A Small Life

I attend a writing class. We meet in the very chilly basement of the Amnesty Bookshop, after closing, once a week. Surrounded by stacks of books with improbable titles we read out our work and thrash out ideas. The group is led by a local author and playwright who sets us weekly “homework” to inspire our writing.

Once a term it’s poetry. I’m rubbish at poetry. Love reading it but can’t write it so I always do something daft. This terms poetry homework we were given one line from a song and had to use that as the inspiration and first line of our poem.

I’m going to let you suffer; here is my poem.



A Small Life


 The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars

And I want to reach through them and touch the stars

But I’m only a hamster and I don’t know what stars are

Can you eat them?

The beast in me is run ragged on the wheel

And I race around with such passion and zeal

But I’m only a hamster is zeal a meal?

I hope so.

The beast in me whirls around in a plastic ball

That spins down the stairs at the end of the hall

I’m only a hamster is this my all?




A frail and fragile hamster


Extra points if you can name the song and artist.

Lady Elf and the Over-Ripe Peach

Once upon a time there lived a woman no taller than a short thing, who had a talent for capturing the likeness of that rare creature; the Urban Elf. She doodled day and night using nothing but her trusty pens, pencils and sheets of Izal toilet paper. For no apparent reason she decided to cast her little elves to the mercy of the Blogging Folk. They were so kind and said such nice things and the woman was full of glee.

Then one day the woman created Lady Elf. She showed the good Blogging Folk the step by step journey of Lady Elf’s birth and offered the creature for adoption. Many of the Blogging Folk offered homes but only one possessed a weeping willow, the perfect habitat for an elf of such breeding.

The new home was to be in the Shire of Cambridge many miles to the south of the woman’s Northern home. How was the elf to travel? The Queens Own Royal Mail was not known for its delicate touch and elves bruise easily. After much deliberation the woman found the perfect mode of travel, a special brown paper casing with strengthened sides and the words “Please Do Not Bend” emblazoned in red. It was also in other languages, just in case. The woman tucked Lady Elf safely inside her brown paper travelling jacket and popped her into a bag. She took lady elf to work with her with the intention of visiting The Queen’s Own Posting Office afterwards. But also in the bag was the woman’s lunch which included a juicy ripe peach.

Lady Elf dozed peacefully in her paper wrapper until she noticed a sweet aroma accompanied by a damp feeling around her edges. She wriggled and writhed and crumpled up her delicate borders. Lady Elf flipped and flapped until she toppled the bag, within which she was contained, over onto the woman’s feet. As the woman bent to retrieve her fallen carrier she could smell the sweet odour of peach. Oh no! The softened fruit had burst open. Lady Elf’s special “Do not bend” casing was darkened with juice and peach flesh. The woman opened the envelope to rescue Lady Elf, who, due to her clever evasive actions remained unharmed.


So Lady Elf returned home with the woman once more and her special paper sheath was laid to dry.

Who knew that Skinny Dogs love the taste of peach juice? The woman didn’t. But in the morning she found Lady Elf’s special “Please Do Not Bend” case in the Skinny Dog’s basket. And it was bent. In fact it was in several pieces and Skinny Dog was nowhere to be seen.



Well, the woman fashioned an elf carrier out of sturdy card, bus tickets and Izal paper and writ strict instructions to the good Queen’s Own Postie not to bend said carrier. And Elf lady set off on her journey south.

Has Lady Elf made it safely to the Shire of Cambridge? Only time will tell.

Why Name Your Campervan?

When I first started exploring the idea of owning a campervan I scoured classic car magazines, checked out club forums and chatted to other campervan owners. It didn’t take long to notice that owners referred to their much beloved mode of transport not as “it” or “the van” but by a given  name. This is not usual among modern car owners. I’ve never been introduced to Freddie the Ford Focus or Albert the Astra. Perhaps it is because a name suggests character, something that is missing from most Euro Boxes. On the other hand an old campervan is personality plus.

Driving a campervan is so unlike driving a modern vehicle. There’s the added frisson at the outset of a journey; will she start, will she get you from A to B and back again? Once on the road your senses come alive and you can actually hear the engine; taste the air as it rushes in through all those little gaps you’ve yet to seal; feel your biceps tightening as you tussle with non-power assisted steering; see all those envious faces as you hurtle by at 45 miles per hour; smell burning engine oil. Come on, your faculties won’t be assailed like that in a poncy Picasso!

A campervan is so much more than just a vehicle; you’re driving with a pal and as with all best friends not always reliable. Why only the other day on a trip with my buddy, the door handle came off in my hand, the front number plate dropped down and the windscreen wipers packed in. But we laughed. Yes, you’ve gone and bought yourself a living breathing companion and that companion deserves a name.

But how to choose one?

Native Americans watch the personality and quirkiness emerge in their children, and then choose a name that reflects this. However, that way could lead to your campervan being referred to by a string of expletives. You could use your number plate as inspiration. My first car was a mini whose reg was POG; so endearing. The second, a highly unpredictable mini Clubman estate, had an equally influential number plate; FKU suited it down to the ground. Some owners loiter around homes for the elderly in order to stimulate their imagination resulting in a lot of Maud’s, Ethel’s and Olives. Admittedly these are elderly vehicles so a pre-war moniker (or should that be Monica?) are quite apt.

What name has been given to my chum? He’s a VW Splitscreen and the previous owners had dubbed him Harvey however,  inspired by the pale yellow paintwork and cheery faces of passers-by we christened him Sunny. The perfect name for a bright, radiant and downright brilliant old friend.

If you own a campervan or old classic vehicle what name have you given yours?

Iron Lady; still crazy after all these years?

The film, The Iron Lady is released here in Britain today and for the past couple of weeks I’ve seen images of Meryl Thatcher glide before me on the sides of buses. It is being screened at the fabulous Tyneside Cinema an independent theatre housed in a beautiful Art Deco building. I must admit it is my cinema of choice because surroundings are important to me and I abhor soulless Multiplexes. The Tyneside screen a high proportion of world cinema films as well as a variety of well-chosen commercial offerings. Their choice to screen The Iron Lady has, however, caused great consternation amongst its visitors if their Facebook page is anything to go on. There is no doubt that during Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister she decimated the North East of England and it would appear that Tynesiders have neither forgiven nor forgotten. Nevertheless I was still surprised at the undiluted hatred that even a fictionalised version of the woman can create.

The film apparently concentrates on the present day eighty six year old Thatcher. Frail and dementing we view her life through flashbacks. Is this woman doddery and befuddled? I wonder.

My lasting memory of the now Baroness Thatcher, is her leaving Number 10 Downing Street for the final time. It was the first time she showed any emotion; she was in tears. The following is a piece of creative scribbling inspired by that moment.

They didn’t want to leave her alone. Why? What were they afraid she might do? Finally she had had to raise her voice until at last, no more phone calls. No more interruptions from simpering, shuffling members of staff. She was alone. Alone in an office that had been home for eleven years. It was to be so for just fifteen minutes more.

Sitting still didn’t come naturally to this woman. The high back of the leather desk chair had seldom felt the warmth of her body. But it felt right to settle in to its embrace, to slip off her stiffly moulded navy blue court shoes, and curl her legs up under her. This was time for the Iron Lady to reflect.

Her thin lips curled upward in a rare genuine smile and she breathed out in a calm measured sigh. As she rested her head against the wing of the chair her hair, so thickly coated in lacquer, crackled in protest. She gazed out of the window at the darkening November sky.” What a difference to this country I have made” she thought and the almost naked limbs of the horse chestnut tree nodded in agreement. Breathing in deeply yet again she filled her very soul with self satisfaction. Geoffrey Howe; who will remember that name in fifty years? Breaking cricket bats indeed! She would have happily broken one over the bumbling mans head.  And Michael Heseltine; what a buffoon. How she’d love to take some scissors to that fringe. She would live on and they would perish. She had taught the people of this country to stand on their own two feet, to not rely on handouts from its government. Single handedly she had sold off and closed down almost all state owned companies. And if that hadn’t been possible, withdrawn subsidies from the rest thus reversing a National decline. This was once more a great Nation, if only they realised it. Like a God she had risen from the rubble of The Grand Hotel, led them to victory in war and enriched the English language with a new word; Thatcherism.

A solitary, inky black crow landed in the branches of the tree and flapped its wings as it sought a perfect balance. Both woman and bird stared beady eye to beady eye. The creature regained composure, uncurled her legs from beneath herself and eased her feet back into her shoes. Time to leave. She rose from the chair, bent to retrieve a smart neat leather handbag from the floor then, just before leaving the room, paused in front of a large gilt framed mirror. Taking a Yardley lipstick from the bag she applied a smear of rose pink to her lips. She then stared intently at her reflection. Tears welled up within those hooded eyes quicker than she could have hoped. Practice definitely made perfect.

Perhaps just a quiver of the lower lip?


She was ready to face the people of her country one last time.