Father John Misty. And Why the Military-Style Planning of a Mother Should Never be Underestimated.


FJM, Southampton Guildhall, Saturday 23rd May 2016


When Middle-Aged Mothers Plan to Attend a Gig. Step Aside Whippersnappers.

Last weekend my husband and I went to see the Father John Misty gig at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall, and we were not disappointed.

For anyone who has not yet heard of FJM, or Josh Tillman as he’s known on his bank statements, he’s been on the music scene for years, but only emerged under the moniker of Misty in 2012. A native of the USA, his 2015 album I Love You, Honeybear, is a blend of ironic, witty, and ultimately beautiful songs.

Misty is known for his energetic performances on stage – think Jim Morrison’s head (circa the Beard Years) on the body of Russell Brand, and you’re near the mark.

His lyrics are narrative, social commentary, and existentialism rolled into one, waxed by the wheels of melody, and if the words aren’t for everyone, then the fact that they are set to incendiary tunes was probably a factor in his filling the 02 Guildhall to the brink with fans on Saturday night.

We were lucky enough to be in the front row (the military-style planning of a middle-aged mother is never to be underestimated; Tripadvisor, carpark app, met office map, mini-umbrellas, synchronised watches. I’ve handled babies with poo up to their eyeballs with no clean nappy to hand and only a handful of grass to help me, step aside youngsters), and therefore benefitted from the full Misty experience. And what an experience that was – Tillman, Misty, it makes no difference which moniker he goes under, he’s a born showman.

The crowd was rapt, swept up in the sheer and palpable energy that radiated from the stage. It’s a rare thing to find a singer-songwriter-musician whose voice, when experienced live, is beyond anything that MP3s, vinyl or CDs even suggest, and whose lyrics – raw and personal – are brought even further to life when performed with the honesty of a man who is literally giving all that he can to the fans who’ve paid and turned up to see him.

The added bonus, for oldsters such as myself, was that I was still able to get home before midnight and collapse into bed, complete with my ringing eardrums. And, with that one sentence, I suspect I have instantly quashed any vague suspicion that was forming that I am a cool gig-goer. Nope, just a shattered mother still.


Pregnant Ladies can Wee in a  Police Person’s Helmet.

My friend Melissa is pregnant at the moment and has informed me of a marvelous fact. At least, we think it’s fact, and I am not googling it in too much depth, for fear that we shall be disappointed. However, initial findings prove positive.

Apparently, a pregnant woman has the right to relieve herself in a police person’s helmet. (Urine only, for the avoidance of doubt.)

I am wondering, therefore, which area of law this comes under? Is there such a thing as urinary law? And whoever would’ve decided that head-based receptacles – particularly those belonging to the police – would be your best bet.

Given the lack of police on the streets these days you’d probably have given birth before you found one anyway.


Fitbits and Competitive Partners.

My husband and I bought Fitbits a couple of months ago and have been using them consistently ever since. The information that the activity trackers give you is fascinating, and I have since become something of a resting heart-rate nerd. My husband however, has become something of a competitive despot.

You can challenge one another using the Fitbit, via the app on your phone, and my children have been excellent spies, feeding back when daddy has been sprinting the length of the bedrooms when they are brushing their teeth and I am downstairs, unawares.

It is surprisingly hard to do 10 000 steps every day, and I’d consider myself active. I’m tempted to strap it to the dog instead.


FJM Live – I Love You, Honeybear – this is well worth a watch …




Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson, Hollywood Hills





R-E-S-P-E-C-T Find out what it means to y-o-u


I’ve been thinking this week about the concept of ‘respect’. It’s a word that we bandy around often, usually with the addition of wine and a few tuneless renditions of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” slurred in for good measure.

However, what does it really mean to you? And do you have it for yourself?

Much of this depends upon your definition of it. The dictionary version is ‘a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements, or, due regard for the feelings of others’. I can think of many colleagues, relations, and friends for whom I certainly have the deepest respect. People who inspire me, who work hard for the things in life that truly matter to them, and others who have overcome seemingly insurmountable hardships to get to where they are.

On the other hand, I can think of people for whom I have little to zero respect. I’ve been trying to figure out why this is, and generally it links to their own lack of respect for themselves and others. When you hear about atrocities on the news each and every day, carried out by those who have no respect for human life, then it is impossible to hold any glimmer of respect for them*.

It seems that not everyone in life has true standards to live by, achieving little, and living simply off the backs of others. And, in any day and age, is that really respectable?

I’ve done things in the past that I’ve felt ashamed of, as have most of us, and I’m sure I will again. That’s human fallible nature. But I certainly try to be true to myself and true to those around me. Sometimes this can only get you into trouble. You can try to explain your own opinion in an adult manner, only to have it thrown back at you, twisted around, and accompanied by a shedload of insult. Sadly this is the  ground of the unforgivable, for insult and vitriol cannot be taken back, and resorting to them rather suggests that your own position is so shaky that all you could do was deflect attention from yourself by acting out and being cruel.

Once upon a time, when I saw people leading lives and living relationships or friendships that I knew were founded in falsehood, I used to be open-mouthed at their ability to kid themselves. However, nowadays, and I suppose with more maturity, I am inclined to feel a sheer and complete relief that this need never be me, as I’d rather be alone than be false to myself.

And, I suppose, this is exactly what we mean by respecting ourselves: living a life that is true, openly admiring others who do likewise, and striving, though not always succeeding, to achieve. But at least we try.


The Day I Milked a Cashew Nut

Last week I purchased the Deliciously Ella cookbook. Ella is a sugar and everything else-free (just not her ingredients) cook, who glows from the inside out.

She is also printing her own currency, because raw cacao powder and medjool dates don’t come cheap.

Because of Ella, and her glow, I found myself on my day off, milking cashew nuts. My friend, Anne, did enquire as to whether this was even a legal process, but I felt quite a sense of achievement for managing to milk something without teats.

I’ve no idea of whether or not The News will print that last sentence, but I’m laughing to myself anyway at the thought of it in hopeful (perhaps naïve) expectation that they do.

(Fair play to them – I’ve just looked online and can confirm that The Portsmouth News does indeed contain the teat line today.)


Class of ’95

I saw the school that I went to as a child on Facebook last week, with photographs of the Upper 6th students on their Leavers’ Day.

The nostalgia of this, through the spectacles of time with the rose tint (come on, you know you have them, they’re tucked away in your subconscious for a rainy day), filled me with both a sense of happiness yet, also, melancholy.

Those young faces, full of expectation and dreams, were not so different to the class of 1995. But that was 21 years ago, and time goes by so fast.

The future is such a frightening concept because it’s unknown, yet the past is so safe, because we have already tucked it away inside ourselves.


Thank you for reading. First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 21st May 2016

*I include this line so as to avoid the possibility of misinterpretation!! The News do not give me enough word count to include a disclaimer each week that just because someone may read my column and recognise traits of themselves in there, I could, in fact – and usually am – be writing very generally about humanity and my entire worldview, and not people that I know! Sadly I can’t asterisk every sentence, so it is best born in mind throughout. This writing malarkey is a sensitive and fine balancing act…

Dining on the Gonads of Sea Urchins.


I tuned into Masterchef last week, which is as close to cutting edge cuisine as I am likely to get in the near future, and for that I am now eternally grateful.

Working in a kitchen has, to me, always looked like insanely hard work. It looks hot, it looks sweaty, and it looks like the epitome of stress. During this particular episode of Masterchef, it also looked extremely hairy.

The kitchen that the amateurs had been let loose in belongs to Michael O’Hare, who will hereafter be known as Michael ‘Oh My Hair!’ for reasons that will appear obvious if my editors choose to accompany this column with a photo of him.

During the sweaty stint in Michael Oh My Hair’s kitchen, a poor would-be chef was tasked with conjuring up one of the hirsute one’s signature dishes, namely – and I suggest you restrain your gag reflex for this – prawns with roasted skulls.

Now maybe it’s just me who has munched under the misapprehension that food is supposed to sound appealing, but surely I can’t be alone in believing that any alleged sustenance requiring roasted skull, sounds more like it belongs on Indiana Jones than in my stomach.

Best of all, once the skull was roasted, the poor fools who’d signed up to consume the resulting Bushtucker Trial, had to squeeze the brains of the prawns over the aforementioned crustacean’s body. And this was just the appetizer – I use the word loosely – for it was followed by an urchin Bolognese that was made, of course, with urchin gonads.

As a final flourish, the gonad sauce was sprinkled with what appeared to be someone’s cremated remains – or perhaps it was those of a customer for whom the I’m A Celebrity inspired menu had become simply too much.

I know that fine dining consists of teeny tiny meals that are all about flavour and presentation, but when you’re faced with what is essentially fish offal and genitalia for dinner, and then expected to pay for it, then, dining peasant that I am, I suspect you have a screw loose.

The Great British Government’s U-Turn on Academies…

At last, the government has performed the necessary u-turn on their ludicrous suggestion that all schools in the UK become academies. I can’t help but think that part of the reason behind this is the fact that teachers and parents stood side by side in their disapproval, and social media has been ablaze for months with condemnation for such a sweeping blow to the education of our children.

The lack of faith that the government has in head teachers to make adequate decisions is, for the most part, utterly displaced. And simply becoming an academy is not the educational equivalent of a magic wand. Trust me when I say that just because your child attends an academy, it doesn’t equal improvement.

Summer 2016: Gone but Not Forgotten

As I write this we are experiencing what may be our only taste of summer. No doubt by the time this goes to print, autumn will be upon us again.

However, with an optimistic attitude and our bank account banished to the back of our minds, my husband and I have invested in a new BBQ. Given that there are only 4 of us in the family, and that we are unlikely to start replicating a Neighbours episode and grilling entire marsupials upon it, I cannot help but think we have been extravagant in terms of size, let alone in the cost of the gas.

£66 for a canister of the stuff, when most mother-in-laws blow hot air for free.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 14th May 2016


When MPs can’t spell & ‘feminism’ is a dirty word.


The very reason we need libraries – and people who use them

My 10 year old daughter recently wrote to David Cameron, having become incensed after hearing on the news that many UK libraries would soon be closing.

It’s her first experience of being cross at a government proposition, and she received letters back from Downing Street, the Department for Culture, and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The first two letters were lovely, acknowledging her concerns (though predictably glossing over them), but the third contained not only a spelling mistake, but a final sentence composed of nonsense.

I’ll save the blushes of the witless wonder that wrote it, but it was helpful of him to prove her point that libraries (home of many a dictionary) are crucial to learning.


Are you a feminist or does the very word just turn you off?

What does the word ‘feminism’ mean to you? For many people nowadays, whether female or male, it seems to mean either nothing, or have hugely negative connotations.

There is a post-feminist stigma attached to the word, it seems. Yet there should be no stigma attached to the concept. As Maya Angelou said, “I’m a feminist. I’ve been female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.

Indeed, whatever happens in life, you’d be pretty daft not to be rooting for, and looking out for, number one.

I remember some time ago reading another famous woman’s take on this. Marginally less highbrow, forgive me, but Lady Gaga spoke sense when she suggested that “some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.

This was on social media, and one female reactor said that it suggested you couldn’t trust your husband. Frankly, that’s tosh. Plus, you could wake up and no longer love him.

Alternatively, you could be gay with a wife – but you’d still need to be able to support yourself. Furthermore, why on earth wouldn’t you, in the 21st century, have some yearning for a purposeful career? And, finally, if we are living in a society where little girls are still being brought up to believe that they must seek out and be looked after by a big old hunting and gathering man, then something has gone very awry between Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow pioneers who died for our liberty, and the women of today.

There is nothing sad about raising our daughters – and sons – in such a way that encourages independence and success, and an ability to provide personal happiness and stability. Life is real; there’s no fairytale. Divorces happen and, tragically, people pass away. But it’s easier to deal with life if you can be both fully open to a beautiful relationship, whilst also being able to support yourself – financially and emotionally.


The inspiring story of Alex Lewis 

My husband and I watched The Extraordinary Case of Alex Lewis on Channel 4 last week, and it affected me for days afterwards.

We didn’t feel the uncomfortable sensation of voyeurism that sometimes accompanies such documentaries, and watched instead with simple humanity and admiration at the bravery of Alex and his wife.

Having lost all four of his limbs, and his lower face, to a common bacterium following a cold, Alex’s world was distorted forever. His grit and determination, and his wife’s no-nonsense approach, were inspiring. Far from sitting on their backsides bemoaning the fate that they’d been dealt, they adapted, they evolved, and they triumphed.

A lesson for us all on the days when we complain about the traffic.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 7th May 2016