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Birthday Girl!!

24 Jan

It’s my birthday next weekend. I will be closer to 50 than 40! This is scary. 

I’ve been neglecting myself of late. My hair is grey, my nails a disgrace and make up is never used! Partly because I don’t really have any, partly cos even if I did I wouldn’t really know what to do with it! 

With those last comments in mind, I’ve decided to have a make up party! I’m going to treat myself to the basics and see what happens. The nails were painted earlier this evening…

 The hair dye’s on the side of the bath and I’m going to host a Younique birthday make up party! 🎂

You’re all invited. If you buy stuff, I get treats 😃 

Seriously – look at my unadorned face…

…it’s crying out for some make up.

If you fancy a peek I’ll be posting things to my FB page found here

My Younique Birthday Party


Change is a needed!

5 Jan

Right. I’m putting this out there so I’ll be more inclined to do something about it!!
I’ve outgrown the ambitions I had when I was at university.  I need to be pro active in making changes to live a better working life than the one I’ve currently got. This one doesn’t work for me anymore! 
I find it really difficult to work as a full time English teacher and be a single mum. It leaves zero time for me or for me and Lily and I’m always too tired to do the things that bring me joy.
My ethos of education doesn’t seem to fit with what’s required in schools anymore. I want to develop the whole child and build their confidence, not crack out exam automatons.
I want to work part time but my current place of work won’t let me and finances would be incredibly difficult if I did. However. I’m not prepared to spend the next 23 years living the working life I thought I wanted when I was 20 years old.
So. Throw ideas at me. I’m gonna try and make some serious changes instead of whinging about how miserable I am!
Looking forward to some stark, honest, kick up the backside advice. I need it xxx

The past is a foreign country…

31 Dec

…they do things differently there.

Looking back on NYE is inevitable. I can’t quite believe the year I’ve had. At times it doesn’t feel like it was me in those memories! It seems so distant now.

January – a terrifying but successful job interview and a fab visit to London with Lily and little sis.

February – an increasingly painful gall bladder and unpaid leave so I could spend half term with Lily.

March – an unceremonious exit from my 15 year place of work (but a leaving speech via email that perhaps I shouldn’t have sent…it was the Tramadol made me do it!) due to gall bladder which was subsequently removed! A week’s recuperation at my sister’s where I put my back out trying to put surgical stockings on(!) and had to man up to be able to give myself daily injections!

April – a lovely stay in York courtesy of a very kind friend; a fabulous leaving party with my gorgeous colleagues; the start of a new job at a Special School. Lots of highs, lows and many WTFs?!

May – Lily’s first big birthday party with a Frozen theme and a rather marvellous cake by Aunty Dawn. I obviously hired a children’s entertainer…I’m not daft!

June – the craziness at work getting crazier but
learning SO much!

July – a step closer to summer!

August – London staying in a lovely Belsize Park flat courtesy of a lovely friend; North Yorks and Anglesey camping. Lots of sun and fun and laughs with family and friends.

September – OFSTED! That was interesting! But they did say the school should clone me 😉

October – the fall out from OFSTED; still learning lots! Started crafting in earnest.

November – the news my school will be closing; the offer of a new job; the launch of my Thingy-ma-bobs crafting page.

December – Lily’s ukulele and musical theatre stage début; a sewing workshop courtesy of a lovely friend; a tax rebate; lots of sales for Thingy-ma-bobs; packing up my classroom ready for new job in January; a so, so relaxing Christmas…


I’m very anxious about starting my new job – the usual ‘What if they realise I can’t actually do it’, having to learn new systems, develop new routines and build relationships all over again. It’s going to be full on and the last three months at my old job have rather exhausted my resilience!!

I hope to improve the way I react so emotionally to any bit of difficult or troubling news. I am a heart on the sleeve kind of girl – which is great when it’s nice stuff! But when it is more challenging I dive head first into an emotional maelstrom. This is not good for this old girl’s blood pressure of Facebook Status Update(!)

I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve with Thingy-ma-bobs – at the very least it keeps my stress levels under some sort of control! Maybe having a craft stall somewhere one weekend?!

I hope to meet up with friends old and new more regularly than I’ve been able to this year. I should re-introduce letter writing.

I know my little girl will continue to make every single day an amazing one! She’s an absolute star and I’m very lucky to have her.

Hope 2015 brings us all a step closer to whatever it is we are dreaming of.

Best wishes xxx

Sent from my iPhone


23 Nov

I am going to use my blog to shamelessly promote my little cottage industry venture – Thingy-ma-bobs!

I received a sewing machine for Christmas 2014 from my sister. I was absolutely delighted and had visions of me running off flattering, floaty garments for myself and my daughter. However, it turns out cutting fabric and trying to piece it back together again is quite stressful! For me anyway!

So (pardon the pun) I used my machine to make crafty things like book bags and Kindle covers.



Then I found I loved hunting for fabric and buttons and felt. This turned into making brooches as thank you gifts




Then I experimented with little dog shaped key rings and owls



And now I’m doing Christmas decorations!


I’m experimenting with angels and birds next! It’s all very therapeutic! Do take a peek if you can and like/share my little venture! It might pay for me to have some dress making classes!

Long lost families and the not so happily ever after

16 Aug

For those of you who still think adoption is all ‘Long Lost Families’ reunions with hugs and tears and forgiveness…wake up!

Children go into care these days because their birth parents put them in harm’s way! Because they put alcohol and drugs before the welfare of their child. Because they don’t meet the child’s most basic needs.

Children these days do not go into care because birth parents were forced to give up the baby they loved by a cruel society’s backward view about unmarried teenage mothers!

In the future the reunions won’t be the joyful outpourings of love, forgiveness and the lifting of guilt we see on TV today.

Adoption in the 21st century is about child abuse, child neglect and child abandonment. Hardly the ingredients for a happy ever after.

Never again?

27 Jul

I find myself wholly under educated in matters of the Israeli/Palestine conflict.

What I do know is that Palestine is a hugely populated area where the average age is 17. They can’t ‘just move’ in order to be safe… There is nowhere to move to!

The Israelis are firing rockets into this hugely populated area knowing they are killing and injuring civilians every day. Hey, they even targeted a UN school claiming it was being used as a base by Hammas. That’s what the four boys playing football on the beach were? Hamas separatists?!

Around 1000+ injured and dead. Many innocent children. Any fire back from Hamas, the terrorist group, has killed c 30 Israelis. Mostly soldiers. Wholly disproportionate!

Israel, thanks to American finance, is one of the most fortified areas on the planet. Few civilians are being killed. If and when innocent civilians are killed the Israelis state they’re not quite sure how it happened. They claim
that there were reports of Hamas shooting from the school, the family home, how awful it is that Hamas are using children as a human shield.

I know very little about this ancient conflict and I’m sure some of you could/will fill me in.

Why aren’t we getting involved? Is it fear after our apparent failed attempt to get involved in Iraq? Afghanistan?

Alternatively, why is this conflict being so heavily reported? Is it because if the disproportionate number of civilians being killed? The apparent one sided nature of the conflict?

What am I not understanding?

How naïve of us to claim that the war to end all wars was over when we see pictures of dead children and mothers and fathers beamed into our living room, like slides from a history lesson where we’re taught ‘Never Again’, every day.

The Guilt of a Single, Working Mum

13 Jul

Random survey – how many of you out there are full time working mums? I’m after some top tips for trying to become guilt free!

I’m not going to be able to go to Lily’s talent contest this week. Only the second school event I’ve missed but I fear not the last. And I feel equal measure of guilt and sadness! It’s not like her second parent can go instead is it?!

I wish I could afford to go part time but as a single mum…never gonna happen!

So, as I reflect on the past academic year for Lily and I, send me your working mum survival tips please!! 🙂

Tales from the classroom 2

12 Apr


Everyton Comp was my second job in my career. I’d stepped up the ladder and was now 2nd in charge of English three years after qualifying. Well done me! Though by today’s standards I had taken my time and would now be considered unambitious… ‘just’ a classroom teacher. The bottom of the heap. The pariah of the educational community. The root of all evil, complacency and youth crime. However, in the old days you worked your way up, collecting experiences as you went, doing work for free to show you were willing to learn and wanted to make sure you did the best job possible. You did not turn up fresh from college or on the job training and dictate that your way was the most innovative, inspirational and original way of sitting children in rows.

Everyton was in a once thriving mining community in South Yorkshire. Now the village was a heap of scruffy council houses, unemployment and over worked social workers surrounded by more affluent villages in the rural outlays. The comp was in its second incarnation, the first having been destroyed in an arson attack by some bored students years before. It truly was a comprehensive school with children living in extreme poverty jostling with those who went on skiing holidays biannually with a trip to Disney thrown in between.


Inevitably exam results were not where they should have been according to government targets but what do governments know about the barriers families in low working class areas of deprivation face? When people knew where I worked they were horrified and asked if I was ok and safe! Being an immigrant from the North East, I was unaware of the area’s reputation. It didn’t put me off. In fact I found that coupled with the label of failing school and the area’s problems, the staff were incredibly supportive and the children amazingly kind.

Now. With this kindness also came pockets of extreme behaviour and a level of passivity that I, in my university educated bubble, had never experienced before. For many it was enough to just get to school…doing work there as well? Don’t be daft, Miss!

This particular morn I was aiming to get my Year 11 class (15-16 year olds) to organise themselves into groups and discuss the whys and wherefores of Macbeth’s downfall. Was it his fault? His wife? Fate? We’d done a lot of background to the story researching the supernatural and the role of women in Shakespeare’s time. We had done drama lessons exploring Lady Macbeth’s guilt to the soundtrack of ‘Insomnia’ by Faithless in a darkened drama studio. We had watched the modern BBC ‘Macbeth on the Estate’. We had explored peer pressure; mental health issues; modern day crime. Heck, we’d even read the text…the original script…the one that Shakespeare actually wrote! We were, in short, as ready as we would ever be to get the discussion rolling in preparation for writing an essay down the line.


Groups of friends had huddled together around badly positioned tables (I still do not understand why the prospect of ‘group work’ renders all students incapable of joining two rectangular tables together to create a square). Because friendship groups had been allowed in this instance there were two tables of between 5 – 6 boys per table arrangement and then several sets of perfectly organised girls, 4 to a group. Then there was Sarah. No one wanted to work with Sarah. She’d already ‘done time’ and was currently awaiting a court appearance for verbally abusing three police officers in the village whilst they tried to prevent her stealing a little old lady’s shopping bags. You may have seen Sarah in her later years. She occasionally popped up in ‘The Sun’, ‘The Mirror’ and even made a couple of appearances on ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show’! Sarah snarled at anyone who came near her. She was happy to do this on her own.

The task had been set. Each group had a series of statements to consider and they knew which specific area their group was going to feedback on. It was important to consider every statement however as these would form the basis of said future coursework essay. This instruction would of course make no difference. Students would simply just do ‘their’ statement and would “be reet” when it came to writing their essay! Immediate hubub ensued. None of it to do with ‘Macbeth’ obviously. Group work clearly means Miss isn’t expecting us to start til we’ve caught up on the gossip that’s occurred since we saw each other fifteen minutes ago in the Science block(!)

I went round each group encouraging them to make a start, ensuring EVERYONE was writing down the notes in their books, cajoling those who claimed they didn’t have a clue what was going on until finally I was convinced most students were on task and the noise became more purposeful.When the noise level began to rise I reminded of the need to find quotations from the text to support what they had said. The noise level dipped for a bit longer. The odd screech from self appointed team leaders as they admonished those “sitting on their arses doing nowt, Miss” but generally it was a fairly good working atmosphere.

I was initially impressed with the group of lads at the back left corner of the classroom. Not only did they seem much more animated than the rest of the groups in terms of engagement with the task, they were all leaning forward as if intent on hearing every single morsel of their team’s discussion. This was particularly pleasing given the make up of the group. Gareth who rarely attend school; Tom who is far too cool to come to school with pen, planner, bag and positive attitude to learning; Jack who was stoned for most of his existence; Adam who quite liked school but just didn’t quite ‘get’ anything and Mark…the team leader…the one all the girls in years 11, 10, 9, 12 and even 13 fawned all over. It was not your typical study group. Obviously, now I was into my fourth year of this teaching lark I was much more attune to ‘situations’ such as these. Rather than being pleased- they-were-quietly-getting-on-with-something-and-quite-frankly-I-didn’t-care-what-just-so-long-as-they-weren’t-mean-to-me…I was actually suspicious. I had been hoodwinked many times in my first few terms but I was becoming wise, hardened, no longer an idealist!


I wandered around the room assessing progress and approached the boys. It went quiet.

“What are you up to, gents? Getting on ok?”
“Yes, Miss”
“What conclusions are you making?”
“About, Macbeth. Do you think he’s to blame for his own bad luck? Or is it down to something else?”
“Er, dunno, Miss”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“We don’t know, Miss”
“Have you been discussing the key statements?”
“No, Miss”

At this juncture I notice something on the table and begin to step away. Slowly.

“What have you been doing then?”
“Comparing pubes, Miss”, says Gareth removing his hand from his crotch and adding to the pile in the middle of the table.


Well. What do you say at a moment like that? I chose to take the obvious route.

“Gentlemen. Could you now consider whether you think Macbeth deserves what he got. I will be asking you to feed back first”. And I walked to the next group of busy students.

Tales from the classroom

9 Apr


“You may not wear trousers. You will only wear a skirt below the knee. You will not wear short sleeves or sleeveless tops. You will not wear a v necked top.” These were not school rules for the children. Oh no. These, my friends, were the words from the Headmistress of my first teaching placement Catholic school! My partner and I looked at each other. The Head had just wiped out every item in our wardrobe. We would have to go shopping!

Long skirted and sleeved we found ourselves walking up the path to the first teaching experience of our lives. We had so many meetings with so many staff it’s hard to untangle them all. They are all stuck together like threads in plasticine!

First of all we would need to know how to use a computer. A what?

Then we had to learn to lead prayers.

What scheme of work were we thinking of writing? Fox hunting? Hmmn…in a rural area? Were we sure?

We were going to volunteer to help with the school production weren’t we?

And sex education…we did know that we were delivering it to the worst year 9 class in the school didn’t we? As a tutor you realise how important it is that you ‘get involved’? Well yes, but given the subject matter, not THAT involved…surely?

One condom, a banana and a raft of taboo words later, we were on our way.

Finally teaching

After much discussion, late nights and the odd cocktail during Happy Hour my teaching partner and I were nowhere near ready to team teach our first lesson. But. Here we were. In the staff room. After break duty. With wads of paper, chalk, photocopies. Mrs. Nice-but-you-wouldn’t-cross-her was walking us along the corridor. I carelessly mentioned I could do with popping to the loo. More as a light hearted attempt to alleviate my nerves. “You must never neglect your bladder, Samantha! Never! If that is the only thing you learn from this TP then let that be it!” And with that we were being escorted to the staff loos.

Zoe and I had decided who was to go first in the sequence of teaching. It was me. It was a shaky start but the kids were nice and were either too bored to notice me or too polite to say anything. Difficult when it’s a speaking and listening unit. However, on we ploughed with photos of carcasses of fox eaten rabbits, carcasses of foxes ripped to shreds and photos of Hunt Sabs and red breasted riders battling it out in the English countryside. For or against? I’m not sure anyone was particularly bothered to be honest. The meaning of why became clear when Zoe moved to the back of the room.


The students were looking at her and trying to hide a smirk, failing, then letting their compadres in on the ‘secret’. The secret turned out to be Zoe’s attire.We had carefully followed the dress code since our first meeting at the University Education department. Today I was wearing a white t-shirt and a floor length dress over the top…doubly sure. Zoe, a pencil skirt with a floaty white blouse tucked in. And herein lay the problem. As Zoe bent down to assist one of the many students who suddenly, like wild fire, were requesting assistance around the room, the matter was revealed. Literally. A full frontal attack on teenage senses. The loose fitting scalloped neck blouse was so loose fitting that when she leaned forward it was indecent. Immediately realising the issue I tried to illegally communicate with her across the classroom. She just thought I was asking her to go see another student. It resulted in more students being aware of her underwear than I had hoped. Fortunately Mrs nice-but-you-wouldn’t-cross her hadn’t noticed. Yet. She and two short sighted students sitting near the front. Zoe could take the suspense no longer and broke protocol to speak to me during the lesson. The peep show was over, more prohibited items of clothing were added to our repertoire, but we had survived our first lesson!

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

I’m mentally ill. Not a criminal!

6 Apr

We still haven’t got to grips with dealing mental health issues yet. It’s not just about ‘feeling down’, feeling a bit fed up! It is an illness which prevents you from physically and mentally being able to do the simplest things. It’s the crippling effort it can take to get out of bed each day; to feed yourself; to leave your home.. let alone get to work and manage your duties.

I have always been one to put ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself. I can see where the origins of this lie: when my parents split up I threw myself into school work and activities. If I wasn’t getting 100% in tests I had a meltdown! In my career I did the same…promotion after promotion after promotion. I had learned to use school, university, work to avoid the other stresses and strains of life. However, avoiding something doesn’t mean that the ‘something’ completely disappears.

My mental health was beginning to take a downward spiral. I was drinking too much; I was barely eating; I was having horrific nightmares…during the daylight hours. A work colleague noticed and they talked to me.

Depression and PTSD

The result was that I finally disclosed a rape from 12 years previously. There then began a very long and arduous battle with depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The doctor put me on anti depressants but these made me feel suicidal. The doctor didn’t believe it was the pills and prescribed counselling. I had a 6 month wait and the pills were making me feel worse.

I managed my workload but alongside that I was managing the symptoms of depression and PTSD. What did this look like? For me it was flashbacks to the rape triggered by a number of different things: a smell; a tune on the radio; a word; a physical feeling; the time of day. Flashbacks made me feel intensely frightened for my life. I had panic attacks, I would cry. It eventually lead to a period of not leaving my flat for three months for anything other than medical appointments and to get food. I was too scared. But then I became scared of my own flat. In addition to this I couldn’t sleep, I lost weight, I couldn’t think clearly and the pills still made me feel suicidal. Indeed I found myself in A&E being assessed by the on call psychiatrist at least three times. The conversation always went the same,

Psychiatrist: Why did you take too many pills?
Me: Because I was raped and the feelings I have with that get too much and I just want to forget about them for a while.
Psych: So you don’t want to kill yourself?
Me: No, I want to feel better.
Psych: So you won’t do it again?
Me: No.
Psych: OK. I’ll write a note for your GP then you’re discharged.

And repeat…

Let battle commence

I worked my way through different counsellors including the one originally assigned to me by my doctor, Rape Crisis, Victim Support, ones I paid for privately. None of them were making me feel any differently. I finally, with the encouragement of that work colleague, went to the surgery again and demanded to see a GP who specialised in mental health. Eventually, things began to change. He altered my prescription and referred me to Cognitive Behaviour therapy. But this had taken 18 months.

The battle continued with further visits to A&E and consults with the on call psych until the GP found an anti depressant that didn’t make me feel suicidal. I drank too much while I was waiting for a drug that worked. The drink meant I was able to forget for a short while. I went clubbing 3 or 4 times a week. My CBT therapist gave me exercises to face my demons and desensitise myself to some of my memories so I could function. I finally plucked up the courage to report the rape to the Police and an investigation began with everything that that entails: interviews; statements; more interviews…

Alongside my battle with my mental health I was still managing my career. I had the odd day off, then the three month incarceration in my flat, back to the odd day. The colleague I had originally confided in was a huge support and tried to convince me to talk to my managers. But I didn’t. I was too afraid of the stigma. And I couldn’t take time off…the guilt.

My hand was forced after an A&E visit that resulted in me having to be kept in. I couldn’t keep my mental ill health a secret anymore. I had to tell. But aside from personal support from individual colleagues there was no specific approach from the organisation. So I continued my battle securing a promotion as a Head of Department. From the outside looking in I looked everything like the successful career woman! Only those close to me knew the reality.

Mental ill health in the workplace

My CBT therapist was superb and I am convinced he saved my life. I continued to meet with him on a weekly basis for 2-3 years. And the flashbacks and panic attacks began to recede. I didn’t drink to blot things out anymore. I had started to tell my family and friends what I had been dealing with. When the police investigation reached its peak I had a bit of a setback and ended up being off work for two to three week stretches as I dealt with the fallout from the investigation. Again, some work colleagues noticed I was struggling. They didn’t know why but they took the time to ask me and I felt I could tell them. They offered me personal support but again, from a whole organisational point of view, there was very little done to take away my anxiety about the stigma of mental health at work.

In contrast, a few years later I had a cervical cancer scare. The reaction to this physical ill health was so different. Sympathy, flowers, messages of concern and support. A meeting! A meeting to see if anything could be done to help me be able to do my job! I got none of this throughout my five year battle with mental ill health!

Time to change

It’s the 21st century. I really struggle with society’s treatment of mental health issues. Just because you can’t see the reasons why a colleague is having so much time off work or isn’t handle their duties well does not mean they are not ill! We have a responsibility as individuals and as organisations to educate ourselves about mental ill health and remove the stigma. Stringent support mechanisms need to be in place. The law needs to be followed. See

I guarantee someone you work with right now will be fighting their own battle. They may be fighting to get up in the morning. They may be fighting invisible fears you can’t possibly see or comprehend. They may be fighting for their life. If you think someone you work with may be suffering, talk to them! Ask them if they are ok? Don’t accept the, “Yeah I’m fine” answer…make em a cuppa and offer to have a proper chat. You could, quite literally, be saving a life – like that colleague did mine.