Yesterday Didn’t Happen

Yesterday didn’t happen. A few drinks with good friends the night before somehow turned into a take-away meal, many more drinks, and the sharing of stories until the early hours.

When I woke up yesterday it felt like I had been hit by a truck. I really can’t drink like that any more (or rather, I can’t get away with it). I still don’t feel entirely right today, but at least I’m functional.

I need another coffee…

(5 minutes pass while I wander into the kitchen, empty mug in hand)

I have the day off work today. A day to “catch up”. The washing machine is on it’s second load, the dishwasher has been emptied, the plants watered, the lounge has been tidied (somewhat), numerous boxes that were stacked on the upstairs landing have returned to the attic, and I imagine the vacuum cleaner will come out soon.

It never ends.

There are so many things I would like to be doing, but they tend to get pushed sideways by the things that will keep others off my back. I’m waiting for the garden waste to get collected – after that I can cut the grass in the back garden, and tick it off the list – then I can’t be accused of not doing it.

I bought ingredients to make spaghetti bolognese yesterday afternoon, and then got shouted at for buying the wrong things, for the wrong day. I can’t win at the moment.

At some point during the next hour my youngest daughter will arrive home from a sleepover (it’s half term), and ask about me going out on a bike ride with her. I have no idea where we’re going to go. I would much rather go for a run to be honest – I wonder if she’ll be up for that instead?

Over the coming weeks and months I’ve kind of promised to do Couch to 5K with a friend. I need to do something. I’m not sure if it’s about escaping these four walls, or doing something for me. While running is hard while you’re doing it, the endorphin rush afterwards is amazing. It makes you feel so much better about yourself – and I kind of need that at the moment.

Thankfully I have a few close friends that come out to bat for me from time to time. I hope I can do the same for them, when needed. That’s half the trouble though isn’t it – the whole Nanny McFee thing – realising when somebody wants you but doesn’t need you, or needs you but doesn’t want you.

I never realise that I need close friends until after they have arrived with hugs and smiles. It’s only afterwards the penny drops and I realise how lucky I am to have them.


A bookshop, a café, and an unexpected night out with friends

I took the day off yesterday, and invested some time in our eldest daughter – who hasn’t had the best time in recent weeks and months. We wandered into town together, visited a bookshop, and had lunch in a café.

I picked up a couple of books that whispered to me while noodling around the shelves:

“The Enchanted April”, by Elizabeth Von Arnim

The Enchanted April: Von Arnim, Elizabeth, Bowen, Brenda:  9781784870461: Books


A notice in The Times addressed to ‘Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine’ advertises a ‘small medieval Italian castle to be let for the month of April’. Four very different women take up the offer: Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, both fleeing unappreciative husbands; beautiful Lady Caroline, sick of being ‘grabbed’ by lovesick men; and the imperious, ageing Mrs Fisher. On the shores of the Mediterranean, beauty, warmth and leisure weave their spell, and nothing will ever be the same again.

“The People on Platform 5”, by Clare Pooley

The People on Platform 5: A feel-good and uplifting read with unforgettable  characters from the bestselling author of The Authenticity Project: Pooley, Clare: 9781787631809: Books


Iona sees the same group of people each day – ones she makes assumptions about, gives nicknames to, but never ever talks to.

But then, one morning, Smart-but-Sexist-Surbiton chokes on a grape right in front of Iona. Suspiciously-Nice-New Malden steps up to help and saves his life, and this one event sparks a chain reaction.

With nothing in common but their commute, an eclectic group of people learn that their assumptions about each other don’t match reality. But when Iona’s life begins to fall apart, will her new friends be there when she needs them most?

Later in the day – while contemplating quite what I might fill the long weekend with – my other half wandered into the room, and said “Did you see the message on your phone?”


I fished the phone from my pocket, opened the messaging app, and discovered a conversation I should perhaps have been a part of. Idiot. I had put the phone on “do not disturb” the night before.

Ten minutes later we arrived at the pub with drinks waiting for us on the table accompanied by smiles, stories, and laughter.

Before we knew it “a quick drink and catch up” had turned into “another drink”, “some chips”, and then a call home to tell the children to get their own dinner while we ordered food to share at the pub.

The food was pretty rubbish (remind me next time to buy lots of bread!), but it didn’t really matter – there’s a lot to be said for ending the week spending a few hours with friends – unpacking the stresses of the week, listening to each other’s adventures, and laughing at our own fallibilities.


Time to go carry on with chores. While my other half takes the kids to watch England Ladies play rugby today, I’m washing clothes, dishes, tidying up, and trying to get the house somewhere near tidy – or at least acceptable enough that visitors don’t think we’ve been burgled.

How’s your weekend looking ?


Discovering a Wonderful Writer

It’s the last working day before Christmas. Half an hour left, with a long weekend stretched out ahead. While not working I’ve been grocery shopping, put two loads of clothes through the washing machine, emptied a sink filled with dirty cups, and picked up plates and cups from all over the house.

In the supermarket I walked around, quietly smiling while waiting for hordes of numpties to get out of my way. It seemed all of the slowest, most indecisive people in the world had descended on the supermarket. How much thought does it take to buy the contents of a shopping list (which the shop won’t have anyway, because some people seem to have mixed up their Christmas grocery list with their nuclear winter shopping list).

Maybe’s it me. Maybe I’m just getting worse at dealing with people.

Maybe I just can’t be bothered with acting at being Mr “happy go lucky” any more. How does the phrase go… “run out of f*cks to give” ?

I’m painting a very dark picture, aren’t I. In reality I’m well, healthy, and have a roof over my head – which is more than many. I have very little to complain about (but that isn’t going to stop me complaining about it).


Changing the subject entirely, a good friend gave me an early draft of a script she is writing to read. I loved it. I’m not going to say anything about the script’s content, but I am going to say it’s all sorts of lovely when you discover somebody you know has a talent that not many know about.

Her writing is wonderful. She has a way of drawing you in – of painting a picture – of capturing characters. It’s easy, relaxed, and seemingly effortless. I have no illusions about the amount of effort required to make the words seem so effortless.

We debated for some time after reading about the direction of the story – and if it should perhaps be embellished by stereotypical tropes – to fit with people’s expectations.

My other half watches a lot of US TV series. They all seem to follow a formula – with a sex scene in the first few minutes of the first episode. A simple way of grabbing the audience’s attention. A sex scene is invariably followed by a grizzly death in most of the detective shows.

It’s funny – when you take a step back and pick stories to pieces – how they take a common form. Are we really so predictable that we can be played so easily? That presenting us with what we want sates our thirst for entertainment, drama, horror, intrigue, or erotica?

I remember a viral email doing the rounds years ago, where the plot of Harry Potter and Star Wars were cleverly re-written, with characters and locations swapped out such that the same text accurately described both movies.

Right. Anyway.

I better go and figure out how to shut everything down for Christmas.


A Quiet Dream

I had one long, continuous dream last night. When I woke this morning I played through it in my head – recounting the various twists and turns of the story my brain conjured up. For once it all made sense – there was no crazy – no disjointed plot twists, location changes, or characters bursting in from stage left.

A group of us were out for a walk along the side of a river somewhere. It was summertime. Among us were myself, my other half, some good friends that live across the way, and some of their friends that we’ve not seen for a while.

While walking along, everybody else was deep in conversation about this and that – strung out along the footpath alongside the river. Gesticulating, laughing, pointing, telling stories, and I guess doing what people do. Peopling. I’m not always very good at peopling, so drifted towards the back – listening, and finding I didn’t have anything much to add – so didn’t.

After some time, one of the party – the same person that introduced Rocky Horror to me a few weeks ago – fell into step alongside me. I didn’t see her approaching – I felt her hand take mine. Neither of us said a word – we just smiled and continued on. While the rest of the group noisily walked ahead, we wandered along behind, holding hands like two small children on a school trip – not making conversation – just happy to be there.

And that’s when I woke up.

As this morning has unfolded, moments from the dream have surfaced again and again. I finally gave in, and wrote it down, because it felt like the right thing to do. I always find that if I don’t either tell somebody about a dream, or write it down, it vanishes forever. Somehow thinking about it adds some sort of permanence to it.


There it is. Perhaps more Pooh and Piglet than Calvin and Hobbes, but still kind of wonderful in a strange sort of way.


I never thought of that before

It’s been a strange few days.

My other half finished working at a local infant school on Friday. The end of nearly twelve years as “the lady in the office” – and apparently a huge figure in the childhood of hundreds of small children along the way. We’ve kind of gotten used to not being able to walk through town without somebody saying hello. She came home with armfuls of flowers, bottles of fizzy wine, and cards from staff, parents, and children.

Later in the evening she went out for a meal with the school staff, and I wandered along towards the end of the evening – not quite knowing what I might be walking into. I’m not quite sure how teachers do it, but they have a way about them – particularly infant school teachers. There’s a calmness. A kindness. It’s hard to put your finger on. They are without exception quite wonderful people, and I’m going to miss them tremendously – even though I only knew a few of them.

Promises were of course made at the end of the evening – to keep in touch – and to meet as friends rather than colleagues. It’s funny how that works. My other half did wonderfully well until the headteacher said goodnight – then suddenly the tears arrived – for both of them.

The new job starts on Monday, and no doubt dinner times over the weeks ahead will be filled with stories of new characters, new situations, and new challenges. We’re kind of looking forward to it – albeit somewhat apprehensively.

Today we’ve been pottering around the house – or at least we were until some good friend invited us to the pub for a drink. I often remark how lucky we are to have such good friends – and they now joke with me for saying it. Today in the middle of a pub garden on perhaps the last warm afternoon of the year they all sang out in unison “we love you Mr Beckett” (apparently I had told them I loved them all after the birthday party last week). I think they love how much of a colossal nerd I am, really – and that I seemed oblivious to the fact that I was at the pub with five women.

I’ve always found other people interesting. I could listen to other people’s stories all day (and all night, it often turns out – I’ve somehow become the person people talk to during struggles). I always remember standing on a railway platform with my eldest daughter in London when she was young, and pointing at the sea of people on the opposite platform…

“Look at each of those people. They all have their own hopes, dreams, and worries. They’re all perhaps looking forward to where they are going, or missing somebody, or have parents somewhere worrying about them, or children they’re looking forward to seeing”.

She looked at the sea of faces, and held my hand.

“I never thought of that before.”


With a little help from my friends

We went out last night – to help a good friend celebrate her birthday. We met at her house, summoned a taxi, and had the best night out in quite some time. A lovely meal, a few drinks, and lots of stories, laughter and smiles along the way.

I’m SO tired today. Miraculously I didn’t have a hangover this morning.

You know the funny thing? The whole “night out” part of it was kind of superfluous. I would have been just as happy to have gone for a walk or sat on a park bench with my friends and caught up with each other. The rest – the meal, the drinks and so on – that’s all driven by convention.

All you really need is to be together with those you love.

Love is such a divisive word – but only because people make it so. I love my friend’s smiles, their laughter, their stories, and the experiences we have shared over the years. I love spending time with them, helping shoulder their stresses, and just “being there”.

I remember reading many years ago that you can tell a true friend because you can sit together without making conversation. It’s the piglet thing again, isn’t it.

It’s odd though. I’m a pretty solitary person too. I sometimes struggle to step outside the door – to get over myself. I do though, and I’m always thankful afterwards.


A Piglet Moment

There’s a moment in the book “The House at Pooh Corner” that has always stayed with me:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne

I had one of those moments last night, and messaged a friend I’ve not spoken to for quite some time. This is where those that know me will start to shake their head, and smile at the contrariness of it all. I could swear the universe was up to something.

For the last several days – in the quietest moments – it was almost like a whisper on the wind. A calling to reach out. I don’t understand it, and don’t particularly want to pick it to pieces too much. Sometimes it doesn’t do to reach behind the curtain – sometimes it’s better to just admire the magic.

Anyway. That was all really.

We all have our Piglet moments sometimes.

After getting up this morning I wandered into the kitchen and was immediately confronted with a bargain of sorts. If I went to the corner shop to buy milk, my middle daughter would make me coffee and a bacon sandwich. While walking to the shop, I smiled to myself – realising that these are the stories I should write down – the stories I should remember.


Still Here

Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated (if indeed there were any). I can’t remember the last time I let so many days go between blog posts. It’s all slightly surreal really. It’s not like I even missed writing – I just didn’t think about writing at all – which is even more odd really, given that I’ve been writing pretty consistently for the last twenty-something years.

I’ve just been busy, I guess. Busy working, busy tinkering with projects, and not chasing my tail as I have for far too long. One good friend reached out to me this past week, to see if I was ok – and I was quite taken aback to think anybody really thinks about me – or my absence.

As I said – I’m fine. I’m doing good.

I stopped running this week, after pulling a muscle in my backside. Stop laughing. I told you I wasn’t as fit any more – and pulling a muscle pretty much proved it. It started hurting while I was running the other day, and has taken the best part of a week to get better.

I haven’t reached out to distant friends in quite some time, and I feel awful about it. I need to do something about that tomorrow – climb out of my hole, dust myself down, and wave in their direction.

It’s 1am while writing this. I should probably go to bed. I’ll write again tomorrow, I promise. It’s kind of like getting on a horse, this writing business, isn’t it?


What part will you play?

It’s been a bit of a week.

Over the last few days one of my cousins started posting online about a hospital visit to check something potentially serious. It’s all been a bit cloak-and-dagger, and a bit awkward. It’s difficult sometimes to just go with what people feel comfortable sharing.

Then last night we got word that an aunt is seriously ill too.

I spoke to my other half last night, and our thoughts immediately turned to “how might we be able to help” – but really there’s not much you can do other than be there for people if they need you.

It makes you realise that life really isn’t a dress rehearsal. We get one chance at this. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do anything big to qualify having “spent your life well”, but it does perhaps mean you stop putting things off until tomorrow.

It’s strange – as I got older, my family got bigger and bigger – with new generations having children. Over the last few years it’s starting to get smaller. Nobody lives forever, and as you grow older, you become ever more aware that some depart before their time.

Shakespeare had some words on this, didn’t he:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

As John Keating might have asked in Dead Poets Society, “what part will you play?”