The magazines that made me

The other night we skipped the bedtime story because Toby wanted to read one of his football magazines. I gladly obliged, and not just because I was desperate to hit the sofa.

Reading is reading, whether it’s a magazine, comic or the latest best-selling children’s novel. Toby rarely wants to read on his own, although he’s a perfectly competent reader, so I’m always keen to nurture his desire for independent reading.

Also, magazines were a really important part of my childhood and teenage years. During my pre-internet childhood, a comic was a genuine weekly pocket-money treat. You’d show loyalty to a specific title and look forward to reading it each week. You’d feel a part of a readership community; the language would speak to just you.  Continue reading

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What we’re reading: Billy the Kid by Michael Morpurgo

Billy the KidWe now have a book-shaped hole in our lives after finishing The Folk of the Faraway Tree so I took a well-earned break from my working day and trotted three minutes up the road from my office to the Oxfam bookshop.

It’s a treasure trove of kids’ books – both classics and lesser known titles for all age groups are packed tightly on at least five rows of shelving. I could have spent a whole afternoon browsing but I didn’t have a whole afternoon so I made my choice quickly.  Continue reading

We’ve finished! The Folk of the Faraway Tree

The truly great kids’ books, in my opinion, are those that appeal to adults as much as children. Because those are the books that are simply great reads, whoever the audience, and that is a crowning achievement for any writer.

However, there are other children’s books that can completely cut grown-ups out of the loop and connect with a young reader totally on their level, and in a way that excludes the adult mind. The Folk of the Faraway Tree is definitely this sort of book.

I loved it as a child but revisiting it about 30 years later I found it totally disappointing. The writing is poor. The prose is most definitely plodding and laboured in places. Some of the characters are utterly bland and the dialogue fairly generic. The story is a series of mini adventures rather than a well structured story arc. Not to mention plot holes galore. It definitely falls well short of literary classic status. Continue reading

Whatever happened to that Friday Feeling?

photo-1415274878031-4078c05ea976You’ve made it. Congratulations it’s the end of the week, and you’ve survived another five-day stint of seemingly relentless commuting, clock-watching, meetings, emails, pointless interruptions, impossible deadlines, and nit-picking colleagues.

You should be jumping for joy. You should be joining in with the gossiping colleagues. Or sweeping out the door at 4:59pm to head for the nearest pub.

Cocktails. Happy Hours. Pints in plastic cups on the pavement. Bar snacks. Dancing in office clothes at 4am. They all belong to someone else’s Friday Feeling because for you those days are long gone. Repeat. Long gone.

You are approaching middle age and have a child. Continue reading

Why Jeremy Corbyn’s win is a victory for democracy

Well that was an interesting weekend. Apparently the newly elected leader of the Labour is a threat to national and economic security, and while we’re at it our very own family’s security, so said our lovely government this morning.

But with so many people in the Labour party busy sulking because their new leader is apparently “unelectable” it seems a tiny bit premature to make such scaremongering claims about Jeremy Corbyn, so I’m well and truly confused.

The thing is, love or loathe Jeremy Corbyn, he won fair and square. Not only did he win the majority of available votes but he managed to galvanise support from quarters of the population who don’t usually engage with the political process; he spoke to people who’d given up believing that politicians had something to say to them. Continue reading

What do people need to do to prove they are worthy of our help?

I have a tendency to cry watching marathon runners. I’m not sure why but I think it is something to do with witnessing the achievements of ordinary people and the support that comes from the strangers who line the streets to watch them. It moves me

The powerful scenes of Syrian refugees marching from Hungary to Germany evoked a similar response except I didn’t just get a bit teary, I sobbed. Heartfelt sobs that came from a deep place in the pit of my stomach.

These people are not ordinary but extraordinary. Their marathon had begun in a place they had previously called home, and has ended being welcomed in a place they will have to learn to call home. Continue reading

A parent’s pledge for going back to school

2014-09-08 08.47.06It’s not just children who have to get their game face on at the start of another school year. The return to school keeps us parents firmly on our toes too, after six weeks of no school uniform or homework.

So as Toby and I enter his third year of primary school, I vow to try my best to do the following to make sure I don’t end up being nominated The Mum Least Likely.  . . Continue reading