Struggle, Escape, and Marilyn

Somehow the entire evening has vanished from beneath me. I’m not quite sure how that happens.

I won’t lie. I’m struggling at the moment.

It used to be so easy – this writing lark. And then it wasn’t any more. It hasn’t been for a while. The words are not coming easily. I know they will return – they always do – but at the moment each sentence seems somewhat reluctant.

Perhaps it has something to do with not leaving the house, or seeing anybody outside of my direct family for days on end. Seeing co-workers through the computer screen isn’t the same.

I need to engineer some sort of escape.

I’m always being told I should arrange to go out for lunch with friends now and again – or to go for a walk. Perhaps I’ll do that tomorrow – go for a walk. Nowhere in particular – just make sure I stay out of the house for an hour.

How do you walk aimlessly without looking like a weirdo though? Perhaps only the person walking on their own thinks about that – the rest of the world have somewhere to be – they’re not worrying about who you are or where you’re going – you’re in their way.

While not working, washing up, putting things away, or whatever else, I’ve been wondering about starting running again. Doing SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Running is free, and will help combat the ridiculous sedentary life I’ve found myself living for the last few years. If I can get out to running 5K in pretty short order, I can start doing “Park Run” on a weekend.

A good friend refuses to run with me because she thinks of me as being much better at it than her. Ahem. Who’s been sitting on his arse for the last three years? I can’t remember being this unfit.

If you see a breathless post-run update in the morning, you’ll know that hell has indeed frozen over.


It’s getting late. Time to go read a book, and fall asleep with it propped on my chest. I’m good at that – it’s a skill.

I bought the book “Blonde” the other day – about Marilyn Monroe. It’s a fictional dramatisation of various parts of her life – it was turned into a movie starring Anna de Armis last year. I think I’ve written about Marilyn before – I became interested while doing a project at college when I was young and impressionable. She got inside my head – or rather other people’s accounts of her got inside my head.

As Elton sang – I sometimes wish I could have known her.

History has a funny way of untangling lies. Marilyn’s death created more conspiracy theories than the landing of little grey men at Roswell. One story in particular has stayed with me since I first read about it all those years ago;

Marilyn was fired from her final movie. At the time, 20th Century Fox claimed she was on drugs, drunk, or flat-out impossible to work with. The movie was “canned” – in the true sense. The existing footage was put into storage, and lost. For decades.

And then one day – in the early 1980s – somebody found a collection of film cannisters in a storage facility in the back-lot of Fox, and the following turned up:

There was nothing wrong with her. 8 hours of footage were found – including scene after scene that remind us what the world lost. The famous swimming pool scene was found in it’s entirity – arguably the first nude scene in a major Hollywood movie.

The true back story – that unraveled slowly – involved 20th Century Fox almost going broke. Cleopatra had gone massively over budget. Almost all other productions had been cancelled. Somethings Got To Give was one of the few projects green-lighted – a “Hail Mary” to save the studio.

And would you look at that.

After not finding anything to write about for days, Marilyn walks from the shadows and turns the tap on.

After buying the book last week, I walked towards the bus station with my daughter, and pointed at a huge advertising hoarding on the side of a building – a painted image of Marilyn laughing. We both smiled.


Making Memories

We went to Wembley Stadium this weekend to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final – between Chelsea and Manchester United. Thankfully our youngest daughter’s team won – smiles all the way home.

Apparently the attendance broke the world record for a women’s domestic football match – the stadium was almost filled to capacity – 74,000 – mostly entire families as far as we could see. Quite the difference from mens games we have studiously avoided over the years.

Change is happening though. Manchester United have arrived in the top flight of women’s football, and their crowd were the only real downer of the entire weekend. We’ve taken the kids to numerous events over the years – several FA Cup Finals, the World Cup, and even the European Cup Final. We’ve never seen so much hate, booing, swearing, and abuse from a crowd before. It was awful.

After the game we found a bar to waste an hour before attempting to get home. The rail unions had picked the weekend (on purpose) to go on strike. I wonder if unions realise how much animosity they cause in the general population when they purposely set out to ruin events that many families will have spent many months scrimping and saving for?

Shortly after arriving home my other half arrived in the junk room filled with panic – with seven weeks to go until our summer holiday abroad – our first in four years, she discovered the younger children’s passports had expired.

Twenty four hours later, and we have re-booked the holiday – delaying it by two months. Two months to renew a passport, you ask? Why yes – because the union at the passport office went on strike for five weeks, and caused the biggest backlog seen in many, many years.

We almost thought we had lost half the cost of the holiday. My other half rang the booking agency, who said we would only receive 50% back on cancellation. She tearfully cancelled the booking online, and received back a credit-note for the full amount.

We didn’t believe it until we had re-booked.

At least now we know we’re not going to be doing a “credit card holiday”. I hate owing money to anybody for anything. We’ve spent so many years stumbling along at zero in the bank, it’s become a fear of sorts.

In the morning I need to cancel my leave in July, and re-book it for September.

I might need a drink tonight.


The Early Hours

The clock ticked past midnight over an hour ago. I’m sitting in the dark of the junk room on my own – the rest of the house fell into silence some time ago after everybody else went to bed.

I busied myself for a time with picking up after the rest of the family – putting things away, filling the dishwasher, the usual chores.

Life feels so much like a treadmill at the moment – like a continual procession of doing the right thing for the right people at the right time. It all feels like such a performance.

What is it we tell ourselves to wallpaper over it all? Tomorrow is another day? Something like that? Every day is another day though, isn’t it – another day filled with much the same.

We repeat trite phrases to ourselves about becoming the change we wish to see, or living in the moment. Those sentiments always seem to ignore the silent majority that have to deal with the carnage and chaos caused by those that make decisions and plans.

It would be wonderful though, wouldn’t it – to ignore all the pre-conditions and chase a dream – no matter how small. Just for a few moments.

Perhaps the smallest of decisions are sometimes portents. Small favors. Kindnesses. Reaching out to a friend to ask about their day. Stopping to listen. Giving time.

Perhaps the universe knows. Perhaps we do too – if we’re honest with ourselves. Perhaps we need to drop the daily act from time to time and ask ourselves what we’re really doing – what we’re really saying.



I can’t tell you where I am this morning. Let’s just say “a waiting room”. Waiting for my eldest daughter. I’ve written off work for the morning to sit here, waiting – I filled in my “out of office”.

She struggles to play a part in “the world” as easily as you or I might. That’s why we’re here. But we’re here – that’s the important thing. We hold on to every inch of progress.

It’s interesting how we all deal with the world, isn’t it. Everybody does it in different ways. Some people focus on themselves, some people focus on others, some people worry about everything they do – about how it will be seen – and others seem to worry about very little. I guess some struggle to figure out any sort of strategy, and that’s how we end up here.

I’m reminded of the Shakespeare quote – about each person playing many parts during their lifetime. We really do. Most of us wear many hats, and choose which one to wear depending on the company, and the situation. If we’re very lucky we know one or two people that don’t require a hat. Hats are exhausting sometimes.

I’m kind of reflective today. I think I know why.

Dooce died. Heather Armstrong.

I saw the breaking news story last night. Back when I was starting out with blogging in the early 2000s, I knew her a little bit. We were all kind of finding our way with this new medium – sharing thoughts, ideas, and stripping back the layers of acting. We were all figuring out what a blog actually was – how much you could share – what stories you could tell.

She had no filter. Her blog was a firehose of truth and honesty. She wrote wonderfully. She never set out to become famous, but she ended up atop the pyramid so many jealous citizen journalists constructed when writing breathlessly about her shared car-crash life.

I wrote recently – that too many people are dying. People I know. People I knew. It brings into focus that you really don’t get another chance at this. An urgency of sorts. A refactoring of that which is important.


While sitting here, various people are wandering past. They all seem kind. Perhaps I just tend to see the kindness in others? Maybe that’s my thing. I don’t tend to subscribe to having any sort of purpose though – and wonder if anybody really does. We’re all kind of making it up as we go along, aren’t we?

There are some posters on the wall in the waiting room – not really motivational posters – more mindfulness. One says “Kindness should become the natural way of life. Not the exception”. While I can agree with that, I also know that the real world is a good deal more complicated than a quote on a poster might have you believe. The counter is obviously “sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind” – which flies in the face of the first quote.

Why is it guidance always takes the form “always do this – unless that happens”? That’s not always then, is it.


Walled Gardens and Bullet Journals

A message from a friend struck home today – encouraging me to stop trying so damn hard. To stop trying to spin so many plates all the time. To stop trying to be everywhere, doing everything, all the time. She was right of course – she invariably is. A whispered voice of reason, arriving at just the right time.

I guess this means retreating somewhat from the walled gardens of the internet, and just “being” for a while. Slowing down. Gathering my thoughts. Disconnecting.

Which leads me rather neatly on to the little paper book on the desk behind me. The bullet journal that I stopped using a couple of months ago – and which I started back-filling to bring it back up-to-date earlier today.

I’ve been playing with all manner of solutions that don’t really work over the last few months – clever software, apps, websites, and what-have-you – that promise a “second brain”. I suppose – if I’m honest with myself – I always knew the paper notebook was better. I wanted the clever doo-dads to be better than they are.

I think perhaps the failing of all the oh-so-very-clever productivity apps is that at some point you have to start using them – not just dick about with them – and that’s when they turn into work instead of fun.

Maybe it’s a character trait thing as well. Or a character failing?


For the next little while – maybe for the foreseeable future – I’m going to stop the cross-posting madness, and concentrate a little bit more on me. If you’re subscribed over at substack, or already able to whisper straight into my brain via Messenger, or Telegram – those are probably the best ways to reach me.

You never know – I might finally start writing that damn novel.


A History of Mediocrity

While sorting through old photo albums at the weekend, a big red album titled “This is Your Life” was re-discovered. My other half compiled it for my 30th birthday – twenty years ago now – and it has somehow survived hidden away in a dark corner of the book-case.

While flicking through the pages of the album, a small paper booklet fell onto the floor – titled “School Report”. I looked through it with my eldest daughter this lunchtime. She laughed a little bit more than she should have.


A good set of reports, Jonathan. Try to involve yourself with more noticeable enthusiasm in some subjects.

Miss Baston, Form Teacher

He understands the work quite well but shows a rather casual attitude at times.

Mrs Ball, Mathematics

He has tried hard to achieve quite pleasing standards and his rate of progress has been sound.

Mr White, Chemistry

Has worked very well in all aspects of the subject, and has attained a pleasing standard of work.

Mr Lloyd, Technology

Has worked steadily, and has maintained a satisfactory standard.

Mr Bradley, Physics

His examination revealed his poor appreciation for the concepts involved this year.

Mr Davies, Biology

After missing a large part of the energy topic, has worked well and should pursue science next year.

Mr Bradbury, Combined Science

Has made steady progress. He could consider as an exam subject – he is capable of obtaining a good grade if he applies himself.

Miss Baston, French

This pupil has shown some interest in the subject. In my opinion he would benefit from taking this subject next year.

Mr McCullagh, History

Finds difficulty learning facts. He knows the basics, but must revise in more detail. Excellent illustrations. Very quiet. A little shy. Must ask questions, and work faster.

Miss Foote, Geography

Produced a good term’s work and his examination result was exceptional. Has a great deal of potential for further study.

Mr Jones, Technical Graphics

Enjoys music and could gain some benefit from an examination course. However he would need to concentrate on listening skills.

Mrs Hawker, Music

Has had some success with his basic skill repertoire, and shown a limited knowledge of tactics, and the rules of play.

Mr Maskery, Physical Education

It’s amusing looking back. This series of reports – from the spring of 1987 – coincides with computers entering my life. I remember getting into trouble with the English teachers (who’s report is strangely absent) for “mailing it in” for the first half of the year – and having to sit with one of them and explain myself.

There’s also no art teacher report. I’m not sure why. Perhaps the year was broken into blocks in the run-up to choosing exam subjects? Art was the one subject I never had to try at – I could always just do it, and got good reports with no effort whatsoever.


Thought you might like to see these. I think it helped make my eldest realise that nobody is good at everything (apart from my other half, who get top marks across the board). I think perhaps I was guilty of doing “just enough” throughout school.


Nights Out and Coronations

It’s early on Sunday evening, and I just sat down in the junk room with a glass of wine. Somehow several days have passed since the last post – not sure how. I used to write regularly – like clockwork – almost every day. Not so much any more, it seems.

I have an empty wine glass next to me.

Somewhere in the house, our youngest daughter is sleeping off a night out – one of her friends turned 18. We’re hearing all the predictable stories one might about a village hall party turning into a house party, and several very delicate teenagers feeling a bit sorry for themselves in the morning. I’m just glad they all had fun, were safe, and hopefully learned one of life’s many lessons about enjoying their-selves a little too much. We’ve all done it.

Our eldest went through the same learning curve – one minute being the life and soul of the party, before waking up in the garden with her Dad sitting next to her in the early hours. I’ll never forget the walk home. It was new years – we passed endless people who stopped to share their own stories as I half held her up, and laughed with them. She hasn’t done it again (yet).

I think my favourite part about waking up the morning after a party, or a night out, is piecing together the memories – the laughter – the conversations – the moments that stay with us. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to cherish the friends I have made – and the relationships we have. I saw a coaster in a gift shop some time ago that made me smile – emblazoned with the words “we’ll always be friends – because you know too much”.

So true.

This weekend has of course been dominated by “The Coronation” of King Charles. I’m not a royalist – I don’t really have any opinions either way about us being a monarchy or a republic – but I do love the experiences that history has woven into us. When “Zadok the priest” started playing at the moment of Charles anointing as King, it all got a bit emotional – which is stupid really.


I must be the softest, most easily swayed person I know. Perhaps it’s just empathy. Knowing that a moment means so much to others.

The craziest thing? I’m not religious at all. I’ve become increasingly athiest throughout my life. Of course I respect other people’s decision to believe or follow whatever they want – but personally – I think it’s all a bit crazy.

The whole part about shielding Charles from public view during the anointing? That’s the “magic”. It’s the same as not seeing the shark in Jaws. If you could see it was just a man in a pointy hat splashing water on another man stood in pyjamas, the magic doesn’t work. To reinforce it, the Church enlists a choir and orchestra to play “Zadok the Priest” – music we have heard for most of our lives in repeated viewings of Elizabeth II’s coronation.


It was a good day. I watched some of the coverage later in the evening – Michael Morpugo, the author, was interviewed. He made an observation about those present – that a change had happened over the intervening 70 years since the last coronation. Back then, the assembled congregation in Westminster Abbey was assembled of “The Great” (lords, ladies, leaders, and so on). This time, the abbey was filled with the good – which made them great. People who had made a difference to the world – people who others look up to.

It’s Tolkien all over again, isn’t it – “I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay”.

Throughout the day, Penny Mordaunt trended on news networks all over the world. She was the stoic, strong, elegant woman that held the jewelled sword ahead of Charles as he walked through the abbey. She’s probably the best leader we will never have – because the corrupt world of politics put the knife into her at perhaps the only chance we ever had of her becoming leader.

A sliding doors moment perhaps. If she had become our leader, she would not have been taking part in a moment that will be remembered and re-watched for generations.


Taking a sanity break

I planned to write a blog post yesterday. I don’t know why I plan anything any more – suffice to say, the blog post didn’t happen.

I’m trying to juggle too many things at the moment. I think perhaps the word to take notice of is “trying”. I shouldn’t try to do as much. Invariably I end up chasing my own tail in pursuit of other people’s expectations – which nobody will ever thank you for.

It’s interesting how we judge ourselves based on the presumed expectations of others, isn’t it.

I worked from a café this morning – the one where my eldest daughter worked, and where my middle daughter now works. She threw in her job at the pub – fed up with being taken advantage of by everybody around her, and walked straight into the new job.

It took two attempts to leave for the café. The first attempt took three times longer than I thought, on account of the growing OCD within me that cannot leave the house in a ramshackle state. Then after walking perhaps 100 yards towards the cafe, I realised I had forgotten my wallet. Yes, my phone can do payments – but it’s sod’s law that the day I don’t have my wallet, my phone will stop cooperating. I’m pretty sure they’re designed that way.

I got there in the end.

You don’t realise how loud the ambient noise is in a café until you try to join a conference call. I need to get some noise cancelling headphones. Also – best not turn your laptop around to show the café to everyone on the call – everybody in the café then looks at the faces peering from your laptop, wondering what the hell you’re doing. You don’t need to know why I know that – it’s not important.

Given the effort required in transporting myself to somewhere else for a few hours, I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it unless meeting up with somebody. All I really achieved was adding more hassle to an already chaotic day.


The afternoon has been… non-stop. I’m stopping for a few minutes to empty these words into the keyboard to maintain some sort of sanity really. Everything seems to be non-stop at the moment, and yet I know it’s really not. A lot of the non-stop stuff is of my own doing. My own idiocy. My own attempts to be everybody, do everything, and be everywhere. I’m not good at it.

I need to slow down, and reach out to a few friends now and again.

I just need to get these bits and pieces done first though…


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 ?