day and putting my unborn baby at risk if I was attacked again. I was hyper vigilant and scared the whole time at work.

I sometimes wonder what I could have done differently. Was I dressed inappropriately? I don’t think so. My work wear would usually make Pauline Fowler look glamorous. Did I encourage him? No, I was friendly and helpful but it was my job to be friendly and helpful. I stepped back, moved away, did what I could to indicate his attentions were unwelcome. I said no, I said stop. He didn’t.

It was not me, it was him.

Did he do it because he fancied me? No, I don’t think so. He did it because he could and because I was new and unsure and easy prey and he was very ill. I can almost forgive him. Almost.

Ultimately it was my employers responsibility to protect me and they didn’t. It was their job to give me aftercare and make sure I was ok. They didn’t. There was a lot of wrong and not much right about the whole situation, which is a shame.

There should have been a slightly happier ending for me, but there wasn’t. After I finished my maternity leave I went back to work. The daily panic attacks returned but were much worse. I went off sick with stress and knew working there would be impossible. I had an incredibly unsupportive new manager who bullied me out of my job, and that was it, my once promising NHS career was over. Over because a man put his hands on me and triggered a course of events I couldn’t control.

So yes, me too.

Me Too: I was the victim of sexual assault

What does being kind to yourself look like?

When my Dad died (a year ago today) everyone said I needed to be kind to myself. I don’t really know what being kind to yourself looks like. I guess self kindness is a form of self care. Doing things you like doing and which make you feel good, cutting yourself some slack and giving yourself time to come to terms with things and to heal.

For the last year I’ve been in a bit of a fug. I feel a bit like I’m in a plastic box and I can see and hear the real world going on around me; but it’s all muffled and I feel slightly apart from everything. It would be easy for me to just let the loss of my Dad overwhelm me, but I have my son and I don’t have the time or the space to indulge in intense grief. I just take it in small bite sized chucks. I nibble at it every day; like a giant cake of grief, just eating a few crumbs at a time. This grief cake will take a lifetime to consume.

Last night as I lay sleepless in my bed, I was thinking, when I’ve lost other family members I was broken hearted. I grieved for them and I still miss them and probably always will, but losing my Dad has really felt like losing a limb. He was such a big, important part of my life, not in an unhealthy way, we just really got each other and he was one of my best friends.

“Be kind to yourself Jane”

What does being kind to me look like? I’ve worked a little bit less. I’ve turned some things down I knew would stress me out or I wouldn’t enjoy. I have made more of an effort; not just to spend time with my son, but to spend quality time with him. I’ve just booked a holiday for the two of us in August. We are going on a family holiday with my husband too, but he can’t get the extra time off work and I just want to spend time with and have fun with my boy.

We got a dog to distract us from the grief. She’s here to keep me company at home when I’m working and to give me an excuse to stop working and go out for a walk with her. She’s also a pretty good listener and gives great cuddles.

Going away seems to feature quite strongly in my being kind to myself plan. Before Christmas I went on a spa weekend with some friends and we enjoyed it so much we are going again this weekend. I’ve a few other breaks booked in for the rest of the year. Having something to look forward to seems to help me get through the difficult days.

Despite my frequent weekends away and other holidays I’ve got booked, I feel like I hardly go out. My social life has almost ground to a halt and I hardly see friends or go out and have fun. This is partly because a lot of my friends don’t live locally, and those that do are busy people with busy lives. I’m also finding it hard to climb out of my shell. I’m slightly worried about how infrequently I see and speak to people in the real world.

I don’t know how I feel about my lack of a social life; it’s probably one of the reasons why I feel less like me than I have done in a while. Life is fairly humdrum. I’m busy being a wife and a mother. I hardly ever leave the house. I hardly see my friends. If I think about it a bit too hard I realise that I’m losing some of the colour and vitality from my everyday life.

I’m not sure where that all fits with the being kind to myself thing. I know at some point I need to start going out again and having a good time. Maybe I’ve only just got enough emotional energy to get me through the day and not enough to power me through the evenings too. Is hibernating being kind or cruel to myself? I’m not sure.

A year on I’m more determined than ever to be kind to myself. I need to find whatever makes me happy and to do more of that. I think we all need to learn how to be kinder and more considerate of ourselves.

How can you be kind to yourself?

How can you be kind to yourself? What does being kind to yourself look like today and what will that kindness look like tomorrow? Why does it take a death or something seriously life changing for us to stop and be kind to ourselves? Do me a favour, do something nice for yourself today. Treat yourself to whatever feeds your soul and makes your heart glad. You deserve it.

What does being kind to yourself look like?

My first Father’s Day without a Father

Father’s Day 2016 was a pretty special one. We had a pretty chilled out afternoon, all the family came round for tea and cake and the sun shone. We all tumbled out into the garden and I took a hundred photos of us all having a nice time. One week later I got a phone call to say my Dad had died and everything fell apart.

It’s been a tough twelve months, there’s no denying that. I’ve cried every day. Our family has laughed, cried and remembered all the good and great things about him. But there’s a massive Dad sized hole in my life which can never be filled.

Father’s Day is coming. It’s not a date which can be ignored, we still have a Dad in the house so he needs cards, presents and cake. He will need a bit of fuss and some thank yous for being the “World’s Greatest Dad” or whatever. As much as I’d like to sweep Father’s Day under the carpet and erase this annual celebration of masculine parenthood from existence, I can’t. It doesn’t work like that.

I don’t resent anyone having a Dad. I don’t resent anyone celebrating Father’s Day. I will celebrate as much as I can along with them, but always with a knot in the back of my throat holding my grief inside for just one more day. 

I can’t pretend it isn’t hard. Walking past card shops filled with cards and gifts makes me hold my breath until they’re out of sight. Actually going into one a couple of weeks ago and having to buy a Father’s Day card and a gift for my husband was ridiculously hard. Is this one of those things which is supposed to get easier with time?

As social media fill with gift ideas and Father’s Day memes it becomes harder not to look it all in the eye. Most days of the year I wake up, hug my son, talk to my husband and remember that my Dad is dead. His absence is always there. Each day the place where he once sat in my life just yawns a little wider as I realise even more what I’m missing.

This Sunday, this Father’s Day I’m going to have to stick a very brave face on and swallow down my grief for another day. I’ve no idea how I will actually get through the day without crumbling completely. My first Father’s Day without a Father will probably break my heart all over again. Maybe I’ll use the day to remember him, just like I remember him every day.

It sucks.

My first Father's Day without a Father

7 Days: All the nice things which have happened this week

A few weeks ago, after an especially horrid week I wrote a blog post listing the things I was thankful for. It felt good to think about all the good things and helped me focus a little less on the bad stuff.

In a similar vein, I’ve had a run of a good few days where I’ve done nice things with nice people. I thought it would be good to note them down for me to look back on when I’m not having a nice time.

On Tuesday I went to The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays to watch Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild. I had an interesting and thought provoking evening, but one thing puzzled me. Why was this seat the only one in the theatre with a plaque on it and why does it bear the name of comedian Stewart Lee? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.

All the nice things which have happened this week

On Thursday I had a night out with my friend Lucy. We were invited to The Stokers Arms in Didsbury. It was their 3rd birthday and they were launching their new menu. I am a regular at Stokers, they’re incredibly dog friendly and we often pop in for a pint and some dog treats when we go for evening walkies. 

All the nice things which have happened this week

It was really good to sit down and have a proper catch up and natter with Lucy. I don’t go out with her as often as I’d like really. We had a couple of bottles of wine, sampled some beer from the Bluepoint Brewery and tried out some of their new menu.

We were hungry, so we tucked into this sharing board – known as the “Hipster”. It was piled high with good stuff. Halloumi and chorizo kebabs, chicken lollipops, breaded chicken with a delicious katsu dipping sauce and a pile of nachos. The board came with a huge portion of tobacco onions (finely cut and deep fried so the looked like rolling tobacco) which were spicy and hard to stop picking at.

All the nice things which have happened this week

The menu at The Stokers is excellent for soaking up beer and designed for sharing. We had such a good night out, we won’t leave it so long next time.

The weekend was a lovely sunny one. I was mindful that the fine weather wouldn’t last. So while I was at work on Saturday the boys got the paddling pool out. They had a splash and a water fight and made the most of the sunshine. I was a bit jealous when I got home, but I was glad they’d had fun together.

All the nice things which have happened this week

The road we live on is lined with trees. April is the very best time to walk up and down the road. The cherry trees are covered in blousy blossom. I wanted to take some pictures before the delicate blossoms disappeared. On Sunday, St George’s Day we went out in search of pink petals with my little knight of the realm. 

All the nice things which have happened this week

We were not disappointed. The pavement was awash with soft pink petals, it was quite a lovely sight and a lovely end to our week. 

I’ve had a lovely fun few days. It’s nice to feel the warm sun again, to spend time with friends, to laugh and do nice things. Nice things are underrated. Go on, go forth and do nice things.

I’m kicking ass and taking names, so don’t pity me

Thank you for your pity today. It made me see through clearer eyes how much stronger I am now and how far I have come in the nine months since my Dad’s death.

To you my life may appear to be spiralling, spinning, shifting and twisting out of control, but it’s all part of the process of finding a new kind of normal in my life. This chaos you see swirling around me, that’s part of the beauty and richness of my life.

Where you see a flailing, angry person, I see a girl pulling at the threads at the edges of her life, grasping at the bits of grief and anger and happiness and joy and love and pulling them together, twisting them into a more pleasing shape.

A wise person once said that the night is always darkest before the dawn. Or that you’ve got to break some eggs to make an omelette. I’m breaking eggs, I’m making omelettes. I am switching the light on before the dawn. I’m finding my feet again. So don’t pity me, don’t judge me. I am doing just fine. Finer than fine. I am at my very finest when I’m under pressure. I’m kicking ass and taking names right now, shall I take yours?

Do not look at me with pity in your eyes as you watch and judge me as tears spring to mine, or when I struggle to swallow my rage down. I’m busy feeling. What I’m feeling is real and it’s valid. I am absolutely normal with everyone, maybe my smile has a hint of rictus about it, but I’m fine.

No one feels the wrath which bubbles inside me. No one but me suffers because of the impotent rage throbbing in my chest. I know I need to find a safe outlet for my anger, but thankfully you came along with your inane comments and judgemental glances and became the target I was looking for.

I’d rather feel all of this anger and all of this pain than live for one single minute like you, in your emotionally homogeneous vacuum you call life. I would rather feel and live. I’d rather enjoy life and feel the lowest of the lows and taste the sweetest and highest of the highs.

I am living, I am blossoming. I am loving the people I love with every fibre of my being and every part of my heart. And I miss one of the people who lived and still lives in my heart. I always will. But don’t pity me my anger and my grief, because they are all the evidence I need that I was loved and I am still loved.

I know that the pity in your eyes is just jealousy. What a gift I have to be able to see the beauty in my grief and to be able to see that my anger is a gift born from love. My anger is a beautiful, creative gift, and your pity is your curse.

I'm kicking ass and taking names, so don't pity me

This week: Things to be thankful for

So far 2017 has been a bit like wading through custard. I’m still firmly in the grief stage and it’s showing no signs of shifting. I’m trying my best to shake it off and move forward by being kind to myself and focusing on being a good mum and a good wife. The last week, for various reasons has been especially hard. 

When you’re not feeling great it is often a good excuse to make a list of the people you love and who love you, or the good things in your life. In that spirit, I’ve decided to list the things to be thankful for from the last seven days. Because although it’s been hard, there have been an awful lot of good things and positive things in our lives.

Old Friends. When my husband found himself in a sticky situation this week, some of his oldest and best friends stepped up to help him. I am thankful for their care and compassion when he needed it.

Internet Friends. I have a small group of exceptionally wonderful friends who I met online but who have turned into the best friends a girl could have. This week they all noticed my dark mood and came to the rescue with love, laughter and a listening ear.

My son. He’s not feeling very well, but despite having an excellent excuse to be a grump, he has been full of smiles and love. He’s played, he’s snuggled, we’ve read together and he’s reminded me that the most important things in life are the people close to you who love you. He is my biggest fan and I am his.

This week: things to be thankful for

My husband. Despite having a horrendous week himself, he made the effort to take me out on a date even though he wasn’t in the mood to go out. We went to see Logan, not the most cheerful film ever, but we enjoyed escaping reality for a few hours and a bit of Hugh Jackman in a vest did nothing to hurt my mood.

Facebook. I have fallen out of love with Facebook for the time being. I’m just not feeling it, but I popped on this morning and the first thing I saw was a four year old video of my son cooing and dribbling and being adorable. It was very, very nice to be reminded of our little chubby cheeked baby who is now a strapping six year old.

New Phone! Yesterday my new phone arrived. I’ve been struggling for two years with a phone which wouldn’t support Facebook or Instagram. It was so bad it didn’t have a camera you could take a selfie with. My new phone is not top of the range, it’s a Samsung J5 2016 but it works and I can access and use the things I need to do my job as a blogger. It’s a really, really big deal to me. My friends are delighted they can now communicate with me in more than one way.

Seaside and Fresh Air. Last weekend I went to the Gin Festival in Blackpool with my best friend. We sat and ate those hot sugary doughnuts you can only get at the seaside. We talked a lot and knocked back a respectable amount of good gin. The next day he sent me an MP3 of a song he’d written about our trip to Blackpool. So I uploaded it to YouTube. You have to listen carefully as his voice is a bit quiet, but I think it’s hilarious. Bob is one of the best people I’ve ever known.

Hope. I’m thankful for hope. I’ve got good things to look forward to with fun people. I’ve got a holiday, a flying visit to Cornwall, I’ve got the Just So Festival to get excited about. I’m going for a spa weekend with some good friends. Plus we’ve got lots of family adventures to plot and scheme.

It’s not all darkness. It can sometimes feel that way but it isn’t. Writing down a list of things to be thankful for every so often can help bring the light and the good into focus, and that’s never a bad thing.

What are your things to be thankful for?